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Box Set Madness, and Cause for Celebration March 25, 2008

Posted by ce9999 in Doctor Who.
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The newest seasons for two great shows are starting up soon: Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who. Yay!

It’s been so long since Galactica has been on that I can’t remember anymore what was happening. Luckily, there’s a recap video located here. Click on “What the frak is going on?” on that page and then twiddle your thumbs while the commercial plays. Note that this covers the entire series, including the mini series. There are also two other videos there, “Revealed” and “Phenomenon.” I’ve watched the latter one only (didn’t have a chance for both yet). It’s good. It’s fun. Joss Whedon is heavily featured. :P So are a lot of other interesting people. Regarding the recap video, I wish they would have concentrated on the previous season, rather than going all the way back to the beginning, but in any case, watching it was enough to refresh my memory at least a little bit.

I also picked up the Battlestar Galactica Season 3 box set last night. :) That will be a lot more helpful in remembering all the various ideas and brainstorms I had last year while watching these episodes for the first time.

However, in the meantime, I’ll turn my attention to Doctor Who.

This show is a lot easier to mentally jump back into, because there’s only about two things to remember: Martha’s gone, and an almost-new companion is scheduled to appear, namely Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) from “The Runaway Bride.” Other than that, the Doctor will continue on his random adventures as before. I’ve heard rumor that the Ood will be making an appearance. This is a coolness. The Ood are interesting, if for no other reason than it’s fun hearing David Tennant say “the Ood.” So I’m looking forward to that.

While I was buying the Galactica box set last night, I decided to really splurge and get the Doctor Who Season Three box set too. This was quite expensive, so I’d been putting off buying it. I had also been dissatisfied enough with the ending of the season that I had considered not buying it at all. But now I have it, and I began watching it last night.

As a warning to people who are on the fence about buying this set, there are ads on the discs at the beginning, at least on the first two (I haven’t had a chance to check all six discs yet). In my humble opinion, this is completely ridiculous. Not only is this clearly a collector’s set, but considering the extremely high price tag, people should not have to put up with advertisements on these discs. Even worse, the ads don’t seem to be confined to just the first disc—there was some additional crapola at the beginning of disc two, not just disc one. This is a very bad sign, for it suggests there will be ads at the beginning of all six discs. Very, very bad. It means every single time I want to watch something from one of these discs, forever, I’ll have to go through the trouble of skipping over these. I shouldn’t have to put up with that. No one should. And let me emphasize one thing: These are not paid advertisements, they are simply ads for other BBC programs available on DVD (at least, as far as I bothered to look). If they had had the sense to stash these in with the other bonus features, I would most likely have gotten curious and watched all of them. Jamming them right in my face at the beginning of the discs is not the way to get me to watch. (And furthermore, maybe if they didn’t charge so much for their DVDs, they wouldn’t have to push them so hard! Ya think????)

However, other than that complaint, it’s a really nice set. The design is superb—similar to that for the first two seasons, but, if anything, even more elaborate and well done. If not for the ads at the beginnings of the discs, I’d call it the finest box set I’ve ever purchased. There was one small flaw in mine. I noticed that one of the pages in the included booklet was collated face-down compared to the others, so the pages of the booklet appear out of order. I could fix this by removing the staples, flipping that page over and reinserting the staples, but I’m half inclined to leave it the way it is. Perhaps this error will make it more valuable, you know? Kind of like that postage stamp with the upside down airplane on it. :)

The first programmatic item on Disc One is, of course, the 2006 Christmas special, The Runaway Bride. I had seen this before, so this was a rewatch. As I did the first time, I really enjoyed the first part (especially the TARDIS chase scene) up until they meet up with the Empress of the Racnoss. That part was less than inspiring, but not as horrifically awful as some of what happened later in season three.

The most interesting aspect of rewatching this was from the standpoint of sussing out how Catherine Tate is going to fare as a new, regular season companion. When I first heard that she had been picked for the role, my reaction was negative. To be perfectly honest, the problem was that I had been hoping so much for Sally Sparrow to be brought back that I would have been disappointed in just about anyone. However, having had time to get used to the fact that my Sally Sparrow fantasy was not going to come true, it became possible to evaluate the Donna Noble companion idea more dispassionately. And, you know what? I think they may have made a pretty good choice with her. She’s a good, strong, assertive character, and she has one trait which I think will work out really well, if the writers remember to exploit it: She’s not afraid to tell the Doctor to shut up when he starts babbling. I’m looking forward to seeing how this works out. I’m also hoping they refrain from having her fall in love with him. Probably they will, since it’s already been done with the previous two companions, and doing it with the third one in a row would be really obviously repetitious, right? ;) So, notwithstanding what happened in the “Voyage of the Damned” Christmas special, I’m hopeful.

Next on the first disc is a Doctor Who Confidential special entitled “Music and Monsters.” This is fun. The special centers on a concert which was presented in the Millenium Hall in Cardiff—that big, odd looking building with all the funny words on it—Torchwood viewers will know which one I mean. There’s quite a lovely concert hall inside it. The event featured music from the new series, all composed by Murray Gold, and performed by a live orchestra, with choir and whatever other additional musicians were needed. There were also special guest appearances by characters from the series, most notably David Tennant himself, and a Dalek. The Dalek is quite amusing, proclaiming in it’s mechanically stentorian voice that the entire facility is now under Dalek control, that the audience must “OBEY!” and so forth. What’s really impressive about this is that Nicholas Briggs, the genius voice actor responsible for the Dalek voices, was not given a script. He pretty much had to make it all up on the spot.

