The Smugglers – Story #028

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Jael’s Judgment:

Who doesn’t like a pirate story?

While this was still an adventure, it had some mystery and intrigue which also made it more of a “story” for me. A lot like most of the fictional books I read. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but didn’t really feel involved.

It started to get a little weird when I realized that all of the pirate accents were really just Irish accents.

  • Story Grade: C+

 

Tony’s Take:

To call this story dull would be doing it a favor.  I had very little interest and did not care what happened.  All I wanted was for the gang to get back into the TARDIS and get to the next story already.

Pulled from Wikipedia:

On initial airing, this story posted the lowest audience figures, at an average of 4.48 million viewers per episode, since the show had started. It would remain the least-watched story in Doctor Who history for twenty years, until The Trial of a Time LordThe Mysterious Planet aired in 1986 and posted an average of 4.35 million viewers per episode.

Sounds about right.  Good on you, British viewers!

I will not explain anything further, and I do not even have some comparison or witty remark to make.  Maybe, just maybe, the video would have saved it some, and for that I give it a barely passing grade of…

  • Story Grade: D
  • Only “watch” this story if you are doing something like us and wanting needing to take in each story.

 

Thank you, Irish actors.  Irish versus Pirate, who can tell the difference?!  (I am clearly being sarcastic.)  In a way, thank you to the writing team, your poor story made for a very short blog entry.

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The Gunfighters – Story #025

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And now for a new feature on our blog:

GUEST REVIEW!!

We have selected one story from each Doctor that we would like a guest-reviewer to watch (either with us or at their own leisure), and we will include their take on our blog.  Whether they are an experienced Whovian or a complete stranger to the show, we have no qualifications other than the interest by the guest reviewer(s).

So without much more delay, as this post will probably be longer than average, I present, the world premiere of…

Guest Rev-who:

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Name:  Tony’s parents (Far left and far right – my aunt and uncle are in the middle – picture taken in the mid-90s, in a very Gunfighters-y theme)

Blog-link:  None

Can we follow them on twitter?  Nope, but every once in a while I mention them or show them on my stream (@TonyV433).

  • How do you know kroWeW?
    • “We are the creators of one half of kroWeW.”
  • When did you first experience the glory of Doctor Who?
    • “Today, February the 8th, 2013.”
  • How many stories or Doctors have you watched?
    • “None.  Next question.”
  • What is your favorite memory of Doctor Who?
    • Mom:  “We’re making memories right now.”
    • Dad:  “I have no memories.”
  • If you were a companion, where and when would be the one place you’d go?
    • Mom:  “St. Kilian (MN) church in 1965 with my grandma.”
    • Dad:  “I’d want to see King Tut being put in his tomb.  Nope!  I’d want to see the Pyramids being built.”
  • Have you already viewed the story you will be guest-reviewing?
    • “Nope!”

Now this is the point in the review that I tell you that we were staying with my parents and celebrating my dad’s birthday.  As they have teased us about Doctor Who and thought that we were weird for liking such a strange and old show, they were not exactly totally psyched to watch the story.  I asked my dad on the phone, before we went over, if he would like to participate on this blog, and told him they’d just have to give us their opinion about a “movie-length feature”.  I did not tell them that it was going to be Doctor Who until about 2 hours before we started the show.

In the meantime, we celebrated my dad’s birthday by going out to eat:

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This is the photo from the brewhouse/grill that we went in New Richmond, WI.  The place was called Brady’s Brewhouse.  (This is part of my instagram feed, shameless plug.)  After we ate, we went back and made homemade ice cream and got our review on.  So let’s hear their actual opinions…

