Battlestar Galactica Archive

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TV Review: Knights of Sidonia Season 2

As prophesied, I tore through the second season of Knights of Sidona over the Canada Day long weekend. It was something of a bizarre experience. While Sidonia’s first season is a good, if occasionally weird, piece of hard science fiction, the second season is a different type of monster. On paper, the series is still a space opera about mecha pilots protecting humanity from an enemy that destroyed the earth. In practice, Sidonia’s second season opens the door for a lot more slice-of-life story telling, placing any military drama firmly on the back burner.

NB: I’m not going to explain season one in this review. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you go watch it. As for watching season two…whelp…

The second season begins shortly after Sidona’s battle with the Guana cluster. Unlike the first season, which took an episode or two to introduce the audience to the seed ship and the bio-hacked humans who dwell within her, season two, subtitled “The Battle for Planet Nine” opens with intrigue, plotting, and a looming sense of bad things about to happen to the last remnants of humanity. All this culminates in the early introduction of a new character, Tsumugi, a Guana-Human hybrid.

This addition hints that the series will dig into the idea of Sidona’s human population, particularly its civilians, rejecting the hybrid and the captain’s turn toward heretical science. As it happens, Sidona’s hatred for Tsumugi lasts but a single episode. When Tsumugi’s capacity for killing Guana proves even greater than Nagate’s, the ever feckless citizens of Sidonia put away their protest placards and conveniently forget that the last Gauna-Human hybrid experiment nearly destroyed the ship. In the span of twenty minutes, the plot goes from an angry mob ready to lynch the hybrid, Kunato – her “father”, and Captain Kobyashi, to accepting Tsumugi as their personal savior. Sorry, Nagate.

From those good vibrations stem a decided change of focus for the middle episodes of the season. Though there are still a few battles here and there, the protracted second act is largely devoted to exploring teenage angst. Ever the typical anime protagonist, Nagate is utterly oblivious to the fact that Izana, his gender neutral best friend, is in love with him. In fact, Izana’s feelings are so powerful she transitions from “middle gender” to female. Given the way Izana is introduced in the first season, and some of the shit she takes from people just for being herself, this transformation is, rightly, a profound moment of change for the character. Yet in true anime fashion, Izana’s transition is handled with all the dignity of a drunk Bostonian yelling “Baba Booey” at a wedding. At one point she literally explodes out of her space suit because – wait for it – her newly formed boobs caused her space suit to explode. Boobs = space suit explosions. I guess I missed that scene in Gravity.

Likewise, Izana and Nagate can’t have a relationship unfold along honest lines because this is anime, and there has to be a jealous third party. In this case, Sidona’s acting first officer plays the role of petty envy monger. Yuhata pulls rank to move in with Izana and Nagate, despite never making a move for Nagate’s attention. When did Nagate change his name to Jack Tripper? That’s right, I made a Three’s Company reference. That’s how fucking shameless KoS has got with things.

I remember when this used to be a show about fighter pilots. Back when Izana would give Nagate a telling off not because he is oblivious to her feelings, but because his ace pilot skills preclude him from seeing how much she, and every other pilot, fears dying alone in the cockpit of a garde. Those were the days when Nagate’s obsession with the Hoshijro-ena was a by-product of the guilt he felt for not being able to protect Hoshijiro in battle against the Guana. There was a Battlestar Galactica meets 2001 A Space Odyssey feeling to the way the series blended the staples of mecha anime with actual physics. Now space battles and the novelty of Sidonian civilization, a place where resource scarcity required genetically engineering humans to photosynthesize, take a back seat to feelings.

Also, tentacles. Holy shit, so many tentacles. Not in the hentai sort of way, mind you. Even though the Guana are weird pink blob monsters whose primary means of attack are tentacles, those images never seemed particularly weird in season one. I am, however, acutely aware of it in season two. Perhaps it has something to do with Tsumugi, who is the size of a Sidonian Garde, stretching out a face tentacle whenever she interacts with Nagate or Izana. If it feels odd for you to imagine a Guana-Human hybrid stretching a face tentacle through Sidonia’s endless labyrinth of pipes so it can have a slumber party at Nagate’s house, imagine how it feels watching it happen. And if that’s not enough to make you go, “Umm, what?” the season’s final battle sequence includes a Guana’s human ena sliding her tongue tentacles (plural!) into Nagate’s mouth while choking him. What in the actual fuck?

