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Rewatch: The Prisoner — Episode 3: Dance of the Dead

When a Carnival comes to the Village, No. 6 decides to go for a night on the town and discovers a dead body on the beach and a miniature radio receiver, which may give him a way of communicating with the outside world in a rather unorthodox manner.

This episode is fairly heavy on symbolism. What themes did you pick up on? How effective do you find the sounds and imagery of the series?


Rewatch: The Prisoner — Episode 2: Free For All

In honor of the late, great Patrick McGoohan, we’re spending the next couple of weeks rewatching his landmark SF show The Prisoner. Day 2, Episode 2: Free For All

This time, No. 6 is encouraged to run in the upcoming election for the position of the new No. 2. What better way to fight the system than by becoming part of it?

This episode is a clear criticism of the democratic process and perceptions of individual freedom. We never see another election, but every episode begins with a new No. 2; this one ends with a new one as well. Considering this episode first aired in 1967, what do you think prompted this, and what relevance does it have for us in 2009?


Rewatch: The Prisoner — Episode 1: The Arrival

A couple of weeks ago the world lost a great actor and sharp storyteller: Patrick McGoohan. Though his roles were many and varied through film, television and stage, he is best known to the SF fans amongst us as Number Six from the classic British series The Prisoner. This show, which had a limited run of 17 episodes, was deep and engaging, but also kind of confusing. In honor of Mr. McGoohan, we thought it would be fun and enlightening to rewatch the series and discuss it as we go along.

Fittingly enough for as controversial a series as The Prisoner, even the episode order is under dispute. Though there are no less than four preferred viewing orders, I have chosen to go with the order proposed by Six of One, the Prisoner Appreciation Society, which was also used for the A&E DVD release in the United States. AMC, which is making the episodes available for free streaming via their website, has opted for the order in which they first aired in the UK.

Day 1, Episode 1: The Arrival

This is, of course, the episode that introduces us to Patrick McGoohan’s character and the setting for the seventeen episodes of the series. The lengthy and dialogue-free opening sequence tells much of the story, including his “arrival” in the Village and his efforts to find both who is in charge and a means of escape.


Blog For A Beer: We’ll Be Missing You

This past week we lost two actors beloved by SF geeks around the world: Ricardo Montalbon and Patrick McGoohan. For those not in the know, Montalban was the star of Fantasy Island and also played KHAAAAAAAAAAAN on Star Trek, McGoohan was the genius behind cult classic The Prisoner. On Christmas day we also lost Eartha Kitt, who’s SF cred included a stint as Catwoman opposite Adam West’s Batman.

What impact did these actors and the media they helped create and/or bring to life have on the genre, on television in general, and on you personally? What about any other genre actors, writers or creators we’ve lost in the last year or so?


The New Year in Speculative Fiction: The 2009 of Our Past Imaginations

The year 1984 came and went, and the Thought Police didn’t take over (mostly). We rocketed past 2001, and humanity didn’t discover that mystical monolith on the moon. The year 2009 was never the red-letter year that 1984 and 2001 were for our collective literary imaginations, but there are a few events in speculative fiction, movies, and television that were said to have taken place this year. Fantasy takes a look at a few of these and at how close–or far off–they are from the 2009 we’re living in today


Saturday Morning Cartoon: A new definition for “excellent”

Amidst all the grumbling about the recent remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still was the usual griping about Keanu Reeves’s ability (or inability) to act. Some say his best role, aside from the first–and I insist only–Matrix film, was as Ted “Theodore” Logan in the seminal Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Many feel the sequel was as bogus as advertised, but there’s no disputing that the wacky movie about two teenage rock stars and their time-traveling phone booth helped launch an impressive career and indoctrinated legions of fans into the joys of temporal paradox.

Perhaps all but the most hardcore, one might even say cultish, followers of that first excellent adventure are blissfully unaware of the horrors that followed, or they’ve simply blanked them from their minds in an effort to regain a semblance of normal living. Bill and Ted made two forays into television, assaulting hapless viewers in their own living rooms with a two-pronged approach: both a live-action and an animated series, each optimistically titled Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures.

The atrocious live action series featured two replacements for the movie stars, Evan Richards and Christopher Kennedy (in what appeared to be a ridiculous wig). The show ran on (what else) the Fox network.

The animated series, however, had the dubious honor of the film cast reprising their roles, for at least the first season on CBS. Thus, that’s really Keanu Reeves you hear–far more animated than in most of his subsequent roles. Alex Winter held onto his acting career a little longer, and George Carlin and Bernie Casey also provided voice work. Add a catchy-to-annoying title theme and some odd animation, and you have the perfect Saturday morning fare to poison the minds of kids like me.

Through the magic of my own time machine (ie. YouTube), you can now experience the same morning cartoon I did, but probably with a bit more criticism. Here then is the appropriately titled “A Black Night in San Dimas”, episode 7 (air date: 11/3/90). Party on, dudes. (Visit the site to watch.)


Blog For A Beer: Doctor Who — Going Strong or Deathbed Bound?

I considered a lot of topics for this week, but knowing how much our readers love Doctor Who, and since the announcement of the new Doctor rocked the fandom a few days ago, I felt I would be remiss if I didn’t give you all a chance to talk about it.

