Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 2 (Blu-Ray)
On Shelves Tuesday
When the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation got a Blu-ray release this past summer, it was an exciting moment for fans. After all, this wasn’t just some lazy repackaging of the fan-favorite series. Instead, Paramount and CBS has gone back and done a full restoration on the show, making the 25-year-old footage look better than it ever had before, and even bringing the dated special effects up to the modern standards. It was a great set, no question. But here’s the thing: the first season of The Next Generation, if we can be honest here, was not very good. For every memorable outing like “The Big Goodbye” or “Skin of Evil,” you get two or three episodes where Wesley falls afoul of toga’d space swingers or the writers strive unsuccessfully to make the Ferengi intimidating.
Thankfully, season two takes a sharp upward spike in quality, serving up classic eps such as the trial of Data in “The Measure of a Man,” the first introduction to the Borg in “Q Who?” and one of my personal favorites, “Where Silence Has Lease.” In addition to the newly snazzified season two episodes, the set will include over 120 minutes of new documentaries and interviews, a featurette on the TNG 25th anniversary cast reunion, the multi-part “Making It So: Continuing The Next Generation” documentary, deleted scenes, and all the extras ported over from the original DVD release. If you’re a Trek fan, this is probably already on your Christmas wish list. If not, there’s still time to harass your relatives. Either way, Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season Two on Blu-ray is our science fiction Pick of the Week.
“Agatha H. and the Clockwork Princess” by Phil & Kaja Foglio
Phil Foglio, the guy responsible for one of my favorite comics of all time — the adventures of Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire — and his wife, Kaja, return to the world of their Girl Genius comic series, set in a world full of “adventure, romance, and mad science!” It won’t be quite as fun without the Folgios’ charming and unmistakable art, but any excuse to spend time in the world of Girl Genius is a good one. (I might also point out that you can read the webcomic right here.)
In a time when the Industrial Revolution has escalated into all-out warfare, mad science rules the world… with mixed success. With the help of Krosp, Emperor of All Cats, Agatha has escaped from the massive airship known as Castle Wulfenbach. After crashing their escape dirigible, Agatha and Krosp fall in with Master Payne’s Circus of Adventure, a traveling troupe of performers dedicated to staging Heterodyne shows-dramatizations of the exploits of Bill and Barry Heterodyne and their allies-who are unaware of Agatha’s connection to the Heterodyne line. Pursued by the ruthless Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, his handsome son Gil, and their minions (not to mention Othar Tryggvassen, Gentleman Adventurer), Agatha hides in plain sight among the circus folk, servicing their clanks and proving herself adept in performing the role of Lucrezia Mongfish, nemesis to-and later wife of-Bill Heterodyne. She also begins training under Zeetha, swordmistress and princess of the lost city of Skifander. Together, Agatha, Krosp, and the performers travel across the treacherous wasteland of war-torn Europa, towards Mechanicsburg, and the ancestral home of the Heterodynes-Castle Heterodyne. But with many perils standing in her way-including Wulfenbach’s crack troops, mysterious Geisterdamen, savage Jagermonsters, and the fabled Storm King-it’s going to take more than a spark of Mad Science for Agatha to get through.
From Phil and Kaja Foglio, creators of the multiple WCCA and Hugo Award-winning webcomic Girl Genius, comes Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess, a gaslamp fantasy filled to bursting with Adventure! Romance! And Mad Science!
“Andromeda’s Fall” by William C. Dietz
Dietz launches a prequel series to his popular “Legion of the Damned” series.
Hundreds of years in the future, much has changed. Advances in medicine, technology, and science abound. Humanity has gone to the stars, found alien life, and established an empire.
But some things never change…
All her life, Lady Catherine Carletto (called Cat) has lived for nothing but the next party, the next lover, the next expensive toy. Until, in a bloodthirsty power grab, Imperial Princess Ophelia and her cadre of synth assassins murder her brother the emperor, and go on to purge the galaxy of his friends and supporters—including Cat’s family. The Carlettos are known to be staunch supporters of the Emperor and Carletto Industries has been in the forefront of his pet project—developing cybernetic technology for use by the masses.
Now Cat, one of the last surviving Carlettos, is on the run. And, like countless others before her, she finds her sanctuary among the most dangerous of society’s misfits.
Welcome to the Legion.
Cat Carletto vanishes, and in her place stands Legion recruit Andromeda McKee. A woman with a mission—to bring down Empress Ophelia—or die trying.
Brazil: Criterion Collection (Blu-Ray)
Terry Gilliam’s classic satire of bureaucracy gets a top-notch 142-minute Criterion transfer of the director’s cut, along with tons of bonus features. Here’s your receipt for your husband, and here’s my receipt for your receipt.
“Darkship Renegades” by Sarah A. Hoyt
Hoyt brings us the second in her “Darkship” series, began in Darkship Thieves.
After rescuing her star pilot husband and discovering the dark secret of her own past on Earth, Athena Hera Sinistra returns to space habitat Eden to start life anew. Not happening. Thena and Kit are placed under arrest for the crime of coming back alive. The only escape from a death sentence: return to Earth and bring back the lost method for creating the Powertrees, the energy source of both Eden and Earth whose technological origins have been lost to war. But that mission is secondary to a greater imperative. Above all else, Thena must not get caught. If she does, then suicide is to be the only option. With the odds heavily stacked against not only success, but survival, Thena comes to understand what her cynical accusers do not: it is not merely one woman’s life on the line anymore. For it’s on Earth where the adventure truly begins. Thena realizes that what is truly at stake is the fate of Eden and Earth alike, the continuance of the darkship fleet–and freedom for all in the Solar system–and beyond.
