Monday, November 29, 2010

"The Myth of Monogamy"

-by David Barash and Judith Lipton
2002
Immense. The "myth" of the title is not that monogamy is unnatural (it is), but refers rather to the enormous number of creatures (of whom we are one) who seem monogamous at a distance, but up close are anything but - the distinction between social monogamy (where bonded couples are regularly unfaithful) and genuine monogamy, which is so rare in the animal kingdom as to be a statistical anomaly. We now know that almost all of the species once thought monogamous, ain't. And surprise (or not)...females generally run around as much as males. It was once thought that man was the only animal who raped - he ain't (indeed, a common reaction in the animal kingdom for a "husband" whose mate has been raped, is to immediately rape her himself). Other animals also divorce, and for remarkably similar reasons ("You humped my buddy Bill the bee, you pollenated slut?!"). Do attractive males generally provide less parental care? Yes. Are aggressive, pushy males usually more sexually successful than nice ones? Yup (but take heart, sometimes "nice guys" get the last laugh). An impartial observer of humanity would conclude that we are mildly polygynous, given our big gonads, bimaturism, and dimorphism (male and female differently-sized). The competitive nature of polygynous males also goes a long way in explaining humanity's violence. I myself was predisposed to believing that monogamy is unnatural and unhealthy, but this book lauds the egalitarian quality of monogamy...hypothetically, everyone gets a mate. I'm not sold, but it's the only intelligent defense of monogamy i've ever heard. Of course, modern human history is not predominantly monogamous. Before contact with the West, more than 80% of human societies were polygynous. And yes women, there is plenty for you to be angry about - 75% of human societies permit male infidelity, while only 10% offer women the same. Even though we aren't built for monogamy, we often display insane levels of jealousy...this particular contradiction is one of the few things that has personally given me spiritual fits. This book tries to make sense of jealousy. Also acknowledged is how little we still know: for instance, why are there sperm of vastly different abilities in each ejaculation? Some of them may be designed to "kill" the sperm of other males. This is part of the cutting edge theory of sperm competition, and illuminates the most mind-blowing aspect of this book - the realization of how our bodies have stunning capacity to get what they want, heedless of our conscious wishes. We're just starting to learn about things like why women have orgasms, and how their bodies control which sperm gets to the holy grail. The one great flaw of the book may be that it's a bit beholden to the chains of the past. It walks right up to an obvious conclusion, then tiptoes meekly away.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Deep Space Nine, season 2

FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 1
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 2.6
-The Homecoming **
Kira and o'brien rescue a supposedly-dead resistance hero from cardassian prison, while an isolationist faction grows on Bajor.
-The Circle **
Kira and vedek bareil (philip anglim - THE ELEPHANT MAN, DALLAS: WAR OF THE EWINGS) become close. Lifeless...
-The Siege **
A Circle-led militia tries to occupy the station. Steven weber (WINGS, STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP) is wasted.
-Invasive Procedures ***
A fine tale about an unjoined trill (john glover - GREMLINS 2, ROBOCOP 2) who tries to steal the dax symbiont. In some juicy guest casting, VOYAGER's tim russ plays a klingon mercenary, and megan gallagher (THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW, HILL STREET BLUES) is glover's love interest. They don't resolve quark's storyline, but otherwise...
-Cardassians ***
The presence of an adopted cardassian orphan on the station causes unrest. A hearing determines his fate (and uncovers some shady doings). A lovely performance by robert mandan (SOAP, THREE'S A CROWD). The writers were asleep at the switch for the ending, but otherwise it's tight with nice chemistry.
-Melora ***
Julian falls for a gravity-challenged officer, touchingly played by daphne ashbrook (HOOPERMAN, GIMME AN 'F'). His familial backstory will later be changed...would the writers just say that he's lying here, to hide his past?
-Rules of Acquisition **
A ferengi posing as a male because of the sexist laws of their society, falls for quark. A nice effort, with an uninspired ending.
-Necessary Evil ***
A flashback tale about odo's first case as constable, when the station was called Terok Nor and run by dukat. Kira is a murder suspect with secrets to hide. Dark visuals set the tone beautifully.
-Second Sight ***
Sisko feels romantic stirrings for the first time since jennifer's death, over a mystery woman who keeps disappearing...literally. She turns out to be a subconscious teleprojection of an unhappily married woman - a condemnation of the unhealthy affects of enforced monogamy, anyone? Guest star richard kiley (MAN OF LA MANCHA, JURASSIC PARK) brightens things, as does the away mission aboard USS Prometheus. The ending is a bit contrived.
-Sanctuary **
Three million refugees come to the alpha quadrant seeking a home...and choose Bajor. With andrew koenig (GROWING PAINS, INALIENABLE)!
-Rivals **
Quark's business is squeezed when a rival casino opens. A curious episode...at times fun, but it never fully feels like STAR TREK. Did the director or writer have no franchise experience? Indeed no, quite the opposite. Do too many recognizable guest stars take us out of the TREK reality? Chris sarandon (THE PRINCESS BRIDE, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS), barbara bosson (HILL STREET BLUES, COP ROCK), and k callan (AMERICAN GIGOLO, LOIS & CLARK) all put in fine work. The writing alternately delights and frustrates - use of the correct "couldN'T care less", but then the embarrassing 20th-century euphemism "pass away". Okay, i'm overthinking this one...
-The Alternate **
The bajoran scientist who "raised" odo discovers a similar life form on a gamma quadrant planet. Is there any writerly contrivance which could explain why sisko thinks his father is dead?
-Armageddon Game **
Bashir and o'brien help two species destroy the biological weapons with which they waged war on one another...only to find out that all who have knowledge of the weapons are slated for death. They're suddenly on the run (with a plague-infected o'brien) on an alien planet, while DS9 is diplomatically told of their "accidental" deaths.
-Whispers ***
A tight exploration of paranoia, inside the mind of a sleeper agent double of o'brien who isn't aware of his own nature. Very sharp, with an ending that's a genuine surprise (a rare feat in TREK).
-Paradise ***
Sisko and o'brien are stranded in a colony that has forsaken technology...but a dark side emerges. There are plot holes, yet it's hard-hitting, as sisko demonstrates powerful non-violent resistance techniques. And he delivers a withering dismissal of the religious impulse...which is a stunning breath of fresh air, given DS9's dipsy wipsy inclinations (and his part in it). The ending feels just a bit contrived, perhaps because one doesn't see enough of the positive side of the colony's life, and the remove technological life creates from "core" behavior. Could this have been a four-star two-parter?
-Shadowplay ***
Odo and dax investigate mysterious disappearances in an alien village. He helps the local protector (kenneth mars - THE PRODUCERS, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN), and strikes up a touching friendship with a child. Kira and bareil fall into each other's arms. Their first kisses are quite moving, and surprisingly erotic for TREK.
-Playing God ***
A trill visits, for mentoring by dax. She is surprisingly cold.
-Profit and Loss **
Mary crosby (DALLAS, THE ICE PIRATES), as quark's former flame, is the first actor to make cardassian sexy.
-Blood Oath ****
-written by peter allan fields
-directed by winrich kolbe
Kor. Koloth. Kang! Three aged klingons arrive, to fulfill a blood oath they shared with kirzon dax eighty years before. Jadzia feels compelled to join their quest. The klingons are played by john colicos (THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, CREEPSHOW), michael ansara (ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY, GUNS OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN), and william campbell (DEMENTIA 13, THE RETURN OF THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN AND THE BIONIC WOMAN), reprising their classic TREK roles. Formerly smooth foreheads are now ripplingly ridged. It's possible this one only achieves four stars through its retro X factor...but it's a great ride all the way.
-The Maquis 1&2 ***
A group of border colonists being harassed and attacked by the cardassians, resort to violence without Starfleet's blessing. The first part crackles with life - an old friend of sisko's (bernie casey - BRIAN'S SONG, REVENGE OF THE NERDS I,III,IV) is the ranking Starfleet officer in the demilitarized zone, and their scenes together bring more believability to ben's past than anything DS9 has heretofore shown. The older style uniform is a nice touch, too. Part 2, with a fine appearance by john schuck (ROOTS, THE NEW ODD COUPLE) as a cardassian legate, is a bit simplistic and illogical...but has a fine scene wherein quark out-logics a vulcan. TNG's natalija nogulich makes an appearance as admiral nechayev.
-The Wire ***
Bashir struggles to save garak's life, when a torture-coping device implanted in his brain malfunctions. Paul dooley (SIXTEEN CANDLES, A MIGHTY WIND) makes his first (and best) appearance as tain, former head of the cardassian Obsidian Order. The ending is a trifle simplistic.
-Crossover **
Kira and bashir enter a mirror universe, where the other kira is an amoral tyrant who favors milk baths and sex slaves...i'm just saying. Could the writers have come up with a MORE obvious scene for establishing the link between this and the mirror episode of classic TREK? And while nana's skill set as an actor is less than bursting, do the writers have to go out of their way to make her look stupid?
-The Collaborator **
Kai candidate winn (louise fletcher - ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, MAMA DRACULA) outpolitics bareil to become Bajor's religious leader.
-Tribunal ***
O'brien is shanghaied by the cardassians, and stands trial. Under cardassian law, accusation equals conviction. Odo uses his never-rescinded cardassian credentials to get onto o'brien's legal team, and his presence is seamless. Dark and tight.
-The Jem'Hadar ***
Sisko, jake, nog, and quark go on a science field trip to the gamma quadrant. The adults are taken prisoner by jem'hadar, the Dominion shock troops. A rescue is mounted by runabouts and the galaxy-class starship Odyssey, which is destroyed, heralding a dark storm heading the alpha quadrant's way. A vorta pretends to be a jem'hadar prisoner as well (and she has telekinetic powers...which will never appear again). Quark compellingly defends the ferengi way of life, pointing out that humanity at its worst was, well, worse. This one's about as good as three stars gets.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

