Month: May 2016

Twins – The Rocketeer – tape 1461

It’s Christmas on BBC1.

Christmas on BBC1

The movie is Twins, another high-concept Ivan Reitman comedy, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito as twin brothers. Yes, that’s almost certainly the entirety of the pitch for this movie.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito

Like their later collaboration, Junior, this starts from a very queasy premise – that the two babies were somehow genetically engineered from six different men, “all very distinguished men specially selected for their genetic excellence” although from the examples here it’s unclear quite where Schwarzenegger’s physique came from.

Genetic Excellence

They only had one mother, though, and she wasn’t distinguished, merely “remarkable” and “selected to be his mother”.

Well, I don’t expect Reitman to get genetics remotely correct, and neither should anybody who saw Evolution.

Schwarzenegger is told that he has a twin brother, so he travels to Los Angeles to find him, where he appears to spend most of his first day eating. There’s also a bit of product placement for another movie, Willow, which seems odd.

Willow

I once stayed in the hotel immediately opposite the Chinese Theater. It was very exciting.

Schwarzenegger tracks down DeVito, who’s a bit of a lowlife, and he uses the innocent Schwarzenegger for his minor criminal activities. We learn that Schwarzenegger can’t drive a car, and yet he knows that if you lift a car up to an angle of greater than 45 degrees, the alarm will shut off. Seems like a strange knowledge base.

The plot, such as it is, really kicks off when DeVito steals a car with Schwazenegger’s help, and it happens to have something important in the boot, which a nasty killer is after. Even as it’s setting up, it feels like the laziest cookie-cutter macguffin. The film isn’t content to concentrate solely on the personal story of the twins and their search for their fathers, and the truth about their mother, who is supposed to have died in childbirth.

Julius and one sixth of his fathers

In fact, the film is reminding me a bit of Midnight Run, which came out at roughly the same time, but whose ganster driven plot feels organic.

The twins track down their place of birth, and one of the doctors responsible. He tells them ‘The embryo did split, but it didn’t split equally.’ The science just keeps getting worse.  “All the purity and strength went into Julius. All the crap that was left over went into what you see in the mirror every morning.” Yeah, because that’s how cell division works, isn’t it?

They track down their mother to the artistic retreat she founded on the back of her career as a popular artist, but she doesn’t believe them, and tells them their mother died in childbirth. She was told that her child had died shortly after being born. Good grief, the doctors running that experiment had the ethics of leaf mold.

So DeVito goes to Houston to deliver the macguffin in the back of the car, and pick up the money being paid for it, kicking off the action climax. I still don’t give a shit about this.

But there’s a happy family reunion for a coda, so that’s OK.

And the whole film ends with a perfect 80’s theme song, all heavy drum samples and orchestra stabs.

I have a theory that Ivan Reitman doesn’t actually know anything about comedy. He was lucky to have some good scripts and good performers early in his career, but he’s very dependent on his source material, and here it wasn’t very strong. For a comedy, there’s very few laughs.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 28th December 1992 – 19:00

After this, recording switches to Sky Movies and Joe Johnston’s The Rocketeer. Johnston started his career at Industrial Light and Magic, and his directorial career has been interesting. His first movie was Honey I Shrunk The Kids, which was excellent and quite successful, and this was his followup. It’s based on a comic book by Dave Stevens, which was rich in the imagery of the 1940s, and the film makes good use of that. It also has one of James Horner’s best scores. The opening theme is a lovely piano piece, and the main action themes are some of Horner’s best.

Visitors to Disneyland Paris a few years ago might be familiar with the music, as it was used throughout the first version of Space Mountain, to great effect. I was disappointed when they changed the ride for Space Mountain Mission Two when they changed a lot about the ride, mostly for the worst, including removing Horner’s music.

The screenplay was written by Danny Billson and Paul De Meo, whose early work like Trancers and Zone Troopers was a lot of fun, and who also were showrunners on the 1990s TV version of The Flash.

Bill Campbell plays a barnstorming stunt pilot, in the mould of The Great Waldo Pepper, who’s not having the best of luck. Taking his new plane up for a test flight, he flies across a chase between federal agents and a crook who’s stolen a secret invention, and gets shot at, ending up with his plane burning, and landing with only one wing. His dreams of flying in air shows are at an end.

The secret invention was something built by Howard Hughes, played by Terry O’Quinn (another link to a previous tape – Blind Fury). But he and the feds think it was destroyed when the thief’s car blew up.

Terry O'Quinn as Howard Hughes

But it wasn’t destroyed. The thief had stashed it under the seat of Campbell’s older plane. It’s a rocket pack.

Rocket Pack

The thief was actually stealing it for Hollywood movie star Neville Sinclair, played by Timothy Dalton, via mobsters led by Paul Sorvino. Dalton is perfect in this role, channeling his inner Errol Flynn. “What does a movie star want with a rocket?” asks Sorvino. We’ll find out.

