A Day Out (Clutching At Straws)


I been there.
I been there.

This was not, technically, A Day Out, not in the tradition of this year’s Museum Trips to That London or the Annual Birthday Week Visit to the Lakes, but after the last couple of days I’ll take anything I can get. Trains were involved, I visited somewhere I haven’t been in years and I got myself out of this pokey little flat for the first time since work on Wednesday, so as far as I am concerned, it counts.

Since reporting on my sore throat the other day, I have actually been proper unwell. Two days of going into work, unable to speak because of how painful it was for my throat, restricted to mind-numbingly repetitive, essential but wearying back office housekeeping tasks, were bad enough but Wednesday night was when the sore throat started to develop into a wet cough and from there into industrial-scale runny nose. In the interests of decency, I will not detail how many hankies now need wringing out.

Put on top of this that Tuesday night was one of those nights where, having failed to tire the mind during the day, it retaliated by refusing to switch off. If I did sleep more than a couple of minutes at a time, it wasn’t before 4.15am.

So that put paid to going into work for the last couple of days, especially Friday when I was so woolly-headed, I couldn’t keep my mind on anything for more than a few minutes and was a positive danger to shipping.

But I had to go out on Saturday. I’d returned home Wednesday night to one of those familiar cards from Royal Mail, informing me they’d tried to deliver my latest modest capture of Eagles through eBay and inviting me to collect it from the Sorting Office. Only it wasn’t the familiar address at Green Lane in Stockport, this time it was in Wilmslow.

Ok, it’s not that far and it’s not that inconvenient to reach, but if they’d shut the Stockport one down for some reason, having to go there every time would be a major bugger.

Still, it’s a nice enough place and I used to know it well over many years, from visits and stuff and having an old friend that lived there, though I’ve had no contact with her in nearly twenty years now, so I could make a bit of a trip out of it, look round the place, have something to eat. You know where my instincts take me in such circumstances, but unfortunately Wilmslow had nothing so downmarket as a Pizza Hut.

Never mind, I would improvise, and as you know me as a fellow of almost infinite resource (except when it comes to money and sexual allure), I would find a way. If nothing else, I could always come back to Stockport.

Besides, the worst was over. Friday had been a quite crappy day in all respects, and I’d shut down fairly early: laptop off, tablets taken, lights out, head down and wondering what sort of night I was going to have, when I could feel everything start to go clear in my head. The worst was over: all I had left was physical symptoms that would fade away in their own time.

I even put the light back on, fired up the laptop and found myself adding a few paragraphs to the novel, although only a few before real, honest-to-goodness tiredness overwhelmed me. I slept properly.

I was still snuffly, but the cough wasn’t anything like so bad (mind you, my stomach muscles have been wracked enough that it hurts them more than my throat.) Though my physical urge to get up and go was a bit lacking, I pushed myself into a healthy and cleansing shower and out into a crisp but sunny morning. Deadlines are good for one thing at least.

There was no need to rush that much, and even less capability for it, as I was moving somewhat like a brontosaurus who was past its best days. Bus to Stockport, Free Bus to the Railway Station, Day Return (under a fiver) and immediately onto a three quarter empty train for Crewe.

I’ve never before gotten off (or on) at Wilmslow Station, but I knew its whereabouts and was pretty confident I’d measured the inadequate map of the Sorting Office onto its streets. The Town Centre was immediately familiar, though I’d have been pushed to find where Linda and Ray’s house used to be, even if I could summon up the energy to walk there.

Thankfully, I didn’t leave it too long before asking for directions to the Sorting Office. A pleasantly blonde and healthy-looking blonde lady in boots and a sleeveless red quilted jacket told me I was nowhere near, but directed me simply down the pedestrianised street, bear left at the pedestrian crossing. I reset off.

It was a busy mid-morning and Wilmslow was full of Wilmslowites. I was as out of place as a Hottentot at a formal dinner, simply from the lack of value of my clothes. To be truthful, I’ve never really been ‘in’ place in Wilmslow, and not all of it was down to the lifelong lack of self-confidence that I’ve mostly managed to dispense with this last decade. I worked in a very respectable middle-class profession for thirty years, lived a respectable middle-class life, but I was born and brought up in a working-class street, at a working-class school, and whilst there were many ways in which I didn’t fit into that environment, and I don’t share much of its ways, it’s never left me and I’ve rarely felt truly comfortable, underneath, in the environment my parents aspired to for me.

Wilmslow-ladies, with their polished and powdered faces, their make-up imacculate, their clothes quietly, off-handedly, speaking of quality, talking and thinking in codes I cannot begin to want to decipher.

