Thursday, March 30, 2006

My Review of Life On Mars 1x02: "Episode 2"

Written by Matthew Graham
Directed by Bharat Nalluri

Sam: “My name is Sam Tyler. I had an accident and I woke up in 1973. Am I mad, in a coma or back in time? Whatever’s happened it’s like I’ve landed on a different planet. Now, maybe if I can work out the reason, I can get home.”

As statements go, it’s both a nice of summing up the series and also wondering which one of these three outcomes is most likely to be true. Sam’s still stuck in 1973 and suffice to say, it’s something of a culture shock for him as well.

When a dodgy bloke named Kim Trent is hauled in for questioning over a robbery, we get to see Sam being rather shocked by Gene’s methods of trying to get a confession out of him. Maybe just like in Dexter, the reason why I’m not appalled entirely by Gene’s behaviour is because the people he interrogates are scumbags.

Okay so it might not have helped so significantly that Kim Trent comes across as someone who would rob you blind without a care in the world but maybe Gene’s old fashioned techniques aren’t entirely bad either. Sam should be grateful that Gene isn’t making a little slide collection.

Of course the thing with Sam is despite his self-righteous streak, you can’t blame him for wanting to do things properly. Doing things by the book means that a guy like Trent will be caught fairly and won’t be able to wriggle his way out. Unfortunately Sam’s attempts of putting this into practice go awry.

Not only does Trent and two of his dodgy mates end up robbing another place but save a few bullets aimed at Sam and Gene, its cleaner June who has to get one. Luckily June isn’t dead but she is comatose and this very incident has major consequences throughout the episode.

First off all there’s Gene’s rather savage way of forcing Sam to clean up her blood in the street. Even more interesting is both Sam and Gene beating the living daylights out of each other by June’s bedside. I wonder how much fun both John Simm and Philip Glenister must’ve had when shooting that.

June’s fate also continues to make Sam unpopular with the rest of his colleagues as well. At one point, Annie has to drag him out of Nelson’s pub before Gene and the rest of them arrived. It might feel a little tacked on that Sam only really has Annie to confide in but it’s making for some good moments in the episode.

Sam’s still really not all that convinced about his surroundings. I don’t blame him for feeling that way though. It’s great to see him vocalise them even though at some point it might become old. It’s also noteworthy that both Annie and Nelson are the ones who keep telling Sam that he’s really here.

Chris on the other hand doesn’t really know what to make of Sam. On one hand it looks like he sees Sam as a mentor but on the other hand, he’s also part of that gang with Gene and Ray that Sam has yet to become part of. I like Chris but Ray is quite annoying but that’s more to do with the fact that the writers aren’t developing him as strongly as the other characters rather than Dean Andrews.

The Trent angle of the episode isn’t as compelling as the Colin Raimes/Edward Kramer one in the first episode but it still has a few neat twists. The introduction of scared, deaf witness Leonard is yet another element in the case that Sam and Gene can actively disagree on.

Gene is rightly pissed when Leonard almost chickens on making a positive ID statement on Trent and its Sam who both encourages and endangers Leonard while trying to get him to do the right thing. The endangering part would involve the ID without special glass. The encouragement, well that part’s obvious.

Of course it’s not just Sam’s recklessness that almost saw Trent get away. Gene was stupid in pretending to get Ray and Chris to keep an eye on Leonard and Annie and if it wasn’t for Sam and Phyllis, the both of them would be dead. In fact it’s nice that it isn’t just Sam who makes occasional bad choices.

The actor playing Trent started off being pretty generic for a bad guy but by the time he had Sam, Annie and Leonard in his grasp, he got suitably nasty. For a minute it almost looked like Trent could’ve killed at least one of them. Luckily Gene’s punching skills put a stop to that.

With that particular case solved, it’s interesting then to see Sam ask Gene to get rid of him. More interesting was the fact that Gene sarcastically emphasised that it was Sam’s decision to be here. There was an earlier scene in this episode where some similarities to Gene and Sam’s policing techniques came into play. Perhaps these two have more in common that they’d like to think they do.

As for the other stuff of the episode – Sam’s psyche is certainly interesting. That creepy Test Card Girl had fun frightening the wits out of him and the blackout in the hospital was deliciously creepy to boot. The coma theory does seem to be the one the writers are peddling more but at the same time, it could also be a mislead. Then again, it could also be twisted fate. It does however add to the show’s allure as well.

Also in “Episode 2”

The episode was the first to kick off with proper title sequences and a narration from John Simm on Sam’s predicament.

Gene: “You know if you were Pinocchio, you’d poked my eyes out.”
Trent: “Ha-ha-ha.”

Sam realised that the cleaners in this episode didn’t clean the cells but that the WPC’s had to. Trent was a major dick but even I sided with Sam on that issue.

Gene (after they’ve been shot at): “Are you breathing?”
Sam: “Almost, yeah. And you?”
Gene: “Yeah.”

Gene (re Trent): “And you let him go to prove a point.”
Sam: “We had no evidence. I’m better than any of this.”
Gene: “Says you.”

It turns out that part of Ray’s hatred for Sam was that he was going for the DI gig before Sam arrived.

Sam: “I only know one way to police.”
Gene: “So do I. She’s not giving up and neither should you.”

Sam: “Oh dear.”
Mrs Trent: “You filthy nonce ridden pig.”

There’s a comic moment in the episode when Gene gags the annoying Mrs Trent with her own drawers.

Phyllis (re Annie): “God she shouldn’t be out there. Slip of a girl.”
Sam (to Gene): “No she shouldn’t.”

Sam: “The place is surrounded.”
Trent: “By who? They’ve left you behind. From what I’ve heard your DCI will be glad to get shot of you.”

Gene quipped about being all three from “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly”. It’s actually a fitting tribute to him.

Gene: “You were transferred here Sam of your own request. I didn’t ask you, you chose to come.”

Gene: “Sure you’re in?”
Sam: “Deal me.”

Standout music: “Live And Let Die” by Wings and “One Of These Days” by Pink Floyd.

A strong second outing that proves this series has got some weight in it. Sam’s adjusting to his new surroundings isn’t done too quickly and the series definitely flits between nostalgia and mystique so effortlessly as well.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

My Review of Life On Mars 1x01: "Episode 1"

Written by Matthew Graham
Directed by Bharat Nalluri

Sam: “What are you doing?”
Annie: “We all feel like jumping sometimes Sam, only we don’t because we’re not cowards.”

