I’m thoroughly enjoying the BBC’s new science fiction drama series Outcasts. Although I regret the premature demise of Survivors, which Outcasts replaced after just two seasons, I think think it’s a worthy replacement and more than fulfills the BBC’s obligations regarding science fiction drama that isn’t mostly aimed at kids (i.e. Doctor Who). Despite this it is receiving what I consider an undeserved panning by critics, although this panning has dwindled a little now that we’re half way through the series and I think people have warmed to it a little more.

Outcasts is based a number of decades in the future and tells the story of a colony of humans on a distant planet that they have named “Carpathia” (after the ship that came to the rescue of the survivors of the Titanic disaster), established for a number of years and because Earth has become uninhabitable due to an as yet unspecific catastrophe, although several characters have already mentioned nuclear weapons and catastrophic earthquakes. The big budget for the series allowed the BBC to shoot it all on-location in South Africa, which makes a welcome change for a Stargate fan who’s very used to almost all alien worlds looking exactly like British Columbia.

Star actors include Hermione Norris (Ros from Spooks), Eric Mabius (Daniel Meade from Ugly Betty) and Liam Cunningham, who’s been in a number of films. I think the inclusion of Eric Mabius in particular was an enlightened decision given that the BBC sells much of the programming content it makes these days to the US market via the commercial BBC America channel. I believe that having to take this market into account has made it up its game regarding the quality of its content which will allow it to capitalise on the BBC’s already excellent reputation abroad.

The BBC have already changed its weekday prime time schedule spot to a less prime-time spot at the weekend, which I think it a little bit ominous, frankly. Good as I think it is, I don’t expect it’ll see another season and will therefore be even less successful than Survivors was. It will be a real shame. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts though.


Stargate Universe


On Tuesday 6th October Sky 1 starts screening the new Stargate series, Stargate Universe (SGU), the second spin-off from Stargate SG1, itself a TV spinoff from the original 1994 Stargate film and which is the longest running science fiction TV show ever. This follows the recent cancellation of Stargate Atlantis, which lasted five seasons in contrast to Stargate SG1’s ten.

This time the series is based around a Stargate Command (SGC) team that ends up stranded on an ancient starship, the “Destiny”, in a distant galaxy with no way of returning home through the Stargate system. Obvious parallels can be drawn between this and Star Trek Voyager, in which a vessel and its crew becomes stranded in another galaxy. This is no bad thing since the concept worked successfully with Voyager.

I have high hopes for this series. The trailer is very exciting and its clear that it has high production values. Certainly, the producers need to do something to revive the franchise a little, since Stargate Atlantis became really quite ropey during season 4 and season 5 and it came as no surprise to me that it was cancelled. SG1 was cancelled a couple of years previously, but after 10 years of quality sci-fi it was reasonable to do so. I was a little doubtful over some of the ways in which they tied up some of the loose ends but they had to draw the line somewhere.

Robert Carlyle, of Full Monty and Hamish Macbeth fame, plays the lead character, picking up the gauntlet from Joe Flannigan and Richard Dean Anderson from Atlantis and SG1 respectively. It’s a relatively surprising choice since the lead character is traditionally an all-American military man, whilst Carlyle’s character Nicholas Rush is a scientist, but that may indicate that the producers intend to try some new ideas with this series so it’s not necessarily a bad thing. The producers also intend to include occasional appearances from characters from the other Stargate series, which is always nice.

The producers of the show do not see it as a “spin-off” in the traditional sense as it has been designed to be able to be enjoyed by both seasoned Stargate fans (known as “Gaters”) and newcomers to Stargate. This is a very positive step as it’s important to get new people into Stargate, especially considering its overall age (15 years). Original fans are getting older and will eventually become fewer, so it is important that the new series is able to be understood and enjoyed without prior knowledge of previous Stargate stories told in SG1 and Atlantis. However, it is also important that they do not violate precedents already set in these earlier series, because existing fans won’t like that.

So yes, I’m very much looking forward to it. More detailed information on the series can be found over at Wikipedia.


Canoe drama uncovered

H and I watched this amazing documentary on the Canoe Darwins on ITV last night. Previously I had mixed feelings about the whole story, having been close to bankruptcy myself quite recently I tried to see it from their point of view and considered that, although what they did was wrong, they were likely victims of a poorly planned attempt at saving their bacon that got out of control very quickly. However, the documentary has very much changed my mind as it revealed things that you never read in the news.

