I have questions….

(Note: I started writing this a few months ago before I got sick. It had some good points about story telling so I thought I’d share it. Also… SPOILERS.)

picardI just watched the new episode of Picard and I have so many questions.

Why isn’t the Dr in the brig?

Why is everyone saying Data is Soji’s (sp?) farther, not the doctor that created her?

Does anyone else find it utter cringe to call Picard “JP”?

Why did elf boy hug Seven? That seemed so out of character. For both of them.

There were a few things I actually enjoyed. Seven joining the cube was visually awesome (though it was a fast let down since it ended up not mattering what so ever). I could even see her disconnecting since she wasn’t actually part of the collective, but it wasn’t explained well. But I find it telling that my BF, who isn’t as familiar with the borg, had an immediate reaction of “that’s not how the borg work.”

The casino planet seemed out of place, and out of touch just like the casino planet in Star Wars (can we just stop it with the casinos in sci-fi?). The whole sub plot of the child on the casino planet made no impact what so ever on the entire thing and just made Raf look like a bad mom, and a junky. I feel like they could have done something with this, like had them make up at the end since she proved her conspiracy theory was real. But instead it was just a plot point to get her on the ship and didn’t actually matter.

And that’s the way the whole thing felt. Nothing actually mattered. Dr kills someone with no consequences. All the borg die with no consequences. The droids try to kill every organic being in the universe…with no consequences.

Consequences give the story gravity. It makes it matter. And the biggest consequence could have been if Picard actually died at the end. Instead they created a deus ex machina and gave him a new body. He lived, he got rid of his old ailment, and everyone is happy.

Actions should have consequences. Without them what’s the point? Everything is retconned anyway, and nothing really happened, except now androids can dream of electric sheep again.

Anyway, if you enjoyed it… well great. Every story has an audience, so they say. This clearly wasn’t for me and I have no interest in further Star Trek. I’d rather watch Axanar.

Star Trek Picard – Four Episodes in and what is this?

I just watched episode four of Star Trek Picard and…If it wasn’t for the fact that my boyfriend and our room mate were watching this I probably wouldn’t watch another episode.

To be fair, I don’t think it’s awful, just not interesting enough to keep watching. There have been a number of scenes that make me uncomfortable (like the brother and sister that get way too physical) or annoyed (why is she calling him JP?), or just plain angry (ya, let’s reinvent the timeline again.) But while those scenes detracted from my enjoyment they were just a few scenes of the whole. The vast majority of it has been…. meh.

I’ve been watching Star Trek since I was little, right there with Captain Kirk flying off to various planets and defeating the problem of the week. There are so many of them that I love, from Spoke and the flowers that made him feel, to the disease that attacks anyone hitting puberty. Then there was The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space 9,  Enterprise, and every single movie (even the new ones). I’ve watched them all. I enjoyed them all. From the convoluted plots of the Cardassians, to the tribbles, and the invisible monsters only Data could see.

(I do admit I skipped Discovery, I didn’t want to pay extra to watch it on yet another streaming service. I’m only watching Picard because I’m not paying for it, or room mate is.)

So when I come to Picard I am there as a fan of the franchise. Sure, there have been episodes of the old series that I didn’t like, or I felt could be better, but on the whole I loved them and I kept coming back for more.

I think the biggest problem I have with Picard isn’t even the story, or the pieces in the plot that take me out of the world. It’s the way they are choosing to film it.

Every season before (minus Discovery, since I didn’t watch it and I don’t know) was in an episodic mode. That is: each episode was a self contained story. There was a beginning, a middle and an end revolving around a specific monster or problem. Sometimes the episode would be cut into two or three pieces, and often there was a larger story that connected all of the episodes together, but on the whole when you got to the end of an episode you felt like it had a satisfying conclusion.

Now Picard is here, and it does not have a structure to it. The first episode may be the only one that had a whole story, but even that felt incomplete and unfinished. It was the opening dragging you into the series, but it wasn’t satisfying. There was no conclusions, just questions.

Then the second episode happened, and there were even more questions, and only a few small answers. It gave them a direction to head in, but again it wasn’t a self contained episode, just a piece of the whole.

