“Lover Man” [R] – 2/3

“LOVER MAN”

PART TWO

TWO WEEKS LATER . . .

B’Elanna and Harry strode along the corridor of Deck Six, on their way to Jeffries Tube 69. There, they planned to work on a set of ESP conduits for repair.

“Poor Neelix,” Harry bemoaned. “It must have been hell getting his lungs ripped away like that.” He referred to a recent incident, in which the Talaxian had his lungs stolen by a pair of aliens, during an Away mission.

B’Elanna grunted. “If you ask me, I think Janeway let those monsters off too easily. Stealing other people’s organs, for Kahless’s sakes!”

Harry added, “I guess that what happens when a species has been crippled by a deadly disease. It takes away their compassion. Their morality. And it makes them dangerously desperate.”

“That’s no excuse!” B’Elanna angrily shot back.

“No, it isn’t. But understandable.”

B’Elanna bit back an exasperated sigh, as she tried not to feel irritated by Harry’s compassion. She had great affection for the young ensign, but sometimes his Federation ideals really got on her nerves. For once, she wished he could be a little more . . . ruthless.

The two friends finally reached Jeffries Tube 69. B’Elanna grabbed hold of the handle for the tube’s door, when Harry glanced down at his hand and let out an oath. “Dammit!” he cried.

“What’s wrong?” B’Elanna demanded.

“My PADD. It has the schematics we need on it. I must have dropped it on my way here. I’ll be right back.” Harry turned on his heels and quickly retraced their path from the turbolift.

Meanwhile, B’Elanna attempted to open the tube’s door. Only, it refused to budge. Someone had either jammed or locked the door. Muttering an oath, B’Elanna punched a few codes into the console nearby. The door finally opened on her second attempt. She grabbed her toolkit and proceeded to crawl inside the tube. The sight that greeted her inside, stopped her in her tracks.

Low moans filled the interior. Discarded uniforms were scattered about the floor. And just several yards ahead laid a completely nude Tom Paris, on his back. Straddling his waist was a female crewman – also nude – whom B’Elanna noticed was not Ensign Telac. Her breasts swung tantalizingly over Paris’s face. Her body bucked up and down above the pilot’s, like a rider on an unbroken horse. B’Elanna immediately recognized her. Crewman Mallory Aiwa from Security.

“Ooohh! Oh yes! Harder! Harder!” Aiwa cried. Both hers and Paris’s bodies continued to move in rhythm, as they made love. Aiwa leaned closer to Paris, situating the tips of her breasts above his face. He took the bait, leaned upward and covered one breast with his mouth. His hands maintained a firm grip on her hips.

Feeling hot and embarrassed at the same time, B’Elanna immediately crawled out of the tube. She shut the door and took a deep breath. “Something wrong, Maquis?” Harry had returned with his PADD.

Breathing heavily, B’Elanna shook her head. “No! I, uh . . . It’s nothing, Harry. Look, why don’t we do this later? Someone else is inside, right now.”

“Well, I’m sure he or she won’t mind if it gets a little crowded inside.” Harry knelt down on the deck and opened the door.

“Starfleet, no!”

Too late. Harry did not hear. He crawled inside the tube. B’Elanna heard a gasp. Along with Aiwa, screaming Paris’s name. Seconds later, the Ops officer re-emerged from the tube and closed the door. “Oh God!” he murmured. “I didn’t need to see that.”

Anger toward the pilot overwhelmed B’Elanna. She wondered aloud if they should report Paris and Aiwa to Chakotay. “Why?” Harry demanded. “I doubt that sex inside a Jeffries tube would constitute as an offense. Or a danger to the ship.”

“Isn’t fraternalization between Starfleet personnel, prohibited?” B’Elanna demanded.

Harry quickly replied, “No, it isn’t. Not as long as they are discreet.”

“I wouldn’t call sex in a Jeffries tube, discreet.”

A sigh left her friend’s mouth. “B’Elanna, let it go. They’re in a Jeffries tube, not in the corridor or anywhere else for the entire crew to see. Just let it go.”

B’Elanna remained silent. She and Harry could barely meet each other’s gaze. Sounds of giggling and someone opening the tube’s door filled their ears. Embarrassment immediately became anxiety. B’Elanna said to Harry, “I think we better get out of here.” The younger man quickly agreed and the two friends quickly scrambled away.

* * * *

Once again, Tom found himself strolling along Deck Nine. He had just left Telac Mara’s quarters, following a slightly difficult conversation. After two weeks of fun and great sex, the Bajoran woman had decided to end their romance.

Tom had foreseen the breakup. In fact, he helped set it in motion. Mara began expressing more than a passing interest in him. She wanted to know everything about Tom – his fears, his desires and most inner thoughts. Tom immediately realized that she wanted to move their relationship to a serious level. Only, he had no desire for such a relationship.

Rejection from a girlfriend at the Academy, a distant father and plenty of insincere friends had taught Tom to be wary of love and romance. He did not want or trust it any longer. Aside from Harry Kim as a close friend, he preferred mere acquaintances, brief sexual partners and nothing more.

To stave off the danger of Mara’s increasing interest, Tom began to hold her at arms’ length. Treat her in a cool manner when they were not engaged in sex. After a week of such treatment, it worked. Not only did Mara backed off, she began showing interest in other men. Just this morning, Tom had found her in the Mess Hall, sitting with Crewman Jarvin. Both seemed intensely interested in each other. Tom got the hint. Not that he really minded. He no longer had Mara in his hair. And compensation awaited him in a Jeffries tube on Deck Six. With Mallory Aiwa. Tom allowed himself a smile. A pleasant way to spend a few minutes. Now that Mara has officially ended their relationship, he was on his way to Aiwa’s quar . . .

The door to one of the cabins slid open. Tom gasped at the figure standing in the doorway – completely nude. “What the hell are you doing?” he growled, shoving her back inside the cabin. “Someone could have seen you!” The doors slid shut.

A satisfied smile curled her lips. “That was the point,” she said. “For you to see me. After I found out you were on this deck, I came here and ordered the computer to track you all the way from Telac’s quarters.”

