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Week of January 8, 2001


Ray Walston, 1914-2001. Actor Ray Walston, best known for his starring role as My Favorite Martian but also famous for recurring roles on Picket Fences and both Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager as Starfleet Academy's crusty resident groundskeeper, Boothby. His appearances on Picket Fences earned him two successive supporting actor Emmy awards in 1995 and 1996. Walston also made countless appearances in other television shows, ranging from both the theatrical version and the short-lived TV spinoff of Fast Times At Ridgemont High, to the miniseries based on Stephen King's The Stand, to episodes of Buck Rogers, Mission: Impossible, Amazing Stories, Night Court, Friday The 13th: The Series, Ally McBeal, and Touched By An Angel, and even a one-off attempt to revive ALF. Walston's film appearances included Addams Family Reunion, Popeye, South Pacific and even a cameo role in the recent big-screen remake of My Favorite Martian, but he seemed much more at home on the small screen, making him one of American television's most venerable and best-loved character actors. Sources: Daily Variety and IMDb


Black monolith appears in Seattle park. It's no joke - a large black monolith appeared on New Years' Eve in a park in Seattle. Made of steel, standing nine feet tall, five feet wide and one foot deep (the same proportions as the mysterious monolith in 2001: a space odyssey), the monolith hasn't begun testing humanity, but it has drawn quite a few perplexed onlookers - and, no doubt, amusement from those "in the know." And at least one visitor fessed up to the Associated Press that he walked up to touch the monolith, just out of curiosity. And within 48 hours, the monolith was gone. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the slab of steel, so I guess this means a mission to...


Jupiter - and beyond the infinite! Speaking of which, NASA's Cassini space probe successfully completed a slingshot maneuver past Jupiter on December 30th, a necessary milestone on the unmanned robot's long journey to Saturn. While it was in the neighborhood, Cassini was used to conduct tandem studies of Jupiter with the still-operational Galileo probe, which - despite numerous major malfunctions - has still survived three years longer in Jovian space than it was expected to. As large as Jupiter is, Cassini will still be lending its electronic eyes and ears to studies of the largest planet will into January. Cassini will reach Saturn's neighborhood in three and a half years, at which point - if all goes according to plan - it will release an indepedent probe called Huygens into the atmosphere of Titan. The European-built Huygens probe will report back on Titan's surface conditions and atmospheric chemistry, perhaps giving scientists a glimpse behind the persistent veil that covers the solar system's second-largest moon. Many believe that, with its thick atmosphere and its potential for organic compounds, Titan could be a potential hotbed for primitive life. Source: CNN


Buffy takes on Dark Angel. No, it's not the latest crossover between series - it's this year's nominations for Best Actress in a TV Drama at the Golden Globe Awards. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jessica Alba, stars of the WB's Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Fox's Dark Angel respectively, are facing off for the award, along with Lorraine Bracco and Edie Falcon, both from The Sorpanos, Amy Brenneman of Judging Amy fame, and Once And Again's Sela Ward. The winners will be announced on January 21st. Source: AP


They've got it covered. Doctor Who fans are up in arms over BBC Enterprises' plan to change the covers of upcoming novels beginning in May. Why the complaints? Because apparently the BBC is planning to revamp the covers to resemble the frightfully dull covers of the Doctor Who DVDs released thus far in Britain. (Many fans actually wish the Beeb would do the reverse, and give the DVDs more colorful - and, some believe, more eye-catching and marketable - cover art.) Jacqueline Rayner and Justin Richards, the editors of the BBC's Doctor Who novels, have made it known that this change came down from the top and they have no control over it. Source: Outpost Gallifrey


Pluto? Anybody? Bueller? It's not very often that the field is opened for submitting ideas for a new interplanetary exploration program, but NASA is doing just that in a last-ditch effort to revive a Pluto mission. The agency's previous plans for a Pluto probe to be launched in 2004 were scuttled last June when the existing plans proved to be too expensive to realize. Naturally, this means that NASA's looking for cheap innovations, as well as a Pluto probe that won't take money out of the budget for an upcoming mission to send a probe to Europa. NASA is accepting ideas from just about anyone: universities, researchers, aerospace contractors, and even employees of the agency itself who might not otherwise be involved with the planning of an interplanetary mission. Source: JPL


Who's on DVD in the States? After much fan campaigning, word from Warner Bros. Home Video has it that the feature-packed Doctor Who DVDs will begin appearing Stateside this September with The Five Doctors, to be followed shortly thereafter by Tom Baker's The Robots of Death. The pattern may then take up a quarterly release schedule, with U.S. fans lagging approximately one year behind the U.K. releases; by September of this year, fans in England will already have Spearhead From Space, Remembrance of the Daleks and the 1996 TV movie featuring Paul McGann on DVD. By the way, Paul McGann returns as the Doctor this month in Big Finish's series of Doctor Who Audio Adventures. Source: Outpost Gallifrey


Second passing. Marking the first title in his upcoming series of remastered re-releases of his solo catalogue, ex-Beatle George Harrison will be issuing a newly revamped CD issue (the first time this album has been available in that format) of his 1970 solo debut All Things Must Pass. The new 2-CD set will include all of the original triple LP's tracks, plus alternate versions of several songs, unreleased material from the original sessions, and a brand new remake of My Sweet Lord, Harrison's first solo hit which drew a lawsuit from the Chi-Lites over similarities to their hit He's So Fine. Other albums never released on CD, including Harrison's Concert For Bangladesh, are slated for remastering later this year. All Things Must Pass will hit store shelves in the U.S. on January 23rd, and in the U.K. on January 29th.

George Harrison: All Things Must Pass


You owe it to me to pick up this week's movie. Sean Connery and Kevin Costner turn in stellar performances in the 1987 big-screen remake of The Untouchables. I actually got into an argument with a girl I was dating over whether or not this movie was well-directed a few years later - who woulda thought one could break up over that? (For the record, though, this movie is most excellently directed by Mr. Brian de Palma.) There's also an excellent soundtrack (about which you can read more in our recently-remodeled SongBook Soundtracks review.

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