RIP Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain, the TV celebrity and food writer who hosted CNN’s “Parts Unknown,” was found dead in his hotel room Friday. He was in France while working on his series on culinary traditions around the world. Bordain was 61. CNN confirmed the death, saying that Bourdain was found unresponsive Friday morning by friend and chef Eric Ripert near the French city of Strasbourg. It called his death a suicide. His first food and world-travel television show was A Cook’s Tour, which ran for 35 episodes on the Food Network from 2002 through 2003. In 2005 he began hosting the Travel Channel’s culinary and cultural adventure programs Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (2005–2012) and The Layover (2011–2013). In 2013, he switched to CNN to host Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.

A French prosecutor said Bourdain apparently hanged himself in a luxury hotel in the small town of Kayserberg. French media quoted Colmar prosecutor Christian de Rocquigny du Fayel as saying that “at this stage” nothing suggests another person was involved. However, investigators were verifying the circumstances of Bourdain’s death. Bourdain was staying at Le Chambard, a five-star hotel. Bourdain’s girlfriend, actress Asia Argento, said in a statement posted to Twitter that she was “beyond devastated.”

Bourdain achieved celebrity status after the publication in 2000 of his best-selling book “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.” The book created a sensation by combining frank details of his life and career with behind-the-scenes observations on the culinary industry. It was a rare crossover – a book intended for professional cooks that had enormous mass appeal. Bourdain went on to achieve widespread fame thanks to his CNN series “Parts Unknown” – and was filming an upcoming segment for the program when he was found dead, according to CNN. Strasbourg police, emergency services and regional authorities did not immediately have information about the death. Bourdain’s assistant Laurie Woolever would not comment when reached by The Associated Press.

The American chef, author and television personality was born in New York City and was raised in Leonia, New Jersey. He had written that his love of food began as a youth while on a family vacation in France, when he ate his first oyster. Bourdain said his youth was punctuated by drug use and he dropped out of Vassar College after two years. Working in restaurants led him to the Culinary Institute of America, where he graduated in 1978, and began working in kitchens in New York City. He became executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in 1998.

Bourdain married his high school girlfriend, Nancy Putkoski, in 1985, and they remained together for two decades, divorcing in 2005. On April 20, 2007, he married Ottavia Busia, a mixed martial artist. The couple’s daughter, Ariane, was born in 2007. Bourdain noted that having to be away from his wife and child for about 250 days a year working on his television shows became a strain. The couple divorced amicably in 2016. In 2017, Bourdain began dating Italian actress Asia Argento, whom he met when she appeared on the Rome episode of Parts Unknown.

Wild Wild Country

Wild Wild Country is a Netflix documentary series about the controversial Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (later known as Osho Rajneesh), his one-time personal assistant Ma Anand Sheela, and their community of followers in the Rajneeshpuram community located in Wasco County, Oregon. It was released on Netflix on March 16, 2018, after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival.

I knew some things about Osho but apparently that was just the more recent stuff. I knew he was a controversial figure and guru but didn’t know much else. I knew he talked about sex and sexuality and that most religious people in India were not too comfortable with it. But I did not know anything about this scandal. When I saw the trailer/ad for this Netflix documentary series on Facebook, I knew I wanted to check it out. It is fascinating and makes for a compelling semi-binge if you will. It’s just 8 episodes long but each episode is over 60 minutes long. The Rajneesh movement that began in earnest in India, was hounded out off India because of their controversial practices and tension between the ruling Janata Party government of Morarji Desai and the movement led to a curbing of the ashram’s development.

With a lot of his followers being mostly white foreigners (I can remember seeing only less than 10 Indians in the whole documentary) the community decided to move abroad. In 1981, efforts refocused on activities in the United States and Rajneesh relocated to a facility known as Rajneeshpuram in Wasco County, Oregon. Rajneesh’s personal secretary, the megalomaniacal Ma Anand Sheela, orchestrated the commune’s construction. They called their new home Rajneeshpuram, and its 64,000 acres were quickly occupied by thousands of sannyasins seeking proximity to their leader and a life of meditative bliss. However things began to take a turn for the worse when the Rajneeshs clashed with the conservative Christian community of Antelope, population of just 70.

Directed by brothers Chapman Way and Maclain Way,details Rajneeshpuram’s downward spiral; the scandals that plague the community include immigration fraud, biochemical attacks, arson, assassination attempts, the recruitment of homeless individuals to sway an election and the drugging of those same folks after their presence threatens the commune’s peace.  There are extensive interviews with key former members of Rajneeshpuram, including Sheela herself. Finally – what seems to me atleast – it all came down to a rage of jealousy; Sheela was pushed away from her influence as Rajneesh’s succumbed to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood as among his more rich and affluent followers were Ma Prem Hasya (a.k.a. Francoise Ruddy) – the ex-spouse of Godfather producer Albert S. Ruddy who eventually supplanted Sheela as Bhagwan’s secretary and fled with him to India following his 1985 conviction – who along with the others showered Rajneesh with expensive gifts.

Rajneesh himself said so in an interview after Sheela left. It certainly comes off that way. I can still not understand or believe that so many people just showered their love, devotion, money and Rolls Royces his way. What the heck? But then I never really understood religions or cults – both are the same, one just has a lot more followers, power and influence in politics – but still found it compelling. A 9.5 outta 10!

RIP Steven Bocho

Steven Bochco, a writer and producer known for creating the groundbreaking police drama Hill Street Blues, died on Sunday. He was 74. A family spokesman says Bochco died in his sleep after a battle with cancer. Bochco, who won 10 Emmy awards, created several hit television shows including LA Law, NYPD Blue and Doogie Howser, MD. Bochco grew up in Manhattan, the son of a painter and a concert violinist. On arriving in Los Angeles after college, he wrote for several series at Universal Studios. Then he got a big break: writing the screenplay for the 1972 sci-fi film Silent Running.

