Stargate SG-1 3.21 – Crystal Skull

Last time on SG-1, we met the first of the Ascended Beings, and this time, we meet a new alien race, some Mayan mist-creatures. The end credits of the episode name the one we meet as Quetzalcoatl; a subsequent Stargate novel calls the species Omeyocan.

Our son insists that they look the same to him. We protested that Quetzalcoatl is a giant man made of smoke with a stark white inhuman face, and Oma Desala was a shining being with tentacles of light and the human face of an actress. If he can’t tell the difference between those two after just three days, it’s no darn wonder the kid can’t recognize Duncan Lamont after a week!

Department S 1.19 – The Man from ‘X’

There have been a few episodes of this show that I’d heard of long before I saw it. The one where the village disappears. The one where everyone on the Tube train is dead. And of course this one, the one with the dead spaceman. When a show goes for these bizarre hooks, they get reputations. This one was written by Tony Williamson and deserves all the great things people say about it. It’s a good story where the clues keep coming, and even once we get part of a line on why a safecracker known to London’s gangland has suffocated in a spacesuit on a Soho street, we’re lost in what the target could possibly be. Our son and I really enjoyed this. Guest stars include Wanda Ventham, Tony Selby, and Duncan Lamont. Our son saw Lamont again just last week when he rewatched “Death to the Daleks” for some inexplicable reason, but, in keeping with tradition, the kid didn’t recognize him despite his incredibly distinctive voice.

The Sarah Jane Adventures 3.1-2 – Prisoner of the Judoon (parts one and two)

And now to October 2009 and the completely wonderful third series of The Sarah Jane Adventures. Time’s a little short this evening, so I’ll just say that our son totally loved this fish-out-of-water story by Phil Ford. The three kids assist an incredibly grouchy Judoon police captain who is stomping around on Earth looking for an escaped criminal who is hiding out in Sarah Jane’s body. It kind of suffers from the problem of convenience that you see on almost all adventure TV – an alien fugitive just happens to need some nanotechnology on the same Sunday where Sarah Jane went and interviewed the head of a nanotech company – but on the other hand, there’s a magical scene where a grouchy space rhino in a commandeered cop car orders another driver to turn down his music, which is the funniest thing ever.

Worzel Gummidge 3.9 – A Cup o’ Tea and a Slice o’ Cake (take two)

Earlier today, my son and I rewatched the Worzel Gummidge Christmas Special, first shown in 1980, at its proper place in the running order. He enjoyed it quite a lot when we first saw it together, but I figured rightly that we would both enjoy it more since we both knew who all the characters were.

To be fair, I said when I blogged about it before that it was surprisingly weaker than I expected, and I stand by that today. It’s a very underwhelming hour, with far less mayhem than a usual installment. The music’s not bad and it has some amusing moments, but it would have felt slow even without the songs taking time. A dance routine, even an energetic one, doesn’t really substitute for havoc.

The real surprise was learning that this was the final appearance for several of the recurring characters. Mrs. Braithwaite, Colonel Bloodstock, Pickles Brambles, Sergeant Beetroot, and the Saucy Nancy aren’t seen again after this. It’s certainly a shame in the case of the colonel; they never did give him a spotlight episode anywhere near as strong as Mrs. Bloomsbury-Barton, the character he replaced. And because I just love the Saucy Nancy, I’m sorry that we won’t see her again.

Of course, the saddest surprise is that the whole show doesn’t look as good as this. As I’ve discussed before, the rights owners elected against the expense of restoring the entire program, just the special. You can compare these screencaps to the rest of the series, but it’s just depressing. I’ll admit that Worzel Gummidge isn’t going to set the sales charts on fire or move a million units, but I wish that the Endemol Shine corporation, which, earlier this summer, became part of a French conglomerate called Banijay Group, had just bit the bullet. I’m sure the golden parachutes would be every bit as golden if some executive had okayed restoring this goofy and wonderful show before the sale went through.

But in the meantime, hey, you out there in charge of Banijay, Stéphane Courbit, or whatever your name is! Look at this delightful and hilarious old show that you acquired in your two billion dollar purchase. Treat it right, won’t you?

And with that, Worzel Gummidge will go back on the shelf for a few months to keep things fresh and rotate something else in to enjoy. We’ll return to Ten Acre Field in November. Stay tuned!

Stargate SG-1 3.20 – Maternal Instinct

Well, Tony Amendola’s in it, and Richard Dean Anderson starts the episode with a perfectly-delivered “Son of a bitch!” when they learn that their enemy Apophis is still alive, and that’s really all that’s worth remembering about this long, long, boring episode. It introduces Oma Desala, who is effectively “Mother Nature,” the first of the Ancients / Ascended Beings, a race that will often become very, very tedious. Hours of the episode are spent with Daniel and a monk reciting Zen koans at each other with their boots off. Our son got even more restless than everybody waiting outside for Daniel to get finished and put his boots back on.

Besides, everybody knows Mother Nature looks like this. (Source: Reddit.)

Department S 1.18 – The Ghost of Mary Burnham

Another massive disappointment, I’m afraid. It was nice to see Norman Bird, who we’ve seen in almost every episode of Worzel Gummidge as Mr. Braithwaite, in a different role, and it’s always nice to see Lois Maxwell in anything, but this is a story that doesn’t find any life until Jason King shows up about halfway through to start pointing out the answers, Sherlock Holmes-style. Sadly, it ends with a couple of absolutely massive plot holes that hadn’t been addressed, leaving us all throwing pillows at the television. And as for ghostly phone calls from beyond the grave, The Twilight Zone had made them much, much creepier than this.

