Tagged: Ronald D. Moore

Mindy Newell: Outlander, The Scot, The Sassenach                 

July 9, 2016.

Droughtlander begins with the airing of the Season 2 finale, “Dragonfly in Amber.” Somehow millions of fans around the world must satisfy their continuing hunger for the Starz adaptation of author Diana Gabaldon’s book series that started with Outlander, first published way back in 1991.

Centering on the love story between 20th century Royal Army nurse Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser (Caitriona Balfe) and 18th century Scottish Highlander James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser, it encompassed the lead-up and beginning of the 1745 Jacobite Rising which climaxed in the final defeat of the Stewart claim to the British throne at Culloden Moor and the end of the Highland clan culture.

Interjection: Prime Minister David Cameron delayed the premiere of Outlander before the referendum on Scottish independence, so worried was he over its influence.

The millions of fans – and I am one of them – had to slate their hunger for more, more, more! through rereading the books (up to eight now, not counting the “sideways” shorter novels, novellas, and short stories, with Ms. Gabaldon hard at work on the ninth), rewatching Seasons 1 and 2 ad infinitum, relistening to podcasts (there are so many, but 31 are recommended here), and endless discussions on message boards and chat rooms.

Outlander had a built-in audience when it premiered on Starz on August 9, 2014, but, like me, I think many, many tuned in because of the involvement of Ronald D. Moore, who had ultra-successfully rebooted Battlestar Galactica for the Sci-Fi channel (now horribly called, im-not-so-ho, SyFy) and who had “made his bones” writing for Star Trek: The Next Generation (first episode: Season 3’s “The Bonding”), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (writer and co-executive producer), and Star Trek: Voyager. He was also a consultant on the HBO series Carnivale, where he met Terry Dresbach, the costume designer. Here’s a great article about the couple from the New York Times.

Neither Ron nor Terry have disappointed.

The final episode of Season 2, the aforementioned “Dragonfly in Amber,” ended with the Battle of Culloden about to start. Jamie, believing that he will die in that battle, forced Claire, who is pregnant, to return to the 20th century (in one of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ve ever seen) for the sake of their unborn child, whom Claire will raise with her 20th-century husband, Frank. It also jumped ahead to 1968; Frank has died, and Claire and her child, now a 20 year-old young woman named Brianna, have returned to Scotland, where Brianna (named after Jamie’s father) discovers the truth of her heritage…

And Claire discovers that Jamie did not die that day on the moor.

Will she go back?

September 10, 2017.

Season 3 of Outlander premiered.

Droughtlander is over.

And last night, September 17, the story continued.

•     •     •     •     •

Next weekend, September 22 – 24, is the Baltimore Comic-Con. ComicMixers Mike Gold, Glenn Hauman, Joe Corallo, Evelyn Kriete and Emily Whitten. And I’ll be there as well!

But because I’m not sure if I’m working on Friday – yes, I’m back at work, though I’m wearing an ankle brace – if you’re looking for me, I may not be at the until Saturday. With my niece Isabel – OMG, she’s 17!?? How did that happen!? – who has discovered the joys of comic conventioneering and cosplay. I am so excited to be able to share my love of the medium with Izzy!

•     •     •     •     •

A giant and heartfelt thank you to everybody who contributed and made Mine!: A Celebration of Freedom & Liberty Benefitting Planned Parenthood possible.

You did it!!!!

Mindy Newell: Tiptoeing Through Geek Culture

Last of the Mohicans

Last of the Mohicans, by James Feinmore Cooper, is a great American classic. My parents had a Book-of-the-Month copy in their bookcase with illustrations by Newell Wyeth, Andrew’s father, and I first read it at about age 8. Today (Sunday), I watched the 1992 Last of the Mohicans, the one starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeline Stowe, and Wes Studi. Great, great movie, also a favorite of my buddy and fellow columnist Johnny O’s; in fact, it was John and Kim who turned me on to this particular cinema adaption, oh, those so many years ago at their home in Norfolk, Connecticut. I was familiar with the 1936 version, which starred Randolph Scott, Bruce Cabot, and Binnie Barnes, which was pretty good, but director Michael Mann’s adaptation is a gothic work of art, boasting beautiful cinematography and a romantic and haunting soundtrack.