Not only is this concert a lot of fun, it’s a bit incongruous, too. It was actually staged prior to the airing of “The Runaway Bride,” so in terms of the series, the last thing that had happened was Rose’s getting trapped in an alternate universe. Martha hadn’t even shown up yet as a character (although Freema Agyeman is shown sitting in the audience). This means the program as a whole has a bit of emphasis on Rose Tyler, which I like. I still miss Rose. She’s easily my favorite of all the companions, in either series.

Also on this first disc is David Tennant’s Video Diary for “The Runaway Bride.” This is short but amusing. I still like Billie Piper’s Video Diary from the first season box set the best of all of these, mostly for trivial reasons such as the fact that she’s short, so seeing everything through the camera from her perspective is quite a novelty for six-foot-one me, and also because you can hear her chawing on a wad of gum throughout the commentary. This is not only totally hilarious, but gives it an extra bit of authenticity and informality that I really like. Plus, hey. Billie Piper. I’m just a sucker for her, you know?

There is a Freema Agyeman bonus feature on this disc too, wherein she goes around with a camara operator to talk to various set and prop people as they get things set up for an episode. This is pretty interesting, and I’ve got to say, Freema Agyeman is such a hottie and so endearing that this is not difficult to watch at all. Plus, she’s wearing tight jeans. :) The funniest part of this is when she interviews Nicholas Briggs as he rehearses his Dalek lines for an upcoming episode. For a minute, they take a copy of the script and trade roles: Agyeman as a Dalek and Briggs as Martha. The Dalek voice is normally achieved by not only electronically modifying Briggs’ voice, but also through his own efforts, so a person can’t just pick up his microphone, talk into it, and expect to sound like a Dalek. Seeing Agyeman try her hand at this is pretty funny, although she does catch on pretty quickly, getting a much more realistic effect after a few initial tries. She ends up sounding remarkably like a Dalek, albeit with a higher voice.

There are a couple of other bonus features on this first disc, but I decided to skip over those for now, because the segment with Agyeman got me wanting to go right ahead and watch “Smith and Jones” again. I suppose I should rewatch the rest of the season before actually saying this, but screw that—I’m going to go out on a limb right now and say this is likely one of the best Martha Jones episodes of the series. It’s always been a challenge, trying to put into words the gut feeling I began to notice partway through watching this season last year, namely that Martha Jones, as a companion, doesn’t seem to measure up to the standard set by Rose Tyler. A big part of it is simply that Rose is such a tough act to follow. But I always felt there was more to it than that, and especially that the blame did not rest with Freema Agyeman herself. Simply put, I think it was a mistake to have Martha develop a crush on the Doctor, primarily because David Tennant’s Doctor needs a foil, someone to cut him off, to tell him when he’s full of crap, a character with similar forcefulness to his own. Martha could have been like that, I believe, but when they decided to put her into unrequited love with him, that weakened her position considerably. This idea is borne out in a few different ways, most notably by the fact that the best Martha episodes are the ones where her character acts on her own, rather than in concert with the Doctor, and also by her recent apperance on Torchwood, where she seems to be much more in her element. I’m looking forward to her return to Doctor Who this season, to see how things get on when things are different between her and the Doctor. It could prove interesting, especially with there being two companions. That could end up being the best combo yet!

I haven’t even had a chance to crack open the Battlestar Galactica set yet. I figured that set has a lot more episodes, so I could whip through Doctor Who faster. It was a tough decision, figuring out which show to watch first. :)

Hollowed are the Ori March 22, 2008

Posted by ce9999 in Stargate: SG-1.
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I had promised some comments on the new Stargate movie, Ark of Truth. Here they are—100% spoilerific! ;)

In short, it’s not bad. I wouldn’t rank it with the finest all-time Stargate: SG-1 series episodes, but it’s worth watching. Is it worth buying the DVD, for roughly US$20? That’s a tougher call, especially when you consider that DVD sales will have a direct impact on whether more movies are made. If you’re a fan and you want to see more movies, then yes, definitely buy it, especially since the non-fans aren’t going to be flocking to the store shelves themselves. The movie does seem to be written more for us, the fans, than for a general sci-fi audience. Overall, I’d consider Ark of Truth to be on a par with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. In other words, it’s great to see the story continuing, and the movie has its moments, not to mention being fun and enjoyable, but it isn’t exactly everything I’d hoped it would be.

So what happens? Well, the Ori turn out to be dead after all, but, as is often the case, where great power is extinguished, someone else fills in the inevitable vacuum. In this case, Adria (aka The Orici) is the guilty party. My Firefly-fanboy side was immensely pleased with this development, because I can sit in my chair drooling over Morena Baccarin pretty much any day of the week, you know? Ba’al is nowhere to be seen (or heard)—apparently, his ill-fated attempt to take over the Orici remains ill-fated. It’s too bad, since Ba’al was a fantastic villian, but, on the other hand, half the fun of him is his smug Goa-uld unkillable-ness, so what would be the fun of killing him off in ninety minutes? Besides, bringing him back too many times would be dumb, and the series writers already came very close to making that mistake with Apophis.