In particular, it revealed just how much of a selfish monster John Darwin is. He apparently tried to enter into business with a woman in Kansas, and when that didn’t work out he basically terrorised her, threatening to have her and her family killed and stuff, it was awful. Then he moved on to try to buy a catamaran, and when that deal fell through did similar to the owners. Then there was the whole Panama thing of course and they lied to and used as many people as was necessary to do that. This is all, of course, in addition to the fact that he stole the identity of a baby that had been dead for 50 years and lied to his sons, even using them unwittingly in order to get the life insurance money.

The documentary summarised the financial impact of the whole affair, including the life insurance payout, the cost of the sea search and rescue, police time and legal fees, to be around £1m. Now, this really isn’t a lot of money in the grand scheme of things; as they say, a million isn’t what it used to be, so I’m not so worried about that. What I am shocked about is just how many people whose lives they’ve deeply affected in order to pursue their own selfish ends, and the absolute lack of thought and consideration for anyone but themselves. Everyone, ranging from the family of the dead baby, through the coastguard that put their lives on the line to look for him, through to the people involved in the failed business deals, right up to those who suffered the ultimate betrayal – their sons. They used people without even thinking about it, as if they had an automatic right to do so.

Truly shocking. What utter monsters.


The Simpsons Movie

Watched The Simpsons Movie in the cinema last night. I’m not a hardcore Simpsons fan although I far from dislike it and will watch it and usually find it amusing if it happens to be on the telly. I won’t make a point of turning the telly on for it though. However, I did think that this film was rather pointless. It really offered nothing more than an average Simpsons episode aside from the fact that it was three times as long. Other than that there’s really nothing to set it apart.

Part of the problem is that I really can’t stand Homer Simpson. Yes, I know he’s supposed to be a stupid, selfish oaf, but it gets too much for me and often episodes turn into All About Homer with scant attention paid to some of the other characters whom I do find genuinely funny, like Patty, Selma, Fat Tony, Apu and Mr. Burns. This movie was no different. I thought it would be a great opportunity to give most if not all the Simpsons characters an outing, but instead it just turned into another story about how stupid Homer is and how he is forced to make amends.

They tried to add a little twist at the end by killing off one of the characters, as they did with Maude Flanders, but they chose such a minor and inconsequential character to kill that it made absolutely no difference. There were some genuinely funny gags in it; indeed the first 20 minutes of the film were very funny, but after that it definitely tailed off and I remember noticing about halfway through that the audience hadn’t laughed for quite a while, and it was a full house mostly comprised of giggly teenagers high on fizzy drinks, so it’s not as if the target market was different.

By all means go and see it if you’re a die-hard Simpsons fan, but otherwise I wouldn’t even bother with the DVD, just wait for it to appear on the television and after the first 30 minutes you’ll wonder why the episode hasn’t finished yet and realise that it must be the movie.


Top Gear’s Hammond crashes jet car

I know I’m a little late to the party on this one, but I’ve not had a chance up until now to comment on Hammond’s crash. This is terrible, terrible news, primarily because such an affable chap has encountered such serious misfortune, but also because it doesn’t bode very well for Top Gear one of the last few if not the last remaining television programmes that sticks two fingers up at political correctness and hippy handwringing. The Health and Safety fascists have been desperately looking for reasons to sanction Top Gear for ages, and this will give them more than enough excuse. If Hammond dies, then it will be the end of Top Gear for good, despite the fact that it’s one of the BBC’s most popular shows.

The show’s popularity speaks volumes about the general public and what they think about all this politically correct handwringing hippy nonsense that goes on these days. Every day we’re told by these sycophants which longstanding words are no longer acceptable and what we can and cannot do lest we offend some minority, somewhere. We also have loony organisations such as Transport 2000 basically telling us that we’ll all be better off if we regress by a century or two in terms of transport and that programmes like Top Gear are “irresponsible” and that it’s not what people want to see. Yet Top Gear, a programme that makes a point of NOT adhering to these liberal dictats, and that especially hates idiots like Transport 1700 (sic), is one of the most popular programmes on the BBC. Go figure.

