Category: TV


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Review by C.J. Bunce

It takes a unique brand of personality to pull together the required components to make a hit television series.  It took a bit of a showman to convince Hollywood in 1965 to produce a science fiction series aimed at kids, and before Star Trek, someone had to lay the groundwork for a series taking place in another world.  That someone was the P.T. Barnum of his day, Irwin Allen.  Classic television researcher Marc Cushman has delved into his favorite show from his youth to deliver a full picture of Allen and the first season of the hit series Lost in Space in his latest work, volume one of Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space: The Authorized Biography of a Classic Sci-Fi Series.

What do all these TV series have in common?  Lassie, Bonanza, Zorro, The Danny Thomas Show, The Twilight Zone, Leave it to Beaver, The Sound of Music, Psycho, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents/Hour?  An assemblage of hundreds of TV people in front and behind the camera came together to make an unlikely idea into a success.  At nearly 700 pages, Cushman’s book leaves no rock left unturned, interconnecting a Who’s Who of Hollywood.  He investigates oddball directors like Irwin Allen, who built up his office desk so visitors would be left to look up to him and had his own “yes man” who would repeat conversations to him as he discussed business with people, and Sobey Martin, viewed by the cast as a bad director who would fall asleep during filming, yet he was the only one who seemed to be able to get an episode filmed on time.  The production never seemed to get an episode filmed with the allotted budget.

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Just as Cushman revealed in his similarly-formatted, award-winning three volume chronicle of Star Trek (These are the Voyages, reviewed previously here at borg.com) that Lucille Ball was the mastermind producer behind Star Trek, here we see the influence of movie and TV stars Groucho Marx and Red Buttons on Irwin Allen as he pushed forward to create the first season of Lost in Space.   Where the coming new sci-fi series Star Trek would be a “Wagon Train to the stars,” Allen was orchestrating a “Swiss Family Robinson in space” an idea that would encounter its own breed of intellectual property legal issues along the way.

Cushman pulls archival interviews from the late series star Guy Williams (one of the top TV stars in the 1960s as he came off his successful run as Zorro and would portray astronaut John Robinson), everyone’s favorite TV mom June Lockhart (as pioneer female astronaut Maureen Robinson), Western and true crime TV star Mark Goddard (as scientist Don West), new starlet Marta Kristen (as John and Maureen’s eldest daughter Judy Robinson), Angela Cartwright fresh off her breakout role with Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music (as Penny Robinson), young Billy Mumy, the versatile child guest star of The Twilight Zone, The Munsters, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, The Fugitive, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (as Will Robinson), Bob May (as the guy in the Robot), and the last-minute addition, character actor Jonathan Harris (as the quirky villain Mr. Smith).

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Tomorrow IDW Publishing is beginning a new bi-monthly anthology series, Star Trek Waypoint.  And we have a preview for borg.com readers from Issue #1 below.  The series is billed as a 50th anniversary look across all the Star Trek incarnations, and it features a host of writers we haven’t seen before in IDW comics.  Issue #1 includes a Star Trek: The Next Generation story featuring Geordi and Data and an Original Series story featuring Uhura.  Fans of the Star Trek Countdown prequel series should take note:  Although the anthology stories aren’t specifically pegged in the canon timeline, writer Donny Cates and artist Mack Chater’s story “Puzzles” feels like a continuation of the Star Trek 2009 prequel story, after Spock and Nero return to the past and create what we now know as the “Kelvin timeline.”

Star Trek Countdown (reviewed here back in 2011) was one of the comic medium’s most fascinating stories so far, revealing Captain Picard working again with Data, with new Starfleet uniforms and an engrossing future.  Similar uniforms appear in “Puzzles.”  It’s an exciting starting point for fans who want to see Star Trek continue to move into the future beyond past TV series.  The second story in Star Trek Waypoint features Uhura, and has the look and feel of authentic, classic Star Trek episodes.  Sandra Lanz serves dual roles on that story, titled “Daylily,” as both writer and artist.

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In November Issue #2 will feature two more Original Series stories.  Look for a preview here in two months.  You can look forward to fan favorite Star Trek novelists Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore creating an homage to the classic Gold Key Star Trek comics (remember the great photo covers?), featuring Kirk and Spock on an uncharted planet.  Artwork will be provided by Star Trek comic book artist Gordon Purcell.  The second story is a “red shirt” story, written by author Sam Maggs with art by Star Trek and Doctor Who artist Rachael Stott.

Check out this great preview to Issue #1, courtesy of IDW Publishing:

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Unlike the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the canon series Star Wars Rebels takes place in the classic trilogy timeline, where we get to see our favorite characters, like Princess Leia, Darth Vader, Lando Calrissian, C-3PO, and Yoda, with the original actors voicing the characters (Leia excluded) in an era that is the most loved by the fan base.  It takes place five years before Star Wars: A New Hope, and it’s canon, which means all that happens there influences Star Wars Episode VIII and onward.

