The purpose of this blog is to have a little fun. It is NOT to start arguments. I don't profess to be an expert on Sci-fi, nor do I aspire to become an expert. You are welcome to comment on any and all content you find here. If my opinion differs from yours, as far as I am concerned, it's all okay. I will never say that you are wrong because you disagree with me, and I expect the same from those that comment here. Also, my audience on the blog will include some young people. Please govern your language when posting comments.

Posts will hopefully be regular based on the movies I see, the television shows I watch, and the books I read as well as what ever strikes me as noteworthy.

Spoilers will appear here and are welcome.

Friday, May 31, 2013

After Earth - A Pretty Good Film - Great Entertainment

After Earth (2013)


I just walked in the door after seeing After Earth.  What a fun film.  Realizing that the critics are doing a major pan job on this film, I find that it is a film worth watching.  This film doesn’t make you think, it’s just good sci-fi entertainment.  I was a little apprehensive considering who directs, M. Night Shyamalan.  I have never really cared for his previous work, but I was pleasantly surprised to see him breaking new ground in making a purely science fiction film that doesn’t include all of his usual heeby-jeebys.

One thousand years before the story begins, the Earth has become uninhabitable by humans for numerous reasons.  The entire population has moved to another planet they call Nova Prime.  Unfortunately, Nova Prime is also considered a sacred planet by a race of aliens that create monsters the humans call Ursa.  The Ursa have one purpose only, and that is to eradicate all human life from Nova Prime.  The Ursa have no sight and hunt their prey by detecting pheromones that humans emit when they are fearful of something.  There is almost no way to stop the Ursa because they have been genetically engineered to be virtually indestructible.  The rangers learn that there is a way to kill the Ursa but it takes a special weapon and Rangers who have the ability to Ghost, or bury their fear so they become undetectable.  Not all Rangers have this ability.  It runs strong in the Raige family.  For a more detailed description, see my book review for the prequel to the film entitled After Earth: A Perfect Beast.

The film opens with young Kitai Raige being rejected to become a Ranger.  Despite his appeal that being turned down will disappoint his father, Cypher Raige, who also happens to be the Supreme Commander of the Rangeers, he is still turned down.  Later that evening, the Raige is having a meal, and Kitai informs his father that he has been turned down.

Cypher has a mission that he has to accomplish, which is escorting a contained Ursa to another planet for study.  At the urging of his wife, Cypher decides to take his son along in an attempt to bond.  They leave Nova Prime and in route to their destination, the ship is disabled in an asteroid field and is forced to crash land.  Unfortunately, they are forced down on Earth, where every living thing left on the planet has evolved to be hostile to human life, and the atmosphere is also hostile to life.  Upon descent to the planet, the ship breaks in half and crashes killing almost everyone, at least in the forward section.  It is not known if the Ursa has survived the crash.  Cypher locates a rescue beacon that has been rendered inoperative in the crash.  He knows there is another beacon located in the tail section of the ship.  Unfortunately, he has both legs broken in the crash and the tail section of the ship is some 100 kilometers from the front section.  The only thing he can do is send Kitai to get it.

He outfits Kitai with a weapon and a backpack that will allow Cypher to monitor and guide Kitai as he tries to get to the beacon.  As Kitai moves through the wilderness, he encounters several different life forms that do indeed try to kill him, but his ranger training allows him to survive the attacks.  While Kitai is on his way, there is evidence that the Ursa has indeed survived and is stalking him.

Kitai reaches the tail section of the downed ship and recovers the beacon, which doesn’t work due to ionization in the atmosphere at his location.  So he reasons that he must find higher ground, and that is at the peak of an active volcano.

As Kitai reaches the peak, he remembers the words his father told him and a tragedy that happened to his sister at the hands of an Ursa and discovers his Ghosting abilities.  He defeats the Ursa and sets off the beacon.  Cypher and Kitai are rescued and the movie ends with a touching scene with father and son reaching an understanding.

There’s really nothing new in this film.  It is an age old story about a father and son at odds, and a kid facing seemingly impossible odds, and using his wits to save the day.  But it is the way it is told that makes it great.  I have always felt that Will Smith is an underrated actor, and his son has been panned for his earlier acting attempts, but they both show great acting chops in the film thanks to the directing of Shyamalan. 

For me, the most impressive part of this film is the scenery.  The vistas are beautiful.

So, as I said, there is nothing new here, it is just a fun film to see for pure entertainment.

By the way, reading the prequel book DID help me get an understanding of many parts of the film, including what an Ursa is, the nature of the weapon Kitai uses, what the Raige family represents, and so on.  I recommend reading the book before seeing the film, if you have the time.  If not, at least see my post on the book (follow the link above).

