Category: Reviews

Discovery: Sound of Thunder S2:E6

Last week Cora noted that once you thought about the episode it all fell apart. This week the fragility of the story is even more manifest. If you shut down any thought of the moral, social and political implications of what happens and just sit back and enjoy the ride, it’s not at all bad. Doug Jones takes the lead in a Saru centred story and he is always fun to watch. We also get the continuation of the Episode 4 story line as well as the pre-season 2 ‘Short Trek’ story ‘The Brightest Star’ (well worth watching prior to this episode).

Yeah, but. No. Sorry, this was bollocks. However, spoilers must be heralded, so do not click below unless you are prepared.

General order 1 forbids spoilers!
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Review: Kingdom (Netflix 2019)

If you are tired of The Walking Dead but still hunger for a show with shambling corpses that offers all the classic plot beats of a zombie show and yet is somehow completely different, then 17th* century Korea has a treat for you!

It is Joseon period of Korean history and while the costumes may be unfamiliar to a Western audience, the court machinations are not. The country is in trouble after a succession of wars with Japan, famine in the countryside and rumours of King’s death in the towns. At the royal palace the crown-prince Yi-Chang is frustrated that he cannot visit his ailing father who has been laid low by smallpox. Between him and the king is the Queen, a young woman who only recently married the King. She herself is the daughter of the powerful minister Cho Hak-jo, whose powerful family clan aims for complete control of the country. To add to the crown-prince’s woes, the Queen is pregnant and his status as heir to the throne is in jeopardy.

All of which are going to be the least of the prince’s problems very soon…

Under suspicion of fomenting rebellion among the scholars, Prince Y-Chang flees to the south to seek answers about his father’s illness. In the process events unfold that lead to a classic zombie-outbreak.

Medieval court drama with zombies, could sound like a precis of Game of Thrones but Kingdom offers a simple plot. The prince is a good man trying to become a better man amid the corruption and class divisions of his society. The zombie outbreak offers a few twists but is essentially a familiar story of people unwilling to believe the dead have come back to life, mixed with unwitting errors and greedy or self-centered decisions that help the infection spread.

The good guys are likeable and the bad guys are either stupid and corrupt or off-the-charts with their Machiavellian plotting. The zombies are fast and greedy but prone to sleeping as if dead at certain times. The filming is cinematic with gorgeous shots of the Korean countryside and some cleverly filmed set-piece battles (the fight in the tall grasses in episode 5 is a great example).

Only six episodes in season 1 but another season is being filmed. I should note that it ends on a pretty big cliffhanger, so if you like complete stories you will be disappointed.

Exciting sword fights, scary scenes of running-away from zombie hordes, nefarious royal plots within plots, stunning scenery and some excellent hats.

*[I’m guessing that it is 17th century as some of the troops have conventional muskets but it is mainly swords, spears and bows and arrows.]

Russian Doll and the Groundhog Day plot

Every day can seem like the other — a terrible treadmill of existence, repeating the same routines, greeting the same people, catching the same train, eating the same sandwich. Modern life can feel like an incubation chamber for déjà-vu as we push through our day missing the small clues and hints of other people’s lives bubbling next to us. Perhaps why the Harold Ramis’s film ‘Groundhog Day’ struck a chord with obnoxious-but-likeable weatherman (Bill Murray) stuck in the same day until, Scrooge like, he manages to get past his misanthropy.

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Loved Books: The Mind’s I

Digging through boxes I found this ageing copy of the Mind’s I — underneath is a copy of Godel, Escher, Bach that you probably all knew that I have somewhere. The GEB doesn’t get an entry in this series because it’s a relatively new copy after the original one I owned vanished (possibly sucked into a vortex of self-reference)*.

The best way of describing The Mind’s I is as an anthology. It’s a collection of essays, stories and extract of things about the mind and identity. Looking back now at the list of writers I’m struck by two things:

  • So many are people whose other work I’ve sought out or re-encountered in other contexts.
  • Unless I’m mistaken the book had zero contributions from women.

That last point is what really dates the book. It feels absurd now that a book expression seeking to present multiple view points on the mind and self managed to miss half of humanity.

*[It was the Penguin version that had a Penrose triangle on the front.]

Star Trek Discovery: An Obol for Charon (S2:E4) – (initial reaction)

Wow.

This may take more than one post to cover. I was late up this morning, so I’ve only just finished watching the episode and I don’t know where to start.

How to describe it without spoilers? Well, we’ve had a TNG-like episode and a Season 1 Discovery style episode recently. This episode? A hefty dose of classic Trek both with the big-alien object and a paralyzed ship and overt connections (Number One cameo) pitches the episode into familiar territory. There’s a TNG feel with a more ensemble-cast approach to how the story is told, with different story threads and interpersonal dynamics. There’s even a bit of an Orville DNA with extra work-place banter from the guy with too many sinuses. But this is Discovery and that means freaky mushroom psychedelic action and Michael Burnham having to consider killing another Star Fleet officer.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you may end up speaking Welsh. Discovery may have just managed to integrate all its disparate parts into one episode and its a gloriously bonkers take on Star Trek.

Also, frickin’ emotionally manipulative. Bastards. How they knew that having Tilly sing Bowie’s Space Oddity would hit me in a vulnerable spot, I don’t know.

OK, that’s as far as I can go without spoilers. There’s a metric tonne of stuff to work out about Saru that is disturbing (although we’ve known for a long time the premise for Saru’s species is disturbing). [Spoilers OK in the comments]

Rankings

  1. An Obol for Charon – Classic Trek on a magic mushroom trip
  2. Point of Light – season one Discovery is back for revenge
  3. Brother – an action orientated fresh start for the Discovery crew
  4. New Eden – The Next Generation of The Next Generation

Bits and Pieces

  • So we get a quick bit of retcon continuity. Those cool holograms in Season 1 Discovery – they cause technical problems on the Enterprise which is why we’ve never seen them before. A no-prize to the writer who thought of that one.
  • Don’t try and think to deeply about how the universal translator works. It’s never made sense and I don’t care if the Tower of Babel bit makes sense, it was a genius scene and I loved it.
  • Chief Reno is a treasure and I hope she is a regular now. The perfect foil for Stamets.
  • We’ll just drill a hole in Tilly’s head. Sure, why not.
  • They are just teasing us with Spock now. He’d better be in next week’s episode.
  • I’m raising my opinion of Discovery to “it’s good actually” from “it has potential”