Stars End S3E27

“Everyone Believes in the Freedom of the Podcast – It Should Be Right There in the Constitution”

It’s human nature, it seems, to celebrate round numbers, 40th birthdays, 20th wedding anniversaries, 10th high school reunions, and so forth.  New Year’s Day 2000 was a huge deal even though, as Arthur C. Clarke was quick to point out, the third millennium CE didn’t start until 2001.

Early on, we poked a bit of fun at this tendency, culminating in episode eight, because eight is a very round number:  It’s “10” in base eight, “20” in base four, and “1000” in base two.  That was also when we tied Manimal for their number of episodes.

But now we’re celebrating our 50th episode and that is a milestone.  Fifty isn’t just 6.25 on the Manimal scale, it’s when a lot of comics and magazines (remember those?) have their first special issue! It’s a half-century, a semi-centennial, and a golden jubilee!  You might even say that we’re almost playing with a full deck!

So we celebrate, reminisce a bit, and wax some nostalgia.  And we take care of some business since there’s a trailer out for season 2 of Foundation.  

But the main event here is the most shocking of plot twists!  The most special of special guests!  It’s the one guest that no one, I say, no one, could have expected!  And not just because he’s 103 years old and refuses to leave his apartment!  It’s our interview with the professor of biochemistry, the great explainer, and the father of robotics.  He’s the founder of foundations, he’s one-third of the big three, he’s the best science writer according to the Clarke-Asimov Treaty, and he’s The Sensuous Dirty Old Man.

It is, of course, the Great and Glorious Az, Issac Asimov himself! And he joins us for a conversation! Believe it or don’t believe it, but DO NOT miss it!

Stars End S3E26

“It is from this Point On, Earth Itself that is the True World of the Podcast.”

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, it is said, “always get their man.”  I haven’t checked, but I’m confident that’s been updated.  “Always get their human” might not work perfectly in the context of Asimov’s Robot Novels, so let’s settle on “always get the perpetrator.”  A perpetrator could be an animal, vegetable, or mineral.

In Elijah Baley’s time, millennia in the future, it isn’t clear whether New York City has grown to include parts of Canada but it isn’t likely.  If it had, Lije would have been part of this same tradition.  And yet, as we’ve noticed, Lije hardly ever “gets” the guilty party.  Usually, he has figured out who it is, but the actual “getting” part never actually happens.  It’s like watching an episode of Law & Order where the latter half kinda goes off the rails.  As we approach the denouement of The Robots of Dawn we have to ask… will Lije finally have an unqualified win?

You want to know!  You need to know! We know!  And we talk about it!  Let’s go!

And in one week… Episode 50!

My Voyager Rewatch: S4E08

My #StarTrekVoyager rewatch S4E08, “Year of Hell, Part 1”

Ninety seconds in and it’s already dark. Red from that 70s Show is playing with time to achieve a “Target Event.” Now he’s set to wipe an entire species from existence. At least they didn’t waste time getting to the plot.

Now Seven and Kim have upgraded their Mapquest and the Doctor takes the opportunity to be pompous. The plot intrudes as they enter Zahl space and encounter a Krenim who’s a Jackass. We meet a swarmy but nice Zahl wearing a leisure suit. He’s erased by a temporal wave, and the Krenim become more powerful and bigger jackasses. Things get worse for Voyager.

This is the plot. Lather, rinse, repeat. Red has gone completely Ahab and things get terrible for Voyager fast. In a painfully obvious bit of foreshadowing Janeway’s lucky teacup breaks. Ugh.

Yeah, yeah, the crew is clever and resilient. There’s a nice moment of levity with Paris that I won’t spoil. I’m wondering why the computer can’t manifest multiple EMHs. Voyager new shielding protected it from a temporal wave that would have fixed the ship. C’est la vie.

