This Week in Geek (23-29/09/13)


A big week for geeky purchases, I got a lot of TV series on DVD, including Arrow Season 1, Homeland Season 1, Luther Season 3, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Season 8, Doctor Who Series 7, and the classic Who releases of The Ice Warriors and Scream of the Shalka (a wasted opportunity to put all the Wilderness Years on one DVD, ah well). Also, a few films: Murder by Death (all because fellow blogger Michael May tweeted about it), The Iron Giant (because everyone got on my case for not including it in my Favorite Giant Robots post) and Iron Man 3. Plus, Grand Theft Auto 5, which I can't play until I get some extra storage for the install (in any case, when would I have found the time?).


DVDs: Parks and Recreation Season 5 is Leslie Knope's first as town councilwoman, but that doesn't change the dynamic of this irrepressibly charming and funny show in any detrimental way. Whatever changes the characters suffer - loves, jobs, fortunes - the show has yet to leave its sweet spot. For the literal-minded following it as a "documentary" originally about turning Lot 48 being turned into a park, and who wondered why we were still following these people long after it was an issue, should be stoked that Lot 48 makes a comeback this season! Can Leslie use her new position to effect real change in Pawnee and make the lot flower? Not if new villain and fellow council member Jamm (John Glaser at his douchiest) has anything to say about it. The best comedy on TV, folks. The DVD has lots to offer, with tons of deleted scenes, filthy outtakes, two extended edits, webisodes, promos and music videos.

Dragon (known under the equally generic title "Wuxia" in Asia) is really about two characters who collide in 1917 China. One is a former cannibal killer (Donnie Yen) who left his father's cult/clan to start a new life, get married and have kids. The other is a detective (Takeshi Kaneshiro) who sublimates his empathy with acupuncture so he can focus single-mindedly on justice, part Sherlock and part Judge Dredd, out to prove Liu Jin-xi isn't who he now claims he is. The complex "Noir Fu" story ambiguously lets the two protagonists straddle the line between friendship and enmity, and there is, of course, a bigger threat (played by Jimmy Wang Yu, famous for The One-Armed Swordsman). At its core, the film is about one's humanity. One character seeks to redeem his, the other to dispense with it. There's an awesome deconstruction of a fight scene in the first art that's a real work of art, and lots of cool action besides, but really, it's the character drama that makes it one of the better Asian films I've seen this year.

I've said my piece on Doctor Who's Paradise Towers earlier this week (some fun ideas, but it turns to panto too easily), but let's talk about the DVD extras. The commentary track, moderated by composer Mark Ayres features the story's writer, Stephen Wyatt, actress Judy Cornwell (Maddy) and sound designer Dick Mills. It's good, but one wonders where the regulars were (although come to think of it, I don't think Bonnie Langford has ever appeared on a 2|entertain release). McCoy and Langford aren't in the making of either, although you do get more of guest cast, including Richard Briers himself. My favorite featurette is the 80s installment of Girls! Girls! Girls!, which puts (in this case) Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding and Sophie Aldred (Nyssa, Tegan and Ace) into the same room to talk about their experiences, both in and after Who, as women. It's one of the better combos, in part because Fielding is so well versed on such issues. And "Casting Sylvester" is a short featurette about how McCoy was found and cast, basically a conversation with a producer who'd worked with him and recommended him for the part. The DVD also gives you deleted and extended scenes, continuity announcements, production note subtitles, and a photo gallery. And you can listen to the program with the dirge-like original score that was thrown out by the producer. I must admit, I like the spikier broadcast score a lot more.

