What to Watch: The Expanse (SyFy)

What to Watch: The Expanse (SyFy)

If you are like me, for the last 15 years (omg has it been that long?) you have had a sci-fi TV shaped hole in your viewing heart left there by the early cancellation of Firefly and (a few years later) the epic conclusion of Battlestar Galactica. I finally found a show to fill that spot in my heart and it is The Expanse.

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We’ve got our rag tag crew on the run, a grizzled cop looking for a mysterious woman, backstabbing politicians, and scientists playing god. And, bonus points, some kick-ass women in charge! Something for everyone!

Season 1 is currently streaming as part of Amazon Prime. I felt that Season 1 took awhile to find its footing, but do not give up. Think back to the first time reading/watching The Fellowship of the Ring and being introduced to so many new characters and realms and the rules that guide them – that is what slows down the first season. You have to learn about Earth and Mars and the Belters and their history. You have to understand the OPA and their agenda. And, of course, you must meet our would-be heroes and learn about their stories so you know it is okay to root for them.

But it is ALL worth it because when season 2 starts, there is nothing to hold the writers back. (Season 2 was just released on blu-ray/DVD; I managed to borrow a copy from my local library). The second season hits the ground running and never looks back so you better have paid attention during Season 1 (or be ready to rewatch it) because there is not time to stop and explain, the entire galaxy is on the line!

The show is based on a series of Science Fiction novels, tomes that same size as George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, so there are plenty of characters and stories to choose from. While I haven’t read the books yet, talking to fans who have it sounds like the show writers are doing a great job blending together multiple story lines and introducing characters in a way that works better for a television show but stays true to the books.

I am excited to watch Season 3 in real time when it returns in 2018 so I can react to episodes and discuss the show with other fans. Until then, do yourself a favor and get your sci-fi geek on over the next few months (though I would say PACE YOURSELF because that Season 2 finale will leave you wanting more).

http://www.syfy.com/theexpanseThe Expanse – SyFy Official Website (careful of spoilers!)- Season 3 episodes will be available to stream after they begin to air. Currently only has the last few episodes of Season 2 available.

https://www.amazon.com/The-Expanse-Season-1/dp/B018BZ3UWUThe Expanse on Amazon Video – Prime Members can stream the first season for FREE

Season 2 is available on Blu-Ray/DVD so you can pick that up on Amazon as well or stop by your local public library!

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ST:TNG Blog Project – episodes 4-8

ST:TNG Blog Project – episodes 4-8

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(Don’t forget to pop over to Andy’s blog and check out his reactions/thoughts to these episodes)

It is funny to sit back and look at the evolution of popular television. I remember reading Everything Bad is Good For You and the book discusses how complex television has become over time. I feel like ST:TNG is definitely from that older era, when major story arcs were mostly the realm of soap opera and mainstream TV was still relatively stand alone when it came to episodes. There are little bits of character development, but nothing on the scale of, say, Buffy – which wouldn’t premiere for another 10 years.

Anyway – on to the good, and the bad (though nothing as awful as ‘Code of Honor’, that still holds the spot of worst episode so far)

S1:E6 Where No One Has Gone Before
This might be the first episode to actually have an effect on the rest of the series. Up until now, Wesley has been around but sort of just popping up for no reason, always on his own, not with the other kids. In the finale for this episode, we get an explanation as The Traveler tells Picard that Wesley is pretty much a genius and Picard should nurture his genius.

The way The Traveler describes himself to Picard made me think of Doctor Who. Just roving through time and space, popping in to see neat stuff, only bothering to pay attention if you interest him. (Clearly someone else agreed that this crossover should happen – IDW published a comic a few years back)

S1:E7 Lonely Among Us
This was one of those episodes with way too much going on and far too easy a resolution. We had the whole deal with the two alien species on board trying to kill each other and then the bonus of the weird alien energy ball that hops on board and knocks people out, eventually taking over Picard and turning him into energy. And then…it just sorta…is done.

