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Links, Bonus Features, Thematic Randomness

Whatever it is, it can’t be that bad…

Long-time readers of the blog will know that I and the esteemed Brian Buckley are pretty big fans of Babylon 5. Babylon 5 is full of great characters and great character actors, and sadly over the years we’ve lost a number of them all far too soon. This week another member of the cast has “passed beyond the veil,” Jerry Doyle, who portrayed Security Chief Michael Garibaldi.

Garibaldi, like all the characters, could be funny, noble, and a pain in the ass, sometimes in the same scene. He makes mistakes, deals with real addictions and loss, and comes out on the other side a better person. In small tribute I thought I’d compile some of the best clips of Garibaldi over the years, most of which I’ve been seeing on Facebook over the last two days.

Jerry Doyle was actually briefly married to the woman who portrayed Talia Winters, though only after she’d left the show (something I didn’t know till my Wikipedia research today).

Probably one of the best known scenes in the first season, and still one of my favorites.

You wanna talk socks?

More Londo’s moment, but still a great scene.

Alright, my second favorite thing…

Funny the Doctor could never prescribe anything for Garibaldi’s hair loss.

Garibaldi kicking some corporate butt.

And taking down evil regimes even as a hologram.

This was how I imagine installing Windows 10 must have gone for some people.

Do not thump the book of G’Kwan!

And this one was being posted around yesterday. Never seen it before.

And lastly, our favorite God of Frustration…

So long Jerry. We will see you again in the place where no shadows fall.

PS. Couldn’t find the clip, but Scott Adams (of Dilbert) plays opposite Doyle in the Season 4 episode “Moments of Transition” (starting around 23:39).

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Plenty of letters left in the alphabet

SPOILER WARNING… I GUESS?

The trailers for Star Trek Beyond have given a pretty strong indication that Pine-Kirk’s Enterprise kicks the bucket in this new movie, until the latest trailer just comes out and says it. The Enterprise has been destroyed.

As fans of the series know, this isn’t something new. Pretty much every iteration of Star Trek has an episode in which the ship blows up and everyone dies. Actually, if you’re a fan of The Physics of Star Trek, you can add any episode to the list that utters the phrase “Inertial dampers are offline”, because at the speeds they are usually traveling everyone would be a spot on the back bridge wall.

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Today I will attempt (and likely fail) to provide an exhaustive list of episodes in which the Enterprise (or the main ship/station for DS9 and Voyager) is destroyed.

TOS (none): Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but aside from “The City on the Edge of Forever“, in which the Enterprise just disappears because of an alternate timeline, we never see it blow up until Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, still one of the best explosion scenes of the series. Several Constitution class ships are destroyed in the TOS run, but never our main girl.

TNG:

  • Cause and Effect” – Ship blows up at the teaser and at every commercial break. We see Frasier as captain of a ship from the 23rd century.
  • Time Squared” – Seen through future Captain Picard’s log fragments. Especially love the effect of the ship being sucked backwards into a wormhole.
  • Parallels” – Worf keeps on slipping into alternate timelines including one in which he is married to Troi. Provides the impetus for their brief romance. Enterprise that blows up is one from an alternate timeline where the Borg have assimilated the alpha quadrant.
  • Yesterday’s Enterprise” – Technically we don’t see either C or D blow up, but C is being sent to its doom, and D is about to be destroyed with Picard at a flaming tactical.
  • All Good Things” – Several Enterprises are destroyed when trying to seal the breach in the universe, in the wrong order to prevent a time paradox (past, present, future *BOOM*).
  • Star Trek VII: Generations – Lursa and B’Etor are the ones who destroy the Enterprise, at the cost of their own lives. Not exactly what we expected of these characters. We get a saucer crash similar to what we’re seeing from Beyond, though a smoother descent. Data says “Oh, sh-t!” and Picard says the title of this post. Oh yeah, and Kirk dies (as the old joke goes with a bridge on him, instead of him on the bridge). If you read the old technical manual, this exact procedure for saving the saucer was detailed long before the movie came out.

DS9:

  • Visonary” – O’Brien is able to make jumps about five hours into the future because of… radiation poisoning? One of his future jumps shows the destruction of DS9 by an unknown (*cough* ROMULAN *cough*) attack. Past O’Brien dies, future O’Brien instead of winking out of existence jumps to the past and assumes past O’Brien’s life. All’s well…?
  • The Changing Face of Evil” – The Defiant is destroyed in battle with the Breen and Dominion ships. This event is fixed and the Defiant only reappears as the renamed USS Sao Paulo a few episodes later. A bold choice for bold Trek.

