Posted on April 18, 2019
With this episode we’ve finally come to the understanding that doing the first five episodes of any series really isn’t giving that series a chance. It takes a while for the writers and actors to find the characters and slip into a groove.
So this is our last mandated episode. From here on out we’ll watch essential episodes from the first season of a series to get us into the second season when things should have settled down.
Hey, we made it out of Enterprise with some parts of our sanity in tact and we’re on to the first five episodes of Farscape. We’re discovering a theme here: most shows take a season to really get going and by doing the first five (to learn the basics) we’re not getting their best stuff.
But! It was fun. Join us if you dare.
Posted on April 6, 2019
After a great start with a really strong pilot, this series has been struck by a bad case of Rick Bermanitus. We have slogged through the first five episodes as we promised. Come listen to our thoughts on the final one of these.
I have a tendency to jump to Starship Troopers as the book that most impacted me when I was a kid, but that’s not really the case. The first Heinlein novel I read that shook up my world view was Tunnel In The Sky, a story about students training to become colonists whose final exam is to teleport to a place about which they have no information and survive for two to ten days… basically until someone comes for them.
This is one of Heinlein’s “competent man” stories and there was nothing I loved more as a kid because the doctrine of these tales is that if you keep your mouth shut and learn everything you can and work hard, you can do anything. A whole generation of awkward boys who felt like they couldn’t manage to do anything right, threw themselves into these fantasies as a kind of salve for their own inabilities.
I was obsessed with this story during my 5th grade year. There was something about the preparedness that caught my OCD for tactical gear and, because I was so bad at taking tests, the self assured way the main character, an African American teenager by the name of Rod Walker, approaches the final exam.
Something goes wrong and his class is stranded on a different alien world than the one intended so the school doesn’t know where to retrieve them. They end up staying there for something like a year (it’s been a long time since I read it) and the students who survive form a kind of tribe and set about the process of surviving.
All of the minutiae of setting up the camp and obtaining food and struggling for dominance fed right into my groove. But there was also another component to many of Heinlein’s “competent man” stories: a competent woman*. He was almost Howard Hawksian in the way he gave agency to some of his female characters.
That more than anything from Heinlein’s work shaped my attitude toward women as partners rather than pretty burdens. When I look back now on 35 years of marriage, my wife and I have always approached life as a partnership, dividing and conquering, using our best skill sets as the speed bumps require and I have to wonder if this is at least partially due to having Heinlein’s work as an early influence.
*Heinlein was a product of his time so there are plenty of offhandedly misogynistic elements to his work, in the same way the competent woman in Howard Hawks’ films was still a second class citizen, but the basic idea of partnership between man and woman rather than master and burden is still there.
The first season seems to be heavily front loaded with Rick Berman episodes so we find ourselves slogging through another mishmash of tangents without purpose or resolution in this story about a man getting pregnant by an alien.
Have a watch of Star Trek: Enterprise 1×4 “Unexpected” and then join us for some laughs and head scratching at its expense.
Posted on March 21, 2019
We actually got through an entire episode of this podcast without any of our recording apps crashing so we’ve got that going for us. Enterprise, which started off well with a solid pilot, has descended immediately into what I can only assume is an advanced case of Rick Bermenization characterized by a lack of imagination, gaping plot holes, and execrable writing.
Still we had a good time talking about it.
Stephen King said in On Writing that he believed most writers spent some part of their childhood physically isolated in a way that books became their whole world for a time. I don’t know if that’s true about everyone, but it’s true about me.
I was a TV kid at first. I have terrible ADD and was a slow reader with bad eyesight from the very beginning. I was also a story addict who got hooked on the exciting adventures read to me at bedtime before I could read them myself. The two I remember most clearly, both by Robert Louis Stevenson, were Kidnapped! and Treasure Island.
I learned to read early and could chew through weekly readers because they were comprised of very few short sentences on a page with pictures. Once I got my full library card and started trying to read grownup books, my ADD kicked in and I learned to read in a sort of haphazard way, skipping around the page and then back again to pick up what I’d missed, my bad eye squinted shut and a headache brewing behind my good one.
So I fell in love with movies on TV at an early age. They were pretty bad movies, most of them went on to be pilloried on MST3K (and rightly so), but I just saw robots and cowboys and fighter planes and flying saucers. And one time, evil, sentient crystals destroyed by flooding a model town with seawater.
But then, in 5th grade, we moved to New Jersey where my father bought a house in the country that was close to only a few families with kids. Which turned out to be okay because, once I met the locals, I didn’t like them very much. I spent a lot of time alone for the next two and a half years and I filled the emptiness with books.
I started from sheer boredom by thumbing through the wall of paperback science fiction books in my father’s office. Even if you were loathe to crack a book because you had trouble reading, those garish book covers couldn’t help but real you in. A lot of them were above my pay grade, but I read them anyway, getting out of them what I could. It turned out it was only a small percentage of what was there, as I would discover in later years when I returned to them as an adult. Especially Dune, which I have read many times and as four completely different people.
Then I discovered what were called “Juveniles” back before the term Young Adult became popular. Heinlein had a bunch, so did Asimov and Bradbury. If had been hooked before, I was now downright obsessed. I started checking hardcover books out of the school library and covering them to look like textbooks so I could read them in class. This got me in no end of trouble, but I refused to stop. I wanted the story the way a cocaine addict needs just one more bump before he quits.
Although I had stated my intention to become a writer before this time, I had been thinking mainly of the movies. Once we left New Jersey, I never stopped reading, not even when girls entered my life, and I never thought of being anything else when I grew up. I even resisted going to college because I felt like the best way to become a writer was to go gather adventures on the road.
The funny thing about plans is the unforeseen is so much more powerful than we imagine. I got a computer because I wanted a word processor. And then I read a book on Z80 assembly language and my obsession became programming. I never really quit writing, but then again, I never really started either. It was like watching TV with one eye while you do something else. I was never really into it enough to invest that part of myself that was required. Until one day in my 40s when the obsession with programming receded and I was back to words again.
Only then did I realize how long and difficult the road was going to be. That’s why you’re supposed to start when you’re young instead of in middle age. So I keep going, coming up with new ideas, writing every day, letting the rejections roll off my back, tucking perfectly good books into the trunk from which they will never be retrieved, because it’s what I know and, unlike everything else in my life, I can’t let this go unfinished.
Yes, we did this. We made it through this episode despite several catastrophes, loss of hardware two times and, even worse, it was written by Rick Berman. But hang in there (we did) and make sure you watch the episode before listening to the podcast.
Posted on March 9, 2019
If you’re wondering where Episode 5 of the podcast went, well, so are we. A technical glitch (that we have now ironed out) ate the audio.
This week we’re doing the last of our mandated five sequential episodes of Star Trek: TNG which finds the ship traveling to the unknowable parts of the universe… or something like that. That part wasn’t really clear.
But we had fun and you will, too.
The good news? The Last Outpost is better than Code of Honor. The bad? Not much better. But we are pushing forward because we know for a fact this show gets better!
Join us for this week’s installment of the Arriving Late Podcast.