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The X-Files – Fire (Review)

Well, Fire is probably Chris Carter’s strongest script since The Pilot. I suppose we should be grateful for that, at least.

All fired up...

All fired up…

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Non-Review Review: Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan

This August, to celebrate the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness on DVD and blu ray, we’re taking a look at the Star Trek movies featuring the original cast. Movie reviews are every Tuesday and Thursday.

In many respects, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan represents the franchise’s first true “reboot.”

There have been various points in the history of the franchise when the show has undergone a reinvention of some description, a radical shift from what it was into what it would be. The third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation represented such a dramatic update, a shift turn-around from the show’s first troubled two seasons. The third and fifth seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine did something similar. Star Trek: Enterprise tried to affect some radical shift, but only managed to accomplish it in the third season. JJ Abrams’ recent summer blockbuster represented its own dramatic alteration to what Star Trek was or could be.

However, The Wrath of Khan represents the show’s first massive shift, the first point at which the franchise effectively evolved into something markedly different from what it had been before.

You Khan do it!

You Khan do it!

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Doctor Who: The Talons of Weng-Chiang (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Talons of Weng-Chiang originally aired in 1977.

Ah! Eureka! Do you know what that is?

You ask me so that you can tell me.

That’s right. It’s a trionic lattice, an integral part of a time cabinet. It’s impossible to open it without it.

You mean it’s a key.

Yes. He’s not only a scientific fool, he’s an absent-minded one.

Perhaps he has another eureka.

No, eureka’s Greek for “this bath is too hot.”

– the Doctor and Leela

The Talons of Weng-Chiang is generally agreed to be one of the (if not the) greatest Doctor Who adventures ever produced. It tends to hover around the top of various official polls, with only Caves of Androzani and City of Death coming close to it in public opinion. As such, I feel a little bit guilty when I confess that it doesn’t rank as one of my absolute favourite adventures. I like it a great deal, I think it embodies a great deal of what works about the Philip Hinchcliffe era of the show. However, if I’m looking for a dark pseudo-historical adventure, I am more likely to pick either The Pyramids of Mars or The Horror of Fang Rock.

I can see why a lot of people respond to The Talons of Weng-Chiang, and it has a lot to recommend it, but there are a number of minor problems that hold the serial back from the cusp of perfection, in my opinion.

Read it at your (Yellow) Peril...

Read it at your (Yellow) Peril…

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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Elementary, Dear Data (Review)

To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and also next year’s release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, I’m taking a look at the recent blu ray release of the first season (and a tiny bit of the second), episode-by-episode. Check back daily for the latest review.

If you needed more evidence of the improvement of Star Trek: The Next Generation between the first and second seasons of the show, Elementary, Dear Data certainly provides it. Like Where Silence Has Lease directly before it, Elementary, Dear Data works so well because it takes a couple of ideas hinted at and teased in the first season and then develops them just a little bit further.

There’s a sense that the universe of The Next Generation is slowly expanding. While the first season treated our main characters as masters of all they surveyed, Elementary, Dear Data hints that the universe still has more to teach them and that they have a lot to learn.

Unfortunately, the trend would not continue into the next episode, but Elementary, Dear Data proves that the writing team (and the cast) are learning to play to the show’s strengths and that the pieces are all positioned to allow for a solidly entertaining hour of television.

Things take a turn for the better...

Things take a turn for the better…

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Non-Review Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

Back in its heyday, Hammer Horror had a reputation as an assembly-line studio, churning out cheesy exploitation horror after cheesy exploitation horror with an efficiency that would make battery farmers jealous. I won’t pretend that the reputation is entirely undeserved, although I do have a certain fondness for the delightful schlock the studio would produce. Still, I think that this reputation tends to overshadow the occasional gem that the studio would produce, something that managed to transcend the cost-effective scenery and cookie-cutter approach to film-making. While it probably isn’t the definitive adaptation of the tale, Hammer’s The Hound of the Baskervilles is still an absolute delight for gothic horror aficionados.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it…

Note: This review contains spoilers. I consider a classic novel and fifty-year-old film to be fair game.

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Wallander: Sidetracked (Review)

The wonderful folks at the BBC have given me access to their BBC Global iPlayer for a month to give the service a go and trawl through the archives. I’ll have some thoughts on the service at the end of the month, but I thought I’d also take the opportunity to enjoy some of the fantastic content.

In hindsight, it’s very hard to divorce Wallander from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Both are Swedish murder mysteries exploring the darker side of what one character here terms “the great social experiment”, both involve uncovering old secrets buried in the past, and both are adapted by the production company Yellow Bird. In fact, the BBC adaptation of Henning Mankell’s novels actually debuted a year before the theatrical release of that other hugely influential Scandinavian thriller. Featuring a blistering centre performance from Kenneth Branagh and absolutely superb production, I think that the BBC’s production of Wallander actually stands in fairly good company.

Out in the field...

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