#DefyingGravity Eats #FlashForward Dust

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Oh dear. Just when I was actually beginning to care about the cast of Defying Gravity, it was cancelled half-way through the first season. I was a little annoyed about this as #DefyingGravity on Twitter was fast becoming a weekly ritual; a group of us die-hard sci-fi viewers scoffing at the science atrocities the ABC show was inflicting on us. In fact, the bad science, when coupled with a spaceship full of horny crew mates (a.k.a. friends with benefits… why not?) almost made it compelling viewing (almost).

Apart from hammering home the inevitability of astronauts having sex in space, I almost stood up and cheered when, in the last episode (called “Love, Honor, Obey“), the cast did a great job at explaining the quantum physics thought experiment, Schrödinger’s cat. As the crew was stuck inside a shielded compartment to protect themselves against an impending solar flare (it turned out to be a false alarm), mission control had no way to communicate with the crew. Steve Wassenfelder, the out-of-shape physicist, likened the crew to Schrödinger’s cat; to mission control, as they had no way of knowing whether they were alive or dead, the crew were in fact alive and dead. Clever.

The show also handled the solar flare event pretty well, although they avoided a lot of the details (but kept it within the realms of possibility, as opposed to some movies I won’t mention).

Then, after some fractal tomato plants (I didn’t say all the science was kosher), the crew opened mysterious Pod 4 to see…

…I don’t know what they saw as that was the cliff-hanger of the last episode. I’m sure I’ll end up watching it on Hulu.com, but I don’t think it will be the same without mocking it live on Twitter with the #DefyingGravity contributors (you know who you are).

Then, as quickly as Defying Gravity dropped off our screens, another compelling sci-fi series appears on ABC featuring a competent-looking cast (led by Joseph Fiennes and John Cho). It’s called FlashForward, and after only the first episode, I’m hooked. It’s actually the same feeling I had when I watched the very first episode of Heroes.

In FlashForward, we start off in Los Angeles, looking into several people’s lives, when suddenly the entire planet blacks out for 2mins 17seconds. During that time, everyone has a vision of 6 months into the future.

The series is based on the 1999 novel Flashforward by Canadian science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer, and the premise is pure sci-fi joy. In fact, I was lucky enough to be sent a behind the scenes video by Times.com science comedian Brian Malow (be warned, there’s a fairly huge spoiler, but it’s an awesome spoiler that will get you nodding with joy… but you’ve been warned):

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9/29650554001?isVid=1&publisherID=293884104

Robert J. Sawyer calls himself a “hard science fiction writer,” so it will be very interesting to see how the show deals with the speculative quantum-conciousness link. Still, it has to be better than that silly mag grav idea in Defying Gravity.

In other news: The lovely Eliza Dushku will live-tweet during the season 2 premier of Dollhouse (on FOX) if she gathers 100,000 Twitter followers before it airs… in 20 minutes on the West Coast. She’s only on about 92,000 at the moment, so it’s not looking likely. Still, I’ll be watching!

I finally have my sci-fi schedule back on track!

If I Was A TV-Loving Alien, I’d Live In 40 Eridani

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16.5 light years away, a revolution in sci-fi television programming is about to explode to life… Yes, it really is that exciting. Almost like a tsunami approaching a peaceful shore, island inhabitants totally unaware of its impending arrival, the triple star system of 40 Eridani is about to be bathed in a very special terrestrial signal…

So why am I getting so excited for this random star system? Well, 15 years ago, the awesome five-season show Babylon 5 aired in the US and the UK. For me, B5 formed a watershed of my love for sci-fi. In fact, you could say I was a teenage Babylonoholic, I couldn’t get enough of it.

Today, I see the superb graphic on Obtuse Goose (after being pointed to Phil’s Bad Astronomy post by Greg “Weird Things” Fish), showing the local star systems to the Solar System and what they are watching.

Watching? Yes.

As we transmit electromagnetic signals over the airwaves for our television viewing pleasure, we’ve also been leaking it into space. As the signal travels at the speed of light, the maximum distance our TV signal would have travelled is about 80 light years (we started leaking in the 1930’s). By that reasoning, our TV shows should have reached Aldebaran by now.

Unfortunately, the aliens of Aldebaran have a rather limited choice of TV shows… at the moment they’re probably putting up with Nazi Germany’s propaganda broadcasts (like in Jodie Foster’s Contact). Things are far more exciting in 40 Eridani… they’re about to get flooded by the first season of Babylon 5! Sure, there’s lots of other things to watch in the expanse of 80 light years, but if I had to choose, I’d be prepping my TV aerial and stocking the fridge in time for 5 years of awesome sci-fi on a world orbiting one of the three 40 Eridani stars…

Source: Obtuse Goose, via Bad Astronomy, via Greg.

Pictures from the Red Dwarf Set

Robert Llewellyn (Kryton), Chris Barrie (Rimmer) and Danny John-Jules (The Cat) on the set of Coronation Street (Dave)
Robert Llewellyn (Kryton), Chris Barrie (Rimmer) and Danny John-Jules (The Cat) on the set of Coronation Street (Dave)

Behind the scene pictures of the forthcoming mini-series of the UK space comedy, Red Dwarf, have just been released by the Dave channel. TV comedies are out of the remit of Astroengine, but Red Dwarf will always have a special Astroengine.com VIP Pass. Why? Because it’s awesome.

