Storytelling the Expanse Way

Cast of The Expanse in futuristic space suits against a dark futuristic interior
Image Source: https://www.space.com/the-expanse-season-4-and-5-on-amazon.html

I have to admit this upfront: I originally didn’t like The Expanse. There, I said it. This isn’t news to long-time blog readers as I made no secret about how much I disliked the first season of the show. I “peaced out” after the first episode of the 2nd season. However, last January, when my car died and I was stuck in the apartment for the whole weekend (heh, a pandemic and quarantine gives a whole new meaning to being “stuck”), I watched the entire series of the show in a weekend and I was amazed that I dismissed it so thoroughly as it was really good.

I’ve watched it quite often since, trying to figure out how I could have gotten it so wrong. I think I understand what The Expanse does that makes it so compelling, but why it initially turned me off.

History First

So, I believe that Tolkien would have loved this particular series as well. What the creators of the show (and I assume the book) do very well is focus on the history and then set the characters loose with events. History is paramount to the series and most of the first season sets up the interplay between Mars, Earth, and the Belt. Then (no spoilers), they throw a wrinkle in the midst and then go from there. Tolkien was a huge advocate for setting up the history of a place–that’s why Middle Earth feels like a lived in world. As I’m reading The Lord of the Rings again, I notice how Tolkien is discussing people, events, and places that aren’t really relevant to the story at hand, but give much more context for what is happening and why it is happening.

Mystery Second

The second thing that the creators do is that they present story arcs in the form of mini-mysteries. Yes, that’s right, much of the “binge-watchability” (like the new formation of the word I created there?) of the show comes from the fact that they show you (Colombo-style) what happens at the end of the arc in the very beginning of the arc and then slowly the narrative unfolds until you have all the pieces. Once you reach the end, you see how that piece that they gave you at the very beginning then fits into the larger story. Colombo did this very well, but it gave away the entire ending as you knew who the murderer was and then it was just watching Colombo put together the lies, half-truths, and mistakes of the criminal and watching their ever increasing desperation as the detective got ever closer to the truth. In The Expanse, it is more like a puzzle, in which they give you a “glimpse” of a puzzle filled in and then before you can make complete sense of what you’re seeing, they scatter ALL the pieces and begin reforming the puzzle again. You still have your “clue,” but it isn’t relevant for 4-5 episodes until you have enough of the overall puzzle filled in again to start making connections to what you saw at the beginning.

Warm Up/Cool Down Third

And finally, well not finally, but it is the last one I want to talk about today, they do this interesting technique that I’ve not seen in other long form narrative shows (shows whose episodes follow a story arc and aren’t “episodic” in nature) in that it follows (for the most part) this scenerio: Warm-up episode, 1-3 action focused episodes, Cool down episode. Now, there are exceptions to this, but having watched the series well over 10 times now (and individual episodes to coincide with various reactors–I’m following 5 Expanse reactors at the moment), there is a pattern that you can see developing in those episodes. The Warm-up episode usually establishes some strange situation or occurrence or sets up a problem that needs to be solved/resolved. The Action episodes are usually ones that are “cooking” episodes where the action is happening and everything comes to a “boiling point” (which is usually some unexpected revelation–either plot or character, rarely both at the same time, but it has happened). The Cool-down episode is usually character focused and spends time relating how the characters have been changed or how they are relating to the new status quo.

The cycle usually repeats (although in Seasons 1 & 4, this is elongated and it makes it seem slow at times.) Season 2 and 3 are so hyper-focused on this pattern that it makes the show so intense.

To Watch The Expanse You Have to Embrace the Mystery

Although The Expanse is a science fiction show that features combat, space ship scenes, and a realistic depiction of a science fiction world, one must embrace the mystery genre in order to truly appreciate it. It isn’t so much a “puzzlebox” that is the hot buzzword term in the film industry right now as it is a throwback to a genre that has fallen out of favor. This show leans heavily on the mystery of what has happened/is happening in order to drive its narrative. By showing you a piece of the “endgame” and then going back and filling in those pieces one plot point and character moment at a time, it is inviting you to help construct the narrative along with it and entices you to come along with it to “enjoy the ride.”

Sidney


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Okay, so I was Wrong–The Expanse is a Really, Really Good Show!

