Sunday, 12 August 2018

Another Avengers Being Released - Too Many Targets

Whenever I think the Avengers well has run dry another story comes out. My only sorrow is that this is another'non-canonical' one, but am still delighted that Big Finish have made an audio adventure of the novel called Too Many Targets.
Two agents are dead, and their murderers sound worryingly familiar. A killer gorilla is on the loose, a deadly disease is ravaging a distant country and an eminent doctor has been kidnapped. It's all pretty much business as usual.
But when John Steed is called in by his old boss and given an appalling task to complete, at the same time as Tara is given one that's even worse, it becomes clear that the myriad threads of a terrifying scheme are drawing together. The fate of the world hangs in the balance.
Steed won't be able to handle this case alone.
The Avengers are needed. All of them. Source, where you can buy the adventure.
It is based on a 1990s novel (which you can buy here), which I have read and remember liking for its authentic Avengers feel. In fact the only criticism I think people might have is  the obvious one of all the Avengers being present at once! So I think the fans will either love it or hate it. It is one of the more recent novels. I have read some but not all of the earlier ones and remember them fondly and you can read about them here. Of course since then the internet has provided a platform to anyone who wants to write an Avengers-themed piece. Some are very good. Regular readers will not be surprised to know that I'm not taken with attempts to get Steed off with Mrs Peel. I am very much looking forward to listening to Too Many Targets, though.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

The Avengers: November Five (?the Fifth)

My last couple of posts featuring Avengers episodes with Mrs Gale well I'm the blogosphere so here's another one.
I realised that I have rather avoided writing about this episodes, and there are two reasons. The first is that the title is all wrong. What is clearly written November Five, but we don't say that, we say November the 5th, which is of course a monumental day in British history and particularly in the history of Parliament.
Remember remember the 5th of November,
Gunpowder fire and plot.
I don't know whether this date would be pronounced November 5 in American English, but I don't think this season was exported to the States, so even if it was that wouldn't be a reason for the transatlantic usage.
The other reason I have rather avoided it has been amplified by my reading round the episodes on the internet before starting to write. It is that I personally find politics intensely dreary.
I'm not the worst off as far as that goes with this episode though, and reading round it on the internet have realised that our parliamentary system is almost completely opaque to everyone else. So let me let you into a secret: We don't understand our politics or law either.
Suffice to say that Dyter is standing as one of the members of Parliament. Of the 2 house. He is standing for the House of Commons, because he is a commoner and not a Lord. Any citizen can stand for the House of Commons, to represent one of the 260 constituencies. You don't even have to have the backing of one of the political parties. If you can find 10 residents of the constituency to nominate you, and the sum of £500 which is Returned if you get over 10% of the vote anyway, you can stand for Parliament. That is why steed can sneak Cathy in, and also why he offers to pay her deposit because she obviously will have to pull out. Older readers may remember Screaming Lord Sutch, who must have lost thousands and thousands of pounds in deposits getting people to stand for Parliament who were never going to get many votes.
In fact the politics is one of this episodes major downfalls, it tends to make it turgid and over talkative, well as incomprehensible to non British viewers. There is an excellent review summarising the political and class matters covered in this episode here.
The other shortcoming of this episode is the plot, which is overly complicated, involving sea about a gym, a warhead, and an election! If you don't watch carefully it is very easy to get these confused. Additionally if you are not aware of the class differences referenced by accent and political party, subtle layers of meaning pass you by.
The absolute highpoint for me is the point at which Mrs Gale announces that she is going to for the seat. Of course she is wearing all leather to make this announcement, and that is an outfit that would be considered kinky for the role even now!
But what made me want to write about this episodes in the first place that I was looking at Mrs gales flat while I was watching the last episodes I reviewed, and thinking how uncomfortable it is. There is a post about the flat here. I have not watched Through the previous episodes to get screen captures off the previous flat she lives in, and strangely there don't seem to be any on the internet, but I seem to remember she lived in a rather ordinary flat with floral wallpaper and the only difficulty she had was finding space for all her heads! What is the height of modernity. Unfortunately that also means it is harsh, and the only apparently comfortable seat in the place is which hangs from the ceiling. It's always pictured it in shades of grey or blue, being intended of course only for black and white photography, but I'm delighted to see from the color pictures included on the disc, that it was actually orange, although that may have made it even less restful! Personally I prefer all of Steed's flats, the first for preference.
Incidentally I find the gym in this episodes to be very visually effective, since it looks more like a dry ski slope than anything else.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

