Thursday, 31 May 2012

"They're Going To Be All The Rage In 1994"

So says EastEnders character, Gita Kapoor, about a horrible jacket in Dimensions In Time, the show's crossover with Doctor Who.

1994 was the year that the Rwandan genocide began, Edvard Munch's painting The Scream was stolen in Oslo, the first passengers travelled through the Channel Tunnel and South Africa held its first fully multiracial elections.

These are a few of my favourite things from 1994:

Bullets Over Broadway
Woody Allen's sharply scripted exploration of theatre takes in fairweather morals, the mob and actor's neuroses to great effect with brilliant performances across the board. Here's the trailer.

Star Trek: Generations
The seventh Star Trek film sees the crew of the USS Enterprise-D graduate from television (see below) to the silver screen. Patrick Stewart, William Shatner, James Doohan, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Malcolm McDowell and Whoopi Goldberg are all wonderful that blends action in the real world with the abstract in the Nexus. "They say time is the fire in which we burn" and the Nexus affords the film a unique form of time travel. The torch is passed from one generation to the Next. Here's the trailer.

The Shawshank Redemption
Frank Darabont's adaptation of a Stephen King novella is so often cited as one of the greatest films ever made. It probably isn't one of the greatest films ever made, but I can't fault it so it might as well be. Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler and James Whitmore are wonderful, The Marriage Of Figaro has probably never sounded more beautiful and a brilliant appearance by Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe and Raquel Welch. Here's the trailer.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape?
Johnny Depp and Darlene Cates are great, while Leonardo DiCaprio gives a performance which marks him out for bigger things in this enchanting coming of age story. Here's the trailer.

Jean Reno, Natalie Portman and Danny Aiello are excellent in Luc Besson's visually stylish and graphically violent tale of a New York hitman. Here's the trailer.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Pegasus; Homeward; Lower Decks; Thine Own Self; Genesis; Journey's End; Firstborn; Bloodlines; Emergence; Preemptive Strike; All Good Things...
The seventh and final season continues with a great Riker episode as the Enterprise searches for The Pegasus and Jonathan Frakes and Terry O'Quinn are fantastic. Paul Sorvino, Brian Markinson and Penny Johnson are wonderful in Homeward, an inventive take on bending the Prime Directive. The brilliant Lower Decks concentrates on a handful of junior officers and the change of emphasis gives a insight into life aboard ship and lends the ending greater weight. Brent Spiner is great as Thine Own Self recasts an amnesiac Data as Frankenstein among a primitive culture, while Marina Sirtis gives Troi's efforts to get promoted a touch of class. SF horror tale Genesis is a lot of fun as the crew revert to earlier stages of the evolutionary scale. Wil Wheaton returns as Wesley reaches his Journey's End, has a touching goodbye scene with Gates McFadden and sets the stage for the coming Cardassian border disputes on both series. Michael Dorn and James Sloyan are great in Firstborn, a great Klingon tale with an innovative use of time travel. Picard's vulnerability comes to the fore in Bloodlines and Patrick Stewart gives a wonderful performance. The Enterprise is responsible for the Emergence of a new life form in an episode that is like a holodeck greatest hits. Michelle Forbes makes a welcome return as Ro in Preemptive Strike which cements the Maquis both as a force to be reckoned with and as a sympathetic cause. All Good Things... must come to an end as Picard moves through times past, present and future: the recreation of the first episode is impressive and the future time period is fascinating. The stakes are suitably high, the anti-time paradox is an intelligent obstacle, Q's "different perspective" and the final poker game are great scenes. Stewart, Frakes, Burton, Dorn, McFadden, Sirtis, Spiner, Denise Crosby, Colm Meaney and John de Lancie all give excellent performances. The final episode has a lot to live up to and it does not disappoint.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Rivals; Armageddon Game; Whispers; Paradise; Blood Oath; The Maquis; The Wire; Crossover; The Collaborator; Tribunal; The Jem'Hadar; The Search; The House Of Quark; Equilibrium; Second Skin; The Abandoned; Civil Defense; Defiant
The second season continues with the very silly Rivals, but the build up to O'Brien and Bashir's racketball match is a great beginning to a beautiful friendship. They take another step towards being firm friends in Armageddon Game and Keiko's insistence about her husband's caffeine habits until the final scene is a nice idea. Colm Meaney is fantastic at portraying the extreme paranoia of Whispers. Sisko and O'Brien visit Paradise and find it riddled with hypocrisy. John Colicos, William Campbell and Michael Ansara are all fantastic in Blood Oath reprising their roles as three Klingons from the original Star Trek and Terry Farrell seizes the opportunity to show a new side to Jadzia Dax. Tying in neatly with the contemporary DMZ episodes of TNG (see above), The Maquis is a two-parter that rewrites the politics of the region again. Quark's explanation of the price of peace is great, Marc Alaimo is wonderful throughout and Sisko's Earth speech is wonderful and further distinguishes DS9 from the rest of Star Trek. Andrew Robinson is fantastic as The Wire throws the focus squarely onto plain, simple Garak and yet manages to maintain the character's mystery. Siddig El Fadil and Paul Dooley are great and the scenes of addiction and withdrawal are reassuringly unpleasant. Kira and Bashir Crossover to the 'Mirror' universe which is always a great excuse for the cast to play very different versions of their characters and Odo, Sisko, Smiley in particular do not disappoint while Nana Visitor is great as both versions of Kira, but it is her disgust as 'our' Kira the impresses the most. Louise Fletcher is magnificent as Winn charges Kira to find The Collaborator in the run up to the election for the Bajoran Kai. O'Brien's Tribunal is both a well constructed courtroom drama and a the show trial with torture scenes that make uncomfortable viewing and Fritz Weaver is astonishing as Kovat. Avery Brooks and Armin Shimerman are wonderful as the hints about the Dominion finally come to fruition and Sisko and Quark encounter The Jem'Hadar in the season finale. Thanks to great performances from Cress Williams and Molly Hagan the eponymous villains well and truly live up to the hype and raises expectations even higher.
The third season begins with The Search for the Founders in a two-parter that delivers on the promise of the previous episode and shapes the rest of the series. The USS Defiant is a fantastic addition, Martha Hackett and Salome Jens are great and the Great Link is very nicely realised. The House Of Quark is a great comedy episode that makes the most of the culture clash between the Klingons and the Ferengi and Shimerman, Max Grodénchik, Mary Kay Adams and Robert O'Reilly are all wonderful. The masks and the music make for an episode with a very eerie feel as the Equilibrium between Jadzia and Dax is upset. Everyone except Kira is lying as she finds herself with a Second Skin. Odo attempts to mentor a young Jem'Hadar in The Abandoned and Rene Auberjonois gives him a palpable sense of disappointment when he fails. The counter-insurgency program of Civil Defense is a brilliantly implacable foe, and Alaimo and Robinson are fantastic. Jonathan Frakes returns as Riker and steals the USS Defiant in a nice surprise for the established audience and the ramifications of actions on the wider political landscape will be felt for a long time to come.

