Random Musings: Updates on The Flash and Arrow

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Flash and Arrow
First, The Flash.

Okay, I wasn’t expecting that.

Turns out Dr. Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) did kill Nora Allen 14 years earlier. In last Tuesday’s episode, “Out of Time”, he admitted to S.T.A.R Labs mechanical engineer Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) that he’s the Reverse Flash; his real name is Eobard Thawne and he’s from the 25th century. He also said killing Nora Allen (Michelle Harrison) hadn’t been his intention. Instead, he was trying to kill Barry that night.

Cisco confronts Dr. Wells.

Cisco confronts Dr. Wells.

Wait. What?

First, a recap of recent events in The Flash to explain how and why Dr. Wells/Thawne revealed his true identity to Cisco: Over the course of the season, detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin), who raised Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) after Henry Allen (John Wesley Shipp) went to prison for his wife’s murder, has begun having doubts as to whether Dr. Wells has been entirely honest about himself and his actions. He’s even begun to wonder if Wells might have been involved in Nora Allen’s murder. Joe shared these suspicions with Cisco, who refused to believe them.

Still, Joe and Cisco searched for answers as to what really happened in the Allen home that fateful night and found blood splatters beneath some wallpaper. Cisco ran some tests and discovered that it was Barry’s blood. What’s more, the blood contained certain chemicals that build up as you age, chemicals an 11-year-old wouldn’t have accumulated. Conclusion: the adult Barry Allen had been at the scene (the young Barry had reported seeing both red and yellow streaks that night), which means that at some point in the future Barry will travel back in time to that night.

Streaks of red and yellow surround Nora Allen.

Streaks of red and yellow surround Nora Allen.

Despite his refusal to believe that Dr. Wells— whom he hero-worships— could have killed Nora Allen, something bugged Cisco about the containment field used to temporarily trap the Reverse Flash earlier this season. The Reverse Flash escaped and beat up Dr. Wells, but according to all the instrumentation, he shouldn’t have been able to do get out. Cisco asked bio-engineer Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) to keep Dr. Wells out of S.T.A.R Labs for a time while he conducted some tests.

So, while Caitlin kept Dr. Wells at a coffee shop, Cisco studied the containment mechanism and discovered a holographic image of the Reverse Flash, complete with pre-recorded “dialogue.”

The possibility that the Reverse Flash might not have actually been in that containment field never occurred to me. Which is ironic, considering that in the 1970s I bought a magic trick in which the magician “converses” with a tape recorder, just as Dr. Wells “conversed” with the “captured” Reverse Flash.

I also never expected Wells to be the man who was in the Allen home all those years ago. Okay, yes, Dr. Wells is a speedster, but I thought he might turn out to be Barry’s descendant, Bart Allen, and that he was impersonating the Reverse Flash in the present day for some reason to give Barry the proper motivation.

Dr. Wells, for his part, suspected something was up and when Caitlin was at the coffee counter, raced to S.T.A.R Labs, leaving his (unnecessary) wheelchair behind (and revealing the truth to Caitlin as well).

So, that’s how Dr. Wells came to confront Cisco. And subsequently to kill him.

Dr. Wells kills Cisco.

Dr. Wells kills Cisco.

Okay, so Dr. Harrison Wells is really Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash, a man from the 25th century somehow stranded in our time. Why, as he told Cisco, would he have wanted to kill Barry? It doesn’t make sense that he’d try to kill the 11-year-old Barry, especially since he needs the adult Barry’s speed to help him return to his own time.

Also, why was Dr. Wells/Thawne in the Allen home that night 14 years ago? One possibility is that he went there looking for The Flash. By the 25th century, the Flash’s true identity might be a matter of public record. But maybe their records aren’t/won’t be entirely accurate and the Allen home (perhaps the site of the Flash Museum) is believed to be where Barry lived as an adult.

Maybe when the Reverse Flash found himself in the early 21st century, unable to generate enough speed to get back to his own time for whatever reason, he sought out the Flash for help.

Now, suppose that just then the time-traveling Flash arrives from the present day. He attacks the Reverse Flash and in the course of the struggle, Nora Allen is killed.

It would be ironic if Nora Allen died because Barry had gone back in time to save her, but the question remains: Why did Dr. Wells/Thawne attempt to kill Barry that night, as he told Cisco? Again, this wasn’t a case of the Reverse Flash finding himself in the early 21st century, seeking help from the Flash and being attacked for (from his perspective) no reason; Dr. Wells/Thawne told Cisco he’d intended to kill Barry.

Unlike Barry, who has yet to travel back in time to that night, Wells/Thawne has already experienced the confrontation in the Allen home. So it’s not a case of the two later becoming enemies, traveling back in time and having a fight in the past.

What’s more, unlike the Reverse Flash of the comics, Dr. Wells seems genuinely interested in Barry’s welfare. And not just because he wants to use him as a means to get home.

Of course he confessed to being fond of Cisco, but killed him anyway, telling him that from his point of view Cisco has been dead for centuries.

But if my theory as to why The Reverse Flash was in the Allen home that night is right (and he did tell Cisco he had only recently arrived in our time), he didn’t yet know Barry. And, as I said, killing him wouldn’t help him get home.

Now, it’s possible that from his perspective the Reverse Flash has already fought many battles with the Flash, ones that took place before he found himself stranded in our time. Maybe he thought the Flash who confronted him in the Allen home was an older version, one who was already an enemy. Maybe he intended to kill his enemy then ironically seek out the younger version of the Flash for help in getting home, only to discover that Barry Allen had not yet become the Flash.

So, he created the persona of Harrison Wells and played a waiting game.

Could be.

I don’t know what middle initial “Harrison Wells” has, if any, but it would be amusing if it were “G.” “Herbert George Wells” as an alias might have raised too many questions, but “Harrison G. Wells” as the name of a time traveler works as a subtle nod. I assume the producers chose that name for the character for that reason.

By the way, time travel “bookends” the episode “Out of Time.” At the start, Barry thought he saw himself run past while he was racing somewhere. And at the end, as he raced to stop a tsunami caused by the Weather Wizard (Liam McIntyre), he found himself running alongside himself. Surprised, he stopped and discovered he was back when and where he’d been at the episode’s beginning.

From the trailer for tonight’s episode, it’s clear that Barry has “overwritten” recent events. And his past self, since there are no indications that two of him will be running around tonight.

Which means A) Cisco’s discovery of the truth and his subsequent murder haven’t happened; B) Barry, who knows the threat the Weather Wizard poses, can prevent the tidal wave from ever happening and thus avoid having to reveal his identity to Iris (Candice Patton) and C) Dr. Wells still has his secret, because although Caitlin tried to tell Barry about him, Barry was in a bit of a rush at the time.

No doubt Barry will learn the truth about Dr. Wells, but not just yet, it would seem. It’ll be interesting to see how things develop.

