Sylar, live long and prosper.

November 19, 2008

When I was in grade school, I was Captain James T. Kirk. The little girl down the street, of course, was Yeoman Janice Rand. We jumped out her bedroom window to simulate the transporter and matchbox cars served as our Type I phasers and communicators (I had no idea then I’d one day have my very own Motorola flip-top communicator). Star Trek was on every day at 3:00 and I rushed home from school to watch it for many years to come. But I wanted more adventures, and soon Kirk and crew debuted on the big screen wearing pajamas and Klingons wearing bumps (the opener of that first flick with the Klingon cruisers was almost as good as the Star Destroyer opener in Star Wars…almost.). And still more came. Kirk had to face his most feared enemy, Khan Noonian Singh, embarrassed by having to wear his glasses (I’m allergic to retinox5). Reverend Jim converted to a Klingon. Spock got to be hippie and save the Whales. Kirk finally met God and found out, much to his dismay, it wasn’t William Shatner. And we finally got to hear Captain Baron von Trapp’s Klingon descendant recite Shakespeare as it was meant to be heard, “taH baH taH beH!” (I’m sure someone will correct my Klingon). And still more came. We had to start using acronyms to keep it all straight. When TNG premiered, I was so excited for a weekly dose of Trek that I completely overlooked that the melodrama of TOS had just been replaced by cheese. I was sure Trek was ruined when DS9 premiered, but Worf came along and saved it. However, by the time VOY showed up, Trek burnout was starting to settle in. I was so apathetic about Trek when ENT was in prime time, that I couldn’t even find myself caring that the captain of the ship looked liked he was always smelling a bad fart. Not even TNG movies were spared the trend. They started as pleasant as a mild cheddar, but ended up like a stinky old camembert. And so I was ready for Trek to die. Wondered why it didn’t. Thought maybe it should. And then J.J. found Sylar…
'Star Trek' Trailer
‘Star Trek’ Trailer

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Whoa, Captain! What a rug!

November 8, 2008

Have you ever seen this book on the physics of Star Trek? Come on! How can you write a book that explains the physical laws of uncreative writing? Listen, I can live with explosions in space, dogfights in space, and spaceships “screaming” through space, the classic mainstays of Space Opera, but they are backdrop not plot devices. I just can’t hear anymore trekno-babble! If you ever get the opportunity to write for Star Trek, forget about wasting your money on that book. Here’s a crash course in Star Trek physics: Make up a cool sounding name for your new “particle”. Connect it with “subspace”. Finally, throw in something about “warp”. For instance, at a particular point in the story where you want to hammer in a plot device, have a character yell, “Our scanners have lost them! Their engines are leaking virtron particles, which have caused subspace fractures that are distorting their warp signature!” It’ll work, trust me.

There was this one episode of the Next Generation where (according to the official web site) a molecular mishap brings Picard and others back as 12-year-old children! The problem: (again according to the official site) they were affected by a molecular reversion field. The Solution: Use the transporter to reverse the effects. How hokey is this? I’ll bet that book doesn’t explain this one, and if it does, I’d hope it could explain a few other mysteries to me as well. For instance, if this field is a molecular reversion field how come their uniforms shrink to fit them? In the future, does cotton shrink in both hot water AND molecular reversion fields? Or maybe someone will authoritatively tell me that in the 24th century clothes are made from biological agents and therefore can be affected by molecular hokeyness? If that were true, then I’d expect the uniforms to revert to a younger version as well, not shrink. I’d expect Picard to materialize wearing an oversized uniform, but in the beautiful mustard-yellow of Captain Kirk’s gray poupon shirt instead. Maybe even with a rip down the chest and a bloody slash for good measure. Ah, it doesn’t matter how hokey it is, because we can just use the transporter to make them old again. For some reason, though, they can’t use the transporter to filter out disease, mend broken bones, remove cataracts, or take the hair off Picard’s back and put it on his head!

Energize! Whoa, Captain! What a rug!

