Thursday, 27 December 2012


I am a Scottish cat and I have REDPAWS!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

A Snippet of Fanfiction

"Who is that?" Frodo asked, when he got a chance to whisper to Mr Butterbur. "I don't think you introduced him?"
"Him?" said the landlord in an answering whisper, cocking an eye without turning his head."I don't rightly know. He is one of the wandering folk - Rangers we call them. He seldom talks: not but what he can tell a rare tale when he has the mind. He disappears for a month, or a year, and then he pops up again. He was in and out pretty often last spring; but I haven't seen him about lately. What his right name is I've never heard: but he's known round here as the Doctor."

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Cat and Mouse - not just a game, more a way of life

This is a great game. As you can see, it is called Cat and Mouse. In it you play a cat* and the object of the game is to pounce on all the mouses (so you can nom them) before they get away. The mouses can also fall down holes (in which case they cannot get away so you can nom them later) but cats are too big to fall down the holes.

In the picture a cat is playing against a manny's hand, and the cat is considering his next move carefully. Does he want to pounce on the black mouse, or chase after the manny's hand's yellow mouse, or lie in wait for the white mouse, or have a sleep instead? So many decisions make for a deep and tactical game, which makes it lots of fun for cats.

* If you are a manny reading this then you may have to play a mouse instead.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Big Gay Longcat reviews Le Voyage Dans La Lune

Le Voyage Dans La Lune is the first sci-fi comedy documentary ever made. It tells the story of the first time mannys ever went to the moon - how they got there, and what they did when they got there. Because this film was made almost 70 years before mannys went to the moon, they had to use metaphor and special effects instead of archive footage. Luckily for them, special effects had just been invented in time to make this film.

It is not a long film, so I managed to watch it all the way through without having to have any sleeps in the middle.

It starts with some wizards who want to go to the moon. None of the characters have names or say anything, so we have to decide for ourselves what they are called and what they are saying. The leader of the wizards has a big white beard, but because he has a green coat and is obviously in charge I will call him Captain Kirk.

Captain Kirk has a plan for them to go to the moon - they have to become scientists and use science! So some of the wizards change their clothes to become scientists and then they go and make a rocket. Their rocket gets fired at the moon from a big cannon.

The manny in the moon gets hit in the eye by the rocket, but he doesn't seem to mind that much.

The mannys spend a lot of their time falling over and indulging in slapstick. One character has a red coat and a wig like a judge. He seems to fall over even more than the other mannys do so I will call him Avon.

There is only one other manny who seems to have a defined character, and he is the bald manny in a pink coat. He always seems to lag a bit behind the others when they are exploring the moon so I will call him Gimli.

The mannys get tired and decide to have sleeps on the moon. While they are sleeping they miss seeing the stars and planets doing a dance or just generally showing off. The mannys are woken up when it begins to snow.

Captain Kirk plants his umbrella and it turns into a big mushroom. For some reason this annoys a nearby alien (possibly it is symbolic of colonialism) and there is a fight until the alien gets Kirk-slapped and explodes into smoke. More aliens come and capture the mannys.

They are taken to see the alien king, but Captain Kirk makes him explode and in the confusion they all run back to their rocket pursued by aliens. This bit reminds me of Star Trek for some reason.

They have cleverly parked their rocket on the edge of a cliff so it will fall back to the Earth, but they cannot make it go so are in trouble. If this were a serial then this would be an obvious place for a literal cliffhanger, but it isn't so the action continues when one of the aliens accidentally helps tip the rocket over and they all fall into the water.

The story finishes with the mannys all being given big moon medals for being so brave. They have also captured one of the aliens (the one who tipped their rocket over the cliff maybe) but this plot thread is left dangling, perhaps hinting at a sequel.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Doctor Who Night 2012

The Gunfighters

Steven shows that he can sing almost as well as a cat.

This was a very funny story where the Doctor, Steven and Dodo get involved with lots of mannys with guns. Steven is one of my favourite characters in Doctor Who. In this story he makes funny faces and he sings a song. It turns out that the song is the real villain of the piece.

Also, The Gunfighters is the polar opposite of the TV series Primeval, in that everybody in The Gunfighters has more guns than Steven.

The Ambassadors OF DEATH

What are those mannys doing with that skull there?

Long story is long.

This is from the same season as Doctor Who and the Silurians, which is one of my favourites. Sadly this does not have Paul Darrow in it as Captain Hawkins. You might think that Captain Hawkins dying in the previous story would prevent him from being in The Ambassadors OF DEATH, but that doesn't stop UNIT mannys who die in this story from being alive again later on. Sometimes later on in the same scene.

