Sunday, January 24, 2016

My Week in Geek

A new feature born of boredom of confinement during a blizzard...

My Week in Geek

It was a good week for the geek in me last week. There was plenty to watch and catch up on, and most of what I saw did not disappoint.

The week started off in retro fashion when I discovered that one of the episodes of Doctor Who on my DVR was actually a Tom Baker serial, The Seeds of Doom. The DVR recorded it a few months ago when BBC America ran a few "Breakfast with Baker" specials on Sunday mornings. I hadn't realized that it was there.

Excellent series, and I recommend tracking it down. It starts off as if it might be a riff on the original The Thing when alien plant life is discovered in the Antarctic. (Yes, that's the other end of the Earth from the movie, but a pole's a pole!) However, the action moves back to England, and it gets to be more Day of the Triffids, but it's the human villain that's creepy as hell as he sides with the plants to take over the world and eradicate the Animal kingdom, of which is no longer seems to relate to.

Also peculiar in this serial is that the TARDIS is absent until the very end, after the story has concluded.

Next up was Face-Off, the Syfy reality series, a competition where effects designers compete to make unusual make-ups for actors in a short turnaround, usually three days. A lot is asked of them, and most times, most of them deliver. Apparently, these challenges aren't too far from what actual effects experts (including the judges) can be called on to do by a director with a very quick deadline. I generally sum this show up as saying that it's Project Runway, with science fiction makeup and costumes. Because it is. It's the same format, except I can actually sit through this, without being forced to. It's my favorite show on TV because I'm amazed at what these competitors bring to the final reveal stage.

The amusing thing this week is that I recalled that after the first episode, I tweeted, "no one whose face I want to slap" because sometimes there's that contestant that just grates you (or the producers go out of their way to frame someone that way), but not so far. This week, in social media, I discovered that the Germans have a word, backpfeifengesicht, which means "a face that’s begging to be slapped." I needed to learn its pronunciation.

Add to this that my favorite person on the show, so far, is the German guy, not because of his talent (so far) but because I love listening to him speak. Partly, this is because he reminds me of some old sitcom characters. I'm thinking more Get Smart than Hogan's Heroes, and not Siegfried, either.

Moving on ...

Agent Carter had a two-hour premiere, which was more like two one-hour episodes, but that didn't matter much. They move Peggy Carter to the West Coast for a special assignment, and she's right back in the thick of things with Jarvis. The season will undoubtedly deal with "zero matter" which behaves in a funny way, like the obelisk in Agents of SHIELD. Also back is Peggy's old nemesis, the Russian spy who grew up as part of the Black Widow program. Things should get good.

Arrow and Flash had good episodes, moving their plotlines along, setting up the emergence of new characters. I don't want to spoil anything that might be coming but Felicity in a wheelchair seems as obvious as the introduction of Wally West. (Likewise, someone gave me some speculation on Diggle, but it referred to a character from a time when I wasn't really paying much attention to comics.) Not that any of this is a bad thing.

Which brings me to the biggie: DC's Legends of Tomorrow, which looks to be a new anthology series of sorts. A group of "B-characters" from Arrow and Flash are given new life on this show. I will not join in on suggestions that each of them could hold a series on their own (mostly because I don't believe that) but they should be able to make a heck of a team. The set-up also provides the producers with a way to replace unpopular characters or actors who wish to leave.

Central to the plot is the one new character: Time-traveling Rip Hunter, played by Arthur Darvill who has some experience in the matter from his seasons of Doctor Who. I won't say he was wasted as Rory, but one episode of Legends tells me he was underused. (Plus, I saw him on Broadway "once".)

Of the other characters, the new Firestorm will take some getting used to. I read the comic from its beginning until around the time DC decided that the "Nuclear Man" should really be a Fire Elemental. They seem to have ditched that idea. He appeared in one episode of the cartoon Brave and the Bold, an incarnation I didn't like. However, Prof. Stein has had plenty of screen time on Flash and is a good character, and the actor plays the part well. Jax needs to hold up his end.

As for the villains who may be heroes, they should fit in because they are a little too four-color even for Flash, but in this show, over-the-top should work fine. Heatwave needs to develop a little more personality, like Cold has.

Rounding out the week with more reruns...

Friday brought another airing of Galaxy Quest, which I have dubbed the Third Greatest Star Trek Movie Ever. Seeing Alan Rickman one more time brought smiles and laughs, which is better at the time than seeing Die Hard would've been.

And finally, I've been recording episodes of Quantum Leap from an oldies network on cable. I loved the show, but missed many of the episodes because it moved around the schedule a lot back then. Who remembers what it might've been opposite. One of the first episodes I taped was the "Man of La Mancha" episode, where Sam leaps into an understudy for the musical, playing in Syracuse, and he sees the understudy for Dulcinea -- his former piano teacher that was his first crush/love, and who was formerly linked up with the person Sam is inhabiting. There are a few reasons why this is a favorite of mine, but watching it mine added another: the Guest Stars. They could get actual Broadway people for this episode. John Cullum appeared in 1776 a few years before this and played the actor playing Don Quixote. Also appearing, but not singing, was Ernie Sabella also of Broadway, TV and The Lion King. There had a lot of great characters back then who appeared on a lot of shows like this one. There are still a lot of good actors today, but there are so many channels of TV that the talent pool is stretched way too thin.

So that was the week, and it was a good one. I'm hoping that weeks to come don't disappoint, but it will be hard to live up to this one.

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