“If you’re expecting a repeat performance of two weeks ago, don’t waste your time,” Tom retorted. “I have other plans.”

Her smile grew wider. “Certainly not with Ensign Telac, I assume. You were only in her quarters for ten minutes or less. Break up?”

Tom’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “How did you find out? I haven’t told anyone, yet.”

“I saw the good ensign with Jarvin during breakfast, this morning. It wasn’t hard to guess what was going on.” She reached out and stroked Tom’s cheek. “I thought you needed a little consolation.”

“I already have my own ideas about that. And it involves someone else.”

Slowly, she wrapped her arms around Tom’s neck. “I bet she can’t console you the way I can.” Her mouth hovered inches away from his.

Tom inhaled deeply. He could already feel his body reacting to her nearness. And the last thing he wanted was a repeat of their last time together. Seconds later, his hopes dissipated. As she leaned forward to plant a light kiss on the side of his mouth, the tips of her breasts brushed against Tom’s chest. His member automatically began to twitch. Much to his embarrassment.

“Okay, that’s it!” he roared and pushed her away. Laughter greeted his ears. “If you want to get laid so badly, find someone else.” Tom marched to the door, opened it and heard voices in the corridor. He immediately slid the door shut.

Her voice, smooth and taunting, said, “I thought you were leaving.”

“I will,” Tom coolly replied. “Just as soon as the hallway is cleared.”

A soft body pressed against his back. Tom struggled to ignore it. “In that case, why don’t you stay here, a little longer? Pass the time, until the corridor is cleared.”

“I doubt that mere seconds is enough time to do what you really want.”

Slender hands gently forced Tom to turn around. He found himself staring into a pair of eyes that brimmed with desire. “Maybe you want what I want. Can’t you stay longer than mere seconds?”

Tom blinked. He felt no love for this woman. Hell, he hardly felt any kind of affection toward her, whatsoever. Desire, however, was another matter. He had to admit that she was one of the most sexually satisfying women he had ever met. And unlike other partners, she demanded nothing more than sex. At least from him. Tom did not mind. Aside from his friendship with Harry, love and affection rarely played a part in Thomas Eugene Paris’s life.

She planted a kiss on his mouth. And another. And another. “Just stay a little longer,” she whispered between kisses. “Just a little . . .” Unable to ignore his desire any longer, Tom drew her into his arms and crushed his mouth against hers.

* * * *

The couple was inside the Jeffries tube, just as she had remembered. He lay stretched out on the floor. She straddled his waist. Neither wore a stitch of clothing.

She allowed her fingers to run through the red-gold hair on his chest. A pleasure-filled sigh escaped her mouth. So thick and luxuriant. She could do this all day. Then his member twitched against the crack of her backside. Then again, why bother? There were other parts of his anatomy she could also enjoy.

Sliding down his body, she raised her slightly and sat down, once more. His member impaled the wet folds of her flesh. A deep moan rose from her throat. His hands gripped her hips, forcing her to match the rhythm of his body.

Up and down, they moved. Faster and faster. She could feel him stab deeper and deeper inside her. One of his hands traveled up past her waist, until it cupped one tender breast. His thumb pressed against a taunt nipple and again, she moaned. Then it moved to another breast. Her moans grew louder.

Their bodies moved faster. His thrusts became harder. Deeper. Until his entire length filled her walls. Unable to hold back any longer, she climaxed and the muscles within her folds ruthlessly constricted his member. He called out her name and exploded inside her. As she finally fell over the edge, she threw back her head and called out his name. “Tom!”

* * * *

B’Elanna gasped out loud, as her eyes opened. Her body snapped into a sitting position. Had she just . . .? Once the fog cleared her brain, she realized that she was inside her quarters and not in a Jeffries tube. With Tom Paris. B’Elanna also realized that she had thrust her hand inside her pajama bottoms and they now rested on the damp mound between her legs. Embarrassed, she immediately withdrew it.

Then it came back to her. Every detail of her dream. It had been a replay of what she had witnessed inside Jeffries tube 69, this afternoon. Only, the woman having sex with Tom Paris had not been Mallory Aiwa, but her – B’Elanna Torres.

B’Elana’s cheeks grew hot. Erotic dreams were not new to her. She had them before. Only, they had usually consisted of her with a young man she once worshipped from afar, back on Kessik. And later, of her and a certain Maquis captain, turned first officer. B’Elanna never thought she would have dreams about a womanizing pig like Paris.

Slowly, she crawled out of bed and headed for the wash basin. B’Elanna washed her hands and splashed water on her face. The chronometer in her cabin read 01:37 hours. Duty awaited her in less than seven hours. B’Elanna groaned. She hoped it would not be difficult for her to return to sleep.

A heavy thump dashed any hopes of continued sleep. The thump came from next door. A loud moan followed. B’Elanna sighed. The phantom couple had returned.

“Oh yes! Oh . . . oh . . . ah! Faster! Faster . . . oh gods! Fas . . . aaaah!” The cries and moans, accompanied by more thumps followed.

B’Elanna took a deep breath. She tried to ignore the sounds from next door. Yet, it seemed very difficult, especially with them becoming increasingly loud. And her growing more aroused.

At last the noise subsided, but not before the female next door shouted a name that took B’Elanna aback. “Oh yes! Oh . . . oh yes! Oh . . . aaah! Oh Gods! To-ooo-omm!”

Tom? B’Elanna sat on her bed in deep shock. Did she just hear some woman cry out Tom Paris’s name?

* * * *

Harry stared at B’Elanna in disbelief. “Are you sure that was Tom’s name you heard?” he demanded.

“Of course I’m sure!” B’Elanna snapped back. The two friends shared a small breakfast table, in the Mess Hall, the following morning. “How many Toms do you think are on this ship?”

“Tom happens to be a common name,” Harry explained. “It could be someone else.”

B’Elanna rolled her eyes. “Starfleet, I checked the list of personnel on this ship. There is only one Tom aboard Voyager. And his name is Thomas Eugene Paris.” She scoffed with derision. “Eugene. What were his parents thinking with a name like that?”

