All Good Things: A Star Trek Podcast, Episode 3: The Best and Worst of TNG

After years of threatening to do it, my good friend Barry and I have started a podcast focusing on Star Trek in its many incarnations and its impact on us. 

The third installment is available for your listening pleasure (it was recorded before we’d finalized a name, which may or may not be referenced in the conversation).  This installment looks at our best and worst episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Surf over, download, listen, leave comments.  

And you can listen to episode two (Best and Worst of Classic Trek) and episode one (Meet The Hosts) as well. 

Here are some other ways you can connect to us.

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Barry: @lasthome

TV Round-Up: 24, Extant, & The Strain

24: Live Another Day -- 8 p.m. – 11 a.m.

And so another day of 24 comes to a close with the promised time jump taking place in the final few moments of the ninth worst day of Jack Bauer’s life.

I think this season hit a peak a few weeks ago when Margo blew up the hospital, Jack tortured her daughter for information and then eluded a drone attack by switching cars under a bridge.  Since that point, it’s all kind of been downhill a bit with Margo taken out the next week and then true big bad of the season revealed to be the long-though-dead Chang.    As the last three or so hours of the ninth day unfolded, I couldn’t help but feeling that I somehow wanted another hour or two to let things sink in a bit or so that the last hour wouldn’t feel quite so rushed.   And there was a lot of rushing in the final hour of the day — from the death of Audrey to Jack taking out Chang once and for all and once again saving the world just in the nick of time.  I realize that there’s no way Keiffer Sutherland will earn an Emmy nod this time around for the show, but the scene when Jack finds out that Audrey is dead and he realizes he has nothing left to lose was just fantastic.  I don’t recall which season ended with Jack in his car weeping from the events of the days he’d face before, but it was clear that in that moment Jack realized he’d lost everything that mattered.

And then seeing him go absolutely ape-poop crazy on Chang and his men was a nice touch.  Of course, I couldn’t help but wonder if decapitating Chang wouldn’t come back to bite everyone a bit later.   Yes, we averted war for a few hours but then Jack went and killed Chang, so it’s all back on.  If the show ever does come back, it would be interesting to see if and how this decision had an impact on the relationship between the U.S. and China.

Of course, in order to come back, we have to get Jack out of Russian prison.  In some ways, Jack’s surrendering himself to the Russians in exchange for Chloe felt a bit like the beginning of Die Another Day with Bond being taken prisoner and then tortured for an extended period of time during the opening credits.  Whether or not the world will next Jack again remains to be seen, but the final moment when he told Chloe goodbye was another great 24 moment.     If this is where 24 is to finally call it quits, I feel a lot more satisfied than I did at the end of day eight.   But I wouldn’t say no to another limited event like this one with potentially some final redemption and/or freedom for Jack.

Extant: Reentry

The pilot episode of CBS’s Extant doesn’t really tell us anything we hadn’t heard in the commercials.  And yet, I’m still inclined to give the show a chance  for the next couple of weeks to see what and where this is all going to go.

The question of just how Molly is pregnant is an interesting one.  Throw in the conspiracy surrounding the missing 13 hours in orbit (I find it hard to believe that someone doesn’t know she erased the logs of the time in question, but I’m hopeful the show can or will address this in the near future) and you’ve got an interesting enough central mystery to drive things for the next few episodes.  And make no mistake — should this show not give us answers to this question by the time we reach the end of its summer run, there are going to be some seriously irritated fans.

But just as interesting are the parallels to another Stephen Spielberg movie, AI.   The young son as an android and its implications is an intriguing enough one.  This is one plotline that I don’t necessarily have to have a lot of answers dolled out, so long as there is some good character work.   And please, don’t let it all head into some kind of robotic uprising.  Not really interested in that.  But questions about the nature of what makes us human…yeah, I think that could be good.

I’ll be interested to see where episode two takes us.   I know last summer that Under the Dome took a huge downward turn after the first installment had me intrigued.  I’m hoping this one won’t follow that trend.

