The Great Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: Season 2 (part 1)

51jdgb20cNL._SX940_Right, here I go again – ploughing onwards into the first full (US) length season of Voyager.  I feel I should glance ahead a little to see what horrors await me, but I already know one of them…it’s called The 37s

The 37’s*

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ZZ Top…is that you?

This was the second Voyager episode I ever watched, after Eye of the Needle.  A bit random order perhaps, but this was the episode that cemented for me that I wasn’t going to be a regular viewer of this show.  And I say that as someone who watched all four seasons of Enterprise first time round.  In this episode Tom Paris’ hitherto unknown love of the 20th Century (pay attention, this is interest is going to pay off in spades later) comes to the fore when a 1930s Earth pickup-truck is found floating in deep space.  For reasons that are never accurately explained.  Or they were and I’d just glazed over in horror.

Brioi 1 “Hey, let’s abduct lots of random humans and then fly them 70,000 light years away.

Brioi 2 “But what about this vehicle we scooped as well.  Shall we dump it on the way?

Brioi  1 “Nah, let’s wait til we get to the destination and then drop it into a stable orbit.  That’s the ticket.

Brioi 2 “Excellent, now we can activate the anal probes without a problem.

Other ‘exciting’ stuff happens this episode, Voyager lands, the crew think about staying behind** and Janeway’s hair’s on the verge of changing.  But none of them compare to the central concept of the episode of Amelia Earhart in Space.  Terrible idea then, terrible idea now, and given this was supposed to be the last S1 story – the fact it nicks the central plot point from the TNG S1 finale The Neutral Zone (only without the dead cool bit with the Romulans) hardly a shining beacon of originality.  Ah well, on we go – fingers crossed the next episode sucks less.

Particle beam of the week: Rust…erm, well that or nothing

Initiations

Oh sweet Jebus it’s a Tacotray centric episode focusing on the Kazon. *sob*  It took me four sessions to get through this turgid ‘Maybe we’re not all so different’ parable.  The lame Klingon-wannabe Kazons weren’t great last season, and I hear they’re a big feature of S2.  Someone…kill me now.  I read in the notes on this one that this episode came about because they felt they’d ‘underused’ Tacotray last season.  This really, really does not bode well for the next 6 seasons.

Particle beam of the week: Ginandtonicum. (I had to get through this somehow)

Projections

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Subtlety, thy name is Barclay

Hello, are we doing all one word episode titles this season?  Anyway, thank the Divine Treasury, we finally get to a decent episode again.  Frankly just having Bob Piccardo and Dwight Schultz bounding off each other for the whole episode made the ride an absolute delight.  Two actors with great comedy drama chops, clearly working well together.  Okay, okay so the whole plot was a bit Remember Me (easily my favourite Bev episode) with a touch of Ship in a Bottle (holodeck…in the holodeck?) and yeah, I spotted it was ‘all a dream/holodeck glitch’ a mile off.  But that didn’t stop Projections being an enjoyable scifi comedy tale.  I hope ST:Discovery doesn’t go all grimdark and forget Trek needs to be funny sometimes!  Bonus points as the Doctor flashes back to the events of Caretaker for the line:

The Doctor “The array you discovered is controlled by an entity you will come to know as the Caretaker… or, Banjo-Man.

Banjo-man.  Nailed it.  To top it all off the episode goes nicely existential as the Doctor begins to realise he’s growing beyond a simple emergency response programme.  Character growth that actually sticks (Mr Neelix take note, and then please throw yourself headfirst into the garbage disposal).

Particle beam of the week: Subspace radiation surge

Elogium

First you’re up, and then there’s a Kes episode.  In this adventure, the Voyager encounters a flock of deep space-sperm (DSS) whose emissions penetrate(!) the notoriously leaky Starfleet deflectors to send Kes into heat.  Tragically, none of the other races on board are affected, so we’re spared the discovery of Harry Kim being a (probable) virgin.  As Neelix tries to deal with his girlfriend suddenly going all broody, a sweaty disheveled Kes drops two bombshells.  Firstly OompaLoompa reproductive coupling takes 6 days***, and secondly it only happens once.  Which means as a race, Kes’ people are not only cursed with a 9 year life cycle but a rapidly diminishing population (unless twins are a much, much more frequent thing than they are for humans).

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Even Picard can’t believe Neelix’s attitudes to parenthood

Shades of Galaxy’s Child too as the space-sperm try to hump the Voyager, which (sorry) is the only the sex we get all episode.  Although Kes does take us verbally through all the foreplay necessary for her race to reproduce, which seems a real group effort.  And with that diminishing population, is going to be a real problem real soon.  Oh, and some brilliant outdated attitudes from Neelix as he tells Kes “But if you have a child, you’ll have to give up your medical studies“.  Gah!  Overall though, a dull and utterly skipable episode, although I was left with the takeaway thought that if Tuvok has 4 children and vulcan’s only mate every 7 years…are they 28years apart in age?  Or do vulcans have clinical, logical sex in between each pon farr****?

And to cap the episode off, vaguely appearing background character Samantha Wildman…announces she’s got a bun in her replicator.  Oh no…

Particle beam of the week: Photon discharges  & Plasma residue (Ooh, er. I’d get the Doctor to look at that)

Non Sequitur

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She’s got to be an alien space-vampire! Run Harry, run!

Another one I’ve not seen before and I’m spotting a trend this season, as each lead character gets a spotlight episode.  This week it’s perpetual ensign and (probable) virgin Harry Kim.  Actually scratch that last bit, since he wakes up with his girlfriend. In bed.  On Earth.  I was more shocked by the former than the latter. After the Doctor’s episode I was suprised we were into another ‘Everything you know was a lie’ story, but at least this one didn’t turn out to be another holodeck malfunction.

Essentially the episode is actually It’s A Wonderful Life Harry Kim, as we find out what Harry (and Tom’s) life would have been like had he not gone on Voyager.  For Harry, aside from attending that business meeting-dream where he’s forgotten his homework (but thankfully his trousers) life seems pretty sweet.  A great job, a chance at promotion (!) and a busty (if needy) fiancé.  Luckily the guy in the local coffee shop explains everything

Time Alien “Hey sorry Kim, you crashed into our timestream and went kablooey and well… here you are then.  More sugar?

But things look a lot worse – for Tom “Marseille” Paris.  It’s not so much his alcoholic life in France and his lost chance at redemption, but oh sweet cheeses, that waistcoat.  Why is it all the casual clothing in the 24th Century is so awful.  When he helps Harry try and reset the timeline honestly, if he’d just said “Anything but this waistcoat” I’d have accepted it as rationale enough.  Actually, all that to one side, I rather enjoyed this episode and it’s already clear there’s a great chemistry between Tom and Harry that thankfully the show does build on.  In the end everything’s fine and dandy…although given how hot Libby looks…do you really think she’s gonna wait 7 years Harry?

