Saturday, April 30, 2011

Super

Spoiler Level: Medium

Have you heard about this movie?  If it wasn't for a friend of mine being a fan of James Gunn and Nathan Fillion I wouldn't have.  It's the story of an average loser named Frank who loses his wife to a drug dealer. 

The thing is, Frank's a little unhinged.  After he has a vision where God uses naughty anime tentacles to tell him to become a super hero, well... what choice does he have but to become one?  So he comes up with his super hero persona, the Crimson Bolt, and goes on a vigilante spree, thwacking thieves, drug dealers, child molesters and anyone else breaking the law with his trusty wrench.

Now I am not a fan of gore, and I really don't find blood funny.  This movie has a lot of blood, and yet it made me laugh, and laugh hard.  Why?  Is it a Three Stooges kind of thing? Disbelief that he's actually doing it? Wish fulfillment, getting to see bad people get what's coming to them?  Most likely it's a combination of all of these.  All I know is that this movie is at times funny, at times brutal, and at times brutally funny. 

Oh, and disturbing.  Very disturbing.  It has not just one but two rape scenes, and no, they're not funny in the slightest, although they are about as polar opposite as rape scenes can get.

It's not a super hero movie for the faint of heart, but it is a humorous look at what might happen if someone who was just slightly off balance tried to be Batman, what would probably happen to him, and what he might accomplish, both good and bad.  If you can find it-- and if you can take it-- it's definitely worth seeing.

This film is currently showing at art house cinemas and is available via On Demand.  I went with a bunch of my friends to the Harris Theater in Pittsburgh, where it will be showing until May 5; you can find details and show times at their website. On a personal note, it's been a long time since I've gone into the city with my friends to watch an art house movie, and I'm really glad I did.  All five of us enjoyed it and had a good time.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Star Trek: Phase II - ''Enemy: Starfleet!''

Spoiler Level: Medium

This week's Star Trek is a special treat.  "Enemy: Starfleet!" is the latest installment of the fan film series Star Trek: Phase II.  It  was just released last week on April 22, giving me my annual dose of new Trek.  It's also the first episode to completely remove Star Trek: New Voyages from the title.

"Enemy: Starfleet!" is a lot more satisfying than the previous entry "Blood and Fire, Part 2" (which in fairness I later learned was released with the sound to the final segments unfinished, which may have accounted for part of why I didn't enjoy it as much.)  The episode runs 58 minutes but feels very well paced.

The title's a bit deceiving; The colon implies that for some reason, Starfleet has become the enemy.  What it's actually about is the rise of a different Starfleet due to the USS Eagle falling into the hands of a race called the Meska on the other side of the quadrant.  The Meska have studied the Eagle and started building their own ships based on Starfleet technology, and using them to overthrow and annihilate their former overlords, the Pesha (who apparently have the same barber as Sabalom Glitz).  This lands the Enterprise in the unfortunate position of having to take on a smaller, enemy Starfleet all on their own.

The Meska are lead by Alersa, played by BarBara Luna, who also played  Marlena Moreau (aka "the captain's woman") in the classic TOS episode "Mirror Mirror," and who also had a guest appearance in the early Phase II episode "In Harm's Way" (back when it was still called New Voyages).  As a bad guy she's delightfully over the top, playing Alersa as both alluring and dangerous, yet in a kind of b-movie way.  I don't know if it was intentional or not, but it makes her a very fun villain.

As you'd expect with a premise like this, this episode is heavy on action, with lots of starship battles.  The Meska have overhauled the Eagle, reinforcing its vulnerable spots with more armor and adding additional disruptor canons to it, making it look a bit more ugly but a lot more tough, and making for some very cool battle scenes.

There's also a good deal of character development, as Ensign Peter Kirk is still mourning the loss of his fiance from the previous episode, and Captain Kirk is still coming to terms with the fact that he has family on board, family being something he's never really had to deal with much.

We have a big change in actors again; Spock, Sulu and Chekov have all been recast.  Brandon Stacey isn't really much of an improvement over Ben Tolpin as Spock.  He looks the part more, but his delivery is pretty flat. (And Ben Tolpin, by the way, directed this episode.  So while I may not have been won over by his portrayal of Spock, I have been won over by his directing abilities.)  Andy Bray's Chekov is a hard act to follow, but Jonathan Zungre does an excellent job. Sulu doesn't really get a lot to do in this episode besides evasive maneuvers, so I don't really have much of a feel for J.T. Tepnapa's take on Sulu yet.  As to the returning actors, either I've gotten used to John Kelley's portrayal of McCoy or he's gotten a lot better over the years.

One nice touch is that the Eagle was lost eight years ago, so the ship is more like the Enterprise as she was in the pilot episodes, with a curved viewscreen and crewmen wearing the old-style uniforms.  (Which I have to admit caused a little confusion for me; at first I thought they were members of the Eagle's crew that were under Alersa's control, but then Kirk says that the Meska killed the entire crew, so presumably they just raided the ship's wardrobe like Archer and crew did in "In a Mirror, Darkly.")

Another very nice touch is that this episode involves the same kind of matter/anti-matter intermix wormhole like we saw in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, so we get to see it again here in the same style.  It's a very TMP moment but blended with TOS; it's one of the little ways that this show is starting to transition into the Phase II that could have been, had it been made by Paramount.  (And speaking of Paramount, now that Paramount's TV division has become part of CBS, instead of opening with the old 1960's "presented in living color" NBC intro, the episode now opens with CBS's 1960's "presented in living color" intro! That got a smile out of me.)

So all in all, another great entry by Cawley & company.  Links for downloading or streaming this episode can be found at Star Trek: Phase II's website at http://www.startreknewvoyages.com/episode_ES.html.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tiger & Bunny - ''Fear Is Often Greater Than the Danger''

Note the Pepsi sponsorship on Blue Rose's arm!
Spoiler Level: High

In this episode we get to learn about one of the other heroes, Blue Rose.  Blue Rose is really school girl Karina Lyle, whose dream isn't really to be a hero at all, but to be a singer.  She's only become a super hero because it's supposed to be the best path to stardom.

In previous episodes she's played the enthusiastic hero, but now she's obviously grown tired of it and would rather focus on her real dream of playing piano and singing.  This of course brings lots of speeches from Kotetsu on the nature of being a hero, which is counterbalanced by Barnaby's more cynical desire for fame. The result is a lot of discussions examining personal motivations, why we do what we do, and the dilemma of choosing between what we want and what's expected of us.

