What’s Past is Prologue?

The Star Wars TrilogyIn William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the term “What’s past is prologue” is, more or less, used as a justification to commit murder – that the past has led the characters of Antonio and Sebastian to a moment in time where their choice is to kill the King so that they can forge their own destinies.  In more modern times, the phrase has come to mean that history creates context for the present.

With a certain science fiction property, it feels a little like the creatives behind the scenes have had similar conversations to those had by Sebastian and Antonio, as they have contemplated the future of a notable and beloved film series.

Out of all of the science fiction properties that I’ve fallen in love with over the years, Star Wars had always ranked up there with Star TrekSpace: 1999, Battlestar GalacticaV and Doctor Who. They shaped my young mind and my worldview and to some extent still influence me today.  Star Wars, sadly, and only days ago, fell out of that top six, despite a long internal argument to keep it there. An argument that started in December 2015.

Why?  Because the new trilogy didn’t have to be what it has become.  The choices that were made didn’t need to be made.

I’ve tried very hard not to be one of those “you ‘shat’ all over my childhood” fans, but maybe I’ve become one despite my best efforts because I feel the new films betray the spirit of the original trilogy and even the prequel trilogy, which, while not perfect, still feels like Star Wars.

The Original Trilogy Small

When not talking about Space: 1999 or scientific advancements that may help us colonise our solar system, this blog usually comments on re-imaginings, reboots and continuations because I so desperately want a Space: 1999 reboot.

While the new trilogy of Star Wars movies are a continuation, they also feel, in a way, like a soft reboot.  What was past is indeed prologue.  While no one has quite murdered Star Wars (depending on who you ask), the property is now another example of an existing universe that has undergone/is undergoing some pretty big changes – and they’re changes I’ve not been able to justify.

I understand that some of the properties I’ve mentioned have undergone change over the years, but those changes were managed without unpicking the fabric of or totally setting fire to the soul of those shows.  The recent cosmetic changes made to the Star Trek universe initially bothered me, but I understood and accepted them.  Star Trek: Discovery is still very much Star Trek, it’s just had a face lift because, to remain relevant and to attract new viewers, that was essential.  Velour uniforms and big flashing lights for buttons don’t cut in the age of smart phones and flat screen TVs.

I had a similar reaction to the re-imagined V (2009-2010).  The changes they made were more extensive than those made for Star Trek: Discovery, and I would have rather the writers and producers had done a more faithful retelling, but the spirit of the original was left intact.

Something else is going on with Star Wars and I can’t reconcile it.

Before I go any further… heads up.  SPOILER ALERT!  If you haven’t seen the seventh and eighth feature films, I spoil the crap out of them below.  Look away now, or continue on.

Ready?

I enjoyed Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and I’m one of those fans who was by and large happy with Star Wars: The Last Jedi (except for the Canto Bight nonsense – Finn, great, Rose, great, Canto Bight… stupid diversion that added nothing to the film).  My issues with the new Star Wars films began, sadly, way before Canto Bight was a gleam in anyone’s eye.

Star Wars The Force Awakens Poster

Like most old school Star Wars fans born in the ’70s I was excited (okay, jumping for joy) to hear that Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie and the droids were coming back.  Before Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford’s appearances were officially confirmed, I was expecting J.J. Abrams and Disney to do what George Lucas had done with the prequels and set the new films in a different time frame.  As a fan of the Old Republic comic books and as someone who had enjoyed the prequels for what they were, I was in favour of that idea.  The Star Wars universe is a BIG universe.  Now I know that the prequels were set only about 18-20-something years before A New Hope, but it was a different era.  It was the mighty Republic and its fall, it was the Jedi Order at its height, it was the first stirrings of what would become the Empire.  It felt entirely different to the original trilogy while still being the Star Wars I knew.

When it was confirmed the films would be thirty-something years in the future and that Leia, Luke and Han would be in them, I was thrilled.  J.J. had jumped ahead in time, and jumped forward a longer span of time than the prequels had gone back, so maybe we would get a story that would focus on the children of our heroes and a frightening new threat to the galaxy!

Then the first movie dropped.  No Leia for ages.  No Luke for even longer, and then, barely.  Han and Chewie showed up pretty quickly but it felt too convenient.

I was okay with waiting to see my childhood heroes as I sat there in the cinema, and I was willing to believe Han had lost the Falcon, because I knew they had to establish a bunch of new characters and because Han had always been a little loose.

Leia and Han Reunite

Then, finally, Leia turned up.  I was so happy to see her as she walked down that ramp to a waiting Han.  Then mine and a bunch of other fans’ hopes were dashed because our Princess and her scoundrel were no longer together.

We learn that they had had a child together, which was something, but then we discover that their son had fallen to the Dark Side and turned into an angst ridden millennial with a sense of entitlement the size of Coruscant, and a level of sulky-petulance that would put any soap opera teen to shame.  And STILL no Luke… where was he?

Eventually we’re told that Luke went into hiding.  So… he abandoned his sister in her time of need, right as a new threat was emerging in the galaxy.  WTF?

The triumphant ending we had enjoyed in the closing frames of Return of the Jedi was no more.

I get that the choices the writers, producers and director made were ‘realistic,’ but I don’t watch Star Wars for realism.  I watch it to feel a sense of joy and hope, and to be swept up in an adventure that will take me out of the shitty world we all live in for a while.

