17 April 2021

Prince Philip 1921-2021

I've just watched the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh, which I am glad to see that was tailored very much to his wishes and was done very well. I am sure that he will be very pleased with that.

It was also nice to see William and Harry talking together after the service. Perhaps that will lead to better things.

Rest in Peace, Your Royal Highness. You have been a great servant to his country and to the LORD.

15 April 2021

Coronavirus #29: Exiting Lockdown 3

Had my first proper haircut since December today and next week I am taking a train into work for some stuff that I really can't deal with at home. I am particularly looking forward to eating in a restaurant again.

We're in a lot better place now with our vaccine rollout; while there are still concerns about the variants, none of them currently truly beats the vaccine. We need to be vigilant, but we can be confident - at present - that we are slowly coming out of this.

07 April 2021

Coronavirus #28: Vaccine passports

I would support a limited use of vaccine passports while Covid-19 is still a significant thing in this country - which it currently. Definitely for foreign travel and big events, but not for pubs and shops. I also don't think it is really that discriminatory considering that we will all be getting vaccinated in the next few months.

I also see that the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab won't be recommended for under 30s going forward; the risk of the blood clots for that group is higher than being hospitalised for Covid-19. Which makes sense. Now we need more carrots to encourage people to get vaccinated - I would personally eliminate testing requirements for those with both doses.

Still hoping to go abroad this year, but Europe does need to hurry up with its jabbing...

06 April 2021

Show Me More Of This Earth Thing Called Kissing 3: The Drinking Contest (Review: Star Trek 2.22, "By Any Other Name")

Among the many accolades awarded to the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 must be the one of "most hijacked ship in Starfleet" and today, we have another example of that occurring. We also have yet another example of Captain Kirk using the power of lurve to win the day.

I hope Picard isn't like this in TNG.

****

We're straight into the action here with a teaser seeing the main three along with two red shirts - well, a red dress in one case - beaming down to a flowery planet after receiving a distress call. We can go into full meme mode here:

IT'S A TRAP!

A bunch of aliens-in-human-form from the Andromeda Galaxy use a belt-mounted paralysis field generator to freeze the landing part in place. Their goal - to use the Enterprise to return to their galaxy, something that will take 300 years even with their modifications, then come back with an invasion fleet. This of course is something that Kirk cannot allow, but dealing with these people will be more difficult than just a prison break out. When they try that, Red Dress and Red Shirt get turned into plaster cuboctahedrons. The alien leader crushes one of them, killing Red Dress, while Red Shirt (who is also black) is turned back to normal.

So, they need another plan.

****

The title of this episode indicates where we are going here. After another plan fails and they cross the energy barrier around the edge of the Milky Way (first I've heard of that one), they realise that their captors have taken human bodies... but are not used to human sensory inputs.

Thus, we get a massive distraction operation. There are two lady aliens, both dressed in backless outfits more appropriate for Love Island and Kirk decides to basically seduce one by repeated kissing on the lips. This one is massively trope-y and arguably the weakest part of the episode, because it has been done at least twice before.

Spock plays 3D chess, McCoy gives an alien stimulant injections... and Scotty, in a manner that goes into Scottish stereotyping (although to be fair, heavy drinking isn't limited to that culture), engages one in a spot of binge drinking with the aim to put him under the table. This last is actually the funniest part of the episode, but all the regulars bar Sulu (who again isn't in it) get good material.

The aliens, except for the sexy female, are well played and they pose a real threat, making the way the situation is dealt with more satisfying.

Eventually, Kirk manages to drive the alien leader into a jealous rage and after some more Kirk-fu, persuades him of the need for a peaceful solution.

There's a lot of standard Trek tropes here, but this episode - which was extensively redrafted from the original darker concept - uses most of them well. Most of them.

****

Conclusion

While not the most original episode by a long chalk, this is largely well done, fairly tense and pretty enjoyable.

8/10

02 April 2021

Easter 2021

I must admit that coming up with angles on Easter is difficult; sermons and preaching are not my strong suit. The Lord has given me other talents and I am hopefully using them for his glory.

So, I will happily use someone else's work to showcase the meaning of Easter:

(This video will be removed after Easter, so watch it while you can)

This was a dramatic human story that touched the lives of not only those present, but countless billions afterwards. Jesus' death and resurrection has shaped our world, arguably for the better. I definitely feel that I am a better person because of my Christian faith and I hope my example shines through to others in the way I conduct my life.

