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Monday, June 15, 2009

Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, Recap 36: The Scarecrow's Revenge

Another week, another recap. :-) Today's episode is "Scarecrow's Revenge."

Sounds intriguing. I found the first Scarecrow entertaining enough, I guess. I liked the end, and I liked the Triton-as-horror-heroine plot. I was less happy with the mild Niko-as-damsel-in-distress element though. This episode will hopefully have more good crack and less annoyingness. :-)

Niko's more fun when she's kicking people in the head.

Mysticism, Mythology, and Shane Gooseman Charging a Crowd while Riding a Monster

We start this episode with a familiar little blue planet framed by four moons. It's a testament to how long it's taken me to go through this series that I no longer remember what the planet's called.

Then again, my brain is a sieve on the best of days.

Oh hey, it's Tarkon! I'd totally forgotten that Tarkon is the planet with the four moons. I'm going to forget that again, but for the moment, I know. I know this because a fellow in a stagecoach just said it.

Thank you, convenient bit player!

Or maybe not a bit player, as this old guy is saying something about how soon he'll have his revenge. He glows briefly and becomes the scarecrow.

Actually, that reminds me of something that bothered me from Heart of Tarkon. I'd assumed that in the Scarecrow, the villain had taken that guise because it was convenient. There was a real scarecrow in the field, so he took its clothes and then was pleased by the nickname.

But in the image of him on Tarkon, he still looked like a scarecrow! It seems like quite the coincidence that he was already inclined toward the dress style. Oh well. It's not like he couldn't have taken other clothes if they suited him, I suppose.

Anyway, the stagecoach enters the quiet village. The Scarecrow is once more in the guise of the old man and goes to the back. He opens it causing stairs to drop, which is pretty swanky, and revealing some sort of pipe organ.

The music gets all carnival-ish, and villagers are starting to look intrigued. He calls them over with a "Come one, come all!"

Between this and Wild Bill, I kind of wonder what the writers of this show had against traveling entertainers.

The Scarecrow is playing snake-oil salesman and advertising how to live forever. To demonstrate, he throws his hands up and starts glowing, then zaps the crowd draining their life force.

Why was that necessary? I mean, I guess it's good to gather everyone in the center of town, but it seems like there's a much less complicated way of doing it. I mean, the pipe organ is there, why?

Still the Scarecrow is appropriately creepy, so I approve.

The stagecoach leaves the ominously flashing village, where the only indicator that a mass murder did not just take place is that we can faintly see a few figures standing upright. That may not mean anything though, as they all seem to be blue and petrified.

Maya and a couple of other sprightly folk come charging over a hill, riding weird mounts that look like a weird cross between a stegosaurus and a cow. They enter the now petrified town and Maya notes that it's the third village that's been "ravaged" like this. Another fellow wonders if it's the Queen's Slaver Lords.

Yeesh, not everything bad is the Queen, ya know. Maya isn't jumping to conclusions and only states that there's something evil at work.

I hope Goose and Zozo are in this episode. I really want to see them blow the Scarecrow up.

Maya and her group ride to where some Sherwood Forest reject is sitting on a stump, holding a spear. He seems to be dozing. Yeesh. Maya needs better guards. Anyway, Maya heads to a tent, or more specifically to the communication array sitting beneath. She intends to call the Galaxy Rangers.

Wise notion! I approve of how this series doesn't have its heroes stubbornly refuse help in a misguided attempt to prove independence and self-sufficiency and end up proving the opposite. It's something I notice a lot in other series, especially for female characters that the writers are so desparately trying to convince us are strong women. Since they end up needing help anyway, or there wouldn't be a show, they just end up looking stupid.

Here though, the writers recognize that strong characters can still ask for professional help.

The Sherwood Forest reject protests that she doesn't have the permission of King Spartos. Considering how they saved his kingdom last time, that king better shut the fuck up. Maya merely points out that she wouldn't go against tradition and her father if there weren't PEOPLE WHO ARE NOW FUCKING STATUES.

I'm using "fucking" as an adjective, not a verb, just to be clear.

Maya's a good leader. Much too good for these idiots. We should relocate her to Kiwi. Give her an army of tiny badass farmers.

Sherwood presses the button and our view switches to BETA mountain, where we're hearing Sherwood's message. The tech identifies it as being from the rebels at Tarkon, and that Princess Maya needs help with an invasion.

I guess it goes to show that one party with a few Galaxy Rangers and a defeated Queen can't automatically fix a planet. I like that. I still think the king's a moron though.

