“The Orville” Season 1 – A Show That Draws Inspiration From the Best Aspects of “Star Trek”

    “The Orville” is a show that only exists because of how much of a fan Seth MacFarlane is of “Star Trek” and Fox knowing just how great the cultural impact of “Star Trek” has been that a show that pulls full inspiration from it (while having it’s own tone and lore) and not get sued. What do I think of the show? I think the humor doesn’t always work but I love the drama and the characters. Seth MacFarlane put a lot of love into this show and it was perfectly cast in regards to the characters and their roles…and I can’t wait to see where the show is taken next.

The story involves Ed Mercer being given the chance to Captain the Planetary Union ship known as the U.S.S. Orville. He soon learns his ex-wife Commander Kelly Grayson will be his First Officer as they must sort out their issues as the new crew faces the drama of one another and the wider Universe the Planetary Union inhabits in the 25th Century. 

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Universe – The Universe is a lot like “Star Trek” but a bit similar to our reality in that rather than the vague spirituality of Trek, everyone in the future is an atheist if they are part of the Planetary Union or any future person. There are countless aliens, most are humanoid (like “Star Trek”) but the Union is strong but not the strongest. The highly religious and zealotesque Krill are and they are a fantastic enemy in the episodes they come up in. Most of the episodes are solving dilemmas though, whether it is finding ancient ships and a civ. on board, interacting with a bronze age people that advances rapidly, or passing into 2D space. Like “Star Trek” this is a universe rich with possibilities.

The Crew of “The Orville” – The crew is overall amazing. I’m giving certain characters special treatment though, because they stood out to me and will mention some other notable things in this summary. The characters are complicated, you have Doctor Claire Finn who is woman who chose single motherhood because she wanted to be a mom and could have kids without needs a spouse or partner, you have Lt. Commander LaMarr who hid his intelligence because in the colony he came from it was looked down upon, but in turn becomes the Chief Engineer on the ship, you have Bortus who fights for the right of his child to choose his own gender in a species that has only males and a few others who I will go into deeper into the review of the show. The least notable is Lt. Gordon Malloy who is comedic and good at being a pilot and that is the extent. He isn’t complicated.

Alara – Alara is one of my favorite characters. She is the security officer on the ship and comes from a planet where her gravity is heavier so her species is stronger than most. We learn they also as a culture look down on military and similar professions as they see it as below their intellect. She went against her parents to join the Planetary Alliance and because of it holds herself to an impossible standard, and we see it when in an episode she faces her worst fears and the worst fears of her crew members and succeeds. It is a powerful episode and reaffirmed why she is one of my favorite characters on the show.

Isaac – Isaac is from a race of artificial non-biological beings who believe themselves to be the most superior life forms in the galaxy. Isaac joined in order to learn about humankind, and is our Data stand in. His arc is him learning how to care for humans and organics beyond just studying them and it is handled really well. I can’t wait to see where his arc goes.

Captain Mercer and Commander Grayson – The main arc that drives the story is the relationship between Captain Mercer and Commander Grayson. They are divorced after Grayson cheated on Mercer with a blue alien. We later learn the alien can make anyone fall in love with him when it is going through mating and that might have been what happened. There are a few false starts and with each friendship grows between them but Grayson cuts it off in the finale when she realizes that their love is causing Mercer to do things he wouldn’t have usually done as a Captain that put him and others at risk so they cut it off. It is touching and the arc is fun.

The Secular Future – The future is won by science and I loved it. This is a future where humanity has myths still but they mostly come from television shows and past knowledge, as far as we know there isn’t supernatural and there is no religion to speak of beyond the Krill or less advanced species and it usually comes up as a problem. Seth MacFarlane wrote this and it shows, and for what its worth as a secular agnostic humanist, I enjoyed this future greatly. Like “Star Trek” it showed a world not defined by religion but by even deeper ideas of self.

Exploring Dilemmas – One of the great things about “Star Trek” that “The Orville” does well is the exploration of moral dilemmas. Be they dilemmas of culture and technology (justice by “likes” and “dislikes”) the agency of a person within in a nation in regards to their family (an all male species forcing a newborn born female to be turned male and her choice being taken away, and this species if a major player in the Planetary Union) why there are rules for first contact (Kelly sets off a religion on a planet that exists orbiting through universes when she heals a little girl with her technology)  and countless other dilemmas where crew-members have to make choices where there isn’t always a clear answer.