All of the above was bad enough, but to add insult to injury, not long after Leia and Han are reunited, they kill Han.  Just as horrible as that, his killer was his own son.

Han Solo Star Wars Episode VII

Han was never my favourite character, I related to Luke and Leia more, but Han had earned a place in my heart.  How couldn’t you love the guy?  Everyone loved Han.

I thought Han’s death was Harrison saying “I’ll only play him if you kill him off,” because he’s long been arguing for the character’s death (he wanted Han to sacrifice himself for Leia and Luke in Return of the Jedi), but then along came the second film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, where they killed Luke.

A trend was starting to emerge.

It was becoming clear that the plan was to also kill off Leia Organa in the third movie.  Of course, Carrie tragically passed away in December 2016 before even one frame of Episode IX could be filmed, but regardless of that horrible blow, the writing was on the wall for the Princess and General.

Star Wars The Last Jedi Official Poster

I started to feel a little irrational anger about it all which, almost a year after the release of number eight, has refused to go away.  Accompanying the anger is an all-pervading sadness which slaps me around every time I think of Star Wars.

Just like the crew of the original series Star Trek or it’s successor, TNG, and just like the team on Moonbase Alpha, or on board the Galactica, and just like the Doctor and the Resistance fighters in V, Leia, Luke and Han had been my dear friends, and they’d been with me through some really difficult times.  They’d been my safe space through trauma, and when I was a kid and a teenager, they’d shaped my moral compass.  At times, throughout my childhood and early teen years, I would often find myself thinking what would Leia do if she were faced with this bullyHow would Luke handle this family fightHow would Han get himself out of this situation?

I had always subliminally known that those characters were important to me, but facing their cinematic deaths showed me just how important they had been and still were.

Sound weird?  I get that. I thought my reaction was ridiculous, even a tad pathetic, so I did some research and it turns out a lot of long time fans of various fictional properties feel a significant impact when the characters they love die.

Leia Finally Grieves for Han

It’s such a frequent occurrence, American University in Washington DC researched it in 2014 and found that “superfans can feel a strong sense of loss in the aftermath of a character death.”  You can find that research here at Science Daily.

For me, part of it comes down to the fact that I felt (and still feel) that this trio of heroes deserved a happy ending.

I had imagined Han and Leia growing old together, surrounded by children and grandchildren.  I’d imagined Luke building and inspiring a new Jedi Order, and falling in love and having his own children.  I had imagined Chewie back on Kashyyyk happily retired, and R2 and 3PO both entertaining and being tortured by the children of Leia and Han, and Luke and whomever he married.  Can’t you hear C-3PO begging one of the children to stop doing something rambunctious?  “Please young mistress, put your brother down – it’s rude to levitate people!”

For a while we did have that, with what is now known as the Star Wars Legends novels (previously the Expanded Universe).  Horrible things happened to Chewie and the Organa-Solo/Skywalker children in those books, but in the very last installment Han, Leia and Luke were still soldiering on side by side, hope-filled and resolute.  The path to their happy ending was punctuated with tragedy and trauma, but Han and Leia still had their daughter, though they had lost their sons, and Luke still had his son, though he had lost his wife.  Still, despite everything they’d suffered, they ended their adventures as they started, together, with each other.

J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson decided we needed to see our heroes die on screen.  It looks like they’ve also decided that the Skywalker line must end.  If my suspicions are correct and Leia was always going to die in the ninth film, there will be no more Skywalkers because Ben (Kylo) also has to die.  He killed his father.  It’s an irredeemable act.  So, not only did the current creatives in charge of Star Wars feel we needed to lose our heroes, we also needed to wipe out the most important family in that universe.

Hence my feeling that this is an attempt to softly (with a sledgehammer) reboot Star Wars.

I’ve read a lot of nonsense, some from the mouths of the film-makers themselves, about how important it is for the old to make way for the new.  That’s fine, but the way they’ve gone about it is not Star Wars.  The story of the First Order and Rey, Finn and Poe could have easily happened 100 years or more after the events of Return of the Jedi.  Having the main protagonist be Leia and Han’s child doesn’t really add anything to the story, so a brand new bad guy would have worked just as well or better – or turning Rey, or Finn or Poe into the bad guy at some point in the new trilogy would have been equally if not more impactful.  Nothing would have been lost and the integrity of Star Wars could have been maintained.

Star Wars is a fairy tale.  It’s my generation and my nephews’ generation’s (who grew up with the prequels) Snow White or Cinderella.  We have Princesses and Dark Knights, Queens and paupers, noble Paladin (the Jedi) and Scoundrels, armies of light and darkness doing battle, and strange locales inhabited by even stranger creatures.

Our heroes should remain heroes, their deaths unseen, so that we can imagine them having lived wonderful lives or off on other adventures. Luke should have remained the noble knight, rather than become a burned out shell.  Leia should have ended up running the bloody New Republic, not being scorned by it.  Han should have grown fat and happy with a bevvy of children, standing strong by Leia’s side no matter what, rather than being slaughtered by his own son.

Luke Skywalker

I so very deeply wish the sequel trilogy had either never happened, or had jumped forward in time, so that my memories of the heroes I have loved and cherished for so long had remained untarnished.

