Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Stargate Origins, Season 1, Episode 1-3

Ok, full disclosure before I begin this - while I’ve always been sort of intrigued by Stargate and caught several episodes, I came to it late and never really set aside the time to catch up on the sheer size of the whole thing. This leaves me aware of the franchises and the basics of it, I know what a Goa’uld is, who Norse Mythology got added in there and a few of the characters but not much beyond this. I looked on this release as a way to enter the franchise without necessarily needing to know a great deal about it given it’s a prequel; but don’t be surprised if I miss more than a few Easter Eggs along the way - do feel free to draw my attention to them in the comments.

So we have Catherine Langford and her dad Professor Paul Langford who have found the Star Gate at an archaeological dig in Egypt. And they’re all enthusiastic about it until 10 years go past, she grows up and they still don’t know a single damn thing about it. Understandably their funding is getting cut because no-one is going to keep paying for a vague shrug and “I dunno”. You can’t write many papers on that either

Despite that, her father is super Disappointed and Upset that she would actually pursue a career beyond staring bemusedly at an object for 10 more years (nor does he or anyone really acknowledge the impressiveness of a woman getting that kind of recognition. Especially if her prime study has been staring confusedly at an object for 10 years).

We also meet Captain James Beale, a British soldier and impossibly pretty man who is sort of dating/courting/whatever you call it back then her. And his friend Wasif, an Egyptian man and another soldier of the British Empire who is largely dragged around by James and forced to do what Catherine wants because James does in an attempt to impress her rather than rely on his great prettiness.

Catherine and her dad’s scholarly confusion is interrupted by Nazis, which just ruin everyone’s day. Nazi Dr. Brucke, his camerawoman Eva and some collected Nazi extras swoop in with guns and menacing threats and generally speaking accented English but occasionally speaking subtitled German… which really I’m going to need Starget Origins to choose. Either have your characters speak accented English and let us assume they’re speaking German, or have them speak German. Otherwise we have weird times where all these Nazis are speaking English to each other

These Nazis capture everyone and hold them all at gunpoint and try to play the whole civilised monster schtick. Dr. Brucke has done his own research and has basically figured out what the Stargate is, how it works and how to make it work.

Professor Langford’s academia looks rather lacking really.

So, the Nazis force Langford to go with them while leaving a token Nazi behind to guard Catherine since Catherine’s safety is being used to convince Langford to be borderline useful. There is lots of creepy touching her and she bites him and he slaps her and it’s all kind of cliched. Someone needs to say “I likes a girl with spirit.”

They leave her with the weakest of Nazis and she escapes, how surprising.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Stranger Things, Season 2, Episode 5: Dig Dug

So, Joyce has a mystery - this means it’s time to radically redecorate her home! I have to say this habit of plastering random stuff on every flat surface every time something odd happens is more than a little disturbing. I like to think that this is only happening because of supernatural nastiness

Actually that’s a terrible lie. I like to think this is a constant habit and any random problems will set her off into a series of truly bizarre collages, because that would be kind of hilarious.

So she has plastered Will’s tunnel network all over her home, while Will is comforted by Mike. Will is not doing well, clearly disturbed by all the shadowy stuff he sees and is now sweating profusely presumably due to the big monster’s love of cold. Mike offers the hope that since Will senses what the big monster senses he can be some kind of awesome spy.

Jim has been examining the Ominous tunnel - and some random tentacle goo creature on the wall squirts poison nastiness into his face, leaving him unconscious on the floor. And the hole he dug is then plugged by vines. This is not good. Even when he manages to regain consciousness, he still stumbles around, tries to find a way out, tries to dig through a wall (for some reason) and in general is in a creepy horror set full of slimy, tentacle nastiness. Eventually he ends up on the floor, covered in tentacles. Really really not good.

Luckily for him, Will psychically senses this and dreams of where he is - pointing it out on his map, which no-one can read. Oops.