With US viewers set to get their own seemingly dodgy version of this show, I thought it was high time that I dusted off the DVDs and started reviewing. A part of the reason why I’m taking on the show is to kill the summer boredom but I also like this show a lot more than I thought I would.

In 2006 we have Sam Tyler, the very man determined to put the likes of Colin Raimes behind bars. Colin has supposedly abducted and killed two young women and given that he’s an incredibly disturbed individual, it’s no wonder that Sam and his girlfriend Maya want this sort of bloke of the streets.

The problem is that Colin has an airtight alibi which is enough to get him out of a police cell. Maya blatantly disobeys Sam in her own determination to get some dirt on Colin. When I watched that scene for the first time, I did primarily side with Maya but I can understand why Sam was so determined to take Maya off the case.

It’s not that Maya is bad at her job; it’s just that her impulsive streak has a downside. The downside being her winding up missing and Sam beside himself with worry over whether or not Colin is planning on making her his next victim. So far into the first episode, all of this stuff wouldn’t look out of place on any other cop shows ever made.

However the only difference here is that Sam gets hit by a car and winds up back in 1973. As a leading man, John Simm is brilliant as Sam and although there are later episodes where he’ll really shine, it’s good that he hits the ground running in his first episode. After all, Sam is designed to be our everyman of the series.

His reactions to being thrust 33 years into the past are pretty natural. Once he realises that mobile phones have never been heard of, Sam makes a brilliant impression with his new colleagues by freaking out and insulting. Okay so if something like that were to happen to me, I’d think I would freak out too. Sam isn’t really here of his volition and he’s also pretty desperate to get out of here as well.

Aside from Sam, the most powerful character in this show is Gene Hunt. Philip Glenister is a bloody revelation in the role and Gene makes a brilliant impression by giving Sam a swift punch into the stomach. Of course, Gene is also politically incorrect in more ways than one, which has made him into something of a hero with TV critics as well.

It doesn’t take much to see that with personalities so different that Sam and Gene would clash. It’s not that Sam is a touchy feely sensitive type of copper but it’s more the fact that Gene’s total disregard for anyone he views as scum or beneath him just appals Sam.

When the interviewing for Dora was going on, Sam didn’t like the way Gene threatened her. Of course like Sam, we could also see Gene’s treatment of Dora to be appalling but the woman was so damn annoying, I actually found myself siding with Gene. In a lot of ways he’s the boss from hell with archaic methods but he’s also an effective force of nature as well.

The interlinking aspects between 2006 and 1973 are the missing women and their deaths. Both have the same patterns and it’s neat to see Sam use his modern day policing in an attempt to figure who, how and why these women are being killed. It’s interesting due to the way it often confuses both Chris and Ray as well.

Sam uses the benefit of Annie’s BA in Psychology to try and explain to his new colleague why this man is kidnapping and murdering these women. It gives Annie a great moment to show off her cleverness even if you’ve got the likes of Chris and Gene undermining Annie as a direct result.

Given the timeline it’s impossible for Colin Raimes to be doing all of these murders but its not impossible for his equally disturbed next-door neighbour Edward Kramer to be doing them. When Dora goes missing and Sam and Annie discover soundproofing in a record shop, this plot gets solved a lot quicker.

It helps that Gene is clever in using gentle persuasion in getting information from Colin’s grandmother Beryl about Edward and while the arrest is a nice touch, you do wonder how this really will impact Sam and in particular Maya. You get the feeling that back in 2006; Maya could very well be dead.

In fact throughout the episode you’ve got Sam hearing voices of doctors talking about his physical state in the real world. Sam raises the questions about whether or not he’s either gone mad or in a coma. It’s hard to actually think which one is likely, although I do like the “travelled back in time” theory as well.

One of the cruellest things in the episode was having Annie’s ex-boyfriend Neil trick Sam into taking extreme action into trying to wake up. I really wanted to punch the guy’s lights out. I think he did it out of jealousy because although Sam acted weird towards Annie, she was quite taken with him.

It’s also down to her that Sam doesn’t throw himself of a building either. Annie makes some perceptive comments about the desire to run away from her problems and there’s even one scene when Annie says something so simplistic but at the same it’s enough to make Sam think that this world he’s been suddenly thrown into is as real as anything else.

Also in “Episode 1”

There was no proper title sequence for the episode even though the cast listing opened things up.

Maya: “Screw the psych evaluation. You used to believe in gut feeling. What happened?”
Sam: “Nothing.”

Going by Sam and Annie’s conversation, Sam was born in 1969. Well he did say he was four back in 1973 so it’s a good guess. John Simm himself was born in 1970.

Sam: “Who are you?”
Gene: “Gene Hunt, your DCI and its 1973. It’s almost lunch time. I’m having hoops.”

Sam: “I was four in 1973. Hit me.”
Annie: “Don’t tempt me.”

Annie is mentioned as a WPC in this episode. I like that Liz White gives the character a nice mix of vulnerability but with a steely side to her as well.

Annie (to Sam): “Soon as I walk out that door, poof, I’m gone. Here I go. Ready, steady. Get some rest.”

Sam (re Dora): “Brief me in full. What do I need to know?”
Gene: “She’s a pain in the arse.”

Matthew Graham mentioned in the Season One DVD extras that Julie Gardner was responsible for this series being commissioned; despite that other time travelling show Doctor Who coming out the year before.

Nelson: “Are you catching flies brother?”
Sam: “Which part of my subconscious do you hail from?”

Sam (re the killer’s motives): “This time you’re positive enough to kiss her.”
Annie: “Only you won’t be.”
Chris: “I look at your lips all day Cartwright. Should I turn myself in?”

I like the use of TV and the Test Card Girl. Both of them add further surrealism to the series.

Sam: “You don’t scare me Hunt.”
Gene: “It’s an interesting point you raise. Allow me to retort.”

Sam: “Follow the yellow brick road.”
Annie: “And what will you find? Mist? A big cliff? A white door?”
Sam: “I don’t know.”

When Sam was looking at the younger Colin Raimes after Edward’s arrest, it did look like Colin might have recognised him.

