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Doctor Who Series 5 & 6 April 29, 2012

Posted by oldboy in : Science Fiction, Time Travel , add a comment

Series 5
Or series 1 or series 11.1 or series 31

If I were to sell someone on this series of Doctor Who I might say it’s the Sci-fi version of Harry Potter. That might be a stretch for some but I believe this new series with Matt Smith as the Doctor and Steven Moffat producing has a lot of magic, fantasy and mythology playing throughout it. Not to mention it opens like a fairy tale, the Doctor and his Tardis falling out of the sky and being found by a little girl who discovers a crazy lanky man who is also discovering himself. This is the bond that leads them to their future friendship and for the young girl Amy Pond it’s a lifetime fascination with a young wizard.. I mean Timelord! Sorry, a Time Lord has his blue box (broom) and sonic screwdriver (wand). Seriously, it’s a fairy tale in the making all the way up to the last episode of series 5 where it shows that the memory of a young girl is what keeps this fabulous character in existence.

I have to take my hat off to Moffat pictured above. The Doctor Who fan has written some of my favorite episodes in the most recent series of Doctor Who and taking over at series 5 is no easy task. A lot of the mystery and fantastic nature of the Doctor has been done at the start of the 2005 when Russel T Davis restarted the series. The relationship between Rose and the Doctor was extra special because a lot of the focus was placed on the wonder of their journey, Rose seeing the end of the world in the future, returning to the past and her feet touching the ground of London in the 19th century. A lot of emphasis was put on the wonder of it all. Unfortunately it’s not something you can repeat with each companion without it getting stale.

Series 5 gets going quickly and it gives the impression of something quite epic spreading itself out across time and space. The crack in time is a nice plot device that is better than just having a word or name that crops up every episode. I also like how the lid is blown off it about midway through the series at the worst possible time when the Doctor is fighting the Weeping Angels. Another creation by Steven Moffat. Season 5 was probably one of the best series so far.

We are not worthy!

Series 6
It was this series that blew the lid off the River Song mystery. I have always liked the character of River Song and genuinely looked forward to seeing her future adventures with the Doctor from the time she was introduced in the episodes Forest of the Dead/Silence in the Library. Her episodes have been some of the best and most interesting in Moffat’s run at ‘Who’ but I do have one little nitpick about how he went about it.

Why was there mystery surrounding river Song?

Ok, really the answer is, for TV purposes, to keep the audience tuning in and giving something for their brains to chew on. A character that people had wanted to see return and had great chemistry with the Doctor. Regardless of that, and on a purely story level why did there need to be the question “Who is River Song?” because since her introduction in series 4 my answer had always been “She’s a future Companion of the Doctor that he may have fallen in Love with”. The idea that her background needed to be explored, that there was something beyond that was unnecessary in my view. I didn’t need to know where she got her name, who her parents were or why she was born! A person’s life doesn’t need to be so exciting or linked to so many aspects of the Doctor to make them interesting. This is what us geeks refer to as “Small Universe Syndrome”.

The mystery and story that “I” wanted to see was “Why would the Doctor tell her his name?”. How did the Doctor and River Song get so close that the Doctor would tell her his name because as the Doctor says there is only “one” reason why he would tell anyone that. While it’s not implicitly stated I think we all believe that the reason is because he loved her. Moffat has partly answered this question in his series and it’s still something possibly forthcoming but the way he has done the Doctor/River just wasn’t exactly how I hoped it would turn out.  The episodes of these two characters in series 5 were interesting and showed their adventures together. Series 6 just explained too much and you didn’t feel the Doctor loved this woman when he said “you embarrass me” to her face in front of her parents…on their wedding day…. Ouch sweety. Very ouch. I also found that Moffat made it too easy for fans to guess who she was and who had killed the Doctor. He left too many clues that by the time the big reveal came it wasn’t really a pull the rug from under your feet surprise.

