The Expanse and The Man in the High Castle are coming to TV

Journalists are already calling it “A Game of Thrones in space!” Well, okay. If you guys say so. I know one of the writers of the source material used to work for GRRM, but let’s not get all sensational and shit. Watch the writers wince when the lazy GOT comparison is made in this video.

I admit I’m usually not a fan of SyFy productions. I tried watching their Dune adaptation at least three times and never got very far into it. For the record, I’ve never finished the David Lynch movie, either. The trailer for The Expanse resembles too much of SyFy’s stuff that I don’t like: too slick for its own good, too shiny. At least it’s got some good actors.

If it sounds like I’m not excited about this series, I assure you it’s only because I’m not. But hey, I’ll watch it anyway and I really, really hope I’m wrong. At the very least it reminded me I need to read the sequels to Leviathan Wakes. (I have a bad habit of starting series and not reading the sequels.)

You know what else is getting the TV treatment? Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. Here’s a clip:

Now that’s more like it.
The Man in the High Castle has to be one of the best alternative history novels ever written. See, it’s a novel set in a universe in which the Axis Powers won WWII. The characters themselves discover a novel set in a universe in which the Axis Powers lost. It’s an alternative reality set within an alternative reality. Look, it sounds a lot more gimmicky than it is, trust me.

What the hell happened in The Walking Dead Season 5 premiere?

It’s October. Time to talk horror. I’ll focus on horror-related posts until Halloween comes and goes.   

*SPOILERS FOLLOW* 

Even though I’ve had a few days to think it over, I’m still wondering what the hell I just saw on Sunday.

When The Walking Dead’s fourth season concluded, I was psyched. (This stands in sharp contrast to the previous season finale which spent too much time building up to one of the most anti-climatic “battles” I’ve ever seen.) Here were the Season 4 highlights for me:

  • The blonde finally went missing (she’ll be back, of course, but in the meantime we don’t have to hear her stupid singing).
  • Carol didn’t hesitate to shoot a little girl who totally had to go. This is much cooler when you think about all the whining Rick would have done for 3+ episodes before finally arriving at the same decision.
  • The Governor was in danger of becoming sympathetic, which I thought was unnecessary, but then he was all like, “Nah, lol, fuck you” and killed a bunch of people, further rising in the annals of TV villainy.
  • The people at Terminus turned out to be cannibals.
  • And the high point of the entire series: the introduction of Eugene Porter, a redneck scientist with a mullet and an affinity for video games. I don’t know why, but I like the three new characters more than any of the existing ones. I really don’t give a shit who they kill as long as they don’t kill Eugene and friends.

So here’s what we knew up until last Sunday: we had zombies outside Terminus. We had cannibals inside. Nearly all the surviving heroes of the series were more or less fucked. It was shaping up to be a great big mind-fuck of a suspenseful season. But that’s not what we got. What we got, instead, was pure action. Don’t get me wrong. It was very satisfying action (that ridiculous bit with the pathetically aimed bottle rocket notwithstanding), but I can’t help but feel some potential horror was wasted here.

First of all it’s a horror show, not an action movie. While I appreciate the writers’ attempt to give it some urgency (let’s face it, the series drags sometimes), I had blown up what I thought was going to happen in my head. I certainly didn’t want to see them spend an entire season in Terminus, but I thought that, at the very least, we were going to spend a few episodes wondering, “Who are the cannibals going to eat next?” Think about the potential for terror there! I kind of figured what we got Sunday wouldn’t come along until the mid-season finale.

This is all to say that my expectations fucked me. The more I think about it, the more I realize the writers probably made the right decision. If they had done what I was expecting, I probably would have been complaining it was predictable.

You’re gonna need a bigger boat: Shark Week’s biggest show was unapologetic bullshit

I haven’t had cable in so long I didn’t know how bad the networks’ programming had become. Yeah, I’ve heard of such bottom-of-the-barrel scrapings as Ancient Aliens and Finding Bigfoot, but I assumed nobody actually bought into that stuff outside of the Weekly World News readership. All but the hopelessly gullible will know the Ghost Hunters stuff is faker than suntan in a bottle, but according to the video above it appears a megalodon program was carefully constructed to trick even objective viewers.
your typical Weekly World News article

Neal Stephenson insisted that a hundred years from now, the majority of people might think the moon landings were faked. I thought that was farfetched, but now I’m not as optimistic. Cable networks are really turning to shit in the factual accuracy department and they’re among the biggest opponents of net neutrality in the world. If we lose internet freedom (and there’s a huge chance we will lose it), does anyone think the “educational” programming on privately owned television networks will suddenly get better? It’s hard to imagine cable programming getting any worse, but they have always found new ways to lower the bar just a little bit more.

