Saturday, August 17, 2019

Here or Along the Way

Successive relationships with three men waylay Alice on her journey from New Mexico to Monterey, California. It's not always clear whether or not that's a good thing in 1974's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, a Martin Scorsese film about a single mother scraping by in Arizona after the death of her husband. With great characters and performances set against beautiful, expansive location shots, it's a pleasure to accompany Alice on her journey.

Following a fascinating opening flashback, a 4:3 sequence drenched in red light showing a little girl dreaming of being a singer, we're introduced to a now adult Alice (Ellen Burstyn), discontent in a marriage to a taciturn truck driver (Billy "Green" Bush) with a bratty kid named Tommy (Alfred Lutter). This kid is seriously annoying and it's hard to believe he hasn't made Alice lose her mind yet. But I think Tommy mainly works in the film as a personification of Alice's own anxieties.

After her husband dies suddenly in a car accident, Alice decides to head back to the brief career as a singer she had before she married Tommy's father. So she and Tommy start heading west and we're treated to lovely shots of desert rolling by while Mott the Hoople and T. Rex dominate the soundtrack.

Alice seems to be doing well until Tommy starts complaining about the unlikelihood of her finding a job, about their rapidly depleting funds, and the utter absence of hope for the future. But once in Phoenix, Arizona, after some shopping for new clothes, Alice does manage to find a job singing in a bar, though she had to break down crying in desperation to a bar owner to get that job.

Burstyn has a sweet voice and gives some lovely, soft, distinctly 70s piano bar renditions of Rogers and Hart and George and Ira Gershwin.

The film can be looked at as two episodes following a prologue depicting Alice's life before her husband's death. There's the Phoenix episode and the Tucson episode. In Phoenix, Alice dates a younger man called Ben (Harvey Keitel) and works as a singer. In Tucson, Alice is forced to work as a waitress and she dates a farmer called David (Kris Kristofferson). The first episode ends in a scene of effective, raw violence. Ben turns out to have a temper in a very credible scene depicting a man who responds to discovery of his own guilt with fury aimed at everyone else. What can Alice do but skip town with Tommy?

In Tucson, she's accepted among a slightly oddball group of employees of a diner. Her fellow waitresses include a meek woman named Vera (Valerie Curtin) who, in a scene of subtle physical comedy, constantly delivers the wrong orders to the wrong people, and a loud woman named Flo (Diane Ladd) with a raunchy sense of humour. Meanwhile, Tommy befriends a spectacularly wardrobed tomboy who calls herself Audrey (Jodie Foster), though her mother calls her Doris.

David, man number three, starts hanging around the diner and flirting with Alice, eventually working his way into her life by befriending Tommy.

In contrast to the earlier parts of her story, Alice finds herself surrounded by people who consistently demonstrate real concern for her and one another. David turns out to be a pretty sweet guy though there are some aspects of the way he treats Tommy that would probably never fly in a movie or TV show to-day. But he comes off as a decent guy nonetheless. Still, the movie wisely leaves unsettled the question of what precisely Alice needs to find fulfilment. It's certainly a pleasant journey in any case.

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore is available on NetFlix.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Bring Me the Head of John Crichton!

When Crichton's head is cut off, a variety of problems arise. The problem of succession is thrown into disarray and the Empress threatens to execute every off-worlder around, something that dampens Rygel's confidence considerably.

Season 2, Episode 13: Look at the Princess, Part III: The Maltese Crichton

Aeryn's (Claudia Black) absent for most of this because she impulsively decided to go against her misgivings and actually go on a date with the guy who'd been bugging her since Part I. Things go even worse than she imagined, though, when they decide to go rock climbing and he ends up being a useless dweeb. While complicated machinations and action scenes are happening in the capital, poor Aeryn is forced to drag her injured date across the desert.

Crichton (Ben Browder) has a more successful tryst with Jena (Bianca Chiminello) who again rescues him with her martial arts. In fact, she rescues him from his rescuer, Scorpius (Wayne Pygram), who'd pulled his severed head out of a pool of acid.

By the way, in case you forgot, Crichton was turned into a statue, which is why his head can get up to so much without his body and he's still okay when Jena "reconstitutes" him back into fleshy form. I wish they'd given him some terrible gash around the neck, though, or some other kind of creepy visual remnant of what happened to him. Maybe it wasn't in the budget or maybe the creative team just didn't want Crichton to have a noose scar for the rest of the series.

