Tuesday, 31 March 2015

CAPTAIN'S BLOG: TOS 2.13-2.14

It's back! Let's get the second season of the original series completed, then we'll see what else we fancy. Possibly Enterprise. Possibly Space Dandy.

2.13) Obsession
or
Captain Kirk vs. the Monster from his Past

The Mission: Survey planet Argus X. Rendesvouz with the Yorktown in order to transfer vaccines to planet Beta VII.

Planets visited:

Argus X: A craggy planet with some plantlife, rich in tritanium (twenty times as hard as diamond, dontchano). It's a thousand light years from...

Tycho IV: Seemingly uninhabited, except for the cloud monster. It returns there to reproduce.

Alien Life forms:

The Cloud Monster: When you can't afford an alien, use a cloud. The alien appears as nothing more than a big cloud of dry ice. It's composed of dikironium, which should only exist in the lab. It's surprising, in that case, that the tricorders can even scan for it, and the life form does not immediately register. It can change its state and structure, hiding from scans. It can travel at high warp speed, travelling thousands of light years, using gravitational fields to propel itself. Oh, and it's a vampire! It drains the body of red corpuscles, which is good and scary although it does make you wonder how the hell it could have evolved in the first place. And it smells of honey.

Captain James T: For a moment, he appears paranoid, immediately reacting to a familiar smell as if it means his old enemy is present. He's right though, although he's needlessly mysterious about everything. He puts tracking down the creature ahead of his mission to get the vaccines to the Yorktown, ignoring communication from Starfleet. He's seriously gung-ho in this episode; we haven't really seen him like this before.

Eleven years ago, Kirk encountered the alien while he served on the USS Farragut. He's convinced it's intelligent. He's extremely hard on the one surviving security officer for not taking the creature down with his phaser – the son of his old captain, Garrovik. He blames himself for the death of his old captain, for freezing just like the younger Garrovik. He becomes increasingly obsessed and irrational as time passes.

Green-Blooded Hobgoblin: He's handy to have around when you need some reading done, since he can get ten hours worth done in a few hours. He accepts that the alien is intelligent once confronted with its actions. He goes to cheer up Garrovik, telling not to blame himself for being a foolish, instinctive human. He's not harmed by the alien – it can't eat his copper-based blood cells.

The Real McCoy: Both he and Spock decide that Kirk's behaviour has become irrational, and move to have him declared unfit for duty – unless he makes his actions clear. He stands up to Kirk against his monster hunt once the creature gets on board. He apologises, though, even though he's actually in the right; the alien would never have attacked the ship if Kirk hadn't chased it.

Future Treknology: An antimatter bomb, containing only an ounce of antimatter, is enough to blow a hole in a planet.

Cliche Count: It's yet another Moby Dick tale, not long after the last one. There'll be a few of these over the years. Four redshirts die on the planet, and at least one other crewman bites it on the ship.

The Verdict: The second episode in a row that deals with Kirk's competence being questioned, but considerably better done than the previous. It's pretty obvious that the alien will turn out to be immune to phasers, making both Kirk's and Garrovik's guilt unecessary. Kirk's belief that it's the very same creature that he encountered before is never proven; there could be a whole species of these things out there. Nurse Chapel gets some nice moments, which is needed in this rather butch episode.

Monday, 30 March 2015

FANS WHO: Las Pinturas Negras

An occasional new feature: quick reviews of Doctor Who fan films and audios, both new productions and the old favourites. Las Pinturas Negras – the title referring to the horrifying “Black Paintings” of Francisco Goya – is the first in a short series of audio plays featuring Scott D. Harris as the Doctor. Produced by CP Studios, it is co-written and co-created by Harris and James P. Quick. It begins with a pretty effective regeneration sequence, in which the previous Doctor, played by Matthew Urch, meets his end at the hands of a Cyberman. Although it isn't as striking as it might be, since Harris and Urch haven't greatly different voices, the use of various little grabs from classic regeneration scenes works nicely. The Cyberman voice is also excellent; it's a shame it's only a brief apperance from the mechanical menace.


The new Doctor is young, full of energy, cocky and verbose, rolling his rrrrrr's like Sly McCoy reborn. He's a lot of fun to be around, certainly very Doctorish in his style. He's joined by companions Whitney and Zacharias, played by April Sadowski and Caith Donovan, who form a decent team. They're a little put out by the Doctor's regeneration, but the story doesn't dwell on this too long, getting into the adventure pretty quickly. Goya's bizarre paintings are a great starting point for a Doctor Who story; fourteen works the artist created during his misanthropic twilight years. It's a good hook, with the new Doctor facing demonic forces and a villainous cult. The setting, 19th century Madrid, is effective too; Spain isn't a common location for Doctor Who stories, and it makes Las Pinturas Negras a little different. There's some fine support from Jym deNatale as Solozano, Julian Bane as Mariano Goya, Francisco's grandson, and Brian Higgins as his ward Miguel. Actual Spaniards may well disagree, but they sounded enough like locals to work for me.



The Witches Sabbath, or The Great He-Goat


The music is sometimes questionable; it's not unusual for fan audios to take elements from the soundtrack of the actual series, but not all the choices work here. The classic Cyberman “Space Adventure” theme works well, but the extract from the TV Movie doesn't fit. Overall, though, this is nicely done; at three episodes, it has just enough time to craft a good adventure but doesn't outstay its welcome. Good fun.

Listen to Las Pinturas Negras here.

REVIEW: Agents of SHIELD 2.11 - "Aftershocks"

Each time Agents of SHIELD returns from a break, it comes back better. There's still a way to go until it's unmissable viewing, but there is some definite improvement here. The mid-season “finale” ended on a hell of a cliffhanger, with Trip dead and both Skye and Raina undergoing terrigenesis and metamorphosing into their superpowered selves; very visibly in Raina's case, less so in Skye's. It's wonderful to say that, though – actual superhumans in the series, front and centre. There's a moment when Simmons starts reeling off a list of superpowered characters who've caused trouble, and it's a very, very short list for a superhero show a season and a half in. Now, though, we have Skye showing her Quake powers, Raina transformed into the human rosebush, and Reader zapping about the place like no one's business, with hopefully more to come.


It's a nicely high stakes story, too, which is a relief, since there was a fear we'd have weeks of sitting about discussing the events of the previous episode before anything happened. Not so. While Skye's new powers don't manifest fully, and she keeps the extent of her transformation under wraps, this is one story thread in a busy episode. Both SHIELD and HYDRA are on the rebound from the events in the subterranean city. It's fun to see HYDRA run by a round table of rich masterminds, even if most of them are pretty shallow and one-note; but then, it's not like they last long. Coulson's plan to use his prisoner, Bakshi, as bait in a plan to turn the heads of HYDRA against one another is brilliant stuff. Yes, it's convoluted and over-the-top. So what? That's exactly what I want from a comicbook show. Agents of SHIELD needs more convolution and over-the-top plans! Some commentators have likened it to the sort of ruse that Mission:Impossible used to go for, and they're not wrong. It's unfeasable, but easy enough to follow, effective and entertaining.