As for Arrow, the Feb. 25 episode, “Nanda Parbat” ended with Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable) saying he wanted Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) to be his successor. In last Wednesday’s episode, “the Offer” , he explained how certain waters that keep him young are no longer healing him as they once did and that his time will soon be up. He said he believes Oliver is the man to succeed him and “as a gesture of goodwill”, let Oliver, John Diggle (David Ramsey) and Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) leave, all debts forgiven and all blood oaths waived.

Ra’s al Ghul makes his point to Oliver Queen.

Ra’s al Ghul makes his point to Oliver Queen.

Before he did, he told Oliver that Starling City would turn on him and that he would eventually be hunted down and killed as a vigilante. But, as the head of the League, he would have vast resources with which to make a difference.

As it turns out, Ra’s is stacking the deck against Oliver, because at the end of the episode, he kills some criminals— leaving one survivor— while dressed as the Arrow. He’s clearly orchestrating events to make his “prediction” come true and thus force Oliver to accept the leadership of the League.

Ra’s al Ghul impersonates the Arrow.

Ra’s al Ghul impersonates the Arrow.

These “healing waters” essentially fulfill the same function as the “Lazarus pit” of the comics, in that they allow Ra’s to live beyond a normal lifetime.

We also learn that “Ra’s al Ghul” (which means “the Demon’s head”) is a title, of sorts, one passed on from time to time. I don’t think that’s the case in the comics. I think “Ra’s al Ghul” is the name one man chose for himself.

No, the healing waters weren’t used to save Oliver’s life. Seems he survived his battle with Ra’s on that mountain due to a combination of the extreme cold, his indomitable will to live and a lot of luck.

By the way, Thea Queen (Willa Holland) now knows that she killed Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) while under Malcolm’s control. She has told both Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), who doesn’t blame her, and Ra’s daughter, Nyssa (Katrina Law), who doesn’t believe her.

In the comics, Ra’s al Ghul is primarily a Batman adversary and (as was the case with Oliver in “The Offer”) has often tried to convince Batman to succeed him. Despite his love for Talia al Ghul (Nyssa’s older sister), Batman has always declined the offer. By contrast, Oliver, feeling he hasn’t really accomplished anything, was starting to give it serious thought. By the episode’s end, he’s snapped out of that mindset, but he might snap right back into it when people start thinking he’s dropping bodies.

Both The Flash and Arrow look like they’ll have exciting developments in the weeks to come.

Copyright 2015 Patrick Keating.

Random Musings: A review of “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”

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Where No Man Has Gone Before

Fifty years ago, an unusual TV pilot went before the cameras. Unusual in that it was the second pilot for a proposed TV series. Potential TV shows don’t usually get more than one chance to make it on the air.

This pilot was called “Where No Man Has Gone Before” and it sold the series in question—Star Trek— to NBC. “Where No Man Has Gone Before” is one of my favorite episodes of that series. It concerns Lt. Commander Gary Mitchell (Gary Lockwood), Captain Kirk’s best friend. Kirk is forced to kill Mitchell after the latter gains God-like powers and proves Lord Acton’s point.

“Where No Man Has Gone Before” aired Sept. 22, 1966 as Star Trek’s third episode. The characters’ uniforms and the ship’s instrumentation were different from the rest of the series, but I doubt any of the powers-that-be at Star Trek gave that a second thought. The pilot had sold the series; why not air it as an episode?

Star Trek even incorporated large portions of its rejected first pilot, “The Cage” into the two-part episode “The Menagerie.”

The episode opens with the Enterprise, near the galaxy’s edge, beaming aboard the ship’s recorder from the S.S. Valiant, which disappeared two centuries earlier. Tapes from the recorder reveal that after the Valiant encountered an unknown force, the frantic crew sought information from the ship’s computer about ESP. Later, the captain gave an order to destroy his own ship.

Kirk decides to leave the galaxy because other ships will have to know what’s out there. As the Enterprise approaches an energy barrier, Mitchell takes the hand of Yeoman Smith (Andrea Dromm). A simple act of humanity that contrasts with many of his later actions.

Mitchell holds Smith’s hand.

Mitchell holds Smith’s hand.

As bridge stations burst into flames, Dr. Elizabeth Dehner (Sally Kellerman) and Mitchell are each shocked by blasts of energy. The Enterprise limps to safety.

Dehner, a psychiatrist, appears to be fine; but Mitchell’s eye’s are now glowing silver.

Kirk visits Mitchell in Sickbay. Mitchell is facing away from the door, but knows it’s Kirk who’s come in. He also says he feels better than he ever has before.

We also get the first indication that Mitchell might not have been a true friend to Kirk after all:

Mitchell: “If I hadn’t aimed that little blonde lab technician at you…”

Kirk (surprised): “You what? You planned that?”

Mitchell: “Well, you wanted me to think. I outlined her whole campaign for her.”

Kirk: “I almost married her.”

Mitchell (smiling): “Better be good to me. I’m getting even better ideas here.”

He then shows Kirk what he’s been reading on his bedside monitor. Spinoza. Whom Mitchell describes as “simple; childish almost. I don’t agree with him at all.”

Later in the scene, when Mitchell says “didn’t I say you’d better be good to me?”, there’s an undercurrent of threat.

Speaking of the “little blonde lab technician”, whether by happenstance or as a deliberate nod to that line, a blonde actress, Bebi Besch, was cast as Dr. Carol Marcus, mother of Kirk’s son, David, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in 1982.

Mitchell “shows off” his extra-sensory abilities to Dehner by shutting down his autonomic functions for 22 seconds; speed reading and demonstrating that he remembers everything he’s read.

But he also “plays” with bridge controls. Spock reports that Mitchell smiled each time it happened.

“As if this ship and crew were almost a toy for his amusement.”

Sulu (a physicist rather than the helmsman he’ll later become) reports that Mitchell’s ability is increasing geometrically. “That is like having a penny, doubling it every day. In a month, you’ll be a millionaire.”

Spock says that in less time than that, Mitchell will regard the crew as an annoyance. He recommends that Kirk either strand Mitchell on the uninhabited planet Delta Vega or kill him while he still can. When Kirk asks him to at least act like he’s got a heart, Spock says the Valiant’s captain probably felt the same, but waited too long to make his decision.

“Set course for Delta Vega,” Kirk orders.

Mitchell, who says he’ll be able to do what a god could if he keeps getting stronger, has other plans. Kirk and Spock overpower him and Dehner injects him with a hypo spray.

Mitchell recovers on the transporter platform.

“You fools! Soon I’ll squash you like insects!”

Dr. Mark Piper (Paul Fix) gives him another injection.

On Delta Vega, Mitchell reminds Kirk he’d once taken a poisoned dart meant for the captain.

Mitchell confronts Kirk.

Mitchell confronts Kirk.

“Why be afraid of me now?”

Kirk cites his comments in the transporter room.

“I was drugged then.”