  • Last, but most importantly, what is your review for this story?
    • “The music was unforgettable,” they said with heavy sarcasm.  “The casting was spot on!” my mom said, again with very heavy sarcasm.  “The accents were over the top and varied between comical and cringe-worthy.”
    • “Steven’s outfit was a bit YMCA,” says my dad, referencing the song by the Village People.
    • “The colors are very reminiscent of the times.”  This is a rip at the age of the story, which I quickly point out is actually younger than my dad who was celebrating his 50th (my mom is a year older than my dad, on top of it all).
    • My dad noted that he “really like the ending.”  He fell asleep for most of episode two… but don’t take this as an insult, he falls asleep at even his favorite movies.
    • My mom made some good, yet contradictory points, “There was a bit too much death and violence, though understandable for the story’s setting.  this is a kid’s show?  Wait, there was no blood, though.  the bartender should have bled out!”  Good points mom, it’s funny how they get away with violence when the graphic nature is the one piece that is censored (blood, guts, and swearing).
    • “The Doctor drank milk!  That was pretty cool,” says my dad.  Not sure if this was just an honest answer or because he is a Wisconsonite.  Either way, my mom also chimed in and agreed, probably because it teaches kids to not only drink milk, but also not to drink alcohol at a bar.  Again, she is full of contradictions, as she does not drink milk.
  • Story Grade:
    • Dad: D+  –  “It was no Gilligan’s Island!”  (thought it would have been a “sleep plus” if you asked me)
    • Mom: C  – “Could have been worse.”  (she sang the recycled song for the rest of the weekend, and may still be humming it now)

 

Jael’s Judgment:

Western meets sci-fi, and with a catchy serenade! “…in the Last Chance Saloon.”

This story mixes all of the classic elements from my childhood. So although this viewing was not with my family, (I have watched it with my father on a previous occasion) it was fitting that we watched this serial with family. In fact I do not have too much more to say. I will let Tony take the rest of this one since our guest viewers were his parents.

(I like listening to the varying American accents. One of the men is completely unsuccessful.)

  • Story Grade: B+

 

Tony’s Take:

Television shows are known to have catchy theme songs to play during their credits.  But what happens if they used a song as a them throughout the story?  Well, The Gunfighters answers this.  As I learned for an episode of Radio Free Skaro way back when, Tristram Cary penned the tune, which is very odd considering the legacy he built for himself.  Tristram was better known for his pioneering is the 1960s synthesizer movement, so for him to write this Western-inspired song and not some experimental oddity, makes this normal (albeit redundant) song the true oddity on his resume.

And now for the meat of my review, and I’ll keep it short.  I INTRODUCED MY PARENTS TO DOCTOR WHO!  What a strange feeling it was.  I was showing them a legendary show, made in the 1960s.  They were born in the 60s!  In England this would be completely backwards, but here in America, the new Who-surge makes this more of a reality than an oddity.  It was strange to see them watch this and hear them laugh and talk about it.  I think that they either took it as serious or missed the absurdity altogether.  My mom really did sing that song for the rest of the weekend, though.

It’s also strange because it seemed as if my mom took to the show more than my dad; my dad is the one who likes more of the sci-fi/nerd stuff.  My dad likes Lord of the Rings (one of the few books he actually read), he enjoys all of the Marvel movies, and like Monty Python.  My mom on the other hand dislikes British accents (odd), and would rather watch a “chick flick” than any type of “nerd movie”.

I was very excited to have my parents be the first guest-reviewers, but I just wish that we gave them a more accessible story.  Oh well, if we show them another, odds tell me that it will be a better story.

  • Story Grade: B-
  • Sure, there is no reason or tricky plot to this story, but it’s just an enjoyable romp.  The song is hilarious for it’s repetitive nature.  Think Classic Who meets Community (NBC show) – It’s like a writer/director just wanted to make a Western and built Doctor Who around it.

 

Thank you, Tristram Cary!  I need not say more.

P.S.  Jael just said, as I nearly hit “Publish” that “this is where the idea for Firefly came from!”

The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve – Story #022

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Jael’s Judgment:

I am getting so lost. I don’t remember what story we are on or who is involved. I keep referencing Daleks, of which there are apparently none in this story. This space and time traveler needs some sleep. I think I need to emulate an earlier time when I watched Doctor Who while falling asleep waiting for my dad to return home from work.

Tony will probably hate this story. It is a history piece after all. I think I had an American French teacher from South America, who was writing a paper on this period while I was studying over in France. At any rate we visited Nantes, where the Edict of Nantes was signed.

So far I am not crazy about Steven.

  • Story Grade: C-

 

Tony’s Take:

French review: Je vulvlavlu, bleablubla dufrabaleu!

