Class Series 1 Episode 3 Review – Nightvisiting

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Nightvisiting went above and beyond, grounding the story quite heavily with its core characters. In an impressive break from the norm, Class focused here on an aspect of grief which isn’t typically considered: anger. More specifically, though, that’s anger at the deceased; Tanya (Vivian Oparah) ultimately defeats the Lankin because of her anger directed at her late father. It’s a very clever take on matters, which allows Nightvisiting to give a very nuanced and subtle take on the grieving process – the anger at those who have died is something which isn’t discussed very often, perhaps out of guilt, but it’s a facet of mourning which is unavoidable. In juxtaposing Tanya’s anger at her father with a very clear love for him, Patrick Ness weaves a very subtle, yet very true, picture of loss, which is portrayed fantastically by Vivian Oparah.

Another strong early episode, with a great performance from Vivian Oparah.

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Just a Girl, CBBC’s brilliant new transgender radio show for children, deserves to be a full television series

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First and foremost, I really would recommend giving it a watch if you haven’t already – it honestly is a very good programme. Just a Girl is astonishingly sweet and heartwarming, and it’s a very well written coming of age story; it does a great job of capturing those complicated and idiosyncratic feelings of starting a new school, and I really think that a lot of CBBC’s core audience would be able to relate to it. Further, it quite deftly handles the matter of transgender issues, and does so in a way that’s well pitched towards young children. Indeed, if any parents or teachers are reading this article, I think that Just a Girl would be a brilliant resource to show to children as a springboard to discuss trans issues, either at home or in school.

So, I heard about this a couple of weeks ago, largely because The Daily Mail were kicking up a fuss about it. Naturally, I then watched it and thought it was brilliant – but I was, admittedly, a little disappointed when I realised I’d misunderstood what exactly it was, and that it was a radio show rather than a television programme. Still, though – it’s a pretty cool piece of work, and it’s one that deserves a much larger audience than it’s currently had.

(A note: I suspect some of the above is clunky – most obviously the title, which I remember deliberating over a lot, and I’m still not convinced I got it quite right. If there’s anything egregious, or anything minor, you think should be changed, please let me know in the comments.)

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Bryan Fuller’s exit from Star Trek represents a move away from auteur-led television

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Ultimately, then, there’s no reason to believe that this won’t be, broadly speaking, the same show we were promised at Comic Con, and as part of all the subsequent announcements. And yet, at the same time, there’s something astonishingly disappointing about Bryan Fuller’s departure from Star Trek.

Part of the reason why I was so excited about this new show was because of Bryan Fuller’s involvement; it elevated Discovery to more than just the latest Star Trek show, but something special in its own right. Because Bryan Fuller is a writer at the top of his game, who’s widely renowned for his unique creative vision – consider the artistry of Hannibal, for example – and I couldn’t wait to see him apply this to Star Trek, a programme that he holds a lifelong passion for and an innate understanding of.

My reaction from a few weeks ago regarding Bryan Fuller’s exit from Star Trek: Discovery. I am, I must admit, astonishingly disappointed.

(With hindsight, I suspect this is not a very good article. If nothing else, I am now waaaay less into the whole auteur thing than I was then; really, I didn’t even believe it anymore by the 31st.)

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Star Trek Review: TOS – Miri (1×08)

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Blah, blah, blah!

We’ve now reached the point at which, for the most part, I actually don’t know a lot about what’s going to happen. Miri isn’t an episode I even knew existed, to be frank; we’ve well and truly scratched away the surface of my relatively superficial knowledge of the original show, and we’re getting into an aspect of Star Trek that I’m just not all that familiar with. In some regards, that’s actually really exciting, because it means I’m viewing these episodes almost completely as if they’re new.

I think Miri starts quite well, actually. You’ve got a really interesting hook, right from the beginning: this alternate Earth. Obviously, this is conceived of primarily as a cost-saving device – I’m under no illusions about that. At the same time, though, it’s a great premise from which to start the episode, and this episode gives us Star Trek’s best pre-credits sequence so far, to my mind. There’s an immediate level of intrigue, not just because it sounds strange to us, but also because the crew are baffled by it; there’s something immediately appealing about a phenomenon that isn’t known to our heroes. (Although, I suppose, if they are seeking out that which is strange and new, this probably shouldn’t be quite as exciting a pitch as I found it. Hmm.)

Beam down, though, and it gets even better. I’ve spoken about the idea of the juxtaposition of the fantastic and the mundane a lot, particularly in terms of Doctor Who, but this is the first time that Star Trek actively engages with it – because here’s the first time we see Kirk, Spock, and McCoy wandering around in a setting that we recognise. They’re quite explicit about that, actually, with Spock likening the surroundings to 1960s America; this is Star Trek interacting with our world. (Of course, since I’m watching this about 50 years on, it does take on a rather different feeling; this is Star Trek interacting with the world contemporary to it, not my world. And yet the effect remains broadly the same, given it’s still playing upon an iconography familiar to me and alien to their usual setting.)

star trek the original series miri review janice rand captain kirk grace lee whitney william shatner

Despite starting well – and, to be fair, continuing well for the first twenty minutes, until the rather excellent revelation that Kirk has contracted the disease – the episode does gradually begin to fall apart.