Gene (to some kids): “Anything happens to this motor and I’ll come over to your houses and stamp on all your toys. Got it? Good kids.”

Gene: “Welcome to the team.”
Sam: “Thanks Guv.”

Standout music: Apart from the obvious “Life On Mars” from David Bowie, I’d also go for “Rat Rat Blue” by Deep Purple and “Baba O’Riley” by The Who.

As opening episodes go, this is certainly a strong introduction. It’s easy to see why this series hailed so much critical acclaim because nostalgia aside, there’s something enjoyable about watching a cop show that isn’t slick, over polished or trying desperately to be too gory. Plus the dialogue alone is just perfect.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Friday, March 24, 2006

My Review of Doctor Who's: "The Edge Of Destruction"

Written by David Whitaker
Directed by Richard Martin And Frank Cox

Ian (re Susan): “She’s fainted! But she was alright a minute ago.”
Barbara: “Yes and a while before that you were all unconscious.”

First we got cavemen, then we got Daleks, what could we possibly get next that would impress viewers? Well, how about a two parter primarily focusing on The Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara and nothing else. That could be someone’s idea of a dull serial but it’s perfect for me.

We’ve had the monsters, planets and trips into time so having something that focuses on our cast seems to be a welcome remedy. We know that The Doctor has got issues with Ian and Barbara and we also know that they are mistrusting of him so for David Whitaker to focus on those negative feelings feels like a pretty natural thing to do.

Because it’s only our main character, everything is set in the TARDIS and when an explosion renders everyone unconscious, it’s made pretty clear that the great ship of The Doctor’s is in some trouble of it’s own. Navigational circuits aside, the danger (or the would be destruction) of this serial is the TARDIS.

Opening and closing doors on its own accord isn’t exactly spooky but when each of the main characters starts displaying increased signs of paranoia and aggression, that’s when the fun really begins. If you’re the claustrophobic type, then you might find this episode somewhat unsettling.

The usually harmless Susan (come on, all she ever says is “Grandfather” incessantly) is one of the first victims of paranoia. One minute she’s grand and defending Ian against The Doctor, and then the next minute she tries to stab him (and also Barbara later on). Heck, Susan even ditches her mediator role and gangs up on Ian and Barbara during the course of this serial.

If Susan’s behaviour is erratic, then The Doctor’s is also more questionable. This isn’t the warm and friendlier version of the Time Lord we would see in later serials. Nope if his hostility towards Ian and Barbara in “An Unearthly Child” wasn’t terrible enough, then he really pushes things by drugging his human companions and later launching into an abusive tirade against them.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it but it does feel rather audacious that The Doctor’s relationship with Ian and Barbara is so tempestuous but it also makes for genuine conflict and does prove the show isn’t entirely rooted in the silliness that some later serials and incarnations of The Doctor have been. Not that I’m criticising mind.

Of course out the human companions, there are times throughout the serial where Ian does make things almost worse for himself and Barbara. At one point he attempted to strangle The Doctor when trying to convince him of his innocence in the TARDIS’ sabotage didn’t help and he does spend a lot of time sniping with him too.

There are times when you look at both The Doctor and Ian and you almost want to bang their heads together. The two of them can be frustratingly argumentative that they almost have more in common that they would like to admit to one another, although they do manage to put their differences aside to figure out what’s going on with the TARDIS’.

That’s the fun part of this serial, trying to figure out why the TARDIS is acting up. With the great sense of foreboding danger, the reveal of the TARDIS being on the verge of destruction due to a broken spring in the Fast Return Switch is as satisfying as you can get.

In some ways The Doctor’s arrogance and paranoia caused the situation to escalate further than it should have and it’s Barbara’s quick thinking about fixing the Switch that saves the day. If there’s one companion who’s rapidly becoming a favourite out of the three it’s certainly Barbara and Jacqueline Hill’s performance in this story is pretty impressive.

While she might have her misgivings of The Doctor, her hurt of his treatment towards her and Ian spoke volumes in this serial. The Doctor’s utter lack of respect is accountable here and it’s great that he apologises to Barbara in perhaps the best scene of the entire story. This is the first time we’ve seen any real form of closeness between The Doctor and a companion. It’s also one of the most touching scenes in the series forty five year history too.

It’s also great that after nearly killing each other, both The Doctor and Ian are able to have a humorous exchange during the last moment too. I think that at this stage The Doctor is beginning to warm towards Ian and Barbara. I hope so because they do tend to be more interesting than Susan. I don’t dislike Susan but aside from some good paranoia acting from Carole Ann Ford in this serial, I just don’t find her character that interesting I’m afraid.

Also in “The Edge Of Destruction”

This two parter was called “The Edge Of Destruction” and “The Brink Of Disaster”. Weirdly enough, there’s no commentary for it despite it being released in 2006.

Susan: “Who’s that? Oughtn’t we to go and help him?”
Barbara: “I don’t like the look of this cut at all.”

Other title for this story were “Inside The Spaceship”, “The Brink Of Disaster” and “Beyond The Sun”. Why couldn’t the writers just settle on one?

Ian (re The Doctor): “What’s he doing there?”
Barbara: “Oh he cut his head. Are you feeling all right?”
Ian: “Dizzy.”

Barbara (re TARDIS’ doors): “They must have been forced open when we crashed.”
Ian: “Crashed?”
Susan: “No! The ship can’t crash, it’s impossible.”

This was the first time we got to see/hear both the Cloister Bell and the food machine in the series.

Ian (re Susan): “She’s fainted. But she was alright a minute ago.”
Barbara: “Yes and a while before that you were all unconscious.”

Barbara: “No it isn’t but does it have to be? I mean things aren’t always very logical, are they? It’s just that one’s been through so much, I’ve …”
The Doctor: “I’ve been very patient with you Miss … Wright and really, there’s no more time for these absurd theories.”

This story came about when the six parter “The Robots” got scrapped. Personally I think we’ve benefited with a smaller story.

Barbara: “Oh what does it matter?”
The Doctor (re Ian): “Matter? Matter? Young lady, he very nearly tried to strangle me.”

Susan: “I think you’re right Grandfather.”
Barbara: “But you’re wrong. I swear we haven’t done anything.”
The Doctor: “I told you I’d treat you as enemies.”

