A Short Story

And Now, A Short Story

Every day she winked at him.

Far off, almost indistinct, she shimmered in her radiant beauty. He could not remember the day he first saw her, it had been so very long ago. Now he could only wait out the hours for her next glorious glimmer–for you see, every day, without fail, she shot a look across the heavens for all to see; a beacon of desire and loneliness that you could set your watch to. He was enamoured. He and his brothers.

They circled the sun ever so slowly, a stone’s throw from arrogant Saturn. Venus remained an elusive dot some distance away. He and his friends had seen quite a bit in the past fifteen billion years. They watched Saturn reign in her sparkling rings, they watch tiny ice balls pepper the landscape of a prepubescent Earth before she shrouded herself in her cloak of carbon dioxide. And they remember that fateful day when they were whole, before that unspeakable calamity had ripped them apart, robbed them of their chance to shine with the other breathtaking worlds that calmly danced around their benevolent, yellow, main-sequence mother.

Life was simple back then. But he wouldn’t trade what he had now for all the precious silver specks in the cosmos, not while she remained to flirt across the thin aether. What was she like, they wondered? Was she like their own star, proud and intense, a beautiful yellow gem marking the heavens, or was she different? Maybe she was a great red giant, glowing quietly, patient and giving. It was their dream, all of them, to one day reach into the empty gulfs and somehow answer her call; to take her up on her summons, and bathe in her gentle radiation. But what were the chances of that? What were the odds that some cosmic happenstance would hurl them across the galaxy to her side? Perhaps some of those feisty parasites from their ever-fecund sister, Earth, would be sympathetic to their plight. Perhaps not. Still, they had waited that long, and they had all of the time in the universe to hope, and in the meantime, they subsisted on the daily kisses blown across countless leagues of nebulae and dark gasses by their secret lover.

Naturally, he supposed that he had some special, privileged bond with that sweet, incandescent angel from afar. This feeling was exemplified when, one miraculous day, the solar winds caused an unexpected collision. One of his rocky brethren, through a series of complicated ricochets, smashed into him, jarring him loose from the pack. It happened, these things—not so much anymore (things have settled down since the big bang)—and accidents are inevitable, and when one is presented with the immortal expanse of time that is due all of the heavenly bodies, anything is possible.

And so it was that he was sent forth into empty space, with no time to bid farewell to the rest of the asteroid belt, just spiralling uncontrollably through the frictionless void. Could it be this was the answer to his prayers? Was he, through some mad twist of circumstance, destined now to take the long journey towards the resplendent gleam that shoots out through the dark to warm his stony heart? He tried to collect himself, to get his bearings, to calm down enough to ensure that he wasn’t just fooling himself into false expectations. But no. Gloriously, it did indeed seem that he was heading straight for the object of his affection.

Drunk with anticipation, he almost wanted to shut off his senses, to live off of hope. For he knew that throughout the long trip, countless things could go wrong. A stray comet could slingshot his trajectory and befoul his destiny. He could find himself in the path of a wandering planet, or a hungry white dwarf that would tear him apart particle by particle, oblivious to his perfectly focused desire. He just wanted to sleep, oblivious to the worrisome forces that he could not control, and wake up in her embrace, enraptured until the end of time. Luck had got him this far, but this seemed too important to rely on it any longer. Yet he had no choice, he was as much a pawn of the spatial tides as was the rest of the universe.

Millennia passed, and things were looking good. Every day, as in times past, she winked her lucent wink, voicelessly sang out her brilliant song, each one more full, more potent than the last. Soon, he saw not only her measured beam of hope, but managed to make out, through the gassy maelstroms, her demure, luminous form. It was not long before she danced before him, spilling her radiant light to saturate his welcoming pores. It was all too much.

He was here, at last, by her side. Everything he had hoped, everything he had dreamed, had been handed to him, finally and inexorably. He found that all of the thousands of years he had spent on his journey, planning things to say to win her over, might as well have been only a few seconds, for words were all lost on his tongue. He was, simply, overwhelmed with the moment.

Finally, still tumbling in the heady rapture of her vibrant ambience, he struggled out his destiny.

“O my bright and shimmering beloved…I have finally come. I…I have shot through the light-years at last, to be here, now. For so long have you sparked your signal out to me, and, as I always knew one day it would, the celestial host has seen to it that I made my way to this final point.” Her light cut long shadows into his pocked surface as he tumbled slowly by her side. “Every day your brilliance shone out the question, and I would not deny you my answer, which, though I am small and brittle, I hope will justify the immense warmth in which you have bathed me for so many sublime eons. I have never been so content as I am at this tiny moment—no thought, no circumstance, no hope has brought me such exquisite peace as I know now. I am, finally, yours.”

She edged slowly on her axis, as she had since the dawn of creation. Whorls of superhot gas played across her blinding skin. Sunspots, continent-sized beauty marks, shimmered like drops of oil in an autumn puddle. He sensed that just beyond her horizon, a solar prominence spilled forth like a quick breath, and licked the empty blackness. She seemed to swell, in what he assumed to be a moment of silent passion.

