Star Trek – Arena

Arena begins in a rather jolly way, but this mood doesn’t last. Jim and Bones are both licking their lips in anticipation of their visit to a colony planet called Cestus III. The Commodore (an old friend of Kirk’s) is renowned for the quality of his food and drink (Spock, of course, doesn’t join in with their banter).

This moment of levity is all the more effective for the way the episode sharply gear-changes after Kirk and co beam down and discover that Cestus III is a total ruin. By great good fortune (or plot contrivance) there’s a survivor. Kirk is keen for McCoy to keep him alive – but more because he has vital information about the attack, rather than out of any concern for his well-being.

Kirk might seem a little cold here, but it’s a good indicator of his military training kicking in (something which he hasn’t had to use too often during this first season, Balance of Terror being a notable exception). 

The tension ramps up a little more after Sulu reports that the Enterprise is under attack. Another nice Kirk character beat is shown here – he tells Sulu not to lower the shields in order to beam them back. That could leave the Enterprise vulnerable and the ship has to take precedence over individual lives. The needs of the many …

The early part of the episode, operating rather like a war film, is very atypical of the series to date. Most of the adversaries faced so far have either been singular (Charlie, the Salt Monstet, the Squire of Gothos) or abstract (the virus in The Naked Time).

The relentless barrages faced by Kirk and the others (very decent explosions, clearly this episode had a healthy budget) creates a feeling of dread as see see Kirk’s small gang getting picked off by their unseen adversaries.

Arena could have remained on Cestus III, but instead the remains of the landing party are finally able to beam back up (the alien vessel has disengaged). This feels a little pat, but no matter – the preamble is over and we’re now heading into the heart of the story.

It’s interesting the way that Kirk (based on very little evidence) is convinced that the alien’s intention has to be invasion. Spock seems to struggle with this concept for a few seconds before loyally agreeing with his captain.

Kirk decides that if they pursue and destroy the alien ship then the other aliens won’t dare to move against them in the future.  Mmm, okay. I can see a few flaws with this line of reasoning, but given the way the story plays out that was no doubt intentional

Kirk, still reeling from the destruction of the colony, appears to have vengeance on his mind. But he also tells Spock that “it’s a matter of policy”, which suggests that he’s not just acting from bloodlust (he’s also obeying standing Starfleet orders).

Kirk’s attempt to blast the alien vessel comes to naught after he and the captain of the other ship, a race we now discover are called the Gorn, are plucked from their respective vessels by the all-powerful Metrons.

The Metrons are somewhat irked to discover that their section of space has been invaded and have decided that Kirk and the Gorn should face each other in single combat. The winner’s ship will be allowed to leave, the loser’s ship destroyed …

It’s usually around this point that I have a hankering to watch the Blakes 7 episode Duel.

When Kirk disappears from the bridge, Uhura lets out a piercing scream. Not the behaviour you’d expect from a trained professional, but it fits with the series’ general treatment of females to date.

And then we meet the Gorn. He looks a bit silly doesn’t he? Maybe it’s all the grrrring and chuckling, or possibly it’s the fact his mask looks a little too much like a mask. His little tabard, which barely covers his alien modesty, is also worthy of a mention.

I have to confess that this is the point in the story where my attention starts to wander, especially since the Gorn isn’t a great conversationalist (at least to begin with). Shatner puts his all into the action scenes (surprisingly his shirt doesn’t get ripped) and also does his best to convince us that the lightweight rocks he tangles with actually weigh a ton. That’s something they can’t teach you in acting school.

Eventually Kirk and the Gorn are able to communicate. Once they do so it’s remarkable how the Gorn becomes less of a monster and more of an individual. The moral of the story then follows – aftet sparing the Gorn’s life, Kirk has proved to the Metrons that mankind might just have a future. Kirk’s refusal to allow the alien ship to be destroyed is another mark in his favour.

