So I haven’t done any sort of post on writing lately. The good news is that this is mainly due to the fact that I’ve been too busy with actual writing. I’m seven chapters in to the rough draft of A Dragon at the Gate (possibly eight, depending on how I break it up). Things were moving along pretty well there for a while, but then I hit a snag. [Read more…]
Archives for 2013
Farscape Rewatch: “Look at the Princess, Part I” (spoilers)
Season 2, Episode 11: “Look at the Princess, Part I”
****1/2 out of *****
“After we’re married, and I mean RIGHT after, they turn us into statues.”
“That. Is. Fascinating!”
“Excellent. D’Argo discovers science.”
This is Farscape’s first three-part episode, which I expect likely surprised some people at the end of part 2. (Did anyone really do three-parters then?) Crichton finds himself at the center of some royal political intrigue when it’s discovered that his funny human genes are the only ones on the whole planet compatible with the colony’s princess. Soon it’s either marry her and live out his life there, or get handed over to Scorpius’s Brain Vivisection Emporium.
This is a great episode, and a great series of episodes. Caught as the planet is between the Peacekeepers and the Scarren Empire the episode is primarily filled with political intrigue. It’s intriguing to watch the maneuvering all around Crichton as he tries to just figure a way through it all, torn between freedom, safety, and death. There’s not much action in this episode, but the political maneuvering keeps things tense. Scorpius is menacing even when he’s just talking calmly to D’Argo in a bar . Rygel gets to play quite competently in his element (politics, I mean, not water). It’s clear he’s used to such arenas (and quite happy to be in them again, even for just a while). Someone put Rygel into Game of Thrones, hmm?
Meanwhile, Aeryn gets all cranky and complicated and frustrated because she doesn’t know how to–or is afraid to–show her feelings. It sets her on a trajectory that will lead to her soon running off with a male model.
D’Argo gets a fair bit to do too , and much more than one would have expected in the early part of the first season. He’s John’s sounding board, especially since Aeryn’s all riled up. In counseling John, especially after he’s just found out about the statue, D’Argo’s advice grows more philosophical than we usually see from him. It’s a nice new side to the character, and there’s a bit of subtext in that when D’Argo’s talking about all the positive things of settling down in a stable place and raising a family, there’s likely a huge part of him wishing he were in Crichton’s place. Also that scene has a great end to “cut the treacle” a little: “If I do this, you’re going to have to be my best man.” “Ah…I’m with Chiana now, John.”
Of course, it ends with John’s face being melty-warped (seems like that’d be hard to recover from), and a “to be continued…”
“Here’s your wedding present, from Prince Clavor.”
The bit in the bar where Aeryn kisses Rygel is possibly one of the funniest scenes in Farscape.
The pyramid shape of royal palace is evocative of a goa’uld Ha’tac ship from Stargate. ‘Cept pointier.
If the Scarrens are trying to get the prince into office so they can gain influence, but the prince won’t actually begin ruling for at least 80 years, they’re playing quite the long game. Or maybe we’re just not supposed to think of that.
 Scarrens as a race were briefly mentioned before, but this is the first time we see one, and the first time we hear of the Scarren Empire being a major force.
 Is this one of the few scenes he has with D’Argo in the whole series?
 Including Chiana…
Game Review: The Last of Us
So my blu-ray player failed me a little while ago, and I decided to take the excuse to pick up a PS3 and enter the console world. One of my reasons for going with the PS3 was because it was the only way to play The Last of Us, for which I’d seen some previews before it came out. As a PC gamer, I’d been disappointed to learn that it was PS3 only. So now I could finally give it a try. Save for some minor quibbles, I wasn’t disappointed.
I tend to prefer games with a great story to go with the gameplay (Mass Effect, Deus Ex, Planescape: Torment, Knights of the Old Republic, etc.). The Last of Us is engaging and touching, set in a well-realized world with very human characters voiced in most cases by skilled actors. (Joel can be a little over-grizzled at times, but it’s a minor thing.)
