It’s always nice when episodes have a moral, and what I really took from tonight’s episode was that if Imperial Russia had used Frankenstein’s Monster, and possibly zombies, there’d still be a Czar on the throne today. Also: there really aren’t enough Ruritanian romances anymore. And when was the last time someone worked the Duchy of Strackenz into a story?
PLAY BY PLAY
The nonexistent-but-real-sounding* country of Zarkovia is very Russian-seeming. It’s even got “Zar” in the name, right? As with any fictional eastern European country with a goofy pseudo-Slavic accent, there are deep troubles. The country is engaged in a great civil war testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so contrived can long endure. Well, not *long,* just 22 minutes, until the end credits roll. Long enough, I guess.
I kid, I kid. I liked this one a lot, really. Anyway, here’s the gist: The king - who’s name I forget, but it also had ‘Zar’ in it, get it? - is an old man who’s son is trying to usurp the throne and kill the rebels. He’s not content to just stomp around in one of those 19th century uniforms with the high collars, no, somehow acquired the body of Doctor Vicktor, an alien from the original series like a jillion years ago. How’d he get dead? Unsure. Everyone looks at Kevin, but Kevin insists Vicktor was still alive when he chucked him in the Null Void.
Anyway, after some typical WWF Smackdowery, Vicktor is resurrected as a remote-controlled zombie, Team Ben ends up in schackles, and Prince Spoiled Brat seizes the throne. He chucks king Zar-whatever in the dungeon, too. Gwen frees him, and he reveals that he’s been manipulating events for quite some time, and that some in the military are still loyal to him. One such loyalist opens the door, and hauls Ben (Unconsious) off to Prince Spoiled Brat’s lab, where he hooks Ben and Vicktor and himself up a device similar to the one Patrick MacGoohan used to turn into Nigel Stock in “Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling.”
Prince Spoiled Brat, who clearly never watched “The Prisoner,” proves he’s completely unfamiliar with cutting edge 1967 spy-fi technology and kills his dad. Of course King Zarwhoosis isn’t really dead, he’s living in Dr. Vicktor’s corpse. He then goes on a killing spree - no, wait, they don’t kill people in this show - he goes on an exploding spree, blowing up rebel tanks and issuing pointed threats. Then Team Ben attacks him and they put him down quickly because, let’s face it, Dr. V was never an A-list villain, regardless of who’s driving him.
Prince Spoiled Brat attempts to spin this to his advantage by having his cyborg army (I probably should have mentioned they’re cyborgs before. Their helmets look like Cylons with monocles) to attack and kill Ben. Team Ben gets all Prime Directive for a bit there, then decide to free the cyborg army so they can figure out what to do about the leadership of their own country.
Pointlessly condescending sarcasm notwithstanding, I really liked this ep. The Frankensteinian and Pseudo-Russian stuff was all horribly obvious, but kind of fun just the same, there are some nice nods to 1931 Universal flick, and seriously, and honestly, who *doesn’t* like these fake little European countries that are allegedly of vital importance, despite the fact that no one’s ever heard of them before? (“Oh no! Peasant uprising in Streslau! I do hope the duke got out in time!”) I’m a sucker for those things.
This one was paced better than average, and not just the pacing: the structure was much better than most, with the twist about the King Czar being bad, and then Prince Brat attempting to turn the tables coming as the climax. This was, of course, foreshadowed in the episode (Why are people rebelling? Certainly not because they’re happy with the king, right?) but it wasn’t painfully obvious, and the transition from pathetic-but-noble old man to manipulative evil genius was quick and pretty surprising.
All of which set up the discussion in the climax: which side do we help? The king is evil, Prince Brat is a slightly different kind of evil, for all they know the rebels might be evil, so, ultimately, they wisely decide to back away. I really liked that.
High marks to Ashley Johnson, who used to play Chrissy on Growing Pains, a show I absolutely hated. She does the voice of Gwen here, and she’s really grown into the part, and brings a lot of nuance to it that is largely absent in the other performances on the show.
WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE?
Depends what flavor of conservative you are: If you’re an isolationist, definitely. If you’re the kind of conservative who feels we should have our fingers in everyone’s pies just to ensure our own safety, probably not. I take a moderately isolationist position, and I liked it just fine.