Tag Archives: Babylon 5

Looking forward to: Obduction and Zed

A couple of months ago, I found out about a game called Obduction, a puzzle game that was Kickstarted by Rand Miller of Myst fame. The Kickstarter ran quite a while ago, and the project was recently publicly announced as having a June release date (since pushed back to July).

A few days ago, another Kickstarter game was pointed out to me, being run by Chuck Carter – who coincidentally also worked on the design for Myst and Riven, and also designed for some Command & Conquer games (Tiberian Sun, Red Alert 2, and Renegade, all of which I own), Emperor: Battle For Dune (by the same studio that did the Command & Conquer games, and I also own it), as well as design work for the TV shows Babylon 5 and Crusade (which I have watched all the way through).

This second  game is called Zed, and the company’s site has a demo of the game on their Download page. The demo is intended more to showcase the art style of the game, so you can’t do as much running around as you will in the final  version of the game, and there’s only a couple of basic push-a-button puzzles to give you an idea of the interactivity. I played through it this evening. It is possible to go off the prescribed path, but not by very much. Looks interesting, though.

The last Myst game, Myst V: End Of Ages, came out in 2005. In the decade since, we haven’t seen, as far as I know, the kind of free-roaming non-violent puzzle game that Myst and its sequels were famous for being, and I don’t think we’ve seen anything as conceptually out-of-the-box, either. So, I’m pretty interested in both of these games. Also, with their non-violent character, should be stuff the kids can be around.

Obduction made over a million on Kickstarter. It’s shown up as “Coming Soon” on Steam, with no price attached. I used my Amazon “Add to Wish List” button, which surprisingly revealed a price of $14.99. Might be able to scrape together some Steam credit for that.

Zed is over 50% funded a few days into its campaign, with 20 days left on the clock. I’m aiming to get in on it, just wondering whether I’m going to go for the tier where you just get the game, or if I can scrape together enough pennies to get the soundtrack as well.

New Trek Series Announced

There was a new Star Trek series announced today, which naturally has generated a lot of discussion. The article itself was terribly vague about what the show might be, other than “new characters” and “Star Trek”. Of course, any details they might be running with now, might change during development: premiering in January 2017 means they’ve got a year and a couple of months to get it to the screen.

The announcement article itself seemed to have as much focus on the deliver method (CBS’s premium streaming service) as on the fact that Trek was returning to the small screen (kinda) after a 12-year absence (Enterprise ended in May 2005).

There has been speculation that CBS’s pushing their own streaming service, not just for the new series but all the old shows as well, might spell the end of those Treks being on other services. With the monthly articles posted on Facebook I see about “What’s leaving Netflix at the end of this month”, it wouldn’t surprise me, but who knows.

The series is said to be unconnected with the upcoming movie Star Trek Beyond (Beyond what? With the last one being “Into Darkness”, I guess this is “Beyond Darkness”. It is very dark…. in space…). as Beyond is set for a July 2016 release, it would make sense for the stories not to be tied together. Also, with shooting finished on Beyond and production barely begun on Announced New Series, any direct crossover/set-up would be very unlikely.

A couple of snippets from the article:
“Alex Kurtzman will serve as executive producer for the new Star Trek TV series. Kurtzman co-wrote and produced the blockbuster films Star Trek (2009) with Roberto Orci, and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) with Orci and Damon Lindelof.”
from David Stapf, President of CBS: “we’re excited to launch its next television chapter in the creative mind and skilled hands of Alex Kurtzman, someone who knows this world and its audience intimately.”

I enjoyed Star Trek 2009 and Star Trek Into Darkness (though I’m still not sure that the latter makes sense after all the twists are unravelled). I do see what some Trek fans mean when they talk about those movies not feeling very like Star Trek, more a trek facade put over a not-Trek story. And even the Wikipedia page for Star Trek Beyond (which currently doesn’t give much in the way of details of the film) says:
“On the original draft by Orci, Pegg commented that Paramount “had a script for Star Trek that wasn’t really working for them. I think the studio was worried that it might have been a little bit too Star Trek-y.” For his role as the primary screenwriter, Pegg had been asked to make this new film “more inclusive”, stating that the solution was to “make a western or a thriller or a heist movie, then populate that with Star Trek characters so it’s more inclusive to an audience that might be a little bit reticent.””

