Willow Trailers

Willow is joining the 1980s franchise reboots. The new incarnation bears the same name as the 1988 movie, but this time it’s going to be an 8-episode series. Here is the official teaser trailer:

Willow | Official Teaser Trailer | Disney+ by Lucasfilm on YouTube

And the official trailer:

Willow | Official Trailer | Disney+ by Lucasfilm on YouTube

At first is looks like the only returning characters are Warwick Davies’ Willow Ufgood and Joanne Whalley’s Sorsha. However, at least one of the two pixies—Rool and Franjean in the original—sounds awfully familiar. Their actors aren’t listed in IMDB, however, but the cast listing is very cursory overall at this writing, so who knows.

I am of the generation who grew up with Willow. In fact, we recently re-watched it for nostalgia’s sake. (Little did I know that there would be more soon!) It’ll be fascinating to see what they’re going to do effects-wise, since the old Willow was already a trailblazer: it was the first time we saw successful, computer-animated morphing on the big screen. (Some other effects looked clumsy now, but the morphing was spot-on.)

Anyway, it’s hard to say anything definite on the basis of the short teaser, except there’s great potential for learning to work together. I saw comments elsewhere to the effect of this series looking like a bargain-basement version of Shannara, or a copy of the new Wheel of Time series. The full teaser looks a lot better, however.

Still, not knowing two of the three listed writers (John Bickerstaff and Hannah Friedman; Jonathan Kasdan I only know from Solo and an episode of Freaks and Geeks) I just don’t know if this is worth investing my time in, 80s nostalgia or not.

Willow the series is scheduled to premiere on November 30, 2022.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Advertisement

Thoughts on Rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer

We recently rewatched the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s been a fair few years since we last saw it, which is long enough to forget a lot of details, so there was pleasure in rediscovering some of what made the show so good. A few random thoughts inspired by our rewatch.

To begin with, we can’t avoid the fact that Joss Whedon has now been exposed as an entitled sex pest who created a hostile and unsafe working environment on his shows. This knowledge casts a pall over our enjoyment of the show and gives an ugly tint to some of the character interactions. Xander’s puerile lusting after Buffy or Buffy’s teen crush on a two-century-old vampire are harder to stomach knowing what Whedon was up to behind the scenes. It’s not impossible to enjoy the show now, but we have more than the usual amount of disbelief to suspend.

There are other things that require a little indulgence as well. The series is twenty years old, and it shows. The special effects don’t hold up particularly well, the stunts are a bit obvious, and the pop culture references have not all aged gracefully. Still, that’s par for the course when going back to something older, and we can’t hold it against the show.

Other things date the series, too. It is a clear product of third-wave feminism, with its insistence that girly girls can be strong and don’t need boyish boys to protect them, but the series still can’t fathom the idea that girls don’t need to be girly or boys boyish at all. The overwhelming whiteness of the cast is also hard to ignore—it takes seven seasons before we get a person of color as even a side member of the cast. The show was notable at the time for showing a happy, loving queer relationship; it is notable now for crushing that relationship for the sake of drama.

Those things being said, though, Buffy is much better than I remember. The early seasons hold up quite well. The characters are well developed, the dialogue snaps, and the jokes mostly land. The central conceit of taking the challenges and frustrations of young adulthood and turning them into literal demons is just as much fun to watch now as it was then. The idea of a young woman who needs no saving but can kick monster butt all on her own is not as revolutionary now as when the series first aired, but it’s still satisfying to see a woman whose heroism is not the product of overcoming weakness but of embracing strength.

I find it hard to remember how good the first few seasons are because my memory of the show is tainted by the failings of the last few seasons. The show lost something when it turned away from the monster-of-the-week-as-coming-of-age-metaphor formula in season five and went hard into dramatic arc territory with the mystery of Dawn, Glory, and Ben. Season six has its good and bad points: the good point is the musical episode “Once More With Feeling;” the bad points are everything else. The early episodes of season seven recover some of the magic of the early series by focusing on the friendships of the main cast, but those are soon sacrificed to the First Evil arc that drags on for most of the season.

