Friday, January 31, 2014

"The Corellian Connection" [PG-13] - Chapter 5




"THE CORELLIAN CONNECTION" 

CHAPTER FIVE

OUTSIDE ALDERA, ALDERAAN

The evacuation of the villa near Aldera Palace continued in an orderly fashion. With the Imperial presence focused upon the palace, Padme and her companions managed to clear the villa of her belongings with great speed. They carted the items to Captain Antilles' shuttle, parked underneath a nearby grove of trees.

The twins' nursemaid, Madga finally walked out of the villa for the last time, carrying Luke and her belongings. Padme, who held a sleeping Leia in a baby sling, spotted her mini holoprojector and some data pads on a table. She fetched the objects and thrust them into her traveling bag. After checking on the sleeping Leia, Padme examined her bedroom of eight months for the last time and walked out. Just as she reached the villa's front door, she saw Madga scuttle hurriedly toward the grove's edge. Padme frowned. Why would Madga rush . . .?

Captain Antilles' voice crackled on her comlink. She removed it from her cloak's left pocket and answered. "Captain, is there a problem?"

"Clone troopers coming from the palace," Antilles answered. "Just three kilometers from the east."

Padme inhaled sharply. She glanced to her right and spotted three clone troopers marching toward the villa. Making a run for the grove and Captain Antilles' shuttle seemed out of the question. Then she heard the clone troopers' voices. Hoping and praying that Leia would not wake up, Padme quickly rushed into one of the villa's small rooms.

Minutes passed. Then she heard the troopers enter the villa. She held her breath, as they conducted their search by opening and closing doors. As footsteps approached the small room Padme had chosen as her sanctuary, she desperately searched for a closet where she could hide. She glanced around. Apparently the room lacked a closet. But it did lead to the villa's second-floor veranda.

Footsteps grew closer to the room. Clutching the baby sling that held Leia and her traveling bag, Padme quickly dashed out onto the verana. And just in time. She overheard voices inside the room.

"No one's here," a trooper announced.

Another one asked, "What about a holoprojector?"

"No sign of one." The first trooper paused. "I'll check the veranda."

Panic filled Padme. Now, she really had no place to hide. She quickly rushed along the veranda, searching for an opened door. Fortunately, one appeared just short of the veranda's south end. Padme ducked inside, just as she heard voices from the outside. The former senator allowed herself a quick sigh of relief. Then she glanced at her daughter. Leia's eyes fluttered briefly before they snapped wide open. Padme hoped and prayed to nearly every deity she could think of - along with the Force - that Leia would not cry for food. Several seconds passed, as her infant daughter blinked several times and yawned. Then to Padme's relief, Leia closed her eyes and fell back asleep. Again, Padme sighed. 

Then an idea came to her. With the clone troopers searching the veranda, she saw an opportunity to escape from the villa. Padme rushed out of what used to be her dining room. Without a moment's hesitation, Padme continued to rush toward the villa's front door. She spotted Antilles, Madga and Threepio silently urging her to head toward the grove. Which she did as fast as her feet would allow. Once she reached the safety of her companions, Captain Antilles ordered, "Into the shuttle, everyone! We're leaving now."

"No!" Padme insisted. "Not yet." Everyone stared at her, as if she had lost her mind. "The Imperial troopers are still searching the villa. If we leave now, we'll be spotted." And so . . . they waited.

Another fifteen minutes passed before the three clone troopers emerged from the villa. Padme overheard one of them said, "We might as well return. There's no inside. Or a holoprojector." He and the other two troopers proceeded along the path that led back to the palace.

Once the clone troopers disappeared, Padme, Captain Antilles and Madga all heaved sighs of relief. Threepio exclaimed, "Thank the Maker! They're gone. When can we leave, Miss Padme?"

"I think it would be best to leave now," Padme replied. "While we can."

Magda frowned. "But why should we leave, Milady? The troopers are gone. They won't be coming back."

A sigh left Padme's mouth. "I'm afraid that I've outstayed my welcome, Magda," she gently replied. "It's time for me to leave Alderaan." She hesitated, dreading the response to her next words. "I'll understand if you want to remain. After all, Alderaan is your home."

To Padme's surprise, the nursemaid said, "No, I'll leave. I've become . . ." A sweet smile formed on her lips. ". . . very fond of you and the children. And Alderaan has nothing for me. Not anymore."