You could also make the same observation about the showdown between Coulson and Mac over the former's questionable decisions. The fight between the loyal Couslon-ites and the newer recruits is anything but subtle. That's good; we don't need subtle right now. We need a fast-moving season that lives up to the promise of the series' set-up. Some elements are still uneven. Mockingbird and Mac are playing some secret game that seems one element too many, and is included in a heavy-handed fashion. A major flaw is the resolution of Trip's death. It's all very well played, and the death of a major team member should hit the SHIELD crew hard. The problem is, we never really got to know Trip well enough for his death to matter the same way to us. He was a criminally underused character, and some better use of him leading up to this point could have made all the difference. It's not a fault of this episode, but nonetheless, it's inescapable.


There's some great chemistry between the regulars, now, with most of them settling into double-acts, and not the ones we expected. Coulson and May are at their best when they're fighting side-by-side. It's a shame to see Mac and Fitz's bromance fizzle out, but worth it for the wonderful chemistry between Fitz and Skye. I don't think Skye has really gelled with anyone the way she was supposed to, but this looks set to change matters. Both Chloe Bennet and Iain de Caestecker are so much better as these damaged and altered versions of their characters. There's a lot of potential here, particularly in their relationship, be it platonic or romantic in future. Where Fitz and Simmons will go from here is questionable, and this can only serve to drive them further apart, especially with Simmons on one hell of an over-egged anti-alien, anti-superpower drive right now. Perhaps the best moment, though, involve Raina. Ruth Negga has been something of an unsung star of this series (great news that she's been snapped up for the Preacher adaptation), and the use of her character here is excellent. Finally, she's got exactly what she's been striving for all this time, and it's horrific. The quill-covered, plant-like, almost reptilian make-up for her transformed state is wonderful work. Her scene with Dr Zabo – a still brillaint Kyle MacLachlan, always a highlight – is a particularly strong one, as he casts her aside now that she is of no use to him.


The material introducing the Inhumans is another highlight. Not just the little fanboy thrill from hearing terms like “Terrigenesis” thrown around, but genuinely well-scripted, beautifully directed stuff. It's patently clear now that Marvel are using this as their way of doing an X-Men style storyline, and more power to them. The Inhuman stuff is complicated and hard-to-swallow, yet they're putting it across in digestible little chunks. Philip Labes is excellent as the young Gordon (aka the Inhuman known as Reader), working with some fine direction and visual effects to put across the terror of this poor individual. Terrigenesis is a horrifying concept; if Raina thinks she's got it bad, then poor Gordon can put it in perspective. Blessed with incredible powers, but with the skin grown over his eyes so that he can't even cry. It'll be interesting to see how the relationships develop here: Gordon rescues Raina, who was abandoned and driven to suicide by Zabo, who was married to Jai Ying, who mentored and cared for the young Gordon. It's a complex web.



There's room to improve, most certainly, but this a strong start to the new half-season and I'm looking forward to seeing how it develops. As long as there are plenty of superbeings to come.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

The New(er) Avengers



It's legit: this is the new Avengers line-up in the comics, post-Secret Wars.  Once the various universes have settled down, this is who's heading Marvel's premier team.

The new Thor, secret identity currently unknown. Good to see she's sticking around, her comics are very good.
The new Captain America, Sam Wilson, previously the Falcon. Again, it's good to see Marvel aren't using their shake-up to reverse their more diverse recasting of the main heroes.
Iron Man? Or potentially someone else in an Iron Man suit. Rumours are it's Pepper Potts/Rescue, but we don't know right now.
The Vision, about to hit big in the movies.
Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan. The current darling of Marvel comics.
The teenaged Nova, Sam Alexander, perhaps best known from the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoons but also heading his own title.
Miles Morales as Spider-Man, which means a) the regular and Ultimate realities are indeed being combined, and b) Peter Parker's status is in the air.
And that sure looks like a Hulk they're running to.

Rose Retrospective - Ten Years On



Today marks ten years since Doctor Who returned to BBC1, with the episode Rose. It's actually a touch over ten years since I saw it – no, I didn't download the leaked rough copy, I got a sneaky peek at the BBC. A few days makes no odds though. It's ten years! Only in Doctor Who does the tenth anniversary follow the fiftieth. I do remember that first viewing well. A mere stripling of twenty-one, taking the day off work specifically to go watch Doctor Who in London, with Dave Pound, who had bravely kept the flame alive, performing a Davros impression on Channel 4 a couple of years previously. There was a gent dressed as Sylvester McCoy there (“My Jon Pertwee outfit is at the cleaners,”) as well as a reassuring number of children. Indoctrination, I guess. Of course, Clayton Hickman, then editor of Doctor Who Magazine, and Tom Spilsbury, his deputy and successor, were there as the organisers of the opportunity. The atmosphere was one of palpable excitement. What new fans don't often realise is just how good it was to have Doctor Who back on the telly where it belongs. It was perhaps even more exciting for a relative newbie like me. Doctor Who had never been a fixture of the schedules for me. I'm of the lost generation, growing up in the wilderness, with only the TV Movie and occasional repeats to live on. This was Doctor Who, back in its natural habitat: Saturday teatimes on BBC1.






The first thing that we remarked upon, coming out of the showing, was just how fast-paced it all was. Watching hours of seventies telly settles you into a gentler pace of television, but even so, this was rapid by 2005 standards. What would once have been a leisurely four-parter was squeezed into forty-three minutes of frenetic action and humour. That's not to say there weren't slower moments, but they were pauses in the momentum in order to catch our breath. It seemed over almost as soon as it started, and I felt desperate for some more. What stuck out, on that first viewing, was the casual modernity of it all. Again, this is a consequence of being a fan of the old serials; Doctor Who felt like something of the past, and this had just changed. The Doctor was cheeky, angry, soulful, and very northern, swaggering about in a leather jacket and boots. He didn't look like the Doctor, he didn't sound like the Doctor; but as he faced the Nestene, gleefully ran from explosions and looked Rose in the eye while he waxed poetic on the turn of the Earth, he was the Doctor.






Rose, too, was a revelation. It's not true to say that she was the first strong or capable companion, nor that she was the first to be the focus of the story. However, Rose came across as a real person in a way that very few, if any, of the classic series companions did. She was believably common, everyday, confident even as she was almost overwhelmed by the bizarre universe she walked into. And she almost casually saved the Doctor from the Nestene, citing her school gymnastics medal. What I loved about that was that she got the bronze, not the gold. It's those little asides that make Russell T's writing seem so real. Mickey, too, was far better than anyone gave him credit. Noel Clarke himself decried his performance in the first few episodes, but I actually think he's perfectly fine here, particularly as the weirdly stultified Auton Mickey. No less impressive is Camille Coduri, who made Jackie, a potentially irritating as hell character, completely endearing. The choice of the Autons as the opening monster was inspired. They're such a straightforward idea to get across – walking dummies animated by a plastic alien intelligence. There's a reason they worked so well both in 2005 back in the seventies; they inhabit the deepest part of the uncanny valley. My best friend Shelly was absolutely terrified of them. Updated, so that they looked a little more real, they were a straight-up recreation of the classic foes.






