Posts Tagged ‘SF’


Adding comics to the mix: Introducing Steve

April 27, 2009

From the very beginning, we’ve planned on bringing other voices to the Not A Planet Anymore forum to offer different opinions on the discussions of the day, as well as their expertise in their own sub-genres of geekery. Today I’m pleased to introduce our newest columnist: Steve.

You’ve probably seen me refer to Steve in the past, usually in reference to items from the British SF Invasion. A buddy from work who I happily discovered was a fellow SF fan, he’s been the vanguard of the SF redcoats – my pipeline to the new Red Dwarf episodes (which, shockingly, I haven’t managed to watch yet) and a ton of tidbits on The Doctor. He’ll even inflict some hard-core Starfleet damage on you if you’re not careful (although, with my own fondness for The Black Hole, I really, really shouldn’t be judging anyone).

But beyond that, Steve is a comic kingpin. With a collection that would put Mallrats‘ Brodie to shame – hell, his inbox stack alone would put many comic stores’ back issue shelves to shame – Steve is The Man when it comes to the comic scene. As the newest member of our team, Steve will be, among other things, adding some representation from the world of comics to our site with his columns.

Welcome, Steve!

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The Doctor and the Dwarf comin’ at ya

April 1, 2009

What’s better than a teaser for a cool British SF TV special? Teasers for TWO cool British SF TV specials, of course!

For your viewing pleasure, here’s the trailer for the new Doctor Who special, Planet of the Dead. Good job on the part of harrysaxon and Steve for catching this.

Also, a very Transformers-esque teaser for the upcoming 3-part Red Dwarf special, Back to Earth. Thanks again to Steve, our intrepid reporter for all sorts of UK SF goodness – just don’t get him started on old Starfleet reruns. Please.

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Missing SF on late night TV

February 23, 2009

I was looking at the titles on my DVD shelf the other day and it occured to me that the first time I’d seen a number of the classics of SF cinema was on late night TV.

Remember the time when there were a lot of independant local or regional stations? Before the cable networks started to form in the late 80’s and the rise of the specialty channels in the 90’s? Twenty years ago and for a couple of decades before that, it wasn’t unusual for stations, especially those that weren’t network affiliates, to try to add movies as late-night programming to keep people watching a little longer, and some of them were savvy enough to figure out that geeks were likely to be up, or would stay up to watch the SF movies that just weren’t being shown during primetime.

As a teenager in the greater Vancouver area in the mid-late 80’s, I was lucky enough to get KSTW out of Seattle, which had “Sci Fi Friday”. (cue the receding multi-coloured graphics in the background and a strange, beating, almost videogamish bassline beneath the announcer’s voiceover) Every Friday at midnight (the girls in my junior high weren’t into guys who read or watched SF, or guys who read, for that matter, so yeah, I was home Friday nights) I’d flick on my little 13-inch Zenith and tune in to be schooled in science fiction and fantasy cinema. “Sci Fi Friday” introduced me to the great stuff like “Alien”, “Blade Runner” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. And for all of the good, there was much, much more of the bad: “Robot Monster”, “Tobor the Great” and “Invasion of the Star Creatures” (What, you don’t remember this early 60’s piece of crap about a plot by alien amazon women commanding giant carrot monsters that gets foiled by two Abbot & Costello-wannabes? I don’t blame you. It’s not worth remembering. It’s kinda unfortunate that it’s stuck in my head.) to name just a few. But even the garbage had its purpose, if not for a few laughs at its expense, then to illustrate how the genre could go wrong and how these mistakes would be repeated in later years.

Sadly, that was the end of the late-night TV SF cinema era. It wasn’t long before infomercials took hold, completely wiping-out programming in favour of desparate grasps at cash, in part motivated by the formation of cable networks that didn’t want to leave room for something that wasn’t exactly the same in every station in every region aimed at the broadest possible audience/lowest common denominator.

During the 90’s, the idea of late-night SF cinema was given a satirical resurrection through “Mystery Science Theatre 3000”. The show, where Joel and his robot companions would heckle old SF movies, shorts and commericals, gained cult status and even got its own movie into national theatres – a re-release of “This Island Earth” with the MST3K treatment. But while the show (through DVDs and websites with its old recordings) and its imitators still have fans, it’s faded from pop culture consciousness.

These days, if you want to dig up old SF (the good or the bad), there are plenty of sites around the web, and of course there are movie rooms at cons. But it’s just not the same.