Well, there it is…


Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Look At Some New/Old Star Trek: Star Trek Continues: Pilgrim of Eternity

Star Trek Continues: Episode E01: Pilgrim of Eternity

Shortly after the premier at the Phoenix Comicon, it was announced on Facebook that the project to resurrect original series Star Trek had released their first episode of Star Trek Continues.  I had seen many promos for this on Facebook including cast pictures, interviews, and announcements of the premier.  Today I had a few minutes to kill so I sat down and watched this creation.

And I was totally blown away!

Pilgrim of Eternity opens with Captain Kirk staring down the barrel of a revolver in the hand of a character that looks a lot like Wyatt Earp from the TOS episode “Spectre of the Gun.”  At the word of Mr. Scott, the scene dissolves and we learn that the holotechnology is being introduced to for the first time on the Entereprise.

Kirk is alerted to come to the bridge where the ship encounters an object that is causing a dangerous power drain.  The object is ordered destroyed and Apollo appears on the bridge (incidentally, Apollo is played by the same actor that appeared in the TOS episode, “Who Mourns for Adonias”).  Apollo has aged and is near entering oblivion and requests that he be allowed to live out his life as a simple member of society somewhere.  Skeptical, Kirk refuses Apollo his request because of a fear that he will continue to behave as he did when the crew of the Enterprise first encountered him.  And Kirk’s fears are not without merit.

Michael Forest as Apollo: Then and Now
They later figure out that if they remove the extra organ that Apollo has that makes him draw energy from being worshipped as a god, it may allow him to actually live a normal life among humanoids.  However, after McCoy performs the surgery, it is discovered through an act of sacrifice, Apollo still has powers.

Vic Mignogna as James T. Kirk
This ‘new’ Star Trek is so close to the feel of the original series that it could actually be an episode from the late 1960’s, but the look of it is definitely of our time.  Everything about this is great.  The actors are right on, and the actor playing Captain Kirk is so close to perfect in channeling Kirk’s mannerisms and speech patterns, the difference isn’t worth noting.  The sets are precisely how they should be right down to the style of the chairs, hand phasers, and communicators.  In a word, it is magnificent.

Along with the brief introduction of the early holodeck, there is also the addition of a ships counselor.

This is classic Star Trek complete with a great story that has an ending with a message.  I think that gene Roddenberry would have approved.  And I hope you do too.

Enough of my prattle, you just have to see this for yourself.  Click HERE to see Star Trek Continues: Pilgrim of Eternity.

Well, there it is…


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Paradoxical Origins - A Review of Fringe: The Zodiac Paradox by Christa Faust

Fringe: The Zodiac Paradox by Christa Faust (2013)

With the television series done, author Christa Faust has penned the first of a trilogy of Fringe novels that are considered canon.  The Zodiac Paradox is the frist of the three novels that chronicles the activities in the early days before the television series began.

The novel opens with a view of a killer named Allan Mather, described as one who likes to kill.  He stalks young couples that are parked at notorious make-out places and kills them.  He is very methodical in how he goes about his business, planning everything to the letter and journaling his activities and his future plans in a notebook.  He is also in Fringe’s alternate universe.

Meanwhile, Walter Bishop and William Bell, fresh with their degrees from MIT, are performing an experiment near Reiden Lake – on themselves.  They are experimenting with a special blend of LSD that they designed to create a telepathic link between them, and it works, with some unfortunate side effects.  Their experiment opens a gateway that allows Allan to escape arrest in the alternate universe and enter our universe with his killer instinct intact and with some added powers as well.

Following a brief encounter with Walter and Bell, Allan heads to San Francisco to become the Zodiac Killer.  Felling their responsibility, Walter and Bell follow to try to put things right.  While in San Francisco, Walter and Bell meet up with Bell’s friend and future associate Nina Sharp, and together the three of them chase, and are chased through the streets and alley ways assisted by a group of characters that can only be describes as being free spirits (hippies).  While the trio pursue the Zodiac, they are in turn being sought after by the FBI who would love nothing better than to get the Zodiac to join them because one of the Zodiac’s weapons is an inner nuclear force that is unleashed when he kills and becomes excited.  Zodiac is hard to get close to because his nuclear force tends to leave gamma radiation behind.

In reality, the Zodiac (who was never caught) would announce his plans to authorities.  In the novel, he does this to hatch a plan to kill Walter, Bell, and Nina.  They are assisted by an FBI agent names Iverson who has ambitions to start the Fringe Division in the FBI, that branch of the agency that Fringe fans would be very familiar with.