Watching Rose now is a strange experience. It seems both so recent and so long ago. What was, at the time, such an on-the-button update of a dated programme now seems terribly unsophisticated. However, that is, in its way, part of the appeal. More complex stories were to come later, with the likes of Dalek, The Empty Child and The Parting of the Ways. This was the easy way in; contemporary England, bold and saleable with landmarks aplenty, with an easily graspable alien facing recognisable characters. Then the trailer for next week's episode, The End of the World, displayed weird blue dwarfs and tree people and a giant head in a tank, and we realised that the weird shit was just round the corner. Over the years, Doctor Who has become more complex, more audacious and more surprising, but none of it could have been possible were it not for the success of this first series. Christopher Eccleston, with only three months in the role, is often unfairly overlooked by fans. He is treated by many as a warm up for Tennant's hugely successful incarnation. Billie Piper, who once seemed irreplaceable, is now such a part of the past that it was genuinely strange seeing her return for The Day of the Doctor. So this is how the older fans felt when they sat down and watched Rose, I guess. The newest series, existing only because of the triumphs of the past. There are die-hard Doctor Who fans who have never watched Eccleston's episodes, let alone anything earlier. But there are also young adults, the same age I was when I saw Rose, who were ten or eleven when it first aired. The perfect age to be introduced to Doctor Who. No idea that this was the twenty-seventh run of an ancient series. It was new and bizarre and gripping, and, belching bins, dodgy photoshop and questionable music choices aside, it entranced a new generation of fans. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Trev and Simon and Ace!



There's a new thing happening! Clare Eden, the executive producer of the excellent audio series The Minister of Chance has begun work on a brand new science fiction audio extravanganza!

Were you a child in Britain in the late eighties and early nineties? In that case, you'll remember the superlatively silly Trev and Simon, who caused mild anarchy on the Saturday morning kids' shows Going Live! and Live and Kicking. Also in the late eighties, Sophie Aldred was appearing on Doctor Who, as Ace, companion to the seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy. Now a fixture of children's television, Sophie continues to play Ace on audio for Big Finish, and appeared in Death Comes to Time, the webcast that introduced the Minister of Chance.

(There are mysterious links between them through the world of children's entertainment. Sophie lends her voice to Tree Fu Tom along with tenth Doctor, David Tennant, who appeared in Doctor Who alongside John Barrowman as Captain Jack. Barrowman was one of the presenters of Live and Kicking in the nineties, putting up with Trev and Simon.)

Strangeness in Space is set to be a free-to-stream podcast for children, a sci-fi comedy set in orbit of the planet Mirth. Clare, Sophie, Trev and Simon are now looking for donations to make their creation on Kickstarter. There are perks available from pocket money level (£4) all the way up to executive producership (£1500). So if you want to indoctrinate you children into the silliness of your youth, this is the way to go.

To the footur! Swing you pants!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Ghostbusters is going to be a vast, cinematic franchise, dontchano. At least, that's Sony's plan for it, because they did such a great job trying to replicate Marvel's method with Spider-Man, didn't they? There seems to be a definite missing of the point here. First things first, we need a good movie. If they can't get the first one right, nothing else can follow. There's a twenty-seven year gap between Ghostbusters II and the next year's film. We don't know if it's going to take off, so planning endless sequels, prequels and side-quels is just a bit premature. Sony are already undermining their own good work with this move. Paul Feig's all-women Ghostbusters reboot has drawn a ridiculously vehement wave of criticism, and I really, really want to see it blow the naysayers down by being a bloody good film. Now there's talk of a second film, that seems designed to be specifically what the anti-Feig crowd want. Real men Busters, links to the original films, involvement from Dan Aykroyd... it undermines the very concept of the new direction. Indeed, it doesn't seem like there can be a reboot if these films are all supposed to take place in the same universe. More though, it's an implicit attack on the value of female-led franchises. Women can't have something for themselves. There has to be a masculine option, that looks just like every other popular Hollywood franchise.

It's depressing, and it's actually sapped my enthusiasm for Feig's version. I'd much rather see that given the chance to stand on its own two feet. I'm still in favour of a TV series; I actually think that's the best way forward for Ghostbusters, but if they're set on making movies, just focus on making one damned good movie first, then start the plans for the "GBCU." Because this has all the marks of going the same way as Spider-Man did, and I speak as someone who enjoyed the Amazing Spider-Man films. Sony still shot their own franchise in the foot by focusing too much on what they wanted it to be in the future, and not enough on making good movies.

I'm actually feeling more enthusiastic about the newly announced IDW comicbook series Get Real, which should be out this summer. Because there is a market for fannish material, and a classic Ghostbusters/Real Ghostbusters crossover is a perfect idea that it's quite surprising has taken this long to materialise. I'd rather spend my fan-bucks on this than a hastily conceived film with an elderly Aykroyd and Hudson making unnecessary cameos, because at the end of the day, normal people need to like that movie, not just fannish freaks like me.



However, because I am a fan, and we fans can't help but over-analyse these things, I found myself wondering what the Ghostbusters multiverse looks like now. Seeing that the comics look to be crossing the planes of reality and all, and what I came up with was this:

Earth-1: The original cinematic version, just the two movies, Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, released and set in 1984 and 1989 respectively. Whatever happens afterwards is left to your imagination.
Earth-2: The expanded version of above, with Ghostbusters II followed by Ghostbusters: The Video Game, the realistic version, which essentially acts as Ghostbusters III.
Earth-3: The two movies, followed by the stylised version of the Video Game, which has a slightly different story, and then continuing in the IDW comic series, which expands the Ghostbusters business and sees it frachise in other cities.
Earth-4: The animated universe, comprising The Real Ghostbusters, Slimer and the Real Ghostbusters and Extreme Ghostbusters. Yes, including the Slimer! skits, and maybe the Now! Comics and/or Marvel-UK comics from the 80s/90s too. In this reality, a version of the first film's events occurred, but not exactly the same. The movie Ghostbusters exists in this reality, based on the Real Ghostbusters exploits. Earth-3 and Earth-4 are crossing over in Get Real, and certain characters who originate in the animated series also appear in the comics. There's also a version of the events of Ghostbusters II, which were published as The Real Ghostbusters: Ghostbusters II comicbook by Now! Comics.
Earth-5: Ghostbusters: Legion, a comic miniseries by the now-defunct 88MPH press. In this reality, a version of the events of the first film occur, but twenty years later than on Earth-1, and are followed by Legion. There's no version of Ghostbusters II.
Earth-6: Ghostbusters II is followed by the rather average sequel novel Ghostbusters: The Return by Scholly Fisch. Winston becomes Mayor of New York.
Earth-7: Ghostbusters II is followed by TokyoPop's manga comic series Ghostbusters: Ghost Busted.
Earth-8: Seen in the RGB episode "Flip Side," a parallel continuum where the ghostly citizens of Boo York are protected from living humans by the Peoplebusters.
Earth-9: The new cinematic universe, which might reboot the franchise but will apparently have some links to the first two films, so they presumably happen in some form or another. We'll see.

