The Golden Age of TV

The Golden Age of TV

While watching the Big Bang Theory a couple of days ago, Sheldon made the observation that we are living in the golden age of TV. It got me thinking about TV in general. I am a huge fan of TV. For the last ten or so years I have watched, what some people might call an obscene amount! I’ve always enjoyed watching what my wife and I refer to as the “Tellybox”, but it got me to thinking; where and when did this current obsession begin?

I’ve traced it back to my obsession with three shows. The first was Quantum Leap. For me this is still one of the greatest shows ever put on the air. The chemistry between Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell was second to none, the story was always gripping and more often than not we were left saying “Oh boy” at the same time as Sam. Then came The X-Files. The geek in me did and does still adore this show. Yeah there were some low points, but I was one of the few who thought in the last two seasons it got back to it’s best, Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish were brilliant replacements for Mulder and Scully. Much like with Quantum Leap though it had a god awful ending.

Then came the show that would quite literally change my life forever, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I had just been to the cinema to watch “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (don’t judge me!) and when I got home there was a new show starting. I recognised Sarah Michelle Gellar and my love for the show began. Those who know me know that I’m a massive Whedonite, I mean I am utterly obsessed with everything Joss and Team Whedon do. I have a Joss Whedon DVD section that starts off my DVD collection. Buffy led to Angel, Angel led to Firefly, Firefly led to Dollhouse and each time I was as equally blown away. Of course I am also rather fond of Dr Horrible, Agents of SHIELD, Cabin in the Woods, Much Ado About Nothing etc etc.


It’s been said to me many times that I shouldn’t be so obsessed, it’s just a TV show. For me it was these shows that made it so that wasn’t the case. I’ve been to many conventions dedicated to these shows. I’ve met virtually the entire Buffy and Angel cast. Most importantly I’ve made some amazing friends. We are people who had come together to celebrate our love of all things Joss, other people as crazy as me and they are people who I love dearly.

Seeing Ronald D Moore’s version of Battlestar Galactica for the first time was a moment I will never forget. I was a huge fan of the original growing up and I couldn’t wait to see what they were going to do with it. It changed my love for Sci Fi forever. It was a perfect cast, perfect scriptwriting, special effects that even now are better than most of what you will see in the cinema. I’ve seen this series from start to finish at least fifty times. There is only one show that I’ve ever seen that for me is it’s equal, that show is Supernatural. A show that for nine years has grown and become better and better. I hope it never ends. Every week I am treated to 42ish minutes of pure TV pleasure. My wife is more obsessed with it than I am. Every year I buy her the current season box set for christmas. She’s said to me many times that it’s not christmas without unwrapping her boys!


We also now seem to be in a time of TV shows based on movies and boy some of them are good. Hannibal has continued my love of Hannibal Lecter. Showing us the things we never knew that led up to Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs. I never thought I’d be able to accept anyone else as the good doctor, how wrong was I?! Mads Mikkelsen has been as equally captivating as Anthony Hopkins was. Showing us a new take on a beloved character, truly making it his own. Then there is Bates Motel, the story of a young Norman Bates and just what makes a mother a boys best friend. Then finally the one that currently had me gripped, From Dusk Till Dawn. Taking to Tarantino/Rodriguez classic movie and expanding the story in one hell of an amazing way.

The time and effort put into TV is more than ever before. With as much and in a lot of cases more love put into it than movies. Shows like Doctor Who, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, Game of Thrones to name but a few showing us that TV really really is in it’s Golden Age.

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REVIEW; Star Trek: The Next Generation “Yesterday’s Enterprise”

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I have been a fan of Star Trek for as long as I can remember. I first started watching it in the late 1980s when Star Trek The Next Generation was still going through its maturity phase of Seasons 2 and 3. Star Trek has evolved a long way since then and there are countless moments or episodes that stand out. I have often been asked what my favorite episode is and in truth I can never decide. I therefore often compile lists of my favorite episodes. These lists tend to change from time to time but one episode above all others has always appeared on that list. I am referring to “Yesterday’s Enterprise”.


