Category Archives: Reviews

City Of The Daleks Adventure Game

Deep in the mists of 2010, the BBC started releasing Doctor Who games on their website. This series of games was entitled “The Adventure Games”. The first was released around the time of the Van Gogh episode, and the second coincided with Matt Smith’s first season finale.

These free games were only free to people in the UK, and they couldn’t be downloaded from abroad. I found this out by already being abroad by this time. I was provided a disc of the first Adventure Game, downloaded in the UK, but then I found out the other limitation: you had to be in the UK to install it as well.

I saw that at least some of them became available for purchase-download for those abroad, but I didn’t bother at the time.

I see the games are now available on Steam, currently about $20, though I did not get them from there. I checked Amazon recently, and they were a little more than that. I happened to see a disc version of all 5 games in Wal-Mart, for a few cents under $10.

Oh, go on then.

I installed all 5 on Windows 10, and ran the first one. It didn’t run very smoothly. Today I went back into Vista and installed them there, and the one I tried, ran just fine.

I played through the first game, City Of The Daleks. Kids watched the beginning, but creeping around trying to avoid detection by the metal meanies, at the beginning of the game, got a little scary for them. They spent the rest of the game with their attentions divided between the game, and shows on the laptop (3-2-1 Penguins and Strawberry Shortcake).

There were some moments in the game where timing was tricky, and I had to play some sections over, but all in all the game wasn’t too hard.

The game saves itself after significant points: if  you’re supposed to collect objects, it’ll save after you pick it up, for example, but there’s no save function that you can choose to use (“phew, I got round that corner, let me save here so I don’t have to start again from way over there”).

The launcher on the disc needed to be run each time I wanted to install one of the games, couldn’t just do them all at once. Similarly, the games are stand-alone, when you finish one there’s no in-game (or in-menu) button to load the next one now.

There’s several points where the game will tell you off for going the wrong way, so there’s that feeling that the game has laid out the path, and you must follow it. Some games get away with that better than others. I think this game leaned towards not faring very well, but I have played games that did a lot worse.

Having said that, there are a bunch of collectable objects hidden throughout the game, and I missed a whole bunch of them. It seems like there shouldn’t have been many places for them to hide, with the straightforward-path-ness of the game, so perhaps there’s slightly more ability to explore than I give it credit for.

I tend to have subtitles on for movies, TV shows, and games, when they’re available, as often the sound needs to be turned down, due to circumstances. Reading some of the lines as they appeared, one knows what is meant by the line, and the inflections needed to convey the right meaning through those words. It seemed that Matt Smith was, in places, just reading the words, rather than understanding them and conveying the meaning. I rather hope he put a bit more effort into the other ones.

There are cutscenes, and you can’t skip them. Most of the time this doesn’t matter as it’s part of the story, but when you’re dying for the third time on the same puzzle, it would be really nice to skip the dying animation. Or, if you started the game on Win10, and want to get to where you left off (the actual playing part) in Vista, there’s not a way to skip to that bit. Sit and enjoy it, or go make a snack. (I was fine watching that bit a second time, with the animations smoother and no lag between the voice and the animations). Were I to want to play it through again to get the collectables that I missed this fact might put me off doing it on the soonish side.

Most of the game, you’re controlling the Doctor, and Amy is following him. A fair chunk of the game you’re sneaking around, trying to avoid being detected by Daleks. At one point, I got the Doctor through, and Amy got exterminated and I had to do the part again. A bit later in the game, I got the Doctor through down one side of a corridor, while the Dalek was looking the other way. I turn round to see if Amy made it (though I would very much know if she didn’t), and after a few seconds she emerges from the other side of the corridor, having made her own timing decisions. So, AI not the best, but not consistently bad.

Oftentimes you have to duck into corners to evade detection, but then getting out of corners, particularly when there’s debris about, is awkward. Worse when Amy gets in the way and won’t get out of the way. The problems with this are more noticeable at the beginning of the game, I don’t know if I just got used to them, or if matters actually improved. At least the collision detection here wasn’t as fatally bad as in Destiny Of The Doctors.

