The Stone Tape by Nigel Kneale

TheStoneTape_By_Rich_Fox“Let’s say it’s a mass of data… waiting for a correct interpretation.”

The master of British science fiction, Nigel Kneale, may be unknown to you, yet I can guarantee that his work has influenced one of your favorite programs or movies. It’s actually unfair to limit his genre of choice to sci-fi as his work contains elements of supernatural thrillers and moody horror, all set within a relate-able context.

One his most influential pieces, 1953’s The Quatermass Experiment, chronicled the launch of a manned space expedition and the unpredictable events when it returned. The unease with which the slow moving plot unravels may be lost on the modern viewer more accustomed with immediate payoff, but Kneale was working on a deeper level. His vision of space was more akin to HP Lovecraft than Ray Bradbury. There were unspeakably mysterious things in the world of the beyond, not just green men but something outside of our understanding. In The Quatermass Experiment, the horror is in actually making the journey into the limitless void. His influence can be seen in TV programs such as Doctor Who and the X-Files and motion pictures such as Life Force and Event Horizon.

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I highly encourage readers to seek out Neale’s work. When it was first screened, The Quatermass Experiment was essentially presented as live television and received an unprecedented viewership. In 2005 (the same year Doctor Who returned to TV), The Quatermass Experiment was updated yet retained its raw live-TV style and starred names familiar to readers of this blog such as David Tennant and Mark Gatiss.

The Stone Tape is perhaps on of Nigel Kneale’s lesser known TV dramas, but is well worth a look. Screened during the 1972 Christmas Holiday Season, when it was once a tradition for British TV schedules to be filled with horror and supernatural stories, The Stone Tape bears a resemblance to some of Neale’s equally enthralling radio dramas.

The Stone Tape’s premise revolves around the collision of science and the supernatural. An enterprising technician is developing a new style of audio recording to compete with the foreign market. Much like Quatermass’ British Space Program, national pride is a strong theme here. Electronics executive Peter Brock has chosen an old Victorian mansion for his work, but finds that parts of the structure date back much further. While the crew is setting up shop for a data warehouse, Brock’s girlfriend Jill has an unusual experience when she witnesses the manifestation of a ghost.

After some skepticism, it is revealed that a previously blocked off section of the estate is indeed haunted. Rather than depart, Brock sees this as a challenge. No one has ever recorded a ghost, after all. If his team were to succeed in this endeavor, it would bring great notoriety… followed by financial success, no doubt.

Then things go pear-shaped.

If you are a fan of British TV and cult horror, this should be on your viewing list. While it is unavailable on home media in the US, you can watch the entire film online via YouTube!

Happy Halloween, my gentle readers.

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New Trek influenced by classic episode, Balance of Terror

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Balance of Terror is not a bad choice as episodes go… but what could it mean? The classic story introduced the secretive Romulans for the first time. A prolonged battle between two starships, Balance of Terror was a challenge of courage, intelligence and cunning.

The Romulan craft was equipped with a cloaking device that allowed the ship to become invisible, yet they could not fire while it was activated. The story fleshed out the identity of the Romulans through the sterling performance of Mark Lenard who would later portray Spock’s father, Sarek. The commander of the enemy vessel and Captain Kirk are both shown in nail-bitingly tense situations, so perfectly mirrored that Kirk gains his enemy’s respect by the end of the episode.

In addition to holding a vital place in Trek lore, the story was also an allegory for the political climate at the time. Like many key Trek stories of the 1960’s,  it serves as a time capsule of the American psyche as well as prompting some compassion toward those we define as enemies. If showrunner Fuller is looking to delve into that part of the nation’s gestalt consciousness, he has a hard yet worthwhile job on his hands.

But it could just mean that the new series will explore the Romulan War, something the previous program Enterprise did not get the opportunity to do.

I was chatting at length with someone the other night who put his finger on a key attribute missing from modern Trek which is not preaching morality or politics (some episodes of classic Trek are very conservative while others are liberal and while Roddenberry was a humanist, he didn’t bash belief systems). So while I am certainly on board for a politically charged liberal-leaning sci-fi program, I think one that promotes discourse and inner exploration could be even better rather than one that promotes further dissension and antagonism.

Star Trek invades SDCC2016

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“I’m back.”

Star Wars may be ruling the screens today, but 2017 will be the year Paramount Strikes Back with the revival of Star Trek on the new streaming service, CBS All Access.

The latest iteration of Trek jump-started by the seizure-inducing JJ Abrams movie is rumored to reaching its conclusion with Beyond, warping into cinemas on July 14th. In its place, the new TV series is something of a mystery.