Worzel Gummidge 3.8 – Choir Practice

Well, here’s a missed opportunity. Sure, everything in this misadventure needs to build to Worzel, wearing his singing head, joining the choir at the local church and letting a colony of field mice out of his right arm to cause mass havoc in the aisles, and there wasn’t a lot of time – or budget – for detours. But really, they should have booked an actress and built her a stone costume so that gravestone could come to life. Our son loved the mice causing a scene, but I loved the Third Doctor meeting up with a Weeping Angel.

Stargate SG-1 3.19 – New Ground

Our son really enjoyed this one, which climaxes with an exciting shootout between our heroes, who have to abandon a heck of a lot of gear, and some military thugs of an advanced civilization of religious nuts. It’s an interesting setup. On this planet, there are at least two continents which are conveniently divided into Stupidland, where most people believe that God started life on their planet, and Sensibleland, where most people believe that an alien brought humanity through a gateway from another world. Unfortunately for our heroes, the gateway happens to be in Stupidland.

Department S 1.17 – A Ticket to Nowhere

If you’re a regular reader of this dopey blog, you’ve certainly run across me saying that Peter Wyngarde shoulda played the Master at least once opposite Tom Baker. Usually when I say something like this, I’ve got a silly illustration to “prove” my point. See, here’s Wyngarde along with Anthony Ainley. He’s one of several familiar faces this time with teeny little parts, including Juliet Harmer and Neil McCarthy. I wonder whether Harmer is meant to be playing the same character she played in the first episode.

Michael Gwynn is also here, in a variation of the “photo of the recognizable actor” problem we talked about in the previous episode. There’s also a recognizable location. The country club where the villains all gather is the Edgwarebury Hotel, which shows up in all sorts of adventure programs from the day, most obviously as the escape-proof hotel in the Avengers episode “Wish You Were Here”.

Tony Williamson’s script is a complete cracker, one of the best so far. The villains are using ultrasonics to brainwash their victims and wipe memories. This is definitely the sort of larger-than-life wild criminal scheme I enjoy in this kind of show, with the added plus that these are very clever villains who are ahead of the heroes for most of the story. This comes to a head in a great scene where Stewart and Jason return to Paris having no idea that they’re even on a case, much less who put the whammy on them the day before.

Land of the Lost 1.1 and 1.2 (take two)

A couple of weeks ago, our son spotted the absolutely terrific first volume of Scarred for Life on the shelf and asked me what it was about. So I breezily said it’s about all the things from the seventies – movies, TV shows, comics, weird games, books – that freaked out kids and left them remembering nightmares. He said “I don’t think anything’s scarred me for life. I don’t remember anything that gave me nightmares.”

I said that Land of the Lost wasn’t in the book, because it was never shown in the UK, but that would be an example. And he said that he didn’t remember it. I’d be lying if I said this didn’t disappoint me and break my heart just a little. We poked and prodded and showed him pictures of the Sleestak, those tall and green lizard men which caused him an awful lot of trouble when he was five, and he shook his head firmly, emphatic that he didn’t remember them at all.

This is what I was getting at when I wrote about rewatching the Doctor Who serial “Carnival of Monsters” the other day. He’s revisited several favorites and enjoyed lots of old shows we’ve watched together again and again, but he’s always said no to trying LOTL again because – at least for a while – he remembered that it scared the absolute tar out of him several times and he’d be just fine forgetting about it. And in time, he did just that. I don’t know how he manages to completely and totally forget the things he doesn’t want to remember, but if I could borrow that talent from him, I’ve got a memory of a bad meal or two that I’d like to expunge.

Refreshed, he found a lot to enjoy in the first two episodes’ dinosaur chases and near misses. He said that overall, these were pretty good and he particularly enjoyed Grumpy getting smacked in the mouth with our heroes’ handy “flyswatter.” And as for the Sleestak, he said “Eeuggh! No wonder I was scared of those things! They’re terrifying!”

He doesn’t want to watch these in order because he wants to see the fire-breathing dimetrodon again next. I was glad to hear it. I said we’ll dust that one off one afternoon next week.

Worzel Gummidge 3.7 – Captain Worzel

Poor Worzel. If he had a brain between his ears, instead of a turnip, he’d see that, even though she is now married to his cousin and no longer available for courtin’, the Saucy Nancy is a far, far better friend to him than Aunt Sally.

“Captain Worzel” is one of our favorite episodes. It’s completely hilarious, and full of fun little continuity moments. Cobber Gummidge is taking a little break from married life, since he found a pirate head and left his wife, who now has sea legs rather than wheels, in charge of his original Australian head while he pillages the Barbary Coast. Worzel is too cowardly to steal a ship and rescue Aunt Sally, so Nancy gives him Cobber’s head, which leads to a great moment where Jon Pertwee tries speaking in an Australian drawl while promising to go after his sheila.

But before we get to that rescue, which is the silliest and most wonderful sight you’ve ever seen, there’s this astonishingly funny argument where Aunt Sally and the Saucy Nancy have an absolutely epic exchange of insults, screaming bloody murder at each other. I just about stopped breathing. I’m so on Nancy’s side. Aunt Sally is a broomstick and she deserves to walk the plank. Barbara Windsor is downright magical and so funny, Una Stubbs, after her so-called “rescue,” is angrier than I’ve ever seen anybody in my life, and Michael Ripper, who plays Aunt Sally’s utterly clueless owner, is off so far in his own little world that when Worzel starts pelting him with rocks and garbage, I felt sorry for the poor guy. Nobody deserves to be stuck in the middle of these three.