September TV Update

I’m about to leave on a vacation to Universal Studios Florida!  First visit in four years!

LORD OF THE RINGS:  this was my most anticipated show of the year because I am a huge LOTR nerd.  I read those books over and over as a kid.  While the characters leave a little to be desired, we’re three episodes in and the show is displaying a lot of promise.  It was magical to see Numenor and Moria in their glory days and I can’t wait to see where the story goes.  The mystery of the Stranger is very intriguing though I do hope they don’t drag that out too long.  The show looks amazing of course, as it should given its astronomical budget.  It’s very exciting to see these events I’ve read about indirectly portrayed on screen!

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON: It’s interesting so far.  I knew going in there wouldn’t be a lot of action, though I am surprised how little we ever see of the dragons.  It’s moving slowly but I am definitely interested to see how things turn out.

SHE HULK: Loving the show so far!  It is joyous and hilarious, and unlike Moon Knight or Ms Marvel, it is firmly entrenched in the MCU.  Jenn is a great character and I love the fourth wall breaking.  I’ll be very sad when this show is over!  The Hulk and Wong guest appearances were delightful.

HARLEY QUINN S3: I didn’t find the Frank is abducted storyline to be a very interesting through-line, so this is definitely a weaker season, but it’s still hilarious.

WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS S4: Another weaker but still hilarious season due to an uninteresting main storyline (the vampire bar).  I also found it very frustrating that Colin spend the entire season as a child with a different personality.  I really missed his energy vampire personality.

LITTLE DEMON is pretty funny so far.  RICK AND MORTY just got back but it’s amazing as always.  ARCHER is back and it’s always amusing.

I need to re-subscribe for STAR TREK LOWER DECKS but it’s a given I will absolutely love it!

The Sandman and August TV

Our latest episode of the Pubcast was about The Sandman:

https://www.scifipubcast.space/netflixs-the-sandman-neil-gaiman

Sadly I was the wet blanket of the group.  I have zero history with the comic.  I only started reading it a week before this came out.  I certainly understand the intellectual quality of the comic/series, but it’s not really for me.  I rarely enjoy anthology formats and I find Morpheus/Dream to be an inherently unlikable and uninteresting lead character.  I did enjoy the Death episode a lot, but the final three about the dream vortex and the Corinthian were just deeply unpleasant to watch because of the subject matter.  I will keep watching though!

SOLAR OPPOSITES S3:  Love this show.  It’s hilarious!

HARLEY QUINN S3:  Hilarious as always thus far!

WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS S4:  I don’t think this season’s story (vampire bar!) is as interesting as last year (Nadia and Nandor lead the Vampiric Council!).  I also think the gag of Colin dying and being reborn as a child was a one note joke that is being painfully dragged across an entire season.  It’s still funny though!  And I did enjoy Nandor dealing with his exasperated djinn with limited wishes.

WEST WORLD S4:  I preferred the previous season but it was an interesting mystery box story line and I still find this more interesting than the first two seasons in the theme park.

PAPER GIRLS: I started reading this comic and it was very interesting.  Sadly, the television series (well, the four I’ve seen so far) appears to have bled out everything imaginative and cool about the comic to create a generic streaming show focused on character melodrama. 

THE ORVILLE S3:  Making every episode 90 minutes long was a disastrous decision in my opinion.  The stories are just too long.  It doesn’t hold my interest.  That being said, I did appreciate that this season was about a prolonged war with the Kaylon and the big final battle episode was AMAZING.

THE GREY MAN:  The Russo Brothers return!  The story and characters were extremely run of the mill, but this movie was chock full of truly thrilling action sequences with amazing camera and stunt work.

PREY:  I enjoyed it for what it was, but I definitely preferred the other movies.  Seeing humans with no technological capabilities in the ancient past going up against a Predator just isn’t as interesting to me.

DAY SHIFT:  This was a moderately entertaining vampire action movie with some surprisingly good stunt work in the fight scenes.

On the theatrical front, I saw BULLET TRAIN and absolutely loved it!  It certainly helps this was my first ever 4DX theater, where the seat acts like a simulator ride.  I knew nothing about the movie going in, hadn’t even seen a trailer, and this was a huge surprise.  It was truly hilarious but also told a great action story as well.  Brad Pitt was so funny in this!

