Red Dwarf Review: “M-Corp” (Series XII, Episode 5)

Red Dwarf M-Corp

“Welcome to M-Corp – a pay-per life, virtual integrated environment. Most people who come stay forever!” – M-Corp representative. What a soothing thing to learn!

Airdate: November 9th, 2017

Written By: Doug Naylor

Plot: An update to the Red Dwarf‘s software reveals that the ship – in fact, the whole of the JMC – have been purchased out by M-Corp, a mega-corporation that has also brought out the whole of Earth. They inject a virus into Lister that eliminates his ability to see anything not made or employed by M-Corp – read, the Posse. Desperate for any contact with his friends, he decides to enter the M-Corp’s core, which is the poor man’s “Better Than Life”… and much like that game, almost kills him through his id.

Review:

On February 15, 1988, at 9:00 PM GMT, BBC Two debut a brand new science fiction series. Entitled Red Dwarf, it revolved around two polar-opposite bunkmates – the fastidious and acerbic and incompetent Rimmer, and the warm-hearted yet lazy Lister – aboard the mining ship Red Dwarf. They were the bottom of the rung, much to Lister’s contentment and Rimmer’s contempt. Within 30 minutes, Rimmer made it so that they were the last men standing – Lister’s warm-heart towards his cat kept him alive in stasis, while Rimmer’s incompetence wiped everybody else out and damned him to an eternity with Lister as a hologram. A fitting fate, in hindsight.

Anyway, Red Dwarf has changed through the years – Series II showcased a shift to more expansive settings, Series III-V showcased a shift to an ensemble Star Trek parody, Series VI took on a more action-based route, VII was closer to dramedy, VIII was a prison comedy (results may vary), Series IX was basically The Movie, X-XI were closer to III-V, and XII is more of a social commentary than anything – ironically following somewhat in Star Trek‘s footsteps.

In fact, XII has been peculiar as it has made the Red Dwarf universe a little less lonely. Sure, the crew have faced many other characters before (the Enlightenment, the Simulants, the GELFS), but what always stood out through most of the series is just how despairing the scenario for the crew is. Earth is three million years away, and any returns have been in part through time travel (be it 1988 Nodnol or 1924 America). Series XII, meanwhile, has brought us Telford’s base, the Mechanoid Liberationists, and unfortunately for me, the Enconium. Lacking in those episodes is the aura of loneliness and despair that had once made its way through the earlier series of Red Dwarf.

In some ways, that’s not a bad thing – shows evolve, more so today compared to 1988. But it does make you wonder if there’s still a point to the series, if maybe the show’s transmission is running dry. Well, “M-Corp” does go quite a way to try and restore that sense of despair, all while mixing in that sense of social commentary present in Series XII – and this time, going more pointed than the show has ever gone before. The result is an episode that I can safely say is the best of the series, and possibly a contender for the best of the Dave era.

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Gravity Falls Review: "Weirdmageddon III – Take Back The Falls" (Season 2, Episode 20)

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Massive Inter-dimensional pyramid with bowtie used mega fist pound! It’s not very effective.

Airdate: February 15th, 2016

Synopsis: After going through the sugar-coated hell that was Mabeland, Dipper, Mabel, Soos, and Wendy team up with a group of refugees taking shelter in the Mystery Shack alongside Stan. There, they devise a plan to rescue Ford and bring down Bill. Thing is, Stan is remiss over rescuing somebody he feels screwed up purely on impulse. He begrudgingly goes along, but his feud with Ford almost brings the Pines family – and, on a larger scale, the entire town of Gravity Falls, Oregon – to the brink of death.

Review: First off, a personal note. I can’t believe that this is the last one of these new episode reviews that I’ll do for this show. Sure, I’ll re-review the show in the not-too-distant future, maybe set up a “tribute” site, but it won’t really feel the same. The waiting for every Gravity Falls episode will never be experienced again.