Picture of the cast of the Expanse with a stylized logo of the show's title.
Image Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/robsalkowitz/2019/12/12/amazon-relaunches-tvs-best-sci-fi-show-the-expanse-for-season-4-friday/

So, sometime last year, I finished the first season of The Expanse, and to put it mildly, I was NOT impressed. I thought it was okay, but fell too far into the “Game of Thrones” arena where “bad things happen to good people.” It didn’t help that the show was marketed as “Game of Thrones” in space. I tried two separate times to get past the first episode of Season 2, but I couldn’t–I just thought that I didn’t like the show and that it was, while not bad, not something that I was ever going to like.

However, fair is fair. If I called it out on the blog and I change my mind later, then I’m going to let you know.

So I’m saying it now: I Was Wrong! The Expanse is a GOOD show!

Season 2 and Season 3

Part of the problem is that the show doesn’t really hit its stride until about Episode 2 or 3 of the 2nd season. Like Season 1, the first couple of episodes are more about “set-up” than they are about pure plot. Characterization is always present, but in Season 1, I wasn’t really invested in the characters. However, with Season 2 and especially Season 3, the characters are really tested by the plot and they interact to turn the show into something really special (& really good)!

Without spoilers, let’s just say that everything rises to a crescendo, ramps down after the resolution and then rises a second time to an even more insane and awesome resolution. I think the key is that 1) the characters are ALWAYS acting/reacting based on plot. This is the rare show where plot reveals characters and the characters’ actions drive the plot.

Season 4

So, I binged this show a couple weeks ago when my car was in the shop being repaired. I watched all of Season 2, 3, and 4 back-to-back. While I didn’t think Season 4 had the same insane level of wildness as 2 & 3, I did feel that it was still great and much better than Season 1. I hope that they do a Season 5 as I really want to see where they take the story (yes, I know they are based on books, and I may dip into them a little later, but right now the show has its “hooks” into me).

The characters are really well rounded (now that I’ve seen their arc over more episodes than what was presented in Season 1).

Overall Grade: A

Again, as this is a public forum, I feel compelled to let people know when I get it wrong (& this is one of those times). This is a strong show with compelling characters and an absolutely crazy storyline that really shines in Season 2 & 3. While it doesn’t beat The Mandolorian as my favorite sci-fi show, it has leap-frogged quite few series to become one for which I can’t wait to see the next season.

Sidney


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Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda Series Review

Image of the Andromeda Crew all lined up and staring into the camera.
Image Source: https://andromeda.fandom.com/wiki/Andromeda_(TV_series)

Okay, so this one is going to be an interesting review, although it might be fairly similar to my review (in tone) of my review of Farscape. So, for me, Andromeda was much closer in tone, story construction, and characterization with Farscape than other sci-fi shows that I’ve seen such as Babylon 5, the various Star Trek shows, or even the Stargate shows. There is a more fun vibe going on and less serious vibe in the show where I think the other shows tended more towards seriousness with comedic elements. This show, along with Farscape in certain episodes, tended more toward the wry comedic element rather than full on seriousness. Now depending on my mood, I felt this lightness of subject matter either funny or irritating, depending on how much I just wanted a good, old fashioned, nuts & bolts sci-fi story.

A Story of Two Series: Before Tyr and After Tyr

So, there’s just no way around it. The series can be broken up into two parts (actually 3, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Tyr, a character from the beginning of the series and what I would assume was the “pilot” episode, and a “foil” for Dylan Hunt (captain of the Andromeda) looms large in the discussion of the show. I don’t know the reaction to Tyr during the show’s initial run, but I do know that being the “foil” to Dylan, he had the chance to be redeemed to Dylan’s cause, but being the type of character he was portrayed as, also had the capacity to betray Dylan at any time. The problem is, in year 3, they actually had a storyline that dramatized his choice.

The problem was, for me, the storyline wasn’t the greatest articulation of that choice and, then it became the basis for the rest of the storylines of the show moving forward and those didn’t seem as grounded as ones before. Slight spoiler incoming (please skip to the next paragraph if you want to stay unspoiled about ANYTHING in the show–has nothing to do with the resolution of Tyr’s story or the resolution of the series in general).</spoiler>In fact, the whole founding of the “New Commonwealth” (while fine), didn’t really seem fleshed out very well and the idea that Dylan Hunt was a “traitor” and had to go away from the “Commonwealth” simply happened too quick for my liking. It would have taken at least a season of build up for me to have really engaged with that plot line. It all just happened too quickly for me to believe.

