The Doctor and The Enterprise, 1989, Jean Airey
I was fourteen when I bought this. That’s really all you need to know.
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The Doctor and The Enterprise, 1989, Jean Airey
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We open this time with a series of seemingly unrelated vignettes. In the first, handsome American Calvin is charming a prostitute (played by Jill Hennessey in the first of many bit parts in this series for her) in Buenos Aires with a snowglobe, before taking him up to his room to strangle her, and later be executed in an apparently extra-legal factions while a voice tells him he is needed elsewhere. Then, in Nigeria, missionary Brother Antonio is burnt alive after he tries to rape a woman, with again a voice saying he is needed. And in Miami, Nurse Mya commits suicide after watching coverage of her recent conviction for administering lethal injections to terminal patients, with, yes, a voice saying she is needed. And then all three folks are reunited in what is apparently Hell, with the voice being apparently the devil telling them that they need to stop three people connected to their tasks who are interfering with evil satanic plans by collecting cursed objects.
So we cut to the shop, where Micki has just received a familiar looking snowglobe in the mail. Turns out it’s of the Magic Castle, a tourist trap from where Micki grew up, and it was sent by Calvin, instantly appearing and apparently yet another ex boyfriend of Micki’s. Calvin persuades Micki to spend the weekend with him at Quiet Springs Lodge, which the arrive at after passing through a freak snowstorm, to discover the place looks exactly like the Magic Castle. Which raises no alarm bells whatsoever for the woman who makes her living neutralizing cursed antiques. Back at the shop, Brother Antonio, who turns out to be an old friend of Jack’s, shows up to whisk him away to a weekend retreat at a monastery. Ryan tries to stop Jack from going because he at least can recognize when things are too conveniently coincidental, although to his credit, Jack is a bit suspicious of the mysterious snowstorm and the monastery looking familiar. And then Mya, Ryan’s ex, shows up at the shop, though he’s too suspicious of the circumstances to go off with her. While Calvin attempts to seduce Micki and Antonio dodges Jack’s questions about the curiously empty monastery, Ryan makes some research calls.
While Ryan investigates, Jack is disturbed by the fact that he can hear Micki and Calvin talking somewhere in the monastery. Ryan calls Micki’s former fiancee and finds out about Calvin and a whole string of murders he committed, and his execution, while Jack’s search leads him to a television that shows him what is happening with Micki. With the gig up, Antonio reveals the whole plot to Jack; that Satan has decided to make Micki the mother of his child unless Jack surrenders his soul. Mya gets chewed out by Satan for failing to distract Ryan, and Jack’s search for an escape leads him to the realization that they’re all actually inside the snow globe, because “cursed antiques” is the whole gimmick for the show after all. Mya confesses everything to Ryan, somewhat late, as he’s found proof that all of the old friends visiting are actually dead, including her. Mya leads Ryan into the snowglobe, for which she’s punished by dying again, and Ryan meets up with Jack, though both are unable to actually make Micki see or hear them. As Micki finds herself in Hell’s Boudoir, Jack and Ryan steal Calvin’s car and drive it into the glass of the snowglobe, which knocks it off the table in the shop, shattering it, and freeing the gang.
While it’s nice to get an episode focused entirely on the main characters for a change, they spend the bulk of it on their own, and not really working together. It’s a change of pace, but the dynamic for the characters is always stronger as a group. The antique is a bit of a dodge, too, as it’s pretty much just a Satanic implement and not necessarily one of the objects cursed by Lewis Vendredei. That it’s broken in the end backs that up, but it feels incomplete to just randomly introduce another evil thing without tying it more strongly back into the show’s central premise. It’s also curious that the writers go to circuitous lengths to avoid using words like “devil” or “Satan” in the story, as it’s not a noun they’ve shied away from before.
A Very Robey 80s
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The Nancy Drew Files Case 18: Circle of Evil, 1987, Carolyn Keene
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TRIGGER WARNING: this episode deals with some potentially ugly portrayals of transgender individuals
This episode opens with Howard, a homely record store clerk (played by Martin Neufeld, who we previously saw in The Great Montarro), has turned his home into an obsessive shrine for Angelica, a pop singer played by Vanity, though mostly all we will hear of her output is a cover of Nature Boy. The equally obsessive display he has created at work impresses his boss, as it means the advance woman from the record company might arrange an in-store appearance, but it does rather unnerve the actual paying customers. On his way home from work, he witnesses a smash-and-grab at a storefront, and a, well, mesmer’s bauble the thieves drop. When another passerby accosts him and accuses him of the robbery, Howard tells the man to “drop dead”, which he promptly does. At home, the bauble apparently speaks to him telepathically, and clears up his acne, but is unresponsive when he asks it to make him handsome. And thus Howard leans the mechanism of the curse.
At the shop Ryan is excited about the tickets he’s received to Angelica’s upcoming concert, because Ryan’s musical tastes are at complete odds with his “cool nerd” personality, while Jack has matched a report of stolen goods to an item in the Manifest, the actual bauble of Mesmer. At the record store, Howard’s increasingly inappropriate questions about Angelica disturb the advance woman, so he hypnotizes her into walking out into traffic so that he can steal her backstage pass and take over her position in the tour. He then asks the bauble to make him “into someone she’ll notice,” which appears to mostly consist of taking off the latex around his nose, adding some powder, and perming his awful hair instead of cutting it the hell off. Angelica’s manager, Roger, takes an instant dislike to Howard when he shows up backstage, and Howard isn’t particularly happy that he’s low-man in the hierarchy. So he goes and hides in her dressing room while she’s out signing autographs and spies on her as she undresses. Meanwhile, Ryan and Micki’s investigation leads them to learn that Howard was the eye-witness to the robbery, and the only piece unrecovered is the bauble, and so start tracking him down. When they do, they both note his obsession with Angelica, that people keep dying around him, and that, reports to the contrary, he’s not ugly at all. And for once, they’re ahead of the plot, and realize that he almost certainly has the bauble. While they decide to stake out Angelica, Howard goes to Roger’s hotel room and hypnotizes him into slitting his throat, and then wishes to be Angelica’s lover.
