Monday, 21 August 2017

Holy complete series box set Batman!

One of the most fabulous, campest TV series evar!

Catwoman is the best character, obviously.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Big Gay Longcat reviews Mission: Impossible - The Legend

Good afternoon Mr Cat. The television programme you're looking at is The Legend, a season one episode from 1967 starring Steven Hill as Dan Briggs, Barbara Bain as Cinnamon Carter, and Greg Morris as Barney Collier, with a special appearance by Martin Landau as Rollin Hand.
Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to review this story.

The episode begins, as usual, with Dan Briggs (since this is a season one story, and Jim Phelps didn't take over until season two) getting his mission from the manny on the tape.

"Good afternoon Mr Briggs. The man you're looking at is Dr Herbert Reiner, a dedicated official in Hitler's National Socialist party. For the last 20 years he has been in Spandau Prison outside of Berlin. On Tuesday next week Dr Reiner finishes his sentence, and with his daughter flies immediately to Puerto Bubera in South America, thanks to the generosity of an anonymous benefactor who has sent him a round trip ticket. Our informants tell us other of Hitler's top Nazis are also at this moment on their way to Puerto Bubera. Whoever is bringing them together seems to be well financed and determined to sow the seeds of Nazism across the world again.
Your mission, Dan, should you decide to accept it, is to put these Nazis out of business.
As always, should any of your IM Force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.
This tape will self-destruct in 10 seconds.
Good luck Dan."

Dan then picks his team, and sadly Willy is not one of them, but Rollin, Cinnamon and Barney are.

This is already an unusual premise for an Impossible Mission. There are only a few episodes where the badddys are Nazis, instead of the more common antagonists of foreign dictators, Communists, or the gangsters of the Syndicate.

During the mission briefing scene Dan explains that the baddys will be tough, as four other countries have previously sent "agents" to investigate the Nazis' mysterious benefactor, but none of them have managed to get into their secret base in Puerto Madeupa.

Dan is disguised as Dr Reiner and Cinnamon as Dr Reiner's daughter Ilsa. They go to the secret base while Rollin and Barney stay outside but nearby to help them. A doggy woofs at them as they go inside. But it is not all good - as well as the doggys, the base is full of Nazis!

They meet Friedrich Rutt, who seems to be in charge of the Nazis except that he claims not to be the mysterious benefactor but merely his "personal secretary." He takes them and some other old Nazis to a locked room where there is a manny in a bed.

Rutt says the manny in the bed is Martin Bormann, who Dan and the Nazis recognise as an important Nazi. Even though he is in bed, Bormann is not having sleeps. He talks to them saying he is injured from a crash and until he is well again he will leave Rutt in charge.

Rutt does a Nazi salute and everyone else has to do one too, even Dan and Cinnamon so that the real Nazis don't see through their disguise.

In the next scene, Cinnamon starts a fire in her bedroom. There is lots of smoke and while the Nazis are investigating it we can see it is a distraction for Dan to go to Bormann's room without being noticed by the Nazis. But things go wrong when Dan gets electriced by a trap, and then Rutt catches him and points a gun at Dan. This moment of peril is a cliffhanger moment and time for an advertisement break!

After the break (discernible on the DVD from the way the episode fades to black and then comes back in to the same scene) Dan talks his way out of trouble, saying he was worried about Bormann when he noticed the smoke, so Rutt is not suspicious. This does mean that their first plan has been foiled so Dan and Cinnamon have to contact Rollin and Barney for help with their next plan.

Rutt shows the Nazis films of Hitler making speeches in black and white, which is the kind of thing Nazis like watching. I expect they also like reading Hitler's speeches as well.

There are explosions outside the base. These are made by Barney - it is another distraction to cover Dan making a second attempt at getting to Bormann. Barney isn't in this episode very much, but he does have an important role to play during this bit. At least he was in it at all, unlike Willy who I miss because Willy is my favourite Mission: Impossible character.

Dan goes into Bormann's room with a gun in his hand, but it is not a manny in the bed, it is a dummy!

A Nazi dummy, if you'll pardon the tautology. This is the second ad break cliffhanger.

