27 July 2011

Trek Review: Catspaw, I Mudd, Metamorphosis

Catspaw

CatspawI always remembered this as one of my least favourite episodes from the Original Series. I'm not sure why. As it goes, on this re-run it wasn't too bad.

Another survey mission for the Enterprise and a landing party hasn't reported in. One of the members beams aboard and dies on the transporter pad. Sulu and Scotty, the other members are nowhere to be seen.

Kirk and co beam to the surface and are warned off by ghosts before they come across a huge castle. Eventually they are captured and awaken to find Scotty and Sulu, both mindless, under the control of Korob and Sylvia - who turn out to be aliens learning about life and new sensations in this galaxy. Korob is driven by his duty and mission while Sylvia is more infatuated with the new feelings she is experiencing and becoming more dangerous.

Eventually there is a showdown with a large black cat and Kirk ultimately wins, saves his ship and the crew but at the cost of Korob and Sylvia who perish in their true forms.

I learned from the Memory Alpha entry that this episode was designed almost as a holiday special for Halloween and it carries this theme reasonably well, while not overly scary by 21st century standards, all the themes are there.

There is some notable remaster work in this episode including the newly rendered castle and details of the planet.

Overall Rating: 6/10


I, Mudd

I, MuddI was never a fan of Mudd, but they put him in another episode where it's more comedy and annoyance for the Enterprise crew.

This time, the ship is commandeered by a crewman, who turns out to be an android. He directs the ship to a remote planet where they find Mudd and thousands of other androids serving his every need. They brought the Enterprise to the planet to observe human behaviour and interactions outside of their lone sample.

The crew soon learn that Mudd made a deal with the androids to keep them on the planet in exchange for letting him leave with the ship and a crew of androids.

As things go, the androids eventually find that Mudd is corrupt and go back on the deal, putting Mudd in the same position as Kirk and the crew trying to get back to the ship.

It's another episode where the crew have to outsmart these computers and it results in some interesting and funny performances by all involved as they do their best to confuse and disable the androids. Eventually the crew are able to leave, but Mudd remains with over 500 androids recreated after his nagging wife to keep him planetside.

Regardless of the humour, I just can't like Mudd's character and it's an episode I could do without re-watching :P

Overall Rating: 4/10


Metamorphosis

MetamorphosisI remembered the episode but forgot its name. It becomes quite important in the Star Trek timeline. Kirk, Spock and crew are transporting Federation Commissioner Nancy Hedford to the Enterprise for medical treatment after contracting a virus. It's important she gets back to her negotiations in order to prevent a war on a nearby planet.

En-route, the shuttle is brought down on a planetoid and disabled. Here, the crew find a lone man, identifying himself as Cochrane, who is soon revealed as Zefram Cochrane - the inventor of warp drive.

An alien entity on the planet has rejuvenated Cochrane so he looks younger than before he went missing, over 150 years ago. He calls the alien the 'Companion' and it is the reason that the shuttlecraft was brought to the planet and also why it is disabled.

Kirk, Spock and McCoy attempt to overpower the Companion but it attacks them instead. They then configure a universal translator and try using diplomacy by talk ing with the entity and learning more about it, discovering that it loves Cochrane which initially disgusts the warp inventor.

A happy ending is reached when the Companion joins with and heals Nancy Hedford. Creating a female, human (and compatible) companion for Cochrane. The side-effect being that she is now stuck on the planet. Cochrane was initially looking forward to venturing into the stars again with Kirk, but after the sacrifice the Companion has made and everything else she has done for him, he decides to stay with her and bids the crew farewell.

An interesting episode for the historical value that we get to meet Zefram Cochrane. Of course he resurfaces in the Trek timeline some time later. The remastered episode features fantastic colours and sharpness, including the green-ness of Nancy's dress and coat.

The episode also shows Kirk's 'attack first, try diplomacy later' maneuver against the Companion.

Overall Rating: 7/10

Sci-Fi Review: Outcasts

While we have been watching through sci-fi of old, most notably Star Trek The Original Series and I have been watching through episodes of Space: Above and Beyond, a recent new sci-fi show caught my attention...

Outcasts

Something about its promotion on local station ABC drew me to at least give it a look. Outcasts aired on 28 May 2011 in Australia. Little did I know that it had already been cancelled in the UK by this time! Nevermind though, that meant an 8 part series I could watch and knew there would be some sort of ending, maybe...

It's a series based on another planet named Carpathia in the year 2060. It was colonised 10 years prior to the series start by evacuees from Earth fleeing a nuclear holocaust. The main city is named Forthaven where most of the inhabitants live.

The main character focus revolves around Richard Tate who is the President, Stella Isen who is the head of Protection and Security (PAS) and PAS Officers Cass and Fleur. Others become more central as the story progresses.