One of the baddys in this story is Regan. He starts off as a hemchmanny to General Carrington, but he has plans of his own and by the end he is dressing like Regan, King of Space.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Sinister Sponge

WARNING: This review contains pictures that have scary faces in them! Do not read on if you are easily scared by pictures of scary faces. Or do read on and just don't look at the pictures. I have just realised that this warning is below the first picture which contains a scary face, so you may have already been scared by it! Fortunately, the scary face in the first picture is quite hard to spot because it is faint and underneath another manny's face - one with a moustache! So you may not have seen the scary face.

This story features the Doctor, Harry and Sarah. None of them has a moustache so I don't know who the manny with a moustache is in the first picture - maybe it is meant to be the Brigadier saying "Doctor, come back at once" but the Brigadier isn't even in this story.

On the planet Inscruta, a cloud turns out to be a sponge in disguise as a cloud, and it kidnaps Sarah. The Doctor and Harry chase the sponge until they get captured by the tentacles of a giant flower.

"'Land of hope and glory! Mother of the free! How can we extoooll thee-" Doctor Who began to sing loudly, and Harry gurgled with surprise.
'Come on, Harry, louder!' urged the Doctor. 'Sing! Shout! Anything - but make it loud!'"

This could almost be continuity back to Mission for Duh; shouting loudly scares the plant so they can escape.   They find themselves escaping to "a field of what looked like giant cabbages" where they meet the Doctor's old friend Elkalor who lives inside one of the cabbages.

Scary face!

I hope that is meant to be Elkalor with the scary face, or else there is something very wrong with Harry.

"Elkalor stood there, trembling slightly. He was taller than the Doctor and thinner. His face had no chin and his neck went straight up to his beak-like nose. His eyes were set wide apart and long thin tendrils stood up on the top of his head. But what amazed the Doctor was his flesh. It was almost transparent and every time he made a sudden movement he shivered like a jelly!"

So maybe it is Harry then. Elkalor gives the Doctor the exposition for what is going on, and it makes me think that this story may have been written by Ben Steed:
"'Five Ergaps after you left, all the males were stricken by a disease that caused our feathers to fall out and our flesh to become transparent. No one could discover a reason for it, or a cure.'
The lamp on the table flickered and Elkalor paused to adjust the flame.
'It was around this time that our wives and daughters began to harrass us, began to question our judgement and authority. They would hold mass meetings in the council buildings and cause a great noise that was most distressing for us. While they seemed to get less and less sensitive to sound, we males could hardly bear to hear a pin drop.
'One of the males discovered that the women had been harbouring a giant sponge in the council hall and were communicating telepathically with it. When we objected to this they drove us from the city, with a ceaseless barrage of chattering and shouting and loud bangings. We have lived here in this patch ever since.'"

Avon: sexist or sexy? In episodes by Ben Steed, the answer is "both."

Harry begins to turn invisible like Elkalor. In the morning they get visited by their noisy neighbours.

"The sponge hovered into view, flanked by female Inscrutes furiously bashing pots and pans and shouting.
Harry started. To the right of the sponge, her face contorted into a snarl, was Sarah."

This seems to me like the least worst place to put this picture.

The Doctor communicates with the sponge and gets the exposition out of it.

"'What are you doing on this planet?' he asked.
'I am trying to build a transformer to get me back to Femizor.'
'Why have you caused this friction between the Inscrutes?'
'It was unintentional. I was contaminated by Oriolic dust beams on my way here. This atmosphere causes a disintegrating effect on male hormones.'"

That sounds made up to me. The sponge gets fed up with the Doctor's questions and begins to menace him, so the Doctor produces the secret weapon he fetched from the TARDIS earlier.

"The Doctor dipped into his pocket and produced a mouse-like creature. The sponge shrank back with a high pitched sound.
'Yes,' said the Doctor, smiling. 'The enemy of sponges through-out the cosmos - a Rhoa. If you don't co-operate I will let him loose.'"

The sponge capitulates immediately. If sponges are that scared of mouses, imagine how scared they would be of cats! It turns out that it is only a little sponge. The sponge confesses to the Doctor that it has been a naughty sponge and lets the female Inscrutes (and, we must assume, Sarah) go. The Doctor says he can cure the disintegration using the juice of the cabbages, which is handy, and all the problems are solved.

"Harry watched as an Inscrute female forced another cupful of elixir down her husband's throat.
'Somehow I don't think things round here will ever be the same again,' he muttered.
'And not such a bad thing either,' Sarah chipped in."

This picture can only come from a parallel universe where Gavin Campbell (in our world a presenter of That's Life!) played the Doctor, seen here with his Companions Manuel and Tiffany. The series also featured Peter Bowles as the Master, Arthur Lowe as Captain Lethbridge-Mainwaring, and BRIAN BLESSED as an unforgettable Davros. Blakes 7 ran on BBC1 for over 10 years and William Shatner is President of the United States of Americanada.

Maybe in that universe this story makes sense. But meanwhile, in the real world, it isn't very good.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Big Gay Longcat and Scary Cat review Ghostwatch

SPOILER WARNING: This review will give away all of the story behind this film. 

