Friday, July 30, 2010

Review: War of the Worlds, the series ep 29

The twenty-ninth episode of War of the Worlds, the series, is titled Seft of Emon.  The Morthren power supply is running low, prompting them to raid some nuclear material.  Unfortunately for them, what they stole doesn't play nice with their existing systems, prompting them to bring out of stasis Seft, high priestess of the planet Emon.  She is a crystal master, able to transmute raw materials into energy-generating crystals.  Her species was conquered, then obliterated, by the Morthren, though they kept her and her son on-ice in case of emergency.

Perhaps sensing a kindred spirit, she reaches out telepathically to Blackwood and they form a bond.  Eventually, she conspires to make physical contact with him by convincing the Morthren that she needs to select her materials in person, then slipping away.  This contact puts strain on the relationship between Harrison and Kincaid, who is rightfully distrusting of non-human life.  Seft gets recaptured (or goes back willingly, the story's a bit of a muddle), and is released again as a ploy by Malzor to find her human contact.  His plan works, and our team is pinned down by Morthren fire.  She and her son transcend to a higher plane, which allows our heroes to escape. 

The Good:  There's some.  I rather like the aliens in this episode.  It's cool to find out that, indeed, they've done this sort of thing before.  As always, the performances are solid, especially from Julian Richings, Catherine Disher, and Denis Forest.  Richings had a nice moment during the battle where he gave the order to fire and crouched, while his men let loose. 

Harrison has now made peaceful contact with a non-human life form, one that wasn't based on deception as was the case with Katya and Quinn.  Over the course of this season we'll see Kincaid, Suzanne, and Debi each do the same.  It's nice to see, and will pay off in the final episode of the series.

It was fun to see the old alien costumes trotted out, in flashbacks and dream sequences. However, points off for reusing footage from The Second Wave.

The confrontation between Kincaid and Blackwood near the end of the episode was well done.  Kincaid's perpetual distrust and Blackwood's optimism were bound to come into conflict sooner or later.

The Bad:  This story seemed jumbled and confused.  Seft's first contact with Harrison must be a dream or a telepathic outreach, but there's nothing actually in that sequence to suggest so.  Seft slips away, then gets recaptured, but it isn't clear how she accomplishes this.

There's also a bit early on where the aliens are cloning someone who can lead them to more radioactive material, but it's not sure who that someone was or where they got him.  He fried anyway, so perhaps this isn't a big issue.  However, Kincaid is asked by one of the market folks to help him figure out who's raiding radioactive supplies.  The story just doesn't seem well constructed, like there were a few too many revisions in there.  The scenes with payoff are still in, but the transitions got lost along the way somehow.  Bad editing, perhaps, or bad story editing.

Suzanne gets shot in the arm during the final firefight, but her injuries are minuscule, just a tiny patch on her shoulder.  I've heard of glancing blows, but that's crazy.

Finally, Harrison's 'love' with Seft seems way too fast.  They dream of each other, meet, he plies her for information... there's no soul there.  I do like the crystal she gives him in the end, though sadly I don't think it shows up again.

The Ugly:  It's not all that ugly, but the Morthren nutrient tubes are kind of cool and alien in a weird way.  Unless my subconscious is completely fabricating this, I seem to remember an interview with Disher where she talks about pushing for stuff like this.  I'm glad she did, the strange and bizarre are one of the fun aspects of this show.

So, Seft of Emon.  An episode with plenty of potential, but it seems to have gotten lost somewhere on the editing room floor.  Had they been a bit less ambitious, I think this could have been a quite good episode, but as it is it doesn't really hold together.


The Sultan of Sarcasm said...

"Seft of Emun" definitely had potential but kind of unraveled as the episode went along. I've never been that big into the whole human falls in love with alien thing, and season two has plenty of those storylines.

I did enjoy the opening and watching Ardix in action with the theft of the radioactive materials. Julian Richings was great there. And I did enjoy how Mana completely ignored Malzor's little hissy-fit and turned straight to Ardix as he arrived with the stolen materials.

I did notice that the brief moment with the alien was recycled footage from "The Second Wave" when the Advocate got fried, but hey, any chance to see the aliens in their natural form is fine for me.

The Sultan of Sarcasm said...

