Tales of the Gold Monkey: e19: Boragora or Bust


It’s getting late. What Saturday Morning staple have we not yet had? A Treasure Mine? Let’s throw one of those in.

The ingredients are familiar: veteran prospector, been digging for decades, faithful creaking mule and eccentric methods, strikes it rich. Old Dowser’s an Aussie with a slightly variable accent and his mule is of course called Matilda, though it’s not gold that he’s struck, it’s platinum, way up in the mountains on Boragora. Forty years he’s been prospecting and on the edge of giving up, dynamiting the mine and himself inside it, and Dowser strikes it rich.

And there was Jake Cutter, who loves the old geezer like a father, complaining that his piloting career in the Maravellas is boring and lacking in excitement and recalling those old days of red hot jazz on a Friday night.

Overnight, Boragora becomes a creditable impression of a boom town, with all sorts of hopeful and ignorant would-be prospectors, and the usual gang of hangers-on, including an outfit offering ‘French’ ladies to entertain the prospectors and arousing the fighting ire of the Reverend Willie Tenbaum when they start using his ‘children’ to supply ‘blessings’.

And what you really need for a story like this is a claim-jumper, and we got one, the unruffled, immaculate smooth-as-snake-oil Mr Hastings. There’s only one problem: he’s in the right. He can take Dowser’s claim, within the law, because Dowser forfeited it thirty years ago for his complete failure to ‘improve’ it.

So, once Dowser is prevented from settling this island-style, with knives, it’s back to plan A: if Dowser can’t have the claim he’s scratched forty years to win, Hastings won’t get it either. He’ll dynamite the mine – with himself in it.

Put like that, the episode can be easily dismissed as a collection of cliches. But first of all, we’ve agreed all along that that is what Tales of the Gold Monkey is, and has always set out to be. It’s about the nostalgic fun of old and hoary adventure stories, played with just the teeniest dose of self-awareness, and tons of gusto. The knockabout fight on the beach starting when Willie dumps the tarts’ tent and ending with him hopping up and down in glee at a great brawl, and roaring in German, in a perfect specimen.

But there was more to this episode than just the fun. There were quieter moments, cameos that addressed, in brief but effective fashion, the emotional realities that lie behind the glorious nonsense. Dowser’s despair at losing what he’s worked for, his emotionalism at the fact his beloved mule won’t be shooed away and will go down with him. Sarah’s for once quiet concern about the risks Jake is taking to try and intercept Dowser, her recognition of the fact that she’s always saying goodbye like a wife, and they haven’t even… Jake’s warm and tender kiss. And in the mine, with Dowser lighting the fuse whilst holding Jake and Corky at bay with his gun, it’s the latter who walks forward, calmly refusing to believe Dowser will shoot him, to cut the fuse and extinguish it.

In the end, the mountain comes down. There’s a death-defying motorcycle leap, the insouciant whistling of a tune I have no hope of recognising, Dowser getting to look aat the face of the legal cheat who failed to rob him. And another boring Friday night in the Monkey Bar, with Jake back to bitching and off to an early bed… until Louie comes up with a stack of red-hot jazz discs, and it’s grab Sarah and let’s cut a rug.

I’m going to miss this show all over again.

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Deep Space Nine: s05 e16: Dr Bashir, I Presume


Happy Families

When the opening shot of an episode features Chase Masterson’s cleavage framed exactly in the centre of the screen, it immediately gives the episode an uplift. Of course, being in the first part of the open, it also isn’t going to be the A-story. What it is is an amusing, occasionally embarrassing tale of the Love That Dare Not Speak It’s Name, only it’s got nothing to do with Homosexuality in Nineteenth Century London and everything to do with Rom being so bleeding afraid to tell Leeta he loves her, even in the face of her… heartfelt desire for him to do so, that he’s prepared to let her leave DS9 forever rather than risk his fate to a mere 99.9% probability that she’s interested in him. I knew exactly how he felt.

But that was a B story, amusing as it was and pleasing as it always is to see Ms Masterson showing off her… talents (actually, to be serious, she does bring a genuine sweetness and a perfectly judged strand of self-mockery to a role that is practically the definition of one-note and which, in the hands of a less talented performer, could be an utter disaster), and it struck the improbable note of a happy conclusion as Rom finally finds his voice at the last second, though speaking as the unprepossessing dumb-cluck, I can’t quite get over the notion of someone who looks like her falling from someone who looks like me… sorry, him: somebody’s been at the Magic Wish-Fulfillment Juice with a vengeance.

But, as the story title indicates, that’s not the A-story. Nor, originally, was the A-story seen as anything better than a B-story, itself a comic episode. Special Guest Robert Picardo, already firmly fixed in Star Trek lore as the Hologram Doctor in Voyager, turns up in the person of his human avatar, Engineer Dr Lewis Zimmerman. The Emergency Medical Hologram programme which he’s invented is being upgraded to a Long-term Medical Hologram, and our Julian has been chosen as its template.

As a B-story, it would have been the comedic underbelly to a meatier A-story. The producers weren’t interested in the original A-story, but loved the B-story. It wouldn’t go down as a comedic episode so something more dramatic had to be brought in. In retrospect, the fact that Bashir’s background had never previously been featured, and that a host of small asides down the years fell into place as if there had all along been some secret in his past facilitated quite an explosive revelation.