The Nabooan woman planted a light kiss on the nursemaid's cheek. "Thank you, Magda."

"I believe that we should leave now, Milady." Captain Antilles led Padme and the others to the shuttle. Once everyone was seated inside, it rose several feet from the ground and sped away. As it zoomed above the picturesque landscape, Padme realized with a pang that she would miss the months spent here on Alderaan.

---------- 

CORONET, CORELLIA

Solipo Yeb packed the last of his belongings into his traveling valise. Then he glanced over his shoulder and saw his sister staring out of the window. "I'm ready, Thalia. Now, all we have to do is wait to hear from Captain Horus." When his sister failed to answer, he joined her at the window. "Thalia?"

"I think we're in trouble, Solipo," Thalia declared ominously. "Look."

Solipo glanced out of the window. The usual crowd of sentient beings filled the street below. But Solipo noticed something more disturbing - four human males heading toward the hotel. Two of them wore the uniforms of Corellia's security force, the third wore civilian clothes and the last man turned out to be an Imperial officer. "Oh no!" he murmured. "I think we've been sold out."

Thalia frowned. "By someone here at the hotel?"

Another candidate loomed in Solipo's mind. "How about our intrepid Captain Horus? After all, he had recognized me."

"I doubt it very much," Thalia replied. She turned away from the window. "Let's get out of here. Now."

Grabbing his valise, Solipo retorted, "And go where? We can't leave Corellia without Horus' help. And our only alternative is to take a shuttle to another city."

Brother and sister slipped out of their room. After making sure that the corridor was empty, they made their way to the nearest staircase and rushed downstairs. The pair spotted one of the hotel's employees near the back door. Once he left, the Andalians slipped outside and quickly rushed down an alley.

"I can't believe that we're doing this," Solipo bemoaned. "We didn't even pay our bill. And as for Captain Horus . . ."

An annoyed sigh from his flamboyant sister, interrupted him. "For goodness sake, Solipo! He didn't inform on us! Not Captain Horus."

"And how do you know?"

The pair merged into a busy street. "Because Captain Horus has a very good reason to avoid the Imperials. Trust me." Brother and sister continued on toward Coronet's spaceport.

----------- 

ALDERA PALACE, ALDERAAN

"Nothing or no one was found at the villa, my Lord," the clone trooper reported to Darth Rasche. "It is empty."

Breha heaved an inward sigh of relief. Padme and the children had evaded detection.

Darth Rasche nodded. "Wait for me near the shuttle." He turned to the queen. "Well, Your Majesty, it seems you had spoken the truth."

"Of course I had!" Breha retorted. "We do not understand why you would doubt our word." She paused and added with less asperity, "By the way, when are you leaving?"

"You wish to be rid of our presence so soon?" Breha shot a dark look at the Sith Lord. Who quickly sobered. "If you must know, we'll be leaving as soon as our search is completed."

A frowning Breha demanded, "What do you mean? You've searched the entire palace and the villa near the lagoon."

"But not Aldera or Crevasse City," Rasche added. "The signal from Corellia had been received in this sector of the planet. We intend to learn who had received it."

Breha heaved a frustrated sigh. So much for getting rid of the Imperials. "Has it ever occurred to you, my Lord, that the Corellian signal had been sent by someone other than Solipo Yeb?"

A long silence followed. Confusion whirled in the Sith Lord's eyes momentarily, before Rasche glared at the monarch. Then he turned away. Four other clone troopers appeared in the foyer. "No sign of the holoprojector, my Lord," one trooper announced.

Rasche's jaw twitched, as he barked, "Fine! Return to the shuttle. I'll . . ." The Sith Lord's face turned pale, as he halted in mid-sentence. His dark eyes glazed over for a second, before a frown appeared on his face. He faced Breha. "Excuse me, Your Majesty. I have an emergency message to send." Breha opened her mouth to respond, but Darth Rasche strode away before she could.

---------- 

Darth Rasche strode out of the royal palace and halted before the wide staircase. He made his way toward the Imperial shuttle and entered. "Leave," he barked at the pilot, inside the cockpit.

Once alone, the young Sith Lord sent a signal to Coruscant. Two minutes passed before the shuttle's holoprojector lit up with his mentor's image. "Lord Rasche," Darth Sidious pronounced. "You have news for me?"