This is an origin story that foreshadows the origins of not only the Fringe Division, but also the very early plans of the development and use of Cortexaphan, ties to the Alternate Universe, and the early role (very briefly) of the Observers in Fringe.

Told in the second person, Faust takes the reader on a ride through the hippie subculture of San Francisco.  Being from San Francisco myself, I can say that she has done her research on the City, and the late 1960’s to early 1970’s culture very well.  Her writing style also shows that when is well versed in the vernacular of the time.  I think that Fans of Fringe will appreciate this story.  I am not sure that I would tag this as a pure science fiction story, but rather a noir-ish adventure story with elements of science fiction, still not a bad read.

Well, there it is


Monday, May 27, 2013

Androids DO Dream - Book Review: STTNG: Cold Equations: The Persistence of Memory by David Alan Mack

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Cold Equations: The Persistence of Memory by David Alan Mack (2012)

I have read a number of Star Trek novels as you can see by looking through this blog and by the lists on the right side of the page.  Most of them have been very good incorporating characters that I know and introducing new characters, but this one has been a very unique reading experience for me in the main character, or at least what I would think of as the main character was written in the first person.

Persistence of Memory is broken into three parts with the first and third parts taking place a little over four years after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis; while the second part spans seventeen years following events that took place on TNG 3rd season episode “Brothers.”  The third part of the book brings story lines from the first part of the book together.

Geordi LaForge is contacted and asked to come to the Daystom Annex on Galore IV by Dr. Bruce Maddox to assist with the discovered Soong type android B4 (Nemesis).  One might recall that Maddox appeared in the TNG episode “Measure of a Man” in which he attempted to requisition Data from the Enterprise to be studied so Maddox could try to duplicate Soong’s work.  At any rate, B4 was in danger of a fatal cascade failure of his positronic net which would result in the loss of not only B4, but the memories that Data had uploaded into B4 before his demise in Nemesis.

As the Enterprise arrives at Galore, Maddox’s lab, where B4 and other Soong type androids are being kept for study, is broken into and the androids are taken.  Worf leads an away team to investigate the break in and a mysterious character is chased through the streets and underground passages of Galore, but this person escapes.  Knowing that the androids must still be on Galore, Picard blockades the planet to prevent an escape while the investigation continues.

The outcomes of the investigation are fruitless, so Picard lifts the blockade and soon a mysterious ship leaves Galore and rendezvous with a Breen vessel, and transfers the androids to the Breen.  Picard decides to follow the Breen to see what they are up to and what they plan to do with the androids.  And so ends part one of this tale.

Part two begins with the death of Noonien Soong, as depicted in the TNG Episode Brothers mentioned earlier.  While the episode ended with Soong sending Data back to the ship, we assume from the end of the television episode that after Data departs from Soong, he dies alone in his laboratory.  However this is not the case, as according to the David Mack, Soong drags himself into another lab underneath the dwelling that Soong lives in and promptly transfers his consciousness into an android body with abilities that were extraordinary, even by Soong standards we previously were aware of.

In part two of the novel, we get a narrative of the activities of Soong in his new android body over the next seventeen years.  He spends his time amassing vast wealth and working on a way to win back his one and only love; that being his former wife, Juliana.  Soon manages, with the help of his ship’s artificial intelligent computer, to keep track of any and all news that pertains to Data, Lore, and Juliana.  He learns of how Lore is finally deactivated by Data, how Juliana dies and is brought back to “life” by Emil Vaslovik (who turns out to be Flint from the TOS episode “Requiem for Mathusala), and of the discovery of B4 and the death of Data.

In part three, everything comes together as the Breen are found to be attempting to make thousands of Soong type androids to act as cannon fodder as part of their plan to become the dominant power in the Alpha Quadrant.

Soong makes the ultimate sacrifice at the end of the story as his focus shifts from reuniting with Juliana to saving “his boys.”

I found this story unique among the ones I have read so far because David Mack displays a very detailed knowledge of the Star Trek world and is clever enough to bring elements of many various stories together to make one hell of a good story.  His writing made vivid pictures in my mind as I read the story and I could hear the voices of the characters as I turned the pages.  I gained an appreciation of Noonien Soong as he grew from an old frail man, to a self-serving android, and finally discovering what really mattered to him in the end, and what he was willing to let go of.  The best part for me was how Mack took characters that appeared as guest stars in the series and gave them life, not to mention giving life to new character we hadn’t seen before.

This is a work of genius for fans of Star Trek and I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys a good read.

Well, there it is