Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"PERSUASION" (1971) Screencaps Gallery

Below are screencaps from "PERSUASION", the 1971 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen's 1818 novel. Produced and directed by Howard Baker, and adapted by Julian Mitchell; the miniseries starred Ann Firbank and Bryan Marshall:

"PERSUASION" (1971) Screencaps Gallery

























Monday, November 29, 2010

"BAND OF BROTHERS" (2001) - Episode Three "Carentan" Commentary

"BAND OF BROTHERS" (2001) - Episode Three “Carentan” Commentary

This third episode, ”Carentan” picked up one day after where ”Day of Days” left off – Easy Company in Northern France for the Normandy invasion. ”Carentan” mainly centered around the experiences of Private Albert Blithe, portrayed by actor Marc Warren during Easy Company’s attempt take the town of Carentan.

Easy Company’s nighttime jump into Normandy seemed to have left Private Blithe in semi-shock. He barely acknowledged the comments of his fellow paratroopers. During the company’s assault upon Carentan, he suffered from temporary blindness. Conversations with officers like Easy’s Harry Welch and Dog Company’s Ronald Spiers failed to help Blithe ease his anxiety regarding the horrors of combat. Winters is finally able to spur Blithe into action, during a German counterattack, a day or two later. But Blithe’s triumph is short-lived when he is wounded by an enemy sniper after volunteering to lead a scout patrol. Also during this episode, the legend of Ronald Spiers continues when Donald Malarkey and his friends – Warren “Skip” Muck, Alex Pankala and Alton More – discuss Spiers’ alleged connection to the deaths of a group of German prisoners-of-war and a sergeant in Dog Company. Winters endured a mild wound and Sergeant Carwood Lipton endures a more serious one during the battle for Carentan.

”Carentan” became the second episode in ”BAND OF BROTHERS” with a running time longer than one hour. ”Currahee” was the first. But I must admit that I enjoyed ”Carentan” a lot more. The longer running time and broadening effects from the horrors of war gave the series’ portrayal of the Normandy campaign more of an epic feel than ”Day of Days’. It featured two harrowing combat sequences – Easy Company’s attack upon Carentan and the Germans’ counterattack that nearly left the company in a vulnerable state. And it is the first episode that featured an aspect of ”BAND OF BROTHERS” that I truly enjoy – namely casual conversation between the men of Easy between combat situations. Conversations such as the one about Spiers between Marlarkey, More, Muck and Penkala turned out to be bright spots that prevented the miniseries from sinking into the cliché of a typical World War II combat drama.

The main storyline for ”Carentan” happened to be about Albert Blithe’s anxieties in dealing with combat for the first time. Writer E. Max Frye did a solid job regarding the Blithe character and his troubles with hysterical blindness. But I do have a few problems with his work. One, his take on the whole ”soldier traumatized by combat” did not strike me as original. Watching Blithe’s travails on the screen left me with a feeling that I have seen numerous war dramas with similar storylines. And two, Frye got a good deal of his information wrong about Blithe. The end of the episode revealed that Blithe never recovered from his wound in the neck and died four years later in 1948. As it turned out, Blithe did recover from the wound . . . eventually. He remained in the Army, served in the 82nd Airborne during the Korean War and died in 1967. Either Fyre made this mistake intentionally . . . or had made a major blooper. There was another mistake regarding Blithe, but I will reveal it later.

One last complaint I had was the episode’s last fifteen or twenty minutes, which featured Easy Company’s return to England. Aside from the ham-fisted scene in which Malarkey found himself picking up the laundry of some of those who had been killed or wounded in Normandy, most of those scenes should have been featured in the beginning of the following episode. And they should have deleted the scene in which Lipton announced that they would be returning to France. One, he had not been announced as Easy Company’s new First Sergeant and two, they never did return to France.

The performances in ”Carentan” were solid, but a few did stand out for me. Matthew Settle continued his excellent introduction of Lieutenant Ronald Spiers in a very memorable and slightly tense scene in which he tries to give Blithe some advice on how to mentally deal with combat. Another first-rate performance came from Rick Warden, who portrayed one of Easy Company’s platoon leader and close friend of Richard Winters and Lewis Nixon – Harry Welch. I rather enjoyed Warden’s charming take on the easy-going and sardonic Welch. And finally, there was Marc Warren, whose portrayal of Blithe pretty much carried this episode. He did a very good job of conveying Blithe’s journey from a shell-shocked trooper to the more confident warrior, whose experience with Easy Company ended with a wound in the neck. My only complaint with Warren’s performance is that he portrayed Blithe with a generic Southern accent. And the real Blithe was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Why Spielberg, Hanks and director Mikael Salomon had him used a Southern accent for the character is beyond me.

”Carentan” is not my favorite episode of ”BAND OF BROTHERS”. I found the on the whole ”soldier traumatized by combat” storyline for the Albert Blithe character to be slightly unoriginal. The character also spoke with the wrong regional accent and the information about his post-Easy Company years was historically inaccurate. And I could have done without the scenes with Easy Company back in England near the end of the episode. On the other hand, I do consider ”Carentan” to be one of the miniseries’ better episodes. Easy Company’s experiences in taking Carentan and enduring a German counterattack gave the episode more of an epic feel than the events featured in the last episode, ”Day of Days”. And despite portraying Blithe with the wrong accent, Marc Warren did give an exceptionally good performance.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"JANE EYRE" (1997) Review

"JANE EYRE" (1997) Review

There have been many adaptations of Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel, "Jane Eyre". And I do not exaggerate. If I must be honest, I really have no idea of the number of adaptations made. I have seen at least six of them – including his 1997 television movie that aired on the A&E Channel in the U.S. and on ITV in Great Britain.

Directed by Robert Young, and starring Samantha Morton as the titled character and Ciarán Hinds as Edward Rochester; "JANE EYRE" told the story of a young and impoverished English woman forced to become a teacher at a girls’ school in early Victorian England. Bored and dissatisfied with working at Lowood – the very school where she had also spent six years as a student, Jane Eyre places an advertisement that offers herself as a governess in a private household. A Mrs. Fairfax of Thornfield Hall responds to the advertisement and hires Jane. Upon her arrival, Jane discovers that Mrs. Fairfax is Thornfield Hall’s housekeeper and that her new student is Adèle Varens, the French-born ward of the estate’s owner, Edward Rochester. It is not long before Jane finds herself falling in love with Mr. Rochester and being drawn to a mystery surrounding him and a maleficent presence at Thornfield Hall.

Judging from the movie’s 108 minute running time, one could easily see that Richard Hawley’s screenplay had cut a great deal from Brontë’s original novel. Jane’s time at Lowood seemed rushed. Her disappointing reunion with the Reeds was completely cut out. And her time spent with St. John and Diana Rivers was censored heavily. The screenplay even failed to point out Jane’s family connections with the Rivers family and her small financial inheritance. Most of the cuts were made to fit the movie’s short running time and emphasize Jane’s relationship with Rochester. Did it work? That is a good question.

I did have some problems with this production. One hundred and eight minutes struck me as a rather short running time for an adaptation of a literary classic. Hollywood could have gotten away with such a running time during its Golden Age, but I am not so certain that it would have been able to do so, today. The movie’s limited running time was certainly apparent in its failure to depict adult Jane’s reunion with her Reed cousins. Her negative childhood in the family’s household had played an important part in Jane’s formative years. I found it ironic that Hawley’s script was willing to convey Jane’s unhappy childhood with the Reeds, but not follow up with her return to their home in the wake of a family tragedy.

