Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Battlestar Gallactica

I think I have discovered another excellent geek series.  Yes, I know my discovery is about 5 years behind the times, but for someone who doesn’t have cable, I think I’m doing pretty well!

We borrowed the first season from a friend and finally got around to watching the pilot last night and I think it’s safe to say that we are totally hooked!  Now I can’t wait to start slowly watching the rest of the series.

To read more of my thoughts on it, go check out my new blog where the full article is posted.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Star Trek Movie Rankings and Other Thoughts

Since I am way too busy this weekend to actually see the Star Trek movie reboot, I decided I’d still do up an article summarizing some of my thoughts on the Star Trek movie franchise as a bonus Trek Tuesday post. I also thought it would be a good time to re-rank the movies and compare my ranking now to my pre-Countdown ranking. I had completely forgotten about the movie ranking that I put together way back when the Countdown to Trek was just beginning. It wasn’t until I was recently sorting out the mess on my desk that I came across the envelope and remembered making the list and sealing it all up.


So, here is how they all stack up . . .

#10 – Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Pre-Countdown rank: 8th fell 2 spots

I ended up liking this movie more than I thought I would, but I also ended up liking a couple of other movies more than I thought I would, and this one, just doesn’t fit with the excitement of the other Star Trek movies. I almost think that the plot is such that it could be any Sci-Fi movie, instead of feeling like a Star Trek movie.

#9 – Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Pre-Countdown rank: 9th no change

This movie was pretty much how I remembered it. It felt like an extended epilogue for Star Trek II and is one of the movies that I don’t feel like I’d ever watch all on its own.

#8 – Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Pre-Countdown rank: 10th rose 2 spots

This was definitely one of the big surprise moves amongst my ranks. I think my pre-countdown ranking was based more on the opinions of others than on the movie itself. I thought the movie got back to Star Trek’s exploration roots and also had some interesting choices with the direction. Then there was just the right amount of cheesiness that reminded me of some of the original series episodes.

#7 – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Pre-Countdown rank: 7th no change

I think everyone should watch this movie at least a few times during their lives just to appreciate Kirk’s classic “KHAAAAAAAN!!!” moment, not to mention to appreciate the wonderful acting of Ricardo Montalban.

#6 – Star Trek IX: Insurrection

Pre-Countdown rank: 3rd fell 3 spots

Another rather surprising outcome. I think it’s probably I enjoyed so many of the movies that came before this one, and watching them in order was reminded of that. It felt a lot like a Star Trek episode, except I felt that they moved away from the grand feel of the Star Trek universe a bit too much for me.

#5 – Star Trek VII: Generations

Pre-Countdown rank: 5th no change

I think the movie was pretty good but could have been more about The Next Generation crew instead of the Original Series crew. A few cringe moments as they enjoyed the freedoms of a movie vs.. a tv episode, but they were stretching their wings a bit with this one.

#4 – Star Trek X: Nemesis

Pre-Countdown rank: 2nd fell 2 spots

Don’t get me wrong, I still like this movie. I was just reminded of how much more I like some of the other movies. This movie was darker too. While I do like it when they give the Star Trek universe depth, I think Shannon was ultimately right when she said that this one didn’t have the same hopeful Star Trek feel.

#3 – Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Pre-Countdown rank: 4th rose 1 spot

Part of the ranking for this one is pure nostalgia. Watched it a lot when I was younger. There are so many moments that still make me laugh, it gets a lot of points for re-watchability. Plus, I also find it a ‘feel good’ kind of movie.

#2 – Star Trek XIII: First Contact

Pre-Countdown rank: 1st fell 1 spot

This is my favourite movie with The Next Generation crew. It does so many things right and I felt like all the plot lines really meshed together well. It has enough plot material from the series that the hard core Star Trek fan can really appreciate the issues that they deal with, but is also its own complete story so that a newcomer could also jump in without feeling as though they are missing out.

#1 – Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Pre-Countdown rank: 6th rose 5 spots

Biggest mover on the list was this one. I think it has the best supporting cast of all the films and definitely has a grand feel to it. Despite the relative smoothness of their heads, the Klingons are given a great deal of the depth in how they are portrayed in this movie.

Other Thoughts

One of the things that I kept noticing as I watched the movies was how they were continually changing to reflect the movie era that they were being filmed in. The movie franchise starts out at a time when Sci Fi movies were much more philosophical than action packed which sharply contrasts with the way the more recent Star Trek movies have to pack in the explosions and fight scenes in order to keep up with their competition.

