Category: Backstage Pass


Review by C.J. Bunce

For most television viewers, the names after a show scroll by without much notice.  But if you pay attention, you may find the writer of one of your favorite episodes is the writer of many of your favorites, which may point you to other series and episodes you’ve not seen yet that you may like.  You might not have heard of Paul Robert Coyle, but it’s likely that anyone who is a fan of one or more genre shows has watched the results of his work.  Or maybe you haven’t heard of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Star Trek Voyager, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Xena: Warrior Princess, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Superboy, The Dead Zone, Simon & Simon, or earlier detective and police series like The Streets of San Francisco, Barnaby Jones, Crazy Like a Fox, Jake and the Fat Man, and CHiPs.  Coyle wrote for these series, and readers of his new book Swords, Starships, and Superheroes: A TV Writer’s Life Scripting the Stories of Heroes may find he wrote some of their favorite episodes.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For a fan like me, Star Trek: Voyager was the definitive Star Trek series, the crew that most fully embraced Gene Roddenberry’s vision beyond the television series he created in 1966.  It featured a crew on a ship that explored like no crew before it, with only their available technology and their wits to survive.  Helmed by Kate Mulgrew’s personable yet tough Captain Kathryn Janeway, the crew would travel 70,000 light years home after being stranded in the Delta Quadrant.  The 25th anniversary of the launch of the series was 2020, and worthy of the celebration, authors Ben Robinson and Mark Wright have created the definitive behind the scenes account of the 1995-2001 series, Star Trek: Voyager–A Celebration, available now here at Amazon.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

After delivering a dozen Star Trek books, fiction and non-fiction, authors Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann are back in the franchise, this time covering the entire first two seasons of CBS All Access’s Star Trek: Discovery in their new book The Art of Star Trek: Discovery.  This is the latest concept art and film production book in a franchise of some of the best printed TV and film retrospectives.  Star Trek: Discovery, which led the newest chapter in the television Star Trek Universe (followed by Short Treks, Picard and Lower Decks), follows the exploits of Vulcan-raised science officer Michael Burnham and the crew of the U.S.S. Discovery as they boldly go where no one has gone before.  This book covers every corner of the series in an attractive hardcover full of great photographs.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In the hour-long second “season” of Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian–Making of Season 2, executive producer/director Jon Favreau says he hoped to bring all the kinds of Star Wars fans together for a special moment, and he seems to have done that in this year’s superb second season of The Mandalorian, although it’s difficult to compare Disney Gallery‘s eight-episode first season of behind the scenes glimpses to the single, albeit packed, episode fans got from Disney+ this year, released on Christmas Day.  As far as making all the groups of fans happy, expect that fans of the last episode’s special climactic scene won’t get to see a “making of” feature on that component yet.

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What inspired you this year to be a hero?

It’s been a heckuva year.  One of the major areas that got slighted because of the pandemic–because of job losses and attention to political and other matters–were donations to animal charities.  So we at borg are endorsing and hoping you’ll support all the worthy groups below that try to help those that can’t help themselves.  Please help give them a chance.

You don’t need superpowers to change the world.

You can change the world one dollar at a time.  And it may even help your own pocketbook if you make charitable contributions by the end of the month for your next tax filing.

So change the world.  Please support the following awesome organizations:

Wayside Waifs

Great Plains SPCA

Alley Cat Allies

Humane Society

ASPCA

Animal Rescue League

Bat Conservation International

American Anti-Vivisection Society

REGAP

Best Friends Animal Society Sanctuary

Frankie’s Friends

Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary

Check out these great charities today and give if you can.

C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg

It’s been another long year of great entertainment.  It’s time for the eighth annual round of new honorees for the borg Hall of Fame.  We have several honorees from 2020 films and television, plus you’ll find many from the past, and a peek at some from the future – 44 new borgs or updated variants in all, bringing the borg Hall of Fame total to 265.

You can always check out the updated borg Hall of Fame on our home page under “Know your borg.”

Some reminders about criteria.  Borgs have technology integrated with biology Wearing a technology-powered suit alone doesn’t qualify.  Tony Stark aka Iron Man was named an honoree because the Arc Reactor kept him alive, not because of his incredible tech armor.  The Spider-Man suit worn by Tom Holland is similar to Tony’s, but it’s not integrated with Peter Parker’s biology.

Also, if the creators tell us the characters are merely robots, automatons, or androids (as in Westworld, and as in the Synths of Star Trek: Picard, and the new Dark Troopers of The Mandalorian), we take their word for it.  Again, integration is key, but in the Hall, once a member, always a member.  

So let’s get on with it.  Who’s in for 2020?

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Our borg Best of 2020 list continues today with the Best in Comics and Games.  If you missed them, check out our review of the Best Books of 2020 here, the Best Movies of 2020 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2020 here, and the Best in Television 2020 here.

We reviewed comics from every major publisher this year, and were pleasantly surprised with all the new characters and content available.  You’ll find both some new creators on the list this year and some fan favorites who keep making better comic books each new year.  We also include some great games and more from 2020.

Let’s get started with The Best in Comics…

Best Comic Book Series – Bounty Hunters (Marvel Comics).  Writer Ethan Sacks and artist Paolo Villanelli played with the entire Star Wars universe in a single series, bringing back the cyborg Valance and a host of our favorite bounty hunters.  The result is a great series full of action and throwbacks.

