science fiction

SH S4E09: Ultimate Star Trek Crew

SH S4E09: Ultimate Star Trek Crew
Screen Heroes

 
 
00:00 / 80:21
 
1X
 

We build the ultimate Star Trek crew! We cover ten different ship positions\roles and fill those spots with characters from all five previous Star Trek series. That’s right, our Ultimate Crew includes characters from every series currently out. We pick our First Officer, Chief Medical Officer, Counselor, our Captain, and more.

Then, when we’re done, we discussing our Ultimate Sci-Fi Crew that covers the same roles but across all of science fiction outside of Trek!

So listen in and let us know what you think of our Ultimate Star Trek Crew, plus who would show up on your roster!

Also, go to Screen-Heroes.com right now to subscribe to us on iTunes and drop us a review. If you do, we’ll be sure to give you a shout-out in a future episode!

Want to join the conversation? Join us live every Tuesday night at 9PM EST on Twitch to chat with us! We’ll answer questions and note comments live on the broadcast! Follow at: twitch.tv/heroespodcasts

Don’t forget to subscribe to Screen Heroes! The links to iTunes, Blog Talk Radio, Google Play, and Feedburner are below!

Also, stop by our Patreon to see what kinds of cool perks you can get for being one of our contributors: patreon.com/HeroesPodcasts

Prefer to watch the show? Catch the broadcast below!

Screen Heroes Podcast Credits

Hosts
Derreck Mayer
Rachel Stewart
Ryan Couture

Special Guests
Christopher Scott
Jeremy Monken

Executive Producer
Derreck Mayer

Editor
Derreck Mayer

Music
Flying Killer Robots

iTunes Subscription Link
Screen-Heroes.com

Blog Talk Radio
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/screenheroes

Google Play Subscription Link
https://play.google.com/music/listen#/ps/Iwvfusxqyignwamadhc3viav4qy

Feedburner Subscription Link
http://feeds.feedburner.com/griddaily/screenheroes

RSS Feed Link
http://heroespodcasts.com/feed/podcast/screenheroes

Social Media
@HeroesPodcasts

SH S4E09: Ultimate Star Trek Crew

SH S3E13: Planet Comicon Who

We’ve got a special preview of Planet Comicon 2017, the largest comic convention in Kansas City! Thanks to special guest, Kirk Chritton, we discuss upcoming plans for this year’s big PCC event including some of the amazing creator guests who are attending like TMNT’s Kevin Eastman and Harley Quinn’s Amanda Conner. Then we talk about the big celebrity guests including the return of Stephen Amell, a hopeful second chance at John Barrowman, Felica Day, Wil Wheaton returns, and Ron Pearlman will be in the house! But that’s not all, Kirk tells us about this year’s new setup that uses even more space at Bartle Hall, plus new features like the Entertainment Space and cosplay group photo stages.

You can check out all the details plus get tickets to Planet Comicon on their website here.

Head over to our Facebook page to keep up with our latest and stay tuned for our Planet Comicon photo cosplay album, articles, and interviews as we will be part of the press at the main event.

Also, go to Screen-Heroes.com right now to subscribe to us on iTunes and drop us a review. If you do, we’ll be sure to give you a shout-out in a future episode!

Want to join the conversation? Join us live every Tuesday night at 9PM EST on Twitch to chat with us! We’ll answer questions and note comments live on the broadcast! Follow at: twitch.tv/heroespodcasts

Don’t forget to subscribe to Screen Heroes! The links to iTunes, Google Play, and Feedburner are below!

Also, stop by our Patreon to see what kinds of cool perks you can get for being one of our contributors: patreon.com/HeroesPodcasts

Screen Heroes Podcast Credits

Hosts
Derreck Mayer
Rachel Stewart
Ryan Couture

Special Guest
Kirk Chritton

Executive Producer
Derreck Mayer

Editor
Derreck Mayer

Music
Flying Killer Robots

Google Play Subscription Link
https://play.google.com/music/listen#/ps/Iwvfusxqyignwamadhc3viav4qy

iTunes Subscription Link
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/screen-heroes-grid-dailys/id1071922623

Feedburner Subscription Link
http://feeds.feedburner.com/griddaily/screenheroes

RSS Feed Link
http://heroespodcasts.com/feed/podcast/screenheroes

Social Media
twitch.tv/heroespodcasts
twitter.com/heroespodcasts
instagram.com/heroespodcasts
Facebook.com/HeroesPodcasts
heroespodcasts.tumblr.com

SH S3E13: Planet Comicon Who

Prodigy – A Film from KC

Prodigy (2016) by Kansas City native Alex Haughey is a science-fiction drama. It stars Richard Neil and Savannah Liles, in her debut starring role. It has been billed as a blend of “personal drama and psychological thriller.” Young Ellie (Liles), who is blessed with a razor-sharp intellect, is pitted against non-traditional psychologist Dr. Fonda (Neil). As the two conduct mental combat, the truths and lies are revealed. While the movie makes an enthusiastic attempt at this genre-bending approach, it does fall short on some of its goals.

The film has been shown at some film festivals already including Cinequest and Sedona.

Some spoilers for Prodigy follow after the break.

Prodigy Chess

The story is interesting: Ellie is held captive in a highly-secure shadow government facility. Accused of a crime, it falls upon Dr. Fonda to reason with her and discover the depths of her involvement with a murder. Time is running out: the government wants to euthanize Ellie and learn what gives her the astounding abilities she displays. Dr. Fonda has to work with his former colleague Olivia (Jolene Andersen) to unlock Ellie’s mysteries. In the stunning conclusion, many truths are revealed.

All in all, the film attempts to have a conversation about guilt and responsibility. Through much of the exposition, the characters expound greatly on personal choice, protection, and control. While it is a battle of the wits from the onset, it’s fairly clear that Ellie’s cold, calculating logic is outmatched by the more experienced, nuanced, and feeling Dr. Fonda. There is lesson here that only through understanding and acceptance of powerlessness can brute strength be overcome. It’s an interesting commentary on many social topics facing the world today.

Prodigy at the table

However, there are some technical aspects with which I take issue. For one, the script. While the actors deliver good performances – and they seem to strengthen as it moved along – often times, they seemed to be locked into a very specific dialog. This “tell and not show” approach is a common hallmark of first-time filmmakers. In a way, it assumes that the viewer isn’t in on what’s going on so everything needs to be explained. But, it’s a little too much. Ellie’s lines were almost too sculpted; Liles’ performance was almost melodramatic. Perhaps a stylistic choice; however, it failed to engender any real empathy for her as a character. I found myself on numerous occasions asking “why do I care about this girl?” I found Dr. Fonda’s troubles far more interesting.

In the end, this was very solid attempt at starting a conversation about responsibility and grief. It had great sound, good editing, and (although a bit campy) serviceable performances.

I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

You can find more information on Prodigy on the film’s website here. The site includes information about the film, cast, a trailer, screening information, and a gallery of stills and behind the scenes photos.

Prodigy – A Film from KC

SH S3E06: Best Sci-Fi Movies

Science fiction is a genre we truly love. From Star Wars to Star Trek, from Terminator and Alien to iRobot and Armageddon. The sci-fi genre has given us some amazing movies, some we love to laugh at, and others that probably should just stay locked away. This week, we bring what we believe to be the Top 5 Best Sci-Fi movies. That’s right, three different Top 5 Sci-Fi movie lists. We try to be objective and keep emotions out of the decisions.

