23 November 2015

BSG Review: War of the Gods, Part II & The Man with Nine Lives

The rag-tag fleet continue their journey to find Earth, with Baltar now in their custody...

War of the Gods, Part II
Count Iblis' popularity continues to rise across the fleet with Baltar brought in. Baltar recognises Iblis' voice as that of the Cylon Imperious Leader, but Iblis does not give Baltar a full answer in return. 

Adama remains weary of Iblis who he suspects has developed skills in telekenesis which allows him to 'play through Boomer' in a game of triad against Apollo and Starbuck. Boomer's team win by a large margin.

At Iblis' request, the pilots party and enjoy life at a party aboard the Rising Star. When the mysterious lights appear around the fleet, none of the pilots respond to the alert call which causes Apollo to confront Iblis. 

With fighters finally launched, Boomer attacks one of the lights without luck and soon disappears like the other pilots before.

Apollo and Starbuck return to the planet where they found Iblis and discover one of the occupants in the wreckage. Sheba follows to see for herself, but Iblis interferes. In the altercation, Apollo is killed after revealing Iblis' true form. 

On their return to Galactica, the lights reappear and the three find themselves in a strange place with five robed individuals who have restored Apollo's life. The light beings are battling the forces of darkness across the galaxy and reveal that Iblis was once like them but uses his powers to turn people away from the truth - yet they cannot interfere. They revived Apollo as he wasn't supposed to die.

They, and the other missing warriors are returned to Galactica with their memories of the encounter erased. However, during their debrief with Adama, the three do manage to recall the coordinates for Earth...

As the concluding story about Count Iblis, this one answers, albeit vaguely what he really is but we don't get much of an idea of his greater plan. Why did he bring Baltar to the Galactica? Was it to earn the trust of the fleet - and then what? 

There is potential for a larger storyline here, particularly as Iblis survives at the end and vows to return. No doubt he would be a recurring character in a longer version of the series - would the 'angels' always be around to assist? Their role in this episode is certainly important as the fleet now knows where to find Earth!

Rating: 7/10

The Man with Nine Lives
A con man finds his way in to Starbuck's life and pretends to be his lost father while escaping the eyes of three Borellian Nomen.

The episode spends much of its time looking at the relationship between Starbuck and Chameleon who is conning his way through the fleet and making enemies as he goes. The plot twist comes at the end when, through all of the testing about whether Chameleon really is Starbuck's father, we get an answer. 

Definitely a Starbuck episode, it would have been perhaps more realistic if Chameleon didn't end up being his real father - but his decision not to reveal that to Starbuck is an interesting choice - and that Cassiopeia knows as well.
Note too the Borellian's who appear to be a precursor to the honour bound Klingon's of Star Trek.

Rating: 5.5/10

31 August 2015

BSG Review: Fire in Space & War of the Gods, Part I

The Galactica suffers heavy damage in a Cylon attack which threatens the ship and many of the crew and then a strange, enigmatic man offers the fleet help in finding Earth.

Fire in Space
Boomer, Athena and Boxey are playing in the rejuvenation centre when a massive Cylon fleet attacks the Galactica.

Avoiding the intercepting Viper's, the Cylon raiders are intent on causing maximum damage with one nearly ramming Galactica's bridge. Its destruction still causing major damage to the area and injuring Adama. A second raider successfully rams the port landing bay, shutting it down and causing internal fires which affect many of the crew, including those now trapped in the rejuvenation centre.

Boomer and co are mostly ok in the rejuvenation centre but know they have to get out with a raging fire threatening them. Boomer works to move them into another compartment. Tigh takes command on the bridge and looks at extinguishing the fire threatening the ship while Adama is admitted to sickbay.

In the end, it's Starbuck and Apollo that save the ship and Muffit actually saves the day crawling through ventilation shafts to deliver oxygen masks to those in the rejuvenation area.

This isn't a terrible episode even though it's all based around a major disaster that has struck the Battlestar and the struggles the crew goes through in saving their ship. We don't get much indication of what has happened to the rest of the fleet in such an all-out attack from the Cylons. It's good that, for a change Boxey and Muffit actually have a reason for being included in the episode, to the point that Muffit helps save the day. In the other areas though, it's firstly Starbuck, Apollo and Sheba that put out the fire in the landing bay, and no sooner have they returned, Starbuck and Apollo head out again to 'blow the hull' to extinguish the other fire. Is there anything this dynamic duo can't do? :P

Rating: 6/10

War of the Gods, Part I
A Viper patrol goes missing after encountering strange lights and a large ship. After a game of pyramid, Apollo, Starbuck and Sheba are sent to investigate. They come across a planet without any lifesigns, except a lone man who appears to be a survivor of a starship crash.

Identifying himself as Count Iblis, they bring him back to Galactica as he promises he can help them with his infinite knowledge. However, his answers to questions are often quite vague, particularly about his 'enemies'. Sheba shows Iblis around and to different ships in the fleet. At one point, he threatens Apollo with his life after being requested to return to the Galactica.

It would seem that Iblis has some sort of powers that are not immediately explained but we can't help but wonder at his motives. He attempts to gain the trust of Sheba in an almost freaky way, he promises food to the poor and suddenly there's plenty of it being produced and he's able to deliver Baltar to the Quorum... yet he cannot return the lost Viper pilots?