One other villian makes a surprising and much-welcomed reappearance: The Replicators! :) I don’t mean those tedious, second-rate ones from the Pegasus Galaxy, either. Nor do I mean the less-than-inspiring humaniform Replicators from late in the SG-1 series. I mean the original, whirring, clacking, glorified-erector-set, geek-boy-nightmare, shoot-em-with-a-machine-gun, mechanical-bug Replicators! Damn! :D I’d missed these little bastards. They wreak loads of havoc, too. What happens is this: Essentially, some fool in the IOC decides that replicators are the best way to kill the Ori ships, forgetting that real replicators would happily go on to destroy the whole universe after they were done with their original job. So yeah, that plan is necessarily scrapped, which means not only does SG-1 have to find another way to zap the Ori ships, they have to kill off the Replicators at the same time!

About those Ori ships: The premise here is that Origin, the religion, would continue on even if its gods were utterly destroyed. Obviously this is reasonable, since the life of any religion isn’t its god, it’s the collective belief that makes up the religion, whether that belief is true or not. This isn’t the first time that Stargate has dealt with this subject, either. There were a substantial number of Jaffa who refused to join the resistance because they really did believe the Goa’uld were gods. If I remember right, they created a bit of a mess after the system lords were overthrown, too.

More recently in the Stargate universe, while the religion of Origin may have been started by the Ori themselves, the faith of the Priors is the more immediate problem, as they are the ones piloting huge, galaxy-conquering ships. The only reason the Ori had to be destroyed at all was because they were the ones who made new Priors. There’s Adria, of course, who seems to have assumed much of the power of the Ori, but does she have the ability to create new Priors, or to do any direct damage at all other than keeping the Priors organized? They are about to bring another wave of Ori ships through the supergate to continue the invasion, but again, it’s the Priors who are doing the dirty work here, not Adria herself. However you cut it, this movie isn’t the mop-up after Season 10, it’s the main battle.

So, how do you kill a religion, anyway? The answer given in the movie seems pretty accurate, namely that you can only usurp one idea with another idea. In this case, that other idea is “the truth,” but note that the only way to cause the Priors to believe it is through the force of the Ark. They’re not going to believe it just because it’s true. This creates an unfortunate problem for the story, in that the only way to resolve things in one single movie, as opposed to a series-spanning holy war, is through the use of a magical super-duper gizmo where a switch is flipped and the problem is solved. The Priors’ minds are instantly changed and the war is over. It would have been nice if the writers had been able to find some devilishly clever way to weasel their way out of this problem, but they really couldn’t. There just wasn’t enough story time available. The gizmo is The Ark, obviously, and it’s why I didn’t find the overall story to be all that satisfying.

However, I did enjoy the movie, and I’m looking forward to the next one. :)

Death and, um…Transfiguration :) March 16, 2008

Posted by ce9999 in Torchwood.
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I took in two episodes of Torchwood last night, episodes eight and nine of season two: “A Day in the Death,” and “Something Borrowed.”

The death being referred to, of course, is the death of Owen, from a couple of episodes previously. He was then brought back to life. Except not really. He’s actually still dead, he just walks and talks and stuff. Basically, he’s a zombie.

So what does a zombie do with his life existence? He can’t eat or drink because stuff just sits there in his stomach, never being digested. He can’t breathe (how he manages to talk without breathing is never explained). Sex is out of the question, thanks to lack of blood flow (it’s probably fortunate that he didn’t die with an erection, isn’t it?). He also has to be careful not to injure himself, because his body doesn’t heal, a fact which can really put a damper on things. He can’t even do his job because it’s against policy to employ a dead person! It’s a pretty bleak existence, I’d say. Pointless, even.

At least, it’s pointless until Captain Jack happens to really, really need someone with no body heat.

I won’t go into the plot at all. I won’t talk about the neato glowy alien gizmo, or about the girl who’s ready to jump off a building, or about the dying old man who Owen tries to save, even though all these things are integral to the story. I’ll just say, this is a good Owen episode, perhaps the best since a certain aeroplane landed and three people from the 1950’s got out. Burn Gorman really shines, and we see the full spectrum of Owen’s personality here.

At the end, we are left with questions such as: Where is the series going with this zombie-Owen thing? He’s obviously not a vampire (a fact for which I am eternally grateful), but is he going to end up resembling any of the other classic movie-monster types? My best guess so far, as I’ve said, is that he’s a plain and simple zombie, but will there prove to be any sort of twist on that? Anything which might help his body heal? Or is he just going to gradually deteriorate over time until he’s too repulsive to look at? Perhaps eating a few brains will help? :) I’m actually hoping the writers take his undead-ness in a new and original direction. That would be refreshing, although difficult too, considering how many times the subject has been covered before. They also still have to deal with questions about the resurrection glove(s) and the weevils.

In previous weeks, I was starting to feel resigned to the fact that Torchwood‘s second season wasn’t going to be quite up to the standard of excellence set by the first. That’s not to say it was going badly, just not quite as excellently as before. However, by the end of this episode, I began to have some hope that I might be wrong. “A Day in the Death” is a serious and dramatic episode, dealing with some pretty dark subject matter, but it ends up being quite uplifting and positive. It’s definitely the best episode of the season up to this point, and on a par with all but the very best of the stories from season one.

Not being able to settle for just one episode of this show in an evening, I then moved on to “Something Borrowed.”

This episode is a total riot. :) I guess the producers felt they needed something more lighthearted to contrast with the previous episodes, and did they ever succeed.