On the DVD for this serial, there’s a condensed 30 minute version of the next story “Marco Polo”.

Susan: “It did happen to me Grandfather.”
Barbara: “Yes you remember. You lost your memory and there was this terrible pain in the back of your neck.”
Susan: “Yes. Yes that’s true.”

There’s a similar element of distress in “Castrovalva” as well, which involves The Master.

Barbara: “You said terrible things to us.”
The Doctor: “Yes I suppose it’s the injustice that’s upsetting you and when I made a threat to pull you off the ship it must have effected you very deeply.”
Barbara: “What do you care what I think or feel?”
The Doctor: “Well, as we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves.”

This might be one of the few serials that has the same length as a regular episode of the new series.

Well out of the first three serials, I have to admit that I thought “The Edge Of Destruction” was the best one. It had the right length, developed Ian and in particular Barbara as characters and was also quite creepy and atmospheric despite there not being an alien in sight.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

My Review of Six Feet Under's 1x13: "Knock Knock"

Written And Directed by Alan Ball

With twelve exceptionally brilliant (and some rather innovative) episodes within Six Feet Under's first season, is there any possible way that the series can fail us now? Well, actually no. While this episode isn't quite as good as "A Private Life", the show's first season ender does have so much going for itself that that won't matter. In fact, there is a lot going for it.

First of all, there's finally some closure on this triangle between Hiram, Ruth and Nikolai as the hairdresser decides that he wants to pursue another relationship, letting a guilt-free Ruth jump at the chance of being with Nikolai, much to the Russian's delight.

Actually Nikolai's genuine sincerity to Ruth about how feels about her, prior to their little hanky-panky in the flower actually kind of makes me see him in a more likeable light. Let's just say I approve of Ruth's choice here as the chemistry between her and Hiram was waning anyway. Besides she didn't seem the least bit bothered that he broke up with her.

For the last couple of episodes I’ve been harping on about Gabe heading for a destructive path and well it looks like I’m right as he abandons Claire at Parker's party and robs a convenience store with his idiotic friend Andy (or "Peanut Testicle" as Claire referred to him as once) and some other guy. Heck, even Nate SR warns his daughter that her boyfriend is heading "for my neck of the woods". At this point one can hope. All I can say is Gabe - you are a shithead.

Keeping up with last episode, David continues to get some closure of his own homosexuality as well as kinda freeing the spirit of Marcus Foster (yes he's here again)when he chooses not to veto Father Jack, who has presiding over same-sex marriages, despite the church's homophobia. It may have taken all season to get, but hey he's at a stage of being comfortable, though the flipside is his stepping down as deacon.

The best stuff mostly revolves around Tracy Montrose Blair's Aunt Lillian's funeral and everybody second favourite couple on the series - Nate and Brenda.

First I'll start with Tracy as her aunt's death brings out a somewhat demanding side to her as she gives Fisher and Sons the run around with the funeral arrangements that is until Federico puts her in place. And then there's her conversation with Nate in the Fisher's kitchen (Tracy: "Why do people have to die?" Nate: "To make life possible.").

Which leads to the more serious stuff of the finale as after visiting Billy (who seems genuinely remorseful for his actions) at the institution, Brenda and Nate get into a fight about whether or not their relationship has any real future and wind up in a car crash. After being checked at the hospital, Nate speaks with on of the doctors when tells him of a deterioration in the brain. At first you are almost lead to believe the doctor is referring to Brenda, but it turns out the X-Ray's is Nate's.

Also in "Knock, Knock"

Death of the week: Lillian Montrose Blair got hit very hard with a golf-ball thanks to

Mitzi (to Gilardi):"Hey fuck you with the Mam shit. You call me that one more time; I'll have your balls on a plate, your spleen on a stick and your heart bubble wrapped and Fedex-ed to your Mama, all right?"

Claire trying on one of Ruth’s dresses while being filmed by Nathaniel was interesting. Maybe it was a possible response to the lack of family photos that they have of her, maybe?

Ruth: “Men are stupid.”
Claire: “Um, yeah.”

Gabe, Andy and the other guy, Dink "mooing" at the owner of the convenience store they robbed. Okay then. The series' Key Grip Dennis Adams is nicknamed Dink so imagine the confusion on set when filming took place.

David (re being gay): “The only way you could know that if it is something you fought and overcome.”
Walter: “And the only you couldn’t know if it’s something you aren’t strong enough to overcome.”

Parker (to Ruth):"Oh there isn't even any liquor in the house. You see my husband and I are both alcoholics and Parker's fresh out of rehab. So we'll take really good care of Claire I promise."
Claire: “That was mean.”

Finally, the Fisher funeral home gets to have a party when Federico and Vanessa hold Augusto's (that's what child No. 2 has been called. I like it) christening in the parlour. It's about time the place celebrated life instead of mourning death all the time.

David (re Tracy): “Oh no, I’ll let you take this one.”
Nate: “Okay but I’m warning you I might just fucking punch her.”

Not one, but two great tracks from the soundtrack - Beta Band's "Squares" and Orlando Cachaito Lopez's "Mis Don Pequenas". The formers an instant classic, but the latter does grow on you. Chronology it's been nine days since last week's episode.

You could probably argue that last week's episode may have been the better candidate in terms of a season ender, but "Knock, Knock" definitely holds it own. Alan Ball did a great job in tying up most of the loose ends in the first season while setting up some great stuff for Season 2. Will Ruth and Nikolai make it as a couple, is Nate in danger, will David be comfortable with himself and will Claire finally see Gabe for what he really is? I can't wait to find out.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Monday, March 20, 2006

My Review of Six Feet Under's 1x01: "Pilot"

Written And Directed by Alan Ball

Over the course of the 2001-2002 US TV season we've had a slew of impressive new shows equally as eager to make an impact with UK viewers as they have within the US. We've had not one, but two espionage series with gadgetry and stunts more impressive than your average Bond which this is where 24 and Alias would appear. A prequel to Star Trek and another re-imagining of the Superman mythology ensued, as did the hilarious Scrubs.

And the likes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Sex And The City and The Sopranos were literally compulsive viewing, but the best series of the bunch is hands down Six Feet Under, the critically acclaimed funeral home drama from American Beauty scribe Alan Ball and the purveyors of increasingly daring and innovative television - HBO.

