Thursday, May 19, 2011

Captain's Log: Endeavor's Star Trek Logo, habitable and free-floating planets, starting over with Doctor Who

The second-to-last U.S. Space Shuttle mission is underway--and the crew of the Endeavor is using a Star Trek-styled poster as its logo.  It's modeled after the 2009 film we refer to around here as Star Trek JJA (which this story calls Star Trek: The Future Begins. ?) 

Despite the high drama of this launch--commanded by Mark Kelly, husband of Rep. Gabriel Giffords, who was there, and gave the quote of the day ("Good stuff!")  --the launch wasn't treated as big news, which kind of tells you one reason why the shuttles won't be flying anymore.

The crew just delivered the most expensive piece of hardware ever installed on the International Space Station, the  Magnetic Spectrometer, which is a cosmic ray detector designed for cosmological research."Its successful activation also marks the first truly national-laboratory-scale physical science experiment at a space station that, so far, has only conducted what on Earth might be considered bench-top experiments in biological and physical sciences," says a Christian Science Monitor article entitled The hunt for antimatter begins at the space station: Will dilithium be next?

In other news of searching for strange new worlds, scientists believe they may have a candidate for the first habitable planet outside the solar system:  Glise 581d is its designation, orbiting the red dwarf Glise, 20 light years away.  But the science hasn't yet been confirmed, and exoplanet news is always a little dodgy.  The much lauded Zarmina's World in this same system is now thought not to exist at all.

NASA has announced another discovery--planets that seem to be "free-floating"--either not in orbit around any star, or in orbits so large that they seem to be on their own. (That's an artist's conception of one above.)  "Although free-floating planets have been predicted, they finally have been detected, holding major implications for planetary formation and evolution models," said Mario Perez, exoplanet program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.  Possibly "orphan" planets that were ejected from solar systems, they may be not at all rare--perhaps even as many as planets in solar systems.

Now since this is not really a news roundup but a Captain's Log, here's what I've been up to: after watching the Series 5 Doctor Who episodes, we've got back to the beginning of the new Who in 2005.  We just finished Series 1, the year of the 9th Doctor, Christopher Eccelston.  Something of the forgotten Doctor now, he gave the revival instant credibility by basically being a very different but compelling Doctor: he didn't talk BBC English--he had a northern accent--like Liverpool (he's since played John Lennon), explained as "lots of planets have a north."  A leather jacket and a whiff of danger along with his daffy grin.  The series also introduced Rose, the new kind of companion, and made her world--and her family--part of the stories.

I was impressed with Eccleston all over again, and even though I've seen the finale several times, seeing it at the end of the entire season made it very moving all over again.  What didn't get through to me until this time was the extent to which Russell T Davies started out with critiques of our communications technologies (along with the God obsessions) that he continued throughout his tenure.  I guess I'm a bit thick but I hadn't noted how the Satellite Five stuff was not just a critique of entertainment TV, but of the Rupert Murdoch style shaping of public perceptions by how he shapes the information.  I don't know about the UK (where he owns newspapers) but here in the U.S., his Fox channel is a very powerful political player, and currently is dictating who the candidates of one party will be.

This season also set the template for types of stories, including the trip to meet a writer or artist of the past (Charles Dickens this time) and an overlooked theme--a re-telling of the history of the twentieth century.  Series 1 begins it with a bang--the London Blitz in World War II in the two-parter that became an instant classic, with its primary catch-phrase ("Are you my mummy?") and a secondary one, in a scene I cherish as some of Eccleston's best work: "Everybody lives!")    

Those were the last Doctor Who DVDs I'll have to rent for awhile.  I just got Series 2 in the one-day Amazon Doctor Who sale, which completes my 10th Doctor collection.  I also rented the new DVD of Star Trek: First Contact, in preparation for my much-promised movie review here (part 8 of the Trekalog.)  I own the double-DVD set, but even though I don't have blu-ray I wanted to see if this version looks better.  And on my computer it does, just enough to make a difference.  The lighting changes are subtle but also striking.  It's brighter and sharper in places.  There are a few neat extra features--one on special effects from the perspective of now, one with an astronaut on the International Space Station talking about life there and Star Trek--but they don't in total measure up to the old set.  The old set has commentaries by the writers and by director Jonathan Frakes.  The new one has a toilet joke.  So 21st century I guess...But I'll save some for the review.  Which is coming.  Really.            


Moxie Anne Magnus said...

Love your blog like I love a Starfleet regulation bouffant! Your writing is great, I enjoyed the recent Dr. Who stuff a lot.

I've added a link to your page on my blog. Mine is a biographical account of my time spent on the USS Enterprise serving as the chief cosmetology officer under James T Kirk. Link if you like.

Nathan G said...

I really liked Eccleston. Took mea long time to get used to Tennant. I acepted Smith quicker. This makes me want to watch him again.