Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Battlestar Galactica: Act of Contrition/You Can't Go Home Again

I'm running behind, so I'll cram two eps into one blog... which works out nicely seeing as the eps in question form a nifty two-parter.

With a shortage of pilots Starbuck is forced to instruct a team of kids in the art of flying. Still pained by the guilt of letting Adamas son (and her lover) Zach die unnecessarily, Starbuck begins to lose control of everything around her.

This is another strong offering with very good performances from Katie Sackoff (Starbuck) and Edward James Olmos (Adama). Character development eps in early seasons can often feel like fillers but this is not the case here. The use of flashbacks within flashbacks is a smart piece of direction that keeps the viewer hooked and makes each event lasting and fresh. The biggest let down is perhaps best dubbed the Top Gun moment. Luckily the episode redeems itself by not having the all-American ending I had dreaded. Instead we are left with the most depressing three words in TV history:

"To Be Continued"

In part two (You Can't Go Home Again), the emphasis shifts from the development of Starbuck to that of Adama and Apollo. Forced to deal with the prosepct of losing yet another member of his "family", Adama risked the entire fleet to save one pilot. The conflict between the President and Adama is memorable but on the whole this is a weaker offering than the previous ep. The conclusion is a little too obvious and rushed, although it does offer an intriguing insight into the cylons.

Act of Contrition: 7.5/10
You Can't Go Home Again: 6.5/10

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Babar Ahmed

Human rights abuses don't surprise or shock me anymore. They should, but I fear I've become desensitised to the suffering around me because it really has become an every day thing.

Babar Ahmad is a British citizen, arrested and beaten under the veil of the Terrorism Act. Released without charge he was subsequently re-arrested on an extradition warrant from the US.

I don't know the guy. But I do know that nobody, be they innocent or guilty should face the barbarism that is now rife in our justice system.

The dirty world of football

Not a week goes by without a story hitting the headlines of drug abuse, gang-rape, "spit-roasting" and granny prostitutes. All of them involving top footballers idolised my millions.

In this article in the Guardian, it's hard to feel sorry for anyone. The footballers may start out as naive and innocent, but it's a clear sign that peer pressure, money and fame corrupts in the most sickening way. Nor is it easy to feel sorry for these 'groupies'. Girls who may feel used, but have allowed themselves to be used, because of the status it gives them amongst friends.

It's a world dominated by overpaid fashion stars, agents that refuse to let footballers talk to their families, and clubs blinded by the desire for success, that will stop at nothing to get it.

Football is a sport I love. For how much longer... I just don't know.

Friday, November 19, 2004

The tale of two Charles'

Prince Charles is not someone I would normally cite as a modern thinker with his finger on the pulse, but his comments about the false expectations given to children in schools is right on the mark.

Now another Charles - Education Minister Charles Clarke - who is even more loud-mouthed and obnoxious than even the bonny Prince could ever be has waded into the debate.

While I may think that Prince Charles' comments in a letter to a member of staff were arrogant and elitist, his comments about schooling did nothing but call it how it is.

We live in a country were children are given the false belief that they really can achieve whatever they want. The truth is that they can't. That's not how society works. For every kid who becomes a Wayne Rooney (god forbid) or a Ewan MacGregor, there are tens of thousands who, lets face it, lead average lives.

At no time in school are children told that 90% of them will actually find a normal job, earn a mediocre wage and struggle to make ends meet throughout their 20s and 30s.

This is yet another storm in a gold plated, diamond studded, royal teacup.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

War's hell

Falluja is pacified. It's a line that fails to sum up the true nature of what has gone on in Iraq over the last week. With over 1000 Iraqis dead in Falluja alone and the entire country breaking into violence, serious questions must be asked of the military tactics.

Mosul is set to be the latest city to be 'pacified'. And of course here is were the biggest problem lies. There is an assumption amongst the military planners that these insurgents are purely radical Muslims; members of Islamic Jihad and predominately foreign fighters. However, with over 1000 insurgents captured, it appears that only about 20 are not Iraqi citizens. Public support amongst the Iraqis for the US action has plummeted, and we are now told that elections may have to be put on hold.

Add to this the news that a US Marine is being investigated for executing a wounded Iraqi prisoner and it leaves more than just a bitter taste in the mouth. Let's not forget that only a couple of years ago the US successfully pressured the UN to allow their soldiers to be except from the International Criminal Court. There have now been dozens of breaches of the Geneva convention by the Americans and yet there is no international authority that can bring them to justice. We have to trust in American justice.