The Pilot kicks off in Los Angeles, Christmas Eve with Nathaniel Fisher SR, owner of ailing funeral home, Fisher and Sons being killed when a bus collides with his hearse. Incidentally enough, it was he who was to pick up eldest son, Nate (who works for an organic food co-op in Seattle) from the airport. Not that Nate has trouble getting home as after a steamy sex session with masseuse Brenda in one of the airport's closets she offers him a lift home.

News of Nate SR’s death spreads quickly with each and every member of the Fisher clan reacting in a variety of unpredictable ways. Both sons Nate and David (a closeted gay man, seeing a black policeman named Keith) are constantly sparring - prior to (when they first meet after Nate went to the hospital to identify their father's body), during as well as after their father's funeral.

Youngest child and daughter Claire learns of her dad's death whilst after taking Crystal Meth with her boyfriend, Gabe and has difficulties distinguishing her sudden anguish as either grief for her dad or a side effect of the drug she took.

She also puts both warring brothers in their place and has a funnily intimate conversation with her deceased father (during the funeral- it seems that just because Nate SR is dead, doesn't mean he won't be popping up from time to time) while matriarch Ruth pretty much destroys the Christmas dinner she was preparing and lets her guilt get the better of her and reveals to her children her two year affair with a hairdresser named Hiram. Didn't see that one coming.

On the non- Fisher front we are introduced to Federico, Fishers and Sons talented mortician (married to a nurse named Vanessa who is expecting their second child), Keith, who so far all we know is dating David and is clearly not happy about his boyfriend being so closeted (unaware to them Claire actually knows of their relationship).

Last but definitely not least there is Brenda - who on sight pretty much presents a challenge to Nate in the sense she tells him that she won't succumb him as quickly as he has managed to get other women to. She also has a manic depressed brother, and although we don't see them on screen nightmare parents to boot (who funnily enough happen to be therapists).

There is also a rival home – Kroehner Service Corporation who seem to pose a real threat to Fisher and Sons and are determined to tear the ailing funeral home down, now that they appear to be at vulnerability.

Also in "Six Feet Under"

We had a hilarious opening funeral where the husband told David he hoped his wife was shovelling shit in hell. Then there was also that weird funeral fanatic Tracy Montrose Blair.

David: "What the hell?"
Ruth: "There's been an accident. The new hearse is totalled. Your father is dead. Your father is dead and my pot roast is ruined."

Loved the promos for the funeral products, including the GAP piss take with the saltshakers. It’s strange they didn't have Nathaniel's death credits.

Nate: "Yeah, you know. You are so fucking hot."
Brenda: "Oh, you're so sweet."

Icky moment of the episode besides the obvious death/blood related sequences included those flies on the pizza in that crack -house.

Claire: "No I’m not kidding, this is actually happening. And now I’m high on crack."
Gabe: "Crystal."
Claire: “Whatever! So I guess this whole hellish experience I’m about to go through is just gonna burn a little brighter now. Great. Thank you. Fuck."

Claire (to Nate and David):"Jesus. Just pull out your dicks and measure them and let's get this over with."

David isn't the only gay character related to Ruth. It turns out her cousin's husband is too. David is though out to Keith's parents though.

Store Attendant: “You’re gonna have to pay for that.”
Claire: “Will you just fuck off?”

David (to Nate):"You wanna get your hands dirty? You sanctimonious prick. Talk to me when you've had to shove formaldehyde soaked cotton up your father's ass so he doesn't leak."

Chronology was December 2000, though the series premiered six months later on HBO.

Nate (to Brenda): "My Dad's dead, my mother's a whore, my brother wants to kill me and my sister's smoking crack. I think I win."

Standout songs included Peggy Lee's "I Love Being Here With You" and The Devlins' "Waiting". The score piece during the flashbacks of Nate and David's childhood was also beautiful.

Yes, once again those lovely people at HBO have got it right, putting their finances into a show as intelligent and invigorating as this. In terms of series openers, this has to be one of the best I have seen in a long time with all the main players each making an impact with viewers on first inspection. It may be a little early in the game to choose favourites but Brenda and David are definitely the ones that I'm most interested in seeing develop throughout Season One. The Fishers are definitely a screwed up bunch and seem to be the most authentic dysfunctional family seen in recent television. This show is a breath of fresh air.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

My Review of Doctor Who's: "The Daleks"

Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Christopher Barry and Richard Martin

The Doctor: “That's sheer murder!”
Dalek: “No. Extermination.”

After a debut which settled for giving us a trip into time, the second serial would address the space part as well as the introduction to the biggest threat The Doctor would ever had to face in the series when himself, Ian, Barbara and Susan all land on a nice little place called Skaro.

By nice, I mean the air is poisonous and nearly everyone is dead but compared to other things, this is almost the positive thing to say about Skaro. Ian and Barbara are desperate to go home but The Doctor is more eager to explore the mysterious planet they’ve landed on.

It seems that sabotaging the TARDIS in order to do this isn’t beneath The Doctor either when he claims that mercury is needed for the fluid link and they’d have to go to the city to get some. No wonder Ian can’t seem to get along with him. The Doctor can be pretty infuriating when he puts his mind to it. I’m all for exploring planets but for an older Doctor, this is a pretty reckless way of going about it really.

Of course by getting into the city, there’s more trouble when Barbara is the first member to encounter the Daleks but soon enough, The Doctor, Susan and Ian also get to meet the deranged pepper pots when they’re taken hostage by them. Worse still they’re all getting bouts of radiation sickness and the Daleks are less than sympathetic over the dire consequences if they don’t get some proper help in the next while.

The Doctor is able to get some answers out of the Daleks when it’s revealed that they’re survivors of a neutronic war with a race called the Thals (whom the Daleks are plotting to complete wipe out). With static electricity they can move around the city and anyone who opposes them usually finds themselves killed. They do of course allow Susan to get some drugs to help the TARDIS gang but that’s less out of goodness and more of need.

Even when Susan does meet up with Thals and does faithfully come back with the drugs, the Daleks still aren’t in a mad panic to let everyone go. Luckily Ian isn’t exactly in the mood to wait for the Daleks to kill and thinks it’s best to try and get out. You can’t blame the man and his method of sneaking into the casing to aid everyone’s escape is a nice trick. It’s also perfect how he just fits inside the thing as well.

