Voyager–Parallax/Time and Again

The difference between episodic and serialized TV isn’t something I’ve ever given much thought to in terms of how each of them work as ways of telling stories. In a telling sign of just how my tastes have changed since it originally aired, I remember a half assed attempt to get into comic books while Voyager was making it’s maiden voyage on UPN. As much as I loved Spider-Man and Batman I was turned off by continuities I knew nothing about despite a pretty good idea as to who the characters and their motivations were. It was alienating and familiar all at once. Voyager–and Star Trek in general–was accessible. I could have skipped a few weeks and not been lost. The question “What did I miss?” has two entirely different meanings when it’s applied to serialized or episodic story-telling.

With serialized TV what you often get is a season that makes up one section of a larger story with each episode serving as a chapter. As one week’s adventure flows directly into the next’s we get pieces that will eventually all come together to make a part of a whole. Missing a week actually means missing something, which is why Battlestar Galactica, Mad Men or Being Human have recaps at the start of a show. And even there, the recaps only give you what you absolutely need to know for that week. Maybe last week’s episode isn’t too important for this one, but it will all come back around. None of it is without purpose, whether that purpose be to move the greater story forward or to give us a better idea about who the characters are.

Voyager doesn’t have a recap and it doesn’t need one. It’s premise is enough to fill us in. Star Trek and ST: The Next Generation had their opening credo: To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilization. To boldly go where no man/one has gone before. Beyond that each week’s episode is it’s own stand-alone story. A “Monster of the Week” type situation. What continuity there is benefits the faithful. Knowing about Picard’s deeply personal history with the Borg makes any encounter with them all the more intense and on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, knowing who Worf’s adopted parents are make any future mentions of his upbringing that much more amusing.

Each format has its ups and downs and they are exactly opposite. With serials you get a richer, more complex story that builds on itself over the course of several episodes and seasons but they get to a point they become impossible to jump into with out being completely lost or having any twists ruined for you. Episodic TV is incredibly forgiving to casual viewers but tends to fall victim to the dreaded reset button: at the end of each week, things return back to normal.

PARALLAX

This is the second (technically the third, given that the premiere was a two-parter) episode and it opens with exactly what I felt Caretaker had been missing–conflict between the Maquis and Starfleet crew. Specifically, B’Elanna–Voyager’s fiery Kilingon–has broken a Starfleet engineer’s nose after an argument. While Tuvok wants her thrown in the brig,  the Maquis are secretly ready to stage a mutiny in a showing of moral support. In the middle of all of this is Chakotay, forced to balance his new found responsibilities as the Voyager’s second in command with his loyalty to his people.

The “Monster of the Week” in this episode is a singularity that traps the ship and, because of the way singularities mess around with the fabric of space-time–those scamps!–the Voyager tries to rescue a distressed ship that actually turns out to be a future-reflection of the Voyager itself. Needless to say there’s a lot of stereotypical Treknobabble.

Why I liked this episode is that it got us into the heads of three of the leads who weren’t really given anything super important to do in the premiere. We’ll start with B’Elanna who as I pointed out last week got shafted with space herpes (ha!) and was grumpy a lot. Here we get to know why she’s such a hot head; it’s not just because she’s half-Klingon and thus totally confrontational about EVERYTHING, but also because she’s a genuinely talented engineer whose stubborn pride, in conjunction with that ornery Klingon blood, keeps her from ever getting the chance to put her skills to good use. She has some good moments with Janeway where at first she plays the angsty role everyone expects her to but by the end she is able to move beyond her arrogance and dislike for Starfleet and apply her Scotty-like quick thinking to help the crew. We also get a bit of her back-story; she had been a student at the Academy who quit after clashing with most of her professors and assuming, like everyone else, that she didn’t have what it takes for Starfleet. I expect that to be a recurring issue with B’Elanna.

We learn of Chakotay’s Starfleet history as well. Not only is he an academy grad, but also has “prior command experience.” Whether that refers to his time with Starfleet or with the Maquis will probably be explored later on. More importantly we get an idea as to the kind of man he is. As I said, he is torn between two loyalties. While I would have rather seen the meeting between Chakotay and Janeway regarding the combining of their crews you get the idea that he is a man of strong principles and, at the end of the day, a man who wants what’s best for the people who don’t have much of a say. Hence his role as a Maquis captain–I’m assuming–and why he’s accepted the role of commander to Janeway’s captain. He’s on the Voyager to make sure that his people, who would otherwise probably just fuck everything up, get home safely. While that means treating them differently than Starfleet would normally allow–he basically gave B’Elanna a slap on the wrist for messing that dude up–he also didn’t hesitate to berate his former crew for even thinking about mutiny.

