Month: January 2017

Space 1999 – Star Trek – Voyager – The Simpsons – The Final Cut – tape 2055

First on this tape, Space 1999. In The Last Enemy The Alphans approach two planets. “It’d be nice to have a choice” says Dr Russell.

There’s some nice matte painting going on here.

Matte Painting

And some more great spaceship models.

Space 1999 Dione's ship

The two planets orbit opposite each other, so they can’t directly attack each other – because of course they’re at war. So one of them sends a weapons platform to the moon to start firing on their enemy. It doesn’t end well.

Kevin Stoney plays the leader of one of the planets.

Kevin Stoney

After this, recording continues for a short time with the start of Jason King.

Then recording switches to Sky and an episode of Star Trek Voyager called Time and Again. Going by the usual Star Trek naming conventions, I suspect time travel, or time loops.

The ship encounters the shock wave of a massive explosion on a planet which has destroyed all life. Kes has the look of someone who will impart important plot information at some point.

Kes Thinking

Sure enough, while the away team is discovering that the whole planet used a dangerous form of energy to power their whole planet, Kes is telling Neelix that she could see the disaster happening on the planet. She’s basically the Guinan in this version of Yesterday’s Enterprise.

On the planet, Paris starts seeing visions of the planet as it was, and he and Janeway are suddenly pulled back to the day before the explosion destroyed the planet.

As with so many Star Trek planet, costume homogeneity is a given, with everyone dressed in the same basic clothes.

Costume Homogeneity

Janeway and Paris need to find a way back to the present day, and because of the prime directive, they aren’t allowed to prevent the explosion. Until Janeway realises that it’s their presence in the past that caused the catastrophe somehow.

It’s a nice story, although, as with most time travel stories, it doesn’t fully hold up, causally speaking.

After this, recording continues with some WWF.

Then, recording switches to The Simpsons and Treehouse of Horror VI which has the stories Attack of the 50ft EyesoresNightmare on Evergreen Terrace and the classic Homer3

Homer 3

Which ends with Homer entering our world.

Erotic Cakes

After this, recording switches again, to the end of Keeping Up Appearances.

Then, Episode One of The Final Cut, the last part of Andrew Davies’ adaptation of Michael Dobbs’ political drama. This episode opens with Francis Urquhart (Ian Richardson) shooting his own dog. I presume this is inspired by the story of Michael Heseltine having his dog put down after it bit him

Shoot the Dog

Then it continues with the funeral of Margaret Thatcher. Urquhart is not a fan.

“I want to do something about Europe before I go” he says. Maybe he should have a referendum.

There are some famous faces in Urquhart’s cabinet. Paul Freeman (Belloq in Raiders).

Paul Freeman

Nickolas Grace

Nickolas Grace

Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes

Julian Fellowes

The main plot here involves negotiations with Cyprus over a peace deal with Greece, and underhand dealings over possible oil fields. But Urquhart has flashbacks to a younger time when he was in Cyprus, and probably not behaving witht he utmost moral sobriety. And I’m not talking about all night raves.

Young Urquhart

BBC Genome: BBC One – 5th November 1995 – 21:00

After this, recording continues with the news, and coverage of the assassination of Israel’s Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, shot by a Jewish extremist shortly after addressing a peace rally.

Plus, the discovery in Parkhurst Prison of the impressions of two security keys, found “in the pastry of a pie.”

Here’s the whole bulletin, plus the weather and some trailers at the end as a bonus.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 5th November 1995 – 21:50

After this, the tape runs out during an episode of Angus Deayton’s In Search of Happiness.

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Michael Moore’s TV Nation – Film 95 – The Thin Blue Line – Amazing Stories – tape 2097

This tape opens with the end of an episode of The X Files, a trailer for the Friday Night Comedy Zone, and for Kicking and Screaming.

Then, an episode of Michael Moore’s TV Nation. Michael meets Dr Jack Kevorkian and finds out what he likes to do on his day off.

Jack Kevorkian and Michael Moore

There’s a piece on a gated community near Chicago.

Louis Theroux finds out about Cops for Christ.

Louis Theroux and Bob Erler

There’s a report on using smells to improve workspace and productivity. And a piece comparing Healthcare in the US, Canada and Cuba that Moore would eventually remake as a feature documentary, Sicko.

There’s the weatherman who was fired because he wouldn’t give a (false) good forecast for the day the town was hosting a Rush Limbaugh picnic.

And it wraps up with some clips from previous shows.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 9th October 1995 – 21:45

After this, recording switches to an episode of Film 95, wherein Barry Norman passes judgement on:

Tom Brook has a report on To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. Lots of questions about “Did it worry you playing a drag queen?” Patrick Swayze actually says “We’re not asking the world to fall in love with drag queens, we’re asking the world to fall in love with the human spirit.”

