2012 Doomsday Scenarios: Month Nine

As intriguing as it is to conjure up many doomsday scenarios, one common worry is the likelihood of them. But one scenario is especially disconcerting because it’s entirely plausible and based on recent events all too likely. What is it? What is the greatest threat? Why us, of course, and it need not be anything exotic, all the ingredients for an apocalypse are right here.

Doomsday Scenario No. 4: Our Own Worst Enemy

Take a pick, there are so many mundane yet deadly ways to bring about our downfall. The result may not necessarily mean humanity’s extinction or the end of the world but our way of life, our society, order itself can easily topple due to the following:

Social Unrest & Despots

Look around the news and see all the upheavals and strife throughout the world. The Middle East as always seems to be on the precipice of Armageddon with all the saber rattling, riots and terrorist attacks. Here in the West we think we’re somewhat inoculated from all that anarchy. But it’s always there. In the U.S. there is brewing antagonism between those on the left and right. It is a powder keg that isn’t going away. All it takes is for some protestor or anarchist or an overwhelmed officer or citizen to light the fuse. Back in the 1960s the controversial Vietnam War nearly led to a civil war in the U.S. In fact, throughout U.S. history there have been many tenuous moments with the worst being the Civil War. The country and others will always be dealing with keeping order. In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine there was a two-part episode “Past Tense” where Ben Sisko accidently time travels to the 2020s and takes part in the social movement called the Bell Riots. It’s stated in those episodes that the aftermath of that deadly period of time led to positive societal changes and ultimately the founding of the Federation.

Though social discourse can lead to positive changes, other times it can usher in dark historic chapters. Sad examples of that includes Germany, Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda where evil despots and their minions rose to power and unleashed horrendous genocides against others.

In science fiction, there are countless novels and films dealing with future dictators coming to power and creating totalitarian societies. One of the more famous sci-fi dictators is Khan from Star Trek, but the original show often made references to future human despots named Krotus and Lee Kuan. The most famous dictatorships is in George Orwell’s 1984, where citizens live under perpetual surveillance and paranoia. In Allen Steele’s Coyote novels, North America is ruled in the late 21st century by an extreme right-wing government and later by a left-wing power. Both of which spurred the migration to the habitable moon Coyote. The popular book and film The Hunger Games details the totalitarian country Panem, which arose from the ashes of the U.S. sometime in the future. In The Handmaid’s Tale, a theocratic dictatorship rules what was once the U.S. and persecutes its citizens. Another instance of harsh theocratic rule comes in Octavia Butler’s Parable Of The Sower where non-Christians are placed in re-education camps in a North America withered by poverty and scarce resources.

Scarce Resources

One underlying cause of war and societal stress boils down to resources. Right now, energy is the primary resource that is driving and hampering our civilization. There is the issue of oil and finding a viable alternative. The problem with oil is that it is becoming scarce and contributes to global warming. Until a successful alternative is found, we’re stuck with it. The Persian Gulf War was fought because Iraq’s conquest of Kuwait and threat to Saudi Arabia would’ve affected oil production and global economies.

There is a special that often runs on the National Geographic channel called Aftermath: When The Oil Runs Out that explores what would happen if that event occurred. Basically, civilization is turned upside down as martial law then conflicts and famine strike the world.  In the Road Warrior, major battles are fought between factions over dwindling gasoline supplies.

But energy isn’t the only resource to fight over. There is food, land, and raw materials. Native Americans were driven off their ancestral lands by Americans in order to exploit the riches found in those lands. Avatar was of course a metaphor for what happened with the Native Americans. However, a now plentiful resource is on its way to becoming scarce and tomorrow’s most sought after commodity: water. Many predict that wars will be fought in the near future over dwindling water supplies. Cameron Stracher’s book The Water Wars depicts a future where the scarcity of fresh water decimates society.

Economic Meltdown

The U.S. is in the grip of Great Recession while Europe is facing an economic collapse. This is a genuine cause for alarm since the specter of an economically devastated nation will have a cascading effect. Just look at the Great Depression to get an idea of what will happen. Mass migration, social strife, riots, overwhelmed communities, the list goes on. And it’s a prime opportunity for radicals and dictators to gain power. Basically chaos will reign unhindered. Many sci-fi works like the TV mini-series The Fire Next Time predict that economic collapse will come from extraordinary events, with The Fire Next Time it was global warming. In the TV show Dark Angel, the U.S. was in the midst of a crippling depression caused years before by an EMP detonation. While those factors will indeed destroy economies, mundane events like the current housing crises can just as easily disrupt our global economy.