Luke, a coward too afraid to try again?
Leia considered a joke by the very government she was integral in restoring and probably setting up?
Han a washed up and worn out man who left his wife because it all got too hard?
The only offspring of the Skywalkers a sulky little murderous prick?

No.
These are insulting endings to heroes who have meant a lot to a great many people.

Star Wars The Last Jedi

I think J.J. Abrams is an incredibly talented man.  I forgave him for the liberties he took with Star Trek when he rebooted it, but I wish he’d never gotten his hands on Star Wars.  Transwarp beaming vs killing off a beloved character?  I’ll take the crud that was transwarp beaming any day over losing my friends.

It is possible to do a continuation or even a reboot or remake without betraying the essence of a property, and J.J. and Rian Johnson should have looked harder (or just looked) at those examples.

Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, with heavy support from Angela Mancuso reimagined Battlestar Galactica, giving us a few character changes and an important story shift that intensified everything in the right way (Starbuck became a woman and the Cylons were created by humanity), but still remained faithful to Glen A. Larson’s original idea.  What they did, particularly Eick and Moore, they did in a way that was not cruel and did not destroy what was loved by fans of the 1970s show (though it took a while for some fans to embrace it). It built on and modernised the original in a relevant and poignant way.

Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless did a reboot (slight reimagining) of Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space and it’s faithful to the original idea and has been updated respectfully.  Yes, Maureen and John are separated, but their adventures rekindle their romance and it works.

Judge Dredd with Karl Urban?  That was a freaking awesome reboot.  Superman?  It’s had the crap rebooted out of it, but all of them have managed to be respectful.  Not all of them have been successful (we’re looking at you Superman Returns and that Zod stuff in Man of Steel), but that’s beside the point.  Batman, the same.  Wonder Woman?  How great was the Gal Gadot movie?!  Spider-Man…?  Like Superman, he’s been rebooted a lot to varying degrees of success, but each time with a great deal of respect.  Star Trek: Discovery?  Roseanne, now The ConnersPrison BreakVThe X-Files?  Faithful continuations/reboots/remakes/reimaginings/new takes on beloved themes.

Will this latest Star Wars trilogy become a lesson in what not to do when you reboot or continue a beloved property?

Maybe. I hope so. I’d hate for other fans of any film or series to feel this way.

Feel free to disagree with me and shoot me an e-mail or send through some comments on the subject.  I’d love to hear what other fans think about this because I have honestly been wrestling with it for ages.  Maybe it’s not a soft reboot, whether the Skywalker line dies off or not, but to me this new trilogy is a crap continuation.  What happens after Episode IX?  There will be more Star Wars movies, we can all safely bet on that, but if the Skywalkers are gone will it still be Star Wars?

For me, I’ll watch the sequel trilogy as a diversion, but will re-read and enjoy the Star Wars Legends series and treat them as canon. They are a lot better than what Disney has given/is giving us.

J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson made wonderful films that I enjoyed for a variety of reasons, they just didn’t make great Star Wars films.

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In Loving Memory

In Loving Memory Banner

As fans of Space: 1999 we knew him as the indomitable Commander John Koenig.  To others, he was Rollin Hand in Mission: Impossible, Bob Ryan in Entourage, Major General Adlon in Meteor, Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood, Alvin Kurtzweil in The X-Files, and Leonard in North by Northwest, among many other roles.

To his peers in Hollywood he was an incredibly versatile actor, chameleon-like in his ability to “slip into the skin” of a character.

To Barbara Bain he was a large and important part of her life, having been a loving husband and her acting and producing partner for many years, and of course, to his daughters, Susan Landau-Finch and Juliet Landau, he was an inspiring and devoted father.

A couple of days ago, on the 15th of July, Martin left this world, leaving behind an enviable acting, producing and teaching legacy that will be long remembered.

Martin was 89 at the time of his death, and passed away from “unexpected complications” while hospitalised at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Centre in Los Angeles.

Martin Landau

Space 2049 sends it’s deepest condolences to Barbara, Susan, Juliet and every single one of Martin’s family and friends, and we also extend those condolences to his many fans.

For me, Martin will always be John Koenig, and it saddens me that he won’t get the chance to guest star in some future version of the show helping a new Commander Koenig to battle some impossible situation.

If you’d like to learn more about this incredible actor, producer and acting coach, you can visit his Wikipedia page here, his IMDb page here, and his biography.com page here.

Hopefully one day Space: 1999 will get the reboot it deserves, and through it’s re-emergence into popular culture, thousands of new science fiction fans will revisit the original series and, through that, explore Martin’s remarkable body of work.

Rest in peace, Martin.  You will be missed.  Thank you for Commander John Koenig.

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SciFi Standard Bearers

SciFi Standard Bearers

Televised science fiction has been enjoying something of a resurgence these last few years, with some people wondering if we’re entering into a kind of ‘Golden Age’ of scifi.

Maybe!

People my age, who were born in the 1970s and 1980s, once thought that the latter half of the 1980s and the entirety of the 1990s was that Golden Age, because of the number of science fiction shows on free-to-air TV at the time.  Shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation and its spin-offs, Quantum LeapThe X-Files, Space: Above and Beyond, Farscape, Babylon 5 and it’s spin-off Crusade, Stargate SG-1Earth: Final Conflict, SlidersSeaQuest DSV, and more.

