Monday, 19 February 2018

Looking Back At RoboCop

Originally published on Set The Tape

The original RoboCop is very much a product of its time, taking the violence and fear of a criminal future that pervaded much of the 1980’s, and pushing it to a level most films would try to avoid. Despite the extreme gore, horrific violence, and pervading lack of hope, RoboCop stands as one of the all time great movies from the decade.

Before the character of RoboCop would become watered down by two unsuccessful sequels, a mid-afternoon television series, and a much bemoaned remake in 2014, the original was a total surprise to audiences, combining together ridiculous moments of humour and satire with shocking violence, all with a very deep narrative about what it means to be human underneath.

People weren’t sure what to make of RoboCop when it was first released in 1987 (or February 1988 for UK audiences), though it quickly became a success, earning back four times its budget in the cinemas and cementing the career of its director, Paul Verhoeven.

It may have been this mix of tones that helped to make the film a success. For some it was filled with heavy comedic moments, others were shocked and enthralled by the violence, and some were drawn into the story of Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) being changed into a cyborg and struggling to regain his humanity and sense of self. RoboCop has more layers than would initially be believed, and this helped towards its popularity.

Despite being 30 years old and made with a relatively small budget of $13 million, the film still holds up well. Yes, there are some areas where the visual effects don’t quite hold up, such as with ED-209, but on the whole it looks spectacular, with the practical effects giving the film a very real and down to earth feel.

The fact that it isn’t a special effects heavy piece actually works to its advantage, and helps to tell the story. This is a version of future Detroit that is run down, besieged by crime, with poor citizens and people close to giving up, and not having big showy effects helps to realise this version of Detroit and to make it feel like a real place (despite none of the film actually being made in the real Detroit).

This is one of the things that makes the original RoboCop stand out against its recent remake. The grounded and more recognisable world of the 1980’s original compared to the high-tech and glossy vision of the 2014 remake means that it’s easier to identify with the human story within the film, especially that of Alex Murphy.

On that note it’s worth talking about the cast, all of whom are perfect for their roles. Peter Weller is astonishing in the lead role, able to bring more through his voice and chin as RoboCop than he was as the fully human Alex Murphy. Even before RoboCop removes his helmet in the latter scenes, you already know that there’s more going on beneath, that the real Alex Murphy is breaking through. Considering that the only part of the actor visible is the lower face, his voice has a robotic effect over the top of it, and that he moves in a very mechanical way, this is hugely impressive.

A large part of the success of the Alex Murphy story is the casting of Nancy Allen in the role of his partner Anne Lewis. Able to portray a hardened street cop in one scene, yet caring and understanding, almost motherly, in another, she acts as a perfect companion to Weller’s cyborg, giving him that real human connection to help the real him break through.

The film’s main villains, Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) and Dick Jones (Ronny Cox), are incredibly well crafted, each playing a very different type of villain, yet working well together. Boddicker is the vicious street thug and gang leader, whilst Jones is the sleazy duplicitous corporate bad guy.

Smith may initially seem like a strange choice for a gang leader, with most people going on to remember him as the father from the 90’s sitcom That 70’s Show, he brings a level of sinister menace and subtly to the role that many films lack. As for Cox, he so perfectly fits the part of a corporate villain that its a role he would go on to repeat numerous times throughout his career.

On the face of things many would view RoboCop as an ultra violent shallow film, offering little more than guns and gore, but it has a lot more to say about corporate America, the decline of society and the rise of crime, and the human soul, than you’d initially believe. A great film with multiple themes, a sharp and witty script, and great casting, RoboCop deserves its status as a cult classic.

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Stargate Atlantis: Top 10 Episodes

Originally published on Set The Tape

The first spin-off series from Stargate SG1, Stargate Atlantis, took bold new steps in the Stargate franchise, shifting the action to a new galaxy, introducing a whole host of new characters, and a new threat for the heroes. Whilst some fans felt that the new show couldn’t live up to the popularity of the original show it proved to be massively popular, and delivered some amazing episodes. Here are 10 of the best.

10. Thirty Eight Minutes

One of the earliest episodes of Stargate Atlantis, ‘Thirty Eight Minutes’ makes use of one of the central prop of the whole franchise, the Stargate itself. When the Puddlejumper gets stuck midway through the Stargate during an emergency the main team find themselves trapped with only 38 minutes to find a solution before the Stargate deactivates, killing them all.

