‘Star Trek’ Actress Arlene Martel Dies at 78

This past week has been tremendously sad as we’ve lost several notable stars of the big and small screen. Arlene Martel, who Star Trek fans will remember for playing Spock’s Vulcan bride, T’Pring in “Amok Time,” died on Tuesday, August 12, 2014. She won’t be recognized by nearly as many people as Robin Williams or Lauren Becall but to Trek fans like myself, she holds a special place in our hearts. I’m not afraid to say I had a huge crush on Martel as T’Pring as a boy and although she appeared in other TV series including Hogan’s Heroes, Bewitched, The Wild, Wild West and Battlestar Galactica (1978), I’ll always remember her as the coldly logical vulcan who managed to outsmart even Spock. Rest in peace, Arlene.

One Perfect Shot: TOS ‘The Corbomite Maneuver’

Back in 2006 CBS Home Video began airing the first episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series in their newly re-mastered format. These episodes featured improved CGI effects, HD picture quality and professional sound mixing and have become my absolute favorite examples of how remastering a classic property such as Star Trek, should be approached. Mike Okuda and the team at CBS focused on creating visuals that enhanced the originals; more realistic planets, more detail on the Enterprise and beautifully rendered alien landscapes. The team produced the kinds of shots the original show creators would have used themselves if possible. The remastered original series is a testament to restraint and good visual design and if you want a great example, look no further than ‘The Corbomite Maneuver’.

Our one perfect shot features the Enterprise dwarfed by the Fesarius, the flagship of the “First Federation”, an immense ship of size and power. Captain Kirk and crew make first contact with Balok, commander of the Fesarius and employ a cunning bluff to avoid certain destruction. As a kid, this shot of the Enterprise and Fesarius always gave me chills and the newly remastered version adds a definite sense of wonder and awe. The detail on the surface of the Fesarius is now geometric in nature and the entire ship seems to pulse with limitless energy. I also love how we can see some of the internal structure of Balok’s craft which takes visual cues from geodesic dome designs like EPCOT’s Spaceship Earth. The re-mastered special effects in The Corbomite Maneuver are impressive, beautiful and purposeful which adds up to the perfect combination for one perfect shot.

Notably, the other shot I considered for this episode depicts one of the most iconic (and low-tech) aliens from the entire series, the puppet of Balok’s alter ego himself. Created by production designer Wah Chang, this supremely alien character could have easily been replaced with a CG version of the primitive puppet, but Okuda and team wisely let him stand in his original form. Chang’s original concept sketch for Balok is wonderful and his depiction on the small screen was often featured in the closing credits of Star Trek episodes each week. I almost chose Balok for this episode’s one perfect shot, but in the end the beauty and attention to detail of the remastered Fesarius won out.

Next up, Spock kidnaps the Enterprise in a bold attempt to help his former Captain in ‘The Menagerie Pt. I & II’

Remembering Robin Williams

I and many other people are feeling a deep loss at the sad news that funny man and Oscar-winning dramatic actor, Robin Williams, has died at the age of 63. From my introduction to Robin as Mork from Ork on Happy Days to his break-out stand-up performance at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, I followed his career at every step of the way and enjoyed everything he appeared in. Some of my favorite Williams’ performances include Good Morning, Vietnam, his amazing voice over work as the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin, Dead Poet’s Society, Awakenings, Toys and The Birdcage. It pains me to say it but there are many films he’s appeared in that I’ve never seen. With his passing I think I’ll have to correct that oversight and re-discover some of Robin’s incredible work anew.

There are only a few celebrities & personal heroes who, when they pass, I will truly grieve for. Robin Williams is one such person. He brought so much happiness, laughter and light into our lives it’s difficult to imagine a world without him. Personally, I’ll be focusing on all those wonderful moments and characters, all the belly-laughs and chuckles and even the tears he conjured as he entertained and transfixed us. He was a bright star in the lives of those friends and fans who loved him and he will be dearly missed.

In Memory of Babylon 5

For the past week or so I’ve begun re-watching the groundbreaking scifi TV show, Babylon 5 from episode one. A few years back I began watching the series when it was available on Netflix streaming and I managed to get up to season 3 when it was unceremoniously dropped before I could finish. My friend Corey has let me borrow his entire Bab 5 DVD collection and this time I’m going to make it all the way through to the end.

