GalacticMu

Press your spaceface close to mine

Stargate SG-1: Good for Wisdom Tooth Extractions

Posted by Sunday on Mar 26, 2009 at 4:34 pm

My relationship with SG-1 started as I imagine many have: I had no idea what was going on, so I ignored it.  Years passed.  I would find myself in hotel rooms or back home visiting parents — my only exposure to cable television – trying to watch the Stargate Channel Sci Fi Channel, wondering if they ever air anything but Stargate spinoffs.  It’s an idiosyncrasy of mine that I cannot watch a television show unless I watch it from the very first episode (and I despise skipping episodes) – I hate the feeling of tuning in for a single glimpse into what is probably a complex, varied and delicate storyline.  As you can imagine, broadcast television is difficult for me.

Somewhere in there I became convinced that the Stargates were terrible despite having never seen an entire episode.  Now I know the truth: yep, it’s not great.  As of today I am halfway through the first season of SG-1 (please, Jebus, tell me I can double up on these Darvocet) I can already tell you what every single episode is going to be like:

  • the team arrives on a planet of pre-industrial age people
  • of ethnicities that are similar too, but slightly evolved from, old Earth,
  • the team is mistaken for gods
  • (conversely, for demons),
  • there are minor hijinks due to cultural misunderstandings,
  • everyone learns a valuable lesson

I don’t have an issue with this set-up.  The concept of the Stargate itself is interesting in exactly the same way that Star Trek’s interplanetary travel is interesting: each week is a new chance for a totally new idea, a new set of risks and jokes, new costumes.  The longevity of any TV series is dependent on the writer’s ability to carry on – an ethereal skill that doesn’t have a set formula (Lost is stalling out and losing people while House, unchanged for five years, is better than ever).  According to my own logic, SG-1 should have something going for it.  I just can’t figure out what it is.

Maybe it’s the throbbing, swollen sockets talking, but I’m already bored with the show.  The acting is better than I expected, the special effects are fine, the writing has never devolved into abject idiocy (sometimes even Bones, another favorite of mine, is almost unforgivably absurd)  and every episode I watch I find myself checking my email, fiddling with CSS, editing photos.

One cause of my frustration is the shows tendency toward dropping plotlines into conversation that have zero exposition – I know, I know, I grouse about exposition all the time – with little-to-no follow-up.  I suspect this Story Bomb tactic of theirs is an attempt to avoid exposition, but they’ve swung too far the other direction.  In a weekly TV show, clumsy catch-up is a trade-off for time, one that viewers are generally willing to make.  An exceptional show can get around it (in a particular episode of House, for example, a character with the ability to accurately mimic every other character managed to advance the individual plotlines of each person through pure exposition without ever feeling like it), but most can’t.

Of course, I’m reserving my once-and-for-all judgement until I see Ben Browder and Claudia Black (of Farscape fame), not to mention Jewel Staite (of Firefly) and Robert Picardo (of Star Trek: Voyager) in the Stargate: Detroit Lilliput Atlantis series.  Because I’m a nerd and I get to have caveats like that.

9 Posted in TV

Mandatory Viewing

Posted by Sunday on Mar 19, 2009 at 4:49 pm

It should come as no surprise that of the few soft areas left in my heart, one of them is for Carl Sagan.  If it’s been a long time or – don’t even tell me if this is the case, my rage glands will burst – if you’ve never seen it, now’s your chance: Sagan’s seminal Cosmos is now playing at Hulu, all 13 episodes of it.

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Carry on, Space Buddy.  Carry on.  <–Just to give you an idea of what a nerd I am, typing that just unexpectedly made me cry.

[Update: and Quantum Leap and Dark Shadows! The Dark Shadows remake!]

WyTyFySyFy?

Posted by Sunday on Mar 16, 2009 at 8:28 pm

I’m certain every jackass and their dog will weigh in on the Sci Fi/Syfy Channel reveal, so we here at GalacticMu of course got straight to it, though our dog is a slow typer and will take a little longer.

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Dead.

If you haven’t caught it yet, the Sci Fi Channel has rebranded themselves as just Syfy, a move that triggers extreme suspicion on our part.  In fact, I’m having such a hard time keeping my thoughts wrangled that I need to start a list.

1.
Rebranding is almost always a bad idea.  Rebranding often comes in the face of waning interest, an attempt to catch up with the public’s new tastes.  This is most often seen in a product that hasn’t grown with it’s audience, allowing itself to become dated.  However, the network claims to have had it’s best year ever and thus, it has decided that it needed the phrase that makes my eyes shoot ochre jelly, the dreaded “reboot”.  This leaves us to ask, what for?  The problem with encouraging viewer/customer loyalty is that you can’t just go switching it all around every time a focus group says “duh”.

2.
The resounding implication that science fiction is lame.  How else are we to take it?  Sci Fi Channel’s own press release repeatedly throws around the phrase “imagination-based entertainment,” a phrase, I’m disturbed to have to point out, that just means “fiction”.  There’s an argument they seem to hover around making that science fiction just isn’t enough, pointing out that they are opening themselves up for programming that contains “(…) fantasy, supernatural, paranormal, reality, mystery, action and adventure.”  That sounds fine.  Except these things are all, with the exception of “reality” which triggers a Jonesie-vs-Alien hiss in me, still capable of being science fiction.  In fact, what they are implying is that scifi can’t be mysterious, or that scifi can’t be adventurous — which is totally wrong; science fiction is almost by definition mysterious, and has a long, rich history of adventure, action, the supernatural and the fantasic.  I’ve read the press release over and over again and what I keep coming away with is “We don’t want to be seen with you nerds anymore.”