Timothy Dalton

Campbell finds it, with his engineer Alan Arkin, and they run some tests. Campbell wants to use it at air shows. He’s dating Jennifer Connelly, an aspiring actress, who just happens to be working as an extra on Neville Sinclair’s latest film. When he visits her there, he manages to knock over a piece of the set (not very well constructed) and gets her fired, but when Sinclair overhears him telling her about the rocket pack, he’s all over her. offering her a bigger part, and an invitation to dinner.

At an air show, Campbell is supposed to be flying a ‘clown plane’ but he’s late, so his friend goes up in his place, who’s not been in a plane for 25 years, so Campbell has to use the rocket pack to save him, in a great flying sequence. This was just at the end of the classic optical special effects, before computer-based compositing took over completely, so it has a satisfying old-school feeling.

Rocketeer

But the public demostration of the rocket attracts the attention of everyone, good or bad, including Dalton’s hired goon, Lothar, an actor made up with prosthetics to look like Rondo Hatton, a staple of 1940s gangster movies.

Lothar

Hey look, it’s the Chinese Theater again. Did I mention I’ve been there?

Chinese Theater again

Dalton is seducing Connelly, Campbell tries to get her out, but a rocket suit isn’t best deployed in an enclosed ballroom. Dalton takes her back to his house, where she finds out the truth about Neville Sinclair.

Dalton's Diary

Yes, he’s a nazi spy, a clever meta-joke, alluding to the rumours that Errol Flynn himself was secretly a nazi spy.

So the scene is set for a final confrontation, at Griffith Park Observatory, where Dalton and an army of Nazi soldiers face off against Sorvino’s 100% American mobster, and the FBI, with Connelly and Campbell in the middle.

Oh, and did I mention that Dalton has an airship?

Airship

After a curiously small-scale fight between Dalton and Campbell in the airship, Dalton grabs the rocket and makes his escape, but not until Campbell removes the piece of gum that’s blocking a fuel leak, that pack bursts into flames, taking im crashing into the old HOLLYWOODLAND sign, destroying the last four letters.

Then it only remains for Campbell and Connelly to escape, running across the top on an exploding airship, to be rescued by Howard Hughes in an autogyro. How can you not love this film?

Autogyro

After the Rocketeer, that recording stops, and underneath we have the end of Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now – the strange thread of connections continues from yesterday’s tape.

I won’t look at this now, since it’s not the whole film, but this recording presents something of a minor mystery. After the movie, there’s a look ahead at tomorrow’s programmes.

BBC1 Wednesday 27th January 1993

This, along with Genome, absolutely places this showing of Don’t Look Now at  BBC One – 26th January 1993 – 23:40. Therefore, this is a more recent recording than Twins, but which was recorded over by The Rocketeer.

However, if I look at the timeline on the tape it doesn’t look like Don’t Look Now could have been the immediate next recording after Twins, as the duration doesn’t match up. DLN ends at about 4:00 on the tape. Twins ends at 1:40, which means if the recording with DLN was the next recording, which Genome tells up ended at 1:25am, it must have started at 11:05pm (roughly). But the programme before DLN was Omnibus which started at 22:40, so, unless I started recording over 30 minutes before DLN started, that doesn’t make sense. So I have to assume that after Twins but before Don’t Look Now I must have recorded a half hour programme, And I must, therefore, have decided I didn’t want to keep that programme, when I recorded over it with The Rocketeer.

I’m not entirely sure why I would have wanted to record over Don’t Look Now – I had probably forgotten I’d recorded it after whatever was immediately after Twins.

Oh well.

After the film, and the look ahead, there’s some weather, and then Peter Bolgar wishes us a very good night as BBC1 closes down for the night.

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Track 29 – tape 1467

This tape starts with Track 29, directed by the usually interesting Nicolas Roeg. It’s written by Dennis Potter – another link to a recent tape. I wonder how many of his narrative tics we’ll see. It doesn’t start well, with the opening credits playing out over a figure on a deserted road, and when the credits end, we get a close up. It’s Gary Oldman, and the first thing he does is throw his head back and screams “Mummy!”. Childhood trauma? I’d put money on it.

Theresa Russell is doing her aerobics while watching Dangermouse. Was Dangermouse sold in the US? Was it popular amongst suburban women?

Theresa Russell

Her husband is Christopher Lloyd, a doctor whose hobby is model railways.

Christopher Lloyd

There’s another link with a recent tape, as Oldman is hitchhiking along the Cape Fear River.

Cape Fear River

He hitches a ride with a trucker, Leon Trippy (last seen here in the Star Trek TNG episode The Neutral Zone) who has a tattoo of ‘Mom’ on his arm, which Oldman highly approves of. Then, when he takes his shirt off, he has ‘Mother’ tattooed on his chest, giving Oldman a flashback to… anyone? Yes, it’s someone having sex. Good Grief, Potter, are you ever going to get over that?

