Thursday, January 29, 2009

Kirk & Bones: The Great Ice Planet Adventure: Part 7: Briefs or Boxers?

Kirk: Apart from that Superbabe there doesn't appear to me of a night life on this planet.

Bones: Perhaps all lifeforms that inhabit the planet live underground due to the harsh conditions.

Kirk: Perhaps Bones. Perhaps.

Bones: Jim! Your blue briefs are showing.

Kirk: It's all part of my plan Bones to lure that Mystery Babe out from the shadows again.

Bones: Hmmm, I see. Well, with all due respect, she didn't seem particularly interested in us.

Kirk: That's because she hasn't gotten up close and personal with big Jim to see the error of her ways.

Bones: Is that it? Well, the winds are breaking cold again and here comes the snow. The temperature and climate is shifting rapidly once again as it did just a few short hours ago. We're going to need to find help. Jim, I think I see something ahead.

Kirk: Bones, more importantly, are you a briefs or boxers man?

Bones: Damn it Jim! This is no time for an undies discussion.

Kirk: What about long johns eh? Those would be quite to our liking right right about now.

Bones: Yes, yes. Long johns are nice. This way.

Kirk: How 'bout the Snuggie?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Love Is Strange

I think Sheridan has done everything but the girl in Babylon 5. Bad joke. This song, Love Is Strange, is really sweet and taken from the recording Acoustic by Everything But The Girl. I recorded the scene to this version and thought it really fit the track like a glove.

Now, here is the classic from Mickey & Sylvia. Quirky but nice.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

B5 S4 Ep19: Between The Darkness And The Light

This is simply one of the most devastating episodes of Babylon 5 without question. It was a tough one to swallow.

Sheridan is back on Babylon 5 speaking with Dr. Franklin. The sequence is a clever splicing of reality and fantasy. All of it is occurring within the mind of a weakened John Sheridan. He imagines he is speaking with a friend, but is offered a drug by the interrogator rather than the cup of coffee he envisions offered by Franklin. Sheridan has been brutalized and pressed mentally and physically now for days. “We don’t want cooperation. We want conversion.” Sheridan is now confusing and blurring the lines of reality with his internal desire to find comfort and solace. By the way, we get our first glimpse of a now bearded Boxleitner here. I’ve seen images of him with the beard. We see it here for the first time. I love it. Boxleitner is a handsome fellow and I’m safe enough with my sexuality and my beloved action figures that I can say that.

Elsewhere, Garibaldi reaches out to the Mars resistance. Instead of a warm greeting he is cold-cocked and head-bagged. Ironically both Sheridan and Garibaldi are clearly about to receive more intensive scrutiny and questioning as we launch into Babylon 5, Season Four, Episode 19, Between The Darkness And The Light [formerly titled I Can't Freakin' Believe Hot Lips Ivanova Is Dying And I'm Pretty Sad About It].

Garibaldi is beaten and brought before Number One and Franklin. Number One is prepared to kill him by PPG. After all Garibaldi has been heralded as a hero on ISN [the propaganda arm of Earth gov]. The resistance hates all of the above. Not surprisingly, the good doctor Franklin can’t kill a man who has been a dear friend to him for quite some time. It makes sense too. Straczynski has done such a splendid job of building relationships throughout the series. He has peppered these little connections between characters all along the way including Garibaldi’s efforts to curb Franklin’s past stim use. These building blocks come into play adding conflict into the decision making process for our heroes throughout the story. So Franklin's conundrum is natural and certainly understanding as he needs to hear Garibaldi’s side of the story [lucky for Garibaldi]. Now that Garibaldi is back to normal, he attempts to tell them the long and short of whatever happened to him.

Franklin: “You got any proof?”

Garibaldi: “Yeah, I got a receipt from the Psi Corps certifying that my brain’s been dry-cleaned, pressed and starched. Come on Stephen, this is Bester we’re talkin’ about here. Do you think he’s gonna leave any evidence? Damn it it’s true!

Garibaldi is desperate for someone to believe in him. 'I want to believe' [nod to The X-Files] ponders Franklin. Garibaldi wants Lyta to scan him. Still, the resistance doesn’t trust telepaths and Number One makes that clear. Amidst the tension of this terrific sequence Lyta goes all High Noon and plasters the joint with laser-driven rifle fire. Wicked cool! Then she goes into a kind of Babylon 5 version of Spock mode as only Lyta can.