As one example, if you think Finn (the Stormtrooper who defects to the Resistance in Star Wars: A Force Awakens) is the first famous Star Wars character to defect from the Empire to fight for the good guys, think again.  Season Three has many reasons for Star Wars fans to keep watching.

The biggest news has been revealed in the DisneyXD previews:  Grand Admiral Thrawn becomes a part of Star Wars canon beginning tonight, voiced by Lars Mikkelsen.  Created by Timothy Zahn in the first expanded universe Star Wars trilogy novel, the excellent Heir to the Empire, Thrawn was the rare intelligent Imperial officer like Grand Moff Tarkin.  Dressed in the formal white uniform seen worn by a background actor in the original Star Wars, he is the blue-skinned humanoid who helped rebuild the Empire after the second Death Star was destroyed in Return of the Jedi.  We even see from the preview that his attending ysalimir are back.

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But that’s not all.  There are many other reasons to come back for more:

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One of the standout artists of the past 20 years, British artist Jock’s work has appeared on comic book covers and movie posters, and his concept art has provided the vision behind the look of movies like Dredd, Ex Machina, Battleship, and in the works is next year’s Star Wars: Episode VIII.  A new high-quality hardcover from Insight Editions available this month is showcasing some of his best images.  The Art of Jock establishes a new standard for photographic reproductions, with some of the very best color and crisp detail found in any recent coffee table edition we’ve reviewed.  It features hundreds of illustrations from a creator really only at the early stages of his career.

Born in Scotland as Mark Simpson, Jock broke into comics with the British sci-fi comic book 2000 A.D., and today is an internationally-recognized artist and Eisner Award nominee.  We’ve seen his work in DC Comics series like Green Arrow and Batman, in Marvel series like Savage Wolverine and Daredevil, in the Image series Wytches, and in Vertigo series Scalped and Losers.  Highlights of early sketches and final versions of his work on these series can be found in this book in large, full color pages.  Fans of Jock will love the many original comic book covers and interior art included.

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The Art of Jock was written by DC Comics editor Will Dennis, with commentary by Battleship director Peter Berg, and DC Comics’ Jim Lee and Scott Snyder.  But the most valuable insight is provided by the artist himself.  Jock recounts his process and critiques his own work, comparing his style between phases of his own development.

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Next week Riverdale’s most famous band is getting back together.

Archie Comics is releasing a new Josie and the Pussycats monthly series.  Much like its release of its hit Betty & Veronica series this summer, Josie & Co. is getting a premiere with plenty of cover variants with works by J. Scott Campbell, Derek Charm, Colleen Coover, Veronica Fish, Francesco Francavilla, Jessica Garvey, Robert Hack with Steve Downer, Gisele Lagace with Shouri, Alitha Martinez with Kelly Fitzpatrick, Wally McNair, Sam Payne, and Marguerite Sauvage.  The standard cover was drawn by Audrey Mok.  Andre Szymanowicz is providing the colors.  Archie Comics will also release a blank sketch cover version.

Marguerite Bennett and Cameron Deordio are scripting the series.

Josie, Valerie, and Melody make their current debut after Afterlife With Archie’s dark look at the band in the haunted parallel universe of that title’s October issue.  Plus, the CW Network has its own new Archie series premiering in only a few weeks–Riverdale stars K.J. Apa as Archie, Cole Sprouse as Jughead, Camila Mendes as Veronica, Lili Reinhart as Betty, Ross Butler as Reggie, Casey Cott as Kevin, and Madelaine Petsch as Cheryl Blossom.  And of course, the band is in the series as well, with Josie played by Ashleigh Murray, Valerie is played by Hayleau Law, and Melody is played by Asha Brom.  Luke Perry, Lochlyn Munro, and Madchen Amick will also star in the series.

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While you’re waiting for the TV series, check out these covers to Josie and the Pussycats: 

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Even more so than the annual Academy Awards for achievements in film, the Primetime Emmy Awards seem to either award the same thing every year or never get around to awarding series, actors, and creative voices that really push the bounds of the ordinary.  Is that a generalization ripe for argument?  Of course.  But when you watch as much television as we do here at borg.com, at some point years ago we just turned off the TV award shows and never looked back.

So what changed this year?  Tatiana Maslany won best actress in a drama for Orphan Black.  Rami Malek won best actor in a drama for Mr. Robot.  Louie Anderson won best supporting actor for Baskets.  And the special Sherlock–The Abominable Bride won for best TV movie.  So what poles shifted?  What constellations re-aligned?  What does that mean if our own best picks align with Emmy voters?  Are we finally “in-touch”?

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Take Tatiana Maslany, a top borg.com pick three years in a row for best actress in television (or any other medium).  Not to slight her wonderful supporting cast, but she’s practically a one-woman show, playing a half a dozen characters each season–and seven this year in her fourth season playing clone sestra–meaning every scene is critical and must reflect Maslany’s work–and viewer believability–as a completely different person.  She never gets the luxury of “phoning in” a performance.  The result is top-notch television, and the best acting and toughest role we’ve ever seen, executed with mastery.  Go Clone Club!

