About this blog

This is the official blog of Phoenix Roleplaying, a multi-genre simming site, created in August 2010.

Run by the players, we hope to achieve great things.

Where our journey takes us, who knows.

Monday, 31 December 2012

James Bond: Moonraker

I would like to start by wish all my readers a prosperous and happy 2013.

 

****

James Bond and laser battles in space are two things that really don’t go together. By the close of the film we’ve gone completely silly. Jaws escapes death too many times in unconvincing manners, Lois Chiles is uninspiring and Michael Lonsdale’s Hugo Drax is too generic for my tastes. I prefer the novel.

 

Also, when you watch them in quick succession, Maurice Binder title sequences get repetitive fast.

 

Moore is reasonably good (as is Desmond Llewellyn) and the set dressing is again excellent, but this feels too much like Bond by numbers. It grossed very well, but I can see why they reined things in a lot for the next film.

 

Conclusion

 

Merely average.

 

5/10

Let's Play Persian Incursion: Turn 7

The Capitol Building, home to the US Congress

 

I already have Turn 8 in the bag, but I’m going to spread the posts out a little, so don’t expect that one just yet.

 

As the third day began, both sides set about repairing their down planes. Israel fixed the F-16 from 201, but one of its precious tankers was still down. With four of the seven available tankers committed to the Qom strike, the options for other strikes were severely limited.

 

Iran had a significant number of successes repairing its aircraft and getting the squadrons operational, deciding to put one of the MiG-29 squadrons on active patrol and seven others on alert for any further Israeli strikes. It also rotated F-14s to make sure that each of the detachments in the west and north were at full 4-jet strength.

 

I was using the maintenance rolls, but taking one from the dice roll. This had some widely varying results – and I have found some unofficial rules on Boardgamegeek that will help as well. You can change alert status once per game day.

 

Unfortunately for Iran, an embarrassing scandal involving a war hero broke out. Dealing with *that* meant Tehran could not deal with few other political issues on this day.

 

Strategic Event roll (done later on, but it didn’t affect the earlier play( after calculating the point allocations for this game day. Israel gained a total of 32 points, Iran 24. Iran then lost 5, all political points, due to the scandal. Unfortunately for Iran, the river it currently has is pretty much all political.

 

Israel continued to remind the world of the threat Iran posed it and the tactic was working… the GCC started to move to its side and the USA were moving towards open alliance. Iran’s sleeper agent gave them some intel, but then the bombshell hit…

 

Two double 10s on a roll in fact.

 

Israel successfully lobbied the US Congress into supporting American strikes on Iran. This was a big win for them; B-2s and F/A-18s now could be used for attacks from the south.

 

The game currently allows for Israeli planes to operate out of US bases in Iraq; I ignored this as there are no longer any bases there and it will probably go in any reprint.

 

The timing was fortunate, as Iran revealed more photos of the Turkish Defence Minister in bed with prostitutes. He was fired and the new minister refused any further Israeli strikes across Turkey’s territory.

 

Iran had 29 more breakdowns, including the entire F-5 squadron on the southern approach…

Exit pursed by a shark: 'Doctor Who' Season 21 (1984)

Believe it or not, that is not the worst costume of this run

 

As Doctor Who moved into its 21st season, there was about to be another massive change. Peter Davison elected to go after three years in the role of the Doctor, as per the advice of Patrick Troughton, but Fielding and Strickson also departed the scene. This season shares a distinction with only Season 4 of having an entirely different regular cast at the end than at the beginning.

 

The show shifted timeslot again; for most of the country it would now go out on Thursdays and Fridays.

 

There were no changes in the production team for what was going to see the show at its best – and its worst…


Were it not for the need to free up two slots to fit in coverage of the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics, then this would have been a standard 26-episode series. While 26 episodes of material were made, there were only 24 in this run, with two of those being extended to 45 minutes – a first for what is now the standard DW practice and one that was already planned to be the norm for Season 22.

 

Warriors of the Deep (4 parts)

 

The Doctor, Tegan and Turlough arrive at a nuclear missile base under the sea c.2084, where mysterious deaths have been occurring. Not only is the base under threat from some of its own personnel, but two other Terran races want it for their own ends.

 

Johnny Byrne’s third and final TV story[1], this high-body-count Cold War-themed tale has an interesting premise, guest stars Ingrid Pitt and features two returning monsters – the Silurians and the Sea Devils. However, it is fatally compromised by bad production decisions. It’s seriously over-lit and features a creature called the Myrka that is compared to a pantomime horse (and was operated by two people who did that sort of thing) by reviewers. This one also suffered more behind the scenes problems; a snap general election in June 1983 resulted in Ealing Studios being unavailable for filming water tank scenes and the production was badly rushed for time in its studio sessions.

 

The Awakening (2 parts)

 

The team go to an English village to allow Tegan to visit her grandfather, where an alien creature is being reawakened by an English Civil War re-enactment.

 

The final two parter with 25-minute episodes, this contemporary tale is the only one done by Eric Pringle, who did not work for the show again after being unhappy with Eric Saward’s rewrites. Production saw an infamous (and widely aired) outtake where an over-excited horse wrecked a prop lych gate[2]; the BBC used it on safety videos to show how not to work with animals. JNT also had to get permission from the BBC to allow Part One to run at 25 minutes 18 seconds.

 

Fandom seems to like this one; it’s a tight and at times horrific tale that would probably work well today.

 

Frontios (4 parts)

 

The TARDIS lands on the human colony of Frontios in the far future, where refugees from a doomed Earth are being sucked underground. Then the ship is apparently destroyed during a meteorite bombardment…

 

This Christopher H. Bidmead serial (his last) suffered two tragedies during pre-production; the suicide of production designer Barrie Dobbins and the murder of Peter Arne, who had been due to play Mr Range[3]. Despite this and budget issues pushing this entirely into studio, this is one of the best stories of the Fifth Doctor’s tenure and contains a classic scene where the Doctor passes Tegan off as a malfunctioning android to a batch of aliens.

 

Resurrection of the Daleks (filmed and intended as 4 parts, but broadcast as two 45-minute episodes due to Winter Olympics coverage[4])

 

Team TARDIS arrive in a time corridor linking modern-day London with a spaceship in the far future. The Daleks are seeking to free the imprisoned Davros to stop a virus that is devastating their kind, but Davros has other ideas…

 

The remount of the story canned due to strike action in Season 20, the only Dalek TV appearance with this Doctor is a very bloody affair, with the highest on-screen death count of any serial in the show’s history (and in fact higher than this year’s The Terminator!). This is deemed a case of style over substance, with some strange actions by the Doctor and is a story that Eric Saward has stated he is dissatisfied with. At the end of this tale, Tegan leaves, sickened by the death she has witnessed.

