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Category: Sci-Fi Café


  

In addition to Star Trek: The Art of John Eaves, reviewed here last month at borg.com, we have three additional, affordably priced gift ideas for your favorite Star Trek fan this holiday season, two books, and an attractive light-up, replica desk prop.  First up–Chip Carter is back with an update to his 2011 big book of Star Trek trivia in the expanded and updated Obsessed With Star Trek Carter added 200 new questions to cover the Kelvin timeline (the three reboot films) for this edition for a 2,700 question volume (sorry, no questions yet from Star Trek Discovery).  Questions are divided into sections covering each series through Enterprise, with a section on the movies through Star Trek Nemesis.  Readers will find a section each on cast, crew, and characters, aliens, ships and technology, and a section on concepts inside the Trek universe across the series.  As with the original, the book is entirely multiple choice questions, so use it how you will–incorporate it into a trivia game or just challenge yourself.  Those familiar with the last edition will note this version does not have the built-in digital game component, bringing its price down significantly compared to the previous edition.  Obsessed With Star Trek, the new edition, is available now from Titan Books here at Amazon.

Star Trek: The Next Generation fans will want to check out a replica display item from a fan-favorite episode, available from Running Press.  It’s Patrick Stewart’s Locutus prosthetic headpiece from the two-part story The Best of Both Worlds.  Unlike the original, the headpiece (referred to as a mask on the product) is made of die-cast metal and designed based on the look of Locutus in the second episode of the story.  It’s smaller than true-scale, close to 1:4 scale (3.5″ x 3.5″ x 5.5″) with LED laser light and audio featuring Locutus’s key dialogue, including his familiar line “resistance is futile.”  A die-cast metal base with removable plastic display cover (also included) makes for a nice office display.  The Locutus of Borg Collectible Mask includes a 48-page mini-hardcover book with photographs and remarks about the character also written by Chip Carter.  It’s available now at more than half off the release price here at Amazon.

Finally, the folks at Titan and its publication Star Trek Magazine have pulled together several previously published articles focused specifically on Star Trek the original series and Star Trek: The Next Generation for the new compilation book Star Trek: Epic Episodes This latest release includes cast and crew interviews, plus hundreds of color photographs from the shows as well as behind-the-scenes images.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new encyclopedic view of Firefly rounds out a big year for Firefly fans.  First there was the release of two in-universe books, The Serenity Handbook followed by the Hidden Universe Travel Guide, then more recently we saw the first novel in the series, Big Damn Hero Rounding out a year of great books for Browncoats is Firefly Encyclopedia, by Monica Valentinelli.  Fans of past books for Firefly and the Firefly Loot Crate magazine will be familiar with the tone and design of this series overview.  From the cover to the layout of Polaroid-inspired snips, the book is part scrapbook, part in-depth look into the story in an in-universe style, part behind the scenes photographic essay.  You’re likely to find new images of the ship and crew, even if you’ve amassed all the previous Firefly books.

If this isn’t the biggest assemblage of ships, weapons, props, and sets, it comes close, plus the large photographs makes this the best designed look at the production so far.  The concept artwork for several characters is something we haven’t seen before, and here many designs for each character are showcased.  And at long last, fans have a Chinese-English translator tailored to the extensive use of the Chinese language in the series.

Part one of Firefly Encyclopedia presents the Firefly story, the complete in-world tale seen in the series, as you may find in an encyclopedia.  Next is a look at the characters, each crew member–both in-universe and the actors behind the character, followed by a brief look at secondary characters.  The next section is a geography of the ‘verse, comparative looks at planets, tables, astronomy, and ships along with an interview with artist Ben Mund.  A table looks at the technobabble of the show, followed by a treatment of futuristic medicine in the series.  A wider chapter looks at even more costume designs.  A final chapter digs into the scripts for the series, including analysis and commentary.

