Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Space: 1999 - "Space Brain"

Spoiler Level: High (but come on now, it aired in 1976. We're 11 years past the future the story was even set in.  I think the statute of limitations has run out on this one.)

Every now and then, when I'm washing dishes in the sink, I look at the soap suds and in my head I hear Victor Bergman say "This 'foam,' as you call it... can crush anything."

Some things just leave life-long impressions.

So one day while I was washing the dishes I put this episode in my Netflix DVD queue, for old times' sake.  Since there were no new episodes of any of my shows this week due to Thanksgiving I had time to watch it.  And man, what an awesome nostalgia ride.  Okay, the foam and the zero-g effects may not have been very good, but the model work is still fantastic to watch.  Gerry Anderson was always great at making good SF eye candy.  This episode used three different Eagles, each one with its own unique details.  Not to mention the foam as its over-running the surface of the moon and covering Moonbase Alpha.  I know CGI is realistic, but man, models just have something special to them.

The science is, of course, shaky at best.  (1) The foam is antibodies from a Space Brain that Moonbase Alpha is on a collision with.  No problems there. (2)  This Space Brain is at the center of the galaxy and all the planets depend on it.  Okay, now we're getting really iffy. Are we trying to say that the Moon has traveled all the way from an outer spiral arm to the center of a galaxy in less than a year? (3)  The Space Brain is "not a sun, a star, or a planet."  Well, that's typical Space: 1999 science for you, not knowing that there's no difference between a sun and a star.  (4) The Space Brain is a million times bigger than the Moon, so the anti-bodies will crush the entire Moon, but if we increase the pressure inside Moonbase Alpha to counter the pressure of the antibodies, we should be able to ride it through.  Okay, at that point you just throw any attempt to take the science seriously out the window, eat your popcorn and enjoy the ride.

And there's the obvious drama points; you just know something's got to go wrong with Plan A to up the drama, and you see the obvious set up with what's going to go wrong with Plan B, etc. etc.

But there's also some very interesting, very human moments.  When they first encounter the Space Brain and they don't know what it is yet, its antibodies crush an Eagle and send it crashing back on Alpha.  Commander Koenig decides the next logical step is to nuke it, in the hopes that it'll weaken it enough for the Moon to pass through it unharmed.  This struck me as a bit extreme, but I rather liked the exchange between Koenig and Eagle chief Carter as they sent the nukes off.  Koenig expresses regret at taking a first strike against an enemy he doesn't understand, and Carter counters they killed the crew of Eagle 1.

Once they realize what the Space Brain is, they also realize it's trying to help them avoid it as well.  My first assumption was that, being intelligent, it valued life and didn't want to take it needlessly.  But then all attempts to steer Moonbase Alpha away from the Space Brain fail, and in the end Koenig and Bergman muse that the Moon shot through the Space Brain like a bullet, killing it and all the planets that depended on it.  The Space Brain was trying to help them out of self-preservation.  It's a sad note, but it's treated as little more than an afterthought.

I absolutely LOVED the music, especially what was playing during the main foam attack.  The music felt totally familiar, and I have no idea if it's because I actually remember it from being a child, if it was a theme that was simply reused in the series a lot, or if it's a piece of Library Music that I actually have but can't place-- according to wikipedia, it could be any of the three, or even reused music from a different Gerry Anderson series.  [UPDATE: It was "Mars, the Bringer of War," from Holst's "The Planets." So technically it was none of those! Special thanks to fanderson.org for solving that mystery for me.]

So this was a great trip down memory lane.  I think I'm inspired enough to even watch the other two episodes on the disc before I send it back!

Stargate Universe - "Lost"

Spoiler Level: High

SGU continues to improve.  This episode gives another enjoyable series of flashbacks, showing us Greer's past and what lead him to join the military.  Rush continues to actually give a damn about somebody besides himself, making every effort possible to rescue the stranded team members. (Even if it does ironically end up blocking the gate and preventing the very rescue he's trying to accomplish, but hey, that's drama for you.)  And we get LOTS of Stargate travel, which is something the show has been missing.  I like the explanation that these Stargates are more primitive than the ones in the Milky Way galaxy; it explains why they have to eject steam after they close, as opposed to simply "it looks grittier." We got to see more advanced Stargates in Atlantis, now we're seeing more primitive ones on Universe.

I'm also very glad that Greer immediately took the attitude of "They thought I was dead" as opposed to "They abandoned me!"  And (again, ironically) the fact that he didn't leave with the others is what saved him.  Now he's going to wind up with a weird combination of abandonment issues and survivor's guilt.

So Destiny is now headed out of the galaxy.  Once again they've upped the stakes, and it'll be interesting to see how Scott, Eli & Chloe make it back.

