Tiffany Vogt

Archive for the ‘Eureka’ Category

“Life is But a Masquerade: Recognizing the Face of Evil”

In * By Tiffany Vogt, * Opinion columns, * Sci-fi columns, Battlestar Galatica, Being Human, Chuck, Dollhouse, Eureka, Heroes, Lost, Primeval, Supernatural, Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles, Torchwood on October 13, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Looking back over the various sci-fi television shows I have watched over the years, I am intrigued by the idea that some of the characters wear masks – not literal masks, but instead facades behind which they hide their true nature.  For not everyone is Darth Vader with such an obvious desire to hide who he is.  Thus, such characters are a fascinating study in duplicity and to see whether the “masks” they wear are successful.

Double agents, sleepers, traitors, turn-coats, opportunists – these are but just a few of the names we have for those who wear a mask.  They dance in the masquerade of life weaving their spells of illusion.

Some of the most treacherous moments in sci-fi television were only achieved through such careful and clever use of masks.  Among those astounding, eye-popping moments were:

Double Agents –

Looking first at double agents, there are quite a few that standout in recent television history.  Most recently, there was Ruby in “Supernatural,” who convinced Sam to unleash Satan from the pit of Hell.  That little nasty demon certainly had a big comeuppance coming her way.

Another surprising reveal was finding out that Mr. Dominic from “Dollhouse” was the NSA’s inside-man who kept tabs on the nefarious dealings of the Dollhouse.  After the first season, it appeared that Mr. Dominic’s days were over when banished to the Attic, but as viewers of “Epitaph One” have seen, he may yet be a player and still a man to be reckoned with, for beware the man who realizes he can be so casually tossed aside.

In probably one of the most tragic double-agent storylines, in “Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles” we saw the doomed-from-the-start Riley worm her way into John Connor’s life in order to try to sway his affections from Cameron who Jesse deemed to hold too much power over him and which may jeopardize the human race.  That Riley was ultimately sacrificed by Jesse in order to implicate Cameron was the ultimate betrayal of the fragile double-agent by one of her own.

Then falling on the side of the good guys was triple-agent John Scott in “Fringe.”  For over half the debut season, everyone presumed that he was but a mere double-agent, working for those who would undermine our government.  But, in the end, it was revealed that John Scott had been recruited as a faux double-agent in order to find out what the enemy was up to.  The reveal that he was a double-double agent turned the tables on the bad guys.

In a heart-breaking turn, we saw Gina in “Battlestar Galactica” infiltrate the Pegasus, which led to her brutal incarceration and heinous interrogation.  Thus, it was not really a surprise when she escaped and, with Baltar’s unknowing aid, got her hands on a nuclear bomb which she promptly detonated taking out one of the largest ships in the fleet.

And last, but not least, was the mysterious double-agent role of Beverly Barlowe in the first season of “Eureka.”  We never did find out who she was working for.  Perhaps one day we will learn what she was really up to and whether it still poses a dire risk for the entire world.

Sleepers –

Looking next at sleeper-agents, the gold star goes to Boomer on “Battlestar Galactica.”  She was the ultimate sleeper-agent, first shooting Adama, then later kidnapping Hera.  She was the ultimate deceiver as we never truly knew if she was a Cylon yearning to be human, or a Cylon good at pretending to be human and successfully managing to conceal her deeply-rooted evil nature from even those closest to her.

Outstripping Boomer in her lethalness, River Tam in “Firefly,” was a paradox of facades.  With her brain shattered after multiple medical experiments at the hands of the Alliance and the Blue Men, River appeared to be childlike and harmless.  It was only under great emotional stress or a “trigger” that her training and instincts kicked-in and she took out everything in sight.

Then, in a nice jaw-dropping turn, Mellie in “Dollhouse” turned out to be a cleverly placed sleeper as the neighbor next door to Paul Ballard, who got the drop on her assassin and took him out with one well-placed kick.  No one saw that twist coming!

Traitors -

This is perhaps the most ugly side of human nature, those who will turn on their own.  Benjamin Linus in “Lost” is a shining example of a traitor to his core.  Just when we thought he was on the path to redemption, he not only snapped John Locke’s neck, he then stabbed Jacob.

Also in a stunning turn of events on “Lost” was Michael’s cold-blooded execution of both Ana-Lucia and Libby in order to break Ben free of his cell in the hatch.  Though, in the end, it seemed Michael truly regretted his traitorous actions and tried to make amends by assisting in blowing up the freighter.

Giving Ben a run for his money was Helen Cutter in “Primeval,” who went back to the dawn of humankind in order to prevent the human race from ever existing.