Anyway, Walsh and Q-Ball are listening. It's a very unflattering camera shot for Walsh though. His middle-aged spread is pretty apparent. Which is a detail I like actually. Walsh proclaims that if the Queen "or anyone else" is invading Tarkon, they have to know about it.

I love the "or anyone else" since it makes it sound like Tarkon's getting invaded every other week. Which, considering the general, the Queen, and now the Scarecrow...might be true. Q-Ball points out that Goose and Niko are closest.

Hmm, I was really hoping for a full team episode. But on the other hand, both my shipper tendancies and my love for gratuitous violence may still be appeased, so I'm not too upset. :-)

On their ship, Goose and Niko receive their investigation orders. Niko tells Goose that Tarkon is beautiful. Goose thinks it's trouble and exposits for those of us with ba memories (read: me) that "that hotshot Princess Maya" has her hands full with her secret high-tech rebel army and keeping them hidden from the low-tech authority figures.

He sounds quite amused actually, when he calls her a hotshot.

Anyway, they jump, reach Tarkon, and land in a nice forest clearing, where Maya and her Merry Men (the archer and the short old guy from Heart of Tarkon) are waiting. Maya greets them and introduces her lackeys as "trusted aides" Bogue and Tevox.

Maya practically purrs Goose's name and is all "I didn't expect YOU'D come in person to answer my call." She quickly greets Niko too, with a friendly handshake. Maya tells them they need to mount up and ride.

Shane is either appalled or turned-on by the sight of the mounts. He says "What the hey are those things?!" Which makes me laugh because, well, it's one of those moments that really emphasize that you're watching a kid's show. There's no way he "really" said "hey." Shane runs over. Niko makes a more non-committal "huh" sound.

Maya identifies them as Tarkonian Veebee. Shane doesn't appreciate the smell, but he and Niko don't seem to have trouble riding, so all's good. Maya warns them that they have to be careful who sees them, if her father knows there are Galaxy Rangers on Tarkon, there could be a diplomatic incident.

Jesus Christ, why has he not been deposed already?!

Heh, an interesting moment when Goose quips something about being taken home to meet the folks. The "camera" is on Niko's face the whole time. She doesn't seem upset, but she's definitely not smiling. Granted, the playful banter's pretty sickening, but Shane's young and unsocialized so I approve of him broadening his horizons.

Niko probably ought to stake her claim soon though.

Heh, Maya does ask how Doc is though. Goose is all "Doc, who?" Heh.

Anyway, they ride into the petrified village. Niko does her mind-tap and glimpses the Scarecrow. She becomes paralyzed in place. Goose quickly jumps off and runs to her, pulling her off of the statue. Niko quickly informs them that this is something a great deal older and "more evil" than slaver lords. She thinks it's familiar.

Well, really Niko, how many psychotic scarecrows do you MEET anyway?

Arrow-guy's dog starts barking wildly. He's picked up a scent toward "the Haunted Land". Scary!

Maya tells Niko that the Haunted Land has always been a place of mystery. What is it with Tarkonians and mystical mysterious places. Don't any of you people explore your damn planet?

Niko points out that she's been in there and they have to be there. In very very clumsy expositional dialogue, Niko talks about the computer inside the mountain (which Maya chimes in as "the Heart of Tarkon") and she reminds MAYA that her staff is tapped into it.

Ick. Usually Galaxy Rangers is very good about not having the characters clumsily reiterate what they're supposed to already know. Here though, it's like "Hey, Kalinara. That http://kalinara.blogspot.com is the address to that website where you blog about comics and other things."

What's really irksome about it is that Shane, who wasn't on the mission, is RIGHT THERE. So if they REALLY feel the need to remind us, they could have Maya and Niko explain the situation to him.

We do find out that Maya's staff is what led her on the journey. Arrow-guy clumsily asks if they're going to break the taboo and go into the Haunted Land. Maya believes that superstition and taboo stifle the growth on their planet.

Meanwhile, on some other road, the stagecoach continues to travel. The Scarecrow is also heading to the Haunted Lands and already feels the power. There's ominous lightning in the distance.

The Scarecrow stops at another village insisting that he needs enough power to destroy "the Sleeper" and does his carnival spiel again. It seems to be the same stock footage from before actually. He petrifies them.

Suddenly, Maya's staff decides to talk, warning Maya that the Scarecrow is in the valley and draining the life force. "Soon he will wake the sleeper."

Maya has two pertinent questions: "Who is he?" And "Who is the Sleeper?" Good questions, both. The staff doesn't answer. Shane, an optimist at heart, says that at least they know there's no time to lose. They head toward the village, where the Scarecrow is making everyone glow and...

