Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Legion of Super Heroes: Fear Factory

While I've mentioned the Legion of Super Heroes series here and there, this represents my first post dedicated to a review of a single episode! Honestly, I'm not really sure who this post is for. There are people who are interested in the Zelazny book reviews at the blog itself, and there are people who like the Lily is cute stories on the Facebook feed but this is a platypus of a post that doesn't belong in either category. And there are people on the internet who find this blog through random searches, but I don't see a lot of people doing searches for an obscure show that came and went three years ago. (Also, another blog covered this Legion stuff much better and in a much more timely manner). Bah! I don't care! Writing is its own good!

I was initially going to pass on Fear Factory for Lily. I read the synopsis, did a quick preview and decided that it was too scary. But we were on vacation and had a limited selection and I was reading through the episodes and when I skipped it, she asked, “What's this one?” and I said, “Oh, no, that one's too scary.” “That's okay. I like scary things.”

So, with the eyes of my wife upon us, we began watching. The episode opens with a scene that's darn close to a shot-for-shot homage to the scene in Alien where Ripley goes to retrieve Jonesey the cat, which is of course awesome.

Seriously, I hope Sigourney Weaver got royalties for this

 In Fear Factory, they find an ancient space station at the center of an unnatural storm. The place is full of ghoulish inhabitants and odd happenings, and soon after they arrive, the docking bridge goes out and they have to...(dun dun dun!) spend the night!

Each Legionnaire is confronted with his or her deepest fear. I think that any genre show that runs long enough has some variation on this story. It's not the most original plot, but it's good for establishing character and backstory, and this particular outing has enough original touches that it stands out. For Lightning Lad, for instance, his greatest fear is the monster that he imagined lived under his bed as a kid.

Clowns? That's not so scar-JESUS FUCK, WHAT IS THAT?!

"We all float down here, Lightning Lad."

(Also, Saturn Girl regularly faces threats capable of destroying planets and her greatest fear is...roller coasters? Weak.)

I thought Bouncing Boy's sequence was especially well done. He's the horror movie aficionado and he recognizes the tropes of the genre long before the rest of the team.

His particular fear revolves around the movies he loves. While looking for the missing cat, he wanders into one horror movie after another, growing increasingly frantic at each. “A Nightmare on Zombie Planet, part IV!”, “Mars Needs Mummies, Part VI!!”, “Vampire Empire, Part XIII!!!”, The Fiendish Plot of Doctor Derangeo, the prequel...” Doctor Derangeo throws a test tube full of some purple liquid at Bouncing BoyIn 3-D!!!!

He finally finds Whiskers, only to realize too late that he ignored the advice he gave Ripley at the beginning of the episode.

I went back for the cat.
When they succumb, the ship imprisons them in a painting on its walls, frozen in a moment of absolute terror, somehow drawing energy from their fear. The representations were actually rather unnerving for a kid's show.

Superman: “What's going on here?”

Brainy: “Fear. The ship knows what scares us. Bouncing Boy's movies, Lightning Lad's...doll." I like his pause there. It feels like what Brainy is actually saying is “Lightning Lad's,” whateverthefuckthatwas “...doll.”

After they've figuring out what's going on, Brainiac 5 says “Let's take the ghost out of the machine,” which was a turn of phrase that made me smile.

Superman really tries to save everybody. He grabs Saturn Girl away from the vortex, but it still sucks her in.

What really scares him? That he can't save someone. It's hard to write Superman well, but I think this episode nails it.

I think the thing I like best about LSH is that the characters act like the players in a good gaming group. It struck me as a really great Halloween session in someone's superhero campaign. The heroes may not make the best decisions, but they rarely make bone-headed ones that serve only to drive the plot. For instance, Superman never forgets he has X-Ray vision, the group sticks together after they lose their first member, and when in doubt their strategy is to kick down the door and blast the monster with heat vision. I mean, at one point, they plan to blast through the hull of the ghost ship and bypass the docking bridge entirely by taking a shortcut through the vacuum in order to rearm at their own ship. That's a gamer's plan if I've ever heard one!

Overall, the episode had some great atmosphere and some legitimately creepy details like the eyeball soup and the pustules on the butler which opened into eyeballs. I also dug that when the Coluans were falling apart you could see robot skull for just a moment.

This was not an easy screen shot to take.

The architecture of the ship, with the teeth motif for all of the doors was very good too.

For a series that only got two seasons (and only one good season), Legions of Superheroes has an astonishing number of top notch episodes. If you only watch one show about superheroes for eight-year-olds, make it this one!

No comments:

Post a Comment