Wednesday, 27 October 2010

One of the things that I do for Beacon, is write reviews of their stories for their in house magazine (Venturer Magazine). If you want a copy, you'll have to join first ! Anyhoo.. I've decided to post on here my reviews in future. So without further ado... This month's review is the second story in the 2010 season, The Doomed.

The story crafts a well executed connection between the Wilkes' era story 'Lazarus' and the back story of the Crawford children, Max and Sally.

We are treated to very pacey and well put together teaser section, the CGI ship may look a bit on the clean side for my liking, but the interior is very successfully created in the Beacon studio, displaying rather well the maxim that less is more when it comes to set construction. You can feel the annoyance of a group of people that can't stand each other, having being kept in close confinement for far too long. In those few moments the scene is set, intrigue is born and the audience begin to guess what is going to happen next.

What happens next, is the awakening from the dead, as it were, the Churchett and Doidge obsession with zombies. As much as its predecessor, The Doomed is a feast for the eyes, in addition the old time travelling paradox of creating the very thing you are trying to stop, merely by some unintended consequence of your actions is explored. It's a staple of science fiction as old as space rockets and laser beams.

When the 'recovery team' are dropped off, there's a particularly well chosen set of effects as the ship leaves them stranded, doomed you might say. I have to say I found the wobbly shots, round the leaves much to my liking.

It is here, that we get pun no. 1 out the way with the line :- 'I need that signal find the beacon...' Jordan barks at James (Farmer), so then off he trots with his scanner, that somehow has stolen the tri-corder sound effect last used by Lt Sa'avik in Star Trek III. Ah the memories....

Matt McKechnie really does look the part. I think there's something in every man, even me, where they enjoy pissing about in forests dressed in army gear pretending to go round and shoot things. As they get older this evolves into the love of paintball, that's as serious - if that's the word - it gets. Matt was so at home in his fatigues and 'webbing' - I never did figure out what that is - that his disdain for Will Gammon's character makes you think that he really will actually hurt him in a minute.

Will Gammon is the first casualty in the hunt for the theoretical drive. As he's set upon by a small gang of zombies, led by Joshua Ive... they wrestle him to the floor and start eating him. Great sequences, I was disappointed at the lack of a really good scream though.

After James turns on Matt and shoots him, - they were hardly on a corporate team building day now were they ? - he is quickly dispatched by our zombie gang. I am at treated to the scream I'm looking for. If you're going to be thrown on the floor and bitten by four men, someone should at least scream at some point, even if it's from relief.

As Jordan and that odd looking guy with the khaki cap make their way toward the half buried Venturer they even up the score with the Zombies some. At least I'm not trying some half witted accent this time, but the idea of me trying to look all butch and manly with a big gun.. well, I'm even impressed myself.

So.. we get onto the Venturer flight deck.. those cobwebs, aren't they exactly the same ones I nearly set fire to the other weekend ? This is a really important part of the story.. and there's lots of things that Jordan has to tell us. Lots of things indeed.

The editing here could have been a bit tidier.. the shot lingers far too long on my ugly mug, and the shock reveal of the zombified Stephen Brown isn't really much of a reveal, it's not that much of a shock either. We've seen what Ryan looks like some Sunday mornings... and I had a mouthful of the foulest tasting gunge in that that I could supossedly spit out a mouthful of blood.. did that make it into the shot. No. You mean I did it all for nothing ? Pah !

I suppose I best get moving onto episode 2.... or I'm going to have to do the review in two parts...

After such a brilliant start in episode 1, its successor starts with some awkward and wooden acting, the trees being felled on this occassion by Matt Hampton and Katie Whiteland. In fact, their sequences are upstaged by the ones between Ryan and Robo. There's some real gleam in the script here, and for once it's given the chance to shine with some great acting, camera work and editing.