There’s also a look back at 1982 as part of the Century of Cinema.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 9th October 1995 – 23:30

After this, recording switches and we get the end of Omnibus on Gore Vidal. There’s a very ebullient trailer for Roughnecks.

Then, back to Film 95, where Barry Norman looks at the following films:

There’s a location report on Goldeneye.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 16th October 1995 – 23:35

After this episode, recording switches again, and there’s the end of Eastenders. A trail for Due South. Then a trailer for The Vicar of Dibley.

Then, The Thin Blue Line and an episode called The Queen’s Birthday Present.

There’s a guest appearance by Stephen Moore.

Stephen Moore

Good grief. It’s 1995 and Ben Elton, of all people, writes a whole scene about how Rowan Atkinson’s wife is unable to cook breakfast. Or, indeed, make a cup of coffee.

And James Dreyfuss, in an attempt to look cool, tells off a young black man for ‘jaywalking’ which isn’t even an offence in this country.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 13th November 1995 – 20:30

After this, there’s a trailer for Children In Need and their Smellovision scratch & Sniff promotion.

There’s also a trailer for Panorama on divorce.

Then there’s the start of the Nine O’Clock News leading with a major bomb attack on an American base in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Recording then switches to the end of Omnibus on Norman Foster.

There’s a trailer for Roughnecks.

Then, Film 95 and reviews of:

There’s an interview with Kenneth Branagh about In The Bleak Midwinter.

There’s also a tribute to the late Robert Stephens.

Then, Barry looks back at 1977 – the year of Star Wars. Nice to have a clip of Carrie Fisher.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 13th November 1995 – 23:30

After this, a trailer for Due South.

Then, an episode of Amazing Stories. in The Eternal Mind Jeffrey Jones is doing experiments on a monkey. They’re trying to tap into the mind of the monkey and visualise its memories.

Jeffrey Jones

When the projecct timescale is compressed, he decides to use himself as the subject of a full brain transfer. He’s dying, so he wants his mind to live on, So it’s basically the plot of Transcendence.

The next part is Go To The Head of the Class starring Christopher Lloyd as a teacher. It’s directed by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale and Mick Garris are writers.

Two of Lloyd’s pupils decide to use the instructions they’ve found by playing a heavy metal record backwards to cast a spell on him.

It goes a bit wrong, and he spends the rest of the story running after them with his head off his shoulders.

Christopher Lloyd's Head

It’s really not very interesting.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 14th November 1995 – 00:00

After this, there’s a trailer for Roughnecks, and a 999 Special on drinking and driving.

There’s a weather forecast, then a public information film, with ominous music, about looking out for old neighbours when it’s cold. Then BBC1 closes down, with Patrick Walker wishing us a very good night.

Star Trek – Deep Space Nine – tape 2050

A few more Deep Space Nine episodes on this tape, starting with The Die Is Cast. Continuing from the previous episode, Garak has rejoined a Cardassian spy, and has taken Odo for an assault on the Founders/Changelings planet. Garak interrogates Odo, keeping him from returning to his liquid form.

Interrogation

 

The next episode is Through the Looking Glass. Sisko is kidnapped by O’Brien, but it’s the O’Brien from an alternate universe. He wants Sisko to persuade a scientist to join their cause. Their version of Sisko is dead. The wrinkle is that the scientist is his wife Jennifer, dead in the regular universe, but alive here.

Jennifer Sisko

I must confess that I don’t particularly like these mirror universe stories. The evil versions of the regulars are just too ridiculously evil. But the emotional twist of Sisko reunited with his wife works well in this one.

Not enough goatees or eyepatches, though. Someone didn’t get the memo about alternate universe stories. But at least Kira was a bit gay in this one.

The next episode here is Explorers. And wouldn’t you know it, one episode too late, Sisko has only gone and grown a goatee. Wait – does this mean that this Sisko is the evil one?

Sisko's Goatee

The episode opens with Bashir leching desperately with a woman who comes to him with ‘a cough’. Now, this scene brings up so many problems. Now I know Bashir is a desperate flirt, and I would presume that people on the station know that too. So why would a young woman have to approach him pretending to have a cough? Doesn’t this make her his patient, and therefore, morally, out of bounds? Why doesn’t she just, I don’t know, sit down next to him at the bar? Given Bashir’s libido, that would be enough for him to hit on her. (I’m assuming here that the woman in question was herself flirting with him, and wasn’t genuinely in need of treatment,)

Sisko comes back from his trip not only with new facial hair, but also a new hobby. He wants to build a copy of an ancient interstellar sailboat, to see if ancient Bajoran legends are true, and the Bajorans flew such a ship to Cardassia. It’s all gone a bit Thor Heyerdal.

Sisko the explorer

Bashir learns that a woman he went to academy with is visiting. She was top of the class, he was second, and because he’s grotesquely insecure, he’s swotting up before she comes.

