Dark Star Argues Philosophy With A Bomb On Blu-ray This Week In Science Fiction

By David Wharton | 8 years ago

Dark Star (Thermostellar Edition)
On Blu-Ray Tuesday

If you’re much younger than me, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve never even heard of Dark Star. This is in spite of the fact that, in some ways, it’s one of the most important science fiction films ever made. You wouldn’t know that to look at it. Released in 1974, it looks like it cost about $100, not counting the catering. There’s an alien that is clearly just a beach ball with feet glued on (see above). One of the movie’s major plot points involves the crew of the scout ship Dark Star trying to convince a self-aware thermonuclear bomb not to detonate itself, a conversation which veers into an outright philosophical debate. But it’s got two major things going for it. First, it was directed and co-written by a budding filmmaker named John Carpenter. And secondly, we might not have ever gotten Alien if we didn’t first get Dark Star.

Carpenter’s co-writer on the black SF comedy was Dan O’Bannon, who would eventually go on to take elements from Dark Star, shake vigorously until all the funny fell off, and then write a “serious” take on it that eventually became Ridley Scott’s Alien. While its stick-in-the-mud younger sibling went on to get all the praise and launch a franchise, Dark Star quietly rode the VHS explosion and became a bona fide cult classic. Now Dark Star is getting a snazzy new Blu-ray release, so if you’ve ever been curious to watch it, now you have an excuse. I’m sure it will look better on Blu-ray than it ever has anywhere else before (Proviso: This does not mean it will look good, merely better). If you want to go full fanboy, pick up a copy, double-feature it back-to-back with Alien, and try to figure out how the hell we went from a spotted beach ball to the xenomorphs we all know and love.

Alphas (Syfy, 8/7c) – “Life After Death”
I am seriously digging the dark direction the show has taken this season, and it sounds like things aren’t going to get any more cheerful. Warning: Some spoilers in the trailer if you haven’t seen last week’s episode yet

Revolution (NBC, 10:01/9:01c) – “No Quarter”
I’m still on board for at least a few more episodes, so here’s hoping tonight’s episode wow’s me. “Nora takes Miles and Charlie to a rebel camp; Aaron and Maggie look for Grace; Danny stands up to one of Neville’s men.”

Warehouse 13 (Syfy, 9/8c) – “We All Fall Down”
It’s the Warehouse crew’s midseason finale, and it sounds like there will be trouble: “: The team find themselves battling one of their own when Artie’s obsession with the Astrolabe reaches dangerous proportions.

Dead Space: Catalyst” by Brian Evenson
With Dead Space 3 set to release on February 5, 2013, we’re getting another literary return to the creepy universe. The earlier Dead Space: Martyr was so-so, but if you’re a fan of the Dead Space world this might be worth adding to the ol’ Kindle.

Two hundred and fifty years in the future, extinction threatens mankind. Tampering with dangerous technology from the Black Marker—an ancient alien artifact discovered on Earth eighty years earlier— Earthgov hopes to save humanity. But the Marker’s influence reanimates corpses into grotesque rampaging nightmares. Steeped in desperation, deceit, and hubris, the history of the Markers reveals our ominous future….

Brothers Istvan and Jensi grew up under the poorest dome on Vinduaga. Jensi has always looked after Istvan, who sometimes lashes out in sudden episodes of violent paranoia. When Istvan is sent offworld to a high-security prison, Jensi is determined to follow and find a way to keep his brother safe. But the prison guards a horrible secret, one that will push both brothers to the cusp of something much greater and darker than they ever imagined.

Face Off (Syfy, 9/8c) – “Monster Twist”
The competitors are challenged to create new original monster makeup based on sketches by children. I’m guessing we’ll see a lot of “under-the-bed” critters.

Halo: The Thursday War” by Karen Traviss
Dead Space no your cup of tea? Maybe the latest foray into theHalo universe is more your speed.

Welcome to humanity’s new war: silent, high stakes, and unseen. This is a life-or-death mission for ONI’s black-ops team, Kilo-Five, which is tasked with preventing the ruthless Elites, once the military leaders of the Covenant, from regrouping and threatening humankind again. What began as a routine dirty-tricks operation―keeping the Elites busy with their own insurrection―turns into a desperate bid to extract one member of Kilo-Five from the seething heart of an alien civil war. But troubles never come singly for Kilo-Five. Colonial terrorism is once again surfacing on one of the worlds that survived the war against the Covenant, and the man behind it is much more than just a name to Spartan-010. Meanwhile, the treasure trove of Forerunner technology recovered from the shield world of Onyx is being put to work while a kidnapped Elite plots vengeance on the humans he fears will bring his people to the brink of destruction.

