[Apologies for delay: life stuff. I’ll get to the other episodes eventually]
The running thread of Dr M’Benga’s sick daughter, and his efforts to cure her, has been just that – a running thread. It’s come up in a couple of episodes, it’s been absent from a couple of episodes, but it’s been used to deepen our understanding of M’Benga and give Babs Olusanmokun the chance to act his socks off. Both of which have very much been achieved. Back in the sixth episode, the deeply unsatisfying “Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach”, M’Benga is able to get access to some advanced medical information which very much implied that his research would be ongoing. That episode didn’t give him a cure, but it gave him a path.
What’s It All About? After screwing up a training mission, MI5 officer River Cartwright is kicked downstairs to the so-called Slow Horses of Slough House, a dumping ground for failed agents. This is a humiliation where instead of pretending to be James Bond, he’s stuck with tedious paperwork overseen by Jackson Lamb (Gary Oldman!), his apparently-uncaring and uninterested boss. A British-Asian Muslim student is kidnapped by the Sons Of Albion – a right-wing fascist organisation – as a false-flag operation set up by Lamb’s boss, Diana Taverner (Kirsten Scott Thomas). MI5 have an inside man as part of the group but when one of the members goes rogue and executes the agent it’s a rush to find out where they’ve taken the student and rescue him before the Sons execute him. It’s down to the Slow Horses to come up with the answers as they go on the run to stop the fascist group and rescue the student.
Ewan McGregor returns to the role of Obi-Wan for his the first small-screen outing in the role. But can the series live up to the character’s oversized reputation?
What’s the Show, JG?Obi-Wan Kenobi
What’s It All About? Well depending on how generous you’re feeling, it’s either about redeeming pretty much the lone good things from the Star Wars prequels (i.e. Ewan McGregor), or it’s yet another cynical ploy to wring yet more cash / subscriptions out of Star Wars fans by pandering to them with a big star returning to their old role but on the small screen. Either way, Obi-Wan is hiding out on Tatooine nominally watching over Luke Skywalker as he grows up. After Princess Leia – a precocious child with surprising parkour skillz – is abducted, Senator Jimmy Smits Bail Organa asks for Kenobi’s help to get her back. Meanwhile, there’s an Inquisitor on Obi-Wan’s tale, Third Sister Reva Sevander, who has set up the abduction and has her own agenda. After surviving the slaughter of the younglings at the hand of Anakin, she’s out for revenge and wants to kill Luke. The abduction of Leia is part of her absurdly daft and baroque plan to draw Kenobi out, but anyway, we get six episodes of escaping-from-planets, a few lightsaber battles along the way, and eventually Reva gets redemption, Kenobi finally accepts Anakin has gone for good and has subsumed into Darth Vader, and everything ends more or less where it began. Except for all those dead bodies, but oh well, omelettes, eggs, etc
Let’s get the most obvious things out of the way first. Yes, as with the previous episodes of this series there is little here that could be called original. Yes, as with the previous episodes of this series, there’s a focus on a single character while giving the rest of the crew enough to do. Yes, as with previous episodes of this series, the question is whether the redux of familiar ingredients is enough to justify the existence of this episode. So… does it?
The whole “ban on genetic engineering” thing in the Federation has always seemed a bit… unthought out. Not in-universe, but metatextually. The logic of it is, “well, Khan was a super-evil dude, so maybe we shouldn’t do that.” And, fair enough, you can see the sense there, and for that being presented as the reason to avoid it. But also… to the point where other species can’t even be allowed in to the Federation? That seems a bit spurious — something which has been done for plot reasons rather than because anyone has sat down and gone, “well, do we really think the Federation would actually respond in this manner?”
One of the most impressive things about Nichelle Nichols — among a great list of impressive things about Nichelle Nichols — is how she managed to do a huge amount with generally very little screen time. One of the the reasons that Uhura works as an actual character is because of what she invested in the role. She always went way above and beyond what what actually on the page, and in doing so brought her to life. Uhura developed into an easy-to-like character who had her own strengths and abilities far, far away from snide, ignorant jokes about how the only woman on the bridge of the original Enterprise was apparently a receptionist.
Star Trek is back for a 3rd 21st century show. But can Strange New Worlds succeed where Discovery and Picard have struggled? Welcome to an episode-by-episode review.
