About Stephen K.

I have three blogs currently: One on Gnosticism http://eternalouroboros.wordpress.com/ One on British Scifi: http://anamericanviewofbritishsciencefiction.com/ And one that covers anime: https://classicanimeblog.wordpress.com/

The Monday Meme: Improv

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Sorry for the slight lack of updates lately! I actually got a promotion at work, and as a result had a shake-up in my schedule for a few days. Everything should be back to normal this week, as I should be able to do a few articles like normal. I hope everyone has a great week!

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The Monday Meme: Doctors

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Aside from going to the DMV, the most demoralizing thing one ever has to deal with is a routine doctor visit. I remember having to sit in a cold hospital room after my car accident last fall, only to have the doctor attempt to do nothing more than prescribe me ibuprofen.

 

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Mark Gatiss Questions Moffat Gallifrey Return On Doctor Who | The Mary Sue

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“Every time you go back to Gallifrey, it starts to make the Time Lords a bit too domesticated,” said Gatiss. “I know that’s why Russell T. Davies came up with the whole idea of the Doctor being the last one because eventually if you see them so often they become a bit like a bunch of MPs, whereas if you talk about them as this amazing, powerful force, they’re much more exciting.”

via Mark Gatiss Questions Moffat Gallifrey Return On Doctor Who | The Mary Sue.

 

The Monday Meme: Fashion

TRIPODS-CLOTHESPicture From: The Tripods

 

 

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Planet Comicon – Kansas City, Mo – Report

As you can see from the title, this post is largely unrelated to the main theme of this site, and happens to be a convention report. Thankfully, as you can see from the image above, there was definitely some UK science fiction fun to be had! Yeah, that ugly mug up there happens to be mine, and standing next to me is none other than Sylvester McCoy aka The seventh Doctor aka Radagast The Brown. Said convention was a Kansas City-based convention called Planet Comicon and it was held in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

The reason I decided to write about this on here, is that personally, I think there is some cross-over appeal from sci-fi fans and those who go to “comic-cons”, because in all honestly they aren’t just about comics anymore. Thankfully I live in the middle of Missouri, and Hollywood has never swooped in on our conventions, so it’s not like it has deviated too far from the main purpose of these types of conventions. There are panels, media guests and comic book writers and artists like anything else, minus all the BS that seems to have been messing up much larger events like San Diego Comic Con.

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For years, I have always attended anime conventions because part of me (erroneously) assumed that my local comic conventions were nothing more than small dealer rooms that you paid to get into. When I heard that Planet Comicon was going to be held at Bartle Hall, a huge convention center, I immediately took notice. I think the biggest con I attended was an anime convention in Dallas Texas (Project A-Kon) that had something close to 10.000 people attending, and considering the size of the building plus the sheer amount of people at Planet Comicon that I saw, I’m assuming that this one will be bigger when all the numbers are added up. The paper was suggesting almost 20,000 minimum!

One reason I don’t attend too many of those aforementioned anime conventions is because of my age. I’m 31 now, and most anime convention attendees seem to be somewhere between 12-17. Not to be one of those “get off my lawn” types, but the younger millennial crowd sort of annoys me, and having thousands of them left unsupervised means that I get to witness things like pulled fire alarms, trash all over the place, hormonal kids making out in hallways, and other fun stuff. A Comic Con crowd is skewed much older, and as a result the rude people are heavily outweighed by awesome people that can handle themselves in public.

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Pretty big crowd for a Friday

Aside from that, the MAIN reason I honestly stopped going to many anime conventions was the fact that I really enjoy panels, and at anime convention panels are REALLY hit or miss. Occasionally one stumbles upon something good, like the year I saw the world premiere and Q&A of Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles. Other times were not as good, like that time I had to sit through two awkward twelve year olds attempting to run a panel on Japanese horror films, and my quest to try to sneak out of the room as politely as possible.

I attended some pretty cool stuff this year, most of which was related to Star Trek: The Next Generation. This was because this convention had basically all principle cast members from TNG including Marina Sirtis, Levar Burton, Wil Wheaton, Jonathan Frakes, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, and Brent Spiner. Also in attendance was the Star Trek God himself William Shatner and an unannounced John De Lancie! The convention did advertise a special moderated panel featuring all the the Trek guys, but I could not afford tickets to it. Good news is, most of these guys had smaller panels themselves.

