Monthly Archives: September 2022

TV Round-Up: Quantum Leap, “Atlantis”

VfMW85t3RA3pHjeHsa8FqLWatching “Atlantis” a detail from the original Quantum Leap reared its head and wouldn’t let go. Where exactly does the person that Ben is displacing in time go? The original had an area where the person would leap to and could then interact with Al in the future, but so far, we’ve not seen or heard it mentioned.

And while it doesn’t solve the question of when and how the astronaut that Ben replaces died earlier in the story, it does provide some better insight into the person Ben is replacing. We certainly got the impression that Al was interacting with the person first before coming to see Sam to help Sam “pass” as the person he had leapt into.

This was a better episode than the pilot last week, probably because that one did most of the heavy lifting in terms of exposition. Now that we have the team in place and a thumbnail view of who each person is, we can start digging in a bit to the future.

I did find the conflict between what the team in the future wants Ben to know versus what the person contacting Ben wants him to know intriguing. An early original episode saw Al sending messages to Sam via an ancient language Sam knew, written out on a sash Al was wearing. I did find it interesting to see Addison pushing Ben to recall things and jog his memory over the express orders of Magic in the future.

We also get a cameo from Beth, who puts Magic on the trail of Janice, Al’s daughter who has some type of connection to why Ben decided he had to go. I’m glad we got this cosmic map that the previews leaned heavily into on the radar now instead of making us wait a few more episodes to bring things into focus. The easy answer to where Ben is going is to somehow find Sam. I imagine that Janice could feel that given how much Sam gave up to save Al (one of the few through lines of the original series), maybe she owes it to Sam to bring him home when her father couldn’t do it. If that’s where this all leads (and assuming that Scott Bakula is hedging when he says he’s not involved), I will be all for it.

As for the main plot of “Atlantis,” it felt like a page out of the original. The original series was very imitative, taking pieces of successful films of its era and telling its own kind of story around them. In many ways, it felt like this was a Quantum Leap take on Gravity, with our characters in there.

I did like that we actually hear about and see Ben being the glue that can hold a team together – we hear about it in the future and see him doing it on the shuttle. His wonder about being in space and then his recklessness to solve the problem also worked well.

I do, however, feel like the moments with hidden meaning for Madison when Ben says something about coming home or the nature of their relationship, could become strained quickly. So far, they are achieving a good balance, but it could go ka-ka quickly if they aren’t careful.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Read and Read Again

Tuesday means it’s Top Ten Tuesday! Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, this week’s literary meme isn’t one that ignites my interest, so I am delving back into the archives for a topic. Here are ten favorite books I could (and will) read again and again.

  1. Hamilton Duck by Arthur Getz
  2. The Ramona books by Beverly Cleary
  3. The Encyclopedia Brown books by Donald J. Sobol
  4. The Fudge books by Judy Blume
  5. The Light in the Attic/Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  6. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  7. The Amazing Spider-Man: Issues 1-75 by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, John Romita.
  8. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  9. Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor
  10. The Robot books by Issac Asimov
  11. The Sherlock Holmes stories/novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Audiobook Review: Doctor Who and the Keys of Marinus by Phillip Hinchcliffe

Doctor Who and the Keys of Marinus: 1st Doctor Novelisation

Arriving on the island of Marinus, the first Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan are reluctantly enlisted to seek out four of the five computer keys of Marinus that will restore the Conscience of Marinus.

In the lore of classic Doctor Who, The Keys of Marinus is a story that worked better when the episodes were produced each week instead of in filming blocks for an entire serial. Each episode features a different location and adventure as the TARDIS crew transports across the planet, looking for the keys.

The script feels like writer Terry Nation is trying out a few of the tropes that he will revisit time and again over the course of his career. We’ve got hostile plant life, a well-placed chasm, and even more of Nation’s favorite things to include in a script. As a quest storyline, it holds up well enough with the team not spending too much time in each location, thus allowing the story to gather and keep some momentum.

That’s not to say it’s necessarily a classic of its era. “Marinus” is good and it certainly as a few moments. But overall, this one isn’t the strongest of the first season of Doctor Who.

What’s odd about this novelization is that it comes from fourth Doctor era producer Phillip Hinchcliffe. Hinchcliffe has little or no connection to the era and while he does a nice job of adapting the original scripts to the printed page, the novel doesn’t go much beyond that. There are little hints about Sabetha and Altos falling in love and Hinchcliffe tries to make the Voord a bit more threatening and scary.