YO! That would be Lyta Eastwood to you. Git-r-done!
Lyta’s big black eyes return breaking through to the truth she needs inside Garibaldi’s mind. Number One scoffs at the information. Lyta gets pisses and gives Number One one of her wicked head jerks as Lyta goes all Exorcist-like. She’s pure head-spinning Regan/ Linda Blair. “What do you know about hell?” She forcibly stuffs the bimbo, blonde toughie’s mind with the visuals Garibaldi has had to endure. I thought Lyta and Garibaldi got off the hook a bit easy here. I think this is one of those rare Straczynski missteps. He just attempts to wrap up or move forward with a solution that is a little too easy and illogical. While an argument can be made it's a bit of a push here. I mean if everyone in that room was so down, fearful and distrustful of telepaths why wouldn’t they question what just happened? I mean, if I’m the resistance, I’m thinking ‘well, what did you just do to Number One to get her to believe you?’ Right? Maybe. They could be thinking her little telepathic mind trick was nothing more than a jedi mind trick thingy. It just seemed trusting Number One to speak for everyone and suddenly be a believer within a heartbeat of a nano second was a little too convenient of a story device. I know. I know. She’s Number One bud! There’s no one higher so you just gotta believe. It works enough. It’s the easiest, most sensible way of pardoning Garibaldi, providing his innocence and moving the story forward. I did think he would have a harder time proving his innocence, but Straczynski clearly has other plans for his terrific tale and beloved Garibaldi that I should dare not question. So, Garibaldi is released. I felt like he should have turned to the faceless rabble to say something like, ‘it’s been real dickweeds, thanks for the stay and the beating fellas. I'll be sure to catch up with ya later’.

Meanwhile, Ivanova moves forward. Her fleet takes on The Damocles. The Damocles fires first and then Ivanova unleashes hell on her ass. When the White Star fleet is finished The Damocles is nothing more than a flagging fireball of destruction. Survivors are rescued. Marcus expresses some worry in his eyes here for Ivanova. It is notable, but for what reason I am uncertain.

Back on Mars, the resistance prepares to rescue Sheridan. Number One sends a “skeleton crew” along to accompany Garibaldi, Lyta and Franklin. Now, I’ve heard of skeleton crews, but to me it qualifies as more than one person. Yeah, that’s pretty thin skin and bones all right. Granted, their skeleton escort is an ultra smokin’ hottie. We’ll have more on her old bones in a minute.

The moral of the story is, if these freaks can pull it together why can't we? All in favor?
On Babylon 5, Delenn and Lennier rush to a meeting already in progress and assembled by Londo of the non-aligned worlds. Londo calls for a vote asking for everyone’s support to rescue Sheridan. These races are working together “like never before.” Londo insists, “The humans have become the glue that holds us together” since The Shadows War. Lennier asks why he and Delenn were not summoned to be involved. Londo knows the Minbari might be compromised by their participation thanks to Delenn’s relationship with Sheridan. They are being protected by a selfless Londo act. It is all reassuringly enlightened. My we have come a long, long way indeed. Londo is leading the charge. G’Kar is there in full support. The Gaim, Drazi and others aren’t feuding and bickering selfishly for the first time in memory. It is the dawning of a new age and a new day. Could this be the earliest moment of a League of Aligned Worlds? It is conceivable. I just wanna' start singing We Are Family, I got all the Drazi in me.

On Mars, a voluptuous woman [a.k.a. the skeleton crew] in the form of actress Musetta Vander leads Garibaldi, Lyta and Franklin to their destination. Supple of lip, hot of body and this deliciously gorgeous brunette with a big gun is all that stands between them and death. She is one red, ultra hot skeleton. Did I mention I like skeleton crews? I knew her name looked familiar. She played Shaun’auc on Stargate SG-1. Um, yeah, she was hot in that series too. In fact, she was hotter. You’ll need to see that one for yourself. She also has a meatier guest role in that series with fewer articles of clothing. As the quartet makes their way through the tunnels to get to Sheridan we get the absolutely rare moment of ear-to-ear cheer. This is one of those rare light moments in a science fiction universe that is generally dark in tone more often than not. What a special moment it is and Patricia Tallman is terrific once again.

Lyta is even cute pissed off, kind of sexy even!
I love team-styled guerilla stuff. I wished I had seen a little more of this kind of action throughout the series against The Shadows. I know the story didn’t call for it, but I would have loved just one episode where they attempted to survive them on the ground one on one blasting bug guts all over the walls. I suppose that is one of the things I love about Stargate SG-1 or Stargate Atlantis. That up close and personal, in the trenches, kind of combat is exciting. I suppose they have Starship Troopers for that. Anyway, the sexy scout chickee leaves them to their own devices for the rest of their journey. It’s okay I like this team. You’ve got a balls-to-the-wall brawler, smart and fearless, a medic with guts and a powerhouse telepath unafraid to fire a weapon to boot. Yeah, I think that’s a pretty sweet team. I'd put money on them. Granted a sexy, brunette skeleton would have been a nice distraction taking them a little further.

