“CHARMED” RETROSPECT: (6.11) “Witchstock”

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“CHARMED” RETROSPECT: (6.11) “Witchstock”

During its eight season run, the fantasy-drama “CHARMED” has occasionally featured an episode dealing with the topic of time travel. These time travel episodes usually prove to be well-written or exceptional. However, there comes a time when the series produced a time travel episode that end up being a dud. The series’ Season Six episode, (6.11) “Witchstock” proved to be the latter.

Directed by James A. Contner and written by Daniel Cerone, “Witchstock” begins at least a month or two following the first-rate (6.10) “Chris-Crossed”. At the end of the previous episode, oldest sister Piper Halliwell had suggested that younger sister Phoebe and even younger half-sister Paige Matthews leave the family’s manor to pursue their romantic desires. Phoebe left San Francisco to live with her boyfriend, the very wealthy Jason Dean, in Hong Kong. And Paige left the manor to live with her own wealthy boyfriend, a male witch named Richard Montana. However, the sisters’ separation proves to be a little problematic, since they have to deal with a magic-sucking slime found inside a local warehouse. Their new whitelighter from the future Chris Perry (in reality Halliwell) manages to bring Phoebe back from Hong Kong to vanquish the slime, but was not able to find Paige. Piper and Phoebe achieve their mission . . . somewhat. A piece of the slime manages to attach itself to Chris, and the latter inadvertently transport it back to the Manor.

When Paige shows up, she explains that she tried to leave Richard’s manor without teleporting, due to his addiction to magic. During this conversation, Piper finds a pair of red go-go boots that once belonged to their grandmother, Penelope Johnson Halliwell. She gives them to Paige, who tries them on. Seconds later, Paige finds herself transported back to January 1967, due to the spell her grandmother had put on the boots. She also discovers that both her grandmother and grandfather (Jack or Allen Halliwell) were peace-loving hippies on a crusade to rid the world of evil through the magical power of love. They had also transformed the manor into a “magical be-in”, unaware that one of their guests is a warlock. Meanwhile, Piper and Phoebe summon the ghost of their now dead grandmother to explain what happened. Grams informs them about her past as a hippie and the tragic circumstances that led to her first husband’s death at the hands of a warlock. Piper and Phoebe realize they have to travel back to 1967 and prevent Paige from inadvertently changing the past. Meanwhile, Grams helps Chris and Piper’s ex, former whitelighter-turned-Elder Leo Wyatt deal with the demonic slime that threatens to take over the manor.

Sounds exciting, right? I wish I could say that “Witchstock” was exciting. In the end, the episode proved to be a piece of crap. First of all, screenwriter Daniel Cerone failed to make any real connection between the demonic slime first introduced in the pre-titled sequence and Paige’s initial trip back to the Age of Aquarius. The main villains of the episode – two warlocks portrayed by Jake Busey and Kam Heskin – proved to be rather lame. The demonic sponge featured in the early 21st century scenes proved to be even more lame. In fact, the demonic sponge reminded me of the lame electrical demon that the sisters had vanquished in Season Four’s (4.07) “A Knight to Remember”. Talk about lack of originality.

Cerone also failed to create any real emotional connection between the sisters – especially newbie Paige – and their grandparents. The sisters seemed flabbergasted by Penny Halliwell’s hippie persona, which was a far cry from the militant demon hunter who raised Piper, Phoebe and the now dead Prue. The episode had a chance for Paige to really get to know her grandparents – especially her grandmother – and it failed on all counts. Piper turned out to be the only sister who witnessed their grandfather’s death. Yet, she reacted with very little or hardly any emotion. I realize that she had never met her grandfather during her lifetime. But the man was blood. The family carried his surname. Holly Marie Combs could have expressed some emotion . . . some sadness over the passing of her character’s flesh-and-blood. Unfortunately, that never happened. Cerone’s script was too busy treating the hippie personas of Penny, husband Allen (or Jack), and whitelighter Leo as jokes. Watching 1967 Leo act high and hit on Paige was embarrassing to watch. I felt sorry for Brian Krause in these scenes. I also felt sorry for Dorian Gregory, who was forced to portray Black Panther Luther Morris, who not only found himself in the same jail cell as Piper and Phoebe in a very cringe worthy scene; but also turned out to be the father of the Halliwells’ police detective friend, Darryl Morris.

