Wednesday, 16 August 2017

DANDY SPACE LOG 2-12 & 2-13

The grand finale of Space Dandy!

Season Two, Episode Twelve - Dandy's Day in Court, Baby!

Dandy stands trial for murder, as the Gogol Empire closes in.

He's Dandy, Baby: Dandy is on trial for the murder of the Lumeshian Guy Reginald on the planet Suburbia. Having heard about the presence of a rare Lumeshian on the planet at BooBies, Dandy travelled there to capture him. A DNA scan of Dandy comes up negative, but his Pyonium levels are increasing exponentially. Dandy sleeps through his entire trial.

He's Not a Space Cat, Baby: Dandy doesn't list Meow as a crewmember, and once tried to seel him to a petshop but they wouldn't buy him. Meow waited at the emergency exit during the supposed murder, and pretty quickly turns against Dandy, saying that he always thought he'd snap eventually. He spends most of the trial tweeting.

He's Just a Little Obsolete, Baby:
QT is also called as a witness, along with Scarlet and Honey. QT was minding the ship at the time of the incident. Dandy wanted to buy "one of those R2-D2 type robots" but ended up with QT, and he was too much trouble to take back.

We're Alien Hunters, Baby:

Lumeshians: An extremely rare alien species, the registration of which would fetch a fine one million woolongs at the ARC. Judging by Guy Reginald, they are tall, blue humanoids. Reginald suffers from sleep apnoeia, and had entered a state of hibernation mistaken by the coroner for death due to his unfamiliar physiology. Reginald was formerly a notorious masked wrestler.

Sundry aliens: The prosecutor of the trial is a weird jackal-shark creature. The lead judge is a toothy whale creature with a hint of Vogon about him. They both speak with a Southern drawl. The counsel for the defense is a vaguely insectoid, green quadruped.

Let's get Our Asses to BooBies, Baby: Honey isn't pleased that on his last visit to BooBies, Dandy ordered a coffee and stayed for "like, five hours." Dandy was snuggling up to Rose Reginald, Guy's wife, a tall, beautiful and very chesty humanoid.

I Know This Planet, Baby: The planet Suburbia is five thousand parsecs from planet Turbo, home to two baseball-playing, Twitter-obsessed kids called Hiroshi and Skipjack.

Phenomenology, Baby: Pyonium, or Mega-Pyonium, is a recently discovered particle that bend time and space, allowing travel across dimensions, and theoretically contains incredible levels of energy. Intense emotional states can interact with Pyonium, potentially propelling across incredible distances or across dimensions, for instance, the bloodlust and fury Hiroshi felt at his "friend" Skipjack for blocking him on Twitter propelled his Pyonium covered baseball from Turbo to Suburbia, seemingly because of the magnetic effect of Dandy's own Pyonium levels.

Dr. Duran is the galaxy's foremost expert on Mega-Pyonium. He refers to it as the God Particle. (Professor Higgs will be pleased, he never liked people using that name for his eponymous boson.)

The Bottom Line, Baby:  A pretty average episode that mostly exists to clarify what Pyonium does and set up the grand finale. The furious level of in-jkes has long settled down by ow, but the episode still finds room for references to Star Wars, Samurai Champloo, The Shining and Twelve Angry Men. The mad Dandy-esque space science is good fun. The ending is worth it, though: a thousand insectoid Gogol warriors appear outside the courthouse to capture Dandy, leading into...

WHO REVIEW: Titan Eleventh Doctor comics - Year Two

A belated review of the most recent complete run of Doctor Who comics to feature the eleventh Doctor (I may cover Ten and Twelve later, we'll see). Titan Publishing's "Eleventh Doctor, Year Two" ran from late 2015 to the end of 2016, but I've been catching up via the UK reprints in Tales from the Tardis, which appear on stands about six or seven months later. The storyline has also been published in a series of trade paperbacks: The Then and the Now, The One, and The Malignant Truth, so there's no shortage of ways to read the story.

And a truly excellent story it is. The full "year" comprises a fifteen issue storyline, from "The Then and the Now, Part One" through to "Physician, Heal Thyself," charting an epic adventure that crosses the Doctor's timeline from the depths of the Time War to the high times of the eleventh Doctor. Written by Rob Williams and Si Spurrier, the series features a number of artists, although for me, Simon Fraser's idiosyncratic style suits the story best. Regardless, there's a consistency to the story's art in spite of the mix of artists, a rare feat for an ongoing strip with different artistic contributors. It's a story that deserves a strong visual style, as it demands that the story sticks in the mind.

If you're not a fan of the Time War mythos that has become so important in modern Doctor Who, you won't enjoy this series. Although the Time War was an essential part of the backstory of the ninth and tenth Doctors, the series moved on from it during the time of the eleventh, only for it to become the driving force of the fiftieth anniversary special. The comic series revives this focus, bringing the eleventh Doctor and his comic strip companion Alice Obiefune into contact with the his war crimes. The Doctor doesn't even remember the apparent genocide at his own hands, and it is most certainly impossible for elements to be spilling out from time-locked events into his relative present. Nonetheless, the Doctor and Alice are pursued through time and space by the eponymous Then and the Now, a warping ripple in humanoid shape that is both a bounty hunter and a walking temporal paradox.

It isn't only Alice that joins the Doctor. On the course of his travels he is joined by various other adventurers, not least of whom is Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer! Anyone who's read my reviews of the seventh Doctor comics will know that I'm not a fan of Daak. He's a one-note joke on the sort of macho 90s antihero that is unbearable unless written with considerable finesse. Thankfully, then, here he is written with finesse, becoming a far better foil for the eleventh Doctor than he ever was for the seventh. It actually works very well, since the eleventh Doctor can be just as manipulative as the seventh, and has no qualms in using Daak as a blunt instrument.

Another blunt instrument the Doctor is fond of is River Song, whom he breaks out of prison to ehlp him on his mission to track down the truth of his own past. Then there's the Squire, a frankly wonderful new creation. The Squire is an elderly space knight who supposedly acted as companion to the Doctor during the War. The Doctor, however, has no memory of her, and the truth behind his faithful companion's past is just one of the mysteries he has to explore.

Events conspire to drag the Doctor and his team throughout the continuum, from a Sontaran battlefield to the prison asteroid Shada. The current crisis is entwined with the Doctor's past, and two whole issues go by without the eleventh Doctor's appaearing at all. Alice is drawn back, in an apparently impossible manoeuvre, to the depths of the Time War, to come face-to-face with the War Doctor, who then leads the storyline until future and past catch up. The War incarnation is not alone, however. Needs must as the devil drives, and he has allied himself with the Master, here presented in a previously unseen incarnation that appears as dark-haired young boy, which is even more sinister than it sounds.

Where we find the Time War, we find Daleks, and this story presents the worst, most monstrous Daleks ever. The Volatix Cabal are an elite group of Dalek mutants created to fight the Time Lords, not unlike the Cult of Skaro, except that these Daleks have taken creativity and individuality to its extremes. Twisting their bodies and minds into horrific shapes, they have driven themselves insane, and seek to spread pain and fear throughout time, screaming "ExterminHATE!" wherever they go. They are an absolutely absolutely terrifying creation, and their distorted forms are the enduring image of this story. However, Abslom Daak was born to kill Daleks.

In a story that twists and turns into paradox after anomaly, the Doctor faces consequences of his hardest choices. I often felt during the early 21st century series that there was scope for more exploration of the fallout of the Time War and the Doctor's actions within in, and these comics are a perfect example of the stories this approach can generate. Showing the Doctor in his worst but most interesting light, Titan's "Eleventh Doctor, Year Two " is a superior Doctor Who comic.