Lastly we finally get some Janeway up in this piece. Janeway is a captain whose much more emotional than your Kirks or Picards, and I don’t mean in a Ya Ya Sisterhood and a good cry with her girlfriends kind of way (’cause you know…she’s a GIRL!). Janeway has a tenancy to get real with her crew no matter the emotional climate. When she’s yelling at one of them, she’s yelling at them both as a captain and a human being and when she’s excited with one of them she’s almost a friend. Watching her and B’Elanna finish each others sentences about tachyon beams or particle who-gives-a-whats really gave me my first real thoughts as to what kind of captain she’ll be. She’s also fairly open to suggestion tfrom all across the board, as shown by her willingness to indulge Neelix and Kes at a senior officer’s meeting. Janeway is at once a stickler for the rules but more prone to genuine, human-human (or -other) communication with her crew, unlike Kirk who chummed it up with the bros or Picard who kept his captain face on with all but a select few in very select situations. I can’t speak much for Sisko or Quantum Leap. Not yet anyway.

TIME AND AGAIN

This episode, for the most part, was boring. Starting two episodes with the ship colliding into something the mucked with space-time was a bit of poor planning and for the most part this didn’t do much to move the characters forward at all. With the exception of Kes we don’t get much here and even Kes’ developments are really more of a sign of things to come. In the first episode there was what seemed like a throw away exchange about her people’s lost tradition of heightened mental potential. Whatever flame had long gone out in their minds seems to have been reignited in Kes, who feels the annihilation of an entire planet. This puts her at center stage when Paris and Janeway are somehow whisked back in time to the day before a catastrophe wipes out the indigenous population. She uses her knew sixths sense to track them down but otherwise the story is very similar to the previous episode’s problem with a cyclical concept of time with a dash of Prime Directive paranoia to spice it all up.

In short, PARALLAX is a great example of episodic TV done right. We get our isolated story but not without expanding on some of our characters. Meanwhile, TIME AND AGAIN is already double dipping into the time travel fondue and really only reminds us that Kes is sort of a psychic and in the end, after averting the catastrophe and thus not giving the ship any reason to stop in the first place it quite literally hit the reset button, bringing everything back to the way the episode started. It’s like the writers decided to give themselves a mulligan and filmed it.

Closing Thoughts:

-I still can’t tell if Neelix actually knows anything or if he’s just bullshitting his way to free room and board. I’m sure I’ll know one way or the other between now and the end of the series.

-The Doctor is great comic relief. A little bit of Bones McCoy and Marvin the Paranoid Android.

-The show’s theme song is quite lovely, invoking appropriate degrees of wonder and hope which makes sense given the context of the series.

-There was at least one hull breech mentioned between these episodes. I think I should keep track through out the series. On that note, there was mention of the ship’s finite fuel supply, busted replicators and Kes was given the green-light to start a farm. I really wanted to talk about characters this time, but I’ll try to bring this stuff up more. The show is about being lost in space after all, so I’m very interested to see how they rough it in Star Trek.

 

 

Star Trek Voyager–Because Netflix is Magic

Months ago I heard that Netflix would be streaming every episode of every Star Trek series ever and my first thought was “Cool, I’ll get to finally give Deep Space Nine a proper go!” Now that this wonderful little prophecy has come to fruition, I’m left waiting until October to watch DS9 and have to settle for dumb old Voyager…

Okay, so my opinions about Voyager are under cooked at best. I watched the first couple of seasons religiously when they originally aired because, just like when The Phantom Menace was released I had no choice. While my true gospel was written by Luke, Han and Leia, I was also raised by two faithful Trekkers. The Next Generation was on constantly between new episodes and syndicated re-runs and when DS9 and Voyager each started we naturally worked them into our Sunday night routines. But with both cases we all sort of got bored after a while. A Star Trek without The Enterprise is a different animal (as is a Star Trek with an Enterprise no one ever asked for, but I’ll talk about that when I get around to watching it). DS9 was weird because of it’s non-Starfleet setting and characters, but I’ve been told–and to some extent can see it in what little I remember–was very ambitious and excellent for various reasons that are wholly different from what worked with TNG. With Voyager I think I was just suffering from:

A) Star Trek Fatigue (STF)

B) Feeling the need to choose between the Stars, Wars and Trek (Guess which one I went with…)

The premise is both exciting and frustrating: Take a clean-cut Federation crew and their brand new ship and throw them 75 years away from the closest thing resembling home, plus stick them with a bunch of people who don’t really like them all that much. The danger and narrative potential of that sort of isolation from all that is Star Trek was awesome. No Klingons, Romulans or Vulcans–besides the ones on the Voyager crew–to rehash old stories and no starbases to patch up and refuel a ship with limited resources.  Of course that’s a big promise to make, and indeed probably the reason why I eventually cut Voyager out of my TV diet. The status quo never changed. The crew, and the ship, seemed to be doing fine each week. Where was the hardship of wandering an unknown part of the galaxy?

As time went on things may have gotten tough for the Voyager crew, but in the first two season I watched it never seemed to be an issue. My knowledge of Voyager is as the weirder of the two non-Enterprise series. I don’t think I even stuck around long enough to see a 7 of 9 episode. I only knew her as the hot new character that wound up on lots of magazine covers.

The Borg and Sex? Why not.

So while I wait eagerly for DS9 I think I’ll chip away at Voyager, even if it doesn’t deliver on its premise–and if you ask former Star Trek writer/producer and Battlestar Galactica show-runner Ronald Moore it doesn’t.And so, season 1, episode 1: Caretaker.

The episode starts with a Star Wars-esque text scroll that quickly gets you the information you need. The Maquis are a group of separatists formed by colonists and Starfleet defectors after a treaty is signed between the Federation and the Cardassians. Me meet a small Maquis crew as they evade a Cardassian warship into a Plasma storm, only to be swept up by an energy wave.

Cut to Star Trek’s first female captain–as a series lead, there had been other high ranking ladies–Katheryn Janeway as she recruits former Starfleet officer/captured Maquis prisoner Tom Paris. As a crack pilot with first-hand knowledge of the Maquis, Paris is a prime candidate for a rescue mission to retrieve the lost Maquis ship and Starfleet’s undercover agent/Voyager’s security officer, a Vulcan named Tuvok. Paris agrees in exchange for his release and essentially takes on the emotional core of the episode. Paris is a fuck up. His father, a Starfleet admiral, is disappointed that he was kicked out of the fleet. The Maquis see him as a mercenary with no loyalties to anyone or anything besides a paycheck. He doesn’t even seem to like himself very much, but when he strikes up a friend ship rookie Harry Kim he begins to show he’s not as heartless as everyone figures him to be.

Paris, a cocky space jockey in the Han Solo mold is what’s wrong with this episode. As a character he works well and stands out among the Star Trek mainstays–Tuvok standing in for Spock/Data as the token voice of logic and eye brow raising, B’Elanna in for Worf as the rage-prone loner, etc.. The problem is making the episode so much about him trying to prove that he’s not a dick. We’re meeting a new crew (two, sort of) for the first time and no one really gets of a chance to introduce themselves. Janeway has a couple of nice moments–a video call with her fiance about watching her dog, a moment of guilt over not having enough time for Kim’s mother to send some of his personal effects–but for the most parts gets stuck doing generic captain stuff and dealing with the titular Caretaker, an aging entity who brought both the Maquis and the Voyager to teh Delta Quadrant to find an heir. The episode plays like a getting the band together story but doesn’t focus of the two people it should, namely Janeway and the Mauquis captain-turned-Voyager first officer Chakotay.

The first episode of TNG, for example, quickly hit on all of the principle characters and their quirks and the new ship but the meat of it was all about Picard stating clearly who he was and beginning to set the tone, by was of his trial on humanity’s behalf to Q, for what kind of show would revolve around him and his crew. The biggest challenge TNG had when it started was to prove it could live beyond the shadow of Kirk, Spock and Bones. DS9 had to prove it could be different enough from TOS and TNG to warrant existing on its own. When Voyager started there was a lot to be said for having a woman as captain, and in a boys club like science fiction, the series would have benefited from an episode built more around Janeway showing her crew and their uneasy Maquis allies just what she was made of.

