Star Trek – The Original Series:
“Space…The Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before!”
Let’s go back to where it all began. Back to a day before television executives did what the combined forces of the Romulans and Klingons couldn’t do: end that five year mission. As you watch through this first episode you’ll literally see the series transform from the early sets, props, and designs of the first pilot toward the Star Trek that would finally fit as comfortably as a custom tailored uniform. The show was finding its feet. If you’re a fan, and honestly, who isn’t, none of this is new to you. If you’re not a fan, now is your chance to start at the beginning and catch up to the rest of us. With the new film pulling in a ton of money, the hopes of more than one generation of fans is on the line. If anyone was wondering about how good an actor DeForest Kelley was, they need look no further than this episode.
Joan Of Aracadia:
Joan (Tamblyn) is your typical high school teen girl, that is until God makes his presence known to the young girl. God comes in the guise of a teen boy. He appears to know a lot about her family. Her father has just been selected as Arcadia’s new Chief of Police, and Mom works at the school. She has two brothers one of which is in a wheelchair after a terrible accident. God has decided that Joan will do things for him from time to time. Her mission isn’t exactly what she expected. Instead of some injustice of Biblical proportions, he wants her to get a job at the local book store. While the request seems simple enough, it leads to the arrest of a serial killer.
The series only lasted two years. I have to admit this pilot is all that I’ve ever seen of the show, but I could very well see its potential. Unfortunately, I can also see the many flaws in the plan. God may work in mysterious ways but it isn’t exactly a good plan for a television series. It captured a loyal, but rather small audience.
In the first season of The 4400 we are introduced to 4400 people who we are led to believe have recently returned from being abducted by aliens. Before you can look for Samantha Mulder among the group, we eventually discover that it was in reality the future that abducted these hundreds for nefarious plans of their own. The abductees have returned with mysterious powers and abilities. No, this is not Heroes or X-Men; in fact it’s a lot more like The X-Files than anything else, particularly in the final season.
When the third season left us, we were introduced to another drug that can reverse the effects of the inhibitor, but it carried an almost even chance of death. It is here that season four begins its likely final stories to tell. That first season was really a mini-series, and there wasn’t a lock that the show was going to continue.
The ensemble cast is actually very strong, and honestly that keeps the series fresh. The mythology of the show has fallen into the complicated grandeur trap, so it’s these characters that make these stories compelling even when we’re at a loss to understand it all. There are a great number of strong female characters in this show. Megalyn Echikunwoke plays Isabelle Tyler with a lot of passion, making her one of my favorite characters on the show. Australian actress Jacqueline McKenzie plays Diana Skouris. Diana is Tom’s partner, and like Mulder is also in search of her own sister. The two share a nice dynamic that again reminds us of Mulder and Scully. Finally, Jeffrey Combs is such an underrated actor, and he impresses like nobody’s business every time he’s on the screen. It’s in vogue today to have shows shrouded in intricate secrecy and mystery, as evidenced by shows like Lost and Heroes, but I’m afraid the threads don’t always get played out in The 4400.
Medium was based on a real person with alleged psychic powers who apparently has helped out various law enforcement agencies in some actual cases. If you’ve seen the series, you might find that hard to believe, and the episodes are obviously fictional adventures and not based on the real Alison Dubois’s experiences. At first glance it might be easy to lump Medium in with Ghost Whisperer or The Dead Zone. Actually there are almost no similarities to any of those shows. Allison does not gain any understanding through touching, and while she does see ghosts at times, that aspect of the show has been made to play in only a small percentage of the episodes. Allison accesses her powers through dreams. These nightmares are usually vague and often provide additional clues with each recurring dream. The formula for the show is that she must interpret these images and signs in time to do whatever it is she needs to do. She works as an assistant for the Phoenix District Attorney’s Office, but only the DA and one cop know how she comes across her tips.
Patricia Arquette is actually very good in the role, but I have to say there’s something about her performance, or perhaps the character itself, that does wear thin after too long. There are certain mannerisms that just begin to annoy me after more than one or two episodes at a time. The DA is played marvelously by Miguel Sandoval, and fortunately for us he is given a lot more to do in this third year. We get to meet his wife and watch him on a more personal level as he deals with diabetes this season. David Cubitt plays Detective Lee Scanlon with a ton of levels that make him the most viewer friendly character on the show. Allison has a family that often suffers the brunt of her nightmares and work for the DA. Jake Weber plays husband Joe with an almost deadpan style that makes him always a secondary character no matter who else is in the scene. I guess part of that is intentional, as I know I’d be rather dumbfounded in his circumstances. The upside is, when he does react emotionally, it is more powerful stuff. Sofia Vassilieva shows a tremendous amount of maturity both on camera and in her interview sound bites for a child actor. She plays Ariel, the older daughter. Maria Lark is the cute factor and specializes in making faces as Bridgette, the middle daughter. Miranda Carabello is the newcomer as the growing baby daughter in the family.
If Medium has a fatal flaw, it is that they attempt to do too much in one episode. This is a complicated world that quite honestly can wear you out before an hour is over. You have the family dynamics with the three girls beginning to display Allison’s talents. Poor Joe is stuck not only in a houseful of women, but psychic women at that. You have the usual chase for the bad guy and all of the dynamics involved there. Finally, each episode tends to run some creative ground that is cool at times and brutally obnoxious at others. I stopped watching on television around the time of the first season episode The Song Remains The Same where you hear the song I Will Survive over and over again until I just had to turn it off. This season you get an animated section and a Barbie doll playhouse version of Allison’s nightmares. Cute for a while, but as usual taken to extreme.
Each episode is presented in its original broadcast format. Some of this is a bit old television, and your expectations should be adjusted accordingly. Most of it is fairly recent. Overall the transfers are remarkably solid. While colors are a bit soft, the picture itself is rather clean.
The Dolby Digital tracks do what they need to do, nothing less, nothing more. You get to hear the dialog and the famous themes perfectly even if not in a more modern dynamic presentation. Explosions are often muffled. The music even distorts at times, but for the most part this soundtrack delivers enough to keep you in the mission.
It’s another one of these collections of 4 pilots. I get the idea that before they’re finished Paramount might just have all of their pilots in this collection. As I’ve said before. It’s fine if you’re looking for a taste, but the pilot really isn’t the best way to get to know a series. In Star Trek that was certainly true. In fact the episode here isn’t even one of the 2 actual pilots, rather the third filmed episode of the first season that happened to air first. It’s great if you’re looking for the set up but these shows all evolved to be almost unrecognizable from their first episodes. Strictly an academic collection. I suspect there will be quite a few more of these collections. How do I know? “Omniscience. Look it up.”