The Strain: Night Zero

Did you really think Guillermo Del Toro was going to go for subtle vampires?

I read the original novel of The Strain trilogy a couple of years ago and I’ll admit I’ve forgotten large chunks of it.  At least, that is, until I started watching.  It quickly came back to me about the plane and the passengers all dying of some mysterious ailment.  I also recalled there was something in the storage hold that was trying to get out and that there is some kind of conspiracy to get it into New York.    But I don’t recall much of the book beyond a sense of deja vu as things unfolded on-screen.  This could be good or it could be bad.  Either the book was so largely forgettable that there’s a reason I don’t recall everything or I could be in for an interesting ride as I follow how things unfold.

I will admit that it made me curious enough to want to check out the books again so I can go all book snob if the series deviates from them.

For now, I like what’s being set up and even if it’s a bit gruesome (OK, a lot gruesome), it’s got my interest for at least two or three episodes.  Or at least until bigger parts of the book come back to me.

Doctor Who: The Leisure Hive

200_sWhen I first started watching Doctor Who, there wasn’t quite the wealth of information about the series at my fingertips that is available to fans today.    Back in my day, I had only the occasional issue of Doctor Who Magazine and my (even then outdated) copy of the Doctor Who Programme Guide as my guides.

And even though I’d seen stories from the Peter Davison era and new that a change was coming to the title sequence for the show, I never expected it to happen during Tom Baker’s final season as the Doctor.

So it was that one Sunday morning, I rewound my VHS recording of “The Leisure Hive” from San Jose’s KTEH Saturday Night Late Night Doctor Who feature and sat down to watch it, fully expecting the famous time corridor credits sequence that was (and is) my favorite title sequence and version of the famous theme.    It was, therefore, a bit of a stunning moment to hear and see the starfield opening burst onto my television screen, announcing not only a new season but a new era of Doctor Who.

I’ll admit I rewound and watched the title sequence a time or two before I got down to the business of viewing “The Leisure Hive.” *

(more…)

Doctor Who: Big Finish Round-Up “The Fourth Doctor and Leela Adventures”

Doctor Who: The Crooked Man (Big Finish Fourth Doctor Adventures 3.03)The Crooked Man

Given that The Crooked Man is from the pen of John Dorney, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I enjoyed it as much as I did. And that’s despite having an reveal in the last five or so minutes that I guessed long before the Doctor and company deduced it (or at least that they confirmed it in the course of the story).

The Doctor and Leela arrive in a sea-side town for a holiday but discover that a macabre series of murders is taking place. Investigating further, they soon discover there’s a link between these murders and a local family — the sinister and creepy Crooked Man of the title.

The idea of world of fiction having the ability to crossover into reality is nothing new for Doctor Who (see the Troughton era serial “The Mind Robber”) so it’s a huge credit to Dorney’s script that it manages to feel interesting when done here. And while there’s a twist in the last five or so minutes of the script that’s telegraphed fairly early on by the story, it’s still one that is entirely earned by the story. (more…)

TV Round-Up: 24: Live Another Day

x24-live-another-day-poster.jpg.pagespeed.ic.F9cSXAwH1UWarning: This contains SPOILERs for the first nine episodes of season nine of 24 (also known as 24: Live Another Day).  If you’re not caught up completely, don’t read this until you are.

Back in the day, I used to review 24 episode by episode and I’d fully intended to do that when the show returned this time around.  But life sometimes happens and here we are nine weeks into the new run and I’ve yet to post any thoughts about the current day.   But after watching this week’s installment, I felt compelled to take up my old 24 reviewing mantle and post a few thoughts

I have to admit that it was announced that the show would come back and that we’d only get half of the day shown to us, I was intrigued. I felt like the potential to jump forward or skip an hour or two here and there might alleviate some of the treading water moments that previous seasons suffered from.  It might also allow us to transition from one threat to another with a bit more ease than we’re normally used to seeing.