“Asteroid,” she began, “know this: I am but a pulsar. Once I was a star, but eventually I exhausted my supply of hydrogen, and collapsed into a neutron star. In the change, this one spot upon my surface merely became the focus for the constant ejection of accelerated charged particles. As I rotate, these waves of energy sweep uncontrolled across the blanket of space. Vanity of vanities, you have ascribed meaning where there is none.”

Appropriately, at the same time that his molten heart abruptly and painfully cooled into a flaky cinder, he realized that his long course through space had not brought him within reach of her gravitational field—that he was not able to maintain orbit. Had the irony been able to pierce through the all-absorbing sense of loss, he would have laughed. The pull of her immense gravitational mass was not matched by the pull of her siren’s call.

It was no sadder, then, that he was left alone with his broken thoughts to soundlessly drift beyond, into the cold, unforgiving blackness of illimitable space, forced to endure the ceaseless, mocking winks—the systematic, indifferent clock that counted down, with such perfect precision, the rest of time.

Movie Reviews: Forbidden Planet; Dogma; The Cruise; Iron Giant; Madre Muerta

Movie Review: Forbidden Planet

The space pulp/monster movie genre really came to a head in the 1950s. With the A-Bomb and the Reds a new and very real threat to post-WWII America, the sci-fi movies of the time had a tendency to exploit the fears of the public. The best of these films served as cautionary tales. A great many of them (Angry Red Planet, and Rocketship X-M for example) were little more than xenophobic jaunts of drive-in escapism suitable for MST3K-ing. With all their dated, stereotypical camp – bug-eyed monsters, posturing military men with atomic ray guns, fainting heroines and alcoholic cooks – poking fun at the genre is duck soup.

Despite all of their idiosyncrasies, a few of these sci-fi flicks still stand up 50 years later. The Day the Earth Stood Still and War of the Worlds spring to mind, as does Forbidden Planet. In MGM’s first real stab at the genre, Commander J. J. Adams (Leslie Nielson) commands the crew of the United Planets Cruiser C57D on their mission to investigate the mysterious loss of contact with a colony of scientists on the planet Altair. Once they approach the planet they receive a transmission from the last surviving scientist, Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), who warns Adams “if you set down on this planet I cannot be held accountable for the safety of your ship or your crew.” Naturally, the Commander ignores the warning and lands to further survey the situation. Dr Morbius, less sinister than his name seems to imply, reluctantly welcomes the crew and introduces them to the now familiar Robot (who was known as “Robbie the Robot” only outside of the film), his lovely daughter Altaira (Anne Francis), and an ancient underground world created by the long-extinct inhabitants of the planet, the Krell.

The various science-fiction elements in Forbidden Planet are stylistically fascinating, powerful and memorable, and perfectly executed for the time. Though dated by today’s standards, the special effects were very sophisticated at the time and are still a joy to behold.

The characters, though somewhat stereotypical, are pretty solid, and with talent like Nielson, Pidgeon and Francis the acting is nothing to sneeze at. Tensions between Adams and Morbius, the interplay between the crew and the free-spirited Altaira, and the subtle camaraderie between the commander and his doctor (Warren Stevens) are well-played.

The theremin soundtrack is something else – you have to hear it to believe it – and it really gives the film an otherworldly quality and very much adds to the suspense of the story. Oddly enough, the score for the film wasn’t what the studio had planned – due to the Hollywood Musician’s Union strike a husband & wife team was hired for the task.

Texturally, the whole story works on several different levels. There are Shakespearean (the film is based on The Tempest) and Freudian aspects mixed in with the comic relief of Robot and ‘Cookie’, the ship’s cook. If you’ve not seen Forbidden Planet for a decade or two, I strongly suggest refamiliarizing yourself with this entertaining sci-fi classic, the rich antecedent to a diluted Star Trek franchise. If you have never seen Forbidden Planet – well you’re in for a memorable voyage of discovery.

Movie Review: Dogma
(or Jay & Silent Bob’s Excrement Adventure)

I’m not going to say that Kevin Smith doesn’t have talent. I’m sure he’s a very good dancer.

I liked Clerks and Mall Rats, but I think Smith got a bit out of his element with Chasing Amy, and is even more so with Dogma. The mix of incessant one-liners and socio-religious criticism is an experiment that does not succeed. I admit I am not up on my Catholic dogma, but I do know that constant elbowing at a belief system does not a good movie make. Plot and acting should also be present if possible. The dialogue in this movie feels like it’s been written on–and read off–recipe cards, more so due to Chris Rock’s and Salma Hayek’s irredeemable delivery. But give them a break, even all of Jason Lee’s charisma couldn’t make these lines wash. The story can’t get a word in edgewise with all the sassy religious icons constant yammering. I felt like I had just opened my door to a bunch of bible thumpers who wouldn’t let me politely excuse myself, except these bible thumpers are perpetually pissed-off miscreants and they don’t offer any free reading material, let alone theological insight that isn’t half-baked. Alannis Morrisette as God? Sure…why not? It’s so crazy it just might work!

