Reviews - DVD/Audio
If you were paying attention last month, you will know that my DVD viewing recently has consisted of the third season the first of the "modern' Star Trek spin-offs, (and if you weren't I hope it was because you were watching First men In The Moon!) although it is a bit starling that the first season of this series is now almost as old as the Original Series was when the third season was being shown for the first time.
Season three TNG was, as I said previously, where this series really got going. Having said that, and this is going to be mildly controversial,. My viewings of the first two seasons on DVD revealed that actually, they weren't quite as bad as is often made out, which in the case of season two is quite a starling claim, I know (I can see the headline now: —TNG SEASON TWO IN "IT'S NOT ACTUALLY THAT BAD' SHOCK!"). But honestly, they weren't. Now in season three, the TNG bandwagon really gathered pace.
The third season was notable for the return of Doctor Beverley Crusher, after a year away at Starfleet Medical when she had been replaced by Data-hating, cranky McCoy clone Katherine Pulaski. The theory that Crusher was brought back because the crew were refusing to go anywhere near sickbay, even when they had shattered every appendage in their body while kayaking on the holodeck is merely a viscous rumour — probably. (Actually, like season two as a whole, she wasn't really that bad). Various character evolved from being slightly two dimensional previous seasons to develop much more in the course of the third season, especially Worf, Laforge, Wesley and surprisingly, Captain Picard, about whom there were concerns that he would stagnate as a character unless he got a bigger piece of the action as it were (no pun intended, and certainly no gangsters or machine guns).
It was also very noticeable that throughout the season, it was the Romulans who were being built up as what in the Buffyverse would be termed "The Big Bad'. They were there in lots of episodes, a shadowy threat bubbling under the surface, but their rivalry with the Federation never quite igniting into a full scale conflict, although they came close on several occasions. I really enjoyed this aspect of season three, if only because the episodes they featured in were usually pretty good (especially The Enemy, a sort of loose, Trekified version of the film Ememy Mine) and The Defector, both of which featured the Romulan Commander Tomalok, played by the late Andreas Katsulas. At the same time, though, I found it frustrating because suddenly at the end of the series, the Romulan threat was kind of forgotten about and it was the Borg who re-appeared to provide the big end of season climax. Having said that, Admiral Hanson's throwaway line in The Best of Both Worlds about every available ship being mobilised against the Borg, the Klingons sending warships to help defend the Federation, and consideration even being given to opening dialogue with the Romulans about the Borg threat, does unintentionally put the threat from the Borg into perspective, given the on-going threat from the Romulans throughout the season. Probably unintentional but it does kind of make sense to interpret it this way. But it was still a little disappointing that the Romulan threat was never really fully explored again in the remaining seasons of TNG, with the exception of the two-part Unification a couple of seasons after.
Another notable aspect of the third season is the episode The High Ground. When I watched this episode, it was the first time I'd seen it, because this was the one that was banned by the BBC, and not shown in either of the series two BBC2 tea-time runs. The reason for the BBC ban was the subject this episode dealt with, terrorism, and one very specific line - in his study of terrorism, Data notes that Ireland was reunified in 2024 after a successful terrorist campaign. As a result, this episode was not originally shown on free-to-air television in the UK for many years. In the Republic of Ireland the episode was shown in full with an advisory that the content and allusions were fictional, and initial airings were edited when shown on satellite channel Sky One. The episode was broadcast unedited in May 2006 on Sky One and finally shown unedited on BBC2 during the third season's repeats after midnight in September 2007. I didn't have huge expectation for this episode because I had heard it was a bit clunky, even patronizing, in the same way as the previous season's episode which dealt with drug addiction. To be honest in paces it was clunky, and indeed a little patronizing, but actually, it wasn't as bad as some comments made out. Not the strongest episode of the season by any means, but in no way the worst either.
Season three also saw the origins of the on-going saga of Lieutenant Worf's discommendation by the Klingon Empire, and through that, the various power struggles among the Klingon's ruling council. In the episode Sins of the Father Worf accepts discommendation in order to preserve the unity of the Empire, despite having proved that it was the father of Duras, not his own father, who betrayed the Klingons to the Romulans at Khitomer. This is a superb episode, which has ramifications for Worf and the federation for many seasons of TNG and DS9 to come.
So which episodes are the stand-outs of season three? Well, there's quite a few. I won't go on about Yesterday's Enterprise again, because I did that last month, but I will repeat my opinion that it was with this episode was the one really brought the series to life. There are others which spring to mind. I've already mentioned Sins of the Father, and a couple of episodes featuring the Romulans, but there are several others which have come to be highly rated or even considered classic episodes, or which have an influence in Star Trek films or episodes later on. Who Watches The Watchers? Deals with a "Duck Blind' mission, of the sort seen in the film Insurrection. Why do the Federation do these missions?