Series 6 introduces another simply ingenious Alien baddie with the Silents an Alien that you can’t remember is behind you the moment you look away. That’s pretty scary for the audience more so than the character since the people watching at home are likely screaming at the TV to run but the character has completely forgotten that there was an alien standing right behind him.

Series 6 was a little weaker than series 5. Their seems to be a few more bottle type episodes where the characters don’t move around much. Likely the cut backs at the BBC are the cause of these episodes. The gangers episode was great dealing with racial prejudices.

I really like Matt Smith as the Doctor and I dare say I like the 11th over Timey Wimey 10th. I find that Smith is funny, quirky and yet is able to portray the maturity and wisdom of a man 1100 years old. I find that he is a Doctor that can appeal to a younger generation in a good way. He’s somewhat of a buffoon in front of kids yet utterly charming. His catchphrase “Geronimo” is in my view from an old Humphrey Bogart and I think Moffat is a fan of old movies as he uses the answer “A Woman” when somebody asks what happened to time. I believe the “A Woman” answer came from a Western.

Time Travel Aspects: Moffat enjoys using time travel to it’s full effect and often has characters meeting out of order in the time line. He has events depicted earlier been caused by events that happen later such as the cracks in time.  This is fun but over doing it can be frustrating if you are required to wait for everything to play out before you can get a proper conclusion.

Favorite Quote: “The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.” - The Doctor

Star Trek Enterprise: The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm April 22, 2012

Posted by oldboy in : Books, Science Fiction , add a comment

The second and also somewhat surprisingly final book in the Romulan War series of Enterprise Books, the beginnings of which started back in the Novel ‘The Good that Men Do’.

With this book I feel the Prime universe (are we really calling it that?) can be put to bed, for myself at least. I don’t have much interest in the other Novels that continue the stories of The Next Generation, DS9 and Voyager. My main interest in reading these Enterprise Books was to see a key piece of Star Trek History that has always got me giddy ever since it was mentioned in The Original series. For years I have anticipated some form of media showing the War. Unfortunately I think these books don’t do it justice, that stems from the books being based on Enterprise themselves and also the fact that a large scale War like this is better on screen than on paper. As a Movie but preferably as a series which could really flesh it out like DS9 did with the Dominion War Arc.

The Novel just doesn’t go big enough with the depiction of the War. Battles are more like skirmishes, often ship vs ship. All the referenced points are hit such as the attack on Earth, the battle of Cheron etc. These two parts I quite liked and are inventive. The Romulan’s using Earth’s Asteroids against it and the battle within the planet atmosphere of Cheron are nice scenes which are a bit too short. Reduced to one or two chapters. They needed to be fleshed out as did the whole overview of the War.

In my review of ‘Beneath the Raptors Wing’ my complaint was it jumping all over the place too much with too many characters and it was stretched out over the space of a year. Here it stays too much on the Enterprise or Trip Tucker Super Spy and covers 5 years. This is because the series was possibly being considered as a Trilogy. But from the sounds of what the middle book might have been it doesn’t particularly interest me much as it’s more of the same with Trip being a spy and his relationship with T’pol even though we had the 3 previous novels covering the same kind of story. It seems that the publishers had too much faith in this series taking off by the way they only did one year in the first book. They might have been hoping to get 4 more out of it. Seems a bit like careless planning. It’s all based on book sales of course but the layout between the two Romulan war Novels is jarring and while one takes too long to get going the other is racing to wrap things up.

I feel that Michael A Martin just didn’t focus properly on the concept ‘The Romulan War’.  He is a good writer but the scope of vision he has for this type of Trek History isn’t big enough, it’s too intimate. I believe a far more satisfying story would have been written by Judith and Garfield Reeves Stevens who have written the most epic and detailed Star Trek stories in Novel form. I do believe they could write something that really ties into the beginnings of The Original series about a Federation that rose from the ashes of a devastating War. This wasn’t what we got and ultimately the project was mishandled.

