Stranger Things: The Game

Stranger Things: The Game
Stranger Things: The Game

Have you tried out Stranger Things: The Game?  I heard about this a few weeks back in passing, and sought it out.  The gameplay is fairly simple – it’s point-and-click, but is more of an action RPG (in the vein of the original Zelda games).

I’ve only got as far as Chapter 2, but so far it’s a lot of fun to figure out the little puzzles throughout the game.  There are two modes: “Normal” and “1984”, which is apparently next to impossible to play unless you’re a big gamer.  Anyway, I’m on the Normal mode.  There looks to be a ton of things to do.  The game is very well-designed and fun to play, which is  win for me!

It also has a sense of humour, which all of the great action RPG games of old had.  It’s a fantastic homage, but also stands on its own.  I think the mobile gaming world could use more games like this!  If there already are – point them out to me!!

Star Trek Discovery Opening Titles

I think this is probably the best opening sequence of any Star Trek show.  It would be cool if they made versions for all of the other shows that look like this.  My current desktop wallpaper is a screenshot of the Discovery from this sequence.  It looks really great.

Star Trek: Discovery Review

I finally finished watching the final bits of “The Battle at the Binary Stars”, the second episode of Star Trek: Discovery.  Here’s my quick review of the show!

Overall impressions

I thought the premiere episodes were great.  In Canada, Discovery is being released on Space, the Canadian version of the SyFy channel.  I’m incredibly thankful that I don’t need to subscribe to CraveTV, which is where you can stream the show in Canada.

If I were to give it an arbitrary rating, I’d say 3.5/5.  The show was visually impressive, and had a story that was somewhat straightforward to follow.  There were some bits I didn’t like (I’ll get to that), but overall I found enough that will keep me coming back weekly.

What I didn’t like 

The Klingons – but not for the reason you’d think.  I’m not hung up on the design choices for the show; in fact I think I’d find it distracting if the technology looked dated compared to what we have available to us today.  Similarly for the Kilngons, the updated look didn’t phase me a bit.

What bothered me was the way they spoke, and the slow subtitles.  I found it very hard to follow along, because they spoke so slowly and the subtitles used such short sentence fragments.  Let me correct my phrasing a bit; it wasn’t that they spoke slowly at all, it was actually just the subtitles.  I think their speech patterns were the most “realistic” of all Klingon depictions.  Their scenes just felt extremely slow and took me out of the episode because of it.

I also found it confusing that we started with a crew that had already been together 7 years, and we’re most likely never seeing them again.  Why couldn’t we start with the Discovery, if that’s where we’re going?  That’s a minor beef though, and I’m willing to see what they’ve got for the rest of the season.

What I did like

Yep, the list of what I didn’t like was pretty short.  While introducing the Shenzhou was a negative, it was also somewhat of a positive for me.  It really did feel like we were seeing a crew that had spent 7 years together – there was no awkward “nice to meet you” moments we might usually get in a Star Trek pilot.  Especially the relationship between Saru and Burnham was really well done.

I mentioned the impressive visuals earlier; like I said, I wasn’t caught up with the fact that these sets look even more advanced than the Enterprise sets did at the time.  They do look like a natural progression from the Enterprise sets, which I thought made sense for 100 years’ difference.  From the technical standpoint, I thought it was great that this didn’t “look” like a TV show (whereas you can tell the original Trek series are filmed on sets, no matter how alive they tried to make them).

I thought Commander Burnham was portrayed excellently – you could tell she was a different character from when she first joined the Shenzhou to her moment of defiance 7 years later.  You can feel that there is a lot of character development that happened in between, and you can trust that it happened without having to see it.

Final Words

When I first saw the trailer for this, I wasn’t initially interested in the show.  I would watch the first episode, and try to catch it if I could.  But as the premiere date came, I realized I was legitimately excited for a new Trek show.

And now, after seeing the first two episodes, I can’t wait to have a weekly Sunday night TV date.  Everybody is talking about it – it’s great.

If you haven’t seen the episodes yet, go and watch them.  Judge for yourself whether it has a “Star Trek” message or not (I think the jury is still out on that).

New on Netflix in October (Canada)

I was a holdout of Netflix for a long time, but with the demise of Shomi last November, I finally bit the bullet.  Most months I don’t even pay for it out of pocket money, using cash earned through SwagBucks.  So I’ve been enjoying it a lot.

