As a fan of ElfQuest for decades, I made an early donation to the Kickstarter campaign of Wendy and Richard Pini who were raising money to develop an “audio movie” of the first book of the epic elf saga. I followed with interest, as actors were chosen to voice the characters. This first season is aptly based on the first collected graphic novel, Fire and Flight, which first introduced readers to the World of Two Moons and the elfin Wolfriders. Tune in yourself to the Apple podcast!
Fire and Flight
Fire and Flight introduces us to the Wolfriders, an elfin band that rides wolves and live in the woods, or as they call it, The Holt. Primitive humans are their enemies and have captured one of the elves, Redlance. A rescue is mounted to retrieve their friend, but at great cost, as the humans burn down the woods in retaliation. The character Savah, who we will truly meet later, is the all-knowing narrator in these early episodes.
All the elves and their wolves are able to escape to the caverns of the trolls, but due to some trickery, the trolls lead them underground and abandon them near an entrance to a desert.
The Burning Waste
The elves, led by their leader Cutter, set out across the sands in hope of finding a new home. On the brink of disaster, they are completely shocked to find a hidden elfin village in the desert mountains.
Raid at Sorrow’s End
They barge into the peaceful village, creating chaos, for the other tribe is as shocked at their existence as they were. The Sun Villagers welcome the Wolfriders while Leetah, the Healer, uses her magic to heal Redlance.
We learn some important background to the story-as Savah the eldest Sun Village elf there, explains how the elves and humans became enemies and how the desert tribe came to be where they are. Cutter feels the pull of Recognition (when two elves are drawn to each other’s souls and come together to create a strong child) towards Leetah, to the great dismay of Rayek, the Sun Villager’s chief hunter. Savah shared her backstory about her lifemate who became obsessed with shaping the rocks of the desert.
Cutter and Rayek engage in a series of physical and mental challenges in an attempt to win Leetah’s heart on the Bridge of Destiny. Two cocky alpha males fighting for one woman- I wasn’t a fan.
Although Cutter won the challenge, he only won the chance to woo Leetah. One night she eavesdrops on a howl the Wolfriders have and learns more about their tribe and way of life. She is intrigued by their stories and begins to respect Cutter.
Blood of Ten Chiefs
More backstories are shared, specifically the tale of how Cutter became the chief of his tribe at a young age when his father Bearclaw was killed by the evil monster Madcoil.
Voice of the Sun
The Sun Folk and the Wolfrides begin to work together, as Redlance’s magic gift with plants is appreciated and Scouter’s keen eyesight is needed. When spooked wild animals threaten the village, the Wolfiders leap into action.
The Bridge of Destiny
The healer Leetah finally gives into Recognition with Cutter and the two tribes rejoice. The concluding minute shares the two tribes live in harmony for seven years until the humans find the remote village…but that is a story for Season Two!
I question using the term audio movie that the creators used, for I feel that the word podcast is more accurate, and more people will understand that term. While it was voiced wonderfully and included sound effects, in no way did I consider it a movie of any sort. For podcast fans, this is a great way to be introduced to the world of ElfQuest and the Wolfriders. For those that fell in love with the elven tribes in the graphic novels, this is a treat, however, I did miss the exquisite art of Wendy Pini. ElfQuest became a sensation it was due to Wendy’s art, so I have to admit I missed it. But if and when season two is greenlit, I will be tuning in!
This coming-of-age sequel set in 1994, has four teens whose home lives were falling apart, come together in an unlikely alliance. In the first volume, the internet brought them together, but now they grapple with the consequences of their choices as they all live in a home with other wayward teens who are on the fringes of society.
Allison, who escaped from a manipulative and abusive father with her boyfriend Sam, is struggling with fitting in while Sam wonders if he made the right decision to leave home to be with her. Richard has recently moved to the local high school and been bullied by someone he knew years ago at a summer camp, finds out why this former campmate has it out for him (and the reason has to do with Star Trek!). And we really get to know Tina, a tough computer expert who puts others first but deserves to find her own happiness with another alternative music fan that she meets at a local concert. The stories of these disenfranchised and realistic characters, who are tail-end Gen X’ers, ring true. They ache for connection, and reach out to others, sometimes successfully and sometimes not as they grow up in a changing world.
The art is done in black and white with blue accents for shadows and to infer other colors. A variety of panel placements and computer screens successfully pull you into this world of technology and limitless possibilities. This graphic novel effectively captures the early grunge era of the 1990s and reminds us of that era of technology -computer usage before the World Wide Web via dial-up. It looks so very primitive now but was cutting edge for a new generation of youth who would come of age with home computers.
The conclusion leaves a few narrative threads hanging, plus I have enough nostalgia for that era, to tune in for more!
Silas House is my favorite modern author, known for writing authentic and beautiful fiction about contemporary Appalachia. I read his novel Clay’s Quilt years ago, but had not realized afterward he wrote two more prequel books about Clay’s family until I picked up A Parchment of Leaves and realized he was writing about the ancestors of Clay. I then read The Coal Tattoo which depicts Clay’s mother’s life, and finally re-read Clay’s Quilt once again.
