Friday, December 14, 2007

R2-D2 "Astrocake Droid"

I baked and decorated an Artoo-Deetoo cake for my boyfriend's birthday :) This was an interesting experience since I've never really "decorated" a cake per se before. I mean, sure, I can bake one from a box and smear frosting all over it (who can't?), but doing artwork in the medium of cake and frosting? That's a different matter.

So I got these tubes of decorating frosting in black and blue with these plastic tips for making different shapes - but I really only needed the one that lets you draw lines. Working from a line drawing I'd made of Artoo I set about decorating. Took about an hour or so to carve the marble sheet cake into a vaguely Astromech silhouette and get it frosted. The final touch was to put some cherry Twizzlers on his feet for wiring.

Ok, so maybe I don't have a future as a pastry chef, but it was kind of a fun little "art project" and the best part was that I got to help EAT IT afterwards!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

MarsCon Masquerade Ball

What a party! This weekend (being the first one after Halloween) was the First Annual MarsCon Masquerade Ball. I have to say I had more fun in the four hours of this event than I've had in entire weekends of some sci-fi conventions. Ok, now one expects that for the "first annual" of any event there are going to be some bugs to shake out, right? In this case it was the D.J. cancelling at the last minute, which is obviously a major problem for a DANCE! Thankfully the Ball was saved by Matt B. stepping in to spin the tunes off his computer - and considering there was no Internet connection to grab songs off the web, and he had to work with whatever music was on-hand I think he did a fantastic job. Yeah, sure, there are the inevitable songs that clear the dance floor, and I think your generally nerdy/geeky crowd (especially the guys) have a natural aversion to the dance floor - but put on some Wierd Al or Star Wars Cantina music and it's a different story! Ok, yeah, I understand that if your average uncoordinated geek were to go to a trendy dance club (assuming they'd even be let in) it could be embarassing to do a twitchy, spastic dance in front of people who take "looking cool" seriously. But at a dance attended by your fellow geeks? Drink up a little liquid courage and shake your groove thing, baby! Ain't nobody gonna laugh at you.

There was also a costume contest (of course), typical Con-suite type snacks in another room upstairs where they were showing movies, and a cash bar. Whereas a weekend convention can be kind of expensive, admission to this was only $10 at the door! Ok, granted, you could easily spend a King's ransom at that cash bar - just make sure you've got a room for the night too. Speaking of rooms, this dance wasn't in the big ballroom, but one of the "conference" rooms (specifically one used for the Dealer Room at MarsCon I believe). Since it's the first year of this event they didn't know how many people would actually show up, and by the end of the night it was pretty packed in there and maybe more people would have hit the dance floor IF there'd been room for them. Hopefully next year they'll get the actual ballroom and more people will show up.

Ok, now there were a couple of odd things about going to this dance, especially since it's in the same hotel (Holiday Inn Select) as MarsCon. First of all, there was no waiting for an elevator. Yeah, I know, strange!! The other oddity was that there WAS a convention going on at the same time for Overeaters Anonymous (they had the main ballroom). Some of them seemed a little wierded out by all of us in costume running around - as mundanes usually are - though I did get a couple of compliments from their attendees on my costume :) I also explained to one little old lady that we were having our costume party that night because Halloween fell in the middle of the week which I guess made us all seem not quite so bizarre as being in costume in July or March (or any other non-Halloweeny time of year). Some photos from the event are already posted at THIS LINK.

Anyway, so what is my recommendation for the 2nd Annual MarsCon Masquerade Ball? GO, DRINK, DANCE!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

FallCon 2007

I finally attended my first MCBA FallCon! Well, the second day of it anyway. Quite a different affair from the other conventions I've attended in the sense that it was more akin to a Dealer's Room on steroids. In fact, most of the same tables of stuff I've seen at CONvergence and MarsCon - but in addition to them were all the "guest creators." Comic book artists, writers, colorists, inkers - you name it.

Really neat seeing all the different artistic styles and self-published/underground comics that are out there. Boggles the mind really. The downside was that it was unseasonably hot that entire weekend, and when you add hundreds of humans' worth of body heat to a confined space? Thankfully no spontaneous combustions.

Monday, September 10, 2007

New Fall SciFi Lineup

I was actually looking forward to the new Fall lineup of shows as it seemed the major networks had a lot of science-fiction shows in them! Well, now that I've seen some of it I'm not so jazzed about it all. Here's my run-down of what I've seen so far:

Masters of Science Fiction: Doing teleplays of short stories by the greats (or "masters" as they call them) of science fiction. Basically like a rehash of the Outer Limits, in fact could easily be mistaken for an episode of that show. Since the tales are based on the "hard sci-fi" (which some people prefer to call "speculative fiction" to differentiate it from the laser-space-battle kind) means this show is going to have a hard time keeping an audience. It's "too intellectual" for your average viewer (just as the stories on which the episodes are based are likely too heady for most casual readers). It had a horrible time-slot, ABC only ordered six episodes and then cancelled the airing of two of them. I highly doubt we'll be seeing any more of this show.

Eureka: The "smartest little town in America" is back with more stories of Global Dynamics and basement mad scientist experiments gone awry. I wasn't too happy with how they made Henry into a vengeful bad guy at the end of last season, and seeing him be so duplicitous with Carter (who *thinks* Henry is his best friend) is just sort of sad. As I write this it's already had it's "season finale" (in that way Sci-Fi Channel likes to show us half the season and then put it on hiatus until next spring) - the so-called last episode was something of a let-down really, compared to last year anyway. There really wasn't any kind of "cliff-hanger" to keep you salivating for the show's return. Makes me wonder if it WILL return, or if this show just went out with a whimper?

Reaper: Ok, not technically "science fiction" but you can definitely tell Kevin Smith's got his hands in it. Seems very much like a story that could take place in the same Universe as "Dogma." In fact, if you liked "Dogma" or "Clerks" you'll probably like this show. Basic gist is that there's a guy who works at a hardware store, college dropout, loser (you know the type) and his parents sold his soul to the Devil - not entirely intentionally, the Devil (of course) tricked them and takes possession of their son's soul on his 21st birthday. Good news! You can legally get drunk! Bad news: you work for the Devil now. If you remember the serious show "Brimstone" the premise is similar, except this is a comedy. Our hapless hero is charged with the duty of retrieving souls/demons who've escaped from Hell. Now that Eureka is done I'll be able to watch this without time-shifting my viewing. Speaking of time-shifting. . .