The first panel I attended was a Q&A session with the Canadian-American “scream queen” and occasional Lois Lane herself – Margot Kidder. This was a guided Q&A (Moderated by a member of scifi4me.com) with an interview of sorts at the beginning and audience questions afterwards. Some gems were discussions on how Kidder got started in a tiny Canadian mining settlement mere miles from the arctic circle and her occasional flings with the likes of Warren Beatty and Jeff Bridges. Superman was, of course, a main topic towards the end of the panel, and Kidder suggested that she understood the torn fandom on the latest Superman offering suggesting, that the newest movie was perhaps “too dark”. All in all, pretty cool panel.  

Up next for us was a Star Trek related panel featuring Michael Dorn and Marina Sirtis in the hot-seats. As Trek fans will know, they played Deanna Troi and Worf on TNG. This was more of a full-on Q&A and started with some lighthearted banter between the two at the beginning. Sirtis cracked me up because I’m VERY used to her calm demeanor as Deanna Troi in TNG, so hearing her coarse, no-nonsense verbal attacks on various topics was pretty fun. On the flip-side, Mr. Dorn was “the straight man” of the affair, and tried to keep everything on topic. The running joke of this panel was that Marina kept bringing up how somebody had told her to be “sensitive to the mid-west view on political issues” which was like a splash of blood in shark infested water for her. She comically veered the discussions into a commentary on health care reform, gay marriage, and marijuana legalization no matter what Dorn tried to do to stop it.

On Saturday, we attended a Wil Wheaton Panel where the former Wesley Crusher himself lead a fun discussion about tabletop gaming, craft beer, and the perils of being a step-father. We ended up WAAAY in the back of the room for this and another panel so the picture that I am about to post will be tiny and awful. The best part of this panel was a “cameo” by Gates McFadden, introduced as “Space Mom”. As Trek fans will know, McFadden played Beverly Crusher in Star Trek: TNG, and was the on-screen mother for Wheaton during his time on the USS Enterprise. Since she didn’t have a panel of her own at this convention, it was cool seeing her appear in some capacity.

This mysterious blur is Wil Wheaton supposedly.

This mysterious blur is Wil Wheaton supposedly.

Next up was the Brent Spiner and Levar Burton panel, which had an ENORMOUS line waiting for it. We were actually scared that we wouldn’t be able to get in, but thankfully were able to get a few seats towards the back of the room. The panel started with Spiner having to deal with a rowdy “heckler” with a deep southern drawl yelling about how awful he was. Eventually security came in and revealed the “heckler” to be non other than Jonathan Frakes playing an obviously pre-determined joke of Brent. This was pretty great and really got the crowd going. Gates McFadden also made yet another guest appearance, and after that it was all questions!

The hot topic seemed to be LeVar’s other popular role as the host of the popular PBS educational program Reading Rainbow. o many questions were asked about this that Burton had the audience sing the theme song, and announced a Kickstarter campaign was about to materialize to help fund internet video versions of the show for a new audience and a smartphone app. Brent pretended to be irritated by the attention, referring to Burton as “Roots guy” and discussed popular roles on Independence Day and a fictitious sequel to Star Trek Nemesis where Commander Data didn’t die after all.

Yet another bad picture, this time it's Levar Burton and Brent Spiner

Yet another bad picture, this time it’s Levar Burton and Brent Spiner

Perhaps the highlight of this con for me was getting to meet Sylvester McCoy and attending his Panel. The panel itself was simply amazing because he decided to forgo the stuffy rule of “guest sits in chair” and proceeded to walk around talking to the audience, hugging people and other things. I’m pretty sure that the guys from the Traveling The Vortex Podcast were probably annoyed slightly, because McCoy sort of moderated his own panel, but they were good sports. The panel itself appears to have been recorded as a podcast on their site, so be sure to check that out if you want to listen to the fun we had.

Highlights of McCoy’s panel was an impromptu session of spoon playing on Darth Vader’s head and a kazoo heavy rendition of the Doctor Who theme to close everything out. My wife gets really nervous around celebrities, so she was freaking out a little bit about how close to everyone McCoy was. stories like his near foray into the priesthood as a teenager were delightful, and really made this the best panel I have EVER attended. If you ever get a change to see Sylvester McCoy at a con or something you will have a ball.