In the first episode a transporter from Earth arrives and attempts the difficult landing at Carpathia. She breaks up but there are some survivors who are inducted into the Forthaven community. Among them, Julius Berger who immediately puts his own plans into action.

As the story develops we learn more of the XP's (expeditionary's) and the AC's (advanced cultivars). The XP's go in search of resources and bring them back for study or use at Forthaven while the AC's were designed and created to exist in harsh conditions for long periods of time. We soon learn that the AC's were blamed for a virus outbreak that claimed the lives of many children in the early years of establishing Forthaven and Tate was involved in having them removed and ultimately banished.

Meanwhile, Stella's daughter attempts to reconnect with her mother after arriving aboard the transporter from Earth and Julius wants to regain the power he had back home by working his way into the political world of Forthaven, taking aim for Tate, Cass and Fleur throughout different episodes.

Amongst all this we learn of another alien presence on the planet and that there were others on the planet at one point when remains and fossils begin to show up.

The show takes time to build with hour long, uninterrupted episodes but a lot of the story gets covered. It seems unfortunate that the reception wasn't so welcoming for Outcasts as many reviews claimed it was boring and drawn out.

By the end of the series we discover another transporter has made it to Carpathia with people sympathetic to Berger aboard. We don't know what happens when it arrives at Forthaven as that is where the show ultimately ends while we find out some interesting information about one of the main characters and a shake-up occurs when Tate stands down as President.

Like a lot of sci-fi shows before it, Outcasts never reached its potential but it was interesting and well put together with some decent quality in its production. It was simple, not over-the-top and remained about the characters while bringing out issues of morality, equality and religion into this new world that is trying not to repeat the mistakes of Earth. It is now limited to an eight episode run and will be released on DVD and Blu-ray, so if anyone's interested, give it a look. At least you know it's a short series.

More information from Outcasts' Wikipedia entry and the BBC's Official Outcasts page.

With Outcasts finished I'm back to watching the second half of the series Space: Above and Beyond and still hoping to get the series Dark Skies up and running too...

21 July 2011

Trek Review: The Apple & The Doomsday Machine

The Apple

The AppleThe Enterprise arrives at a world described as paradise for survey. On beaming to the surface however, Kirk's landing party come across deadly plants that shoot poisonous spores and explosive rocks.

In orbit, the Enterprise falls victim to an unusual electromagnetic force emanating from the planet. This eventually jeopardises the ship.

The landing party continue towards a village of the planet's inhabitants but unfortunately lose more of their party in the process. Kirk and Spock discover they are being followed and trap their spy who takes them to the village, introduces his people and Vaal, a large serpent like cave that the inhabitants worship and care for.

Vaal is the source of all the problems Kirk and his crew are facing and a plan is put into action to deprive it of its power and free themselves and the enslaved inhabitants in the process.

This episode is a great example of Kirk breaking the Prime Directive, though most of it seems to be from McCoy's disgust at how the people live. They do not reproduce as they do not die. Vaal takes care of everything as long as it remains 'fed'.

The remaster brings out a lot of the vibrant colours used in this episode from the trees against the red dirt to the clouds and storms generating by Vaal and more. We lose at least three red shirts in this episode as well. Kirk feeling the impact of each as the episode goes on, particularly noting he knew the father of one crew member who helped Kirk get into the academy. I thought the episode might end with Kirk outsmarting the computer or whatever Vaal was, but instead the Enterprise successfully drains Vaal long enough to shut him down and allow the planet inhabitants to fend for themselves - not that they asked for it, Kirk and co simply assumed it would be better for them that way!

I remember reading that this episode was originally intended to feature the Enterprise separating the saucer section. I wondered how or why this would happen, but Kirk alludes to it in a communication with Scotty when the ship is losing power and being pulled towards the planet by Vaal's interference. In any case, we never see a Constitution class ship separate, so we'll just have to leave that one for the fan-fiction writers out there!

Overall this wasn't a bad episode, I'm rating it 6/10.

The Doomsday Machine

The Doomsday MachineThis episode remains one of my favourites and most memorable from the Original Series, though I'll admit there were still parts of the episode I had forgotten about.

The Enterprise is exploring a region of space where all the planets have been destroyed. They come across their sistership, the Constellation adrift and badly damaged. Her commanding officer, Commodore Decker is found aboard, but none of the crew.

Decker tells of a terrible weapon that attacked the planets in the area and his ship. He beamed his crew to a planet for them to be safe, but the machine destroyed them all.

Kirk and Scott work to prepare the Constellation to be towed back to base while Decker is put under McCoy's care aboard the Enterprise. Soon enough, the 'planet killer' appears and attacks the Enterprise. With damage to communications and transporters, Kirk and Scott are stranded on the stricken Constellation. Spock maneuvers the Enterprise to safe distance but is soon overruled when Decker comes to the bridge and uses his rank to take command.

