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#SundayReview Westworld

Frankie Av

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Hopefully my review tonight will be as enigmatic as the show I am reviewing as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. No spoilers here!

The often overused term; mind-f**k, is the perfect term for the television show, Westworld. Based on the 1973 movie of the same name starring Yul Brynner, the series is a science fiction thriller which takes place in a high-tech amusement park. The park is populated with human-like androids with which rich people can do whatever they please while living out fantasies in a western back story. Their creator is played by Anthony Hopkins, who comes across as both sinister and disconsolate. There’s what could be a glitch in the system and some of the androids appear to be becoming sentient.

We follow the lives of a few androids and humans, key players in the park as well as newcomers there for some fun. Throughout the show you get the feeling that something is undeniably wrong with humanity. That some would revel in a fantasy of brutalizing, raping and killing others, is deeply disturbing and yet something which happens in reality all too often. You can’t help but feel sorry for the androids, especially those who have gained insight into their lives and the outrageous actions carried out on them by humans. With technology now at the point where some parts of the story are credible, it leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

The opening credits alone are jaw dropping.

It is raw and gritty, with violence, nudity and sex scenes which make complete sense to the concept, not used as a ploy to get viewers. It is intelligent and well crafted with a story which moves along smoothly and always grabs the attention. It’s rarely boring and always thought provoking. You never quite know all the humans or all the androids. You keep double guessing yourself as to which is which. Then someone who you thought was one turns out to be the other!

Every week there is a blinder of a twist that you just don’t see coming. You spend the week thinking you have it all figured out, then the next episode turns what you thought on its head. There are twists within twists, and every week I end up staring at the screen as the credits roll thinking…wow….mind…blown…..!

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It has been a long time since I watched a television program which made me think as much as Westworld does. Nothing is ever quite what it seems. Next week is the series finale and already my mind is blown. What else they can throw at us I don’t know, but it’s sure to be fantastic whatever it is! If you haven’t watched it yet, get watching!

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

 

 

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#SundayReview Sometimes Being Stubborn has its Drawbacks…Hawaii Five-0 Proves the Point

Frankie Av

I am known for my stubbornness when it comes to new shows and books etc. I have this ability to be completely unfazed by the hype, to the point of purposely not watching or reading a thing out of pure spite. I have no idea why I do this, I just know that I do.  Sometimes I reverse my decision only to arrive at the party too late, sometimes by years.

Take for example Naruto. Now, this is one of the best manga and anime series ever made. I used to scoff at the cosplayers who turned up to conventions with these bands on their foreheads, because at that time I had no idea what they meant.


What are they supposed to be? Ninjas or something?!

It became so popular that I had to look up what these people were watching. When I got my first glimpse of Naruto, I laughed. How the hell could so many be so entranced by something so cliched? Ninjas?! What could possibly be so entertaining about ninjas?! So I had no more to do with it– for YEARS.
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Then, a couple of years ago, I had nothing to watch or read one night and came across Naruto once more. I decided to read the first manga volume out of pure boredom, hoping it would send me to sleep. I read four volumes that night and got no sleep whatsoever. Completely hooked, I became Naruto’s biggest fan, searching the internet for fan groups and art and anything I could feast my eyes upon. I bought the manga, the anime, filled my shelves with figures from the series. Of course, Naruto manga is now finished; I arrived to the show not long before the end. It was through Naruto that I met Sam, and the Dead Pete Society was formed.

I recently had much the same experience with a show on television–namely the Hawaii Five-0 reboot.  I had a conversation with a friend a while back which went something like this:

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That conversation was a few years ago. Hawaii Five-0 has been on the go since 2010, so I am six years late on this one. A week ago I was waiting on the postman delivering my new wrist splints, bored to tears as I hate waiting on anything. I popped the tv on, flicked through a few channels then had to answer the phone. By the time the call ended there was something else on the tv. I caught sight of a lovely car,  a 2010 Chevrolet Camaro, and it looked a sweet ride. While I may not have a thing for leering over hot men like my friend does, I do have a thing for a good looking machine. Mostly aircraft, but cars do it for me too.

