With the recent sunshine, my thoughts have turned to that most traditional of Summer past times… sitting in a darkened cinema watching movies set in space. Yay!
Having seen Into Darkness, I’ve been asked several times how I rate it, not just against the previous film but in comparison to all of the Star Treks. Foof. Honestly, I’ve not encountered a Star Trek movie I didn’t like. I just enjoy Star Trek. For any fan of anything, that includes warts and all (and for any decades old franchise, there’s gonna be some warts!)
12. Insurrection – Genuinely, I don’t think Insurrection is the least good of the franchise, but it definitely suffers the most from ‘feature length episode of…’ syndrome. Jonathan Frakes directs with a really warm and engaging touch and I enjoy it every time I watch it, it’s just that all moments feel a little recycled and remind me of the first time I saw each element first (Picard tempted by love, Data’s childlike innocence, baddie Starfleet Admirals… ‘Badmirals’ etc) Plus Riker didn’t have a beard. Madness.
11. Nemesis – The messiest of the franchise? Lots of interesting ideas and stand-out moments (hence not being at number 12) but, cool opening scene with Jim Robinson aside, it takes too long to get going and never quite ties together. It felt like too many cooks were battling to blend a satisyingly ‘a generation’s final journey’ with a blockbusting ‘appealing outside of the fanbase’ and didn’t quite manage either.
10. The Search for Spock – I feel a bit bad putting this down here on the list. Christopher Lloyd is a great Klingon baddie but part of me still wanted the version with the Romulan scouting party on the Genesis planet being picked off by the rogue Spock like in Alien and our guys need to stop him before he starts a war. But it’s unfair to judge on ‘what could have been’. What there is is a strangely flat mish-mash. Kirk’s son dies but it’s sort of weirdly offscreen and Spock’s resurrection feels very ceremonial instead of celebratory. However, act one where the gang steal the decommissioned Enterprise to get back to Genesis is a real hoot!
9. The Motion Picture – Much like Alien, I wish I’d seen this on the big screen first time round. It plods, it meanders and it revels in having a big screen budget (even if the effects are actually a bit duff in places considering Star Wars came two years earlier) but I can’t help but think this is a fantastic premise for a Trek movie that could have been made a lot more of. V’Ger’s mania and motives could have been the set up for some real drama on the bridge, within Starfleet and with the Klingons turning up for more than just a shufty and some shouting/shooting. If new Trek movie is due a remake, I’d go for this one. But that brings us to…
8. Into Darkness – (SPOILERS – Just skip to number 7 if you haven’t seen it yet) I thought Into Darkness was a real cinematic treat that definitely lacked a bit of cohesion but which seemed to deliberately substitute it for pace and energy which it delivered on.
I think critics claiming the inclusion of Khan was just ‘fan-service’ is horrendously patronising, for starters I’d say Wrath of Khan is pretty much common knowledge – not just for Trekkies. But while I’d say the cast nailed their characters throughout (Zachary Quinto especially IMO) I didn’t ever feel the ensemble, Kirk and Spock’s love story or even Starfleet itself was quite established enough for the drama of various deaths, betrayals and corruptions to hit as hard as they could (as the first two X-Men films managed)
Again, I feel bad putting this so low down (and maybe after repeat viewings it will change!) but it’s just a token of how much I love all of the films above it. I loved this movie’s tone and adventure plus (like its predecessor) I felt the opening 15 minutes were perfect!
7. The Final Frontier – Perhaps a surprisingly high rank for ‘the worst one’, but – like The Motion Picture – this is another Original Series movie that I love the premise of. Famously knobbled by budget cuts, rushed into production to hit a slot and The 1980s Writers Strike, as well as trying to tackle theological stuff in a Summer blockbuster, this was always a tough sell. I have slight issue with the overt ‘hypnotised’ behavior Sybok’s followers (especially when the scene where he tries to ‘convert’ Bones is so nicely wrought and wrung) as well as not really having room to give us a sense of what religion is like in terms of Starfleet/The Star Trek universe (in the way Babylon 5 managed over a series format)
But all of the surrounding problems just made me enjoy and appreciate the characters all the more (not to mention that the whole film is inspired by William Shatner’s horror at Televangelists) and how amid all the sound and fury of the plot, some silly moments and some ‘pain-sharing’, the film’s enlightenment is actually found round the campfire. I am completely biased by fond childhood memories of this film. I know it’s not as good as I remember, but ’Excuse me, why would God need a spaceship?‘ still is
Each of these films has problems, but if they’re on I guarantee you I’ll stick watch and enjoy them. My top 6 Trek flicks coming soon…
Today I feel… over the moon*. Today I finished the first draft of a new script. It’s only fifteen minutes (although is definitely running over at the moment) but after a few recent wobbles, it’s so good to know I can sit down and actually enjoy writing again. Huzzah!