The primary issue, I think, is that they don’t really follow through on the original premise. Rather than exploring this Earth, and why we have an exact replica of Earth in the 1960s, we end up substituting that plot for what is essentially a riff on Lord of the Flies; it becomes painfully evident that, despite how tantalising an idea it made, this 1960s setting really is just a cost saving measure. That’s a shame, to be honest; I can’t help but feel as though the writers should have made a more concerted effort to work within their limitations, as opposed to essentially just ignoring them. The idea of a society that exactly reflects Earth is a fascinating one; I also know it’s something we’ll return to later, so I don’t feel too hard done by, but I can’t help but feel as though the ball was dropped here. Even then, though – the new Lord of the Flies type plot feels astonishingly underdeveloped. There’s actually quite an interesting idea at the core of this too; the children live for a very long time, but because of the social structures in placed, they’re never really forced to mature or to grow up. You could do a lot about a society like that, and really dig deep into the concepts at the heart of it… but they just sort of don’t. Thus we end up with a rather empty feeling town, and though at times it can be a bit unsettling and creepy to hear the children chanting, mostly I only feel disappointed we didn’t get something better.

Still, there’s certainly engaging aspects to it; our crew are, as ever, pretty reliably fantastic. DeForest Kelly stands out in particular, as he so often does, because of how fantastic his performance is; McCoy getting increasingly stressed and agitated is a really impressive thing to see. It’s great to give the actors the opportunity to play against type, because we really get the chance to see how talented they are, and the range they’re capable of. (Shatner, admittedly, doesn’t do quite as well here with his aspect of the angry acting.)

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The biggest flaw in the episode is Miri herself, to be perfectly honest. It’s… creepy, to be honest, to see her interacting with Kirk. Her crush on Kirk is, I suppose, meant to be played as though it’s little more than that, just a young girl infatuated with this amazing gentleman. However, since she was being played by a 19-year-old, it doesn’t really read that way. Indeed, given it’s followed by Kirk giving her instructions and telling her to clean and do tasks and such, it either comes across as him being quite manipulative, or of her finally maturing to the point she’d ready to be a wife, or some such similar. It’s really just quite uncomfortable.

It gets worse, though, because Miri is contrasted with Janice Rand; Janice is seemingly quite jealous of Miri, because Kirk appears to be interested in her. Don’t forget, of course, that we’re meant to read Miri as pre-pubescent, so about 12 or 13 maybe. Janice is captured, and given lines like “I always wanted you to look at my legs”, and in the end, she’s almost the butt of the final joke – when Kirk says “I always stay away from older women”, that’s a reference to the fact that Grace Lee Whitney was older than William Shatner.

And so, in a way, Miri is pretty much the end of Janice Rand. It was her last episode filmed, as I understand; even if we see her again, this is basically her final outing. It also marks the start, arguably, of Kirk’s love interest of the week; even if Miri is a pretty creepy starting point, you can see how the show is picking up on a precedent established with the android yesterday, and developing this idea of Kirk having a new alien (or variations thereupon) babe to hook up with in each episode. After that, there just isn’t much space for Janice Rand, is there? Who needs a romantic lead when you’re making it part of the fabric of your show to swap in a new one each week? Janice is also the only one who points out that the Kirk/Miri interactions are a bit creepy, so there she’s quite literally getting in the way of Kirk womanising his way across the galaxy.

When I began this trek, if you will, I wasn’t really aware of Janice Rand as a character. In theory, sure, I knew the broad details of who she was, but I’d never seen a single episode that she was actually in. Generally speaking, I’ve actually quite liked her. But I also can’t help but look at her as the symbol of Star Trek’s early failures, and the manner in which it began as something very far from the utopian ideals we like to impose upon it. It was just as sexist, and at times outwardly misogynistic, as the rest of television in the 60s.

Because of it, Star Trek failed Janice Rand, and that’s a failure the show will always have to try and fix.

5/10

Related:

Star Trek: The Original Series reviews

Star Trek: Discovery reviews

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Black Mirror review: Alex Lawther is fantastic in Shut Up and Dance

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Of Black Mirror’s first three episodes in this new season, Shut Up and Dance is the most impactful; it’s chilling and discomforting in a way quite unlike its predecessors. No doubt this is a story that’s going to stay with anyone who watches it for a long, long time – just like the best of Black Mirror, really.

One of those rare episodes of television that you love so much, and find so impactful – but know that you’ll literally never, ever watch it again. It’s just too much. This one left me reeling for hours. It’s an extremely powerful piece of drama.

It also started my ongoing, decidedly one-sided, friendship with Alex Lawther, which culminated in this terribly exciting interview.

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Black Mirror review: Playtest is a horror story for the internet age

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The script has plenty of quite intelligent moments and unexpected reversals. Arguably the most effective of these was the handling of Cooper’s father’s Alzheimer’s – having set the audience up to expect an apparition of the father, Charlie Brooker expertly subverts this by presenting a far subtler rendition of Cooper’s fears about his own mental state. It’s possibly one of the most intelligent scares of the episode, and by that token the most meaningful; certainly, it stands head and shoulders above the CGI jump scares that proliferate the rest of the episode.

