Farscape: Season 1

I had a sudden craving for Farscape the other day, so sat down with episode 1 and spent the next few days working my way through for the first time in 3 years or so. I was surprised by how much happened in the first season, I thought many of the events happened later than that with the first season being more stand alone episodes. But by the end of the season we’ve already met many of the foundation stones of the rest of the seasons – wormhole aliens, Moya’s baby, Scorpius and various other people who’ll make reappearances. I was impressed with how big the series could seem even with just 6 (7 if you count Moya) main characters, only 4 of whom are actually actors, thinking on to later seasons Moya does seem to get rather crowded with various hitch-hikers. A superb, if somewhat bizarrely disconcerting, start to a series that somehow manages to have been consistently innovative, entertaining and disconcerting throughout it’s run.

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Enterprise: Season 3

Season 2 concluded with 6 million people on Earth dead following an attack by an unknown alien race and Enterprise as humanity’s last best hope for.. erm.. bloody and violent vengeance by the sounds of it. Enterprise sets off into The Expanse, some wibbly bit off space to stop the Xindi before they can finish the job of destroying Earth. It all sounds very noble, heroic and not a bit like a thinly veiled metaphor for anything at all, oh no.

So we start season 3 with the lingering threat of a long drawn out arc story and the hopes that it can return Star Trek to the quality of late DS9 rather than the doldrums of early Voyager that it seems to be languishing in. 24 episodes later and rather bizarrely I think it may have done both simultaneously.

First the good. The arc storyline was definitely a Good Thing ™. Moving Enterprise away from constant whining about Vulcans worked well, T’Pol splits from the high command and almost no more is said about the whole “you held us up for 200 years” fiasco. Seeing the ship utterly out of it’s depth without being able to go run to the parents made for some interesting situations, with traditional thinking going out of the window in favour of radical moves that are needed to get the job done. The gradual unveiling of the politics of the region and the apparent threat was nicely handled and interesting to follow. My only complaint about the arc is probably that I wish they’d moved it forward a little more quickly, although things were gradually found out throughout the season it wasn’t until about 6 episodes from the end that everything suddenly exploded and moved at a real pace. Maybe spreading the ending out a bit more may have helped, although that would have led to more of the bad…

Filler. Firstly the pure filler episodes with little or nothing to do with the arc were for the most part moderately well done. North Star, Twilight and Doctors Orders were Enterprise doing a western film, Memento and Sixth Sense respectively and they were all ok. More thoughtful episodes like Similitude and Chosen Realm lectured us none-too-subtly on cloning and religious fanaticism, but were ok. The real thing that I believe killed many episodes and possibly even the season overall are the filler scenes, particularly those between Tucker and T’Pol. By the time you have the 3rd or 4th episode starting with scantily clad “neuro-pressure” sessions it really does kill the episode for you. Although T’Pol’s random behaviour is eventually explained it’s all a bit late, they may well have done irreparable damage to her character.

Under use is another criminal waste. Hoshi and Travis are having a good day if they have more than 4 lines each and judging from Linda Park’s performance in the finale this is a criminal waste of talent. Phlox generally manages a scene an episode which he generally steals, but at least he gets to appear with a diverse range of characters. The MACOs are an interesting group of new blood, but after the first couple of episodes they mostly hide in the background being competent, with the exception of their leader who gets to deal with an increasingly grumpy Reed every now and then. Tucker’s purpose for the start of the season appears to be as the personal face to Earth’s disaster, someone to have ‘interesting interplay’ with T’Pol for the middle of the season and spend the last 1/4 of the season generally looking haggard. T’Pol seemed to at some point forget that she was a highly trained Secret Service agent and turn into the damsel in distress and have some kind of emotional breakdown. Once the explanations for this are made and she actually starts dealing with stuff she’s back to being interesting again for the end of the season.