With that said…

“Ah, summer break. A time for leisure, recreation, and taking her easy… unless you’re me. My name is Dipper – the girl about to puke is my sister, Mabel. You may be wondering what we’re doing in a golf cart, fleeing from a creature of unimaginable horror.

Rest assured – there’s a perfectly logical explanation…

On June 15th, 2012, with those words, we were introduced to the world of Gravity Falls, thanks to the Disney Channel. Initially coming off as merely a quirky Disney cartoon, within 22 minutes, the show unveiled itself as something more complex and brilliant. What was Grunkle Stan doing at the end of that last episode? Who did write that journal? As it turns out, we were about to go on a beautiful journey.

Forty-four months later (to the day, no less), the long, long, long summer ended. So, how did this last episode close it all out?

Warning before we go further… spoilers are legion. Watch the episode before you go any further. I am dead. Serious.

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Movie Review: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

“The battle for galactic peace has begun…” (Screencap from Wikipedia, poster by John Alvin.)

Premiere: December 6th, 1991

Synopsis: The moon that provides the Klingon Empire’s energy suffers a major disaster, releasing ozone onto the planet. This potentially condemns the empire to a maximum of fifty years, should the planet not reign in it’s military expenditures. The Federation is ready to broker a treaty between them and the empire, and sends Captain James T Kirk and the Enterprise out to make a truce. Thing is, Kirk doesn’t trust the Klingons – something about them stabbing his son and wrecking his old ship doesn’t endear them to him.

Just after a series of awkward talks between the Klingon Ambassadors and the Enterprise (appointed ambassadors), the latter ship fires on the former’s ship, killing the Klingon Chancellor. With no knowledge of who did it, Kirk and Dr. McCoy stand trial and face life in prison, and the two forces appear on the brink of war.

Review: Well, it took far longer than I expected (again, my apologies), but here we are. The last movie solely based off of Star Trek: The Original Series, and the last film produced during Gene Roddenberry’s lifetime (he died a month and a half before the premiere, but got an advance screening two days before he died).

After the utter disaster that was Star Trek V, nobody was sure what to do with Star Trek VI. In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that it was the franchise’s 25th anniversary, and that TNG had done alright in the ratings so far, Paramount probably would’ve sunk Star Trek into history. After waffling around as to what the plot would be, the end result is actually a genuinely moving film – an arguably overlooked classic in the Trek canon.

(Warning: spoilers. Proceed at your own peril. Or disappointment. Hey, it’s a movie.)
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Gravity Falls Review: "Dipper and Mabel Vs. The Future" (Season 2, Episode 17)

The truth is… surprisingly, not that far out there. (Small note, but building that bridge must’ve required some awesome engineering.)

Airdate: October 12th, 2015

Synopsis: Mabel is ecstatic – the end of August marks her and Dipper’s 13th birthday, and she’s planning a celebration to mark both the occasion and put a massive cap on the summer. Excited for everything, her happiness is slowly quashed as the world she once knew begins to fall apart. Wendy pops her bubble about high school, there can’t be a party at the shack itself, and her best friends can’t come to the party.

Meanwhile, Dipper and Ford go looking for a super-adhesive glue to try and seal a crack in the globe that holds the rift between the universes. To do this, they wind up going under Gravity Falls… a town founded over a UFO. (Arnold Rimmer has been vindicated.) After a series of strange events, Ford offers Dipper a proposal – stay in Gravity Falls after the summer ends, and become his apprentice in mystery solving.

When the two plots intersect… the end results are not good, to say the very least.

Review (WARNING, LONG REVIEW. ALSO, SPOILERS FOR VARIOUS PIECES OF MEDIA): Shortly before the premiere of “Roadside Attraction”, Alex Hirsch tweeted something to the effect that “RA” was a “breather episode” before the epic episode afterward. Reading that, I thought that this episode would change the show’s status quo on a scale unseen since “Not What He Seems.”

