Tuesday, June 27, 2006

My Review of Doctor Who's: "Inferno"

Written by Don Houghton
Directed by Douglas Camfield

The Doctor: “Yes well I’ll tell you something that may be of vital interest to you, Professor.”
Stahlman: “What?”
The Doctor: “That you sir are a nitwit.”

I often have trouble going through the average four part serials so when you have to watch a seven part story; it definitely requires a lot of patience. The usual worry about the plot being dragged is the big concern but this serial is something of a rarity.

Not only is it one of Jon Pertwee’s darker stories but it’s also one of those serials that uses its length to its advantage. The whole thing may have taken nearly three hours but I guarantee there won’t be many times in which to be bored.

The main plot here concerns The Doctor and UNIT getting involved with the Inferno project. This is basically a top secret drilling operation that is aiming to penetrate the earth’s crust in order to release a major source of energy. It also means that already something can’t be right with this scenario.

It also doesn’t help that Stahlman, the man who is causing all of this havoc is an insufferable git of a man. I get scientists who are passionate about their work but this guy’s obsession with drilling the earth only raises alarm bells from the very start.

It’s also not a good sign that the man seems to ignore reason at every turn. When Greg Sutton tries to warn him of potential danger, he shuts him out and The Doctor despite getting the chance to be pithy is also routinely ignored by Stahlman. It’s almost as if the crazy git is deliberately looking for trouble.

There are of course other things to worry about as well. When Slocum is infected, he becomes savage and starts killing soldiers. Physically he also doesn’t look that far off from the Hulk either and as monsters go, this is definitely one that stands the test of time so to speak.

Better yet again, there’s also an interesting twist where The Doctor halfway through the serial winds up in a parallel world. This is something that hasn’t been done often on the series and as experiments go, it adds a bit of flavour.

While alternative versions of Stahlman, Greg Sutton and Petra behave more or less in the same way as the real world versions, this is also a world where The Doctor doesn’t exist and The Brigadier, Sergeant Benton and Liz Shaw are also rather different.

Yes, Liz has gone from scientist to soldier and she’s quite the brute. Similarly so is the normally sweet Benton but it’s the Brigadier (called Brigade Leader) that surprises the most. The Brigadier isn’t always the most liberal minded of men but his alternative version really is a nasty piece of work.

No sooner is The Doctor both the Brigade Leader and soldier Liz are torturing the hell out of him. Okay so the scenes are never that graphics but they still are rather shocking and Nicholas Courtney, whilst always a good actor does seriously excel himself here. He oozes menace with such ease it’s almost hard to watch.

Still with The Doctor seemingly going back and forth in two realities and the imminent disaster about to break out at the Inferno project, there’s a frantic rush to save everything.

Using the alternative reality as a means of helping with the action is smart. While the brutish Brigade Leader later comes off as coward, it’s nice to see that even the abrasive soldier Liz can still be influenced by The Doctor in a bid to do the right. Pity it doesn’t mean she completely makes it.

As for Stahlman, despite his steely determination and attempts of even stopping an inquiry into his work, at least the entire project is managed to be stopped. It’s also during this entire serial that The Doctor has been making some attempts to get off earth.

Naturally his plans don’t succeed which means for a bit longer, he’ll have to be nicer to UNIT. One thing I enjoyed is the playful banter between The Doctor, Liz and The Brigadier. If there’s only one fault with this serial is that while Caroline John is given a wealth of material, Liz doesn’t exactly get anything in terms of a departure scene, which is a pity.

Also in “Inferno”

At seven episodes, it was interesting to see each episode open up with a volcanic image.

The Doctor (re the Brigadier’s school photo): “Good heavens. Which one’s you?”
The Brigadier: “Don’t you recognise the one?”
The Doctor: “Don’t tell me. Let me guess. Not that one. Not that one. None of them?”
The Brigadier: “Fifth from the left. Third row.”
The Doctor: “Yes, well if that’s true I can see why you grew that moustache.”

I feel like a nitwit myself but I actually didn’t know that Nicholas Courtney actually wore a fake moustache. As Brigade Leader, he didn’t have to wear one.

Stahlman: “That computer is oversensitive. Its data is unreliable.”
The Doctor: “You talk about that thing as though it were your maiden aunt.”

Stahlman: “Don’t presume to tell me what to do.”
Greg Sutton: “No director. Sorry director. Three bags full director.”

There was a romance lingering between both versions of Sutton and Petra. Great chemistry from both actors involved too.

Brigade Leader: “You are giving us a great deal of trouble.”
The Doctor: “I'm delighted to hear that.”
Brigade Leader: “You'd make things much easier for yourself if you would tell us who you are.”
The Doctor: “Proper little bureaucrat, aren't you? Can't shoot me unless you've filled in all the forms, is that it?”

The Doctor: “But I don't exist in your world!”
Brigade Leader: “Then you won't feel the bullets when we shoot you.”

Various titles for this story could’ve been “Project Inferno”, “The Mo-Hole Project”, “Operation: Mole-Bore” and “The Mole-Bore”. Interesting!

The Doctor: “Listen to that! That's the sound of the planet screaming out its rage!”

Greg Sutton: “It's marvellous, isn't it? The world's going up in flames and they're still playing at toy soldiers!”

Interesting bit of information is that Barry Letts directed some of this serial and that originally Kate O’ Mara had been considered for the role of Petra.

Greg Sutton: “They could stand up to an atomic blast.”
The Doctor: “Compared to the forces that you people have unleashed, an atomic blast would be like a summer breeze.”

The Doctor: “Listen to that! Do you want to end your lives fighting like animals?”

The mutant creatures in this serial were called Primords but the name wasn’t mentioned on screen and instead was credited.

The Brigadier: “Sergeant, I want to see Professor Stahlman and I want to see him now and I advise you not to come back without him.”
Sergeant Benton: “But sir –”
The Brigadier: “A chance to use your initiative, Sergeant!”

Liz: “Oh dear!”
The Doctor: “Um, Brigadier, my dear fellow. I wonder whether I could borrow a couple of your stalwart chaps to give me a hand in bringing the TARDIS back. It's landed in rather an inaccessible position.”
The Brigadier: “'Pompous, self-opinionated idiot' I believe you said, Doctor.”

This was released on DVD in June 2006, with some brilliant extras, including a UNIT feature.

Well “Inferno” wanted to be a scorching serial and at seven episodes long it certainly had the opportunity to ignite and it really did. This is definitely one of the best Third Doctor stories out there.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

My Review of Doctor Who's: "Spearhead From Space"

Written by Robert Holmes
Directed by Derek Martinus

The Brigadier: “Well at least he won't get very far.”
Liz: “You mean before your men shoot him again.”
The Brigadier: “I don't find that funny.”

To many people this episode felt like a full assault of newness coming all at once. Not only was this the first serial to debut Jon Pertwee’s Doctor (my favourite incarnation after a certain Scottish bloke) but it was also the first time the series was in colour and it was the first we met the Autons, a race we’d at least meet on two more occasions.

Meteorites are crashing down on Earth and soon enough, they’re drawing the attention of UNIT. The Brigadier in particular is eager to discover more about them and enlisting Liz Shaw is one of his methods for doing that. Of course it also doesn’t help that the sinister Channing is also in pursuit of them as well.