OutlanderI’ve also been blissfully gorging on Season 2 of Outlander, Ronald D. Moore’s magnificent – im-not-so-ho – adaptation of the second book of Diana Gabaldon’s Scottish time-traveling romance and adventure series. As the season continues to build to the 1745 tragic and final confrontation between King George II’s British troops and the Jacobite rebels who followed “Bonnie” Prince Charles Stuart in the failed attempt to restore the Stuart monarchy, Claire is suffering from what we call today Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Jamie is taking on more than a veneer of the hated British army’s discipline and attitude, going so far as to flog his troops.

Thanks to the oversight of Moore and his team, including his wife, costume designer Terry Dresbach, and the lush cinematography of Neville Kid, not to mention the remarkable cast, Outlander is far more than a variation of the “bodice ripper” genre; it is a gripping tale of a culture that now exists only in books, films, television shows, Renaissance Fairs, and museums.

Captain America HydraI know that my buddy Marc Alan Fishman is demonstrating the mature side of the argument, taking a “wait-and-see” attitude, but as for me – well, there is so much that is wrong about Captain America: Hydra Agent that all I can say is:

No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! But I do have a better candidate for Hydra membership.

Donald Trump Suggests Muslim Judge Might Also Be Unfair. Candace Smith, ABC News, June 5, 2016: Donald Trump, already facing bi-partisan backlash for his comments suggesting a judge of Mexican descent is unfit to preside over a lawsuit filed against Trump University because of ‘bias,’ has gone further, suggesting that a Muslim judge would also not be able to treat him fairly…”

Trump Plays GOP for Suckers – Calls Climate Change ‘Bullshit,’ Then Submits Plan For A Wall To Protect His Golf Course From Global Warming. Page 4-5. New York Daily News, front page, May 24, 2016: “The notoriously fickle Republican huckster, who at various times has labeled climate change a ‘con job,’ a ‘hoax’ and ‘bullshit,’ has reportedly applied to build a wall along a luxury golf course that he owns in Ireland that is threatened by rising seas caused by climate change.

Perhaps it is Donald Trump who is the Hydra agent.

Mindy Newell: Chariots Of The Gods

“Space travelers in the gray mists of time? An inadmissible question to academic scientists. Anyone who asks questions like that ought to see a psychiatrist.” • Erich von Danniken

“It’s just one more thing to remember to charge throughout our busy days.” • Joseph Volpe of Engadget.com critiquing the Apple Watch

Well, I finished rewatching Ronald D. Moore’s Battlestar Galactica.

The most popular question (dissatisfaction?) I remember floating around the message boards connected with the finale of BSG was: “What, or who, was the returned-from-the-dead Kara Thrace, a.k.a. Starbuck?” And I also remember that there was a lot of frustration and unhappy people who were really angry with Mr. Moore for not giving a black-and-white answer. I suppose these dissatisfied viewers wanted to see an extension of Kara’s final scene with Lee Adama in which, in their imagination, she would say – sort of a SPOILER AHEAD! –

“When my Viper crashed on Earth, there was a light, and as I walked towards it I saw my mother and my father and Kat and they told me that I wasn’t done yet, that I had to go back and complete my destiny. But my body was burned up so God created an avatar for my spirit, my soul, to inhabit so that my journey could be completed. Now I have. I have led you to Earth and humanity has its fresh start, but it’s time for me to leave for good, Lee. The lease on this body is up and I have to return it. Besides, Sam is waiting for me on the other side. So goodbye.”

Those of you who are BSG fans know that is not what Kara said to Lee – not in any overt way. But still, if you were paying attention, that is what she said, that is what happened to Kara Thrace. Im-not-so-ho, of course.

The other question that floated around the message boards, and one with which I agreed, was: Would the survivors of the twelve colonies really give up all their technology in their quest to start anew? I mean, not even a radio? That seemed a little “out there” to me. Wouldn’t it be important to stay in contact with the other colonists as they made “homesteads” around the globe? I mean, these were people who complained about the accommodations aboard the various ships on the fleet – were they really going to go without bathrooms?

Besides, if we are all descendents of the Cylon/Homo sapien hybrid named Hera, then an inherent need for technology is wired into our DNA – after all, anyone who is everyone is talking about that “godsdamned” Apple Watch and how they can’t wait to get it – oh, and by the way, Mike, you didn’t mention in your column that there is going to be an “upscale” model (read: diamonds and gold and sterling silver) costing around $17,000 or so, for those gazillionaires who want to play Dick Tracy.

