Doctor Who-“The Woman Who Fell to Earth” (Spoiler-Free Review)

You know that old saying — if you have an ax and you replace the handle, and later on you replace the blade, is it still the same ax? Welcome to Doctor Who — a show whose handle and blade have been changed so many times it might not even be an ax anymore. The venerable not-so-cult-anymore sci-fi show began its newest season (the 11th of the modern incarnation of the show, the 37th in all) on Sunday, 8 October, after nearly a year-long wait. This isn’t just any new season, either: It’s one of those rare times when everything changes — lead actor, supporting cast, showrunner, producer, the majority of the production team, and even the composer (something that hasn’t changed since Murray Gold took up the baton and synthesizer in 2005). Even the way the show is filmed is new. And new showrunner and head writer Chris Chibnall revealed last week that this season would include no elements from the show’s storied past, other than the Doctor and his (sorry, her) time machine, the TARDIS. So is it still Doctor Who?

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The short answer is “yes.” Led by new star Jodie Whittaker — the first woman to take on the iconic role of the Doctor — the series, at its core, still adheres to the formula that makes Doctor Who the unique show that it is. It’s still about a mysterious time traveler knocking about the universe righting wrongs and challenging bullies of all sorts (“When people need help, I never refuse”). The Doctor still picks up companions along the way — those ‘average joe’ types that are there for the audience to identify with and connect to, who get to have all the amazing experiences that we don’t get to have. The show is still about weird aliens and strange monsters and how encountering them affects the Doctor, the companions, and the people around them. It’s still about hope.

But this season — and this first episode in particular — is, for the most part, a clean slate. Yes, the show has 55 years of history behind, but just like when it returned to screens in 2005 after the original series having been canceled in 1989, you don’t have to have any prior knowledge to understand what’s going on. So what is going on? Well, luckily for viewers, not a whole lot. The basic alien-threat-on-earth premise isn’t exactly thin-on-the-ground, but it did have to leave a lot of room for the Doctor and new Companions to be firmly established. The new 60-minute episode length helped with that, giving time for both aspects of the episode to be developed (with the side-effect of the pacing seeming a good bit slower than modern Doctor Who is usually known for). 

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And the characters are a pretty strong bunch — Graham (played by Bradley Walsh), Grace (Sharon D. Clarke), Yasmin (Mandip Gill) and Ryan (Tosin Cole). Each is connected in a different way, with different backgrounds, different skill sets, different perspectives, different challenges. There’s nothing overtly or obviously special about any of them, which is what makes them special — they rise to the occasion in spite of the shocking strangeness of the situation they find themselves suddenly in. But part of that is due to the Doctor — she inspires this in others. You want to rise to the occasion because the Doctor thinks you can — or makes you believe that you can. This Doctor immediately embraces these stray people, gathers them around her, makes them part of her posse, gives them the opportunity to contribute their skills to solve the situation at hand. Every part of the team is valuable. There is definitely a camaraderie in its infancy between these characters that I’m looking forward to seeing develop over the course of the season. 

Jodie Whittaker, at the core of the show, is brilliant. She immediately channels the essence of who the Doctor is. She’s quirky, funny, serious, caring, compassionate, stern, and decisive, sometimes all at once. She’s mercurial, but with a sense of purpose and a drive to assist and protect. 

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While the episode is an easy jumping on point for new viewers, it doesn’t leave more established viewers behind. While everything is presented in a way to make inexperienced viewers feel welcome, there are still moments that longtime viewers will identify with. Subtle moments. Not necessarily nods, not really callbacks, and definitely not overt homages — we’ll call them familiarities that remind us “legacy fans” that this is the same show that William Hartnell, Tom Baker, David Tennant, and Peter Capaldi once helmed.

No matter how good a new Doctor’s first episode is, it never ends up being a fan favorite (with the possible exception of Matt Smith‘s “The Eleventh Hour). It takes time for the new production team to gel, it takes the actors time to settle in, it takes the writers a minute to get the rhythm of the actor’s deliveries and personalities, and the chemistry between them. And through that process, each Doctor’s era improves immensely. This episode was a good one, definitely, but no matter how long Whittaker stays on the show, whether it be one season or ten, this won’t go down as one of her best. The pacing is undeniably slow. The alien threat is on the throwaway end of the spectrum (a common complaint with adversaries in debut stories, whether it be the Sycorax in “The Christmas Invasion,” the Atraxi and Prisoner Zero in “The Eleventh Hour,” or even the long-established Autons in “Rose”) and has drawn comparisons to The Terminator as well as two Star Trek aliens. Some of the exposition is a bit clunky. But on balance, there were also great things about it. We get to see the Doctor as tinkerer, inventor and maker once again. We get a fresh take on the character that we’ve known for decades that’s both new and familiar at the same time. The photography is stunning. The new composer (Segun Akinola) is a radical change from Murray Gold, and he brings a more abstract, amorphous style to the show. 

Image result for the woman who fell to earthThis season seems to be heading in a confident new direction. If you’ve ever been curious about Doctor Who but have never watched it before, give this season a try. If you missed the 7 October debut, you can catch repeats on BBC America or you can attend a Fathom Events screening at cinemas across the country on Wednesday and Thursday, 10 and 11 October. If you’re in the Atlanta area, look for the Wednesday night screening at the Regal Cinemas Hollywood 24 hosted by local Doctor Who convention WHOlanta (view details on Facebook here). Climb aboard the TARDIS and enjoy the adventure!

“Personal Space” – A Scripted Drama About an Unscripted Reality Show

You’re on the generation ship Overture in deep space. You’re part of a crew that serves a 25-year shift, and once your shift is done you’ll go back into cryosleep. To help you stay sane, there’s an interactive therapy program with which you can talk out your frustrations, concerns, worries, and struggles. What you don’t know is that all your therapy sessions are being transmitted back to Earth and edited together to create a reality TV show.

Image result for "personal space" seriesWelcome to Personal Space, a new 28-episode Kickstarter-funded comedic drama web series three years in the making that launches on Amazon Video on Friday, March 2. It takes place in an alternate present day in which the development of space travel came decades earlier than what it did in our reality. So that only one set had to be built to keep costs at a minimum, the show makes clever use of a single stationary camera which captures each of the crewpersons’ confessional sessions. Secrets are revealed, mistrusts of each other are mentioned, annoyances at others’ behaviors are aired. It’s when the therapy computer starts playing back edited bits to the crew that things start to heat up.

The cast of Personal Space has an impressive sci-fi pedigree, led by Battlestar Galactica’s Nicki Clyne (Cally) as Second Shift Commander Gail Gartner and, in one of his last performances before his death, Richard Hatch as First Shift Commander Robert King. First shift has retired and it’s Second Shift’s turn to take care of the ship, but King doesn’t really trust them, so he stays awake a little longer to help advise the new team (causing all sorts of problems, like with air and food rations). Gartner is a young, optimistic, wide-eyed newbie who others assume got her position because of who her parents are. The cast also features Star Trek: Voyager’s Tim Russ as Engineer Jeff Lipschitz, who apparently makes a killer quac; Stargate SG1’s Cliff Simon as Overture captain James LeBarre; Son of Anarchy’s Kurt Yaeger as Second Shift Engineer Leonard Freeman (at some point in the series I assume we’ll find out why he wears no shoes and only one sock); Sean Persaud from Edgar Allen Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party as the Second Shift doctor Stanley Blaszkiewicz, the annoying prankster whose job is to monitor the well-being of the cryogenic passengers; and Vivi Thai as Second Shift Botanist Deborah Li–the computer calls her “deBORah” because she refuses to clarify the pronunciation of her name, and her hair gets flatter and flatter as she runs through her ration of hairspray. Rounding out the cast are Julie Aks and Brent Bailey, hosts of the reality show. She is a tough-as-nails go-getter who adopts a perky, E! Entertainment persona on camera; he is her hapless co-host who worries about the legal implications of what their company is doing and awkwardly tries to make “that’s what she said” jokes that never quite work.

The series begins innocuously enough, with confessions mostly to do with interpersonal annoyances. But Personal Space quickly displays the rich potential of its premise: We learn that Commander King is hiding something in his computer files that no one else must see. Later, the therapy computer takes a quote from King’s recorded session, edits it, and replays it for Gartner. Clearly, the crew is being manipulated to ramp up the tensions between them. In the first episode we see King installing a software update to the therapy computer; is this update corrupted? Has it been tampered with to make the computer needle the crew in certain ways? Or is someone back on Earth hacking into the system and feeding the computer prompts? Either way, with 28 episodes to go, I predict that the situation between personnel will grow quite ugly. Will the crew learn that their secrets are the subject of a reality TV show? How will they react? And what will that mean for Season 2 (the show’s website has already teased a second season with the casting announcement of Tahmoh Penikett of Battlestar and Dollhouse fame)?

With its unusual presentation (everything we see is from the point of view of a single camera, meaning we never see any part of the ship except for the cabin where the crewpersons conduct their confessionals), Personal Space relies on the writing and the performances. Fortunately, the show boasts a solid cast who deliver the material in a believable way and connect the characters to the viewer. Hatch gives his usual reliably strong performance as King, fretting over the fitness of the relief shift and panicking over the information he’s hiding. My favorite among the cast so far (having seen the first five episodes) is Persaud, playing the mischievous “Blasto” Blaszkiewicz. He hints at not having any friends; does he assume the brat routine to hide his loneliness? 

There’s a great deal to learn about each of the crew members aboard the Overture, and thanks to the company that has bought out the space program that launched the generation ship decades ago, everyone on Earth will learn about them.

