Thursday, 8 April 2021

Terror of the Vervoids Commentary!




Join Joe & David as they set sail on the Hyperion III for mayhem & intrigue! Why are Pip’n’Jane underrated? How charming is Colin Baker? And David regales with a tale of the delightful Bonnie Langford.

Vervoids1

Join Joe & David as they don’t snap their necks, at least not until... Joe is frightened because David loves a good body count, incoming comedy show ‘The Two Bonnie’s’, discussion of Hyperion class design, and Dolly Parton’s new song ‘Doland.’

Vervoids 2


Join Joe & David as they are driven directly into the eye of the black hole of Tartarus! The question ‘would you say this is the most vaginal monster?’ is asked in all sincerity, intrusive Trial segments are discussed, Doctor in Distress is celebrated and we salute cosplayers everywhere.

Vervoids 3


Join Joe & David as they are charged with genocide! The truth is out: Janet is guilty and we reveal all about how she murdered the Conmodore and was put on trial. Also, what the hell does Nicola Bryant sing in Doctor in Distress?







Thursday, 1 April 2021

TNG – The Naked Now

 



Plot – Sex virus wipes out crew and infects the Enterprise causing much silliness. Wesley takes over the ship and saves the day. Just read that rather than watching the episode.

Character – Wesley Crusher gets his first real examination in this episode and it is absolutely worthy of discussion. He begins the series as a wide eyed, straight A student with ridiculously over emphasised abilities and a chance to pilot a Starship long before his prime. He’s essentially told time and again that he is extraordinary, that his aptitude is far in excess of his peers and that he can see things in different ways to other people his age. No wonder he ends the series a moody dropout who essentially throws his hand in with terrorists and then chips the universe off to explore time with a God. Nobody can live up to that weight of expectation. He’s just a child, and he faces the terrible ignominy that despite his impressive technical ability, he is still a human being. It doesn’t help that he is characterised in the most saccharine way possible throughout the first year. Truly, it takes until The Child and then perhaps into the third season for the character to become tolerable. Characters without flaws are irritating, child characters even moreso. Wil Wheaton is not to blame; he acquits himself rather well in the face of some overly simplistic characterisation and dreadfully stilted dialogue. It’s like Gene Roddenberry didn’t want to give the kid a chance.

This is Dr Bev’s first chance to really show her medical competence and prove her place on the Enterprise. She manages to let a sex virus works its way through the entire crew, her son holds the entire crew to ransom and essentially endangers the whole ship. Top job, Beverley. No wonder they brought in Pulaski.

Performance – Very often when actors are asked to behave out of character it is an excuse to either really enjoy playing the opposite end of where they character usually is or the result is a very extreme (and humiliating) performance. Who could forget Siddig El Fadil playing the villain in DS9’s The Passenger? Or Jolene Blalock turning into a sexual predator in Bounty? I don’t think anybody was very comfortable playing the intoxicated version of their usual character in The Naked Now, mostly because they haven’t had the time to figure out who their characters are yet. Levar Burton decides to go for broke and play LaForge as a snappy, sweaty rude boy who can suddenly see the beauty of the universe. Denise Crosby is the one actor that just goes for it and doesn’t care if she has egg on her face. The sequence where she walks along the corridor gyrating her hips and grabs an officer and snogs his face is so insanely over the top it is impossible not to laugh. Marina Sirtis seems a little embarrassed (strange given some of the things she would do later in the shows run) and so takes to hang onto Jonathan Frakes’ neck and keeping her face out of shot. One of the worst acted scenes in TNG’s run comes when Gates McFadden (‘Oh would I like to show you…but we don’t have time for that kind of thing!’) and Patrick Stewart (‘Not now Doctor…please!’) trying and focus on the investigation at hand and find themselves desperate to try and rip each other’s clothes off. ‘I’m a woman…I haven’t had the comfort of a husband. A man!’

Terrible Dialogue – ‘Captain, what we’ve just heard is impossible’ says Data about the emergency hatch being blown. Impossible, really Data? Perhaps unfortunate would be a more appropriate word.
‘Help me not to give in to the wild things coming into my mind’ ‘Geordi, my job is security!’ might be one of the strangest exchanges in any Star Trek episode.
'It was an adult who did it!’

