Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS" (1974) Review

Murder On The Orient Express 2

Below is my review of the 1974 adaptation of one of Agatha Christie's most famous novels - "MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS"


"MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS" (1974) Review

Whenever the topic of Agatha Christie novels pop up, many critics and fans seem to rate her 1934 novel, "Murder on the Orient Express" as among her best work. This stellar opinion seemed to have extended to the 1974 movie adaptation. After all, the film did receive six Academy Award nominations and won one. Is "MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS" the best adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Is it my favorite? Hmmm . . . I will get to that later. 

But I cannot deny that the movie, produced by John Bradbourne and directed by Sidney Lumet, is a first-class production. One could easily see that Bradbourne and Paramount Pictures had invested a great deal of money into the production. They hired the very talented and award winning director, Sidney Lumet; along with an all-star cast led by Albert Finney; cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth; production and costume designer Tony Walton; and Paul Dehn to write the screenplay.

One of the most unique aspects of this particular movie is that it started with a haunting montage featuring newspaper clippings and newsreel footage of a tragic kidnapping of a three year-old girl from a wealthy Anglo-American family named Daisy Armstrong in 1930. The kidnapping of young Daisy would end up playing a major role in the true identities of the murder victim and the suspects. The movie soon jumped to Istanbul, five years later, where famed Belgian-born detective, Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney), is about to journey back to England via the Simplon Orient Express. Despite the unusually heaving booking in the train’s Calais coach, Poirot manages to secure a berth thanks to an old friend, Signor Bianchi (Martin Balsam), who happens to be a director for the Orient Express' owner – the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits. Several hours after the train departs Istanbul, a mysterious American art collector named Samuel Ratchett (Richard Widmark) informs Poirot that someone has been sending him threatening notes and asks for the Belgian’s protection. Due to Poirot’s instinctual dislike of Rachett, the detective refuses to help. And after the train finds itself snowbound in Yugoslavia during its second night, Rachett is stabbed to death in the middle of the night. Signor Bianchi asks Poirot to unearth the murderer. 

"MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS" turned out to be the first screen adaptation of a Christie novel to feature an all-star cast. The cast included screen stars such as Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Jacqueline Bisset, Michael York and Jean-Pierre Cassel. The cast also included stage luminaries such as John Gielgud (who was a bigger star on the stage), Wendy Hiller, Denis Quilley, Rachel Roberts and Colin Blakely. And all of them gave solid performances, although I do have a few quibbles about a few members of the cast. 

Critics had been especially impressed by Finney's interpretation of the Belgian detective and Ingrid Bergman's role as a shy and nervous Swedish missionary. Both received Academy Award nominations and Bergman won. Personally, I am not certain if both actors deserved their nominations. I agree that they gave first-rate performances. But I found nothing extraordinary about Bergman’s Swedish missionary. It was a very skillful performance, but not worthy of an Oscar nomination, let alone an Oscar. And although he gave a superb performance, there were times when Finney seemed to drift into some kind of parody of the Continental European. This is why I believe that actors with strong continental European backgrounds like Peter Ustinov and David Suchet should portray Poirot. But . . . I cannot deny that Finney gave a very good performance. And he also conveyed certain aspects of Poirot's personality that I have never seen in Ustinov or Suchet's portryals - one of them being a talent for manipulating others into revealing themselves during an interrogation. I also enjoyed his brief scene with Jeremy Lloyd, who portrayed an obsequious British Army officer that served as Poirot's escort during the crossing of the Bosphorus Strait.

There were times when some members of the rest of the cast seemed to be in danger of drifting into hammy acting. Sean Connery sometimes came off as heavy-handed in his British Army officer routine On the other hand, he seemed very effective in those moments when his character, Colonel Abuthnot, is very protective of the Mary Debenham character. And Anthony Perkins' parody of his famous Norman Bates role irritated me to no end . . . especially since the literary version of his character – Hector McQueen – came off as a completely different personality. However, Perkins had one superb scene that featured no dialogue on his part. But the four performances that strongly impress me – came from Jean-Pierre Cassel as the rail car attendant, Pierre Michel; Rachel Roberts as a German lady’s maid named Hildegarde Schmidt; Jaqueline Bisset as Helena Andrenyi, the young wife of a Hungarian diplomat; and Colin Blakely as Cyrus Hardman, an American detective masquerading as a talent scout. Unlike some members of the cast, these four managed to give very subtle, yet convincing performances without sometimes careening into parody. And Blakely provided one of the most poignant moments in the film when Poirot revealed his character’s (Hardman) personal connection to the Daisy Armstrong kidnapping case.

