Doctor Who – Mawdryn Undead (The Black Guardian Trilogy Part 1)

Doctor Who Story 125 – Mawdryn Undead

Written by

Peter Grimwade

What’s It About?

A young school boy named Turlough becomes the target of the Black Guardian, who wishes to use him as a pawn in his attempt to kill the Doctor. Nyssa, Tegan, and the Doctor materialize on a mysterious ship that appears uninhabited. And for some reason, this ship’s transport is set to coordinates on Earth . . . to the edge of the property of Brendon Public School where the Brigadier now teaches math.

Fools who tried to become Time Lords

Mawdryn poses as the DoctorOne theme that I have noticed running through The Black Guardian Trilogy is one of mortality and death. These elements are first introduced in this story with a group of scientist/thieves who had stolen Time Lord technology in an attempt to become immortal just as the Time Lords are immortal. While they achieved some degree of success with regeneration, they learned quickly that they had not mastered the technology. So, instead of regenerating completely, they are unable to die. They are flesh animated for eternity, a consciousness trapped in unending existence—an existence where pain and decay is still possible and felt every second of every moment. The theological implications are compelling in that their attempt to be gods bound them to unending torment, unable to become free through death. They are self-condemned.

And so “Mawdryn Undead” is a brilliant beginning to this trio of stories, linked in part by the Black-Guardian-using-Turlough plot explicitly and explorations of mortality implicitly. By comparing “Mawdryn Undead” and “Enlightenment” directly, both seem to indicate eternal existence as more of a curse than a blessing, eternal pain according to the former, eternal boredom according to the latter. Not to reveal my hand too soon, but I enjoyed all three of these serials immensely.

But perhaps one of the most controversial elements of “Mawdryn Undead” is the use of the Brigadier. It is well-known that the original choice for the returning-past-companion in this story was Ian Chesterton, which would have been wonderful. In the end, Nicholas Courtney was the available actor, so we are now given a post-UNIT Brigadier and all kinds of issues in dating the UNIT stories. My thoughts on these, in reverse order, are “Who cares?” and “Intriguing.” Yes, I am familiar with the issues surrounding the UNIT dating controversy. I heard voices in the back of my head as I watched this story. I remembered what Sarah Jane said about when she was from. I’m quite happy to dismiss this as a production gaffe. Besides, a series like Doctor Who, in which the rules of reality are not entirely systematized, is open for interpretation. If we can move through time and space, is it any more of a leap to say we can move in reality? How many potential continuities have come into existence, ever-so briefly, only to die out soon after. Potentiality, to me, is written and re-written around regeneration. It is too late, at this point in the game, to insist too strongly on any given “fact” of the Doctor Who universe.

While I would have loved to see Ian once more, I think there is a rich idea behind the Brigadier leaving UNIT because it all became too much. War and combat destroy the psyche. Add to the mix the reality-shattering experiences of a Cybermen invasion, alien visitations, and astral entities trying to control the consciousness of humanity, and I think anyone will crack under the pressure. There is nothing wrong with the Brigadier leaving UNIT nor is there anything wrong with showing him capable of weakness. Too often in the West we celebrate success, ignoring stories of failure and struggle. (Unless, of course, those stories end in success. Then we contextualize it as paying our dues.) As Doctor Who fans, we don’t even like seeing the Doctor fail, hence some of the dislike of the Tennant Doctor’s stories. But failure is a part of life, and stories of failure help us to navigate our own struggles. Seeing the Brigadier in weakness makes him a more fully realized character, even if the role was not initially intended for him.

My Rating

4/5

TV Review: Sleepy Hollow

Det. Mills and Ichabod Crane promo image.
Source: Fox.com/sleepy-hollow

The premise of Sleepy Hollow is pretty dumb: Ichabod Crane resurrects after 250 years. He had been a soldier in the American Revolution (on the side of the colonists, naturally) and had been in battle with the man who would become the Headless Horseman. They killed one another, but their blood mingled on the battlefield, tying them together in occult-magic-stuff. Now the Horseman is back, and it turns out he is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and Crane and 2013-era cop Abbie Mills are chosen warriors in the coming apocalypse. High-brow, thoughtful drama this is not.

