Category Archives: T.V.

Ranking Star Trek

In honor of Star Trek Discovery  debuting sometime later this year on CBS/ CBS All Access/ Netflix, I want to rank the Star Trek films and television series to date (save the animated series which I have never seen).

Let me begin with the films, from low to high.

13. The Motion Picture is very dull. I’ve watched it once or twice and feel nothing for it. I wouldn’t mind never seeing the film again.

12. The Final Frontier. Has some interesting bits. But Spock’s brother and his search for God is lackluster.

11. Star Trek. The Abrams helmed reboot is a disappointment. Pretty effects? Yes. But that does not excuse the fact that this film has horrendous world building that leads to a horrid plot.

10. The Search For Spock. It has its moments. But a poor follow up to a much better movie.

9. Into Darkness. The reboots need an original plot. And to not whitewash Khan. I do like that the supporting characters are branching off into their own subplots (which the original series’s films never did).

8. Insurrection. The worse of the Next Generation films. My problem with this film is that it takes place during the Dominion War. And the Enterprise is not engaged in the war? Really?

7. Nemesis. A clone of Picard really? Cool battle sequence. And I love the fact that the Romulans realize their mistake and aid the Enterprise in preventing genocide.

6. The Voyage Home. I really don’t like this film. But I do like the fact that characters other than Kirk, Bones, and Spock have subplots, if only minor.

5. Generations. An okay movie. My favorite bit is Lursa and B’Etor. And Whoopie Goldberg.

4. First Contact. I love the exploration of Picard’s character, the Ahab comparison and touches of PTSD are excellent. I even like Data’s continued exploration of his nature. But I wish other characters had gotten more chances to shine. (Data is my least favorite Next Generation character.)

3. Beyond. Damn I like this movie. The effects are well done. The villains make more sense than they usually do. And the cast has finally made the characters their own. And the crew stand on their own separate from Kirk, Bones, and Spock.

2. The Wrath of Khan. What? Number two? Yes. I love Wrath. It is one of the best example of space opera on film. But. . .

1. The Undiscovered Country. I really love this movie. It is my favorite Trek film. I love the usage of politics in the film. The acting is really good. The themes are incisive and well executed. Just an amazing example of space opera on film.

Now. What about the television series? Again from low to high.

5. Enterprise. The third and fourth seasons are good. Unfortunately, the first and second seasons are disappointing in the extreme.

4. Star Trek. Blasphemy! I know. I just am not too terribly fond of the Original Series. There are great episodes. But there are also some terrible episodes. The problem with the Original Series is that it hasn’t aged well (which is a problem with a lot of science fiction over time).

3. Voyager. There are good episodes. And there are bad episodes. I enjoyed it when I was younger. But revisiting the series recently, I must admit that it does not hold up well.

2. The Next Generation. My first experience with Star Trek. I like the series. But I’m not sure how well it holds up. Introduced me to Wesley Crusher.

1.Deep Space Nine. By far my favorite series. It has, honestly, improved with each viewing. I love the extended plot arcs that typified the later series. There are some issues. The Mirror Universe episodes are terrible. The Ferengi episodes are disappointing. But over all, I love Deep Space Nine.

I am a fan of Star Trek. I don’t consider myself a Trekkie, though. But I do hope Star Trek returns to form and produces more excellence. More Trek is always needed.

Star Trek: Discovery

Star Trek is finally returning to television! Okay, it is going to a streaming service after premiering on CBS. But at least there is a new Star Trek series! I am honestly both excited and pessimistic about the new series. And, of course, there is the looming issue of how I am going to watch it.

Not much is known about the new series. Although more is known now than it was a month ago.

We know the series is titled Star Trek: Discovery. We know that the ship will generally draw visual inspiration from the attempts to produce a second Star Trek series before the movies were settled upon.

We know that the protagonist is a woman. We know that she will be a junior officer rather than the usual captain. We know that there is a good chance that her actress will be a woman of color. We know that Star Trek: Discovery will continue the tradition of having diverse casts (including an out LGBT actor). We know there will be an out LGBT character.

We know that the series takes place five to ten years before Kirk’s five year mission in the Prime Timeline. We know it touches upon some part of Star Trek history. What that is, we don’t know.

We don’t know the cast, yet. We don’t know how the final visuals will turn out. We don’t know a lot of the details.

Everything else is rumor, speculation, and make believe.

I am excited about Star Trek continuing to be diverse in cast and character composition. Star Trek has always been diverse. And is stronger for that diversity, even if it fails to live up to its potential.