Hot Set (Syfy, 10/9c) – “Android Bordello”
The name of the game for this episode is “sexy android dancers.” Zhora would be proud.

Iron Sky (Blu-Ray)
Nazis. On. The. Moon. Iron Sky is arriving on Blu-ray, and if you’re not already sold by that pitch you’re probably not going to be.

The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight” by Jack Campbell
The author of the Lost Fleet series is back, and this time he’s turning the spotlight on the “bad guys.”

The authority of the Syndicate Worlds’ government is crumbling. Civil war and rebellion are breaking out in many star systems despite the Syndic government’s brutal attempts to suppress disorder. Midway is one of those star systems, and leaders there must decide whether to remain loyal to the old order or fight for something new.

CEO Artur Drakon has been betrayed. The Syndic government failed to protect its citizens from both the Alliance and the alien enigmas. With a cadre of loyal soldiers under his command, Drakon launches a battle for control of the Midway Star System—assisted by an ally he’s unsure he can trust…

CEO Gwen Iceni was exiled to Midway because she wasn’t ruthless enough in the eyes of her superiors. She’s made them regret their assessment by commandeering some of the warships at Midway and attacking the remaining ships still loyal to the Syndicate empire. Iceni declares independence for the Midway Star System on behalf of the people while staying in charge as “President.” But while she controls the mobile fleet, she has no choice but to rely on “General” Drakon’s ground forces to keep the peace planet-side…

If their coup is to succeed, Drakon and Iceni must put their differences aside to prevent the population of Midway from rising up in rebellion against them, to defend Midway against the alien threat of the enigma race—and to ferret out saboteurs determined to reestablish Syndic rule…

Pirate Cinema” by Cory Doctorow
The writer and Boing Boinger spins a tale about subjects he’s passionate about: the intersection of entertainment, law, and technology. Via Amazon:

Trent McCauley is sixteen, brilliant, and obsessed with one thing: making movies on his computer by reassembling footage from popular films he downloads from the net. In the dystopian near-future Britain where Trent is growing up, this is more illegal than ever; the punishment for being caught three times is that your entire household’s access to the internet is cut off for a year, with no appeal.

Trent’s too clever for that to happen. Except it does, and it nearly destroys his family. Shamed and shattered, Trent runs away to London, where he slowly he learns the ways of staying alive on the streets. This brings him in touch with a demimonde of artists and activists who are trying to fight a new bill that will criminalize even more harmless internet creativity, making felons of millions of British citizens at a stroke.

Things look bad. Parliament is in power of a few wealthy media conglomerates. But the powers-that-be haven’t entirely reckoned with the power of a gripping movie to change people’s minds….

Sound of My Voice (Blu-Ray & DVD)
This flick was earning lots of good buzz earlier this year, and now it’s finally coming to Blu-ray and DVD so those of us who don’t frequent the film festival circuit can check it out. Sound of My Voice follows a pair of investigative filmmakers who infiltrate a cult whose leader claims to be from the future.

The Neighbors (ABC, 8:30/7:30c) – “Journey to the Center of the Mall”
“The Weavers take their new alien friends, the Bird-Kersees, to the mall for back-to-school clothes after persuading them to let their kids get an education outside Hidden Hills. Meanwhile, Debbie and Jackie suspect each other of being dishonest.” I feel stupider just from having to type that out.

Last Resort (ABC, 8/7c) — “Blue on Blue”
The best new show of the season may have squat to do with science fiction (except perhaps as alternate history), but it is smart, white-knuckle entertainment. Watch it! “Warships close in on the island. Meanwhile, Prosser confronts Chaplin about a personal matter.”

Person of Interest (CBS, 9/8c) – “Bad Code”
I’m hearing more and more about how much this show has improved since last season, and that it has large cast off its procedural “bad guy of the week” trappings. I may have to give this one another chance… “A cold case leads Reese closer to finding Finch and his kidnapper.”

Fringe (Fox, 9/8c) – “In Absentia”
“Members of the Fringe team go to Walter’s former lab at Harvard looking for crucial information that could aid their current rebellion against the Observer overlords.”

V/H/S (In theaters)
Not at all SF, but if you’re a fan of horror and not completely sick of the found-footage genre yet, V/H/S is worth your time. It’s also available in the Xbox 360 store, and presumably other digital sources as well.

Discovery Special: Winged Planet (Discovery Channel, 8/7c)
The Discovery Channel teamed up with the BBC folks for this documentary, which straps spycams to various birds around the world and gives some amazing views as they spend their days fluttering about and crapping on the scenery

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Cartoon Network, 9:30am/8:30c) — “Front Runners”
“The rebels plan strikes on targets in Iziz under Ahsoka’s supervision; a leader of the rebellion is named.”

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