The episode makes the best use of the arbitrary 38 minute time frame in which the Stargate can be active by having the episode happen in real time, something that had not been done in franchise to date. This choice ramps up the tension and means that things feel really tense for the team. Despite knowing that the show isn’t about to kill of it’s main cast in the third episode, just how things are going to be resolved is still a tense and dramatic episode.

9. The Defiant One

Exploring the system that houses Atlantis a small group of scientists and Major Sheppard (Joe Flanigan) discover a crashed Wraith ship on another planet from the battle 10,000 years ago, a ship that still has one living inhabitant.

Stargate Atlantis started off introducing its new villains, the Wraith, as near unkillable monsters, but towards the end of the first season the team had had some victories over the Wraith, and the fear factor had started to lessen. Having an episode just before the season finale that reestablished just how frightening an enemy the Wraith were was a brilliant choice.

Trapped on a remote planet with no other fighters to back him up Major Sheppard has to fight a hulking brute of an opponent. Add in some dark and emotional moments as a wounded scientist kills himself so as to allow McKay (David Hewlett) to go help Sheppard and this becomes a stand out first season episode.

8. Be All My Sins Remembered

The Season Four mid-season finale left the audience realising that Atlantis was up against worse odds than initially believed when they discover that the Pegasus Galaxy Replicators are a much bigger threat.

‘Be All My Sins Remembered’ sees Atlantis having to work alongside the recently discovered Traveller group, as well as their long term enemy, the Wraith. The ensuing space battle is one of the best the series has ever delivered, culminating in not just the destruction of the Pegasus Replicators, but their entire planet.

Whilst the battle itself is a great spectacle, the journey to it is just as entertaining, seeing these separate groups coming together in an uneasy alliance. It’s an interesting look into the inner workings of the Pegasus Galaxy, as well as how complex and multi-layered the series had become since it first started.

7. Enemy At The Gate

The final episode of Stargate Atlantis sees the entire Atlantis expedition needing to come into action as a Wraith Hive Ship more powerful than anything ever seen before heads towards Earth.

Despite not being the planned conclusion to the series (the show came to an end so that production could begin on Stargate Universe as they wanted to re-purpose several of the sets), the final episode of Stargate Atlantis manages to deliver a mad dash rescue story, where it’s Earth that needs saving.

The surprise arrival of Atlantis on Earth ends the series with many story threads still left hanging (it was planned that a TV movie would tie up some of these loose ends, but the film was never made), yet manages to give a satisfying and hope filled conclusion.

6. Tao of Rodney

Rodney McKay was one of the most selfish characters, even when he’d grown as a person. As such, any episode that gave him focus and the room to grow was a great experience. In ‘Tao of Rodney’ he gets hit with an ancient device that grants him almost superhuman powers, though these changes will kill him.

Faced with his impending death he has to say goodbye to each of his friends, scenes that are genuinely touching and emotional. The scene in which he heals Ronan’s (Jason Momoa) scars is a particularly bittersweet moment that’s played just the right way make you realise just why you love the character despite his many, many faults.

5. Midway

The first season of Stargate Atlantis was the weakest, and this was mostly due to the cast not being quite perfect. Whilst there was nothing wrong with the actors themselves, the team was missing a special ingredient, their own version of Teal’C (Christopher Judge). Once the show introduced Ronan in season two things felt much more familiar.

However, fans kept asking who would win in a fight between the two alien warriors, Teal’C or Ronan. The fourth season of Stargate Atlantis mostly put this argument to bed when the two characters finally came together, first fighting each other in a ‘friendly’ match that went on for hours, before teaming up as a two man army to take down a force of Wraith that were invading Earth.

With some of the best action in the series, the guest appearance of a Stargate SG1 veteran, and the toughest team-up in the franchise, ‘Midway’ more than satisfied fan expectations.

4. The Siege

The three part story that spanned the final two episodes of the first season and the start of the second, ‘The Siege’ finally pitted the inhabitants of Atlantis against the Wraith in a large scale battle that saw the very fate of the city hanging in the balance.

With space battles, reinforcements from Earth, brutal gunfights in the corridors of Atlantis, and a series of desperate plans ‘The Siege’ put our heroes in one of the most dire situations in the entire eight year franchise.

