Saturday, June 30, 2018

More Expansive than Ever Before

I completely forgot what day of the week it was on Wednesday so I didn't get around to watching the season finale of The Expanse until Thursday night. Comprised of two episodes, it certainly was glorious with lots of nice character moments.

Spoilers after the screenshot

If there was any doubt about Drummer's (Cara Gee) badass credentials, I think they were put to bed when the woman with a crushed spine rigged herself up a new pair of legs just to make sure Ashford (David Straithairn) didn't get out of hand as captain. She was right to be worried though he is a lot more complex than a two dimensional villain.

He has the natural reaction to Holden's (Steven Strait) story--this guy's nuts--but he's open minded enough to remember it when the protomolecule blob reacts to the test bomb. He's smart enough to take in even improbable data, he's experienced enough not to discount anything as impossible. I'm glad Clarissa (Nadine Nicole) didn't succeed in killing him.

Her switching sides was plausible and satisfying. Though it's another moment in her life of looking for cues from other people to decide what she needs to do. At least she listened to the right person this time.

Meanwhile, looks like Amos (Wes Chatham) has found himself a new idol. I've noticed the teleplays have kept Anna (Elizabeth Mitchell) from mentioning her wife to Amos, but, then again, that didn't affect his fixation on Naomi (Dominique Tipper).

Amos had some subtly intriguing development this season. That sort of dead eyed performance Chatham gives actually makes sense now after Amos explained his inability to feel strong emotions a couple episodes back. No wonder he's always looking for a surrogate moral compass. Is he the true "high functioning sociopath" to use the phrase Sherlock made so popular?

Of all the characters, I felt like Anna was the only one really short-changed by the finale. She was wrestling with the fact that she didn't seem to have any compassion for Clarissa so maybe Amos will turn out to be as much a useful model for her as she is for him. Two ships passing in the night. But I miss the line of character development for Anna that seemed to end a couple episodes back. Her mind isn't as much on the meaning of this mission and how her personal life reflects on her involvement in it. Maybe there'll be more of that next season.

The travel rings set up by the protomolecules kind of seem like they're pointing the show in a Deep Space Nine direction--it's like the wormhole to the Gamma quadrant. Now all the factions have to come to some kind of agreement about who gets to use the rings and how and when.

It was a well put together finale, better than last season's, and I look forward to season four.

Twitter Sonnet #1129

The copper hid between the watching stones.
A bristling grass conducts the string aloft.
Abandoned warps observe about the bones.
For wind a battered hatch discreetly coughed.
Computers slip a clicking mortal grip.
A final tick confirms the clock in time.
A portal's fate consumes the match's tip.
An ember holds his pipe in space to climb.
In cactus blurs the questions drop the heat.
Extending suns replace the blue for sky.
The guest became a soft and boiled beet.
The solace of a cape secured the pie.
A late finale moved to early days.
A walking sign creates the newest ways.

Friday, June 29, 2018

A Troublemaker Departs

I first started reading Harlan Ellison almost twenty years ago. The great, renowned Science Fiction writer who passed away on Thursday night was for me a gateway between two different kinds of storytelling. I was a Trekkie when I was a kid, I guess I still am, more or less, though I got a C in Star Trek class in college. I know I saw "City on the Edge of Forever" when I was little so that would've been my first exposure to Ellison's work. By my senior year in high school, I was straying from the Apollonian, concept oriented world of Science Fiction like Star Trek with the feeling that there was a bigger world to be found in fiction that focused on emotional experience. I started watching a greater diversity of movies and reading a greater diversity of books. I became obsessed with the Beats who, aside from some of the imagery and ideas of William S. Burroughs, were about as far from the Sci-Fi I read as a kid as you could get. But thankfully I discovered Harlan Ellison and this illusory paradigm was broken down for me.

I have a distinct memory of sitting outside of an astronomy class on a little grassy plot almost twenty years ago and reading "Broken Glass", a story included in Ellison's Angry Candy collection. It was a kind of blend of volatile psychological writing and Sci-Fi concept I hadn't encountered before, the first person experience of a young woman on a bus who discovers someone is invading her daydream. It's not even one of his best or one of his best known stories but his attention to conveying the sense of the experience, something that might've been considered a waste of space by other writers more focused on communicating concept, was the kind of thing I thought I'd have to look outside of Sci-Fi for.