Watching these films at a con with other fans is cool, without a doubt. It’s especially conducive to giving one that sucks the MST3K treatment. But con-viewing doesn’t give the same feel of watching on your own TV in your own room, or basement.

And sure, there are SF specialty channels now – the Sci Fi Channel in the US and Space in Canada (I’m not sure about the situation in other parts of the world), but, speaking at least about Space, they just don’t do the job. Space’s programming is primarily TV show-based, even later into the evening. Despite it’s genre focus, late-night programming in recent years is primarily infomercials. And while the channel does run movies during the weekend in specified time slots, they tend to be films from the past 10 years. You certainly wouldn’t see anything from the 50’s or 60’s. Most of the films tend to be reruns of the same stable of movies they’ve been showing for years now, unlike the old late night SF features that had so much old material to draw from they rarely, if ever, repeated themselves.

As for the internet, how many movie sites, especially ones specializing in old SF movies, are out there on the net? Probably quite a few, I’m guessing. Where would a new SF fan, young and just trying to figure out the genre(s) start? For that matter, where would an older fan start when looking to dredge up old memories? It’s like walking into a mall full of restaurants when you’re looking for a snack. Too many options. Sure it’s good to have a choice, but there’s something to be said for the old late-weekend-night single or double feature format where you could get a steady, reliable diet of the stuff without having an overload of selections.

Sure you never knew from week to week whether the movie would be good or bad (unless you gave any credibility to the number of stars the movie was given in your tv guide’s synopsis – if you even read your tv guide). but that was part of the fun. Hell, not checking the tv guide at all and being surprised with the title of what they were serving up on a particular Friday was part of the fun too. You never knew what you were going to get (no, leave the Forrest Gump jokes alone).

The timing was part of the appeal too. Online, you can view these flicks anytime. But was just something that felt right about sitting back at the end of the day in a dark room with the blue flicker of the TV, a can of coke (maybe a beer swiped from dad’s beer fridge) and a bowl of pretzels or popcorn, clicking over to the independant channel at midnight and letting the show start. The late night viewing set you apart from everyone else watching “LA Law” or whatever during primetime. Appropriate, since as an SF fan you were probably a little apart anyway. When the flick was over you could step out onto the back deck in the chill night air for a minute and look and the stars and dream. Late night was the geek’s time. It was your time. And it was cool.

Late night TV SF movies brought all of these elements together. And it’s too bad it’s gone.


The top 10 doctors of SF

February 19, 2009

Not too long ago my family doctor announced that he’ll be retiring soon. After my initial twin reactions of “Good for him; he’s earned it” and “oh crap, now I’ve gotta find a new doctor!” (most docs with practices in this neck of the woods aren’t taking new patients – many people have to put up with the impersonal service at walk-in clinics), I got to thinking about physicians in general, and the roles they’ve had in SF. So harrysaxon and I put our heads together and came up with this list of our favourite doctors of the genre(s) in books, TV and film.

10) Tachyon – Wildcards, edited by George RR Martin
-nominated by bloginhood
Sure he had a hand in creating the wildcard virus that dealt humanity a bad hand, but this purple-eyed alien sawbones made it up to the people of his new home by setting up the Jokertown Clinic to help ease the suffering of those who survived the bug but were left with freakish disfigurements.

9) Martha Jones – Doctor Who
-nominated by bloginhood
Smart, tough, adaptable, easy on the eyes, and most importantly, able to recognize that pining after The Doctor won’t do her any good. Others may have theirs, but Martha’s my favourite among the Companions.

8 ) Tyler Dupree – Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson
-nominated by bloginhood
The world-changing events in Wilson’s brilliant novel are seen through the eyes of Dupree, but it’s not his exploits with a scalpel that are important. His bedside manner with an old friend proves to be more valuable in a story about relationships set against a backdrop where unseen forces of immense power have the Earth seemingly on the brink of disaster.

7) Clemens – Alien 3
-nominated by bloginhood
It’s pretty impressive when a supporting character is so compelling that he outshines Ripley in an Alien movie. Whether he’s trying to figure out what Sigourney Weaver’s character is hiding during an autopsy on Newt, standing up to the prison warden, or telling the story of how he lost is license and was sent to do time on a maximum security prison, Charles Dance’s performance is so absorbing that they pretty much had to kill him off so we’d pay more attention to the castaway who brought the big mean bug – that and because pretty much everybody becomes Alien chow by the end of the flick.