Particle beam of the week: Tetreon plasma & polaron scan (2:4:1 discount)

Twisted

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Janeway auditions for the Fantastic Four reboot

A cold trickle of fear runs down my spine as this one opens on a surprise (3rd) birthday party for Kes.  Not another Kes episode so soon, please!  Thankfully not, as it’s more of an ensemble show this time.  As all the fun members of the senior bridge crew and the Doctor enjoy the festivities, it’s left to Billyvok-no-mates and Harry “You had the last episode” Kim to man the bridge.  Pretty soon though another mysterious cloud appears ahead of the Voyager (oh gawd, not more space-sperm!) and that’s when all the folded-space hijinks begin.  Stand out early dialogue as Tuvok goes all Muppety over the com as the space-time starts getting all twisted

Mr Tuvok “Bridge to holodeck one.  We’ve encountered a strange phenomena (do do-do do -da) phenomena (do do-do do -da)

Meanwhile in the background the ongoing (and dull) Neelix-Kes-Paris love triangle simmers away as the B plot. What will the Delaney sisters say Tom?  It’s really only setting up the next episode (Parturition), so does’t really go anywhere.  I confess I burst out laughing as dear old Tacotray reports to the Captain on his exploration of the ship: “That’s not all, we lost Mr Neelix too.  We turned a corner, and he was just gone“.  And a world rejoices.

In the end it turns out that the cloud/space-time ring was trying to communicate with Voyager.  Just like that time those aliens came aboard Red Dwarf, did a jigsaw, broke two legs and wiped everyone’s memories.  Not content with leaving a massive dump of data for Voyager’s crew (that is never mentioned again, so it was clearly useless) they copy everything in the ship’s databases.  Even Paris’ collection of highly risque, and highly illegal Tholian porn.  Still, when push came to shove, it was nice seeing the Voyager crew face their own no-win scenario and just giving in to fate.

Particle beam of the week: Warp core shock pulse!

Parturition

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Janeway’s hair undergoes an unmentioned metamorphosis

The long simmering (okay, since last episode) tensions between Paris and Neelix over Kes burst out into a pasta-laced scrap in the mess hall, but luckily there’s a mysterious planet with spurious vegetation signs for the two of them to go explore together.  One crash later, and it’s time for the classic bonding between two foes in the face of adversity.  Although I liked this story more when it was The Ascent.   As they struggle to bring up alien-baby Neelix learns Paris is a loser trying to make something of himself, and Paris learns Neelix is a git…sorry, I mean an insecure git.  Despite the shuttle crashing onto an alien’s breeding area, everything works out for the best in the end.  Although that leaves just one question: if the Voyager is so low on food they’ll risk a mission to a hell-world to pick some veg up, where is Neeliz getting such varied supplies to cook with from? Surely the mess hall should be awash with jacket potatoes and beans every night now!

Highlight of the show, easily Mr Neelix reeling off his vile random food of the week to which Paris simply replies with a dismissive wave of his hand “Whatever!“, like the sulkiest of space-teens.  Classic, unlike the rest of this episode which is utterly skipable.

Particle beam of the week: Trigemic vapours (containing everything a reptile baby needs!)

Persistence of Vision

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One slice o’cake or two, Captain?

Holy hades, we’re only up to episode 8 and we’re into the third ‘Reality isn’t what you think it is!’.  This time it’s not time-aliens or malfunctioning holodecks, but a sneaky invisible telepathic bastard (a Bothan*****) onboard who keeps mesmerising everyone with visions of their missing loved ones.  Including Harry’s girlfriend Libby, who we don’t see cos they couldn’t be bothered paying the actress from Non Sequiter to come back.  Paris’ daddy issues make a reappearance, as despite what he’s told us, he’s missing dear old dad more than he’s been letting on.  I rather enjoyed the early part where Janeway’s holonovel characters try to seduce and/or kill her.

Anyway, as the crew all start staring into space, Torres decides to use a resonance burst to block the psionic energy from the ship.  Cos that worked out so well in Twisted!  Okay, not a shock burst, but surely they’re pretty much the same thing, right – both all about the warp core going slightly overloady? While as this technobabble was going on I noted that the engineering sensors are explicitly mentioned as being able to detect psychic energy.  Sure that’ll come in handy once Kes goes off her rocker later on (although dollars to latinum, it won’t get mentioned again).  Pretty sure Starfleet might have mentioned that psychic energy could be picked up by tricorders and the like before.  Speaking of things never to mention again, I’m also going to skip over the fantasy sex scene between Torres and Tacotray. Gah, no, pass the brain bleach someone!

Overall though, a bit of a naff episode, only slightly enlivened by Janeway’s offer to lobotomize, imprison or surgically alter the captured Bothan, only for him to be ‘Not really there at all’.  Did this episode happen, or did I hallucinate 42 minutes of this dreck?  You decide for yourselves!

Particle beam of the week: Massive bioelectric (psychic) field

Tattoo

An episode I remember watching years ago and hating because it centred on Tacotray, and native american space-aliens.  Sadly, not the borderline racist lot in The Paradise Syndrome (“I! Am! Kirok!“).  Anyway, here I am years later watching it, and I hate it because it’s centered on Tacotray, and invisible native american ‘sky spirits’.  Once more it’s all a big misunderstanding between the aliens and the Voyagerians…and we’re on our way pretty much none the wiser.

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Being sick is snot all it’s cracked up to be, it seems

Highlight of the episode is Henry Darrow (aka that guy offa The High Chaparral) who is pretty cool, in an episode that made me wish I was watching Sub Rosa. Yes, it’s that bad.  At least that episode had Bev/ghost sex to brighten up a terrible plotline.  Oh okay, the Doctor gets a cold to help with his bedside manner, by appreciating human suffering. His warning about not letting anyone else use the holographic tissues (“OMG, I walked out of medbay and now all my snot’s just in my pocket!“) amused me.  Although, frankly the Doctor should just have watched this episode, and he’d have soon discovered what true suffering is all about.

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Look out below!

Bonus Tacotray picture – at the end of the episode moments before when a passing bird deposits its own special ‘anti-thoron’ emission on his face.  This almost made up for an episode that took me four long sessions to get through – it was just so turgid that it almost makes me look forward to the next one.  Which centres around Kes.  Oh lord, what deities have I offended?

Particle beam of the week: Anti-Thoron

Cold Fire

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But gazpacho soup is supposed to be served cold….

After coming across another Caretaker’s array, Kes learns to harness her emerging psychic abilities to boil a cup of coffee, kill all the Voyager’s airponics(6*) vegetable garden and blow up Mr Tuvok’s head ala scanners.  Well, almost – I was rather hoping Voyager was going for a horror vibe, but sadly it wasn’t to be.  I spent most of the episode wondering why, given we were told the Caretaker’s other array was filled with 10,000 Oompa Loompas, why we only ever see one of them on screen (Tanis, played by Matthew Sykes/Ambassador Soval actor Gary Graham).  After Kes’ powers get quite interesting, the typical Voyager reset switch is hit at the end of the episode as it turns out she can “Only use them when Tanis was helping her“.  Jason Ironheart and Talia Winters it is not, as the psychic genie is put well and truly back in the box.  A real shame as the writers could just as easily had Kes swear off using her powers with a firm vow, lest she boil the rest of the crew’s heads.  It’s not wonder she eventually turns into a space crazy energy beast in a couple of seasons, all that pent up psychic energy has to go somewhere.

Amusing thought of the episode – as Kes is experiencing/leaching all the life out of the airponics bay, she clearly looks like she’s having somewhat of a sexual experience.  If that’s the case, and her draining of the life around her is a side effect of the Oompa Loompa mating process – Mr Neelix got off lightly in Elogium!  Anyway, this was another episode I’d never seen before, and pray I’ll never see again!

