Mad Idolatry

The OrvilleThe crew of the Orville is stunned when a planet appears out of nowhere, flashing into existence in an orbit around a star that previously had no planets. Commander Grayson leads a shuttle survey team to the planet, but the turbulence of the planet’s atmosphere leads to a rough landing. While attempts are made to contact the Orville, signs of early civilization are spotted, and Grayson goes to investigate for herself, accidentally encountering the human-like locals. She helps an injured child by introducing herself by name and then healing the child’s wound, an act witnessed by others. Grayson knows she’s violated nearly every rule of first contact, and races back to the safety of the shuttle to return to the Orville.

The planet continues its cycle of appearing and disappearing, each time showing signs of rapid technological advance: every time the planet reaches the point in its orbit that it vanishes, 700 years pass on the planet’s surface before it re-emerges, but mere hours pass for anyone not on the planet. Civilization has reached a point roughly equal to the pre-Renaissance period of Earth’s history, and Grayson is horrified to discover that an entire religion has sprung up around her initial sighting. She goes directly to the leaders of that religion to reveal her identity and demonstrate that she’s a mere mortal, just like them, before returning to the Orville. Each return visit with each orbit reveals a society more fanatically fixated on the near-mythological figure of Kelly. Can she say or do anything to bring her worshippers to their senses?

Download this episode via Amazonwritten by Seth MacFarlane
directed by Brannon Braga
music by Joel McNeely

The OrvilleCast: Seth McFarlane (Captain Ed Mercer), Adrianne Palicki (Commander Kelly Grayson), Penny Johnson Jerald (Dr. Claire Finn), Scott Grimes (Lt. Gordon Malloy), Peter Macon (Lt. Commander Bortus), Halston Sage (Lt. Alara Kitan), J Lee (Lt. John LaMarr), Mark Jackson (Isaac), Chad L. Coleman (Klyden), Kelly Hu (Admiral Ozawa), Lenny Von Dohlen (Valondis), Nick Toren (Man in Red Robe), Erica Tazel (Baleth), Philip Anthony-Rodriguez (Fadolin), Jasper McPherson (Little Girl), Chloe Russell (Woman), Grahame Wood (Man in Wagon), Jo Galloway (Mother), Kyra Santoro (Ensign Turco), Ethan Jones (Dalen), Neil Dickson (Man in Clerical Garb), Gordy De St. Jeor (Teenage Boy), Cyrus Deboo (Pundit #1), Stephen Jared (Pundit #2), Betsy Baker (Pundit #3), The OrvilleKurt Sinclair (Televangelist), Jay Jackson (Reporter), Alexander Catalano (Peasant #1), Ryan Fitzsimmons (Peasant #2), Mikey Roe (Peasant #3)

Notes: Not only has he appeared in Twin Peaks, Tales From The Darkside, and the early ’90s TV iteration of The Flash, guest star Lenny Von Dohlen is the first actor to have appeared in both The Orville and Red Dwarf.

LogBook entry by Earl Green

The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last JediThe Resistance, having enraged the leadership of the First Order by destroying Starkiller Base, is now on the run as the former Empire cuts off its supply lines and escape routes. A small flotilla of Resistance ships manages to escape, but General Hux and the First Order fleet are close behind them, pursuing at sublight speed to avoid overshooting their prey. Poe Dameron, still the most daring pilot in the Resistance, defies orders to take out the most heavily-armed dreadnought-class Star Destroyer, but his defiance – and the heavy losses incurred – cost him his rank. Kylo Ren is similarly facing the disdain of his Dark Side master, Supreme Chancellor Snoke, who chides him for not having the singular strength of will that his grandfather, Anakin Skywalker, did. Ren leads a strike on the Resistance fleet that almost results in his mother’s death; Leia’s latent Force powers save her life, but she is in no shape to lead the fleet, leaving Vice Admiral Holdo to assume command of what’s left of the Resistance. Finn, losing his nerve during the First Order’s onslaught, considers abandoning ship in an escape pod until he’s dissuaded by a young technician named Rose Tico, whose sister was one of the Resistance pilots killed in Poe’s ill-advised, unauthorized strike on the dreadnought – or, more accurately, Finn is dissuaded by a laser tool Rose is carrying for the express purpose of preventing potential deserters. When the First Order demonstrates the ability to track the Resistance fleet through hyperspace, it suddenly seems that Rose’s expertise in hyperdrive and Finn’s knowledge of First Order ship layouts is a promising combination…if only they can get aboard. A hot tip from Maz points them, with BB-8 in tow, to the luxury planet Canto Bight, where a renowned codebreaker can be found gambling in the casino. But Finn and Rose and their rolling droid stand out like sore thumbs among the Canto Bight elite, and are unable to get close enough to talk to the codebreaker in question before they’re locked up. They meet a fellow prisoner who claims to have the same skills they need to breach the defense of Snoke’s command ship.