What it is, however, is charming and infectious. The creators of Sleepy Hollow know the absurdity of the premise, and in the pilot they fling the viewer head-first into this world, expecting us to just accept it. And we do because the show is well-produced and keeps smirk firmly in place throughout.

Instead, what we get is a deconstruction of mythic American types, something that probably could only happen in 2013 and succeed. The last show to really give something like this a try was The X-Files, which created United States mythology through conspiracy and UFO culture. (Okay, admittedly Fringe did the same thing but with corporate culture/scientific advancement, but these things were not distinctly American per se. Regardless, Fringe had its roots in The X-Files, owed its very existence to it. It was a hugely successful update of the formula, and Sleepy Hollow also tips its hat to these two shows.) But in a 2013 context we are arguing about the future of our nation and what our government needs to be. It makes sense, therefore, to look to the past, rooting our male lead at the major conflict that became the birth of our nation. History and the present, then, co-mingle. But it isn’t true history; it is a fantasy of history. It is mytho-history. It creates a fantasy out of national myths and horror. In no way does Sleepy Hollow pretend to be accurate, just as it never pretends to be serious. The show asks us to just chill out for a bit and enjoy ourselves. Don’t be so rational, it says. And it never demands rationality from you.

Structurally, Sleepy Hollow is a mixture of The X-Files (male protagonist who is a believer, female protagonist who is more skeptical, monster-of-the-week format with an ongoing internal mythology) and Elementary/Sherlock (super-intelligent British male [with slightly underdeveloped social skills] with a well-developed partner who is equal but different [primarily due to personality]). All these shows work and they are all distinctly different. And Sleepy Hollow has the supernatural investigation aspect, which keeps me highly engaged.

So far I have only seen the first three episodes. I wanted to hate it, but I just couldn’t. It is too much fun. So long as it maintains the pace and momentum of these first three episodes, I may be sticking with this show for some time. (Possibly seven years, if the internal timeline of the apocalypse is anything to go by.)

Alcatraz finale (spoilers)

Madsen vs. Madsen: (Source: Jerome Wetzel TV. Copyright 2012 by Fox.)

Alcatraz completed its first season on March 26, and while the finale didn’t make me an all-out supporter of the show, it did offer up a few elements that may bring me back for a second season should the show be renewed. There will be no attempt to avoid spoilers in this review, so you should only read if you have seen the finale or if you don’t care about spoilers.

  1. Factions – Based on how this season progressed, it would seem that Warden James has been planning . . . something. James has been subjecting certain prisoners to experiments with colloidal silver, a compound that ancient societies felt would aid healing. It seems the prisoner such as Tommy Madsen had a significant amount of silver infused into their blood. Warden James wanted Tommy Madsen to be the first. It seems James has had Madsen under observation for a very long time, prior even to his incarceration.
    But other prisoners, with Harlan Simmons the seeming ringleader, are standing against what Warden James is doing. This is an interesting idea, that the 63s are returning, and possibly at odds with one another.
  2. Nation-Wide Scope – With the reveal of tracking equipment set up by Warden James and the newly-introduced scientist Mr. K, we have been given the possibility that the show will widen its scope to tracking 63s across the United States. I think this is a great move that allows more storytelling potential.
  3. Rebecca Madsen is dead? – Oh, please, yes! I admit that I never warmed to the character. I felt she never progressed beyond stock-sexy-female-cop (and they never really pushed the “sexy” part that far either, merely hinted at it). She never had any chemistry with Doc Soto; she never developed a grudging-respect-but-still-strained relationship with Hauser. With the larger scope now in place, the task force no longer needs to be so closely tied to SFPD. I would like to see a new lead investigator (perhaps Ray Archer, who could have the strained relationship with Hauser while maintaining the personal connection to Tommy Madsen), someone who can actually do convincing police-work.

