Category: Watching

Star Trek Discovery, Some Thoughts

Star Trek Discovery, Some Thoughts

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So I’ve watched the first two episodes of Discovery twice now, and I’ll catch the third episode as soon as the rest of my schedule allows, but I’m not entirely convinced yet that it’s Star Trek.

Oh, it’s supposed to be set in the Star Trek prime universe (which makes the Klingon redesign really annoying, and rather stupid), but that doesn’t necessarily make it Star Trek. Witness the reboot movies in the past few years. Only the third one comes close. The first two are just action movies in Star Trek wrapping. But let’s not rehash that now.

It’s beautiful. Cinematic. Grand in an almost space opera way. They could have gone with slight variations on the classic aesthetic, but it’s a new show and I get wanting to show off new tech and new FX to bring your work to a wider audience, so things look like a reimagining of that original era, and I’m okay with that, the detail that’s been put in.

So it looks good, and it sounds good, and they’ve put a bunch of potentially good characters and actors together, and I’m guessing a lot of people have worked hard to make it an experience Trekkies will want to savour and remember. For that, my thanks, and my eyeballs to give it probably a more than fair chance.

Of course, putting most of the story behind a paywall is going to be self-defeating. Oh, a few dedicated souls will buy the All Access subscription, and a few will hack it to make the show available for illegal download. In Canada, we’ll be able to get it on Space, and in other jurisdictions, CBS has cut deals with Netflix, but the company has to consider the primary audience to be American, which means their own streaming service, and I worry that’s going to kill the show after one season regardless of how good it is.

And so far, I feel like it’s good science fiction, but I’m not ready to grant that it’s good Star Trek yet.

Star Trek, at its heart, is about two things: characters and ideas. I think the characters have some potential here, the ones who survived the first two episodes and who actually have names, that is, and not all of them fit into both camps, but I’m struggling with the ideas.

At its best, Star Trek makes us think and reconsider, it holds up a mirror for us to look at ourselves in without necessarily realizing it’s us that we’re seeing. Star Trek is supposed to push boundaries and make us look at issues and things in new ways. I can’t say that Discovery is doing that yet. So far, it’s a descent into war story and while it’s presenting things that need to be considered in a good war story—motivations and misunderstandings on both sides, characters making tough decisions who aren’t really ready to, and fallout from those decisions—I’m not sure anything I’ve seen so far needed to be science fiction, much less specifically Star Trek.

But I’ve only seen the prologue so far. The main story doesn’t start until episode 3. This is like watching the last few days of Kirk’s previous assignment before he stepped on board as captain of the Enterprise, if that had gone far worse and he’d started a war. It’s background information, stuff that, in a novel, you’d sprinkle in bits of later and just get to the real story. It’s an interesting choice, and whether or not it works depends on the story that follows.

I still have hope, and I have hope that my hope for the show won’t be crushed too soon.

Two completely unrelated points. First, if I add things up correctly, Sarek took in a human ward just after his half-human son left for the Academy? You know, the son he didn’t talk to for a couple of decades because he was too human and wanted to find his own way against his Vulcan father’s wishes? Second, why do the Klingons have to talk so slowly?

Live long and prosper, everyone.

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New Genre TV for Fall 2017

New Genre TV for Fall 2017

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I don’t have cable anymore, haven’t for probably five or six years now, so I rely on internet news, network streaming, and Netflix for my increasingly rare TV fixes. And, much like re-reading, I don’t do a lot of re-watching. I want more stories, new ones, and not just repackages of things I’ve already enjoyed.

This year, there are a few more genre shows coming out right now than seems usual for the fall season. This should make an old geek happy, and yet… the whole idea of fall premiers is going away. Hollywood is sucking more and more, but there are alternative channels to find your entertainment on now, and some decent things are definitely coming out of those channels. And they’re coming out whenever their production companies decide is the right time for them to come out. That, I like.

But for fall, in no particular order:

 

The Defenders

Can’t yet. Haven’t finished Luke Cage or Iron Fist. Or Daredevil, for that matter. Wondering if I need to.