Journeyman: Kind of like a new version of "Quantum Leap" except he's not inhabiting the bodies of other people and he doesn't have an Al to tell him why he's there in the past. There's no mechanism explained for how he's travelling through time (even he doesn't know) but he's not the only one doing it. It's not necessarily a bad show, but the main character's time trips seem just as confusing and pointless for the audience as for him. At least with Quantum Leap we knew Sam had a mission to "set right what once went wrong." What Journeyman's purpose is could be anyone's guess.

Flash Gordon: If you read my prior review of the premier episode you already know I hate it. I have avoided watching any more of it, though from the ads and the few masochists out there who ARE watching it, I gather it did improve a bit (or their standard dropped, not sure). Still no spaceships in it, and based on what I've read in interviews with the show's creators there won't be. Sad. Really f---ing sad.

Bionic Woman: The premier episode was actually kind of boring until about the third act, which was only salvaged thanks to a half-way decent bionic battle between Jamie Sommers and a previous attempt at making a bionic woman soldier, now gone bad of course. I suppose there are plenty of young pups out there who weren't even alive when the original show aired, so the entire premise of a "bionic woman" had to be set up again, but it was just redundant for those of us who clearly recall the original series. After two episodes now I've seen THREE actors from the new "Battlestar Galactica" slumming it on this show (it's shot at the same studio in Canada, btw). Frankly I'd rather see more BG than BW on the menu, and if any more refugees from the Cylon Attack turn up I'm going to call this show "Battlestar Bionica." It *might* end up being a hit nonetheless, however, because it appears to have no real competition in it's Wednesday timeslot (which is why I'll probably keep watching).

Stargate: Atlantis: Picking up literally right where they left off last season, we finally get some resolution with the Replicator attack on Atlantis. Samantha Carter crosses over into the Atlantis storyline right off the bat, but so far only in a supporting role (though I'd generally describe the show as having an ensemble cast anyway). They not only resolve thier issues with flying the city, finding a new planet to hide out on that is unknown to either the Replicators or the Wraith, it appears they have even conscripted some unwitting allies into their struggle to stop the Wraith threat. I'm sure this season will have it's share of "filler" episodes establishing the character of the new additions to the cast, but it also appears to be advancing the overall plot nicely as well. Hopefully they're just getting going!

Heroes: Saving the best for last, Hereos is back for it's second season. They seem to be having a bit of trouble thinking up new powers for the "mutants" and I'm not feeling quite so anxious about the next episode as I was last season, but so far it's good. Especially the story with Hiro in fuedal Japan. I find it hard to believe that the Bennetts are really hiding out considering they have done nothing to alter their appearances, and Suresh seems rather careless in his communications with Mr. Bennett when they discuss their plans to bring down the "Company" (which Suresh has now infiltrated, but my bet is they're on to him already). Peter, thankfully, is NOT dead. Somehow, though, he's turned up chained inside a shipping container in Ireland with no memory of who he is or that he's got super-powers (though he finds out the latter soon enough). Sub-plots include a "plague" that kills people with powers and a serial killer who is taking out the "old guard" of the Company, like Hiro's dad and Mother Petrelli. Perhaps not as strong a start as last year, and certainly not quite the suspense and mystery now that we know the score, but entertaining nonetheless.

Friday, August 10, 2007

New "Flash Gordon" Fizzles

When I first heard the announcement that they were going to do a "Flash Gordon" series I was excited. One of the books I read over and over when I was growing up was one my Dad had owned as a kid - "Flash Gordon On the Planet Mongo" published in 1934. On New Years Eve one of the local TV stations would run a marathon of Flash Gordon serials through the night and I'd stay up with my Dad and watch them. When the 1980's movie with the Queen soundtrack came out of course I had to see it. Yes it was campy, but also didn't stray too far from the source material. It's too bad Sci-Fi Channel decided to "re-imagine" this classic, because when they did they got it all wrong in every possible way.

Flash is a team player, whether it's on the Polo Grounds or Football field. His name might evoke notions of a marathon runner, but it's wrong for his idiom. Yes, Flash is supposed to be the All-American Boy who is good to his mother, but he shouldn't still be LIVING with her.

If they hadn't made a point of TELLING us Dale Arden and Flash had been a couple you'd have thought they were estranged siblings.

Dammit, I like my Ming's Merciless. Oh, and add Megalomaniacal too. Less like Donald Trump and more like Adolph Hitler. Hmm, my theory is that maybe "Ming the Merciless" was this Ming's granddad, but he's building a kinder, gentler Mongo with at least some mercy. Emperor Ming is supposed to be badass, he's the original "Grim Shady" Palpatine tried to emulate! Chaotica in the "Captain Proton" episodes of Voyager was able to get the character right in style if not in name. Why was this beyond the grasp of Sci-Fi's writers?

Dr. Zarkov is supposed to be a brilliant, if misunderstood, scientific genius. NOT the neurotic lab assistant of Flash's missing Dad (and don't even get me started on the tired old "Find His Father" plot device).

No Zeppelinesque rocket ships? Jeez, dangle them on obvious strings we can see in the shot, stick sparklers in their tailpipe - it's Flash F---ing Gordon, we'd be okay with it! Nope, they decide to go with dimensional gateways, but don't even make them look as nice as the one's from "Sliders," and Quinn Mallory made his with a remote control he modded in his basement! Just how low budget was this stinker, anyway?

And, oh yes, let's shoot yet another sci-fi show in the forests of Canada, pretend it's the United States, and then use bad special effects to connect it to a strange alien world or dimension. Don't you think "Stargate SG-1" beat that dead horse enough in 10 years on the air? I actually miss the days when sci-fi shows did all their location shoots in front of that same angled rock in the California desert. And, you know, if you HAVE to shoot in Canada, the X-Files did the New Mexico scenes of the "Anasazi" episodes in a quarry up there - couldn't THAT desolate backdrop be Mongo? Please?

