The Troubles With Haven

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To celebrate (or toe-dip into) the fact that I start teaching this week, I decided to binge-watch Haven on Netflix. The first two seasons were frustrating and that is putting it mildly. Usually I give up on a series by this time if I’m not interested. The last two episodes in Season 2 finally hooked my attention, and the show has been great since then. The writers have gotten better at their cliff-hangers.

Haven is a SyFy show loosely based of of Steven King’s The Colorado Kid. It is set in Haven, Maine, a fictional town, and is about people who have supernatural afflictions called The Troubles, and what happens when they unintentionally use those abilities. The police often have to clear up the horrible effects The Troubles unleash on the town.

I might have more appreciation for the show if I had read the book because the episodes are apparently chock-full of references. I think the real problem is the writing and sometimes the characters/actors.

audrey

Via Syfy

First, let’s look at Audrey. She’s like the boy who lived, but with no character development and awesome backstory. Her switches from a running the world boss to Doctor Phil at the drop of a hat are annoying. She’s the ONLY one who can calm people down, the ONLY one unaffected by The Troubles, the ONLY one whose touch Nathan can feel….that’s a lot of onlys. I do not see her as a strong character, I see her as a confusing character. You can’t be all forgetful about relationships, all into your work, forgetful of people’s names but suddenly all Mother Theresa when people are in trouble. She’s the epitome of a Mary Jane, G.I. Jane manic pixie. She’s the girl everyone falls in love with, she always saves the day–she experiences no struggle at all. I wanted someone to kill her off at one point because I found myself not caring about her backstory.

Backstory…let’s talk about that. Audrey has nil. This does have to do with the fact that she has multiple past lives (and is semi-resolved in Seasons 3 and 4) but for the first two seasons, it made her painfully ordinary. I wondered why the writers were telling and not showing that this girl is all that and a slice of bread. We only know her likes and dislikes when Audrey #2 shows up to bring them out and she randomly sits down to play a piano, whining about how she doesn’t know that she knew how to play. Maybe if she actually took the time to find out who she is in the first two seasons, this wouldn’t be a problem. Thankfully, the writers decided to focus on that in the later seasons instead of the typical “trouble of the week” because that is much more fun.

Via Syfy

Via Syfy

Nathan. Honestly, I have nothing against Lucas Bryant, but his character is one hundred shades of stupid. Cutting him out of the show would be an improvement. I don’t condone violence, but if you were in a punching mood and Nathan’s face just happened to be available, go for it. He has the demeanor of a ten year old. This man is in his mid-thirties and has a feud with another character over a minor prank that happened when he was eight years old. He needs Oprah on speed dial and has zero character growth from seasons 1-4. Watching certain scenes had me thinking just cry me a river Nathan and while you’re at it, just eat a 5-gallon ton of Ben and Jerry’s in one sitting. Nathan is nails on a chalkboard teenage angst. He is so obsessive over Audrey. In a 4th season episode, he goes crazy  and Audrey says she’s never seen him like this. Sorry Audrey, this is how he always acts although you have been gone for six months so you might have missed half the show.  He needed to have been seeing Claire.

He’s the gruff “I don’t feel anything not even emotions” type of guy who can only feel Audrey’s touch. That has the potential to be interesting, but the show really doesn’t focus on it. I was reading a Gawker post about the series and someone was saying that if Nathan can’t feel anything, he would probably be an awful kisser, and I’m inclined to agree in his relationships with women other than Audrey. Consistency people, consistency.

Also, my main bone to pick is with the random relationships that Audrey and Nathan have. We all know they’re going to end up together people, so hurry that up. It’s not like a show like Bones where Booth and Bones learn about themselves and become best friends before getting into a relationship. We all knew it was going to happen (even though they threw us off a few times) but we were happy for the ride. In Haven, these other relationships are complete time-wasters. Chris? Awesome, but honestly, if you’re going to have the only reason he’s with Audrey is because she can’t feel his trouble and then have her be a workaholic, that’s completely unfair.

Via Syfy

Via Syfy

Duke. He had the character development that Nathan needed, and Duke was already a pretty solid character. I can’t really say anything bad about Duke except that sometimes I think Eric Balfour over-acts him in the first two seasons like he’s too cool for school. Duke should be low key but witty, with occasional outbursts of awesome. When Eric does pull this off, Duke is magic and comes into his own in the last few seasons.

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Via Syfy

Season 3 Improvements:

  • Everyone got haircuts, or grew their hair out. In the first two seasons, Duke’s hair especially kept getting into or covering his eye.
  • New people! Tommy Bowen, Claire Callahan, Jordan McKee, although Jordan was more annoying than anything.
  • More of the Teague brothers. They are buckets of fun. I enjoy their arc of going from slightly questionable old men to secret keepers and old guys with questionable pasts.
  • Figuring out Audrey’s connection to Haven instead of glossing over it
  • The “almost” relationship, although that could become a drag as well
  • Duke and character development
  • Perfect use of Boys II Men in the “Reunion” episode. Perfect.
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Via Syfy

Season 4 Improvements:

  • Three words: Sheriff Jack Carter. Eureka is one of my favorite shows and Colin Ferguson is fantastic in this season of Haven. I like my villains diabolical with a touch of crazy and once they added the crazy in, everything was awesome.
  • Lexie is way better than Audrey (that gets complicated later) but for the most part I appreciate the direction the writers went with
  • The off-her-rocker coroner Gloria and Dwight as Sheriff.
  • Jennifer and Duke

General Observations:

The show does is great when it’s not the Audrey-Nathan-and sometimes Duke show. I was reading a few reviews, and I couldn’t figure out why people were so upset with season 4. Yes, the end was anticlimactic and the writers should really just wrap up the series with Season 5, but overall the season ran well and answered a lot of questions.