The McCoy Panel

The McCoy Panel

Another fun Doctor Who related event was a performance of the “Timey-Wimey Puppet Show” – a one man “Punch and Judy styled puppet show for kids and adults alike. I later got to meet the man behind the show, Mike Horner, and snap a picture with him. do yourself a favor and watch a few of his videos on YouTube up there, it’s pretty funny.

The highlight of the puppet show for me was a segment where cosplayers we asked to come up on stage for a rendition of “Twelve Days of Christmas” featuring regenerations of The Doctor, and there was a little boy, no older than five, dressed as William Hartnell. He was even a master at holding his lapels and looking surly.

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Mike Horner of the Timey Wimey Puppet Show with a few of his creations

This was a crazy weekend here is Kansas City because this convention, Big 12 Basketball, some sort of marathon, and a symphony performance were all scheduled at the same time within a few blocks of each other. Not only did that mean crazy traffic, but it also meant that parking was awful, and way too many people from Kansas and Iowa (due to basketball) were all over the place. If I have only one complaint it was that the city could have staggered these events a bit. Thankfully another convention, Naka-Con (an anime convention) was over the state-line in Kansas or it would have been too much to deal with.

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The General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard

I do have a funny story about the parking situation this weekend. On Saturday, we had TONS of trouble finding a parking space. Many of the bigger garages were at capacity, and many were resorting to shady stuff like parking at Denny’s to avoid high fees. we eventually found a nearly empty garage a few blocks away in “the art district” and jumped at the opportunity to get a place to stop at a cheaper price.

Not only did we discover that a nearly-vacant parking garage is sort of creepy, but the whole thing had “artsy-fartsy” minimalist music piped into it that sounded like a combination of a didgeridoo and someone scraping metal on the ground. To me, this was the soundtrack of hell itself, and I imagined that we’d soon witness Pyramid Head from the Silent Hill franchise walking around a corner at any moment. Had I thought this out, I would have attempted to record this for the site, but I wasn’t sure I’d even discuss this in any way.

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I haven’t had this much fun at a convention for a LONG time. For a while I always had something spoil the whole thing for me: whether be someone we came with getting cranky, annoying kids, or poor management. There is basically nothing bad I can say about the con itself, and I’d recommend this experience to ANYONE into comics or other nerdy “pop-culture” things. Planet Comicon has won me over, and they better expect me there for years to come!

If any of the footage from the panels surfaces online (I think it was recorded by the con staff) I will try to post it on here at some point, but otherwise listen to that podcast up there for a taste of what Sylvester McCoy had to offer.

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Yet Another “Classic Who” Actor Makes Twitter Explode

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Janet Fielding: “Now what are we up to? Only Time will tell…”

 

Via Twitter:

 

Janet Fielding (Tegan from the old show) just posted this image of herself with Peter Capaldi while series 8 filming is underway……

 

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BBC News – Skin-Tight Spacesuits to Help Astronauts’ Spines in Space – Perhaps Another thing Star Trek Got Right

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I’ve seen many criticize skin tight uniforms in many science fiction shows as being pure titillation and not much else, but it seems there may be some sound science to back it up. It seems that once again Star Trek has predicted the future!

LINK: BBC News – Skin-tight spacesuits to help astronauts’ spines in space.

“Space scientists at King’s College London have fashioned a skin-tight spacesuit that they hope will help prevent astronauts’ spines from expanding while on missions away from Earth. As astronauts float in space, without the force of gravity pushing down on their bodies, their spines begin to lengthen. Some astronauts have been known to grow as much as 7cm (2.76 inches) during spaceflights.”

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The Monday Meme: Ikea

john-robinson-bernard-quatermass-bbc-quatermass-ii-episode-2Image from Quatermass II (BBC TV)

I wanted to do something different this week for “The Monday Meme”. Usually I scour the interwebs for random Doctor Who images or anything that makes me chuckle. I feel like I’ve burnt myself out on the ones I’ve seen, because a lot of ones I find have been going around for months, if not years. Starting today, I want to do some for some more obscure shows – especially Quatermass! Let me know what you think in the comments, maybe, I can keep these AAVOBSF originals going and going!

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BBC America preps “Real History of Science Fiction” » Realscreen

“Airing at 10 p.m. EST, the series features filmmakers, writers, actors and graphic artists known for their sci-fi work “looking back on their experiences and on how their obsession and imagination has taken them into the unknown,” according to the network.

LINK:BBC America preps “Real History of Science Fiction” » Realscreen.

 

Look Who I met Today!