The movie ends, as is expected, in a violent bloodbath borne of Hollywood’s safest formula, wherein the heroine is killed for no good reason, then brought back to life for no good reason, then cured via divine intervention of her infertility problem. Yup, everything wraps up in a nice little package, and despite the hoity-toity pretentious pokes at organized religion, Dogma still manages to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

You know you’re in a lot of trouble when the best part of the movie you’re seeing is Ben Affleck’s acting! If you like Adam Sandler but have a college degree, you may like Dogma.

WARNING: There may be some inoffensive language between f-words.

Movie Review: The Cruise
1998, dir: Bennett Miller

Timothy “Speed” Levitch is an interesting person in an interesting town. We follow this eloquent, thoughtful, and passionate guide for Gray Line tours in New York, catching him at his best and worst moments. This is the kind of movie you can sit down and lose yourself in, despite any conventional elements of plot, action or romance. The plot is Levitch’s meanderings through the city. The action is his refusal to wear Gray Line’s red blazers and his struggle with an alarmed emergency exit. The romance is his love of NY, exhibitionism with tourists, and eroticism he finds in terra cotta building facades.

The Cruise is a glimpse into the life and mind of a rather extraordinary citizen of the times, as he fights what he calls “anti-cruise”. Anti-cruise can be described, in a very limited sense, as convention, conformity, and oppression of different levels, and Levitch’s fight is at once provocative, amusing, and always insightful. His fight is neither rancorous nor glorious–it is not the Braveheart fight-to-the-death crusade, but rather it is the day-to-day struggle against his career, aspirations and memories, and this makes it all the more identifiable and inspiring. Levitch has the uncanny ability to crystallize ideas which remain unspoken or indeed semi-formed in the conscience-at-large, and furthermore to plant the seeds of still greater ideas.

This movie may not be at the top of your “to see” list, but it should be.

Movie Review: The Iron Giant

Set in a small town in Maine during the height of the cold war, this film is based on Ted Hughes’ children’s book “The Iron Man” and brought to you by The Simpsons’ Brad Bird. It tells the story of a giant, amnesiac robot who falls to Earth, and is eventually befriended by a local boy, Hogarth Hughes. Hogarth must hide the robot from a paranoid government agent who suspects it a Soviet weapon of war. The truth is that the robot is indeed essentially a giant gun, but hails from a distant planet and bears unbelievable firepower! Ultimately, it is the friendship with the boy that brings out the robot’s compassion and humanity, and saves the town from annihilation.

I liked this film so much that after I saw it, I emailed everyone on my many contact lists and practically begged them to put on their shoes and hit the theatre to support this amazing film. Why should I care? Because I am an ardent believer in supporting cinematic–or any other–efforts that one feels strongly about. And I do feel strongly about this film. The Iron Giant is one of the finest, well-written, non-formulaic, intelligent pieces of animated film I have seen in a long long time, and I watch a lot of cartoons. At the time, just a few weeks after the film opened, it came to my attention that it was not doing so well at the box office. My bulk email was a modest campaign to boost awareness of the film, because in Hollywood there is just one truth: the success of a movie is based on its gross. If a piece of s**t movie does well, more piece of s**t movies like it will get made. Conversely, if an intelligent, well-written movie does not make its financial mark, that kind of movie will fall out of favour with the fatcats who make the decisions back at the studio. I personally would hate to see the entire genre suffer because The Iron Giant is recognized by a wanting dollar return and lack of ubiquitous Happy Meal tie-in claptrap. The Iron Giant is an inspiring movie that can be appreciated by adults for its genuine characters and solid story (not to mention its welcome lack of ill-placed Disneyesque singalongs) and by children for its well-executed animation and springboard for the imagination. If you can still find The Iron Giant in theatres, go see it (again). If not, it’s coming out on video shortly.

And if you don’t want to take my word for it, I can send you the barrage of reply emails I received, with subject lines like “Thanks for the great recommendation…I loved Iron Giant.”

Movie Review: Madre Muerta
aka The Dead Mother. 1993, dir: Juanma Bajo Ulloa

I don’t use the words “brilliant” and “captivating” very often, in fact, this may be the first time they’ve both appeared in the same sentence, or indeed thought, that I have produced. I have no reservation about attributing both of these adjectives to La Madre Muerta, however.

Juanma and Eduardo Bajo Ulloa’s story begins with an amazing bang that holds you fast to your chair for the ensuing 103 minutes. The protagonist, Ismael, is a a psychotic, petty thug whose love for chocolate is stronger than that for his devoted lover, Maite, whose attention he repays with threats and abuse. On one of Ismael’s jobs burgling a house, he is surprised by the owner, the “Dead Mother” in question. Her statement “there is no money” is answered with a fatal shotgun blast that leaves her young daughter, who Ismael meets on the way out, orphaned.