VOY:

  • The Year of Hell: Part 2” – My personal favorite. Voyager is attacked and battered over a long period. Janeway becomes increasingly driven and prone to taking unnecessary risks. Tuvok loses his sight. 7 of 9 becomes Tuvok’s caretaker and friend. In the final battle there’s a gaping hole in the front of the ship held only by a force-field before Janeway rams Voyager into a timeship to correct the timeline.
  • Deadlock” – A duplicate Voyager is created through … methods. Harry Kim dies when sucked out a hull breach. Harry Kim prime takes his place, along with baby Naomi Wildman. Duplicate Voyager blows up and somehow doesn’t destroy other Voyager occupying the same space.
  • Timeless” – Voyager crash lands on an ice planet after being thrown out of a quantum slipstream. 15 years in the future Harry Kim tries to save them by using Borg technology and a retrieved EMH. Cameo by Levar Burton. Another surprising Voyager highlight.
  • Course: Oblivion” – A duplicate Voyager created by their encounter with the demon planet eventually dissolves into nothing.

ENT:

  • Twilight” – In an alternate timeline (catching the trend?) the future NX-01 Enteprise is crippled (the bridge is ripped off which is kind of a cool effect) and later destroyed while simultaneously curing Archer of a brain disease caused by time-parasites. Archer is able to restore his memory and the past. Woohoo.

I’m sure there are more so please share in the comments.

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Ten Forward – Stone Trek

Apologies to Mr. Buckley. Back when I showed him these in college it nearly ended our friendship.

In this installment of “Ten Forward” (covering the Star Trek official and fan expanded universes), I thought I’d bring out a real “blast from the past,” Stone Trek by Brian Matthews.

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Stone Trek chronicles the adventures of James T. Kirkstone, Mr. Sprock, Dr. RcKoy and the rest of the crew of the stoneship Magnetize as they explore the galaxy while watching out for the deadly Kingosauruses.

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As you can probably guess Stone Trek imagines Star Trek as a Flinstones style cartoon, complete with animals manning all important ship’s systems. The gags show a decent amount of knowledge of both shows, as well as numerous other sci-fi franchises including 2001 and Star Wars.

Highlights of the show included the two-part “Cave Man Trap” in which Captain Kirkstone must deal with a rock salt vampire in order to get Professor Crater to sign over two tickets to a planet “where the oceans are made of beer,” the Stone Trek version of the Firm’s classic Star Trekkin’, and the ways in which redshirt deaths are accounted for throughout the episodes.

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Only a few episodes were actually made, though the website features stills from potential future episodes and parody titles. The end credits show some of these as well, including a personal favorite of mine with pointy tribbles.

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By no means the cream of Star Trek fandom, but a rather unique take that oddly works. I could see Shatner fitting into the Fred Flinstone role quite naturally.

Anyone else watch this nonsense back in the day?

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10 Forward: DS9 – The Fallen (Video Game)

As a life-long Star Trek fan, there’s a lot to celebrate this year: a new movie, a new TV series, and the franchise’s 50th anniversary. For my own small contribution to the festivities I’ve decided to do a series of posts (one every week or two), detailing little-known corners of the franchise’s licensed (and fan-made) works. This week I’ll be covering the Deep Space Nine PC video game – The Fallen:

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Plot: In the last days of the Cardassian occupation of Bajor, a scientist named Terrel attempted to unlock the secrets of an orb of the Pah-wraiths, only to be forced to abandon the project when the orb became unstable. Six years later her secret lab is discovered aboard DS9 and forces within the Dominion, Cardassia, and the Cult of the Pah-Wraiths all seek to gather the three orbs of the Pah-Wraiths for use as a weapon, or to create a new wormhole. Playing as Sisko, Worf, and Kira, the player must find the missing orbs, and stop the forces trying to control the Pah-Wraiths before it’s too late.

Pros:

  • Well-versed in DS9 lore. The game itself takes place toward the end of the 6th season, but contains many references to episodes throughout the series including the mining operation on Jerrado (“Progress”), Kira assuming a Cardassian appearance (“Second Skin”), secret areas and defenses from the Cardassian control of the station (“Civil Defense”), the telekenetic abilities of the Vorta (“The Jem’Hadar”), and Dominion prison camps (“By Inferno’s Light”). The game also foreshadows the later events of the series including the final confrontation with the Pah-Wraiths, Dukat being possessed, and the Pah-Wraith cult.
  • The game is re-playable through each of the three main characters: Sisko, Worf and Kira. The storylines run in parallel but feature different levels and gameplay for each.
  • One mission involves exploring a crashed Miranda class starship. The level design for this sequence is excellent, climbing through a hostile jungle to see your first glimpse of the ship, fighting Jem’Hadar on the outer hull, then diving inside and having to work your way through submerged sections to a hidden lab.