As for the movie's screenplay, I must admit that Paul Dehn and an uncredited Anthony Shaffer did an excellent job in adapting Christie’s novel for the screen. They managed to stay true to the novel’s original story with very few changes that frankly improved the plot. Their only misstep was in making the Hector MacQueen’s character into a parody of the Norman Bates role from "PSYCHO" (1960), due to Perkins being cast into the role. Or perhaps the fault lay with Lumet. Who knows? However, I cannot but express admiration over the brilliant move to include the montage that featured Daisy Armstrong’s kidnapping and murder at the beginning of the film. It gave the story an extra poignancy to an already semi-tragic tale. Despite these changes, Dehn and Shaffer basically remained faithful to the novel. They even maintained the original solution to the mystery. Granted, it was the solution made "MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS" one of the most unusual murder mysteries in the history of Hollywood, let alone the literary world. And although the revelation of the murderer(s) came off as somewhat inconceivable, it made the movie memorable . . . aside from the flashback that revealed Rachett's actual murder. That seemed to last longer than necessary. I also have a different opinion regarding the fate of the murderer(s). When I was younger, it did not bother me. Now . . . it makes me slightly uneasy. Anyone who has read the novel or seen the movie, would know what I am talking about.

Richard Rodney Bennett had received a great deal of praise and an Oscar nomination for his score. I thought it meshed beautifully with the scenes featuring the Orient Express' departure from Istanbul . . . and its continuing journey at the end of the film. However, there were times when I found it a bit over-dramatic and slightly out of place for a murder mystery. I really admired Tony Walton’s production designs for the movie. I thought it truly invoked the glamour and magic of traveling aboard the Orient Express in the 1930s. And it also conveyed the claustrophobic conditions of traveling by train, beautifully. Surprisingly, he also designed the movie’s costumes. I can only assume he was trying to adhere to Sidney Lumet’s desire to recapture the old Hollywood glamour from the 1930s. Unfortunately, I felt that Walton’s costumes for some of the characters (namely Lauren Bacall and Jacqueline Bisset's characters) seemed a bit over-the-top. But I must admit that I admired his other costumes, especially for Albert Finney, Rachel Roberts, Ingrid Bergman and Vanessa Redgrave's characters.

In the end, one has to give Sidney Lumet high marks for putting all of this together to create a classy adaptation of an unusual novel. Granted, I have a few qualms with some of the performances, characterizations and the plot’s resolution. And there were times in the middle of the movie when Lumet's pacing threatened to drag the film. In the end, Lumet’s direction managed to maintain my interest in the story. And "MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS" remains a favorite movie of mine after 41 years. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

"Glimpses of the Future" [R] - 2/2



Here is the second half of my STAR TREK VOYAGER story called, "Glimpses of the Future":


"GLIMPSES OF THE FUTURE"

Part 2

"Hey Maquis!" Ensign Harry Kim cheerfully greeted B'Elanna inside the Mess Hall, the following morning. She placed her breakfast tray on Harry's table and sat down on the chair, opposite her friend.

B'Elanna yawned and reached for her coffee cup. Harry frowned. "Wow! You really look tired! Did you get any sleep, last night?"

"Plenty," B'Elanna croaked. Then she took a sip of her coffee. There was nothing like a great cup of raktijino - freshly replicated.

Harry continued to question B'Elanna. "Exactly how much is 'plenty'? Seven hours? One?"

"What are you getting at, Starfleet?"

Heaving an exasperated sigh, the young ensign shot back, "Have you taken a good look in the mirror, B'Elanna? You look as if you've spent the last few days in hell." He paused. "And the odd thing is that you've been on leave for the past fifteen hours." Harry's dark eyes bored into B'Elanna's. "Are you having trouble sleeping?"

"Okay, so I couldn't sleep last night," B'Elanna grudgingly admitted. "Is it a crime?"

One of Harry's brows quirked upward. "No. Are you having problems? Nightmares?"

"No, I . . ." B'Elanna hesitated. Should she tell him? About the Hotak device? The knowledge of her new discovery weighed heavily on her mind. Perhaps confiding to a friend would help lighten that burden. B'Elanna took a deep breath. "Harry, how would you feel if you were able to see the future?" 