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Write text here…

 

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Paul McGann Messing with Fans on Twitter

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@pauljmcgann “This is my moment…!”

Some people criticize Steven Moffat for relentlessly “messing” with Doctor Who fans all the time, but this week saw the rise of a new contender in the game. Paul McGann (of Eighth Doctor fame) posted this image of himself, donned in his new costume from NIght of the Doctor, standing in the most-current Tardis interior. While most realize that this was most-likely taken DURING the filming of that mini-episode, others are clinging to hope that we will see Paul making a cameo appearance this year. I wouldn’t bet on it, but I’ve been wrong before!

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Syfy’s Plan: More Space Operas, Less ‘Sharknado’ – The Hollywood Reporter

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LINK: Syfy’s Plan: More Space Operas, Less ‘Sharknado’ – The Hollywood Reporter.

“Almost five years after a rebrand that abandoned the Sci-Fi moniker and enraged fans, NBCUniversal brass is aware that its attempt to lure a broader audience might have lost it some clout in the increasingly lucrative genre that shares its former name. Now Syfy president Dave Howe is trying to rectify the perception problem with changes in the executive ranks that will translate to new programming more familiar to its core audience.”

I’m all for this personally! I know Syfy got huge press for Sharknado and similar intentionally bad films, but the channel should be going after viewers that have largely flocked to Network channels to get their science fiction fix. When The CW and BBC America have more science fiction than a dedicated “syfy channel” (that spelling still drives me up the wall) something is wrong. And even as much of a pro wrestling fan that I am, I am always baffled by Syfy’s airings of WWE Smackdown! Let’s just hope the rumored Blakes 7 remake is part of this initiative!

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Trailer: Orphan Black Season 2

Here’s an excerpt from the press release that went out with this trailer:

Season two of BBC AMERICA’s breakout original series, Orphan Black, hits the ground running with Sarah (Tatiana MaslanyParks and Recreation, Picture Day) in a desperate race to find her missing daughter Kira (Skyler Wexler, Carrie) – a wild pursuit that brings her head-to-head with ruthless pro-clone, Rachel (Maslany). This season also rejoins Sarah, Alison (Maslany) and Cosima (Maslany) as they struggle to keep the ‘clone world’ a secret and pick up the pieces of their broken lives – all the while dealing with the harsh reality that literally no one around them can be trusted. Orphan Black returns Saturday, April 19, 9:00pm ET/PT.

 

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Hyperdrive (2007) Series 2, Episode 1 – The Green Javelins

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When we last left the crew of the HMS Camden Lock, they were basically removed from duty and about to be tried as traitors after defecting from The British Empire. Henderson was faced with his own “Kobayashi Maru” situation involving an impossibly hard performance review, and let’s just say he didn’t do so well. For better or worse, we never actually see the resolution to that plot, leading me to believe that the writers hated the ending as much as I did. At the start of series two, everything is as back to normal as this ship can be: Henderson is back in charge, albeit not for long if the Space Marshall has anything to do with it.

Series one left a bad taste in my mouth due largely to mediocre scripts and bad special effects. I’m not a big “I hate stuff because the special effects suck” kind of guy usually, but this show over-uses bad CGI that it has no business using so much. I’ve been waiting to see the second series to see what they did to “right the ship”. From the first moments of the very first episode, one can see that everything has a new coat of paint, leading me to assume that this series has quite a bit more money than the previous one. There is a new theme song, new computer-generated affects, and better writing. It seems that the production staff have answered my call.

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Once again the higher-ups have decided to trust Commander Henderson with yet another task that his crew will most likely mess up. It seems that a space acrobatic team called the “Green javelins” (a play on real acrobatic teams like the Blue Angels or Red Arrows) has recently lost a ship, and the HMS Camden Lock is set to take it’s place. This excites Henderson greatly, as he has been frothing at the mouth for a chance to show his boss that he has what it takes to be great.

Teal has a problem with this new assignment, as it forces her to come face-to-face with an old flame named Jeremy Mason, a man that now leads the “Green javelins.” When they were teenagers, both Teal and Mason (played by Stephen Mangan) met at their agnostic church camp and fell in love. It seems he stood her up when they were supposed to meet up, and he has regretted it ever since. 