 

This story never got a Target novelisation as a deal was not reached with Saward, although a fan one exists.

 

Planet of Fire (4 parts)

 

After Turlough rescues an attractive female botanist from drowning, Kamelion falls under the Master’s control and takes the TARDIS to the volcanic planet Sarn.

 

Featuring location filming on Lanzarote (in the days before it got jammed with drunken British tourists), which also plays Sarn, Peter Grimwade’s final TV story sees the departure of Turlough -and the destruction of Kamelion[5]. It’s gotten a drubbing over the years, but isn’t that bad.

 

However, this one is best known for the bikini-clad debut of one of the more contentious companions…

 

Peri - Ms Fanservice

 

For all the reputation associated with the women of Doctor Who, only one of them has actually been in a bikini on screen, Perpugilliam "Peri" Brown[6]. A young American botanist with a penchant of inappropriate clothing and attracting the lust of more than one villain, she was verbally combative with the Sixth Doctor, as well as being prone to screaming. Not the most loved companion (lusted is a different subject), but has improved in her Big Finish appearances.

 

JNT was deliberately trying to up the show’s sex appeal and to play the role, he picked Nicola Bryant (1960-present). Bryant, who had done no TV work before this and had to take on a batch of cabaret work to get her Equity card, was in fact British, only holding American citizenship by marriage. Her accent is awful (she slips out of it frequently and uses British slang), but for some bizarre reason, a pretence was made that she actually was American, with Bryant having to use, for a while at any rate, an American accent out-of-character too.

 

Bryant’s post-DW career has been limited to guest roles on TV and theatre, with a back injury in the early 2000s playing a big part in this according to her official website.

 

The Caves of Androzani (4 parts)[7]

 

The Doctor and Peri land on the planet Androzani Minor, where they both develop a possibly lethal poisoning from the raw form of the life-extending drug spectrox. As they look for an antidote, they are caught up in a deadly feud that one of them isn’t going to get out of alive…

 

Robert Holmes returned to the show for what was Graeme Harper’s full debut in the director’s chair. The former was given only one instruction – kill the Fifth Doctor. He proceeded to do so in dramatic fashion, creating (despite cuts being needed to get the story done in time) what many feel, including myself is the best story in the entire history of the show – it won the Mighty 200 poll. It features two brilliant cliff-hangers (especially Part Three[8]) and arguably the best regeneration scene in the show’s history[9]. Davison has stated he’d have stayed for longer if he had more scripts like this.


JNT decided to have the last serial of the season be the first to feature the new Doctor, to reassure viewers during the long season break. This serial, which featured a slightly modified version of the star field title sequence, was not exactly going to do that…

 

The Twin Dilemma (4 parts)

 

The new regenerated Doctor suffers from severe regenerative instability and decides to become a hermit, where he stumbles into a plot by an alien race to spread their eggs all over the galaxy.

 

“Caves of Androzani” won the Mighty 200 poll and this one… came bottom. Featuring poor acting, a stupid plot and a truly infamous scene where the Doctor tries to strangle Peri, initial cautious welcome by fans turned into deep loathing over time.

 

Loud, not to everyone’s taste – and was just the costume: The Sixth Doctor

 

The Sixth Doctor was loud and brash, with a penchant for excessive wordiness, arrogance and well, being pretty much the polar opposite of the previous incarnation. In fact, he was at times unlikeable. This was topped off with a hideous multi-coloured coat, that JNT forced on Colin Baker (who wanted to wear black) after telling the costume designer several times the design was not tasteless enough.  Baker’s Doctor gets a bad rep, but most fans feel this is due to poor scripting. Hand the guy a decent script and he’ll excel; as amply demonstrated when he was voted favourite Big Finish Doctor a few years back.

 

Colin Baker (1943-present), no relation to Tom, got the gig after impressing at a wedding that JNT went to, but had an impressive career beforehand, appearing in a mini-series of War & Peace for the BBC, along with drama The Brothers, where he played a ruthless merchant banker. We have already mentioned his guest starring role in “Arc of Infinity”, but he also hammed it up in an episode of Blake’s 7.

 

Ultimately dismissed from the show (as we shall discuss in Season 24’s entry), his post-Who acting career has been largely limited to guest roles and pantomime[10]. In 2012, he went on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!, the only Doctor to do so, with the stated (and successful) goal of losing weight, before going out after losing a Bushtucker Trial. He also wrote a graphic novel in the Whoniverse, the only Doctor to have written something for it.


The show continued to be successful – with Davison’s departure making the BBC evening news. The average rating was 7.1 million, a slight uptick on Season 20 and something that would maintained as the Doctor entered a turbulent 22nd season…


[1]He did a treatment for a fourth, but it wasn’t made (due to Byrne falling out with the production team over script edits to “Warriors”) and ended up being done in audio by Big Finish.

[2]The shot was still usable up to this point.

[3]The inquest deemed a vagrant who Arne had been associated with was the killer, the vagrant having been found drowned in the Thames several days later in a presumed suicide. No motive for the murder has ever been established.

[4]Video releases (and versions sold abroad, including a PBS version that was a mistakenly sent un-dubbed copy, leaving the sound effects off Part Three and Four) had this in four parts though, although the DVD does include the two-part broadcast version.

[5]Davison stated that his emotion in the death was pure acting and he was glad to see the back of the unloved prop.

[6]A scene with Martha Jones in her underwear was considered by RTD but dropped in scripting, along with another one for Amy Pond in “The Hungry Earth”. A naked Martha clone turns up in “The Sontaran Stratagem”, but the bare back shot is of body double Mariam Nundy, as Freema Agyeman is in shot playing proper Martha. It is also worth noting that all three post-2005 Doctors have gotten their shirts off on screen, along with Mickey Smith. As for Captain Jack…

[7]Press reports stated there would be a story called “The Doctor’s Wife”, but this was merely a ruse by JNT to confirm the existence of a production office leak.

[8]Where the Doctor is… have a look, it’s that good.

[9]Only the Tenth Doctor’s departure in “The End of Time” comes close, frankly.

[10]As it’s panto season, it is worth pointing out that a lot of old DW stars still tread the boards at this time of year. Oh, yes they do!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

James Bond: The Spy Who Loved Me

Major Anya Amasova could have been a very interesting character… unfortunately, she’s played by Barbara Bach. The woman has no chemistry with Moore, can’t act and if it wasn’t 1977, you’d think she’d used Botox (not approved for cosmetic use until 2002 and not identified as having that effect until 1990s). The accent is atrocious and the only thing she’s really got going for her is her cleavage. You don’t make Bond girls like this today – which I am sure we can agree is a good thing.