For long-time Trek fans, particularly those of the TNG/DS9(/Voyager) era, this will temper any excitement we might have. But this sort of problem has been present for a while: initially the last TV series was called, simply, “Enterprise”, to distance from the Star Trek brand and encourage a new audience, before changing their mind later, and retitling it “Star Trek: Enterprise”.

The cynical might (and have) suggested that CBS don’t believe in the new Star Trek show enough to give it airtime (beyond the pilot), but hey, geeks will pay good money to watch it on streaming.

To put it another way, there has been a trajectory since (at the latest) 2001, where they want Star Trek, but without the Star Trek. It wouldn’t surprise me if a sizable chunk of the intended audience chooses to wait and see if the feedback turns out good, before spending any money on the thing. Which in turn could lower the hoped financial impact of the series, and a not-renewal even if it is good.

TNG had a cast that really liked each other, and the dynamic was shaken up a bit with two main characters leaving during the series’ run (one during the first season, and both actors returned as guests after they left). The cast dynamic added sparkle, even during those times where the characters didn’t have much to do.

DS9 gave all its characters stuff to do. All the main cast, and even pretty much all of the recurring guest cast. Even Morn, who was in many episodes and never had a single word of dialogue, had an episode all about him.

The original Star Trek had an intentionally diverse cast, which was pretty rare for the time. TNG and DS9 continued in that vein, in their own ways.

I think TOS put as many races as it could on screen, then for the most part refused to make a point about it. There’s a black woman and a Russian on the bridge with Kirk and McCoy, deal with it. TNG and DS9 probably made the most about race: Data with the desire to be human, Worf struggling to fit in with human culture while maintaining his own, Odo trying to find his race, the tensions between Cardassians and Bajorans (particularly see Duet, DS9).

Voyager again was intentionally diverse, and I’m not sure they made much of race at all, but it felt kinda forced. And some main characters didn’t get very much to do at all, and some actors apparently weren’t the easiest to work with. although there’s still lots to like about the series, there’s certainly parts that felt clinical and stale. And there was too much that was inconsistent. This week we’re surviving an encounter with 17 Borg Cubes, just one of which can wipe out half the Federation (to be fair, there was no battle there). Another week, we’re quivering in our boots at the sight of one Borg Sphere, which the Enterprise-E managed to take out in a single shot. And so much more.

The staleness continued into Enterprise. Parts of the first season were so forgettable, that at the end of an advert break, I couldn’t tell you what had happened before it. I didn’t get on with Season 3 when it first aired, I kept getting the “I waited a whole week for THIS?” feeling. It fared better on a later binge-watching. Season 4 did the impossible, the show really started feeling fresh and vibrant. Had they got a Season 5, I think they could have retrieved all the characters from the depths of blandness.

In Trek, generally there’s a few roles in particular that need filled. Captain. First Officer. Doctor. Engineer. Security. Science. Ops and Conn, or navigator and helmsman. Having such a large number of roles can be problematic, if the writers don’t write very well for ensemble casts. And there’s dangers of stereotyping, or not making characters very deep.

There are points when sci-fi on TV can seem stale, recycling old stories, nothing changes (at most, everything’s back the way it was after a two-parter), the characters aren’t interesting, or the interactions between characters isn’t strong, or you’ve seen these dynamics before. Then once in a while, a show comes along that freshens everything up. DS9 and Babylon 5 add some grittiness to the genre, a trend that may have reached its grittiest in Battlestar Galactica. Both DS9 and B5 did ensemble, character development, interplanetary politics and story arcs well, and story arcs became more of a trend. Fine balance to do right, but done well it’s great.

Firefly in particular became a defining moment for the genre, with the monolithic government and the monolithic Blue Sun corporation on one side, the Reavers on the other, and our heroes who jus want to go their way in the middle. Humour, quirk, many people with many motives, but a small core of characters, it’s not a surprise that it’s popular.

What do I want out of a new Trek?

Good stories, good characters. That’s about it. Optimism about the future would add to the Trek-ness, bleak having been more the order of the day since Trek went off-air.
If it’s a weekly show (CBS still in that world), I want each episode to be worth the week wait. If it’s released all at once (like many digital subscription shows have tended to be, in the era of Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime), I want it to be so good, it’s hard to stop after one episode (I remember staying up far too late watching Firefly, when I got the DVDs).

