Monday, July 28, 2008

Carter & O'Neill: Anatomy Of An SG-1 Love Story

Little story about Jack and Miss Sam, two American kids growin' up in the heartland. Yes, you can imagine concocting lyrics to the classic John Mellencamp track, Jack And Diane, featuring our beloved heroes of Stargate SG-1, Jack O'Neill and Samantha Carter.

This has been a major work in progress, a labor of love if you will. As a fan of Stargate SG-1 I began rolodexing my mind for the key moments or turning points in the series regarding the relationship between Samantha Carter and Jack O'Neill. Dissecting this particular romantic thread was a ball, especially when romance is just a very small part of the show.

It's a testament to the layered depth of the series that the creators continually built upon various threads and the Carter/ O'Neill connection is no exception. The romantic element was certainly kept in perspective given the professional military setting of the show, but there were many moments along the way where scenes spoke volumes about O'Neill and Carter's feelings for one another. I wanted to catalogue them in such a way that fellow SG-1 fans could look back season by season and smile.

Amanda Tapping shared her reflections on the Carter/O'Neill relationship in Sci Fi Magazine in August 2004 with the arrival of Season Eight. "Carter loves O'Neill. She adores him, and she's allowed herself the knowledge that she cannot keep pining away for this man that she can never have. It doesn't mean that she has any less feelings for O'Neill or that she's not attracted to him. She still has deep feelings of love for him, ... and that's never going to go away." We understand, but we can imagine as we do in this post.

Tapping continued to capture the relationship dynamic rather succinctly and articulated it understandably in Stargate: The Official Magazine. "My character's relationship with O'Neill was probably the most influential. There was a flirtatious side of Sam that she was always afraid to show, and an awkward sexuality to her.... With O'Neill, I think Sam saw the possibility of everything. There was a sexuality to it [their relationship] and a maturity. It was also quite intimate and, perhaps, because it was so forbidden, it was almost safe for Sam to think about because she knew she couldn't act on it. So it could be the ultimate fantasy." (Jan 2010, p.42). Perfect. And thus fandom connected with that as much as Tapping. This potential was indeed a reality in viewer's eyes.

Enjoy the moments and the memories as we search back across Carter And O'Neill: Anatomy Of An SG-1 Love Story.

Children Of The Gods [Season 1] [Episode 1]: The sexual tension between Carter and O'Neill begins.

The Broca Divide [Season 1] [Episode 4]: Ah, the kiss. Well, not exactly of the romantic variety.

Later, the awkward moment.

Solitudes [Season 1] [Episode 17]: Carter and O'Neill are unexpectedly brought together through no fault of their own and grow closer as a result. Destiny? Well, a frozen tundra, ice caves, and a few broken bones leaving one immobile has a way of bringing doing that. There is a lot of emotion in this one.

There But For The Grace Of God [Season 1] [Episode 19]: An alternate SG-1 reality is helmed by a General O'Neill and Carter, as a civilian, hence the lack of any need for military protocol. This story written by David Kemper of Farscape acclaim allows for the tender and hypothetically loving embrace.

Out Of Mind [Season 2] [Episode 22]: The obligatory backside/skin shot. This very sticky situation even permits for a bit of O'Neill carnal, male instinct to creep in despite heavy odds stacked against him.

Point Of View [Season 3] [Episode 6]: O'Neill discovers Carter is married to him at least in another place and time. The alternate reality checks are a constant on Stargate SG-1 and the creators cleverly utilize the infinite possibilities of science fiction to examine their potential for love.

It's so hard to say goodbye...especially with delicate piano playing.

A Hundred Days [Season 3] [Episode 17]: 'The Other Woman'. Of course it's kind of hard not to enjoy the other woman when you're lost and a long way from home with little chance of finding a way back. The other woman here, Laira, was played by none other than Michele Greene [a la L.A. Law fame]. This infamous episode left open the question, did O'Neill [RDA] father a child off world with the other woman? The answer appears to be YES in the closing shot of the episode. Needless to say, it's an ever so slight, but powerful reaction by Carter when O'Neill is bidding farewell to Laira.

Nemesis [Season 3] [Episode 22]: The power of suggestion. Apart from being one of the best episodes ever made for SG-1, there is this moment where it looks like maybe, just maybe, Carter would cross those professional boundaries. There is also the fact that, apart from sweeping her off her feet, O'Neill wouldn't mind if she did just that. A delicious scene.

Divide And Conquer [Season 4] [Episode 5]: This is an extension of Upgrades [Season 4] [Episode 3]. Some fans may have felt a tad too manipulated here, but I like intentional tuggings on the old heartstrings now and again and it's one of my favorite tender moments in the series. This solid entry merely confirmed what fans had hoped for and believed all along for four years. There was indeed a special connection between Carter and O'Neill and for all intents and purposes it looked like the two professional soldiers were prepared to keep their feelings for one another in check for the sake of international...or rather interstellar relations. Again, you can't deny that piano.

Window Of Opportunity [Season 4] [Episode 6]: As the title would suggest, the creators and cast got creative with Carter and O'Neill's relationship given the parameters they had established for themselves professionally. Science fiction is a beautiful thing and SG-1's creators began to posit the 'what if' scenarios with this dandy of a time loop episode. O'Neill wises up and takes full advantage of his own window of opportunity knowing his time will loop back again and all will be forgotten.

Beneath The Surface [Season 4] [Episode 10]: This episode is loaded with wonderful, warm orange and brown coloration. Carter, O'Neill and the rest of SG-1 struggle to remember who they are. Their minds have been altered and they work off the chemistry between one another to break through the barricades. O'Neill even recalls feeling for Carter.

