IR TV Review: DOCTOR WHO (“Nikola Tesla’s Night Of Terrors”) [BBC America – S38]

The relevance of Doctor Who reflects in its ability to show its perspective of life giving a little bit of cheeky adventure sometimes with a heartfelt story. The dexterity of most of the episodes requires a little more mythology understanding than others. But placing it in an interesting perspective (especially today of most days) is an interesting angle. The episode “Nikola Tesla’s Night Of Terrors” has the team going back in time per se pursuing an alien trying to track and take advantage of Tesla’s inventions specifically his invention of distributing energy wirelessly. The Doctor shows up when something doesn’t quite feel right. While most of the posturing is done relatively for comic effect, there is some scenes especially between Tesla and The Doctor at one point, that seems almost romantic which is interesting to say the least but also telling to the Doctor’s psychology as well.

The reflection that builds, as always, functions with elements of some orb and a couple aliens. But it is the elements of invention, especially in Tesla and his assistant who sees his potential that speaks volume. The fact the Goran Vinsic, straight from “Timeless” plays the inventor is no idle casting. The irony for fans of that defunct show is interesting. The idea of which the Doctor and her comrades know is if it ever comes to fruition. The enthusiasm and heart and especially the rivalry with Thomas Edison and Tesla is well played, especially in the passion vs. commerce discussion. The parallel in this moment reflects in Elon Musk whose Space X today did an abort launch test blowing up a rocket on purpose after launch to show the abort system of the Dragon Capsule. Now whether or not he will achieve commercial space flight or going to Mars doesn’t diminish what he has done but will people remember his name in 100 years. The parallel of Tesla (which Musk’s production car is named after) who doesn’t get as much credit as Thomas Edison is an interesting parallel. But it is a nice homage which “Doctor Who” doesn’t forge. In fact, it embraces it with a bit more subtext than usual while still delivering the episodic thrust needed to keep The Doctor on her way.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: STAR TREK – SHORT TREKS (“The Trouble With Edward”) [CBS All Access]

The texture of “Short Treks” in the Star Trek Universe allows for those short vignettes that allow us to see perceptions into more of the lives of perhaps those that have continued on in the night. The first of this new season: “Q&A” examined Spock’s first day as an ensign on Captain Pike’s Enterprise. With the second entry: “The Trouble With Edward” we are treated to the genesis of what caused the Tribbles to become what they did. In its treatment of this lore, it is half human error and half problem solving gone wrong. Pike’s head science officer (played in a nice homage by Alita’s Rosa Salazar) is given the captain’s spot on her own science ship which has to deal with a famine/starvation situation on a planet on the edge of Klingon space.

Everything seems to go wrong mostly because of the crewman who creates the Tribble trouble in the first place because of his stubbornness, ego and slight lack of talent. Archer voice H. Jon Benjamin is a perfect foil in this way since he doesn’t mind playing the depreciation because it works as a form of satire. Salazar is good but she can be much more fluid an actress in a different situation than this small journey allows but it is great to see her being given the opportunity overall. Ultimately, “The Trouble With Edward” is a nice little tome within the pantheon and definitely brings to bear the reproducing situation of these animals, especially when it is a funneled as a food source. As usual, the human condition creates the problem against its best wishes. Plus it is good to see flaws since not every crewman is perfect. The added bonus after the credits also shows the humor that sometimes is not allowed to shine through in such a specific way on an episodic show per se.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: MURDER IN THE BAYOU (Episodes 1 & 2) [Showtime]

The notion of documentaries continues to evolve. In making true life a cinematic experience without losing the weight of what is being examined by real people talking to real people, the complication of human behavior becomes more and more defined, especially when the full truth is not know. In the first two chapters of the limited docu series “Murder In The Bayou”, the deaths so far of 7 women are revealed in various structures. They are all connected, had connections to the wrong side of town, many had drug problems. Their murders, which have been the basis of a New York Times article, have been poured over but no set arrests have been made. What the docu-series does is not lay blame but through interviews with all the accused and the victims paints the idea of a town with a secret to keep but oddly enough why it is doing so.