Another girl you wish you could strangle for her willing complicitness in espionage on the side of the enemy is Jill Roberts, Chuck’s college sweetheart, who came back time and time again to betray Chuck repeatedly in the TV series “Chuck.”

And the ultimate traitor who broke our hearts was Gata in “Battlestar Galactica.”  His well-intentioned mutiny on the Galactica had us shaking our heads and screaming “what the frak are you doing?!” to our television sets.  His noble intentions led to an internal bloodbath from which the show never recovered.

Turn-Coats -

There are characters that are constantly changing their alliances and you are never quite sure if you can fully trust them.

One of the best turn-coats was Angel in “Buffy.”  One minute he was the Slayer’s dreamboat protector, and then the next he was a soul-less demon killing everyone he could get his hands on.  Perhaps there was no more heart-stopping moment of shock than watching Angel kill Jenny Calendar.

Following in those vicious footsteps, we now have Sylar on “Heroes” who also changes his colors of loyalty from episode to episode.  One minute he is a sociopathic serial killer and the next he is returning to rescue fellow “heroes” from the clutches of the evil government agents.  But, if there was any doubt, one only had to watch him slowly and gleefully kill his girlfriend, Elle, to realize that he is truly evil.

Returning back to the “BSG” realm, it was rather disheartening to realize the extent of Tom Larek’s willingness to do everything to undermine the fragile society created in the aftermath of the Cylon genocide of the human race.  We so very much wanted to trust and believe in him, but in the end, he masterminded a mutiny that ended up with him airlocked.

Opportunists –

Another kind of mask is that of the opportunist.  Such an individual does not seek to be evil for the sake of being evil, but rather is motivated out of base desires, such as lust, power and greed.

One glaring example of this was Gaius Baltar on “BSG.”  He was not only driven by his base desires, but also his overwhelming need for survival.  Gaius Baltar would sell his soul to the Cylons or to a misguided cult just to survive. However, in the end, perhaps Gaius was simply a man seeking redemption for all the evil he had inflicted on those around him.

While not quite fully understood, the brief glimpses we have about Captain John Hart’s (played by James Marsters) in the series “Torchwood” showed a man who was driven by his desires – whether it be survival, greed or lust.  He is a man who wants what he wants and will do whatever he needs to do to get it.

In “Firefly,” Jayne was the most honest of all the characters as he would tell you to your face that he had sold you to the Alliance.  Jayne always appeared to let his loyalty fall on the side of greed.  It was all about the filthy lucre with him.  The only thing that trumped greed was his base instinct for survival, but even then it was a toss up.

Self-Deceived -

Looking next at those who deceive themselves more than they deceive anyone else, it is appropriate to acknowledge those who wear a mask that only they can see.

For all his speeches about not being willing to stick his neck out for anyone and keeping his head-low to stay off the Alliance’s radar, Captain Malcolm Reynolds in “Firefly” was entirely self-deceived.  For he consistently put the well-being of others ahead of his own and took every opportunity to willingly engage the Alliance in order to piss them off and thumb his nose at their clumsy attempts at tyranny.

Similarly self-deceived was King Silas in “Kings.”  Except in his case, he was self-deluded into thinking that what he did was for the good of his kingdom.  Yet in reality, nearly all of his actions were self-preserving and self-aggrandizing.  In King Silas’ world, there was only room for himself.  He left no room for God, nor the people he was entrusted to watch over.

In a painful revelation, we saw all too clearly the mask slip away to reveal Captain Jack Harkness’ true nature in the recent “Torchwood: Children of Earth” special.  Jack was perhaps the most deceived, but he was forced to face himself in the mirror when he saw the end result of his willingness to give up 12 children in exchange for a virus cure, and then was forced to sacrifice his own grandson in order to defeat that same enemy.

Then, in a sad twist, we saw Henry in “Eureka,” create an alternate future timeline so that the love of his life would not die.  It was a revelation to see the lengths that Henry would go to ensure a future with his beloved.

Another master-deceiver was Nathan Petrelli in “Heroes.”  Despite his best intentions, Nathan kept on making things worse for those who had abilities.  His outing them to the U.S. government was perhaps the biggest disaster he could have inflicted on them all.

A newcomer to the world of deceit is Mitchell on “Being Human,” the vampire in complete denial about his true nature and who so desperately wants to be something other than what he is.  It remains to be seen if Mitchell will acknowledge and confront his despicable nature.