While these ideas capture my imagination, I still think the weakest part of the show is the present-day action. Alcatraz has two parts: character-driven science fiction (the flashbacks) and police procedural (present day). The writers seem to have a good grasp of the flashbacks, but the police procedural aspect suffers because no one seems to know how to write in the genre. Indeed, the only writer who has extensive (read: more than one) writing experience in police procedural is Jennifer Johnson, who wrote seven episodes of Cold Case (according to IMDB, at any rate). All the other staff writers have extensive sci-fi credentials. This could explain the success of the flashbacks. I think Alcatraz would benefit from an additional writer or two who are fans of character-driven science fiction, and who have solid police procedural credits. This could tie the flashbacks more closely to the present-day material, while giving us better investigations. The show has to work on both levels, it can’t just float by on one.

At this point, it seems Alcatraz is slated for cancellation. There has been no official announcement, but the viewing figures are less than half of what the show started with. The week-to-week decline in ratings was almost painful to see, despite not being a fan of the show. I’m not sure, at this point, if I’m pulling for the show or not, but I will give it a shot in the next season, should it get renewed.

Alcatraz: A Review

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Image by Christian Mehlführer.

J.J. Abrams is a man who I have grown to appreciate despite initial dislike. Yes, I’m one of those people for whom buzz is something to view with suspicion and my initial reaction to Alias—without ever having watched the show, mind you—was cynicism. To this day I have only seen one season of the show, and while I now understand why it captured the viewers it did, I still find it less than enthralling.  My problem was with the lead, Jennifer Garner’s Sydney Bristow. I never connected with her, despite the character being well-written and performed. The bottom line was that I never cared about her personal struggles and felt the show was wasting time delving into her personal life. This was, however, the very thing which drew people to the show. It was unique and I could intellectually appreciate that.

Abrams finally won me over with Lost, which was—in its first season—an English major’s dream. It was a short-story cycle on television; it was a series of character pieces set in an over-arching narrative about survival and mystery. I was hooked faster than you could say “John Locke”. Despite my personal opinion about the show falling apart in the end, it was a brilliant piece of television and was compelling for six years. How many shows have done this?

Mr. Abrams and Fox have given us a mid-season replacement in the form of Alcatraz, and on the surface, this seems to be a slam dunk. Just like many Abrams-produced shows, there is a mystery at the core of this show. Here we have the revelation that all the prisoners of the infamous Alcatraz were not transferred when the prison was closed . . . they vanished. Now, in present day, they are returning. Young detective Rebecca Madsen (played by Sarah Jones) and Doctor Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia) must track down the returning inmates and hopefully get answers as to what happened to these men and why they are returning. Their supervisor is Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill), who seems to have more information than they do, but is just as eager for answers as his team. This show is a no-brainer. It must be amazing.

Yet, there is one major problem. I don’t connect with any of the lead characters. They seem to be nothing more than stock characters at the moment. They lack the depth that I grew accustomed to with Lost. The irony here is that the flashbacks of the inmates portray well-rounded, fully realized characters. The audience is exposed to them in all their unfortunate struggles and gruesome details, but our lead cast is bland and uninteresting. In the end, the villains are more sympathetic than the heroes, and this is a horrible mistake in a show such as this, for if we ever get to the inevitable prison-break (in present day), who will we root for?

American Horror Story Season One

As I have been tying up some loose ends before returning to school, I have found less time to devote to this blog.  I’m hoping that my new schedule won’t take me away from here completely and I will make every attempt to update as regularly as possible.  But I’ve missed writing over the past couple of weeks.  Anyway, lots more to do, so let’s start with one of the loose ends that was not quite so important, but still necessary to my mind.

The week after New Years Day I gave in to a friend’s urging and started making my way through the debut season of American Horror Story on FX.  The horror genre is a guilty pleasure of mine for two reasons.  The first is that a strong horror story is surprisingly moral.  It doesn’t matter how depraved and disturbing the story gets, it still portrays a world in which sin and vice gets punished.  This juxtaposition of gruesome, voyeuristic hedonism and supernatural retribution is fascinating to me.  The second reason I like horror is because I find equal fascination in the experience of being frightened by fiction.  Fiction rarely frightens me.  The real world frightens me.  As a child I was more afraid of serial killers than monsters under the bed or in the closet.  Thus, I approach horror intellectually rather than viscerally, which just seems wrong on some level.  Horror is meant to elicit strong emotional reaction, in much the same way romantic comedies do, just on the opposite side of the scale of sentimentality.  American Horror Story is a study in both what works and what doesn’t in the contemporary horror genre.  When it portrays compelling, sympathetic characters in horrific, life-threatening situations, then it succeeds in spades.  When it gives in to sensationalism for the sake of piling on more American urban lore, it starts to drag and bore.

