Wednesday 20 April 2022

TREK REVIEW: PIC 2-7 - "Monsters"

An interesting and powerful episode that delves into Picard's character in a way we've not seen before, showing clearer than any script beforehand the influence that Patrick Stewart has had on the direction of this series.

It's not secret that the Trek showrunners tempted Stewart back to his best known role by ensuring him he'd have some creative control over the character and series, and that the stories would be dealing with serious contemporary concerns. Stewart has long been outspoken on the subject of domestic abuse, not only on the suffering of the abused but also the need for understanding for the abusers. Growing up in an abusive home, he recognises that these behaviours rarely come from nowhere and that there's is often a cycle of abuse and mental illness that perpetuates.

Quite rightly, then, that Star Trek should turn to this issue and address it in its own, science-fictional way. I'm sure that Gene Roddenberry would be incensed by the idea that there would still be such abuse going ahead in the 24th century, but really, no matter how far we develop in the next few centuries, humanity isn't going to magically overcome its demons en masse. The only way we can move forward is by listening and understanding people's individual struggles.

The early hints at little Jean-Luc's brutal upbringing were hinted at earlier in the season, but we finally get some real exploration of his childhood. It's no shock when the mysterious Starfleet therapist who plagues his subconscious turns out to be a representation of his father. James Callis is excellent as Maurice Picard/the psychologist, channeling the best of his Gaius Baltar arrogance and sharing remarkable father/son chemistry with a man several decades his senior. Stewart, of course, gives an exceptional performance too, showing us an angrier, more raw side of Picard that we don't get to see often enough.

Madeline Wise is almost as good as his troubled maman, engendering tremendous sympathy even when we realise that she isn't entirely as she seems. The revelation that the abusive Maurice is actually not the monster Jean-Luc sees him as, but that the Admiral has spent decades burying the memory of his mother's own mental illness and potentially deadly behaviour moves this story beyond the tried-and-tested bastard dad route.

In the circumstances, the absence of Jean-Luc's older brother Robert is odd, given how much of a father stand-in he was portrayed as in his one appearance on The Next Generation (season four's remarkable “Family”). There would be little room for him, though, given that Tallinn was given the role of entering Picard's mind to help him battle his internal demons. Orla Brady is great in this role, convincing when fighting monsters, playing with impossible technology or reassuring Picard's inner child. (Are they still looking for the next Doctor Who? Because she's a candidate if ever I saw one.) The reveal that Tallinn's actually a Romulan is about the least surprising thing so far this season, what with the little clues at first and finally the massive giveaway of the pointy-ear attachments on the tech, but it's a fun moment. Whether she's really Laris's ancestor, are actually gets some kind of extended lifespan as part of her deal with the Supervisors and is therefore Laris herself, remains to be seen.

While Picard deals with his demons, the rest of the plot treads water. We barely got a glimpse of what Queen Jurati was doing, something I'm desperate to get back to. Rios gets an entertaining plot to himself, revealing that Picard has become a father figure to him while also proving that he's learned absolutely nothing about the rules of time travel from him. Dr. Teresa is gorgeous and amazing, yes, but he basically gives up all pretence and shows her everything so he doesn't have to risk upsetting her with more lies. I'm starting to think that, whenever the original divergence was, this lot have now completely preempted it and the timeline will never get back on track.

In the closing scene, Picard goes back to bother Guinan, in a strange meeting that makes huge revelations about the El-Aurians and the Q while also posing all sorts of new questions. It seems the Listeners are more powerful than we realised, having actually formed a treaty with the Continuum centuries ago. I can only assume that the magic bottle that can be used for Q-summoning isn't the actual one from centuries past, but that an El-Aurian can use anything like that to focus the ritual. Otherwise it'd be a bit hard to believe she was allowed to just keep it in her bar on some backward planet. Of course, we know Q won't show up because his powers have failed him, but shouldn't another Q appear? This suggests something is very wrong with reality altogether – more indications that the timeline has already diverged?

Finally, Jay Karnes turns up as a slimy FBI agent, who promptly arrests both Picard and Guinan for teleporting on camera. Karnes previously played Lt. Ducane of the Federation timeship Relativity (on the eponymous Voyager episode), and I half suspect/hope that he turns out to be the very same temporal policeman, which is rather more interesting than a cut-price Mulder.

Quote of the week: “I'm from Chile, I just work in outer space.” Rios channels Kirk at his best.