Can We Talk About Season 5?

So, taking a “spaceship show” and grounding it in a solar system with a limited number of planets might not have been the best thing for the show. The last 3 episodes were very good in my opinion, but that meant that I had to sit through a lot of “brown” planets to get there. Also, the same sketchiness of storytelling of the previous season was there meaning that sometimes time and character motivations didn’t seem to match up for me, but like I said, the last three or four episodes were masterful–especially when then go into an artificial sun to repair it–now that is what I’m looking for in my science fiction!

Overall Grade: B-

So, like Farscape, I thought the stories weren’t all that great usually, but the characters and the acting were pretty good and fun. I wish that there had been more of Star Trek vibe, with everyone having even more clearly delineated roles and flaws that dovetailed with the plot more often than they did. I would loved to have seen Andromeda as a “dysfunctional” Enterprise–yes, they saved the day, but there individual quirks made it much more difficult that it should have been. On the Enterprise for Star Trek, we see the crew band together to solve problems. It would have been nice to see the crew of the Andromeda try to solve problems, but have their own quirks (or other crew) get in the way, but always somehow overcoming in spite of everything and becoming more of a “family” in doing so. I also think some characters were under-used. I would have liked to have seen more storylines with Becka Valentine’s character, especially with her dealing with her substance abuse–but that arc was dealt with and was only mentioned in subsequent seasons, but not shown.

Still, the show was fun, if a little campy at times, and I say, for me, a darn sight better than Defiance with its “edgy” storylines that don’t seem to work nearly as well for me. I did enjoy my time with the show, but just wished that it could have stayed a little bit more serious.

Sidney


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Finally Found a New “Starship Show”: Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda

Cast of the Andromeda TV show posing for the camera.
Image Source: https://andromeda.fandom.com/wiki/Andromeda_(TV_series)

So, even though I did a blog post a couple of weeks ago on Defiance, I’ve abandoned the show for now. The first season was fairly good–I would have rated it a B-/C+ as the “alien artifact” storyline did become more prominent during the later part of the season. B- is probably where I would have settled as it had just enough sci-fi concepts (and great acting!) to overcome what I feel is stereotypical and (to me) uninteresting world building, setting, and too much reliance on Western genre tropes instead of sci-fi tropes. However, what got me was that season 2 introduced new characters and gave the old characters new “problems.” I didn’t really cotton to the new characters, but I felt I could tolerate them–and the problems of the old characters. Of course, to be “edgy” (aka Game of Thrones before Game of Thrones), they had to (for me) take it a step too far by taking one of the hero characters from season 1 and giving her the problem of recreational drug use (their version of cocaine). Yeah, I watched one episode and barely tolerated it, but couldn’t do it with subsequent episodes, so I’ve bailed about halfway into season 2. I may skip the episode and go back one day, but for now, I have a new show: Andromeda.

Captain America in Space

So, this is a bit of an anachronism as Andromeda and its “boy-scout” of a captain came first in terms of appearing on screen with that whole “old fashioned hero out of time” routine. Dylan Hunt was frozen at the Event Horizon for 300 years and when he is rescued, he discovers that his “Commonwealth” has fallen. He discovers the worlds have fallen into disarray, so decides to make it his mission to rebuild the Commonwealth (UN for Planets, but not exactly like Star Trek’s Federation or Star Wars’s Galactic Senate) and restore some semblance of order to the galaxy.

Dylan Hunt is very much in line with the current Marvel Universe incarnation of Captain America. He fights for ideals and is idealistic. He is the hero and pretty much always wins, but the adventures are exciting. This probably will not appeal to most of the millennials who crave “bad people screwing each other over” and who call that “complex,” but if you’re looking for adventure and excitement and traditional space opera (which is my preference), then this one, while a bit hokey at times, still mostly works and is FAR more appealing than Defiance with its pseudo-Western and illicit drug use. And for those who would “nope out,” and claim Andromeda has no complexity, it actually has a character who is dealing with addiction issues, but it actually has the character fall, pay the cost, and then work to rise above and stay above their addiction and is referenced several times over the course of the first two seasons that I’ve watched.