I am not excited about the setting. I’ve never been as big a fan of Star Trek as I am a fan of the later spin offs. I don’t want another prequel like Enterprise. I want to find out what happened to the Federation after the Dominion War. I want to find out if the Romulan Empire survived the destruction of Romulus. I want a new leap forward.

But I get that with Star Trek turning fifty there will be a nostalgic push to revisit the 2200s.

Will I watch it? I want to. But I am not in love with the idea of Star Trek: Discovery being exclusive after the premier on CBS All Access.

I get why CBS is going this route. They want to build their streaming brand.

But it is unfortunate for consumers who will now have to pay $5.99 a month to watch Star Trek: Discovery.

The added cost would be worth it if CBS All Access had anything else a consumer would be interested in. Writing for myself, CBS has nothing of interest except for Star Trek. So, do I want to spend the money for one series?

I need more solid information before I make that decision.

Sulu vs. Sulu

In Star Trek Beyond, Hikaru Sulu (portrayed by John Cho [formerly portrayed by George Takei]), will be revealed to be in a same sex relationship. Well past damn time there is a LGBTQ character in Star Trek! So I’m doing a happy dance (even though I am not fond of the reboot/ new timeline). And it is being reported that there will be LGBTQ representation in the new Star Trek television series. So excited for that! (even if I’ll have to get CBS All Access to watch it).

But there is controversy over Sulu’s gayness. Or bisexuality. Should a new character have been created instead? How does George Takei and his opinions factor into this?

(I’m not going to argue for what seems like the hundredth time defending diversity and inclusion. If you don’t get why it is so important by now, I’m not going to waste my valuable time on it.)

Sulu being depicted in a same sex relationship serves a number of functions. It rights a wrong in Star Trek that has been allowed to persist for far too long. It honors George Takei. It is narratively efficient. And the character already has a characterization (which promotes the narrative efficiency).

George Takei, however, has voiced his disappointment with the decision. Rather than recasting or queering a preexisting character, he has voiced support for creating a new character to be the vanguard of LGBTQ representation. His reasoning, if I have it right, is because he played Sulu as straight and Roddenberry wrote him as straight (even if they wanted to add some queerness at the time of the original series). I can see Takei’s point. Seeing your work discarded (even if it is an alternate version in some form) has to be frustrating. Especially when the discarding comes with the intent to honor.

Both sides, I think, have good points.

Queering Sulu is more efficient. Precious narrative time is not going to be wasted on introducing a new character. A new character who, let us all face it, will not have the impact or staying power of Sulu (as Iceman proved when he became the most prominent gay superhero after his coming out). There is also, as Simon Pegg points out, the perception of the new LGBTQ character as “The LGBTQ Character.”

A very compelling case for queering Sulu, I think. (Assuming he is even straight in the primary timeline. There has been some debate over whether or not there are explicit references to his sexuality in Star Trek and the subsequent movies he appears in.I really cannot comment on this with any authority, myself. I am a fan of Star Trek, but I am not as fond of the original series as I am the later series.)

Personally, I am reticent to promote the recast or queering of characters as an absolute good thing. Recasting/ queering must improve upon the original. It must, I believe, provide new avenues of narrative and characterization. Sometimes, editing existing characters is a sign of lazy writers, no matter how well the intent. A new character, well written and with a compelling narrative, can create a whole new fandom. (Pity no one takes the time).

Ultimately, I think Sulu in a same sex romance is the better option. Star Trek Beyond is only two hours. Not much time to introduce an original character with a compelling character and narrative that lifts him or her above the usual cast of forgettable original characters in Star Trek films.

 

Live Action Naruto?

What? 

Lately, I’ve wondered if a live action adaptation of Naruto is viable. The franchise is fifteen years old with 685 chapters and two very long running anime series (Naruto and Naruto Shippuden). With all that in mind, can Naruto be adapted for live action?

I’m honestly not sure Naruto can be adapted to film without some major cuts. A single movie is impossible without becoming a confusing mess. A trilogy or tetralogy is certainly more viable, but the filmmakers will have to find the essential narrative and, largely, cut the rest. Another option is to film every arc. But who would be willing to commit to fifteen plus films? And what will happen when the main cast age out of their roles?

The best option, I think, is for a Game of Thrones style ten to thirteen episode a season television series. 