Of course the Daleks aren’t thrilled with their attempts to escape and make several attempts to stop them. Not only do the Daleks not want the gang to leave but their escape also coincides with their brilliant plot to rid themselves of the Thals in the process.

The poor Thals were hoping to come up with a truce and feed themselves but the Daleks decided to use their hunger as a means of wiping them out as quickly as possible. Some Thals do get killed but thanks to Ian and company, not as many that could’ve been killed.

Unfortunately there is a flipside and the dropping of the fluid link for the TARDIS back in Dalek city was one mistake that Ian should’ve avoided. With no fluid link they’re stuck on Skaro and the gang (along with the Thals, including Alydon) have no choice but to go back if they want to go home.

Getting back to the get that fluid is a bit stretched in terms of the plotting but there’s a strong element of life and death attached to proceedings as well. Many of the Thals helping do ultimately meet their maker and even Ian and Barbara find their lives in peril as well. In a lot of ways, Ian is an effective leader but he can also be every bit as bullish as The Doctor too. Not that he would care to admit that I suppose.

With differing teams heading back, the Daleks are quick in wanting to cover the rest of Skaro with radiation. The Doctor shows the necessary smarts in trying to stop the homicidal creatures but it’s interesting that the Thal anti-radiation drug is the eventual defeat of the Daleks. Their debut here is nothing short of stunning and it’s easy to see why they’ve lasted so long as the bane of The Doctor’s existence.

The ending is somewhat more resolute. One of the Thals had a brief crush on Barbara and gave her a nice parting gift and the gang walked away from one disaster, only to collapse into another. The joys of travelling with a grumpy old man and his granddaughter, huh?

Also in “The Daleks”

The seven episodes that make up this are The Dead Planet, The Survivors, The Escape, The Ambush, The Expedition, The Ordeal and The Rescue.

Barbara: You think there's any danger?
Ian: “Not necessarily.”
Barbara: “But don't be too complacent. No, you're right, I suppose. I just wish...”
Ian: “We'll be all right.”

Episode 6 was made under the working title The Caves of Terror and episode 7 under the working title The Execution.

Barbara (re The Doctor): “Yes. Well, I suppose we'd better make sure he doesn't fall down and break a leg. Don't you ever think he deserves something to happen to him?”
Ian: “Yes.”

Ian: “No - it’s time you faced up to your responsibilities. You got us here - now I’m going to make sure that you get us back!”
The Doctor: “Chesterton, this is…”

This story was originally scheduled to be designed by Ridley Scott, who later went on to direct films such as Alien and Blade Runner.

Ian: “We’re wasting time. We should be looking for Barbara.”
Susan: “He’s right Grandfather. We are wasting time.”
The Doctor: “Oh child, if only you’d think as an adult sometimes.”

Dalek: “Stop that noise!”
Susan: “Well, it's… it's what I'm called. It's my name. Susan.”

This was released in January 2006 as part of a box set with “An Unearthly Child” and “The Edge Of Destruction” called “New Beginnings”.

Alydon: “But supposing…”
Temmosus: “No Alydon! And you must throw off these suspicions. They’re based on fear and fear breeds hatred…and war. I shall speak to them peacefully. They’ll see that I’m unarmed. There is no better argument against war than that.”

There seems to be some general contradiction as to whether this story is based in either the past or the present.

Ian: “Well don't worry about it now, Doctor. It's happened.”
The Doctor: “Yes. But at least you’re not vindictive.”
Ian: “Well I will be if you don't get my name right. It's Chesterton.”
The Doctor: “Yes. Eh? Yes, I know that.”

It was Mervyn Pinfield who suggested that The Daleks use static electricity. It was Richard Martin who suggested that the Thal anti-radiation drug be lethal to the Daleks.

Dalek: “The only interest we have in the Thals is their total extermination.”
Susan: “What do you mean?”

This story replaced previous proposals including “Beyond The Sun” and “The Masters Of Luxor”.

First Dalek: “Now that we know of the machine, we can examine it for ourselves.”
The Doctor: “But you can’t operate it without me!”
First Dalek: “Every problem has a solution.”

The episodes were all recovered from negative film prints which were discovered at BBC Enterprises in 1978.

For the debut of the nastiest creatures ever to darken the series, “The Daleks” is a great opening for the vicious pepper pots, although in 12 years time, the debut of their master would be far more powerful. I’m also liking this caustic TARDIS a little more with each instalment too.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

My Review of Doctor Who's "An Unearthly Child"

Written by Anthony Coburn
Directed by Waris Husein

The Doctor (to Ian/Barbara): “Have you ever wonder what it’s like to be wanderers in the Fourth Dimension, to be exiles?”

Oh please, don’t be coy, do tell us what’s like Doctor. The first serial that started off an entire legacy and things open with Susan Foreman listening to her music while waiting for a book on The French Revolution. Hardly earth shattering stuff but there’s something not quite there with Susan and that’s before it’s pointed out to viewers.

Nevertheless her school teachers, history teacher Barbara Wright and science teacher Ian Chesterton both seem banded in their suspicions of the girl. It’s not that they have a dislike for Susan, it’s just through flashback we see at one point she’s excels in one subject while sort of flunking with another.

But it’s the way that Susan flunks that is suspicious when she mentions different systems and disrupts one of Ian’s classes as a result of her inconsistency. Instead of trying to talk to Susan, Ian thinks the better option would be to follow Susan and Barbara agreed to that plan without any hesitation.

Another thing that shot the alarm bells is where Susan lives – a junkyard with no houses nearby and when a suspect old man seems to have Susan locked in a police box, that’s when the real questions are beginning to fester. Who is this old geezer and why is he so adamant that Barbara and Ian stay away from his police.

To answer these, the police box happens to be a spaceship with the ability to travel in time and space and also the ability to be bigger on the inside and change shape (though for some reason it’s now remaining a police box). In other words, he’s an alien of sorts, Susan is his granddaughter and both of them have been exiled from their people. He’s also less than happy with Susan’s attachment to earth life as well.

What is perhaps more inconvenient is that this old man is called The Doctor and is far from happy with the array of questions, hostility and scepticism that Ian and Barbara inflict on him throughout the serial. It’s sort of brave to present The Doctor here as a cantankerous old grouch because although William Hartnell is excellent in the role, I admit to having difficulty with warming to his Doctor in the same way I’ll have warming to the Sixth Doctor 21 years down the line.

