Monday, 8 February 2016

We're Putting The Band Back Together [The X-Files]

I'd rather be liberated
I find myself captivated
[Catatonia, "Mulder and Scully"]

Watching the first episode on Channel 5 - impressively, in this day and age, this is not a reboot, a re-make, a re-imagining, a spin-off or a prequel. It's just a new series of The X-Files. Mulder and Scully have developed, as both characters carry the weight of their past experiences, but this is essentially the same recipe as ever - show something unbelievable, make it appear beyond doubt, then create doubt.

As this is a new series, and some of today's hybrid aliens may have been cloned too recently to have been exposed to the original, there is a need to introduce the characters and set out the stall. Thus Mulder spells out his own optimist-skeptic philosophy ("I want to believe" rather than "I believe") before being ignited by the latest conspiracy theory while Scully checks, double checks and triple checks her facts but is prepared to trust the results. The opening pitch for the new series, meanwhile, is the revelation that conspiracy theories are themselves part of a conspiracy to cover up an even greater conspiracy - or possibly they're not. Nice one.


What really makes this show is the return of Anderson and Duchovny - both superb actors, easily good enough to take this show into orbit. The original series drew heavily on the electrifying chemistry between the two at every level, from the will-they-won't-they sexual tension to the sharp intellectual battles. Now, later in life, they've moved on from that relationship that was too intense to have lasted, but are still bound together - and it's still electrifying.

Can all this be maintained? The original series wrote the book on slow-burning story arcs. Let's give it some time.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Frame Shift Drive Charging [Elite Dangerous]

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, a blogger backed a Kickstarter campaign for a sequel to a classic space-opera themed computer game. Despite a rocky start, the campaign proved to be phenomenally successful - and in due course, the game was released to a warm welcome from its many fans. Feeling immensely satisfied, the blogger downloaded his free version of the game, installed it and hit the "play" button on the launcher...

...only to discover that his pre-Bronze Age PC was so low spec he had no chance of ever running it. And so the dream died and the blogger drowned his sorrows and continued with his life. When the pain wasn't too sharp he would continue to read about the game and the exploits of its pilots, and even watched in-game events streamed on YouTube.

The pre-Bronze Age PC struggled on for several few months, occasionally shaking or emitting smoke or sparks, until finally it could calculate no more and departed this earth for the greener pastures of the Cloud. It had served its master well and had had the digital equivalent of a good innings.

While the blogger mourned the loss of his faithful if pathetic companion, his heart was not entirely sad. In fact, while this may appear heartless to some, he realised that finally there was an excuse to buy a half-decent machine!
There was a moment of suspense as, once more, the "play" button depressed and the hard drive fired up - and a whole new world opened up.


The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight
I can't claim to be that far ahead of the curve on this occasion - thousands of people are already playing Elite Dangerous so there's a steep catch-up curve ahead of me. However I can report that my old BBC B docking skills have survived cryosleep and the new game isn't too difficult to pick up. I will write more about the game when I've had more of a chance to try it out.

Right On Commander

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

"Broken Bird" Screening: Selby International Short Film Festival

Breaking: I'm pleased to announce that "Broken Bird" is on the Official Selection for the Selby International Short Film Festival, and will be screened in the Music Video category on 30th July 2016 at the Jorvik Theatre.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

"Broken Bird" Screening: Kino London

My music video for "Broken Bird" will be spreading its wings for a screening on Wednesday 20th January, at Kino London - London's open-mic short film night at Electrowerks club in Angel. Doors are at 7.30. Advance tickets on the website or buy on the door. Facebook event details here.

"Broken Bird" is a song by Ariel Undine - listen to more of Ariel's music here.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Rey A Drop Of Golden Sun [Review: The Force Awakens]

You may be aware of the recent release of this obscure micro-budget arthouse flick - in fact you may have noticed there are already one or two reviews elsewhere on the Internet. A few observations:

History does seem to repeat itself through the Star Wars movies. Certain themes and plot elements, particularly the obsession with genocidal planet-busting weapons, recur quite often. I'd like to think this is deliberate. After all, no-one complains if the recap at the end of a symphony movement sounds a bit like the first part of the movement, do they? It's called structure.

There seems to be a different approach to character-building. Finn, Rey and Kylo all have believable internal conflicts and grey areas, whereas the cast of all six previous films* are easily classifiable into "good" or "bad" (with the possible exception of Lando). It's particularly interesting to see "bad" characters that are so conflicted - in plot terms this might also indicate that the First Order is different from the monolithic Empire. However these characters are only complex for Star Wars - they still seem simplistic compared to many other films.

There's a definite improvement in the quality of the filmmaking. I won't say it was bad but there was always something eccentric about Lucas's approach to direction, perhaps befitting the most successful indie filmmaker of all time, whereas under J.J. Abrams and his team the new film looks - how do I say this? more professional. It's hard to pinpoint all the technical changes but there's better composition, more interesting shots and angles, and it all makes for a more engaging film.

Overall The Force Awakens worked for me - it was a lot of fun, I thought the new cast were excellent and brought something fresh to the series, and there were a lot of new ideas even if there were also a lot of familiar ones. I look forward to Episode VIII.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

2016

The Sci-Fi Gene looks forward to an interesting 2016 - but I'm not quite ready to let you know why, except to say there will be more news very soon about both Reply To All and Broken Bird, and I have some promising new projects lined up for the coming year.