The Orville is just Star Trek fan-fiction, but that’s not such a bad thing

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Yes, for any given episode of The Orville, you can quite easily point to which episodes of The Next Generation it’s riffing on and remixing. No, it’s never quite as clever or novel as the source material that inspires it – if nothing else, they got there first. What it does offer is the feeling of watching Star Trek, in largely the same way fanfiction does. And that makes sense, because that’s pretty much exactly what this show is. Not fanfiction at its most subversive or compelling, no, but at its most basic level – a fun little thing on the side that lovingly recreates the sense of the show you love.

So, an article about The Orville. It took me a while to warm to this show, which at first wasn’t great – especially with the, for lack of a better term, “gender-themed” episode, which remains the nadir of the series – but I did eventually reach a point where I had mixed-to-positive opinions on it. Mostly, I found it quite entertaining by virtue of how shamelessly Star Trek inspired it is. It’s quite literally Seth MacFarlane’s self-insert fanfic, and I found that rather endearing.

While I was writing this article, though, I did start to wonder if there’s actually a more compelling piece to consider – comparing The Orville and it’s relatively simple recreation of Star Trek to the more subversive, often female-driven, fan fiction that exists. Especially, actually, considering the legacy of Star Trek fanfiction as a whole – arguably some of the first fanfiction in the sense we understand it now was Star Trek inspired, and it wasn’t just remixing the episodes, it invented slash fiction. I hope someone who knows enough about this stuff has written a piece on it. Equally, though, I might go and research it and write about it myself.

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Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 13 Review – What’s Past is Prologue

star trek discovery what's past is prologue burnham lorca jason isaacs sonequa martin green mirror universe review

It’s difficult to say that the twist about Lorca’s identity works. Up to a point, that’s just a personal thing; I have long since gotten bored of identity reveals that rely on the idea that everything we know about a character has been a pretence. There’s a lack of nuance to it, and ultimately there’s a lack of nuance to the ‘real’ Lorca. He is, in the end, little more than a power-grabbing usurper with delusions of a destiny and a sexual obsession with Michael Burnham. It’s not so much that this casts a new light on everything we’ve seen already – it’s that everything we’ve seen already was entirely false.

Sure, there was interesting stuff that could have been done with this idea – but, at the same time, I’m starting to grow a little tired of that caveat. After a point, there’s little to be gained by focusing on what could have been done with the idea, when time after time Discovery makes the least interesting choice. Taking such a simplistic approach with this reveal diminishes Lorca’s character, and all the nuance and subtlety we’ve seen so far; it’s a waste of Jason Isaacs, to be frank, who gives a great performance but in the end is still limited by the constraints of the script. If all he’s given to do is sneering, snarling villain, the character can’t rise above that – and it’s a shame that such an interesting character as Lorca was reduced to this.

A much more negative review, because honestly, I was feeling a little frustrated at Discovery this week. I suspect my thoughts vis a vis Captain Lorca are an unpopular opinion, but I’m not sure.

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Riverdale Season 2: Five questions we have after episode 11, which has the worst ending of any episode of Riverdale ever, seriously, I’m not kidding, it was staggering

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This week’s episode of Riverdale was an engaging, if particularly strange one. It was full of the unconventional teen drama’s usual quirks, twists and turns. We saw the fallout of the return of Chic Cooper, the next stage of the conflict between Archie Andrews and Hiram Lodge, and an ending that will undoubtedly have a lot of repercussions across the rest of the series.

See, right now, I’m updating all the old posts for the new wordpress site, and I’m doing it in reverse chronological order, which is sort of creating the false impression that I initially had quite creative titles for Riverdale articles before giving up, as opposed to the reality that is me just becoming increasingly done with it all, just going backwards.

Anyway. The funny thing about that little excerpt is that the ending didn’t have a lot of repercussions across the rest of the series. Outside a brief scene at the top of the next episode, it was pretty much entirely ignored – for the best, frankly, because an ongoing plotline that could be described as sexual abuse of a minor isn’t really something this show can deal with. (As evidenced by the last ongoing plotline they had about the sexual abuse of a minor, which was pretty disastrous.)