He’s dropped off near the diner where Russell and her friend are eating, and he’s soon flirting with Russell with his english accent and dreamy floppy hair. Look how young he looks.

Gary Oldman

As if one character with parental issues isn’t enough, Russell appears to call Lloyd ‘daddy’ and she has a large doll collection. Plus, more trauma in her past as we see flashbacks to a childbirth.

Meanwhile, Lloyd is lusting after the much younger nurse at his practice, played by Sandra Bernhard. He enjoys having her smack him on the bum while fairground music is playing.

Sandra Bernhard

Then Oldman comes to see Russell and tells her he’s her son. But it also seems he might entirely be a figment of Russell’s imagination, which would at least excuse his appallingly mannered performance.

At one point, Lloyd is giving the keynote speech at a model train convention that’s a little more animated than I would expect such a gathering to be.

Keynote Speech

And in the end, her delusion kills Lloyd, and she goes off to live in her fantasy world by herself.

Oh, and Gary Oldman sings an old song, called ‘Mother’, so I think that completes our Dennis Potter Bingo.

After this, there’s a strange looking film called Skidoo. It looks like a film about hippies made by a very old man, Otto Preminger.

Then, the tape runs out during Janis, a documentary about Janis Joplin.

Janis Joplin

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Star Trek – The Next Generation – tape 1465

This tape opens with the end of The DJ Kat Show, a programme made by Sky – a rarity in those days. I can’t comment on its quality.

DJ Kat

Then, Star Trek The Next Generation, with a corker of an episode, Starship Mine. The Enterprise is being evacuated while it is being swept by beams to eliminate baryon particles that have accumulated over the past few years of spaceflight.

The command crew have to attend a dinner on the space station, and suffer the interminable smalltalk of one of the aministrators. Data loves this, however, as he’s practising his smalltalk techniques.

Data practising smalltalk

The captain doesn’t enjoy it quite as much, so when the station commander tells him there are horses and riding trails on the planet, he jumps at the chance, but first he has to return to the ship to get his saddle.

Picard's Saddle

But he spots an ODN junction box that’s been left open, and meets one of the maintenance crew, who were supposed to be off the ship. He’s played by Tim Russ, who would later play Tuvok on Voyager.

Tim Russ

We also learn that Picard can perform the vulcan nerve pinch – or something much like it.

He’s trapped on the ship when the power is shut down so that the baryon sweep won’t affect the ship’s systems. And he’s soon captured by the maintenance crew, who are up to no good.

Meanwhile on the station, the dull dinner turns into a hostage situation as two crinkly faced aliens pull out guns and keep the command crew hostage. They don’t know what’s happening on the ship, but they have to find a way to overcome the hostage takers.

Picard, on the Enterprise, is going full John McClane. He tells them he’s the barber, and soon escapes their custody, crawling through Jeffries Tubes, and improvising explosives. And because phasers don’t work while the ship is being swept by the baryon field, he even goes a bit medieval.

Picard and the crossbow

This is a great fun episode – Die Hard on a spaceship – and it’s always great to see Patrick Stewart get some action scenes. It’s also fairly gritty for Star Trek – all the bad guys end up dead.

Additional note – one of the bad guys is played by Patricia Tallman – Lyta Alexander from Babylon 5.

Patricia Tallman

In the next episode, Picard can’t have a cup of tea because Stellar Cartography are using all the ship’s systems, because a new crewmember is created a model of a developing star system.

This episode is Lessons. The captain seems quite taken by this new head of Stellar Cartography, Nella Daren.

Wendy Hughes

She’s a musician as well as a scientist, and Picard gets to play his flute for her – the one he acquired in an older episode, The Inner Light.

This is mostly an episode about HR policy. Should the captain have a relationship with a head of department? Would she get preferential treatment?

But things get tense when she goes down to a planet to study a violent firestorm, and help evacuate the people on the planet. Her team is overwhelmed by the firestorm before they can beam out. Will she survive?

Surprisingly, she does, but the show has to reset this time – Captain Picard can’t get married – so she decides to transfer to another command. This is a fairly lightweight episode, considering, but it’s nice to see Picard have something of a personal life.

The next episode is The Chase. Picard’s old professor, Galen, brings an ancient artefact to show him. He’s very excited.

Picard the archaeology nerd

I like Picard being an archaeology nerd.

His professor is played by Norman Lloyd, from St Elsewhere, who invites Picard on a mysterious expedition. But Picard can’t take a year off from the Enterprise, and the professor reluctantly leaves on his own.

Norman Lloyd

Soon after, he signals the Enterprise that he’s being attacked. They’re too late to save him, and the ship attacking him was destroyed, so Picard starts piecing together Galen’s journey, to try to work out what information he had that was so important.

