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Why you should watch Dollhouse February 23, 2009

Posted by ce9999 in Dollhouse.
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Better stories, fewer commercials.

What more do you need?

Well, if you actually do need more than that, here are some additional reasons: Eliza Dushku. Tamoh Penikett. Amy Acker. Created and written by Joss Whedon. Also involved in the writing, Tim Minear. And a bunch of other good people who I’m not as familiar with.

Remember the first season or two of Alias? You know, when the show was actually entertaining—it was kind of silly (but at the same time not silly) and fun, with a strong, female protagonist who got to go out on secret missions every episode. Dollhouse bears some superficial resemblance to that, but has its own unique and interesting take on the idea. It toughens up one of the premises of Alias by three or four notches: Instead of simply going out on covert missions for each episode, series heroine Echo becomes a completely different person in each story. Her real identity has been wiped from her mind, rendering her a blank slate upon which the Dollhouse can impose any new and useful personality it wishes, for whatever reason it wants. Directly related to this are the questions of who she was originally, why she is where she is now, and how on earth she’s going to deal with a predicament which she isn’t even aware of. Echo and her peers (called “Actives”) are slaves, body and mind. If someone wants to purchase a girlfriend for the weekend, they can imprint an appropriate personality into Echo’s brain, and she’ll not only do it, she’ll believe in what she’s doing. The client in the second story wanted something like this…and then something much more sinister afterwards. What makes Echo’s situation even more compelling is that Actives exhibit an especially docile, childlike innocence when their mission personalities are wiped. They do what they’re told, sweetly, obediently, willingly. (Except there was one who went bad somehow, and slashed everyone up. More will obviously be revealed about that in upcoming episodes, and it will likely be tied up somehow with Echo’s own personal rediscovery.)

I’m already impatient for episode three!

Season 5 – the best yet for Atlantis? August 23, 2008

Posted by ce9999 in Stargate: Atlantis.
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Based on the six episodes I’ve seen so far this season, I’d answer that question with a definite “yes.” Just a little while ago I finished watching this week’s story, “The Shrine.” As I was watching, it occurred to me that a lot of the criticisms I levelled at the show just a few weeks ago are being addressed fairly well by the six episodes so far.

Notice Sheppard in this episode, in particular. There’s a scene with him and McKay, the two of them just hanging out and having a beer while they wrestle with the painful fact that McKay’s brain is gradually being squeezed to death by an alien parasite. McKay, wracked with fear and embarrassment over his continually worsening condition, suggests that this meeting be their last, so that Sheppard can remember him as he really is. But Sheppard will have none of that, doggedly insisting that he’s going to be there for his friend until the bitter end. Why? Because that’s just the kind of guy that Sheppard is. And HEY! All of a sudden, in my mind, Sheppard wasn’t two-dimensional anymore. Not only that, he’s the kind of friend anyone would really want to have. Wow! I am loving this!

I wonder why they couldn’t have hit this point home back in season one?

Remember Firefly? That show makes an interesting contrast to Atlantis, when talking about issues like this. It managed to accomplish more with character and relationship in its mere 14 episodes than Atlantis did in its first four seasons. There were nine primary characters on Firefly, all with their own agendas, many of them in direct opposition to each other. Forming them into a cohesive ensemble cast would seem like a virtually impossible task, much less doing so in only a handfull of episodes. And yet, that’s exactly what Joss Whedon and his writing team managed to pull off.

I still remember marvelling at it, the first time I ever watched the series. In one particular episode (unfortunately, I can’t remember which episode), there is a moment of obvious resolution, when the last of the big initial issues between the nine characters is finally resolved. It felt at that point as if they were no longer nine disparate people, but almost a family. It also felt right, not artificial or as if it were being forced on the viewer by arbitrary writer fiat.

That’s some pretty good writing, and the way character based stuff ought to be done. It’s also similar to the way things felt on Atlantis this week, except on Atlantis it’s taken so very long to get to this point, and the journey has been as much one of trial and error as being intentionally planned.

And, of course, it’s happening just in time for the show to be cancelled, hallelujah!!!! :(

First Entry! March 4, 2008

Posted by ce9999 in Uncategorized.
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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!