Let’s continue our Star Trek (Not Stargate! I keep making that mistake!): The Original Series re-watch. Today, Cookie Monster and I discuss Charlie X…
Me: A very strong episode this one, reminiscent of The Twilight Zone’s equally creepy “It’s A Good Life”, based on the short story by Jerome Bixby. It stands the test of time and stands out as an incredibly suspenseful ride. Sure, there are a few unintentionally hilarious moments, and the ending is a bit of a letdown, but it’s a powerful, seminal episode.
Cookie Monster: If monster said it once, me said it a hundred times: Kids Be Creepy! And monster have very bad feeling about dis one when he start making funny faces behind Kirk’s back…
Me: Yeah, I was like WTF? The Captain of that other ship couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. It was like: “Here you go, Kirk. Enjoy your new passenger!” And then, as he’s preparing to get transported back to his ship: “Sucker.”
Cookie Monster: More disturbing den creepy kid be Spock rocking out on Vulcan lute while Uhura belt out tune. And everyone else in room pretend like dey enjoying demselves and not wanting to get back to private conversation.
Me: Yeah, she reminds me of an ex-girlfriend who used to do that – break into song at parties. “Food glorious fooooood! Hot sausage and mustard! While we’re in the mooood – !”
Cookie Monster: Shut de fuck up! Me trying to enjoy a cocktail weenie over here!
Cookie Monster: But scene effektively convey first rumblings of trouble with Charlie (ie. Uhura losing her voice). Then, later it eskalate when sore loser Charlie melt chess pieces.
Me: Coincidentally, reminiscent of another ex-girlfriend. She didn’t go quite so far, but would quit a game anytime it looked like she was about to lose.
Cookie Monster: You dated some crazies.
Me: I’d rather not discuss my personal life.
Cookie Monster: Hey, monster not de one dat brought it up!
Me: Anyway, back to the episode. I feel obligated to point out that act breaks have come a long way in fifty years. We learn that the Antares has been destroyed. You’d think that would be the act break. Instead, it’s someone discovering real turkeys in the oven. Dum dum daaaaaa!
Cookie Monster: Me feel more effektive akt break would have been first shot of Kirk in his tight red tumbling pants. Dum dum daaaaaa!
Me: Yep, that was quite a sight.
Cookie Monster: Speaking of sight, what wit de weird lighting? Most of de scene take place in a brightly lit gym, den when we cut to close-ups, suddenly it be all dark and moody.
Me: Well, it certainly reflected the tone of the scene, especially after Charlie makes Sam disappear. Although I had to wonder why Kirk didn’t request Sam’s return. I mean, it couldn’t have hurt to ask, right?
Cookie Monster: Me tink he not want to antagonize Charlie further. Kid have short fuse, as demonstrated later when he make Spock stroke out on de bridge.
Me: And, later, removes that woman’s face. I remember being horrified by that scene when I was a kid. Upon further review, maybe not quite as scary. A lifetime of horror movies has inured me to faceless people.
Cookie Monster: Monster tink she look cute. Like muppet.
Me: Until you realize that, without a mouth and a nose, she wasn’t able to breathe and presumably suffocated to death.
Cookie Monster: But dat okay becuz, in de end, benevolent super aliens come to de reskue and undo everyting.
Me: Ah, don’t get me started. Yes, Kirk and co. have the problem solved for them. By episode’s end, everything is as it was before.
Cookie Monster: Even de chess pieces?
Me: Especially the chess pieces.
Cookie Monster: Lucky for de props department!
Me: Uh, yes. So, all in all, a pretty damn good episode. If it wasn’t for the Deus Ex Machina ending, I’d rate it in my top ten.
Cookie Monster: Monster like it too. But, like most shows, it lose points for singing component.
So, what did everyone else think of this episode? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.
And, tomorrow, let’s reconvene to discuss: Where No Man Has Gone Before!
Hello and welcome to our Star Trek: The Original Series re-watch. Cookie Monster and I will be your co-hosts. We’ll open the casual discussion on the show’s first five episodes, then ask you to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.
