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1998-02-01 00:00:00 - (REVIEW) A Special Edition - (Mike Horne <mike@whispers.demon.co.uk>)


The Outer Limits Reviews A Special Edition "If that is what they've chosen to reveal, then what have they decided to conceal?" "EXPERIENCING DIFFICULTIES" "Wisdom can never be taught & we must decided the truth for ourselves." (The gravel-voiced sage being all deep, again) I guess the question the reader of this review has to ask is: how bad did I think this episode was going to be? I am pleased to say, though, that Edition far outweighed any expectations I may have had about a TOL clip show. The very premise of an anthology series doing a clip show is absurd, but this episode works, and very successfully too. Two men sit in a car outside a motel and we learn that someone inside will be snatched as soon as he leaves his room. The man, Donald Rivers (???), leaves his room, goes down the external stairs and out into the parking lot. The men from the car jump on him and grab him, then realise that it's someone else. Rivers has escaped down the back stairway and into a taxi. As the camera returns to the parking lot, we see the person who was grabbed's reaction as he sees the faces of his captors. There are four of them. And they all look the same. Rivers goes to his workplace, a television studio in which he hosts a show called The Whole Truth. Tonight, this current affairs programme will be broadcast live, and will feature an expose on genetic experiments on human beings... First off, the good parts beginning with acting. ???, who plays the main character of the story, Donald Rivers, gives an effective and realistic portrayal of a talk show host who is doing, perhaps, his first truly serious programme. He comes across as, occasionally, John Tesh, Geraldo and a news anchor. This mix lets the character grow as the show progresses. The way the episode is done, i.e. as the actual television programme, compliments this performance, and gives as a realism that is not often seen in The Outer Limits. Bruce Harwood plays Avery Strong. It's strange seeing an actor who is so closely associated with another series (Harwood plays X Files' Byers) doing an effective job in a different show. Harwood, however, gives an assured and nervy performance as the catalyst of the episode, the source of this bio-genetic Watergate. Avery Strong is, to say the least, unpredictable and Harwood puts this over well, being a little gun-happy and nervous to the point of hysteria at times. Compare Harwood to ??? and you can see the contrast between the calm, collected Donald Rivers and the hyper-paranoid Avery Strong. Louise Vallance is little more than support, but she does a credible job as Sandra, the person responsible for keeping the show on the air whilst the networks try to drop the show. There's not much to be said about her performance as the show is basically Rivers and Strong talking, clips from other episodes and, near the end, a bit of action. Vallance doesn't really get a look in, but she gives able support which is all the can be asked in an episode like this. Direction. It's nice to see Mario Azzopardi back in the driving seat after several weeks away. As usual, he does a good job (except for one bit, see later) that borders on the exceptional and I'd like, as is becoming traditional, to pick out a few scenes and shots. The preliminary scenes with Harwood before he comes out of hiding are effective, never quite showing his face. Later on, though, where his face is in shadow, it is pretty obvious what he looks like and, in fact, the light catches every part of his face. It's easy to see who he is! Just before The Whole Truth begins, there is a nice shot where the camera is positioned high and back from the news desk and then pulls back slightly as the TV cameras push in from below. It's a nice choreographed move that probably took ages to set up, but it was worth it. Again just before the show, there is a moment when the camera drops down from the rafters of the sound stage and ends up on eye-level with Rivers. It's well-timed and goes at quite a pace. It's a bit out of place, but if a director is going to do some experimental and immaculately framed shots, the clip show is the perfect arena in which to do it. Whether the decision to do the episode mostly as the TV show itself was down to the writer or the director, Azzopardi deserves credit for getting the look and feel of The Whole Truth down absolutely perfectly. From the quick cut as the anchor turns his head to look at another camera, all the way through to the two-way TV screen arguments that Strong and the other guest have. Most of the clips were recognisable, but when they did the clip of Blood Brothers from the first season, it knocked me for six. To start with I had trouble guessing which episode it was and then I realised why. The entire scene had been reshot with different actors. Personally, I find that amazingly cool. Presumably the royalties were too high and it was cheaper just to reshoot it. This clip, though, was a major step to ensuring that A Special Edition didn't feel like a clip show. Near the end, events conspire against the TV programme and they have to switch to hand-held camera. It's only a very brief scene, but it is nicely handled. There is one loooong continuous shot from the studio to inside the OB van. The direction of A Special Edition kind of reminded me of the live episode of ER. You never quite knew what was going to happen and it really did give the impression of being live, just as The Whole Truth was meant to be. Plenty of kudos points for Azzopardi, then. It takes a lot of skill to make a clip show not feel like a clip show, but that was what the Writers of Edition managed to do. Story credit was given to Naren Shankar, who is building up quite a reputation on the TOL staff these days, and Jonathan Glassner. Shankar is also responsible for the teleplay which includes excerpts from, it must be, the entire rest of the writing staff. The story itself, as I indicated before, does not feel like a clip show at all. In fact, the number of clips is kept to a minimum. I must admit I saw the title and thought "oh, no, it's The Clip Show", but the dread was unfounded. It was a respectable excuse to re-use