In space, Damocles Officer Eisensen is brought before Ivanova. He tells her some defectors of Earth are loyally reporting back to Earth on Ivanova’s plans to head to Mars to rescue Sheridan. The moles for Earth are setting a trap for her. They have newly designed ships awaiting their arrival. I love ships. I can’t wait to see new ships. I told you how much I love space ships. Things could be ugly. I was thinking Ivanova should hold back her warships and enter Mars space strictly with her vast, fleet-of-foot White Stars. She should be able to outmaneuver them with their sheer speed.

Back on Mars, our fearless heroes ambush two Mars troopers. My hopes had been slightly optimistic here coupled with my thirst for hand-to-hand excitement and adventure. I was optimistic despite their odds but it all came to a screeching halt as Garibaldi was knifed in the back. I really hate when that happens. There is nothing worse than getting stabbed in the back figuratively or in this case for real. This is not good at all. It hurts just looking at him. Still, we have our doctor and he stitches him up straight away. Garibaldi dresses in an Earth uniform to implement phase two.

Elsewhere, it appears Ivanova heard me and is taking my advice. Ha. She is heading out with White Stars only. So it would appear Earth has the element of surprise waiting for her technologically, while Ivanova and friends have the element of surprise knowing they will surprise the surprisers that think they are the surprisers when they really aren’t going to be surprising anyone and therein lies Ivanova’s surprise for the surprisees. It should be interesting as all parties are converging upon Sheridan. It is all, not surprisingly, very good.

On Mars, Garibaldi and company arrive at Sheridan’s holding area. I never could understand how often people in just about any kind of show can waltz into an area and not be recognized by other troops. They must always be very big armies with soldiers that don't pay each other much mind. Granted, in this case, it’s handled very well. The man on duty recognizes Garibaldi as the hero from ISN. “The one and only,” smiles Garibaldi.

Is there anything this woman can't do? She's a machine!
Season Four has been so complex and so expertly written. Thank God Straczynski wrote all of it. It is impressively woven together as if that is any kind of revelation I suppose. It just never ceases to amaze me how the pieces of his story fall into place and make sense inside the big picture of course. Garibaldi is an intergalactic hero so I’d let him in too. This next scene is hysterical.

I love how Straczynski can place his own thoughts into the mouths of these characters and it just works. Funny moment number two.

Garibaldi: "I'm the one who turned him in. Maybe you saw me on ISN."

Guard: "I don't watch TV. It's a cultural wasteland filled with inappropriate metaphors and an unrealistic portrayal of life created by the liberal media elite."

Garibaldi: "I couldn't agree more." Amen! The guard has a point.

That is a Lyta Eastwood Right Hook Special! She is out of fucking control! I love her! Even Biggs is frightened by her here.
Do you just love this team? I am a little surprised the stabbing didn’t inhibit Garibaldi’s movement a bit more. Still he’s a tough guy who can suppress pain so you can definitely buy into it. You can see the detail they give the situation though with the blood permeating through Garibaldi’s shirt. His entrance wound is a mess.

On the White Star Marcus waves his hand over a resting Ivanova as he speaks to her “You’ll never know.” Apparently she does Marcus. This is a sweet moment. He really confirms his love for her here.

Yeah, she knows.

On Mars, the escape of Sheridan is in progress. I should think Sheridan has slight anger issues as he shoots one of the guards over 8 times. It’s understandable.

Dr. Franklin is a pretty fine shot too! He's good with stims AND PPGs. Ouch!
WHOA! They're baaaack, kinda sorta. I never saw that ship design coming. That is so sinister cool. In space, the White Star fleet encounters the new Earth warships. So this is what Earth gov was up to all those episodes ago first prompted in Season Three, Episode 8, Messages From Earth as the Shadows vessel was being unearthed and utilized for the weapons division. It was essentially a military industrial complex initiative. Now, pure evil is a reality. Those ships are friggin’ scary and hideous. The lighting is what gives them such menace. Ivanova’s reaction is priceless too. So it would appear we are about to see the Vorlons battling the Shadows all over again. We have Earth with its Shadows-technology versus the White Star fleet with its Vorlon-heavy build. Both have inherited “semi-organic hull designs” from the First Ones who are now gone. Their legacies live on. The battle of light versus dark begins again indeed.

She looks a bit like The Grinch here.
This is one of the best bridge identifications I’ve ever seen. It ranks up there with the best of “Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise.” These are people with whom not to mess.

Those nasty looking vessels look like Earth warships with a bad skin problem. It’s notable they even have laser-styled firepower compliments of the Shadows. Now if I'm not mistaken there is a significant connection here in what she says to those strange black and white segments envisioned by Sheridan in Season Two, Episode 11, All Alone In The Night and referenced again in Season Three, Episode 21, Shadow Dancing.

Ivanova: "I am the right hand of vengeance and the boot that is gonna kick your sorry ass all the way back to Earth."