Entity [Season 4] [Episode 20]: The emotional connection is subtle. Carter has been overtaken by an alien intelligence that has slipped through the gate and the team makes every desperate attempt to get Carter back.

The creators took a bit of a hiatus from Carter and O'Neill's affections if I'm not mistaken. They had visited a number of different avenues creatively and for fear of beating the proverbial 'dead horse' and repeating themselves the creators literally skipped Season 5 and essentially Season 6 regarding their love connection.
Full Circle [Season 6] [Episode 22]: O'Neill and Carter's friendship runs deep and they even reference their affection at each other's expense.

Grace [Season 7] [Episode 13]: A disoriented Carter suffers from a head injury and the cast and crew really delve into the area of alien isolation with a kind of Nostromo-styled eeriness. Carter's mind manifests itself in the form of a number of visitations that ask her to look at her life choices. A vision of O'Neill has her questioning her relationship with her superior, friend and would be lover. A terrific episode written by Damian Kindler.

Death Knell [Season 7] [Episode 16]: Out of friendship grows love. O'Neill keeps things professional, but never pushes caring for Carter aside.

Heroes Part 2 [Season 7] [Episode 18]: A harrowing firefight nearly tears apart what Carter knows to be a necessary part of her life-O'Neill. She may not be with him, but she's always by his side and she certainly depends on it on an emotional level.

Lost City Part 2 [Season 7] [Episode 22]: Carter and O'Neill have a sort of Princess Leia and Han Solo moment when Sam attempts to share her feelings with O'Neill.

Carter is not digging this. She's got the deer in the headlights thing going here.

Affinity [Season 8] [Episode 7]: A sweet scene. It's not easy keeping emotions in check. By the way, is it me, or does Carter always look amazing in black! Oh and did I mention piano? I love that piano.

Threads [Season 8] [Episode 18] Carter and O'Neill have struggled with their working relationship and the part of their relationship they wish could have been more. This episode handles that thread beautifully. There is real honesty here and eight years on, it further illustrates just how steeped in reality a science fiction show like Stargate SG-1 managed to be. As a fan I wanted something to really 'happen' between them, but the creators fleshed out the dynamic so perfectly it only gave me pause as to why I loved the show so much and why I was always satisfied with how they handled their connection.

Moebius Part 2 [Season 8] [Episode 20] This was a swansong to the show and to the quartet that is Carter, O'Neill, Jackson and Teal'c. It would be the last episode of the established, original quartet as it would see to Richard Dean Anderson's departure. Amanda Tapping would exit on maternity leave for a time and Stargate SG-1 would be reincarnated and revived with a new energy for Season 9. In saying goodbye, the creators offered fans a completely original science-fiction tale within the show. This splendidly wacky finale would give fans exactly what they wanted, Carter in the arms of O'Neill [sort of, as it was strictly within the realm of pure fantasy within the show's established boundaries]. While the episode isn't a personal favorite of mine the closing minutes make it one of the finest moments.

I like the sparks and fireworks that ignite around them. It's all very James Bond moment!

200 [Season 10] [Episode 6]. Just when you thought it was safe... the nuptials. Once again, only in our dreams, to celebrate 200 episodes. It was splendid to have RDA back and in the arms of Sam even but for a moment as fans actually got to see them wed.

Ah, the memories. Carter and O'Neill were definitely one of science fiction's terrific male-female pairings alongside Mulder-Scully and a handful of others who kept things mostly professional. They were like friends with potential that gave us a glimmer of the possibilities for something more for ten years. Continuum, unfortunately, would add nothing additional to that story. As of this writing Carter and O'Neill would unlikely share screen time again going forward. Let's face it, the screen magic they did share along the way made for a wild ride while dodging all those bullets. If that isn't love for you.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

B5 S3 Ep14: Ship Of Tears

More flying saucers! Cool! Why is it I get so excited over the classic flying saucer? I mean with all of the amazing technology in J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5 you would think a plain old round, flat, flying saucer would hardly be cause for excitement. But it is. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a nostalgia. Maybe it brings me back to the comfort food of those old black and white episodes of Lost In Space featuring Billy Mumy in pre-Lennier, bonehead-free adolescence. In fact, he was quite a smart young lad if I recall hardly ever making a boneheaded decision. Curious adventurer maybe, but boy was he a smart little guy. He was smarter than that evil Dr. Smith to be sure. I digress. Maybe it’s the whole idea of aliens from another world landing in the traditional saucer-shaped transports. Do you remember The Brady Bunch when Bobby and Peter Brady spent the night camped out looking for saucers? Ahh, those were the days. Nowadays ships are far more complex and exciting [ex- the giant disco ball], but ya gotta hand it to the classic saucer.

One would think I have way too much time on my hands.Anyway, on with Babylon 5, Season Three, Episode 14, Ship Of Tears [or Ship Of Besters]. This was an exciting installment and one of my favorites featuring special guest star Walter Koenig as Checkov err... Bester. Yes, Mr. Bester is back. You can't help but want to greet him with the same kind of disdain as Jerry Seinfeld greeted Neuman in Seinfeld. "Hellllo...Bester." The stylistic camera touches was another notable reason why I enjoyed this one, no doubt thanks in large part to Director Mike Vejar. He, as you know, has turned out to be one of my favorite directors on the show. He also directed the previous entry, A Late Delivery From Avalon, which I will consider a slight misstep or an off day as I didn’t find it to be classic Vejar in look. Granted he doesn't always get it right for me, but when he does the episode is genuinely a visual treat complementing the story.

