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!