Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cat of the Geek #68: Whiskers

Name: Whiskers, as always
Stomping Grounds: Jhary-a-conel/Jaspar Colinadous/Jerry Cornelius' familiar in some of Michael Moorcocks' Eternal Champion series
Side: Good
Breed: Winged shorthair
Cat Powers: A house cat with wings is a potentially terrifying idea. Exists in multiple iterations. Vampiric powers. Enigmatic.
Skills: Eat 6, Sleep 5, Mischief 5, Wit 6, Spy 8
Cat Weaknesses: Enigmatic AS HELL!

Star Trek 1300: False Colors

1300. False Colors

PUBLICATION: Star Trek: Voyager - False Colors, Wildstorm Comics, January 2000

CREATORS: Nathan Archer (writer), Jeffrey Moy, Philip Moy, and W.C. Carani (artists)

STARDATE: 53689 (between Ashes to Ashes and Child's Play)

PLOT: Voyager comes across wreckage that includes Borg elements. The ship then encounters an alien ship that behaves like the Borg and has scavenged Borg technology. It attacks and locks Voyager in a tractor beam. Seven, Tuvok and Chakotay go to the alien ship disguised as drones and meet the aliens, equally disguised as drones. Seven calls their bluff, they run. She then merges with the ship's Borg elements and shuts them down. The aliens fight back by destroying their Borg tech to regain control. Those elements keep Seven locked in as their "Queen" and they separate from the scavengers' ship. Tuvok frees Seven with a well-placed phaser hit and they beam back to Voyager. They run as the Borg ship fragment attacks the scavengers and sends a signal to the Collective. On Voyager, Seven muses about nostalgia. Meanwhile, a Borg Cube arrives to assimilate the people who were impersonating them.

CONTINUITY: None.

DIVERGENCES: Details on how Borg technology work are... iffy.

PANEL OF THE DAY - Cuz, you know, it's like, the biggest system ever.
REVIEW: Just like a bad Voyager episode (I realize that means a lot). It's at least 15 pages too long, with plenty of meaningless babble about are-they, aren't-they the Borg and characters partaking in just the most ridiculous debates. A lot of it contradicts what we know about Borg and Starfleet technology, such as the amazing ship debris that can merges with Seven and then can act independently. The away team dress as drones, which makes the aliens freak out, but then shed the costume for no reason. Tuvok "saves the day" with a move that should, by rights, have forced Seven to get a hook installed. Paris says the one thing you can count on with the Borg is that they won't change their tactics? What part of the word "adapt" doesn't he understand? After a while, the book is so out of touch with the tv series, you just lose interest. The art is pretty-ish, but the characters almost always look too young (at one point, Janeway is all of 8) and too often look amused when they shouldn't. This was Wildstorm's first Star Trek comic. Not emblematic of later successes.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Live and Let Die: d20

Being the sixth profile on the polyhedral life our favorite dice: The d20.The first know d20 is a 2nd century A.D. die is in the collection of the British Museum, though the game for which it was used is not known. More than 2000 years later, it's really come into its own. Thanks to Wizards of the Coast's market share, it has become ubiquitous. I guess it was always meant for great things, being the fattest of the standard polyhedrons.

Real name: Icosahedron die
Nicknames: OGL.
Uses: d20 in all its myriad forms. [Retro answer] Rolling "To hit". Poor man's percentile die. Talislanta's Omni-System. Paranoia. Pendragon. Fading Suns. HeroQuest. Torg. Palladium. Scattergories. So many others...
Beloved because: The power! The power! Torg's Chaos die. The Natural 20.
Hated because: Same shape as the herpes virus. Why can't my Savage Worlds character upgrade his traits to d20?! He's epic!
Bonus rejected card from Unauthorized Doctor Who CCG:

Star Trek 1299: Double Time

1299. Double Time

PUBLICATION: Star Trek: New Frontier - Double Time, Wildstorm Comics, November 2000

CREATORS: Peter David (writer), Michael Collins and David Roach (artists)

STARDATE: Unknown (between New Frontier novels Once Burned and Double or Nothing)

PLOT: While flying to Haresh to convince the people there to fight the Thallonian Redeemers, the USS Excalibur is diverted by the need to evacuate the Enevian colony beset by a solar storm. They get to Haresh late, and the planet has been laid waste by the Redeemer virus (released when a Redeemer is killed). Captain Calhoun does not accept this outcome and uses the slingshot effect to get his ship back four days, and regulations be damned. He convinces the Haresh, but Braxton and the timeship Relativity show up to set history right. Calhoun refuses, trusting that Braxton knows the Excalibur is not destroyed here. Braxton tries to protect the Redeemer ship when it arrives, but Enevian time travelers from 1500 years in the future show up and force him back. The future Enevians thanks Calhoun for having saved them all those centuries ago and are pleased he changed history by saving the Haresh who are now part of their tyrannical rule. Trying to return to their own time, the Excalubur overshoots by 16 months during which it was believed destroyed by Starfleet. Calhoun would go back, but has learned his lesson about the double-edged sword that is time travel.