But, yes, the ending of The Wrestler was pretty staggeringly bad, with Chic initiating Betty into the world of webcam sex shows. Just… no! No! Honestly. Just such a misstep on every level, and I can’t believe it got to the point where it was scripted, let alone shot.

(The most annoying thing is that, since you know Riverdale is going to continue until at least like 2024 or something, when they get to series four or five or so and start running out of ideas, they will go back to this and do an episode about someone blackmailing Betty. Just, honestly, god above. Do not. What a bad idea. Aaaargh.)

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Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 12 Review – Vaulting Ambition

star trek discovery vaulting ambition captain lorca jason isaacs mirror universe dr culber fridging

Of course, though, there is one part of this episode that must be mentioned: Captain Lorca is, in fact, from the Mirror Universe, and he’s been manipulating Burnham and the crew of the Discovery throughout the series in the hopes of returning home to finish his coup.

I am in… well, no, I’m not in two minds about it. I just don’t particularly like the idea.

Mirror-Lorca has been something of a popular fan theory for a while now – second only really to ‘Ash Tyler is Voq’ in terms of how ubiquitous it was, but largely lacking in the same ancillary details to substantiate the idea. Indeed, more often than not, the idea that Lorca was from the Mirror universe was borne from a rejection of the idea that someone like him wouldn’t exist in the main universe – essentially a rejection of the nuances of the character, dismissing them because they were a bit different from the Star Trek captains we’ve seen before. Sure, there’s since been a couple of vague hints, but that’s largely always been the starting point.

In this review, I spoke largely about my trepidation about the mirror-Lorca reveal (spoilers, sorry) and my frustration at fridging Culber (again, sorry), particularly after the show had depicted itself as the ‘progressive’ Star Trek at last.

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Why Hell Bent is Steven Moffat’s best episode of Doctor Who

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It’s an emphatic statement about the chief thematic concern of Capaldi’s era – what does it mean to be the Doctor? Leaving Clara as a Doctor analogue in her own right was, of course, the only way it could end. In the wake of Peter Capaldi’s regeneration, this story takes on a further significance; with the Twelfth Doctor’s final words, advice to his future self, mirroring the advice he gave to Clara, it’s another clear affirmation of Clara’s status as a Doctor herself.

700ish words, and really I only barely scratched of why this episode is just so darn good. I really love this one – I always find it difficult to answer questions of favourites when it comes to Doctor Who, but honestly, this one is up there.

I’d like to write more about it really. I suspect I probably will, actually. We’ll see.

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Riverdale Season 2: Five questions we have after The Blackboard Jungle

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And we’re back. After a short break, Riverdale has returned, and it’s like it was never gone. As ever with the quirky teen drama, there were a lot of twists and turns in this episode – it raised a lot of questions, and now we need a lot of answers. 

Here are five questions we need to have answered after Riverdale season two’s tenth episode The Blackboard Jungle.

You know, looking back on all these old Riverdale posts, the thing that’s standing out to me is how much the show struggled to properly fill a 22 episode season? I mean, consider the number of plotlines that were raised and dropped and flirted with but not pursued – there’s a real sense that it was massively quite difficult for them to spin the number of plates that they had to.

That seems like it shouldn’t be that difficult, though? I mean, obviously, it’s going to be difficult. But surely there’s a point at which… I mean, I don’t know, if you need a little breathing room, or you need a filler episode, or a cheap episode, why not work with what you’ve already got? Do an episode focused just on Kevin and Josie and so on, with the core four as peripheral figures. Slow down, break it up a bit, don’t worry about going at a relentless pace burning up 12 different plotlines an episode. I can’t imagine anyone would mind?

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Star Trek: Discovery Season 1 Episode 11 Review – The Wolf Inside

star trek discovery the wolf inside michael burnham ash tyler shazad latif sonequa martin green tv review analysis

It’s worth taking a moment to focus on and celebrate Shazad Latif here; playing a dual role is difficult under any circumstances, but he really excels here. Latif has given a very mannered performance up to this point, with a precise awareness of his performance; watching the façade slip, and seeing the distinction between Voq and Tyler begin to fall away, it becomes evident just how skilled he is.

