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The Geek on Vacation January 31, 2008

Posted by Chris in Navel Gazing.
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Sorry I haven’t posted much lately.  I have a few unfinished posts for TNG waiting in the wings, but they’ll have to wait a bit longer until I’m back from vacation on 2/1.  Never fear…I’m going to re-dedicate myself to finishing off BSG Season 3 so I can start on the mini-series and Season 1.  Should be fun!  Stay tuned…

GeeksOn Interview with Joss Whedon January 25, 2008

Posted by Chris in Interesting News.
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Here’s a great podcast interview with Joss where he discusses themes of robots and AI in science fiction.  Lots of fun…enjoy!

BSG Season 3: A Day in the Life January 19, 2008

Posted by Chris in Battlestar Galactica (Re-imagined).
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 Ho Hum…Cally’s on Life Support — So is Season 3

And, as the title suggests, this is another episode on the downward slide of season 3 where the series arc development is largely put on hold to serve the contractual needs of individual cast members — in this case, mostly Olmos.  Fortunately, the fact that the episode concentrates on Adama is also its redeeming strength.  Since Olmos is such a strong acting presence, he carries this one almost entirely on his back, making it a tolerable if not entertaining experience.

So it’s Adama’s wedding anniversary and we find out that he uses this day every year to wallow in the memories of his failed marriage.  As a parallel and contrast to his personal experience, the Chief and Cally get trapped in an airlock that’s slowly leaking air into space.  So just to be sure we have some drama mixed in with the laments of Adama, the Chief’s marriage is threatened by two factors:  the demands of his job (similar to what killed Adama’s marriage), and the now air-bleeding ship that occupies his attentions, distracts his marriage, and sustains all their lives.

As the episode develops, the actions of Adama and the crew focus on saving Cally and the Chief and symbolically on saving their marriage that is threatened by their military careers.  Cally last-minute request to Adama that their son should be taken care of by a civilian family in the event of their deaths echoes and emphasizes Adama’s regrets about his over-emphasis on work at the expense of marriage.

After the Chief and Cally are rescued (symbolically ejected from the ship and grasping each other for life), we’re given another 10 minutes of semi-wrap-up, where Adama discusses his marriage with Lee where Lee tells him his mother was never in love with Adama, where Lee and Dualla meet in quarters in a rare scene of domestic tranquillity for them, and where Adama and Roslin flirt with each other and get close to openly expressing their feelings for each other.  The message is simple and somewhat uninteresting:  personal lives have and are being sacrificed to continue the fight against the Cylons, but relationships can’t be put on hold forever.  Eventually, we all have to live our personal lives or risk suffering a tragic (if not mortal) end. 

TNG Season 1: The Naked Now Ep. 2 January 19, 2008

Posted by Chris in Star Trek The Next Generation.
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 It Seems a Little Early in the Series for Robot Sex But TNG Jumps Right In!

The second episode of the new series picks up where the pilot left off — somewhat shamelessly and awkwardly pandering to the loyalists to the original series.  But this time, the pandering is even more pronounced as this episode is almost a carbon copy of “The Naked Time” from the original series.  Just as in the original series, the Enterprise visits a scientific team that is studying a dying star (actually, it was a planet in the original episode).  The star seems to cause a disease that spreads by physical contact and causes its victims to become extremely drunk.  It’s to the show’s credit that they have the crew realize quickly that they are dealing with the same disease that Kirk and his crew faced.  On the other hand, it would be nice if they built on the original premise somehow.  They don’t.  Instead, just as the original series did, they used the plot as a device to introduce us to some of the personality traits and motivations of the show’s characters — an understandable if not original approach.  Piccard and Crusher flirt their way through the development of a vaccine for the disease, further suggesting a shared romantic past.  Lt. Yar is severely sexually repressed.  Threatened by the prospect of human intimacy, she convinces Data to sleep with her, thereby getting a piece while not having to deal with all the hassle of sleeping with a real person.  Data shows just how strong his desire to be human really is by willfully disobeying his direct orders to take Yar to sickbay and seizing her in her quarters instead.  Wesley reveals more of his genius by first taking control of the ship from engineering, disabling it, and then effecting a last minute repair so they can escape the exploding star. Geordi bad trips on his blindness, showing his deep desire to see like others do, even though his vision is technically enhanced by his visor.