Holy hell, Goose just ran his mount thing INTO the crowd, pushing people out of the way! Hah! That's one way to disrupt a ritual!

God, I missed your rampant destructive violence, Shane Gooseman. Don't go away again!

Anyway HE recognizes the Scarecrow on sight. The Scarecrow shouts "This time you'll lose!" and pulls out a weapon. Um, technically, the Scarecrow pretty much won the last round. Seeing as how he ended up undefeated, possessing some poor schmoe on Granna. Unless he really wanted Triton THAT much...

He blasts Shane off his mount as the others come racing up. Arrow-guy lives up to the moniker I gave him by shooting, but the Scarecrow is able to block them. The crowd, consisting of idiots, are still standing around the stagecoach. RUN, you morons!

The Scarecrow jumps down and starts running, even as the little old guy starts shooting too. Little old guy though shoots like I do, and instead nicks the ORGAN. The Scarecrow hops onto the mount and breaks it free, claiming he needs no more disguises.

So the complicated wagon and organ...

There really ought to be an easier way...

Anyway, the wagon and organ start to glow and in fact explode. While the Scarecrow laughs and shouts they're too late.

Niko helps Shane up all "We've tangled with the Scarecrow before! You know how powerful he is!"

Oh my god, seriously, what's with the crappy exposition, show?! Is this a new writer?

Anyway, Niko's got her hand on Shane's bicep, which I approve of, and urges caution. Maya comes up all "Isn't caution just another word for cowardice."

Um. No actually. Buy a dictionary.

Niko quickly lets go of Shane and waves her hand, "If you believe that, you're a fool." Maya looks angry.

Um. Maya. These people DID save your kingdom's ass before, and your ass twice. The tension seems a bit forced. But I do like that they're fighting over tactics, rather than Shane.

They're off, but interrupted by a balloon with a megaphone. It's a patrol. Um. Aren't those guys supposed to be LOW tech? Because that balloon thing seems pretty swanky to me. It demands that they put down weapons and prepare to identify themselves. They're entering into a forbidden area, yadda.

Maya's all "They must not find the Rangers!" Which, um, they're right above you and you don't have cover. Wouldn't they see you?

Maya orders them to prepare for battle. Arrow-guy shoots the megaphone out of the leader's hand. I love you, arrow-guy. Of course, the purple alien fellows in the balloon raise crossbows.

I'm kind of bothered as to how the "bad" Xenophobic, techphobic side has clearly alien members, while the enlightened rebels are all human. It doesn't make sense, unless we assume that the purple guys are natives of Tarkon. That could be true, but I'm still leery of the "ugly/alien/other=bad"/"pretty/familiar/human=good" dichotomy.

Anyway, after the initial bolts miss, the balloon lands and the troops jump out.

Okay, dumb question, but how does a fight help? Shane and Niko aren't in disguise. Surely one'll mention the uniform later.

Shane and Niko are tackled. He kicks his opponent off and is about to pull out an energy weapon, but Maya stops him. Niko is about to be strangled, but Maya knocks the badguy off with her staff.

Hmm, I'm annoyed at Niko's sudden loss of badassery. The feminist in me is appeased that at least it's MAYA saving her ass there instead of Shane, but she better get to do something badass later to make up for that.

Maya keeps insisting that they must not know they're here. But somehow the whole STARK WHITE AND BLUE uniforms are LESS conspicuous than energy weapons?

This is a fun episode, but it doesn't make much sense. They mount up and run for cover from the balloon.

Fortunately, a rebel airship comes in to engage the badguys. Conveniently the rebels are all humans. Which really, really bothers me.

Also, okay, I can buy the technologically advanced rebels having airships, but why the fuck do the luddites have them too? And how? The rest of the Tarkon technology we've seen is not AIRSHIP level!

We've seen a largely pre-industrial society with advanced science-fictiony relics. But steampunk-esque airship doesn't fit EITHER group! This doesn't make sense!

Finally the rebels are smart enough to POP the balloon with their arrows. And then they leave. Despite the need for haste, Maya does NOT ask them for a ride or anything.

They enter into a rocky area, with the sky darkening and run across a giant monster which they identify as "a berserker." It reaches out and grabs Shane.

Yay! This might be a nonsensical episode, but I sense violence in the wings.

Goose strugles to free himself and orders everyone else to stay where they are. Arrow-guy isn't listening and draws an arrow. Niko insists he stop, he might hit Goose.

Shane's got this in hand anyway. He taps his badge, becomes metallic, and seems to be glowing pink flames. Either the heat from the flames, or homophobia, causes the monster to yelp and drop him. Goose then pulls out his blaster and shoots the monster in the head. I love you, Goose.

