Sam introduces Danielle to the 1992 Robin Williams film Toys. Enter a whimsical world where an eccentric Willy Wonka-esque toy maker dies when his propeller beanie connected pacemaker fails. He leaves his wacky toy factory to his brother, three-star general Leland Zevo, instead of his man-child son Leslie for reasons that are unclear. Despite having no interest in toys, General Zevo agrees to run the toy factory, and quickly pivots to making “war toys” and then to making actual weapons of war that he plans to trick children into using for military applications. If that plan sounds insane, then the plan Leslie comes up with to stop this is somehow even crazier (hint: it involves making a highly produced fake MTV music video for no apparent reason). This movie has it all: Creepy murder-toys, unnecessary romance, gratuitous sex, overly complicated plans, eerie music, actually beautiful aesthetics, and more whimsy than a Wes Anderson fan convention. Despite all that, Sam is convinced this movie is actually a thinly veiled horror film and its world is actually a dystopia; Danielle is just plain confused.
This week Danielle has the thrilling conclusion of Madeleine L’Engle’s The Arm of the Starfish. Adam finally learns a bit about the experimental work of Dr. O’Keefe, and Sam is aghast at the reckless disregard for safety and scientific rigor. Adam seems less bothered by this and is ready to commit to O’Keefe and his work, but O’Keefe, inexplicably, insists that Adam go on dinner date with Kali at her father’s hotel first. Before leaving for the date, Poly has a premonition and insists Adam take a switchblade syringe filled with shark tranquilizer and conceal it in his swimming trunks for when he and Kali inevitably go swimming. It’s difficult to convey how truly crazy this is, and it’s even crazier that they are indeed attacked by sharks but are saved by the kinda psychic dolphin. After that incident, O’Keefe gives Adam the assignment to slip some secret papers about his work to his friends in the embassy right under Typhon Cutter’s nose. It’s a plan that is far too unnecessarily convoluted to get into here, but there are complications, backstabbing, mortal peril, and some truly hilarious attempts at cloak-and-dagger shenanigans. Also, just when this book should be over, there are more shark attacks. Seriously, for a book titled The Arm of the Starfish, there are way more sharks than you’d think, and and way fewer starfish.
This week Danielle breaks out the Madeleine L’Engle classic The Arm of the Starfish. Adam is your typical-sixteen-year old biology prodigy on his way to Lisbon to work with superstar biologist Dr. O’Keefe. While being held up at the airport because of fog, Adam is approached by the attractive Kali who warns him not to trust the O’Keefes. Adam is perplexed by this encounter, but shrugs it off as he jets off across the Atlantic, before making an unexpected stop in Madrid due to yet more fog. While there, a friend of the O’Keefes, a priest named Canon Tallis, is escorting Poly, the twelve-year-old daughter of the O’Keefes, back from a vacation in the U.S. Tallis asks Adam, the teenage boy he just met, to take over the escort duty of this young girl while he does some business in Madrid. This is the first of many bafflingly terrible decisions every character seems to make. On the flight from Madrid to Lisbon Poly is immediately, and expertly, kidnapped. Fortunately, Dr. O’Keefe is nonplussed by the loss of his daughter when Adam arrives. Later, while recuperating in a hotel Adam is magically found by Kali, who just happens to be in the neighborhood and who insists on taking him to meet her mega-rich-totally-not-evil businessman father Typhon Cutter. Typhon has just so happened to have found Poly and is returning her to the O’Keefes on the condition Adam reports to him on the super secret, world changing work Dr. O’Keefe is doing. Sam is annoyed that Typhon gives up a perfectly good kidnapped hostage to instead rely on a stranger of a teenager to get his information for him. Adam, meanwhile, must wrestle with the most difficult question of who to trust: The world famous scientist he’s going to work for, or the kidnapping businessman who wants him to spy on the O’Keefes. Also, there aren’t really any starfish in this part, but there is a kinda psychic dolphin, so that has to count for something.
In the first full episode of the new year, Sam shares with Danielle the 1999 Antonio Banderas film The 13th Warrior. When Ahmad, an Arabic poet, is caught canoodling with a courtier’s wife, he is exiled in the form of being sent out of his home as an ambassador. An ambassador to where? That doesn’t matter, because he immediately hooks up with a band of Vikings who are called on a quest to stop an ancient evil from destroying some other Vikings. Sam doesn’t really get it either. The point is, Ahmad will have to learn to get along with his new friends if they’re to accomplish their mission. In his journey, Ahmad will get to know the Viking people, more than Sam at least, who still can’t remember a single one of their names. Ahmad will find love, hear tales of dragons, and deal with Viking political intrigue, and if you think all of those things aren’t immediately discarded by the movie as irrelevant, then this movie will surprise you. Don’t worry though, the film has plenty of cave bear-people who love retreating through the mist while hissing to keep things wacky.
In this episode Danielle shares a bizarre take on the classic fairy tale with the film Red Riding Hood. If you thought that Red Riding Hood would be improved with the addition of a werewolf and a lackluster love triangle, than have we got a movie for you. While an adult Red Riding Hood descending into paranoia because anyone in her village might be the werewolf terrorizing her is pretty great, it pales in comparison to the crazed werewolf hunter Gary Oldman and his giant iron elephant oven (that was not a typo). There’s not a lot of plot to cover, but the abundance of insanity more than makes up for it. To understand any of this Sam and Danielle could really use the expertise of an astronomer, an anatomist, a cryptozoologist, or really all the help they can get.
Sam shares his love for the film Highlander with Danielle, a cult classic from 1986. Have you ever wondered what it would be like if a secret race of immortals walked among us? Highlander posits that they spend most of their time popping out of thin air to surprise each other with sword fights as they battle to the death for the fabled prize. Why is this prize worth fighting for? Why do they have to fight to the death? Why are some people born immortal? None of these questions will be answered, but there is a punk-rock hedonist monster called the Kurgan, so we don’t really mind. Join us for Highlander where the rules, and the accents, make no sense, but we do know there can be only one!
Featuring a promo for the science entertainment podcast Petri Dish; find them on Twitter @dishpodcast and at https://anchor.fm/petridish
The thrilling conclusion of Sam’s journey with the Lords of the Sky! The massive book ends with all (some) of our questions answered and the establishment of a poorly conceived new world order. We finally journey to the lands of the Ahn to (briefly) explore their mysterious land and learn almost nothing about them. None of that matters, however, because there’s a dragon named Deburah; seriously, it’s the best.
Sam is half-way through explaining the book Lords of the Sky to Danielle, and in this part the plot finally seems to enter the picture. Mysterious new characters, new cultures, mutiny, basic philosophy, prison breaks, amnesia, politics, it’s all here, kinda. And at long last, yes, there are even dragons!
In this episode Sam continues his exploration of the book Lords of the Sky by Angus Wells. In part two Daviot (whose name is impossible for Danielle to remember) leaves school to wander the land telling stories and is given far more importance than he deserves. We somehow manage to talk about this for over an hour. Danielle realizes that boats aren’t always boats. There are still no dragons.
Sam begins his first multi-part dive into the fantasy novel Lords of the Sky by Angus Wells. Hunker down for a slow burn as young Daviot discovers he has a special talent and is sent off to a school to learn to use it (well, eventually). No, he isn’t a wizard, but he can remember stuff real good. There’s love, there’s poorly explained magic, and most importantly, there’s probably dragons (just not in this part, maybe the next). Also, if you enjoy your hosts complaining about cartography, you’re in for a treat. Buckle-in, this is going to be a long one.