Okay: The Humor – The humor is good at times but falls short on others when it has characters like Lt. Gordon going on away missions, when all he does is jokes, or Lt. LaMarr grinding on a statue on an alien society and no one on the crew being briefed on how the culture they were down studying worked as they searched for scientists who had gone missing…The humor made these stories that were largely solidly written otherwise, to go down in quality. Cheap laughs are not the way to go. When the show nails it, it is amazing, but it wasn’t consistent.

The Series Arc / The Episodic Nature of the Show – The show is largely episodic with the only consistent arc being Ed and Kelly working through what their relationship is now. I would have preferred more of an arc with the Krill, they do still a giant Krill warship in the last episode the Krill are in but it doesn’t go anywhere after that. That was missed potential that made the show not really get the great exit it deserved, since it really did have a great entrance. Solidly good show, but not great.

This is a show that if you are a fan of sci. fi., “Star Trek” or Seth MacFarlane, you will probably enjoy. This is easily the best thing he’s ever done by miles and I’m glad the show was renewed for another season. Where he chooses to take the show remains to be seen, as it could remain like TNG and TOS and largely remain episodic with some powerful episodes along the way, or it could go the way of DS9 and later ENT and give us some powerful arcs that payoff on a personal and galactic scale. I’m all for finding a good medium inbetween as well, arc episodes and bottle episodes together. As someone whose missed “Star Trek” since it went off the air and all we had were movies, this and “Discovery” made this Trekkie happy. If you like “Star Trek,” you should at least give this show a chance.

Final Score: 8.5 / 10. Humor often time hurt the drama and lack of an overall arc kept the season from greatness.

 

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“Castlevania” Season 1 – Of Origins and Building the Party

   “Castlevania” is a great video game adaptation. This is a series that explores Dracula’s motivation and really lets us explore and get to know the world before it gets into the action. Without going into spoilers, the only issue is how short it is. The first Season is only 4 episodes long and each of those episodes is only 20 minutes. It could have easily had 8 episodes just off of the characters and the world and I’m really that it has been renewed for future episodes. The fact that this is an adaptation of a video game is all the more amazing given the track record of suck projects as they usually always end up sucking.

The series was written by Warren Ellis and directed by Sam Deats.

The story involves Dracula’s origin and what lead him to turn against humanity (turning it into the depressed hellscape of the games). After the origin we pick up with the last of the Belmonts, Trevor Belmont as he wanders the hellscape, just trying to survive and find purpose.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: Dracula’s Origin – Dracula’s hate is born out of tragedy. It begins with him as an illusive immortal lord who falls in love with a woman who wants to help the people through the medical sciences. Sadly they turn on her and we learn she married Dracula. Out of anger for the loss of his love he raises the army of hell and puts them on the population, leading to the status quo of the games. This is the first time in any of the games where he has actually been explored as a character and I love the character choices they made for why he became a monster.

People are Hell – A major theme of the story is that people are hell. The Church kills Dracula’s wife for being a “witch” and through the story we see murders who joined the church as enforcers and the general apathy of the general populace and our supposed hero Trevor Belmont. This theme is great at giving justification to Dracula and the question of hope even exists in this world.

Hope in Strange Places – Thankfully there is hope, both in the Speakers, travelers like the Roma who pass on stories of old who end up finding another hero, Alucard who is Dracula’s son who wants to stop his father since he knows the monster he’s become is not what his mother would have wanted. In the end Sypha (the speaker who finds Alucard) and Alucard show Trevor their is hope and give him a reason to fight. Also James Callis voices Alucard and Richard Armitage voices Trevor Belmont. Both these were brilliant casting choices and I really wanted more with both of the characters.

Okay: The Church – The Church is the Catholic Church and we only really deal with the corrupt members. One priest helps in the final fight but we never get his name or any of his story. Large organizations should have more complexity or their drive for power better explored…I hope we get both these things in the next season.

The Cons: Length – The show is only 4 episodes long and because of it the Church feels underdeveloped and we only get hints at the demons having their own agenda outside of Dracula. This is a shame as these were interesting ideas that could have been explored so much more. Regardless, I highly recommend this series. The writing is solid, the characters are fascinating and Netflix has once again made a great show.

