Tag Archives: TV series

Spotlight: The Lion Guard – Kion

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Yes, I watch Disney’s The Lion Guard. So what? I am not as big a fan of it as some are, but with my other choices being The Walking Dead or Beavis and Butthead, I have made do with what I have. (For those of you wondering how I can skip out on such a compelling show as The Walking Dead, please remember that I have stated that I do not like horror stories, the genre which includes zombies.) I will take talking lions and cheetahs and baboons – oh, my! – over the undead and stupid caricatures at every opportunity.

The Lion Guard focuses on Simba’s heretofore unknown son, Kion. The second born cub of Simba and Nala, and Kiara’s younger brother, Kion is given the responsibility of protecting the Pridelands and the “Circle of Life” by leading a team known as the Lion Guard. Their mission is to defend the Pridelands from invasion, as well as the imbalance due to the greed of the creatures that live in and around the territory controlled by Simba and his pride.

Other than his royal heritage, what gives Kion this right and responsibility? He has inherited the power of the “Roar of the Elders.” When Kion roars, the great lions of the Pridelands’ past roar with him. This gives his own roar quite a big boost, allowing him to knock down and scatter the enemies that continue to trouble the Pridelands and threaten the Circle of Life. Turns out, Scar had this roar, too, when he was a cub. But he got to like wielding it too much and thought he could use it to get Mufasa out of the way and make himself king.

Well, when he asked or demanded that his Lion Guard – made up of lions from the pride – help him overthrow Mufasa, they refused. Enraged, Scar used the roar on his own Lion Guard. This presumably killed them, and the fact that Scar used the roar for evil cost him his ability to use it. It also made him the skinny, unhealthy looking lion we saw in the first Lion King film.

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Now there has been a big to-do over Kion’s Lion Guard. This Guard is supposed to show “diversity” in that the only lion in the Guard is Kion. The rest of the animals in the Guard are Bunga, a honey badger; Ono, an egret; Beshte, a hippopotamous, and Fuli, a cheetah.

It is more than slightly laughable to think that this mixed bag of animals is a good representation of “diversity” for children. Eventually, the children will grow up to learn that animals in the wild do not mix like this. Egrets, honey badgers, and hippos all do their own things, while cheetahs will get up and leave a kill when a lion starts walking toward it and them. Because lions are bigger than cheetahs, the smaller cats have very, very little to do with them, mostly because they do not want to be the lion’s side dish at the dinner table.

You can see that I give the “diversity” aim of The Lion Guard the respect it deserves. Why, then, do I continue to watch the show – even to avoid a series like Beavis and Butthead? I watch the show because the lead character and his male friends are actually allowed to be smart, chivalrous boys.

Allow me to explain: if you watch Sofia the First or Elena of Avalor with your daughters/nieces/sisters/whichever, you have seen the girls lead the boys in everything. They are braver, smarter, more compassionate, and completely better in every way than the men in their lives. Although the main male characters in these shows might not be bumbling, fumbling fools ninety percent of the time, the side male characters often are.

Now, admittedly, The Lion Guard has a character that falls into this category ninety percent of the time. This would be the honey badger, Bunga, Kion’s best friend and the adopted nephew of Timon and Pumba. Bunga’s position in the Guard is the bravest – he is so brave he “[borders] on stupid,” to quote Kiara. Most fans find him annoying and want him dead.

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I think that last part is a little harsh. I agree that Bunga is irritating, but this is a children’s show, people. And Bunga’s voice actor should get a chance to pay for his college education, too, so I do not want his character dead. If he could be a little less stupid and a little more observant, I would not say no to that; dead, I will not accept.

Bunga is the only member of the team to act in a consistently dense manner. The other two male members of the Guard – Beshte and Ono – are far from unintelligent. Beshte is the hippo and the strongest in the Pridelands. He is therefore the quintessential gentle giant, and there is nothing wrong with that. Andre the Giant was a gentle giant; gentle giants are good characters. And Beshte also has a temper that will flare up occasionally, so he has a little spice mixed in with the sweetness.

Ono leans toward the studious know-it-all trope. The keenest of sight in the Pridelands, Ono acts as the Guard’s eyes, looking for trouble and yelling it out to the Guard. While Ono has many of the nose-in-a-book stereotypical trappings, the difference is that he will fight without too much hesitation. He has mixed it up with vultures, hawks, and land animals, no mean feat for a bird that is not a raptor. It usually makes up for his skittish or know-it-all failings.

Kion is, by far, the one who breaks the mold of the modern formulaic boy. He is polite, friendly, calm, fierce, and quick-thinking. Even Avengers Assemble struggled with portraying the male heroes in this fashion, as you will find if you read the posts about the series here on my blog. The male Avengers – especially Hawkeye – were portrayed as fools in most of the episodes at the series’ start. This is due to the fact that the writers began telling the story of Assemble through a liberal-ified lens in the first season and kept it going through the second (and they seem to be reverting to that form with a vengeance for season four).

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If you drop by the Disney channels, even for the advertisements alone, you will find them to be mostly girl-centered. This is not just with shows like Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, and Elena of Avalor. Disney has a whole series of ads called “Dream Big, Princess” to inspire girls to be anything they want to be. They also have advertisements for Lab Rats, Descendants, and other shows which make boys look like brainless idiots and girls look like uber women in training.

