Friday, November 30, 2007

Star Trek 357: Shakaar

357. Shakaar

FORMULA: The Siege + Past Prologue + The Collaborator + Progress + Rivals

WHY WE LIKE IT: Kira's political revenge. Furrel's story.

WHY WE DON'T: How O'Brien gets out of the zone.

REVIEW: Bajoran politics rear their ugly heads when Winn becomes First Minister of Bajor. Because being pope wasn't enough for her. With Bareil gone (and this episode makes a point of burying his memory at last), Winn needs a political foil. It will be Shakaar, Kira's former resistance cell leader, who has since taken up farming and just won't let go of soil reclamators the former government had promised him. Kira is sent in to reason with him, like she's done on previous occasions (in Progress and in a way, in The Collaborator).

There's some nice reminiscing with the old cell, and Furrel's story about why he never got a replacement arm after losing his in a daring raid is a highlight. It reminds Kira that there's an honorable side here, and she isn't on it. But that's easily remedied, and we get a sense of what life in the Resistance must have been like. The story actually jumps weeks ahead, perhaps a bit breezily, but our heroes realize that they didn't fight the Cardassians just so they could start killing fellow Bajorans, and Shakaar positions himself as a folk hero/new First Minister. He's Li Nalas, only with some cohones. And so Kira is truly revenged for Bareil's death.

Because this is at the heart of everything here. Kira was wound so tight, she was bound to snap the next time her Eminence showed up. Winn remains problematic here. She's back to full power after Louise Fletcher's rocky performance in Life Support (she was visibly sick), but past the verge of madness in places. I totally believe she's capable of declaring martial law or asking the Emissary for Federation support, but not that she would start spouting "don't you see?! This way lies chaos!!" rhetoric (my words, not hers). She's always been too smooth an operator for that. Ok, becoming Kai sent her over the edge, sure. Doesn't that a dimension away from her though?

The subplot du jour is about O'Brien being "in the zone", and his winning at darts against everyone. Quark naturally makes en event of it. It's pretty light on substance, and when O'Brien suddenly pulls something and needs emergency surgery, I thought for sure he was faking it to get out of Quark's circus. Alas, it was all true, despite what seemed like overplaying, which left me with an empty feeling, like the subplot didn't really have a point to make. Quark never "gets his", seems like a missed opportunity.

LESSON: Church and State. Separate, people! Separate!!!

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-High: A villain is simplified and a subplot goes nowhere. And that's why I can't give this otherwise excellent Kira story a full High recommendation.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Star Trek 356: Family Business

356. Family Business

FORMULA: Rules of Acquisition + The Icarus Factor + Lessons

WHY WE LIKE IT: Brunt. Ferenginar. Ferengi wrestling. Andrea Martin.

WHY WE DON'T: Naked Ferengi make for awkward cameras.

REVIEW: A lot of additions to the show in Family Business, mostly to the Ferengi side of the equations. And they're all quite good. For one thing, it's the first time we see Ferenginar, a rainy world, special because it actually has atmospheric conditions. The usual layering in of (silly) Ferengi customs is expected, and we get to see a Ferengi home, the Tower of Commerce, etc. etc. More important to the story are new recurring Ferengi. First, there's Brunt, another Geoffrey Combs creation, the nasty FCA agent who may or may not take pleasure in auditing Quark. Not much about him this time, but it's fun to see the evil Ferengi tax man, and a surprise no one thought of it before.

Quark and Rom's mother Ishka is the greater creation, and Andrea Martin is a real joy in the part. So how do you present a Ferengi female without the filming problems her nakedness would create? You make her an emancipated female like Pel (so it seems that's all Quark ever comes across), which either informs Rules of Acquisition or destroys it, I'm not sure which. Females thinking they're equal to men? It was bound to happen in a Federation-contaminated world.

What's important here is that we learn something about Quark and Rom and their family dynamic. There's great shame associated with the father's financial failures, and though Quark takes after his mother, shame associated with that too. He's an old-fashioned Ferengi closed to his mother's "new ways" and at odds against a brother he feels responsible for, because his parents certainly did a bad job of preparing him for the galactic marketplace. Rom, his father's son, places family above profit, something we'll see again and again when dealing with Rom and Nog. The brothers' differences come to a head in one of the most savage fights this side of a Klingon battleground, with fruit bowls flying at the camera. Nice touch.

When the Ferengi are driving a mostly comedic plot (still, with earnest family drama), it wouldn't do for the rest of the crew to be a dire straights. So it's with a light touch that the show introduces a romantic heroine for Sisko in the form of Kasidy Yates. She seems nice enough, but once she mentions baseball, you know it's going to work out. Geek points for starting a league on Cestus III (of Arena fame), and having of the teams be the Pike City Pioneers. I wonder, do the Gorn play? Sisko's reaction to Jake's matchmaking is bemused and open, and there's certainly some laughs coming from his having told everyone on the station. O'Brien and Bashir in particular are starting to gel as a double act.

LESSON: On Ferenginar, it costs twice as much to sit as to stand, but it still costs something. Only the richest Ferengi ever lie down.