"No one within the royal palace had received the message from Corellia, Master," Rasche reported. "Including Senator Organa. The holoprojector that had received the signal had not been inside Aldera Palace." Rasche hesitated. "However, I have more important news. I have sensed a presence in the Force."

Lord Sidious replied, "We both have, my young apprentice. On Kashyyyk."

"Jedi on the Wookie homeworld?" Rasche paused. "It is possible that Skywalker might be . . .?"

The Sith Master continued, "Whether Skywalker is on Kashyyk or not, there is a Jedi presence on that planet. You will rendezvous with Grand Moff Tarkin in the Kashyyyk System and stamp out any Wookie resistance and hunt down the Jedi. As for the signal from Corellia, ignore it. This is a more urgent matter."

"Hunt down the Jedi? Including Skywalker, if he is there?"

Lord Sidious' already hideous face formed a grim mask. "Yes, Lord Rasche. Including him. Hunt them all down and kill them. Kill them all."

------- 

CORONET, CORELLIA

"Good afternoon," Coronet's port master greeted Anakin. "Here to schedule a departure?"

Anakin smiled, at the other man. "Yes. I'm Captain Horus of the Javian Hawk." He spotted the departure schedule on the port master's desk. Using the Force, he knocked an object off the desk and the port master bent down to retrieve the object. At that moment, Anakin used the opportunity to check the schedule. He saw that two other Corellian freighters were scheduled to depart within the next hour. Perfect.

The port master sat up and shot an embarrassed smile at the former Jedi Knight. "Sorry about that. Um . . . about your departure?"

"I hope to leave between now and an hour from now," Anakin replied. "If it's possible."

The other man glanced at the departure schedule. "Yes, well there is no problem there." He entered the information in the data pad that contained the schedule. "The Javian Hawk. Okay. I've managed to fit you in between the Eureka and the Tawhid. Will that do?

Anakin nodded politely. "Yes, it will. Thank you."

Smiling, the port master replied, "Glad to be of service. Have a safe journey, Captain."

After leaving the port master's office, Anakin headed back to the Javian Hawk's hangar. He hoped that his Andalian passengers were ready to depart. The pilot contacted the pair through his comlink and ordered them to meet him inside the Hawk's hangar within twenty minutes. "We should be there within ten minutes, Captain," Thalia Yeb's voice replied. "We had to leave a lot sooner than we had planned."

In other words, brother and sister had encountered trouble. Great.

------- 

Captain Hardy and his three companions entered the Selonia Hotel's modest lobby. They approached a neatly dressed desk clerk. "May I help you?" she asked in a prim voice.

The senior CorSec officer, a dark-haired human named Gil Bastra switched on a small holoprojector. It contained images of the Andalian senator and his sister. "Are these two guests at this hotel?" he asked.

The desk clerk shrugged her thin shoulders. "The man does not look familiar," she began.

"How can he not look familiar?" Captain Hardy demanded. "He's Senator Solipo Yeb of Andalia. He's wanted for treason by the Empire. And his image has been posted on the Imperial Holovision for the past several days."

"Imperial Holovision?" The clerk frowned. "I've never . . ."

Hardy sighed. "It used to be the old HoloNet News Service. It's now called Imperial Holovision. This man's face has been plastered all over the news recently. And you don't recognize him?"

A supercilious smile touched the clerk's lips. "I do not pay attention to politics."

"Really?" A pale, dark-haired man with a thin, aristocratic face glared at the clerk. Kirtan Loor happened to be the Imperial liaison to CorSec and an agent for Imperial Intelligence. "I suppose you know nothing about the recent death of one of your senators, Garm Bel Iblis, at the hands of Separatist fugitives?"

The desk clerk stiffened slightly. "He was Corellian. Of course, I knew about him."

"What about the woman?" Hardy asked, feeling slightly impatient. "Have you seen her?"

"Yes," the clerk replied. "Her name is Thalia Kor and she's a guest in Room Eleven. Second Floor."

Bastra frowned. "She's alone?"

The clerk checked the hotel's records. "Not anymore. Her husband became an additional guest, three days ago. I was not on duty when he had arrived."

Hardy felt a surge of triumph. The Emperor would be quite pleased upon learning of the capture of his new prize. "Take us to Room Eleven," he barked at the clerk. He and his three companions followed the desk clerk toward the wide staircase.