Here’s the full list I’m reading from, courtesy of MobileSyrup.  Go ahead and click, I’ll wait for you to come back for my highlights.   Note that this list is for Canada only – I have no idea what’s coming in other regions.

My List

First and foremost, Stranger Things 2 is at the top of my list, coming October 27th – just in time for Halloween!  The trailer for it looks pretty sweet, too; you can find that on YouTube.

Goosebumps – I don’t think this movie got very good reviews, but in keeping with the Halloween theme for October I think it’s worth a watch and worthy of going onto My List.

Wheelman’s description makes it seem very much like it’s a B movie dressed up with some moderately high production value.  I don’t know, it sounds like it could be worth watching on a Saturday afternoon.

That’s about it for my list of new things to watch; but apparently after October 9th, Mad Max: Fury Road is going by the wayside.  I’ll have to find some time to watch that one, since I still haven’t gotten around to it.  Interestingly, Fellowship of the Ring is leaving Netflix, but NOT The Two Towers or Return of the King.

Other Space – A Review

Other Space is a 2015 sci-fi comedy show produced by Paul Feig, and is available online at http://www.shareotherspace.com.  I first heard about it from Engage, The Official Star Trek Podcast.  It was originally released on Yahoo! Screen, a service I’ve actually never heard of before until today.

Other Space stars Karan Soni, Bess Rous, Eugene Cordero, Milana Vayntrub, Neil Casey, Joel Hodgson, Conor Leslie, and Trace Beaulieu.  The show also features guest appearances from Dave Franco, Sarah Baker, and Bjorn Gustafsson.

Apparently, Other Space was conceived by Paul Feig in the early 2000’s but wasn’t picked up for development until he was working on The Heat.  The show is set in the year 2105, and has been described as “Red Dwarf, USA, take two” by Rob Bricken in an early review.

I watched the first four episodes in preparation for this review – so how does it hold up?

The Setting

The setting is fairly standard for most science fiction properties – a space ship.  In Other Space, the ship is the UMP Cruiser, which is sent on what boils down to a public relations mission to increase support for the UMP organization.  Not even minutes into the mission, the Cruiser is transported into another realm of space, known as “other space”.

Not much is really put into the background – what’s really important is the jokes between the characters and their setting.  I think I agree with Bricken’s “Red Dwarf” comparison, because that show was essentially the same concept.

The set itself looks great – Feig described it as a very low budget show, and you can sort of tell, but they did a good job of making it look good.  The Cruiser looks like a good parody of the rebooted Star Trek Enterprise sets.

The Characters

Karan Soni shines as the captain and is the best character by far.  He’s basically not at all qualified to be the captain of a ship, but he’s promoted because of his charisma (my interpretation).  His sister is made first officer, and is inherently more qualified, but lacks any people-skills of any kind.

The characters all have some sort of back story that gets fleshed out in the first few episodes, which is pretty cool for a 26-minute show.

Joel Hodgson is my next favourite, who portrays a spaced out engineer.  He’s kind of like Tony Shalhoub’s Fred in Galaxy Quest, but a lot more laid back.

The chemistry between the crew is really great, and the casting director did a great job pulling them together.

Bottom Line

I’ve only watched the first four episodes, but I really liked it.  Episode 3 wasn’t as good as the other 3, but was still mostly great.  I’m looking forward to the other 4 episodes (there are only 8 in total).

Other Space gets a 4/5 rating from me.  Check it out at www.shareotherspace.com!

Review: Deep Space Nine “For the Uniform” (S5E13)

Spoiler alert!  This episode may be 20 years old, but some people are still discovering it for the first time.  Be warned – I’m not holding back any information in this review.

I recently re-watched “For the Uniform”, the 13th episode of Deep Space Nine’s fifth season.   I remember really liking this episode when I first watched it, but how does it hold up 20 years later?

5.5/10

The Good: Action-packed episode with well-executed teamwork

The Bad: The tense moments on the bridge are undermined by the lighthearted ending

The Plot

Sisko is hot on the trails of former security chief Michael Eddington, who betrayed him a couple of seasons ago and joined the Maquis (a freedom fighting group that fights both Cardassians and the Federation).  He finds out that Eddington is using bio-weapons to displace Cardassians from former human settlements, and decides to defy orders to finally bring him in.