Catch new episodes of Personal Space on Amazon Video.

Learn more about the show at http://personalspace.tv/

ABC’s ‘Inhumans’ Series Overview

ABC’s latest entry into the rapidly-growing superhero game — Marvel’s Inhumans — has certainly had a rocky history. It started out as a rather surprising inclusion in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s film slate, originally scheduled for late 2018 and then shifted to summer of 2019. As additional films were slotted into the film schedule, Inhumans was said to be further shifted to 2020 or 2021, but was eventually dropped altogether. It was revived as a television series, an idea that was met with some trepidation amongst fans. How could the weird, colorful, strange world of the Inhumans be done on a television budget?

But let’s back up a bit. Who are the Inhumans, you might ask? Very good question, and if you’ve been watching ABC’s Agents of SHIELD, you already know most of the answer, as Inhumans were introduced in that show’s second season. One of the SHIELD operatives, Daisy Johnson, is an Inhuman, as are a number of the threats the team faces.

Image result for inhumansInhumans are a separate race from us, and their powers come from a process called terrigenesis. Millions of years ago an alien warrior race, the Kree, began experimenting on early humans and created a strain of humanity that had the genetic potential for great power. Those experiments were abandoned, though, and the people of Earth were left to develop on their own. The Inhumans developed faster than homo Sapiens and formed their own separatist society, founding a city called Attilan, in which exposure to Terrigen Crystals cause a genetic awakening and produces random powers to emerge in individuals. In modern times, Inhuman society is ruled by the Royal Family:

  • Black Bolt – the immensely powerful King, who can fly, has the ability to channel electrons and anti-electrons into a force field or a powerful blast, and has a voice that is so devastating that he never speaks, not even a whisper, because any sound he utters will kill or destroy anyone or anything in his path. The softest utterance can level a city.
  • Medusa – Black Bolt’s queen. She possesses long, flowing auburn locks that, like the snakes on the head of the mythological being, move like extra limbs on her body. Her hair has a tensile strength greater than that of iron wire, and she uses it to fight, to protect herself, to lift heavy objects, etc. She is also Black Bolt’s interpreter and speaks for him to the Inhuman citizens.
  • Karnak – A martial arts expert, Karnak has an extra-sensory perception that allows him to sense the flaw in anything: a structure, a person, a plan. By striking at that point of weakness, he can defeat most anything.
  • Gorgon – Physically powerful, Gorgon’s terrigenesis transformation gave him bull-like legs and hooves with which he can create shockwaves equal to an earthquake. In the comics, this was demonstrated to be either an area effect and a directed attack.
  • Triton – Triton’s transfiguration was more drastic than any of his cousins. He gained scaly skin, gills, and a dorsal fin. He breathes water and requires a respiratory apparatus when walking on land. He needs almost constant contact with water, but in the ocean is quite powerful and can swim at great speeds.
  • Crystal – Medusa’s younger sister, Crystal has the ability to manipulate the four elemental groups: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Wanting to explore the world outside of Attilan, she joined both the Fantastic Four and the Avengers at different times and dated Johnny Storm (the Human Torch) for a while.

Related imageThey are accompanied by Lockjaw, Crystal’s enormous bulldog, who has jaws of steel and can teleport himself and anyone around him to any location, even from the Moon to Earth; and Maximus, Black Bolt’s insane brother, who has the power to exert mental control over others and even exchange his consciousness with others’, and is continuously trying to stage a coup to take Attilan away from Black Bolt and his cousins.

In the ABC series, we learn that there is dissension in Attilan, with the lower class on the verge of rebelling against the Royal Family, and Maximus rousing the rabble and ousting the Royal Family from Attilan, claiming the throne for himself. The Royals are exiled to Earth, being deposited all around Hawaii, and they have to find each other and reclaim their home.

Adapting the Inhumans to television presents numerous problems, mostly to do with budget. Inhumans are bizarre; it’s an entire society made up almost completely of genetically altered beings, many with great powers, some not even human in appearance (like Triton). On television, Attilan is depicted as a large, grey concrete bunker, and its people are just . . . people. Okay, in the first two episodes we see a girl emerge from the Terrigen Mists with butterfly wings, and a guy with weird projector-eyes, but other than the Royal Family, that’s about it. All other characters, foreground and background, were human in appearance. Even the much-vaunted Genetic Council were just regular-looking people. If nothing else, they could have at least painted people different colors, a trick that was used in Star Trek Beyond. Plus, they all wore black and grey clothes and cloaks. The whole thing was colorless to the point of being depressing. And Attilan is situated on the Moon, itself a grey, colorless place. Who would want to live there? The Royal Family should have been glad to leave.

The first major problem that we encounter in the series is the way the Royal Family is depicted on screen. Look, I get it, superpowers are expensive to realize on a television budget. The answer to that problem for this production team was to depower nearly every character, either in their concept or in the storyline. For instance, the only power that Black Bolt is given on screen is his destructive voice. So many of the problems that arose during the course of the eight episodes could have been solved by him flying or blasting people. While on Earth, Karnak gets a conk on the noggin and loses his super-analytical powers. Gorgon’s hooves are hidden inside very normal-looking boots. Triton, the weirdest looking one of them all, is killed almost immediately. Maximus is depicted as having no powers at all, Terrigenesis failing to awaken any abilities within him at all. The biggest offender, of course, is Medusa; her flailing, undulating locks are incredibly iconic and one of the most symbolic images of the Related imageInhumans. First, actress Serinda Swan is fitted with the flattest, most atrocious red wig possible. Then, when her hair is animated, it’s done so incredibly poorly. Once Maximus’ coup is complete and Medusa is kidnapped (in episode two), her hair is shorn to de-weaponize her. Now, granted, that’s exactly what would happen in a coup situation. But to completely remove the most iconic visual element of the characters in question is to admit, “hey, this is an effect we’re not going to be able to pull off convincingly, so let’s just get rid of it.” The one really successful digital element was Lockjaw. He was brought to life pretty well and was a joy to watch, and with him being the Family’s main mode of transportation (as well as the production’s best potential for merchandising), they really couldn’t get rid of him in favor of doing Medusa’s hair justice.

The second main problem with the series was that it began with a coup, with a city rebelling against their rulers. But no time at all was spent letting the audience get to know these characters first. What is life in Attilan like? What is the daily routine for the Royal Family? What is their relationship to each other as well as to the populace? And most importantly, why should the viewer care that these people are being booted from their kingdom? Once they get to Earth, scattered to various places, most of them aren’t interesting enough to carry their own storylines. The exception is Medusa, but mainly because she finds herself in the company of Louise, a scientist at the Callisto Aerospace Control Center who studies the Moon. Louise is quirky, bright, a bit socially awkward, and by far the most likable character in the entire production.

The concept has a great deal of potential; the comic characters would not still be around since the 60s if that weren’t the case. In the television series, the final two episodes, where the Royal Family reunites and works together to reclaim their home, are the two strongest ones, with many of the story elements coming together in a fairly effective way, as the Royal Family confronts Maximus leading to a final showdown between him and Black Bolt. The story and the acting have taken a great deal of Related imagecriticism, but I think there were some successes among the missteps. I genuinely enjoyed Anson Mount (Black Bolt), Iwan Rheon (Maximus), Ellen Woglom (Louise), and in the final two episodes particularly, Serinda Swan as Medusa. The story itself spent far too much time with the characters all in disparate situations and with not enough done to establish them at the beginning. And the limited budget made the whole thing very difficult to bring to life. Had this been done as a Marvel Cinematic film, as originally planned, with the type of budget that Guardians of the Galaxy and Dr. Strange were given, and with more of the story taking place in their city on the Moon rather than in Hawaii, this could have been exponentially more successful. As it is, it was a drastically watered-down version of what Inhumans can be.

With the citizens and their ruling family having evacuated Attilan at the end of the series and relocated permanently to Earth, I feel fairly certain that they will eventually be woven into the storyline of the upcoming final Agents of SHIELD season, which will bring that show’s Inhuman thread to a conclusion. Honestly, I’m ready for that to happen. And maybe Medusa’s hair will have grown back out by that point. Maybe one day down the road the Inhumans will get the movie treatment that they deserve, or maybe at least they will make appearances in upcoming films, like Avengers: Infinity War. They deserve the change to be awesome.

Twin Peaks: The Return – The Top 10 Best Moments

Twin Peaks: The Return was one of the highlights of the 2017 television season. 25 years after the original series aired on ABC, Showtime gave us the opportunity to revisit this strange and wonderful town full of quirky characters and mystical goings-on. Back in June, I reviewed the launch of the new Twin Peaks, so I wanted to take a little time at the end of the journey to look back at some of the more important themes and character developments. Twin Peaks: The Return gave us some amazing moments: Agent Tammy Preston getting initiated into Blue Rose investigations (giving her, and the audience, a bit of backstory about the Blue Rose origin); Deputy “Hawk” Hill finding the missing pages of Laura Palmer’s secret diary; Sherrif Andy Brennan getting taken via the vortex to the Black Lodge and given clues by the Giant; Andy and Lucy shopping for a chair online (seriously, I loved that scene!); and even Lucy questioning whether the chocolate bunny she ate could be a clue to the mystery. It was an insane ride through the brilliant landscape that is David Lynch’s mind. But amidst the many great moments, there were some clear standouts that deserve special attention.

Below are my picks for the Top 10 moments from the 2017 season of Twin Peaks.