Final Score: 9 / 10 Solidly great start to a series. Netflix has done it again.

Rick and Morty – Season 2, Episode 5 – “Get Schwifty” – People and the Universe are Crazy

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   “Get Schwifty” is a lot of fun! There manages to be great satire of how people look for patterns where they often times aren’t there or the patterns are completely misunderstood and we see Morty’s relationship develop further with Rick as he learns a lot more about him.

    The episode involves a Big Giant Head arrives above Earth and asking for a musical performance or else Earth will be destroyed. When Morty and Rick rise to the occasion they find Earth put onto a reality show with the life of Earth on the line again. Elsewhere Summer joins a religion about the Giant Heads.

The Pros: The Music – The music in this episode is great! It has an improv aspect to it. Morty and Rick are great together and how the creators mixed it up made it a lot of fun. I still go back and listen to the music from this episode. “Get Schwifty!”

The Message – The message is not to assume on the unexplained as chances are you will be wrong. Those who were worshiping the Giant Heads missed the fact that they were just on a reality show and the entire religion was a lie.

Bird Person – Bird Person was in a rock band with Rick and together they were rebels against the Galactic Government. He lets Morty know that Rick is in a lot of pain and his catch phrases are calls for help…which ends up being true from what we see later when Rick is put into a younger body and brain in a future episode. Bird Person humanizes Rick.

The President – The President is a lot of fun as he fully believes in Rick and Morty and even joins them in the final song they perform that makes Earth the winner on the reality show.

Ice T – Ice T protects Earth and redeems himself as he is taken in by the letters and is made Water T again, just in time for the Numericons to attack as he goes to avenge his father. His arc was funny and a lot of fun.

Morty – Morty runs away from Rick as he doesn’t get why everything is on the line and he just wants to protect his family. He comes around to liking Rick again after Bird Person shares some of Rick’s psychology and story and they resolve their issues.

Rick – Rick loves living with everything on the line (as he is never board when that is going on) and we see that he is musically talented and charismatic in his own way as the President grows to really like him. He really makes this episode and we see him relate to Morty more by the end.

Okay: The Rest of the Family – More could have been done with Summer, Beth and Jerry besides the usual arc of “Child does crazy thing and parents try to be accepting but pay the price” comedy trope.

   Bird Person, Ice T, Rick and Morty are really the characters that make this episode great. The message is great too even though it’s hard to pull off messages in comedy shows well as they are usually overly blunt and end up telling more than showing. This episode is one I’d highly recommend for sure.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

The Rabbi’s Cat (2011): A Critique and Bringing Together of Religions and Cultures

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     This review is going to be a little different from the ones I do before as it was one that my friend Matthew and I discussed doing, that each of would review a film in each other’s style. Matthew is a writer at “The 10th Man.” He’s really good and writes about a diverse range of topics, primarily focused on media. Here is the link to his website:  https://the10thman.wordpress.com/.

    He has already reviewed “The Rabbi’s Cat” in a style inspired by mine, so now I am going to do the same.

  “The Rabbi’s Cat,” was directed by Joann Sfar (who also wrote the comic, screenplay and was one of the producers) and Antoine Delesvaux and based on the comic book of the same title. It is beautiful animated (with the exception of the strange style changes at different parts that make it more cartoony) but the film largely works because of the themes it explores which are ones of how cultures and religions clash and the ways they and people can come to understandings, as well as critiquing the different religions and cultures too, through the eyes of the Rabbi’s Cat. The film also explores what it means to be an individual in a group and what makes a good person.

     We see the exploration of culture from the beginning when the Rabbi’s Cat gets the ability to speak after eating the Rabbi’s Parrot and after wants to become Jewish because it is the only way the Rabbi will let him spend time with his daughter. We see the Rabbi change though as the more extreme Rabbi once the cat killed for claiming to be God and questioning everything. Algerian Jewish culture is explored through the Rabbi as well as Russian culture through the explorer and the Russian painter and through the Sufi Sheikh we get to explore the many African cultures as they are following the painters dream to find Jerusalem, which to them is a nation of Black Jews where there is no racism and intolerance. It’s a beautiful exploration that is done and you can tell that those involved did their research on all the different groups explored in the story.