I must admit up until Intersections In Real Time I was slightly [and I do emphasize slightly friends] disengaged at times getting through some of the episodes. It was feeling a bit like a chore in some aspects of watching [for the writing part of this], but this entry and the last have really made me wake up. I was addicted all over again. They had the kind of energy and excitement that I recalled from Season Two, Episode 9, The Coming Of Shadows or Episode 16, In The Shadow Of Z'Ha'Dum. In some ways the episodes that have preceded this have been a build to this moment. This is a crescendo of excitement. The battle sequence is excellent. I love how those White Stars can swing and turn on a dime instantly. Their like horseflies. They give the Vorlon-derived ships a huge advantage over the lumbering Earth warships. No matter what you do to those warships or how you dress them up they still lumber around like giant Earth warships. I suppose they were better defensively and offensively, but in the end it didn’t seem to matter. Admittedly I was expecting a little more out of them. I'm a tough customer.

Ivanova really lets them have it with both barrels. The White Stars hammer away. It is undeniably one of the premiere battle events of the season and the best since Delenn’s encounter with the Drakh emissary in Season Four, Episode 11, Lines Of Communication. Just seeing those spidery tendrils sticking out from the Earth ships is just plain creepy. They give me the heebie jeebies all over again. But now…

HOLY TOLEDO! The Shadows debris in the exploding fireball hits Susan Ivanova’s ship and they are slammed hard. She goes down and the ship is devastated internally. Marcus runs to her aid as fast as he can. This was the holy good shit heartbreaker of heartbreaker moments.

Damn! If that doesn't give you goosebumps I'm not sure what will.

Later, on Delenn’s White Star Sheridan is reunited with his lady love. They give each other a big old desperate smoocheroo of joy. Their chemistry and their relationship has been one that has left me confused or awkwardly watching and questioning along the way. It has been a fascinating love affair. I have not been fully on board at times, but its’ complexity makes sense and it is all the more genuine for it. They have grown on me. Let’s face it, Mickey & Sylvia once sang the song Love Is Strange and it is. It is a weird animal and Straczynski never once spoon-fed us a tailor made love story. It has been every bit the complicated beast real love is and every bit the puzzle Straczynski's tale has been. I can respect that.

HOLY DOUBLE TAKE BATMAN! Now Susan is also on Delenn’s White Star being cared for after the devastating blow to her White Star. She is in a bad, bad way and in a neck brace. She completed her mission as promised. But the good guys have paid a terrible price as I learn for the first time Ivanova is dying. This is tough to watch and really tugs at the heartstrings.

I was thinking I might see a little more emotion from Sheridan. He has indeed hardened over the years. I suppose he is hurting inside and didn’t want to express his pain in front of her, but show me a little pain after you leave the room. Marcus’ tear was brutal. He tried to warn Susan to back off in that fight but she wouldn’t relent. I think he also senses something about her resolve earlier when I mentioned his reaction to her on the bridge. He knew something bad was going to happen. That tear is for her and for his loss and what might have been between them. This poor bastard is like a bad luck charm. He loses everybody around him. His family, his brother, Sakai, Sinclair and now Susan are all gone. Folks, if you see Marcus coming you need to run the other way and fast. You will die. Poor son of a gun.

When Ivanova injected her classic sense of humor to make her friends at ease, this big softy got all choked up. I got the lump in my throat. Honest to God people I did not know Susan Ivanova was going to die. I knew based on photographs and the appearance of Tracey Scoggins she was not around for Season Five. Is it me or does Scoggins and Ivanova have that kind of Playboy playmate quality? It could be me. I digress. But seriously I have isolated myself in such a way that I just did not see this coming. I don’t know the story of Babylon 5. I didn’t know the characters or what it was about but this was a big blow for me. I was really bummed to see this happen. It was a shocking surprise. It was killing me to see her go this way. It was completely believable that in war there are real casualties. Big names die. Our friends die. People we love die. I like it for that reason, but I don’t like it if you know what I mean? Still, it wouldn’t be Babylon 5 without something believable occurring, something unexpected unfolding, something ultimately bad happening. These are the realities of war. Why not? It’s brilliant and deliciously tragic.

Ivanova’s last dying wish is for Sheridan to see the battle through unless there was something else to her wish that I missed. Sheridan resumes command of the fleet to take the fight to Earth in her name. All the while I kept thinking, ‘Will I get to see Susan again? This can’t be the last time I see her. This can’t be it. Damn, where is that bastard Lorien when you need him?’ I so want to see her one last time. In fact, I don’t think I wanted to see her character go at all. I kept wishing her life. I had so grown to enjoy Ivanova like family watching the show I just didn’t want her to die. It’s just too sad to take.

The title for this entry is just perfect. Our heroes are all somewhere in the middle. This continues a powerful run to the end of the season.