Ghostwatch was shown on BBC TV 20 years ago today. I am not 20 years old (I am four) so I didn't see it when it was first on TV, I saw it on DVD on Monday.

I had heard it was very scary, so I watched it with my friend Scary Cat, who is the bravest cat ever and is not scared of anything (not even Hoover)!

When it was first on TV, some mannys thought it was a real live TV programme, but it wasn't. But it does go out of its way to look like a live TV programme from the early 1990s - it stars Michael Parkinson, Sarah Greene, Craig Charles and Mike Smith, all famous mannys who played characters with the same names as them to blur the lines between what is real and what is made up.

Also it is full of the trappings of live TV of that era, such as the way the mannys in the TV studio have to pick up 'phones to speak to callers and there is no internets at all!

The reason it is scary is because there is a ghost, and the mannys are looking for it (that is why it is called Ghostwatch). The ghost is in a house, where it has a job haunting the mannys that live there. Sarah Greene goes in the house while Craig Charles is outside on the street. Michael Parkinson and Mike Smith are in their TV studio, taking 'phone calls from other mannys and trying to find out about the ghost.

For time to time the ghost appears and he is very scary, because he always appears in dark and sinister places when nobody expects him. A lot of the time he is invisible and that makes him even scarier because you don't know where he is or what he is doing. He also has a scary voice. The littlest manny says the ghost's name is Pipes.

Scary Cat says he's not scared of Pipes, because Pipes was once a manny who was nomed by cats. Yes, the heroes of Ghostwatch are really cats! The clever thing is that, although we hear cats mewing at times, we don't see the cats when they come to help the mannys defeat Pipes. Maybe they are ghost cats?

Cats don't normally nom mannys, but if it is a bad manny who turns into an evil ghost then I think it is OK. It turns out Pipes stays behind the scariest door* ever, which was where he got nomed by the cats. The mannys had it boarded up but Sarah opens it and she gets pulled inside. We can hear cats mewing as they come to the rescue, but it is kind of a cliffhanger ending as we don't see if Sarah escapes.

Instead we see Pipes taking over the TV studio where Michael Parkinson is, because Pipes has become a ghost in a machine. All the mannys watching him on TV gave him the magic power to take over TV. Maybe now you are reading about him on the internets Pipes will take over your internets? If he does then just look at pictures of cats until he goes away.

In conclusion Ghostwatch is a great piece of archive television. It loses a lot of its power as a horror story when removed from the TV landscape in which it was originally made and shown, though that very power got its makers into a lot of trouble at the time. Even so, it is still a remarkable, and possibly unique, example of its genre and consequently I would recommend it to fans of both archive television and ghost stories.

* Scary Cat says he is not scared of the scary door. We have a scary door in our flat; it is the door to the cupboard where Hoover stays!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Little Gay Longcat's Doggie Friends

They are my friends as well now. A two-headed doggie gives twice as many kiffs and licks!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Big Gay Longcat reviews Doctor Who: The Sontaran Experiment Part One

The Sontaran Experiment is the next story after The Ark in Space in season 12 of Doctor Who. In fact it is meant to happen right after The Ark in Space because the Doctor, Harry and Sarah ended that story teleporting down to Earth, and they start this story by teleporting down to Earth.

The hills are alive with the sound effects. The Doctor appears on location. Then Harry appears in his duffle coat, and then Sarah appears in yellow and being upside down. The Doctor starts sonicing the  balls they find there and sends Harry and Sarah away so he can be alone with his balls.

Harry, perhaps realising that this story is only half as long as usual so they have to get on with things, wastes no time in falling down a hole. Silly Harry.

Mannys with guns see the Doctor but decide not to shoot him. A robot comes and chases one of the mannys until he falls down and goes
The Doctor finds the body but then other mannys come and this time they do shoot him, with bullets that make him go to sleep.

Sarah shouts for the Doctor but he is not sonicing his balls where she left him any more so she can't find him. When she gets back to the hole she can't find Harry either, because he has found that the hole has a hole in it and has escaped that way.

Sarah is captured by a manny but he is friendly really because he helps her not be pounced on by the robot. This manny is Roth. Roth is very scared of the robot, and with good reason.

When he wakes up, the Doctor talks to the mannys who shot him. They all have great space names like Vural and Erak and Krans. They don't believe he teleported down from Nerva because they think Nerva is only a myth like Atlantis or the 1980s.

Vural - the leader of the mannys because he has the most space name - has a camera on him, through which the Doctor is being watched on TV by an alien. The Doctor is suspicious of Vural. Krans begins to believe the Doctor but Erak doesn't, he wants to kill the Doctor.

Roth distracts them while Sarah frees the Doctor, then Sarah leads them to the hole where Harry fell down. The Doctor goes down after Harry, then the robot comes and captures Sarah and Roth.

It takes them to a big metal ball where Harry is hiding nearby. The alien comes out of the ball and takes its helmet off. It is a Sontaran!