ISN [Interstellar Network News] is now back on line and clearly being implemented as an arm of the current Earth government utilizing it to wage a propaganda war to win back its people. The Clarke-driven media force is now in the tank as they say. Franklin says it best, “he who controls information controls the world.”
Sheridan is testing a new production model of the Starfury [complete with the kind of toothy-grinned smile that adorned those Republic Gunships in Star Wars The Clone Wars]. The cool thing about these puppies is they can enter planetary atmosphere whereby the former models could not. We saw a glimpse of it in Severed Dreams. The ship’s cockpit instruments and scanners are alight in gorgeous Babylon 5 color as reflected off Sheridan’s spacesuit. The computer map indicates a damaged ship ahead. The floating ship is a Psi Corps elite unit model dubbed the Black Omega disabled and piloted by the evil Bester. How did he get there? Why? Sheridan, always on his toes, steers clear of his line of sight to avoid psi-scanning.

Bester in his typical smug demeanor assures Sheridan he would much prefer to take him back to Babylon 5 to learn more about what he has to offer rather than blow him out of the sky.

That Black Omega if pretty nifty. Our cool ship of the week definitely goes to the Black Omega.Sheridan: "Mr. Bester we no longer have any ties to Earth or to the Psi Corps. So we don't have to put up with you or your games. Now I am sitting on four brand new uni-directional pulse cannons. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't blow you out of the sky?"

Bester: "Because you're curious. Kill me and you'll never know what brought me all the way out here. I think if you weigh that against the brief satisfaction of 'blowing me out of the sky' you'll do the right thing. [After waiting for several seconds]... Captain?"

Sheridan: “I’m thinking it over.” I love how Sheridan kept Bester on the edge for a minute.
G’Kar intercepts Ivanova and expresses his intense dissatisfaction over being left out of those inner circle War Council meetings. G’Kar implores he has kept up his end of the bargain including Narn security.
Bester is now on board Babylon 5 and the fantastic four aren’t quite sure what he's up to. Sheridan launches a plan of action. He asks Ivanova [a low level telepath] to meet with Bester first. If he attempts to scan her she will know. If he doesn’t scan they'll know he can be trusted, errr… “a little.” Ivanova also alerts Sheridan to their G’Kar problem.
Ivanova arrives to see Bester in the holding cell. He makes some personal remarks to play with her head including how she looks like her mother [whoa! wrong thing to say!] and WHAMMO! He takes a shot across the face. Don’t mess with her bucko! Bester stops beating around the bush and mentions to her the old adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” For the first time we get a sense that Bester is working outside of the Clarke government and working on his own as a member of Psi Corps. He inquires concerned about an alien influence on the Clarke government and the additional infection within Psi Corps by that which he understands to be The Shadows. They are calling the shots and the purist that is Mr. Bester is none too pleased or taken too kindly to someone or something cutting into his action.

The future belongs to telepaths and I intend to make sure that happens one way or another.” Bester is essentially your elitist Aryan telepath type fellow. He is the blood equivalent in science fiction to that of the vampire. Bester is deeply troubled that alien interference will inevitably collapse or compromise his personal plans for the future of Psi Corps. “I won’t have it” he assures. “Would you like to hurt them commander because I think I know how if you’re up for it.” After having seen the entire episode you wonder if he knows more than he lets on. Still, he’s a confident little puke!

Sheridan meets with Delenn over the G’Kar conundrum. He reminds her that G’Kar was the first to alert him to The Shadows. Defensively, she insists she could not speak of them at that time. The time was not right. Silence was required. He is troubled concerning his need to explain the situation to G’Kar and the perception that the Narn were sacrificial lambs to maintain their secret. After all, the War Council knows the Centauri clearly could not have acted without outside help. Delenn insists she must be the one. It is she who needs to speak with her once fellow ambassador to Narn regarding this momentous calculation.

The ever so gracious Bester shares information that a convoy is en route carrying supplies/ weapons for their mutual enemy. The escort will only be protected by a handful of fighters. “It’s important to capture the ship, not destroy it.” Now why would he say that? He knows more than he's letting on and any other option would never have been acceptable to him. He certainly couldn’t do it without the help of Babylon 5 which is why he's here.

Sheridan: “So how did you find out about all of this?” [Great question John!]

Bester: [SMUG again] "I’m a telepath. Work it out.”
I suppose, but frankly your answer sucks pal and I want specifics. WHO!? You son of a bitch!? Who did you get the information from?! SLAP! Talk damn it! SMACK! That feels better. Garibaldi really should have intervened here. I mean Bester is such an asshole and needs his clock cleaned and Garibaldi would be just the man to do it! He at least needs a good beating or a severe limp or something. Show some respect. That’s the Captain you're talking to pal! Oh that’s right he’s just a “normal,” not a superior being like you. What a dick! I got news for you Bester. He’s got more friends and support backing him than your tiny penis will ever have. He definitely licked Elmer's Glue or ate glue paste as a child or something while placing kernels of popcorn on a sheep drawing in Sunday school.

A little known fact everyone is enlightened to, telepaths can pick up thought waves from ships at a distance. He can pinpoint their location using this ability. I love when Sheridan asks how come they never knew about this little “ability.” Sheridan and Marcus always ask good questions. Bester assures it is a secret kept even from Earth.