Monday, 14 August 2017

REVIEW: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

I expected something a little weirder from Valerian. The trailers and publicity materials pushed the sheer number of bizarre aliens and incredible vistas that Luc Besson has gone to lengths to recreate in the most expensive independent film in history. However, underneath the admittedly spectacular visuals and quirky asides, Valerian's story is very straightforward and pretty ordinary.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is based on a long-running French comic, Valerian et Laureline, which ran all the way from 1967 to 2010. Like many in the English-speaking world, I've never read it, although I am aware that it has had a big influence on many science fantasy writers, artists and creators over the years. This makes it hard to say whether Besson drew on other space adventure properties when he wrote and directed the movie. I'd expect it to look and feel a lot like his previous fantasy epic, The Fifth Element, but Valerian also has a distinct feel of Star Wars in many sequences. Is Besson drawing on the biggest space fantasy series ever, or is it simply that George Lucas was influenced by Valerian et Laureline as much as people say?

The opening of the film is just perfect, taking us on a tour through the history of space travel and particularly, the development of a huge space station in Earth orbit. It drifts from 2001 evocative realistic hardware to Star Trek-like interstellar diplomacy. It's exactly how I'd open a grand space opera. It introduces the primary setting of the movie, a gigantic conglomeration of alien environments clustered around the onetime space station named Alpha, the so-called City of a Thousand Planets.

Visually, the film is absolutely incredible. I've said before that modern sci-fi blockbusters have become essentially animated films, and Valerian takes this trend further even than Star Wars or Guardians of the Galaxy. Save for a handfull of scenes, almost every moment in the movie is filled with CG aliens of all shapes and sizes, or against a background of mind-boggling cityscapes, impossibly deep caverns and alien palaces. The most inventive environment appears early in the film, at the Big Market, a huge bazaar that exists in two different dimensional plains (and there was me thinking it was in Newcastle).

There's no faulting the look of the film, it's array of extraterrestrials or its fabulous locations. However, they make for a background for quite uninteresting human characters. Valerian and Laureline, spatio-temporal agents for the Human Federation, are played by Dane DeHaan and Cara Delavingne, who are very pretty but don't add a lot else. Neither actor has a great deal of charisma to me, and the two baby-faced space agents don't inspire much interest as protagonists. The actors also lack chemistry with each other, which is a problem when a laboured romance is at the heart of the story. You know the sort of thing - he sees himself as a bad boy, she thinks she's too good for him, they love each other really, surely he'll break through her shell, etc. Seen it a thousand times before.

The central plot concerns the fate of the planet Muul, a lost paradise world once inhabited by peculiar, beautiful and quite dull alien beings. There's a rot at the heart of the Federation, and the disenfranchised aliens hold the truth. Perfectly solid, if unoriginal material, and the plot chugs along quite nicely. It's energetic and fun, and there are some very entertaining action set pieces. The problem is that I can't find myself caring much about either the two leads or the pacifistic aliens. I'm more interested in the various ne'er-do-wells we glimpse in the Big Market and in the underworld of Alpha. The best character is a shapeshifting coelenterate who doesn't even make it till the end of the second act, but at least she's a sexy invertebrate and is played by Rihanna.

Good fun and very pretty, but two-dimensional and with some truly terrible dialogue. Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed it, but given the choice, I'm never going to put Valerian on instead of Guardians of the Galaxy or Star Wars, or, for that matter, The Fifth Element.

REVIEW: THE SLIDE by Victor Pemberton

Sadly, it has been reported today that Victor Pemberton, one of the truly great scriptwriters, has died. I thought this made a good occasion to re-upload my review of his highly regarded science fiction radio serial, The Slide, first broadcast in seven weekly parts in 1966.This review was written for The History of the Doctor, hence the very Doctor Who-focused elements in parts.

Victor Pemberton is best remembered by Doctor Who fans as the author of the Troughton serial Fury from the Deep, as well as the later audio release The Pescatons, starring Tom Baker. This is of course just one facet of a prolific career in television and radio (including work on the UK version of Fraggle Rock!), including this well-remembered radio serial from 1966. Contrary to popular fan myth, The Slide was never submitted as a Doctor Who story, although its success did likely have a bearing on Permberton’s later working for the series, and there are some similarities to Fury from the Deep. However, these are mostly restricted to the environmental themes of the plays, and the relentless, inhuman nature of the threat involved. If anything, The Slide has a more Quatermass­-y vibe, full as it is with realistic people and concerned scientists being caught up in unfathomable events.

Set in the small English town of ­­­­Redlow, The Slide pits it and its inhabitants against a constant onslaught from nature. At first a sudden, unexpected tremor creates a vast crack in the main road; then, at night, a thick, greenish slurry begins to seep from the crack, sliding impossibly up the road against the gradient. A deceptively gentle pace continually piles events upon the characters, so that each episode drives inexorably towards a terrifying conclusion. The Mud forms a continuous slide in the night, encroaching further and further into the town, while at day it solidifies into an immovable, impenetrable mass.

Themes of environmentalism and the conflict between human progress and natural order are at the forefront here. The play begins with the small scale crisis of townsfolk against a progressive developer who has made sweeping changes to the town’s environs. This is then reflected in macrocosm, as the Mud sweeps away the town to create its own environment, one of stillness and darkness. It even touches on an almost Gaia-like hypothesis, as the Mud is revealed to not only be alive, but intelligent, and some come to believe that the Earth herself is reacting against humanity, endeavouring to scour them from the surface. It does take the scientific elite an astonishingly long time to realise that it is sunlight that is causing the Mud to solidify in daytime, thus presenting a solution, but otherwise the bouts of theorising provide some of the most intriguing and enjoyable segments.

What makes the serial so effective, however, is its focus on real human characters, brought to life by some of the era’s most talented actors. The onslaught of the Mud leads to the rural townsfolk to lose their faith, to turn against one another, or to sink into depression. It’s a grim portrait of human frailty under pressure - although the revelation that the Mud is exerting a hypnotic influence is perhaps a bit much. Maurice Denham portrays ­­­­Hugh Deverall’s gradual collapse from influential developer to incoherent madman with alarming realism, while Dr Richards, the local GP, struggles to maintain his stiff upper-lipped composure in face of the onslaught. Meanwhile, the great Roger Delgado raises above a phony South American accent (“The surface of thee Earth is like thee theen crust of a pie…”) to create a powerful performance as the geologist Joseph Gomez.

The writing and performances are ably supported by some sterling work by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Perfectly created everyday sounds are thrown into sharp relief by the screeching whine emitted by the encroaching Mud, amongst which is some brave, highly effective use of silence. The Slide is a classic piece of science fiction, a masterful look back at the days of truly great radio.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Comics Round-Up: First in Ages!

I cut waaay down on my comics purchasing this year due to the fact that the things cost an absolute fortune to keep up with. Currently, I have only one item on my pull list: Ghostbusters 101, which I plan to review in full once it's finished. However, I decided to pick up a few one-offs over the last few weeks just to see what new things were on the shelf, and thought it was high time for a little round-up. Plus, I'm going to be catching up on some recommended titles in the trades and graphic novels, for review as well.

America #4 (Marvel) I was so up for an America Chavez series, but this wasn't all that. It's interesting exploring her backstory, and I guess that was always how a series centring on her had to go, but America is one of those characters whose mystery is a big part of her appeal. That, and punching things. Maybe this was an off-issue, but among all the glitzy visuals, the story didn't do much for me.

Astonishing X-Men #1 (Marvel)

The X-Men, who have about twelve series on the go at any one time, get their latest issue one. And, well, it's not bad. There's a strong hook - the Shadow King is making his comeback via the minds of the world's psychics, and almost overcomes Psylocke. She calls out to various mutants to help fight him: Angel, Bishop, Gambit (who comes in two with Fantomex), Rogue and Old Man Logan. There's some very clunky dialogue as different characters (some from different universes) get each other up to speed, but the interplay is pretty fun otherwise. The last page reveal, while a bit predictable, is effective enough.

Bill & Ted Save the Universe #2 (Boom!)