 

10. Big Ed and Norma Finally Get Together

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One of the great love stories of Twin Peaks was that of Ed Hurley and Norma Jennings, sweethearts since high school. At the time of the original series, Big Ed had been unhappily married for years to Nadine, who had had a crush on him in high school. Nadine proved to be a bit of a psycho monster, belligerent towards Ed and obsessed with creating silent drapery runners. An unsuccessful attempt at gaining a patent for her silent drapes led Nadine to attempt suicide.

In 2017, now the owner of a shop called Run Silent, Run Drapes, Nadine became an avid follower of former psychiatrist Dr. Jacoby’s web broadcast. Going by the name Dr. Amp, Jacoby was hawking gold spray-painted shovels and encouraging his listeners to “shovel yourselves out of the shit!” Nadine evidently took this plea to heart, purchasing a golden shovel and displaying it in her shop window. At the beginning of Part Fifteen, Nadine marched across town to Big Ed’s gas station and announced that she would no longer stand in Ed and Norma’s way, giving him her blessing to go be with her.

In a series as dark and twisted as Twin Peaks: The Return, seeing Ed and Norma finally able to bring their decades-long love to fruition was a much-needed ray of sunshine, and was one of the sweetest moments in the history of the show.

 

9. “Dougie” Takes Down an Assassin

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Douglas Jones—aka Dougie—was introduced in Part Three, played by Kyle MacLachlan. Dougie was a pretty average guy: a successful mid-level Las Vegas insurance salesman, a wife and a kid (Janey-E and Sonny Jim), somewhat out of shape, occasionally enjoying the company of a hooker, and with a gambling problem that has accrued massive debt. But, you see, none of that is real. Dougie is, in fact, a tulpa—a constructed being, a doppelganger. Essentially, Dougie Jones was a placeholder in the real world for FBI Agent Dale Cooper, who was trapped in the Black Lodge. At the same time, another doppelganger, commonly referred to as Mr. C, an evil construct under the control of a malevolent being known as BOB, was released on Earth. As Cooper finds his way out of the Lodge, Dougie ceases to exist and Cooper takes his place, though in a catatonic state. He spends numerous episodes being led around through Dougie’s life by friends and family, who assume him to be Dougie.

It’s not until Part Seven that we see the first glimpse of the real Cooper. As “Dougie” and Janey-E (a gutsy, take charge but devoted woman played by Naomi Watts, inarguably one of The Return‘s MVPs) leave his workplace, they are suddenly attacked by a hired assassin wielding a gun. Still in his catatonic state, Cooper’s training and instincts kick in and “Dougie” springs into action, taking down the assassin and wrestling the gun from him. The wait for Cooper to properly and fully emerge in the real world would take the rest of the season, but this was the first hint that we got that yes, “our” Cooper was indeed locked away, buried deep inside, struggling to get out.

 

8. The Log Lady Says Good Night

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Margaret Lanterman became one of the original Twin Peaks’ most iconic and beloved characters, with her red-rimmed glasses and the log that she carried around at all times. The log, you see, had messages for people.

When Twin Peaks returned in 2017, the news that Catherine Coulson would be appearing in the series was met with enthusiasm. Having passed away in September of 2015, her appearance in the first two episodes was a bit of a shock—thin and frail; white, scraggly, short-cropped hair; an oxygen tube feeding into her nose, seemingly on her deathbed—but the recognizable glasses and log were there, and the same cryptic messages from beyond. Episode One carried a dedication to Coulson in the closing credits, so one would be forgiven for thinking that these were the only scenes that she’d filmed.  It was quite a surprise, then, when Episode Ten rolled around and we were unexpectedly treated to two more episodes of puzzling communications to Hawk.

And then came Episode Fifteen. The Log Lady calls Hawk to give him one final message: that she’s dying. She implores Hawk to remember all that she’s told him. She says that he knows about death, “that it’s just a change, not an end.” Still, she admits, “there’s some fear . . . some fear in letting go.” She closes the conversation with her customary “Good night, Hawk,” and he repeats the greeting. Once she hangs up, though, he whispers “Good-bye, Margaret.” He then calls all the Sherriff’s Department staff into the boardroom and delivers the news of her passing to them. A shocked silence falls over them. Sherriff Truman removes his hat. Lucy weeps. The scene shifts to an exterior shot of Margaret’s cabin in the woods, and its interior lights go dark forever. It’s a lengthy, poignant, heart-wrenching send-off for one of the show’s most beloved characters and actresses. Having already dedicated Part One to Coulson, Part Fifteen carried a very different message: For Margaret Lanterman.

It’s a shame that Coulson never got to reunite with her former cast members, that all of her scenes took place over phone calls to Hawk. But with production on the new series having begun in late August 2015, Coulson passed away mere weeks later. These scenes had to have been the first thing on Lynch’s to-do list; it must have been his priority to get as much as he could from her while he could. Which means that Coulson was literally on her deathbed. And the Log Lady saying goodnight to Hawk is, in actuality, Coulson saying goodnight to the audience.

 

7. Phillip Jeffries Finally Arrives!

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With the news that Catherine Coulson would be in the new series, that Lynch had somehow managed to film scenes with her before her passing, hope ran rampant that David Bowie would also appear, reprising his role as FBI Agent Philip Jeffries. With his weird, southern American accent, Jeffries first sauntered into FBI Director Gordon Cole’s office in the 1992 movie Fire Walk With Me announcing that he’s seen things and that he wasn’t going to talk about Judy. Who was Judy? No one seemed to know. He indicated Agent Dale Cooper and asked Cole “Who do you think this is there?”

As the full cast list for Twin Peaks: The Return was released on April 25, 2016, Bowie’s name was not on it. That didn’t quench the audience’s hope or desire, though. What if an appearance, a complete surprise, had indeed been shot? That’s exactly the kind of thing Lynch and Bowie would do! After all, Lynch shot scenes with Catherine Coulson, and Bowie passed away nearly a year after her. It’s completely feasible, right? Even just a voiceover? Alas, while Lynch had made public that he’d fully intended for Jeffries to have a major role in the new series, Bowie’s final year on Earth was an incredibly busy one, recording and producing his final album, Blackstar, released two days prior to his death, and creating, rehearsing and premiering a new musical, Lazarus, based on his music.

Fan speculation was fueled even more once the new series premiered and Jeffries had such a prominent role in it. His character was referenced numerous times. He was clearly active somewhere in the background. Mr. C received a phone call that he was expecting from Jeffries (it turned out to be an imposter).

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Jeffries does finally make it onto screen, though, initially in a dream sequence. Cole relates to Tammy and Albert that he’d had a dream about his interactions with Jeffries in 1992, and clips from Fire Walk With Me are used to include Bowie. David’s one line of dialogue included in the sequence—“Who do you think this is there?”—is redubbed by actor Nathan Frizzell as “Who do you think that is there” (matching one of the alternate takes of Bowie’s original scene). As the season wears on, Jeffries makes further appearances beyond the confines of archival footage, with Frizzell providing his dialogue, and is represented on screen as a large, black, steam kettle-type of contraption (or, as Bowie fans dubbed it, a “tin machine”), continuing to interact with other characters, pushing the story forward, and even re-mentioning Judy. Only in Twin Peaks could an iconic performer be replaced by a voice double and a large, black, metallic contraption.

It’s clear that Lynch had an integral role for Bowie in mind, one that couldn’t simply be written around once Bowie proved unavailable, and it’s one of the genuinely sad notes of Twin Peaks: The Return that David Bowie was unable to take part.

 

6. We finally meet Diane

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“Diane, 7:30 am, February twenty-fourth. Entering the town of Twin Peaks. Five miles south of the Canadian border, twelve miles west of the state line. Never seen so many trees in my life.”

Throughout the original Twin Peaks, viewers became very familiar with Diane, Dale Cooper’s secretary in the FBI, from a series of dictations that he would address to her. But she never appeared on screen—until The Return. When we finally do meet her, she’s nothing at all like what we’d expect: foul-mouthed, bad-tempered, chain-smoking and heavy drinking; in the book The Autobiography of F.B.I. Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes, Cooper describes his secretary as “an interesting cross between a saint and a cabaret singer.” The lady we meet in The Return is neither.

After Cooper’s disappearance 25 years ago, his doppelganger Mr. C paid a visit to Diane, asking her questions about FBI activity in the time he was gone. Thinking this to be the real Cooper, she assumed he was just anxious to get caught up on all he’d missed. As they kissed, she began to realize that this wasn’t her Cooper; he sensed her growing fear and raped her. In one of the greatest performances of her life, Laura Dern portrays a distraught Diane relating this harrowing encounter to Gordon, Albert and Tammy.

But once again, we learn that this isn’t the person we think it is—this Diane is a manufactured being, like Dougie Jones. After Mr. C’s violation of her, he takes Diane to a convenience store—a location that we know to be a hub of evil activity and a portal to the Black Lodge—and she is copied. The Diane that we’ve seen all season long is, in fact, a tulpa. The real Diane emerges after the real Cooper wakes up, and the two meet in the Twin Peaks Sherriff’s Department. There is a care, a tenderness, a familiarity between them that is palpable. When one talks about the MVPs of Twin Peaks: The Return, the conversation isn’t complete without mentioning Laura Dern and her brilliant portrayal of Diane Evans.

 

5. The Creation of BOB

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The first sixteen minutes of Part Eight play out in pretty expected fashion, closing with a fantastic performance of “She’s Gone Away” by “The” Nine Inch Nails. But wait, what about the other 44 minutes? What we’re treated to (or, some might say, subjected to) for the rest of the hour is pure, unadulterated David Lynch in short film form. Beginning with the detonation of the first atomic bomb on July 16, 1945 in White Sands, New Mexico, accompanied appropriately by Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (an abstract orchestral work composed in 1960 by Krzysztof Penderecki depicting the horrors of the atomic attack on Hiroshima), what follows is one of the most unnerving pieces of television ever created.