Eventually, Harry conceded that B’Elanna was right. “Okay, so it was Tom in that cabin, next door to yours. So what? Maybe whomever he’s dating, lives there. What’s her name? Crewman Aiwa.”

“Crewman Aiwa’s quarters are located on Deck Seven,” B’Elanna coolly retorted. “I checked. And no one occupies the cabin next door to mine.”

Harry paused. “Oh. Well, even so . . .”

Exasperated, B’Elanna cried out, “Dammit, Starfleet! Don’t you get it? Paris and Aiwa weren’t supposed to be there. I’m going to report this to Chakotay.”

“Oh come on, Maquis! You’ve got to be kidding!”

B’Elanna gave her friend a pointed stare. “Do I look like I’m kidding? Paris has overstepped the line, this time.”

“Overstepped the . . .” Harry heaved an exasperated sigh. “C’mon B’Elanna! Listen to yourself! You sound like some by-the-book Starfleet officer! Not even the Captain or myself are that bad!”

“Paris is using an empty . . .” B’Elanna lowered her voice, after she noticed several pairs of eyes, staring at her. “Paris is fraternizing in an unauthorized area. No one is supposed to be in that cabin. And both he and Aiwa are keeping me awake with all that noise. I intend to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Harry’s face became hard. B’Elanna had never seen such an expression on his face, before. “I’m telling you, Maquis. You’re making a big mistake. Granted, Tom might find himself in trouble. But sooner or later, word will circulate that you were the one who snitched on him.”

“So what! Aside from you, Janeway and Kes, there isn’t a soul on this ship who wouldn’t like to see Paris get his comeuppance!”

“Perhaps,” Harry replied. “But they’ll also remember that you snitched on someone. Sooner or later, they’ll become wary of you and eventually, you’ll become ostracized on this ship. Like Tom.”

B’Elanna opened her mouth to protest, but Harry seemed to be on a roll. “Tom may not be popular right now. But if word gets around that your reported him for having sex in some empty cabin, he’ll be a hero in compare to you. No one likes a snitch, B’Elanna. Isn’t that why the Maquis dislike him in the first place? Because you all believe he had ratted on you to the Captain?”

In one of those rare moments in her life, B’Elanna found herself speechless. She could not believe the words coming out of Harry’s mouth. After several long seconds, her voice finally returned. “Tell me Harry, are you saying that you would tell Paris that I snitched on him?” B’Elanna tried to sound menacing, quiet. Unfortunately, wavering insecurity came out, instead.

“C’mon B’Elanna! I’m not a snitch!” Harry expressed outrage. “Besides, I wouldn’t have to. Tom is a pretty smart guy. He would have found out, eventually. And knowing him, he would have found some way to get even.” He leaned forward, his face radiating intensity. “Please, Maquis. Don’t do it!”

B’Elanna, most reluctantly, realized that it would be wise to heed Harry’s warning. She did not fear reprisal from Tom Paris. Yet, she had no desire to become an even bigger pariah on the ship. Her anger toward the pilot’s sexual escapades, however, remained. A new obsession sprung within her. An obsession to discover the identity of Paris’s paramour. Whom she suspected was Mallory Aiwa. And when she finally confirms Aiwa as Paris’s partner-in-crime, B’Elanna promised herself that she would get even with both.

* * * *

Dark eyes seemed to follow Tom Paris nearly everywhere. They scrutinized him whenever “she”was on the Bridge, at her station. Those same eyes observed him in the Mess Hall, during breakfast, lunch and dinner. And whenever he appeared in Engineering to deliver a report or work on the navigational array, the dark eyes observed him . . . closely. Tom could also recall seeing those same eyes along Voyager’s corridors, on occasion. After nearly two weeks of such scrutiny, Tom came to the conclusion that he was being stalked.

He had heard about Klingon women who stalked potential mates. Yet, the deep suspicion and dislike in B’Elanna Torres’ eyes led Tom to believe that she did not view him as a potential mate. Which led him to speculate on her sudden interest in him.

“Quite frankly, I don’t know what the hell is her problem,” Tom complained to his best friend. The two officers sat inside the shuttlecraft, Cochrane, as it sped toward the Banean homeworld.

Voyager had came across the M-class planet two days ago. After learning that its inhabitants possessed warp technology and promised to help Voyager with its damaged collimator. Captain Janeway ordered Harry to work with one of the Banean scientists. And ordered Tom to fly Harry to the planet’s surface. It seemed that Banea was at war with another race who occupied the planet, called the Numeri. Who had established a blockade around Banea.

Tom spared the younger man a quick glance. “Torres is your friend, Harry. Do you know why she’s suddenly so interested in me?”

Harry sighed. Which told Tom that he knew something. And was reluctant to reveal. “What? C’mon Harry. Spill it.”

“Okay.” Another gust of breath followed. Then, “Tom, have you been seeing anyone on Deck Nine, lately? Other than Telac Mara?”

It took all of Tom’s skills in dissembling to maintain his usual mask. How did Harry know about his trips to Deck Nine? Better yet, what did it have to do with Torres? “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Tom mumbled.

“Cabin Nine-I?” Harry continued. “It seems you’ve been using it for a little private down time with a certain someone, this past month. Only you haven’t been that private.”

Tom sighed in defeat. “Okay. I surrender. How did you find out?”

“I didn’t. B’Elanna did. She could hear you two.”

A hot flush crept up Tom’s neck. “How did she . . .?”

Harry added, “B’Elanna’s quarters are next door – Cabin Nine-H. She heard everything.”

“Great!” Tom pursed his lips in irritation.

The younger man continued, “She knows it’s you in there, but she doesn’t know who your friend is.”

“She isn’t exactly a friend,” Tom retorted.

Confusion filled Harry’s dark eyes. “Huh? What are you talking . . .?”

“So B’Elanna knows,” Tom said, interrupting the other man. “I suppose she plans to go running to Chakotay.”

According to Harry, the Chief Engineer almost did. Until he talked her out of it. “And it wasn’t the first time, Tom. We caught you and Mallory Aiwa inside Jeffries tube 69, around the same time B’Elanna found out about Cabin Nine-I.”

Tom sighed. “You two seem very familiar with my love life, lately. Anything else?”