Let's see, what else? Pacing of the story: slow to stalled. Writing: formulaic and generally terrible. Acting: wooden, with no two actors ever demonstrating on-screen chemistry. Oh, and lastly if Sci-Fi is going to insist on using the Queen theme song in all the ads, the least they could do is actually use it in the show, though Freddie Mercury would probably roll over in his grave and then rise seeking vengeance and succulent brains if they did. But who doesn't want a Zombie Mercury belting out an undead rendition of "Princes of the Universe?" It would certainly be light years more entertaining than this dreck.

Well, if I'm looking for a silver lining, I guess my Friday nights are still free, since there's clearly nothing to rush home and watch.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The End of Doctor Who

If you're going to do a three-part season finale it should be the strongest, bestest story of the whole season. It isn't. "Blink" remains the one really shiny episodes of this series. So what do we find out? Well, who the other of the "Last of the Time Lords" is (though it's not a big surprise, frankly), it's the Master. We possibly find out who the "Face of Bo" is/was/will be - unless it's just a coinicidence - it's Capt. Jack. We also FINALLY get to see Gallifrey (albeit in a flashback sequence).

Extra stupid stuff? The "Darth Vader funeral pyre" ending for the Master, but wait! Let's toss in the "Ming the Merciless pick the ring out of the ashes" ending as well! Clearly the ring holds a Timelord consciousness the same as the pocket watch did, and the woman's hand with the firely red fingernails is obviously the Master's wife - or will be the Master the next time we see him (her). It's not like the Master hasn't stolen a body or two before, right? But, bar none, the WORST part is the whole "Dobby Doctor" effect. Shame on you RTD for subjecting us to that!

The set-up for the next Christmas special is questionable as well. I sincerely hope this show gets back on track in Series 4 because I was - if you hadn't guessed - generally disappointed in with this years' offering.

Saturday, June 9, 2007


Ok, I'm just going to say it. This is the best episode I've seen so far in Series Three. The irony is that the Doctor is in very little of the episode (titled "Blink"), and most of the time he is - we only see him on a television screen. Because of the holiday specials they do each year, contractually it means they have to do one regular season episode that is a bit "light" on the Doctor and his companion, and I'm guessing that this must be that episode. Nonetheless, it was very well done! It is loosely based on a short story that appeared in the 2006 Doctor Who Annual, and having already read that story I can tell you this version is lightyears and away superior to the inspiration piece. Alright then, so here's the premise: Quantum creatures who feed on the "potential" life energy of beings, but if they are looked upon they "cease to exist" appearing only as stone statues. They're very lonely creatures too, because they can never look upon one another either. But if they aren't being observed, then they exist, and THAT is when they can get you! They "kill you nicely" (as the Doctor puts it) by sending you randomly back in time to live out your life in the past. Then they "feed" on the potential energy of the days you *should* have lived, but never got to live. They're hiding out at some condemned mansion, where everyone who goes there disappears - including the Doctor and Martha who end up sent back to 1969 while the TARDIS remains in 2007. There's some good temporal paradox/self-fulfilling stuff in the episode, and the way the statue/creatures are done is definitely spooky, and the epilogue may leave you never trusting a statue again. It's really too bad this season didn't seem to get it's sea-legs until episode TEN.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Bloody Human

This was a mid-season two-parter, with Part I being titled "Human Nature" and Part II titled "Family of Blood." The premise is that the Doctor and Martha are being chased by some aliens known as "The Family" who have a fairly limited lifespan, that is unless they can feed off the Doctor's Timelord energy. Despite their "mayfly-like" lifespans, they can apparently track the Doctor anywhere in time and space - so he and Martha need to hide somewhere and wait out the aliens' lifespans (which is only a couple months or so). However, the Doctor's biology is too unique and would allow them to easily find him no matter where he goes - so the Doctor uses a contraption he "never thought he'd have to use" to re-write his own biology to that of a normal human being. He stores his Timelord consciousness in a device that looks like a normal pocket watch. Then he and Martha hide out in 1914 Great Britain - with the Doctor playing school teacher, and Martha as a maid (having to endure the racism of the era as well). Problems arise because the Doctor doesn't remember who he is, falls in love with the school nurse, and Martha fears she's losing him. She's also pissed off that he's fallen in love with someone other than her. The Family does track them down, however, because the watch with the Doctor's conscience is stolen by a school boy who opens it. He's kinda psychic anyway, apparently, and can "hear" the Doctor speaking to him from the watch. The Family each steal the bodies of some locals, animate an army of scarecrows, and go about killing people until the Doctor accepts that he is not human, downloads his true self from the watch, and tricks The Family consequently blowing up their cloaked space ship. But not before the Doctor gets a glimpse of the life he might have had as a human - with a wife, kids, grandchildren, and a death in old age. YAWN! The Doctor deserves better than an average, boring, early 20th Century life! Thankfully he's never relegated to that mundane existence. The Family, however, realize that when the Doctor ran from them he wasn't doing so because he feared them. "He was being compassionate." Because the Doctor gives the members of the Family what they wanted - IMMORTALITY - just not how they wanted it: trapped in mirrors, eternally falling into the event horizon of a black hole, perpetual (but apparently conscious) stasis as a scarecrow - you know, that sort of thing. All in all not a terrible story, and it did revisit the Doctor's claim that he has little mercy left for such evil-doers.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Caution: "42" May Cause A Burning Sensation

This episode is evidence that my fears are being confirmed. I said before the start of Series 3 how I was concerned RTD was spreading himself too thinly over too many Doctor Who-related projects, and the likely outcome was they'd ALL suffer. I'm sorry, but this season just can't seem to get it's legs. When you title an episode of a BBC show "42" you should at least have a passing reference to the late, great Douglas Adams' "Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe." Nope, the number in this case refers to a "real time" episode where they have 42 minutes to save their butts before the cargo frieghter spaceship they're on crashes into a star. While that may sound like an exciting set-up for a good show, this episode has its problems for sure. First of all it is WAY too similar to last season's spectacularly done "Impossible Planet/Satan Pit" two-parter, but is nowhere near as good. It's not only that this one doesn't have the time to do decent character development, they don't even bother to try. When the "possessed" guys start killing off the crew there's really no reason the audience should care whether any (or all) of them are killed off. As you might recall in last season's "firey" episode it was the Ood who got possessed by the entity. This time it was just a couple of space-faring idiot humans. Possessed by what, you ask? Well, the star they're falling into of course! Why didn't I see it before? OBVIOUSLY the star is really a living, sentient being. Jeez, think the writers were watching re-runs of "Andromeda" when they came up with that? Too bad for them "Andromeda" did the concept better (with Avatars). Saying "Andromeda" did something better is, well, um, that's not good. Then the Doctor gets possessed by the star shortly after realizing it's alive - that leads to a particular line the truly rubbed me the wrong way. The Doctor says he's scared. The Doctor isn't supposed to be afraid, he's the frickin' DOCTOR. Well, I'll just hope that this season will get better, but it's pretty clear to me that the quality of the show isn't up to the same level it was for Series One or Two.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Lazarus Pit

Hmm. Not sure what to say about the Doctor Who episode titled "The Lazarus Experiment." I know during the Christmas concert special David Tennant made a reference to "Dr. Lazarus" and his experiment, but of course the episode hadn't aired yet so nobody knew what he was talking about.