Here is a brief view inside the Firefly Encyclopedia:

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The sale of a rare, screen-used television prop continued the upward trend in values of Star Trek props at an auction this weekend held in California and online.  Auction house Prop Store offered nearly 400 props, costumes, set pieces, models, and other memorabilia from the collection of television prop private collector James Comisar.  Many of the lots did not receive bids that met the reserve price set by the seller, but a key, rare, Klingon disruptor from the 1960s Star Trek series sold strong, at $40,000 plus buyer’s premium, for a total sale price of $48,800.  One of the pieces that did not git a bidder to meet the reserve price was the tunic worn by William Shatner as Captain Kirk in one of television and pop culture’s most significant milestones, the first interracial kiss, between Shatner’s Kirk and Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura in the episode “Plato’s Stepchildren,” which aired 50 years ago.  That tunic had a minimum reserve price set at $40,000, but only received $20,000 in bids.

Referred to in the series as “phaser” and “disruptor,” and used as a weapon by both Klingons and Romulans in the series, the Klingon disruptor hand prop that sold this weekend joins a small list of significant pieces sold at public auction, but it isn’t the highest price paid for a Star Trek hand prop.  That was $231,000, for the 2013 sale of a phaser rifle famously held in marketing images by William Shatner as Captain Kirk for the original Star Trek series, produced specifically for the retooled pilot episode, but never used afterward in the series.

The Klingon disruptor, also used by Romulans in the series, which sold this weekend at Prop Store’s auction.

Other key sales past sales of Star Trek hand props include the 2011 sale of an original series Starfleet phaser for $78,000, and a 2001 sale of a Starfleet phaser from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, where the winning bidder paid $57,500.

Find out more about the Klingon disruptor at this detailed look at the prop here.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The early 2018 release Alien: Covenant is now streaming on Amazon Prime, Vudu, and other streaming services.  It is the second act of a two-part story focusing in major part on the android* named David, the continuation of non-human humanoids we first encountered in the Ridley Scott’s original 1979 film Alien with Ash, and later Bishop, and others.  Continuing David’s quest from Scott’s follow-up, 2012’s Prometheus (yes, this is that “sequel to a prequel” we discussed here at borg back in 2012), David has embarked on a search for the creation of mankind prompted by his creator, Peter Weyland, played by Guy Pearce.  David’s cold, deliberate calm is disturbing–he is a robot, he is emotionless, despite improvements on earlier models that make him appear kind, even sincere.  Yet, as we learned in Prometheus, David is little, if any, evolved more than the decision-making by HAL 9000 of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Is David’s ruthlessness carried forward into Alien: Covenant?  You’ll need to watch the movie to find out.  There you’ll meet an upgraded version of David’s android design.  Also played brilliantly by Michael Fassbender, the android Walter replaces David as assistant to the humans in Alien: Covenant as they embark on a mission to settle a colony in deep space, led by James Franco‘s Branson, Billy Crudup‘s Oram, and Katherine Waterston‘s Daniels.  In a great dual performance by Fassbender, Walter encounters David as the story progresses.  And that’s where David’s Drawings come into play.

Disturbing and grotesque.  David, as part of his quest from Weyland, studies, researches, and documents lifeforms he encounters.  Many of these are in the form of sketches, sketches that can be found on the screen in the film, and in the new bound portfolio volume called David’s Drawings, from production artists Dan Hallett and Matt Hatton (see our preview below).  The artwork is meticulous, like something out of Gray’s Anatomy So the drawings are both in-universe props, and a real-world document of the filmmakers.   In more than 200 images, the boxed set (featuring a hardcover of drawings and a second volume including interviews with the artists) features the complete arc of his journey from David’s studies of flora and fauna, to his more sinister experiments on creatures, and the film’s most disturbing, surprise revelation.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

No guns, no killing the other patients, and no cops.  The titular Hotel Artemis in Drew Pearce‘s directorial debut film is a secret hospital for criminals, criminals who must be members to utilize its elite services, which consist of high-tech, life-saving medicine.  Services are provided under the direction of a craggy, battle-hardened, and effective nurse known primarily as “the Nurse,” played by Oscar-winner Jodie Foster, in what is probably her most exciting and outside-the-box role so far.  She has hard rules for guests in the same vein as the Continental Hotel in John Wick, and parallels to that movie’s plot device made obvious in the trailers may have been what kept away some of the action movie audience.  Now streaming and available on disc formats, Hotel Artemis is worth giving a second chance, if only because you’re looking for something action-packed that feels like a 1980s “B” action flick.