They always seem to end badly! A Matter of Perspective is an excellent Whodunnit, which we saw at the club last summer if I remember rightly, and The Offspring is very often cited by cast, crew and fans as an all time favourite episode, as the nature of Data's purpose and existence is examined again with a new twist — Data builds his own child. Sarek features the return of the classic series character (Spock's father and a revered diplomat, in case you forgot), still brilliantly played by the late Mark Lenard. The razor-sharp Vulcan logic is present in the character despite the onset of a debilitating, incurable condition, as evidenced by his reply to Picard's claim that he saw the Ambassador shedding tears at a classical music concert. "Your logic fails you Captain, I recall only one tear" retorts Sarek. The Most Toys puts Data in the spotlight, and the collection of an obsessive collector who will go to extraordinary lengths to possess unique items. Data's nemesis is one of the most unpleasant characters ever portrayed in Star Trek and causes even Data's moral fibre to snap as he is snatched away by the Enterprise transporter. A fraction of a second later, and Data would have killed him. The third season was when the portrayal of the Ferengi started to change from a sinister alien force (which lets face it, they could never really live up to) into recurring comic relief, not least in Menage A Troi, which features a brilliant turn by Majel Barrett as Lwaxanna Troi, and some startling acting from Captain Picard! They also play a big part in Captain's Holiday, which is a cracking good romp for Picard, and which finally shattered the illusion that Picard was permanently stuck on the bridge or in the ready room, although they managed to preserve the rule that the captain doesn't get placed in the line of fire (much). Hollow Pursuits sees the introduction of Dwight Schultz as Lieutenant Reg Barclay. This is the episode for all of the fans who wished they had their own Holodeck, so they could hang out on Ten Forward, hit on Troi, and beat up Commander Riker. The newly introduced Lt Barclay does all of those things and more in this episode, which features the first appearance of the soon to be fan favourite character. This is a very entertaining episode, but it's the kind that crosses-over and is fun for fans and non-fans alike. And then there was the return of our old friend Q, in the episode Deja Q, which with a bit of luck we'll be viewing at the club today. One of the best Q episode without a doubt, I'll say no more than that.
Finally, The Best of Both Worlds Part 1. The last episode of the season and the return in force of The Borg. A tour de force for Star Trek on TV, with all the elements that make for great science fiction and great Star trek, plus, a hell of a cliff-hanger, which writer Michael Piller wrote without a clue how to resolve! Yes, really — he was signed on for just one year, wrote the cliff hanger and assumed he would be leaving and that what happened after the immortal words "Mister Worf.....fire!" would be someone else's problem. It was therefore a good thing that he was persuaded to stay on by Rick Berman and Gene Roddenberry.
So that was it for season three, I'll soon be looking at box set prices on Play.com no doubt, and at some point I will be diving headlong into the four memorable seasons which followed this landmark year.
Jago and Litefoot series 1 CD - 17th October 2010
A few months ago, I promised to seek out a new and unheard of (at least to me) series or Sci-Fi item and do a review of it, in a bid to encourage everyone to explore new and fresh ideas about what's out there. This was a promise that I made after whinging about the lack of original ideas and the plethora of "reimaginings" that now dominate both the large and the small screen. So just what did I find you ask?
Well, cast your mind back to the 1970's and Tom Baker's tenure as the Doctor. A story that many of you may know, and that is generally considered to be a classic, is titled the Talon's of Weng Chiyan. Now this is a story that I had not seen, prior to completing this "experiment', but as I've seen many a Doctor Who this obviously didn't qualify as a candidate for review. However there are two remarkable characters from this story. The first, Doctor George Litefoot is a Victorian gentleman and medical pathologist, who works with London's constabulary. He is thrown into partnership with Mr Henry Gordon Jago, a theatre impresario and entrepreneur extraordinaire. Together they aid the Doctor to vanquish a futuristic Asian time traveller with evil abomination in mind.
Now these characters have been given the Big Finish treatment, and their resurrection, some 30 odd years since their original outing, was launched earlier this year as a box set entitled Jago and Litefoot Investigators of Infernal Incidents. A series of 4 stories set in the realm of the Victorian gentlemen and the paranormal investigations of the not so daring duo. This box set is perhaps optimistically labelled Series One.
The stories revolve around the adventures of the pair as they find themselves inadvertently thrust into a series of situations. The nice bit about this is they don't go looking for them, but the trouble comes to them when interesting cadavers come across Doctor Litefoot's pathology table. These "interesting cases" have a habit of being discussed over appropriate beverages at the local tavern, and the cases have this nasty tendency to come back to bite them (sometimes literally).
The beauty of this series is in the writing. It absolutely drips of Victorian England, and the casting of the original Actors (Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter), seems to have enhanced the story telling no end, as the pair have picked up where they left off, as if they only starred in the Talon's of Weng Chiyan yesterday. This enjoyment oozes out of every sentence uttered, and the fun factor that must have filled the recording studio, comes over in wave after wave, as the pair stumble their way through story after story.
This Big Finish production is a wonderful piece of work that fully deserves a heart felt recommendation to all, whether you've seen their original Doctor story or not.
I for one, am very pleased that I made the promise to look out for something new, otherwise this set of stories could so easily have passed me by. My world is definitely better knowing that Jago and Litefoot exist. May they go from strength to strength. Bring on series two!