The tense unfolding of events, the heroic sacrifices of certain characters, and the brutal consequences of the Wraith attack make this one of the best stories that the show has given us, and the best season finale.

3. The Shrine

Muck line ‘Tao of Rodney’, ‘The Shrine’ gives Dr McKay a chance to shine, and has the best performance from David Hewlett. After being infected with a disease that acts in a similar way to Alzheimer’s, McKay quickly loses his memory, leaving the audience to watch one of the greatest minds in the Stargate universe dwindle away.

The episode is full of emotion and heartfelt moments, and does rehash a lot of the themes from ‘Tao of Rodney’, but manages to deliver not only some of the best writing and acting in the series, but some of the best scenes the franchise has produced, at times bringing genuine tears to the eye.

2. Sateda

As soon as Jason Momoa joined the cast it was clear that he was more than capable of delivering competent action sequences, but it wasn’t until the third season episode ‘Sateda’ that it you could see him as an action star outside of television.

After being kidnapped by a vicious Wraith and dumped on the ruined remains of his home planet, Ronan is hunted down by scores of Wraith in a Running Man style gauntlet.

With Momoa fighting Wraith with guns, knives, jagged pieces of glass, and even his bare hands, the episode shows a brutal and savage side to the franchise that was often overlooked. Thanks to top notch fight choreography and some brilliant directing (in particular one fight in a pitch black room that is only illuminated by weapons fire) ‘Sateda’ is an amazing example of action on a television scale.

1. Sunday

Easily one of the most beautifully made and most heartbreaking episodes of Stargate Atlantis, ‘Sunday’ sees the various inhabitants of the city on their day off, enjoying their hobbies and spending time together as friends.

Unfortunately, disaster strikes the city, leading to the shocking and devastating death of fan favourite character Carson Beckett (Paul McGillion). Despite the character returning in a future season (or at least a clone version of him), it doesn’t take away from the heartbreak of the episode, with his funeral service, and the imagined goodbye between him and Rodney McKay being some of the saddest moments in Stargate history.

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Sunday, 18 February 2018

Eccentric Earth Episode Eight Show Notes

Welcome to the latest show notes for Eccentric Earth, where I will include the research for each episode (essentially my script), along with a number of photographs and documents.

Episode Eight - Carl Tanzler

Karl Tänzler was born on February 8, 1877 in Dresden, Germany. There is little information about his parents, though it is confirmed that he had one sibling, a sister. Carl was a bright and curious youngster, though childhood was unremarkable, with one notable exception. Later in life, he would refer to an incident in which he claimed that a long-deceased relative, Countess Anna Constantia von Cosel, visited him. She revealed to him the face of a dark-haired girl whom he interpreted as being his one true love.

As a young man, Carl Tanzler displayed an ability to impress others, able to project a level of confidence which helped him to gain access into situations and opportunities that he should never have had. Much like the contestants on The Apprentice, he had an impressive resume, where he boasted that he had nine advanced degrees. This was a untrue. 

He held a variety of jobs, such as boatbuilding and as an engineer. Some of these jobs allowed him the opportunity and means to travel frequently. He visited countries such as Australia, India, and Italy. While he was in Australia, World War I broke out. 

Trial Bay Prison Camp in Australia circa 1915.
Because he was a German citizen, the government did not allow him to return home, instead, placing him in a prison camp. Tanzler was eventually placed in Trial Bay, a prison on the mid north coast of New South Wales. Whilst at Trial Bay Tanzler hatched a plan to escape in a sailing boat, along with a fellow prisoner, though this plan never came to fruition.

International law at the time forbade prisoners from returning to their native country, so at war’s end, the government shipped the Geman prisoner to a clearing house in the Netherlands. Now in his fourties, Karl met a young woman named Doris Shafer, whom he would go on to marry and father two children with.

Tanzler continued to travel around the world, which put considerable strain on his marriage. In 1926 he left his family and moved to Cuba, from which he then emigrated to the United States, settling in Zephyrhills, Florida; where his sister had moved to previously. Now living under the name Carl Von Cosel, and sometimes, Count Carl von Cosel. His family soon joined him in America.

Less than a year later he would leave his family again, this time moving to Key West in Florida, where he found employment as a radiological technician at a U.S. Marine Hospital. After taking the job at the hospital, Tanzler maintained a relatively low profile and mostly kept to himself. 