6) The Doctor – Star Trek: Voyager
-nominated by harrysaxon
During the long years of Voyager’s trek across the Delta Quadrant, this holographic healer did pretty much everything you can think of, from coming up with radical cures for strange alien diseases to taking a prototype ship into combat to writing a novel. Ultimately, he picked up the mantle from Next Generation’s Data of the Tin Man looking for a heart in his quest to be recognized as a sentient entity with equal rights among the crew.

5) Doc Cottle – Battlestar Galactica
-nominated by both
Sure we don’t see much of him, but when we do, every second counts and all other characters fade into the background. His crusty badgering of his patients is possibly more ferocious than Cylon bullets and is always entertaining.

4) Simon Tam – Firefly
-nominated by bloginhood
Most of the attention is focussed on his troubled little sister, but this fugitive physician is an integral part of Serenity’s crew, and springing River from the lab, he’s played an important part in exposing the government’s Miranda virus experiments and their consequences to the ‘Verse.

3) Abraham Van Helsing – Dracula, by Bram Stoker
-nominated by both
Doctor and ass-kicking vampire hunter. Without his fearlessness and expertise, Harker, Mina and the rest of their gang would have been lost and Dracula would have been gulping his way through London like a drunk in a wine cellar. Anthony Hopkins’ take on the character in Coppola’s cinematic take on the story was great. We shall not speak of Jackman’s Van Helsing flick.

2) Steven Franklin – Babylon 5
-nominated by bloginhood
Franklin’s expertise in med-lab have made him one of the finest doctors in the Earth Alliance (and possibly the Interstellar Alliance), add spy and revolutionary and you’ve got a pretty impressive resume. But what ranks B5’s chief of medical staff so high on the list is how well-written his character is. Sure, it took a season or two to find his pace, but we see eventually saw different aspects to his personality beyond that of the earnest doctor, and his is a personality that changes over the course of the series in believable ways. For someone who was so fiery in many early episodes, it was interesting to see him leave the station quietly, humbly and alone at the end when he took the new job on Earth.

1) Leonard “Bones” McCoy – Star Trek
-nominated by bloginhood
Come on! Who else could top a list like this? Bones is probably the best-known among his profession in SF, if only for his often-lampooned insistance that he’s a doctor, not a – (insert the profession/trade/craft/general labour category of your choice).

Honourable Mentions:

  • Julian Bashir – Star Trek: Deep Space 9
  • Beverley Crusher – Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Ash – Alien (okay, he was the ship’s science officer, but he doubled as medic when he wasn’t scheming about how to kill the crew)
  • Victor Frankenstein (we weren’t sure whether it was more appropriate to classify him as a natural scientist using medical/surgical techniques to assemble his creation)
  • Henry Jekyll (again, another uncertain one – doctor or chemist?)

Your Nominations:

  • Janet Fraiser – Stargate: SG-1
  • Dana Scully – X-Files
  • 2-1B – the Star Wars franchise
  • FX series – the Star Wars franchise
  • Moira MacTaggart – X-Men

Which SF classics need to be remade?

February 11, 2009

This news about the “Day of the Triffids” remake has got me thinking about the issue of remakes in general. There seems to be a lot of the everything-old-is-new-again bug going around. Recently, Hollywood inflicted a cinematic shitfest of “The Day the Earth Stood Still” against audiences. Not too long ago “Journey to the Center of the Earth” was redone (in 3D), and before that, “I am Legend”, and, of course, “Lord of the Rings” commanded the box office at the beginning of the decade, and the list goes on. Meanwhile, a re-imagined “Star Trek” is about to hit the screens, a new take on “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” is in development, the Harry Potter series continues, there’s talk of something based on “Rendezvous with Rama”, and so on and so forth – and that’s not even including the recent rash of inspired-by’s/related-to’s cropping up, like Straczynski’s follow-up to “Forbidden Planet” or the prequel to “The Thing”.

Putting aside the question of whether Hollywood ought to be doing remakes or adaptations in the first place rather than something original, or whether it’s capable of doing a remake without screwing it up (sometimes, like in the case of BSG or Jackson’s “King Kong” it does work out), I got to wondering which SF classics (from movies, TV or books) need to be remade or adapted for the screen?