“The Doctor and the Rough Rider” by Mike Resnick
Cravy a little Wild West action in your Steampunk? Resnick may have just the thing for you.
The epic, adventure-filled ‘Wild West’ meets Steampunk’ adventure continues. It’s August 1884. The consumptive Doc Holliday is preparing to await his end in a sanitarium in Leadville, Colorado, when the medicine man Geronimo enlists him on a mission. The time the great chief has predicted has come, the one white man he’s willing to treat with has crossed the Mississippi and is heading to Tombstone – a young man named Theodore Roosevelt. The various tribes know that Geronimo is willing to end the spell that has kept the United States from expanding west of the Mississippi. In response, they have created a huge, monstrous, medicine man named War Bonnet, whose function is to kill Roosevelt and Geronimo and keep the United States east of the river forever. And War Bonnet has enlisted the master shootist John Wesley Hardin. So the battle lines are drawn: Roosevelt and Geronimo against the most powerful of the medicine men, a supernatural creature that seemingly nothing can harm; and Holliday against the man with more credited kills than any gunfighter in history. It does not promise to be a tranquil summer.
“Rising Sun” by Robert Conroy
While Turtledove is off spinning tales of supervolcanoes, you can still take home a heart dose of alternate history, courtesy of Conroy.
It is the summer of 1942 and what our historians have called the Incredible Victory in the Battle of Midway has become a horrendous disaster in the world. Two of America’s handful of carriers in the Pacific have blundered into a Japanese submarine picket line and have been sunk, while a third is destroyed the next day. The United States has only one carrier remaining in the Pacific against nine Japanese, while the ragtag remnants of U.S. battleships – an armada still reeling from the defeat at Pearl Harbor – are in even worse shape.
Now the Pacific belongs to the Japanese. And it doesn’t stop there as Japan thrusts her sword in to the hilt. Alaska is invaded. Hawaii is under blockade. The Panama Canal is nearly plugged. Worst of all, the West Coast of America is ripe destruction as bombers of the Empire of the Sun bombard West Coast American cities at will.
Despite these disasters, the U.S. begins to fight back. Limited counterattacks are made and a grand plan is put forth to lure the Japanese into an ambush that could restore the balance in the Pacific and give the forces of freedom a fighting chance once more.
Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn (Blu-Ray/DVD)
Microsoft’s big-budget web series made to hype the recent release of Halo 4 gets collected together for a Blu-ray release.
Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn is a live-action digital series based on the best-selling Xbox franchise that brings a brand-new Halo story to life on a scale never before seen in the Halo universe. Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn delivers an exciting story of heroism and sacrifice, taking fans back to the beginning of the human and Covenant war and leading into the events of Halo 4, the biggest entertainment event of 2012. Set against the backdrop of a United Nations Space Command (UNSC) military academy, a group of highborn cadets are training to be the next generation of soldiers in the UNSC s ongoing war with insurrectionists in the outer colonial planets. Among these cadets, Thomas Lasky struggles with his doubts about this war and with the burden of expectations he may not be able to carry. As Lasky comes to terms with his potential as a military leader, the terrifying alien alliance known as the Covenant arrives and turns his world upside down. Inspired by the Master Chief, he must decide what it means to be a hero. Halo fans who experience Lasky’s thrilling origin story in Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn will be rewarded with special insights into the story of Halo 4 and the Halo Infinity Multiplayer experience.
Mass Effect Trilogy (Playstation 3)
Playstation fans have already been able to play the second and third installments of BioWare’s SF epic, but they’ve had to turn to their PC or Xbox 360 to play the game that started it all. That changes now, with all three Mass Effect games packaged together, with a mess of DLC included to help kill even more of your free time.
“Supervolcano: All Fall Down” by Harry Turtledove
The master of alternate history continues mucking about in an alternate near-future where our collective day has been ruined by Yellowstone going kablooey.
A supervolcanic eruption in Yellowstone Park sends lava and mud flowing toward populated areas, and clouds of ash drifting across the country. The fallout destroys crops and livestock, clogs machinery, and makes cities uninhabitable. Those who survive find themselves caught in an apocalyptic catastrophe in which humanity has no choice but to rise from the ashes and recreate the world…
Dark Matters: Twisted But True (Science, 9/8c) — “Remote Control Man, Cadavers for Sale, Einstein’s Revenge”
The show delves into matters of mind control, dead bodies, and people who didn’t like Albert Einstein.
Person of Interest (CBS, 9:01/8:01c) — “C.O.D.”
“Finch and Reese must decide how to deal with a cab driver’s passengers after his number comes up.” Hire him to drive around by himself for the next couple of weeks?
Fringe (Fox, 9/8c) — “The Human Kind”
“Peter’s observation of Windmark puts him in grave danger; Olivia goes on a mission to find equipment for Walter, and meets a woman with remarkable intuition.” Be sure to check back late Friday or Saturday morning for our Fringe “post-game” analysis!
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Cartoon Network, 9:30/8:30 a.m.) — “A Sunny Day in the Void”
This week’s episode is stepping way outside the box by being based on the art of legendary artist Moebius, aka Jean Giraud. I have no idea what to expect from it, but I am intrigued…
The 12 Disasters of Christmas (Syfy, 9/8c)
What, you didn’t expect Syfy to take a break from churning out godawful Saturday-night movies just because we’re nearing the holidays, did you? Tonight’s installment focuses on all the myriad ways the Mayan apocalypse is going to kill is later this month. Cheers!
Help for the Holidays (Hallmark, 8/7c)
Summer Glau from Firefly/Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles/Alphas is playing an elf! But not the orc-slaying, good-with-a-bow kind. The “Santa’s workshop” kind. In a movie on the Hallmark channel. Well, I hope they at least paid her well.