March Comics Round-Up: Other publishers

Really, just take it in.


And on with the non-Marvel titles. No DC this month, excepting Multiversity which isn't due out for a week so won't get picked up till April, most likely. While Marvel is preparing for Secret Wars, DC is about to enter the Convergance, which will have consequences including decent new costumes for Superman and Wonder Woman, and Batman dressing up like a robot bunny rabbit. I have, however, been watching a lot of DC lately. Maybe I just prefer Bats and Supes on the screen to on the page?

Instead I grabbed a bunch of occasional titles and tried some new ones, plus regular subs. A lot of TV and film tie-ins here, which is very much my thing, and consequentially means a lot of IDW. Also, Alan Moore's new Nemo book is out, so I grabbed that too.


The Fly: Outbreak #1 (IDW)

IDW is very good at providing platforms for seemingly dead properties to be explored again. I'm slightly bemused by this one, in that I think most people would have taken the chance to ignore the events of the not-terribly-good The Fly II and follow on from Cronenberg's masterpiece. (And it is a masterpiece.) In fact, I'd really love to see a working of Geena Davis's Flies treatment, but hey ho. It's been a long time since The Fly II, but Outbreak seems to either retcon/misconstrue the ending to the film or I'm misremembering it myself. Still, I'm fairly certain that the villainous Bartok was left as a misshapen monster because essential human genes were removed and implanted in Martin's cells, not because he had fly DNA swapped into his body. In any case, I like how this story deals with Martin's guilt with leaving Bartok in this state, and how he has become little better than him with his constant experimentation. Not sure how this is going to develop, but it's reasonably well written and it looks fantastic.

Frankenstein Underground #1 (Dark Horse)

It's been ages since I read any Mignola. I'm not sure why; I love Hellboy and BPRD, it's just a universe I haven't found myself visiting for some time. So an unexpected new series starting seemed like a good opportunity to jump back in. Frankenstein Underground is a Hellboy spin-off, and so takes place in that macabre universe, and it certainly feels part of that aesthetic. It's a shame Mignola doesn't really draw anymore, save for covers and occasional special items, but Ben Stenbeck's art is similar enough to match the world's tone while being distinct enough not to feel slavish. A sympathetic and horrific look at the classic Monster, and one I think I shall follow.

Doctor Who: Eleventh Doctor #8 (Titan)

I dropped this for a bit due to not wanting to have to sell a kidney to afford all my comics, so with a little spare cash I thought I'd grab it again. Bit of a shame I missed any of these; Al Ewing is on the top of his writing game, and the Eleventh Doctor series are the best Doctor Who comics around right now. Alice is a companion who really should have been on TV; she's realistic and likeable, but not a pushover, and I doubt she'd have polarised opinions in the way either Amy or Clara have. Jones, on the other hand, is just fun, and is now speaking almost entirely in David Bowie quotes. Because that's who he is, even if he isn't officially young Davey Jones. This is intriguing, well told and often very funny, and I still love Warren Pleece's slab-faced version of Eleven.

Doctor Who Magazine #484 (Panini)

This month's comic strip is a one-off, entitled "Space Invaderz," which is fun parody of Storage Hunters and similar programmes. There only two problems: firstly is that a similar idea was used for a story in the recent anthology Seasons of War, but rather better executed. This happens when there are multiple publishers of one property, but there you go. Secondly, though, is that this is obviously meant to be funny, but just isn't very. Bit of a misstep, but they can't all be classics.

Bill & Ted's Most Triumphant Return #1 (Boom!)

Another eighties movie follow-up this month, this time from Boom! With talk of a third movie happening in the near future, it seems timely to provide a follow-up to Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey. This picks up almost immediately after the finish of the second film, and deals with the pressure on the Stallyns to write their second song and continue their destiny. Good fun, with some enjoyable use of time travel. A separate, shorter story concerning the good robot Bill and Ted rounds off the issue. Worth checking out issue two, I feel.

Star Trek #43: Five Year Mission (IDW)

Picked this up to see what was going on in the Abrams-verse. Nothing very gripping, sadly. The Enterprise has gone a bit Star Trek: Voyager and is now adrift in the Delta Quadrant. Somehow, I feel this won't last, considering they've got to be back in the neighbourhood this time next year for the third movie (like that's going to arrive on time). A mysterious local offers assistance. Can she be trusted? What do you think? Nothing special, going to drop this line for good.

Saga #26 (Image)

I'm wondering whether to continue buying this monthly, or to stop and wait for the trades, which do seem to be a better format for the story style. Then again, I really do enjoy my regular dose of Saga, and there are far worse crimes than moving slowly. It's a long wait till the next phase of the story starts as it is. We're in a very different place now to where the series started, and the shifting friendships and alliances are intriguing. It needs to come to a head soon, though. Remains utterly compelling, for all that.

Nemo: River of Ghosts (Top Shelf/Knockabout)

The final installment of Alan Moore's Janni Nemo trilogy, this chapter taking place primarily in 1975, with the now very elderly lady captain falling into obsession with the potential return of her archnemesis, Ayesha. It continues in the vein of the previous volumes, playing the game of dropping in as many references for readers to spot as possible. This manages to cross-pollinate Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, The Lost World, The Creature from the Black Lagoon and Incan adventure tales, throwing in a gaggle of Hitler - sorry, I mean Hynkel - clones. Hugo Coghlan, aka Hugo Hercules, is a particularly obscure character to lift from the archives, but he's an important one, often cited as the first superhero. He's good fun though, providing unlimited muscle and a surprisingly sympathetic ear for Nemo. It's also heavily implied that he's the father of Desperate Dan of The Dandy, which, textually speaking, I suppose he is. There's something of a theme of ageing and the loss of faculties, with regards to Nemo herself and the ever-advancing world beyond her sanctuary. Essentially, though, this is a romp, and while that's great fun and all, Moore's work used to be about something.

March Comics Round-Up: Marvel

Just get a load of that tablecloth.


So, I might have gone a bit nuts at the comic shop, but I haven't been for almost a month and it I did get a massive great tip that paid for it all. I'm splitting these reviews into Marvel and non-Marvel. I'll be honest, I'm really not feeling it for the upcoming Secret Wars event. A big, DC-style reboot is not something I want for Marvel. We don't know how much, if anything, is being retained from the current storylines, and pretty much everything that happens right now is potentially irrelevant and going to be erased a few months down the line. The bulk of the current titles are being cancelled in the summer, which is a bit shite considering a lot of them only started a few months ago.

I notice that all the solo hero titles I'm picking up now, bar one, feature female lead characters. Whether this is significant I don't know, but it's gratifying that it's an option to have all female heroes right now.