Sisko and Jake take the sailboat on a voyage, to see if the trip is possible. The sailboat looks nice, shades of the TRON solar sailor.

Sailboat

This was a quiet episode, but really quite lovely. When Sisko and Jake are met at the edge of Cardassian space, after proving the journey was indeed possible (thanks to a handy spacial anomaly, saviour of so many Star Trek episodes) the Cardassians even let off some space fireworks.

Space Fireworks

Credit spot: Computer Animation John Knoll. I’m guessing that’s for the solar sailor sails. I think DS9 still mostly used motion-controlled model photography, so it hadn’t yet started using CGI for everything. Babylon 5 was running at the same time, which gives you an idea as to what TV CGI was like – it couldn’t quite replicate the look of miniatures for another couple of years.

Computer Animation John Knoll

The last episode here is Family Business. After some good episodes, we’re back to Ferengi bollocks. Quark has to answer for the crimes of his mother. Which include wearing clothes, apparently.

Quark's Mother

Everything about the Ferengi is awful and creepy. They are the worst.

But at least Sisko gets to go on a date with Penny Johnson Jerald (Sherry Palmer from 24). During which we learn that nobody’s played baseball for 200 years. Maybe that explains why Bashir and O’Brien can’t play darts. Perhaps all sport died out during the pre-federation dark ages.

Penny Johnson Jerald

After this, the recording stops, and underneath there’s a short bit of LA Law before the tape runs out.

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Star Trek – Deep Space Nine – tape 2046

More episodes of Deep Space Nine. First, Heart of Stone. Kira and Odo are travelling back from a conference. They pick up a distress signal, and follow it to a nearby planet. Kira gets trapped in some kind of crystal that’s growing round her leg.

Boot Clamp

It grows higher and higher, and things look bleak. Odo can’t find a way to free her. And as they discuss life and mortality, Odo admits that he loves Kira, and even more surprisingly, she admits she’s in love with him. It’s this that tips Odo that this isn’t Kira – it’s a changeling, after more information on Odo and why he’s staying with ‘the solids’.

This episode is also where Nog first announces his desire to enter Starfleet, and it’s actually quite touching.

The next episode is Destiny. Cardassian scientists are expected to arrive on the station, and nobody is happy about it. Particularly Vedek Yarka (Erick Avari), who announces that the station will be destroyed if the Cardassians are allowed on the station, according to an ancient Bajoran prophecy.

Vedek Yarka

The two scientists seem to be very friendly.

Cardassian Scientists

But as the experiments take place, more and more things seem to match with the old prophecy.

It all works out in the end, though.

After this episode, recording continues with an episode of Renegade, the cop show with two of the most amazing hairstyles from the two male leads, and (as pointed out by friend of the blog Victor Field) the main villain is played by TV writer extraordinaire Stephen J Cannell.

Stephen J Cannell

This episode is The Trial of Reno Raines. Even the names are great. Reno Raines and Bobby Sixkiller.

But I’m not watching it. Sorry.

After this, an episode of The Kennedys – We Are All Mortal.

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Earth 2 – tape 2099

More random episodes of Earth 2. They’re still banging on about Virtual Reality – it’s the only way to make a particularly dreary looking series have a bit of visual diversity. Today they’re playing Westworld.

Earth 2 does Westworld

By the way, it’s nice to see that Earth 2’s VR system was using the same brown colour palette that most 3D games seemed to have in the 90s.

Watching these out of order doesn’t help me with the ongoing plot. such as there is. The group’s doctor, Julia Heller, is in contact with Terry O’Quinn, who’s one of the evil Earth council who want to colonise the planet, and they want to use the little boy, Ulysses, for their purposes because he has some sort of bond with the native intelligent aliens. But she’s reluctant to help him.

From the way this episode features her voiceover, I wonder if this is the first time her background has been revealed in the show.

She decides to extract Ulysses’ DNA and iject it into her to see if it will turn her into a contact with the aliens. Apparently, this means she has to take a sample of spinal fluid – not sure why a mouth swab isn’t enough.

But the experiments are having some effect…

Meet the Neighbours

In the end, the group decide to leave her behind. A bit harsh.

This episode is called The Enemy Within, which is one of the most generic episode titles there is. used in a huge number of TV series ranging from Star Trek to Peak Practice.

The next episode is Redemption, and surprisingly, they haven’t just forgotten about the previous episode. They’re still debating whether leaving Julia Heller behind was the right thing to do.

One of the group goes back for her – lucky he does because as soon as they get back, someone shoots at the group from a long way away. It’s a Z.E.D. – a sort of super-soldier sniper who had been deported to the planet.

 

The next episode is Moon Cross. Winter is coming, and young Ulysses somehow knows about an old camp near where they’ve stopped, which he calls Mary’s Garden.