Confusion whirled in the dark eyes. "What do you mean? Are you trying to tell me that . . . you're able to receive visions of the future?"

After an uneasy glance around the Mess Hall, B'Elanna continued, "Of course not! I'm not precognitive or anything like that. You see it all began three days ago. On Hotak."

"What about Hotak?" a third voice asked. Both B'Elanna and Harry glanced up. A smiling Tom Paris loomed above them, holding a tray. "Is there something special about that place?"

Fearful that the Chief Helmsman had overheard most of their conversation, B'Elanna snapped at him. "Dammit, Paris! Are you in the habit of eavesdropping on other people's conversation?"

"What are you talking about?" the pilot protested. His blue eyes radiated innocence. "I just happened to hear you mention Hotak to Harry."

B'Elanna struggled to keep her irritation in check. Ever since the Vidiians had held her and Paris captive, their hostile regard toward each other had vanished. Along with their mutual dislike and competition for Harry's friendship. However, B'Elanna still found it difficult to consider the pilot as a close friend. The problem with Tom Paris, she decided, seemed to be his cocky and somewhat shallow personality. He might be a good friend - at least to Harry - but he seemed to lack a moral center that B'Elanna found uncomfortable.

"Harry and I were having a private conversation," B'Elanna coolly replied. Her mood ruined by Paris' appearance, she sighed. "Never mind. I think I'll go back to bed. I'm still feeling a little tired."

Harry's face expressed concern. "Listen Maquis, if you still want to talk, I'll come by your quarters, later."

"Thanks, Starfleet." B'Elanna gave her friend a bright smile. "Maybe I'll see you later." She spared Paris a cool nod and quickly left the Mess Hall.

* * * * 

B'Elanna strode into her quarters and flopped down on the sofa. She heaved a frustrated sigh. Kahless! She felt so tired! Despite the fifteen hours of leave already taken, her exhaustion seemed to have increased. B'Elanna began to wonder if the Hotak device had anything to do with her physical condition. If so, maybe she should pay a visit to Sick Bay.

A visit to Sick Bay, she realized, would mean revelation of the device in her possession. It would also mean facing Captain Janeway's wrath. And after the humiliation of being in the Captain's doghouse, nearly five months ago, B'Elanna had no desire to face that situation again. The Hotak device, B'Elanna decided, would have to remain her secret. A secret she would no longer meddle with. At least until she regained her strength.

Having made a decision, B'Elanna decided to spend her time on other activities. She tried a small nap. Didn't work. After twenty minutes, she remained awake. Then she tried returning to her old Engineering report. Didn't work. Nor did her Klingon romance novel. No big surprise, there. In the end, B'Elanna knew what she really wanted to do - use the Hotak device. And if that meant more exhaustion, so be it. Perhaps another glimpse into the future would be worth the price.

With great effort, B'Elanna climbed off the sofa and retrieved the device from the desk. She returned to the sofa and sat down. Breathless with anticipation, she slowly opened the case. The now familiar light filled the room . . .

* * * * 

Calypso music filled the interior of Holodeck One. B'Elanna sighed with satisfaction, as she made her way across the tiled terrace. Without a doubt, Neelix's Talaxian resort had to be her favorite holoprogram. Not only did she love the sub-tropical setting and the color, she especially reveled the warm sun that shined above.

Clutching the towel around her neck, B'Elanna made her way toward one of the patios. She paused and ordered the computer to summon her favorite holocharacter - a muscular beach boy she had dubbed Ricardo. Unfortunately, Ricardo failed to materialize. B'Elanna frowned. Now what the hell?

"Computer," she barked, "include holocharacter, Ricardo."

The computer's voice coolly replied, "Request denied. The holocharacter, Ricardo, has been deleted from the program."

"WHAT?"

"Unable to respond. Please restate the . . ."

Her anger now threatening to erupt, B'Elanna snarled, "Computer off!" She sighed, closed her eyes and took a deep breath." Oh well. She did not need Ricardo to enjoy her time in the holodeck. She still had the resort. And the glorious sun. B'Elanna spotted an empty deck chair and sat down. Ricardo or no Ricardo, she was determined to enjoy herself and relax.

"Mind if I join you?" A soft, masculine voice took B'Elanna by surprise. She glanced up. Her heart fluttered at the sight of one Thomas Eugene Paris, standing above her. He also wore casual clothes - deep blue beach shorts that revealed long and steady legs, and a purple T-shirt that stretched over a broad, muscular chest.

