Monthly Archives: January 2020

Star Trek: Picard:Maps and Legends

picardmapsWhen Star Trek: Discovery dropped the first f-bomb in broadcast Star Trek history, I wasn’t a fan.  The f-bomb dropping felt more like the production team saying, “Oh look, what we can say now that we’re a streaming series” instead of actually having an f-bomb come out because it fit the character or drama of the moment.  This week, Star Trek: Picard gives us not one but two (at least) f-bombs in the course of this hour — and I’ve got to admit that they work a lot better and felt a lot less gratuitous.

Admiral Clancy’s use of the f-bomb after Picard returns to Starfleet headquarters to ask for reinstatement and a ship to pursue Dr. Bruce Mattow perfectly underscored just how many bridges Picard has burned behind him.  Picard once commanded the flagship of the Federation and now he’s become a persona-non-grata in Starfleet because he had the audacity to stand up for what he believes are the principles upon which the Starfleet and the Federation are founded.

It was an interesting juxtaposition to see Picard walk into the Starfleet HQ and see the two holograms of iconic versions of the Enterprise and then the reception he receives from the cadet who is checking him in for his appointment.  I get the feeling that a lot of people at Starfleet feel that Picard has outlived his usefulness and that he’s become too much of a rogue agent and a bit of a PR nightmare.  Certainly, his actions and their reactions in the past two episodes underscore this. Continue reading

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Doctor Who: Fugitive of the Judoon

judoon2If there’s one thing the first series of Broadchurch showed us, it’s that Chris Chibnall is good at mystery story-arcs.  So, to see the latest episode of Doctor Who goto the mystery-arc well isn’t necessarily a bad thing as far as this fan is concerned.

With a couple of new mystery threads in play, the rest of this season and this era could play out in a variety of ways.  Of course, I wouldn’t be a fan of the Sylvester McCoy era if I didn’t point out that the return of an old friend with broad hints didn’t feel a lot like a page out of a certain scene in “Silver Nemesis” in which it’s pointed out the Doctor isn’t necessarily who we think he is.

Interesting that “Fugitive of the Judoon” would remind me of hints that there’s more to the Doctor than meets the eye, ala “Silver Nemesis.”  And since I ate up those revelations in “Silver Nemesis,” you know I ate them up like a spoon here. Continue reading

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Star Trek: Picard: Remembrance

trekpicardThirty-plus years ago when Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted, I tuned in with a mixture of excitement and reservation (probably like a lot of Star Trek fans out there).  And if you’d asked me after “Encounter at Farpoint” if thirty or so years on, that I’d have the same mixture of excitement and reservation for a new series featuring Captain Jean Luc Picard, I probably would have told you no.

The fact that I was is a testament to how the writers and Patrick Stewart molded and shaped the character of Jean Luc Picard over the course of seven seasons and four feature films.  And while Picard will never quite replace James T. Kirk as my favorite Trek captain, I do have a lot of admiration for what Picard is as a character and what he represents.

And it looks like Star Trek: Picard is going to be a continuation of that. Continue reading

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Doctor Who: Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror

teslaAndroid vs IOS.  Mac vs PC.  Blu-Ray vs HDVD.  Beta vs VHS.

There have always been battles when it comes to wide scale acceptance of new formats or advanced in technology.  And sometimes it rarely has to do with the quality of a thing so much as the marketing side.  (See VHS vs Beta debates).

For the latest historical story, Doctor Who takes us back to the battle over which type of current would win the war and the two men pushing for their side of things with Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison.  And attempting to convince me once again that Chris Chibnall is using his era as showrunner to pay homage to the 80’s, we get a historical that would feel right at home during that decade. Continue reading

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Review: Blue Moon by Lee Child

Blue Moon (Jack Reacher, #24)All Jack Reacher wanted to do was prevent an old man from being mugged. But Reacher’s assistance causes some long-simmering issues to boil over and before he knows it, he’s at the center of a turf war for the heart and soul of a town.

As with many of the recent Jack Reacher novels, it feels like Lee Child has a great idea for a short story here that’s been expanded into a full-length novel. Reacher helping the underdog facing long odds is nothing new and the elderly couple forced to sell everything and borrow from loan sharks to afford a radical treatment therapy for their daughter is timely enough. But once Reacher saves the old man from being mugged for carrying a lot of cash to pay off his loan shark, things become a bit of a slog.

Reacher is a wild-card in the equation and watching two sides of a long-simmering turf war slowly come to a full boil because Reacher steps-in seems like it should be fun and entertaining. Instead, it leads to a middle third of the book where Reacher seems to try and leave but keeps getting pulled back in for one reason or another. At first, it’s to help the couple in question, then it becomes because he flirts with a waitress named Abby, who also becomes an inadvertent victim because she helps Reacher out.

In the past, I’ve described Reacher as the modern equivalent of James Bond. And Blue Moon reinforces this view. Reacher seems to rarely grow or change from story to story and he’s always presented as the smartest guy in the story with the exact set of skills needed to solve whatever problem comes along. And, of course, there is Reacher’s love of diners and motels that take cash that seems to be a common theme of every novel.