     There is also a critique of culture that we see as well. This movie is not Morally Relative, which I liked. At one point a desert tribe the Sheikh knows helps them heal the Rabbi’s cat. But things soon turn to violence as the youngest one was itching for a fight and we soon see how superior they act and feel, much like the French and in Algeria in relationship to the Jews like the Rabbi. In both cases this dehumanizing of the other leads to violence as the Russian explorer gets killed by the tribe and we see how outsiders are treated like their women. If you’re not in the group, you are out of sight and out of mind. We also see the critique of Conservative Jewish culture through the cat who uses Science to question the Torah, and through the Rabbi’s daughter, who just wants choice in her life. This narrative continues throughout the entire film.

    The third theme is that of what identity means and what it means to be a good person. I think the Sufi Sheikh sums it up best in relationship to God. “I just imagine that God is a decent person and live from that.” It is this that helps the Rabbi become comfortable in giving the African barmaid and the Russian Painter a Jewish wedding even though she doesn’t believe in God and the Russian isn’t a practicing Jew. This core decency and respect of others is how the Rabbi’s cat change too. The cat starts out as a liar but in the end is looking out for the others and is quiet when he needs to be so his friends don’t get in trouble. The cat learns empathy just like the Rabbi and together they become more like each other in realizing they don’t know who God is or what it means to be Jewish, or a talking cat, but that won’t stop them from caring for people or living a good life.

      There really is only one scene that was troubling and that was when they find the Jewish Ethiopian Kingdom and things get overly cartoony. The tribe is presented as savage giants and it becomes a whole slapstick event that clashes with everything prior. This is still a favorite film, but that whole sequence really took away from everything that had occurred up to that moment. The cat was comedic relief again, the tribesmen were presented as idiots and it’s only purpose was to show that the idealized Jerusalem would be one they would have to create for themselves. That’s a great message, but because of how it’s presented the message feels a little cheapened. If you are looking for an amazing, French, surreal, animated film with a point you should check this one out. There is far more to like in this film than not, and it is a favorite for a reason.

Final Score: 8.8 / 10.

Contact (1997): Better Use of Characters But Better Point in the Book

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    We continue Sci. Fi. Movie Week with the before the last film we’ll be covering. That film we’ll be covering is “Contact.” “Contact” is an interesting film to review. I liked it, though the director putting it in Carl Sagan’s honor while presenting a message at the end that contradicted the point the book and Sagan’s work felt like it missed the point. First off, Carl Sagan is one of my favorite people…but wasn’t that good of a fiction writer. Contact the novel was very detached so it was hard to get invested in the interesting things that were happening. The film is very different from that and you care about the main characters…though I think Sagan’s point in the book comes out much stronger versus the film where the message is a bit muddled and not entirely clear in it’s execution.

     The film was directed by Robert Zemeckis who was also one of the producers and written by James V. Hart and Michael Goldenberg. The other producer was Steve Starkey. The story was by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, which I am glad about as it’s Sagan’s story so at least his core points were able to get through than if he hadn’t been a part of the process.

     The premise of “Contact” is that Ellie (Jodie Foster) is seeking alien life in the Universe but is having to fight for it every step of the way as funding for SETI gets pulled by her boss Drumlin. She finds away around it as she gets funding to use some government radio telescopes and right when she is about to lose it an alien signal is heard and contact made. From here the story unfolds as there is a rush to interpret the message as religious and political factions seek to use it to their gain. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is clear and captures the sense of wonder and personal trials of the characters really well. It reminds me of “Apollo 13.” Don Burgess truly did an amazing job on this film.

Theodore Arroway – David Morse is back and fantastic (really liked his performance in the “Green Mile”) and in this he’s great as Ellie’s father who inspires her to look towards finding life in space and becoming a scientist…and whose death makes it hard for her to be in relationships as she was not able to save him. I wish we’d seen more of his character as he did not get enough screen time.

Palmer Ross – Matthew McConaughey plays Ellie’s love and the other side of the coin in the debate between religion and science. His arguments aren’t great but his coming from a place of emotion and connection (reason he doesn’t support her going on the mission is fear of losing her) are a nice contrast to Ellie’s fear of connecting to people. He is the person who connects to people easily and it’s because of the language and emphasis on religion. He goes from religious to agnostic religious as he trusts Ellie’s experience of meeting the aliens. Ellie’s arc goes in the other direction.

