Monthly Archives: August 2015

In Memoriam: Yvonne Craig 1937-2015

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Today, I’m saddened to hear of the passing of trailblazing actress Yvonne Craig from breast cancer. She was 78 years old.

The 1966-1968 Batman series has always been a part of my life. It’s my second favorite tv show of all time (after Xena: Warrior Princess) and it’s pretty much my favorite interpretation of The Dark Knight. One of it’s many highlights was the introduction of Batgirl.

Before Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman, The Bionic Woman, Xena, Max and Buffy, Craig’s Batgirl was TV’s first crime fighting supershero at a time when most action girls on TV were spies or secret agents. There was so much to love about Batgirl. She worked as a librarian (a dream job for a book-lover like me if there ever was one), had a great wardrobe, a clever disguise (red hair!), was very cute and above all she was shrewd, observant and just plain smart. She could go toe to toe with Batman and Robin in solving crimes and she succeeded from revealing her secret identity to the Dynamic Duo. She also did a memorable public service announcement as Batgirl where she demands that Batman and Robin give her “equal pay for equal work”.

Batman wasn’t the only show she worked on. She also had a memorable guest appearance on Star Trek as the sexy but insane Orion slave girl Marta (Whom Gods Destroy season 3, episode 14) and as an aspiring assassin/dancer Ecstasy La Joie in the criminally underrated spy-fi western The Wild Wild West (The Night of the Grand Emir season 1, episode 19). She also guest starred five times on another favorite show of mine, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, the most memorable being the episode “The Flying Millicans” where she plays a love interest of Dobie’s who’s an acrobatic health nut. Her other stints included The Man From Uncle, Land of the Giants and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

But for many comics-loving fangirls the world over she will be remembered as someone who taught them that they could do anything boys can do. And for that I’m forever grateful to her.

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World War 1 Fantastic – Television

In a previous post, I talked about literature that explored the “what-if?” side to The War to End All Wars. Now I’m going to turn my attention to the depiction of the First World War in genre television.

There aren’t a lot of shows about WW1, fantastical or otherwise but there’s been some very memorable episodes from some very classic shows that presented stories in a Great War setting.

The Twilight Zone – “The Last Flight”, Season 1, Episode 18

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British Flight Lieutenant Terry Decker has just abandoned, mid battle, his comrade in arms, American Alexander Mackaye to enemy planes. Mid-flight he passes through a cloud – and finds himself on an American airbase in 1959 France.

After he’s taken into custody, Decker learns, to his horror, that he’s time jumped 42 years. He tells the officers that he believes that Mackaye was killed in action, even though the other officers try to convince him otherwise: Mackaye survived, became an Air Vice Marshall, fought in the Second World War, saved lives from enemy bombing, and is coming later to inspect the base. Still believing Makcaye dead due to abandoning his military duties, Decker comes to the realization that the “cloud” he flew into was fate giving him a second chance. He escapes his captors and flies back into the skies, to correct his mistake.

Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond – “The Vision”, Season 1, Episode 10

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A supernatural anthology series that based its stories on true events.

Starring Pernell Roberts of Bonanza fame and Peter Miles (The Red Pony), “The Vision” tells the story of three French soldiers in 1915 who experienced a flash of light and, in a trance, retreated from their posts. The men are tried and sentenced to be executed for desertion and cowardice.

However, a German POW who deserted his post recounted that he too experienced the same light on the same day and soon reports of more soldiers, both enemies and allies, come pouring in with sightings of the mysterious light in the sky. The three soldiers are exonerated.

The Time Tunnel – “The Ghost of Nero”, Season 1, Episode 19

Produced and created by Irwin Allen, The Time Tunnel told the story of two American scientists, Tony Newman and Doug Phillips, who get trapped in their top-secret time travel project which takes them into various moments in time both past and future. One episode has the two men end up in 1915 Italy where an Italian count offers them refuge from the Germans. Somehow the ghost of Nero (yes, that Nero) possesses one of the German officers and tries to kill the count because he’s descended from Galba, another Roman emperor. Chaos ensues, the ghost flies through the tunnel into Project HQ, Project HQ sends it back, the ghost ends up possessing a young corporeal named Benito Mussolini. This is probably the only episode in the entire sci-fi series that employs a supernatural element. Unfortunately, it’s also very inaccurate: Italy didn’t declare war on Germany until 1916. Weird.

Night Gallery – “Lone Survivor”, Season 1, Episode 5

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A second anthology series created and hosted by Rod Serling in the 1970s, Night Gallery took a more horror/macabre route than The Twilight Zone. Serling presents a painting that tells a story of a mysterious lifeboat survivor who’s been cursed to sink every ship he’s ever brought aboard. One night he’s picked up by a famous ocean liner. The name of that ocean liner? The Lusitania.