The episode works well for me, because even though we're not seeing a lot from the camera's perspective, we are seeing how this world of super hero reality TV affects people's lives, as Karina has to juggle trying to satisfy her television obligations, pursuing her own dreams, and still have a social life and go to school.  She thinks she knows what she wants, and it's not being a hero-- but as Kotetsu points out to her, helping people isn't something one can just choose to stop doing.  It's the usual anime dilemma, but with a super hero twist, and it works well.

As always, this episode is available to watch for free at http://www.vizanime.com/tiger-and-bunny.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Transformers: Prime - ''Predatory''

 Spoiler Level: High

This episode is pretty creepy, and not because of my fear of spiders. Airachnid is big, metal, has a humanoid face and doesn't move like a real spider, so she doesn't creep me out in that sense.  She does creep me out in the sense that she's a total sadist, thoroughly enjoying the pain she causes.

What starts out as a simple recon of an Energon reading turns into a nightmare when Arcee and Jack discover a crashed spaceship belonging to Airachnid, a Decepticon (voiced wonderfully by Gina Torres) who has caused no small amount of pain for Arcee.  Airachnid has been collecting trophies of species she's driven extinct, and once she learns that Jack is special to Arcee only he will do as her trophy for humanity.

It's a very dark story, with lots of painful flashbacks to scenes of Airachnid torturing Arcee and killing her previous partner.  Arcee fears losing someone close to her again, and since Jack is human he's no match for Airachnid.

Or so everyone believes. Jack actually proves to be pretty resourceful and do some serious damage all on his own.  As someone who's not a fan of humans in Transformers, I was very impressed.  This show might just change my mind on that stance.

The problem this episode does have is what to do with Airachnid once she's defeated.  At one point Arcee has her at gunpoint, and if this had been Beast Wars and she had been Dinobot I would have had no doubt that she would have pulled the trigger-- but this being Prime I had no doubt that she wouldn't.  And so Airachnid escapes, with Jack and Arcee musing worriedly what she'll do. And they should be worried.  This is a character who just said she wiped out species for fun, and had a ship full of stuffed corpses to prove it.  She was built up a bit too high to let her just take off.

But that aside, this episode continues to establish Transformers Prime as one of the better Transformers series.

As usual, this episode is currently available to watch for free at http://www.hubworld.com/transformers/shows/prime/videos.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Doctor Who - ''The Impossible Astronaut,'' Part 1

Spoiler Level: High

Doctor Who returns in style, with the new show's first-ever two-part opening story!  And as always, the Moff delivers more time travel themed goodness.

I was so thrilled with the beginning of this story that the Doctor was now 1103 years old. I know this is horribly fanboy nitpicky of me, but I always hated that the Doctor's age in the new show is younger than his age in the original show.  The 7th Doctor gave his age as 953 in "Time and the Rani," so for the 10th Doctor to be 903 in "Voyage of the Damned" just always bugged the hell out of me.  Now true, the original show has been inconsistent about the Doctor's age before, but they started getting pretty consistent from the 4th Doctor on.  And I can get all apologist and say well maybe he's counting it in different ways, Gallifrey years vs Earth years or what have you, but really... they just decided to change his age for the new show and I just need to let it go.  But if he's 1103 now, then I can just say he aged 150 years between Doctors 7 through 11 and the rest is all just wibbly wobbly timey wimey.

But then he goes and gets himself killed. And man, what a death.  Shot twice, starts to regenerate (which was shocking enough), and then shot again in the middle of regeneration.  Damn.

...So now we're back to a 908 year old Doctor, who doesn't know he's going to get shot 200 years into his future, traveling with three companions who all know.  That's the kind of time-traveling Moff goodness I'm talking about!  (I still hope by the time this is all resolved that the Doctor will again be 1103, but I doubt it.)

Amy's announcement that she was pregnant didn't come as too much of a surprise-- if the nausea hadn't been enough of a giveaway, the Doctor's comment that she'd put on weight and "you and Rory go back to making babies" all made me think that was the direction they were heading.  A pair of married companions was already a first, but a pregnant companion is really something different!  And again, I can't wait to see how this ties in to everything over all.

Speaking of parents, having W. Morgan Sheppard play an old Mark Sheppard is brilliant.  Did I mention the first time I saw Mark Sheppard it was driving me nuts, because he seemed so familiar and yet not familiar?  Once I saw his last name was Sheppard I began to make the connection, and eventually found that yes, Mark Sheppard is indeed W. Morgan Sheppard's son.  No wonder he seemed so familiar, he had his father's accent. So having the two of them playing the same character is just fantastic.  (Yet ironically, the character they're playing is American, so the have to use American accents!)

So, the big question isn't so much "Is the Doctor going to stay dead?" as it is "How long is he going to stay dead?"  I'm betting that won't be resolved until the end of this season.  The summer break is going to be downright painful!

And for a much more in-depth look at the episode, I highly recommend "Eleven for Eleven" over at Dislocated Life, where Jonathan L. Switzer touches on the top eleven points of the episode.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Smallville - ''Kent''


Spoiler Level: High

A nice follow-up to "Luthor," and I like the parallels with the title names.  I'm not quite sure all of the logic regarding the mirror box was consistent with how it was portrayed in "Luthor," but if you don't think about that part too closely it's an enjoyable episode.

I guess I assumed that the series would have Martha Kent coming back to the farm, since the Superman mythos usually has Clark in Metropolis with his mom on the farm.  But that doesn't really work with Martha being a senator now, so this way works well for the show.  The thought of the farm not being in the Kent family at all actually makes me a little sad, but hey, at least they didn't blow it up.

The idea that Clark Luthor is only evil because he was raised by Lionel Luthor instead of Jonathan Kent and Jor-El certainly makes this a different take on Ultraman-- I don't recall Jor-El being addressed in any of the Crime Syndicate stories I've read, but I'll bet in his universe he sent Kal-El to Earth to conquer it.  That's obviously not intended to be the case here, as we're left with the hope that Jor-El will put Clark Luthor on the straight and narrow.

I also really like how Clark Kent is becoming the kind of character that inspires people to be better, such as he did with Earth-2 Jonathan and, eventually, Clark Luthor. That's the kind of character that Superman is meant to be.

And damn, Tess's dress was distracting.