 

Moore is nicely settled into the role; throwing off a lot of one-liners and still being able to handle the action scenes. The supporting cast aren’t as strong as some of the previous films and Stromberg is no Ernst Stavro Blofeld in this essential remake of You Only Live Twice. Mind you, Jaws is great.

 

Marvin Hamlisch’s music is sparse, but generally well used if more than a bit disco-y. Full and massive props to Ken Adam’s production design; the tanker set is superb. Just as big props to Cubby Broccoli, who when finding there was no stage on Earth big enough for the set decided to build one instead of telling Adam to scale things down a bit. There’s a lot of money thrown at this and it’s clearly visible on screen.

 

This isn’t the quickest film to get going, but the final battle is superb. In a way, it’s sad that EON doesn’t go in for these sort of things any more.

 

Conclusion

 

Another enjoyable Moore movie; although the weaknesses in it mean that it is not a classic. In a way, this is one of the most stereotypical Bond movies – not that it’s a bad thing.

 

7/10

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Let's Play Persian Incursion - Turn 6

Two Israeli F-15Is

 

It’s been a while since my last post – had a lot on and wasn’t able to complete this until then. I can’t promise a quick conclusion to this.

 

Israeli launched its 24 F-15s on another daring mission deep into the heart of Iranian airspace. Another successful Suter attack, along with 12 F-15s on fighter suppression impaired the Iranian fighter response and stopped the SA-2 site at Tehran West from being able to do a thing to stop the near-complete destruction of the site. The only thing left was a solitary launcher, useless for any purpose bar being a short-range ballistic missile.

 

To take a SAM site out, you only need to destroy the primary radar. Not a brilliant roll on fighter suppression, as we’ll see later.

 

With no I-Hawk sites or local SAMs (par a few puny MANPADS), the 6 bunker buster carrying Ra’ams preceded to drop their bombs through the rock into Qom’s reactor hall, wrecking the facility as they left.

 

However, there was trouble ahead for the main strike. The Iranians scrambled four MiG-29s from 23 Tactical Fighter Squadron. Three F-15s split off to intercept the Fulcrums, destroying two and forcing a third to return to base with damage. Unfortunately, they used up all their AIM-120s in the process, allowing the solitary Iranian fighter to fire back with two missiles of its own. The resultant hit took out an F-15I, but the pilot was able to get back to Turkish airspace before she punched out, ending up in hospital. Israel could freely deny the loss as Iran could not produce the plane or pilot.

 

If I’d broken off four, then Israel might not have lost the F-15. Over confidence really.

 

Two more MiG-29s went for the SAM site strikers, but broke off due to damage received before posing a proper threat to this group. In total, 120 aircraft were now down with damage or gripes.

 

The success of the strike led to some political capital for Israel and Tehran, reeling in shock, wasn’t able to do much about it. It did launch four SSMs (out of a planned eight) at Israel, but all were intercepted by the Aegis cruiser.

 

The US President made a speech supporting Israel, but it did not sway many minds.

 

As this was a Decisive Victory and I rolled high on the impact table, Iran lost all its Political Points and Israel gained four. I’m going to try a quicker, not in the rules, way of maintenance rolls for Turn 7, as I don’t really want to roll a total of 240 dice.

 

F-15s won’t be back in play until Turn 9, so a follow-up strike on Natanz is not an option at present.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Four new policies passed

On attempt number three, four new policies covering house rules, sim index categories and election campaigning have been passed.

Full details of the legislation and the results can be found here:

http://phoenix.reide96.com/viewtopic.php?pid=36647#p36647

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Clara Strikes (Review: 'Doctor Who' 33.XX, "The Snowmen")

Well, Steven Moffat, you’ve done it again. I’m not just talking about, well, what happened with Clara.

It’s worth starting with her. Jenna-Louise Coleman’s witty Cockney barmaid may well be an old stock character popped into an unusual setting, but she nevertheless has great scene presence and well… to say more would be spoiling things.

Matt Smith was great as usual, especially once he was fully back to Doctoring. While three minor characters from “A Good Man Goes to War” might not be obvious choices to bring back, they had some great lines, especially Strax – and their presence was really needed.

Richard E Grant and Ian McKellen’s turns as the main villains of the piece were great; they both have great voices and the former great facial expressions. Moffat’s decision to make this story a sequel-prequel to two Troughton ones was spotted by me pretty early on and is one of the more inspired gifts to the fans that he’s had.

New theme tune and title sequence? The theme will grow on me I expect (it’s better than the old one and reminiscent of the first Gold theme), while the title sequence is certainly visually spectacular – the Doctor’s face returning will be welcomed by many.

Also like the new TARDIS console, although the loss of the multi-levelness of the old one is a shame.

Conclusion

A highly enjoyable festive episode that sets up a big mystery for the latter half of Season 33.

8/10

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Keep Calm and Carrie On (Grand Review: 'Homeland' Season 2)

(I’m not the first person to have used that line)

This review contains major Season 1 and 2 spoilers. As such, I’m giving you a ten second warning.

10

9

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

0

Well, you were warned.


So, Brody turned out to be a wrong 'un after all, working with evil terrorist Abu Nazir... but no-one believed poor Carrie, who lost her job and got electroshock therapy.

As Season 2 opened, Carrie is working as an English teacher for immigrants, while Marcus Brody is now a newly elected Congressman for Virginia being viewed as a possible running mate for Vice-President Walden.

Then Israel bombs Iran and Abu Nazir plans a strike back at the US for the act. The wife of one of a Hezbollah commander has some important information on the plot, which she will only share with her former handler… who just happens to be Carrie Mathison. Carrie is brought back into the fold temporarily, nicely answering a question that I’d had at the end of Season 1 of how we were going to get her back into the story. So our favourite blonde intelligence officer is flown to Beirut to meet with the wife.

We get to Beirut and after Brody tips off Nazir about a hit attempt on him, Carrie gets chased over roof tops (I am so going to use the line “as conspicuous as a blonde on a Beirut rooftop” somewhere) but manages to escape. Her boss, Saul Berenson (played by Mandy “Inigo Montoya” Patinkin), gets hold of the intel she has recovered, takes a look… and finds Brody’s suicide video from Season 1! Dun dun dun!

