Tag Archive: borg


Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s a fantastic sci-fi series with a stellar cast and a story and production values that rival the original Blade Runner and its 2017 sequel: Altered Carbon is based on Richard K. Morgan’s novel of the same name, a story about Takeshi Kovacs, a future soldier in a world where science has developed a hard drive called a “stack” that is implanted in humans’ necks, allowing our memories to be uploaded to storage and replanted over and over so they seemingly can live forever, even in new bodies.  That conceit allows Kovacs and other characters to be played by any number of actors, which could allow the series to run forever much as Doctor Who’s regeneration mechanism allows replacement Doctors.  Originally launched on Netflix in 2018, Altered Carbon has been extended for a second season, with filming underway last year, and viewers should expected a second season trailer and 2020 air date any day.  Which means fans of the Syd Mead, Ridley Scott, and Philip K. Dick brand of futurism, and all things borg, should catch up on the first season now.  What does it mean to be human, and how much can you shed away and replace with technology and still retain the “self”?  Altered Carbon tackles the philosophical questions The Matrix film series tried to answer.

Kovacs, played by several actors (more on that below), is a 300-year-old soldier.  As a seasoned fighter 250 years ago he was the last of a mercenary group called the Envoys, leading a rebellion against the new world order.  Kovacs’s stack is shelved for the intervening 250 years until one of the wealthiest men alive, Laurens Bancroft, played by James Purefoy (an actor who has been runner up for the James Bond film roles and appeared in A Knight’s Tale and The Following), buys his stack and puts it in a new body or “sleeve,” giving Kovacs the opportunity to live anew if he agrees to find Bancroft’s killer.  This is a bleak world, filled with virtual reality and virtual sex, body swapping and trafficking, and the kind of tech noir, bleak, dystopian realm seen in Strange Days, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Ready Player One, The Running Man, Brazil, Total Recall, with the violence of A Clockwork Orange, but maybe not so hopeless as in Elysium, Mad Max, Gattaca, Terminator, and Dredd.  

The series, which has a slow start and doesn’t kick into high gear until the second episode, also has the John Carpenter Escape from New York vibe but with Blade Runner visuals and effects, plus the creative elements of Total Recall that made for some unexpected surprises.  Altered Carbon is a close match to RoboCop as future science and technology goes, so it’s easy to see why the casting agents brought along RoboCop remake star Joel Kinnaman as Kovacs’ primary sleeve in the first season.  This sleeve was last owned by a cop killed in duty named Ryker.  Ryker’s partner, Kristin Ortega, played by Mexican actress Martha Higareda (McFarland USA, Royal Pains), takes on the role of the season’s co-lead, struggling as she sees her old partner’s body and acting to protect his sleeve, trying to solve the murder of Bancroft, and uncovering the bad cops in the bureau.  Ortega is a badass character in a small package who gets in and out of several fights that would take down anyone else in any other story, and she is the high point of the series–at one point an incident results in a loss of an arm, soon replaced by a powerful cybernetic arm.  An interesting twist is that her family are Catholics, and in this future Catholics don’t believe in the stacks, which means once they die they are dead forever.  This sets up one of the more interesting plot threads.  If it seems like the series has a lot going on, that’s because it does. But it all comes together in a satisfying way in the final episodes.

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It’s been another long year of great entertainment.  It’s time for the seventh annual round of new honorees for the borg Hall of Fame.  We have several honorees from 2019 films and television, plus you’ll find some from the past, and a peek at some from the future – 28 new borgs or updated variants in all, bringing the borg Hall of Fame total to 221.

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 a new member.  Tony Stark aka Iron Man was named an honoree because the Arc Reactor kept him alive, not because of his incredible tech armor.  The new Spider-Man suit worn by Tom Holland is similar to Tony’s, but it’s not integrated with Peter Parker’s biology.  Similarly Peni Parker, seen outside her high-tech SP//dr suit in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Black Manta from Aquaman are merely wearing tech suits.  We’d love a reason for a Mandalorian to make the cut, like Boba Fett, or Jango Fett, or the new Mandalorian from the series, since nobody has more intriguing armor.  Maybe the second season coming next fall will give us something new to ponder.

Also, if the creators tell us the characters are merely robots, automatons, or androids, 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 2019?

