Sunday, May 31, 2009

nu who redux: fires of pompeii and planet of the ood

You know, one of the best things about rewatching a whole season of the wonderfulness that is Nu Who, is you can see how they start the threads really early. I mean, right here in Fires, we've got 'she's returning' and we've got 'there's something on your back' and we've got warnings that the end is near, there's a missing planet, they mention the Medusa Cascade. And we've got the new companion, though at this time, she wasn't even in the running, because my-future-husband hadn't announced he was leaving yet.

This was a fun episode. This whole season is more fun than poor Marfa's previous season. The Doctor takes Donna to Rome... only his aim is off again, and it's Pompeii, about twelve hours before the word Volcano is invented. I love the translation discussion-- and I love that if they actually speak in the language, the Tardis gets glitchy, and they sound Welsh to the listeners (and I think they should play with the idea that the Tardis translates-- sometimes inconsistently-- more often. Think how much fun it would be if the Doctor suddenly isn't speaking English because even though he can, he relies on the Tardis to translate whatever the hell Gallifreyan sounds like into English when he's there...).

I digress. Poor Donna gets pushed into the captured-companion role, but she fights all the way and the Doctor saves her, of course. What I really like about this ep is how Donna fights everything-- the Doctor says it's a Fixed Point, there's nothing he can do about it, and Donna disagrees, keeps disagreeing until they find an excuse for something to be done, and then disagrees more when he's gone all hard-hearted and wants to just leave. But she knows, as we know, that the Doctor isn't like that, and she reminds him of who he is just enough to make a little bit of difference. Which is what the Doctor is all about.

I don't know what's up with the caption on this picture. The Beeb is weird sometimes.

So here we go on Donna's first off-planet adventure. She's so excited that we can hardly understand what she's saying-- and then it's a glacier world with a secret slave trade. I feel bad that she's in the Whoverse after everything has gone to darkness and sadness, but I'm glad it's her, because she fights and she finds the silver lining and she tries to change things. Good on her.

The Ood are... problematic. They're creepy in the face, but we're supposed to see them as something ordinary and not at all gross. They live to serve, but that's because we lobotomized them. They're supposed to be harmless, but both times we saw them, they were being mentally manipulated by stronger minds... But they're also really cool. They share consciousness and sing to eachother across the galaxies. They're not really individuals, I'd guess, though it isn't explicitly said so-- the Ood Brain would be the actual entity, and they are it's eyes and ears and hands in the universe. And that's cool. 

And maybe their low level telepathy translates into something of psychicness-- they are the first to bring up the Doctor's song ending, and it's not the last time we hear it. H thinks Ood Sigma will be a big part of 10's Final Story, since they keep saying everyone is coming back, and I think maybe that's true. There's alot of weight on that Ood's words in this ep.

I like that Donna is adapting quickly; her first sight of an alien is an Ood lying bleeding in the snow, and she gets over it very quickly. She refuses to treat them like slaves, and she even works to actively free them. And she reminds the Doctor that this is what he does. Because after all the sadness and screaming of the last series, he needs it. Maybe that's why he keeps getting younger? It's to counteract the natural hardening and darkening of a very old soul? But at this rate, Doctor 12 will be, like, sixteen, and Doctor 13 will be in second grade...


You know how we've all been fine tuned by a lifetime of watching Disney movies to react with desperately strong emotions about every big eye and lonely wide shot? I went to the MGM Studios once when they still had the actual animators there, and there was that little 'fifty years of Disney' montage thing where they splice together all the parts that we know so well-- and are overwhelmed with the force of our hardwired emotions: all the sad parts all together, and the audience all sobs, all the happy parts all together and the audience laughs, all the scary parts, all the angry parts, all the cute parts. It was... distressing. I didn't particularly like knowing how I'd been manipulated, and I've been somewhat suspicious and resentful of Disney movies since then (not that I've stopped watching and loving them, only that I can see what they're doing now and I resent it a little).

Pixar does that, like, seven million times stronger, does it with a more delicate touch, and best of all, does it without any resentment from me. It's impressive. I go into Pixar movies knowing I'm going to sob like I'm made of tears, knowing that it's going to be a breakneck rollercoaster of emotions-- and I don't care. And it gets worse every time. I thought Monsters Inc was the most I could cry in a sweet movie aimed at kids. And then I saw Finding Nemo. I managed to hold off through most of Ratatooi, mostly because I was working at a restaurant at the time and there were kitchens full of rats, and then there's that part where the critic is transported back to his childhood, and I was undone for the whole rest of the movie. And now there's UP.

I loved it. The first fifteen minutes manage to show a man's whole life, his love, his dreams and how they're put off, his pain, his loss-- a whole life and all it's backstory and motivation in that first fifteen minutes with hardly any talking. And before the story even started, I was sobbing. Sobbing so I could hardly breathe, when the short beforehand (which I think is my new favorite one) had me choked up and teary-eyed already. And then I was immediately laughing when Carl is being so crochety and Russel being so hopelessly awkward-- and right back to crying when Carl tries to keep his home and has to go to court. Then back to laughing when he lets the baloons go and floats off, smug and crochety now, and Russel's on the porch... And it's like that throughout, with the chacaters dragging me along and the plot moving so swiftly that I don't have a chance to recover from one before I'm back on the other. It's amazing how they make us care about these weird little characters so quickly.