Here was my favorite part of the Novel which is actually a Poem by Martin Niemoller

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Taxi Driver April 15, 2012

Posted by oldboy in : Cinema, Best Ever , 4 comments

I’ve waited for this moment for 6 years. To see ‘Taxi Driver’ on the big screen. I missed two previous opportunities, one in 2006 showing in Ireland and the other last year in Japan.

Finally I got to see it here in Hong Kong during the Hong Kong international Film Festival. Perhaps a fitting place to see a film about loneliness in an urban environment and because it’s a film that has inspired Hong Kong Directors such as John Woo and Wong Kar Wai.

When people asked me before what my favorite movie was I always listed a few films as I thought if there were a “best movie ever” for me I hadn’t seen it. That was until one late night the film was showed on Irish television. Why do I think the film is the best film ever made? Four main reasons.

Martin Scorsese: One of the world’s greatest Directors. He perfectly captures through the eyes of Travis the loneliness of the city and conveys an emotional response through imagery alone. Take the examples of Travis talking to Betsy over the phone, the camera slowly moves away from Travis as it’s simply too pathetic to see. We both pity and dislike that character. Scenes of Travis in his Cab watching the streets as he drives around shows not only his loneliness but his detachment from life and disgust for the society that surrounds him that he is also part of.

Bernard Herrmann: Perhaps the greatest Film composer of the 20th Century who created some of the most memorable scores in film. Films like Psycho, Vertigo, North by Northwest, The Man who Knew Too Much, Cape Fear, Citizen Kane. His last score would be for ‘Taxi Driver’. He died hours after completing it and I believe it to be one of his finest works. Unlike the bombastic offerings in his Hitchcock films this is more intimate. ‘Taxi Driver’ is Neo Noir and Herrmann gives it a score in the vein of film Noir with Saxophones and a slow jazz beat capturing Travis’s personality as he slowly spirals downward into his world. You sometimes hear the out of control jazz band signifying a persons mental breakdown in movies but here it’s slow and ominous building up to a dark final. It captures the atmosphere of New York city, the dirt and grim, the vibe of it’s society at night.

Another Key piece of Music is the Song ‘Late for the Sky’ by Jackson Brown. Not everyone remembers it because it’s played on the TV Travis is watching of Dancing couples, however it is a key scene to the Movie. Travis again watching from the outside at the people dancing on screen, the dancers holding each other close in their embrace. Travis looks on knowing he can never have that. The arms of another. He both desires and hates what he sees and it sickens him.

Paul Schrader: wrote the script when he was in a bad place in his life and by pouring his own experience into it he made a deeply meditative story on alienation in the city. He himself was living in a car and spent nights watching porn films. He was not only inspired by his own experience but also by Arthur Bremer, who shot a presidential candidate in 1972 and had also written a diary on it. Inspiration was also taken from Dostoyevsky’s ‘Notes from the Underground’ though I personally see ‘Crime and Punishment’ having more similarities to the story.

Robert De Niro: One of his best performances along with ‘Raging Bull’. He drove around in a Taxi in New York for weeks in his preparation for the role. The famous line “Are you talking to me?” was improvised. Being a method actor he poured himself into the role to the point that the actor disappeared and only Travis remained.

Some people watch this movie and start off liking Travis but are put off by his actions later on in the movie. Quite frankly, that’s the point. You sympathize with the character and find him almost likeable up to a certain moment but this is a character who is out to kill people, who plots to kill a presidential candidate, he is supposed to cause us to be uncomfortable.
Travis’s own salvation is to save the 12 year old prostitute he meets by chance. In a way to bring order to the world around him and the world in his mind he decides to kill the men holding her.

Upon first seeing the ending it felt very dream like. Something out of Travis’s fantasy in the last moments of his life. Or perhaps everything in his mind was a fantasy. It almost seems too perfect that Betsy shows up again at the end having softened her stance towards him when she realizes he’s now a hero. Martin Scorsese has said though that the ending is not a dream. At the very end Travis sees something in his rear view mirror, it seems to be himself and for a moment he is troubled. His world still hasn’t changed.

