Monthly Archives: October 2022

TV Round-Up: Quantum Leap, “What A Disaster”

Quantum Leap - Season 1

After seeing “What a Disaster!” I can see why the producers shuffled the order of things, moving this from the pilot to the sixth episode of the season. That’s not to say “What a Disaster” is bad, so much as to say asking the audience to invest as much in Ben’s background in episode one would have been a larger ask.

Ben leaps into a John, a man facing imminent divorce from his wife, just moments before the San Francisco Earthquake in 1989. The series is doing well at having Ben cover his initial confusion upon entering a person’s life mid-drama, and this week is no exception. Ben having to cover for gaps in his knowledge of John’s wife as his wife asks for divorce works well enough, though I keep wondering why no one notices that Ben is focusing on Addison and her advice from the future.

Speaking of Addison, can I just say that I liked the handlink used here a lot more than the one we’ve seen until now? If there’s one aspect of the original pilot they can and should use again, it’s the link.

Back to our story. Turns out John is there to save the couple’s son from dying and reunite an estranged mom and son. This mission has a personal note for Ben, who once got B’s on his report card because he was tired of his mom telling him he was special and then after they got in a huge fight about it, she died. So, Ben’s carrying around a bit of guilt over that (as one would) and it all comes bubbling back.

Some of the better emotional beats of the original series came when Sam connected with the leapie due to some emotional connection. So, Ben’s connection here worked, as did his call to his mom seconds before he leaped. Continue reading

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Top Ten Tuesday: Scary Stuff

Trick or treat! Time again for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl). To celebrate Halloween, I’m offering some of the scarier pop-culture experiences of my lifetime. Some are books, and some are other media.

  1. Cujo by Stephen King. One of the first Stephen King novels I read, and still one of the scariest. The moments of horror when our heroes are trapped in a car while Cujo rages outside are among the most frightening. This is also why I’ve never watched the movie version of Cujo — not sure anything could be as scary as I conjured in my imagination.
  2. Pet Semetary by Stephen King. Yes, there’s the whole living coming back part that is pretty blood-chilling. But I’d argue that the scariest moment of this book is the sequence in which Louis tries to stop young Gage from getting run over and the immediate aftermath. It scared the fool out of me when I first read it and my re-read a few years ago (after becoming a dad) chilled me even more.
  3. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. Recommended by Stephen King, this is a story about a typical family torn apart by their daughter’s apparent possession. Seriously, if you want to be seriously unnerved by a story, you need to try this one.
  4. The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward. This one gripped me and held me. Shifting unreliable narrators (including the cat!) make for an unsettling reading experience. Add in some well-crafted, subversive horror elements and you’ve got one of my favorite books I’ve read this year.
  5. The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe. A classic for a reason. The story itself if superbly chilling. I had a version of the story, performed by Vincent Price, that added a layer of chilling horror to it. Price did a great job of portraying our narrator’s descent into madness.
  6. “Dead Ernest,” Suspense. Ernest suffers from catalepsy, a condition in which he appears dead but isn’t. He’s got a note he carries with him explaining this but one day gets into an accident. The story builds suspense and tension as Ernest is moved slowly closer to being embalmed — all while being alive.
  7. “The Boogeyman,” Quantum Leap. Not so much scary, as it is a clever as heck Halloween story in which the devil apparently manipulates Sam by posing as Al. One of those episodes you want to watch twice to see all the clues you missed that maybe Al isn’t Al.
  8. “The Satyr” Buck Rodgers. This one goes back to my childhood when I saw this episode. Buck arrives on a planet where a mother and son are tormented by a half-man/half-beast creature. At some point, Buck tangles with it, gets bitten, and starts to become a satyr himself. It bugged me as a kid — to the point I’ve not rewatched it since. Part of it is I expect it’s nowhere near as scary as I thought it was back then, given how cheesy Buck Rogers was.

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who and the Nightmare of Eden by Terrance Dicks

Doctor Who and the Nightmare of Eden: 4th Doctor Novelisation

Doctor Who‘s seventeenth season firmly divides fandom — some love it, others not so much. The stories have a lot of ambition, but it’s just not all realized by what we finally get on our screens.

It’s a season that could — and should — be helped by the Target adaptations of each story. Freed of the budget limitations and the feeling that maybe script editor Douglas Adams should have had one more pass at polishing each story before production began, these stories could have been something wonderful on the printed page. Unfortunately, this was also a period when the Target adaptations were coming out fast and furious and not allowing writer Terrance Dicks to do much more than adapt the shooting script for the printed page.

All of this brings us to “The Nightmare of Eden,” a story in which Doctor Who tries to rise above and do anti-drugs story. Except the message is fairly simplistic (“Drugs are bad”), and the story around it isn’t necessarily the greatest in the world.

Two ships collide exiting hyperspace, creating an unstable region between the two. The Doctor, Romana, and K-9 arrive on the scene and set about trying to pull the two ships apart. Also on board is Tryst, who has created a CET machine. The machine is able to capture samples of various environments in a crystal and render them on-screen for further study and to save multiple endangered species from each planet. Unfortunately, the dimensional instability leads to various creatures, including the deadly Mandril, being able to cross over from the crystal to various ships.