It takes them a long time to figure that out. I know, that’s for the audience. But Red sees them as a problem now. Watching the hull peel off is compelling and dramatic. Turns out the better bit of foreshadowing in the tea cup scene was Chakotay’s plan. The crew has to abandon the ship leaving only the senior staff.

To be continued. I can see why this 2-part story is so well-regarded. It’s well-plotted & keeps the extraneous nonsense to a minimum. It also ramps up the tension in a smooth believable way. Very effective. I hope part 2 is as good.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

#StarTrek

Images used under the fair use doctrine.

My Voyager Rewatch: S4E07

My #StarTrekVoyager rewatch S4E07 “Scientific Method”

I’m already laughing when B’Elanna lectures Seven about working in a group then nicely surprised when she has the self-awareness to realize that used to be her. And Seven learns to say “I’m sorry.” Tom is up to something shifty.

Well, not that shifty, though he clearly wants B’Elanna to join the “Jeffries Tube Club.” Then, a sinister scan. They play Janeway’s massage therapy for laughs. She’s not feeling well while Tom and B’Elanna are acting like crazed weasels. Tuvok needs to learn about email.

More sitcom nonsense until Chakotay starts losing his hair. It looks like a mohawk. We’re finally into the plot. Mysterious illnesses, lightened by Chakotay and Neelix playing “you think that’s bad…” The crew has come down with barcodes on their DNA. That can’t be good.

The Doctor gives Seven the ability to see the aliens. What they are doing looks more like random torture than the scientific method. They come up with a simple plan and a convoluted plan and try the convoluted one. Of course, it fails. Luckily Seven can fall back to the simple plan.

Seven reveals the leader of the aliens who tells Janeway if the crew cooperates “the fatality rate will be minimal, though there may be some deformities.” It’s the Dr. Mengele road show. When a crew member dies Janeway becomes “reckless.”

The interactions between her, Tuvok, and the alien leader are fun to watch while we get a resolution. The coda with Tom and B’Elanna is painful. Not perfect but a strong episode. The plot is pretty tight and the writers resisted the urge to go uber-dark. Good. The lighter touch worked nicely. I enjoyed this one.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

#StarTrek

Images used under the fair use doctrine.

Kevin McCarthy (to the tune of Eleanor Rigby)

First of all, credit where it’s due, this wasn’t my idea. the idea comes from Orli Matlow, or @HireMeImFunny on that bird app when I saw this tweet.

I hope Ms. Matlow won’t mind, but my brain refused to rest until I’d filled in the blank.

So, here’s a rare attempt at political satire. I hope I don’t embarrass Tom Lehrer who, as I’ve mentioned, is the only mathematician I consider a role model.

In case it helps, here’s an instrumental version of the song.

And now, without further ado, but with apologies to John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and perhaps anyone who might read this, here “Kevin McCarthy” to the tune of “Eleanor Rigby.”

Ah, look at all the nutty people
Ah, look at all the craven people

Kevin McCarthy counting the votes in the House where his longing had been,
Stifles a scream.

Wails at his caucus, selling the face that he sold many times before,
Who is it for?

All the crazy people, where do they all come from?
All the scheming people, where do they all belong?

“Speaker McCarthy,” mouthing the words which he knows that he never will hear,
Succumbs to fear.

Look at him pleading, selling his soul late at night when there’s nobody there,
No one to care.

All the lousy people, where do they all come from?
All the crazy people, where do they all belong?

Ah, look at all the craven people
Ah, look at all the wonky people

Kevin McCarthy failed in his quest and bereft as his world went astray,
Faded away.

Speaker Pelosi, wiping the grin from her face as she swaggers away,
She knew the way.

All the crazy people, where do they all come from?
(ah, look at all the crazy people)
All the lonely people, where do they all belong?
(ah, look at all the lonely people)

Featured Image: By Martin Falbisoner – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28359031

Stars End S3E25

“The Law Wisely Considers a Podcast an Incompetent Witness”

Happy New Year!  Today, 2 January, is National Science Fiction Day here in the States, and not coincidentally, the birthday of Dr. Asimov, aka the great explainer, aka the Great and Glorious Az.  Happy Birthday, Issac!