Between The Darkness And The Light: A

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Top 10 Science Fiction Films For The Thinking Person

We all appreciate top ten lists here and I stumbled across this one over at Rotten Tomatoes labelled Top 10 Science Fiction Films For The Thinking Man, but considering we have loads of thinking females here I thought I'd change the title. I had just finished singing the praises of Planet Of The Apes with my own personal thoughts regarding that classic film and here we are kicking it off with their picks for the ten best.

10. Planet Of The Apes. "Planet Of The Apes is an amazing film," Variety Magazine.
9. Dark City. "If you don't fall in love with it, you've probably never fallen in love with a movie, and never will," Washington Post.
8. Sleeper. "Pound for pound and minute for minute, Sleeper may just have more laughs in it than any other Woody Allen movie," Filmcritic.
7. Gattaca. "There's a window on a possible future, a warning about the wages of sin, and enough beauty to make this a lasting classic of modern science fiction," Looking Closer.
6. Primer. "This film imagines its viewers to be smart, possessed of a decent attention span and game for a challenge. It doesn't happen all that often," Time Out.
5. Children Of Men. "An apocalyptic thrill ride that is as gritty as it is gripping, with a dark terror outgunned only by its daring humanity," St. George Spectrum.
4. Solaris. "There was so much to think about afterward, and so much that remained in my memory," Roger Ebert.
3. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. "A work that borrows its narrative shape and its concerns from those earlier films, but enhances them with what looks like the latest developments in movie and space technology," New York Times.
2. Blade Runner. "The most remarkably and densely imagined and visualized SF film since 2001: A Space Odyssey, a hauntingly erotic meditation on the difference between the human and the nonhuman," Chicago Reader.
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey. "Its triumph lies in its scope of cinematic splendour and the attempt to marry some of man's most beautiful music to the infinite mystery of space," BBC.

This really wasn't in a particular order. I cannot comment on everything listed here, but I thought it was an interesting list of films that might make us consider expanding our science fiction palettes. I can certainly say Dark City is a film to behold. Gattaca really grabbed my attention and led me to view it several times. I never could make my way through Children Of Men. Perhaps I need to give that another chance. Blade Runner just keeps growing on you like a fungus. It's such an amazing work visually. Edward James Olmos is in it and we all knew he was destined for classic status.

Anyone have strong feelings about these films? I'm sure there are films missing from this obviously pensive list. My personal pick worthy of submission would be Steven Spielberg's Minority Report. The film was loaded with moral questions surrounding society and human nature. Its depiction of the future was visually stunning and reminiscent of a film like Blade Runner. Some nice action. Some fine acting. I think Minority Report enters into this realm, despite what you might think of Tom Cruise. Even if you don't agree with this list it is solid and does indeed make you think.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bob May [The Robot]: 1939-2009

"Man, they're just dropping like flies on you."- The One To Be Pitied.

You know I was going to say 'who's next' last week when I wrote about the passing of Ricardo Montalban. I held back because I really didn't want to see another one of our beloved sci-fi legends fall. You know the rule: Things Happen In Three. So they say. So I thought, nope, I will not go there. I will not allow myself to be apart of some superstitious nonsense. I wake today to find the man in the suit behind our beloved Robot on Irwin Allen's Lost In Space has passed away at 69. It was bad enough losing Majel Barret only to be followed by and compounded by another huge loss in Ricardo Montalban and now Bob May. Damn!

Does anyone listen up there? Please stop taking our friends. You are picking them off one by one.
Marta Kirsten, next to our beloved Robot, really was a supreme Norwegian-born babe! There's Lennier to the right!
Bob May, for me anyway, is not instantly recognizable. He was always inside the The Robot. He was the David Prowse of Lost In Space. David Prowse had the unenviable job of physically playing Darth Vader in Star Wars while getting little to no glory. The voice of Darth Vader is of course James Earl Jones and he always stole the show with that deep, thunderous voice box. Let's face it, he was the face of Darth Vader. Well, May was the man inside the suit. The voice of The Robot was Dick Tufeld. Tufeld certainly doesn't have the stature of James Earl Jones, but for those of us who loved The Robot he was definitely the man for the job. In other words, Bob May unfortunately doesn't get the credit for suc classic lines as "Danger Will Robinson!," but he did bring one of the most memorable characters in the sci-fi cannon to life for three seasons [funny both Lost In Space and Star Trek aired for three seasons each].

May donned the suit and certainly endured many hardships for three amazing seasons of that classic show. For that we thank him. I really wanted to show you a clip, but I do not have the DVDs yet. I used to have the VHS tapes, but decided to throw them away because I couldn't take the quality or the rewinding any longer. I had to take a stand. I had to move forward. On principle, I refused to place that big, fat, black cartridge into the VHS machine one more time. No way. No how. This is why I have no video clip for you of The Robot. Darn it! I really wish I had those VHS tapes [okay, perhaps not really].