When SDCC begins on July 21st, expect to see the familiar crest of the Federation all over your news feed as Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies and Hannibal) will reveal some key details on the simply titled Star Trek.

We have seen five weekly TV programs and twelve feature films (with number 13 on the away), so the question is what can we expect from a new Trek?

Will this be set within established continuity? There is a rumor that this series will take place after the fifth movie, the Undiscovered Country. Will it explore the uncharted future past era of The Next Generation? Are we going to see another set of actors playing the popular Kirk, Spock and Bones roles following the Abrams story? Or will it be an anthology series dipping into the many periods of Trek past and future?

We may have to wait until next year to get all the details, but in a few weeks, we will know more when Star Trek takes over SDCC with a barrage of panels and an outdoor screening of Beyond.
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NX-01 refit via: http://startrekships.tumblr.com/post/66805328781/nx-refit-art

Via i09:
News just broke that Bryan Fuller, the executive producer of the still-untitled 2017 CBS Star Trek series, will have a panel in the biggest room at Comic-Con, Hall H, on July 23 during the afternoon. It’s called Star Trek: Celebrating 50 Years and he’s expected to reveal news about that show, and chat with members of each Trek cast. Announced so far are William Shatner, Michael Dorn, Brent Spiner, Jeri Ryan, and Scott Bakula.

That panel alone would be super cool, but it’s just the bridge of the Enterprise.

Paramount previously announced they’re hosting the world premiere of Star Trek Beyond right outside the convention, at the Embarcadero Marina Park. That event is “the first-ever outdoor IMAX premiere” and “will include appearances by the film’s cast and crew, and a live concert performance by the San Diego symphony orchestra.”

But wait, there’s more. Just announced are five more Trek panels happening during the convention. They are as follows.

“Trek Talks: Science, the Smithsonian and ‘Star Trek’” (Friday, July 22, 6:30 p.m., Room 5AB)
“‘Star Trek’: The Rodenberry Vault” (Saturday, July 23, 12:30 p.m., Room 5AB)
“Trek Talks: ‘Star Trek’ and NASA Boldly Go” (Saturday, July 23 6 p.m., Room 5AB)
“‘Star Trek’ the Official Starships Collection: Designing and Filming Starships” (Saturday, July 23, 3 p.m., Room 28 D/E)
“‘Star Trek’: Five Decades of Comics” (Friday, July 22, 1:30p.m., Room 8).

Are you planning to attend the SDCC? If so, please drop a line!

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Poll:

What’s your favorite Trek?

Bonus!
Watch the Star Trek New Voyages episode: Mind Sifter!

 

Star Trek Axanar

Prelude_to_Axanar_poster.jpgWhile we await the release of the third and final new Star Trek film for some time and the upcoming streaming TV series, it may be a good time to give a closer look at the fan-funded project Star Trek Axanar.

Christian Gossett and Alec Peters utilized the resources of special effects experts and several actors and actresses familiar to fans of Star Trek and cult sci-fi in general (including Battlestar Galactica’s Richard Hatch). They raised $101,000 (well over the $10,000 goal) via Kickstarter and released Prelude to Axanar for a limited release.

Set during the Four-Year War, Axanar serves as a bridge between Enterprise and the Original Series. A glimpse is even given of NCC-1701 craft in dry dock!

Star Trek Axanar strives to accomplish something few of the Star Trek projects from Paramount has, to fit into canon. Not only does it feature actors reprising their roles, but it also sets up plot threads connecting to classic Trek stories such as Patterns of Force and Whom Gods Destroy – one of my personal faves.

This is the best thing to happen for Trek fans in decades and the screening of the 21 minute prelude earned acclaim from professional critics. Then this happened:

On December 29, 2015, CBS and Paramount Pictures filed for an injunction and damages in the US District Court for the Central District of California, stating Axanar works infringe their rights by making use of the Klingon language and “innumerable copyrighted elements of Star Trek, including its settings, characters, species, and themes.”

On March 28, 2016, Axanar Productions filed a motion to dismiss or strike Paramount and CBS’s claims, saying the elements mentioned in the court filing are not protected by copyright and it is seeking premature relief from a work, the Axanar film, that does not exist.

At a time when (reportedly) Paramount is urging its staff to refrain from making their feature films ‘too Star Trekky’ (witness the high-octane trailer for Star Trek Beyond), it is truly painful that a project like this is being shelved.

Will we see Star Trek Axanar? Given that the film’s creators worked so hard to get this project off the ground and the product to date is so good that it has Paramount suing… it’s a possibility.

Bookmark this page for more.

