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18 May 2008 @ 03:57 pm
WaTchers Review - 16  
Watchers Series Review for Season One, Episode 16: 

RESTORATION 




Story by: CN Winters, Susan Carr and Chris Cook
Written by: Chris Cook
Directed by: CN Winters and Susan Carr
Produced by: CN Winters and Susan Carr
Edited by: Kate
Sound Department: Steff
Art Director: Chris Cook
Artist: Chris Cook
Opening Credits by: Track 6 and Chris Cook
Guest Starring:
Robin Sachs as Sean Rayne, Edward Woodward as Horatio Tyrell, and Michelle Trachtenberg as Aurora, with guest appearances by Emma Caulfield as Anya, and Diana Rigg as Veronica Wyndam-Pryce.

Teaser: The episode starts with whom we assume is Willow Rosenberg having a nightmare regarding Tara. At the same time, a Slayer looking remarkably like Tara MacClay is battling a vampire on the streets. Her Watcher is in a hovercar nearby... what the heck is going on?!

Easy, we've been transported to the year 2130, where reincarnations of our players are running a future Council of Watchers. "Tara" is actually Katherine Allison. What changes have been wrought in the century plus that the Council has been operating? Well, I'll let the "backstory" section of WaTchers: Restoration answer that:

It is the year 2130, and the new Watchers Council, which was founded by Rupert Giles and Willow Rosenberg over a century ago, has become a militaristic worldwide corporate entity. Charged with protecting humanity from demonic and paranormal threats, the Council has been given sweeping powers and special concessions via the Human Defense Treaty, which is in effect across most of the globe.

 

But like the old adage "Absolute power corrupts absolutely," the Council has become a shadow of what it once was. Bogged down in bureaucracy and in many ways losing the battle against the demonic menace, the Council has lost favor of late-especially in the last twenty years since the disastrous Coven Rebellion, which resulted in the general outlawing of magic, even within the Council itself.

 

The government and the public aren't the only ones unhappy with the Watchers Council.

Restoration is a spin-off of the WaTchers series and it all starts with this episode. Now, back to our main story....

As Katherine is battling for her life, her Watcher Sean Rayne orders her to take the vampire alive, when it shows that it is strangely fast, even for a vampire. She's less than thrilled with this order, but she's a good little Slayer and does as she's told.

 Katherine uses her stun glove to take the vampire alive.

Act One: Katherine loads the unconscious vampire in the hovercar's onboard prison cell, while her Watcher deals with the local authorities. They're only too happy to delete all records of this incident, despite the fact that the vampire launched a forearm-mounted rocket during the scuffle, causing severe damage to a building nearby. 

Katherine turns on a video screen, getting caught up with a 24 hour, subscriber news service. This provides some very interesting tidbits about what is happening in this time, including the fact that the demonic menace has, at some point, become worldwide public knowledge:

(Katherine's News reader): Top stories this February twelfth, twenty-one-thirty," the holographic newsreader said in a lively tone, with only a slight flicker as it inserted her name into its pre-programmed introduction, "turmoil in the World Alliance as the American Protectorate States vetoes the Oceanian Conglomerate program to develop anti-demonoid biological weapons. An Oceanian spokesperson insists that new measures need to be introduced to counter the rising incidence of demon activity worldwide. American Administration officials continue to press for Oceania, the Chinese Hegemony and the Russian Consortium to sign on to the Human Defense Treaty. The treaty, now in force in all American states and subsidiary nations, gives the Watchers Council sweeping new powers to deal with demonic activity. Russian ministers have continued to argue that the treaty is a violation of each sovereign nation's rights –"

Katherine frowned and shut off the screen, pressing her shoulders back in her seat.

This obviously explains why Sean was able to elicit such utter cooperation from the police with nothing more than a flash of his Council badge: "... sweeping new powers..." indeed.

Now, this next scene is MOST interesting as Katherine is wistful for the past and obviously not comfortable with her current role or the Council, in general. Her Watcher doesn't share her sentiments, but let's take a listen to her complaint:

(Katherine to her Watcher, Sean):  "It didn't used to…be this way," Katherine said to herself. "Watchers didn't used to interrogate, imprison people…conduct military operations…I mean, they existed for centuries without anyone even knowing. We used to protect people, not…"

It's also worth noting that she believes the Council "went wrong" somewhere. Sean Rayne cuts her off with a curt "Time's change", so we don't learn anything more presently.

The following morning at Council HQ, we meet our dreaming Willow again, but of course it wasn't really her. Instead it's one of her decendants, Jocasta Rosenberg and she's also a Council member like her ancestor. Or does she? Again we have an interesting discussion between her and a fellow who looks remarkably similar to Robin Wood (wink) named Col. West. We also find that Jocasta also has the rank of Colonel... but what is it with these ranks if they're in the Council. Well, here's the interesting thing, Jocasta is obviously a research leader by the conversation between the two, but when Colonel West complains that the "codex team doesn't have enough people" to complete some sort of research (codex would imply magical I think), Jocasta's reply is that they have all the people that "the Council will give us". The rest of the conversation definitely points out that this new future Council is not at all supportive of the magic end of things.

