Original Series

Carnival Row – Part 3

Carnival Row – Part 3
Spellbound

 
 
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Continuing from last time, Rae and Derreck discuss the world-building series Carnival Row from Amazon Prime. With new characters still being introduced and more threads left undone, the pair are left asking how the show may wrap everything up with only a few episodes left.

From creator Travis Beacham, this series debuted August 30, 2019 and stars Orlando Bloom (Lord of the Rings) and Cara Delevingne (Suicide Squad). All of season one is available to watch now. Season two debuts in 2020. The official Carnival Row soundtrack is now available.

This episode covers Episode 5 “Grieve No More” and Episode 6 “Unaccompanied Fae.”

Gotta catch up first? Binge this show on Amazon!

Not a Carnival Row fan? Join us on 12/6 for our first His Dark Materials episode!

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Spellbound Podcast Credits for Carnival Row Episodes

A Heroes Podcast Network Production

Hosted by Rae Mayer @SirynRae

Special Guest: Derreck Mayer @TheStarTrekDude

Executive Producer & Editor: Derreck Mayer

Music by David Fesliyan

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Carnival Row – Part 3

I Ship It Ep. 01 – Batman & Zatanna

Welcome to the premiere episode of The Grid Daily’s first original web series, I Ship It, starring Rae, co-host of the weekly podcast series Screen Heroes and half of the cosplay duo Super Sirens. In this new weekly web series, Rae will Ship two characters from fictional universes including DC and Marvel comics, sci-fi TV and movies, fantasy novels, and more. Season 1 will focus on comic book characters with the first episode taking a look at one of DC Comics’ most iconic heroes and one of the founding members of the Justice League, Batman, along with one of the most powerful female heroes in the DC Universe, Zatanna.

Check out the video below, subscribe to our YouTube channel and let us know your thoughts in the comments! Help us make this show great!

There you have it folks, episode 01 of our brand new series, I Ship It! We hope you enjoyed it. As Rae said, we’ll be looking for viewer suggestions for character pairings AND if your suggestion is picked, you might just win some prizes along the way. So, stay tuned for next week’s episode and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel!

I Ship It Ep. 01 – Batman & Zatanna

The Netflix Cometh

Over the course of 2016, Netflix is rumored to be releasing 30-something original programs, which more than doubles their original content available now.  They’ve managed to be the industry leader when it comes to how we watch television, seemingly always one step in front of every other channel (I know it’s a streaming service, but it’s a full blown channel too).  Its unique platform, allowing it to act without the national censors and maintaining its ability to get outside programming as well, Netflix has made itself a household staple next to a fridge and a bed.  There is literally some original programming for everyone available. Not only do they provide the content, but the content itself is some of the best stuff on television.  You can’t tell me that Orange is the New Black and House of Cards hasn’t deserved every single Emmy and Golden Globe. Netflix is becoming the only television service you need.

Wanna know what your 2016 television schedule should be? Check out some of the more promising shows in the list below:

Chelsea Does

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Chelsea Handler moves from late night to binge television with a four-part documentary series featuring subjects that she finds personal and social connections to: marriage, drugs, Silicon Valley, and racism.  Scheduled to premiere Saturday, January 23rd.

3%

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This dramatic thriller focuses on the daunting statistic that only 3% of people succeed.  It will be following characters attempting to seek the “better life” and their triumphs and struggles.  The show will both film and debut in 2016.

Fuller House

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In a brilliant attempt to tug on everyone’s nostalgic heartstrings, the 1980’s and 90’s classic sitcom Full House is retold through the perspective of a grown DJ Tanner. Recently widowed, she will be joined by her younger sister Stephanie and life-long friend Kimmy Gibbler in the effort to raise three boys, and Kimmy’s teenage daughter. Scheduled to premiere February 26.

DreamWorks 

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Among the many Netflix shows this year, we’ll be seeing multiple animated shows from DreamWorks.  This includes the recently announced Voltron reboot and Guillermo Del Toro’s Trollhunters. These will be joining the likes of The Adventures of Puss in Boots and Dinotrux.  The alliance between DreamWorks and Netflix has only gotten stronger which means we can only expect more.

Marvel

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Marvel and Disney have also increased their bonds with Netflix by adding to their original Defenders lineup.  Originally, the plan was for 4 series, each featuring one of the Defenders in an intense story arc. However, within days of the Daredevil premiere, we knew that was going to change.  Now Daredevil has a second season beginning March 18th featuring Marvel fan favorite, Punisher.  Jessica Jones lacked the same kind of hype but received equally admirable critic nods.  Luke Cage is in production as we speak and the rights to other darker Marvel characters are rumored to be explored. Chances are the Defenders is added to the MCU Phase 4 lineup and we see a Blade, Cloak and Dagger, and Punisher series.

