Category: Backstage Pass


To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek Voyager, the bridge crew of USS Voyager (NCC-74656) will be making an online appearance this week.  Together virtually, an online panel will feature Captain Kathryn Janeway, Commander Chakotay, Lt. B’Elanna Torres, Lt. Tom Paris, Neelix, the EMH, and Ensign Kim, along with Seven of Nine, who recently joined Captain Picard in the Star Trek Picard series.  That’s right, the actors that portrayed these characters are reuniting for charity.  And it’s all happening via YouTube.

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The sestras are returning.  BBC America’s sci-fi drama Orphan Black ran five seasons, wrapping in 2017, but the key cast members and creators will be back Sunday, this time online for a table read of two episodes of the series.  Tatiana Maslany, who earned an Emmy for her role as several clones, is leading the effort, along with actors Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jordan Gavaris, Kristian Bruun, Kevin Hanchard, Dylan Bruce, Evelyne Brochu, and more.  Based on the episodes selected, expect some great scenes with fan-favorite couples Donnie and Alison and Delphine and Cosima.  And it’s all to raise money for charity.

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We watched them get the band back together the first time with Muppet Guys Talking, a fun documentary we discussed two years ago here at borg.  Now not even sheltering at home will hold back the fun-loving Muppet Guys, who are returning once again to share some more about Muppet creator Jim Henson, and the incredible creative process and their experience as Muppet performers, all while earning some money for front-line COVID-19 workers.  Part in honor of Jim Henson, who passed away 30 years ago, and part reason to get some of our favorite people back together virtually, it’s all happening this Saturday, and everyone is invited.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Gears Tactics is only the latest in the universe of Gears of War games, and Titan Books has just published a look inside the concept artwork and development of the story in their latest tour backstage into a popular sci-fi/fantasy franchise.  A partnership of The Coalition, Splash Damage, and Xbox, Gears Tactics: The Art of the Game brings players and fans up to speed on the return of fan-favorite central character Gabriel Diaz.  The key challenge for the designers?  How to update and refresh the universe and still make everything look and feel as fully “Gears” as the past games in the catalog.

In the game, players create and operate a team of heroes and regular troop characters, who occupy a mobile base called The Convoy.  A prequel set 12 years before the first Gears of War game, the campaign is a 40-hour excursion to defeat the villain called Ukkon.  But you must get through the Locust Horde first.  It’s a mix of fantasy monsters of the J.R.R. Tolkien realm and sci-fi troops of the Aliens variety.  The development of the game, as seen in Gears Tactics: The Art of the Game, is as complex as any major movie project.  Readers will find all the try-ons and also-rans in the development of character faces, stances, uniforms, and vehicles as you’d expect from any fully-realized, visual fantasy world.

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picard

Now that the series has wrapped, a new hardcover book from Titan is taking a look at the long-awaited return of Patrick Stewart as beloved Star Trek Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Via a series of interviews with cast members and key crew, Star Trek: Picard–The Official Collector’s Edition provides fans of the CBS All Access streaming service show Star Trek: Picard with insight into the latest generation of Starfleet tales.  Now a retired admiral, Picard sets off on what might be a lost cause, protecting a young woman who may have ties to Data, the android who gave his life to save Picard the last time we saw the characters on the big screen in 2002’s Star Trek Nemesis.

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loresmyrtle2

We have a cover reveal today for borg readers!  Take a look at this great cover by Brett Helquist, artist for A Series of Unfortunate Events and other great covers and picture books.  It’s for Elizabeth C. Bunce′s second novel in her Myrtle Hardcastle Mysteries series, How to Get Away with Myrtle.  As a result of prioritization by distributors and national shipping companies of food and other staples due to the pandemic crisis response, How to Get Away with Myrtle will now join the first book in the series, Premeditated Myrtle, to launch together as Fall 2020 releases, debuting October 6 (both are now available for pre-order here at Amazon).  “I didn’t think I could love a cover more than Brett’s first for the series, and then… Wow!  Here we are with the cover for Book 2 already,” said Elizabeth.  “We shared some ideas back and forth through the Algonquin publicity team.  I love the complimentary color orange following that purple theme from Book 1.  Putting that great locomotive out front sets the stage for this adventure, along with the image of the seaside resort as if it were pulled right off the brochure for the excursion service referenced in the novel.  And, of course, Peony the Cat sneaked her way onto the cover again!  Now that we have two paintings from Brett, it’s really fun for me to see both covers side by side.”