The season-long story follows Ben, Vivian, and Violet Harmon as they buy a house in Los Angeles.  The Harmons are attempting to heal familial wounds caused by Ben’s infidelity and Vivian’s bearing of a stillborn child.  Each member of the family is emotionally distant from the others.  Unfortunately, the house they have bought is known as “Murder House”, as it has been the location of a series of horrific murders throughout the decades, starting with the original owners, an laudanum-addicted scientist with a Frankenstein complex and his child-obsessed wife.  Throughout the season, the story weaves (with mixed levels of success) various urban legends into the history of the house and the new reality of the Harmon family.  But again, the strength of the show is the portrayal of the Harmon family (Connie Britton’s Vivian being exceptionally well-done as the core of the show) and the cast of characters surrounding them, both living and spectral.  When you begin to care for the characters who are already dead, then I think the cast and crew are doing something right.

The show isn’t perfect.  The pace is often uneven as some episodes find themselves needing to convey elements of the overall plot but not having enough additional material to fill out the 42 minutes.  Thus we have introductions of elements that seem to be padding out the season (The Black Dahlia being one such “filler” element).  But at 13 episodes, the story doesn’t drag too long, and the highest compliment I can pay the show is that three days after finishing the season finale, I find myself missing the characters.  Yes, their story is over, but I want to see them again.

One thing that has me intrigued is that this season was a stand-alone story.  Season two will follow a completely new story.  American Horror Story is trying a format that is not common in the American market, and I want it to succeed if only for that reason.  The format is more British, even if the subject matter is completely American. This show isn’t for the easily squeamish or the easily offended, but if you like a good horror story, it is sure to satisfy.

Grimly Shuffling Forward

I usually go to YouTube to find a specific video or check some channel that I enjoy, but after those videos have finished, I start checking out the recommended or similar videos and the next thing I know an hour has gone by and I can’t even remember why I was on the site to begin with.  Oddly enough, this is almost how I feel about watching Grimm.  The intriguing premise brought me to the show.  I like most of the lead characters.  But in the end, the similarity of the plots and slow pace are irritating me.  I want the show to go somewhere.  I’ve watched six episodes so far and apart from populating the mythology with diverse re-interpretations of fairy tales, the show just isn’t moving beyond the monster-of-the-week format.  Whatever arc is being told in this show needs to fire an unmistakable shot across the bow of the . . . um.  Okay, the metaphor fell apart, but I think you take my meaning.  For crying out loud, Once Upon a Time has already killed a major character, and I expect that show to fall apart at any minute.  But despite this fear, at least I feel like the show is going somewhere.

Here are some ideas that I think would make the show more interesting and shake things up a bit.

Another Grimm – One aspect I enjoy about the show is that Nick isn’t quick to fall into place.  Just because he is a Grimm doesn’t mean he kills indiscriminately.  Truth be told, he is a cop first, and a Grimm second.  I love this part of the show.  However, I think it is time to more fully draw him into this world and having a new Grimm show up to train him would be good.  Nick would be forced to protect the friends he has made thus far and make the choice between truly learning from his brethren or arresting him for unprovoked attacks on those he hunts.  This could lead to future stories where Nick would be an outcast from the Grimm line.

Surprise reveal – Nick’s girlfriend has been a wasted character thus far.  What better way to shake up the show than to reveal that she is an as yet uncataloged creature that worked her way into Nick’s life to watch him.  Or perhaps she could be part of the group of hunters like Captain Renard.

Regardless of where the show goes, I think it is time for it to start playing some major cards.  I’d like to keep up with it and see where it goes, but next year looks to be busy and I don’t know if I will have time.  But if something compelling happens, I’ll be sure to make time.

What do you think Grimm needs?  Do you think it is fine just the way it is?

Once Upon a Time – The Shepherd

Written by Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss
Directed by Victor Nelli

The amnesiac David Nolan must decide to return to the wife he doesn’t remember or Mary Margaret, whom he is deeply attracted to.  