They piece together the numbers in Galen’s records, and discover that it’s fragments of DNA which, when combined, forms a computer program. A program embedded in DNA 4 billion years ago.

Yes, it’s Chariots of the Gods all over again. And the Enterprise isn’t the only ship on the trail of the code. Some DNA samples are missing, and some are held by Cardassians and Klingons, all after whatever the secret of the program might be.

The Cardassian captain is played by Former Avenger Linda Thorson.

Linda Thorson

When they get to the final planet in the sequence, with the final piece of DNA, the Romulans turn up, led by Maurice Roeves

Maurice Roeves

Picard completes the program, and it’s able to reconfigure the tricorder to transmit a message from an ancient race.

Ancient Race

I wonder whether the design of the aliens was deliberately reused for the founders’ makeup, later in Deep Space Nine. It might make sense.

So it seems that this race seeded DNA on a host of planets, which guided evolution into lifeforms similar to the ancient race – which is supposed to explain why all aliens are humanoid. Once again, Star Trek gets DNA quite wrong. But it’s a fun episode for all that.

Before the next episode, there’s Sky News Headlines.

Then, back to Star Trek, and Riker is locked up in some kind of institution. Only – psyche! – he’s rehearsing a play, with Data.

But he keeps seeing a particular alien lieutenant he doesn’t recognise, until the night of the play, when he’s taking applause, the same alien is there, and suddenly Riker really is in a cell, and the alien is questioning him.

Inquisitor

This episode is Frame of Mind, and spends most of it’s time flipping back and forth between Riker in an alien mental institution, being told that he’s not Riker at all, and Riker back on the Enterprise, but with signs that it may not be real.

It’s a nice, trippy story, with just a hint of Total Recall.

After this, the recording stops.

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Prison – tape 1452

Now on Sky Movies, it’s Renny Harlin’s Prison, a film where Lane Smith gets top billing over Viggo Mortenson. It’s a schlocker from the Charles Band stable, and despite it being a genre of film I hate, my memory of it is that it was fun.

The film starts with a first-person walk through a prison by a prisoner, ending up at the electric chair. Lane Smith is a guard, who takes a crucifix from the prisoner before he’s executed, and the sequence ends with an older Smith waking up from a nightmare.

Lane Smith

Chelsea Field is on the Prison board, and has to oversee the reopneing of an old prison, whose warden is none other than Lane Smith, an old school sadistic warden who has no truck with Field’s more ‘touchy feely’ view of the role of prison.

Chelsea Field

We get to meet some of the new prisoners as they arrive. All the usual tropes appear. The big rapey one. The wisecracking New Yorker. The Morgan Freeman Shawshank Redemption character. And Viggo Mortenson as a strong, silent type.

Viggo Mortenson

Part of the prison’s work detail leads Mortenson and another prisoner down to the prison’s walled-up execution room, which the warden wants opened up. But when they break through, a bright light bursts out, and there’s a cut-price ark of the Covenant going on down there.

Pretty soon, weird things are happening. One inmate in solitary confinement is burned to a crisp when his cell walls start glowing red hot, and the other only survives because Mortenson opens the cell door and pulls him out. Warden Smith is not impressed.

Pretty soon, strange things are happening. A prisoner tries to escape through the execution room, and it impaled on a lot of pipes, as the other inmates discover when he falls through the ceiling of the dining room during lunch. Despite him being stuck through with various pipes and cables, the warden asks for a search of the inmates for ‘the murder weapon’ keeping all the inmates outside until the killer confesses.

He’s then a little surprised when a sadistic guard, having a quiet cup of coffee, is wrapped in barbed wire then pushed up through the floor of his office.

That must hurt

There’s a bit of a riot, and the warden orders lockdown. Meanwhile, Chelsea Field (remember her? The story barely does) is receiving strange messages from all her electrical appliances, including a computer and dot matrix printer that’s not even plugged in.

1964

She looks for what happened in 1964 and finds out a prisoner was executed for killing another prisoner, adn that not only was Lane Smith a guard there, but the executed prisoner looks exactly like Viggo Mortenson, which explains why he unnerves Smith so much.

Charles Forsythe

Another prisoner does some kind of ritual to summon the spirit, and gets a bright light punched through his chest for good measure. All the locks and handcuffs are opened, leading to a lot of general milling around. They try to escape but the spirit is firing machine guns and throwing pickaxes around, making the prison yard a distinctly unsafe place to be.

But Field turns up at the prison, manages to drive in, and get out with Mortenson, Smith and Lincoln Kilpatrick as the old-timer who testified against Forsythe all those years ago to help Smith. But the vengeful spirit isn’t finished with them.