During all of this, Rey, Chewie and R2-D2 have traveled to the obscure ocean planet Ahch-To, where Luke Skywalker (and various local life forms) tend to the ruins of what’s said to be the first Jedi temple. Luke is not at all happy to be disturbed from his solitude, informing Rey rather bluntly that he has come to this planet to age and die in peace, and to keep the sacred and ancient Jedi texts with him. Rey also discovers that he has forsaken use of the Force: Luke feels that the hubris of the Jedi led to the decades of suffering that resulted from the Sith and the Empire dominating the galaxy. The days of the Jedi, Luke has decided for himself, must come to an end. But shaken by news of Han’s death, and given a reminder of his own youthful yearning to become something greater, Luke reluctantly agrees to teach Rey the ways of the Force. He discovers along the way that her ability to tap into the Force may rival that of Kylo Ren himself – Ben Solo, Luke’s former protege who turned to the Dark Side. Luke’s fears may be founded, too: Kylo Ren and Rey are able to see and speak to one another despite the vast distances between them. Rey believes Ren can be turned away from Snoke’s influence, and since her mentor refuses to return to the fight against the First Order, she sets off to recruit Ren as an ally. Enraged, Luke sets out to burn down the last remains of the Jedi temple and the texts contained within, only to discover that his own mentor has beaten him to it…and unaware that Rey has already taken the texts with her.

Chewie drops Rey off in an escape pod near the First Order flagship, where Kylo Ren awaits her arrival and introduces her to Snoke, who uses the Force to extract Luke’s whereabouts from Rey’s mind. When she continues to declare her intent to resist Snoke, he orders Ren to kill her, but Ren instead kills Snoke, and a vicious battle with Snoke’s personal retinue of bodyguards ensues, during which Rey and Ren have to fight together. But once that threat is dealt with, Ren reveals that he killed Snoke to ascend to his throne and assume his position of power, not to help the Resistance. Finn, Rose, BB-8 and their new codebreaking acquaintance also sneak aboard the flagship to disable the hyperspace tracker, only for the shifty codebreaker to sell them out to the First Order. Aboard the last surviving Resistance cruiser, Poe Dameron has grown tired of Admiral Holdo’s secretive style of command and tries to mount a mutiny, only to have that uprising personally quashed by Leia, fresh out of the medical bay, still frail, but still fiercely determined. Poe’s point of contention is that Holdo is preparing to order the entire remaining Resistance to abandon the nearly-out-of-fuel cruiser in unarmed sublight transports, which will then limp to a nearby planet and the relative safety of an abandoned Rebel base from the days of the Empire, while the First Order (hopefully) concentrates all of its attention on the cruiser. Admiral Holdo remains on the cruiser to act as a decoy, but the First Order targets the helpless transports and begins blasting them out of the sky, one by one, until Holdo suicidally jumps the cruiser to lightspeed, ramming through Snoke’s flagship. Rey, Finn, Rose and BB-8 escape and make their way to the Rebel base, where Leia has ordered a distress call to be transmitted to allies of the Resistance – a call that seems to be going unanswered as First Order forces surround the base…until Luke Skywalker, last of the Jedi, appears from nowhere, conferring briefly with Leia before going outside to personally face off against Kylo Ren. The fight does not go the way that anyone expects, and buys the Resistance time to escape…but at this point, the Resistance has been whittled down in size to the point that they all fit inside the Millennium Falcon.

Order the DVDswritten by Rian Johnson
directed by Rian Johnson
music by John Williams

