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Westworld Season 1 – Comparative Opinions S.2 E.8

Welcome to the Comparative Opinions podcast! We’ve been teasing this one out, but it’s time! Our review discussion of Westworld season 1! We try and fail to do much spoiler-free talk, but hopefully we have some good spoilery material for those of you who watched the first season and want a refresher.

Comparative Opinions is a weekly half-hour-ish podcast hosted on ComparativeGeeks.com. Subscribe for new episodes every Sunday, or for our weekly news podcast, Week in Geek.

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Music is by Scott Gratton: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Scott_Gratton/Intros_and_Outros

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Westworld Throwback Thursday -Episode 8: Trace Decay & Episode 9: The Well-Tempered Clavier

Getting closer to the end of the Season 1 flashbacks – and soon enough, on to Season 2! Make sure to let Jeremy know if you’d like to see him do this again for Season 2.


Good day, everyone! Apologies for the delays in getting you all new Westworld content. We’re now hours from the final stretch leading up to the first season finale, and though there will be more Westworld posts coming from me during the off season, these last two episode posts will be something of an artifact moving forward, what with all the speculation and fan theories. That said, shall we dive right in?

A lot has been happening in recent weeks as we are pointed toward the end of this leg of the journey, so I will attempt to remain focused on a handful of characters whose stories have felt paramount to me. Let’s look at Dolores, Bernard, and Maeve—the three most important hosts in the story, as far as we have seen.

Across capture by Logan and William’s personal evolution into a darker and crueler person (the beginnings of the Man in Black, anyone?), Dolores has stood out as a potential representative of the several timelines at play within the story. With a host’s perfect recall, she has simultaneously witnessed several iterations of herself traveling a specific path toward the center of the Maze, if her eventual meeting with Arnold in episode nine is seen that way. If not, where does she have left to go, now that the Man in Black has arrived?

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Dolores finds the “real” Arnold deep within her memories.

On the topic of Arnold, we now know definitively that Ford created Bernard to replace his deceased friend Arnold (apparently murdered by Dolores, if her memories hold true). It is unclear how many times Bernard has discovered his identity as a host, but it is clear he has and that some of his memories from previous iterations are bleeding through, like with the older hosts (such as Dolores and Maeve).

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Maeve reveals to Hector that the safe was always empty.

Maeve is truly the host to watch in the finale. Felix and Sylvester have upgraded her to the point where she is effectively a goddess when free in the park. Her ability to understand and control other hosts has evolved to the point where she can even see the reality of Bernard’s identity, and she sets him free to seek answers from Ford. The fact that Bernard (possibly permanently dead after his confrontation with Ford) does nothing to try hindering Maeve after all of this means she has free range to recruit an army and march on her creators/captors—surely the great action of the finale.

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Clementine holds a gun on Ford, per Bernard’s orders.

All of that said, where do we go next? What other revelations are you looking forward to tonight? What other characters are you watching? I suppose we’ll finally get a revelation of the Man in Black’s identity as well. We shall see. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below and keep coming back to my posts on Comparative Geeks in Westworld’s off-season for more content, speculation, retrospectives, and even memes and artwork collections. We’ll make it to the next season in 2018. Keep the faith until then.

3 Things to Enjoy and Watch for in Westworld – Throwback Thursday

With Westworld season 2 coming up, and with Holly and David having recently watched the show, it’s time to start getting hype about this show again! Expect a Comparative Opinions on Westworld season 1 soon, but for now, it’s time to re-run Jeremy’s season 1 recap/reminder reviews! Here’s the first one, from after the first two episodes aired.


Caution! Potential spoilers for the first two episodes of Westworld follow.

