What I thought of Star Trek: Discovery season 2 episode 1

The first season of Star Trek: Discovery contrary to what some fans said, wasn’t actually bad as it tried to do something different with the Star Trek formula, though the season was let down by a staggeringly awful final episode which wrapped everything up so poorly that it undid much of the good work the season did though the last shot tease of the Enterprise was a nice touch.

Then comes this first episode which in one fell swoop brushes away many of the criticisms of the first, so the overall tone isn’t as grim, supporting characters suddenly have names, and although it takes much of its tone from the 2009 J.J Abrams reboot though buried in what is a pretty action packed episode is something akin to Star Trek.in the what is the season’s overall arc which is finding out what the strange red bursts happening across the galaxy are..

Sonequa Martin-Green returns as Michael Burnham, while Anson Mount débuts as Captain Pike, the first captain of the Enterprise who plays it like the the film version of Pike rather than the original series. These two are clearly the main two protagonists but it feels slightly more of an ensemble piece that last year so all is good right? Not everything. It feels slight and there’s not enough in it to detract from the feeling it’d rather be about the action that anything else. As a whole though the series kicks off well; it’s fast paced action with a touch of fun missing from the first season that seems to be intent on taking us on an adventure rather than just tread the grounds of the first year.

So good start, let’s see where it goes from here.

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Gatwick Airport conspiracy theories

One of the world’s busiest airports, Gatwick, has been closed down by a few drones. Of course this means conspiracy theories galore as people wonder how one of the UK’s main transport and infrastructure hubs can’t deal with drones, so we have theories from aliens.to terrorism to kids twatting about to Theresa May lurking in the bushes with a remote control trying to distract the public from Brexit.

Here’s a good idea of the online chat.

All this japery hides the fact that hundreds of thousands of people are having their Christmas breaks ruined while government barely move in order to try to stop the problem. And there is a point to be made that this disruption comes three months ahead of Brexit and were it not a time of the year when many people aren’t working, the disruption would be vastly worse.

No be it aliens, ‘false flag’ or simple incompetency the fact it with Brexit coming, Gatwick shows how desperately unprepared we are and how our government fails to do the most basic jobs of government. We are basically, fucked.

Unless it is aliens in which case we might have a chance of being saved…

What I thought of Doctor Who series 11

Jodie Whittaker’s first season is over and overall this new direction (which it isn’t, more on that later) is overall pretty good. Stripping away the lairs in often incomprehensible plotlines that would often lead nowhere has freed up the programme to just tell stories again, and for the first three episodes it did that as well as the series has ever done. After that things became patchy.

Rosa is in my mind a fantastic bit of Doctor Who that lives up to the original idea of retelling history for younger viewers, while something like Kerblam! is a reminder of the worst days of the Colin Baker/Sylvester McCoy years. All the other episodes come between them with about half being above average to excellent and the rest ranging from the aforementioned rubbish of Kerblam! to the sheer averageness of It Takes You Away.

Part of the problem is Chris Chibnall. In replacing Stephen Moffat he’s simplified things and taken the show back to it’s roots so that’s why so many of this season’s episodes feel like condensed classic serials; The Doctor and crew land in a strange place/time. Encounter something odd. Investigate it. Find out the problem/culprit/monster. Solve it in a neat bow, and barring a brief coda that’s your episode.  Now that’s great most of the time but all the time? Back to basics doesn’t have to mean making the stories basic, which considering the possibilities of a female Doctor has barely been explored.  In fact there’s little character development going on with the Doctor’s likeable set of companions with one exception. Tosin Cole and Mandip Gil both do good work with what thin gruel they often got, but the massive shock is discovering Bradley Walsh can’t just act, but has become the emotional and moral heart of the programme.

What about The Doctor? Well, Whittaker is excellent often adding things into episodes which do seem scripted as she plays the Doctor not as the broken, lost thing trying to be good that Peter Capaldi did, or the boyish hero of Matt Smith, but more like Peter Davison’s often uncertain Fifth Doctor, but there’s this gap in the centre of her performance created by scripts too scared to deal with the change of gender head on. I hope Whittaker isn’t let down by scripts as Capaldi and Smith were, and I hope after this seasons reboot she’s allowed to tackle something stronger than she’s had to deal with at times this season.

Overall though the series is vastly improved. The new musical score from Segun Aginola is superb as it ditches the pompous orchestral score for something weirder, while the new production values are excellent to see even though they’d ran out of money by the last episode so relied on a quarry in Wales to see them to the end. The basics are there as are the viewers but it needs beefing up and although the attempts to create new villains is only really successful with the Stenza, the New Year’s Day episode promises the return of the Doctor’s oldest villains…

So, as a series it’s back on track. If however we’re only getting this small amount of episodes a year I’l hope next year sees a, increase in overall quality to take Whittaker’s Doctor to a new level because with the right scripts she could very well be one of the best there’s been.

