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Origin Wars - A Review

 One of the great things about Netflix is that the choose of sci-films has increased exponentially. I came across Origin wars quite by chance, decided to give it a try and explore the new world it offered.

I must confess the start did not enamour me with the little girl narrating over world building images about her lost daddy and their family issues. I was very worried it was a gloried chick-flick wrapped up in an outer space setting. Fortunately, things did improve.

The plot was one of escape and evade. The evil corporation threatening to destroy a whole new world colony after a prison block riot unleashed genetically modified prisoner/monsters who killed everything in their path, in order to protect their company’s terraforming reputation.

The prison scenes were gritty, realistic, with filthy prisoners in a desperate situation gradually being worked to death while hearing rumours prisoners never returning from the isolation ‘tumble dryers.’ Their situation was then neatly spliced into the wealthy lives of the company people in charge of the orbital circling the planet and the prison colony below.

After the prison riot and the company’s’ decision to overheat the reactors and nuke Osiris it became a chase with Lt Kane and Sy a very descent prisoner trying to save Kane’s quite annoying 11-year-old daughter Indy. On their travels they meet a desperate bunch of vagabonds that seemed to have been beamed up directly from the deep south including the step sibling, druggie lovers and the gun shack owners. The fight scenes and running gun battles were great in this chase.

The flashbacks to the events that put Sy in prison were interesting and an important part of his character building, so you actually understood the reasons for his actions.  Lt Kane’s flashbacks were a bit more evasive – he seemed to have got drunk and failed to give correct orders to the men he was commanding and they all died. However, this was not enough to get him incarcerated instead he changed jobs. Then felt very guilty about being an absent father. A theme which cropped up with alarming regularity and spoiled the action sequences of the film.

Another issue with the flashbacks were that they were watching the film and suddenly the scene goes white and you get a chapter heading and Roman numerals completely covering your screen. Immediately, this has the effect of pulling you out of the world that Shane Abbess has carefully created.

If you can get passed the abrupt chapter changes and the Daddy Issues this was a good, solid sci-fi movie which is entertaining and fun to watch.

I recommend this film to sci-fi lovers.

 

P.J. Reed is the author of the dark high fantasy novel, The Torcian Chronicles.

The Saturday Sizzler

How Do You Like Your Villains?

Antagonists are the characters in a story that opposes the hero of the tale.

They are in the story to create conflict and build up tension within the story as you never know what they are really up to. They can be antiheroes like Mesham from The Torcian Chronicles, who reluctantly agrees to attempt to save his country from the Mivirian invaders. His only other choice being certain death coming from either country…

       ‘Warlock Mesham … We command you, open in the name of His Royal Highness, King Athemar!’ shouted the menacing voice.

The warlock wrinkled his nose, cross at being disturbed once more and stiffly eased himself from his armchair, knowing the dire implications of disobeying his king. Warily, he unlocked the door and was abruptly thrown against the wall, as two huge Royal Guards dressed in black body armour emblazoned with the gold royal dragon strode through the doorway. Ignoring, the dishevelled warlock they took up position by the dust covered windows. Two more guards filled the doorway, towering over a little man resplendent in a blue silk robe.

Two dark brown eyes stared sharply at the warlock.

The Warlock bowed stiffly and King Athemar entered the hovel.

Suddenly, the whole room, blazed white with a blinding flash of lightning. King Athemar caught completely unawares by the sudden strike jumped and screamed in terror. The Royal Guards stood firm at their posts, their faces a stern mask of unswerving loyalty and devotion. The warlock’s eyebrows rose, and the corner of his mouth twitched but he continued to look firmly at the floor in front of Athemar’s feet.’ The Torcian Chronicles, P.J. Reed

Antiheroes can be characters who did not fit into the traditional heroic role of good-looking, honest, law abiding citizens. Such as the womanising, slightly criminal Star Lord versus the perfection of Thor in the Marvel comics. It is the human flaws in our antiheroes and the fact their actions prove their noble intent in the end, that endear them to readers and cinema goers alike. For as fellow flawed human beings we can relate to their problems and behaviours.

One great example of a flawed hero is Peregrin Took.

‘Fool of a Took!" he growled. "This is a serious journey, not a hobbit walking-party. Throw yourself in next time, and then you will be no further nuisance.’ The Lord of The Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

Clumsy people, myself included, can easily identify with poor Pippin, when he accidentally knocks the rock into the well causing the orc drums of Moria to sound.

However, some characters are so bad they have no endearing qualities for us to relate too.

In Stephen King’s It, Pennywise the dancing clown is bad. Hopefully, he possesses no behaviours we can relate to and yet he triggered a menacing clown epidemic in 2016. It was his abnormal wickedness which people could not understand.  This aberrant behaviour fascinated people and created his huge fanbase, as they tried to understand the reasons behind his actions.

The truly wicked villains allow people to experience all the emotions of being chased by the psychotic or the wickedly supernatural and the corresponding adrenalin high but in a safe environment. They provide a conduit for the basest feelings such as fear, lust and anger. This release of adrenalin can ease symptoms of anxiety. It gives stress and feelings of nervousness a safety valve. Watching a villain rampage is a way to escape the fears of real life. You know you are in a safe environment and that what you are see is not real, but your adrenalin responses are very real.

So, fictional villains are good for your health.

Even the worst villains can also provide us with a guilty pleasure.