Bester: “Otherwise the military might start putting telepaths on the front lines. We’re not expendable. Mundanes are.”

Garibaldi: “That would be us.”

Bester: “Got it in one Mr. Garibaldi. Takes generations to breed a telepath. Mundanes breed like rabbits. Supply and demand.

Sheridan and friends, oh and one pesky Bester are off! You’ll note the White Star flying past Babylon 5 en route to hyperspace to fulfill their mission. I've seen this shot before but I like it.

G’Kar goes to Delenn’s quarters. The once reticent Delenn knows she must face G’Kar with the uncomfortable truth. It is a very difficult moment for G’Kar as it is for Delenn too. G’Kar has been such an outcast for so long. G'Kar definitely captures my heart in this show.

Yikes! Just noticed the fighters protecting the supply ship in hyperspace aren’t Earth fighters, but rather Shadow fighters. That was alarming at first, but then I watched the White Star slice through them like a blue hammer on a Whack-A-Mole game. What was I possibly concerned about?

I loved this brief scene between Bester and Sheridan. The body language between these two speaks volumes concerning how intensely they dislike one another. I like how Straczynski at times pulls together forces that wind up the unlikeliest of allies.

The White Star attaches via magnetic beam to the supply ship. Lennier picks up another craft. It’s a Shadows vessel but oddly it breaks off pursuit and vacates hyperspace. Hmmm... So what is that ship? “Weapons supplies that’s what I was told,” confirms Bester. Back on board Babylon 5 it's determined the cargo is filled with sleeper tubes host to human telepaths in cryogenic suspension while the glass cases are adorned with Psi Corps insignias. Franklin and Sheridan view the mutilated body of the ship’s pilot, the victim of an apparent suicide. That is nasty! The command deck was loaded with an acid compound. Interesting. Ivanova informs Sheridan of the cargo they have discovered. “I don’t think they went voluntarily.” Double interesting.

Sheridan blasts Bester for playing dumb. Anytime you can blast Bester the pester is certainly a good time.

In medlab, Franklin is easing victims back from cryostasis gradually to avoid trauma. Each is identified with a bracelet complete with numbers. It’s a pretty moody sequence in medlab and the fact this one JUMPS at the glass didn’t help. HOLY CRAP! That lady scared the dickens out of me when she slammed herself against the glass. It was a very Alien-like moment. “Keep them away from me,” she screams in horror. Well, one thing we know for sure, there is someone or something that is definitely screwing with her mind.

Sheridan confronts Bester with the bracelet. Why doesn’t Bester scan or is he scanning? No one would actually know outside of Ivanova. Could he already know about her without letting on? Bester indicates the bracelet is that of a Blip, a telepath who refused to join the Corps. The code is that of a P11 or P12, captured and sent to Mars for re-education. Bester pauses mid-sentence curious then alarmed. Franklin asks why the transport was headed for the Rim. Bester sidelines the question and demands, “I need to see her. Now.”

In medlab she awakens to nightmares of a Shadows vessel and aliens drilling into her mind. Aww man, I hate the old ‘aliens drilling into your mind’ trick. It's always very unnerving. Mind you, I’ve never actually had one of those nightmares, but apparently a lot of people involved with science fiction have because we see it often. It’s a great sequence with great creature make-up as well. Do they work for The Shadows? I don’t believe them to be The Shadows, but then who are they? Hmmm…

I love flashlights [especially in science fiction]!
Babylon 5 goes on red alert. Franklin, Garibaldi and Bester enter medlab with caution. Sparks alight the room. As they turn the corner, they see a woman suspended and connected to wiring from the medlab consoles in mid-air. She is engulfed by conduit and is extremely plugged in. My initial reaction was entirely Jamie Lee Curtis and that grade D horror sci-fi film Virus. I had visions of that whole thing immediately come to mind. But, of course, here we actually have a good story.

The woman calls to Bester. “Alfred help me.” Bester approaches and she fires electricity at him. Bester doesn’t understand. “There’s no reason for her to do this or attack me. Why is she doing this?” Garibaldi takes Bester’s badge and throws it to the floor where she strikes it with energy. “The machine says kill to protect.” Franklin manages to hit her with a sedative. “Al what have they done to me?” Al? Alfred? What the hell is going on here? She appears to know him. Bester sees images briefly of the aliens and The Shadows' vessel with the image of a human at its core. I could only surmise it had to do with that program alluded to back in Season Three opener Matters Of Honor and also Messages From Earth. Clearly, telepaths are the human instrument of that program, a human instrumentality project [a la anime Neon Genesis Evangelion].

The woman calling out to Bester is Carolyn, Bester’s lover. Carolyn is carrying his child. Sheridan mentions his wife and child back on Mars. Oh them. Ah, don’t worry about those people they're just my wife and child on Mars. This was a genetic pairing arranged by the Corps that led Alfred Bester to love. Bester is still married but fell in love with Carolyn. She did not want to join the Corps. So if you told me what love story would come along next this one wouldn’t have been even close to my radar. Nice.

So weapons components were precisely what were aboard that ship. Human weapons. They were the living tissue and operating systems necessary to merge with the Shadows vessels. With Carolyn so fused to the wiring Bester pleads with Sheridan to help her. She’s the only thing he’s ever cared about. “If you can save her, I’ll do anything you want to help. Your war is now my war.” What a fascinating twist by Straczynski. Nicely done. On the one hand I want to be overjoyed with the knowledge of this potentially new ally in Bester, yet I cannot be anything but cautiously hopeful at the possibilities. I fall into the Ivanova camp who is extremely dubious concerning Bester’s sincerity. She knows his loyalty is ephemeral and will last as long as he needs them. I still think blowing him out of the sky would have been nice, but certainly not as interesting to the storyline. Well, maybe it would have been.

