Thursday, 30 June 2011

Monkey Challenge: The End of the Way

Halfway there.

This is the last episode of the first season of Monkey, and the pilgrims reach Buddha's Golden Temple of the Thunderclap in India and collect the scriptures they have been seeking.

Of course it's an illusion created by the evil-spirit-of-the-week (The King of Ages, a.k.a. The King of All Rocks), and they are really only halfway there - a fact confirmed by the real Buddha at the close of the episode and the season.

Aside from this plot twist - which you could really only be fooled by if you actually though this was the end of the series as a whole (maybe possible at the time of first broadcast, but not now) - there are several other events which are noteworthy:

Buddha removes the golden band from Monkey's forehead, but he chooses to come back of his own free will to save Tripitaka, who has of course been captured by the King of Ages, and Monkey even offers to sacrifice himself in Tripitaka's place. For this he has the headband put back on, presumably for continuity's sake.

We meet Sandy's betrothed and Pigsy's sister - two previously unmentioned relatives, just as with Sandy's father in The Beginning of Wisdom - and both play their parts in the story, Pigsy's sister even saving them from the illusion of the false, blank scriptures, and being killed by her husband - who is, of course, the King of Ages - because of it.

This episode also has one other important - for the series as a whole - development, as it introduces a subtle shift in the motivations of Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy. While up until now they had been accompanying Tripitaka on the pilgrimage so they could get back to Heaven (and, in Monkey's case, be free of the threat of the Headache Sutra), after seeing their reflections in a pool as being those of humans instead of animal-spirits, they now want to reincarnate as humans. If I am remembering correctly, this will continue to be the case in the next season.

And I can't close out my overview of the first season without bidding farewell to the opening and closing credits, seeing as this is the last time I will be seeing either of them during the Monkey Challenge.

The opening title sequence is iconic and sets up the tone of the series perfectly, but the closing credits are also worth mentioning - the music is "Gandhara" and here's a version of it that hasn't (at the time of writing) been taken down due to copyright violations:

There are two versions, one in English and the other in Japanese, and these seem to have been chosen at random for each episode - I thought for a while that they alternated, but that doesn't seem to be the case, although it may be that the English version features more often on the DVD than when I saw them on TV a few years ago? Or perhaps my memory for such matters is just not that great?

Whatever the reason, this song, accompanied by images that I suppose represent Ancient China, show the other side of Monkey - if the introduction promises entertainment, fighting and magic tricks, this represents the philosophical aspect. I didn't used to like it but it has grown on me over the years and I find it quite catchy.

Back in the days when Monkey was shown late at night on Channel 4 it just meant to me "the show's over; time to go to bed."

Monday, 27 June 2011

Big Gay Longcat reviews Doctor Who: Escape Switch

Escape Switch is part 10 of the Daleks' Master Plan and was written by Dennis Spooner from an idea by Terry Nation. It is the last episode of this story that still has pictures and it is sad that only 3 out of 12 parts are there for me to see. The other two are Day of Armageddon and Counter Plot.

The story has moved on since the end of Counter Plot. Everybody is in Ancient Egypt where Steven and Sara see a mummy and Sara is scared. Obviously Sara is a very brave Space Security Agent, but there are clearly things that are too scary for her - mummies for one, and probably Scary Cat as well.

The mummy turns out to be the Meddling Monk from the Time Meddler story. He has joined the story to pad it out er, get revenge on the Doctor, and he wants to get into the TARDIS but the Doctor is the only one with a key. The Doctor is not there so they have to go to look for him.

But Mavic Chen and the Daleks are also there and out looking for them, and they are captured. Mavic Chen and the Daleks are still after the Taranium Core of the Time Destructor (so maybe the story has not moved on all that much) and they plan to use Steven and Sara as hostages to get it back from the Doctor.

The Monk tries to be on everybody's side but Steven is suspicious and the Daleks still make the Monk their prisoner.

Mavic Chen calls for the Doctor to come, but he is so loud that the Egyptian natives hear him as well and they don't like it. The Doctor comes but he doesn't trust the Daleks at all so he makes a condition that they make the swap away from the Dalek ship.

The Daleks agree, but plan to exterminate everyone after they have the Taranium Core back. The prisoners are released, including the Monk (the Doctor doesn't want him exterminated even though he has been a baddy in the past) but, before the Daleks can exterminate everyone, the natives attack and there is a big, but brief, fight and all the natives are negatived and killed. They manage to get one Dalek by putting stones all around it so it can't move.