Episode Background

As mentioned in the plot summary, Eddington was brought onto the show in the third season, installed by Starfleet pretty much because they no longer trusted Odo, a Changeling, to be in charge of station security.  Eventually Eddington betrayed the crew of DS9 and defected to the Maquis; ostensibly he was working for them the entire time, but I don’t think it was ever made clear where his loyalties were from the beginning.

After his defection, this is (I’m almost certain) his first appearance on the show.  Sisko is portrayed in this episode as being slightly obsessed with finding Eddington, and compared to Inspector Javert in Les Miserables (by Eddington himself, who sees himself as Valjean).

What else happens?

In order to catch Eddington, Sisko elects to use a similar tactic to Eddington: he poisons the atmosphere of a planet in order to lure Eddington out into the open.  He positions this as a direct response to Eddington’s attack on a Cardassian world, which was poisoned earlier in the episode.  I should note that the poison in both cases was only harmful to the opposite species, so at the end of the episode Cardassian and Human settlers just swap planets in quasi-O’Henry moment.

To spell it out, everyone is shocked when Eddington uses some sort of bio-weapon to make a planet uninhabitable for at least 50 years for Cardassians.  Everyone is really shocked about the development, and luckily none of those innocent people are killed during the evacuation.  Time passes and the crew is stumped on how to catch him.

So Sisko decides to load up some torpedoes and do the same thing to a Maquis planet.  Everyone is assuming he’s bluffing, and do a collective double-take when he actually gives the order to fire.  They do it, and the Maquis planet is made uninhabitable to humans for 50 years.

Eddington turns himself and his bio-weapons in when he’s convinced Sisko is going to continue to poison Maquis planets.  The settlers on each world swap places, and everyone is happy.

Character Implications

At the end of the episode, seemingly the characters are acting like it’s just any other day.  Sisko is perfectly fine being the “villain” of the story, and brushes off committing crazy acts of war against an entire planet by saying he “forgot” to clear it with Starfleet.

But knowing what he does in an upcoming episode (“In the Pale Moonlight”), it’s actually really cool to see the seeds of his actions start here.  This is a great character beat to show that Sisko is not Picard, and he’s not Kirk.  He’s willing to take some big gambles to get the job done.

But also brushed over are the crew’s reaction to his order.  I have two reactions to this series of events: 1) I’m surprised that no one did anything other than stare blankly at Sisko.  If this was TNG, Worf would be relieving the Captain of his duties.  2) On the other hand, the crew knows this is an important mission and are willing to trust the captain’s judgment.  This goes a long way to establishing what kind of trust Sisko engenders in his crew, even if some of his orders are questionable.

Does the episode hold up?

Yes, but…

Yes, it holds up because the action is great and well-paced.  But…there are some holes.  We haven’t really been given the chance to see how obsessed Sisko is at finding Eddington.  They throw in a line about him being on a planet for 8 months looking for him but that’s about it?  I don’t remember any previous mentions of Eddington since the defection.

Yes, it holds up because the idea of the crew working together to make the Defiant simply run was really cool.  It gave you some insight into how a starship actually operates when you push a button to make it go, and how reliant they are on the technology – but at the same time, how resilient they can be.  But…I really hated that holo-communication thing.  Neat idea in concept, but I thought they were better off with audio-communication.

I also really didn’t like how it was neatly wrapped up at the end of the episode.  I’m using this term a lot, but the poisoning of atmospheres was trivialized by simply having the colonists swap planets.  It really undermined the shocked looks on the faces of the crew when Sisko said to “Fire, damn you!”

I mean, if the end result was that the colonists were going to be fine, just another planet over, why was there any hesitation in carrying out the order?  Dax and Sisko were joking about it at the end of the episode.  The music cue at the end was bright and uplifting – the writers wanted you to feel good about the victory.  I certainly didn’t think it was a moral victory, and am disappointed there was no follow-through from anyone.

Overall Rating

I give this episode a 5.5/10.  It definitely has highlights, but the negative points I mentioned kept bringing it down a few notches.