But Kirk is still shown to be a flawed hero. His initial desire to destroy the Gorn ship could have triggered a war. Whilst Kirk strong-arms it down on the planet, Spock and McCoy – watching events on the scanner screen – are able to discuss the nuances of their situation. Were the Gorn acting in self-defence on Cestus III? If so, their actions would be a little more understandable.

But that doesn’t explain who sent the faked messages which lured the Enterprise to the destroyed colony. The Gorn? That suggests a degree of cold-blooded calculation which doesn’t square with the Gorn’s claims that the human colonists had invaded their area of space and they only attacked them in self defence (which is a shaky enough argument anyway). Maybe this plot point got overlooked during the various rewrites.

The very silly-looking Gorn is a bit of a problem and the moral is ladled on rather thickly, but there’s still plenty of interest to be found in Arena. Generally anything with Gene L. Coon’s name on it is a sign of quality (I don’t think he should shoulder all the blame for Spock’s Brain).

I still prefer Duel though. It has Isla Blair for one thing …

The Jewel In The Crown, Southall, Middx by Johnny Speight (1985, unscreened pilot)

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It’s fair to say that Johnny Speight remains a rather controversial figure, more than twenty years after his death.  The news that the recently established UK streaming service BritBox will not carry Till Death Us Do Part has brought his name to the fore once again. Although this, to be honest, is a bit of a non-story. At present, the list of archive television from the sixties, seventies and eighties not on BritBox dwarfs the small amount which is …

With Till Death, the argument (a pretty convincing one) has always been that whilst Alf Garnett often espouses bigoted and racist opinions, the series – and the other regular characters – are laughing at him, not with him.  This defence was also (less convincingly) used for Speight’s LWT sitcom Curry and Chips, in which Spike Milligan (browned up as Paki Paddy) joined his old friend Eric Sykes for a short lived series which was mired in controversary right from the start.

Milligan clearly enjoyed browning up as he later played Mr Van Gogh, an illegal Pakistani immigrant, in The Melting Pot which was written by Milligan and Neil Shand.  Only the pilot was transmitted, the remaining six episodes have remained locked up in the BBC’s vaults for over forty years.

Given all this, what were the chances that a mid eighties BBC pilot featuring Sykes and Milligan (once again browned up) and written by Speight would prove to be a roaring success? Clearly very slim ….

Watching The Jewel In The Crown now, it’s interesting for many reasons – not least the fact that it’s precisely the sort of programming which alternative comedy was supposed to have killed off.  Of course, the notion that alternative comedy was always some sort of positive cleansing force has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Not all trad comedy was bad, not all alternative comedy was good.

Anybody looking to claim that The Jewel In The Crown is a satire on racism will have their work cut out for them. In the first few minutes Spike explains to Eric why he’s opened a crummy café whilst caked in brownface. “All those Pakistanis come over here and steal our jobs, right? Well, I’ve opened up a Pakistani restaurant and I’ve blacked myself up every night and I steal some of their bloody jobs”. Eric looks perplexed but doesn’t issue a challenge, so the point is allowed to stand.

The thirty five minutes aren’t without some merit though.  Even allowing for the fact that Spike’s Irish accent comes and goes at will, Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes are always worth watching (even if it’s slightly sad that they didn’t seem to have any issue with Speight’s script).

The fact that they’re playing versions of themselves is also interesting (there’s a gentle dig from Spike about the fact that Eric’s spent twenty years making the sitcom I Love Hattie). There might have been some merit in developing this theme had the pilot by some miracle generated a series. And Josephine Tewson and Keith Smith (an old colleague of Spike from his Q days) both add a little touch of quality, even if they can’t do anything with the script either.

I haven’t been able to source a great deal of info about this pilot, save for the usual rumblings that it was never broadcast due to “political correctness”. It’s probably more to do with the fact that it was horribly misjudged and not really very funny.  As a curio it’s certainly worth a look, but it’s hard to see it as any sort of missed opportunity.

