Alas, it was a herculean task and despite my best efforts, I came up short. In the end, I sampled only 47 of the some 60 varieties of hot chocolate offered for this year’s Hot Chocolate Festival. Still, 47 hot chocolates in 24 days aint bad, especially considering I took those four days off to visit mom in Montreal. This year, I doubled last year’s score. And, next year, I vow to do even better!
So, what were the standouts? Well, what follows is my list of the Top 5 Hot Chocolates of this year’s Hot Chocolate Festival!
When all was said and done, six hot chocolates actually made by top 5 list. After much consideration, I decided to offer a Top 5 +1 for good luck!
Honorable mention goes to…
A Snowball’s Chance in Hell:Single origin Mexican chocolate with Mexican chili poured over house made chocolate ice cream. Accompanied by a flourless chocolate cookie.
Available at: Chocolate Arts 1620 West 3rd Ave., Vancouver (Kitsilano).
Ah, now this is more like it! Akemi was on the edge of her seat (or, actually, her side of the bed) throughout this episode. She loved it. Action! Suspense! Humor! And, best of all, those dazzling visual effects! She was blown away by the the sequence of Atlantis shielding itself within seconds of the giant wave crashing down on the city (“Always very last minute your show!”) and also had high praise for the Teyla-Sora showdown (compliments of our former SGA stunt coordinator James Bam Bam Bamford). She continues to enjoy McKay, greatly appreciated seeing her favorite Dr. Beckett, and is even warming up to Sheppard. She had one big bump = McKay dressing his arm wound OVER his sleeve.
Overall: “I liked it a lot. I’m getting used to this city. At first I thought not as good as SGU’s ship but now pretty cool.” And then: “I’m beginning to like SGA too!”
A couple of years ago, I offered some thoughts on this episode (and the next one) in one of my Trip Down Memory Lane entries:
Hmmm. It would appear Akemi is fast losing interest in this show. I keep thinking that if we can just make it to the mid-season two-parter, The Storm/The Eye, we should be okay. Those two episodes, in my estimation the high point of SGA’s first season, should revitalize her interest in the series and keep her focused through to the season one finale. Apparently, Carson Beckett’s charming eyes will only get the series so far.
Alas, Underground didn’t rate that highly for her because she had a hard time following what was going on. But once the episode moved past people the various people-sitting-at-tables-talking scenes (about two-thirds of the way through), her interested picked up. Still…
On the story: “Chotto difficult to understand this episode. A little bit complicated. Seems very odd from the beginning.”
On Teyla: “Too much make-up this episode.”
On Teyla informing the Genii that team Atlantis had awakened the wraith: “She is stupid!”
On McKay: “I like arrogant guy!”
And overall: “Surprisingly not so much episodes of the actual Atlantis. I’m looking for more inside of Atlantis.” Crap! She’s beginning to sound like YOU guys!
Yes, our Book of the Month Club is back and we’re kicking things off with a March 3rd discussion of Matthew Kloos’s Terms of Enlistment, the book YOU selected in our January poll. Aint democracy grand? With February upon is, it’s time for another round of voting as we choose our April Book of the Month Club pick. Like last month, I made use of SF Signal’s handy monthly rundown of genre book releases complete with covers and links to synopses:
I refined the process, selecting only those books available in paperback so that everyone can participate. As a result, some of my hardcover nominees failed to make the cut (The Martian, The Winter People, Influx, Strange Bodies, and The Waking Engine) but, for those of you nevertheless intrigued, I’ll be reading and reviewing them as part of my new “Monthly Reads and Capsule Reviews” which will also include all of the nominated titles in our monthly poll – so that I can inform you whether you made the right choice or not.
Anyway, here are the nominees for our April Book of the Month Club discussion…
SKYLIGHT (Kevin R. Hopkins) Paperback, 400 pages.
One October night, millions died when the air suddenly became unbreathable. Miraculously left alive, Martin Fall journeys home to Los Angeles and watches as society collapses all around him, leaving him to pick up the pieces. But when he’s recruited for a dangerous mission, he must confront his tragic past to rescue a technology that could save the earth from destroying itself.
NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (Davis Grubb) Paperback, 198 pages
Inspired by serial killer Harry Powers, “The Bluebeard of Quiet Dell,” who was hung in 1932 for his murders of two widows and three children. This best-selling novel, first published in 1953 to wide acclaim by author Grubb, (who like Powers lived in Clarksburg, West Virginia), served as the basis for Charles Laughton’s noir classic . Renamed “Harry Powell,” the lead character in this book, with LOVE and HATE tattooed on his fingers, is remembered as one of the creepiest men in book and cinema history.
[This one is, obviously, a re-release of the original book. But I've heard mixed reviews of the new edition so feel free to grab any copy if this one wins out].
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.
This is the twelfth expedition.
Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.
[Jeff is a past Book of the Month Club participant who was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions - included here because I enjoy his work:
THE SUN WARRIORS (Robert Mills) Paperback, 288 pages.
This captivating combination of science fiction and political satire draws the reader into an alternative present, where the threat of alien life destroying our beloved planet is all too real. It’s raining salt-water in the Sahara desert. In Thailand it’s snowing. All over the world, strange phenomena are beginning to occur and the young Thai climatologist, Dr. Thongchai Pakpoom, concludes that there is only one possible explanation: intervention by extraterrestrial beings. He is soon to be proved correct. Fugitives from the unstable Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy have decided to settle on Mars. In order to make it suitable for their needs, they decide to fire missiles carrying warheads into the sun, which proves to be effective for them but disastrous for Earth. Meanwhile, Thongchai is one of four humans who are ‘collected’ by alien scientists as part of their research. As the national leaders of Earth are unable to reach an agreement with their new neighbours, it’s up to the captives to persuade their abductors to change their policy before it’s too late.