This is another one that I skipped in my initial collection of Target novels, probably due to it having one of the more generic covers in the range. Or it could be my younger self found this one a tad on the dull side, even with the quest throughline driving the story.

The audiobook is up to the usual standards I’ve come to expect from the BBC audio range. I won’t say this is the best sample of the audio range, but it works well enough. Narrator Jamie Glover’s work is good though it’s not quite the stand-out of the range. There were moments I kept wishing William Russell had found time to be lured from retirement to perform one last Target book for our listening pleasure.

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TV Round-Up: Quantum Leap, July 13th, 1985

quantum-leap-key-artQuantum Leap came along at a formative time in my pop culture fandom, hitting all the right notes for five seasons.

So, when news came along that NBC was restarting the project, I was both intrigued and hesitant. Intrigued to see what the show might look like in the age of “premium television” and hesitant because a big part of me was worried they might not be able to capture the lighting in the bottle from the original.

One episode into the new Quantum Leap and I feel like a lot of my fears haven’t really been addressed yet, but that the show is still staying true enough to the fundamental premise that it could (eventually) be as good as the show I remember.

Starting off by acknowledging that Sam Beckett still hasn’t returned home after leaping into time thirty years ago and that the original project was abandoned, the new Leap introduces us to Dr. Ben Song and his fiancee, Madison. At an engagement party, Ben receives a mysterious text, prompting him to step into the accelerator and vanish into time. Ben finds himself in the year 1985, participating in a robbery that will kill one of the participants and send his family down a negative path.

Madison serves as Ben’s Al in the show, trying to guide him in the past and determine what Ben is there to do.

The first mission Ben faces feels like the kind of low-stakes in history, high-stakes to the character’s mission that Sam faced on a regular basis in the original. A lot of stories felt like Sam was there to stop someone from dying, which he usually did by the end of the hour. The original was also a bit of a copycat, paying homage to popular movies and shows of its era with various episodes. So it is here with the first episode feeling like a Quantum Leap spin on Baby Driver.

For the most part, the elements set in 1985 work well enough and do a nice job of establishing Ben and Madison as the new team.

However, while the original rarely glanced into the future, a lot of things are unfolding there for this new Quantum Leap. We meet the team behind Madison and it appears this is where the show wants to set up its procedural arc. In the course of the hour, we meet the team and learn that there is more going on here than meets the eye. Ben had a reason for lying to everyone about leaping into time, there is someone else involved in his leaps who could be one of Al’s daughters and we still don’t know exactly how to bring Ben home.

I assume we’re going to have a bit of a bigger conspiracy/arc story unfold over the season as we determine what the forces are that sent Ben back in time and what his goal is. The original QL really leaned heavily into a higher power being behind Sam’s leaps (especially in season one), but I’m going to assume we won’t get as much of that here. And since it appears that one of Al’s daughters is behind this, I can’t help but think that Ben’s mission is to somehow find Sam, who is lost in time.

Scott Bakula has denied he will be part of the new QL, but then again Andrew Garfield and Toby McGuire denied they were part of the last Spider-Man movie. In the day and age of SPOILERS and having to work harder to surprise audiences, I feel like Bakula is coming but just not yet.

The chemistry between Ben and Madison works. The nature of the missions in the past works.

The new team in the current timeline – I will have to wait and see where this goes. Again, we only got hints of it the future Sam left behind in hints from Al and a few episodes that showed us the future. The original wasn’t the most continuity-heavy show (the debate over is it actually Sam in the past or just his soul as well as did Al see Sam or whoever he replaced was one that varied from episode to episode based on the script’s requirements). It will be interesting to see how QL works in today’s more continuity-heavy era of TV storytelling.

And yes, I understand that the amount of time available to tell a story is shorter than it was thirty years ago. But man, part of me wishes they’d found a way to include the original theme tune in there somewhere….

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Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR Pile

Fall is almost here! And while I’m indulging in a lot of football, I still have a healthy TBR pile. This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks us which books are on our list to read as the leaves change colors.

  1. Fairy Tale by Stephen King
  2. The Joe Pickett novels by C.J. Box
  3. The Decomposition of Jack by Kristen O’Donnell Tubb
  4. The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson
  5. The Terminal List by Jack Carr
  6. Flight Risk by Cherie Priest
  7. Doctor Who: The Power of the Daleks by John Peel (audiobook)
  8. Desert Star by Michael Connelly
  9. Battle Ground by Jim Butcher
  10. Something to Hide by Elizabeth George

Anything I should add to the list? What’s on your list for reading this fall?