When Kirk points out that Mitchell said he’d have killed a mutant like himself in Kirk’s place, Mitchell says Spock is right and Kirk’s a fool if he can’t see it.

Mitchell tries to get through his cell’s force field barrier and his eyes change back to normal. He says “Jim” in an almost hesitant tone.

Whether that was a script direction or Gary Lockwood’s own decision, the delivery of that single word suggests we’re getting a glimpse of a very human, uncertain, scared, pleading, even apologetic Gary Mitchell.

Mitchell’s eyes become silver again. He stands and says he’ll keep getting stronger.

The contrast between “Jim” and that line is interesting. Almost as if Mitchell were “possessed.” Peter David addressed that idea in his novel Q Squared.

Mitchell subsequently kills Lt. Lee Kelso (Paul Carr) and escapes, taking Dehner— whose eyes have also begun to glow silver— with him.

Kirk pursues them; and when Dehner confronts him, he both appeals to her humanity and urges her to “be a psychiatrist for one minute longer.”

Kirk pleads with Dehner to hold on to her humanity.

Kirk pleads with Dehner to hold on to her humanity.

When she says she and Mitchell will soon be where it would’ve taken mankind millions of years of learning to reach, Kirk asks what Mitchell will learn in getting there.

Kirk argues that as powerful as Mitchell gets, he’ll still have his human frailties.

“What do you see happening to him? What’s your prognosis, Doctor?”

Mitchell appears, creates a grave for Kirk and makes Kirk pray to him.

Mitchell forces Kirk to pray.

Mitchell forces Kirk to pray.

“Do you like what you see?” Kirk asks Dehner. “Absolute power, corrupting absolutely?”

Dehner and Mitchell exchange blasts of energy. Kirk overpowers him, but hesitates about killing him.

Mitchell’s power returns and when he lifts a large slab of granite, Kirk tackles him. They fall into the open grave. Kirk scrambles out and fires his phaser rifle at an outcropping of rock. The rock crushes Mitchell in the grave.

Kirk kills Mitchell.

Kirk kills Mitchell.

A dying Dehner apologizes, saying, “you can’t know what it’s like to be almost a god.”

Kirk records in his log that Dehner and Mitchell gave their lives in the performance of their duties.

“I wanted his service record to end that way. He didn’t ask for what happened to him.”

“I felt for him, too,” Spock says.

In Starlog #124 (Nov. 1987), “Where No Man Has Gone Before” writer Samuel A. Peeples said, “we were intrigued with the corruption of power theme manifesting over the ordinary individual.”

In that same issue, episode director James Goldstone said, “Star Trek’s characters and dramatic conflicts, albeit within science fiction, were really human conflicts.”

He’s right. Kirk is forced to make painful decisions about his best friend.

Lockwood, for his part, said, “if you turn on Star Trek, something of interest will cross your mind that night.”

Prior to its broadcast, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” was shown at “Tricon”, the 1966 World Science Fiction Convention. In The Star Trek Compendium, Allan Asherman described the audience’s reaction: “There was nothing childish about the show; we waited for a kid or a wisecracking robot, but they never arrived.”

Keep in mind that prior to Star Trek, U.S. science fiction programs aimed at adult audiences were anthologies like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. Shows with continuing characters were either aimed at children or had scripts which became sillier over time.

Star Trek had its high and low points. “Where No Man Has Gone Before” was definitely one of the high ones.

Copyright 2015 Patrick Keating.

Random Musings: Remembering Leonard Nimoy

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The autographed photo of Leonard Nimoy I received on Dec. 24, 1984.

The autographed photo of Leonard Nimoy I received on Dec. 24, 1984.

Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015.

Like most people, I was saddened to hear that Leonard Nimoy had died on Feb. 27 at age 83.

I was very much a Star Trek  fan growing up, watching the show every Saturday and Sunday. I didn’t necessarily have a favorite character among the crew, but I suspect the reason I watched In Search Of... in the late 1970s had more to do with the fact that Nimoy hosted the show than because of the subject matter.

In 1975, Nimoy published his autobiography, I Am Not Spock. In 1984, I found it at the library. After reading the book, I wrote him a letter (specifically about an incident he recounted in the book). In response, I received the photo shown above on Christmas Eve that year.

(Apparently, a lot of people were upset by I Am Not Spock, even though on the back cover Nimoy asks the very, um, logical question, “If I am not Spock, who is?” He subsequently published I Am Spock in 1995. Both are good reads.)

Although I saw Nimoy at a convention in 1989, I never had an opportunity to speak with him. I’m sure he would have been an engaging conversationalist.

This past weekend, as a sort of “tribute” to Nimoy, I watched a DVD of one of his performances. No, not a Star Trek episode (that seemed a bit too obvious a choice). Instead, I watched the Columbo episode he guest starred in, “A Stitch in Crime.”

Nimoy was much more than the character of Spock, however “fascinating” that character may have been to so many people. He was also a writer, producer, director and photographer. In recent years, he played William Bell on Fringe and and was the subject of a documentary called Leonard Nimoy’s Boston.

Like I said, I never met Nimoy, but unlike Spock he had a sense of humor (check out his car commercial with Zachary Quinto for one example). If I had met him at a convention or some other such public venue, I might have worked up the courage to ask him to read aloud this brief piece I wrote (I’d like to think he’d have gotten a chuckle (or a groan) out of it):

“Manny, Hugh and Juan are students in a media studies class. Each student has to bring in a guest speaker from the world of TV or films as part of his or her thesis project. A big part. It’s 40 percent of the grade.

“Each contacts Leonard Nimoy and ask him to be their speaker. Nimoy can only accommodate one of them and chooses Manny.

“Why?

“Because, to paraphrase Spock, the needs of Manny outweigh the needs of Hugh, or Juan.”

Nimoy was the only actor who appeared in the first Star Trek pilot, “The Cage”, to be carried over to the TV series. The reason for that series’ resonance in popular culture has been discussed and debated for decades. No doubt the chemistry of the actors had a lot to do with it, but I think Nimoy’s performance played a key role. Had some other actor been cast as Spock, I doubt the series would have had the same impact.

Again, Star Trek was just one part of Nimoy’s life. He made an impact above and beyond the character of Spock and the world is lucky to have had him in it.

Copyright 2015 Patrick Keating.

Random Musings: A Look back at Blake’s 7

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Blakes's 7 logo

Hundreds of years in the future, the totalitarian Earth Federation rules with an iron fist. One small band of criminals— operating from a ship called the Liberator and led by charismatic freedom fighter Roj Blake— fights against Federation tyranny.

That’s the premise of the 1978-1981 BBC TV series Blake’s 7, which ran for four 13-episode seasons.

The series was created by Terry Nation, who’d previously created the Daleks for Doctor Who and the 1975-1977 TV series Survivors.

Although Blake’s 7  had an almost non-existent budget, it had relatable characters and an overall downbeat viewpoint. One reflected in the finale.