On the comic book front, I got a free month’s trial for Comixology Unlimited and I am shocked how many comics I have to pour through now!  There’s a ton of great Scott Snyder originals.  This is almost ten years old but I’m currently reading LETTER 44 by Charles Soule and really enjoying it.  It’s a combination of Independence Day and House of Cards.  Really intriguing!

Comic-Con News

It’s almost all Marvel goodness, but I am also very excited by some STAR TREK news:

We got a Lower Decks Season 3 trailer showing them visiting DS9.  Awesome!  DS9 is my favorite Trek and I dearly love Lower Decks.  This is peanut butter and chocolate!

The craziest news of the entire con for me… the Lower Decks animated characters are going to appear in Strange New Worlds in a mixed media Roger Rabbit style crossover.  Wow!  I never thought this would happen in a million years!  I can’t wait for this.  Although… I do wish the live action actors appeared as their characters instead because I would like to think that Lower Decks is a 100% canon series that just happens to be animated.  I’m very curious to see how they treat it, but this is incredible news.

MARVEL MARVEL MARVEL!

So many great announcements.  A lot we already knew or suspected, but still exciting to get a road map of the next few years.

The most important news is we’re getting TWO Avengers movies in 2025, The Kang Dynasty and Secret Wars, named after two of the most famous comic stories in Marveldom.  This is going to be as big as Infinity War and End Game!  By the time this is all over, Kang is going to be just as famous as Thanos.

We’re getting a Thunderbolts movie which is going to be great.  I can’t wait to find out which characters they’ll use, such as Yelena (Black Widow), Ghost, Task Master, Baron Zemo, Abomination, US Agent…

Daredevil is returning with his own Disney Plus series, for 18 episodes no less.  I wasn’t terribly impressed with the Netflix show, though I’m sure the MCU will be a much better version with more superhero-ing and more action.

We know we’re getting Fantastic Four in 2024, but not who’s in it or who’s making it, which is the bigger question.  The previous two iterations have not been great but I know Feige will produce the best possible version of one of the cornerstones of Marvel Comics.

These announcements are all exciting but what I really want to know is who’s playing these characters and who’s directing these movies.  We do know the Russo Brothers are not doing Secret Wars.

Noticeably absent are any mention of the X-Men.  Maybe they’re going to wait until this “Multiverse Saga” is over for that?  Will the next meta-saga star the mutants?

In non-Comic Con news, I’m halfway through the new Avatar the Last Airbender novel, The Rise of Yanchen by F.C. Lee.  It’s great so far!  Just like the two Kyoshi novels before it, this tells a fascinating tale of a previous Avatar in an incredibly fleshed out world with a level of detail the cartoons never had the time for.

And in truly random news that will interest no-one, I also just read the Gregory Keyes prequel novel (Crucible) to Independence Day Resurgence, a movie that I and I alone seem to love.  The reason I enjoyed it so much was seeing how the world dealt with the aftermath of an apocalyptic alien invasion, came together as one to defend against the next attack, and adapted alien technology into their everyday lives.  And this book is the story of that, so I enjoyed it a great deal.

Star Trek Novels Post-Nemesis Concluded

Continuing after the Typhon Pact series…

Next up is the David Mack Cold Equations trilogy.  It’s another solid Mack attack that resurrects Data to the franchise.  Oddly enough, the first two books are closely tied together, while the third is a completely different story. 

The Fall was a five book loose mini-series about a new, belligerent and suspicious, Federation president.  Revelation and Dust is another David George DS9 book that was not to my style but it does feature a major line-changing event.  Crimson Shadow by Una McCormick is basically a Garak novel, and while it lacks for action, her dialogue for Garak is absolutely brilliant.  Ceremony of Losses is by David Mack so you know it’s the best in the series.  It features a pivotal moment for Bashir and for the planet Andor.  Even with a ‘smaller’ story, Mack continues to elevate the material.  Poisoned Chalice is mostly a Titan book, a series I haven’t read much of, but is still important to the larger story.  Peaceable Kingdoms by Dayton Ward was a decent ending to the storyline.