U.S. Marine Hospital, Key West, Florida, where Tanzler
was employed.
On 22 April, 1930, Tanzler would meet Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos while working at the Marine Hospital in Key West. Elena was a local Cuban-American woman who had been brought to the hospital by her mother for an examination. Tanzler immediately recognized her as the beautiful dark-haired woman that had been revealed to him in the visions given to him by the ghost of his ancestor, and fell instantly in love with the young woman.

Born on July 31, 1909, in Key West, Florida, Elena was described as a strikingly attractive girl with luxurious dark hair and an appealing shyness. The middle of three daughters to a cigar maker and homemaker, Elena had a beauty that didn’t go unnoticed. She attracted a fair share of admirers. Early marriage was customary among the Cuban-American community, and Elena married Luis Mesa in 1926 at 16 years of age.

Unfortunately, the marriage proved to be ill-fated. Shortly after Elena miscarried with the couple’s child, Luis abandoned his young wife and moved to Miami.

On April 22, 1930, Aurora de Hoyos, concerned about her daughter Elena’s illness, brought her to the Marine hospital for examination. It was determined that the 20-year old was afflicted with tuberculosis, a disease generally considered incurable at the time, that eventually claimed the lives of almost all of her entire immediate family.

Convinced that saving Elena from certain death was his destiny, the love-struck doctor persuaded the hospital allow him to conduct his own experimental treatment on her, using his false medical credentials to convince them. 

Maria Elena Milagro de Hoyos.
He proceeded to administer a series of specialty treatments, consisting of homemade elixirs, herbs, and tonics of his own devising. He borrowed expensive hospital equipment without permission, including an X-ray machine, which he installed in the de Hoyos’ home. Tanzler created his own private hospital and laboratory in Elenas home. He even convinced her family to allow him to move into the home to better treat her.

The fake doctor also showered Elena with expensive gifts of jewelry and clothing, and even though she did not reciprocate his feelings, he constantly declared his undying love and devotion for her, using his position as her physician to try to woo her.

Despite relentless efforts, Elena died of tuberculosis at her parents' home in Key West on October 25, 1931. Tanzler insisted on paying for all funeral expenses, even hiring a mortician to embalm Elena. He also persuaded her family to allow him to purchase a costly stone mausoleum for her. After internment of Elena’s body, everyone assumed they could put this highly unusual episode behind them. Unfortunately, the doctor’s behavior only became more bizarre.

Tanzler owned the only key to the mausoleum, and he used it to make regular visits to Elena’s corpse. For two years his visits continued, and when locals took notice, rumors began to spread. This caused the hospital to terminate his employment.

Elena's tomb, to which Carl Tanzler had the only key.
One evening in April 1933, Tanzler crept through the cemetery where Elena was buried and removed her body from the mausoleum, carting it through the cemetery after dark on a toy wagon, and transporting it to his home. He reportedly said that Elenas spirit would come to him when he would sit by her grave and serenade her corpse with a favorite Spanish song. He also said that she would often tell him to take her from the gravesite.

Together again, Tanzler undertook extraordinary measures to better preserve Elena’s body, he attached the corpse's bones together with wire and coat hangers, and fitted the face with glass eyes. As the skin of the corpse decomposed, Tanzler replaced it with silk cloth soaked in wax and plaster of paris. As the hair fell out of the decomposing scalp, Tanzler fashioned a wig from Elena’s hair that had been collected by her mother and given to Tanzler not long after her burial in 1931. Tanzler filled the corpse's abdominal and chest cavity with rags to keep the original form, dressed Elena’s remains in stockings, jewelry, and gloves, and kept the body in his bed. Tanzler also used copious amounts of perfume, disinfectants, and preserving agents, to mask the odor and forestall the effects of the corpse's decomposition.

This continued for seven years.

Elena's body after Tanzler's modifications.
Disturbing rumors continued throughout the community. People had observed the doctor dancing with a giant doll made from the young girls corpse. Local residents also suspected that he was sleeping with Elena’s corpse. In October, 1940, Elena’s sister Florinda heard rumors of Tanzler sleeping with the disinterred body of her sister, and confronted Tanzler at his home, where Elena's body was eventually discovered. Florinda notified the authorities, and Tanzler was arrested and detained.