REWATCHABILITY - High: A key to Quark and Rom's characters, plus the introduction of three recurring characters and a recurring planet. Sadly, Andrea Martin never plays Ishka again, which makes this the only place you can enjoy the character.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Amalgamonth: Super-Soldier

It's 1996, and for a whole month, Marvel and DC combine. But what would that month have been uncombined? 10 years later, the vault can finally be opened.

Amalgam series: Super-Soldier
DC series: Superman
Marvel series: Captain America

The Amalgam plot: The Super-Soldier has recently come back from the dead, but Lex Luthor AKA the Green Skull (now running Hydra) wants to kill him again. His last best hope is Ultra-Metallo, a nazi robot that runs on Kansas Lode AKA Green K!
The DC plot: Superman's recently been brought back from the dead amid an intense marketing campaign, but Lex Luthor (now running SKULL) wants him dead again. His last best hope is the man-robot Metallo! (Possibly a plan Brainiac told him over a couple shots of Jack Daniels some time ago. Would explain the green complexion)
The Marvel plot: Captain America has recently been thawed out by the Avengers (without an intense marketing campaign, cuz nothing that crass would ever happen to Captain America), but the Red Skull (now running Hydra) wants to put him on ice once more. His last best hope is a salvaged Nazi Sleeper robot with a nasty anti-super-soldier-serum toxin inside.Our story starts with a recap of Super-Soldier's origin, how he was injected with alien cells found in a Kryptonian rocket ship.
Our story starts with a recap of Superman's origin, how he crashed to Earth in a Kryptonian rocket ship.
Our story starts with a recap of Captain America's origin, how he was injected with a super-soldier serum.
Much later, Jimmy Olsen is beat up by Lex Luthor and his Hydra cronies. You don't write stories about Luthor, you hear? But he escapes and gives the recently resurrected Super-Soldier (who cannot and will not ever be nicknamed S.S., ok?) a really cryptic clue about Luthor's plans.
Much later, Jimmy Olsen is beat up by Lex Luthor and his SKULL cronies. You don't take pictures of Luthor, you hear? But he escapes and gives the recently resurrected Superman (fresh out of that black costume) a really cryptic clue about Luthor's plans.
Much later, Bucky (yes, he's still around, one of the Buckies anyway, might be Nomad at this point, or even Battlestar - anyone have a Marvel Universe 1996 handy?) is beat up by the Red Skull and his Hydra cronies. You don't not be a Nazi, you hear? But he escapes and gives the recently resurrected Captain America (remember Heroes Reborn? yeah, sorry I did that) a really cryptic clue about the Red Skull's plans.
But SS is a smart guy, and he flies to Washington on a hunch, but the Green Skull has a big Nazi robot waiting for him - Ultra-Metallo!
But Supes is a smart guy, and he flies to Washington on a hunch, but Luthor has a kryptonite-powered cyborg waiting for him - Metallo!
But Cap is a smart guy, and he drives to Washington on a hunch, but the Red Skull has a big Nazi robot waiting for him (which he got on eBay from Ultron, apparently, and so, the name)!
It's all down to Super-Soldier isolating the robot's Green K heart in a lead tube and sending it into orbit. Luthor is defeated, but not before Green K fallout starts to spell power problems for our patriotic hero.
It's all down to Superman isolating Metallo's kryptonite heart in a lead tube and sending it into orbit. Luthor is defeated, but not before kryptonite fallout starts to spell power problems for our patriotic hero.
It's all down to Captain America isolating the robot's anti-super-soldier-serum toxin and blowing it up. The Red Skull is defeated, but not before toxic fall-out starts to spell power problems for our patriotic hero... and cancer for the rest of us.
So now you know... the rest of the stories.

Star Trek 355: Explorers

355. Explorers

FORMULA: Final Mission + Generations + The Jem'Hadar

WHY WE LIKE IT: The Bajoran sailship. Dukat's backpedaling. Jerusalem.

WHY WE DON'T: "Hammock time!" ...uhm, what? And somebody tell the sound guys to go easy on the sound effects when a character points out how silent something is.

REVIEW: Well, I'm a big fan of the Sisko-Jake relationship, so this chance for them to bond again after the distance that had (naturally) grown between them is welcome. It seems that with the acceptance of DS9 as home, Sisko is now more interested in "exploring his pah", or at least learning more about Bajor's history and culture. Doing so through the reenactement of an early Bajoran space flight is certainly interesting, and the sailing ship is a beautiful creation, both inside and out.

Jake has something to tell his father, and it's not that his beard looks fake (a real one will grow in future episodes). No, he's really decided to be a writer, but also to stay on the station at least a year before going to school, not so much for himself as for his father. These two have an incredibly supportive of each other, but realistically so. Sisko doesn't mince words when critiquing Jake's writing, and Jake fears for his widower father's loneliness. First mention of Kasidy Yates, folks! You think THAT might work out?

Aside from proving ancient Bajorans might have reached Cardassia and an accident or two along the way, this episode is thin on danger. But who cares? It's just a joy to get to know these characters better. In the end, there's still a victory, as the ever Orwellian Cardassians must admit the journey is possible, as evidenced by a "just-discovered" crash site. Uh-huh.