Amidst the chaos of the A-bomb test, a featureless humanoid figure in space vomits out a spew of nebulous matter, and a black orb containing an image of BOB emerges from the regurgitation and descends to Earth. The ultimate human horror was the catalyst for the birth of the evil entity that has caused all of Twin Peaks’ troubles. Woodsmen scramble around the convenience store, crush skulls, and recite weird verse (“This is the water and this is the well. Drink full and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes and dark within.”) that puts an entire town to sleep. And a large half-amphibious bug hatches from an egg and crawls into the mouth of a sleeping girl.

But what we also witness is the Giant and a woman called Senorita Dido in a castle-like structure on the Purple Sea. The Giant reviews footage of the atomic test and the birth of BOB, and then levitates, emitting a golden cloud from which a golden orb forms. The orb floats down to Senorita Dido, and within it she sees the face of Laura Palmer. She kisses the orb and releases it, and it too descends to Earth. Was Laura created to be the equal and opposite of BOB? To be the good force to counteract his evil? If so, then it makes sense why he tormented her so and corrupted everything around her during her life, and eventually killed her.

In total, it’s 46 minutes of Lynch unfettered by convention or expectation. It’s visual narrative in its purest form, dense and thickly layered with meaning. It’s challenging, even to the staunchest Lynch fan. It’s like Lynch’s version of 2001: A Space Oddity, his own Eraserhead, and echoes of The Wizard of Oz all combined into one soup. And it’s completely and totally unlike anything else on television. It is to Showtime’s credit that Lynch was allowed free reign to create such a stunning, perplexing, and beautiful sequence.

 

4. Audrey Awakes

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Audrey Horne was a key figure in the original Twin Peaks. Daughter of business mogul Ben Horne, Audrey (played by Sherilyn Fenn) was a fellow student at Laura Palmer’s high school (though the two weren’t friends). While she was initially painted as a bit of a troublemaker (the series begins with her derailing a major business deal her father was negotiating), she eventually took on the role of social activist. With Audrey not appearing in Fire Walk With Me due to a schedule conflict with Fenn, the last we saw of Audrey in the original series was her chained to a vault door in the Twin Peaks Savings and Loan to protest their role in building a country club on the location of Ghostwood National Forest, a project that was originally spearheaded by her father. She was gravely injured in a bomb explosion at the bank, putting her in the hospital in a coma.

Fans anxious to see Audrey in the 2017 revival had a good long wait—she didn’t appear until Part Twelve. Now unhappily married to a man named Charlie, a man she clearly despises, she’s also carrying on with someone called Billy, who has gone missing. Audrey tries to convince Charlie to go with her to the Roadhouse to look for him. There was no explanation of or even acknowledgment of what happened 25 years earlier. When had she awakened from her coma? When had she married Charlie? Who the heck was Charlie anyway? Even weirder is that over the next few episodes, the couple continues to have the same argument, never actually leaving the house to go to the Roadhouse. What’s going on here? Is Audrey stuck in a time loop? Is she still in her coma from 25 years ago?

In Part Sixteen, Audrey and Charlie finally make it to the Roadhouse, at first seemingly contradicting the coma theory. They find seats, Charlie orders two martinis, and Eddie Vedder croons away. Then, in an almost dreamlike fashion, the MC announces “Audrey’s Dance,” and the dance floor clears a space for her. Swept up in the music, Audrey moves and sways to the song the band is playing, recalling a similar scene (and using the same music) from Season One in the Double R Diner. Audrey is roused from her reverie as a fight breaks out in the crowd. Fearful, she dashes over to Charlie and pleads with him to get her out of there. Suddenly, the scene shifts and we find Audrey, disheveled, in an all-white room wearing a white gown, staring at herself in a round mirror, clearly shocked and terrified. What’s going on? Is she in the hospital? Has she just awoken from her coma?  Is it purely coincidence that she awakens at almost the same moment that Agent Cooper does?

Sadly, we never did find out, because that’s the last we see of Audrey in the new series. It really seemed like her storyline was leading up to something big, like a tie-in with Cooper. With Audrey completely absent from the final two episodes, though, we’re left hanging once again. Maybe if a Season Four ever appears, which both Lynch and Showtime have not ruled out, we’ll find out Ms. Horne’s fate.

 

3. “I am the FBI!”

Fans waited all season long for Cooper—the real, proper FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper—to emerge from his catatonic state and take his rightful place in the story. Throughout the season, Kyle MacLachlan delivered the performance of his life as the evil doppelganger Mr. C, as the Cooper “placeholder” Dougie, and as the mostly unresponsive Cooper being led around through Dougie’s daily life. And while it was great to see so many characters from the original series put in appearances in the new show, what was missing was FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, the undeniable heart and soul of Twin Peaks.

In Part Fifteen, Coop is sitting at his dining room table eating cake. He begins to explore items on the table, something we’d not seen him do before. He picks up the television remote and turns on the TV to find the movie Sunset Boulevard playing. Someone in the movie mentions the name ‘Gordon Cole,’ which jolts the submerged Cooper into action: he sticks a fork in a wall socket and electrocutes himself. He’s knocked unconscious and ends up in the hospital in a coma. In the following episode, Dougie’s family waits by his bedside, distraught. In a moment when no one else is in the room, MIKE (a spirit similar to BOB, but who had renounced evil and cut off his arm which was tattooed with a malevolent mark) appeared to Cooper as he suddenly awoke, fully restored, “100 percent.” “Finally,” MIKE commented, echoing every audience member’s enthusiastic sentiment. His family and coworkers come back into the room, shocked at his sudden recovery. Dougie’s boss, Bushnell Mullins, tells him that FBI agents are on their way, looking for him. Cooper quickly gets dressed, has a doctor give him the okay, and announces that he’s leaving the hospital. “But what about the FBI?” Mullins inquires as Cooper moves to exit the room. Cooper stops, turns to him with a wry smile on his face, and in one of the greatest punch-your-fist-in-the-air moments in television history, says “I am the FBI!” Cooper was indeed back—100 percent!

The Return isn’t just about Twin Peaks returning to the small screen, or the audience returning to the show, even though it encompasses both of things. What it’s really about, though, is FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper’s return from the dark side and into the real world. This is David Lynch playing the long game. It took sixteen episodes, but man, when Cooper finally came back, it was the greatest feeling in the world.

 

2. Cooper Saves Laura

With Cooper back in action, Part Seventeen was an absolute whirlwind: A surprise explanation of Judy (she’s an ancient evil spirit originally called Jowday); an encounter between Mr. C and Sherriff Truman; the real Agent Cooper phoning Sherriff Truman and tipping him off that Mr. C isn’t him; Lucy taking out Mr. C  (who knew that Lucy was such a crack shot?) before he can take out Truman; Cooper arriving at the Twin Peaks Sherriff’s Department, reuniting (most of) the old gang from the original series; there’s a final showdown with BOB and he’s destroyed; and the eyeless Japanese woman Naido is revealed to be the real Diane Evans. Whew! And that’s just the first half of the episode!

Cooper visits Jeffries, who sends him back in time to February 23, 1989—the night of Laura Palmer’s murder. We’re treated to footage from Fire Walk With Me and the original series pilot, but with modern day Cooper inserted into the storyline. He observes the last time Laura saw James Hurley, the boy that she was in a secret relationship with. She jumps off of James’ motorcycle and runs away, sobbing. Leo, Jacques, and Ronette wait for her, but before she encounters them, she meets Cooper in the woods. She vaguely recognizes him, as if from a dream. He holds out his hand to her; “where are we going?” she asks. “We’re going home,” Cooper tells her. As he leads her through the woods away from the scene of her murder, everything changes: her plastic-wrapped corpse disappears from the lakeshore; Pete Martell kisses his wife and says he’s going fishing, just as we saw in the series pilot, only this time there’s no body for him to discover, the event that initiated all the events that we’ve witnessed on the show from 1990 until now. History has been rewritten, and for one brief moment, it seemed that Laura had been saved from all the darkness that had plagued her troubled life. And it was an incredibly beautiful and magical moment.

But nothing in Twin Peaks is ever that simple, and in the episodes’ final moment, Cooper looks back to find that Laura has disappeared. As he scans the area for any trace of her, he hears that familiar, soul-wrenching, terrified Laura Palmer scream.

 

1. That Ending . . .

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After the carnival ride of the previous three episodes, with twists, revelations, and connections galore, Twin Peaks: The Return ends its 18-episode run on a very quiet, slow-paced, intimate, and very perplexing manner, featuring a great deal of silent driving. To say that the finale was divisive is an understatement. To say that it has generated an unprecedented amount of discussion and fan theories is to sell it short.

In the final 30 minutes of the episode, Cooper finds himself in Odessa and tracks down a woman that he thinks is Laura Palmer (played, of course, by Sheryl Lee). She says her name is Carrie Page and she has no recollection of Twin Peaks, nor has she ever heard the name Laura Palmer before. But her mother is called Sarah and her father is Leland. Cooper convinces her to travel with him to Washington to take her to what he assumes is her childhood home. When they arrive, though, nothing about the town or indeed the house seems familiar to Carrie. They knock on the door and someone who is decidedly not Sarah Palmer answers. The woman, Alice Tremond (played by the house’s current real owner, Mary Reber) reports that no one named Sarah Palmer has ever lived there, and that she purchased the house from a Mrs Chalfont.