I feel like I’ve made the game sound a whole lot worse than it was. The above problems were there, were noticeable, but ultimately were fairly minor. They didn’t make me want to stop playing and never come back to them. The low difficulty level can be put down to the game being aimed at 10- to 15-year-olds. To some up how I feel, I’d probably use words like “ok”, “average”, and “not too bad”.

Not in a rush to play City Of The Daleks again to find all the collectables I missed, think I’ll be happy to play the other stories. I feel more in a rush to return to my game of Half-Life 2: Update, to see if I can finally get across that stupid beach without stepping on the sand.

DS9 Season 2, Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the opening 3-parter of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s second season. I thought it might be nice to keep making notes on the series as we go through it.

Last week, Star Trek night was truncated by catching up on Agents Of Shield first, so we got one episode in, this week we did similar, but got 2 DS9s in. So the episodes we have for review today are Invasive Procedures, Cardassians, and Melora.

In Invasive Procedures, an unjoined Trill called Verad (played by John Glover, known to many as Lionel Luthor in Smallville, but to me will always be Daniel Clamp from Gremlins 2), shows up on an evacuated DS9 to lay claim to the Dax symbiont. Taking the symbiont will leave its current host, the much-loved Jadzia, to die.

It’s interesting seeing a slug as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Verad researched a bunch of symbionts to see which would share his interests, but it’s not obvious that Verad himself has much to bring to the table. Or if, in fact, Dax really is his first choice. There’s a certain amount of opportunity that Dax presents: in the episode, the station with only a skeleton crew, but even without that, she’s often out in a runabout, so would be easy pickings. In any event, Verad is a bit like a boy who’s attracted to a girl, the girl doesn’t like him but he won’t take “no” for an answer. He probably thinks he’s a nice guy, but he’s not the kind of guy you want to have a crush on you.

At this point in the show, it is believed that only 1 in 1000 Trills is suitable for joining, later it is revealed that 50% of the population is suitable, there’s just a severe shortage of symbionts. With that information, the episode could be looked at a little differently: was he rejected because of biology, or perhaps because of personality?

Also, in the later episode “Facets”, Jadzia gets to meet all Dax’s former hosts, whose consciousnesses are temporarily transferred to her friends, so she can interact with them. Verad is left out of this party, with no explanations.

I enjoyed Glover’s performances, as the anxiety-ridden Verad, and the much more confident Verad Dax. I liked seeing Megan Gallagher, who would show  up as a different character in DS9’s Little Green Men, and also a Voyager episode. She’s more familiar to me as Catherine Black in Millennium, of which one day I will finish the first season and maybe see the rest. Possibly. Track record’s not great on that. Also, one of the Klingon mercenaries is played by Tim Russ, who would go on to play Tuvok in Voyager.

“Cardassians” is a title that could apply to quite a number of DS9 episodes. In the one it actually applies to, a Bajoran man shows up on the station with a Cardassian boy in tow. Garak, the Cardassian exile living on the station, greets them, the boy bites Garak’s hand.

A bunch of orphans were left on Bajor after the end of the occupation, orphans having no standing in Cardassian society. These were mostly adopted by Bajorans (though we do see some still unadopted), but the Bajoran hatred for the Cardassian invaders is infamous, so some of these Cardassian kids are brought up to hate Cardassians. Which is going to have some impact on their self-esteem.

This particular boy turns out to be the son of an influential civilian leader, and a large part of the situation seems to have been brought about by gul Dukat, who was soon to be investigated by him. The implication was that Dukat made sure the boy was accidentally-on-purpose left behind for later use as an ace-up-the-sleeve.

Some questions are left unasked and unanswered, but the details can be filed in pretty easily. How the boy came to the limelight, and how Dukat found out about the hand-biting incident almost as quickly as Sisko did.

There was a trader called Zolan, who brought the boy’s adoptive father to the station to try and get him a job. Got the feeling he’s one of Dukat’s agents, and was requested to seek the boy out a few months ago, in preparation for the embarrassment of Dukat’s political enemy. And then he was around when the incident happened, and later made some accusations while being questioned, before disappearing. He, therefore, seems to connect the dots.

The discussion about which father to live with, biological or adoptive, seems to have been set up, but then discussed off-screen. Not an easy choice to make. Kinda wish we could have seen some clever resolution that wasn’t entirely one or the other.