Be sure to head over to our Facebook page at let us know which sci-fi movies you think should have made the list and which of ours don’t belong.

Also, go to Screen-Heroes.com right now to subscribe to us on iTunes and drop us a review. If you do, we’ll be sure to give you a shout-out in a future episode!

Want to join the conversation? Join us live every Tuesday night at 9PM EST on Twitch to chat with us! We’ll answer questions and note comments live on the broadcast! Follow at: twitch.tv/heroespodcasts

Don’t forget to subscribe to Screen Heroes! The links to iTunes, Google Play, and Feedburner are below!

Also, stop by our Patreon to see what kinds of cool perks you can get for being one of our contributors: patreon.com/HeroesPodcasts

Top 5 Sci-Fi Movies Podcast Credits

Hosts
Derreck Mayer
Rachel Stewart
Ryan Couture

Executive Producer
Derreck Mayer

Editor
Derreck Mayer

Music
Michael Wallace (Flying Killer Robots)

Google Play Subscription Link
https://play.google.com/music/listen#/ps/Iwvfusxqyignwamadhc3viav4qy

iTunes Subscription Link
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/screen-heroes-grid-dailys/id1071922623

Feedburner Subscription Link
http://feeds.feedburner.com/griddaily/screenheroes

RSS Feed Link
http://heroespodcasts.com/feed/podcast/screenheroes

Social Media
twitch.tv/heroespodcasts
twitter.com/heroespodcasts
instagram.com/heroespodcasts
Facebook.com/HeroesPodcasts
heroespodcasts.tumblr.com

SH S3E06: Best Sci-Fi Movies

Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Books That Time Forgot

I don’t feel like I read enough science fiction anymore, and it bothers me. Not all of us have the spark to want to read, and many of us had our enjoyment for the written word driven out by the mandatory reading our primary or secondary schools forced on us. That said, science fiction, in my opinion, is strongest and most fulfilling when coming from the written word.

If you go to a science fiction convention, how many characters or cosplayers are literary characters? Okay, I love comics, don’t get me wrong, but I am excluding graphic novels. I imagine you could be having trouble trying to think of someone.  This is what I am talking about when I say I know I am not reading enough, because I am just watching, or looking. Science fiction at the moment, at least to me (and disintegrate me if you think I am wrong here), seems to be focused on watching and passive participation, at least when it comes to the media we all enjoy.

Reading a book is my idea of the purest way to experience the genre. The wonderful thing about sci-fi is that it requires imagination. Sure, some of it could happen – some of it has come to pass, but at the end of the day the genre that we all know and love is based upon letting go of a little bit and embracing imaginative storytelling.  Where is the imagination in watching a science fiction movie? Sure, we can appreciate another person’s imagination, but the image, the sounds, the emotion…..we aren’t creating that with our own minds. It is just there, projected. Graphic novels are a little better, but still, the art, the expression, they are there. This is why having the right artist for the graphic novel is so important, because you are presenting in essence a book, but you are substituting art and another person’s imagination in place of the readers’.

Good sci-fi also has to have one thing to anchor it. Strong character development and believable characters. I would read a book about  pixies that ride cyborg rainbow farting unicorns, but without those pixies having motivation, personality, a good story arc, it just becomes crap – not something that stirs the imagination. I mean, maybe the cyborg unicorns rebel and then pixie land becomes a blood and glitter soaked apocalyptic wasteland. There is something of a struggle for a protagonist to work on.

So where is this all going in relation to my title. A while back I decided I was tired of watching movies and reading tie in books. Or reading books that are an extension of a toy or video game. I wanted to get back to the root of things. That is when I discovered Burroughs. Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Burroughs wrote several books and if you have not in some way come across one of them, you have been living under a rock. Any of you that saw Batman V Superman have.  And I bet I am about to blow your mind – his works inspired Superman, and that trailer for the Legend of Tarzan….guess who wrote Tarzan? He also wrote The Land That Time Forgot as well. If this hasn’t piqued your interest or sent you to Wikipedia already then keep reading.

I love adventure stories, especially ones in a science fiction setting and even more so if they throw in a dash of romance. Ok, maybe not a dash of romance, a lot of romance. E.R.B. essentially wrote romantic novels for boys and men and wrapped them in stirring adventure.

While it could be argued that Tarzan of the Apes could be his most well known character, I will argue that The Princess of Mars has had the biggest impact on the genre of science fiction. So what is this book about, and why is it so important in science fiction?

Well for starters, there is a princess of Mars, but she is not the protagonist, although she is an interesting character in the book. The main character is actually a man from Earth named John Carter. Now if you know your sci-fi, you will know a few years ago that Disney had a financially disappointing outing trying to make this book into a live action film, basing its name on that of the main character. Love the film or hate it, it shouldn’t influence a decision to read the book.Princess_of_Mars_original cover

 

In the book, John Carter is a man looking to put his past behind him. He was on the losing side of the Civil War in the US and had gone out West to seek his fortune and a fresh start. Along the way he is transmitted to Mars by alien technology and has to make the most of the situation. Luckily for John, having just survived a war he can hold his own among the war-band tribes of Mars. The fun thing is though, since he is from Earth, which has a higher gravity, John is tougher than his new found companions in many respects. This is where the inspiration for Superman comes from, and one of the most direct connections between the two characters is their ability to jump great distances. Fun fact for those of you who are not Superman fans, Superman originally couldn’t fly. He could only jump long distances. He was also an alien stranger that came to a new planet.  But I digress. john carterr

To be frank, Princess of Mars really held my attention, and one of the reasons it did so was because of the princess herself. This woman is not helpless, and is a warrior scholar in her own right. The romance between her and John is great, as it is a nice slow burn, and it is done tastefully, she doesn’t just fall into his arms. If you have seen the film John Carter that Disney made, you may notice that the Princess Dejah Thoris doesn’t really follow the typical Disney Princess formula.

Then there is the action. Pulp fiction has some of the best action, and Burroughs arguably did the best job of describing and choreographing action sequences. He did just enough to describe the fights while leaving a bit open to the imagination. The perfect mix of knowing what was happening but not knowing who would come out on top.

If you get the chance, A Princess of Mars is actually in the public domain, so you can either pay to read it, or in some cases find a free copy online. Gotta love that!

So now that I have touched on A Princess of Mars, it is time to head back to Earth to a meet a rather famous literary character. Tarzan of the Apes.

tarzan original cover

Tarzan is the character that made Burroughs famous, and he milked the character to death. Even today, most people know who Tarzan is before they reach the age of 8 years old. The character is iconic, as is his partner Jane. Admit it, the famous line “Me Tarzan, You Jane” came into your mind as you were reading that. Surprise….that’s not how it actually goes in the book, and Tarzan, he’s pretty smart.

Tarzan of the Apes is such a famous story, most people think that they know it and never give the book a chance. Huge mistake. Massive.

To tell a personal secret, I am a huge romantic. If there isn’t a good love story to attach to the main character, I can lose patience. Tarzan pays off. Probably 3/4 of the story is jungle man growing up in the jungle and becoming lord of the apes. The last quarter of the novel is probably one of the more passionate love stories I have read, but it has one of those endings that just leaves you screaming for the next book. I won’t spoil it for you, but you really need to read the book because to my knowledge no movie, comic etc has actually followed the original plot because it just has THAT ENDING.