“Well, you haven’t exactly been discreet,” Harry retorted.

“Who has? Do you think Mallory and I were the only ones using the Jeffries tubes? Hell, I’ll bet that half the crew are doing the same. I’ve caught at least four couples inside the Jeffries Tubes, since we blew up the Caretaker’s array.”

The disturbed expression on Harry’s face told Tom the extent of his friend’s innocence. Poor Harry.His mind jumped to the half-Klingon. Poor me. Tom realized that he had a hostile senior officer on his hands, just itching to get him into trouble. He would have to be more careful in the future.

“What I don’t understand,” Harry continued, “is why you and Aiwa would even bother using an empty cabin on Deck Nine in the first place?”

Might as well be truthful. Somewhat. “I’ve never been with Mallory on Deck Nine,” Tom explained. “I was with someone else.”

“Does Aiwa know?”

A curt laugh escaped Tom’s mouth. “Of course not, Harry. I doubt that she would really care, these days.” He paused. “We broke up just four days ago. Mallory began having delusions that she alone, could finally get to know the real Tom Paris. Naturally, I had to disappoint her.”

Harry shot Tom a sharp glance. The latter ignored it as he continued to guide the shuttle toward the Banean homeworld.

* * * *

“Hey!”

Tom’s cry startled the woman, bent over one of the consoles inside a junction that connected two of the Jeffries tubes on Deck Five. She glared at him. “Dammit Paris! What the hell is your problem?”

“I’ve been looking for you.” Tom jumped off the ladder and landed next to her.

She gave him a sniff and returned to her work. “You’ve found me. Now what do you want?”

Tom grabbed hold of her shoulder and forced her in an upward position. “I want to talk to you, not your ass.”

“That’s funny. You seemed to be in backsides, lately. Including one that belong to a certain Banean woman.”

Laughter bubbled up inside Tom at the absurdity of her jealousy. “What is this? Don’t tell me you’re jealous?”

“Of course not! Now what do you want?” she shot back in an acid voice.

Tom became sober. “Just to let you know. The next time you get any ideas about a quick roll in the hay, find someone else. It seems that a certain friend of yours has found out about our little activities in Cabin 9-I. And considering her volatile nature, I have no desire to find myself facing the Captain. Or Chakotay.”

“Are you saying that Torres is a snitch? B’Elanna?” Disbelief shone in her eyes.

Tom shrugged. “Normally, I’d say no. But this is me, we’re talking about. Just about ninety-eight percent of the crew would love to see me in trouble with the Captain. And guess what? I won’t be alone, this time.”

She sniffed. “Fine. If it makes you feel any better. Of course . . .”

Oh God, Tom thought. Trouble. “I’m getting out of here. See you around.”

“Wait!” She grabbed Tom’s arm. “Does B’Elanna know about me, as well?”

Tom stared at her uneasily. “No, just me. Why?”

A seductive smile appeared on her lips. “Well, since I don’t want to get into trouble, any more than you do, I promise I won’t ambush you on Deck Nine anymore. That is . . . if you don’t mind meeting me at my favorite cabin, later this evening. Say around 1630 hours? Torres usually likes to hang around Engineering a little longer than the usual eight-hour shift.”

Tom wandered if she had lost her mind. Why was she so interested in him? Was she that desperate for sex? “Are you crazy?” he exclaimed. “No! Didn’t you hear what I said?”

“Yes. But you obviously didn’t hear me. What’s wrong with a little afternoon sex? Trust me, B’Elanna won’t be there. Meet me at Cabin 9-I at 1630 hours. Unless,” a sneer crossed her face, “you’ve developed a taste for Delta Quadrant women.”

Coolly, Tom responded, “Maybe I have.”

“Oh.” She paused. “Well.” She reached up and brushed a finger across his lower lip. “Too bad. I had hoped to work up an appetite before dinner.”

Tom’s body immediately stiffened. He grabbed her hand and drew her against him. Damn that woman! She always had a talent for breaking his defenses. Or perhaps a year in prison had rekindled his sex drive. “I’ll see you in Cabin 9-I. Sixteen thirty hours.”

“I’ll be there.” She forced her mouth upon his for a brief, passionate kiss, ending it with a bite on his lip. “Just a reminder of our appointment. I’ll see you later.” Then she turned her back on him and resumed her work. Tom took a deep breath and started up the ladder toward Deck Four.

END OF PART TWO

“THE BARCHESTER CHRONICLES” (1982) Review

“THE BARCHESTER CHRONICLES” (1982) Review

Back in 1982, the BBC turned to 19th century author Anthony Trollope for a seven-part miniseries called “THE BARCHESTER CHRONICLES”. The miniseries was based upon the author’s first two Barchester novels about the Church of England. 

Directed by David Giles and written by Alan Plater, ”THE BARCHESTER CHRONICLES” is an adaptation of ”The Warden” (1855)and ”Barchester Towers” (1857). The novels focused upon the the dealings and social maneuverings of the clergy and gentry literature concern the dealings of the clergy and the gentry that go on between the citizens and members of the Church of England in the fictitious cathedral town of Barchester. Episodes One and Two, which are adaptations of ”The Warden”, center on the impact upon the Reverend Septimus Harding and his circle when a zealous young reformer named John Bold launches a campaign to expose the disparity in the apportionment of Hiram House, an almshouse for bedesmen, and its income between the latter and its officer, Reverend Harding. Mr. Bold embarks on this campaign out of a spirit of public duty, despite his previously cordial relationship with Mr. Harding and his romantic involvement with the latter’s younger daughter, Eleanor. Mr. Bold attempts to enlist the support and interest of Tom Towers, the editor of The Jupiter, who writs editorials supporting reform of the charity, and a portrait of Mr. Harding as being selfish and derelict in his conduct of his office. Despite the efforts of his bombastic, but well-meaning son-in-law, the Archdeacon Grantly, to ignore Mr. Bold’s reform campaign, and continue his position as warden of Hiram House. But Reverend Harding concludes that he cannot in good conscience continue to accept such a generous salary and resigns the position. John Bold, who had tried in vain to reverse the injury done to Mr. Harding, returns to Barchester and marries Eleanor.