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The car which piqued my interest

So I settled back on the couch and kept watching, wondering what other good looking machines might show up. It cut to break a few moments later and imagine my surprise when I saw it was actually Hawaii Five-0 I was watching.

So I stopped watching, jumped into the Sky planner to see if they had the series on Box Sets. They had complete season one on Box Sets and so I downloaded them and started at the beginning.

That first episode hooked me immediately. There was something about it that was so different to what I imagined this show would be like. I thought it would be all jiggly-boobs on the beach and surfer dudes showing off six packs with the occasional catch-the-villain thrown in to keep the flavour of the original show alive. It wasn’t just a sex-on-the-box type of show at all, it actually had a story. It was clever, it had angst, it had a villain you wanted to know more about and a broken hero you just wanted to hug. And that was just the first episode.

Considering my favourite characters, it was actually obvious I would fall in love with this show. I love Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt. Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid. The lead character of Hawaii Five-0–Steve McGarrett–, is a similar hero.

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The two leads are also perfect together. Their conversations are usually snarky and make me laugh. They hate each other but love each other and all you want to do is bang their heads together and tell them to stop the bickering. Of course there are cheesy parts, the occasional cringe-worthy episode and it has its fair share of filler eps. 

I forgot the postman that day and ended up watching six episodes in a row. By the end of the last episode I booted up my computer and read as much as I could on the show. How long has it been running for? What are the odds of it carrying on? Will it be cancelled on a  gigantic cliffhanger, forever doomed to never truly finish like so many of my favorite shows?

Well, so far so good. There is a seventh season which just began airing in the past couple of weeks. There are rumours this might be the last, but that’s okay. Why? Because if the writers know it will be the last, there is a chance of them ending the story properly.

I called my friend the other day, and the conversation went a little like this:

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Something tells me my friend and I are a lot like Steve and Danno…

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

 

 

#SundayReview Cancelled Shows and Dominion

Frankie Av

It appears that today, the-powers-that-be in the television industry have such small attention spans they can’t always guarantee to produce more than two seasons of a show. Of course, I know all about the Nielsen boxes in America, the viewer ratings and how they govern which shows continue and which shows die into obscurity. But these days, it appears to be more than just ratings which are affecting shows. Perhaps they just want to make everything and so only allow a short run for each show, or maybe they just expect too much from fans and viewers.

In any case, that a show is cancelled is not the issue which annoys me, it’s that a show is ended before the story ends. Now, how hard would it be for producers to say “Hey, I love your idea for a tv show, but I can’t give you five seasons to create it. I can give you two? Maybe three? But you need to end the story arc within that time.”
Equally as easy is letting the show creators know when their work is under review for axing. Not waiting until months after the season ends on a cliffhanger or an unfinished story line. Like this: “Hey guys, the show ratings have dropped, you have the rest of this season to wrap up the story, otherwise the show will be canned without an ending.”

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Or maybe the show creators are just too blind and love their work so much they don’t think it will ever be axed. Because of this, they might not think to wrap a story arc up in a timely fashion and so their show is axed without any real satisfactory ending. SyFy is particularly guilty of axing shows before their time, to the point I just can’t and won’t invest myself in anything before it is ended or cancelled. I wait for the end then watch on catch-up. Perhaps by doing this I’m contributing to the likelihood of a show being cancelled. But when I invest in a show, I invest in it hard. I don’t want to fall in love with characters and get to the end of the show to find out it was never finished. That’s like reading a book which final pages have been ripped out!

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As a fan, the cancelling of a show is awful and something I’ve seen too many times before. Stargate Atlantis was axed at the end of its fifth season. A good run, yes, but without an ending. Firefly, such a short run and axed way before its time. Defiance, three season run was good, and thankfully, the writers had the foresight to have an ending in place for the third series which gave a somewhat good ending to the show. Constantine, wow, what were they thinking cancelling it?! Dominion, cancelled at the end of season two and on the MOTHER of all cliffhangers!