Kent Clark – William Fichtner is good as a blind SETI scientist who is one of Ellie’s major support folks and is the one fighting at the front lines for her for the first half of the movie. He kind of disappears later, which is a shame as he’s a great neurotic scientist who adds character to every scene he’s in.

Ellie Arroway – Jodie Foster is great in this as she’s a character who has trouble connecting to others because of the loss of her father but over the course of making contact with the aliens is able to heal from that and to understand the perspective of faith a little more. She’s an active character and her flashbacks lend to her present as we see how rich her relationship was with her dad.

First Contact – Ellie meets the aliens after the first machine gets destroyed by a religious fanatic, killing the original pilot but a secret base gives her the chance to finally go. The machine creates a wormhole and she talks to an alien who takes the form of her father and tells her that they do this will all species but not all species make it here. It’s a cool scene and the world they are in feels alien and unreal the entire time. The feel of the aliens is very true to the book.

The Cons: The Antagonists – There is a religious fanatic, militaristic government official and Ellie’s boss who are just one dimensional villains. This is where the problem in the book “Contact” really comes out as these simple caricatures only disprove the points they try and make which makes Ellie look good even if she’s acting from a place without evidence. I really didn’t like that. James Woods is even one of the folks but how they were written cannot save this film and it’s one of the biggest reasons I can’t consider this film great or a favorite. They are used to prop up the directors point and because they are unfair antagonists Ellie looks noble in all her actions no matter how stupid said actions may be. Not going to list their names since they don’t function as characters, just plot devices to advance Ellie’s plot and the director’s point.

Who Needs Evidence – At the end after Ellie has visited the aliens, everyone things she was lying because there was only static and the pod just fell through the machine. Rather than seeking evidence to prove what she experienced and prove intelligence in the universe she falls back on the faith argument which completely ruins her point and why she doesn’t believe in God and is an agnostic. This really annoyed me as Sagan was writing from his own perspective of skepticism and agnosticism in his novel and the director completely missed that point. Experience is good and should be valued but that wasn’t the point of Sagan’s book or his shows and work.

     This is a movie worth seeing, and it is a good. The main issues I have though is how the scientific process gets ignored in the end when so much of Jodie’s arc is fighting for that and helping others to recognize that what she found is based in the scientific process. The acting is good though and is the greatest thing that makes it better than the book, where the detachment from the characters really made it hard to care about them. If you want a movie that captures wonder, check it out. The cinematography does a good job at capturing that, even if it does get a bit sidetracked at the end. Glad this movie got made and grateful that it was made in honor of Carl Sagan, one of the greatest scientists who has lived.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10. Solidly good and actors and cinematography elevate a script that has issues in it’s point and execution.

Battlestar Galactica Mini-Series Pilot – Season 1, Episode 1, 2 – “Night” – War, Politics, Religion and the Survival of the Human Race

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We continue Apocalypse Week with “Battlestar Galactica.” “Battlestar Galactica” is one of those shows that I will always come back to I think. The themes of religion, spirituality, history, politics, war and survival are handled so well that every time I watch the series I discover something new. I am of course referring to Ronald Moore’s re-imagining, I have not seen the “Original Battlestar Galactica,” but do plan on it at some point.

I still remember the first time I watched this episode and how excited I was at all the possibilities it offered in it’s stories and characters and the reality of the relationships and world it was already exploring. Very few Pilots manage to pull this off. I think what helps was a lot of the themes of religion, war, politics and purpose were explored by Moore in “Star Trek: Deep Space 9” but where DS9 was limited by being public television…there weren’t those limitations on “Battlestar Galactica” for better and for worse he could explore those themes fully.

“The story kicks off with history: The Cylons were created by the people of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol as a labor and military force. Approximately 52 years ago, the Cylons turned on their human creators and the Cylon War ensued. After an armistice was declared, the Cylons left the Colonies, ostensibly to seek a homeworld of their own.”

“The Colonials maintain an Armistice Station as a place where Cylon and Colonial representatives can meet in order to maintain diplomatic relations. However, the Cylons have never sent an ambassador. No one has seen a Cylon since the end of the Cylon War, over 40 years ago.”