So, Jael can speak French, and I am notorious for mocking the language.  She loves me for this quality, and I love her for her abilities.  While we stayed in France she was able to help me along… for the most part.  Sometimes she would forget that I didn’t understand the language and would laugh at me when I couldn’t read the menu or when I just smiled and nodded my head.

Which reminds me of Jael’s favorite Simpson’s line (Skip to around 10:16):

“En francais!”  *Kid’s laugh with a stereotypical French accent*

As for Doctor Who and France… let’s just say that there is an adventure in the Tom Baker era that will done much better (though it is not set in the past – at least as much as this story is).  Why did this story even exist?  There was no change, no plot that really needed fixing; they came, they saw, they escaped.  Nothing was really changed or better by their presence.  I am not quite sure what separates this from an “F” grade, but it wasn’t quite THAT terrible, after all, even the actors had terrible French accents, and for that, I thank them!

BAGUETTE!!

  • Story Grade: D
  • I am not quite sure if it’s a good thing or bad thing that the video does not exist for this story.  If you are looking for good Who, that defines an era or Doctor, feel free to skip.

 

Thank you, France.  Your language is hilarious to me, and a bit maddening.  I like saying all of my letters for the most part.  With that said, your country is beautiful and your labor laws seem like they have some great things to offer (like vacation time for one).  I guess what I am trying to say is that you are alright in my book, France!

The Crusade – Story #014

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Jael’s Judgment:

I like to think of Barbara’s hair as a separate character. It is just so big. And longer in this episode. I’m wondering if she has extensions in again.

Anyway, on to the rest of the story. It was nice to have a few of the episodes on film even though the rest were audio only. It gave me an idea of what to imagine as we listened. Overall the story wasn’t bad. They really do minimize the element of danger that I imagine was quite present in actual earth history. But I guess that’s what you get when watching a show meant to have children in the audience.

Thus far Barbara is my favorite companion. Though Sir Ian continues to display his amazing skills with a sword. Man those science teachers in the 60s must really have had a varied skill set…

On a side note; while speaking with the Oh So Handsome Husband here, it just dawned on me how many companions I am going to have to say goodbye to. I get pretty emotionally attached to some if these characters. This could get rough.

  • Story Grade: B-

 

Tony’s Take:

I have nearly nothing to add to Jael’s review.  The combo death blow of audio-only AND historic-based story make this a snoozer for me.  OK, I’ll go back, it was actually half audio-only and half-video, as two of the four episodes remain in video form, but the video did very little for me, which is why this story gets a below average grade.

Like Jael, I am shocked at how decent a science teacher from 1960s London is with a sword.  Ian is so good with a sword that he even gets knighted!  The other bit of weirdness is the Vicki/Victor bit; she is forced to go along pretending to be a prepubescent boy, since women were treated harshly back in those times, especially when battles were being fought.  I had to laugh at the one line that Victor’s “voice has not broken yet.”  I think that this is a very British and very theatrical way of talking about puberty.  Maybe it was said this way in order to keep it above the heads of the children watching this story?

Lastly, a point is established that The Doctor does not like violence as he tries to persuade the king not to fight and take arms.  He knows this part of history, and that his request is futile, but at least he establishes himself as a man who tries to solve problems without violence.  With that being said, The Doctor is not a completely moral man, as he does his fair share of lying and stealing in this story, but it’s for the greater-good, right?

The wrap-up of the story seems a bit forced and rushed, which is odd since 4 episodes is more than enough to explain this story.

Favorite notes:

Bird noises.  No dialogue, maybe the audio CD with narration would have been a better choice than the DVD of Lost Episodes.  (Oh, harp sounds, trumpets, and drums, too.)  then the end of the episode, just like that.
And now Pat Sajak in The Wheel of Fortune!…  Where are the copyright lawyers when you need them?  The BBC should lay claims to that name.
Vicki is being suited up as a boy (though The Doctor tells one man that she is actually a girl).  The man that he told was confused by a girl dressing like a boy… sounds like people still today.
Classic “no, the other boot” trick.

  • Story Grade: D+
  • Broken record, I dislike historical stories.  Do not try to force Doctor Who into history, play with the unknown throughout history, weave The Doctor into the past, do not force him into a round hole with a TARDIS-sized peg.

