Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Never Ending Sacrifice

If someone would have told me even a fortnight ago I would have enjoyed a Star Trek novel which focused on the Cardassian race and culture I would have been sceptical but I've learnt from various interviews and reviews that Una McCormack is well respected in creating stories within the Trek universe and really bringing the Cardassian people to the fore. This may just be my thing but it didn't hurt that The Never Ending Sacrifice weaved it's story around a character introduced in the Deep Space Nine tv series (which I rate highly) and the story evolves with the events in the tv show over the next few years playing out as background. This approach added a huge amount of depth to the novel and I suspect anybody reading this novel will be familiar with the tv series and the extra detail the story provides in turn makes you appreciate DS9 even more.

While the novel centers on Rugal Pa'Dar (Featured in the DS9 second season episode "Cardassians" in which as a war orphan adopted by a Bajoran couple it's revealed his "real" father who thought he was dead has returned to claim his son. Behind all this is the devious hand of Gul Dukat and it's this hugely complex culture of political maneuvering and posturing combined with a fierce pride in the culture and society Rugal has to deal with when he returns as a dutiful son of Cardassia. As you would imagine a young man raised on Bajor having seen the atrocities committed by his people will have issues dealing with the Cardassian society and that's the tale we are being told and you will see a culture that isn't as black & white as we first thought and given the chance there are those who are striving for a better and fairer Cardassia unshackled from the repeating cycle of domination, control, and destruction used to maintain the political and military society all have to live under.

The Never Ending Sacrifice is a very enjoyable read which I didn't want to put down and despite not being totally familiar with the Trek universe post DS9 it was very easy to slip into the universe as created by Una's story telling, I can highly recommend the novel for a Star Trek fan or someone looking to dabble into the franchise without getting into one of the long running series or maybe use this as a stepping stone into an ongoing series.

Una McCormack



Interview with Una 



Amazon UK


Amazon US

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Babylon 5 20th Anniversary Conventions: The Fan Experience

My package from B5 Books arrived today and includes a bumper collection of panels and interviews with the Babylon 5 cast compiled during the recent Phoenix Comic-Con and Space City Con in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the show. The set consists of two paperback books with transcripts from the various talks and seven discs of mp4 video with a bonus disk of mp3 audio content.

Cafepress B5 Books




Sunday, 16 November 2014

Lust's Latinum Lost (and Found)



I believe this was the first DS9 book I've read and certainly my first exposure to the new station and it's occupants, while I liked the tv series I've never tried to keep up with ongoing story so a few things were a little confusing at first but I soon got into the swing of things:)
Quark was one of the highlights of the series and in this story nothing much has changed about his character in fact as the Ferengi society adapts to the greater influence of women he considers his bar a last bastion of the traditional values but alas business is not good until the latest pre-release sampler of Vulcan Love Slave falls into his grasp. What comes next is a merry chase to track down the writers of this new version which is a generation ahead of the current series and Quark has to do some planet hopping along with his new "intern" which includes a visit to a trade fair, a few dangerous companions and as always with Quark things never quite go according to how he envisioned them.
Totally enjoyed reading Lust's Latinum Lost (and Found) and I am looking forward to the further of adventures of this Ferengi as I think I rather like this new look and feel of DS9.
Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann have done a great job on this novella capturing the essence of Quark, well worth a read for a fan of the character or the series.

I also did a quick search on Deviant for Vulcan females and well am I blushing :)

Amazon UK  Amazon US

My Random Journey Through Trek #21

The Next Generation 
S5 Silicon Avatar

The early preparations are being made for a new colony on Melona Four with Riker and Data helping out the first wave of federation people but then the Crystalline Entity appears and begins to feed on the planet, the people flee to some caverns but two are killed. The Enterprise arrives at the planet and digs the survivors out and are soon joined by Dr. Kila Marr an expert on this alien lifeform but shows severe animosity towards Data and it turns out she lost her son on Omicron Theta the planet where Data was created and were Lore helped to murder everyone. In time however he convinces Dr Marr of his sincerity in helping her towards finding a solution to the problem of this alien life form thanks in part to his memory containing the journals of her dead son.
The Enterprise tracks the entity but are unable to prevent the destruction of a ship but eventually they lure it towards them and try to communicate, there is some success as it responds but then Dr Marr adjusts the frequencies of the signals being sent and the sympathetic vibrations shatter the life form and the Doctor walks off the bridge has everyone turns towards her.