Perhaps you want to give it a try? You won't lose anything and you may gain a great deal.

Happy Easter to you all.

26 March 2021

Coronavirus #27: The variants

The UK's case rate appears to be levelling off, with an increase in cases among schoolchildren offsetting falls in the wider population as the vaccine rollout continues, albeit at a somewhat slower pace than previously.

There is a concern about variants that might "escape" the vaccine and so render us back to square one. At the moment, these concerns appear to be somewhat overblown. While some variants do seem to be less impacted by the vaccine, none of them seem to be completely successful in escaping it to the point they are causing hospital admissions among the vaccinated.

This doesn't mean we should throw caution to the wind and we need to remain vigilant, but frightening people unnecessarily is something that the media in particular should not be doing. I somehow doubt they'll stop though, sadly.

23 March 2021

Space Mission: Impossible (Review: Star Trek 2.21, "Patterns of Force")

I'd like to start this post by extending a belated Happy Birthday to William Shatner, who turned 90 yesterday. 

****

Mike Godwin didn't come up with his famous 'law' until 1990, but a variant of it as that as any science fiction franchise continues, the chances of a discussion or comparison to the Nazis increases. It only took Doctor Who two stories - the Daleks are very much a Nazi metaphor - and now we have a very explicit Star Trek comparison, symbology and all.

Indeed, this episode was not aired in Germany until 1996; there is no ban on the use of Nazi symbols in television and film for dramatic purposes, but the German networks just chose not to broadcast it - it was after all only 23 years in the past and a felt bit too early for the subject to be covered in light entertainment.

****

Heading towards the planet Ekos to pick up a cultural ambassador who was one of Kirk's instructors at the Academy (he knows a lot of people, our Captain does), the Enterprise gets shot at by a nuclear missile. This is successfully dealt with and it is clear that something has gone badly wrong with Ekos, even more so after Kirk and Spock beam down to discover the place is basically Nazi Germany, with a plan to exterminate another race in the same system.

****

This doesn't exactly win any awards for subtlety. You've got a Nazi government planning a Final Solution against a planet called Zeon, whose people in the planet have names like Isak and Abrom. It's also worth pointing out that Shatner and Nimoy are/were Jewish - wearing SS uniforms is an interesting experience for anyone, but I'd imagine it is more so if you're a member of that particular people. As indeed is Walter Koenig who plays Chekov - his family fled Lithuania because of antisemitism.

The Ekosians are costumed in uniforms literally pulled out of the Paramount wardrobe department (they made a lot of war films) and generally with mis-matched insignia. Indeed, this episode was filmed in Paramount's offices with the corridors redecorated.

Kirk and Spock end up getting captured, losing their shirts and getting whipped with some unconvincing looking injuries; I suppose that the network wouldn't have allowed more realistic whipping. We do get a rather funny scene where Spock has to stand on Kirk's injured back to create a laser using a lightbulb... it's a pretty ridiculous scene in general, but I'm glad they thought of that detail. The leads all get good material.

The main characters then end up working with the resistance to infiltrate the Chancellery to get at the former ambassador who has now become another Hitler, although his deputy is now pretty much running the show. The overall reveal of his motivations for doing this is a bit unconvincing in the light of further historical analysis of Nazi Germany - it wasn't as efficient as thought - and to be honest, could have been written better. I get a feeling that this whole episode is a bit rushed - indeed it was trimmed in the edit - with key bits skipped over. Brevity is not always the soul of wit.

Where the episode does work is in the whole espionage/skulduggery department; I am very much reminded of 1960s Mission: Impossible, which of course Leonard Nimoy was in. Moles, infiltrating an enemy headquarters in purloined uniform and getting past the guards through sheer bluster, is the classic bread and butter of these sorts of stories - I generally enjoy them a lot. The climax is pure Mission: Impossible; the IMF would rarely kill their targets directly, but getting them to shoot each other was perfectly fine.

The episode ends in a rather perfunctory manner and it's left assumed that the hatred engineered against the Zeon people will magically go away. History tells us that really isn't the case.

****
Conclusion

Distinctly average and perhaps too unsubtle. This might have worked a lot better as a two-parter too.

5/10