A lesser show would have dragged out this whole reveal for seasons on end (possibly by having Saul lose the evidence), but Homeland casually detonates a metaphorical IED under the entire set-up three episodes into Season 2. Saul shares this with Deputy Director David Estes and the cat is truly out of the bag.

So, armed with this evidence, Carrie confronts Brody and after an intense interrogation scene (which I commented at the time is probably the episode that they’d send to the Emmy committee), Brody agrees to turn triple; helping to stop Abu Nazir in return for immunity and being allowed to make a quiet resignation from Congress.

Thus the stage is set for another tale of duplicity, double-dealing and characterful exploration of what it is like to have divided loyalties. It’s not all dark; there is a hilarious scene where Carrie, noticing that Brody is losing confidence, engages in a bit of naked confidence-boosting with him… while Saul and other CIA folk are listening in. The look on Saul’s face… poor guy.

One reason why Brody is so conflicted is the fact that his daughter was the passenger in a fatal hit-and-run where the VP’s son was driving, something Walden is covering up by paying off the relatives. This bit and the whole continuing problems with his family (with his wife Jess sleeping with his best mate again) is basically the cougar in the room of the whole season. For those of you not familiar with 24, its second season had a pretty poor subplot re Kim Bauer, who was trapped by cougars at one point. This whole bit bored me considerably – I did puzzles during these bits.

Abu Nazir’s apparent main plot is stopped and then things start to drag. Carrie gets kidnapped by Nazir and in return for her freedom, Brody gives Nazir the key bit of information he needs to remotely kill the Vice President, who we all know is a bit of a sleaze. Nazir is however found and commits suicide by Tac Team. Despite knowing what Brody did (I think so) Carrie falls in love with him and is prepared to leave the CIA to be with him. The two of them sneak off from a memorial at the CIA for Walden and are preparing for a bit of you-know-what in David Estes’ office (get your own office!), when the literal IED detonates under this series.

Just as this was starting to get boring, the big twist comes. Brody’s car has been packed with explosives and detonates next to the memorial, destroying a good chunk of the building and killing over two hundred people, including David Estes (always a bit of a slime ball) and the rest of Walden’s family. Saul, having gone to Nazir’s burial at sea, returns and finds himself ranking officer on site, possibly the acting head of the entire CIA. Brody has been framed for this and Carrie helps him flee to Canada, before returning to slightly cheer up Saul, who thought she was dead.

Thus concludes another season of a show likely to win yet more awards. Danes and Lewis have a much-deserved decent shot at Golden Globes and Emmys for their acting, but I don’t think the show was the best thing I’ve seen in 2012. It may well have jumped the shark – it’s certainly not as good as Season 1 – but time will tell.

Conclusion

 

While there were some superb elements in this – a great of them in fact – the rather large problems prevent me from giving this any more than the score below. Where on earth do we go from here?

8/10

Monday, 24 December 2012

James Bond: The Man With The Golden Gun

TMWTGG is one of the most maligned Bond films and before watching this, I was expecting to give it a 4. To my surprise, it’s getting higher than that and I think it’s need a re-evaluation.

 

Certain elements in this film, namely Mary Goodnight and J W Pepper (why?), are rightly pilloried, but these are relatively small elements in what is an enjoyable film if taken in the right spirit. The action scenes are mostly great, there’s a lot of humour and Roger Moore is on fine form. Not only that, he’s playing off Christopher Lee and the late Hervé Villechaize, both of whom are great in this. The plot is better than I’d expected, all in all.

 

I enjoyed this as much as Live and Let Die, so it has to get:

 

7/10

Merry Christmas!

I would like to wish all our players and readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

James Bond: Live and Let Die

I can see why ITV likes to show this movie on a Saturday afternoon. It’s light-hearted, got some great action scenes and contains little to trouble the younger viewer (although there’s a lot of stuff in this that you would not get away with today).

 

Roger Moore’s Bond is also light-hearted and suave in a different way than Sean Connery. He can be pretty ruthless when he wants to be (bedding Rosie Carver then interrogating her) and the raised eyebrow works well in this film.

 

With the exception of JW Pepper (why?), the supporting cast are pretty good. While Jane Seymour’s Solitaire is certainly an air-headed victim character, it’s better you do it straight than pretend to be a competent agent, unlike the next film…

 

I’ve been surprised at the relative lack of music in the earlier films and the longer times between cuts. Watching these films shows the development of cinema, fashion… and chest hair styles.

 

Enjoyable, although not a true classic.

 

7/10

 

I’d be surprised if I rate the next one any higher than a 4.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Breaking RP News: Bombing at Greenleaf Skyplex

In a shocking and dramatic twist, a bomb has exploded under the stage at Phantasm nightclub. Casualties are currently unknown, but you can follow the developing story here:

Greenleaf Skyplex forum

Shaken not Stirred, a history of 007: Part Four - the 1980s

The moment many felt Bond became history (Photo: Sue Ream)

 

For at least the first half of the decade, many people wondered if they were going to be still alive by the end of it, or if they would be killed in a Third World War that turned nuclear. This possible fate for humanity and what might happen after it was explored by a large number of works, in cinematic releases (Red Dawn), TV movies (The Day AfterThreads), novels, songs, war games (although these tended to focus on conventional superpower conflict) and the increasingly popular, albeit misunderstood by certain sections of society, medium of the table-top roleplaying game (Twilight 2000[1]).

 

The continuing Cold War also provided a big focus for entertainment. After the sci-fi boom of the late 1970s petered out, action and espionage become popular on TV, with a number of very good and not so good shows produced during this decade.

 

This was a prolific decade for 007 – five films (one less than the next two decades combined), a whole batch of continuation novels, an RPG and even the first Bond video games. During this time, Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli took increasing roles in the Bond family.

 

However, as the decade opened, a big problem was brewing for the studio that produced Bond.

 

(As I have not read most of the non-Fleming novels, these will not be covered in any real depth)

 

1980

 

As the Cold War turned hotter, the 1980 Moscow Olympics were widely boycotted by Western nations, although the British team did compete under the Olympic flag. Jimmy Carter was defeated in his bid for re-election by former actor Ronald Reagan in an Electoral College landslide after a fractious primary process and strong performance by independent John B. Anderson. Also instrumental in his defeat was a botched attempt to rescue 52 Americans held hostage in Iran that ended with a collision between a helicopter and a C-130 resulting in the deaths of 8 US servicemen.

 

Saddam Hussein started an eight-year war with Iran.