babes of sci fi

ALL-TIME BABELICIOUSEST SCI FI BABES
Here they are, oh brightest stars...
23) lily, "The Divinity Cluster" STARHUNTER (unrated)
Now, come on! Is this even fair? Shame on us all. And hit the rewind.
22) alta, FORBIDDEN PLANET
The godmother of sci fi babeitude.
21) nova, PLANET OF THE APES
Is anyone ashamed to find a woman who can't talk this appealing?
20) danika, SUPERNOVA
Yes, dr. evers is smarter and stronger...but you expect us to think clearly with danika bouncing around all nekkid??
19) nova, STAR BLAZERS
And not just because three novas in a row is too much to resist. Okay, a little.
18) lt. ellis, UFO
In the universe of geekdom, no Halloween would be complete without a woman in a silver mini-suit and purple wig.
17) teyla, STARGATE: ATLANTIS
We'll stay home and raise that baby, teyla.
16) princess leia, RETURN OF THE JEDI
We're sorry george made you go to a fat farm, carrie. No, we're not. I mean we are, of course we are!!
15) FIREFLY
Kaylee, inara, river, zoe, jayne...oops, not jayne.
14) ripley, ALIEN
Everybody's dead, i feel so empty and frighte-...christ, underwear!!
13) the starchild, V
Diana is special, we daren't deny, but nobody makes us feel this protective and disturbingly reptilian.
12) zev, LEXX: SUPER NOVA
A fat, ugly woman thrust into the body of a sex goddess? It's sci fi's answer to SHALLOW HAL (replete with faint feelings of guilt over our lust).
11) BSG '03
Naked boomers, fanboy dream starbuck, the 6iest cylon around, and the most babelicious of the bunch...dee.
10) sheba, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
Need a wingman, sheba? Ground crew? Footrest?
9) sha're, "Children of the Gods" STARGATE SG1 (unrated)
Trust me.
8) 7 of 9, VOYAGER
What? Smart chicks, we like smart chicks! She's got the knowledge of thousands of races in her head. So leave us alone, we obviously just like smart chicks!
7) sil, SPECIES
Hmmm...she's desperate to have a baby, you can't tear your eyes away, and then you die. Metaphor department, cleanup in aisle 2! And yes, you're not imagining it, she wears...a fanny pack. That, my friends, is the difference between lust and love.
6) space girl, LIFEFORCE
They couldn't give her a name? Just so we have something to whisper in her ear as we expire?
5) diz, STARSHIP TROOPERS
Let the idiots chase denise, dina...we'll give you way more than twenty minutes in the tent.
4) sarah connor, THE TERMINATOR & T2
Boobies in the original, and a body we're not worthy of in the sequel.
3) barbarella, BARBARELLA
She wants to float around naked, and she doesn't want sex. We're willing to negotiate.
2) t'pol, ENTERPRISE
Oh neuropressure, of thee we dream...
1) princess ardala, BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY
We're sorry to add to your suffering, wilma.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Charlie's Angels, season 2