CONTINUITY: Features the characters from the New Frontier novels, including the Redeemers, Captain Calhoun, Shelby (originally from The Best of Both Worlds), Dr. Selar (The Schizoid Man), Robin Lefler (Darmok, The Game), Burgoyne 172, Mark McHenry, Zak Kebron, Soleta, Katerina "Kat" Mueller, Mick Gold, Romeo Takahashi, Morgan Primus, Ronni Beth and Si Cwan (and of course the USS Excalibur). You can just about make out the Mugato Janos' cameo. The slingshot effect was first used in Tomorrow Is Yesterday (Soleta invokes the "Captain Christopher Paradox" to explain events from that episode). Captain Braxton first appeared in Future's End, and both the Relativity and Braxton's first officer Ducane are from Relativity. The NF novel Excalibur: Restoration references this story.

DIVERGENCES: McHenry and Mueller should be command red, not services gold.

PANEL OF THE DAY - When you work with Shelby for any length of time...
REVIEW: I'm a big fan of the New Frontier books, comic booky though they are, but I hadn't gotten quite as far as the setting for this graphic novel. I wasn't lost, and they do design it to be a sort of ad for the books, but will readers with no notion of New Frontier understand it? Peter David focuses on certain characters at the expense of others, so it's not completely opaque. Calhoun as the Captain, is of course central. If he's cool, then NF is cool. And he is. Shelby is a known Trek character, so she's in it a lot, and the chemistry between her and the captain is strong (David has always been good at writing banter). Others might get a scene here and there (Lefler, Mueller and Kebron mostly), and some subplots are paid lip to and probably won't register with readers. I won't say you're thrown into the deep end, but it's not the children's pool either. I suppose it helps that a "name" guest star like Braxton shows up. The whole time travel element is well used, actually showing what happens when you break the Temporal Prime Directive (or rather the futility of trying to manipulate events). It also explains, in a way, why Starfleet captains don't double back all the time, what with the technology being available and all. The art is good with action, aliens and ships, but awash with gray in the shipboard talky scenes, so a mixed bag there, but generally good.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Mood Swings of Morgana Le Fay

MotheringPMS/Pet death/That annoying mama's boy
Relaxing on a steaming grate
Playing dangerously
Kinky Kong

Star Trek 1298: Bloodline, etc.

1298. Bloodline / A Rolling Stone Gathers No Nanoprobes / When the Stars Come A-Calling / Exercises in Futility / The Legacy of Elenor Dain / The Wake

PUBLICATION: Star Trek Special, Wildstorm Comics, 2001

CREATORS: Ian Edginton / Andy Mangels and Mike Martin / Ben Raab / Stuart Moore / Christopher Hinz / Jeffrey Lang (writers), Carlos Mota and Keith Aiken / Paul Neary and David A. Roach / John Lucas / Gordon Purcell and John Stanisci / Tommy Lee Edwards / Steve Lieber (artists)

STARDATE: 9498.3 (just before The Undiscovered Country) / 46918.6 (between Second Chances and Descent) / Unknown (a story printed in the Far Beyond the Stars timeline) / 54002.5 (between The Haunting of Deck 12 and Unimatrix Zero) / 42315.5 (between Elementary Dear Data and The Outrageous Okona) / Unknown (just after Generations; after the novel Crossover)

PLOT: In Bloodline, Kirk rescues his nephew Peter on a scientific expedition studying giant scorpions living on asteroids that interfere with transporters. The creatures attack his shuttle, and he and his landing party break off a piece of the asteroid and attach thrusters to it to escape. This goes a long way healing the rift between the Kirks born when Jim decided not to adopt his brother's children. In A Rolling Stone Gathers No Nanoprobes, the Borg attack the mining world of Rockpile to assimilate a carbon/silicon hybrid they've detected. In actuality, the refractive metals have only confused their sensors because of the mix of Horta and humans there. The Horta make quick work of the Borg. When the Stars Come A-Calling tells the story of how Benny Russell came to write for Incredible Tales. In Exercises in Futility, Seven dreams up one solution per second to get Voyager home. Each simulation fails, so she does not mention them. In The Legacy of Elenor Dain, we learn that the original Enterprise once evacuated a colony before a cataclysmic storm. In the end, only two people - an artist and her son - remained on the planet, but only one could be beamed back before the window closed for the next decades. He chose the boy and left the mother. Today, the Enterprise-D has returned to that planet and found the woman's remains, who died only 15 years before. They uncover a cache of her artwork, bringing comfort to her now aged son. In The Wake, both Scotty and Spock visit McCoy's bedside to pay their respects to the recently-killed Kirk.