In the remaining five episodes, based upon ”Barchester Towers”, the beloved Bishop of Barchester dies and many assume that his son, Archdeacon Grantly, will gain the position in his place. However thanks to a new Prime Minister, a newcomer, the Reverend Proudie, becomes the new bishop. His overbearing wife, Mrs Proudie, exercises an undue influence over the new bishop and becomes unpopular with right-thinking members of the clergy and their families. Her interference in the reappointment of the universally popular Mr Septimus Harding as warden of Hiram House is not well received, even though she gives the position to a needy clergyman with a large family to support. Even less popular than Mrs Proudie is the bishop’s newly appointed chaplain, the hypocritical Mr. Obadiah Slope, who takes a fancy to Harding’s wealthy widowed daughter, Eleanor Bold. He hopes to win her hand in marriage by interfering in the controversy over the wardenship of Hiram House. Due to Mrs. Proudie’s influence, the Bishop and Mr. Slope order the return of Dr. Vesey Stanhope from Italy. Dr Stanhope has been there, recovering from a sore throat for 12 years and has spent his time catching butterflies. His wife and three children accompany him back to Barchester. Dr. Stanhope’s only son also has eyes on Eleanor and her fortune. And the younger of his two daughters, the serial flirt Signora Madelina Vesey Neroni, causes consternation and hostility within Mrs. Proudie and threatens the plans of Mr. Slope.

Over the years, ”THE BARCHESTER CHRONICLES” has become a highly acclaimed television production amongst costume drama fans and the critics. It also received several BAFTA nominations and won an award for Best Design (Chris Pemsel). Many fans and critics have also viewed it as the production responsible for one of Donald Pleasence’s best roles and the start of Alan Rickman’s fame as a skilled actor. When the miniseries first aired in the United States nearly two years later in October 1984, I tried very hard to enjoy it. I really did. Looking back, I realized that I was too young to really appreciate it and ended up getting bored. I never had any intention of ever watching again. But when I purchased a DVD set featuring ”THE BARCHESTER CHRONICLES” and two other miniseries productions based upon Anthony Trollope’s works, I figured that I might as well give it another shot. And I am glad that I did.

“THE BARCHESTER CHRONICLES” turned out to be a sharp and funny look at the Church of England during the 1850s. The miniseries was filled with characters that have become so memorable to me that I find it difficult to erase them from my mind. In fact, I can honestly say that the characters really made the miniseries for me – especially characters such as Mrs. Proudie, the Reverend Obadiah Slope, Signora Neroni and the wonderfully charming and sweet, Reverend Harding. But the characters alone did not impress me. I was also impressed by screenwriter Alan Plater’s adaptation of the two novels. In my review of the 2007 miniseries, “CRANFORD”, I had complained that it seemed disjointed to me and was more suited as an episodic television series, due to the fact that it was based upon three of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novellas. Although ”THE BARCHESTER CHRONICLES”was based upon the first two of Trollope’s Barchester novels, it did not seem disjointed to me. Perhaps I felt this way, because the subject of the first two episode – namely Reverend Harding’s position as warden of Hiram House – also had a major impact on the plotlines of the last five episodes. I must admit that my knowledge of the hierarchy of the Church of England barely existed before I saw ”THE BARCHESTER CHRONICLES” for the second time. After viewing the miniseries, it is still rather vague. But the controversy over Hiram House and the backstabbing, the romances and the manipulations that occurred between the characters really made watching the miniseries rather fun. There were moments when the miniseries’ pacing threatened to drag. And I could have done without a full sermon from Reverend Slope in Episode Three. But these flaws did not hamper the miniseries in the end.

I found most of the performances in ”THE BARCHESTER CHRONICLES” top-notch. Mind you, there were some excursions into hammy acting – notably from Nigel Hawthorne as Archdeacon Grantly, Peter Blythe as the feckless Nigel Stanhope and yes, from Geraldine McEwan as Mrs. Proudie. Even Alan Rickman had a moment of hammy acting in his very last scene. But, the cast was generally first-rate. Despite their moments of hamminess, I must admit that I was very impressed by Hawthorne, McEwan and Rickman. Especially the latter, who gave a star turn as the slippery and obsequious Obadiah Slope. And Clive Swift gave a deliciously subtle performance as the weak-willed Bishop Proudie, who allowed himself to be bullied by his wife and manipulated by Mr. Slope. I was also impressed by Susan Hampshire’s performance as the manipulative and sexy Signora Neroni. The series did not go much into her character’s problems with her Italian husband, despite her negative comments on marriage. But watching her manipulate Rickman’s Reverend Slope really impressed and entertained me. And I also enjoyed Angela Pleasence’s portrayal of Archdeacon Grantly’s wife, Susan Harding Grantly. In many ways, she seemed like a more respectable version of the Signora Neroni – feminine, soft-spoken, a little manipulative and strong-willed. But the one performance that shone above the others for me was Donald Pleasence’s portrayal of the Reverend Septimus Harding. Characters like Reverend Harding usually tend to bore me. But Pleasence’s Reverend Harding was not only interesting, but also entertaining. I enjoyed how he managed to maintain his mild-mannered personality, while displaying a great deal of backbone against the aggressive maneuverings of Archdeacon Grantly and Mrs. Proudie, and his hostility over the slippery manipulations of Reverend Slope. My only quibble about Pleasence’s performance is that his scenes with Janet Maw, who portrayed Eleanor Harding Bold, left me feeling a bit uneasy. I realize that Reverend Harding and Eleanor had a close relationship, but there were moments – thanks to Pleasence and Maw’s performances – when their interactions seemed to hint a touch of incest. Very creepy.

Does ”THE BARCHESTER CHRONICLES” still hold up after twenty-eight years? Perhaps. The miniseries was obviously filmed on video tape. And the pictures are not as sharp as they could be. But I must admit that the photography was rich with color. And I just adored Juanita Waterson’s costume designs, which were shown with great effect in scenes that featured the Proudies’ soirée at the Bishop’s residence and the Thornes’ garden party. She effectively captured the styles of mid-Victorian England. Perhaps some of the performances were a little hammy at times. And there were moments when the miniseries’ pacing threatened to drag. But overall, ”THE BARCHESTER CHRONICLES” was a first-rate production that featured a well-written script by Alan Plater, an excellent cast led by Donald Pleasence and solid direction by David Giles. After twenty-eight years, it remains a sharp and entertaining miniseries for me.