As always, thanks to krissiecaps for the screen capture!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - "Heroes on Both Sides"

Spoiler Level: High

Very, very nice.  This episode gives a very deep perspective to the entire war.  We've always known that Palpatine was playing both sides of the war to give rise to the Sith, but since we've always seen the story from the Republic's side, the assumption was always there that the prime motivation for the Separatists leaving the Republic was their own greed, led by the Trade Federation.

What this episode reveals puts the entire Star Wars saga in a new light-- the Separatists didn't leave the Republic out of greed, the left the Republic because they were sick of greed.  This totally explains why the Trade Federation is still a part of the Republic, and that Nute Gunray has simply gone rogue.  From the point of view of the average Separatist world, the Republic has become corrupt, manipulated by the businessmen into making sure the law always goes their way at the expense of the people.  And from what this episode showed us with the Trade Federation and Banking Clan, they're actually right.

I absolutely LOVE the Infiltator Droids.  I love the cleaning droid look, I love the combat droid look, and I love that they transform from one to the other.  Some truly awesome mecha.  Bring on the toy.

I also love the new character designs; it's nice to see Anakin finally in Jedi robes.  The battle armor makes sense while he's in the field, but not while he's on Coruscant.  I'd like it if this meant he'd actually be changing clothes depending on the situation, but since they've aged him I doubt that will happen.

And speaking of Anakain's age, a little more reading at starwars.com has made me realize that this series has never, ever been shown in chronological order.  Even the first season was jumping back and forth, and I just never noticed.  So I'd like to give a shout-out to Swashbucklingjedi, fanboyskywalker, and all the other fine folks at theforce.net message board for going to all the effort of coming up with a list to put all these episodes into chronological order.  Including the movie (and counting it as one episode), "Heroes on Both Sides" is the 55th episode aired and #54 in the known chronology to date.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

At the Earth's Core

Spoiler Level: Low

I first saw this movie at a drive-in double feature around 1979.  We went to the drive-in to see Star Wars; I guess they considered this a natural pairing, since it's science fiction and stars Peter Cushing.  The drive-in ran this movie first of course, and all I remembered was a giant dinosaur with a parrot head and generally being pretty bored wishing Star Wars would start.

And if you'd asked me yesterday, I would have told you that movie had been "Journey to the Center of the Earth."

So I was flipping through Netflix tonight and I saw this in the new listings, and I immediately realized I'd been wrong all these years. My curiosity on what it was I had seen (and payed so little attention to) was thoroughly piqued.  Plus I was hoping to see a younger Peter Cushing.  I had no idea this was the movie he had made right before Star Wars!

The movie itself actually reminded me quite a bit of the early Hartnell Doctor Who stories, with Cushing playing Doctor Abner Perry (a stammering old scientist) and Doug McClure playing the running-around action hero.  Caroline Munro plays the princess of the underground kingdom, and boy is she hot.  There's a lot of guys in dinosaur costumes stomping around, and one downright hilarious scene of a monster eating a very obvious doll prop.

Oh, and the music was done by Mike Vickers, who also wrote some fantastic library music, including one of my all-time favorite pieces of 2-XL Music ever, "Central Office of Information."  None of the music in here falls into the same league, but it worked well with the material.

I can see why I didn't have any patience for it when I was 10, but being 41 on a quiet night with nowhere to be in the morning, it was quite fun.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Smallville - "Patriot"

Spoiler Level: High

This show has just gotten better and better.  They've even started handling Aquaman right!  Okay, they still call him A.C., but he's married to Mera, he's lost the surfer dude attitude ("Did Mera teach you that new vocabulary?" I love it!), and although they didn't get into his origins in detail he said Mera has shown him his true origins-- which leaves things wide open for Atlantis.  And Mera kept using his Atlantean name, Orin!  Fan-freakin'-tastic.

I also loved that he seemed to be out for protecting the seas, and was somewhat disappointed to learn that the oil rig he blew up wasn't an oil rig after all but a super-hero holding cell.  Oh well.

And Michael Hogan isn't just typecast as a somewhat off-the-rails colonel, he's Slade Wilson.  Didn't see that one coming.  He's got the eyepatch by the end and there's lots of x-rays of his skull... I wonder if his brain's been enhanced?  I don't know if they'll have time to have him come back as Deathstroke before the season ends, but I hope they get to.  It would be a shame to have such a wonderful set-up and not get to use it.  And it would be even better if Cyborg gets to be in the episode where he returns!  Maybe it could end with Cyborg taking some teen heroes under his wing and starting his own team...