Rating: 7/10

04 August 2015

B5 Review: A Call to Arms

With the approaching 5th anniversary of the Interstellar Alliance Sheridan takes delivery of two brand new destroyers and learns of a terrible attack on Earth about to take place by a former servant of the Shadows.

A Call to Arms bridges the original Babylon 5 story arc with the new and upcoming Crusade story. The Earth-Minbari destroyers that Sheridan first coined to Delenn in Season 5 are finally ready to go online and are thrust in to action after Sheridan starts seeing visions, caused by a Technomage who just wants to help.

Joining Sheridan for this journey are Garibaldi and Lochley (to a point) along with a thief named Dureena and Earthforce Captain Anderson and crew. They discover a world ravaged by a devastating weapon, revealed to be a Shadow Planet Killer and soon find the Drakh, former servants of the ancient race intend to use it to attack Earth celebrating the 5th year of the Interstellar Alliance. When their plan is thwarted, the Drakh drop an advanced and deadly plague in to Earth's atmosphere.

I'll admit that A Call to Arms is one of the better B5 movies for its story and the action. It is not so station oriented this time but we do get to visit and see some of the familiar cast again. There is a bit of a slow build as all of the pieces come together and we find out just what is going to happen. However, by the second half there is no time to catch a breath.

While the story remains good, even so many years after it first aired, the music still polarises. JMS went with a new composer for the Crusade focused stories in Evan H. Chen. He brings a very different style from the B5 series and at times it is so noticeable that it detracts from a scene. For that reason alone, my rating was originally much lower. Some of the intensity of the climactic battle is lost amongst soft percussion and long scenes of just music (and Captain's saying 'Fire'). There's nothing wrong with trying something new I'll admit, and even Christopher Franke's work was criticised in B5's run. Maybe Chen's would have evolved into something iconic in its own right. In some ways I liken it to the percussive soundtracks that accompanied the reimagined Battlestar Galactica - maybe a little too ahead of its time for Crusade.

The effects are of a better standard than we'd seen through the Babylon 5 series but still a little lacking by today's standards. Visually, planet surfaces and space scenes are still quite stunning and the contrast between the greys of Earthforce and the golden Drakh ships work well.

A Call to Arms ends with a lead in to the series Crusade, with the lone surviving Earth-Minbari destroyer 'Excalibur' given the mission to find a cure to the Drakh plague before all life on Earth is wiped out.

Rating: 6/10

22 July 2015

BSG Review: The Living Legend (Parts I & II)

The Galactica comes across the Battlestar Pegasus under the legendary Commander Cain. Amidst celebrations in reuniting with other comrades, the fleet is then torn between their loyalty to Adama who has looked after them so far, and Cain who has ambitious plans to fight the Cylons.

Apollo and Starbuck encounter a patrol lead by Sheba and Bojay who appear to be from the Battlestar Pegasus. Taken back to the presumed lost ship, the two are introduced to Commander Cain. The Pegasus soon arrives with the rest of the fleet.

With two Battlestar's on hand, Cain is convinced they can retake Gamoray, an important colony from the Cylons. There, they would have enough fuel to resupply the fleet. Adama disapproves as the Galactica cannot leave the civilian ships open to attack.

Instead, a plan is put together to send Viper squadrons from each Battlestar to intercept Cylon tankers which would supply fuel for the fleet. During the attack, the tankers are destroyed, Cain reports it was by incidental fire but the truth is more sinister.

With no fuel nearby, Cain pushes his plan to attack Gamoray once again - meanwhile, Baltar has discovered the location of the Colonial fleet and sets up an attack to finally finish off Galactica with dreams of commanding Gamoray once he's done...

This was one of the better episodes of the series and one I remembered fairly well as we got to see another Battlestar in action - even though a lot of the effects shots are getting a little too repetitive, regardless of what Battlestar or squadron they fly for. The episode makes good use of the different outlooks of both commanders and the problem faced with crew loyalty coming in to play - worsened as family is also involved on both sides through the ranks. Cain is from that militaristic 'go for it' upbringing while Adama is almost too passive in his protection of the fleet he's come to look after. Cain's methods in the Tanker attack however are extremely questionnable for such a revered officer.

Baltar's plan ultimately comes undone but you have to wonder at the might of the Cylon Empire if they can't detect a second Battlestar until it's right on top of them!

Rating for Part I: 7/10

Ultimately, the Pegasus saves the fleet from the Cylon attack and Baltar is forced to retreat. The Colonial fleet now has to get to Gamoray to resupply with fuel, which just so happens to occur when the Cylon Imperious Leader is visiting the colony.

The attack takes the Cylons by surprise and embarrasses Baltar once again. With such a fortified force in the area, Cain takes the Pegasus to draw the Cylon Basestars away from the Galactica. Baltar retreats further leaving the Pegasus to take out the two remaining Basestars and disappearing from scanner contact. Sheba and Bojay are left to call Galactica home along with much of the Pegasus crew.

This thrilling and action-packed conclusion sees some interesting stunts and the use of parachutes by our warriors, more stuff blowing up and more of Baltar's uselessness on display for all to see. The question of whether Cain and the Pegasus survived the attack also comes up and possibly would have been answered in some part had the series continued (according to the Battlestar Wiki - see Analysis).