1) Angels in Paradise ****
I'll be damned. What do you do in a one-horse town when the horse leaves? You make a four-star episode, if you're series creators Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts. Farrah has left the building, and in truth i expected only a desultory punching of the clock. But Ivan and Ben, here are the accolades few ever gave you. You gave us unexpected moments of goofiness or darkness, and didn't let the loss of an icon rain on your parade. Jill's joined the European racing circuit...never mind that Sabrina was the driver in the group. Kelly and Sabrina are exasperated that Charlie wants to bring in a replacement. Bosley chuckles, until the mystery girl arrives - Jill's little sis Kris, who spent Jill's college money on the police academy! They have exactly eighty seconds of happy welcome, then the phone rings - Charlie's been kidnapped in Hawaii! Off they go, into a two-parter loaded with wonderfulness. Norman Fell (Mr. Roper) plays a naked social agitant. Don Ho drops in. Art Metrano (POLICE ACADEMY) is a great baddie. Tommy Fujiwara is bloody fantastic as the criminal with a heart of gold. The action is goooofy, as Sabrina shoots firecracker-laden arrows to simulate machine gun fire. And sexy? Your eyes just might fall out, as Kelly and Kris hijack a yacht in a little number we call "dueling wet bikinis". And the capper, one of the most iconic ANGEL moments, when they break into Charlie's cabin to finally come face to face...and he's out the window, swimming to shore.
2) Angels on Ice ****
Stop it. This one's even more deliriously four-starry than the season premiere. The Angels go undercover in the Ice Capades! Show owner Phil Silvers (yay!) brings them in to solve the disappearance of his stars. There are canyon-sized plot holes...the bad guy plan (Arab dissidents infiltrate ice show to shoot a sheik in the front row, necessitating seven kidnappings and untold man-hours...i mean, i'm no mastermind, but...you guys ever hear of a sniper rifle?), and the Angel reaction (when they have enough evidence to lock up the bad guys for kidnapping and conspiracy, they "let the show go on", which will get them that murder charge, but is that preferable to, i don't know, STOPPING the murder??). But i quibble. Phil treats the Angels with caustic disdain. The uncredited kidnapped ice queen is so beautiful my eyes hurt. Sabrina has a wacko fight with a man in a gorilla mask, then commandeers a car, runs a light, and plows a cop car. Borderline-retarded towel boy James Gammon (the coach, MAJOR LEAGUE) is somehow ridiculous and poignant. In ice clown makeup, Kris is so innocently beautiful it will tear your heart. Kelly infiltrates an Arabian club, and her belly dancing is jaw-dropping. She may have hit the gym in the off-season, as i don't remember upper body muscle tone before. Guest star Edward Andrews (Grandpa "Au-to-mo-bile" Howard, SIXTEEN CANDLES) plays a carefree wino who witnesses everything. In the final scene, the Angels take him out to get him rip-tootin' sauced! Still not sold? How about Jim Backus as the grumpy, wizened ice show prop master? Sublime.
3) Pretty Angels All in a Row ***
Contestants in a second-rate beauty pageant are terrorized. Two Angels become contestants. Hm, what was the chance Sabrina's number wouldn't come up? With these bumbling crooks (including Burton "How 'bout some more beans, Mr. Taggart" Gilliam), it never feels like anyone's in danger, which is nice, as it lets us focus on making fun of pageants. Also featuring Bobbie Mitchell, who had to set some kind of record by playing nine different characters on M*A*S*H.
4) Angel in Flight ***
A sweet little unassuming episode. A college friend of Sabrina's is being terrorized. Off Kelly and Kris go as stewardess trainees! The highlight is a howlingly improbable emergency landing by Kelly, with zero flight training. After i stopped laughing myself silly however, and thought about the detailed way in which they filmed it, i'm pretty sure i myself could tighten that bad sucker inside the runway like a mother. Shit.
5) Circus of Terror ***
Nice. The Angels investigate accidents at a circus, hired by the owner's son whose gypsy father wouldn't approve of crime-fighting women. Kelly plays the spunky motorcycle daredevil "Go-Go". Kris gets knives thrown at her by Denny Miller (Tongo the Ape-man to most of you). Bosley is a carnie who gets hit on by Tinkle "Bosley John Bosley" Bell the midget. Sabrina falls for the son, played by James Darren (GIDGET, T.J. HOOKER, DS9). She gets some great material, both as a strong woman attracted to a man, and as a surprisingly-skilled mime.
6) Angel in Love ***
The Angels investigate a death at a nudist resort. Charlie puts Bosley on a diet. They could have played more with the nudity, but they dropped that ball (except for one scene where they compare notes in a hot tub...a meeting Bosley somehow misses). Sabrina falls in love, tragically. Kate gets touching, well-written scenes.
7) Unidentified Flying Angels ***
Dennis Cole (the future Mr. Smith) makes his second ANGEL appearance, in an episode marked by surprisingly good dialogue. Con men convince rich rubes that aliens are visiting. Jaclyn has an otherworldly scene in which she gets a rube to give up secrets by convincing him she's an alien. Set phasers on stunning.
8) Angels On the Air ****
Angels investigate the attempted murder of a radio reporter. This one sneaks up on you...i can't think of a single other four-star episode that has no sexiness, nor juicy guest star. This one's just, well, goofy. Kris pretends to be a motorcycle babe, with silly hick accent. There are quirky firecracker guest characters, including a helicopter pilot (Taylor Lacher) who oozes fun-loving machismo, and turns Sabrina upside down...if only she and her "Angel in Love" opposite had had this kind of chemistry. The cinematography is singular, especially the scene where the baddie exhaustedly hurls an empty trash can at a pursuing Kelly. In the final scene, Bosley says something glowing about Kelly running "like a man". Most of the feminism of ANGELS was understated, but for once they go all "in your face", as they trap Bosley within his condescending words, and proceed to feministly bitchslap him around the room. This may be the only time in my life i've used the term "bitchslap", but it somehow seems right.
9) Angel Baby ****
A youth (Scott Colomby, CADDYSHACK, PORKY'S 1-3) Kelly helped when she was a cop goes AWOL from the Air Force, distraught over the cessation of letters from his girlfriend. The Angels track her down, a prisoner of a white-baby-selling ring run by Edward Winter (Col. Flagg, M*A*S*H). Kelly goes undercover as a pregnant woman (no, no pillow). The writing is strangely good. Kris pretends to be in dire financial straits, and Edward offers her $20,000 to be impregnated by an Aryan. As a rule, ANGELS was sexy but never sexual. The hotel room scene where she faces her intended is atypically dark, though. For a moment as Kris begins to undress, you really believe that they're going to fuck. In the climax, she shoots a man and falls apart, saying she'd never shot anyone.
10) Angels in the Wings ***
Angels investigate bizarre accidents on a major studio movie musical set. The film reunites a Broadway couple whose marriage is on the rocks. Kris played the second lead in summer stock, and...wait for it...after being charmed by the lead and singing with him, he refuses to do the film unless KRIS IS CAST. Well, yes. So of course...wait for it...she's cast. And i mean, singing and hoofing to beat the band. Over on track 2, i absolutely DEFY anyone to make ANY SENSE of the actions of the bad guys. I swear i am not making this up, it involves a mute being manipulated to protect a woman killed twenty years earlier. But you almost don't notice all that, because the couple (Gene Barry and Shani Wallis) are genuinely touching, and the songs are even kind of beautiful.
11) Magic Fire ***
Bizarre. Silly. Goofy. Silly. Did i mention goofy? A gooferama. Firstly, the initial office meeting with the client is, um, the last time that character is mentioned. Then we're off on a whirlwind of, y'know, goofiness. In one scene, there's a huge, black, curly-haired dog sprawled across Kelly's lap. No explanation is given (i'm guessing it was "bring your dog to work" day, Jaclyn?). Sabrina does a French accent that is sooo, um, silly. There's a fight scene with Kris and another magician's assistant that's just...i gotta go with goofy. And the most fantastic scene is Bosley's performance as a comic clairvoyant (with assistant Kris in a jaw-dropping costume). Classic. You'll also get a kick out of guest star Rudy Solari (POLICE SQUAD!).
12) Sammy Davis Jr. Kidnap Caper ***
You'll never guess who they got to play Sammy Davis! ORSON BEAN!!! No, i'm kidding, i just like to say "Orson Bean". This one's so bad it's...well, okay not good, but fun. Sammy plays himself and a jive-talking impersonater of himself, who gets mistakenly kidnapped. Hilarity (ahem) ensues. Robert Pine (CHiPS) returns for his second spin on the ANGEL wheel, moving up from baddie to good guy gone wrong.
13) Angels on Horseback ****
Perilously cheesy, but a winner. A murder at a dude ranch! Eye-popping eye candy! Look, James Sikking (HILL STREET BLUES)! Woodrow Parfrey is classic as the amenable yokel sheriff. And i'm sorry, did Bosley just explain to Charlie that he put a massage parlor trip, with implied happy ending, on the office expense account?
14) Game, Set, Death ***
Bibi Besch (the mother of Captain Kirk's only child!) plays a pro on a tennis circuit that's being terrorized. When the Angels fail to run down a shooter, Kelly claims he/she ran "like a man". Really, Kel? Okay. I refer you please, to episode 8.
15) Hours of Desperation ***
One of the most deliriously over-the-top, scenery-chewing ANGEL baddie performances ever, delivered by Stanley Kamel. He ain't right in the head, and he straps plastic explosives on Sabrina. His line delivery of "PUT IT ONNNNNNNN!!!!" is still floating around the deep, dark recesses of every child who saw this in 1978. Plus, Taurean Blacque (HILL STREET BLUES) as a doctor, and Kris wearing a fringe vest that puts the "oy" in cowboy.
16) Diamond in the Rough ***
A guest actor cornucopia! It's Rene Enriquez (HILL STREET BLUES), John Winston (STAR TREK), and Sid Haig (JASON OF STAR COMMAND)! Angels steal a stolen diamond! Kelly and Kris sex it up! No, not together.
17) Angels in the Backfield ****
The most proactively feminist episode ever. So ahead of its time that thirty years later, there's still no sign of a...female pro football league! Unless you count that new "lingerie" league, which, um, ain't quite Gloria Steinem. The Angels go undercover on an underdog team whose players are being terrorized. There's a fascinating character named Pokey (Garn Stephens) who set the dyslexic awareness movement back a decade or two, with her portrayal of a dyslexic character as a sweet, near-mongoloid idiot. There's a shower fight that's beyond classic, as Kelly comes to the rescue of Kris, who's being bullied by an amazon. Kelly and the amazon tear the place up, in the most physics-defying fight in TV history - the amazon gets her ass kicked without ever falling out of her towel. Kris watches meekly, waiting to be mounted by the victor. And lordy lordy, are the men ever mincing idiots. Sabrina tosses one of the most wounded duck passes in the history of sport, and is promptly recruited by the best team in the league. Can the Angels stop the baddies in time to lead the team to victory?? Tune in to find out.
18) The Sand Castle Murders ****
Once in a while, a loosey goosey episode comes along where they break out of the standard plot devices, and show the Angels being human. Here, they're hanging out at Kris' beach house, plotting how to avoid the new assignment so they can have a party. A teenage runaway Kris befriended becomes a serial killer victim. Cis Rundle (Farrah and Cheryl's stunt double) gets a pulse-swelling scene. John Crawford plays a condescending cop who was once Charlie's partner. The identity of the baddie stays hidden longer than usual, and in a rare occurrance, Bosley shoots the murderer...a hell of a shot, too.
19) Angel Blues ***
The Angels unravel the death of a young country singer. The climactic fight features something never before seen: three Angels face three baddies. Shots are fired, punches and bodies fly...classic.
20) Mother Goose is Running for His Life **
A nice story about a sweet old toymaker (Murray Matheson). The most unresolved moment in ANGEL history, as Kelly faces an automated gun about to fire, we cut to commercial and...never resolve the moment! Ah well, Kris' hang-gliding shirt is an eye-popper, and her maneuvers as Raggedy Ann are too adorable.
21) Little Angels of the Night **
Can we stop with the HILL STREET BLUES-a-thon? This season we've had Hunter, Ray, Washington, and now Hill (Michael Warren, as friendly cop). Angels go undercover as prostitutes, to find a serial killer. The highlight is a bike chase made silly by rather granny-looking bicycles.
22) The Jade Trap ***
A delightful cat and mouse intrigue between Barry Bostwick (ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, SPIN CITY) and Dirk Benedict (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, THE A-TEAM), in his second spin on the ANGEL wheel. The Angels are caught in between. Barry's a cat burglar who sees gigolo Dirk commit a crime of passion. The tension never lets up. Kris does a Swedish accent so bad, you may want to take a club to her head. I mean, Sabrina's French is cringeworthy too, but...
23) Angels on the Run ***
Wonderful. The Angels investigate the disappearance of a country singer's lothario husband. Diamond thieves abduct Kelly, mistaking her for the singer. The baddies include Craig T. Nelson (POLTERGEIST, COACH) and Bill Duke (PREDATOR). Kel wears a green dress that could make a good dog break his leash. MATCH GAME regular and recidivist LOVE BOAT guest Elaine Joyce plays a farmer's wife in eye-popping short shorts. Bosley has an irritable, ridiculously offbeat office phone talk with Charlie which strays into Abbott & Costello territory, as he deals with a delivery girl, Mrs. Chicken (Judy Landers). He did NOT order legs, he ordered breasts! Sadly, she has no...oh wait a minute, she does.
24) Antique Angels ***
A delight. The plot? Simple. Crooks pose as a film crew with an antique car to steal experimental aerospace fuel, then enter the car in a nearby antique car show in order to smuggle the radioactive canisters out of the county. Of course they do! Who wouldn't?? The abnormally peppy and adorable Angels go undercover as car magazine writers in Keystone Cop outfits. Bosley romances a rich widow. In terms of feminism, ANGELS struck blows (albeit perhaps at the expense of the core issues - objectification and the rendering any of any non-pretty woman "invisible"). But there's a line here that beautifully underscores the misogyny of the time. One of the suspects apologizes to Sabrina, saying "I'm not in the habit of knocking women around...especially pretty ones". So...you might make an exception for an ugly one? You're quite the gallant, sir. Mind you, this wasn't one of the baddies, this was a sympathetic character. I suppose it was too much to hope that Kate might respond, "Why doncha stick your 'pretty ones' up your ass, jackoff?" Ah well, progress is progress.