Lastly, there’s Melora. Interestingly, the character of Melora, someone from a low-gravity environment that finds “normal” gravity difficult, was originally conceived of as the station’s science officer, but was considered too difficult to pull off, so the Dax character was created instead. the design of the station really isn’t suitable for a wheelchair, and it was interesting to see the set adapted so she could get around.

I really liked Daphne Ashbrook’s acting in this one. Making everything seem like such an effort, and relaxing enough when she was carried that it looked like she really couldn’t move. And the juxtaposition in the script of the fiery, independent woman out to prove she doesn’t need help, and her sometimes being forced to accept help or work as part of a team instead of alone.

I think Melora was probably the weakest episode of the three, but I think that there was some really good stuff in there.

The Background Information section of the character’s Memory Alpha page also contains some interesting trivia.

After this episode, I had to show Oldest some of Daphne Ashbrook’s performance in Doctor Who. I think the Melora makeup made her look too different for him to recognise her. And I don’t think he was that impressed with the couple of scenes he saw. Don’t worry, kid, there are plenty of people who are unimpressed with the whole thing…

Next time: the Grand Nagus shows up, and we get our first hint of the Dominion, in Rules of Acquisition.

YouTube, Home Of Nostalgia

Youngest was into stuff tonight, and trying to go to places we didn’t want to just let him run off to, so I said I’d give him a show if he put his Duplo away. He did this fairly quickly, so I fired up YouTube to find him something to watch.

Obscure, old things to watch.

I started him off with The Family Ness, a cartoon from the ’80s featuring a pair of twins, Angus and Elspeth, who discover the Loch Ness Monster, and find there’s a whole family of them. The Nessies’ names tend to be words that pair well with the suffix -ness: Ferocious Ness, for example. The episodes are less than 5 minutes each, and the entire series was released over 2 DVDs, each around 40 minutes, both available from Amazon UK.

You can see an anaconda, a giraffe and kangaroo, but you’ll never find a Nessie in the zoo.

Youngest fell asleep in the third episode, but then we brushed his teeth, which woke him back up. After that, he didn’t want the same show again, but I managed to suggest something that appealed to him. A cartoon with planes.

The Jimbo And The Jet Set episodes that we then watched on YouTube (one-and-a-half, before Mommy took him), were without the credits. But he seemed to enjoy it. I thought the DVDs of Jimbo might be a good addition to his wish list (Christmas approaches, don’t you know). The show got released over 2 DVDs in 2004 (wow, that’s eleven years ago), and one is available straight from Amazon, and the other is listed, but only available via sellers on there.

When looking these things up on Amazon, of course they make suggestions of other shows you might be interested in. SuperTed, of which I used to have a three-hour-video, and as a grown-up I really couldn’t watch that much in one go. Bananaman, which I would be interested in seeing again, but I think it’s only available from sellers on Amazon now. Count Duckula.

Hmm, I never really watched much Count Duckula back in the day, but I have seen some. The whole shebang is available in a DVD set, but I found a playlist of episodes on YouTube, of which I watched one.

In Transylvania, there is a dynasty of vampire ducks, who have a history of terrorising the locals, and eventually getting themselves killed. Once a century, a rite can be performed to reincarnate the old Count into a new Count. This time round, a mistake was made, and tomato ketchup was used instead of another ingredient (probably blood), so the new Count is a vegetarian. And without the pointy teeth generally associated with vampires.

Duckula’s manservant, Igor, has an agenda of trying to turn Duckula back the way he’s “supposed” to be (in other words, evil). The Count’s Nanny is also still on hand, and still mollycoddling him even though he’s a grown-up. Castle Duckula can also teleport, if the adventure of the week demands it (I would hazard a guess to suggest that it usually does).

There are a bunch of references and puns, and I think there’s a significant proportion that the kids are unlikely to get, but is more aimed at the parents. David Jason provides some of the voices.

The laptop speakers were not ideal for watching any of this stuff with, but I think the quality of these videos as uploaded to YouTube didn’t help, I think they were missing a bunch of the lower range. youngest enjoyed the first two shows, though, and I enjoyed the second, which I was mostly only listening to as I did other things.

I think Oldest (8-and-a-half) wouldn’t be old enough for Duckula yet.