The worst aspect of “Witchstock” proved to be the mistakes that heavily tainted this episode. In one early scene; Phoebe, who had become fascinated with Chinese astrology, informed younger sister Paige that the latter was born in the year of the Ox. WRONG! Paige was born in early August 1977, which meant she was born in the year of the Snake. The screenwriter could have easily looked this up . . . or else he failed to remember that Paige was born in 1977, not 1973. Also, Grams should have been portrayed by an actress old enough to pass for a woman in her mid-30s. This episode was set in January 1967. Which meant that Grams should have been 35 or 36 at the time. After all, her daughter Patty was born in 1950. And the episode was set three to four years before the birth of the latter’s oldest daughter, Prue. Actress Kara Zediker, who portrayed the younger Grams, barely looked 30 years old. And I find the idea of a mid-30s Grams and her slightly older husband as hippies. Perhaps there were hippies from their generation. But their fellow witches all seemed to be five to fifteen years younger. Worse, you can hear Rare Earth’s version of “Get Ready” being played in the background in one of the earlier 1967 scenes. This should be difficult, considering that Rare Earth’s version of the song was released in 1969 . . . over two years after the setting of this episode. The latter should have featured the Temptations’ 1966 version . . . or another song from 1966/67.

Was there anything about “Witchstock” that I liked? Well . . . thanks to Rose McGowan, I found Paige’s initial reaction to the “Manor of Love” rather amusing and managed to chuckle at her handling of a womanizing Leo. Despite my dislike of the Penelope Halliwell character, Jennifer Rhodes injected a breath of fresh air into the episode. She also managed to create a nice chemistry with both Brian Krause and Drew Fuller; as Grams, Leo and Chris dealt with the demonic sponge. And Holly Marie Combs had a nice moment of personal angst for Piper, who silently lamented over her sisters’ departure and her new-founded loneliness.

But despite these positive little moments, “Witchstock” was a disaster to me. Was it the worse “CHARMED” episode I have ever seen? Fortunately for director James A. Contner and screenwriter Daniel Cerone, my answer is no. I have seen worse from earlier seasons. And all I have to do is watch the series’ Season Eight. There were plenty of horrors from that season to form a list of the series’ worst episodes. But “Witchstock” was not a pleasure to watch. Not by a long shot.

RETROSPECT: “CHARMED: (2.14) Pardon My Past” (1999)

RETROSPECT:  “CHARMED:  (2.14) Pardon My Past” (1999)

Pardon My Past” is an episode from Season Two of the TV series, ”CHARMED” (1998-2006). In it, one of the Charmed Ones – Phoebe Halliwell – is haunted by a spirit in her past life. The past life turned out to be one P. Russell, a first cousin of the sister’s great-grandmother. 

To find out why she is being haunted by P. Russell’s spirit, Phoebe visits 1924 and diiscovers that P. Russell was a pyrokinetic witch who had been romanced by a warlock named Anton. While in the past, Phoebe also acquired a glimpse into the past lives of her sisters – Prue and Piper. She discovers that they were former relatives of P. Russell and out to destroy her and all the latter’s future lives before any of them can become completely evil. Prue and Piper must then stop their past lives’ curse in the present before Phoebe falls victim to it and dies.

This episode was the second, following Season 1’s ”That 70s Episode” that revealed their family’s past history. And like many of these episode . . . it had a lot of flaws. Let us take a look at them, shall we?

Flaws in “Pardon My Past”

*Ownership of the Manor – In this episode, it was revealed that the parents of the sisters’ grandmother – Penelope Johnson Halliwell – had been living in the manor in 1924. Yet, according to the Season 1 episode – ”Is There a Woogy in the House?” – the Halliwells (which happened to be Penny’s in-laws) had purchased the manor following the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906.

The Ages of Phoebe Halliwell and P. Russell – While perusing the Warren family tree, Phoebe had this to say about her past life:

”I think that this one is me. (She points to P. Russell) She died February 17th, 1924. The same age I am also.”

How was this possible? According to the family tree, P. Russell lived during the period July 1894-February 17, 1924. She was 29 years old when her cousins killed her. The episode ”Pardon My Past” occurred between February 16-18, 1924; and February 16-18, 2000. Phoebe was born on November 2, 1975; making her 24 years old at the time, not 29 years old.

Past Life for Leo Wyatt? – According to Phoebe, she had spotted Leo’s past life in 1924 and he was P. Baxter’s (Past Piper) lover. I am curious. How is this possible? The series has claimed that Leo had been born in May 1924. But again, this is not possible. According to the Season 1 episode, ”Love Hurts”, Leo had been a medical student when he joined the Army in 1942:

”No. World War II. I left med school and enlisted as a medic. I wanted to help save people not shoot them. The last thing I remember, I was bandaging a soldier’s head wound and I felt a sharp pain and the next thing I know I was floating surrounded by White Lighters.”

If Leo had been at medical school at the time when the U.S. entered World War II, he should have at least older than 22 years old when he joined the Army. Which means that he should have already been alive at the time of P. Russell’s death in 1924.

Phoebe’s Theory – How did Phoebe get the idea that she was going to die within a day because of her encounter with her past spirit? From the moment she had encountered P. Russell’s spirit on the very anniversary that the latter was killed, Phoebe made this assumption:

”So, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to die today too, right?”