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Review: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabriel Zevin

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Sam Mazur and Sadie Green meet and bond over a Super Mario Brothers on the Super NES at the local children’s hospital – Sam is there recovering from a devastating car accident and Sadie is there with her sister, Alice. The two quickly become best friends, until Sam catches wind of the fact that Sadie was receiving community services hours for her bat mitzvah for spending time with Sam and he severs the friendship.

Until a chance encounter years later brings the two gamer lovers back together. Their friendship rekindled, Sam and Sadie become forever linked when they spend a summer creating an iconic video game and then the next twenty or so years trying to follow up on that initial success. Sadie wants games to be an art form, Sam wants to make money. In the middle is Sam’s roommate Marx, who becomes a business manager for their company and the third side of an intricate love triangle.

Borrowing a title from the Bard himself, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is an immersive love story of flawed, intriguing people and their impact on each other’s lives. It’s the story of rifts that develop and how they crumble and fragment the friends sometimes, bringing them together at others. The initial estrangement over Sam’s perception that Sadie was in their friendship for something more than just a shared love of video games is nothing compared to the fissure that develops early in their professional relationship when Sam insists on changing the identity of their main character from gender neutral to male and that the team take a deal to distribute the game that will give them a quicker payday up front, but limit their options down the road.

The slow burn that Sadie goes through for the next decade and the impact is has on the trio drives a good portion of the book – though it took a few pages and chapters to realize just what was happening and why it was happening.

Zevin clearly has a love of gaming – something that comes across on every page. The details of certain games will leave you yearning to revisit a couple of the games and even wishing that somehow the games we read about Sadie, Sam, and Marx developing and marketing could somehow become real and we could at least try them out. (I especially want to try Sadies’ game that involves blasting fragments from Emily Dickison poems)

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is an immersive story, at times, washed over me. The celebrations and the tragedies (both large and small) are profoundly felt. Each of these characters is fascinating, flawed, and unforgettable.

This is the type of story that comes to a natural conclusion, and yet you won’t want it to end. Simply put, this novel was the perfect read at the perfect time for me, connecting with me in all the right ways.

Easily one of the books I’ve read this year. Highly recommended.

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TV Round-Up: The Patient

thepatientAfter watching and loving The Americans, I was intrigued to see what series creators Joel Fields and Joseph Weisburg would do next.

So, when ads started cropping up for their new series, The Patient, I was intrigued. Now, three episodes into the miniseries and I am firmly on the hook, ready to see this all will lead. Like The Americans, The Patient offers a unique premise from which to begin its storytelling.

Alan Strauss, played by Steve Carrell (another selling point) is a successful therapist and best-selling self-help book author. Alan senses that one of his patients, Sam, isn’t being entirely honest with him, thus hindering the therapeutic process. Alan challenges him to dig deeper, resulting in Alan waking up, chained to the floor in Sam’s basement with Sam asking Alan to help him curb a violent impulse – one that has resulted in Sam’s being a wanted serial killer known as the John Doe killer.

Despite his early protestations, Alan realizes he has little choice but to try and help Sam if he wants to be released or escape.

Interspersed with scenes from Alan’s life pre-captivity, we find out that Alan is recently widowed and possibly estranged from his son. This does answer an early, niggling question of why no one might miss Alan when he suddenly vanishes.

So far, each episode has ended on a tension point, designed to ensure you’ll want to come back next week. The second installment ended with someone coming down the stairs to the basement while the third ended with Sam bringing back someone to the basement and the sound of duct tape being used to bind that person (it could be the next victim Sam desperately wants to kill but hasn’t yet because there is a connection to him that could be traced).

Again, this is a premise that requires a bit of willing suspension of disbelief, but it’s working so far. Part of that is the strength of Alan as a character – from his backstory to his growing reluctance to engage in therapy with Sam and later his mother (who is the person who comes downstairs. The mother, in fact, refuses to help Alan because Sam needs him so much). So far, the only things we know about Sam are limited, though I expect we’ll see these filled in later. He apparently is a bit of a foodie, bringing Alan various dishes each evening to share together and raving about them and he’s also got a dark side that can be pushed. So far, he hasn’t physically hurt Alan, though he does seem a powder-keg ready to blow at any moment.

Three episodes in and the show is a compelling one – a lot of that credit going to Carrell, showing a flare for the dramatic. I do wonder if we will find out more about the process Sam used to select Alan for this radical therapy process as the series goes along.

