How scary can an oil rig and some fog be? Pretty damned scary!
What’s The Show? The Rig
What’s It All About, JG? On a remote Scottish oil rig, the Kinloch Alpha, Something Mysterious Is Stirring. Something, perhaps unsurprisingly, from the deep. Communications with land are cut off when a speedy fog zips in to engulf the titular rig. After surviving what ought to have been a fatal fall during this thick and mysterious fog, Baz Roberts (Calvin Denba) appears to have been infected with something which starts to rapidly heal his body. As he recovers it’s also clear he has, at least in part, been taken over by something. Mysterious.
It’s the end of the 13th Doctor. But does Jodie Whittaker’s version get the exist she so richly deserves?
What’s the Show?Jodie Whittaker’s final, 90-minute epic turn as the Doctor.
What’s It All About, JG? The Doctor, Yaz and Dan attempt to stop a space-train getting hijacked by a bunch of Cybermen (alright: CyberMasters). Unsuccessfully, as it happens, and the CyberMasters steal the cargo – what appears to be a young girl. Dan, having had enough of nearly dying, decides it’s time to call it quits while he’s ahead of the game and leaves. Oh yes, and a Dalek wants to give the Doctor the key to destroying his species, like you do. Meanwhile, Tegan (Tegan!) and Ace (Ace!) are investigating the abduction of seismologists and artwork, and the Master is at work in Russia, posing as Rasputin.
He’s brought the Daleks, the CyberMasters and himself together in an attempt to finally defeat the Doctor – he wants to take over the Doctor’s body, then destroy everything she stands for. And he uses the child – actually a Qurunx, an enslaved energy being – to do it. The Doctor fights back from the inside with the help of the 1st, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th in phantom form, and on the outside Tegan and Ace help defeat the CyberMasters while Yaz forces the Master to reverse his takeover of the Doctor and forces him back into his own body. As the Qurunx escapes its bonds, the Master directs its energy towards the Doctor in a final act of revenge, mortally wounding her and forcing her to (not very surprisingly) regenerate into David Tennant. Again.
Neil Gaimen’s The Sandman has finally made it to screen! But is it such stuff as dreams are made of?
What’s The Show?The Sandman
What’s It All About, JG? Well, other than the decades-long attempts to actually get the damned thing on screen at all, its mostly about Dream of the Endless, or Morpheus, who is captured and imprisoned by a cabal of occultists actually trying to snare Death. Trapped for a hundred years, the Dreaming – Morpheus’s realm – deteriorates, affecting the waking world. Eventually gaining his freedom, Morpheus attempts to rebuild his realm while trying to understand his place in a world that hasn’t known him for a century. We also get to meet various members of his Family, the Endless, and their shenanigans, and also the Corinthian, a dream that was made to be the ultimate nightmare and has escaped into the waking world.
[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.