Northern Exposure: Baby Blues; Mr. Sandman; Mite Makes Right; A Bolt From The Blue; Hello, I Love You; Northern Hospitality; Una Volta In L'Inverno; Fish Story; The Gift Of The Maggie; A Wing And A Prayer; I Feel The Earth Move; Gran Prix; Blood Ties; Lovers And Madmen; Dinner At Seven-Thirty; Eye Of The Beholder; Shofar, So Good; The Letter; The Robe; Zarya; Full Upright Position; Up River; Sons Of The Tundra; Realpolitik
The fifth season continues as Ed discovers that showbusiness can be a dog eat dog eat dog, while Shelly has Baby Blues and hallucinates a bizarre Caryl Churchill's Top Girls-esque afternoon tea. Mr. Sandman sees the people of Cicely dreaming each others' dreams and gives great insight into the various dreamers. Maggie becomes obsessed with dust mites and her conversations with one is inspired, while Maurice's investment in a violin and the lengths to which Cal the musician will go to hear it played are great in Mite Makes Right. Ed is struck by lightning in A Bolt From The Blue and his disappointment at the experience is touching. Shelly's existential time travel is fantastic and so is the town's involvement in her labour in Hello, I Love You, while while a stranded Ruth-Ann and Walt are great. Joel struggles with Northern Hospitality, the town meeting to discuss Chris' self-censorship of his show following a suicide note and Holling singing 'This Land Is Your Land' are brilliant. Shelly teaching Ruth-Ann Italian in Una Volta In L'Inverno and Walt's addiction are fantastic. Joel finds himself in the midst of a bizarre Fish Story, Ruth-Ann shuts up shop and becomes a biker chick and the conversations of her fellow bikers are wonderful. Maurice depends upon the kindness of strangers in The Gift Of The Maggie and Maggie being maternal toward Joel is very funny in the last scene. Ed struggles with gossip and the Holling versus Priest arm wrestling match is fantastic in A Wing And A Prayer. Ron and Erick's wedding and Holling's catering penny-pinching is great in I Feel The Earth Move. Gran Prix's wheelchair racing, Ted's lesson in capitalism and Ed's struggle with External Validation are brilliant. The scenes of Ed and Ronaldo Pinetree Private Investigator are great in Blood Ties. Semansky's reaction to Cal on the run, the reveal of Walt with the woolly mammoth is great and Chris' high school crush three times are all brilliant in the season finale, Lovers And Madmen, but Joel's last line "I'm a Cicelian", is fantastic.
It's a line reinforced by the sixth season opener Dinner At Seven-Thirty as Joel finds himself in an alternative reality practicing medicine in New York at a party with his fellow Cicelians recast as unhappy Manhattanites, it's brilliant and the ending is very rewarding. Ed as a PI and Shelly in the dollhouse are great in Eye Of The Beholder. Joel undergoes A Christmas Carol for Yom Kippur in the brilliantly named Shofar, So Good. A cancer scare makes Joel re-evaluate his life as do The Letters received by Maggie and Shelly. The drugs, the devil and the dummy are all fantastic in The Robe. Christopher Neame is great as Lenin in Zarya which serves as a sequel of sorts to the episode that saw the founding of Cicely, but elevates it to potentially international historical importance. Joel and Maggie's Russian holiday and Chris' artistic interpretation of electricity are very funny in Full Upright Position. It's the end of an era as Ed heads Up River in search of an AWOL Joel who tells him a story to illustrate why he isn't coming back and Ruth-Ann's declaration of love for Walt is very touching. Holling tries to join the Sons Of The Tundra, Ed struggles with the responsibility of seeing the future and Phil and Michelle, the new Doctor and his wife arrive in town. Maggie's election as mayor of Cicely has a peculiar affect on Chris while Phil and Joel play a profound round of golf in Realpolitik.