“I think this belonged to me.”
“Really.  Are you sure?”
-David and Mr. Gold

For the most part, this episode was a return to form.  And while Emma Swan was rather irritating and the CG was terrible, the emotional struggle of David and Mary Margaret made the episode satisfying.  First, I was nervous as to how this struggle would be dealt with.  All too often, the Hollywood answer is to “follow your heart.”  But how does one follow their heart when they exist in a dual state?  Prince Charming was married to Snow White, but David is married to Kathryn.  So far as we know, this new world, this mundane world, features fully-realized relationships.  How does one reconcile faithfulness?  Ultimately, David’s greatest crime is, as Mary Margaret said, leading her on.  Ultimately, David chose his reality, and that reality was Kathryn.

Rather than recap the story (which is still available on ABC’s website), I wish to engage in some wild speculation.  You see, I’m still holding this show at arm’s length.  The writing (for the most part) is good, but American television tends to fail on the long-running arcs.  I’ve mentioned before that I feel the best path for Once Upon a Time to take is to deal with arcs on a season by season basis, but I feel this is quite unlikely as we have been told that when the curse breaks the final battle will begin.  This leaves only two large arcs: Break Curse, Fight Battle.  Fair enough.  However, I would like this show to do something unexpected and mind-bending.  We have been told (in the opening sequence) that the fairy tale characters are now living in our world, but how much more interesting if they weren’t.  What if it is the same world?  What if the only thing that has changed are memories and perceptions of reality?  So what would this mean?  I believe that the rules would be the same.  We have seen that agreements hold, regardless of where they were made.  We have seen remnants of the old world (glass coffin, most of Mr. Gold’s shop).  If this were a different world, why would the old world exist in it?  I believe we are being told what Regina/The Queen believes to be true.  Mr. Gold / Rumplestiltskin may have crafted something more deceptive: two worlds which are really one.  Storybrooke IS the fairy tale world.  The greatest hindrance to breaking the curse, then, would be if everyone decided to stay because they chose Storybrooke as reality.  This may all be incorrect, but it would certainly be unexpected and so far, it fits certain clues we have been given.

What do you think?  Is my theory crazy?  Can you see evidence that I am wrong?  Comment below.

Some Thoughts on the New Hawaii Five-0

On the recommendation of my sister-in-law, my wife and I checked out the new Hawaii Five-0.  I had never seen the original series but my wife had and enjoyed it.  She was quite excited about this new version.  We tried the episode entitled “Pahele” from season two.  Sadly, we both found it a rather pathetic, by-the-numbers police procedural.  The plot from this episode involved a school bus full of children being hijacked by drug runners.  They were wanting to exchange the kids for the drugs that the Five-0 squad had recently confiscated.  In the end, the goals of the drug runners was a bit more complicated than this, but the episode was so unengaging that neither of us really felt pulled in to the conflict.  In fact, I was quite surprised that the method of the criminals was similar to an old episode of Millennium in which a group of school children were kidnapped and buried by a man who sees himself as part of an apocalyptic prophecy.  As I think back on it, that story seemed similarly uninteresting and rote, so maybe stories about hijacked school buses are just a bad idea.

But along with the tedious plot, the actors didn’t seem to perform.  In some scenes they appeared quite uncharismatic, almost as if the actors had just showed up to read their lines.  Maybe there was a good catered buffet just out of shot and everyone wanted the episode to wrap as soon as possible.  Many of the performances were wooden and dry and the whole experience was mind-boggling.  If this was indicative of the show, then it looked to be horrible.

Now in fairness, the scenes with Terry O’Quinn were good.  His character was helping McGarrett investigate some secret about McGarrett’s father.  But these scenes added up to less than five minutes of the episode, and as compelling as they were, they didn’t really work to draw us back.

The next night we decided to give the show another chance and bought the pilot episode from iTunes.  The difference between these two episodes left me speechless.  The plot was interesting, the characters (and actors) seemed to be enjoying themselves.  Even the banter between McGarrett and Danny was fun to watch, something that was completely missing from “Pahele”.  The pilot was a show that I would willingly go back to, whereas “Pahele” wasn’t.