------- 

The moment the Andalians arrived at the hangar, Anakin rounded on them. "Why did you leave before I could signal you?"

Solipo Yeb regarded the former Jedi with suspicious eyes. "Why did you want us to wait for your signal? So that the Imperials would take us by surprise at the hotel?"

Anakin frowned at the senator. "What?"

"The Imperials are here," Thalia Yeb explained. "My brother and I had spotted an Imperial officer, along with two CorSec officers, approaching the hotel. And we've spotted Imperial clone troopers on the streets. We need to get out of here, fast."

But Solipo Yeb refused to budge. "Wait a minute! Four hours after we met Captain Horus, we nearly encounter the Imperials. I want to know how . . ."

"Are you suggesting that I had turned you in to the Empire?" Anakin demanded, glaring at the Andalian male.

Miss Yeb sarcastically retorted, "My brother has no idea of what he is talking about, Captain. Meanwhile, may we please leave? Now?"

Senator Yeb protested, "But Thalia . . ." His sister marched toward the Javian Hawk's ramp. He glanced uneasily at Anakin. "Never mind."

Anakin made final checks on the Javian Hawk's systems. He noticed that his hypodrive system needed repairs and reminded himself to see to it when they arrive on Averam. Then he boarded the starship and made his way to the cockpit. The Andalians stood behind him. "I suggest that you two strap yourselves in for the takeoff."

"Why aren't we leaving now?" Senator Yeb demanded.

Miss Yeb pleaded with her brother. "Solipo, please!"

Anakin retorted, "We're not scheduled to depart until another ten minutes, Senator. This is not Tatooine, where I can simply take off anytime I want. Despite Corellia's questionable reputation, the spaceport is operated in a tight and orderly manner. And I refuse to take off at a moment's whim and attract unwanted attention. Now please . . . take your seat and strap in!"

Thankfully, the senator's sister managed to convince the annoying man to sit down in one of the passengers' seats. Anakin turned on the ship's engines after receiving a signal to depart. He guided the Hawk toward one of the landing pads. Within three minutes, the freighter was airborne and zooming away from Corellia's atmosphere.


END OF CHAPTER FIVE

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"MAD MEN" Season Two (2008) Quibbles



Within a few months, I managed to become a big fan of the AMC series, ”MAD MEN”. I became a fan so fast this past summer that after watching two episodes of Season Two, I purchased a copy of the DVD set for Season One. And fell deeper in love. As for Season Two, I thought it was excellent. In fact, I consider it a slight improvement over Season One. But . . . I do have some quibbles about it:


"MAD MEN" Season Two (2008) Quibbles



1. Duck Phillips - I had once complained on the "Basket of Kisses" site that by the end of Season 2, Duck Phillips (portrayed by the superb Mark Moses) seemed to resemble a minor villain that Don Draper had to defeat. Someone responded that Matt Weiner never intended to portray Duck Phillips as some kind of villain. After reading two interviews that Weiner had given, I now see that I had been right to accuse him of such a thing in the first place. How disappointing.




2. Don's Approval For Pete - Why did Pete Campbell need Don Draper's approval? What on earth for? Pete is a grown man in his late 20s. His existence at Sterling Cooper should have meant more to him than acquiring the approval of someone as flawed as Don. He did not need Don's approval. He did not need anyone's approval to exist. And the fact that he gave up a promotion to snitch on Duck - all for Don's approval - makes me realize that Pete has not matured one bit.




3. Bobbie Barrett - Matt Weiner's comments about Bobbie Barrett made me realize a few things about the show's fans. Judging from the comments I have read about Bobbie over the past few months, I sensed that that most fans viewed Bobbie's sexual desires and aggressive personality in the same manner that Joan's fiancĂ©, Greg, had viewed Joan's sexual history. And since these fans certainly could not drag Bobbie to the floor and rape her, they resorted to calling her every bad name in the book and then some.

After 46 years, our society has barely changed. It seems that even in the early 21st century, we have maintained a whore/Madonna complex about women. Even Weiner labeled Bobbie as ”that woman” in his interviews about Season Two. He also claimed that it had been wrong for Don to sleep with Bobbie. I do not understand this comment. What was Weiner trying to say? That it was it wrong for Don to have sex with Bobbie and not wrong for him to cuckold Betty with women like Rachel Menken, Midge Daniels and Joy?