A Parchment of Leaves (2002)
Set in the early 1900s in eastern Kentucky, Saul is a young man who falls in love with a Cherokee woman, whose family lives in a small settlement nearby. They marry and have a daughter named Birdie, but problems arise when Saul’s brother Aaron also falls in love with Vine. The extended family endures poverty and discrimination in their rural life, but ultimately the bonds of family and friendship strengthen them. The story also highlights a love of nature and shows a changing way of life in the mountains as logging companies move in.
I loved this book and it proved to be my favorite of the trilogy. As I am already a fan of Appalachian fiction, I was then doubly pleased to find a reference to people of Melungeon descent in this story. As someone who suspects this ancestry in her family (not proven yet-as records back then were non-existent or hidden), I was interested in reading about Cherokee and Melungeon culture and how people were treated because of it. The book was heartbreaking to see families hide their language and customs, and have the next generation not know of their past. This book was so true to life; I could imagine Vine, Aaron, Serena, Saul, Esme and Aidia, and see them in my mind’s eye.
The Coal Tattoo (2004)
This book was a sore disappointment to me after reading A Parchment of Leaves and loving the character of Vine so much.
I was not happy about Vine’s painful death and the regrets she had, and then how her daughter Birdie died, but the flashbacks to her friendship with Serena were wonderful. Her grandchildren Easter, Anneth and Gabe were not worthy of Vine; with Anneth especially rubbing me the wrong way. I wanted more of Gabe in the story, while poor Easter could never relax because she was always so rigid. Yet, the chapters about her son being stillborn and her crisis of faith were heartbreaking. I was pleased that she had a happy marriage to El and the chapter about having a ‘small life’ was well written about how some people are happy with their small town/rural life and don’t need more to be happy. Anneth was truly unlikable to me, her wild and foolish behavior set my teeth on edge. I didn’t buy her love affair with the soldier and her falling in love and getting pregnant during a weekend with him. The ending of the story was rather abrupt but will conclude with Clay’s Quilt (although this trilogy was written with the last book chronologically written first).
Clay’s Quilt (2001)
Clay’s Quilt is an evocative and lyrical book about Clay Sizemore, a young man tied to his family and community in Kentucky, and how he finds his place in life. Orphaned as a young boy, Clay is raised by his pious aunt and hard-drinking uncle and is blessed with many cousins. He is especially close to his cousin Dreama and his best friend Cake. After high school, he willingly works in a local coal mine, and parties every weekend with Cake. For years a lot of drinking, smoking marijuana and dancing were part of their lives, but he feels stuck in a rut when he meets Alma, a fiddler who is getting divorced from her abusive husband. The two fall in love, but a deadly fight with Alma’s ex gives him a crisis of faith that he needs to work through. The ending is a love letter to his region and kin, and this debut novel by House ended up being the last of a three-book series that House wrote about the Sizemore family.
On a side note, when does contemporary writing become historical fiction? Published in 2001, the story takes place from the 1970s through the 90s, although much of it feels timeless, as technology with computers and cell phones was not part of the narrative. The opioid epidemic had not hit the area yet and coal mining was still a viable job, so the story feels like a puzzle piece bridging the past and modern life now. I applaud the author for bringing the fictional Sizemore family to life and showcasing his beloved Kentucky. Many Appalachian books are set in the past, so this book was a breath of fresh air about being proud of your heritage- for he brought to life the beauty of the mountains, plus he showed respect to working-class and rural families of a region that is often overlooked or even looked down upon. I highly recommend the entire three-book series!
Michael from My Comic Relief and I have been good friends for years now, as we both started blogging within a few months of each other and discovered each other’s blogs early on. I even had the pleasure of meeting him during a family vacation, as my family and I arranged to meet up for lunch with him and Kalie, who writes Just Dread-Full. For awhile we have good-naturedly pushed the other to start watching our favorite fandoms- which for Michael is Doctor Who and for me Star Trek, specifically The Next Generation. What is amazing about both our series is that they both began in the 1960s, had a few speedbumps to overcome, but then were re-tooled for the better in recent years. So we both choose eight episodes to best represent our favorite fandom and had the other watch them, after giving each other some introductory comments.
This swap has been months in the making, as I mailed my Star Trek episode guide to him back in July and I slowly started to work my way through the episodes he assigned me. This slow going actually proved to be beneficial to me, as I was able to tie this post into Doctor Who Day aka Tardis Day, and I got to experience the most recent season coming to a close. To read Michael’s thoughts on the Star Trek: TNG episodes I assigned him, click here!
Michael: Doctor Who is the longest-running sci-fi show in history so jumping in can be…overwhelming. I debated choosing one Doctor or giving you a sampling of several Doctors. Then I decided to chose “thematic” types of episodes Doctor Who regularly uses. It was HARD not giving you any of Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor and I still don’t know if leaving the Daleks and the Cybermen out was the right move. But I made my choices so allons-y!
The Woman Who Fell To Earth (S11E1)
Michael: This was Jodie Whittaker’s first appearance as the Doctor as well as Chris Chibnall’s first episode as showrunner. To my mind this regeneration episode explains the process and how all the Doctors are the same yet have their own unique personalities better than any other. Moments before the episode begins, the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) regenerates into the Thirteenth Doctor (Jodie Whittaker). The regeneration energy damages the TARDIS and sends the Doctor plummeting towards Sheffield, England where she will meet her new companions – Yaz (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole), and Graham (Bradley Walsh). As a result, we see the Doctor sort who she is without her TARDIS or her sonic screwdriver as it was in the TARDIS. Oh, when she crashes and pops back up, it isn’t because the Doctor is invulnerable but rather, within the first fifteen hours of a regeneration cycle, there’s enough residual cellular energy to repair damage such as that fall or regrowing a lost limb.