Premiering in January 1981, Hill Street Blues challenged, even confounded the meager audience that sampled it. Then, on a wave of critical acclaim, the series began to click with viewers, while scoring a history-making 27 Emmy nominations its first year. During its seven-season run, it won 26 Emmys and launched Bochco on a course that led to dozens of series and earned him four Peabody awards, in addition to the 10 Emmys. Bochco moved to 20th Century Fox where he co-created and produced L.A. Law (1986–1994) which aired on NBC. This series was also widely acclaimed and a regular award winner and achieved far higher ratings success than Hill Street Blues had enjoyed.

In 1987, Bochco co-created the half-hour dramedy Hooperman which starred John Ritter but was canceled after two seasons, despite Bochco offering to take over direct day-to-day control of a third season. From this deal came Doogie Howser, M.D. (1989–1993) and 1990’s Cop Rock, which combined straight police drama with live-action Broadway singing and dancing. It was one of his highest-profile failures. In 1992, Bochco created an animated television series, Capitol Critters, along with Nat Mauldin and Michael Wagner. After a lull, Bochco co-created NYPD Blue (1993–2005) with David Milch. Other projects in this period that failed to take off include Murder One (1995–1997), Brooklyn South (1997), City of Angels (2000), Philly (2001), and Over There (2005). All five shows failed to match Bochco’s earlier success though Murder One and Over There garnered critical praise.

From 2014 to its cancellation in 2016, he wrote and executive produced Murder in the First, a series drama which he co-created with Eric Lodal. In 1970, he married actress Barbara Bosson, who appeared as a regular on Hill Street Blues. They had two children before divorcing in 1997. In later years he was married to Dayna Kalins (m. August 12, 2000). His son, Jesse Bochco, by Bosson, was a producer/director on NYPD Blue and directed the pilot episode of Raising the Bar. Bochco was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014, requiring a bone marrow transplant later that year.

RIP David Ogden Stiers

Veteran actor David Ogden Stiers, best known for his role as the arrogant surgeon Major Charles Emerson Winchester III on “MASH,” died Saturday. He was 75. His agent, Mitchell K. Stubbs, tweeted that he died of bladder cancer at his home in Newport, Ore. He is also known for the role of District Attorney Michael Reston in several Perry Mason TV movies.

Stiers first appeared in the Broadway production The Magic Show in 1974 in the minor role of Feldman. Subsequent early credits include The Mary Tyler Moore ShowKojak, and Rhoda. Stiers also appeared in the pilot of Charlie’s Angels as the team’s chief back-up. In 1977, Stiers joined the cast of the CBS-TV sitcom M*A*S*H. As Major Charles Emerson Winchester III, Stiers filled the void created by the departure of actor Larry Linville’s Frank Burns character. In contrast to the buffoonish Burns, Winchester was a well-spoken and talented surgeon who presented a different type of foil to Alan Alda’s Hawkeye Pierce and Mike Farrell’s B.J. Hunnicutt. Stiers received two Emmy Award nominations.

After M*A*S*H completed its run in 1983, Stiers expanded his work on television with regular guest appearances on North and SouthStar Trek: The Next GenerationMurder, She WroteMatlockTouched by an AngelWings; and Frasier, along with a recurring role in Season 1 of Two Guys and a Girl as Mr. Bauer. In 1984, he portrayed United States Olympic Committee founder William Milligan Sloane in the NBC miniseries The First Olympics: Athens 1896. Beginning in 1985, Stiers made his first of eight appearances in Perry Mason made-for-TV movies as District Attorney Michael Reston. He had guest appearances on ALF and Matlock. He appeared in two unsuccessful television projects, Love & Money and Justice League of America (as the Martian Manhunter).

For efforts as the narrator and as of Disney’s enormous hit animated film “Beauty and the Beast,” he shared a Grammy win for best recording for children and another nomination for album of the year. In 2002, Stiers started a recurring role as the Reverend Purdy on the successful USA Network series The Dead Zone with Anthony Michael Hall. In 2006, he was cast as the recurring character Oberoth in Stargate Atlantis. I will forever remember Stiers as the lead guest character in that thought provoking TNG episode that is at the heart of great scifi.

Stiers was gay but never spoke publicly about his sexual orientation until 2009, as he feared that public knowledge of his sexuality would harm his career; much of his work would consist of family-friendly roles.

RIP John Mahoney

John Mahoney, a veteran character actor best known for playing the curmudgeonly dog-loving father of the title character in TV’s “Frasier,” has died, his publicist said Monday.He was 77 years old. Mahoney, who played Martin Crane, father of Frasier Crane and Niles Crane on the long-running sitcom, died Sunday in Chicago after a short illness, Wendy Morris told CNN. Mahoney was an ensemble member of the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago for 39 years, the theater said in a tweet.

Mahoney played the father of Kelsey Grammer’s Frasier and David Hyde Pierce’s Niles. The series, a spinoff of Cheers, ran for 13 seasons on NBC from 1993 to 2004. Mahoney’s portrayal of Marty earned him two Emmy nominations, two Golden Globe nominations and a Screen Actors Guild award. The actor was born in Blackpool, England, but made Chicago his adopted hometown. Beginning his acting career in theatre in the 1970s, he joined Steppenwolf Theatre on the suggestion of actor John Malkovich, eventually winning a Tony Award for his performance in John Guare’s The House of Blue Leaves in 1986.

Mahoney made his feature film debut in Tin Men in 1987, later appearing in films including In the Line of Fire, Reality Bites, Say Anything, The American President and Primal Fear. He was also a frequent voice actor, including voicing characters in the 1998 animated film Antz, Atlantis: The Lost Empire and an episode of the Simpsons. Mahoney’s recent work included guest appearances on Hot in Cleveland and a 2015 episode of Foyle’s War. Mahoney moved to the United States as a young man when his older sister, Vera, a war bride living in rural Illinois, agreed to sponsor him. He studied at Quincy University, Illinois, before joining the United States Army to speed up the U.S. citizenship process; he received citizenship in 1959.