Historical note: yes, I did edit and recycle this post from an old blog I once kept, but it’s dead now and I find my rant too clever not to use again 🙂

Story arcs are what I like best in SciFi TV. Sure there are some decent episodes of good SciFi shows that aren’t sweeping in scope, but more often than not, that seems to be the downfall of SciFi TV – bad stories, bad continuity, nothing to bring you back for more. There is definitely something to be said for the old cliff-hanger endings of pulp cinema. And if you aren’t going for the episodic feel, make sure your SciFi TV is at least space opera. If you’re going to have minimal story-telling you’d better at least have lots of FTL spaceships, energy weapons, and aliens. The ultimate SciFi TV, of course, was Babylon 5. It had story and space opera, all rolled up into one great five year journey. Perfect. Some would say we have more “genre” shows on TV now than any other time, sadly though, B5’s formula has not been reproduced to any degree. Still, I continue to watch, or dvr, portions of the SciFi airwaves each week in hopes of being fractionally entertained. Here’s what I’m watching.

For some interesting characters, take a bunch of regular people who have flaws and make mistakes, give them some super powers, which seems like a bad idea, and let them figure out who the good guys are and who the bad guys are for themselves. But don’t make it easy, introduce a lot of intrigue, ulterior motives, hidden agendas, and clandestine plans to alternately destroy or save the world. Who you thought was bad might become good and what you thought would destroy the world might save it. Or maybe not.  Your guess at who is right and who is wrong is as good as that of the the characters. They have no more idea than you do. And that’s what makes me come back week after week to watch Heroes. It’s not your dad’s comic book heroes we’re talking about here. No Captain Do-Right-All-The-Time or Doctor So-Evil-He-Eats-Babies. The superhero archetypes have been completely destroyed by this show and remade into more realistic (albeit still outlandishly fictional) portrayals of super powered people who have to struggle against those that would manipulate them into choosing a side – good vs. evil, save vs. destroy – when it isn’t at all clear which is which. It’s almost like the cyberpunk equivalent of superheroes. Call it Superpunk, maybe. There is an overall story arc to the show, and they know how to keep hooking me to come back for more. Well worth the watch.

When Fringe premiered, I found it so hokey that I laughed through the whole episode. I decided to give it a couple of more viewing chances, and although I continue to laugh, I’m glad I did for now. There is some real promise of a story arc with “The Pattern” and “The Observer” and there are a lot of mysterious and intriguing carrots that get dangled in front of you each episode, but they will need to keep it up and make sure that they reveal just enough to hook me each week, otherwise, I might recoup my Tuesday nights for some other activity. Actually, the danger for this show is that it will keep me guessing for too long and not deliver enough to keep my interest going on a weekly basis. In my opinion, this is the problem with the other J. J. Abrams property, Lost. If I hadn’t watched all the four seasons back to back online, then the speed at which all those mysteries get exposed would have “lost” me after the first several episodes. The one saving grace for this show, if things move too slowly, will definitely be Walter. What a great character! Who said mad scientists have to be evil geniuses?  It’s just fine for them to be insane, burned-out druggies from the 70s who tinker in a secret lab somewhere in a Harvard basement and keep a cow on hand for the occasional experiment and a good glass of milk. Brilliant.

For months on end, the SciFi channel hyped up its new show with the chick from Stargate, now sporting black hair, still pretending to be young and sexy, and laying on an English accent so affected, that in some scenes, it reverts back to an American accent. Advertising did its job, though, and I was there to watch the first episode of Sanctuary when it premiered. After all, it was going to be great, brought to you by some of the same wonderful talent that brought you Stargate SG1 and Stargate Atlantis! And so far, it shows. There are two dimensional plots that have been done time and time again, weak characters that I don’t give a crap about and one insipid “SciFi TV” cliché after another. And what is up with the Geiko Neanderthal? His sitcom was a bust, so he came over to the SciFi channel to be in this show? And why does he sound suspiciously like a Wraith from Stargate Atlantis? I’m still watching, hoping that some interesting story arc will present itself, but if it doesn’t, I might not be tuning in for much longer.

Stargate Atlantis. Could there be SciFi TV more vanilla than this? Somewhere in Hollywood, I swear they have a SciFi TV combobulator. You input the names of some boring characters, choose from a few stereotyped aliens, choose one of four different plots, and out comes an episode of Stargate Atlantis. Change a few parameters and you’ll get an episode of Stargate SG1, Enterprise, or even Star Trek: Voyager. You never need to pay writers ever again. The only real difference between the two franchises being that in order to be alien, everyone in Stargate’s universe needs to live in a primitive village in the forest, even though they have something as technologically advanced as a Stargate or a spaceship at their disposal, and everyone in Star Trek just needs to have some kind of a bump on their head. I can’t figure out why I keep watching this show every week. I guess that no matter how stinky the stories and characters are, there are sometimes FTL spaceships and energy weapons, and in lieu of real space opera, this is all we’ve been getting while Battlestar is on its seemingly never-ending hiatus.