The Last JediCast: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker / Dobbu Scay), Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Andy Serkis (Snoke), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Domnhall Gleeson (General Hux), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), Laura Dern (Vice Admiral Holdo), Benicio Del Toro (DJ), Frank Oz (Yoda), Billie Lourd (Lieutenant Connix), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), Amanda Lawrence (Commander D’Arcy), Jimmy Vee (R2-D2), Brian Herring (BB-8), Dave Chapman (BB-8), Justin Theroux (Master Codebreaker), Tim Rose (Admiral Ackbar), Tom Kane (Admiral Ackbar), Adrian Edmondson (Captain Peavey), Mark Lewis Jones (Captain Canady), Hermione Corfield (A-Wing Pilot Tallie), Veronica Ngo (Paige Tico), Noah Segan (X-Wing Pilot Starck), Jamie Christopher (X-Wing Pilot Tubbs), Paul Casey (C’al Threnalli), Michael Coel (Resistance Monitor), Jonathan Harden (Resistance Monitor), Dan Euston (Resistance Bombardier), Priyanga Burford (Resistance Medical Officer), Navin Chowdhry (Resistance Cargo Pilot), Andrew Jack (General Ematt),
Crystal Clarke (Resistance Transport Pilot), Aki Omoshaybi (Resistance Bridge Officer), Togo Igawa (Resistance Bridge Officer), Hugh Skinner (Holdo’s First Officer), Tim Steed (Holdo’s First Officer), Simon Lowe (Resistance Hangar Captain), Joe Van Moyland (Temporary Command Center Resistance Pilot), Shauna MacDonald (Temporary Command Center Resistance Pilot), Darren Morfitt (Transport Deck Officer), Gerard Monaco (First Order Commander), Kate Dickie (Hux’s First Order Monitor), Patrick O’Kane (Hux’s First Order Officer), Paul Bazely (Hux’s First Order Officer), Orion Lee (Canady’s First Order Monitor), Amira Ghazalla (Canady’s First Order Commander), Ralph Ineson (Senior First Order Officer), Akshay Kumar (Mega-Destroyer First Order Monitor), Michael Jibson (Kylo’s Shuttle Pilot), Luke Neal (Canto Cop), Andy Nyman (Jail Guard), Temirlan Blaev (Stable Boy), Josiah Oniha (Stable Kid), Sara Heller (Stable Kid), Matthew Sharp (Resistance Trench Sergeant “Salty”), Lily Cole (Party Girl Lovey), Warwick Davis (Wodibin), Kiran Shah (Neepers Panpick), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (voice of Slowen Lo), Mike Quinn (Nien Nunb), Gareth Edwards (Resistance Trench Soldier), Jack Greenlees (Resistance Evacuation Officer), Danny Sapani (Medical Frigate Captain), Kevin Layne (Resistance Bomber Pilot #1), Ben Morris (Resistance Bomber Pilot Teene)

LogBook entry and review by Earl Green Read More

U.S.S. Callister

Black MirrorStardate not given: The stalwart crew of the starship U.S.S. Callister patrols the galaxy, constantly running into the evil forces of the tyrannical Baldak, and constantly defeating them thanks to the heroic leadership and tactical brilliance of Captain Robert Daly. But failing to praise or please Daly reveals the terrifying truth that he’s even more of a tyrant than his arch-enemy…

Stardates aren’t real: Callister, Inc.’s flagship product, the massively multiplayer virtual reality space adventure game Infinity, is a massive hit. The company’s chief technology officer, socially stunted software guru Robert Daly, is running behind on a major update to the game, but is distracted from the impending crisis by the arrival of a new programmer, Nanette Cole. But when Callister’s CEO wastes no time showing him up, Daly quietly grabs a lid from one of her coffee cups, and scans it for DNA.

Stardate still not given: Nanette Cole awakens in an unfamiliar (and alarmingly revealing) uniform, aboard what appears to be a spaceship. She explores until she finds the bridge, full of people who appear to be her new co-workers at Callister, Inc. …only to be told that, like them, she is an image of the real Nanette Cole, extracted from a DNA sample, who will now be left with no option but to play out Robert Daly’s twisted sci-fi fan fantasies. She immediately comes to the conclusion that the U.S.S. Callister needs a change of command.

written by William Bridges & Charlie Brooker
directed by Toby Haynes
music by Daniel Pemberton

Black MirrorCast: Jesse Plemons (Robert Daly), Cristin Milioti (Nanette Cole), Jimmi Simpson (Walton), Michaela Coel (Shania), Billy Magnussen (Baldak), Milanki Brooks (Elen Tulaska), Osy Ikhile (Nate Packer), Paul G. Raymond (Kabir Dudani), Hammed Animashaun (Pizza Guy), Tom Mulheron (Tommy), Aaron Paul (Gamer691)

Notes: Toby Haynes has numerous genre directing credits, including a series of very well-regarded episodes of Matt Smith‘s era of Doctor Who Jimmi Black MirrorSimpson is a regular on HBO‘s Westworld, while multiple Emmy winner Aaron Paul – heard in a voice-only role here – was one of the stars of AMC’s popular series Breaking Bad. This episode obviously spoofed the original Star Trek (and, toward the end, the J.J. Abrams retooling of classic Trek for the big screen), as well as a certain somewhat suspect subset of its fandom.