Here’s how I envision Naruto  breaking down by season: The first season starts with Naruto becoming a genin and covers the Wave and Chunin Exam arcs. The second season covers the Invasion of Konoha, the Search for Tsunade, and the Sasuke Retrieval arcs. The third season would cover the Gaara Rescue, Sai and Sasuke, and Hidan and Kakuzu arcs (ending with Sasuke killing Orochimaru). The fourth season would cover the Itachi Pursuit and Invasion of Pain arcs ( ending with either the Raikage calling the Gokage Summit or Nagato’s death). The fifth season would, then, take on the Gokage Summit and the initial stages of the Fourth Shinobi World War. Finally, the sixth season would cover the Fourth Shinobi World War. 

You know, this could actually work. The only problem is one of production. I don’t know much about Japanese television, but I get the impression that the preference is, generally, for shorter, single season dramas. 

The problem with an American production company getting a hold of the live action television rights to Naruto is the danger of whitewashing the characters. Dragon Ball was whitewashed. The Last Airbender was whitewashed. And the proposed adaptations of Akira and Death Note features heavily rumored whitewashing of settings and characters. Hell, the rumored Naruto live action film featured some tween hearthrob up for the role of Naruto.

A solution to this problem, if American filmmakers get the greenlight, is to have a diverse cast. I’m not familiar enough with the current crop of actors to give a fantasy casting sheet. I’ll leave that to others.

I would love to see Naruto get a live adaptation. I don’t know if it is possible, but one can always hope. 

Comic Book Men Casting, Quick Post

A few days ago, I was contacted by a producer on the television series Comic Book Men on AMC. Following the success of The Walking DeadComic Book Men follows Kevin Smith’s comic book shop, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, in Red Bank, NJ.

Currently, and for a few weeks more, the show is looking for people to feature in their segments. If you are interesting and have interesting comics, memorabilia, etc. to sell check it out. And if you want to be on TV and are interesting with interesting stuff you’d like to sell, check it out. And if you would like to go shopping and appear on television while doing it, check it out.

Here’s the website: http://www.comicbookmencasting.com.

 

Science Fiction on Television: A Reason to Hope?

I haven’t watched Syfy since Battlestar Galactica ended. Baring the occasional movie. All that changed a few weeks ago with the premier of Defiance. Damn, I procrastinated until this weekend to watch the series. But I freaking love it!

Defiance is a well written mash up of space western, post apocalypse, space opera, and Shakespeare. That all of the the various genres complement each other rather than struggling for dominance is amazing. Plus, the show wonderfully manages to juggle all of the various plots threads (at least so far).

The acting is good. And the visuals, wow. Very well done.

Defiance gives me hope for the future of science fiction on television. But, before I get called out that science fiction hasn’t exactly vanished from television, I must argue that with the rebranding of SciFi to Syfy, the end of Enterprise, and a general lack of space opera that there appears to be a dearth of science fiction on television even as science fiction becomes ever more prevalent.

So, let’s look at what is coming up.

Syfy seems to be making a course correction with all of the scripted shows they are weighing right now. Of the possibilities there are several I am seriously interested in watching.

High Moon seems to be extremely interesting. Orion I seriously want to see. Clandestine is equally high on my list. And top of my list? Infinity. The synopsis/ pitch has me salivating. These are the stand outs, but I will be willing to give all of the series listed in Deadline.com’s article a shot.

Now, are any of these shows exactly original? Not really. Orion looks to be Tomb Raider in space, Clandestine is reminiscent of Firefly (only more antihero), and Infinity is, perhaps, a more human centric Farscape. That doesn’t mean I ain’t going to give them a chance. I want to watch them all. Now, please.

But Syfy is not the only one. Starz is developing Incursion which seems to be very interesting from what I’ve heard. And may give me reason to actually see if I have Starz.

And, I do believe AMC is developing a really interesting space noir series. But I can’t remember its name. But it sounds damn awesome.

These developments give me hope. I love science fiction on television and I’ve spent the last few years in misery.  Now, I need to go check out Blake’s 7. And really start to get into Farscape again.

 

The Horror, the Horror!

I just spent the last two hours watching the worst history program ever. I mean ever!

The series’s name is I Love the 1880s. Inspired by VH1’s I Love the 70s, 80s, and 90s (did they ever do the 00s?), the show is basically a hodgepodge of historical tidbits bonded by a common theme and commented on by a stable of comedians.

And yes, it is as stupid as it sounds. The humor isn’t that good. And the informative bits are dull.

Man, I am sorely disappoint. This is even worse than Clash of the Gods. Seriously, what has happened to the History Channel?

