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Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Aliens: Special Edition

Written by:James Cameron|Directed by:James Cameron|Release Date:1986

This week on Sci-Fi Adventures I'm going to go through James Cameron's legendary sci-fi action thriller sequel Aliens! Because 20th Century Fox have decided that the 26th of April is now 'Alien Day', and that's enough of an excuse for me to give it a rewatch. I suppose it would've made more sense to watch Alien today and save Aliens for its 30th anniversary in July, but that idea occurred to me a little too late unfortunately. Maybe I'll watch Alien later and sneakily swap the post dates around... no one will ever notice.

I already watched the movie last April as research for my 'Aliens: Colonial Marines' review on Super Adventures, so I was thinking I'd put the theatrical cut on instead this time and save myself some work. But that doesn't seem right when the Special Edition is considered the definitive version by basically everyone, especially James Cameron and Sigourney Weaver who weren't that happy when 14 minutes of their movie got sliced out. Sometimes a 'director's cut' is just a re-edit purely for the sake of selling the same movie twice, but Fox had the theatrical version of Aliens cut down so that cinemas could fit more screening in each day, so this is a restoration of its true form. All two and a half hours of it.

Like always I'll be going through the whole damn movie, writing my thoughts underneath DVD screencaps and throwing out massive SPOILERS all over the place, for this film and the original Alien. I won't spoil a thing about Alien3 onwards though, no matter how tempted I am to go into a rant.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Doctor Who 9-02: The Witch's Familiar

Episode:816|Serial:254|Writer:Steven Moffat|Air Date:26-Sep-2015

This week on Sci-Fi Adventures I'm writing all kinds of words about The Witch's Familiar, the second half of The Magician's Apprentice.

The weird thing about this year of Doctor Who is that it's almost entirely made up of two parters. Classic Doctor Who was all about the serialisation and when it came back to TV last decade in a new format it still managed to fit a few two parters in each series, but from 2012 to 2014 it shunned serials and stuck with standalone episodes almost exclusively, so the return of the cliffhanger is a bit of a surprise.

Personally I think this can go either way, because some of the best episodes of the show have been two parters (like The Empty Child, The Impossible Planet and Silence in the Library), but Doctor Who's kind of all over the place in quality and I don't much like the idea of being trapped in a bad story for two parts.

Anyway my writings will be filled with all kinds of SPOILERS for this two parter, but nothing that comes after it. I'll discuss the future when I get there.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 1-03: Past Prologue

Episode:3|Writer:Katharyn Powers|Air Date:10-Jan-1993

This week on Sci-Fi Adventures, the sci-fi continues with the first normal length episode of Deep Space Nine. Well the first one aired anyway, as A Man Alone was filmed first. Sometimes TV series move a later episode forward like this so that they can make a better first impression and show off the cast when they're more comfortable in their roles, so that's my theory for what happened here.

I knew a lot about Emissary going in, but I remember next to nothing about Past Prologue, except that it has flashbacks in it... maybe. It could be an early gem that's slipped my mind or it could be utterly unworthy of being stored in my brain cells, I don't know. I haven't even checked the plot summary on the box.

One thing I do know though is that my writing is going to be filled with SPOILERS for the entire episode (but nothing that aired after it), so stop here if that bothers you.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Doctor Who 9-01: The Magician's Apprentice

Episode:814|Serial:254|Writer:Steven Moffat|Air Date:20-Sep-2015

This week on Sci-Fi Adventures I'm spoiling the hell out of The Magician's Apprentice, episode 3 billion and 1 of Doctor Who.

The Magician's Apprentice kicks off year two of Peter Capaldi's time in the role of the Twelfth Doctor, who's actually the thirteenth incarnation of the renegade Time Lord because of reasons. The backstory gotten a bit convoluted and confusing at this point, so this is probably not the ideal place for a newbie to jump in. But the series has been running on and off since 1963 so it's a train you really have to catch in motion somewhere.

Me though, I'm very familiar with the mythology and continuity of the Doctor Who universe. Well I've been watching it since Matt Smith took over at least, plus I went back to check out a few of the David Tennant episodes and a bit of Eccleston. But this season (or series I suppose) will all be new to me, so you'll be getting my first impressions and utter cluelessness about where it's all going. My plan is to go through the entirety of series 9 in order and then after that I'll decide if I want to keep writing about the show. Fortunately Doctor Who has taken an entire year off and won't be back until spring 2017, so there's no rush!