G’Kar is finally, after his seemingly endless outsider status, admitted within the inner circle of the War Council as he steps through the door with Delenn. It is indeed a sight to behold as we witnesses Babylon 5’s latest set addition. Very, very cool. I was reminded of some of the best sets from classic James Bond 007 a la Moonraker and Roger Moore. I loved it. “I am honored to be among you. This is a great day; a very great day indeed,” declares G’Kar.

"Listen to me, after this gig is up can you sign me up for my own radio show?"
Garibaldi is much sharper than I thought. Clearly he has become quite capable of translating the Narn language and has somehow studied that bible closely in his free time. He has found something important and alerts the War Council with a Code 7R.

Garibaldi awaits the arrival of the team and informs them he has found something as he thumps the Book of G’Quan with his finger. G’Kar cringes, “do not thump the Book of G’Quan. It is disrespectful.” [Maybe inviting Debbie Downer to the party wasn't such a good idea]. Garibaldi alludes to the fact that Narn telepaths were wiped out one thousand years ago. G’Kar confirms. And Narn was a base for the ancient enemy at that time. They were driven away by G’Quan and the remaining Mindwalkers [not to be confused with the Deathwalkers]. Garibaldi has done the math and gleefully acknowledges The Shadows are fearful of telepaths. He’s quite animated explaining the situation and I was reminded of a preacher man as he held that G’Quan. “They cannot hear the machine,” Carolyn decried in pain earlier. There is a detrimental affect from telepaths in proximity to The Shadows. This explains why the Shadows vessel turned tail and ran when Bester was sensed aboard the White Star earlier. “We have a weapon. By God people we have a weapon,” a hopeful Sheridan announces.

The War Council better hope so; The Shadows are attacking in open space now. They are on the move and out of hiding. Looks like the gloves are off people!
This was solid stuff.

Ship Of Tears: B+

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Las Vegas & Star Trek: The Experience

The Sci-Fi Fanatic has been completely MIA. I apologize for that. I was sorely ill-prepared as far as the blog goes when it happened. I had almost finished proofreading my latest installment of Babylon 5, Ship Of Tears, but hit the airplane before I could finish and just never could find time to link up the laptop again.

Las Vegas, what can you say? You either love a place like that or you don’t. Truthfully, I fall into the latter camp. I know so many people who love that place. The lights, the gambling, the shows, the nightlife, the people, and the sheer beauty of the utter decadence of it all- they love it! I fall into that other camp because it just ain’t for me. I didn’t mind the heat at all. If I can handle the Everglades I can handle the hot. I just can’t get all jazzed up about the hype and glitter of Las Vegas. I definitely didn’t run out to let it all hang out so I could use the oft-cited cliché ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Honestly you can have it. I suppose what might seem odd is why I wouldn’t find a place that looks like a gigantic spaceship landed smack dab in the middle of the desert appealing, alluring or at least beautiful.

In a million years I never imagined I'd visit Las Vegas, Nevada. I just never wanted to go until my hand was forced in this case. Well, it was everything I thought it would be and more, bad and tacky. I actually envisioned it to be better than it wound up being. Cigarettes and gambling were at every turn. I was beginning to forget what inhaling oxygen into my lungs felt like. I’m sorry, but it was just a complete and utter spectacle [at night only]- a showy, shallow, soulless waste with a seedy underbelly underneath all those shiny lights.

I did take five to absorb a little sci-fi action. I had learned that Star Trek: The Experience was at the Las Vegas Hilton and was preparing to fold forever in September 2008. I had heard those very words just weeks ago. Well, I immediately set my sights on getting there and making my visit a reality before it was too late since I was heading that way anyhow. I was extremely bummed to learn I would be missing what appeared to be a very cool Star Trek Convention in August at the Las Vegas Convention Center next to the Las Vegas Hilton with a slough of mega-stars from the series including my man Leonard Nimoy [See Postcard for entire list].

Star Trek: The Experience was pretty cool. The Klingon Encounter motion ride was a lot of fun and the effects were excellent. I don’t know how old the rides were but they have held up pretty well and were far better than the God awful Star Wars ride at MGM in Orlando, Florida. The other experience was Borg Invasion 4D and it was a kind of interactive-theatrical experience, but the effects were cool as the U.S.S. Voyager comes crashing in the Borg Cube to rescue us from the Borg Queen at the end to save us from certain assimilation. I really enjoyed them both. I had dinner at that Ferengi fellow’s self-named Quark’s Bar & Restaurant [there were some Klingons and Andorians walking around for effect; click here for the full menu]. It was my first day in Vegas and I hadn’t eaten all day. I was hungry. I ordered the Flaming Ribs of Targ [a.k.a. Flaming Ribs of Shite] covered with green stuff and, as you might imagine on an empty stomach, they would/should taste delicious. They did not. They were gross and disgusting. Quite frankly they sucked. You’ll recall I had the world’s most amazing ribs in Naples, Florida at Michelbob’s. Well, I found the world’s worst ribs and they are at Quarks, Star Trek: The Experience, Las Vegas, Nevada [another reason not to go- I’m kidding, everyone should go]. The Star Trek museum was pretty cool loaded with phasers and other props form the many series.

