Star Trek: Lower Decks: Second Contact – TV Review

TL;DR – Super charming and a fun new direction for the franchise.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Star Trek: Lower Decks: Second Contact. Image Credit: CBS Studios.

Review

We are currently living in the middle of a new golden age of Science Fiction on TV, and one of the significant drivers of that has been Star Trek. With Discovery and then Picard, you feel that they are starting to get their groove back. However, when I heard there was going to be a more light-hearted animated series coming out, I felt a bit of trepidation. However, after watching the first episode, I can see I had nothing to worry about.

To set the scene, we open in on the USS Cerritos in 2380 (which for those playing at home is two years after the return of the USS Voyager and twenty years before the start of Picard). The Cerritos is a Federation Vessel that specialises in second contact, which is the follow-up mission after first contact, not as much glory but still significant. Ensign D’Vana Tendi (Noël Wells) has just come on board from Outpost 79, and this is her first placement on a starship. Her orientation guide is Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid) a very straight-laced command track-captain seat hopeful Ensign. However, orientation is soon side-tracked as Ensign Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) decides to take D’Vana on a more personalised tour. This gets put aside when they go down to the planet to help the Galardonian High Council with a subspace receiver while things down quite go to plan back on the ship.

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Video Game Review – Endless Space 2 (with Vaulters, Supremacy & Penumbra)

TL;DR – A polished and calming take on the 4x genre

Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars

Endless Space 2. Image Credit: Amplitude Studios.

Review –

Several years ago I picked up a new space 4X game called Endless Space. It was from a new developer Amplitude Studios and combined a strategy game with space in a way that I loved. It started a bit rough around the edges but grew into a really solid game. Now when I heard there was a sequel, I was interested but it dropped a bad time, well now I have some time at home thanks to *gestures broadly around* it was a good moment to go back and rectify that.

So to set the scene, Endless Space 2 is a 4X turn-based strategy game. This means that you pick a race like The United Empire, or The Vodyani, or The Hisso, from there you need to eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate. You will do this by building new colonies on Mediterranean or terrain or monsoon planets, researching technologies from the technology web, and probably concurring a neighbour or two.

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TV Review – Star Trek: Picard – The End is the Beginning

TL;DR – We have a crew, repeat we have a crew, this is not a drill

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

Star Trek: Picard – The End is the Beginning. Image Credit: CBS Studios.

Review

Okay, if I am going to be honest, if there is one thing that will always sucker me into a show, it is a group desperate people coming together to form a crew. Well, today, we get to see Picard (Patrick Stewart) do it all again and I am here for it.  

So to set the scene, in last week’s Maps and Legends we learned a couple of important things. First, there is either a Romulan mole in the midst of Starfleet in the guise of Head of Starfleet Intelligence Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita) or the head of Starfleet Intelligence is like just kill with Romulan assassin squads romping around Earth … I’m not sure which is worse. Also secondly, we discovered that Picard or JL to his friends has burnt all the goodwill he had left in Starfleet. Well, what do you do when all your options are closed, well it’s time to wing it Picard style. Now we will be looking at the episode as a whole so there will be [SPOILERS] ahead.   

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TV Review – The Expanse: Season 4

TL;DR – This series continues to be the benchmark for modern Science Fiction, the benchmark for novel adaptation, and the benchmark for great TV.  

Score – 5 out of 5 stars

The Expanse Season 4: Image Credit: Amazon Studios.

Review

Last year I wrote an article about how we are in a new Golden Age of Science Fiction and at the heart of that theses was the joy that was The Expanse. At the time Season Three had come out, and we still were not sure if that would be the end of the TV show. It would have been sad if the show’s story had ended there, but at least we still had the books, which was a little consolation. However, I was overjoyed to hear that it got a last-minute pick-up for Season Four on Amazon, ecstatic when I discovered that it was already greenlit for Season Five, and over the moon now that I have watched Season Four and have discovered the joy that it is.    