Years later Ismael sees her on the street, now an enchantingly beautiful, but mute and seemingly autistic young woman in the care of a local sanitarium. Ismael, frightened that she has recognized him, kidnaps her and brings her back to Maite at their the house. Ismael wants to throw her in front of a train, but Maite insists a ransom, since they are currently squatting. In the meantime, little Leire grows on both of the criminals, albeit in different ways. This leads to an engaging storyline of conflict, beauty, and twisted redemption. Despite the detestable actions of the lead characters, it is impossible not to care for them. Apart from the fact that the subtitles are a bit hard to read at times, this movie is infallible, and must be watched immediately at all costs!

The Untimely Death of Commander Fluffy

The Untimely Death of Commander Fluffy
A True Story

When my brother and I were younger, our toy budget was not very big. We were forced to make toys out of whatever was handy. One of the luxuries afforded to us was a small army of stuffed animals, which we collectively dubbed “huggies.” Where this term originated from is lost on me at this point in my life, but the important thing is that they represented our personal reflection on life as we saw it in the real world and especially in entertainment. From our two armadas of huggies, Merrick and I each chose an elite task force comprised of the smaller, pocket-sized animals.

My selection was called Hogan’s Heroes, a five-animal team consisting of a skunk (Hogan), a moose (Morgy), a blue bunny (Hippity-Hoppity), a crocheted pig (Truffles), and a toucan (Seafird). This team of commandos would invariably be pitted against diverse threats, from the common house cat to select rubber monsters from my airline carry-on bag of doom. Occasionally, Hogan’s Heroes clashed swords with Happy Harry’s Assault Team, a task force named after Merrick’s favoured stuffed lion. These commandos were outfitted with the latest in technological warfare…tiny cap guns and rifle-shaped pens that were perfectly to scale with their miniature stature, including satellite-guided boomerangs and a tiny set of handcuffs (a human might consider it a key chain). Hogan’s Heroes’ base of operations was adapted from a small set of shelves, complete with supercomputer and elevator. I recall the best office chairs were made from old styrofoam Big Mac containers–the kind they no longer make.

When we played at an even smaller scale, there was a whole new set of heroes. The playthings were tiny pom-poms with googly eyes affixed to them, and sometimes balls of lint that we fished out after a good load of laundry. When they dried, they would fluff out to become the protagonists in epic adventures of danger and intrigue.

One such hero was Commander Fluffy. This was Merrick’s most cherished tiny toy. Although Commander Fluffy was nothing more than a ball of animal fur, not exceeding an inch in diameter when dry, he himself had his own base of operations and even had his own space ship. The ship was a rather odd orange, bullet-shaped pill container that Merrick had painted up with some kind of star command logo…the cap did bear some resemblance to a thruster from a star destroyer. Commander Fluffy and his buddies went on many celebrated odysseys, and he was even the star of Merrick’s only childhood comic strip, called Space Wars and co-starring a snowman-like race of creatures called the “boing-boings”, who were united in defending the universe against the evil “blithens.”

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Merrick would once in the while let me play with Commander Fluffy and company (or, more likely, I would take without asking). One of the many challenges of working with Commander Fluffy was his size and malleability. As nothing more than fur, Commander Fluffy could be compacted into a very small area. Indeed, this was how he fit into his pill-ship. Once C. Fluffy was stuffed inside the ship, it would take no small amount of dexterity to fish him out. Usually this involved jamming a pen, cotton swab, or some other long utensil into the ship, but if those weren’t available, there was another method–sucking him out. This was a relatively simple process that involved putting your bared teeth up to the open pill-container and sucking till Commander Fluffy was forced against your teeth. Then you could simply grab the exposed fur and pull him out to fight crime and injustice in a cold, unforgiving universe. As I was to learn, this method was not foolproof.

One day, while Merrick was in fact nearby, I was using the sucking method to coax Commander Fluffy from his usual hiding place. (That sounds incredibly suggestive, but let’s continue.) On this specific occasion, I had forgotten to keep my teeth together, and I sucked him not only out of his ship, but into my throat as well. The look on my face was no doubt priceless as I realized that Commander Fluffy was halfway into my trachea, and by anyone’s standards, that was simply not right. Here I was, choking on one of our household’s greatest heroes, but my only thought was for my own survival. In a split second the involuntary reaction had been made, and Commander Fluffy was coughed from my trachea to my esophagus, and down into the warm wet hell that is my stomach. It didn’t take long for Merrick to realize what it was I was choking on, with Commander Fluffy’s ship still in hand, and it soon became painfully apparent that the danger I faced choking on Commander Fluffy was negligible compared to the wrath of my older brother at the loss of his champion.

It is a good thing that our mother was on hand to restrain Merrick, or I might not be typing this story today. How ironic that what the blithens had failed to do over the course of decades (in comic book time), I had managed to do quite by accident in a moment of carelessness. My own titanic breath had led to Commander Fluffy’s untimely demise, but even to this day I will never forget his poignant eulogy, as my brother put it so eloquently at the time of Fluffy’s passing: “Tory, you’re searching through your poo with a q-tip until you find Commander Fluffy!”

Just a Few Problems with Avengers: Infinity War…No Big Deal

Spoiler Alert.

SPOILERS!