The Day Today
Chris Morris, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Front, Patrick Marber, Doon Mackichan, David Schneider and Harry Towb are fantastic in this slick news parody. The show features stories are as varied as bullying in the Church of England, a fight between John Major and the Queen, bomb dogs and The Day Today itself causing a war between Britain and Australia. Chapman Baxter's multiple executions are extraordinary, the weather is reported with several brilliantly bizarre methods, Alan Partridge's erratic sports reporting is hilarious, the trailers for Attitudes Night and John Fashanu are excellent, the inserts of documentary series The Pool and soap opera The Bureau are wonderful, while the Speak Your Brains vox pops are terrifying. The use of bombastic graphics and promotion of opinion over fact was especially prescient: practically all news programmes have become The Day Today now.

Knowing Me, Knowing You With Alan Partridge
Alan Partridge transfers his chat show to television and finds himself not interviewing Roger Moore, defining moribund and singing a spectacular ABBA medley. Steve Coogan, Rebecca Front, Patrick Marber, Doon Mackichan, David Schneider, Melanie Hudson, Alan Ford and John Thompson are all great. The dialogue is brilliantly observed, even down to relative catchphrases "not literally, that would be hideous", "on that bombshell" and "Aha" is exactly the awkward gimmick Alan would employ. The series is fantastic and the highlights far too numerous to count, but I love Alan's enjoyment of Keith Hunt's parental visitation situation, the juxtaposition of a beauty contest and a political by-election and everything in the French episode.

The Memoirs Of Sherlock Holmes: The Three Gables; The Dying Detective; The Golden Pince-Nez; The Red Circle; The Mazarin Stone; The Cardboard Box
The final series of Sherlock Holmes adventures starring Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke is more reflective in tone. Mary Ellis and Peter Wyngarde are wonderful in The Three Gables. The cruel irony that lies behind the filming of The Dying Detective is a difficult one to ignore and Brett, Hardwicke, Roy Hudd, Susannah Harker, Caroline John and Richard Bonneville are brilliant in an exceptional episode. The Golden Pince-Nez is a great, if Watsonless, tale and sees the welcome return of Charles Gray as Mycroft and wonderful performances from Frank Finley and Nigel Planer. Betty Marsden, Kenneth Connor, Tom Chadbon, Kerry Shale and Joseph Long are great in The Red Circle and it's nice to see Rosalie Williams getting a bit more to do. The search for the The Mazarin Stone is a strange one which sees Mycroft taking Sherlock's traditional role as Brett's health declined and Charles Gray is marvellous and the three Garridebs are very funny. While a shadow of its former self and despite its unassuming title The Cardboard Box is a fitting last episode for this incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, Ciarán Hinds, Joanna David and Deborah Findlay are great and there are some wonderful scenes between Brett, Hardwicke, Williams and Chadbon.

