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.

Favourite 80’s Mythical Monster Movies

I watched 1984’s Splash (starring Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah and John Candy) last weekend, finally crossing that comedy off my list.  It got me thinking about my favourite movies growing up, and a lot of them had the same theme: mythical monsters.

I’m not sure if there’s actually a genre for these movies, but this fits best as far as I can tell.  If you weren’t familiar with Splash before, it’s about a man searching for love who finds it in the form of a mermaid, temporarily granted legs for a short pe

riod.

 

We had a lot of movies taped off TV growing up, and one of the tapes that got repeat views was a little-known movie called Bigfoot.  It was one of ABC’s “Wonderful World of Disney” presentations, but other than that, until looking it up on IMDB, I knew nothing about it.  I assumed it was either made for TV or had a small theatrical release – apparently it was part of “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color”.

Bigfoot (1987)
Bigfoot (1987)

This movie had some pretty great production value for a made-for-TV movie, if you ask me.  Sure, Harry and the Hendersons is probably the most recognized Sasquatch film out there from the 80’s, but Bigfoot is my favourite.  It’s got comedy moments and even a little bit of suspense.  If you’re young enough, it can even be scary at times.

Some other mythical monster movies I remember watching – Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (which I should re-visit, one day).  Actually, that’s about all I remember.  What are some other good ones from the 80s?

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!

Late to the Fan Party

I remember when I was younger I was introduced to two franchises with zero prior knowledge: Harry Potter, and The X-Files.  Back in 2001 when The Philosopher’s Stone was released in theatres, I had zero knowledge of the franchise – I simply never grew up reading those books.  I guess it just wasn’t on my radar.

Same thing with the X-Files – my friends in high school got me watching it in order to start a website – and we started with 8th season, ostensibly the worst of the series, the One Without Mulder.  I went into it without any knowledge of it beyond remembering being scared of an earlier episode that may or may not have something to do with cockroaches – I’m really not sure at this point, because I don’t think I’ve watched it since.

The point I’m trying to get to is that the experience of going into these franchises blind was pretty great.  Since then I’ve read all of the HP books, seen the films, and watched quite a few X-Files episodes.  But my first experiences with these franchises were without any previous info and my friends got to laugh at me at some of my questions and observations.  It was fun!

I miss that feeling.  It’s hard to re-create too, especially since there are references to just about every major franchise (literary or visual) online every day.  And I listen to a lot of pop culture podcasts, so somehow, somewhere, little nuggets find their way into my head and just sit in the back of my mind.

I almost had that feeling with Game of Thrones, but it’s not a show I’ve watched with other people.  I share the ‘new’ experience with David Chen on the podcast A Cast of Kings, but that’s the closest I’ve come.  But the feeling of experiencing a new series of books or TV or film isn’t the same thing I’m referring to; it’s hard to describe.

I’ll try to give an example: I really want to read the James A. Corey novels starting with Leviathan Wakes; there’s a TV series that started last year called The Expanse that I’d watch after as well.  But I don’t have anyone in my circle of friends to watch with or have them watch my mind explode at whatever plot twists may turn up.  Luckily, I still know nothing about the series, so there’s still a chance I could share that experience through this blog.

What series or franchise did you discover blind that you ended up enjoying?  What about one that you absolutely hated despite hearing it being talked up a lot?

Coming up this Thursday: Monthly Podcast Update 

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.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 – A Non-Technical Review

I was playing Blades of Steel using a Logitech USB Gamepad.

Most of the reviews I looked up when trying to get more info on this device were heavily technical in nature.  Great for comparisons, but a lot of the terms and numbers went over my head.  I’ve since purchased the device (and I’m writing this post with it, in part!), so I thought I’d give a more practical hands-on review.

Display

The display on this thing is absolutely amazing. It is what’s called “Super AMOLED”. I’m not really sure what that means, other than that it’s optimized to not light up the screen when black pixels are present. And it’s a super version of that.

Last night, I watched the highlights of the Ottawa Senators win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the display quality was noticeably better than what I’d get on my TV.  The tablet also has a 4:3 aspect ratio, which means that when I watch Star Trek: The Next Generation in HD, it plays in full screen.  It’s amazing.

Physical Input

I didn’t know how to label this section – but this is the best I came up with.  The device inputs are your standard touch screen inputs – your fingers.  But I also bought a Logitech Type-S keyboard case to go with it, which is how I was typing with earlier in this post.

But it doesn’t stop there.

I was playing Blades of Steel using a Logitech USB Gamepad.
I was playing Blades of Steel using a Logitech USB Gamepad.