Within in the first few minutes, Liz is more vocalised than the latest incarnation of The Doctor, which isn’t necessarily bad. She’s one of the best companions the series has ever done and I can’t help but admire her scepticism over the idea of aliens.

Of course it’s a source of tedium for the Brigadier who isn’t best pleased with her flippancy but the snarky dynamic between the two of them is actually fun to watch. That’s mainly because Liz’s scepticism never veers into the stages of annoyance and that can be attributed to the fact that she doesn’t have to wait long to encounter extraterrestrial activity.

Her first alien is fittingly with The Doctor but regeneration has taken his toll and Jon Pertwee mostly spends his time in a hospital bed dipping in and out of consciousness. The Brigadier is also pretty wary of The Doctor’s regeneration too and it doesn’t help when the Time Lord winds up being kidnapped by Channing’s men.

The first part ended with a gagged Doctor being shot but thankfully it’s from here on in that he becomes a bit more robust. With reporters scouring around the hospital and The Doctor’s physiology generating unwanted attention, at least The Doctor has the good sense to leave the place as quickly as he can.

Pairing him up with the Brigadier and Liz for the rest of this serial definitely heightens the overall enjoyment factor of this story. He’s already had a history with the Brigadier but he and Liz spark off well enough and she even tries to get his TARDIS key at one point for him. Of course The Doctor then has to come to the grim acceptance that he’s stuck on Earth for the foreseeable future.

Luckily for him, he doesn’t have an opportunity for boredom because kidnap attempts aside, the sinister Channing seems determined to get his hands on one of the remaining meteorites and even goes to great lengths to kill former factory worker Ransome and keep UNIT at bay.

Channing is definitely one of the more chilling of menaces we’ve had on the series as he clearly has Hibbert under his control and it was him who tried to snare The Doctor during the first part of the series but of course, he’s one of many problems that are encountered here.

First off all, this serial does mark the debut of the Autons and as villains go, they certainly make an impact. I’ve never been one of those people that gets creeped out by mannequins or dolls but can why after watching this serial that certain folk might feel a little wary around them.

They’re missing from the first episode and by the end of the second one their presence is certainly felt when they try to kill Ransome. Even more effectively is the extent of the trauma of Ransome’s altercation with them before he finds himself being murdered by one of them during a time when a UNIT soldier wasn’t watching.

From Channing we later learnt that the Autons are trying to conquer Earth by making facsimiles of governmental figures. It’s a good enough plan and we do get a moment when General Scobie becomes a victim of Channing’s machinations, putting the Brigadier in a life or death situation.

The final quarter of this serial isn’t short of some stellar moments. You’ve got a brilliant moment where the Autons launch a stinging attack on a London street as well as their battle with a bunch of UNIT. It’s no wonder that judging by this appearance alone they came back the next season.

Of course it’s The Doctor versus Channing that generates some good moments too. The Doctor might have been successful in getting Hibbert to turn on Channing but he still ended up being a casualty of the Auton but this serial did offer some pretty grisly deaths and it was obvious that Hibbert would perish anyhow.

Thanks to Liz’s quick thinking, The Doctor didn’t wind up being killed by the Nestene. As designs went, the Nestene wasn’t as cool as the Autons but it made for a decent enough creature and we can thank Liz for saving the day with this serial.

The ending also sets up an interesting dynamic for the series. Given that The Doctor’s Earthbound, there was no way he was going to accept it freely. It made perfect sense for him to wrangle a few things from The Brigadier but overall the interplay between the Time Lord, the Brigadier and Liz is nothing short of enjoyable.

Also in “Spearhead From Space”

I like the new title sequence and I see that Jon Pertwee has gotten the title of Doctor Who rather than Dr Who.

The Brigadier: “We’re not exactly spies here at UNIT.”
Liz: “Then what do you do, exactly?”

I think this is one the first episodes where we learn that The Doctor has two hearts. That nurse was a bit annoying as was Sam and his wife.

The Brigadier: “What puzzles me is why anyone would want to abduct The Doctor.”
Munro: “Could he be tied up with them in some way?”

The Doctor: “Well, you think that the TARDIS isn't big enough, don't you. That's because you keep looking at it simply as a police box.”
Liz: “Well it is only a police box.”
The Doctor: “Oh no, not once you get inside it isn't. You see Liz, the TARDIS is dimensionally transcendental.”

This story had the working title of Facsimile, a word that was mentioned enough times throughout the entire episode.

The Brigadier: “You could be a little less astringent, Miss Shaw.”
Liz: “I didn’t ask to come here.”

Liz: “Doctor, you tricked me.”
The Doctor: “Yes, the temptation was too strong my dear. I can’t bear to be tied down to one planet and one time. It won’t happen again.”

Not only did we get Jon Pertwee showering and singing but he did harp on a lot about The Doctor’s looks and yes, I did find it entertaining.

The Doctor (re mannequins): “It’s funny how their eyes seem to follow you.”
Liz: “Very.”

The Brigadier: “By the way, I just realized, I don't even know your name.”
The Doctor: “Smith... Doctor John Smith.”

This came out on DVD in 2001 with a good commentary from Caroline John and Nicholas Courtney. The UNIT Recruitment Film is an enjoyable feature.

As debut stories, “Spearhead From Space” is a joy. Jon Pertwee makes a good start on becoming one of the best Doctors with Liz and The Brigadier providing good support and the Autons making for impressive villains.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

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

Written by Derrick Sherwin And Kit Pedler
Directed by Douglas Camfield

Vaughn: “Doctor you have five minutes. Five minutes.”
Packer: “They won’t give themselves up. They’d be mad to.”

Okay we’ve had about four different encounters with the Cybermen since their debut in “The Tenth Planet” but this is possibly one of their most talked about serials in the series history but the real question is, is it their best? If I hadn’t seen “Earthshock”, I might have been tempted to say yes but it’s still a good serial to boot.

Basically “The Invasion” is the Cybermen equivalent of “The Dalek Invasion Of Earth” as our nefarious foes have big plans for London but not the kind you’d endorse. While the Daleks take great delight in killing, the Cybermen are more of a converting persuasion.

When the TARDIS gets hit by a random missile and is sent crashing to Earth, you’re just hoping that you get something a little out of the ordinary. Even for Doctor Who, an opening scene like that feels out of the ordinary. This is where this episode does success because in spite of its flaws, it doesn’t feel like an average episode.

I make no bones in preferring the Second Doctor over his First incarnation and throughout this story, Patrick Troughton is an absolute joy with his manic energy. He’s the kind of Doctor you want to travel with and with companions as excellent to watch as Zoë and Jamie, there’s an overall sense of fun as well as danger to proceedings.

The Cybermen are setting up an army to take over the earth but they need an ally of the human kind and there’s always going to be some gobshite willing to aid the schemes of a dangerous race and they don’t come any more foolish than the Managing Director of International Electromatics, Tobias Vaughn.

Actually I’m willing to scrap that because while Vaughn is foolish enough to work with the Cyber Planner, he’s also one of the nastiest pieces of work on this series and is played to perfection by actor Kevin Stony. Vaughn not only has no qualms with helping the Cybermen succeed in their invasion but he’s clever enough to set up his own plans with the help of hot headed right man Packer.

Packer is an impatient sort of bloke who seemingly enjoys nothing more than the idea of killing both The Doctor and Jamie but is also stopped in his tracks. Vaughn quickly deduces that The Doctor could be a potential help to his own scheme but persuading the Time Lord isn’t his strongest point.