Favorite parts:
- Dug-- all of him. I want collars that make dog-talk into people-talk so I can have a dog like Dug. I especially like "I have only just met you but I LOVE you" and "Will you be my prisoner now?" and "I am warning you, bird, I am jumping on you"
- Russel and the bird. Every time we cut back, there's something silly going on-- the bird is cuddling him or tossing him around, or, the best part, where he's standing on the bird's feet and using it's legs like stilts. 
- Young Ellie and her crazy hair and sudden decisions.
- Carl when he's crochety but not unreasonable; there are a few places where he gets unreasonable, and though we understand why he is, they aren't the places I liked the best.
- The Cone of Shame!
- Alpha's old voice!
- Russel's winderness badges: you only get glimpses of them through the movie, but at the credits, they show the best ones, and they're awesome. I also loved how he can have all the badges, and know so little about the training; it's both funny and really sad that someone's been letting him pass without doing anything for real, especially since he takes it so seriously.

The villain gets the Standard Disney Villain End, which is nice, because I didn't want him being so easily redeemed when he'd been loony for, what, sixty years? And he's really loony, both brilliant and animalistic all at once. And the secondary villain, Carl's inability to break his promises to Ellie so much that he can't ever let go, that's done away with too-- and I'll admit that more than a little of my sobbing at the end was because I know how hard it is to let go of things that remind you of better times, and I wanted so badly for him to be able to keep it all AND win the day, and I knew that that's now how plots work.

And it's a new top for Pixar-- I'm glad merging with Disney didn't ruin it. I never know how they're going to beat the last movie, but they did again, and I can't wait for next time.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

classic who: the pyramids of mars and the android invasion

This week, we took a lazy day and watched two episodes. The first was Pyramids of Mars, which finds Sarah Jane playing in the wardrobe and wearing Vickie's dress, which is convenient, as the Tardis crashlands in the early 1900s, just after an eminent English archaeologist uncovers and untouched Egyptian tomb that turns out to be full of badness, rather than mummies.

The contents of the tomb have been sent home, and a moderately racist but not terrible Egyptian is taking care of it all, waiting for his return-- and praying to the slightly crap-looking sarcophogi. Turns out he's a loyal worshipper of Sutek / Set (which makes me think of the sumb first-season villain from Stargate, because that's what they've done to Egyptian myth in my brain), and he's working to un-trap him from his 7000 years of prison that the Osirian aliens put him under. Because he's not a god, he's an alien war criminal.

So the Doctor has to stop him. There's much creeping around in and out of windows, the Doctor gets help from the archaeologist's brother, there are really pretty neat robot-mummies, and there's a plot to bomb Mars and get the pyrimidal preison deactivated. At one point, the Doctor poses as a mummy and sneaks explosives into the rocket the mummies are building, and Sarah Jane turns out to be a sharp shooter-- even after she's been captured and used against the Doctor. Eventually, the Doctor has to face Sutek on his own, and winds up under the evil influence to save Sarah Jane, but when they reach Mars, all is well because Sutek, though powerful enough to control people in England from Egypt, has trouble concentrating on two mind-control victims at once, and lets the Doctor go, thinking his robomummies have killed him. 

The Doctor prevails, of course, though trickery and misdirection, and all is well.

And it's a good episode. There's almost no backing up at the beginning of the next episode, and there's a minimum of getting caught / breaking out / getting caught again. The story is tight and makes sense as much as Classic Who ever does, and in the end, there isn't alot of that weird morally ambiguous feeling it sometimes leaves you with. 

Then, on to The Android Invasion.

Sarah and Four land on earth, but something weird is going on, with all the townsfolk acting like pod people, and all the money being newly minted and none of the phones working. Turns out they're all androids. Through various runnings around and splittings up, sarah Jane loses the Tardis, the Doctor figures out that things are wonky and why, Sarah Jane gets duplicated and sent to trap the Doctor, they're foiled, Sarah twists her ankle, and both barely escape the end of the simulation before the aliens take off-- because, you see, none of it is real. These aliens that look like Sontarans with really blobby heads and tricerotops noses are building a perfect simulation to test out how best to conquer earth, now that they've ruined their own planet, and they have a lost human astronaut to help them-- a guy who feels he's been betrayed by the humans who never came to look for him, and who's been in contact with earth for months, telling them his daring and made up story. The aliens told him they'll live in peace, but in reality, they're just going to infect everyone with a virus they're trying to test on a captured Sarah Jane.

She, of course, totally randomly uses the water to conduct electricity to escape instead of drinking it (which is great, because she both gets to be techy and gets to note be poisoned in the cliffhanger, which is what I was expecting), and doesn't even know about the virus. 

There's running around on the ship and on the real earth, where key people, including Harry, Benton and Not!TheBrig have been replaced by duplicates already, and they have to exit the ship the way the robots do, which leaves more duplicates of them-- though Sarah's is killed by just knocking it over. I got confused as to who was a robot and who wasn't in the last part, because isntad of acting like emotionless doids, they're acting like their real confused selves, but in the end, the Doctor reprograms his own duplicate offscreen and uses it to stop the baddies and the invasion never comes. 

Yay earth!

This one was good, too, but there's the introduction of the idea that Sarah Jane wants to go home and that the Doctor keeps having to find reasons why she can't, and that makes me sad. Sarah's my fav so far except for Rose, and it'll be rough watching her go. But the story was pretty well-paced and except for that one part when I had no idea who was who, made as much sense as a show full of doppelgangers can. And it was entertaining. I like when Classic Who is in space; that's where it seems to belong.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

fringe: season finale


So, this last episode was… not as amazing or action-filled as the commercials made it seem. Walter has run off, and it’s up to Peter to find him, and meanwhile, Olivia and Charlie are looking for Jones, who is all slimy and wrapped in bandages, because of his self-induced radiation poisoning from when he teleported himself. Seems Jones has stolen a powercell from Nina Sharp’s robotic arm and is using it to power a computer monitor that opens a window into that alternate universe we keep going back to. And he keeps getting it wrong. First he brings through most of a semi—except for the back end—that crashes and kills the driver, and has no a single registered part on it. Weird. Then he opens a window on a soccer field that gets a kid chopped in half. Eew. Finally, he heads for this creepy old lake in the woods outside town. He wants to find William Bell and kill him for what he did / is involved in.

