Wednesday, April 30, 2008

B5 S1 Ep20: Babylon Squared [Redux]

"Not The One" [for Straczynski either].

Friends. I cannot help myself. I keep pulling my Babylon 5 Season One box set out of the drawer and going backwards, which is not helping me in my mission to move forward. Damn! I keep wanting to revisit information and re-examine scenes I did not appreciate enough, or give the weight to, that I should have on the first go round. I will get this out of my system soon and move ahead. I think. Or could I be stuck some strange time anomaly? This is a truly fascinating series.

The level of strategy, planning and preparation that went into this series boggles the mind. Babylon Squared from Season One speaks volumes about what Straczynski was trying to achieve with the novelization of his series. There are hints of many delicious things to come. This is where you knew Straczynski was a genius. I look forward to reading about the making of his story and when he conceived the idea when I actually finish. Some day that will happen.

This scene with Garibaldi has a touch of James Cameron's Aliens. The future is unnervingly chaotic and exciting.
So Babylon Squared [redux]...

Yup, ya gotta love the old tachyon emissions in Sector 14 trick. Tachyon emissions are very high here and that nasty time anomaly has sent me back to take another look at Season 1.

This was the second episode, next to Signs And Portents, from Season 1 that really began to pull me in and get my blood going.

It was interesting to watch O’Hare again after a full season of Boxleitner. I definitely prefer the latter. I think it's pretty undeniable the replacement was a fine executive decision by the Straczynski-meister.

Babylon 4 vanished 24 hours after going operational four years earlier in Sector 14. By the way, I love the Babylon 4 design, and it definitely has its own distinct look separate and apart from B5. I was definitely hard on the B5 station design in the very early going perhaps due to a lack of patience. I admit it. Fortunately, thanks to a much-improved special effects/ CGI team, it really began to take form. Furthermore, a variety of angles/shots gave glimpse to more information on the intended vision. I will even confess that I have since purchased a pewter model verison of B5 so that I can gaze lovingly at it as I watch the program. It's the bigtime kid in me! So, I definitely rushed to judgment prematurely on that one. So, yes, I think both stations are really cool and I even wish they had Titanium Ultra versions of both hanging on store shelves next to Battlestar Galactica ships. I can dream. : )

One of the scenes I valued more given all of the events that have occurred since initially viewing this episode is the Sinclair flash forward. This is the sequence where Babylon 5 is being overrun by an invading force. I suspect it is The Shadows boarding the station though we never actually see them. If this is a snapshot of The Great War I am anxious for its arrival indeed. It is unnervingly chaotic and exciting. Further, as I mentioned earlier, Doyle has a kind of Bruce Willis vibe [it's not intentional- he looks like him and offers a similiar likeable affect] and he gives his best Die Hard performance here. I look forward to the possibility of this sequence being fleshed out and expanded upon in the future. I hope it comes to pass. It’s wild to re-wtiness elements of the series with new eyes. Scenes I gave little thought to appear much more profound now. I will definitely rewatch the entire series someday. You can't say that about many shows.

Kent Broadhurst plays Major Krantz [of Babylon 4] and quite frankly his performance is atrocious. Watching it again, it is absolutely cringeworthy. With Babylon 4 shaking apart at the seams thanks to the time anomaly he looks at Sinclair and Garibaldi with the crazed stair of a madman. He delivers quite possibly the worst performance of the series with this one frantic utterance, “We’ve become unstuck in time commander, that’s why we have to get out of here.” If you watch closely, Sinclair looks back at Garibaldi with what looks like a near roll of the eyes as if to say, “this guy is a nut.” The whole scene is funny because it's not executed well. Broadhurst offers a classic cult B5 moment just the same and aids in making O'Hare look like a great actor.

When I had initially reviewed this episode I had acknowledged Tim Choate’s performance as Zathras as a real highlight. This was one of the main reasons I came back to the episode and my opinion has not changed. I also found some of what he was saying to have more of an impact on me based upon the events of Season 2. It really is a special, meaty role. Seeing it again speaks volumes about The Shadows/ The Great War arc and where it’s headed. I did not fully understand the events of this episode the first time around.

So, The One helped reveal B4 in order that its crew could survive. We see The One appear, like a ghost, made unstable by the time anomaly. Zathras hands him a time stabilizer. [I could use one of those myself. I often feel like time is moving way too fast.] When Sinclair tries to touch The One he is blasted back clearly indicating the two cannot meet within the same time space. Let’s face it, if you’re reading this, you've watched the show, and you know The One is a future version of a battle-weary Sinclair. It’s an exciting revelation, but one I suspected prior to his removal of the spacesuit helmet.

This is the final segment featuring Choate as Zathras. It’s quite amusing. He sleighs me. His intentions are at once noble and self-serving as he wishes to pull B4 through the time anomaly to save the galaxy and perhaps be recognized in history as a hero.

"Zathras annoyed by frantic and yelling Kent Broadhurst."

In the final moments, Zathras is disabled by falling debris and utters these final fateful words to Sinclair just before departing the crumbling B4: “You have a destiny.” Moments later, The One appears before Zathras. He is there to rescue him. “Zathras trusts The One.” We are now aware of his survival and narrow escape with the mention of his character in Season 2's The Long, Twilight Struggle.

The second thread is happening simultaneously. During Season 2 we see Delenn literally rejected by the Grey Council and essentially banished as an outcast. Existing somewhere between the Minbari and the Earthers Delenn has come to feel very much alone. Of course she is blessed by the presence of her loyal attache and friend Lennier. Still, it is here in Babylon Squared where she first rejects the council’s ovations to make her one of The Nine. “We are grey. We stand between the darkness and the light,” declares Delenn. There is a feeling of neutrality about the council itself to be sure. Nevertheless, Delenn is hardly excited about the prospect of leaving her freedom on B5 behind for the confines of The Nine. She reflects upon the calling of her role in overseeing the prophecy. It is the calling of her heart to oversee the Earthers. Watching Mira Furlan’s performance is special. She nearly hints to a bit of Earther selfishness at the prospect of being couped up in the Great Hall. She knows she would never again leave there and she cannot allow that to happen. Delenn is the first to refuse her role within The Nine in 1,000 years. She has tasted the freedom of B5 and she is also aware of the change that is to come [see Chrysalis Season 1]. So it is interesting to see her rejection of the Grey Council and does lend some understanding of their rejection of her later in the series. Also, her role and the role of the Minbari concerning the future of the galaxy is indeed pivotal and curious.

It is a thread like this one that really permits the philosophical side of Straczynski's writing to shine. Take, for example, his optimism concerning humanity as expressed through Delenn. "They do not seek conformity. They do not surrender. Out of their differences comes symmetry. Their unique capacity to fight against impossible odds. Hurt them, they only come back stronger. The passions we deplore have taken them to their place in the stars, and will propel them to a great destiny. Their only weakness is that they do not recognize their own greatness. They forget they have come to this place through two million years of evolution, struggle, and blood. They are better than they think and nobler than they know. They carry within them the capacity to walk among the stars as giants. They are the future. We have much to learn from them."

The One. When precisely did Straczynski decide to relegate O'Hare to special guest I wonder?

As we know now, The Earth-Minbari War was halted by the Minbari, not because they lost, but because they saw prophecied an unfulfilled destiny by the humans. Delenn is the biggest advocate for the Earthers, which places her at odds with her own kind. They buck boneheads so to speak. Can you imagine Londo turning to Lennier and declaring, “you are such a bonehead.” Rather than take offense Lennier might reply, “why, thank you.” Better yet, “stop being a bonehead.” You see, that’s a tough one. "I'm afraid I cannot do that." How bout Lennier with "I've got a bone to pick with you!" followed by Londo's "You most certainly do." Or... I'm sorry, I got a little carried away there. Anyway, Delenn is forewarned that if she leaves the post offered her she may lose it. She knows consequences may be forthcoming. So, later in Season 2 when she is rejected by this body of nine it makes sense given her rejection of this prestigious, time-honored position here. Like Londo, she has chosen her path. Much of the story is weighted with self-determination, free will and the tenets of philosophy that fascinate Straczynski. Terrific stuff.