Still elsewhere, Sean and Katherine are performing some exploratory research (i.e. laser surgery) on their capture vampire, finding evidence of obvious cybernetic enhancements... very shades of Adam, the cyber-demonoid (BTVS: S 4). Sean orders Katherine to keep the entire affair a secret... he mentions that there are higher ups in the Council that he can't trust and turns down her suggestion that the Biomechanics Research Division may be able to help. Again, between Jocasta's scene and this one, it's obvious that something has gone wrong with our Council... it's like there's little fifedoms going on with everyone in a cold war with everyone else. What led to this?

Back at Jocasta's office, she has a meeting with the current incarnation of Giles, Sebastian. His position is as some sort of middle-management within the Council. He reports on Sean Rayne's capture of the vampire from earlier, but also notes that there was no follow-up report on what exactly Sean found, which has him disturbed. Even in the future, it's obvious that Giles and Rayne don't trust or like one another. And what is up with these uniforms? I don't know if it was intentional (I suspect it was) but they're disturbing in and of themselves.

  Has the Council of 2130 become a fascist organization?!


Giles was disturbed enough to find a back channel way of find out that Sean had sent a detailed report to the High Command of the Council (of which Sebastian and Jocasta are obviously not members). What he found has him disturbed as well as Jocasta... according to her, they've always believed that demon morphology is incompatible with cyber-enhancements. It seems that the details of our good guy's battles with Adam have been lost or suppressed somehow, yes?

Sean, unfortunately, has sussed out that Giles has been snooping and stops by just long enough to subtly threaten him. Later that afternoon, Katherine has also found her way to "Grey Section" and drops in on Jocasta who has summoned her to talk about the vampire that no one is supposed to know about. Sean Rayne is obviously up to something... why else try to keep everything so hush-hush from the rest of the Council? And who was he trying to reach through the back channels in the "High Command"? 

  Willow and Tara meet again... sort of.

As Katherine is discussing the Cyber-Vampire, Sebastian joins them and the way that "Katie" reacts doesn't speak well for this Council anymore than the rest of the hints we've gotten that this isn't the same Council that was founded by Giles, Willow, Faith and Kennedy. Fortunately, Sebastian is very much like Rupert and eschews all of this "standing at attention" garbage. Really, this organization is seeming more and more like a military group... it's quite disturbing.

As more discussions of Rayne's suspicious behavior and the altered vampire occurs, Giles mentions a code, though he doesn't understand the context... 314... Jocasta says it sounds familiar, but nothing immediately clicks for her. It does for us though... obviously someone has revived Maggie Walsh's pet project. Now the question is who and why?

Act Two: The act opens with Jocasta and Katherine visiting the former's apartment. Like her grandmother (obviously Willow) she has an attraction for real books and cross-referencing. It's also obvious that she is very uncomfortable with being compared to her famous grandmother.  Really the important thing about this scene though is the fact that Katherine has been exposed to magic texts by a former Watcher (before Sean) because she has a talent for it (i.e. like Tara) and the fact that "Slayers aren't even supposed to read about magic" as one of the Council's rules. Now, why? What happened to our Council to make it so... "pit of vipers" comes to mind. It seems that everyone is keeping secrets from everyone else and these rules about keeping Slayer's ignorant and "in their place"? 

Later, Giles and another new player who seems to have some decency, Veronica Wyndom-Pryce are discussing the morass that has become the Command Council of the Watchers... perhaps why there is a "High Command" above them to get things done. Of course, there's more sinister undertones as the High Council has taken over the data of Rayne's and immediately classified it, removing the Command Council's access to the records. And they're powerless to do anything about it, since they're too busy arguing over who should have jurisdiction. 

  The Command Council, but they don't command much considering "High Command" can keep data from them.

Veronica also informs Giles that the vampire's modifications (from what she got before her access to the data was stripped) appears to have included a resistence to sunlight and to the need to feed directly on human blood, making them much more able to infiltrate human society. Not a comforting thought, especially since the captured demon was so heavily armed. (It was caught hunting because of a malfunction or rejection of the unit that was synthesizing artificial blood and feeding it directly into its veins).

Back at Jo's, she and Katie are becoming closer. Again, it's clear that something is happening with the Council, however, as Jocasta discovers that her computer files of Willow's diaries and journals have been erased, the records sealed under the authority of the "High Command". And the next morning, they find Giles angry because the "High Command" has not only locked down all traces of the cyber-vampire, but they are also denying the Tech Research division's access to the vamp records as well. There's only one thing to do: visit something called the "Progenitor File"... they only need to get past one obstacle... James Wells, Senior Technician.

  James Wells. Remind you of anyone?


With a little trickery, Jo and her friends get access to the mysterious file where they meet...

Willow Rosensberg?!

Act Three:
Okay, so it's not actually Willow, but it is a hologram/neural doodady built around all of Willow's journals, notes, etc.