[Political satire. Hmmm. It's all in the execution.]
HER HUSBAND’S HANDS AND OTHER STORIES (Adam-Troy Castro) Paperback, 336 pages
A utopia where the most privileged get to do whatever they want to do with their lives, indulging their slightest whims via the bodies whose wombs they occupy; a soldier’s wife tries to love a husband who is little more than backup memory; a society in which the citizens all make merry for nine remarkable days, and on the tenth get a taste of hell; the last ragged survivors of an expedition to a savage backwater world hunt down an infamous war criminal; a divorcing couple confront their myriad troubles to gain resolution, reason, respect – but not without sacrifice.
[Another familiar name - Adam is also a past Book of the Month club author who took the time to answer our questions. Also included because I enjoyed his past work:
THE 400lb. GORILLA (DC Farmer) Paperback, 232 pages.
Matt Danmor thinks he’s lucky. Not many people survive a near death accident with nothing more than a bout of amnesia, a touch of clumsiness and the conviction that the technician who did the MRI had grey skin and hooves. Still, it takes time to recover from trauma like that, especially when the girl who was in the accident with you disappears into thin air. Especially when the shrinks keep telling you she’s just a figment of your imagination. So when the girl turns up months later looking ravishing, and wanting to carry on where they left off, Matt’s troubled life starts looking up. But he hasn’t bargained for the baggage that comes with Silvy, like the fact she isn’t really an English language student, or even a girl. Underneath her traffic stopping exterior is something else altogether, something involving raving fanatics bent on human sacrifice, dimensionally challenged baked bean tins, a vulture with a penchant for profanity, and a security agent for the Dept of Fimmigration (that’s Fae immigration for those of you not in the know) called Kylah with the most amazing gold-flecked eyes.
[Sounds crazy. Crazy-good or just crazy? That's for you to decide!]
Start voting! Polls close on Tuesday!
Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch with…Poisoning the Well!
I offered some insight into this episode a couple of years ago. In the blog entry, I discuss Steve, pro-wraithers, and perhaps the unwieldiest line in Stargate history:
Well, right off the bat with the opening scene: “So many humans on these planets. I don’t believe it.” And: “And everyone speak English! And no Asian!”
On Beckett: “He’s so handsome.”
She was impressed with wraith-Steve’s patience in approaching his offered meal: “He was waiting for feeding time politely even though he is super hungry.”
Still, she couldn’t help but notice a certain wistfulness on the part of Sheppard on Steve’s demise: “Maybe Sheppard a little attached to him.”
But then, when he doubled-over and fell to the ground in obvious pain: “Caca?” Probably.
On the bittersweet ending: “Too bad for Scottish guy. Not happy ending. He has such beautiful eyes, don’t you think?”
Overall, a solid episode: “I liked the idea of the underground city. I found pretty smart.”
Our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch takes the long weekend off and resumes on Monday when we watch…Underground!
Randomness writes: “Do you think team Atlantis ever returned to the planet to check on how things were going there? It seems like a whole new chapter unfolding on that planet what with the suicide pact not being needed, do you think they will progress a bit as a society now?”
Answer: Actually, we did revisit the planet – albeit off-screen – in a later episode. Remember? The one where Zelenka returns to Atlantis covered in warpaint? Come on you, SGA-xperts. Which episode was it?
gforce writes: “Also why, after getting an arrow in the chest, did Keras then have his arm in a sling in the scene after?”
For some reason, they chose “pink goop” as an ingredient to publicly refute. Which is fine except the question would really be more applicable to their “beef” products. I didn’t see the answer to that one.
But the commercial did provoke some thought. What DOES go into a chicken McNugget? I wanted to know. So I hopped online to find out:
“But perhaps the most alarming ingredient in a Chicken McNugget is tertiary butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ, an antioxidant derived from petroleum that is either sprayed directly on the nugget or the inside of the box it comes in to “help preserve freshness.” According to A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, TBHQ is a form of butane (i.e. lighter fluid) the FDA allows processors to use sparingly in our food…”
“Dimethylpolysiloxane– used as an anti-foaming agent, this industrial chemical is typically used in caulking and sealants and comes with a list of safety concerns. It’s best reserved for industrial sealants than for food.”
Er, okay McDonalds Canada. Thanks for prompting me to do my own research – and convincing me NOT to eat at McDonalds.
Hey, the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce has invited Michael Vick as a guest speaker for some event called the “Evening of Champions”. Kind of odd given that Michael Vick hasn’t won any championships over the course of his football career. Most recently, he played for the Philadelphia Eagles who backed their way into a division title – on the strength of back-up quarterback Nick Foles’ performance.
Last week, I posted a story about Pennie Jekot, the director of The Humane Alliance of Rutherford County, who, it’s been alleged, swiped some poor, elderly couple’s chihuahua. Perhaps this all some innocent misunderstanding on the part of Ms. Jekot? Well, if so, she’s in no hurry to return the dog. Unfortunately for her, a lot of people are pissed off. And getting organized. If you’d like to help the Bring Buddy Back Home cause, check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/bringbuddybackhome/
Ouch. Many of the early episodes actually improve with a nostalgic reviewing. This one…not so much. Nevertheless, I kept my mouth shut during the screening so as not to unfairly sway Akemi. As it turned out, it wouldn’t have mattered if I had. She wasn’t a fan. In fact, she was downright bewildered.
