Tag Archives: sci-fi
I Need to Star Trek into the Bathroom to Change My Underpants, NPP-1701
There are exactly two things in the world of sci-fi nerd-dom that can instantly induce revulsion in one half of the clan and orgasmic bliss in the other: Star Wars News and Star Trek News. If you are Han Solo or James T. Kirk, you hold great power over such things as, well, my…yeah let’s not go there.
Long story short, there’s finally an interesting poster revealed for the upcoming sequel to 2009′s reboot of Gene Roddenberry’s nearly half-century old landmark, Star Trek. Don’t try saying that out loud three times fast, it may kill you, but do click through after the break for a look at the full poster!
Update: I noticed you seem to like Heroes quite a bit! Did you know that Microsoft and NBC are talking about reviving the series? Check out my post about the possibility of Heroes Season 5!
Heroes Died On Its Own Sword
I remember when I began watching the first season of Heroes, a little nervous of this seeming X-Men Lite show from the very beginning. But over the course of that first season I found that very shortly I could scarcely wait to watch the next episode as the mystery of the villanous Sylar and his role in destroying New York City unfolded. The show seemed to have everything it needed: an engrossing plot, a frighteningly powerful villain with a plan, a cute girl, comic relief, political tension, the mysterious Mr. Linderman, and of course, a character with the proper soul of a Hero, Peter. I’ve talked about Heroes before, of course, and like the show itself my hopes and thoughts for its future have fluctuated from the positive to the abysmal. So goes the nature of a show that nobody had a clear vision for, and as much as I sort of wish I was, I’m not remotely surprised that it’s now officially been cancelled by NBC.
So now the question is, why was Heroes cancelled? This is a topic that could go on forever, and I’ve already reviewed a few other blogs and media outlets dishing ever so briefly on the topic, so now I think it’s time I had a bit of say, myself.
1. Let’s start with the obvious: following the first season, the show failed to ever execute a cohesive, well-planned plot or villain again. Sylar, in season one, was a masterpiece of a television villain, played to near perfection by Zachary Quinto. Season 2 didn’t really have a villain at all, Season 3′s “Villains” arc suffered a similar fate (Arthur Petrelli was OK, but really just a crusty, much less intimidating retread of Sylar), and while Season 4′s Samuel character was an interesting character, he was a useless villain with an ability so lame that all anyone had to do was run away from him in order to take it away. And while it was clear early on that the writing team on the show really tried to make the final season much better, and to a large part they succeeded, there were simply too many other problems, which we’ll get to.
2. Character development. Perhaps only a little less annoying than its plot issues was the show’s character development, specifically because, there pretty much wasn’t any. By the end of the final season, Claire was still the same whiny, self-flagellating brat she’d been since season one, only by then it had gone from being the endearing mark of a character going through something new and scary, to that place where you’re just sick and tired of hearing her whine about being different. Come on, Claire, get over it and move on, already! The same was true of One-Note-Nathan, who like any living politician stereotype, wobbled endlessly between the side of good and the side of evil. By the time he died, I was glad to see him go, and a lot of other people were too. There are only so many times you can watch the same character flip-flop back and forth. Pick a damn side and let’s get on with it.
3. Meaningless deaths. In the first season, we got some real deaths, and they were pretty damn sad. Charlie, Isaac, Simone, all were reasonably well developed (less so in Charlie’s case, but she was developed very well in a short space) and that worked out. Unfortunately, nobody ever died and stayed dead again after that. Charlie ended up being brought back during the fourth season, which really served no greater purpose than to ruin the original story’s sadness; Nathan, even after being killed in season 3′s finale, kept right on coming back to life via Sylar in season 4; Nikki, the show’s most annoying character from the very first episode, came back as a clone. Time after time, characters were shot, beaten, maimed and blown to smithereens, only to somehow return again. If there are no real death stakes, what’s the point of killing the character at all?