Seeing Dan with a gun already out, as though he is about to assassinate Bormann before discovering he is only a dummy, is very rare for Mission: Impossible. In fact this may be the only example from the entire series when a main character sets out to kill somebody directly, instead of the much more common scenario of setting a baddy up to be killed by other mannys on their own side.

I think it shows that Dan Briggs hates Nazis even more than Jake and Elwood do. Maybe it is because Dan is Jewish? Steven Hill, the actor who plays him, is Jewish, and so are the actors who play Rollin and Cinnamon, so while it is not made explicit if their characters are too, this would help to explain this unusual, unprecedented aspect of this mission.

Dan finds a tape player with Bormann's speeches recorded on tapes, including the one he heard Bormann say when he arrived earlier, so now he knows that Rutt has been faking up a Nazi.

Meanwhile Rutt and the Nazis go out of the base and find Barney's sound effects machine (a clever parallel - the IMF have been faking an attack on the Nazi base just as Rutt has been faking a Martin Bormann). Rutt blames Israeli agents and says they have "tried tricks like this before." They run back inside and go into Bormann's room while Dan is still there looking at the tapes, but he hides so he doesn't get caught.

Dan being in the room was more of a moment of peril than when he discovered the dummy, but the latter made for a far more effective cliffhanger - albeit one based on a moment of revelation rather than jeopardy.

Dan decides not to shoot the dummy even after all the effort it took to get to him, because he has a new and better plan. This time he needs Rollin's help.

Cinnamon starts to go outside the base to try get a message to Rollin, but she is caught by an old Nazi general. She gets away by pretending she was going to read Mein Kampf, which is another thing Nazis like. Once outside, Cinnamon gets caught again, only this time it is by Rollin pouncing on her for a fake jump scare moment.

With Rollin now in on the plan, they begin to put it into action. Cinnamon distracts Rutt by pretending to be very Nazi at him while Rollin stealths into the dummy Bormann's room, but he makes a noise so Rutt goes into the room to investigate. Rollin hides like Dan did earlier so Rutt again doesn't catch anyone.

With Rollin still hiding, Rutt puts the dummy in a wheelchair and takes him to the window where the Nazis are outside and they can see him (though not clearly enough to tell it is a dummy). He also plays them one of the tapes so they think Bormann is talking to them. Rollin can also see and hear them so now he knows what fake Bormann sounds like. When the tape is finished Rutt takes the dummy back inside.

Rutt gives the Nazis their orders for their secret Nazi missions, and he is about to send them away when Dan asks if they can see Bormann again before they go. Now we get the payoff moment of their plan, as Rollin enters the room disguised as Bormann!

Even if this is not a complete surprise to us viewers because it has been telegraphed in the preceding scenes, this is one of the best moments in Mission: Impossible because of Rutt's uncomprehending, astonished reaction.

The rest of the Nazis are all happy to see him. Rollin asks Rutt to help him sit down, calling him "Friedrich" and generally acting like he's in charge here. Rutt asks
"Who are you?"
and the Nazis give him puzzled looks. He orders them to arrest Rollin, but they don't obey him. Rollin has all the other Nazis completely believing he is Bormann, so they obey him and not Rutt, even when he sends Rutt to his room and asks him to hand over his keys, which Rutt does, symbolically surrendering his authority as he does so.

Rutt goes and sees the dummy is still in the bed where he left it, but he cannot expose Rollin that way because he was the only one that knew Bormann was a dummy really. Cinnamon comes in and Rutt tells her that Rollin is an impostor and he asks her to help him expose Rollin. In response she asks the perfectly reasonable question that, if Rollin is an impostor,
"Where is the real Martin Bormann?"

Rutt shows her the dummy in the bed and Cinnamon pretends to believe him. She gives him a gun and distracts the guard so that Rutt can knock him out and escape. Rutt goes into the room where the Nazis are but they still all side with Rollin.

Rollin is busy changing all of Rutt's plans and he throws papers in Rutt's face when Rutt refuses to obey him. Dan leads the other Nazis in applauding Rollin's actions, which makes Rutt even more angry and humiliated so that he shoots Rollin with the gun Cinnamon gave him. (Because we saw Cinnamon hand him the gun only a few moments earlier, this cleverly allows us to suspect it is a trick gun.)