Many fans have their own personal cutoff points where they choose to mentally end the series. The end of season three is a popular one and makes sense; there is great satisfaction in watching the senior class of Sunnydale High School pull together to slay a powerful demon, and the end of high school makes a natural end point for the show. The end of season five is also a popular contender, with Buffy sacrificing herself to save her sister and the world. For myself, I choose the end of season four. The season has its weaknesses, but I enjoy the early episodes that take the monster-of-the-week approach to adjusting to college life. The ending that sees Buffy and the Scoobies tap into the primal power of the slayer brings a nice conclusion to the themes of friendship, courage in the face of life’s horrors, and Buffy’s ambivalence about her calling that animated the early seasons. In fact, I now wish that the geek trio of season six had been the villains of season four instead of Adam and the Initiative. The trio’s overt goofiness was always an odd fit in the bleak season six, and their refusal to grow up could have made for an interesting counterpoint to Buffy and the gang’s rocky but earnest transition into adulthood. Ah well—these are such things as fanfic is made of.

When we were packing up our house for our big transatlantic move last year, I was considering getting rid of our Buffy DVDs. Now I’m glad we didn’t. It was a pleasure to rediscover the joys of the early seasons, despite all the show’s other problems.

Image: Buffy cast photo via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Teaser Trailer for Andor, a New Star Wars Series

Apart from Obi-Wan, another Star Wars series I might want to see is Andor. Here’s the first teaser:

Andor | Teaser Trailer | Disney+ by Star Wars on YouTube

And the second trailer:

Andor | Official Trailer | Disney+ by Star Wars on YouTube

There’s also what’s apparently not called a trailer but a sizzle reel for Andor from 2020 with some fascinating concept art and behind the scenes glimpses.

The first thing to really grab me was the birch tree in the first trailer (around the 20- to 30-second mark). I love birches despite their evil, evil pollen, but they’re rarely depicted in SFFnal screen adaptations. Now, though, birches are canonical in Star Wars. Woot!

Another thing of note is how different the two trailers are—I’d say the first mostly introduces a mood for the series, while the second starts rolling in the various characters almost at a breakneck speed.

I also loved that Mon Mothma seems to get a much larger role than in previous stories. Plus, Fiona Shaw! Shaw’s a superb actor (whom I know from Killing Eve, a screen adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion from 1995, and as Aunt Petunia in the Harry Potter movies) but, sadly, at this point Shaw is credited only for one episode in IMDB. Boo!

Add to all that more of Diego Luna and Stellan Skarsgård (seen in Dune, Chernobyl, the Thor franchise, and many others) plus the astounding set-building, propping, and costuming we’re sure to get in any Star Wars project, and I’m strongly considering a Disney+ subscription.

Andor will release on August 31, 2022, with a three-parter of a premiere.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Trailers for She-Hulk: Attorney at Law

Goodness, Disney+ is really churning out series this year! Among the upcoming releases is She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. Here are the two official trailers:

Official Trailer | She-Hulk: Attorney at Law | Disney+ by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

Official Trailer | She-Hulk: Attorney at Law | Disney+ by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

I have no doubt Tatiana Maslany is going to be great, and it’s always nice to see Mark Ruffalo get screentime. Also Benedict Wong and Tim Roth (Abomination) will at least visit, but of course at this point it’s impossible to know how big their parts will be. I am also curious to see what Jameela Jamil can do with a role that isn’t ditsy and/or superficial. (At least I’m hoping that her role here won’t be a rehash of her role in The Good Place!)

At this writing, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is set to premiere on August 17, 2022.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Official Trailer for Obi-Wan Kenobi

Another trailer for the Obi-Wan Kenobi series shows a lot of reused footage, but also new, tantalizing scenes:

Obi-Wan Kenobi | Official Trailer | Disney+ on YouTube

Apart from the Empire’s hunt for Obi-Wan, most of the plot seems to revolve around interpersonal conflict. (Those of you who have started watching already may be able to fill us in on this!) There seems also to be an introduction of the first true female antagonist of the franchise. (I don’t count Captain Phasma, as she didn’t get nearly enough screentime.)