So to set the scene, at the end of last season, disaster had been forestalled and new opportunities have arrived when thousands of gates to thousands of new solar systems opened up. Fearing the new disaster that could come for an out of control gold rush, or worse a new proto-molecule infection, the powers at be, the new alliance of Earth, Mars, and the OPA work together to set up a blockade at the Solar System side of the network. But before they could get it set up a bunch of Belter refugees took the gamble and broke through the blockade. Months later and somehow the Belter have survived, which is causing Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) all levels of grief because the Royal Charter Energy (RCE) Company has legal claim to the planet and has sent their ship the Edward Israel to what they call New Terra, but what the Belters call Ilus. So who better to go and meditate, well that would be the crew of the Rocinante James Holden (Steven Strait), Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar), Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), and Amos Burton (Wes Chatham). Now from here, we will be looking at the season as a whole so there will be [SPOILERS] ahead.    

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Movie Review – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Round Two)

TL;DR – This is a film that feels both incredibly safe but yet also incredibly weird and that dissidence is really odd and is enhanced on a second viewing.     

Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Image Credit: Disney.

Review

I have been thinking a lot about Star Wars in the weeks since I first watched The Rise of Skywalker. Was I too harsh with it? Did I let one story beat distract me from the rest of the film? Do I want to see a buddy cop film starring John Boyega and Oscar Isaac? Okay, that last one was an easy answer, of course, I do. However, for the first two, I was truly left wondering, well that is until yesterday when I went with some friends as saw the same film twice in cinemas (not something I have done in quite a while). Which means it is time to explore if a second viewing of Star Wars helps or hurts it and what I found is that it focuses you into the good, the bad, and the ugly.  

So to set the scene, at the end of The Last Jedi everything is in flux. The Resistance has survived annihilation but has been stretched to almost breaking point as The First Order storms across The New Republic. However, all is not dandy for The First Order as well, as their leader was assassinated by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and their main battle cruiser was destroyed. However, just at the cusp of this, a dark voice from the past pierces into the vale. For it appears that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has come back from the dead and is gunning for Rey (Daisy Ridley). Now in this review, we will be going FULL SPOILER discussing some really important plot points. If you want to read our spoiler-free review you can find it here.  

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TV Review – The Mandalorian: Season 1 (Part 1)

TL;DR – This is a really interesting show in around its characters and setting, however, the overarching plot just does not quite seem to land yet.

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

The Mandalorian. Image Credit: Disney+.

Review

With a new Star Wars film only weeks away, you would think that it would be all everyone is talking about but no, for if you go on the internet the one thing that is dominating pop-culture at the moment is ‘Baby Yoda’. It is almost all-absorbing at the moment and it is telling that Star Wars still has that cultural reach. Well, when some friends asked if I wanted to watch the ‘Baby Yoda’ show, well how could I refuse and it was a fascinating dive.

So to set the scene, in the years following the destruction of the second Death Star in The Return of the Jedi, the Empire has mostly collapsed but the New Republic is yet to really take control. This leaves large parts of the galaxy outside of the core in a state of flux. In that confusion, there are some systems that still work and one of them are the bounty hunters guild because irrespective of who is in power people still ditch out on their bail. This is where we met the titular Mandalorian or Mando (Pedro Pascal) to his well not really friends but more workplace proximity associates. One day he is offered a special bounty by his main contact Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) to work off-books for A Client (Werner Herzog) to find something special, only to discover that the bounty is a child. Now from here, we will be looking at the season as a whole so there will be [SPOILERS] ahead.

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TV Review – Star Trek Short Treks: Q&A

TL;DR – This is a great episode that shows the strength of the Short Trek formula with some truly delightful moments

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

Star Trek Short Treks: Q&A

Review

We are back with another season of Short Treks, one of the more novel experiments that have come out of this third Star Trek TV resurgence. These are a number of shorts in and around the Star Trek universe (mostly but this season not exclusively around Star Trek Discovery). Like last year’s The Escape Artist that looked at Harry Mudd. Today we get to dive back into this world with a fun look at someone’s first day on the job.

So to set the scene, it is Ensign Spock’s (Ethan Peck) first day on the job. After a long flight to Starbase 40, he beams aboard and is welcomed by Number One (Rebecca Romijn). After some pleasantries, Number One decides to show the new ensign the Bridge only for the turbolift to fail on transit giving them a lot of time to chat.