Electro Forsythe

Well, maybe that wasn’t the lost classic I thought it could be. For me, it suffers from two major failings. It’s a prison movie, which I dislike by reflex from the start, and it’s also a ghost story, which is often problematic, as it is here, because it’s hard to know quite what the motive is of the ghost, and even if you do know, there’s not a lot for the protagonists to do except wait for the ghost to do something. So it ends up being a fairly passive story.

Afterwards, recording continues with something I didn’t even know was on this tape – a recording of Sam Raimi’s genuine classic, The Evil Dead. I suspect this is the heavily cut home video version that was finally allowed, after the original uncut version was famously one of the often-banned video nasties of the early 80s.

I first saw the movie on its original cinema run, and it was always a bit frustrating that for such a long time, the quite heavily cut version was the only one available, as the cuts really do play havoc with the rhythm of the film, especially towards the climax.

I won’t look in detail at the film now, as I’ve got at least two other tapes with it on, so I’ll probably have more of a look at it when those tapes come up.

I'll Swallow Your Soul

After the film, recording continues again, with another prison movie, but one I’m not familiar with, Payback, written by and starring Corey Michael Eubanks, and co-starring Michael Ironside, so it can’t be entirely bad. There’s about 15 minutes of it before the tape ends.

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Star Trek – The Next Generation – tape 1464

Straight into Star Trek The Next Generation, on Sky One, with Deanna Troi’s personal log. “My mother is on board.” Naturally, Picard isn’t overjoyed to see her.

Picard and Lwaxana

He’s trying to prepare for first contact with a reclusive race. “Oh I adore diplomacy. Everyone dresses so well.”

David Ogden Stiers plays the representative of the alien race, Doctor Timotei. Or Timicin, possibly.

David Ogden Stiers

He’s developed a method of using a photon torpedo to revive his planet’s dying star, so let’s hope Lwaxana Troi’s romantic overtures aren’t too distracting.

They test the procedure on an empty star system, and whilst it looks promising at first, it didn’t produce a stable result. And Timicin tells Troi that he can’t try again, as, according to the customs of their culture, because he’s reaching the age of 60, he has to kill himself. Picard can’t help, because of the Prime Directive, but Lwaxana desperately wants to do something to help him.

It’s an interesting discussion, touching on rigid culture, and hinting at euthanasia. Timicin is persuaded by Lwaxana that he still has more to give, but his planet is rather wedded to its tradition, and if he chose to forgoe his death, he would be banished, and unable to complete his work, the main reason he wishes to continue living.

His daughter arrives and tells him she’s disgusted by his actions. She’s played by Michelle Forbes, who would go on to return to the show as Ensign Ro.

Michelle Forbes

There’s no easy answer in this episode. Timicin returns to his home, and Lwaxana goes with him to be there for his ceremony. After all the comedy episodes featuring Lwaxana, it’s nice to see her get a dramatic episode, and this one really pulls at the heartstrings.

Before the next episode, there’s Sky News Headlines, with troubles in Bosnia leading the headlines.

In the next episode, The Host, Dr Crusher has fallen for an alien ambassador, Odan, but there’s something creepy about him. He’s got something living in his stomach.

But later, we learn he’s a Trill, which (having now seen Deep Space Nine) we know means they are a binary lifeform.

He’s definitely in love, and he asks Picard’s advice, which is an awkward conversation, particularly for the Captain.

Awkward Conversation

But on a shuttle to a planet, for negotiations, they’re fired upon, and Odan is seriously injured, whereupon Dr Crusher learns the symbiotic nature of the Trill. The Host body is dying, but a new host will be sent from his home planet, and in the meantime, Riker volunteers to act as a host. This is awkward all over again, because now Riker is in love with Crusher, so now both Picard and Troi’s noses are out of joint.

The negotiations eventually complete successfully, but Riker is rejecting the symbiont. The new Trill host arrives, and Crusher is rather dismayed, as she’s not really her type.

Kareel

So this episode is tackling transgenderism, which is fairly typical for TNG at the time.

God help me, I’m starting to be nostalgic for the old-style Sky One logos from when I first got a satellite dish. Shoot me now.

Sky One logo

In the next episode, The Mind’s Eye, Geordi is en route to Raisa for an artificial intelligence conference, so he passes the time playing quizzes with the computer. I always liked Geordi. But as he’s distracted, there’s something creeping up on him.

Look Behind You Geordi

Geordi is taken about a Romulan ship, and subjected to a bit of enforced viewing, as they play images through his visual cortex to stimulate a response. In the meantime they send a lookalike to Raisa so that he’s not missed. All this time, there’s a Romulan noticeably shrouded in shadow. I have a guess who that might be.

Clockwork Geordi

They’re doing a Manchurian Candidate on Geordi, it sounds like. In a simulation, he’s told to kill Chief O’Brien to see if the conditioning is working.