Anyway, why would Jena rescue Crichton from Scorpius if she's a Peacekeeper agent and Scorpius is a very high ranking Peacekeeper? I can only guess it's a sign of how much she's really attracted to Crichton, so much so that, after their night together, she presents him with the local kissing sauce, established in Part I as being able to show the genetic compatibility of two people. Season one had established that Peacekeepers routinely had loveless sexual encounters so it's a little surprising Jena is this into Crichton. It's even more surprising that she takes it so well when he rejects her with a simple "We're not compatible" after refusing to use the sauce.

But thinking back to Peacekeeper sexual practices does make sense of what Aeryn's going through in this episode. It makes sense that she would be feeling afraid of a new sense of emotional attachment to Crichton despite the fact that she's sexually experienced and had slept with him several times. She really is in new territory.

I do wish a little more time had been spent with Jena and her motives--maybe the writers intended to bring her back at some point and never got around to it. But reading more into the show than what's strictly there, one could surmise another reason she's so ready shoot at Scorpius is the xenophobia characteristic of the Peacekeepers which also makes Scorpius a misfit. This episode also reveals Scorpius' struggle for "thermal constancy" when the Scarran ambassador taunts him about it, an aspect to Scorpius' character I always liked. As previously established, Scorpius is half Sebacean, half Scarran. We know from season one that Sebaceans are vulnerable to heat--they experience "heat delirium" when it gets too hot--while Scarrans, apparently reptiles, thrive on heat and can produce waves of heat from their hands--which can be lethal or can be used as a truth serum.

So Scorpius' very existence seems impossible. This explains his strange S&M suit and the coolant rods inserted directly into his brain. The series began with Crichton, D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe), Zhaan (Virginia Hey), and Rygel (Jonathan Hardy) all trying to find their way home. Then Chiana (Gigi Edgley) was introduced, someone trying to do just the opposite and escape from home. And now Scorpius is the ultimate misfit. It's actually kind of admirable he's so focused on getting the wormhole technology from Crichton's brain when he has so many other issues to deal with.

Meanwhile, the subplot about Moya's builder (Jonathan Hardy) wanting her to commit suicide is resolved. It turns out to be something like the reverse of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son--it turns out the builder's whole purpose from the beginning was just to test Zhaan, who passes said test when she tries to kill "God", the builder. Zhaan is understandably not amused and I don't blame her for being unwilling to see this guy as a deity. But it's a thought provoking story. Is it really an analysis of religion or of just a sentient being pretending to be God?

It doesn't quite connect with the main plot which concludes with Chiana becoming a damsel in distress, chained over the pool of acid by the Scarran who's desperate now that he's graphically murdered Prince Clavor (Felix Williamson). But, of course, everything resolves well enough for Crichton to agonise over the fact that he can't be turned back into a statue, a fate he's willing to undergo when he learns Princess Katralla (Felicity Price) has been impregnated by his DNA.

So concludes the three part episode and the three loves of Crichton are whittled back down to just Aeryn as the two swap kissing sauce in a nice scene at the very end where Aeryn's emotional journey comes to a surprisingly satisfying fruition.

. . .

Farscape is available now on Amazon Prime.

This entry is part of a series I'm writing on Farscape for the show's 20th anniversary. My previous reviews can be found here (episodes are in the order intended by the show's creators rather than the broadcast order):

Season One:

Episode 1: Pilot
Episode 2: I, E.T.
Episode 3: Exodus from Genesis
Episode 4: Throne for a Loss
Episode 5: Back and Back and Back to the Future
Episode 6: Thank God It's Friday Again
Episode 7: PK Tech Girl
Episode 8: That Old Black Magic
Episode 9: DNA Mad Scientist
Episode 10: They've Got a Secret
Episode 11: Till the Blood Runs Clear
Episode 12: Rhapsody in Blue
Episode 13: The Flax
Episode 14: Jeremiah Crichton
Episode 15: Durka Returns
Episode 16: A Human Reaction
Episode 17: Through the Looking Glass
Episode 18: A Bug's Life
Episode 19: Nerve
Episode 20: The Hidden Memory
Episode 21: Bone to be Wild
Episode 22: Family Ties

Season Two:

Episode 1: Mind the Baby
Episode 2: Vitas Mortis
Episode 3: Taking the Stone
Episode 4: Crackers Don't Matter
Episode 5: Picture If You Will
Episode 6: The Way We Weren't
Episode 7: Home on the Remains
Episode 8: Dream a Little Dream
Episode 9: Out of Their Minds
Episode 10: My Three Crichtons
Episode 11: Look at the Princess, Part I: A Kiss is But a Kiss
Episode 12: Look at the Princess, Part II: I Do, I Think

Thursday, August 15, 2019

When Maniacs Collide

A man wearing a big rubber mask holds a hammer over Ellie Masters where she lies in bed, staring confusedly back at him before finally screaming. The cruel matron of the orphanage where Ellie is staying explains this is only a dream in 1971's Blood and Lace, a captivating and schlocky riff on Psycho with a theremin-heavy soundtrack oddly pulled from Sci-Fi films. This only scratches the surface of this famous pulp film's free-associative plot which also includes frozen corpses that bleed, at least four murderous maniacs occasionally at cross purposes, and a whole lot of really short dresses and nighties. It's hard to take your eyes off this movie, it's a terrific pleasure.

The Wikipedia entry calls Blood and Lace a proto-slasher film. Like later slasher films, it takes some conspicuous cues from Psycho. Blood and Lace focuses on a pretty young blonde woman, Ellie (Melody Patterson), before introducing an unrelated maniac, Mrs. Deere (Gloria Grahame), who routinely turns to her dead husband for advice on how to run her orphanage.

I suspect this movie had a substantial influence on David Lynch. Ellie looks and behaves so much like Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive it's uncanny--and I'd be spoiling both movies if I told you why the resemblance doesn't end there. The film starts with the murder of Ellie's mother, a prostitute, and one of her mother's johns. For this sequence, director Philip S. Gilbert introduces the novel technique of attaching a hammer to the camera, offering us a first person "hammer cam", if you will.

In the aftermath, Ellie has been temporarily committed to a hospital in her lacy nightie but she argues with a social worker named Mullins (Milton Selzer), insisting she be allowed to leave so she can seek out her biological father. The fact that she knows virtually nothing about him doesn't seem to discourage her.

Managing to sneak out of the hospital, she's immediately pursued by a strange man (Vic Tayback) who doesn't think to mention he's a police detective until after she's run off the road and along the train tracks for a while. There are a lot of logical problems in this film but there actually turns out to be sort of an explanation for this later on.

He informs her she needs to go live in an orphanage. Ahead of this, we're introduced to Mrs. Deere and her henchman, Tom (Len Lesser), who cuts off a boy's hand when he attempts to flee the place. We also have a glimpse of Tom's and Mrs. Deere's routine of moving corpses out of the freezer and into beds in order to pass inspections by Mullins. He doesn't look too closely at things due to a tacit understanding he has with Mrs. Deere who sleeps with him in exchange.

There's a scene later in the film where Mrs. Deere talks to Ellie about remembering what it was like to be beautiful and warns Ellie that one day she'll look in a mirror and see someone like her. But Gloria Grahame, who was 46 at this point, actually looks really good. I'd say her performance is more animated, too, than in The Man Who Never Was though she still has the almost totally paralysed upper lip.

Ellie discovers a girl tied up in the attic, begging for water--a victim of Mrs. Deere's brutal discipline, but Ellie doesn't think to mention it when the police detective drops by. The detective, whose name is Calvin, is shown in an earlier scene reminiscing with Mullins about how nice it was sleeping with Ellie's prostitute mother and talking about how much he'd like to get into Ellie's pants now. At the same time, he does seem genuinely interested in getting to the bottom of shenanigans at the Deere Orphanage.

Which all leaves the question, who is the man in the mask with the bright red and black shirt, wielding the hammer? He looks like an ancestor of both Freddy Krueger and Leatherface. Also, why does Mrs. Deere like to talk about reanimating corpses?

This movie is so much better than I was expecting it to be and it's available on Amazon Prime.