The Nazi general disarms Rutt while Dan goes to help Rollin. He says
"Martin Bormann is dead."
The guards help Dan and Cinnamon take Rollin's body away, and Dan says to the other Nazis
"You must finish what must be done here."
The Nazis all know what is meant by this and, after Dan, Cinnamon and Rollin have left, Rutt confesses to them.

"I had to do it. Don't you understand? The truth is, right from the beginning it's been me. I wrote the manifesto. I was the voice you heard. I planned it all, every detail. All my life I've dreamed of this, and that was the reason why it needed him here. Nothing has to change, only from now on I give you the orders directly, and we can still achieve our goals. Give me a chance to prove it."

Every so often the camera cuts from Rutt's pathetic, ranting face to show the Nazis watching him, unimpressed.

"Let me be your fuhrer! Let me be your fuhrer! Let me be your fuhrer! Let me be your fuhrer!"

Over his last, desperately repeated begging words, the Nazis all advance on Rutt and then it cuts away to Dan, Cinnamon and Rollin (alive of course) in a car. We hear Rutt scream and the car drives away. The theme music starts playing signifying that it is the end of the episode.

Is this Nazi Donald Trump making one of his cameo appearances, like when he was in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York?

The scenes with Rollin as fake Martin Bormann lift this episode to another plane of quality, as watching him effortlessly take control of the Nazis, simultaneously usurping and subverting Rutt's own plan while at the same time Rutt is rendered impotent, unable to stop them even though he can see exactly what Rollin is doing... well, it is magnificent.

The fact that the baddys are Nazis just makes their comeuppance at the end all the more satisfying, and so this turns into one of the very best Impossible Missions there is.

Yes, even without Willy.

Monday, 17 July 2017

New Doctor Who announced...

... and still not a cat, nor even a doggy. Maybe next time...

In the '80s it was a publicity stunt. In the '90s it was a joke. In the '00s it became a possibility. Now it's a reality.

It just took a little time, that's all.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Big Gay Longcat reviews Doctor Who: Dragonfire Part Two

Part two of Dragonfire begins when the Dragon fires lasers out of its eyes at Mel and Ace, and they, quite sensibly, run away. This is a good start with the titular "Dragon fire" turning out to be sci-fi pewpewpew laser fire.

Kane sends the mannys he had frozen at the start of part one to chase after the Doctor and Glitz and Mel and Ace. They are Glitz's former spaceship crew, who are now sci-fi zombies.

Glitz saves the Doctor from his stupid cliffhanger. The scenes I have described so far are all functional scenes designed to promptly move us on from the cliffhanger situations and get set up for part two's plot, as is the bit where Glitz recaps the scenario of him having 72 hours to find the treasure or forfeit his spaceship.

Glitz decides he wants to steal his spaceship back rather than carry on with the more dangerous task of looking for the treasure. He gives the Doctor his map in return for the Doctor helping him by distracting the guard outside the spaceship.

Magenta, who also wants to steal the spaceship, is waiting for Glitz inside instead of stealing it. The Doctor distracts her too. The Doctor seems to know a lot about Magenta somehow, but while he is willing to help Glitz escape from Kane, he is not willing to help her - this seems very out of character for the Doctor, and this bit is not well done. It goes nowhere and detracts a lot from the overall quality of the story.

Kane hasn't demonstrated how he is an obvious baddy for a while now, so he freezes a manny who has just finished making a statue for him and the manny goes

The Doctor and Glitz go back to looking for the treasure, rendering their previous bit completely pointless (it might have been harmless padding - yes, padding in a three part story, which itself says a lot - if not for the Doctor going needlessly out of character), and get shot at by the Dragon. The Dragon can also laser its way through doors in classic sci-fi style (see also Paradise Towers part two for the prior example of this in Doctor Who).

Mel and Ace get chased by the zombies, and they are immune to being blowed up by "nitro nine." Both Mel and Ace seemed quite happy to try to kill them without knowing they were zombies, which at the very least is out of character for Mel. Maybe Ace is having a bad influence on her?