Particle beam of the week: Plasmic energy field

Maneuvers

A really short opening teaser which reveals Tacotray’s off duty garb to be some sort of horrific knitted jumper (from his granny?), and the announcement that somehow here in the Delta Quadrant there’s a Starfleet signal being transmitted.  So that’ll be the only member of Starfleet in the quadrant not on Voyager then I guessed (Seska).  Shockingly my rather simple deduction defeated the Voyager crew for the first third of the episode, reminded me why they’re crewing a tiny survey vessel and not the flagship of the fleet.  To add insult to injury (this is the THIRD Tacotray centric episode of the season – he’s getting more than anyone else) the sodding klingon-lite kazon turn up to steal stuff.  All of which means Tacotray has to go rogue to try and outfox Seska, and ends up getting space-raped for his trouble.  Okay she ‘extracts his DNA and impregnates herself with it’, so maybe she doesn’t do the physical act but hell it’s still a major personal violation, and yet its one that’s hand waved in the last 30 seconds of the show.  I actually felt sorry for him, and THAT doesn’t happen very often at all.

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Hot sex Cardassian style!

Anyone else think Seska rounds off the episode Dr Claw style?  “I’ll get you next time Chakotay…next time!”  Oh and finally, since he violated every rule in the Starfleet manual, Tacotray gets a mild slap on the wrist “I’m putting you on report, if that even means anything anymore” says Janeway, knowing full well it means bugger all.  At the very least she could have had him publicly flogged in the mess hall, the crew must be starving for some entertainment after 10+ months in the Delta Quadrant with only gothic holonovels for company!

By the way, the interrogation of Voyager’s first officer…it’s no Chains of Command pt 2!

Particle beam of the week: Anti-proton beam

Resistence

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It is I, LeClerc!

Worst. ‘Allo ‘Allo Remake. Ever.  This week Janeway gets left behind on an ‘exciting’ undercover mission, and is mistaken by a local resistance looney for his (probably) dead daughter.  Within a minute of seeing this I concluded ‘He’s going to get killed saving her life, and his whole family are dead, dead, dead’.  Colour me not shocked when exactly this happens.  There’s some other plot about some technobabble McGuffin we’ve never heard of before suddenly being essential for the warp-reactor, which is why the Voyager crew came to Nazi-analogue world in the first place.  Only bright spot, Kes doesn’t appear all episode.  Totally, utterly and completely skipable story with no ramifications for anyone that matters (e.g. the core cast).  Meanwhile left behind, the Mokra occupation of the Alsaurians continues unabated.

Particle beam of the week: Nothing. Boo!

Prototype

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No costume budget expended!

In an intriguing opening Torres rescues something from deep space, and then with the help of Harry ‘Not done much lately’ Kim effects a RoboCop homage to reactivate it.  As I watched it I shouted “Aha!  It’s Dreadnought, when she rescues that Cardassian AI missile…” only to discover that Dreadnought was actually later this season, and essentially continues B’Elanna’s reactivation of death machines motif. Anyway, turns out the robots – which are somehow actually worse quality in appearance than anything that ever appeared in 1960s Doctor Who – are surprise surprise mild mannered terminators.  Actually, if these robots had been used in Captain Proton’s holonovels, the audience would have thought they looked crap.

Even better, these sub-Kryton mechanoids are locked in an eternal war with other, almost identical robots…having both killed off their creator races.  Only not eternal since they can’t make new ones (and hence Torres could change the balance of power with her techy tech), and will probably wipe each other out soon.  I think there were some moral questions been raised here about artificial life and its rights to procreate, and even some Frankenstein allegories twixt Torres and Unit 3947, but I might be being too generous.  At least Torres learns a valuable lesson about not fucking about with mysterious alien tech until…oh, four episodes time.

Kes factor: One scene, pouring coffee. YES!  At least that’s a good point to consider.

Particle beam of the week: Chromodynamic Energy Discharge (antibiotics needed?) 

Okay that’s the first half of season 2 down – coming up soon, the rest of the season including the near legendary Trek episode which even Sub Rosa bows to in terms of awfulness!

* Shouldn’t this be The 37s? Apostrophe abuse.  In space.
**None of them.  Not one.  Out of a crew of 147.  Surely Neelix’s food and Tacotray and Paris’s relentless sharking of the lower ranks would have seen someone jump ship?
***How do they go to the bathroom during this…no wait, don’t think about that – it’s too filthy to imagine!
**** “Indeed. I appear to have climaxed. How satisfactory
*****Did George Lucas know about this cross-franchise appearance?
6* Airponics!?  Is this even a thing or is hydroponics just too old hat for the 24th Century?

The Great Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: Season 1

downloadNow that Netflix has all of Trek I’m happily (re)introducing Mrs Llama to the wonders of TOS.  But that means I need something to watch on my own, when I’m working in the kitchen.  Aha, Star Trek Voyager, the series I love to hate and the only Trek series I’ve never seen all of.  Yes, I’ve even watched all of Enterprise (I liked S3-4).  So here goes an irregular series as I watch through all 7 seasons.

God help me, even Threshold, Tattoo and Fair Haven.

Caretaker

This starts well, and then they leave DS9.  Oh the painful dialogue – especially that between Tom Paris and the Betazoid officer on the shuttle over.  Good to see Janeway’s hair have a ‘coolant leak’ from the get go, and go everywhere…as it does for the next 7 seasons.  I’d forgotten about the folksie people on the Caretaker’s array, reminiscent of the awful Space Oirish in TNG’s Up the Long Ladder, but thankfully they shuffle off screen quickly.  As terrible as I remembered it? A bit, although I confess at this point (given how mind numbing AWFUL Encounter at Farpoint* is) I was willing at the time to give the show some slack.  In retrospect, there’s a lot that’s going to be wrong with the whole series in a microcosm here. For example there so much clunky or downright cheesy beyond belief dialogue and the pacing is all over the shop.  After part one licks along at a fine action pace, introducing characters and their quirks, suddenly the last half an hour of part two seems to be a sprint to set up the show’s status quo.   Marqui as crew? Check!  Mr Neelix and Kes on for the ride? Check?  Janeway as the mother of a family of misfits? Check!

Particle beam of the week: Coherent Tetryon.

Parallax

2nd episodes of post-TNG shows tend to be weak, and this one is no different. Essentially the Voyager spends the episode looking in a mirror.  Before using the charged particle beam of the week to escape (Dekyon).  Forgettable.

Time and Again

A spot of post/pre-apocalyptic timeline accidental manipulation (or is it one of those darned predestination paradox loops, I hate those!) with the Voyager coming across a planet wiped out by a ‘in no way nuclear energy but yeah there’s the parallels’ incident.  Before we know it later-day lizard-baby power couple Tom and Kathy fall back a whole DAY in time and essentially find out it’s all their fault. Cause before effect.  Against the odds, I quite enjoyed this one despite the first appearance of that Voyager trope ‘the end of episode reset button’.  First mention of the Delaney sisters. Also first hint of Kes’ spooky Oompa Loompa psi-powers.

Particle beam of the week: Polaric.

Phage

Or as they should have called it They Stole Neelix’s Lungs! Despite introducing the curious virus-ridden, organ harvesting, latex jigsaw-mask wearing Vidiians, this episode is a glacial paced, weakly dialogued, Neelix/Kes centric snore fest.  The only redeeming feature is that Bob Piccardo (Doctor) gets more screen time.  Given I can’t stand Neelix, I was shouting “Turn off life support, he’ll thank you for it!” within 10 minutes of the episode starting.  My the end of the episode, I was begging my nurse to do the same for me. Fun fact: Oompa Loompas only live 9 years.  Despite his transplant from Krs, Mr Neelix is going to need some new lungs in less than a decade then, cos I don’t think the aging of those organs is going to slow down!