Well, it turns out, I was wrong.

For “Dipper and Mabel vs the Future” has less changed the status quo… and more curled the status quo in a ball, flung said ball out the window, and sent it barreling towards the sun at speeds so fast, the Millennium Falcon wouldn’t be able to catch up.

I’m not even sure how else to put it, other than this episode is undeniably the most stunning in the history of the show.
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Gravity Falls Review: "The Last Mabelcorn" (Season 2, Episode 15)

 

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Warning: neither moment nor episode are as lighthearted as this picture makes them out to be.

 

Airdate: September 7th, 2015

 

Synopsis: Tortured by a nightmare of Bill Cipher, Ford asks that Mabel go and find a unicorn, so that he can use its locks to help build a force field. Alongside Wendy, Candy, and Grenda, Mabel actually manages to stumble across a unicorn village. The unicorn nearest the front gate declares that she will give her hair to the one “pure of heart”. Mabel doesn’t necessarily fit that, though. Cue emotional crisis!!!!

Meanwhile, Ford and Dipper use a machine to try and encrypt their minds, in an attempt to protect themselves from mindjacking via Bill. What happens is… weird, to say the very least.

Review (MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD – READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION)Always! I wanna be with you! And make believe with you! And live in harmony, harmony! Oh, yeah!

Uh, sorry about that. Curse you, Andy and Vince!

Anyway… unicorns. Those mystical magical horses are among the most used fictional animals in fantasy works. Their powers, their pointy horns, their hybrid of grace and power all contribute to the unicorn’s staying power in the fantasy canon. I believe that the unicorn itself gained it’s most recent spike in popularity with the use of Twilight Sparkle, one of the protagonists of the cult hit My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic. Many new “unicorns” have been used since then and have gained cult followings, such as recurring antagonist Pony Head from Star Vs. The Forces of Evil.

Naturally, Gravity Falls, being a part-fantasy show, needed to take it’s stab at it in one episode this season. And wow, was that a great episode. An awesome episode, in fact.

But how awesome was it? Continue reading

Gravity Falls Review: "A Tale of Two Stans" (Season 2, Episode 12)

 

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Weird science!

 

Airdate: July 13th, 2015

Synopsis: After a whole bunch of madness, Stan’s brother has returned from the abyss – uh, portal. He is not thrilled, slapping Stan as his first action outside the portal. With Dipper and Mabel confused as to what the hell is going on, Stan decides to go way back…

…Glass Shard Beach, New Jersey, early 1960s.

Stan and Stanford – referred in this review henceforth as Ford – were the closest of brothers, with the two going on lookouts for mysterious goods, and Stan coming to Ford’s defense – which happened a lot, as Ford had six fingers due to a birth defect. The two plan to grow up, get on a boat they found in a cave, travel the world. However, it all goes to naught when Ford is offered a full ride to West Coast Tech, provided his science project impresses the advisors. In a fit of rage, Stan accidentally breaks the device – a perpetual motion machine – the night before. The family’s chances of financial greatness sullied, Ford sits back as their parents chuck Stan out.

After Ford gets a PhD at a… less prestigious school, he goes on investigating the anomalies of the US. He winds up in Gravity Falls, Roadkill County, Oregon, and constructs a device that could transport him to another dimension, which he believes is the source of the town’s anomalies.

Meanwhile, Stan tries to impress his parents by making a fortune as a traveling salesman. End result? He’s banned from Jersey, chucked out of Pennsylvania, winds up in various prisons, and is almost broke by the time he meets his brother again, in Gravity Falls.

Review: It’s BACK!!!!!! AGAIN!!!! Jeez, being a fan of this show requires you to have a ton of patience. Anyway, enough about that – after all this time waiting, theorizing, fanfic-writing, freaking out about how long each hiatus is, how was the episode?

Gorgeous.