Silicon Avatar is the sequel to the season one episode Datalore, this lifeform continues to feed on organic life but Picard is looking for a way to communicate believing that an understanding can be reached. Dr. Kila Marr as you would expect has the very human reaction to Data seeing only his brothers betrayal and the fact there were survivors points to the entity sparing them as Data was there thus suspected collusion. Ellen Geer did a fantastic job in the role of Kila Marr first with the negative aspects of her character and then the flip as she accepted Data and took joy in the revelations of her sons journals. This change really makes the payoff of her revenge against the entity work well, you don't really expect her to take such a cold and clinical action and that elevates this episode higher than you might think it deserved at least on the surface.
A few niggles, the Enterprise is over a day away from the planet yet her sensors can detect the energy disturbances on the planet and why exactly were first shift bridge personnel digging the survivors out, I know why from a tv point of view but it was a little silly. Amusing to see Riker in full on "pull" mode despite the discussion originally being about long term settlement, I wonder if this was Carmen's last fling but of course she had to die for dramatic effect, pity it really had no relevance for the big picture. I have to say despite initial reservations I enjoyed the episode, Ellen put in a performance to be proud of and we also got the clash of beliefs, treating a life form with respect and trying to understand before passing judgement and the need for revenge and a quick leap to action.
Rating 8

Monday, 10 November 2014

Batman Boxset

I got the Batman Blu-ray boxset delivered from Amazon today and it's been a while since I owned a model of the classic Batmobile. A very nice package just a question of finding some shelf space to show it off and of course watch the episodes in their restored glory, mind you easier to spot the stunt double:)

Saturday, 8 November 2014

My Random Journey Through Trek #20

The Next Generation
S4 "Future Imperfect"

The Enterprise sensors pick up some activity on an empty world, with reports of Romulan activity in the area they investigate with Riker and an away team beaming down. The planet is not a friendly place and as the methane levels rise an attempt to beam the team out is made and Riker wakes up in the sickbay 16 years later!
It turns out that he had contracted a virus which could lay dormant for an indefinite period but had become active and he had been in a coma for a couple of weeks with the memory loss a not uncommon by product. Things have certainly changed, Riker is now the Captain with a son and deceased wife, Geordie has "real" eyes and Picard is now an Admiral dealing with a Romulan peace treaty. Riker initially accepts everything but things slowly start to feel wrong, ongoing technical issues with the ship, some people acting not quite right and then his wife, yes he knew her but only as a hologram not a real woman. It's revealed that the Romulans have staged this elaborate charade when they captured Riker on the planet and they are attempting to get the location of a major facility used for defence of the neutral zone but even then things still don't make sense as his "son" is a constant and then it all becomes clear.

Future Imperfect is a very solid episode of TNG with some nice effects and a lot of opportunity for Frakes to really act and he does deliver. The story for me is pure Trek, it has multiple layers with drama and mystery but strip away all of that it's all heart and that can be a defining element of what Trek should always be about. It was great to see the late Andreas Katsulas return in his role as Tomalak and Geordie with his new "cloned" eyes worked well and to be honest the visor was always a joke and a weak plot element given the technology of the 24th century. I'm not sure the frumpy/curlers look for Crushers hairdo worked and the fallback of grey streaks should have looked stupid but didn't except for Deanna of course. Picard was rocking the Admiral look and well the alien, not a brilliant design but for a one off I guess it served it's purpose.
One of the better Next Gen episodes, enjoyed it a lot.
Rating 8