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This year we found one series that could easily sweep most of the categories–a single television series that had everything: compelling story, a full range of emotions, great characters, tremendous action, a sharp use of humor, all kinds of genre elements that were satisfying and left viewers feeling inspired.  Richly detailed sets and costumes.  An impossible feat to replicate.  No drama came close.  No other visual effects spectacle could touch it.  And its audience is everyone.  A truly epic addition to television viewing, that series is The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, the greatest television series to come along in years.  If you love genre like we do, this was as good as it gets.  And like icing on the cake, along came The Mandalorian at year end.

But we’re not going to ignore the other good things that happened on the small screen this year.

Our borg Best of 2019 list continues today with the best in television.  If you missed it, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2019 here and the best Kick-Ass Heroines of 2019 here.

Without further ado, this year’s Best in Television:

Best Borg SeriesDoom Patrol (DC Universe).  With this year’s series Doom Patrol we got a look at two borgs, DC Comics’ Cyborg, an update to Martin Caidin’s original Bionic Man from the 1970s, and an older borg created before the word was even coined in the 1960s, Robotman.  Both characters revealed a glimpse at what life might be like with significant cybernetic enhancements (when brought together by a modern Dr. Frankenstein).  For 2019, it was the way to get your borg fix on the small screen.

Best TV Series, Best New Limited TV Series, Best TV Fantasy, Best Writing for TV, Best TV Costumes/Makeup, Best TV SoundtrackThe Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (Netflix).  It was worth the wait.  Jim Henson’s seemingly impossible to replicate artistic vision was successfully achieved thanks to his daughters and the company he founded.  The kindest heroes, the darkest evil, a truly epic, legendary story for the ages.  Everybody is cranking out CGI extravaganzas, but how many are creating artistry so fundamentally real, with so many individual artists and artisans contributing and achieving so much?  Even that wouldn’t be enough if not for the layered mythology and epic adventure story.  Add great humor, high stakes, emotional impact, an all-star voice cast, Daniel Pemberton and Samuel Sim’s  imaginative musical score, and those puppets and all that go into them–it adds up to a rare thing–a Henson masterpiece.

Best TV Sci-fi Series, Best TV DramaThe Man in the High Castle (Amazon).  Amazon Studios could not have adapted a series more faithfully, making changes for the medium and the times, than its take on Philip K. Dick’s most celebrated novel.  The use of science fiction to tell a deep and twisty level of subplots and unique setting all came to a perfect conclusion in the series finale.  Exciting, intelligent, frightening, and the most thought-provoking series this year, it was also different from its sci-fi competition.  Honorable mention: The Mandalorian (Disney+)–but only if we allow space fantasy since the series is not true science fiction, The Orville (Fox)–for its two-part epic movie-worthy space story, “Identity.”

Best New Ongoing TV Series, Runner-up: Best TV Soundtrack, Runner-up: Best TV Costumes/Makeup The Mandalorian (Disney+).  Not a lot needs explaining with this series, which in only its first two hours we rated it closer to the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back than anything with the Star Wars label on it since.  The Western motif is still alive, not all that hidden here in space fantasy garb.  And we won’t get started on the impact of The Child (aka Baby Yoda) on the genre-loving world and beyond.  Credit Jon Favreau’s visible enthusiasm and love for the original movies for the success of this surprisingly awesome arrival–the series is proof Star Wars is far from over.

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This Friday fans of the science fiction TV series The Expanse get their wish: a fourth season and new studio commitment that may yield even more seasons.  Dropped by the Syfy channel more than a year ago, Amazon Studios is breathing new life into the series, taking over right where the third season left off (check out a preview for the new season below).  Based on the James S.A. Corey series of novels (eight with a ninth in the works), the show has earned a fan following much like that of the Battlestar Galactica reboot, in part because of its similar dark and gritty look at the future of Earth.  And as a bonus, unlike most TV series, The Expanse now has its own behind-the-scenes book digging into the production, full of concept artwork, ship and costume designs, and all the future tech that goes into a visual effects-filled show.

The Art and Making of The Expanse was created by Titan Books editor Andy Jones and Alcon Publishing’s Jeff Conner.  It doesn’t skimp on the photographs, giving fans both a treasure trove of screen images while also showing how those final shots came to be.  It recounts how the series made its way from video game to roleplay game to novels before getting picked up for TV.  Showrunner Naren Shankar and producers Mark Fergus, Daniel Abraham, and Ty Franck tell the whole story with contributions from actors Steven Strait, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Cas Anvar, Thomas Jane, and Sadavir Errinwright, production designer Seth Reed, costume designer Joanne Hansen, construction coordinator Robert Valeriote, senior VFX supervisor Bob Munroe, and concept artist Tim Warnock.