Nancy: I was excited to see this as my first assigned episode since I had already watched it before with my brother-in-law Chris, who is a big Doctor Who fan himself. He and I had watched the previous episode, which was the last for the Twelfth Doctor when my family was visiting for the holidays, and months later watched this introduction to the Thirteenth Doctor. While I have been aware of Doctor Who for decades, and remember watching a few with one of my Grandmas as a child, these modern-era episodes are brand new to me. I had asked Chris a lot of questions at the time, so having this as my first episode was a stroke of luck as I had some prior knowledge built in this time around.
So the thing is when you get a new Doctor, you almost always get new companions. That can be a lot to take in, but the people that the Thirteenth Doctor befriends are an appealing lot. So imagine my dismay, when one of the companions dies in this first episode! Since this was my second watch, I obviously knew Grace would die, but it still stung. I liked Jodie’s take on the Doctor and felt that she was perfect for the role.
The Rings of Akhaten (S7E7)
Michael: This is my favorite “first trip” episode! Here Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) takes her first trip in the TARDIS after meeting the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and agreeing to travel with him. The Doctor does some poking around in Clara’s past because she’s a mystery to him; he encountered a version of her already in the 1800s and in the distant future buuuuut that’s not really important to this story :). Still, it explains why he’s confused by her and probing her past before he takes her on her first trip. Bonus! The young actress who plays Merry Gejelh is Emilia Jones who was just nominated for an Oscar for Coda!
Nancy: While I gave Michael a chronological journey through Star Trek: TNG, he did not do the same for me. He had his sound reasoning for his episode choices, but I admit I had a bit of whiplash as I watched these episodes, as they bounced around and I ended up watching episodes with four different Doctors. This time around, I was introduced to Matt Smith, who I previously watched in The Crown, so to me it seemed as if a young Prince Phillip with bad hair was gallivanting about space. And while Michael mentioned the child actress Emilia Jones later was in Coda, I recognized her from the three-season Locke & Key series I recently wrapped up on Netflix.
This series is not known for its special effects, and they seem to just lean into it, with the many different aliens looking quite cheap. I made a joke to Michael afterward that the show made the aliens from Star Trek: TOS in the 60s look high-tech. I noticed that this second episode also killed off an appealing character- Clara’s mum. But her leaf ended up being the most important leaf in history! When I mentioned this second death to Michael, he then shared that the series showrunners at the time were criticized for pulling their female companions away from their families, but that’s a digression for another time…
The Unicorn and the Wasp (S4E5)
Michael: This episode features the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) as he travels with Donna Noble (Catherine Tate). They are a pretty heavy fan favorite Doctor/companion duo amongst Doctor Who fans. This is a great example of just a “fun” episode – as well as a historical episode – as the Doctor and Donna find themselves in England in 1926…where they work to solve a murder mystery with Agatha Christie! Doctor Who loves dropping famous people in their historical episodes and this is a personal favorite.
Nancy: The phrase I used to describe this episode to Michael was that it was ridiculous fun! I had heard that IRL Agatha Christie disappeared for a time and offered no explanation as to where she had been, so this was as solid an explanation as any. One of the actresses in this episode was Felicity Jones, who I recognized as Jyn Erso from Star Wars: Rogue One. I also know Catherine Tate as a comedian, so sometimes it was disconcerting to see actors and actresses I associate with other roles in these Doctor Who episodes.
The Zygon Invasion Part 1 (S9E7) & Part 2 (S9E8)
Michael: Doctor Who loves two-parters so here’s an example of that as well as a story which shows a companion traveling with two different regenerations of the Doctor (which happens sometimes but not all the time). This episode is set in the present day and it follows the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara as they try to prevent war from breaking out between the human race and the Zygons, a race of alien shapeshifters who have been living as refugees on Earth for a few years. It also features UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Taskforce), the military group the Doctor worked with steadily in the ‘70s and has popped up semi-regularly ever since. It is their job to investigate the odd and unexplained and protect the Earth from alien threats. You also see Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) who serves as UNIT commander like her father, Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), did in the 70s.
Nancy: These were my least favorite of the episodes, mostly because I didn’t connect with the grumpy Twelfth Doctor. And the evil Zygons looked like an octopus and lobster had an ugly love child together. I think the franchise needs to buck up more for the special effects. I also had to text Micahel several times to understand why there were multiple Doctors featured at the beginning of the episode, and why most are numbered but then there is a War Doctor. This can be a hard franchise to get into, as there are a lot of backstories to try to figure out. Luckily, Michael kept the episodes in the modern era, as there are hundreds to choose from since the franchise began in 1963. This two-parter had a good message, but I thought the ending was self-indulgent. It reminded me of Star Trek: Discovery which I feel tries too hard and is too preachy.
