The SciFi Diner Podcast
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Link to face book page and midtown comics
On the menu tonight:
On tonight’s science fiction podcast, we talk about shows we’ve been watching, our Facebook Fan Page, Mile’s visit to Midtown Comics, the upcoming Battlestar Galactica Prequel Caprica, the made for TV Smallville Movie, 10 Star Trek Gadgets that came true, we share our review of 2012, and lastly give you our thoughts on the Farscape Megaset.
In our Star Trek interview, we interview Clifton Collins Jr., Nero’s Second in Command on new Star Trek XI DVD release. He talks about what it was like working with the other actors and with J.J. Abrams. He also discusses how he got into science fiction and why he likes it.
Promos this Week:
- Thanks to Sunspace Communiqué for pimping out Trek DVD release show.
- Thanks to DVDGeeks for plugging the same cast.
The Trivia Question for this Week:
The Question: In last weeks Smallville episode, name the actress who played one of the “wonder twins” and what show will she be coming back to when it returns on the SyFy channel in the spring?
The Prize: Clifton Collins – Played Ayel, Nero’s Second in Command – signed print
If you know the answer, call us at 1.888.508.4343, e-mail us at email@example.com, or contact @scifidiner on Twitter with your answers!
All answers due by Dec. 2nd.
SciFi TV News
“Caprica” arrives on Syfy Jan. 22, and in anticipation of that premiere, the network has released this poster for the show exclusively to the Watcher site. The image at right, which features the “Caprica” character Zoe Graystone (Alessandra Torresani), is the key art for the new series.
“There’s something really interesting about the idea of Zoe and the Eve metaphor,” said Mark Stern, executive vice president of original content for Syfy and co-head of Universal Cable Productions, in an interview on Thursday.
“Caprica,” which serves as a prequel to “Battlestar Galactica” and tells the story of the invention of the mechanized Cylons, “deals with our relationship to technology and the question of ‘When is too much knowledge a bad thing?’ Knowledge and technology can turn against you and can be dangerous weapons,” Stern said.
He noted there were many internal discussions at Syfy about the signature image for the new series, which stars Eric Stoltz, Esai Morales, Polly Walker and Paula Malcolmson. But Stern and other executives realized all the debate was a good thing. “That’s the point of the show,” he said. “Like ‘Battlestar,’ the show doesn’t take one particular stand — it starts a discussion. That’s true of ‘Caprica’ too. What we love about this image is that it invites many different points of view or opinions and they’re all valid.”
The series will premiere with a two-hour pilot that is already available as a standalone DVD. Eight additional hours of “Caprica” will air through March. Then the show will take a break and the remaining nine hours of “Caprica’s” first season will air some time in the second half of 2010.
If you’ve done the math in the previous paragraph, you’ve realized that “Caprica’s” episode order has been reduced by one hour. Syfy had originally commissioned a total of 20 hours for Season 1, but the show, which is currently in production on the last third of the season in Vancouver, will now consist of 19 hours.
Stern said that the decision to reduce the episode order was made in consultation with the show’s creative team and was driven purely by financial considerations. Quite simply, “Caprica” turned out to be more expensive than the network thought it would be, he said. The episode reduction was part of an effort to make those 19 hours as good as they could be without sacrificing the quality of the drama, a story of intrigue and family conflict that follows the Adama and Graystone clans in settings that resemble present-day Earth.
“We always knew it would be a challenge to bring it in on budget, and the deeper we got into it, the more we realized that if we [stuck to the budget too closely], it was not going to be satisfying,” Stern said. “We were cutting corners and we weren’t happy with that and the executive producers weren’t happy with that.”
It turned out to be “a more elaborate production” than “Battlestar,” Stern said. Once the standing sets for “Battlestar” were built, that show was mostly filmed on soundstages and thus budgets were somewhat more containable. Location shoots were rare. But “Caprica” is “set in the real world,” Stern said. “They’re always outside.”
The show’s creators also ended up devoting more time to certain characters than they had originally planned to, and the show lined up recurring guest stars such as James Marsters and Patton Oswalt.
Stern said that as part of the effort to keep costs down, scripts were coming in with a lot of what he characterized as “bedroom and boardroom” scenes. “That’s not the show,” he said. “We wanted to keep the quality of the show as high as we could, and so we put more money into it, but it still wasn’t quite enough. We said, ‘OK, would it help to cut an episode?’ and we talked about it and they adopted the decision creatively.”