Takedown by John Jackson Miller is an excellent standalone adventure full of great action and mystery.  It’s also a bit of a crossover featuring the Enterprise, the Titan, and the Aventine.  This was a lot of fun and one of the best Trek Lit books not written by David Mack!

Section 31 Disavowed by David Mack continues the Bashir / Section 31 storyline and also features an adventure into the Mirror Universe.  I haven’t read the previous books about the Mirror saga but I was able to play catch up well enough.  A solid adventure teeing up a grand finale with 31.

The Prey Trilogy by John Jackson Miller was another epic adventure with great characters and storylines.  It’s a great sequel of sorts to the third and sixth Star Trek movies with a wonderful meditation on Klingon honor and society in addition to being fun and big.  Great Worf story!

Section 31 Control is David Mack’s big Section 31 finale.  We finally learn the secret origin of 31 and it’s a fascinating bit of backstory.  Seeing Bashir and Data team up is a lot of fun.  This is a solid ending to the story but I do wish the 31 endgame had been a little bigger and involved more characters.  By only starring a handful of characters, the scale felt lessened.

Enigma Tales is another Una McCormick Garak novel.  Once again her dialogue for him is absolutely brilliant.  I wasn’t terribly invested in the story about Cardassian politics, but her writing was just too clever and interesting to ignore.

Available Light by Dayton Ward is a TNG story following up the Section 31 finale.  Unfortunately the 31 material turned out to be a very small subplot.  Most of the book is about a standalone alien of the week story that I just couldn’t get into because I was so much interested in the 31 aftermath.

Fortune of War is a Titan story so I was going to skip it, until I saw David Mack wrote it.  I’m not familiar with these characters but as always Mack tells an engrossing and thrilling story with cinematic action and brutal, intelligent villains.  It’s a real end of the world type scenario!  This is how you do a ‘standalone’ story!

Collateral Damage is David Mack’s loose finale to the Trek Lit canon.  Not only does it show Picard on trial for his Time to Kill connection to Section 31, it also features a Naussiacan villain plot spinning out of the events of the Destiny Trilogy.  It’s not the most epic of stories but it’s a great double epilogue to an entire franchise of storylines.

And with that, I made it to the end!  While skipping a ton of side stories.  Now I can finally read the Coda Trilogy which is the final, official, end of the Trek Lit continuity.  Can’t wait!

TV Update

KENOBI:  We just discussed the show on the latest episode of the Sci-Fi Pubcast:

https://www.scifipubcast.space/scifi-pubcast-48

I absolutely loved the show.   It’s my favorite Star Wars TV series.  So wonderful to have a sequel to the Prequels starring the main characters.  So cool to see Obi-Wan and Vader face off.  Little Leia was a delight and her relationship with Obi-Wan was so touching.  I even think the show looked bigger and more cinematic than Mando or Fett.  Everything looked like a big set instead of being shot on the Volume for some reason.  This was my most anticipated show for the year and it exceeded my expectations.  Like every Star Wars story, you can pick it apart if you choose to, but it was a delight and flowed even better on rewatch.

MS MARVEL: I’m enjoying this much more than Moon Knight.  I do wish there was more plot/action, but Kamala is a delightful character with a great supporting cast.  It definitely lacks a strong villain but the mystery of the origin of her powers is a great hook.

THE BOYS:  Hilariously obscene as always, I think I’m enjoying this show more than ever with the addition of Soldier Boy and the Boys experimenting with power drugs.  My greatest complaint about this show is that the heroes have no super villains to fight, no threat to them, and we finally get someone who can actually put them in danger.

THE ORVILLE:  This show is a loving pastiche of early TNG, which is both a blessing and a curse.  As much as I love Star Trek, I do not love those early TNG seasons, so for me this show is a great joke for a couple episodes and then it loses interest.  And just like early Trek, some episodes are great, and some are a chore to get through.  I definitely don’t like the idea of doing 1h15m episodes. 

STRANGE NEW WORLDS: Still loving this show!  Out of the entire first season there was only episode I hated, the fairytale episode.  This has been a consistently good show with astounding production values, great characters, and great situations.

