SciFi Weekend: Star Trek, Torchwood, and The Week’s Genre Shows

The upcoming Star Trek movie will reportedly be completed in the next one to two weeks. J.J. Abrams was interviewed by The BBC. One recurring topic was to avoid making the movie appear campy:

The goal of this movie, despite it being called Star Trek, despite the pointy ears and all the established fans and hundreds of hours and almost a dozen movies and all that kind of stuff, we actually feel this is kind of a new thing and this is legitimate. Which is probably the biggest challenge, because it is by default so close to being campy. Like you see Galaxy Quest, which is such a great movie, and it is so — when you are actually on the set doing Star Trek, there are these moments that are like ‘dear God, how do I not make this bad?’ You see how easily you could go the wrong direction and suddenly you are mocking your own world.

This topic came up again later:

There were moments where I thought ‘the biggest challenge of this moment is make it not suck.’…To make it not be the version that in Ben Stiller’s hands or someone, which would be hysterically funny, and yet that is not the result you want for this moment.

MTV Movies Blog reports that Bryan Fuller, writer for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Pushing Daisies, is interested in bringing Star Trek back to television.

Fuller says he would want to break the mold and have more fun with the series — you wouldn’t have to be on the same ship or have the same characters as the original ‘Star Trek,’ but you could be in the same timeline and universe. From what Fuller’s seen so far of J.J. Abrams’ version, he’s impressed — “boy oh boy!” he gushed about the costumes – but he thinks Kirk, Spock, and McCoy should stay in the movies for now.

“’Star Trek’ has to recreate itself,” Fuller said. “Otherwise, all the characters start to feel the same. You always have a captain, a doctor, a security officer, and you have the same arguments based on those perspectives. It starts to feel too familiar. So all those paradigms where it takes place on a starship have to be shaken up.”

I’ve commented before that it makes sense to use the original cast for the movies as many people beyond Star Trek fans are familiar with them. If they were to develop a new series it would make more sense to develop a new cast and new situations. I would prefer to have it take some time in the future after Deep Space Nine and Voyager concluded, being true to the past history but taking place far enough in the future that it doesn’t get bogged down with every detail established in previous series.

Branon Braga, co-creator of Enterprise and currently co-executive producer of 24, has sold a science fiction pilot to ABC based upon the novel Flash Forward by Robert A. Sawyer. The premise of the novel is that an experiment at CERN to search for the Higgs boson causes everyone on Earth to blackout for 2 minutes and 17 seconds during which they flash forward to view the world through their selves twenthy-one years in the future.

Leonard Nimoy appeared on the Not My Job segment of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me this weekend. The audio is available here.

Tardis and Torchwood Treasures has this report on the release of a CD of a recent BBC radio drama of Torchwood:

Lost Souls, a special audio episode of Torchwood, was released on CD today and has now also become available for download. The CD has a running time of 75 minutes and is now on sale in all good entertainment stores at an RRP of £9.99. Lost Souls aired last Wednesday and stars John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness, Eve Myles as Gwen Cooper, Gareth David Lloyd as Ianto Jones and Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones. Among the guest stars are Lucy Montgomery and Stephen Critchlow. As well as featuring the episode, the CD also features a behind the scenes documentary called Torchwood: All Access. This is exclusive to the CD as the download doesn’t feature this documentary and only features the episode itself.

I’ll be looking for a copy to download after I complete posting here. I’m sure it won’t be hard to find.

This week had another strong episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I did like the second episode of Fringe better than the pilot, with the episode concluding with a little information on the unusual background of one of the main characters. I’m still not certain that it will live up to the quality of Lost and Alias, but IO9 does consider it science fiction TV’s most reassuring show. True Blood has already been renewed for a third season, which is to air next summer as opposed to waiting until fall.

Sunday Night Music: Sarah Palin’s Music Video


McCain Leads Obama 13 to 1 and Why You Should Vote for Obama

John McCain leads Barack Obama in number of cars owned. Barack and Michelle Obama own one car while McCain owns thirteen. When you have nine or so houses (with nobody yet agreeing on an exact count), it only makes sense that you are going to need a lot of cars.

This may or may not have any impact on the election, depending upon whether middle class voters see this as reason to be skeptical over whether John McCain is really the candidate who is on their side. Actually this fact in itself is not a meaningful way to base one’s vote.