 

The Crossing

Refugees from a future war fleeing to the past. Thinly veiled commentary on America’s truly impressive record on dealing with refugees in the last few years. Think I’ll pass.

 

Kevin (Probably) Saves the World

Another guardian angel show, this one with a bit of old testament “find me righteous people and I’ll spare the world” crap added in. Apparently, it was almost called “The Gospel of Kevin”. Give it a rest already.

 

Black Lightning

I’m skipping this one, I think, for two reasons. First, it mostly looks like the CW is trying to do a cooler, blacker Daredevil. The violence level doesn’t seem any lighter, though they may have dialed back the blood a bit; this is what pushed me away from Daredevil. Second, while lack of familiarity with the hero doesn’t bother me (I won’t know how they’re butchering canon that way), I am more of a Marvel guy than a DC guy. Bringing us to

 

The Gifted

Hmm. Mutants on TV, and it’s the first non-cartoon attempt in a long time. I want to like this just on general principle, but the trailer doesn’t look promising.

 

Ghosted

It seems to be an X-files spoof, and the trailer makes it look both stupid and slapstick at the same time. I wonder if it’s too much to ask that my entertainment not treat me like I’m reading the National Enquirer. Passing on this one.

 

The Orville

I’ve watched the first episode of this one and while it was a little rough, it did have a huge number of nods to Star Trek, both TOS and TNG. I think it’s got some potential so long as it doesn’t get so stuck in humorous homage mode that it doesn’t get around to telling its own story.

 

The Tick

This is one of those alternate channels I was referring to, even more ultimate than a Netflix original. I’ve been looking forward to this since I heard about it. I discovered the Tick as a comic book back in the late 1980s, enjoyed the later cartoon, and the original TV series back in 2001. Two episodes into this one, and I’m loving it. The humour mix is right and true to the original story and current generation special effects make it work really well.

 

The Inhumans

The trailer actually makes the Inhumans look exciting. While I’ve never managed to enjoy the comics very much, the show might be worth checking out. At least long enough to see Lockjaw in action.

 

Star Trek: Discovery

And, of course, the retconned-yet-again-Klingon in the room.

It’s no secret I’m a Star Trek fan, and have been pretty much my entire life. I’m trying not to get too excited about Discovery, but I really, really want to be. The reboot movies have been a disappointment, being just action movies with Star Trek trappings, but current Hollywood doesn’t make it easy to tell a good story, much less a good, new story. Star Trek belongs on TV. I’m hoping this works, and will probably blog it pretty heavily when it happens next weekend.

 

And why am I being made to wait until next year for Season 3 of The Expanse?

Be well, everyone.

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BSG: The Lost Warrior

BSG: The Lost Warrior

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Intro

Again, a bit of a gap between last episode and this one. Part of that is life and part of it is a vague recollection of the western episode and not really wanting to watch it. But, for completeness’ sake, I did. It’s part of the show, after all. So, let’s dive into the

Overly Long Synopsis

Which might be a little shorter than the last few. This is, to be honest, a light-weight episode and there’s not a lot to chew on.

We open, once we get through an opening credits sequence that’s starting to feel really long to me, with Apollo under attack, outnumbered a mere four to one. On the Galactica’s bridge, Adama insists that he’s actually leading the Cylons away, or trying, and this is born out by his reaction a few centons later.

But he’s still in trouble after blowing one up and getting away from the rest, because he’s out of fuel and doesn’t have a lot of landing options. Still, there’s one good one, at least, and he coasts in, crash-landing a la Skywalker on a planet named Equellus. He’s found by a boy and his widowed mother along with a horse that growls.

They cover the viper with branches to hide it and go back to the homestead to have dinner. There’s a visit from Red-Eye, a brain-injured Cylon who thinks he’s the enforcer for a local tough guy.

Teaching Boxey to drink and gamble.

Back on the Galactica, Boxey has a sleepover with the pilots to avoid anyone telling him his father is missing. They eventually wind up drinking fruit juice and playing Pyramid (Poker) for jelly beans. Cassiopeia is not impressed and takes Boxey off to get ready for bed. Boomer and Starbuck try to figure out what they’re going to do about their friend’s disappearance.