Well along comes Bob. Who is quietly awesome. Here to provide some kind of help and comfort for Will who he thinks is sick. After initially worrying that Bob is going to see her disturbing collaging, Joyce realises Bob is super clever and can be really useful in interpreting the pictures - so recruits him on the understanding that he asks no questions

Ah, Bob. He is the definition of a nice guy. And I mean nice guy, as in genuinely decent, caring human being, rather than Nice Guy, arsehole who thinks he can buy sex with common decency. Bob is very worried that both Will looks kind of ill and Joyce has reacted to this by taking up Disturbingly Craft Projects  and though he respects her wish for him not to ask questions he is clearly concerned. But he’s also a brilliant lover of puzzles who, after quickly realising the collage is a map, excellently starts pinpointing where it corresponds to and gets completely lost in the joys of the puzzle and figuring it out

I like Bob. I feel Bob will be eaten by something by the end of this season. But I raise a glass to Bob before this inevitably happens. With his help he pinpoints here Jim is

Let’s also check in on the Ominous People in the Ominous Lab have done some soil sample testing from the various rotting farmers fields and realise that if you apply fire then all of them form disturbing whirlwinds. Note applying fire to one, makes them all whirlwind because they’re all spookily connected. Ominous Lab People decide that this is a definite Oh Shit moment and also head out to try and stop this

Which means when Bob and Joyce find the hole Jim went down, carve their way through vines and rescue Jim (was there any doubt that Joyce would charge in?), they’re soon followed by the Ominous Lab People with flamethrowers

This seems to be their solution to everything. And I approve. So many of the books I’ve read and shows I’ve watched would see all of their problems vanish if they applied the “kill it with fire” method. Also points to Bob and Jim exchanging polite greetings like they’ve just met. It makes my English heart proud to see two men who maintain proper dignity in complete denial of the randomness around them

A downside to this flamethrowy-ness is that Will, connected to the shadow monster, collapses and starts screaming. Only I think it’s less a “I’m in agony and dying” scream and more a “the unholy noise I’m making signals the end times and summons the Thing That Man Was Not Meant To Know” scream.

It is not a good scream. Though I do have a friend who makes a similar noise when she realises there’s no vodka left.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Stranger Things, Season 2, Episode 4: Will the Wise

Joyce hit the war path last episode after realising that Will’s vision are real and very scary. She finds Will lost and confused at school after following Bob’s advice and confronting the giant cthulu smoke monster. After terrifying everyone with a pause, he snaps out of it and Joyce takes it home

There she reveals what she saw on the video camera, that she knows what is happening to him and, above all, that she believes him. This is powerful and supportive and reminds us that Joyce is a) wonderful and b) contains a terrifying level of intensity.

Meanwhile, Will’s friends are all looking for the slimy swamp monster Dirk, which Dustin actually has hidden at home because he wants a pet and evil monsters from the Upside down are unique and totally not going to blow up in his face. Mike tells the others about Will’s visions and reiterates how much they need Dirk for reasons - basically because they don’t really know what they’re doing but they do know that Will as True Sight. They’re also excluding Max a lot from their secrets -which Max is obviously not a fan of and, not unreasonably, assumes this is because she’s a girl

For added layers of problems - her step-brother Billy the awful insists she stay away from the gang - and Lucas specifically. He’s angry and intimidating of her and he doesn’t specify why she should stay away from Lucas beyond “I’m older and know better”. He doesn‘t spell out his motive - but we can’t ignore that Lucas is the only Black character on the show.

Billy continues to be a dick to Steve but seems to be softening on that largely because he’s kind of won. He’s established himself as the dominant alpha arsehole and can now be benevolently condescending to him.

Dustin is all torn at the idea Dirk may be the key to helping Will - but when he goes to see his evil pet he sees it has grown much bigger and has now eaten the family cat… it may or may not try to eat Dustin at the end. Either way KILL IT WITH FIRE ALREADY

El and Jim’s relationship collapses pretty messily when Jim confronts El about leaving and being seen. There’s lots of screaming and shouting and temper and ugly and oh Jim this is not the way. He shouts about safety, she shouts about freedom - it’s ugly and messy and he decides to ground her by denying Eggos and TV and she pins the television and throws things at him with her telekinesis

It’s getting uglier and uglier. The next day Jim clearly feels uncomfortable with his behaviour and tries to extend both an olive branch while still sticking to his safety guns

When cleaning up the cabin, El searches and finds Jim’s box of research on the lab - including pictures of her mother and her real name, Jane. El uses her power to psychically connect with her in the big telepathic darkness - there she sees her and sees her current mental state. When El touches her, she shifts to smoke and disappears, leaving El crying and devastated.