This version also excluded Rochester’s barely veiled contempt toward young Adele, his ward and the daughter of his former mistress. Considering Rochester’s paternalistic attitudes and occasional sexism – conveyed in his penchant for blaming Adele for her mother’s perfidy – by ignoring his hostile attitude toward his ward, Hawley seemed to have robbed some of the landowner’s original character in order to make him more palatable. I could also say the same for Hawley and director Young’s decision to remove the incident involving Jane’s encounter with Rochester disguised as a gypsy woman. And a great deal of Jane’s stay with St. John and Diana Rivers was also deleted from this version. One, it robbed the production of an interesting peek into the St. John Rivers character. Although not a favorite of mine, I have always found him interesting. The brief focus on the Rivers sequence made the movie’s pacing within the last half hour seem rather rushed.

But Hawley’s script and Young’s direction more than made up for these shortcomings in the movie’s portrayal of Jane and Rochester’s relationship. I must admit that I found the development of their relationship fascinating to watch. I especially enjoyed how Jane managed to hold her own against Rochester’s persistent attempts to inflict his will upon her . . . earning his love and respect in the process. And in turn, Rochester manages to earn Jane’s respect and love with his intelligence, wit and gradual recognition of her virtues.

The most fascinating sequence in the entire movie was not, surprising, Rochester’s revelation of his insane wife, Bertha. Mind you, I did find that particular scene rather interesting. For me, the most fascinating scene turned out to be Rochester’s attempt to prevent Jane from leaving Thornfield Hall. He used every emotional response possible – passionate pleadings, contempt, desperation, anger and declarations of love – to get her to stay. He even suggested that she become his mistress and travel to the Continent with him in order for them to stay together. What I found amazing about his actions was his lack of remorse or regret for attempting to draw Jane into a bigamous marriage or make her his mistress. But what I found equally amazing was the fact that Jane’s love for him did not die, despite his words and actions. More importantly, she showed amazing strength by resisting him and his promises of an illicit relationship.

Aside from the movie’s writing and direction, the performances of Samantha Morton and Ciarán Hinds really drove the above mentioned scene. They were simply superb. To be honest, they gave first-rate performances throughout the entire movie. I have yet to see Ruth Wilson’s performance as Jane Eyre. But I must admit that I believe Samantha Morton gave one of the two best portrayals of the character – the other came from Zeulah Clarke in the 1983 adaptation. Morton was barely 19 or 20 when she made this film. And yet, she infused a great deal of subtle strength, warmth and passion into the role. Not only did she managed to create a strong chemistry with her leading man, but also hold her own against him, considering that he happened to be at least 24 years older than her. As for Ciarán Hinds, he also gave a first-rate performance. Mind you, there were moments when Hinds chewed the scenery . . . excessively. Perhaps that came from a theatrical style he had failed to shed for motion pictures around that time. But he did capture all aspects of Edward Rochester’s emotional make-up – both good and bad. I would not go as far to say that Ciarán Hinds was my favorite Edward Rochester. But I must admit that I found him to be a memorable one.

This movie also had the good luck to possess a solid supporting cast. However, I only found myself impressed by only a few. One of those few happened to be Timia Bertome, who portrayed young Adele. She did a very good job in not only capturing her character’s self-absorbed nature, but also Adele’s sunny disposition. Rupert Penry-Jones turned out to be a very interesting St. John Rivers. In fact, I would not hesitate to add that Penry-Jones effectively gave a new twist on the character by portraying him as a superficially friendly soul, but one who still remained arrogant, sanctimonious and pushy. It seemed a pity that the actor was never given a chance to delve even further into St. John’s character. Elizabeth Garvie, who portrayed his sister Diana, had a great deal less to do. Screenwriter Richard Hawley gave a subtle, yet effective performance as Rochester’s brother-in-law, Richard Mason. And Sophie Reissner is the first actress to make me sympathize over the plight of Rochester's mad West Indian wife, Bertha Mason Rochester. Abigail Cruttenden not only effectively portrayed the beautiful, yet vain Blanche Ingram; but also managed to inject some intelligence into the role. But my favorite supporting performance came from Gemma Jones, who portrayed Thornfield Hall’s housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax. Superficially, she portrayed the housekeeper as a cheerful soul that kept the Rochester household running efficiently. Yet, she also conveyed Mrs. Fairfax’s anxiety and doubt over Jane’s blooming romance with Mr. Rochester and the presence in the manor’s attic with great subtlety. Jones gave the third best performance in them movie, following Morton and Hinds.

For a movie with such a short running time, I must admit that I found its production values very admirable. Cinematographer John McGlashan did an excellent job in injecting a great deal of atmosphere into his shots without allowing the movie to look too gloomy. However, I did have a problem with that slow-motion shot that featured Edward Rochester’s introduction. It seemed out of place and a bit ridiculous. Also, production designer Stephen Fineren and art director John Hill managed to maintain the movie’s atmosphere and setting. I found Susannah Buxton’s costumes surprisingly enjoyable. The costumes perfectly captured the 1830s in the film’s sequences featuring Jane’s childhood with the Reeds and at Lowood School and also the 1840s in which the rest of the movie was set. I especially have to congratulate Buxton for limiting the Jane Eyre character to only a few costumes, which seemed fitting for the character’s social and economic situation.

This version of ”JANE EYRE” was not perfect. I found its 108 minute running time too short for its story. And because of its limited running time, Richard Hawley’s script deleted or shortened certain scenes that I believe were essential to the story and the leading character. But I must admit that despite these shortcomings, I found this adaptation to be first-rate thanks to the focus upon the Jane Eyre/Edward Rochester relationship; a production design that reeked of early Victorian England and an excellent cast led by the superb Samantha Morton and Ciarán Hinds.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"The Engagement News" [PG-13] - 1/5


RATING: PG-13 Adult language.
SUMMARY: Friends and family receive news of Cole's engagement to Olivia McNeill. Set after "The Power of One". AU Season 6.
FEEDBACK: - Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: The Charmed Ones, Leo Wyatt, Darryl Morris and Cole Turner belong to Constance Burge, Brad Kern and Spelling Productions. The McNeills, Cecile Dubois, and other characters are, thankfully, my creations.



Part One

Cole strolled along Jackman, Carter and Kline's sixth floor corridor, with his mouth stretched unknowingly into a wide grin. He greeted passing co-workers without his usual reserve, generating surprised reactions from them.

"Good morning!" he cheerfully greeted a fellow attorney from the Corporate Law Division. The man stared at him, goggle-eyed and quietly returned the greeting.

A familiar figure approached Cole from the opposite direction and stared at him. "Cole?" she uttered in a bewildered voice.

The half-daemon smiled happily at his colleague. "Veronica! Good morning!" The dark-haired, statuesque Veronica Altman halted before him. Still staring at him with a stunned expression. Cole frowned at her. "What?"

"Are you taking drugs, or something?" the other attorney commented sarcastically.

Cole threw back his head and laughed, startling his colleague. "I keep forgetting about that crazy sense of humor of yours." Then another smile stretched his lips. "You have a nice day, Veronica. See you." He brushed past her and continued toward his office.

After surprising his assistant, Eleanor, with a cheerful grin, Cole finally entered his office. He dumped his suitcase on the desk and settled into his leather chair. Not long after he had closed his eyes, the familiar odor of gardenias filled his nostrils. He sighed, as his eyes flew open. "Veronica, what are you doing here?"

"You never did answer my question," Veronica replied. She gave Cole an appraising look. "You seem very happy this morning, Turner. And that's rare. Especially for you."