The air rifles people carry on Equellus can apparently kill a wolf lupus at 10 metrons if you hit it right. We should probably remember that.

Apollo learns more from Vela and her brother Bootes about the local situation. There’s a sort of local warlord who collects tribute from everyone and has an enforcer named Red-Eye who happens to be a Cylon covered in dents from shootouts with people using those air rifles. Puppis (the kid) is the son of a colonial warrior named Martin, whose ship crash landed out in the desert years ago. And mom is super anti-gun.

Now, Apollo has a mystery to solve so goes into town, alone, and unarmed. There’s only one place to go, apparently, a pretty horrible-looking “old west” saloon with a few electronics hanging around to give it that 1970s SF feel.

Apollo orders a beer or a mug of wine or something, has an almost run in with Lacerta’s lead human goon and then goes to have a drink with the Cylon where no one will bother him. Apparently, this is all to impress Boss Hogg Lacerta, who at least is amused, controlling his robot with finger snaps. And apparently, Lacerta controls everything, at least this town.

Returning to the farm, Apollo finds Puppis is out hunting the lupus and he gets there just as Puppis gets it. With his second shot. Apollo gets to give some fatherly advice, which pays off when they get back to mom.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, uh, Galactica, Tigh talks Adama into sending out a patrol and slowing the fleet down to give them a little more time. Amazingly, Boomer and Starbuck are sitting in their fighters ready to launch.

In the bar, Bootes is busy getting drunk and being an idiot. There’s an almost duel and he gets shot in front of a crowd. Red-Eye looks to be going on a rampage, but Apollo saves them all at the price of being marked a coward by destroying a couple of guns and talking them down.

In the alley, one of Lacerta’s serving girls lets him in on some secrets and we find out Apollo brought his gun with him this time. Fingers twitching, they stare each other down for a few tense seconds. Red Eye is fast, but Apollo is faster, and better. Red-Eye goes down with a nice explosion and Lacerta sneaks away with his toady.

Celebration time.

Later, on the farm, Apollo gives a quick lecture on killing and seems to feel genuinely bad about offing Red-Eye. As a result, Vela admits she knows where her husband’s dead ship is, maybe has fuel.

Starbuck and Boomer, somewhere in space, finally have to admit that they’ve failed and turn around, but then Apollo comes sailing in. I guess the crashed ship was pretty close and the fuel wasn’t too heavy. To celebrate, Boomer gets into the cowboy spirit, Yee Ha! In the closing micro-scene, Vela and Puppis both seem to think Apollo promised he’d come back someday.

Fleeing from the Cylon Tyranny…

 

Story

This episode Seems like it was based on Shane, which has a very similar overall plot: mysterious warrior befriends a widow and her son and has to stand up to the bad guy. It doesn’t work as well, possibly because it’s too compressed, possibly because the merger with SF tropes makes it come across a little on the silly side. However I might want to look at it, the overall episode is the weakest one yet.

I have to wonder how many little western towns there are on this world and why everyone crash lands near this one. Vela’s husband, a Cylon raider, and now Apollo. It’s the improbably string that holds the story together, but it’s not a very good one.

Starbuck’s line, “Boxey’s already lost one parent. He’s not going to lose two,” rings a little false. Apollo is Boxey’s step dad. The kid has already lost two parents, and he’s bearing up surprisingly well considering it was just last episode he lost his mom. Apollo would be three. He’s also the hero, so we know that’s not going to happen.

I will say that the shoot out works rather well, likely due to the acting ability of Richard Hatch and the implacability of the Cylon waiting to draw. Music from a spaghetti western with just a touch of SF works well to heighten the tension, but it would have worked nearly as well with the sound of wind in our ears.

 

Acting

I already noted Mr. Hatch as doing well, at least in the shootout. The young fellow playing Puppis is inconsistent, coming across wooden and flat in his first couple of scenes, and running the gamut from okay delivering lines to pretty good when he needs to convey some significant emotion. This seems more likely attributable to direction.