Normal people are brought up to socialize effectively, to act with a moral conscience, and to respect societies laws. However, the literary villain offers a window on a life completely free of these restraints, and they are fascinating to watch from a distance, behind the safety of a television screen, a book, or the cinema. Their world is so alien to us that we want to understand and explore the perpetrator of such heinous crimes and the reasons behind their psychopathy. We want to know why serial killers perform acts which are outside the realms of normality. It is the shocking nature of their crime which enthrals the onlooker as we search for answers. For example, why did Hannibal Lector develop a taste for human flesh? And what drove Professor Moriarty, a mathematical genius, to become a criminal? Was it just as Holmes states,  

‘The man had hereditary tendencies of the most diabolical kind. A criminal strain ran in his blood, which, instead of being modified, was increased and rendered infinitely more dangerous by his extraordinary mental powers.’ The Final Problem, Arthur Conan Doyle.

or was there something more which triggered his descent into criminality?

 It is these unanswerable questions which make literary villains so much fun to observe and dissect from a safe distance.

Therefore, enjoy your villains but do not copy them!

Requiem for Servalan, Supreme Commander of the Terran Federation

In the dim recesses of my childhood memories there is ship floating through the blackness of space, an AI and a group of rogues wagging war against an evil empire. I can still hear the powerful, opening music calling everyone to battle for the freedom of the galaxy.

This was my introduction to the world of science fiction and freedom from the monotonous confines of this world. 


I still recall its name and the logo and wanting to join the crew in their fight against the Terran Federation. Blake's 7 lifted me out the boredom of childhood reality and showed me what you could achieve with your most powerful tool – your imagination. 


Blakes 7 had everything you wanted in a great sci-fi show - spaceships, wicked empire enslaving humans, robots, galactic empires, and aliens. It always had an air of darkness and the stark reality that not everything in life has a Disneyfied ending. The story revolved around a group of escaped prisoners including among a changing cast - Roj Blake, played by Gareth Thomas, the leader of the group and a former political prisoner, sentenced for opposing the Terran regime, Jenna Stannis, played by Sally Knyvette, a smuggler and brilliant pilot who seemed far too glamorous for the life she led, and Olag Gan, played by David Jackson, a convicted murderer, having killed the guard who murdered his girlfriend and had been fitted with an 'electronic limiter' to stop him being violent again. I found this to be a fascinating concept of human cyber modification, which is why I am always slightly concerned when I hear of people being fitted with computer chips. 


My favourite characters were the flawed and the damned. 


Vila Restal, the thief, lock picker and coward played by Michael Keating.Vila was a skilled thief and lock-picker but was the most unlikely freedom fighter with a depth of flawed character which made his character relatable and likeable. Although you probably would not want to rely on him in a battle. 
Another of the stand out characters for me was Kerr Avon, played by Paul Darrow. Avon was an electronics and computer expert who once attempted to steal 5 million credits from the Federation banking system. He was another you would not really trust to have your back in a shootout with the Federation guards. Primarily, motivated by greed and self-preservation his relationships with the other members of the Liberator were always strained and therefore interesting to watch.


The final iconic member of the cast was Servalan played by Jacqueline Pearce who sadly passed away this week. (September 2018). 
In a time when woman in space were mainly all breasts and hair. Servalan with her black crop and intelligent stare showed that women in space could rule the galaxy through cunning and superior military strategies just like their male counterparts. She was a strong leader and worthy adversity to the Blakes 7 crew. In the end she took everything she wanted in true dystopian style. 


A great woman and ruthless leader who will be missed throughout the Terran Federation. 

 

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Comments

Servalan was such a great part, I was sad to hear of Jacqueline's death, she was a big part of my childhood. Oh, and Vila, my favourite character - not as daft as he liked people to think because 'No-one ever asks a drunk to do anything dangerous'.

Sounds like a great day was had by all. Hope you sold a few too :)

Great blog!

The Fantasy Department Does Chilcompton Fringe Festival 2018

It has been a scorching hot summer in Devon – with everything turning hayish shades of yellow. Then two weeks ago the weather changed, and withering plants revitalised into a dark green jungle. While the wet weather was a blessing for plants, animals, and over-heated humans. Outside events did not fair so well in the summer deluge.

Last year Chilcompton Fringe Festival ’17 was so deliciously hot, the authors had to leave their tables and hide inside the marquee for shade. This year it was like being in a different country. Torrential rain and plunging temperatures caused everyone to flock inside the marquees for a very different reason.

Fortunately, the rain did not stop people from having a great time. The festival reverberated with the sounds of guitars, drums, and singing all set against the atmospheric background of the beating raindrops. The fantasy authors were performing in Little Hay and it was a magical interlude in a dark day with audiences being taking on fantastic voyages to new worlds, bubble universes, and times long forgotten. This is the power of fantasy fiction. It can believe in the story, you can journey into fantastical new worlds and meet dragons, fight the Mivrian Outriders or fall in love with sword wielding heroes.

The Fantasy Department of the Exeter Authors Association performed in a dazzling variety of welly boots.  Richard Dee spoke about the mechanics and science which underpins his steam punk world. Mark Norman explored the phenomenon of sightings of the mysterious Black Dog.

Jennifer Ash aka Jenny Kane took her audience back to a crime committed in Medieval times and Tracey Norman spoke of a land of dragons and elves. Susie Williamson took everyone to Africa as she retold her tale of magical people struggling a tyrannical king set on destroying the environment in pursuit of his crystals.

While I decided to take everyone on a traveller’s guide to Torcia, looking at the common phrases, spellcraft you might encounter and need to watch out in case you end up croaking like a frog for the rest of your stay in Torcia. A definite case of traveller beware!