By Dan Ortiz
For a franchise known for exploring the unknown, Star Trek made another big leap in the most recent episode of Star Trek Discovery: “Forget Me Not” marked a franchise-first in showing a romance between a non-binary character (Adira, played by Blu del Barrio) and a trans actor (Ian Alexander).
Del Barrio and Alexander play two young Trill characters - Star Trek’s race of humanoids that exist as human hosts to symbiont lifeforms that retain the host’s memories and characteristics as the symbiont passes from host to host.
The Trill have long been a part of the Star Trek universe, most notably in the form of long-running Deep Space Nine character Jadzia Dax (Terry Ferrell) who later took the form of Ezri Dax. However, the Trill began back in 1991’s Next Generation episode “The Host” which presented the Trill as a deeply complex race with a unique lineage and characteristics that would shape not just Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, but future generations of Star Trek to come.
Creator of the Trill and writer of “The Host,” Michel Horvat, took some time to reflect on the creation of the Trill in “The Host” and what they meant not just for that episode but for Star Trek as a whole.
Q: Where did the idea for the Trill come from initially? Did you originally envision that the Trill would eventually become a lens through which Star Trek could further explore complex issues of sexuality, gender, and identity?
Horvat: I had a saltwater aquarium. I was fascinated by the symbiotic relationship my fish and my cleaner shrimp displayed as one cleaned the other and the other provided a food source from itself while getting cleaned. Mutually beneficial. That got me thinking about us as humans and the sides of ourselves that we fight or with which we cooperate.
Couple that with my own sexuality, acceptance thereof, and struggles therein. I also had a name that was French for the first 10 years of my life. I was born of European parents in Chile and went to French school. Then, we came to the United States, and all of a sudden I was deemed to have a "girl's name” after that. It was not easy navigating people's ignorance, cruelty, and prejudice. (A Boy Named Sue). In many ways, I felt like a fish out of water which prepped me to explore these themes.
Perhaps like Jamal Malik, the main character in "Slumdog Millionaire," my entire life and formative years contributed to the moment where I was uniquely placed to create this species, just as the main character's entire life was uniquely built around having just the right answers when it came time to play the game. Perhaps the uniqueness of my experience allowed my creativity to flourish in this way and to come up with The Trill.
I remember thinking of the Walt Whitman quote from the epic poem "Song Of Myself": "I contain multitudes..." There was something there. So, my thinking was what if a joint species has found peace in both parts of itself and has found a deeper understanding of those parts by virtue of their interchangeability and that they (The Trill) accept that very interchangeability and concentrate on what is immutable? The memories the emotions, the relationships...these elements as the essence of self and not the body?
However, the overriding importance as a writer at the time was challenging the series regulars to face parts of themselves that would further reveal their humanity and allow the show to move forward with the growth that comes from that. That’s what made The Next Generation special, it challenged us by challenging them, so we became more invested in their struggles.
I noticed that Crusher had lacked an engaging story involving her personal life for quite a while - if at all - and I also knew, having seen all episodes thus far, that Riker and Crusher had played only casual scenes together. So, those avenues had never been explored. As such, I fought to have Crusher and Riker be forced into a situation that they would normally never be in. It was all about the emotional engagement of the series regulars through an external influence. The Trill was the device.
Q: Once Odan’s symbiont was implanted into Riker, Odan was challenged with convincing the people of Alpha and Beta moons with accepting Riker as Odan. Was that intentional as an allegory to societal acceptance - the feeling that queer people regardless of label or, in this case, a host are ‘still the same’ inside?
Horvat: Precisely. While I may not have articulated that to myself at that time, it was all about accepting the changing form of Odan (the name was an intentionally slightly changed Adam – the first male in the Bible). This was step one of dismantling the self into another self. When Alphans and Betans saw that Odan was “still in there” they relented. His skill as an ambassador overrode his external representation and perhaps their initial prejudice melted away.
Likewise, with Crusher, I used a writing convention of holding a particular and precise wording to signify that Odan was “still in there.” His calling Crusher “Dr. Beverly” was not just an endearing non-sequitur, it was a specific writing device and the most efficient method of instantly signaling that Odan resided in Riker and ultimately in Kareel. The moment you heard any of the actors use “Dr. Beverly” you knew that the essence of Odan was preserved and present. Also, as a Trill, he did not concentrate or care about lineage (a last name) but only of the individual. It was a particularly Trill idiosyncrasy.
Q. Dr. Crusher is initially angry with Odan for him “not telling her what he was” - Odan responds that “this is what I am,” and asks Dr. Crusher why she never revealed to him that she was only a single being. Could you please explain your thinking behind Odan making this point?
Horvat: For Odan, being a joint symbiont was as natural as humans having a body and also a mind. Now Odan did not want to disclose why exactly he did not want to beam down to the planet, but that was about being protective of the symbiont joining and its delicate structure and being leery of the beaming technology and its possible effect on the symbiont. Again, another device to add intrigue to what he might be hiding. Hinting at possible nefariousness, as it were. After all, I placed Odan’s undulating tummy scene where something is lurking under the surface right before the commercial break. You gotta love a good hook, right?
For me, Odan and The Trill knew that it was difficult for non-Trill to understand and appreciate their joint species, so they were somewhat circumspect of revealing the joining. They were also a relatively new addition to the Federation and were being cautious of this sacred unique co-existence. They didn’t want to experience prejudice any more than an LGBT person wants to experience recrimination for who they are once they reveal it.
So, he could have "come out" to Crusher from the beginning, but since it was so natural to him, it did not seem necessary. A similarly annoying question to humans would be, “What made you gay?” or “What made you straight?”. We don't think about being one way or another throughout the day, we just are.