In the end, the council is split 4-4 on how to contend with Delenn’s use of free will. Her friend bestows upon her the gift of a triluminary. It is a special gesture and the instrument necessary for the cocooning. “These are curious times Delenn. I feel a great change in my bones. A new beginning, an end, I cannot say,” worries her friend. “We are surrounded by signs and portents and I feel a darkness pressing at our backs.”

The episode brilliantly pulls together Sinclair and [what we believe is] Delenn for the final scene. A scar-faced, grey haired Sinclair and the arm of Delenn appear on a deserted B4. The One tells her, “I tried, I tried to warn them, but it all happened just the way I remember it.” The question is whether that’s good or bad. Delenn tells him, “I know. It’s time. We have to go. They’re waiting for us.” Who is “they?” Could it be The Rangers? I am loving this show.

Babylon Squared: B+

Monday, April 28, 2008

B5 S2 Ep20: The Long, Twilight Struggle

There is beautiful work in this gritty tale right down to the make-up.

Where the hell was I when Babylon 5 was on TV? Where the hell did I go? Did I just check off the planet for a few years? Did I just disappear and forget who I was only to turn up 5 years later clutching a bottle of paint thinner? What the hell was I thinking? Look what I've missed all these years. It isn’t right. It’s troubling actually to think I spaced it and lost out on all of this delicious science fiction. Interplanetary politics, backroom deals, packs with the devil, space battles, alien races and Boxleitner. Whew! This is a tremendous series and it is mesmerizing to watch. My jaw is open at times hanging on every word and every delivery. I am in awe of events that transpire and the consequences that follow. I am enjoying the structure of this series and the serialization of various arcs [The Shadows, Psi Corps, Earth Defense Force, et.] as much if not more than, dare I say, Stargate SG-1. I never thought I would say that, but there it is. Babylon 5 is nothing like I envisioned. What I envisioned I'm not sure, but it wasn't this.

On the whole and maybe weighted toward the second half of Season 2 there is so much information, so much detail. It’s a tremendous, epic mythology that has been brought to life on a visual canvas. There’s also nothing light about the material. I am blown away. Be forewarned people, I have no option but to revisit a few episodes before moving forward. There are forces at work that are pulling me backward.

We arrive at Season 2 Episode 20, The Long, Twilight Struggle, and what a struggle it is for especially for our dear Londo and G’Kar. You can see the pain in Londo as he fights every fiber of his righteous body to do the wrong thing. G’Kar is such a sympathetic figure to me. His pain is palpable. I just wanted to curl up into a fetal position for him by the end of this one. It was excruciating. How does Minbar and the Earth Alliance stand by and not want to bring the full weight of their arsenal upon the Centauri? It's rhetorical. I know the answer, but I just wish they'd damn well do it. The Narn is facing extermination and everyone sits idly by and watches. I suppose it’s much like events in our own world. You'd think the genocide of the Markab would be a wake-up call. Straczynski is a true genius.

We Are Family [sing it!]: G'Kar and Uncle G'Sten.
So, the vile Lord Refa summons Londo to Centauri Prime, while G’Kar meets with his uncle G’Sten at B5. G’Sten informs G’Kar the Narn are re-strategizing and preparing to thrust an all out assault on the Centauri supply world of Gorash 7. The Narn plan is to strike with sharp intensity so the Centauri will pull back. Unbeknownst to the Narn, Refa has intercepted those plans. Refa wants Londo to send his “associates” to Gorash 7 to wipe out the Narn fleet when they arrive, while the Centauri applies its full arsenal against the Narn homeworld in an offensive slaughter. Refa intends to wipe out the Narn utilizing methods outlawed by all civilized races in the form of Mass Drivers [planetary bombers].

Londo is distressed by the plan. You can visibly see and feel his discomfort. Not to mention, Londo is worried about the strength of the Shadows and he should be. Why the Centauri do not question who these “associates” are, their capabilities and the potential havoc they could wreak upon their own world, is a mystery. Now that is a bloodlust for power. Londo expresses his preference to avoid reliance upon the Shadows. Gee, I wonder why Londo? He impresses upon Refa that the Centauri should carve their own destiny without aid. Hmm, perhaps that old sinking feeling is setting in. Refa presses Londo. Londo concedes to the pressure reluctantly and vows it will be the last time he calls upon the assistance of his "associates." Why do I get the feeling it's not going to be that easy.

Later, Refa invites Londo along to oversee the Centauri victory over the Narn and the destruction of the Narn homeworld. It is a haunting image of Londo watching from the window of his vessel the fruits of what his command has enabled. He is deeply disturbed by inner demons and he exhibits his stomach-churning choices as he looks away.

On B5, G’Kar visits wounded Narn strewn throughout the medlab and Dr. Franklin informs him of information given to him by one of the Narn who has died. Dr. Franklin tells G’Kar the deceased Narn was interrogated and the Centauri probed him about Narn homeword defenses. The red flags are waving for G’Kar. He knows the Centauri are thorough and unlikely to finish a job however small, yet he learns their ships have peeled away from various Narn outposts. Why? G’Kar knows and informs G’Sten to pull away from Gorash 7 and retreat back to the Narn homeworld. It looks like a trap yet G’Kar cannot convince G’Sten to go back and protect their home.

And so, despite the urging of G’Kar and his insistence the Narn leave the sector of Gorash 7, the fate of his people sealed, they are instead simply wiped out by the black-fingered hand of evil that is The Shadows. It is a slaughterhouse and retreat is futile. The lethal force of purple-pink firepower kills all. The spiritual G’Kar is deep in frantic prayer, but he knows his people’s fate and his prayers are unanswered. What God does G'Kar pray to?

Upon word of the attack, Narn fighting begins on B5 between, you guessed it, the Narn and Centauri. Yeah, I’d have a problem with mass genocide too. Four days of bombardment later, the Narn surrender and G’Kar’s long, lonely, twilight struggle continues.

Oh poor Londo, how far you have fallen.
Londo calls for an emergency session of the Advisory Council and the League of Non-Alligned Worlds. Londo, despite knowing the atrocities he has committed, with a sure hand commands the audience with his false power. His demands before the council include:

The disbandment of the Narn ruling body who will face arrest and trial for war crimes. [Earth requests a presence but is denied.]

Prevention of acts of terror by Narn upon the Centauri. Such action will result in the execution of 500 Narns for any one Centauri killed.

A provisional ruling council by the Centauri will rebuild a “civilized” Narn government to be a colony under the rule of the Greater Centauri Republic.

Last but not least, Ambassador G'Kar shall henceforth be named Citizen G’Kar.

G'Kar, having a very, very bad day.
In a second thread, Delenn’s friend Draal [now played by a different actor- poor Straczynski really had to do some juggling from time to time] has appeared before her and Sheridan as a holographic image from Epsilon 3 where he is keeper of the Great Machine. With B5 orbiting the planet, and being a mere hop, skip and a jump away, he has requested a visit. It has been one year and Draal offers Sheridan an alliance with Epsilon 3, but it is agreed the information will be kept from the Earth Alliance and between Delenn, Draal and him alone. Hmmm... another secret weapon in the old Babylon 5 back pocket? Good idea. They're gonna need it.

One last note of interest, Draal calls for old friend Zathras [Babylon Squared Season 1] off camera, so we never actually see him. This thread is certainly very important. What does the future hold for B5 and its planetary protector Epsilon 3? The partnership looks to be establishing B5 as a protectorate. We were first alerted to the planet’s defensive power and its secrets [what they are we're not sure because they're secret] in Season 1's A Voice In The Wilderness parts 1 & 2 . The two-part episode established B5’s link with the station and the planet's care in the hands of a Minbari to prevent its destruction. Clearly Epsilon 3, now allied with B5, will continue to play a part in the coming Great War or beyond. Finally, the mention of Zathras ties this emtry not only to the aforementioned two parter, but with Babylon Squared where we first met Zathras. If you recall, Zathras saved Sinclair [not The One] and became pinned by a girder on the unstable Babylon 4. Zathras told Sinclair to "Go" with the others. "You have a destiny." If you remember, The One appears before him in a blue spacesuit. Zathras expressed relief, "Zathras knew you would not leave him. Zathras trusts The One." It's wonderful to see Straczynski come full circle on some of these ties that bind the show. So we definitely receive the first sign here that Zathras is still very much alive.