The main thing that happens here is that this is Gwen’s wedding episode. They’ve been working up to this for a while, so here it is, finally—although, honestly, I am a bit bummed that Gwen is now married, what with wanting her for myself and all. :) Just look at her in this episode—she is absolutely too cute and adorable for words in that beautiful white wedding dress, with her belly bulging out in what must surely be the final days of pregnancy…. Whaaaat?!?!?!?!? GWEN?!?!??!?????? PREGNANT?!????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Since when?????

Well, yeah. See, there’s this alien shapeshifter thing that bites her, thereby implanting an egg sac, so the next morning she wakes up and looks to be about nine months gone. If you ever saw the Angel episode “Expecting,” it seems a lot like that, at first. But the resemblance is mostly superficial. Also, in what must surely be the most inconvenient coincidence ever, this alien pregancy happens to occur on Gwen’s wedding day. Poor Gwen!

But never fear—you know she’ll be fine, because it’s obvious from the start that they are playing this for comedic value, not making a serious drama out of it. The first indicator is Gwen’s decision to go ahead with the wedding in spite of her condtion, thinking nothing at all of how on earth she’s going to explain things to her parents, Rhys’s parents, and to the friends she was with the previous night, who witnessed her in a most definately un-pregnant condition. Perhaps it’s the stress. We all do silly things when we’re stressed out, right?

In any case, hijinks ensue. Things get even better when it’s determined that these particular alien shapeshifters travel in pairs, that one of their favorite delicacies is human flesh, and that the female of the species births her young by physically ripping it out of the body of the human female host! Obviously, she must be stopped!

Alas, I won’t go into any more details. A lot happens. It’s all hilarious, especially the thing with the chainsaw (Kai Owen really has a gift for his character, I tell you). This is easily the funniest Torchwood episode yet, not to mention one of the best.

Ark of Truth March 11, 2008

Posted by ce9999 in Stargate: SG-1.
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Released today:


Comments coming soon, hopefully. (Sorry for the low quality pic—I snapped it myself, real quick-like.)

The Nox, Hathor, Cor-Ai March 8, 2008

Posted by ce9999 in Stargate: SG-1.
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Friday night, I continued my SG-1 marathon with three more episodes.

The first of these was “The Nox,” a truly fascinating episode, and one of the best in the entire ten-year run of SG-1. Aside from being brilliant and very enjoyable, it lays some groundwork for a lot of what happens in the remainder of the series. Although the SG-1 team members don’t know it yet, this is their first face-to-face encounter with one of the four ancient races, who will play (to varying degrees) such an important role in their mission in the years to come. It’s also the first indication we have that the U.S. government isn’t entirely satisfied with the performance of the SG-C, a fact which will lead to all sorts of interference, oversight and outright shennanigans by a variety of other people, continuing even to this day on Atlantis. We also begin to get a sense in this episode of just how wily and challenging an opponent Apophis will be, when SG-1’s straightforward and simple plan to capture him ends up with O’Neill, Carter and Jackson all getting killed. If it wasn’t for the extremely sophisticated healing abilities of the Nox, the series would have ended about ten minutes into this episode.

Of course the Nox are the main point of this episode, so let’s talk about them a little. There are four of them shown, and their leader is played by none other than Armin Shimerman, of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame. Casting him in this episode was a stroke of genius, because the character Anteaus is such a marked contrast to Shimerman’s well-known roles in the other two series, and it’s always a pleasure to see a good actor do something different from what he’s done before. He’s just delightful here, managing to quietly eclipse much of his more well-known work in what must be only fifteen or twenty minutes of screen time.

The other Nox character to play a major role is Nafrayu, the cute little Nox kid, played by Addison Ridge. Observe Carter’s expression when she looks at him, as if she’s never seen anything so adorable in her entire life. Can you blame her? My favorte of the other Nox, though, would have to be Lya, played by Frida Betrani. She’s a sweetie. Pretty, too. :) I am quite infatuated with her, I admit—this is why I’m saying such totally unprofessional things. ;) She is the only one of the Nox ever to appear on the series again, after this episode. I had high hopes that they would play an important role in the series, but only Lya comes back a couple of times, very briefly. This is very disappointing, because the Nox are an uncommon thing: an advanced alien species who actually seem advanced and alien. This makes them extremely interesting.

Apophis also plays a major role in this episode. In fact, is there any other episode in the series where he is “in play” as much as he is here? Not very many of them, that’s for sure. Peter Williams is still starting to get into the Apophis character at this point—later on, he gets better and better at it, until, eventually, the very sight of him makes a person want to scream in frustration. He’s the second best of all the Goa-uld to ever appear in the series, I think, bested only slightly by Cliff Simon’s hilarious, frustrating and brilliant portrayal of Ba’al, much later in the series.

In other matters, I must point out how much I enjoyed the musical score in this episode. I’ve noticed that, in general, the quality of the incidental music this season is pretty high. This is important to me, personally, so I thank the composer(s) for their efforts in these episodes, as well as the people who had the sense to hire decent composers in the first place.

In the realm of trivia, we see SG-5 briefly at the beginning of the episode, and I noticed that all of the Jaffa in Apophis’s personal guard are sporting gold forehead tattoos identical to Teal’c’s. This once again contradicts the idea that only first primes have gold emblems. I suppose it’s realistic to assume that different system lords would have different, um….systems to their Jaffa insignia, since they certainly would not be interested in trying to standardize something as trivial as this. After all, they have much more important concerns, such as how to kill all their rivals, live forever, and achieve domination of the galaxy. :P

I mentioned I watched two other episodes Friday: “Hathor” and “Cor-Ai.”