Conceptually the TARDIS is a great looking exterior and the theme tune is evocative and quite haunting. What’s also great is that while Susan might obey her grandfather, both Ian and Barbara have no problem with questioning his authority or the logic of time travel. It’s also interesting that in his attempt to explain it properly, The Doctor uses the invention of TV as a defence mechanism. It’s too bad for him that Ian is generally having none of it.

In terms of trips, instead of space, we’re given a time journey into 100,000 BC where a battle with cavemen and their quest to get fire is the source of the tension for this episode. The Doctor is the first to get snatched by the tribe and pretty soon Ian, Barbara and Susan all get abducted too.

Dynamic wise, the cave people are okay to an extent. There’s an ongoing feud between Kal and Za/Hur for the role of leader and eventually the former meets his end but it’s the sabotage of the Old Woman that’s slightly more interesting. The TARDIS team jump back and forth between being allies at one point (when they give fire to the cavemen) and captives at the other (when they want to leave).

To deal with the cavemen problem Susan is smart enough come up with the plan of using skulls and flames to help their escape is one of the most inspired things. That and the fact that when do get away the serial ends with the TARDIS’ radiation detector marking “Danger”. I certainly can’t wait to see what that leads up to.

Also in “An Unearthly Child”

The original story line for this story was entitled “Nothing At The End Of The Lane”. There had been a theory that originally the entire first season of the show could’ve been a psychotic fantasy of Barbara Wright. It’s a good job that everything was real then, huh?

Ian: “Let me get this straight. A thing that looks like a police box, standing in a junkyard, it can move anywhere in time and space?”
Susan: “Yes.”
The Doctor: “Quite so.”
Ian: “But that's ridiculous!”

The titles of the four episodes of this story are An Unearthly Child, The Cave Of Skulls, The Forest Of Fear and The Firemaker.

The Doctor: “You still think it's all an illusion?”
Ian: “I know that free movement in time and space is a scientific dream I don't expect to find solved in a junkyard.”
The Doctor: “Your arrogance is nearly as great as your ignorance.”

Ian: “So that when we go out of that door, we won't be in a junkyard in London in England in the year 1963?”
The Doctor: “That is quite correct. But your tone suggests ridicule.”
Ian: “But it is ridiculous. Time doesn't go round and round in circles. You can't get on and off whenever you like in the past or the future.”

Originally the names for the Doctor's companions were to be Bridget ("Biddy") instead of Susan, Lola McGovern (instead of Barbara Wright), and Cliff instead of Ian. I think the names we got for them are better.

The Doctor (of the TARDIS): “It's still a police box. Why hasn't it changed? Dear, dear. How very disturbing.”

It’s in this episode that the meaning of TARDIS is established. Susan explains to Ian and Barbara that it stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space.

Barbara (to The Doctor): “You treat everybody and everything as something less important than yourself.”
The Doctor: “You're trying to say that everything you do is reasonable and everything I do is inhuman. While I'm afraid your judgement is at fault, Miss Wright, not mine.”

A pilot version of the first episode was made and exists in various versions. It’s included on the DVD which was released on a set called The Beginning in January 2006 which contained “An Unearthly Child”, “The Daleks” and “The Edge Of Destruction”.

The Doctor: “Just as long as you understand that I won't follow your orders blindly.”
Ian: “If there were only two of us, you could find your own way back to the ship.”
The Doctor: “Aren't you a tiresome young man?”
Ian: “And you're a stubborn old man.”

The bones used in the cave of skulls were real bones taken from an abattoir and were very unpleasant to smell under hot studio lights.

Za: “They have strange feet.”
Hur: “They wear skins on their feet.”

Somewhere in this story the alias John Smith also surfaces as well. I think it might have been when The Doctor first talked to Ian.

Ian: “Just a minute. Did you try and take us back to our own time?”
The Doctor: “Well, I got you away from that other time, didn't I?”
Ian: “That isn't what I asked you.”
The Doctor: “It's the only way I can answer you, young man.”

Standout music: Susan is listening to John Smith and the Common Men during the start of this story.

For an opening episode of an iconic series, I can’t help but feel that “An Unearthly Child” falls a little on the mundane side. That isn’t a bad thing considering the heights this show will soar to in it’s 40 plus years of existence. Cavemen aren’t especially compelling and while Susan is slightly annoying, she’s watchable. That being said its Ian and Barbara who I tend to root for a little more during this era of the show.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Lost - Season 1 Review

US Airdate on ABC: September 22nd 2004 to May 25th 2005.

Fourteen passengers find themselves deserted on an island when their plane, Flight 815 crashes. Far from civilisation and help, the people must not only learn how to survive on this island and with each other but soon become privy that their new home is far from what is appears to be …