Tuesday 19 April 2022

Doctor Who: The Fossilist

 If you like Doctor Who adventures featuring the Sea Devils and remarkable women from history, why not try this story written by James P. Quick and myself for The Doctor Who Project?

Monday 18 April 2022

WHO REVIEW: Legend of the Sea Devils

 Legend of the Sea Devils is only the second Easter special for Doctor Who, which is an oddity since it seems even more suited to that holiday than to Christmas. The last three regenerations have aired on Christmas, yet surely the day marking death and resurrection would be more appropriate?

The last Easter special, 2009's Planet of the Dead starring David Tennant, was an enjoyable but unremarkable adventure that boasted a fun central concept and some lovely location shooting. Legend of the Sea Devils leaves a similar impression, and like Planet of the Dead it is rather overshadowed by the impending climactic regeneration story it foreshadows.

It stands out more thanks to its returning monster. The Sea Devils, making only their third appearance on the programme and fifty years since they first appeared in the appropriately named The Sea Devils. That serial, starring Jon Pertwee, was a contemporary(ish) story, while the belated follow-up Warriors of the Deep (starring Peter Davison and broadcast in 1984) had a futuristic setting. It seems quite right, then, that the aquatic creatures return for a historical adventure, and it suits them well. Warriors of the Deep reworked them as a samurai-like warrior caste, and this seems to have inspired the Eastern setting of this new adventure.

They look fantastic. Like the Zygons and the Ice Warriors before them, the Sea Devils have been updated but kept fundamentally in line with their original appearance. Of course, they look faintly ridiculous, with their bulbous eyes and too-long necks, but if you can't handle a bit of ridiculousness then Doctor Who probably isn't the show for you. Their new outfits are perfect. They combine the pseudo-orientalist look of their eighties reworking with the string vests of their seventies originals, and make them into something actually feasible, while griming them up with an encrustation of barnacles. These old-but-new Sea Devils are gorgeous.

There's not much in the way of character for the Sea Devils, though. Their leader (referred to by IMDB as Marsissus, but nowhere in the episode itself) gets to be suitably scheming and nefarious, but otherwise the reptiles are little more than generic monsters there to swish swords then fall down. They also seem significantly more technologically advanced than the previous clans we've seen, with the macguffin doing all sorts of near-magical things, but then neither the Sea Devils nor Silurians have ever been very consistent in their background or abilities. I did love how they refer to the humans as “land crawlers,” but it was a bit daft that the Chinese was translated as “ocean demon,” which really means exactly the same as Sea Devil.

The human characters fare better, but even there we're a bit short-changed. Crystal Yu is excellent as Madame Ching, the pirate queen who dominated the seas around China in 1807. She's convincingly confident and ambitious, yet has a humility and quiet thoughtfulness as well. She's, quite correctly, devoted to her family, but the real Ching Shih was also the de facto commander of a huge pirate confederation. There's no mention of her husband Zheng Yi, so this is presumably late in 1807 after he died and she'd taken his place as leader. It was only a few short years before pirate dominance in the region was ended, but at this time she was at the height of her powers. Fine, her crew has been captured before this story, but where are the other crews?

Of course, I assume the budget (and Covid conditions) precluded a huge army of Chinese pirates, but in that case why isn't there more focus on Madame Ching herself? She deserves to dominate the plot more than she does. In reality Ching was a formidable and ruthless opponent, and we just don't see enough of that. There just doesn't seem much point using her in a story if it's not going to use her to the fullest extent.

There's the impression that the episode has been cut down from a much longer edit. Some things are minor, but nigglingly missing: where exactly were the TARDIS team going dressed up like in Chinese clothing or, in Dan's case, a pirate costume, in the first place? Others are more significant. When the episode jumps back to 1533 for no reason than to fill in a bit of the plot that could have been covered in the show's usual heavy-handed exposition, there's the impression that this side trip was originally longer and added more to the story. Still, it's a lot more fun seeing Ji-Hun battling a Sea Devil than having him turn up in the main section and explain it all. There are other points where it looks like a scene has been chopped out to streamline things, which makes it pacey but not always entirely clear what's going on.

The floating ship looks fantastic and, pleasingly, even the Chief Devil himself admits it serves no purpose other than to look menacing and impress people. As for the gigantic sea serpent, the huasen, it certainly puts the myrka to shame, but that's another element left outstanding: is that thing still swimming around out there?