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These days shows are lucky to make it past the starting point before they are replaced. I see so many shows being made and advertised, only to wonder what the hell happened to them a few weeks or months later. SyFy makes and funds so much rubbish viewing material, the expense of which could be used to maintain the shows that people actually love. I mean, I would watch and support SyFy every DAY if “Attack of the Tentacled-Shark-terrasaur in Manhattan” were not on the channel or books. I would avidly commit myself to their shows if they pulled the money from “Square-Faced-Squid Attacks Downtown New York with a Pillow” and put it into actually finishing story arcs. Even if they said to the creators “Guys, we are pulling the show. But, you have the funding for three eps to finish up,” I would make sure the channel was in my faves menu!

But no. These days I don’t find myself getting excited over new shows. I see them advertised and the first thing I think is; “Looks good, but it will get canned in a few weeks. So…nope.”
I don’t pretend to know how the ins-and-outs of tv production works, but from a viewers standpoint, surely finishing a tale and show properly is more important to future business than axing and producing as many as possible?

So I guess I should speak about the show which cancellation I am currently feeling sore over: Dominion. Yes I have mentioned it before, but I just did a complete re-watch of it and am all hurt over its ending again. Dominion sadly ended on the build up to the most epic of story arcs. It ended on the mother of all cliffhangers and it promised that season three would be spectacular. It ended way too soon. There was no closure. We have no idea what happened to the majority of the characters. It just ended, another ruined story to place on a shelf of books with ripped out final chapters.

Dominion was not your everyday sci-fi/fantasy show. Sure there was apocalyptic undertones, angels and human suffering, but Dominion was more than your average run-of-the-mill goodies-fight-baddies story. Dominion was different enough to grab my attention and pulled me into watching it live for the first season-something I haven’t done since Atlantis was cancelled.

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Dominion follows on from the 2010 movie; Legion, starring Paul Bettany as the Archangel Michael. Now, Legion wasn’t a huge hit, but I really enjoyed it. God has disappeared and the angels are so angry, blaming humans for their father’s disappearance that they wreak havoc on the earth and slay humans without mercy in revenge. Mankind’s only saviour will be a chosen one, an unborn baby boy whose mother is holed up in a diner as the angels attack. Michael knows the child she is carrying is the Chosen One and protects her and her partner at all costs.

Dominion is set twenty-five years later, in a world far different from the movie. The world is overrun with angels who take over human bodies and kill indiscriminately to the point that the last of humanity is holed up in walled cities. One such city-Vega-is where the Chosen one, Alex, is grown up and playing soldier. The Archangel Michael protects Vega and watches over Alex as other angels -namely the Archangel Gabriel and his minions- try to destroy the rest of humanity in an attempt to wipe the earth of humans and bring their father back.

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The thing I loved about Dominion was the stories within many varied stories, tales interwoven into one solid and compelling show. There was the story of the angels, their reasoning and why they fought so hard to bring God back. The story of Michael and his transition from a slayer of worlds to a protector of humanity. There was the story of Vega, how it was built and why. The story of its citizens, and their role in Vega. There was the story of the Chosen one, Alex, and the strange tattoos upon his body which were said to contain the key to saving the human race. Okay, many shows have lots of stories, but usually each bit-story is episodic in nature. With Dominion, all the stories were the main story, all of them contributed to the entire show and all were important. The storylines were thought provoking, endearing, awful, heartbreaking, scary and deceitful, so there was plenty to enjoy throughout the show.

The actors were strong, with the lovely Tom Wisdom playing Michael and well known sci-fi and fantasy actor Anthony Head playing a lead role in Vega. Alan Dale played the general of Vega, Carl Beukes the Archangel Gabriel. Roxanne McKee and Shivani Ghai took the lead female parts, with the lovely Kim Engelbrecht playing a higher angel hidden in Vega. It was a strong cast, and each actor played great roles and played them well.

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The show looked good, with opulent sets and well detailed scenes. The special effects were of a great standard, I don’t suppose it’s easy animating wings like the did. Fight scenes were well choreographed and convincing.

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The first season set the scene and back story. The second season was fantastic, building on the original narrative and further delving into the mythical tale. It ramped up the storylines, I began to crave what was going to happen next. A big player was about to enter the fight, and I mean a HUGE player. It was a game changer, it would have thrown a third series into a frenzy.

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Then it ended.

