30 January 2016

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During the week I came back from house-sitting for friends.  They were away for six days, up and down the island, showing it to visiting family.  I looked after their cats while they were away.

Part of the visit allowed me to raid their digital television cache for things I wanted to catch up on or see.  I don’t usually bother with downloading things at home so this is a treat.

What did I watch?

  • Doctor Who: I hadn’t caught up with all the episodes of Season 9.  I have been eratic about this.  I felt the Zygon episodes could have been better.  They kept a light hand on dealing with issues of terrorism and radicalisation of minorities which could have been more forward; and UNIT still are used as stooges.  I also hadn’t seen Heaven Sent and enjoyed this episode, placing Hell Bent in context.
  • The Expanse: Recommended.  I watched the first five episodes and loved it.  It’s Engineers in Spaaaaace! An empire-building space opera with hard science as humanity expands to colonise the solar system two hundred years in the future.  As they are based on a series of books I am now wanting to read the first title, Leviathan Wakes.  Apparently the series has been faithful to the books so far.
  • The Last Ship: season two of this post-apocalyptic series.  I liked the acting and writing in this series, and a second season did not disappoint me.  I am looking forward to a third season.
  • The Shanara Chronicles: Oh. Dear.
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Promise? Yes, please, I’ll wait.  Make it good!

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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I went and saw this at the weekend.  I was seeing too many spoilers.  I’ve had enough time to compile some thoughts.  Here’s some of them.

The Empire, or the First Order, marches; the Resistance runs.  This seems to be a significant difference.

If I watch this again it will be to make a list of health and safety violations.  I think I’ve spotted at least two in my first screening: Storm-troopers shuttling down to planetside without apparently being strapped in; later Rey trips some fuses without checking the safety protocols.  Once Health and Safety mobilises I don’t think either the First Order, or the Resistance, stand much chance coming off unscathed.

Rey is cool.  She is not just a Jedi, she is an Engineer.

What is the First Order’s economy?  Even after two Death Stars are destroyed and their dominance over the Star Wars galaxy has been shattered they still have fully functional funding to build a equator-girdling Starkiller Base that can be seen from orbit, a weapon that dwarves either of the earlier Death Stars.

What is the relationship between the Resistance and the New Republic?  Apparently the Resistance is embedded in the New Republic beyond the reach of the First Order.  Does General Leia Organa answer to a Comander-in-Chief in the Republic?  There are potentially disturbing implications if the Resistance is answerable only to itself.

Rule of thumb – if you end up in the Star Wars galaxy, move off the densely populated urban planets.  They get destroyed first.  Even low density settlements get bombed by the First Order, but the planet doesn’t get destroyed under your feet.  They have to find you first so you have a better chance.

SG.U Season Two Final Episode

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I was rather fond of this series.  The last episode played this week.  I understand the network in America that sponsored it has gone from producing Science Fiction (for a given value of Sci. Fi.) to mostly wrestling shows (for a given value of fantasy).  This means we won’t see more of this.  A shame.  I liked the series.  I liked the fact that it’s heroes were fallible, and were never meant to be leaders.  It steered dangerously close to interesting character development.  It tried to avoid being another planet of the week show.

Anyway as it was the last episode I took notes:

One supporting character has been blinded, another is reported to have a motor control disease; not good.

The ship is under attack by robot drones.  When their weapons won’t work on the ship’s shields the drones throw themselves at it in a kamikaze attack the shields can’t prevent. 

The visit to another world to find supplies for the ship has become so routine it happens off-screen.  The reason why they couldn’t find enough supplies is not explained.  The world is barren? Plant and animal life edible by humans hasn’t evolved?  Resources are too far away from the landing site?

As they can’t find worlds safe from attacks from robot attack drones they move to the final alternative.  Leave this galaxy millions of light years away from earth and head to one further away.  It’s not a popular plan, involving being in cryogenics for three years; loosing out on information stops that might discover more about the ship’s agenda (to discover the message from the origins of the universe); risking never arriving, frozen in permanent cryogenics.

There are final farewells.

Are you happy?

In spite of everything, yeah, I am.

Good!

The blind woman comes up with a plan to sacrifice a shuttle to destroy a command ship.  She is rewarded with a touch to the shoulder, physical human contact.  It turns out Rush is better at playing spacies than Eli.  Who knew?

The last farewells continue.

Go back light years, across a universe, and I miss her by a couple of thousand miles.

There are handshakes as colleagues and rivals depart as friends.  Rush is the ‘slightly crazy uncle who comes through in the end’.  To family!  L’chaim!  A promise is made to bring them all home.

Down to three people now.  Colonel Young, Doctor Rush and Eli Wallace.  Unfortunately of the three remaining available cryogenic chambers only two are working.  The constrained conditions of deep interstellar space aboard the Destiny mean the one who remains outside of cryogenics will not survive unless he manages to repair the chamber in the time remaining.  All three want to make the noble sacrifice.

You’ve come a long way from that video game slacker I met a year ago.

Thanks, you’re been pretty consistent.

In the end it is Eli who is standing on the observation deck, allowed one last smile as the Destiny disappears into the void that is the closing credits.  It’s like the franchise decided to quietly shuffle off knowing its fate is to be cancelled rather than give us something flash to end on.  It’s done its duty, now clear the stage.  It had great sets too, the lighting was dark and the ornamentation was all in brass, reflecting the idea it was technology so ancient it was victorian.

I wonder when the collected set of both seasons will become available here.  It would be tempting to get.  Just to show some support for being this series back.

Falling Skies: Episode One

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I missed the opening minutes and arrived in the middle of a scene where the last of the human forces are being driven of a New Englander city. With no report from Alask-Canada, Mexico, Asia, or Trans-Atlantica, Planet America has been taken over by aliens: the multi-limbed skitters and humanoid terminators the humans call mechs. I started wondering why the aliens are dimorphic way before anyone on the screen did. The aliens dominate the landscape with fortresses that look like a cross between stranded oil-rigs and the Jetsons. The humans need all the help they can get as their main character is Noah Wyle wandering around as a history professor without tenure. His pep talks run along the lines of Remember the Athenians! Oh, dear.

Everyone’s holding up way better to the end of civilisation than they did on Battlestar Galactica

The survivors stand around an dying alien they have brought down and wonder what it’s thinking. It looked fairly obvious that it was something like Bloody hell, I can’t breathe!

Note to the teenagers: if everyone can hear you snogging in the bedroom you might as well give them something worth listening to. It will be good for morale. (Oh, right. This is family entertainment.)

The episode ends with our heroic survivors being captured by arrow-toting bikies. It turns out alright when the mooks turn on each other faster than orcs. No honour among thieves, I’m afraid. Most of them go kaboom and our guys are left with the great goblin as their prisoner.