Final Verdict:  Perhaps if Amazon ever has the first season on sale for $20, I’ll check out more episodes.  Or if my wife wants to buy more herself.  Either way, I’d like to see where the show goes, but I confess that I probably won’t go out of my way to pursue it.

Once Upon a Time: That Small Still Voice

Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by Paul Edwards

Source: ABC's Once Upon a Time websiteI almost look at the first four episodes of Once Upon a Time as a courtship.  Now that I have finally committed to the relationship, That Small Still Voice airs and I get the undeniable impression that Once Upon a Time is no longer trying to impress me and is letting itself go.  This episode was as by-the-numbers as an episode could get and I can’t help but wonder if TVTropes was consulted as a writing guide for crafting an episode.

Let’s start with what works.  The scenes between Mary Margaret and David are excellent.  The two have great chemistry and their dilemma is an intriguing one.  We know that Henry’s belief is true, that these two people are Snow White and Prince Charming.  But what does that mean for who they are in our world?  I’m sure at some point it will probably be revealed that the “real world” relationship between David and Catherine is a lie orchestrated by Regina, but the moral dilemma is certainly one worth exploring.

Henry was also fairly well written in this episode.  For a character that I was initially apprehensive toward, I’m beginning to warm to his passion.  And I truly believe all the actors in this episode did the best they could with what they were given.  The problem, for me, is that the script was mediocre and trite.

One thing that irks me about this story is that we are given no reason for why Jiminy held beliefs contrary to his parents.  A child’s view of the world is largely dictated by his parents.  In this case, Jiminy should have been a smaller version of them.  We are given no reason for why he felt his parents were wrong.  We saw nothing that made us believe that he had formulated a stronger morality than those who raised him.  Sure, we can tell a story in which he commits a great evil which causes him to change his ways, but the episode insists he was a good man prior to the deaths of the Gepetto’s parents.  Apparently he was just a weak man.  I don’t believe his character.  I don’t believe his journey.

Source: DVD screen capture
Moths, Dalmations . . . all animals are amazingly prescient and magical and can find people trapped in wells or collapsed mines. But they will still pee on your carpet.

Then there’s the cave-in.  I’ve read a few reviews that make a big deal about the connection to Lost in the episode.  By this, they are referring to the Apollo chocolate bars that Henry takes with him on the expedition into the mine.  What they miss is that this episode mirrors The Moth the seventh episode of Lost.  In this episode, Charlie, feeling disrespected confronts Jack in a cave.  The ensuing argument causes the cave to collapse, trapping Jack.  Charlie is able to crawl through an opening and helps Jack get free of the rock that has pinned him, and the two later find another way out by following a moth.  The experience empowers Charlie and he decides to kick his drug habit.  It is also interesting to me that Charlie was the moral core of his band Drive Shaft.  His experiences with the band caused him to compromise his convictions.  And similar to Archie in That Small Still Voice, Charlie was led astray by family.  While these two episodes are not the same beat for beat, they are very similar in pace and formula.

I acknowledge it is hard to come up with anything genuinely new in television (or any fiction writing for that matter), but you succeed or fail based on what you do with your version of the story.  Sadly, this episode was predictable.  The beats for this type of story dictate that Henry would not quite find what he is looking for, which means the final shot of the episode would confirm his belief to the audience (in this case, Snow White’s glass coffin).  The cave-in plot was so formulaic as to be dull.  I can’t help but feel that this episode, which was meant to be an episode that empowered the conscience of the fairy tale folk, was filler.  The overall plot (The Curse) slowed to a crawl.  The sense of urgency present in the first four episodes seems to have diminished and it may be possible that we can all sit around and wait for the curse to break now that Emma Swan is in town.  And is it going to turn out that every resident of Storybrooke has had a deal with Rumplestiltskin?  There was no point to Jiminy’s involvement with the trickster.  This story of shaken confidence could have easily been told without him.  But I guess if you are going to pay for Robert Carlyle, you may as well film him.  Similarly, the logic behind Jiminy’s desire to become a cricket doesn’t make much sense.  Why a cricket, Jiminy?  “Because I liked them when I was a child. They represented freedom.  I’m probably lucky I didn’t like houseflies or dung beetles.”  And why does Archie growing a backbone cause all the crickets in Storybrooke to start chirping once more?  Magic?  Because Jane Espenson says so?

