Countdown to Star Trek: Discovery – 164 days to go

December 18th, 2016

Another sliver of news, this time casting for a lead:

Star Trek: Discovery has finally found its Number One: Sonequa Martin-Green. […] She’s Lieutenant Commander Rainsford

Another actor I’m not very familiar with (geek confession: I don’t watch The Walking Dead, it’s just never appealed very much to me). I think the idea of not focusing on the Captain is a good one, but not really as ground breaking as it’s being presented sometimes. After all, TNG really had very few stories that focused on Picard per se, and Voyager had few stories that really focused on Janeway.

There was also another bit of news from earlier in the week which I missed:

CBS All Access’ show has added three new castmembers—all reportedly playing Klingons—to Star Trek: Discovery. This tells us that instead of the traditional rotating cast of Klingons, we’re going to have an ongoing focus on specific members of the Klingon Empire.

This is more in the sigh category for me. Klingons are probably the dullest of the recurring ‘villain’ races, and while I’d love to see a more nuanced approach I suspect that isn’t what we’re going to get. This pretty much confirms my earlier guess about it being in the ‘Klingon Cold War’ period. The real question – will they go for Klingon makeup (a la TNG) or for the ‘augment’ human appearance of TOS (as seen in the very end of Enterprise).


Countdown to Star Trek: Discovery – 179 days to go

December 3rd, 2016

More news, this time a bit more worrying.

Even though it had been said that Bryan Fuller would remain an executive producer for Star Trek: Discovery, Fuller is now clarifying that the only work he will do on season one of the show is what he’s already done.

This suggests that there’s a lot more going wrong behind the scenes than we’ve seen before. While Bryan Fuller was overcommitted with American Gods, the lack of a new clear controlling vision suggests that we might be heading towards the corporate blandness (and failure to understand Trek) of a lot of the worst of Voyager and Enterprise.

No need to panic quite yet, but I am a bit less optimistic than I had been.


Countdown to Star Trek Discovery – 181 days to go

December 1st, 2016

Big news today is some information on casting. We have three roles:

  • Michelle Yeoh as Captain Georgiou. Weirdly, captain of the Shenzhou, not the Discovery. Most famous for Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, this is a big name for the cast, although probably a more minor role.

  • Doug Jones as Lieutenant Saru. Has hardly ever appeared on TV without being in some kind of monster makeup, and will be playing an alien again here.

  • Anthony Rapp as Lieutenant Samets. More famous as a broadway star (he was in the initial production of Rent), this will be quite a new thing for him. His character is described as a fungus expert.

Overall – interesting, but hard to see where the show is going from these.


Countdown to Star Trek: Discovery: 257 days to go

September 16th, 2016

What’s that you say? Wasn’t the counter at 171 days a month ago.

News today is that Discovery has been delayed until May 2017. I’m using 31 May as the date until I get better information.

Overall, not too worried about this. With no news on casting or filming a January release had been looking unusual for a bit. And more time normally means higher quality. I’m happy to wait. Especially now they missed the 50th anniversary.


Quick Reviews of the other 17 rides I went on in Orlando

September 10th, 2016

While in Orlando I also visited Kennedy Space Centre, SeaWorld and Universal Studios Florida.

Kennedy Space Centre

Shuttle Launch Experience – using a ride vehicle very reminiscent of Star Tours at Disney, a fairly realistic (or so we’re told) simulation of what it’s like to be in a shuttle as it’s launching. A

SeaWorld

Manta – coaster with a manta ray theme. Good, fast coaster with four inversions and a top speed of 90 km/h. Fun, but a very constricting and odd ride position took away from it for me. A-

Kraken – nicely balanced coaster, with a good use of scenery in a couple of loops. Seven inversions and a top speed of 105 km/h makes for a nice experience, but it also has a good duration (2 minutes). A

Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin – mainly a story ride similar in concept to Haunted Mansion, but using a much more advanced ride vehicle. But the story told is pretty dull, and the technology isn’t really used to good effect. The finale is good, arriving in the actual penguin habitat for SeaWorld. But even penguins can’t rescue this ride. C-

Journey to Atlantis – another flume ride, although a bigger drop (and bigger splash) than Splash Mountain. There’s an attempt to theme things around Atlantis a little bit, but it’s incoherent and hard to follow. A-

Universal Studios – Universal Studios Florida

Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem – as weak a story as the Despicable Me, but an interesting use of simulator motion technology in a theatre. It worked surprisingly well. B+

Hollywood Ripe Ride Rockit – no discernible theming, just a fairly extreme coaster with a vertical initial climb and near vertical drop. Ultimately just a bit ‘loud’ and not that impressive. C

Revenge of the Mummy – dark coaster with some simulator ride elements. Most impressive part was the use of fire effects (I think I could have roasted a marshmallow on them), but ageing film projections took the shine off. B-

Transformers The Ride: 3D – my biggest surprise, was expecting a pretty mediocre ride (consistent with the movies), but instead got a a really clever combination motion simulator (a la Soarin’) and coaster ride. Good use of effects, and good scene transitions made up for a general lack of coherence in the plot. A

