Babylon 5 – an appreciation

I have to admit that I am a Sci Fi snob. When Babylon 5 premiered in 1994, I refused to tune in because it wasn’t Star Trek. In my continuing effort to expand my science fiction horizons, I have recently started watching it. Well, I discovered that it was my loss, it’s a fantastic show! I’m in the middle of season two and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Babylon 5 has the best qualities of top notch television: complex characters; interesting story arcs; and plot threads that weave through the entire series.

Babylon 5 is a neutral space station established after the last great war between Humans and the Minbari; A place where different species can live, work and resolve their differences in a relatively secure environment. Five species sit on the ruling council where they work with the league of non-aligned worlds: Humans, Minbari, Narn, Centauri and the Vorlons are the main aliens.

Strong writing lays the foundation for a great show. Each season has a main theme but the show had a specific arc planned over its entire run. J. Michael Straczynski created fully realized alien races and complex social structures for each one. Some science fiction rely on makeup and prosthetics to create alien species with no thought to a social structure. Babylon 5 creates recognizable religious believes, societal relationships and governmental forms for each of it’s main alien species.

I’m enjoying the ride and can’t wait to see where the show takes me next.

For an interesting discussion of the show, check out Women Talk Sci Fi

Top 10 Women of Sci Fi – part 6

With the presidential elections weeks away, it’s time to write about my favorite President: Laura Roslin.

When we first met Laura Roslin in the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, she is the Secretary of Education on board for the decommissioning of the Galactica. After the Cylon attack, she is left as the senior member of the administration and takes command as president. Over the course of four seasons we really see a growth in Roslin and her style of leadership. In the beginning, she believes by following the rule of law and maintaining order humanity will be able to survive. Overtime, she keeps her ideals but becomes more ruthless from air locking enemies o kidnapping babies. All for the greater good.

Roslin embodies the characteristics that I admire in leaders: strength, confidence, compassion and resilience. Qualities that you will see again and again in the women that I have highlighted in my top 10 list.

Women Talk Sci Fi has a thought provoking conversation on BattleStar Galactica. One comment that stood out for me is that why did the colonies need a president since there were so few of them left. The conversation was short but it is a fascinating concept nonetheless. Check it out here: Podcast 10

Top Women of Sci Fi – part 5 – UPDATED

Olive, you were always the strongest – Nick Lane

Olivia Dunham
(Fringe)

I was hesitant to add Olivia Dunham to my list of Top 10 Women in Science Fiction because her story is incomplete with the addition of a final Season five but she is too compelling of a character to ignore.

When we first meet Dunham, she is an inter-agency liaison with the FBI investigating an horrific event that happened mid-air on a flight from Hamburg, Germany to the United States. During the course of the investigation her partner is gravely injured and she puts to get a team of eccentric people to save him and to aid the investigation: Walter Bishop, Peter Bishop and Agent Astrid Farnsworth aka Astro aka Aspirin.

The following exchanges with Peter in the pilot episode shows what a strong and resourceful person Agent Dunham can be.

Olivia: You heard of Flight 627
Peter: The Hamburg flight of course
Olivia: You may be able to help us with that
Peter: I think you got the wrong guy
Olivia: Your father is Walter Bishop
Peter: The last time someone asked me that it was an accusation
Olivia: He is the man who we are looking to speak with but do to his current status. You’re the only one that can provide us access
Peter: What possible help could that man be to you? And what exactly are you expecting me to do? Hop on a plane with you back to MA. I just here honey…
Olivia: …Your father maybe able to save someone who is dying. Someone I care about very much
Peter: Sweetheart, we all care about someone who is dying. I can’t help you. I’m sorry.
Olivia: I know why you are here. I have your file.
Peter: What file?
Olivia: The one the FBI would say doesn’t exist. And it has everything: where you’ve been; what you’re running from and what you need while your here. So, either you come with me or I let certain people know your whereabouts.
Peter: When do we leave?

Peter: What are you asking me to do? No, Guardian? No forgot it.
Olivia: He’ll do it
Peter: No I’ll will not.
Olivia: One phone call that’s it takes. Coz I got my phone in my pocket.
Olivia: Now it’s out of my pocket
Peter: You wanted my father – now you got my father which falls in the category be careful what you wish for. Sweetheart.

Peter: Tell what else tom the file say about yours truly? How bad was it.
Olivia: I’m not at liberty to discuss it.
Peter: why don’t you go ahead and liberate yourself because I’m here now and I kind of feel like I deserve the truth. Don’t you?
{long pause}
Peter: There is no file
Olivia: I needed you back here
Peter: That was what- you were bluffing
Olivia: I was desperate
Peter: I’m usually good and reading people that’s sorta what I do.
Olivia: I could see you were in trouble anyone could see that
Peter: I could have stay, I could have stayed in Iraq…

While these exchanges are simple in nature, the direct and passionate way in which Olivia delivers them gets her whatever she needs from information to personnel. Olivia has been shaped by her past experiences (her relationship with her family and being experiment on as a child, specifically) and it has prepare her to lead the Fringe team.