The script being only fifteen minutes as fine though as it’s for 15 Minutes Live – a hugely entertaining anthology of short radio plays directed by the triffic Alan Lane and produced and recorded in front of a live audience by the fantastic Slung Low Theatre Company.
There are some amazing photos – ie. not taken by me – of the last performances here. For the last two shows, my strange voice has finally proved useful as the old-time radio announcer (even though the plays are very contemporary), introducing the casts and each of the plays which has been an absolute pleasure (this is why one of the photos is of my giant nose wearing a tuxedo).
The shows also feature music from a brilliant live band composed and conducted by that Heather lady I sporadically mention. While this is only a first draft and I could still easily be booted from the project if it isn’t up to scratch, I am hugely looking forward to working with Heather and all of Slung Low and hopefully producing something as good as these.
So yeah, today I feel… pretty darn good today, thank you. Hope you do too!
(* The Moon is the lamp in our bedroom by the way. The wise lizard atop it provides a different kind of illumination)
Another timely prompt for today as we just got back from a great day at the Northern Vegan Festival in Manchester. I imagine today’s snacking was and will be far more elaborate than the rest of April. (I also managed to be strangely productive and got some decent writing done on the train)
It was a great day, enchanting me with all the hard work idealistic people have done to fight cruelty where they see it and make it completely redundant unnecessary by inventing products just as tasty, convenient or effective.
It was also a great day for enraging me, I learned new and horrible things, signed a number petitions and decided to be a bit less pragmatic when discussing stuff I plain don’t agree with just because it’s ‘the norm’.
But this is a post about snacks. Though it’s my picture and she’ll soon be posting about today’s snacks on her blog, I can’t help but feel Heather won today
Quick post tonight and a bit of a cheat. I often feel I’m quite lucky that I can legitimately count a lot of my hobbies as research. Playing Bioshock Infinite, reading a biography of Raymond Chandler and generally sitting around making up stories – all stuff I enjoy, all stuff which I hope will pay off.
But this can backfire and this sort of stuff can even feel a little like homework (For example, today in the office, I felt I’d let my career down by having not seen a particular episode of Black Mirror. Hey, I’m an insomniac – I take my sleep whenever I can get it )
But I don’t want to be a chef. That means that heating up food is how I chill (though, just to be clear, chilling food doesn’t make hot!) You can’t control many things in life, but making the time to take some ingredients (vegan ones, naturally) then doing knife tricks and variations of flamethrowery at them becomes a form of happy Zen to satiate my inner control freak.
Above are some pics of some of my favourite meals I’ve made this year. Bit of a cheat as they’re just snaps that were already on my phone. Also a bit of a cheat as Heather already had a delicious meal on the go when I got home tonight.
Luckily I’ve learned to chill out by eating food as well. I recommend it!
This is my next film. It has been for a while. If we’ve ever had a drink together, I’ve probably told you about it
I’ve had a film idea at the back of my head for a few years now, based on an old idea of mine that got so far but never quite made it. It’s a nice pet project that I tinker with every now and again but this year I decided to get it finished as a solid, send out-able draft that will let me put this character to bed once and for all.
It’s a film I’d love to see made but also think serves as good calling card for the way I write. But at the moment, it serves as a good example of how I can struggle a bit with plotting towards the end of act two. I’ll crack it though. Oh yes.
This is a mood image my best friend/best man Tom did for me based on the script a while ago. Sometimes incorporating your story/storyworld or even tone in a potentially iconic image can be tremendously helpful.
One day soon, I hope the image to the left will be recreated as in this lovely ‘back to the camera’ montage below. Until then, for me, it’s back to the drawing board… well, pin board
Heather is going to write about the actual TV show we’re currently watching so I thought I’d cheat slightly. I’m currently watching Smallville: Season 11 (it must count as a TV show – comics don’t have ‘seasons’, pfft! )
Smallville s11 is a digital-first comic (which I ‘watch’ weekly via Comixology) book following on the story-world of the TV show. I know not everyone was a Smallville fan. It ran for a decade and, during that time, it produced some real stinkers as well several absolutely amazing TV hours but mostly, it just provided a show whose tone and world I enjoyed.
