Friday, September 20, 2019

UFO Vs Star Trek

Hey even James Tiberius Kirk will tell you...


Battlestar Galactica E4: Lost Planet Of The Gods Part 1

"If fans watch the Galactica collection to see a carefully constructed view of morality, disappointment may ensue. On the morality issue, Battlestar Galactica simply has very little to say. Instead, Battlestar Galactica episodes are straightforward, banal action tales designed totally to entertain. It is science fiction fast food. … Battlestar Galactica was shallow from a philosophical standpoint."
-John Kenneth Muir, An Analytical Guide To Television's Battlestar Galactica (p.50)-

The classic Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979)was never particularly deep with subtext, but it was focused in its vision regarding humanity on the run from the Cylon tyranny. It has a remarkably clear view of good and evil. It was profoundly sincere in its efforts to portray heroes of men. It was also particularly strong on the importance of hawkish strength against an enemy if humanity is to survive. All of that and an endlessly colorful cast of character performances that remain as alluring today as they did nearly forty-one years ago to the day.

Moving on from Glen A. Larson's launch of Battlestar Galactica with that devastatingly, too-good-for-television, ambitious, three-part epic Saga Of A Star World, his next delivery was the two-part Lost Planet Of The Gods.

Battlestar Galactica, Episode 4, Lost Planet Of The Gods Part 1 serves up a tried and true convention popular in science fiction. The story focuses on the classic deadly virus picked up off ship on a strange world. Brought aboard the Galactica many of the crew are contaminated and infected. A quarantine of Colonial Viper pilots is implemented to contain the spread. This is an old reliable staple of science fiction dusted off for one of Battlestar Galactica's many unoriginal tales.

What makes Lost Planet Of The Gods special or at least attempt to offer its own colorful spin on the idea within this gritty new reality of a fleet on the run from the Cylon tyranny is the employment of an all female fighter squadron amidst terribly desperate times.

Untrained and untested, Starbuck and Apollo must quickly train this group of sexy cadets in the event of a Cylon attack. To complicate matters Apollo's betrothed is joining the squadron and placing herself in great danger essentially on the eve of Apollo's desire to make her his lawfully wedded wife.

There is nothing particularly substantial to the entry. Most memorable is the female fighter squadron in training. They are hot and take me back to the kind of eye candy that populated the wonderful but much more substantial Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-1969). Many, not all, of the women looked amazing, but didn't necessarily present as strong females in the leadership roles. The same can be said here, but once again Battlestar Galactica, despite its flaws, is a light and entertaining science fiction comfort within a fairly original mythology, thanks in large part to a terrific cast.

The final segment of Lost Planet Of The Gods promises to be the best component of the two-parter. In the meantime, the series continues to look splendid in its Blu-Ray format.

Writer: Glen A. Larson/ Donald Bellisario (creator of Magnum PI w/ Larson, Airwolf, Quantum Leap, Tales Of The Gold Monkey).
Director: Christian I. Nyby II

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Little House On The Prairie: Mark Lenard

Actor Mark Lenard (1924-1996) was well known in Star Trek as Sarek, father of Spock, and as a Romulan in the original Star Trek series.

He also enjoyed a turn as Peter Ingalls, brother of Charles Ingalls, in an emotional episode of Little House On The Prairie.

Season One, Episode 6, Journey In The Spring is the first of a two-parter. Lenard appears in part one.

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Sci-Fi Fanatic BIG 3: Current Sci-Fi TV Series

It's been two years almost to the day since our last BIG 10 list. It was time. Instead, I've focused on the three essentials. A recent viewing of Season Five and Six of The 100 inspired me to record here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic the three (3) very best, most compelling science fiction series currently on television as of this writing.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic BIG 3 Science Fiction TV Series right now (superhero, superhero comedy and zombie garbage excluded) are:

3. The 100. 6 Seasons+. Renewed for a 7th and final season.

The 100 is endlessly engaging and overly dramatic to be sure.

What one simply has to accept is how willing the writers are to have characters switch loyalties or betray friends on a dime even within a single episode maybe twice or even thrice. There are more twists than a game of Twister.

Still, the series is all about alliances, agendas and choices made and the consequences that result from those choices. It's a miracle anyone gets along but they don't really. Shots are constantly fired to stir more conflict and drama than you can shake a stick at.

One of the great aspects of any science fiction is less the monsters around us than the monsters within us and this show is all about the inner demons of its characters. External pressures merely bring out the best and worst in all of them. There is no shortage of violence or weapons and there is no rest for the wicked.