El’s relationship with Jim is powerful and sad and emotional and I’m hoping that we start turning upwards soon - because their emotions are really real, their positions understandable and neither of them are really experts at social interaction so it’s all just...unfortunate.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Magicians, season 3, Episode 6: Do You Like Teeth

Alice and Julia have decided to go through with the plan to transfer magic from Julia to Alice - and Alice is almost painfully excited. They’re going to use a repurposed hedge witch spell that originally was used to steal magic.

They start  - and are interrupted by Penny who attracts their attention by possessing a singing fish.

This is not the most dignified way to communicate.

He warns them that he’s seen this before - and it killed the witches in question. But it’s also Fogg’s spell - yes Dean Henry Fogg.

He’s not doing so well - and he’s not exactly happy they’ve been keeping Julia’s magic from him but, as they point out, he’s been very drunk all the time. He doesn’t deny this or make excuses - because he’s a magicless magician, a Dean without a school, and an unemployed blind black man in an even more prejudiced America (it turns out they were using magic to “increase tolerance 38% which Henry is already scathing about and clearly unimpressed by how little tolerance that actually amounted to). In other words, Henry has plenty of reasons to be drunk.

He does tell them about the spell - and that they need the flesh of a magical creature. Specifically an incubus. Which means they go to an incubus to ask to use his penis

And I was all ready to roll my eyes because this is freaking Magicians but at least someone on the writer team decided that they’d used up their quota of forced sexual situations for the next 11 centuries and backed off. Turns out that the Incubus isn’t into sex, feeds on stress, and is happy to lend them his regrowing tail.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Librarians, Season 4, Episode 12: Echoes of Memory

Eve is the last person who remembers the Library and desperately she constructs a memory palace in her own mind - to desperately hold on to it a long as possible.

She is the only one who remembers and she is in a whole new world - a world where the Library never existed. A world where people don’t know curiosity or imagination (yet still manage to invent cars and televisions so… yeah it’s not perfect). Everything is grey. Everyone wears white. Cafes serve fat and flour (which is bland and tasteless but would also kill everyone pretty damn quickly). Everything is dull and bland and boring and mundane. We also have lots of ominous posters about the Company which is all about thought policing, and encouraging people not to think or question: be complacent, content and obedient. It’s very 1984 but more boring.

She has her tethering ring from Flynn which prompts her to go to one of the bland televisions which is quickly possessed by Flynn: who quickly tells her to make a memory palace (and acknowledges that she’s smart enough to already have figured this out). He also reveals that he never left the Library - when Nicole came to him to ask him to run away with her, he told her no. He told her that hearing she was a prisoner of the Library reminded him that he wasn’t - that he could leave - that he stayed with the Library because he wanted to, because he loved it, because it meant everything to him (which was kind of my point about Flynn’s motivations as well, the Library is his dream always was) AND because he loves Eve.

So Nicole kidnapped him.

I have to say this makes far far far more sense with his character and motivation.

Watching the television, Eve also sees an advert with Jake on it - selling average cars known for their averageness. She, goes to him and… rather easily convinces him to join her (he doesn’t remember her to the Library but has dreamed about it). The same applies to Cassandra. I’d say it’s more than a little simple to convince them both - but they are creative geniuses living in ridiculously dull, unstimulating lives. I can see them leaping on any opportunity to get away. Especially with Eve praising their specialties.

They do raise the suspicions of the Thought Police who catch up with them when trying to recruit Ezekiel. Since Ezekiel is a television celebrity of the most boring show ever (sadly, I do remember and abysmal home video show which seemed to consist of an interminable number of people falling over to a terrible canned laughter track. Alas, I had a grandparent who unreasonably loved this appalling show). Living a life of relative luxury, Ezekiel is less willing to join (and informs us that dreams are illegal) and the Thought Police capture Eve.

They take her to an asylum where the inmates are gathered and trained to suppress imagination, wonder and curiosity. Aided by medication

Naturally the person running the Company is Nicole, who is also using an artefact to prevent her losing her memory - as such giving her the intelligence and knowledge to rule the world easily. Eve defies her… but she loses the last few crumbs of memory left to her. She loses the Library and herself.

You’d think that Nicole would be intelligent enough not to lock Eve up in the same building as Flynn (or intelligent enough to just kill Eve).