These characters are supposed to be in their mid-thirties and they have the coping mechanisms and conversations of five year olds. Sometimes Audrey is more like Nathan’s mother than his girlfriend. Also, the lack of parents in the show and how all the children of the main characters are conveniently written away into the far corners of earth and other realms is obvious. It’s also difficult when we have to emasculate a man to have a strong female lead (Audrey and Nathan). Why can’t we just have two strong characters and live awesomely ever after?

As a general comment, a lot of that dialogue is just plain awkward. Sometimes the actors sound like they are reading from a script, without any inflection or over-acting and it’s completely noticeable until they hit another groove. This becomes hardly noticeable in Seasons 3 and 4.

All the minorities end up being troubled/ evil and then rapidly turning good right before they’re killed off–Agent Howard, Evi, Cornell Stamoran. The only exception was the coast guard’s nurse, but she was questionable. I wanted Tommy to be good so badly. In Seasons 3 and 4, this is almost corrected with characters like the little girl who was raised from the dead, and the woman whose troubles affected other people.

I feel like the town only consists of the police station, Rosemary’s bakery, the Teague brothers with The Haven Herald, The Grey Gull, and whoever is troubled that week. I know it’s a coastal town, but it looks huge and I wish more of an effort was made to connect the viewer with the whole town instead of making me feel like Haven is a bubble consisting of whoever is in the episode that week. This was also semi-corrected in Seasons 3 and 4.

On the flip-side, the special effects are golden. The show has some interesting story lines, it just gets tired after a while because nothing is happening with Audrey, all the main characters seem emotionally stunted or immature, and the show keeps piling on more secrets without resolving anything. For every ten secrets, it resolves one. I realize that the suspense is supposed to keep people interested (and maybe that’s why I’m still watching) but if people don’t figure some of the stuff out, they’re doing to get bored and just go to another show. Season 3 finally stopped that vicious cycle and moved in a new direction. Also, I adore the main theme song.

Someone once recommended to me that I should start watching Parks and Recreation, but that I should start watching at the third or fourth season. I think Haven is one of those shows. Seasons 1-2 are just brutal. I know some shows take a while to hit a groove, but I grade from the pilot episode and usually stop after four to five episodes unless someone gives me a good reason not to. Many of us have busy lives and can’t waste time waiting for something to get good.

Haven builds on a lot of previous events, but this is why we have summaries and Wikipedia. I don’t think viewers would be completely lost because the show explains everything, or re-explains everything, and many of the conflicts aren’t hard to figure out.  Seasons 3 and 4 almost make up for Seasons 1 and 2, but overall, Haven is an all right watch until Season 3 when the party really gets started.

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Review: Wise Women, Part 2

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Too much awesomeness for just one post, so here is the second part to the fantastic book Wise Women: Folk and Fairy tales From Around the World. If you need a refresher on Part 1, you can find it here.

When I picked up this book, I didn’t realize that I was surrendering myself to a myriad of situations where people get lost or left in the woods and needed to drop food (peas, lentils, breadcrumbs, etc) to find a way out again. Bitter misfortune often came before everything turning out all right, which was refreshing to read instead of a world where everything is perfect.

Also, I guess Disney isn’t the only one to blame for killing off parents or the absence of parents or barren parents. To be fair, when the parents are present, they do plenty of shady stuff.

We can’t forget the weird romantic relationships. Granted, if you had to free or uncurse a prince or man who’s spent years scrounging around for food and walking around on all fours, that is understandable. People were either really rich or really poor in a lot of these tales. It was interesting to see the few instances where the middle class showed up and decided to say hello. Royalty definitely stole the show though–marriage was usually to royalty, princes or kings usually had some dilemma to be solved, or the girls had to save a prince from some kind of enchantment or save them from marrying the wrong person (meaning any woman who is evil and not them).

The book also had realistic heroics…for women. The tellers of these tales had zero qualms about people thinking that pushing a villain, hugging to save someone, or using your wits was a weak way to save someone. They just went with it and the result was various moments of fantastic story. On that note, it’s not surprising that some of the more modern renditions cut out the moments of heroism (I’m looking at you Sleeping Beauty and 40 Thieves).

Many of the girls and boys in the tales also had a Pandora complex–they were told not to look in a room, or place, or not to open something and then they did it any way because curiosity always kills. Always. 

I have to say, a lot of the folk tales from the U.S. were not that great and they were much shorter than the rest of the stories in the collection. Apparently, the only region to have the tales is the south. Or the deep South, meaning Hawaii. Technically, there was one Native American tale included. I was kind of sad about that fact, although to be fair, if you want to read Native American folk tales, all you need is this:

american-indian-myths-legends-alfonso-ortiz-paperback-cover-art

And at around 500 pages of goodies, it is a great starter for Native American folk tales, myths, and legends. But back to these tales from the south. The first tale features a southern girl who gets her money stolen and ends up taking off with the thief’s horse, which is full of gold. Anticlimactic. Another tale, imaginatively named “How Kate Got a Husband” tells us how a pregnant girl dresses up as a ferocious cow to scare the baby daddy into marrying her.