(WARNING: SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON. WATCH THE EPISODE BEFORE READING ON. UNLESS YOU DON’T MIND SPOILERS. THAT’S COOL.) Continue reading

Gravity Falls Review: Season 1, Episode 3: "Headhunters"

Three figures, only one with dignity
In fair Oregon, where we lay our scene.
From retro grudge to break a nouveaux peace
Where wax-made hands make wooden floors unclean.
From forth the fatal hands of Mabel Pines
A wax figure of Stan loses his head.
But Stanford’s wax head had no connection
To Archibald Cox and eighteen minute gaps.

Airdate: June 30, 2012

Synopsis: Dipper, Mabel, and Soos stumble across a hidden room in the Mystery Shack. Said room is full of wax figurines. Stan reveals that he once had a wax museum, but it didn’t bode too well for him financially. He decides to reopen it, and commissions Mabel to make a new figure. She makes one based off of Stan. The figure itself, plus the poorly-organized press conference announcing the relaunch, makes the wax museum fail once again.

The night after the press conference, the wax figure is decapitated. With the cops on other business, Dipper and Mabel set out to find the vandal. Who is the vandal? Well, let’s just say they were close to wax Stan… and far from regular Stan.

Review (SPOILERS): One of the many, many, many things that drives people to watch Gravity Falls is the relationships between the characters – especially between our protagonists. After all, many TV shows showcase something of a power struggle between siblings, or partners/bosses in detective-type shows.

What makes Gravity Falls unique in this regard is the relatively egalitarian relationship between Dipper and Mabel. This episode cements this idea. Neither of them are a “leader” or a “follower” – they both participate in the investigation, contributing equally, while adding their own quirks to make the characters relatable.

We got a glimpse of that at the end of “Tourist Trapped” and during parts of “Legend of the Gobblewonker”. However, in the latter, the two were buoyed by Soos, and the latter was more to introduce the characters, with the dynamics being secondary. Here, the focus is on Dipper and Mabel. The dynamic that they have is brilliantly played – whatever conflict there is between them comes not from a desire of power, but due to their contrasting personalities.

It really is refreshing to see a show without a battle in the balance of power. Granted, shows like that are not to be knocked: House of Cards (both versions) and Red Dwarf showcase an antagonistic relationship between the main character and another character or two or ten. However, not every show can be Lister v Rimmer, or Frank Underwood v the President. It’s nice to see a friendly relationship such as the one between Dipper and Mabel written so well.

Their plot is actually intriguing enough as it is – not only is the twist generally, uh, “twisty”, but the climax is actually pretty scary. It’s the first time the show actually went into a sense of terror, rather than just use peril for comedy.

One might wonder whether the wax figures were really nuts before their interactions with Stan, or whether being locked away drove them mad. That’s our moral dilemma for the episode – relatively small, but worth thinking about.

John Oliver (Last Week Tonight) does a brilliant job as Wax Sherlock Holmes – managing to convey a form of comedy and terrifying leadership in his character. Oh, and getting Coolio and Larry King to guest star? Ignore the hiatus – this really shows what Disney thinks of the show; they had so much faith in it, and were so impressed, that the third episode got high-end voice actors. Brilliant.

That’s not even getting into the rest of the characters. Sherrif Blubs, Deputy Durland, and Toby Determined, as far as gag and minor characters go, are all brilliantly written, multi-dimensional, and hysterical. Kevin Michael Richardson, Keith Ferguson, and Greg Turkington are all fantastic voice actors.

While not a “must watch” episode, it’s definitely a fun one, showing the show’s evolution in the three episodes alone.

