The Occupy Movement As Predicted By Star Trek

All the incarnations of Star Trek have been noted for helping to inspire new advances in technology like tablets, cell phones (which is funny since the original show’s communicators look so outdated to what we have today), scanners and so on. And Star Trek has paved the way for new ways of how we view ourselves, notably in terms of racial and sexual equality. But one thing lately has popped up that may be overlooked given all the tensions going on in this country lately.

Namely the entire Occupy insert a city or neighborhood Movement. No matter where one stands on the Movement, it has to be agreed that this phenomenon could easily foment and lead to ominous developments. This was seen in the two-part Star Trek: Deep Space NIne story “Past Tense” where Captain Ben Sisko and members of his crew are trapped in the early 21st century and are caught up in the so-called Bell Riots. Taking place in San Francisco in 2024, the Starfleet personnel are mistaken for being unemployed and disenfranchised and are placed in a ghetto-like “Sanctuary District” and inadvertantly change history.

As Ben Sisko and his crew try to correct the timeline by being active participants in the Bell Riots (chiefly by Ben Sisko assuming the identity of Gabriel Bell who was killed while defending him; Bell would become an important figure in helping to bring about social justice in the U.S.) the plight of the District residents are shown. For the most part, many of them have been unemployed for a long time and are unable to get any kind of support from the government. Just look at the latest news stories to get an idea of what the Bell Riots participants were protesting. It’s easy to see how today’s current protests, which are already becoming violent, could lead to those opposing the Occupy Movement for a severe government crackdown in order to restore order.

This isn’t meant to support one side or another, it’s just to point out how relevant Star Trek remains to this day and not just in terms of cool gadgets. Hopefully these Bell Riots that involved Ben Sisko and company won’t come to pass. Then the one thing the “Past Tense” episodes will get correct is the prediction that the Yankees won the ’99 World Series.

Lewis T. Grove

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Lost With Terra Nova

After much delay, Terra Nova finally premiered earlier this fall on FOX. Reasons for the delay were reportedly due to production problems such as tweaking the special effects. Despite Steven Spielberg being behind the show, a lot of people fretted over the delays especially when Brannon Braga (who many blame for Star Trek’s decline) came onboard as a show runner. What most overlook is that other sci-fi TV veterans are also involved like Firefly’s Jose Molina and Trek writer/producer Rene Echevarria.

With all these talents behind the scenes you have to wonder why Terra Nova isn’t a can’t-miss show. Many parts of it come off as tepid combinations of seaQuest and tired Star Trek plots (and that means the banal Next Generation and Voyager episodes that earned Braga his reputation). Yet there is potential in this program. It’s not downright awful and I’m still watching (which is something that could not be said for other new genre offerings like Person of Interest and Once Upon A Time, I couldn’t even get past the half hour mark on those pilots).

Here’s the premise as seen in the pilot episode “Genesis;” by 2149 Earth is an ecological disaster, overpopulated, polluted and pretty grim. But humanity’s salvation lies in the distant past. A way was found to time travel back 85 million years into an alternate Earth (and sidestepping any time paradox questions), so a select few are chosen whether by lottery or needed skill to go back in time and live in a  new colony called Terra Nova. Enter the Shannon family. In the future, family sizes are regulated to just two children and the Shannons  are caught harboring a third child, which leads to the father Jim (played by Jason O’Mara) to being  jailed. Years later, the rest of the family is chosen to make a pilgrimage to Terra Nova. His wife Elizabeth (played by Shelly Conn) helps break Jim out of jail and all five of them escape into the past to start over.

Probably part of the problem with the show is that the place they arrive in is a bit too perfect. It tries to come off as a bit rugged but the colony looks like a beefed up farmer’s market meshed with a timeshare resort with everyone walking around casually. The Shannons are part of the what’s called the Tenth Pilgrimage, meaning that nine other waves of colonists have arrived and settled into the place. It would have been more interesting to have seen the struggles of the early colonists, seeing death, hardships,  and dinosaurs. Yep. For a show that takes place in prehistoric times, dinosaurs appear far and few in this show, which is surprising when you consider that each episode costs about $4 million and has a longer than usual post production. If you look at Primeval, which has plenty of scenes with dinosaurs per show, you have to wonder where did Terra Nova’s budget go to? Sure, it has some nice special fx, esp. when showing futuristic tablets and graphics but the dinosaurs are nowhere near the level seen in the Jurassic Park films. They might as well have set the show during a more recent time period, the premise would still be viable.