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When they get together, Mason explains that he lost his faith when he didn’t see her again, and we’re treated to one of the funnier jokes in the episode. They begin to talk at length about their “agnostic faith” that was so intense in their youth. This version of agnosticism is pretty humorous, as it is described in a similar manner to the evangelical Christian church, just more vague. here is an excerpt of a “hymn” we hear them sing in the episode: 

“I have a vague feeling inside of me.

A hazy spirit duality.

It fills me half-way, but not to the top.

Empirical reasoning makes it stop.”

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While this is going on, York decides to create some sort of clone of himself, so that he can do a better job of instilling unrelenting fear in the hearts of anyone that would not take their job very seriously. Problem is that something goes wrong, VERY WRONG, and York’s “son” isn’t exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. There is a lot of confusion when this second York starts roaming around the ship mumbling to himself and delivering garbled nonsense to passersby. York realizes what he has done, and becomes a Victor Frankenstein of sorts, frantically trying to stop his creation from ruining his name.

I mentioned earlier that the writing got a lot better, and one of the main reasons that I could tell was that these two plots actually came together in some meaningful way, and the clone sub-plot wasn’t just a set up for a cheap gag. At the end of the episode we find the clone, rejected by his “father”, trying to show that he isn’t worthless by sacrificing himself in order to save the rest of the crew.

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This is both touching, and funny, seeing that Kevin Eldon‘s performance as fake-York is so goofy that you can’t help but chuckle. Sadly, there was a vague third plotline involving Sandstrom (the ships pilot computer) being curious about sex, but everything with that character fizzles out, so I hardly notice anymore.

I also mentioned that there was a vast improvement in the special effects department, and it’s not just a small one. I can only assume that they used some sort of miniatures in tandem with their computers because the ships no longer look like smudgy videogame ships from ten years ago. They even pull off some decent close-up shots and other dynamic scenes that are pretty nice. That isn’t to say that I want this to turn into Star Wars and use gratuitous CGI everywhere, but at least the stuff that is used isn’t offensive.

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In closing, this was by far the best produced episode of the show so far. I’m not sure of it’s necessarily my favorite, but it’s heads above the hit or miss nature of series one. If they can keep this up, I think this show could live up to the potential that it had, and stand on it’s own. I’d still like a few characters fleshed out a bit more, and am worried about this new found special effects budget, but all in all I was impressed.

You can watch Hyperdrive on Hulu as part of their recent BBC deal, so if you are looking for something to watch on a rainy day, I’d definitely recommend it.

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A Clip from”Full Force”, a Pilot that Eventually led to Hyperdrive

What you just saw was a pilot for a show called Full Force directed by Armando Iannucci, portions of the cast were scrapped and it was evolved into BBC’s Hyperdrive. While a few of the cast members are the same, such as Miranda Hart as Teal, One will immediately notice that It stars Sanjeev Bhaskar as Henderson and Mark Gatiss as York. I actually like this clip for some reason, it’s like the dialog is more “raw”, and more believable. Being a big fan of his work with Steve Coogan, I would have enjoyed Iannucci as the main director.

Stay tuned this week for a run-through of series two of Hyperdrive, and perhaps a bit of coverage of a comic convention I will be attending!

 

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Out of the Unknown (1965) Stranger In The Family

(AKA Series 1, Episode 3)

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Up to this point in my sporadic viewings of Out of the Unknown, I’ve been blessed with science fiction stories adapted from existing popular science fiction short stories and novels. First there was “No Place Like Earth” by John Wyndham and later “The Counterfeit Man” by Alan Nourse. What makes “Stranger in the Family” (our topic for today) really stand out against these popular adaptations is that is was actually commissioned specifically for the show. In series one, there only two such stories: This one by David Campton and “Come Buttercup, Come Daisy, Come…?” by Mike Watts. Thankfully both exist in a viewable form today, as many of these episodes sadly are lost to the sands of time.

David Campton was a popular UK-based playwright and dramatist that regularly worked on various British “anthology” shows such as this in the 1960′s. He did a few other episodes of Out of the Unknown, but this was the only one he wrote himself rather than doing an adaptation. He is definitely most known for his work as a playwright, which he was steadily involved in until his death in 2006.

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Charles Jr., or ‘Boy’ as he is simply referred to, is an odd child. Not only is he born with a strange deformity of having no fingernails, but he is “blessed” with powerful mental abilities that enable him to control others. This troublesome ability has caused nothing but grief for his family, who have had to constantly move from home to home to avoid trouble pertaining to Boy’s abilities. Most worrisome is the fact that he is being hunted by a mysterious surveillance team who have moved into the next-door flat in the tower block. Boy falls for a young actress whose agent / boyfriend encourages the relationship once he discovers his “gift” because he thinks Boy’s powers can be used to make a lot of money via TV commercials.