The Enterprise is taken into battle against the Planet Killer but deals no damage while taking plenty of its own. Kirk can only watch from a repaired viewscreen as his ship takes on the huge machine. Once Kirk finally gets through to the Enterprise and calls off the attacks, Decker sneaks himself into a shuttle and rams it into the Planet Killers maw, sacrificing himself but having no effect.

Eventually, Kirk rigs the Constellation to explode in the maw of the Planet Killer, taking the machine down with a much larger explosion before it is able to attack more populated systems of the Federation.

I think I like this episode for the space action that takes place and it's the first time we get to see another Constitution class starship up close, even if it is a bit wrecked. In remastered form, this episode shines with the newly ruined Constellation adrift in space with debris and rocks bouncing off her hull. The new Planet Killer and weapon effects are also well done.

Notably, Uhura wasn't in this episode, instead they had another female communications officer, Lt Palmer.

Enjoyable with suspense, danger and battles. The nail-biting scene where the Constellation rams the Planet Killer and Kirk awaiting his beamout was very well done for the time I imagine!

Overall Rating: 8/10

14 July 2011

Falsely Accused - A Tale of a Copyright Infringement Claim on YouTube

As most of you might know, I have a YouTube channel dedicated to my aviation antics called AbraxasVideo. Back in January the channel celebrated one year online with 18 videos uploaded. By the end of May, the channel was just over 40 videos strong.

In late May I was uploading videos from a 5 part series of footage I had filmed on 14 March 2008. The first three parts had gone online without issue, but part 4 encountered problems within hours of being put online. A 'content author' on YouTube, Expert Village had the video disabled because they felt they owned the 'Audiovisual content' of the video. I was baffled, but I pulled the video down and re-edited it. The newer version of Part 4 went through okay (see below):



27th May 2011 I uploaded Part 5, the finale and much anticipated video of the series as it has (what I thought was) some of the best footage. No sooner was it online and after a mere 29 views, the video was pulled again. YouTube allow you to counter-claim when a video has been disabled by submitting a good-faith email stating you feel the video has been identified incorrectly or by mistake. I did this in both cases which re-enables the video, until the complaining entity shuts the door again, which is what happened to me.

My account was now in bad standing regarding copyright as it had two strikes against it. I researched Expert Village, on YouTube they run a channel of tutorial/how-to videos and through a Google search I was redirected to the eHow website. I posted a thread on YouTube's help forum which explained the situation and followed that up with attempts to communicate with ExpertVillage via their YouTube channel and following the help links provided on the eHow website.

After a few weeks there was no reply from the YouTube channel and the eHow website help was completely unhelpful with this response:

"Hi,

Thank you for your inquiry. However, our representatives can only answer questions pertaining to the eHow website. We apologize we couldn't help you out today.

Best,
eHow Team
www.eHow.com"


No suggested course of action or where I might be able to proceed to. In the end, I followed the advice of YouTube help forum top contributor 'rewboss' who suggested I go through the legal forms YouTube provides to counter-claim against a copyright infringement. This means submitting my personal information to the claimant, hoping they see reason and realise the mistakes they've made. If not, there is the real threat of being sued and taken to court - at least that's what they warn you before you submit the form!

I submitted the form on 1st June 2011 and waited, watching the days and weeks go by. It was exactly 4 weeks later that I received an email from YouTube's Copyright area that they had received the counter-claim and would forward it to the claimant, Expert Village with an expected response within 10-14 working days. The favourable outcome being that Expert Village either withdraw their claim or don't reply to the counter-claim at all, in which case YouTube (at their discretion) can reinstate the videos and remove any penalties against an account. An unfavourable outcome I guess would have involved the claimant sticking to their guns about the alleged infringement.

Thankfully, on 13th July 2011 I received an email from YouTube:

"Hi there,

In accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we've completed processing your counter-notification regarding your video:

...

This content has been restored and your account will not be penalized.
Regards,


The YouTube Team"


...and that was it. While I didn't expect an apology, there's no word from the claimant. I'm guessing they didn't reply at all since their channel seems to be defunct these days. Worrying though is that there's nothing to stop this from happening again.

I checked with other aviation video contributors on YouTube and none of them had gone through what I had experienced. I checked my work but what was I looking for? The footage was from my own video camera, filmed in a public place. I’m pretty sure Expert Village had no jurisdiction over the planes, airlines, liveries, engine sounds and air-traffic control audio used in my videos. I even checked the Sydney Airport site for their copyright policy regarding their corporate logo which I have been using in the opening titles for my videos shot there.