Anyone who knows me knows that I pee my pants every time the Star Wars theme starts up, even if it is in a different time signature. Yes, I am talking about The Clone Wars here. Who cares if this show looks like the Star Wars universe was genetically reengineered by the Thunderbirds. So what if the battle droids channel bad Penn and Teller routines. So what if a tweeny little padawan calls R2, Artooey, and Anakin, Skyguy. This is Star Wars! There are more FTL spaceships, energy weapons, aliens AND droids than you can shake a random, clumsy blaster, or a more elegant lightsaber for a more civilized age at. In the first episode, where Yoda and a bunch of clones are ambushed by battle droids, Yoda cackles like the crazy Yoda from Empire. It was so cool to see my generation’s Yoda surface once again. Although there is no mysterious overall story arc to pull me back week after week, the tales have been good, especially the three-part stint about General Grievous and his super battleship the Malevolence. The overall tome of the show is more light-hearted and adventurous like the old school Star Wars of the original trilogy era. It may be telling that George Lucas only produces and not writes or directs this series. Sure it is geared towards a younger crowd, but as I’ve posted before, I was a kid when Star Wars sprang into existence, so I have no problem with that. If I had to choose just one show a week to watch, this would be the one.

There are also a myriad of other shows out there that the networks tout as “SciFi”, Knight Rider, The Sarah Conner Chronicles, Eleventh Hour, Life on Mars, My Own Worst Enemy, etc., etc. I’ve seen a couple and wasn’t that impressed, and besides, I just don’t have the time or energy to invest in more than a few shows a week, especially when most of them won’t make it past a season or two anyway. I’ll let someone else review those. Now there is actually one more show I would watch if it were on, and maybe sometime soon, we’ll actually get to see it and finally find out how Battlestar Galactica ends.

It’s been more than a month now since the debut of Star Wars: The Clone Wars in theaters and just a week away from its coming out as a series on Cartoon Network. But don’t worry, I’m not going to do a review of the movie and try to convince or dissuade you from watching it on TV. You can go to umpteen number of Star Wars and Scifi forums where you can hear people rant or rave about it. Suffice it to say, IMHO, if you are a Star Wars geek, and you’re not worried about what your friends will think of you if you are over 10, you’ll probably like the movie and have a good time watching the series. In fact, it will probably be more fun if you watch it with a bunch of kids hyped up on “air” lightsaber duels. That way, you can use them as the perfect cover if you have to explain to your friends and co-workers why you watch it.

But on to my real topic. As controversial as the movie and the upcoming series seems to be to Star Wars “purists”, even more contentious to some is the music. The master himself, John Williams, doesn’t compose the music for The Clone Wars (after all, do you think they could have afforded Williams to do a TV series?), instead the job falls to Kevin Kiner, known for his Wing Commander score and music for Star Trek: Enterprise. And man, is he taking a beating by some in the reviews. Too much percussion. Too much synthesizer reverb. Too much use of electric guitars. All culminating in one barb I heard that went something like this: he’s ruining Star Wars music by making it appeal to a younger generation! What? First of all, since when does Star Wars need to attract young people? Kids stick to Star Wars like flies on Bantha Poodoo. Second, how old are these people saying this, anyway? Look, I first met Star Wars in 1977 at the age of 8. I’m probably around the average age, give or take a few years, of the “first generation” of Star Wars fans. To me, the original trilogy reigns. A New Hope is supreme! Now, I wholly admit that I enjoy classical music, mostly thanks to John Williams, but since when does this make me too old for percussion, synthesizer reverb, and an electric guitar? Come on! There are 60 year olds these days listening to the Rolling Stones. Artoo even tweets in “Obi-Wan To The Rescue” amid the electric guitars. Tell me that doesn’t get you old “purist” fans all excited to go download Meco’s Star Wars disco and listen to it like you know you did when you were a kid. I outright reject the argument that Kiner’s Star Wars music is not good because it has some non-traditional elements in it that supposedly only younger kids will like.

“You damn kids get off my lawn with your electric Jabba jive!”