So I’m already starting to wonder just how long this day out is going to last when I get to the Sorting Office and it all falls into place. The man behind the counter is puzzled. Then he’s apologetic. Yes, the card says Wilmslow, and he doesn’t know how it’s happened and it shouldn’t have but one of their cards has gotten onto a Stockport van, and I’ve drawn it (because if it’s going to happen it’s going to happen to me, I know this). He’s really sorry, but I need to go to Stockport.

There’s no point in getting worked up about it, even if I had the energy with which to get worked up. If there’s anyone to blame, it’s me for accepting that card at face value. If only I hadn’t been so unfocused…

It’s 11.45am. If I’m lucky with transitions, I can get to Green Lane before 1.00pm, when it closes until next week. But it doesn’t look like I’m going to be lucky. It takes me about ten minutes to tramp back to the station but there’s fifteen minutes to wait for the next train, which is full of light-blue shirts, Bitters going to the game. The journey is only made bearable by a beatifically beautiful blonde ticket inspector who takes at least ten minutes less time over my return ticket than I consider to be the proper application of her duties.

I’m back at Stockport Station for 12.30pm. I can still do it with a pretty damned immediate appearance from the Free Bus and the same from the bus to take me to Green Lane, and that’s just not happening. It’s testament to my still fuzzy perspicacity that it takes me five minutes to work out that Green Lane isn’t that far from here as the roads lie and there are taxis over there…

Mission is therefore accomplished and I take possession of a box-shaped brown paper parcel. Unfortunately, I cannot pop my parcel into the Bag-for-Life I carry around in my shoulder bag. On the way through, a couple of hours earlier, I bought and partly consumed a small bottle of Diet Coke. Unfortunately, I failed to tighten the cap properly. It has run out all over said Bag, which is too soggy inside and out for such precious cargo. The bottom of the shoulder bag is also somewhat wet, which has already transferred itself from there into the thighs of both legs of my jeans.

Where’s the bus to Pizza Hut?

For once, there’s a substantial amount of tuna on an individual Pan Margarita with Tuna and Onion, enough to enable me to turn an indulgent ear to the birthday party nearby, to which every eight year old girl in Stockport has been invited, or so it seems. ‘Happy Birthday’ is sung with such gusto and enthusiasm that they relight the candles and do it again. Several times, in fact. If they burn through birthdays that quickly, Donald Trump will start perving over them before we even reach the Election.

I’m low on food but it’s only a five minute walk to Tesco‘s, but this is where the the Wall interpolates itself very firmly in my way. I stagger to the bus stop where, thankfully, I am able to get a seat on the bench, for it is half an hour until the bus home, and when I do get in, I haven’t the energy to unpack my pathetic shopping before I hit the bed, drifting in and out of sleep.

As I said, not what you’d really call a day out, but at least it proves that I don’t have to go all the way to London to create a shambles of a day.

 

The Fall Season: Legends of Tomorrow season 2


And thus we complete the returning schedule.

Legends of Tomorrow didn’t really work last season. It was clumsy and clunky, ill-thought-out, the audience hated the Hawks, who are no longer with us (typically, I thought Fulk Hentschel worked really well as Hawkman). So an awful lot has been changed, to the extent that the producers are looking at this as a second go as a season 1.

In my spoiler-free world, I’ve managed to avoid anything but superficial hints about season 2’s changes. For instance, I knew that Nick Zano was joining the cast as Nate Heywood, aka Citizen Steel, but I did not know, until the end of this episode, that Arthur Darvill, as Rip Hunter, was leaving.

And I do know that the recurring villain this season is the Legion of Doom, which consists of a quartet of left-over baddies, Damien Dhark, the Reverse-Flash, Malcolm Merlin and – this one’s going to be tricky – Captain Cold.

And here we were, back to business. None of this Vandal Savage/Time Masters thing, in fact the Legends are the new, ad hoc Time Masters, playing time cops here and there, and spreading the joy of woman to woman love across the entirety of history (much as I love Caity Lotz, if the series is going to have her shagging every famous woman she meets, it will grow old very rapidly).

And straight away it’s pretty clearly more of the same, only different. It’s still clunky, and stiff, and kinda jerky in its transitions, and having Stephen Amell/Oliver Queen as guest isn’t designed to play to my prejudices at the moment. But it did the job, and I’ll happily keep watching it.

I’m sorry to see Arthur Darvill go, even though I can see how Nick Zano will make a better fit and can be more one-of-the-gang that the set-up ever allowed Rip Hunter to be. It’s unfortunate in that Zano’s character (who was created at the same time as Firestorm and by the same writer), Citizen Steel, has never been a character I’ve liked in any incarnation.

But at the end of the day, where Legends of Tomorrow scores for me is where it always did, misfire or not. It’s for the ten year old boy who’s always been a part of me, who grew up reading DC Comics, and who never imagined that he would ever see these obscure characters appearing regularly on his TV screens, in ‘real-life’ versions.