The story inevitably leads to a local criminal/strip club owner Frankie who provided drugs to some of the girls in exchange for tricks. His interview footage is interesting because more is obviously happening below the surface but he is not reacting. In many interviews with known criminals, there is either remorse or egotism. Here there is neither. The approach of moving with each of the victims’ families is wrenching but also deeply raw. There is pain, anger but also reflection and selfishness in a certain way.

The reflection on the local law enforcement also provides an interesting perception. In many parishes in Louisiana, the law enforcement on the area is the end all/be all as the documentary states. The essence of what happens in small towns in Cajun country is an interesting sociological experiment. Everyone knows everyone and yet everyone seems to be point fingers either way. Like a Deep South version of Twin Peaks, many of victims confessed to family members (as related to interviewers) that they had an idea what was coming. When the media starts looking closer, the response becomes more stilted because of the microscope but the blend of class consciousness but also such a mystery in a small town makes the beginning chords of this docu-series both intense, deeply sad but also intriguing.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: YOUNG JUSTICE – OUTSIDERS (Episodes 24-26) [Warner Brothers Television-S3]

The aspect of finding a way to be delivered from evil, or at least find the basis of connecting with the true nature of power, can move back and forth in a hero’s journey. The final 3 episodes of “Young Justice: Outsiders” takes this undeniably into account. Without spoiling too much of what the progression has in store, Episode 24: “Into The Breach” enters in an idea of the Meta War but is more a metaphor for Cyborg as a character becoming understanding of his duality. But the villain herself in this episode has the same paradoxical nature to her own design. Granted it is about these characters understanding that what makes them different allows them to exist outside the hero complex that affects those like Batman & Wonder Women.

In Episode 25: “Overwhelmed”, the idea is more of grief and loss than one of failure but also one of hope. The journey of Artemis to provide a texture of closure for those she has lost takes on a purgatory connotation that affects to a point with a sense of therapy. The sense of heartbreak is quite well explored with the metaphors of sunrise and sunset. This journey also seems to balance in a rumination of the progression to adulthood. Artemis may not be complete but it is who she is becoming. In this way in the same episode, the same can be said to be true of Forager who enthusiasm and belief in good also strikes at the problem of his naivete in a darker world.

In the final episode of the season, Episode 26: “Nevermore”, the idea of loyalty and respect versus birthright plays heavily in the storyline. The battles of conscience and of control are very powerful motivators. Forgiveness is also a big texture in the endgame of the season but also of consequence. The idea of power and how it is wielded as well as the choices made are asked of most of every character, between what one can do and the paths chosen. The ending cota speaks to balance but also contentment while new power takes hold, its path of righteousness neither or either altruistic or misguided as is the spin of every wheel.

The final three episodes of the 3rd season of “Young Justice: Outsiders” hit different ideals of superhero culture without feeling the need to have every sentence and action connected. While the details are there to be seen, the journey of the young heroes continues.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: CARNIVAL ROW [Amazon-S1]

Immigration stories tend to be cyclical but they show the undeniable structure of human spirit. The one great thing fantasy does, whether it be in “Game Of Thrones” or “Lord Of The Rings”, is that examines the notion of human behavior in its many shapes and forms. “Carnival Row”, the new Amazon series, is nothing if not a more tame version of “From Hell”. It wants to hit a wide audience and yet have something for everyone. In its two lead stars, Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne there is an interesting structure at play both because of their previous roles but also how their real lives distinctly push the plot in a certain way. It is well constructed in that way since the essence of their love and strife as the characters parallels the journey in a way that is genuine. Delevingne’s choices have been good for the most part (even with “Valerian”) but a bit below the radar. Bloom with his “Rings” and “Pirates” cred (even though he often gets some grief of being the second guy in the franchises he has been in) still challenges himself. His character here is the lead but is understated which belies the heart with which he plays it. It is an interesting irony seems this inspector character wears so much on his sleeve and yet betrays nothing. This character of Philo is a man fueled by secrets but it is interesting to see who he shares it with.

Like films set in the Old West, there is a certain lawlessness that is burrowed in this world with a degree of civility. This imbalance is what makes the plot work as it is the viciousness that lies underneath (without giving too much of the plot away) that fuels the fire. The progression is also about subversion. One of the most dynamic subplots examines the history and consolidation of power in a very specific way. While these are mostly secondary players these ideas are being examined through, their intention plays very much in tandem with the overall plot. Another aspect structures in the elements of class with an unlikely pairing but one that speaks of bridges and not denying those who fall in love. David Gyasi, who has picked to be part of some very interesting films, most specifically “Interstellar” and “Annihilation” is superb and understated here, again making a perception both on history but also on tolerance in a way.