If you decide to read Tarzan, do yourself a favor and buy the sequel when you buy the first. You’ll understand once you have read it.

tarzan vs kerchak by mandy kart

So those are two of Burroughs’ better known and influential works, but I am going to throw in a third and personal favorite: The Land That Time Forgot. This book has flippn’ everything. World War 1, German submarines, dinosaurs, fantastic islands…it’s epic – and naturally, there is a romance as well.

I really do not want to describe what is in this book, because it takes so many unexpected turns. Obviously, the characters end up in a land that time forgot, but how they get there is half the fun. When they get there…that is great, and the island has a secret that isn’t just dinosaurs, it goes deeper than that. The good Mr. Burroughs essentially took what Mr. Doyle (The Lost World) had done and gave it action, romance and mystery rather than just make up a story about an expedition that had some hard times.

Edgar Rice Burroughs - Sea Monster

If you have read this far, hopefully I have stirred some interest in some books from a bygone era of science fiction. From a time before super heroes or special gadgets. Back when the stories were utterly fantastic and the characters were deeply developed, so much so that you feel like you know them, that you are them. I believe that by reading true classics that a deeper appreciation of what good science fiction and adventure is, and by doing this we can begin to hold the genre to the standard that it set all of those years ago. It also opens up the door to other incredible works like Frank Herbert’s Dune series, Asimov’s Foundation trilogy – there are so many great stories out there.

So how about you, have you read any of Burroughs’ books? Is there a work of science fiction that you have read that inspired you and developed your love for the genre? Let us know in the comments below!

Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Books That Time Forgot

Starship Troopers, Forever War Compared

Military science fiction is a fairly popular sub-genre but often it swings between two extremes, from ideas that are found usually between liberal and conservative camps. Liberal views of military science fiction often focus on how technology has changed combat and that this change speaks to truths about war that have always been there. While conservative military science fiction deals more with showing that despite how much society has changed, simple virtues that a person, or even a society needs remain unchanged. But both use science fiction as a way of removing the reader from the world that we live in to try to argue for a world that we ought to live instead, for one reason or the other.

Consider two classics of sci fi; Joe Hadleman’s Forever War and Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. These are both polar extremes of views of future warfare with entirely different and contradictory messages despite both depicting futuristic interstellar war. The name Starship Troopers is fairly well known as it was made in to a successful film. Though the film only loosely bears resemblance to the novel it still holds hints as to the views of the conservative thinking found in the book. However Forever War, by comparison, is far less well known and it represents more of the thought from the liberal side of things . Despite such apparent difference both works are considered sci fi classics and both won the Hugo award for science fiction. But it’s a mistake to approach these works looking to reinforce what you already believe about politics or life in general. I mean the whole point of sci fi is to change your perspective, to shake things up. If you wanted more of the same you’d be reading non-fiction, right? So lets get to the two books.

Starship Troopers Preamble
Priority goes to Heinlein, as his work precedes Haldeman by about 15 years. Starship Troopers was written shortly after the Korean War and reflects Robert A. Heinleinmany of the feelings and moods of the country during the 1950s. Its origin lies in a culture of a nation that had just finished fighting the ideologically successful World Wars against fascism and then went on to fight to a frustrating stalemate on the Korean peninsula with another ideological foe, but this time it was communism.

In the early days of the Cold War the crux of the argument is that we were fighting a set of ideals against a nebulous foe. Where in World War II the enemy was a monolithic state ran from high up by some generalissimo or some self-proclaimed fuhrer. Communism was different, at least on the surface. What frightened people about communism though was how different it was, it was much more of a grassroots movement from the bottom up. To counter this, you had to first win the battle in people’s hearts and minds.

Starship Trooper’s Novel’s Message
The general plot of the film follows the novel but differs significantly with its message. It makes it easier to the whole idea of the novel to consider this. Fascism, like found in Nazi Germany, was all about the individual giving up rights for the sake of the state. A strong state meant the individual sacrificed. Communism, at least on paper, sacrificed the state for the sake of the individual. In a communistic state people were free because the government was weak. A compromise between these two ideologies would be the American society, people have some rights but give up others so that the state is somewhat strong. It is this balance that makes America’s brand of democracy strong and adaptable. But what usually happens with both fascism and communism is that a handful of people wrestle control of the government and both drift towards totalitarianism. Democracy is able to flex and change so we are saved from the worse aspects of fascism and communism. We have balance.

Conser and Liv compaired

But it is with this almost knee jerk reaction to the threat of communism that Starship Troopers finds itself in, the Cold War communist scare. Individualism is at the heart of American culture so some worried that communism was thought to have posed a uniquely insidious threat. So Heinlein, like many others of his era, sought to show a futuristic world where people gave even more to the state. It is in the protagonist’s military training and early schooling where these ideas are espoused and the voice of the novel is realized. It is seen as even natural as with the quote:

“Social responsibility above the level of family, or at most of tribe, requires imagination– devotion, loyalty, all the higher virtues — which a man must develop himself; if he has them forced down him, he will vomit them out.”

And even the film it is echoed by the main characters teacher:

“Citizenship is an attitude, a state of mind, an emotional conviction that the whole is greater than the part…and that the part should be humbly proud to sacrifice itself that the whole may live.”

Michael Ironside

This could be seen as threatening to liberties of the individual, to give up freedom for a greater good. Though  in Starship Troopers Heinlein argues that this natural and although it can be thought of as being violent to say; lose life, liberty, and wellbeing, it was worth it to Heinlein. As he wrote any kind of government is force as it compels an individual to obey. You can’t have authority without it;

“When you vote, you are exercising political authority, you’re using force. And force, my friends, is violence. The supreme authority from which all other authorities are derived.”

And one could argue that warfare is force of government continued on as a mere extension. And that warfare speaks to essential truths of societies. That

“Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and their freedoms”

Starship Trooper’s Film Adaptation
Interestingly, all of these ideas can still be found lurking in the background of the film, though stretched and skewed. But the devil is in the subtle nuances after all. The director, Paul Verhoeven, admitted to never actually reading the book and the film only really pays lips service to it. Verhoeven probably was appalled by the message of the book. Having lived under a Nazi occupied this undoubtedly left him with a negative disposition with anything drifting towards fascism and I can’t say I blame him for is treatment of the adaptation.

starship trooper
I mean I love Verhoeven’s other works (Robocop, Total Recall). They are counted as sci fi classics in their own right but it’s a little sad that the message was twisted around. In an interview Verhoeven admitted to changing the vibe of the film. When asked why he was making what appeared to be such a fascist adaptation he said:

“If I tell the world that a right-wing, fascist way of doing things doesn’t work, no one will listen to me. So I’m going to make a perfect fascist world: everyone is beautiful, everything is shiny, everything has big guns and fancy ships, but it’s only good for killing fucking bugs!”paul-verhoeven-remakes

The film ignores that nagging voice in your head that tells you’re a nationalistic state is ultimately self-defeating, that it can never amount to greatness. It exaggerates the elements of fascism, taking Heinlein’s vision of a more neutral message found in the novel and pokes a little fun at it. By obnoxiously exaggerating its fascist or more accurately, nationalistic leanings. The film feels cheesy and goofy in a very cyberpunk, or more accurate, “military sci fi punk” way but it’s all done on purpose. It’s meant to poke fun at the idea of fascism. It’s an exercise in satire.

