Reviews selected from TV Zone #132

Reviews online this month (ratings given are out of 10)
• The Scooby Gang go to college in this Buffy the Vampire Slayer box-set...
• While the original gang are back in a new feature-length Scooby Doo video
• Move yourself to Go! again with a highly-rated Thunderbirds book
• and meet immaculate Romulans in Diane Duane's latest Star Trek novels

Fox Home Video
480 minutes approx
Out 23 October 2000
order it from Black Star: 20% off all pre-orders, and free postage worldwide
Reviewed by
Mark Wyman
Trying to keep the faculty together

Buffy Season Four Collection, part 1Six box-sets in 11 months must be making many a British collector’s shelves groan slightly. Yet here we are already: entering Buffy’s college years with Season Four, and forging ahead of the BBC schedules.

Tape 1: Season première The Freshman reworks Buffy’s awkwardness when starting at Sunnydale High, then leaves her solo against a nest of campus vampires. Overall, an uneven but entertaining curtain raiser for college life. Living Conditions continues the emphasis on adjusting to UC Sunnydale, but with comic super-fun uppermost as Buffy seeks to rid herself of the roommate from Hell. The Harsh Light of Day sees non-student Spike adding new danger to campus life – in daylight! – as pre-college characters successfully merge with this more adult environment. But Fear, Itself is the most thrilling, well-crafted episode of this quartet: a Hallowe’en scarefest that passes muster beside its classic precursor, as a frat house party descends into character-based chaos.

Tape 2: The first plunge in quality comes with Tape Two’s Beer Bad, a clumsy lurch into Neanderthal behaviour via some demon drink. Feral ’Cave Slayer’ aside, it’s an alarmingly weak brew. Wild at Heart restores some much-needed emotional depth, as Oz wrestles with his werewolf urges (and another werewolf, to Willow’s horror). In context The Initiative is the ‘best of tape’: triumphantly reworking our expectations with verve aplenty, as the scale of demonic involvement on campus sinks in. Meanwhile Pangs frequently startles, as Buffy confronts a Native American spirit during a Thanksgiving gathering that, wonderfully, includes Spike – plus Angel in the shadows.

Tape 3: Something Blue sees heart-broken Willow’s witchcraft backfiring bigtime: how else could Buffy proclaim so memorably “Spike and I are getting married”? A richly satisfying comic episode: but for mesmerising effect, it pales beside the ultra-creepy Hush. Probably the most outstanding one-off episode to date, Joss Whedon’s organ-harvesting, voice-stealing Gentlemen didn’t just leave his cast speechless. Doomed, sadly, is a half-hearted way to reach the year’s halfway mark, with a throwaway Hellmouth ritual punctuated (too often) by Buffy and Riley’s leaden angst.

With less consistent quality between episodes than before, this collection isn’t quite such an essential purchase. But with at least one corking episode per tape, it’s still very worthwhile.

Warner Home Video, Cert PG / U? Out: 16 October 2000
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Reviewed by
Ian Atkins
Getting away with it. Meddling Kids. You get the idea

Scooby Doo - where are you?Ever since they introduced that tiny irritation Scrappy, the Scooby Doo franchise has struggled to hold the interest of all but the youngest viewers, when there used to be grown-up followings too (mainly wondering what excuse Fred would use this week to go ‘exploring’ with Daphne). This extended straight-to-video episode salvages some of the damaged reputation: it’s a lot of fun, self-aware to a degree, and visually far stronger than the rolling-background-chasings of Hanna Barbera’s heyday.

The Mystery Machine breaks down in a township where the local populace is plagued by UFO sightings and alien abductions, leaving Scooby, Shaggy and pals to feast themselves on a juicy mystery involving gold mines, dodgy suspicious characters and love interests along with a side-order of “zoinks!” and extra “zowie!”

The X-Files influences are clear though the Government conspiracy stuff is thankfully kept to a minimum. It’s with the updated animation that viewers might stumble a bit, as it looks great – very three-dimensional and dynamic – but takes some getting used to. Something new is Shaggy falling for an out-of-time hippy chick, leading to strange new territories such as a psychedelic song-and-dance routine between the lovers which has a bizarre value all of its own. It’s good to see with this latest Scooby Doo that an old dog can be taught new tricks.

selected from TV Zone #132
© Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction
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