Particle beam of the weak (sic): Super weedy phaser beam.

The Cloud

Ah, the first episode I’ve never seen before (tells you how fast I dropped this show originally).  As days stretch to weeks, shipboard morale starts to drop and the captain frets about what to do.  Hence, it’s unsurprising Janeway’s coffee addiction rears its ugly head for the first time in the pre-credits sequence.  Honestly, I thought she was about to murder Neelix when there wasn’t any available (sigh).  However, Neelix slightly redeems himself by critiquing Janeway (and the crew’s) determination to investigate every potentially destructive anomaly along the way, in a scene that presents Kes and himself as Voyager’s peanut gallery.  Not sure this idea lasts though, although his role as self-appointed Morale Officer does (sigh*2).  While Janeway worries about power drains, meanwhile taking a note from the Will Riker playbook Tom Paris sets up an (energy leaching) PG French brothel. Tacotray also shares with the Captain his (miraculously unlost during Caretaker) bundle of junk, as the ship manages to almost kill a giant space monster.  An orb experience it is not.

Particle beam of the week: Sleezium poolcueium.  Oh okay, it’s nucleonic

Eye of the Needle

Coincidentally, this was the very first Voyager episode I ever saw (followed by The 37s). Verteron radiation leads the Voyager to a wormhole too small even for Harry Kim’s ego to slip through.  But just maybe they can send a call to help.  Overall it’s not a bad story idea, but the episode pacing once again is glacial.  Also Tuvok’s role all episode is simply to be the bearer of bad news in the transporter room ‘Sorry guys, he’s from the past’ followed later by ‘Oh like wow dudes, he died years before he could send our email’.  Shame he didn’t mention that earlier so they could set up a back up to send the messages anyway.  Finally, the Doctor’s B story culminates with him asking for a name…something that never pays off!  Sheesh.

Particle beam of the week: Transporter matter stream (disappointingly).

Ex Post Facto

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Who’s a pretty boy then?

Hello Dr Apgar and the Kregier Waves.  Oh sorry, this isn’t the rather fine TNG episode A Matter of Perspective, but a Voyager episode, so no chance of Riker punching anyone stylishly then.  Like that story, most of this is told from a post-hoc recounting.  Tom Paris is also at this point still being written like Riker Jnr, making me think this script is a TNG reject rejigged (the sleazy film-noir dialogue from Paris is especially Riker). Anyway, the feathered aliens’ risibly hilarious head-gear aside, my favourite moment of the episode is when Not-Dr-Apgar introduces Tom and Harry to his much younger Not-Mrs Apgar with ‘They come from the other side of the galaxy’ to which she responds with a dispassionate ‘Hello’.  Followed by serving them all leftovers, the frosty mare, because that’s how we great impossible adventurers from beyond the stars.  Leftovers. Honestly, you can just feel the (lack of) drama oozing from every pore of this one.  Oh wait, this is an Inspector Tuvok episode…I do hope there aren’t too many more of these!

Particle beam of the week: None! (I feel bereft!).

 

Emanations

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“Mmmn!  Mmmn!!”

There’s nothing like hosting an episode in your first season that deals with the cheerful subject of death, the afterlife and the rotting of corpses into a new super element.  More importantly, this episode marks the first (but not the last) time Harry Kim dies.  The somewhat odd alien culture and the death rituals are interesting (although how did they historically dealt with death before they could pop bodies through subspace vacuoles, is not explored), although they come across as slightly mad bastards “My Family all voted that I should die, as it would be more convenient for them” explains wobble-fore-headed character of the week to Harry as he wraps himself in what appears to be a kitchen roll funeral shroud.  Stay classy Vhnori!  Meanwhile the Voyager does precisely NOTHING to get Harry back, other than hang around long enough for his corpsicle to plop back onto Deck 9.  Oh sure there’s some hand-waving around the Torres stopping the Warp Core from going all explodey, but that doesn’t bring Harry back.  Still, we should be grateful we were saved Neelix’s views on the afterlife (spoiler alert: there’s a later episode all about this) and Mr Tacotray’s medicine bundle and spirit animal doesn’t get a look it.  And then with a hearty slap on the back from Janeway, Harry heads off to look for his next death!

Particle beam of the week: There wasn’t one again. *sob*

 

Prime Factors

Aka that one where they could have gotten home, but turns out the prime directive’s a bitch in reverse. Janeway gets a scarf, Harry goes on a space date (and doesn’t die) and Seska gets a bit rules-breaky (hint hint for next week).  Not a bad story, but the episodic nature of Voyager plays against it here.  Let’s have one go to use the amazing tech to get home…fails and then let us never speak of it again.  In a half decent series Torres would be sweating over the Trajector tech for the next two years in an effort to overcome the problem.  But nope, no work, give up – that’s the Starfleet way!

Particle beam of the week: Neutrino envelope.

State of Flux

Watching this and knowing about the Seska revelation in advance, I couldn’t help thinking this would have made a great S1 finalé, much better than the soft touch Learning Curve that’s for sure.  Build Seska up all season as a great secondary character and then BOOM she’s been a Spoon-head all along!  Or failing that, given she’s the second of Tacotray’s crew who was a government agent, I’d have had one of the Marqui revealed as working for another Alpha Quadrant power each week.  Keep it up until you realise only Old Tattoo himself was the only legit Marqui on the ship after all.  Play it for laughs, because honestly this show needs to laughs.  After all, it’s been weeks since anyone harvested any of Neelix’s extraneous body parts! Oh wait, the fact that a side effect of a badly adjusted food-replicator is that it’ll merge your body with the nearest wall gave me a chuckle.  Perhaps replicators should all come with a big sign <CAUTION: Ordering Earl Grey Hot MAAAAY Melt Your Body Into the Wall> The Kazon are in this again, and once again come off like a Klingon tribute act on a bad hair day.

Particle beam of the week: Nucleonic radiation.

Heroes and Demons

Oh lord, I remember this one – more LARP event than Shakespeare in the Park.  I remember this one being shite, despite the Doctor playing such a prominent part.  A bit of a curate’s egg too as it introduces the holonovel, which sure gives us all those fabulous Captain Proton episodes.  But also gives us Concerning Flight and Fair Haven.  Sweet maker, am I really going to have to watch those Sub Rosesque episodes again?  The opening five minutes couldn’t have been a more bare bones introduction to the threat of the week: “Let’s beam aboard some space energy“, “Harry Kim’s gone missing”, and “Damn you space energy and holodecks – you’re even more dangerous than food-replicators. Probably“. Additionally, I know the hologrid runs on some kind of odd energy feed independant to the rest of the ship (raising questions as to how did the space energy get into an isolated system anyway) but surely with 147 people using it day and night for recreation that’s got to have some kind of drain on the (severely depleted) main power systems?  Or is it just running on a set of super-big AA batteries…which once they’re gone…they’re gone.  No one tell the Doctor, the med-bay imagers might be running on the same system!  In the end thought, this episode with its cod-thespian acting was as terrible as I remembered it. Took me three sittings to get all the way through!