I first learned about Blake’s 7  through articles in Starlog magazine in the 1980s, but didn’t see any episodes until 1993 when my local PBS station aired the series up through the first few episodes of the third season. I’ve no idea why they didn’t air the remaining episodes.

In a two-part episode guide in Starlog  #s 147 and 148 (Oct. & Nov. 1989), Blake’s 7  is described as a “52-episode mini-series.” That’s a fair assessment, helped in large part by the fact that Nation wrote the entire first season (he also wrote three episodes each of the second and third seasons, including the respective season premieres and the third season finale).

Blake’s 7  is somewhat serialized. The first episode, “The Way Back”, introduces Blake (Gareth Thomas), smuggler Jenna Stannis (Sally Knyvette) and cowardly thief Vila Restal (Michael Keating); but we don’t meet amoral computer expert Kerr Avon (Paul Darrow) or “gentle giant” Olag Gan (David Jackson) until the second episode, “Spacefall.” And it isn’t until the third episode, “Cygnus Alpha”, that we meet the Liberator’s sentient computer, Zen (voice of Peter Tuddenham). The Liberator is also named (by Jenna) in that episode.

And it’s not until “Time Squad”, the fourth episode, that Cally (Jan Chappell), the last of the original seven (Zen is considered one of the seven), joins the crew.

The original seven: Vila, Cally, Blake, Jenna, Avon, Gan and (in background) Zen.

The original seven: Vila, Cally, Blake, Jenna, Avon, Gan and (in background) Zen.

Also, Blake’s main nemeses, Supreme Commander Servalan (Jacqueline Pearce) and Space Commander Travis (Stephen Grief, season one; Brian Croucher, season two) don’t appear until the sixth episode, “Seek-Locate-Destroy.”

Some time prior to the events of “The Way Back”, Blake had been captured, brainwashed and turned into a “model citizen” who’d denounced his rebellious ways. However, after he witnesses the massacre of unarmed rebels by Federation troopers in that episode, Blake presents a problem. The Federation can’t let him talk and they can’t kill him. Too many people already doubt the sincerity of his “recanting”; his death— even from apparently natural causes— could make him a martyr.

So they trump up charges of child molestation, using doctored “evidence” to “prove” Blake’s guilt. He’s convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on the planet Cygnus Alpha.

Along with Jenna and Avon, Blake escapes the prison ship London and gains possession of the Liberator, a derelict alien vessel that had crossed paths with the London. They subsequently free Vila and Gan. With a powerful alien ship at his command and a (not always willing) crew, Blake sets out to destroy the Federation.

The Liberator.

The Liberator.

Several cast changes occurred over the course of the series. Gan dies in the Nation-penned fifth episode of the second season, while Blake and Jenna both depart in that season’s finale. Jenna would never be seen again, but Blake appears in both the third and fourth season finales. He implies in the final episode that Jenna had died.

In season two, Blake gains possession of a sophisticated computer called Orac (Tuddenham). And in the third season, smuggler and mercenary Del Tarrant (Steven Pacey) and weapons designer Dayna Mellanby (Josette Simon) join the Liberator crew.

Following the destruction of the Liberator in the season three finale and the death of Cally in the season four premiere, the rebels take possession of the ship Scorpio, along with its computer, Slave (Tuddenham again). They also join forces with gunfighter Soolin (Glynis Barber).

The crew doesn’t always get along and they sometimes focus on their own interests. In “Cygnus Alpha”, after Jenna and Avon discover a fortune in jewels on board the Liberator, Avon points out that they could buy their own planet.

He says “what about him?” in reply to Jenna’s “what about Blake?” (who’d teleported down to the planet); and adds that Blake is a crusader who can’t win.

“What do you want to be, rich or dead?” Avon asks.

In “The Web”, Cally commits sabotage while under alien influence. Avon advocates having her locked up. “Or dumped.”

Out an airlock.

Blake and Avon don’t always get along.

Blake and Avon don’t always get along.

Avon often sparred with Blake, including this exchange in the episode “Breakdown.”

Avon: “Blake, in the unlikely event that we survive this-”

Blake: “Yes?”

Avon: “I’m finished. Staying with you requires a degree of stupidity of which I no longer feel capable.”

Blake: “Now you’re just being modest.”

In “Pressure Point”, Avon argues against an attack on a Federation facility, but tells Blake that “of course” he’s coming along. A) Blake needs him; B) Avon relishes the challenge and C) if Blake succeeds, he’ll be needed on Earth. Avon will get the Liberator.

In the end, Avon gets his wish. After Blake’s disappearance, Avon becomes leader of the rebels. In an interview in Starlog, Darrow joked that he’d advocated changing the show’s name to Avon’s Angels.

“Avon’s Angels”: The final seven, Dayna, Tarrant, Avon, Vila and Soolin (along with the computers Orac and Slave).

“Avon’s Angels”: The final seven, Dayna, Tarrant, Avon, Vila and Soolin (along with the computers Orac and Slave).

In “Trial”, which follows Gan’s death, Avon points out that the others were almost ready to leave Blake; and that one more death will do it.

“Then you’d better be very careful,” Blake says. “It would be ironic if it were yours.”

Despite their sparring, Blake tells Avon in the second season finale, “Star One”, “I have always trusted you. From the very beginning.”

The final episode, “Blake”, must have come as a shock to viewers. It kept people talking for years.

Avon has learned that Blake is operating as a bounty hunter on a particular planet. The rebels go there and Tarrant, separated from the rest, becomes convinced that Blake has sold them out. In truth, Blake is playing a dangerous game to find people he can trust to help him fight the Federation.

Avon doesn’t give Blake a chance to explain his apparent betrayal and kills him. Moments later, a Federation officer reveals herself and the rebels are gunned down (in slow motion). Avon stands alone.

He steps over Blake’s body as Federation troopers surround him. He raises his gun and smiles.

Avon’s last(?) stand.

Avon’s last(?) stand.

As the credits roll, we hear a single shot, followed by a volley of answering fire.

Over the years, there have been theories and speculations regarding whether any of the rebels survived. Even attempts— including one by Paul Darrow— to revive the series. Even Nation (who wasn’t entirely happy about the ending and didn’t like some of the directions in which subsequent writers took the show) opined in Starlog  #106 (May 1986) that “there’s a way of reviving them, and with some literary skill, we can get them back.”

The only rebel who is unmistakably dead is Blake. In Starlog  #114 (Jan. 1987), Gareth Thomas said he had a clause written into his contract that boiled down to “Blake will be shown dead.” That’s why, unlike everyone else, Blake’s body is bloodied.

According to an article in the British newspaper The Guardian in the summer of 2012, the Syfy Channel ordered a pilot episode of a Blake’s 7  reboot. As far as I can tell, however, nothing ever came of it.