Obi-Wan Kenobi was released on May 27, 2022.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

The Obligatory Male Protagonist

Tv shows or movies with an ensemble cast will nearly always have a man as de facto main character. (Studios, networks, and advertisers have apparently not yet caught on to the fact that people who aren’t 18-35-year-old white men also watch tv and go to the movies.) These obligatory protagonists come in a few different varieties. Here’s a spotter’s guide for some of the major types (mind you, more than a few characters cross the lines from one category to another).

Captain Competence

James Kirk from Star Trek via IMDb; Gil Grissom from CSI via CSI Fandom; Gregory House from House via IMDb

He’s better than everyone at everything. He always has the right answer. While other characters may have their particular areas of expertise, he’s always the one to solve the real problem. To be frank, the only reason there are other people on the show is so that he has someone to be better than.

The Fixer-Upper

Nate Ford from Leverage via IMDb; Mal from Firefly via IMDb; Jeff Winger from Community via IMDb

He’s a damaged, bitter, broken man, but that doesn’t stop him from being the center of attention. Expect the women in the cast to do a lot of emotional work for him, such as holding his hand while he cries, calming him down when he lashes out, and making excuses for him to the people he hurts. He may pull himself together over time. Then again, he may not.

The Overgrown Child

Phil Dunfy from Modern Family via IMDb; Castle from Castle via IMDb; Jake Peralta from Brooklyn 99 via IMDb

This guy just never grew up. He lives his adult life with the blissful joy of a child, which would be fine except that it also means he never takes responsibility for anything, is clueless about how his actions affect the people around him, and gets pouty and petty when things don’t go his way. The women in his life usually fall into the role of surrogate mother, saying “no” to his worst ideas and cleaning up his messes when he does them anyway.

The Plot-Jacker

Peter Quill (and Gamora) from Guardians of the Galaxy via IMDb; Emmet (and Wild Style) from The Lego Movie via IMDb; Owen (and Claire) from Jurassic World via IMDb

(Also known as the “Chris Pratt Special.”) There’s a female character in the cast who not only has the knowledge, skills, and background to be the hero of the story, but also has a good reason to take on the mission or challenge the big bad. Then this guy wanders in out of nowhere and takes over, doing better by sheer guts and grit than she did with all her knowledge and skill. Expect her to fall into his arms at the end.

If you spot any of these types in the wild, you know what to expect.

In Character is an occasional feature looking at some of our favorite characters from written works and media to see what drives them, what makes them work, and what makes us love them so much.

Rating: Babylon 5, Season 5

The fifth and final season of Babylon 5 has its problems, but it holds up well on rewatching. Here’s our take:

  1. “No Compromises” – 4
  2. “The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari” – 7.5
  3. “The Paragon of Animals” – 5.5
  4. “A View from the Gallery” – 6
  5. “Learning Curve” – 5
  6. “Strange Relations” – 4.5
  7. “Secrets of the Soul” – 3
  8. “Day of the Dead” – 4
  9. “In the Kingdom of the Blind” – 3.5
  10. “A Tragedy of Telepaths” – 4
  11. “Phoenix Rising” – 2
  12. “The Ragged Edge” – 4.5
  13. “The Corps is Mother, the Corps is Father” – 4.5
  14. “Meditations on the Abyss” – 7
  15. “Darkness Ascending” – 3
  16. “And All My Dreams, Torn Asunder” – 4
  17. “Movements of Fire and Shadow” – 4
  18. “The Fall of Centauri Prime” – 5
  19. “The Wheel of Fire” – 7
  20. “Objects in Motion” – 6
  21. “Objects at Rest” – 3.5
  22. “Sleeping in Light” – 6

The average rating for this season is 4.7, which is in line with the rest of the series. It was a little surprising to review the numbers and find that season 5 held up so well, since it is so different from the rest of the series. What had been planned as a five-season story got squished into four, then the series unexpectedly got picked up for a fifth season, so new stories had be written to fill out the time. The effects of these compromises are plain in season 5. Some of the new storylines go on too long, like the refugee telepaths on Babylon 5; others don’t have enough time to develop the depth they need, like the Drakh war. That this season holds up as well as it does largely rests on the excellent writing and acting work of previous seasons, developing characters with complicated stories and relationships still to be worked out.

