Christmas With The Doctor

Steven Moffat has continued the traditionally awesome Doctor Who Christmas specials that began with the sensational “Voyage of the Damned” written by his predecessor, Russell T. Davis.  This episode was based on the 1974 book, The Voyage of the Dammed, written by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts.  The book describes the fate of Jewish refugees who were forced onto the MS St. Louis ocean liner and were denied asylum in both America and Cuba in 1939.  Back to Doctor Who, the episode describes the bitter ex-corporate tycoon who is out to create the most collateral damage thereby bankrupting his former corporation, while in the process killing everyone on board and the Queen of England by crashing into her pad.

Now we move on into the Steven Moffat era of true Christmas spirit by recreating A Christmas Carol with a 2010 special also called “A Christmas Carol.”  Moffat not only captured Charles Dickens’ original spirit of good triumphant over greed; but he then updated and amazed us with technological and psychological leaps that kept us glued like a kid eyeing the biggest gift under the tree.  Adding flying sharks and opera singers made it even more mind-blowing, but the greatest feat was travelling back in time in the life of Kazran Sardick a Scrooge-like character. Thus, reversing the focal point in Sardick’s past so that it changed reality and altered his present-day self and saved the lives of the Doctor’s companions.  It’s wickedly complex, magical and a bit sentimental, but that’s why we love it so much. 

Finally, the latest in the series of Christmas Stories, “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe,” based upon C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  Miracles happen, so we do feel that the Christmas spirit has been kindled.  However, the similarity to the original story is not as pronounced or profound as we would have liked.  Featuring widowed Madge Arwell and her two children there were no cute characters (unless you count Matt Smith) or beautiful, bewitching evil witches.  The only evils ones were men who wanted to harvest trees by killing them with acid rain and WWII tragedies of missing airmen.  The evils of being lost at war (although this did relate to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) and of acid rain seemed too far removed from the original very deliberate mind-altering ice queen.  Alas, the only comparison that we could make is that it left us feeling cold and missing the warm relationship with his companions. 

In fact, we started reminiscing about past companions and how in the end it just didn’t work out.  Martha Jones loved the Doctor but realized that it was never going to happen, Rose Tyler got stuck in another dimension, Donna Noble was forced to forget the Doctor because her mind would blow up if she didn’t and finally there was Amy Pond and her mysterious daughter, River Song.  We couldn’t see any future there because Amy was married and needed to stop dragging her husband over time and space and River Song said the beginning was the end so where does this leave us now? If he comes back does time stand still again?  So we were already grieving that loss more than the loss of the characters in this year’s special.  But just as the Doctor saved Madge’s family, she saved him by saying he couldn’t let them think he was dead.   So another Christmas miracle happened just about the time we were contemplating that a new non-emotionally attached companion (in other words a man) would be the best answer to travelling around deep, cold space.   He arrived at Amy’s TARDIS blue door and she announced to “Mr. Pond” that the Doctor was there, the ice inside our hearts melted, too.  Everyone (including the Doctor) cried tears of joy and we knew that the Doctor could make his way with his current companions, especially now that he is reunited with River Song as his wife and soul mate for a very long time to come (or the end of time, once again). 

Gwen McLernon

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Best Of 2011

Short and sweet here’s our rankings of the best (and worst) in sci-fi, fantasy, comics, etc. in film, TV, etc.

Best Sci-Fi TV Show

Fringe, with all the mind-bending twists, parallel universe visits, inter-dimensional funkiness, and John Noble’s brilliant portrayal of half-mad scientist Walter Bishop, this show has outdone The X-Files It’s a shame its ratings are plummeting making a fifth season not guaranteed. Please Fox, if you intend on canceling it, give the creators time to wrap up the show.

Best Horror TV Show

The Walking Dead, just the premiere episode in its second season made it scarier and more terrifying than anything shown in theaters. With many contenders for the title like Supernatural, True Blood and American Horror Story, The Walking Dead ate out the competition.

Best Fantasy Show

Finding Bigfoot–just kidding! Actually it’s a tie between True Blood and Game of Thrones. Sure the latter has many horror elements like vampires and witches, but the entire Sookie and the Faerie angle took the show into the fantasy realm.