Favorite Quote: “Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets” - Travis Bickle

Enterprise Season 1 April 9, 2012

Posted by oldboy in : DVD/Video/T.V., Science Fiction, Time Travel , 2 comments

Before Janeway, Picard, Sisko, Spock and Kirk…there was Enterprise.
Back in 2001 the first Starship Enterprise ventured out into space on our TV screens. I remember at the time that it was strange that this unknown Historically significant Enterprise had never been mentioned before in the previous 600 episodes of Star Trek but looking back it just seems to fit in now. When the show first aired it was called only ‘Enterprise’ after the first Starfleet ship of the same name.

Casting Scott Bakula as the first Captain of the Enterprise seemed like a stroke of genius. I was eagerly anticipating the series after his casting and he seemed like the perfect and most natural choice. Having watched him for years on ‘Quantum Leap’ I could think of no better actor that could display the philosophies of a future generation to us and the past generation of Star Trek. But while I think he is an excellent actor he wasn’t the character I was expecting. I think I was looking for another Sam Beckett. There are times in ‘Enterprise’ when Archer and the human crew come across as a bunch of annoying tourists who don’t respect other cultures as much as they should, at times they seem to belittle T’pol and her Vulcan culture. In another episode they want to visit a Vulcan temple which T’pol reminds them is a place of solitude and peace. Instead of taking a hint the opinion of Archer and Trip is “well we came this far, we wanna see it!”. I’m not entirely sure if the characters were written this way because it’s set in an era closer to ours but the culture of Earth they represent isn’t always representative of all of Earth. A hundred years later or 45 years earlier depending on how you choose to look at it Kirk seemed to carry the flag of all nations on his back. It doesn’t help that Archer seems to continually get kidnapped and have the crap beaten out of him. Sam Beckett on the other hand was skilled in Martial Arts. Fans don’t usually like to see the Captains in such weak situations.

The episodes weren’t always as exciting either. Take the opening “Tease” for the show. In one Tease it’s Captain Archer falling in the shower, another it’s Phlox feeding his pets and then cut to opening titles. Why would a viewer be interested to keep watching the rest of the episode with that kind of a tease? Compare it to a Tease from BSG season 1 where a character wakes up and discovers that they have planted explosives across the ship without realizing it, or another Tease where a suicide bomber blows himself up in the opening minutes.

Other problems the show had were beyond just superficial things. The music sounds a little too similar to the music of the previous three shows of TNG, DS9 and VOY. The shooting style is also similar, wide angle, close up, tight close up, rinse and repeat. The writing on some episode used similar storylines from previous series. Everything was starting to get repetitive. TV was moving on with new ways to tell stories and dramatic ways to visualize them while ‘Star Trek: Enterprise’ stuck to the old and trusted formula instead of taking a risk and being bold as it had been previously. Take the New Battlestar Galactica series again which was everything Star Trek wasn’t. Some people hate it but at least it was fresh, exciting and new compared to tired and done before. I never believed Star Trek needed to be rested. It just needed some fresh blood and a little bit more risk. By risk I don’t mean embarrassing scenes of characters rubbing each other down in jelly as we saw in the ‘Enterprise’ pilot. The original concept for the show sounded far more interesting. According to Brannon Braga the first season was to be set on Earth with the final episode of the season being the launching of the NX Enterprise.

There are some really nice episodes in season 1 that show the promise of what the show could have been. I liked “Silent Enemy” and “Dear Doctor” quite a bit. “Silent Enemy” for showing the vulnerabilities and doubts of the ship and it’s Captain as they come under attack from an unknown species and we also get to see them instal new weapons slowly rolling out the goods that Treknology had to offer giving us a prequely feel to the episode. For the same reason I also like “Dear Doctor” that discusses the implications of saving a species that nature may have earmarked for extinction. Doctor Phlox points out that if Enterprise were to save these people they might be playing God. What if Aliens had helped Neanderthals? Then the Human race might not have existed. It puts Captain Archer in a morally difficult situation with no right answer and he is living in a time before the Prime Directive (the rule of non interference with less advanced species) was ever written up.