Perplexed, Cooper and Carrie turn to leave. They walk toward Cooper’s car, but he hesitates. He turns, sensing something is wrong, and asks aloud, “What year is this?” Carrie turns to face the house as well, and very faintly in the distance, hears Sarah Palmer calling out for Laura as on the day that Laura had died. Carrie becomes shaken, to the point of terror, and once again screams that familiar, soul-wrenching, terrified Laura Palmer scream. The lights in the house suddenly flash and everything goes dark. End of episode. End of Season. Possibly end of series.

So what happened? Are they in the wrong time? Did Cooper saving Laura from her death damage the timeline? Did he at some point cross into an alternate reality? Those thoughts, and many more (including a fan theory that the final two episodes take place simultaneously and watching them side by side illuminates clues to their combined meaning) will fuel discussion boards and Facebook groups for a long, long time. Will we ever get an answer? I wouldn’t count on it. Even though a fourth season isn’t an impossibility (both Kyle MacLachlan and Sheryl Lee have said that they would return if it happened), it’ll be years before it would materialize. We will have to be content with the uncertainty, with the questions, with the crazy speculation. That’s exactly how David Lynch wants it.

Fox’s ‘The Orville’ Makes Its Inaugural Flight

Image result for orville foxFor Fox, getting a two-week jump on the relaunch of the Star Trek franchise (with Star Trek: Discovery leaving space dock on CBS on September 24) with its own futuristic space saga comedy The Orville is probably a good thing. It gives this new property a chance to find its footing and hopefully gain some traction with audiences before that far more well-known sci-fi juggernaut gets underway with a mission of reclaiming its televisual territory. With that in mind, and with a starship-shaped shadow just over The Orville‘s shoulder, how this new show fare?

First of all, even with Star Trek: Discovery two weeks away, it’s impossible to review The Orville on its own terms without making comparisons to Star TrekThe Orville is clearly and overtly a Star Trek pastiche, a loving nod, an homage. All the Star Trek tropes are in place: the recognizable bridge, the holodeck, the multi-colored department-denoting uniforms, the multi-species but still mostly-human bridge crew, the space battles, the enemy aliens, etc. And just like every post-Star Trek: The Next Generation series, it’s named after the vessel on which it takes place. If you’re already a Star Trek fan, Image result for orville foxyou’ll find that you’re in very familiar territory. In fact, this show stops just short of having to carry the “Based Upon Star Trek Created by Gene Roddenberry” tag in its opening credits. Some of the terminology may be shifted a bit — deflectors instead of shields, Union instead of Federation, for example — but this is clearly intended to be read as a Star Trek series (creator Seth MacFarlane is not only a self-avowed Trekker, he even made a couple of appearances as Ensign Rivers on Star Trek: Voyager). It would not at all a stretch to imagine the Orville rendezvousing with the Enterprise D at Deep Space Nine.

With The Orville coming from the word processor of Seth MacFarlane, the brainchild of Family Guy, American Dad!, The Cleveland Show, and the film A Million Ways to Die in the West, you should have an idea of what kind of humor this show presents. If you’re a fan of MacFarlane’s, then you’ll probably enjoy it; for me, most of the humor fell flat — it’s not as funny nor anywhere near as cutting as what you’d find in Seth’s other shows (though there were a few genuinely funny moments throughout). The problem is that this show really isn’t a comedy — it’s more a space action/drama with comedic moments, and Fox’s marketing of it as a comedy may well have done it a disservice. Nearly all the “funny” bits from the first episode are crammed into every one of the trailers that the network has been running for the past couple of months. There were plenty of times during the premiere episode that the humor seemed inappropriate or was simply sophomoric, or in at least one scene — Captain Ed Mercer’s confrontation with First Officer Kelly Grayson at the end of the episode — was just dumb and got in the way of the scene.

So if it’s not a comedy, how does it work as a sci-fi action/drama? Well, better at least. The Orville looks fantastic. The production values are extremely high, with good sets, well-designed aliens, decent ship designs, etc. In the first episode, the Orville is dispatched to answer a call for supplies from a science station. When they arrive, however, they find that the station is under threat from an antagonistic race Image result for orville foxcalled the Krill. One of the station personnel is working undercover for the Krill, of course, and sells out the station staff and the Orville crew at gunpoint. The Krill ship and the Orville engage in a ship battle and only some quick thinking and a clever trick saves the good guys. It’s a fairly standard, straightforward plot, but for a first installment, I think that’s forgivable. It’s giving its audience easy access to this new setting. The test will come later, when the show has had more chance to find an established audience — will it get more adventurous in its storytelling, stray a bit further from its source material? We’ll see.

Where Star Trek shows excel, though, is in character. What made The Next Generation the huge success that it became was its cast of characters. These were characters that you grew to know and love, that you looked forward to spending time with each week. You cared about their journey, both as a crew and as individuals. Does The Orville have that? Honestly, it’s too early to tell. The characters are interesting, that’s for sure. You have Bortus, a member of the single-gender Moclan race; there’s Alara Kitan, a Xelayan whose home planet has a gravity far greater than Earth’s, giving her the equivalent of superhuman strength; the pilot and navigator are Malloy and LaMarr, who hit it off immediately and become best friends; and the mechanical Isaac, an artificial lifeform from Kaylon who, like all his race, consider organic beings to be inferior. As long as the childish humor doesn’t get in the way and the characters are allowed to develop and form meaningful friendships with each other, this show will be fine.

That leaves us with our two main characters: Captain Ed Mercer, played in smarmy-frat-boy-with-charm mode by MacFarlane, and First Officer Kelly Grayson, confidently portrayed by Adrianne Palicki, fresh off of her stint as Bobbi Morse in Agents of SHIELD. They have a history, you see. They were married. Until, that is, Ed comes home and finds her shacking up with a blue alien. A year after their bitter divorce, they end up serving together on the Orville. With so many unresolved emotions, their plight tends to spill over into their job. They take digs at each other at inappropriate times, they argue in front of the crew, and in what I’m sure is supposed to be a funny moment, they drag the Krill captain into their marital dispute in the midst of his “hand over the alien Image result for orville foxthing at once or else!” speech. It comes across as childish and grating, and I sincerely hope that this angle is dropped in future installments.

I’ll be generous and give this show a solid B based on the potential it has. I find that I enjoyed the first episode just enough to remain interested in seeing how the show develops. The main thing that The Orville has in its favor is that after its premiere, Star Trek: Discovery will not be on network television, it will be made available exclusively on CBS’ streaming service All Access, leaving Orville more or less peerless and competitionless during its run. That may help it to pick up an audience. But once it does, it has to deliver good scripts with clever storytelling, featuring characters that viewers will enjoy spending time with each week. Otherwise, it’ll be a short mission for the good ship Orville. So far it has all the Star Trek trappings, but it doesn’t have Star Trek‘s heart. Galaxy Quest this ain’t.

Doctor Who: The Master – the Five Essentials

Sherlock has Moriarty.  Superman has Lex Luthor. The Road Runner has Wile E. Coyote.  And the Doctor has the Master.

Every great hero has his arch rival who serves as his equal and opposite. The one with whom he or she is evenly matched—dark to light, good to evil.  It’s the person who drives the hero to greater heights, the one who ensures that the hero never slacks, never lets down his or her guard. In 1971, the Doctor Who bosses realized that while the Doctor had Daleks, Cybermen, Ice Warriors, Yeti and other recurring threats, what he needed was a single figure to challenge him at every turn, someone who could match the Doctor scientifically and intellectually. In other words, he needed a nemesis. And thus was the Master born.

Image result for doctor who doctor fallsThe Master is a Time Lord. In fact, he and the Doctor grew up together, attended the Academy together, and used to be friends. But their paths diverged, the Master craving power and control, and the Doctor pledging to stop him from causing harm to others as well as to established history. Being a Time Lord, he can regenerate like the Doctor can, and thus has been played by numerous actors over the past few decades. Unlike the Doctor, he has had both male and female personas. The most recent incarnation of the Master, played with panache and sass by Michelle Gomez, refers to herself as the Mistress, or “Missy” for short. She has been a regular thorn in the Twelfth Doctor’s side since his first season. She has had a recurrent presence in the story arc that has run through the 2017 season, in which Missy has been condemned to death and the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) has pledged to guard her body, locked away in a vault, for 1,000 years. Missy isn’t dead, though. As she told the Doctor’s previous companion Clara, “Death is for other people, dear.” Not only is Missy not dead, but it seems that she’s undergoing a change of hearts (Time Lords have two of them, you know)—she seems to be renouncing her evil ways and adopting the good. But is it genuine? Or is she luring the Doctor into a trap?

The answers will come this weekend as Series Ten airs its finale, “The Doctor Falls.” But it’s not just Missy that the Doctor has to worry about, or even an army of Cybermen (check out part one of this article), but for the first time in Doctor Who’s history, we have a teaming up of two incarnations of the Master: Michelle Gomez’s Missy and the previous iteration played by John Simm from 2007-2010 (but here with a decidedly classic look about him, with his mustache, goatee and high-collared black jacket). There have been occasions on which multiple Doctors have worked together—usually coinciding with some notable anniversary for the show—but this is the first time that multiple Masters have met on screen.

To get you prepared for this week’s finale, here are the five essential Master stories that will introduce you to (most of) his/her past incarnations and give you a sense of who the Master really is.