old footage, and I think they chose the right ones. For the record, the episodes featured were: Last Supper (yay!), New Lease, Blood Brothers, Voice of Reason, Afterlife, In Another Life (which was only last week!) and Dark Rain. As I said before, I don't know whose idea it was to make the episode into a TV show, and to actually show it as if actually was, for the most part, The Whole Truth. Obviously, the writer must have something to do with this. Edition was an interesting story, done in a new and interesting way which made it not seem like a clip show at all. Well, not so that fact detracted from the episode. It's a credit that they managed to accomplish this. It was also a great decision to base the episode on medical and, more specifically, genetic experimentation. There's a whole wealth of episodes where this was the underlying plot and it's something to be remarked that they restricted themselves to only 7 episodes. The last clip show that sticks vividly in my mind was TNG's Shades of (shudder) Gray. That episode must have used maybe 15 episodes as sources. Edition hit the mark and didn't overstep it by using clips every five minutes just for the sake of it. It could so easily have turned into "and heeeeerreees another bit of evidence..." It didn't, though, so congratulations boys, you made another hour shoot by... Briefly: that colour test card with EXPERIENCING DIFFICULTIES. Loved it (grin) One final word on writing. For a change, this episode tried to ground itself in reality. Just as I said before, it wanted to be Genetics-gate, and it managed to do that. It wasn't fantastical or unbelievable. Instead, it felt like a genuine expose. That only comes from strong writing and strong direction and A Special Edition had it in spades. Music was by John Van Tongeren and Mark Mancina with additionals by J. Peter Robinson and Steven ???. I didn't really notice it all that much, so the volume must have been right for a change. One small comment: there was some really kooky music just after the opening credits and for a moment I thought Danny Elfman had sneaked into the Trilogy sound recording studios. Nice cue, whoever wrote it. Special effects were, of course, minimal. The Vistaglide matte- work with the four copies of the assassin was effective, but I have more to say on that later... Right, that's that bit over with. Now for the dross. Acting, as is getting customary not to mention boring, was very good and I can't really say that I noticed anything in particular that was wrong in that department. Direction, apart from some very weak camerawork in the pre- credits teaser, Azzopardi does his usual excellent work. Writing. Nothing major wrong. Obviously, the episode fits in better with US spaced advert breaks so that it feels even more like the TV programme the episode is about, but I can live with that. We had the same problem with B5's And Now For a Word. Only one personal complaint. I didn't need to see the Dark Rain baby effects the first time around, I certainly didn't need a repeat showing. The voice-overs were a touch deep this week, I think. Special effects. The one effect, the ONE effect, they had to do was the duplicate assassins. They eventually did it right inside the TV trailer, but the exterior shot outside the motel was just dreadful. It was far too smooth and the lighting was not matched for each of the copies. Ho-hum. Music. A nice surprise. No-one leant on the volume slider. Summing up. This episode was a clip show, and as such comes in at a lower expectation level than others. However, I was very pleasantly surprised. I remembered halfway through that nobody does clip shows like Trilogy do. Poltergeist: The Legacy has done two very successful clip shows and Trilogy here employ their usual tactic of deliberately seeming to come up with a story and then come to realise that it could be done as a clip show. That is opposed to thinking, "oh nuts, we've run out of money, Clip Show time." It probably comes out of the fact that this episode, not sure about Poltergeist, was done in the middle to end of the season rather than as the last episode. Therefore it doesn't feel like the production team have run out of steam. I got the distinct impression on TNG that Shades of Gray was not only out of steam but the boiler had blown up as well. A Special Edition must go down as the clip show that managed to avoid being a clip show. The base story was good, the ending was excellent and logical and there was a general air of this being no different to any ordinary episode. There was good use of locations, in other words by pure virtue of the fact that they did only two shots outside the studio, they kept the episode focussed. A triumph in almost all respects, A Special Edition gets a great rating because it was so much better than it should have been. Score: 9.1 -- Mike Horne mike@whispers.demon.co.uk * http://www.whispers.demon.co.uk "They say life is a river..."

1998-02-01 00:00:00 - Re: (REVIEW) A Special Edition - (stoodin101@aol.com)


> A triumph in almost all respects, A Special Edition gets a great >rating because it was so much better than it should have been. > > Score: 9.1 This is a sequel to the first season's clip show, VOICE OF REASON ("Avery Strong" is the brother of the man who discovered aliens were among us in VOR) and it shows how far TOL has progressed since that first season. VOR is mediocre at best; ASE is nearly as strong (so to speak) as any of the NON-clip shows. Not least because they realized they didn't have to use the clips as illustrations from the episodes they were taken from, but could say (for example in the DARK RAIN clip) that this is footage from the Evil Clone Labs, where experiments that have gone awry are kept. Likewise the shot from AFTERLIFE had another actor matted in, so that Clancy Brown appears to be answering some very different questions that the ones fired at him in AFTERLIFE. This is less a "clip show" than a recycling of material, in the same way the old OL was constantly using those BORDERLAND pylons, Ebonite masks, Chromoite costumes, Zanti Misfits and all the other props as other things in other eps...... NECRONOMICON, all-instrumental electronic music inspired by H.P.Lovecraft, now available on c-60 cassette. E-mail StoOdin101@aol.com for details.