Very forgettable, though it is interesting how often Picard is in peril in this series so far! Especially since Riker swore in the first episode to NOT let him put himself in peril. (yes, all I can think of right now is Monty Python and the Holy Grail with Lancelot and Galahad arguing outside Castle Anthrax…)

S1:E8 Justice
For some reason, I remembered this episode. I’m not sure if I caught it as a rerun or if something about Wesley’s situation bugged me and then stuck with me. I didn’t remember all the details, just how unfair it was that Wesley was in trouble (though I didn’t think he was apologetic enough after falling into that flower bed…I mean, dude, at least say “OMG I AM SO SORRY!!!!” he’s just sorta “oh whoops, my bad”…not that he should DIE because of that but still).

The idea of this episode is good – discussing the evolution of law and justice and enforcement, but it was hard to focus on because omg the outfits. WHY!?!?

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V-Neck SHORTS??? No. Just…no.

Also, why does anyone think it would be a good idea to take shore leave on a planet full of horny alien people??? At best, Enterprise leaves and in 9 months (?) there are lots of little Starfleet babies on the planet and at worst, their genitals might match up to human parts, but what if they are filled with ACID? Or herpes??? Just…no.

S1:E9 The Battle
Picard backstory yay! So this is where the term “The Picard Maneuver” comes from?! My family always used that term to refer to anytime someone tugged down on their shirt (once they get out of the stupid onesie uniforms in later seasons, you’ll see Jean-Luc constantly rising from his captain’s chair and immediately making this adjustment as he steps forward).

Short version: Soldiers do sad things, it haunts them. Revenge is not only bad (and best served cold) but there is no profit in it. Actually, this was one of the better episodes. We learned a bit about Picard’s past, that he is relatively famous in Starfleet and has had at least one previous command.

My only pet peeve was Picard acting so nonchalant about his headache and then Crusher telling him (the audience too) that headaches are just not a thing anymore. But Picard and Riker just seem to be like “oh a headache” yet if Crusher is telling the truth, they should both be FREAKING OUT at the tiniest hint of a headache.

There are 26 episodes in this first season. TWENTY SIX! I’m riding my exercise bike every time I watch an episode so even if they are painful, at least I’m getting in shape, right?

Blog Project: Star Trek: The Next Generation

Blog Project: Star Trek: The Next Generation

My friend Andy cannot resist an amazing blu-ray deal so when Amazon.uk had Star Trek: The Next Generation on sale for some obscenely low price earlier this month, he ordered it. I had been wanting to rewatch TNG for awhile, so we are taking this opportunity to team up and watch the show, blogging our thoughts and reactions 30 years later.

A little background for me: TNG was a HUGE part of my childhood. I have lots of happy memories of Saturday nights, getting Pizza Hut on the way home from church (my parents were big fans of the 5 o’clock mass) and sitting at the table in front of the tv in the basement, happily watching and eating together. We never really had a show like that again, that kept us all entertained, that brought us together, and I remember the emotions of watching the series finale and knowing that this was more than an end to a TV show…

So it has been interesting watching these episodes, produced in 1987, watching on an HDTV screen in 2016 (well, bouncing between my TV and my iPad, and realizing how much my life has started to mirror the Star Trek technology, especially when I start watching by asking Cortana to launch the Netflix app on my Xbox). I’m not sure I will be able to blog in-depth reactions to every episode – there are seven seasons worth! But I want to at least give a mention to them and see what memories, if any, surface while watching.

S1:E1/2 “Encounter at Farpoint”
I remember this episode pretty well but I think that is because it was rerun the most and I’ve tried to start the series over before and become distracted. Plus, Q. Q is one of my favorite characters in the series and a lot of the episodes I remember have Q in them (and Barkley…but we’ll get to him later!).

I think this is a pretty solid pilot. They manage to introduce everyone without making it feel like a line-up. And there are a lot of characters on this show – we have a whole crew of people! And the plot of the first half of the premiere, with Q putting them on trial for the crimes of humanity, gives the audience a chance to catch up on the history between 1987 – The Original Series (TOS) – to TNG.