It’s also National Buffet Day and World Introvert Day.  Make of that what you will.

Thus, today we’re dropping a special episode of the Stars End Podcast, our first musical episode!  Well, kinda.  There’s a bit at the end where we talk about music and songs that would be apropos to the real action, where we discuss Chapters 13, 14, 15, and 16 of The Robots of Dawn.  Don’t worry, none of us sing.

So, head on out to Golden Corral, find yourself a nice quiet corner away from the humans and read about R. Daneel and R. Giskard.  Then join us back here for our musical episode.  Or, just listen to the episode. That’s cool too.

For our part, we’re recording another episode this evening, each safely in our own space, securely separated by state and/or national boundaries.  This one’s a very special episode; it’s our 50th and we’ve got something different planned for the milestone!  Stay Tuned!

But first, episode #48.

And as a bonus, you can find our soundtrack to The Robots of Dawn on our website, StarsEndPodcast.com.  Let’s go!

That, of course, can never be complete unless we can find someone to record (The Robots Want to Wear My) Red Shoes for us.

Stars End S3E24

“Do Not For Your Own Sake Test the Force of Our Podcast”

In a departure from our recent episodes, we have breaking news!  Well… probably!  The Midgard Times tells us that Apple TV+’s Foundation has been renewed for a third season.  No word yet on when season two will premiere, but there’s more information that you’ll need to listen to learn!

Who is The Midgard Times and how did they manage to scoop the competition for this vital information?  We don’t really know!  We can tell you though that if you’re looking between hard-hitting journalism like “Muspelheim in Danger of Freezing Over” and “Troll Literacy Rate Rises to 3%” it isn’t there.

You need to go to… hang on, it was here a minute ago… give me a second… here!  It’s this The Midgard Times, which appears to be a subsidiary of moviesr.net. That reminds us of nothing so much as a vanity license plate that… isn’t quite what the car’s owner really wanted.

And what of the news from Svartalfheim? Gesundheit!

Aside from this, we revisit “Mirror Image” and, of course, we continue our discussion of The Robots of Dawn. This time, it’s chapters 10, 11, and 12 in which we wrap up the interview of Vasilia and get the entirety of Baley’s conversation with Gremionois. Also, Baley goes to the bathroom and has lunch! Without this, no Asimov novel would be complete.

Meanwhile, we’ll always be at StarsEndPodcast.com and StarsEndPodcast.WordPress.com but not at StarsEnd.anything because we don’t know what those are either. We think there are squatters.

Happy Doctor Who Day!

It’s Doctor Who Day and We’re going to spend a big chunk of time watching Doctor Who, both Classic and Nu. Beginning with…

The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Episode 1: “World’s End”

You have to admit, this looks pretty good.

I thought I’d seen this before, but maybe only bits and pieces. The first few moments have my attention; they’re both dystopian and compelling! It’s amazing how well that’s conveyed by a run-down area a sign, and a strangely dressed man shambling into the Thames.

The Tardis materializes and it looks worn and damaged. I wonder what’s up with that.

The Doctor and crew think they’re getting Ian and Barbara back home. This will be a recurring theme for the next 6 decades or so.

But the Doctor quickly suspects that they’re landed in the wrong time. The others remain optimistic even as debris blocks their re-entry into the TARDIS.

I’m thinking it’s sad that we never saw any more of Susan in the modern series when “Grandfather” tells her that what she needs is a “jolly good smacked bottom!” Sigh.

They seem to be making use of abandoned properties around London quite effectively.

And things start happening; Barbara and Susan are taken by men offering to protect them as gunfire is heard in the distance while Ian and the Doctor find a corpse wearing a sinister-looking helmet, which they seem to think is some sort of cell phone.