My reaction:

For some reason, I felt that destitute girls just had more agency and independence that I’d originally thought they’d have in the Middle Ages,  B.C. eras and the like….I’m pretty sure some of it is historically inaccurate (because of the fact that they are tales) but the implications of this are fascinating.

And lastly, we cannot forget the happily ever after. But with corporal punishment attached. I could not believe the number of times an evil person was punished with hanging, burning, flaying, torn apart by horses, insane stuff right before the happily ever after moment. Excuse me, we just watched someone being boiled alive and now you want to have the ceremony?

The truly fabulous thing about this book, is that the fairy tales are often realistic, they are inventive and funny, and they provide fabulous ways for women to do what they do best and be women in the most fabulous ways possible.

And that is truly a happy ending.

Doctor Who: To Kill or Not To Kill

Weighing in at an impressive 800 episodes, Doctor Who has been entertaining audiences for the past 50 years. Yet, despite this vast backlog of content, I know next to nothing about the actual series. For that reason, I’ve decided to watch this unusual show from the beginning, to discover the source of its unique appeal. Come with me as I tackle this daunting sci-fi phenomena from the very beginning in The Complete Doctor Who.

Warning: the following contains spoilers.

Doctor Who: Serial 6 The Aztecs, Episode 1: The Temple of Evil

Hey everybody, welcome back. Quick confession before we get into the action, this is actually the first Doctor Who episode I ever saw. Long before I began this project, my curiosity drove me to Netflix and this very serial. At the time I remember thinking it was kind of a bore. Watching it again though in the context of the series, I realize it’s actually a huge step forward for the show.

Here we get the show’s first flirtation with theme and, even though the story isn’t exceptional, the fact that it’s trying to say something makes it go down much easier than some of the more disposable adventures we’ve had so far.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The episode begins with a brief shot of the TARDIS escaping the planet Marinus, then coming to rest in a small stone room.

In researching the show, I learned it was originally pitched as an educational program, with the Doctor’s time travel serving as a means to educate viewers about important people and places throughout history.

Apparently some of that mandate stuck around, as Barbara and Susan emerge from the TARDIS and immediately engage in a thinly-veiled history lesson.

“All these things belong to the Aztecs early period.”

“Cortés landed in 1520, didn’t he?”

The lesson ends when Susan discovers a large stone door that opens to the touch. Barbara steps through it alone, where she’s immediately discovered by the Aztec high priest Autloc.

BBC

BBC

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew finally pads out of the ship. Susan shows them the door and they all go through, realizing too late that it locks behind them. Yup, we’re roughly two minutes into this thing and they’ve already managed to lose the TARDIS. They really ought to start leaving someone behind to guard the damn thing.

After discussing their predicament, they too are discovered and brought into the presence of…Barbara sporting a pretty fantastic new wardrobe.

BBC

BBC

Seems Autloc believes her to be the reincarnation of the god Yetaxa, which, by extension, makes the rest of the crew her divine servants.

We’re also introduced to Tlotoxl, High Priest of Sacrifice. If you consider yourself a bad judge of character, fear not, because the show posits him as the episode’s obvious villain from the very first frame. There’s scarcely a moment where he isn’t leering like a madman, shouting his lines, or frothing at the mouth.

Nope, nothing shady about this guy --BBC

Nope, nothing shady about this guy –BBC

The problem with impersonating a god is that sooner or later people are going to start putting you to the test. Sure enough, as the story progresses, Barbara’s “servants” are recruited to serve in a variety of unpleasant ways.

First Ian gets whisked off by Tlotoxl to lead the Aztec army.

This puts him in contention with the army’s current leader Ixta, who is less than pleased by the prospect of competition. Eager to prove his superiority, Ixta displays his battle prowess with some of the most poorly choreographed fighting ever put on film.

After this brief bit of chest-thumping, Ian learns that there’s a human sacrifice taking place later that day and he gets the honor of escorting the man to his death.

And what about the Doctor? Looks like he drew the long straw this week as he gets sent off to the garden of peace, a kind of proto retirement home where aging Aztecs go to live out their remaining days. Guess for once it pays off being old.

While there, he meets Cameca, a female resident of the garden who he begins subtlely pumping for information about the tomb where his ship is held.

BBC

BBC

Then Ian shows up in full armor to tell him about the sacrifice.

Here’s where things get interesting. Despite their obvious disgust at the custom, the Doctor insists that Ian absolutely cannot interfere.

Then the Doctor returns to Barbara to fill her on what’s happening. He gives her the same lecture against interference, but Barbara’s having none of that and decides to use her power to end human sacrifice altogether, reasoning, “If I could start the destruction of everything that is evil here, then everything that is good would survive.”

Sure enough, a short while later, Barbara and crew get paraded out for the sacrifice.

BBC

BBC

Susan steps in and interferes. Barbara backs her up by trying to ban the practice, which immediately backfires when the sacrifice himself begs her to reconsider, stating that by sparing him he is robbing him of honor.

