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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.

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Posted by on October 14, 2017 in On Writing

 

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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.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2016 in Review

 

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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.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2014 in On Writing

 

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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.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2012 in Commentary

 

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