There are no standout great episodes this season, but none that are truly terrible, either. The lowest rating we gave for this season was 2 for “Phoenix Rising,” which brings the telepath story to a head. That storyline as a whole was marred by clumsy writing and hammy acting. Add to that a further unpleasant turn for Garibaldi in this episode, after the character spent most of the past season and a half being mean and miserable, and it’s not an episode we care to come back to often.

At the top of the scale, the best episode of the season is “The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari,” at 7.5, a surreal and poetic episode mostly set in Londo’s unconscious as he reckons with the crimes of his past while fighting for his life after a heart attack. This episode pays off the long and sometimes painful growth of the character from cynical hack to manipulative monster to wise but broken leader. Peter Jurasik’s performance of Londo, always one of the strengths of the series, gets to shine here as the character tumbles through fear, anger, resentment, petulance, vulnerability, and finally contrition.

In other developments, Claudia Christian departed the series this season, so we get Tracy Scoggins playing the sharp and sharp-edged Captain Lochley. The character largely fills the role vacated by Ivanova and doesn’t get much time to set herself apart from her predecessor, but Scoggins makes the most of the time she gets.

Babylon 5 is, like many great things, deeply flawed in some ways. Some of its weaknesses are the result of a turbulent production environment; others are inherent in the story or come from the limitations of the creators who worked on it. Yet its great moments shine through despite those weaknesses, as brilliant, touching, even transcendent now as they were when the big blue barrel of a space station first appeared on our screens decades ago.

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Image: Babylon 5 season 5 DVD cover via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Rating: Babylon 5, Season 4

It’s an action-packed, emotional roller coaster of a season for Babylon 5. The previous three seasons of development and growth come to a head in some unexpected ways. Here’s how we rated this season’s episodes:

Babylon 5 season 4 DVD cover
  1. “The Hour of the Wolf” – 6
  2. “Whatever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi” – 3.5
  3. “The Summoning” – 6.5
  4. “Falling Towards Apotheosis” – 5
  5. “The Long Night” – 7
  6. “Into the Fire” – 9.5
  7. “Epiphanies” – 4
  8. “The Illusion of Truth” – 2.5
  9. “Atonement” – 3
  10. “Racing Mars” – 3.5
  11. “Lines of Communication” – 4
  12. “Conflicts of Interest” – 2.5
  13. “Rumors, Bargains, and Lies” – 5.5
  14. “Moments of Transition” – 3.5
  15. “No Surrender, No Retreat” – 6
  16. “The Exercise of Vital Powers” – 1.5
  17. “The Face of the Enemy” – 1.5
  18. “Intersections in Real Time” – 0
  19. “Between the Darkness and the Light” – 7.5
  20. “Endgame” – 6.5
  21. “Rising Star” – 6
  22. “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars” – 4

Various shenanigans with the networks broadcasting Babylon 5 led to the originally planned seasons 4 and 5 being squished down into a single season, and the results are visible. In some ways, the results were good, as the pace of the action noticeably picks up and gives an urgency to important episodes dealing with the Vorlon-Shadow war and the Earth civil war. In other ways, the effects were less positive, though, as the story often feels cramped and rushed. In the end, we have an average rating for this season of 4.5, down from season 3 but on par with season 2.

Given how much story had to be condensed into this season, it is particularly jarring when the season pauses for a number of self-contained (and sometimes self-indulgent) episodes such as “The Illusion of Truth,” a demonstration of how propaganda works, “Intersections in Real Time,” in which Sheridan is tortured, and “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars,” a meditation on how history is transformed into legend. None of these episodes scored very well with us. “Intersections in Real Time” is our lowest rated episode of the season, at a complete 0, for being both unpleasant to watch and unnecessary to the larger story. The season also spends an inordinate amount of time watching Garibaldi make bad life choices, which we could also do without.