Meanwhile the Enterprise is getting involved in an insurrection on a Klingon colony. Some of the Klingons believe the Federation are arming the rebels. And Geordi is returned to the ship, telling everyone what a great time he had on Raisa, but when he deliberately spills a drink over Chief O’Brien, it’s clear that he’s being controlled by the Romulans.

Or is he? In a shock revelation, we learn that one of the conspirators is the Klingon ambassador.

Klingon traitor

You can tell when it’s approaching a dramatic point, and Geordi might be about to kill someone, as he’s being filmed with a very wide angle lens. A sure giveaway of psychological manipulation.

Wide Angle Shot

Luckily for all concerned, Data is investigating all the anomalies, and the strange transmissions they have detected, and manages to piece it all together before Geordi is able to kill anyone. And the show ends with Geordi and Troi trying to piece together his missing memory. I like it that the show isn’t afraid of leaving consequences for its characters.

The next episode opens with Picard getting a haircut.

Something for the weekend Captain

This episode is Ensign Ro, and starts with Bajoran terrorism on the Cardassian border. There’s a very familiar space station  model – the base from Star Trek II.

Space Station

Picard is forced to accept Ensign Ro Laren, who has rather a dodgy record, and is not a welcome addition to the crew. “You’ve no idea what it took to get her out of prison” Picard is told by the admiral making the assignment. Ro is Bajoran, and the admiral thinks she will be useful in the negotiations.

Ensign Ro

But the admiral has his own agenda, and is working with the Cardassians to flush out the Bajoran terrorists.

Yet another political allegory, with hints of the Middle East. Although this episode also embraces the ‘False Flag’ idea so beloved of conspiracy theorists.

The next episode opens on a nice, green planet, where Riker is helping to plan a new colony for some settlers. He’s also chatting up Carmen, one of the settlers. But then, a huge crystalline structure appears in the sky above them, and they have to find shelter in nearby caves.

Crystalline Structure

It starts blasting the surface of the planet, and, tragically, kills Riker’s new love, along with another settler.

This episode is called Silicon Avatar. We’ve seen this entity before – Data’s evil twin Lore was working with it when the crew discovered him, in a first season episode.

When they emerge from the caves, there’s not much left of the planet.

After the Entity

A scientist, Kila Marr, comes aboard the Enterprise to study the entity, She’s an expert on it, having studied other planets it has attacked, but this is the first time there have ever been any survivors. “Now why, I wonder, did it spare your group@ she asks, giving a pointed look at Data.

Kila Marr

Her son was lost on Data’s home planet when the Entity was drawn there by Lore, so she believes that Data must also be controlling the entity. Their working relationship is frosty, until she finds out that Data’s mind was programmed with the records and some of the brain scans of the people on his planet, including her son. He’s able to tell her that her son didn’t resent being left there while she pursued her career.

The ship detects the entity, and follows it, trying to communicate with it. But Doctor Marr sets up a resonance in the entity which destroys it.

                           MARR
                   (talking to her son)
         You know, I did it for you. Because I love 
         you. Because I wanted to give you peace at 
         last.
                           DATA
         I do not find such a file in your son's journals, 
         Doctor. However, from what I know of him, by his 
         memories and his writing, I do not believe he would 
         be happy. 

         He was proud of your career as a scientist, and now 
         you have destroyed that. You say you did it for him, 
         but I do not believe he would have wanted that. 

         Yes, I believe your son would be very sad now. I am 
         sorry, Doctor, but I cannot help you.

Another heavy emotional gut punch. The show really was working well during this era. All five of these episodes were good, with perhaps only The Mind’s Eye veering off a bit into some Klingon bollocks, but not too badly. These episodes come from the end of season four and near the start of season 5. A golden age.

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Blind Fury – Dead Romatic – tape 1458

First on the tape, from Sky Movies, it’s Blind Fury. I can’t remember much about it, so I might not have watched it at the time. It’s from around the same time as films like The Hitcher and Wanted: Dead or Alive where Rutger Hauer was a popular leading man.

It’s directed by Phillip Noyce, who had just released Dead Calm, and interestingly, one of the producers is Tim Matheson – Vice President Hoynes from The West Wing.

The film also co-stars Terry O’Quinn, credited as Terrance O’Quinn for some reason.

It opens in Vietnam, with Hauer blinded in a mortar attack. Good thing he has the best medical care you can imagine.

Medical care

After a training montage – for reasons left unexplained, the people who found him are able to train a newly blind man to handle a samurai sword so that he can slice a watermelon into quarters as it’s thrown through the air – we cut to 20 years later, and Hauer is in Miami, stepping over crocodiles at the edge of the road, and visiting a rough bar where they like to bully blind men by feeding them super-hot chilli burritos. But then they start hassling a young woman, and Hauer beats them all up, all the while pretending (badly) that everything he’s doing is accidental.

