Episode 188: Meanwhile back on DS9…

April 15, 2014

Vintage Television

It’s been a while since we’ve talked about our stay on Deep Space Nine. Frankly, we didn’t have much to say. It was okay, but everything else we’d recently watched seemed more interesting to talk about. More interesting, that is, until we were slapped in the face with Season 5. 

On the episode, we reference GraphTV, a site that graphically tracks the IMDB ratings of any TV series. Mandi claimed it proves Voyager is the better series. Though the numbers do bear this out, it’s not so clear cut once you begin to dig into the data.

DEEP SPACE NINE

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Episodes rated 8.5 or greater : 15
Episodes in the mean range (7.00-8.49) : 104
Episodes rated 6.5 or less : 20
Episodes rated <6.0 : 5

VOYAGER

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Episodes rated 8.5 or greater : 8
Episodes in the mean range (7.0-8.49) : 112
Episode rated 6.5 or less : 16
Episodes rated <6.0 : 2

What we see from the data is that DS9 has higher peaks and valleys than Voyager. While it boasts 7 more episodes which rated 8.5 or better, Voyager has fewer in the negative range (6.5 or less), and only 2 in the terrible episode range (<6) compared to DS9’s whopping 5. Voyager also does better within the mean range (7.0-8.49) by a count of 8 episodes, which indicates a greater consistency over the course of the series.

For my money, middle-ground consistency is is more important than exemplary episodes coupled with a greater number of teeth-gnashingly substandard ones.

It is also a matter of objective taste. Many of the highly ranked DS9 episodes, I simply do not care for. Of the three highest rated episodes (8.9) “The Visitor” is the single DS9 episode I’ve felt ranks along side the best of the Trek franchise. “Duet” was oh-kay, but ultimately forgettable (I know it has something to do with Cardassians). Remove the digital gimmickry and fan-pandering in-jokes from the third, “Trials and Tribble-ations“, and what you have it’s a pretty substandard episode. Set it as a typical away mission on a contemporary space station and I’m sure we’d find it in the <6.5 category. Of course, the whole point was Forrest Gumping TOS for ratings so… mission accomplished?

I’d also put forward that as bad as Voyager‘s lowest rated episode, “Threshold” (aka “Salamander Lovin’“) is a far more watchable episode than DS9’s abysmal “…Nor the Battle to the Strong” which, despite unfathomably being granted a 7.4 (this says a lot about DS9 fans), is hands-down the worst single episode of Trek I’ve ever witnessed.

Not captured in the data is the small question of acting ability. Though Robert Duncan McNeill, Robert Beltran and Garrett Wang consistently phoned in uninspiring performances, they never made me feel sorry them as actors or human beings. The performances of Alexander Siddig, Nana Visitor, Rosalind Choa, Cirroc Lofton and, most often, Avery Brooks consistently cause me to cringe from head to toe. Watching any episode that’s heavy on one of their characters is an endurance test where I see how long I can hover my finger over the “pause” button before I plunge it down and run from the room. 

Statistics can be twisted to benefit whichever side of an argument suits you, but in our books the advantage goes to Voyager.

Other links referenced in the episode:

Racism in Game of Throneshttp://artthreat.net/2013/06/game-of-thrones-and-racist-fantasy/

What is your Geek Rating: http://www.buzzfeed.com/awesomer/what-level-geek-are-you

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Episode 175: Hemlock Grove

August 30, 2013

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Hemlock Grove is perhaps the truest definition of a “Netflix Folly” in that it’s a “Netflix Original” series so any lack of quality is the sole fault of Netflix. I talked about the series briefly a few posts ago thinking I’d washed my hands of this dog’s breakfast of a teen horror soap. I wrote:

A Netflix original version of Twi-Blood-Diaries. We watched a whole four episodes before giving up. It wasn’t bad exactly but they were really dragging out the story at about a 2:1 episode to plot point ratio. Actually by episode three it felt like they’d told about one episode’s worth of story. One thing Mandi appreciated was finally there was some vampire enjoying menstrual cunnilingus action—a “sexy vampire” genre pet peeve of her’s is that they never indulge in this obvious opportunity. Anyway, sometimes I think about watching another episode and then… don’t bother.

It turns out I did end up bothering to return to Hemlock Grove a few days after posting the above having found myself in need of something to watch while I ate dinner when Mandi was away for a few days. So I watched another episode, cringed, watched another the next day, sneered, watched another… and so on.

When Mandi returned from her trip, she found herself in the unfortunate position of being forced to watch the remain three episodes with me, I’d passed the point of no return and needed to know how it ended. Welcome home, Mandi.