st loss arm

Another stark difference between the film and the book is the violence. Not only the pervasiveness of it, people dying left and right not only in battle but in simple training, but the acceptance of it. Young soldiers die from the giant bugs and people shrug it off and move on. Violence is even done during basic training repeatedly, both in the film and the novel. Corporal punishment, or whipping, is used to correct behavior but the film takes it a bit further. Extreme violence is used to teach simple things. Such as when a soldier questions why knife combat training is needed in a modern military. To this is drill sergeant answers by throwing the blade, pinning his hand painfully to a wall and saying “what good are your hands if you’re deprived of using them.” Immediately calling out “medic” in a routine way hinting that he has casually injured many others before, just business as usual for him. But this really doesn’t make sense, even for a fascist state. To waste time and resources in injuring a valuable asset such as a soldier makes no sense but in the movie this exaggeration drives home the fascist feel. People are mere resources for the state. The book isn’t about wanton violence though, but as with other his other films Verhoeven uses violence as a set piece so this is understandable.

st punishment
It could be argued that physical violence is an extension of being dominated by a fascist government but the novel never truly embraces this level of sadisim. At times, Heinlein’s work favors the popular the “Poor Bloody Infantry concept.” One where a difficult job has to be done and sacrifices must be made but one doesn’t relish it. It sucks but if we don’t do it then someone else will have to. It’s seen as a necessary price that must be paid for freedom as Heinlein paraphrases the Star Spangled Banner:

“the noblest fate that a man can endure is to place his own mortal body between his loved home and war’s desolation”
What is a little more subtle difference is the general look of the film. It’s too “white washed” for lack of a better term. All of the characters are only one race, despite representing the entire planet. Even the main character in the book, where the novel has John Rico as a Filipino in the film he is played by a Caucasian and no other minorities have big roles in the film. The book was much more multi-ethnic. But this could’ve been done on purpose by Verhoeven to emphasis the fascist, or Nazi feel of the forces. Even the uniforms that everyone is wearing bear a strong resemblance to the ones worn by Nazis. None of this was in the novel, they took creative license with it I suppose. But I wonder how Heinlein took the film when it was released? It had to hurt a little to see is message twisted and turned around to serve a totally different message.

st uniforms

Forever War and the Counter Argument
Joe Haldeman’s Forever War is far different than Starship Troopers, yet it’s still military sci-fi. For one, it’s much more obscure; no film as been made for Forever War - Joe Haldemanit. However, there is talk of Ridly Scott taking it on with Warner Brothers backing him. But the more significant difference is the more liberal approach to military science fiction and an almost disdain for warfare culture. It isn’t so much that it disdains violence; it does in some ways. It still evokes the ‘Poor Bloody Infantry’ idea at times. It instead rejects the idea of a culture that seeks out war and violence with others. That’s not to say that the
world of Forever War is perfect, far from it. In fact, much of it is rather wretched and in many ways the book’s realistic world view will make it much more palatable than Starship Troopers. Nobody is perfect in Forever War, especially not the government running the military.

 

Forever War’s Plot in Brief
Starship Trooper’s plot was far simpler; space travel has made encounters with hostile life a possibility and war is the result. Society must be strong or it will be defeated. Forever War builds on the much more complicated changes in society, near light speed travel, and the resultant time dilation. To put it simply, the faster you go, the more time slows down for you. Meanwhile, time travels at normal speeds for people back at Earth as per rules of relativity.

time dialation

A soldier traveling in space may leave Earth, rocket off for two years to a distant star, and then consequently have society radically change because 50 years have passed back on Earth. When the main character, William Mandella returns to Earth after his first tour of duty, life on Earth has changed so much that he is alien, an outsider. He doesn’t belong. People speak differently, using strange inflections and slang. Life is much harder and it has become more dangerous with violent crime at every turn. Making a living and feeding yourself has totally changed. Even getting a job and earning a living is hard for Mandella to adapt to.

dystopian future
Mandella’s military service has alienated him from the society who he was sent to protect; he has become an outsider, very reminiscent of the 1970’s post-Vietnam War American culture that the book is very much a product of. The consequence of this alienation is Mandella questioning why it is he is fighting and he really doesn’t have a good answer for it. The whole war seems pointless. Even the leadership seems to have lost track of why it is being fought. The message of the book is that wars of aggression are wrong.

Vietnam_War
After hundreds of years being lost because of his near light speed travels and many battles where luck seems to be the only thing that determines life or death, the war is suddenly over without much warning. It just stops abruptly. No reason is given, territory lost, or prizes won. It was all because of leadership, who saw a simple difference between two species as hostile and they went to war. They thought this was just like the last ones and we just had to fight. It was one big mistake. Mandella’s feelings in his gut where true. The war was pointless. The death and sacrifices where for nothing, same as the alienation and no real logical purpose.

Contrast and Compare, Conclusions
Forever War is very much a story of the post-Vietnam War era, but people can still identify with it as it speaks to the innate human objections to violence and war. Though it’s diametrically opposed to the ideas found in Starship Troopers, they have too much in common to ignore. Beside being futuristic, they are both coming of age stories. Both speak truths about war and combat but use sci-fi to offer a new perspective. Most interestingly they are like little time capsules that represent the moods and feeling of their era and most importantly, speak to the truths of combat and war that anyone who has studied it or experienced it will understand. They actually have much more in common than at first glance.

 

Forever War - Cover
It is these common traits that are interesting. So when Haldeman won the Nebula award for Forever War back in 1976 he received a congratulatory letter from Heinlein that “meant more than the award itself” to Haldeman. And though he felt that Heinlein’s Starship Tooper’s message was something he didn’t agree with, he still saw some truth in it, the honesty of the message. Despite their differences the two authors still admired and respected each other because they spoke to some simple truths. It was just that society had changed.

In the end the message of both Starship Troopers and Forever War are totally different, about being pro-war or not, to put things simply. But there is merit in both stories, not only in the method of telling the story but the message that they bring. And although each novel is perfect for its time they can both equally apply to the present because truth is a fluid thing, always moving and reshaping and one has to adapt with it. Reaching down, back in to the sci-fi classics like these, contrasting and comparing is a great mental exercise in objectivity. Not only that, but studying and enjoying such works brings us closer to the truth of warfare, all the while looking at it with a much different lens, one of science fiction.

starship-troopers-wyltkm

Have you read Forever War or Starship Troopers? Comment below with your thoughts on how they analyze war and its effects.

Starship Troopers, Forever War Compared

Top 10 Lesser Known Twilight Zone Episodes

Twilight Zone has a welcomed place in public conscious, standing as a classic example of science fiction. A quick Google search will return the usually top episodes; “Time Enough at Last”, “To Serve Man”, and “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” topping many best episode lists with good reason. Instead here is a list of ten, lesser known, but exceptionally good episodes that don’t get as much attention as they should. While some of the better known episodes such as “Time Enough at Last” have ideas that have become cliché in modern media, the ones on this list are are much more fresh and deserve more acknowledgment than what they typically get on most top episode lists on the internet. Some have interesting ideas about time travel and culture, others are ethical and morality tales. But all of them are still great to watch. Today the Twilight Zone can be found on the internet readily enough on Netflix, Hulu, and the CBS website. For those wanting to take a journey back to the Twilight Zone, I’d recommend these few lesser known episodes. Maybe you’ll find a few you’ve never seen before.



