Monthly Archives: February 2020

Star Trek: Picard: Absolute Candor, Stardust City Rag

Absolute Candor

stardustcityragIf nothing else, the first four installments of Picard have established that while Picard had the best of intentions in leading the effort to save the Romulans from their star going supernova, things really went sideways in a hurry.   But I think we’re starting to see the Picard we knew on TNG slowly emerging and starting to find ways to try and make amends for his mistakes — both real and perceived.

That begins with the first mission in space.  Instead of heading straight for Bruce Maddox,  Picard orders the ship taken to Vashti, a Romulan relocation hub where Picard had a special relationship with a sisterhood of Romulan ninja nuns and the young orphaned man they took in.   In a flashback, Picard promises to return and to try to find the young man a home.

And then, as we’ve seen in the first three installments, the synthetics went bonkers on Mars and Picard couldn’t return — for fourteen years.  Elnor has grown up and harbors some resentment toward Picard for not coming back.  Oh yeah, he’s also become a Romulan ninja who will join the cause because he thinks it’s a lost one.

While on the surface, Picard is able to confront some of the lines drawn in the town, including tearing down a sign that says “Romulans Only” and stepping across it.  Thankfully, Elnor is there to save him from the various offended parties, though it is interesting to see Picard thrust into a sword-fight, given the times we’ve seen him sparring on the Enterprise during TNG’s run.  Continue reading

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Review: The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

The WivesTarryn Fisher says her fascination with polygamy and its impact on women led her to write The Wives. But after reading The Wives, I feel like she hasn’t really explored the impact all well.

But it’s not like she doesn’t have all the elements for a great story. It’s just that she doesn’t use them all that well.

Thursday is one of Seth’s three wives. Not only is Thursday her name, but that’s the only day of the week she’s allowed to share with Seth. The other days and nights are given over to his other wives. One of the stipulations to this unusual arrangement is that Thursday can never meet or have a relationship with his other wives. But driven by jealousy and a spirit of rebellion, Thursday begins a friendship with Seth’s newest wife and is horrified to discover she has bruises and other signs of abuse at Seth’s hands.

At this point, the novel raises an interesting question of just how well Thursday knows her husband and what, if anything., she owes to his other wives. Should she interfere? Should she intervene and try to help the wife escape Seth’s potential abuse? Continue reading

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Review: Snowbound in Vegas by Sally Kilpatrick

Despite being assured by friends that they were “perfect” for each other, Geo Russell and Truvy Fuller’s first blind date didn’t end in a love connection — or even a second date.

Years later, the Geo and Truvy are the best man and maid of honor for their best friend’s wedding. But little do they know that their friends not only still think they’re perfect for each other, but they’re going to prove it to them.

Geo and Truvy are tricked into spending a week together in a remote, snowbound cabin  (nicknamed Vegas) in Gatlinburg with no cell service, no television, and no contact with the outside world.   Will there be a love connection this time or will these two end up loathing each other even more?

Sally Kilpatrick’s “Snowbound in Vegas” is a sweet romance with just enough heat to it to fuel but not overfeed your imagination.  Alternating viewpoints between Geo and Truvy allows us to see inside each one’s world-view and assumptions about the other and see just how these two didn’t connect on that first date but might connect now.

“Vegas” is a bit different from Kilpatrick’s previous stories in terms of setting and turning up the heat factor. But what she doesn’t sacrifice is her commitment to building strong, relatable characters with their own quirks and foibles that serve as both an asset and a hindrance to romance.   The remote setting and confined quarters make for a lot of fun and there are some genuinely sweet moments between Geo and Truvy.

And any story that uses the word “nekkid” in reference to its characters being sans-clothing  (because neither one packed a suitcase for the trip and there is a hot tub) wins major points in my book.

Sweet, charming, and relatable, “Vegas” is another winning story from Kilpatrick.

This story is part of the Once Upon A Wedding anthology.