This is done over the Cylons returning to the station and Six (played by Tricia Helfer) kissing the Colonial Representative before the station is destroyed. We then go to the different characters with Admiral Adama retiring the Battlestar Galactica and introduction to the main crew and characters…the main locations being Battlestar Galactica and those coming to Galactica via way of Caprica…the most important characters being Gaius Baltar who invented the security (and gave over the data to a Cylon Six he was sleeping with and didn’t know she was a Cylon) that the Cylons hijacked to destroy the Colonies and Laura Roslin who is the Secretary of Education who finds herself President (and recently learned he had Cancer) when the Cabinet is destroyed on Caprica. From here the story unfolds.

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Here is the assessment of the Pilot Epidodes:

Pros: The Music – In this instance the music was largely composed by Richard Gibbs and he does a fantastic job and creating tension with the creating of tension in battle and all the different feelings with the end of the world.

The World: Ronald Moore did a great job with his writers creating this world. There are 12 Colonies, 12 Cylons and such a diverse cast of characters from different backgrounds that we barely scratch the surface but are still given so much. We know about the last Cylon War, the silence of the Cylons and that they fear being destroyed again and are reacting as such. We also see the Cylons have an extreme belief in a single God while the Colonists are believe in many Gods. We see the military relationships between the civilians and government via Laura Roslin and the conflict in the military among the military through Lee and his father Admiral Adama and Starbuck and the XO Tigh. We also see the relationships and power dynamics between ships and Cylons a bit too.

The Premise: The premise takes the robots and nuclear destruction of humans but does something interesting with it…the robots are given humanity and reasons for what they do and we see conflict among the human factions…which rarely happens in movies that go this route (see “The Terminator Series”). This unique twist and adding religion to the mix with the Cylons being a believer in God adds more depth to a premise that is usually taken as pretty simple.

The Action: There are quite a few ship battles and a lot of destruction…from the nuking of Caprica and destroying of civilian vessels by the Cylons…to the battles between Vipers (Colonial) and Raiders (Cylons). It really drives it too since there is so much desperation. Each fight is a literal fight for survival, as humanity is far outmatched.

The Colonials – More on what I said above but very brief…the military, civilian and government relationships are really rich in this episode. We see different people and groups reacting to the end of the world and doing what they can to survive or help as many people as they can to survive or to fight. This is the group experiencing the apocalypse and the destruction of their worlds and lives.

The Cylons – There are 12 Human looking copies and over the course of the episode we meet 4. Spoilers being one of the main characters in the Colonial Fleet is in fact a Cylon. The new Centurions and Raiders look really awesome too. They have a sleek and deadly design.

The Characters – The characters and character relationships are the strongest part of this series, besides some of the messages so I’m going to say now that any character who gets exploration…isn’t a dull character. They are really interesting and intriguing and have great dynamics with others.

Admiral Adama – Edward James Olmos is one of the greatest actors for a reason. We see it in this with how he is a man dealing with finally having a normal relationship with his divorced wife, his son who died from him pressuring him to join the force and his other son Lee Adama (Apollo) blames him for all of that. He is the heart of the fleet besides Roslin who pulls the people together and fights to defend the human race when he realizes that they’ve lost the war after President Roslin helps him to see. He is the one who gives the lie of Earth to the Fleet to give them hope and reminds them that their lives are worth fighting for, as well as apologizing to Lee in regards to his son and their relationship. Starbuck the rebel fighter pilot is also like a daughter to him, contrasted with the fact that she hates the XO Tigh who is one of Adama’s closest friends.

Laura Roslin – Mary McDonnell is wonderful in this role as someone both empathetic and strong. She holds the civilians together and finds survivors to bring to Galactica. She is also the one who reminds Adama that they need government and structure so that the people can be cared for. She was originally the Secretary of Education, and also found out she has cancer at the start of the episode.

Gaius Baltar – James Callis plays an awesome anti-hero. Gaius Baltar is the scientist who unknowingly gave over the security information to the Cylons since he was sleeping with a Cylon Six model. You see his selfishness of the bat in that he cheats on her and is watching interviews of himself and when the bombs fall he is first thinking how not to take responsibility…but than we see him use his information via Head Six (A Six living inside his mind) to reveal who the Cylon Mole is on the ship. He also sticks up for an older lady when he could have taken her ticket given his past actions. His most telling statement is at the end. “I am on no one’s side.” This is his anti-hero character for a lot of the series, which gives him lots of room to grow. His character arc is what makes him one of my favorite characters, and the awkwardness of how Callis plays him.

