Red Dwarf Review: “Krysis” (Series XI, Episode 5)

“Have you ever felt ‘I’ve wasted my life?” “You? Sure! Every single day!”  – Lister and the Cat, summing up a midlfie crisis.

Airdate: 20 October, 2016
Written By: Doug Naylor
Plot: Kryten’s hit a rough patch in his duties aboard ship. The trio diagnose him with a midlife crisis – something that becomes readily apparent once Krytie dons a bright red shell (pictured above). To try and remind him of how far he’s come, the Boys from the Dwarf go to the Nova III, to analyze a similar mechanoid and see how he’s held up all alone… only to come across a mechanoid that has become a connoisseur of and participant in all the finest arts.

Review:

This episode should not work.

I mean, let’s face it – it’s plot is pretty much the child of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Barely Beyond A Joke”. I disliked The Final Frontier, and “Beyond A Joke” is my second least favorite episode of the show (third if you count “Krytie TV” as an episode and not as an instrument of torture banned by the Geneva Convention). Point is – is the third time the charm for these plot threads on this blog?

Well, if you count the second half of Gravity Falls season 2, then for the most part, yes.

But what about the fourth time? Does it work then?

Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: “Give and Take” (Series XI, Episode 3)

“I am now fluent in all the deceptive arts. I could work for FIFA!” – Kryten. Hey, that’s base level, Krytie. Manage a presidential campaign.

Airdate: October 2nd, 2016

Written By: Doug Naylor.

Plot: While scouting for a medical droid aboard an abandoned spaceship, Rimmer and Kryten come across what they suspect is the target droid. Lister and the Cat actually do come across said droid, who proceeds to perform malpractice in a fit of insanity. Rimmer and Kryten come to their defense, and rescue them – although they destroy a pair of kidneys that were to go into Lister. With Lister’s kidneys removed, he needs to get the Cat to donate and for the rescued droid to rewrite the DNA. Unfortunately, that proves a tall order.

Review:

Hey, the Cat gets an episode! Sort of. Last time Lister and the Cat interacted, Lister learned about how Archimedes invented gravy after a bath fell on his head. What we saw there is their dynamic starting to take shape after largely being held off over the prior several series. This episode continues that trend – with Lister’s life in Cat’s hands. (Here’s hoping he had a will.) In fact, it’s probably my favorite of the season so far.

Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: “Twentica” (Series XI, Episode 1)

 

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This is first degree toastercide!

 

“If that’s the penalty for toast, what the hell do you get for pizza?” – The Cat.

Airdate: 22 September 2016

Written By: Doug Naylor

Plot: In the depths of uncharted space, Starbug gets intercepted by a ship of Expanoids – a subset of Simulants. They pull a trick on the Dwarfers to obtain an artifact – the Casket of Cronos – that allows them to travel back in time to 20th-century America. There, technology beyond the Gilded Ages are prohibited, and scientists are driven underground to speakeasies. In order to free themselves, they must find a use of a machine part that was given to them by a doomed scientist.

Review:

Before I begin, I just want to say that there’s this incredible feeling I have in reviewing Red Dwarf as it comes out (in America, at least) for the first time. This, again, was the very first show I decided to blog about. As the years have gone by, I have come to admire the show more. And even though I wouldn’t place it at the top of my all time favorites (The Simpsons, Steven Universe, and Gravity Falls are a holy trinity of awesome animation), I still think it is one of the most overlooked sci-fi shows out there.

To get (virtually) brand new episodes for the first time in my fandom (Red Dwarf X came out just before I became a full-blown fan of the show) was something quite indescribable. I watched them all in a day.

With that said…  I begin my (silly) analysis of Series XI. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "Serious Steven" (Season 1A, Episode 8)

Who designed this? Who? Who?

Airdate: January 13th, 2014

Synopsis: A massive accident at Funland (the amusement park where Steven and Connie almost got flattened by a roller coaster) weighs heavily on Steven, as two weeks later, they go to the Strawberry Fields, which used to be a battle site for the Gems. Characterized as Steven’s first “serious” mission, Steven tries to prove himself worthy to Garnet. This can only end badly, especially when a pyramid that they walk in flips over, thanks to Steven.

