31 May 2012

B5 Review: The Parliament of Dreams & Mind War

The Parliament of Dreams
Londo parties during a Centauri religious celebrationBabylon 5 is host to a week long series of religious festivities from the various races inhabiting the station. Meanwhile, G'Kar's life is threatened by an old enemy.

I thought this episode was slightly more important than it turned out to be. Aside from the introduction of G'Kar's long term attache, Na'Toth and the arrival of Delenn's aide, Lennier, much of the remainder of the episode focusses on the problem G'Kar faces from an old enemy.

Catherine Sakai, a woman from Sinclair's past arrives on the station for business as well, but this ultimately leads the two to reunite and get back into their old habits once again.

After the accident that would kill G'Kar's first aide, Ko D'ath this episode provides a decent introduction to Na'Toth who assists G'Kar in finding his would be assassin. Lennier takes on a much smaller role here but his time will no doubt come.

The episode shows us a Centauri feast and celebration, typical of their culture as we have come to know them at this point, a very serious and ritualistic Minbari demonstration and an introduction to the many religions of Earth when it becomes Sinclair's turn.

The crew and the Babylon 5 universe are all starting to become familiar and comfortable now as we watch through and I think Eleonor is enjoying the show and its lighter moments.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10

Mind War
Jason Ironheart has BecomeThe Psi-Corps send their best agents to track down a rogue telepath who takes refuge on Babylon 5. Meanwhile, Catherine Sakai heads out to chart a remote planet and encounters something that nearly kills her.

This series is based on a 5 year arc and there have already been seeds planted that will come back later on. Mind War is the first episode where I'm looking and seeing things that will have larger implications further along the story - of course I am spoiled by my knowledge of what is to come and what nearly was, regarding Talia Winters' storyline.

We get to learn a lot more about telepaths and Psi-Corps in this episode, meeting Alfred Bester and his colleague and seeing just how superior some telepaths believe they are. Their arrogance clearly rubbing the non-telepathic crew the wrong way from the very start, with Ivanova's reasons perhaps the only ones that are clear to us for the moment. Ultimately, the rogue telepath is only trying to do what is right, but wants to see his love, Talia before that happens.

The minor story has Catherine Sakai charting a distant planet, Sigma 957 for traces of Quantium 40. She goes against the wishes of G'Kar, as the Narn are among the races disputing the space it sits in. Once there, she encounters a large object that renders her ship nearly inoperable and on a trajectory to burn up in the planet's atmosphere. Only with G'Kar's help is she able to return home.

It's in the moments when G'Kar talks with Sakai after she returns from Sigma 957 that we see a less angry G'Kar. Instead we see more of what he is really made of and talking as I'm used to hearing him from later episodes and monologues he hasn't yet spoken! 

A worthwhile episode for both storylines and the developments to come from here. Overall Rating: 7/10

29 May 2012

Trek Review: The Infinite Vulcan & The Magicks of Megas-Tu

The Infinite Vulcan
The crew meet Keniclius 5 and Spock 2
The Enterprise arrives at a recently discovered planet to find intelligent plant life and the clone of a Eugenics war era scientist named Keniclius.


A landing party meet Agmar, a Phylosian when Sulu is poisoned by a small, mobile plant. After their introduction, the landing party is attacked by plant-based flying creatures and Spock is kidnapped.

After demanding to be taken to where Spock is being held, they find a giant human scientist, named Keniclius who was involved in the creation of augmented humans on Earth.

Keniclius plans to clone Spock to bring peace throughout the galaxy with his Vulcan mind. Kirk is able to reason logically with the clone that this would not work and the clone is able to help revive the original Spock whilst electing to remain on Phylos with Keniclius in order to find a way to bring back the Phylosian civilisation.

This is one of the Animated episodes I remember seeing. Unfortunately I'm not sure the story was one of the better contributions, even though it was penned by actor Walter Koenig. At this point, only a short way in to the series, the episodes are becoming too familiar among each other with similar scenes, the music on repeat and the stories played out slowly.

There are interesting elements of this episode but my overall rating is a 5/10.

The Magicks of Megas-Tu
Lucien
While investigating creation theories near the Galactic Core, the Enterprise ends up in an energy tornado that transports them to a place where magic rules and science does not.


They encounter an alien named Lucien who takes them to his planet, Megas-Tu where he introduces the crew to the ways of magic in this region but cautions them to use it sparingly.