Transgender people know intrinsically what sex they are – their bodies simply don’t agree with that understanding. It is perhaps the freedom of that tension that might very intensely resonate for people when it comes to The Trill, in that there is a fluidity of self-understanding inherent in the species. Otherwise, there could never be an acceptance of the joining. That might feel like ultimate freedom to some.
I was adamant and continue to be around calling The Trill just that. Never adding an “s” at the end. They are a joint species making one, not The Trills, but The Trill. That pertains to a single joint Trill and of the species at large. This further elucidates this self-understanding as a single while joint creature. It actually makes me a little crazy when I read them described as The Trills because it defeats the purpose of their own self-understanding. My original title for the episode was “E Pluribus Unum” “Out Of Many, One” It’s The Trill.
The mystery of The Trill was their strength, like Two-Spirit individuals in the Native American traditions, it was the unknown and the strength of the Two Spirits that made them special. The Trill have the collective knowledge of their previous hosts and their previous incarnations to rely on, that’s what makes them such great ambassadors and peace negotiators. They know what it means to embody different perspectives.
The revealed truth made them vulnerable. Coming out can feel very much like that. The idea of passing, of being accepted was being challenged there. And frankly, if a singular species like the Alphans and Betans of Peliar Zel or humans for that matter are working with an ambassador, they expect constancy. A singular bodied species would initially be put off by external changes to their arbiter mid-negotiations. Now that the cat is out of the bag, as it were, it is not so much of an issue, but back then they were a private species.
And the practical implications were that I needed to have Riker be engaged in the dangerous choice of temporarily adopting the symbiont to bring intrigue and further explore The Trill mentality both at the negotiating table and Crusher’s bedside. No danger, no intrigue, no show.
Q: Once Odan’s symbiont reaches its new host in the form of female host Kareel, she approaches Beverly with the intention of continuing their relationship in her new female form. Did you encounter any challenges writing that into the script?
Horvat: I insisted and had to convince the producers to make the final recipient host female. That was the final payoff for the episode, I believed. Otherwise, it would have been a tepid, uninteresting ending without any punch or food for thought.
This was also a way to seal the deal for that romantic relationship, first, the body would die then the symbiont would live but in a differently sexed host body. It would be too much for Crusher and therefore she would be released to carry on with the show as before, without attachment.
That was the coup de grâce of the episode as far as I'm concerned. I decided to come at this part of the story with the producers as a writer, neutral - not as an LGBT person or advocate with some specific agenda, which I really didn’t have. I just had a point of view and a curiosity and a desire to tell the most compelling story I could. I knew that my strongest hand was as a creative, not as a biased point-maker.
The producers were reticent but intrigued (as you mention it was 1991) but I persisted – and they were frankly quite courageous to agree. It was also much easier to sell two women kissing on screen at the end than two men. That would have been impossible in 1991. Maybe because straight males, historically the main Star Trek audience base, would more readily accept the fantasy of two women together. So, inherently there might have been an easier road to sell that concept. I don’t know. But two men kissing would have been a non-starter – I knew that much.
Just like in TNG’s “The Outcast” Riker’s love interest could have been played by a male actor that got feminized through makeup instead of a female actress that got masculinized. Because the suspension of disbelief would have been too disturbing for audiences if a feminized male was Riker’s love interest. And frankly, I don’t know if it would be accepted even today. The male series regular would forever be pegged as questioning or confused or unsure, less than masculine or less effective. Labels still haunt us.
I knew that many questions would emerge, what it is to be Trill and by extension, what it is to be human. I saw some of that exploration in Deep Space Nine but none that resonated with what I knew was the full potential of the species as a vehicle of exploration until Discovery revisited the Trill again. I also read in an article that it was a question whether the producers intended for this to be a source of exploration. The Star Trek: Next Generation producers might not have, but as the creator of the Trill, I certainly did. I just had to wait 29 years to see it happen.
By Tom Farr
For many families, a much-adored tradition around the holiday season is sitting down to watch the many classic holiday specials that have been airing on television for decades.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Frosty the Snowman
A Charlie Brown Christmas
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
For adults, these specials create a feeling of nostalgia. For children, they create a sense of hope for a an unknown and discoverable world.
One holiday special families aren't usually gathering around every year only aired on television once in 1978. For the past four decades, its creators have preferred to pretend it never happened. The Star Wars Holiday Special aired on CBS just a year after the original Star Wars film's release to capitalize on the film's success. However, the special was cheesy and so fundamentally different in tone from A New Hope that fans and critics maligned it.
Even George Lucas thought it was terrible.
Still, the concept of a Star Wars holiday special was interesting. So interesting that Lucasfilm is releasing a new special on Disney+. The Star Wars LEGO Holiday Special will feature a post-Episode IX story about Rey going on an adventure with BB-8 and discovering a strange Jedi temple that plunges her into a time-hopping journey through the Skywalker Saga. She'll encounter some of the moments we love most about the saga and even interact with Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Luke Skywalker before he became the famous Jedi knight. However, she has to get back in time for the Life Day celebration to celebrate with her friends.
LEGO Star Wars stories aren't canon; they're fun slapstick versions of our favorite stories for a younger audience, which are, of course, enjoyed by adults as well. So, we can probably assume that Rey's experience traveling through time won't be considered canon. Yet, all of the LEGO Star Wars stories are based on things that happened in the Star Wars universe.
So, it seems possible that this holiday special is at least based on something that actually happened to Rey. We already know time travel is possible in the Star Wars universe because of the World Between Worlds introduced in Star Wars: Rebels.
The LEGO Holiday Special is the first story to take place after the Skywalker Saga ended with The Rise of Skywalker, and many Star Wars fans are eager to see what Rey is up to after saving the galaxy from her evil grandfather and adopting the name of Skywalker for herself.