The Doctor stops Glitz from shooting the Dragon with his pewpewpew gun and so the Dragon does not laser them in return.

One reason for the Dragon being so elusive may be that it is on the run from the lawyers for the Alien films.

Magenta and Tony Osoba plot together to kill Kane so they can be free. Tony Osoba tries to kill Kane by turning the heating on. He melts Kane's new statue but then Kane freezes him. Later on Kane also freezes Magenta - so much for her subplot.

Ace gives a speech that, when added to her obsession with explosives and callous disregard for manny life, makes her look like a psychopath:
"I worked as a waitress in a fast food cafe. Day in, day out, same boring routine, same boring life. It was all wrong. It didn't feel like me that was doing it at all. I felt like I'd fallen from another planet and landed in this strange girl's body. But it wasn't me at all. I was meant to be somewhere else. Each night I'd walk home and I'd look up at the stars through the gaps in the clouds, and I tried to imagine where I really came from. I dreamed that one day everything would come right, I'd be carried off back home, back to my real mum and dad. Then it actually happened and I ended up here. Ended up working as a waitress again, only this time I couldn't dream about going nowhere else. There wasn't nowhere else to go."

The Doctor and Glitz meet up with Mel and Ace, but then one of the zombie crew catches up with them. He is about to kill Glitz but the Dragon saves them by lasering the zombie. This would be a good thing except that the zombie was just getting his memories back from seeing Glitz again, but never mind that because the Doctor slips on the floor, lol!
(Is Sylvester McCoy the only one bothering to act as though the floor is ice and therefore slippy?)

The Dragon plays a video for the Doctor and companions to give them the exposition about Kane being a space criminal who has been imprisoned on Svartos. The Doctor works out that the Dragon is the treasure because it is the one thing that Kane can't get to by himself.

It opens its head to reveal a crystal brain, which is a power source that Kane wants to get. Kane has been listening to this scene using the homing beacon in the map, and the episode ends, not with a cliffhanger (perhaps wisely, considering how part one ended) but with Kane soliloquising direct to camera:
"At last. After three thousand years, the Dragonfire shall be mine."

This episode suffers from some serious issues that makes it the weakest individual episode of the whole season. The subplot dead end that is the scene where the Doctor goes with Glitz to steal his spaceship back is a particular low point, especially when combined with the Doctor's treatment of Magenta in that same bit.

There has been no evidence given on screen that Magenta was any worse of a manny than either Glitz (an admitted criminal who - based on his actions in this story alone - sold his spaceship crew for his own benefit) or Ace (a character who, even if she is not an outright psychopath as I speculated earlier, has issues) so the Doctor's refusal to help her is baffling. The only explanation I can think of is that he read the script beforepaw and knew she had to get killed off by the end of this episode. That also explains how he knew so much about her backstory despite only having met her once before, in the café scene of part one.

That said there are some positive points that I should highlight. First is that the Dragon is a great monster - it is scary but, it turns out, actually friendly. What a twist! This pleased us cats, especially Scary Cat.

Second is the fact that the Doctor and Kane have not been in the same scene yet - though Kane has heard the Doctor, and the Doctor has seen a picture of Kane, as clever ways of building towards this - so their inevitable meeting and confrontation is being kept for the final part. Expectations will therefore be even higher for the story paying off the anticipation thus generated.

With this still to look forward to, does it mean the best has been saved for last? Can Dragonfire redeem itself by performing a noble self-sacrifice comeback in the final act?

Friday, 30 June 2017

Big Gay Longcat reviews Doctor Who: Dragonfire Part One

Dragonfire is the final story of season 24 of Doctor Who. It stars Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor and Bonnie Langford as Mel, and Sophie Aldred as Ace. It is the second story of the season to be three parts long, but unlike Delta and the Bannermannys it cuts through the Gordian Knot of how to tell a four-part story in less than four parts by simply having less of a story to begin with.