The Amazing Spider-Man #16

Spider-Verse is finally done and dusted, and we're pushing on with Peter's company and his new initiative to rehabilitate supervillains. Socially responsible superheroing, you see. Having caught up with some of the preceding Superior Spider-Man storylines, I think Anna-Marie is the real hero here. She finds out that her boyfriend is not only Spider-Man, but actually Dr. Octopus inhabiting the body of Spider-Man, and that he is now dead, but she's still holding it together. Good to see Black Cat's storyline being focussed on again. Just a shame this is one of the titles getting cancelled - although of course there will be a Spidey title, Doc Ock and all no doubt - so I'll probably see this one through to the finish.

Spider-Woman #5

My first issue of Spider-Woman for a while, which I think suffered from starting in the middle of the Spider-Verse event. I like this though; witty script from Dennis Hopeless and really appealing art style by Javier Rodriguez. This concerns Jessica Drew quitting the Avengers and trying to go it alone as a regular street-level superhero, and not doing terribly well. It actually ties in quite nicely with ASM's themes, given that current and former costumed villains are being victimised, so there's potential for something interesting here. A good comic, altogether - and I love Jessica's new costume. Especially the gloves.

Spider-Gwen #2

The other Spider-Woman is going strong. I was confused for a moment, thinking this was the same artist using two styles, but this is Robbi Rodriguez, and it's quite something. Something all the Spider-related titles do well, when they're on form, is mixing snappy, funny dialogue with proper, human-level drama, and Spider-Gwen is the best of the bunch. (Although I admit I haven't read any Silk, Spider-Man and the X-Men or recent Ultimate Spider-Man for comparison, but there's a limit.) Also, Spider-Ham. Gwen and Peter Porker are the most improbably brilliant double-act. It also uses the parallel universe angle well by keeping us guessing to seemingly familiar characters' motives and allegiances. This is a perfect example of what Philip Sandifer is calling the "New Pop" comics movement, and it's tremendous fun.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #3

As is North and Henderson's Squirrel Girl, which is something very close to comedy pop perfection. This is genuinely, laugh-out-loud funny, which is something that, in spite of the medium's name, very few comics are lately. I think the cover price is worth it just for Doreen's face here.This is clever, though, not only being very inventive with the unlikely squirrel-wrangling powers, but effortlessly sending up the superhero trope of constantly piling crisis on top of crisis until the stakes are so absurdly high it really doesn't mean anything anymore. I'm actually keen to see how Doreen does in Secret Wars. But first, Squirrel Girl vs. Galactus, on the Moon.


Ms. Marvel #13

Still going strong, and focusing very strongly on the Inhuman angel right now. With Marvel already pushing Uncanny Inhumans it's pretty clear they're trying to put them on a par with the X-Men. Not long ago, Kamala Khan would have been made a mutant, not an Inhuman, but the story is now being written with the movies and TV series in mind. Ms. Marvel provides another angle on it all, though, drawing parallels between villainous Inhuman fanatics and Islamic extremists. It's not hammered home (and again, it would have been mutants not long ago), and it's portrayed cleverly. "There's always that one group of people who think they have special permission to terrorize anybody who disagrees with them. And then everybody else who looks like them suffers." The most important series in comics right now, and if you don't get why, read this.

Secret Avengers #13

Picked this one up on a whim, sold by the wonderfully absurd cover image of MODOK asking for help with his special Secret Avengers headband. MODOK in the Avengers is weird enough, before the lunacy of the actual plot. This is clearly running behind the Spider titles, since Spider-Woman is still in the Avengers here, but whatever. Not a clue what's going on, but it's fun.

Thor #6


And to think, I almost dropped this after one mediocre issue. In issue six, Jason Aaron provides some truly excellent writing. It's mythic, in the way that Sandman and Lucifer used to be, and probably only The Wicked+The Divine is really managing each issue right now. Mythic in that real people living mundane lives find themselves coping with vast, cosmic events, where even the gods are portrayed as messed up little people. This is exactly what Secret Wars needs to be if it's not going to suck. With sales of the female-led Thor currently ahead of the previous classic version, I think we can safely say that the new Thor will survive the reboot even though her series is officially finishing. I just hope we find out who she is before the event.


Wednesday, 18 March 2015

No More, With Footnotes

I've been trying to write this for days. It's astonishing how upset one can feel upon hearing of the death of someone quite removed from them. I never met Terry Pratchett. I wish I had. I could have made it to a signing or a convention without much difficulty, and met him, however briefly, but I never did. I did, however, read his books, and through someone's books may we know them, if only partly and fleetingly.

I've been reading Pratchett since I was around ten years old.* The library at my primary school** - where I would often spend breaktimes under the pretense of helping the staff, but in actuality just allowed us bookish types somewhere to read and chat in the warm - had a selection of his books for younger readers. There was Only You Can Save Mankind***, and its sequel, Johnny and the Dead (Johnny and the Bomb followed a little later). And there was the Truckers trilogy, now called The Bromeliad, the story of the tiny human-like Nomes and their high-speed life unseen by humanity. I'm fairly certain Truckers is the first of his books I read. Perhaps a little challenging for me at the time but I persevered. It was the juxtaposition of the fantastic and the mundane, of this race of little people living in the confines of a supermarket, with their alien box the Thing, it absolutely fascinated me. Not long after I moved onwards to secondary school, where the library was bigger, had computers in which was quite exciting, and had a solid selection of Discworld books.**** The first one I picked up was Guards! Guards! I was hooked.

It's become fashionable, in some quarters, to knock Pratchett's earlier works, but there's so much joy and charm and inventiveness that I find it hard to understand why. The first Discworld novels are simpler affairs than the later masterpieces, fairly straightforward parodies of the sword-and-sorcery high fantasy, but they're shot through with such ingenious humour, and such brazen punnery, that they swept me away. They also have the Luggage, a most ingenious creation, and perhaps my favourite character after the ubiquitous and utterly wonderful Death*****. The man with the scythe appears in very nearly every novel in the Discworld series, but it was his first starring role in Mort that I feel marked Pratchett's first truly great novel. His works gradually became more complex, with the Disc becoming somewhere he could take a step back from reality and comment on its absurdity. Guards! Guards! was the first of the Watch books, which began the gradual journey of Sam Vimes from Captain of the Night Watch of Ankh-Morpork to eventually the powerful position of Duke of Ankh, all against his better judgment. It's a turning point for the series and it's easy to see why it grabbed me so strongly and wouldn't let me go. Pratchett had addressed the lives of the "little people" before, but this was all about them. The guards, the henchmen, the lowly servants, who populate fantasy worlds but so rarely get their time in the limelight while the knights and kings and wizards are steering the course of history. Plus, it had dragons. I do love dragons******.

