Should the New Picard Star Trek TV Series Be Set on a Starship?

Jean-Luc Picard on the Enterprise bridge Farpoint

On Saturday, at the 2018 Las Vegas Star Trek Convention, Sir Patrick Stewart revealed that he will star in a new Star Trek series centered on the life of Captain Picard, set 20 years after the events of Star Trek Nemesis. For Trek aficionados, this series represents the first time since 2002’s Nemesis that a new Trek will actually move forward in time, which itself is a cause for celebration.

The news brings with it a conundrum most lovely. What will the show be about? Stewart’s own announcement expresses that he’s looking to explore new dimensions of Picard.

And his explanation during the announcement ...

Watching the Best Episodes of Star Trek Makes It Feel as Dark as Black Mirror

Supposedly, the sunny universe of Star Trek is all about exploring outer space, meeting interesting alien cultures, and coming up with peaceful, contemplative solutions to important problems, usually while sitting in a comfortable chair. But, if you only look at the very best episodes of Star Trek, it’s very clear the franchise isn’t about strange new worlds, but instead, exploring screwed up terrible ones. Stand-out episodes of all versions of Trek tend to create trippy scenarios that would make the weirdest Black Mirror episode blush. In other words, the best episodes of Star Trek are almost always exceptions to the supposed rule that Trek is a hopeful vision of the future full of people holding hands and loving each other even if they are a space hedgehog named Neelix.

If you pretend you don’t know anything about the Federation, Gene Roddenberry’s rules about no-conflict in Starfleet, and ...

Harlan Ellison, Grand Master of Science Fiction & Fantasy, 1934-2018

Harlan photo by Ellison Pip R. Lagenta

“For a brief time I was here, and for a brief time, I mattered.”

Harlan Ellison, author, screenwriter, and grand master of science fiction and fantasy, has passed on June 28th, 2018 at the age of 84. Via legal representative and photographer Christine Valada:

Whether he was shouting love at the heart of the world or screaming because he had no mouth, Harlan Ellison brought noise into not only the field of SFF, but the universe of storytelling itself. 

Part runaway, part punk, the education of Harlan Ellison didn’t necessarily predict greatness. He was a dockworker, a ...

The 10 Best and Worst Philip K Dick Adaptations

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams—an anthology series consisting of ten standalone episodes based on Dick’s work—arrives in the U.S. later this week. In the meantime, join me as I turn my scanner, darkly, toward the films made from Philip K. Dick’s work and try to figure out which of them are quality movies and which actually have something in common with the source material. I’ll give each movie two letter grades: one for being a good or bad movie and one for being faithful to the source material. (Note: faithful doesn’t always mean just following the plot, but capturing the themes and essence as well.)

 

Blade Runner

Based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Movie Grade: A+
Faithfulness to Source Material: D+

The most famous Philip K. Dick adaptation is also widely considered to be the one of the best science fiction films ever ...

The 10 Best and Worst Philip K Dick Adaptations

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams—an anthology series consisting of ten standalone episodes based on Dick’s work—arrives in the U.S. later this week. In the meantime, join me as I turn my scanner, darkly, toward the films made from Philip K. Dick’s work and try to figure out which of them are quality movies and which actually have something in common with the source material. I’ll give each movie two letter grades: one for being a good or bad movie and one for being faithful to the source material. (Note: faithful doesn’t always mean just following the plot, but capturing the themes and essence as well.)

 

Blade Runner

Based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Movie Grade: A+
Faithfulness to Source Material: D+

The most famous Philip K. Dick adaptation is also widely considered to be the one of the best science fiction films ever ...

Why Planet of the Apes Movies Will Always Blow Our Minds

If we had an infinite amount of apes banging on an infinite amount of typewriters, I think we can all agree, they’d eventually write every single Planet of the Apes movie, and then rise up and enslave us humans as their copy-editors, gaffers, and interns who get them coffee. Basically there’s no way any of us are ever going to get over the idea of talking apes, like, ever. But why? In the pop pantheon of all of science fiction, the notion of a world in which humans are second-class citizens to our very-close simian cousins is one of the best sci-fi ideas anyone has had. It’s as arresting now as it was when Pierre Boulle first published La Planète des singes, and still as gripping as when Charlton Heston pounded the sand in despair. And it’s because it’s all so simple. I’m of the opinion that watching any ...