All this time, Olivia’s tracking him, and she gets the idea to map the strange events they’ve been tracking and the events they hear about that they haven’t been tracking. When the marks the places where Jones used his transporter, the random dots line up into something along the lines of shatter marks (which is really cool, if they run with the idea that the transporter and the windowmaker sort of shatter the world and let the other worlds through, otherwise, this is not necessary except to look cool). But there are still other sites—centered around that creepy lake. So they head off.

Meanwhile again, Peter finds Walter in the old beach house they used to visit when he was a kid, going all crazy and not able to remember what he’s supposed to find or where he put it. There’s a lot of scenes of Walter flipping out and Peter trying to get him calm, and finally, Peter remembers something from his childhood and the memory sparks Walter’s memory, and he digs up a device that will stop the windows—a sort of reality plug. And they head for the creepy lake, too.

So everyone’s at the lake. The goodies fight some, then Liv and Charlie head for Jones to stop him, and Peter goes to close the gateway—which he does rather anticlimactically as Jones is going through and right before Liv would have followed him. And that’s done in about three seconds, after this whole second half of the season was about getting there. Suck.

But the episode isn’t over yet! Liv goes to Manhattan to meet with Ms Sharp, and gets stood up. Walter goes to a grave and it turns out to be Peter’s grave, and I KNEW IT! That’s why there was all that talk about Peter being so sick and him not remembering it, or remembering anything about his earliest childhood! And that had better cause problems and drama later, because that’s the coolest part of this episode. And Liv goes down the elevator and skitters through a couple alternates, then it stops on a different floor than she asked for, which is all white and clean and futuristic looking, and an aide takes her to meet Spock. I mean, Leonard Nimoy, who is a remarkably cheerful William Bell, considering he’s supposedly hiding out in an alternate reality so Jones won’t kill him (or whatever weirdness there is that we don’t know about yet). And then I have to wait until Fall to see what happens.

It wasn’t a bad episode—it just seemed like it was sort of a let-down when I was watching it: it’s cooler-sounding when I line it all up like this.

And season-enders always make me grumpy.

Monday, May 11, 2009

book: odd and the frost giants, neil gaiman

(picture borrowed from Neil's own post about it)

It constantly amazes me how flexible Neil Gaiman's style is. There's a whole lifetime in core audience between American Gods and Odd, and yet, both feel like Neil Gaiman. They have the same delicate understanding of how people work, the idea that there's more going on in the background that doesn't directly impact the current story but definitely informs it, the bone-deep certainty that this is how the Gods are.

Odd and the Frost Giants is lovely. Being older than eleven, it took me about three hours to read it, but it was a whole story-- it didn't feel as thin and substanceless as a lot of stories aimed at kids do: it was written in such a way that the fact that Odd was orphaned and abused and strange to boot could be generally ignored by those who aren't old enough to know what that means, but also so that all of it comes through for those of us who are, and makes the story fuller, rounder, easier to read as an adult. And that's how the best kids books are written: in layers that let us still enjoy them when we're technically too old for them. I wish Neil had been writing when I was seven; I wish I could have incorperated all these books into my psyche when it was still forming. As it is, I'll incorperate them into my already weird adult psyche, and I'll write my own stories informed by his sensibility, and I'll save these lovely books for my own kids, mixed in with the ones I did read when I was seven.

I love stories where Gods have the be helped by people. People are neat; they're changable. Gods are what they are, and sometimes that gets them into trouble. Odd gets us out of the trouble by being quiet, sincere, and very clever. It's set in a violent, cold, Viking world, but the violence is all background; Odd is quiet and determined and smart enough to figure things out, and that's a lovely thing for kids to see.

I only wish he could have stayed a kid at the end, though I understand that children always seem to want to be adult; the reverse comes after you realize how much being grown up sucks.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

random fan news

I'm all of a sudden excited about the new Stargate. Which almost pisses me off, because I'm pretty sure it's at least partly to blame for the other two going down. But read this, from Den of Geek:

Stargate veterans line up for Stargate Universe

Simon Brew

The upcoming Stargate Universe has added some familiar-looking guest stars to its casting list…

Published on Apr 21, 2009

The latest television series based around the world of Stargate is well into production, and some familiar faces will be popping in to lend a hand, it's been revealed. SGU: Stargate Universe, as the show is called, already stars Robert Carlyle, Lou Diamond Phillips and Ming-Na, and the crux of the show is about a group of survivors on a not-hugely-impressive ship who aren't able to get back to the Earth.

And joining them in the midst of their adventures? The small matter of Stargateveterans Amanda Tapping (who we've had the pleasure of interviewing here), Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Shanks and Gary Jones. It'll be good to see their friendly faces in there, too.

The show is set to premiere in October, with an extended debut episode planned.

I love Robert Carlyle. No question. And Ming-Na is a mainstay of at least three of the shows I used to watch. So I'm excited. Damnit.

Other news: 

Is Gillian Anderson the new Rani? How sweet would that be? She's smart, beautiful, she's local to the UK now, she knows her way around scifi, and it'd be interesting to see a new take on the Rani. And I love when my fandoms collide.

Day One is coming up, and it's made of lovely post-apocalypticness! Den of Geek says it sounds like Jericho, which I kind of liked, so they'll have to do something else with the same general setup to be anything but a knockoff. And hopefully they won't have to fight so hard just to stay on the air.