Where the episode works best, other than spectacle, is the personal drama between its characters. While I'm not so convinced by the pseudo-parental relationship between Madame Ching and Ying-Ki, the young warrior is well played by Marlowe Chan-Reeves and actually has some decent chemistry with John Bishop. Ying-Chi and Dan make a fun double act and, again, really deserved a little more time on screen. However, it's pretty hard to believe in Dan's sword-fighting skills. Arthur Lee brings gravitas to the out-of-time warrior Ji Hun and works well alongside the Doctor in a touchy but respectful alliance.

However, it's the quiet moments between the Doctor and Yaz that really stick in the memory. The feelings that Yaz openly admitted to, and the Doctor merely hinted at in Eve of the Daleks are thankfully not forgotten. The Doctor, at first, is her usual awkward self, but this passes and there are some honest and tender moments between them. The Doctor's reluctance to allow herself to become that close to someone again is perfectly understandable and in character, and now that we've seen her shoulder some of the stories her impression of Yaz makes sense. Whittaker gives a strong performance in this scenes, but Mandip Gill really stands out.

Although not without its flaws, Legend of the Sea Devils is a fun romp with real heart. It's never going to appear on a list of the series' classics, but it's a decently entertaining way to spend fifty minutes.

Thursday 14 April 2022

TREK REVIEW: "Living Memory" by Christopher L. Bennett

Bennett's ongoing mission to plug the gaps in Star Trek continuity and reopen forgotten storylines reaches what might be its ultimate expression in Living Memory, as he takes on two unrelated elements from Trek's early history that have been largely ignored.

Firstly is one of the original Star Trek's most idiotic plot points. In season two's “The Changeling,” the Nomad probe wipes Uhura's memory as it tries to understand her illogical human mind, leaving her with only her basic functional and linguistic skills. The viewer is then expected to accept that Uhura is able to relearn her entire education, skills, training and presumably every event in her life so far. You can't help but feel sorry for Nichelle Nichols as she has to play the now childlike Uhura with a straight face, and the full knowledge that this time next week she'll be all back to normal.

In an otherwise excellent episode, it's a moment that destroys all suspension of disbelief, so it's unsurprising that we never hear of it again onscreen. Bennett, however, takes it as the starting point of a moving character journey, as well as a vital missing piece to the puzzle at the heart of the novel's major threat. Unforeseen phenomena dubbed “vacuum flares” have begun appearing in space, threatening ships and eventually inhabited planets, and the only clue as to their origin is that they appear to be following the route of the USS Enterprise, specifically those planet's where Uhura made planetfall. Her past actions are somehow linked to this new danger, which is a bit of a problem now that she can't remember anything earlier than season two.

Exploring the “in-between” era that links The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan, Bennett has provided a great deal of depth to the familiar characters in the past, and this book is no exception. While Uhura's quest to recover her lost memories is essential to solving the plot, but more importantly it's a heartfelt personal mission for her. We have a rare opportunity to learn more about Uhura's life, as she struggles to reconnect with her family, and abandoned friends and lovers, who she no longer remembered and couldn't bear to see before, reminded as she was only of her loss. It's a brilliant way of taking a very silly sci-fi plot point and exploring the actual long-term effect the trauma would have one someone suffering it, something that didn't happen much in the very episodic series itself.

Within this storyline we also have more exploration of Uhura's close relationship with her Enterprise colleagues, who become her replacement family after the memory wipe. She is particularly close to Scotty – who has his own traumatic memories of the Nomad encounter – and to Spock, her commanding officer and something of a mentor in this novel. We also see that she has remained close friends with Sulu and Chekov, although they're both called away on their own work for much of the book. For Chekov, this is investigating the vacuum flares, while Sulu becomes involved with Starfleet security. Admittedly, this does seem like it's the wrong way round.

The second major storyline deals with the Arcturians, an only briefly seen alien species that was created for The Motion Picture and described in background materials as running a clone army. This is, of course, pretty hard to reconcile with the Federation's ethical code, but since it was never mentioned on screen most writers have ignored it altogether. Bennett, instead, tries to rationalise it as a misunderstanding of the Arcturians' elite soldiers, the Warborn, who were genetically engineered centuries earlier and have been kept in stasis since. Now, with the stasis failing, they're being thawed out, and a handful of them are admitted to Starfleet Academy to see if they can integrate and find a new purpose in life.