The second half we meet Riker and Wesley, who I think are written to be the audiences eyes. Riker is new to the Enterprise, Wesley was there for the kids. I love the hint we get of Riker and Troi’s previous relationship, calling him “Imzadi”. If I had to trace back in fandom and find my first “ship”, I’d say it was Riker/Troi and Picard/Crusher. Not the most imaginative, but they were the first show relationships I was invested in and wanted to happen.

The end of the episode sets up the series – that Q will always be watching and judging and they have plenty of time to prove if humans are worthy.

S1:E3 “The Naked Now”
The next two episodes felt like homages to the original series, which makes sense. Unbeknownst to me at the time, TNG met with some push back from TOS fans, plus I’m sure the network wasn’t sold on the idea of a science fiction show. Sci Fi shows are expensive and never seem to get as big of a following. This episode was supposed to be similar to “The Naked Time” from TOS, which I’m sure writers hoped would appease the TOS fans, but had the opposite effect of making it look like TNG was just going to copy+paste episodes.

S1:E4 “Code of Honor”
And if “Naked Now” hadn’t been trouble enough, this episode is very problematic, even more so 30 years later. Again, it feels like a throw back to TOS, with the ridiculous “fight to the death” challenge. It is hard to watch this episode now, with a planet population by black people who talk with slight accents and who act uncivilized, making comments about Tasha being head of security and a woman and all other kinds of things that make your eyes roll back into your head.

For some reason E3 and E4 focus a LOT on Tasha Yar. I suppose have a woman as Head of Security was a big deal for this reboot and they were really proud of it, but in “Naked Now” she ends up getting brainwashed by the virus and running around in a skimpy outfit, trying to seduce Data and in “Code of Honor” she is made to fight to the death with another woman.

S1:E5 “The Last Outpost”
This episode was a little more straight forward, with the introduction of the Ferengi. I was excited to see proto-Quark because isn’t he one of the best things on DS9? I have a few thoughts on the Ferengi but I want to see a few more episodes with them before I come to any conclusions.

One thing that Andy and I have already talked about – it seems the best TV shows have some of the worst first seasons. Watching TNG, I was reminded of the first season of one of my favorites shows of all time Parks and Recreation. P&R has a terrible first season (in fact, I didn’t watch it when it originally aired because I was so turned off by the first few episodes). They are trying way too hard to be The Office and 1) we already had that show airing on the same channel and 2) we were ready for something new.

Right now, TNG feels like it is trying really hard to be TOS. But that’s not what the people of 1987 wanted – they already had TOS. They knew those episodes by heart. They didn’t want lessons from the 60s, they needed stories about the 80s, stories about our future. So I expected these first few episodes to be bumpy and awful. Thank goodness CBS kept it going. Nowadays shows barely get a chance (**coughFIREFLYcough**) before they are cancelled. I can’t wait to get to the classic episodes, but I want to watch the whole series, see how the characters grow and change and evolve over the seven seasons. And I can really only appreciate that if I watch them all again.

Make it so.

Jon Stewart; or why I will be crying my eyes out later tonight

Tonight at 11pm, the final episode of Jon Stewart’s 16 year run as the host of The Daily Show will air.

I remember when Jon took over as host of The Daily Show. Back then, during Craig Kilborn’s short run, it was more childish and immature and it appealed to high school me. I used to watch it every night while chatting on AOL Instant Messenger with my friends. Then Jon Stewart took over and while the silly jokes were still there, it was clear the brains behind the gags were not just going for the easy punchline. I suddenly found myself learning about the world, about politics, in a way I had never been engaged before.

I watched Daily Show all through college and for a good while after that. I attended the Rally for Sanity in Washington D.C., one of the craziest events I have ever been to. Jon and the crew were the voice of reason, or at least they admitted how ridiculous politics can be, and will always be. Instead of thinking “am I the only one who sees this?”, Stewart reassured me that, no, I was not crazy, the world was crazy.