Twitter Sonnet #1267

Selected cats perform the martial role.
Along the wall the tabbies claw the stone.
A crenelated glimpse revealed the soul.
The fastest paw acquired nip alone.
A tower guard's asleep in iron helm.
A whisker set detects an arrow's path.
To save a kitten, cats reclaim the realm.
Or mug or glass provokes the paw to wrath.
The brave and bristly troop prepares.
A team of tails arrays atop the wall.
But hark: a bigger cat appears.
A secret puma stands and swipes them all.
The snarling foe attacks a squeaking bait
As coiled storms of fur in boxes wait.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Rambling On Through 18th Century England

A big Frenchman, presumed dead, rises from a coffin, somehow not much startling the young draper's apprentice left to watch the corpse. The imperturbable lad joins the big man on the road with vague indications of reluctance in Ken Loach's 1979 film Black Jack. Apparently employing non-professional actors and displaying a dedication to natural lighting and locations, there's a Neorealist vibe to the movie, much like Loach's earlier film, Kes. Black Jack doesn't as successfully portray the psychology of its characters and some of their actions remain mysterious by the film's end. But with the attention to detail in costumes and props, there's always a nice feeling of watching candid footage of 1750 England.

The big Frenchman is Black Jack (Jean Franval), called that because no-one can pronounce his real name. His first attempt as a footpad is forestalled by the lad, Tolly (Stephen Hirst), who convinces him to help the occupants of a coach that gets stuck in a puddle instead of robbing them. The grateful occupants reward the pair with money so Black Jack decides to create more opportunity by throwing a big rock in the puddle.

The next coach to run into trouble is bearing a little girl named Belle (Louise Cooper), the most entertaining character in the film. Stricken with madness, her wealthy father has decided to quietly send her off to a madhouse, to where she was en route when Black Jack's rock stopped her. The first thing she says when Tolly catches her running off into the woods is, "I can use the privy!"

Cooper has a charming, toothy grin and seems committed to telling people about a golden topped tower only she can see. Stephen Hirst as Tolly gives a lifeless performance that sometimes works to convey an emotionally numbed or insecure child. But mostly his monotone, mumbly line readings are good proof of the value in some professional training (it was hard to get a screenshot of him with his eyes open).

Black Jack recedes into the background somewhat when Tolly and Belle are taken in by a travelling, miracle elixir merchant accompanied by three of the dwarves who'd later appear in Time Bandits--Malcolm Dixon, Mike Edmonds, and David Rappaport. It was pretty easy to imagine Randall, Strutter, and Og themselves were there, still on their quest to find plunder throughout history.

The climax of the film turns on some kind of arbitrary character motives but it was effective enough that I was hoping for the heroes to prevail. Black Jack is available on The Criterion Channel.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Never Get Off the Boat

Assassination attempts, marriage, intrigue, the value of material possessions, the nigh-vacuum of space, and living spacecraft euthanasia are just some of the things that factor into one very busy episode of Farscape.

Season 2, Episode 12: Look at the Princess, Part II: I Do, I Think

This episode also has one of Aeryn's (Claudia Black) best lines. When a handsome local still won't stop flirting with her, she tosses away his vial of kissing sauce and says, "It's not you, it's me. I don't like you."

Aeryn's ongoing trouble with her feelings of attachment are backgrounded a little bit, though, as this episode focuses more on the attempts to kill Crichton (Ben Browder). The previous episode ended with some thugs using a weird ray to try to scramble his skull. This episode begins with an unexpected rescue by Prince Clavor's fiancée, Jenavian (Bianca Chiminello), who turns out to be a Peacekeeper agent sent to ensure Clavor (Felix Williamson) doesn't take power, which would give an edge to the Peacekeeper rivals, the Scarrans.

She must be a particularly good agent, too, since, in addition to her martial arts expertise (I bet she could even beat Bruce Lee!) we now know she managed to maintain her cover under the effects of the Scarran ambassador's (Thomas Holesgrove) heat ray.

This attempt on Crichton's life being foiled, he immediately stirs up trouble by not pretending Clavor hadn't been behind it, an unheard of breach of etiquette. This angers the woman Crichton's being forced to marry, Katralla (Felicity Price), until a floating sphere intrudes on their conversation with an attempt to kill both Crichton and Katralla together.

Rescued this time by Ben Browder's real life wife, Francesca Buller, playing the seemingly meek servant ro-NA, Crichton's soon after sent into orbit as per a scheme hatched by Rygel (Jonathan Hardy), who still commands an atypical degree of respect in this episode. He's even able to convince the Empress (Tina Bursill) his ideas are good.

The voice of Rygel, Jonathan Hardy, pulls double duty in this episode, also playing an ethereal being whom Moya and Zhaan (Virginia Hey) encounter. In a subplot unrelated to anything else in the episode, Zhaan is unsuccessfully attempting to prevent Moya's builders from decommissioning her--forcing her to commit suicide--because Moya's shown she's capable of giving birth to war ships like Talyn. This will be resolved in the third episode so it may be best to talk more about it then but in this middle episode it's perhaps the most thematically resonant portion in a story otherwise devoted to plot and action.

