Celebrating Farscape, Part Two

castThe beloved sci-fi TV series Farscape celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. It was a true space opera with epic and inventive storylines and colorful characters. Farscape starred Ben Browder as John Crichton, an astronaut from Earth that got sucked into a wormhole and was stranded on the other side of the universe. Crichton quickly made friends and foes as he first struggled to survive, then tried to find a way to get back home. One such person he met during his travels would become the most important person in his life.

A Star-Crossed Affair

sunOut of all the exotic alien beings John  Crichton met in his spacefaring adventures, the one he connected with the most was Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black). In a clever bit of irony, the show’s creators had her antagonistic alien race, the Sebaceans, look exactly human. Coming from the harsh and militaristic Peackekeeper culture, Aeryn was disdainful toward Crichton, who she saw as weak. Actually she was hostile towards him because she blamed him for being stuck with the Moya crew, who were escaped convicts. She was part of the Peacekeeper force trying to re-capture Moya , a living ship, in the pilot episode, but her fighter ship was accidently pulled into Moya’s docking bay. Though she tried escaping, Aeryn was unable to return to her people because she was considered contaminated from her prolonged exposure to aliens, including Crichton. Eventually she became part of the crew and one of Moya’s fiercest defender. Crichton and her began to feel something for one another but tried to deny them. In the time-travel yarn “The Locket” the idea of them having a relationship was explored when old, future versions of themselves were shown to have been in love with each other.

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However, things weren’t so clear cut with them. For many episodes there was a “will they or won’t they” aspect as they bickered with each other and had other relationships. In the second season finale “Die Me, Dichotomy” Crichton admitted his love for her when it seemed that she died. Spoiler: She did die but was resurrected by fellow crewmate Zhaan (Virginia Hey). Things took a strange twist in the third season when Crichton was duplicated by a mad alien scientist (“Eat Me”). During that time the crew of Moya was split up with one Crichton remaining onboard Moya, while the other took off with Aeryn onboard Talyn, Moya’s offspring spaceship. That Crichton and Aeryn fully developed their romance and he actually found a way to return home, but tragically died at the end of the two-part episode “Infinite Possibilities”.

Meanwhile, the Crichton on Moya was unaware of all this and was expecting a happy reunion with her when the two ships finally made their rendezvous (“Fractures”). Instead he found a heartbroken woman who was unable to reciprocate his feelings. As far as he was concerned they were back to square one. This constant back and forth would’ve been tiresome to watch in your standard TV show but this was Farscape; it was provocative and scintillating.

Always In His Mind

John Crichton had an additional emotional bond with another alien, but in the other extreme. He had a burning hatred towards the creepy Scorpius (Wayne Pygram), who first appeared in the episode scorpius and chick“Nerve” and quickly became the main villain in the series. Clad in a thick leather suit and tight-fitting cowl, Scorpius had a cadaverous appearance with his pasty white, scaly skin, bloodshot eyes and short, dark teeth. He was a cold and calculating person who spoke in an unexpectedly eloquent and sophisticated tone and who would stop at nothing to achieve his goals. Scorpius is one of the greatest sci-fi villains and that is due to several factors which include Pygram’s performance and the character’s back story.

As explained in the episode “Incubator” the alien is a hybrid resulting from when a humanoid Sebacean female (who make up the Peacekeepers) was raped by a reptilian Scarran. When his mother died at childbirth, Scorpius was raised harshly by his Scarran caretakers who looked down at him as a halfbreed to be tortured and experimented on. After reaching adulthood, Scorpius escaped and joined the Peacekeepers with the goal of defeating the Scarrans. It should be noted that the Peacekeepers and the Scarrans were bitter rivals constantly on the verge of war. This episode went a long hidden memoryway to explaining Scorpius’ motives and the revelations added more dimension to his character. The viewer understood why he was so ruthless and brutal and why he was so determined to get Crichton. When he is introduced in the two-part episode “Nerve”/ “The Hidden Memory”, he learns from torturing a captured Crichton that the astronaut has buried knowledge in his subconscious on how to create wormholes. Crichton unknowingly received this information by advanced aliens he met in the episode “A Human Reaction”. From then on, Scorpius became an alien version of Javert, who was obsessed with capturing his very own Jean Valjean.  Scorpius was desperate to gain Crichton’s buried knowledge in order to construct weapons and use the wormhole-based weaponry against the superior Scarrans.