As for the gameplay, I had a great time. I really like games where you can’t just blast your way through everything with unlimited ammo and health packs everywhere. The Last of Us has a limited ammo system that really made me feel like I was scavenging my way through a real post-apocalyptic setting. There were times I had to make real choices between trying to handle an enemy with the few bullets I had left, sneak in and use my last shiv, or just try to slip by completely unnoticed. Finding ammo or supplies was almost always fun in itself, because they had real value and were never something I could take for granted.
The fact that it was my first console game and I was unused to the controller may have also contributed to this. I was a lousy shot for a while, which made things all the more fun in its own way in this context.
The setting was quite well rendered, both graphically speaking and in terms of story. There’s something about climbing through the ruins of modern buildings covered in ivy with escaped zoo animals roaming around that’s just plain fun, and the infected enemies were more than a little disturbing (I hate that damned clicking sound!), though perhaps not quite as much as, say, Half-life 2’s screaming headcrab zombies.
I only had two real problems with the game. The first was that it seemed to end rather abruptly. I hadn’t realized I was IN the endgame; gameplay-wise it felt like more of the same. (I was still having fun, but it didn’t feel like there was any ramp-up.) The story also fell apart just a little bit for me toward the end, at least in the sense that I stopped sympathizing with Joel and was becoming a bit frustrated that I was having to go along with one particular choice he made in order to continue to play the game. Granted, that choice WAS in character for him, so it’s not bad writing. I just felt a bit of a disconnect at that point.
As for the second, I’d really been hoping for more of an exploration for just how this whole spore-zombie thing got started. I wanted to know more about the infection itself, and that just wasn’t explored. Perhaps I missed something? I understand that after 20 years, such information is probably less important to most people in the game than just finding ways to survive, but I wanted more satisfaction there. Maybe in the sequel.
Farscape Rewatch: “My Three Crichtons” (spoilers)
Season 2, Episode 10: “My Three Crichtons”
*** out of *****
“I always thought I was the good guy, Chiana. But it was the least developed one of me, the one I thought least likely, who did the right thing. Somehow you knew.”
“I know you.”
A glowing energy sphere-O-mystery penetrates Moya and absorbs Crichton, then spits him back out along with two additional versions: one devolved, one evolved. Oh, and the sphere demands at least one of them back or else it’ll suck all of Moya into another dimension. This would be bad.
I wasn’t terribly excited to be watching this episode again. It’s not bad, just mediocre. It feels like an adapted plot from the original Star Trek series, though the Farscape characters are still acting in-character, so that’s not exactly a bad thing. I don’t think anyone on the Enterprise would be pulling out a phaser and threatening to shove the first Kirk he sees into the sphere the way Rygel does. As I write this, I find myself thinking that what hurts the episode is just that it’s a little too self-contained. Nothing really changes at the end , and while there are of course other Farscape episodes of that nature, they at least have a little more of a Farscapian flavor to them.
Or maybe I was just tired when I rewatched it. Who knows?
It is interesting to see how the characters react to the individual Crichtons. Zhaan quickly despises evolved-Crichton for his coldness. Rygel is as pragmatic and self-serving as can be, and just wants the whole thing over and done with. Chiana, meanwhile, is at first proto-Crichton’s only advocate. I wonder, does she help him because Crichton did the same for her when no one else wanted to take a chance on her?
“I know you.”
While watching this time, I noticed that evolved-Crichton looks a bit like Jake Busey. Now I can’t un-see it.
There’s a weird fish-eye lens effect used for some shots of Pilot in this episode that I don’t recall ever seeing before. It’s an interesting idea, likely to try to make things feel a bit more chaotic, but I’m not sure how well it works.
 Though, really, did we expect they’d have TWO Crichtons in the show for more than one episode? That could never happen! 😉
 “He’s everything I ever liked about you.”
Farscape Rewatch: “Out of Their Minds” (spoilers)
- The actors. They’re excellent at portraying their fellows in both body language and tone of voice. Claudia Black manages an American accent, Jonathan Hardy’s voice coming out in non-cranky fashion is a curious novelty, and Anthony Simcoe does such a great Chiana-in-D’Argo that I can’t help but wonder if he’d been doing impressions of her on the set already.