Rating for Part II: 7/10

27 June 2015

BSG Review: The Magnificent Warriors & The Young Lords

Galactica continues to lead the rag-tag fleet of colonial survivors through space in search for Earth as complications continue to mount from Cylon attack.
The Magnificent Warriors

When the fleet's agriculture ships are attacked and destroyed or damaged with the entire supply of seed depleted, Adama must find a way to replenish their supplies. A nearby planet may hold the key.

This is another episode with another familiar planet to recent outings. It's also the episode probably best known for Siress Belloby trying to court Adama throughout and accompanying him on the mission. A silly premise alongside another away mission where Boxey and Muffit tag along for no apparent reason.

Starbuck finds himself caught up in some of the politics of the towns-folk who are under constant threat by a pig-like race called the Boray. Belloby is captured, Adama is less than successful in negotiating her release and Starbuck hatches a plan to release himself from the responsibilities of sheriff which he obtained.

Overall a very dull episode as it's much the same as The Lost Warrior and The Long Patrol. I have to say I switched off while watching it and the Siress scenes didn't really help lift the interest even for their comedic value!

Rating: 4/10
The Young Lords 

Starbuck crash lands on a planet (again) and finds himself with a team of young warriors in a fight against the Cylons.

The group of young humans led by Kyle and Miri who have been fighting the Cylons on their planet, Attila since they slaughtered the rest of the inhabitants, captured their father and setup a base.

The Cylon garrison are under the command of Specter, an older, inferior version of Lucifer who reports to Baltar. Specter sends inaccurate and deceiving reports to Baltar about the progress of exterminating the humans on Attila, but Baltar is impressed by these lies while Lucifer remains suspicious.

Starbuck is to be traded for Kyle and Miri's father in a prisoner exchange but it goes wrong. Thankfully the deception worked both ways and Starbuck leads the children to attack the Cylon garrison and free their father.

This is another 'night' episode in the series but not as repetitive as some we have recently seen. The colonials would have to be wondering how many human colonies are actually out here as they seem to keep running in to them on their search for Earth, and just how far does the reach of the Cylon Empire actually extend? For that matter, why is Baltar so hellbent on pursuing the Galactica and fleet when there are abundant human colonies everywhere?

Rating: 6/10

18 June 2015

BSG Review: The Gun on Ice Planet Zero (Parts I & II)

The Galactica and fleet are being herded by the Cylon's towards a specific planet, Arcta which possesses a powerful and deadly weapon capable of destroying them all. A team of Colonial warriors and specialists is sent to the surface in order to destroy the weapon and allow the fleet to pass.

A small recon patrol with Starbuck, Boomer and three cadets is investigating a planetoid when they come under attack. Two of the cadets are lost while the third crash lands on the surface. Reluctantly, Starbuck and Boomer return to Galactica.

Adama determines that a team of specialists should destroy the laser on the planet surface or the fleet will face destruction. Their computers put together a list of people who come from the fleet's prison barge.

Of course the team doesn't gel too well with prisoners and warriors together, but they head to the surface where Apollo, leading the mission discovers Boxey and Muffit have snuck on board. During a storm the group are taken in by humanoid clones who call themselves Theta-class lifeforms. They agree to assist the team and take them to one of their villages - not before encountering a Cylon patrol.
As discussed on the Battlestar Wiki, it's hard to think a fleet in space could be herded in any particular direction unless the Cylon's were closing in on a three-dimensional path! But it helps the story. You would also have to wonder about the security measures in place (or not) in the shuttle hangar that would allow Boxey to sneak aboard without anyone noticing - so far, his presence on the shuttle hasn't added anything to the storyline either except putting himself and the team in more danger!

Rating for Part I: 6/10

Evading the Cylon patrol, the Colonial team reach the Theta underground city where Apollo meets the creator of the deadly pulsar weapon threatening the fleet.

Baltar and his baseships close in on the Galactica forcing the fleet to move closer to the planet where the weapon is located. It's up to the ground team to do their part - with some of the prisoners looking for escape and freedom.

The 'gripping' conclusion sees the problems the ground team faces as the criminals among them look out for their own interests. Baltar's fleet pushes the Galactica nearly within striking range of the pulsar weapon and it ends in what would have been a climactic sequence for the time.

Ultimately everything works out and Baltar is outplayed once again with the fleet continuing their search for Earth.

Rating for Part II: 6/10

10 June 2015

BSG Review: The Lost Warrior & The Long Patrol

Apollo finds himself stranded on a remote planet, taken in by villagers run by a crook with a Cylon bodyguard before Starbuck gets caught up in another planet's political uprising.

The Lost Warrior
While trying to lead Cylon Raiders away from Galactica and the fleet, Apollo ends up making an emergency landing on a remote planet. He finds a family there who are apprehensive at first but agree to help him out.

Apollo discovers the people in the area he landed are being oppressed by a Cylon 'sherriff' riding a horse, who is actually controlled by a thug named Lacerta. Only through a test of who can draw their gun the quickest is Apollo able to defeat the Cylon, Red Eye, removing Lacerta's control over the town.

While this is an Apollo episode it bears no real consequence on the events for Galactica and the fleet. Viewers could easily skip this episode and the storyline would remain largely unaffected. The episode itself is okay but feels like it plays out a few scenes too long.

Rating: 5/10

The Long Patrol
Starbuck takes a new recon Viper to investigate a new solar system as the fleet leaves their known space. He comes across a lost colony and is imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit after his Viper is stolen.