10)The Rip Van Winkle CaperCBS_TWILIGHT_ZONE_The Rip Van Winkle CaperA scientist lacking morals comes up with an idea for a heist. Steal a gold shipment and lay low for a while. But for this scientist he uses cryogenic freezing to ensure that they stay a sleep long enough for society to forget about the crime. Then they live life as wealthy free men and get away with the heist of a century. What the scientist’s clever idea didn’t account for is the unknown variables of his amoral accomplices. Having an intellectual man in cahoots with lowlife thugs is an interesting idea that is given a great sci fi twist.



9)Walking Distance

twilightzone_Walking Distance
There comes a time in everyone’s life where you longingly look to your childhood and wish somehow you could return to the innocence and joy of it. Perhaps giving up the toil and problems of mature, grown up life. This is a story about a man who realizes this as he walks back into his past, walking a few miles to his home town from where his car breaks down. He finds his family but soon realizes this world has no place for him, he doesn’t belong. Returning to the present he matures with the understanding that you can never go back.



8)It’s a Good Life

Twilight Zone It’s a Good Life
This one works like a thought experiment. What would things be like if some whimsical kid was given godlike power? Chaos and fear is the fabric that this world is made of as a young boy gets everything his heart’s desire, except for one thing, willingly obedience of adults. For that he uses fear as the adults try to keep up appearances of joy that masks the fear in the hearts of the victims of this powerful child.



7)Death ship

Twilight Zone Death ship
An Earth spaceship enters orbit on a distant world on a mission of exploration. Seeing the forbidding image of a crashed ship just like their own on the view screen, they throw caution to the wind and land on the surface to investigate. With no other Earth ships in that sector, this crashed ship could be some image of a possible future of the crew’s demise. Every step is second guessed and the Captain (Jack Klugman) relentlessly pursues the answers. But in an odd twist of circumstance, his virtue of drive and determination turns against them all, putting them in a kind of purgatory where there is no escape.



6)Long Distance Call

twilight zone Long Distance Call
One of the few episodes to be shot on video tape instead of film to save money, this one has the side effect of a look of realism. It looks and feels more modern as it resembles much later news broadcasts. However the plot is much darker than other episodes that usually make lists. It’s about a grandmother who dies but has an exceptionally strong link to her grandson. She continues to stay in contact with the boy from the afterlife, not stopping at instigating the boy’s suicide to have him come closer to her if he should die as a consequence. Probably the most disturbing Twilight Zone episode



 

5)Escape Clause

Twilight Zone Escape Clause
This is a simple story that feels like a stage drama. A truly horrible man makes a deal with the devil for immortality. There are no tricks or strings attached as Walter Bedeker (David Wayne) learns that not only he is immortal but invulnerable as well. No stubbed toes or loss of limbs to worry about. The deal is legitimate, no tricks from the devil. He soon starts about setting up horrific accidents that he walks away from unscathed and threatens to sue people, claiming that they are responsible. His wife, growing worried about him complains, Walter tires of her and pushes her out the window, you see an invincible man needn’t fear any consequences. This story’s draw isn’t so much the plot but more of a character piece with some great acting in an interesting situation.



 

4)The Midnight Sun

Twilight Zone the-midnight-sun-03
Especially poignant in an age of global warming, Norma (Lois Nettleton) lives on a world where the Earth’s orbit has shifted ever so slightly and the temperature of the Earth steadily increasing, slowly baking everyone alive. Just imagine seeing a lobster being boiled alive, slowly and inevitably being tortured to death. There are some stunning visuals as you see Norma’s painting start to melt while she loses it and screams.

Twilight Zone The Midnight Sun Paint Melt Gif

Death by sudden global warming is horrific but its her scream at the end that will get you. This is a tale about how delicate our climate is and much we depend on its delicate balance. Way ahead of its time.

Twilight Zone The Midnight Sun Thermostat

 



3) Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room

Twilight Zone Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room

Much like many small time college plays this one is a character piece, with just only two actors in a small squalid hotel room as the only set. Jackie Rhoades plays a small wormy man, Joe Mantell, who has been forced to kill an innocent man. A gangster knows that Joe is weak and bullies him into doing the murder to mask the blame of the crime. If he doesn’t kill the victim the gangster will kill Joe, he is too weak willed to stand up to him. Spending the night in a hotel room before the murder Joe is faced with the only person that can stand up to the gangster, the man in the mirror.

Twilight Zone Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room 2

The actor plays two roles arguing with himself, using some clever special effects and great acting to convince the audience of the turmoil inside of Joe. This is story about an internal struggle about strength and courage and is something that a lot of people can identify with.

It is also of some note that this episode bore some influence on the films Taxi Driver and Dirty Harry who both had characters talking to themselves in the mirror saying “You Talking To me?” Afterall, everyone can identify with Joe arguing with himself in the mirror, trying to remake himself into a better person, reaching deep down inside to find courage. Who hasn’t tried this at some point in their life?



2) The Lonely

twilight-zone-the-lonely
A criminal is abandoned on a barren asteroid in a futuristic society who has opted for outer space isolation instead of execution. Taking pity on the convict, one of the deliverymen smuggles a large box to the marooned prisoner. In it, the convict finds an android woman, a companion. An idea that is popular with a lot of sci fi stories, it considers the idea of machines replacing humans, and possibly the need for companionship as well, swapping warmth and affection with diodes and circuitry. Despite the convict’s repulsion of an artificial companion, his dire loneliness compels him otherwise.



1)The Obsolete Man

Twilight Zone The Obsolete Man
By far my favorite Twilight Zone episode, but not appearing on many top ten lists. Starring the incredible Burgess Meredith as a bookworm man cleverly named Romney Wordsworth. In a totalitarian future where thoughts are controlled and written word as well, Wordsworth rebels by having some contraband, he has been hording books. He tries no subterfuge about this and is quickly caught by the state police who put him on trial for his crime of simply loving literature. In an odd peculiarity of the society, perhaps call it over confidence, the accused is allowed to choose his form of execution. The meek Wordsworth turns this into one last opportunity to embarrass the state. Along with excellent character acting this episode it has some great visuals and an excellent climax.

Twilight Zone The Obsolete Man Gif

I know a lot of people rank Meredith’s other episode, “Time Enough at Last”, as better and perhaps it is, but “The Obsolete Man” is still my favorite. Partly because love of literature isn’t seen as negatively like in “Time Enough.” Instead it’s seen as a strength, strong enough to stand against the state. Showing that the written word is stronger than actions, ideas stronger than brute force. The bookworm doesn’t conquer the state in the end but the state doesn’t win either.

What do you think of my list? What other Twilight Zone episodes would make yours? Comment below with your favorite Twilight Zone episodes.

Top 10 Lesser Known Twilight Zone Episodes

Person of Interest – Looking Back at Four Seasons

One of the best science fiction themed shows on television right now is Person of Interest.  The show has a fascinating premise based on very real modern day concerns, and it is executed beautifully.  In case you’re not familiar with this show, episodes in the first season start with this voiceover:

“You are being watched. The government has a secret system: a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know, because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people; people like you. Crimes the government considered ‘irrelevant’. They wouldn’t act, so I decided I would. But I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You’ll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number’s up… we’ll find you”.