Electric Dreams: The World of Philip K. Dick

268ee323f1e8756717ed55d4c5681414.jpgVia CultBox: American writer Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) wrote 44 novels and 121 short stories, with the movies Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck and The Adjustment Bureau all based on his works.

Bryan Cranston commented: “This is an electric dream come true. We are so thrilled to be able to explore and expand upon the evergreen themes found in the incredible work of this literary master.”

Executive producer Ronald D. Moore said: “As a long-time fan of Philip K. Dick’s work, it’s a tremendous honour and thrill to be part of this series. His short stories are a treasure-trove of material for artists to draw from and I think this will be a very exciting project.”

Dick’s daughter Isa Dick Hackett added: “I’m thrilled to be working with this exceptional team to bring my father’s short stories to life. Often the source for big, high concept feature films, these short stories represent some of the most dazzling conceptual work of his career, and the fact that they will be adapted by such a diverse set of creative voices is truly an honour.”

Electric Dreams: The World of Philip K. Dick will premiere on Channel 4 in the UK.

No word yet on a domestic release, though Netflix could be a possibility.

First look at Lego Star Wars The Force Awakens

Happy Star Wars Day and May the Fourth Be With You.

StarWars_Lego_ForceAwakensTo celebrate, here is an 8 minute clip of the upcoming Lego Star Wars game that will adapt Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Lead through by one of the game developers, this is fun look at what is to come.

C3PO_21_panel_aPersonally, I’m excited about the PlayStation exclusive content The Phantom Limb, which could be related to the C-3PO one-shot by former Starman team James Robinson and Tony Harris.

Lego Star Wars The Force Awakens has June 28th release date and can be pre-ordered from Amazon. StarWars_Lego_ForceAwakens_PS4
I plan to attend a special event at the Baxter Barcade in wonderful Chapel Hill this evening. How will you be celebrating this May 4th?

On the Edge of Blade Runner

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Looking for the perfect way to spend a quiet Monday evening? Here’s a wonderful BBC documentary based on Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (oddly hosted by comic genius Chris Morris).

I can still remember the cold rainy day when I saw this film (at far too young an age). A groundbreaking film that never fails to make an impression and make me feel like I am watching it for the first time… I love Blade Runner.

As a bonus, here’s a lovely film about the life of author Philip K Dick with some very special cameos.

Blake’s 7 ‘The Armageddon Storm’

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The Armageddon Storm – When mercenary Del Grant alerts the Liberator crew to the existence of a new Federation super-weapon, Avon leads an epic battle to avert catastrophe…

Released February 2013
Written By: Cavan Scott and Mark Wright

Directed By: Ken Bentley

Cast: Paul Darrow (Kerr Avon), Michael Keating (Vila Restal), Jan Chappell (Cally), Tom Chadbon (Del Grant)
Doctor Who is remarkable for its success in its home country and overseas. As much as I enjoy Who, it is truly criminal that Blake’s 7 is not more widely popular. A cult series that ran for four seasons with a definite ending, Blake’s 7 is, just as the opening credits sequence shows when a symbol very similar to the United Federation of Planets from Star Trek, is the opposite of traditional raygun sci-fi. This is reactionary, angry, cynical and bloody.

Developed by Dalek co-creator Terry Nation, Blake’s 7 is anti-establishment action-adventure following the exploits of a small group of rebels hellbent on freeing the human race from the control of the crooked Federation. Unusually, the lead hero Blake exited the program after the second season. Thought dead, the most unlikely successor Avon takes the reigns of the fight against the system of power. Hardly a heroic type, Avon is a sociopathic genius with marginal morals. Joining Avon is the cowardly thief Villa, the psychic terrorist Cally, the straight-laced ace pilot Del Tarrant and the weapon expert Dana. Blake’s 7 was incredibly successful during its time and garnered strong support as a sophisticated sci-fi series.

Thankfully, the folks at Big Finish who have reunited much of the cast to revisit this exciting program in a new series of stories set within the existing canon.

Whereas most of the Big Finish Blake’s 7 audios are short stories, The Armageddon is a larger scale story split across three parts. Avon and his crew meet a fellow freedom fighter Del Grant who has information leading to a wild chase deep within the Federation’s most high security prison and a hostile world at war. The ultimate goal is to find a doomsday weapon called the Armageddon Storm. But there is more at stake. Del Grant is the brother of Avon’s great love, Anna. There is friction between the two regarding Anna’s relationship and fate due to Avon’s crooked life.

A sharply-written yarn with plenty of humor (courtesy of the amazing Michael Keating) and drama, this story fits so perfectly within the world of Blake’s 7, that when I closed my eyes I could easily imagine a televised version. In addition to a superb script and top notch cast, the ‘aural landscape’ is similarly impressive. I was especially surprised by the soundtrack which is lovingly evocative of Dudley Simpson’s work.

