Is three enough?

I’m getting worried. As you may (or may not) know, I do a “third-episode verdict” thing here. The general argument is that a pilot episode is always unrepresentative of a series, since it has a bigger budget, the format is still a bit fluid, characters might change or get recast and so on. So shows can often become completely different once they start their runs. Usually, though, the third episode is enough to see if the show is going to be worth sticking with.

Or so I thought. But now all the big new US shows are serials. They all have running themes. And they’ve all either got good or dropped off from around the fourth or fifth episode: Heroes, Jericho, Battlestar Galactica, even Men in Trees, apparently, although I’ve stopped watching, of course. Robin Hood, depending on whom you talk to, either got really good (a regular got killed) or really bad (Robin fires pies over Nottingham Castle’s walls) during the fourth episode.

What do you think? Should I change the system to “fifth-episode verdict”? It’ll be next to useless for British shows (“Here’s a show you should have been watching. You can catch the last episode next week”). There’ll be some delayed gratification. And it means I’m going to have to sit through possibly two additional episodes of rubbish for each new show, something I’m not exactly looking forward to if they’re all like Brothers and Sisters. But I’ll fall on that sword for you guys if you want me to.

Why Liz Shaw had to go

Without wishing to start a new almost-war, I thought this little snippet from the Backlash… sorry, BBC Doctor Who web site was of interest:

Another element of the seventh season with which both Letts and Dicks had been dissatisfied was Liz Shaw. This was on the basis that the independent, self-confident scientist had little need to rely on the Doctor for explanations and so, in their eyes, failed to fulfil the basic dramatic functions of aiding plot exposition and acting as a point of audience identification. Letts therefore decided against renewing actress Caroline John’s contract for a further season and the two men set about devising a new companion for the Doctor.

Anyway, here’s a little clip of Liz Shaw in action from my third most favourite story, The Ambassadors of Death. The clip is actually an example of the current restoration work being done by Ian Levine and co, so the quality of the first half is rubbish. And I don’t mean the story.

Science Fiction Britannia

Science Fiction Britannia

There’s a great big sci-fi season coming to BBC4 in early November. As well as interviews with Iain M Banks and Terry Pratchett, there’s a dramatisation of John Wyndham’s Random Quest, a three-part documentary on UK sci-fi writers and all sorts of goodies from the archives (allegedly).

There’s also going to be a series called The Cult Of… that focuses on cult British sci-fi series: Blake’s 7, Adam Adamant, Doomwatch, Star Cops, The Survivors and Tripods. I can understand all those obsessions except TripodsStar Cops and Doomwatch were brilliant, Blake’s 7 had its moments as did The Survivors, and Adam Adamant was fun. But Tripods? Lines from the books such as “And then they went into a village and stole some bread” turned into an entire episode? Dismal. Have you noticed that loving Doctor Who is no longer considered a cult pursuit by the Beeb, though? Interesting.

To coincide with the season, BBC4 will be opening up (from today) a web site called My Science Fiction Life, where you can deposit your memories of sci-fi shows and books, some of which might be used in a “new TV programme”. They don’t mention whether that’ll be The Cult Of… or not.