In Norman Spinrad’s novel Russian Spring, America is a nation in economic decline while Russia is experiencing an economic renaissance and has become the de facto super power in the world. The consequence is that some of the main American characters wound up leaving the U.S. for better opportunities abroad.

On the other hand, there is a fear that corporations will dominate our governments. Many would say that has happened already. Transnational corporations control the world in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy, and this concept was seen in the film Rollerball. If  governments give up sovereignty to companies, what would happen to our rights?

State Of War

The idea of world peace is a noble one, but no matter how many times it seems to be on the horizon, our dark side emerges. Today many are rightfully concerned by the threat of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and a military response. It’s believed this could cause World War III. But the Middle East isn’t the only tinderbox to potentially ignite a Third World War. One could easily begin in Asia as China gains more power. Already there are new tensions between China and Japan. Then there is the issue of Taiwan, the U.S. is committed to protecting it from China. Plus, look at North Korea, the people there live in complete despair yet seem all too eager to die for their insane leaders.

The fictional Oceania in 1984 always seemed to be in some state of war as its citizens were constantly whipped up into a war fervor over that country’s rivals. H.G. Wells novel The Shape Of Things To Come, showcases a world under the grip of a decades-long, alternate account of World War II that lasted much longer than in real life. Eventually civilization collapses and is reformed under a so-called benign dictatorship that brings order.

Conclusion

The above are just some issues that our society faces. Humanity needs to undergo a fundamental change to purge dark impulses. Perhaps an evolutionary step is needed where it becomes ingrained not to give in to our hatred and fear. That will take a very long time and much more misery. Maybe a cataclysmic event will do it, which is what happened with the Vulcan culture in Star Trek. The Vulcans are renowned for their peaceful ways but only true fans know that once they were a barbaric race that nearly killed themselves off with nuclear wars. Only by turning to a new belief system, in their case logic, did they save themselves.

Looking back at history, it’s apparent that society is always straddling between order and peace and war and chaos. The fact that we’re aware of our faults and are trying to fight them is a reason to hope for a better tomorrow.

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Major Plot Holes Throw Looper For A Loop

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis team up the film Looper, a rather disappointing time-travel thriller, which is too bad because the potential was there for it to be phenomenal. Gordon-Levitt stars as Joe who is an assassin in the year 2044. He lives in Kansas and his job is to kill people sent bound and gagged from the future. Joe explains that thirty years from his present time travel is discovered but is instantly outlawed. The only ones who use it are criminal organizations who use it to send their targets back into the past because it is nearly impossible to dispose of a body in the future.

Joe lives a happily empty criminal life until one day he discovers that his next target is actually himself from the future. His future self is played by Bruce Willis and he does a credible job of portraying a supposedly reformed criminal that is trying to save his skin and rewrite history. When the Gordon-Levitt Joe first confronts his future self, the Willis Joe manages to escape with a mission at hand. The Gordon-Levitt Joe is targeted by his employers who now want to kill him and his future self, yet instead of going on the run, he still wants to kill his future self, hoping he will get in good graces again. This doesn’t make much sense, nor does much of the movie.

One flaw with Looper is that it adds too many subplots. For instance, the future version of Joe not only wants to stay alive but wants to do a Terminator and find and kill the child version of the criminal boss that had him sent back to the past. Enter Emily Blunt as Joe’s love interest. She plays a farmer and a mother named Sara whose son Cid is future Joe’s target. So the Gordon-Levitt Joe hides out in her farm waiting for his future version to turn up while building a relationship with the mother and son. But the plot twists don’t end there, in the future a mutation appears among people that allows telekinesis and Cid happens to be an especially powerful mutant.