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  • Your default weapon is useful throughout the game and is good for almost all light combat encounters. This is good since the heavier weapons may not always have plentiful ammo.
  • Terry Farrell reprises her role as Jadzia Dax for the only time after her character’s death at the end of the 6th season.
  • The game uses a beta build of the Unreal Tournament engine, one of the first game engines to feature truly expansive environments. Both the Ulysses mission and the reveal of a buried Pah-Wraith temple move from tight confined spaces to expansive open levels. This engine was in a sweet spot for games of the era. Next generation engines would feature better graphics, but the level design was much smaller and featured more loading (see Deus Ex vs. Deus Ex: Invisible War). Even with its old and outdated graphics, the level design is on par with the best games of today. You can look out the window of Sisko’s office or the Promenade and see the rest of the station.
  • A mod for the game (titled Convergence) was created by one of the level designers for the original game, and includes another twenty or so levels of gameplay (on top of the 24 base levels). A lot of enjoyment for a shooter.
  • The music is atmospheric and chilling, and in MP3 format easily accessible in the game’s install directory. More than 90 minutes of DS9 game music.

Cons:

  • Avery Brooks and Colm Meaney were unavailable to provide the voices of Sisko and O’Brien. The Sisko performance is okay, but O’Brien is pretty terrible.
  • An early mission features an enemy that you need to scan with your tricorder before being able to shoot them. This can be a bit of a barrier to entry for someone just getting used to the game’s controls.

FallenCombat

  • The default auto-targeting doesn’t always work well. It removes options for destroying explosive containers to kill enemies by always targeting the combatants.
  • The story can feel disjointed and incomplete until you play through all three characters. Some missions, like the Ulysses aren’t explained well initially until you read through tactical briefings, and watch later cut-scenes.
  • Some people criticized the lack of multi-player, which would have been cool in a few places. For me the game doesn’t suffer without it.
  • The game isn’t easy to run on a modern system, though I was able to get it running pretty quickly by installing a program called nGlide. I’m re-playing on my ASUS Windows 8.1 machine with no problems so far.

Bottom-line: The game would be a reasonably good third-person shooter without the Star Trek trappings. Weapon balancing is pretty good, and requires a more considered and tactical approach. The level design is epic in feel, and there are lots of things for the DS9 fan to enjoy, including walking into Quark’s bar, talking conspiracy with Garak, and walking on the hull of a crashed ship (seriously, that is still cool 15 years after the first time I played it). The plot would have fit well as two-part episode of the show (and is partially based on the Millennium series of DS9 novels). Definitely the best DS9 game made for the PC and still fun today.

FallenOps

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May 4th is for all of us

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Well, another Star Wars Day is upon us. I’ve already done my celebrating in traditional fashion, by buying a discount Star Wars comic volume (this year to get the Infinities stories which include the comic adaptation of the original screenplay).

But I thought that since most other great Sci-Fi franchises don’t have a day, that Star Wars might be willing to share. Below is a list in no particular order of shows and comic books you should check out instead of re-watching Empire Strikes Back for the 20th time (or maybe afterwards at least).

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Babylon 5 – A show that delivers on its concept of a five season novel arc. There are imperfections: Boxleitner’s acting is overdone, the CGI has NOT aged well, and of course, Byron. But if you can look past these you’ve got a great show that was equal parts epic, funny and moving. Also, at least 3-4 strong female leads (passes the Bechdel test all over the place) Ivanova is my personal favorite. Season 4 is the high point, but I think you need to at least watch Season 3 prior to get the full effect. And if you like the epic space-battles of Star Wars, wait till you meet the Shadows, the Vorlons and the White Star.

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Red Dwarf – A man stranded millions of light years from earth, all of humanity long dead, with his only companions a holographic recreation of his snotty roommate and a creature evolved from his cat. The show is a little long in the tooth now, but the first 5-6 series are great. My favorites are the early episodes when it is much more isolated, just a couple of people playing off each other to great comedic effect. We could lose the cat from the show, and Kryton doesn’t always grab me, but Rimmer and Lister are worth the price of admission. Also bonus, really early Craig Ferguson in the first series.

