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New Escapist Column! On “Andor” and the Ideology of Late Capitalist Empire…

I am doing weekly reviews of Andor at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Wednesday evening while the show is on, looking at the Rogue One prequel as it progresses from one episode to the next.

Following on from the bridge episode Announcement, Narkina 5 kicks off what looks to be another three-episode arc for the show. Written by Beau Willimon, the episodes digs deep into one of the recurring fascinations of Andor. The show is fascinated by the ideology of the Empire, but that extends beyond its imperialism and fascism. Indeed, like a lot of the work of showrunner Tony Gilroy, Andor suggests that the evils of this organization are a manifestation of late capitalism, and the way in which that ideology is designed to drive competition rather than collaboration.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “Andor”, Revolution and Reaction…

I am doing weekly reviews of Andor at The Escapist. They’ll be dropping every Wednesday evening while the show is on, looking at the Rogue One prequel as it progresses from one episode to the next.

The first six episodes of Andor comprised two three-episode arcs, which seemed like a logic structure for the show going forward. However, the seventh episode of the season is a mostly standalone episode, one that seems largely dedicated to the fallout from the previous adventure. However, it’s also a showcase of what Andor does well, particular when compared to so much modern franchise media. It is a cleverly written and thoughtful episode that advances the show’s characters and themes in interesting and compelling ways.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

301. Cool Hand Luke (#234)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

This week, Stuart Rosenberg’s Cool Hand Luke.

Lucas Jackson is a petty criminal assigned a two year sentence to a chain gang in Florida. All he needs to do is to keep his head down and his nose clean, and he’ll be back out in society in no time. However, Luke is unable and unwilling to do that. Luke bristles against the camp’s authority, and finds himself locked in a battle of wills against those in charge.

At time of recording, it was ranked 234th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Star Trek: Voyager – Thirty Days (Review)

Thirty Days is a fascinating misfire.

Thirty Days is build around a number of interesting ideas. In terms of character, there is the framing device that finds Tom Paris sentenced to spend one month in the brig after an act of crass insubordination, suggesting a relapse into the “bad boy” persona that was largely forgotten after Ex Post Facto, barring the occasional revival for episodes like Vis á Vis. It also hints at questions of discipline on the ship, something around which Star Trek: Voyager has skirted in the past in episodes like Prime Factors and Manoeuvres. There is a compelling story here, somewhere.

Watching Thirty Days can feel like…

In terms of science-fiction plot elements, Thirty Days features the first ocean planet in the history of the Star Trek franchise. That is interesting of itself. What wonders lurk within an ocean world? What would life look like had it never left the sea and set foot on land? There is something decidedly pulpy and magical about a planet that has no surface of which to speak, instead comprised of waves and tides. Even with the flimsiest of plots, this element alone should provide fodder for an exciting installment.

Unfortunately, Thirty Days fumbles both of these interesting elements, falling victim to a recurring issue with the plotting on Voyager. The pacing is awkward, the plot points are under-developed, the framing device is hackneyed. The script for Thirty Days seems far more concerned about hitting the forty-five minute mark than it does with using these elements to tell a compelling story. The result is a bit of a wash.

Water conservation.

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Doctor Who: Smile (Review)

Smile is a retro future thriller updated for the twenty-first century. It is 2001: A Space Odyssey and Logan’s Run by way of Ex Machina or The Girl With All the Gifts.

On the surface, Smile is the story of a rogue computer program seeking to enslave or destroy mankind. Popular culture is littered with that particular nightmare, a sentient AI that embarks upon patricide; Skynet from The Terminator, Alpha 60 in Alphaville. Indeed, Doctor Who has a rich history of playing with the trope; the sentient computer in The Keys of Marinus, B.O.S.S. from The Green Death, WOTON from The War Machines, P7E from Underworld. It is a classic science-fiction trope, and Smile plays with the idea of help robots becoming self-aware and murderous.

Bad bots.

Indeed, even the aesthetic of the episode consciously evokes those retro stories. Smile was filmed in Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences, a beautiful architectural marvel defined by its smooth white surfaces and peaceful atmosphere. It feels very sterile and very clean, its minimalism evoking the set designs of those classic films and its relative lack of colour harking back to the time when Doctor Who was broadcast in black-and-white. For most of its runtime, Smile feels like a very old-fashioned piece of science-fiction.

However, around the halfway point, a shift takes place. All of a sudden, the smooth whites of the city give way to the grim industrial earth tones of the rocket. The episode seems to jump forward to gritty late seventies and early eighties science-fiction, the “used future” of Star Wars and Alien. As the episode continues, it pushes even further. Ultimately, it becomes a sly subversion of the archetypal “robot rebellion” story, instead exploring the implications of that narrative. The Vardi are transformed from renegade robots to freed slaves. It is a clever twist, albeit somewhat rushed.

Character arcs.

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