When I first saw this, I immediately started to be reminded of an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series entitled “Charlie X“. Without going into specifics, let’s just say that there are enough similarities to assume that somebody ripped somebody else off. After doing a bit of research I discovered that this came first, but neither David Campton or Gene Roddenberry copied each other, and that both were most likely inspired by an even earlier short story from 1953 called “It’s a Good Life” by Jerome Bixby. To add further confusion, Bixby’s story was adapted into a Twilight Zone episode! All three have the same basic story of a boy that “becomes God” and uses their powers to manipulate others.

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Out of the Unknown: Stranger in the Family Stars Peter Copley and Daphne Slater as Boy’s parents. While Daphne Slater more-or-less stopped working in the 1970′s, Copley went on to be in some pretty big films like Empire of the Sun, and Kingdom of Heaven. The main character, Boy, is played by Rochard O’Callaghan, a man that went on to be in tons of stuff including an episode of Red Dwarf where he played “Hogey the Roguey”. He’s mostly known for roles in TONS of procedural police shows, and is still working to this day. Paula Wild is portrayed by Justine Lord and her agent Sonny is played by Eric Lander. Lander is perhaps best known for various soap opera roles including General Hospital.

I really enjoyed both the script and direction for this episode. The last two episodes have “dragged” a bit in the second act, but this episode kept me on the edge of my seat for the entirety of the show. As Boy gets continuously “messed with” and used by people that he mistakenly thinks are working in his best interest, he begins to go down the path of revenge that is all to familiar with these types of stories. Luckily somebody didn’t dump pigs blood on him at the prom, because the body count would have been crazy. One has to thank both Campton and the director Alan Bridges for keeping the whole thing tightly paced and interesting throughout.

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Since this is more of a science fiction-tinged psychological thriller, there aren’t too many dodgy “special effects” shots to worry about. More than anything else, this keeps the drama from being so dated that everyone can tell exactly when this was filmed. Also, there are no zany “space costumes” or “bug-eyed monsters” there ramping up the cheese factor. Granted, Out of the Unknown usually resists such tropes, but with classic science fiction, one has to be prepared.

This is a great episode of Out of the Unknown, and is probably my favorite of the three so far. If I were to show this program to anyone, I think that “Stranger in the Family” is a strong contender for the episode I’d use to introduce it. The version I was able to watch had tons of audio and video defaults as well as BBC time numbers all over it, so it’s not the best looking thing out there. I wish a professional restoration was in the cards, but I’ll take it any way I can get it.

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Sadly, obtaining a copy of Stranger in the Family or any episode of Out of the Unknown is basically impossible by legitimate means, but that’s where YouTube comes into play. I have included a link to the episode below,if you would like to watch this as well.

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The Monday Meme: Chocoholic

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I wanted to do something different this week for “The Monday Meme”. Usually I scour the interwebs for random Doctor Who images or anything that makes me chuckle. I feel like I’ve burnt myself out on the ones I’ve seen, because a lot of ones I find have been going around for months, if not years. Starting today, I want to do some for some more obscure shows – especially Quatermass! Let me know what you think in the comments, maybe, I can keep these AAVOBSF originals going and going!

- Picture is from 1957′s Quatermass 2 from Hammer Films

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Dirk Gently (2012) Season 1, Episode 2

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Dirk Gently and Richard MacDuff, of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, may be the definite B-list (maybe even C-list) detective duo at the BBC, but I’m always excited to read or watch one of their few adventures. Way back in 2010, The BBC commissioned a one-off “pilot” episode of a show starring Stephen Mangan and Darren Boyd based on the popular Douglas Adams story. It was successful, and a three episode series was later commissioned in 2012. I’m sad that there will only ever be FOUR TOTAL episodes of this show, and it was seemingly canceled last year. I guess that’s how it goes for experimental shows on BBC4, don’t get too attached, I suppose.

As you may or may not be aware, Dirk is on a quest to understand the “fundamental interconnectedness of all things”, a philosophy that has crept into his job as a private detective of sorts. He basically thinks that EVERYTHING is connected, no matter how tenuous the bond, and no matter how preposterous it all seems. This has lead to stories involving outlandish things like time traveling cats! Dirk comes across as either completely insane or some kind of sociopathic con-man when he is out “detecting”, but he always comes through with a solved case, no matter how preposterous the whole ordeal is. It seems there really is a method to his madness.

