Saturday, January 12, 2013

Captain's Log: DS9 at 20, Doctor Who at 50, Plus Billions and Billions

Marking the 20th anniversary of Deep Space Nine, John Tabin writes an appreciation in the conservative American Spectator which claims the series for conservatives, sort of.  I wouldn't go that far, but it did mark a change, as writers got more distant from their Roddenberry roots.  Simply as writers they rebelled against what they saw as the constraints of the Star Trek 24th century, and particularly in later years of the run they turned the series towards the Dominion War.  Writers who had never seen a real war--just war movies--recapitulated emotions and activities that were even a bit too simplistic for the Horatio Hornblower novels about the 18th century.  Kind of missed the point about Star Trek, in my view, as does all the ridicule of TNG.  Still, DS9 had a lot of great moments, characters and stories, and deserves to be celebrated, remembered and re-experienced.

Speaking of Captain Sisko, I've just seen the very entertaining and enlightening William Shatner docu "The Captains."  Shatner is amazing--his self-revelation and showmanship really get the other captains (or some of them anyway) to reveal themselves.  Some especially great moments with Kate Mulgrew and Patrick Stewart, and some unforgettable moments with Avery Brooks.

Billions and billions of planets?  That's what a new NASA report says--at least 100 billion planets in our galaxy. (If you're old enough to get the joke, Johnny Carson used to imitate his frequent guest, Carl Sagan, in saying "billions and billions of stars."  Although Sagan didn't really say that--at least not until Carson made it his trademark--Johnny was making affectionate fun of how Carl emphasized the "b" sound in "billions.")

This study also suggests that one in six stars hosts an Earth-sized planet.  So there should be like billions and billions of them.

More real space news: a meteorite from Mars is telling us more about the Red Planet that the Rover at the moment.  The one that landed in the Sahara is full of water, suggesting a lot of it on the Martian surface at one time.  Another meteorite that smashed down recently in California was very old and very rare.  But its arrival was also unusual: "Most notably, Jenniskens says the meteorite hit the Earth’s atmosphere at a blistering speed of nearly 18 miles per second, making it one of the fastest recorded object to strike Earth."  That's twice as fast as the usual meteorite, and had it been a larger chunk of its mother asteroid, it might have done significant damage.  Although maybe not as much as the meteorites that hit California in 1953, with those Martian fighting machines inside.

The White House hosts a number of petitions which citizens can post and sign--once there's a certain number of signatures, the White House must officially respond.  So apparently a petition for the United States to finance and build a Death Star got those signatures, because the White House did respond.

The answer from the Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget was no, partly because "Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?"  But he does point out all that the U.S. and U.S.-based corporations are doing in space and space travel.  The response is full of Star Wars references (including its title, "This is not the petition response you were looking for") but it concludes: "We are living in the future! Enjoy it!"  Star Trek fans can identify with that, too.

I'm not going to repeat all the news (or what passes for news) on the forthcoming Star Trek JJA2 movie--there's plenty at Trek Movie (although the post claiming that Benedict Cumberbatch "contrasts" his role with Malcolm McDowell's Sorin in Generations is just wrong--he is saying how his portrayal is similar to McDowell's in that he is a villain who doesn't leer like one.) 

But I will pass on a bit of news concerning this year's Doctor Who 50th anniversary.  There's to be a Five Doctors radio/audio drama, starring the five surviving Doctors of the "classic" era (Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann.)  The story also mentions the 50th anniversary documentary that's written by Who writer/actor and current Sherlock co-producer Mark Gatiss.  (It misspells his name, though--should be a source of fun around the BBC for awhile.)  By the by, just saw Gatiss in an old Midsomers Murders playing a freaked-out parson, and he was quite convincing.

But still no word on what the TV series itself will do to mark the anniversary.  I just re-watched the 1983 Five Doctors special, produced for the 20th anniversary.  It's full of in-jokes and has a decent story, but you can see the problems of trying to crowd everybody (and their companions) in.  It also skimps on the interaction between the Doctors that's the real reason to do such a show.  As for the 50th, word at Doctor Who News  is that Christopher Eccleston won't appear as the Doctor again, but that David Tennant is being coy about it.  Meanwhile, the Christmas special, Snowmen, based on a story by Douglas Adams, got good reviews in the UK.  I haven't even seen the 2011 Christmas special yet.  So much for news on Doctor Who.

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