So there’s a thing that happens very often with superhero movies, TV shows, cartoons, and even comics. I’m sure it happens with Harry Potter fiction too, or anything where there’s special powers involved.

The writers forget what the powers do. This is especially problematic with very powerful characters like Martian Manhunter. I remember distinctly watching some episode of one of the Justice League cartoons and thought “If Martian Manhunter had remembered that he can go intangible, this fight would be over by now.”

THOSE PESKY INFINITY STONES

This is a pretty big issue with the Infinity Gauntlet. Now, your average movie-goer likely doesn’t really know what the six Infinity Gems do, and they barely explore that in the film. I’m a huge nerd and I’m not even clear on this. Sure we could both look it up, but let me take a guess: (1) the space stone allows teleportation; (2) the time stone allows you to manipulate time (this one is actually well illustrated); (3) the reality stone allows you to change reality; (4) the mind stone lets you control minds (illustrated in the first Avengers film); (5) the soul stone…???; (6) the power stone…allows you beat the Hulk???

So let’s agree to set aside the “it’s just a show, you should really just relax” mentality, and dig in to the tiny nerdy minutia like a good writer should!

it’s inferred that Thanos is a very powerful entity even without the Infinity Stones, so we don’t really know how much of his power is innate and what comes from the stones. But that’s not a dealbreaker for me.

But those Infinity Stones…oh those Infinity Stones. Given their special powers, there seemed to be a lot of super-brawling that didn’t need to take place for Thanos to fulfill his mission. Sure, they were very entertaining super-brawls, but it seemed to me that Thanos had a very specific task that was all-important to him, and he wouldn’t waste time smacking down some Avengers/Guardians/etc even if it did “bring a smile to his face” (note this line from the trailer didn’t appear in the film).

YOU FORGOT YOU COULD CHANGE REALITY

It’s established I think earlier than halfway through the film that Thanos can use the Reality Stone to turn matter, including people, into ribbons or blocks or bubbles. And yet there are melees that occur subsequently where Thanos opts to hurl moons at the heroes rather than simply willing them into inoffensive vapor. Why? He didn’t think of it? He didn’t want to? Is the most dangerous Avengers villain actually just kind of a dummy or easily distracted?

TELEPORT YOUR ENEMY AWAY

And what about the space stone’s teleportation ability? If I’m fighting Iron Man, and for some reason I don’t want to turn him into bubbles, why not teleport him away to the edge of the universe?

And speaking of teleportation, let’s talk about Dr Strange’s magical gates. He uses one early in the movie and it cuts off the arm of one of the minions. So we know it can do that. If I’m Dr. Strange and I’ve got Mantis keeping Thanos is a groggy state, why not use the magical gateway to cut off his gauntlet-wielding arm? Or better yet, his head? Or is this him keeping to his Hippocratic oath? Failing that, why not plop a portal underneath Thanos and send him to wherever he sent Loki in Thor: Ragnarok? That seemed to work. Sure, Thanos could bring himself back, but it could give the heroes a few critical, game-changing seconds in a life-or-death situation.

It is good move on the writers’ part that the Mind Stone was saved for last, otherwise I would be complaining that there wasn’t enough mass mind control throughout the movie. Iron Man and Dr Strange giving you trouble? Make them fight each other with mind control!

ATOMIZE THE AVENGERS AND THEN GET THE STONES

Another thing that bothered me…just a little bit…was this: Thanos knew who Tony Stark was, that’s stated in the film. He knew, I’m sure, that Stark was responsible for the failure of the invasion of Earth (from the first Avengers film.) So if you’ve got a giant spaceship, or a fleet of giant spaceships, presumably you have nuclear technology. We had it in the 50’s for heaven’s sake. So if you think the Avengers are going to be a thorn in your side, why not nuke them? You could beam a bomb down to Dr. Strange’s sanctorum or just have a guy walk up with a briefcase. Same thing with the Avengers compound or wherever the two Infinity Stones are on earth…and then collect the stones from the debris. Sure, I know, there are many reasons this idea might not work (protective spells on the sanctorum, for example, even though Hulk smashed through the roof no problem), but my point is, at least explore the possibility of obliterating the Infinity Stone carriers from a distance and then collecting the stones, rather than sending a couple guys for a big ol’ donnybrook. Yeah, it’s not as gripping to watch as a movie audience member, but it bears consideration, no?

NOBODY’S REALLY DEAD

The last, and most majorest of the major gripes, is killing off characters that we know are coming back. EVERYBODY KNOWS that there’s going to be another Spider-Man film and another Black Panther film. What, you’re going to have these movies without the main characters? No. So why oh why would you kill off Spidey and Panthery in Infinity War? People say that the ending of A:IW is ballsy, but this move undercuts the ballsiness in a major way, so much so that I have a hard time believing that even the characters killed by methods other than the gauntlet are going to stay dead. Sure they could make Guardians of the Galaxy 3 without Gamora, but I would be very VERY surprised if that happens, given the way they handled Thanos winning the day.