Surprisingly, she didn’t bump on the plastic bug latched to Sheppard’s neck for most of the episodes, but she did have a problem with those two filler scenes. The first, the one in which Halling and the Athosians approach Weir regarding some Athosian pre-death ceremony; the second, Kavanaugh’s extended complaint scene with Weir: “Why? What the purpose? It’s like they just want excuse to show she is good commander.” Hmmm.
She also took exception to Sheppard’s poor marksmanship: “He’s not good at shooting. Jamil [SGU's Ronald Greer] is better.”
Again, the episode highlights for her were humorous, both intentional (“I like the cranky guy. Chotto funny. McKay need sugar.”) and unintentional (“When the bug saw him with bug and left him. Adios.”). In fact, her most impassioned response came in the episode tag when the rest of the team visit Sheppard in the infirmary and Teyla walks in wearing a rainbow top. “WTF is that?!” And then, noticing Weir’s bizarre all-brown (leather? suede? mohair?) ensemble: “WTF IS THAT?!!”.
Overall: “I preferred last night’s episode.” And leave it at that.
For my part, in reviewing the show, one thing stands out for me above all others: the Athosians. Damn, they’re annoying.
Also, Kavanaugh has a point. I mean, consider this: He and a bunch of scientists are in the midst of spinning various scenarios for rescue when he posits the possibility that McKay’s access of the puddle jumper’s systems could initiate an explosion, an explosion that could transfer through the gate. He doesn’t say it’s a certainty, but a possibility. Hell, the scientist he is arguing with doesn’t deny the possibility although he she considers it unlikely. It’s still a possibility. Weir’s response is to dress Kavanaugh down for having the audacity to bring up the potential danger, even going so far as to suggest he did so out of concern for his life over the lives of those trapped in the puddle jumper. Uh, what? If Kavanaugh’s worst case scenario does unfold, he’s going to be one of MANY Atlantis personnel injured or killed by the blast. Also, he wasn’t suggesting they give up on rescue (as Weir intimates), only that they reconsider allowing McKay to poke around at random.
Needless to say, I await tonight’s screening of Suspicion (Paul and my first Atlantis episode – and a heavy Athosian one no less!) like a street fight bracing himself for a baseball bat blow to the head.
Line Noise writes: “The most memorable scene of Hide and Seek was when Sheppard pushed McKay off the balcony in front of Weir. Weir’s horror and the boyish gleam in Sheppard’s and McKay’s eyes is priceless.”
Answer: Agreed. That was my favorite moment in the episode.
Line Noise also writes: “I think Jinto just needs a mother. What happened to Jinto’s mum?”
Answer: Sadly, she ran off with a traveling hand-held fire-starter salesman.
Line Noise also writes: “What, for that matter, happened to Jinto’s dad’s leg that required him to hop around on crutches? Was that originally in the script or did Christopher Heyerdahl hurt himself and it had to be written into the story?”
Answer: Chris, the actor, suffered an injury prior to filming so Robert Cooper simply wrote it into the script – much like the Daniel appendicitis of SG-1 season 3′s Nemesis.
Deborah Rose writes: “this episode rose above the material. The energy monster was meh, though the way the heroes resolved it was sensible. Loved that Teyla saw what the others took a long time to grasp. Loved the comedy in the episode, especially Sheppard’s evil delight in having shot at McKay. Loved McKay’s growth, in stepping out to be the hero, even knowing the high probability of death. Handled less adroitly, this whole episode would have reeked. But cast and production managed to put together something that was worth watching, and even rewatching.”
Answer: Uh, you appear to be contradicting yourself here. You start off by stating the episode rose above the material (the implication here is “the script) and compliment the cast and production, but everything you lauded (“Loved that Teyla saw what the others took a long time to grasp. Loved the comedy in the episode, especially Sheppard’s evil delight in having shot at McKay. Loved McKay’s growth, in stepping out to be the hero, even knowing the high probability of death.”) was actually scripted.
majorsal writes: “Answer: True. If she enjoys Atlantis and wants to check out SG-1, I’ll probably start with season 9.
you’ve got to be kidding. to me, that’s the *worst* season of the entire sg1 run! come on, joe, let her see the golden and BEST of this series!”
Answer: As I said, if I sat her down to watch SG-1′s first season, she’d probably excuse herself and then secretly hop on the first plane back to Japan. That was a rocky first season with some very rough visual effects.
kabra writes: “We’re commenting on Hide and Seek, correct?? I am a little puzzled by the “force field” that McKay wears. He can pick up,physically wrap his hands around the the coffee mug, but he can not drink from it. How is that?”
Answer: Yes, a very unique force field that doesn’t allow foreign matter to enter the body (i.e. food and drink) with the exception of air. I’ve always wondered about the reverse.
arctic goddess writes: “I also loved McKay’s general hypochondria with fears that he was dying from all sorts of innocuous issues. Who came up with these very interesting personality quirks? Do writers add that to the script, then it is approved or not approved by the producer?”
Answer: On Stargate, the writers WERE the producers, so the steps to approval were very short. McKay’s personality quirks were scripted and developed by Robert Cooper and Brad Wright who based these quirks on certain individuals they worked with in the past.