An interesting development was that before Crichton escaped Scorpius’ clutches in their first encounter, Scorpius implanted a sort of neural clone into Crichton’s mind. During times of great stress or danger, an imaginary version of Scorpius would appear to Crichton, usually as part of bizarre hallucinations. Sometimes this implant saved Crichton’s life, other times it kept him from killing Scorpius. The interactions between Crichton and “Harvey”, as he called the implant, were the highlights of many episodes. Their discussions unveiled many insights into Crichton’s character, sometimes they were humorous, other times they were poignant. Continue reading

Star Trek Into Darkness Blu-ray Not Worth Buying

bluray coverLast week, I headed out to my local Target to get some supplies and inside the store I saw those cardboard displays for the Star Trek Into Darkness blu-rays. I actually forgot about the release, it’s been a busy month.

Anyway, I eagerly clutched the nearest box that had a clear slipcase and then grabbed another one with the 3D cover of the Enterprise hurtling towards Earth. This was an impulse buy if there ever was one. I didn’t know which one to get. I saw there was another box design (the white one with the Starfleet symbol that had four images of different characters–it didn’t do much for me). So which one should I buy? The 3D cover one that included a 3D blu-ray of the film? The standard one with the clear plastic slipcase? Or the Target version, with the white cover? In the end, I didn’t buy any of them.

I wanted to see what the other stores sold. After I left Target, I went to Best Buy and saw they were also selling the standard blu-ray (no way was I buying just a DVD!) and the 3D version, plus a Best Buy version that had a black cover. Then I went to Wal-Mart and saw they had two distinct versions that I found interesting. walmartOne was a package that sold the standard blu-ray along with a blu-ray of the previous Star Trek film. The other was a nice package that had a Matchbox model of the U.S.S. Vengeance and a steelcase for the blu-ray. I discounted the combo when I saw that the Star Trek blu-ray was a bare-bones edition. But, I didn’t buy the one with the scale model either. In fact, I wound up not buying the blu-ray at all and atm I don’t plan on buying it.

Why not? I thought the Star Trek Into Darkness blu-ray was actually lame. It didn’t have anything great about it in terms of extras. Paramount in their inept greediness decided to split up the extras across several different retailers and they all offer their own unique behind-the-scenes features. To me that stuff is boring, some people like my pal GEO may enjoy looking at the filmmaking process, but often these features are just puff pieces where the filmmakers talk about how great their films are and what a terrific time they had making the films.  The only kind of features I enjoy are sometimes the director’s commentaries and I found out that I had to buy that on download from iTunes! To make matters worse, there weren’t any deleted scenes in any of the versions. Seriously, what is the point? Deleted scenes are the main reason for me to buy special edition blu-rays. Another is the really cool packaging.

GEO told me about his super deluxe blu-ray of The Avengers that he bought last year that had all the bells and whistles. Why doesn’t Star Trek Into Darkness have this? The best we got is a model and with Amazon a replica of a phaser that I read in reviews was shoddily made. Big deal! Look at the deluxe Star Trek blu-ray/DVD release that had a beautifully detailed Enterprise model that could store the discs. Why wasn’t this repeated?

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It’s not unheard of for popular genre films to get a super-deluxe blu-ray release so why wasn’t this done for Star Trek Into Darkness? Does Paramount actually expect fans like me to go on a scavenger hunt and buy multiple copies just to get a complete set of extras? Keep in mind, none of these versions has deleted scenes. Well the studio has another thing coming, I refuse to buy it. And I urge anyone reading this who is thinking of buying the blu-ray not to do so. Maybe by the holidays we’ll get a real deluxe edition as was done with Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings films. Either way, I’m saving my money for the Iron Man 3 blu-ray. That one as promised in the TV commercial, will have deleted scenes.

Waldermann Rivera

Special thanks to GEO

Top 10 Fringe Episodes

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Fringe, one of the most recently acclaimed sci-fi shows, concluded its five-season run earlier this year and its final season is out on Blu-ray/DVD this week. The show boasted many intriguing and memorable episodes that pushed the envelope in regards to storytelling. The show was about the investigations by a government agency into fringe science events like strange mutations and teleportation. The Fringe team led by Special Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv), Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble) and his son Peter (Joshua Jackson) encountered some really bizarre phenomena. While Fringe had many standout episodes, these ten were among the show’s very best stories.

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10. “The Arrival” The enigmatic Observer called September (Michael Cerveris) is fully introduced and right away viewers are fascinated by this strange, formidable being from the distant future who can predict actions.