There is nothing wrong with being rich, and many middle class voters hope to one day become this rich. What they must understand is not how many cars John McCain has but that, if they want a fair shot at becoming rich, they need to vote for Barack Obama over John McCain.

From a purely economic point of view, those who are already rich, especially those in the top one tenth of one percent, come out best under McCain and will enjoy huge tax cuts. Income disparity will also increase under McCain, making the super-rich even richer than the rest of us. Those who desire a restoration of a true capitalist system, as opposed to Republican crony-capitalism, are far better off voting for Obama. This is both because of Obama’s plan for a middle class tax cut (and not an increase as John McCain dishonestly claims) and because this is the only way to end a system of government based upon transferring wealth from the middle class to the ultra-wealthy.

Sam Harris on Sarah Palin and Elitism

Sam Harris makes some important points on both the dangers of Sarah Palin’s extremist views and the attacks on elitism which have become common this year:

The problem, as far as our political process is concerned, is that half the electorate revels in Palin’s lack of intellectual qualifications. When it comes to politics, there is a mad love of mediocrity in this country. “They think they’re better than you!” is the refrain that (highly competent and cynical) Republican strategists have set loose among the crowd, and the crowd has grown drunk on it once again. “Sarah Palin is an ordinary person!” Yes, all too ordinary.

Unfortunately such attacks on competence and “elitism” have not only come from Republican strategists this year. This was a central part of Hillary Clinton’s campaign which, along with her conservative social views and conservative views on the power of government, is why I do not see any significant difference between Hillary Clinton and John McCain or George Bush. While they might disagree on specific political issues, the underlying philosophy of all three is essentially the same. As long as Clinton supporters are willing to compromise on their one major area of disagreement and allow abortion to once again be outlawed in much of the country, as most likely would happen if McCain and Palin are elected, many conservative Clinton supporters might know what they are doing in backing John McCain.

Harris discusses the dangers of someone with Palin’s religous views becoming president, along with debunking the attempts by her apologists to hide her more extreme views and ignore some of her past statements:

I care even more about the many things Palin thinks she knows but doesn’t: like her conviction that the Biblical God consciously directs world events. Needless to say, she shares this belief with mil-lions of Americans—but we shouldn’t be eager to give these people our nuclear codes, either. There is no question that if President McCain chokes on a spare rib and Palin becomes the first woman president, she and her supporters will believe that God, in all his majesty and wisdom, has brought it to pass. Why would God give Sarah Palin a job she isn’t ready for? He wouldn’t. Everything happens for a reason. Palin seems perfectly willing to stake the welfare of our country—even the welfare of our species—as collateral in her own personal journey of faith. Of course, McCain has made the same unconscionable wager on his personal journey to the White House.

In speaking before her church about her son going to war in Iraq, Palin urged the congregation to pray “that our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God; that’s what we have to make sure we are praying for, that there is a plan, and that plan is God’s plan.” When asked about these remarks in her interview with Gibson, Palin successfully dodged the issue of her religious beliefs by claiming that she had been merely echoing the words of Abraham Lincoln. The New York Times later dubbed her response “absurd.” It was worse than absurd; it was a lie calculated to conceal the true character of her religious infatuations. Every detail that has emerged about Palin’s life in Alaska suggests that she is as devout and literal-minded in her Christian dogmatism as any man or woman in the land. Given her long affiliation with the Assemblies of God church, Palin very likely believes that Biblical prophecy is an infallible guide to future events and that we are living in the “end times.” Which is to say she very likely thinks that human history will soon unravel in a foreordained cataclysm of war and bad weather. Undoubtedly Palin believes that this will be a good thing—as all true Christians will be lifted bodily into the sky to make merry with Jesus, while all nonbelievers, Jews, Methodists and other rabble will be punished for eternity in a lake of fire. Like many Pentecostals, Palin may even imagine that she and her fellow parishioners enjoy the power of prophecy themselves. Otherwise, what could she have meant when declaring to her congregation that “God’s going to tell you what is going on, and what is going to go on, and you guys are going to have that within you”?