Re-watching the series I’ve begun to remember just how strong the characters and story arc was, especially for 90′s scifi television. My first love will always be Deep Space Nine, but I do understand the fan’s love of Babylon 5, its mythos and definitive beginning, middle and end storytelling structure. It’s also easy to see the appeal of the series thanks to the chemistry between the actors and actresses who played their respective parts to a tee. I’m particularly fond of Claudia Christian as Ivanova and Andreas Katsulas as G’Kar. Sadly Katsulas passed away in 2006, as did the series’ original lead Michael O’Hare in 2012 at the age of 60. In fact, many of the original cast of Babylon 5 is no longer with us which is a sad footnote in Babylon 5′s history.

I recently came across a wonderful memorial video that series’ creator Straczynski put together for the 2013 Phoenix Comicon Convention. I’ll admit it made me quite misty and I just wanted to share. If you love Babylon 5 and the people who helped bring it to life, this short video is a great way to remember them. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the entire series unfold from start to finish and finally learning what becomes of Sheridan, G’Kar, Londo and the rest. Hopefully with the recent announcement of a possible big-screen re-boot of Babylon 5 coming our way, new fans will discover this amazing scifi universe and its characters.

Breaking Bad’s Long, Long Rap Sheet

With AMC’s production of Better Call Saul in full swing, and Breaking Bad nominated for several Emmy awards, it seems like a good time to reflect on the show. Enter this cool infographic that outlines each of the main character’s criminal charges from the series’ run. Walter and his pals sure where busy little criminal bees, that’s for sure. Personally, I can’t wait for Better Call Saul to hit the airwaves, hopefully complete with key cameos from Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. As I’m sure Walter would say, you can never have enough of a good thing. Click the image to see the entire info graphic.

One Perfect Shot: TOS ‘Dagger of the Mind’

While on a routine cargo drop to the Tantalus Penal Colony, the Enterprise takes on a stowaway, the violently insane Dr. Simon Van Gelder. The episode’s one perfect shot depicts Spock preparing for the series’ very first Vulcan mind-meld while Dr. McCoy looks on. This shot is quintessential original series Trek – the concerned look on McCoy’s face as Spock is hunched over in deep meditation speaks volumes about the two’s relationship with each other. They team up to perform a risky procedure in the hopes of uncovering what’s really happening at Doctor Tristan Adams’ institute of horrors, and manage to save Jim in the process. Dagger of the Mind is one of the very first episodes I remember loving and remains a personal favorite to this day.

Next time Kirk demonstrates to Spock poker’s advantages over chess in ‘The Corbomite Maneuver‘.

One Perfect Shot: Star Trek’s ‘Miri’

In the entire history of Star Trek, episodes that feature stories centered on children are some of the weaker installments, but season one’s ‘Miri‘ is the exception to the rule. After responding to a planetary distress call, the Enterprise landing party contracts a virulent disease that will quickly kill them unless a cure can be found. All of the adults, or “grups” as they are called have died leaving the children or “onlies” behind to fend for themselves. When the children enter puberty and start to become adults, they too contract the disease and eventually die a painful, violent death. The onlies distrust all grups and steal the landing party’s communicators, cutting off contact with the Enterprise along with any hope of finding an antidote. Kirk must convince one of the eldest onlies, a girl named Miri, to help him retrieve their communicators if they are to survive.

The episode’s one perfect shot is of the title character, Miri, as she spies on Kirk, Rand and the rest of the Enterprise grups desperately trying to isolate the disease that wiped out her entire planet. Miri is played wonderfully by actress Kim Darby who went onto star in a number of other TV and movie rolls including the original True Grit with John Wayne, Better Off Dead and Don’t Be Afriad of the Dark. I love this shot of Miri half-hidden behind a doorway as she tries to decide if the adults from another world have come to help or hurt her and her friends.

A sad production note: I learned while researching this episode that after filming was complete, at the friday-night after party for the cast, actress Grace Lee Whitney was sexually assaulted by a member of the show whom she only identifies as “The Executive” in her autobiography The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy. Horribly, she was fired from Star Trek soon afterwards and didn’t appear in the franchise again until the feature films. I shutter to think which Executive could have done this to her, but no matter who it was, it surely is one of the darkest footnotes in Star Trek’s long history.

Next time Spock prepares a historic first in the series – the Vulcan mind meld in ‘Dagger of the Mind‘!

One Perfect Shot: TOS ‘What Are Little Girls Made Of?’