B'Elanna tried to keep her voice steady. "Wish I could say yes, but I seem to be occupying the only chair in this spot."

"Well then, I'll just share yours." Tom plopped down on an empty spot on the deck chair. B'Elanna opened her mouth to protest, but her raging hormones intervened. To be honest, she really did not mind sharing the chair. Especially with Tom. She rather enjoyed the feel of the muscular thigh that brushed against her leg. And the warmth that his skin radi . . .

'Stop it!' B'Elanna took a deep breath. She could not believe this. All Tom Paris had to do was sit down next to her for a few minutes, and already she felt excited. One part of B'Elanna's brain found the idea of her being attracted to Voyager's chief pilot, humiliating. And disturbing. Off all the men to develop an attraction toward - Tom Paris. One-time loser and Voyager's resident Lothario.

"You know," Tom began, cutting into her thoughts, "you look absolutely delicious in that swim suit." Blue eyes expressed overt admiration. "Good enough to eat."

'So do you' was B'Elanna's immediate response. Fortunately, she kept her thought to herself. Instead, she commented, "Well . . . thank you. I thought you were going to use the word, stunning. Isn't that what you told me, three days ago? At the luau? And I didn't realize you were into cannibalism."

Tom stared at her with a mixture of seductive charm and desire. B'Elanna shivered. "Actually, I didn't have cannibalism in mind," he replied softly. "I was thinking of something a lot more pleasant. And private." He whispered the last two words.

B'Elanna realized that she should get up and leave. Right now. Before she ended up throwing herself into the pilot's arms and ravaging him at that . . . Another deep breath followed. B'Elanna managed to cut short the impulsive thought with her usual ruthlessness. "That," she said in a husky voice, "will have to wait for another day."

Blue eyes twinkled deliciously. "You mean there's hope for us both?"

A retort hung on B'Elanna's lips, but she decided to keep her mouth shut. What exactly could she say to Tom? That there was no hope? Or that she had no intention of becoming his latest conquest? B'Elanna decided to nip this attraction in the bud. Fast. Before something happened that they both might regret. Or even worse, enjoy. She heaved an inward sigh and retorted, "I have no idea on what you're talking about!" Kahless, she sounded so unconvincing!

Tom smiled. "Whatever you say, B'Elanna." His eyes fell upon her tote bag on the floor, below. "Say, where's your little companion, Roberto? Isn't he usually around to give you a massage or something?"

Realization hit B'Elanna. She pointed an accusing finger at the helmsman. "It was you, wasn't it?" she growled.

"What are you talking about?"

"Cut the crap, Paris!" B'Elanna shot back. "It was you! You're the one who deleted Ricardo from the program! And his name is Ricardo, by the way! Not Roberto!"

Innocence reigned in those vivid blue eyes. "I have no idea on what you're talking about."

"You have no . . ." B'Elanna took a deep breath. Then she asked, "Computer, who deleted the character, Ricardo, from this program?"

The computer replied, "Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres."

"WHAT?"

"Please restate the . . ."

Interrupting the dry voice once again, B'Elanna growled, "Computer off!"

"You see? I told you that I had nothing to do with whatshisname." Tom leaned forward, his face merely an inch or two away from B'Elanna's. "If you need someone to give a massage that badly, I'd be willing to volunteer." His eyes now twinkled with promise.

B'Elanna inhaled deeply. Tom's scent filled her nostrils, forcing her to suppress a shiver. She wanted to say yes. The idea of the pilot's long fingers on her bare skin filled her with desire. But fear of being another notch on Tom Paris' bedpost prevented . . .


* * * * 

Back in the present, B'Elanna let out a gasp and fell back on the couch. The device slipped out of her hand.

Disbelief flooded every nerve in her body. Tom Paris? B'Elanna could not believe it. Her mind refused to accept the possibility that she would develop an attraction toward Tom Paris! That pig! B'Elanna took a deep breath. Okay, perhaps the man was not a pig. He could be quite decent, as his behavior toward her in the Vidiian mines had attested. But the Chief Helmsman, in her opinion, was the last man in the universe with whom she would strike a romance. Tom Paris??

Had she become so desperate for a love life that she became attracted to Paris? Had a possible romance with Chakotay become so futile that she ended up considering just anyone?