“Hathor” was better than I had remembered. I believe there are some inconsistencies between what’s presented in this episode and what comes later on, both with respect to the creation of the Jaffa, and to Goa-uld reproduction. It’s been a long time, though, so I will have to wait and see. The most enjoyable thing about this episode to me was Suanne Braun’s portrayal of the “goddess of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll”, Hathor. She’s just plain hot, in a beautiful, sensual, sultry and full-hipped way. I love it. :) It must also be said that Carter and Dr. Fraiser both kick a lot of ass in this episode. Indeed, this episode is all about the girls, since the boys end up spending most of their time in pheromone-induced thrall to Hathor.

“Cor-Ai” is a really good Teal’c episode, and pretty excellent in general. I really enjoy how it deals with questions relating to guilt, innocence, forgiveness, redemption, victim’s rights, the burden of punishment of a criminal, and so on. It’s quite fascinating. Briefly, some background: During the 1990’s, a hot political issue in the U.S. was the question of victim’s rights, namely the belief that the rights of the accused were being accorded too much weight by our legal system, and that this needed to be corrected in favor of victims of crimes. This episode hypothesizes a rather extreme solution to the problem, namely a legal system where the trial itself is controlled by the victim, who is also responsible for determining and carrying out the sentence. On the surface, it seems like a hopelessly barbaric way of doing things (at least it does to me, civil libertarian that I am), but the episode is written intelligently enough so we see that it wouldn’t really be that simple…although I still much prefer the American way of doing things. This episode is what science fiction is all about: using the story in a way that’s not only relevant to the complexities of the real world, but doing so thoughtfully, so that the viewer is actually drawn into thinking about an issue in a new way.

Blood, Fire and Torment March 7, 2008

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I ended up watching three more episodes last night, after “Thor’s Hammer”. They were (in order) “The Torment of Tantalus”, “Bloodlines”, and “Fire and Water.” These are all pretty good episodes.

“Torment of Tantalus” is a sweet and touching story. I was pleasantly surprised to see the young Ernest Littlefield played by none other than Paul McGillion (who goes on to play Dr. Beckett on Atlantis). Actually, both actors who portray Littlefield, him and Keene Curtis, do remarkable jobs—Littlefield ends up being a wonderfully sympathetic and tragic character. This is a good Jackson episode too—his passion and frustration with the discovery and imminent destruction of the ancient book device really help to remind us of what he’s all about as a person. He’s a seeker of knowledge, truth and understanding, and it’s this inner need which will drive him throughout the series, even after his quest for his wife ends.

As the series was originally broadcast, the episode “The Nox” would have appeared before this one. As I was watching last night, I began to think the ordering of the episodes actually is better on the DVDs, but I want to see “The Nox” before deciding for sure. What they’re doing with all these references to ancient and powerful races is presenting pieces in a puzzle, and I’m thinking the order of presentation may make a difference in the overall perception that’s created for the viewer.

“Bloodlines” is notable because of the first appearance in the series of one of my favorite recurring guest characters, Bra’tac, so fabulously portrayed by Tony Amendola. I like this character so much, I typically greet his appearance in an episode with a hearty, “Bra’tac! Dude!” or something similar. ;) It was so fortunate that the writers didn’t kill him off after a few seasons, the way they did with some of the other guest characters—he ended up making at least one appearance in all but one of the show’s ten seasons.

This is also the episode where we begin to realize why Teal’c is so quiet—he’s an introvert! Witness the emotions flooding through him when he discovers his old home, burned to the ground. He says very little, yet it’s obvious the experience is tearing him up inside. This, now, is the beginning of the character who, in my opinion, ends up being the best sci fi alien since Mr. Spock.

Regarding “Fire and Water,” I have a theory about the bizarre fish-faced alien in this episode: He is a Furling. I’m almost certainly wrong, since the technology in his lab bears little resemblance to the Furling technology shown in the sixth season episode “Paradise Lost,” but it seemed like a really cool idea when I thought of it last night. It fits, in a couple of respects—fish-faced-guy possesses very advanced technology, and his race is very old and powerful. Okay, I admit, that’s pretty thin. I guess I’m mostly amused by the idea of a fishlike alien race being referred to as “Furlings,” and frustrated that the mystery of the Furlings was never resolved.

In any case, this is a fairly good episode, not one of my favorites from this season, but interesting enough. The memorial service for Daniel Jackson is quite well done. I also enjoyed the look of the alien’s lab, and the planet itself.

One bit of trivia I want to note down here for future reference: SG-6 makes a very brief appearance in this episode.

Thor! Buddy! March 6, 2008

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I remember O’Neill greeting the loveable alien Thor with those words, a few seasons down the line. I’m not sure if the memory is accurate, but it sure seems like something O’Neill would say if he hadn’t seen his friend in a while.

The first episode tonight is “Thor’s Hammer”, which is also the very first Thor episode. We don’t actually encounter the real Thor this time around, just some pleasant and suspiciously timed thunderbolts, and an imposing Norse-looking simulacrum.

