Game of Thrones, season I and II

Game of Thrones is a TV drama series based on a series of novels called A Song of Ice and Fire.

The series takes place in a medieval fantasy world that includes dragons and a sort of zombie and revolves around the intrigues and wars the noble families of the world, Westeros, use to get to the top of the pile. In the background there is the constant threat of an invasion by a race of zombies from the frozen North.

I will keep it short: Game of Thrones is eminently watchable. I especially like the way they handle cliff hangers, I always wanted to see the next episode.

There is a lot of big drama in Game of Thrones and some gore and sexual violence.

Season II is a lot less tight than the first season. Some story lines feel incredibly rushed, especially the ones involving a young princess called Arya who is held prisoner by her family’s arch enemy, except he doesn’t know who she is. While a prisoner she befriends an assassin who feels indebted to her (or at least pretends to be), and who kills on her request. You would guess that her experiences with these two men would change an impressionable nine-year-old, but they seem not to affect her.

Speaking of princess Arya, she is part of a notably large group of underdogs in the series. They all regularly either get what they want, or escape the horrible types of fate that befall the other characters. This approach helps the writers create small pockets of satisfaction by having one of the underdogs claim a small victory every once in a while, which I think works well, although it has the tendency to get tacky.

You should watch this if you like big, sweeping drama and if you like to be entertained unashamedly. You might give this a miss if you prefer your TV drama to have a little depth.

Game of Thrones (HBO), first two seasons: 7/10.

Outcasts

In 2007 the BBC announced they were going to produce a new science fiction series “with echoes of Blake’s 7” (the Sunday Times wrote at the time). Good news for science fiction fans, and even better for Blakes 7 fans (the misspelling is intentional, as that is what the show was called). With all the blogging scifi writers and blogging scifi fans I follow, and all the surfing I do for scraps about Blakes 7, it is inevitable that I will be warned in time when Outcasts will start to … what, you say? It’s already on? I am five episodes behind?

So I caught the sixth episode yesterday. They broadcast it in an unfortunate time slot. I think that in the future I will use the Internet Video Recorder to watch it.

Solid TV science fiction. Shades of Battlestar Gallactica—and not just because it had Jamie Bamber in it for one episode. No, it has a mother and a father figure. The father figure is more of a scrappy Patrick Stewart than an Edward James Olmos though. The mother seems to be a blond, older Elizabeth Weir. And there is a bad guy, who I assume is supposed to be the Gaius Baltar slash Kerr Avon slash dysfunctional child.

The back story, from what I have read, is that the show revolves around a fairly recently colonized planet. Contact with Earth is sparse. And that is all that Wikipedia and IMDB have to say.

Yesterday’s episode has one self-contained story line, and two developing story arcs. The self contained thingy was a whodunnit, with a proper rescue of the prospective murder victims at the end. Police officer Cass has a secret that precludes him from sleeping with his colleague Fleur, a hottie with a lot of hair and a Scottish accent. So instead he sleeps with a woman who for reasons that do not become quite clear tries to ferret out his secret, and then steals his gun. She then becomes part of a fairly basic murder plot, or was already part of it—the story focuses more on how Cass becomes a suspected kidnapper. In the background president Richard ‘Jean Luc’ Tate does the wise man walking into the hills thing—Shaka, when the walls fell, except that these hills harbour cannibals.

Outcasts is no Blakes 7 though. For one thing, the show is full of basically decent guys who just seem to have landed on the wrong side of the law by accident. There is a reason why in Blakes 7 the writers landed a building on top of Gan halfway season two. Not that Blakes 7 doesn’t have its fair share of basically decent guys—it’s that the not so decent sides of them keep popping up with the result of pushing the crew deeper into misfortune. Which is, I guess, what makes it a better show.

(ORAC – When we reach the appropriate coordinates, I can simulate the necessary signals to open the silo and allow this flyer to enter.

DAYNA – Oh, sounds good.

