Nostalgia post #6: Ad Astra Per Aspera

Star Trek (1966-?)

Star Trek Space

The other science fiction franchise. Or the science fiction franchise, if we christen Star Wars science fantasy. Where George Lucas took Campbell’s ideas and put the eternal myths into a space adventure story, Gene Roddenberry envisioned a better future for spacefaring humankind. He created a vision of an utopia, in which more enterprising, unruly individuals join the Starfleet in order to find adventure, because in the post-scarcity Earth society there’s not much of that. In Starfleet, they travel across the universe, to meet exciting new people and… not shoot them, unless absolutely necessary.

Piotrek: I’ve always been more of a Babylon 5 guy, but I appreciate Star Trek more and more. As a kid, I’ve seen a random selection of mainly The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine episodes, and there was not enough large-scale conflict for my taste. I generally liked it, but John Sheridan was my space captain. So, my introduction into the world of Star Trek was pretty chaotic… but I always liked the idea of trekking through galaxies in a big spaceship, and in time I came to also appreciate stories about (relatively) peaceful exploration.

Enterprise

Ola: My own acquaintance with Star Trek was no less chaotic, I must admit. I watched nearly all episodes of The Next Generation as a pre-teen kid, and for years Picard was the only true captain of the Enterprise 😉 I waited with bated breath for each episode, and while some of them were rather convoluted for a six- to eight-year-old, it was still a great adventure. Fantasy worlds, various races with distinct cultures, drama on the ship, imminent danger… What I liked about Star Trek then and value even more now was the nearly non-violent approach, so rare in modern pop-culture. Differences were abundant, conflicting interests as well, but more often than not a peaceful resolution could have been – and heroically was – achieved. Exploration and understanding were the key values of the Star Trek universe, and inspired countless SF visions since. As for the liberal vision of future military, with its weirdly relaxed and convoluted structure, the red- and mustard-colored uniforms and the variety of ranks coupled with a nearly total lack of discipline, back then I didn’t even bat an eye 😉

Continue reading

Game of Thrones finale – reflections

It’s been over a week since we all saw the final episode of the TV series of the decade, and we had time enough to calmly discuss how we feel about it. We’re not too impressed by the last season, but mostly happy with how the story ended. What resulted from that is a short, story-focused two-shot.

Piotrek: Season 8 has some fans, but it’s been widely criticized, not only on the social media and genre pages, but also in such venerable papers as The Guardian and Polityka. There’s a petition on change.org, with 1.5 million supporters, to remake the entire season! And even if I’m not ready to go that far, I’m not happy with these 6 episodes. The Benioff/Weiss duo stumbled when they had no more source material to refer to, and now they simply failed. Good things were inherited from earlier years, or clearly part of the general outline they got years ago from GRRM, but how did they go to the endpoint? With a story clearly rushed, full of plot-holes and characters going against their nature.

Wimpy Jon, foolish Tyrion, passive Cersei… Dany suddenly losing her mind just because that’s what was needed for the final confrontation. GoT stopped developing organically, around its many strong protagonists, and started running a short hurdle race, to quickly tick off all the major plot points.

t27

Ola: Agreed. Benioff and Weiss knew their destination, but not the road to it. They chose too many shortcuts along the way, and even though I can relate to the problems of such a big and lengthy production, spanning a decade, and I understand why the mechanisms of group thinking might have entered into this situation, so bound up in secrecy and the necessity to keep the story development to a very limited team of people, I still think it all had a detrimental effect which could have been easily avoided.

Continue reading

Nostalgia #2: Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)

Our first foray into the worlds of our childhoods ended with a sad conclusion that some things age badly. Today, we present you with an animated series from quarter a century ago that still delights our cynical older selves.

Also, our second DC post in a row, what’s going on??

BatmanTASLogo

Batman: The Animated Series originally aired from 1992 to 1995 and consisted of 85 episodes, unevenly distributed between Season One (65) and Season Two (20). This frequently awarded series is still considered one of the greatest superhero animations, and started many further animated DC Series, way before MCU.

Piotrek: In the world of animations, I had to wait till recent Spiderman to see a Marvel piece to rival this one. And it is, so far, one feature film, whereas Batman: TAS was consistently brilliant for 85 episodes!

Ola: And let’s not forget that it also paved way for some really good animated Batman movies targeted for a more mature audience – a rather rare situation in American animation industry, usually focused on kids. I can heartily recommend Batman vs. Robin from that batch, based on Snyder’s Batman: the Court of Owls storyline.

Continue reading

Nostalgia #1: Robin of Sherwood (1984-1986)

robin of sherwood 1

It took us a while, but finally it’s here: our first nostalgia post. Digging deep into our pop-cultural pasts, we dredge up things sometimes forgotten, sometimes still living through many inspirations or even outright consecutive reincarnations – but always bearing a significant weight for our early formative geek years. We’ll be trying to introduce some old stuff, review it, and finally trace their significance in the modern pop-culture – we’ll see how it goes, our Two-shots are usually quite unpredictable 🙂

We’ve decided to start with a series which had had an enormous impact on our imagination back in the end of eighties, which had become a yardstick for all later Robin Hood retellings, serious or less serious, shaping the popular imagery of the character, introducing new, mystical elements to the old myths, and which – for all its significance and our nostalgia – we cannot bear to watch anymore…

Ola: First things first, however: the famous BBC series, Robin of Sherwood, had been created by Richard Carpenter for the ITV network. Meticulously researched, ambitious in scope, showing for the first time a fairly accurate image of 12th century outlaws (no tights for anyone!), the series won considerable acclaim and fame at the time. Consisting of three seasons, altogether of 26 one-hour long episodes, it ran in the UK in mid-eighties, and in Poland for the first time in the very late eighties/early nineties – which is when we watched it. Oh, those were the times! 😉

