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News of the ‘Verse: Bible Thumping Replaces Firefly August 27, 2008

Posted by Chris in Firefly, Interesting News.
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Wow, I haven’t gone to News of the ‘Verse in a while but I clicked the link from my blog and it seems that it’s no longer a Firefly fan site. It now appears to be a site devoted to Christian spin/news.  It’s sad to see a Firefly fan site go down.  Is this heralding the slow decline of Firefly’s popularity among its once-rabid fan-base?  What a bummer…I guess Jesus has his own rabid fan-base as well, but I have to believe that even Sheppard Book is rolling in his grave at this development.  Joss:  I think we need a little Deus Ex Machina on this one…

BSG Season 1: Flesh and Bone Ep. 8 July 29, 2008

Posted by Chris in Battlestar Galactica (Re-imagined), Shows I Like.
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Leoben Gives the Cold Stare Before Being Flushed

Yes, indeed…you might say (and you’d be right) that it’s been a long time.  It has.  I haven’t posted reviews for over a month (more?).  Ahhh, just watching the show’s opening is a blast from the near-past, and I begin to wonder how I could have stayed away this long.  BSG’s season one is certainly the best season of the series.

The episode starts with a Laura dream sequence in the woods where Leoben (Cylon) tries to warn her of Cylons nearby.  This is interesting since he’s a Cylon himself.  It suggests that Laura does not completely believe he represents a threat.  Then, suddenly he’s whisked away, as if pulled away by rapid depressurization….hmmm….well, onward.

My dream interpretation seems true (though clearly informed by multiple viewings).  The next scene involves Laura informing Adama that a Leoben copy has been caught among the civilian fleet and is being held.  Adama’s reaction:  flush him out an airlock.  Laura, curious of the connections between this dream and Leoben’s sudden appearance, suggests interrogation instead.

She wants a tough interrogator, though and suggests Starbuck.   This turns out to be an almost prophetic decision.  Starbuck dives in and is soon in it up to her ass.  Leoben quickly guesses her identity and gains the upper-hand.  He lays it on even thicker, telling her he’s seen the future and that they have a greater fate.  Then he tells her (under no apparent duress) that he has planted a nuke in the fleet and it’s set to go off in a few hours.  Stepping up to the challenge, Starbuck transitions from interrogation to torture.

With just a little more than an hour left before the big boom, Laura Roslin decides to step into the ring with Leoben.  But first, before she shows up, Leoben tells Starbuck that she will lead them to Kobol, the birthplace of humanity, and that Kobol will lead them to Earth.  As she tells this to Laura, it’s clear that Starbuck has been almost completely taken in by Leoben — she’s clearly rattled.

Laura says nothing in reaction, but immediately turns the tables on Leoben (or so it seems) by playing the “good cop” (to Starbuck’s less-than-stellar) “bad cop”:  releasing him from his handcuffs, apologizing for his treatment and saying she can do more — release him if she wants.  Now it’s Leoben’s turn to be taken in and he quickly tells her that the bomb doesn’t exist — that he made the story up to confuse them with a bluff.  Then, he makes a wily counter-move, exuding gratitude and submission, telling her in a whisper that Adama is a Cylon.  She quickly decides to chuck him out the airlock and completes the cycle foretold by her own dream.  She watches a second time as he is sucked away from her.  Starbuck is still rattled and has obviously developed feelings for Leoben.  She has an almost tearful goodbye with him, and in the second-to-last scene of the episode, asks the Gods to protect his soul (if he has one). 

In the very last scene, we’re shown one of the aftershocks of Leoben’s brief visit — a strained post-mortem on Leoben between Laura and Adama, where Roslin is doing her best to not looks suspicious of him.

New BSG TV Movie Details July 1, 2008

Posted by Chris in Battlestar Galactica (Re-imagined).
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Details are starting to come out about the proposed BSG movies.  According to Galactica Sitrep the first of three (?) planned movies will likely include Dean Stockwell (Cylon Brother Cavill), Michael Trucco (Final Five Cylon Anders), Aaron Douglas (Final Five Cylon Chief Tyrol), Grace Park (Cylon Boomer/Athena), Michael Hogan (Final Five Cylon Col. Tighe) and Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck/”The Harbinger of Death”).  The composition of this cast suggests we may be in for some Cylon skinjob backstories in this movie.  I’m game.