It’s like Doctor Johnson and that line about the dog walking on its hind legs: It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all. The part of me that goes back to Brigham Street, Openshaw, just sits and marvels that it is there.

And you know that season 2 will kick it for me by what happened in the final minute of this premiere. The Legends are about to shake the dust of 1942 off their backs when they’re ordered to stand where they are.

By the Justice Society of America.

Hooo-wah!

One Man’s Throat


This has not been a good day or two. I’ve just had four days off work, after working nine out of the previous ten days, and going to London on the one day off. Curiously, I managed to feel tireder by the day, and on the Sunday found myself coming down with the kind of sore throat that is most unwelcome when your day job is to sit and answer the phone.

I got through Monday without undue pains, but despite stuffing myself with Hall’s Cherry Soothers (commercial plug, though they’re much less effective – or tasty – than Cherry Tunes used to be), and drinking plenty of liquids, it didn’t take long before talking started to hurt my throat and bring on some very nasty coughing.

I have managed to get my designation for today shifted to an Outbound role, and to working on Monitoring queues where the need to call anyone is greatly diminished. I am also constricted when it comes to corresponding with my line manager and colleagues. Yes, I have e-mail, and a whiteboard on which brief messages can be written and held up (don’t tempt me) but most of the time, I’m sitting here is silence and, of necessity, isolation.

This is an odd experience for me. I have had scores of sore throats that have led to coughing fits during which talking has been out of the question, but most of the time I just put up with them, chainsuck Tunes, or nowadays Soothers, and get on with it.

I can recall only one similar occasion, during my legal career, in Local Government, where I came into work with a throat so sore that talking was impossible due to how much it hurt. I immediately notified my Senior Lawyer, by e-mail, that I was unable to talk, and therefore couldn’t take or make phone calls, but that in every other respect I was fit to work and would do so.

And I got through the day quite successfully, even when it came time to go over to Estates to receive – and discuss – a new set of instructions. I warned my Instructing Surveyor that she would need to make a computer terminal available, and we ended up having a weird but very successful discussion in which she talked and I typed responses at frantic speed, and fast enough that a meeting that might have taken nearly twenty minutes in normal circumstances was concluded in twenty-five.

Whilst I don’t ordinarily make complimentary remarks about lawyers, I have to credit my then colleagues for treating my plight with sympathy and, dare I say it, dignity. Which is more than I can say about certain among my team-mates where I work now, who were more inclined to take the piss among each other over my handicap. One in particular, who I very recently reported for some vile homophobic remarks, took the opportunity to say something about me and my being a gentleman of high standards (I think). I didn’t find his apology at all believable, and I suspected then that I’d marked myself out as far as he’s concerned.

Nice to see my suspicions bearing some sort of fruit, however high-hanging it may be at this stage.

On the other hand, being effectively cut off from everyone is a very depressing experience. It makes time pass very slowly, and very wearyingly, and I’m starting from a pretty high line on the weary scale as it is. The overdose in Soothers is starting to make my head feel pretty woozy, but thankfully I’m due lunch and thirty minutes off in less than another ten.

It has ended up being a long and very weary day. One of my colleagues is pretty flirty and most of the conversation around her tends to be conducted in double entendres. I’ve been guilty of that myself on many occasions, but I know the most important thing bout jokes is when to stop. Nobody else does. It’s just been non-stop today, way past the point where anything remotely funny can be said. In fact, there’s been a lot of it that hasn’t been double enough for my liking, though it’s not my place to complain about things that aren’t directed at me. But it’s been like listening to a sleazy, cheesy, second rate Seventies sitcom, but one that’s lasted four hours without a break for adverts.

There isn’t really a punch-line to this story. I ended up feeling like my head will keel over at any moment, I was still coughing if I strayed too far from a Soother, and I’m seriously doubtful of my ability to lever my head off the pillow tomorrow morning. Not being able to talk isn’t as bad as finding it difficult to think straight.

I have no throat and cannot scream.

Deep Space Nine: s03 e11/12 ‘Past Tense’


Don't ask where this scene fits in, just don't.
Don’t ask where this scene fits in, just don’t.

I had hoped for an excellent two-part story in ‘Past Tense’, and maybe a one-episode telling would have tightened things up and enabled the story to do more with the sense of tension that was for the most part missing. Instead, I thought the story was loose and baggy, and entirely too predictable in its beats and conclusion.

Putting it very simply (though the first part made time to explain in a very scientific bit of gubbins how it happened), Sisko, Dax and Bashir beam down to Earth for a conference at Spacefleet HQ in San Francisco but arrive in the City in 2024 instead.