Episode three happened and I hated the new character introduced the first time she called the admiral “JP”. Who does that? Even in the flash back while he is still an admiral she is calling him JP instead of Admiral, or Jean-Luc. It felt entirely disrespectful. And again…. no satisfying conclusion, just more questions (like how did the scientist get the disrupter from the trained secret assassins? Is she a double agent, or is it just bad writing? And how did an old man and two older Romulans take out a group of highly trained assassins? But lets just wave the wand and forget about that.)

Episode four attempted to have a base plot. They went to a planet to get help from an assassin nun, and go on their way. But again it wasn’t very satisfying. It didn’t feel fleshed out, and every persons motive on that planet just feels…off. Picard is a shadow of the man he used to be, unable to command a room. Unable to use words to fight for him like he once did. Instead he stumbles over himself, and his past, and ignores the pain that he caused others. A man who used to be good at reading a room, and figuring out what to say, who respected the customs of other species, now walks right over theirs. It isn’t until someone else takes charge and kills the “bad guy” that Picard finally admits he screwed up…sort of. It was such a half assed apology.

Next episode looks like a casino planet episode. All I can think of is the casino planet from Last Jedi, and how absolute trash that section was. I hope it isn’t as bad. Mostly I hope there is a satisfying episode with a beginning, middle and end. I don’t have hope.

I expect all episodes to be pieces of a the whole instead of self contained episodes. That makes me wonder why they bothered to release it as a weekly episodic series instead of just releasing it all at once. If they did release it all at once then at least we could watch it all and evaluate it as a whole. Instead we are getting episodes that feel disjointed and separated, that don’t really feel satisfying. (The answer is money, they wanted subscribers, and that’s why they released it this way, but I digress.)

If I were the only one watching this I would just wait until the full thing was out and watch it then if I got really bored and couldn’t find anything else to watch. Because I live with two guys who want to watch it… I’ll watch it with them. Also of note is they didn’t grow up on Star Trek like I did. I know our room mate saw Discovery (and liked it) but he hasn’t watched all of the other series. My boyfriend has only watched part of TNG. Neither of them knew who Seven of Nine was, and most of the lore is going right over their head. I find it interesting that they are enjoying it more than I am, but not surprised really.

It doesn’t feel like Star Trek. It almost feels more like Roswell, actually. Teen drama that just happens to happen in a star ship. But….we’ll see how next week goes.

Review: The Orville

I grew up on Star Trek. I loved watching Kirk battle the monster of the week, especially if the monster was himself. I welcomed The Next Generation when it came out, and LOVED it, even i the first year was a little rough around the edges. I didn’t care, I was able to travel across the galaxy with a sentient android, and various crew members from different races.

I use to watch Voyager every night when I got home from work. I watched many episodes twice. I loved Janeway’s get it done attitude, and Checoti made a wonderful counterpoint to her sometimes blind desire to get the crew home.

I’ve also watched a lot of the fan made series on you tube, some of which are really good!

What I’m saying is….I LOVE STAR TREK! I love the messages, examining each story, seeing allegories in modern life, and the shear fun of monster of the week mayhem some days. Sometimes a bug is just a bug and you have to kill it.

Now there is a new Star Trek, and it’s locked safely behind a paywall, so I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve heard mixed reviews. Some love it, some find it a little too preachy. The fact that the writers specifically said their Klingon’s are modeled off “Trump supporters” gives me some reservations, but I’m willing to give it a shot. After all, the original Star Trek often comments on society, and ways to improve it. Maybe this one will have some good insights as well.

But for now, since I’m not going to pay for a paywall till the full season is out, I am watching The Orville.

I caught a glimpse of the Orville while at work and thought the design, space, and ship looked a bit like Star Trek, though not quite. I also saw that it was advertised as a comedy. Of course I had to try it.

What I found wasn’t quite a sitcom in space, and it wasn’t quite a Star Trek space opera. It was something in the middle, with enough parody to keep it from tripping copyright, and enough space opera goodness to quench my craving for the cheesy experience.

The juxtaposition of cliche modern language in a space ship that is supposed to be from the future is kind of absurd, but it works. The ex husband and wife team cause just enough strife to keep everyone on their toes, but they also work well together because they know each other. The two pilots often say inane things that remind you they are two dudes from this world, and this time line, that got to play a role on their favorite space opera. Their reactions often would have no place outside a college dorm, or a sports party. And yet it works.