Even Maestro Williams strayed a bit from the classics, and we all continued to loved him. Don‘t deny it. Can you say “Cantina Band”, “Lapti Nek”, “Jedi Rocks“, and “Victory Celebration”? If you listen to the whole saga, you’ll also notice that Williams introduced increasingly more percussion and non-traditional sounds in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Aside from the sound differences in Clone Wars, I’ve also heard a lot of complaints that Kiner has abandoned Williams’ themes altogether in his music. To that, I’d say go back and listen. Aside from the recognizable theme music in the Main Title and End Credit, if you listen carefully, you’ll find some more there. I swear I heard a bit of “Lando‘s Palace“, “Use the Force”, “Imperial Attack”, and a lot of musical phrasing that reminded me of Gungans for some reason. I leave it up to you to find more. Sure these aren’t major themes and mostly just musical impression, but they are fun nods here and there to the Maestro’s music.

Ok, If you are still reading this post, then you must really be a Star Wars geek. So I‘ll share with you my favorite song form The Cone Wars: “Landing on Teth” and don’t even complain about the use of voice or you’ll also have to criticize “Duel of the Fates” and Emperor‘s theme music.

Final thought: Whether you enjoy the music for Clone Wars or not, I predict that you, and everyone else who likes Star Wars enough to waste time carping about it, will be tuning in every Friday to watch the series on Cartoon Network anyway. So just admit you really like it and have fun like you were a kid again.

Fringe – Edgy or Recycled

September 10, 2008

When I was really young I remember seeing fringe in all the Saturday afternoon westerns and on Daniel Boone. Then it became fashionable and even cool. Sony and Cher had it. Roger Daltry wore it. CCR had it on an album cover. The longer and more of it, the better. Now that I am older fringe is once again becoming fashionable. Only this time it is techno-fringe.

I am not a J.J. Abrams fanboy and have to admit not a big “Lost” fan (in fact I could swear I heard the Fonz revving his motorcycle in last seasons finale) but I decided to give his new show “Fringe” a watch.

While watching the pilot episode I couldn’t help thinking what happens if you cross “The X Files” with “Night Stalker”, sprinkle in a bit of “Twin Peaks” (the cow) and “Twilight Zone” (airplane), and add a dash of “Altered States” (the “tank”). I think you would have “Fringe”

Every few years (decade?) we are treated to a new incarnation of the SciFi-Mystery-Horror genre on mainstream TV and of course I must watch. Kolchak: The Night Stalker and X-Files (and related shows: The Lone Gunmen and Millennium (now on the Chiller network)) being 2 of my favorite TV shows (although I don’t consider the last 2 seasons of the X-Files real X-Files).

This time around Abrams and company have started us on another conspiracy theory laced romp of SciFi, mystery, supernatural and horror in search of the “Pattern”. Future Fringe appears to be giving us a veritable smorgasbord of standard genre elements psychokinesis, bionics, transmogrification and teleportation with some twisted humor thrown in (the cow again :-)).

The production quality feels much like “Lost” and my wife even commented the music is eerily similar. To me it seemed that Scully and Mulder have already been down this path, however, I found myself watching the full 90 minutes and promising to withhold judgment for a couple more episodes.

Also, in typical Abrams fashion there are some websites you should check out: http://massivedynamic.com and http://www.glowingmonkeys.com . Both were part of the pilot episode. Massive Dynamics is the name of the “Spooky Big Business” that will be part of the series and glowingmonkeys appears as a sticker on a light post. And of course the producers have deposited “Easter Eggs” thoughout to keep us hooked and trying to solve the mystery ( http://eastereggs.fringetelevision.com to play along).

And now I remember why I am not a big “Lost” fan. With my short attention span for pop culture it is just tooooo tiring to keep up. I am sure that after a while I will get burned out of the over-exposure (4 episodes seems my max) and need to take a break. The good thing is when I choose to return I can always catch up on

Proof Positve

August 16, 2008

I don’t understand the Bigfoot corpse hoax that seems to have taken hold of some recently.  For those of us who grew up in the 70s, there has always been incontrovertible video proof of the existence of Bigfoot.

When asked to comment on recent events Wildboy stated that his “father” had died 9 years prior these recent events and was buried in a private ceremony at an unspecified location in Northern Idaho.  As far as Mr. Boy knew, Bigfoot was survived by no other family members.

 

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m hooked. But before we get to that, let me tell you why I like British comedies. The one thing I enjoy most about shows like Red Dwarf, Black Adder (yes, it is fantasy, just ask Nursey cow), and the Narnia episode of the Young Ones, is when the main characters freely spew metaphors like a bag of kittens in a lidless blender. I thought such was purely the modus operandi of our friends across the pond…but…enter the Middleman. Who knew Americans could spew too.