To top it all off Vaughn also has Professor Watkins unwillingly working on a weapon he can use against the Cybermen. With the Watkins subplot added into the mix, there’s a justification for the constant presence of Isobel, a would be photographer. Actually I quite like Isobel and throughout the story I was under the impression that she was being groomed to join The Doctor, Jamie and Zoë.

Isobel worked perfectly with Zoë when you watch their scenes together. Zoë got to be quite girly and posed for photographs and she and Isobel also had great fun in wrecking one of the computers of International Electromatics. Plus her scenes with the UNIT crowd and her determination to get her uncle back made her quite sympathetic as well as fun. I was a little disappointed when she didn’t get to travel in the TARDIS at the end.

Of course there are two other big issues in themselves. First off there’s the Cybermen. I personally prefer them and The Master over the Daleks most days and while they are brilliant here, why did we have to wait so freaking long for them to show up? The controller was fine but waiting until the end of the fourth episode really was a sore point.

I know you have to build up the anticipation but you also run the fear of alienating viewers by holding out for so long and this serial was largely in risk of that. It also didn’t help that we had to go through long scenes of Zoë and Isobel getting kidnapped and The Doctor and Jamie breaking in and out of International Electromatics as well.

Then there’s the invasion itself. Starting in the sewers is grand because it does add a suitable creepy factor to matters but because it starts a little too late in the serial, it feels sort of too short for my liking. The Cybermen spend ages scheming and are almost defeated in quite a short space of time.

Last but not least there’s the UNIT situation. To me they are a plus and this serial does set them up in a more effective way than “The Web Of Fear”. It’s great to see Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart instead of Colonel. Doesn’t Nicholas Courtney totally convince in the role of Brigadier too? He’s certainly got that authorative feel to him as a character.

This is the very serial that also debuted Corporal John Benton (destined to become a Sergeant). He’s not given a hell of a lot to do but John Levene is a likeable presence throughout and the seeds are definitely sown here for the Jon Pertwee era when UNIT would take a far bigger role in the series. It also helps that UNIT play a good role in taking the Cybermen down as well. There’s nothing worse than some of the later serials portraying them as tin soldiers.

Also in “The Invasion”

This was an eight part serial and it was in the Patrick Troughton that serials were given the one title. I guess it made things easier for the writers.

Packard (to The Doctor/Jamie): “And next time, read the notice on the door.”
Jamie: “Oh don’t tell me you can read as well. What else do you do?”

Because episodes one and four of this serial are missing, the DVD release (November 2006) was clever in doing animated episodes for those parts. They’ve got a very noir feel to them.

Isobel: “Well they can’t have got themselves into any sort of trouble, can they?”
Zoë: “Oh you wouldn’t say that if you knew them. If there’s trouble to be found, The Doctor and Jamie can’t miss it.”

Originally this serial was supposed to feature Cybermats but the writers opted out of using them. I can’t really see what use they would’ve been anyway.

Vaughn: “I should of course be angry with you. You’ve thwarted my elaborate security precautions twice. I’d like to know why.”
The Doctor: “Oh that’s quite simple. I hate computers and I refuse to be bullied by them.”

Isobel: “But why kidnap us? Why didn’t they just turn us over to the police or something?”
Zoë: “I don’t know. Anyways we’ve got to get out of here.”

This was originally supposed to be a four parter but got doubly when the original idea for the next serial was dropped.

The Brigadier: “Central control would think I’m mad.”
Isobel: “Well the answer’s simple surely: go and get some proof.”
The Brigadier: “And how can I prove that in the sewers of London that there are creatures from outer space waiting to attack us Go and get one?”

Cyber-Planner: “Is all in readiness?”
Vaughn: “Of course.”
Cyber-Planner: “There is one hour to invasion time. Countdown will start from now.”

Tobias Vaughn has popped up in the New Adventures book “Original Sin” in a Cybernetic body and his other schemes against UNIT have included funding the BOSS computer (“The Green Death”) and Operation Golden Age (“Invasion Of The Dinosaurs”).

The Brigadier: “Bomb? You mean the Cybermen are?”
Corporal Benton: “Yes sir, something called a Cyber-megatron bomb. They’re going to wipe us all out sir.”

Jamie: “Bye.”
Isobel (re the TARDIS): “A police box? I don’t believe it.”

Apparently there’s a four year distance between this story and “The Web Of Fear”. This story is also a few months before “Spearhead From Space” too.

Okay eight parts is way too long for a serial and as a result there’s a fair amount of padding you have to go through when watching “The Invasion”. There’s no denying that this is one of the best Cybermen and/or Second Doctor stories but it’s twice longer than it should be and that is problematic.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

My Review of Doctor Who's: "The Tomb Of The Cybermen"

Written by Kit Pedler And Gerry Davis
Directed by Morris Barry

The Doctor: “I use my own special technique.”
Klieg: “Oh really, Doctor. And may we know what that is?”
The Doctor: “Keeping my eyes open, and my mouth shut.”

Yeah, right. If there’s one thing about The Doctor that’s true that what he might lack in violence is more than made up in his ability to chatter for 27 planets. I’m surprised we haven’t encountered an episode where he talks the bad guys into submission but as Second Doctor tales go, I like this one a lot.

Because I haven’t seen the previous serial, I’m in the position of having to get use to Victoria becoming a travelling companion with The Doctor and Jamie. Her disbelief about the TARDIS’ abilities to fly and travel through time are funny but if she thought she was misfortunate enough to encounter Daleks, then her luck takes a further bad turn with the Cybermen.

The episode is called “The Tomb Of The Cybermen” and an expedition on Telos soon encounter a set of metal with Cybermen drawn on them. The episode in that sense isn’t playing subtle but it’s the expedition people and the TARDIS crew are drawn together to help each other.

Naturally because The Doctor appeared out of nowhere, the expedition mistrust him but thankfully it’s not something that’s too dwelled on when they manage to get inside one of the biggest tombs. Perhaps playing to the traditional association with many companions, Victoria isn’t exactly rearing to go inside the dangerous tombs.

Logically you can’t blame her but it’s a bit annoying. Thankfully this serial does give her some good material as well to work with. For instance, The Doctor takes a rather instant mistrust to Kaftan and instructs Victoria to watch her. Kaftan proves her untrustworthiness when she drugs the poor girl.

Of course the attack of a Cybermat and a good scream soon gives Victoria an upper hand of sorts. It also helps that Jim and Hopper are around too. One of the interesting things in this episode was Victoria anxiously trying to counter Hopper’s mild sexism at every turn. Not that you can blame because it did lead to some funny moments in the serial.

However one of the best things about the entire story was Victoria’s scenes with The Doctor. Disbelief over the TARDIS’ abilities is one thing but Victoria getting some insight about The Doctor’s age and his family life was another. Its little scenes like this that remind you just how the domestics could come into play.

There’s also a good moment where Victoria discusses her family. After all, her father was murdered by Daleks and she clearly hasn’t forgotten about that. The Doctor telling that in time she’ll put it to the back of her mind does make sense though. Plus there’s plenty of actual danger to keep her focus in this episode.

The biggest danger being the treachery of Kaftan and Klieg, who very early in the story had planned to separate The Doctor, Victoria and Jamie. It was even Kaftan who locked everyone down the hatch and Klieg who stupidly enough woke the Cybermen from their very long slumber.