I want it to be the big breath of fresh air, not the stale, clinical, same-old. There’s much discussion about which Trek time-period it should be (contemporary with JJTrek would make most sense, given some shared leadership), but ultimately it doesn’t matter much if it’s good.

What might be a good way to shake up the crew dynamics?

Smaller core cast. Best way to do that? Science vessel. Go out exploring, to give them some variety, but build up to something major. Have an outpost or starbase that they need to go back to from time to time, can have some recurring guest cast there. Have the ship agile for evasive maneuvers, but not the kind of ship you really want to take into battle. Have a patrol ship or two in the area, that you can call in as cavalry or backup when you need it. Some more recurring guest cast.

Behind the scenes, try not to mess up the science too much, and try and get a cast that actually likes each other, and will still be happy to get together at conventions in thirty years’ time.

And good characters, good character interactions, and good character development. That ensign had better be promoted, maybe to a different role, by the end of Season 3.

Trek can be great. The new show could be a game-changer. And I’d really like it to be.

Will it?

We shall see. Depending if the show comes to a venue we have access to. Think they’ll do a DVD?

Review: Dragon Sun

In general, I’m not into tie-in novels because quality can be an issue. Also, there’s often issues with whether or not the books Really Happened.

Take, for example, Star Trek. There was a novel series, Day Of Honor, with a TOS book, a TNG book, a DS9 book and a Voyager book. I got the TNG book free with a magazine. I think I’ve read it twice, and it never quite succeeded in being interesting. I read another TNG book many years ago, looking it up I think it was Intellivore, and that wasn’t very interesting, either. On the other hand, I read a DS9 graphic novel, and some of a novelisation of the DS9 pilot, and I recall enjoying those. I heard a TOS audiobook, Envoy, that I rather enjoyed.

Good, bad, or ugly, however, none of these books are considered canon, so there seems to be little point in them.

There were a couple of Voyager novels that were supposed to be canon, and bits of them were written into episodes, Mosaic and Pathways, and as I recall they fell afoul of the same sort of revisionism that happened to the Star Wars Expanded Universe recently: the “oh no, they’re not canon after all” syndrome.

Babylon 5’s tie-in novels were all supposed to be canon, though this too has fluctuated a little, they now “all contain canonical elements”, one has been described as “90% canon”, and so on. There were quality issues here, too: some were good, but I particularly remember “The Touch of Your Shadow, the Whisper of Your Name” as being very not good. And surprisingly similar to the later yawn-fest Thirdspace.

Stephen King’s Dark Tower series has a different approach to canonicity. The books, the graphic novels, and the long-rumoured movie can all be considered canon, even when they’re different or contradict each other, they can all exist on “different levels of the Tower” (though you have to wade through rather a lot of books to find out what that means).

The book that I’m writing about today, but have thus far completely managed to avoid actually talking about, is the second of a tie-in trilogy of books to the computer game Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri.

Here’s my review of Book 1.

Due to the kind of game it is, each time you play it there are significant differences: one time through, a faction can be wiped out very early, the next time they could stay through to the end. In effect, what’s “canonical” in one play through, is unlikely to be “canonical” in another. There are several ways to win the game, and you can only win in one of the ways in each playthrough, so for that game the others are, strictly speaking, “non-canonical”.

So books set in that universe, then, can just take the many familiar elements of the game, flesh out the inner parts of the world that we don’t get to see much of when we actually play the game, add more characters, perhaps even give more character to the characters we already know, and tell a story using those pieces. Canon, in this sense, doesn’t really matter if the story is good.

In the first book, the author, Michael Ely, managed to maintain an overall status quo: none of the faction leaders were “out of the game”, as it were.

In the second book, Yang and Deirdre are the focus. Lal is somewhat a shell of his former self after the events of Centauri Dawn. Deirdre’s tech is limited, though the Gaians have been working very hard on Centauri ecology, and hybrid farms, and harnessing the power of mindworms. We start to hear the Voice of Planet. Morgan is trying to expand his territory into Gaian territory, with Santiago backing him up. Yang has been isolated on another continent, and is looking to introduce himself to the other factions from a position of strength, to become a full member of the Planetary Council.