THE MAN TRAP
Me: A rocky start for the Enterprise and its crew in an episode that is at turns silly and confounding, yet enjoyable for the many classic elements established. It’s an interesting premise with a nice emotional hook involving Dr. McCoy and his former love, but there are logic bumps throughout that make this one a little tough to watch. For instance, the salt monster seems highly intelligent, yet can’t resist snacking on the unwary members of the away team, opening itself up to all sorts of trouble. Presumably it wasn’t starving since the scientist shows Kirk his salt stores have yet to be depleted, yet it simply can’t help itself.
Cookie Monster: Me empathize. If Enterprise crew bodies contain traces of cookie element, dey be VERY hard to resist.
Cooke Monster: Mebbe salt monster tink Kirk not bother to stick around since he have emergency pepper shipment to deliver to other planet!
Me: Doubtful. But you bring up a great point. Throughout this episode Kirk demonstrates a wide variety of impressive abilities, from carefully hand picking peppers for delivery to some interesting evasive maneuvers -
But what I found most surprising about the episode was that a secondary character, McCoy, drives the heart of the story.
Cookie Monster: Who?
Me: Dr. McCoy. Bones.
Cookie Monster: You mean Plum?
Me: Yes, Plum.
Cookie Monster: Plum on receiving end of best line in episode: “Stop tinking wit your glands!”
Me: Yeah, that horn dog!
Cookie Monster: And what about scientist on planet? What kind of “arrangement” he have wit salt creature? It be his planet wife?
Me: Possibly. He did seem unusually attached and at one point all but says the creature requires salt…and love! On the one hand, it’s a hideous alien creature that killed his wife. On the other hand, it’s probably a great spooner.
Cookie Monster: Speaking of killing, it interesting to note dat original red shirt aktually wear blue shirt.
Me: Yes, the costume choices in the first few episodes are interesting. It’s almost disconcerting to see Spock walking around in that beige turtleneck uniform instead of his science blues.
Cookie Monster: And dat guy in beekeeper uniform. What de deal wit dat? Enterprise have its own bee colony? Me bet Kirk gather his own honey too! Dere be nothing dis guy can’t do!
Me: Except use common sense to contact a fellow crew member. Kirk and McCoy discover the second body, then walk around shouting for Green. Is there any particular reason they couldn’t just use their communicators to contact him?
Cookie Monster: Could be Green not on Friends and Ship and Family plan.
Me: Can I just say that one of the high points of this episode is the introduction of Sulu. George Takei is terrific and his character is an interesting and integral member of the crew from the get-go.
Cookie Monster: Gertrude, not so much.
Me: Gertrude being the alien plant.
Cookie Monster: Alien planet? Sure. But more likely just Chekov hiding under table wearing big pink glove. He notorious practikal joker! Anyway, it be very weird.
Me: Sure, but not as weird as Kirk on the bridge snacking on crudités before heading down to the planet’s surface. I mean, really? Couldn’t he have just swung by the mess hall?
Cookie Monster: Mebbe he be hypoglycemik! Or he really need to carb up before big showdown wit salt creature!
Me: Actually, if anyone needed to carb up before the showdown, it would’ve been Spock. Look at him deliver those two-fisted wallops!
“If she were Nancy, could she take THIS?!” The ancient Vulcan alien-identification test?
Cookie Monster: And big twist come at de end when it revealed Nancy really…
…De Abominable Snowman from de Land of Misfit Toys!!!
Me: Yeah, didn’t see that one coming.
Cookie Monster: Also, while we on de subjekt of toys…dose shots of de Enterprise in space! Hooboy.
Me: Okay, yes, scifi television has certainly come a long way, but I nevertheless find those less-polished visual effects somehow endearing. Which is how I feel about this episode in general. A little rough around the edges -
Cookie Monster: And center!
Me: But nevertheless entertaining for its nostalgic elements.
So, what did you all think of The Man Trap?
We continue our Stargate TOS re-watch tomorrow when we’ll reconvene to discuss Charlie X!
Also, one week from today, we’ll begin discussion on the next five episodes on our viewing schedule: Mudd’s Women, What Are Little Girls Made Of?, Miri, Dagger of the Mind, and The Corbomite Maneuver.
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?”
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.
- Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
- Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer
- This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
- The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
- Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
- Cataract City by Craig Davidson
- The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
- Half A King by Joe Abercrombie
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
- Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
- We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt
- The Troop by Nick Cutter
- Shroder by Amity Gaige
- The Road to Reckoning by Robert Lautner
- The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
- Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe by Tim Leong
- House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
- We Are All Complete Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
- The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
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