 

United Artists spent $44m on an Western film called Heaven’s Gate. Unfortunately, the film had massive negative publicity, was panned by critics, pulled from cinemas after a week, re-released in a shorter cut the following year and got panned again. It flopped massively at the box office – making only $3m when it closed. UA made a major loss for that year and its parent company, Transamerica Corporation sold it to MGM. While the UA name would survive, its days as an independent studio came to an end. In addition, director Michael Cimino’s career still has not recovered from the film (he has not directed since 1996), the Western declined massively in cinemas and the animal abuse in the movie led to a radical change in practices. Thus, this movie joins the select few that killed their studios due to poor returns[2].

 

The MGM sale of UA also meant it got its library of pictures, including the Bond films.

 

Meanwhile, Roger Moore wasn’t looking likely to come back for a fifth film – he’d been operating on a film-by-film contract. EON looked around at a number of candidates, including Michael Jayston (who would play Bond in a BBC radio version of You Only Live Twice in 1985), Timothy Dalton and James Brolin. Maryam d’Abo played Tatiana Romanova in the screen tests – yes, you’ll be hearing her name again.  They also drew up a pre-titles sequence to introduce a new Bond, before persuading Moore to come back for another go.

 

1981

 

Ronald Reagan became President, minutes before the 52 hostages were released. He survived an assassination attempt, but Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was not so lucky. Martial law was imposed in Poland to deal with the increasing activity of trade union Solidarity. Israel bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor, the US shot down two Libyan jets over the Gulf of Sidra and ten IRA members starved themselves to death in prison, most notably Bobby Sands (who got elected as an MP during the process, leading to a law change to prevent something like this happening again). A Soviet ‘Whiskey’-class submarine ran aground in Swedish territorial waters, causing a standoff with Stockholm until the boat was towed off.

 

It was a very busy year, but at least the UK won the Eurovision Song Contest.

 

At the beginning of the year, after filming had begun but before his scenes came up, Bernard Lee died. Out of respect, the role of M was not recast for this new darker take on 007, his scenes going to his Chief of Staff, Bill Tanner (his first appearance).

 

With insufficient plot from the short story, a second of Fleming’s tales, Risico, was combined to make the first Bond movie of the 1980s…

 

For Your Eyes Only (film)

 

“The Chinese have a saying: ‘before you set out on revenge, you first dig two graves’”[3] – James Bond, advising Melina Havelock

 

When a British spy ship carrying a communication system for talking to missile submarines sinks off the Albanian coast, Bond has to find it before the Russians do. He teams up with marine archaeologist Melina Havelock, whose parents were murdered while looking for this and is highly proficient with a crossbow…

 

·         The PTS sees a bald wheelchair-bound man clearly intended to be Blofeld (in a calculated insult to McClory) trying to kill Bond via remote-controlling a helicopter. Bond dumps him down a factory chimney, killing him. This was intended to introduce a new Bond had Moore not signed up.

·         Sheena Easton appears in the credits sequence singing the title song, which was Oscar-nominated. No Bond movie has received a nomination since, although some think Skyfall is due one.

·         This film features not only one, but two actors who would get big roles in Game of Thrones – Julian Glover and Charles Dance.

·         A 14-year old character by the name of Bibi Dahl (groan) attempts to seduce Bond. Bond, demonstrating he has some standards, turns her down.

·         This is probably the only spy movie which features a car chase involving a Citroen 2CV. Bond’s Lotus got blown up.

·         One of Moore’s conquests in this movie is played by Cassandra Harris, then married to Pierce Brosnan. Sadly, she died of cancer before Brosnan took on the role.

·         The keelhauling sequence here from Live and Let Die is used here, although Carole Bouquet (Melina) had to have her close-ups done with blue screen and a fan due to sinus problems.

 

One of the best Moore films (and a personal fave of mine), FYEO saved UA from going bankrupt after pulling in a $190m gross, although that was well down on Moonraker.

 

****

A month before the release of the Bond film, Gildrose published the first of the continuation novels by an American author named John Gardner, entitled Licence Renewed. None of these novels have been adapted by EON (who have stated they are not planning to) but certain bits may have influenced later films. In these books, Bond operates in the present day, with earlier adventures implied to have taken place in the 1960s and 1970s.

 

Elsewhere, Steven Spielberg did the first Indiana Jones movie, with clear Bond influences – he had been approached to direct this year’s Bond, but this clashed with it.

 

1982

 

Israel invaded Lebanon and British intelligence completely failed to anticipate the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands, resulting in a two-month war that brought down the Argentine junta. Yuri Andropov stood down as Chairman of the KGB a few months before the death of Leonid Brezhnev, a move that aided him in succeeding him as Soviet leader.

 

In Britain, a former GCHQ employee called Geoffrey Prime was arrested for indecently assaulting children and in the process was found to have been passing considerable amounts of intelligence to the USSR. He was sentenced to 38 years with the judge at his trial (and also the one at his appeal) stating that in wartime, his actions would have been eligible for the death penalty and he would have no compunction in imposing it.[4]

 

Gardner’s second Bond novel, For Special Services, was published. This was the last one that was a big success, with a sharp decline in sales from here on in.

 

EON were undergoing their own case of For Legal Services – McClory was back in business. He’d managed to find a backer for his “renegade” Bond film in the form of Warner Bros and his co-producer Jack Schwartzman persuaded Sean Connery to star in it for $3m ($7m in 2012 dollars), a percentage of the profits and casting approval. An attempt by EON to stop the film in the courts failed, with McClory being allowed to produce the film, provided it was an essential Thunderball remake. One further attempt at stopping it by Fleming’s estate the following year failed as the film was well into a troubled production that required Schwartzman to use his own money to support the project.

 

With this film happening, there was no question of replacing the now 54 year old Roger Moore as Bond, who headed to India to produce a less serious Bond. While other actors were considered, Moore was lured back with a $4m basic salary (and a percentage) although he was now feeling he was getting too old for the role.

 

1983

 

NATO deployed highly controversial cruise missiles in Western Europe, while Labour ran on an anti-nuclear platform in the British general election… where it achieved its worst result since 1945, Thatcher gaining a parliamentary majority of 144. A Soviet fighter jet shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 after mistaking it for a spy plane and Moscow Centre came close to mistaking a radio comms exercise codenamed ABLE ARCHER 83 for the preparations for a surprise nuclear attack.[5]

 

A new espionage/action series arrived on US airwaves in this year: The A-Team. Across the pond, Thames Television aired a miniseries called Reilly, Ace of Spies, based on the life of Sidney Reilly, an early 20th century Russian-born Jew alleged to have spied for at least four nations and a possible model for 007, starring Sam Neill. It’s rather good actually.