This revelation of the monster that was in the title of the story at the end of part one made me think for a moment that this might have been written by Terry Nation, but alas no. It was quite exciting, with everybody quickly getting captured or in trouble, and then having escapes, and a scary robot, so overall a good episode.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

War on Aquatica

"And so it came about that the Mongs of Matterdom invaded Medusia."

I'm getting ahead of myself. But so does this story, with the Doctor, Sarah Jane and some manny called Professor Vittorio Levi already captured by the "unfeeling Medusians" when the story starts.

We then get a dump of backstory to fill us in, so I don't know why the writer bothered to begin in media res. Maybe he just got the paragraphs in the wrong order? The Doctor, Sarah and Professor Levi* are on the planet Aquatica where there are three "kingdoms" - Medusia, Matterdom and Phyllosia. They have been captured by the Medusians of Medusia who have snakes on their heads.

* Who, we are told, is "a zoologist, botanist, astronomer, anthropologist and amateur space traveller" so naturally he never uses any of these skills in the story and his only contribution (if we don't count speaking in a funny way) is to "bump [a] Medusian smartly on the nose."

Apparently "clever, even inspired, ideas of escaping had fallen flat," so Sarah suggests overpowering the guard that gives them noms and naturally that works so we can maybe get on with some actual plot. This is a bit like joining a Doctor Who TV story (a bad one) at the start of part four.

Someone dressed up like the Doctor, a manny who could be Professor Levi, and another manny who can't possibly be Sarah, run for it through some green.

Despite having only five pages to tell the story, the author takes the time to tell us that the planet Aquatica has a star called Kzul and is near to other planets called Velusia and Qlopth. While Aqauatica has a perfectly reasonable, Nationesque name, I don't know what these other names mean unless Velusia is a planet of velcro.

The Doctor, Sarah and Professor Levi have sleeps in a forest. Later the Doctor is woken up, so he will probably be grumpy like Gamma Longcat if he gets woken up by noises.

"The 'being' standing over him was amazing - like an apparition from a dream. His long silver hair fell like shafts of moonlight to his shoulders, and round the tall body a golden aura shone. His eyes were sapphire-blue, from which rays shone like strobes from a cinema projector. His robe was of rich purple, braided with gold and patterned with stars, circles and triangles.
'Peace! Be calm!' signalled the god-like creature."

This manny is Phyllos, who comes from Phyllosia and is "Master to the Phyllosians." He takes them to a cave where they meet his wife Dyonne.

"She was very beautiful, auraed also, and having silver hair; her eyes were blue and she wore a robe similar to her husband's, which glittered with stars, circles and triangles."

The accompanying picture looks like this:

Well it has been over a page since we last had some exposition, so it's time for Phyllos to explain that the greedy Medusians are stealing "glyt" from "the Mattermonks of Matterdom" and "Lumidolphs" from the Phyllosians. Phyllos and Dyonne, showing the kind of leadership that Captain Kirk would approve of, have themselves come to spy on the Medusians.

I have no idea what is going on in this picture.

They all go to Matterdom to see "King Chympanzo," getting there in less than a page.

"In the palace, King Chympanzo said: 'I am at my wit's end to know what to do!'
'Then why not combat the Medusians by using your pets, the Mongs, Your Cleverness!' Phyllos suggested."

Of course, how obvious. I do like "Your Cleverness" as a title, though, and it is ironic that the King is not clever or he would have already thought about using his Mongs. The King's speech sums up the idiocy of this storyKing Chympanzo:

"It is scarcely moral, Phyllos dear friend, to use them to attack the serpentine Medusians; but then - I suppose war never is. Indeed, even our females are bearing arms, and some of our children! It is a dreadful state of affairs!"

Apparently the Doctor helps Phyllos and Dyonne negotiate the subsequent peace treaty, which seems like a paper-thin attempt at justifying his inclusion in the story at all. This is a terrible Doctor Who story.

I have even less of an idea what is going on in this picture.

War on Aquatica is confusing and random, and not in a good way. The aliens are a mix of terrible cliche and jumbled up letters. The Doctor and Sarah do nothing interesting and who is Professor Levi anyway? It wouldn't make any less sense if it turned out he was really Sergeant Benton in disguise (he isn't, as far as I know).

And as for the pictures: the pictures are disorientating in the way they are suggestive of the story being told without being at all helpful as an aid to picturing all the stupid things happening in the plot. In fact, I haven't been as confused a cat since I saw this:

The most confusing thing I saw before that was a TV series that does "confusing and random" right, and so in that respect is the opposite of War on Aquatica.

Big Gay Longcat reviews Revolutionary Girl Utena

Revolutionary Girl Utena is a TV series that tells the story of Chu Chu, a cheeky monkey who is the familiar and friend of Anthy Himemiya.