This is not only unrealistic and disheartening, it is dangerous. What is your son/nephew/brother or the boy next door supposed to achieve with these caricatures as his models? Disney has no “Dream Big, Prince” television ads encouraging boys to be great men like Prince Phillip, Prince Eric, or even Kristoff in their last big film, Frozen. Instead they push the popular narrative that boys are mini-barbarians or mini-buffoons in training who will someday grow up to be Big Barbarians or Big Buffoons.

If I had to bet, this is one of the reasons why The Lion Guard has taken off. Throughout the series so far, Kion has rarely failed to be a good little boy. In the first episode of the series, Kion ends up in the Outlands after chasing some marauding hyenas out of the Pridelands. While on the other side of the border, he bumps into a female hyena named Jasiri.

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At first, Kion is suspicious of Jasiri, referring to her as “hyena” and being snappish when he speaks to her. But when Jasiri proves to be totally unlike the other hyenas, Kion starts treating her better. He proves that his earlier conduct toward her was a lapse in judgement and a jump to a conclusion when he comes back to defend Jasiri from the same marauding hyenas at the end of the episode. Though Jasiri proves to be a capable fighter, there is never a hint that Kion should apologize for coming to help her or defer to her as some fighting goddess he should worship.

In fact, at one point during the battle, he thrusts Jasiri to the ground in order to headbutt a hyena she has not seen coming. Not only does the move show fast thinking, it proves that Kion’s earlier behavior was a mistake he has since recognized and corrected.

And so far in the series, when fighting alongside a girl, Kion does not leave his manly concern for her at the edge of the battlefield but keeps it with him at all times. Jasiri even thanks Kion for his help in this show, a rare thing in modern media. (Just look up Avengers Assemble’s “Captain Marvel” episode from season three to see why I say this.)

This is not the last time that Kion behaves in a chivalrous manner toward a girl, either. Although they have the regular spats any pair of siblings would, Kion treats Kiara with a respect that is the exact opposite of simpering worship. It also has overtones of a greater reverence than most boys in modern media show their sisters. It is an esteem which comes from a healthy dose of – *gasp* – chivalry!

Yes, I just said that the lead character in The Lion Guard possesses chivalry. Kiara is still a poor fighter in the series; this is to presrve the timeline for the story. We saw Kovu point out twice in The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride that Kiara’s fighting tactics were less than stellar, and the television show did not change this fact. In The Lion Guard, Kion had to come to his sister’s direct defense in “Can’t Wait to Be Queen.” He also showed a fair bit of attachment to, and concern for, her in “The Rise of Scar.” Kion also demonstrates a chivalrous deference and love for his mother, Nala, in the episode “Never Roar Again.”

But the best episode to show Kion’s sense of chivalry so far was “The Search for Utamu” because it was his most obvious display of the virtue. It also added a healthy dose of chilvalry to the other Guard members’ characters as well.

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In this episode the lone female member of the Guard, Fuli the cheetah, overexerts herself while she is supposed to be resting. Cheetahs can only keep their amazing speed going for a few minutes. After that, it can take them up to half an hour to get their breath back. Once a cheetah makes a kill, it has to sit beside the animal for at least that long to get its breath and then it can eat.

This is why it will get up and walk away when it sees a lion coming to check out the kill. Not only is the cheetah smaller and weaker than the lion but, when out of breath, it cannot outpace the lion.

Fuli is still a cub, and as of this episode she did not believe that she had any limits. Her inevitable exhaustion after her lone escapade leaves Fuli vulnerable to an attack from a group of vultures. When the male Guard members learn about her danger, they all rush to their female friend’s defense. Kion especially shows anger at the vultures when he blasts them into the distance with the Roar of the Elders (which is probably why we did not see them for some time after this episode).

So while Fuli and Jasiri are both female characters who can manage their own affairs – and who often say they can look after themselves without interference from “foolish males” – they have both landed in situations where they needed Kion and the other boys’ aid. And while Kion respects the abilities and competence of his two female friends, he also treats them with the special regard that they deserve as girls.

This does not diminish the girls’ fighting and survival abilities and, amazingly, it does not make the boys’ desire to protect them when they cannot defend themselves appear silly. This showing of chivalry is a great thing, as it spotlights a virtue which male characters have been denied in similar series – created by Disney and other companies – for far too long.

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Another way our male lead demonstrates his chivalry is by his dealings with Kiara’s airheaded “friends,” the lioness cubs Tiifu and Zuri. While the Guard has Bunga, the typical “boys drool” character, Kiara is saddled with two lioness cubs who are more concerned with their looks and social status than with anything even vaguely important.

Kion treats both these fluff-brained characters in general with a respect they have never earned, only rolling his eyes once when talking to them in “The Rise of Scar” and telling them off, rightly, when they allowed Kiara to go to a meeting with a known enemy on her own in “Can’t Wait to Be Queen.” The only explanation for his willingness to consider these two girls as anything remotely resembling “family” is the fact that they are girls – and oh, yeah, they happen to hang out with his sister.