All of this is happening while a mad scientist – the one who nearly destroyed Sidonia with his hybrid experiments – is using brain parasites to assimilate Sidona’s crew with the memories of his past associates. Between the Guana and this human threat, there should be no shortage of material to make for a solid second season. Instead, we end up with two distinct moods for Sidonia’s second chapter. One is distinctly juvenile and flighty yet weird and off-putting. The other wants to be a hard scrabble science fiction series, but it’s markedly toned down from its roots.

While I won’t go so far as to write off  the second season, I will say the series doesn’t feel anywhere near as unique  as when it started. Tonally, KoS might as well be Gundam Seed/Gundam Seed Destiny. If that sort of thing works for you, and you’re good with mouth and face tentacles, then you’ll probably enjoy the second season. However, if you’re expecting the second season to be more of the thoughtful anime meets Battlestar Galactica of the first season, I’d brace for some disappointment.

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First Impressions of Ascension

In deference to my policy of giving a television series three episodes before putting pen to paper on a review, I won’t go so far as to say if I think SyFy’s Ascension is either good or bad. Bearing in mind this is a six-episode mini-series, I’ll probably watch the whole thing before daring to offer a review. However, I feel no reason to hold back on expressing all the ways Ascension’s premiere episode felt like a terrible first date.

It’s not you, Ascension. It’s me, I don’t like you. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t bother seeing you again, but my good friend Battlestar Galactica is telling me I should get to know you a little better.

Sexy sex is sexy, except for when it isn’t sexy.

There’s nothing more un-sexy than the implied nudity and simulated sex of prime time television. Though I left the room a few times to refill my drink, I recall three scenes of grunting and dry humping. As I don’t watch soap operas, I leave it to the internet to tell me if Ascension’s sex to non-sex ratio is in the neighborhood of daytime television.

Sexy sex tells us things about the story.

I suppose Ascension puts half the speaking cast in bed together as a juvenile attempt to show the series’ edge – like a fifteen-year-old who speaks like they are fresh off the set of The Departed. For my part, and in light of exposition telling me the ship’s complement is 600 people, I’m left to ponder if Ascension is crewed by swingers. We should also make note of Tricia Helfer’s character – I can’t be bothered to learn names at this point – running an executive escort service under the guise of ship’s stewardesses. The concept worked so very well in Pan Am, and that’s why the show is still on today, right?

Since Ascension’s narrative motif is modeled after America absent civil rights and second wave feminism, objectification of the female body is presented as standard fare – up to and including a two-girl one-guy threesome. Make no mistake, there’s no subversive commentary during this scene. The series is wanking walking on the knife’s edge of good taste, culminating in a faux-naked Tricia Helfer lifelessly faking an orgasm astride a man old enough to be her father. The whole proceeding lands somewhere between sad and hilarious.

In Space, Nobody Can Hear You Derp.

Here’s the thing about setting a show in space; the more a series bites its thumb at science, the harder I have to work to keep my suspension of disbelief from shattering. With my brain in gear, I’m much more likely to catch the little things a series does wrong. You may call it pedantry, I call it a series failing to keep me in the moment.

We’re told the good ship Ascension was built using 1960s technology, modeled after the Orion engine – a system where controlled nuclear explosions would propel a ship forward. Ascension, however, is built and organized like a skyscraper. The command deck is the penthouse suite, and each floor below it houses some instrumentality of the ships function. Does anybody see where I’m going with this?

There is no way to have gravity on Ascension given the way the ship is built.

Conventional wisdom says rotate the ship along its long axis to make simulated gravity. The crew would then live in a series of concentric rings inside the ship a la Babylon 5. The only other alternative for creating gravity on Ascension would be to have the ship’s engines burning at a constant 1G of thrust for half the journey to Proxima Centuri. The second half of the trip would have Ascensions burning its engines in the opposite direction. Even if nuclear explosions could generate a consistent 1G of thrust – they can’t because NUCLEAR EXPLOSIONS - the amount of fissionable material necessary to executive a maneuver like that boggles the mind.