Lee “Apollo” Adama – Has a thing for Starbuck, blames his dad for his brother’s death and his brother was married to Starbuck. His life is complicated. He is the idealist though and it shines through and also the one whose goal seems to be to get out of his father’s shadow and make his own path. We see this in how he advocates for government and Roslin to be respected and his confronting of his dad. For him the big thing was finding out Starbuck was the one who passed his brother when he should have failed, throwing their complicated friendship into jeopardy, just as he is beginning to heal with his dad. Jamie Bamber does great.

Kara “Starbuck” Thrace – She is the arrogant fighter pilot who truly is the best at what she does. She doesn’t put up with crap (largely from the drunk XO Tigh) and is willing to risk her life at the drop of a hat for others. She also has a lot of baggage via helping her lover pass flight school when he was unqualified and the fact that she loved his brother Lee. Her story is fascinating and I can’t wait to write more about it when I review more of the series later. Katie Sackhoff became unforgettable in this role.

Caprica Six / Head Six – They are two different characters but the same actress Tricia Helfer. Caprica Six loves Baltar even though he doesn’t love her and saves him when the apocalypse comes. Head Six could be Angel, Demon or Hallucination is what is implied at this point and has a mental and sexual relationship with Baltar. She guides and manipulates his actions for his and her gain. Both are great characters.

Sharon “Boomer” Valerii – Played by Grace Park, she is the one who is a bit of a rookie and the main savior of a lot of the people as she helps President Roslin when they meet up with her and the fleet later on. She is stubborn and quick to anger and also in love with Chief Tyrol. They have a secret relationship and a great dynamic as they play fight. She is great as the officer who finds her footing. Also, she’s a Cylon who doesn’t know she is. We see another model of her at the end of the episode in the Cylon Meet up.

Chief Tyrol – Major feeler type He is the guy who you see in his face when he loses crewmembers to a Cylon Nuke and the desperation of survival. He is good at his job and very no-nonsense. His relationship to Sharon also feels real.

Karl “Helo” Agathon – Helo is the guy who makes the noble sacrifice on Caprica. He gives up his seat for Baltar so that the human race will have a better chance at survival. He is also the one who helps Sharon find her cool. Tahmoh does great and I can see why fan reaction brought him back when he was supposed to die this episode.

Gaeta, Dee and Billy – These three are very minor characters at this point but good in what they do. They give us glimpses of humanity. Gaeta is the one who idealizes leaders like Baltar and Adama and with it has hope, Dee is the one who has lost but sees hope in relationship via Billy and through Billy we see the loss on his face and him trying to work as his family was destroyed in one of the colonies. Billy is Roslin’s aide and they have some good moments.

Leobon and Doral – Doral is the everyday press mole who poses the dilemma of imprisonment without evidence and Leobon is the fanatic who nearly kills Adama. He is the religious fanatic to the Cylon Cause that we see outside of Six. We see them at the end with a Sharon and Six too in the military base that the Colonials had escaped to temporarily before jumping into deep space.

The Choices – Should one stay to try and save all when the chance of annihilation of all is at hand? Should people be imprisoned without evidence if they are suspect in a war of annihilation? What people should be saved when facing extinction? What is a just war? These are all the questions and choices faced in the episode and part of what makes this such a great series, beyond all the characters.

This is one of the best if not the best pilot of a tv series I have ever seen. I can’t recommend it enough. If you like character dramas, moral dilemmas, politics and war this is definitely your show and this episode is a great introduction. Can’t wait till when I do a look back and review the rest of the series.

“So say we all!”

Final score for this episode is 10 / 10. One of the best sci. fi. and television show pilots I’ve ever seen.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Pilot – Emissary Part 1 and 2 – The Fallout of War and Occupation

Emissary

“Ironic. One who does not wish to be among us is to be the Emissary.” -Kai Opaka

The third week of the Star Trek Pilot Episodes Series brings us to “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” is one of my all time favorite Sci. Fi. shows. The themes it deals with (Religion, War, Occupation and Politics). The Episodes follow Commander Sisko  (the first Captain who doesn’t begin as a Captain) and his arrival at Deep Space Nine after losing his wife to Captain Picard as Locutus in the Battle of Wolf 359, the series was a spinoff of The Next Generation and you can see it with Picard leaving O’Brien behind to be Sisko’s Chief Engineer. We then jump three years forward to Sisko arriving on a broken DS9 and Post-Occupation Bajor, both places are wounded and broken a reflection of Sisko who is feeling the death of his wife that he has refused to face. It is a powerful opening and when Sisko arrives he meets all the players (the Ensemble cast, Dukat and the Bajoran Prophets).

