All posts by Tony Schaab

Tony Schaab is living the dream: author by day, DJ by night. Working as a DJ and Master of Ceremonies since 1999, he has performed MC/DJ work for the NFL, MTV, NBA, Wizard World Comic Con, PGA, IndyCar, and countless private events. He is the creator of TheGOREScore.com and is an award-winning author and best-selling review critic, with his book series “The G.O.R.E. Score: A Review Guide to All Things Zombie” being a 7-time #1 best-seller (Amazon Kindle, Pop Culture chart, 2012-2015). The coming year will see the release of his humorous 'memoir' novel "Confessions of a Wedding DJ" and a full-length fiction novelization of the 'classic' movie "Plan 9 from Outer Space." Tony lives in Indianapolis with his wife, daughter, and two rambunctious dogs. Learn more about Tony at TonySchaab.com and chat him up on Twitter @TonySchaab.

TV Review: ‘Star Trek: Discovery – Battle At The Binary Star’ (Season 1, Episode 2)

 

Coming hot on the heels of the premiere episode, the second episode of ‘Discovery’ aired immediately following on CBS All access, as will all future episodes air only on the online-streaming service.  CBS still plans on doling the episodes out on a week-by-week basis, so fans who pay for the streaming service will still have to wait until each Sunday at 8:30pm before they are able to view the next episode in order.  Episode 1, “The Vulcan Hello,” left things on a fairly big cliffhanger, so let’s dive in and talk all about “Battle at the Binary Star!”

WARNING: Spoilers for this episode of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ lie ahead, obviously.  If you haven’t seen the episode and don’t wish for any of its content to be spoiled for you, the time to turn back is NOW!

RECAP:  The action opens on a flashback showing the audience how Sarek first brought Burnham on board the Shenzhou seven years ago – a bit of an awkward exchange, but to be expected given the various cultural backgrounds in play.  Things quickly cut back to present day, where two dozen Klingon ships seem poised to unleash the fury of the Empire on the lone Starfleet ship.  But will they?

Aboard T’Kuvma’s ship, he is working to sway the leaders of the other Klingon houses to fight as a unified Empire.  Their decision is made fairly simple when the rest of the Federation armada shows up – the battle is officially on, and the Klingons take the early advantage.

Both sides take casualties, including the Shenzhou taking heavy damage and being set adrift.  The USS Europa arrives carrying Admiral Anderson, just in time to save the Shenzhou from destruction; Anderson offers a cease-fire and T’Kuvma accepts – at least, he says that he accepts, but in reality it’s just a ruse, as he uses his massive cloaked ship to ram the Europa and cripple it.  Europa self-destructs and damages T’Kuvma’s ship as well.

The Klingons, content that they have won the battle, warp away, leaving T’Kuvma and his ship to collect their dead soldiers floating in space.  Georgiou and her crew see this as an opportunity to strike; they would like to capture T’Kuvma as a show of his weakness to the Empire.  They plant a photon torpedo charge in a dead Klingon soldier being collected via tractor beam, and the resulting explosion cripples T’Kuvma’s ship.  Georgiou and Burnham beam aboard, but in the fracas, Georgiou is killed, and Burnham shoots and kills T’Kuvma.

Once the survivors are rescued, Burnham is charged with mutiny and treason, and her fate is left to life in prison.  However, it seems that she may have a reprieve instead of going to jail, to serve aboard the mysterious ship Discovery instead…

OBSERVATIONS:

  • I mentioned this in the last review, but I was under the impression that Starfleet, at this point in their history, consisted either primarily or exclusively of a dozen Constitution-class vessels.  So where the heck did all these other ships come from (of wildly varying classes, based on the visuals we are given) – and this is a fairly big fight against the Klingons, so could no Constitution-class ships, always talked about as the “best of the best,” be bothered to show up?  It’s possible, I suppose, that they were all out in deep-space on their five-year missions… but this binary star is a deep-space territory as well, right?  On the furthest border of Federation space?  If all these other ships could zip over there real quick, surely the USS Constellation, the USS Defiant, the USS Excalibur, the USS Exeter, the USS Hood, the USS Intrepid, the USS Lexington, the USS Potemkin, or even the USS Enterprise could have been bothered to show up and help out, yes?
  • Why didn’t the Klingons just put the finishing blow on Shenzhou and blow her up when she was adrift?  Klingons have always found honor and glory in the kill of the battle, not the “eh, they’ll probably die, let’s just leave them be” mentality.
  • I have a few issues with Geogriou’s decision to make herself and Burnham the “away team” to the Klingon vessel in their attempt to try and capture T’Kuvma.  First and foremost, Starfleet intelligence seems to know fairly well that Klingons are warriors – both their males and females are big, brutish folk.  So why does the away team, then, only consist of two human females?  Yes, it seems that Georgiou and Burnham are both skilled fighters, but at least take some more big burly dudes with you for backup!  And if the counterargument is that Shenzhou’s rickety old transporter only can only beam two people at a time (unconfirmed as factual, for the record) – then send the security officers immediately after the first transport.  It ain’t rocket science.
  • Next issue with the away team mission: it was clearly stated that the objective was to capture T’Kuvma, as killing him would make him a martyr in the eyes of his fellow Klingons.  This was the plan, as expressly stated by Burnham immediately before they beamed over – and then she ends up shooting him dead!  The phaser she used was literally set to stun only moments before she shoots and kills T’Kuvma, as shown when she shoots and stuns another Klingon.  Did she get angry because T’Kuvma had just killed Georgiou?  If that’s the case, the show did an extremely poor job of explaining this in the moment.
  • Starfleet and the United Earth Organization/United Federation of Planets is supposed to be founded on principles of peace, honor, and justice – yet the decision by the command crew of the Shenzhou to defeat the Klingons by putting a bomb inside a dead soldier’s body is essentially a war crime.  Earth-based accords like the Geneva Convention expressly forbid opposing forces using the bodies of the rivals’ fallen soldiers for treacherous and ill treatment, and one has to assume that a show based on peaceful exploration would continue to hold these moral codes dear.  Georgiou and her crew willingly and knowingly violated these accords with their actions… and the Klingons, in turn, really do have every right to hate the humans now.  Who are the real “bad guys” now?

CLOSING THOUGHTS: This episode, to be honest, left me with just as many logistical questions as the first.  Sometimes it does take new series a handful of episodes to “find its legs,” as it were, so we’ll wait to see what the next episode has to bring us this weekend, and of course we’ll be reporting to you immediately following!

PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:

Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham
Doug Jones as Lieutenant Saru
Michelle Yeoh as Phillippa Georgiou
James Frain as Sarek
Chris Obi as T’Kuvma
Kenneth Mitchell as Kol

‘Star Trek: Discovery’ features new episodes Sunday nights at 8:30pm online via CBS All Access.

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TV Review: ‘The Orville – Old Wounds’ (Season 1, Episode 1)

 

 

In a calendar year when we are slated to get a brand-new ‘Star Trek’ TV series, is it possible that another show has come along that just might out-Trek the new ‘Trek?’  The initial spate of advance reviews have not been overly kind to Fox’s newcomer ‘The Orville’ … so how did we here at ScienceFiction.com think the show’s premiere went?  Read on to find out!

WARNING: Spoilers for this episode of ‘The Orville’ lie ahead, obviously.  If you haven’t seen the episode and don’t wish for any of its content to be spoiled for you, the time to turn back is NOW!

RECAP: Long-time viewers and fans of ‘Star Trek’ will find much here that is familiar territory – and with good reason (more on this in the “Observations” section below).  Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane) is a dutiful member of the Planetary Union, an extremely United Federation of Planets-esque group that focuses on space exploration (peaceful exploration, one would imagine, but it’s never specifically stated…).  Mercer’s ship finally comes in, in a most literal sense: at long last, he’s given command of his own vessel, the USS Orville, a “mid-level exploratory ship.”  The impression is definitely given from Admiral Halsey (Victor Garber), Mercer’s superior officer who informs him about the assignment, that this ship is nothing special, just one of the 3,000-ish ships currently on the PU’s (heh heh) roster.  The Enterprise she may not be – likely more akin to the USS Reliant from ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,’ for my Trekkies out there – but no matter, Mercer is simply jazzed to have a ship to call his own.