Irrelevant of if details like this matter to an individual viewer, they speak to the depth and complexity invested in the series’ writing. If the creators and writers are content to fly free and loose with the laws of physics, I have no reason to believe they will do any better crafting the murder-mystery that seems to be the only driving force in the show.

Never mention Fallout

To call Ascension unoriginal is to engage in a crime of understatement. Everything, and I mean everything, this show does stems from a better work of science fiction. Therein, a considerable source of inspiration is the video game Fallout.

Fallout posits an alternate timeline where the atomic age brought about a technological evolution through fusion power. It also fixated American culture on the 1950s. Ascension is doing the exact same thing albeit with the 60s. Unlike Fallout, Ascension isn’t giving us any sense of a unique culture emanating from the familiar touch stone. Is it so hard to believe that a closed community would develop and evolve along a new trajectory? Am I to believe the ship’s harem stewardesses, for example, would be content with their lot after half a century of listless banging and putting on pretty clothes? Nonsense.

Humans, even humans removed from Earth, are creatures of story and flux. The ship’s crew would build its own rites, rituals, traditions, and culture. Ascension’s library should be filled to bursting not with the tripe of 20th century pulp fiction, but with two generations of stories, art, and music. The idea that they are somehow stuck in the 60s is as laughable as amusing as the Brendan Fraser movie with the bunker.

Meanwhile on Earth

A dad gives his son a stern talking to about telling someone to “die in a fire” via text message.

“Every message you send contributes to the greater world,” says Father Knows Best.

I wonder, when does a member of GI Joe come out of nowhere to warn me against the dangers of using the stove when my parents aren’t around?

We who are about to watch terrible television, salute you

Rarely does a single hour of television offend my sensibilities so fully and completely. Perhaps Ascension will get better. Certainly, it would have to make an effort to be worse.


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Fighting Words – Episode 12 – You’re Doing It Wrong

Hello, internet, and welcome back for another episode of Fighting Words, the fastest non-libertarian themed podcast on the internet.

In this episode, we’re talking about how not to write the good guys in a movie that is supposed to be a light-hearted battle of good versus evil. Spoiler alert: you don’t do it like Guardians of the Galaxy.

That’s right, I’m that guy. The guy who didn’t think that Guardians of the Galaxy was a high watermark for the marvel cinematic universe. I’m also the guy who liked The Incredible Hulk. Because at least Ed Norton’s Hulk made more sense than Mark Rufalo saying that he’s angry all the time. If Banner is angry all the time then he should be the Hulk all the time. That’s how it works, Joss Whedon.

Remember, you can subscribe to Fighting Words on iTunes and get a new episode downloaded to your iDevice each and every week every couple of weeks.

Here’s the audio.

Right click and save here to download an exclusive download of Experiment in F Minor, the first song from my upcoming album “Songs of the Mouth”

Music Credits

“Pump Sting” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/


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Pegasus Revisited: On Battlestar Galactica, Narrative, and Sexual Assault

Many years ago, I think it was during the TV writers strike of 2007-2008, I introduced a friend of mine to Ron Moore’s remake of Battlestar Galactica. Though she wasn’t much for science fiction, I convinced her to give BSG a shot. She was a big fan of Firefly;I found BSG to be superior to Firefly, so by the transitive property, she should have also loved Battlestar. She approved of my logic, and I handed over my season 1 and 2 DVDs.

Weeks passed. We traded a few emails on various episodes. I spent a considerable amount of time apologizing for Tigh me up, Tigh me down. Overall, she liked what she saw, until she got to Season 2 Episode 10, Pegasus. On that day she called me and told me to pick up my DVDs as she was finished with the show.

Picking up my DVDs took about six hours as it led to coffee, dinner, and drinks as she prosecuted BSG for its use of rape as a narrative device.

At the time, I was more a fanboy than a critic, so I didn’t really hear what my friend was trying to say about that particular scene. I defended the show, and I defended the writing. Because if those things were faulty, then I might be faulty for liking it, and we couldn’t have that now, could we?