That just leaves the Captain. He’s at least showing more competency than for the previous 2 seasons where I generally felt that T’Pol and Reed should mutiny and throw him and his bloody puppy in the brig. As his ship falls apart around him he does seem to decide that he’d rather not explain to Starfleet why it’s quite so banged up and hence finds a spectacular number of suicide missions to go on. (Incidentally – I loved the fact that the ship suffered and it wasn’t all fixed next episode, although I think they may have wanted to look at all those sparking things a little faster.) He really needs to learn to shoot and stop getting beaten up quite so often, but he’s getting better.

Looking back over the episode guides the synopses remind me of the core of the episodes and I remember the good bits. However I also remember that by mid-season I was hugely unimpressed with the whole thing. I think this stems from the fact that the core stories are good and well told, it’s the filler and diversity that let them down. Much like The Phantom Menace is an ok film if you remove any scene featuring Anakin and Amidala, I wonder if season 3 would be better removing any scene with just Trip and T’Pol. I’m glad that it’s got another series, but it’s got a hard battle to get back anyone that it’s already lost and I really don’t think it’s going to manage it.

As for the end of the season, it’s a very satisfying end to the arc, have no fear, it is worth the wait. What happens *after* that though is just one great big huge “what the…?” to keep the message boards buzzing over the summer.

CSI: Miami: Season 1 (second half)

I can’t work out whether this series has less attention to detail than the original, or whether I notice plot holes and clumsy elements more just because I’m trying to avoid the obvious irritation of Horatio Caine. Grissom may have his faults and his hypocrisies but he doesn’t make me want to hit him every single episode. Horatio’s constant patronising attitude towards the other csis, cops, suspects and victims just makes me want to shake him. Alexx isn’t much better to be honest. Calleigh’s general perkiness this half of the season seemed toned down a bit, the writers tried (and yet failed) to wake Speed up (most inaccurate nickname ever) by blowing him up or shooting him every other episode and Delko just didn’t seem to do anything except look pretty. There seems to be a whole flock load of cops that are quite engaging yet never really turn up often enough to develop.

Story wise trying to look past the frequent holes and issues, they’re quite entertaining and vaguely varied around the crime of murder (does no one just get robbed in this town?). Bizarely the episodes that start out with big explosions (Dispo Day and Body Count for example) actually tended to fizzle out, while ones like dead woman walking and spring break i thought were more interesting.

DVD Special Features
Another pretty package but that’s about it. The documentaries on Dispo Day and Freaks and Tweaks are some of the most boring ever, with many many minutes going by with the director, writer, or technical advisor not saying anything. The collection of very short scene commentaries about handling evidence were pretty daft (why no play all function on ~12 2 minute scenes?!) and the section tours with Emily Proctor and Khandi Alexander were just cringe inducing.

ER: Season 3

This season should really have been renamed “Surgical Wards” a good 25% of this season is actually set up in the surgical wards following Carter and Benton and a whole flock of new nurses and doctors. It’s interesting to follow patients’ treatments from ER to surgery to post op, but the show seemed to lose track of the fact it was called ER. I think the show-runners realised this too as they put Carter (who is definitely the heart of the show) back into the ER at the end of the season. The new characters such as Abby Keaton, Maggie Doyle (with a rather Sara
like Jorga Fox) and the rest of the flock manage to be interesting and well formed even given limited time. Meanwhile the effects of increased film commitments mean a noticable decrease in screen-time for several of the actors, they tend only to appear when they’ve got a main story to be told, rather than being supporting as they were in earlier seasons.

Story-wise the show maintains it’s principles of usually having a couple of main storylines and a flurry of more short lived ones. The multi-ep arcs tend to be more character development with everyone getting some nice plots. I think some of the story-lines were over-egged slightly, particularly the “nurses are valuable but under-appreciated” bits and Benton’s continual failings as a human being which really began to drag a lot. The character reversals of Ross and Greene are fun though, as is Carter’s transition from doctor to student. Kerry continues to be fascinating in her outward appearance as a monster to all but those closest to her.

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.

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!

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