No one else really stands out to me, but then most of the characters appearing here weren’t given a lot to do. Cardboard cutouts to round out the scenery for Apollo.

 

Continuity

Questions I want to ask:

If Equellus has humans on it, how did the Cylons miss that in their extermination campaign?

Wait, aren’t we on the far side of known space? How can Puppis’ dad have been a colonial warrior?

They still have daggits here? Good thing Apollo didn’t hear that comment or he’d have to get one for Boxey (a promise he made to get him to eat his “primaries” way back in the pilot).

 

Language

Nothing really new in the colonial side of things, but almost every extra name used in this episode is the name of a constellation: Lupus, Bootes, Puppis, Vela, Lacerta, Equellus.

 

Ships and Technology

We’re the victim of recycled footage again, not that we shouldn’t have expect that, but while Apollo is supposed to be flying a solo patrol, there are flashes of the wing and tailfin of another Viper on the left edge of the screen where it wasn’t quite edited out.

The air rifles the western folks use are called numos. Pneumatic maybe?

While not strictly a ship or technology, aside from growling like a cougar, the horse Apollo rides has stripes painted on it.

 

Wrap Up

It had a couple of moments, but the things that make the episode memorable are mostly the things you wish you could forget about it. To much cheese, not enough actual story. 5 dented Cylons out of 10.

Red Eye and Apollo have a drink.

Next up, Starbuck in prison. “The Long Patrol”.

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BSG: Lost Planet of the Gods, Part 2

BSG: Lost Planet of the Gods, Part 2

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Sorry to whoever might have happened by in the time between the last BSG post and this one. I didn’t mean to cliffhanger things even remotely this much, although I’m not sure you can say that about a show that’s almost 39 years old. Either way, let’s dive into the

Overly long Synopsis

The episode recap is really long this time, covering the last episode in detail before getting to the new stuff. Including the credits, it actually takes 4 minutes to get to the true opening scene of the episode where we find that there’s intense magnetic interference from the void and lots of panic in the fleet, so we gather them in close.

Apollo and Starbuck go visit Boomer in his cryotube. Whatever the medical team found on that asteroid, they’ve got the virus on the run. Everyone is happy Boomer isn’t going to die, especially Boomer.

Tigh and Adama in the office, talking about where they’re going and Adama trots out the Colonial Bible “The Book of the Word” and points out his medallion as a symbol of faith, handed down through millennia to the members of the council. Cobol is a real place, dude.

Somewhere below, the female pilots are celebrating their victory and talking viper combat. Apollo and Starbuck are busy being jerks and making supposedly “female” small talk and Serina breaks in to make sure they feel included, something they probably wouldn’t have done. But the whole thing gets interrupted because Starbuck and Apollo are going on patrol to find out what the blip is at the edge of sensor range in quadrant Delta 9. No, wait. Starbuck isn’t going because Serina is Apollo’s wingman. It’s posted. (Wait, seriously?) But Starbuck hijacks Apollo’s Viper, Apollo hijacks Serina’s, and Serina finds one lying around, so they all end up going.

Apollo actually acknowledges that Serina is a good pilot even as he’s trying to send her home, but it works out that the three of them can stretch their range pretty far to take readings. Starbuck is the farthest out and suddenly surrounded by Cylons, giving us the first “Frack!” of the series. He’s escorted back to the base star to meet Baltar who claims a mission of peace. Starbuck, lighting a match on a centurion’s chest plate, talks to Baltar like they know each other. A few threats and a little posturing and Starbuck is taken away and will be treated well. Lucifer is not impressed and doesn’t trust Baltar’s logic.

Back on the ranch, everyone is upset that Starbuck is dead. With open displays of affection on the bridge, Apollo and Serina decide not just to go ahead with the wedding but to move it up because they need hope. Everyone does. That marriage ceremony is actually pretty Christian (it’s the late 70s, so don’t be surprised), just with lots of candles and a few alternate terms while lots of people look on in the background. Note the presence of capes as part of formal wear, blessing from “the Lord of Cobol”, and being sealed instead of married. Just as they kiss, a star appears, bright and shining and leading them out of the void.