Along with David Hyde Pierce, Mahoney was godfather to Frasier co-star Jane Leeves’ son Finn. Mahoney rarely spoke publicly about his private life, but in a 2002 article he revealed he had been in several relationships, although he had never married. He suffered from colon cancer in the mid-1980s.

RIP Donnelly Rhodes

Veteran tv actor Donnelly Rhodes died on 8th January. A character actor with many Canadian & American television and film credits, Rhodes is probably best known to American audiences as the hapless escaped convict Dutch Leitner on the ABC soap opera spoof Soap. Rhodes was well known to Canadian audiences as Sgt Nick Raitt in the CBC TV series Sidestreet (1975-1978 ) and as Grant “Doc” Roberts in another CBC TV series called Danger Bay (1985-1990). The Winnipeg-born actor received numerous accolades, including a Gemini award for his role as Det. Leo Shannon in the drama Da Vinci’s Inquest in 2002 and a Gemini Earle Grey Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2006. He also starred as Doctor Cottle on the Sci Fi Channel television program Battlestar Galactica (2004).

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Rhodes, is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada. Rhodes appeared in the Season 4 episode “The Mastermind” of Mission: Impossible on CBS in 1969. In 1973, Rhodes co-starred in an episode of the sci-fi drama The Starlost (Episode 12, ‘The Implant People’ ). He played Phillip Chancellor II in The Young and the Restless from 1974 to 1975 and from 1978 to 1981 he played escaped convict Dutch Leitner on Soap. In 1980, he played a Franciscan priest in the concluding episode, “The Siren Song”, of the CBS western miniseries The Chisholms. In 1982, he played Leo, a bar patron on Cheers.

He starred as Arland D. Williams Jr. in the television disaster film Flight 90: Disaster on the Potomac, the first time I ever remember watching him and it was a film we had recorded on VHS. In 1987, he made a guest appearance on The Golden Girls as Jake Smollens, the handsome but rough-around-the edges caterer for Blanche’s (Rue McClanahan) hospital charity banquet. In 1988, he guest starred on Empty Nest as Leonard, an old friend of the main character, Dr. Harry Weston (played by fellow Soap alumnus, Richard Mulligan), who dates Harry’s daughter, Carol (played by Soap alumna Dinah Manoff).

In 1991 he played the “Prodigal Father” in an episode of Murder She Wrote. In 1993, he played Jim Parker in “Shapes” (Season 1, episode 19) of The X-Files. For seven years (1998-2005) he played Detective Leo Shannon on Da Vinci’s Inquest. He played the character Milash in an episode of Smallville in 2008. On Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009) Rhodes played Chief Medical Officer Dr. Cottle who, ironically (as a doctor), smoked cigarettes in most scenes. Most recently Rhodes played Mr. Decker, Rufus Decker’s father, in the two seasons of The loans in Romeo Section on CBC in payday loan shop 2015-2016.

Rhodes’ film appearances were fewer but included roles in Gunfight in Abilene (1967), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Change of Mind (1969), The Neptune Factor (1973), Goldenrod (1976), Oh! Heavenly Dog (1980) and Urban Safari (1996). In February 2009, the Union of British Columbia Performers honoured Rhodes with the Sam Payne Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Donnelly Rhodes Henry (December 4, 1937 – January 8, 2018 )

The Indian Detective

The Indian Detective is a Canadian comedy-drama series, debuting on CTV and Netflix in 2017. The show stars Russell Peters as Doug D’Mello, a police officer from Toronto who becomes embroiled in a murder investigation while visiting his father (Anupam Kher) in Mumbai while serving a one month suspension for incompetence. The mini-series also stars Christina Cole as D’Mello’s partner  Robyn “Bob” Gerner, Mishqah Parthiephal as Indian lawyer Priya Sehgal, Hamza Haq as twins Gopal & Amal Chandekar, Meren Reddy as Inspector Abhishek Devo and William Shatner as David Marlowe. It’s the feel good comforting, light-hearted police/crime / investigation with lots of humour and silliness involved.

Doug is a constable 1st class who with his partner Robyn, want to become detectives. After a suspension following a highly public failed drug bust and an urgent phone call from his father‘s hometown of Mumbai, constable Doug flies to India to visit his ailing father Stanley. Doug, who is suspended for a month, decides to stay in Mumbai, even as his dad seems to be ok. He meets the pretty lawyer, Priya Sehgal, who lives in the same building and gets caught up in a case that connects Mumbai & Toronto. Priya was led to believe that A swami is killed by poisoning and the local chaiwala confesses, even though Priya knows he is covering for someone else.

Even though their initial investigation brings forth the real murderer who is the wife of a wealthy business and disciple of the swami and who was giving away his wealth, a crimelord who has the local deputy commissioner in his pocket and is doing business with a well established Canadian developer named Marlowe (Shatner) is behind the forceful removal of the people living in a large slum to make way for a large building. The crimelord, Gopal, is financing the money using his twin brother Amal who lives in Toronto and part of a drug smuggling into the US. This same drug smuggling group is the one which Doug had tried to bust and failed, making his final victory all the more sweet.

In the end, his father’s health improves and although there are a few deaths, including a goon of Gopal who turned to help the good guys, Doug is vindicated and catches the bad guys and also wins the heart of Priya. The 4th episode ends on a sort of cliff hanger, when Marlowe informs a Nigerian drug lord that Doug was to blame for the latter’s loss of cocaine that got busted on the Canadian border. It’s a 7.5 outta 10 for me as it’s neither a comedy nor a full fledged detective/crime investigation show. But it has some good moments.

RIP Albert Moses

Sri Lankan born actor Albert Moses who became famous for his character Ranjeet Singh, a Sikh from Punjab (‘A THOUSAND APOLOGIES’ ) in the ITV sitcom Mind Your Language died in London September 15. He was 79. The remains of Albert Moses will be buried at St.Andrew’s Church in his native Gampola today.