  A blast from the 21st century past.


At first the Willow hologram refuses them access to the information on "314", but Jo is able to get the data by submitting to a DNA scan which reveals her to be a genetic match. Willow-gram concedes. 

Just after the Willow-gram explains the 314-project, security arrives and who's in charge of it? Why an ancestor of someone who also plagued our Council, of course....

  Tyrell... the next generation, but still an ass.


Fortunately, Tyrell is just as arrogant here as his grandson, and our heroes finally learn what is going on. Apparently, they are building a new army to fight the forces of darkness... in essence, the plan is to replace the Slayers with mind-controlled cyborgs and at the same time over throw the ineffective Command Council so that only the "High Council" is left to say who will do what and how in order to safeguard the planet. Tyrell also mentions a "Coven Rebellion" which occured 20 years before this episode, possibly explaining why the coven branch has been so reduced in influence in the current timeframe. Giles, Jo and Katie are all placed under arrest for illegally accessing the Willow-gram database.

Some quick action by the Slayer, and the team is free. Now they must get to California to put a stop to this ill-advised and traitorous plan!

  Katherine and Jocasta go after Rayne who's transporting the cyber-vampire specimen.


Katherine is able to force Sean to crash and then has to knock him unconscious to keep him from shooting her and Jo. They also find the vampire and Jo sticks some sort of device (a tracker?) into its mouth as its also unconscious. Before they can decide what to do next, however, a Council transport arrives and shoots at them with a rail gun... they're forced to retreat. What's more however, is that Jo is able to tell that the cybernetics attached to the vampire are not Council technology.

A little later, the two women rendevous with Giles at a bar he had selected earlier as a meeting place and find that its a demon bar. Something the Council would never tolerate, but as Giles explains, not all demons are inheritantly destructive despite the Council's propoganda to the contrary. At this 22nd century version of "Willy's Bar", Giles and the Holo-Willow explain everything that is going on with the new threat to the Council using records accessed by the Willow-gram.

It's a dense sequence, so I won't go into it at length here, but they basically rehash Adam, how Buffy defeated him, what the objective of this new Cyber-Vampire project is, and a method of attack that involves magic and re-creating the 'Slayer-Scooby Combine' spell that created Super-Buffy. Unfortunately, they need a maternal descendent of Buffy Summers to create this new version of the spell. They find one in "Aurora Summers, record incomplete, no birth date, no death date".

Time for a road trip!

When they reach this mysterious Aurora's residence, she blurts out: "By all the gods," Aurora sighed happily. "You found each other."

Jocasta and Katherine shared a confused expression.

And I'm confused too... could Aurora BE Dawn?! How!?

  The mysterious and familiar "Aurora Summers".


Act Four: Act four is all about getting Aurora up to speed on why they need her help in stopping this latest threat to world security. And just in the way she talks, it sure appears that this IS Dawn Summers under an assumed name which opens up a whole slew of questions that will probably not be addressed here (since Restoration is a series unto itself), but it is startling for as much as it give us here to speculate with.

As Aurora is getting ready for battle and after Jo has gotten in touch with Giles (who didn't accompany the girls, he's been trying to recruit a Slayer force), she and Katie have a long talk and admit that they feel unusually drawn to one another... Tara and Willow find each other across the years....

  Jocasta and Katherine are drawn to one another a la Willow and Tara from over a century previously.


Finally, it's time for the big showdown with the rogue 'High Command' operation with our heroes other allies in the struggle:

  Antonia Allister, pilot.

And

  Livia Hansen, lead Slayer.


And


  Mira, one of 40 Slayers willing to support Sebastian Giles.

The battle is rip-roaring, violent and brutal as Giles' team meets resistence from Tyrell's. It's Council vs. Council again (but with far more hardware this time). 


  Uber-Aurora goes after the demon 'control unit'.


  Eve... consider her Adam, Mark II.


The Good: Wow. What a dense episode full to bursting with plot, character information, and enough to give us an idea of how this future Council works. Amazing job by the creative staff who obviously all loved this concept and ran with it. The artwork is uniformly excellent and there are far more included pics than in previous episodes (71 of them) which must have been incredibly hard work. This does a terrific job of kicking off the Restoration spin off, while being completely satisfying as a stand alone story showing us the future for our Council and how our characters are "reborn" over 100 years from now. Brilliant! The whole thing was terrific.

The Bad: There is one slight hitch... I was really confused about the difference between the "Command Council" and the "High Council" and what they're hierarchy was. Several times its spoken as if the Command Council has jurisdiction over all aspects of the Watchers Council, but the "High Council" seems able to thwart them time and again with impunity. Perhaps the High Council is a security agency over the Council, but it isn't clear.

Verdict: I love this one, as do most Watchers fans on the forums and its obvious that the creative staff really loved it as well. Easily a 4.75 star story out of 5. The only thing holding this one back is the muddled heirarchy of the future Council and how they inter-relate/who has authority over what/who can tell who what to do relationships.



 
 
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