The trio are quickly separated, Sisko and Bashir hauled off by the Police into a ghetto-like Sanctuary District, where the poor, jobless, homeless and mentally ill are kept out of the way. Dax, on the other hand, is taken in hand by a suspiciously friendly and helpful tech billionaire who, for no reason whatsoever (I mean, he dresses Dax up in a very short mini-skirt and doesn’t even make the least move towards lifting it any further) who aids here to find her friends.

Sisko and Bashir are in a version of Hell, a useless, wasteful existence of subsistence, rivalry and near-fascist rule. But Sisko, who has conveniently studied every era of human history, recognises the period as being mere days before the highly-significant Bell Riots. These were named after Gabriel Bell, who led a rising in Sanctuary District A, who saved hostages’ lives at the cost of his own, and started the historical movement towards a better, fairer society that led to the Federation.

Interesting times, eh? And all Sisko and Bashir have to do is lay low, not get involved and not, repeat NOT change the future.

Of course, you know what’s coming. There’s no need even to have read Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch, there isn’t a story without this happening, and didn’t Kirk and Spock go through something similar over Joan Collins getting run down by a car in Harlan Ellison’s justly (in)famous ‘City on the Edge of Forever’ in TOS? (Which is apparently referenced in part 1 via a poster for a boxing match also seen in 1967).

So: Sisko and Bashir get attacked by thugs, a guy wades in to help them but is stabbed to death. He’s Gabriel Bell so Sisko takes over his name, his place in history and his eventual fate (oo-er).

Meanwhile, back in the correct century, Kira, O’Brien and Odo, who are trying to a) find out where their colleagues have gone and b) how to get them back, suddenly lose the Federation, thanks to the change in history. Which doesn’t affect them because of the same scientific gubbins that started this whole thing off.

Needless to say, they have x number of options and y number of time jumps (y being a smaller number than x) and hit the right time on the last shot of course. Not that they have anything to do with the finale: the National Guard storms the Sanctuary, freeing the hostages and killing all the leaders, except ‘Bell’, who is improbably spared by the polieman Vin, a deeply bitter and cynical guy, contemptuous of everyone lower than him, stubborn in his beliefs, who undergoes a Damascene conversion when the story most needs a deus ex machina.

And Vin swaps ‘Bell’s tags for a dead man, so that everybody will think he died, and history can snap back into place with no change except for ‘Bell’s face in historical records.

The show ends with Bashir asking the honest question of how the US Government allowed this situation to develop in the first place, and Sisko, with his best despairing/philosophical voice on, fudging the story in the best fudging style by saying, ‘I wish I knew’.

What I found interesting, when the pattern of US society in 2024 was first demonstrated, was that when this episode was first broadcast, the setting was thirty years into the future. Now, September 2024 is only eight years away. If Donald Trump were to be elected next month as President, the events of this story would take place in the final year of his second term. I, for one, would look no further.

But no, an interesting premise awkwardly handled and unable to come up with anything but the easy route down Cliche Boulevard. A shame.

The Fall Season 2016: Supergirl season 2


What the World is Waiting for
What the World is Waiting for

After Arrow, Supergirl is the series nearest to the edge for me. On balance, I enjoyed season 1, but almost all of that was down Melissa Benoist as Supergirl and Kara Danvers, who was born to play the twin leading roles. Apart from that, the series had a lot of good things going for it – I have never previously liked Callista Flockhart but she was great as Cat Grant – but was clunky far too often.

Now the show has been bounced down from CBS to The CW, where it sits alongside the other DC series, but it hasn’t merged into the so-called Arrowverse, and remains in a separate Universe. Which is all too the good because the feel of this lightweight, optimistic, good-hearted show, with its lightweight, optimistic, good-hearted heroine, is inimical to the increasing darkness of everything connected to Oliver bloody Queen.

Changes are to be made, however, and some of these were teased in an opening episode that, as we were all aware, brought the Big Blue Boy Scout, ol’ Supes hisself, into town to visit little/big cousin Kara.

Tyler Hoechlin, who I believe has been better known for playing bad boy roles before this guest stint is, IIRC, the sixth actor I’ve seen playing Superman. He comes onscreen as Clark and, to my great delight, his Clerk is pure Christopher Reeve, which won my support instantly. His Superman was similarly clean, straightforward and open, just as Superman should be: no darkness, no brooding, no sullenness. The perfect hero.

For a while, Hoechlin outshone everyone else. Superman references abounded. Cat Grant’s new assistant, who she summoned with a wonderfully Gene Hackman-like growl, was Miss Teschmacher, Winn – who’s moved from Catco to the DEO this year – got all excited about the technical aspects of when Supes was fixing the San Andreas Fault and, whilst Supergirl can’t have Lex Luthor, there’s a new recurring character in Town (presumably taking the Maxwell Lord role) in his adopted baby sister, Lena, a (so-far) good girl.