Now, half a decade later – and hopefully a bit wiser – I want to offer up what my half of that conversation should have been. Let’s start with the obvious, and then move into the more murky waters.

First and foremost, I whole heartedly reject the notion that rape and sexual assault can’t be used as narrative instruments. Terrible though they may be, these sorts of things happen in our world. Art gives us a safe lens to explore why these things happen and how we, as a society, respond – or ought to respond – to them. The opposite side of this coin is that sexual assault is too often used as a lazy gimmick for attempting to convey the evil nature of a person or people. I see this in my work as a submissions editor, and I have seen it in the novels and short stories that I have reviewed, or refused to review, over the years.

Sufficed to say, my golden rule when it comes to rape and sexual assault in fiction is quite simple: if you’re going use it, then it has to do something other than send up a “this is a bad person” signal flare. It should also go without saying that a rape scene, in any medium, should always be written as a violation. It must not be used to glorify or sensationalize the act.

There are two incidents of sexual assault in Pegasus. In the case of Pegasus’ Gina/Number Six Cylon, the assault is implied. For Galatica’s Sharon Cylon, the assault is witnessed. Despite the differences, both incidences are brutal and as far from a glorification as can be. When we’re introduced to Number Six she is a bound, battered, and near-catatonic person. Sharon, though a captive, is afforded the status of a prisoner of war on Galactica. In the broad strokes, Sharon’s rape at the hands of Lt. Thorne is primarily a means of illustrating the differences between the command styles of Commander Adama and Admiral Cain. Granted Admiral Cain had some personal reasons for ordering the mistreatment of her Cylon prisoner, but we don’t find out about any of those until Battlestar Galactica: Razor, so I would file that character development as not relevant to this discussion.

Since Sharon’s rape is functionally an “us versus them, and they are terrible” moment, I don’t know that it meets my criteria for effective use of sexual assault. Between Colonel Fisk’s story about Admiral Cain shooting her executive officer for refusing an order, the inflexibility of the Pegasus’ CAG, and Admiral Cain’s interference in Adama’s command, the writing very clearly shows “us versus them” without resorting to rape.

However, it could be argued that Sharon’s rape at the hands of Lt. Thorne is what ultimately what catalyzes conflict between Pegasus and Galactica – thus it has value beyond showing the Pegasus’ crew as bunch of dicks. Indeed, I have made that argument many times. However, Adama doesn’t launch Vipers against Cain because of the way she treats Cylon prisoners. He pushes the fleet to the point of a shooting war because Cain wants to execute Helo and Chief Tyrol for inadvertently killing Lt. Thorne when they came to Sharon’s defense. Sharon’s mistreatment is secondary to Adama’s loyalty to his crew and/or his refusal to be undermined by Admiral Cain.

Granted, the fallout from Sharon’s and Gina’s abuse becomes more important in the episodes after Pegasus. Within the limits of the episode, itself, these abuses only exist to drive home the point that the crew of the Pegasus will do the unspeakable to survive. On that count, it’s not looking good for Pegasus. Even though these abuses are properly aligned with the series’ ongoing motif of humanity as its own worst enemy, which is why they aren’t a tonal abnormality for the series, I don’t think they have enough depth to justify their own existence. Arguably, Admiral Cain could have extradited Helo and Tyrol on the grounds that both have consorted with the enemy, and the Chief is inadvertently responsible for letting a suicide bomber on to the Galactica. We could have got to the shooting war without having to sacrifice Sharon’s humanity, so to speak, on the altar of plot progression.

As for Gina/Number Six, I would submit that hearing the Pegasus’ crew talking about giving her a little of the “oh yeah, oh yeah” is banging too hard on the drum of misery. One of the most powerful moments of the series is when Gaius Baltar offers a plate of food to the abused Cylon. It is some of James Callis’ and Tricia Helfer’s best acting, bar none. The tight shot of Tricia Helfer’s hand reaching for a piece of fruit is the definition of Mise-en-scene. We don’t the dialogue and exposition from throw-away characters as antecedent to that moment. Television is a visual medium and the visuals are strong enough to stand on their own merit in that moment.

