‘Eye of the Beholder’ (Film)

‘EYE OF THE BEHOLDER’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

Operation Metaphysic with Soloman, Egan and Saul

Here it’s where it ends for ‘The Stranger’ series altogether!

Like I said in a previous review, ‘The Stranger’ series has changed significantly from being a ‘Doctor Who’ type of series without the Doctor before becoming something completely different half-way through. The dark and gritty tone of the last three episodes on video confirms that as I watch them.

‘Eye of the Beholder’ is the final episode of ‘The Stranger’ series. Well, technically it’s almost last but I’ll explain why when we get to ‘Eye of the Storm’ next. But this is definitely where it ends for ‘The Stranger’ series on video and it ends on a very dramatic conclusion with an open-ended cliff-hanger.

I’m not sure what the reason was for ‘The Stranger’ series to end when it did back in 1995. Had there been more episodes, it could have had a lasting legacy. Mind you, these episodes did take a while to make and Bill Baggs was doing other BBV projects at the time like the ‘P.R.O.B.E.’ series and ‘Cyberon’.

I wouldn’t class ‘The Stranger’ series as being great considering the tone it went for in being serious eventually becoming gritty and dark towards the end. I also wouldn’t have gone for the Stranger turning out to be a leader of some terrorist group from alternative dimension as Nick Briggs wrote it.

I preferred it when the Stranger seemed to be like the Doctor in the first three ‘Stranger’ episodes and he had his companion Nicola Bryant as Miss Brown. I miss that. But then of course, ‘The Stranger’ needs to establish its own identity as it’s certainly a unique one compared to ‘Doctor Who’.

But let’s talk about how ‘The Stranger’ series ends here in ‘Eye of the Beholder’. The episode follows on directly from ‘Breach of the Peace’ where Colin Baker as Soloman was forced to enter the portal by David Troughton as Egan and John Wadmore as Saul to head back home in the Dimensional Web.

Once again, this episode is by Nicholas Briggs and is produced and directed by Bill Baggs. Interestingly, this episode is the longest to be featured in ‘The Stranger’ series. ‘Eye of the Beholder’ is 85 minutes long. That’s different compared to ‘Summoned By Shadows’ as that was 34 minutes long.

It’s amazing how Bill Baggs determines the length of these episodes from being shorter at the beginning to being longer at the end. But then I suppose ‘Eye of the Beholder’ has to be longer considering it’s the last episode and it ties a lot of loose ends to certain characters in the series here.

Anyway, Soloman, Egan and Saul find themselves back on Earth when the path into the Dimensional Web gets blocked. Egan is separated from Soloman and Saul and he gets shot in the leg by a woman. Soon, our three main leads come across the Metaphysic research project that’s highly guarded here.

The project is conducted inside a cottage where there are three people including Hunter, Meta and Sheila. These characters’ names are aliases/codenames by the way. Soon, Egan finds himself falling in love with Meta. The world becomes unstable as a result of tampering with the Dimensional Web.

It’s interesting how ‘The Stranger’ series ends with Colin Baker, David Troughton and John Wadmore as the main stars of the show. It started with it being Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant. Here Colin’s character has to put up with two unsavoury characters from his past making his life a very living hell.

I did like the remote atmosphere of this final episode of ‘The Stranger’ series as most of it is set inside a cottage. Army soldiers get called in for action sequences at the episode’s end and it adds to epic tone that seems suited for an extraordinary sci-fi series created by some certain ‘Doctor Who’ fan.

Once again, Colin Baker delivers the goods as Soloman/the Stranger in this episode. It’s ironic though as most of the episode isn’t about him. Soloman is merely an observer and he doesn’t want to be around Egan and Saul. He gets suspicious of Egan, suspecting they’ve been sent on another mission.

He also discovers in his own way what’s been going on with the Metaphysic project and how the woman Meta is involved. I like it when Soloman challenges Egan’s views on killing people, especially when he’s falling in love with Meta. Sometimes Soloman can be snarky towards Egan and Saul here.

The episode also challenges Soloman’s reformed views on not killing people. Soloman insists that he’s renounced his former Preceptor training, but the episode comes to a conclusion where he might actually end up killing someone to save the universe and fulfil a mission. But did he truly do it?