The first few episodes have ship to ship and hand to hand battles. There is character growth, unusually characters from other cultures, and even some important discussion of two cultures colliding, and not seeing eye to eye.

And while all of that is what I expect from a space opera style show I can also see that it’s campy, throws in jokes that aren’t always appropriate to the time period, and setting. But that’s the charm. The original Star Trek had bad fx and latex masks, The Orville has cheesy jokes at odd places. It works.

Now, I it isn’t perfect. The writing is still rough, but I think it’s showing some potential. I also like that it doesn’t spoon feed you a moral. On the third episode dealing with a child that was born the wrong gender, and dealing with the sex change of the child, the answer wasn’t handed to you neatly packaged as “this is the truth”, rather it was “this is what’s happening, but we feel uncomfortable about it even if this is how it has to be…for now.” And we, as the audience, are allowed to decide for ourselves why these things happened the way it did, and the ramifications of it all.

I’ll be watching more of The Orville, and I hope they will take us to many places far far away, with interesting characters and species from the edges of the galaxy.

Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

imagesWe went out to watch the new Star Trek movie tonight, and I have to say I rather enjoyed it.

Now, I admit I’ve been a die hard Star Trek fan from a young age. I grew up watching re-runs of the original show, and started in earnest with The Next Generation. I loved how they mixed a message in with all the action and drama. There were bad episodes, but even the bad episodes were entertaining.

When they did the Star Trek reboot I was a little apprehensive. Reboots aren’t always good, as the new Total Recall and Robocop can attest (though I kind of liked the new Judge Dredd.) Sometimes they fail because they stray too far from the original source, in which case the die hard fans are left forgotten, wondering why they even bothered to stick with the original franchise instead of making something new…or they take the original source material and just grind it up and spit it out in a “modern” movie that is very forgettable.

This Star Trek reboot had some things I liked, and some things I didn’t. In many ways it did make sense to start off by completely rewriting history, and starting from scratch. I was also pleased that in the second movie they had Khan. He was an important character in the first series, and there was a lot of character development in that movie. A lot of things between the three main characters (Kirk, Spock, and McCoy) were established in that episode that needed to happen to further the new series, and Khan was a great backdrop for that all to happen.

I was slightly disappointed that the new series became much more about the action movie style then the character development and subtle commentary on the world around us. While some of the original movies were blatant about it (save the whales?) others were far more appealing. Learning to trust your friends, standing with your crew, putting differences aside in search of peace… All of them very well told, and many you didn’t catch unless you thought about it.

I was happy to see that this latest movie had a moral. It wasn’t in your face about it, and it required some thinking, but it had several morals laced in with the high action plot. I think there are a few subtle morals to the story, the biggest one being to stick with your crew when the going gets tough, and that unity in the face of adversity will see you through. And I saw a one much larger one that I can’t tell you because it would spoil the whole movie.

The other fantastic thing about this particular movie is the character development. Kirk, Spock, and Bones, are all learning to trust one another, and finding a true friendship together. The chemistry between the three main actors really felt like it was coming together, and I loved to see that. The actors are getting to know one another, and seem more natural up on the screen. They are coming into their own, which makes the movies that much better.

Overall, I’m looking forward to the next Star Trek movie. I think they are doing justice to the source material while still making a brand new universe. I hope they continue to weave those subtle morals into the story, to make the story worth telling and sharing, and making it last. Because, lets face it, action movies come and go. We have some that we really love, but there are very few that stick with us for generations. Star Trek has become such an icon of the future because it shows us a future that we want to have. It teaches lessons, and inspires science. It expands the mind instead of just entertaining it for a couple hours. And that’s what keeps us coming back for more.

But I will also admit…I was on the edge of my seat for some of those scenes! The action is top notch.

Whatever reason you go see it, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Science and Art

I just got done watching Adam Savage’s SXSW Address and I needed to talk about it. Adam Savage is a fantastic speaker, and usually has something very thought provoking to say. In this speech he is talking about Science and Art. That they are connected because they are both ways to discuss the same thing. Human Culture.

I am a writer, and I also do art. This makes me an artist, right? Yes, I would say it does. But I also am a scientist. I enjoy performing thought experiments about scientific advancements. I use these thoughts in some of my writing. How can a space ship save it’s passengers from cosmic radiation? If electromagnetic fields on earth do this how can we create an artificial electromagnetic field on a space ship? How can we encompass an entire colony ship?