Let's hope that does it for 2009.
Update! People! I have a video. It's as if the science fiction gods were shining down upon me. I happened upon some terrific documentaries on Star Trek and Lost In Space this evening on the Bio Channel including Lost In Space Forever where I stumbled upon this fitting clip about The Robot & Bob May by sheer chance. Talk about luck. I couldn't have planned it better if made a camp fire and arranged a prayer dance. It's the perfect tribute to the man. Behold as the man, errr... Robot plays guitar no less!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Kirk & Bones: The Great Ice Planet Adventure: Part 6: The Big Thaw

With the Mystery Babe now gone. Kirk and Bones break free of the packed snow drift as the planet temperature begins to warm and they begin to thaw.

Kirk: Which way did did she go Bones?

Bones: Damned if I know Jim. I'm just trying to get the feeling back in my hands and legs.

Kirk: Look, we're free from the ice. I'm not sure which way she went, but she couldn't have gone far.

Bones: What's wrong with that woman? Couldn't she see we were in need of aid and we were in pain. Now that is cold Jim.

Kirk: Ah, Bones, it's the way of the galaxy. She's playing hard to get. It's in a woman's nature. I don't care what planet you're from you can't escape the challenge of the chase, the thrill of the pursuit, the game of love. Much like this planet, behind that icy exterior is a woman yearning to light a raging fire of passion.

Bones: Huh? Whatever. I've had just about enough of this place. We need to find help and fast. If the rapid change in temperature is any indication we could be in for a cold spell before you know it. We've got to find some way of reaching Scotty. Here, without phasers, we'll need these snazzy little ice balls just in case for protection.
Kirk: Easy does it Bones. We have ourselves a fancy female to find. We'll need more than that for protection. Lady luck tells me we might just be able to pull it off before our next dance with death comes along.

Bones: Good grief. How in heaven's name we ever get off these planets will forever be a wonder.

To Be Continued...

"You're outside playing with your dolls and there's still no coffee in my hand!" - The One To Be Pitied.

"Hey! Those are action figures." -The Sci-Fi Fanatic.

Folks, let it be said, creating drama with Star Trek Action figures is no easy task. Never mind tending to The One To Be Pitied.

First, there is the covert operation of filming either in broad daylight or the undercover of night. Every effort is made not to be spotted by neighbors. Granted most are good friends and know that I am making movie magic and tend to be ho-hum about the whole thing. "Oh, it's just that crazy Sci-Fi Fanatic. No bother." They must see me when I think I'm completely incognito and think, "why is he playing with dolls?" I would of course correct them on their labelling pointing out they are definitely not dolls.
Second, there is the bit with my actors whereby they are completely temperamental and difficult to work with at times. They don't always cooperate. Wind gusts and other such elements can often wreak unmerciful havoc with an establishing shot and the next thing you know you have Bones doing a face plant into Kirk's crotch. The camera has to be placed down on the ground and every effort has to be made to get them back in position. Sometimes, it's a bitch when you're working with more than two actors and they just refuse to play nice. You can spend far too much time in the wind and cold to get just one or two shots on a bad day.
Anyway, it's all in the name of sci-fi magic [or not].

Thursday, January 15, 2009

B5 S4 Ep18: Intersections In Real Time

Honestly, this opening shot is the perfect, photographic representation of everything that is stripped down and naked in this episode.
Sheridan lays in a confined room in less than perfect physical health to put it mildly. An interrogator visits him. An electric zapper dubbed a pain giver shackles him. They were designed for use on the Narn. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, they were used by an assassin on G’Kar way back in Season One, Episode 5, The Parliament Of Dreams. The interrogator has arrived to force Sheridan into compliance with Earth’s requirement for cooperation. He is placed in a chair to meet those needs.

We sit in our own armchairs to behold brilliance with one of Babylon 5’s finest moments ever in the form of Season Four, Episode 17, Intersections In Real Time [formerly titled One Small Room & Two Men Really Acting Their Asses Off]. There’s something to be said about a director and actors who can pull off a story with limited visual information to inform that story for its entire duration. This installment does just that and does so in spades. What a spectacular achievement. I could go back and watch this one several times. In fact, I did watch it twice.