This episode left me kind of flat. It is clearly setting up something with the whole "this information comes from Harold Saxon himself" regarding who the Doctor really is - and it's pretty bloody obvious that Torchwood is involved. Okay, for a low budget BBC show the monster wasn't half bad, if you (as you usually have to) discount the whole issue of the creature's MASS - especially when bundling itself into a human size body again.

But I'm growing a bit tired of these sorts of episodes - with the whole "Oh let's visit the family of the Doctor's companion" and going back to Earth YET AGAIN, and of course we only get to see Cardiff (though sometimes it stands in for London), but I remember when the Doctor actually WENT places. Yes, most of those planets looked curiously like a quarry, but if you think about it most planets probably DO. At any rate, it feels like a bit of a "filler" or "set-up" episode, where RTD was really thinking about some other story down the line. Well, maybe he should consider just skipping over these lame scripts and go for the GOOD story?

My verdict? I hope the "Lazarus Experiment" isn't resurrected anytime soon.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

So You Say You Want An Evolution?

This entry is going to be about both "Daleks In Manhattan" and "Evolution of the Daleks" since they're actually a single story (continuing the new Doctor Who series practice of not simply calling two-parters "Part I" and "Part II" - though I don't know why they don't do that).

"Daleks In Manhattan" reveals to us where the "Cult of Skaro" disappeared to when they executed an emergency temporal jump after the Dalek-Cyberman war. Poor little Daleks, stranded in New York City during the Great Depression. Somehow (which isn't explained) they take over the Empire State Building construction project. Not only are they modifying the building plans for some nefarious purpose (do Daleks have any other kind of purpose?), they're kidnapping transients from the Hoovervilles and experimenting on them. Dumb ones are crossed with pigs and turned into oinking slaves. Smart ones apparently get a different treatment - the Daleks are trying to modify the genetic structure and resurrect their almost dead species! Though WHY they are trying to do this is beyond me, assuming the Cult of Skaro were aware of Davros' attempts to do something similar. By the end of the episode the Dalek Sek has transgenetically merged with a human to become a hybrid - though, again, I have to wonder how he missed that whole business with the "Human Factor" that the Doctor introduced to Daleks ages ago.

"Evolution of the Daleks" picks up on Sek's plan to merge humans and Daleks. Apparently the leader of the Cult of Skaro is quite an admirer of humanity's ability to survive - while lamenting the "purity" of the Daleks having been their own undoing. Too bad for Sek that the other members of the Cult don't share his "vision" for the future evolution of the Daleks. Somehow (again this is not explained) these FOUR last Daleks have kidnapped and wiped the minds of literally THOUSANDS of human beings. Granted, with the mass migrations of the Great Depression it's likely mass disappearances might go unnoticed, but HOW did they do this, exactly? Plus, Sek says they have other such repositories just like the one under the Empire State Building. Regardless, these people are effectively already dead as human beings - their minds are wiped with no way to put them back. That's probably the ONLY reason the Doctor agrees to actually HELP Sek with his plan to use them for the creation of a hybrid Dalek-Human race, which the Doctor sort of agrees to transplant to somewhere else since Earth can't support two sentient species (so the Doctor says). The problem, though, is the other members of the Cult of Skaro aren't on board with this plan. They don't want touchy-feely Daleks that can dance, and love, and sing. They want human bodies with minds that think like Daleks (you know the drill: obey! exterminate! obey!). When the Doctor realizes the plan to send the Daleks in a kinder, gentler direction is doomed he knows he has to intercept the Gamma Radiation burst from a solar flare from powering the Dalek's transgenic process. He doesn't get the collectors all removed in time and has to take the brunt of the blast - though for a Timelord that's not a big deal. He's absorbed the energy of the time stream before, what's a little gamma radiation? By doing so, though, he introduces just a hint of Gallifreyan traits into the hybrids, enough to give them free will and question the Cult of Skaro's orders. A shoot-out between two of the Cult and the hybrids takes care of those Daleks, but the remaining one triggers a self-destruct signal on the hybrids just before he makes another "emergency temporal jump" to escape.

The supporting characters - the showgirl "Tullulla," her part-piggyfied boyfriend "Laslo," and a couple of Hoovervillians don't add that much to the story, and frankly had the Daleks killed them all it wouldn't have affected the story that much. I didn't think this story really had enough "meat" to be a two-parter, and probably would have been better served as a one-hour episode since they didn't bother to do much in the way of character development anyway (not like the "Planet Hell" story last season, which was excellent!). Compressing it would have also improved the pacing and made it a bit more exciting. I'm guessing, though, the Doctor is going to run into that Dalek again - most likely in the far flung future.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Dalek's Take Manhattan?

Daleks Take Manhattan?
As I suspected, this week's Doctor Who episode "Daleks In Manhattan" is a two-parter (title makes me think of the "Muppets Take Manhattan" LOL). I'll wait to post about it in detail after I've seen the second part. I had seen (as I'm sure many fans did) the magazine cover with the spoiler photo, so the "Final Experiment" result revealed at the end of Part I wasn't that much of a surprise.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


For Episode 3 of Series 3 the Doctor re-visits "New Earth" in the year 5 billion.

Even though the Doctor said he'd take Martha on "one trip" he decides one to the past and one to the future would be fair. He takes her to New New York - and Martha does call him out over taking her to the same places he took Rose. The Doctor also lies to her about Gallifrey when she asks if they can visit his home, but he had his reasons.

