SF Obscure: Children of the Stones

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Children of the Stones is a 1977 television drama for children produced by ITV network. I know of this show mainly because of the late Gareth Thomas. So, I decided to watch it because I had heard good things about it.

Astrophysicist Adam Brake and his son Matthew go to a village called Millbury which has a megalithic circle of stones in the middle of it. (It’s filmed on the prehistoric monument of Avebury) Things get strange as soon as they arrive. First of all, the housekeeper and neighbors all seem abnormally happy. Matthew has strange feelings of evil and is immediately hostile towards the new neighbor. His father chides him, but Matthew can’t help but feel something is wrong. We later learn that Matthew has some psychic abilities and this is why he reacts the way he does.

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When Matthew goes to school he soon discovers the other children are doing high level science and math well beyond the school years. Matthew makes a few friends at school who are still ‘normal’ like him. They warn him that the  neighbors are slowly being changed and this is connected to the stones and the mysterious town leader. There is a heady mix of black holes, time paradoxes, and weird paranormal history in a short miniseries. At time, Children of the Stones is frightening. There are only seven episodes but I had a good time watching it.

Sure, it’s rather low budget, (yeah, the clothes are dated) but it’s well-acted and the writing is solid. Plus, this is a show that treats children as if they are capable of understanding complex ideas. There is no dumbing down to sell something. At the same time, the father-son relationship is convincingly done.

There is also a novelization of the story which you can find in paperback and e-book.

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SF Obscure: Moonbase 3

I haven’t abandoned SF Obscure. In fact, good things may be on the horizon.

But a short note about two shows set on space stations Moonbase 3 and Space Island One.

Normally, when I consider shows set on space stations I immediately think of my two favorites Babylon 5 and Deep Space Nine. Drama. Humans. Aliens. Interstellar Wars. It’s space opera and the closest I am likely to come to a soap opera. And the relationships: Worf /Jadzia; Sisko/Yates;Kira/Odo. And the epic Babylon 5 romance of Sheridan and Delen.

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Moonbase 3  has no alien romance, I’m afraid, but lots of interesting science. This series was produced in 1973 by the BBC. The main reason I heard about it was because of the theme song by Dudley Simpson who also wrote the theme for Blake’s 7. It only lasted for six episodes-there wasn’t much  interest-but it’s good in the sense of looking back at how 1973 saw the future of space exploration.

The setting was 2003, in which several countries have various space stations. Moonbase 3 is the British moonbase, with a Russian and American base there also. Some of the plots revolve around the competing interests of the Russians, Americans, and British. The main character is Dr. David Caulder, Deputy Director LeBrun, and a psychiatrist, Dr. Helen Smith.

And is does present some interesting ideas. It is a slightly dark show-many of the episodes focus on psychological breakdowns of some sort-given the isolation from Earth; the stress of living conditions; hysteria that makes sense. Still, I can see how audiences would feel the show was somewhat of a downer compared to the usual SF fare.

It is dated, mainly in looking at gender relations. Lots of sexual comments that probably wouldn’t be given a pass nowadays; and one disturbing incidence of sexual assault which is never really confronted. Modern shows (new Battlestar) were direct in approaching the topic of sexual violence and was supposed to make you uncomfortable. This just made me uncomfortable because nothing was done about it.

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Moonbase 3 was the inspiration for a later series Space Island One. This 1998 series was a joint effort between UK and Germany that focused on a international group of scientist on a space station. Like Moonbase 3, it tends to be heavy on the science and the relationships among crew members in an isolated environment.

I wonder if it is possible to sustain a realistic series about a space station. Earlier I reviewed Star Cops, another short lived show with ‘real’ space travel. Although, I find it fascinating, the restrictions of real science do make it difficult to have the drama that one gets used to in more adventurous SF shows. Most of science fiction tv is fiction. But, without those fiction shows, it’s hard to get people supportive of real science and space exploration. Star Trek may not be real, but it inspires a lot of people.

 

 

 

 

 

SF OBSCURE: New show summer

Stuff I’ve watched the long, hot days of summer.

Howdy! I thought I’d share a few new shows that I gave a shot this summer. I’ve been doing lots of re-watches actually. Since it’s the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and Star Trek Beyond doesn’t premiere in Japan until October I’ve consoled myself with a re-watch of my favorite Trek series Deep Space Nine. (I might blog about that, I’m up to season 4.) But I did get some time to watch a few newer shows. And here goes my reviews.

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Minority Report

I wanted to like Minority Report. I really did. I wanted to cheer for a Black female heroine and I even enjoyed the movie. But the show. Well. It didn’t quite come together for me. Most of the first episode is explaining the premise of the movie and showing off cool futuristic stuff. High techie DNA stuff;  Mobile drone scanners for crime scenes; and lots of infrared doodads. It’s cool, I guess. (Of course, I don’t understand why a unit of police detectives and crime scene analysts need a special infra red motion detector to find a kid hiding in a closet. I mean, wouldn’t trained police officers know how to secure a scene by opening a closet door???) And every woman in the future wears lots of latex, high heels, and low cut tops and have the money to go to trendy, upscale bars and have gorgeous, lavish apartments on a cop salary.

But I digress.

It’s mainly just boring. Nothing really happens that matters. The whole set up is that the cop and the leftover psychic are supposed to stop crimes from happening, but the characters are so one dimensional it’s hard to get interested in the crime.

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The Last Ship

There’s a military ship in the Artic on a mission. And the world is ending in a pandemic. No one is entirely sure of what is going on, including me, the viewer. The coolest thing about it is looking at all the equipment on a military vessel. According to Wikipedia, its a fictional U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer. The view of the ship and all the gadgets was the best part to me. The rest…not so much. There’s some standard grizzled military guys, the cliche couple, and a bunch of assorted military personnel who have one line each and drift away.  I don’t know. People love the series, and I may need to watch it in a better mood. I plan to try this one again.
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Lost Girl

I have fun with this series and just finishing up Season 2.  It features Bo the Succubus who is caught between her allegiance between the Light Fae and the Dark Fae. There is s hot werewolf guy Dyson. There are various standard paranormal features, though no major vampires. Lots of sex. It’s a city that has a population solely of attractive people. Though they do have some neat takes on mythical creatures. The best characters are Bo’s best friend, Kenzi and Dyson’s best friend Hale. It’s not the deepest or most original show, but it’s entertaining.

 

Thoughts? Can you think in this weather?

SF Obscure: Electra Woman and Dyna Girl

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So, the new trailer is out for the Wonder Woman movie. I plan to see it. I never saw Superman vs Batman and Gal Gadot’s turn as Wonder Woman in it, so I am anxious to see what she does with the character. I am told she was a bright spot in a movie with a rather lukewarm reception. Henry Cavill is a good looking Superman, though I’m still on the fence about the rebooted Clark Kent on the whole. Anyway, thought of superheroes made me think of the original 1976 series Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.

The Krofft Supershow was a variety show aimed at children for saturday mornings. In the 1970’s variety shows were a big thing-for adults they featured comedy skits and musical performances. The Krofft Supershow featured fifteen minute live action shows of which Electra Woman and Dyna Girl was one.These shows were   low-budget, paint by the numbers projects. Cheap costumes. Wooden acting. Cardboard sets. Silly plot lines.  All there in ready abundance.
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Take for example, Bigfoot and Wildboy.  It’s about- you guessed it- Bigfoot who adopts a boy, “Wildboy” and thus they go on adventures. And by adventures, I mean each episode is clearly filmed with a handful of limited sets, one of which looks like a local public park. Bigfoot is obviously a man in a  costume.

Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, to be fair, was intended to be a parody. It was a homage  to the original Batman and Robin-and once you know that it does make it more entertaining than the other Kroftt Supershow shows. The premise focuses on two journalists, Lori/Electra Woman (Deidre Hall) and Judy/Dyna Girl (Judy Strangis) who investigate stories and as a result, must turn into their superheroine alter egos Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. The fight villains with names like Spider Lady and the Empress of Evil. They also have a really groovy song.

“Electra Woman and Dyna Girl / Fighting all evil deeds. / Each writes for a magazine / Hiding the life she leads. — Electra Woman and Dyna Girl — Summoned to Electra-base / By Electra-comps they wear. / Lori and Judy dare to face / Any criminal anywhere. — Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.”

I would tell you more about the shows except there really isn’t anything to tell. The plots are not terribly deep and only last fifteen minutes. It’s not building up to much, but it’s fun to watch them run around in costumes and use their ElectraComs. The ElectraComs are multifunctional devices Electra Woman and Dyna Girl wear on their wrists to give them special powers. (Electra-Vison, Electra-Vibe, Electra-Beam etc.)

Electra Woman and Dyna Girl have somewhat of a cult following. There was an attempt to reboot the series in 2001 with an unaired pilot you can easily find online. There are also the 2016 webisodes  starring Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart.

 

SF Obscure: Hyperdrive & Special Unit 2

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Hyperdrive was a comedy SF series that ran for two seasons on BBC. (2006-2007)  It’s set in the 22nd century and  follows the adventures of a crew on a ship the HMS Camden Lock who are there on behalf of the British government to represent its interests. It stars Nick Frost, known from Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz,  and his many collaborators with his friend Simon Pegg. It also stars Miranda Hart, whom I always enjoy. She’s done a lot of comedy, but is now probably more familiar to overseas audiences as Chummy in Call the Midwife.

As it’s a comedy show, about a crew of misfits. Captain Henderson is an idealist whose ability to lead is not always up to his ideals. Still, he manages to win most cases.  When he’s down he watches a show called Captain Helix which has all the ideals of intergalactic exploration he wishes were true. His First Officer is York (Kevin Eldon) who is always eager for a fight and wants to be an authoritarian leader; Diplomatic Officer Teal (Miranda York) whose not all that great at her job but very eager and has a crush on the captain. Navigator Vine (Stephen Evans) who dreams of the simpler times of the 1990’s. Technical Officer Jeffers (Dan Antopolski) who has little respect for the other officers and makes notes of their mistake. There is also Sandstorm (Petra Massey ) an enhanced human cyborg.

Most of the episodes surround diplomatic mistakes, first contact gone wrong, that kind of thing. It’s supposed to be a comedy show and I enjoyed it, even if the jokes were a bit predictable. It’s good for people who watch a lot of SF and know how to laugh at their enjoyment of it and its clear the writers do have a deep affection for the genre.
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Special Unit 2 was a two season show (2001-2002) on UPN. It follows a Chicago police division charged without the task of solving crimes involving creatures from mythology and folklore, called Links. Special Unit 2 is a more of a light hearted drama than strictly comedy, but its not meant to be a mysterious or dark show. It’s fun and that’s needed.

It follows detectives O’Malley (Michael Landes) and Benson (Alexondra Lee) as they solve crimes. There is also the police captain Page (Richard Gant) and the Link liaison, a gnome named  Carl (Danny Woodburn). (Jonathan Togo of CSI fame is in Season 2; as well as Pauley Perrette of NCIS) The headquarters of Special Unit 2 is located in a building with a laundromat as a facade.

It’s a fun show. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Hyperdrive. For some reason, even though its only 2001, it’s comes across as very dated. I guess the jokes were simply to contemporary and fall flat a bit. Still, it’s fun. I might give it another try.

SF Music: Interstella 5555 & Tron:Legacy

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about soundtracks, especially how they set the tone for movies esp. in SF. I recently purchased  The Force Awakens soundtrack and I am continually amazed by John Williams. (Personally I am fond of Rey’s Theme and Jedi Steps)

I love orchestral arrangements but there are other styles of music. I’ve always been fond of Daft Punk’s two contributions to SF soundtrack land. One is  the soundtrack to Tron: Legacy. I am going to admit, I am lukewarm on the film itself. (Ok, I feel asleep) but the soundtrack is amazing.

The other is Interstella 5555 which is actually a movie length anime for a Daft Punk album. It’s supervised by anime legend Leiji Matsumoto at his studio. The duo Daft Punk grew up with his anime and are fans, so it’s a tribute of sort. It also features collaboration with Romanthony a dj/producer/singer who passed away in 2013. The plot of Interstella 5555 concerns a group of musicians who are kidnapped and brainwashed into performing crappy, pop music until they are freed. It’s all done as a series of songs and no dialogue, but the animation is amazing and I enjoy watching.

I’m not a big anime fan nor an expert on Interstella 5555. Any anime I watch tends to be from  20 years ago or earlier for its classic value. There are people out there really devoted to  Interstella 5555.  Like, really, really devoted to the point of long tumblr posts that I can’t even follow. And don’t really want to. I can only take tumblr in small doses.

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If you aren’t familiar with Leiji Matsumoto you should watch some to round out your creative SF viewing palette.My personal favorite has always been Galaxy Express 999 set in a far future in which human souls are transferred to mechanical, immortal bodies of various types -if you can afford it. The rest of the world lives in misery in normal human bodies and it begins with a young man who sees his mother murdered as the desperately try to reach a space train (Galaxy Express 999 ) that can take them to get a free immortal machine body. It’s a multilayered tale and yes, kind of sad in many ways. I have seen episodes in the Japanese language version and the English subtitled version. (I think there is an English dubbed version of the movie, but I’m told it’s not very good. )

Anyone else have a soundtrack they love?

SF Obscure: The Invaders

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The Invaders ran from 1967 to 1968 for two seasons. It focused on the exploits of David Vincent, an architect who discovers a plan by aliens to invade Earth. His fears are confirmed when a colleague/friend is killed and he begins a desperate attempt to convince politicians, scientist, military etc of the truth. The truth is out there. Oh wait, wrong show. 30 years too early.

The planet of origin and the aliens true nature is never fully revealed-the fear lies in the fact that they can pass as human.Vincent  never knows who to fully trust and the aliens  are everywhere; using alien tech and infiltrating towns and military installations. Vincent does score some victories managing to convince the occasional scientist or military leader. But for most episodes he is on his own- tracking down news reports of sightings or odd, paranormal stories (like swarms of locusts suddenly attacking and killing). It’s not a story arc, but a journal  of adventures.

The Invaders was thematically inspired by  Invasion of the Body Snatchers and related genre films(including the Quatermass serials).  If you haven’t seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers you should. There are several versions. There’s the original 1956 version and the 1978 version; both are good. There a 1993 version which is apparently more of a horror film that I haven’t seen. The most recent is a 2007 Nicole Kidman/Daniel Craig version. I  prefer the 1956/1978 versions. The 2007 version amps up the action, special effects, and psuedo-science, but it’s just not as creepy. The power of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is not in the aliens or action; it was the mood of paranoia pushed forward by drama and dialogue. Slick special effects don’t amount to much if the themes are lost. There was also a short run series Invasion (2005-2006) which has a similar Invasion of the Body Snatchers plot. I remember watching it, though I have not seen it since. It is available on DVD.

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Anyway, back to The Invaders…

Many have analyzed this show and similar SF under the prism of Cold War fears of the 1960’s-communist infiltrators lurking everywhere. People fear the unknown; the complexity of the world is often overwhelming. SF stories like these provide an temporary few hours in which we have an ‘ explanation’ for the problems of the world.  Plus a lone wolf character like David Vincent against evil forces appeals to our sense of heroic. Like David Vincent, we are special; we have secrets the rest of the world doesn’t know; we are key players in a larger drama.

So, it’s worth a watch. A few episodes drag a bit-I often wondered if it would have done better as a half hour show, because the full hour is often stretched with lots of walking around and looking pensive with little forward plot movement. It’s still  a good show to watch and round out your classic SF TV viewing.

 

SF Obscure: The wishlist Roundup

A repost from Smart Girls of my must see shortlist.

Smart Girls love SciFi

Since it’s summer once again, it’s time  to I hunt down the really obscure classics or try to sample B/C list  shows and see how many episodes I can survive. This time around I decided to make a list of those shows which I have not seen, but added to my wishlist. Most are only on limited DVD runs.  Based on cloudy memories jarred by  the vast world of YouTube, I  tracked down a stray episodes, or a set of clips, or an old commercial to remind me of their existence. Here are a select few.

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This 1998-1999 show stars Joe Morton as Dr. Maxwell one of a crew of medical personnel on a hospital space station in the 23rd century. The stations treats the medical needs of humans and aliens. And there is also an android nurse. The show only lasted eight episodes, but apparently there was…

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SF Obscure: Space 1999

Smart Girls love SciFi

250px-Space1999_Year1_TitleSpace 1999 is one of those shows its taken me a while to write about because it’s taken me a a while to go through all the episodes. Don’t get me wrong- I don’t dislike it; as a matter of fact there are many things about it to like. Martin Landau. Maya is Season 2. The music. Lots of guest stars that have been on other series.

I have a great deal of respect for Gerry Anderson’s ground breaking SF work. “Supermarionation” the marionette style that is used in Anderson show is legend. I know people who swear by The Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlett.  I also covered Space Precinct which is, admittedly, campy but had some moments and an interesting concept even if the execution didn’t turn out so well.

But back to Space 1999.

Space 1999 is a British SF show from 1975 set in the high tech…

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SF Obscure: Galactica 1980

Smart Girls love SciFi

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Hi out there Smart Girls Readers!  I was thinking about Battlestar Galactica and the fact that fans are often split between lovers of the original and lovers of the newer version.  For those not familiar with the Battlestar Galactica universe, it concerns the remains of a human population in a fleet under the flagship Galactica fighting for survival against the Cylons. Adama, Boomer, Baltar, Starbuck, Apollo…the names are familiar even as the ethnic backgrounds and genders change. And which model Cylons you like is a matter of preference.

There is one other version that gets overlooked and willfully forgotten- Battlestar Galactica 1980. It ran for  ten episodes.  In this version, the Galactica Fleet has arrived at Earth but  Earth is not technologically advanced enough to take on the Cylons.  Galactica heroes Captain Troy and Lt. Dillon are sent to Earth to assess the situation.  This involves time travel to Nazi…

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