This Starbuck episode provides some clues as to the whereabouts of Earth towards the end. The rest of the story is encapsulated and rounded up by the end credits.

We see more of Starbuck's romances with Athena and Cassiopeia - dining both of them at the same time before his mission, and his entrepreneur skills at work attempting to return to the fleet with ambrosa to make him rich.

This episode is slightly more interesting and action oriented than the previous one.

Rating: 6/10

02 June 2015

B5 Review: The Legend of the Rangers

In a would-be start up for a new series, The Legend of the Rangers introduces us to a new crew, on an old ship discovering a new (but very old) foe...

To Live and Die in Starlight
David Martell is punished by the Grey Council after retreating from combat during a Ranger mission outnumbered against Raiders. His hopes for promotion to Captain the new Valen are instantly dashed, but he is given command of a different ship instead, the Liandra. He reunites with his former crew on a 'milk run' escorting the Valen, carrying important ambassadors from various worlds to an unknown planet.

Upon arrival, the Valen is attacked by an unknown force and the Liandra takes on the survivors and forced into a game of cat and mouse against a superior enemy. The resourcefulness of the crew and a little help from G'kar afford them a safe return home.

The idea behind this pilot movie isn't a bad one. A new adventure in the Babylon 5 universe with new characters has potential - just like Crusade! The new characters take some getting used to, but that would happen over the course of character development episodes if the series eventuated no doubt. As I'm sure some answers about the ghosts in the Liandra would eventually come about.

The new foe, The Hand (Hand of God?) appeared to me to be a little similar to the Shadows from the main series. They influenced younger races with their power and their ships are spindly looking - no doubt they would be much different but they also don't really appear to be that sinister or menacing in this episode. Sure, they can take out a ship rather easily, in what is probably one of the more pitiful battle sequences of the series, but JMS did explain the reasoning behind that particular scene. Perhaps the ships we see from The Hand are merely advance scouts and there's more where they came from but it's hard not to think the Whitestar fleet would have made light work of The Hand, being larger and more powerful than the Liandra.

The weapons systems aboard the Liandra provide another talking point and while a visual spectacle for 2002, just seem really inefficient, regardless of Ranger training and resilience and it did look a little silly at times. What happens when the weapons officer gets tired?

The new effects look great compared to the B5 series, even with some errors (ships flying backwards) and even Christopher Franke's music had a new sound and feel to it. It would have been interesting to see this series develop but it does feel a bit of a side-step to the main stories JMS would have wanted to tell. The 5 year arc had concluded but the stories of interest lie with Crusade and the Drakh War, or the Telepath War mentioned by Delenn in her monologue at the end of Rising Star.

It's not terrible, but somewhat forgettable and doesn't really add or remove anything from the continuity unfortunately.

Rating: 5/10

19 April 2015

TB Review: Thunderbirds Are Go

50 years since the original series, Thunderbirds has been revived with a move away from the marionettes and models of the classic to a mix of computer generated characters and ships with miniature sets.

It can be difficult rebooting a franchise for a modern audience and Thunderbirds has already seen the failure that was the 2004 Hollywood inspired movie that ultimately spat in the face of established fans and series creator, Gerry Anderson.

With Gerry's recent passing, the rights for the show have been freed up allowing this new series, Thunderbirds Are Go to come to light and launch this year.

The pilot episode, Ring of Fire is a two-parter at approx 50 mins in length and introduces familiar and new characters while omitting one in particular. Both episodes deal with emergencies that call on the help of our favourite International Rescue pilots. I say our favourite because everyone is involved in each unfolding disaster. While this is good no matter which Thunderbird pilot and craft is you love to see, it is a bit overkill for a 20 minute timeslot! Remember that in the original series it took 11 episodes before we got to see Thunderbird 3 in action.

The charm of the marionettes is gone but the characters are reproduced well in CG. For me, Virgil looks the most different from his puppet counterpart. The problem with CG is that on screen the characters can sometimes appear to be a bit lighter in their environment than they should be, but the team have put a lot of attention into the details which can be appreciated by the fans.

One thing the original series did well was the launch sequences of each craft. Each Thunderbird had it's own theme and own elaborate launch including how the pilot got into them. For the most part, the sequences have been retained and re-imagined for the new series, but the thematic music is gone and with it the appreciation for each craft in their own right. While I love the detail of TB1 descending to her launchpad and blowing away the swimming pool deck chairs (does Grandma put them all back again?) I feel that TB2's launch is rushed and that takes away from how grand this beast of a machine really is. TB2 is probably the favourite of all the Thunderbirds but the whole sequence feels sped up. Originally the palm trees folded down due to TB2's wingspan but the new TB2's wings are retracted as she enters the runway, so the trees don't really need to fold down anymore! TB3's launch sequence retains the moving lounge chair and launch through the round-house. With each launch sequence though, do we really need to hear the familiar 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 countdown every time?

Thunderbirds 1 and 3 are true enough to their original series counterparts although TB3 has been equipped with extending 'arms' which change the look of the ship and we see used to assist an orbital satellite. TB3 was my favourite of the original craft but the new feature has put me off the new one quite a bit. Thunderbird 2 looks similar enough but more like a cargo carrier than the curvacious original version - maybe a little more aerodynamic as a result.