Worst moment – Why does drunk automatically equate to sex mad? Tasha’s scene with Data has lasting consequences for the series and the character but they feature some highly questionable and troubling dialogue that shows that you shouldn’t be playing around with issues like abandonment and rape if you don’t have the ability to tell those stories in a sympathetic way. Tasha seems to suggest that being abandoned at five and threatened with rape throughout her teenage years means that the only man she can ever trust now is a machine. ‘What I want now is gentleness…and joy…and love’ is such an awkward line. The ‘how fully functional?’ line has been quoted ad nauseum but coming after Yar’s confessions about her past this all feels very mucky and yucky.

I wish they hadn’t done that – Rule one Wesley: when a man comes into your quarters drunk and sweaty you show him the door. You don’t invite him in and show him your science project.

There are illusions to The Naked Time but that was an episode of TOS that was at least four episodes into the run so we have had the chance to get a handle on the cast and they are playing the episode to the hilt. The Naked Now in comparison is awkward and embarrassed. Perhaps the comparison should never have been made.

Why in these early episodes does Patrick Stewart sound like he is recovering from a stroke when he is forced to make an intercom message?

There’s a very funny moment when Picard practically stares out to camera and explains to all the kids at home that alcohol can be very dangerous and impair your judgement. In reality he is talking to Wesley, but Stewart has to force himself not to look directly at the audience.

A reason to watch this episode again –
I have a question. Why would you feature an episode with all of your major characters behaving out of character before we have even figured out who those characters are? For all we know Tasha Yar might be a space vamp who enjoys fucking androids? Or Geordi might be the ultimate poet in the universe. Or Dr Bev and Picard have a history and can barely keep their hands off each other. Actually, that last one is true. It does indicate that Gene Roddenberry doesn’t really have much of a clue about kick starting a television show in the 1980s and reveals his weird obsession with sex that feels especially out of touch with what will eventually become such a dry show in that regard. If you’re a horny teenager who gets off on the idea of a sex virus plaguing the crew then this might just the ticket but if you are looking for sophisticated science fiction that tackles tough subjects then this may not be the ideal first adventure out of dock for you. For all we know coming out of this episode the entire show might be pitched at the level of a sub grade sex romp featuring pre-pubescent teens taking over the ship. I had huge fun writing this review which may go some way to explaining just how truly abysmal this episode is. Everything is off kilter; the premise, the pacing, the characterisation, the dialogue. What is shocking is that it is nowhere near the nadir of season one. It’s entertaining but mostly because of how truly terrible it is.

½ out of *****

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

VOY - Night


Plot – I love the Captain Proton holodeck programme and it is a huge feather in Voyager’s cap; camp, silly and really enjoyable. It doesn’t quite make up for the hideous programmes that surround it (Lord Burleigh’s gothic romance, the Jamaican luau, Leonardo Da Vinci’s study and the obscenity that is Fair Haven) but I do appreciate the fact that for one year only the show has decided to find the fun. It means that two of the most stilted performers in this cast have an excuse to be so (Duncan-McNeil and Wang) and the crazy melodramatic music, the detail in the ridiculous design and the beautiful black and white photography really help to sell the magic of this period of SF comic strip sagas on the big screen.

Character – There is a feeling of disquiet amongst the crew as the ship is finally crossing an area of space that is completely unknowable. The lack of stars means that it is impossible to navigate or even see where they are going and as Chakotay says for sailors who are used to exploring that is the worst position to be in. Rather than use this as an excuse to kick start a plot about jet black aliens that are swarming around the ship or some such nonsense, the writers instead decide to turn this into a psychological exercise. It is one where the crew have a long chance to consider their situation in the Delta Quadrant, the reason that they are stuck here and the strong possibility that they might never make it home. It is unlike Voyager to really push for intense examination of this nature, so it is especially fine that they chose this route. These are officers with nothing to report, with no star systems to chart or explore, where the blackness of the windows seems to pressing in on them and claustrophobia pervades.