 

The third continuation novel, Icebreaker was released – as was the first James Bond computer game, James Bond 007, released by Parker Brothers for three Atari  consoles, the Commodore 64 and the short-lived ColecoVision. This was a side-scrolling driving/shooting game that an indie developer could do easily today.

 

Also the gaming arena, Avalon Hill’s Victory Games arm published James Bond 007: Role-Playing In Her Majesty's Secret Service, a table top RPG system, which won an Origins Award. A number of adventures based on the films (with some plot points changed to surprise players) and supplements would be released until 1987, when their licence to publish lapsed.

 

Meanwhile, the press geared itself up for the ‘Battle of the Bonds’. While the two movies would not be released simultaneously (months apart in fact), there was much at stake in claiming the prize for the highest box office take.

 

Octopussy (film)

 

“Look, I haven't time for these adolescent antics” - Q

 

A crazy Soviet general teams up with an exiled Afghan prince to try to force the collapse of the NATO alliance. Bond teams up with a diamond smuggler to stop him.

 

·         The PTS sees Bond flying a real mini jet, the highlight being said jet flying through an aircraft hangar.

·         This is the first film in the series where the lyrics of the title song (“All Time High” by Rita Coolidge) do not mention the title of the film at all.

·         Robert Brown makes his first appearance as M. He played Admiral Hargreaves in TSWLM and fanon holds that this is the same character who became M.

·         Maud Adams becomes the first and so far only woman to have played two Bond girls on screen in EON films – although Nikki van der Zyl of course voiced a number in the early ones.

·         There is extensive location filming in India, with Vijay Amitraj (a well-known tennis player at the time) playing an MI6 agent who assists Bond.

·         The film takes elements from “The Property of a Lady” and “Octopussy” – the auction comes from the former, while the plot of the latter is used to explain the story of Octopussy’s father.

·         This is the final film in the series to have the name of the next film accompanying “James Bond Will Return…”

 

Arguably the last decent Moore film, this one has some great action sequences, some funny moments and a scene with James Bond dressed as a clown that actually is tense.

 

Never Say Never Again (film)

 

“Good to see you Mr Bond, things have been awfully dull around here...Now you're on this, I hope we're going to have some gratuitous sex and violence!” – Q (played by Alec McGowen)

 

It’s the same plot as Thunderball, only slightly updated. Also, I won’t do the seven points for this film, for the simple reason I haven’t seen it – although I plan to.

 

*

The Moore film won the box office battle by $23m, but the sum was down noticeably on the previous film. With McClory’s rights limited to a Thunderball remake, he wasn’t exactly in a position to challenge EON anytime soon. Unless of course, he decided to do another remake.

 

1984

 

Yuri Andropov died and was replaced (against his wishes) by the ailing Konstantin Chernenko. Under his leadership, the USSR led a (much smaller) boycott of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. A major famine broke out in Ethiopia – moving BBC news reports eventually led to the Live Aid concerts the following year. Ronald Reagan won a landslide victory against Walter Mondale, who had called for a ‘nuclear freeze’. The UK and China agreed that Hong Kong would be handed over in 1997.

 

The beginning of the year saw another spy action series arrive on CBS – Donald P. Bellarsio’s Airwolf[6].

 

Moore had planned to hang up his PPK after the last film and James Brolin was almost given the role before the former was persuaded back for one last go. Gardner released Role of Honour, which sees Bond get a large inheritance from his uncle (a continuity error – Bond has no living relatives) and go freelance for a bit.

 

A potential hitch arrived when the 007 Stage burned down at Pinewood – but it was rebuilt in less than four months, being renamed “The Albert R. Broccoli 007 Stage”.

 

1985

 

Mikhail Gorbachev became Soviet leader, implementing policies of perestroika (restructuring of the economy) and glasnost (openness). Israel conducted an airstrike on PLO headquarters in Tunis after the murder of three Israelis on a yacht – there were many deaths and a big diplomatic outcry, with the US allowing a condemnatory UN Security Council resolution to pass by abstaining. In response, the PLO hijacked a cruise liner, murdering a disabled Jewish-American during the standoff before being allowed to board a commercial airliner bound for Tunisia – which then got intercepted by US naval jets and made to land in Italy, where the hijackers were arrested.

 

Rock Hudson became the first major celebrity to publicly die from HIV/AIDS, raising the profile of the relatively new disease considerably. This carried over into the Bond films – no longer would Bond sleep his way through an entire Swiss allergy clinic[8].

 

There was no Gardner novel this year, but there was one last Roger Moore film. Moore was now 57 and during filming, he learnt he was older than his leading lady’s mother – making it clear to him that it was really time to go. He was also unhappy with some of the violence in this movie with one of the craziest villains to date:

 

A View To A Kill (film)

 

“May I remind you that this operation was to be conducted discreetly. All it took was six million francs in damage and in penalties for violating most of the Napoleonic Code.” - M

 

The mad product of Nazi science (it sneers at plot logic![7]) wants to destroy Silicon Valley to dominate the world microchip industry… Bond teams up with a geologist who at times seems to have rocks for brains.

 

·         Duran Duran’s title song is the only Bond song to have ever gained a US number one - it’s one of the best bits of the film.

·         The “From” is dropped from the short story, which only lends its Paris setting to the title.

·         Christopher Walken plays main villain Max Zorin, who in one scene brutally guns down a whole batch of mine workers. Grace Jones also features as henchwoman May Day.

·         The film features a parachute jump off the Eiffel Tower. This sort of thing is normally illegal and when two crew members later did it, it cost them their jobs as it jeopardised the filming.

·         Tanya Roberts, who appeared in the last season of the original Charlie’s Angels, plays Stacey Sutton, a character so dumb she gets successfully ambushed by a blimp.

·         This is Lois Maxwell’s final appearance as Moneypenny – she did suggest she could become M, but Broccoli did not think audiences would accept that.

·         Then Mayor of San Francisco Dianne Feinstein (now US Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA and oddly the chair of the Select Committee on Intelligence) allowed a huge amount of access to the film crew, including allowing scenes to be filmed inside City Hall – Cubby was so grateful, he insisted the world premiere take place there.  One scene at City Hall includes a shooting of an official – Feinstein became Mayor after the killings of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978, Feinstein finding the bodies.

 

AVTAK has a poor reputation (it’s the lowest rated EON film on Rotten Tomatoes) – the villains are decent, but most of the rest of the cast isn’t… Moore is extensively stunt doubled in this one. That opinion may change on a re-watch. Box office dropped again, the film barely making more than five times its budget[9]

*

AVTAK also got a highly buggy game adaptation from Domark (which later ended up being part of Eidos) as well as a text adventure game from Mindscape. Elsewhere, Richard Dean Anderson’s show MacGyver began a seven-season reason, the titular character eschewing firearms and preferring to rely on his wits, plus ingenious uses of everyday objects.