The rebels are all watching silently. Yes, boys (and Maya) that is how a badass works.

They make their way to the Heart of Tarkon. Niko suddenly grabs her head, sensing something near.

Apparently the Scarecrow is NOT heading for the Heart. They are confused, but I'm actually really thrilled about this. I think it's a common thing in lazy narrative to keep using a gimmick. In this case, of course the villain from a previous episode would be after this awesome thing from another previous episode!

But he's not! He's got a DIFFERENT goal! Yay!

Niko realizes he's not making for the computer, but something else on top.

Indeed, the Scarecrow is climbing atop. He intends to wake the Sleeper up and fight. Presumably this fight will drain the energy from the Heart.

For some reason, the good guys are simply riding their mounts up the sloping trail of the mountain. Which makes you wonder why the Scarecrow felt the need to climb, since they're suddenly very close behind him. Oh well.

The Scarecrow's hands start glowing and he zaps the ground, shouting for his ancient enemy to awaken.

The Scarecrow calls himself the "Ravager of Worlds." Which is good to know!

Oh, I see now. They could only ride part way. Now they're climbing.

Slowly, an image forms of a faceless giant humanoid man. It actually looks like one of Goose's usual alternate shapes actually.

Suddenly, the old guy who had been the Scarecrow's disguise and is also, Niko tells me though I'd completely forgotten, the old Shaman from Heart of Tarkon, appears. He proclaims himself the Guardian of the place now and commands him to stop. The Sleeper must not be awakened.

The Scarecrow doesn't like being denied and zaps the old man. This pisses off Maya, who charges toward him and is promptly zapped and mind controlled.

See, this is what Niko meant by CAUTION. Of course, Niko ignores her own advice and comes running out to help Maya. Naturally this leads to the Scarecrow ordering Maya to get rid of Niko. Yay, catfight!

Maya knocks Niko down, as Shane shoots at the Scarecrow (who is unaffected) and has to dodge a return volt.

Ahh, there we go. Niko's regained her badassery, as she sends a charging Maya flying, with a kick. Niko doesn't want to hurt Maya, but when Maya charges her, she's more than willing to defend herself.

Meanwhile Shane's zapped a bit and does his badge tap thing, glowing even as the Scarecrow is on him.

The ground beneath them starts to crumble and weird red appendages peek out. That can't be good. The Shaman calls on the Heart to help them, while we see that the appendages are actually the sleeper's fingertips.

Hmm, am I the only one disturbed by the fact that they're keeping that guy in there unconscious? I mean, is he there voluntarily? Is he a prisoner? What?

There's glowingness, and the Heart of Tarkon announces itself. The Sleeper's still waking up though, which distracts the Scarecrow from his fight. He runs over. Maya also stops charging, as the Scarecrow cackles.

The Shaman is all "No, the Sleeper must never be let loose again!" But nope, it's waking up. It reaches up a giant hand and announces that it knows the Scarecrow and that he's a part of its first given memory.

According to the Sleeper, they're "things left over from the Ancient Wars." He says something about how the Scarecrow wants to fight the "last of the Tarkon War Beings" on this "innocent planet."

This would imply at least that this planet isn't the original Tarkon. I'm intrigued.

Dude. The moons have started glowing and are blasting energy sraight at Earth. It zaps the Sleeper's hand, which is then pulled beneath the rock. The Sleeper is glowing now and announces that there will be no fighting.

Well, it's good to know he's not a prisoner. I'm still confused though. In a good way. :-)

The moons glow again, zapping the Scarecrow, whose own power is used to send him back to the "Dimension of Souls." The Sleeper then reclines and disappears, and the mountain seals itself.

Niko staggers and has a vision of the Scarecrow laughing and saying he'll be back. When Shane asks what's wrong, she says she was in some kind of psychic backwash. Meanwhile, Maya's eyes stop glowing and she seems to regain control of herself.

In the village, the people are all unpetrified, while the Shaman gives Maya her staff back, and tells her that the Heart of Tarkon must sleep and return this place to silence.

Maya, taking a lesson from all this, tells the Shaman that she wants to learn more about the Heart of Tarkon. The Shaman obnoxiously intones that perhaps in time she may learn its secrets, but her duty is to serve and protect her king and people. By being a rebel, I guess.

Back at the ship, she thanks the Rangers. She hugs Goose and shakes Niko's hand. They exchange farewells but Maya can't quite resist a final flirtatious moment and grips his wrists. Niko looks amused, more than anything else. Then they're gone.