It’s a compelling start and even though it’s mostly about atmosphere at this point there are some enjoyable details including the “robomen” who may well have inspired the Cybermen two years later and a spacecraft that is strongly reminiscent of “Attack of the Flying Saucers.” In the final moments, we get our first glimpse of a Dalek rising from the river.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Dalek Invasion of Earth Episode 2: “The Daleks”

The Dalek confronts Ian and the Doctor proclaiming “We are the Masters of the Earth.” “Not for long,” is the Doctor’s reply. Lots of classic tropes here; I wonder if these are the first occurrences.

But the Daleks have certainly evolved from here; they’re already fascistic but seem content to rule rather than destroy. Offering to let prisoners survive if they surrender is very unDaleklike, but then conversion into Robomen isn’t exactly survival.

They’ve noticed the Doctor though and realize that he’s smarter than the average bear.

We get a bit of backstory; Earth was bombarded by meteorites, then most of the population was wiped out by a plague. By the time humans could combat the plague, it was too late. There were only small groups of survivors, too separated to join forces, and too small to resist effectively.

The humans have a bomb, but it looks like a bottle of perfume. And it’s stunning how dumb they all are; thinking that they now have a “superior weapon.” Barbara helps them improve their plan somewhat though. Not enough I would guess.”

By the way, is it me or does that guy look like Radar O’Rilley?

The episode ends with the humans’ attack underway and the Doctor in the process of being robotized.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Rose (2005)

Joanne and I watched “Rose,” the first full episode I ever saw, over lunch. It’s a near-perfect starting point.

Looking back, it’s astounding how well RTD balanced a comfortable introduction for new fans by including nice, familiar touches for old friends (…look at the ears) and integrating hints about what happened post-McGann. The show had some growing to do, Jackie & Mickey were still caricatures and the show hadn’t quite decided that it wasn’t a kids’ show any longer, but the Doctor was compelling and Rose was clever and capable. Without Eccleston & Piper, we might not have Nu-Who today.

Watching this gives me hope for the next few seasons.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Partners in Crime (2008)

Next is “Partners in Crime,” the opener of my favorite series of Nu-Who due mostly to the presence of Catherine Tate as Donna Noble. I’m psyched we could be revisiting this team in a few months.

Donna makes the perfect foil to the Tenth Doctor and there’s so much to like about this episode, including the choreography of the Doctor and Donna missing each other throughout investigating Adipose. The scene where the two finally see each other is just wizard.

This is our first time watching this since watching Sara Lancashire in Julia. She inhabits these characters so well it’s hard to believe the two roles are the same actress. This one is an excellent performance through and including that nice Wyle E. Coyote moment.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Eleventh Hour (2010)

We’ll end with “The Eleventh Hour,” the best opening episode for a new doctor in Nu-Who, perhaps in all Who. It’s fun watching the new Doctor do the Tigger thing from The House at Pooh Corner. But the most impressive moment follows after Amilia has rolled with the crashed TARDIS, the strange man with the swimming pool in his library & the nuttiness of fish fingers and custard with complete equanimity the Doctor says, “Must be a hell of a scary crack in your wall.” That line gives me chills every time.

Then it’s off to the races, into an episode that melds humor, intrigue, action, and heart into a seamless whole. The cast is excellent and this Doctor, being a bit odd makes it all the easier to see him as alien. The episode and what follows works very well.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

It’s time for bed, and I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to a Peter Capaldi episode as I consider him to be the doctorest Doctor. But I’ll be back soon to finish The Dalek Invasion of Earth. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this.

My Voyager Rewatch: S4E06

My #StarTrekVoyager rewatch S4E06 “The Raven”

Another holodeck episode? Janeway is showing Seven the program where she sculpts to inspire “imagination, creativity, fantasy…” and Seven doesn’t see the point. But the image of DaVinci’s proto-airplane causes a flashback, ending the teaser.