Oh, and since Supergirl is now filming in Vancouver with the rest of Greg Berlanti’s DC series’, and Callista Flockhart is only going to be available as a recurring character, Kara’s choice of future career-path is, somewhat disappointingly, a reporter. The show does rely entirely too heavily on nicking things out of the Superman mythos as it is without going down that particular copycat route.

Still, it’s early days and with the mysterious young man from Krypton who landed in season 1’s cliffhanger, and Project Cadmus converting the English assassin, John Corben, into Metallo, not to mention the revelation that all this time, Hank (J’Onn J’Onzz) Henshaw has been sitting on a bloody great Kryptonite meteor (lessee, last season’s recurring big baddies were Kryptonians with limitless powers, he’s got Kryptonite, doesn’t use it against them… does not compute): enough material to keep us going I think.

One definite minus mark was the way the episode treated the Kara/James Olsen relationship. I thought the idea was wrong-headed and stupid, but season 1 went for it with Kara puppy-doggishly following James around with her tongue hanging out until she gets the date she’s been longing for.

Only to decide, now she’s got it, that she doesn’t want it, actually she doesn’t want him, but he’d make a great friend instead.

It’s a step in the right direction but it  was handled appallingly badly, because the writers couldn’t come up with a reason for this change of heart. I mean, hell’s bells, it’s supposed to be only twelve hours since season 1 ended and Kara suddenly thinks differently when nothing has changed except James suddenly wanting to go out with her… In the absence of an in-story explanation of any kind, the viewer has to construct their own rationalisation, and the only explanations that fit are inherently negative about Kara. Dumb writing, completely dumb.

So: overall summary, changes are being made, but on the surface things stay the same. If it were anyone else but Melissa Benoist in the title role, I would probably have bailed by the middle of season 1. This year needs to tighten up, and I am already deeply sceptical of the new character who will replace Cat Grant on a daily basis.

Still with it, but with an option to sidle off if the season’s not very careful.

24: Legacy – will I never escape?


No fair at all
No fair at all

Oh dear, oh dear. Kiefer Sutherland may have gotten out of 24 at long last, but that didn’t mean the world’s most bullgoose looney terror’n’torture show was letting go since it immediately reincarnated itself as 24: Legacy, starring Corey Hawkins as Eric Carter.

Still, it’s a very simple matter to just ignore the show.  I don’t have to watch it, I am a free agent, I am not a number.

So, what do they do? The bastards only go and cast Miranda Otto in a prominent role in the cast. Miranda Otto, who was Eowyn in The Lord of the Rings and who was the cause of some mild friction between me and my then elder stepson over who fancied her more.

It’s not fair, I tell you, playing on a chap’s weaknesses like that. I feel my pain.