Bashir's insecurities are once again explored on the station, this time thanks to a visit from Elizabeth Lense who was first in his class. His reaction belies the mutant business to come, but there's still a lot of light comedy and gentle ribbing surrounding the subplot. Here you'll find O'Brien and Bashir finally becoming true friends during a drinking binge (O'Brien admits to not hating him anymore) of truly Irish proportions. When Lense finally speaks, it's like Beverly Crusher's voice, crying over the lack of medical plots in an exploration show, and jealous of Bashir's opportunity to work on long-term projects. My thoughts exactly. And Leeta makes a cute first appearance! Nice episode overall.

LESSON: Cardassians' hatred of the Bajorans come from a race memory after having them fall on top of their heads long ago.

REWATCHABILITY - High: Heavy on character development and light on tension, Explorers gives us just what Elizabeth Lense is craving.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Amalgam Month: Assassins Strike Back

DC vs. Marvel sucked. I won't pull any punches. It outright sucked. Not only were the match-ups decided on popularity against all common sense (i.e. my opinion), but who you got to fight didn't make any sense. I mean, if Captain America and Batman were matched, how come they didn't get Amalgamated? Because they weren't true matches, that's why!

Now the Amalgamated Jordan Quesadio presents: Every true match-up from... Assassins. And may the best universe win.

Catwoman vs. ElektraCatwoman pros: A Batman icon. Once played by Julie Newmar. Stars in an underrated series. Solid cat burglar concept. Julie FREAKIN' Newmar! Catwoman cons: Once drawn with a rack that would prevent her from walking upright.
Elektra pros: Created and then killed by Frank Miller. Once played by Jennifer Garner. Uses the weapons and colors of Raphael, my favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Elektra cons: Brought back by someone other than Frank Miller. Greek ninja not as clear a concept.
Win: DC vs. Marvel gave the match to Elektra (the "sandbox incident"), but no way. Newmar trumps Garner every time. 1-0 DC.

Deathstroke vs. Daredevil
Deathstroke pros: As "Slade" in Teen Titans cartoon, one kickass villain. Deathstroke cons: DC should never have gotten into the whole anti-hero genre.
Daredevil pros: Blind and still fighting. Destitute and still fighting. Played by Ben Affleck and still fighting. Daredevil cons: None that I can see. (See what I did there?)
Win: Unfortunately for Deathstroke, he's not Slade. And only Slade might have had the fighting prowess to beat Daredevil. No eyes beats one eye any day. Hey Deathstroke, Schwartzenneger called. He wants his nickname back. 1-1 all.

Deadshot vs. Bullseye
Deadshot pros: A stone cold killer. Suicide Squad's greatest survivor despite having a death wish. That mask. That dry wit. Deadshot cons: Forgettable as a Batman villain. Original costume included a top hat.
Bullseye pros: A stone cold killer. That scene where he killed Elektra but left the back of her tank top intact. Death by paperclip. Bullseye cons: Fixed with killing Daredevil's girlfriends. Recruited by Iron Man for the Thunderbolts. I guess that's an Iron Man con.
Win: A really tough choice, but you'll excuse me for calling it for Deadshot. You might survive a lead pencil, but not a bullet. 2-1 DC.

Cheetah vs. Kraven the Hunter
Cheetah pros: Her costume is no costume at all. Cheetah cons: Nowhere near as cool as the Legion of Doom Cheetah.
Kraven pros: He's the ultimate hunter. Kraven's Last Hunt still seminal reading. Kraven cons: Took the coward's way out.
Win: Gotta be Kraven, even from beyond the grave. He's the greatest hunter there is, and Cheetah is just game. 2-2 all.

Manhunter vs. Cable
Oh God. Do I have to choose one? Whoever wins, we lose!
Win: Cable wins by virtue of his longevity since he's still around. For some reason. 3-2 Marvel.

Jimmy Olsen vs. Ben Urich
Jimmy pros: An icon of the Silver Age. Has had more powers than your average H-Dial holder. Best friends with Superman. Jimmy cons: Superman happens to be an ass. His fashion sense. Stars in Countdown.
Urich pros: Most respected journalist at the Daily Bugle. Played by Joey Pants in the movie. Found out Daredevil was Matt Murdock. Urich cons: Everyone and their brother's found out Daredevil is Matt Murdock. Smoker.
Win: How are we judging this? By journalistic ability? Drinking contest? I'm betting Urich throws in the towel when he sees Jimmy's stack of old comics. Hey, life's too short to participate in these stupid contests. 3-3 all.

THREE-WAY FINALE: Riddler vs. Kingpin vs. Tobias Whale
Riddler pros: One of Batman's big three. Has Doctor Who's walking stick. Riddler cons: His Super-Powers action figure is a repainted Hal Jordan.
Kingpin pros: Destroyed Matt Murdock's life. It's not fat, it's pure muscle. Kingpin cons: His personnel turnover is murder.
Tobias Whale pros: You're kidding, right? Tobias Whale cons: Called names behind his back. Archenemy of Black Lightning. This time, it IS fat.
Win: Tobias Whale isn't even a contender. After the Kingpin crushed the Riddler in his fist, he came in and told me to put his name down for the win. I've seen him kill his own bodyguards. I'm not arguing the point. 4-3 Marvel.