Anthy has a handsome brother called Akio, but he is secretly End of the World, the baddy of the series who wants to do... something evil. I'm not sure what, but it doesn't matter as long as it involves him driving very fast in his car with other handsome mannys who sometimes take their shirts off.

Akio also seduces Utena Tenjou, who is the title character and so is, I think, the equivalent of Blake* in Blakes 7. She is a goody who wants to save Anthy from all the duels that other characters have been fighting so that Anthy will be their Rose Bride. Utena does this by fighting duels so that Anthy is her Rose Bride.

* Utena's central moral dilemma is similar to Blake's, in that she must choose between fighting to protect Anthy (being a "Prince") or being passive and letting Akio protect her (being a "Princess"). Blake has to choose between using acts of violence and terrorism to bring down the Federation, or else letting the obvious baddys of the Federation continue to rule. In both cases they choose the first option; the active, aggressive option over the passive, submissive option.

While the ending to Revolutionary Girl Utena is a bit more open to interpretation than that of Blake, I would say the two characters both come to similar ends - Blake is shot by his best friend Avon and dies, Utena is stabbed by her best friend Anthy and... dies?

And both were very close to their best friend before this.

Anthy ends the series by leaving Akio behind and going off with Chu Chu to search for Utena in the outside world, which thwarts Akio's plan because he needs Anthy to be the Rose Bride for his evil plan to work. Somehow. I think.

But what, you may ask, is Chu Chu's actual role in the story? Well, Chu Chu is my friend so here he is to answer this question himself:

Chu. Chu Chu. Chu Chu. Chu.

Thanks for clearing that up, Chu Chu. You are a cheeky monkey.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Mission: Impossible

I like Mission: Impossible. It is one of my favourite TV programmes, even if I don't talk about it on here as much as I do Doctor Who or Blakes 7 or Star Trek.

My favourite character is Willy Armitage. I like Willy a lot. Here is a picture of him:

He is played by Peter Lupus and is the strongest character in Mission: Impossible. He is clever too. Here is another picture of him, this time he has a moustache:

Like most of the characters in Mission: Impossible, Willy is a master of disguise. Here his moustache is part of his disguise, along with his glasses and hat.

Gamma Longcat also likes Mission: Impossible (in fact all cats like Mission: Impossible because it is great), but his favourite character is Barney Collier:

He is played by Greg Morris. Here is a picture of Barney with a moustache:

Leonard Nimoy appears in season 4 of Mission: Impossible, but he is not playing Mr Spock. He plays Paris, who is so good at disguise he can pretend to be a city in France. This is because Leonard Nimoy was no longer needed to play Mr Spock because they had stopped making Star Trek. I don't know why but I think it was because they had already made all the episodes.

Other actors from Star Trek were guests in Mission: Impossible, but none of them played the same characters which is a shame because they could easily have time-travelled to the 1960s to be in it. These guest-stars included George Takei, William Shatner and Ricardo Montalkhan. Each of these episodes are brilliant.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Duncan reviews Doctor Who: A Town Called Mercy

This wasn't bad - it was certainly a lot more dramatic than either of the last two episodes - but it wasn't that good either. What let it down, for me, was not so much that the basic plot structure and resolution was something we have seen many times before - I'd consider that to be an acceptable, if cliched, housing for the meat of the story: Doctor-as-Marshal in the Carry On Cowboy set piece climax. No, what let the episode down for me was that... well, how can I put it?

The Problem

The character of the Doctor in the 2005-2??? "New" Series is, when the writers remember, that of a psychologically damaged war survivor, who needs humans (preferably women, but Bernard Cribbins will do at a pinch) to act as his moral compass. This is fundamentally different to the character of the Doctor in the "Old" Series, and it means that we now quite often see the Doctor act in ways that would have been unthinkable in the period between Hartnell's Doctor learning human morality from Ian and Barbara (it would have been quite a different show if the Doctor had routinely solved his problems by staving people's heads in with rocks) and Eric Saward getting his hands on the Script Editor's job.

The moral dilemma that is one of the iconic scenes of Genesis of the Daleks sees Sarah and the Doctor debate the rights and wrongs of destroying the Daleks in their infancy. Sarah argues for their destruction, but the Doctor cannot do it. Nowadays, the character of the Doctor and the relationship he has with his Companion necessitates that it would be the other way around.

RTD, who introduced the "psychologically damaged war survivor" character traits to the Doctor in 2005, seemed to close off that arc when the Doctor refused to destroy the Daleks in The Parting of the Ways, and if that had been the case then it would have made sense and been a satisfactory closure.

But he couldn't leave it alone. The very next story saw the new Doctor say he would be a man of "no more second chances," and a year later we see the most definitive statement of intent in The Runaway Piece of Shit - the Doctor "needs someone to stop him."