So my dear friend, Jennifer, I think you were much more on the mark in your analysis of Pegasus than I was, all those years ago. I apologize for being such a pig-headed git.


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On Star Trek TNG and Pulling the Trigger

I’m going to come clean on this one; the new job has been kicking my ass. Today I channeled my inner Jack Ryan before giving a presentation to a room of people situated well above my pay grade, and the majority of whom were, I suspect, much smarter than yours truly. On the up side, I didn’t get laughed out of the lecture hall, and the boss was happy with my work. Advantage: Shaftoe.

The bad news is that a few extra hours in the office cut into this week’s “to review” list. I hope you’ll find it within your heart to forgive me for doing the best I can with the material at hand.

To wit: every morning before going to work I watch the first half of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. This morning I logged about twenty-seven minutes of Legacy. Legacy sees a shuttle brimming with red shirts crashing on Turkana IV, home world of the late Lt. Tasha Yar.

For those who don’t recall, Turkana IV is one of TNG’s few and fleeting attempts to add a dark underbelly to the Federation’s socialist utopia. More specifically, Turkana IV is presented as a failed nation. The world was a member of the Federation before seceding for undisclosed reasons. Canon then records the planet’s descent into a lawless hellscape. Apparently, the Federation Council was content to wash its hands of the entire situation. PS: who wants to guess how many terrible fanfics have been written about Turkana IV?

A Season One episode of TNG, captured in the above picture, gives us a flashback to Tasha’s life on Turkana. Therein, the audience is introduced to the concept of a “rape gang,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Cut to a young Lt. Yar hiding in a tunnel, cradling a mangy cat. She sets the cat free just as a hooting bunch of men with flashlights come around the corner. What follows goes without saying or showing. The scene, though almost a throwaway, is creepy as fuck with its implications that Tasha is about to get violated seven ways from Romulus.

Upon arriving at Turkana in Season Four, Picard dispatches the obligatory away team. True to Trek form, the Captain doesn’t send in twenty-five heavily armed security officers. Instead, he beams in Riker, Data, Worf, and Doctor Crusher. Worf, being the only sensible one in the bunch, reminds everybody that Turkana IV is a god forsaken shit hole. He further questions the wisdom of sending the good Doctor in the first wave, what with all the rape gangs. A “Shut up, Worf” moment ensues and off goes the episode on a wild series of loosely connected tangents.

Based upon what I saw, and what I remember, Legacy is far from a stand out episode of Trek. In my estimation, TNG was at its worst when exploring Data’s non-existent feelings. What stuck with me was the episode’s blink-and-miss-it return to the idea of rape gangs.

At first, I thought that the series missed an opportunity to pull the trigger on a much more emotionally resonant story. Legacy presents a version of Turkana IV that is a tea party compared to what Lt. Yar described. Why not show the audience what a failed future state actually looks like? Why not prove Worf correct, for once, and force Picard to send in the (space) marines?

In a post Battlestar Galactica world it’s easy to be cynical about Star Trek: TNG not pulling the trigger on rape gangs, implied as they may be. Nor should we forget that Season Six of TNG saw David Warner gracing the series for a torture porn/1984 episode. Five years after that, DS9′s The Siege of AR-558 would see  Starfleet security officers make necklaces of ketracel-white tubes plucked from dead Jem’Hadar. So I’ll put it to you, dear reader, did TNG push the envelope with its talk of rape gangs and failed nations in Legacy? Or did it run screaming from the edge of dark sci-fi and back into the comforting tropes of android-human empathy, only later poking its nose back into darker territory?


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Star Drunk: A Short Film that Delivers on What It Promises

Sometimes the internet presents something so utterly bizarre that it is impossible to ignore. Thus do I tip my hat to Beverly Bambury for linking me to Star Drunk: Space Alien V.

This short film purports to be both written by drunk people and also performed, without revisions to the booze soaked script, by actors in a similar state of inebriation. The production itself was sponsored by New Deal Distillery, a Portland based producer of craft vodka, gin, and liqueurs. PS to New Deal Distillery, call me if you ever want to sponsor a drunk podcast.