Audios: The Prisoner of Peladon, by Mark Wright and Cavan Scott, is a Companion Chronicle Doctor Who audio from Big Finish without a companion. The story is instead told by King Peladon (David Troughton) and centers on a previously unknown trip to Peladon by the third Doctor. Like the other four Peladon stories I've seen, heard or read (Legacy is a New Adventures novel that takes place on Peladon, The Bride of Peladon another audio, this one starring the 5th Doctor), the Ice Warriors are in it, and their allegiance is ambiguous. It would seem that some years after The Curse of Peladon, some Martians have become refugees on the Pel planet and now one of them has been murdered. The Doctor, with the King's help, investigates, though it's not so much a whodunit as it is a whydunit, with the strongest revelations coming in the second part of the story. At first, this is pretty ordinary Who, just like all the Peladon stories. We like the location and don't mind returning there, but somehow, the stories never really go beyond "fine", but by the end, I think we something a little more. This is a Doctor who travels alone, between Jo and Sarah Jane, and like, say, the tenth Doctor after him, Doc3 "needs someone", and it's his inhumanity that startles Peladon. It says something that wasn't usually said about Pertwee's Doctor, and that makes the audio worthwhile.

Books: The Spider Strikes is the first pulp novel starring the Spider, whom I've long liked in the comic book medium (the recent IDW series, but also the crazy Tim Truman project in the 90s). Having gotten my hands on the Girasol "Pulp Doubles" reprint of the original 1933 story, I was keen to see how the R.T.M. Scott novel made out. As far as prose goes, the pulp style takes a few chapters to get used to. Scott seems to have an aversion to pronouns, so there's a fair bit of repetition, and either Girasol reproduced the story complete with typos, or they introduced new ones of their own. Nothing major though. The reproduction does have the original drawings, which aren't bad, and interestingly, an editor's note that mentions the publication asked the author to describe the Spider's CPR technique in full in case it might save lives some day. I don't think it replaces an actual CPR course, but it's a fun period detail. Once you get into it, the story moves at pretty fast clip, with lots of twists and turns and chances for the Spider - not yet a masked man, more like a suave Bruce Wayne who doesn't mind killing - to do detective work, get into fights, cleverly escape jail cells, and so on. I was struck at how well that all worked and that the 80 years separating me from the publication date didn't give me a sense of déjà vu throughout. The Spider's battle of wits with disguise artist Mr. X was full of surprises and I didn't feel like I'd seen it all before. My favorite character is very much Nita Van Sloan, an extremely competent "Girl Friday" who could have spun off into her own stories right then and there. I'm ready for more action of the kind!

Game Night: Wil Wheaton's Tabletop was running some kind of event last night, and by complete coincidence, we'd scheduled a Tabletop night. We played two games. The first, Bang!, is a spaghetti-western-themed card game, that was fun enough, though the end game can be a bit long and tedious as the Sheriff and the Renegade (in our case) played Bangs and Misses while everyone else watched from their stand-up coffins. Then we played my old favorite Cosmic Encounter, and managed to wrangle a three-way victory for Fungus, Vulch and Spiff against the Wraiths and Auras. DOWN WITH BRIGHT LIGHTS! Of course, Fungus could have been greedy and not let us ally with him so we could get all our 5th bases at the same time. You know how black mold can be sometimes.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
IV.v. Laertes' Return - Tennant (2009)

Your Daily Splash Page this week features a splash from every DC title, alphabetically, from Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer to Seven Soldiers: Zatanna.


Gordon D said...

If you're looking for more pulp reprints, you might want to check out Radio Archives - they have ebooks at a relatively decent price, as well as a ton of audiobooks. (Disclosure - I've done some editing/proofing for them in the past)

Siskoid said...

I got about a dozen Spider stories (hardcopies) from Vintage Library. No hitch and fair prices.

I'll keep Radio Archives in mind if I ever invest in an ebook reader (I read mostly while I walk to and from work, so I need something portable, though I have read ebooks on my laptop and in stationary position in the past).

idiotbrigade said...


I considered going for the solo win, quite the gamble as I would have haqd to refuse help from both Vulch & Spiff, while convincing The Aura that a fungus-dominated space-sector was really for the best.

I still say with the amount of Plagues played, its a subtle victory for the fungus anyways, as I've now got Vulch & Spiff sleeper agents.

idiotbrigade said...




Siskoid said...

And that's why Fungus wins.


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