Every time this character trait resurfaces, and in A Town Called Mercy it was particularly dominant - especially in the scene where the Doctor is about to give the villain up to be killed until Amy stops him (even the compassionate Rory was acting out of character here in supporting the Doctor) - I am reminded that this isn't Doctor Who, it's just A TV Programme Called Doctor Who.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Big Gay Longcat reviews Doctor Who: The Ark in Space Part Four

Vira saves the Doctor by turning up and shooting Noah, but he is only stunned for a moment. He tells Vira that the Wirrn are going to nom all the mannys because some other mannys nomed all the Wirrn in Andromeda (greedy mannys). Another Wirrn hatches and the Doctor and Vira run away so they don't get nomed.

The Doctor comes up with a plan to electric the Wirrn and everybody starts to help with it. Harry, Vira and Rogin go to a shuttle which they can use for electrics since the Wirrn have stolen all the electrics in the Ark. At least I think that's what is happening. One thing I am sure of is that they are still in peril because the Wirrn are sneaking about looking scary.

Sarah has to crawl through a small triangle as her part of the Doctor's plan. She gets stuck until the Doctor trolls her into being unstuck and going again.
"What?! Conned again..! You're a brute."
"Me a brute? Don't be ungrateful. I was only encouraging you."

The Doctor turns on the electric just in time to zap a Wirrn. Another Wirrn tentacles Sarah's legs and then the Doctor's legs until the Doctor zaps it as well.

Noah says "Your resistance is useless. We control the Ark." He tries to persuade the Doctor and Vira to give up. Noah says he will turn off the air unless the awake mannys all go away and leave the sleeping mannys to be Wirrn noms.

The Doctor counters by appealing to Noah as a manny not as a Wirrn, telling him to go away and leave Earth for the mannys (and the cats, I hope). Noah's reply is a rejection, but hesitantly delivered:
"I have no memory of the Earth."
Is this a lie? We have already found out that the Wirrn should have all of Noah's memories. What does it mean?

The Wirrn attack the shuttle and there are lots of them, like horrible Flying Things. The Doctor tells Harry, Vira and Rogin to leave the shuttle so only Wirrn are on it. Then he goes to launch the shuttle away from the Ark, but Rogin punches him out and does it instead - which means he is the one who gets blasted by steam instead of the Doctor.

Noah telephones Vira from the shuttle to say "Goodbye Vira..." and then the shuttle blows up with all the Wirrn on board. Noah has fooled the Wirrn into all getting blown up and so he has defeated them in the end and saved all the other mannys.

Vira wants to teleport down to Earth, but the Doctor has to fix the teleport first. Sarah does a very quick costume change to be ready for the next story.

The Ark in Space is a great story, even though there are no cats in it. The Wirrn are a scary monster (which helped keep Cthulhu happy, or as happy as a grumpy Great Old One ever gets) and the story is always exciting. The story is also cleverly done in that there are only a minimal number of characters, each of whom has their own important part to play. Sadly that meant that there was no place for any cats to be in it.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Truth: Duncan reviews Shōjo Kakumei Utena

Part Four - "The End of the World Saga"

SPOILER WARNING: This review will give away all of the ending to the series.

I haven't mentioned the Shadow Play Girls in my reviews before now since, even though they have been in the series since the very beginning, they have not until now played a significant role in the narrative. Their presence in the series at first seems no more than a quirky motif, as they turn up about halfway through each episode, perform a short Shadow Play that could be thematically linked to the events of the episode (sometimes this link is clear, other times you'd have to squint quite a bit to see it), and then vanish again without having interacted with any of the main cast. Until, that is, several episodes later - into "The Black Rose Saga" - when their Plays are maybe seen by Utena and maybe she comments on them.

Do they exist within the reality of Ohtori Academy or don't they? It is infuriatingly impossible to be certain either way... until now.

With almost no warning of what is coming, Akio, Anthy and Utena go to see a play, and it is a Shadow Play put on by these characters. In it, they provide the complete backstory of Anthy and Dios - the Rose Bride and the Prince - in a maddeningly allegorical style that raises more questions than it answers.

One thing the play does finally make explicit - to the viewers if not to Utena, who is not yet ready to make the link - is Anthy's secret nature as not the helpless victim she appears. This was subtly introduced very early in the series (she knows more than she tells Utena; but then at that point so do most of the main cast), and then made more obvious in stages that now, with hindsight, seem very much clearer.

The cleverness of this episode is that it gives us a better idea of what has happened, even though we still don't know what is really going on. And within the same episode, on top of the play, we get both a flashback and a dream sequence which add to this backstory and Utena's own history and involvement with Anthy and Dios.

Together the shadow play, the flashback and the dream sequence provide the audience with something so open to interpretation that I cannot help but impose my own view of what is significant and what it all means, and the same will go for everyone who watches this. In this respect it makes Revolutionary Girl Utena just what I was looking for - "another TV series as open to interpretation as The Prisoner."