Honestly, it was pretty amazing.  Even in Australia, where we still don’t get a lot of scifi content on free-to-air and have to wait for those shows to arrive on DVD (or at that time, video cassette), we could still catch two or three shows a week – The X-FilesFarscapeSeaQuest DSVBuffy the Vampire Slayer and Space: Above and Beyond.  All while waiting for the latest Star Trek or Babylon 5 episode to arrive on video.

With that amount of content, you’d expect some duds, but most of the science fiction and, what eventually came to be known as ‘genre shows’ (thanks to Buffy) were pretty good.

Then it all stopped.  We had the odd ‘sputter’ with the amazing Battlestar Galactica reboot, and we had CharmedAngelV, and the Stargate spin-offs for a while, but suddenly genre series seemed to all but disappear from our screens.  Until recently.

Now, over the last few years, all sorts of incredible, not easily definable television shows have captivated science fiction and fantasy fans, as well as mainstream audiences alike – The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Vikings, the revamped Doctor Who, Westworld, Ash vs The Evil Dead, Supergirl, Flash, Arrow, The Strain, Legion, Once Upon A Time, Grimm, Agents of SHIELD, The Exorcist, The Expanse, Dark Matter, Killjoys and soon, the brand new Star Trek: Discovery.

There are so many ‘genre’ shows airing right now that it’s actually difficult to keep track of them!  But, how many are traditional science fiction?  Scifi set in space, on a starship, zooming about all over the place?

Very few, actually.

I don’t think anyone really knows why.  At one point it might have been an issue of cost, because science fiction shows have never been cheap, but with Game of Thrones costing a whopping six million dollars per episode, that’s probably not a consideration any more.

It might be because, as Commander Jeffrey Sinclair from Babylon 5 would say, “Nothing is the same anymore.”  We’re not watching television in the same ways as we used to.  We’re streaming shows and we’re watching them on multiple platforms.  Also, we’re getting, on average, half as many episodes per season as we once used to.

People are time poor in the 21st Century, and on top of that the old studio system doesn’t hold as much sway as it once did.  Plus, many of us are paying for our content and because of that we’re expecting something special.  We want ‘event’ television, but event television that tells an intimate tale.

Science fiction is definitely event television, but it hasn’t always done the intimate bit very well.

Thankfully, that is changing and we’re starting to see more traditional scifi again.

Right now, there are three standard bearers for science fiction television.

The Expanse, Killjoys, and Dark Matter.

All three take place on a larger canvas, telling bigger stories, but focus episode to episode on the lives of a few characters, taking us deep into their worlds.

With The Expanse, we’re following a crew of four, learning about them and their relationships episode to episode.

With Killjoys, we’re following a crew of three people, unravelling the mystery of their lives.

With Dark Matter we’re following what was a crew of six (but that fluctuated in Season 2) as they try to remember who they are – and on discovering that, try to fight against who they were and become better people.

In just two seasons, for each of these shows, we have learned more about their main characters than we did most of the characters on any of the old Star Trek shows.

These new series are showing the way for modern science fiction, and it’s exciting.

I haven’t seen The Expanse yet, because it hasn’t aired on television or been made available to us on DVD or BluRay, for reasons that are just stupid, but I am a fan of the books and follow all of the news on the show and it looks amazing.

Killjoys and Dark Matter, however, I can comment on, and both are outstanding.

Killjoys took me four episodes to get into, but by episode five of Season One I was hooked and I’ve been in love with the show ever since.  What hooked me?  The characters.  Dutch, Johnny and D’avin.

Dark Matter grabbed me straight away and has kept me wanting more season to season.  What grabbed me?  In particular Two (Portia), Three (Marcus), Five (Emily), Six (Kal) and the Android.

All of the other stuff in both shows is just icing on the cake.

As well as the intimate story lines mentioned above, those shows have something else in common – they have strong female leads, they don’t shy away from issues of sexuality and gender, and they show us a multicultural future where light and dark dance around the edges of what are very ‘grey’ realities.  I love Star Trek‘s utopia like future, but I get that today’s audiences want some sort of discourse on just how screwed up we all are.  They want to it see it reflected and mirrored on television, and they want to see our heroes fighting, and at times submitting, to that.

Rather than break these shows down in any detail, I encourage you to watch them if you haven’t – and to continue to support them if you already enjoy them.

If you want to know more about these three excellent series, you can visit their official websites here: The Expanse, Killjoys, and Dark Matter.

As someone who hopes to see an old favourite, Space: 1999, rebooted, there are lessons that can be learned from these new shows about how to structure a series and most especially about what a modern audience wants.  Intimacy.  Inclusion.  An exploration of modern issues.

Space: 1999 was already doing some of that back in the 1970s, with a very multicultural crew on Moonbase Alpha, and any reboot of it would no doubt be able to tackle that and other things that are important to us now, and in very creative and intimate ways.  I can imagine a transgender crew member, and with a character like Maya an episode or two or five focused on inclusion and the occasional bigotry that can come with not understanding something or someone.

More and more, as I dissect both of these more traditional science fiction shows and compare them with other genre offerings, I see a place for Space: 1999 in modern television (obviously with a few changes), and get more and more excited about the possibility.

