Friday, October 13, 2017

Star Trek: Discovery is Bad, and You Should Feel Bad

The first episode of Star Trek I can remember watching is The Balance of Terror, I was home sick from school and the episode played on the old channel DC20 in the middle of the day or late morning.  I'm pretty sure it aired at 10:00 am because that was when I turned on the television in my parents' bedroom after convincing myself that my mother wasn't going to suddenly decide she wasn't going to work that day.  This thought process is odd because I'm pretty sure my mom was working from home during this period, so maybe she had gone to the grocery store or something.  That's all irrelevant, but that's where my mind was while I was watching Star Trek as a child. 

As an adult, Star Trek fills a similar role as Doctor Who, a show that approaches challenges and meeting new species and people with hope and curiosity, even the Daleks and Klingons have been treated with empathy.  Not to get pedantic, but the opening sequence makes it pretty damn obvious:
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

To quote Captain Kirk, he of the flying leg kick, "We fight only when there's no choice."

After four episodes, my impression of Star Trek: Discovery's opening narration, if it had one, would be: "Victory by any means necessary. Also, fuck all the previously established storylines and precedent."  JJ Abrams can pull this off for his movies, opening up new adventures for the crew of the Enterprise, and allowing writers to work within the same universe while also exploring new ground.  The first new movie wasn't terrible, it was entertaining, but not great, much like Star Trek 4: The Voyage HomeStar Trek Into Darkness was pretty bad, mostly because the villain had no build up within the story so we weren't invested in him or the threat he represented to the crew.  "Hi guys!  I'm Khan, even though we rebooted this movie series to allow us to make new movies we are reusing all of the old storylines!  Totally not a remake tho!"  However to try and shoehorn this sort of mentality into a universe that has previously always been about exploration, about empathy, and ever hopeful is a mistake.  Like taking away the Doctor's sonic screwdriver and replacing it with a .44 Space Magnum.

Star Trek: Discovery feels like someone at CBS wanted a sci-fi show, and all the execs would allow was Star Trek, and so the creators are begrudgingly working within that framework, while bending or breaking it as much as possible.  The two-part pilot was ham-fisted at best, and downright shitty at worst.  The main problems can be broken into two categories: the heroes and the villains.  The interactions between Michael Burnham and her captain were so forced and awkward, you would be forgiven if you thought they had been working together for 7 days, not 7 years.  Sure, Burnham was raised by Vulcans, and you might say that is why she was awkward around other humans, but if you watch Spock and Kirk for two minutes, you'd see that excuse as flimsy.  After 7 years together, those two characters knew almost nothing about each other, had no trust in each other's decisions, and couldn't communicate effectively in a crisis situation.  Essentially, this results from poor writing.

The villains of ST: Discovery are Klingons on the warpath.  Unfortunately, they're terrible, too.  Dispensing the established storylines of shows that the creators claim to be working within, the Klingons look like someone had described ST:TNG-era Klingons to a make-up artist who had never seen a Star Trek show over a bad Skype connection. This breaks with the continuity of ST: Enterprise and TOS.  These Klingons are much more savage than Klingons of any era.  I could have missed this, but I can't recall any Klingons eating the corpses of their enemies in The Next Generation, and I just finished watching that entire series only last week.  Their costumes, armor, ships, and space suits all look like they belong in a fantasy genre show, "let's just throw spikes on everything, that will show everyone how edgy and new these baddies are!"  Their entire outlook and costumes have been designed to make them out to be one-dimensional savages with whom there can be no negotiation.  That's a violation of Starfleet directive something or other: everyone deserves a chance.

Ultimately, all this boils down to a show that I might have watched an episode or two of on Netflix, but won't bother watching and certainly won't keep paying for a subscription to CBS All Access.  I watched these four episodes on CBS All Access which my lovely lady had signed up to watch the Emmys.  We have already cancelled the subscription.

If I want to watch a new Star Trek show, I'll watch The Orville.  Yeah, I said it, Seth MacFarlane's show is vastly better, with thoughtful writing, some funny jokes, some unfunny jokes, and they've stopped mentioning his character's divorce every five minutes.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

CDC: Game of Thrones and Sweeney Todd

I woke up with an odd tune in my head. 