Throw into this chaos that someone is smuggling the deadly drug vraxoin and working hard to cover his or her tracks and you’ve got the makings of a pretty interesting story.

Except the pieces never quite add up. There are some solid sci-fi elements here and the wider implications of vraxoin and its destructive and addictive properties, but they’re never fully realized. The connection between the CET machine, the Mandrils, and the drug becomes fairly obvious early as well, thus leading to it feeling like a lot of episodes two and three is various parties running around corridors and escaping each other.

Dicks does his best given the time constraints and he does make the Mandrils a bit more intimidating on the printed page than they come across on-screen. However, this is a story that could have benefited greatly from the Dicks who gave us “Day of the Daleks” or “The Auton Invasion.” Rounding out the characters a bit would have helped a great deal, as would connecting certain scenes during the story.

The best part about the audiobook is Dan Starkey avoids the temptation to use an outrageous accent (think one of the French knights from Monty Python and the Holy Grail) that Tryst has in the story. Starkey does a nice imitation of Tom Baker and his reading of the book is nicely done. It is telling that this audiobook clocks in at just under two hours — just a hair more time than you’d spend watching the story. It shows how little time Dicks had to rush the story out and how little he embellished it.

The most praise you can heap on this one is that it’s “serviceable.” I’m always struck by the thought that Tom Baker’s era of Doctor Who is one of the most popular among fans, but it’s one of the lesser-served eras when it comes to the Target books. “The Nightmare of Eden” reinforces that feeling.

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TV Round-Up: Quantum Leap, “Salvation or Bust”

Quantum Leap - Season 1

No matter how good or bad “Salvation or Bust” is, most of the conversation about it will probably cover the last thirty seconds of the show when another Leaper shows up who knows Ben and feels that Ben is following him through time.

The implications of this to the overall arc of why Ben leaped and what his destination is are fascinating. And given the pace at which revelations are coming in the show, I don’t think it’s something that will exactly be swept aside for an episode or two.

Part of me says that this new leaper is somehow connected to Janice and that the imaging chamber she’s building isn’t to try and contact Ben but to contact whoever this other leaper is. A big question it brings up is just how many accelerators there are and just where are they located? Given that leaping seemingly takes a huge investment of power, how exactly are the other leaping group keeping their tracks hidden?

Or is this all part of the time travel thing where the new leaper is from our future but ending up in the past.

Give the show credit – it’s got me intrigued to see where this all goes. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: Quantum Leap, A Decent Proposal

Quantum Leap - Season 1

For years, I’ve wondered what it would be like to be a person that Sam leaped into – would you recall much, if anything about it? What would you recall? How would you know that Sam had come in and changed things?

After thirty years, we get an answer to that question, with Magic sharing that Sam leaped into him at a younger age and changed his and others’ personal history.

While I like the explanation and the scene itself, I do find myself wondering about a few other things. One is that Magic says that Sam saved his life (and that of Tom) during the time he was away. I can’t help but wonder how Magic knows if and how Sam altered history. Would history instantly shift around Magic and those around him? Another was, did Magic know what Al gave up to that Sam could save his brother and Magic? Or was what Sam did for Al something that was kept under deeper wraps?

When you reference one of my favorite episodes of television, “The Leap Home,” it brings up a lot of questions and implications. Continue reading

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Top Ten Tuesday: Vacation Reading

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks about books we’ve read on vacation. Vacation time is one of my favorite times for enjoying a good book, so here are a few I’ve read over the years.

  1. Winterkill by C.J. Box
  2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  3. One Day by David Nicholls
  4. The Stand by Stephen King
  5. Star Trek: The Rift by Peter David
  6. The New Doctor Who Adventures: Happy Endings by Paul Cornell
  7. The Next Wife by Kaira Rouda
  8. Deeper Water by Robert Whitlow
  9. Swan Song by Robert McCammon
  10. Star Trek: The Ashes of Eden by William Shatner

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Review: Relative Justice by Robert Whitlow

Relative Justice

Robert Whitlow earned his spot on my “must-read” list years ago with his superlative legal thrillers. Featuring nuanced characters and authentic character arcs, Whitlow’s books transcended Christian fiction, becoming some of my favorite books I read each year.

So, I’m not quite sure how it managed to slip past that Relative Justice had hit the shelves.

Justice is another winner from Whitlow, centering on the Cobb family. When the elder Cobb suffers a stroke, his two sons rally around him. One is the son who never left their small town and partners with Dad in the family law firm. The other is Robby, who has moved to DC with his wife, Katelyn. Katelyn has been on a career track at an upscale law firm, but unexpectedly discovers that the partners have a glass ceiling in mind for just how far her career path can go with the firm.

When a drug infringement patent case lands at the firm, it appears that Katelyn and Robby have returned home at the right time.