When she refuses, he runs over to the wall and promptly throws himself over the side.

Then, to make things even worse, it immediately starts to rain, making a pretty compelling case for the sacrifices to continue.

Needless to say Tlotoxl is less than pleased and demands that Susan be punished for her interference. Barbara points out that Susan didn’t understand the rules, to which Tlotoxl snaps, “Then let knowledge be beaten into her,” which I believe was a short-lived educational slogan from the late 30s.

He wants her killed, but Barbara offers to have her sent to the seminary to learn about their culture.

This sends Tlotoxl into full on supervillain mode, staring directly at the camera as he vows to destroy “the false goddess”.

BBC

BBC

Overall, a pretty decent episode. For once the characters feel like a natural part of the story, with each of them given something to do. The moral dilemma’s pretty cool too. Obviously a twentieth century school teacher’s not too keen on human sacrifice, but as the Doctor points out, you can’t rewrite history. It introduces a real moral gray area to the proceedings while grafting a sense of responsibility onto their trips through time.

Next up, The Warriors of Death

Hercules: Man or Myth?

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Hercules. Maybe the title of this should be #sorryKellanLutz but that would be teetering off the high road. As far as sword-and-sandal flicks go, the Dwayne Johnson version was as fun as two hours at Mt. Olympus…the theme park of course. However, even with all my love for any movies with The Rock, you’re probably not going to have this in a cache of movies you’ll watch over and over. And by that I mean once in your lifetime will probably suffice. The movie promises a fun ride, and on that it delivers.

Hercules starts out with the myths we’ve come to know and love him for–the twelve labors. Unfortunately, the action in the trailer is bookended at the beginning and the end of the movie with some almost questionable bits thrown in between.

His nephew plays a prominent role, but as a sorry excuse for a human being who likes to mooch off his uncle’s fame to get girls. Without giving anything away, props to Rufus Sewell for being barely recognizable since I’ve seen him last, in A Knight’s Tale and as the prototype of every British villain in a movie. It’s good he finally gets to be good.

Obligatory hero-worship perfumed the first part of the film . A half hour in, I found myself thinking “All right, how many times do we need to start a sentence with Hercules’ name, then retell the 12 labors and anything else we’ve heard about him?” Next, please.

I appreciated the back story because it makes sense even if it’s not quite true to the Greek myths. The mystery there was nice. With The Rock attached, action definitely ruled this movie and the plot was…passable. It wasn’t too difficult, but due to that it seemed like more should be happening when fight scenes weren’t on-screen. The movie also has story a la Gladiator in the mix with the story of a king’s daughter and her son and the twist was kind of predictable.

Hercules apparently has a nephew, who is a sorry excuse for a human being and likes to mooch off his uncle’s legend to get girls. I was pleasantly surprised to see an Amazon woman in Hercules’ crew. Definitely refreshing.

Of course, we had to get in some obligatory hero-worship as well. A half hour into the movie, I was thinking “All right, how many times do we need to start a sentence with Hercules’ name, then retell the twelve labors and anything else we’ve heard about him?” Next, please.

I do wish that the movie incorporated more mystical elements. The CGI was good, I liked the score, and everyone gave nod-worthy performances. Ultimately, the movie did what it was supposed to do–keep me entertained for a couple of hours by watching The Rock tear up some stuff.

3 Reasons Why Guardians of the Galaxy Works

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Marvel Entertainment

My Guardians of the Galaxy experience on Friday was made complete with lemonade and grilled chicken caesar salad (thanks Marcus Cinemas). Eating salad in a movie theater is a supremely odd experience which everyone should do at least once in life. Top that by crashing a family for 3 hours at the same time. It makes for a rip-roaring good time.

Guardians didn’t even need any salad-eating, family-crashing shenanigans because it was perfectly zany on its own. From the bad dancing, to one-liners, to an EPIC soundtrack, I couldn’t stop laughing. Finally, a comedy. I need the DVD stat. Yesterday.

I am not familiar with the Guardians comic book run at all. In fact, I’m not really familiar with any comic book runs so I can’t even be upset if Marvel deviates or completely changes things. I guess I’m also barred from getting into arguments with devout Comic-Con attendees who have all the issues on instant perusal in their mind palaces.

Yet I react like this every time a Marvel movie comes out:

(Except for Daredevil. And the most recent Captain America movies. Ok, let’s throw in the Punisher movies as well. Plus, I have to admit I wasn’t jumping up and down to see The Amazing Spider-Man movies.)

So when Guardians was announced, I wasn’t sure how to feel. We were getting a dynamic duo consisting of a talking raccoon, referred to as a genetic experiment gone wrong and a human-like tree who had three words to his vocabulary. Then the trailer came out and my skepticism bloomed into cautious excitement. And when the end credits started rolling, I had the hugest grin on my face. Marvel had done it again. Although, the after-credits scene puts me back at square one with not knowing how they are going to pull it off and not knowing how to feel.

Here’s why it worked:

1. THAT SOUNDTRACK: I appreciate the fact that there was no crappy music, and by crappy music I mean 85% of what is currently passing for music on the radio. It just made me want to dance and upgrade my life by going back to the 70’s and 80’s to pounce on some good tunes. When the trailer came out, I turned right around and got “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede. I played it over and over and over and I’m still not tired of it yet. That is fantastic stuff.