David Troughton delivers a superb performance as Egan in the episode. Egan’s character is very different to the one we’ve seen in ‘The Terror Game’ and ‘Breach of the Peace’. In this episode, Egan gets shot by the woman called Sheila. He’s taken upstairs to a bedroom so he can heal and recover.

It turns out Soloman’s people can heal quickly as Egan demonstrates to Meta. And of course, Egan falls in love with Meta in the episode. It’s interesting how Egan does fall in love with Meta in the episode, especially when Meta sees his face during an experiment she partakes in with Hunter here.

Egan and Meta also have sex together in the episode, hence the 15 rating for the episode on the DVD. This whole business of Egan and Meta falling in love with each other does feel rather forced, especially when they barely know each other. I doubt falling love quickly barely happens in real life.

John Wadmore gets to have his character Saul showcased in this episode. With Egan out of action and going through a change in terms of character, Saul gets to demonstrate how vile and cunning he can be. He mistreats Soloman once they arrive back on Earth and he uses his police ID to advantage.

Saul does sneak in at night to overhear what Hunter, Sheila and Major Devlin are saying in conversation with each other in the cottage. He gets caught when file browsing in the Metaphysic project’s concept room by Hunter and he gets cocky before Sheila points a gun at him and it’s serious.

Later on, Saul goes with Sheila to get some help from the village before their car stops and they’re attacked by reanimated corpses of two army soldiers. Saul manages to hold them off for a while and eventually he just…heads back into the portal once it’s opened. He didn’t stay long at the tale’s end.

Geoffrey Beevers stars as Hunter in the episode. Geoffrey Beevers played the Master in the ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘The Keeper of Traken’ with Tom Baker and he was also the husband of Caroline John. I enjoyed Geoffrey Beevers in this who seems a mild-mannered scientist compared to the evil Master.

Bernadette Gepheart stars as Meta in the episode. Bernadette has been in another BBV production playing Robin Archer in ‘The Airzone Solution’. She’s clearly a beautiful woman in this. It’s very intriguing how Meta happens to have psychic abilities and how she falls in love with Egan in this tale.

Alison Troughton stars as Sheila in the episode. According to IMDb, Alison is the wife of David Troughton. I’m glad I checked that out. 😀 Sheila is a pretty tough person who shoots Egan in the leg and steals something from him. It transpires Sheila has some charge of the Metaphysic project here.

The episode also features Patricia Merrick as Major Devlin and Nicholas Briggs as a soldier who gets killed and is brought back to life as an animated corpse by some energy from the Dimensional Web. It’s interesting how the army was involved in the episode. It almost made a potential U.N.I.T. tale. 😀

Holly King does get credited as Rose O’Neil in ‘Eye of the Beholder’ apparently, but she doesn’t actually appear in this. What we see of Rose O’Neil is in the reused ending and flashbacks from ‘Breach of the Peace’. I don’t claim that a real appearance of Rose O’Neil. I was disappointed by this.

I was also disappointed Soloman didn’t get to be reunited with Rose at the end of ‘The Stranger’ series. In fact, ‘Eye of the Beholder’ ends open-ended with Soloman opening fire on Meta when he’s about to shoot here and it goes black before the end credits roll up. I couldn’t help be disappointed.

What is it about sci-fi shows like ‘Soldiers of Love’ and ‘The Stranger’ that end on unsatisfying cliff-hangers? I want to know what happened to Soloman, Egan and Meta. Did Meta really get killed? Did Soloman ever reunite with Rose? Was it all a bad dream and the Stranger reunited with Miss Brown?

The DVD special features are as follows. There’s an on-set cast interview during the making of ‘Eye of the Beholder’ with David Troughton and John Wadmore. There are also outtakes of the story. I would’ve liked to have seen an in-depth documentary on the making of ‘The Stranger’ series overall.

‘Eye of the Beholder’ has been an epic conclusion to ‘The Stranger’ series. Its cliff-hanger ending was unsatisfying for me, but I enjoyed the character journeys of Soloman, Egan and Saul in this. It’s interesting how ‘The Stranger’ series ended and there could’ve been potential for it to go on further.