The Doctor has lost the Taranium Core. He says "I had to hand the real Taranium Core over to Magic... Mavic Chen."
But he has cleverly stolen the Directional Unit from the Monk's TARDIS which will allow them to follow the Daleks back to Kembel. The Doctor, Steven and Sara go into the TARDIS. But where has the Monk gone?
"I don't care if he's in Timbuktu!" laughs the Doctor.

The Monk has gone back to his own TARDIS only to find it now looks like the Doctor's Police Box! The Daleks chase after him thinking he is the Doctor and he has to make a speedy take-off, but then he finds out that the Doctor has stolen his Directional Unit and he is very grumpy about it.

The Daleks grudgingly admit that Mavic Chen has "done well" to recover the Taranium Core and they go back to Kembel with Mavic Chen being even more smug than usual. Even cats aren't as pleased with themselves as Mavic Chen is, and that is part of why he is a great baddy.

The Doctor tries to make the stolen Directional Unit work in his own TARDIS. Steven is impatient and says "Oh come on Doctor we haven't got time for butts, this is our only hope!"
I'm not sure what he means by that, but it sounds a little bit rude to me.

Steven pulls the switch and there is a flash! That is where the episode ends - we don't know if it has worked or not!

Of course it does work and in the last 2 episodes of the Daleks' Master Plan the Doctor, Steven and Sara go back to Kembel where they beat the Daleks. Mavic Chen is killed, but so is Sara so it is a mixed ending for the Doctor and Steven but very dramatic.

I wish very much that I could see part 12, and all the episodes, because I think this is a great story, possibly one of the best Doctor Who stories of all, but it is hard to judge against other classics such as Doctor Who and the Silurians or Timelash because they have all their pictures and this one doesn't.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Monkey Challenge: The Country of Nightmares

As I approach the half-way stage of Monkey and the end of the first season, I'm impressed by the visual nature of this episode, which shows, I think, that the money had not run out as would happen with so many other TV programmes by this point in the run.

To pass through the land of Nightmares, ruled over by demons and where mortals such as Tripitaka would be killed, enslaved or eaten, Monkey disguises Tripitaka - why exactly he has to cross-dress Tripitaka is not made clear, save to provide the jokes when Pigsy starts lusting after the master - and gives him enough magical power to temporarily pretend to be a spirit.

This isn't necessary in the end, because Tripitaka is given a free pass when he is the 500,000th visitor to the land of Nightmares. This must have been something of a marketing gimmick in the '70s and early '80s, and I vaguely recall this being used as a plot-point in other programmes of the time. These days you only ever seem to see it in the form of dodgy adverts in certain parts of the internet - you are the 10,000,000th visitor to this website, click here!

Monkey gains admittance to the land by showing the demons an impressive trick - flying on his cloud he spells out "Monkey Magic" and then causes a destructive storm. Clearly demons are impressed by that kind of thing. Pigsy's magic trick is less impressive, and Sandy's less impressive still, and they are accorded less status in the land as a result.

The guest of the demon king, Tripitaka eventually gives himself away when he doesn't want to watch two men fight to the death for his entertainment. The demons then round up Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy as well, and take them all off to be crucified.

Tripitaka is the one to save the day - rather than Monkey, for a change - when he recognises that this is a magic land that runs on the rules of dreams and nightmares. His prayers cause a solar eclipse to occur, which terrifies all the demons and they beg him to bring the sun back and they acknowledge Tripitaka as their master and allow the pilgrims to go free.

This is a solid episode and one I would recommend, it showcases the silliness and spectacle of Monkey in equal measure.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Big Gay Longcat reviews Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Previously on Big Gay Longcat's Big Gay Longblog...

And now the continuation...

Captain Kirk is climbing a mountain.

Mr Spock bothers Captain Kirk until he falls off the mountain, but Mr Spock has rocket boots and he catches Captain Kirk. I think this scene is here to show that Captain Kirk and Mr Spock are still best friends, and it will take more than a little trolling from Mr Spock to get between them.

On the Planet of Galactic Peace the baddy's army captures the Federation, Romulan and Klingon ambassadors. This gets the story underway as it is obvious that the Enterprise is going to have to go and save them.

Scotty thinks the new Enterprise was "put together by monkeys." Wow! A spaceship made by monkeys! That must be the best spaceship ever!

Lt Sulu and Mr Chekhov are lost and Lt Sulu pretends they're in a blizzard but Lt Uhura sees through this subterfuge and makes them come back to the Enterprise.

Dr McCoy has made dinner for Captain Kirk and Mr Spock around a campfire. Dr McCoy and Captain Kirk sing a song but Mr Spock has trouble joining in. Lt Uhura comes to get them in the middle of the night and takes them to the Enterprise.