It's an interesting addition to the wider Trek universe and examines the Federation's supposedly all-inclusive nature. The Warborn's introduction to Starfleet raises a lot of tensions, from peace protesters already concerned with the apparent militarisation of Starfleet, to those in Starfleet itself who worry that the Warborn would be used again in a war setting – or even lead to war by inflaming tensions with the Klingons or Romulans.

The Warborn cadets get their own distinct characters, as do several other new recruits from various Federation races. None of them really stood out for me in the same way as the established Trek characters, although I was taken with Ashley Janith-Lau, a highly intelligent peace activist who forms a relationship with Dr. McCoy. The good doctor and Admiral Kirk are largely confine to Earth in this story, as Kirk is essentially the Warborn's sponsor in the Academy. The tensions rise to the point where a murder is committed and one of the Warborn are suspected. This brings a murder mystery element to the latter part of the book, although it's a little underdone.

The two storylines run in parallel but there's little to link them, although one nice touch is that “Arcturian rapid learning techniques” that are used on Warborn soldiers were also used to help Uhura get back up to speed after the Nomad encounter. There's a lot going on in both storylines at the end of the book, but ultimately it's a little anticlimactic. However, I adored the eventual explanation for the phenomenon that's threatening local space, and Uhura's link to it. Without spoiling it here, I can say that it's ingeniously thought out, and hinges on a truly fascinating science fiction concept that brought some of the greats, like Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter to mind. Altogether, not the strongest of Bennett's books but still with a great deal to recommend it.

Monday 11 April 2022

TREK REVIEW: PIC 2-5 & 2-6




Picard continues on its way in a muddled but still highly enjoyable couple of episodes that move the season-arc on, giving us as many new questions as answers.

So, who had Gary Seven in their Trek bingo? Not me for one, although there were hints that the mysterious Watcher was linked to that sci-fi secret agent and his unseen “Supervisors.” It's remarkable that Trek has never returned to Gary's employers before (onscreen, at least, they're all over the books and comics), but that's hardly the biggest mystery here. Why does Tallinn look just like a human version of Picard's Romulan ladyfriend Laris? She claims to know nothing about Q, but then, would she be aware even if he had created her as a trap for Picard? It's good to have Orla Brady back, either way. Equally mysteriously, just why is she assigned to watch over Renee Picard, whose importance to the timeline is surely impossible to know in 2022?

Of course, individual people being vitally important to historical events is a common sci-fi trope, even if it does seem to be oversignifying one woman's space mission by making it the crux of future history. We're assuming that Picard is correct in trying to ensure Renee completes her flight to Europa. Could it not be the other way round, and that something she encounters leads humanity to become aggressively anti-alien?

On the other hand, we have Adam Soong, the latest (or rather, earliest) in a long line of Soong men played by Brent Spiner. It wouldn't be Picard without him somewhere, and to his credit, Spiner creates a character who is both reminiscent of his descendants and entirely his own person. It's interesting to see the Soong timeline come together slowly, as Adam's work in human genetics clearly leads to his descendent Arik's work with Augments a couple of hundred years later, before Arik himself switches to artificial life eventually leading his own descendent Noonian to create B4, Lore and eventually Data. All of whom look remarkably similar.

No prizes at all for guessing that his daughter Kore is a flawed clone, and that her genetic disease is the result of some error in her creation. Clearly, the image of this girl is embedded in Data's mind, having been presumably passed down to Noonian, and finally leading to the creation of Soji and Dahj and numerous other synths allied with Inigo Soong. Not a bad way of saving costs – an entire family across four hundred years, all played by two actors. It's a little hard to swallow that Kore has never googled her dad before, although I guess he could have programmed in some kind of aversion to that sort of thing that she's only now breaking. I expect this will be skirted over though.

Now that Q has lost his powers, he's rather wonderfully reduced to putting on silly accents and pretending to be Renee's psychiatrist. He seems dead set on stopping her from joining the Europa mission, but there must be simpler says of doing it. Soong tries to simply run her over, while Q is going about it in a much more Machiavellian way. Are there some kind of rules he has to play by, and if so, why? I'm still not convinced that he's actually in the wrong here – I wonder if he's actually working to prevent the Confederation timeline. Could his alliance with Soong actually be a way to discredit him, to stop him from becoming the influential figure?