2. That humor: Guardians was ridiculously funny on multiple levels. It had events playing out in the background with completely oblivious characters, missed metaphors, awkward and carefree dancing, singing for comedic relief at high tension moments, stellar confused looks, human vs. alien perceptions. Since I’m into writing and words, the metaphor jokes slayed me.

3. That Glenn Close. Just kidding, although she was a boss in the scenes she was in. The characters and their journey from strangers to the Guardians of the Galaxy was awesome to watch. The tone of the movie was zany, but this is juxtaposed next to some seriously emotional scenes. Selfish motivations next to vengeful motivations next to a motivation to prove myself with a side of a heroine complex. I enjoyed the way the characters weren’t perfect and they wrestled with doing the right thing.

My tiny hang up is that I wish Nebula and Gamora were more fleshed out. Gamora’s backstory worked to a certain extent, but the writers plopped just enough into the movie to get us to care. I needed more insight into the rivalry. I also wish that villains actually had reasons for destroying entire planets, solar systems, and the universe, but I guess that’s part of what makes them fun. Also, the drama surrounding the main object is a lot more fun when we don’t know what that object is. After we find out, I feel like the movie loses a little steam because everyone is hung up on it.

I definitely won’t be cautiously excited for the sequel.

2017, hurry up already.

The Weird, Wonderful World of Twin Peaks

Paramount, CBS Home Entertainment

Paramount, CBS Home Entertainment

In honor of this weeks release on Blue-ray, I thought Id take a moment to gush a bit about the unique phenomena of Twin Peaks.

Chances are you’ve encountered it in one way or another. It routinely makes it into television best of lists and despite its fourteen-year absence from the airwaves, it retains a strong, committed fanbase, as well as its own annual convention.

Yet despite all this, you might be wondering, what is it about this show that keeps people coming back to it after all this time? 

Its a lot of things really. Released in 1990, Twin Peaks was way ahead of its time. Featuring long, serialized stories, along with boundary pushing content and a cinematic approach that was uncommon at the time, the show has more in common with todays array of cable dramas than anything found in those days of network dominated programming.

More than that though, it was just so incredibly different. Part small town soap opera, part police procedural, with a heavy dose of dark surrealism thrown in for good measure, Twin Peaks is really unlike anything else. It varied wildly in tone, jumping from quirky comedy one moment, to something deeply unsettling the next.

It was unlike anything anyone had seen before, with viewers flocking to their TVs on a weekly basis to find out, Who killed Laura Palmer?.

That’s how it all begins, with the body of homecoming queen Laura Palmer washing up on a riverbank, naked and wrapped in plastic.

Paramount, CBS Home Entertainment

Paramount, CBS Home Entertainment

The murder sends shockwaves through the community, eventually attracting the attention of the F.B.I.

Enter special agent Dale Cooper, a boyish, well-mannered lawman with a love of coffee, a raging sweet tooth and an unusual method of gathering leads from his dreams.

Paramount, CBS Home Entertainment

Paramount, CBS Home Entertainment

As he tears into the mystery, the case expands into a number of different directions, pulling Cooper deep into the towns dark underbelly.

This where the show truly shines, in its richly realized setting. Twin Peaks is the kind of fictional backdrop that doesnt come around very often. It feels like a real place, the kind of setting where anything could happen and Cooper regularly rubbed shoulders with such quirky inhabitants as shady industrialist Ben Horne, bumbling Deputy Brennan, and a woman who held regular conversations with a piece of wood.

The Log Lady - Paramount, CBS Home Entertainment

The Log Lady – Paramount, CBS Home Entertainment

With so many possibilities, if felt like the stories could go on forever.

Which is exactly how co-creator David Lynch saw it too. His intention to indefinitely delay solving Lauras murder was met with open hostility from network executives who felt viewers would abandon the show if they stretched out its central mystery for too long.

Its hard to say who was right. Lynchs contention that solving the case would hurt the show ultimately proved to be true. The show suffered an immediate loss of steam following the revelation. On the other hand, its debatable whether audiences would have stuck around for a show that kept its central mystery perpetually unsolved. 

After the big reveal, the show limped on for awhile. Some of it good, some of it not so much, but it all climaxed in a finale that remains one of the single most insane things ever broadcast on television. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late and the show got the ax.

But the story doesn’t end there. David Lynch still had enough juice to get a feature film green lit. Having ended the series on one hell of a cliffhanger, co-creator Mark Frost wanted to take the obvious route and tie off the remaining plotlines. David Lynch went in another direction entirely, filming a cinematic prequel detailing the last few weeks of Lauras death. It was met with something of a mixed reaction, viewers unfamiliar with the show found nothing to connect to, while long-term fans objected to its markedly darker tone as well as the absence of most of the show’s principal cast.

But here’s the good news. Lynch allegedly shot over five hours worth of footage for the film. In cutting that down to an acceptable length, a lot of scenes had to be cut, many of them featuring the members of the original cast. For years these scenes remained elusive, discussed via excerpts of the original script and the occasional publicity still.

Now, finally with the Blu-ray release, these scenes are seeing the light of day, giving fans their last glimpse of this weird and wonderful world, killed long before its time.