I'll be going through the episode almost scene by scene, dropping SPOILERS and discussing every tiny thing that happens in it, so I wouldn't go any further unless you've either already seen the episode before or you'd rather just read about it.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Babylon 5 1-01: Midnight on the Firing Line

Episode:1|Writer:J. Michael Straczynski|Air Date:26-Jan-1994

Today on Sci-Fi Adventures, I'm spoiling the hell out of the first proper episode of sci-fi epic Babylon 5, Midnight on the Firing Line! I wrote about the feature length pilot The Gathering last week, but season 1 starts here.

The thing about Babylon 5 is that it doesn't get a massive amount of respect, so DVDs are still probably the best/only way to watch the series right now/forever. It doesn't seem like anyone wants to stream it any more and they definitely don't want to give us a HD remaster on Blu-Ray, and that's a bit of a shame really considering how historically important the series is. It pioneered the use of CGI on a live action television show! It helped popularise the use of serialisation outside of soap operas! Plus it proved that US sci-fi series didn't need to have Star Trek in the title to succeed (which is something that Enterprise probably shouldn't have taken to heart).

Looking back it seems that Star Trek: The Next Generation and its spin-offs practically had a monopoly on TV space opera for most of the 90s. But there were more sci-fi shows back then than you'd think; they just didn't last more than a season (because they were crap). Babylon 5 on the other hand had a complete five year run and told its entire planned story arc, with a proper ending and everything! It even had a bunch of spin-off sci-fi series of its own... they just didn't last more than a season (because they were crap).

The way this is going to work is I'm going to do a full recap with screencaps, sharing my opinions and observations along the way. So this is going to going to have as many SPOILERS as I can pack into it, but only for this episode and The Gathering. I won't be mentioning future events, I won't be hinting at what prophecies pan out, and I definitely won't be pointing at all the subtle foreshadowing and going "look at this, it's subtle foreshadowing, pay attention to it!"

(Click the screencaps to view them at 1024x576 res.)

Friday, 8 April 2016

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 1-02: Emissary, Part II

This is the second and final part of my Emissary article. You can go to part one by clicking the text that says 'part one' here: Part one.

WARNING: THIS IS BASICALLY ALL SPOILERS.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 1-01: Emissary, Part I

Episode:1|Writer:Michael Piller|Air Date:03-Jan-1993

This week on Sci-Fi Adventures I'm watching Emissary, the very first episode of the second Star Trek spin-off, Deep Space Nine!

Not to be confused with The Emissary, which was a second season episode of the first Star Trek spin-off, Star Trek: The Next Generation. That was the one where they stuck Worf's ex into a torpedo and fired her off into deep space because some grumpy old Klingons were waking up, or something. It's not important right now.

I've seen almost all of Deep Space Nine before, though it's been a while now and I've only seen it once so what I have in my head may not match what I see on the screen. In fact I'm hoping it doesn't, as I remember this leading into the worst season of Star Trek since the first year of Next Gen. But I've got a season one box set sitting here, so whether it's good, bad or terrible you'll be getting that much out of me at least. I'll put up a new review every two weeks or so, and then decide what happens next when I run out.

Sadly DVD's still the best quality we've got at the moment, transferred from old low-res tapes, but I'm hoping by watching all these fuzzy interlaced episodes with their sparkling cross colour artefacts I'll be tempting fate into giving the series a proper HD release like the Original Series and Next Gen got. And the movies. And the bloody Animated Series!

If scrolling through 50 images with spoilers underneath each doesn't appeal, then maybe just skip to the review at the end of part 2. Then you can tell me what a big mistake this all was in the comments.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Babylon 5: The Gathering - Special Edition

Written by:J. Michael Straczynski|Original Version Air Date:22-Feb-1993

This week on Sci-Fi Adventures I'll be going through the feature length pilot episode for J. Michael Straczynski's science fiction TV epic Babylon 5! Though I'm going to be calling him JMS, because it's easier to type and I don't think he'll mind.

In fact I've decided to commit to finishing the entire first season and maybe more after that if watching 22 episodes of first season Babylon 5 doesn't utterly break my spirit. I've done the maths, and if I get through an episode every two weeks I'll be able to hit Severed Dreams in time for the 25th anniversary! I'll also be writing about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine simultaneously as it doesn't seem right to watch one without the other. The two arch-rival space station shows actually aired their pilots just a month apart, though this had spent so long getting off the ground it was actually written before Star Trek: The Next Generation began in 1987. Then there was another gap before the series proper began airing, giving DS9 a year's head start.

I had to buy the 1998 TNT special edition of the movie on DVD, because it seems that someone's taped over my VHS version with a snow storm. It's probably for the best though, as the special edition has extra scenes, a tighter editing job, and a new soundtrack (plus it's way easier to get screencaps from). Also I'm hoping that if I spend enough money on B5 DVDs the gods of irony will torment me with a sudden announcement that high-definition Blu-Rays are finally being produced and I have to buy them all again. The horror.

Okay I'm going to pretty much go through the whole movie scene by scene, so if 50 images with SPOILERS under each holds no appeal to you, you're not going to want to click "Read on". I'll only be ruining the pilot though; there'll be zero discussion of anything revealed in episodes aired afterwards.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The Director's Edition

Written by:Harold Livingston|Directed by:Robert Wise|Release Date:1979

Good news everyone! Today on Sci-Fi Adventures I'm going to improve the internet by posting a few thousand extra words about Star Trek: The Motion Picture, padded out with pictures of people in beige staring at a cloud.

I love that this is called 'The Motion Picture' by the way. It's not a film or a movie, it's a motion picture, it's about something, it cost money. A feature film based on a TV series starring the same cast isn't unheard of, but they're rarely set up to be the next 2001: A Space Odyssey. They even got Robert Wise, the guy who made The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Andromeda Strain, to direct it. Which kind of explains why it looks like The Andromeda Strain now that I think about it.

There were a few attempts during the 70s to bring Trek back in some form, but this particular project started life as Star Trek: Phase II, a television series starring most of the same cast (minus Leonard Nimoy) intended to launch a new fourth US TV network. But someone decided the pilot script had movie potential and there were soon bigger plans in play. From what I've heard the series was actually cancelled within a month of being announced, but they had to let pre-production roll along for almost a year while they got the movie deals in place. Of course the film was expected to pay for all the work done on the false starts along the way, which made it seem even more wildly over-budget than it actually was. The most expensive movie ever made at the time in fact, aside from maybe Superman. But you couldn't call it flop; if you adjust for ticket price inflation it's actually right up there with the J.J. Abrams movies.

You'd think this leap to cinemas was inspired by the success of Star Wars, but it was apparently much the opposite. I read that Paramount believed they'd missed their chance because everyone had already spent their money on one big sci-fi movie and wouldn't want to see two of them in just a few years! That's why they were making Phase II instead. But the massive success of Close Encounters of the Third Kind that same year made it clear that science fiction had a future.

Anyway this is going to be 50 images separated by SPOILERS for the entire motion picture, so either mentally prepare yourself for that ordeal, or bail now. You can tell me what a huge mistake this was in the comments box underneath.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Written by:Al Reinert, Jeff Vintar|Directed by:Hironobu Sakaguchi|Release Date:2001

Welcome to Ray Hardgrit's Sci-Fi Adventures, review #001: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

My past self thought it'd be a great idea to start a new website about science fiction movies and TV shows in addition to the Super Adventures site I already have going, but now it's me, my present day self, that's stuck writing content for it! Still, there's nothing more sci-fi than starting a spin-off.

Speaking of beginnings, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was the debut movie from Square Pictures, the video game company's new computer animated film division. And it was also the last, because it bombed so hard. They'd would only work on one more project, the Final Flight of the Osiris short for the Animatrix, before being shut down. I guess if you keep using 'Final' in your titles it will eventually come true.

I'm not sure the movie failed because it was based on a video game though, because I've seen this before and I know full well that it ain't based on any 'Final Fantasy' games I've played. But this isn't a case of a movie studio taking a brand name and doing their own thing with it, as it was conceived and directed by 'Final Fantasy' creator Hironobu Sakaguchi himself! His very first film in fact, and also his last.

Despite its utter failure, Spirits Within was a pretty important milestone in cinema, as it's the first full-length 'photorealistic' motion captured animated movie. A proper big-budget serious cartoon aimed at adults starring humans, four years in the making! To give it a bit of context, it came out 6 years after Toy Story (the first full length CG movie) and around the same time that 'Final Fantasy X' hit the PlayStation 2. So yes, it really is 15 years old at the time I'm writing this.

(I'm basically going to go ahead and spoil this entire movie one scene at a time now, so please stop right here unless you're okay with that).