Particle beam of the week: Photonic (so…a light beam?)

Cathexis

Oh gawd, another holonovel opening. This does not bode well…until Cmdr Tacotray turns up totally brain dead.  Huzzah!  Now I’d have argued he’s been that way since The Caretaker, but everyone on the Voyager crew seems to get a bit upset.  Cue an episode with such ‘highlights’ as an Native American prayer wheel (with magnetic stones), possessions left, right and centre and Harry Kim stroking off in a meeting because the episode’s boring the hell out of him too.  The acting’s better than Heroes and Demons, but the plot isn’t.  Another one to grit my teeth and endure.  Are we at Year of Hell (pt1) yet?  What is noticeable is that a secondary crewman (other than Torres’ sparing partner in engineering) is introduced alongside the main cast.  Yes I suspect Lt Durst will have a long and happy supporting role in this series…or die a quick and crunchy death just to prove we ‘do’ still kill ‘redshirts’ (aka goldshirts now).  Sadly Cmdr Ghost saves the day from a possessed Tuvok, and is then the sodding medicine wheel helps Voyager safely escape the eeeeevil nebula.  Blurgh.

Particle beam of the week: Magneton burst.

Faces

SulanDurstsFace
If looks could kill.

Paris, Torres and good old Lt Durst are off on a mission, when Torres gets split into klingon and human halves.  No, not with a chainsaw, but by some kind of funky Vidiian technology.  You know, like Capt Kirk got split up by a transporter in The Enemy Within.  And yes, just like that both halves need each other to survive.  Actually, hats off to Roxann Dawson who makes an excellent fist of playing the two halves of her personality – especially the klingon version.  It’s just a shame after (spoiler) the klingon half is killed, the Doctor quickly patches her up and restores her hybrid status quicker than you can say “Reset switch”.  Oh and hats off also for lt Durst who (spoiler) gets his face ripped off so doesn’t need to wear them any more.  Seeing his cheerful mug added to a Vidiian is a far creepier body-horror event than old Neelix’s lungs.  He also wins the first ‘Delta Quadrant Horrific Death’ award!  Well done.  Damn though, I guess after Seska and Durst, we better introduce some more secondary crew we can kill off now to make the cast seem vulnerable.  Well aside from Harry Kim who must be due to die again soon.  Paging Ens Wildeman in the meantime…

Particle beam of the week: Er…nothing, other than those freaky Vidiian scalpel guns.

 

Jetrel

Oh goodie, a Neelix centric episode.  Only way the premise for this one could annoy me more, would be if it involved Neelix and Tacotray trapped in a turbo lift for the whole episode, talking about their feelings.  Anyway the plot, a space Nazi (who in-no-way is representative of the US dropping the atomic bomb on the Talaxians…I mean Japanese) called Jetrel comes along and tries to undo all that explodey evil. “I’m a scientist!”, Oppenheimer…sorry, Jetrel wails, “I never thought anyone would drop the bomb…metreon cascade!”. Nah, no allegories here, just straight up Haakonian on Talaxian recriminations.  And then, despite all my skepticism and downright loathing on Neelix, Ethan Phillips delivers a performance so dripping in authenticity and pathos that I felt my eyes growing moist (honestly, that speech to Jetrel about the aftermath – just woah!).  Wow, did not expect that from a Voyager episode.  Even more so, they side-stepped the happy ending – everyone vapourised on Rinax by the cascade stays vapourised, including Neelix’s family.  I guess that means after this wonderful burst of character growth that next episode Mr Neelix is going to be a changed Talaxian, and changed for the better too.

Particle beam of the week: Metreonic radiation.

Learning Curve

Capture
This is THE most dramatic shot all episode

Goddammit it Voyager, Neelix is back to his ol’ chipper self from many a merry “Top of the morning to you Mr Vulcan” again, pissing away all the good feelings I’d developed for him and the show in a matter of seconds.  Actually this isn’t a bad episode, as a load of Marqui (doubtless soon to be horribly killed or never seen again) extras learn the joy of cooperation from Tuvok.  Who also learns a lesson from his students too. Blurgh, pass the sick bucket matron, this one’s way to saccharine for me.  Okay, I’ll accept the line about “Take this cheese to sickbay” does save it from being total drek. Just.  Oddly this is the S1 finalé.  Was Voyager cut short by a writers strike or did they just run out of coffee?  Either way it’s an oddly inconsequential note to bow out on, hardly sets the pulse racing for more action in S2.

Particle beam of the week: High-energy plasma (bit dull!)

 

That’s season one done with, and what did I learn?  Well, I learned that Mr Neelix can in the write writer’s hands be a great character, and given his actor that shouldn’t be a shock.  Sadly, I fear there’s more of the hateful perky-morale officer twonk Neelix ahead than there is deeply troubled and rather interesting conscientious objector Neelix to come.  And I’ve not even gotten to Tattoo yet (yes, sorry Learning Curve fans, I think Tattoo is the episode I’m looking forward to the least!)

*”Farpoint station, even the name sounds mysterious.” Troi. No. No it bloody doesn’t.

Behind the scenes of Doctor WHeasel: The Audio Adventures

It might have escaped most people’s notice, but for the past five months I’ve been cranking out weekly adventures of everyone’s favourite time-travelling weasel.  For 9 (!) years I’ve been cranking out puppet videos, a lot of which have been reviews of one of my all time most beloved shows (Doctor Who).  But of late I’d been finding it hard to balance the time it takes to write, record and produce them, with real life.  Not to mention where once I could freely film in our under-renovation house, now we’ve finished most renovations I can’t really go sticking stuff all over the walls any more.  One day I may go back and film again, one day.

But over Christmas a new/old friend of mine (Elliot) and long time weasel fan kept on nagging me to do more stuff.  To perhaps branch out into new adventures of the Time-Weasel, and if filming was too much work – why not audio adventures.  Oh and hey, I could play them on my weekly radio show.  I wasn’t convinced at first, as I’d rather lost the creative spark thanks to ploughing on with the PhD.  Yet, as I sat over the holiday period suffering my annual Christmas flu (every. bloody. year) the idea continued to tickle my creative gland (cf. Pratchett) and I produced what I thought was a rough cut episode with an unspecified incarnation of the good Doctor, and a new companion Advick Goose.

And stab me vitals, if Elliot didn’t run with it.  The audio is somewhat shonky to say the least as I thought I was using a stereo mic, but hand’t realised Audacity had defaulted to using my webcam’s mic.  It’s not a bad mic for conversations over the net but it leaves a lot to be desired.

Anyway, the weeks went on and I kept cranking out the episodes.  Finding the time can be a challenge some weeks, but having the weekly deadline hanging over my head does rather motivate me.  Clearly my creative muse needs deadlines to function I’ve discovered.  I also invested in a new condensing mic, which has significantly improved the audio quality.  It can’t do anything about the acting quality but just compare later episodes and you’ll find everything’s a lot crisper these days!

From the second story onward I’ve been working on developing the soundscape.  Telling a story in audio only narrative is interesting as you need to cram a lot more exposition into the character’s dialogue, and I can’t just rely on a funny visual gag to move the plot along.  Sound effects and background sounds though can fill in that gap, to keep the story moving and explain what’s going on in the characters’ world(s) without everyone stopping every few minutes for lines like “Look at that line of robots coming slowly down that gravel hill, shooting at people!”