Blast, I missed the first issue. I'll have to keep my eyes open for it. This is a treat. They've been to the past, they've been to the future, they've been all around the afterlife, but one place they haven't been is outer space. Apart from the obvious fun to be had with Wyld Stallyns meeting aliens, this series introduces their long lost mothers into the mix, plugging a big gap in the narrative of the films by revealing that they've actually been travelling the universe to prepare other civilisations for the coming of the Stallyns. Rufus is satisfyingly shifty and the dialogue for the guys is spot on. The art by Bachan and Guimaraes fits the mood perfectly as well. Definitely plan to pick up issue three.

Centipede #1-#2 (Dynamite)

Just out in digital, and this is really pretty good. Adapting an extremely simplistic Atari game into a comic is always going to be a challenge, no matter how much fun it is, but this works, because it allows itself to be a simple tale and focuses on straightforward beats. Elements like the last man alive and an unstoppable threat never get old. There are some great emotional beats in here as well, which come at you in between the highly effective monster attack panels. It's a shame we ca't escape Joseph Campbell even on an alien planet, but this is nonetheless a fun way to spend a few minutes.

Shade, the Changing Girl #8 (DC's Young Animal)

DC's latest imprint includes this new update/sequel to Shade, the Changing Man, and I've only now come round to reading an issue. Young Loma, an avian alien from the planet Meta, follows in the footsteps of her hero Rac Shayde and comes to Earth. I finally picked this up because the cover features rainbow-feathered dromaeosaurs and that is guaranteed to appeal to me. Actual dinosaur content of the issue is minimal. It took me a while to get up to speed with what was happening here, but the disjointed uncertainty of the story is the point. Interesting, probably needs to be picked up as a trade so I can really get to grips with it. 

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Top of the tree in what's ostensibly still the most powerful country in the world, and somehow they still don't think it's good enough.

They march in, angry that the chief figure of slavery and oppression is no longer permitted as a figure of reverence.

And when violence breaks out, as it so easily does, the weight of the law will crash down hardest on those who are fighting to recognise that their people are the oppressed, not these conservative cretins. How many neo-Nazi, modern KKK bastards will face actual consequences for their actions today? How many black counter-protesters will see the inside of a cell?

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

TREK REVIEW: Star Trek Continues 9 - "What Ships Are For"

Before they begin their two-part finale, the Star Trek Continues team present a stand-alone episode that embodies exactly what classic Star Trek was all about. "What Ships Are For" is a story with a strong, simple but effective moral message that would fit in perfectly in Trek's classic run, although it has a particular resonance with today's concerns.

The episode is set on and around Hyalinus, a misshapen asteroid that is inhabited by a sophisticated race of people who are slowly making their way out into the wider universe. When Kirk and co. beam to the surface in order to make official contact with the Hyalini, they find a monochrome world, completely leached of colour. It's a great visual hook, and particularly striking in contrast to the rainbow colours of the series as a whole. It becomes clear that Hyalinus is bathed in solar radiation that prevents the eyes' cone cells from functioning, so that no one on the surface can see colour. It's a bit of a question then why the Hyalini evolved cones in the first place, although it's said that the radiation has been increasing over the last few centuries so presumably once they functioned normally. The increasing radiation is also causing a sickness to appear among the population.

Kirk takes an inhabitant of the planet back to the Enterprise - the youngest and prettiest, obviously - and introduces her to the world of colour. It becomes clear that there is another species in the system, the Abicians, who are considered backward, savage immigrants and refugees, violently kept away from Hyalinus. However, it becomes clear that there are thousands of Abicians living on the planet, fully integrated. Should the Federation help counteract the radiation and allow the people of the planet to see in colour again, they will be able to see the aliens living among them, with potentially violent consequences.

It's a pretty obvious metaphor for racism and xenophobia, but I enjoy episodes with a strong, in-your-face moral sometimes. Just like "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield," this episode knocks you on the head with how ridiculous it is to judge people based on the colour of their skin, but being obvious about it doesn't make it any less true or important. A little more subtle is the pro-refugee message, pushing the message that a nation cannot thrive by shielding it from outsiders, something that both the US and the UK could learn to accept. There's a fine line that points out that compassion can exist alongside fear and pride, another thing we could stand to learn.

It's a decent script, written by Kipleigh Brown, who also plays Lt. Smith (who surprisingly barely features in the episode). The are some elements, particularly the interplay between Kirk, Spock and Bones, which don't flow very well and feel forced in. The main cast, though, improve in their roles all the time, with Vic Mignogna now giving an almost perfect reenactment of Shatner's Kirk. There are good turns by Elizabeth Maxwell as young alien Sekara and Anne Lockhart as her foster mother Thaius. Lockhart is another actor who is best known for a major sci fi role, in this case Sheba in the original Battlestar Galactica. The big draw here though is John de Lancie, making a powerful guest appearance as Galisti, ruler of Hyalinus. It's a welcome surprise that he isn't playing Q, but an entirely new character, one who has some excellent confrontation with Kirk. He's undeniably a highlight of the episode.

Although there are elements in the episode that call back to the series as a whole, "What Ships Are For" plays down it's connections to the Trek mythology. There's a mention of yet another two Constitution-class ships being lost from service, which is presumably going to tie into the finale and the Enterprise's part in the revamp of Starfleet. There's another moment which ties into the Motion Picture, which signifies the end point of Star Trek Continues, and also provided a laugh: the crew get their first glimpse of the beige pyjamas that pass as uniforms in that movie, and promptly declare that they'll never be seen dead in them. It's a fun little nod to the movie, and also ties into the overall episode with its tale of drabness and lost colour. The only other element I picked up that tied into the mythology was that the Enterprise's next mission is to Daran 5, which would be a follow-up to the events of the third season episode "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky."

Beyond these gentle nods, though, this a fun, effective episode that stands proudly on its own two feet.

"What Ships Are For" can be watched here.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Two short films

Two short animations that have been gaining attention and are worth sharing far and wide. The first only went up two days ago, and celebrates love and diversity. Too cute for words.

"In a Heartbeat" is by Beth David and Esteban Bravo.

The second film has been around since February but somehow I've only just stumbled upon it. It's an excellent sf short and cooperation vs. greed.

"Wire Cutters" was made by Jack Anderson and is hosted by

Saturday, 29 July 2017

DANDY SPACE LOG 2-10 & 2-11

I now have my hands on Space Dandy (thanks, Helen!) so I can finally complete my Dandy Space Logs. Here's the penultimate entry, with the two most romantic episodes in the Dandy canon.

Season Two, Episode Ten - Lovers Are Trendy, Baby!

To shake off her meathead ex, Scarlet hires Dandy to be her stand-in boyfriend.

He's Dandy, Baby: Dandy thinks he's worth way more than 750 woolongs per hour. He's a decent skier and a hell of a swimmer. He does have a tendency to get overexcited and steal things of nearby children, such as toboggans and binoculars, but he insists it's just borrowing. While on the beach with Scarlet he flirts with other girls, and later takes her to BooBies, where he flirts with Honey. On the other hand, he can be pretty gallant, offering to give Scarlet a piggyback home when her shoe is broken, fighting off an alien spider (and destroying her apartment in the process), and standing up to her ex. While he's with Scarlet, he's a lot luckier, catching a bunch of new aliens (see below), although it's actually Scarlet who captures the bunch at the ski resort.

The Scarlet Woman, Baby: Scarlet broke up with her hunky boyfriend Dolph months ago but she's been unable to shake him off, although Dandy points out that she hasn't been completely straight with him. Her solution is to take her paid holiday and hire Dandy to pose as her boyfriend. She draws up a contract and a rigid schedule of fun, and specified that there be no unsolicited physical contact (i.e. no kissing) initiated by Dandy. Although they continually aggravate each other, Scarlet and Dandy do start to develop feelings for each other. It's pretty likely she picks his outfits for the trip as well, unless he's secretly into the preppy, knotted sweatshirt look. Scarlet looks pretty amazing in her swimsuit (it manages to stay just the right side of fan service). Both Scarlet and Dandy are huge fans of a star called Chuck, who starred in such movies as Karate Kommandoes.

