And as we enter into another week of the coronavirus-generated lockdown (or in my case, near-lockdown), and I’d say this is the week that TV and movie viewing has really kicked into a new gear in my family. We’re doing lots of other things as well–including lots of working with my ministry team in Youth With A Mission Perth and trying to figure out how to move forward in light of all the necessary restrictions.
But with that there’s definitely been a bunch of time on the streaming services and with the DVD player that’s helped to keep me, my wife and the four teenaged girls living in my house entertained.
First off, I finally wrapped up Salvation, the high-concept action drama that ran for two seasons, all about how the world reacts when a giant asteroid is discovered to be on a collision course with the earth. Overall, it was enjoyable but fairly run-of-the-mill sort of series in spite of its gripping premise.
Sadly, my pet theory that Darius Tanz was going to be revealed to be evil in some way never came to pass. But nonetheless, there are two things of note.
Somehow, even though I started watching this series again a the same time that I was watching Star Trek Picard, I never realized that they both feature the same actor! Santiago Cabrera plays Darius Tanz in Salvation, and he also features as Captain Rios in Picard.
Funny old oblivious me. Seeing the variety of roles that Cabrera is capable of makes me respect him more as an actor–he does a decent job with both parts.
The other thing to comment on is that Salvation has one crazy ending. Don’t read this if you don’t it spoiled, but suddenly in the closing minutes of the final episode it’s revealed that the asteroid isn’t an asteroid at all, but some sort of…who knows what? A spaceship, it seems, or something that can change course and stop at will. It’s a crazy plot twist that has almost no set up at all.
I’m not going to miss Salvation at all, but with that ending I’d definitely watch a third season if one was available.
As a family, we watched a few movies this past week.
First of was Tremors, which I’ve already written about here.
It’s in my top three monster movies ever, and features some of my favorite character and some outstanding dialogue. My younger two daughters both watched it as well and they let out some good screams at the scary bits, but also loved it. I feel like I’m raising those girls right! “We decided to leave town just one damn day too late.”
After that came Planes, Trains and Automobiles, which is one of our regular go to’s as a family. John Hughes just knocks it out of the park with that one, both as a writer and a director. The script is witty and there’s one hilarious character beat after another. John Candy makes Del Griffith into such an annoying person, and yet is able to bring genuine warmth to the character. The movie provides lots of laughs, and the feel-good ending where Steve Martin and John Candy carry that big suitcase down the street together is totally earned.
And then going from the really funny to the downright hysterical, we later watched Death at a Funeral–the 2007 British version by director Frank Oz. It’s highly inappropriate, but incredibly funny, with a notable cast. I didn’t really know who Kris Marshall was when I first watched this movie, but since then I’ve watched or rewatched Love Actually, My Family and a bunch of episodes of Death in Paradise which he starred in. Alan Tudyk of course was in Firefly and also is one of the go-to motion capture guys in Hollywood–see Rogue One and I, Robot. And I just realized that Ewen Bremner, who plays the incredibly slimy Justin, was also the sniper with PTSD in Wonder Woman.
Last night, the family watched Bridge to Terabithia, but I declined to participate. Tonight, we caught I Still Believe, which is a faith-based film starring KJ Apa and Britt Robertson. It was actually in theatres when COVID-19 shut everything down, and was then rushed into video-on-demand availability, which allowed us to watch it.
It’s not bad as these things go, and certainly earns points for being a true story about the first wife of singer Jeremy Camp and her battle with cancer. The script doesn’t totally sell it’s emotions however–though the performances are fine and one certainly comes away impressed by Melissa and Jeremy Camp’s courage and commitment.
My daughters and I only pushed forward on two more episodes of Doctor Who–it’s definitely taking time, even though we enjoy it. But they were two interesting episodes: Kill the Moon, which is bonkers but fun and full of good performances; and Mummy on the Orient Express, which is brilliant and the first truly great Peter Capaldi 12th Doctor episode.
But more unusually, I also discovered some hidden gems that are lurking on Amazon’s Prime Video.
First, there are a bunch of episodes of the Myth Makers, a series of documentaries from ReelTime Pictures. There are a couple of dozen episodes available, all under the blanket title of The Doctors, and with each for the most part focusing on a single actor or creator.
This week I watched two of them–the first was about Jacqueline Hill (Barbara from the original cast of Doctor Who).