Now, I know that Avengers: Infinity War is actually only half of the story, and we’ve got the conclusion coming up in a year, so maybe, just maybe, all my gripes will be addressed and it will all make sense. I guess we will all just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, I will re-read my Spider-Ham comics and hope he appears in Avengers 4.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end! Here is my Patreon if you like this and all the silly things I do.

 

Toren’s Guide to Star Trek Voyager Season 7

Click here for Season 1
Click here for Season 2
Click here for season 3
Click here for Season 4
Click here for Season 5
Click here for Season 6

UNIMATRIX ZERO PART 2

Oh snap you think that Tuvok, B’elanna aknd Janeway are borgified but they still have their individuality thanks to the Doctor! The queen threatens to destroy the entire borg collective which for some reason makes Janeway worried for a second. Seven kisses her literal dream man. 5/10

IMPERFECTION

All the wee borgs are taken away to live their lives except Icheb. Then Seven’s important borg bit fails and she will die if they don’t get a replacement from some other borg. Dead drones don’t work so Icheb gives up his, which he of course can get along without because he’s immature or something. 6.7/10

DRIVE

I thought B’elanna and Tom were already married but I guess not, so Tom proposes just when B’Elanna thinks it’s not going to work out between them because Tom loves racing more than her. 6/10

REPRESSION

Some ridiculous Maquis Bajoran mind control expert did a number on Tuvok years ago and now he’s spreading his mind control to all the Maquis on board until they mutiny and take over Voyager. It’s the Manchurian Candidate in space! Also we learn that there have been Bolians on board, I guess they were hiding for 7 years. 5.5/10

CRITICAL CARE

The Doctor is stolen and ends up in a hospital that gives medicine that could cure fatal disease lower class to the upper class that merely extends their lives. The Doctor is on ethically shaky ground when he breaks the rules to … 8/10

INSIDE MAN

Deanna Troi sets up Lt. Barclay on a date. But before that, an evil, cleavage-sporting dabo girl working with the Ferengi appropriates Barclay’s hologram that he sent to Voyager, so that the Ferengi can get Seven’s nanoprobes via a “geodesic fold” which will kill the crew. Kim eats green pie at the end. A bit anticlimactic but not bad. 7/10.

BODY AND SOUL

 

Doctor in Seven’s Body 7/10

NIGHTINGALE

Kim commands an alien vessel 5/10

FLESH AND BLOOD

Holograms revenge against hirogen 7/10

SHATTERED

Oh no! Another space cloud! This time it causes different parts of the ship to exist in various time periods, and only Chakotay can pass through. It’s like a clip show from previous seasons but he interacts with them. Also we get to see Voyager in the future with a grown up Naomi Wildman, which we know will never come true because of what happens in the series finale. Not bad at all, really! 7.3/10

LINEAGE

B’Elanna is pregnant and she wants to make the baby non-Klingon because of daddy issues. 8/10

REPENTANCE

prisoner is cured 7.5/10

PROPHECY

Klingons in the delta quadrant, of course they meet Voyager, why not? It’s all part of a Klingon prophecy, so that works out. Tom accepts a bat’leth duel and Neelix gets laid. 6/10

THE VOID

Janeway makes a mini Federation to get out of the void 7/10

WORKFORCE

Crew abducted, the Doctor becomes a command program. Janeway falls in love. 7/10

HUMAN ERROR

Seven neglects her duties and gets it on with holo-Chakotay. 6.5/10

Q2

In a rehash of “Q Who” a Q has to learn how to be a decent entity by becoming human. 7/10

AUTHOR, AUTHOR

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

FRIENDSHIP ONE

10

NATURAL LAW

oh no!/10

HOMESTEAD

Goodbye Neelix

RENAISSANCE MAN

Sabotage traitor!/10

ENDGAME

so long! /10

 

FLICKED UP 2017: The Movies I Did And Did Not See

From worst to best:

Alien: Covenant
Alien: Covenant – a pile of garbage.
Bushwick – an interesting idea not executed well
Power Rangers – stupid but sometimes entertaining
Bright – ham handed and mostly nonsense
Get Out – great potential wasted; motivations unsold
War for the Planet of the Apes – excessive schmaltz
Life – predictable rehash
Okja – some great parts and some terrible parts
It – too many characters
Kong: Skull Island – stupid but fun
It Comes At Night – Not as advertised but still good
Human Flow – opened my mind and heart
Free Fire. Highly entertaining
The Last Jedi – flawed but at least it took risks
Killing of a Sacred Deer – not for everyone
The LEGO Batman Movie – fun and silly with heart
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – Much better than the original
The Big Sick – great except I didn’t care about the girl
Wonder Woman – end fight a shitshow, otherwise grand
Coco
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 – more of the same, which is good
Atomic Blonde – a joy to watch
I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore – compelling w/ great performances
Brigsby Bear – original, weird in the best way
Thor: Ragnarok – good action good humour
Wind River – quite good really.
Lady Bird – great character performances

 

Darkest Hour
Spider-Man Homecoming – the best villain in the MCU
Baby Driver – love interest barely works but everything else kills
Dunkirk – intense, crushing, best soundtrack
The Shape of Water – 8/10
Logan – the superhero movie we needed
Blade Runner 2049 – refreshingly paced
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – bold, funny, dark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unseen (As of Yet):


 

 

 

Obsessive Orville Scrutiny – Episode 2 “Command Performance”

For episode 1 critique – click here

Due to unpopular demand, I’m going ahead with episode 2 joke critiques and other observations for The Orville.