Star Drunk’s acting and writing certainly do seem inspired by a fair measure of liquid creativity. There’s an expected amount of slurring, stammering, and utterly nonsensical dialogue. The best comedic moments occur when stopping to ponder on if an actor botched a line, or if a writer intentionally got it wrong. As much as these instances are quite chuckle worthy, I think they’re somewhat dwarfed by the movie’s amazing post-production work.

There is a blink-and-miss-it battle sequence which matches anything seen in Battlestar Galactica. As well, and for want of a better adjective, there’s a distinct “cool” factor in the main starships’ design. The bow looks like two Star Wars Dreadnaughts fused together with the aft section of the Battlestar Pegasus. Quite honestly, I think the special effects might steal the show from the hammered cast.

Star Drunk also has me wondering if drunken comedy is becoming more of a touchstone within the pop culture spectrum. The obvious point of comparison here is Comedy Central’s Drunk History. Though the one thing that Drunk History brings to the table that’s missing from Star Drunk, and perhaps the essential selling point of “drunk” comedy, is having the sober straight man.

If everybody in a room is drunk, as is the case in Star Drunk, then, then there’s no chance for outsider/pariah driven comedy. In those situations the booze hound can be seen to say what the sober people are thinking but unwilling to speak aloud. Alternatively, the drunkard can demonstrate a comedic (in)ability to function because of their intoxication. Or if neither of those two options fit the scene, there’s always an appeal to schadenfreude; I would direct you to the landmark case of Kenny v. Spenny’s season two episode “Who can drink the most beer?

Is the trope slapsticky and juvenile? Perhaps. Does it glorify alcohol abuse to the point that some buzz kill will inevitably feel the need to talk about how alcohol addiction ruins lives and destroys families? Quite likely. Would I watch a whole web series of Star Drunk? Almost certainly, and I don’t think I would feel bad about it, either. So to the cast and crew of Space Drunk I say good on you for putting it out there. Now let’s have another round.

Star Drunk: Space Alien V

Directed by Chris R Wilson and Zach Persson

Written by Chris R Wilson, Zach Persson, Jacqueline Gault, Tim Feeney, Roman Battan, and Josh Persson

Starring: Greg James, Adam Elliot Davis, Kyle Smith, Britt Harris. Alexander Fraser, Bethany Jacobs


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Essential Genre Music Volume 2

That’s right, it’s time for “Essential Genre Music Volume 2”.

I’ve pulled together fifteen (mostly instrumental) selections from television, movies, games, and anime for this ultra nerdy “what if” CD.

So without further ado, let’s get right into some tunes.

The title track – Icarus – Deus Ex Human Revolution Soundtrack – Michael McCann – 2011

McCann’s work on the Deus Ex: HR soundtrack earned him “best in music” nominations in the Canadian Video Game Awards and the BAFTA’s Video Game Awards. It’s a haunting and powerful piece of music that serves as the perfect complement to Eidos Montreal’s recent post-human masterpiece.

Track 2 – Terran Suite #2 – Starcraft soundtrack – Derek Duke and Glen Stafford – 1998

Why this particular piece? Because every time I set out to build something from Ikea, this is the tune that starts playing through my head. More than iconic, the Terran Suite is a touchstone to the very roots of Starcraft’s success as a piece of contemporary mythology.

Track 3 – Tank – The Seatbelts – 1998

If I had to guess, “Tank” is probably second to the Space Battleship Yamato anthem as the most remixed/covered song to emerge from an anime series. It’s also the benchmark for any saxophone players who want to prove their musical chops while simultaneously establishing their nerd cred.

Track 4 – Blade Runner’s End Theme – Vangelis – 1982

I don’t know why I didn’t think to put this on the first volume of essential genre music. In the thirty years since the song was first heard by human ears, it has become the godfather of music to all things cyberpunk.