Tanzler was psychiatrically examined, and found mentally competent to stand trial on the charge of "wantonly and maliciously destroying a grave and removing a body without authorization." The court heard that not only had Tanzler stolen the young womans corpse, and performed homemade repairs to the body, but that examinations of the body confirmed that Tanzler frequently had sex with it, having installed a paper tube in the vaginal area of the corpse that allowed for intercourse. Even more bizarrely, Tanzler had built his own airplane in which he planned to fly himself and Elena’s body into the stratosphere ‘so that radiation from outer space could penetrate Elena’s tissues and restore life to her somnolent form’.

The plane that Tanzler built behind his home to save Elena.
The trial of Carl Tanzler attracted overflow crowds and became a media sensation. Taking the stand, the doctor was unapologetic, again declaring his ‘undying love and devotion’ for Elena, as well as confirming the airplane rumor. Unfortunately for the prosecution, the statute of limitations had expired for all of the crimes that he had committed due to the amount of time he had had the body, and the courts dropped all charges. Carl Tanzler left court a free man, though not before asking for Elena’s body back.

After the trial Elena's body was put on public display at the Dean-Lopez Funeral Home, where it was viewed by as many as 6,800 people for the cost of $1 each. Hoyos's body was eventually returned to the Key West Cemetery where the remains were buried in an unmarked grave, in a secret location, to prevent further tampering.

The facts underlying the case and the preliminary hearing drew much interest from the media at the time (most notably, from the Key West Citizen and Miami Herald), and created a sensation among the public, both regionally and nationwide. The public mood was generally sympathetic to Tanzler, who man, thanks to the media coverage, viewed as an eccentric 'romantic'.

In 1944, Tanzler moved to Pasco County, Florida close to Zephyrhills, Florida, where he wrote an autobiography that appeared in the Pulp publication, Fantastic Adventures, in 1947. His home was near his wife Doris, who apparently helped to support Tanzler in his later years. Tanzler received United States citizenship in 1950 in Tampa.

Tanzler holding the death mask he had made
after his release.

Separated from his obsession, Tanzler used a death mask to create a life-sized effigy of Hoyos, and lived with it until his death on July 3, 1952. His body was discovered on the floor of his home three weeks after his death.

It has been recounted that Tanzler was found in the arms of the Elena effigy upon discovery of his corpse, but his obituary reported that he died on the floor behind one of his organs. 

It has been theorised that Tanzler had the bodies switched or that Elena's remains were secretly returned to him, and that he died with the real body of Elena.


You can find Eccentric Earth on a number of podcast providers, including:
iTunes: Eccentric Earth
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Friday, 16 February 2018

Stargate SG1: Top 10 Episodes

Originally published on Set The Tape

Stargate SG1 was an incredibly popular series, running for ten seasons, with two television movies, and inspiring two spin-off shows. With a new series set within the Stargate universe set to return to television screens it’s time to look back at some of the best episodes from the original show.

10. Within The Serpent’s Grasp/Serpents Lair

The two-part finale to the first season of the show saw the Stargate Programme shut down by the government just as the evil goa’uld Apophis (Peter Williams) launches an attack on the planet.

With SG-1 managing to sneak aboard on of the invading ships, they, and the Earth, seem hopelessly outmatched against their enemies. With desperate odds, imminent global destruction, and the lives of friends hanging in the balance the first season’s finale would go on to shape the tone of future story lines.

9. The Fifth Race

When Colonel O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) accidentally has an entire alien database downloaded into his brain he soon finds himself overwhelmed by the knowledge and faces certain death. Thanks to that knowledge, however, he’s able to find help in the form of the Asgard, an ancient race of aliens that have long been the enemies of the Gou’auld.

With the Asgard having appeared briefly in an earlier episode, ‘The Fifth Race’ was the first time that the diminutive grey aliens appeared in full. The episode not only acted as an introduction to a race that would go on to become a major part of the Stargate mythology, but also promised bigger things to come, including giving the people of Earth the hope of a brighter future.

8. The Pegasus Project

Despite not being the first time that Stargate SG1 and Stargate Atlantis would cross over, with characters from each show appearing in the other, ‘The Pegasus Project’ felt like the first real crossover between the two, with the SG1 team and the Atlantis expedition teaming up to find a way of stopping the hugely powerful Ori.

Not only does the episode move the main series plot forward in some big ways, particularly in the stopping of the Ori Super Gate, but also sees the destruction of both an Ori and a Wraith ship.