Vimes is one of Pratchett's avatars. You can tell them quite easily. While Pratchett's prose is saturated with his distinctive voice (perhaps why televisual adaptations of his works never quite seem to work as well as they should; that voice is absent, or at best, muffled), certain characters seem to speak for him. Rincewind, the cowardly "wizzard," was his earliest voice of reason, but in time Granny Weatherwax the witch, Sam Vimes, Tiffany Aching and Death himself all came to embody his unique worldview. Cynical, by god yes, but hopeful for this sad and delusional species called human. Somehow, though, it's when reading Vimes that I felt I was hearing his voice most clearly. For all the strength of the Discworld books being their human (or human-like) characters, Pratchett was never short of big ideas. Favourites are often those with a high concept at their heart, through which the poor, long-suffering characters must navigate. Small Gods, with its surgical deconstruction of Christianity, when God turns up to his one remaining true believer, as a one-eyed tortoise. Reaper Man, in which Death retires, with drastic consequences, and has to take his responsibilities back by force. Night Watch, with its exploration of destiny and free will, and Thief of Time, with its mind-bending time-twisting.

Not all the books were classics, but most of them were, and not many authors can say that. Not only the Discworld, though, oh no, there was much more. I may be in the minority, but I adore his two very early science fiction novels, Strata and The Dark Side of the Sun. So much invention, such wonderful alien creations, and such a skill for making us seem so mighty and so tiny simultaneously. The Carpet People, his first ever book, co-written by his teenaged and adult selves, which left me stepping very carefully for weeks. Nation, very possibly the best thing he ever wrote. A children's book, supposedly, but only in that its characters are young and you should give it to your children to read, because it will help them grow up to be wiser, kinder, more human souls. Not forgetting his collaborations: the Science of Discworld series with highly regarded scientists Stewart and Cohen, the Long Earth series with the great science fictioneer Stephen Baxter, and Good Omens, the apocalyptic collaboration of Pratchett with the other greatest modern British fantasy author, Neil Gaiman. Even Larry Niven's Rainbow Mars*******, with its many multiple Marses, was originally spearheaded by Pratchett.

Gaiman famously described Pratchett as not jolly, but angry, and this was more and more apparent in his later work. There is a seething anger coming through in his gentle prose, an absolute despair in humanity's failures and crimes. It's clear we disappointed him. Yet that golden, joyful, silly humour was still there, even as his Alzheimer's slowly took his skill from him. The Embuggerance, as he called it, slowly picking away at his great mind. What a terrible thing to have to live through, and to die from. Pratchett was a very passionate campaigner for the right to die, although in the end, his death was natural. If there is one good thing that has come of this appalling illness having struck him, it is the vast sums of his own fortune that he put into Alzheimer's research. Sufferers in the future may well have him to thank, in some small way, for their improved quality, and indeed quantity, of life.

Now he's gone. We'll never get a chance to read what was to become of Moist von Lipwig in the never finished Raising Taxes.******** There is one final Discworld book to come, that Pratchett finished before he died; The Shepherd's Crown, featuring young witch Tiffany Aching. There are still going to be adaptations of his books, and his daughter, Rhianna, is expected to take over the series, but it's unclear whether she'll be writing any more books or simply inheriting the intellectual rights. I'm actually pleased that I'm so far behind with my reading; I've four Pratchett books waiting, so for a little while at least, he lives on for me. And then I can just go back to the beginning.

Terry Pratchett was born on the 28th of April 1948. He liked astronomy, orang utans, and cats. He wrote fifty-seven novels and had an extinct turtle named after him. He died on the 12th of March 2015.

* That's 1994, fact fans.
** St. Wilfred's RC Primary. Headmaster Mr. Jones made sure we were well motivated. "Jesus always said, 'Try hard at swimming.'"
*** Which instilled in me a lifelong fear that I might actually be killing tiny pixellated people when playing computer games.
**** It's also where I first discovered The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy.
***** I used to flick through every book before reading it, looking for the TELLTALE CAPITAL LETTERS to make sure he was in it.
****** "Its eyes were the size of very large eyes."
******* Which had echoes in my very first professional publication, now I think about it, although that was really PPH's idea.
******** He was clearly going to become Patrician, wasn't he? Whether Vetinari liked it or not.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Tenuous @ Best: Tenuous News: The Fall of Socialism

Tenuous @ Best: Tenuous News: The Fall of Socialism: Long sickening, the Aryan Socialist Bloc has finally fallen. With dysfunctional polices such as rent controls, inclusion of workers on comp...

Monday, 9 March 2015

A quick post to bring attention to a couple of good friends who are doing pretty amazing things for charidee.

Off go the dreads!
The very beautiful Sarah Scarlett, aka Skye Annelise, is chopping off her treasured dreads to raise money for the mental health charity Mind, an extremely worthwhile cause and an organisation that does amazing work. As someone who suffers from depression I am particularly determined that these guys get the recognition they deserve. Sarah's set he target for a mere £100, but I'm sure we can do much better than that. Donate with JustGiving here.





My very old friend Mr. Paul Smith is also doing something drastic to raise funds. He's going a full year without a drop of alcohol! Actually, he's being quite sensible and allowing himself five "golden ticket" days, which will be added onto the end of the year to make sure he's definitely getting the full 365 days in. But we have weddings to go to this year so I think this is a very wise approach. Paul's raising money for St. Peter and St. James, a hospice trust that is very close to my heart. Smiffy's into his third month now so dig deep and drop a couple of quid in - we're aiming to raise a nice round grand for the year. He's also using JustGiving to donate. And it's his birthday tomorrow too!
Down with this sort of thing!

If you're a UK taxpayer, don't forget to tick the GiftAid option to make your donation go even further.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

REVIEW: Marvel's Agent Carter, series one

If any Marvel character has been screaming out to be used better in their screen appearances, it's Peggy Carter. Her appearance in Captain America: The First Avenger was a rare example of a genuinely strong female character; not just ass-kicking, or wise-cracking, or physically perfect, but a well-rounded and believable woman of remarkable talents. It seems particularly appropriate that I write this on International Women's Day. The running theme of Agent Carter, itself inspired by the same-titled DVD One-Shot mini-movie (now presumably rendered apocryphal), is that of Peggy proving her worth to the men who dominate her world. Gratifyingly though, this is never Peggy's aim. She doesn't set out to prove herself, she simply gets on with her job and does what she believes is right. As she herself says, she genuinely doesn't care about stuffed-shirts and old boys recognising her.


It's interesting that the series manages to pull this off so well, in spite of being so male-dominated in some areas. In part, this is necessary; Peggy lives in a world where men run the show, and women are thought of as ornamental or mildly useful. On the other hand, Peg's own story is inextricably tied to that of the men in her life. Most obviously, her story is entwined with that of Howard Stark, accused of selling his military secrets to the highest bidder and enlisting Peggy on a quest to prove his innocence. More significant, though, is Steve Rogers. The story of Captain America bookends the serial by dominating the first and last episodes, running through the story between by means of a MacGuffin vial of his unique blood. Plus, of course, there's the joyously period-styled Captain America radio series we hear broadcast and see being recorded, in which a thinly veiled Peggy named “Betty Carver” is nothing but a feeble damsel in distress. It's not far from how Peggy's colleagues view her; as having got her job on the strength of being Cap's bit of stuff, rather than her merits. It's these attitudes that continually undermine Peggy's character in the eyes of her superiors. None of them can conceive of a reason for her helping Stark other than that she must be sleeping with him, never once considering that maybe she's actually made the right choice. Indeed, while there appears to be genuine respect for Peggy on Howard's part, the series doesn't shy away from depicting what an unrepentant womaniser he is, and the damage that this can deal to his various partners. The relationship between Peggy and Howard appears considerably more strained by the end of the series, even if they have, superficially, formed a close friendship. Far stronger is the friendship between Peggy and Howard's butler, Edwin Jarvis, a relationship that is built on mutual respect for each other's abilities and unquestioning loyalty.