On the other hand, audio adventures, set during the events of the series (and featuring members of the cast), are available through Big Finish at http://www.bigfinish.com/ranges/v/blake-s-7

According to Paul Darrow, the series lives on in spirit. In an interview someone posted on YouTube, he spoke of the movie Serenity and the TV series that inspired it, Firefly.

“I think that’s your Blake’s 7  of today,” he said.

There are superficial similarities between Blake’s 7  and Firefly/Serenity. Both crews operate outside the law and oppose a central government.

And, just as Avon wanted the Liberator, Jayne Cobb wanted Serenity for his own. However, Avon was a genius; Jayne— not so much.

Blake’s 7  is not on DVD in the U.S., but if you have a region 2 or region-free DVD player (The U.S. is region 1), you can watch the DVDs released in Britain.

Again, while it doesn’t have big budget special effects, Blake’s 7— especially the first two seasons— does offer an engaging story of a band of rebels fighting against the odds.

Copyright 2015 Patrick Keating.

Random Musings: Returning to Oz; celebrating Jack Benny

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Return to Oz

What comes to mind when you hear the name “Dorothy”? I suspect that most people would reply, “The Wizard of Oz.” Probably more because of familiarity with the 1939 Judy Garland-led movie, which for decades was shown on TV every spring, than because of the books.

Likewise, I suspect many people are also familiar with the key points of the story, whether or not they’ve seen the film.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if few people are aware of the 1985 film Return to Oz.

Which is too bad, because it’s a good movie. I wish my female cousins had been able to see it during their formative years, because the Dorothy Gale (Fairuza Balk) of that movie was a smart, resourceful, active participant in the action.

Unlike Garland’s Dorothy, who was, for all intents and purposes, a damsel in distress, Balk’s Dorothy often takes the initiative. Imprisoned by Princess Mombi (Jean Marsh) with Tik-Tok, the mechanical man who constitutes the entire Royal Army of Oz, Jack Pumpkinhead and Billina the chicken, it’s Dorothy who concocts a plan to escape.

Intelligent and resourceful, this incarnation of Dorothy Gale is no damsel in distress.

Intelligent and resourceful, this incarnation of Dorothy Gale is no damsel in distress.

Balk, who was 9-years-old when Return to Oz was made, was also closer in age to the Dorothy of the books than Garland (16 when she made her film).

Return to Oz, which is based on the books The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz, isn’t a sequel to the 1939 film. Still, there are elements from that film, such as the ruby slippers and beings in Oz having analogues back in Kansas. It’s not a sequel because once she’s back in Oz, Dorothy finds her old house. At the end of the Garland movie Dorothy wakes up in her bed, the house still very much in Kansas.

Return to Oz opens in October 1899, six months after the tornado. Aunt Em (Piper Laurie) and Uncle Henry (Matt Clark) are concerned about Dorothy, who keeps talking about this Oz place and who hasn’t slept through the night since the tornado. Aunt Em takes her to a Dr. Worley (Nicol Williamson), who claims that the application of electricity will “cure” Dorothy of these “bad waking dreams.”

Like Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, Dr. Worley doesn’t believe Dorothy’s claims about Oz, even when she shows him a key she says was sent to her on a shooting star (Aunt Em had dismissed it— with barely a glance— as having belonged to the old house).

After Aunt Em leaves Dorothy at the “hospital”, Nurse Wilson (Marsh) has her strapped to a gurney and taken into the operating theater. When a lightning strike cuts the power, Worley and Wilson leave the room and another girl (Emma Ridley) frees Dorothy from her restraints. Turns out I guessed correctly about the girl’s identity.

Despite being cooperative (if a bit curious) Dorothy is tied down.

Despite being cooperative (if a bit curious), Dorothy is tied down.

The two flee the grounds, but are caught in a flash flood. Awakening the next morning, Dorothy finds herself in a crate, in what’s little more than a pond, accompanied by Billina, a chicken from the farm. How Billina got there, given that the farm is many miles away, isn’t explained. Because Billina is now talking, Dorothy deduces that they’re in Oz.

Before long, Dorothy discovers the old house; the ruins of the Yellow Brick Road and the ruins of the Emerald City, where several creatures— including the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion— have been turned to stone. Soon after, she encounters Mombi. Learning that the Nome King (Williamson) conquered the Emerald City and took the Scarecrow captive, Dorothy and company head in that direction after they escape from Mombi. Their plan: rescue the scarecrow.

How did Oz get in such a sorry state? Dorothy herself inadvertently caused it to happen.

As to the key, it turns out the Scarecrow sent it to Dorothy, confident she’d locate Tik-Tok, who was in a room accessed by said key. Tik-Tok said he was instructed to wait there for her.

Dorothy rises to the occasion when challenged by the Nome King. She also refuses a chance to go home, because it would have left her friends in dire straits.

Dorothy confronts the Nome king.

Dorothy confronts the Nome king.

Years ago, Peter David had a lot of positive things to say about the film in his column in Comics Buyer’s Guide. One thing he pointed out was that unlike the revelation that the Wicked Witch of the West is vulnerable to water (which was never set up), the cause of the Nome King’s defeat is set up. A subtle set-up, in my opinion, but it’s there. Even so, as in the 1939 film, Dorothy and company got lucky. In neither film did our heroes know that their adversary had an Achilles’ heel, much less what it was.

Another thing David pointed out (which he admitted he hadn’t thought of until one of his daughters mentioned it) is the very good question of why, in The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy didn’t turn the hourglass over again to give herself more time. Had there been such an hourglass scene in Return to Oz, I’m confident the Dorothy of that film would have thought of it.

In fairness to Garland’s Dorothy, the 1939 film and the 1985 film were different types of movies made in different eras with different cultural attitudes regarding the capabilities of girls and young women.

In the end, Dorothy returns home (because she knows she’s needed on the farm, not because she’d been wishing to get home since she arrived); and although she still has no proof Oz exists, much less that she was ever there, she’s a much happier individual than the melancholy girl she was at the start of the film.

Jack Pumpkinhead, the Scarecrow, Dorothy, the Gump and Tik-Tok.

Jack Pumpkinhead, the Scarecrow, Dorothy, the Gump and Tik-Tok.

According to David’s column, Return to Oz was labeled as too scary for children by some critics. Don’t know if I’d agree with their argument. Yes, there are some scenes that a child might find scary; but, for a little kid, The Wizard of Oz wasn’t all songs and dances, either.

In short, this is a film worth seeing. See it if you’re an Oz fan; or if you’re a fan of Will Vinton’s Claymation™ and/or animatronics; or if you like films with smart, resourceful female protagonists.

Celebrating Jack Benny

Jack Benny

Today is February 14 and that means, of course—

It’s Jack Benny’s birthday.