The special has the opportunity to show us some of the interactions we missed between Rey and Luke Skywalker because of the direction Disney took in the sequel trilogy. Of course, with Rey meeting a much younger Luke, it will be interesting to see the roles reversed between the two because Rey will be the more experienced Jedi.
There will be so much we can see Rey learn through the experience of traveling through the Skywalker Saga. The LEGO Star Wars Holiday special looks to be a bright spot in an otherwise dark year. For Star Wars fans, this could become a tradition they look forward to every year.
By Scott Murray
My wife and I try to go to Orlando at least once a year. We love the parks, and we have some family who live there as well. The prospects of going in 2020 seemed to drop dramatically when the pandemic hit. However, we stayed optimistic and kept an eye on things as places started to re-open over the summer.
A few weeks after Disney World and Universal re-opened, I started to consume content from park bloggers and news about the safety precautions. Things looked pretty good, especially after talking with Tessa Smith about her nine-day trip to Disney World, and seeing that there were no outbreaks tied to the theme parks.
We knew things would be different, but we were more than ready to get away. So, we planned a nine-day trip of our own. It included Disney World, Universal, Discovery Cove and Sea World. Here are some of the highlights, pros and cons of our pandemic vacation.
CON: They are not running trams from the parking lot to the park/transportation center. During this trip, it felt unseasonably humid and hot (more like August than October). The humidity was heavy, sweat down your back brutal on most days. This was true on some cloudy days as well.
Even getting there early, it was a loooooooong walk to the transportation center from the parking lot.
In prior trips, we would park hop at least twice during the day. With park hopping suspended, we were looking forward to slowing down and indulging more in the day.
The brutal humidity made that impossible. We were able to fit in Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, and Thunder Mountain before running back to the hotel to cool off and clean up.
Jenn knew about Discovery Cove before I did. During some of our previous Orlando trips, we heard people talking about how much they loved their experience and were ready to go back. We had our first experience there in 2018, and were pleased we could include it on this trip.
PROS: We felt safe. Protocols were in place that focused on distancing and masks. They also allow you to pull your mask down when taking photos.
CONS: However, at times, you did have to work to keep your own distance. You obviously didn't have to wear masks when snorkeling in the reef, and people weren't always being vigilant about keeping their distance. I loved swimming with all of the sea life in the reef (especially stingrays), but it sucked to have to keep an eye out for obliviots who didn't watch where they were going. I got kicked in the head and even had a guy bump into me while recording video underwater.
Nonetheless, we want to go back when we visit Orlando again.
I'm always excited to go to Hollywood Studios - the park with two of my favorite fandoms (Star Wars and The Muppets). Since you have to wear masks while taking photos, I was glad I got to go to Galaxy's Edge in Disneyland before the pandemic hit. I was anxious to return to Batuu and build another lightsaber.
PROS: They have the distancing worked out really well. They can snake lines for things like the Millennium Falcon ride and Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Train. However, I do NOT think the runaway train ride is worth a 60+ minute wait. It's a cute little trackless ride, but not much more.
CONS: The Rise of the Resistance virtual queue is not the way. We tried FIVE times to log into the app and compete with everyone else to get a boarding pass to ride Rise of the Resistance. Each time, it filled up in seconds. To increase our chances, we were advised to have Jenn also login to the app and try to get into a group.
For a moment - it looked like she got through. However, when she attempted to confirm, it said every member of her party was not in the park. That was obviously an error...and another failed attempt.
For a company that is dedicated to the customer experience - there has to be a better way. I was disappointed to miss this. In fact, we CANCELLED our last day plans to Animal Kingdom to go back to Hollywood Studios a THIRD time to try this, only to fail again.
However, it was good that we did that because when I brought my lightsaber back to the hotel (after our second trip), it was malfunctioning. I was easily able to come back and get it fixed without issue.
We LOVE the Food and Wine Festival, and we were so pleased that it didn't get cancelled this year. We went to Epcot on Wednesday, and the crowds weren't that bad. It felt like the least crowded day of the trip, and it was easy to walk on to Journey Into the Imagination, Soarin' and The Seas.
PROS: The food was awesome (as always). Also, I was so pleased to see more Figment merchandise this year. My birthday was a week away, so Jenn got these as birthday presents for me.
Sleepy Figment now sleeps on top of my CPU. However, he uses his imagination and turns it into a cloud.
CONS: The lack of merchandise at The American Experience. It's incredible the amount of stuff you can buy at other countries...but not the home country. The old store is now an art store and the kiosk outside of the attraction was shut down. We were told it's been shut down since the re-opening.
Some of the coolest Disney merch is the USA-themed stuff. However, that's not the most disappointing thing. When they converted the restaurant into a Sam the Eagle-themed barbeque place, I was stoked. I was especially excited to see the t-shirts and glasses that came with it. I was REALLY looking forward to getting my hands on those, but I couldn't.
Not only because the kiosk was closed, but they didn't bother to sell them anywhere else. The Muppet store at Hollywood Studios was closed, and with the park's insane history of not having much Muppet merchandise, this was really disappointing.
It's also really, really confusing.
We're not always able to incorporate Universal Studios into our trip, but we did this time. I was interested to see how they were handling things during the pandemic.
PROS: We felt safe. Like Disney, there were distancing and mobile food ordering processes. Also, they had employees sanitize everyone's hands before getting on a ride. You get your own cabin when riding the Hogwarts Express, and they tell you you're being watched via a small camera. That way, they can see if you pull your mask down. If you do, the train won't move and/or they will call you out.
I will say there didn't seem to be as many staff members monitoring lax mask wearing like they have at Disney.