In terms of the crew, their is a huge difference between The Original Series and The Next Generation. In movies that feature The Original Series, the crew really doesn’t show much progress in terms of their skills and development. We see that they are getting promoted and are definitely wiser in comparison to the tv show, but they all fall back to the same traditional roles that they had in the tv show*1. In the movies that feature The Next Generation crew, by the end of their run of movies, I felt as though most of crew members were ready to move on to roles that were more challenging. They were really ready to all be more independent from one another. The movies even catered to that since the course of action in The Next Generation movies often required the crew members to be demonstrating their skills instead of being interdependent on one another. The only crew member who really gets that kind of attention in the first six movies is Kirk, but that’s the way it’s always traditionally been.

If there were one thing I would change about the movies . . . without a doubt . . . I would stop the Enterprise from getting beat up all the time! I know it was kind of necessary for the plots, and I know they needed new ship designs (and I wouldn’t want them to take those parts out), but I felt almost as though they were beating up one of the crew members every time the ship got beat up.

*1 The only exception to that might be Sulu’s character, who seems to be comfortable stepping up and being a fellow Captain to Kirk in Star Trek VI.

WordPress Tags: Trek, Movie, Countdown

Saturday, May 09, 2009


Today is the launch of my new blogging home at  I’ve got most things up and running and will continue blogging from that site from now on.  I will be posting to both for the first little while, but don’t wait too long to update your .rss feeds (here’s hoping the new ones are actually working!) and your bookmarks so you can keep up with all my Geekness comings and goings.  I’m too tired for much more fanfare than that.  There’ll be a blog post later about the journey to the new site and the things I’m learning along the way.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Star Trek: Nemesis

I think that this movie is the darkest of all the Star Trek movies that we've seen to date. It deals with ruthless and grim circumstances even more so than Insurrection did. Also, in Insurrection's favour, it offered a counterbalance to the darkness of the film. Nemesis has very little light to offset the grim circumstances.

I liked that this film was more overtly symbolic than some of the previous ones were. We see lots of examples of mirror images throughout the movie. Though the mirror image is always distorted in some way. We can see it on a very grand scale of entire species and civilizations, looking at the Romulans and the Remans, right down to the individual comparison of Picard and Shinzon as well as Data and B-4. Mirror images is something that Star Trek has always liked to play with in all the alternate reality episodes that they did. Though that wasn't used so much in the Next Generation, it was in the Original Series and in Deep Space Nine too.

As usual, some of the best commentary about the nature of humanity surrounds Data. Though in this film he somehow seems to finally understand some of the nature of humanity even more than Picard does. I felt the discussion between these two actors about these issues could have been explored more fully than it was.

I love the fact that this movie gets back to the Romulan culture. Throughout Star Trek the Romulans have been shrouded in mystery. The Next Generation began some cultural exploration during the series and it felt good to get back to some of their idiosyncracies, politics, and history. I also thought that Dina Meyer did a fantastic job playing the Romulan Commander (though her skill commanding a war bird left something to be desired.) I love how all the portrayals of Romulan women show that they are highly intelligent, brave, and just as capable as their male counterparts in leadership roles.

There were a few discrepancies in the film that made me cringe a bit. Like, why aren't all tactical officers Betazoids? I thought that Picard had hair in his youth when they mentioned it during the series. And, why didn't they make any effort whatsoever to blend in when they went down to the planet on their new dune buggy? But the casual fan probably wouldn't notice most of these little details.

They did stick to what seems to have become the formula for The Next Generation movies:

  • Shinzon is a pretty damn good villain. He even gets more scary-looking as the move progresses. Also, he's a villain with the potential to unnerve Picard. Though, I gotta say, when they are on screen together, Patrick Stewart's acting presence is much stronger than Tom Hardy's.
  • The Earth is facing a very grave threat. It's the heart of the Federation and home to most of the crew (not to mention the audience) so it makes the crisis very personal.
  • The Enterprise gets seriously beat up, if not destroyed.
Now, on to the Cool Science/Tech! (The tech-geek side of me really loved the movie for all the nifty new shiny stuff!)