Despite this, it’s the personal interactions that make the episode stand out, with the members of both teams fitting in well with each other, demonstrating that the two series are just parts of a bigger whole, one amazing shared universe.

7. Prometheus Unbound

Stargate SG1 was a very serious series, often dealing with some very dark and adult themes. Despite this, it was also an incredibly fun and silly show at times. The season eight episode ‘Prometheus Unbound’ sees the titular ship hijacked by a devious, and slightly unhinged, thief Vala Mal Doran (Claudia Black), with only Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks) on board to stop her.

The wackiness of Black’s portrayal, the spot on timing of the comedy and witty joke writing, and the wonderful chemistry between the two main leads made this an instant fan favourite episode.

The episode was so popular that the writers chose to bring Vala back as a recurring character in the next season, before making her a main character, and a part of the SG1 team for season 10. With Vala proving to be one of the more popular characters in the franchise, and her relationship with Daniel a highlight for many, this episode marked the beginning of one of the best periods of the series.

6. Window of Opportunity

One of the most popular comedy episodes of the entire series run, ‘Window of Opportunity’ saw Stargate SG1 doing Groundhog Day after Colonel O’Neill and Teal’C (Christopher Judge) stuck in a time loop.

Whilst the episode filled much of its run time with fun moments like O’Neill taking pottery classes, quitting the Air Force just so he could kiss Carter (Amanda Tapping), and even playing golf through the Stargate, the episode also had a strong emotional resolution, seeing O’Neill having to revisit the pain of his son’s death in order to stop the person responsible for the time loop. It might be one of the funniest episodes of the show, but it also had a lot of heart.

5. Lost City

Originally intended to be the end of Stargate SG1, ‘Lost City’ saw the final assault on the Earth by the Gou’auld Anubis. With the Earth facing off against a huge Gou’auld fleet, O’Neill once again facing death due to an Ancient database being downloaded into his mins, and the search for the lost city of Atlantis, the show packs a lot into its planned finale.

Thanks to the show being renewed for an eighth season the show was able to continue on many of these stories, but it doesn’t detract from the sense of danger and tension that permeates the events. With some superb acting and some excellently choreographed action sequences ‘Lost City’ would have acted as a great conclusion to the show, yet still manages to be an incredibly strong season finale.

4. Camelot

With the revamp of the series in season nine Stargate SG1 not only had some new cast members, but a new deadly enemy to contend with. Despite having defeated the Gou’auld the series heroes still felt a little outmatched over the course of season nine. ‘Camelot’ showed the audience, as well as the characters, just how outmatched they actually were.

When an Ori Super Gate is activated, allowing through just four Ori ships, they quickly destroy an entire fleet made up of Earth ships, the Asgard, the Free Jaffa Nation, and the Lucian Alliance.

With Daniel Jackson apparently killed, Carter adrift in a space suit, the only defence for the galaxy destroyed, and Vala trapped on an Ori ship, things never looked bleaker for SG1. A shocking and devastating season finale that promised amazing things to come in the next season.

3. Meridian

When SG1 discovers that an alien planet has a highly unstable for of the alien element Naquadah they try to secure some for themselves to help develop defence technology.  Unfortunately, the planet is already trying to fashion the element into a devastating weapon. After an accident causes Daneil Jackson to become doused with radiation he faces certain death.

An episode that has clear parallels to the development of nuclear weapons, and deals with the concept of weapons of mass destruction. It’s not an easy subject to tackle, but the episode does it well, and manages to also deal with the death of one of their own as Jackson succumbs to radiation poisoning. Although he ascends to a higher level of existence moments before he died, this was effectively the episode that killed him.

As such, ‘Meridian’ was filled with powerful and emotional scenes, in particular showcasing the relationship between Jackson and O’Neill with some of the best acting from both Michael Shanks and Richard Dean Anderson.

2. Heroes

Heroes was supposed to be a small episode, one with a low-cost and made with as little of the main cast as possible. Essentially telling the story of a documentary crew that had been given access to the SGC, it was filled with candid camera moments, talking head interviews, and background characters getting the chance to shine.

The episode evolved during its production stage, however, becoming a two-part story that featured a huge battle scene, and included the shock death of series regular Dr Fraiser (Teryl Rothery). The story looked at the role of the media in public opinion of the military, the importance of secrecy from the public, and the horrors of war.