(What is it with scifi and early cancellation? It seems like half of it doesn't get ver far. For every Star Trek or Doctor Who or Stargate, there's Firefly and Jericho and Sarah Connor... There's obviously a market for it, but I think they need to check the numbers differently; the people invested in SciFi will likely also be invested in Tivo and hulu and off-schedule viewing.)

Fringe will get a second season! Which I think is due entirely to how JJ can't fail right now. If he didn't have the first summer blockbuster and Lost under his belt, I'm sure it'd get dumped too, because Fox has no faith in it's own shows. Even though that's where X-Files came from.

There's still the Gaiman-on-Who rumor. I think it'd be awesome. I also think that if the fans circulate it enough, it'll be an innevitability. So here's to spreading the news.

sarah connor chronicles: last four episodes of s02

My god. Talk about heavy. I watched them all back to back when I should have been doing more productive things that get me paid, but man. There was no way to stop this freight train, not when then episodes were just sitting there, waiting for me. I'm glad I waited until they were all done; I might have gone ballistic and killed people otherwise.

So here's what we've got. Sarah found a lump, and fearing it was the cancer she's fated to have, went to the doctor and found that it was a tracking device. Which sent people after her, which she had to kill. Around this time, she contacts Charlie and tells him that she thinks it's cancer and gets him to take care of John, planning on ditching him to spare him. Charlie's in a bad emotional place, but he loves John like a son and agrees. But the people in grey come to his house while Sarah's getting beat up, and John gets away, but Charlie doesn't. Damnit, I liked Charlie.

Meanwhile, Derek is cleaning out the weapons locker with Cameron, and she mentions that Jesse had been pregnant and now wasn't, and that since he lost a child, he won't allow the same to happen to Sarah. As if he would before-- except that his secret affair with the lunatic almost did get John killed, and did get Reiley killed. 

John Henry gets hacked and wakes up aware of what it feels like to die-- and aware that the virus that got him has the same base code as he does: Skynet, as far as I can tell. 

Those same people in grey were after Savannah Weaver, which means I was right, and she was around for a reason. John Henry helps her (until the headset goes out of range) when a terminator and a bunch of non-terminators break into her house and kill her nanny. John, Sarah and Derek take over from that point on, and get her away to safety. Derek gets killed in about the most offhand way-- a bullet through the forehead as he's coming around a corner. Damnit again. Savannah thinks they came because she was talking to John Henry, who her teacher interpreted as an internet pedophile; John tries to convence her that's not it and they find out about John Henry.

Sarah wants to meet Weaver. They set up a return of Savannah in exchange for a talk, but sarah gets captured by teh cops and thrown in jail instead. Ellis swears it wasn't him; they don't really say so, but I think it was the other FBI guy, who's brough in because kidnapping is a federal case, and looks shifty to me. While in jail, Sarah seems to have convinced her lawyer (who looks familiar, but I can't place) that it's all true, but she doesn't trust him and he can't help her; she insists that John's dead and sends a message with the priest from the episode where cameron went all glitchy to tell him to leave and never come back for her. John, of course, having just lost two father figures, isn't willing to lose his mother, too. They get fake papers through the Latina moll, who gets to talk this time, but they don't use them; they plan a breakin and free everyone, thereby causing a massive distraction to get Sarah out. Which works, but gets Cameron very damaged.

Back at Zeira Corp, things go to hell. Weaver thanks them for getting her daughter back, and then they start to talk about the Future, but a huge thing that looks all Skynet-y slams into the building and she reveals her true form to protect them. She insists that John Connor needs John Henry to effectively fight Skynet in the Future, and they all go down to the basement to save him-- and find Cameron without a chip and John-Henry gone through time. Weaver activates the bubble thing and they start to go, but Sarah stays. John won't leave Cameron and Weaver won't leave John Henry, and they pop up in a future where John hasn't led the rebellion (yet? or at all?), Derek and Keyle are still alive, and Allison isn't yet a Terminator. 

And then it's over, and I'm on the floor twitching because I'll probably never get to see what happens next! Bastards! Fox needs to check download numbers and hulu hits and all that and see that it's not really as poorly watched as they think, and give me at least one more season. There's too much left unsaid! 
- John seems to have realize how much he actually likes Cameron-- he goes through time to save her, for gods' sake, even though she probably gave up her chip voluntarily-- and he's lost everyone now. He's dropped into another alternate future where he wasn't there for 20 years, and all the people who died in the past are still alive because they never left, but it's got to be ten times worse than it was without them all saving the world along the way, right? 
- And who the hell is Weaver? We've been assuming that she's building Skynet, but now it seems she's building something to fight Skynet, but she's using Skynet's own techniques to do it? And she may have been asked to partner with Future!John, and declined, but came back in time to do the same thing anyway? 
- And will sixteen year old John stay in the future and start saving himself in the past so as to correct the timeline? Is that why we never saw Old!John? Because he isn't old? If so, there's something really odd, and maybe a little creepy about him and Allison / Cameron. He loves her already as a robot, so he buddies up with the real one, knowing the Ts will replace her, catches and reprograms her, and sends her back to make himself fall for her? As if the timeline wasn't f'ed up enough, now there's a branch where nothing ever changed it and it's all awful, and Young!John is there...