There was a discussion regarding how many episodes to cut, and the show’s executive producers — Ronald D. Moore, David Eick, Jane Espenson and Kevin Murphy — said cutting two episodes would be too difficult. But Stern said they saw the wisdom of cutting one hour.
“They’re certainly vocal,” Stern said of his relationship with the show’s creative team. “But they’ve been great about this and they endorsed this decision and are making it work. [A few years ago] Ron and David were the ones who called me to say, ‘There are only going to be four seasons of “Battlestar.”‘ They are the first ones to recognize that it’s better to do fewer episodes than stretch something out and vamp.”
“This was the time to make the decision” about whether to cut an episode, Stern added. Production is underway on the thirteenth hour of the show and thus the producers have time to retool the last third of the season. “If it didn’t work creatively, they weren’t going to do it,” Stern said.
During production of Season 1 of “Caprica,” there have been the kinds of creative growing pains associated with any first-year program. I’ve had ongoing contact with various people associated with “Caprica,” not just Stern, and those sources say the growing pains have been “normal” and nothing out of the ordinary.
The show recently took a two-week break to retool scripts and recalibrate where “Caprica” was heading, and Kevin Murphy, a veteran of “Desperate Housewives,” has joined the show. He, along with Eick, Moore and Espenson, is an executive producer of “Caprica” and Murphy has been taking the lead on breaking stories. [Update: In a Nov. 15 story, The Hollywood Reporter says Murphy is now “Caprica’s” showrunner. Here’s what Espenson said via e-mail about the change: “This is actually a pretty subtle shift of duties. Kevin is going to take over running the (writers’) room so I can spend more time writing as we head toward our big first season finale.”]
“Ron, Jane and David are still very much in that mix,” Stern said. “Every show has to find its voice and figure out what it wants to be. Every show has to find out which characters pop and which story lines play. There were some growing pains as they found the right balance of stories and characters.”
Despite the differences between “Caprica” and “Battlestar,” fans of the latter show should find the storytelling of the prequel series recognizable, even if the new show has a somewhat different tone, Stern said.
“The thing that ‘Caprica’ has that the ‘Battlestar’ viewer will recognize — aside from the obvious little winks and nods [to the saga of the rag-tag fleet] — is that ‘Caprica’ is, at its core, a strong character drama about people going through situations in extremis,” Stern said. “There are characters who are driven to do things that are morally ambiguous because of the situations that they’re put in. And yet tonally, it’s not as dark, it’s not as grim. Because [the characters] are not on the run, having had their whole world destroyed, that allows more opportunities for poignancy and joy and celebration.
“There’s definitely more of that than there was in ‘Battlestar.’ It’s not about someone getting their jaw broken every other episode,” Stern said with a laugh. “But there are elements of that kind of extremity in this that I think will attract ‘Battlestar’ viewers. And yet our hope is, because it is dealing with world that is more familiar to us and dealing with issues that are maybe a little more germane to our daily lives, that it will attract a broader audience.”
A few final thoughts from me: I’m reserving judgment about “Caprica’s” overall quality until I see more of Season 1, but I liked the pilot and think the premise has potential (my review of the first two hours of “Caprica” is here. There’s a preview clip of the show below). “Caprica” has a tough act to follow — “Battlestar” is one of my favorite shows of all time — but I’m looking forward to Jan. 22, which, as I noted in this “Dollhouse” post, is likely be a interesting night for fans of genre television.
The CW has decided to package Smallville’s upcoming (and highly-anticipated) Justice Society-themed two-parter into a two-hour movie event airing on Feb. 5.
The Geoff Johns-penned episodes — titled “Society” and “Legends” and featuring such DC Comics stalwarts as Stargirl, Hawkman, and Dr. Fate — were originally designed to air separately. But, according to Smallville insiders, CW execs felt they could get more mileage out of combining them.
10: Transparent Aluminum (Armor)
The fourth installment of the original Star Trek movies is perhaps the most endearing to fans. The crew returns to modern-day Earth. Kirk, Spock and the rest of the gang ditch a Klingon Bird of Prey spacecraft in the San Francisco Bay after narrowly missing the Golden Gate Bridge while flying blind in a storm. You may remember the scene — but how many of you remember Scotty introducing transparent aluminum for the first time?
In the flick, Scotty used the aluminum to build a tank to transport the two humpback whales (George and Gracie) to the Earth of their time. As it went, he was able to replace six-inch (14-centimeter) thick Plexiglas with one-inch (2.5-centimeter) thick see-through aluminum.