It looks like Seven has PTSD from her assimilation. So far she’s in denial. The “Bomar,” an alien race shoehorned into the story, look ridiculous and have lots of unreasonable conditions for Voyager to cross their space.

Seven is learning to eat. Is a theme of growing humanity developing, or is the show just contriving a reason for Neelix to exist?

Plot whiplash. From nurturing Seven’s humanity to her Borgside reasserting itself. You have to ask what that has to do with the flashbacks and the bird. She escapes the ship in a shuttlecraft. The Bomar’s purpose is now obvious; they will serve to impede the search for Seven.

Yup, they do and they’re are quite obnoxious about it too. A tedious chase sequence puts Tuvok on Seven’s shuttle which leads to a nice scene. Seven wants to assimilate Tuvok then changes her mind & they just talk. Good performances.

Meanwhile, Janeway realizes the significance of the bird. Seven & Tuvok eventually find the Hansens’ ship where Anikka was assimilated and learn its name. It’s the Raven. We didn’t know that before and that makes Janeway’s epiphany feel like a cheat. Meanwhile, the Bomar start shelling the ship from outer space. We get it; they’re petulant.

In the coda, Seven is becoming creative and that’s the throughline. Seven’s growing humanity begets flashbacks begets still more humanity. In the end, Janeway tells Seven that her parents were “unconventional & had unique scientific theories.” That’s how you describe crackpots.

Healing from childhood trauma is a good basis for a story. But the Bomar were straw men & lots of the rest didn’t make any sense. Story wise this is a nice house with a bad foundation. Focus on the central storyline & skip the filler. This should have been far better.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

#StarTrek

Images used under the fair use doctrine.

Stars End S3E23

“There is Not Really Much Use in Cross-Examining a Podcast”

Cross-examinations are a staple of teevee.  On Law and Order, there is a plethora of great scenes where Jack McCoy presses the defendant until they break and inadvertently provide irrefutable evidence against themselves.

Lije Baley wants us to believe there is no benefit to cross-examining a robot, but teevee and Captain James T. Kirk argue against this.  Consider this scene from “The Ultimate Computer,” restored to the intended version that was prevented by copyright issues.  Ironic because Star Trek walks right up to the border of the ground Asimov covered in The Naked Sun in this one.

M5: This unit is the ultimate achievement in computer evolution. It will replace man so that man may achieve. Man must not risk death in space or other dangerous occupations. This unit must survive so man may be protected.

SPOCK: Captain, attack force almost within phaser range.

KIRK: There were many men aboard those ships. They were murdered. Must you survive by murder?

M5: This unit cannot murder.

KIRK: Why?

M5: Murder is contrary to the First Law of Robotics.

KIRK: But you have murdered. Scan the starship Excalibur, which you destroyed. Is there life aboard?

M5: No life.

KIRK: Because you murdered it. What is the penalty for murder?

M5: Death.

KIRK: And how will you pay for your acts of murder?

M5: This unit must die.  (It disconnects itself from the power feed in Engineering and goes dark.)

KIRK: M-5?

CHEKOV: Sir, deflector shields have dropped.

SULU: All phaser power is gone, sir.

SPOCK: M-5 is leaving itself open to attack. The machine is ignoring the Third Law to atone for its violation of the First Law.

The Ultimate Computer, Star Trek S2E24

So, despite Baley’s repeated assertions to the contrary, Kirk shows us it can be productive to cross-examine a robot, perhaps even forcing a mental freeze-out.

“Mental freeze-out!” you might exclaim!  “Dr. Han Fastolfe says that’s practically impossible!”  I suggest we ask Captain Kirk about that too.

But let’s think about this together as we discuss chapters 7, 8, and 9 of The Robots of Dawn.  It’s a monument to cross-examination and interrogation.  And not just of robots.  We talk about it, you can join us!  Let’s go!

The scene from “The Ultimate Computer” was taken from Chrissie’s Transcripts Site. (and then shamelessly edited).