Best Sci-Fi Comic Series, Best Limited Comic Book Series, Best Interior Artwork – Strayed (Dark Horse Comics) by writer Carlos Giffoni and artist Juan Doe.   In the future a military-industrial complex reigns over all humanity and actively destroys distant alien worlds.  The galaxy’s only hope can be found through an unlikely pair: an astral-projecting cat named Lou and his human Kiara.  Honorable mention: Rogue Planet by writer Cullen Bunn and artists Andy MacDonald and Nick Filardi (Oni Press).

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Our borg Best of 2020 list continues today with the Best Books of 2020.  If you missed them, check out our reviews of the Best Movies of 2020 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2020 here, and the Best in TV 2020 here.  Our list continues tomorrow with the Best Comics and Games of 2020.  And we wrap-up the year with our additions to the borg Hall of Fame later this month.

We reviewed more than 100 books that we recommended to our readers this year, and some even made it onto our favorites shelf.  We don’t publish reviews of books that we read and don’t recommend, so this shortlist reflects only this year’s cream of the crop.

So let’s get going!

Best Sci-Fi, Best Thriller Novel Hearts of Oak by Eddie Robson (Tor Books).  It’s a far-out science fiction novel with all the right notes of a good supernatural fantasy.  And it has an easy pace and an impending, looming darkness waiting ahead that will keep you planted firmly in your seat until you get to the last page.

Best Tie-In NovelBloodshot novelization by Gavin Smith (Titan Books).  A great update to the genre that began with Martin Caidin’s Cyborg, Smith creates an exciting, vivid novelization of the comic book character adapted to the big screen.  Honorable mention: Firefly: The Ghost Machine by James Lovegrove (Titan Books).

There are many more best book selections to go…

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Once a year at borg we ask: What makes a great screen heroine? It’s time for borg′s annual look at the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines in film and television.  Despite delays in releases due to the covid pandemic, nothing kept Hollywood from including great female characters on the screen, even if that meant moving movies to the small screen for a while. We’re highlighting the very best from a slate of fantastic heroines, with characteristics to learn from and root for.  Determined, decisive, loyal, brave, smart, fierce, strong, you’ll find no one here timid or weepy, but all rely on their individual skills to beat the odds and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.  Over the years we have expanded the list to include any tough, savvy, gritty character played by a woman, so villains are welcome here, too.  (Want to see previous years’ kickass genre heroines to see how 2020 compares?  Here are 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015). Some may be frazzled, put-upon, war-weary, or human, but all have fought, some against difficult circumstances, others against personal demons (literally, figuratively, or both), and some against gun and laser fire.  And they all showed what a tough, kick-ass, and often badass, character is about.

This year we add masked superheroines, a CDC epidemiologist, aliens, assassins, martial artists, warriors, cyborgs, a telephone operator, an engineer, a bounty hunter, and a frog and a pig–with a roster evenly split between television and movie characters. Credit goes to both the writers, costumers, and other creators of the characters and the actors and performers that brought them all to life.

These are the Best Kick-Ass Genre Heroines of 2020:

Bo-Katan Kryze (The Mandalorian, Star Wars: The Clone Wars).  In the animated series she would let nothing stand in her way. In a galaxy with villains like Grand Admiral Thrawn and Grand Moff Gideon, we’re lucky to have Bo-Katan on our side. Leading a team to find the Darksaber and restore Mandalore, she’s also willing to enlist a lone straggler, and help him for his efforts. With Katee Sackhoff, the actress behind Starbuck, in the armor, the coolness factor goes up by a factor of 100. Great heroines are great leaders, and, like Bo-Katan, they wield an incredible arsenal of skills. (Disney/Lucasfilm)

Nicole Haught in Wynonna Earp

Sheriff Nicole Haught (Wynonna Earp).  Katherine Barrell’s tough, savvy, and friendly sheriff is one of the best reasons to watch Wynonna Earp, now four seasons running. She’s the girlfriend of Wynonna’s sister Waverly, she is plugged into the local supernatural happenings, and she’s always available to lend a hand, when she’s not carrying out her sheriff duties. She’s an investigator who is loyal, driven, and smart. She’s also fun and friendly, making her the heart of the series. In a show about supernatural people, she holds her own as law enforcer simply by her own human wits. (Syfy)

Seven of Nine (Star Trek Picard).  More than forty years of Star Trek have revealed some exceptional women leaders. This year we were lucky to see the re-appearance of one of the best, a character who was captured as a child and trapped in what amounts to a technological cult. With the help of a strong captain, Seven was able to break free, and re-learn what it means to be human. This year that meant helping a legendary former admiral, avenge the death of her closest friend, and fight for good long after her call to duty. (CBS All Access)

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Over the Moon is Netflix’s latest achievement in animation, a Chinese-American production with Pearl Studio about a young girl named Fei Fei (meaning “to fly”) who decides to build a rocket to the moon.  The animation style is a mix of 1990s Disney, elaborate and surreal Fantasia-inspired sequences of color and texture, with doses of Japanese anime and kawaii characters while immersed in Chinese culture–and it’s a musical.   In a word the film is ambitious… in a good way.  At its best, visually the 3D CGI visual effects may recall the groundbreaking imagery of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.  The sweet and innocent girl’s story is built on the idea that a kid can actually build a ship to go into outer space (just as in the 1980s film Explorers).  But as with many animated movies, like Bambi and Dumbo, its focus is on the serious issue of overcoming grief, and in this case it’s moving on after the death of a parent, so the audience for the film may be a bit narrow.  To take Netflix viewers on a deeper journey, film critic and historian Leonard Maltin has written a behind the scenes look at the making of the film and its stunning artwork.  Below we have a preview of his Over the Moon: Illuminating the Journey for borg readers.

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