CONTINUITY: Kirk's nephew Peter appeared in Operation - Annihilate! / Rockpile's minerals help feed the Horta (Devil in the Dark), which appear, and are ferried by the Tzenkethi (The Adversary). The Borg apparently visited the Horta homeworld, but did not realize their were alive and left. / Benny Russell's stories were the object of the dream-like episode, Far Beyond the Stars. Most of the characters from that episode appear. / Seven has been studying the engine modifications of thr Equinox (Equinox). / Flashbacks to the original Enterprise occur not long after The Motion Picture. / Scotty, McCoy and Spock were shown to be alive in the TNG era in Relics, Encounter at Farpoint and Unification, respectively.

DIVERGENCES: None.

PANEL OF THE DAY - Worf and the Horta have a similar sense of humor.
REVIEW: A very good collection of short stories, with art that ranges from pretty good to excellent. The opener, Bloodline, is perhaps the weakest, exploring a relationship we were not previously invested in, and giving most of its time over to action beats (which aren't bad). It doesn't play fair with the reader either, cutting mid-cliffhanger to reveal that everything turned out fine (though I get the lyricism the visuals are going for). A Rolling Stone Gathers No Nanoprobes is a fun bit that confronts Borg to Horta, though its lack of known characters does put us at a certain remove from the story. With When the Stars Come A-Calling, the Special starts to groove. This illustrated story revisits Benny and gives him hallucinations long before Far Beyond the Stars. It's too short if anything, and I can't believe Paramount let him smoke pot! Exercises in Futility is a clever use of Seven of Nine's augmented intellect, and possibly the shortest story in Trek history, taking all of 4 seconds. The Legacy of Elenor Dain is a touching tale of art's power, with quite appropriately some of the strongest visuals in the book. The Wake is equally touching, revisiting old friends and their thoughts on Jim Kirk's death. It's as much a memorial for Captain Kirk as it is for DeForest Kelley himself and nicely illustrated too. Most of the stories have a strong emotional bent tying them together. It works for me!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

This Week in Geek (21-27/06/10)

Buys

I'm a huge fan of director Wong Kar-Wai, but I noticed I didn't have all his commercially available films yet. I corrected part of that problem this week by getting Ashes of Time Redux (which actually fits into Kung Fu Fridays) and his American picture, The Blueberry Nights. Speaking of KFF, threw Jackie Chan's Crime Story on the pile as well (I am damn close to having a complete Dragon Dynasty collection).

And on a completely different front, I joined the Doctor Who Information Network, a fancy way of saying I subscribed to the Enlightenment fanzine. I do so based on the strength of the batch of back issues I bought, and at the same time as the release of the first 11th Doctor issue AND the departure of editor Graeme Burke. This is fitting in more ways than one, because while I bow to Burke's commitment (almost 10 years as editor), I can't say we agree on very many things! New editor Cameron Dixon, from the few of his reviews I read, has a soul more compatible with mine. Good luck, Cameron!

"Accomplishments"

DVDs: Flipped Battlestar Galactica Season 4.5, bringing me full circle with the show. I still love the ending, and I found myself sobbing even watching through commentary tracks (Ron Moore himself breaks down in one of them, so no moral support there). Geez, I found myself affected by deleted scenes! A great achievement in television, and while I would probably enjoy giving BSG the same daily treatment I gave Star Trek (would only need to track down DVDs of the classic series), I would be afraid to spoil it for potential new viewers. And I don't want to do that. This final DVD boxed set has commentaries on all the episodes and extended episodes (only skip Olmos' unless you like long silences broken up by thanks to cast and crew), lots of deleted material, those fun video blogs, and featurettes on top (finally there's a 20-minute feature on the music, which I've craved since the pastiche on 4.0).

I then watched The Plan, the BSG movie that takes us back to Seasons 1 and 2 to show the Cylon point of view and explain some of the loose ends from those seasons. That's the weakest part of the experience, really, because such things didn't really need an explanation (and still leaves mysteries anyway). On a plot level, it's rather anti-climatic after the finale, but you can't really watch it before then as it definitely spoils the surprises of Season 4. But the more I think about it, the more I like The Plan. Like much of Battlestar, it's not about the plot, it's about the characters. And the film explains just how personal the Cylons' genocide of the human race was, by exploring one's journey. And seeing some of the other colonies get destroyed is beautiful, beautiful eye candy. The DVD includes a commentary, though this time they've partnered director Edward James Olmos with the writer who does most of the talking, substantive deleted scenes, and some fairly good behind the scenes featurettes (especially the one about how the visual effects are as improvised as the writing, direction and acting on this show).