Captain Kirk goes to the bridge and gets the mission to rescue the ambassadors. They head straight for the Planet of Galactic Peace, but there are Klingons on their way there too.

Captain Kirk gets a message from the hostages and the baddy leader, and Spock recognises him because he is a Vulcan. They go down to the planet in a shuttle.

Lt Uhura distracts the baddy guards by doing a dance with a couple of fans, which she must have brought with her for that purpose. I think this scene would have been better if Lt Sulu had been the one who distracted the guards.

There is a big fight until Captain Kirk and Mr Spock rescue the ambassadors, but then they turn out to be on the baddy's side and so Captain Kirk and Mr Spock are captured.

The baddy leader is called Sybok. Mr Spock tries to arrest him but Sybok laughs and thinks Mr Spock was joking. He wasn't, which makes this a funny bit.

They go back to the Enterprise and Lt Sulu has to crash the shuttle into it to avoid the Klingons shooting them. Everyone is knocked out. Captain Kirk and Sybok wake up first and they fight. Mr Spock gets a gun but he doesn't shoot Sybok. This is because Sybok is Mr Spock's half-brother. This is a shocking revelation, because everyone thought Mr Spock didn't have a brother until now.

Captain Kirk, Mr Spock and Dr McCoy are put in prison by Sybok's men while Sybok uses his hypno-eyes on Lt Sulu and Lt Uhura, and then Mr Chekhov and everyone else so he can take over the Enterprise.
I wish I had hypno-eyes like Sybok, then I could get fish whenever I wanted. "Each fish hides a secret pain... hypno-eyes!" I would say. Then I would nom the fish.

Sybok wants to go the centre of the galaxy to visit a mythical planet. Presumably he means Megas-Tu, which the Enterprise visited in the episode The Magicks of Megas-Tu. To get there they will have to go through the Great Barrier.

Scotty has not been hypno-eyesed yet, and he rescues Captain Kirk, Mr Spock and Dr McCoy.
"I know this ship like the back of my hand," he says. But then Scotty knocks himself out by hitting his head. Clumsy Scotty!

Captain Kirk, Mr Spock and Dr McCoy climb up a lift shaft to escape the baddys - this way of escaping was cleverly foreshadowed by the mountain climbing scene at the start of the film.

Mr Spock goes to get rocket boots again. As they fly up to escape, we can see that the deck numbers are in the wrong order - those cheeky monkeys!

Captain Kirk sends a distress signal, but it is the Klingons who intercept it so they can chase the Enterprise again.

Sybok catches up with Captain Kirk, Mr Spock and Dr McCoy. He tries to hypno-eyes Dr McCoy and then Mr Spock by showing them things that make them sad. Captain Kirk doesn't let Sybok even try to hypno-eyes him, and then Sybok realises his hypno-eyes has not worked on Mr Spock or Dr McCoy.

Sybok thinks he will see Ceiling Cat on the other side of the Great Barrier. He is clearly being silly, any cat could tell you that Ceiling Cat watches us from the ceiling, not from the centre of the galaxy (unless your ceiling was in the centre of the galaxy, I suppose).

They fly into a big blue cloud until they find a blue planet. It doesn't look like Megas-Tu, so maybe this is a different centre of the galaxy? I don't know about science things, I'm just a cat.

Sybok, Captain Kirk, Mr Spock and Dr McCoy go the planet in a shuttle. For a while it looks like there isn't anybody on the planet, but then it suddenly gets dark and big rocks appear like massive hands under the ground - a very scary bit!

There is a light and a face appears - it doesn't look like Ceiling Cat to me!

"What does God need with a starship?" Captain Kirk is suspicious as well.
God zaps him - God is really a baddy!

Mr Spock gets zapped too, and then Dr McCoy and Sybok realise it's not really Ceiling Cat but some bad god of the kind the Enterprise has encountered before. A lot.

God makes himself look like Sybok to scare him, and Sybok sacrifices himself trying to hypno-eyes God. The Enterprise shoots God so Captain Kirk, Mr Spock and Dr McCoy can escape. They run back to the shuttle but can't take off. Scotty manages to beam up Mr Spock and Dr McCoy, but the Klingons arrive and shoot the Enterprise before Captain Kirk can be rescued.

Captain Kirk is still in danger, because God is not dead. God tries to zap Captain Kirk some more, but then the Klingons turn up and shoot God. Captain Kirk is beamed aboard the Klingon ship. He has been rescued by the Klingon ambassador and Mr Spock, who have taken charge of it.

