General roundup, late February 2022

Part of the reason my blogging is, um, let’s be charitable and say “intermittent” is that I have such a backlog of things to watch and read and listen to and play that it’s hard to justify spending time writing about the things I’ve actually managed to watch and read and so on. Here, in the name of justifying what I pay for WordPress and the domain name, are some quick thoughts on my recent media consumption.

Star Trek: Picard: No Man’s Land: the first Star Trek audio drama in quite some time. It was a pleasant enough listen. Michelle Hurd is better than Jeri Ryan at consistently evoking her character through a voice-only performance, but they both do solid work, and the supporting characters are entertaining if fairly flat. The thematic ground it covers is well-worn and not something I especially like, but the character work for Raffi and Seven is engagingly delivered, if equally familiar. Some people have suggested the production feels amateurish compared to Big Finish’s Doctor Who audios, but I think it’s just a matter of a different approach. Big Finish tries (sometimes to a fault) to produce something that’s like a Doctor Who episode on audio, with a more immersive soundscape. No Man’s Land is more of an audio play, with limited sound design. I hope to see more Star Trek audios in the future; Patrick Stewart is probably too expensive, but other Picard characters, Discovery, Strange New Worlds… lots of possibilities there.

Star Trek: Discovery: Fear Itself: a solid Saru-centric novel that both captures his character and finds a way to use him effectively in a very Star Trek kind of story. It’s on the slight side, the original Starfleet characters don’t really pop, and for some reason the ending is three different versions in a row of the same basic sequence, but this book, like the first Discovery novel and all the Picard novels to date, takes the right approach to tying in to modern Trek.

Star Trek: Vanguard: Summon the Thunder: I skipped the Vanguard series when it was coming out; for whatever reason Harbinger didn’t do it for me back in the day. But I picked up all the ebooks on sale recently and decided to give the series another shot. So far it’s good fun. Ward and Dilmore are pretty awkward stylists even by the standards of mass-market adventure fiction, but there are a lot of moving parts to the Vanguard saga and some excellent use of dramatic irony as secrets start to be revealed and ancient history is pieced together. Despite its being a serialized, more morally ambiguous series set on a space station, series creator/editor Marco Palmieri didn’t like the idea of calling i “DS9 for the TOS era.” If I wanted to be cheeky I might suggest it’s closer to “Babylon 5 for the TOS era,” and I do not mean that in a negative way.

Elden Ring: clearly the key to getting “10/10 game of the millennium” level reviews from the games press is to add an open world to an already beloved action RPG franchise; the hype here is Breath of the Wild-level. I’m not sure this game quite lives up to it for me, but then it very much is “open world Dark Souls,” and I’ve never been as sold on Dark Souls as many gamers. I loved Bloodborne, but what I most loved about it were all the ways it was different from a Souls game: the rally mechanic and resulting faster combat, the simpler upgrade and item mechanics, the horror rather than dark fantasy aesthetics. To be clear, I’m enjoying Elden Ring quite a lot, and I’m only nine hours in; I’ve beaten one main boss, one side boss, and a few optional areas. Just wandering the map and finding little unexpected things is rewarding, as it always is in open world games. I’m just not sure the level of execution is as high as review scores are suggesting. Adding an open world to anything is like adding chocolate to peanut butter, but that doesn’t make either the chocolate or the peanut butter high quality in and of itself.

It’s a Sin: I put watching this off for a year because I expected it to be emotionally devastating. And in places it is, but it’s also life-affirming and cheeky and clever in the way everything Russell T Davies writes is. As ever in his work, there are depictions of honest little moments in gay life that you just wouldn’t get anywhere else. The original concept for this was eight episodes rather than five, and you can feel the absence in places; some of the characters feel underserved, and the rhythms of the story progression are occasionally off. But it’s a first-rate drama all the same.

Other things I’m consuming and may or may not blog about down the line are : The Gilded Age, The Afterparty, Only Murders in the Building, Marianne Williamson’s novel Home, the audiobook of Nancy Kress’s Tomorrow’s Kin, the short stories of Elizabeth Bowen, the Discovery novel The Way to the Stars… you see what I mean about a backlog.


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