Battle of the Warriors, AKA A Battle of Wits, was our Kung Fu Fridays selection this week. It stars Andy Lau as a Mozi warrior in the 4th century BC who though he preaches a message of peace, must help a town under siege fight off its attackers. I've seen a number of Chinese period epics, which either focus on the fights or some court tragedy. This one is special, as Lau's Ge Li (apparently a historical character, though the film is more strictly based on a Japanese manga) uses strategy to beat the superior foe. I hope my role-playing game buddies were paying attention. There are some great tactics in there, and the story's strong too (and not without the tragedy that imbues so many Chinese films). The DVD features Bey Logan's usual expert commentary and an uneven 50-minute making of documentary.

Books: Dove back into the New Series Doctor Who books this week, and managed to read two featuring the Doctor and Donna (who really gets shorted in the range, with 4 novels to every other companions' 12). Ghosts of India by Mark Morris brings the characters to 1947 India to meet Gandhi. As he showed in Forever Autumn, Morris has a knack for turning in books that read like the television episodes - slightly derivative but consistent. The regulars are a bit one-note for me - bitchy Donna and ADD Doctor - but he does a great Gandhi and brings in interesting friends and foes. The touching final scene is perhaps worth the price of admission.



Simon Messingham's The Doctor Trap is a kooky, crazy story I'd classify in the same vein as Love & Monsters, in which Sebastiene, the ruler of Planet 1, holds a hunt for the Doctor. If you thought L&M's commentary about fandom hit the nail a bit too hard on the head, you'll find this book sends it right through the wall. Both the humor and the jeopardy do work, however, and the book is full of surprises. Amidst the plot on overdrive, Messingham still finds a way to craft strong character scenes, especially for Donna, that could have fit the RTD era very well. Are the New Series books getting stronger?




RPGs: Played the penultimate episode of our Doctor Who game tonight, one that took place in the last days of the Time War, as a random accident sent the characters off course and into that impossible realm. I was so starved to know what really happened that I included a full package. Rassilon is brought back and President Romana deposed. The Doctor goes Bad Wolf and regenerates, but not before explaining himself to Susan. And the PCs responsible for sending Dalek Caan injured into the vortex, to lose his mind. Plus more subtle revelations about the season arc. We'll see if the players were paying attention for the finale next week. (And the pressure is definitely on, what with The Big Bang being the best thing ever.)

Hyperion to a Satyr entries this week include:
Act I Scene 4 - Tennant (2009)
Act I Scene 4 - Classics Illustrated
Act I Scene 4 - French Rock Opera
Other Hamlets: Theatre of War by Justin Richards

Star Trek 1297: Forgiveness

1297. Forgiveness

PUBLICATION: Star Trek: The Next Generation - Forgiveness, Wildstorm Comics, November 2001

CREATORS: David Brin (writer), Scott Hampton (artist)

STARDATE: Unknown (between First Contact and Insurrection)

PLOT: In the mid-21st century, Colin Blakeney invents the transporter in the midst of controversy over whether it creates a soulless copy. He is attacked in his lab and accidentally transported... to the Enterprise-E. The ship is on a mission to possibly renew ties with the Panani, a race that accidentally released a deadly virus a hundred years ago and has been quarantined since then. As Picard tries to deduce why they have built so much infrastructure in the meantime, and whether they are friends or foes, Blakeney lays dying in a kind of amnesia. Crusher and Troi attempt an experimental procedure that uses the holodeck to project the patient's memories and allow him to relive and recover the most recent. In so doing, they discover how he built the first true transporter a hundred years before such a thing was officially created as various social and corporate forces worked against him. After regaining his identity, he realizes that his attacker was also beamed into space and because it is now proven (to him) that the soul is transmitted, he thinks it's important to recover the second beam, which is heading for the Palami sun. Data mounts a rescue with a shuttle, in the middle of a standoff between the Palami fleet and the Enterprise. They allow him passage, and when he gets into trouble with the star's gravity, Picard breaks the standoff and rescues both him and Blakeney's materialized business partner. The Palami were waiting for this show of trust and renew ties with the Federation, offering many goods to help the war effort as their act of contrition.

CONTINUITY: Flashes of the Dominion War show Jem'Hadar.

DIVERGENCES: This history of transporter technology may or may not be contradicted by Daedalus (Blakeney's technology might well have been destroyed after his apparent death).

PANEL OF THE DAY - And John Barrowman as Colin Blakeney
REVIEW: Forgiveness has a pretty impressive pedigree, with noted SF author David Brin and Scott Hampton, one of comics' best and most subtle painters, on art. And I'm happy to say it doesn't disappoint! Not only is it gorgeous, but Brin uses his talent as a hard sf writer to realistically touch on the development of transporter technology. We discover, for example, what kind of opposition there was and how it fitted in the "business market". It more than makes up for the way Brin plays fast and loose with holodeck technology (though some of that is quite clever and logical). The B-story featuring the Palami fits very well into the graphic novel's theme and is just as intriguing. Crusher and Troi are the clear heroes of this tale, and it's how I wish they'd been used on the tv series itself (even if the whole romance subplot turned out to be a red herring). Forgiveness explains a few things, not only about transporter tech, but also as to why the Enterprise wasn't seen during DS9's Dominion War arc. Sumptuous.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

What If... Iron Man Was Trapped in the Time of King Arthur?