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TV Review – The Expanse: Season 3

TL;DR – This is and continues to be the gold standard to adaptations of literature, capturing the heart of the books, even if it does not hit every plot beat along the way.  

Score – 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Expanse. Image Credit: Amazon Studios.

Review

I mentioned back in my look at the New Golden Age of Science Fiction that The Expanse is one of the best adaptations on TV at the moment. Here in Australia, I got to watch the first two seasons on Netflix and was constantly entranced with just what a good job they did of bringing James S. A. Corey’s books to life. The third season has been tricky to find but today I was able to hunt it down on Amazon and gave it a watch. Well, how does it do? Well, I can tell you that I watched the entire first arc of the season in one session, being so completely engrossed that I didn’t realise how late in the evening it had gotten … so that it is always a good sign.

So to set the scene, we open in the aftermath of season two and the turn that put Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) from a position of absolute power to her running for her life after being betrayed by Sadavir Errinwright (Shawn Doyle). Stuck on a ship that has just been fired upon by her own side there is not much hope for escape but then that is why she brought Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams) a former Martian marine along. They manage to escape, but they are still under pursuit, and while they were gone the whole solar system has erupted into war and the Jupiter planetary system is ground zero for the conflict. Meanwhile, on the Rocinante the crew are dealing with two big problems, the fact that Naomi (Dominique Tipper) lied to them, and they have done nothing really to help Prax (Terry Chen) find his daughter. With everything falling apart the question is: will James Holden (Steven Strait) going to step in and help stop this war, or is he going to sit back and let others make the tough calls?    

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Exploring the Past – Jupiter Ascending (2015)

TL;DR – One of those films that are close but no cigar, but you have to admire that they go at 100km an hour from start to finish    

Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars

Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene

Jupiter Ascending. Image Credit: Warner Brothers.

Review

One of my true joys in life is watching and witnessing a new work of glorious Science Fiction for the first time. Like those moments when you watched Farscape for the first time or watched the flaming guitar in Mad Max Fury Road explode out into the desert sun. However, sometimes it can be just as interesting to watch a film/TV show that is close but just not quite there and today we take a look back at just such a film.

So to set the scene, we open in on Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) who lives with her extended family in Chicago after her father Maximilian (James D’Arcy) was murdered back in Russia and her mother Aleksa (Maria Doyle Kennedy) fled to the States. Jupiter spends her time cleaning rich peoples houses and dreaming of getting out of it all. Well one day she gets that wish after a genetic test shows that she is the perfect reincarnation of the old matriarch of House Abrasax, an ancient alien dynasty that seeded life on Earth all those years ago.  

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TV Review – Another Life: Full Season

TL;DR – A campy schlocky mess at times, but also kind of endearing when it hits its groove

Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars

Another Life. Image Credit: Netflix.

Review

We have been living through an interesting time for Science Fiction on TV, with the rise of streaming services we have seen a plethora of new shows and ideas that both look to the future and reinterpret the past. Today we are getting a Sci-fi show that kind of does both, building upon very real concerns in the world but framing it in a style of Sci-Fi that we have not seen in a long time. With that in mind let’s jump in and explore the full first season.

So to set the scene, we open with a normal day on Earth in the not too distant future after the world has been devastated by a second great depression and the great flood. Things are starting to return to some sort of normalcy when an alien ship smashes through the atmosphere flies across the USA and crashes into a field transforming itself into a huge crystalline lattice. Months later, they are still no closer to finding out what the artefact is or wants, but they have picked up a transmission to the Pi Canis Majoris solar system. To work out what to do they send the USIC Salvare under the command of Niko Breckinridge (Katee Sackhoff) out to investigate. Niko had to leave her daughter Jana (Lina Renna) and her husband Erik (Justin Chatwin) behind as Erik is leading the scientific mission at the crash site. But before too long things start going wrong, and we still don’t know if the aliens are friends or foe.  Now from here, we will be looking at the season as a whole so there will be [SPOILERS] ahead.

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