Good day, everyone! I don’t know about any of you, but I’m already pretty taken with HBO’s new series Westworld, based on the 1973 film written by Michael Crichton. I watch several television shows pretty regularly, and this one looks like a good one to hold onto Game of Thrones’s slot in its off season. In fact, and as discussed in a recent Wired article, where Game of Thrones has offered a more grounded introduction to fantasy (limiting early magic use, keeping fantastic creatures under wraps for a time, etc.), Westworld may offer a similar introduction for mainstream audiences to science fiction. After all, and not to sound too tongue-in-cheek, but Westworld is rather “grounded” science fiction—there are no spaceships, no breathtaking otherworldly planetscapes, no unfamiliar aliens meant to make us look at ourselves and be ashamed. In fact, Westworld does quite well in its own right exploring this final theme, as I shall discuss below.

The Top Three Things I’m Enjoying and Looking Forward to in Westworld:

Foremost, the rise of artificial intelligence. This has been a popular topic in science fiction since at least as early as the days of Asimov. Westworld is an immersive resort designed by Dr. Robert Ford, played by Anthony Hopkins. The resort is filled with hundreds of “hosts,” robotic actors designed by Ford and constantly reprogrammed and upgraded by him over the course of 30 years. At this stage in their development, the hosts, foremost among them Dolores Abernathy (the stereotypical Old West maiden with iron in her spine, played by Evan Rachel Wood), her father (played by Louis Herthum), and Maeve Millay (the Old West madame implanted with memories of a traumatizing past, played by Thandie Newton), have begun exhibiting behaviors and retaining memories not in keeping with their programming. Indeed, trauma and memory run heavily throughout the story, as the hosts are repeatedly exploited, sexually abused, and even murdered by wealthy human guests who come to the largely lawless Westworld on vacation.

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Dolores Abernathy, played by Evan Rachel Wood

Next, the old trope of providing an example of humanity’s ugliness in something otherwise unfamiliar has been used in science fiction since before the original Star Trek. Here, however, that old paradigm is tossed on its head; humanity itself is the greedy villain, the monster (currently expressed best in Ed Harris’s Man in Black), and its robotic creations are its victims. (See this recent article on Tor.com that says a bit more about this in light of the original movie’s implicit themes). There’s a strong parallel with the reimagined Battlestar Galactica here, and if you enjoyed the ways in which evolving artificial intelligence were presented there, you’ll also enjoy Westworld. These machines also have the added bonus of actually being sympathetic, unlike the militant Cylons. I am eagerly awaiting to see how these two points play out across the life of the series, and I hope that it lasts longer than a single season.

Third, a lighthearted point—this show has some of the best opening credits I’ve seen in a long time. Check them out below. I’m curious to see how the symbolism in them plays out as the show’s story progresses.

As of the publication of this post, the first two episodes of Westworld should be widely available from HBO. From here on out, I plan on doing an episode-by-episode review each week, so be sure to stop back by. Thanks for reading!

A Second Year of Watching Star Trek (Sort Of)

Two years ago, I realized that if I watched an episode a day, I could get through all the many Star Trek series in two years, and decided to try it. Grad school and life continued to happen, so I didn’t get anywhere close to an episode a day, but in that first year I got through the whole original series, read a few things, went to a convention, and generally had a great time. I thought it would be reasonable to watch all of The Next Generation in 2017, and maybe do some more cons or events, but haaaaa, I didn’t. I got halfway through TNG season one and every month swore up and down that I’d get started again, and now it’s 2018 and I haven’t.

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Instead, I’ve been reading and playing games and watching documentaries and all kinds of other peripheral things. You can tell from the kinds of monthly posts I’ve been putting up:

 

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Look at this stinkin’ cute Q-Pop Spock

My favorite post from last year was Data, Spock, and Star Trek Emotions, and that also began as a response to a Trek-related nonfiction book. Plus I’ve been reading original-series cast memoirs and funny books (Star Trek Cats) and buying merch when I can. And, if I’m honest… I’ve still been generally having a great time. There are advantages to being in a huge fandom, and one is all the stuff you can do besides just watch the same thing over and over. I loved Trek novels when I was a kid, but it had probably been a decade since I’d read any, and this is the first time I’ve really branched out into the comic books.