Yang is also dealing with rebellion in his own bases, while he also prepares to reveal his secret army. We see some of the “inhuman experiments” referred to in the game, and the “nerve staple” atrocity. All right!

Not wanting to say too much, but I did like the ending. In the last few pages you’re not sure what to expect, and then BAM!, he twists the knife.

Well played, sir.

Mr Ely was heavily involved in the creation of the game, and here he starts adding things that would be really cool to see in the game (I’ve been playing a Civ IV mod based on Alpha Centauri, so seeing them in that would be just fine, too). In plain Civilization IV, most countries have multiple available leaders, so reading the books, one can pick out potential contenders. Also, Deirdre’s Skyfarms of the book seems to be distinct from the Sky Hydroponics Labs of the game.

Anyway, I enjoyed this book, and for the whole series: so far so good. I’m almost to the end of the usually-expensive-but-I-picked-it-up-relatively-cheap third book in the series, I’ll let you know how it goes.

“If you go to Ravenholm, you will die”

I like playing games, though I don’t really make a lot of time for doing so. Playing Final Fantasy VII with Oldest hasn’t happened in a while. I’ve downloaded a few games that I haven’t tried out, yet. Got a way into Cut The Rope 2, and log in most days to get the prize of the day, most days I don’t spend more time than that.

I’m fairly competitive so with the Final Fantasies I like doing all the side quests and getting all the items, Cut The Rope 2 I like solving each level all 3 ways, otherwise I would probably be a lot further ahead.

And then there’s games with Achievements. My first encounter with something like this was in Command And Conquer: Generals, medals for doing so many of different kinds of maps, medals for defeating the different General types and so on.

Though I prefer games that just come on CD or DVD and one can just play without having to do a tedious download, or even worse an update right when you want to be playing, any Achievements you earn while playing games are tied to your account and you don’t lose them.

Actually, I think it’s the same way with games in the Windows Store, though I only have installed one game that has Achievements: Microsoft Sudoku. (Had it on for less than a month, and already have most of the achievements, though one will take 8 months to get and another 12).

After getting through Half-Life 2 on Steam, there were several Achievements I didn’t achieve, and the competitive person in me has considered going back and getting them. Well, I didn’t and didn’t, but then a remake with updated graphics, Half-Life 2: Update, was released to everyone who already had Half-Life 2. And the Achievements were the same.

This seemed the perfect opportunity to go back and start over. One Achievement in particular, that I missed first time round, involves finding the Lambda symbol, or some supplies near to them, through all the game. So I basically have to play through the whole game to get this one, and was a big one I wanted to get, but had kinda been putting off.

I’m doing OK so far on that one, but there was another that I tried first time that was Hard with a capital Difficult. Get through Ravenholm using only the Gravity Gun.

At this point in the game, you’ve only just got the Gravity Gun, with which you can pick up objects, then either drop them, or fling them at high speed.

Ravenholm is a zombie-infested hell hole. It has regular zombies, the insanely fast zombies, regular headcrabs (nasty little critters that jump on peoples’ heads and turns them into zombies), toxic headcrabs (let’s just say that they’re so much worse), and carrier zombies (have a bunch of headcrabs on their head and shoulders that they just throw at you).

The level is rather easier if you’re using the other weapons you have at your disposal. The shotgun is quite helpful.

Now, there are rather a lot of helpful objects around that you can throw at all these zombies and headcrabs. The circular saw blades are the most effective, as long as you hit. Flammable barrels can affect a large area. Bricks, and plain barrels can be helpful in a pinch.

There’s one human (half-crazed) inhabitant of Ravenholm: Father Grigorio. At a few points, he’ll show up and ramble madly at you, and also take out a few enemies with his shotgun. He has also set a bunch of traps around the town, which can help you out. Or kill you, if you’re not careful.

If you’ve not played the level before, you’re going to be dying and reloading (and hopefully saving, frequently) a whole bunch of times. If you’re going for the Gravity Gun Achievement, same applies.

Hence the Babylon 5 reference in this post’s title. The original line was, “If you go to Z’ha’dum, you will die.” Ravenholm may well be worse.

