This Week in Geek (2-08/12/13)


Though DVD purchases this week: Castle Season 5 (see below) and Pacific Rim.


DVDs: So season 5 is when Castle and Beckett are allowed to be together as a couple, which I have no problem with because there's only so much you can do with a Sam&Diane set-up before it becomes frustrating. And of course, it doesn't mean the relationship would be tried. After all, Castle is still the man-child who irritated her so much back in the day. Attraction is no guarantee when it comes to relationships. Of course, the show still churns out its weekly dose of unusual murder mysteries and keeps things relatively fresh by mixing it up formula-wise. The production correctly identifies the more interesting episodes and gives them commentary tracks - the amusing sci-fi convention that riffs on Fillion's own past with genre TV, the dramatic two-parter in which daughter Alexis is kidnapped, and the Rear Window mystery - but I'm also glad to see Esposito and Ryan each get a showcase episode, and even the clip show (really? in this day and age?) has an emotional core and suspenseful story/mystery. I guess the series still has some juice left. In addition to those commentary tracks, the DVD includes many deleted scenes, a tour of the sets with an eye on interior design, the actors going to tactical police training (played for laughs), and a neat in-character "making of" in which Martha talks us through the Rear Window scenes (with never-before heard sound).

Johnnie To's Breaking News has - and this is not unusual for his work - a few too many subplots, to the point where they register as texture and aren't clearly resolved. As such, they're not bothersome, but it might be worth watching the film more than once to get more out of them. On the surface, the story is a standard cops vs. robbers "under siege" scenario, with the criminals holed up in an apartment building, but the premise takes it in new directions. After the criminal gang humiliated the police in front of the media, the siege is turned into a show by the police force wishing to restore its reputation. So while there's a relentless amount of action in streets and corridors, the real battle is played out on TV. What does the police actually dare release and how do the criminals paint themselves as victims or folk heroes? The action is intelligent and well-choreographed, particularly in the opening 7-minute unbroken take of a street battle, and from there, we're in To's visual world. It's more about cinema storytelling than dialog exposition, and perhaps that's why the subplots don't register too well on first viewing. The extras are disappointing, I must say. A few rough deleted scenes that ARE actually expository, and a 3-minute "making of" that's only a montage of behind the scenes footage and clips from the movie.

Audio: Jonathan Morris' The Mists of Time, a Big Finish Companion Chronicles audio adventure starring Katy Manning as Jo Grant, gets in trouble early on. The setting, alien ruins where echoes of the past, or "ghosts", wander is atmospheric but as dull as a quarry, and Part 1 feels a bit padded out. Worse, perhaps, is that the third Doctor is given some of the fourth's most famous saying, as if to say Pertwee's Doctor originated them. I don't see what this brings to the table, nothing original, certainly. In Part 2, things get a lot better as we move ever closer to finding out the truth behind the ghosts and just why Jo is recounting this story. There's some satisfaction in figuring the mystery out before they end, and even more in its surprising you with a small twists even then. What I'm saying is, it's worth sticking with it.

The Many Deaths of Jo Grant by the writing team of Mark Wright and Cavan Scott, again starring Katy Manning, takes it starting point in all those old third Doctor stories where Jo selflessly tried to give her life to save the Doctor's (in The Daemons, for example). Through the mechanics of the plot, we actually get 3 or 4 stories for the price of one, and references to many more besides, all of them fast-paced and breathless. This is Katy Manning doing action, and she manages to make it exciting all the way through. But where there's action, there's often a lack of emotional depth. Beyond the affection obviously shared between Jo and the Doctor, and their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the other, the audio comes off as more of a structural exercise than a character-driven story. Not that there's anything wrong with that from time to time.

Eddie Robson's Binary is a Liz Shaw story starring Caroline John, with minimal use of the Doctor except as a voice (still played by Caroline John) on a P.A. system. As such, I didn't think he was all that well used, and felt like a sort of deus ex machina for when Liz got stuck, a voice from somewhere telling her what to do. Otherwise, it's quite a good story about Liz being called in to check out an alien computer and getting roped into its hologram-assisted manipulations. Despite the help she gets from the Doctor, it's her assessment of the situation that really saves the day, and I've always liked Liz Shaw's sardonic point of view in the Companion Chronicles. She's a competent, witty realist who could hold her own Doctorless solo feature (much as Sarah Jane Smith has, on Big Finish audio and on TV), if only Caroline John were still with us. Much missed.

Richard Dinnick's The Rings of Ikiria is a rare Mike Yates Companion Chronicle, though I hope they have plans to make more. Richard Franklin is excellent at doing Pertwee's trademark lisp, for one thing, and brings a lot of pathos to the failed UNIT golden boy he played on TV 40 years ago. Though the audio is nominally about a sentient ship drawing UNIT into the open with crop circles and taking it over with jewelry, the story is much more about Yates' status as a chronic outsider finding his true home in the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (which makes his ultimate fate all the more tragic). Yates hasn't been in UNIT long when we catch up to him here, and his star is on the rise, but the story's told from a point much later in the future, and has all the sadness of promises unfulfilled. One to discover for the characterization if not the plot.

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
IV.vii. Claudius' Seduction - Olivier '48

Your Daily Splash Page this week features a splash from every DC title, alphabetically, from Superman Confidential to Superman: The Man of Tomorrow.


Kelly Sedinger said...

In defense of CASTLE's clip show: this episode had to be thrown together on the fly when ABC suddenly ordered one extra episode halfway through the season. Given time constraints to get an episode written and put into a production schedule that was already set, I cut them some slack on it!

Siskoid said...

Like I said, I thought they pulled it off quite well and made it an important thread of the overall relationship tapestry.

Eric TF Bat said...

The clipshow was thoroughly redeemed by the line that went something like:

Kate: You know what that means, right?
Castle: Yeah! You've had an amazing number of hairstyles over the years.

Siskoid said...

Among other things.

I think it went [pause] "Sorry, I was just distracted by the amazing number of hairstyles you've had over the years."


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