Randomness writes: “Realistically do you think the Athosians could have settled on Atlantis over the long term? Naturally as the expedition was relatively new to the city, do you think there was some concern that they may press something/do something that may cause trouble(Even accidently), that could have made the team think that perhaps while they get to grips with the city and its functions that the Athosians would be better off elsewhere?”
Answer: Sure, I think that the Athosians could have proven themselves capable enough. But I suspect they would have been no less annoying.
Today’s entry is dedicated to blog regular 2cats. Happy belated birthday!!!
Whoa. Didn’t see that coming. Well, I kind of did given that I correctly predicted a Seahawks victory (see last blog entry), but I was far too generous in my estimation of the Broncos’ offence (and clearly underestimated the Seattle defense). It wasn’t a great game (unless you’re a Seahawks fan) and those much-ballyhooed Superbowl commercials weren’t all that special either. Alas, being in Canada, we are stuck watching our super-lame Canadian commercials – roughly the same half-dozen replayed ad nauseum – so we didn’t get to see those multi-million dollar ads. Until much later when I hopped online and checked them out. For the most part, highly forgettable. But there were a few winners. The following were my favorites…
NEWCASTLE BROWN ALE
Agree? Disagree? What were your favorites? If they include cloying kids (ie. that Cheerios commercial), then I’m afraid you’re automatically disqualified.
Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch. Last night, Akemi and I (and, I assume, many of you who are rewatching along with us) checked out the show’s third episode, Hide and Seek. So,what did Akemi think?
Surprisingly, she liked it quite a bit. I say “surprisingly” because, well, compared to the thrilling opening two-parter (Rising I and II), episode #3 was comparatively sedate. Also, the fact that she almost dozed off during the search for Jinto suggested otherwise – but she quickly perked up once the shadow creature appeared. Overall, a mixed bag for her – but one predominantly filled with hazelnuts (her favorites) over pecans (her least favorites): “I liked this episode. Very interesting concept.”
Some of you asked why we’re watching the shows in reverse order. Wouldn’t it make more sense to start with SG-1? Well, yes, but if we started with SG-1, we probably wouldn’t have gotten through the first episode of the franchise. Akemi is highly sensitive to a show’s dated aspects. If it looks old, she just won’t watch it. And that’s why we started with SGU, the last iteration of the franchise that boasted the very best visual effects. Akemi greatly appreciates “computer graphics” and, as we started SGA, I wasn’t sure how the VFX would hold up after so many years. The answer? Judging from Akemi’s reaction, pretty damn fine. She thinks highly enough of SGA’s visual effects in general but has particular praise for the establishing shots of Atlantis on the water: “I love this shot. Beautiful.”
Her lowlight of the episode was (ah, a girl after my own heart) the “stupid kids”, especially the wandering/random-button-pushing Jinto. She couldn’t believe kids that age would be so clueless: “How old are they? They look quite old. Middle high school.” And when I suggested they were just mischievous children playing hide-and-seek: “Did you play this kind of thing in middle high school?” No. I played Dungeons & Dragons. For her part, Akemi played mishievous-less trouble-free dodgeball.
And later, when Jinto visits Ford in the infirmary to apologize, she was positively incensed: “I don’t know why he didn’t angry at that kid. I’d be so angry at the kid.”
While she didn’t like the stupid kid, she DID like McKay – and her appreciation for his character continues to grow. A little humor goes a long way.
As for the other characters…
Beckett: “I find he has charming eyes.”
Sheppard: “I getting to like him.” Sort of like smoked paprika, a spice she was only introduced to when she moved to Canada but enjoys just fine now.
Weir: “Still old-fashioned.”
Teyla: “I think she’s nice. She has nice hair.” Wig!
Overall: “I liked this one better. I find more interesting and also very funny. And getting to know the characters.”
Whoops! Almost forgot. I did do a little write-up on this episode way back when:
Carol writes: “If she thinks Atlantis is old fashioned then she’s going to struggle if she ever gets round to SG1…”
Answer: True. If she enjoys Atlantis and wants to check out SG-1, I’ll probably start with season 9.
Maggiemayday writes: “I still have lingering remnants of the flu, so I just slept through a Shrek marathon rather than watch the game.”
Answer: And still clearly feverish. That wasn’t Shrek. That was a homeless man rooting through your backyard.
arcticgoddess writes: “One of the best things about the very first episode that continued later on in the series was the bro-mance between McKay and Beckett. The two of them were awesome together. Many of the best lines were between the two of them. Who made the decision that McKay and Beckett would become friends? It was brilliant.”
Answer: Brad Wright and Robert Cooper established the McKay-Beckett friendship in those early episodes and developed it over the course of the season, writing to the obvious onscreen chemistry between the two Hewlett and McGillion.
Mike from Canada writes: “Does each major character has a bible? How much does it change through out the series?”
Answer: Brad and Robert provided the cast with character breakdowns as well as one on one conversations on where their characters were headed in the show’s first season. Adjustments were made as things progressed of course as Brad and Robert wrote to the show’s (and cast’s) strengths.
Jenny Horn writes: “My favorite line in both episodes is when the bespectacled science guy is in the puddle jumper bay with science guy #2 and says, “Spaceships!”, with an excited demeanor. Very endearing.”
Answer: Yeah. Whatever happened to those nerds?
Jenny Horn also writes: “Now for the music….I’m a musician, a brass player, so I love it when composers use French horns and bass trombones, and all other brass, in their works. I’m sure a lot of the music was electronically produced, but do you know if the theme was performed by a live orchestra?”