Captain Kirk goes to hug Mr Spock but Mr Spock says "Please Captain, not in front of the Klingons."

LOL! With this funny bit it is the end of the adventure and everyone is safe. Except for Sybok who is dead.

The film finishes with Captain Kirk, Mr Spock and Dr McCoy going back to their camping. Which, let's face it, has got to be the best way to leave them.

In conclusion this is a fabulous, fantastic film and I am a happy cat for having seen it. I think it is already my sixth best film of all time, with only the other Star Trek films being better.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Monkey Challenge: The Fires of Jealousy

There's a highly dubious morality at the centre of this story - the Queen of Fire has broken up with her husband, the King of Water Buffaloes, and has made a lair surrounded by impassable volcanoes that just happen to be in the way of the pilgrims' progress to India.

Most of the episode concerns various attempts by Monkey to gain possession of the Queen's magic fan, which can be used to quell the volcanoes so they can pass by. But although Monkey gets his hands on the fan by disguising himself as King Water Buffalo, the real King steals it back by disguising himself as Sandy.

The Queen captures Tripitaka in an attempt to get her fan back from Monkey. Tripitaka finds out that the Queen is bitter because her husband has run off with a human woman, but he tells her that to get her husband back she must ask the King to forgive her for her jealousy.

While this isn't as outrageously sexist as the likes of Star Trek's Turnabout Intruder, the idea that it is the woman's fault for the man's infidelity does make me cringe. Suffice to say that this does work and everyone makes it up at the end.

There are two noteworthy (in a good way) aspects to this episode. First is the way that every time King Water Buffalo gets into a fight - and it happens twice, first in a fight with Sandy and later a fight with Monkey - he has a group of minions that run in and join in the fight, then vanish without a comment when the fight is over. Pure set-piece fight scenes, with no attempt to disguise this.

The second is a scene that has to be seen to be believed, and I can only assume was included because the episode was under-running. After they have used the magic fan to make it rain and put out the volcanoes, Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy perform a curious and exceptionally silly dance to the Monkey theme song.

I only wish I could get some screenshots of the faces they pull; they're bizarre. Alas my PC isn't working properly at the moment for me to do this - I may come back to it if I get the chance.

Monday, 13 June 2011

A Good Man Goes to the Impossible Missions Force

Good Morning Mr Briggs.
Eyepatch Woman, the mysterious 'Big Bad' of this season, makes her headquarters in the Demon's Run asteroid. We've learned that she has kidnapped Amy Pond and will attempt to turn her unborn child into a temporal weapon which could upset the balance of power.
Mr Briggs, your mission, should you decide to accept it, would be to rescue both mother and child from Demon's Run.
As always you have carte blanche as to the method and personnel, although we can only afford Hugh Bonneville's character for a cameo appearance.
But of course should you, or any of your IM Force be caught or killed, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions until you can get Amy to remember you back into existence.
As usual this recording will decompose one minute after the breaking of the seal.
Good luck Dan.

The Space Adventures of Little Gay Longcat

Part 21: Cat Watch

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Monkey Challenge: Two Little Blessings

Some great lines from the narrator in this one:

"Once they asked the wise man 'Is he who gives you a wild tiger in a jade box being truly generous?' The great sage replied 'How should I know?'"

"Truly it is said that dragon's feathers are as rare as sympathy for an expectant father. Never has a father been expectant in quite this way."

"Defeated, the god of fertility turned over a new leaf. This is why, today, very few men have babies."

I wonder if this is based on an original legend, because it plays like a messed-up fanfiction: Pigsy and Sandy both get pregnant from drinking the sacred water of a fertility god. Then Monkey has to obtain the antidote, reuniting two star-crossed lovers forced to be the god's slaves in the meantime.


There's a greatly amusing scene where Pigsy imagines himself fighting bandits with his child - a pig - on his back, in the style of Lone Wolf and Cub.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Monkey Challenge: Village of the Undead

After the quality of the last couple of episodes, this is a bland and unmemorable one (when watching it yesterday I remembered I had seen it before, but couldn't recall anything about the plot itself).

The evil-spirits-of-the-week are phantoms who will only really exist if the pilgrims believe in them. They plan to prove their existence by killing them, eventually getting Monkey into a cauldron of acid that will only kill him if he believes it will.

Those wacky buddhists, eh?

To give the episode some credit where it's due - the changes in lighting between the seemingly harmless, though deserted, village and the domain of the undead is well done and atmospheric, which does help to create a sense of danger for Tripitaka. The lack of silly monster costumes for the phantoms helps too.