The editting is not as good when it comes to the overlaid audio of an argument between Glenda and Mr Launay. It's just not been treated in any decipherable way, so appears to just have been recorded, and the sound track grabbed and added to the footage for the episode. Churchett's pointless walk out to his car, round it and then back inside is forgiven by his performance later on. He does particularly convincingly at being hypnotised. Maybe a close up shot of the house
number would help us realise how important that is to the story.

We cut back to the last surviving member of mercenaries. Jordan hides something in the foliage, but again, perhaps a closer shot here would help us understand what it is, and know it's relevance to the plot. The zombie hand that creepily crawls after him lets on that it's still firmly attached to an arm....

Back with Ryan, Katie and Churchett the sparkling dialogue comes to the fore again...Churchett bemoans that he's being bossed about by 'one of the pet shop boys' and asks himself, 'what have I done to deserve this ?'. Ahem. Oh dear.

Emma Giles makes an appearance as PA to Launay's distant, evil and manipulative shaddowing figure.... with Emma's accent that reminds me in an unsettling way of Miss Hoolie - from Balamory... Launay's menacing and evil boss act we're distracted upon by some strange idea about shooting people through a fan. Tried for arty farty, and just ended up with farty ? I have to say I'm not a fan ; of the split screen for telephone conversation either, thinking it cuts in too quickly, a bit like the music does at the end.

Episode 3 carries on from where the episode formally known as two, left off. With a nice security cam effect we get to see the interview of John Hampton as Zempho. We could have done with some close ups of Giles and Hampton's faces, missing as we did the punch of some more sizzling lines. Brilliant.

What isn't so fan-tastic is that blasted fan again. Grrrrr. What really is fantastic though is the first appearance of the armless zombie hand. Armless it may be, harmless it certainly isn't.

Some more comedy moments from the cheeky idiot that is Matt Hampton's
Blocklan, even with the boom putting in a minor appearance it's still all flowing very well. Jordan is now holding a rather relaxed Ryan & co hostage until Churchett reveals that he isn't Crawford. Oh dear. Nicely framed shot at the end
of the episode, if only Jordan wasn't hiding behind Churchett's arm.

And then we're on the final furlong that is episode 4.

I'm not sure if it's intended or not, that there's a girl laughing over the footage of Matt playing the the theorelative drive in order to squeeze in a sneaky pint. what's katie laughing for on the sound while Blocklan tries to find the time device thing. It's a conundrum. But not for long.

Realisation starts to dawn the those held at the end of Jordan's gun that somewhere they've made an awful mistake.... I do like the cutting back and forth between them as the dialogue fires along. The shots are well framed, the actors perform well, the lines are well delivered.

As Blocklan's flirtation with space time dynamics begins to come apart around his ears, Matt being chased by zombie.. looking zanny and holding the camera as he runs down the road looking like a deranged idiot is another really good use of camera.

With all this going on, it's nice to see that Ryan has time to get all deep and serious and deliver all his lines to the daisy he's playing with, instead of the person he's talking to. I'm also not quite sure how we get from rushing out to look for the nanites to laying down on the grass like the end of the world isn't a real possibility. Maybe it's a date. It's so distracting the person holding the boom forgets to hold it out of shot here. You can't really blame them, but it's a mere scratch compared to the awkward moment where Ryan hugs Katie after she saves him from being bitten by the very zombie that had been chasing the hapless

It's also a little amazing that Stephen Brown has nothing to say about that. We do seem to jump then straight into the resolution of the story, which I'm not entirely convinced doesn't work.

As stories go, I do rather like this one. The weaker episode of the set is the fourth, but even though it is outshone by the others, it's still a rather good piece of work. Episode one is most definitely the best. I don't know if there's any conclusion to draw from the fact that the best bits are the ones without our lead character. Really. I don't.

On the whole this story has a cracking script, it's well executed all round, great to watch. The acting's on the mark, with some shining performances from Matt McKechnie, Steve Churchett, Matt Hampton, Will Gammon.. oh and those zombies.. all those zombies. NEXT !

...........Just in case the video above doesn't work, you can view the episodes by clicking here.

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