Moonbase Alpha was a microcosm of Earth, and it’s philosophical ‘bent’ was all about us (in the 1970s) asking “who am I?”  “Why am I here?”  Where am I going?”  Things many of these genre series are debating right now in their own unique and dramatic ways.

I hope that this renaissance of science fiction that we are enjoying right now continues for some time, and I hope that a new Space: 1999 becomes a part of that.

I first wanted the show to get a reboot in the 80s.  Then again in the early 2000s.  But now, looking at the world as it is, and looking at what genre television has become, I feel NOW is the time.  It would have been too soon a couple of decades ago.

As far as I know, ITV still own the rights to the television series.

Hopefully they realise the potential of Space: 1999, and give it the new life it deserves.

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The Unexpected Joy of Podcasts

Science Fiction Classics

Have you ever been SUPER late to “the party?”

I have been.  On two occasions.

I still can’t believe I was so moronic.

The first was with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  All of my friends were constantly talking up this apparently amazing TV show about a beautiful blonde cheerleader who kicked vampire ass on a regular basis.  I thought they were mad.  How could a show about a vampire killing cheerleader be quality TV?!  And when I learned she was in love with a vampire on top of all of that, all I could think was “no, no, no, no, NO!”

Holy crap was I wrong.  I came to Buffy half way through it’s second season and never looked back.

The second time I was late to the party was with Podcasts.

I didn’t want to listen to people rabbit on about the things I loved, in case it somehow ruined that thing for me.

I’m a huge science fiction fan, and I’ll watch a bad sci-fi movie or TV episode over pretty much everything else, but the thought of listening to other fans dissect the movies and shows I loved gave me a headache.  I felt that way thanks to the comments sections on various sci-fi news sites.  There was a time, years ago, when you could read some really insightful stuff in those sections.  Comments that validated how you felt, and comments that challenged you to rethink your opinion… and then they became a haven for negative people spouting negative crap that would often cause a ‘flame’ war.

I feared Podcasting would give those negative voices even more of a platform.

Again, I was wrong.  Sometimes you come across the odd negative naysayer and the odd obnoxious panel member, but they seem to be an exception to the norm.

In the last few weeks I’ve become addicted to a whole bunch of Podcasts and I’m really enjoying the experience.

I have a long drive to and from work everyday and I can spend up to three hours in my car depending on traffic.  While I’m happy to listen to music, and sometimes just get lost in my own thoughts, I recently decided to try out Podcasts and have not looked back.  For me, it’s like having a car full of good friends chatting to me about my favourite things.

There are courses you can do via Podcast, there are meditations, there are discussion panels about your favourite movies, and in particular discussion panels on your favourite shows.

I thought I’d share one particular Podcast I recently listened to and loved, and list two ongoing ones that are excellent.  If you’re a sci-fi fan who has never given Podcasts a shot, these ones are some you may want to check out.

Eagle on Platform

First up, the single episode I listened to recently.

Autopilot by Scott Johnson and Tom Merritt.  This dynamic duo watch and comment on the pilot episodes of multiple television shows across the decades and its chock full of awesome.

These guys are HILARIOUS, and many of their insights are both thought provoking and entertaining.

In season three, episode nine of their series, they take a look at “Breakaway”, the pilot episode of Space: 1999.

Check it out here.

Babylon 5 Season 1 Cast Photo

The Audio Guide to Babylon 5 has fast become one of my favourite Podcasts.  Sitting down with Chip, Erika and Shannon is like being wrapped up in a warm B5 and sci-fi geek hug that always makes me smile.  That hour and a bit of my trip into work everyday flies by when these guys are on my list.

I crammed three years’ worth of their Podcasts into four weeks and never once felt bored.  They’re excellent.

If you’re a fan of Babylon 5, this series is a must.

Check the guys out here.

There are multiple ways to interact with Chip, Shannon and Erika, and they’ve created a very active fan community.

Star Trek Through The Years

The last Podcast I’ll mention is Shuttle Pod.

There are, obviously, thousands more, but these three really stood out to me.  Excellent production values, insightful commentary, interesting personalities, humour, and warm ‘feels’ everywhere.

Shuttle Pod is a production of one of my favourite Star Trek news sites, TrekMovie.com.  They discuss everything from the movies, to the shows, and the characters.  Their recent look at the Trek films has been both entertaining and informative.

Check them out here.

If you’ve never given Podcasts a go, now is the time.  Most of us will have a few days off over Easter, and there are worse ways to spend a holiday.

If you’re an old hand at Podcasts and love science fiction, but have never given these Podcasts a try, look them up and have a listen.

I’m thinking of doing a tour through the Space: 1999 episodes as a Podcast, but I’m literally the only Space: 1999 fan that I know!

If I can ever conscript someone to join me, or find a really interesting way to do it solo, they’ll feature here.

That’s it for now.

If you’re an Easter celebrating person, Happy Easter, and eat chocolate and prosper.

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Believing in a Better Future

hope-for-the-future

Space: 1999 took a somewhat jaded look at the future on Earth, while at the same time focusing on our ability to survive and build something better as the survivors of an horrific accident clung to hope against a backdrop of mystery, struggle and the implied terror of being lost in deep space.

