Saturday, May 15, 2010

Review: War of the Worlds, the series ep 22

The Raising of Lazarus is the twenty-second episode of War of the Worlds, the series. It features some intra-governmental agency squabbling between the Blackwood Project and Project 9, an Airforce taskforce in charge of, among other things, attempting to weaponize alien technology.  The catalyst: an alien scout pod recovered intact in remote northern Wisconsin near an experimental nuclear facility.  Nicolas Coster guest stars as Colonel Fredrick Alexander, one of two (and, eventually, two of two) main antagonists of the episode.  His bluster flusters Ironhorse and (quietly) infuriates Blackwood.

Alexander quickly establishes himself as dangerously unstable, when he takes an alien cell sample with the intention of injecting it into himself. Things go from bad to worse when the alien revives and begins to make its way around the base.  It makes contact with Alexander, through his computer, and offers him some helpful tips on how to insure cellular compatibility. It then intercepts communications between Harrison and Norton, learning all that they know.  Thus armed, it acquires some nuclear material and attempts to flee, though not before appropriating Alexander's body.  With the team sealed in by radiation, all seems lost. However, Ironhorse uses a laser, which was earlier used to attempt to open the alien craft, to blow up a fleeing alien/Alexander hybrid.

The Good:  It's about time we saw something like Project 9. If the world actually repulsed an alien invasion, you'd better believe that the military would do everything in its power to adapt and adopt that technology.

Alexander injecting alien cells into his tongue was nicely visceral. First the ear, then the tongue? Perhaps future episodes will give us eyeball injections.

I also liked how quickly the alien got the run of the place. It was extremely methodical in his approach, first getting food, then making contact with a potential ally, then arming itself with knowledge, acquiring nuclear material as both a weapon and as a way to stave off bacteriological infection, before finally getting a host body and fleeing.

The tuning fork makes its very last appearance in the series.  Goodbye, tuning fork!

The use of the laser, set up early as a potential way to get into the pod, to finally slay the escaping alien was rather clever. 

The Bad: Alexander's motivations were murky at best. Here, an alien craft fell into his hands, giving him a huge potential for research. Why, then, would he choose to start injecting himself with alien cells? I'd think that such a radical and dangerous step would be undertaken only when all other avenues of research had been exhausted.

The alien, too, seemed a little inefficient in his approach. Why not just take over Alexander's body immediately? Why all the jazz about cell matching? You could have made the episode a lot tighter by just having the alien make contact with Alexander and taking over his body immediately. While injecting cells into his body seemed like too much, attempting peaceful contact is much more reasonable.

I didn't care for the effect when the alien took control of the computer systems.  There was a glowing green field that seemed to be projected ABOVE the monitor. Why would it manifest itself like that? On the monitor, maybe, but floating above it? It seems like magic.  We also see a new alien ability, interfacing with computers by holding a few wires.  On the whole, I don't care for that one. It doesn't seem in keeping with the abilities they've demonstrated in the past.

The alien seemed to trap our heroes, by using radiation to systemically shut down every room in the compound, awfully quickly. Our heroes, in turn, seemed fairly willing to just allow themselves to be trapped. Also, it seems like they should have soaked up an awful lot of radiation. Perhaps they'll be having decontamination showers a little later, I dunno.

The Ugly: Surprisingly, not much at all. There was a murdered nuclear technician that had ... something ... going on with his mouth, we'll go with that.

Overall, a fairly weak episode.  There was a lot of time devoted to the alien skulking around the air ducts that seemed somewhat wasted.  While Project 9 is an intriguing notion, sadly the change of production staff means it never goes anywhere beyond what we see right here.  Alexander wasn't a particularly compelling villain.  For the penultimate episode of the season, I was hoping for better.   War of the Worlds - The Complete First Season is available for purchase on DVD.


The Sultan of Sarcasm said...

Ahhh, The Raising of Lazarus always held some kind of special place in my heart. It was definitely the WOTW version of The Thing but I think it worked well.