  • A modern dune buggy - The Argo! I know a lot of people found it rather gimicky, but after seeing Firefly I think it actually does make sense that they have a vehicle capable of land travel on board a space ship.
  • We finally get to see another Android that is similar to, but not quite the same as Data.
  • The Reman warship - highly armed and capable of cloaking. Very cool ship design (though we'll ignore how it was built in secret by what was essentially a race of slaves) that reflects the war that they had just been through.
  • Successful cloning.
  • Holographic communication device. I believe it first arrives in Deep Space Nine, but it still deserves a mention here.
Fun Stuff:
  • A cameo appearance by Kate Mulgrew as Admiral Janeway. She's a Star Trek Captain who actually seems to have been happy to accept a promotion. Now she outranks Picard, which is also kind of cool.
  • Geordie's implants are back. Too bad that the effects of the last movie weren't lasting!
Next week I'm going to do a post reflecting back on the Star Trek movies that I've watched and give some general observations about the differences between original Trek and The Next Generation. I'm also going to rank the movies in order of how much I like them, and see how that compares to the original ranking I did way back at the beginning of the Countdown to Trek. I won't be seeing the new movie next weekend when it comes out because my schedule is just too full. However, I should be seeing it the week after that, and I'll try to put together one final Trek Tuesday post about that too (I'll really try to keep it spoiler free!)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

May Marathon!

Despite what the title might lead you to believe, I am not actually taking part in a marathon during May. However, a new writing challenge is afoot! All it took was Wiffer Karen*1 to throw out the suggestion of a writing challenge, and a bunch of us jumped on board with the idea (so far Melina, Jen, Davina, and Kim have blogged about it and a bunch more writers have put up theirs in the forums).

The timing for me is pretty darn good, since I decided to do SocNoc*2 this year, but haven't yet had a chance to figure out what I was going to do. Thinking about the writing challenge today (during the brief snippets of time that I had during work) I've decided that before embarking on a new project, I really should move at least one of my two 'works in progress'*3 forward a step. Ever since getting a copy of my 2007 NaNoWriMo manuscript printed out, I've been thinking more and more about that story, so I've decided to revisit it, and then potentially revise and/or add to it during SocNoc. I'm looking forward to applying the things I've learned about the writing process and add things like goals, motivation, conflict, and a plot to my first serious novel attempt.

So, without further ado, my writing goals for May:

  • First, before re-reading, I'm going to work up a basic plot outline. No scene details just yet, but the basic outline of events/turning points.
  • Second, I know that my characters all had goals, motivations, and conflicts, but I like things concretely written out. If I leave them in my head I'll be constantly considering other ideas and lose track of what is actually going on.
  • Third, *grimmace* I'm going to re-read my manuscript and work on outlining the scenes. I know I'll be adding new scenes in what I've already written, and changing a bunch of the stuff that's already there. The big callenge is that he initial re-read is NOT to edit, just to figure out what plot parts stay, where the new stuff will happen, and what will go. I'm hoping the gratuitous use of post-it notes will help get me past the pain of re-reading what I've written. This will be the framework for the beginning of revisions and new writing that will begin in June.
  • Fourth, and totally unrelated to creative writing, I need to actually go through the ProBlogger 31 Days to Build a Better Blog exercises. I signed up but haven't gotten through more than the first few exercises yet and I'd like to.
So, there you have it. Writing goals for May. I'm really hoping that now that the main tax rush is over, work will be slightly less stressful and I'll have a bit more time and mental fortitude to work on writing stuff. I'd like to be working on these writing goals daily, though I'm not sure how often I will be blogging updates about it (though I'm going to try to check in daily with the Wiffer forums).

Edit: I went and put the footnote things in the top and then forgot to actually make the footnotes. Silly Jennerosity! Anyway, here are the footnotes:

*1 - For those who aren't in the loop, the Wiffers are a fabulous group of writers who share a passion for writing and wine :)
*2 - SocNoc stands for the Southern Cross Novel Challenge and is very similar to NaNoWriMo.
*3 - I say works in progress with quotes because it is a bit of a misnomer in this case. I haven't actually been doing much work or progressing either of them lately. But it sounded better than "those stale partial stories I wrote". They were written during NaNoWriMo 2007 and 2008 so they are both about 50,000 words long. Since they are both in the fantasy genre, I still have a long way to go until they are done!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Star Trek: Insurrection

This was the first Trek movie where my first impression of it was fonder than upon revisiting it. I'm not sure why, but I just didn't click with this movie like I thought I would. The really confusing part, is that I can only come up with reasons why I should like it more than I do. Not that it's bad, but it just isn't as great as I initially thought it would be. When I think about what the movie was about and everything it had in it, I really should have loved it.

What I think was detracting me:

First difference that I noticed with this movie is that they don't start out in the Star Trek universe. They start out on the alien planet. They even have serene and pastoral music at this point to match the pastoral setting. I guess it's done to help establish some pathos (or ethos? it's some kind of *thos) for the people and their plight and to juxtapose with the action sequence that they jump into. But I think this is the only Trek movie that didn't have a grand Trek intro.