4. Stakes and consequences. The stakes rarely got any bigger on Heroes, either in the sense of devastating plots or in the sense of transformational character events. No, Arthur draining off Peter’s powers does not count. What characters needed were life-altering events like you’d find on better shows such as Angel or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was unilaterally a superior Superhero show to Heroes. There, we watched the writers do horrific things to established, recurring characters, killing off some, utterly reshaping the character of others. No character on Heroes ever faced stakes where they would have no choice but to cut down the person they love the most in order to save the world. No character on Heroes ever fell in love only to have that loved one brutally murdered before their eyes. And when Heroes characters died and returned, there was no price to pay, no shift in the balance of the world’s power, no consequences. When Buffy died while saving the world and was (months later) resurrected, there were consequences first for her character, which was fundamentally transformed by the trauma of death and bliss of Heaven, and later for an entire season as her return had triggered a shift in the balance of the world’s power that ultimately lead to the deaths of several of her allies and goodness knows how many additional innocents. Heroes never played with stakes like that.
5. Lack of advance planning. Heroes creator Tim Kring has said publicly that they do not plan the series very far in advance, preferring to write by the seat of their pants so as to always introduce new story possibilities. I suppose as theories go, that’s all well and good, but it’s still no excuse for not establishing an overall framework for where your story will go. How can you possibly write a series that says something if you don’t have anything in mind you want to say? And therein lay perhaps the root of Heroes’ problems: it doesn’t really have a message. Buffy was about female empowerment; Angel was about the neverending battle between good and evil; Star Trek was about an optimistic view of the future and humankind’s ability to succeed in it; Veronica Mars was about both female empowerment and the ability to understand and deal with the world logically even when it wasn’t very logical; Battlestar Galactica (new version) was about how humankind is a screwed-up mess with no true direction, just a fantasy.
What is Heroes about? I have no idea, and really, neither do its creators. And that was ultimately its biggest failure, and the most prominent reason why not only did it fail, but it earned its failure.
Heroes, as I recently discussed here, has made it a habit this season of making me eat my hat. I’ve been shocked to observe that, following a very mediocre intro episode that got the season off to a battered limp, every single episode subsequent has been very good. This week’s was no different. The show caught me off guard on three separate occasions, so if you haven’t seen the episode yet and don’t want to know, you’re hereby advised to avert your eyes.
The first surprise I found involved Blank-Sylar, who quite unexpectedly reverted to the form of Nathan-complete with Nathan abilities and memories intact-who promptly realized he was standing in Freakshow, USA and flew away. Subsequent to Nathan getting his ass shot to death a few episodes back, and the recent news that Adrian Pasdar had been canned from the show without even being told by the producers until he read it in the script, I really didn’t expect to see him back. Of course, I should have accepted by now that Heroes only rarely kills off characters for really-reals, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. In any case, I was.
The next surprise was really a two-fer, and came when the ever-annoying Matt Parkman, whom I believe should have been killed off a long time ago, finally manned up, stopped whining, and acted like a Hero instead of a crybaby. If you’ve seen the episode, you know by now that Parkman manipulated Sylar-now in control of Parkman’s body-to write a murder note on a napkin at a diner, which resulted in his being surrounded by cops. Shockingly, Parkman then forced Sylar to act like he was pulling a gun, which of course lead to his being shot repeatedly, apparently falling to both their deaths. Sylar hit the ground with a soggy thud, and Parkman disappeared. In a perfect world, this is the way these two characters-both long past their usefulness-meet their ignominious ends.
In any case, the episode went off extremely well, and the final few minutes were practically dripping with a sense of foreboding about the future. A major conflict appears to be brewing, and as I realize we’re 8 episodes into the season, I’m actually a little shocked that there’s no sign of it involving some character travelling to the future only to uncover some horrific event that they have to stop. Bravo to Heroes for breaking out of a very weak plot trend!
Unfortunately there’s also some worry that comes from having now watched the trailer for next week’s episode. There are SPOILERS after the jump, so if you don’t want to know and you haven’t seen the trailer, stop here and enjoy life!
