selected from TV Zone #115

All-seeing and all-knowing

Red Dwarf's Canaries

Now this is more like it. Proof that the series can still be a first class sit-com with Sci-Fi overtones. The beautifully structured scenario, involving our heroes trying to confound the predictions of the eponymous Cassandra, (the all-knowing Mystic Meg of the computer world), has everything that you would want from Red Dwarf – and Canaries, too.

Ah yes, ‘The Canaries’. Homicidal nutters eager to embark on suicide missions, or merely a singing combo whose rendition of You are the Sunshine of my Life will have you reaching for the sick bucket and remote control in rapid succession? Fortunately, they’re mainly the former and have amongst their members not only the erstwhile Starbug crew, but also the rather wonderful ‘Kill Crazy’.

If ever an incidental character deserves to become a regular team member, then this sick, sociopathic maladjusted psychopath is the one. It’s just a pity he knocks himself out (in a perfectly choreographed prat fall) before the real action starts. Still, at least his untimely demise is one of the many predictions of Cassandra’s that does not come true.

With thanks to some very clever scripting, much of the episode plays on the fact that the audience expects Rimmer to become a hologramatic stiffy once more. The fact that he survives is surprising – the fact that he fails to get his leg over Kochanski, less so.

Episode H4
First Aired: 11 March1999
Reviewed by Peter Ware

Well executed, with an original plot leading to a very satisfactory conclusion, Cassandra is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the season.


"Who am I?"

Face of Evil

If Season 14 is a veritable Doctor Who banquet, each story a gastronomic masterpiece created by a chef of genius, then The Face of Evil is an intermediary soup course less piquant than its fellows but still created with the same loving attention.

The story suffers slightly because it is expositional. It has to spend time introducing the companion Leela, the terribly well spoken savage with a penchant for leather and Janus Thorns, and this detracts from the integrity of the whole.

Chris Boucher’s début story is effective but scarcely original, coming across like Forbidden Planet as written by H Rider Haggard. It follows Leela’s expulsion from the Tribe of the Sevateem (rather rashly since she seems to be one of only two women), her meeting with Tom Baker’s Doctor and their eventual encounter with the psychics that live at the far end of his throat.

Doctor Who’s familiar jungle sets, here seemingly given atmosphere by the sound-effects of heavy snorers and low-register trombonists, are employed for the excellent first half of the story. This mainly concerns the Sevateem (who look disarmingly like a tribe of Bjorn Borgs in their beards and headbands) and their quest to liberate their god Xoanan from confinement. This part is intriguing and well acted, and David Garfield as Neeva looks resplendent in his priestly garb of crash helmet with Hoover attachment.

The second half of the story, in which the Doctor confronts a neurotic computer inside a statue of his own head, is less impressive. Here the Doctor spends too long being pursued along the ubiquitous white latticed corridors by the anodyne Tribe of the Tesh. The scenes with the mad computer are very good, but the realization of the Tesh, all clothed in turquoise and forever bowing in supplication, is embarrassing.

BBC Video, PG cert
Reviewed by Gareth Thomas
Price: £11.99
Out now (PAL)

Including an extract from Swap Shop as the first in a continuing series of extras (Louise Jameson is interviewed by Noel Edmonds, with Posh Paws looking on) this video is excellent value. It is a slight story, but one from Doctor Who’s very best season, and as such it can be highly recommended.

also reviewed in this issue: new episodes, books and videos of Buffy • The X-Files • Deep Space Nine • Voyager • Red Dwarf VIII • Highlander: The Raven • LEXX – plus Blake's 7 audio and Cult Kids TV gems like Bod

TV Zone footer