There’s a lot to like in this episode. Jackson correctly guesses that the Goa’uld did not, in fact, build the Stargate system, and that the Norse gods must be friendly to humans. He also learns of a way to save his beloved wife, a way taken from him at the end. It’s a cruelty to him, obviously, but at the same time, his act of voluntarily destroying Thor’s Hammer so that Teal’c can escape unharmed shows Teal’c once and for all that the members of SG-1 are truly his friends. I got a real kick out of the dialog right after this—Jackson remarks after his destruction of Thor’s Hammer, an act which casts a heavy pall of improbability on his hopes for saving his wife, “Well, at least we know it can be done.” Teal’c looks at him, understanding fully the depth of his sacrifice, and says nothing. But, if you listen very, very carefully, you can almost hear the word, “Indeed.”

In the realm of trivia, I notice that the characters are now starting to refer to the Goa’uld in the aggregate plural rather than ordinary plural, i.e. “Goa’uld” instead of “Goa’ulds.” In fact, the first character (other than Teal’c) I noticed doing this was the blue crystal alien in the form of O’Neill’s dead son in “Cold Lazarus.” All of the team now appear to be sporting the finalized SG-1 insignia, the familiar one with a solid colored “1” in the center instead of a black “1”. And they’re still stumbling through the Stargate some of the time, barely managing to keep their footing on the other side.

Regarding the order of the episodes, this continues to be different from the original broadcast order. According to the GateWorld episode guide for Season One, the correct order is as follows: “The Broca Divide”, “The First Commandment”, “Cold Lazarus”, “The Nox”, “Brief Candle” and “Thor’s Hammer”, while the DVD puts them in this order (listing those on Disc 2 only): “The Broca Divide”, “The First Commandment”, “Brief Candle”, “Cold Lazarus” and “Thor’s Hammer”. “The Nox” ends up being the fourth episode on Disc 3. I wonder why they ordered the episodes so differently. Not that I’m complaining—I do like them this way.

Nutjob commanders, alien hotties, brilliant blue crystalline entities—what’s not to love? March 6, 2008

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The next three episodes in my SG-1 marathon (all watched last night after “The Broca Divide”) were “The First Commandment”, “Brief Candle” and “Cold Lazarus”. This is the order in which they appear on the second DVD in the box set. I’ve noticed on GateWorld’s series index that the order there is different. GateWorld’s listing is ordered by broadcast date—I’m not sure why the DVD episodes are in a different order, but it seems perfectly fine to me. I’m not sure if it would make much difference to watch them in one order or the other.

“The First Commandment” features SG-9 going native (and nuts) when their CO loses his mind and decides he actually is the god the locals believe him to be. This isn’t the most memorable episode, but enjoyable enough. It contrasts with “Emancipation” in being more morally relativistic, instead of casting things in such black-and-white terms: Captain Hanson is obviously a whacko, viewing himself as a god, but at the same time, it’s apparent that he genuinely loves “his” people, in his own twisted, megalomaniacal way. In spite of the fact that a lot of them will be killed because of his madness, there is some element of altruism in his motivation.

Another thing that interested me in this episode was noticing the difference between Carter’s and Jackson’s reactions to the situation of a man getting beaten. Initially it’s Carter who goes against O’Neill’s implicit orders and gets involved, not Jackson, meaning they are both doing the unexpected. Carter’s military background makes her quick willingness to mess up O’Neill’s plan surprising, while Jackson’s opposition to helping out seems to go directly against his idealist tendencies. I’m guessing Jackson’s motivation is simply the fear of getting tied to a stake and left out in the bright sun to die, because it’s hard to imagine the Jackson of season ten hesitating like that. He probably wants to help, but at this early point in the series, he hasn’t yet developed the level of confidence in his own abilities which would allow him to risk injury or death to do so. Carter’s motivation is easier to understand—she just needs to help. In both cases, their actions serve very well to help us see them as more complex people, rather than uninteresting two-dimensional stereotypes. I think it’s this sort of thing which, over time, made viewers really care about this series.

Does SG-9 ever appear again? I’m sure they must be mentioned in passing, but we’ll see. By the way, this is the only time I can recall hearing about an SG team being led by a Captain—in all other cases, it was either Majors or Colonels (and I vaguely recall from my first time watching the series that there were never any Lieutenant Colonels at all, until Carter herself became one).

“Brief Candle” was very enjoyable. I have two favorite things about this episode. One of them is pretty obvious: The gorgeous Bobbie Phillips as Kynthia. What a hottie, and a sweetheart, too :) The character was interesting—one of the other “Chosen” people states her age at “31 days”, which I assume would correspond physiologically to a normal human age of 31 years. However, she plays the character as quite naive and innocent, knowing full well that no matter how much nanotechnology is thrown at someone to age them quickly, she’s not going to develop the maturity of a normal 31-year-old woman in only 31 days. Careful observers may also notice the appearance of crow’s feet around her eyes in the later scenes, by which time she would be much older, physiologically—like a woman in her 40’s.

The other aspect of this episode that I really enjoyed is how Kynthia’s brief relationship with O’Neill, coupled with his rapid and extreme aging, serves to round out the O’Neill character. There’s a side of him visible here that we don’t get to see very much. What starts out as an almost Captain-Kirk-like tryst between the two of them ends up taking a totally different path, especially as O’Neill ages. I absolutely love the tenderness he shows her in the later scenes.