Still, I loved the idea that the people of the colonies were the “gods” aboard the chariots of Erich von Danniken and the *ahem* Ancient Aliens of the History Channel. And it left me wanting more, more, more

So I watched The Plan and Razor and then put the sequel/prequel, Caprica, on my Amazon “watch list.” I watched the pilot episode Saturday.

Caprica did not feature huge space battles and interstellar travel so it never had the fan base of BSG; most of the audience did not have the patience for the acorn to take root and grow into a mighty oak tree, patience being a virtue that was apparently swallowed up into a black hole at the beginning of the 21st century, and thus it was prematurely cancelled by the Sci-Fi network.

(This, I think, was the beginning of the end of the Sci-Fi Channel, which once upon a time featured shows like Stargate Sg-1 and Farscape and BSG, and then changed its name to SyFy and now airs movies about mutant sharks caught in tornados and WWE exhibitions. Well, some of those wrestlers could be classified as aliens.)

It was an example of a – dare I use the phrase – thinking man’s exploration of science and God and the intersection between both. Yes, so was BSG, but Mr. Moore sneakily slipped that in between the (admittedly terrific) special effects of nukes exploding and Cylon raiders.

Mr. Moore said that Caprica is “about a society that’s running out of control with a wild-eyed glint in its eye… meant to explore ethical implications of advances in artificial intelligence and robotics.”

Too bad Mr. Moore never got a chance to complete the series.

I could have viewed it on my Apple Watch.

 

Mindy Newell: Said The Joker To The Thief

“There are many here among us / Who feel that life is but a joke / But you and I we’ve been through that / And this is not our fate.” • Bob Dylan, All Along the Watchtower, 1967

“What’s it all about, Alfie?” • Burt Bacharach and Hal David

I’m writing this while listening to the soundtrack of the revival of South Pacific, which played at Lincoln Center here in NYC in 2008 and won eight Tony awards. It starred Kelli O’Hara as Nellie Forbush, Paulo Szot as Emile de Beque, and Matthew Morrison (Will Schuster on Glee) as Lt. Joseph Cable. The show, written by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Joshua Logan, opened on Broadway in 1949, and is based on James Michener’s series of short stories about the Pacific theatre, Tales of the South Pacific, which was published in 1947, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948. It was only 4 years since the end of World War II, and audiences embraced the musical – many of the veterans had served in the South Pacific. (Michener served in the Navy, and the stories are based on both his own experiences, the people he met, and the “tales” other soldiers told him.)

The underlying theme in South Pacific is the battle against racism – the first musical to ever attack prejudice. It does so through the “A” and “B” stories, which run concurrently and intersect in the second act. In the “A” story, Nellie, a Navy nurse from Little Rock, Arkansas, falls in love with the French planter, Emile, who fled from his country because of a murder he committed while protecting a woman from being raped. Though Nellie forgives Emile for this, she rejects him when she learns Emile was married previously to a Polynesian woman, whom she calls “colored.” In the “B” story, Marine Lt. Joseph Cable, from Philadelphia, falls in love with the Tonkinese Bloody Mary’s daughter, Liat. (Tonkinese is an old nomenclature for Vietnamese – the Gulf of Tonkin, anyone?) But Cable refuses to marry her, despite Bloody Mary warning him that she will marry Liat to a French planter. He knows that his “Main Line” family will never accept Liat and the society into which he is expected to take his place after the war, and he cannot face the isolation and shunning that marriage to Liat will bring.

I guess I’m listening to the soundtrack because last week my mom became ill and was in the hospital for a few days. She’s now been transferred to the same nursing home facility in which my father lives – if you can call it living – these days. (When I went to see him last week, he didn’t know who I was at first…I had to tell him.) My mom has been living independently, but now we are wrestling with moving her into assisted living.

As frequent readers of this column know, my mom became a registered nurse through the Army Nurse Cadet program and my dad was a fighter pilot in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theatre – and when I went to see South Pacific with my mom seven years ago, she and I talked about what it was like when she and my dad went to see it on Broadway in 1949, in an audience made up of veterans and their husbands and wives, of how the story almost visibly reverberated in the theatre.

They, and their peers, were part of The Greatest Generation.

But sometimes I wonder…

What it’s all really about?

