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Dust To Dust

The series low light, or at least I hope that it is. It may yet get worse than this episode, but I honestly can't remember; so either it doesn't, or it gets so much worse that I've blocked out the memory.

This is one of those episodes where, not only does nothing much happen, but the stuff that does happen can't even be bothered to be entertaining about it. We've had slow episodes before, and we've had episodes where the plot was stretched pretty thin, but they all had something somewhere to keep the interest. A bit of action somewhere, a bit of fun somewhere. Something. This is just however-many-minutes of absolutely nothing at all, save for some ham-fisted cultural stereotyping of the sort that should have died out long before 1988. Maybe I'm being too hard on it, but I don't think so. It's the sort of episode that you'd be better off watching from another room.

Some wirecutters. Admire them, they're the most exciting part of the episode.

They belong to this man. At first it seems like he's an alien, but he's not. He's a graverobber, in search of Indian artifacts to swipe. When did "Indian" become "Native American"? They used the latter in Buffy, and that's just a few years later than this. It certainly happened long ago enough for the constant use of "Indian" in this show to sound jarring.

Meanwhile some 'Indians' behave in stereotypical TV Indian fashion. Not shooting cowboys with bows and arrows, sadly - the other stereotypical TV Indian fashion. Mystical and shamany in other words; whilst standing on the bank of an atmospheric lake, just to further hammer the point home.

There is chanting and staff waving.

And then the old man turns into a bear. This has no relevance at all to this week's plot. I think they just needed to bulk it out some.

The graverobber has stolen a headdress, meanwhile. A headdress with an obviously alien crystal embedded in it. Whenever he puts it on, thunder and drums sound out, and there's a comedy lightning effect.

The old man goes swirly for no apparent reason. He's an Indian. Stuff like that happens when you're an Indian.

Then he strikes a pose for the camera, so they can use some nice lighting to underline just how mystical and shamany he is.

Elsewhere, Harrison has a novelty goose mug. Or it might be a duck, I'm not an expert.

Suzanne and Norton stare at a computer screen. They see a news report about the "newly discovered" amazing Indian headdress. By now I think the word "Indian" has been said about a thousand times this episode. It probably dates the show even more than the technology.

The graverobber is soon being freaked out by the old Indian, who pops up to intimidate him using magic and mysticism and prophecy and stuff.

Then Harrison and Ironhorse drop by to ask for a look at the alien crystal. This is actually quite funny, as Harrison tries prompting Ironhorse to be smiley and friendly. It doesn't work. They leave. Ironhorse decides to go home with the old Indian guy, because he hasn't done anything stereotypically Indiany for a couple of episodes now, and figures he's about due.

I sense an alien on the loose.


Having taken over some people from the Ministry Of Indian Affairs - they still had one of them in the 1980s?! And staffed entirely by white people?! - the aliens go and deal with the graverobber by tearing half his face off and crushing his head against a wall, which is a lot more entertaining than it probably should be. Whoever was in charge of gore on this show must have thought it was the best job ever.

Recovering the crystal from the headdress, the aliens make it glow green. This is their ticket to discovering a hidden battleship that's buried somewhere on Indian territory.

Meanwhile, the old Indian has a pretty daughter.

Ironhorse likes her. You can tell because he does this sort of smiling thing.

Also because they stand and gaze at each other in a patch of pretty lighting.

Then it's time for Ironhorse and the old Indian to do that bit where they sit around the campfire, and somebody says "It is told..." They always do that. I think TV would have us believe that it's the kind of thing old Indians do all day. When they're not going swirly or turning into bears.

The ex-Ministry Of Indian Affairs arrive, meanwhile, and sniff the air and gloat a lot.

Harrison and Suzanne get there shortly afterward, having found the dead graverobber, and therefore logically assumed that Ironhorse must be in danger. Actually he's not as it turns out, because this week the aliens have decided to be really rubbish for no apparent reason.

The old Indian talks in mystical, shamany ways, then does a bit of chanting.

This makes the clouds go weird, and blows loads of earth off what looks like an alien ship.

Then the aliens turn up with machine guns. Do they keep them at the Ministry Of Indian Affairs in case of uprisings? They decide not to kill Ironhorse and the old guy though, so that their panic on witnessing what's to happen next will spiral out of control and undermine society. Okay then.

"We can't kill the younger one as he's in the main cast," would have sounded a lot less stupid. And more truthful.

An alien toys with the crystal.

There is chanting and staff waving, and dramatic wind.

Then, in an absolutely fabulous moment, a truly lovely alien ship rises up off the ground on metal legs. It's a beautiful piece of model work. Possibly for budgetary reasons, possibly just because of stupidity, this is all that we see of it.

More mystical chanting. There follows a bit that really is funny. Harrison and co panic about the ship, whilst the Indian runs up and down past them, chanting, and looking so very much like a Muppet that it's uncanny.

Then there's some more yelling and staff waving.

The old Indian conjures up some lightning, which strikes the ship.

And it explodes. So, let's just review that. The entire episode has been about an old man shouting and waving a staff in the air. The entire episode. Briefly it looked like it might get good, when a fabulous alien weapon arrived on the scene, but no. Within ten seconds it's gone again. This episode isn't actually about aliens; it's about an old man who likes turning into a bear. And they couldn't even make that entertaining.

Hey. Dig me and my mystical aura.

Harrison is in love, so the Indian guy gives him the crystal from the end of his staff, for purposes of study and marvelling. It's alien in origin, so Harrison assumes it's how the old guy can summon lightning and fascinating cloud patterns, and turn into bears and stuff. Although I'm not sure why alien technology would have any need of the bear thing.

Harrison and Suzanne marvel at the wonders of shiny trinkets. Meanwhile the old Indian guy laughs at the stupid tourists. He doesn't get his powers from alien toys; he gets them from being a mystical alien shaman. The crystal is just for decoration. Do not underestimate the power of the mystical Indian shaman!

I think it must have been Patronise A Red Indian Week when this episode first aired. Fortunately there's better things ahead. The sheer awfulness of this episode made me break with my usual habit, and check which episodes are on the horizon. Things will be improving very shortly. Not that they could really have got much worse.

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