It starts with a group of mannys who are going to be frozen by some other mannys, but one of them doesn't want to be so he runs away. There is some foreshadowing when Tony Osoba says:
"Leave him. He's in the restricted zone. He's a dead man."
This is quickly proved to be correct when Kane, this story's obvious baddy, comes in and freezes the manny with his bare hands and the manny goes

The TARDIS arrives at Iceworld on the planet Svartos (so "Iceworld" isn't the name of the world then? I don't know what Terry Nation would have to say about that!) and the Doctor and Mel visit a supermarket.

Then they go to a café and meet Savlon Glitz (played by Tony Selby, not to be confused with Tony Osoba), returning from Trial of a Time Lord. He doesn't recognise the Doctor immediately because the Doctor was Colin Baker when he last saw him and is now Sylvester McCoy. There is a funny exchange between Glitz and Mel, which at first glance seems to be a clever way of delivering exposition, but it is even more clever than that because Glitz is being economical with the actualité in this bit so it is not exposition and just a joke after all:
"Fact is, I'm on a mission of highly philanthropic nature."
"What's that?"
"It means it's beneficial to mankind."
"We know what philanthropic means. What's the mission?"

Magenta (Patricia Quinn), one of Kane's hanchmannys, comes to arrest Glitz. She gives him 72 hours to pay the money he owes Kane or else he's off the case they'll take away his spaceship. Mel decides it is time to get on with the plot so gets some exposition from Ace about a dragon living in the caves under Iceworld. This is extremely efficiently accomplished, with Ace's first line of dialogue, before having met or even interacted with Mel or the Doctor, being to mention the dragon unprompted while near Mel. Terry Nation would be proud, and this more than makes up for the Iceworld-not-being-a-world slip up of earlier.

Ace joins up with the Doctor, Mel and Glitz (and starts calling the Doctor "Professor" for no reason straight away) so we have our adventuring party assembled. Glitz even has a treasure map and makes another joke that, this time, also contains an element of truth in it:
"This is the real McCoy, this is. It comes from an unimpeachable source."
"What's that, then?"
"That means it is beyond reproach or question."
"I know what unimpeachable means, bird bath, but what makes you so certain this map's pedigree is twenty four carat?"

Ace called Glitz a "bird bath" lol. This is a deadly insult if you're a cat, though I'm not sure it has the same power if you're a manny. Ace also calls Glitz a "bilgebag" when he doesn't want Mel or Ace to come with them, and she storms off in a huff. Mel goes with her so only the Doctor and Glitz go to look for the Dragon.

There is a homing device in Glitz's map so that Kane and Magenta can monitor where Glitz is. Magenta wants to fly away in Glitz's spaceship but Kane doesn't want her to, so he orders it destroyed. Magenta has the mark of Kane on her, which aside from being an unsubtle reference to the Bible is just there to make Kane seem a bit more sinister than he otherwise would be. Magenta later reverses Kane's order without his knowledge, showing she is a bit of a Starscream.

Ace establishes her character by getting herself fired from her job by pouring a drink on a customer's head, demonstrating she has poor impulse control, and calls Glitz a "div" so she is really quite rude as well. Then Mel gets Ace's implausible backstory about how she is from Earth but
"I was doing this brill experiment to extract nitroglycerine from gelignite, but I think something must have gone wrong. This time storm blows up from nowhere and whisks me up here."
Mew. I don't think that is a real thing, and neither does Professor Cat. He's a real Professor, you know, we don't just call him that for no reason.

Actually the real cause of Ace being teleported to Iceworld is explained in the story The Curse of Fenric, but as that was made two years later it leaves Dragonfire looking pretty silly when taken on its own merits. And then there's this exchange of dialogue between Mel and Ace:
"What about your mum and dad?"
"I haven't got no mum and dad. I've never had no mum and dad and I don't want no mum and dad. It's just me, all right?"

This is more interesting, as the double negatives reveal Ace's true feelings about her family - Ace is too well-educated for this not to be a deliberate mistaik. Ace is obviously a prodigy, capable of inventing a new kind of explosive, "nitro nine," while still young enough to be a school student (she later claims to be 18, but I think this is a lie and her first answer - six - is more likely the truth).