Michael: Always counted among the best episodes of Doctor Who in online polls and fan countdowns and critically acclaimed as one of the show’s best dramatic episodes, it introduces the Weeping Angels – creatures who have become as iconic as the Daleks and Cyberman (dating back to 1963 and ’65 respectively). Creatively, this episode sees the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) trapped in the 1960s while Sally Sparrow (Cary Mulligan (two years before she’d get her Oscar nomination for An Education (yes, pretty much every famous British person has been on this show)) serves as the main protagonist trying to solve the mystery unfolding around her.
Nancy: The Weeping Angels were awesomely creepy! The beginning actually threw me off, as it seemed to be a murder mystery vs a Doctor Who episode, In fact, the Tenth Doctor wasn’t in the episode much at all. I’m glad Micahel included this episode, for I have perceived the entire franchise to be on the campy side, but this was an excellent atmospheric stand-alone episode that introduced new deadly aliens. I’d love to shop at the Sparrow & Nightingale Bookstore!
Can You Hear Me? (S12E7)
Michael: As Kalie put it when she started watching the show, one of the best things about Doctor Who is (as corny as it may sound) it makes you proud to be human. Garnering high critical acclaim and positive fan responses as well for its depiction of mental illness and the importance of mental health care, this is one of those episodes. The Thirteenth Doctor leaves Yaz, Ryan, and Graham in Sheffield in 2020 for some “shore leave” as she travels to Aleppo, Syria in 1380. A mystery stretching from Aleppo to the present will pull them all to a space station orbiting a distant planet in the far future.
Nancy: This episode was meh for me. I expected more because Michael hyped it, but since I was just dipping in and out of the Doctor and companion’s lives, this didn’t resonate for me as it would for long-time fans who are invested in the characters. I thought the mental health angle was solid, and I did appreciate getting to know more about the companions, but the time jumping took me out of the narrative flow.
Vincent and the Doctor (S5E10)
Michael: This episode just makes you feel good. It has everything that makes Doctor Who great – history, space creatures, excitement, humor, and all kinds of heart. It is often held up, critically and by fans, as an example of how compassion-centric a sci-fi show Doctor Who is. So this is our feel-good note to end on. The Eleventh Doctor takes Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) to Auvers-sur-Oise, France, in 1890 to meet Vincent Van Gogh and it’s all so beautiful!
Nancy: Unrealistically, I wanted a happy ending for Van Gogh that included ginger babies with Amy (Nebula from Guardians of the Galaxy)! I agree with Michael it was a beautiful episode, but the term I would also use is bittersweet- although they showed Van Gogh that his works would be considered masterpieces in the future, his demons still got the better of him, and he still had the sad ending. On a side note, I saw a very cool Van Gogh Immersive Exhibit in Chicago last year, so this episode was a neat connection for me as I had recently seen much of his work.
Michael: I had twelve episodes that “almost” made the final cut! Choosing which I’d assign you was so difficult! But this was so much fun, too :D. It was really special to share Doctor Who with you in this way – to give you a little sampling of a show I love so much while you shared a show you love so much with me. I’m still unsure about leaving the Ninth Doctor off but his thirteen episodes feel like such a connected story to me. But had I included any of his episodes it (probably) would’ve been either “The End of the World” (S1E2) or “Dalek” (S1E6). I hope you had fun and enjoyed your time in the TARDIS, Nancy! For anyone else interested in getting in Doctor Who, you can follow the course Nancy journeyed here or use this piece – “Should I Watch Doctor Who? / How to Begin Watching Doctor Who” – I wrote a while back.
Nancy: So will I continue watching Doctor Who? Yes! I have already watched the last episode of Jodie’s Thirteenth Doctor and saw her regenerate into a surprisingly familiar face for the Fourteenth Doctor. The next episodes are a full year away (timed to coincide with the 60-year anniversary!) and I believe will only consist of a few episodes, before yet another regeneration occurs and we finally meet the actor who will be playing the Fifteenth Doctor in 2024. Watching these episodes has led to some nice communication with my quiet brother-in-law, as he texted me after the recent season ended to discuss the reveal. I had also sent him Michael’s list and he suggested a few others for me to watch, so I will try to watch those before I see Chris next. While I don’t see myself being a consistent watcher, I now feel confident in my background knowledge of Doctor Who to check out some future episodes, so this franchise swap experiment has been a success!
This is the fourth and final interconnected book of author Taylor Jenkins Reid. She has specialized in complex women throughout the decades- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was set in the 60s, Daisy Jones & The Six in the 70s, Malibu Rising was set in the 80s, and now Carrie Soto in the 90s (tho the book felt a bit more modern-day). Carrie was a previous cameo character in Malibu Rising, and Easter eggs are sprinkled throughout the book, making little connections with the previous three.
Carrie Soto is a driven professional tennis player who dominated the sport in the 70s & 80s but has since retired. Bored with retirement, she rejoins the tennis circuit when a younger player ties her record for Slams won. At 37, she is an unlikely player but coached by her father, she feels she can stage a comeback. And what a comeback it is, for her ambition and desire to win push her to the brink, but she perseveres. Carrie is criticized and judged, as all women are, and I saw parallels with women athletes from years ago to today- I thought especially of the Williams sisters who are superb athletes and transformed the game but didn’t fit the mold of earlier female tennis players. Her story is softened in the end when she decides the game doesn’t have to encompass her whole life, and she begins to make friendships and rekindled a romance with another player.