Everything was expensive in Las Vegas. I did see The Dark Knight [I'm sorry I'm just not a gambler]. It was as everyone has said- amazing, and I loved, loved Batman Begins. Heath Ledger, and I love Christian Bale, steals the show with a demented but really note perfect performance. What an even greater loss when I think about it after seeing him in that film.

I did The Strip. Later, as I walked through the Palms Resort Hotel [away from The Strip] you should have seen the cast of characters at the slot machines. No word of a lie, there was this one fellow who was kind of grungy and he had his finger so far up his nose in plain view that if it went any further it would have come out the back of his head. He looked like he was digging for gold while he was trying to win some money. It was repulsive. I felt for the next guy who had to use that machine. He was unabashedly right out in the open with it. The poor fellow definitely had some issues. There were people in wheelchairs and with canes. There were some with oxygen masks [that’s what happens when you smoke]. There were some with oxygen masks while they were smoking. The cocktail waitresses were mostly naked. I didn’t mind that so much. Soem were almost naked and were not cocktail waitresses. They were fine too, if a little scary.

Anyway folks, I’m back and I really wanted to share some pictures with you of Star Trek: The Experience, but bloody well forgot the fucking camera! So I took a photo of what materials I brought back with me to prove I was there. I did manage to grab a few with my cell phone camera- Crap quality! I'll try and figure out how to get them off there.

Guys let me tell you, I’m glad I’m away from that place. It is indeed the City of Sin for a reason and amen to that. I do want to note that some of the folks I ran into there were very nice. One cab driver told me how much he loves it there and keeps coming back there whenever he leaves the place. He and his wife like to go to the concerts. Steve Miller was on tap for the weekend. Still, I was reminded of a quote from a fellow named Kaiser Kuo who commented on Beijing in Time Magazine. “It’s a horrible place to live, but I wouldn’t be anywhere else on the planet. You get addicted to the excitement, speed and change. There’s nowhere else like it.” I couldn’t help but apply the same thinking to Las Vegas. Granted, I’ve never been to Beijing and at least the sanitation in Las Vegas is up to speed. But God Bless the folks out there who see the good in places like Las Vegas.

Now that I’ve returned and I've had some distance from the place I can’t help but admit there was something fascinating about it all that could definitely lure me back and suck me in. Thankfully I have my inner Spock to keep me in check.

Friday, July 25, 2008


There has been an attack and The Sci-Fi Fanatic was captured and is undergoing assimilation.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Is Babylon 5 Finished?

Folks. I'm sure this is not really news for the Babylon 5 aficionado, but I thought I'd post it just in case anyone missed it. I spotted the update at Starlog, which of course points you to J. Michael Straczynski's official site. It was posted July 13. Anyway, it wasn't exactly encouraging news even to someone such as myself who is still just discovering the series and is only midway through it.

Re: recent discussions on TMoS and more The Lost Tales.
B5:The Lost Tales was commissioned at a $2 million budget to, yet one more time,"test the waters" for B5. We did what we could with that, and that was that. As we did with Rangers, which also suffered from not having a lot of money because of concerns about "is there really a B5audience?" Which is, of course, a foolish question from a studio that has never really understood what it has in B5.
Of late, there have been more discussions from WB about doing more DVDs, again at a low cost, or a cable thing, again with minimal investment.
So for the last few months, I've been giving this whole subject a lot of quiet thought. And I've come to a conclusion.
B5 as a five year story stands beautifully on its own. If anything else is to be continued from that story, it should be something that adds to the legacy of B5, rather than subtracts from it.
As well intentioned as Rangers and TLT were, as enticing as it was to return to those familiar waters, in the end I think they did more to subtract from the legacy than add to it. I don't regret having made them, because I needed to go through that to get to the point where I am now psychologically, but from where I sit now, I wouldn't make them again.
So I've let everyone up here know that I'm not interested in doing anymore low-budget DVDs. I'm not interested in doing any low-budget cable things or small computer games. The only thing I would be interested in doing regarding Babylon 5 from this point on is a full-featured, big-budget feature film.
It's that or nothing.
And if it's nothing, I'm totally cool with that because the original story stands on its own just fine. I'm not lobbying for it, I'm not asking fans to write in about it (nor should you) because such campaigns never really have much impact...that's simply the position I've taken up here. Lord knows I don't lack for other things to do these days. I'm busier on more prestige projects with terrific people and great film-makers than at any other time in my career.
At the end of the day, for me, it's not just a matter of getting more B5. It's a matter of getting more *good* B5 that respects what came before it and doesn't have to compromise visually or in terms of action. The original show deserves better than that, the surviving cast members deserve better than that, and the fans who have support edit over the years definitely deserve better than that. A lot better.
So I've drawn that line in the sand, and I'm happy living on which ever side of that line the universe puts me. Just thought you should know,'cause it's your show too.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Nuclear Talks Stall

I've been reading I Am Spock. It was somewhat coincidental when I reached Chapter Fourteen and read this passage shortly after reading the morning paper. The passage grabbed me because I had remembered reading something very similar in the paper. We always knew Spock was a genius and clearly Leonard Nimoy is no slouch. Okay, perhaps raising a generalization like this isn't all that astounding but to get the headline right on the mark some 22 years after filming Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is pretty impressive. This is Nimoy discussing the making of a scene in the aforementioned film.

"...Our intrepid crew wanders over to a newspaper vending machine and takes a newspaper from the box. I'd puzzled over an appropriate headline for the newspaper- one that would seem timely and appropriate to a contemporary audience, while still being vague enough so that, when the movie opened many months later in the theatres, the headline wouldn't seem dated. I finally settled on NUCLEAR TALKS STALLED, because I figured that, no matter what happened politically in the following months and even years, someone, somewhere would be negotiating with someone else about nuclear arms."