With a lesser actor, it’d be easy to imagine this plotline not quite working – but Shazad Latif really elevates it, with a brilliantly nuanced performance underscoring just how painful this process is. Hopefully (and I do suspect this will be the case) we’ll get a chance to see him dive deeper into the dichotomy between Ash and Voq in future episodes. Surely Ash is still in there on some level, and I’ve little doubt that Shazad Latif will continue to pitch that duality perfectly.

My review of Star Trek: Discovery, which is mostly about how great Shazad Latif is, but also the show’s character work.

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Star Trek isn’t Game of Thrones, and it shouldn’t try to be

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What’s also particularly troubling is the – hopefully unintentional – trend that’s emerged as each major character is killed. The first was Captain Michelle Georgiou, a female character of colour. The second was Head of Security Commander Landry, a female character of colour (who was killed off fairly unceremoniously, and really only for shock value). In the most recent episode, it was Doctor Culber – another person of colour, and one half of Star Trek: Discovery’s gay couple.

It’s a series of deaths that’d be a problem for any show, but there’s something about it that feels worse with Star Trek: Discovery. A big part of the marketing for Star Trek: Discovery drew focus to its diversity – the fact that it saw the first black female lead, the first Asian female captain, and the first openly gay characters in Star Trek history. In a real and meaningful way, Star Trek: Discovery was going to realise the promise of the original series at last – finally, a vision of the future that genuinely was as utopian as it was meant to be. If the series gained any credit for that, it’s surely squandered a lot of it now.

Yet it does suggest that, at one point, there was an understanding of just what Star Trek is meant to be. While it hasn’t always lived up to its reputation, Star Trek is a fundamentally hopeful, optimistic series – an idealistic one that looks towards a better future. The deaths we’ve seen so far haven’t been in keeping with that – they were nothing short of cynical. You can see how they’ve been influenced by Game of Thrones; they’d fit right in there. Thrones, after all, is a much more pessimistic series – that’s not a slight against it, not at all, but it is one of the things that set it apart from Star Trek.

This is a very spoiler-y piece on Star Trek: Discovery – it contains discussion of various deaths that happened in the series.

This was an article that had been on my mind since, I think, the third episode of the series. In the run-up to Discoverys premier, showrunners Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg spoke about being influenced by Game of Thrones, and wanted to have deaths you wouldn’t expect throughout the show. It struck me as cynical at the time, even more so when watching the show itself.

The excerpt above admittedly doesn’t have a lot to do with that – it’s part of a digression about an aggravating trend that developed across Discovery – but the article as a whole tackles the idea that Star Trek should have lots of deaths in it, because… well, I’m not convinced. It’s kinda also part of the ongoing development of a theory about death in fiction and storytelling, because I’m becoming increasingly convinced that death is typically the least interesting storytelling choice available.

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Analysing The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 trailer and news

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The Handmaid’s Tale was one of the best new dramas of 2017; an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel of the same name, it managed to be one of those rare few adaptations that in fact improved upon its source material.

It’s returning for a second season in 2018, which will be released on April 25th. Today, at the Television Critics Association press tour in California, showrunner Bruce Miller, executive producer Warren Littlefield and star Elisabeth Moss revealed some additional details about the upcoming second season.

In hindsight, I should have called this “analysing what we know about The Handmaid’s Tale season 2″. The current title is much too wordy.

Anyway, this is presented mostly for posterity now – subsequent news has mostly revealed that my theories, particularly about Marisa Tomei’s character, weren’t quite right.

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Composer Ariel Marx on evoking emotion through music, her score for The Tale and more

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We ultimately just settled on a pretty intimate, small palette. It’s just a combination of acoustic and electronic elements, strings, guitar, piano, bells. These variations of these instrumentation’s in colour kind of change as we deal the different decades of time and different subjects. Again, the palette is intimate, and the palette actually shifts over time as the memories begin to change. There’s certain emphasis and acoustic palettes and later emphasis on electronic palettes when things start to change and become clearer. It was a real very interesting process. Something that was interesting too is that the whole film is kind of about peeling back layers, so the music was very layered.

In hindsight, I feel like I should have put “her score for The Tale” before “evoking emotion through music”. Whatever. And I’m also increasingly wondering about Oxford commas in these review titles, actually.

Anyway! Ariel was lovely to talk to and is also very talented, so this is worth a read if you’re at all interested in music and writing music and such.

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