TV has changed a lot in the last fourteen years, but even in a world where quality shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men have become television staples, Twin Peaks remains a uniquely realized vision, a place full of fantastic characters and perpetual mystery, a town full of secrets, and a great place to get lost in.

Review: Wise Women, Part 1

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I’m back from outer space, better known as teaching a writing course, and thought I’d pop back in with thoughts on a recent read Wise Women: Folk and Fairy Tales from around the World retold and edited by Suzanne Barchers. First thought was where has this book been all my life? 

Stories of bravery, heroism, and intelligence burst through the pages. I was pleased that a number of different counties and cultures were represented. In just the first two sections, I was treated to tales from China, Japan, Turkey, India, Spain, Russia, the U.S., Scotland, Italy, Korea, and Norway, to name a few. Finally, a book that boasted tales from around the world and had the pages to back it up. Stories about sisters saving their brothers, clever girls, girls as advisors, girls who managed households, determined girls, girls who shaped their own destiny, independent girls, girls who married on their own terms. Next followed girls who outsmarted wizards, queens, and witches, poor girls who improved their circumstances and married kings or princes. Girls were making huge moves in this book.

Poverty was a recurring theme throughout the first part “Daughters: Clever and Courageous” and the second part “Sisters: Resourceful and Steadfast.” The first two chapters definitely piqued my interest for more and it was really encouraging to see how different cultures valued women and gave them important roles in the stories. I really appreciated how the author listed the country of origin for each story.

Another recurring theme was eating children or leaving them to die. Some of this was as a result of poverty, but still. There were a few stories involving giants, but I never felt like the giants were written similarly. A few well-known favorites like The Snow Queen and Hansel and Gretel made their way into the collection, nestled among the many new (to me) stories.

My greatest appreciation of this book is that it gives positive role models and different cultural perspectives to young girls. As an added plus, it does this through the lens of folk and faerie tales. Young girls can have their independence and intelligence reaffirmed by the positive depictions of women and girls in this book. Women and girls who are resourceful, clever, and who advocate for themselves.

Hopefully, we can have more story collections like this: not beating the message through like we’re beating a dead horse, not making the subject matter more palatable for public consumption, but one that honors and uplifts women as the multi-faceted creatures they are. Just like Goldilocks, we can skip the options that are too hot or too cold, and get the tales that are just right.

Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus

Weighing in at an impressive 800 episodes, Doctor Who has been entertaining audiences for the past 50 years. Yet, despite this vast backlog of content, I know next to nothing about the actual series. For that reason, I’ve decided to watch this unusual show from the beginning, to discover the source of its unique appeal. Come with me as I tackle this daunting sci-fi phenomena from the very beginning in The Complete Doctor Who.

Warning: the following contains spoilers.

Doctor Who: Serial 5, Episode 6: The Keys of Marinus

Last week, the Doctor threw his hat into the legal arena, defending his friend Ian on a murder charge. Needless to say, he didn’t do a very good job as Ian landed himself a one way trip to death row. Then, to make things even more complicated, Susan went and got herself kidnapped.

We open with our recap shot from last week, Barbara rocking the mic phone while the party on the other end threatens to kill Susan if they don’t back off of Ian’s case.

Fortunately, she has Altos on her side, who immediately proves his value by pointing out, “Whoever is behind this kidnapping is either in league with the murderer or is the murderer.” Thanks Kojak, so glad we brought you along.

Meanwhile, Ian sweats out his last few hours in a cell. When he asks a guard how much longer he has, he is told, “execution is set to take place when the pointer reaches the star.”

BBC

BBC

Apparently, human resources decided the death row cell block was entirely too grim and decided to spruce things up with a special Hello Kitty wall clock, complete with fun star hand and adorable beeping sound.

As Ian counts down the moments of his life, Barbara goes to work behind the scenes, trying to find Susan before the doctor finds out.

She takes Sabetha and Altos back to the house of Ayden, the flaky guard who went got himself killed in the middle of Ian’s court hearing. They talk to his widow Kala for awhile, and by talk I mean stand around awkwardly watching her cry before finally making a hasty retreat.

The moment they’re out of earshot, Kala drops her hysterics, breaks into an enormous shit-eating grin and slides open a hidden panel revealing a gagged and bound Susan.

BBC

BBC

She engages in a bit of outstanding supervillain gloating, telling Susan that her friends will never find her because “They’re like all the rest of them, stupid. Stupid.” That’s two stupids for those keeping track at home.

Outside, Barbara thinks about the conversation they just shared and realizes Kala mentioned Susan’s kidnapping. Only problem is, no one said a word about Susan, so, it’s back to Kala’s house where they find her menacing their friend with what looks like a giant hair dryer.  They sneak up and manage to disable her, leaving Susan’s bangs mercifully unsinged.

Back at the jail, the officers are all set to begin Ian’s execution when a phone call comes through. Barbara reveals that Kala was the one who killed her husband in court.

Kala gets hauled in, but whoops, she claims her co-conspirator is Ian. Hm. That kind of backfired, didn’t it?

Susan reveals she overheard Kala speaking to the real accomplice over the phone and that he plans to retrieve the key.

That sends the Doctor into a fit of maniacal laughter. He puts together a plan that involves staking out the evidence locker, waiting for their man to show. Sure enough a masked man shows up and tries to break in. They capture him, yank off his mask and reveal…the Court Prosecutor.