Moses, who was based in the United Kingdom began his acting career in the 1960s in India where he acted in several films. From India, he moved to Africa where he undertook work on documentaries. Moses has been involved with the film and television industry for over 30 years starting in India where he acted in 7 films. In the UK, Albert has been involved in a great number of diverse projects, several of which were ventures filmed around the globe.

In his younger days, Albert’s specialties as an actor included: fencing, dancing, singing, motor-cycle stunts, karate and judo. He is fluent in English, Arabic, Tamil, Sinhalese, moderate German and Sanskrit. One of Albert’s popular themes was playing the double of Clarke Gable. He has played in film, television and theatrical productions with many respected actors including: Kirk Douglas, Oliver Reed, Sir John Gielgud, Roger Moore, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Charles Dance, Kenneth Williams, Benny Hill, Tim Piggott Smith, Pamela Stevenson, Diana Rigg and many others.

During his extensive career, he has also worked with many internationally renowned directors including John Landis, John Houston, Rob Cohen and Alan Parker. He did prominent roles in many theatre productions such as Freeway at National Theatre Phædra Britannica with Dame Diana Rigg. Long March to Jerusalem at Watford Theatre are few of the many.

He starred in movies such as The Man Who Would Be King – A John Houston film with Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Christopher Plummer, The Spy Who Loved Me – James Bond Movie with Roger Moore, Stand Up Virgin Soldiers – EMI, Carry On Emmanuelle – as an Indian doctor, The Little Drummer Girl – EMI, The Awakening – Columbia Pictures, An American Werewolf In London – John Landis Movie, The Great Quest – with Oliver Reed, Pink Floyd, The Wall – Alan Parker Film, Octopussy – James Bond Movie (as Saddrudin – undercover British agent in India), Jungle Book II – Walt Disney, East Is East – Channel Four Films, Scandalous – with Sir John Gielguld and Pamela Stevenson.

Star Trek Discovery : Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

We finally visit a planet on Star Trek Discovery. Our first away mission on a planet that looks alien and has an alien look & feel about it and which a non-corporeal life form.

Coming to the aid of another Federation ship, the Discovery is unable to prevent its destruction from a Klingon ship with their cloaking technology. Desperate for a way to detect these ships even when they are cloaked, Burnham, Tyler, and Saru are sent to Pahvo, a seemingly uninhabited planet with a naturally occurring crystalline transmitter that broadcasts the planet’s vibrational frequency into space. They hope to use the transmitter to create a sonar for the hidden Klingon ships. They discover that Pahvo is inhabited with indigenous life that introduce Saru to their higher understanding of peace, and he attempts to force Burnham and Tyler to remain with him on the planet forever. Burnham is able to fight off Saru and broadcast the new signal. However, the Pahvo lifeforms adjust the signal to contact the Klingons as well, hoping to end the war. Kol receives the signal, after sentencing L’Rell to death: she had tried to help Cornwell escape in exchange for protection from Kol, leading to L’Rell apparently killing Cornwell to try save face with Kol.

And we see some amazing character development in terms of Saru. In a lifetime of fear, where he has never been at ease in his own skin, of course Saru would finally find peace on Pahvo and want to hold onto it forever. That was really good. I also really like the Gagarin ship which is now the cover of my Facebook page. I don’t care if most people (including me) agrees that it is the Shenzou with the nacelles reversed. A space battle in which the Gagagrin is destroyed – oh no – even though Discovery comes to her aid. And the thing with L’Rell wanting to defect?

L’rell asks Kol to let her interrogate the Admiral who he had captured two episodes ago. Cornwell screams back at the Klingon when faced with a terrifying scream from her to be torturor. And then L’rell tells her as they discuss peacefully, that she wants to defect as she feels that Kol’s methods have no honour. They try to make their way out of the Klingon ship but Kol sees them so L’rell picks up the Admiral and hits her against a electric device which seems to kill her. L’rell drags the body to a chamber where she sees all of her men killed and their bodies laid out. She swears revenge but is captured and imprisoned by Kol.

Are the Pavhan’s similar to the spores? They seem to be able to transport you instantaneously, as they show bringing Ash to where Saru and Michael are fighting. And then they signal the Klingons in order to bring about peace – are they like the Organians? What will happen in the next episode when the Discovery comes face to face with the Sarcophagus ship? A 8 outta 10!

Star Trek Discovery : Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad

Star Trek Discovery‘s 7th episode has a familiar Star Trek and scifi theme – a time loop, destruction and repeat. Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad may have a familiar feel to it but that does not make the episode any less entertaining and enjoyable.

Episode Synopsis:

While attending a crew party, Burnham and Tyler are called to the bridge to deal with an endangered space creature that the Discovery has come across. When the creature is brought on board, it is revealed to be carrying a person: Harry Mudd. He plans to kill Lorca and sell the ship to the Klingons, but when he is caught he blows up the ship instead. Time returns to the party earlier, with Burnham and Tyler called to the bridge again. They are intercepted by Stamets, who is aware that they are in a time loop due to his interactions with Ripper. Over several time loops Stamets works with Burnham and Tyler to find a solution to the problem while Mudd gets further in his plan each time. They eventually convince Mudd that he has won, and he ends the time loop. Preparing to receive a boarding party of Klingons, Mudd is instead confronted by his “beloved” Stella and her father, from whom he had stolen her dowry. They take Mudd away. Stamets reveals to Burnham and Tyler that in one of the time loops they had danced together and kissed.

So while I was not really that chuffed about this episode, many people were. It’s been done before – especially a memorable episode in TNG – so I wasn’t that happy. Yet it did have it’s cool moments. The crew having some down time while still in the midst of this war with the Klingons (though they are winning at this point and hence it is understood) and having a party with music and drinks. Though playing an annoying 21st century hip-hop version of a Bee Gees disco classic (disco on the Disco-very, get it) is not cool. Tyler & Burnham kiss in one of the time loops, so you know that the pair are going down that road soon.

