Catweazle 1.3 – The Curse of Rapkyn

Hey, it’s Peter Sallis! I wasn’t expecting to run into many guest stars that I recognize in this show. It’s always nice to see Peter Sallis. He was such a great talent. He plays a museum curator in this one.

In this one, Carrot wonders whether the farm’s ongoing financial problems might be a real, honest-to-badness curse on the land. If he can find out that there is one, then Catweazle might be able to lift it, right? And indeed it turns out that a witch named Rapkyn did curse the land and then hid away two cursed stones on the property to keep the bad luck going. But how can they find the stones?

We thought this one was just hilarious. On the down side, the sound quality on these episodes is pretty fair at best; I guess they didn’t have a good sound recordist to place the microphones on location. But the concentration pays off, because Catweazle’s yelping and fumbling is really amusing, and the physical comedy is just great. Our son and I really enjoyed what happens when Catweazle finds the head of a stag mounted on a wall. The old wizard’s never seen anything like that before!


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Sigmund and the Sea Monsters 1.2 – Finding Sigmund

Last summer, I sat down with our son to watch the pilot (episode 1.1) of the remake of Sigmund and the Sea Monsters and we crossed our fingers that Amazon would pick it up. The first season of six episodes launched last week, and tonight, we bade my long-suffering spouse to watch the pilot with us (“There isn’t going to be any singing, is there?”) and then we watched the second episode.

It’s absolutely lovely. My son and I laughed all the way through both episodes, and I even caught an occasional chuckle from the grown-up who sat between us. It’s still the greatest thing in the universe when Scott asks “What’s a net?”

There’s an interesting inversion in the setup for this version of the series. In the original, the Ooze family threw Sigmund out, largely because Sigmund was unable to scare anybody, and spent the show trying to get him back. Here, it looks like Sigmund will still live with his family because these sea monsters are afraid of humans and afraid of being captured. While David Arquette’s character, Captain Barnabas, is mocked by everybody in Dead Man’s Point, the Oozes think that he’s a dangerous monster hunter.

I also found it interesting that Sweet Mama appears to be a single mother, raising all three monsters by herself. She seems to be a more generic sitcom mom, and not an impersonation of Bea Arthur like the Sweet Mama from the original show. On the other hand, I haven’t actually watched any sitcoms since Friends; she could be a direct impersonation of anybody on TV in the last (wow) fourteen years and I wouldn’t have a clue!

Anyway, click the image above to start streaming the series from Amazon Prime yourself. We’ll be watching the show over the next couple of weeks and you should definitely join us!

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Doctor Who: The Three Doctors (part four)

Our son clarified that while he was no longer excited about this story after the betrayal of the bad fight with the ugly pig-faced man, he is “attached” to Doctor Who and wants to see what will happen next. Fortunately, the mad Omega banishes the pig-faced man almost instantly as this episode opens, and he enjoyed this part much, much more.

Honestly, we all grade “The Three Doctors” on a curve because we love the idea of multi-Doctor adventures and we love Patrick Troughton. This isn’t as good as it could be. My biggest aggravation is actor Stephen Thorne’s one-note bellowing, but in his defense, he lets out a seriously painful and agonized howl when he realizes that his body has been completely disintegrated, and that’s my second biggest aggravation: it’s the emotional climax of the story and it takes place six minutes into part four.

The director seems to think the climax is all the guest stars walking up a fairground haunted house’s staircase into a column of smoke one at an endless and tedious time and saying their goodbyes to the Doctors, and it assuredly isn’t. This story badly needed to have one more draft: have the Doctors realize what is wrong without telling Omega, escape for a bit, get everybody home through the smoke column, and then explain to Omega that his body has been destroyed, let the villain give out that wretched and painful howl, and then annihilate the anti-matter universe. I try not to Monday-morning-quarterback old TV too much, but I insist that would have worked better.

So it’s entertaining if not necessarily all that good, and I enjoyed letting our son know that Doctors will occasionally meet each other in the future, and never really get along with each other. It’ll be a couple of years before he sees his next teamup, though!

We’ll be taking a short break from Doctor Who, but we’ll resume our look at the tenth season in early November. Stay tuned!

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Doctor Who: The Three Doctors (part three)

Our son turned on this story in a big, bad way! Episode three ends with the third Doctor battling a weird, pig-faced man in a black void, the representation of the dark side of their enemy’s will. It doesn’t look like he’s winning this fight; in fact, Jon Pertwee and his stunt double are getting slammed all over the room.

And our son took this as a very, very grim turn of events. He loved the comedy stylings of the Brigadier earlier, bellowing at the Doctor for transporting UNIT headquarters to some “deserted beach,” and sat riveted to the story, but the Doctor losing this fight wasn’t fun. Hopefully he’ll make it out of this mess for the final episode!