The Crown

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A dramatic portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II’s long reign over England, this series will explore many different time periods and the prime ministers who were there to help lead the country.  With a strong cast of Claire Foy as the Queen herself, Matt Smith as her husband Phillip Mountbatten, and John Lithgow as Winston Churchill, the 10 episode run will likely fulfill your every British need…unless you watch Downton Abbey, Doctor Who, or Sherlock.

The Frontier

game-of-thrones-star-lands-leading-role-in-netflix-original-western-frontier-716666Jason Momoa leads a cast of fur traders in, you guessed it, frontier America.  What plans to be a brutal look at life in the harsh elements of 18th century North America could just be the replacement for Justified and Deadwood everyone has been clamoring over.  Prepare yourself for hatchet fights and tense showdowns between Native tribes and Europeans.

 

As the year rolls on, we’ll be seeing more shows out of Netflix and you can bet that we’ll be there to cover them all.  In the meantime, is Netflix your drug of choice?

The Netflix Cometh

Star Trek and Religion

Science fiction is often times used to tell stories about the human condition because of how sci-fi uniquely offers situations and settings that provide such a rich platform for these types of stories. Star Trek is no exception and has often been lauded for its ability to provide stories that deal with various aspects of the human condition wrapped up in a Utopian futuristic setting. However, it seems Star Trek hasn’t really done as much exploring of religion as it should. Considering how big an aspect of humanity religion is and how Star Trek is often equated with exploring humanity, one would think that religion would figure heavily but that isn’t the case. This may be in part because of Gene Roddenberry’s pronounced atheism or the subsequent writers’ wish to keep one of the most controversial topics out of Star Trek but in any case, Star Trek simply hasn’t explored this issue as much as one would think and when they do, it’s almost never explored in a realistic or meaningful way.

Back in 1966 when The Original Series first aired, Star Trek religion-focused examples were few and limited. Perhaps the two most religiously oriented episodes are “Who Mourns for Adonais?” and “Bread and Circuses”. The former presents the origins of the ancient Earth Greek polytheism as a product of alien influence when the Enterprise discovers Apollo,Apollo an alien being who used his great power to demand worship from the ancient Greeks. In “Bread and Circuses”, the Enterprise discovers a society greatly akin to ancient Rome nearing its fall as paralleling Earth history. There is also a group of people who preach kindness, brotherhood, and peace who are described as “sun worshipers”. This is, however, confusing to Spock who recalls that most societies that practice sun worship are usually barbaric and warlike which is at odds with this group’s teachings on peace. It isn’t until the end when Uhura figures out that they are actually worshiping the “Son” of God. Again, paralleling early Christianity as it grew during the years preceding the fall of the Roman Empire, however, this episode seems more focused on how this alien world is paralleling Earth’s history and less about how the religion actually impacts people. Aside from these two episodes, The Original Series only scantly references any Earth religion usually through a Christian reference here or there from Kirk or McCoy and any time they discover a religious aspect of an alien society, it is always portrayed as being more alien influence similar to the Apollo situation from “Who Mourns for Adonais”.

In The Original Series movies, only one directly deals with a religious aspect and that is the heavily panned fifth film, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. In this film, the Enterprise crew meets Spock’s half-brother, Sybok, who has rejected Vulcan logic and seeks to find God at the center of the galaxy where the Vulcan heaven, Sha Ka Ree, is supposedly located. Once there, they discover an alien entity who passes himself off as God in order to gain Sybok’s trust. Kirk, however, discovers a flaw in God’s logic when the entity requests a Starship to be able to escape his planet and Kirk wonders why an all-powerful god would require a ship to do anything. Once the realization that this entity cannot be God, Sybok sacrifices himself to defeat the entity as the Enterprise escapes. Again, this film doesn’t really deal with religion in any realistic way since the “God” figure is again portrayed as an alien whose great power is mistook for the divine.Sha_Ka_Ree_God