The Simpsons Ride – motion simulator in a projection dome. Showing its age a little, but still quite well done, with the motion simulator given a fair workout. Writing is clearly authentic to the show (good), but mainly the later years (bad). B+

MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack – pretty dull ride only slightly enlivened by being given a gun to shoot at the aliens with. Not much thrill, and the age of the franchise is showing. D+

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts – good ride technology, and a reasonably fun ride. Links in directly to the Harry Potter films, but without really making a lot of sense. B

Hogwarts Express – I thought this was just the transfer from one park to the other, but it’s actually far more themed than I expected. Clever use of projections provide a good illusion on being on the Hogwarts Express. A

Universal Studios – Islands of Adventure

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – the best of the Harry Potter rides at Universal. Starts with an incredibly well themed line through Hogwarts, and then onto one of the most advanced ride vehicles around. Similar to Transformers 3D in its combination of motion simulator, coaster and projection domes, but with a (slightly) more coherent story and more movement from the simulator. A

Dragon Challenge – the weakest of the Harry Potter rides, really just a lightly rethemed existing coaster. It’s a reasonable coaster ride, but doesn’t have any real spark. C

Jurassic Park River Adventure – river boat ride with a Splash Mountain style drop. The dinosaurs are just embarrassing, you can see where the rubber is sagging. And the drop itself doesn’t get you nearly wet enough (another hot day you see). C

The Incredible Hulk Coaster – pretty good coaster, with a nice high speed launch. But I found myself banging my head from side to side onto the restraints as it spun around, leaving me walking off the coaster feeling a bit battered. C+


Quick reviews of the 14 rides I went on at Disney World

September 8th, 2016

I’m on holiday at the moment, so a good chance to do something a bit unusual for this blog and do reviews of the rides I went on at Disney World.

Epcot

Frozen Ever After – Epcot’s current ‘line around the block’ big ride. The only thing this ride has going for it is the Frozen tie in, otherwise it’s a fairly dull water ride. There are some exceptional animatronics, especially Olaf, but it’s not enough. C

Soarin’ – a ‘hang gliding’ ride, now upgraded to include images from around the world rather than only California. The sensation of flight is quite good, although the illusion is broken by the appearance of buildings on the curved screen. The Eiffel tower ended up with a pronounced ‘lean’. B

Test Track – basically a fast coaster (peak speed of around 100km/h) with a car theme. The ‘going fast’ bits worked well, but the ‘swerving around’ bits didn’t. B+

Mission: SPACE – ‘journey to Mars’ simulator, using a centrifuge to generate around 3g forces. The feeling is weird, and made me feel a bit unsettled for 10 minutes or so after the ride. There’s also a weird mix of ‘real’ and ‘science fiction’ in the ride story. B-

Hollywood Studios

Star Tours – The Adventure Continues – one of the only ‘repeat’ rides from my trip to Disneyland a few years ago. There has been some new sequences added to reflect the new movie, one of which I was lucky enough to get. Still an impressive ride with strong story telling and good use of the simulator ride vehicle. A-

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – not long for this life, with the theming being replaced in California (although the ride will remain essentially the same mechanically). That’s a pity, as there is some excellent theming, particularly in the queue. And the ride itself is a nice mix of story telling and thrill. The freefall feeling during the drops is particularly nice. A+

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith – good coaster, but why did it need the Aerosmith tie in? It’s a well done dark coaster, a bit wilder than Space Mountain. A-

The Great Movie Ride – very slow ride through animatronic scenes of famous movies, together with some terrible commentary from the driver. The ride vehicle is also very uncomfortable – think ‘pews on wheels’ and you have a good idea. There’s a germ of a good ride here, with some good scenes, but the writing and packaging is terrible. It’s all wrapped up with a two minute add for Turner Movies as well. D-

Animal Kingdom

Kilimanjaro Safaris – a first for Disney, a ride that is really more of a zoo experience than anything else. The Disney innovation and technical excellence is interesting to see in the context of a ride that is really a drive past several zoo enclosures. The commentary from the driver, while annoying, did manage to not ruin the ride as well. B

Expedition Everest – coaster themed around encountering a Yeti. Reasonable coaster, although not the best Disney has. But the theming is terrible – why rely on a Yeti when there’s the fantastic story of climbing Everest to use. C-

Kali River Rapids – a river rapids ride, with basically one real drop and that’s it. Not exciting, and you don’t even get that wet (did I mention it was low 30s in Orlando during this visit?). C+

Magic Kingdom

Splash Mountain – log flume ride themed around Brer Rabbit tales. One of Disney’s absolute classics, with a great mix of story, theme and thrill. My main complaint is that the audio mixing is a bit erratic, so it was hard to hear the story develop. I’m also unclear how ‘being thrown into the briar patch’ corresponds to the big plunge. You will get wet, which was still welcome. A

Haunted Mansion – another classic. When I saw this at Disneyland it had the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay on it, so I was keen to see the original. It’s a lot better, better told story and better special effects. But slow, and not much thrill. B

Under The Sea – The Journey of the Little Mermaid – same basic ride vehicle as Haunted Mansion, this time telling the story of The Little Mermaid movie. Technically well done, with some nice animatronics, but really just a bit flat overall. C+