Season 3 will be remembered by most for its penultimate episode “Best of Both Worlds Part 1” but hidden in among the series was this gem. It has often been remembered simply as the one where Tasha Yar comes back but it’s much more than that. Although 41 minutes occur in an alternate timeline there are several moments that set up important plotlines for later episodes.

So let’s begin.

The episode begins simply enough with Worf sitting alone in Ten Forward when he is approached by Guinan insisting he try a drink. This drink would prove an almost religious experience for Worf for it is the first time he tries Prune Juice; a drink that would later become a trademark of the character as he describes it as “A warrior’s drink“. Worf is called to the bridge as the crew stumble across a temporal anomaly. A ship appears from the anomaly and everything changes. The Enterprise-D takes on a menacing tone, Wesley Crusher is wearing a uniform, the other ship turns out to be the Ambassador-class Enterprise-C and Tasha Yar has replaced Worf entirely.


This scenario seems a little tired now as we have seen it several times since but back then it was new and interesting. Before the opening credits we already have a sense that in this new timeline things are not great even though we know nothing of it yet except for the aforementioned changes. This is such a compliment to the production values of this episode. Having seen the altered credit sequence of the mirror universe episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise I can’t help but wish they had done something similar here too.

So once we have come to terms that we are in a new timeline we start learning a few things. Firstly this new timeline has been created as a result of the Enterprise-C not getting blown up 22 years earlier and Guinan’s sixth sense tells her the ship has to go back although she can’t tell us why which is an almost certain suicide mission. As the episode progresses we learn that the Federation is at war with the Klingons and eventually Picard reveals that they are just months away from surrender. Captain Garrett of the Enterprise-C decides to do the honorable thing and lead her ship back but is killed in a brief battle with the Klingons before she can do so. Then finally under the captaincy of the helmsman, the brash Lt. Castille, and along with this alternate Tasha Yar the Enterprise-C returns to its own time to be destroyed and repair the timeline. Worf is back and everything is right with the universe.

It’s difficult for me to put a finger on what it is about this episode that makes it one of my favorites. I never liked Tasha Yar very much and so seeing her again was not really appealing to me although it really did make me feel like I was watching an episode set in an alternate universe (something similar episodes often failed to achieve). The sad part is though I really liked this Tasha. Denise Crosby gave her a heart and that is probably the biggest tragedy in this episode – we saw what Tasha could have been not the forgettable character she was in Season 1.


I have to get this out of the way – I adore the Ambassador-class Enterprise-C. I am so glad they didn’t just reuse the Excelsior-class model which they had done several times for other starships. It really made this Enterprise feel as unique as the Enterprise-D even though we had no real idea of its history. The bridge is another redress of the battle bridge set but I don’t care. It looked the part and really made me feel like I was on a ship from the end of the so-called movie-era of Starfleet. That being said I don’t understand why the crew were portrayed without the undershirt and belt of the movie-era uniforms. It just made them look half dressed.

Captain Garrett really felt like a proto-Janeway in her few scenes. She felt very real and had that gung-ho attitude that comes with being captain of the Enterprise. Lieutenant Castillo on the other hand, while he had a lot of screen time, has never endeared me as much as Garrett. I do like him but I would have been happier if Garrett had remained alive long enough to command her ship at the end.


Some of the biggest changes of this timeline are perhaps the most subtle and are only really picked up upon after watching the episode several times. Picard and Riker at times feel like they are very distant with one another as though they have a history of conflict. Thats understandable in the high stress environment of a ship at war and again gave what are in-effect ‘new’ characters a lot of depth. Every set aboard the Enterprise-D has a darker tone reflecting the scenario. The repeated PA announcements also make it feel like a US or Royal Navy destroyer in war. One thing I never liked was Picard’s “military log” however. Starfleet had been through wars before the timeline split after Narendra III and kept the “captain’s log” so why change it now?