Star Trek Novels Post-Nemesis

The first post-Nemesis novel was Death in Winter by Michael Jan Friedman.  I confess to having no memory of this book but it dealt with the aftermath of the Romulan Empire coup.

Keith DeCandidio also wrote Articles of the Federation, a West Wing style political story about Nan Bacco the new Federation President.  This is a delightful book with a great sense of humor.  Bacco would go on to be a central character in the franchise going forward.

What followed next was a six book series about the Borg.  It began with Resistance by J.M. Dillard.  I don’t remember this book well.  Next was Peter David’s Before Dishonor which also had the Voyager crew in it.  I know there some real outrage at the events in this book, but I don’t remember it well enough to have an opinion on the matter.  Suffice to say there is a major change to a major character!  Christopher Bennett’s Greater Than the Sum was the final prelude to the big trilogy, and I don’t remember this one either.

Now then!  David Mack’s Destiny Trilogy!  This is the greatest, biggest, most momentous, epic, cinematic, game-changing Trek Lit book(s) ever made.  If you read a single Trek Lit book(s), make it this!!!  This is the final apocalyptic war with the Borg.  They invade the Alpha Quadrant en masse and destroy entire planets.  Major franchise planets.  Major characters die.  It is the literal end of the world.  Mack does an astounding job of blowing up the entire galaxy.  This is one of a handful of Trek books I’ve taken the time to re-read.  It’s incredible.  It’s also a massive team-up story with the casts of TNG, Titan, DS9, even a little Voyager.  This is the ultimate Trek story!

There followed two immediate Destiny aftermath books.  I don’t remember Losing the Peace by William Leisner at all.  Keith Decandido’s A Singular Destiny is a sequel to Articles of the Federation showing President Bacco dealing with the horrific aftermath of the Borg War and I remember it being great.  It also sets up the next phase of the Trek Lit franchise; the hostile powers of the Alpha Quadrant create the Typhon Pact to counter the Federation and the Klingon alliance.

The next series was a loose eight book series called The Typhon Pact.  Zero Sum Game is another David Mack military masterpiece and a major movement for Bashir’s character and Section 31.  It also completely reinvents the Breen into the major new nemeses of Trek Lit.  In the coming books by David Mack, the Bashir / Section 31 and Breen storylines come to form a spine for the entire line.

Rough Beasts of Empire by David George is the book that stalled my marathon for years.  This book just rubs me the wrong way.  I deeply dislike what it did to Sisko’s character and the overly wordy narration did not appeal to my ADHD at all.  It is interesting to see Spock dealing with the Romulan coup.

Paths of Disharmony by Dayton Ward… I forget what happens in which book now but it had a major change in the state of Andor as I recall.

Plagues of Night / Raise the Dawn by David George.  I recall having similar issues with this book as with Rough Beasts.  It’s mostly a DS9 story, but with the vast majority of the original cast missing, and DS9/Bajor being so much less important to the Alpha Quadrant now… it just doesn’t feel as vital.

All told, I like the concept of the Typhon Pact series, but I was disappointed the different books did not tie together into a more coherent whole.  Zero Sum Game is absolutely the best one, but David Mack is always going to be the best.  The three George books do form a loose trilogy.

Star Trek Novels circa Nemesis

Sci-Fi Pubcast update! We finally released a new episode!
https://www.scifipubcast.space/scifi-pubcast-47
Joel is hoping to have more time to record shows again. We’re doing away with the Discord channel, Facebook, and You Tube video episodes, but we’ll still be on Twitter.

With the release of Nemesis in 2002 (and the subsequent cancellation of Enterprise in 2005), live action Star Trek was officially over.  But the franchise lived on in the novels and with a new opportunity.  Just like Star Wars before them, now Trek Lit was the only game in town, which meant they now had the ability to decide the course of the franchise with tight nit continuity and serialization.  What followed was dozens of novels all fitting together into a larger whole.

I’ve been very, very slowly making my way through this mass of mass media and there are a lot of great gems in here.  DS9 is my favorite Trek series by far, but the novels managed to make TNG the more interesting series by introducing DS9 style continuity, serialization, and moral ambiguity.  The casts also became intermixed and regularly teamed up together.  It’s been amazing! 