It may sound impossible, but there is such a thing as transparent aluminum armor or aluminum oxynitride (ALON) as it’s more commonly known. ALON is a ceramic material that starts out as a powder before heat and pressure turn it into a crystalline form similar to glass. Once in the crystalline form, the material is strong enough to withstand bullets. Polishing the molded ALON strengthens the material even more. The Air Force has tested the material in hopes of replacing windows and canopies in its aircraft. Transparent aluminum armor is lighter and stronger than bulletproof glass. Less weight, stronger material — what’s not to like?
Whenever Captain Kirk left the safe confines of the Enterprise, he did so knowing it could be the last time he saw his ship. Danger was never far away. And when in distress and in need of help in a pinch, he could always count on Bones to come up with a miracle cure, Scotty to beam him up or Spock to give him some vital scientific information. He’d just whip out his communicator and place a call.
Fast forward 30 years and wouldn’t you know it, it seems like everyone carries a communicator. We just know them as cell phones. Actually, the communicators in Star Trek were more like the push-to-talk, person-to-person devices first made popular by Nextel in the mid to late ’90s. The Star Trek communicator had a flip antenna that when opened, activated the device. The original flip cell phones are perhaps distant cousins. Whatever the case, the creators of Star Trek were on to something because you’d be hard pressed to find many people without a cell phone these days.
In later incarnations of the Star Trek franchise, the communicators evolved to being housed in the Starfleet logo on the crewman’s chest. With the tap of a finder, communication between crewmembers became even easier. Vocera Communications has a similar product that can link people on the same network inside a designated area like an office or a building by utilizing the included software over a wireless LAN. The B2000 communication badge weighs less than two ounces and can be worn on the lapel of a coat or shirt and allows clear two-way communication. It’s even designed to inhibit the growth of bacteria so it’s suitable for doctors [source: Vocera].
The creative team behind Star Trek found spiffy ways to spice up some activities we endure on a day-to-day basis. Take medical treatment, for example: Not many people enjoy getting a flu shot, and in Star Trek, inoculating patients was one of Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy’s primary duties. It seemed not an episode went by that Bones wasn’t giving someone a shot of some sort of space vaccine. But what was more fascinating was the contraption he used.
Hypospray is a form of hypodermic injection of medication. A hypospray injection is forced under the skin (a subcutaneous injection) with high air pressure. The air pressure shoots the liquid vaccine deep enough into the skin that no needle is required. The real-world application is known as a jet injector.
Jet injectors have been in use for many years. In fact, the technology predates Star Trek. Jet injectors were originally designed to be used in mass vaccinations. Jet injecting is safer (no needles to pass along infectious disease) and faster in administering vaccines. Similar in appearance to an automotive paint gun, jet injection systems can use a larger container for the vaccine, thus allowing medical personnel to inoculate more people quicker.
7: Tractor Beams
When NASA needs to make repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope, astronauts have to be specially trained to get out of the Space Shuttle for extravehicular activity. They also have to learn how to work within the confines of their space suits, with thick gloves on. Wouldn’t it be nice to just bring the telescope inside, where repairs wouldn’t be so challenging and dangerous?
In science fiction, space ships including the Starship Enterprise snatch each other up using tractor beams. In some cases, large vessels have a tractor beam strong enough to prevent smaller vessels from escaping the gravitational force. So is this science even plausible?
Yes and no. Optical tweezers are as close as you’re going to get to a legitimate tractor beam on current-day Earth. Scientists have harnessed small lasers into beams capable of manipulating molecules and moving them with precision. Optical tweezers use a focused laser to trap and suspend microscopic particles in an optical trap. Scientists can use optical tweezers to trap and remove bacteria and sort cells. Optical tweezers are used primarily in studying the physical properties of DNA. While the beams used in optical tweezers aren’t strong enough to dock the space shuttle to the International Space Station, it’s a start in that direction.
“Set phasers to stun” — another oft-heard command given to the Enterprise crew. The crew often relied on the stun setting of their fictitious weapon of choice known as a phaser. Armed with a phaser, Kirk and his colleagues had the ability to kill or more desirably, stun their adversaries and render them incapacitated.