Jane Espenson (Firefly and BSG writer/producer) will write the script and Edward James Olmos will direct.  According to io9, Espenson is an excellent choice since she seems to have a knack for writing episodes showing insights into the Cylon perspective, while Olmos has directed some of the more lackluster episodes.

BSG Season 1: Six Degrees of Separation Ep. 7 June 17, 2008

Posted by Chris in Battlestar Galactica (Re-imagined).
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Baltar tries to Regain Trust by Betraying It

To this point, we don’t know whether Baltar’s visions of Six are delusional, religious or some sort of telepathic communication with the Cylons.  In a pattern repeated throughout the series, this episode presents challenges to Baltar’s reputation and sanity.  Suggesting his visions are a Cylon transmission, his “Imaginary Six” grows disgusted with his half-felt belief in the Cylons’ one true God and abruptly exits his vision.  Immediately thereafter, Baltar is accused of treason by a Six posing as an assistant to the doctor who was killed in “33” aboard the Olympic Carrier.  Is this his imagination or a religious story of destiny?  Baltar finds himself asking these same questions as he fights for both his reputation and life in the face of the Six’s accusations. 

The rest of the fleet is decidedly less willing to entertain these existential questions.  First they take away his security clearance then they they throw Baltar in the brig.  But before they do, we have a number of laugh-out-loud scenes where Baltar is trying desperately to save himself, in that sniveling way only he can.  First he tries to convince Gaeta, while sitting in the next bathroom stall, to let him analyze the evidence against him.  Gaeta escapes this onslaught (Baltar to Gaeta as Gaeta hurries from the bathroom:  “You forgot to wash your hands!”) just as the Shelley Godfrey/Six enters.  Baltar takes the opportunity to accuser her of being a Cylon, yelling at her in her bathroom stall, “…you have not heard the last…no more Mr. Nice Guias!).  Baltar is like a lone outpost of comedy and human frailty in the midst of a show that at all times, takes itself very seriously.

Once he’s in the brig (after trying to destroy the evidence against him) Roslin pays him a visit.  Following her gut — as we are learning is indicative of her character — she confronts him with her conviction that he was involved in the Cylon attacks.  Baltar plays it shocked and offended, but not with as much aplomb as he is normally capable.  What’s left of the world is closing in on him, and he’s in a panic.  He has a dark night or two of the soul, where he’s praying and speaking directly to the Cylon God.  Simpering away, he tries to cut a deal with God, prosmising to dedicate his life to carrying out his “Divine will.”  Once he makes this commitment, his Imaginary Six returns and tells him everything will be alright.  Just then, Gaeta enters his cell and tells him he is free — that the evidence against him had been falsified.

Running throughout this episode and the series as a whole is idea of trust.  Can Baltar trust his Imaginary Six and himself?  Can Helo on Caprica trust Boomer and his feelings for her?  Were Roslin and Adama right to trust Baltar?  Can they trust Baltar’s accuser?  Roslin sums it up nicely when confronting Baltar when she says, “But here’s where we are, Doctor.  If anyone can be a Cylon, and it’s hard to tell us apart, then we only have one thing to trust.  Our instincts.”  Perhaps this is where trust begins.  Perhaps this is what makes the Humans different from the Cylons. 

Overworked: Too Tired to Blog…Must…Watch…Sci-Fi… June 14, 2008

Posted by Chris in Navel Gazing.
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The title tells the story…not much more to say.  The crunch at work should be over by this Monday, at which point I’ll start getting back to blogging.  Sorry for the lack of attention…

The Bookie’s Odds on the Final Cylon May 22, 2008

Posted by Chris in Battlestar Galactica (Re-imagined), Interesting News.
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According to Wired and their stable of sci-fi TV bookies, odds-on-favorite appears to be Dualla.  Dan and I were recently trying to figure this out and we seemed to be narrowing in on Gaeta, although I’m not sure we were in complete agreement in the end.

BSG Season 1: Litmus Ep. 6 May 18, 2008

Posted by Chris in Battlestar Galactica (Re-imagined).
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Doral:  Shows Up and Blows Up

Doral’s Not-So-Hidden Cylon Identity is the Least of Galactica’s Problems

You want to know what sucks, my friend?  It’s when your 5-year old picks up your computer and drops it on the ground…and it doesn’t work anymore. That’s what sucks!