I’ve read most of the Jack Reacher books at this point and it what started out as an entertaining, character-driven series is slowly starting to feel like a series being put on auto-pilot by its creator. The tropes are becoming a bit too familiar and I find myself wondering if I’ll continue the series as they continue to hit shelves.

Of course, I said that after the last Reacher book and here I am coming back to see if Child might return to form. (It did seem for a while that alternating Reacher books were great).

Maybe it’s time for Child to try something new with Reacher or push the formula of the series a bit for the next installment.

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Doctor Who: Orphan 55

orphan552Doctor Who is a series that has rarely shied away from borrowing tropes from other genres and itself or offering political allegories. But it’s rare in the close to the sixty-year history of the series that we’ve had an episode that was quite as heavy-handed and a crib of multiple episodes from its past than the latest installment “Orphan 55.”

In an episode that ends up being little more than an hour-long public service announcement, the entire point of the story comes down to a heavy-handed moralizing message about climate change, given by the Doctor as we go to ending credits.   I don’t mind Doctor Who advocating for a viewpoint that I may or may not agree with, but what I do mind is that it doesn’t do it an entertaining way.

The Doctor and company transporter to a holiday planet, using Grant’s accumulated points to enjoy a full-service experience and get some rest.  But it turns out the paradise resort is built on an orphan planet — one deemed unable to support life without assistance and one where the native residents have decided to break in.   There are various characters we’re supposed to care about, but they’re all really there as cannon fodder for the heavy-handed moralizing that’s to come later in the episode.

I have no issue with a story that introduces a bunch of characters only to see them all killed off by the time the final credits roll. Heck, two of the best-regarded classic Doctor Who serials, “The Caves of Androzani” and “Pyramids of Mars” do just that. But what those stories have that “Orphan 55” doesn’t is those two allowed us to invest in the characters so that when they do all get killed off, we actually feel something.  With “Orphan 55,” I had no investment in these characters beyond wishing they’d kill off the woman whining about her “Bennie” sooner if only to get her to shut up.  Continue reading

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Twenty Years Later

If you’re a Tennessee Titans fan, you probably remember where you were twenty years ago when the Music City Miracle happened.   Simply put, one of the greatest moments in sports history and one that is even better with Mike Keith’s superlative radio call.

At the time this happened, I worked for a company that had a lot of Bills fans in our call center up in Toronto.  And when some of them would call me for some help, I’d often end conversations with the statement, “It wasn’t a forward lateral and it was a miracle.”

There have been a lot of big sports moments in Nashville history.  But I’d argue that this is the walking dog of them all.

As the Titans continue to make a playoff run this year, I find myself wondering and hoping for our next memorable moment.

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Doctor Who: Spyfall, Part 2

spyfall2In the 70’s, the first few Master stories featured a variation on the same theme — essentially, the Master makes an alliance with some type of alien to conquer the Earth and kill the Doctor.  In most cases, he hasn’t necessarily thought the plan all the way through and ends up having to cast his alien allies aside and ask the Doctor for help in defeating them to save his own neck.

During much of “Spyfall, Part 2,” I found myself wondering if Chris Chibnall might be tapping into this trope and vibe for this new take on the Master.  And for this viewer, it might have been a good thing, if they did.

And while there were elements of it (the Master forming an alliance with the Kasavvins to inhabit our plane of existence without necessarily knowing their final intentions or the consequences of their plan/the alliance).  But, instead, Chibnall continues to borrow a bit from the 80’s in which we see the Master’s plan go awry and he’s hoisted by his own petard.  In this case, it’s the Master being trapped somewhere seeming inescapable (the plane that the Doctor was trapped in for the cliffhanger).  Continue reading

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Review: The Hypnotist’s Love-Story by Liane Moriarty

The Hypnotist's Love StoryIt’s always nice when the copy on the back of the book doesn’t give away too much. In the case of Liane Moriarty’s The Hypnotist’s Love Story, the back cover summary doesn’t give away anything beyond the first chapter of the novel.

And that turns out to be the biggest problem with the book.

After years of unsuccessful relationships and a few on-line match duds, Ellen O’Farrell has finally met the perfect guy for her in single father, Patrick. But Patrick is harboring a dark secret, one that he quickly lets Ellen in on — he’s being stalked by his ex-girlfriend, Saskia. Seems that Patrick jumped into a relationship too quickly after the death of his wife, Colleen, and Saskia hasn’t taken the break-up well. And while Saskia has never caused any physical harm, the mental and emotional toll on Patrick is starting to strain things for him a bit. Continue reading

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Doctor Who: Spyfall, Part One

doctorwhospyfall.pngBack in the 80’s, I attended a local stop of the WhoMobile, including an appearance by the (then) newly hired actor Sylvester McCoy.  During a Q&A session, a fellow fan asked McCoy if he felt the quality of the scripts was going to be better in his tenure.

I don’t recall what McCoy said that day (I was stoking my courage to ask him if a Dalek story was on its way yet or not), but I vividly recall the fan’s concern over the perceived quality of the scripts.

Somehow in the last couple of seasons, I’ve started to feel a bit like that fan from the Q&A that day.  While the rest of social media goes ga-ga over the first installment of season 12, I still find myself having some huge reservations about the overall quality of the writing on display from show-runner Chris Chibnel.  Continue reading


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