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the same attitude towards religion is again taken, although I would say much more militantly so, and the vague Christian references that Kirk and McCoy would often give are entirely absent in this incarnation of Star Trek. Every portrayal of religion is shown only in primitive alien societies who are seen as not having evolved enough to abandon religion as Earth has. I would hazard a guess that this is because Gene Roddenberry had become much more humanist and instead of thinking that religion wasn’t for him, as I would guess he felt during The Original Series, he instead began to feel that religion was an opposing force to progress and human evolution which is why TNG presents itself as much more atheist and humanist than its predecessor. One interesting religious aspect of TNG, however, is the character of Q. While TNG is arguably the most openly atheist and devoid of religion, Q is presented as an all-powerful and all-knowing being but uses his powers to annoy, badger, and generally cause no end of mayhem and misery for Picard and his crew. I would submit that Roddenberry used Q to say that if God existed, he would be a bully and therefore unworthy of divinity or respect.Q-Richterkleidung

Kira Nerys - Bajoran ReligionPerhaps the most religiously oriented incarnation of Star Trek, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine presents a multifaceted approach to exploring religion and is perhaps the only Star Trek incarnation that does this in a serious and respectful manner. The most prominent religious aspect is the Bajoran religion to which main character Kira Nerys ascribes. The Bajorans believe in a religion curiously similar to both Judaism and certain denominations of Christianity. Their gods, the Prophets, are beings of great power that reside in the Celestial Temple and are said to look out for and guide the Bajorans. Starfleet, however, presents the more atheist and skeptical view of the Bajoran religion as they see the Prophets as another example of aliens using their great power to masquerade as gods; however, due to the way the Bajoran religion is portrayed, mostly through Kira’s devout faith in the Prophets, the audience is often left wondering if the Prophets aremerely powerful aliens or if they are something more. Winn Adami - Bajoran ReligionThis is compounded by the interactions between more religiously important characters like Captain Sisko, who is chosen by the Prophets in the first episode to be their Emissary, Kai Wynn, the often antagonizing leader of the Bajoran religion in a role similar to the Catholic Pope, or Gul Dukat who, by the series’ end, joins the Pah Wraiths in their war against the Prophets. The depth and respect afforded to the Bajoran religion is something that hasn’t been seen in Star Trek before or since Deep Space Nine which I submit is unfortunate.

In Star Trek: Voyager, the only real religious aspect that the audience is presented with is through the character of Chakotay.
Benjamin SiskoThis Native American First Officer is portrayed as a devout follower of his Native American religion; however, his religion is always portrayed as vague, nondescript, and an amalgam of basic Native American beliefs with no attention given to how his tribe’s beliefs differ from other Native Americans or anything like that. Unfortunately, Chakotay’s religion ends up being used as mostly a plot device for when he needs information. During these situations, Chakotay will enter a “spirit quest” with his spirit guide, Akoocheemoya, and will always be presented with the needed information just in time so his objective will be completed. Essentially, Chakotay’s religion isn’t really anything more than a stereotype used as a plot device, making any exploration of this religion mute and pointless.Chakotay

In Star Trek: Enterprise, there is perhaps only one episode, Chosen Realm, that deals with religion. In this episode, the Enterprise crew finds the crew of another ship that are found to be religiously fanatical and use violence, mostly through suicide bombers, as a form of enforcing what they would see
as peace on a planet that has been war torn by religious war for years. Considering that this episode was released in 2004, it can be seen how this would be culturally relevant since 9/11 was still fresh in the cultural mindset and many people were blaming religion for the cause of that disaster as well as other violence that ensues in the modern day. As the episode ends, the fanatical leader of this religious sect is returned to his home planet only to find that the religious war he sought to end has completely destroyed his planet and left it uninhabitable. This approach to religion seems to mirror the TNG approach as it displayed religion as a cause of great strife and holding a people group back from evolving into a more peaceful society; however, it still seems that religion here is portrayed very generically and it doesn’t actually explore how religion works on a personal level like it did in Deep Space Nine.ENT064

With the notable exception of Deep Space Nine, Star Trek has curiously ignored, misrepresented, or criticized religion as holding people back from becoming better. While Star Trek is famous for its exploration of the human condition, it seems to have largely failed in this area. With a new series being released in 2017, I would hope that a broader and more understanding attitude towards religion be brought  to Star Trek as it is a huge part of the human condition that deserves more attention and respect than what the vast bulk of Star Trek has done.

What do you think about religion’s inclusion in the Star Trek universe? Do you think it got a fair shake in the various series? Comment below with your thoughts!

Star Trek and Religion

In Defense of the Abrams-verse, Star Trek’s Revival

              

This goes out to all of the naysayers.   