The Avengers: Man With Two Shadows

I can no longer put off writing about this episode, because a recent post in which I commented on Mrs gales underwear was very popular indeed, and I can only say that I must have managed to miss the shot seen in which Mrs Gale is in her underwear in this episode! This will however be an equal opportunities underwear episode.
Actually in all seriousness in wanting to write about this episode but have been putting it off because I didn't want to sound uncritical, so I've had a good heart think and will post what I suppose is the obvious criticism of this episode.
You see the trouble is that I actually think it is superb! Regular readers will know that I am not usually slow to criticise these shows, but this Avengers episodes somehow manages to be visually superb, genuinely mystifying, have great actors, and only suffer from the slight shortcoming that the plot is about as implausible as you could wish to get!
Come to think of it perhaps that isn't really a short coming in an Avengers episode, perhaps it is merely a foresight art what is coming later in the series. Nonetheless if you are watching this as a more mainstream espionage show you do genuinely have to suspend disbelief, to accept the plot of complete doubles of people. This class device is also used elsewhere in the show, but in a series 3 episode can seem somewhat futuristic.
The actors rightly play it completely straight faced, which must have required some discipline. The character of Borowski, who has been brainwashed and given several different personalities - this drawing on the source of fear of psychology which was popular at the time, and which we see later expressed in The Prisoner - particularly effective. I suppose that steed is exactly the sort of person who would have ended up in the village if he had failed to cooperate with his master's, and we see clearly in this episode that he is completely disposable to them. If there is the slightest doubt that he is not the real thing then he must be killed. The underlying fear in this episode is one which recurs in the television of this time, human life was made cheat by technology, in this case the technology which could reproduce people and give people different personalities.
Visually the episode is also excellent, and the effective scenes of Mrs gales apartment and the interrogation room are with the more pedestrian scenes in the holiday camp. The episode therefore rightly depicts the ropiness of many of the holiday camps of this time.
There are some familiar faces among the actors, but not jarringly so in my humble opinion.
A further criticism I have that this episode is perhaps the one which makes most explicit possibility that Mrs Gail and Steed are an item, at least the opposition thinks they are, which isn't an unnatural conclusion to jump to, their behaviour together also suggests this possibility. Regular readers will know that I prefer the theory that there was a sexual tension between steed and his partners, but that's nothing actually happened. To me steed is the consummate professional, and in the nature of things would have remained aware of any sexual dynamic not actually crossed over into a relationship.
Despite this, this episode is rather sexy. Mrs Gail is not ashamed to have Steed see her in her underwear, and I suspect that it would have been considered quite racy underwear at the time! We see from Steed's expression that he is clearly appreciative of this, but it is not usual between them, so either Mrs Gale is painted as the uninhibited one, or possibly Steed is a bit of a prude. This is exactly the sort of situation which has giving rise to so much discussion over the years. Incidentally the underpants we see in the opening scene a man being shot by himself, seem to be the long-defunct X-Fronts made by a company called Wolsey in Direct competition with the more familiar y-fronts (and in what looks like a very fetching leopard pattern as well)! I wonder if they considered z fronts or w fronts as possibilities...
Besides we also see indications of what Steed would later become. Despite being painted as the total professional, in this episode as in later episodes, when challenged to prove that he is who he says he is, he becomes flippant and completely fails to come up with the goods. This is a bit different from the earliest Steed, who is a rather dodgy character who just appears out of nowhere now and then, and has much more in common with the flamboyant Playboy of later years.
My personal conclusion about this one is that it's over-complicated: there is a part in the middle where you lose touch of who anybody is and everybody wants everybody else dead! It is only after writing this I have listened to the DVD commentary in which Jas Wiseman comments that this episode may have been influential on The Prisoner, and I'm very chuffed that I also thought of that!