While I liked Daisy Jones & The Six and Malibu Rising the best of the four, this quartet of books comes highly recommended!
Friendship is wonderful, isn’t it? It can lead you to do all sorts of things you’d never do on your own. I’d start listing examples but, c’mon, then we’d be off on a tangent (a beautiful, nourishing, and entertaining tangent to be sure!) which could fill pages. Let’s cut to the chase! My friendship with Nancy of Graphic Novelty2 – my oldest, longest, and dearest blogging friend – has led to an historic first. I, Michael John Miller, author and operator of the blog My Comic Relief, am writing about Star Trek for the very first time. You see, Nancy loves Star Trek and I’d never seen a single episode of Star Trek (only the JJ Abrams films). I love Doctor Who and Nancy had only seen a few episodes in passing. So, in the name of friendship, AMAZING THINGS, and blog content, we did our first ever Fandom Swap! Eagerly sharing what we love with the other, Nancy chose eight episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (her favorite iteration of the show) for me to watch and I gave Nancy eight episodes of Doctor Who.
What follows is a unique piece, a sort of dialogue. You’ll see Nancy’s intro material leading me, a Star Trek newbie, into each episode, followed by my thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the episodes as well as my general feels on wading into the world of Star Trek for the first time. Enjoy!
Nancy: Star Trek: The Next Generation ran for seven outstanding seasons, but I am starting off with an episode from S3, for truth be told most series take awhile to gain their footing and attract a fan base.
Yesterday’s Enterprise S3E15
Nancy: This episode was the perfect “going back in time to right wrongs” episode. It features Tasha Yar, a character from the first season who had been the first Head of Security in S1 and was killed in the line of duty. IRL the actress wanted to leave the show (so foolish!) and was given a rather ignoble death scene, so this episode in S3 gives her a fitting end, plus I liked the subplot about the possible romance between her and Castillo. It also ended up setting up another amazing twist storyline in future seasons. Some background knowledge: The Enterprise NCC-1701-D is the fourth Enterprise, under Captain Picard (A was Captain Kirk, B was Captain Harriman, C was Captain Garrett).
Michael: My very first thought as I began my very first episode? “Is that Whoopi Goldberg??? It is!!!” I had no idea she was on Star Trek! The size of The Enterprise is something my mind kept sticking on. I’m not used to “good guy” ships being so big/full. In Star Wars, the Rebels’ ships are so much smaller than the Empire’s and in Doctor Who the TARDIS is infinite on the inside but it’s always just the Doctor and a few companions. To think of this ship’s “ecosystem,” as it were, is staggering. It’s so much more “polished” than the world of Doctor Who, where the Doctor is essentially a vagabond setting things right where they find things needing sorted. I got lost
thinking on the Tasha/Castillo romance. The idea of meeting someone, having that connection, and then knowing they have to go back into the past which will reset your timeline and make you forget ever even having met them?? That’s a heavy thing to wrap your mind around.
It’s not as jarring as I thought it’d be, jumping into the world of Star Trek for my very first time. My most vivid connection to a character from this episode was Tasha then Picard (obvs.) and Data and Whoopie.
Sins of the Father S3E17
Nancy: Worf, Klingon Head of Security, defends his family’s honor and has to make a sacrifice. This episode really showed Klingon society. Worf has proved to be one of my favorite characters, and later very capably made the jump to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and helped anchor the series that was initially struggling before it hit its stride.
Michael: Worf is one of my most vivid Star Trek memories from my youth, seeing him in ads in my comics or on TV. I always thought he was a villain (he kinda scared me) given the way he looked. Since Klingons freaked me out as a kid, it was interesting to see an episode so focused on their culture. They were as intense and violent as I would’ve expected but there was a surprising warmth and familial connection. As I observed above, the very military nature of this show is so foreign to me. I don’t normally watch or read things like this. The hierarchy. The routines. The protocol. It all fees so…strict. I got a rush o’ feels when Worf asked Piccard to serve as his cha’DIch. And when Picard replied in Klingon?? It felt surprisingly sweet for a show I was only on my second episode of.
The Best of Both Worlds S3E26 & S4E1 (two-parter)
Nancy: The Borg, cybernetic humanoids that assimilate individuals into their hive-mind, are introduced. Captain Picard is captured and assimilated! His time there would forever change him and would tie him to another character (Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager – which was Captain Janeway’s ship) who also was formerly a Borg, and the two co-star in the series Star Trek: Picard. This was an excellent cliffhanger episode and really made me anxious for the start of S4. In the years since, the Borg have become the Big Baddies of the franchise, and are over-used TBH.
Michael: What came to mind whenever I thought of Star Trek as a kid, before ever seeing an episode, was their color coded uniforms, the shape of the Enterprise, Picard, the Klingons, and the Borg. So to see the introduction of the Borg was exciting! The Borg gave me major Cybermen vibes – a cyborg species seeking to assimilate everything and operating through a hive mind. So this was kinda cool :). This threat felt familiar. It makes me wish I gave you an episode of Doctor Who with the Cybermen in it! I get your anxiety over the summer, too. My notes at the end of Part One literally said, “That’s where they did the ‘To Be Continued…’ cutoff?? How did people wait all summer to see the next one?!?”