When Dolph turns up, he's flying a huge mecha, and blows up half of the orbital they're on out of jealousy. He also tries to hypnotise Scarlet, which is pretty damned evil. Fortunately, he's arrested on charges of assault and stalking, and is banned from going within ten thousand parsecs of Scarlet.

They're Sidekicks, Baby: Having spent a week hunting an alien on Dandy's say-so for no reward, Meow and QT basically bully him into taking Scarlet's job.

I Know This Planet, Baby: The planet Trendy is a moon-like rock, but it is covered in pressure domes that house different environments, including a ski resort and a beach. There are orbital stations as well, including Yamashita Colony, where you'll find Cafe Bar Crystal. There's also the Orbital Escay, an escalator that takes visitors into orbit to watch fireworks. Trendy has Trendy police, who are pretty trendy.

They definitely speak English in Dandy's universe (at least in the English dub, of course).

We're Alien Hunters, Baby:

At the ARC, we catch a glimpse of a gigantic metallic alien from nebula M78. As well as being a real nebula in Orion, this pegs the alien as being an Ultraman.

Dandy also catches a giant cuttlefish alien which goes for 5000 woolongs, and a bunch of aliens at the ski resort that look like a snowman, an oni and even Santa Claus.

Scarlet is freaked out by a spider in her bathroom.. which is fair enough, because it's the horrifying head-spider-thing from The Thing.

The Bottom Line, Baby: A very sweet, heartwarming episode, although those closing scenes on Yamashita are a gutpunch. Everything is back to normal at the end, of course, although you can't watch this without desperately wanting Dandy and Scarlet to get together.

Friday, 28 July 2017

REVIEW: Archer: Dreamland

Archer is possibly the best, most definitely the funniest, animated series of the 21st century so far. Over its now eight seasons, it's moved from international espionage, through adventures under the sea and in outer space, to season-long adventures in cocaine smuggling and the PI business. And now, it's become a film noir, albeit a batshit crazy one.

Season seven ended with Archer grievously wounded, face down in a swimming pool. As we enter season eight, subtitled Dreamland, we find he has been lying in a coma for three months. In his head, he has conjured up his own fantasy world, set in 19-something (probably about 1947; amazingly, this is the least anachronistic season yet). Like the previous run, Archer is part of a PI agency, only this time, it's just him and his partner. Or at least, it was.

Following the death of the great George Coe in 2015, Archer's long-suffering valet Woodhouse has been absent from the series (although he was recast for a single season for Archer Vice). In a surprisingly touching sentiment, Dreamland is not only dedicated to Coe, but the death of Woodhouse is the driving plot point, occurring both in “reality,” and in Archer's fantasy, in which Woodhouse was previously he partner. Which is a hell of a step-up, even if he was still a heroin junkie.

The season-long arc revolves around Archer's quest to discover who is responsible for his partner's murder. It's the most coherent storyline we've yet had from a season of Archer, which was pretty all over the place even during the Vice story, but as Archer himself says, he does have a tendency to get sidetracked. Limiting the run to only eight episodes helps, of course; there just isn't room for too much meandering adventure. Archer's fantasy world is populated by fictionalised versions of various characters from the series, including all his former-ISIS chums. Some of the changes are fairly minor and predictable: Cheryl/Carol is now Charlotte Vander-Tunt, even richer than her “real” counterpart and just as unhinged; Lana is a lounge singer who you don't want to mess with, and Mallory is the owner of said lounge, the Dreamland club, and also a mob boss. Known simply as “Mother,” she slips into that role extremely comfortably.

Other characters are changed in unexpected ways. Cyril, always a dick but pretty sympathetic in a pathetic sort of way, becomes an out-and-out villain as a crooked cop. Pam undergoes a sex change, albeit with the same face and voice, as his partner Detective Poovey. Her personality is much the same as usual, albeit less sex-crazed. Then there are characters who slip into the postwar environs just perfectly: Ray is a musician for an otherwise all-black band, and Krieger is Krieger, as always. A very welcome addition to the regular cast is Jeffrey Tambor as Trexler, Mother's opposite number once again as a rival crime lord. Oh, and Barry's back, although now he's called Drake and he's more insane than ever. (Other Barry's back as well.) Seriously, his storyline comes to the fire in the final two episodes and he is absolutely terrifying.

Everything is done in Archer's signature style, with action, violence and inappropriate humour to spare, and the animation is gorgeous. Although the story is more concise, there are still plenty of bizarre non sequiturs. It's a weird set-up, all told, with the story never quite clear about how much is real or not. Everything is supposedly in Archer's head, but not only does he have flashbacks to WWII, there are long scenes that don't involve him, and involve knowledge that is kept from him. There's even a running joke concerning Poovey's fantasy involving a dozen Chinese whores (really, it's easier to watch it than to explain it), which is supposedly a fantasy in the mind of a fantasy character. Possibly, just possibly, this really is a parallel universe, which just might be born out by some of Archer's dialogue in the last episode. If so, it makes the events mean something more. Because, after all the developments and twists, there's no real resolution. I wasn't expecting Archer to wake up, but for there to be some kind of psychological resolution for him. Even after a thrilling adventure, it all feels a bit inconsequential.

Which might not matter if Dreamland focused more on humour than story. Try as it might, this season just isn't as funny as the previous ones were. While the last few seasons haven't quite lived up to the original ISIS years, they've still been pretty hilarious, while Dreamland feels a bit tired joke-wise. The adventure makes up for this, but only until that last episode, where it all feels a little pointless. Season nine has already been revealed to continue Archer's fantasy, in a new setting as Danger Island. Maybe we'll get some kind of closure with the tenth, and final, season. Or maybe there'll be a different fantasy setting with every episode. Personally, I'm still holding out for a Trek-themed “STARcher.”

This review was typed in Georgia.
This is a fine article on depression, dark thoughts, and interdimensional chaos adventures.

Rick, Morty, and finding comfort in cartoons

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Comics to Screen: Spider-Man: Homecoming observations and spoilers


Liz would appear to be the MCU's version of both Liz Allen, one of Peter Parker's many romantic interests in the comics, and Valeria Toomes, daughter of the Vulture. Liz was the primary live interest of Parker in the Spectacular Spider-Man's first TV season., where she was portrayed as mixed race rather than the comics' traditional apple pie American blonde. In the Ultimate Spider-Man comics, Liz becomes Firestar, the superhero who was part of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. Sony was previously planning a spin-off movie featuring a team of female superheroes, and while it looks like this has been cancelled, if it ever gets the go-ahead again, Firestar would be a likely inclusion. Liz also has links to Flash, Ned and Harry Osborn in the comics, and is the stepbrother of the villain Molten Man, although she doesn't appear to have any siblings in this version. Valeria Toomes tries to distance herself from her father's activities in the comics, and eventually works for SHIELD. Again, it's easy to see this becoming part of the narrative if the character returns to the MCU in the future.

Michelle Jones likes to be known as MJ, confirming that she is the equivalent of Mary Jane Watson, albeit as a new and very different character. While she doesn't have much in common with Peter Parker's girlfriend and sometime wife, she does act as an observer character keeping him on his toes in the same way, and making her MJ hints very strongly that the two of them will get together in the future of the MCU. I'd lay good money that the next Spidey film will see them develop something of a romance, but will also introduce Gwen Stacey (or an equivalent character) to complicate matters.

Donald Glover plays petty criminal Aaron Davies, and mentioned having a nephew in the borough. That nephew is Miles Morales, the second Spider-Man of the Ultimate Comics universe and currently one of two Spider-Man, along with Parker, in the mainline Marvel comics. Glover voices Miles in the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series, and campaigned to play Spider-Man during the run-up to The Amazing Spider-Man. Director Watts was aware of this and cast Glover in his movie, setting up Miles for potential inclusion in the MCU in future.