Answer: Yes, this was composer Joel Goldsmith at his very best. He was so good at what he did because he truly loved what he did. And, yes, the theme was performed by a live orchestra (in Seattle, if I remember correctly).
Bailey writes: “I don’t quite get comparing Sheppard to Eli though, wasn’t Eli the McKay like character in SGU?”
Answer: It can certainly be argued that all three Stargates were “team” shows. Still, it’s pretty clear that the story is mainly seen through the eyes of a singular main character, one who is a little more grounded than the rest and offers viewers at home the opportunity to live vicariously through this “average Joe’s” experience. Again, one can debate how “average” these protagonists were, but there’s no denying the fact that THEY were the ones audience members connected with most. In SG-1, it was Jack. On Atlantis, it was Sheppard. And, on Atlantis, it was Eli. All three were, to a certain extent, fish out of water amidst the Stargate experts.
Akemi and I finished watching the second half of Stargate: Universe’s first season today. It’s been interesting to see her develop a genuine passion for the series. “I love Stargate!”she declared this morning. “Please call me, geeku-chan!”
Like any fan, Geeku-chan had her favorite characters, her favorite episodes. Robert Cooper’s Time is still tops in her books. She can’t get enough of that kino!
What follows are her thoughts on episode #11 through #20…
Being a big fan of the show’s visual effects, Akemi greatly appreciated this episode, especially the sequence of the ships exchanging fire (“Poom poom poom”). She, did, however, have some reservations about the alien who proved disappointingly weak in her opinion. She also wasn’t a fan of Young in the alien suit – “He looked like an oompa loompa!”.
Overall though, a solid episode in her estimation. “I feel like I’m watching a movie.”
She found certain elements of this one confusing, particularly those related to the transfer of the ship’s control. Still, she did find it suspenseful (“Jamil almost killed Patrick!”she exclaimed at one point) and loved the space walk. On the other hand, she found the operation sequence “scary”, the part where Rush awakens in the middle of surgery especially distressful.
For some reason, she found this episode difficult to understand and expressed disappointment that we never got to see “the alien who built the Tokyo towerish thing”.
She did find the burgeoning/grudging friendship between Rush and Young interesting, noting: “I find science guy and old Young very friendly now but a few episodes before they were cranky cranky.”
As for T.J.’s predicament, she was surprisingly noncommittal: “Don’t feel sad for her because it’s personal situation going on. No comment.”
“I watched twice and still don’t understand!” Alas, yes. She fell asleep the first time and then started from the beginning in the hopes that she wold actually understand it the second time around. No such luck. What was the problem? Well, beside all the back and forth between reality and Rush’s world: “Very confusing because science guy very mumblesome.”
An emotionally strong episode for Akemi who was on the edge of her seat throughout. She confidently predicted our intrepid foursome would make it back to the ship at the end of last episode and, when they didn’t, she was downright shocked. So, when the remaining trio didn’t make it back in the nick of time a second time, she was incensed. “F**ing scientist! Why dial? Give last five minutes to them. It shouldn’t happen such bad timing!” Sadly, it did and Scott, Eli, and Chloe ended the episode off-world with seemingly no chance of rejoining Destiny.
Akemi: “I like this episode because twisted.”
Me: “You mean because there was a twist.”
Akemi: “Yeah. Twisted.”
Her appreciation for Ronald Greer/Jamil Walker Smith continues: “I like Jamil. I mean Jamil’s character.”, “I like Jamil’s character more because he had bad experience as a kid.”, and “I like young Jamil with yellow t-shirt and crazy hair.”
This episode may not have been a fan favorite, but Akemi liked it just fine, especially the visual effect shots of the robot fixing the ship. She did find it odd that T.J. (conveniently) didn’t knock when paying a call on Rush, simply opening the door to his room and catching him and Rush/Dr. Perry/Wray in an “awkward” moment.
This episode also begged the question: “When is geek guy going to get with her? When will other guy die?”. She’s apparently a Chloli shipper but likes Scott just the same. “Very handsome,”she told me. “But geek guy also very cute and unique. In Japan, both would be equally popular.”
Right off the bat: “Why Young stop shaving his beard? Depression comes from being father?” I don’t know. Maybe?
She thought this a good, scary episode with an ending that left her wanting more. Ultimately, a great episode “because written by Carl Binder-san.”
At some point, she started referring to a character as Chef. Well, I knew “scientist” referred to Rush and “geek” referred to Eli, but “Chef”? Turns out she was referring to Lou Diamond Philips because she remembers him from his varied Food Network forays. Some of her comments on this episode:
“I like the scene of Jamil punching his face, stupid chef.”
“Why chef flip it? How he get brainwashed? I guess it is what it is.”
“Nice to see Mike Dopud.”
“Mike Dopud is alien? Looks like human though.”
As for the episode as a whole: “I like but why stop there? I’m curious and can’t sleep.”
She was on the edge of her seat from start to finish and, when the episode ended, requested we roll right into the next. The highlight for her? Eli’s courageous bid to keep Chloe safe, at one point literally sweeping her off her feet. (“I love geek boy.”). The lowlight? She didn’t like the fact that Young didn’t vent the the gate room the second the Lucian Alliance came through. Chef be damned!