It was clear the writers had no idea it was going to be axed; I doubt they would have left it the way they did had they known.  This is the thing that bothers me the most about cancelled shows. They never get to the chance to end the tale and fans are left wishing for closure. Why creative teams can’t be given set episodes to finish up is beyond me. It seems that tv producers just jump from one show to another in a never ending cycle of broken stories. It would make more sense to bring a conclusion and allow for such a conclusion to be discussed prior to just axing a show.

I know it’s never going to happen. I know that there are many who do not understand what it is to be a fan and how frustrating this cancelling of shows can feel. I just think more thought would be put into–not only the creative team’s hard work and need to finish–but to the fans who take these tv shows and fall in love with them and the characters. We made the big corporations with our loyalty and money, our time and energy. If it wasn’t for the viewers and fans, they wouldn’t even have a product to make money from!

As I say, I am reluctant to give any new show a chance these days. My heart has been broken way too many times to count and I won’t keep falling for this show-and-destroy type of broadcasting. For most of these shows, the time has gone. Sets have been broken up and actors are working on different things. Is it too late to save Dominion by getting the likes of Netflix to perhaps pick it up? Maybe. But I hope not.

 

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No matter if you watched Dominion or not, like the idea or not or just think I am plain crazy for wanting something so bad, please, sign this petition and share it to everyone you know. Share it with everyone and get them to sign it and share it too. Even if you have to say this crazy woman from Scotland told you to do it! Help make one of my fave shows get a proper ending!

I can but dream….

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

 

 

#SundayReview Star Trek!

Frankie Av

I am a huge science fiction fan. I love Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, Farscape and many more. What I like about science fictions shows is how they ask the same questions I ask, sometimes even answer them. I love the fact that–for a short time–these types of shows suspend reality and plunge us, the viewer, into a world we could never be part of.

This year sees the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. It is one of the longest running science fiction shows of all time, beat only by Doctor Who, I believe. Star Trek was my first love. I remember watching it as a child on a big old tube television while laying on the floor and munching on sweets. Back then the special effects were not like what we see today. But as a child, it didn’t matter how good the effects were as we became immersed in it anyway.

My favourites are the Original Series (TOS) and The Next Generation (TNG). I do have a like for Voyager, somewhat enjoyed Deep Space Nine, but absolutely hated Enterprise. I recently pulled out my box sets and started a rewatch of The Next Generation. Looking at it now you can see that it is older, but it has aged well. The effects are good but not great, it is cheesy in parts and awkward in others. Yet it remains just as thought provoking, mostly well written and as good to look at as ever. Despite its age the stories are just as relevant today, asking the same questions, dealing with the same human problems. Just like Doctor Who, there is a Star Trek series for everyone and a captain for all. Picard and Kirk are mine, and I have watched these two series so often I almost know each episode scene for scene. For the record, my favourite ST ship is the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D)

I have the movie box set with the movies from TOS and TNG. I aslo have the new films on bluray. Rewatching them from the very first to the last, you can see the evolution of special effects through the years. Obviously you can tell which scenes were stop motion or used models in the older films, yet it was so well done–at least, most of the time–that it was believable. Each movie looks better than the last, but each one is just as enjoyable as the rest.

The very first convention I ever went to was a Star trek one in Edinburgh years ago. It differed from the ones I attend these days in that there was no actor presence nor huge queues or crowds. It was more like a mobile museum of Star Trek, with screen props, costumes and uniforms as well as storyboards and original art. I absolutely loved it, being so close to items which I had seen on the television for years. The captain’s chair from the TNG show was there and while no one was allowed to sit in it, I kind of….well, let’s say I got my moment of being captain. 

With news of a brand new series planned for next year, and a new generation of movies being created, Star Trek continues to entertain viewers and wow movie goers. With the special effects available today, the new Star Trek movies are spectacular! A sheer smorgasbord of awesomeness! When I watch them I am pulled back to my childhood and feel like I did back then; astounded, amazed and excited.