Here's one that takes its cue from a minor classic. No, I don't mean Le Morte d'Arthur. I mean Iron Man #149-150 in which Iron Man and Doctor Doom do battle in Camelot. Let's get medieval!

What If Vol.1 #33 (June 1982)
Based on: Iron Man #149-150
The true history: Iron Man and Doctor Doom are sent back in time to Camelot. They return by working together, cannibalizing their respective armors to build a time machine.
Turning point: What if Doctor Doom broke his word?
Story type: New World Order
Watcher's mood: A little drunk
Altered history: Perhaps more realistically, Doctor Doom betrays Tony Stark and sends himself back to the future, while stranding Iron Man in Camelot with his armor in pieces.
And... wasted? Oh Tony. Maybe you'd have more luck repairing your stuff if you weren't hitting the mead so hard.
Though he can't build a time machine out of what's left, he can still kick barbarian ass on partial power. Doing so gets him an invitation into the Round Table, as Sir Anthony of Iron is born!
Soon, Tony Stark is enjoying himself wenching and fighting back Viking raids. But Morgana Le Fay and her mama's boy Mordred continually scheme his downfall. And setting a battle during an eclipse so Tony can't draw solar power, they strike! With cheesy "evil" armor and a dagger made from a piece of Excalibur. While Tony is busy laughing at the former, he is downed by the latter!
He's rescued by retreating knights as Mordred's forces take the fight to the castle. And then the Tony Stark of the 80s becomes the Tony Stark of the 2000s by, get this...
...re-enacting the history of technology in two weeks!!! Move over Hank Pym, I think we got a new Scientist Supreme. He puts an end to the siege, but not before destiny has Mordred and Arthur die at each other's hands. But destiny makes a whiplashing double-take when Arthur names Tony as his successor.
So there you have it. Tony Stark becomes king and uses his armor to completely destroy history. Not that those generations couldn't have used a thousand years of peace, you understand, but I'm pretty sure it means the end of that particular Marvel Universe.
Books canceled as a result: Iron Man can be rebranded as a sword and sorcery series, but as of that last panel, the rest have to go. Temporal Prime Directive, Tony! Remember that!
These things happen: Though there have been several sequels to the original story (Iron Man #209 and 250, as well as Legacy of Doom), none of them end with Tony Stark living out his days in Camelot.

Next week: What if Elektra Had Lived?
My guess: We'd have a What If story called What if Elektra Had Died?

Star Trek 1296: United We Stand

1296. United We Stand

PUBLICATION: Star Trek: Divided We Fall #4, Wildstorm Comics, October 2001

CREATORS: John J. Ordover and David Mack (writers), Andrew Currie and Richard Bennett (artists)

STARDATE: 53181.9 (follows the last issue)

PLOT: As Crusher/Odan races to fabricate the cure sold to the symbiont's previous host by the same scientist who sold the Trill retrovirus to Verad, both the Enterprise-E and the Defiant must fight off automated defense drones corrupted by Verad to attack them and Trill hospitals on the planet. Vaughn dives the Defiant into the atmosphere where only his ingenuity successfully defeats the drones as they bear down on the civilian population. Up in orbit, the Enterprise-E is severely damaged when it interposes itself between the drones and the planet, but also wins the day. The cure goes out to the people and Odan is placed into a new (male) host who shares a kiss with Dr. Crusher.

CONTINUITY: See previous issue (Perim, Vaughn, Ezri, Bashir, Verad, Odan, Lenara Kahn, Nog). The Trill conspiracy from Equilibrium is mentioned.

DIVERGENCES: See previous issue (Odan). The Defiant suffers a hull breach on Deck 6, but has only 4 decks.

PANEL OF THE DAY - Commander Vaughn has more of a delivery boy style of driving.
REVIEW: This is the big action finale. The automated drone plot is tangential to the main story of the virus, so it could be considered padding, but since it has the Defiant dogfighting in a planet's atmosphere and Ezri piloting the Enterprise-E (and not crashing it into the ground, Troi!), I can't say I'm finding a problem with it. I also like the idea that Jadzia originally created the drones to defend Trill against the Dominion. The stuff on the planet is harder to track however. Geordi saves someone I don't think we know. Troi seems about to die in falling debris, but then doesn't. Data comes up with a solution to the drones' [TECH] shields, but does so offscreen. Not as strong, so good thing the story's momentum carries us past those bits. Divided We Fall doesn't quite shake up the Trill status quo, unfortunately, but it reasonably makes you believe it could, with movie quality stakes and action.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Movie Marquee Friday: Mostly From the East

The tight airport stamp of intimacy...
In between Tequila bang-bangs...

The connection between graphic and violence...

Scrawled in suicidal blood...