And, so far, I’ve been on board with how this season was going.   In fact, a few weeks ago I felt like the show gave us the Jack Bauer-iest episode ever with Jack torturing a subject for information and then escaping targeted missiles fired by a drone.   It was everything that makes Jack Bauer the superhero that he is all in one hour of storytelling.  Oh and they blew up a hospital as well.

Then we’ve got the last few weeks…specifically the storyline with President Heller surrendering himself to Margo Al Harazi in order to stop the drone attacks.

I have to admit that when Heller brought Jack and Mark into the loop on his plan, I was intrigued to see if the show would go through with it.  And as last week’s hour unfolded, we saw that (apparently) they were going to follow through with it, up to and including Heller sacrificing himself to stop the drone attacks and getting a more noble death than by succumbing to Alzheimer’s.    Yet as the hour closed last week, we didn’t get a silent final few ticks of the clock (as we have with other deaths of our heroes on the show) and I began to suspect the show might have something up its sleeve.

But surely they wouldn’t pull a bait and switch on Margo and the audience?

Oh, but they would and did, with it revealed this week that Jack and Chloe were able to trick Margo into thinking Heller was dead.

And I can’t help but feel like the show went right up the abyss and somehow pumped the brakes a bit.  I suppose that Jack still has his pardon and I guess it will be interesting to have Heller around when the poop hits the fan with the Russians  (you can’t dangle the forged signature by Mark on the extradition order and not have that come back into play, especially since the show went out of its way to show us the order and the forged signature again as the quad-box screen came up to end the latest hour).   I can’t help but feel that the writers somehow realized we had to have Heller around to see Mark get what’s coming to him (and let’s face it, he’s going to lose a lot when this news comes to light).  I’m officially less intrigued by this storyline than I once was, but still feel like Mark will face the wrath of Heller and Audrey when these events come to light.  Add in that he didn’t pull a Bauer and find a way to get Heller out of his apparent death and I can see Audrey back with Jack by season’s end.

Or maybe not.

Mayhaps this will be the final mission for Jack as he sacrifices himself to save Heller and Audrey.

Meanwhile, we’ve got the CIA standing in for CTU with all kinds of crazy shenanigans.   Navarro is actually the bad guy, framing Kate’s husband and giving secrets to Chloe’s new boyfriend*.  Now that Navarro is out as the bad guy, I fully expect his every betrayal to come to light.  I also expect somehow Chloe is going to be betrayed as well and have to have Jack come pull her fat out of the fire.

*Worst reveal EVER!

Honestly, I was fully on board with this day until the latest hour.  Far too many of the typical 24 developments all crammed into an hour and ones that left me scratching my head a bit.

It may not ruin the entire day for me, but it’s put a bit of a taint on what, until now, has been a very enjoyable run of the show for me.  I hope the show can prove me wrong and wrap things up well or in a satisfying way.

The Capaldi Era Begins August 23rd!

The Peter Capaldi era of Doctor Who officially kicks-0ff on Saturday, August 23 and I am pretty excited about it.

The BBC confirmed the news today and released a new photo of Capaldi looking very Pertwee-esque and cranky!   Please, please let the new Doctor be cranky and less of a sex symbol than others of the modern Who era.  (David Tennant).capaldi

Seeing the photo and watching the brief promo from BBC America makes me want to dust off some old Pertwee episodes and view them this weekend.

I can’t wait for the Capaldi era to begin (I haven’t been looking forward to a new season of Who this much since the second season of the Matt Smith era) and I only hope that it can live up to my expectations.

I know what I’ll be doing Saturday evening, August 23!   I wonder if  I can set the DVR now….

Meeting Ray Stevens

10492228_10152919367953776_8677641993290717677_nYesterday, I got the opportunity to meet a long-time favorite entertainer — Mr. Ray Stevens.

I’ve been a fan of Ray ever since I heard “The Mississippi Squirrel Revival” many, many years ago and picked up the album “He Thinks He’s Ray Stevens” on vinyl.    That began a lifelong fandom of Ray and his music that included purchasing all of his albums that were released over several years on vinyl, cassette tape and CD.

But for all of my love of Ray, I’ve never got to hear him in concert or meet him in person.