On the ship, the crew begin using their powers but Lucien quickly appears and warns them of unwanted attention that would come with their use of magic - too late, the Megans have detected the use of magic and arrive on Enterprise in non-corporeal form.

The ship's crew are transported to a witch trial in a reproduction of Salem, Massachusetts. Asmodeus, the prosecutor explains the story of how the Megans travelled to Earth in the past but were cast out and accused of witchcraft. Spock speaks for the Humans in order to prove they have come beyond those times and upon examining the ship's computer, the crew could go free.

The Megans then move to punish Lucien, but Kirk defends him and in a magic battle against Asmodeus, impresses the Megans for his self-sacrifice and proof that humanity has changed.

An episode with links to historical events, a visit to the Galactic Core and a possible encounter with Lucifer himself. The premise is not so bad but the execution, for children's cartoon showing is somewhat less than I would have expected. Of course it all comes down to interpretation and upbringing and Lucien is never fully identified as Lucifer. In any case, the episode is let down by some drawn out dialogue and more slow scenes.

Overall Rating: 5/10

24 May 2012

Sci-Fi Review: Dark Skies, First Half

In January of last year I mentioned I was looking forward to getting into some old science fiction shows.  This post will look at Dark Skies, which thankfully was released on DVD last year.

Dark Skies Title

Interestingly I have just found out that the episode order of the DVD set puts the pilot episode 'The Awakening' among the special features on the last disc and so now, half-way through the series I wonder if I should watch it next or just leave it until the end.

I had originally intended to write the review of this series once I had finished watching through its entirety but I decided to split it in two when I realised the series was about to shift in direction and pace. Dark Skies focuses on a young couple, John Loengard and Kim Sayers. These two are in love and together they are trying to expose the truth about an alien takeover while dodging agents of Majestic 12, a secret organisation covering up the evidence lead by Frank Bach.

Episodes centre on significant historical events which are usually the result of the alien threat on Earth. These events include the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Good Friday Earthquake in Alaska and Freedom Summer in Mississippi throughout the first half of the season.

My memory of Dark Skies when it first aired on TV only really includes the opening episodes (of the DVD set) and the finale. Much of the first half of the series has involved character development and helping viewers understand the alien invasion. There are the 'Greys' which resemble the aliens that are often depicted when abductions are described and then there is The Hive, consisting of parasitic creatures that infest a host and take over. They are also referred to as ganglions as they attach themselves to the ganglion region of the host brain. The Hive are the true enemy while the Greys are merely victims (serving as hosts to the Hive) which is realised when an alien ship is discovered in Alaska.

Majestic 12 shadows Loengard and Sayers throughout their adventures. Attempting to cover up everything and fight the war their own way with their own motives. Quite often, Loengard proves Bach and Majestic 12 wrong but this does nothing to change their resolve. Early in the series a Majestic agent, Steele is implanted with a ganglion and he continues to pop up throughout the series as one of the main protagonists. Other people are implanted in various episodes, we find out that Kim was implanted early on and even John's brother is implanted to get to the couple with dire consequences.

Our heroes set out to reveal the truth and had JFK on side before his assassination. They then have the ear and support of his brother, Robert Kennedy but are forced to wait until he runs for the presidency in four years. During that time, John and Kim roam the country looking for leads and hard evidence so that when they do bring their story into the open, they can back it up. Unfortunately, with Majestic on their tails, they so far have nothing concrete.

I remember this being a really intriguing series and since I never got into the X-Files, the more popular sci-fi/UFO series of the time this was the series for UFO's and conspiracy theories. The tie-ins with contemporary historical events is quite clever and a recent look at the Dark Skies 'Bible' (PDF), the plan for the overall series really emphasises how much of a a shame it was that the series was never renewed beyond its first season. I'm glad to own the series on DVD though and I know the second half is where the story really changes. 

For anyone into sci-fi/UFO series, or if you were a fan of the X-Files, I'd recommend giving Dark Skies a look. With only 18 episodes (and a pilot) to watch, it wouldn't take you very long!

More information about Dark Skies, including the reference to the Dark Skies 'Bible' can be found at the Wikipedia entry for the series.

21 May 2012

B5 Review: Born to the Purple & Infection

Born to the Purple

Adira and Londo
Londo is besotted by a Centauri dancer, Adira. Though the relationship has many benefits for the Ambassador he fails to see that there is more to her than he realises and his career could be at risk. Meanwhile, Garibaldi tracks someone using the priority Gold Channels for unauthorised communications.