Homicide: Life in Season Seven


Until the end of its sixth season, Homicide: Life on the Street had had the security of a two season order. Ratings had not improved, however, though the show had taken the chance to go into some intense and daring areas. Nevertheless, it had ended Season 6 anticipating, not for the first time, cancellation.
But once more the series was reprieved. This time it was down to external factors: NBC had lost Seinfeld, gone deep into the hole to retain E.R. and couldn’t afford further destabilisation, so Homicide was renewed for a seventh, but ultimately final series.
Once again there were changes. Andre Braugher and Reed Diamond had left, the one because he’d grown bored with the part, the other because the logic of his story had left Kellerman nowhere to go.
Terri Stivers had been rotated into Homicide in the middle of Season 6, only for Toni Lewis to remain a Guest Star, but now she received an overdue promotion into the cast, but Michael Michelle and Giancarlo Esposito were brand new, and would be the show’s final additions.
Michelle appeared as Detective Rene Sheppard, another rotation into Homicide, from the Fugitive Squad, whilst Esposito joined the show as Mike Giardello, Al’s estranged son (despite previous reference to him having been as Al Jr.)
In keeping with the previous two seasons, Season 7 opened with the return to duty of Tim Bayliss, after his bullet wound of the previous season. Kyle Secor had already let it be known that this would be his last year with Homicide: he would not be renewing his contract for any season 8. It was going to be interesting to see how he would go forward without Pembleton, who, we were quickly advised, had enrolled as a lecturer at a Jesuit College, and who had spoken to nobody in Homicide since the end of the Mahoney affair.
And there were external changes. The squadroom had changed after the Junior Bunk shoot-out: it had been repainted, the desks rearranged. Gee’s office had been shifted, the Box had gone, to be replaced with two interview rooms. Worst of all, because it was demeaning, was the change to the opening credits, which were drastically shortened, the music truncated, the cast’s images scrolled by with barely enough time to take them in. Suddenly, Homicide became a perfunctory thing.
I have only seen the seventh season twice before. It’s noticeably weak in comparison to the series as a whole, and if this was the standard to which Homicide had slipped, there were few among the audience who regretted this being its final outing.
It’s not just the absence of Pembleton, which in turn leaves Bayliss out on a limb, forming no relationships to equal that with his previous sparring partner and slipping into the background. Instead, it’s the entire ethos of the show. All its principles seem to be sacrificed at once. Overnight, it became a soap opera, more concerned with the detective’s private lives, their relationships and issues than it is with any of the crimes that occur.
Rene Sheppard has been rotated into Homicide, but she’s a photogenic, tall, confident, sexy woman and initially the male detectives on the squad can only think of her in sexual terms. Lewis, her partner, fancies her, Falsone fancies her (and is oblivious to the fact that Ballard fancies him), Bayliss fancies her. The woman herself is strong and self-reliant, and wants to be taken seriously as a detective, but – perhaps in reaction to having one of NBC’s pretty people forced on them – the show makes her attractiveness a theme of the series, introducing midway the question of whether she – or any of the female detectives – are physically fit to face the streets.
Even Mike Giardello’s introduction, in the opening episode, is a matter of personal relationships. It’s Bayliss’s first day back since his shooting, though little is made of this in contrast to the past two seasons, just an offhand remark, and there are three deaths in Little Italy, the result of a Sicilian vendetta, one of whom is Gee’s cousin, Mario.
The funeral brings Mike (an FBI Agent based in Arizona) to Baltimore, where he is elemental in solving the case. Mario, who was as much as if not more of a father to Mike, leaves his house to MGee who, in order to improve his strained relationship with his work-obsessed father, transfers to Baltimore as FBI liaison or, as Gaffney and Barnfather expect it to be, their spy in Gee’s squadroom.
It rolls on. Munch is seeing Billie Lou, the Waterfront barmaid, and gets engaged to her. Gharty leaves his wife, turns to drinking, strip clubs and attempts to pull Billie Lou. Falsone and Ballard get together and, when Gee warns them that they cannot have a relationship whilst on the same shift, officially break things off but carry on shagging anyway. Munch, in a tiresome and irritating manner, takes violently against Gharty over his supposed experiences in ‘Nam, which leads to some unpleasant sneaking around to expose Gharty’s less than stellar military records, and the latter is forced to reveal a telling experience that puts everything into a different, and entirely admirable light.
The one really bright spot in the season is the new medical examiner, Dr Griscom, played with a toothy grin and excellent brio by Austin Pendleton.
Approaching the midway point, the series went in for two, back-to-back, two-part episodes. The first features a team of Bounty Hunters, led by a southern accented Chris Meloni (who would soon be co-starring with Richard Belzer in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), which further broke Homicide‘s mould by ending the first half with a long car chase and a crash in which Lewis is seriously injured, and which zoomed off to Florida in its second half.
This was immediately followed by a return for Reed Diamond in a two-parter focusing on a case where he ended up opposing the Squad – and especially Falsone – in his new role as a P.I. Though this was a rare instance where the case itself formed the greater part of the story, nevertheless it still centred itself upon Kellerman’s relations with his former colleagues. Stivers was furious with him, Lewis distant, the rest of the squad uncommunicative. Everybody’s been affected by him, and Kellerman, just like he was last season, is self-justifying.
But when the case went down the wrong way, when the rich girl turned on the poor boy she supposedly loved, Kellerman dug for evidence that would support the boy. Though he committed suicide before it could be examined didn’t change the fact that Kellerman did the right thing, and even Falsone was prepared to give him credit for not being all scum.
Diamond became only the second, and last cast member to return in a guest role after they left the series, after Isabella Hofmann in season Five.
But by this time it was much too late. Gharty ploughed on, getting further and further lost in drink. Falsone and Ballard eventually split up, finding the secrecy too much for them, though Falsone appeared to find it the harder to accept. Lewis kept going on and on about the beat-down, raking it up at every opportunity, and going on to be resistant to working with Ballard or Stivers.
This storyline ended up neutralising Sheppard for the back half of the series. There was no escape from it, and no new, strong storylines to accommodate her character.