So after one Round, Marvel wins. Congratulations Marvel! You win the right to publish Daredevil and Elektra. Sorry DC, no more Catwoman or Deathstroke the Terminator! Them's REAL stakes!

DVD Tales: Fando y Lis to Fifth Element

Following from Fallen Angels...

Fando y Lis (Alejandro Jodorowski, 1968)
I'm about halfway through... It's tough going, not because it's in black and white, and in Spanish, and totally surreal à la Bunuel, but because of Lis' incessantly nagging "Fando, Fando..." And then there are some images that are downright obscene involving a doll... I usually watch DVDs while eating, but this is an appetite supressant. Not to say it isn't interesting, and I want to get through it to get to Jodorowski's commentary track. If I go by the one he did for El Topo, it's bound to be a fascinating.

These movies out of alphabetical order because I frequently spell Fahrenheit, Farenheit. Hey, I use metric.

Fahrenheit 451 (François Truffaut, 1966)
A classic that's dear to my heart because it used to air on some Quebec channel, in French, when I was a kid, on a show called Ciné-Quiz, which I guess asked questions about the featured film that people answered to get groovy prizes like kitchenettes and pharmacy gift certificates. As a bookish lad, the book burning certainly left an impression. Even today, the question of which book to "become" remains a fascinating one. Like Montag, I'd want to be Hamlet. How about you?

Fahrenheit 9/11 (Michael Moore, 2004)
The film came out at the height of Michael Moore's notoriety and I remember seeing it in theaters with a roomfull of left-wing bleeding hearts like myself. Hey, it's Atlantic Canada, what can I say? With Moore's "passionate eye" approach, you take some, you leave some, but from a purely objective point of vue, I have to say how impressed I was by the opening. If you remember, the documentary starts out with clips of Bush, Rice, Chaney, et al. getting made-up just before a televised address or other. This creates the effect of casting them as the film's characters, and at the same time painting them with an air of insincerity. Well played, Mr. Moore, well played.

Fargo (Coen Bros., 1996)
My opinion about Fargo isn't all that different from others'. Though not my favorite Coen Bros. film, it's nonetheless probably the most accomplished, and is a wonderful showcase for both William H. Macey and Frances McDormand. The Coens very often have a scam going, like Blood Simple's fake commentary track or O Brother Where Art Thou's presumption that they'd ever read The Odyssey. In this case, they told people Fargo was based on a true story, but of course, it isn't. Not even a proper urban legend. I think these guys just like screwing over Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood for not doing any fact-checking.

Fifth Element (Luc Besson, 1997)
Upon first seeing The Fifth Element in theaters, I could tell right away that comics artist legend Moëbius had done some of the concept drawings, and thanks to the DVD, I can look at them directly. You know, I quite like this film, warts and all. It's got a lot of beautiful ideas, whether religious, satirical or visual. Of course, Bruce Willis' token gun scenes and Chris Tucker's.. uhm... performance... do keep it from being a masterpiece. Ah well. It's still a lot more inventive than 90% of the sf out there.

But what did YOU think? Next: Fight Club to Fog of War.

Star Trek 354: The Die Is Cast

354. The Die Is Cast

FORMULA: Defiant + Visionary + The Search

WHY WE LIKE IT: You been bitch-slapped by the Dominion!

WHY WE DON'T: Lovok the robotic Romulan.

REVIEW: The Die Is Cast doesn't quite match the wit of Improbable Cause, but it still scores a lot of points. Part of the problem is that after that opening chapter with Garak and Odo, you don't really want to get back to the rest of the crew. That part of the episode flounders for a while with token scenes (Bashir and O'Brien's lunch) and Admiral Toddman's TOS-inspired background. Wow, that is old school.

Meanwhile, Tain and Garak do a fair bit of talking, mostly worthwhile thanks to the story about Garak breaking a man just by staring at him for four hours ("those eyes... those eyes..."), and the leader of Tal Shiar fleet, Lovok, is introduced. Sadly, he's an automaton with not one speck of Tain's charm. Garak's interrogation of Odo shows us that the tailor has, over time, been "corrupted" by DS9 and is, for better or worse, a good guy, even though he makes a good point about his betrayal not being one at all. Finally, it's Odo that breaks Garak without really trying to, and the secret revealed is as poignant as the two men's final resolution. It makes sense to pair these two exiles up.

Back at the station, things are finally starting to move, with the Defiant setting off against orders. It's a bit of dilemma I could have done without, especially since Toddman might promote Sisko as much as court martial him for it, but it does give Eddington a chance to do something. He's coming late to the party after being introduced at the start of the season, but his sabotage of the Defiant, especially in light of his ultimate fate, presents a man who always sticks by his word... just be careful who he gives that word to!

And then we find out that the Founders are in a totally other league than the Order or Tal Shiar when it comes to scheming, resulting in the first of many incredible space battles the Dominion arc will give us. The Defiant's gonzo phasers still impress, and there's lots of wonderful explosions and debris floating around. Tain is thunderstruck and the Julius Caesar conversation from the previous episode pays off beautifully.