The year is 2028 with more riots in Los Angeles, heating up worse than ever as police and citizens face off on the downtown streets.  And the battle is approaching the door of the Hotel Artemis.  Enter two brothers played by this year’s rising star Sterling K. Brown (Black Panther, Marshall, The Predator) and Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse), both just shot while robbing a bank.  Everyone takes on city name aliases in the hotel, theirs Waikiki and Honolulu.  They join other guests Acapulco, played by Pacific Rim: Uprising’s Charlie Day, and Nice, played by the decade’s number one female action star, Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Atomic Blonde, Star Trek Beyond).  The humor is all tongue-in-cheek, the kind that makes James Bond movies work so well.  Along with directing, Pearce also wrote the script, and the combination of the best of today’s actors and his banter bouncing between them turns a freshman effort into something better.

The cast gets better, too:  Dave Bautista plays the Nurse’s loyal orderly Everest in a role different from how we’ve seen him in Guardians of the Galaxy, Blade Runner 2049, or Spectre, except for that tardemark tough-guy physicality.  Jeff Goldblum plays both a criminal and the owner of the hotel, which presents a bit of a conflict for the Nurse along the way, Zachary Quinto plays his whiny wannabe son, and rounding out the cast is The Predator’s Jenny Slate, a wounded cop who shares a past with someone inside the hospital

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Review by C.J. Bunce

From Star Trek V: The Final Frontier to four Next Generation movies and the J.J. Abrams Kelvin timeline movies, and Deep Space Nine through the Enterprise and Discovery series, concept artist, illustrator, prop designer, and model maker John Eaves has designed ships and objects familiar to any sci-fi fan.  This Tuesday the eagerly anticipated behind-the-scenes book Star Trek: The Art of John Eaves arrives from online retailers and book stores, and we at borg.com previewed a copy.  Just as you would expect, the book is full of hundreds of concept art designs, most of them ultimately used for the final model or CGI renderings seen on film.  John Eaves has developed his own style over the years, so in the past decade when even passing fans saw a ship on the big or small screen, they could usually tell when Eaves designed it.  Take a look at our preview pages from Star Trek: The Art of John Eaves here.

Eaves tells his story, referencing those artists of film that inspired him, some he would work with directly and others he admired from his youth: Joe Alves, Ron Cobb, Greg Jein, Grant McCune, Robert McCall, Nilo Rodis-Jamero, Ralph McQuarrie, Joe Johnston, Richard Edlund, John Dykstra, Syd Mead, and others.  The shifting look of Star Trek, its ships, and props, began to take on a new look with his designs for the Enterprise-B in Star Trek Generations, which required a modification to the Excelsior model to accommodate a key scene featuring Captain Kirk.  For the update to the ship Eaves incorporated a design from the World War II Catalina PBY-5A airplane.  Eaves grew up near an airfield, where he was first given a pad and pencil to make his own illustrations, and his understanding of aerodynamics can be found throughout his work.   And as Eaves tells it, Star Trek designer Michael Okuda would often be nearby to point out relevant components to incorporate.