The bits with Lois becoming part of the team were also very, very welcome.  It didn't even occur to me that Lois and Tess weren't aware that each other were both in on Clark's abilities.  Once again, this season takes the annoying "we're having a conversation where we both can't admit to what we know" Smallville standard and turns it into something amusing.  This final season has been a great pay-off for sitting through this show for the past 10 years.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Stargate Universe - "Human"

Spoiler Level: High

Wow, this was really good.  I dare say this is the second best SGU I've seen yet (my favorite still being "Time").

Getting to see some of Rush's past went a long way towards making him a more likable character.  It was nice to see he took the lessons he learned to heart as well.  ("I was being optimistic." "That's new for you.")  I just hope it sticks and he doesn't go back to being a selfish creep next episode.

Daniel was the perfect guest star for this episode; his losing Sha're made him the perfect counterpoint to Rush, and helped to draw Rush out.  And I noticed the 46 pattern all on my own!  I'm so proud of myself.  ^_^

This episode really gave me a lot of what I'd been wanting from this show; the characters learning to better themselves, learning more about the ship's secrets, and getting to visit an alien civilization.  (Although I absolutely hated that spider.  I hate spiders to begin with and that was the most nightmarish spider anyone could have come up with.  When they're huge like in Lord of the Rings it's easy to say it's fake and impossible.  When it's the size of a dog, it's just small enough to be believable and just big enough to scare the bajeebies out of me.  And the teeth and the hiss just put it over the top.  You know what, forget this, I'm getting chills just writing about it.  Moving on.)

I also enjoyed the cliff hanger element of Apollo, Starbuck, the Professor and Mary Ann  Scott, Greer, Eli and Chloe being stranded, and am looking forward to seeing how they get rescued.  And the ending theme is really, really growing on me.  (Man, I love watching stuff on Netflix and having end credits again!)  I walked away from this episode feeling something I never felt from an SGU before:  upbeat and, as Rush said, optimistic.

Once again, I'd like to thank krissiecaps for the screen capture!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Star Trek: Typhon Pact - Zero Sum Game by David Mack

Spoiler Level: Medium

Star Trek books are back!  After a 5 month break with nothing but reprints, the monthly paperback novels have returned!  And what better way to return than the new Typhon Pact series?

In the wake of the quadrant-wide devastation of the Borg Invasion in Star Trek: Destiny, the Tholians, Gorn, Breen, Romulans, Tzenkethi, and Kinshaya have all joined to form a new alliance: The Typhon Pact.  Forced to work together during the Borg Invasion, the six species have formalized their alliance and created a new major political power, sharing information and technology, and standing opposed to the Federation and the Klingon Empire.  Star Trek now has a new Cold War.

Each book in the Typhon Pact series is following one of the current book series; there will be a book for The Next Generation, a book for Deep Space Nine, a book for the Titan, and a book for the Aventine, which is the new slipstream powered starship captained by Ezri Dax introduced in Destiny.

Zero Sum Game is the Aventine book, but to be honest, the Aventine doesn't get to do very much in it.  This is totally a Bashir story from beginning to end, with Dax and the Aventine as supporting characters.  Bashir is picked for a special mission to infiltrate the Breen, and it's Dax's job to get him into Breen space, avoid any trouble with the Breen and the Romulans while he's performing his mission, then to extract him once he's accomplished it.  Really, this feels like a Deep Space Nine book;  the main characters being Bashir and Dax, the story starts and ends on DS9, it deals heavily with the Breen who were only seen in DS9, and guest characters were mostly from DS9 episodes.

The Breen are one of the more mysterious races; we only saw them towards the end of the Dominion War, and while we learned they were tough and are covered from head to toe, we didn't really learn much else about them.  So this book gives us the opportunity to do just that, as Bashir is immersed in Breen culture and has to learn a lot on the fly.

The story is enjoyable enough, even if it's not a gripping page-turner like Mack's previous books.  Mack creates a compelling look at the Breen's society, and how it's being affected by joining the Typhon Pact and having to work so closely with the rest of the Pact's members (in this case, the Romulans).  The parallels to the Cold War between the US and the USSR are very strong; the slipstream drive technology is causing a 24th Century arms race to erupt between the Federation and the Typhon Pact.  It mixes spy adventure (and lots of angst for poor Bashir, who's too good at being an intelligence operative for his own good) and political intrigue, and lays some good groundwork for the future of Star Trek in print.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - "Hunt for Ziro"

Spoiler Level: High

QUINLAN VOS!!!  QUINLAN VOS!!!  WOO-HOO, IT'S QUINLAN FREAKIN' VOS!!!!  ::Does happy fanboy dance around the living room::

I've been a big fan of the Dark Horse Clone Wars comics, so for Quinlan Vos to actually appear in the cartoon is freakin' AWESOME!!  You know the blue Twi'lek Jedi girl, Aayla Secura?  She was Vos's padawan, and started out in the comics too.  George Lucas liked her and put her in Episode II.  True story.  George also liked Quinlan enough to put in a reference to "Master Vos" in Episode III, but that was it.  (Which is awesome enough in itself, because I remember wishing that the Hoojibs from the Marvel Star Wars comics had got a reference in Return of the Jedi.)  Rumor has it that Quinlan is even going to be the lead in the live action Star Wars TV show, but y'know, I'll believe that when and if it happens.  But right here, right now, one of the coolest Star Wars comic book characters has made it out of the comics and on to TV!!!