Where have all our politicians gone? What we need now are leaders. Leaders who will stand up to superpowers when they do wrong. It is a far braver thing to tell a friend when they are wrong, than to support them blindly.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The only winners are the lawyers...

Well despite the knowledge that the US election was set to be too close to call, and that a result may not come for several days I decided to stay up and watch the drama unfold on the wonders of satellite TV.

Despite the US networks all agreeing not to call any state for a particular candidate until they were sure the margin was big enough, it was unsurprising that the network that handed the last election to Bush (Fox) attempted to do so again.

With 15% of the votes still to be counted in Ohio and Bush leading by a mere 1%, Fox called the state for the incumbent. The result... almost all of the american networks followed suit. All but one. Throughout the early hours CNN refused to call any state that was too close to call and deserve credit for highlighting the possibility that Ohio may yet turn in favour of Kerry. When I left home Bush had a lead of 100,000 votes with about 300,000 still to be counted and a further 250,000 absentee and provisional ballots unaccounted for.

Democratic lawyers were standing by to be parachuted in meaning that the result of this election may yet drag on for some days. With Iowa also being delayed for about a day due to machine failures it looks like the Americans have again failed to perform the simplist of democratic tasks.

What hope for Iraqi elections, I hear you ask?!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Battlestar Galactica: Bastille Day

When it was announced that a 're-imagining' of Battlestar Galactica was in the works, no one opposed it more than the original 'Apollo', Richard Hatch. He campaigned long and hard for a sequel series to be made with the original cast. however, much like the tiresome 15 year campaign of George Takeito get a series made about Captain Sulu, it all ended in tears.

But like a phoenix from the flames, Richard buried the Hatchet (I am so sorry!) with Ron Moore and agreed to guest star in the new show.

'Bastille Day' follows quickly on from 'Water' with the Galactica crew in need of 1000 people to mine the precious H2O from a harsh ice planet. Amongst the fleet is a ship transporting over 1000 prisoners, who have become an increasing problem in terms of what to do with them.

You might be able to see what's coming next.

Apollo and several Galactica crew are dispatched to request that the prisoners work to mine the water, in exchange for points to help earn their freedom.

Naturally, things are never that simple... amongst the prisoners is Tom Zarek (Hatch), a political prisoner, and terrorist dissident, who has been incarcerated for 20 years.

What follows is an intense siege situation which offers a startling insight into the inner workings of the 12 colonies.

This is perhaps the strongest offering yet that shatters the unrealistic notion that all was calm and equal between the 12 colonies. The eventual conclusion will have clear repercussions for the entire fleet in the future.

Again, the Cylons are notable in their absence, only appearing in the form of human-looking agents. The storyarcs on both Caprica and within the fleet are beginning to take shape now and make for some enjoyable television.

Summary - the most polished offering yet, possibly because I love political intrigue. Some good performances and well written dialogue. The start to BSG is not as grand as Firefly, but it's certainly impressive for a first season. Let's hope it continues. Score - 8.5/10.

Battlestar Galactica: Water

Following on from the reasonably strong opening to Battlestar Galactica last week is 'Water'. With water supplies almost exhausted after an act of sabotage on the Galactica, Adama and Roslin send out ships to search for water amongst the desolate planets in the neighboring systems.

Overall it's a strong episode which further explores the mindset of the cylons. We are told that the cylons have a plan, but what this is remains a mystery. Certainly, the actions of the various cylon agents comes across as slightly contradictory, which illustrates a level of tension between the different models. With two Boomer agents (that we are aware of) operating independently of one another, a Number Six on Caprica and a vision of Number Six in Baltars head, it is hard to see the motivation for each of them. The impression I get is that because the agents are sentient, this means that they are capable of choosing, and those choices could easily come into conflict with their missions.

But I think I'm getting well ahead of myself, and perhaps reading just a tad too much into it!

The episode, at last delves into the sleeper agent mentality of Boomer which illustrates both a sinister and innocent side to the character. It also offers a glance at the reluctant relationship of Roslin and Adama which seems destined to be a bit of a roller coaster ride.

It was also nice to see the Baltar/Number Six relationship that dominated the opening ep, reduced to a supporting role. This area could become a little tiresome if played on too much.

On the down-side I felt the actress playing Boomer sometimes struggled with the subtlety of the role she had to play. This may have been down to the direction, but I'll see how it plays out.

Summary - another strong episode, with reasonable performances from all involved. Quite reminiscent of early Babylon 5. Scores 7/10.