Ace uses "nitro nine" to blow some bloody doors off, then shouts her own name in triumph, indicating an almost cat-like level of egotism. Ace and Mel get arrested by Magenta and taken to Kane. Kane wants Ace to join him and become his new henchmanny (it is not clear if he doesn't want Mel to join or if he can only talk to them one at a time in order to seem more sinister), but Ace threatens to blow him up with "nitro nine" so they escape.

They take time off from their escaping for Ace to cast doubt on the existence of the dragon, which means it is time for an instant reversal as they promptly encounter an alien dragon. Mel screams (of course) and Ace makes a face.

This isn't the cliffhanger moment you might expect, but it is one of two cliffhanger situations in a similar line to how Delta and the Bannermannys part one ended. Meanwhile the Doctor has become separated from Glitz and lost in the caves. He decides, for no reason, to dangle himself from the edge of a precipice - a literal cliff hanger! He too makes a face, and that is the point at which we end the episode.

This is... er... how can I put this... not the most promising of starts to a story.

Indeed this is one of the most notoriously bad cliffhangers in all of Doctor Who. While I naturally approve of the self-aware nature of a cliffhanging cliffhanger, the sheer pointlessness of it completely spoils the effect. Sylvester McCoy does what he can to try and salvage the scene by making an "oh noes" face, but the misjudged directing and editing choices in this episode defy belief.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Big Gay Longcat reviews Doctor Who: Delta and the Bannermannys Part Three

"Give me Delta and I will give you... your life."

"Life? What do you know about life, Gavrok? You deal in death! Lies, treachery and murder are your currency. You promise life, but in the end it will be life which defeats you."

"You have said enough. I have traversed time and space to find the Chimeron queen. I will not be defeated."

"As you will. I came here under a white flag and I will leave under that same white flag, and woe betide any man who breaches its integrity. Now step aside, release those prisoners!"

Part three of Delta and the Bannermannys picks up from this exchange, which apart from being well acted (so well worth seeing twice) does a very good job of recapitulating the central conflict of the story - this could be useful for any cats who missed part two due to having sleeps. It is again two minutes before we get back to the cliffhanger point, which is another indication of how short this story is.

Seeing this for the second time, I noticed that the Bannermannys go to obey the Doctor's order without seeing what Gavrok has to say first. This is a subtle way of showing that the Doctor's bluff is working, and that is in fact the case - Gavrok does not shoot them, just menaces them with his pewpewpew gun a bit and then puts a homing beacon on the motorbike because this story evidently hasn't copied Star Wars enough yet.

Ray rescues the Americans when they get left unattended by the Bannermannys, so they can join in on the goodys side for the last part. Time for some chase music:

The Doctor knows there is a homing beacon on his motorbike so gives it to a goat for Gavrok to chase later on.

Billy is getting another lesson in metaphors from the mysterious Welsh manny Goronwy, this time it is bees standing (flying?) for Delta instead of butterflies. Billy steals some of Delta's little manny's noms for himself. It changes him into an alien like Delta, which is a bit convenient but never mind - it would seem churlish to hold such a plot point against Delta and the Bannermannys when it is otherwise such a well put together script.

Gavrok sets a bomb trap at the TARDIS and then goes back to his spaceship to follow the goat. In a clever bit of mirroring, the Doctor sets a trap of his own for Gavrok at Goronwy's house.

The Doctor notices Gavrok's booby trap in time to stop the Americans from falling for it. Meanwhile, Gavrok runs right into the Doctor's trap and him and his Bannermannys end up covered in honey (lol, the Doctor's trap is less lethal but much funnier than Gavrok's) and chased by special effect bees.

Sorry, that isn't a very good picture for illustrating this scene. Here's a better one:

The Doctor is still trying to disarm the trap on the TARDIS when Gavrok's spaceship arrives, so he has to run away and leave the TARDIS still trapped. The Doctor didn't get any sayings wrong in part two, but he manages to fit a couple in this episode.

The Doctor and Billy get shot at by Bannermannys but manage to rig up the holiday camp's speaker to broadcast Delta's little manny's singing, and it defeats the Bannermannys. I didn't think it was that bad.

Gavrok walks into his own trap and gets exploded. Who would have thought that the day would be saved not by the power of love but by the power of bad singing? Delta and the Bannermannys certainly gets points for originality on that score.