I’m sorry to say I haven’t enjoyed the post-series DS9 novels as much, mainly because the vast majority of the original characters simply aren’t in it and the station is no longer the center of the Alpha Quadrant and the war to decide the fate of the galaxy.  It just doesn’t grab me.  So my focus has been on the TNG novel series.  I’ve only read a fraction of what’s out there.  I haven’t even touched the Voyager, Enterprise, Titan, New Frontier, or Vanguard series!

While the novels always adhered to their own continuity, after Nemesis they became the primary focus of the franchise and it began with the A Time To TNG series.  It was a ten book series leading up to the Nemesis movie.

Based on what I’ve read, the first seven books aren’t that important in the long run so I skipped them.  I began with the David Mack two parter A Time to Kill and A Time to Heal.  These books are excellent and Mack instantly became my favorite Trek Lit author.  He excels at telling grim and violent stories with cinematic action sequences and moral ambiguity.  Anything he writes is worth checking out.  I’ve also read his original (not Star Trek!) Dark Arts trilogy which is basically grim-dark Harry Potter in WWII.  Highly recommended!

Anyway, as I recall Mack’s Time two parter was a thinly veiled metaphor for the US invasion of Iraq.  It also dealt with the post Dominion War political situation.  I remember a lot of amazing war sequences, a great story, and the return of Section 31.

The tenth and final book was Keith DeCandidio’s A Time for War, A Time for Peace.  Drastically different in tone from Mack’s books, this is a charming and often hilarious series of vignettes including Federation politics and Worf’s change from Federation Ambassador to rejoining the Enterprise crew.

That was the final pre-Nemesis book.  I’ll talk about the post-Nemesis series in the next article.

Movie Rankings: 1984, 1983, 1982, 1981

1984.

5. DUNE. This ridiculously expository and ponderous adaptation is the definitive version for me and a stone cold classic.  It’s full of interesting visuals and performances and oddities.

4. STAR TREK SEARCH FOR SPOCK. An underappreciated Trek film!  The quest to resurrect Spock is a great story, stealing the Enterprise is a classic set piece, as is its destruction.  The Klingon villain is so-so but this is a logical sequel to Khan.

3. THE TERMINATOR. The first one feels small and dated to me, but it’s a classic for a reason.

2. TEMPLE OF DOOM. The weakest of the original Indy movies but still enjoyable and chock full of iconic sequences.

1. GHOSTBUSTERS. One of the greatest comedy/horror classics of all time.  It walks a perfect line between being funny and legitimately scary.

1983.

5. NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN. I struggled to find five here.  Connery’s return as Bond is a big deal but the movie is too long and too slow.

4. OCTOPUSSY. The dueling Roger Moore movie that year was much better.

3. NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION. I haven’t seen this since I was a kid but it’s a classic.

2. JAWS 3. I was obsessed with this movie as a kid just because it was set in Sea World.  Setting an action/horror movie in a theme park is a combination of my two favorite things.

1. RETURN OF THE JEDI.

1982.

5. POLTERGEIST. One of the best in horror with some iconic scares.

4. BLADE RUNNER. An atmospheric classic with perfect production designs, but a plodding story and a leaden lead.

3. THE THING. One of the greatest horror stories of all time with to-this-day incredibly realistic and gory animatronic monsters.

2. TRON. I loved this movie as a kid and the production values hold up surprisingly well.

1. STAR TREK WRATH OF KHAN. The second best Trek movie with its greatest villain.  A massive improvement over the plodding first film.

1981.

5. SUPERMAN 2. I never appreciated this movie as a kid but at least it had actual villains.

4. EVIL DEAD. A horror classic done a shoestring budget.

3. TIME BANDITS. One of my favorite Terry Gilliam movies chock full of ideas, characters, and humor.

2. EXCALIBUR. I just watched this again and it totally holds up.  A perfect mythic telling of the King Arthur myth with the greatest portrayal of Merlin ever.

1. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Probably the best action/adventure movie of all time.  Perfection.

That’s it! Hit my birth year! I am Raiders Years Old!