‘The Stranger’ series overall has been enjoyable and interesting to watch. It’s not as good as ‘Doctor Who’ and I preferred how it went in the first three episodes as opposed to the last six on video. Otherwise, ‘The Stranger’ was worth the watch as I’m glad to see Colin Baker’s acting talents to use.

‘Eye of the Beholder’ rating – 7/10


‘EYE OF THE STORM’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

Operation Metaphysic with Soloman, Egan and Saul on Audio

Here it’s where it ends for ‘The Stranger’ series altogether!

Hmm? Oh sorry! That was the opening tagline for the review on ‘Eye of the Beholder’. I got confused there. Why? Because ‘Eye of the Storm’, the second audio in ‘The Stranger Chronicles’ by BBV, is an audio version of ‘Eye of the Beholder’. Yeah! Seriously! I was so startled this audio version got made.

Well actually to be fair, there is more to it than that. During my research to find out more about this audio version, I discovered that ‘Eye of the Storm’ was made before ‘Eye of the Beholder’. Essentially, ‘Eye of the Beholder’ is a video adaptation of ‘Eye of the Storm’ for ‘The Stranger’ series.

This baffled me when I did my research, but apparently ‘The Last Mission’ and ‘Eye of the Storm’ were made in 1994/1995 during the time in between ‘Breach of the Peace’ and ‘Eye of the Beholder’ was made. I was confused because the audio CDs of these stories were released in 1999 afterwards.

Of course, the two ‘Stranger Chronicles’ audios were first released on cassette tape back in 1994 or 1995. I’m uncertain on the dates. The TARDIS library on timelash.com says they were both released in January 1994 and Kathryn Sullivan’s review on her website says they were both released in 1995.

Regardless of when they were first made, ‘Eye of the Storm’ formed the basis of what would become ‘Eye of the Beholder’ as the last episode of the series. This was intriguing for me to discover as I wondered why BBV would do a video production of a story that was previously made as an audio drama.

Perhaps Bill Baggs liked ‘Eye of the Storm’ so much that he decided for it to be made into audio anyway and made a video production of it too. I wonder what would’ve been the last ‘Stranger’ episode had ‘Eye of the Storm’ not been adapted into video in order for it to become ‘Eye of the Beholder’.

What’s equally astonishing is that ‘Eye of the Storm’ is credited as being written by Arthur Wallis. That is actually a pseudonym for Nicholas Briggs when he wrote the audio version first. I don’t know why Nick Briggs gave himself a pseudonym in writing this audio drama considering he directed it too.

Yeah, the story is credited as being directed by Nicholas Briggs whilst also being produced by Bill Baggs. Regardless, ‘Eye of the Storm’ is the audio version of ‘Eye of the Beholder’ and I’m considering it to be set in a parallel universe where things are different in audio as opposed to video.

‘Eye of the Storm’ is also shorter than ‘Eye of the Beholder’ as it lasts for 60 minutes as opposed to 85 minutes on video. The story’s the same but there are certain plot elements and characters omitted from the episode. The episode’s climax is also different as opposed to what’s in the video.

It’s fascinating to review ‘Eye of the Storm’ as an audio version of ‘Eye of the Beholder’ as it reminds of how I reviewed the audio adaptations of the ‘Dad’s Army’ episodes from TV. Except for this occasion, the audio was made first before the video version which must’ve been baffling for the actors.

Speaking of the actors, Colin Baker, David Troughton and John Wadmore reprise their roles as Soloman, Egan and Saul in the audio version of this story as well as in the video version. The guest characters however are played by different actors in the audio version as opposed to the video version.

Hunter is played by David Terence instead of Geoffrey Beevers as in the video version. Meta is played by Karen Henson instead of Bernadette Gepheart as in the video version. And of course Sheila is played by Amanda Hurwitz instead of Alison Troughton as in the video version. Very surreal!

I wonder why the actors in the audio version weren’t asked to reprise their roles for the video drama. Perhaps it was unavailability or maybe they were actors not suited for video. I’m not certain. I personally would’ve cast Geoffrey Beevers as Hunter in both video and audio versions of the drama.