Quite simply, Dr Julian Bashir is the product of childhood genetic enhancement which, in the Star Trek universe, is illegal. If discovered, he will be cashiered from Starfleet and his medical licence withdrawn. Everything he is, does and has accomplished, everything he could do, will be destroyed.

That it may now be exposed is due to the fact that Zimmerman, whilst he’s not trying to get into Leet’a Bajoran knickers, has to build a comprehensive psychological profile of the good Doctor for the LMH, which means interviewing everyone who does or ever has known him. Which includes his parents, who still call him by his birth-name, Jules.

Now, it’s believable that Bashir has been avoiding his parents out of shame over his blowhard father, Richard (played by Brian George, nowadays better known as Raj Koothrapalli’s father on The Big Bang Theory). But the shame goes deeper than that: Jules was, it appears, backwards, as it would once have been called, both physically and mentally, it would appear. So his father took him off-planet to be operated on, creating the brilliant and talented Julian we have always known.

Now that it’s likely to come out – originally the story would have confined the secret to Bashir and O’Brien, secured by a double-blackmail over secrets Zimmerman wanted kept, but Alexander Siddig insisted on things being brought out into the open and thestory is better for it – the secret comes out when the Bashir’s promise complete secrecy, except that it’s to the LMH Julian. And suddenly, the bitterness pours out.

It’s a deep, corrosive bitterness that seems to be couched in shame of his parents, but it goes much too far for that. Alexander Siddig, who only found out about his character’s secret the day before filming started, is on brilliant form. Bashir is angry, angry about everything, seeing the changes wrought on him by a loser father anxious to make some kind of mark on the world, as arising from Richard’s shame at having a son who appeared to be a failure like him. His change of name to Julian was to divorce his past from his present.

But he’s too handy with words like freak, and unnatural for that to come solely from outside. Siddig shows us that Julian is ashamed of himself, of his difference from others, that he has inflated the deliberate creation of his abilities into a full-scale separation from humanity.

He’s too consumed by his own self-hatred to see anything in what his father has done but hatred of the little boy nature produced. Inevitably, given the nature of Deep Space Nine, this mental state is cured by two things: a simple declaration from his mother, as to the fear they felt, the despair at being responsible for what Jules was born as, and that what was done was simply out of love, for their son, and his father sacrificing himself to two years imprisonment as the quid pro quo for Julian’s career, licence and commission being saved.

Siddig was right: it would have been impossible to play Bashir as a man containing a secret whose revelation would have such drastic effects in a weekly series that would basically ignore this development from week to week. So a string story came together basically by accident and its own internal logic impressing itself by fits and starts. Art is crazily wonderful, sometimes.

Incidentally, until we get to the end of the last episode of the season, this set-up is the last memory I have of DS9 in the Nineties. So it’s back to almost-fresh programming for the next nine weeks.

 

Saturday SkandiKrime/Horrar: Black Lake Parts 7 & 8


They never let her look like this in the series

I’m doing the wrap-up review for this piece of tosh in two parts this week, for reasons I shall shortly explain. Normally, I’d watch the double-bill back to back then let the overall impressions inform my response. But Part 7 was such a ripe piece of complete nonsense that, if I had to wait a week for the final episode I would just have given up on the spot and not bothered. When a series gets so badly out of control as this, who needs whatever pathetic answers it’s going to provide?

At least part 7 started off gloriously, with a five-second shot of a hulking mountain, its vertical face clean-lit with snow, but after that it was back inside the Hotel Swartsjon, and into its cellar, where Mette, the only person in the entire series to have shown any kind of sanity, is trying to keep her moody little sister, Hanne, from trying to throw herself into the fire. Poor Mette: I’ve put her picture up above because she deserves recognition. I may find Sarah-Sofie Boussnina gorgeous to look at but by now Hanne irritates the hell out of me.

The fire doesn’t spread. Dag appears out of nowhere with a fire extinguisher, not that anyone asks what he’s doing down there, and puts the flames out but all the rest of the information Hanne frantically wanted to search is destroyed. So, suddenly, Hanne goes all big sister on her big sister, sympathizing about how hard it is for her and how she’ll always be there to support her, which frankly sounds like the actresses have switched their lines and the director hasn’t noticed.

Anyway, it gets Mette so confused she walks off to wash her face and stare at herself in the mirror in Johan’s bathroom, which is why it takes her ages to spot that Lippi isn’t sleeping, he’s dead. Actually, are you sure? He was suffocated under a pillow after some struggle, yet his face hasn’t gone purple nor his eyes bugged out or any of that. He looks like he’s sleeping, and the not-breathing bit is practically indistinguishable, especially to a trained nurse…

And speaking of implausible reactions to violence, Hanne’s response to the burned cellar room is to wander off in search of Jostein, last seen enduring the crunching fists of brother Dag in a temper, and now shirtless, displaying old back scars and, when he turns round, a very pale smear of red just under his nose. No bruising, no lumps, no black eyes, no puffiness, no bloody credibility at all.