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Doctor Who: Ascension of the Cybermen

ascensiuon2When he took over as the showrunner for Doctor Who, Chris Chibnall told us he wanted to create stories and episodes that didn’t radically deal with the huge backlog of continuity that is Doctor Who.  Then, fans weren’t thrilled with series 11 and we’ve got series 12, where it seems as if Chibnall is determined to re-write all of the series continuity — or at least challenge our long-held assumptions about it — in the course of ten episodes.

Well, I’ve seen nine of those ten episodes and I’ve got to admit that, so far, Chibnall’s reworking of continuity has been hit or miss.  The series started off well by making the Master a frightening nemesis for the Doctor again (something Simms never pulled off and wasn’t a priority with Missy) and then pulled the rug out from under us in the fifth episode with the reveal of Dr. Ruth.

Now, Chibnall is determined to do what the new series has tried to do for years — make the Cybermen scary again.  Continue reading

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Doctor Who: The Haunting of Villa Diodati

haunting1No disrespect to the current Doctor Who, but the last time the series tried to do an epic three-part finale, it really dropped the ball. (I’m referring to the complete thud that “Last of the Time Lords” is, following off the great set-up by “Utopia” and then “The Sound of Drums.”

So, you’ll have to excuse me a bit if I’m a bit nervous about seeing where this potential three-part finale takes us this time around.

But I will admit that, so far, so good.

“The Haunting of Villa Diodati” was teased as the Doctor Who story where the Doctor meets Mary Shelley.  Shelley is important in literary and world history for helping create the genre that Doctor Who exists in.  And despite warnings from the Doctor to the TARDIS team to not mention Frankenstein to Shelley, you just know that somehow, something is going to show up and inspire her.

What it is is the Lone Cybermen that Jack warned us about earlier.

But more on that later.

What we get leading up to the big revelation (and like Ruth showing up, the arrival of the Cyberman threatens to overshadow pretty everything else in this episode) is an atmospheric episode that felt like it was taken right out of the Gothic era of classic Doctor Who.  And given my affection for that particular era of Doctor Who, that’s a good thing.

Seeing various figures who will have a profound impact on our world and its literature was fun — even if the show does go to extreme lengths to make Byron out to a hormonal imbalance with legs.  The concept of the house that closes in on itself with various rooms not allowing people to leave and characters vanishing was unnerving enough and visually, it was all well shot.

But then the Lone Cyberman shows up and a lot of that early work is forgotten.

I will say that the Lone Cyberman does seem to borrow a bit from the Borg, giving us a human face to the cybernetic race.  I understand why this has to happen (it would get tedious to see the Doctor talking to a regular Cyberman for the substantial amounts of exposition that have to take place), but it still feels like Chris Chibnall is too quick to borrow elements from the show’s history and other series.

Certainly, the Doctor’s anger at the Cybermen is easy to understand — where it’s the fate of Bill Potts the last time she met them or going all the way back to Adric’s death in the classic series (and given that “Earthshock” was chosen as the story to give fans a taste of the fifth Doctor’s era, it’s something that can and hopefully is familiar to new Who fans).  And as quick as I am to call Jodie Whittaker out for what I see as deficiencies in her portrayal of the Doctor, let me also call out that she does a great job here walking a fine line between anger and the darkness that is inside the Doctor.  Her speech about standing on top of the mountain and not always being able to win was chilling and pitch-perfect.

It’s also interesting to note that the Doctor has no choice but to give the Lone Cyberman what he wants, thus ignoring Jack’s warning and setting things up for the two-part finale to come. We’ve heard various Cyber-wars mentioned over the show’s history and the Cybermen certainly are not strangers to trying to use time travel to manipulate their own history (see “Attack of the Cybermen” for example).

So, we’ve certainly set things up for an epic finale.  I just hope that the show can deliver the goods….

