The Dark Side
More drama needed in space
Never mind going to Mars. We can now see for ourselves, thanks to the high-quality pictures being beamed back by the rover on its surface that the Red Planet is just a bunch of rocks. What's really required is more drama. How do script writers create drama in a spaceship or in a struggling colony on a distant planet where drama is not only unwanted it can be dangerous.
One way to do this is for the script writers to ignore reality as imagine that somehow the equivalent of a big brother household has been shot into space. Then romantic tension, rivalries, and even outright mutiny become standard operating procedures. The one-season show Another Life is a case in point. Another approach is the film Stowaway (picture at left), where the crew are mostly normal but have been thrown a wildcard in the form of an extra person (the unlikely chain of events that would result in someone accidentally ending up on a Mars mission is glossed over), and problems with the life support system to create a lifeboat dilemma. Not bad, but unlikely to start a trend. Does anyone know the Klingon phrase for dramatic tension?
To my astonishment, I found a kindle version of this book on Amazon being sold for $US6 or so. The cover and byline were different and the copyright information had been taken out, but the book was otherwise identical. To Amazon's credit, they quickly took down the material when I complained and froze the offender's account.
But the incident shows that even comparatively humble authors like myself, offering material for free, have to be careful.
Earth's one and only off-world settlement, dedicated to non-violence, equality, toleration, balanced development, and all politically correct good things has been overrun by sword and spear-wielding creatures. As the authority overseeing the development refuses to acknowledge the problem or even tell Earth's governments, the authority director shanghais a reservist soldier along with a rag-tag group of ex-cons to fight the creatures. But what can this tiny band do given that the colony has no weapons and what about the settlement's young people, sent away by their parents to a summer camp? Then there are the mysterious creatures who live in an equally mysterious structure who want to be left alone. The answer, the humans realise, lies in rediscovering Earth's violent past. For your copy, click on the link.
Buck's the Man
Who remembers the old Buck Rogers series? No, I don’t mean the 1970s remake but the original 1939 Buck Rogers serial available on YouTube starring Larry (Buster) Crabbe, pictured in costume, and Constance Moore as love interest Wilma. (Yes, I remember the brilliant Bugs Bunny spoof, with Daffy Duck as Duck Dogers in the 25th and a half-century). This series was one of the old cliff-hanger shorts shown before the main movie theatre feature, with each episode ending at a dramatic moment – the hero’s car going over a cliff or he is fighting with the villain while the hapless love interest is about to drop into a vat of acid or some such. The movie-going public would then have to come back the following week to find out what happened in the next installment. In this series the special effects fall a little short of the state of the art CGI we are now all use to – okay, the space ships look like models on wires with smoke generators at the back – but the story remains, or at least that’s what weird people like myself who might watch this stuff tell ourselves.
My only other comments are that the prop guys could have found more chairs for people to sit on in the spaceships (they stand and look out the windows), and that the people on Saturn (yep, the planet Saturn) should have blocked off the side door on the audience chamber after the first couple of times Buck did a runner through it, as the rebel Earth party’s fortunes changed. Aficionados, and those with time on their hands, should take a look.
Personality for hire
Back in early the 2010s Paris Hilton was taking six figure fees to appear at events, in order to give the events some cachet and media profile. This is better than the usual result for me of being warned off by event security, at best, or taken to a back room and beaten up, at worst. Maybe I could develop an anti-cachet persona? Become the sort of person event organisers pay to stay away.
With everyone claiming to be victims these days I've realised I also have a shot at victimhood. I'm a fashion victim. Everyone seems to be fashionable these days but me. I'm going to sue the major fashion brands.
At left is a cool fashionable person who is not me. I am the frumpy, old person at the top right hand side of the page.
More Media Notes
Utopia (Amazon Prime) - characters pictured at left.
After a pause to binge-watch the Law and Order series (for those interested, it goes up to season 20 plus major spin-off series), I have gone back to surfing the strange. Or does the strange somehow find me? Anyway, this series is not the Australian one about a government authority but a US SF-fantasy-horror-something drama about a series of graphic novels called Utopia which gives warning of diseases, including the end time disease we all know is just around the corner. One group called “the others” wants to suppress the series. Another group, the sort of people who might attend a Comiccon, plus one of the novel characters come to life, want to find the books and reveal the diseases. This features strong Tarentino-esque violence and a Game of Thrones tendency to slaughter established characters at a script writer’s whim. After about three episodes I think it’s worth the trouble and will keep watching, even if certain scenes make me want to turn away. Not for the faint-hearted.
Truth Seekers (also Amazon Prime)
A UK sitcom about a cable installer meets the X Files. Yes, you read that right. A cable TV technician who investigates the paranormal in his spare time gets a new partner and his jobs become more about the paranormal. Watched the series right through, to be rewarded by some wonderful, understated British humour. As the series’ main producer died unexpectedly after the episodes started airing, and as shows off the beaten track often depend on one individual pushing them, another series seems unlikely which is a shame.
Australian SF-Fantasy productions
There is a surprising amount of this stuff and, in my opinion, little of it is worth the trouble. A case in point is Occupation. This was made in 2018 to almost immediately sink without a trace at the box. But, for some reason, it was a hit on Netflix in the US and so a sequel was ordered. this article in the conversation will give you more details. I would heartily agree with the author of that article that Occupation tries to be like American blockbuster alien invasion films on a fraction of the budget and without the big-name stars. The academic author also says the sequel is worse. Admittedly I only glanced at the original film in which aliens invade an anonymous Australian town somewhere up North (I thought I saw sugar cane fields). They arrive in the middle of an Aussie-rules football match in which one side is wearing Richmond-style jumpers, so as far as I’m concerned the aliens can kill everyone.
Then there is the series The Bureau of Magical Things – school kids with secret lives as magical creatures fighting other magical creatures - and The Unlisted, kids with powers fighting shadowy government forces who want to control the world’s youth. Introductory scenes show the kids escaping from shadowy captors around the North end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and then cowering in the light rail cutting which is some distance from the South end of the Bridge, but I guess I’m just quibbling. Both are intended for children and both, in my view, are of only marginal interest to adults. This probably means they will do well. Bring back The Magic Boomerang (Australia, 1960s), I say. Now that was quality TV.
A small budget does not mean low quality and a big budget does not mean high quality, a case in point being Space Sweepers billed as the first Korean space blockbuster. Its planned cinema release got messed up due to Covid and it was released on Netflix to an average review score of 6.2 out of 10 on the critic site Rotten Tomatoes. Although there are some interesting SF elements to it, all I can say to the score is that a lot of critics have a higher tolerance for shlock than me. Although the main language is Korean, in many scenes the characters speak undubbed English. Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield in the Hobbit films) turns up as a space company executive, speaking English. But if the plot revolves around a cute child robot with big eyes who is also a hydrogen bomb, then you think it's gotta be Asian.
Earlier Media Notes
These have been moved to another section of the site - specifically the page overflow under 'more' in the menu bar.
The truth is out there
Sympathy for the villain
This web site showcases an alternate view of fiction, where the black-hearted villains - the one that the James Bonds and Luke Skywalkers of fiction regularly defeat and kill - may have their own side to tell. Vader was just trying to hold the empire together, Blofield was simply a businessman and James Bond breaks the law constantly. And what was so wrong with Dicken's Ebenezer Scrooge that required such drastic spiritual intervention?