2 – 3 Episodes Per Day

So, I try to download (it is currently available on Amazon Prime) 2 -3 episodes per day. I don’t always get through that many (sometimes I manage all three, but usually it’s 1 or 2). However, I really feel that the show, while not as consistently good as Babylon 5 or the Stargate shows, is still a very strong show and (for me) it is better than the nihilistic shows of Defiance or The Expanse (again, I really like the actors on both of the shows, but I don’t like the “tone” of the shows). With nihilistic shows, it feels like a slog to get through, but I always look forward to most of the episodes that I’ve watched so far.

I’m currently into season 2 and I’m deep into it–I think I only have maybe 4 more episodes before the end of the season. There are 5 total seasons, so I still have a way to go before I finish it.

I have to say that (at the moment) I really like this show and I have to say that the characters have (so far) grown on me. We’ll see if that continues to be the case.

Sidney


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Defiantly Watching Defiance

Defiance TV Show Poster (w show's main characters standing in alien fauna by the backdrop of the St. Louis arch in the background.
Image Source: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2189221/

I am watching a show that I’ve had in my queue for a while: Defiance. It is a Sci-Fi show (post apocalyptic) that is currently streaming on Amazon Prime (not sure if it is elsewhere, but I know its been on Prime) for a while now, so I thought I’d watch it. So, when my late creative writing professor, Ken Smith, opened my eyes to the fact that Science-Fiction’s antecedent genre was the Western, I was aghast. Star Wars and the original trilogy were my favorite movies at the time (this was in the era where the Prequels were still a couple years away from release and the Matrix hadn’t quite changed the landscape for science-fiction films (although Aliens & Terminator 2 had made significant in-roads). And yet, as I watch Defiance, I can’t help but recall Ken’s assertion as this show is every bit the Western.

Alien Backstory & Mythos + Western Plots and Characterization = Defiance

So far, about mid-way into the show’s first season, I’m slogging my way through it. The show takes the approach to adding aliens to Earth via a “failed” attempt (or maybe incomplete) at an alien race terraforming Earth. The Earth has been transformed into a (mostly) post-apocalyptic wasteland complete with alien species and races complicating life for the remaining human residents. One of the things that I like about the show is that it doesn’t just focus on humans, however, but seeks to show a town (Defiance) that has multiple alien and human inhabitants and how they can survive and life together despite their prejudices and differences. In many ways, it tries (again early times, at least) to present a hopeful, unifying front, no matter the individual prejudices that flare up.

All Western, All the Time

And yet . . . the show really hasn’t grabbed me. Even though there are aliens, what looks like an ancient alien mystery, and quite a few alien cultures that have traditions different from our own, all of the stories so far have had a decidedly Western (genre) feel to them. Their has been a feuding pair of families with young lovers on each side of the families (a la The Hatfields & McCoys–and yes, they are of two different races just to ratchet up the tension). The protagonist becomes the town’s “Lawkeeper” in the “pilot” episode. The episode I just finished had to do with a “Bounty Hunter” friend of the Lawkeeper (a “trope” of many a Western). There are deputies, a doc with a possible bad past, prostitutes with hearts of gold, and the like.

Now, all this to say, that the actors and the story isn’t bad–it just skews heavily into the Western motif, where I might want it to do so a little less.

And this is Why I Like “Space Ship Shows”

Defiance (and shows like it–The Walking Dead comes quickly to mind) is that it devolves into the same tropes that a Western might: be quick with a gun or be dead, protect yourself at all costs because your neighbors won’t, the frontier is the big open space of badness, with little pockets of safety coming by way of cities.

Now, you could say this about my beloved spaceship shows (Star Trek, Star Wars, Dark Matter, Stargate (& spinoff shows), etc), but one thing that spaceship shows do better than their post apocalyptic cousins is that sense of “wonder.” There is the chance that some scientific concept or paradigm will be explored in some unique and awesome way that completely explodes the traditional/contemporary way of looking at the world. For instance, Star Wars has a lot of western tropes early in the movie, but moving to the later parts of the movie, we see the tropes of medieval knights (Kenobi vs Vader fight on the Death Star) and even WW2 fighter tropes (the iconic Trench Run). As a child, this blew my mind. Another example, from the world of books this time, was a scene in one of Elizabeth Moon’s books where a main character walked on the ship’s outer hull while the ship was in freakin’ HYPERSPACE. I’d never read the like and this one scene helped make me a lifelong fan of Elizabeth Moon’s work.