In a lovely demonstration of “who cares about actual science”, the star has a planet in an orbit 1-3 parsecs out. Surprise, it’s Cobol. In a scene obviously filmed later, we see doubles of Adama, Apollo, and Serina walking towards the great pyramids and later through some other Egyptian places, with some voice over. When we see the actual actors, they’re just as obviously on a sound stage. They’ll make camp, with guards, all of whom seem to be the new female recruits to save on acting budgets.

The star surprises Baltar until he remembers his own mythology, but the plan is still good with a tiny bit of modification, and he’s going in alone while Lucifer looks after Starbuck.

<sigh> The biggest city on Cobol was called Eden.

<sigh> Adama’s medallion opens up a secret tomb complete with mystical chanting, creepy music, dark passages, skeletons of tomb robbers, and a trap that Adama’s amulet opens again. More darkness until they reach the tomb and they’re looking around as Baltar strolls in, smiling until Adama almost strangles him.

Baltar plays innocent, claiming he was captured and then spared to lead them into a trap. He tries to convince them that they can launch a counter attack and take over the Cylon Empire. He’ll even release Starbuck as a gesture of good faith. The lunatic smile he wears is half way between believable and psychotic. Adama, unfortunately, comes across as just as crazy, looking for evidence of the 13th tribe.

The newlyweds share a tender moment on the surface; Apollo is the practical skeptic, more worried about their people than mythology, and definitely worried about his dad. Starbuck comes strolling out of the desert, bringing intel and actually buying into Baltar’s crap. In the tomb, Baltar tries to con Adama again and the star conveniently comes back and sends light into the chamber, reflecting from Adama’s medallion to set up a triangle of light and open a super-secret inner chamber.  Baltar dives in, the other three follow quickly just as the Cylons finally get tired of waiting. Dust and rock falls from the ceiling, trapping the intrepid tomb raiders and letting Baltar show his true colours, using fear to try manipulating his enemies.

While Starbuck leads the female pilots into battle as the camp is destroyed (pew pew), Adama keeps reading the wall, and the still-sick male warriors report for duty, giving the opportunity for Boomer to deliver what might be the greatest line in the series so far: “A viper is flown from the seated position, sir.”

In between recycled battle footage and effects (pew pew), Adama finds a record of the Exodus, the final departure of the 12 tribes, the last days of Cobol, and mention of the thirteenth tribe. Another direct hit on the pyramid traps Baltar under a stone block. The others make a half-hearted attempt to rescue him but are “forced” to leave him behind. Baltar is angry and Adama almost seems sad. Almost.

While the shiny cylon butts in orbit have been thoroughly kicked, there are Cylons on the planet, too, and some Centurions sneak up behind them, one shooting Serina in the back. Cut to sick bay, where we discover it’s a fatal wound and now Apollo will have to take care of Boxey and we’re supposed to be surprised that it’s Serina taken from Apollo and not the other way around. She’s already calling Apollo Boxey’s father, and we’ve never really learned anything more about the previous life and relationship she had.

Lots of tears to go with the sad music, and it’s time to kiss her goodbye. Adama takes Boxey out of the room so Apollo can be with her for her last breaths and a slightly drawn out death. He apparently has a conversion on her death bed and tells her that he’s bought into the idea of the afterlife, though Richard Hatch is a good enough actor that you can read it as being meant to make her feel better as she drifts away. He exits into a corridor filled with sad people, gathers up Boxey, and they share a moment reminding us that her love for them is eternal.

“Fleeing from the Cylon tyranny…”

 

Story

I dropped enough hints in the synopsis, but let’s state it outright: the writing remains weaker in this second half of the two-parter. Plus, the editing seems a bit sloppy, like it was meant to be a longer story and they were working too hard to get everything in, shaved down to bare minimums because they didn’t want to do a second three-part story. Doing some reading, I guess the original plan was for three major feature-length films to be shown on TV a few months apart. That makes this episode make a little more sense in this regard, but doesn’t help the story.