Though this episode has some really nice character moments for Crichton. Going into what turns out to be his very temporary exile from the planet, he has a conversation with ro-NA about material possessions, something ro-NA's people apparently don't believe in (though ro-NA herself will shortly prove to be a bit of an ill-starred maverick). I felt Crichton's pain as he suddenly realises he's millions of miles away from access to the nearest recording of Charlie Parker. Maybe all this contributes to the first proper instance of Crazy Crichton business.

Sure, he'd acted a bit loony in "Crackers Don't Matter", but he was under the influence of exterior forces. Here, arguably the strain of his new life finally gets to him when he realises Braca (David Franklin), holding a gun on him to keep him prisoner for Scorpius (Wayne Pygram), can't actually kill him because Scorpius needs him alive. Still, it's a gutsy move to do what Crichton does, effectively taunting Braca to kill him using quotes from Blazing Saddles and Aliens. He seems to have to untether himself from rational behaviour slightly, something he finds all too easy, and he develops it into a positive talent in future episodes.

This leads to some desperate EVA in which Crichton, without a helmet, uses a gun as a makeshift thruster, a bit remarkably similar to a scene in Cowboy Bebop (from the episode "Heavy Metal Queen"), though I don't know if it was an intended reference or just a coincidence. Though it's worth noting Spike Spiegel is also a big fan of Charlie Parker.

. . .

This entry is part of a series I'm writing on Farscape for the show's 20th anniversary. My previous reviews can be found here (episodes are in the order intended by the show's creators rather than the broadcast order):

Season One:

Episode 1: Pilot
Episode 2: I, E.T.
Episode 3: Exodus from Genesis
Episode 4: Throne for a Loss
Episode 5: Back and Back and Back to the Future
Episode 6: Thank God It's Friday Again
Episode 7: PK Tech Girl
Episode 8: That Old Black Magic
Episode 9: DNA Mad Scientist
Episode 10: They've Got a Secret
Episode 11: Till the Blood Runs Clear
Episode 12: Rhapsody in Blue
Episode 13: The Flax
Episode 14: Jeremiah Crichton
Episode 15: Durka Returns
Episode 16: A Human Reaction
Episode 17: Through the Looking Glass
Episode 18: A Bug's Life
Episode 19: Nerve
Episode 20: The Hidden Memory
Episode 21: Bone to be Wild
Episode 22: Family Ties

Season Two:

Episode 1: Mind the Baby
Episode 2: Vitas Mortis
Episode 3: Taking the Stone
Episode 4: Crackers Don't Matter
Episode 5: Picture If You Will
Episode 6: The Way We Weren't
Episode 7: Home on the Remains
Episode 8: Dream a Little Dream
Episode 9: Out of Their Minds
Episode 10: My Three Crichtons
Episode 11: Look at the Princess, Part I: A Kiss is But a Kiss

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Best Play for Real Money, the Remarkable Play for Forgeries

Sometimes the most hazardous path is the most profitable. But sometimes that profit comes in the form of counterfeit bills as in 1962's Danger Pays (危いことなら銭になる), a gangster comedy from Studio Nikkatsu. From a film starring Joe Shishido, I was hoping for a more straightforward gangster film but I grew to really like the injection of screwball comedy to the format, coming out something like Too Many Crooks, a real comedy instead of a postmodern parody.

Joe plays "Glass Joe", one of three goofballs, three low-level yakuza trying to find their way into a big outfit. Each one has a name reflecting some weird personality trait--Slide Rule (Hiroyuki Nagato) is obsessed with measuring the statistical probabilities of every decision, Dump Truck (Kojiro Kusanagi) is a heavy, and Glass Joe has a mental break every time anyone scratches glass to make a squeaking sound. As you can imagine, this comes into play more than once.

The trio sometimes work together, more often they're hustling against each other. When they catch wind of a counterfeiting scheme by one of the big outfits they all rush to the airport to be the first to pretend to be the grandson or son of the elderly, master money forger who turns out to be none other than Bokuzen Hidari.