Not quite the consistent nail-biter that was Incursion I, Incursion II delivered big time for her in its last fifteen minutes. “Very movie-ish!”was her take on the season finale. BUT she didn’t like the fact that there was no ending. “Not finished? Not happy!” The problem? She feared for her favorite characters. Why? “I’m afraid because my boyfriend has no mercy. I like happy ending but my boyfriend not all the time.”
Hmmm. Makes me wonder what she’ll think of the series finale.
Seriously. No sooner do I recover from my pulled solar plexus (see previous issues, ed.) than I am now battling a lower back “thing”. Specifically, a lower right hip ache that flares up whenever I shift my weight a certain way – or not. I don’t remember doing anything that could have caused it – outside of those heavy deadlifts – but that’s not really the point. The POINT is that I have never been the type of guy to suffer from back issues. That has always been the “other guy” – you know, the little guy in the office next door who occasionally slips a disc and then either has to sleep on the coffee table or standing up. Not me!
Today, I received a request for some Atlantis blueprints. I explained that my collection of blueprints, part of the various art department packages from past Stargate episodes, are incomplete. Some episodes have plenty of supporting docs, everything from schematics to colorful designs, while others only have a sketch or two. I’ve been meaning to digitize these files for a while now (maybe a year) but just haven’t had the opportunity to get around to doing so. I figure the next best thing is to just scan and upload the various packages for your entertainment and edification.
Would you all happen to remember a little Stargate: Atlantis fifth season episode called Remnants?
With the recent news that Roland Emmerich would like to make a second, big screen, Stargate movie, questions surrounding the future of the franchise have again started popping up throughout fandom.
It’s been three years since Stargate: Universe was cancelled and fans want to know: What’s next? Whither Stargate?
Well in my humble and somewhat informed opinion: Beats me.
But let’s look at the possibilities…
THE BIG SCREEN REBOOT (TWO WAYS TO DO IT)
Look at the re-imagined Star Trek. Both movies did HUGE business. And, like Star Trek, Stargate is an established scifi franchise that would undoubtedly wow with a big screen treatment and visual effects budget. The potential box-office returns could be tremendous!
Or not. If the summer of 2013 has taught us anything, it’s that Big Budget Star-driven features don’t guarantee success. The Lone Ranger ($215 million dollar production budget), White House Down ($150 million dollar production budget), Turbo ($135 million dollar production budget), RIPD ($130 million dollar production budget), After Earth ($130 million dollar production budget), The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones ($60 million dollar production budget). What do the aforementioned have in common? Yep, you guessed it: Big hopes, Big budgets, and, all of them, Big box office disappointments. Also, keep in mind that the listed amounts in parentheses are the approximate production budgets which don’t take into account the equally sizeable costs of marketing these movies. Ouch.
So, it’s clear that “throwing money at it” won’t guarantee a movie’s success. Neither will casting hitherto bankable actors like Johnny Depp and Will Smith. BUT Stargate is an established property with a pre-existing fan base, so it’s got that going for it. Right? Well, okay, so did The Mortal Instruments movie but, for argument’s sake, let’s just stick to Stargate for now. Big budgets aside, the Stargate franchise is much like Star Trek in that it has that built-in SF fan base eager for more. So it stands to reason that it should follow the Star Trek model and find success as a big screen reboot!
Well, not so fast…
First of all, as proud as I am of everything we accomplished with the Stargate franchise, I’ll be the first to admit it doesn’t have quite the reach or support of Star Trek. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Sure, we produced three series, two direct-to-dvd features, and some 300+ episodes over 15 years but, while impressive a feat, it pales in comparison to Star Trek’s five series, twelve theatrical features, and some 700+ episodes over 46 years. As a result, Star Trek’s influence reaches far beyond its fandom – which is important given that, despite its established fan base, Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled after four seasons. This is not to minimize the impact of fans but simply to suggest expectations should be tempered. A robust and passionate fandom doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. Having said that, however, it’s in instances such as these, where a franchise’s reach may not be as wide-ranging as a Star Trek, that fandom is even more important in a studio’s campaign to “get the word out”.
It’s for this reason that you want to make sure you get fandom “on your side”. And this is where reboots can get a little tricky. On the one hand, re-imagining a property offers first-timers the opportunity to get in on the ground floor. They’re on equal footing with longtime fans in that they don’t need to come in to a movie knowing what has come before. It’s fresh and new to them as, ideally, it would be to longtime fans. A new beginning of sorts. Problems arise when you start distancing those longtime fans, the support crew that could prove an indispensable part of any pre-release online campaign, who may not take kindly to the franchise they’ve come to know and love being messed with. And, by messed with, I mean…
Ignoring what has come before.
Yes, a fresh start is a great idea when it comes to reaching out to a potential new audience, and while some fans would undoubtedly be pleased with a complete relaunch, many others would no doubt take umbrage with a complete dismissal of established canon. In some ways, it’s the equivalent to the Bobby Ewing in the shower scene in Dallas. Remember? Actor Patrick Duffy decided to leave the series and his character was killed off at the end of the show’s eighth season. But then Duffy had a change of heart and decided he wanted to come back. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a scifi show and cloning, time travel, and ascension were not viable options. So, to address the issue and bring back Bobby Ewing, Duffy’s character makes an inexplicable appearance in the final episode of of the show’s ninth season. His wife hears the water running, walks into the bathroom, and is shocked to see him there, showering. When season 10 got underway, it was revealed that Bobby never died and that the show’s ninth season was just a dream. An insanely detailed dream that ran 31 episodes! Which leads me to wonder how that ninth season performs in syndication and alternate media purchases (i.e. downloads). Anyway, my point is that a creative clean slate could hurt rather than hinder a reboot’s prospects as it slams shuts: a) the book on beloved characters and b) the door on the faces of longtime fans.