LESSON: There's always a smarter fish in the pond.

REWATCHABILITY - High: Though not as tight as the first part of the story, The Die Is Cast nonetheless has a lot going for it, from the wrenching interrogation scene to the beautiful space action.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Amalgam Month: Assassins

For a month back in 1996, DC and Marvel Comicseses came together in the most unusual way: Combining their various creations and churning out a series of issues from the resulting Amalgam Comics universe. The question that was never asked at the time was: What the heck would have happened in the DC and Marvel universes that month had they not been amalgamated?

Ask no more!

Amalgam series: Assassins
DC series: Catwoman (guest-starring Deathstroke the Terminator)
Marvel series: Daredevil (guest-starring Elektra)

The Amalgam plot: Catsai and Dare attack Arkham Tower to get to the Big Question, ex-con mayor of Gotham.
The DC plot: The anti-heroes infiltrate Arkham Asylum taken over once again, this time by the unlikely partnership of the Riddler and Tobias Whale.
The Marvel plot: The Kingpin has been elected mayor of New York City. That is, as long as Daredevil and Elektra don't reach the top of Fisk Tower and bitch-slap him one.But first they have to get through the Big Q's underlings, like Deadeye...
But first they have to get through Arkham's inmates, like Deadshot...
But first they have to get through Fisk's minions, like Bullseye...
...Lethal...
...Cheetah...
...Kraven the Hunter (suicide? that was a clone kids!)...
...and Wired...
...and Manhunter (that lame one from the 90s)...
...and Cable (never trust a Liefeld creation)...
When they reach the top of the tower, Dare is seemingly killed, but Catsai gets her way and blows up the fat man.
When they reach the center of the asylum, Deathstroke is seemingly killed, but Catwoman gets her way and blows up the bad guys, blubber and all.
When they reach the top of the tower, Daredevil is seemingly killed (it's his comic, I wouldn't worry about it), but Elektra gets her way and blows up the fat man.
He survives, as reported by Jimmy Urich.
They survive, as reported by Jimmy Olsen, whose beat seems to cover Arkham to this day.
He survives, as reported by Ben Urich.
So now you know... the rest of the story.

Star Trek 353: Improbable Cause

353. Improbable Cause

FORMULA: The Nagus + In the Hands of the Prophets

WHY WE LIKE IT: The Garak/Odo dynamic.

WHY WE DON'T: I can't think of a single reason.

REVIEW: When an assassin boards the station gunning for Garak, the plain, simple tailor makes an attempt on his own life to attract Odo's attention. It's a plan as convoluted and brilliant as the Founders' own, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Garak is in top form throughout, cleverly rewriting The Boy Who Cried Wolf through a Cardassian lens, and spinning out a web of lies until Odo finds him out, at which point, he's rendered speechless.

Because this is as much Odo's story as it is Garak's, and so two great minds collide. One, the glib practiced liar's, the other, the dry-witted observant investigator. Garak is at least a more worthy foe than the assassin Retaya, who nonetheless makes an impression with his deadly perfume wares. Odo has a great interrogation scene there. The constable's moody meeting with a Cardassian agent is a direction highlight, as is the edgy, "24"-style camera work when Odo breaks Garak down. Everybody's firing on all cylinders in this one.

And then the Obsidian Order and Tal Shiar are thrown in for good measure, as it seems, this is a sequel to both Visionary (the Romulans' paranoia about the Dominion) and Defiant (the Order's mystery ships in the Orias system). Obviously, this is a cool turn of events, but it's almost an excuse to bring back Paul Dooley as Enabran Tain. Complete with his doddery sweater, you can't help but like Tain even though he's the villain of the piece. His analysis of Garak's racial slur against the Romulans is alone sufficient to put him on par with the great liar. These men know each other extremely well, and you can believe Tain is Garak's mentor.

What happens next? Garak flipped to the other side? But the other side going up against even bigger villains? A lot of people think of Way of the Warrior as the episode that changed everything and launched DS9 towards greatness. I think it really starts here. After Improbable Cause, there's just no going back. From now on, they're minting gold.

LESSON: Never tell the same lie twice.

REWATCHABILITY - High: A brilliantly written episode. Odo hasn't been this good since he fell in love with Kira.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

This Week in Geek (19-25/11/07)

Buys

Nothing this week. Friday was "Buy Nothing Day" and I made a week-long event of it.

"Accomplishments"

Well, the big news, I suppose, is that my World of Warcraft lady, Lynda with a Y, reached level 70. She's topped the experience scale to the max. Highlights from the last week include visiting a giant crystal udder...Got Milk?...watching a Star Trek medieval revival...
Should have given the line to a skeleton...and meeting a movie star.
Get the reference, buuuuuuudy?My other accomplishment this week is adding 17 new cards to my Unauthorized Doctor Who CCG, plus the faux-booster pack they might come in:
I'd buy that if I lived in an alternate universe!That's about it. A real roller coaster of a week which prevented me from flipping any DVDs, reading books or role playing. I'll try to do better next week!

Star Trek 352: Through the Looking Glass

352. Through the Looking Glass

FORMULA: Crossover + The Maquis

WHY WE LIKE IT: The hotness. "I changed it!"