Also, I did enjoy the cyberpunk feel of this episode is places. Particularly, the whole opening with the theft with the nuclear materials. The atmosphere was very intense. It's moments like that where the world they created for "Almost Tomorrow" work.

And again, it's always great to see Ardix being active.

dysamoria said...

for such a poorly assembled (writing or editing) episode (very poorly structured, timed, executed, etc scenes as you well noted), it had a strangely high amount of logical connections and service to S1 fans (any still lingering).

it seems someone at WOTW S2 production decided that they DID indeed have to sometimes show the aliens' natural form, and seeming awareness that the fans wanted to see the aliens actually present AS aliens. watching the show casually, one would never know that there's an alien invasion going on except for the world "alien" and the bizarre organic technology. but more on casual viewers in a bit...

so we get Seft, a humanoid from Emon, waking to humanoid captors (Morthren) and needing a moment to figure out what's going on. her first mental process is revisiting her last moments on Emon having her world destroyed (how?) and her son torn from her by the Morthren AS SHE KNEW THEM THEN. thank you! not only do we get a different and visually distinct locale (on-location filming of Emon flashbacks), we get it logically: the Morthren didn't look like humans back then. it's distressing how so much TV messes this up for budget convenience!

it's strange, at first, how Seft quickly realizes who her captors are without much cue (no recognition of the biotechnology?), but she's shown to be telepathic, so it's not much of a stretch.

then we have Harrison's nightmarish vision of the Morthren, as he'd probably be apt to fear them most: in their native form. while it's cheap to reuse footage from The Second Wave, Harrison DID in fact witness the Morthren executing their own people and so this visual works. when else did he see an alien in full view? through the small window on the pod found in alaska(?) in The Raising of Lazarus?

the destruction of Emon flashback is, again, a nice touch for showing us that, not only did Seft suffer something terrible at the hands of the Morthren, it is shown from her eye-witness account of the Morthren in their natural form. it helps the viewers see that there really IS a powerful difference between the humans and the Morthren (lacking so far in this season). this is a necessary device in bringing Seft and the humans together because she sees them as being similar to her own species. comfortably similar. this same goes in reverse.

the problem with the use of the Morthren's natural form is that there is absolutely nothing in this story to guide viewers toward the understanding that the Morthren in human form ARE the Morthren alien creatures in Seft's flashbacks. it's possible for a casual viewer to wonder "what do these creatures have to do with those nazi-like folks?" even "are those monsters some kind of slave work force of the nazi-like folks??" we who've seen all WOTW up to this point can work out the connection... but it's strained there, too, without fan theories.

dysamoria said...

of special note to fans: this is the story which actually NAMED the alien invaders. up to this story, the enemies were "the aliens." all the time. this aspect of "putting a face on the bad guys" is one thing Mancuso set out to do and this particular aspect worked for me. (he didn't have to destroy the established series to accomplish this, but we all know how "creative" executives like to change everything just because their name's going on it). it's a revelation that is curiously powerful to Harrison:

Kincaid: "who?"
Harrison: "Morthren, Kincaid. They're CALLED MORTHREN."

the name itself has a phonetic feel of a race of hive-minded, invading & all consuming/destroying insects, which services Seft's announcement that the Morthren are "destroyers of worlds."

fanboy theories:

the Emon people are the source of the crystal technology currently used by the Morthren. they learned it (but not well enough to maintain it without bringing Seft out of the freezer), wiped out the Emon people and continued on their journey to Earth.

Seft: "We helped you and you destroyed us."

this can help with the transition from the Mor-Taxians of S1 to the Morthren of S2. the flashback of the Morthren destroying her world shows the Morthren using a large beam weapon never before (nor after) seen that is seemingly a bridge between the traditional mechanical technology and the new biological organic stuff.

chew on that ;-) but then just forget about it before the final episode The Obelisk because the flashbacks to life on Morthrai name Mana as the progenitor of the non-mechanical crystal technologies (the bio stuff is far less present in these flashbacks but the general motif is still present). though this could simply mean that the Morthren invaded Emon before their first contact with Earth... if you also assume that their invasion fleet dispatched to earth without that newer biotechnology... it's so convoluted as to be utterly impossible. the series not only didn't work it out when they carelessly scrapped S1, there was internal inconsistency (such as the Morthren history as proclaimed in The Obelisk).