The Genrenauts Challenge: Round One!

Dear all,

We’re just two weeks away from the release of The Absconded Ambassador: Genrenauts Episode 2!

The Absconded Ambassador


And to help build excitement for the series, I’m kicking off a set of competitions.

Before Genrenauts launched, I recorded a series of videos with the fine folks at about the series, including some videos inviting the viewer to step into the role of Genrenauts and create endings for broken stories.


First, watch the video:

Then go to the YouTube page for the video and post your proposed story fix. This doesn’t have to be fully written out, it can be a summary of how you would manipulate the existing story to create a new, satisfying ending.

Comment with your story patch by Monday, February 22nd, and you could win a set of signed and personalized Genrenauts paperbacks as well as a letter of welcome to the Genrenauts team, signed by team leader Angstrom King himself.

If you have any questions about the contest, comment below. DO NOT post your story patches here. They need to go on the YouTube page for the Sci-Fi challenge.

There will be other challenges later on, if this scenario doesn’t catch your interest. Stay tuned!

Review: Doctor Who “The Eleventh Hour”

New Doctor, new Companion, new look.

In “The Eleventh Hour” Matt Smith steps into the role of The Doctor, one of the most recognizable and longest-running figures in science fiction television.

I’m not much of a Whovian. I’ve watched occasional old episodes and chunks of episodes, the whole Eccleston series, chunks of Tennant’s run, and now the first offering by Smith. The New New Who is run by Steven Moffat and co-stars Karen Gillian as Amy Pond.

“The Eleventh Hour” starts out with The Doctor, freshly regenerated, hanging out the edge of the TARDIS as it careens through the atmosphere and sky of Earth. He crash-lands the TARDIS and spends several minutes running around very manically with a little girl, Amelia Pond. I wasn’t a big fan of the cravings/food preferences sequence, but it was a change for Smith to start to feel out the role. Smith is clearly drawing influence from Tennant’s impressive run, but there are shades of other doctors as well.

Smith is only a couple months older than I am, but doesn’t come across as “young.” He seemed more to me as energetic, refreshed/renewed. If anything, he’s a very old soul in a new and lively body.

The episode wasn’t the strongest I’ve seen in Who-history, but it was well-carried on the dynamic between Smith and Gillian. Karen Gillian plays Amy (formerly Amelia) Pond, who met the Doctor as a young girl when the TARDIS crash-lands, and builds a whole mythology around him when he disappears and doesn’t come back for 12 years. (Twelve years, four therapists, and countless hand-made dolls). The Doctor next sees Amy as a policewoman when he’s trespassing. Amy Pond, as a character, is very well-established throughout the episode, and has a history more intertwined with The Doctor than most season-long companions (to my knowledge).

There’s plenty of frenetic running around, a little bit of technobabble (impressively little technobabble, actually) and creepy aliens. The new TARDIS interior is very posh, combining futuristic with retro. (Steampunk? Maybe a little). Plus, by the end of the episode, this new Doctor has found himself, stood up to a fleet of aliens, and channeled the “I’m old as hell and more dangerous than a fleet of Daleks. Do not F@&# with Earth. It’s under my protection and I’ve put a lot of effort into it” awesomeness of the previous Doctors. One of my favorite bits in the episode shows a montage of each incarnation of the Doctor (all ten previous actors), with the fully-composed Smith stepping through the hologram to deliver the final line of his “Go away” rant — a great touch and a fine introduction to the finalized new Doctor.

The rest of the season seems to have a great deal of promise, including a return of the super-creepy Weeping Angels from “Blink,” Daleks, Cybermen, World War II dogfighting, and more.

This is a great time to get into Doctor Who, as the episode is a more-than-passable pilot for new viewers. It’s a good idea, especially for a series that has an history that dates back almost fifty years and more than 700 episodes.

Review: V — “Pilot”

I was too young to watch/remember the original V miniseries/ongoing series, but I learned the basic premise growing up as a geek.  I’ll be talking about stuff that constitutes as spoilers, but not really, as ABC is foregrounding the ‘Big Sekrit!’ of the V’s identity even in the previews.  Most of what I’ll talk about is the not-hard-to-find Vs = Obama reading.

The leader of the Vs is played by Morena Baccarin, a Brazillian woman whose looks are easily pushed past beauty to the edge of the uncanny valley, her mixed-ethnicity background easily positioned as ‘exotic’ from a US-American gaze.  All of the Vs who are seen in the public eye would count as attractive, and even in the pilot, the Vs are leveraging attractiveness into manipulation (one sub-plot features the FBI-Agent lead’s son being attracted to a female V played by Laura “Supergirl” Vandervoort).

The Pilot episode gets all the way to the ‘Vs are actually Lizards and trying to take over the world’ stage, with Elizabeth “LOST Juliette” Mitchell and Joel “4400” Gretsch as FBI Agent and Pastor who are witness to a V attack on a word-of-mouth group spreading word of the Vs’ real agenda.