 

“The Dæmons” (1971)
Related imageThe Master made his debut in “Terror of the Autons,” the first story from Season Eight, also the introduction of the Doctor’s new companion, Jo Grant. He remained a prominent figure throughout that season, appearing in all five stories across 25 episodes. Played by Roger Delgado, this Master was a dark, swarthy character with a penchant for elaborate disguises and a love of good cigars. The quintessential villain, the “evil mustache and goatee” look suited him impeccably. Though a thoroughly despicable character, Delgado’s Master was not without humor, élan and occasionally warmth. Subsequent stories clearly show a mutual respect and even a long-buried affection between the Doctor and his wayward chum, especially in the following season’s “The Sea Devils.” In “The Dæmons,” the Master, disguised as a village vicar, attempts to awaken the demonic forces of Azal, a cloven-hoofed beast that resembles images of the Devil. The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and UNIT battle gargoyles, a heat forcefield, and inexplicable happenings to thwart the Master’s plans (and be on the lookout for a UNIT sergeant named Osgood!). The story offers good discussions of the “magic vs science” variety in a script that relies heavily on witchcraft, incantations and iconography. In the end, it’s Jo’s self-sacrifice to save the Doctor that destroys Azal. “The Dæmons” shows the Master at his devious, conniving best. Delgado and Pertwee, over the course of three seasons, add a great deal of dimension to the relationship between their characters. Over the decades, the Master has remained one of the key figures in the series’ mythology, and while there’ve been some great actors playing him/her, the on-screen dynamic between Pertwee and Delgado has rarely been bettered and the depiction of the “my enemy was once my friend” scenario was largely forgotten about until the Master’s rebirth in the modern series.

 

“The Deadly Assassin” (1976)
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Roger Delgado played the Master for three seasons and had asked to written out the following year, as he’d lost other opportunities of acting jobs because of his work on Doctor Who. However, in the summer of 1973 during the break between seasons, Delgado was killed in a car accident in Turkey. The Master lay dormant for the next few years until Season Fourteen in 1976 when Peter Pratt took over as a very different kind of Master. “The Deadly Assassin” is an extremely important story in the history of Doctor Who for a number of reasons. Mainly, it introduced many of the aspects of Time Lord society that we now take as writ, including the Matrix—the repository of all Time Lord knowledge and experience. Additionally, it establishes that Time Lords can only regenerate twelve times for a total of thirteen lives. Pratt plays a Master that we learn has gone beyond his natural life span and is basically refusing to die. He has, by the sheer force of his will, continued to exist without regenerating as a rotting, decrepit walking corpse. He’s desperate to escape death and regain his ability to regenerate and will destroy Gallifrey if necessary to do so. To achieve this, he lures the Doctor (Tom Baker) into a trap—he stages the assassination of the Lord President of Gallifrey and frames the Doctor for it. The Doctor is caught, swiftly put on trial and is about to be executed . . . until he escapes his fate by declaring his candidacy for President! “The Deadly Assassin” is a political thriller of the first order. The mental battle waged between the Doctor and the Master inside the surreal landscape of the Matrix is gripping and unlike anything the series had ever done before. The Doctor defeats the Master (spoiler!) but doesn’t destroy him, and the decaying Master makes one further appearance in Tom Baker’s final season.

 

“The Five Doctors” (1983)
Image result for the five doctors masterIn 1981’s fairytale-like “The Keeper of Traken” the corpse-like Master steals the body of Tremas, freeing him temporarily his decaying state. Played by Anthony Ainley, Tremas (get it? It’s an anagram of ‘Master’) is a fair and gentle man and a loving father to Nyssa, until he is violated by the Master. From that point on, Tremas is gone and the Master once again roams the universe. “Logopolis,” the first proper story of the Ainley Master, shows the Master at his ambitious and nasty best, literally issuing an ultimatum to the entire universe from a radio telescope on Earth. As the Doctor attempts to thwart the Master’s plan, he falls from the radio telescope to his death, but regenerates into a new body. In “The Five Doctors,” the show’s 20th Anniversary episode, the Doctor (Peter Davison) and his previous incarnations (all except for the Fourth, as Tom Baker chose not to participate) are taken out of time. The Time Lords have tracked him to the Death Zone, a dangerous area of Gallifrey. They recruit the Master and send him into the Death Zone to find the Doctor, and in exchange for his services grant him a new regeneration cycle. Once in the Death Zone, of course the first Doctor that he encounters is the Third, played by Jon Pertwee, and while it’s cool to see these two characters spar a bit, the chemistry isn’t quite there the way it was between Pertwee and Delgado (granted, it isn’t a terribly long scene so there wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity to establish a rapport). Unable to convince any of the Doctors that he actually is there to help them, the Master forms a quick-thinking alliance with a squadron of Cybermen (a bit of foreshadowing to the Series 10 finale, perhaps?). In “The Five Doctors,” Lord President Borusa says of the Master, “You are one of the most evil and corrupt beings this Time Lord race has ever produced. Your crimes are without number and your villainy without end,” a description the Master seems rather pleased about. There were times that the Ainley Master became a bit cartoonish, but that’s not the case in “The Five Doctors.”

 

“Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords” (2007)
Related imageDoctor Who was canceled in 1989; the Master appeared in the final story, ironically entitled “Survival” (check it out, it’s one of Ainley’s best peformances). When an attempt at a revival was made in 1996, with a made-for-television movie co-produced by American network Fox starring Paul McGann as the Doctor, the Master was right there by his side (played at turns sinister and flamboyant by Eric Roberts). So when Doctor Who finally did return to television as a proper BBC series in 2005, an obvious fan question was “What about the Master?” The premise of the new series was that the Doctor was the last of his kind, the result of the Great Time War. No more Gallifrey, no more Time Lords. So obviously that meant, by default, no more Master, right? Hardly! The Master made his reappearance at the end of Series Three. “Utopia” is one of the really great episodes of modern Doctor Who, highlighted by the appearance of Sir Derek Jacobi playing Professor Yana, a pleasant, caring and well-meaning scientist who of course turns out to be the Master. Only he doesn’t know it—he has no memory of being anything other than Yana. But when his memories start to reawaken, and realization of who he truly is reemerges, Yana’s personality begins to change. Jacobi gives a stunning performance as a man tormented by these new thoughts of evil, but eventually surrendering to and embracing his true nature. The five or so minutes that Jacobi plays the fully awakened Master is incredibly powerful and a bit terrifying. When Jacobi first declares, in this repellent, sinister whisper, “I … am … the MASTER”, it’s one of the most riveting moments in Doctor Who history. But at the end of the episode he regenerates into his next incarnation (the first time we’ve seen a Master regeneration), played by John Simm. Simm’s approach is very different, playing an over-the-top, manic, whirling dervish of a Master. It’s like the Master on speed, but just as deadly and menacing as before. And the back story is changed, too. We learn from the Doctor Tenth (David Tennant) that as children, Gallifreyans are taken to the Untempered Schism (a rift in the fabric of time) and made to face the time vortex in its raw state. That moment is one of the defining moments of each child’s life. Most come away unharmed, but one little boy was driven mad by it. From that point on, the Master has heard a drumbeat in his head, driving him and tormenting him. While definitely a more frenzied take on the character, the Master was once again well-matched to the Doctor, now played by the rather hyper David Tennant. At the end of the story, the Master is gravely injured, and the Doctor urges him to regenerate, reminding him of all the things they’d done together. The Master refuses, though, and dies. The Doctor mourns the loss of his seemingly irredeemable ex-friend and the death of the last living member of his own race. But surely the Master couldn’t die that easily. . .

 

“The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar” (2015)
Related imageIn 2014, Oscar winner Peter Capaldi assumed the mantle of the Twelfth Doctor. After having not appeared during the Eleventh Doctor’s era, it was time to reintroduce the Master once again, but this time with a twist. Now played by Michelle Gomez, the Mistress was teased throughout Series Eight with enigmatic little cameos until her full reveal in the final two episodes of the season, in which she has struck up an alliance with Cybermen (hmm, another foreshadowing of the Series Ten finale, perhaps?). The story ends with Missy admitting that the whole reason for the crazy scheme was so that she could be reunited with the Doctor—“I need you to know we’re not so different. I need my friend back.”—and we’re suddenly brought full circle back to the Pertwee/Delgado relationship. The following season kicked off with a fast-paced two-parter involving the Daleks and their creator, Davros. The Doctor has gone missing and seems to be preparing himself for death: his last will and testament has been delivered to his closest friend—Missy. She explains to the Doctor’s companion, Clara, that theirs is “a friendship older than your civilization, and infinitely more complex,” which very definitely sounds like a summation of the Pertwee/Delgado relationship just as much as it does the Capaldi/Gomez one. Gomez’s take on the Master/Mistress is a very interesting one. At the WHOlanta convention in Atlanta, GA in 2015, she revealed that she grew up watching Delgado’s Master on screen. At the same convention, Katy Manning, who played Jo Grant, said that she could see Delgado in Gomez’s performance. And yet she also has the element of dangerous insanity from Simm’s Master as well as the pompousness of Ainley’s and even a bit of the flair of Roberts’. Like Delgado, she is well paired with her Doctor. In “The Magician’s Apprentice/The Witch’s Familiar,” she exudes a confidence about who she is and what she wants, and she takes any actions necessary to achieve them, whether it be pushing Clara down a pit, enslaving her within a Dalek casing, offering to help the Daleks steal the Doctor’s TARDIS, or killing a UNIT operative just to illustrate to Clara that she’s not “turning good.” But in the current season, she seems to be adopting a new morality. Has she genuinely changed her ways? And if she has, will re-meeting her former self (John Simm) sway her? Or is she laying a fiendish trap for the Doctor, playing on his hopeful nature?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXUvTldIL6A

 

The finale of Series Ten of Doctor Who airs on BBC America Saturday, July 1 at 9:00 p.m.  It stars Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts and Matt Lucas as Nardole. It features Michelle Gomez as the Mistress, John Simm as the Master, as well as the 1966, 2006 and 2013 iterations of the Cybermen.