But apparently not - and Flynn, babbling, semi-coherent (more so than usual) and talking randomly talks to Eve, noticing her high levels of colour next to the monochrome of everyone else. He recognises her as coming from another world and he has a fascinating idea about how worlds are defined by their words and names because this is what we call and define everyone around us with (which is, of course, very Librarian-y). The guards take him into confinement again but not before he has an almost dance number battle with them - again, very Flynn. He remembers everything because, ultimately, he is the Librarian and his memory does not fuzz easily

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng

Catherine Helstone is determined to find her brother. He has been missing for some time on his mission to bring Christianity to the fae of Arcadia. She’s finally received permission to follow him

The land of Arcadia is like nothing she imagined, with mystery upon mystery to uncover and cryptic inhabitants who never seem to let her get close to the truth. Even finding her brother does little to solve the constant mystery of the castle they’re confined to, the world that is so alien and the inhabitants that do little to encourage their presence

Laon is convinced that the way to learn the truth - and bring the fae to Christianity - is to gain access to the interior. But to do that requires the favour of the alien and frightening Queen Mab.

This is not an easy book to read.

Not because it’s offensive, or badly written or otherwise broken. But because it’s intelligent, it has layers and to truly appreciate it you need to sit and think and examine and explore every line, the implications, the nuances and the thinking. A decent grounding or interest in theology wouldn’t go amiss either (which, honestly, I don’t have, but still appreciated the wrangling over holy writ and lots of awkward questions and wrangling).

The foundation for this book is less a story and more an exploration. Oh we have lots of Catherine’s journey to Arcadia, her living there and the relationship with her brother Laon (more on that later) but the main point of this is exploration and thought. What is faerie, how alien is it: and I have to say here that I have rarely read a depiction of faerie as alien, as fanciful, as weird and as downright creepy as I’ve seen here. From the nature of the individual fae, the the bizarre sun and moon to distances being measured in dreams and epiphanies to the seasons and how things change - it’s utterly perfectly alien. The use of salt on the food, the nature of changelings and Mab and her terrifying, ethereal court: the aesthetics, the theme, the whole feel of this world is excellent. It’s worth reading this book fro this alone.

And to this we add the missionaries - Laon and Catherine, so utterly out of their depth, desperately trying to apply their faith to a world that seems utterly unrelated top it, trying to find the secrets from past missionaries, trying to understand the very nature of the fae and faerie. Complete with twist at the end and excellent machinations from the fae queen

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Star Trek Discovery: Season 1, Episode 15: Will You Take My Hand

Captain Evil!Georgiou is now leading the Discovery to Qo’noS and she’s not even trying to pretend to be good, she’s letting her evil flag fly; much to Michael and Saru’s concern. She even tries to taunt Saru about eating him but Saru is definitely not going to be intimidated

They need information on Qo’noS so Georgiou decides to beat up L’rell while Michael tries to appeal to her (sure the humans are winning but her and T’kuvma’s dream of a united Klingon Empire is pretty much dead - she’s losing this war too). Georgiou’s beating achieves nothing and Michaels offers a better idea: Tyler

Since Tyler has Klingon memories and is more inclined to co-operate without torture, this is a good idea. We throw in some angst about Tyler clinging to his human memories and Georgiou continues to be the worst. This is necessary this episode because Evil!Georgiou may actually be the most fun character on the show so we need to be reminded she is evil incarnate. Michael certainly seems to need it.

Tyler gives them lots of up to date information which allows them to Magic mushroom there way to a cave on Qo’noS and then send a landing team to go to the place where they need to plant the bomb

That landing team includes Georgiou, Tyler, Michael (yay angst) and Tilly. Who quickly learns that Georgiou is evil since Georgiou is doing nothing to hide who she is (and reminisces about the many Star Trek staples they’ve massacred together with evil!Tilly)

The spot they’re going to on Qo’noS has been given to the Orions. An old school Star Trek race of sexy half naked green people. No, Discovery has not looked at this depiction and decided “hey… maybe a whole species shouldn’t be depicted this way”?