The Epilogue: Delenn introduces Sheridan to The Rangers, fighters of the coming darkness, army of light. The Rangers have been under Delenn’s command. It is in this moment she transfers equal authority to the now trusted Sheridan. Sheridan and Delenn's association and their roles in the fate of Babylon 5 seem to be closely tied.

The Long, Twilight Struggle: B+

Thursday, April 24, 2008

B5 S2 Ep19: Divided Loyalties

Babylon 5 continues its strong second season with Divided Loyalties. It's worth noting that I have said very little about Claudia Christian as Ivanova. I have been drawn to the more masculine tensions between the various races and that has been reflected in my entries. Still, Christian has really grown on me over the season. I think the show would not be the same without her place in it. She is both warm and tough as nails and she plays both sides with her steely Russian resolve very well. I particularly enjoyed her performance here and it was a real highlight. [Beware here comes the male in me] She's also strikingly voluptuous, bodacious and I LOVE those hot lips!

Patricia Tallman, as Lyta Alexander, returns. It is her first appearance since the pilot, The Gathering [which I will be watching soon]. She was the first telepath ever assigned to B5. She’s also the only human to ever scan Ambassador Kosh following an attempted assassination on his life, and it has left an indelible mark on her own mind. She left the station following the incident, according to Garibaldi, and was never quite right.

Lyta has arrived to inform Sheridan there is a traitor aboard B5. The traitor is so deeply programmed not even the affected individual would be are aware of her objective. Lyta has the password to scan all personnel aboard B5 and detect the plant. The paranoid Lyta refuses to be alone with anyone. Sheridan rejects her request initially to take it under consideration first. Lyta has escaped Psi Corps en route to Mars. She’s been trying to penetrate Vorlon space. Of course, as the story goes, those who attempt it never return, but she is drawn to the Vorlons since touching Kosh.

I love pouty Ivanova.
Lyta informs the inner circle [Sheridan, Garibaldi, Ivanova and Dr. Franklin] of a sleeper Psi Corps program in development on Mars creating telepaths directly loyal to the Corps. That programmed personality is so deeply submerged it cannot be identified even by a deep scan.

Meanwhile, Ivanova offers Talia Winters accommodations in her quarters while her room is under repair. Talia informs Ivanova that she is the only one she trusts. Is it me or did it seem like their was some form of female chemistry between the two outside of friendship? I thought the body language was pretty intense during a few moments here. I was thinking kiss at one point.

Late at night [isn’t it always night on B5? I think my internal clock would be royally screwed], Lyta is being transferred and the power shuts down as an attempt on taking her life occurs by someone with a PPG. Even as you watch you know what's coming and you know who it is. It's one of the few times on B5 I haven't been surprised. A guard is killed and one injured. Lyta escapes and turns to Delenn for help. Delenn arranges a meeting with the Sheridan four.

Under the pressure of a potential scan, Ivanova is deeply troubled. Her crisis of conscience is revealed when she breaks into Sheridan’s room and awaits his arrival. She informs him of the stunning revelation that she is a low level telepath [P1], thanks to her mother. Her mother trained her to control her powers and to avoid detection by Psi Corps. Ivanova fears she will be discovered. Sheridan does his best to assist Ivanova. I didn't see that coming. I always took Ivanova's guarded, bad attitude towards telepaths as: a]. part of her personality. b]. what they did to her mother. Straczynski did a nice job taking that thread to the next level.

The inner circle reconvenes and reconnects with Lyta whereby Sheridan consents to the scans. Here is that absolutely classic scene featuring none other than our dear Garibaldi to lighten the load.

I laughed out loud. I may have been drinking something at the time and almost spit. ‘The One To Be Pitied’ heard me in the other room and hollered; “There’s something wrong with you.” [Hey, that’s fine you just keep watching those ridiculous, so-called reality shows.] Anyway, Ivanova inevitably must concede to a scan. She ain’t happy and lets Lyta know it. She naturally blocks her at first, but then relents allowing her secret be revealed unhappily to Lyta.

In the end, Talia enters the room and is almost instantly fingered by Lyta as the mole when she sends the password. Talia opens fire, but is restrained by Garibaldi. So much for "love in the afternoon" between Garibaldi and Talia, but that’s okay. The two took their on screen romance off-screen and married in real life. So, Talia reveals herself to be a stone cold assassin, a complete Psi Corps bitch! She was the one who had been programmed from the start [beyond her control]. I suspected as much since she exhibited signs of deception back in Season 2's Spider In The Web. Sheridan remarks how close she was to becoming part of the inner circle. Whew! That was a close one. They were just days away from bringing her in. So that’s all she wrote for Ms. Winters, but she isn’t dead, just in custody remember, so perhaps it's not the last we've seen of her.

Andrea Thompson delivers a nice turn and really lets loose in the part especially in those final minutes. The sequence between Ivanova and Thompson is quite good. Ivanova’s reaction was disturbed and she plays it with genuine affect. Afterall, Ivanova was very reluctant to let down her walls to a telepath and it took her nearly two seasons to do so. The storyline was handled with genuine logic by Straczynski. Her acceptance of Talia was a real step for Ivanova especially given her secret and her make-up. When Talia exhibits her true colors, Ivanova is emotionally betrayed. It’s ironic, because Ivanova’s instinct about her was right all along and it wasn’t until the end when she feels so violated on a number of levels. Ivanova's reaction is one of disappointment in herself as much as it is in Ms. Winters. Good stuff. The wounded Ivanova is precisely why I have grown to love her character. She has definitely supplanted Ms. Winters as the show's new certified hottie in my book!

The secondary thread continues to witness Delenn and Sheridan developing feelings for one another outside of their professional relationship. There is an undeniable attraction between the two characters. I love her smile, but truthfully that head bone may get a bit problematic if things get intimate.

The epilogue sees Lyta visit Kosh one last time in the alien sector. She has kept her knowledge of him locked away and Kosh knows this and reveals himself to her again. Bright light shines down upon her face. It's a bit of heaven for Lyta.

Divided Loyalties: B

Delenn: “I find this notion of the press a fascinating, but sometimes troubling concept.”
Sheridan: “Join the club.”
Sheridan: “Why is it everytime you finally get things calmed down and everything’s going great life decides to kick you in the butt.”
Delenn: "But what?"
Sheridan: "What?"

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

THE Babylon 5 Factoid

I was perusing the special features of Baylon 5 Season 1: The Coming Of Shadows and stumbled upon some excellent special features. I won't watch the first two featurettes because I don't want to see anything or bump into any information I don't want to know about yet.

The data files were cool and here is essentially a synopsis concerning all you need to know about that special character at the center of our story, Babylon 5.
  • 2.5 million metric tons of spinning metal
  • 5 miles long
  • 6,500 personnel
  • 1,500 docking bay workers
  • Rotates creating its own gravity
  • Orbits Epsilon 3 in neutral space
  • Built for peace
  • Defensive weapons include: Starfury fleet & Pulse Cannons
The sections of Babylon 5 include:

Brown Sector [Down Below]: industrial section/ high crime.

Red Sector: Zocalo/ shops/ entertainment/ bars/ hotels/ casinos/ the gardens [oxygen].

Blue Sector: Docking/ 60 bays/ C & C [Command & Control].

Green Sector: Diplomatic chambers/ Personnel Quarters/ Alien Sector/ Medlabs.

Yellow/Grey Sector: Power and Suport Systems/ Rotation Drivers.