55 years of Doctor Who

Doctor Who has been with us 55 years now and it’s in a place where its under attack from critics for having the first woman playing the Doctor in the shape of Jodie Whittaker, or it being to ”SJW”, and all the usual pish from bitter, sad incels but it is still the same programme it’s always been. It’s the Doctor having adventures in time and space with his/her companions.

Right now the programme is readjusting to the post Moffat era of overblown,needlessly complex storylines to the new Chris Chibnall era where each episode is a story unto itself. Effectively the programme has gone back to basics and although some of the scripts are frankly, shite, there’s some wonderful ideas being put of screen as the programme again (as the programme has done many a time over the last 55 years) finding its feet as it finds a new audience.

Doctor Who is a programme which has a loose formula and when it deviates too far, or becomes tired, it’ll revert to it before it finds its feet again and moves on. This is where we are now. Everyone seems to be waiting to see how things go before kicking (hopefully) up a gear to develop plots and ideas which won’t turn off Countryfile viewers while keeping fans, young and old, happy.

But as the programme aims towards pensionable age it persists onwards so happy birthday and here’s to another 55 years where people will be arguing whether a  radioactive mutant should play the Doctor or not.

How a Douglas Adams quote explains modern society

Confused, puzzled and angered by things like Brexit, the ongoing nightmare of Donald Trump, the various strains of nostalgia politics and the rise of gammon-faced people from the right and left, and just generally everything?

Well, the late, great Douglas Adams has a quote from the Salmon of Doubt that explains everything!

1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

So there you go, the modern world explained!

 

 

Losing Harlan Ellison

I have a Harlan Ellison story. Lots and lots of people who’ve been in, or are fans of, comics, SF, fantasy or just fans of his writing have a story. I’ve told mine before but here it is again. In 1985 at a SF convention in Glasgow, Ellison was guest of honour and was having great fun pissing off and entertaining all the right people because even as a young lad somewhat awestruck at being even in the same city as one of his heroes, I could see that Ellison danced the line between genius and arsehole easily. One minute he’s be amiable and chatty, the next he’d be annoyed and angry but he’d never compromise himself. His comments about writers getting paid show this.

So back to the story. I was working a dealers table selling comics and Ellison came in to have a shufty at our stuff. He picked a few things up and much to everyone’s surprise knew more about British comics than I’d have suspected. I was wearing a Marvelman badge, and spinning off the conversation from Warrior, Ellison asked if we had any for sale which we didn’t. He then asked if he could have mine. I eventually gave him it because this was my hero and I didn’t want to disappoint.

Ellison later came over to me in the bar, offered to get a drink and we ended up chatting about how great Dreamscape was. Indeed, it still is.

Ellison then had to move on with his small entourage but I was a happy lad as he’d signed a copy of The Glass Teat which is one of the greatest books of criticism ever published.  That book is something that influenced why I started this blog, and in fact it wasn’t until Ellison’s death I realised how much he’d shaped me growing up.

See, that wee story I have is something I’ve pulled out often over the years because it is a great wee story. The part of the story I usually miss out is when Ellison talked about not compromising which is something I don’t think Ellison did once in his life which led him to do great things, not to mention some awful things.

But that idea that someone can’t compromise because once you do it then becomes a game as to how far you’ll go without fully compromising yourself. I can’t remember when I did start compromising and although my life was better in some ways, a wee part of me was dead.

I’ll miss Ellison not being around. I’ll miss not being able to see if there’s a new soundbite  that I can use to help me sum up current events, and with current events being horrible I think we’ve lost a guide at a bad time.We’ll still have his mountain of work but we’ve lost a voice who could be good or bad, arrogant and uncompromising but always had something worthwhile to say. There will never be another like him.

Goodbye and thanks for whatever small lessons you’ve given me. I’m going to watch Dreamscape later and wallow in the memories of 1985.

I shall be going to Worldcon in Dublin in 2019

Next year in Dublin is the 77th World Science Fiction convention and bollocks to it, I’m going. It’ll be in this rather impressive building.

I done a few science fiction conventions both as a punter and as a trader back in the 1980’s and 90’s, and seeing as it’s going to be a plane ride away it strikes me as churlish not to go. As it stands today the plan is to fly to Dublin on the 14th August next year and then enjoy the convention before returning on the 20th. Of course Brexit may well mean I’m using leaves and beakers to trade.

So if you intend to go give me a shout and mine’s a orange juice and soda water…