Also self-despising and willing to endure the tests of Hell to get his soul back was Spike on “Buffy” and “Angel.”  Spike wanted to be human so badly he constantly tried to shed his vampire nature in order to prove he was still a man.   In the end, did Spike’s ruthless nature belie a gentler human heart?

Lastly, also hailing from the Whedon-verse, was Wesley in “Angel.”  He so desperately wanted to do the right thing, but by stealing Angel’s son, Connor, he unleashed a destiny that nearly enslaved the entire planet of earth and destroyed a young man’s childhood.

In the end, whether with malicious intent, handcuffed by fate, or simply through bumblingly bad decisions, these are a sampling of the types of villains that populate the sci-fi universe.  They may send shivers down our spines or make us shake our heads with dismay, but without these multi-faceted characters our sci-fi shows we would surely suffer from anemia due to the lack of drama, intensity and surprise.  Evil is after all a necessary ingredient in any good story – and in sci-fi there is no lack of masks that evil wears.

Tattoo - Editable

Review of ‘Eureka’ – What Comes Around, Goes Around

In * By Tiffany Vogt, Eureka on September 21, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Saying goodbye is never easy, but you don’t have to destroy the world over it

Jack (Colin Ferguson) is having a hell of a day. His daughter gets accepted into Harvard, his girlfriend gets her dream job and the North Pole moves to Eureka. Under other circumstances, these might be good things or even great things. But on this particular day, it’s all bad news.  As Jack succinctly put it, “So the laws of physics are in peril, my daughter’s moving out, and the world’s coming to an end.”

Zoe (Jordan Hinson) is only a junior in high school, but after succumbing to the pressure to apply for early admission to medical school, she miraculously gets in — to Harvard. It’s only 3,000 miles away from Eureka and her overly-protective father who thought he had another year to get used to the idea that she was going to college.

Then Tess (Jamie Rae Newman) had applied for her dream job operating a space telescope program in Australia, the week before she started dating Jack. So when she gets the news that she got the job, she is tempted to take it as she will soon be out of a job once Allison returns and it is the job she’s always wanted. Tess simply had no idea that there was a relationship right around the corner that it would make her decision to leave Eureka so difficult.

And as for the sudden emergence of a new North Pole — well, that’s just Lucas (Vanya Asher) trying to show off so that he too can get into Harvard and join Zoe there. But for every well-intentioned plan, there’s some fiasco lying in wait as a sneaky bad silver-lining.

So not only does Jack have to deal with the sudden news of the imminent departure of both his daughter and girlfriend, he has to save the day — again. But being the hero of Eureka, he pulls it off and resignedly says his good-byes to both Tess and Zoe, not wanting to stand in the way to their dreams.

What Worked

The re-introduction of Martha, the former killer drone, was awesome. It was a relief that she was working for the side of good this time around and not out to kill everyone on sight. However, I still felt a shiver of anxiety each time she appeared, so it was fun to see how she participated in saving the day this time.

It was also funny to hear about this horrific future cataclysmic event called Nemesis that everyone was freaked out about, only then to find out that it was not supposed to occur for another 2,000 years. Jack’s exasperation over Fargo’s crying wolf was fun to behold.

Then, after being MIA for a number of episodes, it was nice to see Julia (Leela Savasta) again. The list of things to do that Fargo (Neil Grayston) came up with was pretty hysterical and added some of the better comedy of the episode. It was also hilarious each time Fargo got stuck to a ceiling or wall due to his anemic health condition. Talk about a painful and awkward medical side-effect.

There was also some great comedic moments watching Jack walk-like-a-zombie through Lucas’ garage to get to the amplifier that Lucas had built to replicate the effects of Nemesis. But it begs the question, now that Jack and Zoe have the injected muscle-control devices, will that be a future problem it someone gets a hold of the control box? And Jack’s line of, “who could have created a mini death-star?” was priceless!

And at the end, the dual-goodbyes between Tess and Jack, and then Jack and Zoe were poignant with the lines: “If I hate it I can come back” and “you can come back even if you don’t hate it.” It leaves the door open to the return of one or both of them.

But the crowning moment and the perfect way to end the episode was with Jack answering the phone and saying, “Allison, I was just going to call you!”  Allison may be gone for the moment on maternity leave, but she is not forgotten.

What Didn’t Work

As cool as it looked watching the swimming pool burst into flames, it seems a bit overly melodramatic to have Zoe actually jump into the pool and then have to have Jack come to her rescue.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

“What Goes Around, Comes Around” written by Jaime Paglia, and directed by Matt Hastings. “Eureka” stars Colin Ferguson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Joe Morton, Jordan Hinson, Erica Cerra, Neil Grayston, Chris Gauthier and Niall Matter. “Eureka” airs Fridays on Syfy.