9. “The Boy Must Live” This fifth-season episode boy must livetakes place (as does the entire season) in the future where the Observers have taken over the world. September and the Observers’ origins are finally revealed as is the forgotten plot devised by Bishop to defeat the Observers.

8. “Black Blotter” The Fringe team recover an empathic and mute child Observer called Michael (Rowan Longworth), who is the key to defeating the Observers. Meanwhile to aid in that task, Bishop takes a hallucinogen, which leads to some pretty trippy animated sequences. How trippy? Imagine Sgt. Pepper meeting Monty Python!

brave new world7. “Brave New World, Parts 1 & 2” The fourth season (and for a moment the series before it was renewed) closes with this exciting two-parter that has the Fringe team finally confronting Bishop’s former partner (Leonard Nimoy), who is out to destroy the universe and remake it to his own designs.

6. “There’s More Than One Of Everything” This first-season finale answers many questions about The Pattern events that the Fringe team was investigating while brining up many more questions and startling revelations. One of the biggest ones being about Peter’s identity. Plus, it introduces a parallel world where the World Trade Center is still standing.

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5.TIE: “The Plateau”/ “Amber 31422” These two episodes take place predominantly in the parallel world where Olivia was trapped and brainwashed amberinto believing she was her double. The episodes present viewers with intriguing plots about the affect the Fringe team have on the parallel world. “The Plateau” is about a gifted man who can forecast future possibilities using math, except for the unforseen variable of a different Olivia in his world. It would prove to be his undoing. “Amber 31422” examines the impact that the suspending amber chemical has on people living in the parallel world. Notably on twin brothers, one of whom was released from the substance and we learned what it felt like to be embedded in amber.

4. “Peter” This outstanding flashback episode explains how the entire mess peterwith the parallel world began. Taking place in 1985, Dr. Bishop comes up with a way to peer into a parallel world. Around the same time his son dies and he learns his son’s double in the other world is also dying, thus he decides to save that boy at a terrible cost. The episode had a nifty retro feel to it, even the opening credits reflected the 1980s with its electronic soundtrack and listings of cutting-edge technology during that time.

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3. “Entrada” The thrilling conclusion of the swapped Olivias storyline in season three has them both on the run in the two universes. Fauxlivia, the nickname for the Olivia from the parallel world has her cover blown. Meanwhile, the original Olivia manages to break her from her captors who were out to remove her brain for study. There was an urgent feeling of desperation shown by both Olivias as the original tried to make her way back to her own universe, while her malevolent double assigned to the original universe mercilessly avoided a manhunt led by Peter.

white tulip2. “White Tulip” One of the grisliest and most emotional stories dealing with time travel introduces Alistair Peck, a scientist (played exceptionally well by Peter Weller) who is experimenting with time travel. Peck is able to time travel by painfully and surgically implanting devices on his body. What gets the Fringe team involved is that his work winds up killing people by draining them of their energy. It turns out that Peck was only trying to save his wife from being killed in the past.

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1. “Over There, Parts 1 & 2” The two-part second-season finale takes place in the parallel universe as Dr. Bishop and Olivia travel there to retrieve Peter, who had defected to the other side. It was fun seeing all the differences in that other world. Examples include, lost friends and family who are still alive, canceled TV shows are still airing, the comic books are differentover there map (Red Lantern instead of Green Lantern), dirigibles fill an altered New York skyline, and even the map of the U.S. is radically different. But more enjoyable were the actors portraying alternate versions of their characters. Fauxlivia and Walternate were very effective villains and are part of the reason why Fringe was so much fun to watch.

Lewis T. Grove

Dark Knight Exhibit

photofourBatman fans living in the L.A. area were very lucky recently when Warner Bros. held a free Batman exhibit to coincide with last month’s Blu-ray and DVD release of The Dark Knight Rises.

It was called The Dark Knight Legend Exhibit and was held in L.A. LIVE from November 30, 2012 until December 14th, 2012. The exhibit was held under a humongous tent on a parking lot and thanks to all the props, displays, murals and vehicles it had a very moody atmosphere. It was like being in a Batcave of sorts.

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Visitors were greeted to large murals of Gotham City as seen in the Christopher Nolan Batman films along with Hans Zimmer iconic music. The first thing to see was beautiful artwork from various artists displayed as if in an art gallery.

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Moving past the art came real eye openers; several mannequins adorned with the costumes from The Dark Knight Rises and Nolan’s other Batman films. Moving deeper into the exhibit revealed assorted props in display cases and costumes worn by other characters in the Batman films. It was a thrill to see outfits worn by Bane, the Scarecrow and, of course, the Joker (the Heath Ledger version). One of the best parts was examining the cool gadgets from Batman’s utility belt and intricate maquettes.

