Tag Archives: sci-fi

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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Review: Star Trek Beyond meets expectations

Jaylah_and_scott

SPOILER POLICY FOR THIS REVIEW: Most of the plot details I mention in this review are things we knew from the trailers (casting, fate of Enterprise, name of villain, etc.) I plan to talk a bit about the specifics of the Enterprise sequence, but I’ll avoid some details about the villain. The basics of Jaylah are discussed, as well as some of the cast pairings that happen in the middle section of the movie. If you’re spoiler sensitive, avoid this post until you’ve seen the movie. If you want a sense of what’s cool, what could have been done better, and whether you should go see this movie (you should), then read on.

Right from the first trailer and the announcement of this film’s director a lot of fans were worried that we were getting Star Trek: The Fast and the Furious, a generic action movie instead of true trek spirit we’ve come to know and love. Simon Pegg’s script and a lot of sly references do what they can to challenge that expectation and there are bits and pieces of something greater, but most of the middle section is exactly what we expected from Justin Lin. But the movie is still eminently watchable.

The fate of the Enterprise: There’s a real “oh sh-t!” moment early on in the sequence that my wife actually caught a few seconds before the rest of the audience. The design of the Enterprise throughout the decades has often been criticized for putting the nacelles on long delicate arms. And in Beyond we see the consequences of that choice. It actually takes a good ten or so minutes from initial battle till everything comes crashing down as the Enterprise is picked apart by a swarm of ships unlike anything they’ve ever encountered. Most Trek battles are naval engagements, two heavy cruisers duking it out until one is victorious. The swarm of enemy ships in this movie is a force of nature, one that will be next to impossible to defeat. Everyone gets a good moment, from Scotty’s clever escape, to Uhura’s battle with the baddie, to Kirk saying a last goodbye to the bridge. Everything up through this moment is the Trek we love.

Let’s wander around on a planet for a while: There was a lot of potential in the middle act of this movie, and we get glimpses of it through some character beats. Most of the crew is picked off by Krall and huddled together in cells pretty early, but a few are able to escape on their own or with a buddy. We see some traditional and unexpected pairings here: Kirk and Chekov, Spock and McCoy, Scotty and Jaylah. There’s some real potential for interaction and character development in these sequences, but the best we get (as expected) is Spock and McCoy. Their grudging respect for each other is explored, as well as Spock dealing with a big loss. I’ve been a fan of Urban’s McCoy and feel like he’s been underused until this movie. The Kirk and Chekov stuff is all action, and Scotty and Jaylah are mostly played for laughs. Uhura, Sulu, and rest of crew in Krall’s camp is less compelling, though Uhura’s one-on-one’s against the villain aren’t bad.

New life-forms: Jaylah’s a nice character. She’s got a cool character design. Her outfit’s not exploitative. She’s shown as being a capable engineering novice and a fighter. She calls Kirk “James T.” Overall, not a bad effort. Simon Pegg mentioned on Late Night with Seth Meyers that her name comes from her script designation (Jennifer Lawrence from Winter’s Bone) and I don’t know if we would have made more of a connection with this character if it was actually Jay Law. Her development is a little lacking, but I look forward to seeing how potential future movies use her (or at least the comic books).

Ordering off the menu: Idris Elba on the other hand, is buried in the makeup and that voice he put on for this movie. Whatever you think of Cumberbatch’s Khan, you were getting everything that actor had to offer as a sympathetic villain. There’s so much we could have gotten from Idris, even just from his voice, that his slow, spittle-spewing performance didn’t give us. On Fallon, Idris remarked that you didn’t really have to act when you looked like his character, which makes me wonder why they used someone as talented as him for the role. If you hadn’t told me it was Idris, I wouldn’t have known for much of the movie.

Callbacks: The trek references in this movie were largely from one of the least popular series: Star Trek: Enterprise. There were a lot of good TOS refs as well. The Enterprise callbacks make sense, since technically the prime and Abrams (Kelvin) timelines share that common ancestry. There was one choice of music in a sequence toward the end of the movie that came off as very hokey, especially considering what it was being used to do. That was probably the most Fast and Furious the movie got. Yes, I know that First Contact used “Magic Carpet Ride” in a sequence, but it made way more sense in context than the moment in Beyond. The best moments are the movie’s tribute to Leonard Nimoy, which is handled with more than just a title card. There’s a moment at the end that really connects with Trek’s 50 year legacy.

Raise the stakes: Star Trek (2009) destroyed Vulcan mid-movie. It’d be hard for any movie to rise to that level without repeating itself. Into Darkness did it with a personal character death, Pike being killed by Khan early on. Beyond does shock us early on with the Enterprise attack, but the actual threat of the movie seems relatively minor. Most of our villain’s violence, and the devastating power of his weapon, is implied not shown. The thing to protect is largely significant because it looks cool and has a lot of people on it (oh and Sulu’s husband and daughter who we’ve never seen before, and never talk to). I’m not sure how you correct this point, but since there was less connection with earlier movies or Trek lore, it seemed more generic in a building-smashy way than the previous films.