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Doctor Who: The Three Doctors (part two)

There are people who really, really don’t like what they see as the deterioration of the Brigadier’s character into a disbelieving comedy stooge, and for them, the middle episodes of this story are the nadir. They’ve got a point – the guy in this story is a pompous military idiot, and the Brig in “Spearhead from Space” isn’t – but most people don’t complain too loudly because Nicholas Courtney is so darn fun in the face of escalating chaos, and because it’s nice to see him teamed up with Patrick Troughton again.

Our son is really enjoying this one, which is nice because the last two were pretty far from his favorites. He says that it’s weird, but weird in a really good way. The cliffhanger sees UNIT’s headquarters zapped away from Earth and into a black hole, which he loved. This will lead to the Brigadier’s line about Cromer next time, which I think is completely hilarious.

Meanwhile, Marie is getting accustomed to classic Who‘s tropes and cliches. The third Doctor and Jo wake up in the strange universe of anti-matter, which is “so strange.” “It’s another quarry,” she grumbled. Yeah, a few more of those are yet to come.

Incidentally, the notion that Time Lords can have different bodies is still not actually written into the text even at this stage. There is nothing onscreen yet to indicate that changing appearance is something that anybody other than the Doctor can do. This also emphatically states that William Hartnell’s character is the “earliest” of the Doctors. Three years later, a different production team will attempt to retcon this and show us eight Doctors prior to Hartnell’s character. It won’t take, but I do love the moxie.

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Doctor Who: The Three Doctors (part one)

“I like the other Doctor, the one we haven’t seen in a while! The one with the dark hair!” Well, our son’s in luck, because this is the tenth anniversary adventure, and the first time that Doctor Who had brought back a previous incarnation, or two, of the hero. I enjoyed myself by not telling him the title, starting the episode midway through the credits, and letting him enjoy the surprise. Since this is one of the most celebrated stories of the series, I wonder whether many people have had the opportunity to see it without knowing that Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell were back in it.

Well, mostly. Conventional wisdom holds that the massive fun of Pertwee and Troughton squabbling patches over several pedestrian moments in a silly story, but the biggest shame is that Hartnell was just far too ill to participate much. He’s limited to some pre-filmed segments at Ealing Studios and played back in the studio, which remains a huge shame.

Anyway, the story is by Bob Baker and Dave Martin and it’s directed by Lennie Mayne, who brings in actor Rex Robinson for a supporting role for the first time. Mayne directed four Who serials and cast Robinson in three of them. He also used Robinson in an episode of The Onedin Line and a couple of installments of Warship. I love seeing how BBC directors in the seventies went back to trusted names.

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The Twilight Zone 1.22 – The Monsters are Due on Maple Street

“The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” a Rod Serling teleplay that stars Claude Akins as a man trying to use logic and reason to calm an increasingly hostile mob, isn’t entertaining. Some of it is dated, particularly in the performances, but that’s not what makes it an awkward and uncomfortable experience. It’s unsettling and awful, and watching it should be a mandatory experience.

We’ve never liked to discuss prejudice and bigotry in this country; as a society, we’re getting more and more squeamish about it with every passing presidential administration, while at the same time becoming more and more entrenched in the language of fear and hatred. Don’t like being reminded that the overwhelming majority of mass shootings in this country are the handiwork of white men? Bring up “Chicago violence,” and four or five people will nod sagely, knowing what you really mean.

Literally yesterday (Oct. 14), the Associated Press reported that the Biloxi MS school system has removed To Kill a Mockingbird from the eighth grade curriculum, because it was making people uncomfortable. It’s meant to.

I read the screenplay for “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” in my seventh grade textbook. It’s stayed with me ever since. We may not ever win against uncontrolled fear, hysteria, and prejudice, but any victory that we can manage will only come with kindness and compassion. Just be kind. Now that I think about it, that’s what we’re trying to teach our son.

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Catweazle 1.2 – Castle Saburac

Four months ago, we watched the first episode of Catweazle and our son wasn’t crazy about it. I figured he needed a little time, and while I’d planned to wait until 2018 for more, it actually works pretty well for our schedule to start it up now.

“Castle Saburac” is set the day after the silly events of the first episode, and sees Catweazle further flummoxed by the weird world of 1970. Baths horrify him, and he catches sight of an airplane – a winged fish that roars – with intense worry. I think most of this episode might have been scripted around the available location, because there’s a fun game of hide and seek around a really unsafe-looking abandoned house that’s missing most of its upper floor.

Our son was more pleased with this outing. I think he realizes that Catweazle is in no real danger from anybody, but there are silly chases and magic spells. He makes himself invisible to the maid, which is handy because she’s one of those only-on-television females who start screaming whenever she sees a nearly naked man. It ends with Catweazle and Carrot finding a new and safe place for him to live, an old and abandoned military water tower which he coins Castle Saburac, after the apparent name of the spirit who sent him to the 20th Century. Its strong walls can withstand a barrage of enemy arrows. Our son says that he’d like an abandoned water tower of his own to make a castle, which means he’s probably going to handle the next eleven episodes just fine.

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