The stakes were also somewhat lacking. While Kim and B’Elanna wrestled with the chance of dying from a cosmic STD (more or less) the Voyager crew pent little time worrying about how they were going to get home. True there was the initial thought that once they recovered their kidnapped crew members they could just get the Caretaker to send them home. In one of her few defining moments Janeway allows the Caretaker to die before sending them home, arguing that she wasn’t about to sacrifice the race of people he had been protecting in order to accommodate her and her crew’s convenience. This action comes a little too late in the two-part premiere to contradict what I said earlier, I still think Janeway wasn’t given as much as she should have been and the episode ends with a “buckle down and work hard and we’ll figure this out” speech. Compare that with, say, Adama’s grim yet barely-motivating speeches before taking the Galactica crew to hell and back and it feels more than a little bubble gum.

The other element that felt a bit rushed was the seemingly instant, conflict free assimilation–a scary word in the Trek universe–of the Marquis into the Voyager crew. One minute B’Elanna is calling Kim “Starfleet” like it’s a racial slur and them, in teh episode’s last scene, the Maquis are all wearing Starfleet uniforms. True they don’t have their own ship and Chakotay, as a means to appease the rebels, was made Janeway’s second in command, but it just seemed hard to accept that they’d be so willing to fall in line with something they were willing to fight against back home. Plus, you know, the fact that they are so far away from home make it seem all the more foolish. Why bother? When Starfleet stationed people at Deep Space Nine they didn’t draft everyone who was already there or change the dress code. As an asthetic and just a simple means of telling which faceless crew people wandering the Voyager halls belonged to which faction, why not keep the Starfleeters Starfleet and the Maquis looking like the rough and tumble bunch they were before hand?

So this all makes it sound like I hated the first episode of Voyager and will force myself to grind through the remaining 170+ episodes. Not true. I see the potential in Voyager and if anything knowing that it doesn’t necessarily live up to ALL of that potential–one episode in and the ship is trashed but then looks brand new by the end–should allow me to appreciate it for what it is: a noble attempt to take a starfleet crew, and its audience, out of familiar, comfortable waters and boldly go where no Star Trek series has gone before.

Closing Thoughts:

-I remember thinking Neelix was awesome and I’m glad that I still enjoyed his shenanigans. He’s the goofy alien sidekick Jar Jar Binks only wishes he could have been.

-The emergency holographic Doctor is also a really neat character who works almost as the anti-Data–an artificial life form who seems more irritated by organic sentient life than intrigued by it.

-Expect lots of Battlestar Galactica comparisons, especially when/if I make it to 7 of 9.

Notes

I’ve been taking a lot of notes for a new project lately and, as always, I quickly found myself spending half of that time doodling in my notebook. I’ve always done that, and for the most part the sketches I end up with represent what I’m working on. For example…

A self portrait while working on My Best Friend is a Wookiee

Notes from editing ...Wookiee

Sketch for the "hanging out with stoners" chapter of ...Wookiee

For my current project I’ve been sketching out ideas for what some of the characters, things and places in my head might look like…

If the Disney villain Pete and Carl from Aqua Teen had a baby you'd get this guy

???

?!

While I find a lot of this helpful in terms of working out some visual ideas, sometimes I go completely off the rail and just do something stupid like sketch a guy pooping into a funnel that feeds a machine that makes hamburgers which are in turn fed directly into that guy’s mouth via conveyor belt like some sort of fast food commentary ouroboros.

From a man who loves fast food...

And of course sometimes there is no rhyme or reason, though I’m sure a shrink would have plenty to say about it…

This speaks for itself, really...

Gaming Like a Rockstar

In the wake of several month where I was living and breathing the promotion of My Best Friend is a Wookiee I decided that the first thing I should do is settle in to a deep, self-induced video game coma. But which rabbit hole do I jump down first? The news that Mass Effect 2 was coming to the PS3 (complete with a bunch of the DLC available for the 360 version) I decided to shelf that one for another couple of months. Maybe it was time to drink the Call of Duty Kool-Aid? Besides, if it’s got the shambling living corpse of Fidel Castro up in arms it’s gotta be great! So I did get Black Ops, and I’ve enjoyed getting my ass handed to me by tweenagers with far too much time on their hands, but what really wrapped me up in the sweet, pixilated embrace of HD-hypnosis was Rockstar’s appropriately deified Red Dead Redemption.