When the show started, it felt like it was going to be yet another CBS crime procedural, but with a bit of a science fiction twist applied.  I loved the use of an artificial intelligence as part of the world building for this show, and the concept felt very timely in our post 9/11 world, but I honestly didn’t expect the show to become more than that.  Here are a few reasons why I feel that way.

 

Person of Interest: The Cast

Person of Interest - John ReeseFirst of all, this show has an amazing cast.

Jim Caviezel, as former CIA operative John Reese, is amazing.  As you gradually learn more about Mr. Reese, the decisions he’s made, and the things that he has lost over the years while attempting to serve his country, you can’t help but admire Jim Caviezel.  The character is generally played very calm and controlled, almost to the point that you think the character is just flat.  Which usually means boring.  But then you get a Reese-centric episode where you get a small glimpse at who he used to be, and why he is willing to put his life on the line for a complete stranger every week.  And it’s amazing.

Person of Interest - Joss CarterBefore all of the mainstream attention that Taraji P. Henson began gathering for her role on Empire, she played Detective Joss Carter.  Oh how I wish she had received all that critical and media attention for this role instead of her role on Empire, because I loved her on this show.  She is absolutely amazing as a straight-laced, by the rules cop that gradually gets pulled into situations that are way beyond her pay-grade.  And she never flinches or backs down.  Right up until the end.

Amy Acker plays Samantha Groves, but prefers to be called by the alias ‘Root’.  Root initially appears on the show as an antagonist to our heroes. and operates essentially as a digital hired gun.  Then she discovers The Machine, which Root consistently refers to as a ‘she’ Person of Interest - Samantha Groves, aka Rootand reveres as something approaching a deity.  I’m a long-time Joss Whedon fan, so the first role I ever saw Amy Acker in was in Angel.  She took one of the most lovable characters on the show, and broke my heart when she died, and then blew my mind when she convincingly pulled off the transformation from the nerdy-girl Fred to ancient demon queen Illyria.  So whenever Amy shows up on TV, I pay attention, because she’s awesome.

Sameen Shaw, played by Sarah Shahi, used to be a government assassin.  The Machine was programed to provide ‘relevant’ data, meaning potential terrorist threats to the country, to the government, Person of Interest - Sameen Shawwhile our cast of heroes makes use of the ‘irrelevant’ data to try and prevent bad things from happening on a more individual level.  Sameen used to be one of the people that would take care of the terrorist threats.  But like Reese, she was eventually betrayed and other agents were ordered to kill her for knowing too much.

There’s an additional police detective that works with our heroes, Lionel Fusco, played by Kevin Chapman.  I’ve never seen him in other roles before, so don’t have as much to say about him.  Lionel is a formerly dirty cop that Reese essentially blackmails into helping him whenever he needs it.  He ‘affectionately’ refers to Reese as ‘wonder boy’ and Shaw as “cuckoo’s nest”.

Person of Interest - Harold FinchThe creator of The Machine, a man known to the rest of the cast as Harold Finch, is portrayed by Michael Emerson.  ‘Harold Finch’ is apparently one of many aliases the character has used over the years.  Anyone who says they weren’t constantly creeped out by Benjamin Linus on Lost has no soul.  Michael Emerson was constantly, amazingly creepy, yet it was somehow always an excellent performance.  Having him portray a good guy seemed really strange to me at first, but it only took one episodes for me to stop thinking of him as Ben Linus.  He’s just that good.

 

Person of Interest: The Flashbacks

Flashback

Speaking of Lost, back in the day it blew my mind with how it used flashbacks to gradually illuminate the motivations behind the various plane crash survivors.  At the time, it felt almost revolutionary.  So the fact that Person of Interest also uses flashbacks for a very similar purpose isn’t particularly novel anymore.  But how they are implemented is fascinating.

With Lost, the flashbacks were just the past (I’m intentionally ignoring the ‘future’ and ‘afterlife’ flashes from the last two seasons).  The entire purpose behind them was to show the audience how a particular character became who and what they are in the present.  They weren’t really memories, because the flashbacks contained information that the characters were unaware of.  They existed in the show strictly for our viewing pleasure.

In Person of Interest, the flashbacks are provided directly by The Machine as it accesses archival footage of the character in question.  So not only are we learning more about what has led a character to be where he or she is now, but so is The Machine.  We’re watching it learn and make connections about these characters in order to figure out what it means to be human for these particular people.

Person of Interest: The Story (Spoilers!)

The first two seasons of the show feel almost like a standard crime procedural that’s standard for CBS.  We gradually get more information about the characters through flashbacks, and slowly learn more about the origin of The Machine and why it operates the way it does.  And it executes those tasks really well.

But there’s a pretty big shift in the third season of the show, as we witness the emergence of a second artificial intelligence that competes with The Machine.  To quote Root as the situation is developing: “Do you really want to see what it looks like when two gods go to war?”

Season 3 culminates in this new A.I., named Samaritan, going online and taking over the task of provided ‘relevant’ data to the government, but it is run and controlled by a private corporation called Decima Technologies, which has its own agenda.  The Machine is still active and providing the ‘irrelevant’ data to our heroes, but Season 4 has a distinctly different tone than the preceding 3 seasons.  Before, our heroes were working off the grid and tried to avoid interacting with law enforcement at all unless Detective Carter or Fusco could be involved.  Now they’re practically scrambling for their lives every episode because if Samaritan finds even one of them, they could all end up dead.

Person of Interest: The Future

The first three seasons of Person of Interest just recently became available for streaming on Netflix, with the fourth season slated to become available at the end of the month.  So now is a great time to catch up on the show if you haven’t seen it before.

The unhappy news is that the commissioned fifth season will only be 13 episodes long, and will debut as a mid-season replacement.  The producers of the show have said that they’re approaching the fifth seasons as if it will be the final season of the show.

On the one hand this makes me incredibly sad, because I want this show to keep going for a while longer.  It’s fun to watch, touches on difficult but relevant ideas and questions, and the cast is incredible.  (Yes, I’m having a hard time not raving about the cast.)

But if the show has to end, I’m glad it will get a deliberate conclusion to the series.  Very few things bother me more these days than a TV show, especially a science fiction TV show, canceled before being able to conclude the story it was telling.

So if you’re for any reason looking for something new to watch, you should definitely check out Person of Interest.

Have you seen the series? What are your thoughts? Are you hoping for anything specific in its 5th and possibly final season? Comment below!

Person of Interest – Looking Back at Four Seasons

Time Salvager, by Wesley Chu – Review

Shortly after the Hugo Awards every year, I look over the list of winners (and other nominees) to get an idea of what I should read in the near future.  One of the big awards given out at WorldCon is the Campbell Award, which is NOT a Hugo Award, but it is awarded as part of the Hugo Awards ceremony.  From the Wikipedia article on the subject, the Campbell Award is “given annually to the best new writer whose first professional work of science fiction or fantasy was published within the two previous calendar years”.

This year, the winner of the Campbell Award is Wesley Chu.  To be honest, I had never heard of him before.  But walking through Barnes & Noble the other day, I stumbled upon his latest book, Time Salvager.  Since I now recognized his name as the winner of the Campbell Award, I went ahead and picked it up.  I’m almost always looking for something new and fun to read, and the book looked like it had an interesting premise:  (No spoilers beyond what you could read on the book jacket.)