Honestly, when this development turned up, Looper strayed away from its original premise and came off as an uninspired X-Men movie. Another thing is that it’s difficult to find anyone sympathetic in the movie, even the boy Cid isn’t likeable. He looks like a perfect Damien for a new version of The Omen.  Joe is largely an unrepentant killer and drug addict. Joe’s future version is more cold blooded whose excuse for the Terminator rampage is that his future wife will be killed by Cid’s people. Unlike the Terminator films, it never is shown how bad Cid will become so no one can really root for the future Joe to kill this child. A word of caution, despite the trailers promising an action-packed spectacle, Looper has very little in the way of action. There are some chase and fight scenes but they lack energy and urgency.

Then there are the mechanics of the premise. If illegal time travel is used by criminals why are they worried about disposing of bodies, wouldn’t it be more of a crime to be caught using time travel technology that can be used to rewrite history? Why kill the targets when they come back? No one bothers to interrogate them to learn about the future, one would think that a criminal wouldn’t at least want to pull a Biff Tannen and learn sport scores to get rich! Why send them only thirty years back? The film never establishes that there is a limit to how far back a target can be sent. So why not send them to a preshistoric past or to the middle of some great catastrophe?

Looper has some good points. The production design showcasing a decaying U.S. and an opulent China was well done and it was refreshing to see a film not take place in a futuristic New York or Chicago. Joseph Gordon-Levitt also gets kudos for playing subtly a young version of Bruce Willis. Of course, he doesn’t look like the Willis we’ve seen back in Moonlighting but there are some slight resemblances and Gordon-Levitt shows enough of Willis’ mannerisms to pull the feat off. Looper tried to be different but in the end maybe someone should’ve gone back in a temporal loop to fix the screenplay before filming began.

Lewis T. Grove

Top 25 Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes

Star Trek Next Generation Crew

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, here’s a look at the 25 best episodes from that show’s seven-year run.

25. “Conspiracy” This paranoid episode has the Enterprise  D crew fighting against a conspiracy to takeover Starfleet by worm-like aliens.

24. “Face Of The Enemy” Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) is captured and forced to impersonate a Romulan officer to help transport Romulan defectors.

23. “Future Imperfect” First Officer Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) wakes up sixteen years in the future without a memory of what has happened in all that time.

22. “The Pegasus” Riker and the Enterprise crew must assist his former commanding officer (Terry O’Quinn) to salvage an experimental starship before the Romulans do.

21. “Remember Me” Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) finds herself in a reality where people begin to disappear without anyone remembering the losses.

20. “The Defector” A Romulan officer defects to the Federation with a warning of a pending war. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) must decide if he’s trustworthy.

19. “The Wounded” The Enterprise is sent into Cardassian space to stop a renegade Starfleet captain with his ship from starting a war with the Cardassians.

18. “The Most Toys” The android Commander Data (Brent Spiner) is captured by an eccentric and heartless collector who thinks of him as a priceless commodity.

17. “Relics” Scotty (James Doohan) from the original Star Trek is rescued by the Enterprise crew and must adapt to a life that is very different from what he knew.

Relics Scotty and Picard

16. “The Ensigns Of Command” Data has to evacuate unwilling, prejudiced colonists from a world before a malevolent alien force arrives.

15. “Redemption II” The Klingon Civil War concludes as Picard leads an armada to aid Worf’s (Michael Dorn) side and deals with intervening Romulans.

14. “The Inner Light” Picard unwittingly lives out an entire lifetime in his mind as a member of a long-dead alien race as a means of preserving their entire culture.

13. “Cause And Effect” The Enterprise is caught in a nasty time loop where it’s destroyed over and over again.

12. “Hollow Pursuits” This episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation spotlights on Enterprise crewmember Reginald Barclay (Dwight Schultz), who is addicted to the holodeck where he creates perfect scenarios for himself.

11. “A Fistful Of Datas” One of the best broken holodeck episodes has Worf, his son and Troi trapped in a wild west setting against a town full of Datas portraying various characters, complete with all the great Western clichés.

10. “Transfigurations” In many ways, this episodes best exemplifies Gene Roddenberry’s hopeful vision for humanity. The Enterprise crew rescues an amnesiac alien with healing powers. The nascent would-be romance between him and Dr. Crusher was very tender and uplifting. As was his metamorphosis into a higher state of being and his high regard for humanity.