The audio version doesn’t include Major Devlin and Nicholas Briggs’ soldier as in the video version. Therefore, the army doesn’t feature in the audio version at all. I wonder if Nick Briggs decided to include the army in the video version given the extra time they were given to make the final episode.

Rose O’Neil doesn’t appear in the audio version, despite there being a reused ending from ‘Breach of the Peace’ at the beginning as was the case in the video version. There is the sound of Rose being strangled by Egan to persuade Soloman to help him and Saul, but I don’t know who was doing the strangled noises.

Like with ‘The Last Mission’, Colin Baker narrates some of the story in the first person as he experiences events from his perspective. It does make me wonder what other ‘Stranger Chronicles’ there could’ve been had Bill Baggs gone on with this approach. There are only two of these audios.

There could’ve been some audio stories with Soloman as the Stranger with Nicola Bryant’s Miss Brown set between the events of ‘Summoned By Shadows’, ‘More Than a Messiah’ and ‘In Memory Alone’. I would’ve liked those audios to have been made with Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant’s characters.

In ‘Eye of the Storm’, Colin Baker’s Soloman seems to have a more active part to play compared to ‘Eye of the Beholder’. Most significantly, Soloman takes over most of Saul’s role in the audio version since Saul gets struck by lightning at the beginning and is severely injured when taken to the cottage.

Incidentally, the cottage is called Honeysuckle Cottage in the audio version of this story as opposed to the video version. I couldn’t help but think of that episode from ‘Keeping Up Appearances’ where Hyacinth and Richard Bucket were looking for properties and they came across Honeysuckle Cottage.

Back to the episode, Colin Baker’s character gets caught by Hunter and Sheila once he’s in the Metaphysic project’s concept room instead of Saul. Colin Baker’s character instead of Saul’s is also the one who accompanies Sheila to get some medical help in the village once they go there via car.

I wonder why that was changed in the video version to give Saul’s character more to do by giving him Soloman’s stuff from the audio. Maybe they felt Saul’s character was underused in the audio version. Thus they decided not to have him struck by lightning in video drama. It reduces Colin’s role though.

I noticed that Sheila in the audio version swears a lot compared to the video version. Not that it made Sheila an unsavoury character in the video version as well as in the audio version mind. Colin’s character even uses the BS swear word in the audio as opposed to the video version which I didn’t like.

In the audio version, Egan gets injured by a tree falling down onto his leg once it gets struck by lightning. This is different in the video version as Egan was shot in the leg by Sheila. At least Egan wasn’t unconscious most of the time in the audio version as he was in the video version of the story.

The romance between Egan and Meta still feels forced in the audio version as it was in the video version. Hunter even walks in to find Egan and Meta having sex together in the bedroom. Hunter’s demise is handled differently in the audio episode. He simply fades away and vanishes before dying.

That’s an odd difference in the audio version as opposed to the video one. Instead of having two army corpses reanimated for our heroes to fight against, it turns out to be fog instead. This makes the climax less impressive when there was an epic gunfight outside the cottage in the video version.

The fog does blow up cars apparently, which still doesn’t help to make it impressive. Also Saul seems to be hitting on Sheila in the audio version and both have sex together. It wasn’t like that in the video version. Saul remains with Soloman and Egan as opposed to going into their dimension ahead of them.

The story’s ending is very different in audio as opposed to video. In audio, Meta deliberately sacrifices herself to save Soloman, Egan and Saul whereas in the video, Soloman points a gun at her to shoot her. At least we get to find out where Soloman, Egan and Saul ended up in their dimension.

‘Eye of the Storm’ has been an interesting audio experience to listen through here. Many would regard it as pointless considering we can now see the adventure on video in ‘Eye of the Beholder’. But it’s so intriguing this audio version was made first before it got adapted into a video production.

This is a bizarre way for me to end ‘The Stranger’ series on by listening to the audio version of the final episode on video. I would consider ‘Eye of the Beholder’ to be better than ‘Eye of the Storm’, but I still wouldn’t rate ‘The Stranger’ series as being great compared to seeing ‘Doctor Who’ itself.

‘Eye of the Storm’ rating – 6/10


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