Rockstar’s sandbox games are what got me back into video games in high school. Sometime after Final Fantasy VIII, and despite a constantly renewed subscription to EGM, I found myself suddenly apathetic to the scene. Sure I got a Dreamcast, but only after Sega had begun to play taps for the poor little guy. Yes, I was one of those assholes who couldn’t be bothered to shell over original MSRP for the first born child of the previous console generation. But when it was whimpering in a Best Buy bargain bin, it’s price slashed to a desperate $50, I happily jumped on board. But as much as I enjoyed Shenmue, Jet Grind Radio and Quake III Arena I had no real urge take the plunge back into life as a gamer. That changed as soon as everyone, and I mean everyone, started talking about Grand Theft Auto III.

Rockstar’s “Do anything you want to whenever you want to” blew us all away. GTA3 was easily the Super Mario Bros. of the last console generation. Everyone at school was raving about boosting cars, picking up hookers and racking up a murder-toll so high that the game sicked a bunch of tanks on you. Letting your id go house on the fictional Liberty City was hours of pure, guilty pleasure, but between the bloody tire tracks and slowed down, drug-induced high your player got when he found the pill around the corner from the hospital was game about driving a taxi, chasing gangsters in a cop car or responding to wounded citizens in an ambulance. The beauty of GTA3 was its freedom to actually do ANYTHING you wanted in the city, good or bad.

(NEXT STOP SPOILER CITY! WATCH IT!)

So now we get Red Dead, a Spaghetti Western-inspired game built entirely in the spirit of GTA. Wide open worlds. Tons of characters to interact with. But RDR is only a cowboy GTA on the surface. Like the most recent batch of GTA games you play a criminal who has the whole world at his disposal, but unlike the playable characters in GTA: San Andreas or GTA4, John Marston makes it really hard to want to be a bad guy. Yes, GTA always gives you choice, but it never really gives you a strong moral center. Nico Belic says he wants a new life, but saying it isn’t enough. For me, the game never gave me anything to work towards, no real reason not to go on a murderous rampage. You get it out of your system, you play some missions, then you move on with your day. Maybe I’m wrong. I never finished GTA4 because my copy had some sort of fatal defect, but I never bothered replacing it either. It just didn’t grab me the way GTA3 had. But RDR sucked me in from the get go, in no small part because in John Marston I found a man who I NEEDED to help find that titular redemption. Marston was former criminal, sure, but he was also a family man. He had a farm and life that was taken from him as his own bloody past was yanked into the present. Think Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven.

So we have Marston, a retired outlaw doing the Feds’ dirty work so he can get his wife, son and farm back. The way the character is written is enough to make you want to do good, but it’s really in Bonnie MacFarlane where the game almost makes you feel guilty about committing crime. Gameplay-wise she’s the first person you do missions for. Those missions consist or roping broncos, herding cattle; not exactly gangster shit. Story-wise she finds you near death on the side of the road after you foolishly–and rather ambivalently–try to take in the outlaw the Feds have you hunting. Bonnie never feels like a plot device or just another dull NPC to teach you basic game mechanics. Through her the game gets it’s strongest pull towards North on the ol’ moral compass. By the time she learns to trust Marston, I felt like I had earned something, despite the fact that I probably could have killed every man, woman, horse and nun I came across and the scripted cutscene still would have played out exactly the same as if I hadn’t. And when I later had to save her from being lynched by a bunch of bandits, it wasn’t a typical video game “save the princess” moment. Marston, I, was fighting to repay a life debt.

It’s a testament to the creators of RDR that I genuinely cringed anytime I found myself stepping out of line. More often than not it was an accident–failing to negotiate a turn the right way and running a dude down with my horse, locking on to a bystander instead of a bandit n a gunfight, etc–and it helped that Marston reacted with guilt when it would happen. Even more than him grumbling “what am I doing?” after killing an innocent is the fact that the consequence for your actions was even steeper here than in previous Rockstar games. Before you’d kill a guy, police would take chase and the mayhem would escalate until you shook them off your tail. Here it’s the same, only now once you’ve lost the fuzz they put a bounty out on your head. A sheriff might take you alive, but a posse of bandits might not be bothered. It pays to play nice.