With the Gravity Gun, you can only carry 1 thing at a time. For a good chunk of the level, you can take it slow: carry a circular saw blade so far, go back and get another, take it to where you dropped the first, go and get a third. Less good is when you shoot one, need it again and can’t find where the stupid thing landed.

And that’s just in the buildings and in the streets: a fair chunk of the level you’re on walkways partway up the outside of the buildings. Very easy to lose stuff up there.

Oh no! Accidentally switched to the crowbar and swooshed it! Load saved game…

So there’s this part where you go into a door at the top of a building, and call the elevator to get down to street level, where a zombie horde is milling about. you close the door, call the elevator, and some of those insanely fast zombies break their way in through the skylight. The room, while not perhaps strictly small, is small enough to the point where, once you’ve picked up an object to throw, the fast zombie has knocked it out of your grip before you’ve had a chance to aim.

After several tries, one time making it into the lift, with the speedy so-and-sos also making it in, I figured it was really time to try something different. Before you go into the room, you can see down into the street you’re trying to get into. I found it safer to just jump down there, straight into the (for the most part, much slower) zombie horde than be trapped in a room with the fast ones.

Phew!

After that, the street was much easier: the fast ones showing up but not quite so close together, a trap that works once and then breaks, but you can Gravity Gun the broken-off part to good effect (repeatedly,as long as you can find the thing). Then you’re back onto the rooftops, and hey, there’s the cart I need to get across the gap, how do I get it here? Oh man, need to go back into the street into a building… OK, got it. Now back onto the roofs and walkways, further this time, Father Grigorio shows up for the last time, we can join him and he’ll accompany us through the graveyard.

But first, we have to wait on top of this building, for another little cart, that will carry us across the gap. And I have no objects to throw. (There are some ammunition boxes here, but throwing them does no good). And there are two fast zombies coming, one coming up the drainpipe (that you can’t knock down, though it be loose), and the other… Aargh! I don’t care! It’s coming!

So, defenseless (even if I had things to throw, the situation would be like being in the lift room, only there’d be a lot more losing the weapons off the side of the building), under attack, what do I do?

Run around, trying not to get hit. Jump in the cart when it arrives. Hit the button to be taken away.

Surprisingly, this method works, and the fast zombies decline to join me in the cart. Whew!

Comparatively, the graveyard is a lot easier. Then the mines.

Infested with headcrabs. And a few things to throw at them, but not quite what you would call an abundance. And then a barnacle (thing that lives on a ceiling, has a long sticky tongue that dangles down, if it touches you, it catches you and pulls you up to be eaten by the Big Pointy Teeth). This barnacle you have to use as a lift, and then not die.

The barnacle took a couple of turns, but was pretty easy to figure out. The mine workings, with elevated walkways and such, was harder with the many headcrabs running around on the floor. Managed to take a lot of them out with flammable barrels, then found a spot where they could get up to me one at a time, and sometimes the Gravity Gun blast will kill them (else it will just knock them away, at least on headcrabs the Gravity Gun will have an effect without needing an extra object to throw).

And then, after a much easier ascent, we reach daylight. There’s a little bit more to the Ravenholm chapter of the game, fortunately we get the achievement before we have to go through that.

Man, that was hard. But there’s an achievement on Update that I didn’t get on Original. Not in a rush to go back and get it there…

Here attached is a video of someone-not-me playing the level without going for the achievement: going with this one because there’s no commentary going on.
Warning: In case you hadn’t realised from everything I’ve said so far, there’s some violence.

Dark Skies – the TV series

Science fiction has played a fairly large role in my life. I got into Star Trek when Next Generation started, some shows I watched as a kid before that, I remember that Return Of The Jedi was shown regularly on Christmas Eve for several years. And of course, many shows and movies since then.

The X-Files came out in 1993, and I watched a bunch from the first 2 or 3 seasons. Some of the concepts were pretty interesting (the one that’s stuck in my mind from its first airing in England is Soft Light).

I heard more than remember, that The X-Files was a bit flip-floppy on the subject of aliens.  “Yes, they exist!” “No, it was a hoax in that previous episode!”

Dark Skies came onto TV in 1996, kind of marketed as “like The X-Files”, or “for people who like The X-Files”, or something like that. But while some of the marketing may have given the impression of  a cheap ripoff of The X-Files, Dark Skies had a very different premise.