Thanks, as always, to Home of the Nutty for the screen captures.  And as always, as of this writing, this episode is available to watch online (with commercials) for free at http://www.cwtv.com/cw-video/smallville/.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Star Trek: Typhon Pact - Paths of Disharmony by Dayton Ward

Spoiler Level: High, both for this book and for Star Trek: Destiny.

Dayton Ward's Paths of Disharmony is the fourth and (currently) final novel in The Typhon Pact miniseries, this time focusing on the crew of the Enterprise-E. In fact, it's so much like a post-Nemesis Next Gen book that if it didn't say Typhon Pact on the cover, you might not realize that it's a fundamental part of the Typhon Pact series.  This book takes place a year after the Typhon Pact has been formed.

Andor is the center focus of the story.  Anyone who's read any of the post-series DS9 or Destiny books knows that Andor has been having a very rough time of it lately. TrekLit has expanded on a throwaway line of Data's saying that Andorians marry in groups of four, and has expanded that to establish that Andorians have four genders, all of which are necessary in order to have a child, and a very limited window in which they can conceive.  As a result Andor's population has peaked, and is now dwindling to the point where they're actually facing a population crisis.  Add to that the events of Star Trek: Destiny, where Andor was one of the last planets to be attacked by the Borg, and you have one messed up world.

Despite his being on the cover, Shar is not a main character in this story.  He is featured a decent amount, but this is by no means a Shar-centric story; he's just one of many Andorians who have returned home to help their planet in its time of need.  I always liked Shar in the post-finale DS9 books, so I'm glad to see him again here, even if it is in only a supporting role.

The main adversary from the Typhon Pact in this book is the Tholians, but they don't show up until the last third of the book, and even then they pretty much only stop in, drop an information bombshell to get the Andorians really riled up, and then take off again.  It's nowhere near as intricate as any of the previous Typhon Pact books, but it is just as crucial, because...

...Andor is really disenchanted with the Federation at this point.  They feel that Starfleet failed to protect them during the Borg Invasion, and are failing to help them with their reproduction crisis.  And even that's a cause for Andorians to fight among themselves, as some factions feel that the Federation is holding back too much because of its ban on genetic engineering, and while others feel the Federation is helping too much, and that allowing any genetic engineering at all pollutes the Andorian gene pool and makes them less Andorian.

It's the kind of story best done in current TrekLit, because Andor's fate is unclear.  If this were to take place during Season 5 of Next Gen, you'd know that the troublemakers would be caught and, while relations may be rocky, Andor would still be a part of the Federation by the end of the book.  But Paramount no longer insists that all the toys be neatly put back in place by the end of the story.  Now we no longer have that safety net, so we have genuine dramatic tension.  Will Andor stay a part of the Federation?  Will they erupt in civil war? Will they secede and join the Typhon Pact? At this point, anything can happen, and it makes the book a suspenseful read.

This also raises another question about the future of Trek novels.  The books are obviously moving towards the events of Star Trek (the 2009 movie), but the only canon events from that film for the Prime Universe are the destruction of Romulus and the (apparent) death of Spock.  The non-canon elements are included in both the Star Trek Online game and the Star Trek: Countdown comic book miniseries.  In those, the Next Gen cast are in completely different places, and almost everyone has retired from Starfleet.  Picard, for example, is an ambassador, which seemed pretty odd at the time.  The authors in the TrekLit forums have all asserted that they are in no way beholden to the comic book and/or game continuity, which had me breathing a sigh of relief.

That is, until Picard was offered an ambassadorship in this book. He's turned it down, but now that he's a parent (and yes, he and Beverly did name their son Rene Jacques Robert Francois Picard, ::sigh::) both he and Beverly are starting to feel that the universe has become to dangerous a place to raise a child on a starship.  So he's considering his options.

To be honest, I just can't see how they could continue the Next Gen book line with "current" stories if they go that route. We've finally settled in with a solid cast of Picard, Crusher, Worf, Geordi, Choudhury and T'Ryssa Chen.  Chen, by the way, is really maturing into a great character, and her development opposite Taurik here is fantastic. Taurik's a full Vulcan, and T'Ryssa's a half-Vulcan who took the opposite path of Spock, embracing her human heritage instead of her Vulcan side. Watching the two of them interact, with Taurik having to cope with an emotional Vulcan and T'Ryssa learning that maybe there are some good things to Vulcan ideals after all is great stuff.  I'd love a book that focuses just on the two of them.  But would it be Next Gen?  Is TNG the story of Picard, or the story of the 24th century Enterprise? How far can you splinter this cast and still have it be The Next Generation?

Perhaps they're even moving towards an actual ending for these post-film era books, and will start focusing more on stories set during the various series again.  I'd be surprised if they went that route, since (as I stated earlier) they can have real drama now, and that's something they'd lose if they took that route.

We'll see.  If there's one thing I can count on, it's that there will be more Star Trek books coming.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Rain Without Thunder

Spoiler Level: High

Set in the year 2042, this film is made in a semi- documentary style, and tells the stories of the women of Walker Point. In the year 2017, Congress passed the 28th Amendment stating that unborn fetuses have all the same rights as a person.  As a result, abortion is now considered homicide.  Walker Point is a prison for women who are guilty of having had an abortion.

What makes the film so compelling is that it shows how closely a woman's right to choose is tied to the complete spectrum of women's rights.  Once the government decreed that an unborn fetus must be protected, women lost the right to do anything while pregnant that might endanger the child, such as smoking, drinking or working. Or to chose what forms of contraception they could use-- anything that isn't barrier-based and prevents a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine wall is illegal. Or to even go to a different country where abortion is still legal.  It may sound unbelievable that it could go that far that fast, but the steps presented here come across as frighteningly possible.  I tend to forget that in many states (mine included) women haven't even had the right to vote for 100 years yet. When you look at how long it's taken us to get as far as we have, it's not so unbelievable that we might slide backwards, especially in the face of the rallying cry of "protecting the children."

Another interesting element of the film is that it was made in 1992, yet in many ways predicts the conservative movement that's come around with the start of the (W.) Bush administration in 2001. The difference here is that the film puts forth that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar; that people will accept moderate change more than radical change, and that with the proper drive behind it, moderate change can take us backwards just as much as it can take us forward.  In the real world of the early 21st Century, we've become more polarized and radical in our arguments. I never saw any benefits to that before, but this film makes me think that perhaps the two sides being so vehement towards each other might actually be helping to keep each other in check.