Uncharted Territory And I Ain’t Talking Farscape Here … With The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel gone, Smallville and Alias relegated to the sidelines and the Stargate franchise, along with The Dead Zone and Star Trek: Enterprise feeling more than a little stagnate, genre television for US viewers was not looking good, even if unlike the UK, it was at least still going somewhere. The biggest show in 2004-2005 US television and likely to make a good effort to retain that title, Lost crash landed onto our screen and into the public subconscious like a veritable tornado and boy, it’s been amazing. The first few minutes of the “Pilot” opened up the idea of television equating the epic scale of movies but unlike anything from HBO, this was something that we were watching on ABC, a station that has now seen it’s ratings sky rocket ever since. A plane crash so severe and with no hope of help rescuing, the writers needed to work overtime in order to prevent this series from turning into a dramatised version of Survivor. Employ Alias creator J.J Abrams, the self confessed geek Damon Lindelof and add an ensemble of writers from shows likes Buffy, Angel, The X-Files and Six Feet Under to name but four and an array of eclectic but competent cast members and watch this puppy run. The idea of making the island a mysterious and dangerous land is inspired and as original as Lost strives to be, you always get a feeling that it’s at times eerily reminiscent of Twin Peaks or Lord Of The Flies, which is never a bad thing. Although there are 48 passengers and crew members, the first season only focuses on fourteen of them for the time. Matthew Fox plays the heroic Jack, while veteran cult actor Terry O’Quinn excels as the mysterious John Locke. There is also a pregnant girl named Claire (Emile De Ravin), an Iraqi named Sayid (Naveen Andrews), failed rock musician/drug addled Charlie (Dominic Monaghan), quarrelling brother/sister combo Boone and Shannon (Ian Somerhalder and Maggie Grace), a cursed billionaire named Hurley (Jorge Garcia), criminal Kate (Evangeline Lilly), con man Sawyer (Josh Holloway), distant father/son duo Michael and Walt (Harold Perrineau and Malcolm David Kelly) and Korean husband/wife Jin and Sun (Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim). The characters themselves are certainly a very varied bunch and the lives and past actions which are told through flashback per episode have the quality of being surprising or disappointing, given how invested you are to a particular person. For instance, I thought domestic violence whenever I watched Jin and Sun interact only for episodes six and seventeen (“House Of The Rising Sun” and “In Translation”) to contradict my perceptions and although I started the show actively hating Sawyer, his complicated past in “Confidence Man” and “Outlaws” does generate some sympathy for the guy, although the flashbacks for Jack, Kate and especially Charlie are a little hit and miss at times. Mostly the flashbacks are interesting enough (though less savvy critics have griped about them adding nothing to the series), sometimes even more than the group’s weekly escapades of dealing with each other, trying to learn more of the mysteries of the island, such as polar bears, an unseen monsters that can tear trees down or even a group of other inhabitants that have been on the island for over sixteen years. If there is one thing Lost loves, it’s piling on the mysteries, so much that not much in the way of answers is actually given. The latter half of the season has Boone and Locke trying to open a mysterious hatch, only for Boone to die (the show’s first real fatality) and the mystery to be left for Season Two’s opening episode and even Claire’s abduction by The Others is another unresolved matter. At first you think her baby is an Omen, then it appears to be Walt. The Others are a puzzle as while they have killed people from Flight 815, the crazy French woman (brilliantly played by Mira Furlan) doesn’t appear to be evil either, so you have to wonder if they are just misguided or not. The highlights from this unforgettable debut year is obviously going to the “Pilot” as well as the Emmy nominated Locke centre-piece “Walkabout” but there’s also the brilliant Sayid episode “Solitary”, the gut wrenching Jack showcase (island story being more addictive than flashback tale here) “All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues” and Sawyer’s turning point instalment “Outlaws”, which firmly makes me think that him and Kate are better than a Jack/Kate union. Hurley, a character who seems to be universally loved by all has a brilliant episode in “Numbers” and the tragic outcome for poor Boone in “Deux Ex Machina” and “Do No Harm” is unmissable as is the wonderful, if slightly anticlimactic three part finale “Exodus”. We should have guessed that any attempts of getting off the island were doomed from the start but this finale did give some wonderful flashbacks, an introduction to Season Two regular Ana-Lucia (Michelle Rodriguez) and the anticipation to learn what is down the mysterious hatch is massive.

DVD Features … Forget the bloody island. The real gargantuan is the array of extras on offer with this box-set. I wisely eschewed the half season box-sets originally released for Region 2 buyers and waited until January 2006 for the full season and the seven discs on display offered me loads. Disc 1 has commentaries for both parts of the “Pilot” with Abrams and Damon Lindelof and the sensational “Walkabout”, which has added anecdotes from Locke actor Terry O’Quinn while Disc 2 offers a decent commentary for the lacklustre “The Moth” with Charlie actor Dominic Monaghan, following our last yak track with actors Ian Somerhalder and Maggie Grace, plus writers Carlton Cuse and Javier Grillo-Marxuach on the so-so “Hearts And Minds”. With the exception of episode seven, the episodes that feature commentaries are ones you want to hear and learn more about but why there aren’t ones for “Numbers”, “Do No Harm” and the “Exodus” three-parter is beyond me. Disc 7 is where all the essential extras are though and these range from on set productions of the “Pilot”, “House Of The Rising Sun”, “The Moth”, “Whatever The Case May Be”, “Hearts And Minds”, “Outlaws” and “Exodus”. These are all brilliant but your patience may be tested if you try watching every single extra in one night (a mistake I won’t make again). There is a smattering of deleted scenes from over half the episodes of the first season, most of which are pretty average but ones that standout include Shannon dissing Drive Shaft, Locke trying to figure Kate out, Sayid telling Hurley and Charlie to mind their own business and a scene between Claire and the savagely eaten Pilot from the finale at the airport. Other brilliant extras including watching audition tapes from the cast and Abrams and company musing on the origins of the show in The Genesis Of Lost, though to be realistic, it covers nothing most viewers haven’t heard of before. The best feature is Matthew Fox’s photography of the making of the first episode with a warm presentation through the fifteen minute special while the Lost cast interviews at various conventions is a geek treat. The only features that don’t work as well are a rather silly spoof with an ABC host, a boring feature on Drive Shaft, who I’m still convinced are more akin to Busted or McFly rather than Oasis or Radiohead. There’s also a gag reel, which feels a little staged at times but other than that, fans and DVD lovers have a lot to revel in with this release. It’s nice that the cast feature heavily in proceedings as they certainly add a lot to the extras in question.


1x01: Pilot Part 1 = 9/10,1x02: Pilot Part 2 = 8/10,
1x03: Tabula Rasa = 7/10,1x04: Walkabout = 10/10,
1x05: White Rabbit = 9/10,1x06: House Of The Rising Sun = 8/10,
1x07: The Moth = 6/10, 1x08: Confidence Man = 8/10,
1x09: Solitary = 9/10, 1x10: Raised By Another = 8/10,
1x11: All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues = 9/10,
1x12: Whatever The Case May Be = 6/10,
1x13: Hearts And Minds = 7/10, 1x14: Special = 7/10,
1x15: Homecoming = 6/10, 1x16: Outlaws = 9/10,
1x17: In Translation = 8/10, 1x18: Numbers = 9/10,
1x19: Deux Ex Machina = 9/10, 1x20: Do No Harm = 10/10,
1x21: The Greater Good = 8/10, 1x22: Born To Run = 7/10,
1x23: Exodus Part 1 = 10/10,1x24: Exodus Part 2 = 9/10, 1x25: Exodus Part 3 = 9/10

Season One is currently available on DVD.