Now all I need is for Shira Brie and Plif to show up, and my geeky dreams will be complete.

Now granted, they took it a little far with making him such a smart-alec, but I was very pleased with everything else. The voice casting, his Clone Wars outfit, his psychometric abilities, his being something of a rogue, everything else was perfect.

It was also cool to see Sy Snootles get such a major part. I don't much care for her speaking Standard-- I mean she's in a romance with a Hutt, why wouldn't they both just speak Huttese? But the over-use of English has always been my biggest complaint with Clone Wars, so I'm pretty used to it by now. I liked that Sy Snootles got another song as well. Mama the Hutt really made me stop and go "Woah. I didn't know Hutts could get uglier," which I'm sure was the point.  And I'll actually miss Ziro now that he's gone.

Okay, okay, I realize this is the wrong time frame for Shira Brie and probably even for Plif... but what about some other Hoojib?!?  They could do a Hoojib!!  Hey, that might even lead to a Hoojib toy!  Or... a PLUSH HOOJIB!!!

Okay, time to calm down.  That's just  crazy talk.


Smallville - "Abandoned"

Spoiler Level: High

Wow, this show had so many cool fanboy moments I barely know where to start.  Not only do we get Lois & Clark's Lois Terri Hatcher playing Smallville's Lois Lane's mother, but we also get Supergirl Helen Slater playing Clark's mother Lara in the same episode!  And as if Granny Goodness and her Female Furies weren't enough, we get a bonus bit with Desaad and the return of Godfrey, setting up for Darkseid. (And hopefully Apokolips!)

And in another interesting twist, we discover that Tess Mercer is actually Lena Luthor.  Well, okay, Lutessa Lena Luthor.  For me, this actually felt very right, and only serves to increase her finding her place as a character, and is probably a step they should have taken from the beginning.  She was introduced as a replacement for Lex when Michael Rosenbaum left the show, her name being a tribute to Luthor's sidekick Miss Tessmacher from the movies and Luthor's bodyguard Mercy from the comics.  But it felt like they were never quite sure what to do with her;  she's a bad guy, then she might be a good guy, no she's a bad guy, she's a Checkmate agent...  now she's a former Luthor, a tortured soul abandoned by an evil family, trying to make amends for the bad things she's done in her life.  This is a very good angle with a lot of options.

And lastly, this episode inspired me to make my first Smallville LOL.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sarah Jane Adventures - "Death of the Doctor" (Parts 1 & 2)

Spoiler Level: High

This is the story that, if you don't watch Sarah Jane Adventures, you're still going to watch if you're a Doctor Who fan.  And really, this is the one you definitely should see.

UNIT shows up on Sarah Jane's doorstep and says a group of aliens have delivered the Doctor's body, and are taking her to a special UNIT facility for his funeral.  While there, Sarah Jane gets to meet the Doctor's previous companion from UNIT, the one and only Jo Grant!  (Or Jo Jones, rather, after the events of her departure story, "The Green Death.")  It's not long until the Doctor crashes his own funeral and all the running starts!

"Death of the Doctor" works even better than the Doctor's previous guest appearance, last year's "The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith."  Just like last year, the Doctor himself doesn't show up until towards the end of Episode 1, but it works a little better here because (1) Matt Smith actually gets to do more that just shout one line before the credits roll, (2) even if the Doctor himself isn't in the first 20 minutes or so, the action is all about him, so his presence is still felt, and (3) we get to see Jo right away, which is probably even more of a thrill than getting to see the Doctor.  I know I'll see Matt Smith again in December;  this is the first time I've seen Jo since she left the show in 1973, and I may never see her again!

In some ways she's the same old Jo, all enthusiasm and smiles.  And in other ways she's grown so much; like Sarah Jane, she's become the one in charge now, traipsing all over the world with her husband, their children, and their grandchildren.  (And let me just also mention here how happy I am that she and Professor Jones are still happily married!)  Jo's brought her grandson, Santiago, who fits in with Clyde and Rani wonderfully.  I didn't want the show to just drop in a new male lead to replace Luke like they did with Rani being introduced right on Maria's heels, but I have to admit, if they were going to replace him, the grandson of Jo Grant would be a great choice.