Star Trek – The Squire of Gothos

We’re treading familiar territory in today’s episode – Kirk and the others facing someone with godlike powers (just like Where No Man Has Gone Before or Charlie X) – but The Squire of Gothos still engages and maintains a high level of interest from beginning to end.

A big part of this is down to William Campbell’s performance as Trelane (it’s an excellent guest turn – one of Star Trek‘s best).  Like Charlie, Trelane increasingly acts like a petulant child, which makes the final reveal (he actually is a sort of child in a man’s body) all the more satisfying.

Living in a sumptuous mansion decorated with twentieth century objet d’art (as well as some highly recognisable Star Trek memorabilia) Trelane toys with Kirk and the others in an amused, but disinterested way.  He can freeze people or alter matter at will, but these examples of his power may just be the tip of the iceberg.  We don’t learn a great deal about him – who or what he actually is – but this isn’t a problem. Indeed the fact that he’s such a nebulous character makes him all the more intriguing.

The way that Trelane places a cheery message – “greetings and felicitations” – on the Enterprise’s scanner screen is a wonderfully jolting moment.  The Enterprise in general, and the bridge in particular, always has the feeling of a safe haven – so to see it breached in such a casual way informs the viewer that today’s adversary is no run of the mill type.

Trelane is a keen student of Earth’s history, especially the wars, and expects Kirk to share his interest. “I want to learn all about your feelings on war and killing and conquest. That sort of thing”.  Of course Kirk doesn’t have a similar love of battle, but the episode doesn’t handle this in a heavy handed way (later iterations of Trek might have been a little more on the nose when discussing the way that today’s Earth people are obviously much more enlightened than the savages of the twentieth century).

Trelane and Kirk eventually fall out, seemingly because of the attention Tremane shows to Yeoman Teresa Ross (Venita Wolf). But in fact Kirk is only using Teresa as an excuse to test the limits of Trelaine’s abilities. 

This week’s fairly disposable female Yeoman, Teresa doesn’t really push forward the depiction of women in the Star Trek universe. Changed into a sumptious ball gown by Trelane, Teresa is relegated to the status of a decorative object, something which is confirmed when Trelane tells Kirk that they “fight for the attention, the admiration, the possession of women” (Teresa looks very nice but hardly says a word). 

Kirk being placed on trial by a vengeful Trelane works well. This is partly down to the enthusiastic way a be-wigged Campbell bangs his gavel, but also because of how simplistic the staging is. No doubt this was partly budget related, but the image of Kirk in the dock with a silhouette of a noose behind him is still a striking image.

Given Trelane’s unimaginable power, Kirk was never going to beat him in a fair fight. But the episode’s conclusion doesn’t feel like a cop out. In fact, the way that Trelane’s brittle bravado is pricked by his unseen parents (“stop that nonsense at once, or you’ll not be permitted to make any more planets”) is a very satisfying way to wrap things up.

Although primarily a Kirk story, Spock is also well served by Paul Schneider’s script. I especially love his confrontation with Trelane. “I object to you. I object to intellect without discipline. I object to power without constructive purpose”.

If I was one of those people who enjoyed making lists, then The Squire of Gothos would be pretty high up on my favourite episodes list.

Star Trek – Shore Leave

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Shore Leave is a highly enjoyable slab of fantasy. It’s best not to worry too much about the plot specifics, just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Star Trek had ventured out of the studio a few times by this point, but mainly the location work hadn’t gone any further than the readily accessible back-lot sets. So this makes the glossy visuals of Shore Leave appear especially startling (no doubt the viewers appreciated the sunny vista just as much as the tired Enterprise crew). It’s certainly a change from the series’ more regular diet of identikit studio-bound planets.

Although Star Trek is probably fixed as a science fiction series in most people’s eyes, it wasn’t afraid of a touch of fantasy (although Shore Leave goes further than most stories in this respect). Eventually a rational explanation is given for all the weirdness (it’s the work of a highly advanced civilisation who conveniently live off-screen in a massive underground complex) but that’s a fairly cop-out resolution.  