The climax of the episode is of course not the battle at Narendra III but rather the battle to get the Enterprise-C back to its own time. Patrick Stewart has had some great lines during his time as Picard and I plan to list my favorites in a future post but in this episode he gives one of the best lines he had given at least to that point.

Let’s make sure history never forgets the name…Enterprise.”

God, everytime I hear that the hairs on the back of my neck go up and to see him as the last man on the burning bridge firing the phasers was such a powerful image that has stayed with me for years. The battle is slow paced compared to the battles of the Dominion War in DS9 giving it a real old-world naval battle feel reminiscent of an Horatio Hornblower novel. We are left with the impression that the Enterprise-D is just moments from destruction when the timeline is restored. Even though it doesn’t happen, of all the moments when we have thought the Enterprise-D was going to go up in flames this was the one time it felt most real.


I can’t leave this review without talking about the consequences of this episode. Even though they are oblivious of these events the Enterprise-D run in to the half-Romulan Sela, alternate Tasha’s daughter. Sela was a very two dimensional enemy at times but she was at least interesting and went some way to absolving Denise Crosby of ditching the show early on. My only regret with Sela is that she did not make an appearance in Star Trek: Nemesis. I would have preferred it to be her rather than Commander Donatra.

So there it is one of my favorite episodes of all time. It had everything; drama, action, tragedy, traditional sci-fi themes. It also had very notable performances by Denise Crosby, Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Stewart. I sometimes wish we could have learned more about the Enterprise-C but when I really think about it the myth this episode created will always be better than anything thats portrayed and I am happy with that.

 

COUNTDOWN; Top 5 Star Trek ships we never got to see

Over it’s 40+ years Star Trek has shown us some pretty impressive looking ship designs. What is equally interesting however are all the paper designs that for some reason (usually budget based) didn’t make it on our screens. Some did have nods to them as we shall see but on the whole we never saw them actually there on the screen.

5. Daedalus-class

In a parallel dimension this would have been the design that Captain Pike would have began the Star Trek universe in during “The Cage”. Yes; this was the design that was going to be the original USS Enterprise NCC-1701. Fortunately it was dropped for the more elegant saucer shape but that wouldn’t be the end of it. The design was eventually used as the basis of the USS Horizon and in homage to the fact it came first it was placed as being in service during the 2160s. The class very nearly got resurrected when Star Trek: Enterprise was conceived with Doug Drexler wanting to create an earlier version for the show. In the end he was over-ruled and designed the so-called ‘Akira-prise’ instead.

4. Defiant-class Runabout
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The Defiant added a whole new dimension to Deep Space Nine and signalled the end of that shows foray into exploring the Gamma Quadrant replacing it with the concept that one station and its crew were all that stood in front of the invading hordes of Dominion forces, itself the near mirror image of the Federation. The Defiant was the first true warship in Star Trek (although its implied there were designated warships during Kirk’s era). Some of the earlier designs looked very different to the armored tank we eventually saw on screen. One design would be resurrected as the Nova-class USS Equinox in Voyager but initially it looked like the Defiant was going to be an uber-Runabout.  

3. Original Ambassador-class
https://i2.wp.com/ottens.co.uk/forgottentrek/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Andrew-Probert-Enterprise-C-painting.jpgOne of the most loved episodes of The Next Generation was by far and away “Yesterday’s Enterprise”. We got action, a gripping storyline involving an alternate history but above all we got to see the Enterprise-C. The design of the Enterprise-C we saw on the screen looked like a hybrid of the Constitution-class and Excelsior-class. This was not the original design however. Andrew Probert designed a ship that was to have showed a direct design lineage between the Excelsior-class and the Galaxy-class. Alas it was not to be although if I am honest I do prefer the design they went with. It was more classical.

2. Federation-class Dreadnought

No other design from the original series has had as much debate and interest as the Federation-class Dreadnought. It appeared in one of the first technical manuals and on a display in “Star Trek III:The Search For Spock” so therefore it is established as canon. The purpose behind the design was to have a heavily armed counterpart to the Constitution-class which was more multi-role having scientific and military roles. The third nacelle was adopted to imply it was more powerful than the Enterprise. Gene Roddenberry signed off on the design but then reversed his decision disliking the war role the ship had but by then it was too late.