You've got that spot on Spock... err, I mean Leonard.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Arthur's Theme [The Best That You Can Do]

To quote Arthur from the movie Arthur, played by the late, great Dudley Moore, "sometimes I just think funny things." Anyway, this is completely ridiculous and I can hear you now. 'Good Lord.' Actually, I should be ashamed to admit it, but I actually liked this song at one time. I still might after hearing it again.

Well, "When you get caught between the moon and Babylon station I know he's crazy, but its true. If you get caught between the moon and Babylon station, the best that you can do, the best that you can do is fall in love."

Loving music and Babylon 5 together is a bit of a sickness I've discovered.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

B5 S3 Ep13: A Late Delivery From Avalon

Yet another fine orb-like ship design compliments of the Babylon 5 science fiction project.

So my friends, I took a little time out to coordinate the menu system on the blog. I felt as though things were getting a bit unruly with all of the entries. By simply placing all of the Babylon 5 entries under one header I thought it might make it tough for anyone who came along to read and get caught up. So, I have created separate Babylon 5 season headers for easier access. I hope that helps.
Babylon 5, Season Three, Episode 13, A Late Delivery From Avalon [or Arthur & His Nights On A Round-like Station] opens with a slice of station life inside the Earth Force Postal Service. It just so happens my father worked for the Earth Force Postal Service. Of course back in the day it was called the US Post Office. Anyway, my father was a genuinely nice guy. He passed away a few years back. I have a fond memory of this little lady from his delivery route coming up to me at the calling hours to tell me how she just loved my father. My Dad smoked you see. Apparently, the woman had ordered a book [long before Amazon] and while he was taking his lunch in the mail truck he lit up a ciggie while reading the paper. Little did he know that his cigarette had landed next to the book and caught the book on fire to the left of his mail tray. Anyway, if you knew him you would know he felt just horrible and he brought the burnt up book to the lady and told her how sorry he was. He would happily pay for a new book and would certainly take care of it. She insisted it wasn’t necessary and not to worry. She knew it was an accident. Can you imagine? You see a little understanding goes a long way. Yeah, you don’t see too many situations like that nowadays. It’s kind of a sad commentary. I’m glad she came that day to share that story. I'd have never known.

Well, here we are with A Late Delivery From Avalon. It opens as Mr. Garibaldi attempts to retrieve his package from the Earth Force Postal Service. Unfortunately, the now independent station suffers from a now tumultuous relationship with Earth and rates are quite exorbitant. This was a salient point for me. I had been wondering how the break was going to affect Babylon 5 operations. The station’s declaration of independence had to have an impact. It seemed a matter of time before ill effects might result. Here we get those hardships in play as Garibaldi tries desperately to pick up a simple package. No credits, no vittles for you buddy. Here is one of the entry’s finer moments.

A funny thing dawned on me about the world of Babylon 5, I’m surprised there are NO robots. I could easily see that postal guy being replaced by a robot. But so far apparently, robots really never took off within this sci-fi reality. No R2 units or C3POs to aid in the work force. Perhaps given the limited confines of Straczynski's budget robots were cast aside from his potential vision of the future or not.

Marcus proves himself time and again to be very much a product of his Minbari experience. Here he explains to Fr. Franklin the influence of that alien culture on his life.

Delight. Respect. Compassion. That for your actions to be pure, they must proceed from direction, determination, patience and strength. I’m afraid I’m still working on patience. They taught me how to live, how to breath, how to fight and how to die. And they taught me terror. How to use it and how to face it.” Granted that philosophy isn’t all that alien or at least it shouldn’t be. Marcus has a terrific British accent. I think he could describe the process of using a latrine and it might sound impressive.

Michael York [Logan's Run, The Island Of Dr. Moreau] guests as he takes on a new island in the form of a floating space station filled with more icky monsters of a sort. He also deals with a doctor. It all feels a bit like The Island Of Dr. Franklin. Terrible. But seriously he just can’t escape that H. G. Wells classic, and really, does the man ever age? Logan's Run was released in 1976 and The Island Of Dr. Moreau in 1977 [I loved this film]. He's been around. It must have been a fairly big coup for the series' creators to land his support for the series. York plays a character that believes himself to be King Arthur. As he boards Babylon 5 scanners indicate he is carrying a weapon, not just any weapon, just a little friend called Excalibur. He is held at PPG point. Marcus to the rescue! Marcus plays along and kneels before the excellence of Arthur to ease his anxiety. Nothing like a fellow Brit to calm tensions.
Babylon 5 has some of the most colorful, exciting consoles.
I love the moment when Dr. Franklin tells security, “We’ll take it from here. I assume full responsibility.” WHAT!? Bloody Hell! He’s a doctor Jim! NOT a Security Chief! I mean who the hell does he think he is to assume control of a situation that includes a strange, giant, sword-wielding madman that believes he’s King Arthur. It’s like, hey, you’ve had one too many hits with the stims there doc. I know the plausible explanation might be that he was of a poor mental state and needed medical review. He took the man in as a patient. I got it. I just found it amusing and I’m not so sure I relinquish the nut over to the doctor if I'm with security. Sorry. Perhaps this REALLY is The Island Of Dr. Franklin as he attempts to determine whom Arthur, King of the Britons, really is.