Review: Fans who started watching new episodes in Season 2 (ya know, half of the fandom, up to and including myself) might be a bit put off when they first see this episode. You see, we’re still in the part of the show where Steven is more like that kid that the Gems happen to have on their backs. With the gems treating this as his “first serious mission”, Steven has a hell of a lot of weight on his shoulders.

Most impressively, he’s hanging out with Garnet this time. A tall order for the ten-year-old, indeed. Continue reading

Gravity Falls Review: “Weirdmageddon” (Part 1) (Season 2, Episode 18)

(Before we begin, I sincerely apologize for this review coming out so late. This accompanies a quick announcement about my Star Trek film reviews.)

500 Miles North of Normal, 500 Miles West of Weird.

Airdate: October 26th, 2015

Synopsis: At the end of the last episode, well, to quote Vyvyan from The Young Ones

“This is the end! Armageddon! No future!

Yep – all hell broke loose. Bill is practically unstoppable – he turns Ford into a backscratcher, steals Deputy Durland away from Sheriff Blubs, unleashes his friends, and screws up Preston Northwest’s face. (You don’t want to see the end result of that.) Most damningly, he kidnaps Mabel, and locks her in a bubble. Alone, Dipper is left looking for any sort of help. Fortunately, it turns out Wendy is an excellent survivalist, and the two plan to go through the bubble to rescue Mabel. Unfortunately, old enemies come back to settle a score.

Review (STUFFED WITH SPOILERS): If I might borrow a philosophical statement from Pauly Fuemana, “how bizarre!” If madness in Gravity Falls was quantified, this would break the scale on a level that the Jockey Elves would be jealous over. Granted, this is a genuinely good episode we’re talking about here.

This episode is sci-fi horror at it’s finest, thriving on the macabre and the concept of a world gone mad. Bizarrely, though, the ending makes it one of Gravity Falls’s more optimistic episodes, even in the face of the apocalyptic setting.. The question is, does that bit of optimism work?

Before we begin, another reminder – spoilers. They are legion. Continue reading

Steven Universe Review: "Laser Light Cannon" (Season 1A, Episode 2)

Oh, no – it’s the maker of rules. Dealing with fools, it’ll cheat you blind!

Airdate: November 4th, 2013

Synopsis: Short answer: the core four realize that Clear Eyes can’t cure Red Eye all the time.

Long answer – a red eye from space is gunning for Beach City. Attempts to destroy it (including throwing Amethyst at it) have failed. There is an option – a light cannon, used by Rose… Steven’s sorta-dead-ish mother. Still, there is more hope – the cannon could be in Greg’s storage unit… his crowded storage unit… which stores the stuff that doesn’t fit in Greg’s van, where he lives.

Review (SPOILERS): If “Gem Glow” established the relationship between the core four characters and established the start of Steven’s “coming-of-age” arc, then “Laser Light Cannon” takes a first look at the past for the main characters… or at least, one of them.

This is the first episode of Steven Universe to explicitly mention Rose Quartz, the mother of Steven. In this episode, much like Garnet in the last, she is an enigma – one that we know little about. However, the Gems do seem to hold a deep level of respect for their lost comrade. Filling the role of the Lost Lenore, Greg still has her stuff in his storage unit… alongside his other pointless stuff.

It becomes apparent, however, that the two’s romance was truly that – they loved each other, confided in each other. No moment is no personal, and yet more indicative of the series, than a catchphrase that is said through the entire episode.

“If every pork chop were perfect, we wouldn’t have hot dogs!”

Without giving much away, it becomes clear that this is Greg’s and Rose’s mantra. They completed each other. Beyond that, though, lies the fact that one simple sentence – that one above – is later established to be the mission statement for the writers. It’s a widely beloved fact in the fandom that every character is revealed to have some level of insecurity, have had some level of failure, etc. etc. etc.

No one is safe from Sucrose and Company’s wrath!

Steven’s role is somewhat less ambiguous – in effect, he is the direct successor to his mother. Hell of a lot to live up to for an 11-year old, eh? However, in many ways, I feel like he fits the “11-year-old” archetype a bit better than, say, Dipper Pines does the “12-year-old”. Don’t get me wrong – Dipper is one of my all-time favorite characters. However, something about Steven screams 11-year old – his idealism, his generally unblemished view of his father, a few insecurities about worth, and so forth. This creates a character that the target audience can relate to.