Meanwhile, Johan’s distraught at his brother’s death, on top of his engagement having lasted about nineteen-and-a-half hours and Mette having promised him that the impaled arm was nothing to worry about. Poor Mette. At least she’s prompted into examining the body at last, having previously, like all trained nurses, jumped to an assumption about the cause of death. Lippi was strangled, she concludes, though she becomes the first trained nurse on TV for years to talk of tiny burst blood-vessels in the eye instead of patrichial haemhorraging.

Who could have done this? Well, the moment Johan sits down on the bed, he puts his hand on a girl’s gold bracelet. One that he recognises…

There’s an actual moment of good, unobtrusive acting from Anna Astrom as Elin, when Johan comes to confront her. Without attention being drawn to it, her first movement is for her hand to go to the bare wrist, encircling it. That’s her last contribution: once Johan produces the necklace, she breaks down, starts crying, sobs about the red eye and the ‘kill or be killed’, and Johan strangles her.

That’s four down of the original party of eight but don’t worry, we haven’t finished yet. Hanne, who is seriously getting up my nose, is still fixated on Mikkhel and wants to call another seance, with Jostein and Frank. Mette’s in the cellar, following Dag,who’s carrying rotator fans down there. Which is where the banal little explanation is revealed that has me reinstating Krime to the heading above: Dag’s mysterious secret is that he and his submissive little brother are growing bumper crops of marijuana down there. Ye Gods.

Mette films it all on her cameraphone, and races off upstairs to blow the gaff. Hanne doesn’t want to look because, as Johan so neatly sums it up, it blows her obsession out of the water: every element of the ‘ghost story’ including the ‘kill or be killed’ translation has been fed to her by her pretty boy Jostein, to wind them up.

And Johan’s brother has been killed because of a ghost hunt. Full of righteous fury, Johan leads Frank down to the cellar and the weed-crop to settle things with Dag with his bare hands, which is a fucking stupid thing to do because Dag settles it with a knife, stabbed into Johan’s side, several times. Frank breaks and runs with Dag pursuing him with the knife. he catches up with him in the corridor, just as Hanne comes out of the room, and cuts his throat. So now we’ll never know what it was that Frank had done that warranted suicide-by-snowdrift.

That’s six down, and it’s very shortly to be seven. Hanne backs away only to be brought up short by Jostein emerging from the cellar, carrying Dag’s gun, which he raises and points at her face. Tears begin to roll, in slow motion, down her perfect face. Dag comes up behind her, raises his arm to stab her. We close up on Jostein as he fires the gun.

And cut to Hanne, standing there without any blackened holes in her face. With Dag, arm still raised, but looking a touch discombobulated. Because, even though Jostein was holding the gun out perfectly level at shoulder-height, he’s managed to shoot his brother in the stomach. From which, in defiance of all pulp and medical responses to a gut-shot, he dies in less than twenty, slow-motion seconds.

After which, given that there’s a whole episode left, the series decides that it wants to both have its cake and eat it, we cut back to the playroom. It’s door slides shut without anyone touching it, and a mysterious red light starts to play on the desk, ooga booga!

Do I really have to watch part 8? Well, since you asked so nicely…

At least there was one good thing about the final episode, or two if you count a near repeat of the snow mountain shot: there can’t be a second series.

The closing scene of episode 8 was supposed to be a twist, a classic reversal, a moment of deep horror, but it was none of these things because, after episode 7, Black Lake had completely lost all capability to surprise. When absolutely anything can happen, because the story has gotten out of hand, nothing is of any surprise.

We start with poor Mette, finding blankets with which to cover last episode’s dead, except for strangled Elin, who’s left under the bed with all the indignity remaining. And except for Johan too, since his body is not where it fell.

On the remote chance that you may still care, Johan’s life has been spared, temporarily, because all but one of Dag’s multiple stabs were turned by what looked suspiciously like a cigarette case, which put a twist on an old, old extract from the Cliche Drawer. He staggers out the long way, bandages himself in one of the disabled cars, and looks in the mirror, to discover… the Red Eye! Doo doo, doo doo, doo doo, doo doo.

He’s not the only one. Hanne still wants a seance to contact Mikkhel, and Mette, instead of losing all patience and slapping her silly, agrees. This time, they get the Swedish for ‘Brother’ and ‘Murdered’, which sends Hanne head over heels, literally, from which she recovers with the most popular local malady. She’s already confessed to Jostein that she actually killed little brother Jacob, the trauma of which has dogged her all series: when their boat capsized in the storm, he tried to cling to her arm and she pushed him off to drown.

So, once she sees her eye has gone, she locks herself in her room to protect Mette and Jostein then, when they force their way in with Dag’s knife, she’s gone through the window and is wandering off to do a Frank-esque suicide-by-snowdrift, except she comes back, having met Jacob and promised him she’d survive.

This is now Hanne-with-a-purpose, Take-Charge-Hanne. She leads them on a home invasion of Erkki’s dwelling to find links between him and Mikkhel, because she’s seen him drive away, first thing, on the only functioning snowmobile, except that he hasn’t, he’s sitting there in the dark with a shotgun, letting them roam about for about five minutes before he rounds them up and gunpoint and chucks them out.