Cut to Reno, and some mobsters are dangling a chemist called Deveraux (O’Quinn) from a tall building to get him to make designer drugs for them, also threatening his wife and kids in Miami. And where does Hauer happen to be going?

Deveraux

He’s visiting Deveraux, with whom he served in Vietnam, so he meets Meg Foster, Deveraux’s ex wife, and her son Billy. They barely get a chance to enjoy a nice cup of tea when there’s a knock on the door, and two policemen barge in asking to see Billy, as he’s been a witness to a crime. They’re very surly for police officers, so I smell a rat, who then enters in the shape of Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb off of Raising Arizona, who we saw as one of the mob guys hassling Deveraux in Reno.

Naturally, mayhem ensues, starting with a genuinely shocking moment – Foster is gunned down by Cobb when she tries to protect her son. Then Hauer takes action, and his super-sharp sword is used to full effect.

Handgun

With her dying breath, Foster entreats Hauer to protect her son and take him to his father. On the long road trip, they totally fail to bond, probably because this complete stranger has just taken him out of his family home, without any explanation of why. Cue some really annoying sparring between the two.

When Hauer does eventually tell him his mother’s dead, the boy runs off into a cornfield, and unluckily for them, that’s at precisely the same time that Cobb and his gang of scoundrels have found them, and follow them into the field. Cue another round of slice the bad guys.

Once they reach Reno, they’re both captured at Billy’s father’s house, where two good ol’ boys are waiting for them, along with Lisa Blount, who’s also working for the mobsters as a waitress, but doesn’t seem to be on their side very much.

Captured

They escape from the cowboys, taking their van, and the cowboys then demonstrate quite how evil they are by carjacking two old ladies.

Carjacking

It’s roughly at this point, when Hauer has to drive the van through a busy Reno while the cowboys are pursuing him, that you begin to feel the filmmakers aren’t taking this entirely seriously. And when he gets to the casino where Deveraux (O’Quinn) is being held, he’s able to first win a huge amount on the roulette, then, when a croupier arrives to fix the wheel, is able to reveal the scam by cutting a hole in the man’s jacket pocket and lifting the wheel out with his sword. I’m beginning to think this movie isn’t totally realistic.

Roulette Wheel

That’s not even mentioning him menacing one of the mobsters by cutting his eyebrows off. “I also do circumcision”

It tries to get all serious when Hauer and O’Quinn are reunited. It was O’Quinn’s fault that Hauer was injured in Vietnam, but, as they both take a cable-car to mount a rescue of Billy and Blount from the head mobster, Hauer tells O’Quinn that he forgives him. I put money on O’Quinn sacrificing his life to save Hauer in the final sequence…

The film isn’t above putting Hauer in challenging situations – here he is having to crawl silently through a drum kit.

Silence of the Drums

O’Quinn gets spooked again, and runs off – is this another repeat of Vietnam? Hauer is surrounded by bad guys with guns. How can he possibly escape? By O’Quinn pulling the fuses and plunging the room into darkness, then tossing homemade bombs to disorientate the now blind goon. “I can’t see!” “That’s where I live.”

Dark Fight

Moving on to the main mobster’s room where he’s holding O’Quinn’s son, and Blount, Hauer then has to fight a Japanese swordsman, which definitely seems like an unfair fight. There’s a nice use of a mini trampoline during the fight, part of which takes place in a mini-gym.

Finally, there’s a last confrontation between Hauer and Cobb, and Cobb ends up the worse for wear – in fact, he goes all Darth Maul.

And confounding all my expectations, O’Quinn survives the encounter, and takes Billy and Blount to San Francisco. But Hauer doesn’t go with them, leading to a tearful farewell with little Billy.

Tearful farewell

And despite what he told Billy earlier in the movie, Hauer discovers he can, actually, cry.

After this, recording switches to BBC2, and a Screen Two adaptation of Simon Brett’s novel Dead Romantic. A serial killer is gruesomely murdering women. Our heroine is Janet McTeer, a teacher at a language school, who is in the habit of giving very sultry poetry readings to a young student, Johnny Lee Miller.

Poetry Corner

There’s an odd scene after this, when Miller returns home to find friends of his watching a porny horror film. Some of his ‘friends’ taunt him. “Bloody virgin’s convention. You’d be better off buying it. From a tart, stupid.” This is some of the worst dialogue I’ve heard in a long time, and I’ve just watched Blind Fury.

Miller is, obviously, in love with McTeer, and she obviously doesn’t realise. She’s interested in one of the other teachers, Clive Wood, who’s married, nursing a very sick wife, but fully up for a candlelit dinner with McTeer.

We see Miller buy a knife from a junk shop, so is that a clue or a red herring? Probably the latter, as he starts self-harming.