Fascinatingly, it takes removing Janeway from the show altogether to reveal just how much she holds this crew together. It was a brave move to write out the central character for the first third of the season opener but in doing so they make her even more of a focal point than ever. She’s conspicuous by her absence and everybody is feeling it and has questions. Janeway is kept from the audience as well as the crew so we are all part of the mystery. When we do finally catch up with her she is darkly silhouetted in her quarters, brooding and depressed. It might seems an odd time for the consequences of her actions in Caretaker to finally have caught up with her (five years later) but when you are trapped in area of space where nothing is the order of the day and there is nothing to do but think then the mistakes of your past are bound to come back to haunt you. Janeway as this dark, critical thinker is not what we are used to (she’s often the real morale officer on this ship) but it plays to Mulgrew’s strengths as an actor and she really grapples with the darkness in the script. ‘If the crew asks for me, tell them the Captain sends her regards.’ It turns out Janeway thrives on danger and excitement and the second they are under attack she is back at her best. I just can’t imagine her stuck behind a desk back at Starfleet Command. She won’t give an order to strand the crew in the void when she has a way out of it, tying into her questionable (but understandable) decision in Caretaker. She’s willing to sacrifice herself in order to give her crew a push home, which is reckless but very noble. Tuvok says her methods are unorthodox and that that is her greatest strength and weakness as a Captain. She displays both here in spades.

Chakotay suggests that there is discord between him and Tuvok, which has been apparent since the pilot when he posed as one of his Maquis officers. Strange that they should bring this up here because I haven’t felt any kind of tension between them since the end of the first year.

Production – It’s so interesting that we are in the same sets we always are but by simply taking away the pricks of light outside the windows and suddenly it feels like there is a hand wrapped the ship and it is squeezing. Thanks to some strong directorial touches (the lighting is much more brooding than normal, suggesting the lack of light outside) and the increased anxiety from the actors and the premise really bites.

The most obvious thing that the script could do is plunge the ship into darkness but with 20 minutes of build up about how claustrophobic the crew already is, it is a really sweaty moment of panic. How the light snap off sequentially feels darkly playful, like somebody is trying to frighten the crew. Suddenly we’re in horror territory as the crew is trapped in absolute darkness with the suggestion of alien nasties in the shadows.

I rather like the Malon and their grungy, dirty aesthetic but I fully accept that they are hardly the most memorable of races that Star Trek has ever come up with. It is nice to have a race that is neither good nor evil but simply doing their job and spreading environmental hell throughout the quadrant as they do. We would see a little of them this year but nowhere near as much as I would like.

Best moment – Seven of Nine disabling Satan’s robot in less than five seconds and concluding her role in the holodeck programme before they have even started. It is screamingly funny, aided by Ryan’s brilliant deadpan delivery.

‘You realise you can all be hanged for mutiny?’ The crew show their solidarity in refusing to let Janeway sacrifice herself, by refusing to obey her orders. It is mutiny, but it’s also very cute.

Worst moment – Only Harry Kim could consider an existential crisis a ‘two-year holiday.’ Sometimes you have to wonder why they don’t install him with some kind of pain collar and every time he thinks up some insanely optimistic suggestion, they give him a quick zap of absolute agony. At least Tom and Torres both chide him for his remark this time around. The writers are coming around to the fact that they have created a complete chump.

I wish they hadn’t done that – I’m not the sort of person to normally worry about technical inconsistencies but if the power is down then surely the holodecks would stop working and we wouldn’t be seeing Seven and Tom in black and white anymore?

It is a shame that when the aliens are revealed they look a little like sparkly turds in body stockings. This could have been the Voyager episode to really get under your skin.

The closing scene where Voyager enters a densely packed region with thousands of star systems is very nice, but imagine how this would have felt after a handful of episodes trapped inside the dark region of space? The relief feels unearned because we have only come in at the end of this two-month trip through hell.