As I have already mentioned, Kion continually shows quick-thinking during the series. Unlike Star Trek: The Next Generation’s unending roundtable discussions in the midst of calm and battle, most of the Guard’s tactics and strategies are actually made by Kion, either on the spur of the moment or through hours of training between patrols. The other members of the Guard follow his orders and decisions, though not always without question or input. In comparison to other male leads (in the modern Disney brand and other franchises), Kion is far more intelligent than the talking heads would have children believe boys can be.

It is also refreshing to see that, even when Kion must trust his friends to come up with a plan, he does not effusively kowtow to them after this. He accepts their advice and praises his friends’ plans without being a sycophant, congratulating them on their quick-thinking before turning back to the task at hand. Or paw, in his case.

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Something else to note about The Lion Guard is Kion’s fighting prowess. The four leading male characters in the show are good fighters, but Kion is the best of the bunch. Where the girl often comes to the boy’s rescue in current children’s television shows, Kion is rarely in need of such a save. And when he does need the help of a female character, such as in “Never Judge a Hyena by Its’ Spots,” Kion shows by his dialogue that he thinks just as deeply and quickly in such situations as those where he is supposedly “in control” of the circumstances.

Thus far, The Lion Guard has proven to be a better series than I had anticipated. It is a show with a male protagonist who is chivalrous, competent, and smart. Though I take issue with some of the show’s themes, one thing which I really appreciate and cheer on is Kion’s quiet, unabashed, and completely proper masculinity.

Hopefully, this is the beginning of a trend. Shows which focus on female leads are wonderful inspirations for girls, certainly. But boys need television shows with male characters who are not only unafraid to be boys, but who have a sense of chivalry, along with smarts and fighting ability. They have been denied this for a long time, readers, and The Lion Guard is a more than welcome anticipation of a change in the fads. From what I have seen so far, we need more shows like this one. So, ‘til the Pridelands end –

Lion Guard defend!

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Zoids: Chaotic Century – A Series Review

Technically, I already did a review of the Japanese series Zoids: Chaotic Century. But not too long ago I became curious to see if Zoids had become a topic of conversation on WordPress. After all, that was the raison d’etre for my Spotlight! posts; I started them to put the word out about not only my favorite Japanese “mecha,” but to start a conversation about my much loved anime.

At least, that was what I hoped would happen. Aside from a few likes, nobody seems really interested in discussing Zoids, whether it is Chaotic Century’s zoids or any of the other series. So I sort of let the matter drop, going back to my usual Spotlight! posts and remembering the show fondly, as always….

Then I had the trailer for Zoids: Field of Rebellion recommended to me, and my Zoidian fervor re-engaged itself – with a vengeance!

Not that my love for zoids is ever very far away from me. One of the things I have learned about the stories I enjoy is that, no matter where I go or what makes me set them aside, my favorite characters in fiction will reassert their importance to me when I least expect them to do so. They also seem to like doing this to me when I need them most.

One of the reasons that Chaotic Century has a special appeal to me is not simply because I was young and impressionable when I first saw it. I associate certain things with how the show makes me feel. A beautiful autumn day, an open horizon, a certain tangy, alluring bite in the air – these are triggers which still make me itch, even now, to find a zoid and hop in its cockpit.

I know that zoids do not exist. I have known this for years. But there is still something that I can sense in the air sometimes that makes me feel as eager as I only did when I watched or thought about Zoids. The trailer for Field of Rebellion not only intensified that childish wish, it made me hope for a film based on at least the zoids themselves, if not on Chaotic Century.

If Takara Tomy or another Japanese company is actually thinking of turning Chaotic Century into a film, then all I can say is: “Go for it! Go For It! GO FOR IT!!!!” I have wanted a zoids film – or a series of films about zoids – for as long as I have been a fan of Chaotic Century. But as I grew older and watched other shows I enjoyed made into films, seeing how they were abused and mangled by Hollywood, I began to fear that a film about Chaotic Century would destroy the story and the characters I loved so dearly.

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For this reason, I have decided to inaugurate a series of Spotlight! posts that will focus on the characters from Zoids. I do not want these great characters who still visit me when I need their encouragement to be destroyed as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Transformers, and other childhood friends have been. No amount of CGI zoids or fantastic storytelling would save a film that abused these characters, and this is something I wish to make perfectly clear to anyone who may be considering creating a film based on Zoids: Chaotic Century.

But before I get to those posts, I thought it best to review what makes Chaotic Century such a powerful series. It is not the music (which is stellar); it is not the artistry (which is appealing), and it is not the English dubbing (which is not perfect but still works quite well).

It is the characters, the zoids, the plot, and the themes of the series that make Zoids: Chaotic Century such a magnificent story worthy of the best efforts of those who paint pictures on the silver screen. There are four main plot points in Chaotic Century that MUST be present in any film based on the show. These are:

Friendship, Love, and Redemption

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I will touch on this more in the character posts, but one of Chaotic Century’s biggest selling points was its character growth. Though the story starts out somewhat slowly, the friendships between the characters develop so well and so thoroughly that you do not notice just how far they have come until the stakes begin to rise. Then you suddenly get jerked into a position that lets you realize that these characters have grown due to their contact and interaction with each other. You realize that they would never have become the people they are in X episode if not for the fact that they fell in with each other earlier and have been traveling together since.