If the network been prepared to embrace the fantasy concept it would have been interesting to have left the story resolution a little more opaque.

Very early on we’re primed to expect the unusual today. Bones’ encounter with a large bunny rabbit checking his watch is one of those magic Trek moments whilst Sulu has an entertaining tussle with a Samurai warrior. But the meeting between Yeoman Barrows (Emily Banks) and Don Juan feels much more problematic.

It’s easy to believe that Barrows’ part was originally written for the now departed Janice Rand, who was often at the mercy of predatory men.  Barrows is discovered in a dishevelled state with her clothing ripped, explaining that “it was so sort of story book walking around here, and I was thinking, all a girl needs is Don Juan”. We’re left with the uncomfortable implication that on some level Barrows had invited this assault.

Kirk needs to be cajoled by both Spock and McCoy to partake of some shore leave, even though his iron constitution is feeling the strain. There’s a gorgeous comic moment during the pre-credits sequence where we see a weary Kirk receiving a massage from (he thinks) Spock. But it was actually Barrows doing the work (which Kirk seems oddly disappointed about). There’s so much slash fiction fodder there ….

When he does beam down, Jim quickly embraces the planet whole-heartedly (casually dismissing the fears of another member of his away team). This is mainly because he runs into one of his old flames, Ruth (Shirley Bonne).

No doubt he finds that meeting up again with the cocky Finnegan (Bruce Mars), the bane of his Academy days, to be much less welcome.  Finnegan is (or more accurately, supposed to be) Irish, which means that the incidentals suddenly go into diddly-de overdrive.  This is not a good thing. But as compensation there’s a spot of classic Kirk shirt-ripping when he slugs it out, man to man, with Finnegan.

Bones is also having a fine old time, strolling through the woodland with the rather attractive Yeoman Barrows.  He seems keen to replace Don Juan in Barrows’ affections, but his advances come to an abrupt halt after he’s impaled by a lance wielding knight on horseback.  This sudden explosion of violence is very jarring – could McCoy really be dead?

Maybe he was, but the amazing restorative powers of the mysterious aliens who run this planet-sized theme park are able to patch him back together with very little fuss.  As mentioned before, you have to embrace this sort of plot contrivance in order to get the maximum enjoyment out of the episode.

McCoy seems no worse for his brush with death – squiring two lovely young ladies with a beaming grin on his face, it’s not difficult to work out what he’s going to be doing with the rest of his leave. And if not with them then maybe with the obliging Yeoman Barrows.

If you like your Star Trek grim and serious then the frivolity of Shore Leave might not appeal.  Personally, I’ve always been partial to a bit of whimsy so it’s always a pleasure to revisit this one.

It’s just a shame that William Shatner’s rash offer to wrestle a tiger (he felt it was just the sort of thing to add a little spice to the story) wasn’t taken up.  If he’d avoided being mauled to death, it would have made the episode just that little bit more special ….

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Star Trek – Court Martial

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Court Martial sounds like a winner (Kirk on trial) but sadly the finished episode is somewhat flawed. Don M. Mankiewicz’s draft script received a fairly drastic rewrite from story consultant Steven M. Carabatsos whilst post-production editing moved or cut various scenes (with the result that vital chunks of the plot feel like they’re missing).

Mankiewicz’s original premise – a cheap story confined to a single set – was opened up by Carabatsos but it’s debatable whether this actually strengthened the story or not. Although I do have a fondness for the concluding act – silly though it is ….

During an Ion storm, Kirk is forced to jettison a research pod containing Lieutenant Commander Benjamin Finney (Richard Webb).  Kirk maintains that the Enterprise was on red alert at the time, but the computer reports that the ship was only at yellow alert.  Kirk’s apparent perjury is enough to trigger a court martial.

An obvious weakness with this episode is the fact that we know everything’s going to work out in the end for Kirk, despite the evidence appearing to be completely damning.