 

Doctor Who: Cybermen – the Five Essentials

Cybermen—the second oldest major adversary in the Doctor Who universe. They were the brainchild of scientist Kit Peddler and screenwriter Gerry Davis; fascinated by the emerging science of organ and limb replacement, the pair wondered how far such procedures could go before the patients could no longer be considered human. Cybermen are an answer to that question: they’re people that have replaced so many of their organic components with mechanical substitutions that they are now both a product of and slave to technology. They’re driven by a strong sense of survival and perpetuation, and they assimilate other beings and “upgrade” them (rather like Star Trek’s Borg, except the Cybermen came 20 years earlier). They’ve been a mainstay on Doctor Who for 51 years, and this past Saturday night (June 24) they made a powerful reemergence on the show in “World Enough and Time,” the first episode of the series’ two-part tenth season finale. An extraordinarily dark and atmospheric episode, “World Enough and Time” makes the surprise move of bringing back the Cybermen as they looked in their first appearance in 1966, with cloth-wrapped faces, human-looking hands and a massive piece of machinery strapped to their chests. While decidedly low-tech (the show had a very meager budget in ’66), the original Cybermen had an almost cadaverous quality about them, making them a far more macabre threat than most any of their later iterations.

Image result for world enough and time

The strength of “World Enough and Time” is that the majority of it takes place in a dark, creepy hospital in which injured or sick people are “repaired.” One of those injured persons is the Doctor’s young companion, Bill. With the episode focusing mostly on her, she discovers the horrible truth of what’s going on—and becomes a victim of it herself. Director Rachel Talalay (known for her work on the CW superhero shows and the cult classic Tank Girl) captures an incredibly ghastly atmosphere in the hospital scenes and returns a palpable sense of menace and fear to the Doctor’s longtime nemeses.

While the Daleks—who debuted on the show three years earlier—are the more iconic threat to the Doctor and his companions, the Cybermen are arguably the more interesting. They’re a perversion of us. They represent the ultimate loss of individuality, the ultimate violation. They’re cold, logical, unfeeling, deadly … and they’re a great deal of fun in a scary episode like “World Enough and Time.”

For anyone who may be less familiar with Cybermen and want to delve a little deeper into their history before watching next week’s finale, here are the five essential Doctor Who adventures that feature the silver nightmares.

 

“The Tenth Planet” (1966)

Image result for tenth planetThe story that ushered in the Cybermen but also ushered out the First Doctor (William Hartnell). The Doctor and his companions Polly and Ben land on Snowcap Base on the South Pole in the far future year 1986 as it is invaded by strange beings from another world. That world turns out to be Mondas, the long-missing twin planet of Earth and the birthplace of the original Cybermen. Mondas is dying and the Cybermen plan to syphon off energy from Earth to save it. In the process, they will relocate all of the Earth humans to Mondas and convert them into Cybermen. What’s interesting is that they see this as “saving” humanity—ridding them of pain, disease, aging, emotion, etc. and they can’t understand why we don’t want to go along with it. Polly, usually not the most assertive of characters, becomes the voice of passion and defiance against the cold, unfeeling logic of the Cybermen. In the end, Mondas absorbs too much energy and is destroyed in an energy buildup. But the stress of this adventure has taken its toll on the Doctor. He says that his body is “wearing a bit thin,” stumbles into the TARDIS and collapses to the floor. As Ben and Polly watch in shock, the Doctor undergoes his first regeneration . . .   The parallels between “Tenth Planet” and “World Enough and Time” are numerous; “World Enough” takes place on a Mondasian colony ship and provides something of an origin story for the Cybermen. The most intriguing part of this past week’s episode is that we get teased with the Twelfth Doctor’s upcoming regeneration, which will occur in Peter Capaldi’s final episode on Christmas Day, and it seems to takes place in a very South Pole-looking snowy setting. To complete the parallel, the First Doctor is rumored to be appearing (played by David Bradley).

 

“The Tomb of the Cybermen” (1967)

Related imageIn the far future, an archaeological team descends upon the planet Telos, the rumored final resting place of the Cybermen. But amongst the archaeologists are three people who secretly seek to revive the Cybermen and restore them to power, thus gaining power for themselves. The Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton), Jamie and Victoria find themselves reluctantly helping the team solve the various logic puzzles that will unlock the secrets sealed away in the Cybermen’s tomb. But the tomb is more than it appears to be—the Cybermen aren’t dead, they have simply lain dormant, waiting for beings of sufficient intelligence to reawaken them. They intend to convert the scientists into Cybermen, adding their knowledge and experience into the collective. This story introduces the CyberController, the big brain (literally) of the Cyber operation. While it may show its age a bit, it’s a taut thriller that mixes alien threat with the dangers of human greed and ambition. The sequence in which the Cybermen slowly awake and emerge from their tombs is one of the most iconic images in the history of the show. “Tomb” also illustrates how the Cybermen have evolved since their first appearance, becoming far more robotic than before—fully helmeted with squawky electronic voices, having excised even more of their humanity. The Cybermen really came into their own during the Second Doctor era (1966-1969), and Troughton here gives an electifying performance as his impish Doctor.

 

“Earthshock” (1982)

Image result for earthshockHaving not appeared at all during the Third Doctor era, and only once during the seven-year stretch of the Fourth (in 1974’s iffy-at-best “Revenge of the Cybermen”), the Cybermen break their long absence in “Earthshock,” their big, splashy 80s debut with a sleeker, more modern space-suited appearance. A freighter heading toward Earth in the year 2526 is unknowingly carrying a Cyber army in suspended animation. Earth is playing host to a conference of delegates from various worlds proposing alliance against the Cyber Armies; the Cybermen evacuate the freighter and turn it into a flying bomb that they plan to use to destroy Earth and the delegates. The Doctor (Peter Davison) and his friends do their best to divert the freighter away from Earth, managing only to shift it in time—about 65 million years into the past. The delegation is saved, but the dinosaurs are history. And one of the Doctor’s friends, Adric, sacrifices himself to ensure the planet is spared. “Earthshock” is a tense, action-packed story that draws inspiration from Alien. It also featured one of the show’s classic cliffhangers; with the production team having managed to keep the return of the Cybermen a complete secret, their reveal at the end of Episode 1 came as a complete, well, shock to the audience. Coming in his first season, this is the story that really starts to define the Fifth Doctor.

 

“Attack of the Cybermen” (1985)

Image result for attack of the cybermenWhen Doctor Who introduced the Cybermen in 1966 in a story set in 1986, literally no one at the time gave any thought to whether or not the show would still be on the air in 20 years’ time. So when 1985 rolled around and the show was still very much alive and in production, the logical thing to do was create a story that served as both a sequel and a prequel to “The Tenth Planet.” Thus, “Attack of the Cybermen” was born. The story, which also heavily references “The Tomb of the Cybermen,” is set on Telos and involves the Cyberfiends desperately attempting to change history and prevent the destruction of their home planet, Mondas. To do this, they intend to alter the course of Haley’s Comet and send it crashing into Earth. We learn that when the Cybermen occupied Telos, they all but wiped out that planet’s indigenous species, the Cryons—but a few continue to survive. “Attack” is a complex tale (it also features a character from the previous season’s “Resurrection of the Daleks”) that kicks off the Sixth Doctor’s first full season. It features two characters who have been unsuccessfully subjected to the Cyber conversion process, so they’re essentially stuck as half-Cybermen. While the Cryons are a tad on the unintentionally comical side, the idea is good and their bitchy dialogue is well written. It’s a dark (for its time) tale that revisits the Cybermen’s introduction and adds new dimensions to it, and establishes Colin Baker as an assertive and confident Sixth Doctor.

 

“Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel” (2006)

Image result for rise of the cybermenAfter Doctor Who was canceled in 1989, it was brought back to screens around the world in 2005. The centerpiece in the modern series’ second season was a reintroduction of the Cybermen. Rather than Mondas or Telos, though, these Cybermen originated on a parallel Earth. The TARDIS brings the Doctor (David Tennant) to a parallel world in which his companions’ loved ones—Rose’s father and Mickey’s grandmother—are still alive. The Cybus Corporation has been developing a means of extending life by taking the human brain and integrating into a metal body. The Corporation’s director, John Lumic, has been secretly experiment on the homeless, perfecting his process, driven by his desire to escape his broken, wheelchair-bound body. There are some genuinely creepy and disturbing scenes, such as one in the second episode in which a Cyberman’s programming starts to break down and the brain remembers her life before being converted. These Cybermen are a great deal more robotic than their classic series predecessors. Add in a subplot of Mickey getting involved in team of street vigilantes called the Preachers who are seeking to sabotage Cybus’ efforts, and the “Rise” two-parter delivers a good bit of real world grit.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djdS1UrwK1A

 

The finale of Series Ten of Doctor Who airs on BBC America Saturday, July 1 at 9:00 p.m.  It stars Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts and Matt Lucas as Nardole. It features Michelle Gomez as the Mistress, John Simm as the Master, as well as the 1966, 2006 and 2013 iterations of the Cybermen. Look for the follow-up article Doctor Who: The Master – The Five Essentials later this week.