There wasn’t the “monster of the week” stuff. There wasn’t the “are aliens real?” question: that is answered very early on: yes they are real. No wavering on that point.

Another big difference in concept, is that Dark Skies is a period drama. It starts very early in the Sixties. I believe each season was supposed to be about a decade, then turn real-time when it hit the present-day.

The producers had really done their homework into UFOlogy: significant events, people, accounts, associated phenomena like Men In Black (who were in the first version of the pilot, but the studio insisted on their clothes being changed to gray because of a forthcoming Will smith/Tommy Lee Jones movie), Majestic 12, and so on.

The producers also knew ways to make their setting seem real. In organisations, people who work there often have shorthands and acronyms for things, and we see that sort of thing in the show.

The historic setting and the detailed research gave the producers two timelines, one of historic events and the other of UFO sightings and events, and the stories could come out of where both lined up. Plus, of course, references to events outside the setting of the show (Roswell, for one), and to other things going on at the same time, whether related to aliens or to the story (Project Blue Book as one example, the official US Government investigation into the flying saucer/UFO phenomenon).

John Loengard is the main character, and as a good entry point into the story he starts off as a complete outsider, and finds his way into being an insider. In this great clip from the pilot episode, he’s still adjusting from his ’60s Man On The Street self:

As the show goes on, we find John and Kim (his girlfriend) walk very wiggly paths as to their relationship with Majestic, their uncovering of the aliens’ agenda, and significant ’60s people and events.

There’s an episode that veers dangerously close to being a clip show, but in a twist that I really appreciate, some of the flashbacks aren’t what really happened!

The cast is great, in particular I’d like to call out Eric Close as John, Megan Ward as Kim Sayers, Jeri Ryan as Juliet Stewart (from her explosive entrance mid-season, a few months before she showed up on Voyager), J.T. Walsh brings a lot of gravity with his portrayal of Frank Bach, Conor O’Farrell as Phil Albano and Tim Kelleher as Jim Steele.

The soundtrack works well, too, with the use of period music.

The show’s title sequence won an Emmy, and is really cool. It’s interesting to note that the first regular episode after the pilot, has a slightly different theme to the rest of the season: “History is a lie”, which got changed to “History as we know it is a lie”. (actually, the differences between the pilot episodes are interesting as well: a lot was reshot. And the original pilot music was done by Mark Snow, who did The X-Files, strengthening the comparison, and the second pilot was done by Michael Hoenig, who did the rest of the series).

It’s a big “What If” story: UFOs were regularly in the news in the ’40s and ’50s, and even afterwards. What if there really is something to that, what if those in power (even if in power behind-the-scenes) knew about it, and what if the public never got told? How could the truth then completely change our understanding of events?

Much as I like the show, it does have its flaws. Like, sometimes it seems like episodes wrapped up a little too neatly. Then you wonder: is it from the show being a product of the ’90s, before things started getting messier, or is some of it from the influence of the optimism of the ’60s, which the show tried to bring across even more than the paranoia of the ’60s (which is still present).

Also, there’s something about the episode Ancient Future: the Native American/alien tie-in perhaps may not have been cliche at the time, but seems to be very much so now, and the pastor who has a crisis of faith, only to end up with a strong faith in… nothing specific… doesn’t really work. But then, I did like things about that episode, such as the projected future.

I still like this show, even now, almost 19 years later.

For a show about conspiracy theories, some of the history of the show itself gives conspiracy-minded people lots to have fun with.

NBC gave the show the biggest publicity campaign it had ever given a show – and then moved the show all over the schedule, and pre-empted it for sports and other events, so even those who wanted to see it had a hard time finding it (unless you watched it on Channel Four in the UK, like I did).

The pilot was released on VHS. This had a purple case. The first two regular episodes (Moving Targets/Mercury Rising) were also released on VHS, I only ever saw it in the larger rental-style box (I used to have quite a collection of ex-rental videos…). The next two episodes were also allegedly released on VHS. I’ve seen a picture of the case (green, IIRC), but I never saw it in a store, and never saw it in a catalogue (a friend ran a  store, and had a big catalogue of VHS tapes that could be ordered – DS volumes 1 and 2 were listed, but not vol 3).No more were released.