All of this of course is in play from the main relationship structure between Philo and Vignette, Delevingne’s characters. Without giving too much away, the aspect of truth and consequence plays heavily in their journey. While both actors are trying admirably, the chemistry is seemingly not there for the most part. Delevingne is not a natural actress but she is getting undeniably better. Bloom’s chemistry actually with another actress is more palpable which might slightly be a function of the plot but also of the actual structure of what the story is. The similar aspect can be said of Delevingne and a former flame within the story as well. It is an interesting dichotomy that gives the story and its player indeterminate layers. Of course, the aspect of “Carnival Row” moves within the nature of the underworld or the power that moves beneath it.

The idea of family and what that connotates figures heavily into the proceedings. That power is incumbent throughout most of the season with The Chancellor played by Jared Harris and his wife subtly and then overtly moving and pushing buttons. The nature of their power is driven by love and perhaps fate. All of these characters are seemingly on a path of their own choosing which is nonetheless orchestrated by someone else. The show does well is not overdoing its technical elements making it functional enough without overdoing the CG elements. It in many ways mirrors “Warrior” on Cinema. Though that show is set in late 1800s San Francisco, it parallels the aspects of the downtrodden who in many ways don’t have a say within their own destiny until they actualldo. “Carnival Row” again shows Amazon’s continued predilection for interesting stories without going too far left field which sometimes other streamers do in an effective way to create interest. The most important angle is to tell the best story while not losing track of the actual story being told.

B+

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: “Perpetual Infinity” (STAR TREK – DISCOVERY) [CBS All Access-S2]

The aspect of loyalty is a concept that unbalances itself many times with “Star Trek: Discovery”. The idea of trust and the greater good can be mired by thoughts and perceptions of selfishness and the intricate values of altruism. In ”Perpetual Infinity”, the idea of what is for the greater good and what simply necessitates survival is what is the key in capturing The Red Angel. Without revealing any plot points, the texture of who we pretend to be always reveals itself in essence who we truly are. Michael Burnham hides her emotions to protect herself from the loss of her mother. Spock hides his emotions because of emotional pain Michael inflicted on him as a child. While the mythic is not as much in play here as the previous episode, the aspect of loss of choice and the resulting idea of consequence takes over the episode in many ways. The fluid dynamics of time have to figure in with what is happening. But the stubborn aspect of Michael’s bloodline in the feeling that every problem can be fixed is undeniable. But as Spock references two aspects of literature in the episode including one to Macbeth, the proof is in between the lines. The texture of tragedy is only a short time away. The future is fluid and is always changing but every possible outcome has a foreboding nature, as evidenced in Christopher Pike, possibly Michael and eventually and most heartbreakingly Spock. It is just in what lays ahead…come what may.

By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: “Saints Of Imperfection” (STAR TREK: DISCOVERY) [CBS All Access – S2]

The building of path interrelates to a spirit of trust. The series so far this season has been building on the basis of faith, or perhaps in a more esoteric way, trust. The mythic overtones whether in intimate relationships or in large scale pursuit paths define much of what is happening to the crew. The search for Spock is no uncertain terms is one of redemption for multiple characters, not just Michael Burnham. This episode interrelates a certain idea of the spore drive and its unintentional side effects. Tilly plays a big part in this and Mary Wiseman’s portrayal is starting to play a big deeper, which is of undeniable strength. Some characters intersect and go in and out of the story so perhaps there is too many working parts. But in league with some of the insights on faith and science that Sonequa spoke about in the character, the path becomes both more clear and more puzzling, especially when a certain type of radiation is detected towards the end of the episode. The key in this review is not to reveal any more of the plot points then needed. But ultimately the idea comes down to the path we choose. Now granted some of the dialogue can border on the melodramatic when it might need to be at times, more cutting. But in serving the story, especially with these amounts of special effects for a weekly show, the line needs to be walked. But in an unique way with the slow motion codas at the beginning and end, the tale of Discovery continues to be shaped in small bits.

By Tim Wassberg