The Alphans were at the mercy of nature, unable to control the trajectory of their accidental gigantic spaceship (the moon) – but able to control the way they lived and maintained a focus on the possibility of something better.

It’s a message as relevant to today as it was to the often times tumultuous 1970s.

Space: 1999 taught me that while we can’t always control the bigger things in life, we can control the ways in which we react to them and, through our choices, make a gradual impact on what might initially appear to be something we cannot effect.

It’s a message we might want to consider as we make the transition from one year to the next, particularly as we look back on 2016 – a year that has brought us great challenges, and as close to a guarantee of an uncertain global future as we’ve had, at least since the days of the Cold War.

What a year.

In my day job, I’m a Counsellor and a Community Development specialist.  I’ve built an accidental career around working with the survivors of trauma with a primary focus on young people and professionals in the industry, and in turning what are purportedly community spaces into more inclusive places for people who are often (accidentally?) excluded or feel excluded or not catered to – young people, refugees, and unexpectedly these last two years, people from what we in Australia call the QUILTBAG community (Queer/Unisex/Intersex/Lesbian/Trans/Bisexual/Asexual and Gay) – particularly Trans and Non-Binary individuals.

I’ve been doing this work for two decades, starting it in my early twenties.  Back then, it felt like we had a real chance at solving the world’s problems (which was, I now know, naive).  Now, in my fourth decade, life has “reality checked” me and more often than not I’m seeing more inequality than ever before, and more turmoil and uncertainty.

I don’t know a way to fix that, but I’m still dedicated to doing my own small part.

Because of my day job, I’m a big fan of reflection.

At the end of every year, particularly since hitting my 40s, I lock myself away from the world and deep dive into the experiences I’ve had over the previous 360ish days.  This process is my way of staying grounded, of planning my way forward into a new year, and it’s my way of avoiding vicarious trauma and eventual “burn out” (in my industry, the average ‘life expectancy’ of a professional is 2.5 to five years).

Part of that process is remembering what’s inspired me.

Over the years, I’ve made no secret of the fact that the reason I do the work I do is because I was inspired to do it by my love of science fiction.

Recently, in a supervision session (which is where professional allied-health workers review their performance at regular intervals with someone older, more experienced, and better qualified than them), I was asked by my supervisor how I got into the industry and why I thought I was still surviving it.  I was at a career impasse.  I’d reached the top and had no idea what to do with the rest of my life, and my supervisor felt looking back would help me see my way through and forward into the future.

I reflected to her that from a young age I’d been inspired to try and reach an ideal – one that had been shaped by Star Trek, and influenced by the actions, bravery and compassion of characters in shows like Space: 1999, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica (the original) and Star Wars.

She gave me a look that clearly indicated she thought I might be losing my grip.

Maybe I’ve been losing it for years, but I can’t deny how much my inexplicable love for science fiction has influenced my life – both personally and professionally.

Deanna Troi inspired my trek into Counselling, as did Doctor Helena Russell, Doctor Leonard McCoy, and Ambassador Delenn.  Only one of those characters was a counsellor, but the rest dabbled in it or offered carefully thought out counsel to those around them.

Spock, Princess Leia Organa, Captain Apollo, G’Kar, Commander John Koenig, Commander Jeffrey Sinclair, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Captain Benjamin Sisko and Captain Kathryn Janeway encouraged me to act with integrity and courage.  Doctor Beverly Crusher, Doctor Stephen Franklin, Maya, Kes, Commander Adama, and Vir Cotto inspired me to keep compassion and consequence at the centre of my decision making, and the futures of hope displayed in each of these series – hope they’d find a home in Space: 1999, hope they’d find Earth in Battlestar Galactica, hope they’d maintain peace in Babylon 5 and then eventually the hope they’d overcome a corrupt government, the promise of a selfless future in Star Trek, the hope that good would always triumph over evil in Star Wars, shaped everything about me.

These things still shape me today.

Remembering those inspirations, despite the surprise another professional expressed regarding the source material, I was reminded that we still have a long way to go and we’re only going to get there if some of us keep dreaming of a better future, and if most of us allow ourselves to continue to be inspired by visionaries who focus on that future or on our better qualities as human beings.

The future – at least a future that’s worth living in – is created by people who dare to dream and then act on those dreams.  It’s created by people who allow themselves to be inspired, rather than mired down by fear and those who peddle in it.

As we enter a period in our history that is being defined by events and often frightening challenges like Brexit, ISIL, astonishing political change in the United States, disappointing political fracturing in Australia, threats to Democracy and effective, non-totalitarian Socialism throughout Europe, the ever present issues of homophobia, transphobia and racism around the world, and the effects of Global Warming, it’s more incumbent than ever on those of us who prefer hope over fear to keep doing what we’re doing and pushing back by choosing to focus on the positive.

There’s a school of thought that suggests we create our future through the things we focus on – at both the micro (personal) and macro (national or global) level.  There’s not a great deal of evidence to support this, though some scientists have made interesting steps forward in attempting to quantify it.  I’m choosing to believe in that theory and focus on what is extraordinary about humanity, rather than what’s disappointing about us.

