Jason King 1.16 – A Kiss for a Beautiful Killer

“So, wait, where are they?” our son asked.

“The back of Elstree Studios,” I said.

“No, no, I mean where are they in the story,” he clarified, and I answered Nosuchlandia. This time it’s in South America. Sometimes Nosuchlandia is in eastern Europe, usually some tiny Warsaw Pact nation. But yes, the backs of those Elstree Studios warehouses appear, as does the underground car park, and of course the stock footage of this house, which I swear we’ve seen at least four times before:

Joining Jason in this story of political intrigue, revolution, and the sort of totalitarian despot that UNCLE, Simon Templar, the IMF, and everybody else in the sixties and seventies routinely overthrew when they went to Nosuchlandia, it’s a great cast including Alex Scott, Maurice Roëves, Roger Lloyd-Pack, and of course Kate O’Mara, who has a considerably meatier role than she did when we saw her opposite Wyngarde in an episode of Department S. It’s probably a better story than you might think from me teasing it, but the cost-cutting charms of ITC’s series are part of the reason people adore them.

The house and the car park aren’t the only things we’ve seen before. The story opens with O’Mara’s character planning to send Jason from Paris to Nosuchlandia in a crate if he doesn’t go willingly. “Again?” our kid interjected, for indeed Jason had been shipped in a big box across the Berlin Wall in one story and to Moscow in another. Fortunately, the story plays against our expectations; in Nosuchlandia, they open the crate and find the guy who was supposed to stuff Jason in it. Jason arrives in town the proper way: first class, with a beautiful lady on his arm.

That’s all from Jason King for now. We like to mix things up to keep the shows fresh, but we’ll be back for more from this fun series at the end of March. Stay tuned!

Doctor Who 2.6 – The Age of Steel

“That was awesome, but ONLY because the Cybermen were totally destroyed in a totally awesome way.” That’s our son’s verdict, still loving to hate the Cybermen.

“The Age of Steel” is the all-action finale to the story, taking place in one evening with what must have been weeks of night filming in Cardiff. Graeme Harper was brought on to direct this adventure. He’d previously directed the stories “The Caves of Androzani” and “Revelation of the Daleks” in 1984-85, making him the only director from the original run to work on the revival. Harper had a reputation, then, as being one of the most dynamic and exciting directors working at the BBC. But since British television had moved away from videotape and the frequently static recorded-as-live productions, Harper’s work here, while still very thrilling and fun to watch, isn’t quite as thunderously different from the surrounding stories as it was in Colin Baker’s day. The difference between “Timelash” and “Revelation of the Daleks” is obvious even with the sound down. This story looks every bit as good as “The Girl in the Fireplace.”

The story ends with Mickey choosing to remain on the parallel world and help the authorities shut down any of Lumic’s remaining Cyber-factories. I like how the story wrong-foots the audience, because while it telegraphs Mickey’s unhappiness, there’s also a scene where they split up – “above, between, below” like “The Five Doctors” – and it practically screams “Mickey isn’t coming back.”

The only part of this story that raises a question with me is the quickie reference to Torchwood in part one. Why is there a Torchwood in this universe? Did a Doctor show up in 1879 and piss off this world’s Victoria, too?

Doctor Who 2.5 – Rise of the Cybermen

I enjoyed this more than I remembered. The kid jumping up in mock frustration / annoyance when the word “Cybermen” appeared in the title helped. I still think they should have swapped episode titles with the next one. Obviously the BBC’s ongoing policy of spoiling as much as possible meant that everybody in 2006 knew that the Cybermen were coming back in this one. Might’ve been nice to see how he put all the pieces together before the big reveal at the end.

So this is the big parallel universe two-parter, with all the attendant silliness and coincidence that comes from parallel universe stories, and in this universe, the Cybermen evolved on Earth rather than Mondas. Their creator is portrayed by Roger Lloyd-Pack, whose lengthy career I almost entirely missed. I still think of him as that young fellow from Spyder’s Web in 1972 and his dad Charles was the old guy. Now they’re both gone. Shaun Dingwall is back as the Pete Tyler of the other Earth, and he’s once again magical. And there’s one of my favorite Rose scenes from her two seasons, when she decides to try patching up her parents’ marriage, forgetting that the Pete and Jackie of this world are not her parents, and doesn’t so much get put in her place as shoved there, hard.

But best of all is Noel Clarke who gets to play both Mickey and his gun-toting doppelganger, Ricky, and Mickey has the common sense not to try to explain to the much angrier fellow on this world who he actually is. Clarke is so often used as the comedy foil that it’s wonderful to see him get to do some different things, and do them so incredibly well. Again, you have to swallow the same silly coincidences that happen anytime a sci-fi show does a parallel world story – they couldn’t have landed in Sydney or Buenos Aires or someplace where there aren’t any Tylers or Smiths, of course – but it gives Clarke a real chance to shine.

And of course there are Cybermen. Our son has a wonderful love/hate relationship with the Cybermen and feigns exasperation with them. It’s the Daleks that he really likes, he insists, and loudly brags that it would only take five Daleks to destroy all these Cybermen. Stick around for another three weeks, won’t you, readers?