Man, I need another season. Here's waht I think: John would have found some vital information in the Future, and gone back to somewhere around the time when he left, maybe far enough back to stop Derek from getting killed so ingloriously, or to replace him with this other alternate Derek that didn't lose a brother and go batshit. Then he starts in earnest to build the Rebellion, since he knows more and doesn't have to depend so much on his Future self. One way or another, Cameron or Allison would  have come back (unless they're going with T3, in which case they need to convincingly replace her with Kate). Sarah would have gotten sick, but they'll find a way to cure her or to cyborgize her so that she can survive, because John needs his mom. She's his only constant. In the Future, he starts sending people back and in the Present, he works with Weaver to send people forward or to set up the means to fight more effectively or something.

There may be fanfic in here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

fringe: the road not taken


The Fringe world gets weirder: now Olivia’s seeing into and interacting with alternate realities.

The case is of a girl who spontaneously combusts, but a look at her house shows that she’s combusted before. It’s not spontaneous, and it’s probably not natural. Meanwhile, Liv keeps seeing more than one body, and it gets worse. She sees the city burning. She sees the office in an uproar handling the outbreak of a terrorist plague attack. And when the trail goes dry here, she can get info from the other universe, which means she finds out that the victim (and probably the others she finds along the way) has a twin. They track the twin, but get there too late. Peter, who’s been working on a mystery project, reveals that it’s a machine to read sound waves off objects, and that it can be modified from it’s original purpose of decoding Walter’s old warped records to read the sounds in the room at the time the twin was kidnapped. It works well enough, of course, to get a phone number, and Liv’s phone has an app that can dial from the tones: and gets Harris’s phone. That’s right, the guy who’s been trying to get her off the case and out of Fringe Division is in on whatever’s happening to these people.

Liv and Charlie track him and find the girl, but Harris’s tests to activate her have made her unstable—Liv stops her from blowing the two of them up, but the girl combusts Harris instead. Ha! but now their trail is literally in ashes.

Meanwhile, Nina Sharp is agitated by a phone call and eventually shows up at Broyles’s door late at night with a warning of the Observer and something big on the way.

Liv knows Walter was in on the experiments on kids: the twins were from Jacksonville, and are about the same age as her. She wants answers, but he can’t provide them; he can’t remember.

Walter goes back to his office to find the original manuscript of the ZFT book to prove that Bell had a whole removed chapter on ethics that the movement isn’t using, and therefore that Bell isn’t to blame for them, finds it, and then is visited by the Observer, who tells him ‘it’s time’ and they leave together.

What’s going on now? The season’s almost at an end! And suddenly this show is very fiercely interesting.



Oh, man. I didn’t want to like this movie. The old one holds such a special place in my heart* and mind, and I didn’t want to see it ruined, which seems to be how all but a few modern remakes seem to go. And the posters didn’t really do much for me—I mean, really, a blur that might be the Enterprise? Kirk looking like his hairline and his eyebrows are fifty miles apart while Spock looks like he’s got no forehead at all? I was expecting something along the lines of Episode I, all flash and resentment, no story or emotion at all.

Man, I’m glad I was disappointed. This is the best sort of disappointment, where everything comes out much better than you expected. JJ, you’ve reached Whedon-levels of devotion in my pantheon of fan-saints (as if Lost hadn’t already won you that).

I loved it. I loved it so much, I went to see it again four hours later with one of the same people I saw it with the first time.

The ship looked delicious, retro enough to sate the fan in me, but new and bright and futuristic and wonderful enough to surprise me and make me want to be part of it all over again, like when I was a kid and had that same fresh feeling of wonder. It felt right, like this is what they’d intended it to look like before, but they just didn’t have the budget or the techniques to get it right. The loving and sexy first shot of the Enterprise at spacedock (why it gotta be spacedock? you don’t call a regular dock a waterdock.) was beautiful—I wanted to reach out and touch her hull with my bare hands. She looked real. She looked like the flagship should look, shining and beautiful and fresh and unchallenged. And the effects, whether battle or just cruising were great, flashy and brilliant and yet still somehow real enough to feel like something that could actually happen, something people could make and could live in. The first space battle, with Kirk’s dad and mom’s entirely human conversation as this massive monstrosity ends their marriage in fire and heroics set the tone for a movie that’s very tech, but also has the emotional connection that was desperately missing from all the Star Wars prequels. It’s what SciFi should be.

On to the characters. Like I said, I was most resistant to these new upstarts playing my beloved crew, but they won me over. Kirk wasn’t nearly as weird-looking as the posted led me to believe, and he had exactly the right amount of offhand charm and deep-seated anger mixed with problems with authority and a willingness to get severely beaten to get the job done. Which he did. Alot. He’s like the Harry Dresden of space over here, beaten up every three minutes by someone faster and stronger than him, and yet coming out on top every time. “I’ve got your gun” indeed! And he wasn’t as smarmy as Shatner!Kirk could sometimes come across, though he kept the cheerful disregard for protocol that always made him interesting (and, really, made this branch of the franchise more interesting than the story overall—I agree with Pike: the Federation had lost something in the perfect regimentation of the human race).

Spock was fun. I didn’t like Zack’s Syler until recently when he got something to debate over, and Spock always had that: something to battle out in his own head. I like that Spock’s whole emotional issue comes from the fact that he can’t reconcile the fact of loving his mother with the logic of not allowing emotions to rule him. And I love that he can love Uhura and still be remote, logical, radical, rebellious Spock. his eyebrows bothered me, but his real eyebrows bother me, too. I’m just happy that there wasn’t any of the idea that Vulcans are tantamount to androids that so many non-Spock actors seem to think is the case. I love that he’s devoted to being the best Vulcan he can be, but is just human enough to rebel when he needs to, to be the much-needed radical faction within the solid, ancient, entirely controlled Vulcan culture.

And I loved the deserty-cave imagery of the Vulcan homeworld. Amazing. And alien in that way where it’s obviously not here, but is recognizable enough that it’s not off-putting.