VILA – No it isn’t. Sooner or later we’re going to drop into one of these holes in the ground and never come out.

And then they do.)

But as I said, and as far as I can tell based on watching just one episode, a pretty decent series. No worse than any of the Star Trek franchises if you ask me. Battlestar Torchwood.

Stargate SG-1: Disclosure

A short review about this SG-1 episode I saw, because there were a couple of things that I liked and that stood out for me.

In Stargate SG-1: Disclosure, several ambassadors of large nations are informed of the Stargate program by general Hammond and that irritating senator you love to hate. The ambassadors are invited to the SG complex, and Hammond talks them through all the components and the history of the program, step by step. At every step, the viewer is shown bits of previous episodes. I tend to hate episodes that are made up almost entirely of shows I have already seen, because it feels like I am being made to pay for things I already paid for. Here, however, it worked for me, and I think that is because these flash-backs actually served a purpose.

SG-1 has a very loose, but very definite overarching story line. A strong overarching story line makes its influence clear every time you watch a show. Even if you’ve missed three years of a series, you’ll be up to speed soon enough. But not so with SG-1: miss a couple of episodes, and you miss a little; miss three seasons, and you won’t know anymore what’s going on. This episode did a good job getting me up to speed.

The second thing I liked was a joke; I thought it was funny when the annoying senator complained about the haphazzard way most missions seemed to resolve; all of them ended well, but only after SG-1 put Earth or even the universe in terrible danger. SG-1 fumbles through each mission, but averts a bad ending at the very last possible minute.

This meta-humour seems to be a trademark of the Stargate franchise writers. In this case the senator almost seems to know about our world, in which we watch exciting SG-1 episodes, in Stargate Atlantis the characters actually do; the geeks in that series continually gush about Star Trek, as any geek in our time frame would.

Of course, I am stuck in an old world. Why doesn’t sci-fi channel just publish a video story line on their website, so that if I’ve missed bits, I could get a summary there?

Stargate SG-1, season 6, episode Disclosure: 7/10. Review by Branko Collin.

Hill Street Blues

As a young teenager I loved Hill Street Blues, and as an older teenager St. Elsewhere even more so. Seeing afternoon reruns nowadays the shows look seriously dated. But still, now and again I catch a glimpse of what I liked so much.

For instance, Frank Furillo has no time to talk to his ex-wife Fay, who wants to share her joy of having found out the baby she is expecting is going to be a girl. Then tough, hard desk-sergeant Phil Esterhaus, who has all the time in the world, and who also wants to be seen as the thinking empath, steps in and asks her all the right questions to enable her to share that joy. It has that insincerity in it that grown-ups have, and the lack of shame in showing it that seems like the lack of shame children have through inexperience, but is of course quite the opposite: lack of shame despite experience.

Either Esterhaus is tough, or he is touchy-feely. One of them is an act. And Fay knows it, because she plays the same game for pretty much the entire series. (Which is why she is one of those rare characters that you love to hate. Name some more in the comments please.)

I am probably not explaining it right, but it brought back some way of looking at the world that I lost somewhere while growing up, and could not even remember until something like Hill Street Blues reruns came along.

And what I liked back then about that scene was that grown-ups (embodied by the show’s writers) were capable of seeing that they were acting the way they were.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar

I downloaded this new series of people being forced to give up smoking, and how each of them is coming to terms with that. Battlestar Galactica (the new series) gets many things wrong, but it also gets many things right, and in the end that’s what counts.

There are a lot of movies and series that try and tie in to my childhood memories of Good TV. All of them try and recreate the feel of the old show; Battlestar Galactica, on the other hand, tries to create the feel that somebody who watched the show as a child, but since has grown up, would like. That means things have seriously changed. But they have changed for the good: if you liked rebellious Starbuck as a young boy, you’ll love Starbuck now you’re a grown man.

Score: 7/10.

(This review is based on the miniseries, the first season, and the first four episodes of the second season.)