Trivia:

  • While Stan’s reaction to losing his wax self might seem exaggerated, recent events do show a… darker side to this loss. Still, a bit egocentric, eh?
  • Come to think about it, Soos’s keyboard is a bit tragic, given that he got it on the day that he realised his dad was a damn deadbeat!
  • When I first did the review, I read on the Gravity Falls Wiki that one of the detectives on Duck-Tective was voiced by Gavin McTarvish, who voiced Warden Ackerman in Series VIII of Red Dwarf. Turns out that was just a rumour. Also, I said in that review something along the lines of “weak Dwarf is better than no Dwarf.In hindsight… not so much.
  • One thing I don’t like is that they gave Richard Nixon… nothing. C’mon. Nixon would’ve been awesome. Two words: Billy. West.
Favorite Scene: The botched exposure of Toby Determined, including… “Your little knees must be sore… from jumping to conclusions!” Yeah, it’s corny, but there’s also a hint of character in it. 
Least Favorite Scene: Take out the “Duck-tective” scenes – not because they’re not funny, mind you, but because they’re unnecessary – and you would get just a bit more wax figure lines and action. Thankfully, “Duck-tective” does help flesh out Dipper and Mabel’s character, so it’s not a total write off.
Score: 9

Gravity Falls Review: Season 2, Episode 4: "Sock Opera"

“WE HAVE A TITLE!”- Joel and the Bots, MST3K (“I Accuse My Parents”)

Airdate: September 8, 2014

Synopsis: Mabel’s “boyfriend of the week” is a puppet snob. Getting trapped in a lie, she needs to produce a decent puppet show. This interferes with Dipper’s goal to secure the password to the laptop they found a couple of episodes back. Running out of options and time, he manages to come across a certain isosceles monster, who is willing to make a deal… seemingly.

Review: While Gravity Falls normally has awesome character development, a sizable chunk of it has been centered on Dipper and Stan. Mabel seems to have been put behind as far as character development goes. This episode goes far in trying to flesh her out, and in doing so, continues a streak of fantastic episodes. Continue reading

Gravity Falls Review: "Into the Bunker" (Season 2, Episode 2)

 

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“This baby is called the Withstandinator. It can take a six-megaton blast. No more. No less.”

 

Airdate: August 4th, 2014

Synopsis: Dipper is at the end of his wits when it comes to his relationship with Wendy: he needs to confess, yet also refuses to. A botched attempt at a confession drives Wendy into one of Dipper’s investigations: exploring the bunker under the tree where 3 was first found. As Dipper, Wendy, Mabel, and Soos dive down into the bunker, events conspire that drive Dipper closer to the breaking point, the duo to what seems to be a figure of local lore, and the quartet close to their demise.

*WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD: READ AT YOUR OWN RISK*

Review: Last time the writers dedicated an episode to the faux supercouple of Wendy and Dipper, the relationship between the two bottomed out. For those unawares, after Wendy broke up with Robbie, Dipper tried to get Wendy on the rebound. Wendy responded by blasting Dipper and Robbie’s misogynistic, self-serving maneuvers, before running off distraught.

That episode was “Boyz Crazy”, which was my favorite episode when I first reviewed it. Its dark themes in both its plot and subplot were striking, yet also realistic. They showed a darker side to our favorite characters.

“Into the Bunker” seems to be an attempt to finally put something of a confirmation to where Dipper and Wendy stand. In so doing, they have made an episode that further reaffirmed just how far the writing for the show has gone. Continue reading

Gravity Falls Review: “Scaryoke” (Season 2, Episode 1)

Airdate: August 1st, 2014

Synopsis: With Gideon finally secured in a local prison, the Mystery Shack holds a mixer to try and celebrate something of a return to the status quo. Pretty much the entire town is invited to the party. However, Stan’s activation of his device in the basement alerts the federal government to the town. Dipper tries to convince the feds that the town is strange… to the point where he raises the dead and wrecks the party.

*WARNING: SOME SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON. READ AT OWN RISK*

Review: To quote Red Dwarf’s Dave Lister… “SHE RIDES!”

Gravity Falls comes back, and it comes back with a bang! I’ll put it this way: it was worth the year-long hiatus. Want more? Well, so do I!

Want more? Well, so do I! Continue reading