So without the constant drudgery of trying to set up a colony, the show is reduced to banal plot lines. One episode called “The Runaway” dealt with a little girl that sought asylum with Terra Nova. She was part of a group of renegade, thuggish colonists that broke away from the colony in the Sixth Pilgrimage and are known as the Sixers. Interesting concept for recurring villains, but they come off as rejects from a bad Mad Max rip-off with Hollywood camouflage face painting and rags. It was pretty obvious that the girl was  a plant sent by the Sixers to infiltrate the colony. But the episode did reveal some mysteries such as the fact that some people from the future are unhappy with the leader of Terra Nova (Commander Nathaniel Taylor,  well played by Stephen Lang, think of a nicer version of the character he portrayed in Avatar) and want him removed and part of the mission of the Sixers is to do this. There are very small indications that there is more to Terra Nova than viewers are shown such as the story behind Taylor’s missing, estranged son. But so little time is spent on them.

Instead we get generic plot lines and really stupid family and teenage drama that belongs on The CW network. Haven’t the producers seen other genre shows with idiotic teenagers and known how loathed the y were? Here we have Jim’s mopey son Josh (Landon Liboiron) wasting screen time about how miserable he is without his girlfriend from the future. So he takes a job with a shady bar owner, that the parents are completely unaware of until lately (even from the first episode it was shown the parents were irresponsible by not keeping tabs on him), and strikes up a bargain with the leader of the Sixers to bring his sweetie pie through the time portal. How dumb is this guy? Then we’re tortured with scenes of the Shannons’ middle daughter making lovely eyes with the oh-so cute security guard. Speaking of security, Jim Shannon saved Taylor’s life in the pilot, earning him a job as the colony’s cop, so why isn’t he wearing a uniform like the other security personnel?

Here are some other episode plots, in “What Remains” the main cast gets stricken with a virus that causes amnesia. Actually it was better than it sounds, like a dull episode of Star Trek: Enterprise that recycled that plot from older Trek shows. That’s because of the interactions between O’Mara and Conn (who happens to be the only one who can cure the disease: “roll eyes now”). “Bylaw” concerned THE FIRST MURDER EVER COMMITTED ON TERRA NOVA! Wow with all the problems with the Sixers it’s hard to believe that there hasn’t been any violent incidents and casualties before this episode. And if memory recalls, Taylor was nearly assassinated in the pilot. So why no brouhaha over that? BTW the mystery was dull and by the book.

A recent episode “Nightfall” was fairly good (an EMP from an exploding meteor knocks out the colony’s electronics leaving them defenseless) then again there were some head-scratching moments. For instance, they go on about how their weapons are now useless, well don’t they have the skills to at least make crude spears and traps? And another thing they have to manufacture chips to operate most of Terra Nova which is without any means of protection. So why is priority given to make a chip just to operate a bio bed for one patient? What about the security of the entire colony? Wouldn’t that take precedent?

Terra Nova has some interesting nuggets. Unfortunately TPTB don’t concentrate on them. Yet there is enough going on to keep my attention and watching, which may be for naught. All thirteen episodes in this season are in the can, so there is little that can be done to improve the show at this point until filming the second season. But I get the feeling this one may be extinct before long.

José Soto

Top 10 Butterfly Effects

One theme that runs through many time travel stories is that of the Butterfly Effect. Most famously demonstrated in Ray Bradbury’s short story “A Sound of Thunder” where time travelers go back to prehistoric times on a dinosaur safari and inadvertently change the future by carelessly killing a butterfly in the past. The most recent example of the Butterfly Effect is in Stephen King’s newest literary release 11/22/63; in that book the assassination of John F. Kennedy is prevented resulting in a radically altered timeline.

This list will cover some of the best Butterfly Effects presented on several media that I’ve seen or read (sorry haven’t read Lest Darkness Fall or The Time Ships yet), and are based on Effects directly due to time travel and the amount of time spent exploring those altered worlds.

10. “Storm Front, Part I & II” from Star Trek: Enterprise; the fourth season opener concluded the maligned and confusing temporal cold war storyline. Captain Archer and the Enterprise crew are trapped on Earth during World War II in a timeline altered by aliens. This resulted in the Nazis being more technologically advanced and occupying parts of the U.S.

9. “Turn Left” from Doctor Who; the episode examines what would have happened if Companion Donna Noble never met the Doctor. It’s a grim timeline that features the deaths of the Tenth Doctor, Martha Jones, Sarah Jane Smith, Torchwood and Britain under martial law.