Sarek was pretty great, and Amanda was perfect—a bright human woman willingly living within an alien society, but daring to keep her sense of self and to be openly proud of her alien son. I didn’t even realize it was Winona Ryder until I saw the credits. She didn’t seem Winona-like.

Uhura was a little skipped on the character development, but we got enough in her acting to know that she’s strong and brilliant and has an actual talent—she’s naturally adept at what she does, not just a space-receptionist. She really cares for Spock, but doesn’t let it get in the way of her job, she wants to be an upstanding officer, but she speaks out when things are unfair, and she follows orders, but makes it known that she doesn't necessarily agree with them. That’s a lot of complexity to get into a pretty narrow role that she was given; i hope there are Uhura out takes in the special features. I hope there are dozens of deleted scenes, not because there are parts where I think something was missing, but because I want to see more of this lovely shiny world.

Chekov is adorable, a bright little baby dropped in the middle of this crazy, much older crew on a lunatic mission that doesn’t make a lot of sense in the context of usual fleet missions, but he has enough confidence to keep up, to do what he knows he can do and to do it well. I love that he’s still got his speech impediment. And I love that he’s excited about it all. And I love that he never once gets punched in the jaw and knocked out.

Sulu was also great fun, sardonic and a little sarcastic, unhappy with how things are going but loyal and skilled enough to trust and act accordingly. And fearless enough to volunteer for a skydive from space with combat training that includes not much more than fencing—and apparently some hack-and-slash.

McCoy was cranky and fussy and angry as I would have expected, but I missed the taunting that they hadn’t reached yet between him and Spock—trying to get a rise out of a Vulcan was always his most entertaining work. He makes more sense this way, a man who’s already been through medschool before joining Starfleet, who knows exactly what can go wrong when you leave the surface of a planet. Of the crew, though, I would have liked to have seen more of him, to get to know him a little more. Maybe to have seen just a moment when he was more at ease and less exasperated with the world.

And Scotty! He had the smallest part yet, but Simon Pegg just shone! Cranky, a little bit cracked, perfectly willing to go through a transport he hadn’t tested, to get almost drowned, to be taken hostage by security, to defy the captain, to be dropped into a role he hadn’t been assigned to, and to do it well. He was entertaining, to say the least, and sort of stole the scenes he was in—I’m glad they let him do most of the talking in his three scenes.

Old!Spock was exactly what I always loved about Spock in the movies: he knows who he is, and he knows exactly when logic doesn’t apply and how to rationalize so that irrationality seems rational. He willy-nillys all through the timeline, manipulating in that way where you could be mad at him, but you know he’s doing it for the best, so you aren’t. He delivers his best line as if it were new, and he fits flawlessly into a movie full of new people playing his old friends.

They’re all a little crazy. I love that this fact was played up. To work so well as a nontraditional crew, they’d all have to be on the adventure-seeking side, the lunatic fringe, and that’s exactly where they are. It makes sense. It’s not just loyalty to the captain, because he wasn’t the captain yet: it’s the fact that they’re all of a mind to find the best way to do something, even when it’s the crazy thing to do.

And the villains. Nero is a weird choice of a villain, really familiar and matter-of-fact, and I think that makes him scarier: he matter-of-factly destroys a whole ancient world and goes on to destroy another with the intention of wiping out something like 150 more. He falls through time and deals with it by spending 25 years obsessing over a plan to ruin the lives of everyone instead of going home to a world that hasn’t yet been destroyed (or even realizing that if he takes out Starfleet, there’s NO chance that it won’t be destroyed). He’s another rogue, someone not only separated from his home, his empire and his government, but also from his time and his previous life: a madman who thinks nothing of changing history.

And that’s what this movie does. half-way through, I realize that JJ wasn’t going to fix it. That this is how it is now. And I was just floored. It’s so bold. There was a moment of sadness that everything that came after won’t happen now, but there’s this immense feeling of freedom and excitement: anything can happen now. Anything. Maybe we’ll meet all the people we loved from after this point in the original timeline, but maybe we won’t**. Maybe we’ll meet all new wonderful people, have all new amazing adventures, fall in love with this world all over again.

I’m so ready to find out.


Other notes:

- JJ, that’s not how black holes work. You could have solved this easily by saying wormhole instead. Also, if one drop of red matter makes a time-traveling black hole, how come a whole ship full makes one the same size and strength? And why was so much needed anyway?

- I miss Nurse Chapel. And if Uhura is Spock’s love interest, then maybe in movie 2, Bones can meet Chapel and she can be his? He needs a good girl.

- I wonder what this more industrial-factory sort of a ship’s crew quarters would look like? We didn’t see a single private space in this movie (understandably, since all of it happened in, like, three and a half minutes), and I’m curious how the people all lived. individual quarters or barracks-type? Is there a lounge? Are there offices? Do they have toilets?

- Yay for understanding the three-dimensionality of space and the relativity of up-down orientation! That’s how space should be! And yay also for the perfect use of silence in the scenes that happened in space. There’d be no noise, and that makes them creepier and more stunning.

- * My personal memory of the OS comes from being very young in Japan and being locked un during typhoons: the USO channel would halt normal broadcasting and show OS marathons so they could break at any time for weather updates, and we’d sit on the floor all day and watch one of my dad’s favorite shows with him—which was quite amazing since we hardly saw him because of the hours he worked.

- Was Kirk’s mom in Starfleet? She seems to have been the only family-member on board, and he was just a Lieutenant, not important enough to have a live-in wife aboard. They say later that she was off-world…

- Did we really need the scene with kid!Kirk and the car? We needed the one with kid!Spock so we’d know what his weakness was, but I think Kirk’s was just to offer symmetry. We got that he was a roughneck from the bar scene.