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Dark crystal exhibit

Today only, the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, GA, is offering a free virtual tour of Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: World of Myth and Magic, an exhibit scheduled at the Atlanta facility through June 28, 2020, but is now temporarily closed to foot traffic because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Museum director Jill Nash Malool will be presenting the tour online at the Center for Puppetry Arts page on Facebook here.  It all happens today, Friday, April 10, at 2 p.m. EST/1 p.m. CST.

The exhibit revealed on the virtual tour features more than 50 props and other artifacts from 1982’s classic fantasy film The Dark Crystal, including the actual Jen, Podlings, Skeksis, and Aughra used in the movie.  Original Brian Froud artwork, animatronic prototypes, and other props, artifacts, and ephemera from the film are part of the exhibit.

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The museum invites fans of the film and last year’s groundbreaking television series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, into the imaginative world of Thra.  The exhibition discusses how the movie was a passion project for Jim Henson and how he needed the fantastical work of Brian Froud to make it come to fruition.  It explores the intricate artistry that went into the creation of the world brought to life in the 1982 film that would become a lasting influence on the fantasy genre, including films like the Star Wars franchise, Jurassic Park, and more.

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iss_5If there was a best time to be off-planet it would seem to be right now, right?  Commander Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos and NASA Flight Engineers Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir are the three astronauts of Expedition 62 currently working aboard the International Space Station, in its 20th year of consistently-manned orbit around Earth.  Morgan launched into space July 20, 2019, for an extended duration mission, and Meir and Skripochka left for the space station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft on Sept. 25, 2019, all well in advance of the current COVID-19 threat.  To date the ISS has been visited by–lived in by–239 men and women from 19 countries.  Follow Meir @Astro_Jessica and Morgan @AstroDrewMorgan via Twitter for advice on living happily in isolation, and get a look at some of the scientific research they have accomplished on their mission.

The next trio of space travelers is scheduled to take off for the International Space Station tomorrow, April 9.  They have been in quarantine with the space programs increasing their already rigorous disinfection and inspection protocols in light of the current pandemic.  NASA has not released detailed protocols should an astronaut be found to have COVID-19 during the mission, however, the ISS is stocked with a small pharmacy full of pharmaceuticals, including advanced equipment that could be used to intubate an astronaut if necessary.

 

NASA TV will provide live coverage of the crew’s launch and arrival at the orbiting laboratory (also available on the NASA website).  NASA astronaut Christopher Cassidy, and Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of the Russian space agency Roscosmos are set to launch aboard the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:05 a.m. CDT (1:05 p.m. Kazakhstan time).  After the four-orbit, six-hour journey to the space station, the new crew members will dock at 9:16 a.m. CDT.  They will join Skripochka, Morgan, and Meir, who are scheduled to complete their station mission and return to Earth April 17 on the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft, which will land in Kazakhstan.

To catch Cassidy, Morgan, and Meir live, check out a teleconference at 9:45 a.m. CDT Friday, April 10.  The teleconference will stream on NASA TV and the NASA website, with the astronauts answering questions from orbit.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you’re a fan of hard-hitting science fiction and noir of the Blade Runner variety, your top pick for binge-watching this month should be the first seasons of Altered Carbon (reviewed here and here at borg).  Abbie Bernstein, author of several film and TV tie-in books arrives with her latest book, Altered Carbon: The Art and Making of the Series.  In design and layout, this is the next book in the series of behind-the-scenes studies of top-level sci-fi television series from Titan Books that includes The World of the Orville (reviewed here) and The Man in the High Castle: Creating the Alt World (reviewed here).

Unapologetically pulling its look and feel from the original Blade Runner, the creators of Altered Carbon made a world that could easily be a spin-off of the Philip K. Dick realm, a region just north of the cityscapes in Ridley Scott and Syd Mead’s futuristic dystopia.  Altered Carbon: The Art and Making of the Series is not a look at the concept art, but full coverage of the first two seasons of the series as seen through the eyes of the writers, cast, production designers, costume designers, stunt department, visual effects artists, and more.  Based on a trilogy of books from novelist Richard K. Morgan, the challenge for series creator Laeta Kalogridis and second season showrunner Alison Schapker and a team of writers was how to split up the novels between seasons.  Pulling Morgan into the writers room they based season one on the first novel and the theme “what does it mean to be human”–a common theme of many sci-fi stories–but more loosely adapted the next two books into the second season, focusing more on the love story between lead character Takeshi Kovacs and his former leader Quellcrist Falconer, asking, “Can love between two people survive, even for centuries?”