So who drove off on the snowmobile? Erkki can’t have sneaked back on it, since it’s never found and anyway, he’s got a fully functional pick-up truck no-one’s taken into account when looking for non-sabotaged vehicles. Nope, loose end, waste of time.

Everybody back to the playroom and those prophetic kids drawings of yesteryear. The new Determined Hanne, little miss Sherlock Holmes, turns the one she thought was about a door on its side and realises it means an underfloor micro-cellar, in which she, after a determinedly silent hunt that annoyed the very fuck out of me, discovers the suspiciously intact body of Mikkhel, which doesn’t appear to have lost any flesh in the last nearly sixty years.

They’re taking it upstairs to release it, and end the curse, when Erkki arrives, with that shotgun, and commands them all back. Mikkhel’s going nowhere. It’s final exposition time: Ekki’s father was the eugenicist Dr Lundqvist, only Erkki was a bastard from a Sami (Lapp?) mother and Mikael a pure blood Aryan. Lundqvist forced them to fight, to prove his Aryan son the superior, but Mikael failed him, refused to kill Erkki, and for that refusal was strangled by his father.

They’ve learned too much, they must be killed, except that Johan appears behind him at that moment, deus ex machina, with Dag’s gun in Erkki’s ear. Everybody out, Hanne once again carrying Mikkhel’s body, and Johan bars Erkki in the hidden room, but not before delivering the courtesy shot in the belly, of which Erkki is so unmannerly as to not die instantly.

But, wait! No sooner are we in the hall than Johan orders Jostein to his knees. Johan has accepted the curse at last, for no other reason than that, well, he just has. He’s gotten rid of it by shooting Erkki, now he’s going to save his darling Hanne by getting her to stab Jostein with Dag’s knife. She refuses. Johan sticks his gun in Jostein’s neck. Hanne picks up the knife and, in a move of utter predictability, stabs him through the heart. Johan, I mean.

It’s over. At long last, it’s over. The curse is laid to rest by committing Mikkhel’s body to a funeral pyre in the forest, at which Hanne and Jostein hold hands. The next morning, they pile into Erkki’s pick-up and drive away, safe and sound and free, survivors.

But there’s a final piece of cake to be eaten and kept. We cut to dying Erkki, shuddering in the cellar. Suddenly, the scene is transformed into the past. Mikael comes bounding in, looking for his little brother, who is drawing. Drawing a car, with three happy faces in it. Wait… how many people does Hanne, Jostein and poor Mette add up to? Shall we finish the drawing now, says Mikkhel, and little Erkki starts swirling red crayon around in circles all over it…

One last scene, the pick-up driving down a snowy road. Soon, they’ll get a signal on Hanne’s mobile phone. Jostein’s driving. He removes his sunglasses. In the rear-view mirror, we can see that he has one red eye…

Basically, I liked looking at Sarah-Sofie Boussnina, and Anna Astrom and Aliette Opheim were good to look at too. Mathilde Norholt was deliberately played down in this series: as the only competent one, with no romantic interest, she had to play plainish. But there’s no hiding the fact that what started out as a potentially entertaining if hardly original story turned into an uncontrolled monster that committed the unforgivable sin of not even being so-bad-it’s-good.

I’ve no idea yet what’s due to succeed this next Saturday evening, but unless BBC4 has gone mad and leased Sky’s Fortitude, it cannot possibly hope to be as bad as this.

Oops. Have I just said the wrong thing?

Tales of the Gold Monkey: e18: Naka Jima Kill


Koji at it again

It’s late in the season, just four episodes left including this week’s vigorous affair. I have no idea when the decision was taken not to renew for a second season and whether or not this was known by now, but I was surprised to see a brand new credits sequence (and a new end credits sequence, comprising scenes from the episode).

Apart from adding Jack to the credits (as Jack, though the dog’s real name was Leo), all it is is new scenes. But even now, with the glorious exception of Person of Interest, series don’t change their credits sequences except when they’re trying to create a new buzz, rebrand, refresh, generate a new audience interest, and even then that’s usually between seasons.

I can only guess it’s a late attempt to create an audience bump for a show threatened with cancellation.

A story like ‘Naka Jima Kill’ oughtn’t to need this kind of artificial aid. It had the benefit of practically all the cast – only the Reverend Willie was missing – and a substantial role for Sarah, plus a vigorous guest appearance from a familiar name, a young Kim Cattrall, playing Newsreel star reporter Whitney Bunting, an old, dear and bitchy friend of Sarah’s from Vassar.

Whitney’s after the interview she was promised with Japanese Defence Minister Naka Jima. This should have taken place in Tokyo but was cancelled after an assassination attempt on the Minister, at close range, by a master of disguise. Naka Jima is coming to Matuka as a guest of Princess Koji, to meet various industrial magnates, and Whitney, who has clearances up the wazoo, needs a pilot to take her there with her camerawoman, Prudy.

And Whitney is bright, go-getting, drops names like a drunk drops empty glasses and patronises poor Sarah – all that promise and stuck singing in a backwater – until our favourite redhead is sorely tempted to reveal she’s an American spy. Whitney also needs the best pilot on the island to fly her and Prudy to Matuka. That’s Jake.