These two aren’t exactly the most stunning of villains and their stupidity regarding the Cybermen is extraordinary. If this lot had done their research, they would’ve realised that the Cybermen couldn’t be trusted and also do not take orders. The fact that Cybermats were sent around should’ve also emphasised that point.

Instead Klieg still tries to reason with them. The first he does this, he nearly ends up being under their control and despite being rescued by The Doctor and company, the treacherous buffoon refuses to see to reason. Some people just can’t be told, huh?

For a bit, Klieg does have the advantage of using a Cybergun to get the Cyberleader to obey him but having Kaftan’s servant Toberman under their control soon breaks that. Surprisingly while Kaftan is killed in such a violent manner, it takes way too long for Klieg to meet his sticky.

We even have to tolerate a scene where he incessantly goes on about being a supreme ruler and while it does get The Doctor to realise he’s unhinged, it’s a bit long in the tooth for my liking. At least one of the Cybermen actually does us the courtesy of killing him while Toberman snaps out of it to help the expedition and the TARDIS crew escape.

As Cybermen stories go, this one is suitably chilling with some nice jumpy moments even if the controller does sound a little Disco Stu at times. The ending is surprisingly bleak as well and there’s something very pointed about The Doctor not wishing to predict whether or not the Cybermen are actually dead. That’s very wise, given that along with the Daleks, this lot are never dead for very long.

Also in “The Tomb Of The Cybermen”

I loved the direct continuity to the last serial because it’s not something we always get during this time in the old series.

The Doctor (to Victoria): “Well, if we count in Earth terms I suppose I must be about
400... yes, about 450 years old! Yes. Well. Quite.”

Is this first time in the old series that The Doctor has referenced his age? How old would he be in Gallifrey terms?

The Doctor: “You look very nice in that dress, Victoria.”
Victoria: “Thank you. You don't think it's a bit, uh-”
The Doctor: “A bit short? Oh, I wouldn't worry about that. Look at Jamie's.”
Jamie: “What? Oh, aye!”

Kaftan: “We better stick close together.”
Victoria: “I’m alright thank you.”

Anyone else think that Kaftan looked quite a lot like Barbara because I did for at least the first episode of this story?

Victoria: “I didn’t like that very much, Doctor.”
The Doctor: “I don’t expect you did. Perhaps it’ll teach you to be a bit more careful in future.”

Cybercontroller (to everyone): “You belong to us. You shall be like us.”

This is the only serial featuring Deborah Watling, to exist completely. Maybe one day, the rest of them will be found.

The Doctor: “The power cable generated an electrical field and confused their tiny metal minds. You might almost say they've had a complete 'metal' breakdown.”
Jamie: “Oooh!”
The Doctor: “I'm so sorry, Jamie.”

Victoria: “You probably can't remember your family.”
The Doctor: “Oh yes, I can, when I want to, and that's the point really. I have to really want to - to bring them back in front of my eyes. The rest of the time they sleep in my mind, and I forget. And so will you. Oh yes, you will. You'll find there's so much else to think about, to remember. Our lives are different to anybody else's. That's the exciting thing! Nobody in the universe can do what we're doing.”

This story had the working titles of “The Ice Tombs of Telos” and “The Cybermen Planet”.

The Doctor: “Jamie, I hope you made those ropes secure.”
Jamie: “Oh, the king of the beasties himself could nae get out of that one.”
The Doctor: “Jamie, remind me to give you a lesson in tying knots sometime.”

This was released on DVD back in 2002 and features a commentary from Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling.

“The Tomb Of The Cybermen” is a success in bringing back the devious race from Mondas and definitely one of the most enjoyable romps. The ending is different from other serials as well, giving it a bit more bite too.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Monday, June 12, 2006

My Review of Six Feet Under's 5x12: "Everyone's Waiting"

Written And Directed by Alan Ball

With at least nineteen reviews up on tv.com (possibly more), my delay for posting mine had mainly been down to job hunting and my kicking and screaming knee jerk reaction to the fact I was watching the final episode of the possibly the best ever television series from the 21st century. However I couldn’t delay anymore and hoping to be as original as possible, here are the main events of this more than powerful instalment.

I debated which character I should’ve picked first to discuss but in the end, my first choice has to be Claire (it makes sense after all) who returns home hours after her bus journey and sets about making amends with Ted and finally admitting to him and herself that she has no idea of what she wants to do with her life. I can relate to this plot as I’m currently not in college myself and finding decent, non mind numbing side work hasn’t been an easy task, so Claire’s ambivalence all season in regards to her future struck a chord with me.

As much as I love and enjoy writing reviews for this site (and this show above others), I too seriously need to get off my backside and improve my own situation and just like the people in my life, it’s great Claire has a wonderful support system in Ted, who much for viewing delight allows her to photograph him naked in some lush and tender scenes between the pair of them. Chris Messina has made a great impression in the space of six episodes and if I wasn’t sold on Ted beforehand, then this would’ve closed the deal. Hooray for Claire for finally landing a stable and nurturing man, he really is one in a million.

Claire also got a fabulous job opportunity, as a photographer’s assistant in New York, which we learned later on was down to Olivier no less. Any hostility left between him and Claire got eradicated tonight and I’m amazed to say it but this season has really made Olivier into quite a decent bloke, although Claire does try to downplay her new opportunity a couple of times and at one point even considered rejecting it in order to take of Ruth, which the latter put a stop to by unfreezing her trust fund even though her job disappeared as quickly as it appeared.

Lauren Ambrose and Frances Conroy got some really beautiful mother-daughter scenes here and with Nate at the ready, Claire left L.A. in style but not before a typically fantastic dinner party (dysfunctional as this lot are, I’m gonna miss watching those kind of scenes), replete with heartfelt and hilarious odes to Nate’s life and all too touching farewell to Claire the next morning as she got into her car, put on Ted’s “un-hip” CD and began to drive away just like we saw in the trailer to Season Five, only this time we got a lot of flash-forwards to the future, which adhering strictly to Claire, we saw her marrying Ted in her late 40’s, though they didn’t have children, having a successful photography career according to her obituary and as an old woman dying in her bed and outliving everyone else as lucky Lauren Ambrose got the final shots of the series.

Of course just because I picked Claire, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t spoiled for great choices as David also had me on the edge of my seat. Upon being told to move, he returned to the funeral home in order to sort himself out and he wasn’t exactly compliant with this as his little spat with Keith showed but managing not to feel book-ended, it was wonderful to see the little boy lost get back his self control. Whether it was actually facing his red hooded monster who turned out to be him in the end, standing up to Nathaniel (who was seriously harsh) or even standing up to Rico, there was plenty to cheer and I’m sure I wasn’t alone in being happy for Keith offering to help buy the funeral home and he was on the ball for saying it didn’t have to be a depressing place to live in.

The uplifting redecoration confirmed that and David’s dinner prayer finally solidified him, Keith, Anthony and Durrell as a family. Alan Ball’s dream of family for the boys reached total fruition and the future in which David and Keith (probably after George Bush was out of the White House) got married was a fan moment everyone will applaud for.

Their individual deaths were also well done (both Michael C Hall and Matthew St Patrick looked plausible in their prosthetics) and I’m glad their was a reasonable time distance between how both died, although sadly Keith was the only one who actually got murdered but hey, it happened in his line of work so there isn’t any racist or homophobic overtones in it, so don’t complain on that front.