 

I would like to thank my lovely wife for doing this project with me.  We are only 6% of the way through our quest, but it’s fun.

The Web Planet – Story #013

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Jael’s Judgment:

The Web Planet? Lame name, for a lame story. Sorry, but this one was booo-ring. The most entertaining part was watching all of the actors try to walk around as the different bugs, especially the ants. I do not know why this story was spread out over so many episodes.

  • Story Grade: D

 

Tony’s Take:

This story SUCKED.  Plain and simple.  I will not sugarcoat it, the writing and setting for this story was a complete failure.  After the first episode I thought that withholding the “monster” and adding an element of surprise was good, and at the end of the last episode, I thought that the underlying theme of freewill and humanity (or in this case, bug-manity?) was interesting.  The problem?  The story was drawn out and lost.  I wrote the following in my notes which sums up the story perfectly in my view, “Great, now a plastic tube that talks to The Doctor.  This story is like a stoner’s dream… boiled down to a lifeless goo and molded into something kid safe.  I am convinced that there is no meaning and the plot was lost by the writer.”

There was one point that I thought could have been great, but again, it was not well played and was instantly buried and written off.  The Doctor mentions ‘evolution’, and I can’t help but wonder what the outrage would have been like in the US for mentioning that on a kids show… in the 1960s!  We can barely get away with it today (talking about small scale evolution of insects and birds).  In future episodes of Doctor Who (around Tom Baker’s time), this point would have been the overwhelming theme and driven home in 4 episodes, not just another small piece to a scattered story which tried to address issues of freewill AND separation of races (the races being the different types of bugs).

One last comment to drive home my opinion of disdain for this story: “This is just ridiculous.” I spouted off to my wife just over 31 minutes into the disc. The steam had already run out, this story just got odd and drawn out.  It makes me really appreciate the better done “future and alien” stories.

After much feedback from an unnamed source (JAEL!!!!!!!!), I have decided to only include a couple of my favorite notes:

The Doctor is still giggly, like he was doing drugs in the TARDIS or magically 30 (human) years younger.
Barbara loses control of her arm temporarily, a la Paranormal Activity.
The Doctor is not worried about Ian losing his pants, even though he demanded that Ian give him his belt.  The belt disintegrated after dipping it in a weird ooze.
Ian caught in a net, Barbara almost walking into the pool of acid, Vicki uncontrollably moves the TARDIS. Could The Doctor finally have to save the day and save everyone?  NOPE!  Still not the hero, savior of all type.
The big reveal of the “monster” is for… an interpretive dancing tribesman that mated with a bumblebee? Odd.
“He’s very good at this sort of thing,” says The Doctor to Vicki I  regards to Ian leaving to find Barbara.  Yep, you’re right, probably because this happens in every story!
The bee-man are acting like matadors and treating the ant like a bull (or maybe they are farmers treating them like a pig, yelling “soo-ie”) and trying to get it to go after them.  This may be the most “WHAT?!”-worthy scene yet.
“Zarbi, yi, yi, yi!!!” or “Zarb-eee-eeee-eeee” your choice. Both silly.
  • Story Grade: D-
  • The only saving grace to this story was the fact that the first episode was kind of enjoyable, and the IDEA was decent.  The actual writing of the idea and the setting for the theme could have been done MUCH better.

 

I am not sure that I really have many people to thank for this story.  I guess my thank yous go out to all of the bug actors.  Those costumes looked terribly uncomfortable, you made the best out of a confusing script.

The Reign of Terror – Story #008

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Jael’s Judgment:

Another audio, woohoo for me! Even though there is no video, I feel as though I have a good image of the story playing in my head. I know what the main characters look like and I have been not only to Paris, but specifically to the Conciergerie. I remember my first visit with my French “mother” and her daughter (my pen pal and host,) Capucine.

(Well that was fun! I just took a short break from writing this to rummage through my treasure box to find my first letter from Capucine over a decade ago. I have long since lost touch, but it makes me want to try to make contact again before my next trip there this March.)

I also took Tony to the Conciergerie several years ago when he came to travel and site-see in Northwestern France with me for a couple of weeks  after I finished studying over there. I fondly recall a woman holding me “otage” at a small cafe nearby while my non-french speaking husband went searching for an ATM. What lovely and fun memories this all brings up!