But when this season works it really works. At the top of the ratings we have “Into the Fire,” at 9.5, which pays off years of development as the younger races of the galaxy stand up to the ancient Vorlons and Shadows and tell them to get the hell out. This episode fully delivers on the promise of the series, being both exciting and thoughtful, and deftly transforming our entire perspective on the two mysterious races at the heart of the series’ central story. The last few episodes of the season proper, “Between the Darkness and the Light” (7.5), “Endgame” (6.5), and “Rising Star” (6), are less spectacular, but they bring the long-simmering Earth storyline to a satisfying close.

A lot of what makes Babylon 5 great is on screen in season 4. It may not be exactly what was planned at the outset, but it lives up to the promise of the earlier seasons.

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Image: Babylon 5 Season 4 DVD cover via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

A Drink with Star Trek Characters

Red Headed Trekkie posed a question on Twitter:

I thought of a quick, throw-away answer and moved on. For some reason, however, the question didn’t leave me alone, so we’re bringing it back to discuss here.

Eppu: It would depend a lot on my mood and energy levels. Hm. In the end, I think for me it may be easier to weed out some of the more difficult choices first.

Even though she seems fun, not Dax; I don’t have the stamina to keep up with her. As much as I admire Kira’s frankness and relentlessness, a drink with her might be too strained if we don’t hit it off. Janeway seems too active and tireless for me to sit back with.

Erik: Agreed. There are some iconic Star Trek characters and drinks that come to mind right away: Janeway and coffee, Picard and tea (Early Gray, hot), anybody from Deep Space Nine and raktajino. I don’t think any of those would work for me, though. I hate coffee and don’t care for Earl Gray, and whatever is in a raktajino would probably not be good for me.

Eppu: It would be nice to have a cup of tea with Captain Picard, but I’m not sure of how informal the conversation would be. He seems such a consummate commander and politician, and I’d like a tea break to be more personal, relaxing, and homey than I imagine possible with him. Ditto for Worf and prune juice.

Erik: For good company, I might enjoy sharing a glass of whiskey with Dr. McCoy. That man probably has some interesting stories to tell. He could probably also drink me under the table, though, so maybe not. I could have a root beer with Rom, since I love root beer and Rom is a sweetheart, he’d probably be too nervous to enjoy it, and that wouldn’t be a nice thing to do to him.

Eppu: Garak would be an in-te-res-ting drinks partner—never mind your beverage choice!—but I suspect I’d feel too dumb half the time and would question the whole conversation the other half.

Erik: I suppose it isn’t really a fair answer to say a glass of wine with Kai Winn, with iocaine powder in it!

Eppu: In the end, I think it’s a tie between Chakotay and Guinan. Both are curious and considerate, have excellent listening skills but are not withdrawn, and show a combination of both humor and tact, so they seem excellent partners for unwinding with. And since it’s fall, I’d pick a sweet, alcoholic, toffee-flavored cider, preferably a low-alcohol version. (Note to Europeans: In North America, cider refers to freshly-pressed apple juice, which I only learnt after living there.)

Erik: I like both those options, but I guess I would settle on cocoa with Kira. One of the things I love about the character is that, as tough as she is and as much awful stuff as she’s seen in her life, she still has warmth and an appreciation for simple pleasures. I think she’d enjoy cocoa, and I’d enjoy getting to talk with her about everything and nothing.

Memory Alpha Guinan Chakotay Mashup

What about you? Any clear favorites one way or another? (Bonus points for type of drink!)

Images: Guinan via Memory Alpha. Chakotay via Memory Alpha. Kira via Memory Alpha

Q&A is an occasional feature in which we share our responses to quizzes, questions, and quirky ideas for your entertainment.

A Babylon 5 Reboot Is in Active Development

‘Tis official: a Babylon 5 reboot is in the works.

The Catholic Geeks babylon52

(Please read the thread for more of Straczynski’s thoughts on the announcement. Looks like at this writing many articles available online largely just rephrase his tweets.)

Without wading too deep into all of the speculation, I did glean this tidbit about the timing of the new B5:

Pretty exciting, wouldn’t you say? Of course, in the end the fan reaction—including mine—will depend on the technical quality of the final product, our personal preferences, which aspects were chanced and which retained, and whether the cast will be able to carry the stories. I’m certainly looking forward to more news on the project, and fervently wish that the casting will be successful (and quality-wise more even).

Image via The Catholic Geeks