Along those lines, while the film definitely has a pro-choice slant, it doesn't try to candy-coat abortion.  There are graphic descriptions of both abortions and the back alley abortion clinics.  It's disturbing, but it should be.  No matter what side of the line you fall on, abortion is not something to be taken lightly, and this film doesn't.

You ever have one of those moments where you recognize an actor but can't place him or her, and it becomes such a distraction that you have to stop the movie and look the actor up on IMDB before you can go on watching?  That happened to me with the character of Prosecuting Attorney Andrea Murdoch.  I knew I recognized her, and she was someone I knew well, but I couldn't place her for the life or me.  So I stopped the film and looked her up. Turns out she was Iona Morris-- the voice of Claudia on Robotech!  So no wonder I was confused-- I can pick her voice out from anywhere, but I've never seen her real face before.  (Well, apparently I've seen her in three episodes of Star Trek, but she was under alien make-up in Voyager and only a little kid in the classic Trek episode "Miri.")

Iona Morris


Amazingly enough, this film has not been released on DVD.  Amazon still has some used VHS copies, or you can watch it like I did-- yes, Netflix Instant Streaming service again.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tiger & Bunny - ''Many a True Word Is Spoken in Jest''

 Spoiler Level: High

I liked this episode a lot more than the previous one; this episode felt more in line with the first episode.  Hero TV is shooting a documentary on Barnaby Brooks Jr, so he-- and by extension, Kotetsu-- are both getting followed around, having everything they do recorded. This brings back the reality show edge, as we get to see many of the events through the eye of the camera. Maybe it's the Max Headroom geek in me, but I love shots like that.

Poor Kotetsu still can't win; the TV studio wants to portray the two heroes as great partners, which they're most definitely not, and since Barnaby is the golden child then Kotetsu is perceived as the problem.   When the TV crew isn't happy with Kotetsu's "natural" self and indifference to Barnaby, they begin scripting things for him to say. On the one hand, the network trying to shape reality into what they want the public to see is typical TV, but on the other hand reality TV just loves when people don't get along.  In this case the corporate mentality wins out, but I can just see how this would lead to a "Big Brother House: Super Hero Edition!"

The characters continue to grow as Barnaby and Kotetsu begin to have a grudging respect for one another, even though they still bicker. We also get to learn a bit about Barnaby's past.  And the background character of Origami Cyclone is starting to really amuse me.

As usual, this episode is currently available to watch for free (with limited commercials) at http://www.vizanime.com/tiger-and-bunny.  Oh, and you know another cool thing about it?  It even includes the Japanese sponsor cards.  I only wish Hulu would actually put their "Brought to you by GEICO!" card over top of it!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Transformers: Prime - ''Speed Metal''

Spoiler Level: High

One of the drawbacks to getting your television online (legally, at any rate) is that you're at the mercy of when the networks decide to post the latest episodes.  I originally wanted to watch this episode when I watched the second episode of Tiger & Bunny, but The Hub hadn't posted it yet.  So today (which as I'm writing this is actually last Monday) I wanted to watch last Friday's Smallville, but the WB hasn't posted that yet.  So instead I watched this episode and the newest Tiger & Bunny.  As a result there will be two Tiger & Bunny reviews this week, and no Smallville review until next week.

So Knockout and Break Down are still around!  That's good to see, the Decepticon army needed to be filled out a little more.  And wow, Knockout's vanity makes him a real coward.  Was he this much of a baby in the previous episode and I just forgot, or did getting scratched just really bring this out in him?  And I loved the way he yelled when Optimus pulled his door off!  Nice touch.

Did anyone else hope that in the opening scene when the car flipped over the cliff, we were going to get a Speed Racer homage with a big fireball coming up?  I knew it wouldn't happen-- that's just not this show's style-- but I couldn't help anticipating it.


You know you're in trouble when "Don't tell Optimus" becomes a running theme, but this episode did a very good job of letting the point speak for itself without getting too preachy.  It's also nice to see that Arcee could be goaded into a race.  Sometimes it's just good to see a creep get what's coming to him. And speaking of the creep, I think ten years of Smallville has forever turned the "knock 'em unconscious so they don't learn the hero's secret" ploy into a cliche for me, but that's more Smallville's fault than Transformers'.

You know, it just occurred to me, Ratchet wasn't in this episode at all.  That's odd.

...And on a completely unrelated note, this is my 400th post!  I've now been doing these reviews for just two weeks shy of two and a half years.  This blog has gotten 43,253 hits, with my biggest month being last month, March 2011, with 9,170 hits.  My most popular posts have been my Top 100 SF TV Shows list, with a combined total of 10,207 hits.  And out of all that, the single most hits of all time are for the Top 100 Part 4, apparently for a picture I posted of the old Incredible Hulk TV show from the 70's.  Go figure.

Oh, and I've used the phrase "So all in all" 19 times.  I'm surprised it's that low.

As usual, as of this writing this episode is available to view for free (with no commercials!) at http://www.hubworld.com/transformers/shows/prime/videos.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stargate Universe - ''Aftermath''

Spoiler Level: Very High

Well, that episode was a real downer.  Cheer up, Riley!  Any landing you can walk away from... oh.  Never mind.

So now Rush is talking to a woman who may or may not be there.  Geez, he wasn't enough like Baltar?  But okay, it's not always the image of his late wife, and he's already considering that it's most likely the ship trying to find a way to communicate with him.  Or hey, maybe it's the higher intelligence from the previous episode!  Oh wait, that would make him more like Baltar again...

The bridge is very cool.  Talk about taking a great leap forward in exploring the mysteries of the ship.  A bit disappointed that he's not trusting anyone with it-- that feels like the step backwards that I was hoping that he as a character wouldn't take.  But hey, recovery is a process of ups and downs, it's never a straight line up.

And the majority of the Lucian Alliance have been kicked off the ship.  Well, damn.  Yeah, I realize they were out-and-out enemies and may have tried to kill them again, so I guess stranding them is the logical thing to do.  But I'm still disappointed.

And along those lines, we start out the episode with Telford still playing the part of being with the Lucian Alliance, and then he exposes his true loyalties when he comes to Young's side in the riot, but we never get any reaction from the rest of the Lucian Alliance to that.  Maybe there was some and it was cut for time.  There is a lot going on in this episode.