It may be post-apocalyptic survival insanity as men and women devolve into sickness even madness, but it's relentless and a hell of a lot of fun to watch despite the occasional eye rolls in logic. It mostly works as crazy as The 100 tends to be.

The young adult cast is generally sensational and fully committed to and invested in telling this story based on the books by Kass Morgan.

Apart from what this writer thought was a dip in quality for Season Three, the series quickly righted the ship (I'm so glad after a few years off I returned to this show) and the series continues to go from strength to strength with a heavy accent on some great science fiction tropes along the way.

Sticking with it to see the Murphy character sing to The Waterboys' This Is The Sea was a cherry on top.

2. Star Trek: Discovery. 2 Seasons+. Renewed for a 3rd season.

Star Trek: Discovery weaves the mythology of the classic series into a more compelling, even exciting dramatic weave seamlessly moving between interesting characters and a long form season story arc.

It builds and builds and keeps things surprising throughout. The sometimes unnecessary overt politics of today's writers have yet to creep into the series so I'm still optimistic as any Star Trek fan should be (American Gods was going to make this list but like Homeland that Season Two just had to go there) that this aspect will not corrupt the series.

This was truly a surprise for the long-running franchise. A sensational cast with adventurous writing has yielded quite a discovery indeed.

1. The Expanse. 4 Seasons+ (3 seasons with SyFy; picked up by Amazon for the 4th). Renewed for a 5th season.

Based on a long-running book series by James S.A. Corey (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) this is literary science fiction at its finest. The long form storytelling is reminiscent of the kind of ongoing story intelligence penned by J. Michael Straczynski for Babylon 5 (1993-1998) but a whole lot more exciting.

The effects work here is far superior of course. The story is rich and filled with depth thanks to the source material and is also filled with an unexpected freshness and originality. Its nearly impossible to predict the direction of the show unless you've actually read those wonderful books, which the series generally adheres quite firmly to.

The Expanse takes us into outer space and is a compelling yarn about the evolution of humankind into the void despite its seeming inability to escape its own dark side and its devastating mistakes.

It is an epic sci-fi adventure with a limitless cast of fascinating characters.

And that's it folks. I've checked out others. Superheroes and zombies generally bore me though The Boys (Amazon Prime) was intriguing. Dark (Netflix) was atmospheric time travel and held some promise, but was ultimately unsatisfying.

A BIG 10 minus 7= a BIG 3. I knew that school math would come in handy.

These are undeniably The Sci-Fi Fanatic's current favorites. 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Lost In Space S1 E7: My Friend, Mr. Nobody

"I don't know who I am."
-Mr. Nobody-

"What? Oh but that must be awful! Maybe you've just been asleep---or growing up, maybe---or changing."
-Penny Robinson-

"Oh the pain, the pain"
-Dr. Zachary Smith (the first episode for the popular catch phrase)-

When this writer first looked at Lost In Space (1965-1968) here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic, there's no denying he was unnecessarily hard on it. The series was unfairly framed in my mind and viewed through the wrong prism against the endless list of compelling television serials of today. Take your pick. That's a wildly inappropriate comparison. Apples and oranges as they say. There's simply no justification such a show could be placed on equal footing. Though the lackluster new version of Lost In Space (2018-present) will likely endure beyond the original's three seasons. Seeing My Friend, Mr. Nobody again was much a different experience particularly enjoying this outstanding Blu-Ray presentation.

But for a dramatic science fiction television series circa 1965 there were some tremendous ideas on display along with mighty visuals, performances and direction. On its face, there's also the simple fact that series aren't filmed in gorgeous, cinematic black and white like this anymore.

Lost In Space, Season One, Episode 7, My Friend, Mr. Nobody is a perfect example of the series stellar first season run.

This particular story lends itself to so many perspectives. It's at once a coming of age story, a story of isolation, a metaphysical or transcendent tale, and or a spiritual journey relating humanity to the existence of God. It's also a simple, transformational story of an alien force freed into the cosmos.

Other series have delivered such concepts including the chrysalis-like story that worked so beautifully for Space:1999, Force Of Life (Y1, E9) guest starring Ian McShane.

Marc Cushman succinctly says it best of My Friend, Mr. Nobody. It is "a charming and magical story dealing with loneliness, and an underlying theme of how friendship and love can inspire growth, renewed life, and the realization of one's potential and purpose. The sensitivity and wonder of Jackson Gillis's storytelling, John Williams' beautiful and touching score, and Angela Cartwright's sincere performance, join together to make this a story for the ages" (Marc Cushman, Lost In Space Vol.1, p.346-47).