Each episode is under a half-hour, feeling like just enough without overstaying its welcome. Again, I’m hooked and intrigued to see where this all goes.

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Revisiting Khan

khanI’ve seen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan more times than I can count. It’s in the running for my favorite movie of all-time (honestly, depends on which movie I’ve seen most recently — Khan or The Searchers) and it’s one of those movies I can stumble across and start watching to the end from wherever it is in the movie’s run.

This weekend, I got to see Khan on the big-screen again in celebration of its fortieth anniversary.

And the movie hit me hard in a couple of places.

Seeing Admiral Kirk facing his fiftieth birthday in the film resonated with me in a way it hasn’t really before. Probably because I’m coming up on my fiftieth birthday early next year as well.

But even more so, some of the emotional beats of the second half of the film hit me. Having lost a baby a few weeks ago, the gulf between Kirk and his son, David, and the death of Spock, really hit me hard this time around. Thinking about how we were considering naming the baby Kirk if we’d been blessed with a son hit me hard. Then, the sequence in which Kirk has to say goodbye to Spock without being able to physically connect through the glass in engineering also shattered me. The grief of never holding this baby, never knowing this baby in the way I know my daughter, and never getting a moment to say hello or goodbye hurt me as I watched. I saw the baby on an ultrasound a few weeks before the tragic news was revealed — saw his or her heartbeat on there, saw him or her forming. And while I was worried about becoming a new dad at fifty, I was instantly in more in love with this baby than I had been and super stoked about doing all that new dad stuff again.

And now, it’s gone and I’m not sure I’ve processed it all yet. Or maybe I’ve just cycled back a stage or two in the grieving process.

And hopefully, this will help me continue to heal and be a good dad and father.

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#20BooksofSummer: Birds of California by Katie Cotugno

Birds of California

Fiona St James was the star of one of the hottest family dramedies on TV in her younger days, until her spectacular crash and burn not only pulled the plug on her career but the series as well. A decade later, Fiona runs her parents’ printing business by day and acts under a stage name with a local theater group by night.

Fiona has little time or interest when former co-star Sam Fox shows up in her shop, hoping to convince her that starring in a relaunch of the show that made them famous would be good for both of them. Sam’s latest series has been given the axe and he’s looking for something to pay the bills and the growing mountain of debt he faces.

Against this backdrop, the two begin to reconnect and possibly become something more — something the tabloids would love to cover.

Katie Cotugano’s Birds of California takes its title from the fictional series that put Fiona and Sam on the map. The novel serves as a satisfying blend of tropes with two compelling characters that you can’t help but root for to put aside their egos and admit there is something deeper going on between them. Cotugano layers in a few interesting twists along the way about what led to Fiona’s spectacular public breakdown and implosion.

Overall, this is an entertaining story with two well-realized leads.

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#20BooksofSummer: Today, Tonight, and Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Today Tonight TomorrowBefore she started her freshman year, Rowan crafted a list of things that would indicate she’d had the perfect high school experience. Many of those involved besting her class rival, Neil McNair.

In the final few days of her high school tenure, Rowan reflects that she hasn’t really checked as many of those things off her list as she’d like, but she can still complete the one about destroying Neil by becoming the class valedictorian. Except, Rowan doesn’t earn that honor and it feels like her entire high school career is going to be for naught.

Fortunately, there is still the final senior challenge/game that she can play, and finally best Neil. Until Rowan overhears some of her classmates talking about how much they hate her and Neil and wanting to destroy them in the game. Stunned, Rowan teams up with Neil out of a sense of self-preservation (and the fact that the prize money is really good). But over the course of the contest, Rowan begins to realize that Neil isn’t her enemy, but maybe something different entirely.

After praising Rachel Lynn Solomon for her well-crafted, mature characters in the rom-com Weather Girl, I find myself having to take off points here for Today, Tonight, and Tomorrow for falling into the traps and tropes of the young-adult rom-com.

To start with, it’s stunning to that it never crosses Rowan’s mind that her cutthroat competition to be at the top of her class in everything might somehow rub her fellow class members the wrong way. And maybe it’s been a while since I was in high school, but the sheer amount of time and effort that everyone has to put into this contest for the graduating seniors and the seriousness with which it’s taken just doesn’t ring. It feels a bit too cute and like something invented for a teen comedy that wouldn’t necessarily transpire in real life.

And while I can buy that Rowan and Neil have been secretly harboring a crush on each other all this time, the process of bringing them together doesn’t always ring true or come across as authentic.

Overall, there were far too many things that took me out of this story for me to fully enjoy it.

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