One of the big reasons this story works so well is the casting of one Raye Birk as William the interrogator. Without the right man for the job this thing could have been an unmitigated disaster. Certainly the writing by J. Michael Straczynski, the direction and the music has got to be there and all of it indeed is every step of the way beginning with the opening music number by Christopher Franke. Franke really sets the tone. Actor Birk is a true character study. He must have had a ball portraying the company man in this fashion. He is a powerful weasel backed by company teeth. Who wouldn’t want that meaty role? I was so impressed by his performance I went to Wikipedia to find out more about him. It turns out he was on one of my favorite shows long ago The Wonder Years. God if I can remember the man, but he must have been good. He also appeared in The X-Files. I look forward to seeing him there when I get to that series for the blog. Anyway, his part is terrific and his manipulative, methodical, studied demeanor is the perfect foil to Bruce Boxleitner’s work, which is also outstanding here. Boxleitner probably doesn’t get enough credit because he has been so consistently good throughout the series. He shines here. He isn't the least bit upstaged by the remarkable Birk. Wayne Alexander also guests as a Drazi in this one. It’s certainly no great secret he played Lorien for all of Season Four and Jack the Ripper in Season Two, Episode 21, Comes The Inquisitor. All in all, Intersections In Real Time is real damn good.

The entirety of the episode takes place within the confines of a single room. It is a riveting drama attack. There are no subplots or breaks in the action to other threads along the way. The interrogation of John Sheridan is the central and only focused point of the story in play here and it is a performance feast for two men. As entertainment goes it is simply brilliant. Boxleitner and Birk make it happen. Birk is to Intersections In Real Time what Wayne Alexander was to Comes The Inquisitor two years earlier. It is a juicy turn. There is so much to share beginning with this first meeting between the interrogator and Sheridan and a simple discussion of, of all things, corned beef to manipulate the proceedings accordingly for Birk.

In a fit of hunger Sheridan snatches the corned beef from the interrogator’s hands, but then pauses to consider that it might just be poisoned. Much discussion of the actual truth is bandied about between these two men throughout the entry. The question of truth is constantly in play. What is the truth?

The truth is fluid. The truth is subjective,” explains the interrogator. “The truth is sometimes what you believe it to be and other times what you decide it to be. My task is to make you decide to believe differently.” How brilliant is this writing? It is so insightful and once again gets to the heart of human behavior. I always thought O.J. Simpson was a perfect example of this. While he was clearly a murderer he had decided to believe certain facts and never veered from that belief. It was delusional in a sense. So we continue to be treated to the behavioral truths of the world via Straczynski. The interrogator manipulates Sheridan with real examples. The Minbari were once enemies, but no longer. “A soldier accepts that the face of truth changes on a daily basis.” The truth never actually changes. It is the perception of truth that changes because people change it and alter the reality of the truth by altering people's view of it. Truth is truth. Still, there are facts and there is truth and then there is everything else. Such things are black and white to me. Perceptions are created that may stem from truth, but are spun to generate something far different. Realities are created that twist truth and fact and we see it daily on television regarding our political leaders. This one is evil. This one is our savior. Believe none of it. Rarely are facts reported accurately. This is why the media does not report truth, but rather contorted agendas. This is why Straczynski’s media arm in the series is an excellent example of truth versus lies. Damn! This is such delicious stuff I'm caught up in the philosophy surrounding truth and I digress. The interrogator specifically plays with the truth when dealing with Sheridan and omits certain facts to create a different reality.

Watch that other hand John.
J. Michael Straczynski is on his game here. The writing is consistently fascinating, thought-provoking and yet thoroughly entertaining. That is a tough line to walk. The whole thing plays out like a stage play. I would love to see this one in a theatre.

The interrogator manipulates words, facts, and truths accordingly. This is a follow-up to the corned beef exchange and I love how Sheridan just digs in with a real sign of strength here. Don’t mess with me. I won't fold.

Pushing our buttons? Well, they really pushed my happy button with this one!
Well, it turns out the interrogator was telling the truth when he said the sandwich wouldn’t kill him, but it was harmful and loaded with toxins by the way. The omission of truth can be nearly as deleterious. The interrogator intends on breaking Sheridan physically and mentally to reach into his mind. Sheridan proves he is such a strong soldier in his ability to box up and protect his mind from harmful influence.

The man insists what he tells Sheridan is the absolute truth. He speaks the truth by limiting his words, but he does not shed light on the full extent of that which he speaks. He avoids details in word and generalizes accordingly. If I were Sheridan I would definitely be asking a lot of questions. Then again, the man is a company man for a corrupt Earth government and cannot be trusted by his very existence.

As I viewed this amazing episode I kept thinking about how limited the visuals were and how I, The Sci-Fi Fanatic, would have difficulty providing worthy photos for this blog entry to my friends here. The scenes are more or less static, but despite these limitations it is electric in its dramatic impact to the viewer. I’m reminded of Castaway with Tom Hanks and what an achievement that was for director and actor to create such a moving picture. This is no easy undertaking. Perhaps Castaway was even harder with just the one actor, but Intersections In Real Time comes close. Director John LaFia serves up an impressive effort keeping the proceedings moving within these limited confines and between the two actors for 42 minutes. It is a gripping, grueling stuff.