For once, Jake doesn’t get to grips with the female guest star, and it’s not just because Sarah’s along every minute. There’s a faint but tangible distance between him and Whitney, even before she admits that all her copious clearance papers are fakes and she’s heedlessly throwing everyone into danger, that I read as being born out of respect for Sarah, and a refusal to hit on her BFF.

Anyway, once they’ve been part shot down on Matuka, and Jake’s run the gamut of jungle traps, he’s got Koji and her rampant hormones to watch out for. Once again, she’s dropping them for him but Jake manages to avoid more sex with a hot Eurasian bird (why?) by convincing her that Naka Jima’s would-be assassin is on the island, in masterful disguise.

Which is why Sarah’s here, in her secret unofficial capacity.

Unfortunately, this is where I must report the episode’s most serious snag. The master of disguise assassin is the last person you would expect: he’s camerawoman Prudy Wells. And Michael Mullins does a bloody good job of the impersonation, except that the moment Prudy first appeared, I thought she was a man. Then I looked again, once I heard ‘her’ speak, and managed to about 90% convince myself ‘she’ was a woman. But the story’s twist was blown in that instant.

From then on in, things progressed pretty naturally. Forced room-mates Sarah and Whitney bitched at each other, with Whitney coming out tops by a good margin, Corky’s getting romantic about Prudy (though that side of things is kept below the embarrassment threshold), and Jack is sneezing every time he’s near the camerawoman. This is a clue: he’s allergic to the foam-rubber pads that make up ‘her’ curves. Koji wants to shag Jake something rotten,and Todo wants to give him a piece of his sword.

It all boils down to Jake realising ‘Prudy’ has disguised herself as Koji’s top geisha and crashing the tea ceremony just in the nick of time. Todo, having drawn his sword to kill Jake, satisfies its blood honour by slashing up the assassin and that’s mission accomplished. Time only for Whitney’s farewell, a r’approchement for the girls and Whitney’s suddenly envious of Sarah’s ‘peaceful’ life, with friends. Jake steps in for a hug, and that’s it.

I’m enjoying the back half of the run much more now than I expected a few weeks ago., and I’m starting to feel sorry that there isn’t a season 2 to go on to, four weeks from now. Still, I have something else planned to replace Gold Monkey day. That only lasted one season as well.

Deep Space Nine: s05 e14/15: In Purgatory’s Shadow/By Inferno’s Light


Band of Brothers

Though we’re well into the block of DS9 episodes I have previously seen, I have to confess I have no recollection of this unexpected mid-season two-parter. Indeed, as this extended story is such a massive game-changer, moving the Dominion War out of its Phoney War stage and into a formal shooting match, there were times when I wondered if my memories were even more scanty, and that this was going to lead to the (temporary) abandonment of the station now, and not at season end.

But on this I was wrong, and happily wrong. It is, nonetheless, a foreshadowing of the inevitable to come, as betrayal follows betrayal, and the entire basis of the series shifts inexorably. To think that this all begins with a typically trivial open to the first part, as Odo reluctantly abandons his bed and reinstals all his shape-shifting gear in his quarters, under some one-sided joshing about romance from the Major, until Kira is summoned to the bridge over a mystery transmission from the Gamma quadrant.

It’s in a highly secret Cardassian code known only to two people, Garak and his mentor/unacknowledged father, Enabran Tain, and it’s a cry for help. Garak persuades Sisko to allow him a runabout, and the unlikely command of Worf (there’s an odd couple for you) to investigate for potential survivors of the disastrous Gamma Quadrant battle. All it leads to is overwhelming Jem’hadar odds and an asteroid internment camp with a motley group of prisoners.

These include Tain, near death from his heart, Klingon General Martok, a Romulan female, a robotic Breen. Oh yes, and Doctor Bashir.

This didn’t come as the surprise it ought to as my regular consultation of Memory Alpha had already revealed that our Bashir had been replaced by a Changeling four weeks ago, and the one we’ve seen over the last couple of episodes had been the wrong one, which was a shame. Meanwhile, the Changeling Bashir is still unsuspected on DS9, where things have suddenly gone tits-up.

Federation listening posts inside the Gamma Quadrant are going out one by one. A Jem’hadar fleet is on the move towards the Wormhole. Sisko puts the station on battle alert and a Federation fleet is on its way. The danger is so great, Sisko decides to take the ultimate fallback option: seal the Wormhole, even if Worf and Garak are trapped on the other side.

But someone sabotages the super-scientific rays that will do that. instead, the Wormhole is widened and stabilised so that it can now never be closed. And a Dominion fleet emerges, ready to overwhelm D9. End of part 1.

But they don’t attack. Instead, they move off towards Cardassian space, with Gul Dukat following. And here’s where the bomb drops. Cardassia has a new leader. He’s been negotiating with the Dominion for months. Cardassia has joined the Dominion. It will become strong again, great again. It will wipe out the Klingons. It will take back what it used to have. Bajor is not mentioned in this. But the new Cardassia leader, Dukat, promises Sisko that he is coming for Deep Space Nine.

So we switch backwards and forwards between the two halves of this story. On the internment camp asteroid, Worf distracts by winning gladiatorial fight after fight, his honour refusing to allow himself to yield. Garak fights another fight, against his claustrophobia, in a tiny, dark space, changing relays by hannd to contact the runabout and transport out.