“THE GREEN HORNET” (2011) Review

“THE GREEN HORNET” (2011) Review

My memories of the costumed hero, the Green Hornet, are pretty sketchy. I can only recall actor Van Williams portraying the character in the short-lived television series from the mid-1960s, with future martial arts icon, Bruce Lee, portraying his manservant and partner-in-crime fighting, Kato. But if I must be honest, I never saw any of the episodes from the series. My memories of Williams and Lee as the Green Hornet and Kato were limited to their guest appearances on the ABC series,”BATMAN”.

When I had first heard about plans to release a movie about the Green Hornet featuring comic actor, Seth Rogen in the title role, I met the news with less than enthusiasm. One, I have never been a fan of the Green Hornet character. Two, I have never been a fan of Rogen’s. And three, the fact that this new version of ”THE GREEN HORNET” was filmed as a comedy-adventure put it completely out of my mind, after I received the news. It was not until the movie was released in theaters and I found myself with nothing else to do for a weekend, when I went ahead and saw the movie.

In a nutshell, ”THE GREEN HORNET” is an origins tale about Britt Reid, the playboy heir to a Los Angeles newspaper owner. Following the death of his autocratic father, Britt befriends the latter’s mechanic and assistant – a technical genius and martial arts fighter named Kato. The pair manages to save a couple from being robbed and assaulted one night, while vandalizing a statue of the late James Reid. Inspired by their act of good deed and some close calls with the criminals and the police, Britt and Kato decide to make something of their lives by becoming a masked crime fighting team called the Green Hornet and his unnamed partner. Due to their close call with the police, Britt and Kato pretend to be criminals in order to in order to infiltrate real criminals, and also to prevent enemies from using innocents against them. Their first target turns out to be a Russian mobster named Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), who is uniting the criminal families of Los Angeles under his command, and whom James Reed was trying to expose. To get Chudnofsky’s attention, Britt uses his newspaper, the Daily Sentinel as a vehicle to publish articles about the “high-profile criminal” the Green Hornet. Britt hires an assistant and researcher named Lenore Case, who has a degree in criminology, and uses her unwitting advice to raise the Green Hornet’s profile.

What was my opinion of ”THE GREEN HORNET”? Honestly? I enjoyed it very much. I found it funny, entertaining, and exciting. First and foremost, the movie possessed plenty of laughs, thanks to Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s script. I usually do not find Rogen all that funny. But I must admit that his attempts at being the big crime fighter, while Kato saved his ass time-and-again, left me in stitches. Realizing that Britt lacked any self-defense skills, Kato created a gun filled with stun gas for the former to use against their enemies. And I found Rogen’s portrayal of Britt’s egotistical reaction to the gun rather hilarious. Not only did ”THE GREEN HORNET” provide plenty of laughs, but it also had some first-rate action sequences. My favorites include the Green Hornet and Kato’s encounter with a group of street thugs that led them to a meth lad controlled by Chudnofsky, their attempt to extract themselves from a trap set by the gangster at a construction site and the fight between Britt and Kato at the Reid mansion, over the many issues developed between the two. But the major sequence that started at the Japanese restaurant and ended at the Daily Sentinel really impressed me and I have to give kudos to Michel Gondry for his direction.

I suppose that Seth Rogen could have portrayed Britt Reid/the Green Hornet in a straight manner, but I do not know if I would have bought it. A more conventional leading man could have been hired for the role, but if I must be honest, I was too impressed by Rogen to really care. Many critics complained that Rogen portrayed Reid/the Green Hornet as a man-child. And he did . . . at first. But the script and Rogen’s performance allowed (or forced) Reid to face the consequences of his massive ego and his decision to become a crime fighter and grow up in a very painful way. I have never heard of Jay Chou, who is a well-known musician and actor from Taiwan. But I must admit that I was very impressed by his performance as Kato, Britt’s talented and exasperated partner in crime fighting. His acting style seemed to strongly remind me of Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen’s – very subtle and very quiet. Yet, Chou also displayed a wry sense of humor that I found entertaining. And I was surprised to discover that he managed to convey not only Kato’s resentment and fear that the latter might be regulated to becoming the Green Hornet’s “sidekick”, but also his own egotistical nature. More importantly, his subtle acting style contrasted perfectly with Rogen’s more bombastic style and the two formed a first-rate screen team.

I had been appalled by the news that Christoph Waltz was cast as the main villain in ”THE GREEN HORNET”, especially on the heels of his success in 2009’s ”INGLORIOUS BASTERDS”. The idea of an acclaimed actor in a costumed hero action movie with comic overtones seemed so beneath him. But after seeing the movie, I am soooo glad that he was cast as the Russian gangster, Benjamin Chudnofsky. He was both hilarious and scary at the same time. Most villains featured in comedy action films tend to be either bland or simply ruthless and scary. Thankfully, Waltz’s Chudnofsky was not bland. But he was scary, ruthless . . . and funny as a middle-aged gangster, suffering from a mid-life crisis. Now, how often does one come across a villain like that in action movies? I had assumed Cameron Diaz’s role as Britt’s assistant, Lenore Case, would be a rehash of the Pepper Potts character from the ”IRON MAN” franchise. Thankfully, Rogen and Goldberg wrote the Lenore role as an intelligent woman, whose brains provided plenty of information for the Green Hornet and Kato; and as a no-nonsense woman who refused to replay the Tony Stark/Pepper Potts scenario or be in the middle of a love triangle between Britt and Kato, despite their attraction to her. And Diaz perfectly captured all aspects of the Lenore character with her usual charm and skill. I was also impressed by David Harbour’s performance as the charming, yet morally questionable District Attorney, Frank Scanlon. Edward James Olmos was on board to provide solidity as Britt’s personal moral guide and editor of the the Daily Sentinel.