I followed this by exploring his older work and not only did he elevate Sci-Fi for me but he was part of a re-evaluation of many of my old favourites I'd lost interest in, discovering knew ways in which the stories impacted me or realising ways in which they'd impacted me all along but I'd failed to appreciate.

Many of his obituaries are talking about the trouble behind the scenes in "City on the Edge of Forever". I don't blame Ellison for disliking the way it's filmed--it has too many close-ups and too many broad musical stings. But having the episode brought to mind yesterday was strangely appropriate. All day I'd been thinking about the debate about civility in political discourse. Generally I'm a proponent of civility and I've been alarmed by how much hyperbole there has been in writing from all sides of the political spectrum. I see the usual Star Wars memes, people painting their opponents as Jabba the Hutt or Darth Vader. Peter Herman, professor at San Diego State University who I'm friends with on facebook, posted articles from the 30s where columnists urged Jews to be more civil to the Nazis. The similarity to "City on the Edge of Forever" immediately struck me--Edith Keeler, the character played by Joan Collins, whose urging of pacifism results in a victory for the Axis powers in the alternate timeline, almost seems like one of those columnists.

What struck me, though, was the emotional experience of uncertainty, the feeling that drastic action must be taken, without knowledge of which is the proper action, and arguments for both on either side. After all, eschewing civility also led to internment camps for Japanese American citizens during the second World War. There's always another side of the coin. Personally, the civility I'd advocate is not towards Nazis but rather more thought put into deciding who's a Nazi and who isn't. We can laugh at Bradley Whitford saying he voted for Obama in Get Out but should we really think of the people who voted for both Obama and for Trump as murderers because they can't or won't understand the implications of Trump's rhetoric and ideas? Is it better to bully them or to look for a way to enlighten them? Do enough people have the strength Kirk had, knowing the ambiguities--having a strong feeling that what he was doing was wrong but knowing what he was doing was right? In her essay about the MeToo movement, Margaret Atwood suggested maybe this isn't the time for writers like her who focus on the nuances of human nature and psychology. Do we need a propaganda machine dehumanising others so the average, uneducated citizen doesn't have to think about these choices? Do we need a Ticktockman?

At the beginning of "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman", Ellison quotes from Thoreau:

The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgement or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others--as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and officeholders--serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the Devil, without intending it, as God. A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it.

And this is why one tends to prefer the Harlequin in the story over the Ticktockman. But as Ellison points out in the introduction to the story where it's included in the collection Troublemakers, "The lesson here is one that will get you clobbered if you follow it. Run your life at your own pace, not that of the Man."

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Virginie, the Inquiring Voyeur

Nothing complicates a relationship quite like a murder. When Brigitte Bardot spots her husband with a gun standing over the body of a deceased Dawn Addams in 1959's Come Dance with Me (Voulez-vous danser avec moi?) she draws the natural conclusion. But she's willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and plays detective for the bulk of this mostly charming comedy murder mystery.

The beginning of the film takes us quickly through how Virginie (Bardot) met Herve (Henri Vidal). The opening credits are played over footage of Bardot, dressed for mildly formal cocktails, impatiently trying to get a dentist on a pay phone. Her father has a toothache--when she finally reaches the home of a dentist, Herve, he's busy with a very informal poker game.

As Virginie and her father arrive at Herve's home, we're presented with this contrast between a carefully brought up, possibly sheltered, young woman and this dishevelled barbarian.

But they're both attracted to each other and, a few jump cuts later, they're married and having an argument in which they declare never intending to speak to each other again. Herve goes to a club where he runs into Anita (Addams) and goes home with her, passionately kissing and fondling her while her accomplice, a very young Serge Gainsbourg, secretly takes pictures.

Herve backs off, saying he can't be unfaithful to his wife, but I'd say he'd already crossed that line when he started kissing Anita, to say nothing of when he pulled her top off and we were given a shot of Addams' nipple double. When she and Gainsbourg decide to implement their blackmail scheme, Herve goes to confront her where she teaches at a dance studio, Virginie follows, the body is found, and the main plot begins.