So it’s time to dress as low lives (i.e. wear lots of leather. A fashion that hasn’t changed in centuries. I may own Tyler’s outfit) and go to the black market to offer lots of shiny technology for trade, eat bits of unidentified meat and try to figure out where to go. Tilly is both tough and kind of dangerous while, at the same time, also kind and comforting to Michael, recognising how hard this must be for Michael, working with Evil Georgiou

They end up in a bar/brothel where we have half-naked dancers (because this is EDGY Star Trek) and Georgiou promptly picks two to have sex with (she knew our whole universe couldn’t be boring). Hey you know what doesn’t make Star Trek’s “kill the gays” trope better? Throwing in the depraved bisexual trope! Hey remember the 50 years when Star Trek didn’t bother with LGBTQ representation? Let’s go back to that because if this is them trying, in 2018, they need to stop

After she has her fun she violently threatens both sex workers until they give her the location of the shrine where they need to plant the bomb

Meanwhile Michael and Tyler try to question random Klingons using Tyler’s knowledge (which comes with him sharing Voq’s back story with Michael about how he was an outsider and oppressed) and lots of violent klingon posturing. This hits Michael’s nerves, remembering the violent Klingon attack which killed her parents. She describes it in detail to Tyler who realises why Michael would hate all Klingons - including him

Except she doesn’t - because she looks round and sees people just trying to live the same kind of lives that anyone does anywhere (because so much of sci-fi is so damn lazy and alien species are inevitably basically humans who look a little weird so of course their cultures look basically human). This is a home. And the idea of giving the Federation targets to attack here makes her super sad.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Librarians, Season 4, Episode 11: And the Trial of One

Well, things really came to a head this episode, with the villain finally revealing herself, everyone rising up and everything kind of falling apart - in other words, a perfect pentultimate episode

The deadline for tethering has arrived. They have only 24 hours to tether someone to the Library or it uncouples from reality. Jenkins even resorts to using the very first scroll in the Library to create a temporary tether. If it isn’t tethered to a Librarian soon not only will it uncouple but it will revert to its basic purpose: protecting the artefacts within the Library. Not aiding, helping or protecting humanity - just the artefacts within its halls. Eve needs to pick someone. And it can’t be Jenkins

Damn it

But none of the Librarians are especially eager to become immortal - and they think they find a way out when Cassandra (against Jenkins orders) opens the scroll and finds a spell of picking the one true Librarian - just what they need

Of course they cast it

Of course it has unforeseen consequences

Because that “test” for the one true librarian is more a trial and by trial we mean fight to the death between the candidates - officiated by Jenkins who is possessed by the Library itself

And the untethered Library is a bastard. While Eve and the Librarians all protest that they don’t believe that the Library can be so cruel or uncaring the Library is completely dismissive of them. When Eve appeals about the Librarians, the library makes it clear it only cares about Artefacts. And Librarians are not artefacts. The Library doesn’t care about people, it’s custodian or librarians - it isn’t nice, it isn’t kind.

They are magically transported to the testing zone and Library Jenkins is wearing a magical suicide vest - they obey or Jenkins dies. Everyone is forced to go along but they still insist they’re far too loyal to each other to ever hurt each other

The Library admires loyalty. To the Library. Not to people. Because the Library is an arsehole.

Each librarian is forced to put on a ring which forces them to confront their greatest fear (Cassandra’s fear is bullies? Really? C’mon, she’s had 4 seasons of facing the worst supernatural monsters she could vanquish, she was literally terminally ill - but her fear is bullies? Can we stop infantilising her like this?). In their fears they face enemies trying to torture them - enemies that resemble the other two Librarians. They’re each set up to fight the others to escape their fears - and the only way they can do this is tom press a button which makes them forget who the other two are

Each presses a button and move to the final arena where the disembodied voice of Jenkins appeals to them to press the final button - and stop the other two. The other two Librarians who they can’t remember: and who they will kill if it means saving Jenkins

All this time Eve has been desperately trying to appeal to the Library - and each time it’s clearer and clearer that the Library is The Worst and Eve is doomed to helplessly watch the Librarians struggle and fight without being able to help them… and she realises this is her worst fear. And proving the Guardian can be as smart as a Librarian, she figures out she has been made to put on a nightmare ring as well and uses the artefacts in the library to show the truth and remove it from her finger

Now free of her nightmare, she can intervene with the Librarians who have been outbraining each other in the field. She steps in, makes them remember each other and ensures there are no Librarian deaths.

But there’s still an issue - only one Librarian can leave. And now all the Librarians volunteer to be the ones to die, each holds up the others, each is willing to sacrifice. The Librarian won’t hear it: he needs one.

Eve pulls out another Librarian-level plan and plants an artefact on Jenkins - one that should hold his suicide vest in place. They all return to the Library, apparently victorious