We are introduced to Kayo, a female member of International Rescue who appears to be a replacement for the original's Tintin. As the episode unfolds, it appears that she is the new Tintin. It will be interesting to see where they take this character, particularly with her own ship. Thunderbird S? Really? Shouldn't they have named it TB6?

Notably missing is Jeff Tracy. Scott appears to have taken the reigns on Tracy Island in his absence while John coordinates missions from TB5. There are mentions to an 'incident' that Jeff was involved in but I noticed they deliberately didn't mention he is actually dead... I wonder if this is a thread that will continue through the show to a resolution at some point?

Lady Penelope and Parker are back with their pink Rolls Royce but gone is Lady P's famous upper class accent. Parker retains his as voice actor David Graham returns to the new series. Both are thoroughly featured in the pilot episodes just like everyone else. Lady P even has a little dog for a companion now. Some of the graphics don't quite stand up when FAB1 is involved unfortunately - and they've made it capable of flying (again).

Brains and Grandma make appearances too. Brains has a more distinctly Indian sounding accent than his original series version and Grandma is an incredibly bad cook it seems. Added in with all the rescue mayhem and getting everyone involved, including that bald-headed villain (The Hood), just adds more to the limited time slot and why the pilot episodes continue to feel so hurried.

I'm hoping future episodes will slow down a bit and be a bit less cluttered with emergencies and mayhem. The new show looks like it wants to fit more in with half the time slot of the original. There's no chance to appreciate the depth of the emergency that's presented, or appreciate the awesomeness of the Thunderbird machines in all their revitalised, remote controllable (from a wrist-watch!) glory. However, perhaps the mayhem was a result of starting off with a bang and showing off everything to get audiences interested.

There's potential in this new show and with 50 episodes to come, there's plenty of time to see how this develops. I'm interested enough to want to watch more and that's better than the 2004 movie did!

Thunderbirds Are Go!

16 April 2015

BSG Review: Lost Planet of the Gods (Parts I & II)

The Battlestar Galactica leads their rag-tag fleet in a continued quest to find Earth. Following from the pilot episode Saga of a Star World, we have this two-part episode where many of Galactica's pilots fall ill, forcing new pilots to be trained from the female population.

Meanwhile, Adama navigates Galactica into a dark void to evade Baltar's pursuing Basestar - a course that would eventually lead them to the planet Kobol and an unfortunate encounter on the surface.

Apollo announces he and Serina will get married, with Boxey's approval of course.

Galactica launches two patrols; Boomer and Jolly head to a planet where they discover a Cylon base while Apollo and Starbuck come across a large black void ahead of the fleet. Upon returning to the ship, Jolly and eventually Boomer begin showing signs of severe illness, which is enough to ground most of the male pilots aboard Galactica.

This prompts the training of female pilots including Serina who eventually form part of the mission to protect a medical shuttle in order to find a cure to the illness affecting the other pilots. Meanwhile, Apollo destroys the Cylon base and Galactica navigates in to the void.

We don't get much indication of how much time is passing in this episode as I imagine it would take some a while to train up the new pilots before they're capable of protecting a shuttle. We also don't know how much time has passed since the Battle of Carillon in the pilot episode. However, it seems it doesn't take long for Rigel to completely change her hairstyle during the Viper launch sequence (reused footage from the pilot episode!)

Rating for Part I: 6/10

Continuing through the black void, Galactica picks up a blip on the edge of their sensor range. Adama orders a patrol to investigate which is originally assigned to Apollo and Serina but results in Starbuck taking Apollo's Viper without permission as he acts out against being 'replaced' by Serina.

Apollo and Serina launch to pursue Starbuck but he leaves their scanner range and ends up being captured by some of Baltar's Centurions. After returning to Galactica, Apollo and Serina go ahead with their marriage ceremony, during which a star and a planet are found at the end of the void. Adama believes the planet to be Kobol and it will hold the secrets to the location of the thirteenth tribe, Earth.

Adama, Apollo and Serina investigate some of the ruins on Kobol and find a tomb where they encounter Baltar who explains his side of the story in an attempt to lure them into a trap - delivering them to the Cylon Imperious Leader. Adama isn't convinced and the planet is soon attacked by Baltar's own Basestar with Lucifer, Baltar's Cylon companion taking matters in to his own hands.

Galactica's forces are able to overcome the Cylon attack and Baltar is left trapped on Kobol. Unfortunately, Serina is mortally wounded by a Cylon in the escape from the planet surface.

I quite liked this episode as we got to see our characters in a different environment, the scenes for Kobol appear to have been shot among Egyptian ruins. The story continues with the first confrontation with Baltar since the attack at Cimtar in the pilot episode but then there are things like Starbuck's 'disappearance' which the crew don't really react to in any significant way except for Apollo checking the scanner. Then there's Serina's death which appears to be thrown in for the sake of it. Surely her wounds could easily have been treated and her character allowed to continue? It just felt a little odd how it was handled.

I'll also admit that it seemed a little convenient that Adama's medallion was the key to everything in the tomb - and are we to assume that Baltar went through a similar trial of his own to get to the same location? He hardly has the same patience!

Rating for Part II: 6.5/10

09 February 2015

B5 Review: River of Souls

The River of Souls is a more in-depth look at the Soul Hunters following their first season introduction and seeing how they react to the realisation that they made a huge mistake when they moved to save an entire race from extinction.