To the hard core Trekkies that reject the two newest films in the series and all those who tear it down at every turn. Why? The two films have some great redeeming qualities. They are pretty well crafted stories that are entertaining and fun to watch, not just for die hard fans but for people who have never enjoyed Star Trek before. They show some great acting and excellently crafted scenes. All of this wrapped around top notch special effects and a moving score. The Abrams-verse isn’t without its flaws but what’s really needed right now for Star Trek they are getting it right, entertainment. It seems like some Star Trek fans have been unduly harsh to the Abrams-verse. People have overlooked what the newer films have done for Star Trek. They are keeping Star Trek alive and in public view by making it fun, not only for people unfamiliar, but to veterans as well.

Prime Kirk, Picard, and SiskoTo make a declaration before we get too far into the thick of it. I count myself a Star Trek fan of the old order. The peerless wealth of character in the original show was always in my heart as I went on to love the depth and maturity of The Next Generation. And this same excellent depth of characters was later found in Deep Space 9, all coupled with a gritty realism.  For many years this was sci-fi nourishment to me and many others.

After these there was a drought of decent sci-fi on television. We started seeing its decline with Voyager and then when Enterprise was canceled. But aside from the superhero romps and a few oases here and there we’ve been with out great sci-fi. We still have a void where Star Trek fit into our lives. But in this desert of imagination we do have the newer Star Trek films to tide us over. The same incredible characters can be found there. Even the most staunch critics of the new films can still see the great talent Zachary Quinto brings to the Spock role. Or that ya feel all warm and giddy when McCoy spouts a crotchety line. Warmth and feeling is doubled down when that old fissile necked Scotsman is given her all she’s got. All orbiting around Chris Pine’s charismatic performance, making Kirk simultaneously a superhero but at the same time being believable and humanly flawed. They worked real hard at getting the characters true to the original and made them more believable in our modern age. Not many other modern sci-fi films would even try to pull this off.

Abrams-verse Zachary Quinto Spock Abrams-verse Chris Pine Kirk

Simply Compare…

Remakes: Total Recall and Robocop

both of the newer Star Treks to various other sci-fi remakes out there. Both Robocop and Total Recall lost a great deal when being revisited. They had great budgets and decent acting but the characters were not as strong as in the original, mainly due to the story’s writing and plot. They were a dry bed of storytelling that left a lot of people still wanting better.

The other sci-fi franchise out there, Star Wars, is a good example for comparison. It had all the great things of a good movie making; budget, character’s, name recognition, special effects, music, to name a few. Not to mention its legendary heritage of the first three films. 

Star Wars Anikin and Padme

An example of bad dialogue

 Arguably what held the newer Star Wars films back was the writing . The dialogue between characters was painful at times, the ever difficult romances and friendships were hard to swallow at best. Seeing Anakin and Padme fall in love was torture for the audience. These are the kinda scenes that left audience thirsty for the romance of the good old days of Empire Strikes Back.

   Characters and their dialogue is where Star Trek wins a fight in the never ending battle with Star Wars. Abrams’ writing is much better than any of the newer Star Wars films. Because of this the characters jump out at you and friendships and relationships are not only believable, they are enjoyable. Where Star Wars failed Trek succeeded thanks to Abrams and his crew. Who could honestly say that Anakin’s scene even compared with that of  Spock and Uhura’s. Both the actors in newer Star Wars and Star Trek are great but it was the writing that made the scenes.

After the dust settled for the new Star Wars films, people blamed the actors for the parch, hard to swallow scenes but this isn’t fair. Many of the actors had excellent work before and after the Star Wars prequels. Once the mirage of poor writing is removed the reality sets in that there are a lot of great actors out there, but there are far fewer great writers.

Abrams-verse Uhura and Spock

A good example

This is what is often is mistaken for bad acting, sub par writing. The things people say to each other, the dialogue basically. Without this both of the Abrams films would have been financial flops. But no one can argue the financial success the newer Star Trek films have had. True special effects helped this financial success but remakes like Total Recall and Robocop had these as well; they lacked great writing. This is the fuel the drives the actors performance. This is what makes Spock cold and logical yet still entertaining and Kirk’s gung-ho, take charge leadership style so interesting. Say what you will about plot in the Abrams-verse but the dialogue between characters is excellent. Dripping with style and entertainment to spare.

That being said the films are far from perfect.

Abrams-verse Kirk, Spock, and Khan

John Harrison has got a great surprise for you!!!