Anyways, this episode reinvigorates a few themes that went fallow for a bit.  In particular, the concern about Cylons in the fleet returns and snowballs into a McCarthy/Salem Witch Trial type-thing.  Word that they now come in Human form sends shock waves through the fleet.  And get this:  Adama addresses it by appointing a head of inquiry…someone with “a free hand…the authority to follow evidence, wherever it might lead…without command review…”  He appoints a Sargent…hmmm….doesn’t that strike a little odd?  That he would appoint a non-commissioned officer to lead such a sensitive investigation?  I can tell you that it does to me.  And while it’s certainly not a death-blow of a critique, to be sure, it did register on the old B.S.-o-meter.  Oh, I know…nit-picky.  No doubt, no doubt.

Onward.  The theme associating Boomer’s fractured emotional life with water pops up again.  Just as a copy of the Cylon Doral appears on Galactica with an explosive vest that he detonates, Boomer meets with Chief Tyrol for a triste in the ship’s water storrage tank rooms.  The water is placid in this episode, suggesting that her Cylon identity is submerged for the moment.  But like a full resevoir, Boomer’s Cylon identity is only placid in appearance.  The potential energy waiting to be released (or harnessed) represents considerable force — both in physical and metaphorical terms. 

But perhaps the irony of this meeting place — a place to make love and, in a sense, engage in this most human of acts — speaks the loudest.  It is where they both betrayed Humanity, or what remains of it.  This, afterall, is the place where Boomer, in a fugue state, planted explosives of her own and blew up the fleet’s water supply in Episode 2, and the place where Tyrol tried to cover for her.  So it’s ironic that they would choose this place to make love and even more so, the fact that Boomer (unconsiously?) leaves a hatch door open on her way there allowing Doral to break into Galactica’s secure areas before he blows himself up.  Thematically and practically, it’s Boomer’s fractured emotional landscape that allows and propels these things to happen, and it’s Tyrol’s love for her that keeps it all under wraps.

Interestingly, love’s betrayal takes place in those same water tank rooms when Tyrol breaks off his relationship with Boomer and all but flat-out accuses her of being a Cylon.  So the betrayal of Humanity, each other, themselves, and perhaps the very concept of love itself all take place in this area of the ship that stores the very source of survival itself — water.

Meanwhile, Helo back on Caprica is on his own again after Sharon fakes her capture by the Cylons.  He’s faced with the decision of either searching for her or saving himself.  Now again, love conquers all and it would seem, in the worst way.  His affections for her drive him to choose the search despite the dangers — more tragic love (or so it appears), since she is a Cylon and one that knows she is.  But this facade covering her true identity and motives starts to show cracks.  In seeing Helo choose love and death for the slim chance of rescuing her, she starts to feel for him as well.  Perhaps this is love’s saving grace in this series.  Are these the seeds of love’s redemption in the eyes of the show’s creators?

More BSG After Season 4? May 16, 2008

Posted by Chris in Battlestar Galactica (Re-imagined).
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Io9 reported (or passed on a rumor) today that there may be more BSG after season 4 ends.   These additional stories would most likely come in the form of made-for-TV movies, similar to the Razor movie broadcast late last year.  According to I09, “The Doctor and Mrs. Who radio show host Jim Laccino cited inside sources claiming there will be a series of movies following up on season 4 of BSG. The movies will go into production over the summer and will include some of the original cast. He speculates that we’ll see one of them by the end of the year. And he reminded us that actress Mary McDonnell did say that this was not the last we’d see of BSG (but is the last of the one-hour show).”

While Io9’s Meredith Woerner said she prefers the stories end with season 4, I’m eager to see as much as I can, assuming the quality doesn’t deteriorate substantially.  I’ll hold my judgement until more comes to light about who will be writing, directing and producing them.