Marcus updates Sheridan on the situation and the always-steady Captain assumes Arthur is essentially a complete nutjob. Marcus makes the point about the possibility of the Vorlons being involved in this conundrum given their travels to Earth and their ability to preserve life [ie Comes The Inquisitor]. While the boys are busy attempting to figure out why this man claims to be Arthur hailing from 17,000 years ago he has slipped out of medlab and made his way to the Down-Below. I love Security Chief Franklin’s methods of containment- Absolutely top notch!

A man is being assaulted while G’Kar is purchasing Narn information Down-Below from his own back channels. During the exchange Arthur takes on the hoodlums while wielding Excalibur and wearing his knightly garb. The edits here are amusing for those of you who enjoy looking for this stuff, because there are some continuity problems. At the close of battle the stuntman’s garb winds up literally on his face following the skirmish, while in the first close up of York's face his uniform is just fine and you can see his face.

If you squint, you might think of G'Kar as an extra who escaped from The Island Of Dr. Moreau.
Cut to The One To Be Pitied: “Oh for cryin’ out loud, what crap are you watching now?” “Be gone with you,” I command with my best definitive Arthurian accent.

His knightly armor is now perfectly affixed to his head in this shot.
G’Kar sees the Briton in peril and leaps to his aid. How about when G’Kar gives that whole, cat growl-hiss thing to scare off the attackers in the melee. That was a little bizarre.

In celebration we will drink, we will be merry and we shall keel over!

One of the things I love about G’Kar is he has this kind of regal, quirky gay side coupled with this strong guy ferocity. It’s a strange combination but somehow Andreas Katsulas is brilliant at pulling it off. These two were like long lost friends. Who knew G’Kar had a soft spot for the mentally imbalanced. Obviously he was drawn to his strength at standing up for the powerless. By the way I love that alien character dude that makes appearances in the Down-Below or Zocalo. He's the one you see with the black, pilot-like, breathing mask/ apparatus.

Later, Garibaldi, clearly abusing his authority, breaks into the Earth Force Postal Service office. WHAT! What the hell are you thinking BOY!? You can’t steal mail! That’s a federal intergalactic crime! I understand you’re dying for good food, but the ends clearly don’t justify the means my friend. No matter the postal worker is laying in wait, apparently spending his nights sleeping in the office to protect that mail I guess. Now that’s dedication. “That’ll be another 20 credits for the lock and I am reporting this to the Post Master General. Oh Yeah!” Getting those Italian goodies is looking less and less likely for Garibaldi. Still, he is killing me with his laissez-faire attitude and willingness to bend the rules for his purposes.

Meanwhile, Arthur is having visions [in black & white] of spacefighters and Minbari cruisers. At the same time he somehow feels responsible for the deaths of his knights. What is this link?

From The Island Of Dr. Moreau to The Island Of Babylon 5 Michael York is like a fish out of water once again.
Elsewhere, Sheridan and Ivanova have brokered a treaty between a host of respective alien races to gain their cooperation in protecting Babylon 5. The team wants the station insulated from all warring factions and for those same factions to contribute to its defense. Remarkably, they manage to achieve enough signatures for the Mutual Defense Agreement.

Back in medlab Franklin has analyzed the DNA of Arthur and uncovers new information. It turns out he was with Earth Force during the Earth-Minbari War. Arthur is actually living an illusion that is preventing him from coming to terms and learning the truth about who he really is. Poor Arthur is caught between the moon and New York City crazy with confusion. Franklin confronts him with a computer file and a very image of himself. “It’s you,” he tells Arthur. Arthur is actually David McIntyre, age 52, Earth Force Silver Star for valor, Battle Of The Line, Prometheus Gunnery Sergeant. Two thousand died on the line. Two hundred lived. We obviously now know two of them [including Jeffrey Sinclair]. Prometheus was the first ship to encounter the Minbari fifteen years ago. As the Minbari approached their guns were open, a sign of respect within their culture, fairly stupid within ours, and McIntyre opened fire. It seems reasonable to assume it to be an aggressive act if one were unaware of the Minbari. Did the Earthers know this about the Minbari? Did they know anything about the Minbari going into the war? Regardless, McIntyre essentially ignited the war fire and the souls of the dead are on his conscience. Depression has clearly affected him. Deep within his subconscious Arthur is killed and McIntyre lays catatonic in medlab where he is visited by Delenn, who represents, according to the Arthurian world of legend, the Lady Of The Lake who saves Arthur. It is she, of the Minbari, who takes his pain away. As a representative of the Minbari she graces his presence and acts as a symbol of the healing and forgiveness he so desperately requires.

In the end, Garibaldi finally pays for the package and then turns the tables and screws up on the Earth Force Postal Service. It would seem the service will require security now beholden to Babylon 5 thanks to their severed relationship with Earth. Garibaldi establishes a payment amount for coverage while under his care. Ouch. Touché! Those tactics.....hmmmm? Granted, postal rates are getting a bit crazy of late.

The oh-so nontraditional Babylon 5 ending complete with smiles.
In the end, to quote Sheridan, “as interesting a diversion as this might be,” and it really wasn’t that, this episode fails to deliver that package and engage me on the whole. So, in most cases concerning late delivery I'd say better late than never, but this is one delivery I could have done without. Still, J. Michael Straczynski appears to enjoy the undeniable Shakespearean-like tragedy of York’s character despite ending on a more positive note than one might normally expect from Babylon 5.

A Late Delivery From Avalon: C
[not sure I mentioned it, but I kind of liked that film The Island Of Dr. Moreau.]