Garibaldi comes to Babylon 5 to meet a doctor whose research Edgar's Industries has been funding. Dr Bryson has discovered a large orb which he has brought with him and believes holds the key to life eternal - the purpose of his research. While he doesn't yet realise it's been influencing him, he manages to make contact with a life form inside the orb and soon learns that there are many more like it trapped inside.

A Soul Hunter arrives to retrieve the orb and Lochley becomes involved in trying to set the souls free. Even dying for a split second and communicating with one of the alien inhabitants who informs her of the mistake the Soul Hunter's made in 'saving' their race.

Among all this Lochley is informed of a holo-brothel operating in Down-below which is causing concern among its clients and is even threatened with legal action after Zack investigates. Not merely a secondary storyline to be ignored, the holo-brothel ends up becoming central to the storyline when the beings inside the orb use the holo technology to 'free' themselves from their imprisonment.

I actually liked River of Souls much more than I remembered. It was great to see Lochley in command and handling the situations on her terms without Sheridan and the others to really get in the way. The story pushes our beliefs about faith with the Soul Hunter's believing they are doing what's right by preserving those on the brink of death but this is in the face of those who believe that there is some sort of afterlife, such as Heaven. 

There's very little action compared to the other telemovies in the series, especially compared to Thirdspace but I thought the story was a little better and as said above, I really appreciated seeing Lochley handling things on her own along with Lt Corwin.

Rating: 6.5/10

From here we go to one of the least favourite entries (according to the fans) in the B5 universe, The Legend of the Rangers...

29 January 2015

BSG Review: Saga of a Star World

The original Battlestar Galactica series kicks off with the pilot episode(s) Saga of a Star World.

After seven centuries, the Humans and Cylons look set to usher in a new era of Peace - however, it soon turns out that it is all a ploy by the Cylons to get humanity off guard as they unleash a full scale assault on the twelve colonies and the Colonial Fleet. Picking up the pieces, the lone surviving Battlestar, Galactica leads a rag-tag fleet of the surviving human population in search of a new home.

Commander Adama believes he can find the thirteenth human colony, a planet called Earth. But first, the fleet must deal with food and water shortages along with inhospitable living conditions on some ships.

The fleet find their way to Carillon in order to resupply while on the surface they discover a casino run by a race of aliens known as the Ovions. Things seem a little too good to be true as people are welcomed and enjoy the hospitality offered to them - but no one has heard of this place before.

It is only later that we discover the Ovions are feeding on human guests and working with the Cylons through Baltar, the architect behind the Human/Cylon peace talks. In an evacuation of the planet, Galactica and her fighters take on a Cylon Basestar and Raiders, ultimately resulting in the destruction of the Cylon forces and the planet Carillon.

Saga of a Star World is a lengthy introduction to the series, reaching a feature length run-time when it is effectively three episodes strung together. It at least provides a decent setting for the BSG universe as we are shown how the twelve colonies are ruled and governed and get some back story on where the Cylons came from.

BSG sets itself apart from Star Trek at least with its battle sequences, fighters and base ships etc, although it could be said that there are some parallels to Star Wars in the special effect department. For the time, the effects are quite well done - but through the course of the pilot episode, the repetition of some scenes becomes more apparent.

With the characters, it's a male dominated cast where Adama appears to be the only Battlestar Commander who can see reason, affording Galactica her survival. His first son Apollo is an experienced Viper pilot while second son Zac is killed in the initial Cylon attack. Starbuck is much more carefree at life and with his ladies while Boomer is a lot more serious, but never far away. Second in command of the Galactica is the loyal Colonel Tigh.

For the female cast, there's Adama's daughter Athena and Cassiopeia who are vying for Starbuck's attention, while Caprican Serina appears to be an interest for Apollo, with her son Boxey.

Saga of a Star World has set the scene, and now it's on to the next episodes to follow Galactica and the fleet in their search for Earth.

My Rating: 6/10

08 January 2015

The Next Sci-Fi Saga...

With our watch through of Babylon 5 over, at least for the series, it's time to look ahead at what the next sci-fi saga might be. Luckily, over the Christmas break I was able to come in to ownership of the original Battlestar Galactica (and 1980) and Star Trek: The Next Generation, both remastered in HD Blu-Ray!

The decision is which one to start off with!?

I last watched through the original Battlestar Galactica when I still lived at home with my parents. My Dad had the DVD set (in a metal Cylon case!) and we would regularly watch an episode or so each week. I had memories of the series as a kid, but it was only more recently I watched the series through. I can't say I recall a full episode of the follow-up series '1980', but I also haven't heard many good reviews of that series either!

Of course, BSG would be cut off too soon (like a lot of good sci-fi), but it would serve as the inspiration for the reimagined series of 2003 which we also have yet to watch through.

It's been even longer since I watched through Star Trek: The Next Generation. My first memory of it goes back to its first release. But I also remember being more interested in the movies at the time. I only picked up TNG at the beginning of its fifth season when it reached TV in Australia. From that point on, I was hooked.

Again, my Dad collected the VHS collection for TNG (and DS9, and Voyager!) so I know I've watched through the series at least once. Some of the more interesting episodes were watched over again and again (Q Who, Yesterday's Enterprise, The Best of Both Worlds, Relics and more).

As we haven't watched a new 'Trek' episode since 2013, it could be a good time to get back in to it.

Or we could try to juggle both BSG and TNG?

