Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Doctor Who - New Series, new species part 9

Ok so a bundle of new Torchwood episodes have slipped by before I even realised and it's now time for another article I'd say. In general I think the standards of the episodes have improved and while I think the relationships between the cast still change like an Eastenders episode on steroids there has been something of a depth to the series of late, with Rhys being brought in on things, Martha Jones' arrival and the recent death of Owen Harper have given the show more realism and bit which I commend.

OK, onto those pesky aliens, ok no official names again, but since the team haven't travelled time and space for centuries I think it does make things a bit more believable if they don't know every alien on sight.

Cash Cow

I thought this creature was clever and well used, and the ides of regenerative powers being used to gain a never ending meat supply was original and bold I thought. The CG work was well done and the creature's eyes were particularly well detailed. My only misgiving is that the final reveal of it's full shape made it seem a bit too whale like, but that can be argued away by the fact that if it were too alien the meat packers would have been more curious so overall I'd say a pretty convincing alien.

Cash Cow is a crude term to describe an alien that was beached near Cardiff then exploited by local meat merchants. The being was similar in size and vaguely in shape to a whale, but it posessed qualities defining it as extra terrestrial. The first was extraordinary regenerative abilities, when injured the creature repidly grew back missing or damaged flesh. This was used by those who found it to create a never ending supply of meat, no matter how much they cut, it kept growing back. The other quality was discovered by the Torchwood team when they investigated, thei experienced minds looked into it's eyes and saw a sentient creature, intelligent and siffering under man's cruelty. Attempts to save it failed and in the end it was destroyed out of mercy. It can only be hoped that this has not damaged any future relations between the species and Earth.


Adam was a great character and the episode was used well to bring out more from the crew, especially Jack who delved into memories of his past in the Boeshane Peninsula. The writer's effectively showed both a side of sympathy for him as he struggles to survive, but also his villainy as he corrupts and warps the team members to his will and by the end you feel sorrow for him, but also knowledge that the right thing has been done as he died.

Adam was a unique creature that thrived on memories by intergrating himself into the minds of others and feeding off their unique memories. Adam may or may not have been a unique creature, but since the only defence against him was to erase him from memory it may be difficult to tell if any other have appeared. Adam spoke of the void, this may have been the void between universes or he may have been referring to non-corporeal existance in either case he does not exist in our world, but by latching onto powerful memories such as Jack's he was able to bring himself into existence even to the extent of having a physical body. He was extremely manipulative, making one character fall in love with him and another believe he was a serial killer to suit his interests. He spoke as if he'd done it before so he'd clearly entered physical existance previously but how and when were unrevealed. When Torchwood discovered the plot they erased him from all their memories returning him to nothingness once more.


The Mayflies were cool and much more than the standard alien bug villain they appeared to be in the series trailer. The idea of them curing human deseases, but carrying the risk of death was again unique and original. The episode was a highlight for me because not only di Martha Jones make an appearance, but also Alan Dale of many american big hit dramas also appeared as the villain.

The Mayflies were so named because of their resemblance to the earth species of insect. These creatures were vastly different to their namesakes however, firstly by being able to grow big enough to tower over a human. Their second property, however, was much more interesting. When in their larval, miscroscopic phase they could inhabit a human body and while doing so cure any diseases or imperfections in it,. This attracted the attention of the Pharm, an experimental agency that used aliens, including a Weevil, to try and create products for their own benefit. The Mayfly's ability to cure the unbcurable attracted many volunteer patients, but the mayflies wanted to continue inhabiting their human hosts, causing death when they choose to devour their host. To cover this imperfection the Pharm sent a hitman to kill the patient by injecting poison that would kill them and wipe out the mayflies. The Pharm was eventually shut down by Torchwood, and the mayflies and other aliens killed to end their suffering under the pharm's experiments.

And that's it till a few week's time

Friday, 22 February 2008

More Indiana Jones

Thought you might find this interesting...

This is an actual serious novel! It came out before Harry Potter. I'll try and find it, expect a review.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Indiana Jones and Jumper review

Hello, this is a first post from me, Sam Li.
If you haven't seen it by now the new Indiana Jones Trailer is now out, you'll be able to see it on the Indiana Jones website, don't bother looking for it on Apple.
Anyhoo, although Aled will probably rewrite my review, here is my review of the Doug Liman film, Jumper.
Based on the novel of the same name, which is far better (in my opinion, feel free to disagree on my blog) It involes Hayden Christensen's character David Rice who has the ability to "Jump" (teleport) around. He then finds himself hunted by the Paladins and has complications with another Jumper.
It was great entertainment, but it could have had that sci fi cool that films like the Matrix and K-PAX had, had it followed the novel and wasn't so gimmicky.
All in all a very good film. If you want to know the finer details Wikipedia is always on hand. I would recommend it if your looking for a day out with some mates, but i wouldn't go out of my way to see it. Save your money for the bigger films coming out later this year.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

SF on TV - Feb 08

With the writer's strike in full swing there has been something of a decline in good Science Fiction TV of late, even with the issue coming close to resolution it will probably still be some time before top shows return to UK television screens. However some shows have managed to break through and there are a few home grown titles on the air too. I'll try not to be too lengthy but here's a breakdown of what's available at the moment.