Most of the film is from Virginie's perspective as she tries to figure it all out. Like her, we're not sure if her husband is guilty or not. Those who employ the term "male gaze" would say of course this film is still an example of the male gaze not only because of its male director and screenwriters but because of how the language of film was created by men. One of my objections to the term "male gaze" is its variety of definitions and how many amateur critics lazily switch between definitions while using the term over the course of a single review. Another complication is evident in this film when one of the suspects Virginie encounters is a gay man named Daniel (Philippe Nicaud).

The police are suspicious of him because of his "morality" as he puts it but Virginie shrugs and says she has no problem with him. I wish I could say this was the beginning of a surprisingly enlightened attitude in a film for its time but unfortunately this does not turn out to be the case. It's not Dressed to Kill bad but it is in the same ball park--that is, the trope of gay men doing bad despite the nice heterosexuals obviously willing to accept them. This is a product of a certain latent code of morality, part of what would be labelled the "male gaze" but it's clear here the term is hopelessly deficient and reflective of a too limited perspective. Obviously this gaze is not inherently male.

But Virginie's sexual attitude is intriguing in less disappointing ways. While Herve was having his ill-fated first encounter with Anita, Virginie reveals she'd been at a strip club, watching women strip. She'd seemed to enjoy this, an interesting comment on sexual power dynamics, but says she'd much rather watch men strip.

There's a rabbit hole of radical thought that would finally say any expression of sexual voyeurism or assertion on a woman's part is still a product of the oppressive patriarchy. But Come Dance with Me is mostly a fun fantasy, obviously influenced by Hitchcock, but never comes near To Catch a Thief or even The Trouble with Harry.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Sidelined Steel

I've always thought Maureen O'Hara could have been a great action heroine. You can see it in 1952's At Sword's Point, a swashbuckler with terrible dialogue and tone deaf direction. But it has some marvellous production design and some really great sword fights.

And O'Hara is the best swordfighter in the film. Playing Claire, the daughter of Arthos from The Three Musketeers, she joins with the sons of the other three heroes from Dumas' story in an effort to serve the Queen (Gladys Cooper) who, in the chaotic aftermath of Cardinal Richelieu's death, is struggling to protect the throne from the villainous Duc de Lavalle (Robert Douglas).

Most of the performers in the film don't distinguish themselves. Robert Douglas as the villain is always a hazy drip, Alan Hale Jr. as Porthos Jr. was at this point unsuccessfully trying to imitate his father's famous natural merriment. Worst of all is Cornel Wilde, positioned as the lead as the son of D'Artagnan.

He's a decent enough swordsman in the action scenes but he never seems to deliver a line with any enthusiasm. He's just kind of blandly polite. He always seems like a waiter in an Olive Garden commercial.

The writing and direction don't help. When at one point the heroes' plans are apparently dashed and the princess (Nancy Gates) looks like she's going to have to marry the Duke, everyone gathers in the queen's chambers just shrugging their shoulders like they lost a baseball game. There's no hint of disappointment or of a hidden plan to reverse the outcome. But the scene transitions to one of the few effectively funny moments in the film--though it's a moment that doesn't make any sense--when the Duke is shocked to discover Claire has been substituted for the princess at the altar.

And O'Hara lets him have one of her wonderfully sadistic laughs. She has everything Cornel Wilde has and everything he lacks--she has his reflexes and physical strength but she also gives the impression of tenacity and a focused anger. Her demon was really only fully let out in The Quiet Man but you could see a bit of how it could've been utilised in numerous scenes where she gets to handle a sword in this film.

As usual in a move from the period where a woman cross-dresses, there's a dumb scene where she gets flustered at suddenly finding herself a woman in intimacy with men--in this case it's the prospect of having to share a bed with the three other heroes. But there's plenty of scenes of her with gleeful fury swinging a sword to make up for it. It's hard to believe even in 1952 people didn't watch the movie and think she should've been D'Artagnan.

Twitter Sonnet #1128

The yielded emblem clings to fuzzy sleeves.
A dizzy push replaced the daisy night.
A double leg accepts at once the greaves.
Reward became a dreamy bubble kite.
A burning button starts the day's compute.
Triceratops could dial phones in thirds.
For finger wheels revolve in blank commute.
A city river clutched its swimming birds.
A hall of orca ribs becomes a course.
A stamping man awaits beneath the tusk.
The burning shade conducts a shadow horse.
The twisting net concludes a fishy dusk.
A red edition perks the leather book.
A shiny bowl betokens candy took.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Cowboys and Animals

There's always a danger that a righteous crusade can become a mission to satisfy personal vanity. In Cowboy Bebop, succumbing to such a lack of self-awareness can lead to being forever trapped in hyperspace.