Actually, stun guns have been around for some time. In fact, electricity has been used for punishment and to control livestock as far back as the 1880s. But it wasn’t until 1969 when a guy named Jack Cover invented the first Taser that the stun gun was most realized. The Taser fails to kill like the phaser did, yet, it packs enough of an electrical punch to render its victim disorientated, if not completely incapacitated.
Unlike the phaser, the Taser and other stun guns must come in physical contact with the target in order to have any effect. Tasers take care of this by projecting two electrodes, connected by wires, which attach to the target’s skin. Once in contact, the handheld unit transfers electricity to the target, thus having the stun effect. Stun guns with stationary electrical contact probes are somewhat less effective because while they have a similar effect on the target, you have to be much closer (within arm’s length) in order to zap your target.
Something more along the lines of the phaser may be in development. Applied Energetic has developed Laser Guided Energy and Laser Induced Plasma Energy technologies that are said to transmit high-voltage bursts of energy to a target [source: Applied Energetics]. In other words, these pulses of energy would stun the target and limit collateral damage. So a true phaser may soon be a reality.
5: Universal Translator
Imagine if no matter what country you visited, no matter what the culture, you could understand everything the indigenous people were saying. It sure would make traveling easier. Take that thought to another level like say, if you were planet hopping like the crew onboard the Enterprise. Fortunately for Captain Kirk and his peers, they had a universal translator.
The characters in Star Trek relied on a small device that when spoken into, would translate the words into English. Guess what? The technology exists for us in the real world. There are devices that let you speak phrases in English and it will spit back to you the same rhetoric in a specified language. The only problem is, these devices only work for certain predetermined languages.
A true universal translator like the one on the show may not be a reality, but the technology is available. Voice recognition has advanced considerably since its inception. But computers have yet to be able to learn languages. Computers would be able to theoretically gather the information much faster than a human brain, but a software program is dependent on actual data. Someone has to take the time and expense to put it together and make it available, which is probably why these systems focus on more popular languages.
4: Geordi’s VISOR
thrust the love of everything Star Trek back into popular culture, the quirky Mr. Spock and crass Bones McCoy and others were supplanted by a new cast. One of the most popular characters on the new show was engineer Geordi LaForge.
What made Geordi unique, perhaps even mysterious, was his funky eyewear. Geordi was blind, but after a surgical operation and aided through the use of a device called VISOR (Visual Instrument and Sensory Organ Replacement), Geordi could see throughout the electromagnetic spectrum. Though it may sound far-fetched, in reality, similar technology exists that may someday bring sight back the blind.
In 2005, a team of scientists from Stanford University successfully implanted a small chip behind the retina of blind rats that enabled them to pass a vision recognition test. The science behind the implants, or bionic eyes as they’re commonly referred to, works much the way Geordi’s VISOR did. The patient receives the implants behind the retina, then wears a pair of glasses fitted with a video camera. Light enters the camera and is processed through a small wireless computer, which then broadcasts it as infrared LED images on the inside of the glasses. Those images are reflected back into the retina chips to stimulate photodiodes. The photodiodes replicate the lost retinal cells then change light into electrical signals which in turn send nerve pulses to the brain.
What it all means is that in theory, a person with 20/400 sight (blind), due to the loss of retinal cells from retinitis pigmentosa, can obtain 20/80 sight. It’s not good enough to pass the driving test (normal vision is considered 20/20) but it’s good enough to read billboards and go about your day without the aid of a seeing-eye dog.
3: Torpedo Coffins
In the second installment of the Star Trek movie franchise, the beloved Mr. Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy, died after saving the Starship Enterprise from certain disaster. The movie culminated with the crew firing Spock’s corpse out of the torpedo bay in a coffin shaped like one of the ship’s weapons, the photon torpedo.
Believe it or not, you too could be laid to eternal rest in your own Federation-approved photon torpedo casket. OK, it may not technically be Federation-approved since there is no such thing as the United Federation of Planets (UFP) but the coffins are, in fact, very real.
Designed by Eternal Image, the Star Trek coffin was slated to be available early 2009, but is still not for sale as of this writing. The price is yet to be determined. If the fan would prefer to be cremated, the company also plans to offer a Star Trek urn as well.
In 1966, the idea of interacting with each other while separated by the void of space seemed as far fetched as, well the idea of being in space. That’s precisely what the idea of telepresence is.
Telepresence is more than just video conferencing. The visual aspect is important and immersion is vital. In other words, the more convincing the illusion of telepresence, the more you feel like you’re there.