The video was filmed in 1996, a few years after Hill had died, so her episode is a tribute to her featuring interviews with her co-stars William Russell (Ian), Carole Ann Ford (Susan) and Maureen O’Brien (Vicki), her producer Verity Lambert, and her husband of several decades, Alan Rakoff. The film was a lovely tribute to a lovely actress, with everyone speaking incredibly highly of her warmth, generosity and professionalism. It also features footage from Jacqueline Hill’s only appearance at a Doctor Who convention in the 1980’s, and something interesting insights into her career–apparently, she was the one who helped Sean Connery get his first big role when she recommended him to her director husband for a leading role in a production they were both involved in.
I also watched the episode which focused on William Russell, which consisted of a lengthy conversation conversation between Russell and presenter Nicholas Briggs (now the voice of the Daleks and the Executive Producer of Big Finish) as they travel around London to a few locations relevant to Russell’s career and time with Doctor Who. William Russell comes across as a bit of a charming free spirit who can speak quite casually of his long and distinguished, but never A-List, career in English stage and screen.
Incidentally, William Russell’s first big TV break was in a series called The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, the first episode of which can be found easily on Youtube. It’s stagey and dated, but not bad to watch, and features an interesting take on Merlin, portraying him as a savvy showman who relied on trickery to maintain his position as a royal advisor.
Anyway, the Myth Makers are maybe a bit too slow-paced to watch too many of them in a row, but it’s nice to see a bit of focus on some of my favorite Doctor Who performers. If I have time I might check out a few others–thinking of Louise Jameson, Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling and others.
I also discovered the Prime Video has the two 1960’s Doctor Who / Dalek movies starring Peter Cushing, accompanied by Rifftrax commentaries.
Just in case…Rifftrax is an audio commentary series produced by the former stars of Mystery Science Theatre Mike Nelson (Mike), Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo), and Bill Corbett (Tom Servo).
Also, just in case…in the 1960’s, when the Daleks were bigger than Ben-Hur, two theatrical films were made starring the menaces: Dr. Who and the Daleks, and Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150. They are both loosely based on the first two Dalek serials from the main series, both written by Terry Nation.
Both movies are directed by Gordon Flemyng, and feature an alternate version of the series’ characters. In these films, Peter Cushing plays Dr. Who (that is his actual name), a human scientist who invents “TARDIS” (not the TARDIS). The machine actually resembles the modern version of the TARDIS more than it does the one from 1960’s TV–with a large and cluttered console room and internal doors that are the same size as the external doors.
In the first film (from 1965), he seems to live with both Barbara (a teenager) and Susan (a child)–both his grandchildren. Ian is Barbara’s bumbling boyfriend, who trips into a big lever and accidentally sends TARDIS to the planet Skaro, where the characters find themselves face to face with the fearsome Daleks.
The movie is terrible, with unengaging performances and really gaudy design. It’s in color (unlike the original series which was still black and white at this point), which just brings out the cheapness of the production. It’s made bearable by the Rifftrax jokes, of course, though there are too many inappropriate comments to fully just relax and enjoy it. However, they do spend a lot of time yelling about how this thing fits into canon, which is funny considering the recent sorts of arguments that have flared up over the revelations contained within the episode The Timeless Children.
Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 (1966) is somewhat better, actually. It takes place on earth in the future, which looks exactly like earth of the present except that the place looks like a bombed out mess. Overall there are better effects and the story has a grander scope. Dr. Who’s character is bit more heroic and proactive as well, which also helps. It is however all a bit undercut when his big victory comes by literally shouting “Look!” at the ceiling and tricking the Daleks to turn away so he can defeat them.
Ian and Barbara are not in this one, which is fine because as much as I love the characters on TV they are sort of useless in the last movie. They are replaced by the Doctor’s niece Louise (who should have had Susan’s romance plot from the TV episode, but doesn’t–instead it’s just ignored) and a police officer who stumbles upon them by accident, named Tom Campbell. Tom is actually played by Bernard Cribbins, who later became a part of the TV series as Wilfrid Mott, grandfather of Donna Noble. And the Rifftrax continue to be pretty funny.
I’m hoping that next week I’ll have more to say about things that I’ve actually done. I have been doing things, of course, but for the most part they haven’t been around any particular creative work that I’d normally share here.
There hasn’t been much time for that, what with all the upheavals and adjustments.
But God is good. And lately he’s reminded me about being consistent and serving. Even serving if the season is long. Serving if the season is forever. I don’t think it will be, but I want don’t want my service to have an expiry date, I guess.
But, were getting there. It’s been a roller-coaster of ups and downs, but we’re getting there.
I hope you are as well.