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Arkangel

Black MirrorAfter her three-year-old daughter Sara causes a scare by wandering away from a public park looking for a stray cat, Marie has Sara implanted with a device called Arkangel, still in the trial phase, allowing Marie to look at a tablet and immediately see Sara’s location, vital signs, and even what Sara sees. She can even control what Sara sees with a filter system that can audiovisually censor any input causing the girl undue stress, though within a few years she drops the filter and lets Sara see the world as it really is. The Arkangel product line is eventually abandoned, and Marie puts away the tablet…until Sara’s rebellious adolescence arrives, and then Marie resumes surveillance of Sara’s every move and begins intervening in her daughter’s life, with disastrous consequences.

written by Charlie Brooker
directed by Jodie Foster
music by Mark Isham

Black MirrorCast: Rosemarie Dewitt (Marie), Brenna Harding (Sara), Owen Teague (Trick), Angela Vint (Anaesthetist), Jason Weinberg (Surgeon), Nicholas Campbell (Russ), Aniya Hodge (Sara, age 3), Sabryn Rock (Pippa), Edward Charette (Young Man at Park), Carlos Pinder (Man who finds Sara), Jenny Raven (Jasmine), Paul Braunstein (Anthony), Sarah Abbott (Sara, age 9), Nicky Torchia (Trick, age 12), McKayla Twiggs (Meryl, age 9), Kaleb Young (Cal, age 10), Matt Baram (Dr. Usborne), Michelle Cornelius (Schoolyard Teacher), Kaden Stephen (Boy in Fight), Abby Quinn (Meryl), Tosh Robertson (Hiro), Dempsey Bryk (Cal), Ronica Sajnami (Store Employee), Michelle Groux (English Teacher), Edie Inksetter (School Nurse)

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Crocodile

Black MirrorIncident 1: Driving home across Iceland from a concert, young couple Mia and Rob run over a bicyclist, killing him. They drag the body, his belongings, and his bike over to the edge of a lake, throwing him in to get rid of any evidence.

Incident 2: 15 years have passed, and Mia is now a successful businesswoman with her own family. But Rob shows up to tell her that he’s finally found the identity of the man they accidentally killed 15 years ago, and intends to write an anonymous letter to his still-grieving family. An argument becomes a struggle, and Mia kills Rob and disposes of his body, witnessing an accident involving a pedestrian outside shortly afterward.

Incident 3: Shazia, an insurance adjuster, carries around a portable device that can retrieve and record people’s memories, a normal part of her job in settling accident claims. Her investigation into a recent accident involving a pedestrian leads her to Mia, unaware that attempting to probe Mia’s memories could be the last thing she ever does. But at what point is Mia finished killing?

written by Charlie Brooker
directed by John Hillcoat
music by Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross and Claudia Sarne

Black MirrorCast: Andrea Riseborough (Mia Nolan), Kiran Sonia Sawar (Shazia Akhand), Andrew Gower (Rob), Anthony Welch (Anan Akhand), Claire Rushbrook (Police Detective), Joshua James (Gordy), Noni Harper-Brown (Adelle Leonce), Brian Pettifer (William Grange, Dentist), Jamie Michie (Simon Nicholls), Armin Karina (Farshad, Hotel Receptionist), Stefan Orn Eggertsson (Finn Nicholls), James Eeles (DC Lydon), Olafia Hronn Jonsdottir (Felicity Carmichael), Diljia Imana (Ali Akhand), Sigurdur Sigurjons (Room Service Man)

LogBook entry by Earl Green

Hang The DJ

Black MirrorAs arranged by an artificial intelligence called Coach, which handles dating and matchmaking, Frank and Amy are randomly paired together. As with all of Coach’s matches, an “expiry date” is set, giving Frank and Amy 12 hours in an isolated cabin to get to know each other, but regardless of how well it goes, in 12 hours each will be picked up by a self-driving car, and Coach will pick their next partner. Frank is then paired with a girl who seems to show irritation at everything he says, and is alarmed to finds that Coach has decided this relationship will last for a full year. Amy’s next relationship is predetermined to last nine months. But when Amy and Frank bump into one another at a party, it heightens their respective relief that their current relationships are only temporary. Some time after that, Coach puts Frank and Amy together again, and they mutually agree not to look at the expiry date of their relationship. But when Frank’s curiosity gets the best of him, it seems he and Amy have no future.

written by Charlie Brooker
directed by Tim Van Patten
music by Alex Somers and Sigur Ros

Black MirrorCast: Georgina Campbell (Amy), Joe Cole (Frank), Gina Bramhill (voice of Coach), George Blagden (Lenny), Gwyneth Keyworth (Nicola), Jessie Cave (Edna), Luke Manning (Mike), Tim Pritchett (Norman), Alex Tamaro (Butch), Che Watson (Silverfox), Bruce Chong (David), Anna Dobrucki (Patty)

Notes: The episode’s title is a lyric from the Smiths’ 1986 single “Panic” which coincides neatly with how Frank and Amy feel about their other partners – “Burn down the disco / Hang the blessed DJ / Because the music that they constantly play / It says nothing to me about my life”. The song’s closing refrain plays over the end credits.

LogBook entry by Earl Green