Prometheus: Science Fiction or Religious Fiction?

Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, the hero of the new epic Prometheus, wears a crucifix and believes in a higher power. She’s a great, likable character who I enjoyed seeing wield an ax. But she didn’t feel like a scientist to me, at least not in a science fictional kind of way. To say that the search for a higher power occupies the majority of the Prometheus narrative is no spoiler, as the promotional tagline for the film is “the search for our beginning could lead to our end.” And in that search for our beginning, Prometheus pulls a few revelatory punches, and in doing so makes aspects of the film’s thematic noise feel, at least on the surface, to be more religious fiction than science fiction. Tons of spoilers for Prometheus below. Now, after the movie’s release, screenwriter Damon Lindelof went on record saying Prometheus is not anti-science, and ...
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In Space, Sigourney is Too Cool to Scream: Why Alien Endures

Coming up with a more audacious title for a science fiction film than Alien would be tricky. Perhaps the only candidates are Science Fiction Film or Space: The Movie. From the earliest previews, the message of Alien was clear: all previous cinematic depictions of extraterrestrials are jokers and this Alien is the only alien, and yes, we only need one alien to convince you of that. But the reason this movie is so great isn’t because of the singular Alien, or even the iconic design of the monster. The real monster here is the brilliant unfolding of the narrative. Just when you think you know what the hell is going on, something pops out (literally) and changes everything. It’s nearly impossible to approach Alien without prior knowledge of it. Like The Wizard of Oz or Casablanca, there are certain things everyone knows without having seen it. They know Sigourney ...
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Alien (1979)
Alien (1979)

The Fifty-Year Mission is the People’s History of Star Trek

The Fifty-Year Mission: The First 25 Years Star Trek oral history In 1967 when Gene Roddenberry was accused of personally organizing scores of protesting fans who physically demonstrated in front of NBC Studios to keep Star Trek on the air he said “That’s very flattering, because if I could start demonstrations around the country from this desk, I’d get the hell out of science fiction and into politics.” This quote is one of thousands found in the new book, The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: Volume One: The First 25 Years by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman. It’s the first volume of two, and like that Roddenberry quip; the entire text shines a bright light on the chasm between what you think you know about the history of Star Trek and what the history of Star Trek really was. I was 13 years old when Star Trek Generations came out in 1994. And ...
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Time-Slip on Your Tongue: Chatting With John Wray About The Lost Time Accidents

Wray-TimeAccidents As literary chimeras go, John Wray could be called a blend of all sorts of authors. Aspects of his novel Lowboy read as though Dickens teleported Oliver Twist from the 19th century onto a contemporary subway train. But, Wray is also a history junkie with an eye towards science fiction. Though his novel The Right Hand of Sleep isn’t science fiction, its title is a reference to The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, one of Wray’s idols. With his latest novel—The Lost Time Accidents—John Wray presents his unique cocktail of historical fiction blended with the science fiction tradition of time-slipping. For a writer who isn’t really writing science fiction, John Wray sure knows a lot about science fiction. I chatted with him recently about the inspirations for his latest book, how to write a multi-dimensional family saga and what Ursula K. Le Guin ...

Zootopia is the Best Science Fiction Movie of 2016

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Talking animals are popular for two obvious reasons:

  1. They’re cute.
  2. Everything they say and do is probably about us.

Good science fiction is very often social commentary about “real” things dressed up in a way that is both close enough to the truth, and complexly unique enough to be its own brilliant thing. Which is why the odyssey of Bunny Police Officer Judy Hopps in Zootopia is socially conscience science fiction storytelling at its finest.

Ontologically, the premise of Zootopia is working with a familiar science fiction trope: imagine there’s an Earth populated by intelligent creatures who are not humans. But, unlike Planet of the Apes or some other evolutionarily-angled science fiction world, humans don’t seem to have existed here, ever. Zootopia never once mentions human beings, putting itself squarely in a parallel universe in which we never showed up. You might say this is all for the convenience of ...