Well, the weather this winter has really been lousy for most of us, hasn’t it? (No snide laughter from those of you living in those few parts of the States where white is not the prevailing color on the ground and where the temperature is above 0º.) So being stuck inside when not at work, I’ve been on a new binge the past few weeks – rewatching Ronald D. Moore’s reworking of Battlestar Galactica.

Rewatching BSG (and it really should be BG, since “Battlestar” is one word) is absolutely engrossing, perhaps even more so than when it originally appeared on the Sci-Fi channel beginning with the miniseries in 2003, and then continuing as an ongoing series in 2004 through 2009. Although Mr. Moore does not exactly state that he knew what the final denouement would be in the podcasts accompanying each episode, the overarching mystical theme of BSG – “All this has happened before, and will happen again” – is repeated many times by many different characters throughout the entire storyline.

Certainly the exploration of religion, morality, intolerance, and politics is there from the very beginning; but I think the biggest question Mr. Moore is asking is “what does it mean to be human and alive?”

In fact, that is exactly what Six (Tricia Helfer) asks the Colonial representative just before “neutral meeting ground” is blown to kingdom come – “Are you alive?” she asks him, before bending and kissing him as the walls come a-tumbling down.

BSG also asks the audience “Do we truly have free will, or are our fates already determined?” I just finished watching “Maelstrom,” the episode in which Kara Thrace, a.k.a. Starbuck, seems to answer that for us, conquering her fear of death and accepting her fate as her Viper spins out of control and is destroyed. It appears to all aboard the Galactica that she committed deliberate suicide – but is there more to Kara’s fate? Was her death only one step in her real journey? (Those of us who have already seen it know the answer.)

BSG also questions technology: yes, we are capable of creating technological wonders, but can we ultimately control them? The Cylons are the most obvious examples of that question, as “man created the Cylons,” as it says in the prelude. And “they rebelled.” On a more subtle level, the only reason the Galactica wasn’t destroyed when the Cylons launched their attack on humanity was because Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) did not connect the ship’s computers to the larger fleet network.

As the mysterious entities (angels?) that we know as Baltar and Six walk through a modern Times Square in New York City, BSG is asking us one final question before the credits roll:

“All of this has happened before. But the question remains, does all of this have to happen again?”

What’s it all really about?

 

Mindy Newell: Outlander

“It’s just a big story, you know? The book is a big tale. It travels a lot and it goes to a lot of different places. And as I looked at it… the rights holder initially was trying to do it as a feature and I knew that it was never going to be a feature. You would lose everything that was special about the book once you stripped it down to two hours. And still, if you want to do the story justice, if you want to actually enjoy the experience the way the reader enjoys the experience, you have to take your time. You have to sort of drink in the landscape. You have to get to know the people. You need to let the moments breathe. You need to let the story just unwind a little bit. And to create that feeling in television, it just required a bigger spread of hours.” Ronald D. Moore, Executive Producer, Outlander, A Starz Original Series based on the book by Diana Gabaldon.

First, a confession.

I’ve never read the Outlander series of books by Ms. Gabaldon.

I’m not sure why. Certainly all the ingredients are there:

  • Time travel: As those of you who regularly read this column already know, and as any newbies are about to learn, mention a time travel story to me and my mouth starts watering like Pavlov’s dog – Doctor Who, various episodes of various Star Trek shows and movies, Connie Willis’s series of short stories and novels concerning the time-traveling faculty of a future Oxford University;
  • A woman protagonist who is not only a registered nurse, but a combat nurse in World War II – for those of you who don’t know, I’m an R.N., as was my mom, who served in the Army during the war, and my dad was a fighter jock in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theatre of operations, first piloting P-40s and then, for the majority of his time in service, flying the ultimate war plane, the Mustang P-51. (Okay, the Brits may argue with me on that one, defending the very worthy and impressive Spitfire, in which the R.A.F. pilots won the crucial Battle of Britain.);
  • History and great historical fiction, especially the incredible history of the British isles and the great historical fiction about our cousins across the pond – I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before here, but I’m sort of a British royal history geek, reading everything from Shakespeare’s plays to Anne Weir and Eric Ives to Jean Plaidy and Phillipa Gregory and watching every movie from The Private Life Of Henry VIII (starring Charles Laughton and directed-produced by Alexander Korda) to The Lion In Winter (starring Peter O’Toole as Henry II, Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitane, Anthony Hopkins as the future King Richard “The Lionhearted” I, and Timothy Dalton as France’s King Phillip II) to various Masterpiece Theatre productions – Glenda Jackson in Elizabeth R – to Cate Blanchett and Helen Mirren’s turns as the Virgin Queen. Not to forget Ms. Mirren in the 2006 movie The Queen.