The interrogator looks to confirm certain facts with Sheridan concerning who his second-in-command is on Babylon 5. The exchange is pretty humorous actually. I love when Sheridan scoffs at the interrogator’s concept of harmless. The man explains, “There’s no harm in that- no reason you shouldn’t tell me.” Sheridan mutters, “Oh I’m sure there is.”

You know Sheridan would just love to put his hands around his scrawney little neck and throttle him.
Sheridan is growing weaker physically as the interrogator returns each day. Sheridan hobbles back to the chair from the floor. The interrogator plays games with Sheridan’s mind a bit mentioning his father. “Your father, he sends his regards.”

Earth government has furnished a full confession. So kind of them to do so. This is one of the many significant exchanges within those four walls.

An imprisoned Drazi is eventually brought before Sheridan. Wayne Alexander portrays the Drazi. If there was any gripe from me at all it would be that I might have preferred to see someone other than Alexander do the portrayal. His voice is so distinct and after listening to him for all of Season Four as Lorien it’s quite noticeable. Nevertheless, it’s a minor quibble. Following much torture at the hands of Earth's harbingers of doom the Drazi supports the claim that Sheridan has been under alien influence as an alibi for Sheridan. Sheridan is incensed with his government's use of torture and pleads for the Drazi to stop. This is yet another powerful moment for Boxleitner and we learn with just a few words a touch more about the character of our dear friends the Drazi.

The interrogator warns the Drazi this is his “very last chance.” He will be killed. He is dragged away and Sheridan hears the sound of the Drazi scream emanating from another room. The interrogator seeks a “sincere apology” from Sheridan. It cannot be coerced or could be picked up via a telepathic scan. The man tells Sheridan his “superiors” know others will fall in line behind Sheridan if they gain his backing and support.

The interrogator moves to the next phase of Sheridan's reprogramming by leaving a torturous tape loop playing loudly through the evening until his return the next day. When he returns Sheridan is weary and nearly beaten physically. His defenses are weakening. We note he has been removed from solid foods, living intravenously off a drip for sustenance. And now he is to be removed from the drip as well. They need Sheridan’s signature on that dotted line.

Sheridan knows his death will be inevitable once they have what they need. The interrogator tells him he will not be killed. He admits they will come for him someday, but not for some time. The government needs to parade him around for a bit until he is forgotten. They need Sheridan as a “symbol” and “warning” to others who speak or defy Earth’s iron fist of power under Clark rule. An image of Delenn reassures Sheridan as she stands behind the interrogator. His manacles are removed to allow him to sign that confession. This is pure, understated performance at its best.

I don't think I've ever heard the word "no," delivered quite so sincerely and convincingly. The man has failed and is certainly disappointed as he indicates the next move is out of his hands and exits. When he returns he tells Sheridan he is a war hero and a liability to the existing Earth government. Every word he breathes, every move he makes, every breath he takes he is a liability to them. He is a threat. Being a war hero is understandably coupled with credibility. He must be silenced. He tells him the idea of a posthumous confession can be created via technology without his help and that it is indeed “an acceptable option” to his superiors.

He is taken away. It’s his “very last chance.” Sheridan is off to Room 17. Yikes. It even sounds scary. A priest hovers over his moving gurney reciting his last rites. Delenn’s image appears in the doorway to Room 17. A black hooded figure exits the room. Sheridan is removed from the gurney, placed in a chair and another interrogation computer table is brought before him. He is locked back into place. A new interrogator arrives. The figure behind the company man removes the black hood to reveal the Drazi.

I believe this was an amazing end to an amazing episode. It had me thinking once again and I love it when we are left with no easy solutions or Hollywood conclusions that are spelled out for us. I believe the Drazi symbolized life. He was a symbol for Sheridan to stay true, stand strong on his chosen path. I also thought what if the Drazi was real. What if he was never killed? What if he worked for the Earth government and smiled at him out of support for his cause. What if Sheridan’s point was accurate? Perhaps you aren’t expendable if you never give up. Still, I believe the former is a more likely scenario. I give you a penny for your thoughts fellow Babylonians on this one. Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope.

'If by some small miracle I can get my strength back, I am going to kick your ass.'
I stand humbled by this entry in utter awe and amazement of its success and how it was pulled off. The sheer focus and singularity of vision and clarity of this installment was pure genius and really worked for me. I thought it executed and delivered even more successfully than Comes The Inquisitor. I suppose it's a bit like comparing apples to oranges, but the general idea of Sheridan and Delenn [and moreso Delenn] tackling the Inquisitor is similiar. I though Comes The Inquisitor, with Intersections In Real Time now available for comparison, suffered from the occasional brake in tension and pacing to other story lines and this worked to its detriment. I loved the lack of clutter here. 42 minutes in a single room. What an achievement. Those involved had to be proud of this one. It is pure and for that it is one of the best of the series.

Intersections In Real Time: A