Category Archives: sf

Fringe ends

Another great sf television show was lost last Friday. Fringe was a show that I got into late – and I understand very clearly that I am part of the problem because of that. We are offered so few challenging shows on television, so it is up to us to not only support them but also share them with other potential viewers. I failed to get on board sooner, mostly thanks to the fact that the first season is merely adequate. It doesn’t sell the high concepts that came in the later seasons. Read the rest of this entry

Xenoblade Chronicles

“I’m sorry, I just got out of a pretty intense relationship, and I’m just not ready for anything long term yet. Can we just hang out and have a little fun?” – Me to most other games after finishing Xenoblade Chronicles

 

It is unexpected for any Wii game to take nearly 100 hours to complete. After all, Nintendo is supposed to be the well-marketed system for the casual crowd. The focus should be on the Just Dance and Mario Party games, not an intense and sprawling action RPG that has taken some obvious cues from MMORPGs. But earlier this year, thanks in part to Operation Rainfall, Nintendo released Xenoblade Chronicles in America. I have been playing the game on and off since its release in April, and I am happy to report that I finally finished it. Read the rest of this entry

Tales of Time Travels: Looper and Doctor Who (“The Angels Take Manhattan”) double review

This post may contain spoilers about Looper. I’ve done my best to keep it somewhat vague, but perceptive readers might be able to figure it out. As for Doctor Who, I’m less vague. Why? Because I think the accessibility of television shows allows us to tiptoe far less.

Time travel stories are simultaneously some of the most intriguing and frustrating science fiction tales out there. They offer glimpses of possibilities that we will likely never, and should never, know while being burdened with the fact that they must tell a compelling narrative. If most individuals were provided the means to travel through time, the stories would be uninteresting and/or disastrous. Meeting idols and family members do not necessarily make for compelling fiction. Nor does the likely scenario of someone simply breaking time and space for doing something stupid. (“Well, they’re going to learn how to make fire eventually, so what the hell?”)

io9, likely directly inspired by watching Looper, recently posted an article about how messy time travel stories, those with uncertain rules and no desire to adhere to a stable loop and timeline, are some of the most interesting. I cannot say that I agree, but I can understand Charlie Jane Anders’ point of view. After all, when the end is the beginning is the end of a story, where’s the fun of it? Everything seems boxed into place in a manner that seems to hit the border between OCD and OCPD. But that doesn’t mean time travel stories should eschew rules. Otherwise it becomes far too convenient. Read the rest of this entry

Fringe – “Everything in Its Right Place”

Unlike other TV shows, being able to have a conversation with yourself is a sign of having a strong grasp of reality on Fringe.

Fringe is a difficult show to start watching. Tuning in for new episodes is difficult due to the serialized nature of the show, but even starting from the beginning can be rough. Before it reaches its current state of brilliant science fiction, it starts in the muddled area of X-Files-esque science monster-of-the-week nonsense. Maybe that is unfair to say because I never really cared for X-Files. But Fringe did start in that area, especially since it resembled more of a knock-off than anything else.

Until the final episode of the first season introduces viewers to the Other Side, the parallel universe that resembles the point-of-view universe with tweaks. Zeppelins float in the sky, the statue of liberty is made of bronze, and cappuccinos never became popular. (A world lacking in Starbucks?!) Aside from offering a slightly askew world, the Other Side also presents alternate interpretations of the characters and the question of how they got there. We are reaching the end of the fourth season, and every character has been faced with what makes them different. Read the rest of this entry

Torchwood: Miracle Day

It may have taken a few years, but Torchwood was finally continued in another high-concept series – this time in a joint British and American production. Children of Earth‘s concept was the desperation of humanity against an impossible to defeat alien threat that simply wanted to use their pre-pubescent children for drugs. Miracle Day, the latest effort, had an even more amazing concept – what would happen to the world if people stopped dying? It wasn’t a matter of invincibility, mind you. Even when decapitated or crushed, people stayed alive through what could only be described as a miracle. What does humanity do with a population that only increases in number? Vile things, it would seem.

There’s a lot to talk about with this particular series, but I’m going to try to streamline it. This is an approach I wish that BBC and Starz had taken with the series, which would have been brilliant at 5 episodes but seemed stretched thin at the 10 episodes they aired. Good storytelling with proper buildups would no doubt have a bit of slow movement in the middle of the series, but Miracle Day almost came to a crawl as the writers struggled to figure out how to slow down the pace that a proper Torchwood story should have. What made Children of Earth so effective was that it felt like a five hour movie, whether you saw it all at once or over the course of days. Miracle Day seemed less fluid and contiguous. I suspect it has everything to do with the arbitrary episode count.

But the series was brilliant nonetheless. I love the idea of exploring how humanity tries to deal with overpopulation (categorize and eliminate). I love the idea of taking the Torchwood team out of Wales, proving that their efforts really do affect the world. I love that they were taken away from the Torchwood tech, meaning that the solution to each problem did not depend on having the right miracle gadget. They played it smart, and I appreciate the series for that. The spirited performances also helped me to believe in the story and the new characters.

Bill Pullman did an amazing job as Oswald Danes, convicted pedo-rapist/murderer and first high-profile survivor through the miracle. I loved watching this complete slime rise in popularity despite how horrible everyone acknowledged he was, and I loved Captain Jack Harkness’ deconstruction of the man Oswald was hiding inside. His character arc was very subtle, but it was there. He basked in his glory until he realized that he was being recategorized as no longer living but rather as someone who should not be allowed to live. In helping to end the miracle, he found some level of redemption in the eyes of the viewers. Meanwhile, he proudly boasted he would likely go to hell when he was finally able to die, finally accepting his fate.

But what about the climax? To be honest, the payoff for the series was pretty damn disappointing. It should be a spoiler to say that some weird, two-opening creature that lives literally through the Earth was the cause of the miracle, but a lack of any sort of build-up or worthwhile explanation renders the spoiler pretty much null. It simply exists, and it proves Jack’s theory that the miracle was somehow caused by morphogenic field alteration. No, this isn’t made up sci-fi terminology. However, its application here is again stretched thin. The reversal of the morphogenic field needed to be explored further to be satisfactory. All the time they had was squandered.

I can’t help but think that I’m more intrigued by the concept of the series than anything else, and that helps me to acknowledge the poorer aspects but look past them for the rest. I’m not sure if any other show would take a chance on running a full concept through for a season. For any other show, this would have been a two-parter.

So would I recommend Miracle Day? Probably. I would sooner recommend Children of Earth, as that is truly mind blowing and heartbreaking. Miracle Day felt like it was almost but not quite the same. Maybe if they get another chance, if the ratings didn’t drop too much, they can build upon this and make a much better series. They already put in sequel hooks, after all. Still, more Torchwood is never a bad thing in my book.

Caprica is over – heady science fiction does not sell

Thought-provoking entertainment does not appear to belong anywhere on television. Earlier this year we watched Dollhouse crash and burn, and now it has been announced that Caprica will not be returning to SyFy for another season. The reason cited is that the show did not generate enough viewers. Never mind that SyFy split the first season into two halves, reprising the season at some random point in Autumn on a completely different night of the week. (A Friday to Tuesday move is odd, but it is sensible when one realizes that pro-wrestling presently earns among the highest ratings of anything on the channel.) But the problem is not with SyFy, as much as I want to blame them. The problem is the lack of audience. Read the rest of this entry