Fans of Akira Kurosawa will recognise him from several of that great filmmaker's best movies, including Seven Samurai, Ikiru, and The Lower Depths. But in Japan at the time, Hidari was primarily known as a comedic actor and appeared in a wide range of genre films. With all the young gangsters rushing around and chattering at lightspeed as a befits a screwball comedy, the slow-talking Hidari with his permanent Weary Willie expression is a perfect counterpoint as he pours forth his wisdom on what makes a great counterfeit bill.

It's weird to see Shishido playing such a goofball. Normally he played badasses. Here he comically runs down the street at the sight of two pieces of glass rubbed against each-other, wearing a burgundy suit in contrast to everyone else's grey, and a trilby that looks two sizes too small.

He finds an ally in another of the film's great assets, the adorable Ruriko Asaoka as Tomoko, receptionist for the big yakuza outfit. His first question when he sees her is an incredulous, "How old are you?" She, mistaking him for a salesman, replies, "Young enough. I don't need any cosmetics, thank you."

JOE: Who raised you? I want to talk to them.

TOMOKO: You can't! They're six feet under.

JOE: Not every man is a salesman, you know.

When Joe answers the phone for her it turns out to be her boss on the line who immediately fires her. She angrily tosses Joe against the wall, revealing that she just so happens to be an expert in Judo. She informs him her dream is to one day teach Judo in Paris.

Despite this rocky start, they become allies and they work together to raid the club Acapulco where the big gang has set up Hidari with his requested erotic working environment--under the glass floor stage where women dance in lingerie.

Every second of the film seems to have twelve gags and mostly it all works--especially since the characters take hold really well, particularly Joe and Tomoko. Danger Pays is available on Amazon Prime.

Twitter Sonnet #1266

Elusive leaves procure a summer fall.
A season time remits the watching hand.
Concealing phones in trees prolongs the call.
A million voices spoke along the band.
A greenish blue dispersed between the oaks.
Diverted paths arrive at sep'rate feet.
A wobbly wheel removed its crooked spokes.
The wooden cart collapsed upon the street.
A crooning chorus drowns repeated games.
A crystal glass contains a whisky shot.
A winning race becomes the horse it lames.
A boiled pepper bloats within the pot.
A solar cake collected worlds in books.
No diners came for all professed were cooks.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Machine Wants Your Job, the Rani Wants Your Brain

Yesterday was Kate O'Mara's birthday, to-day is Ron Grainer's birthday, and to-morrow will be John Nathan-Turner's birthday. So it seemed like a good time to watch Mark of the Rani, the 1985 Doctor Who serial produced by John Nathan-Turner, starring Kate O'Mara as The Rani, and with theme music composed, like every episode of Doctor Who, by Ron Grainer. One of the better stories of the Sixth Doctor's notorious tenure, it benefits from museum locations that had worked to recreate the early Industrial Revolution northern England long before Doctor Who showed up. And the rivalrous relationship between the Rani and the Master easily outshines anything the Doctor and Peri are up to.

I like how all the mine workers use "thees" and "thous" like characters from Dickens' Hard Times. It's pretty rare for Doctor Who to pay so much attention to dialect. Half of these workers are zombies, robbed of the ability to sleep and therefore rendered susceptible to hypnotic suggestion by the Rani (O'Mara) whom we first meet masquerading as an old woman running a bathhouse.

Also in town is George Stephenson, the real life 19th century engineer and pioneer of rail transport--here played by Gawn Grainger. The Doctor (Colin Baker) is excited to meet him but is continually waylaid by the Rani's servants, who are taken to be Luddites--since they aren't really Luddites the show sadly sidesteps an issue with great story potential.

But when the Master (Anthony Ainley) turns up, his first appearance in the Sixth Doctor era, he and the Rani have a wicked snootiness competition that nicely dominates the serial. We learn that the Rani, a Time Lady, has been expelled from Gallifrey partially for being a Mengele-ish, psychopathic experimental scientist, and partially for creating a mutant mouse that attempted to eat the Lord President's cat. O'Mara's performance, as she matches Ainley arched eyebrow for arched eyebrow, remains effective even in the second episode's climax where her plan is to turn people into trees using special land mines.

When one of these new trees grabs Peri (Nicola Bryant) I half expected it to say, "How'd you like it if someone picked an apple off of you!?" It's not the most convincing tree costume I've ever seen, I must say.

This may be the most conservative costume Peri ever wears though why she's wearing it isn't quite explained. I think there's some mention of how the TARDIS was supposed to materialise in the 16th century but I'm not sure that blouse belongs in any time period except maybe in a waffle house in the 80s.