The love aspect is present in the main romance in the series, which lasts from episode one to episode sixty-seven. We never see the end result, but we are left to believe that the main characters do indeed live happily ever after when the credits finally roll. A few side romances are shown as well, and these are all handled with an adroit touch. The main couple only exchanges one kiss, and that was not a smooch of the physical variety. If the writers for the movie will not honor these relationships in any film about the series, I will not be watching that movie.

Redemption is a big part of the series as well. Many of the villains in the story turn over a new leaf during the course of the show, while several remain evil to the bitter end. These redemptions never feel forced, as the one for Helmut Zemo did in Avengers Assemble’s “House of Zemo.” They never feel tacked on, either, as the redemption of Doctor Octopus in Ultimate Spider-Man’s series finale did.

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Best of all, there are no saving twists for the villains, such as we see in Maleficent. The bad guys either reform or they croak. A couple of villains do kind of reform before they die, but that is probably for the best, as their redemption arcs weren’t likely to last beyond that episode.

Redemption in Zoids takes place gradually; it is natural, the result of progressive character growth and discovery. It is not a spoonfed, hamfisted “let’s all sing Kumbaya and admit that our dads were jerks” moment. (Now that I think about it, not one of the fathers in the series was even a mild jerk, let alone a horrible, horrible person. Score another point for Zoids: Chaotic Century!)

A film about this series has to include these elements; it has to build the friendships and the romances smoothly and quietly. It has to be just as soft on the redemption arcs for the villains as well. Any movie about Chaotic Century that does not do this will not do the series justice, and I will NOT pay to see it.

I know these character arcs would not be easy to condense in a film (franchise), which is the other reason I have been leery of the idea of translating the TV show into a film (series). But if a Chaotic Century movie (series) is in the works somewhere, or on someone’s mental backburner, this character growth is going to prove a challenge for them. It will be a worthwhile challenge, but they may not get the necessary thanks they deserve for this work – even from a Chaotic Century fan like me, unfortunately.

Never Give Up Hope – Or the Fight

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Mostly, it is the main character, Van Flyheight, who has the never give up/never lose hope attitude. This attitude is passed on to his friends by him, thereby infusing the entire story and tying it tightly to reality. We have all faced moments when the going gets so tough, so nigh unbearable, that we cannot stand to think of dealing with the pain for another instant.

Zoids: Chaotic Century shows that even Van is not invulnerable to these moments. What makes him different is that, for him, these moments are rare and they do not last. This allows him to inspire others to hold on to hope when it appears that the battle is already lost.

I cannot tell you how valuable this plot point in Chaotic Century has been for me during my life. I am as weak as the next person; there have been moments when I can see the bottom of the pit of despair, when I have thought life would never, ever get better.

Chaotic Century has been, in some ways, a life-saver for me in these moments. Sure, I have had the “it’s-a-cartoon-and-has-nothing-to-do-with-real-life” thoughts about it. But Zoids taught me that you only really lose the fight when you give up hope. Maybe you cannot always feel hope, as Van seems to, but the show taught me that quitting simply is not an option. Through this show you learn that giving up simply cements your loss while holding out in spite of the pain means you might actually be able to turn the tide of the battle.

A film (or series of them) based on this TV show has to reference tenacious hope as often as its progenitor did. Otherwise, it will not be based on Chaotic Century but on the producer/director/writer’s agenda. The only agenda for a movie (series) based on Chaotic Century should be that hope is more powerful than despair, no matter how grave matters appear to be.

Pursue Your Full Potential – As a Pilot and as a Person

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A sub-theme, if we can call it that, in Chaotic Century is that in order to become the best (or at least a competent and good) pilot in the world, the pilot and his zoid have to reach their full potential as a fighting unit. As one wise character in the series told Van’s friend, “Zoids can sense [their pilots’] feelings and emotions and use them to enhance their own capabilities [in battle]. Once [the pilots] recognize that, the possibilities are endless.”

Anyone who has ever watched zoids remembers the “awe and excitement” we felt when we first saw these enormous, mechanical “spirit animals” running across the screen. We wanted to be that strong, that fierce, and that able to fight. We wanted to be the heroic pilots of our favorite zoids.

The problem Chaotic Century addresses is that zoid pilots can lose sight of this potential in the thick of battle, and thus they lose sight not only of why they became a pilot, but of who they are as people. This leads them to consider their zoids and everyone else’s to be “ordinary” fighting machines which are only useful as tools, pets, or weapons. They stop seeing zoids for what they truly are and see only what they can get out of them.

The challenge Zoids: Chaotic Century presents to its characters – and thereby to its viewers – is it asks us whether or not we have kept our eyes on the prize. The prize is our “full potential” which, while it can never truly be reached in this life, is the only thing worth striving after. Money, power, luxury – these are distractions, in many cases deadly ones. The true potential of a man (or a woman) cannot and should not – must not – be gauged by these foolish categories. What matters is whether or not you are striving after your full potential. Because it is only by chasing after your full potential in this life that you can actually achieve it in the next.

This theme ties directly into the fourth premise any filmakers who wish to bring Zoids: Chaotic Century to the silver screen must keep in mind….