There is, however, a significant weakness to the revelations of this crucial episode (one which perhaps invites more of a comparison to the piece-of-shit 2009 version of The Prisoner than the '60s classic), and it is that the plot of the series hinges on Utena's laser-guided amnesia: without this contrivance Utena would have been up to speed on the events at Ohtori Academy, including the significance of the Rose Bride, from the start of the series. While we just have to accept this as necessary for the story to play out the way it does, it is the weakest link in the otherwise strong narrative.

For all that the series has shunned familiar narrative conventions since the start (or used them only to subvert them), it has now left even the conventions of its own first three arcs behind. The legacy of The Rose Signet episode is that subsequent events must be coloured by the interpretation the viewer puts on them. While all reviews are, by their nature, subjective, I suspect that the rest of my review will be even more so.

Anyway, the plot continues: Utena's penultimate duel of the series is with Touga. Touga, who was the principal antagonist of the first story arc, has undergone significant character development and is now almost a tragic figure himself.

Touga has fallen for Utena but, like the boy who cried wolf, he cannot convince her he is serious because of his past manipulation of her. Nor can he entirely give up being devious, even though by this point it is obvious he is not nearly so subtle or cunning as his mentor Akio is in playing with Utena's affections.

Touga duels Utena hoping to defeat her and thus save her from having to go on to some sort of confrontation with End of the World. When he (inevitably) loses the duel, his final warning to Utena remains infuriatingly cryptic and vague.

That night, thinking she has fought her last duel, Utena finally sees Anthy and Akio together, with Anthy naked in Akio's planetarium. This is a superb cliffhanger, and it is at this point that the anime trope of concluding each episode with a post-credits next-time trailer gets the Utena deconstruction treatment. Each episode prior to this has seen Utena and Anthy, in voiceover, discuss what is coming up next time. But this episode:
Utena: "Oh Anthy, I just can't forgive you for what you've done."
Anthy: "Miss Utena, don't you know how much I've always despised you?"
This isn't dialogue from the next episode, it's a way of underlining the cliffhanger by showing us the two characters' thoughts.

Utena is clearly devastated by this revelation, but she doesn't react aggressively . The only outward show of her emotional turmoil is that she takes her ring off, a subtle but significant sign because she has never done this before. Utena even joins Akio and Anthy for breakfast, but doesn't know how to cope when they act as though nothing unusual has happened between the three of them.

Utena seems much more upset with Anthy than with Akio, even organising to go on a "date" with him that day, and while this might be because Akio has so seduced her that she cannot be properly angry at him, it is also that Anthy's betrayal of her (as she sees it) hurts Utena on a more fundamental level.

And so, even though she has won the last of the Rose Bride duels, taking off the ring means Utena cannot reenter the dueling arena to meet End of the World and bring the world revolution; she cannot claim the prize for winning. It takes a meeting with Miki, Jury and Nanami, once rivals but now her friends, for Utena to sort out her feelings and make friends with Anthy again.

That night Anthy attempts suicide by jumping off the roof of the high tower they live in, and is saved by Utena. The tone of this scene is dark and disorientating, as it is not a scene we have seen before in the series and the characters' voices are distorted with a dream-like quality. While we have seen the torment of Anthy the Rose Bride in fantastic scenes before now, this is the first time we are shown how she suffers in a semi-realistic way - with no physical symptoms her pain is mental, perhaps akin to severe depression, and Anthy feels she cannot live on with its constant presence. Utena swears to help her, resolving to stick with Anthy and go through with the meeting with End of the World. They go to the dueling arena for the last time.

End of the World is the name of the penultimate episode, which you might have thought they would have saved for the finale. But of course it refers to the fact that in this episode Utena at last sees that Akio is End of the World, although their dialogue indicates she guessed this "a long time ago" but was merely in denial.

Akio insists that Utena must give up her ambition of being a prince to become his princess since he is her prince, the one she has been looking for all this time. This brings the duality of Utena to its final crisis - until now she has wanted to both eat her cake and still have it; to be both a prince (to Anthy) and a princess (for her prince, but also for Akio when she allowed him to seduce her). Now she must choose to be one or the other.

Akio dresses Utena in a dress, reminiscent of the Rose Bride dress Anthy wears (and the one familiar to viewers from the first credit sequence Truth), and insists Utena hands over her sword to him since, he says, it is not appropriate for a princess to carry a sword. Also, if Utena surrenders her sword to Akio, he will gain the power to bring the world revolution, not her. Her prize will instead be to spend eternity with her prince. Happily ever after?

Utena refuses for the sake of Anthy, as if she is not the prince then she cannot save Anthy, who would continue to be the Rose Bride "forever and ever" as Akio admits. So Utena resolves to be a prince, giving up her chance to be a princess. Akio responds by turning off the projector, revealing the dueling arena and his own rooms to be one and the same, just disguised with the magical trickery of this McGuffin.

They fight.

And then, when it looks like Utena will win, she is literally backstabbed by Anthy.

This is the cliffhanger ending to the penultimate episode, and it is superbly done.