4. Paul Kinsey and Sheila White - What on earth happened to the storyline featuring Paul Kinsey’s romance with Sheila White? The season’s second episode - (2.02) “Flight 1” - revealed Paul's romance with an African-American woman named Sheila White. This revelation caused a rupture in Paul’s friendship with Joan Holloway, when the latter made racist comments about the romance. Two episodes later, the romance was hinted again when a visiting Sally Draper found a photo of Sheila on Paul’s desk. In the episode (2.10) “The Inheritance”, Sheila made another appearance on the show. She and Paul fought over his reluctance to join her in Mississippi for a voter’s registration campaign. He eventually joined her after being pushed out of a trip to California by Don Draper. When Paul returned to New York in (2.13) “Mediations in an Emergency”, Paul informed his co-workers that Sheila had dumped him after three days.

All I can say is this - WHAT IN THE HELL HAPPENED? What led Sheila to finally dump Paul? Unfortunately, Weiner never revealed her reason. He simply ended the romance on a vague note. What makes this move even more annoying to me is the fact that many fans did not question the vague manner in which the romance ended. Instead, they crowed that Sheila had dumped Paul because of his pretentious behavior.

For me, one aspect of good cinematic storytelling is that one should ”show” what happened and not tell. Weiner ”told” the viewers what happened to Paul and Sheila . . . and he failed to tell the entire story. This makes me wonder if Weiner had decided not to continue exploring Paul’s relationship with Sheila in order to please the fans. If most of them had defended or made excuses over Joan’s racist comments about the pair’s romance, it really is not that hard for me to come up with this possibility.





5. Peggy Olson’s Meteoric Rise - Could someone please explain how a young woman between the ages of 20-23, managed to rise from a secretarial school graduate/secretary to the senior copywriter for Sterling Cooper in less than two years? I realize that Peggy was a natural talent in the advertising business. Both Freddie Rumsen and Don Draper recognized this. And I had no problem with Don promoting her to junior copywriter in the Season One finale - (1.13) ”The Wheel”. But what on earth made him promote her to senior copywriter around the end of Season Two’s (2.09) “Six Months Leave”?

One, Don was rather peeved that Peggy had failed to inform him about Freddie Rumsen’s drunken “accident”. And two, there were other copywriters at Sterling Cooper who were capable of assuming Freddie’s position as the senior copywriter. Who? Well, there was Paul Kinsey. I realize that Paul’s pretentiousness and romance with Sheila White made him unpopular with many fans. But Season Two also proved in the episode, (2.06) “Maidenform” that he was just as talented as Peggy. He also has more experience than her, which would have made him the perfect candidate to replace Freddie. Personally, I believe that Don had allowed his mentoring of Peggy to get the best of him and promoted her at a time when she did not really deserve it.

* * * *

Aside from the above quibbles, I thought that Season Two of ”MAD MEN” was excellent. I would go as far to say that it was actually an improvement over Season One. I would be very surprised if it ever failed to earn an Emmy nomination for Best Drama, next August.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"INFAMOUS" (2006) Photo Gallery


Below is a gallery featuring photos from the 2006 biopic about Truman Capote called,"INFAMOUS". The movie starred Toby Jones, Sandra Bullock, Daniel Craig, Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Daniels, Lee Pace and Gwyneth Paltrow: 


"INFAMOUS" (2006) Photo Gallery












































































Saturday, January 18, 2014

"UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS" (2010) - Series One Retrospective

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"UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS" (2010) - Series One Retrospective

Not long after ITV aired its premiere of Julian Fellowes and Gareth Neame's successful series, "DOWNTON ABBEY", the BBC announced its plans to air an updated version of the old 1970s television classic, "UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS". The news took me by surprise. I had naturally assumed that the series' creators Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins decided to revive the series in response to the news about "DOWNTON ABBEY". Had I been wrong? I do not know. Did it really matter? I do not think so. 

This latest "UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS" picked up six years following the old series' finale. The London townhouse at 165 Eaton Place in the Belgravia neighborhood is no longer occupied by any member of the Bellamy family. A Foreign Office diplomat and his wife - Sir Hallam Holland and Lady Agnes Holland - have returned to Britain and inherited the Eaton Place townhouse. The couple hired former parlourmaid Rose Buck, now running her own agency for domestic servants, to find them staff as they renovate the house to its former glory. The Hollands are forced to deal with the arrivals of Sir Hallam's mother, Maud, Dowager Lady Holland and her Sikh secretary Amanjt Singh; and Lady Agnes' sister, Lady Persephone Towyn - all of whom cause major stirs within the new household. The three-episode series spanned the year 1936 - covering the death of King George V, the Battle of Cable Street and King Edward VIII's abdication.