WHY WE DON'T: Mirror Bashir. Garak (except for one line).

REVIEW: Where Crossover had something to say about freedom, Through the Looking Glass is little more than a rollicking adventure yarn with sexy girls and dastardly escapes. Well, that's not too bad then, is it? It all starts with Sisko being brought to the Mirror Universe where his other self has been killed to help the Terran rebels kidnap the Mirror Jennifer Sisko who's been working on a sensor array for the evil Alliance. So if you care to walk through the first plot hole in which only Jennifer can complete the work, we'll get to some other issues.

For example, while I like "evil Sisko" a lot, it seems like our Sisko is channeling him a little too well for what appears to be only a few minutes of explanation. New Mirrored characters include Tuvok (a cameo annoyingly telegraphed in the opening credits), Bashir (an OTT brute), Rom (who will fulfill his role in a Mirror Universe in-joke and get killed), and hot and sexy Dax (Sisko's mistress). She is soooo sexy, one can hardly fault Sisko for staying deep under the covers... I mean undercover there. It's a good weekend for Sisko, in fact, who gets to sleep with Dax, possibly with Kira (if postcoital positions can be believed), and see his beloved Jennifer one more time. When she accuses him of womanizing and he answers "Have there been that many?", well there had been two in the last 20 minutes! And that's what the Mirror Universe has become. Not quite so evil as it is sexual. (No answers as to how Bashir and Dax can exist in this universe mutation/symbiont and all.)

Nana Visitor gives a delightful, catty performance as the Intendant once again, and it's too bad this version of Garak doesn't make much of an opponent for her. She owns every scene she is in, while he is here only remembered for purely campy reasons: That "Pursue!!!" is a big joke around here, uttered a few times a week. I've never cared for the actress who plays Jennifer. She's ok, but just doesn't have the range to match Sisko's idea of her. I want to be in love with the love of his life, but I can't empathize. I don't see it.

But an episode like this is primarily about "cool" things. How the alternate characters are rendered. And once they're on the run, it's a great sequence. Sisko is up to the task of being an action hero, better trained than other humans and taking no prisoners. His final gambit, using his knowledge of the station against the Intendant, is perfectly played and a lot of fun.

LESSON: Not everything has to go into the report.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: A good adventure that's nonetheless a piece of fluff. You might wince at Sisko's behavior, or a performance here and there, but it's fun overall.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Doctor Who Week Roundup

It's been a Doctor Who kind of week thanks to the 8-minute Children in Need special, Time Crash. If 8 minutes can send us all abuzz with things Whovian, imagine what it'll be like when Series 4 materializes.

It all really started with the blogosphere posting Time Crash for easy viewing with brief comments from Postmodern Barney, Blog THIS Pal!, Retroactive Continuity Redux, Trusty Plinko Stick (who previewed the event a month ago), and rather longer comments from me about who MY Doctor was (to which I add last night's Friday Night Fight).

But it didn't stop there. Blog THIS Pal went on to list a beginner's guide to Doctor Who DVD watching. Where do you start if you're only getting interested? Blog THIS makes some good suggestions. Blog THIS also celebrates the 44th anniversary of the show this Friday, with a clip not from the first episode.

And as Friday was Doctor Who's anniversary, Gad, Sir! Comics! of course posted a little celebration... and just after a eulogy for Verity Lambert, Doctor Who's very first producer who died this week. In preparation for Time Crash, Steve had also written up a good article on Who and charity events, especially as they related to comics.

More eulogies from Tegan at Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog, The Wertzone, Love and Liberty, and Behind the Sofa.

Mike Sterling sells us on Rich's Comix Blog's run of The Ten Doctors, which is comics fanfic about exactly what you think it is about. I've started it and it's actually pretty charming.

The Fortress of Fortitude
reveals who would win between The Doctor and Sauron.

A gay character makes an appearance in the "young adult" aimed Doctor Who novel, Forever Autumn, attracting comments on Postmodern Barney.

Retroactive Continuity Redux is still sporadically publishing a guide to Daleks, the 5th chapter of which appeared just last week.

Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell writes a quick note on Doctor Who winning a Writers' Guild Award this week.

And in a somewhat related incident, the Absorbascon has gone where no man has gone before by presenting Kylie Minogue as Dazzler. If you don't see the connection, wait for Christmas.

Star Trek 351: Distant Voices

351. Distant Voices

FORMULA: (Frame of Mind x Phantasms) + Genesis + The Deadly Years

WHY WE LIKE IT: Mutant Theory 101.

WHY WE DON'T: Some of the psychobabble claptrap.

REVIEW: It's Bashir's turn to get tortured by the writers, and in an effort to get to know his psychology better, we're going into his mind for a bit of reflection therapy. Distant Voices gives the game away quite soon, but then after all those TNG episodes penned by Brannon Braga, we're sort of wise to this sort of surrealism. The jig is up as soon as Bashir gets a little too old, especially considering that he has a fear of getting older.