 

1986

 

After a Libyan bombing at a West Berlin nightclub killed three American soldiers and injured 230 other people, the US launches Operation El Dorado Canyon, a major (and complex) airstrike against a number of targets in Libya. Muammar Gaddafi narrowly survived, although his house was destroyed and he claimed his adopted daughter was killed in the attack (doubts have been raised since).

 

In the US, the Iran-Contra scandal began when it was revealed that the US was covertly selling arms to Iran (to get them to use their leverage to release American hostages in Lebanon, or at least that’s how it ended up) – then using the proceeds to arm the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. There were a number of convictions over the matter, although evidence that Reagan fully knew what was going on was not found – much of the documentation was shredded.

 

Mindscape published a text adventure game of Goldfinger, while Gardner released Nobody Lives Forever.

 

With Moore gone, the producers had to find Bond number four for the next film. They were initially interested in Timothy Dalton (with Sam Neill also auditioning), but he was committed to an adaption of the Brenda Starr comic strip, so they went for Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan had been playing the main role in NBC’s comedy drama Remington Steele, doing a good part of the job already. That show had just been cancelled, so all they needed to do was wait for the 60 day option to end…

 

Just before it did, NBC renewed the show hoping to cash in on the Brosnan hype – at which point Cubby decided he was not going to share his star with a TV series and withdrew the offer to Brosnan – who did five more Remington Steele episodes before the show finally got eaten by The Cancellation Bear (or rather one of his predecessors). A schedule re-jig allowed Dalton to do the next film after doing Brenda Starr[10] and he signed on the dotted line.

 

Timothy Dalton – the Marmite Bond

 

Timothy Dalton (1946-) is a James Bond who divides opinions, although fandom is increasingly moving in his favour. He played his Bond hard-edged and gritty, spitting out his one-liners. Dalton consciously chose to go as close to the books as possible in his portrayal – something most Bonds haven’t.

 

Born in Wales, he started off in theatre, doing some performances with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He did a fair bit of television as well, finally settling on screen acting and going to the US. His notable early credits include a role in camp classic Flash Gordon and Mr Rochester in a BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre. He was approached for Bond in 1968, but felt he was far too young for it.

 

Dalton did two films before the extended MGM legal problems put the franchise into its hiatus, deciding to leave before the next film got going. Since leaving the role, he has had a diverse career, ranging from Toy Story 3 to a recurring role on Chuck to a superbly hammy turn in the final David Tennant Doctor Who story “The End of Time”, where you can literally see the spray from his mouth on the HD version of part one.

 

1987

 

37 US sailors were killed when their frigate was hit by two Iraqi Exocet missiles. A German pilot managed to fly a microlight through Soviet airspace and land in Red Square, resulting in a lot of dismissals. At the end of the year, Reagan and Gorbachev signed a treaty eliminating the medium and intermediate range land-based missiles of the USSR and USA.

 

John Gardner’s next novel was called No Deals, Mr. Bond, while the inevitable video game was based on the film released this year, this one being viewed more positively than the previous Domark release.

 

The plot of the next film was originally going to be a reboot with Bond’s first mission, but Cubby thought better – so the screenwriters merely went for bigger and better…

 

The Living Daylights (film)

 

“Kara, we're inside a Russian airbase in the middle of Afghanistan” – Bond, pointing out that freedom is relative

 

James Bond helps a Soviet defector get to the West, but the defector is kidnapped and 007 is embroiled in a complex plot involving diamonds, opium and guns, combined with an attempt to set British and Soviet intelligence at each other…

 

·         This is the last film of the 20th century to use a Fleming title – the short story only provides the first 15 minutes of the movie, the rest being a new plot.

·         Norwegian band a-ha sing the very good title song.

·         Maryam d’Abo plays Czech cellist Kara Milovy; she would later co-write a book on the Bond Girl. After the titles, Bond is a one-woman man for the whole film.

·         John Rhys-Davies plays General Pushkin, falsely accused of the assassinations of British operatives. Walter Gottell would have been doing this part as General Gogol, but illness limited him to a brief scene at the end.

·         Joe Don Baker plays evil General Whittaker – and would later appear as a different character in the first two Brosnan films.

·         Bond’s Aston Martin is actually two different models – a soft-top Volante which has then ‘winterised’ into a hard-top V8 (with Volante badges) by Q Branch.

·         The Hercules flight was originally going to end with an attempted landing on a US aircraft carrier – this got to storyboard stage before being dropped. Part of the Tangiers chase filming saw Bond ride a ‘magic carpet’ down some telephone wires – this was dropped in the edit.

 

This is one of my favourite films of the series; I’ve watched it at least three times. I would highly recommend checking this one out. While the reviews were good, this film had a disappointing box office (better than the last two, but low in the US).

 

1988

 

The USSR began its withdrawal from Afghanistan, while the Iran-Iraq War came to a close after US attacks on Iranian vessels trying to close the Straits of Hormuz and the accidental shooting down of an Iranian airliner.

 

Scorpius  by John Gardner saw Bond go up against a crazy cult leader, while Domark converted a planned speedboat racing game called Aquablast into a Bond game based on Live and Let Die.

 

Every Bond bar Connery and Lazenby have had difficulties with the production of their second movie. In this case, Licence to Kill had a change of title after test screens (from Licence Revoked, which 50% of Americans polled associated with the loss of a driving licence), a change in UK tax laws that combined with the weak dollar made it unviable to film at Pinewood, initial plans to film in China falling through due to local bureaucracy, severe problems with heat in Mexico – and a writer’s strike.

 

The last one is the key bit. From 7 March to 7 August 1988, the Writers Guild of America went on strike over residuals and creative control – a consequence was the revival of Mission: Impossible, which had unused scripts that could be used for it. A writer’s strike means an effective shutdown of many TV programmes as they are needed to do rewrites – in films, it means that others working on the project have to get involved. As Richard Maibaum, the incumbent Bond screenwriter, went on strike, he completed an outline beforehand and left it for Michael G. Wilson to finish off.

 

1989

 

Communist control in Central Europe collapsed, mostly peacefully (except for Romania), but is upheld in China with brutal force. In the process, the East German Stasi manage to destroy 5% of their archive before demonstrators stop them.

 

Gardner’s Win, Lose Or Die saw Bond promoted to Captain. Dalton’s second movie now hit cinemas – and proved a far grittier and more violent tale than its predecessor.