A reason to watch this episode again – This is the start of what is easily Voyager’s most successful season and one where the show exhibits the one thing that it has been lacking for most of its saga to date and would go on to lose again once this season is over; confidence. That is exemplified in the brilliant campy and overdone pre-titles sequence set in the Captain Proton’s holodeck programme, in the fact that this is an intimate character piece rather than a wham bang thank you ma’am action season opener, in the charismatic character interaction and the faith that this episode has in its cast. I have two complaints; one is marginal and the other is inherent in the series’ fabric. The aliens that attack the ship really should have been the most terrifying race we have ever met and they are patently absurd looking (although ultimately I like how they are used as a victim of the Malon’s waste dumping, because it sets up the race well for the rest of the season). And Voyager loves making these bold suggestions – two years in a pitch-black region of space – and then ducks the potential of long form storytelling within that by wasting the premise on a single episode. That means this episode is vivid and unique but it wastes the potential of the kind of what it could be exploring. I’d love this darker, more psychological take on the show long term. Night is a very strong season opener and it pleases me to see Voyager having this much belief in itself and its ridiculously talented cast.

**** out of *****

Saturday, 27 March 2021

The Long Game written by Russel T. Davies and directed by Brian Gant (dedicated to Roger)

 


This story in a nutshell: Essentially a 45-minute-long pre-titles sequence for Bad Wolf…

Northern Adventurer: Context is key and what is fascinating watching the ninth Doctor and Rose running rings around Adam in the first scene is that it is entirely different in tone to the tenth Doctor and Rose running rings around Mickey in the next season. Eccelston smiles gently, Tennant was sadistically dismissive. Piper clearly has great affection for Adam, whereas she treats Mickey appallingly. Honestly, this is the better approach and much easier to watch. The Doctor is all irreverence, with gags about Paris and snogging strangers until his companions are out of sight and then he has a look of absolute stone and a determination to find out why there is no racial diversity here. He’s got that Troughtonesque anarchist streak when Rose asks him if there is any trouble and he grins and says ‘oh yes.’ If there’s’ trouble, he’s going to bring it down. The whole idea of the companion that gets it wrong is fascinating and it does open up the awkward question of whether the Doctor only accepts people that pass a certain interview process and don’t make mistakes. I don’t prescribe to that but I can understand why this war torn, less patient version of the Time Lord might lack the tact to deal with those mistakes and choose instead to kick them out rather than to help them to learn. Father’s Day interestingly sees Rose make a similar mistake (exploiting the possibilities of time travel) and the Doctor is much kinder. Perhaps it has something to do with her being a pretty blonde. It’s a good thing that Tom Baker didn’t regenerate into Christopher Eccelston because Adric would have been out the door in no time. This Doctor’s raison d’etre this season is to encourage people to do better and to try and help themselves. He’s extremely passive in that regard (it’s considered a strength here and a weakness in series eleven and twelve but hey ho) but very aggressive in how he interacts with the people he is trying to inspire. We don’t realise it yet but the Doctor makes an almighty fuck up in this story by releasing the Earth from the shackles of the media and putting the world back into their own hands. They simply don’t know what to do with it. Boom Town introduces the idea of the Doctor’s mistakes coming back to bite him in the ass and then Bad Wolfe revisits this setting and lets that idea play out on a huge scale. It makes you sit there and think of all the times the Doctor has liberated a planet (say The Sun Makers and Vengeance on Varos) and really question whether that was the right thing to do without hanging around and making sure that some despot doesn’t start things all over again, or make things even worse. The look on the Doctor’s face when he walks towards Adam at the end of the story is the scariest he’s ever been.

Chavvy Chick: This is probably the episode in series one that is the least interested in Rose, her domestic life back on Earth and her emotional reaction to time travel. And I don’t think it is any the worse for it. To have her involved in a mystery, asking all the right the questions and being highlighted positively against a less savoury companion does her no harm at all. Essentially the idea is that this is business as usual, before the major fireworks start in the next episode. When they hold their hands in the lift as they go off to stop the monster, it serves a mission statement for series one.