Why Bother?: Eels, Love & Guns; Bears; Christ; Prisoner Of War; Drugs etc
Chris Morris interviews Peter Cook as Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling in these brilliantly acerbic ten minute chunks. Revealing among other things his time in a Japanese Prisoner-Of-War camp during World War II and his equal opportunities ethnic cleansing during the LA riots of 1992.

Pulp: His 'N' Hers
The fourth album from Pulp is another lyrical masterpiece with style and sophistication lurking among the synth pop and sexual alienation.
Stand-Out Tracks: 'Joyriders', 'Lipgloss', 'Acrylic Afternoons', 'Have You Seen Her Lately?', 'Babies', 'She's A Lady', 'Happy Endings', 'Do You Remember The First Time?', 'Pink Glove', 'David's Last Summer'

Blur: Parklife
From the brash Europop of 'Girls & Boys' to the beautiful 'End Of A Century', 'Badhead' and 'To The End' via the bombastic title track (with a fantastic appearance by Phil Daniels). Blur's third album practically invented Britpop.
Stand Out Tracks: 'Girls & Boys', 'Tracy Jacks', 'End Of A Century', 'Parklife', 'Badhead', 'The Debt Collector', 'To The End', 'Clover Over Dover', 'Magic America', 'This Is A Low'

Soul Music by Terry Pratchett
A new musical phenomenon permeates the lands of the Disc and its effects mirror those of rock and roll on our own world. "This was music that had not only escaped, but had robbed a bank on the way out. It was music with its sleeves rolled up and its top button undone, raising its hat and grinning and stealing the silver." Crammed full of jokes about rock and roll music, the sixteenth Discworld novel never reduces its subject to parody and manages to tell a fantastic story as wizards, dwarfs, trolls and even Death himself fall under the spell of the music-with-rocks-in.

Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett
"Rincewind could scream for mercy in nineteen languages, and just scream in another forty-four." The next Discworld novel takes its title from the phrase "May you live in Interesting Times" and it appears that Rincewind's curse is that he does. The Wizzard (sic) travels to the Orient-inspired Agatean Empire, is reunited with Twoflower and in a reversal of fortunes sees the latter acting as guide to the former. Also making a welcome return is Cohen the Barbarian. The geriatric Silver Horde are great, the culture clashes ae all very funny and you've got to love the idea that "Probably the last sound heard before the Universe folded up like a paper hat would be someone saying, 'What happens if I do this?'"

Ghost World: Punk Day; The First Time
The third chapter of Daniel Clowes' Ghost World sees Enid redefine herself in Punk Day, make a stand against the obnoxious extroverted pseudo-Bohemian art-school losers and leave an unfortunate answerphone message. In chapter four, she talks us through The First Time and makes a hilarious millinery purchase. It's arguably these two chapters that show Ghost World getting into its stride and taking more risks.

Star Trek: The Customizable Card Game
I'd never been interested in Magic: The Gathering, but when Decipher released a customizable card game drawing on elements from Star Trek: The Next Generation, I was hooked. Later incorporating elements from other Star Treks, the game expanded to thousands of cards representing hundreds of ships, characters, missions, artifacts and much more (eventually including tribbles). Crucially the game successfully reflected the flavour of the series.

Recommendations welcome.

Next month: 1993


mooderino said...

God, I miss the 90s.

Moody Writing

Dave said...

Me too.

loverofwords said...

I did not know there was anyone out there who even knew "Northern Exposure." We enjoyed every episode and recorded most of them which we still watch. My favorite is the one where Ruth Ann is trying to learn Italian so she can read Dante in the original and she finds that Shelly, of all people is fluent, and Ruth Ann with the motorcycle group, etc. etc.

Dave said...

Ruth Ann is amazing.

Philip J Reed said...

This is the year I'm going to have the most trouble with. Everything else has a clear touchpoint for me.

Dave said...

I can't tell if that means it was a bad year or such a good year that you are spoilt for choice.