Links not provided, to lessen their risk of being removed from YouTube, but they should be easy to find with a quick search. If you dare to enter the domain of ’80s childrens cartoons.

Goodnight out there, whatever you are.

Plotting Your Favourite TV Shows

Earlier tonight, my wife and I were revisiting a site that we have found interesting/amusing before, so I thought I’d share it with you.

This site takes the IMDB user ratings for each episode of a TV show, and plots them on a graph. Each season is given a different colour, and a line is charted for each season, representing the average, and showing whether the season trends as getting better, getting worse, or staying about the same. It is worth noting the scale on the left. Each episode has a score of 0-10, but the full 0-10 isn’t shown each time, often a chunk is cut off the bottom (and possibly the top), if no episodes are in that range. That can be changed, there’s an option below the graph.

Like Firefly, the bottom line is 8 and the top is 10, the lowest-rated episode is 8.3, the highest is 9.5, and the average line is pretty flat  at around 8.9.

It’s interesting how sometimes it’s one episode that will skew a season’s average line. Enterprise shows a gradual increase in perceived quality over the first two seasons, Season 3’s line starts a little lower than Season 2’s end point, then dramatically rises over the season, then the cluster of Season 4’s dots look like S4’s line should rise, too… but the line goes down. Why? Series finale “These Are The Voyages”, Enterprise’s lowest-scoring episode (not without reason) (IT’S NOT CANON! LALALALALALALALALA) skews the line into serious decline.

The other Trek series are worth a look as well, if you’re into that sort of thing.

I’ve been watching Pie In The Sky with my wife, and we’ve just finished Season 4. Looks like we’re just about to hit the low point of the series.

I didn’t watch it, but out of interest, I looked up Lost. Had to laugh when rather than the show’s real title, the site says “How Did You Get Here?”. And for all the bad I heard about the ending, it didn’t rate too badly.

You can hover over any dot and find what the episode is, and exactly what it rated. You can also click on the dot to be taken to the IMDB page for that episode.

Something that lasted a lot of years and has a lot of episodes per season can be fun. Here’s Doctor Who, 1963-1989.

We had a bunch of fun looking up a bunch of different shows we like. If graph-site’s search doesn’t work, you can find the show on IMDB and copy the show’s ID into the search box.

Comment below with shows you like, and looked up. Be careful, I’m sure you could be there all day looking things up…

Review: Scream Of The Shalka… Special Features

I’m not sure I’ve reviewed special features rather than the “main attraction” before, but hey, there’s a first time for everything.

There are certain times when it’s easier to watch the special features than it is to watch the main attraction. I started watching Doctor Who through with Oldest, and we’re currently stalled at The Keys Of Marinus: the first episode was too scary for Middlest.

I’ve picked up a few Doctor Who DVDs, most of them are to fill gaps. There were two stories that I didn’t have on videotape, and then rediscovered missing episodes and stories, and animations of missing episodes, make up most of the other DVDs I’ve bought.

Somewhat of an oddity in the Doctor Who DVD catalogue, is a recent purchase of mine: The Scream Of The Shalka.

Some people at the BBC realised that the BBC wasn’t planning to do anything for the 40th anniversary of the show, so they knocked on a bunch of doors to see if they could do an animated story for the website. They managed to get permission to do it, and so they did. Development took a long time, and suffered quite a few setbacks, but in the end, production happened. Richard E Grant was to be the Ninth Doctor.

Post-production took a long time, and so it was that two months before Shalka was released onto the website, the announcement was made that Doctor Who Was Coming Back. Shalka became instantly overshadowed by this news, and is an oft-overlooked chapter in Who history.

And yet, had Shalka not been made, NuWho might not have happened.

There are three particular special features I want to talk about.

One, and it’s more of a mention, is an interview with some of the people involved, from the time the show was made. And I think pre-post-production, so before the return was announced. I think there are some shots of David Tennant there (who managed to talk his way into a small role, he was recording something next door, found out they were making Doctor Who, and figured it was his only chance to be in Who… funny world).

Another is the tale of how the show came about, with more recent interviews with behind-the-scenes people. This was really interesting, and there’s so many interesting little things, including interaction between members of the Shalka crew, and production staff of NuWho.