Anyway, hopefully I’ll be able to stick through it to the end and report back with a mini-review. We’ll see–while I like and respect the western, I would prefer my science fiction to show a little less western tropes and a little more wonder than I’m currently seeing in Defiance. But who knows, maybe they’ll lean harder into the “alien artifact” mystery and it will have the wonder I’m looking for in my sci-fi.

Sidney


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Series Review: Farscape

Image of the cast of Farscape--Crichton,  Aeryn Sun, and the rest along with the villains Crais and Scorpius standing on the bridge of the living ship Moya as they stare out into space--a photo of the cast.
Image Source: https://paleymatters.org/somewhere-over-the-wormhole-farscape-15-years-later-eef1ebba7e98

So, over the weekend I finished watching the entire series of Farscape. I had the last episode sitting, just waiting to be watched for a couple of weeks, and I sorta’ dreaded watching it because it would mean that it was over and that’s pretty much the last spaceship show that I’m really interested in at the moment–having watched most of the other major ones that I wanted to see. However, now that Stranger Things, Season 3 has come out, I decided I should finish it up and move on.

Two “Different” Shows

Much like Star Trek Voyager, the show is essentially two different main storylines in the show’s history. (Minor spoilers ahead): You can break the show in many different ways, but the way that I look at it is the Pa’u Zatoh Zaahn (“Zaahn”) era and the “Post Zaahn” era. Now this could definitely be broken up with different characters, but, like the character of “Zaahn,” this character was the “soul” of the show–for me, at least early in the show. Zahn, while weird in concept and backstory, was probably the character I most related to, esp. in the early years of the show. Now remember, I’ve seen all of the first 2 seasons before it disappeared from streaming 2-3 years ago. Now that its was back, I was made sure to see all of the episodes this time around. Early in the show, it was still finding its footing. The thing to know is that this show has multiple antagonists–4 major ones that I could count, but there are probably more. However, in the beginning of the show, the episodes are far more episodic in nature and they do a fairly good job of establishing establishing the characters, the setting, the conflict, and the interdynmics of the character drama on the ship.

Post “Zaahn”

After Zahn’s character’s resolution, the show goes into more of a “series”-based show in which the focuses more on characters in a fairly long-running recurring storyline that loosely focuses around “Wormholes.” While this is a theme through the whole show (Crichton, the main character gets pulled through a wormhole the very first episode), the “post Zahn” era really does run with this theme and this idea. Also, the dynamics of the ship’s crew are explored in more detail as the characters form bonds later in the show (to say more would be risking major spoilers). What I like about the show is that even though it is often much more farcical than typical “spaceship” shows (it has an episode the is heavily inspired by the classic Roadrunner cartoons, for example), it still knows when to take itself serious for true “space opera” situations (the series finale is epic AND actually gives true closer to the show). A quick digression: all networks should do things the Farscape way–allow the show to either continue with new storylines or allow it to end via a series finale–this idea of waiting to cancel a show depending on how it does in its “previous” season really shows a lack of understanding of the narrative that they themselves created to sell advertising time on–you have to provide closure for a series if you want long term fan investment–no closure = no future possibility of resurrecting the show at a different time).

Overall Score: B (82-85)

The show wasn’t perfect–it definitely displayed its foreign (Australian) sensibilities. There were more than a few times when it seemed like Mad Max meets Star Wars, but for the most part, I think it carried itself well. Both Ben Browder and Claudia Black were standouts, but I enjoyed most of the characters (and the cast as well). I really liked Chiana and Jool, but they found themselves not as developed (esp. in the later seasons) as I would have liked. While I can only guess at the reason for its ultimate cancellation (well, I can also look on Wikipedia as well), for me, I could never find it during its 1st run. It was one of the first shows to hit streaming when streaming was just starting to get popular, but I didn’t really give it a try–still in “disc” mode and then it disappeared again. When it became available again, about a year ago, I was determined to see it all the way through. Now that I have, I still like other “spaceship shows” better (Dark Matter, Babylon 5, the Star Trek shows), but I still feel like this is a strong contender (and I like it quite a bit better than shows like Killjoys and The Expanse) and really am glad that I (finally) was able to get to see it on streaming (as I write this, it is on Amazon Prime Video.)