Sunday, 22 July 2018

The Avengers: Legacy of Death

I have rather bizarrely been put on antimalarial medication for my arthritis. I was telling a colleague at work this, and commented that it was the result of a lifetime in the tropics. She herself is from what used to be british Guyana and made a remark about being Colonial. It was only afterwards that I placed my quotation from this episode.
Sidney Street is perhaps exactly the kind of fantasy old world character that I was imitating. He is certainly one of my favourite villains in The Avengers, and I also like that this episode of draws heavily on, well, pretty well every mystery you could ever wish to mention, also of course Street is based on the Maltese Falcon character who is obsessed with obtaining the falcon.
This episode is of course not the only time that fictional characters burst into the world of The Avengers, many season 6 episodes take that inspiration from fiction, but my personal opinion is that this is the best.
So effectively spoofs the genre of pretend Chinese Detectives , who feature in films starring such detectives as Charlie Chan and Mr moto. Sitting here in Chinatown I get the same sort of politically incorrect thrill from watching this Avengers episode that I do from watching Charlie Chan. This Adventures episode, though, also parodies the racial attitudes displayed in the films. Chinese culture is seen as in scrutable, mysterious, and is therefore used in this Avengers episode as the cover for one of the other people who want The Dagger.
I'm never sure how popular this episode is with the fans: Light it probably wouldn't be that popular with the hardcore Mrs peel fans, and for those who dislike Tara King it would probably exemplifies the ridiculousness off this season. And it certainly is ridiculous, only in Avengers sort of way, making much use of the Magical omniscience which characterizes the show. Google how do all of the villains know where steed lives? That said, in avenger land there is probably a telephone directory of secret agents! Not only would they be able to find him , but the events that happened in parchments in this episodes require there to be no meaningful security whatsoever!
Nor were the fetishists ignored, at least as far as the original episode was planned, when Tara was intended to be tortured by tickling!
If there is one major criticism it is that the plot is too thin and the episodes is merely a succession of pastiches. Personally I don't mind that, and regular readers will be aware of my humble opinion that these later Avengers episodes should be enjoyed for their atmosphere rather than their plot. That said this one is clearly intended to be rather unsatisfying because of the complete disappearance of the stone. Of course you could say that  consuming this expensive champagne in the world points to Tara and Steed being the most valuable commodity here, and they after all are the only ones who didn't really want the dagger of a thousand deaths at all.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

The X-Files: Kill Switch

I can see why a lot of people criticize the turn the X-Files talk as it went on, and certainly in the fifth series I can see that it would disappoint a lot of the hardcore science fiction mythology enthusiasts. Killswitch maybe a perfect example of what people hate about this direction, but I actually think it is my favourite episodes of the entire show.
Visually it is a series of tableaux, some of them set in the real world and depicting The X-Files characters we are so fond of, and some of them set in a world of virtual reality created by a computer intelligence which has managed to get loose. Invest the episode embodies another of the characteristic 1990s sears which is actually one I have often written about here and is found in a lot of 1960s television programmes: The fear that our technology will become more intelligent than us, get loose and control us. This is exactly what happens in this episode, although honestly it's probably seems more realistic as a fear in the 1990s than it did in the 1960s. This was the age when computer equipment began to predict what we would want to do with it, also obviously is largely fails to live up to the expectation and the phrase damn you autocorrect became current.
So what stops this episodes of The X-Files ultimately being frightening is the reality that the technology described would never be a reality for most people. So I suppose 20 years later the closest we get is an Alexa listening to our conversations!
From the start the tableau chosen are very effective illustrating the mood of the episode. Since I'm finding it very difficult to find something to criticise in this episode just going to eulogize the scenes that I particularly like! I love the initial scene in The Diner. I love that the intelligence creates a meeting of gangsters just killing its own creator. I love that the CD-ROM which contains the Killswitch has music as a cover. I love that 20 years later theCD-ROM looks so dated and that where is the programme would probably be stored on some cloud rather than in a concrete form.
I love that invisigoth is living in a container, and I particularly love the lone gun man's reaction to her, one off pure awe. Her suggestion that she should take her handcuffs off with her teeth introduces a sexual tension to the episode, which is continued in the virtual reality scenes of Mulder in hospital, a hospital staffed by the sort of nurses who are usually only found in porrn! I love to recurring reference to maltose Mulder's use of porn in The X-Files, it's humanises him and makes him like the rest of us in comparison to the rather lofty ideals of scally. I have only just thought about this that's the fact that the artificial intelligence uses kinky porno type nurses in an attempt to get Mulder to tell it where the kill switch is, may mean that the artificial intelligence is aware of Mulder surfing porn on the internet. This forms another reference to the paranoia present throughout this episode.
I like the way the folk heroes of the information technology revolution are here depicted as almost Outlaws, living in poverty because of their art. Ultimately they lived in fear of their art, also esther gets what she wants because she uploads her consciousness to the internet, managing to give a message to the lone gunmen.
I have failed to mention the presence of religion in this one, this case a form of techno paganism, in which the fields the early Christians depicted the early pagans belonging to, are transformed into the internet.
Could this ever happen in reality? Alexa, stop it.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Comments