It’s this sort of thing that makes it so good (from Wikipedia):

During the November 13, 2005 episode a news segment featuring BMW’s MINI Concept from the Tokyo Motor Show showcased what Richard Hammond quoted as a “quintessentially British” integrated tea set. Clarkson responded by mocking that they should build a car that is “quintessentially German.” He suggested turn signals that displayed Hitler salutes, “a sat-nav that only goes to Poland” in reference to the Nazi invasion of Poland that started WWII, “und ein fanbelt that will last a thousand years,” a reference to Adolf Hitler’s propaganda slogan of “the thousand-year Reich”.

If we can’t poke fun at the Germans, who can we poke fun at? Come on, lighten up.


Brass Eye Special controversy

The controversy over the Brass Eye special is getting out of hand. True, the programme did cross the line, but everyone has missed the point. It was not intended to glorify paedophilia, it was intended to have a go at the media sensationalists that whip up the hype about paedophilia and (for example) cause stupid people to go an attack paediatricians, because they are too ignorant to know the difference between a paediatrician and a paedophile.

The real irony of this show is that it’s provoked just the sort of reaction out of the media which it set out to satirise. The media have played directly into the show’s hands, and I think that’s the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time. It just proves that the media are completely incapable of seeing past tommorow’s headlines and sensation. Add this to the fact that a lot of the pressure against Channel 4 is coming from the ‘celebrities’ who have been shown up for being unintelligent, self-publicists who are completely out of touch with the modern world. Then the public (the victims of the media) get on their high horses, despite spending the previous 64 days watching intelligence-insulting “reality TV” shows like Big Brother. Exactly how is hours and hours of coverage of the puerile behaviour of ten really quite pretentious, shallow and above all boring people acceptable; while a programme that addresses serious issues (such as the way that paedophilia is handled by the public and media) not acceptable? It’s just another nail in the coffin of any sort of common sense or intelligence in this country. I’ve been saying it all along.

It also had a really good go about how the Internet is mis-perceived and misunderstood by the stupid, simpering liberals that are in control of this country, and in control of the media. The hypocrisy of the people who have written in the newspapers about the programme is amazing, their misunderstanding of the satire is blindingly indicative of their misunderstanding of the issue at all, and it’s quite quite wrong that these people are given a voice. One bloke writing in the Mirror (I believe) actually said “Like most people in the country, I did not see Brass Eye. But this does not disqualify me from having an opinion about Channel 4’s ‘vile spoof documentary’ about paedophilia“. Excuse me?. That’s like Jon Katz from Slashdot openly admitting that he left Jurassic Park 3 twenty minutes into the film, yet somehow he was still qualified to publish an opinionated, misinformed review of the whole film. Unacceptable. Who do these poeple think they are? He goes on to say “And I have a read a full account in the Daily Mail under the headline ‘The sickest TV show ever’“. So, rather than form his own opinions, he’s relying on someone elses. THIS IS HOW RUMOURS AND MISUNDERSTANDINGS START.

I am of sane mind and of course I think that paedohphilia is sick and wrong, but it’s one of those taboo subjects that never gets properly addressed because people don’t like to talk about it, and it’s because people don’t like to talk about it that it’s still allowed to continue. It’s like homosexuality 40 years ago, nobody would talk about it, and as a result people STILL have misconceived ideas about what homosexuality is, what is it synonymous with and how to deal with it. I’m not saying that in 40 years’ time paedophilia will be accepted in the same way that homosexuality is these days, hell no, but there is no room for ignorance in this matter. People need the facts, and the facts are that paedophilia is not “the work of the Internet” or any of the other completely false ideas that the media frequently portrays. The terrible irony of paediatricians (ie. people who help children) being attacked as a result of a media frenzy is illustrative of all this. It’s all wrong, all fucked up.

I say good show Chris Morris. He’s always made me laugh ever since The Day Today. He’s a very very clever man, who is not afraid to confront issues or manipulate those who deserve to be manipulated. If I had a chance to go on the telly and say “Oi, [famous person], you’re a bloody idiot” in a clever, satirical way, I would not hesitate to do so.

At the end of the day, every television set is sold with an OFF button. Perhaps people should learn how to use it.