NNY isn't quite as spiffy as it was when he last visited. This time they land in the "Under City" - specifically "Pharmacytown" - which is basically a slum where drug dealers do their business in patches that do very specific things - like "Forget" or "Happy" or "Sleep."

Martha gets kidnapped there by a newlywed couple who need another adult to gain clearance for the "Express Lane" (i.e., Ride Share) on the freeway. The freeway is an underground tunnel between NNY and New New Jersey - and it's been jammed up in gridlock for 20 years!! The tunnel, of course, is full of toxic exhaust so nobody "gets out and walks" (never mind the 1000 foot fall to the bottom of the tunnel). The Doctor, of course, sets out to rescue Martha, and in the process discovers some giant crab creatures at the bottom of the tunnel - who are responsible for the people who disappear when they get into the Express Lane. Whether or not the crabs are just destroying the boxy hover-vans or if they're also eating the occupants isn't spelled out in the episode.

The cat nurse from the "New Earth" episode in Series 2 shows up again - she's reformed her ways from experimenting on people and has devoted her life to caring for the Face of Bo. He sensed the Doctors arrival and sent the nurse into the freeway tunnel to find him, which she does (packing a gun "in case of pirates" so she says). She beams the Doctor off the freeway just as he had almost reached Martha. They rematerialize in the Senate Temple - where everyone is long since dead! In the "Upper City" only the Face of Bo and his nurse survived a plague. A plague caused by an interaction with a drug patch called "Bliss." The last things the Senate did was seal off the Under City and quarantine the planet for 100 years. Nobody in the Under City had any idea that there were no people nor authorities anymore - they just sat in traffic for years and years on end. The plague is long since over - the virus burned itself out. But there isn't enough power to un-seal the Under City - until the Doctor does a bit of rewiring and the Face of Bo gives up his own last energy to free everyone. Not, of course, before he reveals the "secret" he said he would tell the Doctor when they would meet "one more, final time." The secret is (drum roll please) - the Doctor is NOT the last of the Time Lords! However, the Doctor tells Martha that he thinks the Face of Bo was mistaken. Some possibilities that spring to mind, if the Face of Bo is correct, would be 1. The Master (of course), for how often has he been presumed dead only to resurface? 2. The Rani - the Doctor and she clearly had some history, she's also a renegade and I think was an unlikely recruit for the Time War with the Daleks, plus she's probably regenerated so they can easily recast the role. 3. Romana - which depends on whether you take the canonical slant that she was still in the dimension between N-Space and E-Space during the Time War, or if you take the non-canon view that she got out of there, returned to Gallifrey and became Lady President. She, too, would presumably have regenerated by now. Unlikely suspects, I think, would be the Doctor's grand-daughter, Susan. She may have been from Gallifrey, but it was never clear if she was part human and she never went through the Academy and therefore wasn't a Time Lady. Though we don't know what ever happened to her. I am really hoping it's either the Rani or Romana. The Rani would be a better plot choice because she and the Doctor - last of their kind - are unlikely to get along.

Ardal O'Hanlon (you may know him from the Brit-Com series "My Hero" or "Father Ted") has a nice bit part in the episode under the heavy prosthetics of a male cat person named "Brannigan." I really hope we see him again in a future episode, but I suppose that depends on whether or not the Doctor and Mary revisit the year 5 billion again.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

FREE Sci-Fi Video Games

Before I go on I should probably disclose the fact that I suck at video games. Always have. Probably a good thing, though, or I’d disappear into a digital haze of alternate realities and never be seen again. Nevertheless, I recently ran across some FREE sci-fi games that I found fun - even if I was quickly blown up.

Battlestar Galactica - Beyond the Red Line
A stand-alone mod of “Freespace 2″ that kicks butt! The fully playable “demo” was released just in time for the end of the current season of the tv series - so if you can’t wait until 2008 to see some Toasters get frakked up, this is worth a look. It also INCLUDES the “Mission Editor” so if you want to you can create your own missions - both single player and multiplayer. The included demo game and training sessions do a wonderful job of reproducing the distorted cockpit radio coms. Where audio files haven’t been created it can use the Microsoft Speech SDK to read the text. The contrails on Vipers and Raiders alone are worth sliding behind the joystick. (Hint: If you go to the game’s forums there is a “soundtrack” you can download, along with some add-on 3rd Party Missions if you don’t want to build your own).

Babylon 5: I’ve Found Her - Danger and Opportunity
A freeware space combat simulator based in the Babylon 5 Universe. “I’ve found her” is the last line Valen transmitted from Babylon 4. “Danger and Opportunity” is a prequel to the main game, which apparently isn’t finished yet. “D&O,” however, has eight fully playable missions (including 3 training missions). This game rivals a lot of commercial software - if you miss B5, and were ticked when the “Into the Fire” game was canceled, this just might be your game.

Vega Trek
“Vega Trek” is a mod of the game “Vega Strike.” There are a lot of options on how to play the game from the predictable “I’m a Starfleet Captain” to “Maquis” fighter, or lowly “Cargo hauler” just trying to get by. This obviously isn’t a top-of-the-line game, though the graphics aren’t any worse than most of the commercial Star Trek games I’ve seen. Comes with a number of missions from which to choose.

And, lastly, this isn’t actually a “game” per se, but it’s a space flight simulator. Nothing is shooting at you, you don’t get to shoot at anything else, but you do get realistic flight characteristics, a gazillion controls and panels, and just about any sci-fi space ship has been modeled for it. Check it out at:

I mentioned this in a previous post, but it bears mentioning again: I’d highly recommend the “Firefly Jumbo 2006” add-on. You not only get a pretty darned good recreation of a Firefly class ship (it’s not actually supposed to BE “Serenity”), it also has a cargo “Mule” to play with and two shuttlecraft that can each be flown fully independent of the main ship. The downside of this simulator is that distances are as realistic as the flight physics - it takes FOREVER to get anywhere (even with a “Super Firefly Drive”) and once you get there about all you can do is offload your cargo. Then again, Firefly class ships don’t HAVE weapons anyway. At least there aren’t any Reavers after you.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

"Shakespeare Code"

While the first episode of Series 3 was a bit weak, imo, the second episode "The Shakespeare Code," more than makes up for it! This episode was every bit as strong as the better episodes of Series 1 & 2. I felt the BBC did a pretty good job on the budget for this one too, not just for the obvious special effects shots (for the spectacular finish, of course), but also in the cityscapes of London in 1599.