Russell T Davies excels at character pieces, and that's exactly what this is; even the bad guys motivation is an angle to feature as many memories as possible about the Doctor!  We even get some wonderful little bits of news as Sarah Jane tells Clyde and Rani what she's learned about Ian & Barbara, Ben & Polly, Tegan and Ace since they left the TARDIS!  (Ian & Barbara's especially made me smile, and Ace's made me breathe a sigh of relief I think I've been holding since I saw Mindgame Trilogy.)

Not that it's perfect; some of the special effects are surprisingly below current standards. There's a very obvious matte-painting for the UNIT headquarters, and some very obvious puppeteering for the aliens, which is a bit of a surprise considering how well the special effects have looked on every Doctor Who related program since the show's return.  I don't know if it was done "old-school" deliberately to give it more of a classic Who feel, or if the money just wasn't there, or if it just looked worse to me because I saw it on a 58" TV!  Personally, I'm going to go with the "old school" theory, at least for me.  And I actually kind of prefer puppets to CGI.

Aaaannd, since it was a very nostalgic, memory-oriented episode, it made for a great lead-in to Whofest 2010!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - "Evil Plans"

Spoiler Level: Medium

I love droid episodes!  I could go for an entire series just on R2-D2 and C-3P0.  (But I'd settle for the original Star Wars: Droids on DVD in its original format with Stewart Copeland's original music.)

This one was chock full of droids, from classic trilogy droids (such as an 8D8 torture droid and two IG-88s) to the brand new and lovely Spa Attendant Droids SN-D1 and B0-N1!  I haven't bought any Star Wars figures in a long time, but they'd get me with just about any droid that was used in this episode.  In addition to a lot of different Astromechs, there were some cool Protocol droid repaints as well, my personal favorite being the blue one with the white stripe on his shoulder.

This one also seemed a little more obvious to me that it was a "prequel" episode, but more because I remembered that Cad Bane was involved in attacking the Senate.

As usual, the starwars.com website tends to come in handy; the episode guide there states that Anakin didn't build C-3P0 from scratch, he rebuilt him from a previous Protocol droid.  It might be a bit apologist, but hey, it works for me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Smallville - "Ambush"

Spoiler Level: High

Finally, Clark is wearing his new Blur costume while he actually does super hero stuff!  I hadn't noticed before that he's slicking his hair back as the Blur.  Doin' the Dean Cain thing of reversing Clark & Superman's hairstyles.  Although now that I think about it, George Reeves always had his hair slicked back too.  Hmm, maybe it's just a TV Superman thing.  Or a TV Superman and/or Blur thing in this case.

(Which reminds me of something my mother-in-law said to me the other day:  "Why is Superman not Superman on Superman?"  And she raises a good point that hadn't occurred to me: to the more casual viewer, all the Superman elements are in place except Superman himself.  Clark Kent spends most of his time in Metropolis, working at the Daily Planet with Lois Lane while being a super hero, and has even got a bunch of super friends. So to the casual viewer it looks like this show isn't about his childhood anymore, so why is he still not Superman?  All the more reason why I feel he should become Superman before the season ends.)

I always like Michael Ironside.  He plays a good tough guy, so he makes a good Sam Lane.  And the idea that he pushes Lois's boyfriends to find out how much they mean to her was a good touch.

Vigilante Registration Act?  Isn't that Marvel's shtick?

Tess is working out better as the Watchtower base than she has in past seasons.  Her convoluted past gives her a believable inside knowledge on just about everything.  I feel like I finally understand her motivations and she's finding her place on this show.

And last but not least, a final farewell to the Talon.  Had this been Season 6 I would have assumed that Clark could have rebuilt it before the town woke up for breakfast, but since this is the final season, I think this was the Talon's send-off.  And another Smallville door closes...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

K9 - "Fear Itself"

Spoiler Level: High

I enjoyed this episode enough as I was watching it, but even when Rich asked me "So what did you think?" after it ended, I wasn't sure what to answer.  When I think back on the episode now, it feels like kind of a mess.

Darius is locked in an old, abandoned wardrobe by two incomprehensible hobos.  But it's not just any old, abandoned wardrobe... this is the Old Abandoned Wardrobe... of FEAR!

Not only is the fear affecting all our lead characters, it's causing all of London to riot.  K9, being a machine, doesn't feel fear and therefore is having trouble understanding what's going on.  So of course, his friends try to take it on themselves to teach him how to feel.