the randy girls of Cape High

WOMEN 55
Being a young male substitute teacher, you have to be adept at deflecting the "attentions" of teenage girls. I was adept. To A, the only student who had the balls to actually grab my ass. To M, who was standing by me at the board in the waning moments of class. She dropped an eraser. In one giggly motion, she bent all the way over with legs apart, her posterior backing into my groin. Her aim was so uncanny, i will forever be half-sure that i felt the contours of her lips against my penis. It almost seemed like she was showing off, like the result of some kind of bet she'd made. The only way for our genitals to be closer would have involved her legs wrapped around me (and no student could ever be that audacious, right?). And to S, the transplanted sassy Brooklyn girl, at 18 just a junior, whose plunging necklines revealed nature's fullness, and whose presence rendered 9th and 10th grade boys literally incapable of speech. When i visited the school the following year to do some literary interp for a friend's class, she saw me in the crowded halls and screamed my name. She ran to me and jumped up, wrapping her arms and legs around me. I was happy to see her too.

To Kill a Mockingbird

THEATER 42
-spring 1998
I returned to Florida to take care of my grandmother, and called up Bob Cacioppo, the director of the Pirate Playhouse, a professional theater on nearby Sanibel Island. He asked whether i would like to join the cast of their upcoming show. I joined rehearsals already in progress, as a townsperson. Bob offered me $100 a week, twice the regular townsperson rate. Neils Miller, a venerable actor playing the judge, became a quick friend. And an unexpected reunion came, with Greg Longenhagen, my college theater buddy, who was playing the prosecuting attorney! Carrie Lund, Bob's wife, played the grown-up Scout, and we got along real well. I also hit it off with Cal Ward, who played the minister, and with the fun lady playing Calpurnia, and the actor playing Tom (who became my chief mancala competitor). And the kids: Daniel Benzing and Alex Doud, and the girls sharing the role of Scout, Joanna and Whitney. We goofed around backstage. The cast was so huge that an eighteen-wheeler had been procured, as an extra dressing room. That's where i dressed, and it was a lively place. My mancala board was in near-constant use. The theater was beautiful, a black box that had been built seven years earlier. The island was a tropical paradise. My favorite scene was the aborted lynch mob. I wore just dungarees and a hat, and carried an ax handle. Greg also played an anonymous mobber. The show was beautifully acted. Greg and i decided that it needed more sex, drugs, and violence, so i would swing my ax handle about in every scene, Greg would lay his cock on the evidence table, and Neils would be toking up in court (Carrie said she'd change her line to "the judge sat there all day, looking like a baked old shark"). Cal took some ribbing when he lost his train of thought one night, and ad-libbed a couple lines. In response, he expanded the ad-lib into a pontificating short speech the following night. We all laughed, but the management didn't find it so funny, making Cal write a formal letter of apology. When we staged the curtain calls, our two black males ended up at the back, above everybody else. They raised fists, lowered their heads, and joked "back of the bus again". I had a lovely time, with only minor feelings of being underused. The ending, as everybody left the courtroom, was beautifully staged, almost in slow motion.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Voyager, season 3

FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 3
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 2.9
-Basics, pt. 2 ***
The doctor and suder work from within to retake the ship, while paris finds some talaxians willing to help. Suder is traumatized by having to kill, a part of his life he had thought was behind him. A brilliant end to brad dourif's run as the sociopathic betazoid. The rest of the stranded crew face fifty-foot cave monsters, primitive aggressive humanoids, and an active volcano. A ripper.
-Flashback ***
Sulu! SULU!!!! George takei (plus grace lee whitney as rand, and michael ansara as kang) appears as part of a neurological infection affecting the dreams of tuvok, who served aboard Excelsior during the events of UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY. He mind-melds with janeway and takes her into his visions. A rollicking good time.
-The Chute ***
Paris and kim are wrongly convicted and sentenced to life on a prison ship, where there are no guards and the inmates' violent tendencies are artificially stimulated, leading to paranoia and insanity. Voyager must find the actual guilty parties, before tom dies. A serviceable guest turn by robert pine (CHiPs '99, THE LITTLE CHP).
-The Swarm ***
Voyager must traverse a sector of space dominated by a collective of intelligent, inhospitable insectoids. The doctor's matrix is degrading, and he faces the loss of two years' memory. We meet another version of the doc, in the form of an acerbic diagnostic program. Kes is left alone to keep him alive and whole. Crisp, tight, and dangerous.
-False Profits ***
In a continuation of NEXT GEN's "The Price", Voyager encounters a pair of wormhole-transported ferengi who have set themselves up as gods on a pre-industrial planet. Yes, ferengi. Yes, three stars - in the delta quadrant, apparently anything's possible. And perhaps the most remarkable thing about this episode is that neelix is rather, well, wonderful. Never mind that he spends most of the episode as a fake ferengi. Or perhaps you should mind...perhaps he should have spent every episode pretending to be someone else? Either way, this one's fun.
-Remember **
While Voyager transports a group of telepathic aliens, b'elanna has surreal dreams of another life. A genocidal cover-up is uncovered. Game guest turns by bruce davison (V, X-MEN 1-2), eugene roche (SOAP, WEBSTER), and charles esten (WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY?, BIG LOVE) are wasted, as the poorly-written climactic scene devolves into speechifying histrionics that ring false on multiple levels.
-Sacred Ground **
When kes is injured on alien (insert title here), janeway must go on a spirit quest to save her. There is much satisfying in this one - winning performances and thoughtful writing nearly cover up what is probably esoteric drivel in which a "leap of faith" transcends empirical knowledge. But make no doubt, that clanging sound you hear is a franchise dropping the ball. I'm not talking about the rejection of science, or even that the character who should be at the forefront of said rejection (chakotay) is given inappropriate lines. No, i'm talking about janeway COVERING HER BREASTS while the aliens dress her. The TREK vision of humanity cannot possibly include a future wherein we're still crippled by sexual repression and self-loathing.
-Future's End 1&2 ****
-written by brannon braga, joe menosky
-directed by david livingston, cliff bole
A 29th-century timeship accidentally sends Voyager to 20th-century Earth, where they must pursue a monomaniacal businessman (ed begley, jr. - BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, A MIGHTY WIND) who created the computer age after finding a crashed timeship...but may end up destroying Earth's future. No, we don't buy the notion (again, TREK) that a ship full of humans would send a vulcan on a covert mission to a human planet, and we don't buy that capt. braxton wouldn't take back the doc's 29th-century mobile holo-emitter...but quibble schmibble, this one's thoroughly enchanting. Sarah silverman (JESUS IS MAGIC, THE SARAH SILVERMAN PROGRAM) plays a plucky Earth astronomer who helps our heroes, becoming involved with tom...his only satisfying romance of the series. Is this one four stars only because of the juice provided by begley and silverman? I want to say no, but could be wrong. Pay that no mind though, as the crew running around in 1997 is the most temporal fun the franchise has had since THE VOYAGE HOME.
-Warlord **
A dying warlord transfers his consciousness to kes's body, and uses her to topple an empire. Jennifer lien gets plenty to dig into, with homicide, lesbianism...and a kiss with tuvok! Sadly, the writing gets murky, particularly toward the end. The psychological effects of possession are short-shrifted, too.
-The Q and the Grey ***
Q oh q, doth we love you? We doth, i mean do, we do! After their last encounter with Voyager, civil war has broken out in the continuum. Q needs a new q to set things right, and he chooses janeway to be his mate. Then his actual q "mate" (TNG's suzie plakson - MY STEPMOTHER IS AN ALIEN, LOVE & WAR) shows up. Voyager gets pulled into the continuum, where the war manifests as the american Civil War. Can a species eons past physical copulation get jiggy?
-Macrocosm ***
An infestation of alien microorganisms grow to an alarming size. Janeway gets all ramboed up, plus another red herring death for neelix!
-Fair Trade **
Worried that his use to Voyager is diminishing, neelix uses shady methods trying to acquire a map. If ferengi fare is to your taste, enjoy.
-Alter Ego ***
Harry falls in love with a hologram character, and goes to tuvok for self-control mentoring. Tuvok falls in love too, and discovers an alien using the ship's technology to interact with the crew. A poignant revelation of vulcan loneliness, and a delicate, delightful performance by sandra nelson (LIFE AS A HOUSE, DE-LOVELY).
-Coda ***
Chakotay and janeway crash on a planet and become stuck in a seeming time loop where janeway dies again and again. What, he couldn't have taken neelix? But her hallucinations are merely an alien wishing to harvest her consciousness...an ominous touch, as is the suggestion that all "near-death" experiences are just brushes with vampiric aliens, in this case manifesting rather convincingly as janeway's dead father (len cariou - ABOUT SCHMIDT, BLUE BLOODS). This episode strikes a blow for traditional TREK rationality (take that, white light!). As much as i love that, this deserved a bit more deftness, and it will be fascinating to find out what science will actually have found out about all this by the 24th century. What if both the rationalist and irrationalist perspectives are wrong?
-Blood Fever ***
Ensign vorik undergoes pon farr and mindmelds with b'elanna, causing her to experience it as well. In a fevered delirium, she attempts to initiate klingon mating with tom. The doc provides a holo-vulcan mate for vorik, which seems to work...until he challenges tom to a death duel for b'elanna. She champions herself, and kicks his ass. A lovely episode diminished a bit by sexual puritanism (wouldja just hump the poor woman, paris?)...but with an eye-opening ending, as a dead borg drone is discovered.
-Unity ***
Arriving like a glass of water in a sleepwalker's face...the borg!! Voyager discovers an adrift cube, and a planetside society of alpha quadrant ex-drones who have individuality (but can still access each other's minds). They save a mortally-injured chakotay by bringing him into their link. He has a romance with one of them, then they use him as a pawn...but politely. This one has four-star potential - the scenes of Voyager dealing with the cube, and the visuals chakotay experiences as he touches the link, are stunning. And his experience being linked to a collective makes one feel a little better about the ultimate decision to hitch seven's romantic wagon to our spiritual first officer.
-Darkling **
Wait...so kes actually DID break up with neelix? I thought that was only because she was possessed by the warlord! What, she had a post-exorcism moment of clarity and realize the warlord was right about that one lil' thing?? Well, okay, far be it from me to complain. So, um, the doctor attempts to expand his personality by incorporating elements of historical figures into his program. Kes falls in love with an alien. But the doctor develops a unethical alter-ego, and tries to kill her new shmoopie. The only robert picardo episode that doesn't quite click.
-Rise **
A fresh recycling of the LIFEPOD plot, as tuvok and neelix become stranded in a rising anti-grav carriage with four aliens, while trying to help a planet bombarded by asteroids. Deceit, manipulations, and murder ensue. Neelix finally snaps with frustration at tuvok's dispassionate empiricism, and forces an intuitive decision. If not for the neelix chemistry void, this one could have worked.
-Favorite Son ***
After experiencing bizarre intuitions and DNA changes, kim leads Voyager to a planet where the locals greet him as a returning native, telling him that his humanity was only a temporary adaptation. With a 1 to 9 male-to-female (including kristanna loken - TERMINATOR 3, THE L WORD) ratio, they very much want him to stay...but is there a dark secret lurking?
-Before and After ***
Seven years in the future, the doctor tries to expand the dying kes's lifespan, and the treatment triggers regressive time jumps which culminate in the fetal stage, while passing through a life in which janeway and torres violently die, and kes has a child (jessica collins - CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, LEPRECHAUN 4: IN SPACE) with paris...who in turn has a child with harry. Kes' mom? Rachael harris (BEST IN SHOW, A MIGHTY WIND). Bear with this one - the chemistry and acting falter at first, but eventually it all clicks...including fascinating previews of the excellent "Year of Hell".
-Real Life ***
The doctor creates a holographic family, but b'elanna is dismayed by his conflict-free learning environment. Once she makes it more realistic, he is overwhelmed by normal (well, 20th-century normal) family dysfunction. The fact that this portrayal of monogamously-isolated domestic reality is antiquated even by our own standards, is forgivable given the extent to which they then subvert that reality. His son spurns him in favor of klingon friends, his wife exhibits self-determination, and his daughter suffers a horrible accident. He shuts the program down, but is convinced to return by paris, who reminds him of the dual nature of emotional bonds (robert mcneill's best scene of the entire series). At the end, as the daughter dies and the family grieves, i cried.
-Distant Origin ****
-written by brannon braga, joe menosky
-directed by david livingston
A saurian paleontologist (henry woronicz - PRIMARY COLORS, MOESHA) tracks Voyager, having discovered that their own transwarp-capable race originated on Earth, then developed space travel and left the planet 20 million years ago to avoid a mass extinction. He brings chakotay back, but is forced to recant his findings when the government labels him a heretic and threatens to imprison Voyager's crew for life. This is probably the most scientific four-star TREK ever...and a galilean episode is long overdue, given that his name adorned one of the classic Enterprise's shuttles. This airtight mix of infamy, goodness, menace, and a little humor is enhanced by some of the most convincing TREK aliens ever - the performances delivered through pounds of prosthetic are indelible, especially from woronicz and his inquisitor, chillingly rendered by concetta tomei (CHINA BEACH, DON'T TELL MOM THE BABYSITTER'S DEAD). I almost just now lauded their searing portrayals of "humanity" (forgive my malapropism)...but that's exactly what TREK does at its best. Enthralling. Chest-tightening. Jaw-dropping.
-Displaced ***
One by one, the crew are instantly replaced by strangers who don't seem to know why they're there...until chakotay is the only one left, trying to sabotage as much as he can before disappearing too. They find themselves in a holographic biopod aboard a prison ship, with Voyager in service to the aliens. The table-turning ending is just a little too easy and convenient - this would have been more intensely chaotic had they made this a two-parter and simultaneously released all the other alien crews. But that criticism is of course also a compliment.
-Worst Case Scenario ***
B'elanna accidentally discovers a holo-simulation of a maquis mutiny. Before long, everyone is playing. The anonymous author turns out to be a security-minded tuvok. When he and tom attempt to expand the program, a bug seska installed kicks in, sealing the holodeck and trying to kill them. A fun little ride.
-Scorpion, pt. 1 ****
-written by brannon braga, joe menosky
-directed by david livingston
Voyager approaches borg space, and faces the possibility of having to turn around and give up returning home. Suddenly fifteen borg cubes pass at high speed, and are destroyed by a merciless enemy called species 8472, which cannot be assimilated. Voyager studies the species, and janeway offers the borg data in exchange for safe passage. Guest star john rhys-davies (RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, LORD OF THE RINGS) is brilliant as a holographic leonardo da vinci. Adrenalin spikes bookend a dark, powerful episode. One of the few small-screen TREKs to have big-screen presence.