I wrote in-depth about Jack Benny last year. You can read the full entry here:

https://rickkeatingsrandommusings.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/random-musings-celebrating-jack-benny/

In brief: Born Benjamin Kubelsky, Jack Benny (Feb. 14, 1894- Dec. 26, 1974) was one of the all-time funniest comedians, with successful radio (1932-1955) and TV (1950-1965) series. In both series, he often made himself the brunt of the jokes, with his cast getting laughs at his expense. Often he would interrupt a dig at himself with “Now cut that out.” or “Wait a minute! Wait a minute!! Wait a minute!!!”

Benny’s first words on radio on The Ed Sullivan show, March 19, 1932, were “ladies and gentlemen, this is Jack Benny talking. There will now be a short pause while you say, ‘who cares?’”

While a generous man in real life, Benny’s on-air persona was that of a skinflint. I recounted various examples last year. Here’s another one: In the season-opening Sept. 11, 1949 radio episode— Benny’s first on CBS— Benny was absent for most of the show, finally saying his first lines 22 minutes into the half-hour program. His line, “this is where I get off, driver”, brought the house down.

Turns out Jack had been on a free tour bus provided by the chamber of commerce and he’d asked to get off when the bus reached the CBS studios.

Radio historian Anthony Tollin wrote in the program booklet accompanying the Legends of Radio: The Ultimate Jack Benny Collection from Radio Spirits that CBS Chairman William Paley called Benny to ask how he’d had the guts to let most of the episode go by without him. In the autobiography/biography Sunday Nights at Seven (begun by Jack and finished by his daughter, Joan, after his death; pages 239-241), Benny said he did the same thing for the debut episode of the 1951-52 TV season, and that was the reason for Paley’s call. But whenever Paley made that call, Benny’s entrance was comedy gold. And as he pointed out, he was still “there”, because other members of his cast were talking about him.

So ignore those who advocate that Feb. 14 should commemorate Val someone or other. The true significance of the day is that it’s Jack Benny’s birthday.

Copyright 2015 Patrick Keating

Random Musings: A look back at Firestorm the Nuclear Man

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Firestorm #1

One of the new heroes of the 1978 “DC Explosion” (and soon to be a victim of the subsequent “DC Implosion” which saw several of that year’s new titles canceled) was Firestorm. Created by Gerry Conway and Al Milgrom, Firestorm was unusual in that he was a fusion of teenager Ronnie Raymond and professor Martin Stein, a nuclear physicist. Firestorm only ran for five issues (I misremembered it as six in my recent blog entry about The Flash), but the character(s) lived on, appearing as a back-up feature in issues of The Flash and starting in 1982, appeared in his own magazine again, the 100 issue Fury of Firestorm (the “fury of” was dropped with issue #50).

Firestorm came into being when a radical dynamited the Hudson Nuclear Plant where Stein worked, catching both the unconscious Stein and Ronnie in the explosion. Because Ronnie was awake at the time, his personality was in charge. Stein could only offer advice and contribute his scientific knowledge.

Ronnie and Professor Stein merge into Firestorm.

Ronnie and Professor Stein merge into Firestorm.

Firestorm is born

A subsequent series ran for 35 issues, beginning in 2004, with a teenager named Jason Rusch merging with various people (whoever happened to be near at the time), including, briefly, Ronnie Raymond.

The creators of The Flash must be fans, because Firestorm is appearing in that show. As depicted in The Flash, Firestorm is again a fusion of Ronnie Raymond (Robbie Amell) and Martin Stein (Victor Garber). Though we’ve also met Jason Rusch (Luc Roderique), depicted as a student of Stein’s.

In The Flash, Ronnie worked as a structural engineer at S.T.A.R. Labs and was believed killed in the accelerator explosion that gave Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) his abilities

As I understand it, we’ll learn more about the merging of Ronnie and Professor Stein in tonight’s episode of The Flash. Seems Stein happened to be outside the lab (for whatever reason) when the accelerator exploded.

But back to the comics version of Firestorm. How did Ronnie come to be at the Hudson Nuclear Power Plant that fateful day? He was a new transfer student trying to impress a girl named Doreen Day. He wanted to show her that he was more than just a dumb jock. So he joined an environmental group he’d seen on TV.

Unfortunately, the group was not concerned about the potential dangers of nuclear power, as they’d claimed. They just wanted to blow up the plant for the sake of blowing it up. When Ronnie tried to stop them, he was left there to die (they’d let him join to use him as a patsy).

As an interesting aside to Firestorm’s origins, a “publishorial” in Teen Titans #53 (cover dated Feb. 1978, one month before the debut of Firestorm) talked about this new character. Professor Stein’s first name was given as Charles. A typo? Or was his name changed at the last moment?

Also, in the letter column of Firestorm #2, both the letter writer and the editor refer to Firestorm’s younger persona as Robby Raymond.

As himself, Ronnie had to contend with the ordinary challenges of high school, including his relationship with Doreen, his adversary, Cliff Carmichael, his grades, being on the basketball team and, of course, juggling all that with being a superhero.

In the comics, Professor Stein not only didn’t have any control over the Firestorm persona, he also didn’t remember being Firestorm when he and Ronnie would fission into their separate selves. Those unexplained blackouts led to his becoming an alcoholic and got him into trouble, because he couldn’t explain his absences from work. In one story, published when Firestorm was appearing as a back-up feature in other books, some government official or other demanded to know where Stein went and who he met. Of course, Stein had no clue.

At some point prior to the start of Fury of Firestorm Ronnie told Professor Stein the full truth. I don’t think I have that particular story, so I don’t know all the details. Even though he still retained no conscious memory of Firestorm’s activities, he was more than willing to continue being part of Firestorm.

As Firestorm Ronnie and Professor Stein dealt with such foes as Multiplex (AKA Danton Black, a former assistant of Stein’s caught in the same explosion that created Firestorm), who can fission himself into duplicates; the Hyena (AKA Doreen Day’s older sister, Summer) and Killer Frost (AKA Crystal Frost), a former student and (in her mind) rejected lover of Martin Stein’s.

These adversaries were all introduced in the original five issue run and would made recurring appearances in Fury of Firestorm. Regarding Killer Frost, a woman named Louise Lincoln (a colleague of Crystal Frost) subsequently became the second Killer Frost.

These were the only incarnations of Killer Frost during the runs of Firestorm I’m discussing, but in 2013, in the 19th issue of Fury of Firestorm the Nuclear Men, a woman named Caitlin Snow assumed that identity. I’m not familiar with her storyline in the comics and never read that series. It was part of the “New 52” at DC Comics and ran for 20-issues.

Caitlin Snow, of course, is one of the main characters in The Flash. And Caitlin (Danielle Panabaker) was engaged to Ronnie Raymond before the accelerator explosion. If she becomes Killer Frost at some point in the future, there would still be a direct connection between Killer Frost and one of Firestorm’s identities.

Before?

Before?

and after?

and after?

Danton Black also appeared in The Flash.