The crew of the Enterprise goes in search of Roger Korby, a famous scientist missing for over five years and gets much more than they bargained for in season one’s ‘What Are Little Girls Made Of?‘. Korby has chanced upon an extinct civilization that long ago learned how to transfer human consciousness into the body of androids. He intends to bring this technology to the galaxy, by hook or by crook, and tries to convince Captain Kirk and his former fiancée, Nurse Christine Chapel of the importance of his discoveries with a personal demonstration.

Our one perfect shot for ‘Little Girls…” takes place as Korby forcefully straps Kirk into the android duplication machine, a robotic blank on one side, the naked captain on the other. The device spins up to speed and when it winds back down an exact replica of the Captain appears before Christine, one so perfect even she can’t tell them apart! I love how the physical prop of the duplication machine bisects the screen for the camera and creates a mirror image. I’m sure its design made the process of optical composting easier for the special effects team, but beyond that it just looks plain cool. Shatner as Kirk is naked and more vulnerable that we’ve ever seen him in the series which gives the whole scene a tense, Twilight Zonish vibe.

While I was picking the shot for this episode I was once again struck with the amazing use of color from scene to scene. Taking a cue from the fine folks over at Dribbble.com, I’ve created a fun color palette based on the hues from the selected shot. It’s fascinating to see how the individual colors form a harmonious palette that makes up a typical frame from Trek. I won’t be doing this for every post but I think it would be fun to create them for key shots from time to time and get a better sense of the vibrant use of color in the original Star Trek.

Finally, I felt I just had to post at least one of the incredible re-mastered special effects shots from this episode. I’m taking all of my perfect shots from Netflix streaming and this works great because this is the re-mastered HD version of the series that Paramount released on blu ray a few years back. I’ll go into more detail about the fantastic improvements in special effects the team at CBS managed to achieve, but for now, just take a minute and click on this epic shot of the Enterprise. For a Star Trek fan like myself, it’s simply stunning.

Next time we visit another exact duplicate, but this time it’s an entire planet Earth in ‘Miri‘.

One Perfect Shot: TOS ‘Mudd’s Women’

Our one perfect shot for ‘Mudd’s Women‘ introduces us to Eve, Ruth and Magda, Harry Mudd’s traveling companions and “cargo” destined to become the wives of settlers on the planet Ophiuchus III. The bewitching trio are rescued from their damaged freighter and step off the transporter pad quickly ensnaring the male members of the Enterprise crew thanks to something called the Venus drug which creates illusory beauty. The episode is notable mainly for the introduction of the character of Harry Mudd himself who eventually returns to taunt the Enterprise crew in S2, Ep 12 ‘I, Mudd‘.

I have to admit, selecting this one was child’s play. It’s a great example of how the series’ production designers and directors portrayed many of the beautiful women who graced the small screen during the show’s three year run. Be they exotic, alien femme fatales or capable crew members of the Starship Enterprise, women on Star Trek always seemed to have perfect lighting, makeup, hair and framing. They were also typically shot using a soft-focus filter to highlight the femininity of the actresses, a technique often used in 60′s television but rarely seen today.

Tomorrow we find out just “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and something tells me it won’t be sugar, spice and everything nice.

One Perfect Shot: TOS ‘The Enemy Within’

The Enemy Within is a dramatic examination of the human psyche and all the good and bad things that go along with it. When Kirk is split into two halves by a freak transporter accident, Jim quickly finds he can’t function as Captain without the aggressive, animalistic nature of his opposite self. The episode is interesting on a number of levels, most especially how the interplay between the “big three” – Kirk, Spock and McCoy changes as Jim’s assertive side wanders the ship in search of Saurian brandy.

As a kid, I always found episodes where the main characters behaved unusually the most difficult to watch and ‘Enemy’ falls squarely into this category. The normal, sure-footed Kirk is given to second-guessing every order as he slowly but surely turns into a mere shadow of his former self. Just as painful is the “evil” Captain who drinks, throws fits of uncontrollable anger and almost manages to rape Yeoman Janice Rand. To his credit, William Shatner does a remarkable job of making the two halves seem like completely different people. One smarmy and creepy, the other gentle and timid. Neither is our Captain however, and the quicker we get them back together, the better.

This episode’s perfect shot comes as Kirk and Spock descend into Engineering to try and safely capture Jim’s ‘dark’ self. I love how this shot is framed with the two characters conversing between the massive engines of the Starship Enterprise. There are many important duo’s in Star Trek, the most beloved of which is Kirk and Spock. Here we see the pair working together yet again to save not only the crew but Captain Kirk’s very existence. Trust me, it won’t be the last time.

