Category Archives: tv reviews

Review: Star Trek: The Galactic Whirlpool by David Gerrold #SciFiMonth

The Galactic Whirlpool (Star Trek Adventures, #14)

After James Blish’s adaptation of most of the original Star Trek episodes and the first published original novel, “Spock Must Die!”, Star Trek novels entered an interesting era. Many of the books that made it to the market were one step removed from glorified fan-fiction.

But as publishing rights were shifting to Pocket Books with the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, one glimmer of respectability hit shelves with David Gerrold adapting his initial story pitch for the original series for the printed page. The result was “The Galactic Whirlpool.”

I read “The Galactic Whirlpool” during my intensive Trek novel phase during my teenage years. The only thing I recalled about it was the opening featuring Kirk reflecting on the nature of his middle name and what that means about his character.

sfm-2022-bannersPicking up it close to three decades later, I was struck by how my memory had confabulated this sequence a bit and how little else I recalled about the novel as a whole.

Given that Gerrold was part of the writing team for the original series, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he’s got a good grasp on writing for the regular crew – and that he even brings in a few recurring characters as well, including Lt. Kevin Riley who was seen twice in season one and then vanished off-screen. (I guess if you take over the engineering section and demand ice cream for dinner, Kirk takes a dim view of things).

The Enterprise encounters a large vessel in the depths of space on a course for destruction between two interstellar phenomena. Once the crew has entered the ship, they find a group of colonists that left Earth a long time ago, divided into factions. Can Kirk and company convince them they need help before a course change is too late and their ship is destroyed? Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: Quantum Leap, “Stand By Ben”

breakfast-club-on-the-run-quantum-leap-s1e8One of the running threads of the original Quantum Leap was the long-standing friendship between Sam and Al and the lengths that each side would go to for the other. Early on, Al was established as a guy willing to bend or break the rules of time travel for his friend Sam – providing details on where to find Donna, helping Sam save his brother, and telling Sam he had a brother named Tom. Sam was a bit more of a stickler when it came to the rules, as witnessed in “MIA” when he chastises Al for not researching fully the reason for Sam’s leap and instead desperately working to get Sam to sabotage Beth’s new relationship.

Over the course of five seasons, we saw Sam slowly begin to realize that his mission wasn’t only to put right wrongs in the lives of people he didn’t know, but also to change his friend’s life for the better. This beautifully hits home when Sam leaps to the final moments of “MIA” as himself and asks Beth to wait for Al. The reveal is that Sam succeeds because he’s finally willing to bend the rules to help his friend. The cost is Sam never returns home.

It’s one of the reasons that the original Quantum Leap still resonates with me today.

It’s also why I’m slowly becoming frustrated with this new version of the show.

As good as the show is at giving us compelling, character-driven stories in the past, it is completely dropping the ball when it comes to the future storylines and the implications they have on Ben’s journey and his decision to start leaping through time.

This week was another example of this. Ben leaps into a teenager, who with three other teens has escaped a deprogramming camp in 1996. Ben helps them survive and turns the tables on the camp administrators. It’s all solid enough and the story hits the right emotional beats. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: Doctor Who, “The Power of the Doctor” #SciFiMonth

Doctor-Who-The-Power-of-the-Doctor-poster-cropped-BBCDoctor Who specials have to walk a fine line between pleasing hard-core fans (like myself) and not being so dense that the casual fan tuning becomes lost and frustrated with the viewing experience.

Like many specials designed to celebrate something – anniversary, holiday, etc, “The Power of the Doctor” also faced the climb of sending off the Jodie Whitacker era. Given how I feel that Chris Chibnall is like the Doctor (good at starts, not great at endings), my biggest concern going into the episode was that Chibnall wouldn’t be able to stick the landing – just as he hasn’t in three previous series finales.

