A Geek Writes…

Monday night, and the sluggish, almost gelid, rain and threat of snow meant British Summer Time was officially here. I wasn’t dismayed, or even particularly mayed, since I had a stack of recorded programmes to watch with Mrs McS: a night of televisual über-geekery courtesy of new episodes of Lost, Fringe (also known as “this year’s Lost”, 2008) and Flashforward (also know as “this year’s Lost”, 2009). None of them seemed all that satisfactory.

The Lost episode was #6.09, “Ab Aeterno”, for those of you wishing to remain spoiler-free. I’ve loved Lost, in all its infuriating deferral, tantalising intricacy and arch self-awareness. I fell for its insinuation that the reader could, with sufficient wit and ingenuity, figure out what the hell was going on, while making a Jesuitical mental reservation that of course the writers would never give us enough detail to solve the riddle. In fact, it was the programme’s un-guess-ability I liked best; which is why, as we rattle towards The End, it seems disappointing that the quantum flux of possibilities is beginning to collapse into an observable phenomenon. All the portentous statements – “we are in hell” &c – were just fan-tweaks (I remember the on-line enthusiasm for the Purgatory Theory, heck, I even remember yung28’s massive theory about Apollo that ended up being mocked with confectionary by the show’s writers). Since it’s now established that Lost is Good vs Evil, more or less, and that Good and Evil are looking for human replacements to continue their work, I’ll hazard a guess at the closure: whoever wants to replace Jacob, the Island’s Guardian, believer in free will, will prove themselves unworthy to replace Jacob.

Can you bring back this show instead? Please?

Fringe has gone from intriguing, to confusing, to conservative, to banal predictability. You can’t miss an episode of Lost, but with some Fringe episodes you might as well just watch an old X-Files in Virgin +1. Wary that an over elaborate mythology might deter potential viewers, the “stand alone” episodes are both pointless (arc wise) and derivative (plot wise). “The Bishop Revival” started with a premise so hackneyed (a group of Jewish wedding guests all suffocate; non-Jewish guests are fine) that before you could say “gene bomb” a character with blond hair, blue eyes, a cruel smile and wireless glasses – i.e. TV shorthand for Nazi – was seen slinking off. The show’s real draw has always been the amoral, kindly, child-like ex-mental patient genius Dr Walter Bishop – but even here the “back story” made my ribs ache with all the nudging. And any show that can include the priceless line “Walter, what are you telling me? That my grandfather was a Nazi?” ought to be ashamed of itself. And – just for the pedants – the idea of a genetic weapon theorised before the discovery of DNA was dumb.

Flashforward has been the most successful Lost clone, and “Blowback” the thirteenth episode was more Lost-like than most (it even had flashbacks, goddammit). I’ve found it the most emotionally engaging of the shows in some ways, as the characters struggle to change or bring about the future, a neat device that allows pathos, hope, paranoia and the ever present fear that they’ve misinterpreted their glimpse of the future. The new CIA character is a smart addition, and I just hope the plots they’ve begun here actually tie-in; otherwise it’s just an episode of B-sides and soap opera. Having had a three-and-a-half month hiatus, the writers feel the need to remind us all of what went on, and expediently are now angling for Season 2 (how my heart sank when one character said something like “in the future you were talking about ANOTHER FLASHFORWARD hint hint we’ve not exhausted our premise). Central character Mark Benford getting a drug that lets him see more of his flashforward since he was all rummed up in the future was nothing except a chance to do lots more flashing images for fanboys to pore over (what’s the Hydra?) – the kind of thing they’ll splice back in to Episode #1.01 for the DVD release.

In summary: Lost knows where it’s going and I don’t like it. Fringe has no idea where it’s going and I like it less. Flashforward is spending more time telling ABC that it could go for more than a year than it is telling a cool story about weird science. (By the way, it’s introduced Ally McBeal’s dead ex as a preacher, who’s actually quite a good character).

A link for the day: if I were Secretary for Education, this would be in every Primary School.



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6 responses to “A Geek Writes…

  1. I painstakingly downloaded the whole of Sapphire and Steel from YouTube and reconstructed the episodes so that my wife (an American and hence deprived of so much great TV) could get to watch them and she loved them all despite their obvious flaws. What I don’t get is why they don’t bring them back because, certainly as far as science fiction shows go, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as dear as Dr. Who. I guess the problem is that today’s audiences have become spoiled by special effects. What I personally loved about the show was that it didn’t feel the need to explain itself all the time. The other one I’d like to see remade would be Timeslip. I bought the DVDs as soon as they came out and thoroughly enjoyed wallowing in them.

  2. Sapphire and Steel was a triumph. I admit to knowing the opening spiel off by heart…

  3. John Fagan

    It all points to Sawyer being Jacob’s replacement and killing ‘bad Locke’ in the finale. A possible twist might be that Jim Robinson from Neighbours is actually a good guy and I hope that what’s behind the locked room on the submarine is Desmond.

    • I agree – Sawyer becomes Jacob; Hurley becomes Ricardus. Jack as Smokey? And as for behind the door: my list is Desmond; Aaron; or W-A-A-L-T (right outa mah hands!) Or Eloise Hawkings.
      But what do they do with Ben in the finale? I suspect it’ll be an ennobling, self-sacrificing death, but would love him to survive

      • John Fagan

        I think Ben will die and be re-united with his daughter. Ben kills Smokey after everyone else fails is a possibility. Having Walt behind the door would make sense, otherwise all that “we need your boy” season one stuff is pointless. He must have a purpose or what was the point in having him there in the first place?

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