The final words of the episode come from Piccard, who says:  “I put it to you all:  I think we have a fine crew, if we avoid temptation.”  What!?!  So this is the central tension the writers have developed for the series?  It’s supposed to be all about the adventures of a bunch of sexually repressed and/or emotionally-challenged people in the future fighting to stay neutered and professional?  That’s a sucky premise!

TNG Season 1: Encounter at Farpoint Ep. 1 January 19, 2008

Posted by Chris in Star Trek The Next Generation.
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 Deanna on the Jellyfish Reunion:  “A feeling of great joy…”

Me:  “Oi”

So, here I am, watching the TNG pilot again for the first time in years — perhaps since this episode originally aired in 1987.  I remember hating this episode quite distinctly from that first viewing and as I watch it again now, some twenty years later, many of the same things that bugged me then are bugging me again.

First, Deanna Troy is sappy and annoying.  Her first quote of the series sets the tone for her character for the next seven years:  “Captain…I’m sensing a powerful mind!”  Help me, Jesus…

The writers start out by pandering to the Star Trek faithful with several allusions to the old series and it’s lore.  Q’s barrier net that envelopes the ship is reminiscent of the Tholian Web.  The ship’s capability to separate it’s saucer from drive sections was never shown in the original Star Trek, but the “foamer” set will recall this was detailed in the Star Fleet Technical Manual.

Data as a replacement for Spock’s character seemed awkward at first.  While Spock was half-Vulcan, half-Human and exerted considerable effort to suppress his human side, Data is human only in form and programming and exerts considerable effort (by programming, too?) to be as human as possible.  This character trait is presented to us with a “I am superior to humans, in many ways…but I would gladly give it up to be human.”  While Data grew on me as the series progressed, I still have to say that his character seemed like a bit of a cheap attempt to give us Spock without Nimoy.

Tasha Yar starts off on a ridiculous note by talking back to Q in direct defiance to Piccard’s orders to shut up.  Then she proceeds to attack the courtroom guard.  All this makes Piccard look weak — like he doesn’t have control over his own security officer.  This sets the stage for Piccard, who starts the series with a reputation as a hard (though not so effective) and distant commander.  He specifically doesn’t feel comfortable around children, which sets up his relationship with Wesley Crusher (supergenius).

What I do like about this episode is the way they set up the relationship between Dr. Crusher and Piccard.  What is implied but left incomplete is the depth and meaningfulness of their past.  It’s clear that Piccard was friends with Crusher’s dead husband, and Piccard seems to feel considerable guilt about his death.  It seems possible that Piccard and Crusher were romantically involved in the past (infidelity?).  Further along these speculative lines, was Piccard directly responsible in some way for daddy-Crusher’s death, and while murder motivated by romantic jealousy for Dr. Crusher’s affections seems beyond the pale, some less dramatic scenario seems possible.  Again, this is all implied but not spoken.

At the climax of the episode, Piccard et al. figure out that Farpoint Station is actually a creature trapped by the local Bandi people who use its powers to create a city habitat.  On one hand, I give the writers props for developing a plausible explanation for these creatures.  As Riker says, it makes sense that somewhere in the universe creatures would exist that are capable of converting matter into energy and back into matter.  This explains how the trapped, stranded creature on the planet surface was able to transform itself into Farpoint station.  But the sappy ending where both creatures take on their more natural forms as interstellar jellyfish leaves something to be desired.  This impression is solidified by Deanna’s reaction to the reunited jellyfish as, “A feeling of great joy…” CHEESY!  I really detest her character.

Serenity Tales Webcomic January 4, 2008

Posted by Chris in Firefly, Interesting News.
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This is a cool Serenity webcomic site I just recently stumbled on to.  I particularly like the new comic, “Yarn” told from Jayne’s mom’s perspective after the Serenity movie time period.  Check it out…