Thankfully the outcome was favourable and Abraxas Video is able to continue showcasing aviation related videos on YouTube. Had this gone badly I’m not sure what action I would have taken. Start up a new YouTube channel? Go to a different video website (and lose the exposure YouTube offers)? Probably neither. I probably would have simply stopped sharing my footage :(

The main reason for my whinge/rant here is that I hadn’t done anything wrong or uploaded any infringing footage yet it was a case of guilty until proven innocent. Of course I’m aware that YouTube is free to use and there are probably many users who abuse copyright with the videos they throw up there but I really wish the process could have been easier and less daunting. How an entity that has nothing to do with aviation can disable two of my videos just because they say my videos infringe their copyright is beyond me. Then for the resolution process to take more than 6 weeks!? At least fighting the claim was worth it and thankfully I'm not trying to run a business using YouTube's services.

So I just had to get this whole ordeal off my chest!

You can watch the 'infringing' video here:



In the time away from uploading aviation videos to YouTube I've continued compiling footage and am looking forward to resuming uploads from next week. All of this until the next entity decides there's been some sort of infringement...

Thanks for reading. Maybe this post will be helpful for anyone who ends up in the same position.


13 July 2011

A Year At Home

On 24 June 2011, Eleonor and I celebrated (aside from several birthdays) a year's ownership of our wonderful home. It's unbelievable that it's been a year already since we received the keys and were able to start moving in.

In that year the house has been furnished with partial hand-me-down furniture including a sofa set, my old bed and some desks to newly purchased items like our new chaise lounge, entertainment unit, queen bed and appliances. We even managed to place a few glass display cabinets around and some bookshelves in the study.

Outside has taken a bit longer, but with the enthusiastic, generous and very much appreciated help of Eleonor's father we've got the side paths covered and the backyard will be along soon. At least the messed up back 'area' has been flattened out a bit, a retaining wall has been placed along the rear fence and Eleonor's doves were moved in.

We were able to hold a family housewarming late last year but we hope that with a completed backyard we'll be able to open up the entertainment area, fire up a (yet to be acquired) barbecue and have an all-inclusive housewarming/engagement party with our family and friends before the end of the year :)

A completed backyard would mean we could also start looking for a dog to inhabit (and hopefully not dig up) the area!

We're getting there...

06 July 2011

Trek Review: The Changeling & Mirror, Mirror

The Changeling

The ChangelingThe Enterprise encounters a powerful probe that is on a quest of bringing its version of perfection to the universe. After a powerful and apparently damaging attack on the Enterprise, Kirk is able to communicate and reason with the probe and beam it aboard.

The probe identifies itself as Nomad and begins examining the crew, believing that Kirk is its creator (confused for Roykirk). Nomad begins to prove more and more a threat after it wipes Uhura's memory clean and kills Scotty (only to revive him later).

Ultimately, Kirk is able to outwit the computer probe and have it destroyed before it would do the same to the Enterprise and her crew.

This is a good episode, a typical one for Star Trek and the uncredited inspiration for the first movie, Star Trek The Motion Picture. It is interesting that Nomad is shown as all powerful and destructive in the beginning and yet it comes aboard the Enterprise and interacts with the crew once it mistakes Kirk for its creator and shows less destructive intent once aboard. Kirk's way of confusing (and destroying) Nomad is hilarious and witty in typical Kirk fashion.

Interestingly, Uhura is able to rebuild her memories rather quickly after her encounter with Nomad, and although Scotty wears a red shirt most of the time, they couldn't exactly kill him off, so Nomad is able to repair him - how? We don't know and nor should we care!

Overall Rating: 6/10

Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, MirrorAfter negotiating with the rulers of the Halkan homeworld for access to dilithium Kirk, McCoy, Uhura and Scotty beam up to the Enterprise, but something goes wrong with the transporter and they end up in familiar and yet unfamiliar surroundings.

They have swapped with counterparts from a mirror, parallel universe. In this other universe, the Federation is much more brutal and savage. After negotiations don't work out with the Halkans, the Enterprise is ordered to make an example of the inhabitants by destroying their major cities. Kirk and the landing party are able to withhold participating in these barbaric acts long enough to return to their universe, with some help from mirror Spock.

This is a great episode to show the Federation if it had developed with different views and ideas. We will eventually learn more about this universe from episodes of Deep Space Nine and Enterprise, but for what we learn from this one it seems there's a fair bit of Nazi influence in the Terran Empire and promotion comes through assassination and networking with the right people to get you far enough up the chain of command.

Chekov and Sulu make attempts to take the captaincy from Kirk while Spock, even though he is still influenced by the universe in which he exists, remains logical and not seeking command of the Enterprise, although he notes he would take the role if Kirk should die. Spock remains Kirk's 'friend' even in these different circumstances. Spock sports a goatie so we could all tell he was the 'evil' counterpart of our familiar Vulcan science officer.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10