Mary is a human woman who’s been living with the Terrians.

Mary

This is all happening during a time called Moon Cross when the two moons cross each other in the sky. For reasons which would seem to defy a rational explanation, at the point at which they just start or stop crossing, there’s a burst of light. I have no idea where this might be coming from. Looks cool, I suppose.

Moon Cross

The ending is all a bit holding hands together singing Kum Ba Ya, though.

The last episode on this tape is the first in a two-parter, Better Living Through Morganite. There’s some kind of earthquake at the camp. They find some glowing rocks, and Morgan wants to stake a claim. Good grief, this is the same plot as that Sequest episode with the blue glowy rocks.

They have a Geo Lock, a device which ‘petrifies’ an area of ground. This has something to do with prospecting, but I’m not sure what. I think it’s mostly a macguffin to inject jeopardy later in the episode.

Meanwhile, the Cyborg Yale appears to be malfunctioning, acting aggressively.

Yale Cyborg

And Morgan sets his Geo Lock to a large radius, not knowing that his wife was in the tunnels. This doesn’t seem like a safe piece of equipment that someone should just randomly own.

I’m still rather bored by this whole series, if I’m honest.

After this, there’s the start of an episode of Picket Fences, and the tape ends.

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Frasier – Clive Anderson Talks Back – tape 2105

First, Frasier, and The Show Where Sam Shows Up. Sam is in town interviewing for a coaching job, so there’s loads of reminiscing about the old gang at cheers. Written by Cheers regular writers Ken Levine and David Isaacs.

Sam then reveals that he was actually in town getting married, but ran out of the church.

His fiancée is Tea Leoni.

Tea Leoni and Ted Danson

Next, Clive Anderson Talks Back with guests Frank Skinner and David Baddiel.

Frank Skinner and David Baddiel

Paula Yates

Paula Yates

And Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal

After this, recording continues, with Passengers, a sorts of yoof-themed travel-inflected programme.

Of interest in this programme (to me anyway) is a piece on Robert Rodriguez’ Desperado.

Robert Rodriguez

Of less interest, the reports on Japanese teen biker girl gangs, and Ibiza.

After this, there’s NBA Basketball.

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The X Files – Space Precinct – Michael Moore’s TV Nation – tape 2103

To BBC2 now, and a tape which starts with the end of The Travel Show with Jonathan Ross in Seattle, trying a bit of ‘wheatgrass detox’.

There’s a trailer for Cinema Europe: The Other Hollywood. And a trailer for Love Bites: Ruffian Hearts.

Then, an episode of The X Files, Duane Barry. I’ve already looked at this on a previous tape, but check it out if you want to see Mulder in Speedos.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 25th September 1995 – 21:00

Recording switches to BBC2, and Nick Ross in Brighton for the Labour Party Conference. The scheduled programme, Floyd on Italy was postponed until tomorrow.

There’s a trail for Picture This, then a look at programmes from 6 on BBC2.

Programmes from 6 on 2

Then, an episode of Space Precinct called Time To Kill. Rather oddly, it’s also another episode I’ve watched on another tape, so go ov er there for some more details.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 2nd October 1995 – 18:00

After this, recording continues with a very dramatic trailer for Deep Space Nine scored with Mozart’s Requiem. There’s a less dramatic trailer for Chris Evans’ breakfast show.

Then, The O Zone starts, and a startlingly young Jayne Middlemiss talks to the equally young PJ & Duncan, aka Ant ‘n Dec. They’re already doing the ‘stand in name order’ thing even here.

Ant n Dec

After a few minutes of this, recording switches to the end of The Travel Show. There’s a trailer for the series of plays, Performance.

Then, more X Files with Ascension, the follow-up to Duane Barry, and also already reviewed previously.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 2nd October 1995 – 21:00

There’s a trailer for Shooting Stars.

Then, Michael Moore’s TV Nation, and it’s Bully Reunion Night.

Bully Reunion Night

There’s a report from the UK, where the puzzled Americans find out why you have to have a TV Licence to watch TV.

It features Licence Officers, who actually use a handheld TV detector.

TV Detector

It also talks to women who have been jailed for non-payment of the Licence Fee and subsequent fines. Women are (or were) disproportionately affected by enforcement of the Licence Fee. I’m a big supporter of the BBC, and I happily pay the Licence Fee, but this part of it (which is not administered by the BBC itself, it’s a government department) makes me very uncomfortable. There’s a ridiculous bit of buck passing here where the BBC say it’s a matter for government, and the government says it’s the BBC’s responsibility.

But this item is notable for being a rare instance of showing the inside of one of the almost mythical TV Detector Vans.

Inside a detector van

Here’s the report.

In a segment on Catholic Confession, they manage to misspell reporter Janeane Garofalo’s name.

Janeane Garofalo

Louis Theroux meets his school bully, who’s now living in a buddhist monastery in Scotland.