There were a few flies in the ointment in ”THE GREEN HORNET”. One came from Tom Wilkinson’s portrayal of Britt’s father, James Reid. I realize that he was portraying a negative authority figure – the cold and demanding father. But his performance came off as bombastic and somewhat flat. I also found the pacing in the movie’s first fifteen minutes rather uneven. Britt’s relationship with his father and the latter’s death seemed to move along at a pace that I found a bit too fast. But at the same time, Chudnofsky’s meeting with a local gangster portrayed by James Franco was conveyed with more depth and at a slower pace. Fortunately, Gondry seemed to have found his pacing after this uneven beginning and movie rolled along with a balanced mixture of action, angst, and laughs.

For Green Hornet purists like actor Van Williams that were upset over Rogen’s comedic interpretation of the crime fighter, there is nothing I can say. I do not particularly agree with them that the movie should have been a straight action-drama.”THE GREEN HORNET” could have been another ”BATMAN BEGINS” or even ”DAREDEVIL”. Perhaps I would have liked it. But I did like Rogen’s interpretation very much. Hell, I more than liked it. I enjoyed it so much that I saw it in the theaters for a second time. This is probably the first movie that I have ever enjoyed Rogen as an actor. My enjoyment increased tenfold, thanks to his screen chemistry with musician/actor Jay Chou. And this is the first time I have ever enjoyed the story of the Green Hornet.

Favorite Romantic Comedies

Below is a list of my favorite romantic comedies in chronological order: 

FAVORITE ROMANTIC COMEDIES

1. “It Happened One Night” (1934) – Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert won Oscars in this Best Picture comedy about a newspaper who escorts a runaway bride to her husband from Miami to New York. Oscar winner Frank Capra directed.

2. “The Awful Truth” (1937) – Cary Grant and Irene Dunne co-starred in this screwball comedy about the machinations of a soon-to-be-divorced couple, that go to great lengths to try to ruin each other’s romantic escapades. Leo McCarey directed.

3. “Bringing Up Baby” (1938) – Howard Hawks directed Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in this wild and funny tale about a scientist winding up in various predicaments involving a woman with a unique sense of logic and a leopard named Baby.

4. “The Lady Eve” (1941) – Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda co-starred in this funny and sexy tale about a beautiful con artist who falls in love with a bumbling millionaire. When he dumps her after learning the truth about his profession, she comes back into his life, disguised as an English aristocrat in order to torment him. Charles Coburn and William Demerest co-starred.

5. “The Palm Beach Story” (1942) – Preston Sturges also wrote this hilarious tale of a young wife who decides to raise money for her inventor husband by leaving him and finding a millionaire as a second husband. Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Rudy Vallee and Mary Astor co-starred.

6. “Pillow Talk” (1959) – A man and woman who share a telephone line end up despising each other, until he decides to have fun by romancing her, disguised as a Texas millionaire. Rock Hudson, Doris Day and Tony Randall co-starred in the first of their three films together in this Oscar winning comedy.

7. “Lover Come Back” (1962) – Rock Hudson, Doris Day and Tony Randall reunite in this slightly more raucous comedy about advertising executives from rival companies who become embroiled in romance and deceit. Stanley Shapiro earned an Oscar nomination for his screenplay.

8. “French Kiss” (1995) – Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline are hilarious in this tale about an uptight woman with a fear of flying, who flies to France to confront her straying fiancé, but gets into trouble when the charming crook seated next to her uses her for smuggling. Timothy Hutton and Jean Reno co-starred.

9. “Kate and Leopold” (2001) – Meg Ryan, Golden Globe nominee Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber and Breckin Meyer co-starred in this charming story about a 19th century English duke who travels through time from 1876 New York to the present and falls in love with a career woman in the modern New York.

10. “The Ugly Truth” (2009) – Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler co-starred in this surprisingly funny and raunchy story about a Sacramento morning show producer who is reluctantly embroiled in a series of outrageous tests by her chauvinistic correspondent to prove his theories on relationships and help her find love. His clever ploys, however, lead to an unexpected result.

“24” and the Breaking Point

 

After watching the April 12, 2010 episode of ”24”, it occurred to me that I had put up a lot with this series during most of its eight seasons run. Perhaps a bit too much – especially since Season Three.  But the above-mentioned episode proved to be the final straw for me. 

 

“24” AND THE BREAKING POINT

It seems a miracle to me that I managed to remain a steady viewer of FOX-TV’s ”24”. Despite being a pretty good series, it has presented its viewers with some mind boggling plotlines. Mind you, some of the series’ plotlines from Seasons One and Two left me scratching my head. Kim Bauer’s (Elisha Cuthbert) Season Two adventures that included encounters with a murderous employer, the law and a slightly demented survivalist portrayed by Kevin Dillon come to mind. And the circumstances that led to Nina Myers’ (Sarah Clarke) revelation as a mole inside CTU left me wondering if she had any senses. The fact that Season One featured two intelligence moles who had no idea that the other was a mole seemed to be skimming on thin ice to me. As did the subplot involving Presidential candidate David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) and his family.

Then came Season Three. Personally, I thought it was a pretty good season. Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) and CTU found themselves battling a former MI6 agent named Stephen Saunders (Paul Blackthorne), who wanted revenge for being abandoned during a disastrous operation against the Season One main villain, Victor Drazen (Dennis Hopper) by unleashing a deadly virus upon Los Angeles. This season also featured a con job perpetrated by Jack, Tony Almeida (Carlos Bernard) and a CTU employee named Gael Ortega (Jesse Borrego); the return of Nina Myers; the introduction of Chase Edmunds (James Badge Dale) as the first (and my personal favorite) of several younger partners for Jack; a virus outbreak in Los Angeles and an exciting showdown in which Jack and Chase attempt to prevent one of Saunders’ men from carrying out his threat.