Voyagers! – “Pilot” and “Worlds Apart” Season 1, Episode 1 and 5

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Starring the late Jon-Erik Hexum in his most well-known role as time-traveler Phineas Bogg, Voyagers! teamed him up with wunderkind Jeffrey Jones (Meeno Peluce) where, with the help of a device called the Omni, they would travel through various time periods, meet various historical figures, then find ways to keep history from being altered. In the pilot, they stumble into a World War 1 without airplanes, then after a meeting with the Wright Brothers, stumble back into a World War 1 with airplanes and battle The Red Baron (shot down by an 11-year-old kid!). The second episode to take place during the Great War was “Worlds Apart”, in which Bogg and Jeffrey lend aid to Lawrence of Arabia (in 1917, with 80s hair!) in his fight against the Ottoman Empire.

Batman: The Brave and The Bold: “Aquaman’s Outrageous Adventure!” Season 2, Episode 30

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BTBATB was a homage to the Silver Age of comics where the Dark Knight was, uh, less dark. The show would often have him team up with other superheroes in the DC Universe for crime-fighting adventures. At the beginning of every episode of BTBATB, there’s a “teaser” where Batman would team up with a much, much lesser known DC character that was all but forgotten by readers. The guest star was none other than German flyer Hans von Hammer, otherwise known as Enemy Ace. A time traveling Batman is flying his, uh, batplane? Bi-batplane? Bat-biplane? Whatever. He’s flying over the trenches because some squid-like aliens are supplying the German army with advanced weaponry, giving them an advantage over the Allies. Enemy Ace, patriot that he is, is determined to shoot Batman down because he’s the “enemy” until Batman convinces him that alien intervention will put the Allies at a disadvantage and it wouldn’t be a fair fight. This argument appeals to Ace’s code of honor in combat and the two team up to defeat the aliens.

So what genre tv shows have you seen that dedicated an episode to the Great War?

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Of Dinosaurs and Dames: A Feminist’s Take on the Jurassic Park Franchise – Part 2

In my previous post, I talked about the women of the first three Jurassic Park movies and how they were written. Now this time, I’m going to focus on the heroine of the latest film, Jurassic World.

Her name is Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and she’s the operations manager of Jurassic World.

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She’s been the subject of much controversy, from her choice of footwear to the way she’s been “mommy shamed” by her sister (for lack of a better word). Even Joss Whedon got in on the criticism (the one that put him at odds with The Mary Sue). I’m not going to go into every detail about what made Claire so “problematic” (according to her critics) that would go into spoiler territory (and I’ve already posted a link in part 1). But I will talk about what makes her a great character.

The more I think about it, the more I realize Claire is actually a step up from the previous female characters of the last two films. And unlike Dr. Satler, who was a secondary character, the film mostly focuses on her and the way she runs her park.

 I like Claire. She’s professional, she’s hands on and she’s not afraid to face a challenge, even if it means leaving her comfort zone. This ranges from riding in a helicopter flown by someone whose just got their pilot’s license to trekking in the jungle with Owen to find her nephews. Unlike the other women, who were supporting characters, Claire is the main character of Jurassic World. The story is about her, how she runs her park and how she handles the chaos that erupts when the I. Rex breaks loose. She even saves Owen (Chris Pratt) at one point.

So why has the film garnered so much controversy for “shaming” Claire for not having children? Well there was that scene where she’s talking with her sister and the sister is chastising her for neglecting to spend time with them. Her sister says, “you’ll feel differently when you have children” to which Claire responds, “if I have children” and her sister insists “when you have children”. This, however, is a reflection of what pressure people get from their families when they don’t start one of their own. Heck, I’ve been pressured to get married by family and friends, even though I’ve stressed time and again that marriage wasn’t for me, I still get a “you might change your mind when you meet the right man” argument. A teacher once told me about an aunt she had who never married or had kids and how family would whisper among themselves, “what’s wrong with her?!” So basically this scene is simply art imitating life. What’s also ironic about this scene is that her sister is lecturing her about the joys of parenthood while she’s in the middle of getting a divorce (after all don’t kids need a father and a mother?) And she’s keeping the news from her sons by dumping them on Claire. This doesn’t score her Mother of the Year points.

If anything, the problem was Claire’s lack of maternal instinct towards her dinosaurs. She viewed them as nothing more than theme park commodities instead of living (dangerous) creatures with needs and feelings. Maybe if she had been more in touch with her nurturing side, she would’ve never created the I. Rex.

Speaking of I. Rex, I’ll end this post by asking all you Jurassic gals to be honest with yourselves: what impressed you most about the films, the humans or the dinosaurs? Were you impressed when the I. Rex tricked security by camouflaging herself? Did you spend most of your sleepovers engaged in T.Rex vs. Velociraptor debates? Did you ever pretend that you were the Spinosaurus and your little sister was the T. Rex so you could have an excuse to kick her butt? Did you imagine yourself as a Dilophosuarus when you pulled out the pepper spray on your would-be assailant as he tried to attack you? Did you feel sad when the I. Rex was defeated by being pulled in the sea by the Mosasaurus (I was)? And remember, all these dinosaurs were female and deadly, the most feminist aspect of the Jurassic Park franchise. So while I’m not offended with the way Claire was written, I was offended that Hasbro turned all the dinosaur toys male. No really.

Note: If you need further convincing of Claire’s awesomeness, here’s a link to an article on bustle.com.

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