What is the Middleman? Think pulp, comics, b-movies, camp, scifi, spies, and superheroes all smashed into one like a McFlurry of Adam West Batman, The Ghost Busters (the 1970s version!), Get Smart, Bruce Campbell, Men in Black, and a lot of pop-culture Easter eggs, and you’ll get close. But don’t just take my word for it, let’s ask our old friend YouTube:

OK, I could do without the 20-something relationship angst, but if I let that keep me from watching, I’d miss the fairly entertaining dialog. I submit for your review:

“It may all seem like light and magic at first, but the next thing you know the walls are bleeding and you’ve got 25 pregnant women running around screaming ‘Mary! Mary! Mary!’ and clawing their eyes out with knitting needles while your own hair grows to three times its length and tries to strangle you.”

The names of the episodes alone should be enough to make you tune in:

The Pilot Episode Sanction
The Accidental Occidental Conception
The Sino-Mexican Revelation
The Manicoid Teleportation Conundrum
The Flying Fish Zombification
The Boyband Superfan Interrogation
The Cursed Tuba Contingency
The Ectoplasmic Panhellenic Investigation
The Obsolescent Cryogenic Meltdown

Sadly, there will be only 12 episodes because this is mid-season filler, so if you haven’t seen it, watch the last few episodes before ABC Family kills it forever.

I recently noticed a channel on my TV called “Chiller”. Seems its been around for a year and I haven’t paid that much attention (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiller_(TV_channel)). As usual I am off thinking about mundane things having to do with making a living, feeding my fat face, and getting enough sleep.

I found it by accident. I was setting up a DVR search to catch any episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Much to my surprise a bunch of hits showed up. I am in Stalker heaven.

It is rumored that X-Files creator Chris Carter said one of his major influences was watching Kolchak: The Night Stalker as a child. There are similar threads from the Night Stalker in the X-Files. Still, X-Files has taken the ideas much further, and added many new ones as well but in my mind, the Night Stalker still reins supreme.

For those of you that haven’t seen the Night Stalker, the series was based on a TV movie The Night Stalker, and its sequel, The Night Strangler. There was a total of 20 episodes, running from September 1974, until April 1975 and still has a substantial cult following.

The concept of The Night Stalker series was of reporter, Carl Kolchak, working for the Independent News Service in Chicago, encounters the unnatural. Each week he dealt with a supernatural (mystical, scientific, alien or whatever) threat. Each week brought us a series of grisly related murders, involving blood draining, marrow loss, old age, spine snapping, or use of medieval weaponry. Inevitably, the lame local authorities are intent on ignoring or covering up the true nature of the murders, while Kolchak’s boss refuses to believe his employee. In the end, Karl seems to figure it out but never gets the full story printed.

The Night Stalker as a series was probably doomed to a single season. There aren’t enough unique ideas to do varied stories within the shows chosen format. Towards the end, episodes of The Night Stalker (like The Sentry and The Youth Killer) were dredging the bottom of the barrel. But I still find myself watching with a stupid grin on my face. It is just so mind numbingly entertaining and just enough campy that I can’t help myself. Even the “over-the-top” melodramatic style of Darren McGavin hasn’t caused me to quit watching. I would love to see a mash-up of Night Stalker and Christmas Story. Ralphy could be hacked to death by those fantasy outlaws and his foul-mouthed father/reporter could solve it. I would watch!!

And if you are wondering about the title of this post, it is my favorite quote from the series.

Crazy Gor-Al is at it again – Trying to save the planet from the masses for the elite.
(Click on the image below for the full story.)
Al Gore Places Infant Son In Rocket To Escape Dying Planet

Al Gore Places Infant Son In Rocket To Escape Dying Planet

BSG: Emmy Snub

July 17, 2008

No way!!!!  Can’t believe it!!!  no Emmy nominations for BSG.  I guess SciFi of this caliber still isn’t “mainstream” enough to get a nod.

Others also seem to be of a similar mind:

http://tv.yahoo.com/the-60th-annual-primetime-emmy-awards/show/43034/photos/emmy_nominees/nom-reality-competition/291

Or maybe there is another reason….  Like they have changed the Emmy rules to say that you can only be nominated if the TV show was FILMED in late 2007 or early 2008.

The bitterness continues……