Other future events for our boys including Keith running his own security firm, Anthony revealed to being gay, Durrell becoming a partner in Fisher And Sons and three grandchildren as well as a partner for David post Keith’s demise. As chaotic and volatile their relationship may have been, the most important thing is that David and Keith actually made it in the end and while David may never have wanted Father Jack presiding over his funeral, he didn’t mind having him there for his wedding, now did he?

Not to be outdone, Ruth’s last ever plot also came to an amazing full circle. The poor woman spent most of her life taking care of other people without any real sense of fulfilment from and recent events like Nate’s death and Willa’s condition really took their toll as well as Margaret’s annoyingly insensitive commentary on her clothing and taking of Maya and in a long overdue self-reflection, Ruth finally decided it was time to live her life and went all out by offering support to Brenda (I just loved that scene between Conroy and Rachel Griffiths in regards to motherhood – Desperate Housewives beat that!) and her ditching of all her drab clothing in favour of the bohemian look that so fits her.

There was so many highlights with Ruth tonight and many of them including individual conversations she had with both George and Maggie as well as a fantastic return from Bettina and the latter former jailed daughter Marci and it was Ruth’s death in her hospital bed with George, David, Claire, Nathaniel and then Nate that started the floodgates for me and keeping with last season’s “we should all be working with dogs” mantra Ruth set up a dog retreat in Topanga (she moved in with Sarah who’s missing here).

Getting back to the very beginning of this episode for me, I was almost tricked into believing that Willa Chenowith was going to be our last brutal death in the beginning and it didn’t help for a large part of the episode, Nate disparaged any optimism of his new daughter’s survival. The various scenes between Nate, Brenda and Willa were actually quite dark but the little girl’s arrival was heralded by nearly everyone – Margaret and Ruth enforcing Brenda to think on the bright side in their own individual styles, Olivier happily singing Willa a French lullaby, although he made a total sap out of himself but the best scene was Nathaniel and Nate in which the latter finally accepted his little girl which actually did make my heart melt and Brenda also went out of her way to keep the Fisher’s in her life, especially by accepting Ruth’s help, allowing David and Keith time to fully buy her out of the funeral home and there was a delightful role reversal during the farewell dinner for Claire where got se got to be a little prudish in regards to Ruth bringing up a previous dinner encounter.

Future wise, we got a celebration of Willa’s first birthday, Brenda remarried and had a son as well as a successful career as a child therapist and the flash forward to her death was quite strange. As for Billy, I still think he was alone in his life while Oliver and Margaret still had each other. Also just like Claire there was no record of Brenda having grandchildren, though her husband was called Daniel Nathanson (she just can’t escape the name Nate) while her son’s name was Forrest.

Last plot I’ll ever have to delve into for the was Federico and I have to admit while I’m glad Rico finally got a business of his won, I found his behaviour towards David when the latter refused to sell up rather childish. Although David and Nate often disagreed with Rico’s view on how to improve the business, is reaction was uncalled for. Rico could’ve been a bit more understanding of David’s plight but he wasn’t and that sucks.

In the end it was smart for this partnership to dissipate but I wonder if there had ever been any rivalry between David and Rico? Probably but it did appear in the flash forwards that they were on some good terms because Rico was at both David and Claire’s weddings. I liked the way it was chosen not to do a close up on one of the future deaths though it made it hard for me to distinguish if I really was seeing Freddy Rodriguez and Justina Machado and it was.
On the Diaz front, we learn there were also three grandchildren and judging by the obituary, Vanessa, Julio and Augusto played active roles in the running of Diaz Family Mortuary.

Also in “Everyone’s Waiting”

No actual death in this episode’s present time, although we did see Rico working on a body before he left the Fishers.

David: “You’re not up to being a single parent.”
Keith: “You’re not up to being a parent at all.”

Claire told Ted she had an abortion while he admitted he almost paid for one. It’s probably unlikely but I did think that Ted may have had a secret child out there.

Nate (to Brenda): “Too bad you don’t believe in anything or else you could pray. This is exactly what I was afraid of.”

Was it me or did Margaret really look pretty in this episode? This also made her catty remarks to Ruth more painful and Olivier also looked thinner that usual. I also really loved Billy’s “What Would Jesus Bomb?” T-shirt. He was a moody so and so in this episode though.

Margaret (to Brenda): “For Christ’s sake Brenda, there’s something to feel good about. Don’t shit all over it.”

David: “We’re clutching to the past and for what?”
Ruth: “Because that’s when there was hope.”

David’s red hooded aggressor/sabre-tooth monster was very Star Wars like.

Nathaniel (to David): “You don’t think you have a secret room? What do you think being gay is you fucking freak?”

Brenda (re Willa): “She’s always hungry.”
Nate: “That’s because she know she hasn’t much time and wants to get while she still can.”

Some small bits and pieces here was Ruth watching Just Shoot Me (I would’ve gone for Arrested Development), Sarah is in Costa Rica, and Marci’s working in a meth company and David twigging that getting to a certain level in Tony Hawk’s earns respect.

Ruth (to Claire): “Go live; I’ll unfreeze your trust fund.”

Ruth: “I’m not cleaning up anyone’s violent crimes.”
Bettina: “Then we’ll have to accept there’s nothing else. We have to become hookers.”

Is it actually possible for Brenda to have really seen Nathaniel? I suppose so seeing as in the past Nate, David and Rico have talked to some of the DOTW’s.

Nathaniel (to Brenda): “Hi we’ve never met, I’m Nathaniel.”

Chronology (excluding the future scenes), the episode started at July 2005, but moved into December by the second half. Alan Poul was a guest during David and Keith’s wedding. Was there any other crew members doubling in this episode?

Claire: “I want you to promise if the corporate war mongers decide to invade Iran and they decide to reinstate the draft, you will move to Canada.”
Ted: “That's not gonna happen.”

This episode was loaded with so many references to the past that I’m going to let everyone else list them out but they were ones only pedantic viewers would’ve spotted.

Anthony: “Does it hurt to have a baby?”
Brenda: “Yes it does.”

Standout music in this episode was Lifehouse’s “Empty Spaces” during Claire/Ted photo session, Jackson Browne’s “Doctor My Eyes” during Ruth/Bettina/Marci’s chat, Peter Krause’s entertaining “I Just Want To Celebrate” and of course Sia Furler’s breathlessly poignant “Breathe Me” during the final eight minutes of the episode.

Claire: “Be happy.”
David: “I am.”

Nate (to Claire): “You can’t take a picture of this, it’s already gone.” – That line really struck me more than anything.

Deaths in future years: Ruth O’Connor-Fisher 1946-2025, Keith Dwayne Charles 1968-2029, David James Fisher 1969-2044, Hector Federico Diaz 1974-2049, Brenda Chenowith 1969-2051 and Claire Simone Fisher 1983-2085.

What can I say? Timeless, epic, beautiful, tear jerking and courageous, “Everyone’s Waiting” was the single most important piece of television for me this year and it excelled on every possible emotional level known to man. Alan Ball made a series so heartbreakingly realistic and true to life, he succeeded in his mission to bring this epic legacy full circle and he did it superbly. I cried like a total buffoon during the final ten minutes upon the realisation that I had to part with these brilliant characters. I watch so much television but so little has impacted me like Six Feet Under. Every single member of the cast and crew pulled out all the stops and if the Emmy’s aren’t tripping themselves over to give this series as many nominations possible next year, I will be totally shocked. Six Feet Under raised the bar like no other television show has done before and it will be sorely missed. It started with a bang and ended with several tonight. Best television show ever!