When DVDs became popular, consumers were asking for a DVD of the show. The producers went to the studio and said “We know music clearances can be a pain, we can change the music if you like.” The studio replied and said “No, we don’t think that will be a problem.” Next thing we knew, the studio decided not to release the show on DVD, because of “music licensing costs”. Eventually, the producers managed to get the show released on DVD by Shout! Factory, with all the original music intact.

I’d like to see the show revisited now, with the episodes less stand-alone and clean, more of that messy vibe that’s been running through shows like Babylon 5 season 4, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica/Caprica, Stargate Universe. Have a clear idea of where you’re going, but more threads that spread out over more than one episode. And we want to find out who else is Hive!

Today, the Dark Skies Facebook page has had a run of posts, including one that starts:

“DARK SKIES — the classic NBC cult-hit — could be rebooted!

Sony TV is finally talking to the creators about bringing back the series”.

I really hope so. I’ve been looking forward to finding out what happens – and given the way things were going for humanity by the end of the ’60s, what happened to set the Hive back in the meantime. And find out what else is wrong about what we know.

Check out their Facebook page, and the clips on their YouTube playlist. Give them some support, hopefully you’ll be hooked, too!

Review: The Market For Liberty

The Market For Liberty is a book by Morris and Linda Tannehill. I found it on Podiobooks, read by Ian Freeman.

Starting from the notion that government is always a coercive force, and it can do nothing without violence and the threat of violence, the book goes through various ways that the coercion is applied, how even when government tries to be constructive it ends up being destructive, and goes on through ways the market (even when it’s not totally free) can signal the reality of things, how things could work out in a society without a government, and How We Can Get There.

Overall, I enjoyed it. I’m not sure I quite agreed with everything, and perhaps I should have paused it at certain points to I could think more: Mr Freeman kept the words coming thick and fast, there.

The quickness didn’t all seem to be down to the reading style, though. Because a wide range of subjects were covered, there wasn’t quite enough time to spend giving more than a cursory look at alternative viewpoints. They do spend some time on them, all too often to quickly dismiss them. Some of those quick dismissals seem justified, some less so. As ultimately a free market, anarchist society would be a breeding ground for competing ideas, and the best ones would theoretically do better, it seems that in places a “well ok, give it a go, see how that turns out” response might have been better. But when your publication is restricted in size, and you’re trying to spread your particular ideas, it’s probably pretty hard to not come across as heavy-handed.

I know the book was written in the ’70s, and a certain industry hadn’t become quite the monolithic parasite it is today, and that many of the problems we have with that industry are precisely because of government meddling, but still, I can’t say I was very fond of the emphasis the book places on insurance.

If you’ll forgive me a little tangent:

One thing I liked about Asimov’s Robot series of books, was that he wrote the Three Laws of Robotics, and then a lot of the stories were spent trying to break them. What if this law was modified? What if a law was accidentally broken? What if all these robots were programmed with the laws, but one of them had certain knowledge that would make the application look different? What would the long-term effects be on society?

Similarly, in Babylon 5, the creator JMS talked about creating your characters, writing them up into a tree, and then throwing rocks at them. It’s the same sort of concept: create the world, and then try to break it.

By the end of this book, it really seemed to me that we need to see some good strong stories coming out of the voluntaryist/libertarian/anarchist communities.

I mean, this book did give sketches galore about what this could look like, how that could work, and so on. That’s well and fine, it just doesn’t have the scope within it of really putting it under a microscope, trying to break it and see what happens. We need to start seeing fleshed-out fictional societies working in this model, to help us figure out a clearer way to get there, and envision what problems there might be along the way. The Market For Liberty said spreading the idea of liberty among everyone was a good way to help them desire it. I don’t disagree, but I think that fiction is going to have the edge in this regard.

1, fiction is less threatening, less didactic and more exploratory. 2, fiction doesn’t demand immediate action when the reader isn’t ready for it. A lot of people comfortable in the status quo.

Having said this, regularly listening to The Survival Podcast might just do it for ya, even though it’s not fiction. Jack sometimes manages to get quite a bit of mileage out of “what if?” questions on this topic. I like his concept, “you can be as socialist as you like, just don’t make me participate.”