At this point I’d like to rescind a statement in my previous review: “It wasn’t bad exactly…”

Hemlock Grove really is exactly bad.

It’s partly because they took a book that was more suited to a six episode mini-series and stretched it out to a full 13 episode season. Yet they somehow still manage to rush the ending in the final two episodes. I’ll admit this is only a theory as I haven’t read the book, but I’ve placed a hold on it at the library in order to do a proper comparison—and to answer some lingering questions I have about the plot.

These pacing issues are a good deal of the problem with the series. Also that every second or third scene feels like a non sequitur as characters embark on courses of action for which writers seem to have forgotten to establish solid motivations. It’s unclear if this is a script problem, an issue with the actors’ performances, or if a bunch of interconnecting dialogue ended up on the cutting room floor (or never got shot) for whatever reason.

It doesn’t help the two male leads spend every scene they’re in together trying to out-James Dean each other. The palpable “too cool for school” disinterest in everything that surrounds them makes it difficult to buy their investment in their “quest” to find the rogue werewolf terrorizing the town. The  effect isn’t unique to them, all the characters seem to merely be drifting through life in a state of blasé detachment. Of course this is something that could have had a legitimate narrative or thematic purpose if done artfully.

But it wasn’t.


Episode 171: CATS

June 13, 2013

Download cat podcast!

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CATS! They might not be “man’s best friend” but they sure are the Internet’s best friend.

If you’re one of those (unfortunate) people who are instinctively mistrustful of cats, we also discuss two very different DS9 episodes (“Melora” and “Necessary Evil“) in the final third of the show.

Our listeners have already pointed out something great we didn’t talk about: BBC‘s Secret Life of the Cat. Even the website is pretty great.

Also pretty awesome: Cats With Owl Faces.

But more awesome? OMG CATS IN SPACE.

And just because we can, here are our cats, clockwise from top left: Quita, Bartleby, Cardi, Bartleby, Pan, Bartleby, Quita.

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More: Bartleby, Eddie (neighbour’s cat), Bartleby, Pan, Bartleby, Pan

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Their iPad masterpiece created in situ on the podcast (suitable for framing)!

Our cats' painting!

BRING ON THE CAT VIDEOS!

Sad Cat Diary

Henri, the French existentialist cat

Maru compilation


Episode 170: Close Encounters of the 8 Extra-Super Terrestrial Goonies

June 6, 2013

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We decided to stay on the J.J. Abrams train for another episode to cover his 2011 Spielberg homage, Super 8. Surprisingly, it’s not a derailed disaster like the train the film—but does it live up to the source material?

ALSO IN THIS EPISODE: We talk about Deep Space Nine in the first of our promised installments on the popular TNG spin-off.

I’d avoided Super 8 for three reasons. 1) J. 2) J. and 3) Abrams.

Which may or may not be fair. I was also under the impression general consensus was the film completely fall apart by the second act. But I thought Super 8 was actually pretty fantastic. I mean, given that there is less than a single original idea in the whole film.

It far surpasses homage to being a direct mash-up of producer Spielberg’s E.T., The Goonies and Close Encounters and Abrams’ own Cloverfield. If you wanted to be generous, you could use another French word, bricolage, to describe the creative process here. Basically the exact same approach that hampered Star Trek Into Darkness (not so much an homage to Wrath of Khan but a wholesale pillaging and re-purposing).

In Super 8 though, the approach works really well. Perhaps more so than any other film or TV endeavor Abrams has managed to tell a solid story with three-dimensional characters who act in a psychologically believable way, with a minimum of WTF plot points and continuity flaws (Why, oh why, did the truck carrying the white cubes come back into town?).

Perhaps Spielberg (not credited as a writer, though basically he should have been since he wrote pretty much all the source material) helped him out a lot more than was let on. I can’t remember what the criticisms leveled at the film were exactly, but I can’t help feel they must have been fueled by a post-Lost Abrams backlash. I can fully appreciate that, like I said, this is why I avoided it myself (Mandi avoided it because she thought it’d be all hand-held shaky-cam like in Cloverfield). A part of me even wanted to downright hate the film with a white-hot intensity.

But the negativity makes no sense if you watch the film objectively. Without the baggage Abrams’ name (and Spielberg’s for that matter) carries, the film is a solid coming-of-age-boy-and-his-alien-friends-sticking-together-flick (The most convoluted movie sub-genre ever?).

I’m willing to surrender to the inevitable complete lack of originality in the films of the upcoming decade (and beyond) if they’re made this well. 


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