 

I talked about my favorite comic books in the “Where can I get more episodes” and “comic book crossovers” posts above, and Killing Time is definitely a new favorite novel, but I also started Diane Duane’s Rihannsu series about the Romulans and am loving not only the Romulans (my favorite Trek race) but also the sense of strangeness and mundanity she gives to Starfleet. It’s like a more-realistic version of the original series and it’s great. Not to mention the Vulcan travel guide, which I reviewed on my book review blog and am still trying to convince other fans to read because it’s amazing.

Anyway, I’m happy to have read all the books I got through last year, but I miss the actual show and I still want to see everything. I’ve seen precious little of the later series, to be such a Trekkie. 2018 is, once again, the year of TNG! Wish me luck!

Really Strange New Worlds: Star Trek Comic Book Crossovers

Most of the time, crossovers between fictional properties are the stuff of fanfiction. In comics, though, they’re a longstanding tradition. In some cases, like with Star Trekthere are comics based on a TV show or movie, and the medium allows for some interesting mashups we’d never get to see otherwise. These can be a little tricky to find or hear about, but Star Trek has five that I know of, ranging from natural teamups to more unexpected combinations:

  1. Star Trek: The Next Generation / Doctor Who: Assimilation2 by Scott and David Tipton – This 2012 crossover comes in two collected volumes, although the second is a little harder to come by. It’s probably the most natural combination on this list, being two of the most famous sci-fi TV shows ever, and seeing as how the Doctor can appear pretty much anywhere and have it pretty much make sense. The dialogue is in character and the art actually looks like the people, plus I love that they worked in a Tom Baker/TOS crossover flashback and how the art changed for the “past.” I haven’t been able to read the second volume, though, so I can’t say how it works as a whole story.
  2. Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War by Mike Johnson – Six issues, collected in one volume in 2016. MY FAVORITE of all five, because it’s not just an interesting crossover, it’s a fantastic book. I expected the usual thing where everyone misunderstood each other and Hal punched the Enterprise or whatever, but it’s more thoughtful than that. It starts simple and slowly adds characters so you can appreciate the different dynamics involved. You get to see the Trek characters with rings, of course, and it never gets hung up on how “unlikely” it is or sucks up time with characters demanding explanations, it just happens and tells a whole story. It goes big stakes, but simple plot, which is ideal for a limited-time thing like this, BUT it actually doesn’t reset to normal at the end, it starts its own continuity! I haven’t read the second volume yet, it only came out in September.
  3. Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes by Chris Roberson – Six issues, collected in one volume in 2013. I’m a little disappointed in this one, because it could’ve been a really interesting exercise. Both stories are about hopeful, technological futures driven by humanism. Plus it puts both sets of heroes into a universe new to both of them, a creative idea that works really well here, but there’s no depth to the character interactions. And Kirk is gross to Shadow Lass, which is not cool at all. They do the usual reset to status quo at the end.
  4. Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive by Scott and David Tipton –  This one is a five-issue volume from 2015, and it starts off great. The Tiptons do a great job of creating a TOS-episode atmosphere — after all, discovering incredibly Earthlike planets with slightly different development is par for the course in TOS. Unfortunately it spends a lot of time on buildup and then just fizzles out into nothing (although I did like the little twist at the end). This is the comic that provided this post’s entirely appropriate featured image.
  5. Planet X by Michael Jan Friedman – The oldest and perhaps oddest of the bunch, this is a 1998 novel crossing Next Generation with the X-Men. I’m including it here not only because it started my childhood obsession with the X-Men and later love of comics, but also because it follows on early TOS/ and TNG/X-Men one-shot comics, which I haven’t been able to purchase as yet. It’s kind of a boring book re-reading it now, but I loved it back in the day, and it avoids all the comic book problems of not enough characterization and no continuity or lasting effects. So, it’s worth a go for novelty alone.

Did I miss any? And which unread items are worth pursuing? Info-share in the comments.