On the other hand, instead of a complete reboot, the studio could opt for a reboot that makes use of established characters – which is what Star Trek did. We are presented with a new version of long-established characters – Kirk, Spock, McCoy – but the potential to piss off longtime fans is minimized because the story takes place in an alternate universe. So, quite literally, fans can have the best of both worlds. The new adventures don’t undo what has come before. Fans will, of course, have a preference, but both versions can happily co-exist without trumping one another.
Of course, one could argue that the reason this type of reboot worked for Star Trek is that, while these classic characters have long been engrained in the SF consciousness, it’s been almost twenty years since we’ve seen them onscreen in a new adventure. In the case of Stargate, well, it’s been about two years since we last saw Jack O’Neill grace the small screen. Is it perhaps too soon to expect fans will embrace someone other than Richard Dean Anderson in the role?
A SMALL SCREEN EVENT (TESTING THE WATERS)
Another possibility is to produce a one-shot Stargate television event that could potentially act as a backdoor pilot for a new Stargate series. If the ratings are great, the studio can move forward with an all new t.v. series while, if the ratings disappoint, they can cut their losses with this single production. At first blush, this seems like a great idea. Creatively, it would allow the franchise to head in a bold, new direction while still paying its respects to what has come before, leaving the door open for established characters to make an occasional appearance and help bridge the gap between old fans and new. Upon closer scrutiny, however, it becomes clear that a “one and done” deal wouldn’t make much financial sense. In order to do it properly, especially if it was going to serve as a potential backdoor pilot, $$$ would need to be spent, and broadcast license fees and alternate revenue streams may not be enough to make the venture worthwhile. Like any show, it would be a gamble, but the fact that science fiction requires more of a financial investments makes this even more risky. At some point, the studio needs to ask itself what would be the better scenario: strike now or wait? There’s an argument to be made for both. The fact that the last Stargate episode aired only two years ago suggests the fans are still out there and, if a movie or series is produced sooner than later, one could count on their support – in addition to the potential support of new viewers. Strike while the iron is hot! Then again, the ratings for SGU’s final season could suggest viewer fatigue and maybe waiting is advisable.
A CLASSIC STARGATE MOVIE OR MINI-SERIES
As much as I would love to see a television mini-series or movie based on either of the three past Stargates (SG-1, Atlantis, or Universe), this one is the longest of long shots mainly because the sets no longer exist and rebuilding them for a one-time adventure doesn’t make a whole lot of financial sense. At the very least, if one were going the backdoor pilot route, there is the very real prospect of recouping those upfront expenses in an ongoing series. Back in the day, the two Stargate direct-to-video features, Ark of Truth and Continuum did VERY well. But that was before the bottom fell out of the dvd market. Sadly, a “classic Stargate” miniseries or movie isn’t the slam dunk it used to be.
A NEW STARGATE SERIES
Well, yes wouldn’t that be great? A new set of characters and host of new adventures with the potential for guest spots from the likes of Rodney McKay, Daniel Jackson, and maybe even Eli Wallace. A new Stargate-based television might be the best way to go. After all, while the original movie was successful, it was the television franchise that proved an incredibly lucrative earner for MGM. But some of the same questions arise. When should the studio look to put another series in development? Sooner or later? Has enough time passed?
So, having said all that, what DOES the future hold for Stargate? Again, I haven’t a clue and I’ve long since accepted the sheer folly of applying logic to Hollywood decision-making. But, for what it’s worth…
My gut instinct tells me the studio would LOVE to follow the Star Trek model: take an established property, re-imagine it for the big screen, and makes hundreds of millions of dollars. Of course, it could be argued that that is a very best case scenario. If the studio does consider going down this route, careful consideration will present two indisputable facts: a) Stargate is not Star Trek, and b) alienating long-time fans in favor of a new audience could prove disastrous.
As much as I would love to see that Atlantis movie or SG-1 movie or even a mini-series that incorporates elements from all three Stargate shows, this is the unlikeliest of scenarios for the simple reason that the risks far outweigh any potential rewards.
No, given the history of the franchise, it would seem a new television series would be the best way to go – a fresh take on Stargate that would bring in new viewers while rewarding the long-suffering fans.
However, I’m not the one making the call.
In the end, I think there’s only certainty: On the question of Stargate’s glorious return, it’s not a matter of IF but WHEN.
First things first! My french bulldog, Lulu, eating kale chips. Please raise volume to maximum before viewing:
One of the worst kept secrets on this blog has been the identity of that scifi series Paul and I have been trying to set up. As many of you know, back when we were working on Stargate, we started developing our own SF series in the hopes of rolling right into production with the same crew if and when Stargate ever ended. The only problem at the time was that there was no end in sight. Every time we thought Stargate would close up shop, the show would get picked up for another season. It was a classy problem that allowed us to really flesh out the concept and characters of this prospective new show.
Unfortunately, when Stargate did end, the timing proved difficult. Instead of taking advantage of our terrific Stargate crew, we ended up having to put our project on hold while we took a job in Toronto. But rather than relegate it to the back burner, we thought of an interesting way to go – and a great way to help sell the show. We hooked up with Dark Horse Comics and launched the series idea as a comic book.