I know I was harsh on the old girl, but the Babylon 5 space station has won me over. I even went so far as to purchase a little pewter replica for my mantle so I could gaze up lovingly at it while I watch the show. Don't make fun.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

B5 S2 Ep 17-18: Knives & Confessions And Lamentations

It's fitting to see Boxleitner play ball here. I have been a little slow of late to keep a steady pace with Babylon 5. I've been coaching baseball, shagging baseballs and running around the ballfield keeping up with my team of late. Folks! I'm in a lot of pain. Some nights I can't move. Anyway, if I get a little behind it's because I'm doing precisely what Sheridan is doing here along with a million other things. So my apologies in advance for any delays.

Despite the pleasant engagements of life outside the blogosphere, I LOVE this show! It bums me out when I cannot get to the screen for the next entry. It's interesting how certain elements of the show are true highlights for me, when those same sequences might not be for another. Granted, the show as a whole is mostly thrilling. I also like to take pictures of the things that stand out for me. Anyway, off we go...

Babylon 5 eases off the Shadows’ accelerator a touch, but maintains momentum concerning its many colorful character-driven stories and heavy drama for Episodes 16 & 17.

Knives [Episode 16] focuses on two threads. First, Sheridan visits a portion of B5 that is considered the "B5 triangle" as a result of strange phenomena. He finds an alien seemingly dead, but is grabbed and an energy force enters Sheridan’s body unbeknownst to him at first. Slowly, Sheridan is haunted by apparitions of significance. He discovers the alien that touched him in the ‘B5 triangle’ passed through Sector 14 [location of the time anomaly where Babylon 4 had appeared]. Of course, Sheridan is uninformed concerning B4 & Sector 14 due to the fact all records reflecting the B4 [Babylon Squared Season 1] incident had been destroyed, except those copied and retained by the always savy and vigilant Garibaldi. Sheridan slowly realizes the messages are the life form’s way of communicating to him to go home. Sheridan commandeers a Starfury to the site and a portal opens as the energy form rushes from Sheridan's body. Garibaldi is there to bring him home an incapacitated Sheridan.

Elsewhere, the sublime performance of Londo continues and it is a beautiful thing to behold. An old friend, Urza Jaddo, visits him. Londo learns Jaddo's entire house is being disgraced as traitor back on Centauri Prime. Urza looks to the prestige of his old pally Londo for help. Londo demands his friend and co-conspirator, Lord Refa, drop all charges against Urza, but this is problematic for Refa because he is the one that has brought those charges against the house of Jaddo. Well, things get heated. I love when things get heated on B5. Always good fun! Londo’s association with Lord Refa whom he refers to as an “assassin” incenses Urza. In the end, as is Centauri custom, Urza challenges Londo to a knife duel. Sadly, Londo dies. Kidding. Seriously, Urza dies, but dies with honor and as is customary under Centauri law his death protects his remaining family and House Mollari must assume care for House Jaddo as the victor. This is great space tragedy. It really is deliciously tragic stuff.

Confessions And Lamentations [Episode 17] places the spotlight smack dab on the reality of genocide. It’s like looking in a mirror for our own world. A ship of Markab is found floating in space. All aboard are found dead. A lethal infection has been brought aboard B5. Like the Bird Flu, will the viral strain mutate and jump species? Sheridan places B5 under quarantine. He places the Markab in an isolation zone. Lennier and Delenn break the quarantine to offer compassion to the dying. Before Delenn leaves, Sheridan tells her when they meet again to call him “John.” Something is stirring between these two. There is much tenderness in this episode. Dr. Franklin believes he may have a cure. When the seal is broken, Sheridan and company find Lennier and Delenn standing alone amidst plague-riddled bodies lifelessly strewn across the area. All have died. Delenn embraces Sheridan in agonizing pain and tears. It is quite moving. The plague is believed to have wiped out over two billion Markab and left the race nearly eradicated. The show fearlessly handles issues on the grand scale of civilization that give you pause.

Knives may be my favorite non-Straczynski-penned story. As a B5 friend has noted, Straczynski takes over writing chores from this point forward. It's a surprise to anyone he wasn't smoking 12 packs of ciggies a day and going on an alcohol bender from the stress of it all. It's a tribute to his talent and passion for the story because the series really flows with him at the helm. When he was 'in' an 'out' of those responsibilities in Season 1 it really felt disjointed at times among other establishing reasons. But strap on your seatbelt because you are now boarding the Straczynski express.

Knives: B+ [Carmen Argenziano guests as Ursa Jaddo; Argenziano is most notable for his recurring role on Stargate SG-1 as Samantha Carter's father Jacob/ Selmak].

Confessions And Lamentations: C

Londo [from Knives]: “The blood is already on my hands. Right or wrong, I must follow the path to its end. I want to sleep- if I can.” It's like friggin' William Shakespeare and Julius Caesar.

Delenn [from Confessions And Lamentations]: “Faith manages.” The sound wisdom of a true sage.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Stargate SG-1 Heroes: Sci Fi & The War Genre

Science fiction and the war genre. I do love when the two genres are fused the right way.

I love war films. I'm not a fan of war mind you. Who is? But when it comes to war films, I love the genre. I'm fascinated by them. There's nothing uplifting about them generally speaking, but it's astounding to me how a director brings out the real horror in some stories, the camraderie, the bravery of men and women or capture the poetry of the human condition in unexpected moments that give you pause. These are some of the best moments. God bless the troops that put their lives on the line every day. There's nothing easy about it and they are truly heroes.

Here is a list of the finest.

Black Hawk Down [2002] [Dir: Ridley Scott] [Somalia]
I read the book by Mark Bowden and Scott's film is so wildly kinetic it'll blow you away.

Band Of Brothers [2001] [Dir: Various] [WWII]
This is an epic ten episode HBO mini-series that is a massive achievement. The brilliant series is like an extended version of Saving Private Ryan. The characters who play Easy Company are given a chance to fully develop making for a classic wartime drama.

Das Boot [1982] [Dir: Wolfgang Peterson] [WWII]
Jurgen Prochnow [Seventh Sign] gives a flawless turn in this gem as the German U-boat commander battling the allied forces. A fascinating, genuinely harrowing and gripping take from the German vantage point. Peterson gets us cheering for the other side because it's about the humanity. Ultimately soldiers are people, players or pawns in a much bigger game.

We Were Soldiers [2002] [Dir: Randall Wallace] [Vietnam]
The story of Lt. Colonel Hal Moore and company. An outstanding work. Say what you want about Mel Gibson, who plays Moore, but he's an inspired, exceptional actor.

Enemy At The Gates [2001] [Dir: Jean-Jacques Annaud] [WWII]
This is an imperfect film surrounding the Russians and the Nazis during the siege of Stalingrad. The focus is on two snipers [Jude Law and Ed Harris] in the ultimate game of cat and mouse and while it takes liberties with artistic license there are moments that simply stop you in your tracks. Ron Perlman [Hellboy, Blade II] always turns in interesting performances. Most disturbing is the film's portrait of the brutality of the Russians on their own countrymen in retreat from the Germans. They were simply killed by their very own. War doesn't get much colder than this.

Full Metal Jacket [1987] [Dir: Stanley Kubrick] [Vietnam]
A much maligned film that turns in some gritty performances from Firefly's Adam Baldwin and Law And Order's Vincent D'Onofrio. The boot camp portion of the film is striking filmmaking, but the staged war scenes are pretty visceral as well. It still holds up as one of the nastiest depictions of war.

Thin Red Line [1999] [Dir: Terrence Malick] [WWII]
There is a canvas-like quality to this picture. The film is witnessed through the sometimes dreamy, spiritual eyes of Jim Caviezel [The Passion Of The Christ] and his performance combined with the haunting beauty of the cinematography that surrounds the brutal makes this film by Malick something special.

Rescue Dawn [2007] [Dir: Werner Herzog] [Vietnam]
Once again, an astounding transformation from Christian Bale [The Machinist] from muscle strong to bone gaunt as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He plays Dieter Dengler and this is a true story of one of the rare survivors of the conflict to actually escape imprisonment. Check out the earlier documentary in which it is based by Herzog, Little Dieter Needs To Fly. Bale never hesitates in these challenging roles. Rescue Dawn was actually filmed backwards to accomodate the physical transformation.

