Thursday, July 21, 2016

Catching Up with B5

Babylon 5 was a popular television science fiction fiction series during the 1990s and seems all but forgotten today, but the staff at have been actively courting fans with a slew of series-related books and videos. The latest video is titled CNN Documents Babylon 5 (2016) and features interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from the CNN vaults. Full details on the product can be accessed at the website at

Disc one features interviews with cast members conducted at the starts of seasons one and two in winter 1993-94 and fall 1994. These are the most valuable features of the set with comments by Claudia Christian, Jerry Doyle, Michael O'Hare, and Bruce Boxleitner as they began their tenure on the station. These pieces are particular interesting for revealing what each actor saw as the appeal of the series while in production. A final interview is included from summer 1998 with guest star Shari Belafonte on her role in the telefilm Babylon 5: Thirdspace. All the interviews are supplemented by footnotes from staff.

Disc two offers a series of behind-the-scenes videos on the making of four episodes from the series. There is not much that held my interest here, though some fans might enjoy being on set and seeing how things worked. The pieces are from the episodes--"By Any Means Necessary," "Legacies," "A Distant Star," and the penultimate "Objects at Rest"--being shot on the same days the interviews from disc one were conducted. All four videos include optional audio commentary by staff.

Disc three is a limited issue and includes present-day commentary by Christian and Doyle as they watch their interviews from disc one and the videos from disc two. Overall, it is an interesting look back at the phenomenon that was Babylon 5.

Catching Up with RoboCop

The recent film RoboCop (2014) is a interesting reboot of the popular franchise and offers a more contemporary re-imagining of the hero's origins within contemporary debates of morality. The creators of RoboCop, the chief executive and employees of OmniCorp view the cybernetically-enhanced Alex Murphy as a pawn in their schemes to overturn legislation prohibiting the company's robot soldiers from being engaged in law enforcement and military situations in the United States and fail, repeatedly, to see the power of the man in the machine. Ultimately, it is the heart of RoboCop that prevails and brings about the demise of OmniCorp's plans.

Catching Up with The Martian

Catching up on some movie watching this week.

First up, The Martian:

The Martian is based on Andy Weir's 2011 novel set in the mid 2030s and recounting the struggles undergone by astronaut Mark Watney as he attempts to survive after having been left behind after an aborted attempt to explore Mars. The plot of the film is essentially the same as the novel; however, while the film does try to preserve some sense of his perspective, we do lose much of Watney's signature voice in the re-telling. The pacing of the first third of the film seems consistent with the novel, but the second third jumps ahead seven months and fails to depict the most heroic feats undertaken by Watney in his attempts to escape the Red Planet. The final section of the film serves as an epilogue illustrating the lives of Watney and his crew mates following his rescue. Despite these issues, the film succeeds in bringing the novel to life. We see and hear (rather than just imagine) events, and, through these visual and audio stimulation, come to a better appreciation of Watney's experience. In addition, through scenes on Earth, we get a greater sense of how hard NASA and the JPL are working to rescue their astronaut, and, perhaps more importantly, the images of how the common men and women across the globe are affected by Watney's trials forge a deeper connection between the film and its audience.