Reviews selected from TV Zone #140

Reviews online this month (ratings given are out of 10):
• One Doctor Who goes out in style in The Caves of Androzani
Praise for Andromeda's sisterly meeting of ships
Star Trek's Deep Space Nine survivors return in print
and The X-Files becomes more laboured in Empodocles

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The Caves of Androzani Rating: 10
BBC Worldwide DVD
Cert: PG
Out: 18 June 2001
Order it from Blackstar today
Reviewed by
Tom Spilsbury

“Curiosity’s always been my downfall.”

Caves of Androzani - order this at BlackstarIt’s interesting to note that whereas Tom Baker’s final Doctor Who story (Logopolis) saw the Time Lord sacrifice his life to save the entire Universe, in The Caves of Androzani, Peter Davison’s Doctor ‘dies’ to save the life of a single other: his companion, Peri (Nicola Bryant). This is rather in keeping with the portrayals of these two Doctors. Tom Baker’s Doctor was brash, boastful and an all round show-off, but Davison had taken a gentler, softer approach, considering the life of one companion to be as important as that of a whole civilization.

It certainly helps to make the Doctor as portrayed in Caves seem to be at his most selfless. Perhaps one of the reasons that Caves is so successful is that although events occur around the Doctor and Peri, they are not the key to what is happening. The supporting characters are far more than the ciphers of lesser tales, with each bringing a vital ingredient to the overall mix. There are no good guys or bad guys as such; it’s a tragic story of the human desire for revenge, wealth and power. Caught up in these petty and political squabbles, the Doctor and Peri want nothing more than to escape with their lives.

So has the BBC done this undisputed classic justice in terms of its transfer to the DVD medium? The picture quality is undoubtedly superb, eclipsing even its original BBC1 broadcast, with the controversial ‘new’ planet surface shots fitting in seamlessly with the original footage. Other treats in store for fans include the original BBC1 trailer for Part One, an extra unbroadcast scene and news items focusing on Davison’s decision to leave the programme. It’s great to see two short documentaries included; one on filming the regeneration, and another entitled ‘Creating Sharaz Jek’. Jek actor Christopher Gable died a few years ago, but it’s delightful to hear his memories on bringing this sympathetic to ‘villain’ to life, and the discomfort the mask gave him!

It has to be said, though, that the real highlight of the disc is the commentary track from Davison, Bryant and director Graeme Harper. This is the first time that artists from both sides of the camera have been brought together for a commentary, and the results are insightful and often hilarious. Of particular interest are Davison’s wicked comments about his successor at the climax to the story! If any fans are still unsure about making the upgrade from VHS to DVD, this must surely be the story to persuade them.

Avatar – Books 1 & 2 Rating: 10
Written by S.D. Perry
Published by Simon & Schuster
Out: 4 June 2001
ISBN: 0-7434-0050-X
(book 1) 0-7434-005108 (book 2)
Reviewed by
Tim Lynch
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Prophecies, politics and Jem’Hadar: Deep Space Nine is back...

Star Trek DS9: Avatar Book 1The long-awaited Deep Space Nine series Avatar is billed as ‘the astonishing renewal of an epic adventure’, and the scary thing is that for once the ad copy isn’t far wrong. Set three months after the series finale, Avatar feels in almost every way like the opening episode of Season Eight. The unexpected discovery of a book of ancient Bajoran prophecies sends Jake on a personal quest while causing turmoil among the Bajoran vedeks – and meanwhile, an equally unexpected attack on the station by a handful of Jem’Hadar ships sparks worry of a rekindled Federation-Dominion war.

Along the way, we’re introduced to a host of new characters replacing those who’ve moved on. Some, like new security chief Ro Laren, are well known and well liked by long-term fans; others are entirely new. If nothing else, the books win major points for sweep and ambition.

Fortunately, the story also lives up to the expectation set by its ambition. If you’re looking for non-stop action, you’ll be disappointed: the books are somewhat sedate in that regard. However, if you value the cultural and political aspects that were frequently the strength of the show, you’ll find a lot to chew on here. New Trek novelist SD Perry has brought a wonderful sense of History to her books: she manages to work in lots of passing references to events without being blunt about it. Among other examples, at one point we see Bashir reading page 256 of a letter from Garak (a sly reference to Andrew Robinson’s Garak novel from last year); we also see several events through the eyes of a 100-year-old Starfleet veteran who’s witnessed lots of horrors we’ve only heard about.

Star Trek DS9: Avatar Book 2Perry’s characters jump off the page very well in most cases, both in their dialogue and in their internal musings. One of my very favourite character descriptions in the book comes from Kasidy Yates, of all people, aptly describing Bashir and Ezri as ‘trying to logically define their roles in each other’s lives’ rather than simply letting themselves feel things. Ro and Kira, characters who superficially seem very similar, are brought into stark relief here, with Ro as a secular Bajoran who only barely believes in the Prophets, and Kira as the devout believer who’s been personally touched by them. If you think the new prophecies toss them into conflict, you’re right – but you might be surprised about how it turns out.

Like many Deep Space Nine season openers, the books can be a little cluttered – but like the best season openers of any series, the books aren’t afraid to make changes. Some new characters join up for the long term; others don’t survive the first hundred pages. Virtually every returning character faces some sort of change, physical or spiritual, by the end of the story. The makeup of the crew changes, with at least one guaranteeing lots of friction in the future. In every way, Avatar is merely a beginning – satisfying in its own right, but promising much more. Hop on board, folks – this series is going to be a bumpy, and rewarding, ride.

selected from TV Zone #140
© Visual Imagination Ltd 2001. Not for reproduction
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