While her dizziness lingered, B'Elanna heaved a large sigh. These dizzy spells seemed to be remaining longer, each time she used the device. B'Elanna tried taking a few more deep breaths to rid herself of them. Or meditation. But neither methods seemed to help very much. And closing her eyes for meditation only seemed to conjure unwanted memories of her and Tom Paris inside the holodeck. Maybe what she had witnessed will turn out to be a fluke. A momentary attraction that will eventually . . .

The ship's communication system beeped. "Paris to Torres."

Speak of the devil. Barely suppressing her annoyance, B'Elanna snapped, "Torres here! What do you want?"

A pause followed. Then, "B'Elanna?"

"What the hell do you want, Paris?"

A sarcastic voice responded, "So what happened to Tom and B'Elanna?"

"Okay! Tom! Now what do you want?" Another wave of dizziness hit B'Elanna.

Paris replied, "I'm looking for Harry. We were supposed to meet at Sandrine's. Have you seen him?"

"No!" The word left B'Elanna's mouth with the speed and precision of a phaser blast.

Another pause. "Okay! I guess I caught you at a bad time. Someone could sure use a few hours on the holodeck, tonight."

"Yeah, just not with you! Torres out!" B'Elanna quickly ended the conversation before the pilot could respond. Then she sighed. Her taste in men must have really sunk low, in the future. Tom Paris. She shook her head. It could not have lasted very long. Not a relationship between her and that . . . that pig!

Her eyes fell upon the device on the floor. B'Elanna frowned. Should she use it, again? Learn what will happen between her and Paris? If that seemed possible. Past experience with the Hotak device had already taught B'Elanna that it only gave random visions. Besides . . . Another wave of dizziness struck her. These damn spells seemed to be getting worse B'Elanna decided that what she really needed was a trip to Sick Bay.

B'Elanna slowly eased into a sitting position on the sofa. Instead of preparing herself to stand up, she reached for the Hotak device and opened the case . . .

* * * * 

The two figures lay entwined on the floor of the Delta Flyer. Their bodies moved perfectly together, as they engaged in passionate love. Finally, heartfelt cries echoed throughout the shuttle, indicating the couple's climatic pleasure. Cries immediately became sighs and heavy breathing. Feeling boneless and slightly out of breath, B'Elanna collapsed on top of her new husband's damp body.

"Hmmm." The sound came out of her mouth as a low growl. B'Elanna glanced at the wide chest beneath her. She noticed the teeth marks that circled Tom's left nipple and giggled. "Ooops!" she said, poking at the mark. "Did I do that?"

A lazy grin stretched Tom's mouth. "You mean that after two years, ten months and ten days of dating, and three hours of marriage, you don't recognize a Torres love bite when you see one? I'm appalled."

"Oh you!" B'Elanna gave her husband an affectionate slap on the forearm. "I should punish you for that remark."

Blue eyes sparkled mischeviously. "Punish me? Hmm, I can't wait to see what you have in mind." Tom waggled his eyebrows suggestively. Inducing another fit of giggles from B'Elanna. Tom joined in the laughter.

Once the laughter inside the shuttle subsided, silence reigned. The newly wedded couple stared at each other with eyes that reflected love, desire and wonder. B'Elanna closed her in anticipation, as Tom captured her mouth for a kiss. His tongue explored the inner wetness and grazed her teeth. Finally, Tom's mouth reluctantly parted from hers and gently nipped an earlobe. B'Elanna shivered with delight.

Encouraged by Tom's kisses, B'Elanna responded by caressing his broad shoulders. Her hands strayed toward his thighs and began to massage them. She could feel him stir below. "Hmmm," she murmured, "looks like someone still has a bit of energy left." Her hands slipped between his legs. "More than a bit. Is that you, Tom Torres?"


Never did B'Elanna imagine she would find herself married to Tom Paris, of all people. And she could not have been happier. "That sounds just fine to me," she purred.

"And to me," Tom added in a whisper. He lowered his mouth upon B'Elanna's . . .


* * * * 

The familiar light blinded B'Elanna. She let out a gasp and her eyes flew open. The half-Klingon woman struggled to rise from the sofa. Only the dizziness made it impossible for her to sit up. After a minute or two of struggle, B'Elanna gave up and surrendered to darkness.

* * * * 

Her eyes fluttered open. Above hovered three faces. Two belonged to Chakotay and Captain Janeway, and both looked very worried. The third belonged to a grim-faced medical hologram. B'Elanna licked her dry lips and took a deep breath. "What's going on?" she muttered.

"That is what we would like to know, Lieutenant," the Captain replied. "How are you feeling?"

