Comedy Review #508

Comedy Review #25 - Dawn of the Dead

This week, Penn and Teller dock as Rusty and Zircon, the intergalactic comedians. Obviously, they have a home in Babylon 5, home of the wackiest goings-on in the Galaxy.

A race of people wish to buy Babylon 5 for their own nefarious purposes, possibly mirroring American history. Perhaps not.

Mondo Rollari is sold some dubious-looking candy.

Mondo]:Ah, thankyou for this candy. Now get out.

Candyman]:It is not candy. There is a price to pay for all. I get Dark Omens.

Mondo]:I've got a copy of HHGTTG lying around here somewhere.

Candyman]:Where did I leave those Pentagrams?

Mondo]:Erm... damned if I know. Hey man, everything's really cool and... stuff.

Yes, the terrible fact remains; the episode is written by Neil Gaiman (wo' is tha geeza?), who wrote that sour baggage for BBC2 a couple of years back. If anything this episode of B5 proves that Gaiman's TV writing works, given good special effects and actors of barely adequate competence (something BBC2's Dr.Who dept. couldn't provide). If anything else, it proves that Mr.Gaiman can no more darn his  plot into coherence than a string vest...

Candyman]:Dude, you know it's Day of the Dead tomorrow?

Rondo]:I LOVE George Romero. Pass the cushion.

So, in aid of harvest festival - Day of the Dead. Reminds me of school.

There's something for certain: we talkin Halloween. But it's nowhere near October. Oops. Time to dig out that Simpson's Halloween special.

Next, we get the silly Babylon 5 series 5 opening sequence. Many people say silly things. Here is a transcript:

Gkar:There is a hole in your mind

Emperor Caligari: Eat your own head

Rubber Duck: Who are you

Gkar to Fishhead: Why are you staring at me

Garibaldi: Go away

Angry Bloke: I said go away

Sheridan: I am declaring my bedroom an independent state

Ivanova: Get out of my office

Squeaky the Mouse: We've run out of cheese

Garibaldi; What's your problem

Garibaldi:  I'm declaring my head an independent pate

Squeaky: Circumstances have forced me to get some more cheese from the Qwik-O-Mart, thus defying EarthGov.

Kosh: If you go to Zha'a'a'Doom, get me a stir-fry.

Prezzy Sherry is holding a cocktail party with 2 comedians, one of whom never says a word. No, it's not Kosh and G'Kar, it's two phonies,  one of whom has stolen his act from Harpo Marx. Neither of them can play the piano.

They both specialise in desert-dry delivery, excesses of irony, and being very American. Nothing wrong with that.

Sheridan says that good humour is like hydrogen - too little and there isn't enough to be useful, too much and you go floating up and explode. Bit like the Hindenberg. Except that wasn't very funny. But the words 'Zeppelin' and 'Blimp' have never failed to make people collapse into fits of giggles, so I suppose it applies somehow.

Penn n Tella have freedom of B5 - they eat it. People laugh.

Captain has to go and get some kids. But she finds that some wierd candy will fit the bill nicely. And she can't refuse it... Some bloke asks her if he can buy Babylon 5 for a religious ceremony. She agrees on the condition that they don't sacrifice goats in her quarters. Little does she know...

Gkar tells her it is unwise and foolish.

Gkar: Captain, flogging b5 to any old Joe is a bad move. The gods have said so.

Captain: Chill out, green hipster dude. Everything's cool. You familiar with our constitution?

Gkar: I've heard it has problems with curry.

Captain: No, not *my* constitution, I mean Babylon 5's articles.

Gkar: I've written some articles recently.

Captain: No, the articles of independence.

Gkar; In de what?

Captain:Never mind.

The scene ends with a particularly chilling omen:

Ding - a dong and ya hanging skullie.

Root n Zebo are introduced to Delenn and Sheridan. They've studied Minbari humour and stuff. As is traditional, one remains quiet whilst the other tells the jokes. After that, it's Root n Zebo's turn to speak.

Next, some geez chalks a line round some quarters, creating a wierd line. So, Londo wants to sleep outside the wierd place. But he can't be bothered.