So Much For the End of the World

Doomsday will just have to wait for another day.  December 21 has come and largely gone. And nothing. Just an average day.

Of course, to think that today would be anything else but an average day is, honestly, stupid.

The vast majority of people know next to nothing about the Mayans. And even less know them very well. So, the bullshit that has been spouted and foisted upon the viewing public by infotainment television is not surprising.

It stinks, but pseudoscience and pseudohistory brings in the money.

 

I’m going to cut this post short. But first, I have determined what Post 300 will be: 2013 Resolutions. And it will come on January 1. So between now and then, expect a flurry of posts.

Criticism: The Positive and Negative

I’ve been thinking about criticism a lot lately. The problem, I think, is what is criticism actually good for? Are there times when criticism is alternately positive or negative? Or is it all negative? And really, what should the response be to criticism from creators, critics, and fans alike?

A Definition is in Order

A Handbook to Literature (Harmon and Holman) define criticism as “the analysis, study, and evaluation of individual works of art, as well as the formulation of general principles for the examination of such works.” Now, this definition is highly academic but still, I think, very useful. Especially for someone who comes from an English Literature major background.

Let’s try a definition from Merriam- Webster’s for criticize “to consider the merits and demerits of and judge accordingly” and “to find fault with.”  Very interesting definitions, I think.

To Help

Positive criticism, either focusing on positive, negative, or both aspects of a work can lead to improved works of art. The arts, of every kind, improve with continually engaging in it and listening to criticism geared toward helping to improve the work.

But I guess how positive criticism is worded makes as much difference as the intent. One must, I think, use kind and encouraging words when wanting to aid an artist in developing and improving their work. If a work isn’t doing it for you, explain why in as gentle and non aggressive way as possible.

The Place of Popular and Academic Criticism

Can reviews for popular consumption be positive? What about criticism for either popular or academic readers? This is a tough one, I think.

Maybe the issue is the intent on the part of the critic. If a critic intends to write a fair minded argument for or against, can that still be positive even if the verdict is negative?

Whenever I do reviews or critical analysis, I’m always afraid that I’m not being fair. Often times, I worry if I’m being too mean when I review things. Especially if I’m not a fan of the work. But even positive reviews can be problematic. If I really like a work, can my judgement be trusted. And vice versa?

I guess what got me started thinking about these questions is an article on After Elton. Com entitled “Hate Watching Glee.” From my limited experience of the show, I think Jurgens is largely spot on with his criticisms. And many in the comments section have excellent criticisms too. And I’ve gone on record with calling the writing atrocious and the narrative world building schizophrenic (and not in the good way).

But are we fair? Like I’ve said before, I have very limited experience with the show. But what about those who are passionate and know their stuff? The criticism seems right to me.

But, and here is the big but. How should “negative” criticism be taken?

Of Intent

I think the intent plays a large role in this.

If a critic’s intent is to be malicious, then their criticism is, honestly, worthless. Though his or her words may hurt, they offer nothing positive. Only vileness and negativity.

Now, if a critic is attempting to analyze and evaluate a work to see how and if it works, then perhaps there is something there to hold on to. Just like in the roles of alpha and beta readers (or Critters).

The Creator/ Artist/ Etc. Takes It How?

I think every one takes criticism differently. Some may genuinely take it to heart and use it to improve their art. And others may ignore it completely, even if it does have excellent points to think about.

But is that criticism good only for the creators targeted? I say, honestly, hell no.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not overly interested in working in television. But there have been tons of very useful advice coming out of After Elton’s articles concerning Glee (especially in the comments). Of course, there is also a ton (and I mean a ton) of worthless crap.

And I hope that other creatives take the time to appreciate good advice, too.

But What About the Fans?

The fans of a work can often be the most vicious when it comes to criticism. Both in attack and defense of the source of their fanaticism. Often times fans can be the most ardent criticizers of a work as well as the most savage when it comes to defense.

I think it is important to remember that no work is perfect. And never let the passions blind one’s judgement.

A Personal Example

I’m a fan of James Robinson’s Earth 2. I’ve fallen in love with that series. And it does hurt when comic book reviewers give individual issues ratings lower than I think they deserve.

Now, I will admit that most comic book reviews vary wildly in quality within even their own websites/ individual reviewers. And sometimes, they really don’t make a whole lot of sense in what they complain about.

But, I want to focus some on Sara Lima (of Comic Vine)‘s reviews of Earth 2. Do I think she was fair to give Robinson a lower rating for Sam’s death? And what about issue 6? Well, at first, I admit I was not happy. But the more I think about it, and reread the issues, I find that I’m actually starting to agree with her.