Torchwood - Series 2

What is it: A Doctor Who spin off featuring Jack Harkness and a team of operatives in Cardiff solving alien-based mysteries.
What makes it SF: When there aren't aliens to deal with a rift in time and space can churn out things from past or future keeping most episodes clearly within Sci-Fi realms.
Why should I watch it: It's improved on the good, but lackluster, series one with a good selection of guest stars and more of a big picture for the series, with Jack's past in play to.
When's it on: Wednesdays BBC2 - 9pm, additional showings at other dates and on BBC3. The fifth episode has aired at the time of posting.

Lost - Series 4

What is it: A drama surrounding the survivors of a plane crash who live on an island full of mysteries and dangers.
What makes it SF: While not strictly a SF program, there are enough smoke monsters, sonic defense towers, mysterious bunkers and "Others" to earn it a place here.
Why should I watch it: If you haven't seen previous series' you probably shouldn't!
When's it on: Sundays Scum...sory Sky One - 9pm. The second episode has aired at the time of posting.

Blade: The Series

What is it: A TV series featuring comic book character Blade, a super-enhanced vampire hunting human.
What makes it SF: The Blade series treats vampires, not as demonic creatures but as "different" humans, which essentially makes it a SF production.
Why should I watch it: Dunno really, if you like vampires it's ok I guess, but I wasn't overly impressed
When's it on: Mondays Virgin 1 - 10pm. About four episodes have aired at the time of posting.

Ashes to Ashes

What is it: A follow on from hit series Life on Mars set in the early eighties, but featuring many characters from the original series.
What makes it SF: Though the nature of it is left unclear the series seems to imply time travel (SF territory) caused by injury or death is a possibility for the events seen in the show
Why should I watch it: Great performances by the returning cast and an interesting dynamic with the new character, who has studied Sam Tyler's "delusions" and now finds herself in them
When's it on: Thursdays BBC1 - 9pm. The first episode has aired at the time of posting

Phoo Action

What is it: A wacky comedy from the mind of Tank Girl/Gorillaz creator showing the tale of a future London ravaged by mutant criminals
What makes it SF: There are mutants, and possibly aliens enough to qualify it as SF as well as comedy.
Why should I watch it: The outrageous characters, including one with a basketball for a head should never work on screen, but they do and make for hilarious viewing
When's it on: Tuesdays BBC3 - 9pm. The first episode has aired at the time of posting.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

What is it: A TV spin off of the famous terminator films, this series details the years after T2 when Sarah fights to keep her son safe from future menaces.
What makes it SF: The story heralds a war between man and machines that is doomed to happen in the future and about those who travel back in time to try and alter it's course
Why should I watch it: It's a continuation of the epic Terminator franchise, and fills in part of the story previously unseen.
When's it on: It starts on February the 21st.

The BBC shows will be available for a limited time after airing on iPlayer, other shows may be available online too, but check your sources.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

"VECTOR" begins

Ir's probably now a bit too late now, but if you have a comic book shop near you you might just have time to nip down and grab the first installment of the new Star Wars crossover series - Vector. It'll look a bit like this:

The series starts with Knights of the old Republic issue 25, but the cover has some familiar faces and VECTOR splashed over it so it shouldn't be too hard to spot. Knights of the old Republic is set in an era experienced in the games of the same name, about 4000 years before Luke sets out on his adventure.

It has yet to be explained how the story fits through to Luke's time and onward to the Legacy era you should be fairly familiar with by now - if you want to know more ask the comic book shop if they have Legacy 0.5 when you pop in. Nonetheless it's sure to be a good ride and one worth hopping on board if you're new to Star Wars comics. Though KotoR may be unfamiliar territory to most the issue is written so that new readers can get on board with the action without having to know too much of the backstory.

The story centres around an ancient Sith Talisman whose power over life makes it a desirable prospect to many forces and it's impact will clearly last a long time. In KotoR the two main heroes Zayne and Gryph stumble into a secret Jedi agent sent to recover it and the stage is set for more adventure. I can;t really say more without spoiling the whole plot so I'll leave you with that and see if you fancy it.

The story statys with KotoR for four issues (25-28) then moves on to Dark Times, which is set in the aftermath of Order 66.

Monday, 4 February 2008

SF Masterworks #1 The Forever War

A Cloverfield review, amongst other ideas, is pending but I'll give you all a chance to see it before discussing it here. This is something I've been meaning to do for a while, but I took a bit longer reading the book than I thought I would. I don't often review literature here, but this book deserves the merit.