On the more rational side, K9 does consult Professor Gryffen about altering his programming to be able to experience emotion, but then declines to go through with it when he realizes the full implication of how difficult having feelings would be.  But when K9 enters the Old Abandoned Wardrobe of Fear, he finds himself feeling emotions after all, which at first puts him in danger but then saves his life.

Then Drake comes along and punches the Wardrobe and makes it go poof.  A bit anti-climactic, really.

The concept of K9 experiencing emotions doesn't bother me in and of itself, but it's probably something done better in a story arc than crammed all in to one episode.  While some aspects of it were handled well here, most of it was just... well, messy.

And since Drake's fear is aliens, he thinks there's an alien in the Wardrobe creating the fear, and since that's what the show was about I thought he was right, but no, he's wrong, there's just fear itself in the Wardrobe, just like the title says.  Which is a good concept, but felt like it was carried out kind of... well, messy.

So how do you get rid of it?  You can't just lock it up, it's fear incarnate f'r cryin' out loud, and besides, it's already reaching all of London from a warehouse.  So the show wraps it up by having Drake punch it, of all things.  Which is ridiculous all on its own, but also leaves me feeling like, "Gee, if he had just done that right away he would saved everyone a lot of trouble."

Although I did find it interesting that Drake turned out to be a cyborg.  I noticed the whirring noises when he was grabbing Starkey (who still gets the best scenes), which was nice foreshadowing for the ending when he reveals his cyborg hands.

So it's a better episode than "Liberation," but certainly not up to par with the rest of the series to date.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sarah Jane Adventures - "The Vault of Secrets" (Parts 1 & 2)

Spoiler Level: Kinda' High

Time to reveal another gap in my knowledge:  I thought the Men in Black, as in guys who investigated aliens and confiscated anything alien left behind on Earth and then wiped the memories of witnesses, was created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg for Malibu comics, then sold to Sony and made into a movie, where the term became popular.  Boy, do I feel foolish.

(Even more foolish than the time I actually met Mr. Rosenberg at a convention.  I was setting up my booth, and he wandered by and we talked for a bit.  In conversation he mentioned how Sony was going to make a big-budget movie based on his "Men in Black" comic.  I just nodded politely and thought to myself, "Yeah, that's gonna happen."  But I digress.)

In this case, these particular Men in Black are the androids we saw in the Doctor Who "Dreamland" animated special.  Originally from Area 51 where they were known as the Alliance of Shades, they've made themselves the guardians of everything that Area 51 packed away... which also includes a lost spaceship with the last of Androvax's people, the Vale.  (Androvax, in case you're like me and have a lousy memory for these things, is the alien bad guy from last season's "Prisoner of the Judoon" story, who was on the run from the Judoon and could hide inside other people's bodies.)  It's a tale of potential redemption, rebirth and burps. Or rather burp humor, for the British UFO Research and Paranormal Studies Society, or BURPSS.  Which made me wonder aloud, since UFO is already an acronym, should it be BUFORPSS?  While you wouldn't get to do the obvious burping jokes, I find BUFORPSS a much funnier word on its own.  But according to the Chicago Manual of Style, it's okay to put an acronym inside another acronym, so hey, that's just me.  Am I digressing again?

At any rate, BURPSS comes into the story because Rani's mum has joined the group to try to get some support for her previous encounter with Androvax last season.  And in doing so, I find myself very relieved that Matt Smith's first season as the Doctor has explained away why no one believes in aliens in Sarah Jane Adventures, yet in Doctor Who's "The Stolen Earth," Sarah Jane & Luke were right in the thick of the Daleks invading the entire world.  Now personally I'd rather have the world remember these changes, but hey, not every show can be The 4400.  So at least the Cosmic Crack gives us a reason why they don't stick.

More romance blooming between Clyde and Rani.  Aww, how sweet.  And Luke gets to stay in the opening montage and talk with everyone online.  Wonder how long that will last.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Star Wars: Darth Maul - Shadow Hunter by Michael Reaves

Spoiler Level: High

As much as I love James Juceno, I have to admit that Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter feels like a better flow from the Darth Bane books than Luceno's Darth Maul: Saboteur and Cloak of Deception did.

News of Darth Sidious's plan to have the Niemodians blockade Naboo is in danger of leaking out, and Darth Maul is sent on a mission to kill the leak and anyone he's leaked it to.

Maul is captured perfectly here; ferocious, merciless, and ultimately not as bad-ass as he thinks he is.  On the surface of it, it seems like there's no way that a down-on-his-luck rogue can keep evading him, but it's due to Maul's arrogance and overconfidence just as much as the intervention (and inevitable sacrifices) of Jedi and a lot of luck.  Maul's impatience is a flaw that even Darth Sidious acknowledges in this book, and it's easy to see how it's going to get him killed in The Phantom Menace.