Because it came on the heels of the critical darling, "DOWNTON ABBEY""UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS" received a good share of negative criticism from the media and television viewers. And if they were not comparing it to the series written by Julian Fellowes, they were comparing it to the old "UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS" from the 1970s. Among the negative press it received was a report of a brief clash between Marsh and Fellowes regarding the two series. If I must be honest, I was just as guilty as the others for I had believed the negative press without having seen the series. But my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to watch it.

I did have a few problems with "UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS". It had its moments of over-the-top maudlin, courtesy of screenwriter Heidi Thomas. I suppose I should not have been surprised. Thomas had served as screenwriter for 2007's"CRANFORD" and its 2009 sequel. And she managed to inject plenty of wince-inducing sentiment into those productions, as well. I also found Rose Buck's hunt for the Hollands' new staff rather tiresome. It dominated the first half of Episode One, "The Fledgling" and I nearly gave up on the series. And I also found the cook Clarice Thackeray's encounter with society photographer Cecil Beaton disgustingly sentimental. But . . . the encounter led to one of the best cat fights I have seen on television, so I was able to tolerate it. I have one last problem - namely the series' three episode running time. Three episodes? Really? I would have given it at least five or six. Instead, the three episodes forced the first series to pace a lot faster than I would have liked.

For me, the virtues of "UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS" far outweighed the flaws. First of all, I was delighted that Marsh, Atkins and Thomas had decided to set the new series in the 1930s. I have been fascinated with that decade for a long time. It witnessed a great deal of potential change and conflict throughout Europe - including changes within Britain's Royal Family that had a major impact upon the nation. "UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS" did an excellent job in conveying how these changes affected ordinary Britons and the Holland household in particular. Many had complained about the strong, political overtones that permeated "UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS". I, on the other hand, loved it. The political overtones not only suited the series' 30s setting but also jibed with the fact that one of the major characters happened to be a diplomat from the Foreign Office, with friendly ties to a member of the Royal Family.

Production wise, "UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS" looked gorgeous. Designer Eve Stewart did a superb job in re-creating London in the mid-1930s for the series. Along with set decorator Julia Castle, she converted 165 Eaton Place into a wealth of Art Deco eye candy. Amy Roberts' costumes - especially for Keeley Hawes and Claire Foy - were outstanding and contributed to the series' 1930s look. My only complaint regarding the series' production is the series' theme and score. Quite frankly, the only memorable thing about Daniel Pemberton's work was that I found it too light for my tastes. It suited Heidi Thomas' occasional forays into sentimentality very well. Unfortunately.

Not being that familiar with the original "UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS" series from the 70s, I did not find myself comparing the old cast with the new one. First of all, I thought the new cast did just fine - including the recurring characters. Blake Ritson gave a subtle performance as Prince George, Duke of Kent and youngest living brother to King Edward VIII. I noticed that Thomas took great care to ensure that Ritson's Duke of Kent would be critical of Wallis Simpson's pro-Nazi sympathies. I found this interesting, considering of his past reputation as a Nazi sympathizer. Speaking of Mrs. Simpson, I was slightly disappointed by Emma Clifford's portrayal of the future Duchess of Windsor. The actress portrayed Mrs. Simpson as some kind of negative archetype of American women found in many British productions - gauche and verbose. This portrayal seemed completely opposite of how Mrs. Simpson had been described in the past - cool and tart. Edward Baker-Duly was given a more ambiguous character to portray - namely German ambassador Joachim von Ribbentrop - which allowed him to give a more subtle performance.