Well, maybe not every time – but it does help.  Stylistically I’ve made a few changes as well as the series has progressed (we’re hitting episode 15 this week – 1 more than Doctor Who cranks out in a good year, or 14 more than they can manage in 2016).  A lot of the earlier episodes have my best ‘Radio 4’ voice introducing them, as though they were part of a more mainline radio station than Radio Wandsworth.  I began to run out of witty things for him to say, so in the most recent couple of stories I dropped the idea.  It was also for reasons of timing – I aim for around a 5-6 minute adventure, but recently that’s expanded a bit to around 8-9 minutes for some episodes.  So, losing the extra introduction gave me back 30 seconds to use on storylines.

I am keeping the narrator though, as sometimes I need scene setting that character voices alone can’t do, but also it allows me to add a slight meta-narrative to the whole thing by commenting on my own (weak) plotting and (half-baked) dialogue.  In this week’s episode though (The Empty Hive pt 1) I’ve dropped him at one point where he’d normally appear, as it made enough sense tonically through sound effects and dialogue not to use him.  Seems to work on listening to it myself, and doubtless my millions** of listeners  will be able to work it out.

Doctor WHeasel’s most recently completed adventure introduced another new concept – guest actors.  I’ve tried using guest voices in the past on my videos, but it’s never really worked that well.  Certainly Mrs Llama has made her feelings on the subject clear “I CAN’T act!” she’s cried on many occasions, batting away the proffered script and microphone with uncharacteristically vehement aggression.  I don’t claim to be able to act myself either (I make daft voices), but thankfully I did manage to find not one, but three willing volunteers among my friends to record lines.  It was fantastic to hear my scripts being brought to life by other people – as they took a very different approach to the characters than I’d anticipated.  In fact one character totally changed inside my head, and ended up being written rather differently in later episodes as a consequence of the actor’s interpretation.  Hopefully, future adventures will have more guest cast too – although the practicalities of getting them to re-record a line that didn’t quite work when I’m editing an adventure on a Saturday morning can be…challenging.

Last week I took one final step into the media tart world, by appearing live on Elliot’s weekly show.  I had fun (although the 8hrs of travelling to get there an back…was a bit knackering).  Hopefully I can do more appearances later this year, although don’t ask me to do the weasel live – there are bits where I have coughing fits doing the voice that are – tastefully – edited out of the finished shows.  I may write a bit more about the creative process in a future post.

For now though, don’t forget you can listen weekly just after 3pm on Wandsworth Radio (via the Interwebs) to the further adventures of Doctor WHeasel and Advick Goose.  And of course via SoundCloud soon after the show.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do putting them together.  And if you don’t…why have you read this far down this blog?

*Don’t ask. I’m working on it, and stressed as hell.

**Elliot said his show got around 4,000 listeners.  I’ve no idea if that’s still true!

The Final Year

Well December just flew by with a whole heap of analysis and coding, along with a very useful meeting with my supervisory team.  I even found time to catch up a little bit on my reading, although my to-read pile seems to get higher by the day.  I suspect I’ll barely have dented it by the time I get to the end of the PhD.  And that end, is nigh.  2016 is the final year of my PhD and the end of September my absolute deadline.  When I started the date on my university card seemed impossibly far into the future, and yet now it feels ominously close.  It’s already giving me sleepless nights worrying about getting everything done in time.  During the day, well that doesn’t seem quite so impossible but it’s still giving me the collywobbles.

Continuing to enjoy my new job as it moves into its third month, perhaps not moving forward as fast as I’d hoped on some aspects, but I think that’s down to my enthusiasm to crack on with work.  After 4 years of largely only having to motivate myself, it’s taking a bit of getting used to, to once again rely on other people to do things.  But, I’d be lying if I didn’t say how much I look forward each week to my day of non-PhD work – as it feels more than ever like I’m doing something more concrete a lot of the time.

Was quite excited when my two worlds of work and research collided and I heard about the launch of the White Rose University Press this week.  With my research hat on, I’m very interested in the role of university presses as a counter to industrial scale publishing hegemony.  With my job hat on, I’ve an interest in how these sort of presses function on a practical and operational level.  Now if I could just afford the time and money to go to the University Presses’ conference in Liverpool this year, I could find out more – but that’s not going to happen.  Not unless I want a lot more sleepless nights worrying about lost time!

Anyway, next week I’ve a Critical University Studies discussion group session to look forward to on Wednesday (scored an invite thanks to a chance meeting in a corridor) where we’re looking at a very interesting paper Lynch & Ivancheva, 2015. Academic freedom and the commercialisation of universities: a critical ethical analysis.  Not sure quite how much scholarly insight I’ll have to add, but I really enjoyed reading the paper, which rather resonated in part with my marketisation of HE thesis chapter.

Oh and finally, Project Pizza continues in the background…which means big living arrangement changes are nigh in the coming months.

 

In Media Res

It struck me today I wanted to talk more about the TV shows I’m currently regularly watching, and a hint of those I’m looking forward to in the near future.  And if we’re living in a golden age of television, in the middle of the autumn season, it seems a perfect time to do so.  In alphabetical order…

Archer (Netflix)

ArcherSorry, I swear I had something for this.

Officially the only show in our house that Mrs Llama makes me close the doors and windows to watch to avoid traumatizing the neighbours & their children.  I say they’ve got to learn about booze filled sweartastic spy-fi fiction at some point.  We’ve agreed to differ.  Potentially after I muttered “Holy shit-snacks” under my breath.  Possible high point in this show remains (possibly) the Bob’s Burgers crossover…

Arrow (Sky)

Or as it’s referred to by me Arra’ (in my best mockney accent).  Green Arrow’s never been a comic book favourite of mine (despite his years of association with my favourite Green Lantern), but this show really grabbed me when I started watching it early in its second season (the Wife was away from home for long periods of time and I wanted something I could watch that she wouldn’t care about).  At times it’s a bit shlocky, but most of the time it delivers on the money comic book action and snappy dialogue.  Not to mention fabulous fan-boy squee moments for the long time DC fan that I am.  Also getting Constantine on it in S4 may have made my year (bring him back!).  Oh, one tip – don;t mention the words “Thea Queen” in Mrs Llama’s hearing…she may explode.  Also, my love for John Barrowman grows each time he appears in this show (which so far this year has been not enough!).

The Big Bang Theory (More4)

BigBangI came to this before it got really popular, and as a geek I rather like the multiple nods to my life style, experiences and people.  Honestly, I could identify people I’ve known/know just like Leonard, Sheldon, Howard and Raj.  And the girls, even Penny.  I can certainly remember a number of ‘hot’ non-geek girlfriends standing around at LARP/gaming events over the years, looking equal parts baffled, pitying and annoyed.  At it’s best this show was tightly scripted and delivered, but now it seems to be rather circling the drain and I hate to admit it, but this season I’ve been reading my tablet more than watching the episodes.  Mrs Llama seems to enjoy it still, so I’ll be sitting through it for now, but it’s a pale shadow of its hey day, especially now Ross and Rachel…sorry Penny and Leonard have gotten married.

 

The Blacklist (Sky)

blacklistI’m a James Spader fan from Boston Legal days, so this show easily had me hooked in with it’s Alias/24/Chuck/Burn Notice kinda vibe.  And it’s certainly delivered in terms of a thrill ride with reversals of fortune and unexpected twists.  For me, while Spader is most certainly the stand out star, it’s Ryan ‘Tom’ Eggold who keeps impressing me – from his early phoenix-like transformation, to his current undercover exploits.  Solid, enjoyable, exciting – and generally over all too soon each week.  And if you’re very, very lucky, Spader will deliver one of those monologues that only he (and Frank Underwood) can.