Sidney

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Weekend Round Up #15

Image Source: https://www.rocketcitymom.com/weekend-roundup-november-8-11/

This blog entry is me formalizing a format that I started earlier in the year of just giving a quick rundown of some of the highlights of my weekend. As I tend to do most of my writing, gaming, and media consumption on the weekends, it makes sense to give a brief summary/overview of some of the more important aspects of my weekend life, considering they all have relevance to my life in general, and the blog, in particular.

Gaming

Nothing major to note. I got closer to finishing the driving game Gravel. Actually, I’ve already finished it (seen the credits roll after completing the main campaign, but I’m hopeful that I can earn the ultimate reward for my dedication, a Platinum Trophy, in which I complete all the required conditions. I’m currently sitting at 97% complete on the game–needing only 2 online trophies to finish the game. However, that might be a hard task based on the fact that no one is really playing the game online anymore that I can see (on the PS4 anyway). We’ll continue to see, however.

Writing

Managed to send off a story (reprint–Faerie Knight) to a YA podcast looking for Halloween, Christmas, and Dinosaur stories (Faerie Knight falls firmly in the Halloween category). I’ve had very little luck (none at all, if I’m honest) in the reprint category–none of my stories have ever been reprinted in a different magazine from their original publication, but since FA was a Halloween story (it takes place on Halloween night), I thought I’d give it a try. In other news, I started planning a short-story “duology” over the weekend. I’ve actually already written the first story (I, Magi) and I now have a “sequel” for it in mind. I will be working with it over the week to get a “rough draft” down on paper and then put it on hold until I finish Project Dog, Project Skye, and Project Independent. I feel as if I have too many outstanding projects and I really need to finish some of them off before moving on to others.

Media

Not much to see here this week. Not into Game of Thrones. I hate the whole “Bad things happen to Good people” sub-genre, no matter the genre (fantasy, sci-fi, etc.), so I refuse to be a part of the cultural conversation here. I did start the Amazon Prime show Hanna, but didn’t actually finish the first episode–although I will. I don’t think it would be right for me to give my impressions until I do, however.

School

So, this is where the bulk of my writing time went this weekend. I had a school assignment due at 11:00 pm Sunday night for my Victorian Literature class (on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol). I finished it right around that time (after working on it since approx. 7pm). I really feel the Sunday night time-frame is a good writing time (when I’m not writing until 11:00pm or 12:00am), so as soon as school’s out (i.e., I’m finished with my classes, I would like to use this time-frame to actually work on some of my (many) “Projects.”

Well, that’s my weekend for this week–hope this week is a good one for both you and me!

Sidney

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  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Great Actors in Small Roles: Claudia Black

Claudia Black (from Wikipedia entry)
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claudia_Black

So, I’m expanding this “series” just a little bit to also include under “appreciated” actors who I come across from all genres–not just film, as it had been previously. While, again, I won’t often call out many actors, there are just some who do a great job and don’t necessarily get the recognition they deserve.

One actor whose work I always love is Claudia Black. Having re-“rediscovered” her work in Farscape and having just recently finished the entire Stargate SG-1 series, in which guest stars towards the latter part of the series and becomes a series regular in the last season, I’ve really come to appreciate both her comedic timing and sense of the “ironic” in the characters that she plays.

Farscape

I’ll have a more in-depth review of the show later, but I really like the way Claudia Black imbues her character on the show, Aeryn Sun, with a sense of both sarcasm combined with deadly earnestness. Fitting of someone who was once a commando for the “enemy,” Claudia plays Aeryn with a physicality (and sometimes coldness) befitting of a military specialist. However, even after only about 4-5 episodes, I see the inventive wordplay and playfulness that is the embodiment of Vala (SG-1).

Uncharted

Many people may or may not know Claudia by sight, but most gamers (Playstation at least) know her for her roles in the Uncharted series. She plays Chloe Frazier, a treasure hunter and one-time old flame for the series protagonist Nathan Drake. While her roles were substantial in the games, I really felt the actress and the character come into her own with the release of the stand alone game Uncharted The Lost Legacy which featured two former supporting characters Chole Frazer and Nadine Ross as the lead characters in a new adventure. I thought the pain in which Black exhibited towards her father in some of the more emotionally charges scenes were outstanding and gave true insight into the character.