Anyway despite having some personal knowledge himself of the setting, I do not think Tony is a huge fan of this Doctor Who story. Yet the writers must have some affinity for France in this period. After all, as Susan points out, they make  la Terreur the Doctor’s favorite time in history. What does this say about the Doctor?

Personally I find the setting quite interesting, but the story did run a little long. A couple of times I found myself day dreaming and having to really concentrate on following the plot line. I wonder if this one may have actually been more captivating with the visual in addition to the audio. The good news is that the story picked up a little near the end. And while i do not remember the exact details of history, throughout the entire story I feel the environment of many different factions, ideals, and conspiracies was demonstrated fairly well. It was also nice that they touched on the idea of the “right” and “wrong” sides.

The bad news is that I get the impression my partner was even more bored than I…

  • Story Grade: C+

 

Tony’s Take:

Bored?!  BORED?!  Bored would be putting it lightly.  I was lucky to stay with the story because my interest was at a new low.  Sure, it was cool that I had been to a place where The Doctor was, but beyond that, nothing.  The story was meandering and with such a weak plot, so why did they stretch this out to 6 epsidoes?!

The good news?  Well, we finished our first full season of Doctor Who!  I have little more to say, because I couldn’t care less about this story.  Why couldn’t The Doctor be visiting Minneapolis on, say, October 26th and 27th, 1991?  This is history that I would LOVE to revisit if the story has to have no plot line.  (For those of you not well versed in Minnesota sports, this is game 6 and 7 of the 1991 World Series.  I was 7 and would love to revisit the greatest moment in local sport history.)

If you want further detail, here are my notes:

Great, another historical piece. Oh yay!
The Doctor is still crabby at Ian for disrespecting him and The TARDIS.
Ian gets The Doctor to say goodbye over a drink.  Way to go Ian, you got him to go with you to make sure you are in the right time and place.
Close, they’re in France.
Well, it sounds like Ian and Barbara still wish to stay, based on their dialogue.
FRENCH REVOLUTION!!!
It’s probably best that the gang didn’t choose a side.
Oh no! A fire at the farmhouse!  Ian and Susan are worried, and so am I!
OK, Madame Guillotine does sound cool.  Add that to the gang getting trapped in jail, they almost sound like thugs.
At least the splitting up is not on purpose.
Find Jack Sterling – says dying man to Ian.
And the mouth on The Doctor gets him forced into working a chain gang.
And The Doctor gets out of a jam by shenanigans at about the same time Barbara and Susan start their escape. (Poor Doctor, a whole 5k away!) …Too bad the girls got caught.
Glad the jailer left the keys in the lock, lucky Ian!
Oh to see The Doctor in his new wardrobe.
Uh oh, the tailor turned on The Doctor!
Yes!  Ian meets up with Barbara and Susan and of course the Frenchman offers wine.  He is one step closer to finding James Sterling, Webster told him of the man who took in Barbara and Susan, said he’d know James.
Glad that Susan and Barbara were caught and The Doctor is the highest ranking man on charge (2nd Officer).
Ian was set up when trying to search for Susan and Barbara, now he is being questioned by the soldiers.
Track 32 of the 2nd CD has a faint recording of the Doctor Who theme in the background while Barbara is talking… I thought I was hearing things!  (Through at least track 34)
If only The Doctor would meet up, then the gang could get on the road!!
The Doctor is forced to cut a deal in order to stay free and see Susan, the jailer is playing hardball.
NAPOLEON!!!
Glad they are escaping under war.  Scary times, for sure.
“Our destiny is in the stars!”
  • Story Grade: D-
  • This historical piece was nothing more than a story with no plot and running in circles.  I don’t know what it would take to give a story an F, but this came close.  I tried to make sure that the medium in which I took this story in did not detract from my view of said story, again, this is why it was not a total F.  Maybe when the story comes out on DVD I can review it in a better context?

 

Thank you to one of the few cool parts of the entire story, the name Madame Guillotine.  That name just sounds intense; I would not like to meet her.  Also, thank you to the writer who gave The Doctor the line, “Our destiny is in the stars!”  That line sums up The Doctor and can be spoken by every Doctor.