Wonder

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This theme is so obvious that we fans tend to forget it. Wonder radiates palpably from Chaotic Century; but we viewers become so accustomed to the zoids that, like their pilots, we tend to stop marveling at these magnificent mechanical creatures as we should. We become so used to the vast desert vistas, the high mountains, the plateaus, the hills and plains in the series that we forget how beautiful they are. The music – which still sends tingles along my skin and inspires me to smile like a maniac – becomes so much a part of the background that we hardly notice it.

The way Chaotic Century keeps us on our toes is by having the characters point out the wonder of these things. Time and time again, characters remark on the beauty and splendor of the zoids, reminding us of how special these creatures are. The appreciation that the ordinary village folk in the series show for the countryside they live in reminds us that these vistas are available to us wherever we live. We simply have to actually look out the window and see them as they are. The sacrifices the characters make for each other, the little gestures of friendship and romance sprinkled throughout each episode, call on us to realize how valuable our own friends and families are to us.

Above all, Chaotic Century prompts us to keep our eyes on the prize. It constantly reminds us to strive after hope in hopeless situations, to fight to maintain our urge to discover our true potential. We may not be zoid pilots (no matter how much some of us wish we were!), but we are people who are gifted with different talents, different purposes in this life.

Are we pursuing these vigorously, working to find the “endless possibilities” open to us as we work on these things that we love? Or have we become “jaded” and forgotten what made us want to be a mother, a father, a football player, a Marine, a piano player, a writer, an artist, etc. in the first place? Are we striving for the good, the beautiful, and the best that we can achieve – or have we completely lost our sense of direction?

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Many of the characters in Zoids: Chaotic Century have lost sight of the real reason they became zoid pilots. They have lost sight of the real reason why they wanted to get in the cockpit. As the series progresses, they relearn this – allowing us to learn to look at our own lives with new eyes because we have seen the characters do it.

A film – or a series of them – based on Chaotic Century must have these four qualities. If it (or they) does not, then it has failed to give homage to its progenitor franchise, just as the new TMNT movies and the first three Transformers films did. But a zoids film (franchise) that acknowledges its source material, that shows an appreciation for it, can only be pursuing the series’ full potential on a grander scale.

I leave you to discover Zoids: Chaotic Century for yourselves, readers, as I did in my last post. In addition, I also leave you the longest trailer for Zoids: Field of Rebellion. If they could make this video (which is ABSOLUTELY SPECTACULAR FROM A VISUAL STANDPOINT), then they can make a film out of Chaotic Century!

I do not know if they will do this. I want them to do it, as long as they do not try to rewrite the series when they make the film(s). If they can tell this story, whole and entire on theater screens, I will be in seventh heaven. You will have to tie me to the seat and gag me in order to get through the movie, but I will be happier than a clam if Zoids makes it into theaters.

But that is not my decision to make. I can only watch the TV series and the trailers for Field of Rebellion – and dream. For now, that is enough.

See you on the battlefield, readers!

Stargate SG-1, the TV Series


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All right, if there are any fans of the series Ancient Aliens who are following this blog, raise your hand.

I cannot see you, but I know you have probably just perked up right now and are paying attention. Personally, I cannot stand Ancient Aliens. I have been around when it is on the television, and sooner or later, I end up snarling at the screen because someone said something with which I disagree. And every time someone on Ancient Aliens or another show like it brings up Ancient Egypt, I immediately moan and groan, “Not them again!

You might think this means that I hate Ancient Egypt. I admit to having my fill of it – especially from people who do not know what they are talking about, but who act like they do. That drives me crazy anyway, but in relation to the Ancient World, it is a good way to get me mad. I like history, so I know a lot about it. For example, I happen to know that the Ancient Greeks wore thick bronze and linen armor when they went into battle, not fancy leather suspenders like you see in 300. Catching five minutes of that movie had me raving for two to three whole days with fury.

So I know my history. I am no Egyptologist, but I know my history. So why do I moan and wail whenever someone on the History Channel or Ancient Aliens turns to the subject of Ancient Egypt? I wondered about that and, with the help of El Rey just a little while ago, I finally figured out the problem: I have heard practically all of these people’s theories before. Specifically, I heard them when I was a child watching and enjoying Stargate SG-1.

Yes, I was a child when the show first came out. And I watched the show until its final season’s finale. I even watched two or three of the made-for-TV movies that came out with it. I watched the sequel series Stargate Atlantis to its conclusion, but I managed to miss Stargate Universe and Stargate Infinity. From the sounds of things, I dodged a couple of bullets when I missed those related shows.

After Star Trek, Star Wars, and probably the Marvel media I was exposed to, Stargate SG-1 was my go-to sci-fi fix. I already knew Richard Dean Anderson from the reruns of MacGyver, but I found I liked him a whole lot more as Colonel Jack O’Neill (with two L’s) in Stargate SG-1. I had never heard of Michael Shanks or Amanda Tapping before, but I found I liked them as well. I also think, rewatching the television series now, that Tapping’s character, Samantha Carter, grew as the seasons progressed. Some of her first appearances were waaay too stiff and full of “girl power” motifs, and the writers wisely stopped being so heavy-handed with this stuff as the series ran its course.