Metal Mickey (umm, Adam): We should have known when Adam didn’t get an interior TARDIS scene staring agog at the interior dimensions that he wasn’t going to stick around for long because if he was going to be a new companion…why would you avoid that glorious moment. He’s so rubbish that he doesn’t deserve it. Replaying exactly the same sequence that Rose had in The End of the World with Adam witnessing the future as God looking down upon the Earth but having him faint is another indication that one is cut out for this line of travel, and the other is not. Let’s be fair for a moment. This is realistic depiction of somebody thrown off the deep into a universe of adventures that he was in no way prepared for. But how he tries to immediately turn the possibility of time travelling fun into an exploitable resource is what condemns and dooms him. You can see the pound signs in his eyes when he first watches a data spike, and from that point on he is on a one-way track of insatiability for the technology that would reveal his true colours to the pair that have offered him a trip of a lifetime. I don’t think he is a bad character, or badly played (I’ll spare you my opinion of the actor away from his profession) but that mix of naivete and abuse of his environment makes him hard to have any positive feelings about. When the Doctor sees Adam with the technology rammed into his head he looks desperately disappointed, as though he was rather hoping that he would work out. ‘It’s not actually my fault because you were in charge!’ means that he refuses to accept liability. He’s a child.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The fourth great and bountiful human Empire. And there it is; planet Earth, at its height. Covered with mega-cities, five moons, population 96 billion, the hub of a galactic domain stretching across a million planets, a million species, with mankind right in the middle’ Anyone that says that Russell T Davies cannot world build economically, go read that again. We don’t NEED to visit this world because with a description like that (the sort of description that Robert Holmes was the master of) we have conjured up something so spectacular in our heads that anything rendered in CGI would never live up to it.
‘What happens on floor 500?’ ‘The walls are made of gold’ A whole essay could be written about that exchange about capitalism, career progression and the rich feeding off the poor.
‘Don’t you even ask?’ ‘Why would I?’ ‘You’re a journalist!’ Ahem. Sarah Jane Smith would be appalled.
‘Your master and humanity’s guiding light: The Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe! I call him Max!’ I can completely understand why kids fell in love with the show all over again. It’s much more fun than names like Dorian Maldovar.
‘I don’t know how she did, sir! It’s impossible! A member of staff with an idea!’ is one of the most subtly funny lines in the first series. I howl every time I hear it.

The Good Stuff: I’ve heard complaints that this is the least visually appealing story of the first series, and certainly the cheapest. In terms of visual style I think this a step up from Father’s Day (with it’s drab 80s aesthetic) and director Brian Gant enjoys throwing in terrific long shots to suggest the scale of Satellite Five, some stylish lens work and some lovely shots with layers of depth. Almost to go against the grain I might suggest in terms of lighting, set design and camerawork it is one of the best of the first year. Each episode in that first year is going for movie of the week and I would say that it is Boom Town that comes off as the one with the least resources (but Joe Ahearne is directing that one and so it is still marvellous). There’s money here; slobbery, salivating CGI, huge sets, horror set pieces, a bustling marketplace but it just isn’t being poured into dynamic set pieces like, say, The End of the World. There’s a similar ‘inside world’ feel to this as in The Beast Below but I think the scale of this story is pulled off much successfully. There is a claustrophobia to The Beast Below (which suits the story) but fights against the suggestion of the scale of a city. Conversely this is only supposed to be a space station but it feels the size of a city.

Very quickly, we realise that something is wrong with this period of time; the lack of non-human individuals and it is one of the only smart things that Adam says. This has aged well in a time of social segregation, Brexit and a frightening presence of racism. Is this where we might be heading in the future? The head technology is simultaneously grotesque and very cool, which is a nice balance to get right.

I’ve made the complaint that Simon Pegg is wasted in this episode and it is true that had he managed to fit in with the schedules and play Pete Tyler that he would have had a bigger part in the show and have more meatier material to play but (and it’s a big but) it is always more fun to play the villain, right? He is clearly relishing the role and has that magic that certain actors bring to the bad guys that he can underplay the villainy and still be spectacularly melodramatic and gorgeous to watch. The Editor (a spectacular name for somebody who is manipulating the social structure of the Earth with the media, ahem) having a law that insists that the news must be unbiased, is hilarious.