Apologies if you have left a comment on this blog and it has not been published. I have found that blogger has not been sending me emails to say that a comment had been left and so I have just found a large number of comments awaiting motivation. Apologies too if I have deleted your comment by mistake. There were comments in Chinese and also a lot inviting people to apply to be sexy webcam models. I would apply but I don't think I am what they have in mind!

The X-Files: Demons

You will have noticed that I have omitted series 3 of the show. This wasn't actually intentional that was because I found that one disc of my set didn't play and put it back in the bookcase in frustration, so will no doubt find myself talking about the episodes in the wrong order at some point in the future.
Demons is a particularly interesting episode in my opinion, but for she apparently wrong reason that while contributing to the show's mythology it's also showcases pretty well everything that is wrong with The X-Files!
A common criticism of The X-Files is that if Mulder and Scully we're actually FBI agents they would probably be sacked for incompetence. In this episode alone they don't hesitate to interfere with evidence. I'm no policeman but I know when you find a dead body you leave it alone rather than fiddling with it, moving it, or anything else.
In fact this episode makes me wonder whether any management went on in the fictional FBI depicted here at all. It is very obvious that some crime has been committed in this case, they are not simply chasing after little green men, but Mulder, despite being ridiculously involved with the case, is at no point removed from it for the purpose of objectivity. I would hope that in the real world and agents suffering what he suffers in this episode would be suspended on medical grounds anyway. However not in the world of The X-Files.
And it isn't only the FBI. A police Precinct is depicted where and obviously unstable officer has merely been moved to a desk job before shooting himself in the head. An examination of his flat depicts his sheer obsessionality, and it makes you wonder how traumatic the rest of this Force could be! That said, in the world of The X-Files, picturing institutions such as prisons and police forces dens of alien abduction, supernatural activity and active mental illness what helps to create the picture of the unstable world which the government is allegedly denying.
The episode also has a go at the psychological profession. Dr Goldstein is stated to be a psychologist, who naturally would have a clinical doctorate, yes otherwise is treated as if he is a medical doctor. His all treatments reference sort of experimental psychiatry which happened in the 1960s when patients were given such things as LSD therapy. Certainly on this side of the Atlantic, patients who subsequently suffered bad flashbacks have sued the hospitals that treated them with this.
Otherwise the psychiatric reference of this episodes is one I have mentioned in this series of posts before, the very 1990s obsession with false memory. Here the doctor is explicitly creating false memory using hallucinogenic drugs. Again I would surmise that this was intended to create the effect of an institution which is going downhill fast and is uncontained.  This approach just has the disadvantage that when it is examined critically, creates an effect of unreality.
More troubling still is the dependence of the fictional therapy and of the episode on finding memory, probably the least reliable source of history that there is. When you put into the equation that this is being sought by someone who actively wants to believe that his sister has been abducted by aliens, by the use of hallucinogenic drugs intended for horses, the results of this quest are hardly going to be convincing!
I do realise that I am being overly critical. The reception of this episode was apparently good, it's just that in my opinion you have to watch it fairly uncritically and allow it to build up The X-Files mythology. Perhaps this is the greatest weakness of the show overall, that it depends too much on repeated devices intended to create a particular effect on the audience, such as the use of memories. I remember finding this very very effective when I watched it the first time round, but feel that this repeated use of the same devices meanse show can have difficulty bearing repeated watching, as the holes in the plot to become more apparent.