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Finally, we had Teal’c. Christopher Judge was the best possible choice for the character. It turns out that I heard him in X-Men: Evolution as the voice of Magneto without ever knowing who he was until years later, when I realized his voice was oddly familiar. Teal’c was the fish out of water before Thor, and Judge did a perfect job pulling off the confusion, shock, and outright clumsiness an alien in modern times would experience. It took the reruns on El Rey to remind me how much I liked him and the rest of the crew – and how much I missed them.

Of course, I cannot leave out the star attraction of the series. This was the alien Stargate for which the series, and the movie that spawned it, is named. But this Stargate is nothing like the Star Gate in Andre Norton’s novel of the same name. (You can find a post on that book here, too, readers.) This Stargate generates an artificial wormhole that connects two points in space together for up to thirty-eight minutes, less if you know how to shut the device down on your own.

To make the device work, you have to “dial out” by inputing some of the symbols inside the ring through a DHD or “dial home device” connected to the Stargate. Like an old dialing telephone, these symbols will rotate through the circular Stargate and stop beneath one of the red “Chevrons,” which will open and glow to lock in the coordinates as the gate “dials out.”

When the necessary seven “chevrons” are “locked,” you had better not be standing directly in front of the Gate. That watery substance may look pretty as it “flushes” out at you, but anything organic and most metals that touch that initial “flush” of liquid-like material will be incinerated by it. The same sort of thing will happen if your hand, arm, leg, or head is in the portal when the Gate is shut down; part of you stays on one planet while the other part comes back to Earth.

If you are thinking this was awfully gross for a kid to watch, no worries, my parents made sure I never saw the really disgusting stuff. This meant that I did not get to see much of the main alien antagonists for the series, either. These aliens were the snake like parasitic/symbiotic Gou’aould. They were intelligent and could not survive in their regular forms outside of water or some liquid like it. So to get aruond, they would highjack human bodies.

They did this often enough that they set themselves up as deities in Ancient Egypt – the deities all those Egyptologists and Ancient Aliens people like to rave about. According to the story, the Ancient Egyptians eventually rebelled against their Gou’aould controlled oppressors, who went off into the galaxy in search of greener pastures, continuing to play gods as they did.

Now, readers, we must fastforward to the time of the movie. In the film Kurt Russell plays Colonel Jack O’Neill and James Spader plays Daniel Jackson; these are the roles which Richard Dean Anderson and Michael Shanks eventually took up. (And boy, in the early days, was Michael Shanks a ringer for young Spader!) I have never seen the film, but through the TV series I gather that Jack and Daniel, along with other Air Force soldiers, passed through Earth’s Stargate to a world called Abydos. On Abydos they found a civilization that was like a page out of an Egyptologist’s dream book – which is to say that Daniel loved it, because he was an Egyptologist.

While they were there, one of the Gou’aould, using a new host but the old name of Ra, dropped by to collect tribute from the Abydosians. Long story short, the SG team killed him, came back home minus a few members, and pretended that they had blown up Abydos and the gate before they came back. Daniel was supposed to have died in the conflagration with Ra, too, but this was a lie; he actually married one of the Abydosian girls and did not want to leave the planet, so the SG team left him behind to live happily ever after.

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Enter the TV series. In the first episode, a new Gou’aould, Apophis, visits Earth through the Stargate to see what can be seen. He picks up an Air Force officerette who was stupid enough to approach the device the Gou’aould threw through the Gate to see if Earth could support life. She did not last long, in case you were wondering, in Gou’aould land.

Well, Apophis’ arrival blows a big hole in the story Jack and his team told command about Abydos. So a new SG team, headed by Jack and including Samantha Carter, goes back to Abydos to ask Daniel’s help in figuring out Apophis’ identity – because who in the Air Force can tell one Ancient Egyptian inscription from another?

Well, Daniel’s been living happily with his wife, Sha’re, and the Abydosians for two years, but he has not been idle. He has deciphered a series of inscriptions in a place near the main Abydosian settlement, and he thinks there are a whole lot more Stargates out there. A whole galaxy full, to be exact.

But while Jack, Daniel, and Sam are out at this location, Apophis pops in to the main Abydosian camp and kidnaps several of the people there. This includes Sha’re and her younger brother Skaara, who is close to Jack. Our team Gates back to Earth, gets permission to go on a rescue mission, but arrives too late to save Sha’re from being made host to Apophis’ wife.

Daniel does not take this well, as you might imagine, and Jack does not take Skaara’s being turned into one of the “children of the gods” any better. But it looks like they may not have a choice about any of this when Apophis orders his guards, led by Teal’c, to do away with SG-1 and the other captives.

Only Teal’c has other ideas. Forced to serve the Gou’aould with all the other Jaffa, Teal’c is one of the few who knows the Gou’aould are false deities. But he and the others who know this are not in a prime position to do anything overt about it because the rest of their people are firmly under the Gou’aould’s thumbs. And since most of the other peoples in the galaxy that Teal’c has met are technologically inferior to the Guo’aould, he has not been able to defect to a stronger side to stop the false gods from doing what they are doing.

That is, he had not met anyone to whom he could defect until Jack, Daniel, and Sam showed up. Recognizing their technology to be superior to the other races’ – though not the Gou’aould’s – Teal’c decides the time is right to strike back at the slave masters who control his race. He frees SG-1 and the others in the room with them, but has nowhere to go after this until Jack tells him, “For this, you can stay at my place. Let’s go!”