Cole leaned further back into his chair. "What are you talking about? I've been in a good mood, before."

Veronica rolled her eyes. "At this level? Oh please! C'mon Turner, what gives? Right now, you make Bozo the Clown seem like the Grinch."

At first, Cole felt hesitant to reveal the news he now harbored like a loving secret. Both he and his better half - namely one Olivia McNeill - had decided not to tell her family the news, until tonight. But since it seemed unlikely that Veronica would ever have the opportunity to break the news first . . . he decided to tell her. He took a deep breath. "You remember Cecile Dubois, don't you?" he said. "My latest client, who also happens to be dating a close friend of mine?"

"Of course, I do. The computer software designer from New Orleans," Veronica replied. "What about her?"

Cole continued, "She and Andre - my friend - just became engaged a few days ago. They're getting married in January. Or maybe February."

Veronica smiled. "How nice. That's the reason why you're wearing a shit-eating grin, this morning?"

Shooting his colleague a dark look, Cole continued, "No! I . . ." His smile returned. "Let's just say that Andre and Cecile aren't the only ones engaged." He paused dramatically and waited for Veronica's reaction.

A slight moment passed before the other attorney's gray eyes grew wide, as realization struck her. "Oh! Oh my God! Are you . . .?"

"I had proposed to Olivia, last night," Cole said, still smiling. "And she accepted."

Veronica reacted with delight. "Well congratulations!" she cried. Then she bombarded him with a dozen questions. Had the happy couple set a date? What kind of wedding ceremony will they have? Where did they plan to honeymoon?

Cole interrupted his colleague's question in protest. "Veronica? Please? One question at a time. For your information, the answer for each question is . . . I don't know. Well, except for the second question. The ceremony will probably be the same as the one for her brother Bruce's wedding."

"You know, I had no idea that the McNeills were into one of those New Age religions." Veronica regarded Cole with a questioning gaze. "Are you?"

"I'm not into any religion at the moment. However," the half-daemon gave Veronica a friendly smile, "you are certainly invited to the wedding."

Veronica smiled back. "Great! And what about our employers, Mister Jackman, Carter and Kline? Will you invite them, as well?"

Cole responded with a pained expression. "Must I?"


A frustrated grunt escaped from the suspect's mouth, as Olivia McNeill snapped a pair of handcuffs around his wrists. "Jeremy Alvers, you have the right to remain . . ."

"I'm gonna get you, bitch!" Alvers cried, as he attempted a swipe at the female police inspector. "No woman is gonna take me! Especially some bitch cop!"

Ignoring the stares of her colleagues, Olivia grabbed hold of Alvers' arm and pressed - not too gently - into a particular nerve inside his elbow. The suspect groaned with pain. "Listen here," she hissed under her breath, "I'm not in the mood to deal with your misogynist bullshit. Now, get your act together, so I can Miranda you and haul your ass inside that squad car. Understand?" When Alvers failed to respond, Olivia pressed harder into his nerve. "I asked if you understood."

"Ye-e-ess!" Alvers groaned.

Olivia nodded. "Good. Now - Jeremy Alvers, you have the right to remain silent . . ." She continued to read the suspect's Miranda rights. When she finished, she summoned two uniformed officers to escort him to a squad car.

A sigh left the redhead's mouth, as her partner and squad leader, Darryl Morris, approached her. A frown creased his brow. "That guy give you any trouble?" he asked.

"Nothing I can't handle," Olivia replied jauntily. "What about Hector Aquilar? Was he caught?"

Darryl nodded. "Scott and Marcus got him." He scrutinized Olivia through narrowed eyes. "You seemed to be in a good mood, this morning. Has it anything to do with Cecile and Andre's engagement?" Olivia's family had invited Darryl and his wife to attend the engaged couple's celebration party, last night.

Olivia allowed herself a private smile. "Not quite. I mean . . . I'm happy for both of them."

"Uh-huh." Taking the redhead by surprise, Darryl grabbed her right hand.

Olivia protested. "Hey! Darryl! What are you . . .?"

The older cop interrupted. "Then I can only assume that your present good mood has something to do with this!" He lifted her hand, displaying the ring on her finger. "Something new?"

With a sigh, Olivia said, "It's a ring."

"No kidding," Darryl shot back. "It's interesting that it's on the very finger that Sheila had worn her engagement ring, years ago." One of his brows rose questioningly. "Does this mean you have some news to announce?"

After a long pause, Olivia finally confessed. "This goes no further than you, until I say so. I haven't even told my family or Cecile, yet." Then she allowed herself a radiant smile. "Cole had asked me to marry, last night. And I said yes."

Darryl immediately enveloped her into a bear hug. "I thought so! Congratulations!" Then he sobered quickly. "So . . . you don't mind marrying a half-demon, considering what had happened to Phoebe and Cole?"

"If I did, I would have said so." Olivia broke away from his embrace. "Cole isn't exactly the first daemon to get involved with a McNeill, you know."

With a sigh, Darryl replied, "You're talking about something that happened nearly a thousand years ago." The two partners watched the squad car drive away with Alvers inside.

"I know that," Olivia said, "but don't forget that I still carry the blood of that incubus within me. Or else I wouldn't be . . ." She paused, as a uniformed cop strode past them. ". . . Keeper of the Aingeal Staff. Besides, I had come pretty close to killing Cole last summer, thanks to Leo. I'd say that Cole and I could be a danger to each other."

Olivia and Darryl climbed into their car. The latter heaved a sigh. "I guess you have a point. So, when is the happy event?"

"I don't know." Olivia sighed. "We haven't set a date, yet. To be honest, I'm not really in the mood for a long engagement. Maybe we'll get married before Cecile and Andre's wedding. Or after." She patted Darryl's arm. "Don't worry. You, Sheila and the boys are definitely invited."

Darryl murmured, "I only hope that it'll be less eventful than Bruce's wedding. Or Piper's. Or Phoebe's." He switched on the car's engine and seconds later, guided the car through San Francisco's streets.


The New Orleans couple stared at the half-daemon and the witch, after the latter made their announcement. The two couples had met for lunch at Gweneth McNeill's second restaurant - Morgan's.

"I can't believe it!" Cecile exclaimed. "Only you two would get engaged, while having a fight."

Olivia smiled. "What can I say? We were inspired."

"This inspiration is getting to be a habit. Didn't you two first start dating, after a fight?" Olivia and Cole merely exchanged a private smile and ignored Cecile's question.

Andre grinned at his close friend. "So, you had finally decided to give her that ring after all. Huh?"

Cecile frowned. "Finally?"

Cole's face turned red with embarrassment. "I, uh . . . I had bought the ring, over two months ago. I just needed the right mom . . ." He broke off, under Olivia's direct stare. Which reminded him of their argument, last night. "I mean I just finally worked up the nerve to ask her." Olivia smiled.

"When is the wedding date?" Cecile asked. "I hope it won't be around the same time as ours." She and Andre had planned their wedding for mid-February.

Olivia shot a quick glance at her fiancé. "Well, I'm not exactly in the mood for a long engagement . . ."

"Neither am I," Cole added. "How about next month? At least a week or two before the Winter Solstice and Christmas?"

After a brief pause, Olivia commented, "Sounds good to me."

Andre threw back his head and laughed. "Oh man! You two should hear yourselves. You sound like a bunch of lawyers negotiating over a contract."

Cole allowed himself a brief smile. "Well, both of us have studied the law. What do you expect?"

"Oh, I see. I guess you consider that a great requisite for a happy marriage."

Cecile asked, "What about your honeymoon? Andre and I have decided to go to Bermuda."