Time to explain the Laughometer

Make sense? O on the left, full guffaw on the right. Chortles and full laughs in between.

Here’s a promo scene to start us off:

Let’s take a closer look at episode 2, “Command Performance”

20th/21st century reference #1… at the 7 second mark!

 

Bortas, the straight man, tries to understand Mercer’s relationship with Kermit the frog. This works! 3 full chortles. One point though – Mercer says Kermit “always keeps his cool in a crisis…” – I’m not sure if that’s part of a joke but it took a moment for me to realize that’s not even remotely true:

 

 

 

 

 

And the audience breathes a sigh of relief. Mercer makes a couple of bad egg jokes. The real puzzler is, how could he not know the basic details of his second officer’s species?

Bortas leaves and now Mercer wants to eat eggs. This joke works. 3 Chortles. Doing better than episode one so far!

Really? I mean I get that the Orville is crewed by “everymen” but come on. 0 chortles, 2 head shakes.

 

This is not a joke note, but to me the ship looks perfectly fine when Commander Grayson comments otherwise. A little plasma venting into space would have fixed that scene.

 

A viewer question: why is it “weird” that the other ship scans the Orville? In space etiquette is that a rude thing to do? Or wouldn’t it just be standard procedure whenever two spaceships meet? If it wasn’t by now, it should be after the end of this episode.

20th Century reference tally: 2. Also, barely amusing. 1 chortle.

Two butt jokes in 3 minutes! 1 chortle. I will note at this point though that I am so glad this show has video transmission and not holograms.

0 chortles.

 

 

 

 

Because Grayson is going to visit with her ex-parents-in-law, she decides to replicate a cannabis edible for herself. One half a chortle, I guess? Maybe there’s a payoff down the line with this?

 

Okay, remember in the last episode when I said I’m waiting for Isaac to show his superior intelligence? Here’s a scene that leaves me still waiting. The captain told him to scan the ship. Did he do it? Was there any unusual result? He never gave the captain a report of any kind. Seems important, especially since the other vehicle scanning them was declared “weird.”

 

I like this. 1.4 laughs.

And then she barfed. That’s fine, serves the story. 2 chortles, because the sound effect was good.

 

The two commanding officers were kidnapped, leaving Alara in command, which she isn’t suited for. I like this line and this kind of humour. The timing wasn’t spot on but a full 3 chortles. Also Alara has eyebrows this episode, did you notice?

20th Century reference tally: 3

20th Century reference tally: 4!

 

 

Captain Ed “Top of His Class” Mercer tries to force open some doors with his shoulder. 0 chortles.

 

Even the aliens are blue collar North Americans.

I’ll say it again – great design and makeup on this show!

Isaac uses his superior intellect to analyze and use the alien technology to project a holographic image over the ship. As he should. And now the Planetary Union has ship holographic technology which they will remember to use in subsequent episodes when it would be very useful…right?

 

 

 

20th Century reference tally: 5

I’m surprised they didn’t go for a scene where Mercer goes to the bathroom to take a pee and the aliens are watching him and he can’t go because he’s got a shy bladder.

 

 

 

Hands up if the domestic bickering on this show is something you look forward to.

 

 

 

Good. 3 full chortles.

The “euthanasia sweep” from the super advanced species is a few lasers that don’t even target the living creatures. STUPID! How about sucking out all the air, or poison gas that floods the entire apartment, or a disintegration wall, or incinerating temperatures?

 

 

Elvis Presley’s last words. 20th Century reference tally: 6!

20th Century reference tally: 7
Reality television joke: 1 chortle.

 

Bortas’ egg hatches – and it’s a female. IMPOSSIBLE?!?!

Summing up, there was no payoff to the pot brownie.

At some point I’d like to do a little more analysis on Mercer compared with other douchey/unqualified command officers in space. Interested?

 

 

 

 

 

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69 Images That Judge Every Joke on the Orville (And Other Observations) PART 2

For Part One, click here!

When last we left our heroes…

Mercer runs over the blobby character voiced by Norm McDonald. Sure, why not? 1.0 laughs

Mercer throws a hissy fit at his commander. Not sure if this is supposed to be funny so I won’t give it a rating on the humorometer.

Malloy demonstrates his maturity and professionalism. 0.0 laughs.

Isaac, despite being a living computer and superior to humans, doesn’t know what the word “suck” means, so the crew has to explain that to it.  0.0 laughs.

Time for a tiff between the two divorcees.

Yes, he’s over it, that’s why he threw a hissy fit at the Admiral.

Grayson explains that her infidelity was a mistake, but now she’s going to correct it by becoming Mercer’s second-in-command! Makes sense right?

The first 20th century reference in the show, not bad for the pilot! 0.0 laughs. Does he call all blue aliens Papa Smurf?