Grave Of The Fireflies [1988] [Dir: Isao Takahata] [WWII] This is one of the most powerful war films I've ever seen. It's anime. Takahata looks into the brutality and inhumanity of war through the eyes of two starving Japanese children following the firebombing of Japan by the US. Apart from the sheer physical devastation of war, Takahata paints a story of emotional pain as a nation turns its back on its own children. Beautifully animated and tenderly delivered.

K19 The Widowmaker [2002] [Dir: Kathryn Bigelow] [WWII] This film is about as powerful a film as you'll find dealing with nuclear submarines. This is the true story of the Russian K-19 from the Russian perspective. The bravery of men answering their captain's call and their country illustrates pure courage. These men were ill-equipped and despite facing certain death by radiation men heroically contain a reactor leak in the sub's core. The physical devastation is horrific. This is heartrendingly gruesome stuff. A tough one to stomach.

Saving Private Ryan [1999] [Dir: Steven Spielberg] [WWII] This is absolutely incredible filmmaking from the man that brought us E.T.. His films have become more and more ambitious and Minority Report, Artificial Intelligence, and Schindler's List rank among the best.


Flags Of Our Fathers [2006] [Dir:Clint Eastwood] [WWII].

Letter From Iwo Jima [2007] [Dir: Clint Eastwood] [WWII].

The Deer Hunter [1979] [Dir: Michael Cimino] [Vietnam] The scene inside the POW camp with Christopher Walken will leave you numb. It is a long film, but mostly exceptional.

Apocalypse Now [1979] [Dir: Francic Ford Coppola] [Vietnam]. It's a classic epic with some amazing performances.

So bringing this back into focus to science fiction and war, the combined genres mix is always exciting but often keeps the reality of war at a safe distance thanks to the science fiction element.

Stargate SG-1 offered perhaps the near perfect culmination of the two genres. There is such a heavy respect for the military code and the world in which SG-1 inhabits while also exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, oh and technology. Sounds like Star Trek, but Star Trek doesn't have the same gritty military backdrop that grounds SG-1's science fiction in our earthy reality. So Stargate SG-1 delivers a near perfect science fiction war drama.

Heroes is one of the finest in the SG-1 episode cannon, especially Part 2. It's a fan favorite for many reasons, which I will not divuldge here in the event you haven't seen it. There are far too many wonderful things about this episode including the first appearance of Robert Picardo [China Beach- ironic] as Agent Richard Woolsey, the character of Emmett Bregman, the handheld documentary style of the episode, the stunning visual sequences and the reverberating circumstances of a pivotal moment that is about as mind-blowing as science-fiction drama gets for a show after being on for seven seasons. There is genuine emotional power here and one crucial moment caught me entirely by surprise because I made every effort to avoid knowing anything about the series. The episode packs some real punch. It's hands down one of the finest war/science-fiction episodes to ever grace television.

Here's one sequence extracted from Heroes that really pulls together both genres exquisitely in Stargate SG-1. This is indeed a Black Hawk Down moment for the entry. It's one of the most intense sequences in the show's history.

Heroes [Part 1] & Heroes [Part 2] [deftly written by Robert Cooper and directed by Andy Mikita] Heroes: A

Friday, April 18, 2008

Politics, B5 Style

I know going political is always dangerous terrain. So I'll just place my write-in vote.

These are the best choices.

As stated over at Cafepress:

"They bring a combination of military training, a love of freedom, and sartorial excellences. They are also excellent public speakers and true patriots who put their people ahead of their own interests. Should the electorate find themselves not happy with the slate as elected, whoever is in second position will gladly assassinate the other in order to bring about a referendum."

Sounds good to me. Love that campaign slogan. It could be alot worse.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

B5 S2 Ep 16: In The Shadow Of Z'Ha'Dum

[Man running breathlessly to top of mountain]
Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom for Z’Ha’Dum [that just had a nice ring to it]! Season 2's In The Shadow Of Z'Ha'Dum is absolutely freakin’ brilliant! Babylon 5 at its absolute best!

Ed Wasser returns as Morden and like many of the series recurring characters he is always a joy to watch. He has a meaty role and he delivers it with sinister confidence and likeable creepiness.

The entry is jam-packed with information.

The story begins with Morden meeting Vir in the Zocalo where Vir really demonstrates some major stones and lets Morden have it with both barrels. It is a delicious exchange.

Elsewhere on the ship, Sheridan is reviewing the ship manifest of his wife’s science vessel the Icarus. Garibaldi arrives and makes note of one of the crew pictured on the monitor. Curiously it is none other than Morden. Garibaldi informs Sheridan he knows him. Of course this is impossible because everyone on board the Icarus perished. Alas, apparently not, Garibaldi checks the computer and informs Sheridan Morden is still very much alive. Where is he? He's still on B5. Sheridan demands him found and arrested for interrogation. This leads to yet another impressive mental duel throughout the episode between Wasser and Boxleitner. They too are at their best!

Sheridan: “What happened to the Icarus?
Morden: “I told you I don’t know. I don’t remember.
Sheridan: “Well you damn well better start remembering mister because by God by the time I am done with you, you will wish you had died on the Icarus.

Sheridan means it. He is pissed off and in a frighteningly vengeful mood! Nevertheless, Morden is about as cool as cucumbers get. It was a nice turn to witness Sheridan’s judgment clouded with his personal agenda. If you recall, his head was clear when he advised G’Kar against revenge upon Londo in The Coming Of Shadows, but all of that is out the window now that his wife's demise appears uncertain. He feels rage standing in G’Kar’s shoes. He needs significant help to come down off this cliff, but does eventually get it. This is one of the best elements of B5. Behavior, choices, consequences are all part of the exceptional writing by Straczynski. Further, this one is loaded with uncomfortable intimacy. It is riveting space drama.

Things get heated internally when Garibaldi presses Sheridan on the illegal detention of Morden. If charges are not applied, the honorable Garibaldi threatens to resign his command. As Security Chief he is a proponent of the law and inevitably resigns. Sheridan promotes Zack "Greased Lightning" Allan to Security Chief as a result. The pressure builds as Sheridan continues to lean hard on Morden by requesting the telepathic assistance of Talia Winters. Meanwhile, upon hearing of Morden's incarceration, Vir approaches Sheridan on behalf of Londo and requests Morden’s release as a guest of Centauri Prime. Vir emphasizes diplomatic immunity for Morden. Sheridan, cleverly turns the tables on Vir and informs him that Morden is in protective custody, has not been charged with a crime and is therefore ineligible for diplomatic immunity.

Sheridan continues to feel the strain placed upon him for Morden's release. Upon learning Ms. Winters has declined the scan for legal reasons Sheridan gets cute. He arranges for Morden and Winters to cross paths on board B5. Winters sees Shadows surrounding Morden and is left disturbed at the images revealed. She lets Sheridan have it.

Delenn and Kosh learn of Morden’s retention. Both request his immediate release from B5 and inform Sheridan of the last Great War with the Shadows, 1,000 years ago. The Shadows were defeated then by the First Ones, but not destroyed. Kosh is one of the last of the First Ones. His encounter suit protects his identity. The Vorlons have been guardians watching and waiting for the Shadows’ return. Delenn pleads with Sheridan to do the right thing and that lives, outside of his own redresses, are depending upon it.

Delenn: “Be warned. Once you know his secret. You will never sleep again. Come Captain, the greatest nightmare of our time is waiting for you.”

Here is an intense segment of revelation surrounding the Icarus and the Shadows.

A furtive trust between Kosh and Delenn dates back at least to Chrysalis [the Season 1 finale]. Delenn had Lennier ask Kosh if 'they' had returned and his singular answer was “Yes.” At the time we weren't entirely clear on what had inspired Delenn to move toward transformation. In The Shadow Of Z’Ha’Dum continues to capitalize on those earlier seeds surrounding Delenn, Kosh and G’Kar. A revisit of that episode may be in order.

