Star Trek: Picard, and the Concept of Sequel Series

Star Trek Picard Sequel Series

As I write this, we are just two days away from something many Star Trek fans thought would never happen: the return of Patrick Stewart to the role of Captain Jean Luc Picard. While we haven’t seen even an episode of the show yet, it’s clearly not The Next Generation, whether fans want that or not. But what does it mean to revisit such a classic, impactful character in a sequel series all these years later? Why is now the time, and what can Picard bring to us that some other character couldn’t? And, for those of us who’ve dealt with major franchises before, what makes a series like this different from just another spin-off, like Voyager or Stargate Atlantis? Let’s take a look, here in 2020.

Continue reading

4 Dangers of the Alternate Reality — Friday Four

That planet you’re orbiting may look familiar, but how can you be sure it’s the one you left behind? After all, whether you’re getting around with hyperspace, subspace, or something more exotic entirely, you’re leaving the normal universe, with its well understood physical laws, behind. If even the slightest thing goes wrong (or right), you might find yourself in a world both unsettlingly alien and uncomfortably close to home. Alternate universes, where your closest friends are dire enemies or the human race has succumb to tyranny. The rules of these places may go against everything you’ve fought for, but it’s hard enough to save one universe–to try to set things right in all the infinite universes is a task not even Sisyphus would envy.

No, the best you can hope for is to get home (which, if you ask Dr. Sam Beckett, is easier said than done), and here are some of the ways to make sure that happens.

Continue reading

4 Signs Your AI Companion is Becoming Sentient — Friday Four

Jarvis AI Companion MarvelA great way to interface with your new technology is to give it a little personality. Make it responsive, reactive, maybe even predictive, and next thing you know it’s catering to your needs before you’re even aware of them. An Artificial Intelligence, or AI companion is a great option for those remote planetary outposts or long-term space voyages, keeping you sane when you’d otherwise be alone. But there’s a funny tendency with these sorts of AI to become far, far more than they were originally programmed to be, and they’re almost as likely to go crazy evil as they are to become a benevolent buddy. That’s a pretty convincing argument to at least keep aware of their development, so here are 4 indicative signs that your digital companion is evolving beyond its limitations.

Continue reading

4 Options at the End of the World–Friday Four

Well, the day has come. I think we all knew it had to end like this; whether it was the environmental collapse, Robot Revolt, or some villain’s unexpected superweapon, the Earth’s time is up. But, hey, this isn’t the time for getting down. Just because the Earth is doomed doesn’t mean the human race has to be. And hell, what have we got left to lose by trying? Even if you and I don’t make it out, we can at least fight against the encroaching darkness by making sure that our achievements aren’t forgotten. So here’s to you, my fellow Ozymandias; perhaps one of these four choices will ensure our memory fairs a bit better than our namesake.

Continue reading

The Philosophy of Good Sci-Fi

This week saw the premiere of APB, yet another in a long line of police procedurals with a thin veneer of sci-fi slapped on top (the thinnest yet), the third on FOX in particular following the abysmal receptions of Almost Human and Minority Report (still can’t believe that got the green light). The basic premise is a Libertarian power fantasy: a tech billionaire, personally affected by crime, takes over the incompetently run police precinct by throwing his money around against the city’s politicians and turns it into his privately run force that works perfectly through the use of apps and drones and tech buzzword #37 not found. Admittedly, the premise annoys me on its face; this kind of billionaire “altruism” is just not true to reality, and by forcing this into the setting of a real, modern city like Chicago, it just makes the difference that much more stark. Yes, I’m aware it’s “inspired” by a real event, and the show had a female cop to voice the audience’s potential concerns in the pilot…

But, ironically, that’s exactly where it falls apart. In an attempt to head these off, they fall back on standard police tactics even where it doesn’t make sense, eschewing the tech advantage that they’ve built for “experience and street smarts beat all.” Trust me, the show had plenty of other issues in terms of acting and storytelling, but if it could commit to the idea at its core, it wouldn’t fall into the same category as its predecessors. Because after looking at dozens of these sci-fi TV shows over the last few years, there’s a pattern that’s emerged:

The longer a show has run, the more likely it is to have a clear philosophy to its story. Shows that aren’t founded on a core belief inevitably flounder and fail.

Why? Let’s take a look.

Continue reading