8. “Year Of Hell, Part I & II” from Star Trek: Voyager; the crew of the lost starship Voyager stumble upon an obsessed alien intent on using time as a weapon in his region of space then as a means to restore his wife after utilizing the weapon erases her from history. The Voyager crew literally go through hell as they try to track down the alien and restore the timeline. It was so well done many fans grumbled when things went back to normal!

7. Flashpoint; The DC Comics mini-series and its spin-offs has the Flash preventing his mother’s death while time traveling, which forever alters the DC Universe. First the Flash is trapped in a nightmarish, violent version of the DC Universe with many altered heroes and villains then the storyline concludes with the creation of the New 52 titles running today with updated versions of the DC heroes.

6. “The Hanged Man” from Journeyman; it’s a short-lived series from 2007 that in a similar vein to Quantum Leap had the hero (reporter Dan Vasser-played by Kevin McKidd) uncontrollably time traveling and changing history. In this episode, Dan leaves behind a digital camera in 1984 that is reverse engineered. When he returns, not only is technology more advanced but his young son is erased and instead has a daughter, leaving him with a deep moral dilemma.

5.” Profile In Silver” from The Twilight Zone of the 1980s; the late Lane Smith portrays a history professor who goes back in time to study the assassination of his ancestor, John F. Kennedy, and winds up saving him. This of course begins a cataclysmic chain of events due to time trying to compensate for the alteration. In other words World War III is about to erupt. In true Twilight Zone fashion, the ending is a real twist.

4. The Guns Of The South; Harry Turtledove’s masterpiece is about what happens when Confederate soldiers are armed with AK-47s by time-traveling racist white South Africans. Obviously this turns the tide of the Civil War in the Confederate’s favor and readers learn that Lincoln loses re-election, Robert E. Lee becomes president of the C.S.A., the U.S. gets into a war with Britain and the Confederacy becomes a technologically advanced nation.

3. The Age of Apocalypse Storyline from the X-Men books; Professor X of the X-Men is accidently killed in the past by his son. This chain reaction leads to the villainous mutant Apocalypse conquering America and committing genocide on non-mutants. For months the crossover X-books featured alternate versions of mutants such as a heroic Magneto leading the X-Men, Wolverine with a missing hand and teams with different members some of whom are villains in the regular books like Sabretooth.

2. The Nantucket Trilogy comprised of S.M. Stirling’s books Island In The Sea Of Time, Against The Tide Of Years and On The Oceans Of Eternity; the storyline has the island of Nantucket, its modern-day inhabitants and a Coast Guard ship sent back in time to the Bronze Age. Their necessary interactions with the people in that time period lead to early introductions to gunpowder, primitive air travel and increased global trade and contact. Naturally trouble starts when renegades leave Nantucket and begin to carve out their own kingdoms leading to armed conflict.

1. The Back To The Future Trilogy; Robert Zemeckis’ three films about a time-traveling teenager and his buddy scientist is actually a fantastic examination of the Butterfly Effect. In the first film, Marty McFly travels from the 1980s in a DeLorean to the 1950s and prevents his parents from falling in love. The obvious effect is that he and his siblings are being erased so he has to restore the timeline (audiences are helped by the rapid fire explanations of Doc Brown about the nuances of time travel). He succeeds for the most part. While his parents do wind up together they are changed due to their future son’s influence and this results in Marty’s family being better off when he returns to the ’80s.

In the second film, a trip to 2015 results in a more dire Butterfly Effect. The trilogy’s villain Biff Tannen steals the DeLorean and travels to the ’50s to make his younger self rich. When Marty McFly and his friend Doc Brown return to the ’80s, their hometown has been transformed into a nightmarish vision. Seedy casinos and chemical plants are everywhere,

crime is rampant and even Richard Nixon is still president while the Vietnam War rages on. Marty’s family life is radically changed as his father is dead and his mother is married to Tannen. In the third film, the Butterfly Effect is reflected in the duo’s adventures in the 1880s; chiefly with their confrontation with Tannen’s murderous ancestor which could lead to their premature deaths. The Effect is last touched upon in the end when we see a landmark renamed and Marty McFly altering an event in the ’80s that has an unknown yet hopeful alteration to his future.

José Soto

The Walking Dead March On, Part II

Episode Three: The pre-credits scene of episode three of the second season of The Walking Dead, “Save the Last One”, shows Shane (Jon Bernthal) running water for the shower and shaving his head with electric clippers. Looking at his reflection in the mirror, he seems disturbed and somewhat uneasy…

episode-3-shane-otis-hallway-gp[1]Post-credits, in a nightmarish sequence, Shane Walsh and Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince) run for their lives from walkers in the school hallway. The walkers –looking Hammer-film ghoulish in the dark, slow-motion scene – chase them into the gymnasium. Rick Grimes’ (Andrew Lincoln) conversation with his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) – at their son Carl’s (Chandler Riggs) bedside – provides the narration. Telling of Shane’s icy prowess in getting any job done, he recounts the time Shane stole the high school principal’s car out of the teacher’s lot in the middle of a lesson…

Back in the RV, Carol (Melissa McBride) cries in her sleep, almost certainly over her missing daughter. Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), sleepless, goes on a night search for the girl. Andrea (Laurie Holden) agrees to join, and grabbing flashlights, they set off into the dark, silent woods. Daryl casually reveals his survival skills, telling Andrea of the time he was lost in the woods as a child, alone, for nine days before finding his way home. Their vain search yields only a bite victim who unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide by hanging himself from a tree, turning into a walker in the process. After reading his rhyming, darkly humorous suicide note, Daryl – although initially reluctant to waste arrows –kills the gurgling walker. Andrea reveals a morbid outlook, unsure of whether she wants to live or die…

Please click on the link to Deadloggers to continue reading about Episode Three

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Episode Four: The pre-credits scene of episode four of season two of The Walking Dead, “Cherokee Rose”, shows the survivors re-grouping at the farm, as Hershel (Scott Wilson) tends to a recovering Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs). Later, Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince) is buried and eulogized in a solemn ceremony. Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) grows visibly uncomfortable as the unknowing Hershel waxes heroic, and has flashbacks to Otis’ final moments. Patricia (Jane McNeill), Otis’ surviving girlfriend, wants Shane to say a few words. Shane initially protests but stammers his way through a falsified version of the fatal event, designed to heroize the dead man’s actions…

Post-credits, the survivors study a map of the area to analyze where to search for the missing Sophia (Madison Lintz). Hershel advises Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Shane that they are medically unfit to participate in the search, so Daryl (Norman Reedus) goes alone. Hershel states his directive that no one carries guns on his property, objecting to an “armed camp.” Despite reservations, Rick and Shane comply, although Hershel permits an armed lookout. Additionally, Hershel breaks the news to Rick that as soon as Carl has recovered fully, and Sophia is found, the survivors are to leave his property, stating that “we don’t normally take in strangers.”

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Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) and a lucid, recovered T-Dog (IronE Singleton) find a grotesque, swollen, misshapen walker trapped at the bottom of one of five wells on Hershel’s property, sarcastically calling it a swimmer (as opposed to a walker). The survivors want to shoot it, but don’t want to contaminate the well water. Finally, in order to remove it, they resort to lowering in a nervous Glenn (Steven Yeun) as live bait to harness it to a rope and the pull it out. Unfortunately, the bearings holding the tied rope loosen, dropping Glen sharply downward almost within the monster’s grasp. The group succeeds in pulling the screaming, panicky Glenn out of the well. After another try, they pull the swimmer out, this time using a horse for an anchor. As the gurgling swimmer is halfway out, his soft, bloated, squishy body snaps in two. His top half quivers on the ground, spraying blood and intestines while his lower half falls back into the well. A disgusted T-Dog bludgeons the swimmer’s head…

Please click on the link to Deadloggers to continue reading about Episode Four

Evan Rothfeld

Immortals Cursed With The Dumbest Trailers

Gotta say this. Immortals the new movie coming out this weekend looks very stupid. For that the blame falls on those terrible trailers for the movie that have plague coming attractions.

Seriously, look at how dumb the whole thing looks. Everything looks like a cross between a bad cologne commercial and a pretentious music video with non stop green screen shots. Toss into that some bad acting and scenes that make those old Steve Reeves sword and sandals outings  look like Spartacus. This isn’t to say that these kind of fantasy films are inferior. I loved last year’s remake of Clash of the Titans even though no one I know did. And while 300 was stupid it was at least entertaining. Actually the trailers make Immortals look like a cheap 300 knock-off and has actually made me appreciate Zack Snyder more as a filmmaker. See this kind of material is hard to pull off as Immortals shows me and Zack Snyder was able to sell 300 thanks to his skills.

What else is there to dislike about the Immortals trailer? The obvious CG effects, the overdone fight scenes that go into cliche slow motion and what is it with that opening shot that looks like a Renaissance painting? And the less said about those stupid gold outfits the better! Logically, this film will die a quick death in the box office, but being this is the modern world with sheeple that grovel over American Idol and Snookie this film will probably do well and we’ll have to suffer the inevitable sequels. If humanity redeems itself and avoids this turkey then the movie executives can blame the trailers. Just take a look if you want a quick laugh.

Waldermann Rivera