This episode was the first time through this I felt really invested in the story. Like I was on the edge of my seat watching! I also keep thinking of how often I saw the Borg, the assimilated Picard, and their big ol’ cube ship in my comic ads as a kid. So much of my sense of Star Trek comes from those ads. Going into the second episode, even though I knew Picard would be ok (somehow), I still felt a pit in my stomach as Ryker takes charge and Guinan gives him his li’l pep talk to do so. My notes for the end of Part Two, “What was with that ending?? Was it just a sobering reflective moment or are they still in his head someway??”
The Inner Light S5E25
Nancy: Probably my favorite TNG episode ever! Picard is always so stoic, but here he gets to raise a family and the ending will gut you. The flute…tears!!! It makes you wonder how long you yourself would fight against knowing you were in the wrong era/world and give in and live the best life you could under the new circumstances.
Michael: Knowing this is your favorite TNG episode ever had me really excited to see it! I can see why you like it (and I don’t even have the emotional connection to the series/characters that you do!) and it did give me a lot to think about! Waking up in a world I know is wrong but everyone else says is correct would be so overwhelming! I presume I’d spend a lot of time crying and ultimately find myself committed. Even if I had another family and natural supports, I’d be haunted by what I knew was right and what I knew I’d lost. Could I go to bed with a women I just met who was certain we were married? When would I commit to an illusion? When would I accept it as “real”?
I figured out the twist when Picard and Batai were talking about the planet being doomed but that didn’t make it any less emptional. What a beautiful reflection on the power and purpose of history! History, when done right, should pull us into a people and we should come to love them – their life, their culture, their ways, their world – just as we do our own family. But history often fails. Though when it doesn’t, well it can forever change our lives as it did for Picard. The flute scene at the end, while I was expecting something like it, was so poignant! This was an episode! I see why you love it so much! On the one hand, my gut reaction was it was kind of a dick move on those people’s part, to hijack a consciousness to share their story with the world. But as soon as I thought about it for a few moments I realized…what else is the point and purpose of history? Yes, it’s hard but it should be. WOW.
I, Borg S5E23
Nancy: An injured Borg drone is captured and Picard has to decide if he will use him as a weapon against the Borg, who have become a huge threat to the Federation. What happens when this former Borg begins to demonstrate free will?
Michael: Seeking out an area “for colonization” carries a different connotation in our age of growing awareness of the horrors of empire. Dr. Crusher’s immediate compassion for the wounded Borg boy was welcome, especially after their last encounter. I really like her character for that :). Picard plotting a potential Borg genocide with Data is not unsurprising (heck, Star Wars adores genocide) but it still makes me sad. The whole military-centric drive of the show, in fact, is something that has yet to feel like it “fits comfortably” for me. I love how the more Geordi gets to know Hugh, the more uncomfortable he feels with the program he’s designing. Conversation breeds connection and connection breeds communion. The last episode tugged on the ol’ heartstrings but watching Hugh voluntarily go back to the Borg to protect Geordi from their pursuit hit hard. I just wanted them to save Hugh! Why couldn’t they take him with them?? Why didn’t he become part of the crew?? Siiiiigh.
The First Duty S5E19
Nancy: Wesley Crusher, the doctor’s son who had been a regular in the first few seasons but had left the Enterprise to attend Starfleet Academy, is back in this episode and he is in trouble. He and some other cadet pilots made a stupid decision while flying and a crewmate died. This isn’t truly one of my very top episodes, but it ties in nicely with the next episode I am having you watch. Aside – the actor playing Nick Locarno would later be recast and play Tom Paris in Star Trek: Voyager. For legal reasons, he couldn’t be the same character in two different series.
Michael: “Captain’s Log: Stardate…” “Space – the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship, Enterprise. It’s continuing mission, to seek out new life, to explore new star systems, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” “Resistance is Futile.” It’s so cool to finally be experiencing these classic lines for myself as part of their narrative rather than just hearing them as an oft quoted piece of pop culture! Picard told Wesley the duty of every Star Fleet officer is to the truth – scientific, historical, and personal truth. I really like this frame of what they do. And I got to see future Earth – future San Diego, it looks like – for the first time!
Lower Decks S7E15
Nancy: We get a look at the younger crew members of the ship, and one of them is from the episode The First Duty. This gives us a different perspective of the ship, seen from the crew who are part of the “lower decks.” This premise is the basis for the new series Star Trek: Lower Decks, which is a cartoon, but ties in with the entire franchise. A very bittersweet ending, but realistic that sometimes captains need to make decisions that they know could hurt or kill their crew, but is for the greater good.
Michael: In some ways this episode reminds me of Scrubs S9, with it’s focus on the ensigns on the ship and their concern about their careers and promotions and coming up in Star Fleet. I was really happy to see Sito back from the last episode. I like her. Watching her talk with Picard in the wake of what happened at the Academy was hard. We’ve all been haunted by mistakes but how do you come back from something like that. Do you? Can you? I like how this episode explored that. I love how often they hang out in the bar/restaurant on the Enterprise. I like the overlay of senior officers and the ensigns playing poker – regular poker on a regular poker table
with regular cards – and chatting, too. It gave a strong sense of continuity between those on the Enterprise and us. It felt more like our possible future, you know? Ok, so here are my literal stream on consciousness notes:
“If Sito dies in this episode…I’ve not seen enough Star Trek to learn their narrative rhythm yet but it seems like this could be setting her up for a tragic ending. I am rooting for her! I really like her as a character! She can’t die here! If I lose Sito after the flute scene and losing Hugh, I am gonna be in a rough place! I am not comfortable with this whole hostage ruse/escape pod pickup scenario. I am not liking this one bit!”