Now if I remember right, they still have a second shuttle but they couldn't get it working, right?  So either they find a way to fix it or they're now shuttleless, right?

I get the ironic parallels between Young nearly strangling a Lucian Alliance guy to death out of anger and smothering Riley out of compassion, but damn, man.  And yes, it was meant to make me feel uncomfortable, but it's still no fun and makes me not like Young very much.

So all in all, while I have to admit it's a very well done episode, it's not necessarily an enjoyable episode.

On something of a side note, Netflix Streaming has now lumped all of SGU into one title, as opposed to splitting it up by seasons, and has added the first two episodes of what would be considered Season 2.5.  So I won't have to have a mid-season break this time, and can continue straight on through!  I'll still be finishing up about a month behind Syfy, but I'm okay with that.  Streaming programming rules.


SGU Stargate Universe: Complete Final Season

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Elisabeth Sladen, 1948 - 2011

From the Doctor Who News Page:

Elisabeth Sladen, 1948 - 2011 
Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - Posted by Chuck Foster

It is with great sadness that we have to report that the actress Elisabeth Sladen - forever known to us as the Doctor's best friend, Sarah Jane Smith - has died. The news, which was broken on Twitter earlier today, has since been confirmed via Twitter by Doctor Who Magazine.

A full obituary will be published soon. 
 
...I don't have anything to add.  I'm too stunned.

Tiger & Bunny - "A Good Beginning Makes a Good Ending"

Spoiler Level: Medium

The second episode of this series sees Kotetsu and Barnaby have their first official team-up.  Kotetsu is altruistic and inspired; Barnaby is only in it to get the most points and win the game.

It's still a good episode, but it doesn't have the edge that the first episode had, most likely because we see very little from the perspective of "Hero TV Live," the reality show the heroes are all competing in. This episode's focus is more of a straight-forward hero story, with us getting to learn about Kotetsu's past and seeing what made him become a hero, and how he clashes with Barnaby.  Kotetsu is endearing as the lovable loser, the guy who wants to do right by his daughter and help people but always seems to get it wrong.  And Doc Saito, inventor of Wild Tiger's new suit, is a very humorous character.

But I have to confess, if this had been the first episode, I wouldn't have been as taken by it. It's much more of a straight-forward anime episode. It makes sense that the whole reality-show concept would be taking a back seat to getting to know all the characters, but hopefully future episodes will be able to do that while exploring this world of reality shows gone overboard at the same time.

As of this writing, this episode is available to watch for free at http://www.vizanime.com/ep/3176-a-good-beginning-makes-a-good-ending. And remember, we're getting these episodes the same time as they're airing in Japan, so let's show them some support!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Survivors - ''The Fourth Horseman''

Spoiler Level: Medium 

Survivors is Terry Nation's other claim to fame, after the Daleks and Blake's 7.  I watched the first two or three episodes back around 1994, and while I enjoyed it, it creeped my wife out too much so I never got back to it. Now that my friend Rich and I are all caught up on the DCU OVAs, I'm giving it another go.

The story, in case you're not familiar with the series, is one of our common societal fears:  that a superflu gets loose and starts wiping everyone out.  What makes Survivors stand out from other stories I've seen of this nature (such as Jeremiah or The Stand) is that it takes the entire first episode for this to happen.  We start out with life going just fine for everyone.  Oh sure, there's news of a flu epidemic, but it's mostly in other places and there's very little news of anyone actually dying of it.  But as more and more people come down with it and call out from work, things begin to start running poorly; the trains are all off schedule, the telephone lines stop working, and then areas begin to lose electricity when the power plants don't have enough people showing up to work to run them properly.

And that's another interesting aspect of this show; it's firmly set in what was then the present, ie the 70s. So when hospitals are told by the government not to release the actual numbers of how many people have started dying from it, they can actually keep it contained.  There's no internet, no cell phones, no Twitter, no way for an intern to post "over 200 dead today" and have the world know.  And with the disease traveling as quickly as it does -- about six days-- by the time people do realize what's going on, there aren't enough of them left to cause riots.  (It also makes me curious how this aspect was handled in the remake, but I won't be seeing that version for at least another 38 weeks!)

Another element that this show has over others like it is that it really drives home dependent we've become on our mechanical-based manufacturing society.  As one of the survivors points out, the resources that are left will only last for up to a generation, maybe less; once they're all gone, then who knows how to make more of even simple things, like a candle or a hammer?

So that's a big part of why I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of this series; this looks to be the most realistic post-societal survival story ever.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Kilroy Was Here by Styx

Another one in the "stuff it took me nearly 30 years to get around to" category.  Everyone knows "Mr. Roboto," and it's fairly common knowledge that song was part of a larger story, Styx's concept album Kilroy Was Here.  "Mr. Roboto" came out at a time where I was a real stick-in-the-mud.  I couldn't relate to popular music, although I heard plenty of it because everyone around me (ie, my sister and my girlfriend) was constantly playing it.  During that time "Mr. Roboto" was something of a haven for me, a song I could get into because it was obviously about a guy impersonating a robot so he could escape from something.  Now that was cool.  I would have bought the entire album to try and get the rest of the story at the time, but I was spending all my money on Star Wars figures.  But every now and then I'd look at the album and think, I should really check into that.

Fast forward about ten years.  My musical tastes have broadened by about 270 degrees, and I've come to appreciate all those songs from the 80s that I found such an annoyance at the time.  But I still haven't checked out Kilroy Was Here.  My money is now going to every album and remix I can find from bands such as Genesis, Information Society, Pet Shop Boys, and Adamski.  Oh, and Playmates' Star Trek action figure line.  My then-girlfriend has a copy of the album, so she makes me a copy, but it's already several generations down and the copy I get is on a pretty poor quality tape, so although I give the album a try I just can't get into it.  Sometimes reproduction quality does mater.

Jump ahead about another twenty years, to today.  eMusic has the album, I've got the credits, and all the local radio stations are playing "Mr. Roboto" like it just came out last month, so the album's on my mind again.  Kilroy's time has come.