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Star Trek: Picard: The End is the Beginning

endisbeginning2After fifty-plus years of the Vasquez rocks standing in for various alien worlds, it was fun to see Star Trek: Picard actually set a few scenes there this week and last week.

Beyond that, the third episode of Picard is all about moving all the pieces into place and getting us ready to move away from Earth.   If the first two episodes were about establishing where Picard is now, this one is about establishing the new characters who will be his “crew” for lack of a better term.

It’s interesting to see Picard’s reputation precede him a bit — both last week and here.  Last week, we see that’s he’s persona-non-grata with Starfleet. But this week, we meet Rio, who on some level seems to hold Picard in some kind of reverence.  It makes me curious if Rio might be talked into making a questionable choice down the road due to his deference for Picard.

Meanwhile, we also get to meet Raffi, a woman that Picard’s insistence that the Federation do the right thing by their promise to the Romulans ending up costing her career.   I do like that the show took a few minutes to fill in this backstory and create this tension between them. But I also found myself wondering if this might not have been more effective a conflict if were to cause a schism between Picard and, let’s say, Riker.   I say this only because we’ve got an established history with the TNG characters and this schism would have a lot more profound impact and resonance with viewers (well, this one at least) if it’s a familiar face.

(Of course, that does raise the issue that springs to mind for the TNG movies — why don’t these people ever get assigned elsewhere?!?)

Back on the Romulan Borg cube, we get to see an old friend (making me glad I rewatched “I, Borg” before the show started airing).  It’s interesting to note that the Romulans were the last group assimilated by this particular cube and the easiest to set free from the Borg (well, as easy as setting one free from the Borg can be).

And while the episode was enjoyable enough, I still feel like it was treading water a bit to get us to the big ending of Picard finally leaving Earth.   I have a feeling we’ll be coming back to this episode and seeing seeds sewn for the series character and story arcs.

I do have to wonder a bit about having an EMH based upon yourself.  Is that a cost-cutting measure or an ego one?  Either way, it should prove to be fun as we get to know more about Rio.

I also can’t help but wonder what caused his exit from Starfleet…..

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Doctor Who: Can You Hear Me?

doctor-who-can-you-hear-me--e1581343990267-700x321It’s hard to fault “Can You Hear Me?” for what it’s trying to do.

The story is meant to shine a light on the stigma surrounding mental illness and show us that there are ways that it can and should be addressed.  It’s just too bad that the story goes for a relatively simple solution to issue (“Be brave” or “Talk to people”) instead of really digging in for something deeper and more meaningful.

Part of that could be that, quite frankly, I have little to no investment in any of the characters on-screen.  And yes, that includes the companions Yaz and Ryan.   When Russell T. Davies grounded his companions with friends and family who were left behind, he gave us a reason to care about those people — or at least to have some kind of investment in them.  I may have become annoyed that the final half-hour of “The End of Time, Part 2” was one last check-in with every recurring character from the last four years.  But at least I could name those characters and was given more to them than just “friend of Ryan.” Continue reading

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Doctor Who: Praxeus

doctorwhopraxeusOne of the frustrations of watching the X-Files was tuning in the week after a game-changing mythology episode only to find things go back to the status quo with little or no mention of the huge events from the week before.

As we’ve moved more into serialized storytelling in this new “golden age” of television, it can be a bit more frustrating.

Which is why I may have been frustrated by this week’s installment of Doctor Who, “Praxeus.”  After the events of “Fugitive of the Judoon” to go back to a standard alien-invasion of the week story felt a bit like a step back for this season.

Of course, my frustration with the show goes a bit deeper than the lack of follow-up.  It also extends to my feeling that Chris Chibnall can’t write his way out of a wet paper bag with a detailed set of instructions.   I will be the first to concede that Doctor Who has never shied away from politics.  Heck, Robert Holmes wrote an entire four-part story because was frustrated by the British taxation system. But at least when Holmes was giving us political allegory and heavy-handed morals, he found a way to make the stories entertaining.  Continue reading

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