A note — unless you go in looking for the Obama = V reading, it may be rather easy to miss/not think of it.  It’s not that the show pounds you over with it.  The show’s pacing is strong (stronger than the original miniseries in the equivalent section that I watched), and goes quickly to the ‘The Vs are tricking people, time to fight back!’ stage of the story, where our two adult leads will develop a resistance, with assistance from another lead — how quickly he’ll connect with the group is hard to tell.  Interpersonal conflict will come from the FBI Agent’s son getting deeper in bed (literally) with the Vs and refusing to accept mom’s warnings/explanations of the V’s villainy.  This is exacerbated by the fact that until the resistance can get a V corpse to show the lizard under-parts, they don’t have a very strong case.

It was great to see Alan Tudyk in the show, though I don’t think he’s listed as a full series regular.  He brought a great balance of seriousness and levity to the show, remind us how awesome an actor he is (as if we needed any more reminding after “Briar Rose/Alpha” in Dollhouse.

The new version of V seems to be written and executed in a way that invites an anti-Obama reading. The rhetoric of the pilot episode includes mentions of Hope!  Change!  Universal Health Care! and features a charismatic leader of mixed ethnicity.  There’s an interesting degree to which this version of V is a dream come true for the Fox News Opinion Show crew.  Many of the most outrageous fears about Obama are made manifest in the series — The Vs come with a message of hope and change, with people flocking to them, clamoring to be saved.  The Vs insinuate themselves into people’s hearts, but are secretly not who they say they are and will take over and destroy the world.

Basically, the premise reads like an unused script from the Glenn Beck show with space-lizards instead of Chairman Mao.  The show’s basic premise is much as it was in the 80s series (as far as I know/have read), but it just goes to show that as times change, a story can remain more or less the same but be read very differently.  It seems that the new ABC version of V is specifically written to highlight the Vs as Obama reading (the rhetoric about hope and change and universal health care),

Overall, the Pilot isn’t magnificent, but it is a solid start and I’m interested to see how this version continues and develops like or unlike the original.

Now I leave review-land and go into ‘I’m a writer-land’ — I realize that I’d be as interested or possibly more interested in a series where the aliens really were trying to improve humanity’s lot, with conflict coming from paranoia and quibbling over cultural differences/expectations between the Vs and various US cultures.  Basically, if it were a script from Keith Olbermann/Rachel Maddow instead of Glenn Beck. 😛  A story that highlights the tension between a well-meaning group with technological advantage and an ambivalent community that doesn’t want to bow to cultural demands but does want those technologies.  This presents a different metaphor, more analogous to western humanitarian campaigns in the 3rd world/Global South — where cultural imperialism comes part-and-parcel (intentional or unintentional) with humanitarian aid.

Sadly, this would probably not work as a TV show — it would lend itself much less to explosions and gunfights and the like.

Review: Defying Gravity (Pilot through H2IK)

The 2009 series Defying Gravity is notable for several reasons, first among these being the fact that it is a multinational production, a collaboration between BBC, Fox Television Studios, SPACE, and others.

It’s also being simultaneously broadcast in first-run in Canada, the UK, Germany and Canada. In the US, it’s being broadcast by ABC, and is available on

The show is centered on a 6-year space exploration mission on board the Antares. The eight-person crew includes 4 men and 4 women. The primary POV character is Maddux Donner (Ron Livingston), who appears to be the primary POV character. Donner, along with antagonistic Mike Goss (Andrew Airlie) and Ted Shaw (Malik Yoba) were part of a Mars mission which lost two members.

Defying Gravity was originally pitched as “Grey’s Anatomy in space,” given a relationship-focus to ground (heh) the space exploration elements. In the first four episodes aired thusfar, the space plots tend to combine/resonate with the interpersonal stories, adding to each. The show also includes several elements reminiscent of LOST, with flashbacks to the crew throughout their training process and also to the Mars mission with Donner, Goss and Shaw, as well as a mystery that shows that the Antares mission may be more than originally advertised. It’s also easily compared to the backdoor pilot-turned-tv-movie Virtuality — though unlike Virtuality, by skipping the virtual reality element, I think Defying Gravity manages to not be conceptually over-stuffed. It’s showing a balance between ‘OMG something on the ship is broken!,’ ‘This person won’t sleep with me!’ and ‘What’s in pod 4?’ — There is a reality TV element to the show, as the crew is completely monitored, with the pilot also serving as the TV show producer/host, but that element has not been foregrounded as much in the first episodes.

So far, the show is not phenomenal, but it is promising, with indications of interpersonal plots unfolding over several years worth of stories. I’m excited to see more, though so far, its US ratings haven’t been terribly impressive. ABC may drop the series if the numbers don’t go up, but I can’t say if that would mean the show was entirely doomed, given its multi-national status.

Defying Gravity airs Sunday nights on ABC (with episodes appearing on the morning following).