If The Face of Boe is pregnant does that mean there is something that Jack is not telling us? I love how RTD manages to out Moffat Moffat by introducing Boe before Jack, and then revealing he is Boe. It’s like the River and Amy scenario, but more fun.

I really like the cheat of the audience falling under the impression that it is the Doctor, Rose and Adam that turns out to be the disinformation in the system, when Davies is cleverly sneaking Suki in under the radar.

Don’t you just love the idea of the Daleks installing this enormous racist blob into Satellite Five to oversee the Earth, with the Editor ensuring that the news that is being broadcast moulds the planet into one of subtle xenophobia. It’s very much the Daleks way but it is them using their brains instead of their guns and literally playing and exquisite long game to build up a fleet from the humans and then murder the rest. Clever, evil bastards. You’ve got love a Doctor Who story that ends with a big bang…but this one ends with a big blobby bang. That’s even more fun.

Once upon a time I thought that Tamsin Grieg (one of the finest comic actresses this country has presented) was wasted in a bit part role in this episode. Now I’m convinced that this is the highlight of the episode, a sequence of understated comedy that gives a peek into the behind-the-scenes nature of this technology, does some more world building and manages to be very cute (the vomitomatic) at the same time.

The Bad Stuff: I’m not sure we needed the sequence with the TARDUS key. Davies wants to make this a threat to the whole timeline of planet Earth but it doesn’t quite come off because the episode doesn’t have the time to deal with that as a genuine peril.

Isn’t that Odd: This might have been the ideal time in series one to head off to an alien world, especially since we have a new companion in tow. It’s completely intentional that we do not and that this series as a whole rejects the typical trappings of an off-Earth Doctor Who adventure to welcome the entire potential audience into the fold, but it was around this point that as a season Doctor Who fan that I was longing to see a quarry, some beardy natives or some latex primitive aliens. Colony in Space, basically. The fact that I did not get my wish (which is often a good thing because the show would never go anywhere or do anything new if it did) means it caught on to the mass audience and was an enormous success.

Result: ‘You and your boyfriends!’ This plays out so much better now than it did on first broadcast because we know now that this wasn’t Doctor Who’s only chance of a series that could be snatched away at any minute. Without the danger of fearing that if an episode is less than spectacular falling away you can suddenly see that this is a biting satire on the media and the degree of control they have on public perception, a fascinating piece of world building that serves as a prelude for the end of the season, an attempt to look at the role of the companion from a fresh and uncomfortable angle and a fun Doctor Who adventure feature a giant, slavering blob that wants the Doctor and his friends killed. All packaged up in 40 minutes of atmospheric camerawork, lighting and music. That’s not bad going for the dud of the season. There’s an exciting fusion of Paradise Towers (the internal structure of the environment, the floors that suggest different horrors, the nasty force that is behind all of this at one extreme end of the building) and Vengeance on Varos (the scathing attack on the disinformation, a suggestion that the TV being broadcast is violent and keeping everyone in their place) and it has that look of a mid 80s Who adventure all set inside the studios with lots of space corridors. There’s a three-minute horror set piece in the middle of the episode that proves to be one of the scariest moments of the season. If there is a huge sense of dissatisfaction about the episode it is that there are a ton of unanswered questions, which at the time felt as though they were never going to be answered. What happened was that this was the most important episode of the season (posing as the least) with the whopping great clue to its importance in the title. Go figure. This isn’t perfect; Suki’s character is overplayed until we discover who she really is, there are moments where the story pauses for some odd worldbuilding (kronkburger, anyone?) and I think we are supposed to be impressed by Thatcherite Kafaka but I found her willingness to climb the ladder at the expense of all else loathsome, and thus her decision to ditch all of that and save the day simply because she didn’t get a promotion problematic. But it’s a thoughtful story, it’s doing things with the building blocks of Doctor Who that have never been done before (very season one) and it features Eccleston and Piper at their most relaxed, and Simon Pegg as the (delicious) villain. Criminally underrated, this is one of the episodes of the first year that feels exactly the right length for what it is trying to do: 8/10

Monday, 22 March 2021

The Trial of Steven Moffat - Defence and Prosecution!



