Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars

The power of the fans got this one made following the series’ abrupt cancellation, and the producers, cast and crew weren’t going to let any of them down. This is in essence a whole series of the show boiled down into 4 hours. The story is epic, yet focused down for the small band of characters that we care about. The number of familiar faces cropping up gives a very end of the world feel to it and the fact that it may well be the end of the world means that anything really could happen.

I did feel that in trying to cram so much in some of the humour was lost, it was still there in phrases and looks but there just wasn’t the time to dedicate entire scenes or even hours to it as they had in the past. Also the replacement of the wonderfully alien music with a much more traditional space-opera type theme was a real shame, although Farscape accompanied by full orchestra was pretty cool. All in all the positives of their increased budgets were good with more locations, effects and much greater scale being used well. A noble end and a great demonstration of what fan support, a dedicated crew and some creative freedom can produce.

DVD Special Features
A nice box set, amusingly labelled as 5.01 and 5.02. The behind the scenes documentary is excellent, informative, sweet, funny and insightful. The collection of interviews does drift a little into “everyone’s so wonderful” but are interesting nevertheless. There’s quite a few deleted scenes with some nice interactions between characters that don’t otherwise get to share scenes. There’s also a lot of static pages which i didn’t bother with, and I would have loved to hear a commentary, but a nice set at a respectable price.

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Buffy: Season 1

It’s really quite odd to go back and watch all the characters in their teenage years again when the worries were about teachers, homework and dates for dances. There’s quite a few cringey moments, but also plenty of flashes of what the characters would develop into. I was amused to see the first character to actually get a line was Darla with Harmony also appearing in the first episode. Most of the episodes are freak of the week based (with not that many vampires frankly) with The Master arc appearing in a few episodes and no real character arcs beyond Buffy’s slight acceptance of her duty. Nowhere near as deep or tight as later seasons, but enjoyable to watch with occasional glimpses of brilliance.

DVD Special Features
An interesting commentary on the pilot giving a lot of background with Joss’ usual wit and self-deprecation. Most of the other features are just static content I think and I have absolutely no memory of them.

The West Wing: Season 4

What is there that can possibly be said that I haven’t said about the last 3 seasons? I was worried during the first (two part) episodes as I really didn’t think they were particularly strong, but from then on I don’t think there was a moment I wasn’t engrossed in. The regular cast shuffles a bit with the addition of Stockard Channing to the main cast (although she really doesn’t appear any more often sadly) and Rob Lowe’s departure (or rather gradually disappearance). Joshua Malina joins the cast as Sam’s replacement Will Bailey and brings some much needed fresh air to the Wing. Past guest appearances contiinue with Amy, Admiral Fitz, Nancy, Andy Wyatt, Ed, Larry, Mike Casper and even Danny popping up bringin confusion, hilarity, chaos and strength, often at the same time.

I think one of the most outstanding things about this season is that nothing lingers too long, whereas I found myself getting a little tired by the MS scandal and various other storylines I thought season 4 kept moving really well even through the re-election, never getting bogged down in something that the audience already knows the answer too (wow, i wonder if they’ll win the election?)

Now I have to wait forever for season 5, it’s a good job I read spoilers and am not waiting for the cliffhanger to resolve!

CSI Miami: Season 1

I’d not seen most of these episodes, having only caught the occasional episode on tv and just not really getting into it as much as the original series. On the positive side Miami definitely makes itself an independent series, bringing the ethos of CSI but a completely different attitude towards things both in story and in production. For some reason though, it just doesn’t seem to work as well.

This series is definitely the day to CSI’s night, the scenery is gorgeous and the cinematography makes the most of it and getting the csi’s off night-shift is definitely a good plan. The mixtures of cultures and politics is also an interesting change to the more temporary nature of residents in Las Vegas. I think the main place the whole thing suffers is in the characters, particularly it’s leading man. Horatio Caine ain’t no Gil Grissom, in fact he’s quite obviously supposed to be about as opposite as you can get – he gets personally involved in *everything*, follows instincts even if the evidence is telling him otherwise and comes from a policing background (bomb squad) rather than science. The only thing he seems to have in common with Grissom is his patronising attitude towards the rest of the team.

Said team splits pretty neatly into the quirky and the vanilla, with most of the women getting the quirks with the men left to follow them around. Calleigh the bullet girl is all southern and perky while Alexx the coroner is the mother of anything with or without a pulse. Meanwhile Delko bumbles around being the young guy and Speedle just seems entirely bored by the whole thing. I thiught the character of Megan was kinda interesting (and it looks like they’re picking up the murdered spouse theme for CSI: New York) but could never work out where she stood with Horatio, I’m guessing the producers couldn’t either, hence her departure. I think the producers really need to work on their male characters, it’s not like Nick and Warwick are particularly fascinating either and wouldn’t it be nice to see a male character who’s married and has a family?