It will get worse and there’s currently no sign it will ever get better. Let’s not pretend it’s completely Discovery Channel’s fault. Obviously someone’s watching this stuff. At least a few of them believe every bit of it, too. If the internet becomes what the major telecoms want it to become, I believe Mr. Stephenson is right: people will be watching a lot more cable TV, not to mention visiting the kinds of websites put out by the same people who control cable TV. That’s gotta have a negative affect on the average humans’ bullshit radar in the long run.

Sharks, man. Seriously.

The best (and worst) original Star Trek movies

Although TV-wise I’m a fan of The Next Generation, I think the original cast’s Star Trek films are the best. Some say the odd-numbered Star Trek films are shit, but I don’t agree, not completely. I think The Motion Picture has some worthwhile visuals, III’s pretty watchable and part V has one of my favorite lines in movie history: “What does God need with a starship?”

in typical Star Trek fashion, it’s heroic to question these matters

I absolutely love this series, even the bad ones. With the exception of The Undiscovered Country, all of these are currently streaming on Netflix. I’m not sure if they’re a good point to jump on for potential fans, but you could do worse on a Saturday night than having an original Star Trek movie marathon.

In chronological order:

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

This one I love to hate. Well, hate is a strong word. A few years ago I saw the director’s cut and reviewed it here. I don’t care who you are, you’ll like the sequel so it’s worth sitting through this one even if you fall asleep… like I did.

The Wrath of Kahn

The Hollywood-level of action and conflict is cranked up to eleven in this one. Even so, it manages not to become bloated while retaining a lot of the stuff hardcore fans like. It’s a surprisingly effective action movie. Although it’s the fan favorite, it’s actually my least favorite of the even-numbered films.

The Search for Spock

In case you haven’t seen The Wrath of Kahn yet, I won’t spoil where Spock is. The way they find Spock is a lot less magical than you expect, even if the science is stretched a bit thin. In this one, something happens that really cements Kirk’s hatred for Klingons. That’ll come around and bite him in the ass a few sequels later (The Undiscovered Country). It goes to show Star Trek has the potential to be a lot better when it has a less episodic story arc. I love Christopher Lloyd as a Klingon, but watching a younger version of Spock experience pon farr (links to the only episode of Enterprise I’ve ever seen) was pretty disturbing. The climactic battle is pretty unbelievable—not in the good way.

The Voyage Home

I think this is the first Star Trek anything I ever watched (I was three when it came out). All these years I thought there was no way I could possibly like it as an adult, but when I saw it again I fell in love with it. I typically hate comedies like this and it’s very much a comedy. As is such it’s the most bizarre Star Trek film ever made (see Spock spouting pseudo-obscenities). Even though the reboot series is borrowing heavily from this series’ sequence of plots, there’s no way in hell they’ll borrow from this film. There’s simply no way a movie like this can be made today, especially with a big-budget franchise. Although it’s the film anyone can like, the effectiveness is much greater when you’re familiar with everything that came before it. The hilarity of these characters being thrust into this situation will be lost on people unfamiliar with their typical personalities.

The Final Frontier

The Final Nightmare, The Final Friday, The Last Crusade… yeah right. Whereas the previous two films in the series were directed by Leonard Nimoy, this one’s directed by William Shatner. If ever you needed proof of Shatner’s ego, he opens the film on himself, bloated and about a hundred years old, climbing a mountain without any gear whatsoever. You know you’re in trouble the second you see Spock levitate on jet boots. Look, there’s a lot of shit in this one (it’s easily the worst of the original films), but like I said above, it’s got one of the best lines in movie history. Although the special effects took a hilarious downturn in quality, the film as a whole is not as bad as people claim.