Striking a great balance between legal mechanizations and family drama, Whitlow creates his usual relatable and compelling set of characters. The only drawback to this novel is the patent case starts to feel like it could be the basis for a series of novels instead of just a stand-alone case and the solution comes relatively easily in the final quarter of the novel.

But, part of that may be that Whitlow has crafted characters that I had invested in that I didn’t necessarily want to see the story end. Perhaps we’ll go back to the Cobb family soon and check in on their next big case and their personal developments.

If so, sign me up.

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Audiobook Review: X-Rated by Maitland Ward

Rated X: How Porn Liberated Me from Hollywood

Early in her memoir Rated X, Maitland Ward relates a story about how her first boyfriend discovered a cache of Penthouse Letters and then read them to her over the phone. As the story of Ward’s life and career unfolds, I couldn’t help but think that this was her own take on a letter to the adult magazine.

Ward is either best known for her role in ABC’s Boy Meets World or her racy photos that she’s “reinvented” herself on social media.

A lot of the run time of Rated X is Ward patting herself on the back for being who she is and what she’s become today. She is unashamed of the career path she’s taken, nor is she necessarily worried about the bridges she has burned within the professional community. A common theme of later chapters, after Ward overhears an agent saying her career is pretty much over, is that she and her family are all proud of who and what she’s become and that Hollywood can just get over it.

I don’t mind that Ward feels empowered by her chosen path. I don’t mind that she feels like she has to be her own champion and throws her success back in the face of everyone who ever doubted her. However, as the chapters slowly blur together the closer to the present we get, I kept waiting for something more substantial to emerge than Ward’s observation of “Hey, look at me. I do porn and I’m fine.”

It’s similar to how I feel about DVD commentaries on recent shows or movies — the participants haven’t necessarily had the time and distance to really get a perspective on what they’ve done and its impact. I feel like Ward is so caught up in the justification of her current career and choices, that we don’t have much deeper consideration of what those choices can and will mean to her.

In many ways, it felt like this was a “strike while the iron is hot” kiss-and-tell memoir, designed to keep Ward’s name and face in front of the media. Indeed, upon its publication, I did see multiple articles that referenced some of the more salacious details and observances from Ward.

But, in the end, I couldn’t help coming away from this one feeling like it was more of a bag of chips instead of a substantial meal in terms of reading/listening. Ward telling her own stories on the audio was both intriguing and disconcerting. In the end, it feels like the last few chapters are more designed to draw attention to Ward now and justify her choices, rather than being truly interesting or offering any new or interesting observations.

Read this one at your own risk. It’s not for the easily offended.

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TV Round-Up: Quantum Leap, Somebody Up There Likes Ben

Quantum Leap - Season 1

Can I just start this off by saying I want an episode of this show written by Donald P. Bellisario and/or Deborah Platt ASAP?

With that out of the way, we can move onto the third installment, which shows further steps toward the show finding its own voice.

Ben leaps into the body of a young boxer, who is about to go lose the title fight of his career due to being distracted. Is it because he’s seeing the girlfriend of his rival boxer or that his brother is suffering PTSD from his tours in Nam?

“Someone Up There Likes Ben” leans heavily into the relationship between the brothers, giving us an emotional hook to root for. This includes up to and including the fight, when Ben has memorized the original fight and found a moment he can score a knock-out, thanks to Addison’s help (more on this later). Of course, this being Quantum Leap, what should have knocked out the opponent doesn’t work and Ben has to improvise.

Luckily, he does and wins the fight, thus putting history onto a new and better course.

As with the first two installments, the storyline in the past works on just about every level. While Ben isn’t Sam (again, who could be?!?), it feels like they’re working to make him a likable hero that we can root for and one who is driven to do the right thing, as Sam was at times. I would like to see a story where we get an unexpected twist or cameo like the original did, but it’s only the third episode and I don’t think we got the Buddy Holly twist until five or six episodes into the original.

Meanwhile, back in the present, I do like the series looking at the toll physically and emotionally Ben’s leaping is taking on Addison. Her driving herself to exhaustion to link with Ben and keep him from getting lost in time is nicely done. Again, the original often felt like there was a lag time between Sam leaping and Al finding him where Al could rest/date Tina/do whatever. The ending made it feel a bit like they are trying to help Addison find that here with the new crew.

The plotline that really didn’t engage as much (and it should) was Janice. I keep asking myself if Janice weren’t somehow connected to Al, would I be as annoyed about her storyline and I can’t quite decide. Janice is obsessed with the project, though we haven’t yet really discovered any good motivation for this. Was it that she missed her dad, who was obsessed with finding Sam? Did Al’s death send her down this path? Why is she building what appears to be an imaging chamber? And what is the connection she and Ben share?

I have a feeling we are going to find out Janice wrote the new code Ben put into Ziggy and she knows more than she’s telling about his endpoint.

And while last week, I felt the endpoint had to be Sam, perhaps the endpoint is the bar where Sam leapt to in the finale. Or is it something else entirely that is connected to the original’s emphasis of Sam and Al’s friendship?

Part of me also wonders if this somehow ties into the whole evil leaper thread from season five.

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