Spring 2022 Television

KENOBI: Those first two episodes exceeded my already high expectations. Amazing show! Everything I hoped it would be… and we still have Hayden as Vader to look forward to! I had no idea Little Leia was going to be in this, so that was a huge surprise. The actress is perfect and her interactions with Ben are hilariously adorable. As much as I love Mando…. this looks like it’s going to be the best SW tv series!

STRANGER THINGS 4: While the show is always over-long and takes too long to get going, I am still completely hooked on the characters and story. I did not enjoy the teen drama going on between Eleven and Mike and Will though! These kids should be closer and inseparable after all they’ve been through! I don’t want to spoil the ending but I thought it was excellent with an excellent plot twist I did not see coming. Can’t wait for the conclusion in a month!

STRANGE NEW WORLDS: Another pleasant surprise. I’m really enjoying the show thus far. After everything being so serialized lately, it is refreshing to just get standalone adventures. The characters and actors are great and the production values are astounding.

HALO: I’m afraid my initial excitement for this show wore off rather quickly. I have so many fundamental problems with the creative choices made in this show and the changes from the source material. Cortana was great but I just did not like anything they did with the Master Chief and his arc at all. I had zero interest in all the new side characters. I just wanted a fleshed out version of the Fall of Reach and the discovery of Halo and I did not get that at all.

MOON KNIGHT: While I enjoyed the show, this is definitely my least favorite MCU series thus far. It was fine and had some great bits in it, but the complete lack of connection to the MCU and the barely-there use of Moon Knight actually being in costume made this feel more like a disposable Netflix show than a proper MCU entry. Harrow was also a completely forgettable villain.

PICARD: I definitely enjoyed it more than the first season, but the initial excitement over the Borg Queen AND Q being involved wore off with time. There was too much time-wasting going on in present day Earth and not enough Q.

THE FLASH: I enjoyed the Armageddon 5 parter, but the Deathstorm arc did not impress me and I’m just going to wait until the Netflix drop for the rest of the season. This is the only show I have to watch with ads online and that is just so annoying at this point haha.

In other news… the Sci-Fi Pubcast isn’t dead, just on prolonged hiatus while Joel is busy with law school. We’ll try to squeeze in an episode here and there! I’ve also been slacking on my writing duties, but I did recently write some scenes for the sixth book in the fantasy trilogy. Boy, that book three epilogue just kept getting longer and longer!

Movie Rankings: 1987, 1986, 1985

1987.

5. SPACEBALLS. The classic Star Wars parody.  Haven’t seen it in decades.

4. PRINCESS BRIDE. Shockingly I didn’t see this until college, so I have no childhood nostalgia for it, but I appreciate that it is a classic children’s adventure.

3. LETHAL WEAPON. The first movie is too long, slow, and serious, but the germs of greatness are in there.  Riggs and Murtaugh are the greatest buddy cop duo ever.

2. EVIL DEAD 2.  One of the greatest horror/comedies of all time.  The first movie is an indie classic but this improves it on every level.  It’s funnier and more disturbing at the same time.

1. PREDATOR. One of the all time Ahnuld classics.

1986.

5. IRON EAGLE. I don’t know how it holds up but I loved this movie as a kid.

4. HIGHLANDER. Not exactly a classic but it’s withstood the test of time.

3. LABYRINTH.  Another movie I didn’t see until college but I appreciate it.

2. STAR TREK VOYAGE HOME. I think it’s overrated but it is the best Trek movie for comedy.

1. ALIENS. One of the greatest action or sci-fi or horror movies ever made.  A Cameron classic.  The Special Edition is even better and gives Ripley a better storyarc.

1985.

5. THE GOONIES. Didn’t see it until college but it’s the definitive 80s children’s adventure.

4. LEGEND. Haven’t seen it in decades but I remember the producton design being astounding.

3. BACK TO THE FUTURE. The 50s storyline doesn’t do much for me but it’s still a comedy classic.

2. BRAZIL. One of my all time favorite artsy films.

1. MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME. My favorite of the originals and one of my favorite movies as a kid.  Bartertown and Thunderdome are cinematic classics and the action scenes are incredible.