Next, Londo is talking to a picture of the first-ever emperor which is lying on a couch. Now, there's us thinking 'The emperor's gonna come back from the dead'. But he doesn't. The warped mind of Mr.Gaiman forgets this plot possibility and Londo's dead, poisoned wife  comes back from the dead. He gives her some reasons to be cheerful:

1.I killed your murderer.
2.I saved many people.
3.I am emperor.
4.I want you back (gotta get a message to you)... I want you back.

Meanwhile Gari is in bed. There's a dead woman in the shower. Nothing unusual there.

Elsewhere, the captain coughs. it''s her friend Zoey from 20 years ago (and she hasn't aged a bit). She died of over-acting back in the 70's, when the difference between a good script and a bad one was a matter of life or death.

As for Sherry, he's dead, so why  doesn't he come back?

Answer: Because he can't get through the pink stuff. He tries throwing a fire extinguisher into it (in a rather lame, out-of-character move), and surprise  surprise, finds his head being caved in by the projectile.

Damn"  he shouts, in the hope that by shouting at the forcefield in a threatening manner, it will dissolve away. No such luck.

As for Captain Lockley, she finds she is within the plot-deadzone: Plot elements and the rules of narration disappear right out the window. Woo-ee-woo...

By way of Zoey, Neil Gaiman explains to us that he doesn't believe in the afterlife (even though he's brought everyone back from the dead). Yes, he's trashing Heaven 'n' Hell, folks, whilst urging on the occult. Roll the Contra-Dic-O-Tron!!

Morden makes a comeback. He's looking chubby. What more den dat can I say?

He sez:

Morden: Hey, Lenor, you hep-cat. You wanna swing with Dee-lenn, but she don't wanna swing wit' you.

Lenor: Bummer, man. That's too bad. I'm outta here.

He goes outside the room and tries to break through the pink stuff.

Lenor: Bummer, man, I'm like melting to the floor in this pink stuff. Far-out!!

Next, Sherry, noticing GKar sleeping outside the wierd-zone, doesn't wonder why GKar is sleeping outside. He just says:

'Hey, GKar's got the right idea', without even pausing to ask GKar how he knew about the pink stuff beforehand. Mr.Gaiman's script is entering the plot-deadzone.

The Captain re-routes the plot in an attempt to reach Babylon 5 plot-standards. Unfortunately, she has to get Garibaldi's assistance to do so. Oops.

So, Gary does some 'cod electronics' or 'cod phone-phreaking' to convince the computer that it isn't part of a dumb cliche. The computer accepts its role and re-routes the plot back to Sherry and the rest of B5.

According to Rooti n Zebo, the Senate is comedy... Yes, it may be comedy, but it still doesn't mean it's humourous. And yes, Rooti's right, Parliament Today is far funnier than anything Rooti n Zebo could churn out.

27 light years eh....

At the end, the efforts of LockKey and GariBaldi go to waste, as the wierd-zone returns to normal.

Before Rooti n Zebo leave the station, Sherry asks Zebo something. Zebo says 'Because it tells me to'. Now, I dunno about you, but that sounds like one of those back-sucking parasites to me, with a hold on Zebo. Wierd. Rooti N Zebo are pawns of the shadows.

Message from Kosh: Something about the setting sun and long nights. What Kosh is saying is: Prepare for British Summertime and put your clocks  forward an hour.

Better than Gaiman's trashy BBC2 series, although everyone seems to speak in hipsterish, and frankly, most characters couldn't work out the blatantly obvious occurring in front of their noses. IE:

1.Alien explicitly tells Lockley: 'It's day of the dead'.
2.Lockley coughs at around Midnight. Zoey appears.
3.Lockley is  surprised.
4.Lockley says 'I thought you were dead'.
5.Zoey says 'Hi hipster, got any junk?'
6.Lockley assumes Zoey somehow found her way onto B5 and through a time-tunnel, and sneaked up behind her without making a sound. Unlikely.

So, 5 out of 10 for character portrayals. 7 out of 10 for plot. 9 out of 10 for dialogue. 10 out of 10 to Gaiman for such a good attempt at a 'Fan-written' episode.

And 0 out of 10 for that trashy BBC2 series.

1998 Jeremy Smith.