Delta and Billy steal the Bannermannys' spaceship and fly away in it, while Goronwy makes the point clear by giving more bee metaphors to the Americans. The plot is finally all wrapped up when the Americans get their satellite back, and then they make confused faces when the TARDIS disappears in front of them. Goronwy also sees the TARDIS leave, and makes a mysterious Welsh face...

Delta and the Bannermannys is an ambitious attempt at telling a new kind of Doctor Who story. Instead of showing or telling us what is happening, a lot of the time the programme gives us an impression of what is going on and leaves our imaginations to fill in the blank spaces.

Here there is a certain resemblance to the technique used in the original Star Wars films, in which the backstory of the clone wars and the destruction of the Jedi is left purposefully vague, conveyed only through a few lines of dialogue from Ben Kenobi, Governor Tarkin and, later, Yoda. This serves to make it much more dramatically powerful than if those events actually appeared in the films themselves, as well as allowing room for surprise twists and revelations about who is related to who.

Delta and the Bannermannys also seems to directly lift several plot points from Star Wars, but it does not copy the storyline* so much as it takes some of the familiar tropes from Star Wars (already 10 years old at the time Delta and the Bannermannys was made) and uses them like a shortpaw way of letting us know who some of these characters are and what they stand for.

(As and aside, some of these tropes were not even original to Star Wars - the heroic princess on the run from the baddys cannot have been a wholly new concept, else how would we have known Princess Leia was a goody when we first saw her even though one of her first actions is to gun down a soldier who has explicitly just set his weapon to stun?)

Perhaps the impressionistic style of Delta and the Bannermannys was arrived at by accident, as the makers experimented with a way of telling a four-part story in only three parts? To me this seems unlikely, since there are so many characters who do not get a traditional introduction: Ken Dodd, the bounty hunter, Billy, Ray, Mr Burton, the Americans and Goronwy - all except Goronwy first appearing in part one, and the last two having no proper reason for being involved in the story that is ever given on screen.

Billy and Delta's romance takes place almost entirely between scenes we see, and it is a vital plot element, yet we spend more time on the aliens making references to the 1950s setting than we do that - I conclude it has to be deliberate. Although I didn't like this after watching part one, now I think it works within the context of the stylised nature of this story - perhaps I was just culture shocked at the time?

In terms of SFX, Delta and the Bannermannys comes between Time and the Rani and Paradise Towers in the amount used, featuring some spaceships (economically, including the one disguised as a bus), plus the bees that seem to be an early attempt at CGI. While obviously not up to the standards of Hollywood movies of the time, and unable to compete with the likes of Back to the Future, The Terminator, or Caravan of Courage, they do the job they were designed for quite satisfactorily.

If Delta and the Bannermannys has any significant flaw, it is the uneven tone that flip flops between comedic and serious moments when maybe it would have been better to pick one and stick with it. Except somehow it makes that work. As a completely serious story, this would not have been good at all - the competing elements and characters (alien princesses and baddys fighting in 1950s Wales, not to mention the inappropriate Americans) would not have meshed together and been impossible to take seriously. On the other paw, an outright comedy could not have successfully featured the dramatic peril presented by Gavrok as an instrument of potential genocide.

Sylvester McCoy does his best work as the Doctor to date, although there are so many minor characters in this story that Mel is sidelined for a lot of it to allow Ray, Billy, Mr Burton, Goronwy and even the Americans each a chance to do stuff. As much as I like Bonnie Langford as Mel, it is a shame that they missed the opportunity of having Mr Burton join as a new Companion here, I think that would have been great.

Delta and the Bannermannys has a long legacy, being one of the most influential TV stories on the 2005 revived series of Doctor Who. Russell T Davies's version would often feature Wales and Welsh characters, as well as borrowing from contemporary sci-fi films and TV shows to create shortcuts to help fit stories into too short timeslots. And, of course, repeatedly misjudging the balance between comedy and drama.

In conclusion, Delta and the Bannermannys somehow works far better holistically than it should have any right to if we were to examine the individual elements of it separately. But does this just mean it is a remarkable one-off, or can this new formula be repeated successfully?