Just Try to Escape the Voice of Kevin R. Free

kevin-free-interview Between the Night Vale World Tour and the novel version of Welcome to Night Vale, fans of phantasmagorically delicious podcast had a pretty great 2015. Now that 2016 is here, what should fans of Night Vale be getting excited about? Well, if you love horror, H.P. Lovecraft, and the genre-spanning writing of Victor LaValle, then maybe you want to listen to Kevin R. Free—“Kevin” on Welcome to Night Vale—narrate LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom! We sat down with Kevin to get his thoughts on Welcome to Night Vale, voicing sci-fi/horror books, and what it’s like to be famous online.   Ryan Britt: You’re the voice of “Kevin” on Welcome to Night Vale, specifically Night Vale’s “rival” Desert Bluffs! Briefly (if possible): how has that changed your life? Kevin R. Free: My Twitter and Tumblr following increased exponentially in 2013 when the Buzzfeed article ...

Star Trek’s Best Writer/Director EVER Has Joined the Crew of CBS’ New Star Trek TV Show

spock-whatnow Star Trek fans of every shade just received the best news: writer/director Nicholas Meyer is joining CBS’ new Star Trek television show, which is set to debut in 2017 with Bryan Fuller producing. Not sure who Nicholas Meyer is? He’s the guy who saved Star Trek from obscurity and made it smarter than you ever realized. Here’s why this is possibly the best geek-related news of the past 20 years. Showrunner Bryan Fuller sums up Meyer’s credentials perfectly in his announcement to Entertainment Weekly:
Nicholas Meyer chased Kirk and Khan ‘round the Mutara Nebula and ‘round Genesis’ flames, he saved the whales with the Enterprise and its crew, and waged war and peace between Klingons and the Federation.

Meyer wrote and directed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. He also co-wrote Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. In short: ...

The Oscars Forgot to Nominate The Force Awakens For Best Picture

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Let’s pretend for a second that The Academy Awards is designed to accurately represent the best achievements in a given year in the field of cinema. We know that it doesn’t—and the #oscarssowhite problem more than proves that—but let’s just say that the Oscars should be providing a representation of movies that were both relevant to the culture and were “good”: achieving the balance between entertaining people and doing something somewhat new in the field of cinema. I think The Academy Awards should have honored this approach by nominating Star Wars: The Force Awakens for Best Picture. (Note: Spoilers ahead for The Force Awakens.) Regardless of their genre, film sequels are rarely nominated for awards, and it is rare for them to be considered in high regard, although there are several notable exceptions. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (technically a sequel) did win Best Picture, ...
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William Shatner’s New Memoir Leonard is Surprising and Moving

leonard-shatner Whether they’re in their Kirk and Spock guises, or just being themselves, it’s hard to prefer William Shatner to Leonard Nimoy. Nimoy just seems more comfortable and real of the two, whereas Shatner appears to be putting on airs. Over the years, William Shatner seems to have figured this out and embraced the fact that no one will ever totally take him seriously. All of this makes the publication of a memoir written by him about Leonard Nimoy both look like a cynical cash-grab and a disingenuous maneuver of faux-love. But if you’re a Star Trek fan, or casually interested in Leonard Nimoy, Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship With a Remarkable Man reveals that not only is Shatner a good guy, but that Leonard Nimoy may not have been the cool one, and did in fact fight all sorts of demons both inside and out. Structurally, Leonard is all over the ...

Stephen Hawking Is a Perpetual Beacon of Hope

Stephen Hawking If you know even little bit about Stephen Hawking, then you know that you’re dealing with someone so extraordinary that his life and work might seem to be fashioned from the pages of science fiction. As a physicist, Hawking pushed our understanding of black holes into new frontiers, but as a person, he is nothing short of an enduring example of someone who just will not give up. Today is his 74th birthday: happy birthday, Professor Hawking! Like Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking occupies a category of brilliant people who we might call rockstar scientists. This isn’t just because of his breakthroughs in uniting Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity with the field of Quantum Mechanics, but because he brought the power of his ideas to the people. If the show Cosmos was the fastest way for a lay person to feel smart about outer space, then Hawking’s A Brief History of ...