Bob’s Burgers (Comedy Central)

ojjWet5As a long time King of the Hill fan it’s frustrated me no end that this family centric, realistic (well compared to say Simpsons, Family Guy and American Dad) animated comedy hasn’t been shown over here.  Thankfully it is now (all be it from S3…what about S1&2 eh?), and even more shocking, Mrs Llama loves it too.  Currently I can’t wait for my weekly double bill of the Belchers, and it might just be the show I’d binge watch if it was on a streaming service.  But as it isn’t I have to accept a double helping each week.

Constantine (Sky)

TV_Gallery_Constantine01_53712d01f179e9.81662124Half way through watching this, months after everyone else.  Difficult to watch as Mrs Llama finds it all too scary so I have to wait for her to be out.  A damned (see what I did there) shame it got canned, as Matt Ryan is totally convincing in the role.  And given it’s adapting the Damnation Crusade storylines from the early Hellblazers I know so well, I’m really pleased by how they taken the plotlines and run with them.  If Preacher can be half this good an adaptation, I’ll be happy.  Still, at least they let him finally smoke on Arrow.

Doctor Who (BBC)

downloadYes. Obviously.  I think I’ve said more than enough about this over the years, and my life long love for the show.  I’ll just say here that I love Peter Capaldi in the role, S9 has been stunning and just as I came to love Clara… she went and faced that sodding bird.  Probably the major argument for me in favour of the TV licence.

The Flash (Sky)

download (1)Okay, if I had to cut this list of current shows down a bit.  Flash would stay on it.  If I had to cut it down to less than 5 shows.  Flash would still be on it.  If I had to choose between it and Doctor Who…arg…don’t make me, I’m not sure I could honestly choose.  And given the latter recently made a nod towards Cisco in The Flash’s naming of villains…well there’s hardly any separation between the two (even less with spin off Legends of Tomorrow starting Rory ‘Rip Hunter’ Williams as a time-traveler).  This show manages to outdo its parent show Arrow by being fast paced (naturally), action packed (of course), tightly plotted (indeed) and with scripts that just zing.  Helped along by a great cast, and an awful lot of fan-boy content, that they manage to carry off with aplomb.  I love this show, and it’s a real high spot of my week watching it.  Just so long as Prof Ivo stays dead and ‘Vibe’ keeps far, far away from Detroit, I’m sure it’ll run and run.  And I’ve not even mentioned Tom Cavanagh’s scene stealing Harrison Wells (both of him).

Have I Got a Bit More News For You (BBC)

have-i-got-news-2014Now in its 50th season it might be a format that’s creaking, wheezing and groaning more than the TARDIS in a heavy fog, but there are still quite a few weeks when this show still manages to be the cutting edge of satirical comment in the UK.  That we don’t have more intelligent but funny shows like this and dross like Strictly…don’t get me started on the bread & circuses argument again.  It might never quite hit the heights of the Angus era again, but 80% of the time well worth the watch.  And then there are the weeks Paul/Ian just coast on autopilot.  Wish they’d just show the longer version as it hangs together better when it’s a little rawer and less packaged.

Jessica Jones (Netflix)

download (2)I may be wrong but I think David Tennant is playing an evil version of the Doctor in this show.  I’m only 5 episodes in, but that’s my conclusion.  While not quite as sublime as Daredevil this show is still one of the strongest parts of the MCU by a long way.  I just can’t shake the feeling that Jessica reminds me of Mrs Llama in some ways – the determination, stubbornness and the jeans addiction more than the PTSD after being mind-controlled though.  Another definite candidate for the ‘just one more episode before I go to bed’ catagory.

Justice League (Unlimited)

JLU_Justice-LeagueAka what I watch at lunchtimes at home.  Possibly the finest iteration of the DCAU, or maybe the DCU fullstop.  If only Guy Gardner had played more (or indeed any) role in it!

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (Sky)

Last weekIf only Panorama or Question Time could be this coherent.  This show is very much something I wish we had an analogue of in the UK.  Since the end of Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, and Colbert’s defection to chat show hosting, this remains my primary USA centric satirical show…all be it with a surprisingly excellent crusading journalistic bent.  It generally manages to make me laugh and explode with rage in equal measure at the inequities of the world.  And obviously it’s never better as when fellow Brit John turns his lens back on Queen & Country.  I remain eternally fascinated by how other cultures view us here on our tiny, parochial island.  Also the theme tune was my ringtone for the best part of a year.  If you’re not watching this – you should be.

Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

download (3)Mrs Llama started watching this a while ago, but decided after a half dozen episodes that it was “too samey”.  I’ve just started watching it, and frankly I’m loving it.  Funny, dramatic and touching – and as a long time veteran of Prisoner Cell Block H fills that hitherto unremarked on ‘Women’s Prison’ hole in my life.

Er, maybe I should rephrase that!  Anyway the cast is great, but my stars is Captain “Red” Janeway the best thing in this in a country mile.  I can almost forgive Kate Mulgrew for STV:Threshold.  Almost.  I’m only halfway through the 1st season at the moment, so this one should keep me occupied for a few months to come yet, which is great, as I’m really enjoying the characters and plotlines, and I remain surprisingly unspoiled about most of the plot.  Not all mind you, but enough!

Peep Show (Channel 4)

PeepI was a latecomer to Mark and Jez.  In fact I’d more or less avoided watching it over the years, pegging it as one of those comedy for trendy people.  Then I saw a show or two…and realised how wrong I was.  Hence in the gap between S8 and S9, I’ve watched all of the available episodes.  At least twice.  And also brought Mrs Llama around to appreciate it (she’s less than keen on embarrassment based comedy normally).  Worryingly she’s started to identify traits of Mark that she shares, which may case me (and I’m not sure about this) as Jez.  Lord I hope I’m not Jez, but I do own a military-camo jacket that wear an awful lot…

Les Revenants (aka The Returned) (More4)

7779579407_lena-et-camilleThis show is usually watched in my house in a double bill with the Walking Dead.  One set of zom…walkers will devour you, and the others will stand around looking morose and making deeply existential statements while hanging around the Lake Pub or the top of the (broken) dam.  It is very, very French, deeply mysterious, utterly unactionpacked (yes, even more talking than TWD S2) and moody as hell, and I love it.  Victor remains the creepiest child on this or any other planet, even if he has gotten a little taller in S2.  And Lena…oh Lena…  I do hope they manage to wrap up the storylines without giving everything away this season!  Anyway, best watched late night or before dawn for the correct ambiance of despair coupled with flashes of hope.  I just wish they’d kept the French title.

Parks and Recreation (Amazon)

parks and recAnother show I’ve come to late (indeed after it’s finished), which is currently filling in the ‘Easy, watchable, comedy’ choice when myself or Mrs Llama can’t agree what to watch or fancy something lighter of an evening.  Yes, Lesley Knope is annoying…but that’s the point, right?  The rest of the ensemble cast is great, and as a big fan of the (US) Office it’s great to have something rather in the same vein.  Usually has me hooting with laughter more than once an episode (and not always at Chris Pratt leaping over a fence/into a pit etc).