And Toni Lewis would up short-changed too. She was Falsone’s partner and made a good, solid job of it, but there were no stories for her to be anything other than one of a pair of cops. The series did bring the feminist question to a head in ‘The Why Chromosome’, in which Sheppard and Ballard teamed up, successfully, as  the first pair of female Homicide Detectives to work a murder together: it could have been Stivers and Sheppard, but she naturally effaced herself, having nothing to prove. A good team role, but the show had run out of ideas of what to do with her.
This switch of emphasis to soap opera also downgraded what could have been good stories by simply creating an atmosphere in which the crime, the victim, were of secondary interest. That was particularly evident in ‘Lines of Fire’, an otherwise intense, and tragic story which was almost a Mike Giardello solo, but one in which, despite the stripping away of every vestige of personal issues, failed to reach the level of season 6’s ‘The Subway’ because the show had lost its aura.
As the series neared its end, thought had to be given to writing out Bayliss, given Kyle Secor’s intention to leave. This was set up quite carefully, but a long way from the end. The seed was planted in ‘Homicide.com’, in which Luke Rylands, a sicko killing women in Internet broadcasts was arrested by Sheppard, on her first redball. Bayliss is her secondary, and part way through the episode, Rylands piggy-backed onto a real-life internet site, ‘In Plain Site’, that had been set up for the series. The site anonymously discussed Buddhism and bisexuality, and it was run by Bayliss.
(The episode also introduced two detectives from the Web-only Homicide: Second Shift, which ran during season 7 for those with reliable web access. I deeply regret not finding that in time.)
Two episodes later, a pair of episodes started turning the screw very hard on Bayliss. First, his site came to the attention of Captain and Mrs Gaffney, after 12 year old Master Gaffney located it. The Gaffneys wanted it shut down, pronto. Tim was prepared to resist, based on his First Amendment Rights, but his reputation as a ‘Homo’ cop, a ‘fag’, quickly spread. Gee advised it was career suicide, a sergeant who’d fancied Tim enough to book a dinner date denounced him out of fear he’d also be ‘out’. In the end, the crushed Bayliss deleted a web-site that had clearly been of great use to him in recovering from his gunshot.
The next episode featured the murder of a Buddhist Monk. Over Lewis’s reservations, Bayliss was brought in as an expert. The two clashed over Lewis’s liking for the culprit being one of the other Monks and Bayliss’s insistence that none of them could have done it. Bayliss was right, but he was forced into a corner where, to preserve his own life, he had to kill the suspect, violating his every Buddhist belief.
Disappointingly, there was no follow-up to these episodes until the curtain-closer, ‘Forgive us our Trespasses’. Luke Rylands, the internet Killer, went free on a technicality, for which Bayliss blamed Ed Danvers, shoving him down the courtroom steps and giving him a head injury.
It’s a big day. Munch and Billie Lou are marrying, Gee’s getting his promotion to Captain and taking over the Property Division, there are cases and cases and Bayliss, for the first and only time all season, admits that he misses his friend, that he misses Frank.
And then, in the last seven minutes, Homicide: Life on the Street lifted itself to match its best ever moments. It excelled everything in the whole of season 7, and ended on the highest of high notes, and a mystery.
Rylands comes home to find Bayliss waiting for him. He’s there to tell Rylands that he’ll be watching, every day, that they’ll get him. Hope you like New Orleans, Rylands says: I hear the girls and pretty, and easy. You’ll be able to see it all on the internet.
Gee’s turned down the captaincy to stay in Homicide. It may be his wedding night but Munch is down the Waterfront, looking to get loaded. After seven weeks of celibacy pending the wedding night, he’s gone off too soon, and at his age you don’t get two in a night.
Bayliss arrives, asks Munch to walk with him. He recalls Gordon Pratt, the guy who shot Bolander, Felton and Howard in season 3, and who was found shot shortly afterwards: Bayliss caught the case but not the killer. Munch is all in favour of that. Bayliss, who has slightly too beatifical a smile on his face says he always suspected Munch killed Pratt, and admires him for it. Munch says nothing.
Bayliss then turns up at Danvers’ home, come ‘to apologise for what I’ve done’. Danvers is still mad, but accepts the apology, assuming its about what happened at the courthouse. Maybe it is.
It’s the next morning and the squadroom’s buzzing. Stivers and Gharty are both going on leave and Falsone suggests partnering with Ballard. Lewis gets a call and, having thought over a lot of what Bayliss has said, invites Sheppard to partner him. Bayliss is clearing stuff out of his desk. Springcleaning, he calls it to Gee, but he tosses his nameplate in there too. He takes one last long look at the Board then takes his box and leaves. At the door, he looks back. An intense, hyper-dense sixty second long flashback covers seven seasons of Homicide. He leaves.
Despite the fact it’s morning, Lewis and Sheppard’s crime scene is an alley at night, like the first shot of the Pilot. The body is that of Luke Rylands. Lewis and Sheppard start down the alley, looking for clues. Their dialogue repeats the dialogue of Lewis and Crosetti a very long time ago. We watch them hunt in silence.
Homicide might even yet have been renewed for an eighth season. All Tom Fontana had to do was agree to sack everybody in the cast except Munch and the two beautiful women, Sheppard and Ballard, move the trio to Miami with lots of beach clothes, and turn them into Private Investigators, operating out of a fishing boat. Any resemblance to Homicide: Life on the Street would have been ruthlessly exterminated.
Needless to say, Fontana wouldn’t play ball. Nobody would.
Richard Belzer had a plan. He was well aware that Benjamin Bratt was leaving Law & Order as of that season and, seeing how well he and Jerry Orbach had worked together in the three crossovers, he proposed transferring Munch to become Lennie Briscoe’s new partner. It would have worked like a dream, but Jesse L. Martin had already been signed up for the role. Munch ended up in the franchise’s first, but by no means last, spin-off, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, in which Munch would be, for the most part, utterly wasted for the next fifteen years.
Belzer would go on, however, to set a record for playing John Munch on the most number of different TV shows, on the most number of Networks, in American TV History, even down to Homicide‘s true heir, The Wire (another David Simon creation, still using settings and dialogue from  Homicide: A Year on the Killing Street.)
It had lasted seven seasons, even if the first couple of seasons were very short, and it had kept a large part of its soul intact, not to mention Richard Belzer, Clark Johnson, Yaphet Kotto and Kyle Secor (it doesn’t count if you leave in the last ever episode).
But this was not the end of the story. Just eighteen months later…