Next we find out if beauty does indeed come in a pill, courtesy of “Mudd’s Women“.

One Perfect Shot: Star Trek’s ‘The Naked Time’

You were expecting Sulu with his rapier perhaps? When fans think of season one’s ‘The Naked Time’, the image that most likely comes to mind is indeed George Takei as Sulu in full Errol Flynn mode. For myself however, the episode is much better represented by the shot above where Spock struggles with his inner self after contracting the Psi 2000 virus. The story gave Leonard Nimoy the first notable opportunity in the series’ run for viewers to get a glimpse of the emotional struggles Spock faces as a half-vulcan, half-human being.

Spock stumbles into the briefing room and futilely attempts to get control of his emotions. Overcome with waves of sadness and anger, he clutches the computer, desperate to hold onto his logical, analytical side, both literally and figuratively. The sickness overcomes Spock until he witnesses how it has effected his friend and Captain, Jim Kirk. The amount of character development that goes on in this short scene is amazing and therefore earns a spot in my One Perfect Shot roster.

Next on the slate, two halves of Captain Kirk don’t necessarily make a whole in ‘The Enemy Within‘.

One Perfect Shot: TOS ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’

Originally filmed as the historic second pilot to Star Trek, ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before‘ is yet another story of humans acquiring god-like abilities. The episode re-used much of the production design from the original pilot of ‘The Cage’ including sets, costumes and props. DeForrest Kelly and Nichelle Nichols had not yet been cast as Dr. McCoy and Lt. Uhura and the show didn’t have its familiar opening narration, the last line of which comes from the title of this episode. Roddenberry pitched several scripts to NBC as the second pilot including ‘The Omega Glory’ and ‘Mudd’s Women’. In the end it was ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’ that caught the studio’s eye, probably due in-part to the knock-down fist fight between Kirk and Mitchell Gene specifically wrote to help sell the show as his “Wagon Train to the stars“.

Our perfect shot features Gary Lockwood as Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell and Sally Kellerman as Dr. Elizabeth Dehner staring at their eerie reflections as they realize they’ve evolved beyond normal humans. The other-worldly effect of the glowing eyes was achieved by sandwiching wrinkled tinfoil between two scleral contact lenses which covered the entire eye of the actors. Lockwood quickly discovered how extremely uncomfortable the lenses were and found he could only see if he tilted his head back, allowing him to peer out the tiny eye slits in the foil. To his credit, the actor used this to enhance his performance and gave Mitchell an increasingly arrogant gaze as his mutation eventually overtook him. For a time, fans speculated that Mitchell’s character might be the villain in the second J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek feature film Star Trek Into Darkness, but we all know who that turned out to be instead. :-)

Next on the slate, then Enterprise crew gets freaky-deaky in ‘The Naked Time‘.

One Perfect Shot: Star Trek’s ‘Charlie X’

Poor Charles Evans. Stranded on a planet of inter-dimensional aliens since the age of 3, Charlie had no one to teach him the finer social graces. The result is a self-centered teenager with the ability to bend the entire world to his will, kinda like Justin Bieber on psychic steroids. ‘Charlie X’ isn’t one of my favorite episodes of classic Star Trek, but I was surprised how difficult it was to select the one perfect shot. By this time in its production, Star Trek’s visual style had started to be defined. Blocking, lighting and pacing were starting to come together and the result makes ‘Charlie X’ more visually cohesive as a result.

I chose this single shot for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the gorgeous background that frames Charlie’s face, but also because it perfectly illustrates what the episode is all about. The lone teenager, flush with power and hormones, desperate for acceptance, daring Kirk to push him. Charlie gives off a creepy vibe throughout the story and this shot visualizes it to a tee.

Next time we go ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before‘.

One Perfect Shot: TOS ‘The Man Trap’

This episode of classic Star Trek always creeped me out as a kid, and with good reason. An alien creature who can assume the appearance of anyone, roaming the halls of the Enterprise in search of its next victim. The original series’ ‘The Man Trap’ oozes with mystery and horror and saves the best bit until the very end when the Nancy Crater, otherwise known as the Salt Vampire, reveals herself to the crew and the audience. Our perfect shot takes place just prior to that bizarre ending as Nancy has tossed Spock aside like a rag doll and has Captain Kirk firmly in her hypnotic gaze.