B'Elanna closed her eyes for a brief moment. No dizziness, thank goodness. And yet, her limbs felt like lead. She murmured, "A little tired. Exhausted, actually. Wha . . . what happened?"

"I just finished operating on you, Lieutenant," the Doctor coolly replied. "To repair your damaged neural pathways."

Janeway added, "Ensign Kim and Lieutenant Paris found you inside your quarters, unconscious. After they were unable to awaken you, they beamed you here to Sick Bay."

Oh." B'Elanna tried to sit up.

The Doctor added, "Don't bother, Lieutenant. I gave you a depressant, following the operation. You needed the sleep."

Taking another deep breath, B'Elanna continued, "Can't I do that in my own quarters? I don't . . ."

Chakotay added, "I'm sorry, but the Doctor needs to keep you here under observation. He and Kes can look after you."

B'Elanna sighed with defeat. If only she had never come across that damn device. Speaking of which, she wondered if anyone had found . . .

"Looking for this?" The Captain held up the leather box. B'Elanna's heart sank. "Lieutenant Paris found this in your quarters. Apparently, seconds after he opened it, he found himself in another time frame. Possibly in the future." B'Elanna found herself wilting under the gray-eyed stare of the Captain's. "Once you're released from Sick Bay, you and I are going to have a long talk." After giving the Chief Engineer a firm nod, she turned on her heels and left. Chakotay followed, but only after he shot B'Elanna a sympathetic glance.

* * * *

The following afternoon, the EMH finally released B'Elanna from Sick Bay. The latter immediately headed straight to the Captain's Ready Room and revealed how she found the Hotak device. And her experiences in the future. Of course, B'Elanna did leave out certain details - like her flirtation with Tom in the Holodeck, and their subsequent honeymoon.

For her actions, the Captain revoked B'Elanna's holodeck priviledges for a week. The auburn-haired captain added that she had ordered Voyager back to Hotak in order to return the device to its previous location. B'Elanna received one last lecture on responsible behavior befitting a Starfleet officer before being dismissed.

Her cheeks flaming with embarrassment, B'Elanna left the Captain's Ready Room through the second door and entered Deck One's corridor. She had never felt so humiliated since the incident over the Sikiris transporter. One good thing came out of her use of the Hotak device - she saw a future that seemed destined to end in disaster. Marriage to Tom Paris? Inconceivable. Hell, she could say the same about a romance with the erratic helmsman. B'Elanna simply could not see someone like Paris remaining in a relationship with a Human/Klingon hybrid, let alone a Human female. Any marriage to him seemed bound to meet the same fate as her parents'. With her driving Tom away.

B'Elanna knew what she had to do. Make sure that a relationship between her and Paris would never happen. She had no desire to get involved with a man who would only disappoint her in the end. Resolved by her decision, B'Elanna marched toward the turbolift.

* * * * 

Five years and seven months later . . .

"Good grief, Harry! You're not going to eat Neelix's apple pie again, are you? Don't you remember what happened the last time? You ended up in Sick Bay, getting your stomach pumped."

B'Elanna and Harry sat inside Voyager's Mess Hall, finishing the last of their lunch. The Chief Engineer had planned to immediately return to Deck Eleven, when she spotted the slice of "apple pie" on the ensign's plate. If one could call it apple pie. It looked more like a banana cream pie - with the filling dyed green and no whip cream topping.

Annoyance flashed across Harry's face. "I won't get sick. Besides, Neelix and the Doctor found the ingredient that made me ill. And Neelix swore that he left it out, this time."

"Yeah, right," B'Elanna grumbled.

"What's wrong with you anyway, Maquis? Got up on the wrong side of the bed, this morning?"

B'Elanna sighed. "It's nothing. We're still working on the damaged deflector dish, thanks to Chakotay. He allows the damn thing to shorten out and won't even tell me why he did it. I don't think even the Captain knows. Something about the Temporal Directive."

A frown creased Harry's forehead. "You still haven't fixed the deflector dish? It's been a week since that incident. What's the problem?"

"I don't know. Gremlins, perhaps?" B'Elanna said with a shrug. "Even worse, Sue Nicoletti passed out, this morning. Just fainted dead away. And the one thing I don't need right now is to have one of my best engineers ill."

Harry smiled. "Oh, I have a pretty good idea on what's wrong with Sue. Haven't you heard? She's . . ."