Jacob Batalon's character Ned is probably named after of Ned Leeds, a recurring character in the comics, although he has no official last name in the films yet. In the comics, he is a friend and rival of Parker at the Daily Bugle, and is eventually brainwashed to become the third villain known as the Hobgoblin. There is virtually no chance that Ned here is going to live the life of Ned Leeds in the comics, and hasn't much in common with that character. Exec. producer Eric Hauserman Carroll states that Ned is a composite of several characters, but the character he has most in common with is Ganke Lee, best friend of Miles Morales. Ganke goes by the name Ned as an alias.


The criminal called Gargan is best known in the comics as the Scorpion, hinted at, not exactly subtly, by the scorpion tattoos on his neck in the film. The version in the film is based on the Ultimate comics version of the character, who was a petty criminal. As well as being a recurrent villain as the Scorpion, he becomes one of several characters to take on the Venom symbiote, and even acts as Spider-Man for a short time, albeit in a not-very-heroic way. Given that Sony have resurrected their plans for a Venom movie, I think it's highly likely we'll see Gargan as either the Scorpion in the next Spider-Man film, the new Venom, or both. The rights issue is complicated around reusing characters from this film, however.

The film features two versions of classic Spider-Man villain the Shocker, who wields gauntlets that produces sonic shockwaves. In a nice touch, the gauntlets leave a yellow residue on his jacket sleeves which approximates the look of the comic version's costume. Initially it is Jackson Brice, better known as Montana, who wields the gauntlets and the name Shocker, taking the lead from the Spectacular Spider-Man animated series, which combines the two characters. He doesn't last long, and is replaced by Herman Schultz, the traditional holder of the title.

Sony's previous Spider-Verse lineup included Sinister Six, which went on the backburner along with much of their plans, in spite of a lot of set-up being included in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. However, with the Venom movie back on the cards, we might see Sinister Six enter production after all. The Vulture was an original member of the Six, with the Shocker joining the Sinister Six and Sinister Seven at different points. The Scorpion never technically joined the Sinister Six, but Mac Gargan was part of the team during his time as Venom, and he was a member of the equivalent group, the Insidious Six, in the classic 90s Spider-Man cartoon, and a couple of versions of the team in the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon series. As all three villains survive the events of Homecoming, there's a pretty good chance they'll be in the Six should the movie eventually materialise.

Michael Chernus's character, Phineus Mason, is better known as the Tinkerer, an inventor of great skill who has provided numerous comicbook villains with technology and equipment, and has been affiliated with the Sinister Six, the Ultimate Six and the Masters of Evil in various iterations. In Homecoming, he adapts Crossbones's weaponry into Shocker's gauntlets and creates the Vulture's flying armour from Chitauri and Stark technology. His whereabouts are unconfirmed at the end of the film, so it's a cert that we'll see him again. Odds on he creates the Scorpion suit for Gargan.


Among the many names listed in the credits are some notable inclusions among Liz's group of friends. Jorge Lendeborg plays Jason Ionello, J. J. Totah is Seymour O'Reilly and Ethan Dizon is Tiny McKeever, all part of the general gang of popular dickheads in classic Spider-Man comics and animated shows. More surprisingly, traditional Parker-love interest Betty Brant is listed, played by 16-year-old Angourie Rice. Betty Brant is normally based at the Daily Bugle during Parker's journalist career, rather than a kid as she is here. Tiffany Espenson plays Cindy, who is likely a reference to Cindy Moon, who has quite recently been introduced as the superhero Silk in the comics, a character who was bitten by the same spider as Parker.

Most of the teachers are basic background Spider-Man characters, but Coach Wilson, played by Hannibal Buress, dates back further, to Stan Lee's 1955 creation Meet Miss Bliss, in the pre-Marvel days. The headmaster of the school, Principal Morita, is seemingly a descendant of Jim Morita of the Howling Commandos, and is played by Kenneth Choi, who played the earlier Morita in both Captain America: The First Avenger and Agents of SHIELD.

Director and producer Kirk Thatcher appears briefly as an ageing punk on the streets, reprising his cameo from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (he's the arsehole on the bus who Spock nerve-pinches). This conclusively proves that the MCU and Star Trek share the same universe.

Some guys just doing their job

Damage Control, the clean-up company here owned, like everything else, by Stark Industries, first appeared in 1988, gaining their own title in 1989. They've appeared several times since then, leading their own comedic adventures while also being significant players in major Marvel Comics events. This is there first appearance in the MCU, although the film makes it clear that they've been doing the hands-on work behind the scenes since Avengers Assemble, although previously we've only seen SHIELD agents cleaning up battle sites. In the comics, the company was initially jointly owned by Tony Stark and Wilson Fisk, and given the timescale here, there's no reason this can't be true of the MCU. It's founded by Anne-Marie Hoag, played here by Tyne Daly, and the character is the current owner of the company in the comics. Two years ago, ABC ordered a pilot for a Damage Control live-action TV series from Ben Karlin, intended as a comedy series set within the MCU, but so far there has been little news on this. Given the appearance of the company in Homecoming, it's quite likely the series will be developed at some point. 

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

REVIEW: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Marvel and Sony have made friends again, and the fruit of their joint labours is the latest Spider-Man, the sixth of the modern era. (How you count it overall is matter of debate.) Fans sighed a deep cynical sigh when the Spidey cinematic series was rebooted for the second time in about five years, following the Amazing Spider-Man franchise, which was cut short after it failed to pull the crowds as expected. Young Tom Holland became the second Englishman to play Peter "radiaoctive spider-bite" Parker in last year's Captain America: Civil War, which introduced this newest take on a character who first appeared in 1962 and has been swinging across screens for almost as long. Impressively, director Jon Watts and his writing team have managed to create a film that feels both modern and very traditional.

Taking Peter Parker back to high school is the best thing they could have made. Although he didn't spend all that long at school in the comics, there's something right about setting his inaugural adventures during his formative years as a wee fifteen-year-old. Watts has made a very canny choice in his approach, deliberately giving the film the feel of classic John Hughes movies. The language is bluer but the humour less so, but overall there's a definite feeling of The Breakfast Club, with a little hint of Ferris Bueler's Day Off (and some very deliberate references to that last one). On the other hand, the kids deal with very modern problems, no one is ever more than an inch away from their phone, and everything is on YouTube. It's a film for teens that also appeals to anyone who remembers being a teen.

Tom Holland is absolutely spot-on as this younger version of Parker. This is a Parker film more than a Spider-Man one, and it's clear that Watts has more interest in the kid's personal life than his superheroics, but that's to the film's benefit, not it's detriment. We've had plenty of superhero battles lately; it's on its characters that a film like this succeeds or fails. Holland is perhaps the greatest screen Spider-Man we've ever had. He was a big success in Civil War, but it's here that he proves he can hold a feature, indeed a franchise. He gives Parker an easygoing but slightly nervy charm, and easily convinces as a brilliant but uncertain American teenager, in spite of being a 21-year-old Englishman. (Amusingly, Holland attended the Bronx Science High for a short time in preparation of the role, and no one believed he was playing Spider-Man.) He's signed up six films, including three Spider-Man films, so we have two Spideys and two team-ups to look forward to.

Peter Parker is nothing without his supporting cast, though. Spider-Man's story has always been a soap opera, full of love triangles, close friendships, rivalries and complex relationships. Homecoming makes this into one of its greatest strengths. Parker has to balance his "Stark internship" (i.e. his trainee Avenger status), his relationship with his aunt, his friendships and difficulties at school, potential romances, and a ruthless villain who, in classic Spider-Man style, is linked to his life in unexpected ways. It's a tangled web, indeed.