Again, why there were no guards watching that alien in that room- leaves me scratching my hand.

But, I did enjoy the Project 9 storyline so much that I felt it would be great to add into my virtual WOTW seasons. I liked the fact that Alexander seemed so unstable and was injecting himself with the alien cells.

I do agree regarding the team just accepted the whole facility being contaminated by radiation- without doing much. Then again, after "A Multitude of Idols", I expected some of the members having nausea or having their hair fall out. But, again, I guess they can only do so much on a limited tv schedule.

I did enjoy Ironhorse breaking protocal in this episode and it gave an excuse to see a lot of the alien this time around. Also, it was the origin of the term, "Green floating weirdness" which I must admit I have taken a liking too (and was the name of a WOTW fanzine).

Jimtron said...

Ironhorse's decision to play with semantics ('the entire base is my quarters') was clever. Harrison is clearly rubbing off on him. And yes, you're right, it was very odd to only post guards outside of the room with the alien pod. Actually, the relatively small cast (what, 3 guards, Alexander, his aid, two nuclear techs, and our core team) seemed to hurt the credibility of the episode a bit.

I really did love the idea of Project 9, I just don't think the execution was what it could have been. I think that more or less sums up my feelings for the episode on the whole. There were some good ideas introduced, but the execution was lacking overall.

And, yes, "Green floating weirdness" is a terrific name for a WotW fanzine/website, I'll admit. Not as good as "to life immortal," of course, but still good.

dysamoria said...

i didn't care for the floating green weirdness, but i agree it's amusing.

the things i liked this episode for:

they finally got to show off their design of the alien much more than before. i wish i could get some really good screen captures (alas i don't have access to the DVDs at the moment) or (even better) some behind the scenes production photography of the creature design because i have a desire to learn character modeling in 3D by recreating this alien.

story-wise, i think it's neat that the alien doesn't begin killing anyone until AFTER it "downloads" all the data from the Blackwood project. this shows that the aliens might not be indiscriminately and impulsively evil but that they really believe in the ruling class fanatically. once it discovers that humans are fighting off an invasion of its people, the alien very positively establishes its personal role and immediate goals.

why fuss with the injections?

well, if you had the option of preparing a host to be receptive to your body chemistry prior to taking it, to ensure a good blend, wouldn't you attempt it? there were never examples of incompatible hosts (aside from the pregnant woman in Unto Us...) but the aliens didn't often get much opportunity to keep a host long due to radiation.

besides, it was more time to have that great alien suit presented as a lurking shadowy menace ;-)

oh, hey... if the laser at that base was able to blast the escaping alien, vehicle and all, through a building wall (walls??), and be as small as it was (about the size of a helicopter door gun setup), why is it so hard for the Mor-Taxians to build portable laser weapons? and don't you get a kick out of the late 80's fascination with lasers... heh... i think it would be far more compelling if the aliens had been researching a way to reproduce their disintegrator/vaporizer weapons with earth technology than mere lasers (remember the handheld weapons shown painfully briefly in the basement of the alien invasion material depot? the banana shaped yellow boomerang weapon that fired green dots! ;-) i think that weapon and the weapons in S2 were somewhat inspired by the wing-tip beam weapons from the movie).

anyone have behind the scenes design art or photos of the alien design, post em somewhere please!

Advocate said...

Hmmm... This I disagree with:
"We also see a new alien ability, interfacing with computers by holding a few wires. On the whole, I don't care for that one. It doesn't seem in keeping with the abilities they've demonstrated in the past..."

Eh - I don't know so much about that. We've heard it suggested from The Resurrection that they might have navigated their ships with brain waves, and we've seen them draw knowledge from human victims by plunging their fingers into our heads - why not make them able to establish a "green floating weirdness" hologram overlay onto your computer monitor simply by squeezing some wires? While it was surprising to see them do it (cause we didn't know they could prior),all things considered - not too crazy a notion.