Review of ‘Eureka’ – Have an Ice Day

In * By Tiffany Vogt, Eureka on September 13, 2009 at 11:21 pm

Another zombie episode due to brain-freezing black crystals

In a cozy welcome home episode, Taggart (Matt Frewer) was back escorting a never-ending gigantic icicle to Global Dynamics for testing. Along with him returned Zane (Niall Matter) who had been gone for a month helping Taggart secure the ice core. Fargo’s (Neil Grayston) greeting of “The Ice Man Cometh” was never more apt and there were bear-hugs for everyone.

Alas, Zane came back a bit more cool in attitude than Jo (Erica Cerra) was expecting. Even Fargo noticed the difference labeling Zane “The King of Cold.” Also picking up on Zane’s indifference towards Jo, Taggart was quick to step in, circle his quarry and tried to ascertain if Jo still had feelings for him. Unfortunately, his chivalry was a bit too delicate and he lost his prey again. Better luck next time in the hunt!

Additionally, along with the return of Taggart and Zane and the creepy ice core came a fungus hitch-hiker which first flash-froze Taggart in a block of ice, then it attacked Zane, and finally it went on a rampage that nearly froze over the entire town.

Perhaps due to the prodding of the insistent Commissar Yuri that Jack needed to be prepared for every contingency, Jack was finally able to identify that the fungus was reacting to the Petro-tek compound found in both Zane’s cold weather clothing, the walls of G.D. and throughout Eureka, which kept them all from freezing during the harsh winter months. So, quick as a flash, Jack and Taggart tag-teamed to combat the nasty icy-anaconda and the black crystal ice was abated.

With Allison (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) out on maternity leave and Henry (Joe Morton) away at NASA, Tess (Jamie Rae Newman) was left in charge. However, things do not go well on anyone’s first day in Eureka. As Tess ranted in frustration, “One day — one day and I’ve started an ice age and an international incident”! To which Jack sarcastically added, “Yeah, it’s like the Cold War all over again.”

What Worked

There were some lovely moments between the core couples right now. First, Jo wondered why Zane had returned all “frosty” towards her and speculated that it might having something to do with the return of her ex-flame, Taggart. Thus, it was fun to watch Jo and Taggart dance around each other and try to come to terms with their past relationship and future friendship.

Jo had one of the best lines when she told Zane, “you go away for a month and come back acting like The Thing. What’s going on with you?!”  (Quite a delightful reference to a classic sci-fi/horror film.)

Then it was nice to see the growth that Zoe (Jordan Hinson) and her boyfriend Lucas (Vanya Asher) have made as he encouraged her to pursue both her aptitude in robotics engineering and her love of medicine. After giving the robotics stuff a zesty try, Zoe slowly realized, “I guess the test isn’t so accurate.” But Lucas quickly reassured her, “Sure it is. But I’ve always known you were different than 99.8% of other people anyway.” It was his way of telling her that no matter what she is good at or chooses to do, he knows she’s special and he supports her no matter what. It was also cool to see that Zoe did actually have an aptitude for robotics and that she now realizes that she has many options should she decide to pursue either a career in medicine or robotics.

While not related to any of the couples, the visiting Russian security officer, Commissar Yuri, also got a good laugh by asking Jack, “Do you know what it is like to be security officer in a town full of crazy scientists?!” and Jack ruefully admitting, “Actually, I do.” If there is anyone who does actually get what that poor tired Russian guy is going through, it’s Jack.

What Didn’t Work

As much as I try, I am still not buying the relationship between Tess and Jack. It still feels to rushed and contrived. The ending scene where Tess is having dinner with Jack at the house and she mock-protests that she should go because she has a lot of work to do (which she does) and then she ends up staying to sit in front of the fire with Jack did not feel as romantic as perhaps the writers intended and it felt like Tess was seriously slacking off on her job as the person left in charge of Global Dynamics needs to take their job more seriously. After all, Allison would have never been persuaded to stay like that as she knows the responsibility of running such a company does not allow one to slack off — especially when you are in charge.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

“Have an Ice Day” teleplay by Charlie Craig and Bruce Miller and story by Joan B. Weiss and Constance M. Burge, and directed by Joe Morton. “Eureka” stars Colin Ferguson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Joe Morton, Jordan Hinson, Erica Cerra, Neil Grayston, Chris Gauthier and Niall Matter. “Eureka” airs Fridays on Syfy.

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