When trying to find out if they could do something for Who’s 40th, they ran into people who cited “rights issues”. So one of the crew members was tasked with researching the rights issue. Practically everyone to do with rights at the BBC was contacted, and the only thing that seemed like it could be an actual problem was “maybe something about the Daleks”. but the Shalka crew weren’t planning to use Daleks, so they went ahead. And filed away all the research and responses to the rights issue.

A new head of BBC was appointed, who said she’d love to bring back Doctor Who, if the rights issues could get sorted out. concerned fans contacted the Shalka crew to find out whether these rights issues would affect the Shalka release. The Shalka people then posted an article outlining the rights issues as they understood them (basically, that there weren’t any). The Shalka team lead was then summoned to his boss for a stern telling-off. He took the research with him.

It is implied, but not explicitly stated, that it was this meeting that cleared the way for NuWho to enter production.

And that’s just a small part of what, to me, was a very interesting story.

the third special feature I want to talk about, concerned the development of the BBC website, and Doctor Who’s place and importance in that.

I liked the tongue-in-cheek pokes at the site’s regular rebrandings, the experimental things that people were allowed to try, while at the same time the reluctance for setting precedent. The “Live chat” feature, where interviews were conducted over Instant Messages, and broadcast in real time. Even real time over the outside window to the studio…. which was constantly hidden by a row of buses. The now-archived Cult portion of the site, where dead (Who) and living (Buffy) shows were lumped together. The previous Doctor Who animations, and issues like buffering and sound quality. A misuse of RealPlayer’s subtitle functions to do animations. The PhotoNovels reconstructions of missing episodes. The development of iPlayer. It’s like a digital history lesson, and I’m interested in history and also computer stuff, so this was up my alley.

I’m not sure that I watched Scream Of The Shalka when it came out. I may have tried, but buffering, and the terrible audio quality of streaming at the time may have prevented my watching much of it. And I haven’t yet sat down and watched it this time round (maybe at some point when Youngest needs distraction, or maybe with Oldest if he gets schoolwork done early). At this point, it almost doesn’t matter, the special features were entertaining enough to warrant the price of admission.

Comparison: Schindler’s List vs Schindler’s Ark

Sometimes there are things you read or watch, that just stick with you. Or some particular story or anecdote that you always have associated with a particular type of feeling or experience, that it becomes your go-to example for the rest of your life.

Schindler’s List the movie at came out at just the right time, that when I was doing World War 2 in school, was encouraged to watch. Or possibly made, I have memory of seeing a “Schools Edition”. Needless to say, I appreciated it more, later. It’s full of good people, it’s not a bad story, some of the imagery is quite clever and haunting. The actors alongside the people they played at the end.

Spielberg’s pretty good at sentimentality, and the film does rather reflect that. The feel of the film is, these people are living through this time that’s very bleak, and oh, it’s so hard and dangerous, and oh no this new situation is even direr.

I read the book the film was based on. My copy is called “Schindler’s Ark”, although I think because of the movie it got renamed to “Schindler’s List”. It’s by Thomas Keneally. The tone is very different.

Rather than the melancholy tone of the movie, the book is much more adventurous. Much more in the way of “previously he’s used his stores of wine to bribe the guards, but now he’s out and has to get across this bridge, which is guarded by two Nazi soldiers. Technically he’s not supposed to go across. How’s he going to get through this?” and so on. Much more enthusiastic and vibrant. More of a sense of just how many times Oskar stuck his neck out for his workers, tried to use the bureaucracy against itself, getting into serious trouble, and how almost unbelievable it is that he got out of trouble again.

I’d almost like to see a movie of the book, one that retains the tone, style and flair.

The only drawback to the book, is that some of those Polish street names are HARD. I thought about asking some Polish co-workers at one point about the pronunciations, but in the end, I didn’t. There were points I just pigeonholed some of the names, recognising the shape of the name and saying, “ok, it’s that one”, rather than forcing my brain to butcher the language each time I came across it. So that’s more to do with my own inadequacies (which, who knows, you might share) than any actual problem with the book.

So Schindler’s List is my go-to reference for difference in tone between book and film.