Like Joss Whedon’s shows, Jon Stewart and The Daily Show made me feel less alone in this crazy world. They reminded me that other people, a LOT of other people, laugh at the same jokes as me and have the same serious concerns about our world. It was comforting.

I know when I watch that final episode I will cry. Not just because it is goodbye, but because I won’t know where to go to find that comfort anymore. Yes, there are little niches and nooks on the internet that probably provide similar satire, I can watch John Oliver’s segments on YouTube, but a mainstream, popular source of levity on a daily basis won’t be readily available to me.

And maybe I will be surprised again by Trevor Noah and the new team taking over.

But right now I am very scared, as I see the new presidential candidates lining up, as I see that FOX NEWS is still a thing, as I see ignorant comments online about all of the things happening in the world…and I realize that after tonight, Jon Stewart won’t be there to react to it, to tell me that my frustrations are well founded, that I am not the only one staring at the screen and wondering WTF is going on.

in praise of Hannibal (why are you not watching the best show on TV?)

Hannibal Season 3 is a prime example of how much better a television or movie series based on books can be if all of the source material is out in advance. Watching this season, as the writers fold in the 31-year old story of Red Dragon and knead it into their current narrative, into our current world…there are only a few more episodes before it is all done, but even after the show ends, there will still be this delicious dish left over for others to savor.

Going to ramble a bit about the show vs the book so spoilers here and there for both of them. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

I just read Red Dragon a few months ago and I thought it had stood up pretty well, but, of course, Will and Hannibal’s relationship is nothing like the show. When Harris wrote the novel, he had no idea what Hannibal would become. Bryan Fuller ans his team managed to craft a prequel to the story over the past two years, lifting elements from other books in the series and they have made the characters and story richer for it. The connection between Hannibal and Will is even stronger, even creepier.

With the addition of Alana Bloom and her relationship with these two men, the story gets an extra layer. Watching her “wag her finger” at Hannibal in last night’s episode made me worried about where her path would ultimately lead. She knows Hannibal will kill her. I feel like she is resigned to that fate, but she will do everything in her power to keep him locked up for as long as she can. I’m concerned she won’t survive this season, that maybe instead of sending the Red Dragon after Will, Hannibal will send him after Alana and her new family. Though I suppose that wouldn’t really count as him killing her, which was his promise. He is very particular about language and meaning, that Hannibal.

The scene between Will and Hannibal was so fantastic. The language was magnificent, as Hannibal proclaimed that he had created a family for Will already and how betrayed he felt, not because Will took the stand against him in court (though his comment about the cologne shows it did bother him a little), but that Will has moved on and created a strong bond with another person, a person who makes him better, not worse. Hannibal doesn’t like it.

And, of course, Jack and Hannibal. Trying to play each other. Was Hannibal really surprised that Jack read his note? He must have known that would happen and as soon as Will revealed that he had read it, Hannibal knew Jack had too, that he had manipulated Will and also Hannibal. Or had Hannibal manipulated Jack? I think they are believe they are playing each other and are aware that the other is playing them.

I love how Hannibal’s cell shifts between reality and the mind palace he has created for himself. That one moment Will is beyond the glass and the next they are in Hannibal’s office. And the flashbacks to Hannibal’s secret life with Abigail…his comment to Will about the “ready made family” with Molly, how her already having a son meant that he didn’t have to worry about passing on the traits he didn’t like about himself…and then telling Will that he gave him a daughter once. But for Hannibal, Abigail was the daughter with the traits he wanted, someone willing to hunt with him and for him. Something a biological child could not guarantee him either.

Then we have Richard Armitage lurking around as The Tooth Fairy The Great Red Dragon, with only moments of actual dialogue but mostly it’s about flexing and twitching and screaming into the sky. Yet he is still amazing and captivating. The way he curls his back and his hands, the agony of transforming. It took me a moment to realize that so much of the book we are IN Dolarhyde’s mind, HE hears the voices but in reality no one else would, so those moments of him freaking out, growling, smacking himself, there is a voice he hears that we do not. We are the sane ones watching him, NOT hearing the voice of the monsters in his head. It makes it even more terrifying because as an audience we can’t even pretend to understand.