Welcome (Back) to Twin Peaks

In a small town in upstate Washington, the body of the high school homecoming queen is discovered. An FBI agent is sent in to investigate. What he finds, though, is significantly more than just a small-town murder, and he uncovers a surreal, twisted, and downright bizarre web of secrets, doppelgangers, mystic visions, and a damn fine cup of coffee. Welcome to Twin Peaks, the fictitious small town in upstate Washington located “five miles south of the Canadian border and twelve miles west of the state line” which was the subject of the ABC series of the same name in 1990-1991, created by Mark Frost and David Lynch.

On May 21, 2017, “Twin Peaks” made its long-awaited return to television screens—25 years after the series ended with the prequel film “Fire Walk With Me” in 1992—this time on cable giant Showtime. It was a bit of a rocky road getting there, though, with Lynch in and out of the project due to budgetary disagreements with Showtime. Eventually, though, all troubles were ironed out and the series’ original nine-episode order was doubled to eighteen, with Lynch as sole director.

My knowledge of “Twin Peaks” is peripheral at best, gained mostly through cultural osmosis. I love many of Lynch’s other works (“Mulholland Drive”, “Dune”, “Lost Highway”, “The Elephant Man” and others), but had simply never gotten around to “Twin Peaks.” So, when Showtime broadcast the first two episodes, simultaneously making the first four available on demand, I felt it was time for me to take the plunge. But first I talked to longtime fans to find out what they thought of it. I wanted to know how they came to be “Twin Peaks” fans, why they loved it, and whether the new show stacks up to the original.

Josh Wilson of Atlanta was first introduced to the films of David Lynch in high school. He tracked down “Twin Peaks” partly because of his love of Lynch films, but also because of his love of “The X-Files” (which was influenced by “Twin Peaks”). Wilson recalls being drawn into the series because “I love Lynch’s sensibilities. His imagery and use of dream logic, his wacky humor, his willingness to explore a dark mythology … all things I love.” Four episodes in, and he’s found the new show to be “such a mind-blowing experience. Pure unadulterated Lynch. It’s brilliant.”

For Rachel Stewart of Chattanooga, TN, the journey began with the discovery at a Dollar Tree of The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, the spin-off novel written by Lynch’s daughter Jennifer. Stewart was 13 at the time, almost exactly Laura’s age in the book, and she had a love of reading diaries, both fictional and factual. “I read the book cover to cover and then headed to Blockbuster to rent episodes (once I figured out it was in fact a TV show). The only thing Blockbuster had was the pilot (with the European ending) and ‘Fire Walk with Me’. So, I went for years just on those two things.” It was the show’s setting that entranced her: “Having grown up in a small Southern town my whole life, I could relate to and appreciate the characters and the idea that something just isn’t right.” From “Twin Peaks” she explored other Lynch films and became a fan. For her, the new series is “pure Lynch aesthetic and insanity. I am charmed, bewildered, and terrified all at once.”

Echoing their sentiment is Tripp Gwynn of Charlotte, NC: “My brain is still reconfiguring itself. I lack proper terminology. But, it was really, really good.” Atlanta musician Joe Monticello told me, “One episode in, and it seems like it’s much more David Lynch than Mark Frost. This is not a bad thing at all, since I’m a huge Lynch fan. I’m definitely all in and looking forward to seeing where it all will go.”

“Twin Peaks: The Return” stars Kyle MacLachlan as three (so far) different versions of his character, Agent Dale Cooper. The show also features major appearances by original cast members Kimmy Robertson (Lucy Brennan), Russ Tamblyn (Dr. Jacoby), Ray Wise (Leland Palmer), Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs), and many more. While fans welcomed the return of all their favorite characters, for Stewart, the heart of the story is Laura Palmer, played by Sheryl Lee. “Laura is an icon for the town, as well as the series. I love her because I think she’s a good person who’s struggled with darkness and demons in her life.”

There were two cast members whose involvement in the new series was gravely affected by cancer. Catherine Coulson played Margaret Lanterman, better known to “Twin Peaks” fans as the Log Lady, a grieving widow who carried a log around with her. Regarded by the townspeople as crazy, Lanterman would dispense cryptic messages of foreknowledge that she claimed would come to her from her log. Coulson appears in the first two episodes of the new series—hair loss, breathing apparatus and all—having filmed her final scenes just prior to her death in September 2015. “I was a little verklempt during Catherine Coulson’s scenes,” Gwynn commented. “They were like messages from the great beyond.” An appropriate epitaph for the Log Lady.  One other intended returnee didn’t fare quite as well. David Bowie was to have revisited his role from “Fire Walk With Me” as Agent Phillip Jefferies. No one knew how sick Bowie was at the end of his life until he passed suddenly on January 10, 2016. He was unable to participate in filming for the new series, but his character still seems to have a significant role. “It kills me that he was ill as this was being shot,” Wilson stated. “He has a big part in it that you can tell was worked around. He’s mentioned a lot.”

The overwhelming sense is that the long wait for “Twin Peaks” to return to television was worth it. “Totally,” says Wilson. “It’s pure Lynch and that’s why it’s so good. Doing it without him would have been a pale shadow of what it should be. He’s not giving you what you think you want, and that’s the brilliance of it. There’s no one else like him.” Josh Pinder of Saint Austell in the UK agrees, adding that “[It’s a] surreal feeling that we exist in a time where they’ve actually made another season.”

So the fans are happy. But what about new fans? How inviting is this show to new viewers? Would someone who is curious about it be able to jump in? “Casual viewers are gonna hate it,” Wilson said. “If you aren’t versed in what had happened before, I can’t imagine you’d be able to follow a second. Going in knowing nothing, I think you’d be totally lost.” Dan Benge of Atlanta concurs: “It’s very Lynchian, which will also be a major problem for anyone who hates nonlinear stories.” Even one original fan, Pierce Piper of Conyers, GA, found it difficult to reconnect: “I pretty much feel like I needed to see the original series again to refamiliarize myself with everything. There were characters I didn’t remember and plots I didn’t recall except vaguely and that did me no favors in watching this.”

Armed with all this feedback, I decided to dive in—and I found that my friends were right. The show offers no assistance whatsoever to new viewers; in fact, the very first scene proves to be pretty much unintelligible to the uninitiated. One is expected to grab on and hold tight, figuring things out as one goes … or not.

But I stuck with it, and I’m glad I did. Once I got past the first scene, it started to make a weird sort of sense. The first episode introduces four main plot threads: In Twin Peaks, Deputy Chief “Hawk” Hill (Michael Horse) receives a message from the Log Lady about the long-missing Agent Dale Cooper. Somewhere in New York City is a mostly-empty room containing a large, transparent glass box that’s being observed around the clock in case something appears in it. And in Buckhorn, South Dakota, Cooper’s doppelganger acquires two sidekicks but kills both as he discovers they’re plotting against him. DoppelCooper is almost certainly tied to another event in Buckhorn, the brutal murder of the town librarian, her head completely severed from her bloated body. The school principal’s fingerprints are found all over the victim’s apartment, but he has no recollection of ever being there. What’s more, the body isn’t hers—it’s a John Doe. So where is her body? And where’s John Doe’s head?

Along with all the returning characters, “Twin Peaks: The Return” introduces a large cast of new characters, most of them appearing in only one or two episodes, telling their chapters of the unfolding narrative. Among standouts are Matthew Lillard, giving one of his finest performances as Principal Hastings, who goes from happy husband expecting company for dinner to imprisoned accused murderer who has little recollection of even knowing the woman he has supposedly brutalized; and Michael Cera, making a one-off appearance as Wally Brando, son of Lucy and Deputy Andy Brennan, born on Marlon Brando’s birthday and modeling himself after “Easy Rider.”

It’s rather difficult to describe the show’s plot in any meaningful way, simply because it’s made up of seemingly unrelated story threads that range from the incredibly mundane to the abstract and metaphysical. For instance, Episode Three makes the Herculeanleap from an extremely strange, silent, nightmarish scene of Cooper in outer space with an eyeless Japanese woman, to a quaint and amusing scene in the Twin Peaks Sherriff’s office and a discussion of the relevance of a missing chocolate bunny (spoiler alert: It’s not very relevant). Lynch is a master at balancing the dark and disturbing with doses of offbeat humor.

Much of the dialogue throughout is quite stilted and the delivery of it by the actors is deliberately mannered, giving the whole production a dreamlike, even otherworldly, quality. All that drops away, however, at the end of Episode Four: FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) and Deputy Director Gordon Cole (David Lynch) have a private conversation about their meeting with who they thought to be Agent Cooper (surprise—it’s DoppelCooper). The two men express their disquiet about the encounter and conclude that something is very wrong. The scene is played straight and with deadly seriousness, separating it stylistically from the abstract and overly theatrical delivery of almost every other scene in the production, lending it a grave urgency and importance that it wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Lynch’s directorial style creates a visual landscape unlike anything else currently on television. He employs lengthy static, silent shots to set the mood of his piece, including having a single character walk away from the camera and conduct his business in the background of the shot. The lack of camera movement and edits (plus the almost total absence of incidental music) means that the show feels much less like a television production; in fact, it gives the viewer the sense of being in a room in which the action happens, as a spy or a voyeur if not a participant.

I’m very glad that I gave this show a try, and I’m now looking forward to exploring the earlier episodes. It’s definitely a challenge, but having the internet and good friends well versed in the lore at hand can carry you a long way. “Twin Peaks: The Return” is not for the faint of heart. But if one has patience, and has an open mind, and isn’t put off by bizarre, non-linear storytelling, the experience offers rich rewards.