During the run of Fury of Firestorm, Ronnie graduated from high school and went on to college in Pittsburgh (Firestorm had previously been based in New York). Professor Stein also got a job in that city, which is good, because when Firestorm separates back into Ronnie and the Professor, they appear together; they’re not sent back to wherever they had been when they merged (they don’t have to be together to do that).

Professor Stein was later diagnosed with a brain tumor and wanted to make a difference in the time he had left. He and Ronnie decided that Firestorm would demand both the U.S. and the Soviet Union get rid of their nuclear weapons.

Naturally, both countries objected and the Russians forced a metahuman named Mikhail Arkadin, known as Pozhar, to battle Firestorm. Mikhail sympathized with what Firestorm is doing, however, and joined with him.

When the president ordered a bomb dropped on Firestorm and Pozhar, the resulting explosion resulted in Ronnie and Mikhail merging to form a new incarnation of Firestorm.

What about Firestorm’s mission to make the U.S. and Soviet Union give up their nukes? Well, after both the nuking and subsequent conventional attack failed to stop Firestorm, the U.S. commander on site relayed to Firestorm that if he left the missiles alone, not only would the president grant Firestorm amnesty, but pledge to begin serious negotiations with the Russians in three years towards a complete disarmament.

Firestorm agreed, but this incarnation of not only didn’t fully understand what was going on, he’s also didn’t have Ronnie personality. Or Mikhail’s, for that matter. The Firestorm persona was someone else entirely. Neither Ronnie nor Mikhail were charge of his actions. Instead, both were in the “advisory” position that Professor Stein had been in.

The offer to end the standoff is interesting, both in real world terms and within the fictional DC Universe. By the late 1980s, superhero comics, by and large, tried to have at least one metaphorical foot in the real world. Thus, a superhero couldn’t just destroy all the nukes the U.S. and Soviets had, because getting rid of them in reality wouldn’t be that simple.

In real world terms, the president (Reagan in 1987, when this storyline was published) would be out of office by 1990. Of course a president can pledge this, that or the other will happen after he leaves office. If it doesn’t, his successor has to deal with it.

By this time, John Ostrander had taken over the writing of Firestorm. That Ronnie Raymond, a character created in 1978, happened to have the same first name as the president in 1987 was mere coincidence. I doubt it was coincidence that Ostrander gave the Russian half of Firestorm’s new matrix the first name of Mikhail. As in Gorbachev. I met Ostrander at the Motor City Comic Con once and probably asked him at the time. If I did, I don’t recall what he said.

At first, neither Ronnie nor Mikhail had any control over when or where Firestorm would manifest. Instead it happened spontaneously. Later, through the auspices of Mikhail’s telepathic niece, they were able to communicate with each other telepathically and either could form Firestorm if the other consented (i.e. if it were safe to do so).

Eventually, Ronnie and Mikhail learned that Professor Stein was still alive, cured of his tumor and in an amnesiac state. It was his amnesiac mind that acted as the template for the Firestorm persona.

Another difference in this incarnation is that when Firestorm separated into Ronnie and Mikhail, they returned to wherever they’d been, rather than appear together as Ronnie and Stein had done. Which made things less awkward for Mikhail, but more awkward for Ronnie when they once fission and remain together, leaving Ronnie trapped behind the Iron Curtain.

But more changes were coming Firestorm’s way. In Firestorm #84, Ronnie told the story of Firestorm’s origin to a Russian named Gregori Eilovotich Rasputin. Rasputin responded with laughter, saying that unless there were more going on than Ronnie knew at the time, the explosion would have killed both Ronnie and Professor Stein.

That’s the cliffhanger end of the issue and in the next issue, Ronnie relived the moment of Firestorm’s “birth” second by second. In doing so, he realized that something or someone else was there. Rasputin speculated that the entity was the fire elemental— who’d appeared in past ages as both Prometheus and Surtur (among others) and whose intended target for merging had been Martin Stein.

“You are a child of your media, of the American idolatry of the metahuman,” Rasputin told Ronnie. “You made what you became into a superhero because that was the only way you could explain these ‘powers’ you were given.”

During this time, The Soviets had created a clone of Firestorm called Svarozhich, who had all the destructiveness of Surtur and none of the helpfulness of Prometheus. Rasputin told Ronnie and Mikhail that they could only defeat him by surrendering to the fire elemental. They agreed.

Svarozhich agreed as well, since he and Firestorm were the same being, after all.

That led to the creation of yet another incarnation of Firestorm, one who was a fire elemental. This incarnation would run through the remainder of the series. Ronnie and Mikhail were submerged within him and Stein was not part of the matrix.

Firestorm as a fire elemental.

Firestorm as a fire elemental.

The house ads about Firestorm at the time read “only the name is the same” and “don’t assume he’s mankind’s friend.”

In Firestorm #100, Firestorm makes one final change. He willingly releases Ronnie and Mikhail from the matrix and in an explosion outside the Earth’s atmosphere, the fire elemental merges with Martin Stein. This incarnation fixed the sun, but found himself in another universe.

In the letter column of that final issue, Ostrander wrote that he reluctantly agreed with the feeling that it was better to cancel the book at that point, while the character had a strong following, than to let the audience dribble away.

Was canceling the book at that time the right decision? Maybe. Maybe not. For myself, I could never quite get into the later versions of the character. I only read the Jason Rusch series for 16 issues and had never even heard of the “New 52” series before beginning work on this blog entry. It’s good to know that Firestorm will be a part of The Flash, though. I’m looking forward to seeing in what ways he’ll be the same as the original incarnation and in what ways he’ll be different.

Copyright 2015 Patrick Keating.

Random Musings: Assessing Arrow’s third season to date

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Arrow season 3 promo poster
Some SPOILERS follow:

Earlier this season, Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) was murdered by a then-unknown assailant and the question of who killed her has been a running subplot this fall. We now know (more on that in a bit), but it’s not surprising that Sara died.

Sara Lance and Oliver Queen as the Canary and the Arrow

Sara Lance and Oliver Queen as the Canary and the Arrow

Nothing against the character, but in the comics (Dinah) Laurel Lance is the Black Canary. Laurel (Katie Cassidy) can’t well be Black Canarying if her sister’s already got the job. So either the Arrow producers deviate from established history by having Sara be Black Canary permanently, or Sara either retires or dies so Laurel can step into the role.

Laurel being motivated by revenge has more of an impact than if Sara simply retired.

“My name is Inigo Mont— I mean Laurel Lance. You killed my sister. Prepare to die.”

Laurel Lance as the Black Canary

Laurel Lance as the Black Canary

But here’s where any plans of revenge get tricky. As we recently learned, Thea Queen (Willa Holland) killed Sara.

A brainwashed Thea, it turns out. Brainwashed by her biological father, Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), who recorded the killing.