- Uhura’s room-mate and maybe best friend was killed on the Farragut on that first mission, and she never got a chance to realize it. The only reason she wasn’t killed also was because Sulu left the braking dampeners on.

- ** I’m hoping we still get to meet Savik, Picard, Worf, Dax, Odo, and the afore mentioned Nurse Chapel. Doesn’t Kirk have a brother in the OS? I guess that got changed. I hope we don’t have to meet the Borg. I’m so over them, and it’s Voyager’s fault. I also hope we get to see the villains of the OS, all those tacky weird low-budget necessities turned into something cool and flashy and worthy of this movie.

- I’m pretty sure the entire purpose of the second crew was to wrangle lens-flares. Which I loved. I hope the future really is bright and shiny and flarey, and not dull and beige and monochrome and so well adjusted that people are flat and boring.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

fringe: unleashed, bad dreams, midnight s01e16-18

I really am happy Fringe is back. 

I just don't seem to get to watch it every week, but that means you get several episode reviews at once, and I get to pretend I'm watching it on DVD and don't have to wait for episodes.

So, onward! We start off with Unleashed, where a group of PETA types are raiding a lab and setting all the animals free-- and one of them is a man-eating monster. Sweet. There's alot of hack-and-slash while the creature goes on a rampage, but the fun part is when they're tracking it: it literally goes underground, and they have to go into the old catacomb-like sewers to get it. Walter, of course, knows what it is, and blames his own research for it, and so takes it upon himself to stop it. Meanwhile, this week's ick-factor: it lays it's eggs in it's victims, and a day or so later, they burst out of the body and squirm all over the place. The dead kids are gross enough. but Francis gets stung and is still alive when it's happening to him, and you gotta think, did they just go 'hey, we've got this gross plot point, you know what would make it grosser? if the vic were alive when it happened'. And you know what? It totally was.

So he's got larva in his sixpack, and we get to meet his wife-- that chick from Indipendence Day who got blown up because she went to the welcoming party. But with red hair, and not playing a stripper-- and it's very sweet, her thinking he's just calling in from the office and him knowing he's dying and wanting to hear her voice one more time just in case. The cure is in the creature's blood, and that's why the tram has to go kill it where it's hiding. And they do. Well, Walter does. He locks Liv and Peter away, and goes after it himself, and when it tracks him down, he freezes, but we get to see a pretty awesome Samael-type chimera thing; Peter manages to distract it, and when it goes for him, Walter shoots it with a BFhandG, and voila, cure. Charlie's saved, his wife doesn't know any better, and the episode is over.

Fringe is most like the X-Files in these monster eps, and that's good. The first season of X-Files was bearable because the monsters broke up the Core Episodes, and really, conspiracies are better as a sideline, not the main plot. It gets too heavy.

Was this the episode where Liv tries to pretend she isn't jealous that Peter is calling her sister? I think so.

Next: Bad Dreams. Liv dreams she kills some pretty lady by bushing her in front of an oncoming train in front of her two-year-old daughter, and then finds out that it actually happened-- in New york, as she was asleep in bed in Boston. She has a really nice bed, by the way. It must be nice having a job where it's purpose is to investigate weird things and a boss who has come to trust your instincts, even if he doesn't tell you anything; Broyles lets her go investigate, and she finds a straightforward suicide. Then, she dreams a lady in a restaurant flips out and stabs her husband, and Liv holds her hand and helps her do it. Peter doesn't believe she's killing people or that she's capable of it, but Walter takes her seriously, and Broyles lets her keep investigating, even though it's against regulations to investigate yourself. This point in the show is the best, character-wise: Liv is coming apart at the seams, being erratic, feeling frantic, not sleeping for fear that it'll happen again, and Peter is very sweet and calming and comforting. An eyewitness of the guy who was in the seat Liv dreamed she was in leads them to a guy who she recognizes from the security cameras of the subway suicide-- and she realizes it's him. They track him down and he turns out to be one of the test subjects like Liv, and he remembers her. They knew eachother as kids, and he sent her the dreams to call for her help. She tracks him in a hypnotic state, experiences a little second-hand sexiness, dreams she's making out with a stripper who doesn't get a single line, freaks out and gets calmed by the very presence of Peter's hand on her's, and winds up on a rooftop with this guy who can infect people with his emotions-- a runaway empath-- and something like ten people who have been caught up in it and want to jump off the roof with him. Liv talks him down enough to get a bullet in his leg and release all but one captive. He wants to be killed, to be stopped, but she can't do it, so we have a link to her past kept in a permanent medical coma, and I'm sure he'll come back later. Also, he's kinda pretty.

So now Liv knows that she was definitely tested on, and that it was for the purpose of being a soldier against this coming invasion ZFT keeps talking about. They were supposed to forget until needed, but he didn't forget, and he remembers her-- and says that she was always the one who could stop him. And right at the end, Walter finds a VHS tape with a little blonde girl they're calling Olive, curled up in a corner of what looks like a trashed, burned up room, with him and Spock / Leonard Nimoy talking about her.

Dun-dun -DUN!!!

And now there's Midnight. This one is a little Core-ish, but it doesn't start out that way. The news says someone is butchering people and leaving the bodies (the newslady is not a very convincing newslady), and we see this guy going on the prowl while his girlfriend's out of town-- and I totally called that he wasn't the killer, though he was pretty greasy. Vindicated when he becomes the victim-- his pretty conquest tears open his spine and sucks up all his spinal fluid. Yum! No, wait, gross. They find that the corpse has an extinct form of syphillis, and that leads them through the CDC to the only place in the area that's ordered a sample of it: a so-called lab that is based out of some dude's apartment. And they catch him because he can't run away: he's in a wheelchair.