BBC

BBC

You see, the Doctor realized that the missing key had been hidden inside the murder weapon itself, locked in a hidden compartment on the side of the mace.

Well, I guess that about wraps things up…what’s that? We’re only twelve minutes into this thing?

Okay, everybody take a deep breath. Ready for part two? Okay? Go!

Altos and Sabetha teleport back to the pyramid from the first episode where they’re immediately captured by the Voord. Remember them? Black suits, weirds masks. You know, the villains of this story that have been absent for four whole episodes!

Well, it seems they’ve dragged themselves away from whatever they’ve been doing this whole time long enough to capture Altos and Sabetha.

BBC

BBC

One of them is also sporting Arbitan’s funky white robe, which might not be the best way to get Sabetha’s help. You know wearing her dead father’s clothes and all (Altos got stabbed to death in the end of the first episode; I know I forgot about it too).

We get some drawn out scenes that establish Altos and Sabetha are in love and then they’re packed off to jail. Cue the rest of the TARDIS’ crew, who show up, get attacked by a Voord who appears to be drunk, and decide to split up.

Ian and Susan set off in search of Arbitan. They stumble on the lead Voord sitting there with Arbitan’s robe, yanked up over his head.

BBC

BBC

Somehow that’s enough to convince Ian, who straight up gives him the last key.

Meanwhile, the Doctor heads into the dungeon and rescues Sabetha and Altos. Ian rejoins them and reveals that the key he gave the Voord was a fake.

BBC

BBC

Sure enough the Voord sticks the keys into the computer, causing the whole thing to blow up, meaning this entire story has accomplished absolutely nothing. Arbitan is dead, the supercomputer is destroyed, and the Voord are still out there. So, the crew of the TARDIS fall back on what they do best in situations like this and decide to just leave.

They all pile into the TARDIS, leaving Sabetha and Altos to face what seems like certain death at the hands of the many Voord still prowling about, not to mention the half dozen other murderous creatures they’ve encountered so far.

Fortunately the two of them have true love on their side and as Isaac Newton proved, love makes you immune to all harm.

This story arc marks a bit of a departure from what we’ve seen so far. While not a wild success by any means, I must say that the done-in-one episodes were a welcome change over some of the more bloated serials that we’ve suffered through so far, some of them stretching to as many as seven episodes long.

Think about that for a minute, that’s one episode shy of the entire season of True Detective and all of it dedicated to the characters outwitting the Daleks or, trying to gain back control of the TARDIS.

Granted, we’re talking about an hour long HBO drama versus a twenty-two minute serial, but the fact remains that this show has a strong bent towards the long-winded. This was definitely a step in the right direction. It’s a shame that it doesn’t really come together at the end, but it still feels like we’re making some small strides towards a tighter viewing experience. Hopefully they can graft this quicker pacing onto one of their longer story arcs.

 

Doctor Who: Doctor, Time Lord, Lawyer?

Weighing in at an impressive 800 episodes, Doctor Who has been entertaining audiences for the past 50 years. Yet, despite this vast backlog of content, I know next to nothing about the actual series. For that reason, I’ve decided to watch this unusual show from the beginning, to discover the source of its unique appeal. Come with me as I tackle this daunting sci-fi phenomena from the very beginning in The Complete Doctor Who.

Warning: the following contains spoilers.

Doctor Who: Serial 5, Episode 5: Sentence of Death

I think we can all agree we’ve seen some strange stuff on this show; Daleks dictating letters, lakes made of acid, and people physically screaming at clocks, but even in the midst of all that, this episode really caught me off guard.

But before we get into all that though, a few preliminaries first. William Hartnell’s vacation wrapped up, meaning the Doctor is finally back this week. Now, having been absent for two full episodes, how did the producers decide to dramatize his return? No doubt something related to his unique skills as both a doctor and a time traveler, something like say, oh I don’t know, a protracted legal battle? That’s right, today’s episode is Boston Legal by way of outer space. Spoiler alert, it’s nowhere near as awesome as that sentence makes it sound.

We get our usual cliffhanger recap.

BBC

BBC

Ian wanders into what looks like J.C. Penney, finds a guy stone dead on the floor, then gets knocked out from behind. His attacker slips a mace into his hands, because honestly, if you’re going to commit armed robbery, it’s always good to proceed with a weapon that’s been obsolete for five centuries. No red flags there. Then, with Ian safely unconscious, our mystery assailant opens up a glass case and makes off with another one of those darn micro-keys.

When he awakens, Ian finds a uniformed guard in the room, just sitting there in a chair. As Ian asks what’s happened, the man proceeds to arrest him, having made the rather dubious leap that Ian himself is responsible for both the dead man on the floor as well as the stolen micro-key.

Worse still, in this…city?–I honestly don’t know where we’re supposed to be at this point–defendants are guilty until proven innocent.

Cut to Barbara, who is somehow aware not only of his location, but of everything that has happened thus far. Guess news travels fast on…wherever the hell we are right now.

She’s soon joined by Susan and needless tag-alongs Sabetha and Altos, who all join the audience in wondering just where the hell the Doctor’s at these days.

Enter William Hartnell in true sitcom fashion.