Session Four: Gateway Shuffle

When people talk about privilege nowadays, the privilege human beings have compared to other animals is rarely acknowledged. Even the most uncompromising progressive activist might shrink at giving up the pleasure of eating meat. In Cowboy Bebop, the issue becomes even more complicated because we've already been introduced to one animal, Ein, who has at least human intelligence. But the animal rights activists introduced in the fourth episode are unambiguously terrorists.

In fact, they seem like Ma Barker and her gang of criminal sons. When Spike (Koichi Yamadera) and Jet (Unsho Ishizuka) look into her past, we do get a glimpse of a young Murdock (Mari Arita) when she was presumably a more clear-sighted activist. Now, though, her design to release a chemical into the air that turns everyone into chimpanzees seems counterproductive to say the least.

We quickly see that she has no desire to be infected herself, despite what she says about her intentions to level the playing field between humans and animals. The middle section of the episode is a wonderful interplay of tension between comedy and horror involving four people in the Bebop common room. While Jet is talking to the video screen, trying to get information from a source, Murdock tries to look unworried as Spike makes various attempts to open what he doesn't know is the capsule containing Murdock's chemical weapon.

The fourth person in the room is Faye (Megumi Hayashibara), handcuffed to a ladder. As will be often the case throughout the series, her attire suggestive of bondage is complemented by literal bondage.

In the circumstance where everyone in the room is vulnerable to Spike inadvertently releasing the chemical by satisfying an idle curiosity there's an extra layer to the tease. Spike and Faye are both exhibitions of human behaviour considered animalistic--Faye in a display of sexuality and Spike in a display of imprudence. Murdoch's supposed principles are being challenged both superficially and subtextually--she doesn't want to betray knowledge of what Spike has in his possession and she doesn't want to acknowledge her abhorrence of the prospect of being lowered to the level of these inferior beings. Spike and Faye, by being more natural, are more appealing to the viewer while nature's self-proclaimed advocate is naturally unappealing for her artifice.

The episode's main idea is another way in which the show blurs identity lines, in this case the line between human and animal. It also features an effective action sequence in the end in one of the hyperspace gateways that allow ships to travel great distances quickly and it's here that Faye officially becomes a member of the crew. Until the next time she wins big betting on the dog races, anyway.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Lupin the Trip

A feverish gangster who dropped acid might have dreams resembling 1985's Legend of the Gold of Babylon (ルパン三世 バビロンの黄金伝説). The third feature length film in the Lupin III franchise, it differs significantly--some say notoriously--in tone from its much more famous predecessor, the Hayao Miyazaki directed Castle of Cagliostro. The Legend of the Gold of Babylon was co-directed by a man who made his name directing live action films in the 60s, the great Seijun Suzuki. I certainly liked it.

I came to Legend of the Gold of Babylon more as a Seijun Suzuki fan than a Lupin fan. I loved Castle of Cagliostro and I've enjoyed episodes of the old series I've seen but I haven't gotten around to watching through them all. Much of the 1985 film doesn't feel like so much of a departure from the norm that I've seen for Lupin (Yasuo Yamada), particularly his antics in the beginning of the film dodging the chronically inept Inspector Zenigata (Goro Naya).

But the chase occurring on motorcycles through the features of an enormous face does seem a bit more surreal than usual. The premise of Lupin is that he's a master thief who always triumphs against apparently impossible odds, usually by absurd means. Gold of Babylon takes his absurd to a more dreamlike level and often deploys his impossible or weird feats with less fanfare, like an extremely swift reveal towards the end of the film that Lupin's been wearing a toupee all this time and that it conceals gadgets.

Many of the moments where Lupin is made to look foolish or where Lupin is savouring another victory are cut short, leaving the viewer with more of an impression of their strangeness than of their emotional impact.