In the ship, Niko asks if Goose could like a girl like Maya. He drawls that he's too busy saving the universe, and besides, he likes brunettes. She is not displeased, even though I thought she was more auburn, myself. And the episode ends.

--

I think this episode was not as well written as "the Scarecrow" or "Heart of Tarkon" but it was a lot more fun.

That said, it really could have used a few more steps in the drafting/editing process, I think.

The dialogue was the biggest problem. The exposition was just sloppy and this is a show that's usually very good about that. There seemed to be a lot of plot holes and logical falacies too, which I bitched about already.

The ending was a bit deus ex machina, but the truth is, I don't mind that kind of thing occasionally. A big part of Science Fiction is wonder, after all, so there's room for the occasional marvelous intervention.

The world-building's interesting, but it kind of seems to me that Tarkon's changed a lot in five episodes. Granted, the Tarkon we saw in Heart of Tarkon was mostly in the crown city, but it seems like if the rebel vs. king stuff were this bad or prominent, Maya wouldn't still have been living at the castle.

Though, things could have exploded just after, but...it still seems like a very quick transformation.

I really enjoyed the Heart of Tarkon and Sleeper stuff. I'm confused as all hell, mind you, and I have no idea what it MEANS. But that's not a bad thing, in this case. I'll be intrigued to see what the series does with it further.

There were parts I really liked too, in the episode. I liked how the Scarecrow was never after the Heart, like they all expected, and in general I thought the character stuff was pretty good.

I thought the Niko/Shane stuff was a bit more overt than usual, but I liked how it was used. Also the Maya-flirtation for that matter. It was exercised in lighter moments, but once the plot got underway, it was sidelined until the end.

I really liked that when Niko and Maya did clash, it was about tactics: caution vs cowardice. There might have been some unspoken subtext there, but the real crux of the argument wasn't about the guy.

We learn something new about Niko's powers that I don't think was ever officially established. Namely that it doesn't seem as though she has "visions" per se (though I still call them that.) I'd always thought she saw exactly what we see when they do the zoom-in effect, but now I'm not so sure. She didn't recognize the Scarecrow and looking back, I think there were other incidents where what she related to the others was much less obvious or detailed than the version we see.

I'm also wondering if Shane's powers aren't improving or something. It really looked like, when he was picked up by the monster, he activated his badge without suffering damage first. Though I suppose the monster could have been squeezing hard. I'll have to watch to see if it's true.

Also, it occurred to me that in story, there might be a good reason for Zach's absence. The last episode he was in was Stargate. So it's very possible that he's gone for medical reasons. I like having possible explanations.

Okay, so in summation: fun, could use a proofreader, but nifty mythology.

3 Comments:

  • At June 15, 2009 8:31 PM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Well, I've always liked this episode. I'll agree with you though, that there are certain plot holes you could drive a bus through. Still, the Scarecrow is a nice scary villain.

    The only reason I can think of for the bit with the organ, is that it reminds me a bit of the Phantom of the Opera, which may have been what they were going for. On the other hand,maybe not.

    Still, always nice to see Goose blow things up!

     
  • At June 16, 2009 3:08 PM, Blogger Delora said…

    The scarecrow might just be stuck with the first corporeal form it took after millenia of hibernation.
    This is one of many episodes where it just would have made sense if the rangers had donned disguises. This type of oversight happens in a couple of episodes (notably on Tortuna!) so I've just started assuming that maybe the rangers have image inducers or Niko can project an image of their intended disguises.
    I did have trouble understanding why Niko and Maya clashed so violently in this episode since there was no hint of it earlier. Maybe it is that Maya wants to radically modernize her world with technology while Niko comes from a world that keeps its secrets and despises technology.
    I also had the impression that Maya does not really know how to treat a man of equal rank (she leads the rebels and is shunned at court) so maybe flirting is the only way she knows for interaction with men who are not her soldiers. Maybe Shane overdid the bantering as a response to that.
    I didn't mind the expositions but some more backstory about Tarkon and its society would have been nice. I have no problem seeing that Tarkonians could maintain some technology such as airships, but as long as there is no industry, these ships will be very, very costly.
    And why are there villages in the Haunted Land if it is taboo?
    Spartos is probably needed to keep the kingdom, the progressiv and the conservative forces, together, even if he seems backward to modern viewers.
    And why is every woman in a village who is not a main character wear a skirt?
    I liked the dinosaur like animals.
    The episode had some plot holes but was nice to look at. :)

     
  • At October 12, 2011 8:19 PM, Anonymous Felix said…

    Well, I don't actually consider this is likely to have success.
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