Piotrek: A long time ago indeed. I remember running home from school to watch an episode, and being angry at my parents for taking me for a Winter break trip – because I was going to miss some episodes. They were all played on TV, on fixed schedule, with no repeats and no chance to watch it any other way. Young readers won’t get that 😉

Ola: The series is notable for a change of the male lead – Michael Praed, who played Robin in the first two series, resigned from the role after two seasons, and Jason Connery took the role of the second Robin. As the two were nothing alike, [SPOILER ALERT] the first Robin ended being killed by the evil Sheriff. There was also a plan for a fourth series, but the producer, Goldcrest, resigned due to financial problems – and the whole plot remained mysteriously unresolved, somewhat adding to the series’ legend and cult following.

Continue reading

Still worse than comics… Jessica Jones, Season Two

Piotrek: It’s been a month since Jessica Jones’ Second Season’s premiere and finally we sit down to cast our judgement 😉 I must admit the show did not induce particularly strong feelings in me this time, contrary to the first encounter. Not disappointment, but also not enthusiasm. After an awful Iron Fist and mediocre – at best – Defenders, we got thirteen watchable, but largely forgettable, episodes of superhero TV. As a new industry standard, it’s cool, but in comparison to, say, Marvel’s The Punisher, to stay within Netflix/Marvel universe, nothing special.
My main problem with Season One was that it did not show us Jessica doing the actual detective work, that the Killgrave was defeated largely by his fascination with our heroine, not her skills and efforts, and that the show was not as connected with other Netflix Marvels as it should have been, given its source material. No Murdock, Patsy as a poor substitute for Jessica’s true best friend – Carol Danvers AKA Captain Marvel… it was not bad TV, but not a great adaptation of one of the most interesting comics I’ve ever read.
AEE836B1-550A-4DDE-AC1C-0FB7D4ED35FC-817x350
Ola: I’ve forced myself to watch the second season of Jessica Jones only for the purpose of this review :P. I actually think I preferred the first season, despite its vivid and undeniable inferiority to the comic books. The second season suffers from a bad case of an ideological bout of righteousness. Don’t get me wrong – I supported “#Me too” action, because I thought it was an unfortunately necessary, if overly heated and not always fair, debate. But hitching the JJ2 wagon to “#Me too” action seems, firstly, unnecessary, and secondly, in bad taste. The storylines of Alias, i.e. Jessica Jones comic books, can easily defend themselves. They don’t need additional repetitions or variations of the themes already covered, abundantly, I might add, in season one.

Marvel’s The Punisher (2017-present)

The-Punisher-przyjaciele-i-wrogowie-Franka-Castle_article

Piotrek: And the winner of my personal favourite tv series of the year award is… Stranger Things, again. Punisher is a close second. It means a lot, considering in 2017 I’ve seen American Gods, Legion, Samurai Jack’s final season and discovered Rick and Morty. It was even better than this little beauty that sparked my hopes a few years back. I might go as far as to say Netflix might have saved its part of the MCU with this, although it is not a typical superhero show. And it’s not as linked together with Jessica Jones or Daredevil, Frank Castle wasn’t even part of The Defenders (and good for him 😉 ). It is a TV series based on a Marvel comic, part of the geek takeover of the pop-culture of our times, but mostly it is a great story about, and commentary on, the war on terror, military/society relations, and, most of all, individuals involved in all this.

Ola: Huh, for me it’s the other way round: Punisher just a hair breadth before Stranger Things, right up there with the first season of Daredevil among the very best MCU has to offer. Punisher is the comic-based TV series I’ve been waiting for: dark, gritty, realistic, tackling vital and controversial themes and topics in a way that is both respectful and immensely entertaining. It is closely linked with Daredevil, both in the overarching theme of violence as a means of justice, with DD and Punisher two sides of the same ethical coin, and in the supporting cast of characters – most notably Karen Page, who plays an important role in both series.

Continue reading

TV Star Trek returns – first episodes of Star Trek: Discovery

To boldly go where no man has gone before

Ola: Star Trek, along the Star Wars universe, is considered one of the most influential and popular ideas of humanity in space. It is especially dear to me because of the unguarded optimism and idealism of Gene Roddenberry vision – the idea that we can eventually communicate and understand every other species in the galaxy. I was much too young to watch the original series – I was a kid when The Next Generation was aired in Poland, and enjoyed every bit of it. Only recently I gave the original series a try, and liked it despite its visibly aged appearance. The mood of the series, its unabashed and unrepentant optimism, was a welcome turn of events in our rather pessimistic times.

Piotrek: I’ve always been a Babylon 5 fan. I’ve seen the whole series… three times, I believe. It was darker, faster, concentrated on geopolitics and war. And it still is my all-time favourite s/f show. The biggest such franchise ever is Star Trek though, and I understand why. I appreciate it more and more, its optimism – so hard to find in genre of today, its support for important progressive causes, captain Picard, Spock, friendly nerds laughed at by bullies in movies from the 70-ties and 80-ties… and yet, the show itself was not as watchable for me. My favourite version was TNG, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen all the episodes.

And now, 12 years after ST: Enterprise, show I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen a single episode of, we got ST: Discovery. A prologue only, so far, but it’s enough for a cautious first impression. Will it be good, modern TV, and at the same time faithful to the message of Gene Roddenberry? Is it, in other words, the Star Trek show for our times?

I am, cautiously, optimistic.

Ola: I am, unfortunately, not.

Continue reading