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But any Batman fan would say that the highlight of The Dark Knight Legend Exhibit were the prominently displayed vehicles seen in all the Batman films and the 1960s TV show as well. It was great seeing all the different Batmobiles which started off with the 1960s, Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher versions to the tumbler vehicles. They even had a realistic mockup of the neutron bomb seen in The Dark Knight Rises and the Bat Signal too. The only thing missing was the Bat flying vehicle from The Dark Knight Rises. Maybe they didn’t have enough space for it.

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There were also videos along the walls featuring interviews with actors and production personnel that could be listened to via headphones. It was a nice way to experience the exhibit, which took about an hour to walk through leisurely.

It’s such a great exhibit that would’ve been enjoyed by more fans who don’t live in L.A. There isn’t any information as to whether or not Warner Bros. will have The Dark Knight Legend Exhibit elsewhere, but it’s something to be considered.

Article & photos by GEO

The Alien Movies Ranked

The Alien movies are some of the most well-loved films in science fiction and with the upcoming prequel Prometheus about to be released in the U.S., here are the films that preceded it in order of my personal preference:

1. Alien (1979) Ridley Scott’s sci-fi/horror masterpiece set the standard for this genre. Over the years I have come to regard this one as the best of the bunch because of how well it works. These are the elements that work: the claustrophobic feel of the freighter ship, the slow, but scary, build up to the mystery of what is on the planet that the crew land on and what exactly is picking them off. The infamous chestburster scene is still effective to this very day. The director’s cut on DVD and blu-ray is also very good and even shows a scene where Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) finds Captain Dallas in a cocoon after being attacked by the alien and burns him alive to put him out of his misery.

2. Aliens (1986) James Cameron created a sci-fi war epic that is one of the best films ever made. It created the image of the space marine that is so prevalent in films and video games today and is a great thrill ride from start to finish. The main character Ripley was joined by Newt (Carrie Henn), Hicks (Michael Biehn), Hudson (Bill Paxton) and others that  audiences grew to love. The extended edition shows the back story of the colony Hadley’s Hope and how the aliens took it over. On a side note there will be a video game next year entitled Aliens: Colonial Marines for the PS3 and Xbox 360 that will continue the story.

3. Alien 3 (1993) An underrated David Fincher film that is striking in its visuals and feel. Lone survivor Ripley crash lands on a  prison planet and is followed by a single alien that proceeds to wipe out the prison population harkening back to the original film.  I think this movie is excellent and unfairly hated because fan favorites Newt and Hicks were killed off. Many wanted a follow up to Aliens and instead got a dark almost existential film about Ripley at the end of her rope. This film had a video game adaptation for the Super NES in 1993 that actually played like a side scroller action game with lots of guns and aliens to fight. Quite different from the actual movie. There is also an alternate cut of the movie available on blu-ray and DVD. It restores a subplot of one of the prisoners worshipping the alien and releasing it when it was trapped by Ripley and shows the alien bursting out of an ox instead of a dog as in the theatrical version. Definitely something for fans to check out.

4. Alien Vs. Predator (2004) I’m putting this one ahead of the 4th film Alien: Resurrection since it is simply a better movie. Why it is hated so much is strange. A very good film that shows predators coming to Earth to hunt aliens in the south pole that they placed there as a rite of passage for their young. The set up with the archaeologists finding the eggs and alien queen in the underground temple is great and the battles between the two franchise monsters is lots of fun.

5. Alien: Resurrection (1997) The last Alien film with Ripley. It is set 200 years after her death and has her cloned to extract an alien queen from her body. It has interesting concepts with Ripley actually having alien DNA and blood in her system. The scene where she finds the previous versions of herself is both fascinating and disturbing. The movie returns to the idea of multiple aliens chasing down a rag tag group of mercenaries trying to escape a doomed ship. Seeing Ripley finally returning to Earth is also a nice way to finish her story.

6. Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) This entry is the only real misfire of the bunch. A follow up to the much better Alien Vs. Predator, the idea of a predator/alien hybrid sounds okay but looks kind of dumb when seen on film. The characters are very forgettable and the whole thing feels more like a bad Syfy movie of the week. Although it is neat to see the aliens crawling around a present-day town in Colorado, since most of the other movies are set in space and the future. I get the feeling that under another director this would have been so much better since the core story of a single predator hunting down aliens on earth is good and there are some good battles between the creatures.

C.S. Link