Thankfully, the other players in the film are uniformly excellent. The loudest shout-out has to go to Jacob Batalon as Ned, Parker's best friend and uber-nerdy computer geek, who stumbles upon Parker's secret and spends much of the film squeeing at his role in a superhero narrative. I'd happily watch a Ned spin-off, where he amiably goes about his business thwarting villains with tech smarts and sudden bursts of courage. On the other side, there's Tony Revolori as Flash Thompson, who is both Parker's quiz team rival and the popular dickhead of the school. If this sounds an unlikely combination, it is, but it works because of the way this version of Flash is presented. Unlike the traditional football jock, the school bully concept has been updated to the overconfident but maladjusted rich kid, who's always going to get what he wants and doesn't give a shit about anyone else.

This updating and, in some cases, complete rewriting of characters works very well. A case in point being Homecoming's MJ, no longer Mary Jane but Michelle Jones, played by Zendaya. Why she's the main female credit on the film I don't know; apparently she's a big thing in the States. However famous she is, she does a brilliant job of making the sulky outsider MJ into one of the best things of the film. Completely unlike the MJ we know from the comics, rather a new character who is positioned to take her place in the narrative. This MJ has the vibe of Ally Sheedy's character in The Breakfast Club (she even goes to detention voluntarily). Some people have, predictably, kicked off about the changes to characters, especially the race changes for the, originally all-white, set-up, but this is a more accurate reflection of how a school in America looks today. And we know that there's a whole Spider-Verse of different versions of Parker and his associates, so there's room for wildly different interpretations of classic characters.

What I don't understand is why she is credited and publicised so much higher than Laura Harrier, who portrays Liz, who is somehow top of both the brainy and popular cliques and Parker's love interest for the movie. Harrier gives a very sweet, likeable performance but isn't a pushover (one thing Spider-Man has long been good at is strong-minded female characters). Again, Liz is a variation on an established comics character, tweaked for this new telling, and forms a vital part of the new ensemble - far more vital than MJ does.

Another fine example of this: Adrian Toomes, aka the Vulture. Michael Keaton is exceptional in the role, giving a very real performance as the most three-dimensional villain we've ever seen in a Marvel movie. It's a common complaint that the villains in the MCU are paper-thin, with the notable exception of Loki. Ego was a huge improvement in the recent Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but really, neither Loki nor Ego are particularly complex, although they are better characterised than most. Toomes, however, is an ordinary man pushed to extraordinary actions by a events beyond his control. He is a man desperately trying to take back control, for his own sake, and his family's. Both the script and Keaton's performance sell this perfectly, giving us a villain who has a genuine moral code that happens to be at odds with the majority's, a character with actual personality instead of a list of traits. And he is as unlike the life-force sucking Vulture of the comics as he could be.

Toomes is driven to his extreme, extra-legal career by Stark Industries' appropriation of all alien and unfeasible technology that lies around the MCU following the various climactic battles. It's a logical extension of these battles that a salvage industry would develop to take advantage of the repercussions, and equally feasible that the powers that be would try to take this source of profit for themselves. That said powers are wholly or partially responsible for the destruction in the first place is all the more effective. It's a better and more subtle examination of the nature of the 1%, corporate greed and collateral damage than Batman vs. Superman could ever hope to manage. It's also notable that both Keaton's Vulture and his Batman could believably exist in this world (different publishers not withstanding), and would be diametrically opposed to one another. Birdman, of course, is the evolutionary midpoint between the two.

The opposite party to Toomes in Homecoming, then, is Iron Man. Some worried that this was going to be an Iron Man film in all but name, but it's Parker's film through and through. What Stark provides is a mentor figure and provider of hardware, and he's surprisingly mature in both counts. There's finally a sense that Stark has actually learnt from his past mistakes and is trying to make sure others don't make the same, but it's never at the expense of Parker's development. "If you're nothing without the suit, you don't deserve it," becomes this film's version of "With great power comes great responsibility," and it's just as vital to Parker's understanding of his role as hero. And while Stark is the opposite of Toomes and they are pit against each other, they never meet, with their battle for control occurring entirely through the proxy of young Parker.

The only point that the film falls down is the actual battles between Spider-Man and the Vulture. While the action is, for the most part, very impressive, as we've come to expect from Marvel, but the climactic final confrontation is so overly busy that it's almost impossible to tell what's going on. There are flashes on interesting visual effects, but they're rather lost in the maelstrom. There's a sense that the huge battle is only there because of convention, whereas the main dramatic beats have already been dealt with. Still, this is a pretty small complaint for a film that gets so much right.

Whotopia Issue 31 is now available

To read the latest issue of fanzine Whotopia just click the image above. As well as the usual mix of Who-related articles and reviews, this issue is dedicated to the maestro of scriptwriting, Robert Holmes. Each one of his stories has been reviewed (I got to cover Terror of the Autons, Talons of Weng-Chiang and The Ribos Operation, all absolute classics - but then, aren't most of his scripts?) The issue also includes the fourth part of my "Master Who?" series, covering the villainous Yank, Eric Roberts.

The issue is also available to purchase in a glossy paper format here, for about a fiver.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Star Trek Planetary Classification Guide

The following is based on the planetary classification system used in Gregory Mandell's Star Trek Star Charts and Chris Adamek's variant found at The Final Frontier, themselves based on the planetary classes so far named in televised Star Trek (classes D, H, J, K, L, M, N, T and Y). I've tweaked it considerably, though, to hopefully make it more closely match both what we've seen on screen and the types of planets found in reality. It has also incorporated David Sudarsky's gas giant classification scheme.

The classification scheme used on Trek is based around class-M being an Earth-type planet. In the original series we saw numerous class-M planets that ranged from being virtually identical to the Earth to all manner of oddly hued worlds, but all with a breathable atmosphere (except for Arret, which was described as class-M in spite of having lost its atmosphere). Other than the one class-K planet (Mudd), we hear very little about other classes, but the simple rule remained M = habitable.

From the movies and TNG onwards, more classes were introduced, such as the barely habitable class-H, the gas giant class-J and the barren class-D. The latter has been used very inconsistently, applying to a ringed gas planet in Voyager "Emanations" and the arid but habitable planet in Voyager "Gravity." TNG introduced class-L as a planet with a breathable atmosphere but otherwise unsuited to animal life (at least long-term), but Voyager gave us several class-L planets with humanoid civilisations (in the episodes "Muse" and "The 37s," notably). Over the years, the idea that only class-M planets are habitable has been lost, with Mandell's scheme including various classes that would have been included under M in the original Trek. I've tried to centre the scheme back on class-M here.

Enterprise revealed that M stands for "Minshara," a Vulcan term. TNG "The Royale" featured an obscure "Transjovian" class-K with a thick cold atmosphere, that I've tried to incorporate into the below scheme. The hellish Class Y was created for Voyager "Demon" and appeared a couple of times since, and the Class T ultragiant was featured in Voyager "Good Shepherd." Other classes mentioned over the years, such as Theta-class planetoids, class-9 gas giant and the Klingon Q'tahl class don't fit into this scheme. Anything new that is revealed in Star Trek: Discovery or the next movie will be incorporated later.