Sherlock’s “The Abominable Bride” Is a Live-Action Think Piece About Sherlock

Sherlock The Abominable Bride mind palace In both the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel A Study in Scarlet and in the latest installment of BBC’s Sherlock—“The Abominable Bride”—we’re told “there is nothing new under the sun.” This mirrored sentiment explains the preponderance of fan fiction and fan writing in general, but also the tendency for the show Sherlock to feel more like fanish creation than a straight-up adaptation. So, if fandom be the food of our love for Sherlock Holmes, then “The Abominable Bride” isn’t really a new episode of Sherlock at all, but rather, a nearly endless hall of mirrors in which Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss do what they do best with our notions of these great characters: they play. Spoilers for “The Abominable Bride.” When Dorothy Gale wakes up at the end of The Wizard of Oz, she points out that several “real” people were in fact with her ...
MASTERPIECE Sherlock: The Abominable Bride Picture Shows: MARTIN FREEMAN as John Watson and BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH as Sherlock Holmes © Robert Viglasky/Hartswood Films and BBC Wales for BBC One and MASTERPIECE This image may be used only in the direct promotion of MASTERPIECE. No other rights are granted. All rights are reserved. Editorial use only.
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A Science Fiction Halo Rests Slantedly Over Isaac Asimov’s Amiable Head

Art by David A. Johnson No one knows the exact date of Isaac Asimov’s birth…not even the amazing Asimov himself! In Memory Yet Green, citing dodgy birth records, the author writes that his birthday could be as early as October 19th, 1919, but that he celebrates it as January 2nd, 1920. Who are we to argue with Asimov’s calculations? Happy birthday, Professor Asimov! When you find yourself browsing your local library, dutifully utilizing your excellent knowledge of the Dewey Decimal System, you’ll notice one constant element—books by Isaac Asimov. Aside from the category of Philosophy, you’ll find books authored by Asimov in every single section. From mysteries, to criticism on Shakespeare, to bible studies, and yes, science fiction: Asimov may be one of the most prolific and versatile writers of all time. Asimov himself was quite well aware of his reputation and literary prowess, famously quipping:

“People who think they know everything are a ...

God Bless Pastiche! The 7 Best Non-Traditional Christmas Carols of Film and TV

muppet-xmas If I had a pet reindeer, or any kind of creature that resembled a fawn or Bambi-style animal, I’d name it Dickens. Come on. How adorable would it be to have a little pet deer named Dickens? Here Dickens! Come have a sugar cube! That’s a good little Dickens. What’s your favorite story? What’s that you say, “A Christmas Carol?” Well, I don’t feel like reading to you, because you’re a little deer, so let’s watch a movie or a TV special instead. Whatyda say? And then, as a gift to Dickens, I would have to compile a list of movie and TV adaptations of Charles Dickens’s awesome book—A Christmas Carol—and I’d want those adaptations to be somehow a little bit different from their source material, because deer like stuff that’s new. What are the best non-traditional versions of A Christmas Carol? These.

Rod Serling’s “A Carol ...

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The Man Who Demolished Boring Science Fiction: Alfred Bester

Art by David A. Johnson

Thinking about telepaths when telepaths are in the room is hard because they know you’re thinking about them. This is why—on most days—I’m glad I never actually had the chance to meet science fiction legend Alfred Bester, because my thoughts about him would have been disgustingly gushing and I’m sure he would have heard those thoughts because he was likely a real deal telepath and I would have been embarrassed. I’m kidding. I’m super sad I didn’t get to meet him! (But he was probably a real telepath…)

Today would have been Bester’s 102nd birthday. He won the first Hugo award for a novel ever, and made everything in SF way more fun. Here’s why he’s still the best.

Though Bester isn’t breaking any records for number of novels written or short stories published, he does reign supreme in terms of influence of those who are hardcore science fiction readers. ...