Story wise the plots are on a par with CSI, with the corresponding highs and lows. My frustrations for the most part are independent of the plot but focussed on the way Horatio leads the team through it. Some of the episodes do seem to suffer from raining red herring syndrome and I’m fairly sure there were a couple of ends not securely fastened in a couple of places. But they’re enjoyable to watch even if I can’t actually think of any that stand out.

DVD Special Features
The packaging is a standard foldout wallet inside a plastic sleeve, nicely matching the show’s bright and light feel. The 2 mini-documentaries are interesting, particularly the one that talks about how to make the show distinctive but still part of the franchise. The commentary on the pilot is vaguely interesting although hardly riveting. Further commentaries would have been nice as would a bit more depth on the commentaries, but for a limited offering, it covers all the bases.

ER: Season 2

I was surprised it started this early, but this does seem to be the first indication of the series heading from outstanding and innovative into the depths of melodramatic soap opera. However while the signs of (imho) the series’ downfall are present, this season still ranks pretty highly. Compared to the first season which was all about people fighting and often succeeding, this one seems about failure and loss. Even battles that are won come at a price and even it’s the personal battles that are given the most screentime.

There are some episodes here that are truly outstanding and I can remember clearly from watching them on tv nearly a decade ago. Hell and High Water makes George Clooney an action hero, while The Healers is 45 minutes of working my way through a box of tissues and marvelling at the power of script where the important things are not said. Running sub-plots include Susan Lewis taking care of her sister’s baby (which I found pretty tedious to be honest), Peter Benton being a smug self-righteous ass, Doug Ross trying to work out what he’s doing with his life and Mark Green getting divorced and grumpy.

The new characters bring some interesting relationships with them, Jeanie becoming a regular and playing off of Benton and the nurses, Kerry Weaver appearing and pissing pretty much everyone off and the introduction of a couple of paramedics who give an interesting dynamic feel to story lines, but rapidly degenerating into psycho-analysing.

DVD Special Features
The packaging of this dvd is the same as the first, very neat and tidy, yet faintly irritating having to peer at labels on double sided dvds. I ended up watching 2 episodes out of order ‘cos I got the dvd upside down. The special features aren’t quite so enthusiastic as the 1st however, I guess there’s less to talk about once you’ve covered the start-up information and are confronted with wondering what you’re going to put on the next 10 box sets. The commentaries are pretty dull and dry “wasn’t this fun” type things with lengthy pauses as the commentators just watch the episode. The documentaries on directing and the making of Hell and High Water are also pretty dull and lacking in comments from most of the cast and big names. There’s a whole heap of extra scenes which are interesting but the out-takes are more limited and less fun than the 1st season’s. A respectable collection of stuff, but not enough to make this an outstanding collection.

CSI: Season 3 (second half)

I was disappointed with this box set I have to admit. I had actually seen all the episodes on tv before, something which I don’t usually do, so this may well have coloured my view of the 1/2 season. However my ‘comments’ on the previous half of the season apply even more, the episodes are all about huge things, many of them linked to the team personally somehow. I just don’t feel that this is what CSI is about, the first couple of seasons the characters were always secondary to the science, but now they’re front and centre and frankly I want to slap most of them and forcibly remove them from involvement on cases that are personal to them. That said the episodes are still very watchable, even if I do tend to find the b-stories more enjoyable as they’re what I think CSI should be about. Is it only me that can’t help but smile when Doc Roberts or Greg appear on screen?

DVD Special Features
A fairly nice collection There are commentaries by writer/directors on Random Acts of Violence (Warrick’s personal episode) and Lady Heather’s Box (one of Catherine’s personal episodes but stolen by the brilliant Lady Heather) that are fairly well balanced and interesting. A couple of mini documentaries on the special effects and writing processes are also very intersting and concise. The cast are completely and utterly absent from the whole thing.

The West Wing: Season 2

Season 2 opens just seconds after the cliffhanger, the resolution to this only really lasts one episodes but by merging it with flashbacks to the original campaign and how the familiar faces came to the team it’s extended to 2 episodes. It’s a great start to the season, showing us where the characters and administration are and where they’ve come from. The season continues along much the same lines as the first, but there seem to be more defeats than victories with various things coming to light and the President having to decide on whether to stand for re-election. No cliffhanger this time, but still the overwhelming desire to see more. I watched seasons 1 and 2 in 8 days. It is simply superb.

DVD Special Features
Absolutely no special features. (I don’t care what they say “interactive menus and scene selection” are not special features!)