1. Enterprise NX-01 Refit


I was one of those fans who actually liked the idea of Star Trek:Enterprise. It had gallons of potential for me and I looked forward to the story playing out and seeing the history behind the characters I had come to love. Sadly, until the last season it had very little to do with established canon and at times completely ignored it. Nowhere was this more obvious than in the design of the ship. This 22nd century ship had many design cues from the Akira-class of the 24th century and this was the final straw for a lot of fans (and I don’t blame them even though I stuck with the show and got rewarded with the brilliant but too late 4th season). There was an effort to remedy this with a refit that would have given the NX-01 an engineering hull and main deflector dish. It looks the business but sadly was never to be.

 

GAMES: World of Tanks X-Box 360 Battle

By Stationmaster84 (Gamertag)

WoT 360

Depending on your own mood WoT can be either the most fun you have ever had or the most frustrating game in the world. I like to think of myself as a bit of a military buff and so this game appealed to me from the start. I therefore committed myself to the hour long download process (the game had been available for a while so I also had to contend with updates as well as the game). Straight away I learned how quick you can get killed in this game. I know its going for realism but it seems a little unfair how you start off with some truly terrible tanks and the longer you play (or survive) the better tanks you get and therefore the easier the game becomes. This is the reverse order of how I am used to gaming with games increasing in difficulty over time.

As I said it really depends on the mood you are in when playing this game whether or not you enjoy it. If you are in a good mood then this is a lot of fun. Even getting the steel crap blown out of you can be hugely entertaining. However this is not a game to de-stress after a lousy day at the office (unless you have some of the higher tier tanks). This has been my experience anyway. I don’t wish to sound overly negative because I am really enjoying this game but it has a steep learning curve. Don’t expect to just jump into a tank and blow everything away on your first go because that is just not going to happen.

Once you are settled in you can start to have a lot of fun with this. To exemplify this up-and-down experience I am going to tell you about a battle I had recently. I was commanding an M5 Stuart fitted with a 3.7cm howitzer (that will ruin someone’s day if used properly). I was playing a map called El Halluf and was taking cover on a hilltop over looking the valley with the enemy force’s base on the opposite hill. It was me and two other vehicles, a Panzer III and an M3 Stuart, and as we came around the top we found three enemy vehicles coming up the other side with the same idea as us.

In the span of a few seconds both my buddies were taken out, their charred wreckage becoming a useful roadblock however. I found myself facing an M4 Sherman coming up the side of the hill with his weak underside exposed so I aimed for it and put a shell into him taking 75% of his health. As he came to bear he threw a shell my way but missed during which time I reloaded and turned his turret to tin foil. At that moment a Tank Destroyer appeared behind his flaming wreck. I fired at him but missed although this discouraged him and I saw him retreating away. I felt great that I had killed one enemy without support and scared another (even if I had used my buddies as cannon fodder and a road block).

I stayed in this area taking position near a clearing for shoot-and-hide tactics against enemy vehicles advancing from their base on the opposite hill which more of my allies were now attacking. I had clearly made myself a target for an artillery gunner because every few minutes a high explosive shell would land nearby shaking me like hell. From this position I supported my team’s advance on the enemy base; by damaging or discouraging them from breaking cover. Then I started taking direct fire from the opposite hill so I felt it best to relocate.

I drove back towards where I had the earlier battle. I came around the corner and BANG! That fecking Tank Destroyer I thought had retreated had actually just taken cover and was waiting for me. The patient git had been there for about five minutes (an eternity in this game). Whether he was just waiting for me or whether he was sniping my allies like I was doing against his I don’t know. All I know is he won the day but by that point I’d had so much fun that I simply saluted a fellow gamer. That being said I was devastated that I couldn’t carry on in the battle. I had earned a hell of a lot of points and loved scoring every one of them.