It is the kind of Science Fiction show you can watch over and over again and still find it fascinating. The only other shows I watch over and over again are Stargate Atlantis and Farscape, but they are too short when compared to the massive amount of episodes Star Trek has. It has entertained me for years and will continue to for years to come. Is it obvious I love Captain Jean-Luc Picard? XD

If you have never watched an entire series of Star Trek, maybe you just haven’t found your captain. With five to currently choose from, I’m sure there is one for you. Anyway, I’m about to embark on a mission, to rewatch the entire TNG,  to boldly go and view the next episode and reacquaint myself with The Skin of Evil……ENGAGE! XD

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

#SundayReview Last Flight of the Vulcan Bomber

I had planned to review X-Men: Apocalypse this week, but due to software issues, I’ve decided to review a television program I watched while trying to fix my laptop. Not many know that I am a transport enthusiast. I love cars, trains and aircraft of all designs. My favourite aircraft of all, is the Avro Vulcan bomber. There is a grounded Vulcan in the National Museum of Flight in East Fortune airfield, East Lothian, as well as a Concorde and several hangers filled with amazing machines. Tonight I watched a repeat showing of Guy Martin: Last Flight of the Vulcan Bomber. I’d seen it when it first aired, but it was just as enjoyable second time around.

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The show followed the final flight of the Vulcan bomber–XH588–which was the last airworthy Vulcan left in the world. She had a dedicated team who maintained her; a dying breed of mechanics who knew the ins-and-outs of every part of XH588, and quite obviously loved the beast.

Guy Martin spent time with the team as they prepared XH588 for flight. It was to be her final flight; a journey which would take her the length of the UK to fly past pre-determined landmarks. The farewell tour was well advertised, and many people showed up at the landmarks to see this amazing beauty fly past. We got to see Guy in a side formation with the Vulcan and a spitfire. Seeing the two craft so close, the hearty Spitfire looked tiny. Yet the Spitfire still flies and now, the Vulcan does not. Guy answers the question as to why the Vulcan was to be decommissioned while the older Spitfire remains active in the skies. Quite simply, it was down to cost and the depleting force of specialised mechanics left to keep her running.

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Guy was in one of the planes to the right

 

The majority of the show was about getting the bomber ready for the final flight. Guy–a rough-at-the-edges motorcycle racer, was almost beside himself with glee. It was great to watch the excitement and anticipation flicker over his face whenever he looked at the bomber or helped tighten a bolt or fix a wire connection. He seemed as excited as I was when I first stood next to the big one in East Fortune, but he was able to touch it, work on it, get inside and scramble about it–something I’ve always wanted to do. All the way through the show, you could see the wonder in Guy’s eyes and respect for those who kept XH588 in top condition. I like Guy, he is down-to-earth and not scared to try things, as was seen when he taxied a Vulcan on the runway!

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Guy with the Vulcan bomber XH558.

Not only did we get to see so much of this magnificent war machine, we were also given the opportunity to understand what it was like to be part of a Vulcan crew. Throughout the show we were introduced to the crew of XH588 and other Vulcan crewman. They spoke of their experiences with the bomber, what it was like to fly her and why their elite team were regarded with such respect. It was interesting to see so many people become emotional about a great hunk of flying metal, but this is what the Vulcan does to people.

By the end of the show, we saw XH588 towed out of her hanger on a foggy morning with doubts she would fly at all due to the weather. Despite this, her crew checked her from top to bottom, filled her with fuel and got her ready regardless. It was obvious they were all both proud and sad. They had maintained the bomber for so long, it looked as if they were saying goodbye to a friend or family member, especially when the weather cleared and XH588 was handed over to her flight crew.

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Guy in the co-pilot seat of a Vulcan 

When she took off, her screaming engines powering her gracefully in to the blue sky, my heart was hammering in my chest. To see her take that final flight was both beautiful and heartbreaking. As she flew over hills and cities alike, the camera caught sight of her delta-winged shadow swiftly moving over the ground. It reminded us that it would never slip over the landscape again.

Guy Martin showed us sides to the aircraft we could only dream to see, and every moment of the show, you felt you were there with him enjoying every second of contact with the machine. I will always love the Vulcan. I have other favourites aircraft, but will always regard the Avro Vulcan bomber as the most beautiful and much loved fighter planes in the world. The program is well worth a watch if you can find it!

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F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE