30 August 2020

US Presidential Election 2020

We're now just over two months from the US Presidential Election; although many will soon start voting with the use of absentee ballots likely to be extensive due to Covid-19.

Trump is going to try to use every legal and semi-legal trick to win - if he loses, he will claim voter fraud. He was even claiming it after he won, stating that he had actually won the popular vote when he didn't.

Biden is in a better position than Clinton was at this point with a significant lead. Trump is the worst position for an incumbent in decades and it could well get worse for him. He could somehow eke out a win, but I doubt it.

In any event, it's likely to be messy in US politics for quite a while.

29 August 2020

Chadwick Boseman 1976-2020

The death of the Black Panther star has come as a shock; we had no idea that he was so ill. The fact he did those Marvel films, all intense hard work, while battling the cancer that would ultimately kill him, is an achievement in itself.

His portrayal of King T'Challa was a massive inspiration to many black people. My local cinema, which is rarely even a quarter full even for major new releases, had a near full screen for Black Panther, which was a massive hit, disproving the mantra "get woke, go broke".

His legacy will be huge in film-making.

Rest in Peace.

15 August 2020

VJ Day - 75 years on

Today marks 75 years since the Japanese surrender in the Second World War that would bring the conflict to an end.

The Pacific conflict is very much forgotten in Britain and our involvement in that theatre, especially in what is now Myanmar, needs to be more remembered; it wasn't just an American show by a long chalk.

Let us remember those who served in atrocious jungle conditions, ended up in awful POW camps and died defeating a truly horrific regime. 

We will remember them.

Coronavirus #15 - a "second wave" in Europe

We seem to be seeing increases in cases across most of Europe now. It's not at the height of the peaks back in March and April, but still pretty concerning.

It seems that young people, reasoning (with some justification) that Covid-19 isn't going to get them, are increasingly ignoring social distancing. This is resulting in more cases overall, although not as much an increase in deaths.

The risk of course is that while younger people might not die themselves, they could easily spread it to those who are more likely too. While many of the most vulnerable may already succumbed to this disease, not all of them will have done and they could end up unintentionally killing their families and older friends.

Parties and nightclubs can wait a bit. I myself have postponed a planned holiday because I can't do it without quarantining when I return and I don't like wearing face masks.

Just be sensible people and wear a mask when you can't socially distance.

13 August 2020

What Is It?! (Review: 'Star Trek' 2.18, "The Immunity Syndrome")

Star Trek today tends to have season-long arcs where the only way to fully understand the story is to watch each episode in order; something true of most science fiction and fantasy shows. In the 1960s, with video recorders not exactly a thing in households, people might end up missing an episode with no opportunity to see it again.

So, each episode is basically one story, wrapped up in around 50 minutes and rarely mentioned again.

Anyway, I'm digressing, onto discussing the episode.


On their way to Starbase 6 for a break, the crew of the Enterprise encounter some strange distortion. A Starfleet ship full of Vulcans goes dead, then an entire star system. NCC-1701 must investigate a zone of space darkness that is draining the very energy from the ship - and its crew.

The primary 'triangle' in TOS is Kirk-Spock-McCoy and their overall relationship is very well established by this point. Spock and McCoy insult each other's species as Spock basically says that humans see one death as a tragedy, but a million as a statistic.

(That quote is attributed to Stalin, but there is evidence of similar satirical sentiments being expressed back as far as 1759)

Kirk is weary in the literal and metaphorical sense, the whole grave situation weighing heavily on him. Sure, Shatner does his... famous pauses... but the actor plays Kirk as more than just a cliché. Nimony and Kelley also do very well.

Scotty, Uhura and Chekov also aren't bad. Their material is a fair bit weaker as they're merely serving as plot exposition. Sulu is again absent, his position taken by recurring character Kyle, who doesn't have much too.

The overall mystery is a very strong one, with each layer unwrapped pretty convincingly. Well as convincingly as you can get in a show like this. The solution is a pretty good one as well.

The Netflix version contains the remastered effects, which I'd imagine look much better than the original ones were (although they did win an Emmy); those would probably have taken me out of the episode slightly.

One thing this episode contains in abundance is 'Starship Acting' as the cast throw themselves around the bridge, not always in the same direction. You'd think that they'd invest in some actual harnesses in Starfleet. 



A highly enjoyable, self-contained episode with a strong overall plot. Classic Trek.


04 August 2020

Beirut explosion

The explosion tonight in Beirut's port appears to have been accidental in the not on purpose sense. It is however seeming to involve criminal negligence.

A lot of people have likely died in what was basically a small nuke going off; many people will have lost homes and livelihoods.

My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Lebanon tonight.

02 August 2020

Coronavirus #14 - Media problems

Can the media please stop with fevered speculation over every comment by a member of SAGE - which is a very big group? It's causing undue stress and anxiety.

We need a sober analysis of the facts (which aren't great as is), not rumour-mongering.

I fancy a game of Fizzbin (Review: 'Star Trek' 2.17, "A Piece of the Action")

I've seen this episode before, but I didn't really remember much about it. So, I'm coming into this slightly cold.

Making a Second Contact after picking up a radio report from a ship lost a hundred years, the Enterprise crew discover a world that has based its entire culture on a book about Chicago gangsters; which is causing major development issues. With the Prime Directive loophole in play, they now need to fix the issue without getting themselves killed.


The overall concept of an alien world being contaminated by some esoteric human culture is a fairly common trope in science fiction. This is the sort of episode that you can easily imagine turning up in The Orville - now I'm imagining Adrianne Palicki totting a Tommy Gun - or indeed Doctor Who.  While there's definitely a 'Planet of Hats' aspect about this whole episode - most of the hats are awesome - there isn't time in this episode to explore other aspects.

It's a very strong episode for the regulars, especially Spock, who realises that this is not a situation where logic is going to work and is logical enough to admit it. Kirk is also having a lot of fun when he goes into full-on 'gangster' mode.

There is a lot of great humour in this episode: Kirk's inability to operate an old-fashioned car effectively, confusion over slang and the whole scene where they get a kid to distract some goons; although the last of course has some risks for the kid. They didn't pay him either!

A highlight of the episode is the 'Fizzbin' scene, where Kirk creates a weird card game out of thin air as a means to distract two guards. This is being Star Trek, it became a real game in the canon, featuring in an episode of Deep Space Nine. I wouldn't mind playing it in real-life, but you'd need a computer to handle the rules...

Paramount's backlots get used very effectively here, although a back wall is rather obvious in one shot when seen in HD.

The guest characters are pretty good - with Anthony Caruso's Bela Okymx demonstrating particular charm - but not truly memorable.

Two minor drawbacks. The lack of any active female roles is one, but perhaps understandable for the time. There's Uhura, sure, but her role in this is very limited. Also, Kirk, Spock and McCoy get captured more frequently than Kim Bauer.

Now I'm thinking of Elisha Cuthbert in Starfleet uniform. Best to end it there.


Not perfect, but a highly enjoyable episode nonetheless. Definitely a classic.