But there are some good moments – such as the way Kirk’s old Academy pals give him the cold shoulder or the moment when Kirk angrily reacts to Commodore Stone’s attempt to sweep the matter under the carpet by asking him to resign.

As the court martial wears on, a battle plays out between Kirk and the computer. We’re told that “computers don’t lie” so it seems that Kirk must be the one who’s lying.  The conflict between man and machine crops up time and again in science fiction (just think how often Jon Pertwee’s Doctor berated the limitations of the machine mind).

This is a decent part of the episode (even the logical Spock is forced to admit that computers aren’t infallible). Indeed, the original drafts pushed this concept even further – originally the computer was shown to be sentient and had taken a strong dislike to Kirk, deciding all by itself to falsify the evidence.

Less successful is the allegation that Kirk jettisoned the pod out of a sense of malice. Evidence is brought to show that Finney’s career was seriously downgraded by Kirk, but we never believe for a moment that Jim would have acted at all incorrectly.  Indeed, Spock steps up to tell the jury that “it is impossible for Captain Kirk to act out of panic or malice. It is not his nature”.

By now you’ve probably realised the truth – an embittered Finney is alive and (sort of) well.  Having faked his own death and corrupted the computer, purely to bring shame and disgrace on Kirk, he’s now hiding in the bowels of the Enterprise.  Umm, okay.  Clearly Finney is far from the full shilling at the moment. Kirk ventures down to Engineering alone in order to face him.  Why? Because it makes for good drama I guess.

But although the logic of the story has thoroughly unravelled by this point, we can still enjoy the Kirk/Finney face-off.  The taunting Finney (“your own death would mean too little to you. But your ship .. it’s dead .. I’ve killed it”) is excellent value.  Finney – by attempting to target the Enterprise – has clearly chosen Kirk’s weak spot (and his one true love).

The inevitable fight then occurs. Whilst the pair are facing off, I like to simultaneously goggle at the obvious stunt doubles used whilst also marvelling at how easily Kirk’s shirt gets ripped. This always happened to him ….

Elisha Cook Jr. adds a touch of class to proceedings as Samuel T. Cogley,  Kirk’s defence attorney.  Although the way he abruptly vanishes before the end of the story is an illustration of messy editing fracturing the narrative flow.  As is a late voice-over from Kirk which attempts to paper over some of the other story cracks.

At one point Finney’s daughter looks to possess a vital piece of the puzzle (after talking to her, Cogley appears to have found a new line of defence) but it’s never made clear in the transmitted episode what this might be. A scene with her and Cogley returning to the Enterprise was filmed, but then cut. This is a pity (although it’s present in James Blish’s novelization).

Joan Marshall as Lt. Areel Shaw is rather watchable. An old flame of Kirk’s, she just happens to have been assigned to the court martial as its prosecutor. Starfleet (which is actually named for the first time in this episode) is clearly a small world ….

Court Martial is enjoyable enough (everybody looks very nice in their dress uniforms) but isn’t quite the finished article.  No matter, normal service will be resumed shortly.

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Monty Python’s Flying Circus – Series One. Network BD/DVD Review

It probably won’t have escaped your notice that 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. There’s already been a flurry of interesting Python related material released – such as At Last The 1948 Show and Do Not Adjust Your Set from the BFI – but now the series itself debuts on BD from Network.

The previous DVDs (Sony, 2007) were perfectly serviceable, although disappointingly bare bones in terms of special features.  The Network releases, in addition to theIr improved picture quality, also promise a slew of interesting bonus material (mainly additional studio footage and film offcuts).

Series one of Monty Python feels quite traditional, at least to begin with. Sketches such as The Funniest Joke In The World and The Mouse Problem have very definite beginnings, middles and ends.  The first transmitted episode (Wither Canada?) also introduces us to a key Python trait – mixing highbrow and lowbrow culture (the Picasso cycling race).