A TV series doesn't need to last for twenty-six episodes and have teams of writers, although apparently, a platoon of executive producers comes in handy. You can fit a lot of story into eight episodes, and there really is a lot to be said for the more concise approach. While Agent Carter has been designed to fit snugly in the gap between the two halves of Agents of SHIELD's second season, it's very clearly a better made production than its sister show. SHIELD took an age to get going, to firmly establish its characters and to develop a coherent storyline. Agent Carter had me hooked by the end of its first episode. By the end of its eighth, it was all over, and the only times it felt rushed were at points in that finale, where the pacing was a little lopsided. For the most part, this series worked beautifully, fitting the right amount of plot and characterisation into each episode, making each an enjoyable piece of televisual adventure while part of a greater story. Flashback scenes in the opening episodes of the new run of Agents of SHIELD helped tie the two series together, but Agent Carter felt far more a part of the MCU than SHIELD did. There were many references to the comics, but none of them felt forced or took anything away from the show if they were missed. Captain America is a character whose mythology I am less familiar with than some Marvel heroes, and so there were numerous nods that passed me by, but at no point did this dampen my enjoyment of the episodes. The only odd decision was the renaming of Fenhoff as Ivchenko – fans were already suspecting he was Doctor Faustus, so why adding yet another name on top was necessary I don't know.


One of the strengths of the story was the lack of a single major villain, instead presenting the heroes with more and more aspects of the USSR's Leviathan project. While it culminated in the involvement of Fenhoff and his muscle, Dottie – part of the Black Widow project, further tying the series to the wider Marvel universe – there was an ongoing atmosphere of a conspiracy being slowly unravelled. This Cold War paranoia is an element that can only be utilised further in further series. If a further series we get, but even if ABC's broadcasts aren't enough to secure a renewal on that station, surely Marvel could add a second season to their roster of Netflix series. There's still no word on when and how British viewers will get to watch the series, at least legitimately. There are, of course, ways and means, but dithering over the official routes only means more losses to piracy in the meantime. I don't want anything jeopardising the chances of a second series, especially as there are so many possibilities to explore. I would love to see more comic-booky elements be introduced into the set-up now that the world has been established. I don't know the status of Marvel's rights to the original Human Torch, but I would jump at the chance to see Jim Hammond, the inflammable android, introduced here.


At the end of the day, though, it's not just the writing and content of the scripts, but the cast that makes any such series a success or failure, and Agent Carter has it talent in spades. Of particular note is Dominic Cooper as Howard, who dominates any scene he's in with effortless charisma, but mention has to be made of Peggy's coworkers. Shea Wigham makes the SSR chief, Roger Dooley into a subtle and likeable character, in spite of his brusque and overtly masculine persona. Enver Gjokaj is especially likeable as Daniel Sousa, the one character who is in something of a similar position to Peggy, looked down upon as a lesser agent due to the disability he received in the war. Chad Murray's character, Jack Thomson, also has a great deal of potential, and the dynamics between the characters, supported by some excellent chemistry between the actors, could develop into something very interesting. Of all the second-level characters, it's probably Angie, the waitress and aspiring actress, who is the one I'm looking forward to seeing more of. As well as being the perfect match for Peggy as someone going through her own experiences in a male-dominated postwar world, Angie is rendered with such likeability by actress Lyndsy Fonseca, who makes her more than just a light-hearted sidekick. Also praiseworthy are Ralph Brown and Bridget Regan as the aforementioned villains Fenhoff and Dottie.





Fundamentally, though, this series belongs to Hayley Atwell, and to slightly lesser extent, her co-star James D'Arcy. Dealing with the latter first, D'Arcy actually had one of the hardest jobs of all. The original, comicbook version of Jarvis has been overshadowed in the MCU by his computerised equivalent, the AI JARVIS, voiced by Paul Bettany in the three Iron Man movies and both Avengers films. An ordinary human butler might seem like a step back, but skilful writing and an excellent turn by D'Arcy, quite unlike his more recognisable roles, make Jarvis a truly likeable character who undergoes genuinely interesting and believable character development. He makes for a perfect sidekick to Peggy, the one man who at no point looks down on her for her gender. It's Atwell's show though, and deservedly so. Her role as Peggy Carter in Captain America: The First Avenger made her many fans, and her own series is a just reward for her performance there. Given the limelight, she improves on an already fine performance. Peggy is an imperfect and therefore believable hero, relying on hard work and talent rather than superpowers, and what's more, doesn't need to parade around in a skintight outfit to do it. Not that there's anything wrong with beautiful actresses in tight costumes, but it's long been the case that barely concealed curves have been a prerequisite for the female comicbook hero. No, Atwell shows that beauty, brains and skill are not contradictory, and that sometimes, a damned fine hat is far more eye-catching than any amount of brushed leather. At the end of the day, Agent Carter is very much a spin-off of The First Avenger, but this is not to its detriment. For Steve Rogers is the one man, out of all the men who have impacted Peggy's life, that truly changed it. While his shadow may be cast over her story, Captain America is not the heart of it. It's Peggy's journey, and we need to see more of it.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

He Am Spock

Leonard Nimoy died just a few days ago. His loss is felt keenly by so many of us. Through Star Trek, he reached millions as the wise, complex character of Spock. In what could easily have been, under a less talented actor, a monotone, robotic performance, Nimoy took the wellworn character of the emotionless alien and made him into a charismatic, compassionate and witty character, and, in time, an icon. Half-human, half-Vulcan, Spock spent much of his time in the Star Trek series attempting to better himself as a Vulcan, to live his life by logic and rationality, and to bury his emotions and his human side. Over time, his understanding and acceptance of humanity improved, as his friendship with his shipmates grew. Nimoy's ownership of the role can be evidenced by the fact that he created two of the concepts that everyone recognises as Vulcan: the V-shaped Vulcan salute and the legendary Vulcan nerve pinch. As Spock, Nimoy was part of the triumvirate that made Star Trek the beloved series it remains today, along with DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy and William Shatner as Captain Kirk. Sadly, of these three, only Shatner remains.