At DS9, forces build. Chancellor Gowron brings a wounded Klingon fleet to the fight, and reactivates the Accords he previously broke. A Romulan fleet comes to stand by the Federation and the Klingons. A Dominion/Cardassian fleet approaches. Everyone is ready for the mother of all battles, but no-one can find the enemy. And Changeling-Bashir has stolen a runabout and is heading for Bajor’s sun with a bomb that, if detonated within the sun, will send it supernova, wiping out the entire system, DS9 and three spacefleets.

At this critical moment, a priority one message comes from the Gamma Quadrant from Bashir. Sisko, already aware that there’s a Changeling on board DS9, after Changeling-Bashir has, cunningly and mis-directingly, proposed this, immediately susses things out and sends the Defiant, under Kira and Dax, to destroy the runabout. Which, after risking going to warp inside a solar system, they succeed in doing. The day is saved.

The only immediate effect is the installation of a permanent Klingon military force on the station, under the command of General Martok, as recommended by Worf. Everyone’s back, everyone’s back to normal. But it’s a new normal, are set normal, that will now prevail until the end of Deep Space Nine. I very much look forward to it.

I’ve left out a lot of what happens. The mark of a well-written story is that the over-arching story accommodates several smaller, more personal tales, both absorbing and showcasing hese within its major structure, in perfect balance. Worf’s fights. Garak’s need for Tan’s acceptance and his subsequent confrontation with his fears. Zia’s choice between her father and Garak, between two sides at war. All these things are handled with nuance and conviction. If you want to call these a B story, you’d be wrong, because they are integrated within the A story, so that all this pair of episodes is an A story, and indeed an A+ story, but they are worthy of the A story: nothing falls short here.

So the ground rules change. And I look forward to next week’s episode most fervently.

Saturday SkandiHorrar: Black Lake Parts 5 & 6


Now just imagine her looking creepy…

It’s traditionally in the third week of a four week drama that the phrase ‘The plot begins to thicken’ is pulled out of the Cliche Drawer, but we all know that¬†Black Lake/Swastjon is too thin gruel for that ever to be possible. Nevertheless, in admidst the increasingly shambolic events of parts 5 and 6, one substantial thread came out that threatens to add a certain distinction to the overall tale.

However, let’s get back to the mechanics of things, shall we? When we last saw the lovely, but starting to get ever so slightly irritating Hanne she was just going in to the mystery cellar room, flashlight in hand. It’s a useful flashlight, preventing us from seeing more than bits at a time, but what we saw was interesting. An office, with a desk, a really old typewriter, shelves of learned books, storage racks for boxes and files, a host of developed prints, hung on strings. And old fashioned file cards marked Ratsbiologika. I would work out the biology bit myself, but it took the invaluable Mette to explain to us monolinguals that it meat Race Biology: Eugenics.

That immediately changed the game. The resort used to be a clinic: when hanne gets Mette to go down there with her, in part 6, the stuff they gather, and the prison-like child room the former finds, round the back, adds up to a disgusting picture of Nazi-approved experiments, ‘proving’ Aryan children to be inherently superior to ‘sub-human’ races. Hanne remains convinced that she is channelling a victim of whatever has been going on down there: Mikkhel.

But that’s for the future. In the short term, a door slams and, in the dark, she’s attacked from behind by a clearly larger assailant trying to strangle her (though for that detail we have to rely on Hanne after she escapes, because the Director is clearly going for a representation of Hanne’s panic so we never actually see what the fuck is going on.

Nevertheless, despite being about seven stone wet through, escape Hanne does, into the below-stairs labyrinth, eventually escaping into the -45 degree night via a ventilation shaft, which she secures behind her by using a thin gold bracelet as a padlock.

Once she is let inside, Hanne says the first intelligent thing anyone’s said thus far, I want to go home. Loving and sympathetic fiance, Johan, immediately agrees and rushes her back to civilization, safety and reliable central heating. Ha, ha, of course he doesn’t. Instead, he gives the same old, let’s all get together, talk this through and decide what to do, the unspoken part of which speech being that that decision will be what Johan wants all along, namely to stay so I can by this resort.

There is also a serious reason for postponing the decision: fatty Osvald is missing. Hanne’s attacker, who’s probably creepy Erkki, is trapped in the cellar, whose only two exits are barred from outside (nobody seems to wonder whether a) he might have got out through the door before Hanne reached the resort from outside or b) whether there might be a third exit). So everyone, Hanne included, goes searching outside.

Which is when the exasperated Johan, lord and master of all he sees, gives her the Talk. You know, the incredibly stupid one, the I know better than you what to do about your traumas despite never have undergone them, or any other trauma come to that Talk. Just pull yourself together and get over seeing your little brother die in front of your eyes, it’s all in the past and you’ll make life a lot easier for me when you do.

Crass doesn’t begin to describe it. Poor bereaved Frank, meanwhile, has also hadenough of hanging round a place of trauma, and is packing his car. Hanne and Mette decide to go with him, right now, in the dark, so what, Mette driving. They go grab their thing. Such things do not include: ring, engagement: one.