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Bernstein doesn’t hold back any content or story arc, digging into the relationships between characters, taking apart key sequences, and highlighting dozens of the series’ key characters, including accounts from the actors.  Because of the significant physical combat sequences among the major cast, the actors joined their stunt performers in daily sessions to bring greater believability to the visual effects elements.  Readers can expect hundreds of full-color photographs, including set photographs, film stills, and an entire chapter of sample storyboards from the series.

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Sam and Gene

My name is Sam Tyler.  I had an accident, and I woke up in 1973.  Am I mad, in a coma, or back in time?  Whatever’s happened, it’s like I’ve landed on a different planet.

First off, it’s really going to rile some people when you pronounce something the greatest ever.  But we’re talking here about the British television series Life on Mars.  And not just Life on Mars, but The Empire Strikes Back of television series, Ashes to Ashes.  You can quibble with M*A*S*H or Law and Order or Buffy the Vampire Slayer or The Twilight Zone, or engage you people over there shouting Firefly and Supernatural and the others over there fighting over the best Star Trek series–but we’re talking about Life on Mars here.  And if you’ve watched its two seasons in 2006 and 2007, or the three seasons of Ashes to Ashes from 2008 to 2010, then the news that another chapter of the series is in the works is the kind of happy news that can actually distract you from the real world right now.

Yet it’s true.  Life on Mars co-creator Matthew Graham confirmed it all yesterday as part of a Twitter “watch-along” of the first episode of the genre-bending series for the UK audience.  Graham first hinted at the possibility in a Tweet he posted Tuesday promoting the event, and he provided more details after the show.  Just like over the past 15 years, Brits posted how much they loved the series, how they believe it to be the best series ever made.  The series follows John Simm (Doctor Who, State of Play) as Sam Tyler, a British cop in 2006 who is working on a case when he is hit by a car.  He awakens in the same police station 33 years earlier, in the year 1973.  He knows he’s unstuck in time, but unsure how he got there.  Is he in a coma?  Did something supernatural take over?  Is this what death is like?  This is where the genre-bending begins.  Until you’ve watched all five years of episodes, you won’t really know what is the true genre behind the genres hinted at in the series.  Tyler befriends and shares his situation only with co-worker Annie Cartwright, played by Liz White (Doctor Who, The Woman in Black).  He finds he is now working under the cantankerous Detective Police Inspector Gene Hunt, played by Philip Glenister (Cranford, Horatio Hornblower), one of my picks of the greatest characters of all time (seriously, I wrote about it here eight years ago).  DCI Hunt becomes the centerpiece of this strange world, continuing past the second season of Life on Mars to co-star in the same role in Ashes to Ashes along with Keeley Hawes (Doctor Who, The Bank Job), a police officer named Alex Drake who is shot in 2008 and wakes up in 1981.  Life on Mars continued with Ashes to Ashes much like The Closer continued with the series Major Crimes for U.S. audiences, swapping out the lead roles, but continuing with the rest of the cast.  Here that included two other cops, played by Dean Andrews (Father Brown, Marchlands) and Marshall Lancaster (Doctor Who, Casualty) who appeared in all five seasons.

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During yesterday’s watch-along, Graham peppered Twitter with glimpses at what lies ahead in what he called, The Final Chapter.  Although he didn’t say if any actors had confirmed returning, it seems impossible anyone would make this announcement without buy-in from Glenister, Simm, Hawes, White, Andrews, and Lancaster.  To that point he said, “we intend to get as many back (across both decades) as we can.  So when you wonder who will be coming back for The Final Chapter – think Avengers Assemble!”  He specifically referenced wanting Annie (Liz White) back, and Hunt’s boss DCI Litton.  Graham mentioned the series will be set in Manchester and London, partially in the 1970s, partially in the 1980s, but mostly in an alternate now, all running for four or five episodes.  “I’d like to tell you that in The Final Chapter there will be a TV show WITHIN our TV show.  TYLER: MURDER DIVISION,” adding, “We would never make another Mars unless we really had something to say and could push the envelope all over again.  Finally we have something.”  While watching a classic scene in the first episode, co-creator Ashley Pharoah Tweeted, “I wonder if Phil and John could jump over that desk now?  I guess we’ll find out”.

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