Dan Dare Comics 2017?


At the end of this link, there’s an announcement by Titan comics of a new Dan Dare comic in 2017, illustrated by the cover of their version of the first half of the ‘Venus Story’ (Titan aren’t into value-for-money, at least not for their customers).

The amount of information about this is non-existent. Titan aren’t noted, as Eddie Campbell has pointed out, for publishing anything that hasn’t already made money for someone else first, so hopes are not being set high. After all, that adaptation of Dan Dare into (updated) radio adventures for Easter 2016 hasn’t yet seen aural daylight.

Support Spaceship Away instead.

The Fall Season 2016: Arrow season 5


Ok, things are a bit clearer here.

I’m well aware that Arrow is the progenitor of the array of DC-based shows I’m enjoying watching (excluding Gotham, which I gave up on in a heartbeat two episodes into last season and, by all accounts, have not suffered from since), and I’m even more aware that in Oliver Queen and Green Arrow it features one of my long-term favourite characters. And I also know that Echo Kellum, now promoted to cast, is shortly going to emerge as one of my all-time faves, Mr Terrific (even if it’s not the Terry Sloane version).

But I’ve been defending the series to myself for some time now, and it’s been on probation since the point in season 4 that I realised that the showrunners will go to any specious length to fuck about with the one clear point about that that was likeable and enjoyable and a counterpart to the endless agonising, and given that the flashbacks should, by the end of the season have wound round to episode 1 of season 1, I am going to dig in my heels and try to grind long, but it took less than three minutes of the season 1 opener before Arrow got put on double-secret probation. My gorge could rise at any moment.

Nothing’s changed. Oliver’s still a wanker of the first water, a boring, obsessed, righteous ostrich with his head still so firmly buried simultaneously in the sand and up his own backside. He’s making a serious fuck-up of being the Mayor of Star City because, guess what, his only interest is using it as a magic source of intel for Green Arrow.

And he still thinks the Team will come back. I mean, Diggle’s in the Army in the Balkans, Thea is his Chief of Staff at the Mayor’s office, relishing the chance to wear extremely short skirts again, Laurel’s dead (but Katie Cassidy still has a contract for at least three different series), Quentin’s a lush again (I doubt we’ll be seeing Charlotte Ross again, but then why would we? She was sweet, and nice, and funny). And whilst Felicity’s still providing chirpy Tech support and reality dumps, she’s shacked up with some other bloke.

Meanwhile, there are these other vigilantes running round, like Wild Dog, and Green Arrow is busy chasing them off the streets and shooting arrows into them (mind you, if you’re going to start introducing Wild Dog, one of the stupidest and badly-conceived characters DC used thirty-plus years ago, the arrow should be in the head not the leg, gah!), and there’s a new Big Bad in town, and Oliver -5 is in Russia to join the Bratva and kill Kovar, oh, and just to tie things off at the end there’s another new archer in town, looking like GA only in bronze-red with a full-face mask.

Oh, and Ollie’s gone back to being homicidal again, which put paid to Speedy ever playing along since she’s not going to be a vigilante EVER again if that’s what they’re doing.

I am going to watch season 5, just for a sense of closure in respect of the flashbacks, at least until the show reaches a threshold too low for me to stomach. But it’s deja vu all over again. It’s the same thing every season. Ollie is nothing like the Ollie that I really enjoyed reading about in the comics. He’s a stubborn idiot, the one-eyed, one-note man. He’s learned nothing, he won’t ever learn anything, and the same trials keep cropping up and he keeps doing the same thing, over and again, and I’m getting very weary about it.

No, make that triple-secret probation.