Farscape 2.8 – Dream a Little Dream

I’m afraid I confused the heck out of our son with this one. Reading ahead, I decided to skip episode seven because it seems really unpleasant, and read that episode eight had an interesting backstory. Apparently, this was one of the very first ideas that Rockne S. O’Bannon proposed for the series: a planet of lawyers, run by competing law firms instead of political parties. About 90% of the population are lawyers, and everybody else stuck in menial, subservient roles with very few rights. I enjoyed it. Litigara feels like one of those weird planets that Dredd would have visited in The Judge Child Quest in the early eighties.

This was originally intended as a story in season one, but it was held back and then filmed as the second season premiere, an adventure that half the cast would have while the others were still out in space. Season one ended on a cliffhanger, and then season two would start with this story before circling back to reveal that John, D’Argo, and Aeryn were still alive in the second hour. Happily, wiser heads prevailed and this was repurposed as a flashback story a couple of months later instead.

But I made the mistake of telling our son this two weeks ago, and I think one of the reasons he was so unimpressed with “Vitas Mortis” is that he misunderstood me, and thought that story was the one that was skipped, and he spent the hour trying to figure out how it could possibly take place before their rescue. I’m sure this isn’t the only time that a TV show has held on to an episode for several weeks and run it as a flashback. Hopefully, the next time he runs into it, he won’t have some clueless old man confusing the issue.

Farscape 1.2 – I, E.T.

Sometimes, our son is so remarkably literal that we call him “Baby Drax”, which he doesn’t entirely appreciate. A good example tonight: the living ship touches down on a planet that has not had contact with other worlds before. Technologically, the locals are about where we are today, and Crichton compares the Australian bog where they filmed this to Louisiana. They need a fairly common mineral to “numb” part of the ship where they are working, and Crichton finds that it’s used as a cooking ingredient by a semi-pro astronomer who lives with her nine year-old in a small cottage in the woods.

After the episode, which I thought was very good, Marie asks whether he would be as brave as the nine year-old in the show if an alien came to hide out in our house and ask for salt. But Crichton wasn’t looking for salt; he was looking for what the people of the busy sector of space call clorium and the locals call onlux. That’s not salt. He was so hung up that he didn’t understand what we were asking. Other than us confusing him, he says that he really did like it. D’Argo seems to be his favorite character so far; he likes the fact that he’s got a long tongue and can sting people with it.

Farscape 1.1 – Premiere

I used to make it a habit of at least checking out an episode or two of as many TV shows as I could, just to say I’d seen them. Farscape, which premiered in the US in the spring of 1999, completely escaped my attention, probably for more than a year. It wasn’t until January of 2001 before I saw an episode. It was the first act of a three-parter called “Liars, Guns, and Money.” I was thrown in at the deep end, blown completely away, told everybody it was the damnedest thing I’d seen on TV in ages, and never looked at it again, because my life was too chaotic for anything new to watch.

A couple of decades later, and here we are at last, finding time. Farscape was created by Rockne S. O’Bannon, who had a really crazy amount of information to juggle in the initial one-hour pilot. It’s an incredibly clunky pilot, full of sci-fi militarese for the bad guys (“But sir, regulations state–” “That’s an order, lieutenant!”) and they could have spent a few more seconds on Aeryn getting her neck in the noose for possible “contamination” with an unknown life form for it to make sense, but it looks terrific and it’s easy enough to follow. Ben Browder plays an astronaut who gets wormhole-dumped someplace very, very far away, full of people who he can’t yet trust, probably one or two he never should. He lands on a living ship just as it’s being stolen by some escaped convicts. Soon they are five – or I guess six, since the pilot of the ship is sentient, albeit stationary – and they’re all on the run.

I gave our son the briefest of rundowns – not much more than I know myself – and he enjoyed the heck out of it. Lots of sci-fi action, weird aliens, lasers, general craziness. It’s right up his alley so far.

The Twilight Zone 1.18 – Gramma / Personal Demons / Cold Reading

Last night, our son was fairly ambivalent about our selection from The Twilight Zone. Tonight, we finished our week-long trip to the eighties Zone with a segment that scared the devil out of him and a segment that ranks as his all-time favorite story from this series.

“Gramma” is a Harlan Ellison adaptation of a then-recent short story by Stephen King. It’s tight, cramped, claustrophobic and practically the whole half-hour is carried by a young actor called Barret Oliver who is freaking out about being trapped in his remote house alone with his huge, wheezing, asthmatic bed-ridden grandmother, who may be a beast or a witch or an Old One. Our son was petrified. He told us, bluntly, that he never, ever wants to see this again.

But then there was “Cold Reading,” which was so fun that he was disappointed that there isn’t a sequel. In this one, a live radio show called Dick Noble, African Explorer gets interrupted by a voodoo totem that makes every sound effect in the production come true, with rain, macaws, jungle drummers, and monkeys causing havoc in the studio. The impresario in charge of the show is pleased at last with the authenticity he’s long craved, but his ability to rewrite on the fly gets called up for duty before the actors can get to the pages with the earthquakes and plane crashes. This was silly enough for our son to love to pieces.