 

The bulk of the story is set in the 26th century, by which humanity has spread out through most of the solar system.  But due to the variety of wars and disasters that have occurred over the centuries resources are scarce and a great deal of scientific knowledge has been lost.  And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the Earth is nearly uninhabitable.

James is a Chronman, a time traveler, from this era.  His job, as supervised by ChronCom, is to travel into the past when valuable items (usually power generators) were lost, usually because they were destroyed, and retrieve them prior to their destruction.  That way very few “temporal ripples” are created since the end result is generally the same for the people in that particular place and time.

There are a set of Time Laws that govern the appropriate use of time travel, the first and most important of which is that you should NEVER bring a living being from the past into the present.

James breaks that rule when he brings a scientist from the past, Elise Kim, into the present.  Which makes both James and Kim fugitives in an incredibly hostile environment.

I was hooked pretty strongly through most of the book.  It’s incredibly well written, and the very rarely slows down.

Time Salvager

I have two complaints about how Time Salvager progresses, however.  First, James begins to suffer physical and mental side-effects due to his frequent time travel while on the run without having access to proper medical care.  But those complications seem to be largely unnecessary.  They don’t seem to progress much beyond the state of “he has them”.  They don’t get particularly worse or better as the story progresses, and only once do they seem to directly interfere with an objective that James is trying to accomplish.

Second, and much more importantly for me, is that it feels like the book is meant to be the first in a series, but doesn’t do enough to provide a sense of closure or accomplishment within the scope of itself.  A variety of discoveries and revelations are made throughout the course of the book, but ultimately it feels like all the characters manage to accomplish is a brief reprieve until the next book.  None of the big ‘problems’ that are introduced are resolved, and we’re treated to a brief scene at the end where we get a peak that things are about to get much worse for the protagonists.

Given the scope of the problems that are introduced as the story progresses, and believe me they are pretty big, I understand that I’m probably asking a lot to have a better sense of resolution in this one book.  Because those problems are huge.  It just doesn’t change the fact that I felt more than a little frustrated and a little let down once I finished reading the final page.

All in all, I would highly recommend picking up Time Salvager.  It’s a rather inventive and new (for me at least) application for how to use time travel in a story.  The characters are very well fleshed out and realized characters, and the writing is great.  I just wish that those characters had managed to accomplish a bit more than they managed to in this one novel.

Time Salvager, by Wesley Chu – Review

CBS Says ‘No’ to Star Trek: Renegades

Space might be the finale frontier but Star Trek is still trying to return to the small screen after the 2005 cancellation of Enterprise. Many have pitched show concepts and ideas but only a few have really made anything concrete. One of the biggest is Star Trek: Renegades, a crowd-funded fan film starring many Trek alum including Walter Koenig, Manu Intiraymi, Gary Graham, Robert Picardo, and Tim Russ who also directed the film\pilot. What is Star Trek: Renegades?

According to writer Ethan H. Calk:

It is nearly ten years after Voyager’s return from the Delta Quadrant, and the Federation is in a crisis. The Federation’s main suppliers of dilithium crystals are disappearing. Space and time have folded around several planets, effectively isolating them from any contact with outside worlds. And this phenomenon is not natural – someone or something is causing this to happen. This necessitates drastic measures; some of which are outside the Federation’s normal jurisdiction. For this, Admiral Pavel Chekov, head of Starfleet Intelligence, turns to Commander Tuvok, Voyager’s former security officer and current head of the newly reorganized Section 31. Tuvok must put together a new covert, renegade crew – mostly outcasts and rogues – even criminals. This new crew is tasked with finding out what is causing the folding of time and space, and stopping it – at all costs. But will they be able to put aside their differences and stop trying to kill one another in time to accomplish their mission?

So, the film takes place after the close of Star Trek: Voyager, leaving many of our Delta quadrant friends in the mix. The film disregards the semi-canon Star Trek Online video game and doesn’t really mess with the future prime timeline used in J.J. Abrams’ 2009 film. Instead, Star Trek: Renegades takes a darker, smaller look at Trek with a focus on a small group of outcasts who are the Federation’s only hope. It’s an attempt to bend and maybe even break the rules set by Gene Roddenberry. The Federation of Renegades is surely no utopia.

Star Trek: Renegades Props

How did the Kickstarter fare? Decently well, in fact. It managed to get funded with $242,483 with an initial goal of $200,000. It was definitely no major hit like LeVar Burton’s Reading Rainbow campaign which brought in over five times their original million dollar goal. But, reaching a goal is reaching a goal and the film\pilot for Renegades was funded and has been produced. Backers of the Kickstarter have even received their digital versions of the film over the last week with physical copies of DVDs and Blu-Rays going into production in the next couple of weeks.

Star Trek: Renegades DVD and Blu-Ray

Everything sounds like it’s been going well for the fan-made film. Well, everything is not holodeck credits and shore-leave for Renegades. The primary goal of the campaign was to produce a pilot strong enough to pitch to CBS, the owner of the Star Trek television rights. We now know how that went. CBS has decided to pass on Renegades for reasons we were not told by the production team. Trek rights are complicated due to Paramount and CBS sharing them along with the new JJ-verse and the love for the original Prime timeline. If I were to speculate, I’d say that CBS either can’t make a show in the Prime timeline due to Paramount’s newer movies (don’t forget that Star Trek Beyond is supposedly coming out in 2016 for the 50th anniversary of the franchise), or CBS already has plans to bring Star Trek back to TV in the near future and Renegades didn’t fit with those plans. Either way, we won’t be seeing Renegades on CBS or any official network.

Star Trek: Renegades Icarus

This is not the end though. The Renegades team announced to their Kickstarter Backers that all is not lost. Since CBS has passed on the pilot, they are going to turn the film into the pilot of a fan-made web series, or as they put it “an independently produced fan-supported Internet TV Series!” Their plan is to leverage the pilot\film as the first episode and produce a total of 12 episodes a year using a fairly normal TV series production schedule with episodes being produced in the span of a week or so. Walter Koenig has agreed to stay on through Episode 3 which will be the conclusion to the Episode 2 cliffhanger but after that, he plans to retire his Chekov character. According to the report, the Renegades team is actively writing the second and third episodes and a new crowd-funding effort is to be announced soon.

If you’re not familiar with the production, check out the trailers here.

Are you disappointed that Star Trek: Renegades will not be picked up by CBS? Are you glad it’s staying a fan-made production? Let us know in the comments and look for our review of the pilot in the coming weeks. Oh, and live long and prosper.

CBS Says ‘No’ to Star Trek: Renegades

A Cybernetic Cinderella

These days it feels like we are inundated with re-tellings and re-imaginings of Fairy Tales. Despite very favorable reviews from people I respect, I was hesitant to begin reading Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, because it was (yet another) Cinderella story. Ultimately I decided to take the plunge, and I’m glad that I did.

The Good

The initial setup for Cinder’s story is very easy to map to the elements of the classic story: the step-mother and step-sisters, the prince, the upcoming ball. But as this story is set in a futuristic world of robots and cybernetics, we get some interesting twists on the original story as well.  Instead of talking animals, we get a quirky household servant android.