He recruits his mostly-crass Union buddy, Gordon Malloy (Scott Grimes), to be his helmsman, and off they go into orbit to find the Orville in dock.  Another Trek-familiar moment here of Mercer’s shuttle navigating the spacedock ins and outs before finally giving him (and us) the slow around-the-ship run so we all can get a good look at her.  Make no mistake: the Orville is a cool-looking ship, even if she is designed more to be a freighter style vessel than a sleek cruiser or a heavy fighter.  Also in typical ‘Star Trek’ style, we get a quick introduction to the “senior staff,” who I’m sure we’ll be learning more about in future episodes, before it’s off to a surprise planetary conflict with the token bad-guy race.  Oh, and we learn that Mercer’s ex-wife (Adrianne Palicki), whom we briefly met in the episode’s opening scene as she was cheating on him, is now his XO.  Neat!

OBSERVATIONS:

  • The vibe of the show might best be described as “Star Trek if it was inhabited by the average American population of today.”  Most of the members of the Orville crew that we meet are generally normal people, with more than a few moments of being crude, crass, and ADHD in their attention spans.  This gives the first episode a feel that most viewers likely aren’t going to quite be prepared for: we’re used to our sci-fi in one of two ways: idyllic and intelligent, or dystopian and explosion-y.  ‘The Orville’ just seems like an extrapolation of our current society; things in general are okay but not great, and people are just trying to get through their days as best they can, having some good moments and some bad ones all mixed in.
  • The visuals for a network semi-comedy style show are, pleasantly, top-notch.  Outer-space shots look great, and the USS Orville herself has a unique look about her that, thankfully, wasn’t parroted directly from any ‘Star Trek’ vessel I immediately recognize.
  • Other things the show lovingly “cribs” from ‘Star Trek’ include the Orville getting beat up in a space battle (I half expected the crew to have to return to Spacedock and be gifted with a whole new ship, the “Orville-A,” haha); bad guys, the Krill (gosh, their name is even spelled close to Klingons), who appear to be highly-trained warriors but can’t shoot anything worth a damn; the Orville bridge setup and color-coded division uniforms; and probably even more I missed.

CLOSING THOUGHTS: Look, let’s not mince words here: ‘The Orville’ rides the extremely fine line of “homage” and “straight-up rip-off (with potty humor)” – but admittedly, this has been from Day One what series creator MacFarlane said he was going for.  I, for one, have decided to be cautiously optimistic about where this show could go moving forward.  After all, one pilot episode of a sci-fi series is not exactly a fair litmus test of a series’ potential, now is it? *cough-Encounter-at-Farpoint-cough*

PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:

Seth MacFarlane as Ed Mercer
Adrianne Palicki as Kelly Grayson
Penny Johnson Jerald as Dr. Claire Finn
Scott Grimes as Gordon Malloy
Peter Macon as Lt. Commander Bortus
Halston Sage as Alara Kitan
J. Lee as John LaMarr
Mark Jackson as Isaac

‘The Orville’ airs Sunday nights on Fox.

MOVIE REVIEW: “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” is Deliciously Irreverent

As the saying goes: everything old is new again. Whether it is trends in fashion, styles of music, or even the food and drink we put in our bodies (the “Paleo diet” is from how long ago?), our society has an interesting penchant for liking something, forgetting that something for a while when newer and flashier somethings come along, and finally rediscovering that something and saying “y’know, this something is actually pretty cool.” Even though a timeless work of fiction – such as a Jane Austen novel – is really never truly forgotten, sometimes it does take an infusion of a new idea to bring a classic “back to life,” as it were.

Ironic, then, that the catalyst to reanimate wide-scale interest in Austen’s bourgeois-eschewing “Pride & Prejudice” is a creature that is, by its own nature, reanimated in and of itself: the zombie. Yes, the separate components of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies may not break any new ground on their own, but when these two disparate pieces are “mashed up” together, they become much like Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat, with opposites attracting in the most delightfully random of ways. Continue reading MOVIE REVIEW: “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” is Deliciously Irreverent

MOVIE REVIEW: “The Last Witch Hunter” is Bewitchingly Entertaining

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The Last Witch Hunter is an intriguing entry into the world of cinematic fantasy genre.  While it doesn’t particularly revolutionize the way we see witches and warlocks nor does it herald “the next great franchise” of feature films, it is a solid tale packed with great special effects, excellent pacing, a presentation designed for an intellectual audience (relatively speaking, of course), and charming characters that are fairly believable in terms of their place in this witchy world.