BSG Season 1: You Can’t Go Home Again Ep. 5 May 13, 2008

Posted by Chris in Battlestar Galactica (Re-imagined).
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How Does She Do It?  Starbuck Saves Herself From Herself Again

Picking up where the last episode left off, this one follows through on the action and themes developed previously.  Starbuck has crash-landed on a moon with a limited air supply.  As she struggles to hold out as long as possible for rescue, Galactica launches an all-out, overwrought, desperate, visual search of the moon’s surface for her.  So while Starbuck has just put her life on the line for the love of her fellow pilots and the remaining Humans of the fleet, she’s suffering the consequences of her love and sacrifice.  The theme of love leading to sacrifice leading to personal disaster continues with depressing consequences. 

Meanwhile Adama and Apollo are driving Galactica’s crew hard to find Starbuck with a damn-the-depressing-consequences attitude.  Love is again implicated as a Human weakness, as it drove Starbuck to the brink and now drives Humanity’s last hope to waste fuel, time, and makes them all vulnerable to Cylon attack.

Back on Caprica Helo and Sharon are hold-up in a fallout shelter, enjoying a few creature comforts.  Their mutual affections continue to grow.  As Helo goes upstairs to make breakfast (toast!), Cylon Centurions enter the building.  While hiding from them, the toaster he was using pops, a supposedly clueless Sharon comes upstairs (she’s a toaster too, who pops up from the bunker), and the Cylons (“toasters”) start shooting (popping) all at once.  While not terribly profound, this sequence is interesting in its use of recurrent themes of how machines and Humans relate to one another.  A relatively harmless machine that is presumably under Human control for Human benefit, the toaster betrays its Human master — just as the Cylons did — at the same time Sharon reveals their presence as well.  So two toasters reveal betray Helo to a third.

After the exhausting search of the moon’s surface for Starbuck yields no results, Roslin confronts Adama and Apollo, accusing them of wasting the fleet’s resources and putting them all in danger.  Interesting that Roslin, the president who pressed Adama to love humanity enough to save the survivors of the Cylon’s attack, now argues that he needs to ignore his feelings of love for Starbuck and give up the search.  Adama and Lee relent.  As they’re preparing to jump away, Starbuck shows up in a Cylon raider she shot down in the fight leading to her crash.  While it seems unlikely that the Raider would survive the same fiery descent through the atmosphere of the moon that her Viper couldn’t, and while I doubt that the Raider’s internal, biological flight controls would could be worked by pressing on it’s internal organs (squeeze this brain-part and fire the guns!) we willingly overlook these technical shortcomings.  All-in-all, Starbuck’s ability to save herself from herself is welcomed with open arms by us (the viewers) as a lovable character trait, and as we’ll see in future episodes and seasons, a theme integral to the development of the series.

Iron Man: Worth Every Penny May 3, 2008

Posted by Chris in Interesting News.

I saw Iron Man last night and got quite caught up in it.  This is a SciFi TV blog, so I’ll keep this post about a movie brief. 

Downey and Stark Discover Their Potential Despite Personal Vulnerabilities

Robert Downey Jr. was a perfect choice for this role.  It’s great to see him doing good work and looking healthy after so many years of trying to kill himself with drugs.  This aura of personal vulnerability worked well for his portrayal of Tony Stark, the super hero who needs to keep a high-powered magnet embedded in his chest to keep bits of shrapnel he was hit with from migrating to his heart.  Jeff Bridges did a great job of playing the mentor-turned-villain.

It goes without saying that the special effects were incredible, but I’ll state the obvious:  The special effects were incredible!  Ahem….excuse me for that brief outburst.  That said, there are a few moments that stretched credulity for me.  In particular, there are several scenes where Stark crashes at very high speeds into concrete walls and floors that nobody could have survived, even if encased in a super-powered exo-skeleton.  But, these moments were all in good fun.  I could explain them away in my mind by reminding myself that the story was based on a comic book and the standards for realism sometimes seem to get distorted in translations to film.

It should be interesting to see how this movie plays with audiences.  I attended an opening night viewing at the Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland, and while it was not sold out, there was a solid mass of enthusiastic fans, excited to see a favorite comic come to the screen.  So while has definitely been built up to be a blockbuster release, it’s not clear if it’s going to make a big enough splash to be considered a success.  Perhaps we’ll see it become a sort of sleeper hit/blockbuster hybrid where the initially modest box office receipts are driven up over the coming weeks by enthusiastic fans and positive reviews by the critics.  I hope so!