Unfortunately, Season Three seemed to have kick started many major mistakes created by the series’ writers over the next six years. I tried to deal with the introduction of the Chloe O’Brian character (Mary Lynn Rajskub). But I failed. After another five seasons, I still dislike her. From Season Three to the present, serious mistakes piled on one after the other – Jack’s murder of Nina Myers; the subplot involving Wayne Palmer’s (D.B. Woodside) involvement with a billionaire’s wife and Sherry Palmer (Penny Johnson); Tony’s arrest for the so-called “treason” charge for exchanging Jack’s kidnapped victim for his kidnapped wife – CTU’s own Michelle Dressler (Reiko Aylesworth); the loss of Chase’s hand and his departure from the series (I rather liked him . . . a lot). In Season Four, I had to deal with Jack’s dull ass romance with the senator’s daughter Audrey Raines (Kim Ravner), that stupid plot to infiltrate the Chinese consulate and extract a terrorist, which ended in the death of the Chinese consul, the return of that traitorous ass, Mike Novik (Jude Ciccolella); and a disjointed and badly written season. Season Five brought about a series of deaths that I still believe was heavy-handed – former President Palmer, Michelle Dressler and the near death of Tony Almeida. Many fans have claimed that Season Five – which centered around President Charles Logan’s attempt to sign some treaty with the Russians – was the best. I would have been more tolerant of it, if it were not for the series of murders that occurred in the season’s first episode, Kim’s reaction to Jack’s fake death, and a major plot that really did not require a 24-hour setting. Season Six – with a badly written storyline about suicide bombers and Jack’s family (James Cromwell and Paul McCrane) – was the worst. Wayne Palmer became the new president, but he ended up in a coma from a bombing before mid-season. Chloe’s husband – the equally annoying Morris O’Brian (Carlos Rota) – played a major role in this season . . . unfortunately. I found Season Seven tolerable, especially since it introduced FBI Agent Renee Walker (Annie Wersching) and brought back Tony Almeida. However, Season Eight proved to be another matter.

Mind you, I did not hate Season Eight, like I did Seasons Four and Six. But . . . its plot about a group of Middle Eastern terrorists trying to prevent the president of their country from signing a peace treaty with the United States proved to be . . . old hat. Many fans could see that this series seemed a little tired and filled with some plot holes. The worst and dumbest subplot in the series’ history centered on CTU Agent Dana Walsh’s (Katee Sackhoff) problems involving her criminal ex-boyfriend and some of the dumbest plot lines in television history. But last week’s episode – (8.17) “Day 8: 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.” – proved to be the last, fucking straw for me. Two things happened. Renee Walker – whom Jack had fallen in love with – ended up murdered by a Russian assassin. And Tim Woods (Frank John Hughes), Director of Homeland Security, fired CTU New York director Brian Hastings (Mykelti Williamson).

It was bad enough that producers Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran, along with screenwriter David Fury had killed off Renee. One, she turned out to be one of my favorite characters from the series. And she also seemed to be the only female capable of dealing with the real Jack Bauer – warts and all. Two, Renee’s murder has jumpstarted an old and tired subplot – namely Jack’s desire to go after the person or persons responsible for the death of a loved one. We saw this in his murder of Nina Myers in Season Three. We also saw this in Season Five, when he murdered the man who had assassinated David Palmer. Some fans see this as a return of the old Jack Bauer. For years, I had disliked Jack for his murderous inclinations, his hypocrisy and the fans’ hypocritical view of his crimes. For the first time in years, I managed to enjoy Jack as a character. With Renee’s murder, it looks as if that enjoyment has come to an end. I do not see any possible hope of an emotional recovery for Jack after this. And honestly . . . if Surnow and Cochran wanted to kill someone off, they could have waited to bump off Jack either in the last episode or in the damn movie. But no . . . they drummed up some contrived plot line to kill off Renee in order to bring back Killer Jack.

But the worst thing I ever saw during Season Eight and during the series’ entire run the demotion of Brian Hastings by Homeland Security Director Tim Woods as director of CTU New York and being replaced by that whining bitch, Chloe O’Brian. I had stated earlier, I do not like Chloe. I never have. I have always found her whining and personality disorders a pain in my ass. But this latest plot development regarding her promotion as CTU New York’s new director was truly the most utterly stupid thing I have ever seen on ”24”. On television period. First of all, Chloe was a computer analyst for CTU. A computer geek. Chloe has had at least one or two hours of experience in the field. And yet, that idiot Woods had decided she would be a better person to run CTU New York than Hastings. Why? Because Hastings had failed to sniff out Dana Walsh as a mole. No intelligence official in his or her right mind who allow a computer analyst to assume command of an intelligence field office. It is an utter act of idiocy. And yet, Surnow and Cochran allowed this to happen. And instead of realizing the stupidity of such a plot twist, many fans have been cheering Chloe’s promotion. Why? Because Hastings had failed to do two things – immediately follow Jack’s lead and sniff out Dana Walsh as a mole. Damn hypocrites!

Why do I call the fans, David Fury and the producers hypocrites over this situation with Chloe, Hastings and Dana? Hastings was not that popular with fans. Chloe is very popular fans. And the fans were impatient with Hastings’ failure to spot Dana as a mole. Well if that is the case, then allow me bring up another name. Nina . . . Myers. Have fans and television critics actually forgotten that for several years, Nina was Jack’s second-in-command at CTU Los Angeles? In fact, they even had an affair. Jack eventually learned that she was a mole out of sheer . . . dumb . . . luck.  Nina was ordered to tell a lie about Kim in order to lure Jack into the clutches of Victor Drazen. No one has ever complained about Jack’s inability to sniff out Nina as a mole, until it was almost too late. Hell, in Season Seven, Jack never knew that a vengeful Tony Almeida was playing a double game against him, the FBI and the Allison Taylor Administration until it was almost too late. Yet, Brian Hastings is criticized for failing to sniff out a mole. This is an example of the fans’ hypocrisy at its worst. And all of this happened six or seven episodes before the end of the series.

I did not bother to watch tonight’s episode of ”24”. After the debacle of last week’s episode, I decided that I finally had enough. In fact, I will NOT be looking forward to any ”24” movie in the future. Thank you, Joel Surnow, Robert Cochran and David Fury for allowing any leftover enjoyment I might have of “24” to hit rock bottom. This is how I will always remember the series – with two of the dumbest plot developments I have ever seen.