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Almost Human Tackles A Hostage Situation: Today In Science & Science Fiction

The science fiction landscape is pretty bare today, but that just means one thing: you’ve got no excuse to miss Fox’s excellent Almost Human. After last week’s double dose, the show is off to a cracking good start, with great chemistry between Karl Urban as gruff cop John Kennex and Michael Ealy as his android partner Dorian. The show looks to continue serving up interesting plots linked to near-future tech, and the whole thing has a distinctly “‘80s sci-fi” vibe that hits me right in the geek gland. Tonight’s episode, “Are You Receiving” has John and Dorian dealing with a hostage standoff.

A Pair of Trek Birthdays

KhanThere might not be much going down on TV tonight, but there are two noteworthy science fiction birthdays today. First up, Ricardo Mointalban, whose Khan in Star Trek helped set the bar for big-screen movie villains. The Mexican actor first introduced Trek fans to the brilliant, genetically engineered former tyrant in the 1967 episode “Space Seed,” which had the Enterprise crew discover Khan and his crew in suspended animation aboard a drifting spacecraft. (That origin was tweaked in this year’s Star Trek Into Darkness, which also turned Khan into a pasty British dude because Cumberbatch.) Montalban returned to the role in 1982’s The Wrath of Khan, widely regarded as one of the Trek franchise’s finest hours — if not the very best, full stop. When not bedeviling Kirk and quoting Herman Melville, Montalban’s acting career stretched over 50+ years in both television and film. Aside from Khan, he was probably best known for the role of the mysterious Mr. Roarke in the 1977 series Fantasy Island. Montalban was born on this day in 1920, and passed away on January 14, 2009.

PikeAlso born on November 25 was actor Jeffrey Hunter, who played Captain Christopher Pike in Star Trek’s “The Cage” pilot episode. Sadly, Hunter’s five-year mission to boldly go was soon boldly swiped by one William Shatner, and a sci-fi legend was born. It’s bizarre to imagine what Star Trek’s history would look like if Hunter had remained on board the series. Would it have survived the three seasons it did with Shatner at the helm? Would it have been resurrected on the big screen? Hunter did a decent enough job with the role, so it would have been interesting to see how his character would have developed in the long run. Although that would have deprived us of our favorite…PAUSE-speaking…actorofalltime. Besides, Hunter had already played another iconic role — a decidedly Aryan Jesus in the 1961 movie King of Kings. Hunter passed away on May 27, 1969, at the far-too-young age of 42. (And the role of Christopher Pike was taken up by Bruce Greenwood in J.J. Abrams’ pair of Star Trek movies.)

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