Things I liked overall. It’s a Prequel! So everyone says Star Trek is about Humanity moving forward and it should be continually set in the future but I think that is taking too much of a literal stance. It’s about Humanity moving forward. I think Century isn’t important. It’s the ongoing story of the Human spirit. Seeing a Prequel of where they were going and how they get to a more enlightened time appeals to me. The problem though is this: it didn’t feel like a prequel. The setting seems far too advanced to the hints we had been given before. I had always hoped for a different looking series that truly set itself apart doing away with the saucer. Other good things: Uniforms, Pulse Weapons, Grappler, shuttle pods, Time Travel (but not in execution), The cast, the Dog, Sick Bay, Vulcan ships.
With all that said, now that the show has been off the air for a few years and it’s had time to mature I find myself liking it more. Season 1 in particular was strong and I think from Season 2 onwards it shifted to a less appealing show. I really like the cast of Enterprise but it seems a little unfortunate that some of them are given less screen time after season 1. Malcom Reed, Mayweather, Hoshi all had more screen time when the series started. Malcom Reed was a strong character and in season one had formed a fun onscreen relationship with Trip Tucker which added some nice lite moments to the show. Unfortunately these characters got squeezed out and the series became the Archer, Trip and T’pol show. I realize that these three actors had in their contracts to appear in every episode but I find there was too much story surrounding them. The same thing happened on Voyager with the show focusing on Janeway and Seven of Nine.

Time Travel Aspects:…where to start…

I get why the producers decided to introduce the Temporal Cold War aspect to the series to keep the show relevant and make the audience think that just because it’s a prequel doesn’t mean the future is secure. There had been rumors of a Time-Travel only show and this seems to be something of a go between. Probably influenced by the prequel hype created by Star Wars.
The problem here is that the TCW was an Arc that was never really developed and was carelessly handled. In the first season episode ‘Cold Front’ the time Traveler Daniels tells Archer that it is “imperative we find out what Silik is doing and who is behind this”. Three seasons later and we were none the wiser about what was going on. Nothing was resolved and everything was nonsensical. Silik stopped the Enterprise from exploding. Daniels took Archer out of his own time to protect him and destroyed his future. Future guy offers help to Archer at the end of season 2 against the Xindi. Just what was going on and who was helping who. Nothing is ever made clear. If the events of the TCW were always a part of the timeline it makes the concept rather pointless as the outcome would surely be already known by factions involved. But since these factions have knowledge outside their own time it’s likely that these events are new and will become part of the established timeline. Therefore Humans and Klingons encounter each other sooner, Earth is attacked by the Xindi when it never was in the first place and the Enterprise may have had a very different fate to what happened in the series. So all that means we have a definite altered timeline, not alternate depending on your view of Quantum Theory.

One thing that is sure about this TCW mess. Daniel’s is either the Evil Mastermind (future guy) or he is a complete and utter idiot who destroyed the timeline through careless actions. I lean towards the latter.
It’s quite clear Enterprise is dealing with only one timeline. So is it Paradoxes, Predestination or an Altered timeline? Klingon first contact doesn’t seem to contradict anything as some claim. The McCoy line in “Day of the Dove” about the first contact around 2218 doesn’t exist and was cut from the script. Picard’s statement in TNG that First Contact with the Klingons was disastrous is partly true. A Klingon Ship crashed on Earth and each encounter the NX Enterprise had with the Klingons things only got worse in Human and Klingon relations.

It could be that the first Starfleet Ship was supposed to be called Dauntless as screen evidence in Voyager suggests. Possibly Zefram Cochrane seeing the Enterprise-E in the 21st Century might have changed the name and design of the ship to reflect what he saw through his telescope.

Favorite Quote: “Someday… my people are going to come up with some sort of a doctrine, something that tells us what we can and can’t do out here, should and shouldn’t do. But until somebody tells me that they’ve drafted that directive… I’m going to have to remind myself every day… that we didn’t come out here to play God.” - Captain Jonathan Archer

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