 

Licence to Kill (film)

 

“Everything for a man on holiday. Explosive alarm clock - guaranteed never to wake up anyone who uses it” - Q

 

Felix Leiter gets married and widowed after a drug lord he put in custody escapes, in the process also being mutilated. Bond goes on a revenge mission, with M taking away his licence to kill. Not that it’d stop him for a second.

 

·         This was the first Bond film to be rated PG-13 in the US and got a 15 certificate in the UK; there is a lot of violence here and it is frequently edited for TV showings. It had to get cuts even for the PG-13.

·         Gladys Knight’s title song is the longest one in the entire series, at over 5 minutes long. She’s not credited in the title sequence. Those two are probably not related.

·         We get our first repeat Leiter - David Hedison previously appeared in Live and Let Die.

·         “The Hildebrand Rarity” and the novel Live and Let Die lend elements to this story.

·         This is the last appearance of Robert Brown’s M and the last of a male M until 2012.

·         This is the only Bond film to feature a health warning about smoking in the closing credits.

·         Q, who moans about Bond losing his gadgets, is seen actually throwing one into the bushes.

 

Not as good as the first Dalton, although I would need to re-watch this – it’s rather atypical for Bond in terms of grittiness.

 

LTK was released into a crowded summer market of action movies (including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, starring Sean Connery) and did pretty poorly as a result – it failed to cover its negative costs in the US and only made just over $150m worldwide. It also got a very successful Domark-published game adaptation.


As the 1980s came to a close, MGM and Broccoli were getting nervous about the franchise. Things were about to get worse, as changes at the former would put Bond into deep-freeze and when he thawed out, he would be played by a different actor.


[1]Produced by the prolific Game Designers’ Workshop (1973-1996), who still have some of their IPs going strong with other owners such as Traveller and Harpoon, T2K is set in the near-term aftermath of a late 1990s nuclear war. I’ve played this game – the combat system is a bit hard to follow, while character generation is a mini-game in itself, as characters can turn out very differently from your initial idea.

 

A new version, Twilight: 2013, was published in 2008 by 93 Games Studio, but that company has now gone bust.

[2]Other films in this category include Cutthroat Island, The Golden Compass (which ended New Line Cinema as an independent unit) and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

[3]Supposedly it’s from Confucius. Oddly enough, this quote is used in the first episode of ABC’s currently running series Revenge.

[4]Prime was released on licence in 2001, as per the norm for British prisoners and given a new identity to protect him from vigilantes.

[5]A big fear of the Soviet leadership that turned out to be totally without justification.

[6]This is going to be a future topic for a Cult TV article in The Burning Question.

[7]With thanks to David Morgan-Mar of the now concluded Irregular Webcomic!, which included spoofs of Dr. No and a bit of From Russia With Love in the ‘James Stud’ section – something he never personally liked too much, although I enjoyed.

[8]Discussions of Bond’s sex life generally conclude he must have picked up at least one STD, considering the amount of unsafe sex he has.

[9]You need 2-3 times your main budget to cover other costs like marketing and the money that the cinemas themselves take.

[10]In the end, the film wasn’t released until 1989 due to legal problems and not until 1992 in the US… where it bombed. At this point, Dalton had done his two films and due to the extended legal problems, was not going to be doing another.

 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

The jumpers' final ride (Grand Review: 'The Killing III')

So, it ends… With a bang in an airport parking area rather than a whimper. The third and final season of Forbrydelsen (there was a deliberate decision by creator Soren Sveistrup to end the show here) frustrated, moved and thrilled, as Sarah Lund faced her final case.

 

When three sailors are found dead on a cargo ship due for scrapping, Detective Sarah Lund, who is about to move to a desk job, investigates. However, the case takes a dangerous turn as Emilie Zeuthen, the 9-year-old daughter of the CEO of Zeeland, the powerful company who owned the ship, is abducted. To find the young girl, she must solve an old case where a girl was murdered and the prosecutor (who the perpetrator murders in dramatic fashion) covered it up.

 

Lund doesn’t just have this difficult case to deal with… PET are involved as well, including her old flame Mathias Borch. Also, she finds that she’s going to become a grandmother.

 

As this is going on, Denmark is in the midst of a general election with the incumbent Prime Minister in trouble due to the poor economy. Politics runs deep through a tale that will take Lund to Jutland and ultimately Norway.

 

****

This season has a superbly twisty case with a lot of red herrings (a notebook plays a big role here)  – I wasn’t sure of the killer of the old case until about 15 minutes from the end. The ever present warehouse turned up a good deal and had some great moments. Frans Bak’s music (I got the soundtrack off Amazon) was again great.

 

I’m going to focus on a few elements worthy of further discussion.

·         Lund: A superb acting job by Sofie Gråbøl, who can do more with her face than some actors with their entire body. The ultimate conclusion of the series, which sees her take a step that a number of other great detectives have taken themselves in response to a situation they see no other way to solve, will certainly frustrate many people. There is also a superb moment with a dripping wet Lund rescuing Borch from one of the killers.

·         The other coppers: Borch certainly learns the hard way that it is not a good idea to partner Lund (her last two ended up dead after all) and his relationship with Lund is a key part of Season 3. Lennart Brix is superb as always.

·         The family: Again, we get a focus on the family (father, estranged wife and her boyfriend, brother), as they have to deal with their missing daughter. The lengths that people will go to protect their family (also demonstrated with Kamper) are made very clear and Robert Zeuthen’s actions are reminiscent of Theis Birk Larsen from Season 1. Emilie didn’t appear much, but contrary to trailer appearances, was not creepy despite her general blondness.

·         The politics: We get a return to the alliance building of Season 1, only on a national scale, with PM Kristian Kamper being both slimy and broken after the death of his son. I’m not entirely convinced by the focus on this girl being so central to an election campaign and one or two final twists, but the actors here are pretty great. Mogens Rank, the Justice Minister, who comes across as a toady for much of the time has a dramatic shift near the end.

·         The killers: I can’t go into too much detail, but there is a strong resonance of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo here – and again a feeling that justice isn’t fully done, although Lund might well be setting off to do some. In fact, justice is a big theme of this one.

·         Pacing: 55-minute episodes again this time, which dragged a little, but not too much.

 

Conclusion

 

The final decision on what to do this one is difficult. It can’t be a 10; I don’t tend to award those to professional productions and there were a number of flaws here. However, when it was great it was superb and a great ending to this run. Sarah Lund, you’ll be missed.

 

Roll on Borgen 2.

 

9/10

2012 Simulation Cup

One-time sim competition announced

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