I always found it a bit of a stretch that Professor Crater could survive for almost two years alone on M-113 with Nancy and not get the salt sucked right out of him. Given how many crew members end up dead, you’d think her appetite was almost insatiable. Then again I guess it’s kinda like fasting for weeks, once you’re surrounded by food after having gone so long with so little, you kinda want to put your big pants on and sail right on into salt-town.

Next up is one of my least-favorite Star Trek episodes – ‘Charlie X‘. This should be interesting. :-/

One Perfect Shot: Star Trek’s ‘The Cage’

My good friend Dave Caolo has started something neat over on his Tumblr blog. He’s posting a definitive single frame or “shot” from each of episode of the classic TV show, The Twilight Zone and I gotta admit, it’s pretty cool. So cool in fact that Dave has inspired me to do the same with one of my all-time favorite TV shows, Star Trek: The Original Series. I’ll try to post one shot a day (although I’m pretty sure that won’t really happen) until I get through the entire three seasons. What I promise I will try and do is pick the most iconic, gorgeous and definitive shots from each of the 79 episodes of Star Trek and give a brief description of why I picked them.

Why Star Trek? Simply put, the show changed my life. It captured my imagination as a boy and never let go. Each week I journeyed to strange new worlds and in the process I became life-long friends with Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy. It inspired me to do well in school, be tolerant of people’s differences and dream big. So where do we begin? Why, at the beginning of course! Our first entry is from the Star Trek pilot “The Cage”. Considered “Too cerebral” by the network suits at NBC back in the day, “The Cage” didn’t originally air as the first episode of Trek, but was later re-cut into the first season, two-parter The Menagerie.

Our perfect shot is quintessential Star Trek, the sinister Talosian alien keeps a watchful eye over Captain Pike and the captured crash victim, Vina. I considered a shot of Vina herself as the iconic green Orion slave girl to represent ‘The Cage’ but the Talosian with his alien costume, throbbing cranium and classic Trek back-lighting won the honor. I can already tell it’s going to be difficult to pick a single frame to represent each episode of classic Star Trek, but at least it gives me an excuse to watch them all yet again in glorious HD. I hope you enjoy this series of posts, I think it’s going to be fun. Next up – ‘The Man Trap‘!

They Wouldn’t Know Good TV If It Shambled Up & Bit Them


SPOILER WARNING: This post contains spoilers for AMC’s The Walking Dead. If you’ve not watched the season 4 finale yet, back away from the blog post! I’m about to talk about stuff you probably don’t wanna know. You’ve been warned!

Last night I watched the season 4 finale of one of my favorite shows, AMC’s The Walking Dead and it did not disappoint. The show proved once again why I and other fans still enjoy tuning in week after week. The finale was a perfect blend of tense action, rich character development and satisfying resolutions with just enough un-answered questions to get us to return in October. Despite this, as I read some of the reviews of “A”, it’s apparent some critics feel The Walking Dead is about as exciting as one of its re-animated corpses.

The A.V. Club’s Zack Handlen rated the finale a meh-erific “B+”, lamenting the crucial flashbacks that gave Rick’s extreme cruelness on the dark road that much more bite. These flashbacks work, if for nothing else but to remind us of a time when Rick and Herschel had hope for the future, something that we’re constantly reminded has to be fought for. I enjoyed seeing Herschel again and loved how the flashbacks acted as an important contrast for what the group experiences when they finally reach Terminus.

Meanwhile, over at TV.com, reviewer Tim Surette called the finale a “pretty crummy season-ender” that was anti-climatic and would have served better as the penultimate entry. Personally, I think Tim’s off his apocalyptic rocker. The finale HAD to end with the arrival at Terminus anything less would have been anti-climatic. This was the mistake Game of Thrones made last season by not making The Red Wedding the finale it deserved to be. Critics like Zack and Tim have missed the entire point of S4′s journey not to mention dramatic plot structure and it’s pissing me off.

Critics often take stabs at The Walking Dead when the show veers into character studies with “nothing happening” in the zombie department. The thing is however that in order for us to care about what happens to these characters, we need down time with them to learn where they came from and what drives them. Season 4′s mini-stories have been great at letting viewers get inside the heads of characters like Darryl, Carol, Tyreese and Michonne. The Walking Dead’s terrifying moments can’t possibly hold our attention unless we emotionally invest in Rick, Carl, Maggie and the others week after week. One of the ways we invest are through quiet scenes like the one in “A” between Rick and Darryl as they sit against the car. Rick finally tells Darryl that he is his “brother”, something the audience has felt for a long time but Rick’s never come out and said. In this moment, the audience is rewarded in spades because we all know Darryl is far more Rick’s brother than Shane ever was. It was a brilliant and satisfying emotional moment and I loved it.