Here is my assessment of the Episode:

The Tone: Unlike “Encounter at Farpoint,” “Emissary” starts with so much at stake. Bajor is at stake and Sisko and many others are in a new place they have no idea how to deal with, they could easily mess things up with Bajor or have another war with Cardassia. You can see this in the broken spaceship and broken Sisko who is still living the Battle of Wolf 359, it isn’t bright and happy…it captures the true realities of what people face, which is important to see so front and center on a show.

The Characters – DS9 is my favorite crew. There is Odo the only of his kind at this point (an alien shape-shifter and security officer), the everyman O’Brien (who has a history of bad blood with Cardassia having fought in the war), Quark (the first 3 Dimensional Ferengi, a practical bar owner), Garak (a former Cardassian spy), Jazdia Dax (the next Dax (Kurzon being Sisko’s former mentor), Bashir (the idealistic Doctor) and Major Kira (the former Bajoran Resistance Fighter) and of course Dukat (the former Prefect of Bajor, the man responsible for the occupation).

The themes: Occupation (a recovering government who is looked down upon by the Federation – Bashir’s “I chose the wilderness,” implying Bajor is the wilderness. Religion (the Bajoran orbs and Sisko being chosen as the one to speak for them (The Prophets are Bajor’s Gods and also Wormhole aliens), Moving on (Sisko facing the death of his wife Jennifer and choosing to live and help heal Bajor and the Station while dealing with his own healing).

The Ensemble cast – Not everyone who is a main cast member is a member of the crew, which you didn’t see in Trek’s up to this point with the exception of Guinan. This was perfect because it showed that the Federation was not perfect by giving those other perspectives. Not to mention that we have children on the station in the role as children (Sisko and Nog as examples). The set up was perfect and they had a great payoff. The Federation is important but not the only players…there are Bajoran, Cardassian, Civilian and Federation players right from the beginning.

Gul Dukat – The best villain in Trek. A complex baddie who is a charming meglomaniac.

Benjamin Sikso – Avery Brooks does a masterful job playing Commander Sisko, from dealing with the post Wolf 359 Trauma of losing his wife, his conflict with Picard and the station’s crew members and with the Prophets (teaching them about corporeal linear life forms and them teaching him how to move forward). There is a reason Captain Sikso (as he would be later) is my favorite of the Captains.

The ending – Sets the stage for later conflicts. Bajor is still going through political and religious strife as well as with the Cardassians and Federation. Sikso also has accepted his place and is able to resolve his differences with Picard on a professional level since he has finally left the ship where his wife died and is ready to command Deep Space Nine.

Okay – Some of the acting. You can tell some of them are new…none of them are as bad as Troi or Wesley though so I won’t put that in the cons. None of the actors are ever painful to watch and there are some good performances, but a lot of okay ones too.

Music – Isn’t memorable. Not bad, but not great. This would be standard Trek since TNG they got rid of their composer, at this point Star Trek only had stock musical varieties to try out that aren’t bad but aren’t good.

“Emissary,” is the best of the pilots. It establishes what the series will cover in full in regards to themes and establishes Dukat as the primary protagonist and the Prophets as one of the main people to shape the series (and even Odo as being the Outsider who was discovered around this area). All of these things that the Pilot establishes have payoff later, even receiving more good from TNG (O’Brien and later Worf), which only adds to the political and philosophical complexity of the show. I highly recommend this show for any lover of political sci. fi…it is here that you see many of the seeds and themes that Ronald Moore would use later in the new Battlestar Galactica. This is a show I’ve enjoyed watching since High School and don’t see ever getting old. “Deep Space Nine,” is the best of the Star Treks.

I would rate “Emissary” as 9 / 10. There are enough great themes, acting and writing to elevate over a simple good episode.

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