However, it’s Greg that gets fleshed out. Besides sharing catchphrases with Rose (as seen above), we also get a quick look at his own character – an aging ex-rocker now operating a car wash, living in his own van. He has his own insecurities (“Drive My Van Into Your Heart”, anybody), which are not helped much by the Gems’ dismissal of him. It’s also worth noting that, due to the seemingly short 11-minute structure, there’s less time to flesh him out than other shows would. And the writers still did it. Kudos to them.

Oh, that’s not getting into the rest of the episode. The animation is still fantastic, although the difference in storyboard crew (Rebecca Sugar and Kat Morris) shows a little bit. The cannon is a thing of perfection, the action sequences are well animated… it’s fantastic.

Did it reach “finest show on Cartoon Network” this early? Not yet, but at this point, it was one hell of a contender.

Tidbits:

  • This episodes introduces the Fryman Family, who operate a french fry joint. They would get an episode of their own with “Frybo”. Even then, Steven’s casual relationship with them is sort of cute. Frybits!
  • Also, there’s a very close bond with Steven and Amethyst, who act like best friends/close siblings. Amethyst brings out the more “childish” side of Steven, which helps keep him grounded as a character.
  • Oh, and the music… the music is simply fantastic. The background music, barring “Drive My Van Into Your Heart” (which might not even be background music) is very jazzy, mellow, and adds something of an added flavor to an already great series.
Favorite Scene: Everything involving the Laser Light Cannon… especially it’s activation. Animation, writing… fantastic.

Best Character:
 Greg, already more than one-dimensional in his first appearance.

Memorable Quote: “If every pork chop were perfect, we wouldn’t have hot dogs.” – Greg… and Steven… and Rose. Read above for why.
Score: 8.5 (Silver)

Gravity Falls Review: "Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons" (Season 2, Episode 13)

“You may have aced Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons, but can you handle Jeopardy????

Airdate: August 3rd, 2015

Synopsis: Dipper gets a board game in the mail – “Diggity Dungeons and All That” “Dungeons, Dungeons, and More Dungeons”. With Mabel and Stan refusing to play due to it’s complicated rules (and because the two are focused on the Duck-Tective season finale), Dipper winds up striking up a playing partner in Ford. Despite Ford’s somewhat wary attitude in letting him close to the secrets, the two become close confidantes in the Tabletop madness. They play such a good game, that when a dispute between Stan and Ford (surprise, surprise) unleashed Probilitor the Annoying, the wizard decides to eat Ford and Dipper’s brains to gain their smarts.

Review (SPOILERS AHEAD): Anything with Weird Al Yankovich is among the American National Treasures, alongside cheeseburgers, Taco Bell, and “Two Cathedrals”. This episode, while a small step below the likes of “A Tale of Two Stans”, is still a really great episode.

Hell, I think it works because, compared to “Not What He Seems” and “A Tale of Two Stans”, the comedy is the focus of the episode, rather than the drama. That’s not to say there’s no drama or character development – it’s just that they chose to use a lot of comedy to both mock and celebrate this episode’s target – RPGs.

If “Blendin’s Game” sent up gladiatorial sports and Olympiads, and “Northwest Mansion Disco” spit on the power of the elite, this episode does both with tabletop RPGs.

Full disclosure – I don’t play RPGs. The reasons are cited in this episode – they’ve always seem complicated, which seems a bit intimidating to me. There’s the various rules, the strangeness, the etc. I personally like playing games with a form of structure – stuff like “Dungeons and Dragons’ is not really up my alley. Therefore, I might get a few things off in my analysis – I apologize in advance. (If I do get something wrong, bring it up in the comments section.) Still, this episode has me interested, mainly because it’s use of RPG tropes (I assume) is beautiful.

Every aspect of it is parodied, analyzed, or both. The marketing, the complex rules, the long game times, the mathematical aspects, the eccentric game pieces, the seemingly unlimited power given to the player, and the plots that take you to another world are all put under a lens, or through the looking glass.

Probabilitor the Annoying, in particular, is (again, probably) a pretty good sendup of the antagonists of these games, as well as a stab at the fans of the. He is a stereotype of the typical antagonist in the RPG and the player – a nerd who wants to rule the world, uses ridiculous math to prove or disprove his power, and wants to eat Dipper and Stan’s brains. The use of these stereotypes is mixed up enough to make him a fun character, rather than be derivative or offensive. That, and he’s voiced by one of the geek gods, “Weird Al”.