Rating: 10 out of 10.

Monday, June 05, 2006

My Review of Six Feet Under's 5x01: "A Coat Of White Primer"

Written by Kate Robin
Directed by Rodrigo Garcia

If you haven’t been completely consumed by the lure of 48 survivors on an enchanted island or the goings on of a not so picturesque suburban neighbourhood, then the fifth and final season of one of the latter’s key influences is back and boy, does it mean business. And before I go on, I apologise for the tardiness of this review, so I hope you enjoy reading this as I have writing it.

With so many things going on in this hectic season premiere, I had a hard time deciding where to begin but I’ll go with the obvious and start with Nate and Brenda of course, who have two misfortunes that wonderfully tie in together, a wedding and a miscarriage. It was always set in stone if this these two ever made up the aisle, chaos wouldn’t be far behind and true to form, and it wasn’t.

Rachel Griffiths was on fine form as the grief stricken but determined Brenda and for anyone ever craving a Brenda/Lisa showdown, we sure as hell got one here as Lisa (so delightfully pithy here) happily taunts Brenda over her past actions and current woes, while slightly raising the notion she is being punished for her past.

I personally don’t think she is but we got some truly killer dialogue between the pair and was it me or did Lili Taylor also look absolutely stunning in her wedding get up (different from the one she wore in “Grinding The Corn” – yes I too am that sad about this show). Peter Krause got his fair share of excellent moments too, although Nate’s staunch refusal to grieve over Brenda’s miscarriage was a little off. With the amount of pain that he’s been through over the last three years I understand his reasons to an extent but even still, he could’ve been a little more sensitive to her.

As for him not caring, come on that isn’t Nate like at all and he did redeem himself at the wedding when he found Brenda and managed to persuade her that even though their special day was a suck fest, better things are on the horizon for them. Also I have to give kudos for the sneaky way Nate and Lisa’s wedding video was also thrown in, replete with agitated looking Fishers and Kimmels and an oh so annoying Carol.

Okay she get a great quip in the ep but she still rattles my cage and not in a good way. Oh and before I forget, maniacal Margaret and Olivier are still loved up (pass the sick basket please) and to rephrase Tim Howard’s question, I have to ask – why is Olivier still with Margaret? Surely that shrill she calls a laugh would’ve driven him potty by now but as annoying as she is, this episode is one of her better moments.

With so much talk of marriage and children, I wasn’t expecting more on the latter but we got it as the David and Keith plot has the boys quibbling over adoption and surrogacy, leading to an intense dinner conversation that has Keith adjacently making an insensitive comment regarding Brenda and Maya. In other words, he’s for surrogacy while David prefers adoption before the pair then decides to explore both options.

While many viewers may bemoan this storyline, I kind of approve because anything that shows the boys progressing and maturing as a couple has got to be a goodie. That being said this plot could easily wear thin if the writers tend to overstate the obstacles gay couples can have with adoption/surrogacy and I do hope that there is other stuff for the boys to do this season (like resolving the pain that is Roger first off).

I’m also wondering if part of this story has been stirred on due to recent government/clerical/worldwide events such as George Bush’s re-election and Pope Benedict the 16th ‘s papacy. As long as it doesn’t get too political, this could be a great thread and for viewers not convinced with this story, I say give it a chance – it could turn out to be something great.

Keeping up with the chaos of last season, George is still a teething problem for poor Ruth. Despite all that electro convulsive therapy, it does seem that no real effect is taking place, which is partly okay because George is more fun off his rocker than anything else. Okay so he may not be as barmy as the previous two episodes but I think it’s safe to say Ruth is gonna have a big problem on her hands.

In some ways marrying George should have finally liberated her from the caregiver role she has been relegated to so many times in her life but that looks set to be a fantasy now. With George suffering memory lapses and Ruth taking her frustration out on Claire in a shocking fashion, Frances Conroy has never been better and with her looking set to get more to do, we could get ourselves a joint Ruth and Claire year and I have no complaints about that whatsoever.

The Claire plot of the episode has its moments. As a couple, she and Billy are a bit odd and unexpected. They’re a lot more settled than everyone else and have even gotten to the steps of moving in with each other but throughout this episode, there’s an indication of doom.

We get an illuminating conversation between Nate, David and Keith who all compare notes on Claire’s choices of partners (Edie conveniently being edited) and during a hilarious scene with the Fisher kids high, Claire’s attempts of convincing her brothers that Billy’s fine falls on deaf ears.

I don’t actually mind Billy and Claire as a couple, even if the latter is still acting like the untouchable art princess she was dubbed last season. As for her and Billy, though, well it’s that time again when Billy has a bi-annual meltdown and this time it will be Claire who’ll bear the brunt so I say to all Claire/Billy shippers, enjoy it while you can because it won’t last. And no, that is not a spoiler.

Then there’s also the tension between Claire and Ruth when the former takes a semester out of college, slightly mirroring a dilemma of my own right now.

Last but not least we’ve got the Rico plot, which unsurprisingly enough is the episode’s lightest moments as he struggles to find a perfect woman through a dating service and when Vanessa refuses to be his date at the wedding, he takes a fairly alright woman named Sharon instead.

While this may be stalling time for the inevitable reunion of Rico/Vanessa, it’s actually quite good fun and Ruth’s sage advice to Federico on his newfound way to meet women is nothing short of priceless. Plus, this is way better than the Sophia angle of last year but here’s hoping it’s not too long before him and Vanessa make up.

Also in “A Coat Of White Primer”

Truly sick death of the week with Andrea Kuhn getting impaled by a chair but top marks because it was so damn effective.

Claire (re wedding video): “Nate might have to get married without a prick.”

Justina Machado is finally made a series regular (good for her) and the credits are stretched (musically too) to accommodate her. And they couldn’t have done this last season?

David (re DOTW): “This is what happens to couples who never learn how to fight.”

Ruth (to Federico): “Enjoy it dear but try not to be blinded by lust if you can.”

In the hair and looks department, Nate’s locks are back to his former glory; Claire is noticeably thinner (but not anorexic), Brenda’s hair much longer and Lisa’s much lighter.

Carol: “I love how weddings just erase the past like a coat of white primer. Slap a veil on her and even the biggest slut bag becomes a fresh faced ingénue.”

Brenda (re Ruth): “Because she hates me.”
Nate: “She doesn’t hate you anymore.”
David: “Now she hates Claire.”

I still think HBO made a dumbass decision in moving this show from Sundays to Mondays for their final season, especially now that the same thing will not happen to The Sopranos next year.

David (to Keith): “I can’t rent out some woman’s uterus like it’s a storage locker.”

Six months has passed since “Untitled”. It’s now October 2004.

Lisa: “All the moments in your life have been leading up to this one. That’s why you’re being punished.”
Brenda: “I’m going to get my baby, you bitch.”

Again Nathaniel didn’t appear in the season premiere unless we’re supposed to believe that disruptive seagull was supposed to be him. And how cool was it that Nate and Brenda got married in the same place they discussed in “Someone Else’s Eyes” and “Timing And Space”?