I’ve come to see that she has a point that Sam’s death is problematic. But isn’t the death of a loved one a powerful motivator for super heroes? Yes, but it sucks. Why can’t a hero be heroic for the sake of heroism? Why is that push needed?

And yes, Alan Scott’s defeat of Grundy is rather unsatisfying.

To Conclude

Damn it, this post is really long. And I wanted to touch on the role of bias in criticism. But, to be honest, I’m tempted to have biased criticism be adjacent to malicious criticism. I mean, if you can’t see the value in a work, why the hell are you criticizing it anyway?

Remember, Post 300 is coming up.  . .

 

Thinking about Media and Genre: What Interests Me?

I’ve been meaning to write this post for two days now. And I’ve been rather distracted by life. And time. But now I’ve got some to spare, so I’m taking it. Tonight, I want to write about media and genre. I want to explore why I want to write in certain media and focus on certain genres. But as I’ve written before, never say never that I won’t migrate to media or genres I have no interest in now.

Media

Poetry: I’ve written poetry for creative writing course assignments. And some of my favorite literature courses have been centered around poetry. But I have no real passion for writing poetry.

Prose Fiction: Let’s divide this up in two, shall we?

Short Fiction: I know I should be passionately in love with short fiction. But I’m just not. I like to read short stories and novellas when I get the chance. But I have no real passion for them. And even less in writing them. I just don’t know. . . I just don’t dig it.

Novels: Now this is what I’m passionate about! I love getting in depth and exploring characters and worlds. Many of my ideas scream to become novels. Novels take a lot of work, though. There is a demand for novelists to have an eye for detail. And an ability to keep the readers’ interest for hundreds or thousands (yikes) of pages. When I develop ideas and projects, they are always divided in two categories: novels and. . .

Comics: To be honest, I’ve had a fraught relationship with comics. Comics were among my first loves. But I’m a fickle and inconstant fan. In recent years, I’ve fallen back in love with comics. Hard. And I want to write them. Now, my main focus is on creator owned projects. I have several ideas for comics series I want to develop. Would I ever want (or love) to write for the Big Two? Hell yeah. I would love to write Catwoman, Red Robin, Young Avengers, Storm, etc. Never say never.

Video Games: Much like comics, my relationship with video games is fraught. I love video games. And I suck at them. Really badly. I’ve only ever beaten a few games. More often than not, I quit at some point in frustration. That doesn’t mean I don’t love watching other people playing. Nor does that mean I’m not interested in how video games are made. Would I ever want to write for video games? I don’t know. I don’t know enough about the industry. But, never say never.

Television: I currently have an obsession with serialized fiction (of which comics and television are the prime examples of). But do I really want to put up with a team of writers, producers, show runners, etc.? Probably not. But who knows?

Movies: Again, I’m not too interested in writing for film. My brother once tried to get me to write a few movies with him. But I’ve never really felt an impetus to want to write a screenplay. I mean, I’ve written a play before. Didn’t like it though. So, I think I’ll pass.

Genre

This post is starting to go on longer than I really want (and I don’t want to write a two part post), so I’ll speed through this. Any questions, please leave me comments.

Given the nature of this blog (and my interests), I’ve always wanted to write speculative fiction. I’ve tended to naturally focus more on the fantasy side of things compared to science fiction. And as I’ve gotten older, that tendency has started to grow.

Perhaps the issue is that the type of science fiction popular with the internet circles I frequent are not the types of science fiction I would like to write. I’m more of a space opera guy. I’m not overly interested in hard science fiction or near future dystopia. Do like a bit of punk, though. If the writers actually know what the hell punk is. . .

But that is not to say that I’m exclusively interested in speculative fiction. For a long time, I wanted to write literary realism. I gradually abandoned that to focus on speculative fiction. But there are inklings of an idea that may be calling me back. I don’t know though. I could still somehow make it speculative in some fashion. You never know with me. I mean, I read a history book and I automatically get ideas for fantasies.

In the end

Crap. This post is getting more than a little long. There’s not much else to say except to always remember never say never. And to never try to predict the future.

With that in mind, lets have a preview of what I want to do the rest of this week!

I want to write a post on space opera. I want to explore my obsessions. And I have The Avengers to review.

There is one thing I want to try, though. In the next few weeks, I will hit my 300th post. I would like to give the choice for post 300 to you, the readers. Comment your suggestions, please.

Later.