Surprisingly enough, what also makes this episode even better is it’s use of character parallels – Mabel and Stan, and Dipper and Ford.

I mentioned these parallels in my review of “A Tale of Two Stans”, how there seemed to be some parallels between the Pines Twins and the Uncle Pines Twins. This episode takes it further – Ford entrusts Dipper with one of the greater secrets that he picked up in his dimension-hopping days – the multi-sided dice. While the tabletop game play does humanize Ford, it also shows just how foolish he can be – he has kept aspects of the supernatural in somewhat flimsy cupboards.

Ironically, Dipper himself has made some decisions or opinions that almost destroyed the town or his relationships this season. Trying to contact the feds? Temporary zombie invasion. Failing to confess to Wendy? Almost got her and the crew killed. Trying to convince Mabel to stop the portal? Almost left Ford trapped in limbo. At this rate, the end of the season could probably see him make a mistake that forever alters the course of the series.

Mabel and Stan, meanwhile, are both paired together through the course of the episode. It makes a bit of sense – Mabel did trust Stan the most at the end of “Not What He Seems”. However, this episode shows these two opposites (the somewhat cold Stan and the warm and affable Mabel) bond over Duck-Tective. The two ride on the simpler pleasures in life – TV, junk food, and lowbrow comedy revolving around puns. There’s also a lot of impulse in between them, often setting up short-term and long-term disasters.

One thing that is awesome is the two teaming up in their attempts to defeat Probabilitor. It not only shows just how close the two have gotten over the season, but it also showcases that, as silly and/or callous as they might be, they both have the capacity to save the day, even if Stan’s methods and Mabel’s concepts are… unorthodox. However, the two are also prone to mistakes – their impulses have also created “monsters of the week”, or set up longer arcs. While this episode chose to focus on their virtues rather than their vices, that doesn’t mean that the two will be getting off easy for the rest of the season.

The divide that is forming between the twins, and the consequences thereof, is also prominent in this episode. It was Stan’s bickering with Ford that sent Probabilitor out in the first place. Through no fault of their own, it was Mabel’s love of (seemingly) cheesy TV and Dipper’s love of mathematical tabletop RPGs that set the stage for the episode, and the Grunkles that the twin’s befriended. This was even noted in a scene that is eerily reminiscent of the last scene in “A Tale of Two Stans”.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it in probably every other Gravity Falls review until the end of the season – the season finale is going to be dark for the Mystery Twins.

Honestly, the big – if not the only – problem with this episode is that it wasn’t as memorable as it’s two predecessors. Which is fine – those two shook the foundation of the show. If anything, this episode might be remembered for it’s odd bits of comedy – and Weird Al – rather than the plot.

I can’t complain too much, though. Honestly, if your episode has Weird Al, it’s hard to fail it. If it has send-ups to tabletop RPGs, decent character development, and several great jokes, it’s easy to see why this is a good episode of a great show… if not the best of a great season.

Tidbits:

  • The “Diggity Dungeons and All That” commercial is something of a throwback to the first few episodes of Gravity Falls – it marks one of the first times since then that GF used a Family Guy style cutaway gag, especially one that had little impact on character development. It does, however, provide a great satire on marketing strategies.
  • There’s a lot I like about the Duck-Tective gags – mainly because they send up the tropes seen in Gravity Falls, with the execution in Duck-Tective seeming more hackneyed than the execution in Gravity Falls – probably because of it’s status as a parody. It reminds me of Crying Breakfast Friends in Steven Universe, especially in the episode “Cry for Help”.
    • Seriously, I would like to see a full-length episode of Duck-tective – just as an April Fools episode, or a breather during a really dramatic series of episodes.
Favorite Scene: A few to choose from, but just for the marketing comedy alone, “Diggity Dungeons and All That” was brilliant. Those 90s really were dark times.
Least Favorite Scene: I can’t really choose – not one scene stood out as weaker than the others. Overall, I think this episode, while pretty good, is not one of the more memorable of the show.
Score: 8.25

(Edit 3:45: emphasized some of my points.)