"That sounds nice," Cole commented.

However, Olivia had another idea. "How about Walt Disney World?"

The half-daemon stared at her with disbelief. "Are you serious?"

"Of course I am."

"Disney World is for children," Cole protested.

Olivia argued, "Maybe, but it's also one of the top honeymoon resorts. Why not? We can stay at the Grand Floridian."

"Sounds good to me," Andre commented. He turned to Cecile. "You know, maybe we should consider . . ."

Cecile declared firmly, "I would prefer Bermuda, thank you very much."

"So would I," Cole protested.

Olivia rolled her eyes. "Why don't we talk about it, later?"

Shaking his head, Cole turned his attention to Cecile. "By the way, I had received your message about your upcoming meeting with Jason Dean."

"You have a meeting with Jason?" Olivia asked her friend.

Cecile nodded. "Tomorrow morning. Jason and I had a talk about my new software program, at your folks' party, last Thursday. It seems that he's interested in becoming a customer."

"Hmmm." Olivia lifted a dubious brow. "I'd be careful, if I were you, Cecile. I realize that you're an experienced businesswoman, but Jason is one of those types who collect companies and conglomerates like old stamps. He might try to buy your company. Or hire someone to create a program design, similar to yours."

Cecile's mouth twisted into a caustic smile. "And your daddy and little brother are above such things?"

"Of course not! They're businessmen! But they know you a lot better than Jason does. Hell, if they had tried a stunt like that, you would probably find a way to get even. And they know that." Olivia returned her friend's smile with one equally tart. "And you would, wouldn't you?"

Cole spoke up. "As Cecile's new West Coast attorney, I can assure you that everything she has created for her company has been patented under her name. If someone does try to steal her software designs, I'll make sure that she'll end up with at least twenty-five percent of that person's assets."

Cecile gave him a smile. "Isn't he great? Everyone should have a lawyer like him."

A smirk curved Olivia's mouth. "Yes, he is. As for Jason, I don't think you have to worry about him, now. From what Paige has told me, he's recently preoccupied with another matter. Like trying to convince a certain girlfriend to accompany him to Hong Kong."


Inside the supermarket, Paige Matthews guided her shopping cart along one aisle. She struggled to maintain her patience, while her older sister babbled endlessly over a personal matter.

". . . mean, oh my God! Hong Kong? That's like on the other side of the world!" Phoebe Halliwell exclaimed. She strode beside the younger woman. "But I can't keep putting it off. Sooner or later, I'll have to tell Jason, no."

Paige added in a laconic voice, "Even though you want to go?"

"Even though I . . ." Phoebe broke off and glared at her sister. "What makes you think that I want to go?"

Rolling her eyes, Paige reached for two cans of tomato paste. "C'mon Pheebs! It's written all over your face. You would like nothing more than to go to Hong Kong with Jason. Why bother reading that Chinese-English dictionary he gave you?" She and Phoebe continued along the aisle.

"Cantonese," Phoebe corrected. "There's no such thing as the Chinese language. They speak many different dialects throughout China. Cantonese, Shanghainese, Mandarin, and . . ."

Paige rudely interrupted, "Excuse me, but I didn't realize that we were in the middle of a Discovery Channel program, here."

With a sigh, Phoebe continued, "As I was saying, I can't go."

"Why not?" Paige paused, before she guided the shopping cart around a corner. The two sisters started down another aisle.

"Hel-lo? Power of Three?" Phoebe paused, as a woman walked past them. She continued, "How can we kick demonic ass and protect the innocent, when I'm on the other side of the Pacific?"

Paige heaved a long sigh. "God, Phoebe! You're actually going to give up a chance to be with the man you love for that? Besides, you and Piper did just fine, while I was in Scotland, last summer. For a whole month."

"What if you encounter a demon that requires the Power of Three to vanquish it?"

Paige retorted, "Then I'll ask Olivia or Harry for help. Or maybe even Cole."

Doubt crept into Phoebe's eyes. "I don't know . . ." she began.

"Well, I do!" Paige snapped. "Look Phoebe, if you want to be with Jason that badly, maybe you should go to Hong Kong, after all. Something tells me that if you don't, you'll probably regret it someday." With that, she dumped a box of LIFE cereal into the cart and continued along the aisle. Phoebe followed in her wake.


His secretary's voice rang clear from the intercom box. "Mr. McNeill, your cousin is on Line Four."

Jack McNeill glanced up from the report on his desk and frowned. "Cousin? Which one?"

"A Mr. Sean McNeill, calling from Australia."

"Thanks, Beatrice." Jack allowed himself a smile, as he pushed the intercom button for his telephone. "Sean? Is that you?"

Sean McNeill's Australian accent seemed as thick as ever. "Jack! How are things in California, mate?"

Jack leaned back into his chair. "San Francisco is just fine. How's Sydney?"

The two men shared a common great-grandfather - one Charles McNeill, whose own father had been the first in the family to arrive in San Francisco, near the end of the 1840s. Charles' younger son, an Alec McNeill, had immigrated to Australia, over ninety-five years ago. One of Alec McNeill's grandsons happened to be the 57 year-old Sean. "Actually, I'm calling you from the airport in Melbourne," Sean said. "I just finished a three-day visit with Belinda and her family."

"And how is my little sister?" Jack asked in a warm voice. His only sister, Belinda, happened to be nine years younger than him. She had married an Australian university professor named Warren Grant.

In a hesitant voice, Sean replied, "Oh . . . she's fine. I think. I, uh . . . I gave her and Warren some news that I think they found . . . well, surprising." He paused. "And I think you'll also find it surprising."

Now, Jack became intrigued. "What exactly is this news?"

The sound of a PA system vibrated in the background, as Sean replied, "I'll tell you when I get to San Francisco, tomorrow afternoon. I have a stopover in Honolulu. Look, I have a flight to catch. See you later mate. Bye." He hung up, after Jack had bid him good-bye.

The middle-aged witch slowly turned off the phone's intercom. Then he leaned his chair further back, as he pondered over his cousin's mysterious call. What kind of news did Sean harbor that proved so surprising to his younger sister?

END OF Part One

Thursday, November 25, 2010

"HEREAFTER" (2010) Photo Gallery

Below are images from "HEREAFTER", the new fantasy drama. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the movie stars Matt Damon, Cécile de France, and twins Frankie and George McLaren:

"HEREAFTER" (2010) Photo Gallery

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"STAR TREK VOYAGER" Retrospect: (6.26-7.01) “Unimatrix Zero, Parts I and II”

"STAR TREK VOYAGER" Retrospect: (6.26-7.01) “Unimatrix Zero, Parts I and II”

This two-part episode of ”STAR TREK VOYAGER” centered around the Voyager crew’s attempt to save Borg drones who are trying to develop individuality. (6.26) “Unimatrix Zero, Part I” aired at the end of the series’ sixth season and (7.01) “Part II” aired as the premiere for the series’ seventh and final season.

When Seven-of-Nine began having dreams about a beautiful forest, she eventually discovered that the forest is a real subconscious realm inhabited by the minds of certain Borg drones during regeneration periods. Few drones possess the recessive gene required to experience the realm called Unimatrix Zero. In Unimatrix Zero, Borg of various species and ages exist as their individual, unassimilated selves and interact with one another. While out of regeneration, they revert to normal drones and have no memory of their time spent together there. The Borg Queen knows about Unimatrix Zero, which she considers a disease. First, she destroys as many drones as she can, who are capable of visiting it. But the process of detecting affected drones turns out to be time consuming and she is eager to find a faster method of finding and deactivating them.