Why did he do this? To force Oliver to challenge Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable) to single combat (and, indirectly, to protect Malcolm from the League of Assassins, who have a beef with him). If Oliver were to fail to challenge Ra’s and/or to accuse Malcolm, Malcolm would release the video of Thea killing Sara and the League would turn its attention to her for retribution. Maybe Oliver could convince them his sister was brainwashed, maybe not.

Of course Malcolm’s plans have been scuttled, given that Oliver was killed fighting Ra’s. He took the blame for Sara’s death, rather than turning over Thea (which he’d never do) or Malcolm, which would amount to the same thing.

Thea, for her part, remembers nothing of her actions; She’s like Raymond Shaw from The Manchurian Candidate in that respect. She doesn’t even recall that she was in the country the day of Sara’s death.

As for Laurel, who has been training with boxer Ted “Wildcat” Grant (J. R. Ramirez), it’s unlikely that she’d hunt Thea down, even if she saw the video. She’d rightly conclude that— the evidence aside— Thea is an improbable murder suspect. She’d also find it hard to believe that Oliver could be responsible. Will she turn her attention to Malcolm Merlyn, whether or not the others tell her of his involvement, just on a matter of principle? Or will she go after the League of Assassins, in the belief that they manipulated Thea in some way?

As for Oliver, to quote Dr. McCoy, he’d dead, Jim. Guess they’ll have to re-name the show.

Ra's al Ghul stabs Oliver Queen.

Ra’s al Ghul stabs Oliver Queen.

Or maybe not. Either it will turn out that Oliver was critically injured, but not killed, in the stabbing by Ra’s and subsequent push over a cliff in last month’s mid season finale “The Climb”; or he will be revived in one of the staples of the comics: the Lazarus Pit.

The existence of the Lazarus Pit has already been implied by Ra’s statement to Oliver that the last time someone challenged him to single combat was 67 years earlier. Ra’s appears to be in his 40s.

Arrow has been more or less grounded in reality, so presumably the Lazarus Pit, if introduced, will be explained by scientific rather than supernatural means.

In the comics, the Lazarus Pit not only rejuvenates Ra’s al Ghul from time to time, it also causes periods of insanity. If they keep that aspect of it for Arrow, it’ll be interesting to see how a revived Oliver is affected. If he appears deranged upon his return to Starling City, Laurel might well believe he did kill Sara.

The primary exception to Arrow being set more or less in the real world is that the metahumans of The Flash exist in the same fictional universe, but their existence is explained by scientific means: the result of a particle accelerator explosion.

Arrow has a number of direct and indirect connections to Batman, which is ironic given that the character of Green Arrow was originally considered a second-rate Batman. He even had an Arrowcar and an Arrowcave. But in the early 1970s, he was teamed with Green Lantern for a series of stories that addressed various social concerns (the “relevancy period.”). He also lost his fortune (just as Oliver has in Arrow) and became fiercely political, fighting on behalf of the common man.

In another irony, characters in the show refer to Oliver’s base below the Verdant night club as “The Arrowcave.”

“When did we start charging admission to the Arrowcave?” Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) asks, to Oliver’s annoyance, in the two part crossover with The Flash.

Batman-related references include the characters of Ra’s al Ghul, Floyd Lawton AKA Deadshot (Michael Rowe) and Helena Bertinelli AKA the Huntress (Jessica De Gouw).

This season, in the flashbacks to Oliver’s time in Hong Kong, we learn that he met Tatsu Yamashiro (Rila Fukushima), known in the comics as Katana, one of the founding members of The Outsiders in Batman and the Outsiders. Tatsu’s husband, Maseo (Karl Yune) was Oliver’s “handler” in Hong Kong. In the present day, he’s become a member of the League of Assassins.

Of course Arrow is peppered with other DC Comics characters and references, many depicted in different ways than in their original comics incarnations. As I said last year, in the comics Slade Wilson was an American soldier who later became the mercenary and assassin known as the Terminator when he gained enhanced reflexes and increased brain power. In Arrow, Wilson (Manu Bennett) was an Australian secret agent who helped Oliver survive on the island of Lian Yu.

Felicity Smoak

Felicity Smoak

In Arrow, Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) is a young woman in her 20s, a member of Oliver’s team and an employee of Queen Consolidated (and later Palmer Technologies). But in the comics, she was introduced in Fury of Firestorm #23 as a business owner in her 30s or 40s who had a run-in with Firestorm. She also later, ironically, became the stepmother of Ronnie Raymond, the primary identity of Firestorm’s composite persona.

Firestorm and Felicity Smoak

Another DC Comics character to appear in Arrow is Ray Palmer AKA the Atom. Palmer (Brandon Routh) has bought out Queen Consolidated. He also has plans to protect the city, using a suit he called A.T.O.M. (Advanced Technology Operating Mechanism). He told his plan to Felicity, who (unknown to Ray, of course) was already a part of Oliver’s team.

“Why does this keep happening to me?” she muttered.

It’s possible that just as Grant Gustin’s appearance on Arrow last season was something of a backdoor pilot for The Flash, the same might hold true about a spin off series focusing on The Atom. Time will tell. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying Brandon Routh’s performance in Arrow.

In the comics, Green Arrow’s sidekick, Roy Harper, went by the name Speedy (and later became Arsenal). In Arrow, Thea’s nickname is Speedy and Oliver once suggested “Arsenal” as Roy’s sobriquet.

As to Thea, in the course of time, she’ll probably learn the truth about Malcolm Merlyn (and maybe about her own actions). When and if that happens, I suspect she’ll use her skills and training on behalf of the people of Starling, like Oliver and company. It’s not likely she’d use her well-known nickname of Speedy. Maybe in Arrow, Thea will use the name Arrowette, another of the archery-themed heroes in the comics.

Among the major unanswered questions is why is Amanda Waller (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) still alive? As we learned from last season’s finale, she somehow learned Oliver Queen was alive and on the island of Lian Yu during the five years he was presumed lost at sea prior to the start of the series. Rather than return him home, she brought him to Hong Kong and forced forcing him to work for her. Among other things, it turns out that Waller’s, um, encouragement, led to Oliver becoming adept at torture.

But when Oliver is rescued in the first episode of the series, it’s from Lian Yu, which means that Waller returned him to the island at some point during that five year period. It’s improbable that Oliver returned to the island of his own free will; Waller must have dumped him there when she was done with him. So, given that Oliver has killed in the past— and given that Waller was willing to sacrifice the people of Starling city last year to stop Slade Wilson’s mirakuru-affected army, why is she still breathing? Hopefully, we’ll get a credible explanation for her continued existence.

One possible answer that might apply now, given that the Arrow is a well-established figure in Starling City, is that Waller has made it clear to Oliver (off screen) that his secret becomes public if anything happens to her. Fair enough, but Oliver could have gone after her when he first started his campaign, before most people knew a vigilante had started operating in the city.

Arrow remains an excellent series. It returns tonight at 8 p.m. on the CW with new episodes.

Copyright 2015 Patrick Keating.