Though the plot in the first one is a great character/origin story and flows wonderfully the second film, however, isn’t on as solid a ground. The life line Prime Spock, Khan smuggling his crew out using weapons, interstellar transporting, Lazarus Khan blood, are all weak plot devices admittedly. Worst of all may be the failed M Night Shyamalan style Khan reveal plot twist that only fooled people who probably didn’t even care about Khan. People like casual movie goers, not die hard Trekkies. This major chink in the armor derailed and otherwise brilliant revenge story. It was a gamble, one that didn’t pay off but the film shouldn’t be condemned for it. Sure Into Darkness isn’t flourishingly perfect but it’s still a great reservoir of great entertainment.But slight plot failing and technical errors are not something new to Star Trek. Back in the old days of The Original Series and well up into the third season of TNG there are inconsistencies. One episode the phasers are blue instead of red, sometimes they refer to their shields as deflector grids, and how many times has an alien force propelled the Enterprise faster than warp 8 and everything was fine. Not a single person was turned into a lizard or anything. This is not even considering things like when Romulans are first seen on the view screen in “Balance of Terror”, the crew instantly assumes they are related to Vulcans because they look alike. But whenever they boldly go where no one has gone before, not only do they speak English, but they also look exactly like humans, but no one bats an eye at this. None of the Star Trek shows had absolutely perfect plots. We accepted the good with the bad.

The plot doesn’t  need to be perfect to be good.

The point is that we ignore the plot devices because we are drawn into the story because of overall plot told by the characters in the show. We are entertained. So we “willingly suspend our disbelief” that the lava monster over there isn’t just some guy crawling around in a cheap Styrofoam costume. It’s a living, breathing, alien that only wants you not to harm it. Blaming the whole film for some bad plot devices is the wrong thing to do, it is illogical.

Abrams-verse Scotty, Kirk, and Spock

“I didnta mean to make spaceships obsolete Captin!”

Sure Khan could’ve gotten away from Earth using Scotty’s transwarp equation and in turn, this could’ve made space travel obsolete. Maybe plot wise it would’ve been better if he just stole a shuttle or explained that normally it was expensive and dangerous to travel that far via transporter beam but Khan took risks. But these kind of small plot hiccups never should hold a story back. This is like rejecting a freshwater lake because a few mouthfuls are unpalatable when your dying of thirst.

 

It isn’t as if the original was free from cheap plot devices.

Star Trek: The Original Series Spock

Spock time traveling with da maths

Spock after all did have a time warp equation  in The Original Series and in the Voyage Home that could be executed at will. All he needed was a star and a slide rule. It doesn’t make the plot weaker if Spock uses it to travel back in time to get some humpbacks … … the whales, not the people. It’s simply a device to move the story along. In the end we allow this small plot device to get washed out by the story, we willingly suspend our disbelief.

Abrams-verse Admiral Marcus

Excellent performance by Wheller

It wasn’t the small plot devices that brought the Abrams film down a notch. It was much riskier ones, it was the Khan reveal surprise. While at the same time though Peter Weller as the ruthless Admiral Marcus jockeyed for attention with Khan, tugging the plot into different directions.  Weller’s performance was incredible,  but  there wasn’t enough room on the screen for both antagonists. In many ways he almost stole the show. This is what undermined the film more than anything else, two surprise villains driving the plot in two different directions. It was a big gamble with a large payoff that just didn’t work.

Star Trek: Insurrection Geordi and Picard

What do you mean the Journey’s End episode contradiction? Can you blame me, she was hot.

Is it enough to condemn the film?

I think not. Is it enough to condemn the Abrams-verse? Certainly not. Sure there are some weakness in the films but there are some great things to be found in both of them. For this reason it isn’t understandable why some died in the wool Star Trek fans bash the Abrams-verse and rank it so low. For what the two films bring to the table, I think the newer films are far better than all of the odd numbered Star Trek films. Even Into Darkness ranks higher in my opinion than Nemesis and Insurrection, maybe even The Search for Spock.

Sure it can never compare to the classics of Wrath of Khan that did so much with such a small budget. Nor will it gain cult classic status that some of the other films in the franchise have earned. But a franchise needs room to breathe, room to grow. Most importantly that is what the Abrams-verse gives to Trekkies, a chance to be reborn. It is giving us water in the drought of decent sci-fi that we were left in after Star Trek went into decline. Star Trek very nearly died off but despite some of its flaws, Abrams is keeping Star Trek alive. It may not be as good as a desert paradise oasis, but sometimes all we need is an IV drip to keep the franchise going. And who can argue that it isn’t at least doing that.

Star Trek (2009) Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Hope for Star Trek’s revival

What are your thoughts on the Abrams-verse Trek films? Did you enjoy Star Trek (2009) or Into Darkness? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

          

In Defense of the Abrams-verse, Star Trek’s Revival