During a journey to Unimatrix Zero with Captain Janeway, Seven discovers that she used to have a lover named Axum. Both women also discover that Axum had deliberately contacted Seven, because he and other drones need their help. They had created a masking nanovirus which would inoculate them against being detected by the queen, but it can only be administered from the corporeal world. After Janeway and Seven witness the attack upon the Unimatrix Zero inhabitants by assimilated drones, they agree to help. In the end, Janeway came up with a plan to administer the nanovirus for the Unimatrix Zero. This plan involved a few members of Voyager’s crew to board a Borg cube, risk being assimilated and administer the nanovirus.

When I first saw the preview for ”Unimatrix Zero – Part I, my first thought was that it was a rehash of the ”STAR TREK NEXT GENERATION” episode, (3.26-4.01) “The Best of Both Worlds”. To my surprise . . . and delight, ”Unimatrix Zero” proved me wrong. Thanks to the script written by Mike Sussman, Brannon Braga, and Joe Menosky; I quite understood the story, despite the usual Trek technobabble. And I understood how previous episodes like (5.10) "Counterpoint" and (6.21)"Live Fast and Prosper" served this story. Both episodes established Captain Janeway's talent for manipulation and scamming other. Considering the situation that she, B’Elanna Torres and Tuvok found themselves in ”Part II”, she found herself being forced to pull off a difficult confidence game against the Borg Queen.

”Unimatrix Zero” also featured the first time that Janeway and Chakotay learned to act as a fully effective command team in the face of one of her . . . more bizarre plots without succumbing to any conflict, which marred their relations in episodes like (2.14) “Alliances”, (3.26-4.01) “Scorpion” and (6.01) “Equinox, Part II”. Although he had reservations, Chakotay seemed willing to go along with her plan to infiltrate a Borg drone to administer the nanovirus. And Janeway agreed to accept a few of his suggestions, in case the plan went wrong. And is it just me or did there seemed to be a lot of affection on Voyager in this episode? Seven discovered an old love in Unimatrix Zero. Tom Paris and Torres exchanged a few intimate moments after Paris received his old rank of lieutenant junior grade and when he expressed reservations about the chief engineer volunteering for the mission to the Borg cube. And one of the most blatant moments of sentimentality, Janeway and Chakotay engaged in a brief hand-lock on the Bridge before she left to begin her mission. I found myself almost inclined to burst into "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?"

In the end, the screenwriters and directors Allan Kroeker and Mike Vejar almost produced a four-star episode in ”Unimatrix Zero”. I found the writers’ idea of using the Unimatrix Zero concept as a lead-in to an uprising in the Borg Collective very inventive. And there were moments in the story – especially in ”Part II” that I enjoyed. These moments included the use of neural suppressors by the Starfleet infiltrators to keep from being part of the Borg Collective, in case they ended up being assimilated. Janeway’s confrontations with the Borg Queen, thanks to performances by Kate Mulgrew and Susanna Thompson, were even more effective than they were in (5.15-5.16) “Dark Frontier”. I also have to give kudos to Robert Beltran and Robert Duncan MacNeill who gave excellent performances in a scene that featured an exchange between Chakotay and Paris about the latter being First Officer. I found myself wondering about the thoughts going in Chakotay’s mind, when Paris revealed his hang-ups about being Voyager’s First Office. The only aspect of ”Unimatrix Zero” that I did not care for was the romance between Seven-of-Nine and Axum. Their scenes struck me as a replay of many bad romance novels from the 1950s and 60s. And even the talented Jeri Ryan and actor Mark Deakins could not save this romance.

Thankfully, the Seven/Axum romance did not tarnish ”Unimatrix Zero” for me. More important, the episode set the stage for two episodes in Season Seven that revealed the diminished power of the Borg Collective. And it proved to be the second of three mind blowing personal encounters between Kathryn Janeway and the Borg Queen. In the end, ”Unimatrix Zero” proved to be another example of why I have always enjoyed the numerous two-part episodes featured in ”STAR TREK VOYAGER”.

Monday, November 22, 2010



Over eleven years have passed since the BBC first aired ”WIVES AND DAUGHTERS”, the 1999 adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1865 novel. And despite the passage of time, it has a sterling reputation as one of the best adaptations of a literary source in recent years.

Adapted by Andrew Davies and directed by Nicholas Renton, ”WIVES AND DAUGHTERS” told the story of Molly Gibson, the young daughter of a local village doctor during the last decade of the Georgian era. The four-part miniseries struck me as Molly’s coming-of-age story. She and her widowed father lived an idyllic life until two things occurred. One, her father married a woman she disliked, a former governess named Hyacinth “Claire” Kirkpatrick. And two, Molly fell in love with one Roger Hamley, the scientifically-minded younger son of a local squire.

If Dr. Gibson had his way, Molly would have never experienced any coming-of-age. But after one of his apprentices became romantically interested in her, he became determined to keep her in a state of perpetual adolescence. But his actions merely ensured that he would fail. First, he arranged for Molly to become the companion to Mrs. Hamley, the sickly wife of the squire. This gave Molly the opportunity to form an emotional attachment to the Hamley, befriend and fall in love with younger son, Roger. Then Dr. Gibson committed another act that defeated his purpose. He married former governess Hyacinth Kirkpatrick in order to provide Molly with a stepmother. This action backfired, since Molly never warmed up to the selfish and socially ambitious older woman. However, she did befriend the new Mrs. Gibson’s rebellious and more worldly and daughter, Cynthia Kirkpatrick. Not only did both Kirkpatrick women managed to disrupt the Gibson household, but Molly’s relationship with Cynthia would open her eyes to a great deal more about relationships and life in general – both the good and bad.

Other subplots abounded in ”WIVES AND DAUGHTERS”. Molly had a first-hand look into the conflict between the loveable, yet impatient and slightly selfish Squire Hamley and his more genteel older son, Osbourne. At first, the Hamleys seemed to regard Osbourne as the key to the family’s return to its former glory. But Osbourne’s scholastic troubles and excessive spending (for a secret French wife for whom he provided a private household) ended up disappointing Squire Hamley. Instead, he transferred his hopes to his younger and more studious son, Roger; who seemed to be on the verge of making a name for himself as a naturalist in Britain’s scientific community.

Another subplot centered on Cynthia Kirkpatrick. The French-educated and very beautiful young woman seemed to have struck both the Gibson family and the village of Hollingford with the force of a whirlwind. Cynthia projected a sexuality and worldliness that attracted nearly every male around her – including Roger Hamley. Unfortunately for Molly, Mrs. Gibson’s plans for her daughter included an ambitious marriage to the older Hamley sibling, Osbourne. But when the intensely pragmatic woman discovered that the older Hamley sibling’s health was in a precarious state, she encouraged Cynthia to set her sights on Roger. And considering his feelings for her, Cynthia had no trouble in achieving her mother’s goals with an engagement. Cynthia also had a secret that eventually affected Molly. Five years before, she had become secretly engaged to Lord Cumnor’s land agent, Mr. Preston. The latter’s insistence on a wedding date and Molly’s involvement on Cynthia’s behalf led the doctor’s daughter to become a target of village gossip.