The opening quote of this post speaks sincerely to Cushman's assessment as does much of this sweet, pensive script as Penny exchanges her own questions, fears and self-doubt with the disembodied voice.

Hot off the then success of the film The Sound Of Music (1965), My Friend, Mr. Nobody offered that rare chance to young actress Angela Cartwright to shine as Penny Robinson as she is genuinely highlighted throughout the installment. This child performance is easily among the best of child performances of her age during the era. Cartwright truly shines and does so shouldering a tremendous amount of dialogue for the episode.

Cartwright's scene opposite her mother is particularly strong and noteworthy as Penny is coming into her own as a young adult. She implores certain truths to her mother, but her mother still disregards her as but a mere child and really doesn't give her declarations weight. It's a painful scene for both Penny who feels alone and discounted, but also for Mrs. Robinson who realizes she may not have given her child the respect and nurturing ear she requires with the realization that Penny is growing up even out there in the unknowns of space.

As Lost In Space stories go too, it's refreshing to see the creators stepping away from the ensemble format and lending greater character focus on Penny Robinson. It makes for a special entry as the Dr. Zachary Smith, Will Robinson and Robot formula had yet to be firmly established.

In the entry, Penny has been likened to Alice falling down the proverbial rabbit hole to a wonderland in the grotto and its enchanting moat. Her wonderland is a rock cave whereby she discovers a strange cosmic force awaiting her that affects the water, the rocks, the trees and the world around her.

The drama itself is effectively moving ending on an explosive finale that is incredibly well-executed as an action piece. It's an unforgettable moment that truly puts an exclamation point on a great piece of Lost In Space drama.

The voice of Mr. Nobody was provided by William Bramley. Bramley would also grace voice chores as Robotoid for Lost In Space, War Of The Robots (S1, E20), an episode ironically missing Angela Cartwright as Penny. He also featured in Star Trek episode Bread And Circuses (S2, E25).

TV historian Jon Abbott dubbed the tale a "beautiful elegiac fairy tale" (Marc Cushman, Lost In Space Vol.1, p.346) that would make it "worthy" of The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) and The Outer Limits (1963-1965) given it's so masterful as science fiction storytelling. This assessment is spot on as it essentially stands entirely on its own outside the Lost In Space family drama and mythology-building as a sci-fi tale.

My Friend, Mr. Nobody is affectingly penned and beautifully so by writer Jackson Gillis. It would be the first of seven episodes scripted for the series alongside another Lost In Space fan favorite The Magic Mirror (S1, E21). Gillis would pen just one entry, Our Man O'Reilly (S2, E15), for Land Of The Giants.

Behind the camera it would be director Paul Stanley's only contribution on the show, though Stanley directed television from 1950s to the 1980s including The Outer Limits, Gunsmoke, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Love Boat, Knight Rider and The Fall Guy. He would return for Night Of The Long Knives (E14) for Irwin Allen's The Time Tunnel (1966-1967) that lasted a single season. Earlier he even directed many episodes of The Third Man which also starred Jonathan Harris.

The episode is accented by the mysterious musical enchantment of Johnny Williams. This would be Williams' last contribution to an actual episode of Lost In Space. His score, the wonderful cast and creative team, the writing and direction make for another fantastic piece of sci-fi television.

My Friend, Mr. Nobody is a wonderful, warm, strange little odyssey into coping with loneliness and finding one's self with a strange planet as a backdrop to exploring these universal themes. The episode is a wonderfully written, original story that captures the essence of growing up and the active imagination of a youngster and their traditional imaginary friend while being wildly unique and working on multiple levels not least of all an outer space story of an alien entity also coming of age essentially changing, growing and spreading its wings into the stars.

Though I've never heard it quite put this way, these are my gears turning, Mr. Nobody is a story that implores that even nobody can be somebody. That even a nobody can be powerful and special in this life. We've all felt like a Mr. Nobody at one time or another, but the message here is clearly that we're all special, need to be heard and are indeed somebody---someone special. It's another Season One beauty with a unique look and approach spearheaded by the sincere singular performance of one Angela Cartwright.

It's worth noting this is the third episode behind the pilot and The Reluctant Stowaway to enjoy a commentary track on the outstanding Blu-Ray release of the series. William Mumy, Cartwright, Marta Kristen and Mark Goddard are all on hand for it. It has its moments of real hilarity like Mumy noting the action figure for Mr. Nobody would be so cool---an empty package, or the phallic rock behind Penny or Goddard referring to the deep-voiced Mr. Nobody as a pedophile. It's very old school in the cast's willingness to be politically incorrect and have a little fun. Sensitive souls beware.

Writer: Jackson Gillis. Director: Paul Stanley.