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People like to compare this show to Steven Moffat‘s Sherlock, and in many ways I see the coincidental similarities, but see the show as totally different. Stephen Mangan as Dirk Gently might be zany, but he never comes across as a candidate for a future serial killer like the Benedict Cumberbatch version of Mr. Holmes. He’s not a know-it-all, smarter than everyone else character, he’s a spinning ball of random ideas that seem to click into place when one least expects it. In this way, he more resembles The Doctor, from Doctor Who of course, a character I could definitely see Mangan doing a good job with someday if BBC comes knocking on his door. When I mentioned this show’s cancellation, it sort of bugs me that many did in fact see this as a “rip-off” of sorts to Sherlock, and I wonder if that lead to the early demise.

In this second of three episodes (aside from the pilot), Dirk and MacDuff are called back to Dirk’s old University – St. Cedd’s Institute of Science and Technology, Cambridge (fans of the “lost” Doctor Who serial “Shada” might recognize this fictional school!). They have been summoned by a man named Professor Jericho to provide specialist security detail for his new creation. It seems Jericho has created a VERY sophisticated new artificial intelligence and autonomous robot named Elaine, and Jericho is paranoid about someone stealing Elaine or the A.I. program. When this happens almost immediately (both are stolen!), Dirk investigates the crime seeing Jericho’s colleague Emelda as the prime suspect. MacDuff meanwhile is tempted to leave Dirk’s agency as his girlfriend, Susan, has applied for a job in Cambridge.

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The best thing about this episode is that it really starts to peel back the goofy layers of Dirk’s character and reveal who he truly is. I loved how they even introduced a love interest for our would-be Sherlock of the holistic variety. While Dirk’s back-story isn’t exactly hidden (we’ve seen bits of it referenced in each episode now), finding out about little gems such as his relationship to Professor Jericho (his mentor essentially) and what led to his expulsion from St. Cedd’s is great and really allows for one to understand his bizarre way of looking at the world.

Unfortunately, Richard MacDuff seems slightly under-utilized in this adventure, and really takes a back-seat in the overall narrative. It’s not like he disappears or anything, he is just dealing with his possible life changing situation with his significant other, Susan. The prospect of possibly being forced to move, and leave the agency, has “bummed him out” and left him with little to do while Dirk runs around like a crazy man.

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Unlike what we saw in the last episode, the mystery at hand was actually a lot more fleshed out this time around. There was a stolen robot, a dead body, and even some decent red herrings put there to confuse us. Then again, that isn’t hard in this show, as the answer to the “puzzle” is always something totally crazy that comes out of left field. So far, this may be the best episode of the three I’ve seen so far writing-wise, although the pilot was so wacky that it has a permanent residence on my list of awesome TV episodes.

One thing that stuck out to me in this episode was the director’s use of random horror trappings to set the mood of the episode. At one point, we are almost led to believe that the robot herself may be the murderer, thus preparing the viewer for an apocalyptic fight between man and machine that never happens. There are also weird camera angles, mysterious shadows, and even a hidden child’s room – all things that one might recognize from horror cinema.

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This episode had an amazing guest cast, and I was particularly fond of Lydia Wilson as Jane, the aforementioned love interest. She comes across as just about the only person even weirder than Dirk with her crutches, obsession with sea salt flavored chips, and Scandinavian accent. She is VERY smart, but somehow not exactly all there. A tip of my hat also goes to a character named David Cho (as played by Will Sharpe). Cho starts out as the most likely perpetrator of the entire case, a link to a Chinese plot to steal jericho’s work. Little do we know, Cho is actually a lovesick World of Warcraft enthusiast who’s “lost his heart to an Elf and his man to a Gnome.” totally weird stuff here guys!

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This second episode is definitely the best one so far, and really makes me want to quickly finish the series up as quick as I can. I enjoyed just about everything in here, minus MacDuff basically being a glorified prop for Mangan to interact with. The regular cast are great as always, the guest cast is superb, and the plop is totally bonkers and yet makes perfect sense. Sadly, after this there is only one more episode of Dirk Gently left to consume.