Louis Theroux and Bully

Next “a piece our American network would not allow us to air” on Savings and Loans.

Then, Crackers the Corporate Crimefighting Chicken looks at media mergers.

Crackers the Corporate Crimefighting Chicken

The final segment sees the show’s own KGB spy looking at why the democratic party is in decline.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 2nd October 1995 – 21:45

After this, a trailer for Timewatch: Evidence of Vikings. And a trailer for Assingment: The Baby Trade.

There’s also a caption trail for Face to Face with John Berger, who died earlier this month. Another one for the Death Watch.

John Berger

Then the tape runs out during Newsnight, at the Labour Conference.

Babylon 5 – The X Files – tape 2048

First on this tape, the Channel 4 announcer proudly says “for the first time anywhere in the world” as it premieres the first of “the final four” Babylon 5 episodes from season 2, Divided Loyalties.

This was a very big deal. The show’s broadcast pattern in the US had been somewhat erratic – US shows tended to have seasons of between 20 and 26 episodes, but these episodes were usually shown over a much longer period, so there would be a run of new episodes, then some repeats, then more new episodes. That’s why US programme trailers always made a big deal of “All New Episode”.

Babylon 5’s network also often took the show off when there was a big sports event, so there were often long periods with no new shows. And as series 2 was going out, something interesting was noticed. Channel 4 had started running the show well after it had started in the US, knowing how many episodes were in the series, and when the final episode was due to air in the States. But the US network changed its schedule over time, and a decision was made to hold the last four episodes to run later than had been intended.

But this meant that, if Channel 4 kept its one episode a week schedule, as was the norm for UK TV, the final four episodes would air in the UK before the US. Almost three months before, it turned out.

This was a huge deal.

The Internet was here, and there was a big B5 dscussion group on Usenet, the old Internet News system. Creator J Michael Straczynski participated in the group, giving fans the kind of direct contact with the show that was unprecedented. And B5 was exactly the kind of show that thrived on that kind of environment. It had a long-running storyline – a true 5 year story was promised – with secrets to be revealed, genuine major changes to the story universe playing out, and plenty of twists and turns. Spoilers were a big deal now, in a way they hadn’t really been in the past.

And now, the UK was getting to see the end of Season 2 three months before the US.

Boy were they pissed. They had never really experienced this – almost every interesting genre programme was American, so they would just always get it before us, and that’s how it had always been. UK viewers had to hope they would avoid spoilers from online discussions in the weeks and months we would wait before getting the new episodes.

And now the tables were turned. We were promised massive, world-changing revelations leading to a huge final episode, and we would be seeing it first. It was all rather exciting.

I had a friend and former colleague who had moved to America to work for Microsoft, and I think he had moved there before these episodes aired. I remember taping copies of them for him and mailing him VHS tapes as they went out (although that might be a false memory, and it might have been for the end of Season 3). But we definitely had a mutual tape swap thing going. When Season 3 was in full swing, he’d send me tapes of the latest episodes (that definitely happened because I know which episodes they were) and for that season, I’d send him the final five episodes as they aired.

In these times, when it seems that more and more regular shows have almost simultaneous broadcast – genuinely simultaneous in the cases of Game of Thrones and the end of Breaking Bad, it’s easy to forget the time lag we used to suffer, so this one time when the position was reversed was genuinely notable.

Onto the episode itself. It starts with some stilted banter  between Sheridan and Delenn about newspapers. The B5 imagined universe has machines that print out a personalised copy of a big interstellar newspaper, and which recycle your old copy. The idea of consuming all your news on a screen was still too far fetched for this story of aliens and planets.

Then there’s a sequence on Mars, where two men are pursued through a dark, cheap looking, generic underground tunnel. One of them is injured, and passes a data crystal to the other, urging him to get it to Babylon 5. “Tell them it’s not safe” he says, then says “A substantial banana”. At least that’s what it sounded like to my family as I played this line over and over again to try to understand what he was saying.

So I broke out my DVD copy of this season. It’s weird to see the episodes presented in 16:9. All the non-effects scenes look fine, but the full CGI scenes look horribly zoomed in. I don’t think they bothered to re-render the CGI scenes on this series.

But, it does have subtitles, and the mysteriously substantial banana line is actually “there’s danger within” which on reflection is a lot more dramatic.

After the titles, Sheridan and Garibaldi have some more stilted dialogue about trees. But this time there’s a reason – Garibaldi is sweeping the room for bugs.

They discuss recent events, including the death of the president (which happened at the end of Season 1, so about a year ago in show terms, but is obviously something we need to remember as an audience) and whether the telepath Talia Winters might be a useful resource for them, if they are going up against the new president, and the Psi Corps.