(Images taken from various sources. Classes F, G, H, L, T, V, X and Y rendered by Chris Adamek at The Final Frontier. Classes A and O nicked from Wookiepedia. Classes B, D, E, I, J, K, M, N1, N2, P and Q are all photgraphs of real planetary bodies. Kudos if you can identify them all. )

Class A

Hot zone/lunar orbit

E.g. Gothos
Class A planets are young, rocky planetoids, the surface of which is kept at least 50% molten due to the proximity of the parent star or planet, via direct heating or gravitational effects. The atmosphere is thin, boiled away by the intense heat but replaced by volcanic outgassing. Due to the tenuous nature of the atmosphere, the heat released by the volcanic activity quickly dissipates into space.
Life forms: none

Class B
Ferrous/iron planet

Hot zone/ecosphere
E.g. Mercury, Kepler-10b
Small, mostly metallic rocky planetoids. Class B worlds exhibit a highly iron-rich crust, with a magnetic core and no mantle. Atmosphere thin to negligible, with little to no heat retention. The surface varies from extremely hot to cold dependent on position near star, and can exhibit molten surface areas. The night side of the planetoid will fail to retain the heat exhibited on the day side, left a frigid wasteland. These planetoids are inimical to life.
Life forms: none

Class C
Carbon planet

Hot zone/ecosphere
E.g Janssen (55 Cancri e)
Predominantly carbon-based planet, appearing blackened from orbit due to large deposits of graphite. The pressure within the mantle and outer core produces diamond deposits. The atmosphere is composed primarily of carbon dioxide, rich in hydrocarbons and monoxide smogs. Little to no surface water is to be expected on the surface of a carbon planet.
Life forms: anaerobic carbon-based life may be possible

Class D 

Hot zone/ecosphere/cold zone/lunar orbit
E.g. Luna, Ceres, Regula, Paan Mokar
Rocky bodies varying in size from the tiniest planetessimal to planet-sized moons. Common around larger planetary bodies and in asteroid belts. Atmosphere tenuous, although water ice can manifest at the poles. Although naturally lifeless, Class D worlds may be adapted through use of pressure domes or oxygen caverns.
Life forms: none.

Class E
Ice dwarf

Cold zone/outer cloud
E.g. Pluto, Eris, Psi 2000
Small, sub-planetary bodies common in the outer star system, in the orbit of Class I planets, through the scattered disc and out into the Oort Belt. With a rocky crust covered in nitrogen ice, and an atmosphere tenuous in the extreme, Class E worlds are incapable of retaining the limited heat they receive from their distant parent star. There may, however, be subsurface water, heated by mantle activity, which can provide the basis for colonisation through pressure domes.
Life forms: rare, microbial.

Class F

Hot zone/ecosphere
E.g. Excalbia
Young planets that are still developing, Class F planets represent the earliest stage of the formation of a habitable world. With partially molten surfaces, atmospheres rich in reactive gases and heavy vulcanism, Class F planets are inimical to life like ours, but have, on rare occasions, developed inorganic life, when present in the hot zone and continued in their plastic state for long enough. Those further out will cool over billions of years to become Class G, the next step in their evolution.
Life forms: metal-carbon complex (e.g Excalbian)

Class G

Hot zone/ecosphere
E.g. Janus VI
With a primarily silicate-based crust, these planets have cooled and solidified from Class F to form a more stable surface, although vulcanism is still rife. Water has begun to condense to form oceans, amid centuries of constant rainfall. The atmosphere and the life that may develop on the surface are intertwined; as the rich carbon dioxide atmosphere allows early photosynthetic life to flourish, these organisms flood the atmosphere with oxygen, pushing towards the next stage in its evolution. Over many millions of years further, these Cambrian-stage planets cool further to become classes H, K, L, M, N, O and P, dependent on various factors.
Life forms: primitive organic or silicon-based life, more rarely advanced silicon-based life (e.g Horta)

Class H
Extreme desert

Hot zone/ecosphere
E.g. Tau Cygna III, Shelia, Delta Vega, Nimbus III
Rocky planets with primarily silicate crusts, Class H planets are true desert worlds. With very limited surface and atmospheric water, and high levels of surface radiation, Class H planets are not conducive to complex ecosystems, although hardy life may develop and flourish. Milder Class H environments may be colonised by humanoids with some adaptation. Class M planets can be reduced to Class H through environmental damage.
Life forms: radiation-resistant carbon-based organisms (e.g Sheliak). Not naturally conducive to humanoid life.

Class I
Ice giant/neptunian

Cold zone
E.g. Uranus, Neptune, Marijne VII
Cold worlds with thick atmospheres of hydrogen, water, methane and ammonia, commonly found in the outer reaches of a solar system. The hydrogen envelope is considerably thinner than on a Class J world, but this is still the dominant element of the planet. Such planets commonly attract a number of moons and impressive ring systems. In spite of the name, ice giants have little solid material and are mostly fluid.
Life forms: unknown

Class J
Gas giant/jovian

Ecosphere/cold zone
E.g. Jupiter, Saturn, Cherela
Huge planets with thick hydrogen and helium-based atmospheres, rich in hydrocarbons. Beneath the gaseous layers lies liquid hydrogen above a metallic hydrogen core. Class J planets commonly support many moons and ring systems, and these moons may themselves be habitable worlds in their own right. Class-J planets dominate a star system in the inner region of the cold zone. With sufficient engineering prowess, habitable Class M environments can be constructed between the cloud layers of a gas giant.
Class J planets correspond to classes I to III on the Sudarsky scale. The coolest are Class I jovians, Jupiter-type planets with ammonia clouds, often with complex and powerful weather systems. Warmer are the Class II jovians, which feature water vapour clouds. Class III jovians have no chemical components that form clouds and appear as featureless blue-white orbs.Those straying closer to the star are captured and are heated to Class-S.
Life forms: Jovian-type, hydrocarbon-based (e.g Lothra)

Class K

Ecosphere/cold zone
E.g. Mars, Mudd
Class K planets are essentially dead terrestrial planets, with a primarily silicate crust, rich mineral deposits and no magnetic field. The atmosphere is thin, predominantly carbon dioxide, and retains little heat, leading to a frigid desert landscape. Nonetheless, there can be some weather systems in a Class K atmosphere, and vulcanism can occur. Water and/or carbon dioxide ice may be found at the poles. Class-K environments can develop from the evolution of Class G, or through the long deterioration of classes G, L or M. Rich in mineral deposits. Although fundamentally lifeless except for the most basic of organisms, Class K planets are readily adaptable through use of pressure domes or oxygen caverns, and are prime targets for terraforming.
Life forms: microbial carbon or silicon-based life.

Class K/T

Cold zone
E.g. Theta-116-VIII
This subclass represents frozen class-K planets that have drifted or been expelled into the outer system, commonly by gravitational perturbation by a larger body. A thick atmosphere of nitrogen, neon and methane accretes and can develop turbulent weather systems. Transjovian-class planets are highly inhospitable and experience phenomenally low surface temperatures.
Life forms: none

Class L

E.g. Phylos, Indri VIII, Briori outpost
Similar to Class M planets, Class L are on the borderline of life-bearing environements. Typically rocky, silicate-crust planets, Class L worlds are commonly arid, but in some cases display oceans or tundra. Surface temperature varies considerably, and the atmosphere is thinner than on a Class M world, with high levels of argon, carbon dioxide, and often other toxic gases. Radiation levels are potentially dangerous. Class L environments may feature basic ecosystems, normally only with plant life. They may, however, be colonised by humanoid life, and are excellent targets for terraforming. (Planets assimilated by the Borg, where the atmosphere has been altered by pollution with carbon monoxide, methane and fluorine, may be considered a variant of Class L).
Life forms: Most have no native animal life. Plant life often abundant on more temperate examples.

Class M

Ecosphere/lunar orbit
Also referred to as "Earth-type," S3 or Minshara-class, Class M planets are the cradles of life. With silicate crusts, those with rotating iron cores can display strong magnetic fields. Rich nitrogen-oxygen atmospheres with some carbon dioxide, water vapour and trace gases are ideal for the development of varied, complex biospheres. Class M planets feature high surface and atmospheric water content, essential for organic life. Surface conditions can vary considerably across the globe, from tundra, to temperate, to desert environments. Class M worlds are found in orbit of stars or larger Class-I, J and U planets, and can vary widely in visual appearance. Class M is divided into subtypes dependent on surface water levels and other features, and these can vary over the course of a planet's lifespan (for instance, Earth was a Type-4 ice-world during one period of its early history, and Exo-III was once a more hospitable Type-2).
Life forms: abundant carbon-based life, including humanoids
M Type-1 Arid. E.g. Vulcan, Cardassia Prime, Deneb IV
Surface water 25-50%
M Type-2 Temperate/varied. E.g. Earth, Bajor, Altamid
Surface water 50-80%
M Type-3 Pelagic. E.g. Argo, Azati Prime, Antede III
Surface water 80-95%
M Type-4 Glacial. E.g. Andoria, Exo-III, Rigel X
Surface ice 50-95%
M Irregular E.g. Ba'ku planet, Gaia, Planet Hell
Class M but with unusual features, such a radiation belts and ring systems.