JIMMY! BRIAN! FREDDIE! The old gang is coming back together and they are just as amusing as they were before. Especially Jimmy’s line about being overly fond of cats (which later made me think of Beverly and how we all cried for her even though Hannibal had slaughtered so many before her…anyway, we are all overly fond of cats/Katz).

In conclusion: THIS SHOW! and I WANT MY SILENCE OF THE LAMBS FINALE!

television questions

Cross-posting this from my livejournal, where I tend to post more nowadays. 🙂

01. Earliest show you remember getting into:
I was hardcore into The Muppet Show as a kid. Apparently I used to get up and record episodes on VHS before going to school in the morning because we had a stack of tapes that I watched over and over for the rest of my childhood. I freakin’ love the Muppets.

02. First anime watched.
I can’t remember what it was, but it was when I was a kid and it had a unicorn and his friends were turned into wooden toys and it SCARRED ME FOR LIFE! I didn’t watch another anime for a looooooooong time because that freaked me out so much. When I finally did give it a try, I think the first one I watched was Full Metal Alchemist, though I never finished it because damn it was long. My favorite anime is Attack on Titan. Only anime I’ve ever truly loved.

03. A show you’ve been meaning to finish.
Agent Carter and True Detectives. I’ve heard so many good things about both of these but just never found the time to watch. Excited that Agent Carter is getting a second season!

04. 2 shows you abandoned.
Walking Dead I watched longer than I meant to, just such a frustrating show with characters that made me SO ANGRY ALL THE TIME. I think I watched 3 season? I don’t even know anymore. I really liked the first season and then it was all downhill.

Once Upon a Time sorta fell away for me. It wasn’t an angry break up, like Walking Dead, but I just felt like they were trapped in the Lost-style flashback mode and wouldn’t drop it and I was just tired.

05. A series you’re currently watching.
HANNIBAL!!!!!!!! Oh how I missed it. Also, iZombie (though that is done for the year) and trying to finally finish Eureka.

06. A show you’re sad is over.
Parks and Recreation. And Buffy. I will miss them, though I think they both ended at the right time.

07. Favorite series finale
Buffy the Vampire Slayer – both of them. 🙂 Whedon said people who didn’t want to follow the show to UPN could view The Gift as a series finale if they wanted, but I love Chosen so much.

08. A series finale you would change.
Scrubs. The thing I would change would be to end it sooner and just wrap up with our series regulars. Attempting to switch out the cast was a mistake.

09. Worst TV program you’ve ever seen
I can’t stand Everybody Loves Raymond or any sitcom where the humor revolves around being MEAN to people. Also “reality” TV just promotes the worst in everyone.

10. A show that shouldn’t have been cancelled
Firefly, Legend of the Seeker, Happy Endings…

11. A show that needs to end.
Supernatural. Seriously, let it GO! And any of the 400 CSI shows. Do we need one for every city?

12. Favorite cartoon
ADVENTURE TIME and BOB’S BURGERS!!!!

13. Favorite reboot
Battlestar Galactica. They took a show and made it so much more. I need to rewatch it so bad.

14. A TV adaptation you’d like to see
I really like the trend of adapting comic books to TV because there is TOO MUCH for a movie. I would like to see someone do any of the YA series this way, because anyone who reads them knows how much more there is to them. GREGOR THE OVERLANDER will be my nomination, Suzanne Collins first series, so good.

15. Saddest TV moment.
Angel. Finale. Death of…well…you know. I have never cried SO HARD. My boyfriend at the time told me never to watch that episode again.