(NO SERIOUSLY, I’M ABOUT TO DISCUSS THE END OF THE GAME IN EXPLICIT DETAIL! ABORT!)

I had never really bought the “left the life of crime behind me” lines from Rockstar before, but RDR made me as Marston want to be a better man. I had a family to save, damn it! and they, like Bonnie, weren’t just another video game trope. Mario ends when you save the princess. Zelda ends when you save the other princess. Logic and two decades of gaming dictated that RDR would end when I kill the last bad guy and save my family. I was dead wrong and blown away by the hour-ish of gameplay that followed what would have been a perfectly acceptable and well-executed “happy ending.”

Dutch is dead. Ross says your family is back at your ranch. Cue the beautiful song by Jose Gonzales as you mash on X to get your horse home to them as fast as you can. You the gamer meet your wife and son for the first time. She’s a tough broad, angry that you took so damn long, and your boy is quiet, caught between being mad at you for leaving them and thrilled to see you home again. As I wait for the credits to roll I start to reflect on the last 40 hours of game time and then, oh wait, Marston wakes up the next morning. It’s not a cutscene. Now you can do missions for your wife, your son, and your drunk old uncle. Not only did you save your family, but now you get to know them. Just like you got to know Bonnie, Reyes, Marshal Johnson and Nigel West-Dickens. As a reward for getting your family back you ACTUALLY get your family. For an hour you teach your son how to hunt. You break one of the three-star horses with your uncle. You take your wife back to the MacFarlane Ranch to meet Bonnie who, as you ride away from her for the last time, shows her first and only hint of female vulnerability.

In the end, Marston is gunned down by a small legion of US Soldiers, sent on the behest of a Federal Agent who viewed him as a loose end that need to be taken care of. All the promises of a clean slate were lies, but in that final brilliant moment of Marston’s life it is he who is taken from his family, not the other way around. Marston dies having regained everything he fought for. And for once, we the gamer get to enjoy the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the princess, the world peace, the MacGuffin that got the whole game rolling in the first place. Throw in a coda that made me want to give the game a standing ovation and what you have is a game that is more than just GTA by way of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Red Dead Redemption may prove to be a high-water mark in video game narrative. It was certainly nothing short of the most emotionally satisfying video game experience I’ve had in a ages, if not ever.

As I played I figured that I would go back afterward and raise all sorts of hell. having finished it it almost feels like that would be some sort of betrayal. Marston fought too hard to be a good guy for once in his life. I kind of feel like I should leave it that way.

The Force Unleashed II

I had fun with The Force Unleashed. It was buggy, frustratingly repetitive, and the story was a bit out there, but at the end of the day it let you be a total Sith badass which was really all I wanted from it. So when they announced a sequel, and then after I was swept off my feet with the footage they showed at Star Wars Celebration V I was ready to dive back into Starkiller’s world. While TFU2 looked great and eliminated a lot of the issues that bogged down the first one, it also found new problems and clocked in at an easy, under ten hour experience.

And that’s my biggest beef with it: its length. I can see passed repetitive gameplay (to a point) but without even trying to I managed to beat the game in two sittings on the Hard difficulty setting. About seven hours of play time. As I approached what turned out to be the game’s finale I kept telling myself that there was no way that it was almost over. There was so much left to do, right? I mean the story had barely even unfolded. But sure enough it was done in seven hours. Done with only two boss battles. If actually felt like there were parts of the game missing, gameplay and story wise. We were lined up with the possibilities of fighting not just Boba Fett, but your own evil clone and neither really come to light. Fett is seen in a couple of quick cutscenes and while you do get to hack up several Starkiller clones, their all a bunch of newly hatch test tube Sith who are less powerful than enemies you’ve already encountered. Going toe-to-toe with your mirror self would have been cool, because at least you’d feel like you accomplished something. You know that, what with time paradoxes and all, you can’t kill Vader. You can “defeat” him, but not kill him. And for the sake of staying spoiler free I won’t elaborate on the Light or Dark Side endings other than saying the Light Side ending left my jaw on the floor for all the wrong reasons.