The wider team get to have a lot of fun, although the Raffi and Seven storyline doesn't really go anywhere. I like how Raffi has started seeing Elnor's face everywhere. It's first played just after we've met Tallinn, looking inexplicably like Laris, so for a split second we wonder if this really is Elnor recreated. But now, it's seemingly Raffi cracking up. Nonetheless, she and Seven have spent a lot of time getting in and out of trouble just to swoop in and shut down Rios's storyline, although thankfully he reconnects with the good doctor after Picard is injured.

Everyone gives their all to their characters, with Stewart getting to make one of his trademark speeches to Renee, who is portrayed with great character and sympathy by Penelope Mitchell. (Fifty quid says we see her return to play a descendent in the fixed future at the end of the season.) Michelle Hurd gets to bring some real pain to the grieving Raffi, struggling to stay on the wagon, while Santiago Cabrera is at his charming best as Rios becomes ever-more enamoured with the 21st century that Raffi despises. (Got to wonder how he got away with smoking indoors in California though. This really isn't our timeline...)

Orla Brady makes Tallinn into a solid character, even as we kind of just want Laris back, while Spiner, de Lancy and Isa Briones all give excellent work as new players or revised versions of classic characters. The only one of the main cast underserved in these two episodes is Jeri Ryan, who as Seven just doesn't have much to do but react to Raffi and various unlikely plans.

Both episodes belong to Agnes Jurati and the Borg Queen, who are just about one character by the end of it. Annie Wersching continues to impress as a wholly different type of Queen, one who appears to be becoming increasingly human in her attitudes and personality as she spends more time disconnected from the hive and reconnecting with Agnes. After her twitching, insectile performance in episode two, Wersching's Queen has developed into a completely new creature. Stealing every scene she's in though is Alison Pill, who brings new depths and desperation to Agnes. It's no surprise that she'd shoot the Queen – we've seen her murder people she cares about far more – nor that she'd break down under pressure, although her misstep in letting herself get partially assimilated is a bit of a foolish moment.

Pill owns the show during the elaborate gala event, literally when she, under the Queen's influence, channels Pat Benetar and belts out a scene-stopping number. While the logistics are a bit hard to take – she's just been taken in as a gatecrasher, and now the band are supporting her with no instruction – Pill is so great it's impossible not to love the scene. Indeed, sashaying through the party as the advance scout, looking absolutely gorgeous while carrying off a performance as someone gradually losing their identity, Pill's is the standout performance of the season so far.

Links and observations:

All of Kore's deceased sisters are named after figures from Greek myth. In fact, several are named after the same one: Kore is another name for Persephone, the name of the first girl, and there is also a Prosperpina, Persephone's Latin variation.

Two spacecraft make cameo appearances as the gala/expo/party: Nomad, the space probe from TOS: “The Changeling,” launched in continuity in 2022; and Renee's favourite, the OV-165, a fictitious shuttle that appeared in the title sequence for Enterprise.

This, along with references to treaties outlawing certain types of genetic treatment, make it very clear that this is not our timeline, but one that simply looks a lot like it, and otherwise matches (as best can be expected) various events in Trek history.

After directing two episode, Lea Thompson appears in front of the camera as the head of the committee that slams Soong. Jonathan “Riker” Frakes takes over directing duties for these two eps.

Best lines:

He's had some transplants.”
“Which ones?”
“... all of them?”

Thursday 7 April 2022

WHO REVIEW: Mind of the Hodiac

Mind of the Hodiac - a classically old school Doctor Who title if ever there was one - is a hotly awaited title from Big Finish. The latest in the Lost Stories range, Hodiac has its origins in a script that Russell T. Davies wrote in 1986 or '87, which he happened upon when ferretting through his old materials looking for things for the lockdown events. 

One of the best regarded writers in the history of Doctor Who, and much beyond, he's certainly one of the most important. He brought the programme back sixteen years after its cancellation, and it's now been back for longer than that. This isn't the first time he's resurrected a script he'd submitted to the production team in the eighties. "The Long Game," back in series one starring Christopher Eccleston, was also a reworking of a script submitted to the latter years' production office..