As always, stay tuned. The #TrekReview tag will return (for episodic reviews and maybe some more of the Starships Collection) and I'll use #BSGReview for Galactica ;)

07 January 2015

B5 Review: The Wheel of Fire, Season Five

Babylon 5's fifth season is a different setting and pace to those we have become used to from the series. With much of the conflict resolved, The Wheel of Fire starts out quite slowly before ramping up in the final half.

Much of the first half concentrates on a telepath colony Sheridan allows to be setup on the station.
Lead by the long haired Byron, they offer assistance and intelligence to the Alliance before problems start arising. Lyta becomes sympathetic to their cause and soon the secrets of how human telepaths came to exist are exposed, forcing Byron to ask the Alliance for a homeworld of their own - believing they are owed this much. The conflict comes to a fiery end when Bester and the Psi-Corps get involved - however Lyta is able to look out for many of those who survived once they are moved on.

The station welcomes a new commanding officer after Sheridan's ascension to President and Ivanova's transfer to a ship of her own. Elizabeth Lochley comes aboard with a different approach which rubs Garibaldi the wrong way and she also shares an interesting secret with Sheridan himself.

Londo and G'kar's relationship continues to develop into something quite odd and by mid season G'kar has been assigned as Londo's own bodyguard following what is believed to have been an assassination attempt on the Emperor to be.

There's A View from the Gallery which shows us the station's goings on from the point of view of two tech workers and we are taken to more places away from the station, notably our first look at the Drazi homeworld and we return to Centauri Prime. There is also the Psi-Corps centric episode The Corps is Mother, the Corps is Father viewed through Bester's eyes as he brings two interns to the station in pursuit of a dangerous telepath.

The second half of the season ramps up with the investigation in to attacks on Alliance shipping lanes, later revealed to be the work of Centauri warships which plunges the Alliance towards open combat with the Republic and alienating Londo in the process. The truth behind these attacks is revealed at the season's climax which sees Londo take the throne as Emperor, but not as he imagined it would ever be, following a devastating attack on Centauri Prime and the death of the Regent.

Throughout, we see glimpses of training in the Anla'shok, the Rangers, mostly through the eyes of Lennier when he is sent to find evidence of who is responsible for the attacks. Of course, Lennier's arc does not work out too well for him in the end.

Our characters all go through changes once again. G'kar is a religious figure by season's end, Londo
is Emperor, Lyta is forced to leave as her powers and ambitions have become a problem for the station and Earthgov. Most of the original crew are leaving for new positions and roles. Michael goes through a return to drinking to becoming the head of Edgar's Industries with Lise finally at his side, Stephen is offered a role within the Alliance and takes up a lead position back on Earth. Sheridan and Delenn relocate to Minbar at season's end where the new Alliance headquarters are situated.

The station continues on though with a new command staff and new ambassadors.

The Wheel of Fire rates an average score of 6.83/10 which puts it 4th out of the seasons overall, ahead of Signs and Portents. The score doesn't include the series finale Sleeping in Light.

The score is a reflection of the slower pace of the season as a whole and an abundance of episodes rated at 6.5/10. The highest scoring episodes were Darkness Ascending, Movements of Fire and Shadow and The Fall of Centauri Prime, all scoring 8/10 and occuring in the second half of the season dealing with the Centauri conflict.

For me, Season Five always felt like a rebirth for the story and a bit like Season One all over again. There was a new opening theme in place and new characters with their own development stories. In saying that, Lochley's character is only fleshed out in a few episodes and there are many where she doesn't appear at all!

From here, the main series is completed but I plan to continue in a somewhat chronological order towards Sleeping in Light. The next three reviews will cover the telemovies that lead to Crusade so they will be spread out over some time.

On a side note, there's plenty more sci-fi to watch and review so be on the lookout ;)

06 January 2015

Abraxas Video - Celebrating 5 Years on YouTube

How quickly time flies (lol, see what I did there?). Today marks the fifth anniversary for my Aviation YouTube channel AbraxasVideo.

On this day in 2010 I uploaded a video showcase of aviation footage I had filmed between 2007 and 2009 and called it 'Serenade of the Skies', based off the music track Serenata Immortale that was used in it. It remains among the most popular videos on my channel today and while I knew my passion for aviation had well and truly been reignited at that point, I had no idea how much further the channel would grow.

By 2013 I counted over 300 subscribers and equally more than 300 videos uploaded. For that event, An Epic Age was uploaded to mark the third anniversary and it remains one of my personal favourites on the channel.

For the fifth anniversary, my new showcase looks back through the years 2006 to 2012, where the channel is currently up to with my upload queue. It remembers the music from Serenade of the Skies, Clear Vision and An Epic Age - the first three showcases. At the halfway point it looks to the footage that is still to come from later in 2012 through to 2015 (yes, there's a video from January '15 in there!) to the rest of the track An Epic Age.

The video includes a few nods to some friends and enthusiasts which I hope they'll see and appreciate. I wanted to have a little bit more fun with this video :)

As the channel stands at this point it has approximately 870 subscribers and over 865 videos online with a growing list of more to come. I've continuously been behind the present day with my uploads but am hoping to catch up - that might mean a change of strategy for plane spotting in 2015 to reduce the number of additional videos in the queue. I'd like to catch up by 2016 but I guess these things can't be rushed either!

2016 itself will have its own milestone to celebrate.