Despite being set in a fictional universe the episode speaks well for the role of the military in the real world, how the soldiers who put their lives on the line every day are ordinary people with real lives and families. A heart breaking and devastating episode that will leave viewers in tears, ‘Heroes’ is a story that comes out of nowhere to shock the audience and forever change the series.

1. Unending

After planning for the series to end on several occasions, only to have the show renewed, the production team went into season ten ready to tell a story that would go on into an eleventh season. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled too far into production to end the story. Whilst the story of the Ori would be concluded in a television movie the choice was made to end the show on a celebration of the characters and the franchise.

Set on board the Odyssey, an Earth spaceship, SG1 and General Landry (Beau Bridges) end up stuck inside a time dilation field, effectively trapping them on board whilst the universe around them is stopped.

Spending the next fifty years together on the ship the team would go through personal emotional trials, joys, and devastating loss before finding a way to put things right. Whilst most of the events of the episode would be undone, it proved to be one of the best insights into the characters, and deliver some truly great moments.

A brilliant send off to the show, that gives each of the actors a moment to shine, it’s clear that this is a celebration of the franchise and the end of an era, with the tears in the actors eyes in the last scene being very genuine.

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Monday, 12 February 2018

Back to the Future, Vol. 5: Time Served Comic Review

Originally published on Set The Tape

‘On a mission to uncover the secrets that sent Jailbird Joey Baines to prison, Marty is trapped in 1972-and the DeLorean has vanished! Things go from bad to worse when Biff Tannen teams with 18-year-old Joey to break into a house… and they drag Marty along! Their target: Doc Brown’s mom!!!’

The fifth volume of the ongoing Back To The Future comic series continues to tell the story of Joey Baines, Marty’s uncle, who went to prison when Marty was just a young boy. Having travelled back to the 1970’s in the previous volume to try to find out what happened to cause Joey to spend his adult life in prison, Marty and Professor Irving find themselves without the DeLorean, and entangled in Biff and Joey’s plot to steal $85,000 from Doc Brown’s mother.

With the stage having already been set in the fourth volume, the latest book concludes the story, and has much more character development, excitement, and revelations about the Back To The Future universe.

Throughout the course of the issues collected here we see Marty get forced into taking part in the robbery of Doc Browns mother, and actually end up being responsible for Joey getting caught and going to prison.

Instead of being something that causes Marty guilt, it actually brings him closer to his uncle, as by the end of the book he learns that Joey himself felt guilty for getting Marty caught up in events, and was willing to go to prison to not only make up for that, but to become a better person.

By the end of the book we see that Joey has become an honourable man, even going so far as to teaming up with the Biff in the present to track down the missing $85,000, not to take it for himself, but to return it to Doc Brown and apologise for what he did in the past.

It’s a surprisingly touching revelation, and the relationship shift between him and Marty is a genuine pleasure to see. It could have been very easy to fall into the trap of having Joey be the angry ex-con who just wants to get even with those who got him arrested, but playing him as a reasonable, well adjusted man who has acknowledged the mistakes of his past and learnt from them is a welcome take on the story.

The book is also filled with other fun little moments, with the meeting between Marty and Biff in the 1970’s being a particular favourite. With Biff and his gang recognising Marty as Calvin Klein, the mysterious youth who ruined their schemes in the 1950’s, Marty has to think on his feet and pretends to be Kleins son instead, even coming up with a very plausible 1950’s pregnancy scandal to explain away him (or as far as Biff knows, his father) suddenly disappeared from town.

It’s very clever writing, and avoids having Biff be too dumb to not realise he’d seen Marty before, as that would be too stupid even for Biff. This scene also adds further context to the world, as it shows some of the effect of Marty appearing in the 1950’s had, and how the people of Hill Valley who knew Calvin Klein would question his sudden disappearance.

The book also manages to work itself into the backstory of Doc Brown, explaining how a relatively poor ‘mad’ scientist was able to fund his experiments and the building of the time machine in the first film. To be honest, this wasn’t something I’d ever really questioned before reading this book, but it makes sense that Doc Brown would need a substantial amount of cash.

Back to the Future, Vol. 5: Time Served is a big improvement on the previous volume, and provides a lot of entertainment and enjoyment as it delves into the history of the Back To The Future universe and sets up for exciting things to come in the future.

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