There's more of a dream logic to sequences of events, too. That Zenigata enlists the aid of a group of beauty pageant winners to hunt Lupin may be the sort of thing a cartoon would justify as a plot but Suzuki cuts out any attempt at justification. One moment, Zenigata's been reassigned to the beauty pageant, the next moment he's been assigned to hunt Lupin again but with the pageant winners as assistants. Lupin has a weak spot for beautiful women and presumably these pageant winners are skilled but the movie leaves it to us to think of these strained explanations. If the implicit agreement behind such storytelling is that the audience is willing to go along with an improbable idea if it's fun, why not skip the pointless explanation?

Suzuki made a career for himself making yakuza movies in the 50s and 60s for Nikkatsu until he was fired from the studio for making the extremely weird and experimental Branded to Kill in 1967. Suzuki was blacklisted for ten years and when he started making movies again they generally dropped any pretence of realism, being surreal, post-modernist experiments. So directing a Lupin movie was in one sense a step back for him but in another sense a world of cartoon logic fits perfectly with his trajectory. Most of his movies aren't quite so glib, though. Legend of the Gold of Babylon does have an oddly sweet musical number from the drunken old woman (Toki Shiozawa) who starts Lupin on the quest for the gold. The song even had a very dreamy 80s music video to go along with it.

The lyrics end up functioning as clues when Lupin finally gets to the buried Tower of Babel. Things start to feel very Indiana Jones at that point--I wondered if maybe this was because Spielberg was such a fan of Castle of Cagliostro. But a lot of the movie is set in New York where a mob boss who wields a poison fly swatter seems like he might be a reference to Brando in The Godfather.

It made me feel like Suzuki was poking some fun at the U.S. along with his irreverent take on Lupin.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

At the Pleasure of the Distortion

Is it possible to like a film whose whole mission is to frustrate and unbalance the viewer? The Birthday Party, the 1968 film based on Harold Pinter's 1957 play, isn't exactly a relaxing experience. It certainly has a nice cast. I admire the ingenuity that went into it though I think it's no surprise we don't see its brand of wrecking ball post-modernism anymore.

Directed by William Friedkin, now best known for The Exorcist, the film version certainly channels some horror from the "comedy of menace". The premise seems mundane enough--a poor, middle aged couple live in and run a cheap boarding house, their only tenant being a young man named Stanley (Robert Shaw).

It seems generally agreed that Stanley is a wash-up, which possibly explains why he's constantly angry and filled with resentment. Or his angry and resentful because he's considered a wash-up? Meg (Dandy Nichols), half of the couple who owns the house, talks about how Stanley once had a career as a pianist, a career he might be exaggerating in stories to her. But she doesn't care--she sits gazing affectionately while he tells a story, something that seems to frustrate him.

It's possible Stanley in this is an reflection of Pinter himself since his frustration at Meg settling into enjoying his story seems to reflect the attitude of the film and play. Though, when she buys him a drum, thinking it's a suitable birthday gift for a pianist, one can understand a frustration with an audience whose affection doesn't seem to be based on an accurate perception of the artist.

The Wikipedia entry for the play goes through a list of many of the ways Pinter subverts his own exposition. Meg and her husband constantly talk about how it's a boarding house but Stanley insists its not a boarding house; the film's title refers to the party held to celebrate Stanley's birthday but Stanley insists it's not his birthday. But things don't get really strange until two strangers show up.

McCann (Patrick Magee) and Goldberg (Sydney Tafter) speak to each other in tones of hushed urgency but Goldberg is broadly genial with everyone else while McCann is quiet and morose. They say they're in town for "a short holiday" but the impression given is that they have some secret hidden motive. Stanley seems to think they're there for him and there's a suggestion of some past association with them. Maybe they're gangsters, we never find out. As they are members of two of the most persecuted peoples in history, the Irish and the Jews, there's a suggestion of politics. Stanley gushes to McCann about how much he loves the Irish and would be happy to drink with him and I wondered if the two strangers were meant to be manifestations of symbols for a political cause Stanley (or Pinter) once belonged to, now felt alienated from, and now feels threatened by as reminders of his ideological infidelity.

McCann in particular has a partisan quality. He's deeply offended when Meg mixes Irish and Scotch whiskies. Magee is well suited to the ambiguous, possibly symbolic role; he's just so wonderfully weird.

Pinter grew up in a Jewish family but later became an atheist which would fit with Stanley's feelings of guilt regarding Goldberg. In another bit of destabilisation, McCann says Goldberg has "always been a good Christian." Despite his name and his frequent use of Yiddish words, Goldberg only replies, "In a way." The story never allows Stanley, or us, a confirmation of any impression which means there are always teasing possibilities in everything. Some might call it a freedom but Stanley seems more and more confined until by the end of the film he can't even speak.