For the most part, “The Power of the Doctor” did well enough, though even at close to ninety minutes, it felt like it needed about five more minutes. Of course, that could be the classic Whovian in me who’d gladly take as much time for the Doctor’s former companions meet to share stories time as they wanted to give me.

“The Power of the Doctor” isn’t a perfect episode, but it still leans heavily into the strengths of this era – namely, Sasha Dhawan as the Master and the give and take between the Doctor and the Master. I’ll admit that the 80’s weren’t exactly kind to the Master and the new series take on the character has been hit or miss. But what Chibnall did with the Master during this era really resonated, simply because Chibnall made the Master into a legitimate threat again. The big criticism I have of Ainley’s Master is that too many of his plans were half-baked at best – and while the Master not thinking things entirely through goes all the way back to Roger Delgado, it just felt a bit too campy many times in the JNT era. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: Quantum Leap, Oh Ye of Little Faith

Quantum Leap - Season 1

The problem the new Quantum Leap faces is the original did one hell of a Halloween episode back in its third season. Fans who only casually watched the original know about “The Boogeyman” because Sam met Stephen King and faced off against the devil.

Topping “The Boogeyman” in terms of sheer shock value was going to be difficult to do.

Give “O Ye of Little Faith” credit for trying, even if the final result isn’t exactly as memorable or over-the-top bonkers fun as the original version.

Ben leaps into a priest, who has been summoned to perform an exorcism on an apparently demon-possessed young girl who just turned eighteen. Eerily enough, as Ben attempts to follow the script for an exorcism, he’s cut off from Addison.

As with most of the episodes of the new Quantum Leap, the stuff in the past works very well (even hitting a few, great creepy moments) while the things in the present feels like it’s being forced on the script. This week’s biggest culprit is a conversation between Addison and Jenn where we discover that Addison had never vowed to get married – until she met Ben. I’m all for character development for all the characters on this show (quick tell me one thing about Ian besides he’s good at computers), but even this one felt like it was written to get screen time for Narisa Lee and less about advancing the plot or characters in any significant way.

Plus, I think it fails the Bechdel test on just about every level. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: Quantum Leap, “What A Disaster”

Quantum Leap - Season 1

After seeing “What a Disaster!” I can see why the producers shuffled the order of things, moving this from the pilot to the sixth episode of the season. That’s not to say “What a Disaster” is bad, so much as to say asking the audience to invest as much in Ben’s background in episode one would have been a larger ask.

Ben leaps into a John, a man facing imminent divorce from his wife, just moments before the San Francisco Earthquake in 1989. The series is doing well at having Ben cover his initial confusion upon entering a person’s life mid-drama, and this week is no exception. Ben having to cover for gaps in his knowledge of John’s wife as his wife asks for divorce works well enough, though I keep wondering why no one notices that Ben is focusing on Addison and her advice from the future.

Speaking of Addison, can I just say that I liked the handlink used here a lot more than the one we’ve seen until now? If there’s one aspect of the original pilot they can and should use again, it’s the link.

Back to our story. Turns out John is there to save the couple’s son from dying and reunite an estranged mom and son. This mission has a personal note for Ben, who once got B’s on his report card because he was tired of his mom telling him he was special and then after they got in a huge fight about it, she died. So, Ben’s carrying around a bit of guilt over that (as one would) and it all comes bubbling back.

Some of the better emotional beats of the original series came when Sam connected with the leapie due to some emotional connection. So, Ben’s connection here worked, as did his call to his mom seconds before he leaped. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: Quantum Leap, “Salvation or Bust”

Quantum Leap - Season 1

No matter how good or bad “Salvation or Bust” is, most of the conversation about it will probably cover the last thirty seconds of the show when another Leaper shows up who knows Ben and feels that Ben is following him through time.

The implications of this to the overall arc of why Ben leaped and what his destination is are fascinating. And given the pace at which revelations are coming in the show, I don’t think it’s something that will exactly be swept aside for an episode or two.