The Eaves design aesthetic is unmistakable, in the elegant Vulcan lander and Phoenix rocket in Star Trek: First Contact, in the arc-shaped Son-a warship concepts in Star Trek Insurrection, in the removal of the “neck” and compact configuration of the Enterprise-E, and in the Reman Scimitar, the Romulan Valdore, and Scorpion fighters for Star Trek Nemesis.  The artist says his Discovery designs were inspired, surprisingly, by the rocket that took Taylor away and back in the original Planet of the Apes.  You can see the inspiration in the view of the ship from below.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s an event to make a Browncoat teary-eyed.  Firefly fans have not seen a story that rivaled the original series episodes, until now.  Tomorrow a new era in the Firefly universe begins as the first novel arrives in bookstores, carrying on from those revered 14 original episodes.  Firefly: Big Damn Hero is the big, bold story fans have been waiting for, and it’s even better than the Serenity movie or any other tie-in since the last episode first aired 15 years ago.  Fans will find here a story that would make a great roadmap for a movie, a great radio drama, or a new episode.  That’s probably not going to happen, but put on the soundtrack as you read it and you’ll feel like you’re right back with the crew again.

In Firefly: Big Damn Hero, author James Lovegrove found his way into the core of each character, their motivations, and most importantly their voice, to create a novel set in the years the series takes place, well before the movie Serenity killed off two key characters.  Joss Whedon served as consulting editor of the book, which was written from a story concept by Nancy Holder.  Lovegrove brings readers back to what made the series great–the interaction of the crew of the Serenity–and then he splits them off on a couple of missions that go sideways.  One by one he focuses on each of the nine as Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Kaylee, Book, River, Simon, Inara, and Wash each get a focal subplot that hits the spot for fans who have their favorite or love them all.  But best of all is Lovegrove’s treatment of River, the erratic and seemingly confused young genius who always seems a step ahead of everyone.  Here she practically speaks through the story and across the other characters directly to the reader.  We know what she’s up to even if her friends don’t.

The story itself is part science fiction, part war novel, part Louis L’Amour Western, all rolled up together as one rip-roaring space Western story, just like the series was known for.  Fans who know the ‘verse well, particularly its warring factions that were fleshed out in the series and tie-in comic books, will feel right at home in this story that spans the era before the series, with callbacks to events in the series, and right afterward as if it were a 15th episode.

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You may not remember it, but if you were a kid in the 1980s you probably heard of GoBots before you ever heard the word Transformers.  The Tonka transforming machine toys hit the shelves in 1983, a year in advance of Transformers, although Tonka (the classic truck toy company) was unable to give its characters and toys the success Transformers would achieve.  GoBots only were available as toys for a few years in the States, plus some book and animated series offerings.  With the legal rights to the toy designs later reverting back to the Japanese toy company Bandai, the character names and stories were assumed by Hasbro, merging with the Transformers family after business consolidation in 1991.

The return of GoBots for the 35th anniversary of the release of the toys was announced by IDW Publishing executives at the retailer panel at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.  IDW’s Transformers vs GI Joe writer-artist Tom Scioli has created a new five-issue series, and the first issue arrived Saturday for the annual Local Comic Shop Day.  It will get a wider distribution everywhere this Wednesday.  The new Go-Bots series (now with the hyphen) is both written and drawn in that “neo-Golden Age” style of comic books like those created by Matt Kindt and Ed Piskor.  The artwork has that blend of retro styling that rejects the latest comic book capabilities, a de-evolution from modern artistic mainstays and tropes built over the past 50 years.  It also reflects a bit of the style of the 1980s animated series.

 

As kids would see with Transformers, Go-Bots in the States were sentient robots, as opposed to the human-operated machines as seen in Japan.  Familiar characters Cy-Kill, Turbo, Scooter, and Leader-1–and more–make a return in the new series.  Go-Bots have some 1980s “cartoony” backstory bits to overcome, but in Issue #1 Scioli uses them to update the character origins and begin to forge a 21st century comeback for this 1980s franchise.  For many, the vibe of the series will reflect their favorite Transformers and GI Joe animated series from the 1980s.