Speaking of Talia, she’s having a meal with Ivanova, and they are obviously hitting it off finally, after two years of antagonism due to Ivanova’s loathing of Psi Corps. I remember being a bit surprised at the speed of this character shift at the time.

Speaking of telepaths, a ship arrives with one, injured occupant – Lyta Alexander, the telepath from the pilot episode who scanned Ambassador Kosh.

She has an important message for the command crew. “One of you is a traitor. And I can prove it.”

Patricia Tallman

She has information about a sleeper agent program of the Psi Corps. Someone on the staff is an agent, but doesn’t know it. They have a deeply hidden personality that can be brought out by a telepathic password – which she has.

She wants to try sending the password to all of the command staff to draw out the mole. But the staff are obviously unhappy about having their loyalty questioned. Ivanova in particular would never submit to a scan.

(You can see, given what this episode is promising, how the US were horrified at spoilers coming out.)

It’s clear that Talia and Ivanova are becoming close.

Andrea Thompson

While Lyta is being moved to a more comfortable quarters, someone tries to kill her, and she disappears. Talia notices that Ivanova had gone out that night – incidentally, it was quite a big deal that they were sharing a bed, and the next morning Ivanova tells Talia that she’s “hidden things”. It’s not looking good for Ivanova. No wonder she’s always avoided being scanned by telepaths.

So she goes to Sheridan and tells him her secret. That she’s a latent telepath. And she can’t submit to a scan or Lyta would find out.

Then Lyta returns, with the senior staff gathered. She sends the password to them in turn. Sheridan and Dr Franklin are clean. But Garibaldi has a reaction.

Garibaldi faking

A fake reaction. Ho Ho.

At this point, they skip Ivanova. Sheridan’s obviously hoping to find the mole, and avoid having to scan Ivanova entirely. They arrange for the rest of the command staff to come and see Sheridan briefly, and Lyta sends the password to each of them. There’s a montage, as the work through the staff, and Ivanova keeps looking shifty.

Finally, she relents and lets Lyta scan her.

And she’s clean.

They’re starting to exhaust possibilities, when Talia walks in looking for Sheridan. Lyta sends the password and Talia flips out.

Talia Flips

She’s the mole, and pretty soon she’s leaving, presumably Psi Corps are taking her home. Sheridan and Co feel they dodged a bullet, because they almost invited her to join their conspiracy against the new President.

Lyta also leaves, but not before visiting Ambassador Kosh and asking to see his true form once more. We get a glimpse of bright light, but nothing else, just some suggestive sound effects.

Kosh Strips off

You can really see why the possibility of spoilers was a big worry. This was a massive revelation for a major character, effectively writing out Talia as a recurring character. Actor Andrea Thompson wanted to leave the series, so creator JMS used the ‘control’ backstory that he had already seeded to give a way for the character to leave, and reintroducing Lyta (Patricia Tallman) gave him a telepath to use as the story continued.

The need to write out the character does go some way to explain why the Talia/Ivanova romantic subplot seemed to spring from nowhere, mostly in this episode as I recall.

After this, recording continues with an episode of Deputy Dawg – Catfish Crisis.

Next, over to Sky One with The X Files – Soft Light. Tony Shalhoub is a scientist whose shadow can kill people.

Tony Shalhoub

The way his origin is explained, it sounds like it was cribbed from Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen. He was locked in a science experiment looking for dark matter, and now his shadow contains dark matter particles that act like a black hole (or something, I wasn’t really paying attention). Looks cool when someone gets dark mattered.

Gravity Sucks

The episode was written by Vince Gilligan, of future Breaking Bad fame.

Back to Babylon 5 with The Long Twilight Struggle. Londo is on Centauri Prime where Lord Refa tells him the war with the Narn they started six months ago is about to end, thanks to him. On Babylon 5, there are strange energy surges from the planet below, and Sheridan has a visit from Draal, the minbari who took over control of the Great Machine on the planet in the episode A Voice in the Wilderness. Although now he’s played by a new actor, John Schuck.

John Schuck

He explains away this change by saying the machine has returned him to a more youthful form. He asks Sheridan to visit him as soon as possible.

G’Kar is visited by a Narn war leader, his Uncle, who briefs him about a new offensive in the war against the Centauri. He’s played by W Morgan Sheppard.

W Morgan Sheppard

Refa tells Londo that he needs him to ask ‘his allies’ to stop the Narn attack, so that the bulk of the Centauri fleet can attack the Narn Homeworld.

G’Kar gets a hint of this happening from Dr Franklin, who treated a Narn refugee who had been interrogated by the Centauri about Homeworld defence. He pleads with his Uncle to abort their mission and secure Homeworld but the mission is too far along. The fleet is attacked by several Shadow ships. It doesn’t end well.

Shadow Attack

On the planet, Draal tells Sheridan and Delenn that he is offering the capabilities of the Great Machine to them, in an alliance for the forthcoming conflict.