A poster flutters on the breeze of time...

Nothing can happen until the wedding...

And initiation into Asian mysteries begins...

Star Trek 1295: All Fall Down

1295. All Fall Down

PUBLICATION: Star Trek: Divided We Fall #3, Wildstorm Comics, September 2001

CREATORS: John J. Ordover and David Mack (writers), Michael Collins and David Roach (artists)

STARDATE: Unknown (follows the last issue)

PLOT: Verad is on the run and spreading a retrovirus that is making all Trill incompatible with the symbionts, a death sentence for joined Trill. Ezri Dax and Lenara Kahn are in critical condition. Troi manages to disarm the Purists' bomb in the Caves of Mak'ala where Odan and other symbionts are taken care of. As Verad moves using the planet's transport system, he manages to infect three quarters of the population in short order and neither Crusher nor Bashir think they can find a cure in time to save the hosts. Verad kills himself rather than be captured, but has he left more surprises? On a hunch, Crusher goes back to the Caves and has the Odan symbiont inserted into her. She thinks its dying words about a cure meant that it was bringing a cure back to Trill when it was ambushed, not that it was asking for a cure...

CONTINUITY: See previous issue (Perim, Vaughn, Shar, Ezri, Bashir, Verad, Odan, Lenara Kahn, Nog, Caves of Mak'ala).

DIVERGENCES: See previous issue (Odan).

PANEL OF THE DAY - Killer Doctor Crusher
REVIEW: Often, the third chapter of a story suffers from padding. Not this time. Not only do things get more and more desperate despite the heroes' advances, but Ordover and Mack even go as far as killing a "name" character (Verad isn't hugely important in Trek, but it's still more than what is usually done in comics). It's a shocking moment, as is the realization that the Trill status quo may not recover. The characters get some good beats too, especially the women. Troi uses her empathy as a lie detector to find the bomb's disarm code. Crusher actually becomes Odan (that symbiont certainly goes around) and he deductive leap is well earned. There's also a nice bit with Data and a riot. The only thing that would make this better is the hint that Verad isn't exactly wrong about the symbionts' power base.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

10 and 1 Things About The Pandorica Opens

(Major spoilers for episode 12 of Doctor Who Series 5.)Item 0: SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! Ok, now that that's out of the way...

Item 1: It almost seems like Moffat is trying to beat RTD at his own game here. Not only is the penultimate episode of the series a grandiose opera that brings back everybody and everything it can, but it actually finds a way to up the stakes of The End of Time. Russell T Davies' first finale put a future Earth in jeopardy (the Daleks returned). His second did the same with present day Earth (Daleks + Cybermen). The third year, he actually did devastate the Earth, all of which had to be reset (the Master returned as did Jack). The fourth series threatened to end all realities (with the Daleks, Davros and almost every member of the supporting cast including lost Rose). The End of Time pulled the same trick, starting with humanity and then going outward, this time with the Time Lords, the Master and yet again, all the supporting players. Moffat goes the extra length and makes EVERY Doctor Who monster return and this time, the universe is actually extinguished on screen. We've had desperate, crazy cliffhangers before, of course. Only Last of the Time Lords can really be called a frustrating disappointment, but deus ex machina and/or silliness has plagued many other finales. The Pandorica Opens is probably the best penultimate episode we've had, and I hold out hope that it'll be a killer finale that ties beautifully into the rest of the Series. That's my feeling right now.

Item 2: Already, The Pandorica Opens has many call-backs to earlier in the series. Van Gogh, Churchill & Bracewell, Liz Ten and of course River, all make an appearance. This actually makes me believe the "future Doctor" theory that's been mentioned in these reviews could play itself out in the finale. They obviously filmed extra stuff with the stars of each episode.
Item 3: River Song continues to be a charm of a character, and we learn a little more about her here. This is earlier than The Time of Angels (as per River telling the Doctor they'd meet again when The Pandorica Opens), and she starts the story in prison. Her message to the Doctor this time is a pretty cool reference to Hitchhiker's Guide, but the laugh out loud moment for me was the prison guard pointing his gun at a doodle. Oh, hallucinogenic lipstick! As for her relationship to the Doctor, it is coming into focus as a truly romantic one. As she fails and the TARDIS explodes, she says "I'm sorry, my love."

Item 4: Amy's storybook life. If River is an enigma, I'm not sure what to think about Amy either. The Doctor tells her her life doesn't make sense and wonders why (huge house, no parental units, and of course, the effect of removing Rory from the timeline can't help). In this story, the Doctor's enemies have used Amy's psychic residue to create a trap. It uses her favorite time period and myth, even reproducing images from her picture books (including a picture of Rory in a Roman costume). I keep thinking back to The Eleventh Hour when the Doctor said Amelia Pond is a name from a fairy tale. Is anything about Amy real? And if not, how is that possible? Of course, the Doctor is treated as myth too. Legend says the Pandorica holds something dangerous, perhaps a trickster god. And by the end, it does. It sheds light on River's amusing "Aren't we all?" to the Doctor's "The Pandorica? That's a fairy tale" in Time of Angels, doesn't it?