The movie is full of a nostalgic feeling. We get lots of glimpses into Picard's, Riker's, and Troi's past. Not just with the crew, but with the entire situation that they face, it feels a bit like we're looking behind us at the past instead of traveling forward to something new and exciting.

They did look a bit at the differet cultural values of the other races but I would have liked a more in depth look at how their society runs. The Baku (sp?) seem to be a very highly evolved, peaceful, spiritual people but we don't get much of a sense of their political organization and how decisions are made.

There were a number of bits that felt contrived or hokey: Worf reuniting with the crew for this mission, the kid and his animated pet, it seemed to take too long to wrap things up at the end, and some of the dialogue was just too cheesey for me.

Things that make me want to love it:

I thought they did a very good job portraying a realistic post-war role for the Enterprise and her crew. They waste no time reminding us of where we are in the Trek universe and all the upheaval that has been going on through the galaxy. The crew seems to be in a bit of a state of shock after all the high adventure to return to diplomacy, talks, paperwork, etc.

The theme of the movie deals with a lot of ethics and the spirit of the Prime Directive. Thematically, I should have loved the movie, but it wasn't quite enough for me to get past the other points. They are dealing with forced relocation and trying to define the balance between the needs of the many and the needs of the few.

There's also a bit of a political message going on that is applicable to any day and age as they explore the consequences of making an alliance with a political entity that has quite different values than they do. In a sense they are making a deal with a devil 'for the greater good' but gambling on whether they will be able to control the devil further down the road.

The entire way that the villains were handled here was also great. The decisions about how they look lends a certain poetry to it all. Their exterior physical state really mirrored their inner moral decay.

Cool Science/Tech:

  • genetic manipulations to preserve youth
  • metaphasic energy
  • they actually used the ramscoop!
Fun Stuff:
  • Picard kind of gets a girlfriend but Beverly doesn't really seem to care. Perhaps the invigorating experience has her considering aiming her sights at someone younger than the Captain?
  • Geordie's eyes heal! And I can't remember if it's permanent or not. Guess I'll find out next week when I watch the next movie.
  • They had a good villain with a clear goal, motivation, and conflict (appealed to the writer in me) and he has a really awesome scream when he realizes his plans get foiled!
  • Riker really gets a chance to display that he is very ready for the Captain's chair now.
  • It's kind of nice to know that futuristic military organizations still let people bank their vacation/shore-leave days.
  • The crew literally gets re-invigorated for one last movie after this one *sniff, sniff*

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Star Trek: TNG Season 1 - The Neutral Zone

Link to episode guide

This episode sets up a potential future adversary for the Federation and re-introduces the Romulan race (and does it so they are somewhat politically and psychologically complex species, as opposed to the treatment of the aliens in the Conspiracy episode.) The set up is a bit weak. We get some background and hear that they had dropped off the radar for a lot of years, but now they are back!

At the same time as this is going on, the episode throws in some issues about medical ethics. They take a look at the bigger picture of cryogenic technology and the long-tail effects of this. There is also the very mundane issue of whose job it is to maintain all the cryogenically frozen people and what happens if they run out of funding before a cure is found for whatever killed them? Who should decide when/if they get re-animated? How do they manage to re-integrate into society when/if they are re-animated? Would any of us really be prepared to re-start our lives at some point?

One of the frustrating things about this episode is that is just kind of wraps up without answering the mystery that it started with - the destruction of outposts in the Neutral Zone! The Enterprise shows up, a Romulan ship shows up. They talk. Neither claims responsibility. Then they both turn around and leave the area shrugging their shoulders. I can't remember if this simply sets up something for next season or not. Unfortunately, my fellow Trek fans, I am going to have to wait a while before finding out.

Cool Science/Tech:

  • While we don't see it, they refer to the Captain's shuttle.
  • The Romulan ship is very cool too!

  1. This will be my last Star Trek: The Next Generation post for a while. I will continue to do my Trek Tuesday movie posts. But, for a while anyways, the TV show posts will be on hiatus. Mostly, this is becuase we are finally catching up with some other shows. We've borrowed season 1 of Battlestar Gallactica, and feel we should watch that and return it before we continue on with the Star Trek stuff.
  2. When they resume, the posts will be moving to a new blog home. I'll be announcing my new blog home soon. Most things are set up already, but I still have a few more tweaks and things to finish off before officially opening the doors. Don't worry, I'll be letting you know when things are ready to go there.