Here we finally have a mention of what I was wondering about. Couples counselling! They needed it! I’m confused, though, why wouldn’t he call his wife’s brother-in-law simply “my brother?” And so I guess he dismissed the entire idea of counselling because they couldn’t come to an agreement on a suitable counsellor? Anyway….

A little bathroom humour to lighten the mood. 0.2 chortles.

Not a terrible joke. 0.9 chortles.

In this shot we see a dog licking itself. This will be fine and amusing, as long as nobody calls attention to it and explains the humour!

Damn. So close!

Here’s a thing I like abuot this series. No transporter beams! Just shuttles. Thumbs up. I wish that Star Trek: Enterprise had stuck with this concept.

A little passive-aggressive showmanship by Captain Mercer. 0.3 chortles just for the language.

I liked the delivery on this joke. 3 chortles!

The scientist explains they have a quantum field generator that affects time. They accelerate the age of a banana before the captain’s eyes. But this man who is described as “smart” and “top of his class” by other characters has no idea what he’s looking at. Joke rating: 0.9 chortles.

No rests are given to the passive-aggression.

1.0 laughs.

Just a hard science thought – inside the bubble her head is aging rapidly (100 years within seconds), but outside her body ages normally. Is her body delivering blood and carbs and other chemicals that her brain needs for 100 years? If not, then she should die – to us – instantly, rather than screaming inside the quantum bubble for 100 years.

Aliens attack, but the crew just wants to get off work. 1.75 laughs.

The whole pizza party gag is spot-on. One full guffaw! Possibly the best jokes of the show.

 

…continued.

The bad aliens come down to get the device. Hey, bad aliens! Make sure you destroy the Union shuttle that’s sitting there! Or sabotage it! Or be waiting on board when the crew returns!

Nice. Makes sense and we never see this sort of thing in sci-fi shows or TV shows in general. 1.2 laughs.

Again, the design department is rocking it. The makeup in this show is better than any Trek series. Yes I will go that far!

Ok soldiers, when in a firefight make sure you stand out in the open!

Malloy demonstrates his piloting prowess by “hugging the donkey.” I don’t know why it’s called hugging the donkey but that’s perfectly fine. 0.9 chortles

The commanding officer is insecure about his abilities. 0.3 chortles.

here we establish that Alara can do super-leaps, at least on Earth-like planets. Let’s keep this in mind for the future episode where she doesn’t do a super-leap when it would otherwise solve a problem.

 

So bad. 0.0 laughs.

Aha! The krill DID infiltrate the Union shuttle. But only one soldier? And he plans to take the device AFTER they all get into the shuttle? Weird.

Helmsman Malloy executes a whacky maneuver that he says will never work….and I believe him! Even if he did manage to get the hangar bay to line up with the out-of-control shuttle while he was “hugging the donkey” – at that speed the shuttle should be destroyed. But…it’s only a show, I should really just relax.

1 chortle for this joke. But more importantly, who is hugging the donkey while Malley abandons his control panel to deliver the line?

Great! 1.9 laughs!

Mercer has had a rough day. Also – they still use “friggin'” in the future!

Okay…how intensely stupid does he think the krill commander is? Surely the krill will send over an inspection team to recover the device themselves, because there’s no way they would trust a remote-controlled shuttle which will CLEARLY contain some kind of bomb.

Wait, what’s this? The two senior officers are working well together, perhaps even re-forging their bond in this crisis situation?

Tree gets big! Sure, apart from the idiotic decisions of the krill, this is a fine resolution to the time device story. And the joke gets a full 1 out of 3 chortles from me.

The debriefing, interrupted by the space welder guy. 3/3 chortles (not a full laugh)

Mercer relents his whining and sees the value of having Grayson on board. But don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll see more infantile outbursts when things stop going his way in the next episode.

Just a re-affirmation here that Mercer is considered to be smart. Remember all the smart things he did this episode?

In conclusion, my main problems with this episode are:

  • The infantile humour, which is out of place in an otherwise serious homage to Trek, and with very few exceptions doesn’t land. Compare this to Red Dwarf, which is a comedy series in space. It works because nothing about the show takes itself seriously.
  • Mercer is totally unfit for command and does not show any of the intelligence the rest of the cast expresses on his behalf.
  • The complete lack of awareness both by the Admiral and Commander Grayson that putting two ex-spouses in command together would severely compromise the safety of the ship and crew on any delicate or dangerous missions. But hey, it’s a comedy show, right? …Right?

As I said, there are good points to this show. It’s fun, the production values are set to 10, and it’s light (in contrast to the actual new Star Trek series which is the darker than the darkest mirror universe episodes from Deep Space Nine).

My only other quibble with the show is that the lighting is very bright overall especially on the Orville itself. It’s preferable to being dark of course, but it’s presently at the point of being a monotone wash, which makes the visuals a bit boring.

Also, I am very thankful there is no laugh track.

Thanks for reading this far! I didn’t think you would. Want me to do this for episodes 2 and beyond? Let me know and why not support me on Patreon?