Marco Polo – Story #004

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Jael’s Judgment:

We have only the audio for this story. To be perfectly honest, this affected my opinion of this story in a very positive way. I absolutely love being read to!

Aside from the ridiculous accents and bits of racism, I found myself very intrigued. I wanted to be part of the adventure. (Mind you I will never get to go on an adventure with the Doctor, due to a forced promise I made to a certain *ahem* someone.) I most enjoyed the friendship between Susan and Peng-Cho. There are not many individuals with whom I have had experiences that have facilitated such quick, easy, and yet lasting friendships as the one that they instantly formed. But they are some of my most treasured friendships and I can appreciate the one portrayed between the young women.

Ian took quite the leadership role in this story. Wielding a sword, gallivanting off to save Peng-Cho, being a man of his word. I’d be swooning if the women’s roles had not been quite so depressingly helpless. At least Barbara and Susan attempt in some ways to be independent.

  • Story Grade: B

 

Tony’s Take:

Wait, so there was a famous dude by this name?!  I thought it was just a fun game to play in the pool!  I kid, I kid.  Like I said on Twitter, I find it very fitting (almost so much so that it becomes ironic) that this story is the first to be lost to the grips of time, Marco is tough to find in the pool and even tougher to find at the BBC.

Below is an excerpt from my notes taken while watching the episode (yes, Jael and I both take notes using our iPhones, it’s cute to the point of being sad):

Doctor – Crabby from the get go, more so than previous episodes… especially coming off of his “I need you” speech to Barbara.
No one believes in creature even though there are prints and possible sightings (Barbara).  YOU’RE ON WHAT COULD BE AN ALIEN PLANET, TRAVELING IN A SPACESHIP THROUGH TIME AND SPACE!!  I guess that only seeing can lead to believe.
I forget that the British had a strong presence in Asia, especially China, both in the past and at the current time (1960s), makes sense why one of the first semi-historical stories is set there.
The TARDIS ‘breaks down’ and therefore the crew is forced go along this adventure.  Very loose if you ask me.
The half a minute of The Doctor laughing in episode one sounds hilarious, if only we could see this.
“Difficult and bad-tempered.” -Marco Polo on The Doctor.
Oh no!  A sandstorm!  Who would have thought that a plot-twist like this could happen?!
The first two episodes are running quite long for such a small amount actually happening.
It’s not often that The Doctor’s adventures last numerous days without interruption or travel in the TARDIS.
Wait, is The Doctor even in this story?  He has a very limited number of lines.
Logic tells me that Ian and The Doctor are all growing beards, as they would not waste rationed water for shaving.  Maybe it was a REAL 1960s hippie trip.
Episode 3: …And no one suspects Tegana yet.  WOW!
And the mention of hashish just reinforces my “REAL 1960s hippie trip” name.
The racist Chinese accents are cringe-worthy, thank god we can’t see the taped-back eyes.
I’m glad the Susan is making a friend with Peng-Cho.  She is a character you root for, probably because she has been locked up with her cranky (and at times mean) grandfather, for reasons unknown.
The Doctor in a sword fight?!  Why can’t this be on film?!
Marco Polo just will not trust Ian, it is too hard for him to comprehend time travel, though he says he can believe all else.
The Doctor loses at backgammon, and so he loses his chance to win back the TARDIS.
This story is just too long!  The number of plot-extensions is ridiculous.
I told you, my notes/reviews will not be summarized by just one typical format, whether this is good or bad, well, that’s up to you to decide.  At least one thing is consistent, and that is giving the episode a grade and a short summary, which is next…
  • Story Grade: D+
  • The terrible stereotypes that are made by the actors portraying the Mongols and any other Asian people is just sad.  Couple this cringe-worthy performance with an incredibly LONG story and you have a dud.

 

It is hard to think of a list of thank yous, especially after such a racist and bad story.  I guess I have to thank the viewers for sticking with the show, even through a bad story like this.  Also, thank you, civil rights movements around the world.  The advancement, though not complete, makes for checks and balances to be put in place to ensure that an episode like this would not be made in earnest.  I think we are to the point where the only way this could be made would be by highlighting how horribly stereotypical the acting is and doing so to be tongue-in-cheek in order to highlight how un-PC it is.