While I am know for not liking time travel (if done right it’s great, if not it just plain sucks) I can enjoy the complexity of it. Plus Rainn Wilson is loving it playing Harry Mudd in a Star Trek show (he is a fan) and is hamming it up. Again, even though I have a hard time placing him as the same Harry Mudd from TOS. And what’s up with Stamets? I just feel that something major is happening to that guy. Now he is outside of normal time! Will we see him transform and change into something else? And perhaps that’s why the spore drive is lost to Starfleet and we never see it again.

And one more thing – I can buy everything else but why let Harry go with his father-in-law and wife? He just committed a terrible criminal act, killed a few officers including Lorca, the captain, multiple times though because of the time loop there is eventually no harm done. I just don’t get that ending. Lorca should have imprisoned him or killed him. Oh yeah and Ash Tyler walking around unshave like that – it’s not becoming of a Starfleet officer. It doesn’t make sense. 8 outta 10!

Star Trek Discovery : Lethe

Hmmm, an episode in which I am quite torn about, I really liked some aspects of it and did not agree with some of it. This episode has been said to be very Star Trek-ish but to me the aspects I did not like was a bit off putting.

Episode Synopsis:

On his way to broker a peace deal with two renegade Klingon houses, Sarek is injured when a “logic extremist” attempts to assassinate him. Burnham senses this, and Lorca agrees to help rescue him. Admiral Katrina Cornwell questions this decision and others that Lorca has been making. Burnham enters the nebula in a shuttle with her roommate, Cadet Sylvia Tilly, and Tyler. Burnham attempts to connect with Sarek’s mind, and finds him remembering the time that her application for the Vulcan Expeditionary Group was rejected. Sarek reveals that the VEG would only admit one of his children, and he chose Spock, his half-human son. Spock ultimately chose to join Starfleet, rendering Sarek’s decision futile. Burnham helps Sarek regain consciousness and activate a locator beacon. Lorca and Cornwell sleep together, but she is concerned by his paranoid behavior and plans to have him removed from command of Discovery. With Sarek unable to meet the Klingons, Cornwell takes his place; however, the peace talks are actually a trap, and she is taken captive.

Ok, I cannot stand this long range Vulcan means of communication just because some of Sarek’s katra is with his adopted daughter Michael Burnham. I do not like it as it is more fantasy than science fiction. Other than that the story of Burnham and Sarek is actually good and very interesting. But why would the Vulcans be so racist (alienist) against humans at this stage of their relationship with them? This is 100 years or a bit less after the formation of the Federation. And why paint the Vulcan society in general as such jerks?

Michael who is older than Spock was a good student and cleared her tests to get into The Vulcan Science Academy. But they don’t want both her and later on Sarek’s half-human son in the academy as well. They make him choose and he makes the logical choice – he chooses Spock because atleast he looks more Vulcan and hence will not face too much of a problem. Burhman, being fully human, would be more at home in Starfleet among humans. So he lies to her and Amanda (played by Canadian actress Mia Kirshner) and says that she did not clear the tests. Hence, she is sent to Starfleet.

Now Lorca! We see him being visited by his friend Admiral Cornwell, who is worried about him. They end up in bed – apparently they have been an on-off thing earlier on before she got promoted to Admiral – but while he is asleep she notes a triangular shaped mark or torture remnant on his back and when she touches it, he wakes up with a jolt and pulls his phaser on her. She pushes him away and informs him that she was right about her suspicions of him being too disturbed and not fit to command. As she has to go take Sarek’s position in the peace talks on neutral territory, she puts off informing Starfleet command about Lorca until she gets back. And ofcourse the meeting turns out to be a trap.

Her aids are killed as are the neutral aliens hosting the peace talk by Kol’s men and they take Cornwell as a prisoner. What is in store for her, we don’t know. Are Burnham and Tyler going to have a relationship more than friendship as it looked like at the end of the episode? Is Ash actually Voq? I dunno. I give this episode a 7.5 outta 10!

The Best Infomercials That Tempted Me

 Have you ever bought one of those “as seen on tv” payday loans on line items? Was it worth it?

No never though I have been tempted on many occasions. There have been a few that have caught my eye, but most have been ridiculously priced that I have y doubts about them. Anyway, I will tell you about a couple that I did want to buy.

There is this mop – can’t remember the name – that is almost futuristic in it’s application and the technology that it uses. I remember watching it with my mom one late evening and I was asking her if she wanted to buy it. She did and so did I but we had our doubts about the genuineness of the sellers on the infomercial.

And then there is the Magic Bullet! Truly the best infomercial on the planet ever. I mean the almost 30 minute video – which was shown here in clips of 8 or 10 minutes each is hilarious, though it surely wasn’t meant to be. But it has become my favourite and even a nostalgic favourite of mine. I want to buy the Magic Bullet someday.

Prompt from 31 DAYS OF WRITING PROMPTS FOR DECEMBER at The SitsGirls

Star Trek Discovery : Choose Your Pain

We finally see one of the main cast members, after 4 episodes, and see an old familiar character albeit played by a different actor as well as a different look. Also, what the heck is up with Stamet’s reflection?

Episode Synopsis:

After a month of successful operations, Lorca is ordered to protect the spore drive until it can be replicated for other Starfleet ships. As he returns to the Discovery, he is taken captive by the Klingons. Burnham has grown concerned with the toll that the drive has taken on Ripper. Along with Stamets’ partner, medical officer Hugh Culbert, Burnham convinces Stamets to find an alternative to run the drive. Lorca is imprisoned with captured Starfleet officer Ash Tyler and human criminal Harry Mudd, and in discussions Lorca reveals that he killed his entire crew during an earlier battle to spare them from the Klingons’ torture, but escaped himself. Lorca is tortured by L’Rell, who wants the secret behind Discovery’s new form of travel, but Lorca and Tyler escape before the Klingons learn anything. For the final jump needed to escape the Klingons, with Lorca and Tyler onboard, Stamets connects to the spore drive himself using Ripper’s DNA. Later, Burnham frees Ripper, while Stamets’ reflection does not walk away from a mirror when he does.