The opening of the episode actually felt more like the start of an episode of "Angel" of "Buffy" than "Doctor Who," but that's a GOOD thing so far as I'm concerned. They also bring up something I specifically recall from an episode of "Angel" regarding the power of words and a universe where magic IS the science. It becomes quite obvious in this one just why the Doctor has been so careful not to let anyone ever know his TRUE name, for that would give others potential power over him.

The portrayal of William Shakespeare is refreshing - that he's unlike the way history has remembered him. The constant "line dropping" is actually a good running gag through the episode too. Quite interesting that he sees right through the Doctor and Martha, and was "too smart" to be fooled by the Doctor's "psychic paper."

The big question remaining at the end of the episode is what is the Doctor going to do that makes Queen Elizabeth I so mad at him? However, since the Doctor hadn't ever met her before he had no clue! Time travel is funny that way. Perhaps that story will be revealed later in the season?

Next weeks episode looks to be a good one as well - with the Doctor once again meeting the Face of Bo in New New York. The question on my mind? In Series 2 didn't the Face of Bo say he would only meet the Doctor one more time, and that some great secret would be revealed then? Definitely a must-see one!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

I'm a leaf on the wind. . .watch how I soar.

Ok, I admit it. I suck at video games. The last video games I was any good at were on a Commodore64, and I wasn't a wiz on those either. One of the few games I used to be ok at was "Spitfire 1940" but only if I was in the simulator "training" mode. If I actually tried to PLAY the game and someone was shooting at me, then I quickly became a casualty of war. That was the first flight sim I played with that attempted to be "realistic" in how it handled. By which I mean you had to tap a key to operate the oil pump during a steep climb or the engine would blow up, or how you'd crash at high speed with flaps, or how you'd crash if you lowered your gear too soon - or, well, I basically crashed a lot. Which was also probably realistic to what would have happened to me in a real plane, but at least with a flight sim I can walk away from them.

So recently I found "Orbiter" which is a pretty cool SPACE flight simulator. Oh, and it's FREE! I admit I only skimmed through the JPL "Basics of Space Flight" before my first take-off, and I have no clue what most of the many, MANY flight controls mean or do, but I got into space on my very first try. That might have had something to do with the ship I was using - a pretty nice "Firefly" recreation. Actually that doesn't do it justice - it's more than just a ship like the one from the "Firefly" series and "Serenity" movie. It also includes the "Cargo Mule" and some cargo platforms, plus both shuttlecraft - which can each be flown independently from the main ship. No "Alliance" ships are going to be shooting at you, and you're confined to the Earth's solar system (I read someone is building a solar system based on the planets in "Firefly" but if they've finished it I wasn't able to find it anywhere). The main ship, in addition to thrusters and the VTOL engines, also has the "Firefly Drive." Actually it has the "standard" one, and an "illegally modified Super Firefly Drive" as well - depending on which key you use to activate it. I got the sound add-on as well and pointed the playlist to my "Serenity" soundtrack MP3s, which made for a cool musical flourish once I broke the surly bonds of gravity and punched into orbit.

One disappointment is that, even with the "super" engine, and you can clearly see you're going like - well, a rocket - away from the planet, you become painfully aware of one fact: space is big. As Douglas Adams wrote: "It's mind numbingly big. You can't even begin to imagine how big it is." Granted you can speed things up with the "Timewarp" function, but it STILL takes a long time to even get from the Earth to the Moon. And once you get there, what are you going to DO there? Pretty much nothing. Maybe unload your cargo? Whoopie!

That's the downside of a "realistic" spaceflight simulator. The distances and travel times are realistic too, even with a fantasy spaceship with a fictional drive. The physics are also realistic - so if you're trying to hit a moving target like a moon, well, it's a moving target. There's also gravity - shut off your engines before you're in orbit and you WILL fall back to the surface (but at least the "damage" engine isn't very realistic - you won't have to utter "We're gonna explode? I don't wanna explode"). But cut it close to a moon and you might find yourself in a gravitational slingshot into a direction you hadn't expected - and even if you turn around with your engines at full thrust you'll run out of fuel while that moon continues to shrink into the distance ("Curse your sudden, but inevitable betrayal!"). If you're really keen to see the Solar System I'd recommend the "Scenario editor" add-on, so you can just START your flight on Mars or Europa or wherever - because you'll run out fuel or die of boredome LONG before you actually fly there from Earth. Unless, or course, there's an easy way to "Warp" places that I haven't figured out yet.

Still, if you want to learn how to REALLY pilot a Firefly (or a gazillion OTHER sci-fi ships that have been modeled), if you want to experience the realistic "excitement" of hauling crap from one planet to another, then "Orbiter" is worth a look.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Doctor Is In

The first episode of Series 3 of the new "Doctor Who" has aired. Personally I felt it wasn't as strong an opening as Series 1 & 2 had, which makes me concerned that Russell T. Davies is possibly spreading himself too thin with oversight of too many Who-related projects (in addition to Doctor Who's third season there is also the 13 part animated series for Children's BBC, the "Sarah Jane Smith Adventures" has been picked up for a debut season, and "Torchwood" is working on its second season). Reminds me a bit of when Joss Whedon was simultaneously working on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Angel," and "Firefly" all at the same time - in my opinion both Buffy and Angel suffered for it as his attention was clearly on Firefly (too bad Fox Broadcasting's attention wasn't on it).


When I first saw still shots of the aliens from "Smith & Jones" (the first episode of Series 3) I thought "Cool! They're going to re-do the Sontarans!" I mean, look at the publicity shot of one of them with the helmet on - especially when viewed mostly from the front, and darn it, if that doesn't scream "Sontaran" I don't know what does. But, sadly, they are not new Sontarans with a bit of literal Rhinoplasty. Frankly, they reminded me a bit more of the Vogons from "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy."
It was also obvious why the Doctor would choose Martha as his new companion. She wasn't flustered by clearly hearing two hearts, she didn't lose her head when the hospital was scooped up to the Moon, nor when the aliens came, and she was willing to risk stepping out on the balcony, even though she didn't know if it might kill her. Though did they really have to "hang a lantern" on the fact she's not going to really replace Rose by actually having the Doctor SAY that to her? They also alluded to Rose when the Doctor grabbed Martha's hand and said "Run" (which, as you might recall, was the first thing the Doctor ever said to Rose).