You can learn something about a person by the company she keeps. In the churches where Palin has worshiped for decades, parishioners enjoy “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” “miraculous healings” and “the gift of tongues.” Invariably, they offer astonishingly irrational accounts of this behavior and of its significance for the entire cosmos. Palin’s spiritual colleagues describe themselves as part of “the final generation,” engaged in “spiritual warfare” to purge the earth of “demonic strongholds.” Palin has spent her entire adult life immersed in this apocalyptic hysteria. Ask yourself: Is it a good idea to place the most powerful military on earth at her disposal? Do we actually want our leaders thinking about the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy when it comes time to say to the Iranians, or to the North Koreans, or to the Pakistanis, or to the Russians or to the Chinese: “All options remain on the table”?


Nicholas Kristof On The Anti-Obama Smear Campaign

Nicholas Kristof writes about the attempts to “otherize” Obama to attempt to make voters afraid to vote for him. He begins with the attempts to portray Obama as being Muslim despite the fact he is more active in Christian churches than John McCain is:

Here’s a sad monument to the sleaziness of this presidential campaign: Almost one-third of voters “know” that Barack Obama is a Muslim or believe that he could be.

In short, the political campaign to transform Mr. Obama into a Muslim is succeeding. The real loser as that happens isn’t just Mr. Obama, but our entire political process.

A Pew Research Center survey released a few days ago found that only half of Americans correctly know that Mr. Obama is a Christian. Meanwhile, 13 percent of registered voters say that he is a Muslim, compared with 12 percent in June and 10 percent in March.

More ominously, a rising share — now 16 percent — say they aren’t sure about his religion because they’ve heard “different things” about it.

When I’ve traveled around the country, particularly to my childhood home in rural Oregon, I’ve been struck by the number of people who ask something like: That Obama — is he really a Christian? Isn’t he a Muslim or something? Didn’t he take his oath of office on the Koran?

In conservative Christian circles and on Christian radio stations, there are even widespread theories that Mr. Obama just may be the Antichrist. Seriously.

John Green, of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, says that about 10 percent of Americans believe we may be in the Book of Revelation’s “end times” and are on the lookout for the Antichrist. A constant barrage of e-mail and broadcasts suggest that Mr. Obama just may be it.

The online Red State Shop sells T-shirts, mugs and stickers exploiting the idea. Some shirts and stickers portray a large “O” with horns, above a caption: “The Anti-Christ.”

To his credit, Mr. McCain himself has never raised doubts about Mr. Obama’s religion. But a McCain commercial last month mimicked the words and imagery of the best-selling Christian “Left Behind” book series in ways that would have set off alarm bells among evangelicals nervous about the Antichrist.

Mr. McCain himself is not popular with evangelicals. But they will vote for him if they think the other guy may be on Satan’s side.

In fact, of course, Mr. Obama took his oath on the Bible, not — as the rumors have it — on the Koran. He is far more active in church than John McCain is.

(Just imagine for a moment if it were the black candidate in this election, rather than the white candidate, who was born in Central America, was an indifferent churchgoer, had graduated near the bottom of his university class, had dumped his first wife, had regularly displayed an explosive and profane temper, and had referred to the Pakistani-Iraqi border …)

After further discussion, Kristof acknowledges that part of the problem lies with journalists who willingly report the lies from the right wing noise machine even when they realize they are untrue. He concludes:

Journalists need to do more than call the play-by-play this election cycle. We also need to blow the whistle on such egregious fouls calculated to undermine the political process and magnify the ugliest prejudices that our nation has done so much to overcome.

SNL Hits McCain on Dishonest Ads, With Help From Al Franken

Saturday Night Live opened for the second time this season with satire on the McCain/Palin campaign, this time concentrating on the dishonesty of John McCain’s ads (video above). Last week they had help from Tine Fey.  The Politco reports that SNL alumni Al Franken, now a candidate for governor of Minnesota, had a part in the development of this skit. Being involved in a political campaign where Franken must disassociate himself from some of his previous skits, Franken has minimized his role:

“Al has been friends with Lorne Michaels for over 30 years, and Lorne thought Al’s personal experience was funny enough for a SNL skit,” Murray said in a statement, referring to the show’s executive producer and creator. “Sure, Al keeps in touch with old friends but unless the skit is about non-ferrous mining on Minnesota’s Iron Range, Al’s not in the business of developing skits anymore.”

A Franken campaign aide said the candidate had been taping an ad earlier in the week and had wondered out loud how McCain could include the disclaimer candidates are required to include in their commercials — “I’m John McCain, and I approved this message” — when his spots were so “over the top.” Later that day, Franken talked to Michaels about topics unrelated to the show and mentioned his thought but did not suggest a sketch.

