Tuesday, November 13, 2007

while the writers are away the geeks will play

I've got two television solutions to the impending writers' strike: 1) television through Netflix and 2) television through cinema.

What's the most important impact of the rise of dvd? Most people might say improved picture quality. People would expect me to say the rise of audio commentaries, but that's not what I'd say. The most important impact is the archiving of television. We did it to a limited degree with vhs, but not too much. Around the turn of the millennium, they didn't just turn extremely popular tv series over to dvd. It seems like they put every series ever. Budgetary and space issues made such things far more possible. It was a foreshadowing to the Youtube era when it wouldn't just be television series archived, but every event that's ever happened in the universe ever.

Anyway, the point is that because of this, I Netflax the first disc of Babylon 5. It's been on my list for a while. Many geeks have recommended it. Now that I've pretty much come out with the fact that I'd rather be a total geek than a contributing member of real-world society, I suppose it's about time I gave it a shot. The only things I really knew for sure about the story is that it takes place on a space station and tragically came out the same year as Star Trek: Deep Space 9 -- which pretty much shares the same premise. Another reason I became intrigued with the show more recently is because I've had a lingering memory ever since Babylon 5 came out was that the creator didn't just have a series in mind, but an entire five-year story arc already in place in his head. I seem to remember a quote from the time where he said something to the effect of "I can tell you exactly what will happen in the last ten minutes of the last episode five years from now." This concept really was ahead of its time. Lost and Heroes came ten years later.

Would you believe that the acting is cheesier than Star Trek? I have no qualms with that, but it's funny enough to worth mentioning. Also, I was disappointed to find the four episodes I watched were far more episodic than story arcy. And strangely every episode seemed to run for like an hour and a half.

I really like it so far though. The captain, Captain Sinclair I think, is chiseled from another era. He's like The Fall Guy or Jack Lord or something. His baritone is hypnotizing. It's like the creators got together and said "Who could we get who's more like Captain Kirk than William Shatner is?" The security chief is pretty cool too. When it comes to characters I like seeing cliches broken. Having the security chief as a happy-go-lucky doofus flirt rather than a hard-nosed grizzled scruff guy accomplishes this. I also like the effects, even though they're CG. I've gone on record in saying that models are always better than CG, but honestly, even Babylon 5 CG is better than Star Trek models.

Anyway, maybe I'll see the rest of the episodes someday. That may entail getting my own Netflix account instead of constantly using my girlfriend's roommate's account.

A couple of hours ago Maria and I saw Star Trek: The Menagerie Parts 1 & 2 in the theater. 'Twas quite a unique experiment. Some hotshots at Star Trek Central decided it might be a good idea to show a couple of back-to-back original Star Trek episodes in an actual movie theater with amped-up effects and a cleaner picture.

Thankfully this was brought to my attention as the once fading spectre of Star Trek has continued to sink its talons into my soul as of late. We saw a poster for it last week when we and Joe saw Sydney White at the dollar theater. I was stressed out on the way to the way to the stupid Jordan Landing Theaters. I took the wrong I-215 direction and we wound up in some serious west side sprawl traffic. We thought that there would be a 90% chance that the theater would be practically empty, but since this was the only showing I didn't want to leave room for error. Turns out, there are lots of "Jon's People" in Salt Lake, I just don't know any of them. 20 minutes before the show started, the theater was full. Not just full, but full of Star Trek fans. I saw one guy dressed as an Andorian.

Anyway, I'm getting tired of typing. The Menagerie is sort of a complicated story. It uses footage from the original Star Trek pilot that didn't have Kirk in it, but a more philosophical Captain Pike. According to the story, Captain Pike visited a planet that held him prisoner, but granted him an illusionary reality of whatever he desired. He escaped, and that's how the original pilot of Star Trek ended. The Menagerie finds Captain Pike the victim of a horrendous accident that pretty much leaves him in the same state as that soldier guy in Metallica's video for the song "One." Spock, as a former friend and officer of Pike; finds away to get his former commander back to the planet that would supply him a better life.

This basic story concept became a recurring theme in much of Star Trek. One reason the movie Generations was so gosh darn boring is because the "illusion better than reality" concept was done to death. The Menagerie was far earlier though, and even watching it after sifting through all the similar stuff from years of Star Trek inundation, the concept is far originaler here. A very intriguing coda to the whole story is that after going through so much to get away from it, Pike ultimately settles on life in The Matrix.

The movie also included a commercial for the hd-dvds of the first two seasons of remastered Star Trek. Cool. Get it for me for Christmas... and an hd-dvd player... and an hd-tv.

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