With footage being provided to professional productions and documentaries and my passion for aviation taking me to more places in search of more holy grails to capture, the foreseeable future for AbraxasVideo is looking bright.

I definitely want to acknowledge the subscribers, fellow avgeeks, enthusiasts and fans out there. While I would still be uploading videos regardless of the following or lack thereof, having people I can chat to from across the world and share this interest with definitely makes it all worthwhile.

Thank You!

04 January 2015

2014: The Year of Milton

As years in review go, I was tempted to call this the Year of Rebuilding or something like that, but it seems only appropriate to name it after the addition to our family that we (I) can't seem to stop talking about - Milton. Of course, I wrote a post about him a little while back and even as I type this he's running around the house looking for attention and just being generally cute :)

It was a year of rebuilding many things and getting Eleonor back on track herself. Another visit to hospital in February would continue to test our relationship and it wouldn't be until much later in the year that things would start to finally normalise after a turbulent end to 2013 as well.

Milton came along in May as an attempt to help with the process and I'd say he's mostly succeeded, at least on our side of the fence - while there have been some incidents we've had to keep an eye on with Milton interrupting our neighbours next door.

In January we were off to the Philippines for my first visit there, meeting up with much of Eleonor's extended family and attending a wedding in Boracay. In September we ventured to Shanghai for another wedding and spent some time in Hong Kong (and Macau) following that. Both holidays were quite hot due to the season but were a good chance to get away for a bit. I also managed to spend some time in Brisbane with friends and did some more travelling purely for my own aviation purposes which took me to Brisbane and Melbourne on some rather interesting, if a little weird experiences.

This included attending two 'final' flights, the last Qantas 747 operation between Brisbane and Sydney and the last Qantas 767 commercial service. The latter was quite a big occasion with a who's who of avgeek enthusiasts onboard to see out the 767 in style. I also made an appearance on Channel 7 News when I was interviewed while attending the first visit of Airbus' new A350XWB in August. My YouTube channel, AbraxasVideo passed 800 subscribers and more than 800 videos now sit online for aviation enthusiasts to view. I'm still uploading footage from mid-2012 with the hopes of catching up to the present day over the next year - I definitely have my work cut out for me!

I experienced two track days in my own car this year. The first in January gave me a good taste of what to expect and from there I decided I'd like to do it a bit more often and attended another session later in the year with my brother. I expect I'll continue the trend in the years to come.

Work remained constant and I've come to enjoy it a little more this year as I've settled in a bit better. 2015 would have seen me return to my old team but some changes to those plans sounds like I'll see out the rest of the year in my secondment, and we'll see if my old team will have me back for 2016 instead.

While it would take some work to be worse than 2013, it did feel like there was a definite improvement and I hope that continues in the years to come.

The Best of 2014...
Best Holiday/Trip - Shanghai/Hong Kong/Macau - September

For this trip we headed to Shanghai for a friend's wedding. We had good memories of Shanghai from when we first visited back in 2007 and were eager to go back. We got an insiders look at the city as our friend took some time out to show us around. We even did some of our own exploring and experienced a full sunset and light up of the Bund. From here we flew to Hong Kong as Eleonor hadn't been before and it had been 17 years since I last visited. Even in the extreme heat we had a great time and managed to catch up with family while there and see many of the sights. With enough time up our sleeves we also visited Macau on a day trip allowing us to tick that destination of our lists :)

Best Dessert - The Choc Pot, Burwood
Runner up - San Churro, Parramatta
Honourable mention - N2 Extreme Gelato, Haymarket

The Choc Pot retains number one spot in 2014 as it continued to be my go to place for those ultimate cravings. In 2014 they introduced monthly special desserts which we experienced a few times and I introduced several friends to the Choc Pot experience during the year - yet I am still to bring my own family here!

My San Churro visits were a bit leaner in '14 but a most recent visit reminded me why they were a former number one on my dessert list. I have to mention N2 Extreme Gelato since we did visit them once and even with the 20+ minute waiting time, the dessert was well worth it!

Best Movie - The Lego Movie 4.5/5
Runner up - Guardians of the Galaxy 4/5
Honourable Mention - 300: Rise of an Empire 4/5

I didn't get to see The Lego Movie in the cinema but when I finally did it was easy to see why everything about the movie was awesome. They had managed to put together a film for kids that appealed to adults like me who would also have fond memories of Lego. The movie is fun, humourous and well 'put together' and definitely the stand out of 2014.

Guardians of the Galaxy comes in second and is a surprise entrant as I never planned to even go and see this movie, let alone actually enjoy it. Marvel (in my opinion) did a poor job with the trailers that were released which meant I had pretty much no interest in seeing a band of people I knew nothing about - but then the positive reviews flowed through and my interest was piqued. I agree that it's an entertaining and enjoyable sci-fi adventure and look forward to the next one.

300: Rise of an Empire was an early high scoring entrant for 2014 as it managed to continue the stylised over the top action of the original 300 movie while telling a slightly different story. While its historical accuracy is in question, Rise of an Empire was another entertaining, dramatic, dark and at times humourous tale of those who would stand against Xerxes.

The only concert we attended was the Sydney Symphony playing music from The Matrix, which was fantastic in the Opera House. 2015 will see us travel to Melbourne for a similar concert for Star Trek.

Ever the optimist, 2015 is looking to be an interesting year ahead. I hope yours is too!