Continue reading MOVIE REVIEW: “The Last Witch Hunter” is Bewitchingly Entertaining

MOVIE REVIEW: “Ant-Man” May Very Well Be Marvel’s Most Entertaining Film So Far

WARNING: Mild spoilers ahead – I did my best to keep quiet about the big stuff, but some parts of the film required a little explanation in the review.

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MV5BMjM2NTQ5Mzc2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTcxMDI2NTE@._V1_SX640_SY720_I know what you’re thinking – that’s a mighty bold statement you’re making there in the title, sailor.  Now hold up, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers, I’mma let you finish… but Ant-Man just may truly be one of the greatest Marvel films of all time.  Of all time!

How might this be possible, you might ask?  Well, these folks at Marvel, see, they’ve got this “fun hero movie” formula down to pretty much a science.  Ant-Man will likely resonate with movie-goers in one key way that flying superheroes, mega-powered aliens, and high-tech billionaire genius playboy philanthropists can’t – the “same level” department.  The “I can identify with that guy” department.  The honest-to-God, trying-my-best, life-is-hard-and-I-am-flawed human department.  That’s where Ant-Man lives.  Oh, and it’s really funny, too. Continue reading MOVIE REVIEW: “Ant-Man” May Very Well Be Marvel’s Most Entertaining Film So Far

Was the Maroon 5 “Sugar” Music Video Staged or Real?

There’s an old saying that goes “the truth is stranger than fiction.”  In the case of the ever-evolving saga of the story behind Maroon 5’s music video for their song “Sugar,” the lines between truth and fiction seem extremely blurred.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the video in question:

As a quick caveat before I dive full-on into this article: I’m not out to bash or “hate on” Maroon 5 or anything like that.  Regardless of whether you like or dislike the band for whatever reason (and the right to your opinion is certainly your own), it’s the story behind this uniquely-styled video that has captured a lot of attention. Continue reading Was the Maroon 5 “Sugar” Music Video Staged or Real?

REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy

I knew ‘em before they were famous.

The Guardians as I remember them from back in the '90s. SPOILER ALERT: you'll be seeing none of these characters in the movie.
The Guardians as I remember them from back in the ’90s. SPOILER ALERT: you’ll be seeing none of these characters in the movie.

For those that aren’t as deeply invested in comic-book lore as some of us (what do you expect – one of my first real jobs when I was 16 was in a comic book store, for cryin’ out loud… being knowledgeable about comics was literally my job), the newest cinematic offering from Marvel Comics, Guardians of the Galaxy, may seem a bit more “random” than you are prepared to handle: the film is only loosely connected to the existing Marvel Cinematic Universe that audiences have come to know and love, that of Iron Man, Captain America, and The Avengers fame (among others).  In fact, at this point, the only actual crossover that GotG has with the rest of the on-screen Marvel superhero crew is The Collector, an eccentric, intergalactic keeper of rare treasures and oddities; The Collector was seen in the mid-credits scene of Thor 2: The Dark World as he met with two of Thor’s compatriots and agreed to keep the powerful Aether – one of the six Infinity Stones – in his collection.  He appears in GotG in a slightly-expanded-but-still-fairly-ancillary role.

The Collector is an old-school comics character, making his first appearance all the way back in 1966, and has usually existed in the nebulous area of not quite a bad guy, per se, but not a hero, either.  Over the course of comic book history, he’s had run-ins with The Avengers, The X-Men, and – you guessed it – the Guardians of the Galaxy.  You see, much like the first two aforementioned teams, the Guardians have also been around in print for over 50 years.  From the ‘60s through the ‘90s, the team existed in the 31st Century, a band of intergalactic alien loners that come together to fight injustice (including one character, Major Victory, who possesses and uses Captain America’s very-old-but-very-functional indestructible shield).  These are the Guardians of the Galaxy I grew up with, and they spoke to me, since they combined two facets that I thought were totally tubular: superheroes and science fiction.

Still with me?  Good, although you don’t necessarily need to know all the above info about Guardians of the Galaxy to have a great time watching the film.  All you really need, quite frankly, are your eyes and your ears. Continue reading REVIEW: Guardians of the Galaxy