I’m not the first writer to think about how things could work, and use those things in there writing. The writers of Star Trek did this every week, and create some interesting technology that no one ever thought would be realistic. Then we got communicators, and touch pads, and reusable shuttle crafts. They, Star Trek, inspired so many scientists. And yet “Star Trek” is still often seen as low brow cinema. Even though Star Trek was one of the first TV shows to comment on the cold war, the inequality of African Americans, and sexism. Not directly, of course, but it was often written into the show in such a way that people could accept it, and discuss it, when they could never have done so before.

Art opens doors for communication. It doesn’t matter if it is “high brow” or “low brow” art, it doesn’t matter if you initially understand the piece, but it get some people talking. And that is what art is for.

In my novella, “Osiren’s Tears“, there are several themes. The extremist view point leading a society astray, the difference in two cultures clashing and causing war, the idea that women are less then men just for the fact of their sex. I did not write the story with the idea of these things being talked about, but they probably made their way into the story because they are effecting me more now then they ever did before. Crimea, Iraq, Afghanistan. Extremists on every continent are trying to drive entire societies like leading a bull with a ring in it’s nose. The bull doesn’t want to go there, but the pain from the ring in their nose makes them move. Sometimes the bull will break free and go it’s own way, but other times it can’t stand the pain and just goes along with it.

Writing is a way of sharing thoughts and ideas, and exploring both sides of a story, without consequence. I can write from the view point of someone who thinks and does atrocious things without anyone actually getting hurt. I can explore why they would do such a thing, and what drives them, and maybe understand them a little more while doing it (though never condoning).

Cultural Anthropology, the study of cultures and people, is a science, and I think every artist would benefit drastically from that science. Statistics are math, and statistics show some invaluable information. How things are better, how things are worse, how things effect you or societies. Then there are environmental sciences, biology, and basic geometry. How does your world fit together? How do the creatures evolve? What are the dementions of a temple, and how do people access each floor?

Science and art work hand in hand. Science explains how the world works, and art is a communication tool to explain it to the layman. Art is a way of exploring facets of the world we have yet to experiment with scientifically. And science is the way to explore those same ideas even further.

There is a movement to add art to the STEM programs. It’s called STEM to STEAM. They want to add art to the middle of STEM where I think it belongs. And I completely support this. Schools don’t just need scientific exploration, they need understanding of the culture around them, and they need to know how to communicate in different ways which is taught by music, painting, writing, and sculpture. All things that use math and science to get their points across.

But the bigger question: how do we get our children to engage in science and math?

MAKE IT PERSONAL! If it isn’t personal to them then they won’t care. I did not care about history in school because the history class was so boring, and did not link the past with the future so I kept thinking “this doesn’t matter to me.” But when I got to college I took some awesome college classes in history that made the world come alive.

But if you teach a child through mediums that they enjoy, and show them how science, math, and history link to those things, then they are likely to take a closer look at them as well. Some students will stop thinking of themselves as just creative, or just scientific, and realize that they are both.

PAX 2012

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This is Wil Wheaton… from the back of the theater. Now, if you’re at the back of the theater you can’t actually see the person talking. Not unless all the peoples heads in front of you line up just right and you manage to catch a glimpse in between heads.

The conference rooms aren’t really set up for this as far as I can see. And the audio is a bit low. But worth it? Heck ya!

Now, I am bias. I’ve been a Wheaton fan since I was 10 years old, watching Star Trek TNG and harboring my secret crush on the ultra intelligent Wesley Crusher. But Wheaton, himself, is incredibly funny and knows how to tell a good story. And his stories matter to the crowds that show up to see him because most of us were/are nerdy gamers who played a lot of the games he did, and had similar experience (minus the awesome Enterprise crew, though we envy that.)

Sadly, the Fawkes Guild comic that I had, wrapped in cardboard and safely stuck in my hard hard cover D&D book to avoid crushing, went unsigned. Being a brand new PAX goer, I was lost, and given bad directions. The line was closed before I got there. Maybe next year?

So many games, and so little time. I demoed about 20 of them, watched people playing several others. Watched people be the aliens hunting down space marines, and killed a zombie in Walking Dead after learning she was probably a little girls baby sitter. Got t-shirts, pins, and coloring books….

All in all PAX was amazing, and I’ll be going next year.