So, anyway, good to see the Doctor back in action, and the previews for episode 2 look pretty good so maybe it was just a weak start.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Blue Mars

Well I didn’t get to MarsCon in Bloomington, MN, then again it turns out a lot of people didn’t get to it thanks to the blizzard (though the snow wasn’t the reason I couldn’t go). I was a bit bummed out about it until I talked with two of my friends who did go. They both said it was obvious there weren’t as many people there as in past years - apparently MarCon attracts more outstate and out-of-state attendees than I thought - and that it was pretty slow/dead/laid-back. There were some thoughts that if MarsCon continues to lose attendance it will first turn into a “RelaxaCon” and then just disappear (though it could rebound next year - it’s the 10th Anniversary). Which is a shame because it’s a nice break from the Winter blahs and they do tend to get decent guests - but I have little doubt the Minnesota winter weather hurts it, just more-so than usual this year.

Friday, March 9, 2007

J.J. Abrams Wired

Wired news reporter Kim Zetter interviews J.J. Abrams, though I have to wonder why Zetter bothered given that Abrams is remaining tight-lipped on the new Trek Film. Basically nothing is revealed in the interview that hasn’t been officially announced (or leaked) elsewhere. Yes, we already KNOW it’s going to be about the early days of Kirk and Spock (Shatner blabbed that months ago), and we already KNOW Abrams is going to direct it (Paramount officially announced that), yes we already KNOW who the scriptwriters are (we found that out when Rick Berman’s bunch were shut out of the project).
I know some people think Abrams is going to breathe new life into Star Trek, other people positively cringe at the thought of him being involved. Personally, I’m adopting a wait-and-see on this project. I like Lost for the most part, I have yet to actually see Alias, but those I know who are into that show seem to really love it (I was waiting for the entire series to be released on DVD and then I planned to watch the whole thing - something I haven’t done yet as I don’t have the spare cash to buy it and I’m hoping one of my friends who has been collecting the DVDs will loan them to me), like most people I had no interest in MI:III - though I think Tom Cruise going bonkers had more to do with that than Abrams. Going back to Felicity, I remember I watched the first season but quickly lost interest and now I can’t even recall what it was about - other than a young woman named “Felicity” and that it’s ratings slumped after she got a haircut, leading me to believe the most compelling aspect of the show was the star’s long curly locks (shees!).
So will J.J. Abrams RUIN or RESSURECT the Star Trek franchise? Guess we’ll have to wait and see - and hopefully whomever gets cast in the lead roles won’t “find religion” and publicly go nuts before the movie release, and let’s pray Abrams won’t decide a youthful Spock needs a crazy new hair-do that fans view as a hair-don’t, and especially let’s hope their Starfleet shuttle isn’t brought down on a wierd, uncharted planet dotted with abandoned, underground hatches left-over from some clandestine “Section 31″ experiment that produced an evil entity in the form of a dark cloud that kills people in the jungle. No, wait, now that I think of it that last one sounds like it COULD have been an episode of Star Trek. *shrugs*

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Build Your Own Replicator?

Rapid prototyping and parts production in the comfort of your own home (or starship). “Rapid” being a totally subjective term, however. But, whether you’re conducting experiments with slime mold colonies, mixing CAD with fancy cake frosting, or maybe doing an epoxy prop replica, this is probably as close as you’re gonna get to having your own Replicator. It’s called “Fab@Home” and it’s an open source project that will run you around $2500 in parts (as opposed to the $100K for an industrial model). Too bad nobody is replicating the replicators with their replicator. . .yet.

Want a REAL Tricorder?

Ok, so it’s a bit more clunky than even TOS era tricorders, but maybe they’ll have this one scaled down a bit in 300 years:

Of course it’s not the first attempt to make a real Tricorder. A Canadian company made the TR-107, which offered even more Tricordery features, such as an EMF Meter, Light Meter, Weather Station, Color Analyzer, and just for good measure a “Stardate” clock/calendar function. I seem to recall reading somewhere, however, that the TR-107 is no longer in production - maybe you can find one in a dealer’s room at a Con though.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Answering the Call of Cthulu

I discovered H.P. Lovecraft when the 1985 “Re-Animator” film came out on home video, followed the next year by “From Beyond.” Sure, they were low-budget films with bad acting and crappy effects - but I’ve been a longtime fan of “Doctor Who” and one thing that show taught me is this: you can forgive just about anything about the production quality so long as you’ve got a great story. I’m amazed at how pervasive Lovecraft’s ideas are in the modern horror-fantasy genre - yet his actual stories tend to be made into lackluster films. That’s probably because he wrote more about ideas than people. Heck, some of his characters don’t even get names!

I heard someone say a long time ago that his “masterpiece” work, the “Call of Cthulu,” was never going to be properly adapted to film. First of all it jumps all over the world and through time, so there’s the production cost issues of just getting the scenery right. The other problem is, well, it’s an H.P. Lovecraft story. Film makers and goers tend to like “character” stories, and Cthulu really isn’t one. So they stick a bunch of human-interest sub-plots onto Lovecraft’s story and Viola! You’ve turned it to crap and missed the nihilistic point of Lovecraft.

So I recently heard of a silent film adaptation of “Call of Cthulu” that I’m now quite interested in seeing. Granted, I’ve probably seen more silent films than your average film goer, thanks in part to my Film Studies courses in college, a friend who was majoring in Cinema, and the fact that I had rented pretty much every “talkie” at my local video store, and when I first got broadband I found a number of places online where I could watch all the old public-domain movies I wanted. I have to say, too, that Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” is still among, not just my favorite silent films, but all-time favorite films. I’m not a purist about it though, I also like the Georgio Moroder version with the rock soundtrack. I’m all for anything that makes classics more attractive and accessible to a modern audience, lest they otherwise become forgotten entirely.