I forget whether I’ve ever mentioned it before, but I’m a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff series, Angel. These two shows are, without a doubt, among the very best sci-fi/fantasy (and they contain elements of both, against a backdrop of our real world) ever committed to film for television. One of my favorite things about these series are the range of human experiences they reach out to. One episode might have you laughing your ass off, while the very next one might rip your still-beating heart out of your chest. Unlike most TV writers and their shows, the writers of Buffy and Angel are willing to do horrible things to the characters they’ve brought you to know and love, a fact which delivers a level of emotional interaction and drama that few shows will ever achieve.
To not deliver a review of JJ Abrams reimagining of the classic Star Trek would be the worst kind of travesty against Nerdy Stuff, particularly for a site like this. The new film, as you have probably already read, appears to be a critical darling and a hit with the vast majority of people who see it. There are some good–and not so good–reasons for this. Obviously a movie of this kind, that takes an established canon and fanbase and tries to make it palatable to the masses while simultaneously still appealing to the existing fans, is never going to be able to fully please everyone. Some of the rules will be broken while others are respected, some of the canon will be honored while some will be chucked out the window. While a portion of the existing fans will surely go into meltdown regarding these changes to canon, the general audiences won’t really know what they’re missing–and it doesn’t really matter anyway.
What does matter is having a respect for the the major themes of the source material. In the case of Star Trek those themes include such guiding principles as an unabashed Optimism, deep friendships, diversity of characters and an overall vision of a future that is better than the world we live in today. In short, Star Trek is about the belief that mankind will succeed in spite of great odds and that we will overcome everything, including ourselves, to become tomorrow what we can be. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, believed this philosophy very deeply, and although let’s face it, he wasn’t that great of a writer himself, his vision inspired countless others to don his vision as their own and ride into the wind with all the intrepidity they could muster.
JJ Abrams new take on Trek, while a little too overt in its efforts to make Trek more accessible, succeeds in honoring Roddenberry’s vision. It speaks to a new audience, though its voice is more muted than I would like, and it speaks to the old, though I think this was largely unnecessary. We’ll talk more details after the jump, but be forewarned: Spoilers Follow!
1. I am just at the end of Season 3. I have now seen seasons 1 and 2 twice in their entirety but am not yet caught up to season 5.
2. I love great character development. Lost gives me this by the acre.
3. I love great plot development, which even the best characters need in order for me to care about their plight. Lost is devoid of plot.
With all that said, I’m going to start blogging about each episode as I catch up from here. Recognize, therefore, that I’m a little behind and will catch up shortly. When I began watching Lost, I was quite entranced. The show was rich with character development (and it still is) and in the first season there was a fair amount of plot development as well. Most of the time, it even related to the character development in some way, which was pretty cool. I’m not at all sure there was any kind of epic point to it, but nevertheless it was quite enjoyable.
I might as well just admit it: I wasn’t really impressed with the first episode of Doll House. Although the premise is quite interesting, I felt like there was a little too much emphasis on cheesy action. Dear Mr. Whedon, please never do another motorcyle chase again. They’re boring and dumb. For the most part, if Evil Knievel isn’t involved, I really couldn’t care less about motorcycles, and in fact I think they detract from the show. But I digress. Before I go too far in, I’ll add this note: Episode 2 was much better than the first, so I think there’s still plenty of hope for the series.
If you haven’t tuned in yet, Doll House is the latest Sci Fi series from cult icon Joss Whedon, who’s behind two of the greatest Sci-fi (and let’s face it, fantasy) television series of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. He’s also the man behind the excellent (and prompty cancelled) series Firefly, which was inarguably the most “Sci” of his “Sci fi” series. The premise of Doll House is in some ways much more low key than any of Whedon’s previous works. Buffy and Angel were filled with vampires, demons and evil lawyers; Firefly had cowboys on space ships; but Doll House is conspicuously devoid of the more fantastical trappings into which its creator has historically tapped for his metaphors. Now, that’s not to say that DH doesn’t have a fantastical premise, it certainly does. But though the premise is extraordinary, everything surrounding it is amazing in how ordinary it in fact is.