Then the news arrives of the Centauri assult on Narn. The Narn government has no option but to surrender. And G’Kar is told to seek sanctuary from Sheridan, to stop Londo having him arrested and sent for trial.

Then, in the final scene, Delenn gathers a large group of people together to introduce them to Sheridan, They are the rangers, and she puts them under his joint control in the forthcoming fight against darkness.

Babylon 5 does sometimes creak and show its age, and the writing isn’t always brilliant, but then it delivers an episode like this, where the whole of the fictional world is shaken up, and there’s some genuinely moving scenes. G’Kar seeking sanctuary and Londo dictating the orders in the council chambers are very powerful. Even the brief, wordless scene of Londo watching the bombardment of Narn from a Centauri ship is deeply moving, as you can see a man trapped by his position and enabling a great evil for reasons which once seemed right.

Londo Watches

After this, recording continues a bit with a cartoon, featuring Gandy Goose. No, I don’t remember him either.

Then, Sky One again for more X-Files and the episode Our Town. People in a small town are being attacked with a machete by someone cosplaying as Papa Lazarou.

Masked Killer

A woman at the local chicken processing factory goes berserk, and is shot by a guard in front of Mulder and Scully, adding a piquant new ingredient to the chicken parts.

Chicken Feed

Sculley discovers that the woman had Creutzfeld Jakob disease (the human variant of Mad Cow Disease) and that the apparently young woman was 47.

Mulder gets the local river dragged, looking for the corpse of the first man who died. He finds more than that.

Lots of bones

The head of the chicken processing plant has an interesting collection.

Heads

But it’s the whole town that’s in on the cannibalism. Sculley almost gets added to the ingredients, until Mulder rescues her, and the Papa Lazarou man in the mask is unmasked as the Sheriff, in an almost Scooby Doo moment. Lucky he was already dead, otherwise he might have said “and I would’ve gotten away with it too…”.

The X Files was tosh, sometimes, wasn’t it?

After this, there’s the start of a teen drama, but I don’t recognise which. Beverly Hills 90210 probably. Then the tape ends.

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VR5 – tape 2095

OK, let’s have a look at some more from VR.5. The first episode here is Love and Death. A man’s family dies in a car explosion. So Will Patton, who appears to be Lori Singer’s boss now, wants her to do her VR thing – phone him up and go into his mind.

He seems to be expecting her, sitting in a high-backed armchair in what looks like a cut-price Sherlock mind palace.

Mind Palace

Also, it seems that every time Sydney VRs into a mind, she suddenly gets a slinky costume.

She’s also still worrying about her mother’s breakdown (Louise Fletcher). And on another trip into the man’s head, he sees her own father – David McCallum (as we glimpsed in the earlier episode).

David McCallum

The man in question is an assassin, and when Sydney learns this she tells Will Patton she doesn’t want to continue. He tells her about her father, and his research into VR. “I’ve modemmed a file into your computer” he says. He’s arranged to meet someone he trusts there to tell them more, bit it’s the assassin, and Patton is stabbed and killed. I’ll admit, apart from the cheesy choral music, this was quite a shocking turn of events.

She tries to read the file, but it starts vanishing in bits, not helped by her habit of reading by waving her hand in front of the screen a lot.

Reading by Touch

The next episode, 5D, opens with Patton’s funeral, and Sydney taking a baseball bat to her computer. But Anthony Head turns up as Oliver Sampson, her new liason to the mysterious committee, and replaces all of her equipment. He’s definitely not cuddly, like Giles.

Anthony Stewart Head

They’re trying to find the man who killed Patton.  Dan O’Herlihy appears as an old colleague of Sydney’s father.

Dan O'Herlihy

She tracks down the assassin, and just as he’s about to tell her everything about The Committee, Sampson kills him. This is really plastering on the conspiracy theory schtick.

She also discovers that Patton wasn’t buried, but was taken to a cryogenic storage facility.

The next episode is Escape. Sydney is in some kind of facility. She’s not wearing skimpy clothes so my first assumption is that this is real life and not VR. But it’s all very fractured. Sampson is the one interrogating her, about whether her father ever experimented on her.

Sydney’s goldfish are called Steed and Mrs Peel. This foreshadows a VR sequence where Sydney is Diana Rigg and her long-haired friend is Patrick Macnee.

Avengers Lite

After some excruciating VR roleplay, longhair finds out where Sydney is, and he finds her unconscious, after a road accident, with Sampson waiting by her bedside. He’s suddenly very sympathetic, so I don’t know what to think. Is the Sampson that Sydney was seeing her imagination?

Seems like it is, as the real Sampson explains to longhair guy, she’s placing his face onto what she’s seeing because he’s the only Committee person she knows.

The final episode here sees longhair guy back in the simulation (judging by the state of his hair).