The doors to the Mess Hall opened, interrupting Harry. Tom Paris strode inside and many of the crewmen burst into cheers, whistles and applause. Then to B'Elanna's further confusion, Neelix walked up to Tom and offered his congratulations. Why, B'Elanna had no idea. She turned to Harry. "What the hell is going on?"

Harry did not answer. Instead, he waited until the pilot appeared beside their table, stood up and enveloped the older man with a bear hug. "Hey Tom! Congratulations!" he crowed. "It's not every day a man becomes a father."

A father? The moment those words left Harry's mouth, B'Elanna became ill. She felt as if a photon torpedo had made impact with her stomach. Tom Paris, a father. That could only mean that Sue Nicoletti was pregnant. B'Elanna dreaded this moment since the day her subordinate married Tom. Keeping her jealousy in check, she reacted with an enthusiasm that she did not feel. "A new father! You mean to say that Sue fainted, because she was pregnant?"

Tom smiled, causing B'Elanna's heart to skip. "Yep. She's due in another six-and-a-half months."

"Just in time for the New Year," Harry added.

B'Elanna inhaled before flashing the pilot a brilliant smile. "That's great, Tom! I'm happy for both you and Sue." Then she returned her attention to her breakfast tray, unable to say anything further.

While Tom and Harry continued to discuss the upcoming pregnancy, B'Elanna's thoughts wallowed in misery. And regret. Where did it all go wrong? She has asked herself this question so many times during the past six years. Yet, she knew the answer. Her stubbornness. Her fears. She had the bad misfortune to catch a glimpse of a possible paradise. And instead of anticipating the future, she allowed her fears to get the best of her. Push away a chance of happiness before it could begin.

After her glimpse of a future with Tom Paris, B'Elanna had done everything possible to ensure that the relationship would go no further than distant friendship. It had been simple during Voyager's first two years in the Delta Quadrant. Tom was first preoccupied with a crush on Kes, the ship's former nurse, and later, pursuit of Sue Nicoletti. That third year, however, proved to be difficult. Tom suddenly developed an interest in B'Elanna. She did her best to ignore him by ignoring his flirtations and invitations to dinner. She had even ignored Tom and Harry's offer to escort her to a luau being held inside Neelix's old Resort holoprogram. Once B'Elanna made it apparent that she harbored no interest in a relationship with the Chief Helmsman, he stopped pursuing her. And two months later, he returned his attention to Sue Nicoletti.

At first, it seemed that Tom would have no better luck with Sue than he did the previous year. However, matters came to a head on possibly one of the worst days in B'Elanna's life - her personal Day of Honor. One, a failed experiment with creating a transwarp conduit ended with the ejection of the warp core. The Captain ordered the core to be retrieved - only she ordered B'Elanna to send another member of the Engineering team. B'Elanna did. She sent Sue Nicoletti, who ended up accompanied by Tom Paris. B'Elanna had no idea what occurred between the pair on that mission. But four days later, Tom and Sue became a couple. Their three-year romance ended with an impromptu wedding, following an intergalactic race. Since of their romance, B'Elanna found herself regretting her decision to change the future. Dreams of that alternate honeymoon aboard the Delta Flyer have haunted her, ever since.

". . . have any idea why Chakotay destroyed the deflector?" Harry was saying. Apparently, both men had lost interest in Sue's pregnancy.

Tom shook his head. "I've heard rumors of something about him invoking the Temporal Directive. Whatever that means."

"Speaking of temporal anomalies," Harry continued, "do you remember that device you found on Hotak some five or six years ago, B'Elanna? You know, the one that allows you to see the future?"

Dread numbed every nerve in B'Elanna's body. Of course she remembered. There was not a single damn day when she forgot. "Yeah, I remembered," she mumbled.

Harry continued, "Now, I remember you telling me that you saw Kurt Bendara's death, a future game of hoverball between you and the Commander, and even Neelix's resort program." His attention switched to the pilot. "But Tom, you also used the device and you never told me what you saw."

Tom hesitated. His gaze dropped to the food on his tray. "It was nothing, Harry. In fact, it never happened."

"C'mon, Tom! Everything B'Elanna had witnessed came true. Right?"

Memories of that passionate moment inside the Delta Flyer flashed in B'Elanna's mind. "Right," she replied in a choked voice.

Harry continued, "So, tell us. C'mon Tom, what did you see?"

The pilot took a deep breath. "Okay. I was inside a cave . . . with . . . with someone." His blue eyes briefly rested upon B'Elanna. "From Engineering."