There are some other things too. One is right at the beginning—the team discovers a young woman in labor, and Daniel Jackson gets stuck delivering the baby. Very amusing. :) Another is Teal’c’s “parting message” to O’Neill, which really touches me: “Colonel…I’ve learned very much from you. Thank you.” This is a nice little bit of foreshadowing of the great character Teal’c will eventually become, although I wonder how much of that the writers had worked out at this point.

Finally, it was getting late, but I really wanted to watch “Cold Lazarus” before I turned in for the night, because I always loved those nifty blue crystalline aliens. :) This is another really good Richard Dean Anderson episode, even though he mostly plays an alien instead of his normal character.

It’s no wonder I got hooked on this show so easily—this whole season is actually pretty excellent. It exhibits very little of the “rough-around-the-edges” quality that so many good series show in their first seasons. Plus, a lot of these episodes prove to be pivotal for the entire series—I just finished watching Season 10 recently, and there were two explicit references to these early episodes, one to O’Neill’s temporary aging experience, and the other to the crystalline aliens. Also, the concept of the Goa’uld using people as lab rats will continue to be important for quite some time. Obviously the writers realized early on that, if they were going to keep the series going for more than a season, it needed to amount to much more than just “four people having random adventures on a bunch of weird planets.” There’s a lot of real meat here in this first season.

This is fun! March 5, 2008

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The SG-1 marathon is going very well—I’m three episodes past the pilot now, and I’m surprised how much I’m enjoying this. Last night, after writing out a draft of the previous entry about the pilot story, I then watched “The Enemy Within” and “Emancipation”.

The first of these is the story where Kawalski, who got infected with a Goa’uld symbiote at the end of the pilot, ends up dead at the end, after wreaking a lot of havoc in the SG-C. This is actually a pretty good ep, even though they never leave the confines of the base. It’s the first good Teal’c episode, too, unlike the couple which follow this, where he is more flat and two-dimensional. In this story, we see a lot of the character that Teal’c becomes later on in the series. This episode is also, by my guess, the last we’ll ever see of SG-2. I’ll be keeping an eye out for that unit in future episodes, but I don’t recall ever seeing them again. My guess is O’Neill had the number retired after Kowalski’s death. But that’s just a guess.

The next ep is the one I typically dread whenever I consider the possibility of watching early SG-1 episodes: “Emancipation.” Yes, it was just about as bad as I had remembered. The political content of the story is way over the top considering when this was first aired (seriously, a story like this would have played better in 1967 than 1997), but beyond that, some of the dialog was like a bad parody of a classic Star Trek episode, and performances by a couple of the supporting cast were fairly painful to watch.

Soon-Tek Oh as Moughal On the other hand, there were some bright spots. One was the performance by guest actor Sooh-Tek Oh, as the elderly tribal chieftain Moughal. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed him in this small but sympathetic role. The main benefit of watching this episode, however, is that it throws down some building blocks for the development of the SG-1 team. Right at the beginning, the dialog gives away the fact that this isn’t their first offworld mission after the pilot episode, that in fact, they seem to have been on at least several missions in the interim since “The Enemy Within.” More important is the way the team reacts to Carter’s plight in this episode. At first they joke about it, and tease her about it, but when things turn ugly and she is abducted, O’Neill wastes not one second in taking action. It’s also the first big Samantha Carter episode, obviously.

Tonight, I started things out with “The Broca Divide.” I won’t say too much about this one other than that I enjoyed it, especially the happy ending. A couple of interesting trivia bits: This was the first SG-3 episode, the first episode with Colonel Makepeace, and most importantly, the first episode with Teryl Rothery as Dr. Frasier!! She saves the day too. :)

Now I’m about to go on to the next episode: “The First Commandment.” I actually don’t remember what this one is about, although I’m sure it’ll come back to me pretty quickly.

Children of the Gods March 4, 2008

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Okay, done with “Children of the Gods”, the pilot episode of SG-1.

There were some things I wanted to mention. I decided to skip the Stargate movie, because I never really liked it all that much. What’s more important to me are the SG-1 characters, as portrayed by the series actors (even though I’m a raving fan of James Spader). A long time ago, my dad remarked that one of the primary strengths of the original Star Trek series was the relationship between Kirk, Spock and McCoy, and I think he was absolutely correct. Those three characters just clicked really well, and that went a long way towards making the series fun, interesting, and most importantly not stilted or phony in feeling. It made a person want to be there with them, on the Enterprise.

When I first started watching SG-1, it didn’t take me very long to realize that here was another show like that, only with four people instead of three. This is one of the main reasons I wanted to watch the whole thing over again, in order to see that interplay develop.

I also want to note of some other things here. For one, this pilot is just plain good. I had forgotten that, or perhaps not appreciated it as much during previous viewings.

Other interesting things fit more in the category of trivia. For instance, one of the serpent guards that comes through the stargate with Apophis’ party at the beginning, the one who is later shown dead on a gurney, is sporting a gold forehead emblem identical to the one Teal’c wears. According to what would later be said, this would make him a “first prime.” I guess that hadn’t been thought of at this point, however.