Brenda: “I was remembering when you threw your ring at me.”
Nate: “Ah memories.”

Great music in this episode with Bebel Gilberto’s “Aganjou” (featured on the new SFU soundtrack) and various tracks from The Martini Kings (the wedding band), including two versions of “Teach Me Tonight”.

This was excellent. Once again the producers have managed to get the new season off a flying start with a premiere so jam packed with events; you need to catch your breath. Kate Robin (whose other memorable instalments include “A Private Life” and “Terror Starts At Home”) aptly kept me entertained. We got a clever use of flashbacks and dream sequences and the various throwbacks to previous seasons proves how consistent this show is with their continuity, it’s impossible not to love this episode. Roll on the next eleven.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

My Review of Six Feet Under's 4x12: "Untitled"

Written by Nancy Oliver
Directed by Alan Ball

Unresolved, unfinished, unclear, unanswered and of course, unknown. Alternative words that also easily could have been a title for the latest season ender in Six Feet Under's truncated fourth season. And also how I feel in parts about this episode.

The biggest mystery that has plagued all of the last year was how one Lisa Kimmel-Fisher died. It bugged Nate, her family and a large percentage of the audience and all along a vital clue to her final day lay inside the book that Michaela was so adamant that Nate give to David.

Okay so the photo of the last image of Lisa could have come from any standard and frankly moronic soap but the real question is - do I buy into the idea of Lisa and Hoyt having an affair?

To be honest, not completely even if it does make me sympathise with Barb and slightly understand her little bit. But the thing that stops this revelation from being complete tripe is the surprisingly powerful scenes between Nate and Hoyt. They are quite believable and even his suicide does incur a slight amount of intrigue.

With Hoyt dead the complete answers of Lisa's own demise now goes with him. Did I really think it would be that easy? For a second, yeah. I wanted to believe an enraged Hoyt had offed her. That Lisa was coming to visit to tell her about her cheating hubby (not that I'm siding with Lisa mind) and break off their affair.

Then there's Maya. Given the longevity of Lisa and Hoyt's affair, is it possibly that Maya is Hoyt's? Possibly but honestly I believe she is Nate's. She definitely feels like his and if she isn't, then I'm gonna be one teed off viewer.

And let's not forget Nate and Brenda's engagement, which for all it's initial cheesiness is still a believable ploy and a sigh of a relief we didn't get a pregnancy revelation although you can bet there'll be struggle with them trying to play happy families.

In much better arcs, David identifies Jake in a police line up, leading to a much necessary and totally compelling confrontation between the pair as it manages to get David to face his demons (although being David you know he's not completely out of the woods).

And then there are the David/Nathaniel scenes where he's forced to call on his own behaviour and accept the fact he's lucky to be alive, giving Michael C Hall another fine chance to emote. And how I’ve wanted to see that since "That's My Dog" and it certainly lived up to my expectations.

It's also great to see David and Keith as a more functioning couple than we've seen so far this year, but Roger hiring Keith as his bodyguard worries me though. I'm not sure if getting a job from the guy who was gonna sue your boyfriend a couple weeks ago bodes well.

Keeping with genuinely great plots, George is definitely off his rocker and I for cannot wait to see where this is heading. Yes, I was wrong he's survived the season but his apocalyptic fears are now heightened with nightmares of a turquoise dressed woman which I guess we're supposed to interpret as one of his wives or possibly his mother - Ball and company do like to keep things ambiguous.

Poor Ruth definitely has trouble on her hands and how convenient was it that Maggie had her twig about George's behaviour? The consensus with US viewers is either schizophrenia (which I concur) or Alzheimer’s. I actually quite liked Maggie - very pleasant but nobody on this show is a paragon of stability and I think it's fair to presume we'll be seeing more her next season. I'm genuinely compelled with this thread.

Also compelling was Vanessa asking for a divorce from Federico. Yes I should have seen it coming but that still didn't prepare me for the shock anyway. Poor Rico. He laid his heart on the line, finally conceded what an idiot he had been for getting involved with Sophia and apologised.

Yes he should get the consequences of his misguided actions but that doesn't stop for feeling for the guy, even slightly more than Vanessa but seeing as her and Rico were only the real stable couple on this show since "The Will", you just can't help but feel despair. However seeing as Justina Machado is supposed to become a regular next season, I hold out hope for reconciliation.

Not onto the worst aspect of the finale which sadly lies with Claire's gallery opening. I didn't like her and Jimmy as a couple but did she really need to be such a bitch towards him for no good reason? If it wasn't for him, her star turn wouldn't have happened and having her spent long lengths of time ignoring him and then casting him aside was pretty despicable and Claire's not that kind of person.

And what was up with her snorting coke like some strung out junkie? For crying out woman - get your shit together and sort yourself out before you become the embodiment of how not to act like as an artist (basically Olivier).

I didn't really mind her and Billy hooking up - it didn't feel forced and the only things that have prevented from furthering their relationship have been her age and his mental state, although their entanglement can go either way. And just wait until Nate and Brenda find out.

Russell equally pissed me off with his storming and disgusting need to claim credit. Sorry Rusty, this isn't a time where you have the right to claim your pound of flesh - Claire owes you nothing on this score.

His actions were complete and utterly selfishly motivated, although their little catfight was absolutely hilarious and at least we're finally rid of Anita (who leaves with Jimmy - talk about would you jump into my grave half as quick?). But for the third year in a row, Claire is left with no friends and for at least one of them, she is to blame. Will she ever learn?

Also in "Untitled"

Death of the week: Kenneth Henderson getting diced in half by the elevator door. Way too corny and Final Destination for it's own good, but it may make you more conscious of elevators.

Man: “We’re gonna drop ten floors and we're all gonna die.”
Woman: “We could use a little more Bruce Willis attitude here, Mister.”

Claire's new cyber name is CFisher220 while Billy's is MrChen106.

Nate (to David): “I hit a new low. I made the bereaved vomit.”

Maggie (re George): “Well thank God he shaves for you. He used to have a big scraggly beard.”
Ruth: “A beard? I can't picture it ... yes I can.”

Margaret wanted Claire to do a similar collage of her and Olivier. Wonder it that's to see what demonic child these two could produce.

Federico: “I am so sorry from the bottom of my heart.”
Vanessa: “You finally said it, thank you.”

How come Ruth and Maya were the only people from Claire's family at the gallery when we had all the Chenowith's? I get Nate being in Idaho but David's visit to Jake was well finished before the opening.

David: “Well I walk around all the time thinking everyone is going to humiliate and murder me."
Jake: “Well they are so I did you a favour.”

Wished they had gotten someone better than Nicole Richie to buy a piece of Claire's work. No offence but next season be a little more picky with guest stars.

Claire: “How are things going?”
Anita: “What?”
Claire: “My show, whore.”
Anita: “Oh fine, whore.”

Brenda and Maya together was adorable. The twins who play her definitely got more to do here than they have since ever. I also think Maya clung onto Brenda at the gallery because she was scared of Margaret's hideous top.

Olivier (to Claire): “I toast you with this shitty wine.”

Chronology wise, its 18 days since “Bomb Shelter”.

Nathaniel: “What do you think? You can do anything you lucky bastard, you're alive! What's a little pain compared to that?"
David: “It can't be that simple.”
Nathaniel: “What if it is?”