Sheridan is forced to relent, much as G’Kar's hand was forced to yield to Sheridan despite learning of the attack on his beloved Narn. Sheridan orders Morden’s release to ensure the Shadows’ continue to believe they are still moving unmolested and undiscovered, at Delenn's urging. It was Delenn who reminded Sheridan of his own call for calm from G'Kar in Acts of Sacrfice. I understand the omniscience of Kosh, but how did Delenn know what Sheridan had told G'Kar about letting go of revenge? She wasn't present during that exchange.

The epilogue is splendid as well. Sheridan informs Kosh in the alien sector that he himself will someday go to Z’Ha’Dum. Kosh tells him he will die, but he agrees to teach Sheridan how to fight the Shadows. This is hands down, kick ass stuff! The amazing Straczynski story continues.

Oh! In a new thread I’m sure will be important later, The Ministry Of Peace has offered credits [payment] to B5 security personnel for wearing a new patch dubbed the Nightwatch program. Yikes! Jeff Conaway earns the cringeworthy speaking role. Gasp!

In The Shadow Of Z’Ha’Dum: A

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Approaching The Possible: The World Of Stargate SG-1

This entry is long and is probably for the SG-1 faithful. I felt writing about the book was cathartic after reading it.

My latest Stargate SG-1 reference book encounter finds a work entitled Approaching The Possible: The World Of Stargate SG-1 by Jo Storm. I cannot recall the last time I rolled my eyes as much as I did with this publication. At times, Storm plugs her feminist agenda to the detriment of the material. It started well but quickly took a downward spiral when she analyzed the episodes season by season. It was an infuriating read and since it took up nearly two-thirds of the book I cannot recommend it. In fact, I think a better title choice might have been Approaching The Possible: The World Of Stargate SG-1 According to Jo Storm. Her philosophy just didn't conect with me and I certainly never witnessed some of what she covers in the same way. Were we watching the same show?

Storm purports to be a fan, like us, I think. She clearly and unabashedly offers her own unique analysis, and I do mean unique. We part company here. She covers Seasons 1-8 of SG-1 in an exhaustive episode guide where her insights are seemingly at odds with most of my own. Kudos to her for getting her highly subjective book published, never an easy task [unless you are famous or rich], but we enjoyed the series for very different reasons in many instances. Our tastes were as contrary as night to day and I was left scratching my head often. It was one of my least favorite reads in recent memory. The upside is we both love and appreciate SG-1 despite being completely polarized on the analysis.

Storm's writing is heavy-handed in her scrutiny. She reads into things and makes connections that really aren't there. Her attempts to tie culture, philosophy and historical facts to the show seemed a bit forced. I'm very much a fan of academic level text on science fiction, but I've seen much better and Storm didn't pull it off so I found myself disagreeing with her on many points despite her arguments.

Here is an endless list of reasons why I was not a fan of the book.

"shipper" - Storm loved using this word in describing O'Neill and Carter's relationship throughout the book. I understand it's a legitimate reference for television and it applies, but stop! Example: "Few episodes thus far have caused as much controversy in the Stargate fandom than A Hundred Days, especially amongst the shipper faction." Argh! She clearly doesn't classify herself as one.

"team play"- Storm refers to SG-1 episodes that revert back to the quartet as "team play." ANNOYING!

Hathor. A perfect example of Storm's reaction to anything remotely stereotypical of women. She clearly is sensitive to such "feminine wiles" throughout the series and calls it where she sees it. So her agenda/ perspective is well-represented in the book. She rips into Hathor. Look, as entertainment goes, I enjoyed the episode including the red wig. She is also critical of how the writers employed Dr. Frasier here. She loves the character but is often at odds with the creators on how they utilize her character. I didn't see a problem with what the team was accomplishing with Dr. Frasier. It was fun.

Wormhole X-treme. Storm is overly enthusiastic and overboard here. "One of the all-out funniest episodes of the show, with a carnivalesque atmosphere that's as fun as cotton candy....a delightful, vacuous and expensive-looking treat." Okay, calm down, not that funny and Episode 200 is much better. She loved Episode 100 in "the tradition of Tin Man, Urgo and Deadman Switch." What? All are very different. Deadman Switch is brilliant and Urgo was just plain dumb. As much as I love Peter DeLuise' contributions to SG-1, I'm just not a fan of Dom Deluise' comedy.

"Season two is much more about exploration than the first season was." Storm loves to box individual seasons into categories based on themes or arcs. I'm not sure why. Exploration and/or attaining technology is certainly one of the core tenets of the show throughout the series. And apparently season three is about knowledge. Huh?
"Another of the main themes of season four, along with opportunity, is choices- how we make and implement them, and their consequences." Yah, sure, that's generally what happens with most TV characters. Choices are made. Consequences result. This is deep stuff folks. Look, she backs up her statements concerning these general themes, but there's plenty of material to draw from to make a case. "The theme of politics comes up alot in Season five." What! The theme of politics comes up alot throughout the series. Season 7 is about "identity and belonging... dealing with how we choose and define who we are." Right. "Free will is one of the more encompassing themes in Stargate SG-1." True, but if we're talking philosophy here, free will as an integral part of choices made isn't all that much of a stretch.

Her comparison of the Jack/ Sam relationship to Farscape was priceless. "Unlike many other science fiction couples, neither of the two primary people in the unacknowledged relationship is "other," that is, an alien in some way or another. That facet of alienness relieves the lovers [and the audience] of much of the guilt they feel about acknowledging a 'wrong' but needed union, like Aeryn and John Crichton from Farscape." Guilt never really entered the equation for me and I felt the creators did handle the reality of their association brilliantly throughout the series. Given her implications I pray she won't be writing a Farscape book.

Storm refers to characters within her reviews as "annoying," "unnecessary," "irritating" even "bothersome." Storm won't mind if I apply those same terms to her writing and add "self-righteous," "arrogant" and "wacky."

Storm dubs the Gate as a literal device that is "feeding the audience stories." No shit. It's the avenue to adventure, but hearing her intellectualize it is just tedious. "The Gate does indeed feed us, with the characters, with their universe, with their adventures." Yawn.

Menace. "They are called Replicators because they replicate, rather than reproduce. Self-replication is the process by which something makes a copy of itself." Thank you Jo for that information. I hadn't a clue. Personally I like to think the SG-1 audience is a little smarter? This is really unnecessary stuff. She continued, "The solemn atmosphere surrounding this episode isn't entirely due to the script: parts of it were shot on September 11th, 2001, and it shows." Ummm, no it doesn't. In fact, until you mentioned it, I never would have guessed it was filmed on 9/11. Truly idiotic!

Meridian. Storm sinks her teeth into the episode that temporarily killed off Daniel Jackson. She lets the bologna fly from Greek tragedy, Zen Buddhism, Victorian sentimentality to Humanism. It is absolute horseshit. This is unquestionably a complex episode as character arcs are changing along with the team dynamic as a reult of Daniel's death, but you talk about reaching. She also takes time to criticize the choice of William Waring as the episode director and not someone else. By the way, the man did a mighty fine job with some very difficult material. She is way off base especially after she hammers the guy and proceeds to let folks know that it is "definitely worth watching." "Meridian is both bold and traditional, postmodern, egalitarian, a little maudlin, a little escapist, a little moral, a little easy of the eyes." Verbal diarrhea. Gee, and to think I enjoyed it without putting that much thought into it. Heavy praise from someone befuddled by the choice of Waring as director.

Abyss. A rare instance where I mostly agree. But comparing Baal to Seth. Come on, not even close. Cliff Simon as Baal blows Seth out of the water on the evil-o-meter factor. Baal is also a beloved villian.

Smoke And Mirrors. "Unfortunately, actor Peter Flemming looked more sad than stalwart during this episode. We keep waiting for him to double-cross Sam." I thought that was the whole point of Smoke And Mirrors.