16. Most satisfying TV moment.
Buffy, creating new slayers and empowering all of us (that’s my headcanon, all women have slayer potential, all women are now slayers)

17. A character you identify with
Kaylee on Firefly. I always say that I want to be Zoe but I’m more like Kaylee. 🙂 I love strawberries (though I don’t know anything about engines…but she is cheery like me and wants to be friends when she can…but don’t mess with her)

And Lumpy Space Princess. Because oh my glob, sometimes you gotta drop a drama bomb.

18. A character that reminds you of your friend
Fluttershy reminds me of my friend Laurel because she uses her as an icon everywhere LOL. Plus, she is kinda shy and love critters.

19. Favorite talk show
Don’t really watch talk shows anymore. I used to be a die hard Daily Show watcher back in the day but news makes me depressed. We watch a LOT of Jimmy Fallon now, but only in clip format on YouTube and Hulu as we are just there for hashtags, thank you notes, and the stupid celebrity games.

20. Sports or nah
Nah. Tim likes Wisconsin teams and football so I have watched some Packers games but I don’t really get into them.

21. A TV world you’d like to live in
While I love Sunnydale, I know I’d get myself killed pretty quick. Might be fun to live in the Star Trek verse, especially TNG where problems of inequality seem to have slipped away and science rules. I bet Librarians can do well there. If I have to stay on Earth, drop me in Stars Hollow because the Gilmores throw a great party and no matter how crazy things get, everyone is happy in the end.

And now a random gif of Raylan from Justified because why not?

Christmas Viewing, Day 1

Put lights and Tinkerbell up on the tree. Will decorate for reals when everyone is here tomorrow. #christmas #tinkerbell #decorations #disney

I have so been in denial about the holiday season. December has flown by and the weather in Maryland has been unusually warm. I just haven’t been in the holiday spirit. I did get all my shopping done and I’ve had a tree in the apartment for two weeks now. It was a totally naked tree with no ornaments on it, but it was here! But tonight, we put the ornaments up! And with only six days left until Christmas, it felt like it was time to break out the Christmas episodes! And because I’m a blogger, I feel compelled to share it with you!

Phineas and Ferb: A Christmas Vacation

Short Summary: Phineas and Ferb plan an elaborate “thank you” gift to Santa but it all seems for naught after Dr. Doofenshmirtz uses his evil ray to put everyone on Danville on the Naught List!

Thoughts: The best cartoon series the Disney Channel has ever produced, this Christmas special is as fun as any episode of Phineas and Ferb. Lots of humor for kids and adults. No real religious themes, this episode was more about actually saying Thank You to Santa and appreciating the gift givers.

Parks and Recreation: Christmas Scandal

Short Summary: Leslie is pulled into a sex scandal with local congressman, meaning she has to lay low for awhile. The P&R crew attempt to handle her day to day schedule on have some difficulties doing a good job.

Thoughts: Christmas is more of a backdrop to this episode. The main event that Leslie is excited about is the Christmas tree lighting and April tries to figure out what gift to give Andy. But really the holiday takes a backseat in this one and focuses more on the ridiculous coverage of the scandal that never happened. Hilarious as always, but not heavy on the holiday themes.

Psych: Gus’ Dad may have killed an old guy

Short Summary: Gus’ parents are upset that he is still friends with Shawn. When they are suspects in a murder, Gus and Shawn decide the best way to prove that they are “mature” adults is to use his “psychic” powers to solve the case and get them off the hook. Also, it’s Christmas.

Thoughts: Another episode with a Christmas backdrop, but still a lot of fun to watch. The side plots of Juliet inviting Lassiter over for Christmas are hilarious. And Shawn and his Dad’s little “guess the gift” game is cute. Again, the holiday itself doesn’t play a huge part but it’s a well written episode with a good mystery.

Raising Hope: Toy Story

Short Summary: Jimmy and Burt sell “Baby Sneezes” dolls way over market value, Virginia obsesses over getting Hope into the “Living Nativity” – hilarity ensues.

Thoughts: This show has always surprised me with it’s crassness and sweetness. This episode is no exception with some really funny moments. The Christmas holiday plays a major role and so does our culture’s obsession with the “hot toy” and status.