Doctor getting sayings wrong count: 2
(Season running total: 21)

"There's more to this than we can fry."
"All haste and no speed makes Jill a dull girl."

* Luke does not steal Chewbacca's noms to turn himself into a Wookie as far as I remember, though there may be some internets fanfiction in which that does happen. Nor are there two random Americans on Yavin IV looking for their missing moon space station satellite. Princess Leia's singing does save the day at one point, but only in the comics.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Big Gay Longcat reviews Doctor Who: Delta and the Bannermannys Part Two

Because there are only three parts to Delta and the Bannermannys we are now already at the middle of the story! While there are some two-part stories in Doctor Who that are even shorter, three parts is shorter than the great majority, and it is not helped here by having a significant recap of the end of part one - it takes two minutes before we get back to the cliffhanger, as both Mel and the Doctor's separate situations are reprised.

Gavrok blows up the suspicious manny and so saves the Doctor and Ray by mistaik. We never find out who he was, just that he was a bounty hunter. Maybe he got lost while looking for Han Solo?

Delta decides to trust Mel and Billy and tell them what's going on, but not us viewers because for us it cuts to the next scene and the next day, where the Americans have met a mysterious Welsh manny who tells them about butterflies.

At first it seems this has nothing to do with the main story (like the rest of the Americans' plotline), but it turns out this is a metaphor for Delta when we cut back to her finishing telling her story. This is a much more effective and novel way of conveying the situation than if it had been a pure dump of the exposition, which I'm sure is how Terry Nation would have done it!

Naughty Doctor!

When the Doctor and Ray wake up from their sleeps, they tell Mr Burton that the Bannermannys are coming but he doesn't believe them and makes a joke and a skeptical face. Seeing inside the TARDIS convinces him the Doctor is telling the truth. Mr Burton asks to come with the Doctor in the TARDIS - he would have made a great Companion but sadly it is not to be.

Like Billy, and Ray, Mr Burton now takes everything in his stride, with only one scene of self-doubt that is a nice touch. He says
"I am still not sure what I saw in that police box, but I cannot risk my staff for it."
and they start to evacuate all the mannys from the holiday camp.

While looking for Billy and Delta, the Doctor and Ray finally meet the Americans but they soon bounce off them which means the Americans still don't join in the main plot.

The Americans then see Gavrok's spaceship land and they think it is the satellite they are looking for because they are silly. After this there is a change of tone - things get more serious now that the Bannermannys are on the scene. Gavrok captures the Americans but, luckily for them, they don't know anything at all about the plot that Gavrok is interested in so they cannot tell him anything useful. Phew!

Things get even more serious when the Bannermannys blow up the spacebus as it tries to escape from them, and Gavrok captures Mel. Mel tries to be brave and lies about Delta being ded in the hope that it will make Gavrok go away - it nearly works except that Delta arrives right then and there. Oops.

Mr Burton is also brave and allows himself to be captured as well so he can persuade Gavrok not to kill Mel, so they are both prisoners instead. Prisoners? At a holiday site in Wales? That gives me an idea for a TV series, except I think it has been done already...

The Doctor goes to confront Gavrok under a flag of truce. He interrupts Gavrok while he is having noms, which may make him even grumpier than he normally is. In what is easily Sylvester McCoy's best scene as the Doctor up to this point, he brazens it out with Gavrok and tries to bluff him into releasing his prisoners.

It almost works, and the Doctor, Mr Burton and Mel start to walk away from Gavrok. But at the end the Bannermannys point their pewpewpew guns at them for a cliffhanger!

This is a great episode that starts to pay off some of what the first part was setting up, but it is still tonally uneven in mixing the comedy with the serious bits - even the magnificent dramatic cliffhanger scene has a misjudged moment of comedy as the Doctor, Mr Burton and Mel do a synchronised double-take look back at the Bannermannys, somewhat undermining the carefully built up tension.

Despite that drawback it is still definitely a step up from part one, with the arrival of Gavrok and the Bannermannys on Earth making for a significant escalation of peril, so we have some properly rising action heading in to the final episode.