Track 5 – Inner Universe – Origa – 2002

Perhaps not as iconic as “Making of a Cyborg”, the title track to 1995’s Ghost in the Shell, Inner Universe, from the 2002′s Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, has always stood out in my mind as a fascinating song. Setting aside the fact that the lyrics are in Russian, Latin, and English, I’m told the range required to hit all the notes is quite challenging.

Track 6 – Doomsday – Murray Gold – 2006

Yes yes, the actual Doctor Who theme song is awesome. But there’s more to the musical history of the recent series than various takes on a fifty year old tune. As performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, “Doomsday” is tied with “Vale Decem” as the musical high point of David Tennant’s time in the TARDIS.

Track 7 – Audi Famam Illius – Nobuo Uematsu – 2006

Famed Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu lent his talents to “Audi Famam Illius”, the theme song to Super Smash Brothers Brawl. Too bad the game is nowhere near as epic (it’s actually very pointless) as the music.

Track 8 – Prelude to War – Bear McCreary – 2005

The rebooted Battlestar Galactica reached its zenith with the second season cliff-hanger “Pegasus”. There, I said it, and I don’t care how much fan rage it gets me. After Admiral Cain died it was all downhill, albeit at a gentle gradient. This song, which built to an epic crescendo during Adama and Cain’s camera-pan face off, accompanies not only the best moment of the series, but arguably one the finest moments in television this side of the 20th century.

Track 9 – Enterprising Young Men – Michael Giacchino – 2009

Giacchino made a bold decision when he abandoned Alexander Courage’s influence in crafting a new Star Trek theme. Though Courage’s score would be remixed into the ending credits, “Enterprising Young Men” became the headline refrain for Trek’s alternate timeline. Like it or not, it’s here now.

Track 10 – S’il Vous Plait – Fantastic Plastic Machine – 1997

You may not recognize the name, but fans of the British series Spaced will know the song. It’s a song to be played in moments of pure, unrivaled joy. Such moments include getting around giving notice at a job by telling your boss that Babylon 5 is shit (not actually true) so that he fires you.

Track 11 – Bishop’s Countdown – Aliens Soundtrack – James Horner – 1986

I don’t know if it’s fair to say that one track on this album is superior to another. Consider that I haven’t watched Aliens in a couple of years, but I could tell you exactly what scene accompanies each piece of music on this CD. If that’s not the mark of a brilliant piece of musical accompaniment, I don’t know what is.

What’s that? You want me to name the scene where this track plays? Fah, child’s play.

This starts playing as Ripley emerges from the service elevator in LV 426’s fusion plant. With Newt in tow she yells out, “God damn you, Bishop,” suspecting that the synthetic has taken the Sulaco’s remaining dropship and fled. Ripley turns around to see the other service elevator, presumably containing the xenomorph queen, rising up. Low on ammo, she tells Newt to “Close your eyes, baby.” At the last second Bishop flies the dropship into the frame, allowing Ripley and Newt to escape. As the ship tries to break atmo, a computerized voice counts down to zero before the fusion plant explodes.

Track 12 – The Elder Scrolls Themes – Jeremy Soule – 2002, 2006, 2011

Since 2002, Jeremy Soule has been the composer on the hugely popular Elder Scrolls series of video games (Morrowwind, Oblivion, and Skyrim). I suppose I could have just used the Morrowwind theme since the other two are built upon its back, but listening to the evolution of ten years worth of work is just too fantastic to pass up. Also, the Skyrim bit makes me want to drink a lot of mead and pick a fight with somebody weaker than me, preferably in the East coast of England.

Track 13 – Still Alive – Jonathan Coulton – 2007

Unlike the cake, this song is not a lie.

Track 14 – Il dolce suono/The Diva Dance – Gaetano Donizetti, Salvadore Cammarano, and Eric Serra – 1997

Fun fact: The voice of Albanian opera-singer Inva Mula was dubbed over that of the actress playing the Diva in The Fifth Element. Luc Besson’s movies might not be the smartest thing out there, but it takes a certain kind of something to integrate opera into beating the piss out of aliens.

I know I promised a fifteenth track for this piece, but the chances are good that I’ve missed something that you think is absolutely essential. Therefore, track 15 is up to the readers. Leave a comment and telling the world what you think is absolutely essential genre listening.