Paradise Lost. "Not only does it borrow from movies like Black Hawk Down and Apocalypse Now, but it gives a nod to wartime photographers with their handheld sequences and close, bobbing shots." Whoa! I've seen Black Hawk Down more times than I care to count and I'm not sure if Storm has actually seen that movie based upon the evidence here. Now, Apocalypse Now perhaps as O'Neill and Mayborne dig into some hallucinogenic plants that reminisce of the period's drug-induced haze. The coloring and jungle feel might allude to Apocalypse Now or Platoon, but overall there is very little handheld camera here save for the 31 minute mark for about 2 minutes. I mean it's a real stretch to make the comparisons. It's still a decent entry in the SG-1 catalogue.

Homecoming. Jo lays it on thick here. "The episode refers to the various homecomings that are occurring on the show; while Daniel is returning to his home- both physical [Earth] and pscyhological [his memory, his mind]- Jonas has to question whether or not he still belongs at the SGC, his new home." She goes on some psychobabble rant about adapting and changing to new environs. I can imagine the actual writers reading this, "hmmm, I really hadn't considered that angle myself."

Birthright. Chris Judge turned writer hits a nerve here with Storm. The tone is way too racy and sexist and stereotypical for her liking. "The veneer of gender role reversal is just thin, since the women still have to rely on what the men provide- in order to survive. The sexualized language only adds to that- as does the very cliched scene of women warriors with gaping cleavages, riding huge black stallions. I mean, really." I kind of liked the clea...I mean stallions. I will fall back upon one of Storm's defenses from Space Race, "sometimes, that's what television is for."

Evolution. Storm and I agree on one point here, the episode is excellent. On how we reach that conclusion I couldn't have been more frustrated reading the following nonsense concerning her analysis of this fine two parter. It's always the means to her ends that completely drive me bonkers. She compares the title of this two parter to the evolution of SG-1. "It's not just Anubis who is evolving but the show itself." She indicated the show is becoming more "sciencey" and that the Super Soldiers liken it to Star Wars thanks to their "Darth Vader-like appearance." Aw come on! I love this thread and I never thought of it as bloody Star Wars. It was a fresh new direction and a lot of fun.

Grace. This is a tremendous entry and performance by Amanda Tapping. It has a kind of 'Ripley' goes it alone in space [a la Alien] feel to it. Following a head trauma, Carter attempts to come to grips with her situation in space where the Prometheus has come in contact with an alien ship. It is haunting and quietly, dramtically executed. Storm indicates "feminine scholars argue that showing the female character always in relation to others is a sign of patriarchal values at work." Here we go. I hardly think writer Damian Kindler and director Peter Woeste, despite being born with a penis, looked at Carter as anything more than the leader that she is. She wonders where Janet Frasier or Cassandra are in her disoriented mental state. All the men are here from her team though must be a conspiracy. "Why is Carter only shown in relation to men?" Perhaps because she works within a male-dominated profession and her best friends that make up her unit are men. Just guessing here Jo. I love this. "Trying to execute a mental state on film is daring, and the writers deserve some praise." Wow, that's pretty big of you. The writers do in fact succeed imho. Once again, Storm delivers her faint praise regarding SG-1 as reality-based science fiction by slamming Farscape. She notes Tapping pre-taped all her narrative voiceovers anwhich is "why the disembodied voice seems a little out of sync." Folks, this is clearly intentional by the creators and part of what makes this episode work so beautifully. It creates a certain disconnect and atmosphere and exemplifies just how out of sorts Carter is in her condition. Storm is off the mark again.

Fallout. Apparently "agenda" is another theme especially in Season 7. Storm would know all about agendas and they aren't exclusive to Season 7.

Chimera. "Sam/Jack shippers screamed for days but some people were quite happy to see something, anything happen to Samantha Carter." Storm clearly loves the concept of the "shipper" and throughout she has been a real critic of how the writers handled the Sam/ Jack relationship to the point of annoying. I admit, I'm an unabashed Sam/Jack fan of exactly how the writers managed that connection. Like any good TV relationship, the fun is in preventing the connection from being consummated. Guess I'm just a chipper "shipper."

Death Knell. This is a solid episode thanks to the writing/ directing of Peter Deluise. Storm merely equates the exercise as a means to the end or "the money shot" as she refers to it. She postulates unfairly, "the entire purpose of this episode was the 'money shot' of Jack and Sam at the end, when,... O'Neill puts an arm around her. It looks suspiciously as though the writers were doing a rather obvious 'see we're still friends!' maneuver." Of course it seems that way to you Storm. You clearly zero in on those Jack/ Sam moments like a heat-seeking missile. I'm beginning to think you're jealous. I simply enjoyed the game of cat and mouse between Carter and one of the Super Soldiers. Good fun.

Heroes [Part 2]. Referring to both parts of Heroes, I concur with Storm that they are "the best two episodes of SG-1, ever." I couldn't agree more. I don't want to give anything away here, because if you haven't seen the series, this is a HUGE episode with all kinds of power. I had trouble with Storm's efforts to tie the actions of all characters to the title of the episode. She describes filmmaker/ reporter Emmett Bregman, "even though he does manipulate emotions for a living..., and though he appears to be looking for something fantastic for his personal gain,...can we really say at the end of the episode that he is not also a hero?" Oh for BLEEPIN' sake Storm are you bloody serious!!? Shouldn't his actions simply be considered as DOING THE RIGHT BLEEPIN' THING!!!??? That is all that happens here and there is nothing heroic about it. He ain't one of the heroes. Furthermore, you might recall from Part 1 that he might have some loyalty to the situation based on a connection he made with that character. That's not heroic. If it was some faceless, nameless person to Bregman his actions might not even be what they were. Moving on.

Lost City [Part 2]. Here is another dig at the writers and their handling of Sam. "Sam's last angsty moment in an episode full of angsty moments was obvious and tasteless...every moment onscreen between her and O'Neill is a replay of every moment they've had from season four on." After eight bloody years of Sam & Jack I didn't find anything tasteless at all about the sequence. What the hell are you talking about?
Avatar. We agree. According to Storm it's "fantastic." My apologies for sounding like a bit of a simpleton here, but this entry KICKS ASS! I remember being drained after watching this one. It was a solid 10 on the intensity scale.

Gemini. Where there is a Carter-centric episode, we are sure to have Jo's agenda to follow. "Tapping does a good job of making Replicator Carter both eerie and approachable, in effect replacing her character with a more feminist version of what Carter could have been." Wow, to think I was enjoying Replicator Carter for just being pure evil. All of it aside, it's a pretty scary proposition to see Carter fighting Carter.

Prometheus Unbound. Storm is surprisingly harsh here. It's also a good example of where we just don't see eye to eye on much of her guide. For me, this was an excellent installment of SG-1 and it was by far the best Claudia Black vehicle throughout her run. Storm subtly links her performance with that of Hathor [and she hated that episode]. She's not a big fan of the "cutesy fight scenes" and appears closed to the physical comedy of this one. I thought the connection between Black and Shanks was brilliantly entertaining and laid the foundation for a relationship that lasted Seasons 9 & 10. I guess Storm will have a few things to say about those. Their chemistry is electric and if it wasn't, this entry wouldn't have worked. One of Storm's favorite things to do is alalyze the title of the episode and how it applies. For some reason she can't for the life of her understand why this one is dubbed Prometheus Unbound. "The episode isn't even really about the ship." Look, unbound means 'no limits' and the ship which is the setting for this episode's no holds barred antics is commandeered and is uncontrolled. The Vala character opposite Shanks is equally unbound in her personality. There is a physical reference to the ship's situation as well as a metaphorical reference to the characters in this episode. I'm not really sure where her confusion is on this. I love her shot across the bow at Damian Kindler as a "hit-or-miss kind of writer." What!? The guy is a hell of a lot more 'hit' than you are, not to mention a bloody genius. She dubs the episode "an updated Deadman Switch." I would say it has much of the humor of that entry and both are excellent, but they are entirely unique. Finally, Storm points out the "cultivation of homophobia" found at the end of the episode regarding the CPR maneuver. She also refers to the ring room scene at the end as being "unbelievably behind the times, and inexcusable." Wow, talk about nitpicking agendas. Kerrazy!