Before anyone asks, indeed I am hugely looking forward to Man of Steel. I think Zack Snyder and Chris Nolan both have some bad film-making habits but hope that by putting them together, they can cancel anything bad out and create something truly majestic. But Smallville always had an equally hopeful but also jaunty air. For example, this was Lois’ first appearance…
Award-winning groggy dialogue aside, she wears a Superman t-shirt to bed. Lovely. Since DC Comics relaunched its entire line in 2011, Superman (and Lois in particular) hasn’t had a huge amount of fun about it. I’m fine with melodrama and angst but above all, I’m (naively) an optimist and idealist. Smallville always re-ignited my aspirational escapist. So what am I really watching?
1. Something I Try To Do -‘De-Stress… It will make you fearless’. A simple enough phrase but one I’ve tried to remember ever since, three years ago, the man with the heavily tattooed face approached me in the health food shop in Leeds, stared into my eyes and deduced this was the prophetic phrase he needed to impart. I keep that wisdom on post-its on all my workstations. Thanks tattooed-face man!
2. Thing I’m Planning To Do - Last night, Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, and the best episodes of Heroes), one of my favourite writers, put his pilot script for ‘Hannibal‘ – the new NBC series about everyone’s favourite cannibal (trailer here) . The show is getting great advance reviews, but the fact that the pilot is called ‘Aperitif’ tells me this might be a show I like
3. Something I Must Remember To Do - My lovely friends Paul and Vic sent me this genius indoor mushroom farm for my birthday. As you can see, these fun guys are just starting to sprout through… but I must remember to spray them with water every day.
These are my pens. These are my friends. Okay, actually I don’t have any particular special attachment to my pens. I’m too inclined to lose them and there’s enough heartbreak in the world. So what the heck do I write about?
Today is the 23rd anniversary of the first broadcast of Twin Peaks, a series riddled with clues, mysteries and connectivity so I wondered if there was any existential link between the show and my stationery. Then I realised that ‘Twin Peaks’ is an anagram of ‘Tweaks I Pen’. Referring to my highlighters perhaps? Or maybe trying to highlight something. Mmmm, exactly.
Hopefully this all brings us closer to the potential ‘see you in twenty-five years’ reunion that the late Laura Palmer promised to Agent Cooper in one of the show’s dream sequences. Twenty three years down… two to go.
Just a quick post tonight as I inadvertently fell asleep for four hours this afternoon so am now behind with some work
Above is the Comixology promo for Gender Through Comic Books, a massive online course currently in in its first week of six, looking at gender identity and representation in one of my favourite media. Gender identity (not exclusively) in comics is a hot button topic so I’m hugely appreciating an in-depth look into the portrayal of both male and female characters in what is largely seen as a medium of wish fulfillment. This isn’t just about superheroes though. I want to write good female characters but love how the course is also deliberately exploring the portrayal of male characters and how they can often fall back on re-enforcing stereotypes. In short, I just want to be able to write better characters all round.
I also love the digital accessibility of this course – if you can read this blog, you can join in! The excellent Comixology are also providing a massive sale on the course’s reading list here. If you know your comics, you’ll know that this a good representative list of great storytelling in general and, if you don’t know your way around comics too well, you can trust that this list is a good place to start without fear of getting annoyed at how characters are portrayed.
Here’s to men and women of character. See you in the funny books!
Strange Invasion is my biggest foray into writing for games, collaborating on creating a gameworld then shaping the storyline and script that would unfold as players explored the tiny town of Survi-Ville and tried to discover why it was now filled with odd creatures.
Narrative in games continues to be an exceedingly hot topic. Endings give something to aim for but, once reached, they also give the players an excuse to stop playing. But then audiences will inevitably tire of playing something anyway so any narratives should provide that natural breaking point that instills a specific desired effect. Maybe.
To help get my own thoughts in order, last week I wrote a blog post for work about trying to write an ending for Edward that would provide that elusive sense of cathartic satisfaction instead of just ‘Game Over’. As you can tell, even in my head, the arguments for and against never seems to end, let alone in the outside world with actual game experts.
Have a read and let me know if you agree. Whatever your opinion, and even if I would do some things differently again, getting the chance to work on something like this was an incredible opportunity to learn from and watch m’colleagues in splendid action. Plus it means I can have plant monsters and stuff on my Facebook profile!