Well, it appears that “silent films” haven’t been forgotten. WIRED recently did a piece on the resurgence in production of silent films as a challenging sub-genre of film production. I also recently saw a silent sci-fi film made by Iowa college students that aired on my local cable access channel. Normally I don’t stop on cable access, but when you see a b&w film without any dialogue featuring a woman with a ray gun shooting at some kind of evil probe - well, I don’t know about you, but I just HAVE to see how that turns out! Unfortunately I never did find out what that project was called since I caught it after the opening credits. Well, back to the H.P. Lovecraft thing, a group in Chicago has now adapted “Call of Cthulu” to the silent film genre. I’ve only seen the trailer, but it looks like they got the feel of a 1920’s era silent movie down pretty well, and the film-makers claim that they were able to stay more true to Lovecraft’s story by not having to deal with character dialogue.

If you’d like to check it out, info and the trailer are on the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society web site.

On a related note, I was sad to see that Cthulu Coffee is closing up shop. I remember them at CONvergence 2003. You can still download PDF files of their MANY convention posters with clever slogans, as well as buy Cthulu logo goodies from their cafe press shop. Perhaps they’ll find someone who also loves Lovecraft and worships the “bean of darkness” to continue it?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Shorting "Hobbit"

I have to say I’m not surprised that New Line Cinema uses questionable accounting practices to make sure their films aren’t profitable - thereby screwing the actual CREATIVE people involved in those films out of money. Peter Jackson made a series of films that are clearly cinema masterpieces, and they obviously made a pile of money bigger than Orodruin. Of course, studios screwing talent out of money is “business as usual” in the entertainment industry, as is gutting the creative integrity of projects. I mean, yeah, there’s a reason George Lucas prefers to work outside of the studio system. So Peter Jackson sues New Line, New Line’s Robert Shaye rips on Jackson as being too difficult to work with, Jackson bails on the “Hobbit” project, and Shaye is unapologetic.
So the “Hobbit” movie, which I’m sure would have been done brilliantly by Jackson, now is up in the air. Then I saw this today on SCI-FI Wire:

“Shaye also declined to comment on reports that Spider-Man director Sam Raimi has been asked to direct The Hobbit. He said, however, that although there was no workable script yet for the film, he intended to release it in 2009.”

Ok, so Sam Rami would probably do justice to the material - he hasn’t steered us wrong with Spiderman (yet). Though I’m sure Rami’s take on the story would be quite different from Jacksons, that doesn’t necessarily mean it would be bad. No, it’s the second part of that quote that makes me expect the “Hobbit” is going to suck - they have no workable script, yet it’s slated for a 2009 release?!? Um, you mean to say that this project, which is already a book, has already been made into an animated film, and most likely has a bunch of script-adaptations floating around Hollywood, doesn’t have a “workable” script yet? I find that hard to believe, but if true it means this film is going to a rush-job and probably LOOK like it was slapped together by a money-grubbing studio with no more interest in the story than how much money they can squeeze from Tolkien fans, who they know will go see it no matter how bad it is.
As long as they keep Joel Shumacher, Micheal Bay, and Barry Sonnenfeld away from it! Think Rami thoughts. Think Rami thoughts. Go to your happy place.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Get Your Trek Fix!

Ok, so maybe not everyone can watch the DS9/TNG/Voyager re-runs on SpikeTV or catch the Enterprise re-runs on Sci-Fi Channel. Maybe not everyone can wait for the next Trek movie or DVD box set release. Well, if you’ve got a broadband connection you’re in luck! Just because Paramount doesn’t think we need any new Trek series doesn’t mean fans had to accept that line of reasoning (since it was “highly illogical, Captain”). It has come to my attention there are some Star Trek fans out there who have heard of all the buzz regarding Star Wars fan films, but were unaware of the fan films (and ongoing SERIES) set in the Trek Universe. So, regarding this blog post as a public service, here is a list of the ones I know of (these are the “serious” ones, not parodies):

USS Justice “Tales of the Seventh Fleet”

Live action with keyed CGI sets and locations. I haven’t actually watched any of these yet, but the uniforms indicate it is set in the “Wrath of Khan” era or later.

Starship Exeter
Live action shot on sets and locations. I think this one really captures the look and feel of TOS. Only one completed episode so far, though.

Star Trek: Hidden Frontiers

Live action with keyed CGI sets and locations. Set in the ST:TNG/DS9/Voyager Era. There are SEVEN SEASONS of episodes to keep you busy for a while. They've finally decided to wrap up the series as well, so you might want to go watch them while they still have a web site!

Star Trek: New Voyages

Shot on sets and locations. Not just set in the TOS era, it is intended to be the “next season” of TOS - with fan actors playing Kirk, Spock, et al. Personally I think “Exeter” is doing a much better job because “New Voyages” tries to cram too much into the episodes, detracting from the story.

Starship Farragut

Shot on sets and locations. TOS Era. They’ve only got 2 episodes done, which I haven’t watched yet.

Star Trek: Dark Armada

live action with keyed CGI sets and locations. Set around 2380 (TNG Movies/DS9/Voyager Era), I’ve only seen the trailer.

Star Trek: Horizon

live action with keyed CGI sets and locations. Another one set around 2380 (TNG Movies/DS9/Voyager Era). They’re doing a mini-series of 45 minute episodes they hope to have done sometime this year.

Star Trek: Excalibur

Set in the TOS era it is live action shot on sets and locations, or at least it will be. These poor folks apparently had a landlord who destroyed their sets and now they’re in a legal battle over it. Now you know why so many fan films use chroma-key and CGI sets!

Star Trek: The Legacy

live action shot on sets and locations. TOS & TNG Eras. You may have seen Denise Crosby visit them in “Trekkies 2?

Star Trek Aurora

computer animated film about merchant ships. Set in 2270 (between TOS & TMP)

Borg War

Machinima animated (view it @ ). I haven’t watched all of it yet. I’m not a big fan of “machinima” animation.

USS Intrepid

live action with keyed CGI sets and locations. TNG Movies/DS9/Voyager Era. I’ve only watched their trailer so far.

Star Trek Pioneers

TNG Movies/DS9/Voyager Era (circa 2380). Audio Drama

Star Trek: Section 31

TNG Movies/DS9/Voyager Era (circa 2380). Audio Drama

Star Trek Unity

Still in production, but based on their teaser trailer I think it’s set between ENT & TOS
Their site indicates they’re planning Audio and Video episodes.

And if you like “Star Trek: The Animated Series” you might also enjoy:

Okay, so it’s not particularly animated (it’s a web comic), but hey! It’s MORE Trek, right?