So it's all a bit conceit for exploring Bashir's psyche, what his friends represent to him, and why he sabotaged himself all those times with the tennis and the exams and all that. Except the Lethean (who represents the telepathic damage) gets it wrong, doesn't he? He finds the wound, but not the cause, you might say. Once later episodes reveal the true nature of our good doctor, Distant Voices becomes more of a red herring. Or does it? Could this episode happen to anyone else? Or can Bashir's mind uniquely compartmentalize and heal itself this way? The one true thing we learn here is that Bashir really did sabotage himself... to call less attention to himself...?

Siddig el Fadil proves himself a competent mime, ageing his movements and mannerisms along with the make-up (which is best at the very end of the scale, I think). There's some nice atmosphere in places, and the Lethean certainly makes a fearsome foe. Not a lot of surrealism overall, but Ops is suitably full of tennis balls, i.e. "not really where Bashir's heart is".

LESSON: You're only as old as you feel.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: A bit too talky and derivative in places, but it doesn't jerk you around very long, hums along at a good pace and should prove interesting to Bashir fans.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday Night Fights: Sucker Punch #9

Friday Night Fights is for Bahlactus, #9 is for the 9th Doctor who always inspired someone else to save the day......and Sucker Punch is for NOT SEEIN' IT COMING!

Star Trek 350: Visionary

350. Visionary

FORMULA: All Good Things + Whispers + Coming of Age

WHY WE LIKE IT: That ending is either bold and fearless...

WHY WE DON'T: ...or needlessly disturbing.

REVIEW: A time jumping paradox story set against the political background of Deep Space 9, features the only real appearance of Klingon Intelligence (if not a paradox, at least an oxymoron) trying to spy on the Romulans who make like they're unhappy with the quality of the information on the Dominion they got, but really want to blow up the station and close the Wormhole. They probably have a right to be paranoid, what with the Dominion simulation in The Search excluding them from their plans!

The crux of the story, however, is about O'Brien's life threatening, if fortuitous, time traveling to avoid one disaster after another. Hey, torturing O'Brien always works, though this time, the show takes it a bit far by killing him. Well, killing the O'Brien we've been following for all of the episode (and since Encounter at Farpoin), replacing him with a future self who has a few hours of different memories, an O'Brien slightly out of sync with the universe around him. An extremely strange solution to the paradox, but giving O'Brien a chance to selflessly sacrifice his life for the second time in as many seasons (Whispers being the other). It's all an interesting enough puzzle, with some eye candy when the runabouts race from the exploding station.

The episode is rather dark, but there is some levity as well. Odo going into an elaborate explanation of how he uncovered the Klingon plot just to show Sisko how good he is. Morn getting hit by a dart. Quark assessing damages to specific participants during a bar fight. And even the Romulans can see Odo has a thing for Kira, though she's cruelly blind to it. Nice character moments.

LESSON: If you're going to screw with someone's timeline, make it yours.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: O'Brien's ultimate fate is strange and off-putting, but it's definitely a tale of self-sacrifice with humor as well as drama.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Supergirl of Nine Worlds

Ok, ok, one last volley of Supergirl deaths and then I'm done. I promise, we'll leave one alive.







I guess I was wrong. But maybe Mary Marvel can sub in...?
Oh.

Star Trek 349: Prophet Motive

349. Prophet Motive

FORMULA: Emissary + The Nagus

WHY WE LIKE IT: Good-natured fun. The award show.

WHY WE DON'T: The Prophets overstep their bounds.

REVIEW: The humor in this Ferengi episode is a bit broader than the last time, but comes short of preposterous. It does gut the Grand Nagus a little to make him a generous goofball while his manservant is reduced to tears, but the new Rules of Acquisition he writes under the Prophets' influence are assimilated by Rom, and that'll certainly have consequences later. And yet, Rom shows he has some lobes here when he embezzles money from Zek through the Ferengi Benevolent Association. There's also some humor in the sitcom set-up of having the brothers live in the same apartment, mostly because of Rom's disgusting habits (used plates on the floor? Do they have The Sims in the future?).

Never mind Zek, the Prophets are definitely acting stangely despite the call back to their meeting with the Sisko (take note, that's the first time we hear that term). They can revert beings to earlier states of existence now? That's a bit of a stretch for any being, especially ones who know so little about linearity. (Hey, could be Zek became MORE evolved, no?) Despite those misgivings, Quark's Orb experience is brilliantly directed, with odd angles and a much better sense that the Prophets are inhabiting specific moments of the story. Lovely. Quark's usually good when taking advantage of his rhetorical skills.

You know it's going to be a comedy episode as soon as you hear mention of the self-sealing stem bolts, and the subplot is a lot of fun too with plenty of good-natured ribbing on Bashir who's up for the Carrington, a lifetime achievement award he has no chance of winning. Every character has a chance to bother Julian about it, even as he tries to sweep it under the carpet (surely, because it would blow his cover), until he slowly starts to believe he DOES have a chance (oh mutant hubris!). Man, when Roget wins it, even the announcer seems disappointed. So imagine Bashir.

Oh yeah! And the dart board makes its first appearance though it won't go into Quark's until the next episode. Just thought I'd mention it.