Friday, 7 November 2014

My Random Journey Through Trek #19

Enterprise

S4 Observer Effect

As Reed and Mayweather play chess they discuss the ease of the game and the human race as represented by the crew, something is not quite right and we learn that these bodies are currently being occupied by advanced non-corporeal entities. One the planet below a deadly disease is awaiting the unwary and these beings observe the reactions of the "lower" races and judge them for their potential with first contact as a long term objective. Hoshi and Trip are returning to the ship via shuttle when Trip falls ill, they are moved to isolation but soon Hoshi shows symptoms and the pressure is on Phlox to find a solution. It turns out that the Klingons who had visited this world earlier had sacrificed the infected crew by destroying their shuttle, the Cardassians and many more races having failed to find a cure had abandon crew or killed them to protect their ships.
The ongoing efforts to save the infected crew by the Enterprise and her Captains determination sows a seed of doubt over the actions of the observers with the younger one expressing serious doubts until the breaking point after the deaths of the crew.
Trip has certainly looked better but then again he is dead.
Observer Effect is one of the my favourite episodes not because of the story as such or the acting but the episode serves my requirement for Enterprise as a prequel to the original series actually taking an element of TOS and weaving into this story. For me this is the only reason Enterprise should exist but we really didn't see it come close to fulfilling that potential until the final season. The revelation of who these observers were was a genuine pleasure and while it didn't quite fit into what we know from TOS the core aspect allowed this episode to work. A criticism would be that this episode could have been so much more but then again I thought Archer seeing the dead come back to life was a highlight of the episode and it was also a decent episode for Anthony Montgomery and Linda Park.
Rating 8


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Saturday, 1 November 2014

My Random Journey Through Trek #18

Star Trek

S1 The Alternative Factor

The Enterprise is minding it's own business doing what amounts to a routine scan of an uninhabited planet when an energy wave passes through the ship, Spock reports the sensors indicated the planet they are orbiting for a brief instant did not exist and now a single life form is being detected. The dilithium crystals have been drained and an emergency call from Starfleet indicates that the Enterprise is the only ship tasked with investigating these strange circumstances. The man found on the planet awakes in sickbay and calls himself Lazarus and claims he is in struggle to defeat a "monster" which was responsible for the death of his people but it's the "rip" in space which is keeping them apart. Spock concludes that these two entities are infact the same person but from different universes/realities, their transition between realms is what's causing the drain on the energy systems and disrupting the very fabric of all universes. Lazarus or at least one aspect of him steals the crystals from the ship to power his vessel left on the planet but which one can the crew trust, they both want the other dead but eventually after a mishap Kirk travels into the other universe and has a frank exchange of views with the more reasonable Lazarus and together they plan to trap both versions in the "tunnel" between universes forever to fight with no end in sight.
Lazarus played by Robert Brown
The Alternative Factor does not get a lot of love and on the surface you can understand why, the story while having a lot of merit is so disjointed and full of what amounts to endless amounts of padding and repetitive scenes you are left wondering what the hell was going on. The story behind the episode does explain a lot and we can thank These Are The Voyagers by Marc Cushman and other sources for original series information for the revelations. The studio it seems baulked at the interracial relationship intended for Lt Masters ( Janet MacLachlan ) and Lazarus which in part led to the intended lead actor ( John Drew Barrymore ) to leave the production. Faced with an episode in serious production trouble Shatner help bring Robert Brown into the part on very short notice and the running time filled with perhaps too many shots of Lazarus falling off the rocks and almost psychedelic like effects which seemed to go on forever. 

We blend right in.
To be fair Robert does make the most of a bad job, no disrespect to him at all and who knows if everything had gone to plan this season 1 episode could have been one of the early cornerstones of the modern representation of African Americans and women on network US television. Alas it was not to be and we left with an episode which is derided by many a Star Trek fan and this one has to agree, it's never going to be a voluntary rewatch as there are so many better original series episodes.
Rating 3