The pictures above were taken on the Coronation Street set (a UK soap, that I also miss terribly) during the making of the upcoming Easter pair of episodes in April. For me, seeing the cast back together, after nearly a decade apart, is great. I loved each series (although the original four seasons were probably the best in my opinion) and I can’t wait to see how these new episodes turn out.

Smegging fantastic!

For more, check out “They’re (Not) Dead Dave…” – Red Dwarf Returns!

Source: Dave

“They’re (Not) Dead Dave…” – Red Dwarf Returns! (Update)

Chris Barrie (front), Craig Charles, Robert Llewellyn and Danny John-Jules (back), plus computerized Hattie Hayridge (series 3-5)
Chris Barrie (front), Craig Charles, Robert Llewellyn and Danny John-Jules (back), plus computerized Hattie Hayridge (series 3-5)

I don’t usually post stuff about TV shows, but this is HUGE news.

Besides, Red Dwarf was the best sci-fi sitcom, and it still is the BEST SCI-FI SITCOM to grace the TV in the UK ever since the mining spaceship Red Dwarf‘s crew was wiped out by a radiation leak, 3 million years ago. Lister (played by Craig Charles), the last remaining crew member (who was held in suspended animation for the duration), is joined by Rimmer (a hologram of Lister’s despised crew mate, played by Chris Barrie) and a descendent from Lister’s pregnant cat, called… Cat (Danny John-Jules). As the second series progressed, the trio meet the mechanoid Kryten, played by Robert Llewellyn (who, incidentally, I leant this news from via @bobbyllew).

The first show was aired back in 1988 and it continued (for eight seasons) until 1999, and I was addicted to each and every episode. Red Dwarf taught me many things, including:

1) There is no Silicon Heaven.
2) Toasters should not be allowed to talk.
3) There’s no such thing as “brown alert”.
4) The BSc in “Arnold Rimmer BSc” stands for “Bronze Swimming Certificate”.
5) Kryten has some amazing uses for his groin attachment.

So it looks like there will be a returning Easter special of two episodes, plus another two improvised episodes that will be done in front of a live audience! Alas, I’ll be in the US when it airs on the UKTV Channel Dave in April, but I will be sure to get it recorded!

For more info, check out The Guardian coverage of this superb news. Also, check out the Red Dwarf website, it’s just brought back some superb memories.

UPDATE: The Dave Channel Overlord just left a message informing me that Dave will be “revealing an exclusive piece of news from the production set every Wednesday at noon at http://www.joindave.co.uk. Enjoy!” Hopefully this will also be accessible to the continentally-challenged individuals like myself who’ll be missing out on the live airing in the UK… is there any news the new episodes will be online?

Please Dave, polymorph Red Dwarf into joyful smegtastic streaming video… pleeeaase?

Guest Appearance on the TV Show Uncommon Sense, Episode 25

Following hot on the heels of episode #24 of Uncommon Sense, both Charles Parselle and myself discussed another batch of topics chosen by host Charlotte Laws. This time, we started out with politics (my personal favourite as you will probably tell from my expression, and the background to this can be found in my recent article “Politics Has Nothing To Do With Space Exploration” – Debate (Wear Safety Goggles)), where I had a rant about NASA (although I wish I’d studied Obama’s space policies more thoroughly!), then we drifted into the reasons why women dressed in red are more attractive to men, how deadly Black Friday became this year, alternative therapies (cue: rant about the perceived risk of radiation) and robotic soldiers.

Once again, Charles and I had little clue about what we’d be talking about, so there was a lot of spontaneous fun to be had. Thank you Charlotte again for inviting me on Uncommon Sense and for being a superb host, I think it’s a great format worthy of a prime time slot (I think we’ve found a replacement for The View!).

Guest Appearance on the TV Show Uncommon Sense, Episode 24

On Friday I was invited to appear on a local chat show called Uncommon Sense hosted by Charlotte Laws. Actually, I participated in two episodes back to back, discussing a whole host of topics. Uncommon Sense, broadcast over cable in the Los Angeles area, basically takes the form of a topic-based talk show where two guests have little idea about what is going to be discussed. It makes for a lively, fun and spontaneous show; I really, really enjoyed it. Plus it was a great chance to talk about something other than space science (although I did try to slip space in at any chance I had!).

For this 24th episode, it was a British-dominated affair with Charles Parselle, Charlotte and myself debating everything from daylight savings time influencing health/depression, child abandonment laws, cyber-bullying and cyberphobia (watch how I expertly forced my views on the 2012 Mayan prophecy into the end of the show! The hands say it all…). I was pretty clueless about the first two topics, which was fun in itself, but I got on my high-horse when we jumped into more familiar territory: cyberspace. Be sure to watch the whole thing, episode #24 leads very nicely into #25 (which I’ll post right now)…

Thank you Charlotte for inviting me on Uncommon Sense and thank you Charles for the debate and British camaraderie!