Other highlights included the foreshadowing of the rabbit snare and the one at Terminus, Michonne and Carl’s “monster” exchange in the forest and Rick “hulking-out” on Joe’s gang, gutting the guy who was about to rape his son. Here we are reminded yet again just what lengths Rick is willing to go to to protect Carl and the others in his “family”. It was a visceral, heart-pounding scene worthy of the finale as was Rick’s parting line “They’re screwing with the wrong people.” When he exclaimed that, I practically jumped from the couch, yelling “F*ck YEAH!“.

One day, The Walking Dead will cease to be exciting. We’ll have had enough of the hopelessness, enough of the roaming hoards eating the characters we love. For some the show seems to have jumped the zombie shark long ago, but for fans like myself, there are lots of stories left to tell, more secrets to be revealed and tons of brains left to eat. As far as I’m concerned, the undead (and the critics) can bite me!

Fox’s Cosmos Isn’t About False ‘Balance’

degrassetysonquote_science_fullI really had to do a double-take when I read last week that the creationist group Answers in Genesis recently complained Fox’s prime-time science show, Cosmos, lacks scientific “balance”. The group criticized host Neil deGrasse Tyson and the creative team behind the show because it provides no alternatives to the theories of evolution or the Big Bang for like-minded fundamentalists like themselves. The irony is so thick in this story you could cut it with a knife. For those people who continually ignore the scientific method and established facts about our world and universe to suddenly complain because they themselves are being ignored is nothing short of poetic justice. What makes it even better is that Cosmos would indeed cover the creationist viewpoint if there was any scientific substance to it what-so-ever, but there isn’t.

Creationism is not science, it’s religion pure and simple. There is nothing that can be quantified, tested or proven when it comes to religion, by definition it’s a matter of faith. If science could be applied to the concept of an all-knowing intelligent designer, it certainly would have been, but it cannot and so a portion of religious believers cry foul. What I think truly irks them however is not simply being left out, but being excluded from such a genuine media event as Cosmos. Such science series air pretty much weekly on the Discovery Channel, the National Geographic Channel, the Science Channel and others but we hardly hear so much of a peep from the hard right as we have now. The fact the reboot of Sagan’s science series airs on a major network such as Fox, and in prime-time to such critical and popular success is the straw that broke the creationist’s camel’s back.

As far as I’m concerned Danny Faulkner and his creationists group have as much right to complain about not being given air time on Cosmos as flat-earthers have on the NASA channel. Evolution is a proven scientific theory. It happened and is still happening today. It has withstood decades of rigorous tests and is the fundamental foundation of all biology on earth. I’m personally tired of the pressure put upon the media by conservatives to give false balance to any and all issues in today’s society. 2 + 2 isn’t 5, men really did set foot on the moon and the earth isn’t a mere 6,000 years old. If you cannot understand those simple scientific facts, change the channel, Cosmos isn’t your cup of scientific tea.

UPDATE: The creationists are back after last night’s episode dealing with Edmond Halley and the origins of comets. Yes, they apparently even have an issue with the science behind comets. All kinds of problems arise when your belief system centers around young earth creationism. Anyway, head on over to Mother Jones to read more about it.

The Big Bang Theory Expands


SPOILER WARNING: This post contains minor spoilers for CBS’ Big Bang Theory. If you’re not caught up on season 7, you might not want to read. Then again maybe you’re okay with it. It’s up to you. What I’m saying here is you’ve been warned!


One of my all-time favorite TV shows, The Big Bang Theory, has been picked up for not just one, but three additional seasons. Yesterday CBS announced the multi-season deal to the delight of geeks everywhere. It’s really not surprising considering “Big Bang” has been ranked as the No. 1 sitcom since the 2010-11 season, and continues to hold the top spot in key demographics for the second straight year. Drawing that many key viewers each week is a huge deal for Big Bang and I wish the show continued success, although I do have some reservations.