Back at the shop, Jack gives more backstory on the bauble, mostly what we’ve already been shown or had explained to us earlier, with the crucial bit of new information being that you only get to keep whatever the bauble has given you as long as you keep the bauble with you. While Micki and Ryan try to get backstage to see Angelica, stymied by the guards who don’t understand that there are evil magic objects in play, Howard brings the love-spelled Angelica back to his shrine, where she is suitably impressed thanks to said spell. When it comes time to actually follow through with the sex, Howard is reluctant, and comes to the realization that he doesn’t want her, he wants to be her. And so he sort of…merges into her. Micki and Ryan break into Howard’s apartment too late and find only goo on the floor, and rush back to the club to find him. During the performance at the club, which is being broadcast worldwide, Micki notices that the person they think is Angelica is wearing the bauble, and so they snatch it from her when she approaches the audience. This causes Angelica to revert back to Howard, to screams of horror from the audience, leading to Howard’s death when he staggers into some pyrotechnics.
So there’s a long history of portraying transgender people as villains, and it’s pretty clear that the writers of this episode were running with that. You could argue that saving the reveal that what Howard really wants is to be a glamorous woman for a third act twist is an improvement on the usual way the trope plays out, but you could also argue that it just makes it more salacious that way. Even Jack’s “common sense” summation at the end of the episode is ambiguous as to what the “fantasy” that “twisted” Howard was. For 1989, though, while this was pretty far from progressive, it feels not as terrible as most of the portrayals of transgender people I remember. Apart from those issues, this is not a strong episode anyway. Most of the story is on the guest cast, who generally are not very engaging actors. The antique this time is also extremely straightforward, falling into the tit-for-tat of the more generic curses.
A Very Robey 80s
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We get a break from cold opens in a random place in Not Canada this week, as we open in Germany, where two Nazis who have just escaped from jail, apparently, are defrosting the corpsicle of Rausch, an SS commander. After some prayers to Asgard and Thule while waving around a swastika amulet, Rausch comes back to life and strangles the younger Nazi with barbed wire, because I guess that’s just something they left in the dead body’s pockets when they froze it. The remaining Nazi, Mueller, explains to Nazi Zombie Rausch that the amulet will give him life so long as he kills their enemies, which for a Lewis Vendredei brand Cursed Antique is a pretty simple and straight-forward deal. And then what we’re lead to believe are Nazi flash-backs turn out to be Jack Marshak waking up from a nightmare remembering his time in a POW camp during World War 2 (which means he enlisted when he was about 8 but whatever). And to further emphasize that some unknown amount of time has passed, we cut to Rausch killing a WW2 vet, as we find out that he’s been eliminating the survivors of the POW camp where Mueller was conducting experiments on prisoners.
Back at the shop, two more of Jack’s army buddies have to shame him into attending the funeral of the man who was just murdered. Jack learns that not only is everyone from the camp being murdered, but he finds the barb-wire strangle marks on the corpse, and immediately starts suspecting that “the Butcher” (aka Rausch) may be connected somehow. Shaw stays with Jack while he investigates, since Micki and Ryan are out of town, dropping some helpful exposition about how Jack has been having these nightmares for a year. Mueller, meanwhile, still in a German jail, compels Rausch to kill Jack’s other remaining buddy, Simpson. The fact that Rausch is now posing as a right-wing talk radio host calling himself Karl Steiner is, I am sure, not intended as any kind of comment on the format, especially when he keeps dropping the phrase “solution” into his program. His hagriographic interview on his political ambitions is interrupted when his slit throat starts opening again, but Mueller stops him from killing a random person to live, as he still controls him through the amulet, which has been split in two BFF style. And just after Jack learns about Simpson’s death, he finds a listing in the Manifest for a Thule Amulet, because the show isn’t quite prepared to acknowledge non-Lewis based magical objects.
Jack makes plans to interrogate Mueller in Germany, in the process learning about his past escape, just as Mueller tells Rausch that killing Jack will make him immortal. While he’s there Mueller basically tells him…everything he had already figured out for himself, so he turns around and comes back, to find that Shaw is now dead, too. Fortunately, though, he died reading that article about how the hate-mongering radio DJ is really a swell guy, so now Jack knows what name Rausch is going by now. Jack also got Mueller’s half of the amulet, so he uses it to call Rausch out, laying a trap for him in the shop. This mostly backfires, as Rausch manages to get the drop on Jack after all. Rausch completes the amulet, and makes himself immortal, as a bullet in the brain from Jack handily proves. And then Jack cuts the amulet off Rausch, and all his deadly wounds reopen and kill him. And everyone in the Not Canadian media quietly ignores the time a right-wing radio host killed a bunch of vets for no reason.
A solidly “okay” episode. It’s pretty much the Chris Wiggins show, and he does just fine, despite being very obviously much younger than all the other actors playing vets. The story doesn’t quite have the nerve to follow through with some of its concepts, though, dancing around Rausch’s role as a right-wing radio host a bit, never fully committing to the shtick. There are a few too many flashbacks disrupting the flow of the story as well, and that bit of travel to Germany, while logically it makes sense, ends up feeling a bit like padding as well.
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