- It goes where most body-switching eps don’t in terms of how the characters deal with the fact of being in new bodies that they might have previously admired. Plus with the characters being aliens it adds another element to it. Yeah, so it might be bathroom humor, but the bit with John, mortified, telling Rygel how to urinate (and Rygel’s utter enthusiasm for the process) is priceless. Too bad he didn’t warn him about zippers.
Book Review: On the Matter of the Red Hand
A few days ago I read a novella by J.M. Guillen called The Herald of Autumn. Below is the review I’ve posted on Amazon and Goodreads…
On the Matter of the Red Hand by J.M. Guillen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I picked up On the Matter of the Red Hand immediately (and I do mean immediately) after loving another novella by J.M. Guillen called The Herald of Autumn. I was not disappointed.
The novella, written in first person, is narrated by Thom, a detective known as a judicar. Guided by an alchemical serum that gives prophetic visions and waking nightmares, Thom must inject himself into the search for the sister of a dangerous guild master, knowing that he may not emerge alive.
The novella is as much about Thom’s investigation as it is about Thom himself. Time is taken to show the man behind the badge (or the stave, in his case); his thoughts, his means for dealing with the burdens of his position, and his inner conflict with the serum that both aids him and disturbs him. Guillen’s portrayal has a distinctive voice that I found very enjoyable.
The novella paints an intriguing pre-industrial setting filled with alchemy, guilds, and danger. One of the details I enjoyed most about this book was the concept of each judicar having as a partner a trained raven. Guillen hints at a richer background in his setting (such as a rare firearm that seems to be a product of the setting’s past). I wanted to know more.
In fact, wanting more is the main reason I nearly rated this book 4 stars instead of 5; the end left something unresolved that I wanted to know more of. I came to discover that the novella is intended to lead into a larger series, which I’m certainly looking forward to. My only complaint here would be that Thom himself seems to sense that it was time for the novella to end, as he finds a greater sense of closure in certain events than I would have in the same situation. If Goodreads allowed me to rate it 4.5 stars, I would, but as that’s not possible, I’m rounding up.
I look forward to more.
Farscape Rewatch: “Dream A Little Dream” (spoilers)
Season 2, Episode 8: “Dream A Little Dream”
** out of *****
“I thought we might even pull this off. But you and me, not lying? Are you mad?”
Dream A Little Dream is actually the original first episode of the second season , re-tooled now as a flashback that shows what everyone on Moya went through between Family Ties and Mind the Baby.
While searching the last planet Crichton, Aeryn, and D’Argo might have escaped to after destroying Scorpius’s Gammak base–a planet that’s 90% lawyers–Zhaan is framed for the horrible, unthinkable, savage crime of jaywalking. Well, okay, so first she’s framed for jaywalking, THEN framed for murder. So I guess the latter is really more the issue.
It’s an interesting idea that a lawyer on this planet who puts on a defense he even suspects as being false he suffers the same fate as his client. I’m not sure how a 90% lawyer society could actually function, but, as often is the case with stories like this, it’s really meant more as a satirical tool rather than a model of a real society. Creative license.
While the concept of Chiana and Rygel having to win a trial without lying is a fun idea, in execution the episode isn’t terribly interesting to watch after you know what happens. And since it’s a flashback in the first place, and we already know that nothing of consequence really goes on, it’s not so interesting to watch the first time, either, as I recall. The whole “light of truth” bit seems far too hokey to actually work without more political backing.
One thing the episode does accomplish is to show us a bit more of the group’s emotional states as they dealt with the loss of their friends. Zhaan is taking it especially hard due to the fact that she’s both trying to cope herself and trying to aid the others in working through their own loss. The stress of it all is fraying Zhaan’s sanity. She’s going to pieces and hallucinating her lost comrades. It’s some insight into why she was re-entering the Seek in Mind the Baby. It’s just a shame the episode that brought this insight wasn’t a little better.
“Thank you for your compassion.”
“Thank you for yours.”
Zhaan hallucinates Crichton so accurately he even makes a pop-culture reference that she probably couldn’t have come up with herself.
 Named “Re: Union”
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