LESSON: The award shows of the future aren't any more interesting than ours, and Trek doesn't win anything either.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: Though some of the comedy is a bit broad and Ferengi meet Prophets isn't as funny as Ferengi meet Klingons, it's still enjoyable goofy fun, especially the Bashir subplot.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Star Trek 348: Destiny

348. Destiny

FORMULA: The Paradise Syndrome + Who Watches the Watchers + In the Hands of the Prophets + Nostradamus's Centuries

WHY WE LIKE IT: FINALLY! Sisko is the Emissary.

WHY WE DON'T: It took this long.

REVIEW: It's been a long time coming, but the show is finally owning up to this Emissary business, and in style. See, prophecy is part of the Bajoran faith, and they were penned by people who were ostensibly contacted by the Prophets who can't really tell past from future, so... does Sisko let himself be guided by these prophecies, or does he go his own way? His instinct is right: Given that these texts were translated many times and were steeped in metaphor to begin with, there's no way to use them reliably to predict or (if it is even possible) change the future.

Kira is our gateway to this mystical world, and it's fun to see her realize little by little that the prophecy is coming true. Interesting as well is the revelation that she believes Sisko to be a religious icon, but has kept, by necessity, her faith and work separate. They all get it wrong of course, and the vipers turn out not to be the Cardassian scientists invited thanks to the treaty signed in Life Support. Actually, they might still be, since they do cause the "burning of the Temple Gates" to happen. These gals are fairly fun, progressive Cardassians who don't care much for their own culture, but dogged by an Obsidian Order observer.

Of course, Tracy Coggins' saucy Ghilora is the highlight of the group, though the reverse sexism/sexual harassment subplot is a bit silly. Don't get me wrong, it's good fun seeing O'Brien in this predicament, but it does happen a bit suddenly. Still, it's rare to get good Cardassian eye candy. I like her "neck shadow". Oh and while we're talking about eye candy, this marks the first appearance of the tiny shuttlepod, the Defiant's answer to shuttles, and features some really nice comet-going-through-the-wormhole effects.

Though the overall story is served by now allowing communications to go through the Wormhole, it's Sisko's growth that is at the heart of this story. At the start, he's is dubious, even suspicious, of his place in Bajoran mythology. Odo rightly calls him on his agenda to ignore his Emissaryship at all cost. But at the end, he takes an active interest in prophecies about him (any guesses as to what the fiery trial where the Emissary must make a decision is meant to be? I say Rapture). This is a natural outgrowth of his acceptance, at the start of the season, that DS9 and Bajor are his home. He only needed this experience to really take his role to heart.

LESSON: The Prophets are never wrong. The translators however...

REWATCHABILITY - Medium-High: An important watermark for Sisko who, after staying behind the scenes far too much in previous seasons, is taking a more central role.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

DVD Tales: El Topo to Fallen Angels

Following from El Mariachi...

El Topo (Alejandro Jodorowski, 1970)
I discussed this title recently in This Week in Geek so check it out if you're interested. I'm a fan of Jodorowski second-hand, having been exposed to his work by a friend of mine, and really, taking his word for it that the man was a genius. But I came across his work on my own in Dark Horse Presents, of all places, where he teamed up with the great comic artist Moebius on a story. And frankly, those two were made for each other. I've gotten many Jodorowski comics since then, a few with Moebius, and they're definitely the same kind of trippy. An artist's artist, I think he gravitates towards the medium best suited to his vision, and it just became comics after a while.

Elektra (Rob Bowman, 2005)
People often mention Elektra in the same breath as Catwoman, but I assure you, the unflattering comparison isn't justified. The Director's Cut, at least, doesn't deserve all the venom spit in this movie's direction. I'm not calling it the best thing put to celluloid or anything, but I rather enjoyed this. It's got a Hong Kong vibe, and Stick, and a story that I don't think is as full of holes as I've heard people say. Stylish, good action, but also meditative. Do people resent it's not being Daredevil II? Or just not a proper superhero movie? Sometimes it's all about expectations. Going in without any, I wasn't disappointed.

Elizabeth (Shekhar Kapur, 1998)
I was sad to see the sequel's Tomatoes coming out Rotten because it would have been the first film I was ready to see in a theater in a good long while. Seems like it's pretty awful. Too bad because the original is a marvelous biopic, with Cate Blanchett in a star-making role, Geoffrey Rush as the magnificent pederast assassin Walsingham, my personal guitar hero Christopher Eccleston as Norfolk, and the greatest Shakespearean actor ever, Sir John Gielgud as the evil pope. Great, atmospheric intrigue, like a mafia picture set in the 16th century.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
Can writer Charlie Kaufman do no wrong? After the genius of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, I knew I had to had Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It did more for my opinion of Jim Carrey than The Truman Show or Man on the Moon, and put Kate Winslet back on the map of my heart (I always fall for the crazy ones, don't I?). It's another totally original script with quirky performances, visual bravura, and depths of meaning.

Fallen Angels (Kar Wai Wong, 1995)
Reviewed it the same week as El Topo (can you tell I was boning up for this installment of DVD Tales?), so more details there. Still need to find that soundtrack. I'll go do that now. See you later.

But what did YOU think? Next: Fando y Lis to Fifth Element.