Thursday, November 09, 2006

Brad Winderbaum's Satacracy 88: Episode Four

The fourth Episode of Brad Winderbaum's Satacracy 88 is out today, another five minute story that continues to open this world up. If you have not seen it, go to, or click on the link in the right bar, or click on the thumbnail on yesterday's post. Then vote, then come back here.

The episode begins with a still black-and-white image of Angela and Zim (we will remember his photograph from the last episode) -- it turns out they know each other, they are friends, or at least colleagues. Brad does a great job introducing a conflict at the end of last episode (bring me this guy's hand), then starting by bringing the conflict up a notch (this is a guy she knows personally). A quick flashback establishes the other side of the conflict: she told him, if she fell under Carter's control, to kill her, and now Carter has sent her after him. The decision at the end revolves around the realization that he may not do what she told him to, and that may be the best thing for her. Complicating things is Angela's double life: at the club she is aware she is a serious, tough assassin, but in the car, on the way to get Zim that personae is not visible (actress Diahnna Nicole Baxter does great job with the two roles). Zim is trying to get her more violent side to emerge, for reasons we are not aware of.

Once again -- and as it should be -- the sold story structure allows all the little details to shine. Angela has flaking make-up at the club in the flashback as Zim as flaking make-up at the club in the present -- one of my favorite details from Civil War is how the costumes have wear and tear, it gives the thing a sense of lived in reality. Plus Susan, the series girly-girl, applies the make-up, which is nice. Zim's bright red shirt stands out (he is, after all, the target) and it is emphasized by the matching red drink straws and the red button that is Angela's weapon. We transition from the flashback to the present by focusing on Calloway's hooded face, watching then and now -- the lighting lets us know something has changed.

Brad also lifts from good sources. The secret club you can teleport to from an alleyway with a password is from the final two season of Buffy (though the password was not "the universe exploded from the primal atom", a surprising cosmic mouthful), and Ariel does a move right out of Nightcrawler's Oval Office battle in X2, combining fighting and teleporting in the most useful way possible. [The fact the Brad has not seen the final two seasons of Buffy is another question to address, but these ideas trickle down and I am sure Whedon was not the first person to make the hidden club door a mystical secret rather than a social one].

Only once do we see the influence of a potentially risky source, and that is with the eyeball in the hand. While the pulpy New Age book cover image is a lot of fun, it is easier to sell pulp if you have a big budget (like Lost, with all its 70s tech). A pulpy special effect with a very low budget recalls Saturday afternoon live action adventure shows like Mutant X. Again, it is a fun image (if like me you think pulp is fun), but it lacks the budget to get it across. It's a bit of a silly problem but it is a real one: do pulp on a big budget and it is an interesting stylistic choice; do pulp on a small budget and it's not a choice, it's a limitation.

For the identity of "Lois" we will have to wait until next time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the commentary Geoff - Special Effects have been something in this series that we've experimented with since the beginning. This episode in particular was an opportunity to skecth out ideas and play around. We want to push our boundries a little more each time, hopefully getting 'Smarter & Stronger' in the process.
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