I found the casting for the Holland servants very satisfying. Many have complained that Jean Marsh's role as Rose Buck seemed woefully reduced in compared to the old production. If her role had been reduced, I did not mind. After all, Rose was a familiar figure and I believe it was time for the lesser-known characters to shine. As much as I had enjoyed Adrian Scarborough's solid yet nervous butler, Mr. Pritchard, and Anne Reid's tart-tongued cook Clarice Thackeray; I found myself impressed by Neil Jackson's cool portrayal of the ambiguous chauffeur Harry Spargo. I thought he did a great job in conveying the changing passions of Harry, without resorting to histronics. Ellie Kendrick did an excellent job in her portrayal of the young and very spirited housemaid, Ivy Morris. Although Art Malik seemed a bit noble as the Dowager Lady Holland's Sikh secretary, Mr. Amanjit, I believe that he managed to come into his own when his character befriended the German-Jewish refugee Rachel Perlmutter in Episode Two, "The Ladybird". Like Scarborough and Red, Helen Bradbury gave solid performance as Frau Perlmutter. However, there were a few moments when she managed to inject a great deal of pathos into her performance, making it a pity that she only appeared in one episode. Heidi Thomas' portrayal of the Hollands' servants really impressed me. She managed to portray them as multi-dimensional characters, instead of the one-dimensional portrayals that marred the characterizations of the servants featured in Series One of"DOWNTON ABBEY".

Heidi Thomas certainly did a marvelous job with her characterizations of the members of the Holland family. I had noticed that most fans and critics were impressed by Eileen Atkins' portrayal of the Maud, Dowager Lady Holland. I cannot deny that she did a superb job. Atkins was overbearing, intelligent, wise and impetuous. But . . . the Lady Holland character also struck me as a remake of the Dowager Countess of Grantham character from "DOWNTON ABBEY" . . . who struck me as a remake of the Countess of Trentham character from "GOSFORD PARK". In other words, the Lady Holland character struck me as being a somewhat unoriginal character. One could almost say the same about the Sir Hallam Holland character, portrayed by Ed Stoppard. Many fans have complained about his "noble" personality and penchant for political correctness - especially in his handling of Lotte, the orphaned daughter of Holland maid, Rachel Perlmutter, and his distaste toward the British Fascist movement. However, Stoppard did an excellent job in making Sir Hallam a flesh-and-blood character. And this came about, due to Stoppard's opportunity to reveal Sir Hallam's reaction to the conflict between his mother and wife, making him seem like a bit of a pushover. 

But for me, the two most interesting characters in the series proved to be Lady Agnes Holland and Lady Persephone Towyn, the two daughters of an impoverished Welsh peer. In their unique ways, the two sisters struck me as very complex and ambiguous. At first glance, Keeley Hawes' portrayal of Lady Agnes Holland seemed like a cheerful, slightly shallow woman bubbling with excitement over establishing a new home in London. Hawes' performance, along with Thomas' script, even managed to inject some pathos into the character after the revelations about Lady Agnes' past failures to maintain a successful pregnancy. But once her mother-in-law and rebellious sister became a permanent fixture in her house, the cracks in Lady Agnes' personality began to show. Thanks to Hawes' superb performance, audiences were allowed glimpses into the darker side of Lady Agnes' personality. After watching Series One of "UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS", many would view Lady Agnes' younger sister - Lady Persephone - as the series' villain. And she seemed so perfect for the role, thanks to Claire Foy's brilliant performance. Her Lady Persephone was a vain, arrogant and temperamental bitch, who treated the Hollands' staff like dirt - save for Harry Spago, with whom she conducted an affair. At first, it seemed that Harry managed to bring out Lady Persephone's softer side, especially in her ability to emphasize with his woes regarding the country's social system. Harry also introduced her to the British Fascist movement. But whereas he ended up finding it repellent, Lady Persephone became even more involved . . . to the point that she developed a relationship with the German ambassador, Joachim von Ribbentrop, before following him back to Germany.

I am not going to pretend that the first season of this second "UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS" was exceptional. Because I do not think that it was. Basically, it is simply a continuation of the old series from the 1970s. I thought that its running time was ridiculously short - three episodes. It could have benefited from at least two or three more episodes. And screenwriter Heidi Thomas marred it even further with a good deal of over-the-top sentimentality, especially in the first and third episodes. However, Thomas managed to tone down that same sentimentality in the characters. Nor did she follow Julian Fellowes' mistake in "DOWNTON ABBEY" by portraying the servants as one-dimensional characters. And the cast, led by Ed Stoppard and Keeley Hawes, were first rate. But what really worked for me was the 1930s setting that allowed Thomas to inject the political turmoil that made that era so memorable. I only hope that Thomas will continue that setting in the second series. "UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS" may not have been perfect, but I believe it was a lot better than a good number of critics and fans have deemed it.