9. “Chain Of Command, Parts I & II” Captain Picard is unceremoniously reassigned to infiltrate a Cardassian bioweapons facility and is captured. Meanwhile, Riker has to contend with Picard’s acrid replacement (Ronny Cox). The acting by Stewart while Picard is tortured by the Cardassians was exceptional, as was the level of tension onboard the Enterprise as war loomed.

8. “Ship In A Bottle” The best holodeck episode in Star Trek: The Next Generation. A self aware holographic simulation of Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis Prof. Moriarty holds the Enterprise crew hostage until a way is found for him to leave the holodeck. See the episode’s end when Picard wryly wonders if their reality is actually a form of entertainment for someone else!

7. “Parallels” Lt. Worf finds himself drifting through several different realities. One has Riker commanding the Enterprise while Worf is married to Troi. At one point, the starship’s viewscreen is filled with many alternate Enterprises. One of them coming from a shocking reality which has a desperate and haggard Riker on the run from the triumphant Borg.

6. “Tapestry” The god-like entity Q (John DeLancie) comes to Picard after the captain dies and offers him a chance to rewrite his own history. The result being that Picard’s life isn’t so wonderful. He learns the hard way that he needed pain and adversity to help him succeed in his life and career. A sobering lesson for anyone who want to play it safe in life.

Darmok

5. “Darmok” This is a high bar for a first-contact scenario show. What made “Darmok” so memorable was Paul Winfield’s sympathetic performance of an alien Picard meets. The problem is that the alien speaks in confusing metaphors which cannot be translated. The alien risks his and Picard’s life by transporting the themselves down to a hostile world so that they can find a way to communicate. It’s something rarely seen in Star Trek where universal translators always come in handy.

4. ” Q Who?” The cold and powerful cybernetic race called the Borg make their debut in this second season episode. Feeling that the Federation and Picard were getting too pompous, Q transports the Enterprise into deep space and a first-time encounter with the horrifying Borg. Before long, Picard realizes that his ship is outmatched by the superior Borg cube ship and has to swallow his pride and beg for Q’s help.

3.”All Good Things…” One of the very best series finales for any show. It ended the show just right and left many wanting more. In this finale, Q returns and bounces Captain Picard across three different time periods; the present, the future and to the very first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation to figure out what will cause the universe’s destruction. It was great seeing the future versions of the crewmembers and how they looked at the beginning, which illustrated how far they and the show had come.

2. “Yesterday’s Enterprise” One of Star Trek’s best time-travel episodes mostly takes place in an alternate universe. Picard’s Enterprise is a strictly military vessel and part of a Federation that is losing a brutal war against the Klingons. The Enterprise encounters a time rift where its predecessor, the Enterprise C, emerges. It turns out that the vessel and crew were critical for cementing peace between the two galactic powers and needs to go back to its original time period to correct the timeline. Picard has to decide if he should risk sending the older ship back in time. Viewers got to see a more militant and harder edged crew including a very much alive Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby), who died back in the first season.

Yesterday's Enterprise

1. “The Best Of Both Worlds, Parts I & II” The Borg at their best! Before being overused and watered down by Star Trek: Voyager, the Borg are shown in their nearly invulnerable, terrifying glory. The third-season ender has the Borg sending a cube towards Earth. Picard and his crew grapple with the fact that they or even the Federation may not survive the invasion. The first part of the storyline ended with the best Star Trek cliffhanger as Captain Picard was captured and assimilated, forcing Riker to turn against him. The second part has the Enterprise crew desperately trying to keep the Borg from invading Earth and saving Picard. Both episodes were chilling, exciting and glued fans to the TV sets.

José Soto

An American Doctor Who

The first time the Eleventh Doctor wore a cowboy hat in the Doctor Who episode “The Impossible Astronaut”, an idea began percolating in many heads. That is what if the character were to be remade as being distinctly American? In other words, do a version of Doctor Who that predominantly takes place in the U.S. instead of London with an American cast–or at least actors playing Americans.

Many classic American TV shows were actually based on British ones like All In The Family and The Office, and Syfy is now airing an American version of the U.K. genre hit Being Human. So would an American Doctor Who work? Of course, the idea sounds blasphemous to many die-hard Who fans but it could be pulled off, and more importantly, would demonstrate the show’s universal concept and appeal.