Jane Espenson . . . . The first time I encountered her was in the Battlestar Galactica reboot, and I honestly didn’t feel one way or the other about her.  I loved the show and I felt she must be a great writer because I loved the show.  Having seen some of her work in Torchwood: Miracle Day and here, I’m starting to wonder why nerdom seems to think she can do no wrong.  Is it because she worked on Buffy?  I’ll give her credit, the Miracle Day episode Immortal Sins was very good and one of the best of the series, but the rest of her work on Torchwood ranged from plodding to adequate.  Is it possible that she needs a strong show runner to push her to do her best work?  Should we blame Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz for this lacklustre episode?  Is it the fault of the director for not excising some pretty bad dialogue and ramming the emotional development down our throats (“HE’S MY SON TOO!”) I know enough about television to know that every episode is a collaboration.  No one person can take full credit or blame for a failure, and often times the final product in no way resembles what each person saw in his or her head.  But this was truly a bad episode.  It was melodramatic, formulaic, and just plain dull.  After riding a high for three straight episodes, That Still Small Voice was a disappointment.  It was unimaginative, and I can’t think of a greater crime for a series about fairy tales.

This episode killed the momentum.  It offered up trite characterization and poor dialogue.  It honestly felt like filler.  It felt as if this episode was the inevitable “well, we’ve got to do something to fill the 22 episode order from ABC, so we may as well do this one.”  If we get more episodes as weak as this one, I will not continue to watch.

Grimm – Beeware

Written by Cameron Litvack and Thania St. John
Directed by Darnell Martin

The one with mob flash dancing and bees.

I decided to give Once Upon a Time five episodes to win me.  Best out of five.  I’m giving Grimm the same, and so far, while OuaT is up by two, Grimm is down by the same amount.  But to be fair, my dislike of Grimm’s previous two episodes isn’t as deep as my dislike of OuaT’s pilot.  You see, I really want to like Grimm.  I told my wife that Grimm is the show that would fill the hole left by The X-Files if you haven’t yet found Fringe.  It involves outlandish, often ridiculous, murder investigations in the same vein as The X-Files.  It can provide good doses of horror.  And yet, as much as I want to love this show, I seem to keep it at a slight distance.  There is a story arc rumbling beneath the surface, but I’m not sure where it is going yet so I can’t tell if I like it.  I certainly don’t find it compelling yet.  As it stands, it is a show that I would watch if it was on, but probably not seek out, which is a problem as I watch most of my shows on either DVD or the internet.  If I get behind on Grimm, I would have to purchase the episodes via iTunes or Amazon, and I’m not sure I want to pay for this show.  The fact that this show now has two strikes against it out of three episodes, concerns me.  Again, I want to like it.  With the exception of the girlfriend, I enjoy all the characters.  I like the premise.  I like that often the crimes have been normal human crimes committed by non-humans.  I guess I just want to see more of the world.  Sure, monster-of-the-week is a type of world building, but I know there has to be some amazing mythology deep in the story because The Brothers Grimm wrote their book centuries ago and these different races would have developed their own cultures and the Grimms would have created their own as well.  I feel like we are only scratching the surface of the bubble of ideas, and not even hard enough to break it open.  I want to see something bigger and more interesting than merely Grimms hunting monsters and monsters hunting Grimms.

I’m trying to be fair with the monsters as well.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel like I wasted my time watching Beeware, but when I was telling my wife about the episode, I became aware of how silly the plot was when you reduced it to its core.  Bee people killing lawyers during mob flash dancing.  Now, I don’t have a problem with that sentence, per se.  I just couldn’t help feeling that such a premise should have been written by Russell T. Davies.  It’s rather absurd, but that doesn’t mean it has to be bad.  Grimm takes it seriously, which is fine, I guess.  It just didn’t hold up to thinking about it.  I feel rather stupid discussing the appropriate tone about a story of murderous bee people in the context of a show about a secret society that hunts fairytale monsters.  But it still stands.  What is the appropriate tone for a story about bee people?  Do you play it silly and absurd and just make it fun or do you play it as horror and try to make it disturbing?  I don’t think I have the answer to this.