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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Chimera (Review)

Chimera is a welcome return to form for the seventh season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, following an underwhelming run of episodes from Prodigal Daughter through The Emperor’s New Cloak and into Field of Fire.

It is another example of how storytelling real estate in the seventh season is at a premium, the production team understanding that their remaining time is finite and that there are a number of key plot and character beats that the show needs to hit before it can begin the massive final arc that will run from Penumbra through to What You Leave Behind. As such, Chimera has a very clear purpose in the overall arc of the seventh season. As with Treachery, Faith and the Great River, this is an episode designed to clarify that Odo cannot remain on Deep Space Nine forever.

Their Laas.

However, Chimera is more than just the writing staff moving pieces across a chessboard. It is in many ways an exploration of one of the fundamental (and often unspoken) tensions within the larger Star Trek universe. As with a lot of Deep Space Nine, there is a sense that Chimera is consciously exploring and interrogating some of the underlying assumptions of Gene Roddenberry’s massive universe. In particular, Chimera is an episode that wonders whether mankind can ever be truly comfortable with the alien, and whether there is a difference between assimilation and multiculturalism.

The result is a powerful and provocative piece of science-fiction, a story that has aged as well as the show around it. Chimera is a story about what it means to be different, and what it means to part of a society. It is a cautionary tale about the unspoken conditions that are often attached to membership of a community, and of the conflict between blending in and standing out.

Changelings. Together. Strong.

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Space: Above and Beyond – Dear Earth (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

In many respects, Dear Earth serves as a mirror to Toy Soldiers.

Both stories are based around familiar wartime story beats. Both are very sentimental hours of television. Both are firmly anchored in the idea that Space: Above and Beyond is largely about reworking the narratives of the Second World War for a futuristic outer space setting. There is a lot of overlap between Dear Earth and Toy Soldiers, with the episodes feeling like two peas in a pod. They both appeal to the same aspects of Space: Above and Beyond.

You've got mail...

You’ve got mail…

However, Dear Earth works a lot better than Toy Soldiers did. It is dealing with a similar collection of iconic imagery and ideas associated with the Second World War, touching on many of the same themes and ideas; it is just that the execution is considerably stronger. Dear Earth is a show that not only has a lot more charm than Toy Soldiers did, but a lot more humanity. It is an episode that does a lot to remind viewers why they have come to care for the show’s ensemble.

Dear Earth is a very well-made piece of television.

Astro-turf...

Astro-turf…

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Space: Above and Beyond – Mutiny (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

Nothing says “this is a militaristic science-fiction show!” quite like a mutiny episode.

When producing a show like Space: Above and Beyond, doing a show based around a mutiny in wartime is a given. It’s no surprise that Mutiny is the third regular episode of the show. Indeed, when Battlestar Galactica – a show that owes a sizeable debt to Space: Above and Beyond – wanted to establish its own militaristic science-fiction credentials, it produced Bastille Day as the third episode of its first season – another story about an uprising on a spaceship in a time of crisis.

His sister's keeper...

His sister’s keeper…

Mutiny is also notable as the first episode of the season not credited to the creative team of Glen Morgan and James Wong. Of course, as executive producers, Morgan and Wong would have had a massive impact on the development and the writing of Mutiny. Stephen Zito is credited as the writer on the show. Zito is a veteran television writer and producer, working in the industry since the late eighties. He departed Space: Above and Beyond halfway through the first season, moving on to a long run on J.A.G.

Mutiny is far from perfect – indeed, it is often quite clunky in places. At the same time, it is a lot more comfortable in its skin than The Dark Side of the Sun was.

Watching like a Hawkes...

Watching like a Hawkes…

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Captain America? &%#$ No! Thoughts on the Naming Controversy…

Last year, I remarked that – although it was perhaps the least likely of Marvel’s movies to be awesome – Captain America: The First Avenger was going to be the most interesting movie on their slate to follow, at least when it comes to international markets. Predictably enough, Marvel have decided that not everyone on the planet is going to be cool with a movie about a literal American super-patriot. They will be dropping the title “Captain America” completely, simply selling it as “The First Avenger” in Russia, the Ukraine and South Korea. I, for one, am quite disappointed.

Walk tall... and carry a star-spangled shield...

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Super-Snobbery…

I was very interested to read a piece comparing Christopher Nolan to Stanley Kubrick in The Guardian over the weekend. Ignoring the fact that I don’t think it’s fair to attempt to seriously describe anyone as the “new” anything (it’s really only handy as a shortcut, to form a quick association, rather than forming the basis of a whole argument) and, if I had to, I’d say Nolan was “the new Hitchcock”, one piece stood out at me, when comparing Kubrick’s work to Nolan’s under “thematic daring”:

In the end, what are Nolan’s films actually about? Two of them are superhero flicks, two are cop movies and one is about a magician. Nolan isn’t exactly going to the wall for the big ideas. (Interestingly, by far the most radical film he’s made was that very first one, Following – a very creepy existential story about a stalker.) Kubrick made films about paedophilia, military justice, atomic obliteration, urban violence and the Vietnam war … Nolan is – at present, anyhow – a confirmed establishment figure; nothing he’s done has caused the smallest ripple of disquiet. This may change, but with another Batman film in the works I can’t see it happening just yet.

What immediately struck me about that paragraph was how ridiculously condescending it was to the genres that Nolan worked with – as if to say he’s “only” made two movies about a guy who dresses in formfitting rubber, two cop thrillers and one film about some blokes who do magic. How ridiculously patronising can you get?

If Batman hears one more person say "The Dark Knight isn't bad for a comic book movie..."

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Hollywood & The Race Lift

I had to represent. Cause they had one good role for a black man, and they gave it to Crocodile Dundee!

-Alpa Chino, Tropic Thunder

Earlier in the week, Cinematical ran an article on M. Night Shyamalan’s new film, Avatar: The Last Airbender. For those unaware, the movie is an adaptation of a hit anime, long due a trip to the screen – I hope it ends up either significantly better than, or significantly trippier than, Speed Racer, the most recent such attempt (seriously, it’s what I imagine really hard drugs are like). Of course, this being Hollywood, Shyamalan has secured a predominantly white cast for his film. Well, except for one of the major roles, which will go to Dev Patel. The fact that that role is the role of the villain probably doesn’t help none, nor does the fact Patel was only the second choice. So why does Hollywood insist on the race lift?

Is the cast ethnicity a sticking point?

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Science Fiction by any other name…

I’m genuinely excited about The Road, the adaptation of the novel from Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy. despite a shakey production history, it looks like the Weinstein might be able to mount a successful Oscar campaign for this science-fiction tale. Oops. I shouldn’t have mentioned that hyphenated word. Pretend you didn’t hear it – maybe the Academy hasn’t heard it either. In fact, given the way that people talk about the book and the film, you’d be lucky to hear that ‘tag’ even within the same paragraph. I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.

A nice father-son day out...

A nice father-son day out...

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