• Television

    What I’m Watching Lately

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    Back in the first few weeks of the COVID shutdown, back when I still thought I’d be back at work in 8-10 weeks, I did a couple of blog posts about old TV SF, covering my childhood, my teen years, and my 20s. There was nostalgia, there was wistfulness, there was a stirring of the idea to go and visit some of these old friends again.

    Well, I’ve recently spent some time tracking down some of those old friends, along with discovering a couple of new ones. Unsurprisingly, I’m a little scattered and eclectic about it. I’ve managed to OD on binge-watching things in the past (and my definition of binge-watching probably isn’t the same as yours), so I’m slowly consuming a number of shows, and I’m going to list them in the order of the season I’m currently watching, from oldest to newest.

    The Avengers, Series 4 (1966)

    Steed and Mrs. Peel. I discovered The Avengers on TVO as a teenager and loved it, though they only seemed to play from the introduction of Mrs. Peel on. I’ve chosen to start there and see where the journey takes me, likely looping back around to watch the first two series (which I’ve never seen). I remember having a hard time when Steed started wearing brown suits in Series 7 after Mrs. Peel left. It just seemed wrong somehow.

    Dr. Who, Series 11 (1974)

    And here I’m starting with the very last 3rd Doctor story arc in order to watch the introduction of the 4th Doctor, the one I grew up with, Tom Baker. Then we’ll see. I like several of the other Doctors in the early years, and there are a couple I never watched much of. There are 26 series of Classic Doctor who, though a couple of the earliest seasons no longer exist fully, and 12 now of the modern. The modern show is hour-length where the classics were only half an hour, but you also got fewer commercials in those days, so it isn’t quite twice as long, but comes close to balancing the same overall length in a season. I’ll contend that the writing was mostly better in the older series, though.

    The point is, there’s lots to watch here, enough to keep me busy for a long time.

    Battlestar Galactica, Season 1 (1978)

    Seems a little silly to say Season 1 of a show there was only one season of, but there it is. I started a re-watch of this a couple of years ago, but only got half a dozen episodes in. It’s recent enough that I remember things fairly well, so I’ve picked up where I left off. I remember watching the original movie as we drove across Canada to Dad’s new posting in BC, which means this show has some specific childhood memories associated with it, including time spent acting out episodes and scenarios with lego constructs with a childhood friend. The show itself, pretty cheesy, but full-orchestra, epic theme music brings it all back.

    Soul Music, Series 1 (1997)

    Terry Pratchett is one of my favourite authors and I’ve been enjoying the Discworld series since I was about 20. A few of the books have been adapted into either cartoon or live action, and Soul Music is one of my favourites. Actually, most of the books where Death features as a prominent character are among my favourites, though I’ve never met a Discworld novel I didn’t at least like. There are only seven episodes, so this might not take long, but there’s a little more to follow at least.

    Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season 6 (1997)

    One of the two shows I’m slowly working my way through with my oldest daughter (she’s doing X-Files with mom). Well, one of the two genre shows. We share a similar sense of humour in a lot of ways, so there are other things we’ll watch or that she’ll watch and I’ll join her for. We’ve been on a bit of a hiatus here while she works her way back around, but I’ve promised not to watch ahead without her even though we’re in territory where I’ve only seen about half the episodes. I had a hard time with DS9 first run, dropping it after about a season and a half, and picking it up again during the Dominion War and to the end of the series, but not consistently. Just enough to keep up with the overall story and root for the good guys when appropriate.

    Farscape, Season 4 (2002)

    The other show I’m watching with her. We’re half a dozen episodes into the last season and can feel the end coming from here. Well, by episode count. There’s no reason to suspect it while watching the show at this point. I’ll have to come up with the mini-series that ties together the loose threads sometime soon.

    Stargate SG-1, Season 7 (2003)

    The first show I ever really OD’d on. When we finally introduced high speed internet to our house, it opened up a variety of entertainment possibilities and I used to watch an episode before going to bed after getting home from work at 4 or 5 in the morning most days. Since no one else was up, I usually did it while eating “dinner”. But I got a few episodes into Season 7 and just couldn’t anymore. Too much, too fast. And so I stopped watching.

    But I kind of want to know how things turned out, so I’ve picked up Season 7, done some plot reviews and watched a couple of key earlier episodes to re-establish the characters in my head, and I’m ready to dip a toe back into the SG water.

    Stan Against Evil, Season 1 (2016)

    I forget how I actually discovered this one, but since it promised comedic horror (the only kind of horror I’ll watch willingly), and starred the actor who played my favourite character on Scrubs(John C. McGinley), I decide it was worth checking out. And it was. Well, I’m only three episodes in. I suppose I might still change my mind.

    The Expanse, Season 3 (2018)

    I have no idea why I never got around to the third season (and now there’s a fourth) of The Expanse. Loved the first two seasons. Loved the books; still waiting for the last one. Seems like I should have hunted it down when it moved. Well, I am now.

    Star Trek: Lower Decks, Season 1 (2020)

    The only other current show I’m actually watching, and my favourite by far of the recent Star Trek offerings (the only one, as far as I’m concerned, that’s actually being true to the heart of Star Trek, but we can fight about that another day).

    This one, I’m forced to wait for each Thursday for the new episode, so there’s no possibility of my binging it out of my interest zone, even if there were going to be enough episodes to get me there.

    Considering what I have left to watch out of these puts me well over 300 episodes of varying lengths, I should be good for a while. But just in case, I have the original Batman, Space 1999, Blake’s 7, Buck Rogers, Red Dwarf, and Star Trek: Enterprise teed up and ready to go when I am.

    What’s everyone else watching?

    Stay safe and be well, everyone.