The first that comes to mind is HG Wells’ “The Time Machine”. More than just a great adventure story, it raises questions about the consequences of social/labour class divisions as well as sexual politics. The novel has been adapted several times, with George Pal’s 1960 version being the best, in my opinion. But I think it’s time for a newer version, using the best of modern photo-real special effects – the kind of remake that the 2002 version should have been, that wasn’t because Simon Wells and his gang messed up the story.

I think it’s also time for Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles” to get another adaptation. The 1980 mini-series was okay, but again, with modern visual effects I think an updated version would look so much better. To do it justice though, they’d have to tackle it again as a TV mini-series or, even better, a full season production.

So what classic SF book, movie or TV series do you think needs a remake?


Top 5 geeky gift ideas

December 25, 2008

Twas the Night Before Christmas… well, okay, it’s very, very early in the a.m. when I’m posting this, so it’s technically Christmas Day, but as far as I’m concerned, until I hit the sack it’s still Christmas Eve and I can take one last shot at putting a wish list out there into the aether to try to get Santa’s attention before he finishes his rounds! Anyhow, amidst this season of family and togetherness and all that good stuff, a geek’s heart often turns to dreams of all the cool toys that old Father Christmas could be leaving under the tree. So here’s a list of a few SF-related things I’d put on my wish list, aside from the usual books and DVD’s, that is…

5. a replica Sonic Screwdriver
A cool little trinket to have amongs the pens and other brick-a-brack in my cubicle to garner more geek cred from fellow Doctor Who fans at the office.

4. steampunk Star Wars Lego
This piece of Lego awesomeness came to my attention courtesy of a recent Tidbits posting on SF Signal. I’d love to see them give the steampunk treatment to a Star Destroyer Lego set!

3. a Battlestar Galactica (new series) model of the Galactica
I saw one of these approximately foot-long beauties a couple of months ago at a local collectibles store. Sure was sweet – until I saw the $120 price tag. Tough to justify that kind of purchase when the same amount of money could buy a bunch of books, or some DVD’s, or, more practically, a couple of tanks of gas. The real pity was that the only BSG-related models that they did have in the store were a couple of flimsy self-assembly old-style Base Stars. Ah well.

2. a Tron frisbee
I searched high and low for something classic and cool like this when my wife and I were in Disneyland for our honeymoon a few years ago. No luck. The Mouse just wasn’t interested in setting aside a corner in one of the many gigantic gift shops down there for vintage stuff. I can only hope that when the sequel comes out eventually they’ll have merchandizing like this available again.

1. A Big Trouble in Little China “Dragon of the Black Pool” jacket
I stumbled across this ultimate piece of fan couture not to long ago when I came across the Wing Kong Exchange site. Being a huge fan of BTiLC, I was mighty tempted to order one of these jackets bearing the name of the hero’s restaurant, but with the Loonie once again sagging lower than the greenback, I’ll have to shelve that idea for the time being. Maybe I’ll make due with a “Pork Chop Express” sticker for my car. Sigh.

 So what SF stuff is on your holiday wish list (and remember, we’re not talking about books, DVD’s or games!) this year?

-And, on behalf of harrysaxon and myself, have a safe and happy holiday season!


My mind to your mind, my list to your list – bloginhood participates in a mind meld over on SF Signal

December 11, 2008

For a while now, SF Signal has been running an interesting feature called the Mind Meld, where they pose a question and invite various people with SF interests to weigh-in, then open the floor for other comments. This week, John and the boys were kind enough to invite me to take part!

This week’s question was “What were the best genre-related books, movies and/or shows you consumed in 2008?” They left it open for participants to list new stuff, as well as not-so-new fare – anything enjoyed this past year. The ‘meld got such a big response from participants, they had to break it into two posts. Here’s the link to Part 1, and here’s the link to Part 2. Lots of absorbing lists of bests from SF authors, editors, fans, critics and commentators of all stripes. Definitely worth the read (and I’m talking about worth while because of the smart stuff from everyone else on the list, not for my inane babbling).

Beyond the intellectual and entertainment value of the Mind Melds, I’ve also been drawn to them for a long time as a reader because they’re such a great source of referrals. Participants are always giving recommendations about this book or that film, most of them worth while. And since this Mind Meld focuses specifically on “the best” – it’s the best referral list you’re gonna see. It’s the uber stocking stuffer list for every geek this holiday season.

But don’t just go to SF Signal for the Mind Melds; be sure to go there for all their other good content, be it Mind Melds, author interviews, reviews, lists, clips, discussions, news, links, giveaways or the rest of it. Go there because it’s a cool site.