What a heartbreaking way to end. I mean, it makes sense. It is bittersweet, as you said. And it certainly leaves me awash in my own emotions around the crew of the Enterprise. Part of me is surprised I became so connected to these characters in just eight episodes – and Sito who was only in two of them! – but part of me isn’t. I’m an empath by nature and I’m easily pulled into a well written story. Also, Star Trek has been popular for sixty years precisely because it pulls people in like this.
Nancy: I hope you enjoyed your window into my beloved franchise, and if I had another episode I would recommend the last episode of the series, All Good Things, which wraps up the series nicely. It had a perfect ending scene with all the main characters. While of course Star Trek: The Original Series is the granddaddy of the entire Star Trek universe, I believe you can truthfully say it was Star Trek: TNG that revitalized the franchise, and all series that came afterward are truly based on TNG. For anyone interested in getting into Star Trek for the first time, of course, I recommend TNG, but the new Star Trek: Strange New Worlds is absolutely fantastic and will make a Trekkie out of you yet! In the meantime, Live Long and Prosper!
Michael: I did enjoy this! In fact, I enjoyed it so much by the start of “The First Duty,” I began to consider watching Star Trek on my own, making it another big series I explore alongside Classic Doctor Who. This is HUGE as I feel I never have time for the TV people tell me I “should” be watching (in fact, I just wrote about my reluctance to jump into new TV shows here). But I was open to – even eager – to explore more of the Star Trek universe on my own. The main reason I haven’t yet was I wasn’t sure if we’ll make this Fandom Swap an annual thing we return to so I held off ;D. But I’m SO GLAD we did this! And I’m really happy you chose TNG for me to begin with as almost all the Star Trek memories I have from my youth are about TNG. Now I finally got to see it for myself!
Nancy: Stay tuned for my piece on Doctor Who next week!!!!!
This is the fifth season in the Wastelanders podcast series about an apocalyptic world set in the Marvel universe. After four seasons about various aging and displaced heroes, this season follows Doctor Doom.
“After thirty years of imprisonment, Doctor Doom has freed himself and seeks revenge on the former allies who betrayed him on The Day The Villains Won. To achieve this, he teams up with Valeria Richards, the daughter of his most hated enemy, Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four – but whose side is she really on?” *Some spoilers ahead*
A Super Hero Walks Into a Bar
Finally, the podcasts are starting to come together with an introduction that directly links this one to the first Wastelanders podcast about Star-Lord! We meet Valeria, who has the tools left from the F4 team and begins to work with Johnny, a former barkeep and hired gun. We also get a character from that first podcast that seemed to make a drastic turn toward evil in the last episode (their motives are very suspect).
A Fantastic Four
We are given some backstory to Doom and Valeria’s relationship- he is actually her Godfather, as he helped deliver her years ago. For 30 years he has been bidding his time and learning new skills as he was held captive and plotting his revenge.
The villain Klaw recounts what happened to the F4 family, and it was heartbreaking. We find out what Valeria’s powers are and how they prevented her from dying and why she still looks so young. We get yet another reference to the Wastlelanders series- in regards to Wolverine and Red Skull.
We discover the petulant Doom is stronger than he has been acting, and he has an evil plan (of course). But he could be an anti-hero as he seems to care about Valeria despite his bluster.
Valeria takes Doom, Cora and Johnny back to her secret compound to regroup. She shows off her F4 and other hero gadgets she has been collecting, which should help them with their adventures. She is not sure of Doom’s plans, so she slips him a truth serum and gets him to admit that he is looking for the Cosmic Cube.
The motley crew heads to the entrance to the Negative Zone and meets some other unlikely villains- Sandman and Kingpin. The Cosmic Cube seems to be a hot commodity.
King of the Negative Zone
This crew enters the topsy-turvy Negative Zone and discovers that Kingpin has found the Cosmic Cube himself. There is a battle of wits between everyone and suddenly the Shadow King (who had been the one who orchestrated the massacre at Professor X’s Mutant Academy due to how he manipulated Wolverine) appears and there is more mayhem and double-crossing.
Doctor Doom is held prisoner at Kingpen’s compound and learns that there are cracks in his empire. Not surprisingly he bests Kingpin and Shadow King and heads out to the neighboring Hulkland. In the meantime, Valeria and Johnny bond and have a brief romantic moment before they head to Hulkland too.
Doom confronts various Hulks, including the She-Hulk, Amadeus and Bruce. Are there double crosses? You betcha! There is a sad death and Cora the Recorder realigns her allegiances. While there have been references to Wolverine and Star-Lord, no mention or tie-in yet with Hawkeye or Black Widow.
I Am a God
Yet another battle of the wits between Doom and Hulk, with each of them utilizing the Cosmic Cube’s powers. Cora the Recorder continues to be a problem, and Valeria shows up at the end for a confrontation between her and Doom. Her motives are a bit suspect, as she is still straddling the line between hero and anti-hero.