In 2008, AT&T teamed up with Cisco in delivering the industry’s first in-depth telepresence experience. The key to Cisco’s TelePresence is the combination of audio, video and ambient lighting working together. These telepresence kits are designed to mirror surroundings and mimic sounds so that users on each side of the video conference will feel as though the images on the screen are in the same room with them. For instance, the people in boardroom A will see the people on the screen in boardroom B as though they are sitting across the table from them. The ambient lighting and room features are constructed to mirror each other. Sure, these telepresence kits are much more advanced than anything drummed up on Star Trek, but perhaps that’s because the show sparked our imagination so many years ago.
How many of you remember that instrument Mr. Spock used to always carry over his shoulder, especially when the crew (usually consisting of only Spock and Captain Kirk) first surveyed a new planet? That was a tricorder.
One of the more useful instruments available to Star Trek personnel, variations of the tricorder (medical, engineering or scientific) were used to measure everything from oxygen levels to detecting diseases. Often times the tricorder gave an initial analysis of the new environment. So, what’s the real-world tie-in? NASA employs a handheld device called LOCAD, which measures for unwanted microorganisms such as E. coli, fungi and salmonella onboard the International Space Station [source: Coulter]. Beyond that, two handheld medical devices may soon help doctors examine blood flow and check for cancer, diabetes or bacterial infection.
Scientists at Loughborough University in England use photoplethysmography technology in a handheld device that can monitor the functions of the heart. Meanwhile, researchers at Harvard Medical School have developed a small device that utilizes similar technology found in MRI machines that invasively inspect the body. Using nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, this device would be sensitive enough to measure samples of as few as 10 possible infectious bacteria. This kind of sensitivity (800 times more sensitive than sensing equipment currently used in medical labs) could revolutionize the way doctors diagnose disease [source: Mick].
SciFi Movie News:
Our 2012 review with David Gray. Should you go see it? Absolutely if your looking for a thrill rise. Stay away if you are looking for deep character development. We give it 3 1/2 stars.
SciFi DVD News:
The Farscape Megaset
Can’t wait for SyFy.com to release the upcoming Farscape webisodes? Prepare for Starburst! The SciFi Diner Podcast is here to tell you why the Frascape Megaset is one set (Farscape, Stargate SG1, and any Scifi fan) wont want to miss.
In case you forgot, were living under a rock, or never heard of this late nineties show:
John Crichton. Astronaut. Flung through a wormhole and lost in a galaxy far from home. He finds himself in the middle of a prison break, surrounded by hostile aliens, soaring through space inside a glorious living space ship called Moya. Hunted by the relentless Peacekeepers, he allies himself with his unimaginably alien fellow refugees and searches for a way home.
So begins the epic sci-fi classic Farscape. A fusion of live action, state-of-the-art puppetry, prosthetics and CGI, Farscape features mind-boggling alien life forms, dazzling special effects, edge-of-your-seat thrills, irreverent humor and unforgettable characters — all brought to life by the creative minds at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.
No wonder it’s been called the most imaginative sci-fi series in television history.
Why would Stargate Fans love this? Claudia Black and Ben Browder, who helped lead the final season of SG1 to its close, played central characters to this show.
For diehards: here are some highlights from this megaset:
Not only do you get to see Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Antony Simcoe, Virgina Hey and many other grace the small screen again, but through the 29 episode commentaries you get to hare their thoughts and perspectives as well as those of the writers.
Other Special DVD Features:
-Multiple featurettes. The one I’m looking forward to is “Inside Farscape: Save Farscape,” on which fans, cast and crew discuss the fate of their beloved series.
-Multiple video profiles featuring archival clips and cast/crew discussing their characters and roles on Farscape.
-Over 90 minutes of deleted scenes.
-Behind-the-Scenes interviews with the cast
– Much more than we can tell you here.
If you gotta hundred bucks in your pocket, 4086 minutes to burn (that’s 68 hours) or if you have to get a Geek in your life something for Christmas, you have to pick up this set!
“The SciFi 5” The worst hairdos in Science Fiction.
- Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod in “The Fifth Element”
- John Travolta as Terl in “Battlefeild Earth”
- Sean Connery as Zed in “Zardoz”
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Troi in (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
- Bruce Willis as Tom Greer in Surrogates.
We want your SciFi Five in Five Please send in an MP3 mentioning your five favorite or worst SciFi movies, books, tv shows, characters, robots etc and in under five minute. We’ll play them at the end of the show.