We were also pleased to find out there was no virtual queue competition. So, I was able to get on the new Hagrid-themed ride, and it was crazy-fun! Also, while Disney hasn't reinstalled its Fast Pass system, you can get Universal's Express added to your ticket. This allows you to get into an Express line for every ride (except Hagrid).
CONS: The merchandise in the warehouse. When I returned from my trip, I added several new fandom-themed masks to my inventory. However, a Ravenclaw mask was not one of them. I saw people wearing them, but I only saw them in one store (and they were the wrong size). I was told they're in the warehouse and they didn't know when they'd get them in the stores.
This was disappointing, especially when you consider that Universal doesn't add a lot new Harry Potter merchandise anyway. I see the same stuff almost every trip.
The rest of the trip
There were limitations and disappointments, but there was also a lot of fun, and it was good to get away. Lines weren't all that bad, and distancing makes the waits shorter than expected at times. However, the heat made us skip some that were listed at 70+ minutes.
I think we'll continue to keep an eye on things before planning another Orlando trip. That includes considering the humidity factor.
By Dan Ortiz
Amid the ongoing streaming "platform wars," - NBC Universal's Peacock entered a crowded fray inhabited by Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+, and Amazon Prime, among others. As each platform continues their unyielding quest to draw viewers with a mix of original programming and library content, the results for viewers can range from bona fide pop culture hits like The Old Guard and The Mandalorian to costly misfires (see: Quibi's mixed bag of offerings).
Luckily for sci-fi fans, as these respective libraries open for consumption, a treasure trove of old and new geek-friendly programming has become available at a time when as some say there's almost too much to watch. So, in an effort to help cut through the clutter, here's a guide to geek favorites on Peacock that are helpfully divided into the following categories: Bingeable, New & Notable, Worth a Re-watch, and Deep Cuts.
Brave New World
An adaptation of the Aldous Huxley novel, Brave New World is probably one of the more prescient programs on the platform at the moment. Set in the near-future city of New London, the show focuses on a seemingly idyllic but ultimately pharmaceutically-controlled utopian society where monogamy, privacy, money, and family are strictly outlawed.
The series begins with a somewhat slow burn, but quickly amps up the storytelling pace and character development once series lead Jessica Brown Findlay's Lenina finds herself stranded in The "Savage Lands". This shattered remains of the United States has become an adventure park where New London denizens gawk at how savagely Americans live. From there, the story continues unspooling the mythology of New London as seen through the eyes of John (Solo's Alden Ehrenreich), a refugee from the Savage Lands struggling to fit in with New London's rigorous utopia.
The nine episodes are easily bingeable, and the promising cast brings the right amount of nuance and mystery to the proceedings. Demi Moore is especially enjoyable in a surprising star turn as John's mother, and Blade Runner 2049's Hannah John-Kamen is New London's mysterious romantic relationships czar.
New and Notable
In a near-future London, DI John Major is shot dead during a botched police operation. Luckily for John, he becomes a candidate in an experimental program to revive him using Artificial Intelligence.
One year later, a new and improved John seemingly returns from the dead to find life has moved on without him. As John becomes acquainted with the life he left behind and his new body, the series evolves into Six Million Dollar Man meets Law & Order with a healthy dose of dry British humor to smooth out the rough edges.
It's essentially British Robocop at its core, but John's relationship with partner Roy (Stephen Graham of This is England) creates an enjoyable brotherly dynamic that offsets some of the series' shortcomings, such as the hackneyed plot and by-the-book good guy/bad guy dynamics meant to underscore John's search for the truth of who killed him.
This British export centers on The Good Wife's Archie Panjabi as an investigator for Britain's air transportation investigative bureau. She's looking into the disappearance of a transatlantic airliner with 256 passengers aboard.
While there isn't anything overtly Sci-Fi about the series at face value, Departure does feel like Lost re-envisioned for 2020 without all the baggage of smoke monsters, Others, and convoluted theories that ultimately lead to one giant MacGuffin.
While the ultimate direction of the series is murky (I don't know how it has the legs to be a multi-season show), the cast is enjoyable, and the mystery is captivating enough to stay interested as the mystery unfolds.
In the show's talent roster, watch for sci-fi favorites like Christopher Plummer (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), Peter Mensah (300), Shazad Latif (Penny Dreadful), and Sasha Roiz (Caprica).
This is an angsty teen-oriented series focusing on a group of wolves inhabiting a British high school. The only catch is that these wolves are humans with wolves' blood, not conventional werewolves.
All of the typical clichéd high school tropes are on full display right down to the moody new kid who gets drawn into the affairs of the wolf pack. Fans of MTV's Teen Wolf will more than likely be ready to sink their fangs into this novel hybrid of Twilight: New Moon meets Degrassi.
Beyond the ropey visual FX, there is a genuine heart and soul to the show and the relatable family dynamics are possibly the series' only saving grace.
Worth a Re-watch
So say we all! It wouldn't be unfair to claim that 2020 has felt like the end of the world. So what better time to catch up with an actual "end of the world" event in the form of re-watching all 4 seasons of Star Trek TNG scribe Ronald D Moore's glorious Battlestar Galactica re-imagining and the miniseries that started it all.
Die-hard fans already know the setup but the time is now to relive the adventures of the last bastion of humanity's war with the Cylons and their grand "plan" for the galaxy ahead of the in-the-works reboot of Battlestar currently underway at Peacock.
Come for the Starbuck quips, stay for the excellent President Roslin performance by Mary McDonell and the TNG-like dedication to quality storytelling.
What better month than October to revisit the "Charmed Ones"? TV impresario Aaron Spelling's series spanned eight seasons, spawned a cult following, and defined a network (surely you remember The WB).
