The Official Blog of Author Tristan Vick
Stranger Things 2: My Thoughts
LET'S GET GEEKY!
The entire reason I subscribed to Netflix just a little over a year ago was because of my overwhelming desire to watch a little show called Stranger Things.
As a massive H.P. Lovecraft fan, something about the weirdness and the elements of cosmic horror greatly attracted me to the series. Needless to say, it was the best money I've ever spent. Stranger Things season 1 was everything I wanted out of a show of this sort and more!
Now, with season 2 having dropped, I can safely say this is now going onto my list of my all time favorite television series. It's dark, but funny. The cast of young actors is phenomenal, as are the adults. But who are we kidding? These kids are the real stars of the show.
It's kind of hard to talk about this series if you haven't seen it. It's not like anything that's ever been seen on television before. That's what makes it so enticing. The fact that it's phenomenally done (to use the word twice already) just shows how much love the Duffer Bros. have for their story and characters.
Season 2 kicks off approximately a year after the first series events. This time the Upsidedown, the mysterious alternate dimension of twisted monsters and evil is encroaching upon the small town of Hawkins Indiana, and infesting it with a new kind of evil.
Unlike the first season which mainly involved the search for Mike, the discover of Eleven, and a group of kids trying to figure out what was happening, season two seems well established in its set up. The back story of the Upsidedown is already established, and we get a more cerebral threat this time around. Something you might even call a villain, even if it's kind of vague and nebulous.
That's what I really liked about this season. It had an overarching threat that could threaten the safety of the world. Not just a stand-alone monster running loose in the town. But, like the first season, the weirdness and the horror is perfectly balanced between excellent drama and comedic moments--most of them coming from the superb case of young child actors--who have grown considerably but are still, most definitely, children.
And that's another reason I love this series. The children, and their personal stories are handled with such authenticity and love. The Duffer Bros. and their writing team really do understand children. As someone who has taught English to children of all ages for the past 14 years, I can honestly say that this is one of the best and most realistic portrayals of young people I've seen in television. And it gives Stranger Things a dynamic most other shows don't have--without ever skimping on the adult drama or horrific scares.
If I had to pick which season I liked better, I honestly couldn't tell you. They are equal in terms of storytelling and quality. In terms of imagination and fun. In terms of epicness and rewatchability. They also seamlessly mesh together whereas--although time has passed--it doesn't seem like anyone has missed a beat. Even the writers addressed the much lobbed criticism of the first season in that every character constantly lied. This time, however, they went through great pains to show how the lies ruined lives and much of season 2's storytelling revolves around the characters addressing the lies and trying to find the truth in the middle of all the chaos.
Oh, I could go on and on about this amazing series. If you haven't seen it, you may want to give that trial subscription to Netflix a try just to watch Stranger Things 1 & 2. I can promise you, it will be well worth your time.
And speaking of things well worth your time, my new collection of short stories Dark Forces of Nature is out now!
The first volume will be on SALE for $0.99 up through October 31st. After Halloween, it will go back up to its regular price. You can check it out here (although I will talk more about it below):
DARK FORCES OF NATURE: VOL. 1
Also, note, if you enjoy the short stories in Vol. 1, you may wish to pre-order Vol 2. The pre-order is live.
DARK FORCES OF NATURE: VOL. 2
I shouldn't forget to mention that Vol. 2's pre-order price will remain $0.99 all the way till November 16th, when it will be released.
Review: Star Trek Discovery Eps. 4: The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry
Star Trek Discovery Eps. 4: The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry
I loved the Michelle Yeoh cameo, even though her character is dead (minor spoiler). She's such an elegant woman, and very Obi Wan-esque in this series (in more ways than one). I don't think the Star War's aesthetics necessarily hurt the show. J.J. Abrams proved it could work with the Star Trek reboot (lens flairs not withstanding). There was even an R2D2 cameo in the Abram's Star Trek movie.
That said, the Discovery episodes are getting better and better. Although, the writing really could have used a science advisor as they are dealing with highly theoretical concepts and trying to blend them with quantum mechanics but not having the "science know how" to pull it off well.
That said, the sci-fi here reminds me more of the original series sci-fi, where the writers just wanted to tell imaginative stories--and the technicalities of the science really didn't matter that much.
That's harder to do in an age of instant information technology, but as a prequel series that takes place 10 years before the original Trek, it seems to be about right in terms of imaginative storytelling.
***Now onto Spoilers***
I love how they integrated the monster from episode 3 into the storyline overall. It made it so episode 3 wasn't just a horror on an abandoned spaceship ripoff. They found something and then they took it home with them. And then things begin to get interesting.
A lot happens in episode 4: The Butcher's Knife Cares Not for the Lamb's Cry.
The title has to do with the Klingon side story, which is almost a throwaway story because, in my personal opinion, the stuff is so bizarre aboard the Discovery that you can't help but feel engrossed by it all. The characters are diverse and interesting. And there's lots going on. The Klingons are just over there being Klingons. But we did get to see the awesome Klingon EV suits again. This time in a lot more detail. Which was fun.
But I'm already tired of the Klingon storyline. All they do is stand around and talk. And that's opposite everything Klingons stand for. But I get it, they need to develop a storyline with the Klingons so they're not just one-dimensional characters.