We see a lot of things – Lorca’s back story is very interesting. A captain not going down with his ship and instead is the only one survivor while the rest of his crew is dead? Apparently seeing that the crew would be captured by the Klingons and unable to save them and not wanting them to be tortured by their enemies, he took the decision to blow up the ship. This makes us understand his willingness to win the war at all costs.

Saru shows some character growth and development here. Saru gets his first taste of command when Lorca is captured and he asks the computer to list out the best captains in Starfleet’s history – a list which has Robert April, Phillippa Georgou, Matthew Decker, Christopher Pike and Johnathan Archer – and asks for common characteristics. He wants the computer to analyse his performance and check to see if has common traits. At the end, despite the rescue of Lorca and fellow Starfleet officer / POW Ash Tyler, Saru does not want to know the results from the computer, instead he lets his actions speak for themselves.

That brings us to Ash Tyler, a POW who has been on this Klingon ship for about 6 months. Klingon L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) has taken over as captain of the ship and has taken a liking to him which has eased up his torture. And when I say liking – yeah, she is using him as a sex slave! Lorca meets Ash as well as Harry Mudd, who was captured while trying to escape his debtors. I think this Mudd is interesting; he has been a snitch for the Klingons and thus has been so far almost bruise free while other prisoners get beaten. He has a creature named Stewart who he has trained to steal food as well.

Lorca and Ash are able to escape, after Lorca has had a torture session, beat up and kill a few Klingons. When Ash is alone, L’Rell comes to find him and asks him how he could leave her after what they have been through. It’s a threat more than a lover’s lament and the look on Ash’s face says it all. Lorca shoots at her but it hits a beam and sparks ricochet off it onto her face, giving her a massive burn. She yells him pain as Lorca and Ash make their way to some shuttles and escape to be picked up by the Discovery, evading chasing Klingons.

The poor tortured Tardigrade is being put through the wringer and Burnham is feeling empathy for it. She questions usage of the spore drive, which is hurting the creature so much. At one point it shrivels and shrinks down and Stamets uses it’s dna on himself and connects himself to the spore drive making the rescue of Lorca and Ash possible. And what the heck happens to him? After seeing him and his partner, Dr. Hugh Culber, are in their quarters brushing their teeth in the bathroom and while Stamets says he is fine, after he walks away we see his reflection still in the reflection with a sinister smile and then it walks away. What the hell?

Is this a foreshadowing of the mirror universe? Does the Discovery’s work with the spore drive cause the mirror universe to connect with us from time to time? We don’t know. Only time will tell. Also, is Ash a Klingon spy? Talks have been around that he is actually Voq, who has undergone surgery at a genetic level to disguise himself as a human. As wonderfully unique as that would be, it does not seem feasible and will have a lot more questions. I give the episode an 8.5 outta 10!

The Orville : Episodes 3 & 4

It’s been a while but I am finally back to my review of the episodes from The Orville. Episode number 3 is one of my fav scifi episodes of all time. It is just wonderful the way they spun the story.

When Dr. Finn refuses Bortus and Klyden’s request to have their daughter undergo sex reassignment surgery, which is standard practice for Moclans on the very rare occasions when a female is born, the parents petition Mercer to order the procedure. Mercer refuses, as he (and the rest of the crew) object to performing such a procedure on a healthy infant, so Bortus and Klyden arrange to have the procedure performed on a Moclan vessel. Gordon and John change Bortus’s mind by showing him Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but Klyden still wants to proceed, revealing that he was born female.

The case is arbitrated on the Moclan planet, Moclus, where Grayson represents Bortus; she casts doubt on the idea of male superiority by demonstrating that Alara is physically strong and Gordon is stupid. Ed locates a female Moclan of advanced years, Heveena, who testifies that she lived a happy and fulfilling life in seclusion, and reveals that under the pseudonym “Gondus Elden”, she has become an esteemed novelist on Moclus. But Klyden and the tribunal are unconvinced, and the baby undergoes the surgery. Despite their disagreement, Bortus and Klyden are committed to one another and to giving their son, Topa, a good life.

Talk about a deep subject in the midst of the comedy. This is scifi tv at it’s best, using a futuristic setting to talk about humanity’s issues which are happening now and have happened before and will probably still continue. The way it ended, sad for me, was brilliant – if the Moclan had come to the decision to not have the baby undergo the sex change operation to turn it into a male, it would have been cheesy and predictable. The ending was touching and realistic. Very good writing. This episode is a perfect 10 for me, considering that the show is basically a spoof.

The Orville encounters a huge, 2000-year-old derelict ship drifting into a star. Mercer, Grayson, Kitan, Finn, and Isaac enter, discovering an artificial biosphere and a civilization of 3 million who worship an entity called Dorahl, and do not know they are on a ship. Grayson is held prisoner by their theocratic dictator Hamelac, who imposes a death penalty on “Reformers” who believe anything exists beyond the known world. While Bortus takes the Orville to save a colony ship from a Krill attack, Grayson’s crewmates rescue her and lead a group of Reformers to the alien ship’s bridge.

An ancient recording from Captain Jahavus Dorahl (a surprise cameo by Liam Nesson) reveals that it was a generation ship disabled by an ion storm. Isaac initiates repairs and opens the hull’s window, enabling the populace to see stars for the first time, moving even Hamelac. Mercer makes arrangements for the Union to train the people to operate their ship. Meanwhile, Klyden is frustrated that Bortus’s duties leave him little time for family.