I get that people are frightened of terrorism, of Donald Trump, of global warming and of the fact too many of us are literally two pay checks away from poverty or homelessness.  I get these things, and share these thoughts, but hunkering down in fear won’t solve the issues we’re facing.  If anything, they’ll exacerbate them.

2017, at least in my view, is the year we turn the tables and make a commitment to hope again.  These things, historically, are cyclical.  In my life time alone we’ve seen the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the mapping of our DNA, realistic plans to head to Mars, Gay marriage in some countries, and we’ve seen a number of women assume the ultimate positions of power in their respective countries despite the fact most of them only obtained the right to vote last century – and in some countries, shockingly, in the latter half of that century.

In a short space of time we’ve taken great strides forward, and we still can – with a little reorientation.  Some people, born in the first quarter of the last century, saw the austerity and fear of the depression, replaced with the excess of the 30s, the terror of the 40s, the boom of the 50s, the free love movement of the 60s, the Cold War and multiple other wars of the 70s and 80s as well as the crazy “greed is good” excess of the 80s and 90s, the fall of the World Trade Centre towers, the mining boom, and more recently all of those other things I’ve already mentioned that have led our collective psyche to a dark place.  Soon, hopefully, we’ll return to happier times and bounce back from the brink we sometimes feel like we’re at right now.

As we move forward into a new year, hopefully some of us (or most of us) will play our own individual roles in creating a brighter future and heralding in a happier time.

Television often reflects where we’re at as a people, and television fare these last few years has definitely been bleak.

With the upcoming release of Star Trek: Discovery, and their pledge to bring back a focus on hope and humans as positive change makers to television, maybe a change is coming?

As a one-time fan of The Walking Dead who got over it after a time because of how depressing it was, it’s interesting to hear a lot of people are now turning from the show because of how bleak and hopeless it is.  It’s happening to a lesser degree with other big, often depressing television shows, so maybe – as a people – we’re ready for something different and we’re tired of seeing human beings in a bad light, and our future as hopeless.

As we prepare to welcome in a new year, here’s to overcoming and rising above the fears caused by global terrorism, here’s to an end to homophobia, transphobia and all of those other ‘obias’ and ‘isms’, and here’s to embracing a future among the stars where there are moonbases and Mars outposts and a humanity focused on enhancing the species rather than destroying or victimising it.

And, here’s to a TV Network or production company being brave enough to rebirth Space: 1999!  I still believe, as a show, it has a unique ability to show us an incredibly positive and amazing near future.

Happy New Year, everyone.  Let’s do our own small part to build a better, brighter future that’s worth living in.

As you go through your own end of year process, whether it results in resolutions or not, I hope you find wisdom, joy, and the courage we all need to be positive change makers.

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It’s Time for a New Look at Space: 1999

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It’s obvious I’m a fan of Space: 1999, so I’ll happily declare there is a bias present in this article.  To me, the show had a lot going for it – compelling characters, amazing sets, decent (for the time) special effects, and a tone of mystery and hope set against a subtle backdrop of disillusionment and mistrust (two feelings that permeated the 1970s, and coincidentally the twenty-teens).

The series was cancelled before its time despite its popularity, with the sad reality being it kind of killed itself with a lot of retooling between seasons that didn’t sit well with its fans.  Space: 1999 is probably the best example of how not to “fix” a television show if you want that show to survive.  Though season two gave us Maya and Tony, it took from us compelling storylines and a handful of fan favourite characters like Paul and Victor.

Space: 1999 wouldn’t work today as an exact and completely faithful reboot, because we’re 17 years past the titular date of 1999, and we also know more about our moon, our solar system and the near galaxy than we did then.  Not to mention the fact scientists are pretty certain that the moon being ripped from Earth orbit would destroy it and our own planet!  But that doesn’t mean we should dismiss this show and it’s underlying premise.  The characters, the (then) future forward but still focused in reality design aesthetic, the message of hope and exploration, and the crew of Alpha’s fight to survive against overwhelming odds (like we are today with climate change, global terrorism, changing political sensibilities, growing poverty, rising unemployment etc) are as relevant to today’s world as they were 40 plus years ago – and perhaps resonate with more potency now than they did back in the 70s.

With the renewed focus on exploring our solar system and the recent focus on space tourism, asteroid mining and setting up colonies on both the moon and Mars, Space: 1999 is more relevant today than it was in the 1970s when it was first released.

No other science fiction property can so eloquently show us the near future as authentically – if the series is retooled effectively and respectfully.

To clarify that point, shows like The Expanse and the new Star Trek: Discovery (due for release in May next year) do and will focus on the issues I mentioned above, but neither do (or will do) it from a timeframe close to right now.  Though Space: 1999 got a lot wrong (we don’t have a moonbase, we’re not dumping nuclear waste on the moon, and we haven’t received mysterious signals from nearby exoplanets), it did do its best to predict what the near future would look like 24 years into the future (and a lot of people still think the set design and ship designs stack up today, with the Eagle Transporter still spoken of as one of the most realistic space ships ever designed).

For a show like Space: 1999 that has maintained a strong and loyal fan base for 40 years, there are dangers in rebirthing or rebooting it.  There can also be benefits – a lot of them.  No one can forget the trepidation and then remarkable love many of us felt for the Battlestar Galactica reboot.  Ronald D. Moore kept the premise intact, giving more thought and background to the Cylons than the legendary Glen A. Larson had back in the late ’70s, and he kept many of the characters the same – controversially changing some (Starbuck becomes a woman, as does Boomer, and Athena is no longer Adama’s daughter, but a Cylon) and adding in new characters to flesh out that ‘world’.