Readers will see all the key sets, spacesuits and other costumes, props, designs, ships, ship signage, and more from the first three seasons with a look at the fourth season’s concept art.  Look for layouts on each main character, the major ships and space stations, and a lot more.

Here is a preview of season four of The Expanse, with new cast members Burn Gorman (Torchwood, Forever, The Man in the High Castle), Lyndie Greenwood (Sleepy Hollow, Nikita), Jess Salgueiro (Orphan Black, The Strain), Michael Benyaer (Deadpool, Magnum PI), Chai Valladares (Star Trek Discovery, The Boys), and Kris Holden-Reid (Vikings, Lost Girl), and a new cyborg or two:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, chemist and author Kathryn Harkup, author of A is for Arsenic, reveals the results of a thorough investigation into the scientific knowledge available to young author Mary Shelley at the turn of the 19th century when Shelley wrote the first science fiction novel (and basis for the first horror movie), Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus The result is a detailed, marvelously interconnected picture of notable minds of the Enlightenment and their theories, a useful history of science and technology, and a worthy supplement to any reading or study of the classic story.

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was greatly influenced by noted authors of her era, beginning with her parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft (through her writings), and her long-time companion and eventual husband, the noted author and political thinker Percy Bysshe Shelley.  Mary Shelley lived in a world of scientific improvements, while also at only the barest beginnings of modern chemistry, biology, and medicine.  Author Kathryn Harkup looked back to writings of the late 1700s and earlier, where religion, politics, and culture were undergoing a radical shift, with old concepts like alchemy winding down its influence on the thinking world.  As Harkup writes, “Dark, discredited, ineffectual alchemy was contrasted with enlightened, rational, powerful science.”  She follows Mary Shelley’s travels as documented in letters and diaries Shelley and her contemporaries wrote to locate hundreds of opportunities that could have influenced the author’s story as well as Victor Frankenstein the character inside the world where he would create life from the dead.  In doing so the reader will get a snapshot of the world in 1800-1818 and a class in a major chapter of the history of science and technology–what someone in Shelley’s circumstances as a woman among affluent families living among vocal sharers of ideas including the likes of Erasmus Darwin, Luigi Galvani, Benjamin Franklin, and Lord Byron.

Harkup takes her research a step further in Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, locating the possible influences of not only Shelley but those around Mary Shelley like her father, her husband, and Byron, whose access to cutting edge science and free thought reached across the ocean and nations.  She references the ongoing relationships and likelihood of the sharing of ideas among these men and Mary Shelley, all leading to the famous trip during the rainy summer of 1816, where the world was overtaken by darkness thanks to the earlier eruption of Mount Tambora in far off Indonesia.  Mary Shelley, age 18, with boyfriend Percy visiting Byron and Dr. John Polidori at Lake Geneva, Switzerland, were hunkered down reading ghost stories to each other from the French book Fantasmagoriana, when Byron suggested each should write his/her own ghost story (Polidori’s story would become The Vampyre, the first vampire novel).  Along with the science, Harkup provides a complete background of each step of Shelley’s life before and after completion of her Frankenstein contribution.

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A little bit Robocop, a little bit Bionic Man, a little bit Deadpool and Venom, a bit of The Punisher, and very Vin Diesel, the comic book adaptation of the 1990s Valiant Comics Harvey and Eisner Award-nominated superhero Bloodshot is finally making its way to theaters.  Sony Pictures released the first trailer for the film this week, and it has all of those components we’ve seen in the past decade from movies adapting comics beyond the traditional superheroes of DC Comics and Marvel.  The inclusion of nanites as part of Bloodshot’s powers make him the latest borg to make it to the big screen.  Whatever Martin Scorsese or Francis Ford Coppola or anyone else wants to say about superhero movies, these films are an art form in their own right, with their own language, look, music, editing, and story–just like every other genre of film.  Fans will be the only judge that matters when Bloodshot arrives early next year.