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  • Television

    TV SF of the 90s – The Stuff I Watched

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    The 90s were an odd time. My 20s. Most of my university career, a wedding, our first house, the birth of our first child. I feel like I watched less television than earlier in my life.

    There were a lot of short-lived SF shows in the 1990s and most of them didn’t find traction with me. There’s one exception in the list below. Most of my favourites had a little more traction.

    Babylon 5 had that grand vision from the first episode. A wide galaxy filled with aliens and alliances and politics, plus a lot of conflict brewing in the background. The first season was hit and miss, but it picked up in the second and rushed ahead at breakneck speed through the end of season 4. Season 5 was a surprise and some of it was a bit of a disappointment, too, but I still love this show. Season 3 is probably my favourite.

    I ran across Farscape during its first season while visiting my parents who had cable while we didn’t (apparently, we didn’t watch enough TV at the time to make it worth it. The show became a favourite. It was weird, it was fun, and it had great characters. It was also off the air at least a season too soon. This came back into my viewing in a big way recently when my oldest daughter discovered it. We started Season 4 not too long ago.

    Futurama. A pizza delivery boy sent a thousand years into the future where we proceed to trample through every science fiction trope you can come up with, and then a few more. Five seasons, four movies, and two more seasons. While I didn’t necessarily get my kids to watch Star Trek, all three of them managed some Futurama, and it’s entirely possible the animation had something to do with that.

    SeaQuest DSV. Okay, not exactly Star Trek underwater, but that’s kind of how it was billed at the time, and Roy Scheider is one of my favourite actors. It took a weird turn after his departure, though, and didn’t survive to get another season.

    Sliders. An early TV show bringing the idea of the multiverse out of comic book or novel form and to the small screen. Cheesy goodness.

    Space: Above and Beyond. This ran only a single season, which was too bad. A lot of character building and a lot of set up for what could have been some epic storytelling.

    Star Trek Voyager. Voyager was hit and miss for me for a couple of seasons. I was there for the first episode and probably consistently from somewhere in the third season on. It also became a show I’d watch in syndication after everyone was asleep a decade or so after it finished its run. Higher on the technobabable than the last couple of shows in the universe, but also much more exploration than its predecessor.

    Stargate SG1. I was initially wary about this one, concerned about how they’d spin a movie into an ongoing show. But hey, MacGuyver was in it, so it had a chance, right? And it had a good chance. As was normal for the time period, the first season was mostly spent finding its feet. After that, it was a lot of fun and had a lot of long play story behind the adventure.

    You’ll note the absence of Star Trek Deep Space Nine and the X-Files in this list. I got bored after the first season of DS9 and didn’t pick it up again until much farther into my adulthood, for reasons we won’t discuss here. And X-Files just never appealed to me. I don’t really get the conspiracy theory mindset.

    Having said that, I’m sure both of those are someone’s favourite out there. I’m always willing to share a difference of opinion.

    Stay safe and be well, everyone.

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  • Life,  Television

    The TV SF of my formative years – Pre-1980s

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    By which I mean shows made before the 1980s, although a couple of them spill over a bit. A couple of these, I didn’t actually discover until about 1990 and living on my own in second year university.

    I made an offhand comment on Facebook a couple of days ago that I was searching out the “greatest SF television of my formative years” for stretched out binge watching during the shutdown. (As previously noted on more than one occasion, I’m not wired to be able to do standard binge-watching. I can’t do one thing for that long at a time.)

    I even listed the shows I was after, most of which I’ve come up with. I’ll add one, which will surprise no one. Star Trek The Original Series.

    I’ve been a Star Trek fan for literally as long as I can remember. One of my first memories is sitting in my father’s lap watching a rerun of “The Immunity Syndrome”. That’s the one with the giant space amoeba. Not all of it has aged well, but some of it holds up as excellent storytelling and more of it is culturally relevant today than most people would suspect from a distance.

    The rest of the list:

    I remember watching the TV movie of Battlestar Galactica in a hotel room somewhere during the drive across Canada when Dad was posted to the west coast. It only ran one season, plus a 10-episode spin off series that picked up a generation later, and it was cheesy with inconsistent writing, but it was fun, had mostly clear lines between good and evil, and swear words you can still use today if you want to.

    Buck Rogers was produced just after the first season of BG with the same creative team and, I suspect from the shared FX, the same company. The writing wasn’t as good, but the cheese factor ramped up and the idea of a fun space adventure was front and centre.

    Blake’s 7 follows the story of a group of criminals and semi-anarchists as they fight a guerrilla war against the Terran Federation, a totalitarian government that tries to control everything its citizens do and think. Something to keep in mind: 1970s BBC SF production values.

    You never forget your first Doctor, as the saying goes, and Tom Baker was mine, discovered on a local TVO station in the convenient after the bus dropped me off time slot. I watched as often as I could, but even now I don’t think I’ve seen all of the Tom Baker episodes. Time to change that.

    I discovered the Avengers during second year on a bored Sunday afternoon at about the beginning of the Diana Rigg run. Hooked immediately, it’s still the Steed/Peel relationship that defines the show for me even though I’ve seen most of the rest, before and after Ms. Rigg’s time on the show. Worth noting that the first half of her run was in black and white. It was the 60s and things were still transitioning.

    I actually have the Space 1999 theme on my phone as part of a small play list of SF themes, along with a couple of other themes from this list. Ah, that guitar. I used to love this show as a kid, and while I don’t think I’ve watched an episode in a couple of decades, I have fond memories. Fun but a little darker than a lot of stuff happening at the time, and with the FX ramped up as close to realism as could be produced in the 70s. Probably the biggest SF show of the decade next to The Six Million Dollar Man.

    So there’s my list of potential binge watches for the next little while. There are a few other things that might have made the list, but these are what I’m going with.

    Did I miss anyone’s favourite?

    Be well, everyone.

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