Between the two, there was a bit of self-indulgence on the part of writer Rockne S. O’Bannon, who contributed a story about a writer, also called Rockne S. O’Bannon, who is desperately looking for an original idea and tormented by a gang of creatures in monks’ robes that only he can see. Martin Balsam plays the fictional O’Bannon, and Clive Revill his agent.

That’s all from the eighties Zone for a good while, although we may step back in and look at some later episodes down the line. I thought these were a little uneven, much like the original series, but there were some good performances and good ideas, and “A Message from Charity” and “Paladin of the Lost Hour” were as great as I remembered them.

Today’s feature was a gift from Marie’s brother Karl and we really appreciate it! If you would like to support this blog, you can buy us a DVD of a movie that we’d like to watch one day. We’ll be happy to give you a shout-out and link to the site of your choice when we write about it. Here’s our wishlist!

The Twilight Zone 1.15 – Monsters! / A Small Talent for War / A Matter of Minutes

The larger stories on either side of the very small gag in the middle were both entertaining, but they also really lacked any kind of twist or oomph at the end. So this wasn’t an entirely satisfying hour of The Twilight Zone, but it had a few entertaining moments for the grownups. Our son was pretty indifferent to the show, honestly. He sort of shrugged about all three.

Since the meatier stories kind of fumbled with the payoffs, the gag story might be the best of the three. It’s co-written by Alan Brennert and Carter Scholz and features John Glover as an alien ambassador disillusioned by our planet’s capacity for war. “Monsters!” features Ralph Bellamy as an old vampire who doesn’t exhibit any of the traits or weaknesses of vampires that the stories claim, much to the confusion of a kid who loves horror movies. “A Matter of Minutes,” written by Rockne S. O’Bannon from a story by Theodore Sturgeon, suggests that time works in a very weird way: each individual minute is a separate space entirely, and it’s constantly being built by crews of silent blue-clad workmen in anticipation of the humans who will populate it that space for all of sixty seconds.

Despite some fantastic visuals, and a terrific explanation of what causes people to lose their keys every so often, “A Matter of Minutes” acts like it has a threat at its core and a malevolent reason why a young couple played by Adam Arkin and Karen Austin can never go back to real time after skipping ahead four hours. But there’s no payoff, and consequently no reason why the orange-clad crew boss should be concerned about what they’ve seen. Maybe they ran out of time. *grin

“Monsters!” fumbled its ending even worse, but I decided to quibble more about the horror trivia. First, that kid is way too young to have seen EVERY Hammer films even once, let alone six times. Not because there are so many, but because that must be the most irresponsible dad on the planet to show a middle schooler Demons of the Mind and To the Devil… a Daughter. And honestly, if you’re going to get that nerdy about the release date of The Crawling Eye, you should call it The Trollenberg Terror!

(That film is awesome, by the way. I’ve always loved it.)

Today’s feature was a gift from Marie’s brother Karl and we really appreciate it! If you would like to support this blog, you can buy us a DVD of a movie that we’d like to watch one day. We’ll be happy to give you a shout-out and link to the site of your choice when we write about it. Here’s our wishlist!

The Twilight Zone 1.13 – Night of the Meek / But Can She Type? / The Star

So last time, we looked at a remake of an episode that we hadn’t watched, and this time, we looked at a remake of a story that we really enjoyed. The ’80s version of Rod Serling’s “Night of the Meek” was scripted by Rockne S. O’Bannon and it’s… okay. The problem with remaking something that’s really well known and really, really good is that it’s always going to suffer by comparison. Richard Mulligan is fine as Henry Corwin, if tactfully less pathetic than Art Carney’s original, but poor William Atherton seems to have been cast specifically to replay his needlessly obstinate antagonist character from Ghostbusters. On the other hand, the scale of the production is a little larger and there’s a real sense of redemption when the grouchy department store owner finds a little happiness on Christmas Eve. Our son loved it.

He was a little baffled by the second segment, “But Can She Type?”. The first problem was that title. Obviously, to older viewers, this one’s about a secretary, but he asked “But why was it called that?!” Pam Dawber plays a mistreated and unhappy secretary in this segment, but with a little magic from a gigantic office photocopier – the comic that I used to draw when I lived in Athens was mostly printed on a beast this size – she can visit another world where secretaries are held in awe and esteem. For a comedy segment, it’s not bad, and it was fun to see Jonathan Frakes play a dude so out of his league that he can’t even talk to a secretary without spilling his drink.

“The Star” is based on Arthur C. Clarke’s story and it’s a really short segment, just about ten minutes long. Writer Alan Brennert hit the plot beats as quickly as the running time would allow, and Fritz Weaver and Donald Moffat, who passed away a couple of weeks ago, are very watchable as two old friends learning a surprise about the universe that sparks a crisis of faith. Our son had no idea at all what this one was about, though, because we’re not Sunday school types, you see. It’s a heck of a good premise for a story, and we explained what the revelation implied to general disinterest and shrugs. So this was an hour that he enjoyed a little less as it went on, basically!

Today’s feature was a gift from Marie’s brother Karl and we really appreciate it! If you would like to support this blog, you can buy us a DVD of a movie that we’d like to watch one day. We’ll be happy to give you a shout-out and link to the site of your choice when we write about it. Here’s our wishlist!