I had forgotten about Adira, or maybe I had forgotten that she appeared so early in the series. While not overly important to any storyline, she is referred back to down the track. Definitely that most special woman in Londo's life.

While Londo messes about with Adira, he neglects his ambassadorial duties with Sinclair and G'Kar over the Euphrates Treaty, at one point allowing his assistant, Vir to negotiate with full ambassadorial authority. I had also forgotten about G'Kar's aide, Ko D'Ath, who we meet in this episode.

Adira, a slave under the influence of Trakis, her master is tasked with stealing Londo's 'purple files' which hold dirt and secrets on all the noble houses of the Centauri Republic. A plan hatched by Sinclair allows for the files to be recovered.

Meanwhile we learn just that little bit more about Ivanova's family and we get to see Talia Winters working as intended during the Narn/Centauri negotiations and assisting in Sinclair's plan to help Londo.

A nice enough episode, a little less character building and not even too critical to the overall story arc, yet enjoyable. Overall Rating: 6/10.

Infection

Ikkaran
Vance Hendricks, an archaeologist and former mentor of Dr Stephen Franklin comes aboard Babylon 5 with artifacts discovered on a dead world, but they are much more than simple artifacts and soon the entire station is at risk.


Hendricks' assistant, Nelson Drake kills a dock worker to get the artifacts through customs and soon discovers there is more to these artifacts than first realised as he is attacked whilst inspecting them and then begins to transform.

Franklin and Hendricks realise they're dealing with organic technology and Hendricks knows the potential these items would have, both for Earth and for his own wealth. However, with Drake continuing to transform and become more powerful, the attention of the crew turns to protecting the station.

Sinclair throws himself into the firing line once again in order to stop Drake and manages to do so. Franklin reports Hendricks after Drake has recovered and explained how the artifacts got through quarantine.

In the background, Sinclair continues to dodge meeting with an Interstellar Network News reporter assigned to interview him after Babylon 5 has been online for two years.

This episode stands alone from any major arcs occurring in the Babylon 5 universe but does touch on the topic of cultural cleansing and accepting imperfections - ultimately what killed the Ikarrans. Some slight background to Dr Franklin comes through as well as a bit more about the relationship between Garibaldi and Sinclair.

Overall Rating: 5.5/10

15 May 2012

B5 Review: Midnight on the Firing Line & Soul Hunter

Babylon 5's first season set in 2258, titled 'Signs and Portents' begins.

Midnight on the Firing Line
Londo lashes out at G'Kar
It's a year after the events of The Gathering and out on the fringe of Centauri space an agricultural outpost, Ragesh III comes under attack and all contact is lost.

Meanwhile, on Babylon 5 we meet new first officer Lieutenant Commander Susan Ivanova, the new resident telepath Talia Winters and Londo's assistant, Vir.

This first episode of the series has a lot going on and the two storylines outside of Babylon 5 involving Ragesh III and the Raiders (space pirates) eventually join up. In the mean time we get an idea of a part of the political landscape, the hatred between the Narn and Centauri, an election brewing on Earth and the image Sinclair and Babylon 5 must maintain for those back home. Ivanova comes across as a harsh and blunt person, particularly towards Talia but we soon find out why and we get to see Garibaldi's second favourite thing in the universe.

Important events are setup from the beginning where we get to hear Kosh speaking from behind a screen before quickly transferring to his encounter suit when Sinclair's not looking, President Luis Santiago wins in the polls and has no chin, while his Vice President  has several (according to Ivanova) and of course we learn of Londo's dream that in 20 years he and G'Kar will be strangling each other.

On Australian broadcast, this episode was not played first, Soul Hunter had that honour and from what I read from online sources, this episode was saved until after the season finale, Chrysalis. Why they did this I have no idea...

Overall Rating: 7/10
 
Soul Hunter
Delenn speaks with the Soul Hunter A rogue Soul Hunter comes to the station. Usually their race preserves the artists, the great minds and special people who are about to die, but this one has 'failed' so often that he now kills to ensure he is there to save their souls.

Sinclair gets to play hero again in this episode, after sussing out the Raiders in the previous episode, this time he gets to take a Starfury out to stop a broken ship from crashing into the station. 

In the meantime we meet the station's new chief medical officer, Dr Stephen Franklin. This time though we get an explanation for the change in staff as Dr Kyle will work with the President on Earth (Lt. Commander Takashima's transfer is never explained). Franklin gets to work on this new alien who is drawn to death. We get to meet N'Grath, a 6ft Praying Mantis type of alien and Sinclair saves the day (again) when Delenn goes missing.

