Saturday, October 08, 2005

Star Trek: Avalon 1x02 - 'A Change of Seasons'

WRITTEN BY: Joe Burdette
PREMIERE DATE: 26/09/2005

The Avalon reaches Novograd, a planet who's main city is ran by sinister crime baron Hakaru and his brother Junji, intending to sell of effects they retained from battling the Cult recently. Things don't go to plan, however, when Hakaru & Junji get wind that Zorin's crew are harbouring two Xindi they would love nothing more than to see dead, while Siren is targeted by the same perverted and powerful slave driver who kept her imprisoned for a large chunk of her life......

It's funny isn't it how much the rules of online series screenwriting can fluctuate over the course of time. It's standard practice in the real world in developing TV series that script pages equate to roughly one minute of screen time, and given that US, and in some cases British, TV drama have to suffer ad breaks, that means most episodes roughly come in at between 40-45 pages. The beauty of writing an online series is that these rules don't have to necessarily apply. Some series try to keep to these rules, and it can be a benefit, in making the episode a much taut and snappier read (Somewhere Inbetween being a good example of this). Many series, however, will write as many pages as they feel necessary to tell the story well. Avalon is one such series, and given that it contains perhaps more moments of prose than others to assist creating an atmosphere to the story, this is to be expected. A Change of Seasons runs to 84 pages, double the amount almost of several other series reviewed on this blog. The question is: do the means justify the length? On the evidence of this ep, the answer would be yes.

What we have here is pretty much a standalone story, with few references to the all pervasive Cult, or the mystery surrounding Hatch's fast-forward in time; or any other hanging questions the mini-series posed. Essentially, it's a character episode, mixed with a fair dollop of action along the way. And the character the narrative revolves around: Siren. Thus far, she's been presented as a seductive, lethal but quite cold individual, except perhaps around Zorin. Here, she's given the chance to shine. We learn a lot about her character throughout the course of this story. She is Deltan (a fact Hatch amusingly can't grasp because she isn't bald); she was a sex slave for 15 years; the deadly tentacles within her hands were meant to provide 'clients' sexual pleasure; and the name Siren was one her captor christened her. It's indicative that she cannot let go of the trauma surrounding her captivity in that she's retained this name, even though it makes sense since her real name is lost to her. All these details serve to enhance Siren's character, and once she's captured again, we see different sides to her. We see the sadness and fear behind her strength, and it prevents the story of her being kidnapped slipping into cliche. Writer Joe Burdette really succeeds in further fleshing out Siren's character here, and it's these elements that really elevate the episode.

It's fair to say that most of the characters, save perhaps Hatch and Adele, are given a fair whack equally to do here, but we also get further indications into Isaac here. Despite the fact he's previously come across as somewhat stalkerish in regards to Adele, it's clear he genuinely cares for her in a nice moment where he offers Adele a weapon to defend herself against the possibility of Avalon being invaded. The fact Adele also refuses is a nice look into her character, showing her rationale of leaving the Cult: she wants nothing to do with anymore bloodshed. The Isaac/Adele relationship is shaping up to be a highlight of this series. Also, by the end, there's indication that Isaac hasn't entirely gained Zorin's trust yet. He needs to check that Isaac didn't sell out the Xindi cousins to their enemy & this sets back a potential step forward in their relationship. Isaac is disappointed that Zorin still isn't sure of him. Zorin, too, throughout the episode, continues to shine. His presence commands leadership and we also see he's potentially willing to trade crewmembers to protect Siren. The cast is served so well that a concern I almost have is that Hatch, supposedly the protagonist, was somewhat redundant in the proceedings. He's around mainly for comic effect here, and while I don't expect every ep to be about him or feature him prominently, it might have been nice to see him a little more in the narrative here.

The length of the episode also serves to give the guest characters a good chance to establish themselves. Hakaru & Junji are suitably creepy and nasty pieces of work, and quite frankly their comeuppance is inspired. I just loved the final moment of this episode. It was a broad smile moment; equally, the unnamed slave captor, referred to as simply He or Him, is shown in all his glory. Making him an ugly, fat, unremarkable human man is also quite fitting. Keeping these women captive are his way of not only making money but retaining a power over the fairer sex he'd never attain through any other means. He's truly repulsive, and Siren's revenge on him has that feel of poetic justice about it. Following that is a quite excellent moment in which Siren releases the imprisoned slave girls, but they choose to remain in their cages. The evil of their captor has led them to fear any other life, and he's warped them to the degree they can't even imagine freedom. It's a disturbing moment that also elevates Avalon. The show has come across a little too flippant at times to the detriment of real drama, but this moment serves to show the depth the show is capable of if it tries.

All in all, then, i'd be inclined to say this is the most successful Avalon episode so far. As with all, it isn't perfect. There are slight grammar errors, the formatting in places could be better, and there's perhaps at times a little too much prose and description that drags the episode longer than it needed to be, but ultimately I can find few negatives. One thing I find really encouraging is that Burdette here has got much the better balance in using profanity than in the previous episodes. It's here quite significantly, still perhaps more than needed, but it works better for me than before. It felt included for effect previously, but here it flows better. Ultimately, let's hope the remainder of the series retains the quality evidenced here.

STYLE: 1.5/2
DEPTH: 2/2



At 2:25 PM, Blogger Brian Hunter said...

Like your page my friend.


Adam Hunter


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