An American Doctor

With that stated, what would an American Doctor Who be like? The concept would be basically the same; it would be about a slightly daffy humanoid alien who traverses time and space with Earthling Companions. It could have the same plot lines and background. The Doctor would still be near-immortal, lonely and slightly odd, only this time he would have an American accent. Plus he would also  have relationship issues with his female Companions. Yes, there would be episodes that take place in England and the rest of Europe but in the same ratio as current Doctor Who episodes take place across the pond. It really doesn’t matter where the show takes place since the Doctor travels anywhere in the universe.

Police boxes are very British so the Americanized TARDIS can’t be based on that. How about a vehicle? And try something outrageous like an RV. It would fit in with the eccentric nature of the Doctor and be a tip of the hat to the Back To The Future films. Needless to say, the RV would be bigger on the inside…

Bigger on the inside…

As for the Doctor himself, well this Americanized Time Lord would have the basic personality traits of the Doctors seen in the BBC version. But he would have an American twist. He would be adorned with clothing from various eras in U.S. history. Just look at the current Doctor in the episodes “The Impossible Astronaut” and “A Town Called Mercy” where the Doctor sports a cowboy hat. The American Doctor could wear a cowboy outfit throughout a season or two. Then when he would regenerate he could take on the personality of a surfer dude and run around with tropical shirts and a Panama hat. Throw in some cargo shorts for good measure. Have him take on the aspects of a biker with a heavy leather jacket. It would work, look at how cool the Ninth Doctor looked with his leather jacket and jeans during his brief run on the show. Or adorn the Doctor in a mishmash of styles that would be part hippie, part cowboy, part yuppie and part something else.

The would-be Doctor and his Companion.

There wouldn’t be a shortage of actors who could play the Time Lord. If Doctor Who made the transition into a full-length film then it’s easy to imagine Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, or Johnny Depp playing him. But for the small screen, the producers could offer the role to someone who can do drama and comedy. The show isn’t a straight comedy but the current show does have a humorous bent. For that reason, they can hire French Stewart to play the Doctor. Bryan Cranston is another good choice if they want to have the character seem a bit older, which would be more in spirit with the first few Doctors. Besides, having Cranston traveling in an RV would be nice nod to his show Breaking Bad. One advantage for producers with the Doctor being a metamorphic alien is that if an actor wants to leave the show, it would be simple storywise to replace him. Although it is easy to imagine that an actor would stay with the role much longer than in the U.K.

The Doctor and his buddy Companion drive off to new adventures.

Please visit the Starloggers website to continue reading.

José Soto

Why The Resident Evil Movies Are Popular

With the release of the fifth Resident Evil movie Resident Evil: Retribution coming up soon, the question has been asked, why are these movies popular enough to warrant so many sequels? Here are some ideas I have.

The Resident Evil movies are based on the phenomenal video game series of the same name that has players fighting all types of zombies created from a bioengineered virus. They are really the only big budget adaptations of video games out there that have been successful. Most of the other video game movies that have been released have been low budget and not well received. Examples include super Mario Bros., Bloodrayne, Doom and Double Dragon. The only other franchise I can think of that had some success was Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie. But that franchise only lasted two movies since the second one was not as successful or well received as the previous movie.

Director Paul W.S. Anderson, who directed the first Resident Evil movie and the fourth and fifth one, is another reason for the movie franchise’s success. While not a great director Anderson is at least competent in what he does, making good action movies. I think his other movies have been well done like Event Horizon and the first Alien Vs. Predator. They are certainly better than those Michael Bay movies that are basically loud, mindless and difficult to follow in terms of action (the Transformers movies come to mind).  Having his wife Milla Jovovich starring as Alice in these films doesn’t hurt either. Plus, while he didn’t direct the second and third movies, he has written and produced all five of them, which kept him involved with the series.

Another point is that the movies loosely follow the games and have branched off to have their own storylines. So what happens next is a surprise to long-time players of the games.  Lastly, the Resident Evil movies continue to be made probably because the video games themselves are still very popular. This fall, Resident Evil 6 will be released for the PS3 and Xbox 360. And the previous games in the series have all been huge sellers. Capcom, the company that makes the games, has also released CG animated movies and continues to do so. In short, Resident Evil continues to be relevant, which keeps the movies highly anticipated with fans of the horror/sci-fi franchise.

C.S. Link