Though the Charmed reboot did not fare as well, now is the perfect time to get back to basics.
When this cheesy series debuted on FOX back in 1995, it was essentially a bargain-basement Quantum Leap focusing on a group of scientists "sliding" through interdimensional wormholes in the search for the slide that would bring them back to Earth. Along the way, there were plots ranging from inspired to just plain ludicrous, including a future where the United States lost the Revolutionary War to dimension-crossing aliens looking to invade Earth.
It's no surprise that the series, visual effects, and storytelling have not aged well. However, some episodes are worth a re-watch. Even though there are place where Sliders may have slipped, there's no denying it paved the way for superior weekly sci-fi shows like Fringe.
Was it flawed? Sure.
Was it a great step in weekly sci-fi on a broadcast network? Most definitely.
Is it available to watch again in all of it's flawed, overdrawn glory in order to reevaluate its impact and legacy?
While Netflix may have scored a run with its faithful reboot, there's nothing like the original classic mothership. You can relive all those creepy stories that gave you nightmares and make you look over your shoulder at night.
SeaQuest DSV/SeaQuest 2032
Star Trek: Underwater was the original premise. Helmed by a creative team that included Steven Spielberg, this NBC series followed the crew of the Seaquest DSV (Deep Submergence Vehicle) on its ongoing mission to protect Earth's oceans from threats ranging from pirates, sea monsters, and aliens.
Silliness aside, in retrospect the show can be admired for its moxie and mojo. When things worked, they sure worked, and when they didn't, it could sink like a stone.
Following a protracted contract debate, SeaQuest DSV star Roy Scheider was released from his contract and Season 3 of SeaQuestDSV was re-branded SeaQuest 2032. Scheider was replaced with a new captain of the SeaQuest, but it was too late.
The show's ratings entered a crash dive from which they were unable to recover, and the series was mercilessly put down halfway through its third season. Luckily, anyone who wants to watch SeaQuest DSV's funeral at sea has the opportunity for a front-row seat!
This SyFy series had an intriguing premise. It takes place aboard a "generation ship" (a space 'ark' launched in the 1960s) on a journey to a far-away Proxima Centauri. When some things with the ship go awry, the mishaps begin to reveal cracks in the overall mission at large, threatening to upset the balance of the ship and its residents.
One of the most fun aspects of this show was that the generation ship residents still retained a swinging 60s vibe. So, this was essentially Mad Men in space with a fun "what is reality?" angle to boot.
Colin Ferguson stars as Sheriff Jack Carter in the idyllic town of Eureka. However, as is the case with all idyllic small towns, there are mysteries afoot caused by the neighboring no-good technology company that causes things in Eureka to go haywire at an alarming rate.
It was always a quirky series, but one that in retrospect feels like a sci-fi blueprint for other future series about quirky towns like Schitt's Creek and Stranger Things.
Peacock's streaming app is available on Vizio and LG smart TVs, as well as iOS and Android mobile devices, Android TV, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Chromecast, and Roku.
The service is also available through its official website.
You can browse a full list of supported devices here.
By Tom Farr
Throughout Batman’s DC Comics history, The Joker has been the one villain to cause the Dark Knight the most grief. From murdering the second Robin (Jason Todd) to shooting and paralyzing Batgirl/Barbara Gordon, The Joker’s wave of terror has been consistently present in Gotham City. Strangely, however, The Joker’s personality hasn’t been consistent throughout history.
At times, he’s a murderous comedian, a crazy clown, or just a homicidal maniac. This is the premise behind Geoff John’s latest Batman story, Three Jokers, published by DC’s Black Label, with art by Jason Fabok.
In a single night, three heinous crimes are committed by the Joker at the same time. The Gotham City Police Department is baffled, as are the Dark Knight and Batgirl. Did the real Joker commit one of the crimes and copycats committed the other two? Could there are actually three Jokers, each taking on one of the personalities reflected in Joker stories of the past? Johns refers to these three Jokers as the Criminal, the Comedian, and the Clown.
More than one Joker the whole time?
Batman and Batgirl team up with Jason Todd’s Red Hood to solve the mystery of the three Jokers. This leads them on a journey of discovering that there may be more Jokers than they even realize. In fact, after two issues, it seems the original Joker may have somehow begun replicating himself long ago with a plan to overwhelm Gotham City with new Jokers.
The Joker’s Lasting Impact on Jason Todd and Barbara Gordon
Longtime Batman fans will enjoy the references to previous Batman stories, especially the exploration of Jason Todd’s death at the hands of the Joker and his return to the land of the living. Three Jokers implies that the Joker had a longer endgame in mind when he initially “killed” Jason Todd.
Plus, Three Jokers is an in-depth exploration of the effect the Joker has had on Jason Todd and his relationship with Batman. It also takes him in a new direction in his relationship with Batgirl. She also has to reflect on the Joker’s profound impact on her life after the events of The Killing Joke - the landmark Batman story in which the Joker shot her to try to break Jim Gordon.
A Closer Look at The Joker and Batman’s Origin
At the center of it all is Batman. The core event of Batman’s life is the murder of his parents, and that event seems to play a significant role in Three Jokers. In some iterations of the Batman story, the Joker himself is responsible for the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne.
This was the primary storyline of Tim Burton’s Batman film. In Three Jokers, the classic story of Joe Chill as a murderer is maintained, at least as far as we know. However, even that seems open for further discovery leaning into the upcoming third and final issue of the series.
Three Jokers is an impressive story so far on its own, but combined with the art by Jason Fabok, it truly stands out as one of the more groundbreaking Batman stories of recent years.