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The Fuse – Comic book previously reviewed on the blog. Procedural murder in space with six issue arcs for each case. Set in a large power generation station in space with a community of drifters, technicians and society elites. Has some of the same beats as Babylon 5, but better explores the homeless situation with the “cablers.” Three volumes currently available with more coming soon. The dynamic between the two lead detectives is great and not always what you’d expect. And again features a grumpy older female lead.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – If you’re like me, you grew up thinking The Next Generation was the best Star Trek. But you need to give DS9 a look (as I’ve argued earlier). Characters grow and change from season to season. I’m doing a rewatch of early seasons and can’t believe they never shoved Bashir out an airlock. At least (to coin an old Simpsons joke), his name comes with instructions (“bash-here”). DS9 has all the things NextGen doesn’t, continuing story lines, epic battles, and a mix of comedic and dramatic plots. The Bajorans are a weak point, but there’s so much this show has to offer it’s worth another look.

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Saga – Not for the faint of heart. Just completed 36 issues of its planned 60 issue run. Bold, imaginative, epic, and deliberately unfilmable. NSFW in so many ways. My favorite post and rundown of the first 12 issues gives you an idea of what’s coming. But for all that shock value, it delivers on the space opera epic story centered around family. What more could a Star Wars fan want?

This is just a ridiculously small sampling of what’s good out there. So enjoy your Star Wars viewing if you must, but you can also feel free to swim out into the deep end. The water’s fine.

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The Simpsons – Best Episodes for Writers

People who know me well, know that I try to keep up an encyclopedic knowledge of The Simpsons, and have a belief that a list of episodes can be created for just about any topic imaginable (something I often do at holidays or whenever some topic comes up in conversation, most often with my wife *sorry*).

Writing isn’t a topic you’d think would be well covered on The Simpsons, but actually there are a number of references to almost every member of The Simpson family putting out a book or two.

Bart Gets Famous – Season 5 Episode 12

A future jump ahead finds Lisa at the typewriter as a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist with Bart polishing all her awards. Best quote “Impaled on my Nobel peace prize. How ironic” after Lisa gives Bart a swift kick.

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They Saved Lisa’s Brain – Season 10 Episode 22

Several episodes involve impassioned letters by Lisa to the populace of Springfield, this one inspired by the riotous behavior at a low-fat pudding gross out contest. Her plea for more dignified discourse earns her a place in the local chapter of mensa.

Treehouse Of Horror VII (The Thing and I) – Season 8 Episode 1

Though not officially canon, unsold copies of Homer’s autobiography are seen in the attic. Apparently the book wasn’t very popular.

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Bart of Darkness – Season 6 Episode 1

Bart is trapped in the house with a broken leg, and TV is all reruns. Apparently his only alternative is writing his own play. “Is it St. Swithens day already? Tis!”

Diatribe of a Mad Housewife – Season 15 Episode 10

Marge writes a popular romance novel in which Homer is portrayed as a boor, and Flanders her sexy lover. Confrontations at the edge of cliffs ensue. Apparently all you have to do to succeed is write and you’ll immediately be popular.

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I’m sure there’s many I missed. Any other flavorites?

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Sex and The Simpsons

Long time readers of the blog know that my weekly Friday afternoon ritual is to listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour and enjoy a little reportage on the latest movies and musings on pop culture. Last Friday featured a discussion on the way sex is portrayed for parents with children, whether its played for laughs or if the people involved actually seem to have some passion. Usually I can count on fellow nerd Stephen Thompson to be right there with a way to relate almost any discussion to The Simpsons, but this week he let me down. Maybe you were just feeling you bring up The Simpsons too much Stephen, though I don’t know how such a thing could be possible. The Simpsons touches on almost all the areas you discuss when it comes to its portrayal of sex, something I will now demonstrate for you with 12 episodes.

Homer desired by other women

Despite being bald and overweight, Homer has had several opportunities for extra-marital affairs, all of which he has declined even in times of marital trouble. In “Colonel Homer” (Season 3 Episode 20) after a fight with Marge, Homer takes country singer Lurleen Lumpkin from cocktail waitress to country TV star when a song of hers relates to him. Lurleen is both grateful for Homer’s interest and faith in her, and lack of expecting something in return. She tries to invite him to “bunk with me tonight”, but Homer declines (and later asks Lurleen to clarify if she would have gone all the way, to which her reply is an enthusiastic yes).