My dreams were fragmented and medieval, I was watching a host of men laying about with sword and shield.  The dream shifted and I was zooming in on a large rowboat approaching land.  In the boat I saw Roose Bolton, Sansa Stark, and Ramsay Snow in a boat travelling into a port in the north of Westeros, I knew I was looking at White Harbor, and that maybe I need to lay off the Game of Thrones a little.

After floating through a lock, the rowboat was connected to a winch by another Hodor-type person, and then pulled violently up a hill by the winch like some sort of Westerosi carnival ride.  As the Boltons and Sansa mounted horses and rode off, I heard the voice of the Red Woman recite a strange prophecy to the Brotherhood without Banners.  The Brotherhood was slipping between trees and wearing lots of green as the shadowed the Bolton army on the way to the Dreadfort.  I think the Brotherhood was singing something, and Grenn was with them.  He kicked some serious ass when the BWB snuck into a Bolton holdfast for the night.

The prophecy involved finding a special boar and feeding to a specific dog so they could get a specific stirring stick and some other ingredients to make some sort of potion.  It was very convoluted, as prophecies are, and I woke up mostly because I kept thinking, "well, that's just confusing, how do we know we have the right stick?"

As I woke up, I realized that the Brotherhood without Banners had been singing a mucked up version of the Sweeney Todd theme:

Attend the tale of Ramsay Snow,
His face was sweet and his hobbies were odd.
Attend the tale of Ramsay Snow,
The demon butcher of DREAD
FORT

 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The eXercise Files: Season 1, Pilot

I have struggled with maintaining an active enough lifestyle to balance out my diet since high school.  In high school, we were required to take some sort of exercise-requiring class every semester.  I made it onto the cross country skiing team in junior year, by nature of showing up and buying the necessary equipment, but mostly I took classes like Archery, Conditioning, Ultimate Frisbee, and Introduction to the Outdoors.  Looking back, it seems like I was training for the Hunger Games.

I like the freedom that biking allows me, I can bike to Mount Vernon from my apartment with only about 100-150 yards of street biking.  I can bike up to see my brother and his family in posh Bethesda.  DC has a few neighborhoods with decent access to bike paths, and I'm lucky to live in one.  I also like the freedom to eat whatever I damn please and douse it in butter that being fit allows me.  That may not be completely medically accurate, but it is close enough for horseshoes and heart attacks.

During the winter, biking is horrible so I set up my bike on an old stationary setup my dad gave me.  Staring at a wall while biking gets pretty old pretty fast, but with modern technology I can watch just about anything I want with my unlimited data cellular plan.  I bent a metal hanger into a cradle for my phone, and I can bike until I can't anymore.  I have a few goals for this fitness adventure: I want to watch the X-Files from start to finish because I missed a lot of episodes over the years and this is better than just sitting on my ass watching...hundreds? of hours of phelevision,* I want to be ripped again like I was when I was on the cross country skiing team and like when I had to chop wood for four hours a day to heat my house, I want to fit into the suits my father gave me that he had tailored for himself in Romania when he was in his mid to late forties, and I want to be able to ride RAGBRAI without collapsing at the end of every day's ride.

That's the background on what I'm hoping I'll have the endurance to complete as a series on exercising and science fiction.

After watching season 4 of Continuum, most of The Clone Wars, some of Lost Girl, and a couple movies, I decided that The X-Files would be my next exercise show.  While discussing the new X-Files with my ladyfriend, I realized that I couldn't remember much of The Conspiracy, or anything about the seasons involving their kid.  Mostly because I kinda stopped watching in the second half of college.  I don't think I could be more primed to watch this show with the new series, and the amount of X-Com: Enemy Within (Long War) that I've been playing over the last week or so.

Pilot: On Monday, I watched the Pilot while pedaling away, and I was struck by a couple things: they look so young, and you can do a lot with a dessicated ape corpse.  I remember watching this show in high school, and I only remember two impressions: redheads would forever be on my mind, and you can be pretty scary/creepy if you stand around frowning at people without saying anything.  Clearly, the plot was not necessarily what kept me watching, but the combination of these two might lead you to think that I was a pretty creepy kid.  You might not be wrong, I always a bit of an odd little rock.