I’m also not thrilled with all of the overt religion here. After the first episode of tiny mentions and actual SF, this is almost browbeating us with the idea that the Colonials are thinly veiled Christians (Mormons, actually). I’m not going to go into all of the issues here, just that there are a lot of them. I don’t remember being sensitive to that as a kid, and the adults I watched it with (my parents) never said anything either.

Other major weaknesses:

The secret tomb bothers me. It’s neat how they picked exactly the right place on the planet to land, and weird how there’s no sign of any high technology until the magic flashlights they find underground, and then that’s all. Not sure how the thirteen tribes left Cobol in their stone pyramids.

I want to attribute this to editing instead of writing, but Starbuck got to the planet how, exactly? And is that where the Cylons on the surface came from? Why did those Cylons wait so long to attack? Why is only one of them a good enough shot to actually hit someone?

Worth noting that I loved Adama’s beer stein on the bridge. Wonder what was actually in it.

 

Acting

Everyone involved in Serina’s death scene shed real tears, which was good even while Apollo’s sudden mystical conversion was ridiculous. Jane Seymour and Lorne Greene carried the day here, though, and she left the series too soon. Richard Hatch and Noah Hathaway managed a conversation with some pretty serious waterworks in progress, but it was fairly standard suddenly single dad fare for the time.

 

Continuity

In a time not known for caring about continuity, even in its soap operas, BSG hits something here and there. At least, it does here. Boxey is still wearing the pin Apollo gave him a couple of episodes back. I’m going to try to remember to watch and see if it stays part of his outfit in the future.

 

Language

Not a lot of new words this time, but we learn about velcron while Apollo and Starbuck are being passive-aggressively sexist in the pilots’ lounge, and I’d really like to know exactly how much of what a “50 megon load” is.

 

Ships and Technology

Yeah, I got nothing this time. Nothing new presented in this episode.

 

Wrap Up

“Lost Planet of the Gods”, either part, is a bit of a disappointment after the stretched-out pilot. It plays hard to the idea presented in the show’s opening monologue, that, “There are those who believe…that life here began out there”. We’re supposed to take the Egyptian motif of these two episodes with the knowledge of the other twelve tribes being roughly named after the constellations of the zodiac, and draw our own causal link. It’s a little bonk-bonk-on-the-head.

There are moments and there is good acting and there are great lines, but it doesn’t come together nearly as well as the pilot did. I’m at a loss to explain the 7.5 average rating on IMDB. I don’t think I can give the pair of episodes more than a 6 overall.

Next stop, “The Lost Warrior”, where we learn that the Cylons missed a planet with humans on it in their extermination campaign. But these humans are somehow unaffiliated with the 12 Colonies, so it’s probably okay.

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Six Seasons and a Movie!

Six Seasons and a Movie!

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So for the last six months or so, I have been addicted to the television show Community, to the point where we have streamed all the episodes at least once, purchased the first two seasons, and downloaded the episodes of season five as they became available online instead of waiting for a Canadian channel to bother broadcasting them.

Erik enjoys it, but Melanie shares my diction. As a matter of fact, watching them with her is probably what began my addiction. I had enjoyed the show before, catching it whenever I ran across it while surfing, but she found it on Netflix and started watching a dozen episodes a day. I think she’s probably seen every episode at least seven or eight times.

I’m not sure what the exact attraction is for her, though the show has a lot to recommend it. For me, it’s probably the writing. It’s written very intelligently, and there are lots of little hidden gems in that sometimes you don’t catch at the time because the payoff isn’t for four or five episodes. Extended jokes, intelligent dialogue, entertaining characters, and great actors. It was a shame that Chevy Chase had to leave the show, but it’s still doing well since.

Catchphrase, stolen from an episode, “Six seasons and a movie.” I’m not sure how they do a movie to wrap things up, but, I think the sixth season should be fairly easy, though forth and fifth seasons, in my opinion, were only half seasons at 13 episodes each. A bit disappointing, but still fun.

Whatever happens next, I’m looking forward to it.

Be well, everyone.

(The season 1 DVD trailer gives a great taste of the show.)

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