Stargate SG-1

One of my favorite characters on SG-1 was Vala, introduced as a “foil” to Daniel. While Vala is played as a far more humorous character than Aeryn, she can also have moments of seriousness, and even cold-blooded calculation, although Vala’s overriding conception is “fun.” Again, I really liked the way Claudia Black uses a “grin” to emphasize Vala’s playful demeanor which is reminscent of the way my own family used humor and sarcasm in a playful way, using our facial features and body language to diffuse/disarm any attempt to harm. I think this is why I don’t find “teasing” funny in real life because, in real life, “teasing” is really meant to cause harm to the person–whereas in Vala’s paradigm (and mine), teasing is just a way of playing and being fun without being stupid/doing stupid things. Without the correct gestures and body language, sarcasm and glib comments can do more harm than good.

While Claudia Black may not be a “household name” in many homes, I really think she should be as her ability to play both fun and playful characters along with characters with an emotional edge or more depth make her an actor that I enjoy watching (or listening to for her voice work) everytime I encounter something that she’s starring in.

A handclap of praise to Claudia Black for such wonderfully diverse characters–and for bringing a sense of “fun” and “wonder” back to adventure and science fiction.

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Weekend Round Up, February 25, 2019

Image Source: https://oscar.go.com/news/winners/oscar-winners-2019-live-updates-to-come

So, here (in no particular order) are some of the things that I’ve done over the weekend.

Writing

  • Finished the “Opening Incident” section of my 2nd Draft of “Starlight, Starbright.” (2 of 5 sections). It looks like I’m not going to make my deadline of finishing by the Feb. 28th for the deadline of the anthology where I was hoping to send it. Still, it looks (& feels) far better than it did under the old story of “The Rocketman.” Even if it doesn’t “light up the world” (pardon the pun–starlight, starbright), it is still a fun story with a character that I understand.
  • Re-outlined my graphic novel which has been at a stand-still for about a month. I realized that, while the first issue, was supposed to be an adaptation of the short-story, I didn’t really have a clue of what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go after I finished with that section, so I finally sat down and wrote out a beginning, middle, and end for the story. Now I just need to do the breakdown again for each individual issue and then I’ll start working on it again.

Gaming

  • Didn’t really do a whole lot of gaming this week, but here are the highlights:
  • Cancelled my preorder for Anthem and moved the money over to Days Gone. I won’t reiterate my disdain for EA’s current “slash and burn” strategy towards its core audience, but I vote with my wallet, rather than just continually talking about it. I said it before and I’ll say it again: “fool me once (Mass Effect Andromeda), shame on you, fool me twice (Anthem), shame on me.”

School

  • This is where the majority of my time went this weekend:
  • We had an assignment (class/group) that was due at 11:30 pm last night. Trying to coordinate this while this was Oscar Sunday was very difficult. We got it done, but it was pretty stressful–I won’t lie.
  • I still have a Biography project due for class (in addition to the above assignment), so these next two days are going to be very “fun.” Yeah, not so much.

Oscars

  • So, since I’m taking a test in film this year, I felt obligated to watch the Oscars (which I have a love-hate relationship with) this past Sunday. I loved the Oscars during the George Burns (1970s/1980s era) and (Billy Crystal (1990s) era, but have disliked it recently due to its continued snubbing of popular films (I was shocked that Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won (& won big) and I guessed that would be the last popular film for a long while to win (and with the rise of “comic book movies,” it turns out that my fears were well founded). I watched last night pretty much out of deference to The Black Panther, but I knew it wouldn’t win (neither Chadwick Boseman nor Michael B. Jordan were nominated in their respective Actor/Supporting Actor Roles which is nearly always a bad sign of things to come for a picture’s Best Picture hopes). Still, I wanted to at least get a sense of the filmic landscape for this year just in case a question came up on the test.

Well, I think that’s all for today. Not sure if I’ll be able to blog tomorrow because of my assignment, but we’ll see and I’ll play it by ear.

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Starlight, Starbright (Sci-Fi Short-Story — 2nd Draft — “Opening Incident” (2/5 sections)
  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

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