Best Documentary/Reality Show

Prophets of Science Fiction, airing on the Science Channel offers viewers involving examinations of the lives of sci-fi literary greats and how their works influenced culture.

Best Cancelled TV Show

Stargate Universe, it’s too bad Syfy got impatient with this program thatdecided to jettison all the cowboy antics of previous Stargate shows and concentrate on the wonder of space travel. One truly got the impression that the people onboard the ancient starship Destiny were out exploring the unknown. Too bad viewers never got a proper series conclusion, which is nothing new with genre shows even on networks supposedly dedicated to them. But that’s another rant.

 

Best TV Character

Walter Bishop (John Noble) in Fringe. His mad scientist antics are very funny while also full of pathos. As stated online everywhere it’s a crime Noble hasn’t been nominated for an Emmy.
 

Most Missed TV Character

Castiel from Supernatural, our favorite deadpan angel sadly bit the dust shortly after the seventh season premiere. His death has overshadowed the rest of the season, even the supposed death of the Winchester Boys’ surrogate father Bobby.

Most Improved TV Character

The Eleventh Doctor as portrayed by Matt Smith in Doctor Who. After a shaky first season, Smith has grown comfortable with the role and showrunner Stephen Moffat has let the wild complexity of time travel define this show.

Best Series Finale

V, technically it was only a season finale but the show was cancelled. Nevertheless, people who still tuned in watched in glee as hated characters,especially annoying teenage son Tyler Evans (who incidently gets the title for Worst TV Character), get killed and the aliens apparently conquered the Earth with some kind of cosmic enrapturing that left most of the populace in a trance-like state of alien worship. Cool, the bad guys won!

Worst Series Finale

Smallville gave fans who waited ten years for Tom Welling a.k.a. Clark Kent the moment to finally put on the Superman suit and the show did not deliver it right. Sure Welling ripped open his shirt at the very end to reveal his S Shield and there were a couple of bad far away CG shots of Superman but that figure could’ve been anyone!

Best Sc-Fi Film

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, a genunine surprise given how disappointing Tim Burton’s 2001 remake was. This emotional film reinvigorated the franchise and took it in a new direction in a way that was better done than most ofther reboot attempts, including J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek. Also the year’s best film line was heard in this movie: “NO!”

Best Horror Film

Insidious, made by the creators of Saw and Paranormal Activity used many ingredients for a memorable horror movie: creepy kids, demons, haunted houses, ooh time to sleep with the lights on.

Best Fantasy Movie

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II brings the film saga to a spectacular finish. Now the question remains will Potter mania stand the test of time? We think so.

Best Animated Film

TIE: Kung Fu Panda 2 and The Adventures of Tintin, Steven Spielberg gives us another rousing adventure film in the vein of Indiana Jones but using beautiful animation but Kung Fu Panda 2 had more heart in its story of Po the panda trying to discover his roots and inner self.

Best Super Hero Film

Captain America: The First Avenger, everything could’ve gone wrong but instead was a nearly perfect rendition and ode to one of Marvel’s earliest heroes.

Best Super Hero On Film

Captain America from Captain America: The First Avenger, see above and add in Chris Evans’ heartfelt portrayal of an average man who only wants to do good and became someone greater.

Biggest Disappointment

Green Lantern could’ve been so great but it wasn’t. In a summer with a patriotic hero, a larger than life thunder god and retro mutants this film presented a tepid origin story with forgettable villains and the 3D stunk. Unbelievably a sequel is still being planned.

Best Guilty Pleasure/Action Film

Battle: Los Angeles, the basic message of this alien invasion story told from the point of view of grunt marines is KILL, KILL, KILL! But there were many tense moments with great and gritty action sequences. Many claimed it was a mashup of Black Hawk Down and Transformers and they were right.

Best Use Of 3D In A Film

Transformers: Dark of the Moon may be dumb, noisy and be stricly for watching stuff blow up, but the 3D was nearly perfect and added depth to the film.

Best Trailer For An Upcoming Film

Prometheus, seriously we just don’t get tired of seeing this preview about Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien universe.

Best Comic Book Event

DC’s The New 52, was the game changer for the comic book world. It updated all the DC characters with a comprehensive reboot and the company’s aggressive push into digital online comics could pave the way to comics’ salvation.

Best Comic Book

Justice League, Jim Lee’s vivid art and the restructuring of the team’s personalities and relationships made this a can’t-miss comic.

Best Super Hero In Comic Books

TIE: Superman and Spider-Man, both flagship characters had their ups (Superman updated again but this time the changes largely work and readers are given two distinct versions of the character in his two books) and downs (Spider-Man is still suffering the damage of Marvel boss Joe Quesada’s boneheaded decision to have Spidey make a deal with the devil and erasing his marriage, still the Spider-Island story arc was whacky fun) yet continue to shine no matter their trappings. Honorable mentions go to Batman, The Flash and Captain America.

Star Trek Ornaments Wish List

One thing that was noticed while scavenging Hallmark stores for discounted ornaments were the abundance of Star Trek ornaments. This was unusual, most of the time a fan was lucky to find a spaceship ornament the day after Christmas.

Well there are plenty of Romulan Bird-of-Prey spaceships available in several stores. Meanwhile Boba Fett’s Slave I spaceship from Star Wars is impossible to find. That is surprising given that a version of Slave I was released in 2002. The original was heavy and hard to put up on the Christmas tree since its weight pulled down branches. It was painted in blue to reflect that it was the one seen in Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones and it didn’t have sounds or lights. This year’s model was painted green as seen in The Empire Strikes Back and had sound.

Regarding the characters this year, Star Trek couldn’t even compete. Hallmark released two separate ornaments: one of Spock, the second in their Legends of Star Trek series, and a diorama featuring a scene out of the classic episode “Mirror, Mirror.” With Star Wars, three ornaments were produced, one of Yoda that has sound, a limited edition of Bossk that sold out quickly when released earlier this year and a diorama featuring Han Solo’s confrontation with Greedo. The only one still seen in stores was the diorama and that was in small quantities.

So is this further proof that Star Wars is clearly edging out Star Trek in popularity at least when it comes to ornaments? There was a time when Trek ornaments were highly sought after items. The very first Hallmark ornament of the original Enterprise still commands a high price in secondary markets as does practically any Enterprise ornament. Yet some character ornaments and ships are duds.

But this year’s plethora of Romulan ships is startling given that even in years when clunkers were released (namely the Borg cube, the Rio Grande runabout, the Scorpion fighter ship and the Vulcan command ship) they were hard to come by after Christmas.

The glut of character ornaments isn’t that surprising. spockWhen it comes down to it, the Star Wars character ornaments are almost always more interesting and dynamic. Whereas the Trek ornaments feature basically humans in drab poses, the Star Wars characters are very colorful and larger than life. This isn’t meant to revive the old Trek vs. Wars debate, it’s just to point out that there is a disparity between the two franchises lately when it comes to ornaments. The first Trek character ornaments looked more interesting and featured them in various poses. Like this Spock ornament released in1996.

Compare this 2005 Khan ornament:

With this one of Chewbacca:

Now ask yourself which makes a better ornament? A better looking gift for collectors?

Let’s be clear, Star Trek ornaments are not doomed. It is possible to put out ornaments that capture the fans’ eye. The ship ornaments from the past three years (the Reliant, a Klingon battle cruiser and 2009’s Enterprise) looked fantastic and were difficult to obtain after the holidays. And by looking at older diorama scenes and characters anyone can tell that Trek has plenty of life left in it when it comes to ornaments. Trek has a vast library and history with viable subjects. Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas used to sell ornaments featuring aliens from the shows, Hallmark should consider that at least trying the aliens or obscure ships as a limited edition trial balloons or convention exclusives.

Here is a list of what Hallmark could produce in the next few years. Add to the list any ship or character introduced in any upcoming film or show.

Spaceships:

  • The U.S.S. Kelvin seen from the 2009 Star Trek movie, that’s the ship that Kirk’s father died in by ramming it with the Narada. NOTE: This will be an ornament for 2013.
  • The shuttle crafts and pods seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • The NX-01 Enterprise, yes they made a metal-plated ornament back in 2002 but it wasn’t lit and too heavy to put on a tree.
  • From Star Trek: Voyager how about Chakotay’s Maquis ship or the Equinox? Tie it in with the anniversary of the show for relevance.
  • For Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Hallmark could put out the Jem’ Hadar fighter ship or a Cardassian Galor-class ship.
  • The shuttlepod used by Kirk and Scotty to inspect the Enterprise refit back in the first Trek film. The characters should be clearly visible.
  • The Excelsior or Enterprise B, like the Miranda-class ship (most famously represented by the Reliant) this class of ship was often seen in the movies and shows.
  • Other possibilities include Picard’s first command the Stargazer, the Narada, future Spock’s jellyfish-shaped ship from 2009’s Star Trek, a Borg Sphere, the Phoenix from Star Trek: First Contact and even do a mini-ornament set featuring all the known Enterprise ships.

Characters and Dioramas:

  • Kirk wearing the spacesuit seen in “The Tholian Web.”
  • A diorama with Spock and his parents from “Journey to Babel” and aliens like Andorians are a must.
  • Harry Mudd or Cyrano Jones (the latter should have a tribble in his hand).
  • A pre-Starfleet Kirk on his motorbike from 2009’s Trek film.
  • Hallmark could consider releasing the original Trek characters like Kirk and Spock wearing their red uniforms from the movies. The red will contrast nicely on trees.
  • Major characters like Spock or Picard wearing those white spacesuits.
  • A Gorn (or a Gorn vs. Kirk diorama by those famous outcroppings), Gul Dukat, a Jem’ Hadar, or a Borg drone.
  • A view from a runabout or the Defiant bridge with the Bajoran Wormhole on the viewscreen. Lights and sound are mandatory.
  • A diorama depicting the fight on the Narada’s drilling platform where Kirk and Sulu face off against the Romulans from 2009’s Trek.
  • Some kind of diorama featuring the Klingons during one of their ceremonies, there are many to choose from.
  • The first meeting between humans and Vulcans from Star Trek: First Contact.

Jose Soto

‘Tis The Week For Trailers!

As this year winds to a close and the anticipation rises for next year’s film offerings one thing to whet our collective appetites are the trailers. This week it seems as if Hollywood as decided to send some gifts to us fans by releasing trailers for some of the most anticipated flicks for 2012.

Moviegoers who watch The Adventures of Tintin on Wednesday will be able to see a trailer for Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which will be enough to fill the seats the same way those Star Wars: Episode I trailers filled then emptied movie houses once those trailers ended. In the same fantasy genre, there is another new trailer for Wrath Of The Titans the followup to Clash Of The Titans.

Released this week exclusively on iTunes and certain to be embedded soon is the official trailer for The Dark Knight Rises, and it looks just as badassery as the previous Batman film.

In addition to a new German trailer for The Avengers, a trailer was released today for another trailer due in three days: Ridley Scott’s supposed Alien prequel Prometheus. (Technically it isn’t a prequel since Ridley Scott just confirmed the Xenomorphs don’t appear in this film but it supposedly takes place in the same universe.) It sounds absurd, a trailer for a trailer, but after such a long wait and with so little to go on, it’s a terrific appetizer for the main course! And it’s really great hearing that eerie Alien music last heard waaaay back in 1979 during previews for the first Alien.

Waldermann Rivera

UPDATE: Well, here it is, the official trailer for Prometheus, and it’s pretty obvious that it’s a prequel to Alien. Frankly, the countdown teasers for this has been worth the wait!

Digital Comics Rising

It’s pretty obvious that the world of digital comics is expanding at a phenomenal rate. As tablets and smartphones become more commonplace it won’t be too long before the number of readers of digital comics could eclipse that of regular paper comics.

Companies like DC and Marvel sell digital downloads and even offer free downloads to sample their comics. And it’s very easy to download comics. Just download an app with Comixology, iVerse Media’s Comics + or even from comic book companies themselves. In fact, Marvel, DC, IDW, Dark Horse and others also offer free apps.

After downloading the apps, just sign up for a free account. Readers are taken to the sites’ main menu where they can buy comic books. There are literally thousands of titles to choose from, no more running around to different comic book stores to find that elusive issue that is sold out everywhere. A simple search button will yield instant results. At this point the sites don’t have complete collections but the library is growing so it won’t be inconceivable to have a complete collection of Fantastic Four digitally.

Once they’re downloaded, the comics go into the cloud so they can’t be lost even if you’re device is damaged. Anyone can go into a friend’s laptop or desktop and view their own comics. While comics can be read on traditional computers, reading them on mobile devices is the way to go becausenow the digital comics are as portable as regular paper comics. What’s more is that images can be enlarged to better appreciate the art and a simple swiping of fingers allows page turning to be easier than regular comics. Plus readers don’t have to worry about being careful with reading mint comics and the online comics don’t have any ads to skip over.

Before buying comics, readers are given a preview of a couple of pages to sample the comic. This can be a disadvantage to regular paper comics where a reader can conceivably skim through the entire issue before deciding to buy the comic. But many times, companies offer several-page previews or even an entire first issue which gives one a better idea of what they’re going to buy.

These free downloads are an excellent way to preview comics or characters. DC jumped at this opportunity by offering downloads of popular characters and calling them for example Flash 101, which offers origins and first appearances of characters, complete with cover galleries. It’s a great introduction for new readers and DC should use this concept more with their lesser known characters.  One can only wonder why Marvel isn’t doing this.

DC certainly has the edge when it comes to digital comics. It seems as if they wholeheartedly embraced the concept especially when they launched The New 52 earlier this year when they relaunched their titles on paper and digital on the same day. These digital comics revived DC’s sales, in fact, for September 2011 they were the only company to have reported a sales increase of 1000% that is simply incredible.

However, not all is perfect with digital comics. To really compete, digital comics must offer more for the same price. For example a paper comic is $2.99 or $3.99 and that is supposedly due to production and print costs. Then why are online comics the same price? Sure if one is patient, individual issues usually drop in price weeks later, but why should the costs be the same on the first day of issue? If companies are to charge the same price then incentives should be offered. This could include creator commentaries, scripts, galleries and sketches. The comics should have a toggle button pencil inks and even one to remove the word balloons so readers can really appreciate the artwork.

Companies need to take advantage of the interactive features that are possible with online comics. One thing that can be done is to include live, real-time reader comments and updates. This means that a reader can finish a book then be able to comment on the issue which will show up immediately in that book’s commentary section.

While currently downloaded comics offer suggested links to similar titles, the comics should offer a link to a superhero homepage, that is that homepage would explain who is the character, show maps and galleries and databases on characters and story arcs. In DC’s case, offer a link to their 101 introductions or include it with the initial download of a particular comic. Annuals should be annotated with sound f/x which could be an incentive to buy them.

Perhaps the Justice League annual, the deluxe edition, can have voice actors, CG effects, sound effects, original music composed and conducted for the annual; the penci/inlk/color/word ballon toggle, interviews with the editor, writer, artists, dropdown reader commentary (the letters page), link to the Hall of Justice where you can get a converged version of the 101s, like Superman 101 will present not only comics, but TV shows, animation, gaming, trailers, and movie versions. Also polls asking for opinions of a particular issue, character, or villain, etc.
 
Also, DC Universe online should converge with the New 52. And of course, any new mass media creation should be cross compatible with other media, meant to tie unto an integrated universe. 
 
They could have started with the Green Lantern movie and linked him with the future formation of the Justice League. DCUO could have merged the Ryan Reynolds GL into the game. That’s the big picture examples of how digital comics can further evolve.
 
Check out this video from the annual big idea conference TED, which stands for Technology, Enternatinent, Developers:
 
 
 
Here they show what an ebook can do. DC & Marvel really should exploit the best that tech has to offer to show that a superhero story can envelope a convergence of media.

There is still room to grow with digital comics. Perhaps some of these suggestions could be utilized to fully realize digital comics’ potential. In the end this could be what saves comics.

José Soto and GEO