The Nimon are back and they're going to court! Join Jack and Joe as they finally return from the Nethersphere for the first instalment in the trial of Steven Moffat.

With the defence up first, it's down to Jack and the witness testimony of Rohan to make their case for six whole seasons of Doctor Who. Can they do it? Is Moffat's time travel shenanigans a strength or a weakness? And just how many quotes can Jack recite in two hours?

 The Defence

Join Jack and Joe as they untangle some of the criticisms of the Steven Moffat era. A writer panicking, or adapting? Too confusing? Too sexy? Too smug? Prosecution witness Pete Lambert takes to the stand. And a chance to have your say!



Vote in the poll on this very blog!

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Buy Me a Coffee - Doc Oho Reviews


Doc Oho Reviews has been going for a whopping ten years now and there are over 1000 reviews covering a wide range of Doctor Who media including television, audio, book and comic strips. The entirety of Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, Buffy, Star Trek (DS9, TNG, VOY) have been covered. And much much more. I have always insisted that this is free content and I am so happy to have received much feedback from people saying how much they have enjoyed the site, how it has helped them to make purchase decisions, and how it has helped them to see the shows they enjoy in different ways. 

The content is still absolutely free and available for everybody. I have taken the step to add a 'Buy me a Coffee' Tab in the header. The idea is that if you wish to show a gesture of appreciation for the blog and the content that you can click on the link and make a small donation. This is entirely voluntary and simply if you wish to do so. It would help me to continue to purchase items to review on the blog - particularly Big Finish stories, which can be expensive. It is a joint 'Buy Me a Coffee account' with my podcast 'A Hamster with a Blunt Penknife.' 

I want to repeat that there is no compulsion but also that I would be extremely grateful to anybody that might wish to show their support for Doc Oho Reviews. It has been a huge labour of love and I look forward to continuing to provide content in the future. 

Many thanks for reading, 

Joe 

Monday, 15 March 2021

Terra Prime

 


Plot – When Trip and T’Pol’s baby turns up on the viewscreen as the most dangerous enemy that humanity has ever faced, I wondered if that was in fact the most dangerous enemy that Braga and Berman have ever faced – character development. It’s a fantastic symbol of what I feel has been Enterprise’s biggest weakness, it’s failure to capitalise on the awesome talent of its cast and stretch them in different ways. It’s always a brilliant way to begin what is essentially the last episode of this show (officially that is These Are the Voyages… but we don’t like to talk about that). The worst monster that the crew of Enterprise has come up against is the prejudice of humanity. I’m not sure if that was what Gene Roddenberry was going for when he created this Utopia in the future but it is a compelling approach to take and forces us to hold up a mirror to ourselves (it is more relevant today given who is in political power in the States than ever).

I really like the fact that at this stage of the game, Enterprise feels like a living, breathing universe with its own unique take on Trek. It took four long, bloody seasons to get there but with politicians on Earth, representatives from Vulcan, Section 31 in the mix, the entire season in the Delphic Expanse, the Andorians being given some exposure and even the Tellurians propping up some episodes it truly feels like Enterprise has set up all the pieces for a riveting final three years…oh bugger.

The line that felt really brave is the one that exposed that somebody on Enterprise helped Paxton gain the genetic material on the ship to create a half human, half Vulcan child. The implication being that a racist supporter of Paxton was working on the ship. It’s tricky because I hate the idea of this kind of sick xenophobia prevailing but at the same time I like the idea of deeply flawed characters with questionable beliefs potentially being regulars on this show.

Character – To see T’Pol rocking a child in a maternal way is a far cry from her opening episode on this show. She’s the character that has come on the furthest journey and whilst I would say that that has been an exploitative voyage (often she is developed through the means of sex and drugs), it still shows remarkable growth. I wouldn’t have imagined that she would have a maternal bone in her body in Broken Bow and certainly would never have suspected she had the capacity to fall in love. Bring those two things together here and you have a heart-breaking conclusion to her time on the show, as she and Trip have to experience the loss of a child together. I truly wish they had gone down another route with this (just because I want them to be happy) but it really helps to sell how much they care about each other and it climaxes this tale on a genuinely poignant note. The means by which Paxton wants to bring down the aliens on Earth has a direct, emotional impact on two of the Enterprise crew. Why did it take so long to get these characters so emotionally involved?