So, we have McTeer and Clive Wood, young Johnny Lee Miller, McTeer’s niece, who is seeing a man called Terry whom we haven’t met yet, Miller’s girlfriend and his horrible virgin-taunting friend, and the head of the language school, who appears to want to sleep with every woman on the faculty. I’m assuming at this point that one of these will be the murderer, who has been killing rather a lot over the course of the programme, but whose actions have not been the subject of a single discussion between any of our principals. It’s almost as if they’re happening in a different story.

McTeer arranges a romantic weekend with Wood in the country, while letting her niece spend time with ‘Terry’.

Miller follows McTeer in his mum’s car, while swigging whiskey from a bottle, but the police stop him after a chase. So it’s probably not him.

Then we see Wood making everything nice in the cottage for his tryst with McTeer – then a scene that I have watched three times now to try and understand. Wood is in the cottage, setting up. He pauses at the bottom of the stairs, looks up to the floor above, then the scene cuts to the (previously established) killer’s bag and trenchcoat. Then we cut back to Wood (at least I think it’s him) collecting some clothes and laying them out on a bed. He’s dressed differently, so I presume we’re seeing a flashback. Then he walks out of the bedroom and into another – the killer’s room with the bag and the trenchcoat.

Then it cuts back to Wood in the cottage – I presume we were seeing his recollection, but it’s confusing, especially when at least two of the men in this programme look very similar. So, unless the killer is actually Wood’s sick wife, whom we have never seen, I think McTeer might be in trouble. Well frankly, she’s in trouble whatever happens.

So the romantic evening leads to bed, and Wood is rubbish, being much too rough, and when she gets cross, he starts trying to strangle her, but luckily for her, unluckily for him, his murder bag is by the bed and she grabs a knife and stabs him. Quite a few times, actually. And then she goes into full CSI mode, cleaning the crime scene, removing fingerprints and traces of hairs, and chucking the murder weapon into the nearby lake.

A strange one this. Not much of a whodunnit, to be honest, and there’s a lot of brooding loners. Not a classic.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 14th February 1993 – 22:00

Following this there’s a trailer for next week’s Screen Two, The Cormorant, starring Ralph Fiennes.

The recording continues with the start of Visconti’s Death in Venice. After a few minutes of this the recording stops, and underneath there’s credits for a movie on Sky Movies. It’s an 80s power ballad sung by Celine Dion and Warren Wiebe, and the credits are played over a picture of the US Capitol building. The copyright date is 1989. My guess was Murder at 1600 but that’s 1997. A little spelunking in iMDB reveals that it’s actually a movie called Listen To Me (the title of the Dion track) and starred Kirk Cameron and Jamie Gertz, so it’s no wonder I couldn’t place it.

There’s a trailer for State of Grace after this, then another movie starts, a Cannon presentation of a film called Storm. There’s a couple of minutes of this before the tape ends.

Lipstick On Your Collar – Horizon – tape 1448

First on this tape, episode 3 of Dennis Potter’s Lipstick on your Collar. Can we expect lip-syncing to old songs, deeply buried trauma and an old man obsessing over a beautiful young woman?

The credits reveal this was the first screen appearance of Ewan McGregor.

Ewan McGregor

There’s also some distinctly disturbing imagery on show.

Here’s a platinum blonde, Louise Germane (also in Potter’s Midnight Movie)

Louise Germane

And here’s Peter Jeffries lip-syncing to Blue Suede Shoes.

Blue Suede Shoes

This is all within the first two minutes of the show. I’m not saying Dennis Potter is predictable, but sometimes it really does seem like he’s just doing the same old schtick every time. They even manage to get a naked woman into this dance sequence set in the house of commons.

Douglas Henshall plays McGregor’s horrible superior officer.

Douglas Henshall

It takes a full fifteen minutes for one of the characters to speak of his childhood memory of his father, and use it as a motivation to use force in the Suez crisis. Our Potter Bingo is going well.

And mere seconds after this, Roy Hudd is poised outside Louise Germane’s house, acting for all the world like someone obsessed…

Roy Hudd

That’s a full house. Oh, and Shane Rimmer is in this too.

Shane Rimmer

The next episode is basically more of the same. Tiresome.

After this episode, it’s over the BBC2 and Horizon with Whatever Happened to Star Wars, a look at Ronald Reagan’s ‘peace shield’ that was supposed to develop a set of technologies to protect the US from nuclear attack.

It’s quite interesting hearing the scientists and politicians all basically saying “Nobody knew how to achieve any of this”. They even discussed anti-matter weapons – which seems a little silly, since all the effort was to negate the power of nuclear weapons, why would you try to create an even bigger bomb? Here one of them with a cool model of a X-Ray laser.

X Ray Laser

Edward Teller seems like a fine fellow, grossly exaggerating the effectiveness of the X-Ray Laser.

Edward Teller

The end titles are a small piece of genius, though, playing to the Thunderbirds theme.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 15th March 1993 – 20:00

After this, recording stops and underneath there’s a bit of The Krays before the tape stops.

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