The primary antagonist for the book, and the series, is the Lunar Queen Levana. A colony, established on the moon hundreds of years ago, has developed into a powerful nation, and the Levana is apparently intent on conquering Earth, one way or another. Part of the reason the Lunars are so powerful is because of their ability to manipulate bioelectric energy, sometimes helpfully referred to as ‘magic’ when discussed by Earth-based characters. This power allows a Lunar to manipulate what another character sees, feels, and does when under the direct influence of the Lunar. The character easily maps to the “evil queen/witch” character found in many fairy tales, and in particular to the queen in Snow White, given the cover text from later books in the series.

One of the interesting twists that I really appreciated is the cultural perception of cyborgs, and how it influences the characters in the story. Cyborgs are literally viewed as being less than human. And as Cinder is a cyborg, that little detail gives the step-mother character an additional motivation for her unkindness, as well as significantly changing Cinder’s motivations. This Cinderella doesn’t want to go to the ball. Cinder has completely different plans for her life. As you might expect, she does eventually attend the ball, but largely for reasons other than what you generally expect from a Cinderella story.

The Bad

There’s an additional ‘special’ ability that Cinder is revealed to have late in the book, and one of the other characters mentions that it is very distinctive and reminiscent of another character, but we get no additional information on what that means. The connection between Cinder and that other character have already been established by that point in the story, so telling us “your power looks a lot like hers”, but not telling us what that means or what it looks like, is frustrating as it feels like the author is deliberately withholding information that you would expect to be revealed at this point.

(I do see the irony in expressing frustration with how vague the book was regarding this point, while myself remaining vague about what that power is and the ‘connection to another character’, but I’m chalking that one up to trying to be as spoiler-free as possible.)

The most frustrating part of the book is how it ends, because it feels very much like the story had just gotten really moving.  In essence, the story ends shortly after Cinder has fled the ball, and nothing has really been resolved. It feels very much like this story was written with the expectation that you are going to have to pick up the next book in the series to see how this plays out, even though the next book in the series appears to center, at least initially, on a completely different character.

The Verdict

Cinder is a very fun book to read, and, in all likelihood, I’ll be picking up the sequel in the near future to see how the story proceeds. Cinder is very much not the traditional helpless girl, waiting for a prince to save her. She’s competent, motivated, and tries to do what is best for herself and the people she cares about. It’s the best kind of princess story these days. The prince is there, and he’s part of the story. But it really is Cinder’s story, and does not revolve around him as the center of her universe. And that’s wonderfully refreshing take on this story.

A Cybernetic Cinderella

Star Wars Rebels Season 2 Movie Review

Things were looking pretty good for our heroes at the end of Star Wars Rebels Season 1; however, the Empire is not one to turn the other cheek and makes sure that the rebels pay for their actions by sending along an expert in dealing with such matters, Darth Vader.

WARNING: SPOILERS ABOUND!

Overview

Following a huge victory at the end of season 1, Rebels picks up where it left off with the crew of the Ghost helping out the new rebel fleet. Some of the crew, in particular Kanan, feel a bit overwhelmed by their new circumstances. The idea of serving as a sort of intergalactic Robin Hood against the Empire was fulfilling. Fighting a full on fight against said Empire, on the other hand, is almost out of their league. So when the crew receive a message from Lothal concerning the smuggling of a high ranking official off world, it seems like the perfect opportunity to get more Imperial information as well as return to their roots in small-time rebellion; however, little do they know that this is a trap laid by none other than the Sith Lord, Darth Vader.

The Good

Kanan expresses his uneasiness with joining the larger rebel cause.

Kanan expresses his uneasiness with joining the larger rebel cause.

1. “The Siege of Lothal” changes the dynamic even more than the season finale. We honestly were not sure where the series was heading after finding out that the small band of rebels aboard the Ghost were actually one sect in a larger group. The option of them still operating in Lothal is completely thrown out by the end of this episode as Vader makes that an impossibility. Getting off of Lothal was a good and bold move on the show’s part, as it throws our characters out of their comfort zone.

2. Darth Vader is used properly and it looks like he will not return for quite awhile. At first, it seems that our heroes will outwit and escape Vader. This would have been a concern since Vader cannot lose like the villains in the previous season; however, “The Siege of Lothal” uses Vader perfectly. Even when it looks like the rebels had escaped Vader’s clutches, we find out that it was all apart of his plan. Also, as expected, Kanan and Ezra are no match for Vader in lightsaber combat. That scene, in and of itself, was an awesome treat to watch as Vader toyed with the duo.

Ezra and Kanan observe the destruction of Tarkintown.

Ezra and Kanan observe the destruction of Tarkintown.

3. The inhabitants of Lothal have had it rough. Many of them have had to move to Tarkintown, a refugee camp that the rebels often helped out. The name of Tarkintown is a clear call-out to the Hoovervilles of the 1930s when the poor would move to these places and mockingly name them after President Hoover, but Tarkintown also serves as an important plot point as it is burned to the ground by Darth Vader. Why did Vader do this? To take advantage of our heroes’ “weakness” for compassion. Watching Tarkintown burn into ashes really brought the idea home that there was little else our heroes could do in Lothal.

4. When Vader reported to the Emperor of his mission’s completion, we did not see the Emperor. Rather, we simply heard his voice (as performed by the very talented Sam Witwer). I am sort of hoping we do not see the Emperor’s face at all in the show, as his disembodied voice would make him more mysterious and foreboding. Of course, now that Vader knows Ahsoka lives and has already told the Emperor of this, we can only imagine what their plans might be. Vader clearly is not going to turn Ahsoka to the Darkside since he already informed the Emperor of her presence. Sith lords do not inform each other when they want to usurp the mantle of Dark Lord of the Sith.

The Bad

Darth Vader reports the status of his mission to the Emperor.

Darth Vader reports the status of his mission to the Emperor.

1. Within the first few minutes of the episode, John Williams’ music was already being used. I am not talking about a small theme. Rather, the show used quite a bit of the asteroid field music from The Empire Strikes Back for much of the scene. This was a problem throughout the first season, and, unfortunately, it would seem that it will be a problem in this season. George Lucas himself pushed the production team of the Clone Wars to use Williams’ music sparingly. That show would throw in a theme here and there, but we would never get a full track pulled from one of the films. Overusing John Williams’ themes and even copying and pasting them into the show, instead of creating new themes, not only devalues their worth but is also lazy.

2. Darth Vader’s voice sounded a little bit off. This is not a stab at the work of the awesome James Earl Jones; however, somebody in the sound department did not do the best job at making the voice sound mechanical. It actually sounded too mechanical. Maybe minimization is the goal of the show, but, for those of us who grew up on the original trilogy, this sounded wrong.

Meet Lando's droid (left), W1-E1, the droid with a Southern accent.

Meet Lando’s droid (left), W1-E1, the droid with a Southern accent.

3. Lando shows up again to help out the crew of the Ghost; however, this could easily have been handled by an unknown smuggler since Lando had a total of maybe thirty seconds of screen time. Minimizing nods to the original trilogy is key since they could steal the show from our core heroes… of course, I might be able to forgive this one since we were introduced to Lando’s awesome southern-accented droid.

Conclusion

“The Siege of Lothal” was a huge opening episode that set the course for the entire season. Our heroes no longer have a planet for their headquarters (poor Ezra’s old home was even destroyed), Vader and the Emperor are plotting, the rebel fleet is on the run, and, on top of that, it looks like we are getting a new Sith Inquisitor! There was very little not to like in this episode. All in all, season 2 is off to a great start.

 

Star Wars Rebels Season 2 Movie Review