But, somehow I don't think they need to be fleshed out all that much. Just make them evil baddies. The Discovery itself is interesting enough to carry the series. The war can be an incursion onto them every episode, just to remind us it's there. Spending half the episode with a boring Klingon discussion about who will lead the Klingons to victory seems moot at this point. This is where the writers will need to dazzle us, otherwise, they're wasting precious pages on a non-story.
That said, I enjoyed the latest episode immensely. I love how Michael discovers the creature is a space tardigrade. I thought it looked an awful lot like a real-life tardigrade when we first glimpsed it in the dark corridors of the sister ship. Although, it was too dark to really be sure it wasn't just some sort of monster creature. Nope. Definitely a tardigrade, as Michael explains to everyone.
I also thought it was fitting that new research on the firmament linking galaxies came out this week when the show uses this concept as the means by which the Discovery traverses the galaxy via quantum entanglement.
The spore drive thing isn't exactly explained well enough at this point to understand how it exactly works, and that bothers some of the geeky fans who get the science and expect more from Trek than just fantasy, but I think the premise makes sense. The spores act as a catalyst to signal jumps, the tardigrade navigates the jumps, and quantum entanglement takes them there. But how the spore work with quantum entanglement isn't explained well enough to comprehend--and the writers seems to be doing this deliberately. And this, seems to me, is because they never hired a science advisor to advise them on inventive theorectical ideas that could bridge their concept and make it a working theory (at least for a fictional sci-fi show).
And this just suggests sloppy writing.
It's nice to see that Michael has been given a direction. It's need to see that she befriends the monster with compassion when everyone only views it as a potential weapon.
There could definitely be a spinoff of this series called: The Adventures of Michael and Her Amazing Space Tardigrade!!!
They could steal one of those kickass shuttle crafts and go on many adventures as space bounty hunters! It would be worth watching.
I for one can't wait to see where they go with the Discovery in episode 5. I for one an still hooked. It's feeling more and more like Star Trek each and every episode. And I still don't get what all the hate is about. It seems people really don't get the concept of Trek. It's not hard sci-fi. It never has been. It's soft sci-fi with fantasy elements. The science is just the tool of Starfleet and the science reeks of scientism--aka magic science--as it can be used to solve anything. And this has always been the way of Star Trek. It's strange people seemed to be shocked by it all of a sudden. Oh, well. Their loss.
Star Trek Discovery: My Thoughts
Those throwing shade at the new Star Trek probably never understood the old Star Trek.
It wasn't about the length of the mini skirts or having a womanizing captain...it was about telling original sci-fi stories.
And the LSD hyped free-hippy-love optimism of the late 60s early 70s doesn't translate well on-screen in today's world without coming off as impolite, sexist, and a bit out of touch with reality.
Yes, the series is dark (due to its naturally lit sets, obviously). Yes, it's serialised rather than episodic. Yes, it follows an outcast rather than a captain and his sidekick. And, yes, the Klingons look different, yet again (hey, they have in every incarnation of the series, go figure).
But these are all things that make it different from the rest. And, sure, they could have gone with the standard template of the bright, optimistic, artificially lit Star Trek that has endured for so long. But it would have crashed and burned like so many of Kirk's Enterprises.
Doing the same old, same old, would have utterly failed. You know how I know this? Because they made Enterprise. It was the most derivative of all the Star Trek series, trying to be like TNG, but also TOS, but also tipping its hat to VGR, while doing more serialised segments like DS9. It wanted to be everything all at once and so ultimately became a bland, derivative, piece of space junk. Enterprise has not only one of the worst pilots I've ever seen in television history, it has absolutely the worst finale of any TV series I've ever seen. And I have seen more than my fair share.
So anything that was going to be like the Star Trek of the past was doomed to failure. It needed a fresh perspective by storytellers who weren't afraid to push the limits of the franchise and boldly go where no Star Trek series has gone before.
Star Trek Discovery is THAT series.
So hate on it all you want. It has probably the strongest pilot of any of the Treks--including STNG. Its cast is superb. It's touching on very interesting sci-fi concepts. Its visual effects are cinematic quality. Its production design is equal to that of a major Hollywood blockbuster. But it still contains stories about people at its core.
And if you don't like STD, that's fine. But just realise you're on the losing side of Star Trek history. People complained about STNG. The cast was unfamiliar, the series was different, it wasn't Kirk! It was about to fail. Right?
People hated DS9 when it came out. It was just copying Next Gen but it was on a stupid ole space station. Couldn't tell a good story there, right?
Voyager got a lot of hate too. And not because it has a woman captain, but because--if you recall--it was just trying to be like the original Star Trek with lots of new aliens. Major bore, right?
Yet, everyone one of these series became canon and became beloved of sci-fi fans everywhere. Even non-Trekkies.
Enterprise is also canon, and has some strong episodes, but was overall too derivative to be its own thing. It was always winking at all the other Trek's, and although great fan service for die-hard Trekkies, nobody else cared. The series was promptly cancelled. And rightly so.
Now we have Star Trek Discovery. And it is hitting all the right notes. It is doing what Enterprise so utterly failed to do--be its own thing. And be original. And still be Star Trek.
Feel free to disagree, but history will prove you wrong. Just as it did with all the above incarnations of the series.
By day I am an educator and a cultural ambassador. By night I entertain notions of being a literary master. In reality I am just a family man and ordinary guy who works hard and loves writing just about as much as I love my family. Just about.