Not only is Gaskell’s novel considered a masterpiece by literary critics, but this 1999 adaptation turned out to be highly regarded by television critics and viewers, as well. Some critics consider it to be the best adaptation of a Gaskell novel. Other critics believe it might be a toss-up between ”WIVES AND DAUGHTERS” and the 2007 miniseries, ”CRANFORD”. The 1999 miniseries certainly won its share of television awards. And if I must be honest, those awards were well-deserved. ”WIVES AND DAUGHTERS” provided a complex and in-depth peek into an English village society during the last decade of the Georgian era through the eyes of Molly Gibson. I must admit that I have rarely come across a movie or television series set during the 1820s or the 1830s. And I would certainly consider ”WIVES AND DAUGHTERS” among the best. Screenwriter Andrew Davies and director Nicholas Renton did a marvelous job in drawing the audience into Molly’s world.

The setting and story of ”WIVES AND DAUGHTERS” - or at least most of them – seemed to perfectly represent this precarious stage in Britain’s history in which the country found itself balanced between the static world of the Georgian period and the social and scientific upheavals that ushered in the Victorian Age. Davies and Renton manifested this in Molly’s coming-of-age story, which included her father’s reluctance to allow her to develop into an adult and her relationship with Cynthia. The screenwriter and the director also manifested this precarious stage in the relationship between Squire Hamley and his two sons – Obsbourne and Roger. As for the latter, many believe that Gaskell based his character on her distant cousin, the naturalist Charles Darwin who became a prominent figure in the Victorian Age’s scientific community.

Davies and Renton also did an excellent job of exploring the in-depth emotions of familial and romantic love in ”WIVES AND DAUGHTERS” also explored the in-depth emotions of familial and romantic love. Molly’s close relationship with her father – fully explored in Episode One – eventually grew weaker due to Dr.Gibson’s attempts to keep her close and at an adolescent stage. I found it interesting that although Squire Hamley grew to adore Molly, he made it clear to the doctor that he would never consider her – the daughter of a country doctor – as a suitable wife for either of his sons. Yet, Roger Osborne ended up married to a young French woman beneath his social station, and Roger eventually became engaged to Dr. Gibson’s step-daughter, Cynthia and married to Molly by the end of the series. Already, Victorian Britain’s social upheavals – at least in ”WIVES AND DAUGHTERS” - had began to rear its head. Cynthia’s love life, which turned out to be the best plotline in the story – also turned Molly’s life upside-down and forced her onto the path of adulthood.

The miniseries’ greatest virtue turned out to be the collection of complex supporting characters that gave ”WIVES AND DAUGHTERS” its energy and drive. For me, this was especially true of five characters - Hyacinth Kirkpatrick Gibson (Francesca Annis), Squire Hamley (Michael Gambon), Osborne Hamley (Tom Hollander), Mr. Preston (Iain Glen) and Cynthia Kirkpatrick (Keeley Hawes). When the miniseries focused upon these characters, I found myself fascinated by the story. Each character struck me as so complex that it seemed a pity that none of them was the main character. Michael Gambon won both a BAFTA TV Award and a Royal Television Society Award for his portrayal of the likeable, yet socially rigid and selfish landowner, who seemed determined to return his family to its former glory, via one or both of his sons. I must admit that Squire Hamley was truly a fascinating and complex character. Although I liked him a lot, there were times I could have happily strangle him for viewing his sons as instruments for his familial ambitions and inability to truly understand them at times. Francesca Annis earned a nomination for her portrayal of the self-absorbed and social climbing Hyacinth Kirkpatrick Gibson. One would, at first, be inclined to label Hyacinth as an “evil” stepmother. But Annis’ performance made it clear that Hyacinth was not at all one-dimensional. She also managed to inject a good deal of pathos into her character, allowing one to understand that some of Hyacinth’s behavior stemmed from a sense of survival for herself and her family, due to years spent in the social wasteland as a governess and underpaid schoolteacher.

Tom Hollander gave a very affecting and sympathetic performance as the poetic Osborne Hamley, the squire’s elder son who constantly disappointed his father. From other articles and reviews of ”WIVES AND DAUGHTERS”, many tend to view Osborne as a weak and self-involved man. I never got that impression from Hollander’s complex portrayal. Instead, I saw a man whose only real weakness was an inability to admit to his father that he had made a socially inacceptable marriage. It was this weakness that led to scholastic problems at the university and monetary problems. Iain Glen’s Mr. Preston seemed to be the villain of the story – at least on a superficial level. His Mr. Preston tried to coerce Cynthia into honoring her promise to marry him after five years. Superficially, Glen portrayed Mr. Preston as a smug and slightly arrogant man, who seemed obsessed with Cynthia. However, thanks to his complex performance, he revealed to audiences that Mr. Preston had been nothing more than a victim of Cynthia’s capricious and selfish behavior. As for Cynthia, Keely Hawes gave a delicious performance as Molly’s sexy and very likeable step-sister. What I found interesting about Hawes’ Cynthia is that the character possessed a talent for avoiding responsibility for her actions, along with an inability for returning love . . . yet, seems quite capable of winning the affections of everyone around her. Except for Dr. Gibson. The rest of the cast included Bill Paterson, who gave a charming, yet complex performance as Dr. Gibson; along with Barbara Flynn and Deborah Findlay as the Misses Brownings, and Rosamund Pike as Lady Harriet Cumnor, who all gave solid performances.

Justine Waddell did a good job in carrying the four-part miniseries and making Molly Gibson a very likeable leading character. Yet, there were times when Waddell’s Molly came across as a bit too ideal for my tastes. Aside from her quick temper, she seemed to lack any real personal flaws. One could name her naivety as a flaw. But that particular state of mind is something the average human being will always experience during his or her lifetime. Overall, Molly was . . . nice, but not what I would call an interesting lead character. Her reaction to her father’s new marriage and her involvement with Cynthia’s problems with Mr. Preston seemed to be the only times I truly found her interesting. I certainly could not say the same about Squire Hamley’s younger son, Roger. In fact, I did not find him interesting at all. To me, Roger was simply a BORING character. Perhaps Anthony Howell was not at fault and did all he could with the role. The actor certainly portrayed Roger as a likeable and compassionate man. But the character was just boring. If I had been Gaskell or even Davies, I would have portrayed Roger as a more complex and interesting character. Or allow Molly to fall in love with a more interesting character. Alas, neither happened. Roger’s only flaw seemed to be a habit of falling in love with women on a superficial level.

Due to Molly’s idealistic personality and Roger’s dull one, I found their romance very unsatisfying. Renton handled their blossoming friendship rather nicely in Episode One. However, Roger took one look at Cynthia in Episode Two and immediately fell in love. Worse, he left England for Africa after proposing marriage to her. Roger did not return to Hollingford until past the middle of Episode Four. This left Renton and Davies at least a half hour or so to develop Roger’s romance with Molly and get them married. And how did he fall in love with her? Roger took one look at Molly wearing a sophisticated ball gown and hairstyle (courtesy of Lady Harriet) and fell in love. Ironically, he fell in love with Molly in the same manner he had fallen in love with Cynthia. That did not bode well with me. Many have praised Davies for providing a memorable ending to Gaskell’s story, considering that she died of a heart attack before completing the novel’s last chapter. I would have found it romantic myself, if I had not found the couple’s romance rushed and unsatisfying. I realize that ”WIVES AND DAUGHTERS” is not solely about Molly and Roger’s romance. I also realize that the romance was nothing more than one of the story’s subplots. But that does not excuse what I saw as a poorly dramatized romance that began and ended on a hasty note.

I also found the miniseries’ early sequence – Molly’s first meeting with her future step-mother at Lord Cumnor’s estate – somewhat unnecessary. I can only assume that this sequence was supposed to establish Hyacinth Kirkpatrick’s selfish nature and Molly’s dislike of her. Yet, by the time the series ended, I had the feeling that the impact of Molly’s relationship with her stepmother did not seem as strong as I had earlier believed it would, while watching Episode One. Most of Molly's problems seemed to be centered around Cynthia's relationships with both Roger and Mr. Preston.