The film’s not bad. I read a Rabbi’s article saying that everyone told him he should see the movie but he didn’t, because he had certain expectations about the Hollywood-isation of the Holocaust, and other things along those lines, then he read about the movie later, which was apparently enough to confirm his suspicions. For that sort of reason I wouldn’t say the film was a “must-see”, and although the UK ratings certificate says it’s for 15-year-olds and older, I think that might be too young to really appreciate it. And I say this as someone who’s still pretty pleased to have got the Collector’s Edition DVD, with the film cel, little booklet and soundtrack.

On the other hand, the book is much more recommendable, if it were fiction it might be classified with seat-of-the-pants thrillers. So if that kind of book is your kind of thing, and/or if history is your kind of thing, this book’s a winner.

The Homecoming, The Circle, The Siege

Started DS9 Season 2 tonight, and the season kicked off with a 3-parter (the first in Trek history). The natives are restless, the xenophobic Alliance For Global Unity (AKA The Circle) want all the Johnny Foreigners to go back to where they came from, and leave Bajor for the Bajorans. Major Kira discovers that there is a legendary figure from the occupation, long thought dead, still alive in a labor camp in Cardassian space (even though the Cardassians say they released all their Bajoran prisoners), and goes to rescue him, in the hope that he can unite the divided factions into a friendlier society.

Sisko and the other non-Bajorans have to make preparations to leave Deep Space Nine, and the Cardassian military is waiting in the wings to pounce on a poorly-defended Bajor.

We watched all three episodes.

Nice being back in the swing of things. the characterisations are again great, with everyone with their own different motives. Quark, of course, selling seats on the evacuating ships.

Quark’s brother Rom was portrayed as an idiot in the first season, and here we still see him acting like an idiot, but the underlying cleverness is definitely starting to show through.

This story made the most of the show’s back story, and the political situation built up during season 1.

I liked Jaro Essa (Frank Langella)’s line about the Bajoran Provisional Government: “They can’t even agree it is a government, so they call it provisional.”

I was thinking about not writing about Star trek tonight, as I think I’ve talked about it quite a lot recently, but I enjoyed the episodes, so it ended up easier writing about them than not writing about them.

Funnily enough, although the menus were in English, the soundtrack defaulted to German (which was the first audio track). There were something like 5 languages on these Region 2 discs. fortunately, it was easily corrected… we just need to remember to fix it again next time we watch.

If there’s anything you’d particularly like me to write about, please let me know.

On Finishing TNG, Some Trek Thoughts

Trekker Treat!

Finished Star Trek: The Next Generation this evening. We watched all of the original series, the animated series (the first time for most of us), some movies, then all of TNG (with other TOS movies where appropriate, and one season of DS9 thrown in, before we decided to not keep alternating series). We took a big break somewhere around Season 6 of TNG, but recently got back into he swing of things.

And there’s lots to enjoy about TNG. Season 1 is a bit of an oddity, seemed a lot more theatrical Trying for wide open spaces on limited stages, and more in the way of grand gestures and speeches. A bit like Shakespeare, if Shakespeare had come up with the Ferengi.

But the actors gained rapport with each other, and clearly still enjoy each others’ company. And the writers got into a stride, and seemed willing to try out some quite varied concepts.

The seventh season of TNG was the last. There’s a bunch of good in it, but some bad also.

Just some observations:

Dark Page, where Troi’s mom goes a bit nuts over a secret she’s unwilling to reveal: Not that interesting as a kid, but turned out to be a very well-done episode.

Attached, where Picard and Crusher are captured and mentally linked: reacting to what they hear of each others’ thoughts was well-played. In particular, the breakfast.

Parallels, where Worf goes through a bunch of alternate universes, hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home: well thought-out, good idea bringing some guests back for alternate universes, and subtle hints with uniforms and set decoration that things aren’t quite the same, very well thought out.

The Pegasus, where Riker’s old CO shows up and makes trouble: I like Picard’s string-pulling to find out what’s going on.

Sub Rosa: I never really liked this one, and I’m still not fond of it. The planet looks pretty from space, and seeing Vader’s tombstone close to McFly’s…

Lower Decks was really good.

Masks was very odd. I am kind of reminded of that episode of Blake’s 7 (sorry, I don’t remember the name), I think people got controlled by aliens and it all turned to interpretive dance (while I hope to watch all of Blake’s 7 sometime, I’m really not looking forward to that one).