Robot Chicken (Comedy Central)

download (4)How can I not love a show where people use toys to mock SciFi shows and culture.  A bit like Python – some sketches are brilliant.  Some are terrible and go on for weeks.  Thankfully the whole show is so brief that’s rarely a problem.  Fingers crossed they show the DC Heroes special shortly over here, as previous ones have been excellent.  A good show to stick on when I can’t think what I want to watch before I head to bed!  Also there’s no truth I’ve been keeping my own pet chickens away from watching this!

South Park

Forgot this one first time around!  South Park’s been one of those shows that when it first came on, I watched a bit but was never really in to.  Although I still consider the film one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen at the cinema (especially THAT opening song).  But in the last decade I’ve found myself watching it more and more, and realising just how sharply satirical the show has come – far outstripping its more bawdy infancy.  The last couple of seasons in particular have offered one of the most powerful examples of popular critiques of the neoliberal consumerist, media-obsessed culture we in the west exist within.  And it’s still incredibly funny (and possibly more so).   CtPa Town & pretty much anything Randy Marsh gets involved in especially. Long may it continue to tweek the nose of authority and celeb obsessed culture!

Supergirl (Sky)

supergirl0513151280jpg-dca2b2_1280wI love Supergirl.

Let me rephrase that, before Mrs Llama arrives to slap me.  I love Supergirl in the comics ever since she died in COIE (my first exposure to her), but mainly thanks to Peter David’s immortal run on her title in the 90s.  Hence I was hoping this show would rock.  And then I saw the trailer…and my grin became a little more strained.  Okay it’s far from terrible, and it may yet surprise and dleight me, but right now it’s one of those shows I watch when I’m doing something else.  I’ll probably give it the whole season…maybe…but not sure if it’s renewed if I’ll watch on to another season.  Which is a shame as Melissa Benoist is utterly nailing Supergirl’s characterization…she just needs some better scripts/plotting.  And also don’t get me started on super-handsome-stud Jimmy Olsen!

Toast of London (Channel 4)

ToastI thought I was the only person watching this on the planet for the first season.  Far too rude for Mrs Llama, but I thought it was hilarious, weird and refreshing – not to mention being somewhat of a terrible thespian myself, there’s a kinship twix me and Toast that drew me in.  Then it won an award, and I realised other people could see how great this show was.  Sure dark, possibly deranged and even disturbing.  But never staid nor formulaic.  Well done Matt and Arthur.  But not you Clem Fandango!

The Walking Dead (Fox)

download (5)There have been times when I’ve asked myself do I want to keep on watching a show that at times can be bleak and unremittingly depressing as TWD.  And then Carol goes on another of her knife-centred rampages and I remember why.  I’d be hard pressed to say whom is my favourite character at times, as they’re all pretty flawed portraits of humanity…but then, that’s hardly a surprise when we’ve seen what they’ve gone through.  Despite the odd dip, and Carl centric plotline, this show seems to be currently going from strength at the moment.  If I could just shake this tune out of my head…  Sorry Bryony!

You, Me and the Apocalypse (Sky)

you meWith a cast to die for (Rob Lowe and Mathew Baynton especially, but not exclusively), this is a black comedy that is definitely getting more into the darker regions of funny as time passes.  End of the world comedies aren’t new, but this show is weaving a fabulously tangled and yet interlinked story around a group of (seemingly at first) unlinked strangers in the face of Armageddon.  There’s only a couple of weeks to go, and I’m looking forward to finding out just how everyone ended up in that bunker (no spoiler, they tease more each week).  This is the sort of stuff BBC or Channel 4 should be producing…but have missed the boat.  Highly recommended and surely in line for an award nod somewhere sometime?

Coming Soon (or what I’m looking forward to in 2016): Legends of Tomorrow, Better Call Saul (S2), Luke Cage, Preacher, House of Cards (S4), Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (S2), The Man in the High Castle, Outlander (S2) and probably rewatching all of Breaking Bad over the Christmas break.

Is it too soon to start frothing about the new Star Trek show too?

It Was The Blurst of Times

And here we are once more at the two week catch up – and what an eventful couple of weeks it’s been.

Mercian Collaboration

Sorta-Kinda My Office (for now)
Sorta-Kinda My Office (for now)

Started my p/t job this week with the Mercian Libraries Collaboration.  I was excited before I started…which was unusual for a new job, normally I’m quite nervous and full of apprehension the first day, but I was just champing at the bit to get stuck into this one.  Lovely first day, meeting with various people at Leicester who I used to work with (and most of whom didn’t realise it’d been 3.25 years since they’d seen me).  Lots of very familiar faces, and a handful of new ones.  Felt very welcomed, and that’s not even going to be my office home for the long term*.  Lots to get into, read about and bring myself up to date on, and even have the use of the Project Room as my office – well, when no one else’s booked it!  But I rather like the nomadic existence, which is just as well as a lot of this job is going to be about being on the road certainly for the early days.  Now I just need to find out where my tech and work mobile are coming from and I’ll be totally good to go.  All in all, a very positive commencement – I almost regret I’ve only the 1 working day a week to give to this!

Now if I can just stop myself saying Meridian or Mercenary when people ask me whom I’m working for, I’ll be happy.  Mrs Llama just keeps shouting “MERCIAN!” at me, as though she’s just escaped off the set of The Last Kingdom.

Campus

Went into campus at the crack of dawn one morning, to pick up the new software key for Nvivo.  During the 30 minutes I was on site I met an academic friend, printed off dozens of pages and admired the new central building (The Pavillion).  Not bad.  And then was home before 9am!

Coding

The big job of the past couple of weeks has been finishing off the second of the two coding frameworks I’ve been building.  So the code books are all written, and the definitions are all in place.  Now in the process of creating then in NVivo (and reteaching myself NVivo as I’ve forgotten bits of it).  Which means next week – all is go for the full coding phase!!!  Much excitement and celebration at this point.

Linked.In

Linked.In Skills
Linked.In Skills

Following a discussion on FriendFace and Chitter this week about where Linked.In harvests the rather random suggested contact names from (seems it’s largely from the app which sneakily scans your GMail unless you remember to block it), went on to explore the wonders of endorsements.  Which thanks to a number of chums means I now have some VERY interesting skills on my profile.  There’s a lot of interesting debate too around the dissonance between what your connections perceive as your skill base vs what you know are your actual skills.  I’ve done some rearrangement on my skills, to try and highlight a bit more the things I’m rather better at professionally…still not 100% sure what the Hades the skill Library is anyway!

Mrs Llama tells me she likes to randomly endorse people for skills in the hope they might return the favour, so I’ve been doing that as well.  Feels rather akin to FriendFace’s poking of old mind you me.  Anyway, feel free to endorse me for something…or should I say something that’s not Activated Sludge (you know who you are!).

Miscellany

Other odds and sods

  • Filled in an AHRC survey about changes to PhD funding.  Delighted to see they want to move to a 4 year standard…wish they’d done that with me.
  • Tried filling in another survey about gaming/gambling research from some local scholars.  Gave up on about question 746.  Not the best example of questionnaire design I’ve come across, and a strong argument for using a different methodology IMHO.
  • Been following the argument over Elsevier and the journal Lingua with some interest this week.  Storm in a tea cup or the pebbles before the avalanche?
  • Project Pizza took a dramatic step forward

*Probably, still up for discussion – but that’s all part of the fun of this job🙂