'He knows!' B'Elanna felt a surge of panic. Judging from Tom's brief glance, she felt sure that he knew about their life together, in that alternate timeline. She struggled to maintain a calm fa├žade.

Harry frowned. "What cave?"

"On Sakaris IV," Tom replied. B'Elanna winced. The sight of her infamous bout with pon far. Voyager had come across a supply of gallacite and B'Elanna was ordered to form an Away team to retrieve the mineral. She had knew about Tom's talent as a rock climber, but decided to exclude him from the Away mission. But not before an emotional unbalanced Vulcan engineer infected her with pon far. B'Elanna spent her entire time on Sakaris IV longing for Tom, while rejecting any offers of help from Harry, Tuvok and Chakotay.

His frown deepening, Harry shot back, "But you only spent one hour on Sakaris IV. With Carl Ashmore and me. When we helped the Sakarians avoid further detection by the Borg."

"That's right, Harry," Tom replied. "But in my vision, I was there for several hours." Again, his eyes shot a glance at B'Elanna. "With Sue."

Harry shook his head and murmured, "Now, that's strange. Sue never made it to the surface. I guess time must have been changed."

"I guess," Tom echoed. For the third time, he glanced at B'Elanna.

"You know," Harry continued, "this reminds me of something the Captain once told me. She said that our trip to Earth's past made her realize how much temporal mechanics gave her a headache. I think she might have something, there. Right, B'Elanna?"

The Chief Engineer did not reply. Unaware of her friend's last words, she stared into space, devastated and filled with regret. 

"B'Elanna?"


THE END

Monday, September 21, 2015

Toad-in-the-Hole

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Below is an article about a traditional English that may (or may not) have been created in the mid 18th century calledToad-in-the-Hole


TOAD-IN-THE-HOLE

Created as a cheap comfort dish, Toad-in-the-Hole originated Alnmouth in Northumberland, England. Toad-in-the-Hole is basically a dish that consists of sausages in Yorkshire Pudding batter. Ironically, the first recipe for the dish consisted of pigeon, not sausages. And that recipe was found in Hannah Glasse's 1747 cookbook called "The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy". She called the dish "Pigeon-in-the-Hole".

How did the dish acquired his name? Well . . . here is an idea. Alnmouth has a golf course which can at certain times of the year be overrun with Natterjack toads. It was at just such a time, that a golf tournament was being played and the leader made his putt, only to have the ball ejected by a toad that had been quietly asleep in the bottom of the cup. Who created the dish? Well . . . on hearing of the players misfortune, achef at the town's hotel where the players were staying devised the dish, thinking it would resemble a toad rising from the eighteenth, and served it that night. Is this really the truth?

The dish with sausages may have first appeared in 1769. Toad-in-the-Hole became very popular with members of the Royal Philosophers. They enjoyed the dish at least once or twice a year at the Mitre Tavern, the dining club’s chosen dining venue. Toad-in-the-Hole was served alongside such delicacies as venison, fresh salmon, turbot and asparagus.

Below is a recipe for "Toad-in-the-Hole" from the Simplyrecipies.com website:


Toad-in-the-Hole

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 scant teaspoon Kosher salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cup milk
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb of bangers (an English sausage made with pork and breadcrumbs), or good quality pork or beef sausage links (in casings)


Preparation

Whisk together the flour with the salt and a pinch of pepper in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour. Pour in the eggs, milk, and melted butter into the well and whisk into the flour until smooth. Cover and let stand 30 minutes.

Coat the bottom and sides of an 8x12 or 9x9 casserole dish with vegetable oil (we use high smoke point grapeseed or canola oil). Place a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Put the empty dish on the rack. Preheat the oven with the dish in it to 425°F.

While the oven is coming to temperature, heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a skillet on medium high. Add the sausages and brown them on at least a couple sides.

When the sausages have browned, and the dish in the oven hot, pull the oven rack out a bit, put the sausages in the casserole dish, and pour the batter over the sausages. Cook for about 20-30 minutes or until the batter is risen and golden.

Serve at once.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"NORTH AND SOUTH: Book II" (1986) Photo Gallery

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Below are images from "NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II", David Wolper's 1986 adaptation of John Jakes' 1984 novel, "Love and War". This second television entry in the NORTH AND SOUTH trilogy was directed by Kevin Connor and starred James Read and Patrick Swayze:


"NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II" (1986) Photo Gallery

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