Great line from this: “It takes two people to lie. One to lie, and one to listen.”

More notably in “Last Temptation Of Homer” (Season 5 Episode 9), a new employee at the nuclear plant, who shares Homer’s love of donuts, beer and sports, causes a real conundrum for Homer. He’s obviously attracted to her, and she to him. Despite being shown by the ghost of Colonel Klink that both his and Marge’s lives would actually be better if he left her, and being told by a fortune cookie that he will find happiness in a new love, Homer stays and shows Marge the night of her life. “Oh Margie, you came and you brought me a turkey, on my vacation away from workee”.

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Marge desired by other men

Marge has been pursued by a lot of would be Letharios, from Moe to Mr. Burns to a Manatee loving Alec Baldwin to old high school flame-out Artie Ziff. But the most notable is Jacques from Season 1 Episode 9’s “Life on the Fast Lane”. A selfish birthday present from Homer sends Marge to the bowling alley, where she meets a sensuous bowling instructor who invites her back to the Fiesta terrace. Marge is annoyed at Homer, and enamored of Jacques, and was saved only by “an ironic street” depicting love’s blossoming, to old age, to death, to skeletons in a shop window. This leads to one of the most classic endings of The Simpsons where Marge meets a depressed Homer at the power plant, and he carries her out in his arms. “I’m going to the backseat of my car with the woman I love, and I won’t be back for ten minutes!”

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Season 14 Episode 4 “Large Marge” also brought Marge a lot of attention, from her husband and other less desirable corners. Her new bazoomas even inspired Homer to song, though they did prove to be an awful strain on her back.

Grandpa vs. Sexual Inadequacy

Season 6 Episode 10 brings a double whammy to the discussion of sex, “Grandpa vs. Sexual Inadequacy”. Here we see Marge and Homer’s problems in bed frankly depicted, with reasons for lack of loving being TV movies, enchiladas, and the classic TV trope of the kids running in. Grandpa has the solution, and while the idea of old people having sex is mostly played for laughs, Grandpa provides a tonic that puts the spring back in Homer’s step, so much so that the two decide to go on the road selling the tonic to everyone.

Both Abe and Mr. Burns fight over the hand of Marge’s mother in “Lady Bouvier’s Lover” (Season 5 Episode 21). Notably Mrs. Bouvier turns both Burns and Abe down for sex and marriage, but while some moments are still played for laughs, particularly Homer giving his Dad “play it cool” advice to get a kiss, some moments are really sweet and show Grandpa can be more than just an old coot.

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Homer’s weight is rarely discussed as an issue with his relationship with Marge (less than you might think), though a notable exception is “King Size Homer” Season 7 Episode 7, in which a scheme to get disability payments by gaining weight forces Marge to make the admission that she is less attracted to Homer.

Homer goes too far

Homer does occasionally get himself in real trouble with Marge on the issue of sex. In Season 1 Episode 10 “Homer’s Night Out” a photo of Homer dancing with Princess Cashmere circulates through Bart’s school and Homer’s work, eventually leading to Marge throwing him out. Homer redeems himself by teaching Bart that women are not just objects (sort of), but his impassioned plea is good enough for Marge.

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More ruinously, Homer reveals many of Marge and his private moments in Season 5 Episode 22 “Secrets Of A Successful Marriage”, thoroughly embarrassing Marge, and causing her to believe she can’t trust him anymore. His plea for forgiveness of “complete and utter dependency” is a little weak, but while Homer doesn’t always say the best things, he says them in the right way.

Homer the Lover

Homer and Marge have on balance a fairly healthy sex life, with some ups and downs. They do occasionally engage in roleplay (or at least winter coatplay) “That name again is Mr. Plow”. When the kids are away in “Kamp Krusty” (Season 4 Episode 1), Marge and Homer get frisky in the shower, though all the lost weight, new hair and love life evaporate as soon as the kids return.

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In “Natural Born Kissers” (Season 9 Episode 25) Marge and Homer’s dull anniversary leads them to believe the passion is gone. But after nearly getting caught hiding in a farmer’s barn, the element of danger adds new zest. This leads them to try nookie in all sorts of dangerous places, leading to nearly being discovered in their old love nest in the putt-putt windmill, and finally ending up standing naked in a loaded football stadium. While a lot of this is played for laughs, and there is definitely some “ew, gross” from the kids, much of the episode does show the two of them having fun.

So, as we have now learned, The Simpsons belongs in every discussion of pop-culture. You would do well to remember this, Stephen 🙂

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