Even before she found out about the curse placed on P. Russell’s future selves, Phoebe came to the conclusion that she was doomed to die:

”Phoebe: Not much time. By midnight, I’ll be dead again.
Piper: By midnight? How do you know that?
Phoebe: Midnight, a full moon, what’s the difference? It’s always one or the other, right? I know I won’t make it to February 18th unless…
Leo: You go back to the past again and find some answers.

How on earth did she come to this conclusion without knowing the facts? Or was this another example of the Halliwells producing theories out from their respective asses?

Phoebe’s Ability – Phoebe had asked Leo why she did not have a power like P. Russell’s – pyrokinesis. This is what Leo had told her:

”Well, if you screw up your regrets. Your past self must have abused the power. That’s why it was taken away from you.”

What the hell? How did Leo come to this conclusion? Although Past Piper (P. Baxter)’s ability – slow down others – was a variation of Piper’s ability, Past Prue (P. Bowen)’s ability turned out to be cyrokinesis (freezing ability), which had nothing to do with Prue’s abilities of telekinesis or astral projection. Nor did P. Russell’s ability (pyrokinesis) have anything to do with Phoebe’s ability of precognition. And why is Phoebe’s precognition ability considered a REGRESSION of P. Russell’s fire ability? Phoebe is a seer. She has the ability to summon information on the past, the present and the future through visions. Information is power. Both of her parents have told Phoebe that many magic practitioners would kill to be a seer. Apparently, Phoebe never believed them. Even the Source did not want Phoebe’s precognition ability . . . despite the fact that he had depended upon two seers. Which only tells me that even intelligent individuals like Phoebe and the Source can be incredibly stupid.

The Warlock – Anton – So, Anton (who was P. Russell’s lover) was supposed to be a warlock? How is that possible? It is quite apparent that Anton had never aged in the 76 years between 1924 and 2000. It was established in the first episode that warlocks were merely witches who had gone bad:

”A bad witch or a warlock . . .”

Despite what Leo had believed, witches ARE mortals. If Piper could die from a bullet wound in an alternate timeline, then witches are mortals. And if witches are mortals, then warlocks should also be mortals. Which means that either Anton should have aged or he was something other than a warlock. Also . . . the sisters and Leo have declared many times that evil cannot love. Yet, Anton was in love with P. Russell and had remained in love with her for a long time.

Phoebe’s Warning in the Book of Shadows – Apparently, all of Phoebe’s future lives are doomed to die in their early 20’s unless they can somehow stop P. Bowen and P. Baxter’s curse from affecting them. They end up saving present Phoebe by putting the necklace on her, but the rest of her future lives are still doomed to die in their early 20’s. Thus, Phoebe wrote a warning in the Book of Shadows to warn her future selves about this. What if Phoebe’s future selves do not end up as a member of the Warren family line? Had anyone stopped to think of this?

Gordon Johnson’s Piano Talent . . . or Lack Of – Greg Vaughn, as the Charmed Ones’ great-grandfather, Gordon Johnson, is shown playing the piano in 1924. Unfortunately, it appears that Vaughn lacked the talent to fake playing the piano. One can easily see that his fingers do not even reach the keys.

The Confusing Warren Family Tree – This episode marked the only appearance of the Warren family (which began with Charlotte and Melinda Warren) tree. I came across some interesting entries that seem contradictory:

-Grams’ age: According to the family tree, Penelope Johnson (the sisters’ grandmother) was born in 1937. She gave birth to her only daughter, Patricia Halliwell, in 1950. Are we expected to believe that Grams gave birth to Patty at the age of 13? I rather doubt it. The family tree also stated that Grams had died on March 3, 1968. Gee, they got the date of Grams’ death wrong by 30 years.

-Piper’s birth year: According to the family tree, Piper was born in August 1973. Yet, in one S1 episode, Piper had identified herself as a Gemini. Also, in the S1 episode, ”Thank You For Not Morphing”, Victor clearly made it apparent that she was three years older than Phoebe, who was born in 1975. The S3 episode, ”Coyote Piper”supports Victor’s words with its revelation that Piper had graduated from Baker High in 1990, making her birth date of 1972 very plausible. And I doubt that young Piper was less than two years old in S1’s ”That 70s Episode”.

-The name of the Charmed Ones’ grandfather: According to the family tree, the name of the sisters’ maternal grandfather happened to be Jack Halliwell. Yet in the S6 episode, ”Witchstock”, he is renamed Allen. All I can say is . . . what happened to Jack?

I wish I could say that ”Pardon My Past”’s glimpse into the Warren family line was interesting. But it was filled with so many inconsistencies that I cannot help but harbor a little contempt for the writer who had penned this episode.