Bottom-line: The movie is fun. There’s a lot of laugh lines. The space action sequences are superb. The planet stuff is more generic, but still fun. We’re back to the curse of the odd numbers, but if you think about it, only 1 and 5 are real stinkers. 3, 7 and 9 are all very watchable. I think Beyond actually most resembles 9 though without the romantical time-freezing bits. It’s definitely still in the top third of Trek movies. I doubt you’ll hate it, and you definitely will want to see it in the theater.

Just maybe go for the matinée.

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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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Star Wars 7 – Semi-Spoilery Review

Image Source: Bloom County 2015

Image Source: Bloom County 2015

I don’t intend to reveal any big plot details here, but there are some of you who seem to think that any minor detail is a spoiler. If this is you, maybe wait till after you’ve seen the movie, though I suspect if you haven’t seen it by now, you’re in the same camp I am.

I saw The Force Awakens Christmas day at the Gateway Film Center. The experience was very pleasant. I arrived 45 minutes early with my wife, and we had our pick of seats. The theater at time of showing maybe had 40-50 people. I wore my “Yoda Man” shirt, the extent to which I dress up for movies. For the record, the only movie I have ever gone “in costume” to was Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I brought a towel, and it rained, making the towel a useful accessory.

My wife and I discussed the movie a bit after seeing it, so what you’re getting here is a rough consensus of the two of us.

  • Far better than the prequels. On par with the original trilogy, though maybe not better.
  • If A New Hope was made in 2015, it would be this movie.
  • At times, it was more buddy action comedy than space opera. A lot of 2015 vernacular “Did you see that?”, “We can do this!”. Not necessarily a bad thing.
  • It felt very “J. J. Abrahms” movie-ish. Again not a bad thing. The man can’t resist the number 47.
  • BB8 was not as stupid as he looked in the trailers. Maybe not R2D2, but still a good droid.
  • Harrison Ford had on his A-game like we haven’t seen from him in years.
  • Carrie Fisher did a lot better than I personally was expecting.
  • The main villain was … a bit emo. Think young Severus Snape in appearance and Tobey Maguire in Spiderman 3 for affect. But there’s some interesting possibilities for development. Maybe keep your helmet on.
  • The reveal of the main villain’s identity was a bit early.
  • We liked all the new people. I wanted more Oscar Isaac, and Daisey Ridley of course kicked butt.
  • Star Wars aliens have little point other than to look cool. Aside from the Wookies we don’t know much about their civilizations. Do you know what race Yoda is, or what happened to it as evidently he seems to be the only one left? That said, the level of CG indulgence was taken down many levels from the prequels and the few CG characters were actually pretty good. I even liked the one “hippo-ish” thing at the watering hole. You’ll know it when you see it.
  • This movie got back to first principles of what Star Wars is. For good or for ill. I have heard people talk some about moral ambiguities, but frankly I think this movie was more centered on clear good and clear evil than ever before.
  • Lightsaber battles in snowy woods are cool.
  • We laughed, we enjoyed the movie, and left talking about it which I haven’t been able to say for the last couple of films I’ve seen and crazily anticipated. (I’m looking at you X-Men: Days of Future Past).
  • We’re still Trekkies. Sorry.

What were your thoughts?

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Transmetropolitan and sticking the landing

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Transmetropolitan is a difficult series to recommend and yet it’s one of the best things I’ve read in comics. There’s a lot of bad language, violence, sex, drug use, technological fetishism, bowel disruptors, two-headed cats and journalism. The main character is a bastard, and is also a deeply compassionate human being. If you stick with him, he’ll make you smile, then cringe, then smile again.

I’m a big fan of 50-60 issue series, long enough to develop a world, have notable side issues, and mysteries that are revealed gradually but not glacially. Transmetropolitan has a five year arc told over five years of comics from 1997-2002. In some ways it is very of its time, while in others it was quite prescient. But more than anything it’s a story that unfolds gradually, and that comes together to a satisfying ending, something difficult for any author, but doubly difficult in a monthly medium like comics.

Transmetropolitan tells the story of Spider Jerusalem, a gonzo style journalist in a 23rd century cyberpunk trans-humanist future. After five years away, Spider is called back to “the city” to fulfill the last two books of a five book publishing deal. The city is a mash of cultures, fetishes, technologies and architectures, constantly evolving and living in an ever present “now” with little memory of the past. Spider first decides to cover a transient movement in the Angels 8 district, a story that ultimately leads to his live coverage of police brutality bringing the riots to a stop. This earns him both fame from the public and the ire of city officials.

But the majority of the book’s arc has to do with two presidential administrations, the Beast and the Smiler, and Spider’s adversarial relationship with each. The Beast is a pragmatist who will only do the bare minimum necessary to keep at least 51% of the people happy and alive, and the Smiler is a man who wants power only so that he can use it for his own whims.

I don’t want to say a whole lot about the particulars of the conflict, but suffice it to say there are highs, lows, conspiracies and satisfying showdowns throughout. The best part is that ideas and concepts introduced in early issues are important and relevant to the conclusion. Everything feels like it has unfolded organically and inevitably to the conclusion Ellis and Robertson planned.