It’s Kandinsky. Wassily Kandinsky, and who’s this here with him? It’s Braque. Georges Braque, the Cubist, painting a bird in flight over a cornfield and going very fast down the hill towards Kingston and… Piet Mondrian – just behind, Piet Mondrian the Neo-Plasticist, and then a gap, then the main bunch, here they come, Chagall, Max Ernst, Miro, Dufy, Ben Nicholson, Jackson Pollock and Bernard Buffet making a break on the outside here, Brancusi’s going with him, so is Gericault, Ferdinand Leger, Delaunay, De Kooning, Kokoschka’s dropping back here by the look of it, and so’s Paul Klee dropping back a bit and, right at the back of this group, our very own Kurt Schwitters.

Although this is the sort of sketch which has tended to label the Pythons (in certain quarters at least) as elitist, it’s not really. You don’t need to have heard of all the artists described by John Cleese (in his best breathless commentators voice) in order to appreciate the strange juxtaposition of a group of artists attempting to create new masterpieces whilst also indulging in a hectic cycle race.

What’s remarkable about revisiting this first series is discovering just how packed it is.  Later on the Pythons would slow down a little in terms of producing top-rate material (they also started to delight in stretching out jokes long beyond their natural conclusion) but to begin with there’s an abundance of strong sketches.

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The hen-pecked Mr Arthur Putey, Arthur ‘Two Sheds’ Jackson, Whizzo Butter (“you know, we find that nine out of ten British housewives can’t tell the difference between Whizzo butter and a dead crab”), Bicycle Repair Man, Dirty Fork and Nudge, Nudge all show up within the first three shows.  As does the Working Class Playwright, an early example of Graham Chapman’s ability to inhabit a character (it’s also an excellent showcase for Terry Jones’ drag skills).

Self Defence Against Fresh Fruit is another favourite of mine, whilst Confuse A Cat has a slew of very odd images (such as a penguin on a pogo stick) which suggests that the Pythons were beginning to stretch their creative legs.

Crunchy Frog (“oh, we use only the finest baby frogs, dew-picked and flown from Iraq, cleansed in the finest quality spring water, lightly killed, and sealed in a succulent, Swiss, quintuple-smooth, treble-milk chocolate envelope, and lovingly frosted with glucose”) is the highlight of the sixth episode whilst the seventh – You’re No Fun Anymore – spins the series off into a different direction.

After a few throwaway early sketches, the bulk of the running time is devoted to a single sketch – an alien blancmange is desperate to win Wimbledon and so transforms all Englishmen into Scotsmen (as it’s well known that the Scots can’t play tennis). That’s not something you see every day.

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Show eight – Full Frontal Nudity – is a fascinating one.  It demonstates how the Pythons were increasingly playing with the form of sketch comedy (Graham Chapman’s Colonel appears at regular intervals to stop “silly” sketches whilst the Pythons were also beginning to question on-screen the quality of their own material).

This wasn’t new though. Spike Milligan (“what are we going to do now? What are we going to do now?”) had already thoroughly deconstructed the way a sketch was traditionally performed and concluded in his Q series.

This mockery (or self-indulgence) only works if there are some strong sketches in the show.  Luckily, Full Frontal Nudity delivers with Buying A Bed and Hell’s Grannies as well as an amusing skit concerning a dead parrot.

It’s interesting that even this late on in the first series, sketches were still being played out to polite, but not ecstatic, audiences.  Once Python become a cult, the studio audiences tended to be packed with very receptive younger viewers (rather than – as legend has it – confused old dears who were convinced they were coming to watch a real circus).  It’s slightly jarring to see the Dead Parrot sketch receiving a fairly muted response (compare and contrast this to the hysteria generated whenever it was later performed live).

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The eleventh show – The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Goes To The Bathroom – is quite noteworthy as it seems to point the way ahead to the more fragmented Python of series two. There’s still good material (Inspector Tiger) but you also have the likes of Interesting People (which is best described as free-form).  In some ways this show feels like the Beatles’ White Album – bitty and incomplete, but still rewarding.