Knowing now what I know of Scully and Mulder's characters, it was almost comforting to see that they were pretty exactly that way from the beginning. Some pilots are still working out how things are going to work in the show, but Scully and Mulder, and even the plot, were pretty much exactly the same as they were when they showed up in the first episode of the resurrected series, skeptic and believer with all of their evidence on fire.  The Conspiracy gets off to a slow burn of a start, but it is the right kind of start, the Smoking Man is mysterious, and the Pentagon Vault is also mysterious.  JJ Abrams could learn a lot about setting up a story from Chris Carter. 

Biggest question: Why the hell did they back down when the Sheriff threatened them off the crime scene?  As I understood it, the FBI had jurisdiction and he had a gruff voice, they should have forced him off.

Favorite scene: the autopsy of the dessicated ape corpse.  Why? Scully gets tired of Mulder's blatant unprofessionalism, she's curious and proceeding scientifically, and he's acting like a sugar-high kid.  I suspect this is a recurring dynamic.

How does it fit in with the new series: the pilot does not contradict the new series at all, the identities and motives of the abductors remain unknown.  I have developed a convoluted explanation for how the revelations of the new series fits in with the old series, but I will refrain from discussing that until after this season of the new series has finished airing.

Scully's suit: Grey plaid is not a good look for her.

Mulder's hair: Almost sported a pompadour in one scene, skirting the edge of acceptability for a representative of the FBI, agent.

Final thoughts: So when are they restarting Space: Above and Beyond?

* That's mine, I made it up just now and you have to credit me when you use it.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Liquid Diets

For 71% of all days, I'm on a 30% liquid diet. In the morning, I drink an instant breakfast with almond milk, then most of a French press of coffee, and then some water. I don't know if I'm losing weight, but I'm certainly suffering for my goals.  Well, not really, I actually enjoy the various fluids I'm ingesting and I get right to going about my day which mostly consists of crawling through the ruins of the imaginary wasteland of Boston.*

My bike is once again set up as a stationary exercise bike in the hopes that I will actually get some exercise this winter.  So far, I know I've changed a little since I last tried this because I've been on the bike more than once.  I'm going for three days on and one day off, and my duration keeps improving.  I'm training to bike across Iowa again with my father this summer.  My brothers all suggest that maybe we both go on a slightly less intimidating ride, like the 38 minute round trip circuit my father makes from his front door to his front door with a stop for a bear claw in the middle.

To my brothers, I say: have you ever tried to tell our father to cut it out?  I haven't had any success with this, but I'm still alive after arguing with him about Chelsea Manning/Edward Snowden and how they are not at all different from the Pentagon Papers and the various Vietnam War era protests except in one way: I haven't programmed Chelsea Manning's VCR, nor have I programmed Edward Snowden's VCR.  Not like either of them would have a VCR anymore, even if they weren't in their respective situations.

The point is that my father is an intimidating man, even when he isn't trying to be, and that is mostly due to his RDVF, Resting Darth Vader Face.  As such, he needs an equally intimidating challenge for a bicycle trip, and this is why he trains for RAGBRAI.  He has said the same thing each year, "I think this will be my last trip, it's not as much fun" or "this is an actual pain in my ass" or "I haven't trained as much, so I probably won't register for the ride" or "your mother would prefer if I didn't go" or "I'm busy teaching this kid advanced algebra with trigonometry so she can go to college to be a homeschooled kid who is a chemical engineer" or "Call The Midwife is on, call me back tomorrow."

When I spoke to him a couple days ago, Father Genius said that he had been on the bike for the last couple days, and didn't think he would be in shape to register, which is exactly what he said last year, and then he registered and only notified me of this on the last possible day to register.  

You can understand my frustrations.  These are twofold: one, my father could be better about letting me know in time that he is actually going, and, two, he is not a thirtysomething, mustachioed genius but he can still ride across Iowa every year while I barely survived the same trip, and, three, my brothers leave it to me to try and convince him to bail on the ride, and, four, that they just don't seem to grasp that it is happening no matter what they say.

So...I guess I'm saying happy new year, cobags!

* As opposed to the actual wasteland of Boston, HAYOO.**

** I havent' been to Boston since 2006, I imagine it has gotten a little better.***

*** Double burn, bro.****

**** Wait, why am I congratulating myself on making fun of Boston?*****

***** You've fallen into old, dumb habits, like excessive asterisk use.******

****** Oh, shit.  You're right.