Thus begin the epic adventures of Stargate One, SG-1 for short. This “army of four” manages to often single-handedly defeat the Gou’aould at every turn during the series, and it is a thrilling ride to run with them. They kind of lost me after Richard Dean Anderson left the show.   Seasons eight, nine, and ten also went a little weird…but it was still Stargate, and I could not find anything better that I liked at the time. I had to see the show through to the end, and I did, though I liked everything up to season seven or eight better than what I saw in season nine to ten.

One of the really appealing things about the series for me, early on, I think, was the fact that SG-1 was going up against false gods. Now, even at a young age, I loved history. I learned about Cortez and his march through Mexico, how he stopped the Aztecs’ bloody worship of stone idols and tore those stone statues down. I have since learned more details about the Aztecs’ sacrifices, and I can say with all certainty that the Spanish did us a favor by putting a stop to their murderous mayhem.

SG-1 reminded me of that a lot as a little child. Everyone around them believed that the Gou’aould were actual deities and, time after time, SG-1 would have to prove that the Gou’aould were anything but gods. It was a fun series with plenty of great sci-fi and character exploration, but one of the things I will never forget about the show is that it presented a group of modern “Conquistadors” who were not afraid to knock down idols others treated as divine and show them who the man behind the curtain really was.

If you are wondering if this is why I end up screaming at the History Channel and Ancient Aliens, you come close to the right answer. The fact is, all those theories the people on those shows have about Ancient Egypt have been thought of before – and I should know, because I saw them played out in Stargate SG-1. I do not need them repeated to me, and so when I hear someone waxing eloquent about these things, I cannot help getting a little…testy. That is why I usually avoid those shows. 😉

Well, readers, that is all I have for now. Other than to shamelessly plug the fact that El Rey is rerunning one of my favorite series, that is. If you have never seen Stargate SG-1, then this is your best chance to catch it on television. So what are you waiting for?! Dial up that Gate and go have an adventure!

Jaffa, kree!

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Even More Favorite TV Themes!

I have watched a lot of television in my lifetime, readers. Too much, some would say.   But there is always something in my favorite series that makes me go, “Yeah, I have seen a bit too much. But these shows were worth it!”

Andromeda Ascendant was kind of confusing, but I like Kevin Sorbo, so I am willing to rate that series as a win, weirdness and all. Gunsmoke, The Munsters, Bewitched and a couple of other series are old childhood friends. I still enjoy watching them. I recommend them to anyone and everyone for that reason.

Well, that is enough talk from me. You came to see the TV themes, not to hear me prattle on about them! Go ahead and enjoy the music, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

 

Andromeda Ascendant

Gunsmoke

The Rifleman

Viper

Beast Master

The Dukes of Hazzard

Highlander

Bewitched

I Dream of Jeannie

The Virginian

The Twilight Zone

The Munsters

Star Wars Rebels’ Trailer 2 for Season Four Is OUT!!

I missed this trailer when it came out, so this post is probably coming out a day late and a dollar short. But better late than never, right?

Okay, first things first. Turns out, that wolf we saw in the first trailer is a Loth-wolf. And it is part of a pack – a big one!

Ruhk, the Noghri bodyguard for Grand Admiral Thrawn, is now a canon character, readers. Thrawn wants him to take out Hera, and despite the Noghri race’s fantastic fighting skills, it looks like Ruhk gets his fanny handed to him in this fight. Don’t mess with Hera!!!

Kanan’s fate is not looking like it will be a good one. I’m still hoping he’ll make it to the end of Star Wars Rebels, and I would be SO HAPPY if he survived to be at the party on Endor. But I am not going to hold my breath that the writers will let him survive.

Ezra I think will live to the time of The Last Jedi, at least. If Disney/Lucasfilm really is planning a sequel/new series, keeping Ezra alive for it would make a lot of sense. Just because Ezra would live to the time of Rey, Finn, and Poe does not mean he would be a Jedi. As it is, we still do not know whether or not Luke and Rey are the only Force sensitives/Jedi in The Last Jedi. They are just the two we know about.

Finally, Mandalore is in serious trouble. The Empire seems to have developed some kind of lightning-type ray gun that can fry a person to ash without destroying the armor they are wearing. I think Sabine will live through the fight, but the odds for her family, Fenn Rau, and Bo-Katan living through it have shrunk dramatically.

But what am I babbling about? You came to see the video, not to read my ramblings about it! Here’s the second trailer for Star Wars Rebels‘ fourth and final season, readers. And, as always…

“May the Force be with you.”

The Mithril Guardian

Spotlight: Avengers – The Incredible Hulk

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“Hulk SMASH!!!”

I am not Big Green’s biggest fan. I like him, but he has never been my favorite superhero. Most everyone who likes the Hulk recognizes the words I have used to open this post. Hulk is best known for his smashing, after all.

For some time now a friend and I have been catching reruns of Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno’s The Incredible Hulk television series. While I have read about the series before, I have never seen it. My friend had even less exposure to the series than I did – until recently, of course.

After watching a few of these episodes, my friend commented that the stories within each show were good, and I agreed. Though the special effects are hardly that special today, that was not what my friend and I meant when we concurred that the series was good.