Thankfully, ”WIVES AND DAUGHTERS” has more to offer than just an interesting tale and excellent performances. Production designer Gerry Scott did a solid job in bringing the late Georgian Era back to life in a small, English village. And if I must be honest, I adore Deirdre Clancy’s costumes. I found them colorful and strongly reminiscent of the late 1820s and early 1830s. Cinematographer Fred Tammes did justice to the miniseries’ early 19th century setting. He made Hollingsford look like a very colorful place to live and southern Africa very exotic, yet desolate.

I wish I could say that I found ”WIVES AND DAUGHTERS” to be a complete delight. But due to a leading female character that I found too idealistic and her unsatisfying romance with a very dull character in the miniseries’ last quarter, I cannot make that claim. And as I had stated earlier, I found the early sequence featuring Molly's first meeting with her future stepmother a bit unnecessary. But the virtues outweighed the flaws. ”WIVES AND DAUGHTERS” conveyed an interesting coming-of-age story, thanks to the leading character’s interactions with some well-written supporting characters. It also provided viewers with a tantalizing look into the changing social mores of Britain, as it prepared to transcend from the Georgian Era to the Victorian Age.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"When Irish Eyes Are Talaxian" [R] - 9/9



Due to the chaotic events from Voyager's St. Patrick's Day celebration, Captain Janeway delayed the Senior staff meeting by three hours. Much to Tom's relief. After Tuvok had relieved him from command, he managed to catch at least five hours of sleep before reporting to the ship's Conference Room. Unlike the meeting from three days ago, nearly everyone managed to remain alert. Everyone, saved for Tom and Neelix. The pair had to struggle to keep their eyes opened.

"I'm sure that everyone is looking forward to our latest subspace transmission from Starfleet," the Captain was saying. "I understand that Lieutenant Barclay has sent a special package for the entire crew."

Harry piped up, "I'm just glad that Starfleet didn't make us wait another month." Fortunately, he did not add that the last transmission had resulted in a Maquis takeover of the ship, thanks to an obsessive Bajoran vedek/former Maquis and Tuvok's telepathic abilities.

Janeway gave her youngest senior officer an indulgent smile. "So am I, Harry. Before this meeting ends, there is one last matter to discuss." Her eyes fell directly upon Tom. "Namely, the St. Patrick's Day celebration from yesterday. It did not exactly turn out as Mister Paris had planned." She shrugged.

"I wouldn't call it a complete flop, Captain," Tom drawled. A hint of a wicked smile tugged his lips. "Everyone seemed to have enjoyed him or herself. Immeasurably."

Uneasy eyes stared at the Chief Pilot. Janeway's gray ones narrowed. "Exactly, what did you mean by that, Tom?"

"What I had said, Captain." Tom assumed an innocent expression. "Right Doc? Neelix?"

The Talaxian responded with an eager nod. The EMH, on the other hand, merely uttered a grunt. Seven-of-Nine frowned at her mentor. "Is there something wrong, Doctor? You seemed a bit disgruntled."

"I'm fine, Seven!" the Doctor snapped. The ex-Borg stiffened at the former's curt tone. Which immediately softened. "I mean . . . I feel fine. Perhaps I need to go offline for a few hours. My program has been running for almost 24 hours. I'm sure that the new hologram sent by Mr. Barclay will benefit . . . from my absence."

Tom let out a silent gust of breath. He need to have a long talk with the Doctor about unrequited love.

"What actually happened?" Chakotay asked. "And we want details."

Tom glanced at Neelix. Who glanced at the Doctor. Who merely rolled his eyes and looked away. "Well?" B'Elanna added in an impatient voice. "Aren't you going to tell us?" She faced her husband, who sat next to her. "You've already told me that I was found inside one of the Jeffries tubes. Why I was there, I have no idea. And that Seven was found in the Mess Hall." Something akin to a squeak escaped the Doctor's lips. Tom glared at him.

"Doing what?" Seven demanded.

B'Elanna stared at Tom, who finally answered. "According to Neelix and the Doc, you were trying to tell jokes inside the Mess Hall. To no one in particular." Seven's face turned slightly pink.

"And what was I doing?" Chakotay asked.

Neelix spoke up. "I found you inside the Hydropondics Bay." He gave an embarrassed cough. "You were trying to find your spirit guide."

A loud snicker erupted in the Conference Room. Tom received a sharp jab in the side from his wife. He murmured a quick apology to the silent First Officer.

"Lieutenant Paris has already informed me of my activities," Tuvok coolly added.

Janeway eyed her Chief Security Officer with interest. "Has he?" She turned to Tom. "What exactly did you tell Commander Tuvok?"

"Uh, I didn't find him, Captain," Tom replied. "Neelix did."

All eyes, including Tuvok's, fell upon the Talaxian. Tuvok seemed a bit wary. "Ensign Andrews and I found Commander Tuvok," Neelix replied. "Inside Sullivan's pub. Singing something called 'Falor's Journey'."

Someone groaned. Tom glanced at Harry and smiled. The ensign received a glare from the Vulcan officer. And a smile tugged at Janeway's lips. "I remember hearing 'Falor's Journey' once. Lovely song. Even if it was 348 verses long."

"Oh yes, Captain," Neelix eagerly added. "In fact, you seemed very appreciative of Commander Tuvok's performan . . ." Tom kicked the Talaxian's shin and the latter fell quiet.

One of Janeway's brows rose questioningly. "Yes, Mister Neelix? You were about to say?"

"Uh, you liked the song very much." Neelix paused. "So did Lieutenant Nicoletti."

The look on the Captain's face seemed to indicate that she did not quite believe the cook. However, she did not pursue the matter. "Anyway," she continued, "Since Lieutenant Paris, Neelix, the Doctor and the other . . ."

"What about you, Captain?" Seven interrupted in her usual blunt manner. "Lieutenant Paris and Neelix have failed to inform us how you and Ensign Kim were affected by the Valax."

Harry added, "Well, I'd like to know."

"I'm sure you do," the Doctor said caustically. Fortunately, the other ignored him. Tom and Neelix exchanged uneasy looks. The Doctor's expression looked downright disgruntled.

Tom spoke up. "I found Harry inside the Captain's quarters."

Sharp gasps and intakes of breath filled the room. The Captain responded with an outraged, "I beg your pardon!"

"Oh, you two weren't alone," Tom quickly added, realizing the implication of his words. "Captain, you and Harry led a few others to your quarters for a uh, a party. With Valax. Along with Jenny Delaney. You even," his eyes fell upon the Doctor's forearm, "tried to borrow the Doc's holoemitter for Michael Sullivan."

Relief seeped into Janeway's eyes. And Harry's. Tom privately congratulated for his quick thinking and effective lies. Right after Tuvok had relieved him of command, Tom held an impromptu meeting with the Doctor, Neelix, Andrews and the rest of the Security detail about what they had witnessed. All pledged to never reveal what really happened.

"I want to add one more thing," Janeway said. "I plan to add commendations for Lieutenant Paris, the Doctor, Ensign Andrews and Neelix for their actions during this . . . recent upheaval."

Tom added, "I'd also recommend Ensign Ayala, Lieutenant Carey, Ensign Jenkins and several others for their help, Captain."

Janeway smiled. "Of course. Just leave me a list, Tom, and I'll see to it. All of those who were forced to work a double shift will be allotted an extra shift for off-duty time. And Mister Neelix," she smiled sweetly at the Talaxian, "not only will you get an extra shift off duty, you will also have the pleasure of spending a week cleaning plasma manifolds."

