Lair of the Geek

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Easter TV roundup

It’s been a good Easter for TV as far as sci-fi and fantasy TV is concerned.

First up Doctor Who returned from its midseason break for the first episode of its 50th Anniversary year. The Bells of St John was a cracking episode. The Doctor, still moping about losing Amy and Rory, and the mystery of Clara, is hiding out as a mediaeval monk. Meanwhile, in present day London, yet another Clara is under attack by a mindsucking wi-fi monster. One impossible phone call later and the Doctor is racing to the rescue.

In many ways this was classic old school Doctor Who with genuinely disturbing faceless robots that will live in the memories of the junior audience for a long time. It was reminiscent of some classic monster moments from the Tom Baker and Peter Davison eras. One scene, which had the villain accessing the minds of people at will and speaking through their mouths, was creepily like the Tennant classic Midnight. The antigrav bike was a lovely throwback to the action hero Doctor of the Pertwee days.

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Matt Smith was as frenetic and alien as ever and Jenna Louise Coleman is becoming a very likeable foil for his Doctor, and Clara finally survives an episode!

The forty-five minute episodes often lead to plots feeling rushed and that was certainly true here with everything being wrapped up very quickly, but, on the whole, this was a great return to launch the 50th birthday festivities.

Sky had two big launches in Easter week. First up was JJ Abrams’ latest offering Revolution which got a double episode premiere. Abrams is very much the man of the moment. Not only was he the creator of such geek favourites as Alias and Lost but he is now the man in charge of both Star Trek and Star Wars. Conceived by Supernatural creator Eric Kripke, Revolution had Abrams’ production fingerprints all over it. Big concept? Check. Addictive hook? Check. Handpicked cast of survivor types? All present and correct.

The pilot began with a prologue. Familiar LOST face Elizabeth Mitchell is with her family, the Mathesons, when all the power goes off. Suddenly, out of nowhere, all electrical power has failed and dad Ben seems to be mixed up in it somehow. Flash forward and the kids are grown up and the world has returned to a pre-industrial state. Cities are dead and overgrown and the cars, planes and trains have been left to rot. Power now lies in the hands of General Monroe and he rules as a tyrant keeping everyone under control with a vicious militia.

Monroe is hunting down anyone who was connected to the incident that took the power. This brings the militia to the homestead where the Mathesons now live. The confrontation leaves Ben fatally injured. The militia move on looking for Ben’s brother Miles. Ben’s daughter Charlie sets off to try to find Miles first and warn him.

It’s all well done. The world without power is very convincingly presented. The militia are threatening and their leader Captain Neville, played brilliantly as a grinning psycho by Giancarlo Esposito, is chillingly ruthless. Charlie is played by Tracy Spiridakos and balances determination and fragility. She’s armed with a bow and arrow which, thanks to Arrow, The Hunger Games and Tomb Raider, seems to be the fashionable weapon of choice for brave young girls these days. The real star of the show though, is Billy Burke, best known as Bella’s dad in Twilight, who plays uncle Miles. We learn early on that he’s a bad ass but you’ll still want to cheer when he kicks off and takes down an entire militia platoon single handed.

Revolution has bags of promise. Let’s hope it will deliver in the long term.

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Sky’s other big premier was the opening episode of Game of Thrones season 3. It’s a bit hard to find flaw with what HBO have done with George R R Martin’s epic fantasy. The performances are uniformly exceptional and the production values are consistently among the best ever seen on TV.

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Seasons 1 and 2 were pretty accurate, if pared down, adaptations of books one and two, A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings. Season 3 kicks off in the aftermath of the battle of King’s Landing. Episode 1 focuses on Tyrion, Cersei, Bron, Sansa and John Snow. Tyrion’s heroism in saving the city has been ignored and the arrival of his father Tywin has removed his power and status. Sansa is desperate to escape the clutches of psychotic boy-King Joffrey and, far north of the Wall, John Snow has fallen into the company of King-Beyond-the –Wall Mance Rayder.

It’s all good. The problem for the producers is that from here adapting the books is going to get a lot trickier. Book 3 A Storm of Swords is huge and crosses over with events from Book 4. There will have to be some very astute choices in the dramatization if everything is to stay on track. Still, it’s been excellent so far and Martin himself is on the production team to keep it all true to the source material.

Season 4 has already been confirmed and a good job too. With the publication of book 6, The Winds of Winter still a long way off George R R Martin’s fans need to make the most of HBO’s excellent TV adaptations.

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