Part of me says that this new leaper is somehow connected to Janice and that the imaging chamber she’s building isn’t to try and contact Ben but to contact whoever this other leaper is. A big question it brings up is just how many accelerators there are and just where are they located? Given that leaping seemingly takes a huge investment of power, how exactly are the other leaping group keeping their tracks hidden?

Or is this all part of the time travel thing where the new leaper is from our future but ending up in the past.

Give the show credit – it’s got me intrigued to see where this all goes. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: Quantum Leap, A Decent Proposal

Quantum Leap - Season 1

For years, I’ve wondered what it would be like to be a person that Sam leaped into – would you recall much, if anything about it? What would you recall? How would you know that Sam had come in and changed things?

After thirty years, we get an answer to that question, with Magic sharing that Sam leaped into him at a younger age and changed his and others’ personal history.

While I like the explanation and the scene itself, I do find myself wondering about a few other things. One is that Magic says that Sam saved his life (and that of Tom) during the time he was away. I can’t help but wonder how Magic knows if and how Sam altered history. Would history instantly shift around Magic and those around him? Another was, did Magic know what Al gave up to that Sam could save his brother and Magic? Or was what Sam did for Al something that was kept under deeper wraps?

When you reference one of my favorite episodes of television, “The Leap Home,” it brings up a lot of questions and implications. Continue reading

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TV Round-Up: Quantum Leap, Somebody Up There Likes Ben

Quantum Leap - Season 1

Can I just start this off by saying I want an episode of this show written by Donald P. Bellisario and/or Deborah Platt ASAP?

With that out of the way, we can move onto the third installment, which shows further steps toward the show finding its own voice.

Ben leaps into the body of a young boxer, who is about to go lose the title fight of his career due to being distracted. Is it because he’s seeing the girlfriend of his rival boxer or that his brother is suffering PTSD from his tours in Nam?

“Someone Up There Likes Ben” leans heavily into the relationship between the brothers, giving us an emotional hook to root for. This includes up to and including the fight, when Ben has memorized the original fight and found a moment he can score a knock-out, thanks to Addison’s help (more on this later). Of course, this being Quantum Leap, what should have knocked out the opponent doesn’t work and Ben has to improvise.

Luckily, he does and wins the fight, thus putting history onto a new and better course.

As with the first two installments, the storyline in the past works on just about every level. While Ben isn’t Sam (again, who could be?!?), it feels like they’re working to make him a likable hero that we can root for and one who is driven to do the right thing, as Sam was at times. I would like to see a story where we get an unexpected twist or cameo like the original did, but it’s only the third episode and I don’t think we got the Buddy Holly twist until five or six episodes into the original.

Meanwhile, back in the present, I do like the series looking at the toll physically and emotionally Ben’s leaping is taking on Addison. Her driving herself to exhaustion to link with Ben and keep him from getting lost in time is nicely done. Again, the original often felt like there was a lag time between Sam leaping and Al finding him where Al could rest/date Tina/do whatever. The ending made it feel a bit like they are trying to help Addison find that here with the new crew.

The plotline that really didn’t engage as much (and it should) was Janice. I keep asking myself if Janice weren’t somehow connected to Al, would I be as annoyed about her storyline and I can’t quite decide. Janice is obsessed with the project, though we haven’t yet really discovered any good motivation for this. Was it that she missed her dad, who was obsessed with finding Sam? Did Al’s death send her down this path? Why is she building what appears to be an imaging chamber? And what is the connection she and Ben share?

I have a feeling we are going to find out Janice wrote the new code Ben put into Ziggy and she knows more than she’s telling about his endpoint.

And while last week, I felt the endpoint had to be Sam, perhaps the endpoint is the bar where Sam leapt to in the finale. Or is it something else entirely that is connected to the original’s emphasis of Sam and Al’s friendship?

Part of me also wonders if this somehow ties into the whole evil leaper thread from season five.

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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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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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