But in these cases, remember, "submitted" means "rejected." Neither of these scripts were taken forward by the production team, who sent back positive-sounding notes to the young Davies. While "The Long Game" was substantially reworked for the modern series, it still felt the most old-fashioned episode of the series. Mind of the Hodiac doesn't even have that update going for it. Even though RTD's script was forward-thinking for the time, it's still very much Doctor Who of the eighties (and it's only forward-thinking in relation to the strange, idiosyncratic world of Doctor Who). 

Big Finish have a long history now of bringing Lost Stories to life. Some are really rather excellent, others make it very clear why they were dropped in the first place, but the production team always goes out of their way to make the audios sound like they're recovered soundtracks from the era they were first submitted. This is both a good and a bad thing. I love eighties Doctor Who, in all its weirdness, but there's no way you'd make television like that anymore. Creating an audioplay that invokes the era runs the risk of recreating the worst of it, from dodgy music choices to some, shall we say, "heightened" acting.

Hodiac sits in the odd position of being very clearly written by Davies, but also very evidently a bit of late eighties Who. Colin Baker and Bonnie Langford are present and correct, this script presumably having been submitted for season twenty-four, before Baker had been pushed out of the programme. It's a glimpse, then, of an alternative twenty-fourth season, in which the Sixth Doctor travelled with Mel, and their easy chemistry in Big Finish shows that they're a team that could have worked very well. Here, though, although both actors give it their all, they're characterised oddly. Mel seems to be in a particularly bad mood, sounding more like Peri for much of the first episode, while the Doctor has developed an obsession with The Wind in the Willows and keeps relentlessly quoting it. The behind-the-scenes interviews reveal that Davies had just scripted a stage version of the book and had become rather obsessed with it himself, but while it fits with the verbose Sixth Doctor it quickly becomes irritating. 

Potentially more interesting is the, unusually large, supporting cast. This is where the script is most obviously like RTD's other Doctor Who work. Hodiac features a strange juxtaposition of mind-bending sci-fi and mundane ordinary life, with a strong theme of family. T'Nia Miller (recognisable to Who fans as the regenerated General in "Heaven Sent" but better served by Davies's own Years and Years) is very good as Mrs Maitland, struggling to hold her family together after her husband abandoned her with her two daughters in an apparently haunted house. Sutara Gayle has hidden depths as her mum, while Loreece Harrison is brilliant as her forthright teenaged daughter Lisa. The pesky poltergeist activity drives them to the untrustworthy psychic investigator Mrs Chin. Another RTD favourite, Annette Badland, who of course played Margaret Slitheen in Doctor Who series one, brings Mrs Chin to brilliant life. A religious nutjob who thinks that somehow her work with the family will bring her closer to God, Chin provides an earthly villain and is pure Davies anti-religious theatre through-and-through.

All this works. Where things don't work so well is in the depths of space, in the hard sci-fi regions of the galaxy, where we meet a financial conglomerate that's willing to start devastating wars and recessions so long as it helps line their pockets. The anger at corporate greed is again very Davies, but none of this is very interesting. I work in finance, and frankly, hearing old men in space talk about it isn't any more exciting than hearing old men on Earth talk about it. Some middling performances by the many cast members in these scenes don't help. The Tungsten Warriors, while they sound cool, are faceless brutes, and while that's kind of the point of them, it's again pretty dull.

Sadly, the worst element of this is the eponymous Hodiac. From the same school of meaningless names as the Borad and the Lukoser, the Hodiac is one half of a being, separated in time and space. One soul in two bodies, reincarnated over and over, with nothing actually in common or to do with each other and, therefore, ultimately meaning nothing. Laurie Kynaston is giving it his best, I'm sure, but he isn't good enough to make the portentous sci-fi dialogue sound anything but risible. I do like the idea of a powerful space villain obsessed with the Doctor's coat, though.

A big failing with the production is clearly that only the first half is actually by Davies. There never was a script of the second episode, since it never got commissioned, although there were copious notes from which Scott Handcock wrote a new script. But with Handcock, one of BF's jobbing writers, creating the whole second half and adapting the first, it all becomes pretty standard Big Finish filler. That the Hodiac plot collides with an takes over the Maitlands' plot for much of the second half doesn't help either, since it sees the more interesting material reduced to make way for dull sci-fi nonsense.

Even though Davies's material is clearly better than Handcock's, it's still very obviously the early work of a promising young writer who hadn't quite found his voice or polished his skills. At the end of the day, for all the work the cast are putting into it, Hodiac is simply rather lifeless, and is more interesting as a historical document than an entertaining adventure.