I was not impressed with the choice of Matt Smith, but then I’m becoming disenchanted with Doctor Who in general. That last Christmas episode was a stinker, and you all know my thoughts ont he season finale from last year. And though I was excited when I first heard that Stephen Moffat was taking over as lead writer, I’m now quite worried that every episode is going to be the same Mary Sue-fest that we’ve been treated to since season 2.

I’m pretty doom and gloom about Doctor Who, but not everyone is. Are you excited about the new choice? Who will the new companion be? Will Stephen stop writing fanfiction now that he can write as much as he wants?


Blog For A Beer: Favorite Holiday-Themed Adaptations

This week we talked about the many and various adaptations of A Christmas Carol in television and movies and a little about episodes that use the It’s A Wonderful Life premise.  Around this time of year you’re bound to see one or both of these stories redone alongside the many other holiday specials and A Christmas Story marathons.

We’d like to know: what are your favorite Christmas Carol or Wonderful Life episodes or movies?  Which shows did it best?  And which shows did it so badly that it made you curse the ghost of Frank Capra and the day Dickens needed money so badly he wrote the novella to begin with?

My favorite is the Christmas Carol episode of The Real Ghostbusters and my least favorite is the movie starring vanessa Williams.  I have nothing against VW, but the whole concept was grating to me by then.  Besides, Cicley Tyson was a better female Scrooge.  I’ve never been particularly fond of Wonderful Life pastiches.

How about you?  Give us your strong and informed opnion on the subject and you could win $10.


Crossing Lines: Stargate Atlantis — No Hope On The Horizon

I’m so disappointed with Stargate Atlantis lately, as anyone who’s been reading these column can probably tell. To be honest at this point if I wasn’t writing this column I don’t know if I would still be watching the show. I’d probably break up with it for good and catch the final episodes sometime in the spring on rerun. Sadly, the following episodes did not alter this opinion. There were some good things going on but at the end of most of them I just want to scream, “This is what you’re going out on!? These episodes are what you want us to remember of the show!?”.

First off, apparently Carson Beckett is now some planet-wandering healer/medicine-man? I must have zoned out on a previous episode and missed this, or they never mentioned it and it’s simply a weird retcon, either way it feels forced. But Carson is back and that’s never really a bad thing in my book!

The episode “Outsiders” starts with the team heading to a planet to bring Carson medical supplies. Carson is there to treat some folks that are victims of one of his earliest sketchy ethic moments, helping the Hoffans develop a plague that is deadly to 2/3 of the human population. The plus side of the plague is that those who survive it can’t be fed on by the Wraith and are in fact poisonous to them. Now, this is one instance where Carson actually showed some care. Once he realized the drug would be deadly to many humans, he stepped back and was like, ‘Oooooh, too sketchy for me. I’d rather return to Atlantis and perform painful experiments on living sentient beings.’

Okay he didn’t actually say that.


Sofa Sunday: Knight Rider Shows Off Its Geek Cred

I’ll admit something embarrassing: I watch the new Knight Rider. I know, I know! Shame on me! But here’s something you might not know about the show: it doesn’t totally suck. In fact, when comparing it to the original show, it’s not any more cheesy or less well-written. It’s not great TV, but it’s not My Own Worst Enemy bad.

Why do I watch it, you ask? I have to admit it was a combination of boredom and curiosity. The first episode was the curiosity — how bad will it be? I wondered. Not as bad as I assumed. But the guy playing Michael Knight (son of the Hoff’s original character) isn’t bad to look at, and neither is Sydney Tamiia Poitier. Plus Bruce Davidson is always good for a laugh.

The boredom part comes in late at night, when I’ve watched all the good shows on Hulu and, and need something to get me through the final part of my knitting. Knight Rider is more fun to watch than ALF… most of the time.

Like last week’s episode, “Knight of the Living Dead” (yes, all titles are puns on the word Knight… ugh), where the employees of Knight Industries dress up for Halloween. The show opens on one of the techs (Billy, a slightly geeky dude who always manages to reverse the polarity or whatever at the last minute) prancing around in a long coat. When I first saw this, I was like, “Why does that look so familiar?” Then I realized why and my brain turned inside out.

Dude was dressed at Captain Jack Harkness.

And then he says it! “I’m Captain Jack! …you know, Torchwood, Doctor Who, c’mon!”

Then begins a discussion as to whether Jack is gay or not and if Billy is trying to tell them all something with his costume.

The episode pretty much goes downhill from there. (Evil infiltrator is evil. Also, there was once a Knight Industries project called KARR. KARR. Jesus.) But those few minutes filled me with a respect for the show’s writers. Too often with shows like this — centered around some clearly SFnal object but otherwise based in reality — the creators try to convince the audience that they aren’t SF or geeky or anything but mainstream. In this episode they waved a big rainbow flag, shouting, “Look how f’ing geeky we are, we watch Doctor Who!” That is all kinds of awesome.

Click over to Fantasy Magazine to check it out for yourself. The Captain Jack joke happens in the first 3 minutes, so you can stop after that. Or you can keep watching to see KITT’s Halloween costume and hear Bruce Davidson say earnestly, “Of course I put a secret self-destruct program in KITT, I don’t want to have another KARR on my hands!!”