Monday, November 15, 2010

boobies & monkey farts

I'm emerging from four days of monkey mascoting at the New York Chocolate Show. It was one day longer than i've ever done in costume. Two consecutive days is a killer, while four...i still feel a sub-human hollowness in my head. For the first time in my life, i'm actually tempted to pay for a massage, partly to hear the masseuse say, "Mother of Mary, what the blessed fuck have you been doing?"
The most amazing chocolate taste of NYCS 2010? It's a tie between Sendall Chocolates TOFFEE TABOO, and NibMor organic dark with almonds. Sendall was our neighbor, and kept a plate stocked for us. An amazing thing happened, something that's never happened before. Whenever i had time to wander and sample, i could not walk one step further than our neighbor's plate. Any combination of toffee and dark chocolate makes me point (a relic of my childhood passion for Heath bars). They had the dark, with toffee-coated nuts and white drizzle. I was still stuffing my face after four days, which does not happen - i usually only eat sweets once a week or so. And NibMor? It's oganic and vegan. I wasn't gobsmacked when i sampled it at the show, but when i took it home, refrigerated it, and took a larger bite, i commenced to EAT the entire bar. Again, something that never happens.
I have a confession to make about Bananas, the monkey. And if his new friend Heather is reading this, it pains me to think i may forever sully a beautiful monkey crush.
Ready?
Occasionally in the life of Bananas, there are moments when i'm just staring at boobies or blowing monkey farts.
Not often! Maybe a minute or so out of a whole day. And never so that anyone notices. But an eight-hour shift in that suit is a bizarre, surreal trial of endurance, even with nice breaks. After the first hour, you accept living with perpetual pain. And while i normally give a dismissive look to those who claim, "It's not the heat, it's the humidity", they're perhaps not total morons...in addition to the 105 degrees in the suit, there's a humidity factor that's probably comparable to actual rain. So in moments of weariness when suddenly there's a lull in the human energy around me...well...
My eyes rest on some occasional boobies, because no one in the world has any idea what my eyes are doing.
Actually, i don't think that's true...i think a big part of the success of Bananas is commitment to character, and that people are perceptive to purity of focus. So maintaining character is the feat hidden within the feat. Can you mesmerize an audience with a Shakespearean sonnet? Now can you do it while tiny, unseen needles sporadically pierce you?
I've even blown occasional quiet farts while in the middle of an interaction, but only with adults who see Bananas as a mildly-interesting photo op, and not the loving force of nature he is.
The highlight of the show was when Heather, a vendor at another booth, called Bananas over as he was passing by, saying that her friend needed a hug. I thought it might be some obligatory silliness, but i was game. Seven seconds later, i realized that something special was happening, as this poor woman melted into me. I was suddenly reminded that multiple layers of clothing and costume can't block the energy of genuine human connection. I try to time monkey hugs to release at precisely the same instant as the person i'm hugging, neither leading nor following (if you think that sounds easy, try it). But she quietly held me like she never wanted it to end. I was reminded of how mind-numbingly paralyzing a woman's breasts can feel, if two bodies or spirits align perfectly. It felt like she hadn't been hugged right in a long time. Once or twice my spiritual energy said, "She must be done now?" But she wasn't, so i kept on slowly rubbing her back through my monkey hand. So, so beautiful.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Firefly & Serenity

2002-2003 & 2005
-created by joss whedon
FIREFLY, a sci fi western, was cancelled after eight episodes, but an ardent fan base wouldn't let it die. Two years later, unprecedentedly for a series that fell short of a season, it hit the big screen as the movie SERENITY. The show features crisply intelligent dialogue, adrenaline rushes, subtle sexual interplay, cheeky gallows humor, and superb chemistry. You pine for the seasons that never came, and are forever interested in the subsequent efforts of the cast and creator. Set in 2517, the show follows the crew of an old cargo ship in a galaxy dominated by a dystopian Alliance (a dark negative of STAR TREK's Federation). On the fringe of the galaxy, they eke out an existence with legal (and less legal) jobs. A refugee doctor (sean maher - PARTY OF FIVE, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING) joins the crew with his rescued, genius sister (summer glau - TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES, ALPHAS), who had been in training as a psionic government operative, her mind reduced to the level of a two year-old. Captain mal reynolds (nathan fillion - BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, CASTLE) is a hard-bitten veteran hiding a gentle heart. Jayne (adam baldwin - MY BODYGUARD, FULL METAL JACKET) is a hard-living, mostly amoral enforcer. Kaylee (jewel staite - SPACE CASES, STARGATE: ATLANTIS) is a spunky, sweet, shmutzy engineer who "ain't had nothin' between [her] legs what ain't had batteries" in years. Inara (morena baccarin - STARGATE SG-1, V) is a spiritually-trained prostitute. Sheperd (ron glass - BARNEY MILLER, THE NEW ODD COUPLE) is a wandering religious pilgrim. Zoe (gina torres - THE MATRIX RELOADED, THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS) and wash (alan tudyk - ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY) are the mismatched first officer & pilot whose romance somehow works (she's tough/sexy/dominant, he's beaver cleaver...you go, fanboys). The show effortlessly establishes itself as one of the five greatest sci fi shows of all time.
-Serenity ****
Building slowly, this pilot clicks in about halfway through. Will mal do the sensible thing, and abandon simon and river, his stowaway sister? Will he send Inara away? Will the Alliance find them? Will reavers eat them? Dark and sexy. Add to all the aforementioned qualities a sense of unpredictability. Guest starring carlos jacott (BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP), and mark sheppard (GALACTICA, BIONIC WOMAN), in his first of two appearances as badger, a lowlife kingpin.
-The Train Job ***
The humor of the show kicks in, plus the instability of jayne's mercenary morality, as he asserts his agenda when mal and zoe are captured by a local sheriff (gregg henry - STAR TREK: INSURRECTION, THE RICHES) after a partially successful heist.
-Bushwhacked ***
A derelict is discovered, with one deranged survivor and many bodies. While liberating supplies, Serenity is discovered and detained by an Alliance cruiser. As Simon and River hide, the crew is interrogated by the captain (doug savant - TEEN WOLF, MELROSE PLACE). The survivor goes on a killing spree, having been turned into a reaver by what he's seen. Trivia buffs, take note - the Alliance uniforms are a re-use from STARSHIP TROOPERS (watch closely for a soldier who wore the uniform in both shows).
-Shindig ***
On Persephone, a royal offers inara a place as his permanent companion. At a fancy ball, mal punches the man for demeaning her, and soon finds himself outclassed in a sword duel. Aside from garish makeup, a winner. Guest starring larry drake (L.A. LAW, DARKMAN).
-Safe ***
Sale of a cattle shipment goes bad, and sheperd is shot...but simon and river are kidnapped by locals who need a doc, so mal has to appeal to an Alliance cruiser for medical help. The locals soon take river for a witch (in need of burning).
-Our Mrs. Reynolds ****
A stowaway reveals that she was part of a payment made by bumptious villagers, and that she and mal are wed. Saffron's innocent act fools everyone except inara, who realizes she has companion training. She escapes, after sabotaging the ship on behalf of scavengers. The show hits new highs in tense, sexy, and funny. The first of two scintillating episodes for christina hendricks (ER, MAD MEN). Is mal playing possum at the end, pretending to not know whom inara kissed?
-Jaynestown ***
Trying to pick up a shipment of contraband on a planet of mud, Serenity discovers the townfolk have made a hero of jayne, who unintentionally dropped boxes of cash on them years before. He warms to the hero treatment...until things go sour. Does he discover a sliver of conscience? Kaylee and simon drunkenly canoodle. River freaks out over shepherd's evil hair.
-Out of Gas ****
How is it that no sci fi has ever nabbed this title before, and its obvious double meaning in a spacefaring situation? After an accident leaves the engine and life support dead, mal sends the crew away in the shuttles, while he awaits death in the hope that some ship will respond to their distress signal. As he goes through flashbacks of the crew's first meetings, a ship shows up - and shoots him. Mal manages to get the needed replacement part and expel the hijackers, before passing out...
-Ariel ****
While visiting a core planet for inara's yearly companion physical, simon proposes a hospital heist, during which he can get brain scans of river. During the caper, jayne betrays the tams to collect their bounty. No part of anyone's plan goes right, but they all escape. Back on Serenity, jayne thinks no one knows of his treachery, until he finds himself locked in a decompressing airlock by mal. One of the best scenes (and episodes) of the series.
-War Stories ***
Mal and wash are captured by a vengeful former employer. Let's call this one a victim of "Buffy Syndrome" - when a franchise regresses to the level of the creator's previous show. The writing drops from adult to teen, with a torture scene that's played for cutesiness. I've never been around genuine torture, but i'd be willing to be tomorrow's lunch that it's nowhere near as "entertaining" as this. And the contrivance of having the villain randomly quoting the same author as the crew, is pretty bush league as well. But that's the amazing thing about FIREFLY...the chemistry is so bursting that even on its worst episode, i can't give less than three stars (well, chemistry plus a lesbian scene).
-Trash ***
Mal reunites with an old friend who has a new wife...mal's own "wife", saffron (or bridget, now). The two of them are abandoned, and she offers Serenity a percentage of a priceless artifact heist. The crew react negatively, but go along. Double-crossing aplenty ensues. Christina's lovely chemistry with the cast continues...
-The Message ***
An old army buddy of mal and zoe's turns up dead, with a recorded request. Suddenly, a brutal Alliance officer (richard burgi - THE SENTINEL, STARSHIP TROOPERS 2) is hot on their trail, and the corpse is not so dead. Plus...the debut of jayne's hat!
-Heart of Gold ***
Serenity responds to a distress call from nandi (melinda clarke - SPAWN, NIKITA), an old friend of inara's, who runs a brothel which is being terrorized. Mal and nandi share a night of passion, which brings mal and inara's feelings into the open. She decides to leave Serenity.
-Objects in Space ****
A bounty hunter (richard brooks - TEEN WOLF, LAW & ORDER) invades the ship in deep space, and incapacitates or incarcerates everyone except for simon and kaylee...but cannot find river. The scene between he and kaylee is unforgettably dark.
-SERENITY ***
Six months later, the Alliance catches up, in the form of a hyper-deadly operative (chiwetel ejiofor - 2012, 12 YEARS A SLAVE). A subliminal public transmission triggers river into a destructive spree. Every haven the ship might run to, is massacred (including the one where shepherd lived). Reuniting with inara, they head into reaver territory to unravel the mystery of river's secret - an Alliance population-control scheme gone horribly wrong. Wash dies. Also starring michael hitchcock (WAITING FOR GUFFMAN, BEST IN SHOW) and sarah paulson (STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP, THE SPIRIT). Brilliant, exciting...but not quite great. They didn't bring enough humor, or slow down the pace long enough to make us remember why we love these characters.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Voyager, season 2

FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 2
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 2.7
-The 37's **
This episode embodies the greatest flaw of early VOYAGER...the absence of a sense of solitude and isolation that should have permeated the show. Of course any Federation crew would have a "can-do" attitude, but...seventy-five years? Imagine a tornado dropping you down on the other side of the world, in a time before the wheel. How many years would it take to get home? That's a fraction of what Voyager faces. This episode was a perfect opportunity. They find a planet with an actual human civilization, the descendants of earthlings captured four hundred years earlier, including a cryo-frozen amelia earhart. They have cities, and a beautiful culture. Every crew member is given the option of staying, and...not one person remains. Not one! There isn't a single scene in these beautiful cities(?). Game turns by sharon lawrence (NYPD BLUE, MONK) and david graf (POLICE ACADEMY 1-7, THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE) are wasted. This should have been a two-parter, and one of the more searing episodes in TREK history.
-Initiations **
Chakotay is captured by a kazon youth fulfilling a manhood ritual. A fine turn by DS9's aron eisenberg (AMITYVILLE: THE EVIL ESCAPES, PTERODACTYL WOMAN FROM BEVERLY HILLS).
-Projections ****
-written by brannon braga
-directed by jonathan frakes
The doctor faces a terrifying existential dilemma, as lt. barclay (the wonderful dwight schulz - FIRST CONTACT, FAT MAN AND LITTLE BOY) "appears" in sickbay, to tell the doctor he's NOT a hologram...he's a real person stuck in a Starfleet holoprogram that's malfunctioning due to a radiation leak. Barclay says that Voyager was never real, the doctor is dying, and the only way out is to destroy the ship. Voyager crewmembers appear, saying that barclay is a false manifestation, and the the doctor's program will be lost if he destroys the ship. The doctor bleeds, and barclay brings in kes as his real-world wife. The false endings are disturbing. Superb.
-Elogium ***
Kes's reproductive cycle is mysteriously triggered, an occurrence that only happens once in every ocampan female's lifetime. She and neelix have to decide whether they want a child. It gets tedious, as prospective parental paralysis is a bit too 20th-century, but there are nice moments (including the debut of actually-pregnant naomi wildman). It's the first time i've been glad to have neelix around, as he misses his emergency communicator tap by inches - an hilarious touch.
-Non Sequitur ***
Kim wakes up in San Francisco, with a planetside job and loving fiance (jennifer gatti - DOUBLE EXPOSURE, MILLENNIUM MAN), having never been assigned to Voyager. As his life unravels, an alien tells him he was involved in a time accident. He enlists the help of the only Voyager crewmate on Earth - tom, who never left and is a pool hall drunk. A fun ride, aside from a gaping-hole character choice by paris (having harry's fiance make that life-imperiling leap of faith instead, would have been more credible).
-Twisted **
A non-corporeal life form unintentionally wreaks havoc in an attempt to study the ship. Fine moments in Sandrine's, the french pool hall holocafe.
-Parturition *
Neelix's ugly green monster emerges over tom's attraction to kes, then they get stranded together, trying to save an alien baby. On its own merits, this one's okay (and the alien baby is three-star easy)...but an extra star is lost for a huge helping of 20th-century jealousy and sexual repression.
-Persistence of Vision ***
A malevolent, telepathic alien plagues the crew with hallucinations, trying to take over the ship. You might drive yourself crazy trying to figure out what's real and what isn't. The sexual burst between b'ellanna and chakotay is so tantalizing.
-Tattoo **
Finding a familiar symbol on a moon, chakotay tries to contact his spirit people. As bad as it sounds? Pretty much (even with some fine first officer butt crack), but saved from one star by the B plot, in which the doctor gives himself a flu, in response to charges of bad bedside manner.
-Cold Fire **
The ship encounters the vengeful mate of the caretaker, and a station full of ocampa with heightened psionic powers. Their leader (gary graham - ALIEN NATION, ENTERPRISE) wants to train and keep kes. Fine potential, but the ending is rushed and incomplete. It's "The 37's" all over again, with one or two people representing an entire unseen culture...but actually seeing the culture is what would give the decision to turn away real resonance.
-Maneuvers **
Chakotay pursues kazon who stole transporter technology, and is captured. Seska is the mastermind, and plots to get herself impregnated. Not bad, but lacking in imagination. Had chakotay come by stealth to the kazon ship, then transported in a space suit onto its hull and proceeded to wage guerilla warfare, we would have had something we'd never quite seen before in the TREK universe.
-Resistance ***
Running from the authorities on an alien planet, janeway is rescued by a man who thinks she is his daughter. An act of cowardice resulted in his wife being killed years before, and the daughter met a similar fate. A poignant guest turn by joel grey (CABARET, 'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS).
-Prototype ***
B'elanna reactivates a drifting automated life form. She gets kidnapped, and is forced to help her captors learn to replicate themselves. She becomes a pawn in an android war. A powerful prime directive debate between she and the captain.
-Alliances ***
In the face of kazon attacks which must ultimately overwhelm them, maquis crewmembers push for an alliance with one faction. Janeway finally relents. Negotiations sour, but an alliance is formed with the trabe, a scattered race who claim to regret their past as slavers. What makes this one stand out are the divisions within the crew, which heretofore lacked much edge.
-Threshold **
A new type of dilithium allows paris to break the warp 10 barrier. He mutates through a million years of evolution, kidnaps janeway, impregnates her, and leaves a litter of babies in an alien swamp. In other words, swingers from the year 1,002,300 will find janeway freakin' irresistible. Sorry - if it were a better episode, i might have a better joke. Given the thread in which tom is trying to sublimate his crush on kes, wouldn't she have been the more logical kidnappee? Even with that, this one might still feel like a third-rate "Elephant Man".
-Meld ***
Guest star brad dourif (DUNE, ALIEN: RESURRECTION) is lon suder, a betazed ex-maquis who murders a shipmate. It's about time something ugly arises from the tenuous Starfleet/maquis marriage. Tuvok cannot accept the random nature of the crime. He initiates a mindmeld, but the consequences undermine a lifetime's worth of emotional repression. Dourif and russ are excellent. Plus, neelix is choked to death!
-Dreadnought ***
Voyager discovers a cardassian automated military drone with adaptive intelligence, also brought to the delta quadrant by the caretaker. The drone had been reprogrammed by b'elanna to attack a cardassian target, but sensor damage has left it killing indiscriminately. B'elanna must board it and try to prevent a genocide.
-Death Wish ****
-written by michael piller
-directed by james l. conway
Voyager unwittingly frees a suicidal q trapped in a comet, who claims sanctuary when john de lancie's q appears. Janeway must preside over a trial, with eternal prison or death at stake. Witnesses are summoned, including commander william t. riker(!). The trial is taken inside the q continuum. Brilliant...as is tuvok's defense counsel. Q wants to die because immortal life has become meaningless. The philosophical arguments resonate more with each viewing, as does the emotional pull. De lancie is wonderful, and gerritt graham (PARKER LEWIS CAN'T LOSE, STOCKARD CHANNING IN JUST FRIENDS) gives one of the best TREK guest performances ever. This episode also gets nominated for worst non-alien makeup in TREK history, as q resembles a transvestite prostitute in the location shots.
-Lifesigns ***
The doctor saves a vidiian doctor (susan diol - HOTHOUSE, ALIEN NATION: MILLENIUM) by placing her synaptic patterns into a holographic body, allowing her to live for the first time as a "whole" adult. They fall in love...and then she wants to die. A poignant meditation on how "beauty" affects our self-image.
-Investigations **
Paris leaves Voyager to join a talaxian convoy - don't think too hard about whether you're sad. This one actually builds up a little juice, as tom is soon kidnapped by the kazon, and we learn that his recent apathetic insubordinations were all planned...but the episode keeps annoyingly returning to neelix.
-Deadlock ***
Voyager is accidentally duplicated, with both ships occupying identical space/time. One of them becomes horribly damaged, with several deaths (including harry). One ship must be sacrificed, so the other may survive. Apparently janeway-haters think she's "mannish", or some such? We'll ignore the investigation of their comfort level with their sexuality, and just say that they'll love to hate this one...two janeways for the price of one! Before the undamaged Voyager explodes, they send their harry and newborn naomi wildman over, to replace their dead counterparts. Not to pick a nit, but can i be the only one to have noticed that when the doc asks the new harry whether his counterpart has picked a name, he says he didn't have time to find out? That's a writing brain fart, as this harry would have been serving with that doc since the mission began.
-Innocence ***
Tuvok is stranded on a planet with alien children who believe their own people are trying to kill them. He must try to pacify and protect them. A cornucopia of vulcan life and logic, in a towering performance by tim russ. A four-star effort is marred by desultory writing in the reveal scene, when we learn that these aliens' life cycle includes a return to a childhood state before dying.
-The Thaw ***
Michael mckean! Michael mckean!! Voyager finds aliens in a form of stasis which has gone horribly wrong. Mckean (LAVERNE & SHIRLEY, THIS IS SPINAL TAP) is an adaptive, self-aware incarnation of electronic evil (in clown makeup, of course). Harry and b'elanna become imprisoned as well.
-Tuvix ***
In a transporter accident, tuvok and neelix merge. The new being has the memories of both men. The eye-popping badness of the idea almost obscures a dandy performance by guest star tom wright (BARBERSHOP, SEINFELD). It takes several weeks for them to find a way to reverse the accident, but tuvix refuses to sacrifice his life, requiring janeway to force the procedure. The doctor refuses, but janeway is undeterred. This one might have been even better had tuvix made the argument that as a single being, he is happier than either of his "parents" could ever have been - that neelix was cripplingly insecure, and tuvok humorlessly repressed. Disturbing and thought-provoking...just please promise there will never, EVER be a "Neelway".
-Resolutions ***
Janeway and chakotay contract an incurable virus on an alien planet, that prevents them from leaving the ecosphere. She orders tuvok to take command and resume the voyage. A month later, Voyager has a chance to seek help from vidiians...but tuvok follows orders, and avoids contact that would be dangerous at best. A near-mutiny follows, led by...harry! Tuvok relents. In the midst of a treacherous attack, a cure is beamed onto their ship by the doctor's one vidiian friend. Back on the planet, chakotay and janeway deal with acceptance and attraction. The emotional pulls are palpable...beautiful drama wonderfully acted. Just a B plot twist away from four stars.
-Basics, pt. 1 ***
A transmission from seska tells chakotay that his newborn son is in danger. Janeway steers straight into a plot hole and actually gives her blessing for a rescue. They go deeper and deeper into kazon territory, facing multiple minor attacks, until they realize they've been shepherded into an inescapable trap. The ship is boarded and overtaken. The kazon strand the crew on a barely-hospitable planet, and fly Voyager away. The grimness during the battle (and after) is effectively rendered. Did paris escape in a shuttle? Has seska taken the doctor into account? And where is suder, the homicidal crew member confined to quarters? We'll find out in season three...