Over the course of four seasons, the team learns a lot about themselves and each other while they investigate unusual events. Standout episodes include: Inner Child, August, Northwest Passage, Peter, Worlds Apart,

With story arcs that span and entire season that dealt with patterns, human experiments, trying to understand the motivations of the Observers and dealing with mad geniuses, Fringe has been one of the best shows on TV. While the show has moved to a weak storyline that has Peter and Olivia destined to be together romantically, the ultimate plot is Olivia journey to find out who is she.

Fauxlivia gets an honorable mention. With the introduction of the alternate universe in season three, we get to meet Fauxlivia. Her load in life has been an easier one, quick with a smile and love for her job and colleagues, Ann Torv has create the polar opposite of Olivia.

To learn more about Fringe secrets

 

 

 

 

 

With the conclusion of Fringe, I felt the need to revisit one of my favorite characters.  The final season did a disservice to the once powerful women of the show.  Olivia, Astrid and Nina were all reduced to standing in the shadow and acting only to propel the relationship between Walter and Peter.   From being an active and intelligent FBI agent fighting to solve unusual cases and saving the world, Olivia was reduce to moping first over the death of her daughter and then over Peter’s quest to avenge her death.

The overarching theme of the show seemed to be should there be limits to the pursue of science.  In addition to Walter’s struggle to come to terms with the consequences of his research and actions, Olivia’s journey also seemed equally important to this theme. From being experimented on as a child by Walter and William Bell, to being kidnapped by Walternate and having her personality altered by drugs, Olivia has been the face of the ethically struggle of science. This season, she has been strangely passive.   We don’t get to see the original bad-ass Olivia until the penultimate episode.  The season suffered from her mis-use.

Boo on you show runners!

Fringe Rewatch

I’m in the middle of re-watching Fringe. I love all of the little tidbits that I am catching upon my second viewing. In the episode “The Road Not Taken” (air date May 5, 2009), Olivia and Peter are off to interview a conspiracy theorist, Emmanuel Grayson, regarding video of people spontaneously combusting. As he explains his theories of what going on, he mentions the upcoming invasion by a group of rogue Romulans bent on attacking the Federation. Nice shout out to the Star Trek movie released later that year.

Women Talk Sci Fi – stimulating all of your senses

Women Talk Sci Fi

I’ve stumbled upon a wonderful podcast based in Australia: Women Talk Sci Fi.  It’s an informative and entertaining show that has worked its way into my regular rotation.  Eugenia and Gerri are affable hosts with a wide range of knowledge but not an overload of minutiae that some Sci Fi podcasts  possess.

Standout episodes are Podcast 48 featuring Production Buyer, Judy Ducker and Podcast with Amanda Tapping.

Women Talk Sci Fi

Top women in Sci Fi – part 4

Kathryn Janeway

(Star Trek: Voyager)

“Women leaders are more assertive and persuasive, have a stronger need to get things done and are more willing to take risks than male leaders….Women leaders were also found to be more empathetic and flexible, as well as stronger in interpersonal skills than their male counterparts” – 2005 Caliper study

This quote is the very definition of Captain Janeway.  As the first female captain to anchor a television show, Janeway bought a different viewpoint to the captain’s chair.

When we first meet Janeway she is leading a mission to track down a Marquis ship in the Badlands near Deep Space 9.  After both ships are brought to the Delta quadrant by the Caretaker, the crews are stranded there by Janeway’s decision to protect the Ocampa over the assured return of her crew.  After consolidating the crews, Janeway pools their resources and takes on new members in order to keep her promises her to return the ship home to the Alpha quadrant.

A recurring theme throughout the run of Voyager is Janeway’s willingness to ignore the Prime Directive to achieve the greater good.  Known as General Order No. 1, the Prime Directive dictates that there can be no interference with the internal development of alien civilizations. (wikipedia.org)

This willingness is highlighted in “Counterpoint.” Voyager helps a telepathic species cross Devore Emporium. With no immediate benefit helping her new found friends and with the real threat of having her ship confiscated and her crew imprisoned, Janeway is ready to antagonize a xenophobic species. We can only guess that she is only motivated by her sense of justice.

Her impersonal skills are on display in “The Void.” Voyager becomes trapped in a starless void with countless other ships. The emptiness has turned some into ruthless pirates but Janeway begins to build alliances with various species in order to find the most effective way to escape.

Outside of Captain Sisko, Janeway is the only captain to consistently show a nurturing side.  Sisko paternal instincts were a natural fit given he raised a young son by himself.  While Janeway had no children, she was able to nurture various members of her crew (B’Elanna and Seven of Nine are prime examples) during their seven years together.