Someone seeking to bring Space: 1999 back could go that route, but there are other approaches that would be equally as successful.

One alternate is the one I ascribe to here on this site, with the budding fan script I’ve been writing.

Space 2049‘s premise attempts to remain completely loyal to the original idea of Space: 1999, but instead of destructively blasting our moon out of Earth’s orbit, which, as mentioned above would be pretty apocalyptic for all of us down on the planet as well as the people on Alpha, it blasts a second moon – an asteroid that was captured by Earth’s gravity – out of Earth’s orbit and sends that second moon on a trip through our solar system toward an anomaly transmitting radio signals toward Earth from Jupiter orbit.

Most of the characters are the same, with one or two added in to reflect the role business will play in space colonisation, and with one or two secondary characters having their races and genders changed to better reflect a diverse settlement.  Overall the premise is identical and follows the thematic tone of the first season of Space: 1999.

As a devoted fan, that to me, makes sense.

While there is only the remotest of chances our homeworld will capture an asteroid and make it a second moon, it is entirely possible according to the research I’ve done.  It’s certainly more possible and less catastrophic than our moon getting ejected from orbit.

For the record, I looked at a space station being blasted out of orbit, but after two weeks of exhaustive research discovered there was NO WAY an artificial construct could survive that sort of catastrophe intact.

A few years back, Jace Hall of V (the reboot) fame attempted to bring Space: 1999 back as Space 2099, but that very quietly fell apart about two years ago.

From what I can find online, Space 2099 was going to honour the original in theme, but not necessarily in any other way.

I was a fan of this attempt at a reboot, but admit I would have been disappointed if too much had changed, and would have been really upset if Koenig, Russell and Maya hadn’t featured in it.

The pre-production efforts of the team behind Space 2099 didn’t reveal much to the wider public, though they did actively communicate with us all for a while at the forum on their website, but despite inviting the fans in we don’t know a lot about the show.  What we do know is that the reboot is no more.

Looking at the very few promo images that made it into the public domain, all I – all any of us – can do is guess.  My guess is we would have had a Moonbase Alpha, but there would have been no object blasted out of Earth’s orbit.  I believe they would have used Alpha as a jump point for a ship tasked with exploring beyond our solar system.

Regardless of what anyone might do with a reboot, it really is time for another look at Space: 1999.  Despite the rubbish monster of the week show it turned into in its second season, it was originally an intelligent, philosophical, meaningful show that would be successful right now in the current television landscape.

Even with a controversial new President due to take power in the United States in January, and a very unstable global community with issues like Brexit and ISIL featuring in world headlines on a daily basis, it seems clear that NASA and other interests will continue to push toward the moon and Mars.

As our climate continues to change, as our planet’s population continues to exceed our homeworlds’ ability to support humanity, and as our earthly resources continue to diminish, we’ll be forced more and more to focus on space as a solution to our growing global problems.

Has there ever been a better time for a show like Space: 1999 to shine?

A show that looks ahead a few years and poses realistic solutions to growing world problems could be really important, and that postulation could all still happen against an allegorical background of space adventure and fun.

Hopefully someone in TV production land is thinking the same thing.

It’s time for a new look at this old gem.

I wish I knew what derailed Jace’s vision, but more than that I hope someone sees value in a show of this kind and gives Space: 1999 a new life that the fans can love and a new TV audience can celebrate.

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United Nations Space Mission

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On the 27th of September, the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs and Sierra Nevada Corporation announced details about the first ever UN dedicated space mission at the International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The mission will give developing countries the opportunity to propose and fly microgravity payloads for an extended duration in orbit.

Though the mission gives developing countries a chance to participate in a mission they would not otherwise be able to take part in, the mission also gives all Member States the chance to propose payloads for the mission.

The historic mission will take place on board the Sierra Nevada Corporation spacecraft Dream Chaser.

Simonetta Di Pippo, the Director of the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) said, at the official announcement, “One of UNOOSA’s core responsibilities is to promote international cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space.  I am proud to say that one of the ways UNOOSA will achieve this, in cooperation with our partner Sierra Nevada Corporation, is by dedicating an entire microgravity mission to United Nations Member States, many of which do not have the infrastructure or financial backing to have a standalone space programme.”

Funding for the mission will come from a variety of sources, with the countries chosen to participate paying a pro-rated portion of the mission cost based on the payload to be taken into orbit, and based on the Member State’s ability to pay.

The Sierra Nevada Corporation‘s Dream Chaser is the only reusable, lifting-body, multi-mission-spacecraft capable of landing at commercial airports or space ports in the world, which means the ship can land at any Member State supplying a payload for the mission.

The announcement is an exciting move that takes us one step closer to the future postulated in Space: 1999.

For more information, read the UN official announcement here.

The mission is still a little while away, and as more information comes to light we’ll report it here.

For more information on the Sierra Nevada Corporation, visit their official site here where you can also find more details on the spacecraft that will take the first steps to opening up space exploration for all UN Member States.

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