Since the book takes place immediately before Maul's introduction to the Jedi in Phantom Menace, it's inevitable of course that anyone who comes into contact with Maul is doomed to at least fail, if not die.  And to his benefit, Michael Reaves opens enough doors that I didn't know if the characters would be killed or manage to go underground long enough to outlive Maul, since he too is doomed to die in his next story.

Which raises my one big question:  After Darth Maul's death, Yoda and Mace Windu are left wondering which of the Rule of Two has died.  But as far as the books are concerned (including this one), the Jedi have thought the Sith to be extinct since the last great Sith war, which would be when Darth Bane started the Rule of Two and went underground.  So how does Yoda know "Always two, there are"...?

I read the novelization to The Phantom Menace when it came out, so next stop is the first Post-Episode I book, Rogue Planet!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Smallville - "Harvest"

Spoiler Level: High

A good character episode.  The main plot was pretty predictable-- from the moment the little girl rode Lois into town and told her they were getting ready for their harvest, I realized this was a take on The Wicker Man.  But what was really good about this episode was watching Lois & Clark talking to each other and getting everything out in the open.  The beginning scene where  Lois finally learns that all the strange things that have been happening to her over the years have pretty much all been tied to Krypton was great.

And I could be wrong, but if there's a contaminant in the water and you're using it on your crops, doesn't that mean the contaminant is now in the soil?  So Clark should have been buried in Blue Kryptonite Soil, right?  Maybe I'm wrong.  I should ask a soil expert.  Paging James Cassidy!

The scenes with Alexander becoming Lex were also great.  Once again, the actor seems to have gotten Michael Rosenbaum's inflections down, which is even more impressive since he's a child actor.  I'm hoping this means that Rosenbaum will eventually return for the end of the series.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Stargate Universe - "Faith"

Spoiler Level: High

Now this is more like it.  The civilians and military may not be getting along, but they're making the effort.  Fences are being mended and people are starting to realize they're all in this together.

The story is a pretty typical one for any "lost in space" series; they come across a planet that's paradise, and some people want to stay.  And it's easy to understand why, seeing how hard conditions have been living aboard Destiny, and with so little chance of getting home.

Usually there turns out to be a dark secret to the planet that either makes everyone change their minds or kills those who chose to stay behind.  Luckily, this episode doesn't do that. Instead, this take on the story adds the twist that the planet was deliberately put there.  I share Rush's curiosity and frustration that the answers of who did it and why won't come before it's time to leave; but unlike Rush, I know I'm watching a TV show, so the possibility is open that the answers may still turn up later.  The possibility that the planet was put there as a lifeline for the Stargate team is inspiring and plausible; however it also occurs to me that it could have been placed there as a lure.  Again, we may never know.  So while those who chose to stay behind may wind up dead after all, at least it didn't end with those on Destiny listening to them screaming while they flew away.

Colonel Young's decision to let the civilians stay but order the military back makes 100% sense.  The civilians should have the right to make their own decisions and get off this ride if they want; the military officers have an obligation to the people on the ship in their care.  T.J.'s wanting to stay for her baby's sake makes sense, but I think a part of her realizes how necessary she is as the ship's only doctor.  If I was in her shoes, I would have tried to resign.  Young undoubtedly wouldn't have accepted it, but if I felt that strongly about not raising my child aboard Destiny as she says she does, I would have at least tried.

Add to all that more exploration of the ship and the discovery of what looked like a room full of robot drones, and it all makes for an episode I really enjoyed.  I hope more of them are like this.

Thanks again to Krissie's Caps for the screen capture!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Smallville - "Isis"

Spoiler Level: HUGE

YES!!!! Yes, yes, yes, yes, a thousand times YES!!!!  They had it all set up, they had Clark all ready to tell Lois the truth about himself, and they played it in the total Smallville style-- by the end of the episode Clark now had a million "very good reasons" to change his mind by the end of the episode and tell her "Never mind."  They even had me believing they were going to wimp out again.  And then Clark goes and does it!  WOO-HOO!!!! 

It also shows how the concept of Lois & Clark as a team, with Lois knowing who he is, has become such a strong part of the Superman mythos that they felt it had to be included before the series ended.  Which so totally, totally makes me happy.

Not to mention how cool it was to have Isis back on TV for the first time since 1977.  I also find it cool that this TV version of Isis is based on the current comic book version of Isis, which in turn was created as an homage to the original TV version of Isis featured in the The Shazam!/Isis Hour TV series, who was actually created by Filmation. TV imitates comics imitates TV.  You gotta love it.

One odd thing about the episode:  Clark comes up with the new Blur costume with the red jacket, and then runs around doing total Blur stuff without changing into costume in this episode.  Why?