Yet despite this, there’s something about Playtest that just feels… empty.

My review of Black Mirror Season 3′s second episode, Playtest. It’s an attempt at a more overt horror story than they normally go for, but sadly, it’s not one that connected with me.

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Black Mirror review: Nosedive is an extremely strong start to Season 3

black mirror nosedive bryce dallas howard michael schur rashida jones charlie brooker netflix series 3 banner joe wright

There’s something very easy to relate to about this story, and how it portrays the complicated social conventions of this world; as with all the best Black Mirror episodes, the juxtaposition of the mundane and the extreme engenders both horror and familiarity, making the story resonate on an even deeper level.

Nosedive is an astonishingly well-written character piece, detailing the breakdown of main character Lacie. Bryce Dallas Howard gives an impressive performance throughout, portraying the breakdown of a carefully cultivated and manufactured personality in a nuanced, and at times quite poignant, way.

I reviewed the first three episodes of Black Mirror’s third season for CultBox – here’s my thoughts on series opener, Nosedive.

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Class Series 1 Episode 2 Review – The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo

class ram fady elsayad the coach with the dragon tattoo patrick ness ed bazalgette episode 3

Primarily, then, this episode deals with Ram (Fady Elsayad), and his reaction to the trauma he suffered in the series debut. It’s an impressive tale of PTSD and insecurity, as Ram deals with both the emotional damage of his girlfriend’s death, and the physical damage of losing his leg. Elsayad gives an impressive, nuanced performance; there’s a real sense of Ram as a multifaceted character, trying to be brave in the face of danger, dealing with his insecurities in petty yet understandable ways, and ultimately finding a sort of solace amongst his group of friends. Certainly, on the strength of Elsayad’s performance, it’s clear that Ram is beginning to become one of the show’s standout characters.

Another Class review; this one particularly focuses on Ram, Tanya and the show’s early aspects of character development.

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Rape culture, transporter accidents, and evil twins: Star Trek’s Worst Ever Episode

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The Enemy Within was first broadcast on October 6th 1966, the fifth episode of Star Trek ever to air. You’d probably know it, if at all, as the one where Kirk gets split in two, with William Shatner giving fairly memorable performances as “evil Kirk” and “good Kirk”. It is, if not iconic, certainly well remembered in its own right; it’s widely regarded as being a decent episode, which is a good representation of the sort of camp fun and high aspirations of The Original Series, given that it offers a sci-fi twist on the Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde story, a few references to Jungian philosophical ideas as well, and an alien that is quite clearly a dog with some straws taped to the back of its head.

So far, so ordinary. It’s not exactly the sort of episode you’d term “the worst ever”, nor – as I put it in a recent review on my website – “an episode that deserves to struck off the record – not just quietly forgotten, but actively disowned”. But, you see, this isn’t just an episode with a silly run-around after a transporter accident; it affirms and normalizes rape and rape culture in a way unlike any other episode of Star Trek.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reviewing the early episodes of Star Trek. While I am enjoying them, I’m also finding them very, very frustrating – there are aspects of them that are just straight up awful and offensive and wrong. This is a pretty obvious example, and so I’ve been quite heavily critical of it.

For all that early Star Trek is very good, and it often is very good, I think we’re all a little too quick to make a hagiography of it – to say, you know, ooh, first black woman on TV ever, Martin Luther King loved it more than life, it was so utopian, how wonderful, and then that’s the end of the conversation. Much of that is true, but it’s not the whole picture, and it very much shouldn’t be the end of the conversation.

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What Doctor Who can learn from Black Mirror

Black Mirror TARDIS Doctor Who Charlie Brooker Steven Moffat Chris Chibnall Netflix Channel 4 Science Fiction What Doctor Who can learn from Black Mirror

Black Mirror is known for being a show that offers commentary on the world around us; Charlie Brooker, the show’s creator and writer of most episodes, has called the show a warning about how we could be living if we’re not careful. Stories have tackled ideas as widespread as social media to populism in politics to how society approaches justice and retribution; in many ways, it’s this that makes Black Mirror so impactful.

Doctor Who doesn’t quite follow the same vein, and it doesn’t always succeed when it does try to offer commentary on modern issues. However, when it does do it right, it soars; one of the strongest episodes of series 9 was The Zygon Invasion, which alluded to ISIS, extremism, and the refugee crisis. It proved that Doctor Who could successfully engage with the real world, and provided an argument for why it should do so more often – when it does, it’s bloody good.

I’ve been really getting into Black Mirror lately; as a British sci-fi drama, it reminded me of one of favourite TV shows – Doctor Who. So I’ve put together an article with a few things that Doctor Who could perhaps emulate from Black Mirror…

Re-reading the above now, it’s a bit… I mean, I definitely wouldn’t write it now, and I suspect even then there was more than a little bit of an element of writing it for the headline rather than anything else. It weirdly undersells Doctor Who, too, in a way I wouldn’t do now – and I’m surprised I did then, even.

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