I think the last time that Mayweather had any serious development was in series one and so it feels like the biggest joke of the series that in its last gasp he is given a corrupt ex-girlfriend to muddy the plot.

It’s interesting that Trip can convince a member of Terra Prime that he is a steaming bigot because the lines that he says in this episode echo precisely where he was in the first series. He didn’t like the Vulcans and he did object to them making them jump through hoops for technological advancements. One of my least favourite elements of the first series was that there was an underlying xenophobia amongst our heroes that came out in some very ugly ways. So look at them all now. Their mission has allowed them to grow and understand each other more, to develop relationships and to have a much better appreciation for other species. Trip has come a long way as well. He’s still handsome as hell, mind.

Performance – Paul Weller is certainly commanding as Paxton but I’m not sure that he is an especially compelling character under the surface. His xenophobia is not given much explanation (remember when O’Brien’s hatred of Cardassians was explored in a single episode of TNG?) and so he comes across as a man who picked a cause and just went for it, rather than having a solid motive. A shame because the performance is icy and memorable. The best moment for this character is when T’Pol bursts his bubble and tells him that he is no significant and he responds that history will determine that. He wants his moment, and if he has to murder everybody in Starfleet Command to do it then so be it.

Great Dialogue – ‘I promise you this; our future will be secure because humanity will prevail’ – Astonishing how that line, which on paper is celebratory, can become twisted with hatred and xenophobia. I can imagine a Starfleet Captain saying that line to bolster their crew. Spoken by a racist politician, this is a damning criticism of any non-humanoid living on Earth.‘Earthmen talk about uniting worlds. But your own planet is deeply divided.’

Production – Was it my imagination or did the CGI seem especially ropey in this episode? It feels like we have reached the end of the season with an exhausted crew and budget. There’s one particularly troubling sequence where we set foot on Reed’s 32nd planet where it is very obvious that they are all standing in front of a green screen.

I wish they hadn’t done that – Back on DS9, Section 31 used to operate in plain sight under guises and manipulate the political landscape to the Federation’s gain. Now they are adhering the most hilarious of cliches; only meeting in dark smoky alleys and wearing buttoned up black suits to conduct their dastardly deals. It would appear that they learnt the art of subtlety come the 24th Century.

A reason to watch this episode again – A strong script with a fair production, this is a fairly muted but reasonable end to the Enterprise journey. There is certainly no point where this episode drops the ball and throughout each of the crew get something of significance to do. The threat of the destruction of Starfleet Command gives the narrative some balls and the Paxton makes for a strong, if not especially deep villain. If I sound fairly ambivalent it is only because I would expect so much more than good for a final two parter. I would hope to see a show juggling empires, crossing time zones or making deals with the Borg. Instead this is a subtle ending to what has proven to be the most forgettable of the Trek shows. However, to go out questioning the Roddenberry ideal, probing the inherent racism that was in the fabric of the show in the first season and giving each of these characters a fair crack at the whip…well, I’ve seen series depart with far less dignity and intelligence. Enterprise was a victim of being the fourth Berman era Trek and being produced when the franchise was suffering from fatigue. It was also bizarrely conceived to be mired in continuity but it only really embraced that at the last minute. Season four of Enterprise is a strong year of Trek and certainly the best year of Enterprise and so perhaps it was a good thing for the series to go out at its height. However, it feels that everything was finally falling into place when the axe came down on this show and that is unfortunate because I am practically certain that the following few years might have really seen this show flourish into something to rival the three previous shows. Terra Prime is very watchable, and it even stabs at your emotions at the end. If I wanted more from this story it is because I wanted more from the series. Had this been the end of series four with series five to come I would be far more favourable.

**** out of *****