Item 5: The Grand Moff is very cruel to give us back Rory and then to wrench him away again. Or has he? We've learned from this series that love can transform a machine into a man (Bracewell), and Amy attempts this here. Furthermore, the Doctor says remembering someone can make them real again. And Auton Rory (another Mickey comparison, plastic boyfriends) does seem to remember his death, which surely isn't part of any psychic residue found in Amy's house (or in the universe, since he's been erased). Is this Rory's soul that has somehow found its way to the Auton body? And does it matter, since the universe has been extinguished. If the Doctor fixes the universe and, I dunno, makes the cracks eat themselves, won't that reset Rory's erasure?

Item 6: So... Who are all those aliens? I've got a full list for you, whether name-dropped or appearing in the final scene (some only visible in the Doctor Who Confidential):
-Atraxi
-Blowfish (from Torchwood, what they heck are they doing here?)
-Chelonians (I squeed, these military turtles were created by current series writer Gareth Roberts in the New Adventures novel The Highest Science, and have never appeared on tv - nor here, but they are mentioned)
-Cybermen (see item 7)
-Daleks
-Draconians (from the Pertwee era; these aren't enemies of the Doctor)
-Drahvins (from Galaxy 4, a 1st Doctor story; they are basically an Amazon race)
-Hoix (the meat eater from Love & Monsters)
-Judoon
-Nestenes (and their Autons)
-Pilot Fish
-Silurians (or I should say the new Reptilians from The Hungry Earth; these are an odd choice)
-Slitheen (only mentioned thankfully)
-Sontarans
-Sycorax
-Terileptils (from the 5th Doctor story, The Visitation)
-Uvodni (from Sarah Jane Adventures' The Warriors of Kudlak)
-Weevils (from Torchwood, again, a strange choice)
-Zygons (from the 4th Doctor story, Terror of the Zygons)
Sadly, the classic series call-backs are just references and not full blown appearances. It is very much as if they grabbed every possible costume in the wardrobe to stay under budget, explaining the appearances of Blowfish, Weevils and Hoix, who can't possibly be major players. I'm not really bothered by the so-called allied races (Draconians, Judoon and potentially neo-Silurians) because all they need to do is believe the Doctor destroys the universe and they can get in on this alliance (almost literally with the devil). It might have been nice to see Jack/Torchwood there as well, regretfully putting the Doctor in a box.
Item 7: The Cybermen are problematic because they look like the alternate universe's Cybusmen, but have the classic Cybermen's ships (from The Invasion). They sometimes say "delete", but also talk about assimilation (stick it to those copycats, the Borg!). They have full skulls inside their helmets rather than naked brains, but here's also a mention of "all possible universes" as if they were the "void walkers". I postulate that the Cybusmen could have encountered our universe's Cybermen and joined forces with them, making both "races" stronger in the process. In any case, I was always disappointed with the Cybusmen because RTD essentially made them too much like robots. In no more than 10 minutes, Moffat made them scary again, returning to the body horror that was integral to their original conception. Except crazier. Like a scene out of The Thing. Major props.

Item 8: How did all those races get their ships Roman times? I say the Daleks created a time corridor they could all fly through. After all, it's highly doubtful they would share their time travel technology with all of them.

Item 9: "...off the wrist of a handsome time agent." I suppose the line is supposed to evoke Captain Jack, but it could just as well be John Hart. I'm thinking all the time agents have had work done, and this is just a coincidence lest I have to imagine major characters mutilated off screen. As for the vortex manipulator, it's most probably the Doctor's ticket out of the box. It's among the tools he's working with when River calls him from horseback. I'd put up a screenshot, but I promised to keep the spoiler pics to a strict minimum.

Item 10: There's a wonderful bit at the end when silence falls on the universe and the music drops out. I got a lovely frisson.

Item 11: And best of all, NO PREVIEWS. If it weren't for the "To be continued", parents could legitimately scare their kids into thinking that the Doctor's adventures are over. I love that Moffat's playing so close to the vest and can't wait to be surprised by The Big Bang, this coming Saturday!

Star Trek 1294: No Quarter

1294. No Quarter

PUBLICATION: Star Trek: Divided We Fall #2, Wildstorm Comics, August 2001

CREATORS: John J. Ordover and David Mack (writers), Andrew Currie, Michael Collins, Richard Bennett, David Roach and John Nyberg (artists)

STARDATE: Unknown (follows the last issue)

PLOT: As the Dax symbiont is tortured for information by Verad, Bashir brings Lenara Kahn from the brink of death. Crusher and Troi bring the Odan symbiont to the Caves of Mak'ala, but it's a trap set by Verad's Purists. An away team led by Riker frees Ezri as she's about to be executed, but Verad is expecting it. In any case, they're too late to warn to away team at the Caves. Troi has already detected the Purists' rage, and soon, the anti-matter bomb ticking away. With the Purists firing on them and a transporter scrambler activated, they try to reach the bomb, but there are only 2 minutes left on the countdown...