Diesel, who somehow seems to be the pick for Italian characters despite his own northern European roots, is a smart casting decision for Ray Garrison aka Angelo Mortalli (which fits Diesel so well), the new incarnation of the cybernetic warrior whose modified blood gives him regeneration abilities (think Wolverine) but also makes him controllable by others (think Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse).  He has the action hero role solidly on his resume from his role as fast car driver and ex-con Dominic Toretto in seven (so far) Fast & Furious films and Xander Cage in two xXx films, and he brings sci-fi street cred playing Riddick in the Chronicles of Riddick series.  And, of course, he’s one-half of our favorite superhero duo, playing the voice of Groot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The movie co-stars Guy Pearce (hopefully more LA Confidential and less Iron Man 3), Eiza González (Hobbs & Shaw, Alita; Battle Angel, Baby Driver), Lamorne Morris (New Girl, Game Night), Toby Kebbell (Warcraft, Fantastic Four, Planet of the Apes, Kong: Skull Island), Sam Heughan (Midsomer Murders, Outlander), and Talulah Riley (Doctor Who, Thor: The Dark World, Westworld).  Kick-Ass 2 writer Jeff Wadlow wrote this story, which will be directed by visual effects artists Dave Wilson.  Music was created by horror movie go-to composer Steve Jablonsky (Ender’s Game, Transformers series, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, The Amityville Horror, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).

As with Deadpool and Venom, this second tier character and footage is going to get superhero fans into theaters.  Here is the first trailer, with Vin Diesel starring in Bloodshot:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The biggest action film of the summer is easily the most enjoyable film of the year.  That’s Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, a movie that gets so many genre formulas right it just can’t miss.  Certainly one of the better entries in the Fast & Furious franchise, it knows what works and uses it.  That’s a sure-bet cast of Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, Mission: Impossible–Fallout’s Vanessa Kirby, Idris Elba in the ultimate badass role as a James Bond spy gone bad with Superman powers, lots of futuristic cyborg tech, and an understanding of why audiences come to the movie theater in the first place.  Hobbs & Shaw is a movie for people who like movies.

The trailers gave audiences a glimpse at what to expect, and they delivered on all promises: laugh-out-loud funny dialogue, nonstop action, road races and camera angles that the franchise is known for, and lots of surprises and callbacks, and a script that doesn’t take itself seriously.  There’s something for everyone here.  If you’re after only the fast cars, action, and speed of the franchise, this entry measures up.  And that family drama that the regular franchise leads Diesel, Paul Walker, and Jordana Brewster built the franchise on is here, too.  This time that includes digging into the past between Statham’s Deckard Shaw and sister Hattie, played by Kirby, and Helen Mirren back again as their mother (Luke Evans’ brother Owen from the last film may or may not be mentioned this time), and Johnson’s Luke Hobbs is pals with his young daughter at home and returns to the family he left behind years ago in the Samoan Islands.

But stuntman-turned-director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, John Wick) and script writers Chris Morgan (writer of five prior Fast & Furious films) and Drew Pearce (Hotel Artemis, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation) know why audiences are really buying tickets, and you just need to drift over their previous film credits to see why they were tapped for Hobbs & Shaw.  Hattie is a badass equal to Charlize Theron’s Atomic Blonde (Theron also co-starred in the most recent sequel), any of the four lead characters could give Leitch’s John Wick a run for his money, and moviegoers will hardly remember last year’s much-lauded Mission Impossible: Fallout’s action scenes after they see this.  (A few casting spoilers follow).

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Before Walter Simonson and Tom Palmer collaborated on their stunning adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back, they joined forces to create a great run of stories in the pages of Marvel Comics’ original Star Wars monthly, featuring two of the most famous borgs of all time, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.  By some kind of miracle the original page art from the 1980s was located to come together for IDW Publishing′s sixty-third Art Edition publication.  Boasting the 1:1 scale, original comic page art sized, pages in a deluxe hardcover edition, this is another of those books Star Wars fans have always dreamed of.

Just as we saw with Howard Chaykin and Roy Thomas’s earlier Art Edition for Star Wars (reviewed here at borg), Walter Simonson Star Wars Artist’s Edition presents high-quality copies of the original page art.  Unlike many past Artist’s Editions, however, the entire lettering and logos are all present, so readers can re-visit the entire issues (minus ads) for Issue #51 “Resurrection of Evil,” Issue #52 “To Take the Tarkin,” Issue #55 “Plif!,” issue #56 “Coffin in the Clouds,” Issue #57 “Hello, Bespin, Good-Bye!,” and Issue #60 “Shira’s Story,” all written by long-time The Amazing Spider-Man and Action Comics writer and Venom, Carnage, and Scott Lang Ant-Man character creator David Michelinie, with lettering by Joe Rosen and John Morelli.