Class N1

Hot zone
E.g. Venus
Although similar to Class M planets in size and geological make-up, Class N planets are rendered as hugely different environments due to their atmospheric conditions. A thick carbon dioxide atmosphere causes a runaway greenhouse effect leading to extremely high surface temperature and pressure, utterly inimical to humanoid life. Some nitrogen, water and sulphur dioxide exist in the atmosphere, which is dominated by clouds of sulphuric acid, leading to corrosive rainfall. A Class N world may potentially be adapted to class-M by long-term terraforming, but this is a significant undertaking and such planets are usally overlooked in favor of more hospitable worlds.
Life forms: rare; microbial organisms may exist in cloud layer.

Class N2

Hot zone/lunar orbit
E.g Tholia, Io
A variation of the Class N planet in which a considerably thinner atmosphere, composed mainly of sulphur dioxide and monoxide, sodium chloride vapours and molecular oxygen. Large deposits of sulphur exist on the surface giving a yellow-green colour from orbit. Temperature is lower than N1 conditions, but still high in comparison to Class M, with significant vulcanism caused by graviational effects from the host planet or star, or by an unstable core. Unlike on N1 worlds, N2 enviroments may develop complex organic life, although such organisms will rely of sulphur respiration and use hydrogen sulphide as a biological solvent in place of water. This life form type is far rarer than the more common oxygen/water type organisms.
Life forms: sulphurphilic organisms (e.g Tholian)

Class O

E.g. The Waters, Megara, Kepler-22 b
True ocean worlds with no surface land area. Oceans on Class O planets are typically thousands of kilometres deep, with phenomenal pressures at the depths. Turbulant atmospheres of nitrogen, oxygen, water vapour and carbon dioxide envelop the planet. On hotter variants of the Class O, the ocean surface may vapourise, giving a continuous fluid surface, rather than a delineated ocean and atmosphere, on the edge of becoming a Class U world.. Cooler Class O worlds can potentially be colonised with artificial habitats, and have considerable scope for food cultivation in the form of plankton and algae.
Life forms: abundant, marine carbon-based organisms.

Class P

Cold zone/lunar orbit
E.g. Titan, Breen
Similar in size and structure to Class M planets, but in far colder regions, Class P planetoids display enivronments that are like frigid shadows of  terrestrial worlds. With a dense nitrogen-methane atmospheres, and surface rich in hydrocarbons, the seas and oceans on Class P worlds are comprised from short-chain hydrocarbons such as methane and ethane. In place of rock, mountains and landmasses form from water ice; cryovolcanism is apparent. These planetoids display a subzero ecosystem. In the later stages of a star's evolution, Class P worlds may be heated to another evolutionary stage, dooming existing ecosystems and pushing the planetoid towards classes K, L or M.
Life forms: hydrocarbon and ammonia-based

Class Q

Cold zone/lunar orbit
E.g. Europa, Ganymede, Enceladus
Ocean worlds in colder regions, these are smaller planetoids enclosed in thick water ice crusts. Atmosphere is tenuous, beneath the ice layer exists an extremely deep ocean. Undersea heating from the planetary core, or gravitational effects from a host planet, can lead to non-photsynthetic ecosystems. Commonly form as moons around planets of classes I, J and U. Can potentially be colonised with artificial habitats, although care must be taken not to damage the existing, submarine environment.
Life forms: marine carbon-based organisms

Class R
Rogue/orphan planet

E.g. Dakala, Omarion
A varied class, containing those bodies that are planet-sized but not tied to a star's gravity. Such bodies, sometimes called planemos, can range from terrestrial to Jovian size; the largest are on the borderline with the brown dwarf class. Rogue planets form in the interstellar void from accreted material, while orphan planets are ejected from star systems by gravitational effects. Thick, carbon-rich atmospheres can lead to retained surface heat and non-photosynthetic ecosystems, sometimes displaying very unusual adaptations to their harsh environment.
Life forms: varies, from none to complex; carbon or silicon-based

Class S
Hot jovian/pegasid

Hot zone
E.g. Galileo (55 Cancri b), Osiris, 51 Pegasi b
Gas giants, similar to classes I and J but in short, close stellar orbit, maintaining an extremely high temperature. Carbon monoxide is the dominant carbon-carrying molecule. Class S planets correspond to classes IV and V on the Sudarsky scale, with Class IV being the cooler of the two, displaying alkali metal vapour clouds. The hottest planets are Class V, with silicates and even iron forming clouds. These planets glow red due to the high thermal output.
Life forms: none known

Class T
Gas supergiant/ultragiant

Cold zone
E.g. Kappa Andromedae b
Gigantic gaseous planets with thick hydrogen atmospheres and enormous gravitational pull, these planets are on the verge of becoming stars. Supergiants accrue complex systems of moons ranging from planetesimal to planetary size, effectively becoming miniature star systems in themselves. Any such bodies that exceed 13.6 Jupiter masses would begin deuterium fusion and become a brown dwarf or "substar."
Life forms: unknown

Class U

Hot zone/ecosphere/cold zone
E.g, Dulcinea (Mu Arae c), Kepler-10c
Existing in size between the Class I ice giants and the Class V superterrestrials, Class U planets are large enough and with strong enough gravity to retain a thick atmosphere of hydrogen, helium and hydrocarbons. The atmosphere transitions to oceans of semisolid compressed water above a rocky core. Sometimes known as gas dwarfs - something of a misnomer for such large planets.
Life forms: Jovian-type, hydrocarbon-based.

Class V

Ecosphere/cold zone
E.g. COROT-7 b, Gliese 163 c, Persephone
The so-called "super-Earths," large rocky/metallic planets intermediate in size between terrestrial and ice giants. Their higher gravity allows them to retain dense, hydrogen-rich atmospheres. Surface temperature and pressure high and unsuitable for humanoid habitation, but complex high-temperature life can evolve, and they are potentially viable for colonisation using pressure domes.
Life forms: silicon or carbon-based, adapted for higher pressures

Class W

Hot zone/ecosphere/lunar orbit
E.g. Daled IV, Klavdia III, Remus
Rocky planets kept tidally locked to the parent star or sister planet by the intense gravitational interaction of other bodies in their system. One side is overlit and heated, displaying molten areas and a burnt, desert-like surface. The far side is kept in perpetual darkness and cold, sometimes with a more temperate dividing line if the atmosphere is dense enough to mediate the heat. Such planets may be colonised, and some display native life that has adapted to the extreme environment, often in unusual ways.
Life forms: microbes and plants, some display higher organisms.

Class X

Hot zone
E.g. COROT-7b
The dead core of a Class-S or T planet, stripped of its atmosphere by millennia of stellar activity. Dense and metal-rich, these planetoids are rare and valuable. Uninhabitable and ultimately doomed to absorption by their parent star.
Life forms: none

Class Y

Hot zone
E.g. Ha'dara
Exceedingly unfriendly, these planets display thick atmospheres rich in toxic gases, high radiation levels, extreme surface pressure and corrosive conditions, even harsher than Class-N planets.
Life forms: rare, but mimetic life has been discovered.

Class Z
Pulsar planet
E.g. Draugr, Poltergeist, Phobetor
Planets found in orbit of pulsars (rapidly rotating neutron stars), bathed in intense magnetic radiation and inimical to all known life. Subdivided by origin, pulsar planets may form from the remains or cores of destroyed companion stars, or may be more ordinary planetoids captured by the pulsar's gravity.