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When we last saw Gotham, Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) was returning to the series to lead a group of denizens from Indian Hill, a motley band of “enhanced” people created by Dr. Hugo Strange (BD Wong).  Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), no longer with the police force, is still working with Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), but he’s now in bounty hunter mode, investigating the Court of Owls.

Gotham dials up more villainy in Season 3, beginning next week, with The Mad Hatter (Benedict Samuel), Poison Ivy (Maggie Geha taking over from the younger Clare Foley), Calendar Man from The Long Halloween, a Bruce Wayne doppelganger (David Mazouz), and more of Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) and his rise in power, Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith) and his downward spiral, Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), Barbera Kean (Erin Richards), and Fish Mooney.  Morena Baccarin is also back as Gordon’s girlfriend Dr. Leslie Thompkins, along with Sean Pertwee as Alfred Pennyworth and Michael Chiklis as Nathaniel Barnes.

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Check out these previews for Season 3 of Gotham:

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You can usually expect that the Smithsonian Institution productions will deliver quality programming, and its latest is no exception.  The two-hour documentary Building Star Trek chronicles fifty years of Star Trek from its inception to the artifacts of the series that remain decades later, and from the idea of a 23rd century future and beyond to futuristic technologies being made reality today.

The Smithsonian used two museum exhibits to bookend its overview of Star Trek for the 50th anniversary, one on each coast.  At the Smithsonian’s own National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, DC, the museum recounts the recent restoration of the original filming model of the Enterprise, which has been on display there since 1974, but not as a featured display.  On the West Coast the EMP Museum in Seattle created a display of props and costumes as well.

Interspersed with snippets from the progress of each museum’s projects are interviews with insiders like reboot actor and writer Simon Pegg, actor Karl Urban, original series star Nichelle Nichols, original series writer DC Fontana, and Trek fans.  With each artifact featured in the exhibits, a short segment is given to an original creator, like the designer of the original shuttle Galileo, and a modern-day scientist working on the implementation of concepts introduced or emphasized in Star Trek, like phasers, tricorders, transporters, the universal translator, and warp drive.

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The Star Trek display running currently at the EMP Museum in Seattle.

The documentary doesn’t take itself too seriously, using campy graphics that reflect the humor of the original series–an acknowledged critical component of the show’s success.

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Creating a television series that makes it to a second season is a difficult thing to do.  It’s difficult today and was just as tough in 1966 when Gene Roddenberry created a full-color science fiction show in prime time about a “Wagon Train to the stars”–a Western in space–a Star Trek.  The unlikely series survived into not only its second season but also a third.  An untapped audience–a group of loyal fans kept the dream alive, and the stories would continue in an animated series in the early 1970s.  With the success of Star Wars, Star Trek made its way to the big screen by the end of the decade and the rest of the story, as they say, is history.

The future predicted in 1966 to “explore strange, new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations,” isn’t here yet, despite the dates of yesterday’s future arriving and going by.  But that hasn’t stopped generations of fans from being inspired to pursue everything from medicine and law to astronomy and design.  To make this world better and build a greater tomorrow.  Star Trek may not have arrived yet, but the utopian future is something many of us look forward to and strive for.

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Or has it arrived?  Our iPads and smart phones, Bluetooths and medical scanners were all inspired by creative types behind Star Trek, like Wah Chang and Rick Sternbach.  If society as a whole hasn’t changed, the technology that drives it certainly is making headway every day.

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Here, September 8, 2016, fifty years after the airing of the first episode of Star Trek on NBC, the world is far different, yet it still continues the struggle for equality and fairness, the same desires Roddenberry’s original stories reflected as the world crept up to the cataclysmic summer of 1968.  The same elements are summed up in the Vulcan acronym IDIC–infinite diversity in infinite combinations–the core of Vulcan philosophy celebrating all the differences in life.  In short, that is what Star Trek is all about.

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A new vampire slayer is coming, and she looks familiar.

The series is Syfy’s Van Helsing, and the lead is True Blood and Legends’ Kelly Overton as Vanessa Helsing, descendant of vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  Vanessa has been resurrected from the present and taken into the future, to a dystopian Earth where vampires rule.  She learns she is humanity’s last hope.

If this sounds familiar it may be because Syfy’s 2016 series Wynonna Earp features a similarly tough and determined “chosen one”–also a descendant of a famed character from the past with a supernatural, dark tale.  Maybe the formula is working for the network?

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Van Helsing co-stars Grimm, The Closer, and Smallville’s Jonathan Scarfe (son of recurring Romulan player Alan Scarfe from Star Trek: The Next Generation), character actor regulars Christopher Heyerdahl and Vincent Gale, and Medium’s David Cubitt.

Here are previews of the series from Syfy:

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