I’m not going to lie. It took me two reads of the first volume before I decided to go any further, with about six months between those readings. It took a deep discount and coke rewards points for me to buy the second volume, even after liking the first volume much better on a second read. There’s a lot of early world building. And the language and “colorful metaphors” (as Spock would say) are a barrier (though weirdly satisfying in later moments). This series is not for everyone, probably not even for most people. But you owe it to yourself to at least give it a try if it sounds the least bit interesting.

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Black Science Vol. 3: A focused and emotional story

Black Science Volume 3

Writer – Rick Remender, Artists – Matteo Scalera, Dean White

Black Science Vol. 3 (Cover)

After the meandering second volume, Black Science comes back around with a bang for its third outing. This time the Anarchist League of Scientists find themselves stranded on a Roman-esque world which has been devastated by a plague. Their opposite number dimensionauts from this world brought the plague with them in their travels through the onion, only adding to the destruction and death that comes with traveling between planes of existence. Prime Grant McKay has been restored from his apparent demise at the end of the first volume, and is fighting for his kids, the way home, and to save this devastated world.

Remender has never been shy about killing off main characters. I said at the end of the first volume that I wasn’t sure how many people would be left standing by the end (probably just the two kids, I’d guess). By my count, at least four characters are killed or are near death at the end of this volume, by as McKay’s return proves, nothing is quite certain.

Family is at the center of this arc, from the other dimension’s Sara trying to protect the kids she’s seen die too many times, Grant fighting to restore his family, or Rebecca’s true motives for wanting to complete the pillar (hinted at in Volume 2). The narrative is tightly focused on loss, both the personal losses suffered by the characters, and the destruction their pursuit of science has wrought.

Despite these heavy themes, the book manages to be playful at times, the vaccination spreading machine in particular was quite amusing. Scalera’s designs area a little more muted than the beautiful first volume, but still quite engaging.

Kadir gets short-shrift, with very little page time, mostly spending it complaining that people don’t appreciate him enough. He was the most interesting thing in Volume 2, swearing to protect Grant’s kids as he dealt with the consequences of trying to sabotage the dimensional pillar. He was complex, layered, and pragmatic. In this volume he comes across as whiny, like the difference between how Loki is portrayed in Thor versus The Avengers (films).

As with the previous volumes, we’re left with a pretty significant cliffhanger. At this point there are so many forces trying to kill the dimensionauts, take over all the worlds, or just wreak general havoc, that it’s a wonder the body count’s been as low as it has. More than the previous volume, this ending has me waiting with great anticipation for when the series returns in November.

(4 stars | You might want to go back and read Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 if it’s been a while)

*I received a free ARC from NetGalley in return for an honest review

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Just when I thought I was out…

I’ve been spending the month of July moving my office. Phase 2 starts this weekend with the assembling of some desk furniture and moving my files and stuff downstairs.

Phase 1 was moving my library, and as part of that I handled just about every book in my collection, making a brief assessment as to what to keep and what to sell to HPB. I am easily suckered in by bundles, whether it’s the digital comic book / game variety these days, or actual bundles of books or magazines tied together with twine. Through one such acquisition I’d acquired a full long shelf (double stacked of course) of science fiction magazines, which had a lot of cool covers that I never looked at, with stories inside that I never read.

Image Source: Sci-Fi Stack Exchange

Image Source: Sci-Fi Stack Exchange

Despite having recently listened to Neil Gaiman’s charming introduction to Cory Doctorow’s Information Doesn’t Want To Be Free, I didn’t suspect that I had the story in there that would change my whole perspective on writing (especially with a lot of these older works being available in much easier to consume form on ManyBooks). So I sold about half the stack, going through each one to see if I recognized the authors, or even liked the titles to determine which ones to keep.

This weekend was Half Price Book’s coupon sale, an exercise in trying to save the most money on a single item without getting suckered in by the clearance section. On the 50% day I did what my wife and I have termed “a trifecta” hitting up the Lane, Bethel and Graceland HPB’s. At both Lane and Bethel were beautiful crowd facing carts with vintage sci-fi mags, going for $1-2 a piece. Ironically the only store that didn’t have these was Graceland where I’d actually sold my books. Now other than suspecting I should have sold the magazines somewhere else, as HPB was making a lot more money off them than I had, I had a little pang of regret for getting rid of them.

Now bear in mind, I’d had these magazines for years and I still have a good stack of at least 45-60 (plus more than that many on my Kindle). I never read them, and only looked at them when I was down in the basement, which until my office moves down there fully was not that often.

But it’s weird how even when you’ve made the decision to get rid of something, that’s when you suddenly see it everywhere you go. It could be ex-girlfriends, books, technology, or whatever, but some things we don’t get away from easily.

Fortunately I stuck to my guns and came home with a short stack of graphic novels instead of old sci-fi mags, including a copy of Blankets by Craig Thompson that Matt suggested I’d like. Admittedly I’m trading one form of shelf fillers for another, but hopefully these are things I’ll actually read. At the end of the day I live in a small house, and much as I love to be surrounded by books, they need to be books I actually look at it and fondle more often than once every seven years (no matter what Churchill or whoever may say).

Have you ever gotten rid of something, only to be tempted by it the next time you go to the store?

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