Did someone call for a doctor? Cue audience applause. Then everyone takes a moment to step back and share a group hug.

BBC

BBC

Great to have you back. Now about our friend’s impending execution…

The doctor takes over Ian’s defense, despite possessing no real qualifications in the legal arena whatsoever.

Everyone convenes in the courtroom, which contains what look like togas hanging from the wall.

Enter the tribunal of bakers.

BBC

BBC

Yup, that’s right, in this city, justice is meted out by people dressed like a trio of cereal mascots.

General Mills

General Mills

The Doctor asks for more time to review the case and is granted two days.

He hands out jobs to each of our four supporting characters. Altos and Sabetha are sent to the library where they study cases from books that look appropriately like a big fluffy loaves of bread.

Meanwhile, the Doctor heads back to the scene of the crime, using Susan and Barbara to stage a lengthy reenactment of events the audience has already sat through twice.

Oh, and as the case unfolds, the Doctor seems to be having a ball, doing his best Sherlock Holmes impression, announcing that’s solved the case long ahead of everyone else. He even drops a few “elementaries” for good measure.

If only he hadn’t lost his pipe from episode two, he could really look the part.

With the run time successfully padded, Barbara and Susan head off to speak with Ian’s arresting officer Tarron. He’s not there, so they end up speaking with his wife until Tarron finally shows up and throws a tantrum.

BBC

BBC

Barbara mentions they know the location of the key and Tarron stops himself just shy of confessing Law & Order style.

“But you couldn’t have known where it is, I…”

Then, he threatens to slap them. His wife intervenes and the two of them leave. Then, with Susan and Barbara gone, Tarron decides he doesn’t much care who he slaps so long as it’s a woman and settles for hitting his wife instead.

After that, he shares a conversation on quite possibly the greatest phone of all time.

BBC

BBC

A microphone attached by a wire to a base? Brilliant.

Then, it’s back to the courtroom where the Doctor pulls what’s actually a pretty clever ploy, calling Sabetha to the stand where she holds up a micro-key. That causes Tarron to stand up and confess seconds before being murdered by a bright light.

The Doctor then reveals that it was not the stolen key which Sabetha used, but one of those found in their earlier adventures. Clever Doctor.

Now, you might think under those circumstances we could just wrap things up and call it a day, but it appears the denizens of this city have a little problem with pesky concepts like logic and declare that Tarron’s confession and subsequent murder somehow still don’t prove Ian’s innocence and that’s he to be executed.

Then, it’s a quick cut to Barbara who receives a handwritten note telling her that if the micro-key’s location is revealed (does anyone even know where it is at this point?) someone else will be killed. Seconds later, the phone rings and Susan reveals that she’s been kidnapped. No surprise there, that’s kind of just what she does. Roll credits and we’re done. Which means that this little legal drama’s stretching out for another whole episode.

Seriously guys, a legal drama? Okay, I’ll buy it, but a legal drama in which the legal system of the presiding authorities doesn’t really seem to follow their own rules? Hm, there’s probably some better way we could kill twenty-two minutes, isn’t there? What are those whacky Daleks up to these days?

Don’t worry though, it’s not too late to redeem this thing, just bring back all the weirdo villains from the previous episodes as witnesses.

“Your honor I’d like to call the Whispering Jungle to the stand.”

“Okay, Mr. Voord, is that your full name?” Stabs lawyer.

Guess we’ll just have to see if I’m right.

 

The Greatest Moment

ROTK-Minas-Tirith

As I was prepping curriculum for the writing course I’m teaching this summer, I took multiple breaks. Breaks usually make my nocturnal pursuits stretch into the dark throes of the night, and usually consist of me finding something light or funny to assuage the output of brain power as it veers toward dregs.

That being written, I generally enjoy io9, but they have been on a roll for the past day.

You know how much Bryan and I enjoy our Doctor Who, so I’m counting the days until it comes back on August 23 and the teaser is just making it worse. That will probably be the second reason I have a Hulu Plus account. The first is the one and only Que Pobres Tan Ricos, but I should just be honest and say Hulu Latino in general.

I have to join the ranks of the surprised when I saw that for SFX Magazine readers the greatest moment in sci-fi and fantasy was Rose and 10’s painful and angst-ridden goodbye in “Doomsday” for Doctor Who (even when I try, I always come back to Doctor Who…).

From what I saw on the list (the first 10 and then some of Joss Whedon’s work, all of which in my opinion should have been rated higher), it was skewed toward what is more current and trendy instead of what was more epic in the past 20 years. I wanted to see more moments that truly stood the test of time. People need to evaluate their lives and pop open some classics.

Including me–I’m so indecisive, I can’t even pick moments. I have to pick whole movies, series, and TV shows because they have multiple scenes that make me feel like I could live on another planet, or fly, or whatever. The following list is in a completely random order and not indicative of greatest to least. They include, but are not limited to:

The Matrix

The X-Men Series

The Avengers

Firefly

The Lord of the Rings (all)

Angel

Charmed

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Gattaca

Star Wars (before it got crazy)

Back to the Future

Terminator

Yes, 3/4 of this list contains Joss Whedon, but you’ve been warned. Feel free to school me on the classics, but help me out: What are some of the best sci-fi and fantasy moments, or if you’re like me…movies, comics, TV series, etc.?