Standout music of the episode including the ubitiquous brilliantly score piece from Rick Marvin during all those interjected scenes, as well as practically everything from Claire's gallery party.

I immensely enjoyed this actually. Okay, so the “fates sealed” spiel I don't necessarily buy into and while the major death was of a character who didn't engage me, this was still a terrific way of ending the season. Yes, we should have gotten two episodes instead, with double yes on that Alan Ball should have scripted this, hats off to Nancy Oliver for a brilliant episode after the hit and miss "Coming And Going". It may not be an ultimate cliff-hanger like the previous two season enders but a damn sight better than finales we've had this year compared to other series.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Friday, June 02, 2006

My Review of Six Feet Under's 4x01: "Falling Into Place"

Written by Craig Wright
Directed by Michael Cuesta

Keith (to David): "I feel like I’ve been eating this cake for 12 months".

I couldn't have thought of a more appropriate way to open my first paragraph to review the new season of Six Feet Under and after those supermarket promos with Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" the anticipation reached fever pitch. Since "I'm Sorry, I'm Lost", we've gone through Sex And The City's final season, the marvellous Carnivale and Angels In America as well as The Sopranos' penultimate year and after all of the above was the first episode of Season Four worth the wait? Despite some rather question worthy and puzzle some moments, this opener had a lot to offer, so here goes...

"Falling Into Place" takes just seconds after the final moments of "I'm Sorry, I'm Lost" where Nate shows up at Brenda's and tells her of Lisa's death. However his search for comfort with his ex leads to an unwise (but brief) sexual encounter between the pair, adding further awkwardness between the former lovers the morning after.

Also during the night, a seemingly reunited David and Keith stay over at the former's childhood room, which is made even weirder for Dave when he has to hear Ruth in the throes of connubial bliss, which I’ll get back to later.

Next day everyone, including George (who Nate's hostility towards is almost non-existent - Bet that won't last long, though) learns of Lisa's death and at the coroner's office, it is David who has the unenviable task of identifying the body, turning what Nate had to do in the Pilot regarding his father almost on it's head.

From here on in, the bulk of the premiere now largely revolves around Lisa's funeral and some viewers may be delighted to see Lili Taylor's ill-fated character in a nicely done flashback where Lisa gives her burial wishes to Nate.

These wishes come into direct conflict with Lisa's freakish mother, who could possibly give Margaret Chenowith a run for her money in terms of parents you wouldn't want as she wants her daughter cremated and when you think you fathom the outcome, the episode's denouement turns everything on it's head as the Kimmel's leaves with ashes believed to be Lisa, while Nate buries his wife in the desert in a scene that will have viewers reaching for their hankies as the end credits roll.

But it isn't just Peter Krause who steals the show as going back to the current Nate/Brenda situation. While there may be tension still between the pair, unlike Season Three's closing instalments, at least Nate isn't trying to blame her for anything, even when he puts the kibosh on Brenda's plans to go to the funeral.

Still though, at least she's got the lovely Joe to get neighbourly with and moves in rather closer to him when the previous day she was determined to maintain some reasonable distance. Second episode in and my opinion on the guy still stands - I like him and great casting in Justin Theroux who is developing some brilliant chemistry with Rachel Griffiths. Unlike last season when the Brenda/Nate/Lisa triangle had the latter of the bunch not sitting well with viewers and critics alike, the same cannot be said about the inevitable Nate/Brenda/Joe entanglement here.

And with Brenda's celibacy now obliterated, how long are the writers gonna be able to maintain this arc where other shows have fallen flat on their arses with? On the plus side, at least Brenda seems more integrated this season than last and if she and Joe are heading for a collision course, can it be at least towards the end of the season, please?

Meanwhile Claire confesses all to Russell regarding the abortion and sends him packing when he breaks down. It's nice to see Rusty again and maybe Claire could've been more sympathetic when telling him, but at the same time his melodramatic act is getting a little tedious at the moment. If he's going to be around for this year, in whatever capacity, maybe the writers should make a couple of changes for the character.

David and Keith also remain a question worthy topic as the status of their new relationship is also kind of unknown to either of them. Both of them want to be with the other and both confess that they don't want anyone else but each other and while they are willing to make some changes, you can't help but feel that David moving back in with Keith is a tad rushed.

Wouldn't it have been more logical for the pair to rebuild their relationship, but have some distance between them? Then again, with the ecstatically happy Ruth and George (for now) shagging, maybe that's why David was so eager to scarper back to Keith. But, I can't help but feel that by doing this they will fall into old familiar shoes.

Following his indiscretion with lap dancer Sophia, Federico allows Angelica to stay longer until an impatient Vanessa turfs her out and after three seasons of not featuring in premieres and playing second fiddle to her husband, Justina Machado gets to cut loose her character shows why we should be watching this season as well as Federico's bizarre, as despite confessing all to a priest, he can't help but not drive by the strip club to get a glimpse of Sophia. And I can't wait to see where this heads.

Also in "Falling Into Place"

The fake ashes given to the Kimmels are from Bruno Baskerville Walsh, who in a flashback to 1972 we see jump off the roof after an acid trip in a nicely prodded nod to the brilliant Almost Famous.

Claire (re Ruth/George): “I was completely scandalised.”
David: “I never knew the word ‘George’ could sound so obscene.”

Anyone else notice Rachel Griffiths' post pregnancy show? This episode was only filmed a few weeks after the actress gave birth.

Nate (re Lisa): “I kept thinking please don’t let it be me who messes it up.”
David: “And it wasn’t.”
Nate: “Good for me.”

David: “So are you dating? Do you have a thing for anyone?”
Claire: “Ugh, no. Everyone is a total asshole who ultimately fucks you over.”

Loved Barb's eulogy to Lisa. I am so the type of person to call my friends at inappropriate times over something trivial.

Barb: “Lisa didn't believe in borders and that is why I know that wherever Lisa is right now, she's everywhere! She's everywhere and that means, she's home”.

Claire: "I got an abortion."
Russell: "When?"
Claire: "Like, right after we broke up."

Not only does Russell still have that unclean hair, but now he's got a moustache to match, which is worse.

Priest (to Federico): “That was very fast.”

Federico could barely contain his joy at Angelica being kicked out. And what about his confession to that priest and for a man allergic to cats, shouldn't even feeding them be a little harmful to Joe?

Brenda: “That was very kind, what you did the other day.”
Joe: “No it was selfish. I just wanted to see you.”

Chronology it's still obviously July 2003.

David: "So what did we just do? Did we just get married?"
Keith: "No."
David: “Feels like we did."
Keith: "Yeah, well don't over think it."

Standout songs included the Pernace Brother's "Baby In Two" during Claire and Russell's phone conversation and Jonathan Rice’s “Breaks So Easily” played during David and Claire's "eye-breaking" conversation stood out.

Had to admit that I was worried over the fact that Alan Ball didn't script this episode (I hope this isn't a sign of reduced involvement in the show - way too many producers/creators are doing that these days), but the superb Craig Wright kept us on our toes once again, although a bit more of poor Arthur would've have been nice and while things weren't as dark as last season, you can't help but wonder if David and Claire's "eye-breaking" conversation may foreshadow for bleaker things to come. However, despite some mishaps, "Falling Into Place" still displays why this show is probably the best thing on television right about now.

Rating: 9 out of 10.