It’s all go. Our sensible three drive carefully along the snow-packed road, getting out of it, that is, until Hanne sees an imaginary little boy in the middle of the road, grabs the wheel and runs them into a ditch, from where they can’t get the car free, comdemning them to wait until dawn in the hopee they doon’t freeze to death first.

In another place, not a million miles away from Crewe Junction, Dag of the snowmobile brothers decides it’s time to show the Stockholm lot that he’s serious about whatever nafarious plan their presence is going to interrupt, about which we still know the square root of fuck all, except that this mystery is getting very tiresome. He brandishes his gun. Wimpy brother and Hanne-snogger Jostein gets him to agree to give him two hours to sort it all out withut the kind of things that happen when guns get brandished: yeah, two hours at 6.00am wen it’s still dark: that ought to be ample time.

And at Black Lake, it’s all go. Osvald’s still missing, but only lover Lippi is stillconcerned about it. Lippi, by the way, is Johan’s brother, as part 6 will have Johan confirm, by telling Lippi that he is his, that is, Johan’s brother, a fact of which Lippi is alreasy aware but the audience, or at least this branch of it wasn’t. Absolutely nobody has even begun to draw a line between point A: a mysterious person tries to kill Hanne in the cellar and point B: nobody’s seen Osvald since before Hanne went down the cellar.

Anyway, Lippi at least decides that if Osvald isn’t anywhere they’ve searched and they haven’t searched the cellar, his lover might well be down there. He climbs in rom outside, removing Hanne’s bracelet/padlock. And at the foot of the cellar stairs, after retracing all Hanne’s steps as if he had been privided with a map of her course, he finds Osvald. Or rather, Osvald’s body, cause of death undefined. Which causes him to back away, fall over and impale his arm on a metal rod.

Upstairs, Johan, feeling a touch upset at his fiancee chucking the ring back at him, is talking to the only one left, the doll-faced Elin, his ex-girlfriend to whom he once gave one of those half-a-hearts that lovers symbolicly trade, only to find that she wears it to this day, as a charm bracelet that neither he nor anyone else has noticed in the best part of five episodes so far despite the fact she never takes it off. And they’reabut to snog when someone closes the Cliche drawer on the writer’s hands chucking in a power cut.

Then they hear Lippi’s screams about being in the cellar, and bleeding, and being in pain, ow, owwww, ooch that smarts. So Johan decides it’s at long last time to whip out his chopper. No, he’s not gone back to Doll-face, he’s been carrying an axe around with him all this time, in his overnight bag, and he’s going to weild it.

Episode 6 at least has the merits of taking place in daylight, so we can at least get insome stunning shots of the scenery. Hanne starts walking back to Black Lake but is picked up by Jostein on his snowmobile. He can take only one extra passenger, so he runs Hanne and Mette back to the resort, and goes back for Frank. Frank, who is going all mysterious: as soon as he’s alone he’s mumbling, “What have I done?”,¬† he’s scraped the Swedish for Forgive Me into the ice on the car window and he’s stumbling off into the deep-laden snow, stripping off the odd garment here or there along theway, with the intention of freezing himself to death, before Jostein saves him. And not even a fingertip’s worth of frostbite to show for it.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… sorry, the resort, Dollface Elin, who’s supposed to have gone for the First Aid kit but who’s done some quasi-drunken reeling to indicate that she might not be in full possession of her body, sees Hanne and Mette arrivingand promptly locks the door against them, a dirty trick she will deny knowing anything about when challenged.

Mette, without whom things would have ground to a halt long ago, takes charge of getting Lippi unimpaled, into bed and cleaned up, before identifying the race-card and visiting the cellar. Apart from the nonsense about possession and dead Mikkhels, she seems to be taking this discovery even more seriously than Hanne.

Our girl is having a couple of serious cobversations. First, she rips Johan a new one about how he’s never listened to her, and that he even didn’t propose to her but rather to the woman hewanted her to be. Then she basically reverses her entire characterisation by denying to Elin that there’s any such thing as a curse applying here.

Elin’s concerned, you see, about this ‘Kill or be Killed’ stuff. Jessan got the red-eye, tried to kill Frank and then, when she didn’t, she died. Osvald got the red-eye, andwhen he didn’t kill anyone, he died. Stuff and nonsense, cried Hanne, andwalks away. The problem is that you and I and the rest of the viewers know that back in episode 5, Dollface Elin came down with the red-eye, althugh her’s wasn’t so much the bloodshot look, but rather that all the white of her eye had turrned an even, pale red, like a filter. Boy, she just happensto be carrying some bloody good eyedrops though. That was lucky.

But Elin is not convinced. Kill or be Killed. Two red-eye victims didn’t kill, and died. Elin doesn’t want to die. So she steals a chopping knife from the kitchen and starts creeping up on the sleeping Frank, until Johan turns up. Amazingly, he doesn’t seem to think there’s anything odd about approaching a helpless sleeper with a knife like that, nor does he even ask her why she happens to be carrying it.

Three things left: despite Jostein having save three people’s lives, the jealous Johan talls him to get out,incurring a threat from Dag about touching his brother. Then, Jostein having been given two hours to get the Stockholm lot out and instead having spent twice that amount of time saving half of them, Dag beats his little brother to a pulp.

And Elin, having failed to get Frank, puts a pillow over Lippi’s face and sits on it until he stops kicking.