The "story" isn't very linear; I gather that Kilroy is something of a political prisoner, in a world where morality has run wild.  For the real story I had to do some research online.  (Maybe if I had bought the CD or the record album, it would have had liner notes that would have helped?)  Besides "Mr. Roboto," the tracks "Cold War," "High Time," and "Heavy Metal Poisoning" are probably the strongest parts of the story.  Others seem to fit in almost tangentially, such as "Just Get Through This Night," where it seems our hero is pondering the other paths his life might have taken.  And then there's "Don't Let It End," which doesn't really feel like it has anything to do with the rest of the album, but is tied in very nicely in the closing number "Don't Let It End (Reprise)," where it sounds like Kilroy has joined forces with Jonathan Chance to make a stand and bring rock & roll back to the people.  It's more of a concept album than a story album, talking about the oppressive future regime for the length of the album and then finally doing something about it in the last track.  While it may not work as well as Electric Light Orchestra's Time album, as a concept album it works just fine for me.

I get the impression that you either love or hate this album, even among Styx fans.  Now I'm a big fan of synth music (see above mentioned synth bands) and I especially love it when a rock band can get a good balance of guitars and keyboards. That's something this album excels at, so musically it just hit all the right notes for me.  The synths really grabbed me, especially in "Cold War."  I always felt that when a band was all guitars it cheapened the guitar sound; when you have a good keyboard getting a good jam going and then a guitar blares in, it really makes the guitar stand out, and this album is a great example of that.  And tracks like "High Time" really have a theatrical quality to them, which helps sell the concept as well.

And my friend Frank once told me all he had to do was put spaceships in an album and I'd eat it up.  I guess the same pretty much goes for robots.  I expect to be listening to this album a lot this year.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Scott Pilgrim vs the World

Spoiler Level: Medium

This is one of those films I wanted to see when it first came out, but like most movies I didn't get around to it.  The trailer looked very impressive.

Well, the film lives up to the trailer.  Scott Pilgrim vs. the World perfectly captures the spirit of the Nintendo generation otaku.

Scott Pilgrim is your average twenty-something. He's in a band with some friends, he's had his share of romances, and he has no career to speak of.  Then he meets the girl of his dreams.  The only catch is he has to fight each one of her Seven Evil Exes to the death.

It's a story straight out of a manga (or in this case, an Amerimanga, based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O'Malley), and never before have I felt a live action film captured the tone of manga so perfectly.  And that even goes for anime versions of manga, since anime has its own tone.

But what really pushes this film over the top is the other genre it emulates-- the old 8-bit video games.  The Universal Logo rolls out to 8-bit music at the beginning of the film, the fight sequences are set up like Street Fighter matches, and the exes explode into coins when they're defeated, with point values over them that increase with each new ex.

Visually the film is very striking, using special effects for every day scenes, looking like manga brought to life.  It's a technique used to a lesser effect that met with scorn in Ang Lee's Hulk and to a stronger effect in Speed Racer.  In both cases I liked it, but a lot of people I talked to didn't.  Based on the DVD sales of this movie, I suspect fandom has embraced it this time, most likely because of the gaming angle.

The characters are endearing, the dialogue is witty, the acting is well done. The humor lies in the film's ability to both over the top and yet low-key awkwardness at the same time-- for example, at one point Scott makes a dramatic entrance against one of the evil exes-- and then kind of stops, looks to his friends for confirmation, and then gets back to being dramatic.

It's a fun film from beginning to end, and I'll bet a lot of people will be cos-playing these characters for a long time to come.

Friday, April 15, 2011

K9 - ''Black Hunger''

Spoiler Level: High

Back to K9! I haven't been watching K9 as much this last month, because I've been going to the movies instead.  But there's nothing at the theater I want to see this week, so it's back to K9 instead.

This episode starts off pretty well.   K9's dialogue has gotten a bit silly of late, something that in a previous episode was chalked up to his memory banks having been filled up with a large library of movies.  Most of the time it's not bad, but sometimes (such as when he laughs or goes "Wheee!") it's just way too much.  So I was very happy that he was talking very technical and more like his old self when this episode started.

Darius stumbles across an aggressive microcellular cleaning system called "Black Hunger,"and makes off with it.  What he missed was the little fact that it just want wrong and killed one of the workers that was using it.  The system itself is pretty interesting-- it releases a swarm of black alien-augmented yeast that eats up anything organic, and then you suck it all back up into the containment unit.  But when Darius gets caught, he refuses to help return it (what a guy), leaving it up to K9, Starkey and Jorjie.

From there the episode veers off course and makes a fast ninety degree turn straight into the dirt.  K9 and company run into a CCPC, and K9 decides to bluff their way past it by telling it he's taking the kids out for a walk.  Now a dog taking his kids out for walkies is funny, but the kids then start actually barking and jumping around like dogs.  Say what? It's revealed that Black Hunger is a project of Drake's, so Drake orders all the CCPCs after the kids. K9 tries to lure the CCPCs away by yelling "Can't catch me!  Wheeeee!" and flying away.  Uh, oh. Starkey runs into a dead end of garbage and tree brush, so he unleashes the Black Hunger microbes, and then decides he doesn't have time to gather them up again.  What, now?!?  Wasn't he the one saying how dangerous it was? And they finally evade the CCPCs by standing still and hiding behind a twig. Ugggh.

It's almost like the episode was written by two different people, and you can tell right where the script was handed off.  (But it wasn't; for the record, the entire thing is credited to Chris Roache.  It's also his only episode of the season.)  It goes from being intelligent, well-thought out and even a bit creepy straight into being campy, idiotic and ludicrous, and it's not a subtle or gradual transition either.  You hit that scene of the kids acting like dogs, and it's like the episode jumped the shark and landed right in the tank.

We do get an interesting ending, as Drake has finally screwed up one time too many, and is now being replaced by Inspector Thorne.  Thorne's one line comes across better than Drake's entire run, so I'm hoping for some good things from him.

So despite a very good start, the whole last half of this episode falls apart too much to consider this a good episode.  K9's score to date: 9 wins, 6 losses.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Primeval - Series 1, Episode 4

Spoiler Level: High

Dodo birds!!! Awww, they're so cute!! Were dodos really this cute in real life? It makes me sad that we'll never know.  It's a shame some of them couldn't have stayed and repopulated the species, like the humpback whales in Star Trek IV.