Meg's possibly arbitrary decision that to-day is Stanley's birthday could simply be taken as funny, a sign that she wants to express her affection for him, but it also works as another form of destabilisation. It's a reminder to Stanley how little control he has over his life; the idea that terms of encouragement, as much as terms of threat, are determined by outside forces without reason makes the possibility of him being able to form any plan or express any idea based on an objective, measurable reality impossible. So it's fitting that the party culminates in a peculiarly horrific game of Blind Man's Buff.

One could say Stanley is like Alice at the Mad Tea Party except he lacks Alice's self-confidence. In light of The Birthday Party, Alice's persistence looks exceptionally admirable.

Twitter Sonnet #1127

Above the looking cloud reflects the cake.
A timer clenched the cooking mit for done.
The only cooks in space were on the take.
Around the clock we put the stringy sun.
The glass permits an orange for yellow late.
A squeeze began to take an hour short.
A whiskey cured the brightly burning pate.
Exchanges got a sherry swapped with port.
A jacket binds a winking gut to spine.
The gilt impressions light the queenly eye.
The draping pearls replaced the common twine.
The airy curtain breathes an ebon dye.
A happened cat derails a training dog.
The paisley glow chauffeurs the candy bog.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

All the Suns

The Sun Makers was one of my least favourite Fourth Doctor serials the first time I watched through the series and I still don't like it very much. The best parts are improvisations between Tom Baker and Louise Jameson--the Fourth Doctor being my favourite Doctor and Leela being one of my favourite companions. But the main story, which Robert Holmes wrote apparently inspired by his recent troubles with tax authorities, has the trappings of a political satire but never connects because the premise doesn't make any sense. With some especially badly coordinated action sequences, the episode spends most of its time treading water in a capture and rescue routine.

The TARDIS materialises on Pluto where, in the future, suns have been manufactured to give the planet constant, global sunlight. Workers are enslaved by an all powerful Company and forced to pay enormous taxes. We meet poor workers who are breathing air polluted with drugs designed to give them anxiety and a cartoonish elite led by a Gatherer (Richard Leech) and Collector (Henry Woolf).

But a satire about taxation really only works if the people being taxed have some economic autonomy. What is the Collector taxing, exactly? Currency? What use is the currency the Collector and his Company presumably produce when they literally control everything--world, resources, and even the suns? All of the workers seem to be devoted to mining and industrial operations. They certainly don't seem to be selling anything to any competitors. Maybe some people are subsistence mining?

But the Doctor and Leela are so charming together. There's a moment early on where Baker obviously seems to improvise a line that causes Jameson to break. Leela speculates, "Perhaps everyone runs from the taxman," after which there's a pause and their new worker friend nods. Baker needlessly says, "He says you're right," and Jameson's face instantly turns into what seems like suppressed laughter. It's not especially funny but the feeling of authenticity to the moment is a charming diversion.

This is the second serial to feature K9 (John Leeson), following The Invisible Enemy, a serial I like even less. The Sun Makers is book-ended by a chess game between the Doctor and K9.

Here's the board at the start and it's the Doctor's move. Looks like he has both a bishop and a queen vulnerable to K9's queen. A sensible move would probably be to move his queen to a point where the queen and bishop protect each other--I'd probably move queen to queen's two. Instead, though, the Doctor takes the pawn on queen's knight four, inexplicably deciding to leave his bishop, queen, and now a pawn open to attack. K9 ignores all this so maybe there's a trap I don't see and gives check by moving his "bishop to queen six." Fortunately for the armless K9, Leela seems to learned chess notation.

I assume it was Baker's improvisation to move his king all the way across the board after this--when K9 says, "Wrong square" it's an understatement. K9 claims to see mate in six moves but that depends on how the Doctor moves. He doesn't have many options. But by going king to king's three he can at least protect his queen and then take K9's queen if K9 decides to do a discovered check by moving his bishop. But if K9 decides to take the Doctor's bishop the Doctor can't get compensation. It's hard for me to believe he didn't see all this trouble coming from his pawn move, though. I think he was letting K9 win.