He was the only actor to have appeared in every episode of the original Star Trek series and its animated spin-off; Shatner came close, of course, but did not appear in the original pilot episode “The Cage” or the animated episode “The Slaver Weapon.” Early plans for the sequel series, known as both Star Trek II and Star Trek: Phase II, were altered to feature a new Vulcan character named Xon after Nimoy declined to return. However, once these plans advanced to becoming feature film productions, Nimoy signed up again, not only appearing as Spock in the first six Star Trek movies, but assisting with the writing of four of them, and directing both Star Trek III and Star Trek IV. In the course of these films, Spock went from contemplating the complete purging of his emotions, to fully accepting his human side and the strength it gave him. He gave his life for his friends, returned from the dead and continued his adventures in Starfleet. This wasn't the limit of his time in the role, of course; he also appeared in two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, now in the role of ambassador, and in both of the most recent movies, playing the aged “Spock Prime” opposite Zachary Quinto as his alternative, younger counterpart. Plus, there were the interviews, the convention appearances, the audio productions and voiceovers for computer games, including the 2009 launch of Star Trek Online.


His relationship with the character was strained for some years, with the career defining role coming to overshadow much of his other work. Nimoy was an accomplished director, musician and poet, yet was, and always will be, best remembered for his time as Spock. The first volume of his autobiography, published in 1977 during the period in which he was distancing himself from the series, was entitled I am Not Spock, a clear indication of his feelings on the situation. By 1995, after the success of the Star Trek movies, his attitudes had changed, and he wrote I am Spock, in part to undo the damage he felt he had caused with his first book, which many considered made him sound bitter about the character that given him such success. For me, and so many others, Leonard Nimoy will forever be Spock, and while I will always enjoy and admire his roles on series such as The Outer Limits and films including Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, and his late career roles and send-up appearances (such as his wonderful guest slots on The Simpsons and Futurama), it is for his time on Star Trek that I will best remember him for.


What follows is a rundown of my top ten moments for Leonard Nimoy as Spock. There was so much more to the man, of course. Visit iReckon for E.G. Wolverson's top picks for Not Spock.


10) “Return to Tomorrow” - Spock is possessed by Henoch


A rare opportunity for Nimoy to play a different character in Star Trek, as Spock's body is used by the mind one of the last three survivors of a dead planet. Henoch is charming, sexual and manipulative, and Nimoy plays the villain with aplomb.




9) “The Enemy Within” - Spock subdues Kirk


A classic episode, which sees Kirk split into two beings by a transporter malfunction: one timid and weak, one strong but vicious. Faced with the wild Kirk, Spock is forced to disable him. Though the script called for Spock to pistol whip his captain into insensibility, Nimoy objected, considering this too violent for Spock. He came up with an alternative, and the Vulcan nerve pinch was born.


8) Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Spock recovers his emotions


The first Star Trek movie sees Spock on a journey from his coldest ever persona to finally accepting his human side. He begins the film on Vulcan, coming close to fulfilling the ceremony that will finally purge him of all emotion, only to sense the call of V'Ger, the powerful space intelligence, which stirs his human side. Returning to the Enterprise and his friends, he remains utterly passionless – until communion with V'Ger causes him to realise what they both are missing. Cold knowledge and logic are nothing without emotion. As Spock finally come to terms with his own nature, so Nimoy returns to the role he had sought to leave behind, and embraces it.


7) “Mirror, Mirror” - Parallel Spock


An episode that has pervaded into popular consciousness, “Mirror, Mirror” utilises and defines a classic sci-fi trope: the parallel universe. Kirk, Scott,y, Bones and Uhura are cast into an alternative world in which they serve on the Imperial Starship Enterprise, where the counterparts of their crewmates are brutal, selfish and cruel. Then there's the Mirror Spock, complete with goatee beard. Spock always had a touch of the devil in his looks, and never more so than here. The alter ego with an “evil beard” has become a shorthand in sci-fi, fantasy and comedy, but both the script and Nimoy's performance are far subtler than that, for Mirror Spock is not an evil man, but as coldly pragmatic and logical as his counterpart in the regular, more peaceful universe.


6) Star Trek (2009) – The meeting of the Spocks


Nimoy's involvement in the reboot could have been little more than a cameo and some handy exposition, but what we got was the welcome return of an old friend. His earlier scenes, in which he helps his friends-to-be Kirk and Scotty onto the right path work well, but it's his final meeting with his own, younger self that sticks in the mind most. The contrast between the earlier Spock – repressed, superior, yet na├»ve – and his older self – wise, content and comfortable with his human side – is fascinating.


5) “This Side of Paradise” - Spock and Leila


A wonderful exploration of Spock's past and the human side he keeps buried. On the planet Omicron he is reunited with Leila Kolomi, a woman from his past who is very much in love with him. Spores released by plants on Omicron give humans a blissful high, and remove Spock's blocks on his emotions, allowing him to love Leila back. Nimoy plays Spock in a completely different way to normal, yet entirely recognisable as the same character. The final moments between Leila and Spock are tragic; Nimoy plays his recovered state with a deep, suppressed sadness that is hugely affecting to watch.


4) “The Galileo Seven” - Spock learns how to command


This episode is all about Spock. Told largely from his point of view, Spock is dropped into command when his shuttle is downed on an uncharted planetoid. With aggressive natives outside, a frightened and alienated team inside, and a rapidly closing window for rescue, Spock tries every logical course open until he finally acts in desperation. It's a great example of Nimoy's ability to make Spock both entirely alien yet wholly relatable.


3) “The Naked Time” - Spock struggles with his emotions


A very well-remembered episode, which sees the crew of the Enterprise driven into a state of hyper-emotional intoxication by a mysterious infectious agent. While the crew go to pieces around him, Spock struggles to maintain his own control. Nimoy puts in a wonderfully subtle performance, simultaneously portraying Spock's desperate attempt to hold himself together, and his previously unspoken desire to allow his emotions free reign like his crewmates.


2) “Amok Time” - The onset of pon farr


Another episode all about Spock, in which we learn more about Vulcan life and culture than in any other story. His biology driving him to mate, Spock loses his self control, becoming violent and unpredictable. Some of Nimoy's best scenes involve Spock's struggle to maintain his rationality as his emotions threaten to erupt. This episode is the ultimate expression of that side of Spock's character, only this time it isn't his human half that threatens his composure – it's pure Vulcan drive. Nimoy goes through every powerful emotion in this episode: shame, lust, rage, grief and joy.


1) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – Spock's sacrifice


Arguably the best of the Star Trek films, The Wrath of Khan is very much Kirk's story. However, Kirk story is incomplete without Spock (one of the reasons why Star Trek Generations, the first of the films not to feature Spock, doesn't quite work). While Spock has some fine interplay with McCoy, and an interesting relationship with his Vulcan protege, Kirstie Alley's Saavik. It is, however, the scenes between Kirk and Spock where the film has its emotional heart, and no more so than in those final, heart-wrenching moments. Khan is dead, but he's taken the Enterprise with him. The engine core is about to blow, unless someone goes into the lethally irradiated chamber and shuts it down. The final devastating moments between Kirk and Spock, separated by a transparent panel, as Spock, blinded and dying, gives his final words to his friend. A justifiably beloved scene by Trekkies and cinema goers alike, it was, at one point, intended to be the final death of Spock, and while his popularity meant a return for the character was decided upon before the film was even completed, it would have stood as a perfect send-off for the character. Brave, emotional yet perfectly logical, Spock sacrifices himself for his crew, and his friends. It's going to be a very difficult scene to watch from now on.