Friday, 27 April 2012

Back to the '90s: Retro Week Cometh!

About half my memories of the 1990s are of watching TV shows. The X-Files, Space: Above and Beyond, Fortean TV, Friends, Frasier, American Gothic, Dark Skies, Babylon 5, Star Trek (TNG, DS9 - and had Voyager started by then?), The Adam & Joe Show, The Friday Night Armistice, Ellen, Caroline in the City - a veritable smorgasbord of good and bad telly. I found a single episode of Caroline in the City on an old VHS a while back, and I have no good explanation for having watched it. Inarguably, I watched way too much telly back then. When your Latin teacher is teasing you for watching too much telly, then there's something wrong. Luckily, when I went to uni I had no telly, so I broke myself of the habit. These days I don't watch it for myself. I watch quiz shows with the folks and a few sitcoms with my brother. Oh, and Castle - I rather like that: Nathan Fillion, dontcherknow!

Anyway, when you have a lot of time on your hands, you end up doing stuff to relieve the tedium. So over the last few months I have scrupulously catalogued every old video I could find, and all the DVDs in the house. We have a startling total of over a thousand films. Nostalgia has thus been brought to life. I've got several old episodes of Fortean TV on tape, and they are as entertaining now as they were fifteen years ago. I found I had most of Dark Skies, and then it got released on DVD, which allowed me to fill in the few gaps. Just the other day they released Space: Above and Beyond on DVD in the UK. For those of you who missed this classic hokum back in the day, here is the set-up. In the near sci-fi future A rag-tag group of recruits have all decided to join the USMC for a variety of reasons, including one bloke who got bumped from a colony ship at the last second - when suddenly it's war! Villainous aliens have attacked a human colony - worse, it's the colony that said bloke's girl is on. Then the aliens come after Earth.

The best of the Terran forces get severely beaten up, but the aliens are repelled at the last moment. Our new recruits then spend about twenty episodes flying around with some '90s CGI, feeling angsty (like nBSG) but retaining some semblance of military discipline (unlike nBSG), and fleshing out the universe. A couple of X-Files writers were behind the concept, which is stuffed to the brim with pure frothy patriotic nonsense. Remember President Bill Paxton's speech in Independence Day? Like that but with more soldiers. Add in a villainous human corporation that has some big, sinister secret, a bunch of AIs gone rogue, and a load of humans grown in vats for reasons that never really make sense, and there's your universe: cheesy, silly, overblown, awesome. Because the writers were from The X-Files, they reuse actors you know, so you get to think, "Hey, I know that face!" There's the small town sheriff from Home, the reincarnated love of Mulder's past lives from The Field Where I Died, &c, &c.

One of the nice bonuses about getting this series on DVD is that it's one of those spaceship-set shows with quite a bit of darkness in it, so it will be a nice bit of background for my continuing terrain-making for Space Hunt! I did get a bit bummed-out today, so I haven't done so much as I wanted to on the generator. I have done some work on that and on a few other things, including conceptualise what will be a very attractive wall-mounted fan. I was a bit narked because of the nexus of several things. I asked for a book at the library, which has arrived. "Er, that annoyed you, Pete? You're nuts!" Wait, you! The new Fortean Times came out today. "But you love that magazine!" Hush a moment! It was annoying because my car has been in the garage since Monday, and the weather here is making people suspect that ark-building would be a reasonable thing to do. So if I were to walk the two miles to town to get the book and magazine, not only would I be drenched by the time I got back, but I'd have an expensive wad of papier maché, too.

Our rabbit, Spot, has been doing his best to distract me. He has been demanding that I pick him up or play with him even more than he usually does. I've started to suspect that he's realised he has a dog's name. He likes to chase one's hand or foot in circles, and ends up chasing his own tail. When one leaves the room he runs after one, and when you enter it he runs up to one, wanting to play. If one picks him up he insists on licking one's face. He hasn't started barking or wagging his tail yet, but those things are both physically impossible for him. Still, I won't rule either out! Right, until our benign postman delivers unto me the beautiful things I am waiting for, I think it's time to get back to making terrain. I have watched everything suitable except for The Chronicles of Riddick and Total Recall, so I guess it's time to pull them out of the wall of films and start carving up those materials to make the plasma generator. Au revoir, folks!


  1. I loved Space Above and Beyond. As I recall didn't they have the awesome R. Lee Ermey as the USMC drill Sergeant, in whice he basically repeated his role from Full Metal Jacket but mentioning spacecraft warfare instead of just land and naval stuff. I thought it was so cool.

    I loved the space battles too, weren't they silent? They had that kinetic nature of fast crafts that could 'turn on a dime' that started with Babylon 5. I think that's what a lot of sci-fi forget in that space battles are like car chases in thrillers and dog fights in WWII flicks. If you don't have a good space craft battle you're short-changing the fans Star Trek NG I'm looking at. DS9 tried to bring that element but it wasn't all that great. One day though, in the future maybe ;)

  2. You're completely right about R. Lee Ermey. I hadn't seen Full Metal Jacket at the time, so I missed out on the gag the first time I watched the show. He's in The Frighteners, too, a Michael J. Fox comedy directed by Peter Jackson, as a ghost of his recruitment sergeant persona.

    I think the space battles were quiet, but not quite silent - they liked to have the thud-thud-thud of machine guns or the big guns on the carriers. I did like that they actually declared that the human and alien fighters were slightly different. I think Earth's was faster and tougher, and the Chigs' had a more nimble fighter. Mm, I'm reminded of the Pacific theatre now. I shall have to see how like WWII it is as I watch it. I hope it'll be here Monday. I quite agree about space battles - Return of the Jedi was my favourite Star Wars film for years because of that big battle at the end!


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