For a minute there I thought we were going to have just a character episode, finding out Helen's story, watching the relationship between Connor, Abby and Stephen unfold, seeing Connor's friends close in on the truth, with the dodo birds being the only creature to come through the Anomaly.  But then the parasite had to go and (literally) rear its ugly head and give us a real threat, turning the story into a tragedy. Needless to say it's easy to relate to Tom and Duncan, and it was fun seeing all the stuff in their flat-- for example, I loved how some of the walls were literally wallpapered with comic books, and I'm pretty sure I saw an ALPHIE robot on their desk.  They were fun characters, and losing Tom is like losing one of our own.

And the Grand Central Anomaly Station was awesome.  I did not see that coming, and it explains how Helen's getting from time period to time period.  Very, very cool.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation - ''Pen Pals''

Spoiler Level: High

Data picks up a radio signal asking if anyone is out there, and answers it.  What spirals from there gets the crew of the Enterprise deeper and deeper into bending the Prime Directive.  Kirk would be proud.

One has to question Data's judgment through most of the episode. His decisions, while logical for showing compassion for another living being, seem a little rash for a Starfleet officer-- especially one without emotions.

Like the rest of the season it's a strong character episode, and not just for Data.  Wesley gets a fair amount of time in the spotlight when he's given command of a survey team, and everyone else gets to have good scenes as he comes to them all for advice.  And probably the best character scene in the episode is when Pulaski dares to imply that Worf's black-and-white reading of the Prime Directive is cowardly, and Picard rushes in to do damage control!

This is also one of those episodes that pretty much set the status quo for the Berman era of Star Trek. Debating the Prime Directive from so many different angles makes for great Trek-- when it was new.  But once they laid down their guidelines in episodes like this, it made it much more cut-and-dry on future Trek shows.  (Which was part of why I was so looking forward to Star Trek: Enterprise-- no Prime Directive!  Then they go and screw it up with having the Vulcan's already having their own non-interference policy.  But never mind that, I'll save that rant for when I eventually get to "The Communicator.")  But for this point in Trek history, getting to dissect the Prime Directive made for some great drama.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stargate Universe - "Intervention"

Spoiler Level: Medium

SGU Season Two has come to Netflix Streaming!  And I'm happy about it!  That itself shows how far this show has come for me during the second half of the first season.

When we left our intrepid band of heroes, the Destiny was being invaded by the Lucian Alliance, quite a few people had been shot, and it looked like quite a few others were about to die.  Most of the ways everyone managed to escape death are fairly believable, and when they start to stretch believability we're given a glimpse that something else is trying to save them, and it's watching what they do and passing judgment on the choices they make.  As to what that something is, well... I hope they hadn't planned to reveal that in Season 5, or we're screwed.

Lastly, we now have a group of people stuck on the ship who were out-and-out enemies, and everyone's now going to have to learn to work together for their mutual survival.  Juuuust in case you didn't already  think the show was like Star Trek: Voyager enough.  The whole Maquis / Starfleet thing never really worked for me in Voyager, but before I give you the wrong idea that I think this is a mistake, let me say that I feel it should actually work better here.  Military versus Civilians didn't work for me at all, because they're all from Earth and it would only be logical for them to pull together in a time of crisis, since they all have the same goal.  But SGC versus Lucian Alliance? That makes much more sense. Their goals will overlap as far as getting back to the Milky Way, but beyond that they're going to have very different goals, especially over the long-term control of the Destiny.  This should help give the show conflict and drama that I can get behind.

And lastly, let me once again thank Krissie's Caps for the screen capture!


Monday, April 11, 2011

Tiger & Bunny - "All's Well That Ends Well"

Spoiler Level: Low- Medium

I've been trying out a few new anime titles here and there, but in general have found my interest is mostly in either the classics (such as Space Pirate Captain Harlock, now officially available from Toei and Crunchyroll), or updated versions of the classics (such as Galaxy Railways.  Hmm, maybe I'm only into Leiji Matsumoto stuff?)  I tried out the first episode of Aquarion but it didn't grab me, and I've had so many other things to watch that I haven't really been looking for anything new, especially in the anime department.  While I no longer resent anime like I used to, I can't say I've really been interested in it either.

Tiger & Bunny might just change all that.  I tried it out based on the recommendation of Captain JLS, who's also been a little burnt out on the anime scene, so I figured if it was good enough to get him hyped then it must be worth checking out.  And it definitely is.

Tiger & Bunny tells the story of a future where super-powered people (referred to as NEXTs) have been around for 45 years. So how does society react to this?  By putting them on reality television, of course.  And not just a documentary-style Cops-type reality show, oh no; "Hero TV Live" is a competition show, with points awarded for the number of villains captured, people rescued, and various other game show factors.  Each hero has a sponsor whose name is proudly emblazoned on their costume, and sponsors include Bandai and Pepsi.

And the first episode did something an anime show hasn't done for me in a long time-- after the first episode, I wanted to see what happens next.  That's what good anime should do.

And Tiger & Bunny has another edge to it-- it's being simulcast in Japan and in the US, courtesy of Viz, on their website vizanime.com.  Fresh, new episodes are legally being made available every week, subtitled in English, the same day they air in Japan.  Ha!  Take that, ya bit-torrenting bastards!

I don't know how long they intend to leave each episode up, but as of this writing this episode is still available at http://www.vizanime.com/ep/3149-all-s-well-that-ends-well.  It has limited commercials, but (a) that's totally worth it for same day release, and (b) it works with the format of the show, since the show is about a tv show.  If you've ever liked anime and/or reality shows, you should definitely check it out.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Ron Jones Project

Wow!  Apparently, I'm not alone in feeling that some of Next Gen's best musical scores came from Ron Jones.  As I mentioned in my TNG review last Monday, I discovered Vol. 6 of Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Ron Jones Project when looking up links for "The Icarus Factor" on Amazon.  The fact that it was up to six volumes made me curious about what exactly it was and how many more volumes were out there.  Well, apparently it's only every single music score he made for Star Trek!

The series runs for twelve volumes, covering all the music from Jones's 42 episodes during the shows first four seasons.

And the best part?  You can cherry-pick 'em.  Amazon, iTunes and eMusic all offer each track on all 12 albums as individual downloads. I started out building my own "best of" collection, but I'm discovering the more I hear the more tracks I want to get.  I may wind up with all 12 volumes before I'm done after all.