 

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Check out this Trailer for the new Indie Flick – Machine

“In new British indie movie The Machine, a scientist in the near future (played by Die Another Day‘s Toby Stephens) creates a humanoid robot (Arrow‘s Caity Lotz), and gives her the form of an American scientist who’s killed on the military base where he works. The machine is soon coveted by the military, but opens up all sorts of intriguing moral questions about what it means to be alive.”

(Source: SFX)

(Official Website: HERE)

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Hyperdrive (2006) Episode 6 – Assessment

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Here we are at the end of the first series of BBC2′s Hyperdrive AKA BBC’s attempt to re-launch Red Dwarf without actually re-launching Red Dwarf. The show stars Nick Frost, Kevin Eldon, Miranda Hart, Stephen Evans, Dan Antopolski, and Petra Massey as the crew of the HMS Camden Lock. As you know, we have witnessed the misadventures of the crew of the HMS Camden Lock for six episodes now, and those six episodes have been jam packed with enough diplomatic screw-ups that Mitt Romney would blush if he’d witnessed them (BAM! Dated political references are awesome, and oh so topical!).

To keep the British Empire relevant in the space faring age, the UK has tasked the crew of the Camden Lock with a mission to expand Britain’s sphere of influence past the confines of our pesky small planet. In the past five episodes we have seen failed attempts at placing huge chain grocery stores on underdeveloped planets (causing vows of vengeance upon escape), a botched attempt to mediate an asteroid claim between two races, an insane space traveler and her murderous coffee cup, and much much more.

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“Assessment” is yet another such episode, proving that Nick Frost’s Commander Henderson may be just about the most inept space captain there is, and I’m taking into account both Arnold Rimmer and Zapp Brannigan! The plot follows the crew as they are forced to partake in a routine round of psychological tests. These tests include things like word associations, reflex tests, and math problems to prove that the crew has not “gone nutty” in space.

During the tests, the Camden Lock is fired upon, and mistaking it for part of the evaluation, Henderson ignores the attack completely putting everyone in jeopardy. His superiors are not too thrilled at his leadership, and places him in danger of losing his ship, rank, and livelihood. Fearing the impending “category J inspection” that the ship will soon be forced to endure, Henderson basically falls apart and has a nervous break-down.

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We finally get to see what would happen if York was in charge of the ship for a long period of time, and as one would assume, the power immediately does to his head. One of the better bits of dialog involves him broadcasting a rather ominous message to everyone on the ship: “I am the master – you are my tools, I am the Alpha and Omega…”

York places the entire ship under martial law and imposes ridiculous rules that place even more stress on a crew that is pretty stressed out about the inspection. Mr. Jeffers, being his usual self, basically starts an anarchistic uprising against York, bordering on a mutiny, and destabilizes the ship even more than what is normal.

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It is under these conditions that Vine seems to start going completely insane. First, he starts hearing voices over the communication channels proclaiming that he “is the chosen one”. Later, he sees ghostly apparitions of his past and future selves, leading Mr. Vine to totally lose it. Pretty soon he starts buying into the hype, and starts telling people that he is, in fact, the chosen one and that he is above everyone else. Towards the end of the episode, a crystalline ship appears and takes him on board. Sadly, it’s not what he dreams it could be.

This secondary plot involving Vine starts out promising, but fizzles out once it reaches its climax. This is a problem with just about every episode of this show, and it makes me wonder why they did not just concentrate on the main plot since these extra plots usually get no pay-off. In this case the alien race trying to contact Vine turns out to be galactic pranksters that seemingly travel around to take pictures of their victims after they pull their pants down. Another missed opportunity wasted by dumb juvenile humor.

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The actual episode itself ends on a cliffhanger which baffles me because almost none of the main plots get tied up. Had this been a one-series show it would have been basically incomplete – we would have never known if Teal and Henderson finally put an end to their awkward sexual tension, we would have never known much about any of the side characters, and Sandstrom would have gone down as one of the most worthless science fiction characters ever. Thankfully there is a second season, and I truly hope they address some of this.

I’m not slamming Hyperdrive by any means, but I truly want this show to be better than what it is. It has the core of a great comedy show, but it seems like somewhere down the line it was never really polished, and covered in the slimy goo that is the essence of mediocrity. If BBC truly wanted another Red Dwarf, and I do apologize for making that comparison multiple times, they could have boiled it down to its essence and come up with something original based on Red Dwarf’s success. I still have my fingers crossed for series two.

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