This type of storyline has been done before in Star Trek yet the context is still done well. No doubt a dig at totalitarian regimes, religious dogma and societies unwilling to change, this is also Scifi at it’s best. And they kept the comedy to a lesser degree in an episode in which Alara is seriously injured and in which Kelly is captured and tortured. The Liam Neeson appareance threw up for a loop. Expecting more such surprises and oh we are getting a hot super star in the next episode. A 7 outta 10 for me.

Star Trek : Discovery – The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not For The Lamb’s Cry

With an awesome title, I had hoped that episode 4 will be just as awesome in it’s delivery as well. It was pretty good but I felt that it didn’t match upto the previous episode. And also, they kill off the Indian female connection in the show. Bad Star Trek!

Episode Synopsis:

Lorca assigns Burnham to study the creature from the Glenn to find a way to use its biology as a weapon. Starfleet orders Discovery to relieve the dilithium mining colony of Corvan II which has come under Klingon attack. Stamets is reluctant to make such a long jump using the spores, get a house loan with bad credit and when the drive is activated the ship nearly collides with a star. Commander Landry is sent to keep the research on track, and attempts to sedate the creature to cut off its claw, but it escapes and kills her. Burnham approaches the creature with a spore cannister and it remains calm. Noticing the creature’s reaction to the jump and its symbiotic relationship to the spores, Stamets and Burnham transport the creature to Engineering, where it connects to the drive and calculates the navigation coordinates, allowing the ship to jump to Corvan and save the colony. On T’Kuvma’s flagship, Voq and L’Rell scavenge the dilithium processor from the Shenzhou. On their return, Klingon commander Kol has convinced Voq’s crew to mutiny and exiles him to the Shenzhou to die. L’Rell transports aboard and tells him they can win the war themselves.

Faced with the unenviable task of recusing the miners of Corvan II is the big challenge for the crew of the Discovery. As Lorca notes, if the planet fell to the Klingons or got destroyed then a lot of Starfleet’s dilithium supply would be lost. The closest ship was 84 light years away so Lorca’s quest to use the spores and the mega-tardigrade to get the spore drive online and reach the planet in time to fend off attacking Klingon ships.

The thing I hated about this episode was the rather dumb choice that Commander Landry did – one of the demands Lorca had for Michael and Landry was to figure out how to weaponize the tardigrade’s talons or whatnot, since the animal received no damage from Klingon weapons. Letting the creature loose and then trying to stun it did not go down well. She was attacked and mauled to death. Killing off my Indian connection to the show pissed me off, though I kinda knew that her role would not last long.

Stamets gets a talking down from his captain, who clearly hates him and boy is the feeling mutual. In front of his mate, Dr. Hugh Culber, Lorca berates his officer to the point of us feeling sad for this character. Stamets didn’t sign on for war and looking for ways to win at war – he came on to peacefully explore and study. But in a time of war, especially with such a formidable enemy as the Klingons, all exploration and pursuit of science for knowledge goes out the airlock and science is used to make weapons or make weapons more efficient. In this case, also to speed up the ship’s transport.

With Voq’s leading T’kuvma’s people on the ship which requires repair and them starving as their supplies run out, his stubbornness about scavenging the Shenzhou for power has put his followers at even greater risk. A rival Klingon name Kol from the House of Kor, takes advantage of the situation and taunts Voq – is that a little racism I hear – and brings food and supplies to the rest of the ship. L’Rell too seems to have abandoned Voq as she sides with Kol but after the albino is beamed abroad the Shenzhou to starve to death, she secrtely beams herself in as the other leave.

She tells him that she did it to save him; the deception as all to keep Voq alive so she could transport him to the matriarchs of her clan. With them, Voq can learn everything he needs to know about leadership. But he’ll have to give up everything. At the end of the episode, Michael learns that she has been willed Captain Georgiou’s family heirloom, an old telescope that she clearly cherished.

What is in store for Voq, Burham and the Discovery’s crew. I have become so entranced by this show – despite it’s flaws and all – and want to know more and more.

Star Trek : Discovery – Context Is For Kings

Episode 3 is the actual pilot for the show because episodes 1 & 2, as a two parter, serves as a prologue to Discovery in a way. We finally get the see the ship in question and which shares it’s name with the title of the show.

Episode Synopsis:

Six months into her sentence, Burnham is on an unexpected prison transfer when an emergency forces her shuttle to be rescued by the USS Discovery. Spending several days on the ship, Burnham is ordered by its captain, the mysterious Gabriel Lorca, to assist with a scientific assignment. Burnham overhears Lieutenant Paul Stamets, an astromycologist who is leading the assignment, discuss an upcoming experiment with a colleague serving on another starship; Lorca is soon informed of an incident on the Discovery’s sister ship, the USS Glenn, that has killed the entire crew. Stamets leads a boarding party to investigate and finds the dead crew hideously twisted and malformed, as well as a group of Klingons killed by an unknown creature. Lorca later asks Burnham to work for him, despite her sentence, explaining that he organized the circumstances that led her to him so she could help develop a new way to fly that could win the war she started by killing T’Kuvma. He also secretly has the creature transported aboard the Discovery.

A shell of her former self Burnham is a defeated figure having accepted her fate and her imprisonment. She is though still a badass and takes no nonsense from two of the prisoners who seem to want to attack her as family of one of the prisoner’s were killed in battles with the Klingons. The shuttle carrying her and three other prisoners being attacked by a space spores and the pilot is lost but the shuttle is rescued by the Discovery – there is no way that captain Gabriel Lorca did not plan it? He is dark and mysterious, with the onset of war perhaps only enhancing what was already there.

This episode marks the first appearance of series regulars Anthony Rapp (Paul Stamets), Mary Wiseman (Sylvia Tilly), and Jason Isaacs (Gabriel Lorca). Conrad Pla, Elias Toufexis, and Grace Lynn Kung, who respectively play prisoners Stone, Cold and Psycho in this episode, all play or have played roles in The Expanse, another science fiction TV series. The Discovery is working on a faster way to move through space or atleast Stemets is heading the project and Lorca wants Burnham to help as she is, in Saru’s words, the smartest person Saru ever met.