This isn’t surprising given its publication under Black Label, which seems to give writers and artists more freedom than with DC. Of course, the story could succeed or fail with the third and final issue that comes out on October 27.
For now, Three Jokers is a compelling story that takes a deep dive into some of the past's most iconic Batman stories.
by Tom Farr
Comic book writer Scott Snyder is probably best known for his work on Batman, especially his Court of Owls storyline, but he's also the writer behind DC's popular Dark Knights: Metal and Death Metal events. Charles Soule is just as prolific, having written for Marvel's X-Men, She-Hulk, and several Star Wars comics. They're both talented storytellers in the comic book medium, and together, they're a powerhouse creative force. Their creator-owned comic book series Undiscovered Country with Image Comics is currently eight issues in, and every issue is full of surprises and an invitation to keep going.
A United States closed off from the rest of the world
The story's premise is that the United States closed off its borders and walled itself off from the rest of the world over thirty years ago. The world has changed drastically in the three decades without American influence. Still, the most significant problem the main characters face is a global pandemic called Sky, which is wiping out the world's population. Charlotte Graves is a scientist desperately searching for a cure when she's invited to be a part of a team that includes her brother Daniel.
When they get a message from the United States, the first anyone has heard thirty years, it's from a mysterious Dr. Elgin. It comes with a promised cure for the Sky virus if they come to America to get it. Charlotte, Daniel, a journalist, an army colonel, American expert, and a team of diplomats embark on a journey to America. However, what they find is a shocking de-evolution of a civilized America.
In addition to discovering the mysteries of what's happened to the country and searching for a cure to Sky, the team must find a way to survive the deadly sci-fi landscape that Soule and Snyder created. The world of the story is made all the more impressive with the standout visuals created by Daniele Orlandini and Giuseppe Camuncoli
Exploring a future America similar to our own
Even though it's a sci-fi story set in the future, with Undiscovered Country, Soule and Snyder have been able to explore a United States that is sharply divided by vastly different worldviews over what being American is about, which is strangely relevant to the the divisions of today. It's also a story that is enriched by a cursory knowledge of American history and iconography. As an educator, I sincerely appreciate this aspect of the story.
There's only so far a story can be carried by sci-fi mysteries. However, the real strength of Undiscovered Country is the characters. Enormously complex, each character has a vested interest in discovering whatever lies behind the walls that separate the US from the rest of the world. Arguably, Charlotte and Danielle are the characters that drive most of the story with a complex history that includes their parents. They are somehow tied to the sealing of the US. Still, Soule and Snyder do a great job exploring the other characters' backstories in a compelling way.
Eight issues in, Undiscovered Country continues to deliver non-stop surprises, mysteries and complex character development.
By Dan Ortiz
Throughout the Final Frontier, actors and actresses of stage and screen brought something special to the beloved franchise. Out of hundreds of episodes and dozens of films, Star Trek’s acting bench has turned in several unforgettable performances. So, today we look at some of the Final Frontier’s most striking and emotional performances.
Selection criteria: Instead of a “best of” list, I focused on a collection of my favorite moments and those that might not make more traditional “best of” lists. My only criteria were moments that stood the test of time, served their ultimate stories and featured great performances by those involved. I’m sure there are great choices out there! Please post yours in the comments!
First Contact: Picard’s Final Line
Setting the scene: As the Enterprise E faces ultimate defeat at the hands of the Borg, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and 21st-century denizen Lily (Alfre Woodard) go head-to-head over the course of action: stay and fight or self-destruct and run to safety?
Why this scene: Woodard and Stewart’s face-off provides one of the best and most emotionally-charged monologue moments of the Final Frontier. Stewart’s Moby Dick monologue in particular is a franchise feat that’s yet to be beat.
Generations: Time Is A Predator
Setting the scene: Faced with the possibility of entering parallel universe “The Nexus,” mad Scientist Dr. Soran (Malcolm McDowell) is attempting to justify to Captain Picard his planet-killing super weapon, which serves as the entry into he Nexus’ heaven-like bliss.
Why this scene: McDowell’s piercing performance underscores the film’s undercurrents of destiny, fate and family.
Wrath of Khan : The Game’s Not Over
Setting the scene: As the crippled USS Reliant faces certain defeat, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montablan) takes his last breaths and attempts to cement his obsessive ambition to see Kirk and crew dead.
Why this scene: Khan’s death rattle is forever seared into my memory for its passion and high drama. Montablan’s inspired and powerful (but never overblown) performance set an impossibly high bar for Star Trek villains. You can practically feel his searing hatred through the screen.
The Original Series : Edith Keeler Must Die
Episode: The City on the Edge of Forever
Season 1, Episode 28
Setting the scene: After the crew of the Enterprise finds itself stuck in the early 20th century (don’t ask), Kirk, Spock and McCoy encounter pacifist social worker Edith Keeler (portrayed masterfully by guest star Joan Collins).
However, upon learning that Keeler’s pacifist actions will irreparably damage the flow of history by affecting the outcome of World War II, Kirk, Spock and McCoy are faced with Star Trek’s primary time traveling maxim - that no action taken in the past can affect the future. So, Spock, McCoy and Kirk inevitably arrive at the conclusion that Edith Keeler must die.
Why this scene: After realizing their grave discovery, Kirk, Spock and McCoy are forced to watch as Keeler is struck by an oncoming car. The scene particularly resonates because most of the acting is a prime example of “Show Don’t Tell” as the action (and more importantly, the acting) plays out on our heroes’ faces.
Another well-known Star Trek law is - the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Yet, this scene remains a heartbreaking reminder of the cost of sacrifice for the greater good.