And Hanne and Mette go back to the celllar office to gather more evidence, only someone’s set it on fire…

It’s Explanation Time next weekend, dear people. How many of them will actually be worth it? And can we have even more snowscapes instead of story, please?

Tales of the Gold Monkey: e17: Last Chance Louie


This week’s eye-candy

This was a second strong episode in succession, again concentrating on one of the other members of that cast (no, not Sarah). This week, it’s Bon Chance Louie, as the title gives away, and it’s all about Louie’s past.

Our Magistrate de Justice has always been painted as a man of mystery, and rarely does a week go by without Louie dropping a nostalgic line about something he has done or somewhere he has been, and a right mix’n’match that is: Louie is a bit of a Flashman in that he’s been everywhere and done everything, so it’s perhaps less of a surprise that the appearance of a new arrival on Boragora prompts him to shoot the new guy in the face.

No, he doesn’t kill him, merely nicks his ear and, as Magistrate shuts the case down. Jake, on the other hand, insists on knowing why and, extracting Jake’s word of honour that he will never repeat what he is told, Louie explains.

This relates to an incident of twenty years ago, near the end of the Great War. Louie was part of a unit of French soldiers trapped by the Germans. This man, LaBatier, whose real name is Marcel DeBord, deserted and saved his skin by betraying the unit’s position to the Germans. All, save Louie, were killed, and after he recovered, he found that Marcel, convicted in absentia as a traitor and condemned to death, had fled France with Louie’s lover, Monique. Louie has, understandably and justifiably, sworn to kill the man on sight.

The tension builds. The two men confront each other in the billiards room, with Marcel playing the hey-it-ain’t-like-I’ve-had-a-happy-life-you-know-hounded-as-a-traitor card, which never works. The two prepare to duel until Jake and Corky stop them, but you know what’s coming.

Marcel’s nineteen year old daughter, Genevieve (pronounced in the French style as ‘Jhon-vive’), a hotshot blonde (didn’t see that coming) played by Faye Grant (who would marry Stephen Collins three years later), comes to complain to Jake whilst incidentally dropping that she hates her ‘father’. A shot rings out from the Monkey Bar and everyone bursts into Marcel’s room to find him dead of a single gun-shot, and Louie standing there with a gun and a calm admission that he killed Marcel.

The action then moves to Tagatiya, where Louie is to be tried, convicted and executed by Madame la Guillotine. He’s up against a prejudiced fellow Magistrate played by Henry Darrow (who I’ll always associate with the 1968 Western, The High Chapparal, playing Manolito) who despises Louie as a lower-class excrescence, and his own refusal to defend himself,coupled with his unwavering insistence that Jake keep his word, and his mouth shut.

So Louie is found ‘coupable’ and sentenced to death. Jake cracks and tells the story to both the Magistrate (who dismisses it as a desperate lie, unfounded in fact) and the Governor who eventually grants a two week stay of execution so that Jake – with Genevieve in tow – can fly to Marcel/LaBatier’s base in Saigon and find concrete evidence.

It’s dangerous: Japanese sympathisers are chucking bombs every thirty seconds but Jake and Genevieve, who’s trying to impress on him that she’s not a little girl and should therefore be added to his long list of conquests, get to the Bureau of Records and find the proof. They also discover why Louie has been so determinedly walking to his death, refusing interference. When Genevieve’s mother, Monique, married ‘LaBatier’ in 1918, she was already two months pregnant. Yes, Genevieve says, he was only my stepfather, but he was so cruel. But we should already be ahead of Jake by now, for it’s an old plot, being used at a carefully measured distance: Genevieve’s real father is Bon Chance Louie.

This revelation also confirms the twist that’s only going to be officially revealed at the end, but we’ve got it now. Unfortunately, there’s another complication to be endured, so as to rack up the tension and get Louie’s philosophical head into the actual Guillotine: the bureau is bombed.

Jake wakes up in hospital five days later, badly concussed, and being looked after by Twin Peaks‘s Grace Zabriskie in a cameo role. But there’s sad news: the bomb has killed Genevieve. So, though a limping Jake turns up in the nick of time, using his cane to halt the blade, Louie’s reprieve has a bitter-sweet tinge to it that Roddy MacDowall plays perfectly.

Genevieve’s parentage remains a secret between Jake and Louie, but there is that last, and by now predictable twist. Jake discovers a cushion in Louie’s office, with a hole through it, the sort of hole made by a gun, being muffled. Louie shrugs it off: large moths, he says. He killed Marcel, not anyone else who may or not be related to him and who hated a cruel ‘father’. Louie wasn’t covering up or taking the fall for anyone but himself…

And he has Jake’s word of honour on that.

Curiously, this was one of the few Gold Monkey episodes I remembered from the first time, at least in respect of Louie’s trial for murder. It’s based on a well-used plot, but this is carefully concealed until sufficiently late on that the episode can use Louie’s sang-froid in the face of death, an excellent performance by MacDowall, paralleling Jeff Mackay last week, to great effect to maintain the air of mystery.

As the end draws near, the show seems to be back on track in a way that supports a second season that never was. Now if they could only start giving Caitlin O’Heaney something proper to do…