Citizen Joe. This clips episode owes thanks to the performance of Dan Castellaneta. He was a fascinating character study. Storm liked this as much. I think. I guess all in all we liked it for different reasons. Here's her thoughts from the Why We're Space Monkeys section quoting a fan whom she clearly agrees with: "I do have a deep, deep love of the humor episodes, especially those that are meta-commentary on the show itself ('Wormhole X-treme'? Hilarious). It always boggles my mind when I hear fans complain about those episodes, claiming that they're not true Stargate. I end up thinking, 'What show have they been watching?' SG-1 is all about the humor." I often felt the same about Storm's book. Did we both watch SG-1? Humor is good and episode 200 is damn near classic using it in the extreme, but I wasn't all that crazy about Wormhole X-treme. Jo and I tend to agree to disagree on what's funny and what's not. Storm overanalyzes the show and the Joe character as a symbolic version of the fandom or the writers as only Jo can. Did you ever think that satire or not, the appearance of Castellaneta was included for the fans who knew Jack loved Homer and The Simpsons, that it might be funny on its own accord, to have the voice of Homer be an adoring fan of Jack and SG-1. To quote Jack from Evolution Part 1, "do you see the irony?"

Reckoning. Storm goes absolutely ga-ga for this two parter. It is solid. I will say this, she's a bit hard on Season 8 as a whole. Sure, the season was reeling from Richard Dean Anderson's new role, but I thought the creators navigated through some very solid entries without his prominence. It does seem the perfect season to wrap up the eight years helmed by Anderson and moreso than any other season it felt like these final episodes of the season were really bringing things together before the natural break to a semi-new cast for Seasons 9 & 10. Oh, in Storm's view, this is Damian Kindler's best episode to date. I'm sure he'll be happy to hear it.
Threads. I enjoyed the concentration on character and the interplay of this episode far more than Storm. It's a pretty outstanding 90 minute drama tying up a whole host of loose ends, not least of which is the Sam/Jack affair or lack thereof. Storm expounds, as only she can, delving deeply into unintended meanings for this one. To my surprise she doesn't mention much about the Sam/Jack portion of Threads or the "shipper" fanbase she so loves to refer to. A solid entry and one of the last times we really get to enjoy the exchange between the quartet that is the SG-1 we know and love. I gotta say I would have been happy if it ended here. It's perfect.

Moebius Part 1. Stand back and behold Storm's brilliance as she delves into the scientific background of the "Mobius Strip." Snooze. She enjoyed the first of this two-parter a little bit more than myself. I thought it had some interesting ideas but it just didn't convert for me. On the one hand it was a great way to close out eight years of SG-1, but on the other hand it just wasn't one of my favorite finales. Storm comments "the alternate-timeline Daniel/Sam nerdy Dynamic Duo goes a little over the top." Ya think? I actually thought it was a lot over the top and I didn't quite buy the act. Still, it was adventurous. Storm also whines, "a perfect opportunity to resurrect Dr. Frasier gets overlooked." Well, here's a thought Jo, calm down, perhaps they tried and perhaps Teryl Rothery was just a little too busy with her careeer to make it to your "perfect opportunity." Good news though, they resurrect her in Season 9 for Ripple Effect, but then I'm sure you'll write about that in the revised edition of this book which I won't be buying.

Moebius Part 2. I could see this coming a mile away. Remember that "shipper" business. She saved her final thoughts for this entry and the rousing finale of a kiss between Jack and Sam [I love how those creators get it done without really doing it]. I'll say this, Storm is right on one point. Any one of the last 5 episodes could have been a season ender. The one reason I am happy they went the extra step is for the closing kiss scene or "the money shot" [I'm surprised she didn't refer to the scene this way]. It is terrific. It's the kiss scene to end all kiss scenes and it's funny. This is the real highlight of the finale or as Storm calls it "the big splash" [that why she didn't use "the money shot"], but she wants you all to know "it's not all just about the shippers." Ugh! She enjoyed the finale for so much more. Man, I feel so shallow.

I know plenty of examples right? I'm not done.

Each episode entry also includes 4 sub-sections:

Gods & Scientists: blah blah blah- Storm proceeds to spell out the meaning of various dictionary words or historical facts stemming from Egyptian and Norse mythology. I can hear Jack O'Neill now, "stop!" Yes, some of it's educational, some of it a bore and sometimes a complete reach. Here's a great example. She compares Death Knell to For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. "The female character as hero, and the idea of a team dynamic ultimately working together to achieve a larger end, are both contemporary views that have grown out of novels such as For Whom The Bell Tolls. And you thought reading classics was boring." Actually Jo I didn't but your work is another story. This is just a part of her lengthy entry.

Interesting Fact: The best of the four most of the time.

Why We're Space Monkeys: Here is an example of this annoyingly titled sub-section. Metamorphosis: "The women characters are changing. No longer quite so easily slotted into the templates of harlot, black widow, or nice grandmother, the female characters are becoming more complex, with conflicting emotions that are truer to contemporary women than the jaded, patriarchal stereotypes we saw in Emancipation and Hathor." Look Emancipation was just plain bad that much we agree. She refers to Hathor as a "sex goddess." Exactly, that's what she was! Here is her entry from Heroes [Part 2]: "This entire episode is why we're space monkeys, will always be space monkeys, and are defiantly proud of our space monkey status." I'm not exactly sure we're from the same "space monkey" planet after reading your book.

Parlez-vous Gate?: Some good dialogue clips. Some head scratchers.

Despite my criticism, some entries are solid and if anything it'll get you thinking if not frustrated. Making one think isn't necessarily a bad thing. Storm just comes off a bit high and mighty in her analysis of what the writers intended or didn't intend or 'should or shouldn't have done'. It comes off a bit smug for my liking. She does include a nice interview with Darren Sumner, gatekeeper to Stargate's most popular fansite Gateworld.

Storm does a good job conveying exactly what appeals to the diverse cross-section of SG-1 fans. It's varied for various people, which is precisely why this show has blossomed. "From fans who adore the mythology, to the science and technology fans, to the fans of the military aspect. There are so many different types of people who enjoy the show for different reasons" explains one fan quoted in the book. So actually it wasn't Storm who said that but she did include it.

I couldn't help but ponder that thought. You have to give it to the folks who greenlit this show for an extended period. They gave it time to find its footing. They gave it time to relax and find its way. So many shows are cancelled out of the gate [no pun intended] before they get off the ground. It can take upwards of 2-3 seasons to really soar and often times shows never get a chance to get there. So hats off to those involved who allowed a new mythology, outside of Star Trek, the chance to shine for a change. SG-1 [along with Babylon 5] altered the playing field at least slightly. No longer did sci-fi fans have to merely walk in the shadows of Star Trek alone. Now we have more.

At first I enjoyed Jo Storm's book, but it quickly progressed into a very painful exercise for me once I reached her extensive episode guide. It was long-winded, exhaustive and exhausting on overanalysis and reading into aspects of the show that just weren't there. Episodes she did not enjoy I liked. The ones she loved I often felt were weak. I felt she wrote the whole thing from a very different background philosophically and her perspective was quite different. She constantly harped on the "shippers" and the Jack/Sam relationship. I just can't recommend this book. Quite frankly, I'm not sure how she enjoyed the show. Still, if you're interested in provoking a bit of thought by all means. This one's not for everybody, but it may be for you.

Good news for fans of Jo Storm, she's released a new book Frak You! The Ultimate Unauthorized Guide To Battlestar Galactica. I've got news for you. I'm not surprised it's unauthorized or that it's "ultimate unauthorized." Honestly, I'm surprised Approaching The Possible wasn't unauthorized. I can only imagine the world of Battlestar Galactica according to Jo Storm. Will I be buying that book? Frak you!