"Captain?" Neelix's orange eyes grew wide. "I don't understand."

"According to the Doctor, you failed to include synthehol in your Valax. Against Starfleet regulations." Janeway's voice hardened slightly at the last two words. "But since you did provide valuable help later on, you will only spend one week cleaning those manifolds. Not two." She gave Neelix a tart smile. "Understand?"

The Talaxian silently nodded.

"Good. Unless there is anything else to add, everyone is dismissed."


"I can't believe that Doc told the Captain about Neelix's Valax," Tom complained hours later, inside the Paris/Torres quarters. He and B'Elanna were preparing for bed. "That was a little petty of him, don't you think?"

B'Elanna heaved a large sigh and crawled into bed. "Between Harry's excitement over the Reginald Barclay hologram and your constant complaints about the Doctor, I swear I'm about to go out of my mind."

Tom joined his wife. "Harry seemed that excited, huh?"

"Aren't you?" B'Elanna gently straightened Tom's slightly mussed hair.

Confusion filled Tom for a brief moment. How could he answer that question? "I don't know," he finally answered. "A part of me is happy that Reg Barclay and Starfleet has finally found a way for us to get back to the Alpha Quadrant. At least for everyone else's sake. Yet, another part of me . . ."

"I know," B'Elanna quietly added. She pressed herself against Tom's side. "I feel the same. I guess both of us have been a lot happier, here in the Delta Quadrant these past years. And now that we're together, I believe we can be happier just about anywhere." Tom gathered his wife in his arms and gave her a tight squeeze.

Silence filled the couple's bedroom for a few minutes, as they contemplated on the day's events. Then B'Elanna broke the silence. "By the way, were you telling the truth about how you found me inside Jeffries tube 37?"

"You were thinking about that?" Tom demanded. B'Elanna gave him a pointed stare and he capitulated. "Okay. If you must know, I was telling the truth. Jarvis did find you inside the tube. And I came to get you."

B'Elanna added, "And I was just sitting there? Drunk?"

After a moment's pause, Tom confessed, "Well, no. Not exactly."

B'Elanna glanced at Tom's wary expression and cringed. "Oh no!" she exclaimed. "I must have done something awful! Like what? Acting very Klingon?"

"Actually, quite the opposite." Tom revealed that he had found her crying. Only, he failed to mention the reason for her tears. "You almost reminded me of your Human self, when we were in the Vidiian mines."

"Why was I crying?"

Tom quickly shook his head. "I haven't the foggiest idea."

Silence greeted the pilot for a few seconds. And then, "Hmmm. Why do you think the Doctor was being petty about Neelix's Valax?" When Tom refused to answer, B'Elanna's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "Tom? Was there something else you failed to inform the staff?"

Over and over again, Tom reminded himself of the pledge of secrecy he had sworn with Neelix, the Doctor, Andrews and the others. Until he felt a small warm hand underneath his gray T-shirt. Hands that slid through his chest hairs in an intimate manner. His resolve to maintain secrecy immediately vanished without a trace and Tom revealed what he and the Doctor had stumbled across, inside Harry Kim's quarters.

"Oh my God!" B'Elanna cried out in disbelief. She automatically grabbed a handful of chest hair. "Are you serious?"

Pain shot throughout Tom's chest, as B'Elanna continued to pull at his hair. "Ow! B'Elanna! Watch what you're doing!"

"Huh? Oh." She released her painful grip. "Sorry. But you were serious, weren't you? Starfleet in a threesome with Jenny Delaney and Seven? Our Seven-of-Nine?"

Tom rubbed his chest as he answered, "Yep. Harry finally got his wish. Only he won't remember what happened."

"Are you going to tell him?"

After a moment's contemplation on that possibility, Tom decided he would remain quiet. "I don't think that is a good idea. Can you imagine Harry's reaction if he knew? He'd probably spend the next several years or so, staring at her. Imagining on what could have been. Probably make Seven very nervous."

B'Elanna shook her head. Then she gave her husband a curious stare. "Exactly just how much did you see?" she asked.

"Everything." Tom let out a small chuckle. "Harry and Jenny even invited me to join them."

Again, B'Elanna's eyes narrowed. "Really? May I assume you weren't tempted to join them?"

"Of course you may assume," Tom retorted in a voice that did not exactly express outrage. "Besides, I was too busy wondering how we could enjoy our own little ménage a troi."

"Excuse me?"

Tom rolled on to his left side, facing B'Elanna. "What I had in mind would require the use of one of the holodecks. Just imagine it. You, me and a holographic version of you or me. Sounds interesting, huh?"

A speechless B'Elanna stared at him with wide eyes. Until finally, "Thomas Eugene Paris!" she declared in a shocked voice. "You really have a wicked mind!" A sly smile tugged the corners of her mouth. "Of course, I'm very tempted to consider it."

"So was I. Until I realized we've been doing a spectacular job as a ménage a deux." Tom drew his wife close to his chest. "By the way, I would very much prefer if you never try to talk me into volunteering for command of the Bridge again."

B'Elanna grimaced slightly. "Okay, maybe I got carried away a bit. Especially, since I've been in the Command chair a few times myself. I just thought . . ." Again, she slid her hand underneath his T-shirt. "I thought it would be nice if we both got a little experience commanding the Bridge."

Tom struggled to ignore the busy hand underneath his shirt. And his reactions his body seemed to have generated. Of course, he had a few tricks of his own.

"It's a nice idea," Tom said, as he gently forced his wife on her back. Then he slid the spaghetti straps of her maroon-colored nightgown from her shoulders. "But if you ever try to talk me into commanding the Bridge again," he gently slid the gown down B'Elanna's torso, ". . . well, let's just say you'll be deprived of certain privileges."

B'Elanna's voice grew husky. "Like what?" she demanded.

Tom leaned forward as his teeth captured her lower lip and gave it a few tugs. "Privileges like that," he whispered back. "Or maybe this." His mouth traveled to B'Elanna's right earlobe and suckled it. Meanwhile, his hands continued to push her nightgown to her waist.

A whimper escaped B'Elanna's mouth. "Unlike certain other people," she said in ragged breath, "I'm not susceptible to a few kisses. You'll have to do better than . . . aaah!" Tom's mouth had left her earlobe and settled around the quivering tip of one of her breasts. After a few tugs and kisses, B'Elanna's moans grew louder.

Victory finally claimed Thomas Eugene Paris. "Oh God! All right! All right!" B'Elanna cried between moans. "I surrender! I swear, I promise that I'll never . . . Ah!" Tom's tongue flickered across the engorged nipple. "Kahless! I swear I'll never bring up the subject of Bridge command again! Never!" The last word came out in a breathless rush.

Satisfied, Tom reluctantly withdrew his mouth from his wife's chest. After a few seconds of contemplating his victory, he decided to be magnanimous and lowered his mouth upon hers for an inviting kiss.


NOTE: I would like to thank Annie M and PJ in NH for graciously allowing me to use in my story, their idea of a holographic ménage a troi, featured in their marvelous story, "Scientific Curiousity". Thank you very much, ladies.

Friday, November 19, 2010

"PRIDE AND PREJUDICE" (1980) Screencaps Gallery


Below are screencaps from "PRIDE AND PREJUDICE", the BBC 1980 adaptation of Jane Austen's 1813 novel. Adapted by Fay Weldon, the six-part miniseries starred Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul: 

"PRIDE AND PREJUDICE" (1980) Screencaps Gallery