As you can see in the above photo, I was able to hook up a Logitech Gamepad I bought years ago for my laptop and play NES games with it.  Specifically I was playing Blades of Steel.  I’m hoping that some of the other games I have will support it (such as Knights of the Old Republic).

But that’s not all, either.  I then hooked up a USB mouse/keyboard combo and was pleasantly surprised to see that those worked as well.  There’s even a mouse cursor / pointer when you attach a USB mouse to the tablet.  Essentially, this is going to act as a pretty decent laptop replacement.

Unfortunately, my USB mic did not work when I connected it to the tablet.  I have to figure that one out still – but I have some ideas for that.  One thought is that my USB mic is technically a Rock Band mic, so that could be a mitigating factor right there.

Software

Nothing out of the ordinary here; out of the box it was running Android 5 (Lollipop) but immediately after I set it up, there were software updates to bring it up to Android 6 (Marshmallow).  So, it’s functionally the same as my S7 edge in terms of the operating system – and both devices should be getting an update to Nougat (Android 7) “soon”.

What I was happy about was that it wasn’t over-loaded with software bloat; my previous tablet, the Galaxy Tab 4, came with a bunch of stuff I never used and just took up precious space.  I haven’t fully explored everything, but from what I can see there wasn’t too much extra.

A welcome pre-installation was Microsoft Office Mobile.  Waiting for me to sign into my Microsoft account were OneDrive, Word, Excel, and other mobile Office suite apps.  I’ve used them before, but when used on the Tab S2’s 9.7 inch screen they actually look and feel closer to their desktop counterparts.

Also pre-installed is Samsung’s SideSync, which allows you to remotely control your phone and transfer files.  It’s a pretty nifty feature to have, though I have yet to make full use of it.  It’s definitely fun to play with!

Overall impressions

Overall, from just one weekend with the device, I’d give it an 8.5/10.  I love the size of it, and having the extra input options just put it over the top.  It loses points based on the fact that you kind of need these additional input options to get good solid use out of it.  I feel like it should be able to stand on its own – which it mostly does, but not completely.

The Tab S3 is coming out in 2017 so now is the perfect time to jump on the S2 bandwagon.  It’s amazingly fast, display quality is top notch, and gives you everything you can do with Android, plus a few extras that only Samsung can give you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Let’s Talk About Ads

Let’s talk about ads! Not the science behind marketing, blah blah blah. Smarter people than me can take care of that conversation. Instead, I want to talk about ads in general, and things that are ad-supported.

The topic that brought this to mind was a recent post on /r/podcasts about sponsors.  It was what you’d call on Reddit, a “shitpost” – a low-effort post with nothing to say.  From that spawned an actual discussion at least, with opinions being split between supporting ads and being vehemently against them.  Personally, I’m okay with them, and here’s why.

Full disclosure – I work in an industry that relies on advertising to generate revenue (radio).  I am slightly biased, but not for the reason of perpetuating a source of revenue / income.

I am a podcast creator  myself; I don’t use ads in my show, but rather rely on a Patreon campaign.  However, I understand the need for ads to offset production costs.  I have made a conscious choice to not skip ads for a product I am downloading for free.  I do not make the financial decision to donate, so I don’t want to cheat the creators out of ads that they feel are necessary to support their craft.

I understand that listening to ads on a podcast is not an act in itself that will bring them money.  This is more of a moral decision on my part.  But in a similar vein, I also decided to disable adblockers in my browser so that websites I frequent benefit from my ad views.  I understand that there’s whitelisting things you can do, so that terrible ad-based sites suffer, but I would rather just not go to those offending websites.

We live in a strange time, I think.  Younger generations feel entitled to block out all advertising to get what they want.  Some would gladly pay for subscriptions in exchange for an ad-free experience, but I think that might get close to the erosion of net neutrality.  This is also probably a ‘slippery slope’ argument in the making, so I’m going to stop there.

I think that my final opinion on the matter is that I’m perfectly fine with ads, if they are supporting a medium that I’m not paying for.  Radio, podcasts, and web sites – those are great examples.  All of those have options for ad-free experiences as well in most cases.

For radio, there is Satellite Radio available (for which I have a subscription – I enjoy both Satellite AND terrestrial radio); for podcasts, there are a host of options; for websites, ad-free versions have been around for years.  Apps have paid versions as well as ad-supported free versions.

Where it gets less tolerable are services such as Television, where I pay a subscription service and still get ads.  However it is still tolerable, because I realize that the ads are supporting the channels, so it’s really the cable service that I’m paying through the nose for.  TV is complicated, guys.

What are your thoughts?