I’ll quickly hit on the story: You’re a clone of Starkiller that Vader has been secretly working on but so far all of your predecessors have gone crazy with the real Starkiller’s memories and were killed. You manage to escape and hook up with Kota–the blind samurai Jedi from the first one–and then you take off after Juno Eclipse, your love interest from the first one. And that’s it. The state of the Rebellion, the cool existential questions about whether or not you’re a clone or the real Starkiller–and how either way, what is it that REALLY makes a person, the body or the soul–are all pretty much left hanging. This world is a much different place from the last time we stepped into it, but instead of seeing how it’s changed we spend all of our time on Kamino, on a Rebel cruiser or Cato Neimoidia. Three locations verses how many the last time around? And of all the planets fans would want to see, and we only really get one here, we get the Trade Federation homeworld?

I know that this all fits my supposed M.O. as a hater who refuses to give any post-THX edition original trilogy Star Wars any credit, but I was enjoying this game. I wasn’t ready for it to end. I wanted more, damn it, and not in a “whoa, I need t play this again instantly and tell everyone I know to play it” kind of way. It was more of a “That’s it?!”

On the plus side they really did clean up the visuals and I didn’t encounter any game ending bugs. There’s also the upcoming Endor DLC (Dark Side Lightning + Ewoks = Fan-fucking-tastic!) But I still would have liked to spend some more time in the main game before beating it as savagely as I did (one week and I scored most of the PS3 trophies for it). The idea of a Star Wars take on God of War is too good to pass up. If there’s a third game in the works–and based on the ending there almost has to be–I’ll play it. I just hope that they can continue to learn from what doesn’t work and hopefully not replace old issues with new ones.

RIP Irvin Kershner

So I’m really at a loss for words here. Odds are if you’re reading this that you know how I feel about Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back in particular. This morning Irvin Kershner, the director of The Empire Strikes Back, passed away.

Kershner brought the best out of the characters and worlds that George had created. It was his directing, along with Kasdan’s script, that elevated this world above the realm of Kid’s Stuff. He showed us our heroes at their lowest points, and though they ended the film defeated, he saw brought them to a point of hope, though greatly diminished from where they left off in A New Hope. Kershner made these characters real, even giving life to a little green elf and a man in head-to-toe golden plastic. Good vs. Evil is universal, fairy tale conflict, but a crisis of faith (Luke), spirituality (Yoda), love (Han and Leia) and heartbreaking betrayal (Lando/Vader’s big reveal) are universal, real-world struggles that strike a chord in all of us one way or another. These were the things that made The Empire Strikes Back, despite all of it’s otherworldly spectacle, the most down-to-Earth of the films.

Star Wars’ legacy has already shown that, 30 years after The Empire Strikes Back was released, these films still prove to be just as powerful as ever. Kershner’s contribution both to that legacy and to fandom as whole, like the Force, will always be with us.

Just checking in…

So as always here in blogland I set myself up to do something only to completely not do it at as soon as it starts. I have been severely neglecting my experiment with sitting Sondra down with the saga and it wasn’t until seeing this review that I actually felt bad about it. To be fair, I’ve been busy. Also, we did watch all of the movies and her reactions to them were at times surprising but on the whole what I was hoping for. I even surprised myself at one point. I’ll get to all that soon(ish). I haven’t forgotten about you, The Girlfriend Experience, I’ve just been busy running around. I’m actually hoping to maybe have part II up within the week. Stay tuned!

As for all of this running around, it’s been exhausting. The book tour is on its back half, with stops in Brooklyn, Philly and a return to UMass Dartmouth lined up. I’m also doing a Mortified show in Cambridge the first weekend of November, which, if you’ve never been, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Tickets tend to go fast, so you best act fast!

In other news, I decided to try my hand at NaNoWriMo, which is probably the dumbest thing I could do right now. Why my knee jerk response to being busy is to throw more shit on my plate is beyond me, but for those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It happens every November and basically you sign up and from November 1-30 try to hit 50,000 words. The cool thing is it’s all about quantity, not quality. I’m basically approaching this as an excuse to get one big idea I’ve been mulling over onto paper then, when I have some real time to give to it, see if there’s anything there worth more than a month’s time. We’ll see…

So anyway, expect the next installment of The Girlfriend Experience soon. And as always, check in on wookiee.adamsmedia.com every once in a while for My Best Friend is a Wookiee updates. I hope you’re enjoying the book, folks who are reading it!

MTFBWY

-T