And then *finally* we get confirmation that the next season will tie in all the heroes from the previous Wastelanders podcasts: Star-Lord, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Wolverine!! I’m still a bit salty about how long it has taken for these seasons to tie in together. They should have added more links to one another and given previews at the end of each season regarding the next one. Maybe the producers read my previous blog posts and took heed 😉 I now forward to the next (and what I assume will be the concluding) season of Wastelanders.
Written by Mark Waid & James King and directed by Jade King Carroll
Dylan Baker as Doctor Doom
Rebecca Naomi Jones as Valeria Richards
Nadine Malouf as Cora
Danny Burstein as Hulk
Keith David as Kingpin
John Hawkes as Klaw
Kristen Johnston as She-Hulk
Elijah Jones as Johnny
Hamish Linklater as Sandman
Series Artwork by Steve McNiven (who illustrated the original Old Man Logan)
Part memoir, part self-help book, Sophie Lambda is a French illustrator who shares her disastrous love affair with a narcissist.
Sophie meets television actor Marcus at a Paris party and feels an immediate connection. After they re-meet months later they begin to correspond by texting and soon arrange to meet. The relationship progresses quickly and Sophie falls deeply in love. Marcus also declares his love for her and she feels like a new woman. As time goes by, cracks appear, but Sophie makes excuses for these first signs. The highs with him are just so wonderful that she balances the lows for far too long. Plus, Marcus expertly manipulates her making her doubt herself and he separates her from friends that would have noticed his toxic behavior.
Two-thirds of the way through this graphic novel, Sophie finally breaks it off with him, but the drama is not over, as he lies to others and tries to cover his multiple affairs. She begins therapy, as she is devastated and unable to recover from her emotional turmoil. Her therapist guides her through how to recognize a manipulator, and she realizes that there were signs early on that she swept under the rug because she was blinded by love. With a few stops and starts, she regains her life and her sanity and ends up helping Marcus’s next girlfriend when he continues his unhealthy patterns. Thus the last third of the book is a self-help manual, as Sophie shares her hard-won wisdom with others who might find themselves trapped in a toxic relationship.
The art is delightful, as Sophie takes a self-deprecating look at her life and builds comedy into it. A trash-talking teddy bear (unseen to all but herself) is her ally, and she isn’t afraid to show her own foibles. She keeps to a simple black-and-white color scheme, adding some blues and reds on occasion to amp up the emotions. Paris and French countryside landscapes are additionally appealing and the 300-page book goes by quickly.
While I have been lucky in love, I have witnessed unhealthy relationships in my extended family and in some friends’ lives. So while I may not have experienced these pitfalls myself, I hope this guide could help me be a good aide to someone who might need a hand in the future.
The six-book graphic novel series Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez is an all-time favorite of mine, so I was thrilled when Netflix adapted the books into this three-season series. Season One was strong, with more emphasis on fantasy vs horror than the books, with Season Two starting to veer off the original storyline. Each season has consisted of ten episodes, and this final season continues to tell the tale of the Locke family who are fighting an otherworldly evil and has been doing so for generations.
The trio of Locke siblings- Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode- finally used magic to let their mother and uncle know about the supernatural happenings. In the past, once someone became an adult they forgot about the magic, which had been happening to Tyler as he neared eighteen. I liked this change from the graphic novels, as it was becoming more and more unsustainable to keep such shocking happenings from the adults, and as a mother myself, I appreciated this tweak. If my kids were facing supernatural horrors, I would want to help them!
This third season changed up the storyline significantly, with a villain from the past brought to the modern day. Both in the book and in this series, the Lockes were able to use a magic key that enabled them to visit their home during the Revolutionary War when much of the magical mayhem began. But in this adaptation, an evil soldier and his two sidekicks come into the Locke’s world and try to find all the keys and assure their domination. I was rather meh about this new direction, for while I wanted some changeup in the narration so I wasn’t bored, I missed the opportunity to get to know past Locke family members that the series (and now spin-offs) have featured.
Uncle Duncan wasn’t featured as much this season (I wondered if IRL the actor had other commitments) although there was a nice wedding to his boyfriend at the beginning of the episodes. The mother, Nina, got a boyfriend with minimal drama, as especially the two oldest kids recognized that she needed to move on after her husband’s death and be happy. There were several unjust deaths (Gordie deserved better!) and the kid’s friends took a backseat.
While I have to admit I wasn’t as invested in this season as the previous two, the last episode really brought it home. The family working together (love!) realized that although they defeated the evil soldier, they needed to dispose of all the keys. The keys had only brought misery upon the family for generations, and while tempted to keep them, they understood they needed to put a stop to the dark magic. But as a family, they used one last key to briefly reunite with their father and had an extremely touching reunion with him. Nina, Tyler, Kinsey and Bode were all given small happily-ever-after moments and the series came to an apt conclusion.
All in all, this three-season series did justice to Hill and Rodriguez’s graphic novel series. Due to excellent casting, viewers welcomed the Locke family into their homes, and some twists and turns away from the original storyline kept it fresh. I’ll miss this Netflix series, but I will keep on the lookout for more graphic novels in the Locke & Key universe, as it remains a favorite of mine!