And I know I'm working against myself here, but I've got to recommend eMusic as the way to go.  eMusic is a monthly subscription service, where you pay a monthly fee and get a certain amount of downloads per month.  They started out doing more independent music, but have gone much more mainstream over the last few years.  The down side (if you're a more casual music listener) is that you are making a monthly commitment; the upside is that it is significantly cheaper.  All the tracks I bought through eMusic cost me $0.49 each as opposed to $0.99 at the other sites; the albums cost $5.99 as opposed to $8.99.  Yeah, yeah, I get a cut from Amazon if you click through using my links and I get nothing from eMusic, but I have to point out the best option when I see it.  I'll never get this monetizing thing right...

So, here's all the links to all the albums.  As I said, in addition to eMusic and Amazon, they're also available on iTunes.  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Source Code

Spoiler Level: Atomic.  There's really no way I can discuss my thoughts on this movie without giving away several key elements of the plot.  And for once, I'm only a week behind when it was released.  So only read on if you've already seen it or if you don't care what you learn!  And if you do care-- this is a great movie.  Go see it.  Okay, you can go now.

Source Code is directed by the same guy who directed Moon?!? I didn't realize that until just now when I got the poster image.  Well that explains a lot.  Both are very human stories about one man whose life isn't what he thinks it is, who are being controlled by people without their knowledge, and who eventually take their lives into their own hands, irregardless of how overwhelmingly the odds are stacked against them.

Captain Colter Stevens is an unwitting participant in an experiment.  He's being sent back in time, where he arrives in the body of teacher Sean Fentress on a doomed train in Chicago, a train that was destroyed by a terrorist earlier that morning.  Colter's job is to figure out which one of the passengers planted the bomb.  He only has the last eight minutes of Sean's life to accomplish this-- and if and when he fails, he'll be sent back to try again, and again, and again.

It's Quantum Leap meets Groundhog Day, but with a deeper twist.  Because Colter isn't just going back in time.  When his mind is linked up with Sean's, for those eight minutes he's creating an entire new alternate reality, separate from his home reality-- a reality that those running the experiment call the Source Code. Any changes he makes there have no effect on his original timeline, but since history is the same in both worlds, he can explore the world inside the Source Code in depth and bring back information on the terrorist so he can be caught before he strikes again in the original reality.  But what about those other quantum realities he's created?  Do they only exist for eight minutes, ending when he dies, or do they continue on without him?

The more time Colter spends on the train, getting to know the people on it-- especially Christina, the beautiful girl sitting next to him-- the more determined he becomes to find a way to save them all. It's hard for him to accept that even if he saves them inside the Source Code, they'll still be dead when he returns to his original reality.  On his final attempt, he no longer cares-- he just needs to save them all in one reality for his own conscience's sake. And he succeeds beyond his wildest dreams, as that reality continues on, with him now getting to live out the rest of his life with Christina.

Except there's one person he didn't save-- Sean Fentress. Colter may not have meant to, but he's now quite literally stolen Sean's life.  Now, sure, Sean was going to die anyway, but what about Sean's friends and family? One of the subplots of the film is about Colter trying to reach his father when he goes back in time, since he hasn't been able to contact him while he's been a part of the project, and it's a very moving part of the film.  But what about Sean's father?  Colter isn't going to know a thing about him or any of the other people in Sean's life.

The film also raises another intriguing point when it's revealed that since Colter came from the original reality (let's call it Reality A), in the altered reality he now lives in where he rescued everyone on the train (let's call that one Reality B) there's no need to send him.  Therefore Reality B still has a Colter waiting to be sent.  Now let's follow that for a moment-- Reality B now has two Colters. So when Reality B has a crisis where they can use Colter-B, Colter-B will begin creating new realities just like Colter-A did.  Colter-B will be sent into a different person's body, since it will be a different crisis, and the odds of Sean Fentress being in both crises are unrealistic. So let's assume that, being the same man of ability, emotion and conscience, he succeeds in the same way that Colter-A did in creating a Reality C that continues on.  This Reality C's divergent point would have started with both Colter-A and Colter-B in it, so Colter-B would now be living out his life in another person's body, leaving no need for that universe's Colter to have been sent... meaning there would now be a universe with three Colters!  And so Reality-C wouldn't launch their program until a third crisis came along, resulting in the cycle happening all over again. And again... and again... and again.  How long until there's enough Colters existing in one reality that he ends up meeting one of himselves? Would the Source Code Project even realize the full implications of what they were doing before they'd altered the entire human race into alternate versions of one man?

This is all the stuff I found myself thinking of after the movie ended.  And that's what makes this movie great.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Space Academy - "Castaways in Time and Space"

Spoiler Level: High

Well, that was a plunge straight down in quality.

Commander Gampu and Laura are exploring a black hole, when they get sucked in.  Except here a black hole is simply a blank spot in space that has no reflective properties.  And they don't really get sucked in by gravity so much as they pass through a force field surrounding the black hole which damages their ship.  Anyway, from there they crash land on a planet inside the black hole, and it's up to Laura's brother Chris, Tee Gar and loner Paul to rescue them, but first they have to get past a giant reptile monster.

This episode is written by Samuel A. Peeples, who also wrote the classic second pilot for Star Trek that succeeded in getting the show picked up, as well as an episode of the animated series.  As such, I wouldn't have expected him to fail Astronomy 101, but, well... there it is.  He also does a lot of technobabble which sadly sounds like stuff just being made up without any thought to whether it means anything or not.

What really makes this episode tough to watch, however, is Ric Carrot's acting as Chris.  He's got to show angry determination to not give up the search for his sister, but it just comes across as the actor trying too hard.  He was actually a fairly prolific actor in the 70's, and this show's actually fairly late in his career, so it's kind of surprising that he comes across so poorly.  Brian Tochi, on the other hand, does a very good job as Tee Gar, coming across as sincere and believable. 

Ty Henderson has a lot to do as Paul in this episode, and he does a decent job.  This episode marks Paul's official introduction to Blue Team.  Paul was seen in the previous episode, but he stayed behind in the control room and mostly spoke to Commander Gampu.  He has one scene where he's speaking to the rest of the team, but he refers to himself as just "Academy Control" and his signal is broken up. So even though he was already there, he wasn't part of Blue Team yet. The story of Paul's learning the moral that it's better to be a part of a team than to only care about yourself is played a bit heavy handed, but it's okay for children's fare of the time.

I continue to enjoy the model shots of the Space Academy and the Seeker, and the visual effects for the black hole itself worked well.  The monster is so bad it's good.

But overall, I'm hoping the rest of the series is more like the previous episode and less like this one.