Deep Space Nine : Sisko Goes Beyond The Stars
Episode: Far Beyond The Stars
Season 6, Episode 13
Setting the scene: As the brutal, bloody Dominion war wages on, Captain Sisko suffers the loss of a friend aboard the USS Cortez, ostensibly lost with all hands in a firefight with the Dominion.
In the wake of his loss, Sisko contemplates resigning his post, but not before suffering hallucinations and falling into a fever-like trance as the result of abnormal brain activity. He envisions himself and his crewmates as writers in 1950s New York City, with Sisko appearing as aspiring science fiction writer Benny Russell, who is told that no one will read “stories written by Negros.”
While working on the story of a far-flung space station set amongst the stars, Sisko is persistently harassed, marginalized and ignored while writing the story of his lifetime (almost literally), one in which men and women of all colors will find their place in the stars. However, after ultimately refusing to rewrite the captain character as white, he's told to put the manuscript away for 50 years or “however long it takes for the human race to catch up.”
Why this scene: Benny’s ultimate meltdown upon finding his story has been shelved was a tour de force moment for Avery Brooks, who gives a performance that was equal parts prescient and passionate. It still resonates today, almost 22 years later.
Deep Space Nine : Sisko In The Pale Moonlight
Episode: In The Pale Moonlight
Season 6, Episode 19
Setting the scene: As the Dominion War continues to exert its toll on Captain Sisko and the Federation-Klingon alliance, casualty lists continue to grow, and morale begins to sink. Sisko engages in subterfuge to lure the Romulans into the fight that ultimately blows up in his face - most literally when the Romulan target of the scheme is found dead in an exploded shuttlecraft. Ultimately, the ploy works in the favor of the Alliance but not without a great emotional toll on Sisko.
Why this scene: Avery Brooks delivers a powerful final monologue that lays bare a haunted Sisko’s ambition to win at any cost.
Voyager : Assimilation: Complete
Episode: Dark Frontier, Pt 1
Season 5, Episode 15
Setting the scene: Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) has returned to the Borg Collective - seemingly of her own will. Now back under the heel of the Borg Queen (Susanna Thompson taking over Queen duties from First Contact’s Alice Krige), Seven is forced to resume assimilation of a helpless species. Upon seeing the horrors of assimilation again up close, Seven sets some of the captives free, leading to a showdown with the Borg Queen herself.
Why this scene: Jeri Ryan plays off of Thompson’s Queen incredibly well. Their war of words waged in a novel mix of ideology and wry humor.
Voyager : Seven Learns to Trust Again
Episode: The Voyager Conspiracy
Season 6, Episode 9
Setting the scene: Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) suffers a critical error with her regeneration alcove, which accidentally feeds her cybernetic brain a high volume of Voyager’s computer data. Unable to process the sudden influx of information, Seven begins making wild connections and theories, which lead to her lash out against Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and crew.
Why this scene: In the midst of the wild conspiracy theories and accusations, the two women share a tender moment in which Captain Janeway lovingly reminds Seven of her journey. Jeri Ryan applies just the right amount of nuance and vulnerability to this scene to make it truly heartwarming.
Deep Space Nine : Around Every Corner
Season 4, Episode 11
Setting the scene: As Shapeshifters begin encroaching on Earth as a prelude to the Dominion War, Sisko and Starfleet Command become increasingly paranoid of changelings infiltrating the Federation, which leads to this explosive confrontation between father and son.
Why this scene: Brock Peters’ steely performance as Joseph Sisko was always a series highlight, but this one scene really allowed him to plumb into a deep well of emotion while playing off of the always great Avery Brooks. It makes this scene a chilling and thrilling knockout.
By Tom Farr
Since Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, it seems like an endless stream of new Star Wars stories continues to be released ever since. This includes films, such as the sequel trilogy, Solo and Rogue One, as well as television shows, books, and comics. While the steady stream has had a few missteps, depending on who you ask, one area that seems to consistently satisfy fan curiosity is the various Star Wars comics published by Marvel.
Combining top-notch comic book writers such as Charles Soule, Greg Pak, and Kierron Gillen with phenomenal artists such as Will Sliney, John Cassaday, and Salvador Larroca, Star Wars comics explore the mysteries between film episodes. They also give us a more in-depth look into many of the most well-known and loved film characters’ motivations. Plus, they’re telling great stories that resonate with Star Wars fans.
Here are five Star Wars comics that are worth diving into first.
Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith (2017)
Written by Charles Soule, this 25-issue exploration of Anakin Skywalker’s early experiences as Darth Vader begins from the moment Vader steps off the operating room table at the end of Revenge of the Sith. We learn why dark side users have red lightsabers, and we see the beginnings of the Inquisitorius under Vader’s leadership.
There’s the return of Jedi Temple librarian Jocasta Nu and the addition of an ancient Sith Lord and artist named Momin, who is tasked with designing Vader’s infamous castle. Most fascinating, however, is the reason why Vader had his castle built on Mustafar as we see him desperately trying to get Padme back even years after her death.
The Rise of Kylo Ren (2019)
Also penned by Charles Soule, this 4-issue comic reveals the deep conflict that helps turn Ben Solo into Kylo Ren after Luke’s near attempt to kill him. We learn that the Knights of Ren have faced Luke Skywalker before, and we see Luke as a badass Jedi Knight. In the sequel trilogy, we sometimes see the good that still exists in Kylo Ren, but his comic origin reveals that his descent into evil resulted more from coercion and deception than a fully-informed choice. We also find out about the origin of the word “Ren” in Kylo’s name.
Darth Vader (2020)
Taking place after The Empire Strikes Back, Greg Pak’s comic explores uncharted territory with Vader as he goes on a galaxy-wide quest for revenge after Luke rejects his invitation to join him. Determined to find anyone who helped keep Luke’s identity hidden from him, Vader looks into the past and discovers someone who was very close to Padme Amidala. That someone wants her own revenge against Darth Vader for the deaths of Padme and Anakin Skywalker.