While not the first female captain in Star Trek, Janeway is definitely one of the most interesting.

How Do You Define What Is Canon?

The third definition of Canon as defined by www.dictionary.com: “the body of rules, principles, or standards accepted as axiomatic and universally binding in a field of study or art”

While sci fi fans can be a stickler for what we consider sacred, does having a timeline/history set in stone help that hurt or help the development of show and its universe. I believe following the rich history of a storyline only enhances a show and its potential.  

Recently, I started watching Star Trek: The Animated Series and this question popped into my mind:  How do you define what is canon?  In the Star Trek verse, to my knowledge, there are six TV shows, eleven movies, countless books and an online game.  I’ve read that Gene Roddenberry never considered Star Trek: TAS apart of the official canon.  Although most of the original casts, writers and producers were involved in the creation of the show. The show’s creator didn’t consider it part of the history of the show. Why did he turn his back on a series that remind faithful to its progenitor? Not only did Star Trek: TAS flesh featured favorite characters like Harry Mudd, Tribbles and Kor and returns to familiar places like the vacation planet in “Shore Leave” and the “The Guardian of Forever.”

TAS lasted two seasons and has influenced later shows and deserves to be included in the official cannon and obsessed over like the other shows and movies.

Today, where we have seen countless shows live on in graphic novels after the original show had been cancelled.  While researching Aeryn Sun for my piece on The Top Women in Sci Fi, I discovered that the Farscape story continued in a graphic novel. Some of my favorite shows like Firefly and Buffy still live on in the graphic forms. Not having read any of the stories featured in the graphic form, I wonder if my opinions of these shows would grow or change.

Top 10 Women of Sci Fi – Part 3

Aeryn Sun

(Farscape and The Peacekeeper Wars)

With a host of strong characters on Farscape and Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars, Aeryn Sun is one of my favorites.  We see her go through a transformative journey during the run of the show. When we first meet her, Aeryn is in uniform concerned about ranks and regiments. Officer Aeryn Sun, Special Peacekeeper Commando, Ikarian Company, Pleisar Regiment is a solider first and foremost. She is born of and born into the Peacekeeper life; meaning that she obeys orders and looks to move up the ranks to be the best solider that she can be.  While on a mission to recapture a ship full of prisoners, Aeryn’s life is changed forever.  Would a loyal solider choose to help a person from an unknown species?  In the pilot episode, Aeryn begins to distinguish herself from the traditional ways the Peacekeepers behave. After being declared irreversibly contaminated, she joins the escaping prisoners instead of facing a slow death. This decision puts her on a path that she never could have imagined before.

On Moya, she forms new relationships and learns of the joys of friendship and camaraderie.  In Thank God it’s Friday… Again, with the help of Pilot and to much of her surprise, Aeryn performs simple scientific experiments in order to aid Rygel while the others are trapped on an alien planet.  After being given Pilot’s DNA, Aeryn develops an intuition about leviathan that always remains with her. Time and time again, where there is a need, Aeryn steps up to full fill the void.  In Jeremiah Crichton with the others stuck on a planet with a dampening field, Aeryn and Zhaan are able to create and launch a probe in order to assist Dargo, Crichton and Rygel who were trapped on the planet.

You can’t have a discussion of Aeryn Sun without mentioning John Crichton.  In the beginning, she thought he was a useless a lesser creature but she begins to rely on him more and more with each new challenge they face.  They eventually fall in love but face many obstacles – a princess, death and a Crichton double to name but a few – but as all good epics they wind up together.  Theirs is an epic love story and one of the best onscreen couples ever.

Challenge Update – Foundation Trilogy

Last September, after discovering that I had read only a fraction of NPR Top 100 Sci Fi/Fantasy, I wanted to read all of the books on the list. How could I call myself a sci fi fan without having read what are consider classics of the genre.  I started with the classic Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov.  It was a great way to kick off this journey. The Foundation Trilogy consists of Foundation, Foundation and Empire and Second Foundation.  It is a multigenerational story that covers the collapse of a great empire and the race to prepare society for what follows.  Hari Sheldon is a psychohistorian who along with his team uses social, mathematics, and psychology to plot a way to contain the chaos. Sheldon establishes two foundations who work independent of each other to propel the Sheldon Plan along.  The Sheldon plan is never fully explained but the citizens of the foundation believe that its calculations will automatically solve any problems that arise with the implosion of the galactic empire. With a complex plot and a vast number of characters to keep track of, The Foundation series is nonetheless a page turner.

Asimov is a titan in the Science Fiction world and rightfully so.  Although his writings were simplistic in style, his influence can still be felt.  Asimov was recently featured on The Science Channel show The Prophets of Science Fiction.

The Prophets of Science Fiction

Classic interview with Bill Moyers

Next up on the challenge: American Gods by Neil Gaiman