Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance – A Prequel Worth Watching

Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is a Netflix animated fantasy series, a prequel to the 1982 Jim Henson movie Dark Crystal, from Jim Henson Creature Shop. The story involves the creatures of the planet Thra, mainly the heroic Gelflings and the evil Skeksis overlords. The Skeksis guard the crystal which gives life to Thra, but what the Gelflings don’t know is that the Skeksis have been draining “essence” from the crystal to extend their own lives.

The series starts out with Gelfling Rian witnessing the Skeksis drain the essence from his friend to replenish the crystal. Unfortunately, since the Skeksis are treated like gods, Rian cannot get anyone to believe him. Luckily, two Gelflings from other classes (similar to tribes or castes), Deet and Brea, have made discoveries which lead them to the knowledge that the Skeksis are evil. The three meet up and go on a quest to (1) convince other people of what they know and (2) defeat the Skeksis.

Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance is delightful in the way only a production form the Jim Henson world can be. The puppets are very lifelike, with facial expressions that look so human you can’t help but emphasize with them. The voices include Mark Hamilton of Star Wars and Lara Headley of Game of Thrones, along with other well-known actors, which only makes it better.

Two caveats: (1) Although the series mostly kept me engaged, there was an occasional plot point which seemed much too obvious; (2) This show may be too dark for kids. I was shocked when a character saw his friend murdered in front of him in the first episode.

That being said, I enjoyed it a great deal. At times, the Skeksis are quite funny, and the Pollings, a third type of creature, are adorable, especially Hup, who joins the Gelflings on their journey. I highly recommend this show.

Better Than Us: Worth Seeing

Better Than Us is a Russian sci-fi show on Netflix. The show revolves around life-like robots known as “bots”. An unscrupulous man heading up the leading bot corporation has illegally imported what is known as an empathy bot, who is supposed to have real emotions and learn from her surroundings. Unfortunately, in the first few minutes after she is activated, she kills two people and escapes.

While wandering around the city, she meets a little girl and adopts her family. But this family is anything but perfect. The mother is trying to take the children to Australia to be with her boyfriend, while her husband Georgy works to keep the family together. Meanwhile, their teenage son has joined a violent group dedicated to ending bots in order to meet a girl. In addition, the businessman and the police are after Georgy.

There’s a lot of action and violence in this series but some tender moments as well. It’s well-done and very binge-worthy. Watch it if you can.

Once Upon a Time: The Most Fun Ever

Once Upon a Time is a fantasy series which ran from October 2011 to May 2018 on ABC. It takes place in Storybrooke, Maine, where all the inhabitants are fairy tale characters who have forgotten who they are. They are under a curse cast by the evil queen of the Snow White story, and the only one who can break the curse is the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, who, of course, does not know who she is.

At the beginning of the show, this Savior, Emma Swan, is living in Boston chasing down bail jumpers, when she is visited by Henry Mills who tells her she’s his mother and Snow White’s daughter. She takes him back to Storybrooke and decides to stay despite the objections of his adoptive mother Regilla, the evil queen.

The show goes back and forth between flashbacks to the fairy tale world of the Enchanted Forest to present day Storybrooke. The writers play fast and loose with the tales we all know, which is a large part of the fun. A lot of the fairy tale characters draw on their portrayals in Disney films, sometimes even including snippets of songs.

Characters across stories interact in interesting ways with each other and include not only fairy tale characters such as Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel, but also Disney characters like Mular and Merida and characters from the books Alice in Wonderland, Frankenstein, and Peter Pan, to name a few.

Throughout all the stories, one character who plays a major role is Rumpelstiltskin (known as Mr. Gold in Storybrooke), played brilliantly by Robert Carlyle (a Scottish actor, whose accent sometimes comes through, if you listen hard enough.). He’s probably the most interesting character in the show because he vacillates between the gold-skinned Dark One of the Enchanted Forest to a man trying hard to be good for the woman he loves.

I was captivated through the first six seasons. Season seven took a different turn. Using a subset of old characters joined by some new ones, it follows an adult Henry Mills in Seattle under another curse, where everyone has forgotten who they are. (Sound familiar?) I felt it was just a rehash of Season one with the same characters in different roles and cannot really recommend it. However, if you make it through to the end, there is an amazing and fitting conclusion to the series.

I had a lot of fun with this show, enough that I’m ready to go back to the beginning and do it again. I’m sure you will, too.

Harlan Ellison’s “The City on the Edge of Forever”

Star Trek Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay is a graphic novel based on Harlan Ellison’s original teleplay for the Star Trek (TOS) episode “The City on the Edge of Forever.” The adaptation was done by Scott Tipton and David Tipton and the art by J. K. Woodward. I read it because I was curious. I was curious because the episode won a Hugo award for Ellison, but he was not happy about it. As a matter of fact, he was very bitter about the changes Gene Roddenberry and his production staff had made to Ellison’s script. So I read it to see if it was, in fact, better than the show which actually aired.

First, let me say that the book was very well done – the art is amazing and the story is easy to follow. Now let’s talk about the differences. First, it wasn’t McCoy who transported to the planet’s surface. It was a drug dealer in danger of being caught. The Guardian is not a big empty circle, but rather a group of men who converse for a while with Kirk and Spock. Then, when history is changed, the Enterprise doesn’t disappear, but is in the hands of a some very nasty people.

Other changes include a lot more interaction with people of the Great Depression, and the fact that Kirk and Spock don’t work for Edith Keeler. (Kirk, of course, does fall in love with her.) There also was an unnecessary linkage to a brooch Edith wore as being the focal point of the change and the unnecessary use of a tramp selling apples to create pathos.

After reading this book, I can see why the producers sought to streamline it and remove a lot of unnecessary characters and extras (perhaps for economic reasons.) One thing I really didn’t like in Ellison’s version is that the dialog of Kirk and Spock did not ring true, and they often said things I would not expect them to say at all.

So, I do prefer the version that aired, though I admit I could be biased from watching it over and over again all these years. However, it’s plain that the changes made the episode more “Star Trek.” Having McCoy being the one to change the past raised the stakes and created more pathos at the end when Kirk prevents him from saving Edith Keeler, certainly more pathos than the death of a stranger

My recommendation? If you like graphic novels, take a look. Otherwise, go to Netflix and watch the episode again.

3% Revisited

In April 2017 I gave a lukewarm review to the Netflix series 3%, but now that I have seen the second season I am liking it much better. Season 2 occurs about a year after Season 1 and focuses mostly on the Cause and how they plan to stop the upcoming Process. (If you haven’t seen it or read the first review, the Process is a procedure whereby 20-year-olds can compete and hopefully be chosen to leave their miserable lives in the Inland to live in the utopic society of the Offshore.)

The plot involves Cause members both Offshore and Inland working together, most of whom we’ve seen before, and through flashbacks we get to see what happened to them in the intervening year. As befits this series, there are many surprises, betrayals, and deaths to keep the viewer interested.  I won’t give away the ending, but I will say it’s one of those which could end the series or pave the way to something new.

After finishing the second season, I did something I never do – I rewatched the entire first season. I did this mainly because I remembered how intriguing the Process itself was and wanted to experience it again. Of course, it also reminded me of what happened with each character and why they were in their current situation at the beginning of Season 2.

I don’t often change my opinion of a show this much. One of the things I said originally was that I didn’t like the acting. Now I believe it was just the dubbing I found annoying. The concept and plot are really quite good. If you get a chance, watch 3% and join me in hoping there’s a Season 3.