And there was a time when I loved what are commonly referred to as “bodice-rippers,” i.e., romance novels. You know the ones I mean, the one with the covers of some impossibly gorgeous man of a past era with impossibly gorgeous pecs holding a beautiful, sensuous, and amply endowed woman dressed in a disarrayed bodice (hence the term “bodice ripper”). Also referred to as “soft-porn,” these books are formulaic, usually involving a young and innocent heroine and a rich, powerful man who she initially and distinctly H-A-T-E-S, but with whom she eventually, and eternally, fall in love. The seduction of the heroine happens frequently, and, I have to admit here, that some of the sex scenes are I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E, giving Fifty Shades Of Grey a run for its money; I can heartily recommend, for those of you interested in “genteelly” getting your rocks off, The Flame And The Flower by Katherine Woodiwiss, Sweet Savage Love and its sequels by Rosemary Rodgers, and the hottest, most licentious, incredibly sweaty and sexy Skye O’Malley series by Bertrice Small.

But The Flame And The Flower was first published in 1972, Sweet Savage Love in 1974, and Skye O’Malley in 1981. IM-not-so-HO, these were the books that really started off the craze, but since then the romance genre has been flooded with thousands of knock-offs by, again, IM-not-so-HO, too many really, really lousy writers incapable of really, really, sweat-inducing bedroom (and other places) scenes, and, again, IM-not-so-HO, the genre has suffered.

In other words… I was turned off. Not turned on.

Which is why I never picked up Outlander.

Which, BTW, was in a sub-sub-genre of bodice rippers called “time-travel romance,” which was a sub-genre of bodice rippers called “science fiction romance.”

Yeeeccch!

But…

When I read that the adaptation of Outlander was being exec-produced by Ron Moore – he of some of ST: The Next Generation’s best episodes, including “Best Of Both Worlds Part I,” and of course, of the reboot of Battlestar Galatica, my “on button” went green.

So this past Saturday, August 9th, at 9 P.M., I turned on the TV and went to the Starz channel.  And guess what?

Not only wasn’t I not disappointed… I was intrigued.

First off, the production is shot on location in Scotland. Scotland is beautiful, eerie, and full of history.

Second, Mr. Moore introduces us to the heroine, Claire Beacham Randall, at work in the field hospitals of World War II. Mr. Moore added this scene, which apparently is not how the book opens; it should have. Right away the viewer knows who this woman is: brave, resourceful, knowledgeable, and able to stand on her own two feet.

Third, the first half-hour is dedicated to the relationship between Claire and her husband, Frank Randall, a historian. They have been separated by five years of war, and are trying to reconnect through a holiday in Scotland. And by watching them reconnect, we connect to them. Plus there is some hot sex between the pair, including a scene in which Frank goes down on Claire in an ancient, ruined Scottish castle.

Fourth, we believe Claire’s reaction to being thrust back into time and what initially happens to her there because, as I wrote, we already have a sense of what type of person Claire is, and we have become connected to her through the first half-hour.

Fifth, the Scots whom Claire meets speak Scottish as well as English; a nice bit of reality.

And, finally, that ancient, ruined castle pops up again. Only it’s not ruined, it’s not ancient, and its flags are flying over the turrets; a nice bit of foreshadowing by Mr. Moore…and, I’m presuming, Ms. Gabaldon, since I haven’t read the book.

But I will.

I just ordered in on Amazon.

Now I just have to decide if I want to read it before the next episode of Outlander airs this Saturday night.

 

The Point Radio: OUTLANDER Is Coming – Soon!

For OUTLANDER fans, the wait is almost over. The mega big book series hits the Starz Network in just a couple of weeks (with a sneak preview on August 2nd). Producer Ronald Moore and author Diana Gabaldon talk about the road from book to camera. Plus actor Jay Hernandez, from the Fox summer hit GANG RELATED, talks about making good choices in acting roles and Marvel revives Tony Stark’s ego.

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE on ANY mobile device (Apple or Android). Just  get the free app, iNet Radio in The  iTunes App store – and it’s FREE!  The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE  – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.