Star Trek, in all its various forms, has never really been away since The Motion Picture dragged the once-cancelled original TV from the syndication doldrums to the bright cinematic uplands of the silver screen. A series of six ridiculously successful movies (well, ridiculously success for a middlingly-liked but cancelled TV show at any rate) gave birth to The Next Generation. Then Deep Space Nine. Then Voyager. Then Enterprise. Alongside all that, there were the four Next Generation movies – noticeably less successful at the box-office than their TOS counterparts but keeping the flame alive nonetheless. Enterprise, ignominiously-if-deservedly cancelled in 2005, seemed to mark the end of one particular strand of the franchise, yet just four years of no-Star Trek lie between it at the show returning to the big screen with the sharp, expensive and alternative-timeline shenanigans of the 2009 movie. That’s spawned two further movies – with a third on the way – but in a very real sense Star Trek‘s home has always been the small screen, not the silver one. Anyway, you get the point – four years between Trek projects is nothing. Even if the gap between Enterprise and the franchie’s big return to television, Discovery, is twelve years they have not, in any meaningful sense, been twelve Star Trek free years.
Picard is back for a second season of time-travel, trauma and Q. But can Season Two correct the flaws of Season One while also juggling the Borg?
One of the immense frustrations of Picard‘s first season was just how much good will the show had going into it, and just how much of that good will was completely wasted on go-nowhere plots, a bunch of who-dat side characters that never really cohered into anything, and wasting Patrick Stewart in a series named after his character but which only occasionally gave him anything to actually do. The conclusion to that season, especially, was simply dreadful, with Picard apparently becoming a robot but for no good reason, and the series going out of its way to point out its own irrelevancy. Everyone flew off into the sunset at the end of the season, a crew together for plot expediency rather than any other reason, and speculation inevitably mounted as to whether Season Two would have the ability to course-correct in any meaningful way and address the issues that Season One so glaringly failed to.
What’s The Show? The second-last Jodie Whittaker Doctor Who story, Legend Of The Sea Devils.
What’s It All About, JG? The TARDIS is pulled off course to 19th Century China, where a statue has been convincingly attacked by Madame Ching (Crystal Yu) who’s searching for treasure, only to reveal… a Sea Devil! Excitement? Er… anyway, Dan encounters Ying Ki (Marlowe Chan-Reeves), whose father was killed by said Sea Devil back in the day aboard the ship Flor de la Mar. They sneak aboard Madame Ching’s pirate ship and are immediately captured. She reveals that she needs the treasure from the selfsame Flor de la Mar to get her crew back – they’ve been kidnapped and are being held to ransom. The Doctor and Yaz slip back in time to the 16th century to try and find the treasure, unsuccessfully, and are taken to the Sea Devils’ underground lair. It turns out the Sea Devils are looking for the Keystone to execute their plans and flood the Earth, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s currently hanging round the neck of Ying Ki, passed down from his father. The captain of the Flor de la Mar, Ji-Hun (Arthur Lee) has been kept alive in stasis by the Sea Devils and had tricked them by getting the Keystone safely away. There’s a battle on the Sea Devil-converted wreck of the Flor de la Mar, and Ji-Hun sacrifices himself so the regular cast can escape and the Sea Devils are foiled. It all wraps up with a scene between the Doctor and Yaz, where the Yaz confesses her feelings and the Doctor gently, but firmly, turns her down. And then we get that trailer…
After more than 40 years since his first appearance, Boba Fett gets his own show. But does it work, or will it be a Fett worse than death?
What’s the Show?The Book Of Boba Fett
What’s It All About, JG? Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), bounty hunter extrordinare (it says here) escapes his ignominious Return Of The Jedi fate of being swallowed by a toothy hole, and has a series of mildly diverting escapades until The Mandalorian shows up for no readily apparent reason and makes everything better. Or, if you want to be sightly more specific, Fett survives his encounter with the Sarlacc and learns wisdom and weaponry from a tribe of Tusken Raiders. In trying to help them, he gets them all killed so instead he pisses off to Jabba’s old palace and tries to become a crime lord / Daimyo. This goes… less that well, though he manages to recruit Fennec Shand (a criminally wasted Ming-Na Wen) to his cause,and a gang of modified teenagers on Vespa’s (for some fucking reason), then ends up defending the town of Mos Espa from spice traders so we can have a big, drawn-out shooting match in the final episode. Meanwhile, The Mandalorian does a bit of Mandalorian-ing, is reunited with Grogu / Baby Yoda, and pisses off for hopefully more engaging adventures elsewhere.