  1. When Apophis, Teal’c and the others come through the gate, the “puddle” disappears behind them, and then, after the shootout, somehow it’s back again, allowing them to effect their escape. How did it get back? I suspect that’s just a mistake–writers can’t have every detail worked out right from the beginning.
  2. The frostiness that the teams suffer from while going through the gate–I made a point of watching, and they only suffer from it while going from the gate at the SG-C to a remote destination. Coming back, they are fine, other than the problem of being rudely thrust through the gate so they stumble. I’ll have to remember to watch, but I suspect these problems are due to minor issues with the SG-C’s computer system not being perfectly in tune with the stargate.
  3. Members of SG-2 are shown in this movie, and play an important supporting role. I can’t remember offhand if SG-2 ever makes another appearance at any point in the series, other than Kawalski playing a major role in the episode immediately following this. (Actually, I might want to keep track of which SG teams appear in which episodes–it could be interesting, along with my Jaffa tattoo-cataloging project).
  4. General Hammond sets up nine SG teams in this initial movie. That answers a question I’ve had for a long time–I couldn’t remember and thought it was 12, except 12 seemed too high.
  5. The SG-1 and SG-2 insignia are different here than they are in the main part of the series. Briefly, the SG-1 insignia features a black “1” superimposed on the chevron in the center of the insignia. Later on (beginning in the very next episode, actually), they start moving over to the final design, where the “1” is the silver color of the rest of the pattern. As for SG-2, in this pilot, their insignia is similar to that of SG-1, namely a black “2” superimposed on a chevron in the center. I’ll have to watch carefully to see how this changes, because in later episodes, SG-1 is the only team to feature a number and a chevron in the center of the design. All the others just have the number of the team.

Finally, I’d like to raise my proverbial hat to the persons responsible for the musical score in this pilot–again, I hadn’t noticed in previous viewings, but listening to it again, the score in this is second-to-none compared to scores throughout the entire series.

That’s all for now. I have tea brewing, and after that’s done, I’ll be on to the first “real” episode, “The Enemy Within”. If I remember right, this is the one where Kawalsky kicks the bucket.

A Stargate SG-1 Marathon March 4, 2008

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I recently got caught up on my backlog of Stargate SG-1 episodes, completing my watching of the tenth and last season of that show. While watching that, I began to feel more and more tempted to re-watch the whole series, from beginning to end. I realized I could make it a project. This is actually feasible for me, since I own the DVD box sets for all ten seasons (yeah, I’m that much of a gategeek).

I’m also about to run out of Atlantis episodes to watch, having caught up to the 18th episode of the fourth season last night, leaving me with episode 19 and the as-yet unbroadcast final episode of this season (scheduled to be broadcast later this week). I’m not ready to be done with Stargate yet! I want more! Hence this project.

So my SG-1 marathon will start tonight, and I’ll be making various notes about the experience as I go along. It should be fun—for one thing, it’s been a while since I’ve watched an episode from the Richard Dean Anderson days. I’m also considering an idea I’ve had for a long time, namely creating a catalog of ALL the various Jaffa forehead symbols. As far as I know, there is nothing like that anywhere on the internet, and, quite frankly, I’m sick of watching an episode, seeing a Jaffa appear, and not knowing which Goa-uld his or her tattoo corresonds to.

Anyway, that’s all for now, I’ll be back soon with more. :)

First Entry! March 4, 2008

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Well, here I am, doing my first entry on this blog before I even know for sure what the blog is going to be called, or where it’s going to be hosted. For now, I’m typing this in TextEdit in my Mac, and at the point when I get that other stuff ironed out, I can transfer these initial entries into the real, live, accessible-to-the-world blog.

So, what is this all about. It’s about Science Fiction. I tend to have a bias towards television sci fi these days, although I’m also interested in books and movies. I expect to concentrate on stuff that I’m most interested in, which is what some would call “TV Sci Fi”. Stuff like the Stargates, Farscape, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, the various Trek series, and what-not. There are some major series that I have completely missed, such as Babylon 5. I’ll be watching those eventually, and chronicling my experience with them here. I’m also intrigued by the idea of revisiting some of the older, classic TV series, such as Space: 1999, The Twilight Zone, the original Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century, and others.

There’s also the question of whether something is “sci fi” or not. For instance, I greatly enjoy the series Lost, but is it science fiction? My gut feeling is that somehow it is, even though the specifics have not yet become clear. Another aspect of this question are programs which stretch the definition of sci fi. One criticism I’ve always had towards TV science fiction shows is that their creators will often competely ignore what science fiction really is and so we end up with a show like Buffy the Vampire Slayer included in the sci fi category. For the record, I own all seven seasons of Buffy on DVD, but I would never consider this show, as excellent as it is, to be anything close to science fiction. Joss Whedon, I am sure, knows the difference too—he was responsible for Buffy and Angel, neither of which could be considered sci fi, but take a look at some of his other stuff, such as Firefly, Serenity and the writing credit for Alien: Resurrection, all of which fall pretty firmly in the “SF” category. Whedon knows the difference. Some people (such as a lot of modern book publishers, who feel free to fill up the sci fi shelves with vampire stories) obviously don’t. Even many of the most popular SF series will sometimes break the rules and cross over into the “fantasy” category, or more often just the “bullshit” category. Sometimes it’s good bullshit though. ;)

In any case, since there is not a clear and hard dividing line between “SF” and “not-SF”, it shouldn’t be considered surprising if I sometimes cross the line into other forms of speculative and fantastic fiction.

There will be spoilers here. I’m not going to make any effort to despoilerize things. Sorry. I figure the people who would be most interested in reading this will have already seen virtually all of these programs anyway.

So….without further ado, here goes!