The Undiscovered Country

This is easily the most well-rounded of everything we’ve seen prior to it. Ultra-serious actor Christopher Plummer makes a great Klingon. I must confess to having had a massive, prepubescent crush on Kim Cattrall’s Vulcan character when this premiered on HBO. David Warner, who was in the last film, comes back as a short-lived Klingon who’s attempting to orchestrate peace between his race and Starfleet. Unfortunately Kirk, who’s experience all the way back in part III continues to make him despise Klingons, finds himself in the role of ambassador. Like The Wrath of Kahn (which this film seems modeled on, right down to the choice of director), it’s an intense action flick which should have made a lot more money than it did. It’s a close tie with The Voyage Home in terms of which Star Trek film is my favorite.

Generations

I haven’t seen this one since it came out and don’t remember much aside from the “surprise ending” that was one of Hollywood’s worst-kept secrets. I liked it at the time, but that’s all I can reasonably recall. I’m not sure I’d call it one of the originals, though, so I’ll look into it more deeply when I review The Next Generation films.

Allow me a moment to gush about Doctor Who

The perception filter has broken. Oh, I was wrong, so wonderfully wrong when I reported I disliked Steve Moffat’s leadership on Doctor Who, when I said I hated Amy Pond, when I stated I merely liked Matt Smith as the Doctor. It is with great pleasure that I admit my mistake and my boneheaded belief that Chris Eccleston and David Tennant are the greatest Doctors of my adulthood. They are not.

What’s great about Doctor Who is at its worst it’s like a catchy pop song you wouldn’t admit you liked to save your life. At its best it’s a far more culturally-important LOST with actual answers to the many questions it raises. The answers are so brilliantly unexpected, yet at the same time you slap your forehead and say, “But of course! The clues were hiding there in plain view all along!”

I loved it when we simply knew who was going to be in the Pandorica when it finally opened, but we were wrong. I loved that in the very next episode when the box opens again it’s not the same person who we last saw in the box, but an unexpected character who all-but winks at the camera and acknowledges our confusion with these fantastic words: “Okay, kid, this is where it gets complicated.” Chills, friend, when the iconic and heart-pumping title music fades in. That’s the point we know we’re in for an episode that’s far more challenging and unique than anything typical television has to offer.

I love that the timelines are as easy to follow as tangled pasta. I love that we nerds who take these matters way too seriously can argue about what’s paradoxical, what isn’t, and what makes no sense at all and why it makes all the sense in the world. I love that the most whacky and unexpected stories can so easily slip into the accepted canon as if they were designed to be there from the beginning. I love that when the universe’s many stars explode it looks just like a Vincent van Gogh painting; van Gogh, of course, is a recurring character on the show. Above all I love that we have a show that already took us to the bleak and unavoidable end of the universe, then destroys it all over again in an episode that successfully combines all of the Doctors most memorable enemies.

The moment I knew I liked Matt Smith the most was the episode in which he’s told, “Good guys can never win because they have too many rules.” His response: “Good guys don’t need rules. You’re about to find out why I have so many of them.” I’ve been longing for a darker Doctor for ages. That little bit of dialogue made both of my hearts swell.

I’m glad, too, that all good things must come to a definite end, and Matt Smith’s rein is nearly over. I’m very enthusiastic that the next Doctor will be the more seasoned Peter Capaldi; until now, each actor who played the Doctor has been younger than the one before him. While I would have liked a female Doctor (yes, it happens from time to time in the story universe, but so far never on screen), I’m glad they’re going back to an older guy. Somehow it rubs me the wrong way when a character who’s a thousand years old is portrayed by actors as young as me.

Doctor Who can never be rebooted in the Hollywood sense, it can never be remade or copied. But that’s just because it never grows stagnant; it’s constantly changing, forcing us to follow it through the good times and bad, the old familiar and the new uncomfortable. It is the farthest thing from the traditional sitcom, which comforts the viewer, which says it’s okay to turn your brain off. It’s not okay, not ever, to just sit there and go numb. The Doctor continuously reminds us of this fact and everyone who watches it is rewarded.

I’m closing in on the final episodes available on Netflix streaming and will watch the seventh series on Amazon Prime. So no, I haven’t even seen the 50th anniversary yet. So expect more DW stuff in the near future.