The first four issues of Dark Mattergarnered great reviews and, when the trade paperback came out in October, we used it as a calling card. Having worked in development, I was aware of, and wanted to draw on, the added appeal of an established property. Also, half the battle of pitching is to help a potential buyer imagine the project you have created – and I could think of no better pitch document than that trade paperback.
We went out with a story backed by some fantastic visuals compliments of artist Garry Brown and colorist Ryan Hill. The response was incredibly positive. Even more so after Paul and I delivered the pilot script. Still, my concern was the budget, making sure we had enough money to do it properly (visual effects don’t come cheap after all!), so I was heartened by word from our producing partner today that the response in Europe has been equally great.
Now all that remains is for that final piece of the puzzle to fall into place. Yes, we’ve been waiting a while but all indications are we’ll be receiving word soon. If it’s positive, then things are going to get very busy very quickly. If it’s not, then we’ll have to go elsewhere for that final piece – which will, of course, delay things.
But hopefully it all comes together as expected. And, once it does, dare I say it…
No, better not.
shinyhula writes: “And why no zombies on this list? Night of the Living Dead, 28 Weeks Later, Zombieland; what have the unliving done to deserve your scorn?”
Answer: I was listing Scariest Endings and, off the top of my head, none of the zombie entries came to mind. Well, now that I think of it, maybe the original Night of the Living Dead would have been a good candidate.
ancuetas writes: “Is that you know what music is there at the beginning of the video.”
Answer: This piece of music, from SG-1′s Demons, was before my time (I joined the show in its fourth season), but it’s safe to assume that it was composed by the late, great Joel Goldsmith.
dasndanger writes: “Also, this whole thing with the shutting down of cell towers in cases like this? That’s why I still have a corded old timey landline tele-o-phone.”
Answer: Hmmm. Good point. I haven’t had a landline in four years.
RLAVILLA writes: “Recently there have been two new Stargate games for Android and iPhone, and I think that will be the new product line, which has been selected by MGM for Stargate franchise. How about converting “Stargate Extinction” in a game for these new platforms?”
Answer: Not my call. That would be for the studio to decide.
Jen writes: “A tad random, but I went in on my birthday to have this done but the artist was booked up so I had it done yesterday.”
Answer: Great. But I insist you draw the line at one of those Jaffa forehead tattoos.
baterista9 writes: “Just saw Cookie on Saturday at Sea World of Texas.”
Answer: Yes, he was there for his cousin Esmerelda’s wedding.
fsmn36 writes: “But the entire movie plays off the alcoholic!Tony arc from the comics and the Rhodey scene makes 20x more sense when you consider Tony is basically planning on suicide/knows he’s going to die. What seems a tacky action scene becomes a heart breaking fight between friends while Tony desperately gives everything he loves away to the few people that matter to him.”
Answer: Sounds terrific. Unfortunately, none of that came across onscreen.
gforce writes: “Did you ever take Akemi up to Whistler yet? You should take her out to a nice dinner or even a weekend up there!”
Answer: I retired my krazy karpet years ago.
Seth writes: “How hard would it be to get the cast on board for a Kickstarter for the series or movies? Looks as if Veronica Mars just got 5.5 million in Kickstarter funds from fans!”
Answer: 5.5 million may seem like a lot, but consider that the previous SG-1 movies cost 7+ million each to produce – and those productions made use of existing sets and production personnel.
Tam Dixon writes: “Did you try one of the dog cookies for quality control? You did, didn’t you?”
Answer: I didn’t, but someone I know (hint: she’s Japanese) DOES taste test for quality control.
Tam Dixon also writes: “Anyways, what about another trip? New York, L.A. or maybe even go down South. I wouldn’t recommend Memphis, unless you bring a gun but what about New Orleans or Savannah, GA?”
Answer: Akemi definitely wants to go to New York and, after reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, I’ve wanted to check out Savannah. That said, both L.A. and Vegas are closer and more likely short trip destinations. This, of course, is entirely dependent on our finding a dog sitter.
astrumporta writes: “I think you should bring Akemi to San Francisco for her b-day!”
Answer: It’s also on the list. Good eatin’! How goes, Michelle?
pennlynn writes: “You’re brave man Joe! I like having a nice drink but other than the whiskey I’m not sure I would try that haul of liquor!”
Answer: I tried the Nikka whiskey with Lawren last night when he came over for the American Horror Story marathon. It was damn good, and much better straight up than on the rocks. How went the t.v. interview?
In advance of my official Days of Stargate Universe Past trip down memory, how about a little something to whet your appetite? Ah, this takes me back! The Resurgence Art Department package accompanied by visuals from various points in Stargate: Universe’s two-year run…
Destiny corridors, areas & rooms
The Gate Room…
Gate room – upper level concept art
Gate room upper level – complete
Looking out from the gate – concept art
Looking out from the gate – completed set
Gate room consoles
The control interface room…
Art Department concept
At work in the core control room
The apple core…
Carl figures it out
Kino room and Eli’s quarters
Action in the kino room
The green screen view off the observation deck
In his quarters, Varro gets the red card for making the moves on Colonel Young’s ex:
Stage 5 level 1
The Destiny mess – last day, final scene
Destiny shuttle and corridor
Look in to the shuttle from the corridor.
Stage 5 level 2
Stage 6 layout
So, there you go. Everything you need (minus the construction material, equipment, manpower, and money) to build your very own Destiny! Check in next week and let me know how it’s coming along.