What we meant was that the stories themselves were good. Usually, The Incredible Hulk could be counted on to turn out a good story. There have been a few episodes that I would say fell flat, but that has more to do with the story itself than with the actors or the special effects. On the whole, however, The Incredible Hulk was reliable entertainment for its time and, I daresay, for ours.

This conversation with my friend led me to mention what I had always found likable about the Hulk while I was growing up. It was never his size, strength, or unparalleled ability to “smash” that made me an appreciator of the Hulk. I liked the Hulk because, despite his rage and general tendency to break stuff, he was still a gentle giant to the innocent and/or the helpless.

This is something that later stories in the comics have largely abandoned. In the original comics, The Incredible Hulk television series, and the 1990’s Hulk cartoon, Big Green would never hurt an innocent person. Not on purpose, at least. Someone may have been standing in the wrong place at the wrong time when the Hulk got into a fight and was therefore hurt, but Big Green never deliberately injured someone who was not a threat to him or who was a good person.

For instance, the Hulk always had a soft spot for kids in the shows I saw and in The Incredible Hulk. I can remember a cartoon episode or two where Bruce Banner befriended a young child, only for the Hulk to later manifest himself in order to protect said child. Hulk would also avoid hurting someone who had befriended Banner or who had demonstrated that they were a nice, good, and kind person.

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And in the Bixby/Ferrigno series the Hulk had a knack, as he did in the comics and cartoons, for ending up in the right place at the right time to help people in bad situations. Cursed with a power and alternate personality he did not want, forced to wander the world as an outcast, Banner would lament that he could not have a “normal” life. I sympathized – and still do – with that, but I also think his focus on the negative meant that he did not often see what a great gift he had also been given.

Originally weak and unable to help others, the emergence of the Hulk gave Banner the ability to play the knight errant. No, he could never have a so-called “normal” life, and that could be annoying and sad. But how many people would have been harmed or might even have died if Bruce Banner did not have the Hulk residing within him?

This is a plot and character device which the comic book writers have gravitated away from since the House of M storyline. Those earlier stories hinted at a provident Will behind the Hulk’s appearance and his subsequent, well-placed position in the lives of others where he invariably helped make those he encountered safer, happier people.

As a young viewer I sensed this about the Hulk. Misunderstood by Thunderbolt Ross, the general public, and even Banner, the Hulk was nevertheless a force for good in the world and not a monster of destruction, as he has often been described. Yes, he broke a lot of stuff more often than not. But he never did it just for the heck of it; he did it to protect others or stop the bad guys. I can accept destruction when its main aim is to protect good people and stop bad people. Buildings can be replaced and the land is always shifting. Individual humans are utterly irreplaceable.

Though the comic book writers have fallen away from this understanding of the Hulk, the cartoon and film writers seem to have begun to re-explore this side of the character. Oddly enough it was Joss Whedon, the proclaimed atheist, who led the charge for this change. This is made plainest in The Avengers, where the famous director/writer has Tony Stark point out that the Hulk may have saved Banner’s life in the Gamma explosion for a purpose.

Marvel’s writers have subsequently shifted their portrayal of the Hulk in the cartoons to show him as a thinking and usually coherent character, instead of a rage monster with the vocabulary and intellect of a four year old child having a righteous temper tantrum. This is a nice change but it takes away, for me, a little of the gentle prodding we had in earlier stories about the Hulk. The idea that Providence intervened to save Banner’s life and granted him the power to back up his will to help others is what made me fond of the Hulk. I think this is one of the reasons why I drifted away from the character as I grew up – my own inclination toward precision in place of wholesale attack notwithstanding.

This providential element in stories about Big Green is the reason why I enjoy watching the reruns of The Incredible Hulk on El Rey when I can. These stories, as Bill Bixby said, were made for adults but “children can watch them, too.” He was reportedly very upset when the show was described as mere children’s entertainment.

I have to agree with him on that. The Incredible Hulk and other, older Marvel fare was made for adults and children alike. Both could read it and learn lessons about life from the stories the company told. This is one of many things that Marvel lost after House of M, sadly, and one of the things I wish they would work to rediscover. They will tell better stories if they are only ready to relearn what will make a great story.

If you can, readers, try to catch a few episodes of The Incredible Hulk on El Rey. They are “retro” and dated, and this is not a television series which modern special effects fans will take very seriously. But if you like a good story, The Incredible Hulk can be counted on to deliver nine times out of ten. That is all any of us can and should ask of a storyteller; a good story, well-told, and appreciable to a wide audience.

Have fun smashing with the Incredible Hulk, readers!

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Tangled Cuts and Happily Ever After

Tangled is one of the best films that Disney has ever made.  But for some odd reason, they have decided to turn it into a television series.

I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the idea – I thought the movie ended things perfectly and, as a viewer, I was quite willing to leave it there.  But Disney has decided to make it a television series and at this point, there is no use arguing with them about it.

It’s not all bad news, though.  The series comes with some cute perks, especially its Tangled: Short Cuts.  These short episodes fill in time between the series’ events and they have been a hoot so far.  More are sure to come, but here are the ones that I have seen and enjoyed.  As a bonus, the short Tangled Ever After is included at the bottom of the post.

Enjoy!

Prison Bake 

 

Make Me Smile

 

Check Mate

 

Tangled Ever After