Cool fanboy moments:  The Dagger of Teth-Adam was a real thrill, and the yellow energy ropes made me giddy at the taste of what a live action Green Lantern Corps/Sinestro Corps battle would look like! 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

K9 - "Sirens of Ceres"

Spoiler Level: Medium

Another decent episode, this time focusing on Jorjie.  Darius is still annoying, but K9 growled at him this time which gave me a good laugh.  K9's POV screens continue to delight-- click on the image to enlarge it and follow K9's thought patterns trying to understand the concept of "Sunday fun."

In this episode, Jorjie finds herself sent to the Magdalene Academy because she's becoming too much of a dissident.  It seems the Magdalene Academy is using alien stones to turn the students into Stepford Children, perfect and obedient.  It's a decent storyline that surprisingly felt like it was over rather quickly.

I also rather like the fact that this show keeps expanding on the concept of London being a totalitarian state-- a pretty big concept for a kids show, and they're not shying away from it.

I'm also really falling in love with K9's new look.  I always thought it was a decent update, giving K9 a more modern look while still having all the key components of his original look.  But having watched 5 episodes I'm now starting to really find him just so damn CUTE.  And I'm not even a dog person!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sarah Jane Adventures - "The Nightmare Man" (Parts 1 & 2)

Spoiler Level: High

Sarah Jane Adventures returns for a fourth season, and it's got a tough act to follow with Series 3 having featured the return of K9 as a regular, the introduction of Rani Chandra, and a guest appearance by the Doctor.

"The Nightmare Man" is a good start.  The titular villain is very creepy, especially to someone like me who's had a lot of bad dreams over the last few years.  The cliffhanger to Part 1 pushes the boundaries for being downright terrifying for a children's series... or at least it would have if it hadn't gone straight into the previews for Part 2.

But this show's strengths have always been in its characters, and that's still the case.  Part of the reason that the Nightmare Man is effective as a villain is because he plays on the characters fears; Luke has passed his "A Levels" and is headed off to Oxford, and his nightmares consist of everyone being glad he's finally out of their lives.  By contrast, Clyde's afraid of never amounting to anything, and Rani, who wants to be a journalist like Sarah Jane, is afraid that her drive for journalistic success (and perhaps integrity) will force her to betray her role model.  And the Nightmare Man tries to make Sarah Jane afraid of being alone again, playing on her being abandoned by the Doctor all those years ago, and reminding the audience of how much she's grown since this series started.  These nightmares aren't just boogie-man scary-movie stuff; they're real fears that real people face, and it shows how strongly the characters rely on each other.

In an American kids show, this episode would have ended with "Oxford may be ready for me, but my place is here, with my mum and my mates.  Oxford can wait!"  Since I have a ten-year-old I've seen a lot of those, so all through the episode I was wondering if he was actually going to leave or if he'd stay.  So I was somewhat surprised when the ending came and Luke drove off with K9 at his side.  I have to admit, I totally cringed at the end of the pilot when Sarah Jane adopted him, but the series really made it work.  The writers gave it just the right amount of depth and character that I felt it really made Sarah Jane grow more than her four years on Doctor Who ever did.  And Luke's naivete and friendship with Clyde made him work as a character as well.  So I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm sorry to see him go, and wondering how well the show will work without him.  As Rich said to me after we finished watching it, he's the one who cements the cast together; Sarah Jane is his mother and the kids are his friends.  Oh sure, Clyde and Rani have become Sarah Jane's Scooby-Doo Crew, but it makes more sense for the kids to be going over to Sarah Jane's house to hang out with Luke.  If I recall correctly (and with me that's always a big "if"), Rani's parents weren't that sweet on Sarah Jane to begin with.  It will be interesting to see how well the dynamic holds up with Luke out of the picture.

And speaking of Clyde and Rani, this changes their dynamic a bit as well.  Before it was three friends hanging out; now it'll be a teenage boy and a teenage girl hanging out.  Potential romance?  It did seem like Luke was trying to push Clyde in that direction.  I'm not opposed to it per se, but I have to confess I never saw it coming.  Since this show is intentionally a kids show and a little more in the vein of the original Doctor Who, I always felt like there's no hanky-panky in the attic.

It's also interesting to note that with Luke and K9 gone, this now means that none of Sarah Jane's companions (it always feels funny to say that!) are the same as the pilot.

Some final thoughts on K9:  I'm sorry to see K9 leave (again), but I have to admit, with Mr. Smith in the picture K9 is a but redundant.   Having him leave with Luke as he starts his own adventure feels very fitting, as that's how K9 Mks I and II both went. And it's not like I'm going to have a chance to miss him when I still have 22 episodes of his own show left to watch...