He claims that his wife is being held hostage as a punishment for him and that the monster is some innocent that was dosed to test the virus-plague thing he was working on; he'll help them stop her if they free his wife. Only the wife isn't in the second secret lab behind a Chinese restaurant that they raid, only the samples of the poison, which he has them bring back and tells them that the innocent is his wife and they were keeping him from making a cure. She kills some more, and they agree to let him work with Walter to find a cure so she'll stop killing. He's in a wheelchair because he was feeding her his own spinal fluid trying to save her-- the poison burns off your own when you're infected and makes you kill to replenish it-- but when he had to stop, she got out. It's all a ZFT plot, and he was trying to get out, and if they can bring her back alive, he'll tell them everything he knows.

So they track her, using the raised body temperature the syphillis causes, and she almost gets Liv's spine, but Peter manages to drive and trank her, and they bring her in. Cured, sure, but the procedure requires a little more spinal fluid and that kills the doctor-husband, as soon as he knows his wife is alright. He left a video, though, and Liv knows the names: including William Bell, Walter's old lab partner and none other than Spock himself.

The best part? When Broyles goes 'Are you telling me we have another monster?'. I love when characters seem to know what's going on around them.

I think this show is hitting it's stride, and if it makes it past the scariness of Cuts Season, I can't wait for the next season, after everything is all set up!

st:tng redux: encounter at farpoint

It's been ages since I sat down and watched a whole episode of TNG. When I was a kid, it aired on the night my parents had their darts tournament at the officers' club, and since we were living somewhere with only three channels, there wasn't any alternative. I remember not liking it at first; it was so different from the Original Series, which was very dear to my heart, and I had the unyeilding outlook of an eight year old. But by the time it got to the second season and I'd been watching it for a year, I loved it. The last episode aired during my birthday party in 1994-- the first one that was allowed to be co-ed-- and I actually stopped the festivities for two hours so I could watch it. That's how geek I am. And most of my friends were equally geek enough to appreciate how much I needed to see that last ep as it aired.
But I haven't watched it seriously much since then. It's on at night on several different channels, and at least two have mini-marathons during the day, so if I'm channel surfing and I see an episode I like, I'll stop and watch it, but that makes for some very scattered viewing. H, however, likes to refresh his mind on things before their movies come out, and so we found ourselves watching the beginning of a(n old) new era in TV SciFi, twenty-odd years after the fact.

This isn't my favorite episode. Never was. It effectively sets up the show, but half the characters weren't defined yet, they were in those rediculous spandex suits that looked terribly uncomfortable, and the effects looked like most of the money went into the sets, the story is irritating, Q is an obnoxious way to start off a show, and I knew that there were much better episodes later on. But when the monologue starts, and the world's most famous split infinitive is first uttered in Patrick Stewart's perfect voice-over voice, I can forgive all that. It's old enough that the things that botered me as a kid are sort of nostalgic now, and I can watch it the way I watch old home videos of my parents or read the first novels of favorite writers: it's not quite there yet, but it's interesting to see how it started, how things came together, a
nd I know it all turned out well in the end.

I think Stewart knew exactly who Picard was before he started on day one of that show; he was exactly what he needed to be-- entirely different from Kirk, principled, thoughtful, grumpy, and with a whole load of old history that they hadn't filled in yet, but he managed to convey without any lines to convey them with. I'd say the same for Riker, though they hadn't decided that he was a ladies-man yet, and Crusher was about as pointy and pointed as she ever was. I always forget that she and Picard stared out at odds, but I can see that they didn't want to be, and that makes the friendship more meaningful later. And check out her poofy hair in this picture! Westley was still sweet and awkward, and this was long before he became such a fan problem. Whill Wheaton looks pretty much the same now, but with a beard and a grownup life. Jordi hardly got a word in edgewise, but I think Levar Burton managed to have the most natural-sounding lines of the whole show-- he was the one most comfortable with himself and his storylines (that hadn't happened yet). And, oh, the banana clip. Worf... was almost entirely unformed, but they got the balance of wanting to fight everything and trying to be perfectly Star Fleet in the broadest sorts of strokes, and he didn't really get to shine until Yar was gone, anway. Speaking of, Yar was overacting and annoying, just how I remembered her, but I give them points for having a moderately pretty blonde female as the security captain, and she got her history-establishing line just right. Data wasn't quite as cold and dispassionate as he later could be, nor was he as earnest and confused about humanity, though he did have the little quirk of wanting to understand it all. And who doesn't love that scene of hopping down the rocks to save Westley? Troi was... silly. I never quite got her accent, and she looked fiercely uncomfortable in her clothes (though I can't blame her, what with being the only one in a miniskirt), but she was never at her best in other people's stories. And started with a sort of... handicap, being the one who is all emotionally 'sensing' everything all the time while everyone else gest to have more defined and concret roles. Ah well.

Hey, remember how the saucer section can separate and how it doesn't really do anything for the plot? Yeah, that's awesome. And make sure you remember that it's awesome when they do it alot in this first season, okay?

And I think the prettiest scene in the whole episode is the one where they show the two space-jellyfish space-swimming away tentacle-in-tentacle. Followed by the loving pan of the huge bridge when Riker first gets there.

I hope we get more of this: I miss the cleaness of TNG, even though I's still irritated at the lack of relationship-consummation; maybe it's just that so many people live so long these days that ten or twelve or fifteen years isn't that big a deal to wait for a well-deserved wedding?