Monday, November 1, 2010

hallow-eenversion

On the morning of most holidays, including my birthday, i wake up unaware of the date, prefering spontaneity to premeditatation. There are of course exceptions.
This Halloween was no exception. I've nothing against Halloween, i've had some delightful experiences thereon, and always look forward to the chance to break out my "flasher" costume (one year i chickened out from doing it properly, and have sought any opportunity to make amends ever since). I do not, however, like my costuming activity to be confined to one societally-proscribed day of the year...and i ain't talkin' about mascots.
This Halloween, i awoke in a Marriott in Boston, and headed off to the final day of the Boston Vegetarian Food Show, to give away goodwill and free samples for Peanut Butter & Co. I often work these shows in costume, as our baby monkey mascot. Sometimes, like this time, i'm just me.
At 4PM, my wonderful partner Jenny and i headed back to NYC. After dropping her off on 155th St., i headed to the Village to drop off the leftover PB at our sandwich shop.
Somebody (myself included) should have questioned the wisdom of making a commercial dropoff in the heart of the Village on Halloween night. What with the parade, shoulder-to-shoulder revelers, and closed-off streets, it took me the better part of four hours to get in and out. At 1:30AM, i dropped off the U-Haul on 50th St., and walked to 32nd to catch the subway home.
It was one of the most memorable subway rides of my life. All around me, merry-makers were heading home. I was the only person not in costume. I had a lovely chat with the Riddler and Poison Ivy, who were curious about my hiker's pack and normal attire.
The ride was a bizarre inversion of a part of my life. More times than i could ever count, i've been the one costumed person in a sea of humanity. For a brief moment, i experienced the exact opposite.
Ah life, silly and wonderful...