We are introduced to the bubbly Cadet Tilly, who seems to be autistic perhaps (She mentions “special needs” ) and who is assigned to bunk with Burnham. Tilly is a quick fan favourite as an adorkable character but one who also is more than she seems and is aware of the darkness in the ship. We also meet Landry, Discovery’s badass, no-nonsense, tough as nails head of security. Her colourful language when referring to the prisoners may not be what we have come to expect off from Starfleet officers but she definitely is a badass.

We also meet Stamets who is the gay main character and who is the arrogant scientist who rues Starfleet and the military’s stranglehold on scientific experiments in the name of creating weapons and in the face of war. He also butts heads with his captain, who he clearly does not like. The question on many fan’s minds is – is the Discovery part of a covert operation run by Starfleet’s secret/black ops division, Section 31? That would totally make sense with the way things have been depicted. e also see a lot of black insignia on the ship, which is leaving many to speculate about Section 31’s involvement.

Lorca certainly has charm to boot along with his dark persona and he is the kind of captain who will stop at nothing to achieve his goals. But are they his alone or his superiors’ too? We also get to see the Discovery’s sister ship, the doomed USS Glenn, on which Stamet’s work partner was stationed, Starfleet having separated them to get them to work more efficiently and to make room for more experiments. The experiments go badly and a boarding party which includes Landry, Burnham, Tilly & Staments along with secruity personnel is sent to investigate.

No crew has survived and they also find several dead Klingons. Tilly sees a live Klingon who sushes her and is then attacked by a large dangerous creature. The crew minus a few security personnel manages to escape but Lorca has the creature secretly transported aboard the Discovery and held behind a forcefield, before having the Glenn destroyed. Lorca also reveals some of his intentions to Burnham, enough to keep her on the ship (and he seems to have enough clout to keep a convicted prisoner sentenced to life on his ship and working on secret projects) and entices her by asking if she didn’t want to help him end a war that she started. He is working on not a weapon to kill, but an organic propulsion system that would allow them to travel galaxies in a mere instant. This, he believes, will allow them to win the war. To prove his point, he has her step into a chamber and takes her on a journey around the galaxy in a matter of moments.

So what’s up with Lorca? What mysteries will unfold as the season goes on. The ratings have been pretty good for this episode and I too really enjoyed it. It’s not my vision of Star Trek – or most fans vision either – but it looks to be a good show. 8.5 outta 10!

Star Trek : Discovery – Battle At The Binary Stars

Discovery’s second part of the pilot episode is Battle At The Binary Stars, which serves as the second in the series’ two-part premiere that act as a prologue to the rest of the series, setting up a season-long story arc for Burnham.

Episode synopisis:

T’Kuvma convinces the majority of the Klingon leaders that he can lead them to victory over the Federation, as reinforcements for the Shenzhou arrive. Georgiou offers to resolve the situation peacefully, but the Klingons immediately open fire. Starfleet Admiral Anderson arrives and again offers peace to the Klingons, but his ship is rammed by another cloaked Klingon vessel. Anderson has his ship self-destruct, destroying the Klingon ship as 90 day loan well. Starfleet retreats, leaving the Klingons to collect their dead. In the remains of the Shenzhou, Burnham escapes her cell after encouragement from her guardian Sarek via a telepathic connection. She convinces Georgiou to try to take T’Kuvma prisoner, and they create a distraction by sending an explosive into his ship with a Klingon corpse. Boarding the vessel, Burnham overpowers Voq. Georgiou attempts to capture T’Kuvma, but is killed. T’Kuvma is fatally shot by Burnham, who is transported to safety. Voq promises that T’Kuvma’s legacy will live on. Burnham is later sentenced to life in prison for her mutiny.

We see Burham’s warnings come true but because of her actions, Captain Georgioua is forced to put her in the brig. Our flawed heroine raised in the most logical of cultures, the Vulcans, is acting out illogically due to her feelings about losing her family to the Klingons. After the Shenzhou is attacked Burham manages to convince the computer’s security features that she needs to be freed from her cell as the shield may collapse at any minute.

She is now able to rationally convince the captain. The brig scenes are well done as is the fight scene and the transportation. However I do have an issue with the ships going into warp and they way they do a hard stop when they come to a point and come out of warp. It’s a dumb effect and makes for a rather abrupt halt. Also what is with the hologram? What the hell, it is way too advanced for this point in the Star Trek timeline. And also how the hell is it possible to logically have the admiral’s hologram walk onto the bridge and interact with the settings?

And Sarek too – his hologram sitting on a desk in Michael’s room but how in the world – aargh, this just infuriates me. There are two many flares as well but the rest of the special effects are stunning to say the least. Communicators are awesome and done well. Ofcourse my biggest reason to knock off points for the show is the Klingons! There is no reason for the show to reboot the Klingons or atleast redesign them. Leave the Klingons alone. Haven’t their look been tampered with enough?

I think the ships look awesome and the battle scene was done well. Michael and Phillipa beam over to the sarcophagus ship and try to capture T’kuvma but Phillipa ends up getting killed by the Klingon leader and Michael kills him with a phaser shot to the chest. Her fear comes true; after she is beamed back aboard the Shenzhou, a dying T’kuvma is told that his words and vision will live on making him a legend. The Klingons have a figure much like Kah’less now and the war between the Federation and the Klingons is on.

Michael accepts her fate to be sent to prison on a lifelong sentence. She makes no excuse and is devastated that she could not save her captain and mentor. This prologue of a 2 part episode sets up the remaining 13 episodes of the show in which the Discovery, not seen till now will take center stage. I give this episode an 8 outta 10; though I thought that the battle scene could have been done better.