Llamas, Lumberjacks, a vicious parody of David Frost (It’s A Tree), Adolf Hilter contesting the Minehead By-Election, The 127th Upperclass Twit of the Year Show, Ken Shabby and Albatross (“course you don’t get bloody wafers with it”) are just a few of the later series one highlights.

Restoration

Both the film inserts and the studio material have received a thorough overhaul. The film sequences now look considerably more colourful and vibrant compared to the washed-out versions used on the 2007 DVDs. As the for the studio footage, the Sony DVDs were quite noisy whilst the new remaster looks quite smooth. The difference on the VT isn’t as dramatic as the film upgrade, but it’s still noticeable.

Extras

Studio outtakes from Sex and ViolenceFull Frontal Nudity and The Ant – An Introduction. The untitled tenth episode features extended film material with Ron Obvious and clean end titles.

In total, there’s over half an hour of material. Some of it (from Sex and Violence) escaped onto YouTube a few years back, but the majority was new to me. I won’t describe it in any detail as I’m sure people will want to discover it for themselves. There’s some nice little bits and bobs though and I look forward to seeing what nuggets the later releases unearth.

The digi-pack release comes with a book by Andrew Pixley. The check discs I have didn’t include that, but based on his previous works for Network I think we can safely assume it will be both incredibly detailed and impeccably researched.

Conclusion

Monty Python’s Flying Circus series one is top class. This seems an obvious statement, but sometimes it feels like Python is more analysed and debated than it is watched and enjoyed. For me, it’s as good now as it was the first time I saw it (the 1989 repeats, where it was already treated in certain quarters as something of a museum piece).

There’s plenty that’ll be familiar, even to more casual viewers, but there’s also a good deal that’s still striking and surprising. Like the Beatles, the Pythons enjoy a monolithic reputation which irks some – but like the Fabs they thoroughly deserve their iconic status.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus series one is released by Network on the 4th of November 2019 on both BD and DVD.

The limited edition BD digi-pack (featuring Andrew Pixley’s book) can be ordered here.

The standard BD and DVD (which includes all the special features included in the digi-pack apart from the book) can be ordered here and here.

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Helen Shingler – Madame Maigret

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Friend of the blog Berthold Deutschmann has written this interesting article (in addition to supplying an impressive piece of artwork) about Helen Shingler, who played Madame Maigret in the classic 1960’s BBC series

According to the latest dates on the Internet, Helen Shingler (“Madame Maigret”) recently celebrated her 100th birthday, on August 29th, 2019. I have found just one birthday greeting. Actually, I read somewhere that she would belong to a list of “forgotten actors”. I was taken aback by that. And Rupert Davies would be a “forgotten actor”, too. I don’t believe it! At least in Germany both are still known as the ideal tv Maigret couple. In fact, from the DVDs you might get the impression, the Maigrets are still in deep love, even after many years of marriage. This is played so convincingly, that a friend of mine believes there could have been a real relationship between the two actors. I do not agree with her, because I think, both were absolutely loyal to their own familiy.

As for the Maigret tv series, Mrs. Shingler’s desire was to have a bit more influence on the solution of the murder cases of her tv husband, Chief Inspector Maigret. I know of just one case in which she really can help him, shown in the episode “The White Hat” (German version: “Madame Maigret als Detektiv”). Gererally, she remains the housewife in the Maigret flat at Richard Lenoir Boulevard in Paris, but still she is absolutely essential for “Monsieur Maigret”. He would not be the successful Sureté commissaire without her at his side, or in the background, at home. On the writing desk in the commissioner’s office at Quai des Orfèvres there is put up, quite obviously, her framed picture.

For my comic-style illustration I had a scene in mind, in which Madame, for the time being, happens to know more than Monsieur, perhaps some fine detail that could be helpful to solve the current crime mystery. I hope you will like my work.

Below is an interview with Helen Shingler, conducted by Sheila Purcell, from 1962.

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