Journey’s End: not the best of the season, it marks the start of the Demilitarized Zone arc, where a border is decided between the Federation and the Cardassians, and some Federation civilians are caught on the wrong side of it, leading to the Maquis, settlers who forcibly resist the change.

Bloodlines I didn’t think was bad, and Emergence is pretty weird, but in the run-up to the end of the season and thus the show as a whole, they feel a bit out of place.

Preemptive Strike shows the early Maquis, continuing the thread from Journey’s End in a really good story. This would tie in to Deep Space Nine’s two-parter from close to the same time, “The Maquis”. The story would continue there for a while longer, also being threaded into Voyager’s concept.

Right after that is TNG’s finale: All Good Things. Taking us between the present, Picard’s retirement years, and to what happened shortly before the events of TNG’s pilot, this is arguably the best Trek series finale.

Next up is starting DS9 Season 2. In my memory as before DS9 really picked up the pace, looking through the episode list, there’s a whole bunch of episodes I’m looking forward to seeing again.

Songs You’re Glad You Forgot: Gotham City, by R. Kelly

Once upon a time, there was a Batman movie called Batman And Robin. Packed with stars like George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Alicia Silverstone, Arnold Schwartz-his-name, Uma Thurman, and John Glover (hey, I like John Glover), it swiftly became the Batman movie everyone would rather forget. Which seems to be saying something, after Batman Forever.

Batman And Robin itself didn’t fare so well, but songs from the soundtrack became quite popular. The Smashing Pumpkins got a Grammy for their contribution (“The End Is the Beginning Is the End”) R.E.M. had a track on there, too. Neither of these were in the three that hit the U.S. Top Ten. The song I want to talk about today was the lowest-scoring of those three, coming in at number 9. Which, co-incidentally, is the exact same position it reached in the UK charts.

R. Kelly was never my kind of music, though I seem to recall one of my friends quite liking him. Saying his name in a Jonny Briggs accent provided momentary amusement (Jonny’s sister, for example, being referred to as “our Rita”).

The song, though. The song itself has a major problem, that has plagued me all these 18 years of the song’s existence, and slaps me in the face every time I think of it.

“A city of justice, a city of love, a city of peace
For every one of us
We all need it, can’t live without it
A Gotham City, oh yeah”

Hmmm, a city of justice, of love, of peace.

If it were those things, it wouldn’t need Batman, now, would it?

The Man In The High Castle

The Man In The High Castle is a new series developed by Amazon. Based on the 1962 Philip K. Dick story of the same name, and executive-produced by Ridley Scott, the show presents a 1962 in which the Axis powers won the Second World War, and the USA is divided between the Japanese and the Germans (the Germans getting the bigger half, and a Neutral Zone buffering the division).

Hitler’s ailing health suggests that soon he will be replaced, and his successor might not be happy to maintain the status quo: Germany might soon decide to take over the Japanese territory. In the meantime, subversive films, newsreels of the Allies winning the war, have been created by the so-called Man In The High Castle, we encounter (in the first couple of episodes) two copies of one of these films, sent to the Neutral Zone, from opposite coasts.

At two episodes into the show, we don’t really know who we can trust, yet. It will be interesting to watch all over again, after the season has finished, from a more informed (hopefully) perspective. I think there’s a lot of subtlety going on in some of the details. My wife pointed some things out during and after the second episode (I was pretty tired during that second episode, and I know I drifted a couple of times).

At the same time, Wikipedia pointed to an article from someone familiar with Japanese culture, explaining how there are quite a few details in that regard, in the first episode, are head-bangingly wrong. There was a gap between the production of the first episode and the rest of the series, I rather hope they improved things (but wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t).

High Castle’s paranoid atmosphere is different to that of Manhattan (still waiting for Season 2 to come to Hulu). A reaction that some of Manhattan’s characters had to the intense atmosphere in that show, was debauchery. Lot of it going around on TV these days, so far High Castle hasn’t been interested in that, which is a bit of a relief, to be honest.

The theme tune is a creepy version of Edelweiss, its ethereal sound contrasting with the more urban-vibe graphics.

I’ve enjoyed the cast so far, in particular it’s nice to see Rufus Sewell again.

Looking forward to the rest of the series showing up on Amazon in about a month.