I forgot about the importance of this episode. I knew it had ties with the later movie 'River of Souls' that focusses on the Soul Hunter race, but there are a lot more clues being leaked about Ambassador Delenn's true identity and something there's something about Sinclair when the Soul Hunter informs him 'they're using you', causing Sinclair to do some digging of his own. Who is Delenn really? Who is Satai Delenn and what is the Grey Council? 

Soul Hunter provides a decent character building episode while exploring a bit of the new unknown in the Babylon 5 universe. The DVD transfer suffers a bit with a few scenes looking very below quality and it brings with it a sad realisation that we may never see Babylon 5 in 1080 high-definition goodness due to the lack of quality left in the tapes (what's left of them).  

Overall Rating: 6/10 

06 May 2012

Trek Review: More Tribbles, More Trouble & The Survivor

More Tribbles, More Troubles

Cyrano Jones is back The Animated Series brings back the Klingons, Tribbles and Cyrano Jones from the Season Two episode The Trouble With Tribbles in this humourous installment.  

The Enterprise is escorting two grain ships to Sherman's Planet when it detects a Federation ship under attack by a Klingon cruiser. Coming to assist, they encounter a new Klingon weapon that neutralises their engines. Kirk uses the grain ships to distract the Klingons.

The Klingons are after the pilot of the ship they were attacking with Scotty has beamed aboard, along with some small and furry guests. The pilot is none other than Cyrano Jones with a few hundred Tribbles. Somehow, these Tribbles don't reproduce like those previously encountered and Jones has a creature with him, a 'Glommer' that is a predator of the Tribble.

Koloth, commanding the Klingon ship returns and attacks the Enterprise again. With barrels of quintotriticale in the halls, some break open and roaming Tribbles throughout the ship begin eating and getting fatter. In the fight, Kirk orders the Tribbles beamed over to the Klingon ship and asks for Koloth's surrender. Koloth has to oblige once he realises his ship is slowly becoming disabled from the massive Tribbles.

The truth is revealed when it turns out that Cyrano Jones sold Tribbles on a Klingon planet and they eventually overran it and destroyed its eco-system. The Glommer was developed as a Tribble predator to help their planet. Kirk returns the Glommer to Koloth, but it does no good as the Glommer is scared of the larger Tribbles.

The Klingons (by firing on them) and McCoy (by using medicine) soon find the large Tribbles are just huge clusters of smaller Tribbles which are more easily handled.

This episode returns us to the Tribbles explored in the Original series with a familiar story and characters also from that episode. It's just as fun but in a more children friendly, animated and shortened scenario. The battle sequence feels a little stilted, but that could be due to the animation processes and the sometimes 'dry' delivery of lines in this series. Nevertheless, the humour remains and this could be one of the better Animated outings so far.

Overall Rating: 7/10


The Survivor

Cyrano Jones is backThe Enterprise encounters the ship of a noted Federation philanthropist, Carter Winston which has been missing for nearly 5 years, near the Romulan Neutral Zone.

Winston's scans don't match up exactly when McCoy performs a check up and he attempts to get to the bottom of it. In the meantime, Winston meets with his former fiance who serves as a security officer on the Enterprise.  

Later, 'Winston' approaches Kirk, incapacitates him and then takes Kirk's form. Ordering the Enterprise into the Romulan Neutral Zone.

Kirk comes to the bridge to find them in the Neutral Zone and orders they leave while discovering Winston must have something to do with this. Spock determines that Winston is actually a shapeshifting alien known as a Vendorian. The Enterprise is soon surrounded by Romulan ships for crossing the Neutral Zone.

Realising he has endangered his former love, the Vendorian assists the crew in a battle with the Romulan's and they retreat. Kirk tells the Vendorian, named Nored, that he will have to stand trial but it will be noted that he assisted the ship and crew.

This episode introduces us to another shapeshifting alien (that probably could not have been reproduced in the live action series due to it's shape and complexity), Lieutenant M'ress, a Caitian, makes her first appearance as Communications Officer and we see the Romulan's animated for the first time.

No explanation is given for Nored ordering the Enterprise into the Neutral Zone, although it could be summised that he was simply trying to return home as it is noted that the Vendorian homeworld is 'near' the Romulan Neutral Zone - we could guess that it is on the Romulan side?

Nothing standout about this episode otherwise, so I give it an Overall Rating of 6/10.