If you are a fan of Blake’s 7 and have fond memories of the series, do yourself a favor and buy a copy, pour yourself a glass of wine and sit back for a very special treat. And if you are unfamiliar… start watching the old episodes (before they are pulled down).

Order Blake’s 7 – The Armageddon Storm from Big Finish here.

Judge Dredd Punches Back

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Comic books can serve multiple purposes. In addition to entertaining, they can act as a statement world events as social commentary. 2000 AD’s Judge Dredd delivered in such a bold way that it became an icon of British comics alongside Dan Dare and Beano.

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2000 A.D. # 168

The most popular comic book character in the United Kingdom, Judge Dredd is also the most successful mix of sci-fi,horror and comics to date. Created in 1977 by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, the character is just one of many great strips that ran in 2000 A.D. under the editorial leadership of Pat Mills. Set in a post apocalyptic future where mega cities are overrun with crime, the decision is made to endow the police with special powers to side-step the need for the legal process of a fair trial and actually murder criminals on the spot. A brotherhood unto itself, the greatest of these Judges is Dredd, one of a batch of clones designed to be perfect policemen. Embodying the cynicism and doom-laden outlook on the future, Judge Dredd was full of over the top violence, tough guy cops and horrific villains. In short, the perfect statement on Thatcher’s Britain. It also serves as an interesting statement on urban decay and the nature of modern city dwelling societies.- from my 2009 post

Many remember Dredd as being a poorly made movie starring Sylvester Stallone that is so bad it is regularly mixed up with Demolition Man. Few know of the character’s roots or his legacy. In 2012, Dredd was the star of a 3D film which honored the source material. Fans were over the moon to see an adaptation that was slavishly devoted to the comics. Starring Star Trek’s Karl Urban and produced by Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Ex Machina), Dredd was a rocking action movie with brutal hyper-violence that was evocative of urban crime yet translated into a future realm. It was perfect.

03_judge_dredd_2012_empire_UrbanDespite the perfection of the Dredd movie, the financial success wasn’t strong enough to garner a sequel. Nevertheless, its fans base has continued to push for another Dredd film and it appears that we may be getting more MegaCity action, just not in the way we had imagined.

Via Wired:

Rebellion has launched Bring Back Dredd, a campaign which currently has more than 136,000 signees. Shepherded by “superfans” Frank Palmer and Brian Ritchie, it’s shifting focus away from a theatrical sequel slightly, and is now targeting producers of the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO to bring it back as a TV series.

“With the success of series such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, andThe Man in the High Castle, the clamour of the growing fanbase for more from the incredible world of the 2012 Dredd movie cannot be ignored,” the campaign text reads. “We call on TV and movie producers to step up to the plate and give us more, either through a pay-to-view TV series or a new movie!”

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2016 Movie List

February – Deadpool

March – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

May – Captain America: Civil War , X-Men: Apocalypse

June – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, WarCraft, Independence Day Resurgence

July – The Legend of Tarzan, Ghostbusters, Star Trek Beyond

August – Suicide Squad

October – Gambit

November – Doctor Strange

December – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Lego Star Wars: Small Scenes from a Big Galaxy

With the release and excitement over Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there is no shortage of tie-ins targeting fan nostalgia from books to videogames and toys. But some fans take the initiative by using their skills to pay homage to the most popular modern space opera.

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“Lego Star Wars: Small Scenes from a Big Galaxy.” (Vesa Lehtimaki/(c) 2015 LEGO (c) and TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd)

Via WashingtonPost (click the link for more images):

Finnish photographer Vesa Lehtimaki began photographing his child’s toys back in 2009 as a way to preserve their memory before they either broke, were given away, or were lost. At around the same time, he took some of his son’s Lego snowtroopers outside and photographed them in the snow and that is when he found his calling to make incredibly detailed action scenes of Lego Star Wars figures. He began uploading the images that he made to Flickr and found that he had a hit on his hands. Six years later, a collection of his images is now available in book form in “LEGO STAR WARS: Small Scenes from a Big Galaxy,” (DK, 2015).

Lehtimaki has created a stunning miniature universe where Lego Star Wars action figures come to life, from Luke Skywalker riding a tauntaun through snow to a Sand Scout riding a sand speeder bike. Some of the tricks Lehtimaki uses to create the scenes include using flashlights for illumination and hot glue to hold the figures in place, experimenting over and over again until he gets the scene just right.

Also of interest is this ascii animated version of Star Wars. The patience and dedication evident in this project is stunning.