Star Wars (2020)
Also taking place at the same time as Greg Pak’s Darth Vader, Charles Soule is exploring Luke Skywalker’s mission to complete his training as a Jedi after discovering the truth about his father. Luke learns the truth about why the Jedi are no longer around and finds the motivation to continue his goal of becoming a Jedi like his father. He even faces off with the Grand Inquisitor. This series is shaping up to be one of the best pieces of Star Wars storytelling to date.
Darth Vader (2015)
Kierron Gillen had the task of filling in the gaps between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back from Vader’s perspective. Vader’s dual goals of re-earning the favor of Palpatine after allowing the Death Star to be destroyed and learning the identity of the pilot who destroyed the Death Star drive the plot of this story. We see the moment Vader learns he has a son, and a fascinating new character named Doctor Aphra is introduced.
Although the comic feels like an exploration of Darth Vader’s character as an outside observer, meaning we never get inside his head, there’s still much revealed in the struggle to find redemption in Palpatine’s eyes. It also doesn’t hurt that we also see Vader often questioning the wisdom of his master. It turns out that the seeds of his betrayal against Palpatine were sown many years before.
ics. There are plenty of fun reveals and compelling character development moments. After reading these, there are many more worth checking out, such as:
Kanan: The Last Padawan
Doctor Aphra, Star Wars (2015)
Obi-Wan and Anakin
And there are plenty more to come.
By Scott Murray
In the last nine years, I've consistently included podcast episodes about Jim Henson. I cannot imagine my childhood without his genius, entertaining and educational work. The attachments and memories of The Muppets and Sesame Street are still with me to this day.
One of the many genius things about Jim's imagination and creativity was the ability to combine entertainment with education. Granted, many people can effectively do that today, but in Jim's day - he broke the code for simultaneously achieving it with children AND adults. After Jim tragically passed away, the process of continuing his traditions was going to be challenging.
However, one of the powerful ways Sesame Street continued his mission to educate children and adults was the creation of Julia - a Muppet with autism. The importance of her presence is obvious when it comes to children. Julia helps them better understand someone like Julia while showing how people can treat her with compassion, understanding and inclusion. Yet, adults or other parents can benefit from watching Julia as well.
Before getting the opportunity to bring Julia to life, performer Stacey Gordon worked as a habilitator (not rehabilitator) for families with special needs children, including those with autism. One particular job required her to work 46 hours a week. So, when her son was diagnosed with autism, she was prepared, but that didn't mean certain challenges would be any easier.
Part of her experience as a parent has included watching kids and adults respond to her son in disappointing and hurtful ways. On the other hand, she has a lot of pride in the brilliance and "superpowers" that he possesses.
When you combine this experience with her history in puppetry, you have someone who was born to bring Julia to life.
Autism is also an important part of our lives. My wife's brother Zac is autistic, and I've watched him accomplish so many amazing things in the past 20 years.
September 24th is Jim Henson's birthday. So, that week's episode will be dedicated to him, his work and his legacy. I'm honored to announce that Stacey Gordon will be our special guest on the show. Joe Hennes (Tough Pigs) will also be on to discuss memories of Jim Henson.
By Michael Austin
Upon its 2015 release, Ant-Man became the sleeper hit movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. No one assumed the film would be as entertaining as it turned out. It’s sequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp, built upon that success by delving deeper into the characters and ramping up the action.
During a recent interview on The Jess Cagle Show, director, Petyon Reed revealed some fascinating insights on what to expect from the third installment of the Ant-Man franchise.
In terms of concrete details, Reed wasn’t allowed to share much. This should come at no surprise given how Marvel is notorious for having the stars and filmmakers sign stringent non-disclosure agreements. What he did reveal, however, is enough to get fans eagerly excited for this new installment to the franchise.
“There’s some really really really exciting things in store, none of which of course I could speak to you about right now, as is the Marvel way… I think the third Ant-Man movie is going to be a much bigger, more sprawling movie than the first two. It’s going to have a very different visual template,” Reed said.
“Much bigger,” “more sprawling” and a “very different visual template” are all important clues that suggest where Ant-Man, Wasp and the rest of the gang are headed for the third movie – in the Quantum Realm.
While audiences were given a chance to see a little bit of the mysterious dimension during both Ant-Man and the Wasp and Avengers: Endgame, a whole movie set within the otherworldly plane of existence would finally reveal the Quantum Realm’s many mysteries.
The previous two Ant-Man films were relatively grounded. Both movies centered around close family relationships and reconciliation with loved ones. Taking those characters out of their comfort zone and placing them in the Quantum Realm for the majority of a film would be a considerable departure from previous installments that would really shake up the franchise.
This tracks with what we know about Marvel -- the third installments in their franchises often change things up in a drastic way:
Captain America: Civil War saw Cap face off against Iron Man and lose his shield before becoming an outlaw.
Thor: Ragnarok had the titular Nordic hero roaming around the galaxy in a spaceship before forever losing his beloved hammer Mjolnir.
Even Iron Man 3 saw Tony Stark finally removing the shrapnel from his chest and becoming something new.
The Ant-Man and the Wasp sequel will likely follow this pattern of threequels by placing its characters in new situations to change them forever.
Following the prolonged shutdown of theaters in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Disney recently released their new movie release schedule for all of the MCU Phase 4 films. The Ant-Man film was not among those listed, so fans will likely have to wait until at least late 2022.
That all being said, if the movie pays off the promises made by Reed, it will surely be worth the wait.
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