Crazy Hair

“Maybe VR.12 turns you into Fabio.” Too late for that, mate, you were there weeks ago.

This episode is Parallel Lives, and looks like an alternate reality story. Will Patton make a reappearance, Sydney is dead, and her sister Samantha is alive.

Penn Jillette plays a friend of Samantha. He has no purpose in the plot, so I can only assume he’s appeared in previous episodes or something. (iMDb only lists him in the pilot, not in this episode, so I guess we saw him before.)

Penn Jillette

Sampson in this reality is having a bad hair day

Sampson's bad hair day

And if I’ve fathomed the plot, at the end of this episode, we’ve learned that both Sydney’s father David McCallum and her sister are both still alive.

Father Bloom

And that was the last episode in the ‘current series’. Going by iMDb it was the penultimate episode ever. But there’s five episodes between this episode and Escape (including the one we saw earlier). I wonder if Sky bailed on the series a few episodes early. But it’s a bit crappy to end on an episode that Lori Singer isn’t even in.

According to Wikipedia, this was indeed the last episode that Sky broadcast, and it was never broadcast in the US on the original network. Also, Sky broadcast the episodes in a different order. I wonder if the series’ attempts at continuity survived this treatment.

After this episode, there’s the start of an episode of COPS, during which the tape ends.

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The Simpsons – Star Trek – Voyager – Victoria Wood – As Seen On TV – The Mrs Merton Show – Grand Prix – tape 2122

First on this tape, The Simpsons and The Springfield Connection. After an attempted mugging, Marge decides to become a police officer.

Marge the Police Officer

After this episode, the recording continues briefly, with the start of another episode of The Simpsons but then switches, and we have the very first episode of Star Trek Voyager.

It’s an introductory episode, so we see the crew mustering on Deep Space Nine. Tom Paris is clearly being positioned as the Will Riker lothario, hitting on the Betazoid shuttle pilot taking him there.

Their first mission isn’t a total success. They’re heading in ‘the Badlands’ looking for a Maquis ship when they’re hit by big special effect, and it seems like half the crew is killed. They’re also transported across the galaxy to some kind of station, and the crew are transported off the ship, into a holographic projection. It does remind me a lot of Encounter at Farpoint and Q.

Dear God, someone’s playing the banjo. Sci-Fi rules say that folk music == evil (See Doctor Who and The Daemons for more proof).

Banjo playing hologram

Pretty soon, the crew find traces of other lifeforms, leading them to a matte painting filled with other people.

Matte Painting

There’s some abduction and probing, but then all the crew are transported back to their ships except for Harry Kim and B’Elanna Torres, who are still being experimented upon.

Experimentation

Tragically, on travelling to one of the planets in the system to find them, Voyager encounters Neelix, condemning them and us to years of minor annoyance.

Neelix and Tuvok

Thanks to Neelix’s guidance – the justification for keeping him as a regular is his knowledge of the local people – they beam down to the planet, a desert planet with a ruined matte painting and ugly yellow colour correction.

Desert Matte Painting

They meet the locals, not particularly friendly, and Neelix uses the encounter to rescue his girlfriend, Kes.

Kim and Torres are underground, with the Ocampa, who are looked after by The Caretaker, the entity on the array that brought the Voyager there.

They find Kim and Torres, but there’s still some unspecified jeopardy. Tom Paris gets to be a hero rescuing Chakotay. There’s some space fighting with the Kazon, another new race with stupid makeup and hair.

Kazon

In the end, they have to destory the array to stop the Kazon taking it over, and are thus stuck at the wrong end of the galaxy, setting up the premise for the ongoing series.

After this, recording switches to BBC2 and an old episode of Victoria Wood As Seen On TV. Sublime.

“Because even pretty girls have… cycles… Bicycle Clips.”

The show closes with one of her greatest songs, The Ballad of Freda and Barry.

“Not meekly, not bleakly, beat me on the bottom with a Woman’s Weekly”

She’s so good, and now I’m desperately sad that she died last year.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 12th November 1995 – 21:00

And as if I’m not sad enough, another brilliant writer and performer who died last year appears in The Mrs Merton Show. Caroline Ahearne (or Caroline Hook as she was at this time) was immensely talented, and 52 is no age to die.

Caroline Ahearne

 

The guests on this episode are Jo Brand

Jo Brand

Lorraine Kelly

Lorraine Kelly

And Chris Eubank

Chris Eubank

The Eubank interview is fascinating, as he won’t answer half of her questions, just sits there smiling at her. She’s obviously a little nervous about him. And as the credits roll, she does a voiceover saying “after this interview was recorded, Chris Eubank announced his retirement from boxing.” I wonder if the two events were related?

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 12th November 1995 – 21:30

After this, recording continues with highlights from the Australian Grand Prix. Spoiler: Damon Hill won.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 12th November 1995 – 22:00

Then the tape ends.

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