The Series of SF Masterworks is a selection of Science Fiction books highly regarded by authors, publishers and readers. The series reprints the books they feel deserve the merit both to acknowledge their accomplishment and to ensure that worthy books remain in print. So when I spotted that the book I was reading happened to be the first included on this list I thought it was worth mentioning. I've encountered and read several of these books, but I'll probably document them as I find them in numerical order meaning the posts will be quite sporadic and spread out. If you're interested the next book on the list is I Am Legend, which I may get out of interest...if the huge stack of unread books in my room begins to dwindle.

The Forever War is a bold telling of a war that alienates the soldiers that fight in it. While especially relevant to the Vietnam War that the author experienced it is still relevant to a modern reader because it doesn't just parallel the 'Nam war but offers a commentary on warfare itself and an eye into the life of those who fight in something much bigger than themselves. The main sense you get as you read the book is not "oh war is bad it should be stopped!" but rather a sense of despair and anger at the generals who send their inexperienced troops into a situation they barely even understand themselves and who continue to have an iron hold on their troops who have done more than their fair share. And we come to a depressing conclusion that there's not much anybody can or will do about it. When forced back into active service after being promised retirement the main character shrugs and says "It's so army."

As with other succesful army SF novels (such as Starship Troopers) the reason for the success is the main character. Mandella is recruited into the army because he's a genius. They call in the best of the best to handle the extreme environments and challanges of interstellar conflict. As soon as people start dying in often meaningless ways he realises he is only as good as his trigger finger. Soon we forget about his past and get sucked into the life of a man struggling to survive, though he's not sure why.

Of course it's also succesful because it's set in a war and setting far removed from our own. We get that there's something strange from the start when army customs dictate that soldiers swear at their commanders and that female soldiers cohabit with males. Soon we move onto low gravity moons and super armoured fighting suits eqipped with "laser-fingers." But that is not the strangest thing of all the technology used to wage war means the fighting rages across both time and space.

"Time-dillation" occurs when the ships used for combat travel across the stars meaning that though the campaigns last only weeks when the crew return home decades have passed returning them to a drastically different Earth. And again he is called up, knowing that when he returns there will be nothing left of what he once knew - seperated from anything that means anything, fighting a war he no longer understands and for a world that is no longer his home will he find any meaning or happiness out there in the stars? To find out buy and read this excellent book.

Gripping from start to finish with a touch of genuine sadness that has made this book a well deserved classic this book is well worth picking up, 'cause you won't put it down!

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Doctor Who - New Series, new species part 8

Ok, so this time it's Torchwood with a new series exploding onto our screens. The series has shown signs of improvement from the first, slightly dissapointing while engaging series. With Alan Dale and other acting talent set to guest star the series looks like it is stepping up, but so far I still feel it needs to prove itself. None of the species featured in the shows have official names, which is a little irritating to me but I guess you can't please everyone can you.


The blowfish was a fun start to the series, appearing out of nowhere and ending just as quickly. The character was good, taunting the team and showing their need for Jack's return. I wish they'd been able to reveal more about it but I can see why they didn't.

"Blowfish" is the designation given to an unidentified fish-like species encountered by Torchwood. The species was humanoid, but with a fish shaped head complete with fins and markings. It seemed quite happy on land and had at least some idea of Earth culture, having stolen a smart sports car as it's chosen method of transport. The Blowfish was working for rogue Time Agent John Hart and carried a device for him. Any further information was lost when Jack Harkness took decisive action and shot the creature.

Cell 114

This species, with no name and no idea of who they are was a great idea and the use of "sleeper cells" with aliens undercover as humans with no idea of their true identity. This great concept was ruined for me by the episode ripping off Terminator in several ways (see the blade coming out of the arm in above picture for one!) so was only bearable in the end.

An unknown species sent members of it's race, disguised as the natives of the planet, equipped with false memories so they believed themselves to be so, and therefore would not reveal themselves under interrogation. Their purpose was to gather all necessary information about the planet and then subjugate it. Their bodies were equipped with inbuilt weapons such as bombs, force fields and electronic countermeasures. Cell 114 were defeated, with the help of one of their members who preferred her illusory human life and rejected her purpose, but even she was killed as her true nature began to take over. It is unknown if any other cells exist on Earth or across the stars.


This species is featured as a sidenote in the Torchwood alternate reality game available on their website. You play as a freelance operative hired to investigate mysterious goings on at a science lab calle "New Eden."

Midomar are a small species, about five centimetres tall, who can travel across radio waves using the energy to deconstruct and reconstruct themselves. One travelled into the radio of a man named Grayson and gave him messages, but the man sounded too mad for him to be any use to the Midomar. The radio he lived in eventually wound up in Torchwood where swarms of the creatures came through, much to the alarm of the staff. The Midomar were eventually frozen and stored in the vault and a blocking signal sent to stop them trying again.

That's it till a few weeks time