CONTINUITY: See previous issue (Vaughn, Shar, Ezri, Bashir, Verad, Odan, Lenara Kahn, Nog). The Caves of Mak'ala were seen in Equilibrium.

DIVERGENCES: See previous issue (Odan).

PANEL OF THE DAY - Nog's phaser punch!
REVIEW: Divided We Fall continues to impress. There's a strong action vibe, but also some clever writing, and the two crews are well balanced. I especially like the bit where Troi and Crusher's conversation is used as a soundtrack over Ezri's rescue. Some of the puns may be too cute, but it's in good fun. In fact, Ordover and Mack do a good job of giving each character their own voice (Bashir's anger, Troi's jealousy, we're even privy to Odan's thoughts). When Verad phasers one of his henchmen for being the bearer of bad news, I was afraid his villainy was turning into too much moustache-twirling, but the idea that he might be manipulating the heroes and has a bigger plan is interesting. Another thought: What if he's right about the symbionts? They HAVE created a society where they are privileged, after all. The poor souls ready to die for Verad's cause may have legitimate reason to do so!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cat of the Geek #67: The Cat Batman Saved in Year One

Name: Unknown
Stomping Grounds: Batman Year One
Side: Good
Breed: American shorthair
Cat Powers: Slippery sucker. Proves Batman has a thing for cats; it's not just Selina.
Skills: Eat 2, Sleep 3, Mischief 7, Wit 1, Distract 7
Cat Weaknesses: Wrong place at the wrong time (9 lives dwindling...).

Star Trek 1293: Crossfire

1293. Crossfire

PUBLICATION: Star Trek: Divided We Fall #1, Wildstorm Comics, July 2001

CREATORS: John J. Ordover and David Mack (writers), Andrew Currie, Richard Bennett and David Roach (artists)

STARDATE: Unknown (between The Abyss and Gateways - DS9 relaunch novels; TNG crew is between Insurrection and Nemesis)

PLOT: Somebody is targeting Trill hosts. Many have been killed, and the Enterprise-E manages to save the Odan symbiont. It telepathically relates information to Troi, including confusing images of Riker bedding Crusher while the worm was in him. Meanwhile, former Dax lover Lenara Kahn is being ransomed on Trill, and Ezri (and the Defiant) try to get her back. It's only a ploy to lure the Dax symbiont into enemy hands, however. Turns out a faction of Purists is claiming symbionts are an invading species that has, since its introduction, placed itself at the top of Trill society. Now they want to eliminate all the hosts to free their world from this percieved occupation. Ezri is kidnapped and Bashir tries to follow, even as the Enterprise-E offers to rendezvous with the Defiant. Ezri discovers that one of the leaders of the Purists is Verad, who once tried to steal her symbiont...

CONTINUITY: Taking place after the DS9 novel relaunch, it features characters introduced in Avatar like Commander Vaughn and Shar. Similarly, Lt. Commander Bashir and an Ezri in command red have a difficult relationship, Nog is made chief of operations and Ro Laren is security chief. Perim is at the helm position on the Enterprise-E (Insurrection); she is now a lieutenant. Trill ambassador Odan first appeared in The Host. We find out transporters are now configured for "all Trill physiologies" explaining away divergences between TNG and DS9 Trill (potentially, see Divergences). Lenara Kahn first appeared in Rejoined. Riker and Troi have only recently rekindled their relationship (Insurrection). Verad was briefly joined with Dax in Invasive Procedures.

DIVERGENCES: Odan's comic book appearance (DC's TNG Annual #4) is completely ignored. Kareel Odan has Trill spots instead of forehead ridges.

PANEL OF THE DAY - About as gay as Dr. Crusher is likely to get.
REVIEW: A mini-series that could be really epic, attacking one of the starring species of DS9, interlinking with other Trill appearances in TNG lore. There's lots of action, but also personal drama with Trill-affected couples from both casts. Ezri is confused about her feelings for Bashir (as per the novels) and Troi finds herself jealous of Crusher because of a (hot) flash from the Dax symbiont. And while this new DS9 status quo could have been difficult for people who haven't read the relaunch books, they've kept continuity references to a minimum. If you've seen What You Leave Behind and are ready to take changes and new characters in stride, this is no more difficult than, say, Peter David's TOS series for DC, which had new "low-level" characters inhabiting it. A strong start. I wonder if they can actually effect changes in the Trek universe though. It'd be really cool if we had an uncompromising story here. Nice to see actual series writers doing the comics as well (Ordover and Mack wrote Starship Down and It's Only a Paper Moon together).