Take a look at some interior pages and variant covers from Scioli, Dash Shaw, Ben Marra, and Diego Jordan Pereira (and a blank sketch variant) for the first three issues:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The ginger tomcat named Jones, aka Jonesy.  He co-starred with human actor Sigourney Weaver in Ridley Scott’s science fiction classic Alien.  Now nearly 40 years later, Jonesy gets his own book.  Recounting from his perspective the events aboard the USCSS Nostromo on its fateful mission encountering xenomorphs, Jonesy: Nine Lives on the Nostromo is now available in bookstores.  It is much, much, better than you might think.  And it’s a contender for best gift idea for the holiday season, especially for anyone who likes cats.

Lots of books aim for humor and don’t quite get it right.  The balance between cutesy and adhering to the parameters of the source material is not an easy thing.  Writer-artist Rory Lucey has cats and he is a fan of Alien.  When he showed the movie Alien to his wife for the first time, her natural question was: Does Jonesy survive?  From there, Jonesy: Nine Lives on the Nostromo was born.  And like a really fabulous look at a day in the life of a dog, Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye Issue #11 (2013’s single best comic book issue), readers will not encounter any actual words in this book.  And that’s as it should be.

That’s the original Jonesy in Alien (left), and Rosie the cat (right), who is just a little afraid of what Jonesy might encounter in this new book.

Lucey takes his knowledge of cat behavior and fills in the blanks of the film–those times when we didn’t see Jonesy hissing at the xenomorph behind you, what was he up to?  Scratching, taking a bath, sleeping, licking things he shouldn’t be–yes, all that, and much more.  And all of it fits into the story from the original film perfectly.  It’s even better than A Die Hard Christmas.  Here are some images from the book:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For the fifth time, writer, editor, and researcher J.W. Rinzler has gone behind the scenes of pop culture’s biggest films for an in-depth look at the creative process.  Following his “Making of” books for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and the Indiana Jones films, Rinzler has tackled one of the most iconic of all science fiction franchises in The Making of Planet of the Apes, released this month from Harper Design books.  At last fans of the 1968 film Planet of the Apes, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, have a definitive, exhaustive look at the film from interviews with the cast, creators, and everyone else involved with the movie from its source in a Pierre Boulle novel to film idea to Rod Serling draft script to casting Paul Newman and Edward G. Robinson in lead roles, then switching to Charlton Heston, Kim Hunter, and Roddy McDowall.  Readers will get an immersive, inside account of studio politics and deal making leading to the ultimate production of the film, and from marketing the film to its enduring legacy.  We’ve included a 16-page preview of the book below, courtesy of the publisher.

Planet of the Apes is best known for its surprise ending and the groundbreaking makeup work by John Chambers.  Both topics are thoroughly covered in Rinzler’s account.  Through initial sketches, concept designs, storyboards, and rare photographs, readers will see the building of the climactic finale from the ground up, as executives, producers, and cast struggled to determine what would be the final scenes of the film.  Heston’s character Taylor did not survive in many of the draft screenplays (and he wasn’t called Taylor).  And Rinzler reaches back to film archives to trace the steps that led to John Chambers’ final designs for the chimps, the orangutans, and the gorillas–and why baboons were ruled out.  Beginning with techniques used to create the animated facial characteristics for the Cowardly Lion in MGM’s 1939 epic fantasy film The Wizard of Oz, Chambers expanded his own methods and created several iterations of the prosthetic masks and makeups before arriving at the designs we saw on film.

The Making of Planet of the Apes includes a spectacular two-page, detailed image of the specifications for the “ANSA” spacecraft that the three astronauts crash at the beginning of the film.  Perhaps the most eye-opening information about the film came from the late Charlton Heston’s personal archives.  He made detailed diary entries that reflect events during the filming process including scenes, discussions, concepts and people that he approved of and those he didn’t.  His entries, contemporary and recent interviews, and information from Fox and Warner Brothers’ studio archives, and records at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences fill-in the blanks, building a meticulously complete account of the production.

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