I really want to meet Robert Picardo and Ethan Phillips

This is going to be largely another podcast recommendation, but if I’m ever asked what celebrity I’d most like to meet, it’d be Robert Picardo and Ethan Phillips, together in the same room.  Those two are downright funny, and also (mostly) down to earth.

Apparently they know each other quite well since starring together on Star Trek: Voyager, and have crossed paths several times.  I learned today that both Picardo and Phillips were cast in Cowen Brothers movies – and I specifically want to seek out Inside LLewyn Davis now.

I would definitely want to meet both of them, but if I had to choose, probably Robert Picardo.  Anyway, if you want to hear some proof of their genius together (and apart), have a listen to some episodes from Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast.  I’ve listed them in order of newest to oldest.  Don’t worry, inside jokes are kept to a minimum.

Next Generation Memories

I mentioned in a previous post the Mission Log Podcast; currently they’re covering THE NEXT GENERATION (and in a recent episode, indicated they should be getting to the movies in about a year).  It got me thinking about the episodes I remember most fondly compared to the episodes that I appreciate today.

I don’t clearly remember too many episodes from the first three seasons of TNG; in fact I’m pretty sure I never watched season 1’s first run on a regular basis – though I think I can remember an episode where Klingons escaped from the brig by taking their uniform apart.  Beyond that, I couldn’t tell you what happened in that episode.  Season 2 is a bit spotty for me as well, but I remember some bits like Elementary, Dear Data and The Big Goodbye (and my memory fails me even now – I just remembered that’s a season 1 episode!).

Season 3 is a little clearer – I still don’t remember all of it (and that’s not surprising – it aired in the 1989-1990 season, so I would have been only 5 and 6 years old), but one of the standouts was Yesterday’s Enterprise, and of course The Best of Both Worlds.  Looking back at the episode list, some of them seem familiar in premise only.  I remember watching Geordi and a Romulan find their way off a stormy planet (The Enemy); Data builds a daughter (The Offspring); and the Ferengi kidnapping Riker and the Troi’s (Melange A Trois).  But watching season 3 in order revealed a lot of things I don’t remember seeing before.

I don’t think I have clear memories of TNG until Season 5 (Darmok being a favourite), but going back to my original point: the episodes I remember really liking were gimmicky shows.  Geordi and Ro are thought dead, but really they’re “phased”; Scotty comes back and drinks something green!  Worf fights a bunch of Datas in the Holodeck as a cowboy.  The crew of the Enterprise travel back in time to the early 20th century.  Data dreams of Troi as a cake.  Q takes Picard back to his academy days.  Stuff like that.

But it strikes me that I’ve learned to appreciate episodes like Family or The Inner Light more than I would have growing up.  I think these concepts would have gone straight over my head when I was younger, because I was more interested in the action-y bits.  But through my teenage to adult years, I became more interested in story and writing, which is why I got into DEEP SPACE NINE so heavily and it’s still my favourite series.  So I now appreciate those deeper TNG episodes.

But while some people contest that the gimmick shows don’t really hold up (and they don’t, as good stories or Star Trek), I still really like them.  I’m able to look past their flaws and still get a kick out of Geordi sending a Romulan through the window, even while asking “well why don’t their feet fall through the floor?”.

Arrested Development Season 5?

I just read on Thursday that the full cast of Arrested Development has signed on for Season 5, an article that opened with:

““Arrested Development” fans, prepare yourselves: Season 5 is all but inevitable.”

OK, but do we really need another season?  It sounds like the producers are working hard to create a season that is a little more “organic” than the last season in 2013…the gist I get out of it is that it will likely end up being closer to the first three seasons in terms of scope, rather than the slightly disjointed season 4.

I liked season 4, but I understand why some people didn’t.  It had a very similar style to the original show, but deviated in that it was presented out of order with a lot of information purposefully withheld until the later episodes.  If you were expecting something identical to seasons 1-3, you’d be disappointed.

Frankly I thought it was smart to try something different.  I heard that there was an edit in the works that presented the series in chronological order, but based on the way it was filmed/edited originally, I’m not sure that’s even possible.  I think it might have been boring if it had used the same formula as the previous seasons.  In fact, I would have been happy if they ended it with season 3.  I certainly wasn’t disappointed with that ending.

I won’t be rushing to watch it but likely will if it’s a shorter season.  I think season 4 ended up being a bit on the long side.