However, Michaels talked to Meyers about Franken’s idea and the current writer, believing there was a funny sketch there, called his predecessor and they discussed it further.

Meyers then wrote it up.

Franken’s campaign sought to downplay the conversations, noting that the idea grew out of a discussion between old friends and that Franken had not been pitching an idea.

And a source close to the show said it was not uncommon for past “Saturday Night Live” stars to suggest ideas to current writers and cast members.

The roles of comedy writer and Senator are quite different, leading Franken to make this statement in his acceptance speech:

For 35 years I was a writer. I wrote a lot of jokes. Some of them weren’t funny. Some of them weren’t appropriate. Some of them were downright offensive. I understand that. And I understand that the people of Minnesota deserve a senator who won’t say things that will make you feel uncomfortable

Using criticism of a Republican candidate which might have come from a Democratic candidate for another office also plays into Republican criticism of NBC by conservatives who are unable to differentiate between a comedy show and news coverage. Lorne Michaels has contributed to both sides in this presidential race:

SNL executive producer and creator Lorne Michaels has a long history of donating to political candidates and various PACs on both sides of the aisle as well as independents.

Michaels has also been a longtime supporter of Sen. John McCain’s various political campaigns, donating $1,000 to him in the 2000 presidential primaries, $1,000 to his 2004 Senate reelection bid, a similar sum to his Straight Talk America PAC in 2006 and the maximum $2,300 to his presidential campaign this year.

When asked about his support for McCain last week by Politico, Michaels said he has also donated to Obama, although that donation has not been listed on the most recent available donor statements. Michaels also made a $2,300 donation to the Franken campaign in March.

While this not actually stated, I cannot help but wonder if Lorne Michaels is one of many former supporters of John McCain who have changed their view of him as a consequence of the dishonest campaign he has been running this year, as is appropriately satirized in this skit.

Points Obama Must Make

Now that the media has stopped covering Sarah Palin every second and Obama has the opportunity to take the offensive there are two main points he must make on domestic policy:

  • Most Americans will receive a tax cut under his program, not a tax increase as McCain claims, and
  • His health care plan is in no way a “government take over of health care.”

These are probably the two most significant distortions of his views coming from Republicans which many voters still believe. In refuting these distortions, I do not mean that Obama should only complain of the manner in which the Republicans are distorting his views, but he must make his actual policies clear. The information is readily available at his web site, and he has discussed this in interviews, but the facts are still not making it through all the static coming from the right wing noise machine.

The primary message is to get voters to understand his actual plans. The secondary message is to make voters aware of the degree to which his plans are being distorted by Republicans so that they are less likely to pay attention to dishonest attacks from McCain in the future.

Unfortunately, while McCain has been far more dishonest in his ads, distortions always wind up coming from both sides in the heat of a political campaign. To make honesty an issue which will work for him in this campaign, Obama must strive to avoid distortions of McCain’s views, such as on Social Security. There is plenty to criticize McCain for with regards to his actual views without exaggerating them.

Protecting Palin at the Debates

The debates between Obama and McCain might be more interesting with a wide open format, but part of the deal protects Palin from being faced with questions from Joe Biden. The New York Times reports:

At the insistence of the McCain campaign, the Oct. 2 debate between the Republican nominee for vice president, Gov. Sarah Palin, and her Democratic rival, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., will have shorter question-and-answer segments than those for the presidential nominees, the advisers said. There will also be much less opportunity for free-wheeling, direct exchanges between the running mates.

McCain advisers said they had been concerned that a loose format could leave Ms. Palin, a relatively inexperienced debater, at a disadvantage and largely on the defensive.

The real problem isn’t that Palin is a less experienced debater. She had to do her share of debating to rise in Alaska politics. Her real disadvantage is in lacking the knowledge of the issues which Biden (along with pretty much everyone in politics ) has compared to her.

Obama also pushed to have the order of the debates reversed so that national security would be the topic of the first debate, which historically is the most watched. This shows confidence on Obama’s part in directly taking on McCain on the subject where the conventional wisdom (incorrectly) says he is stronger. If Obama can show that he can at least hold his own, and preferably demonstrate he has the better ideas on national security, it is likely that many undecided voters who still have doubts about Obama would back him.