Anthy's betrayal of Utena and where her loyalty ultimately lies has been foreshadowed since the same source as Utena's dress - the Truth end sequence. Her pose and look as she holds Dios (or Akio?) are the same as when she stabs Utena.

Anthy's motivation for siding with Akio in the end is revealed in the final episode Someday Together We'll Shine: she believes Utena cannot be her prince because she is a girl. Utena then spends the episode proving her to be very wrong.

But before I talk about the ending of the series, I'm going to make a small digression to talk about Jury, since I earlier called her "a failed Utena." Here we have seen Anthy backstab Utena, and while Shiori's betrayal of Jury was not quite so literally a backstab, the circumstances are comparable and the two characters' (Utena and Jury, I mean) different reactions to their betrayals defines them and illustrates why Utena is the hero of the series and Jury (who is in so many ways as admirable, if not more so, than Utena) only a supporting character. Jury never recovers from the event; she is unable to move on emotionally and has become bitter and jaded - when we first meet her she duels Utena to "disprove the power of miracles."

Jury has been twisted by her experience and is no longer heroic, even if she is not actually a bad person. It takes her second defeat by Utena before she can move on (and grow up), and then she no longer wants to duel since she recognises that her motivation for doing so was not pure.

Utena too sees that her initial motivation for dueling was not a pure one - she thought of it as a game, a chance to play at being a prince with the duelists of about her own age, in effect: children. In denial about it when first challenged about it by Akio, Utena now accepts it as the truth, but it is a sign of her maturity that she goes on to accept the challenge of continuing to play the prince even when the stakes are her own life and Anthy's soul. Neither Akio nor Anthy see this, and if Anthy hadn't stabbed Utena then perhaps Utena wouldn't have seen it either.

Akio has the Sword of Dios. His goal: to open the "Rose Gate" and so gain the power to revolutionise the world. As he proceeds towards the gate, "the million swords which shine with human hatred" are summoned and begin to gather around the dueling arena. This is a stunning sequence, and shows that this series (unlike some other anime I could mention) hadn't used up all of its budget before the end.

Akio can't open the gate with the sword, and it breaks. With his gambit having seemingly failed, he chides Utena (who has spent the first half of the episode lying on the ground in pain) for struggling on uselessly, and gives away that if she could open the gate then she could use the power to save Anthy. Akio gets a cocktail (does it matter where from?) and watches Utena struggle painfully to the gate, thinking she struggles in vain - after all, if he couldn't open the gate with the Sword of Dios, what chance does she have with only her bare hands?

The answer to this is both wonderfully symbolic and a callback to the recurring sequence of Utena opening the gate to the dueling arena - the water from her tears opens the gate.

Inside is a coffin, and (mirroring the coffin the young Utena hid in until found by Dios) inside the coffin is Anthy. Utena reaches out to save her.


I think so.

When the gate opened, the entire dueling arena began to collapse, and just when it looks like she has been saved, Anthy falls away from Utena into the darkness. Utena thinks she has failed, and then the million swords stream down towards her, from which there is no escape. Fade to black.

Now I've seen some doom-laden, bleak endings before in my time, but this... oh, wait. We fade up on scenes of high school life, and the Shadow Play Girls discuss (in  voiceover, of course) what they will do when they leave school.

Eventually, just when this looks like a total non-sequitur to the preceding scene, they discuss Utena, and each has heard a different rumour about why she is no longer around at the school. This is followed by brief scenes of the other characters getting on with their lives. Utena does not appear, but we do see Anthy, back in her school uniform.

Akio thinks no revolution has occurred, and plans to begin the Rose Bride duels again for another futile attempt at getting him the power to revolutionise the world. Anthy knows differently, and leaves him, and Ohtori Academy, in search of Utena. She is no longer the Rose Bride.

Now, given how open the series is about Akio being a stand in for Lucifer, it is not a stretch to compare Utena's actions in the finale to Jesus - she sacrifices herself to save Anthy, here standing in for the whole human race in Christian mythology. So at the end Anthy turns her back on Akio and goes looking for Utena, believing that they will meet again. "Someday Together We'll Shine."

If you don't choose that interpretation, and I see Utena as being Christ-like without being Christ, then the ending will probably come off as ambiguous, if not melancholy - Anthy has been saved, but what about Utena? Is she dead?
For me the answer comes from the music which, like in Fall Out, has added so much to the experience of watching Revolutionary Girl Utena; suggesting but never spelling out. The music which plays over the final closing credits is an upbeat, na-na-na version of the opening music to the image of Anthy leaving Ohtori Academy. It says to me: how can this not be a happy ending?

In conclusion: Revolutionary Girl Utena is a wonderful series. Either you've seen it and you know that already, or else you've seen it and you've read all this anyway, or else you haven't seen it and I've totally spoiled the whole plot for you. If it's the latter then watch it anyway. I'm going to watch it again.