So when I found out that the Nashville library was hosting a special afternoon with Ray Stevens as part of their That Nashville Sound series, I made plans to attend.*

* Unfortunately, I only found out about the event on Friday afternoon so it was a bit late to try and rally some friends who are also fans who might have enjoyed going.

Ray was there to promote his new book, Ray Stevens’ Nashville, looking back over his long and distinguished career.   The program was a conversation between Ray and Ralph Emry, looking at some of Ray’s history in Nashville and some of his big hits….well, up to a certain point.  Given how long Ray’s been producing hits, there was only so much ground that could be covered during the hour and a half (or so) program.   I will admit I was a bit frustrated that the set-up included a keyboard and yet when Emry discussed some of Ray’s bigger hits, we went to a video clip of each.   I wanted to get a chance to hear Ray play and sing a bit — which he did, but not quite enough.

It was interesting to learn a bit about how Ray wrote some of his famous songs.  For example, he said that he took out the rhyming dictionary to pen his big hit “Gitarzan.”  When he ran out of rhymes for a word, he said he just changed the verse of the song.

He also said that his Grammy winning blue-grass version of “Misty” came one afternoon while working on other material in the studio and that it was recorded in two sessions.    Another tidbit of interest was that his famous hit “The Shriner’s Convention” came from staying a hotel and wanting to get some sleep but that wasn’t on the agenda of the local Shriners staying there for their convention. And while there wasn’t a motorcycle on the high dive (as he says in the song),  he drew inspiration from one actually being in the swimming pool.

Another interesting tidbit was that Ray flew to LA and was offered the chance to record “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” but he passed.  It seems he’s spent a lot of time, energy and money working on a “Sunday Morning Coming Down” and was afraid he’d have to put that song on hold while he worked on “Raindrops” to meet the deadline for the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.   “Raindrops” went on to become a huge hit while “Sunday Morning” wasn’t one of the bigger hits on Ray’s career.

Alas, we didn’t get to hear anything about “Mississippi Squirrel Revival” (one of my favorites) or his later stuff like “Would Jesus Wear A Rolex.”   I easily could have listened to Ray reminisce for another several hours about all the songs I’ve come to know and love.

10409523_10152919368038776_2713611700433417530_nI’m hoping that will be covered in his book, which I picked up and got autographed.  I look forward to reading it and hearing more about one of favorite entertainers.  His music has been a companion on a lot of roadtrips over the years.  In fact, a few years ago, I pulled out my iPod listened to several songs that reference Hahira, Georgia as I drove into and near the town.  My personal favorite — “Eric the Awful.”

The only negative to the experience had nothing to do with Ray or the Nashville Library.  It had to to do with Parnassus Books, who was on hand to sell copies of Ray’s book.

Going into the show, the store had a table set up and books out.  I got there early and wanted to buy a book as I went in so I could get into line to meet Ray immediately following the show.  Well, as we went in, I asked if I could buy a book and was rudely told I couldn’t and I would have to wait until after the show.  I shrugged this off but was annoyed to see people filing in after I was seated who were allowed to buy the book.

Then, after the show I went out to buy a book…but was underwhelmed by the staff’s responsiveness to customers.   Several people ahead of me were not used to paying using the iPad addition and this slowed things down a bit.  Part of it was impatience by the staff for not being able to understand why anyone couldn’t just sign on the iPad and move along.  There was also a frustration by myself and several other customers who had cash and wanted to just pay, get a book and get into the next line when only one of the TWO people at the table could be bothered to take our money or offer any kind of service.

So often I hear about how we should support our local independent book stores — and I totally agree that sentiment. But I also feel that I should expect the same or better level of customer service as I get from the big box bookstores or their on-line competition.   And I really feel like these representatives of Parnassus Books really dropped the ball there.

But I won’t let that ruin what was, otherwise, a great afternoon.    Hopefully I will get a chance to see Ray in concert someday.  But if not, I’m just glad I got the chance to meet him and to shake his hand.  And to thank him for the years of entertainment he’s given me.