Take a look at the original inked artwork in these stunning preview pages of Walter Simonson Star Wars Artist’s Edition presented for borg readers courtesy of IDW Publishing:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Let’s take a trip back 33 years ago to a galaxy not all that far away.  It was my very first issue of the only comic book I ever subscribed to.  It was the end of the school year in 1986 and at last I took the plunge to send in a check to start getting a comic in the mail.  My first issue?  Star Wars #107, which contained a note from Marvel Comics stating that this was to be the final issue and I was going to be sent something instead going forward from a new universe of comics Marvel was starting called… New Universe.  In the days before the Internet or anyone to call to say “what?” I was then sent eleven monthly issues of Star Brand.  Not quite Star Wars, each issue reminded me of what I was not getting.  I was a fan of the Star Wars comic book (issued as Star Wars Weekly in the UK) since receiving my first ever comic as a giveaway when my mom took me to my local library’s Star Wars Day right before Christmas 1977.  The series would introduce me to a roster of creators (many I’d later meet in person) including Roy Thomas, Howard Chaykin, Steve Leialoha, Rick Hoberg, Archie Goodwin, Donald F. Glut, Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, John Byrne, Michael Golden, Chris Claremont, Herb Trimpe, Al Williamson, Tom Palmer, David Michelinie, Klaus Janson, Ann Nocenti, Jan Duursema, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Walt Simonson.  I read every issue up to Issue #107.

The big surprise?  That original Star Wars series became everyone’s first encounter with the word BORG.  It’s probably the first ever use of those four letters to describe a cybernetic organism, and it was spoken by none other than Luke Skywalker in reference to Valance, The Hunter way back in 1978.  We would learn Valance was a borg who killed borgs, and he became an inaugural inductee here at borg in our borg Hall of Fame, and part of my opening dialogue with borg readers eight years ago here.  This year, through the miracle of an idea worthy of a light bulb floating over your head, Marvel Comics introduced for its ongoing 80th anniversary celebration something I’ve never seen done before: a single, new, numbered issue continuing a series canceled as far back as 33 years ago.  The issue is Star Wars, Issue #108–it’s fantastic and available at local comic shops everywhere now.

 

Providing a chapter by chapter sequel not to Issue #107 of the vintage series, but to the Issue #50 story “Crimson Forever,” Matthew Rosenberg is the writer on the new Issue #108 titled “Forever Crimson,” and along with Valance we again meet some of our favorite characters of the entire Star Wars universe who we haven’t seen in decades:  the villainous Domina Tagge (remember Baron Tagge?), the stylin’ Amaiza Foxtrain, the memorable telepathic hoojib and the red Zeltrons, and best of all, Jaxxon the bounty hunter rabbit, who we last saw on a special variant edition copy of Marvel’s reboot Star Wars, Issue #1.  Plus all the stars of the series we all know and love.  As for the artists, Jan Duursema returns to the series for this one-shot issue, along with Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, Andrea Broccardo, Kerry Gammill, Ze Carlos, Stefano Landini, Luke Ross, and Leonard Kirk, with colors by Chris Sotomayor, and lettering by Clayton Cowles.  The result is everything you could want in a Star Wars comic.  It’s the kind of purely fun story that would make a great monthly even today.  If only they continued this story in an ongoing series!

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As we first previewed here at borg last July, Titan Publishing and Alcon Media Group, the producer behind more than 30 films over the past 20 years, announced a partnership that will mean the beginning of an expanded universe of stories for Rick Deckard, Replicants, and the world of Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049.  Today Titan Comics released its first look at the new comic book series, and revealed its title, Blade Runner 2019The original film and this year have been the subject of millions of shared memes commenting on the fact that the real 2019 looks little like Ridley Scott’s 1982 vision of 2019.

The new series will be “in canon” comics and graphic novels that dive deeper into the Blade Runner world.  According to an Alcon representative, “The Blade Runner universe has barely been explored; there is so much more there.  It’s an honour to be bringing this world to life in new ways for a new audience – and to reveal tales from that universe that you’ve never seen before.”  Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was adapted from the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a novel by science fiction legend Philip K. Dick, who endorsed the original film project in 1982, but died before its release.

New character concept drawings for Blade Runner 2019.

Launching this summer, Titan Comics’ new series will be set during the exact timeframe of the original 1982 Blade Runner film, and feature a mostly new set of characters and situations.   Artist Andres Guinaldo (Justice League Dark, Captain America) created the above first looks at characters featured in the new story.  He joins Oscar-nominated Blade Runner 2049 screenwriter Michael Green (Logan) and Mike Johnson (Star Trek, Super­man/Batman) on the series.

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