Writing a weekly sitcom is a massive challenge but none more so than keeping the plot lines fresh and interesting. Ten seasons is a *ton* of stories to tell and even though the cast expanded to seven actors a few years back, there’s only so many character dynamics they can introduce. This year’s stories between Penny and Leonard have sometimes seemed forced and even mean-spirited. Leonard’s wavering support of Penny’s career in The Hesitation Ramification really didn’t bode well for their relationship and was rough to watch. Then we have Sheldon and Amy. Their relationship has moved forward a great deal this season including their very first kiss in The Locomotion Manipulation, but if the show is to survive they need to grow even further. The trick for the writers is not to jump the Shamy shark too soon. We’re all waiting for the episode where Amy and Sheldon finally have “coitus” as Sheldon would say, but once it happens where do they go from there? Will the so-called “Big Bang” be anti-climatic once it finally happens? And what about Howard and Bernadette? Their stories seem to have been put on the back burner lately, hopefully with 3 new seasons we’ll see more of them and maybe even a glimpse at Howard’s mom. And don’t get me started on Raj, that poor boy.

As a fan I’m delighted that my favorite comedy will be around for years to come. I especially enjoy this year’s guest stars like Bill Nye and Bob Newhart, I hope we see more of them. If anyone can continue to give us stories that make us laugh, squee with geeky delight and tear up week after week, it’s the Big Bang team. I know a lot of people don’t like the show and it’s over-the-top style, studio audience howling and nerd-centric jokes. But for those of us who tune in each week, The Big Bang Theory brightens our day, eases our stress and let’s us see a little bit of our geeky selves in the lives of Dr. Sheldon Cooper and Lenoard Hofstadter. It’s like a comforting, warm beverage served up by a close, funny friend and who doesn’t like that?

The Worf of Starfleet

I love this fan trailer for The Worf of Starfleet for a couple reasons. First, it’s just well made. It makes Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation look totally bad-ass. Second, it highlights how badly Next Generation wants to be shown in widescreen. Seeing the TV show formatted like this makes it 1000x more epic. It’s a shame the new blu ray discs of Next Generation are still formatted 4:3 for the small screen, but that’s not their fault. Next generation really was before its time. In the meantime, you can never have enough honor. Enjoy!

(hat tip @davidcaolo for the link)

The Cosmic Voyage Begins

I first wrote about the upcoming reboot of Carl Sagan’s landmark PBS series, Cosmos, back in July of 2013. To say I’ve been waiting patiently is an understatement. The new series is set to air this Sunday night, March 9th at 9pm and is hosted by noted astronomer Neil DeGrasse Tyson. The trailers we’ve seen over the last few months look impressive and both Fox and the show’s producers have been in full PR mode on Twitter and social media promoting the series premiere.

When the series first aired back in 1980 I was enthralled by its scope and soaked up every bit of spacey goodness in the 13 part series. Like the original, the new Cosmos series promises to take us both to the far reaches of the universe as well as examine the human condition right here on Earth. We’ll examine how life on our planet started, where we’re headed and beyond. As I’ve learned about this new series I’ve gained a new respect for producer, Seth McFarlane who was also a huge fan of the original series and wanted to help bring its message of discovery to a whole new generation. The fact that he and Ann Druyan, Sagan’s widow, were able to convince Fox to broadcast Cosmos during prime time is nothing less than a minor miracle. I sincerely hope fans everywhere tune and and prove to Fox their faith in an educational series in the meat of their line-up was not misplaced.

Tyson and McFarlane have said that the series contains a bounty of new information about our universe so this won’t simply be a re-telling of Carl’s original journey. The series will draw inspiration from his teachings but the state of human knowledge has advanced considerably in the last 30 years so there should be plenty of new ground to explore. I also hope that the show’s creators take their time and explain complex concepts in ways that average people can understand. One of the best parts of the original Cosmos were segments when Sagan would simply sit and tell a historic story or explain the origins of complex theories like evolution or the formulation of the Drake Equation. I’m really hoping the new Cosmos isn’t edited like a music video, going from cut to cut trying to keep kids from losing interest in the face of all that science.

As a fan I’m glad our wait is finally over and the journey is about to begin. Tyson and company have some huge shoes to fill but something tells me they’ll do just fine. If you’re a fan of science, NASA, the human condition or you are looking for a great way to spend some time with your kids, tune into Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey this Sunday night on Fox. Then be sure to leave a comment here and let me know how you liked it.

UPDATE: You can now buy the soundtrack to Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey by Alan Silvestri on iTunes. Cool!