3.
The Sci Fi Channel has pulled this shit before.  Remember, these are the people that canceled the popular and award-winning Farscape out of a grudge match and just last year announced that the whole channel needed to be “human, warmer, friendlier” in order to attract more female viewers.  (Meanwhile, Ghost Hunters, a profound piece of shit of a show, has been greenlit for a 6th season.)  On one hand they offer actual money for science fiction TV to be made (Jane Espenson [Buffy, BSG] and Rockne O’Bannon [Farscape] are teaming up this year on Warehouse 13, for nerd-boner example) but they don’t actually have a personal interest.  The idea is to have a hit, however they can aquire one.  There’s nothing stopping them from making a reality dating show, and I’m sure it’s a matter of months before that’s actually the case.

4.
Syfy?  I just don’t know, guys.   As friends of mine know, this is eerily close to my personal email address (sort of), but I wasn’t planning on launching a TV network with it.  I wish I could say I expected better of you, but I’d be lying.  Perhaps even worse is the new tagline, “Imagine Greater.”  First off, “greater” is a weird fucking word and no one wants to see it.  Secondly, imagine greater what?  Programming?  You guys are digging your own hole here.

Ultimately, I just don’t see these guys living this down any time soon.  Every time someone says the word Syfy they are going to draw it out in consonant-embarrassment, syeee-fyeee.  But I guess this is what happens when we let our shameful geek-habits out of the basement.

9 Posted in TV

No Really, Why Do They Sleep in Glass Coffins?

Posted by Sunday on Feb 16, 2009 at 8:44 pm

Occasionally I offend even myself, which is why I haven’t published anything about the much-awaited pilot of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse.  I made many attempts, to be sure, and none of them came close to the kind of straightforward summary that I can finally achieve:

It was okay.

I feel like a traitor.  I don’t know what else to say; it was just alright.  It felt like a pilot episode, which is to say: it felt grossly overworked and expository, and sadly I can think of recent television pilots that engaged me more (Lie to Me was instantly entertaining to me, for example, despite having similar flaws).   While watching, I distinctly remember thinking, “This is good,” and then immediately afterwards thinking, “Except, kind of not.”  Days later, I’m still in that headspace: it appealed to me in parts, and turned me off in others.

One of my thoughts was regarding the genre of shows where a large, rich clandestine operation exists wholly outside of the public eye.  And my inability to submerge myself into these stories.  My suspicious, conspiracy theorist side knows that in fact the great bulk of governments and corporations are totally occluded from the public eye (for each Enron scandal that makes CNN, how many go their quiet way?) but while watching Dollhouse I still mentally groused “What is stopping these millionares from spilling the beans about the Dollhouse when they’re drunk?  When they want attention?”  The whole scenario felt precarious and fragile, and I am already tired of the constant ‘will they be exposed – find out in the next episode of Dollhouse!’ plotline that is bound to follow.

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Oh, these?  There’s no real story.  I tripped, there was an electric fan, you can see where this is going.

There are characters I expected to like and didn’t – in fact, I didn’t connect with anyone.  For example, I like Amy Acker as much as the next Angel fan, but her acting/character was weird.  Was that supposed to be sexual tension between her and Echo?  Because it also felt like she couldn’t remember her lines, which seems unlikely.  Between her gloomy, drifty whispering and the facial scars, I really would have preferred to enter the scene and announce, “Hi, I’m Dr. Mysterious – I mean Saunders, haha, Saunders.”

The question now lingers: did I end up being influenced by the pervasive online negativity?  Who knows.  The important part is that I’m wasting precious mental resources on it.

1 Posted in TV

Negativity has been popular on the intertubes since, oh, it started – like, the first ARPANET test packet sent from one military base to another read:

- – - *** TEST *** – - – SILENT RUNNING SUCKED AND YOU’RE A FAG IF YOU LIKED IT – - – *** END TEST*** – - -

 I scan all the popular scifi news sites¹, and for the most part, I do this because they are devoid of a lot of personal opinion.  My cross to bear in this lifetime is that while I love science fiction, I can only take small doses of fanatic nerd-boy commentary. In particular, the mean stuff².  And lately, there’s been a lot of it, at least where I’ve been reading.

And while I won’t make this personal, there is in particular one big resource that spreads as many negative rumors as they superficially try to clear.  For example, let’s talk about Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse.

What the fuck is going on with Dollhouse?  Well, I’ll tell you: nothing unusual.  Except, dear reader,  for the small issue of the internet deciding that production of Dollhouse was fucked and by fucked I mean doomed.  What began as a legitimate “Uh oh, is Fox going to do this to Whedon again?” snowballed rapidly into a few of the major scifi sites gleefully crowing about the imminent failure of the entire show. Like, in gruesome, excess, speculative detail.

At first I was swept up in it.  Poor Joss!  Here they go again, every single decision being taken from him, his vision being trampled, his choices ignored – someone start a betting pool for the program being canceled before it even airs.  But then, as many of these posts as there were, there were rebuttals from Whedon himself saying, “Look, don’t worry kids.”   And indeed, I began to ask myself, do I truly understand how television works?

Suddenly, I started reading the reports of Dollhouse‘s doom with a kind of critical doubt.   Two questions arose for me:

  1. Is this a normal part of the show-making process, only just now revealed to us to be an irritating back-and-forth of changes and reversals?
  2. How much of this disseminated negativity is making its way back to the studios and paradoxically dooming the show?

Indeed, even an offhand remark from one of the shows actors (Tahmoh Penikett) joking about confusion over the show’s plotline was immediately twisted into “EVEN THE ACTORS DON’T UNDERSTAND SHOW – DOLLHOUSE DOOMED!”  After reading both his commentary and the blogs’ responses, I wonder: whose side are we fucking on? Are we turning into a social version of America’s Funniest Home Videos ball-to-the-crotch routine?  Don’t misunderstand me – I think Joss Whedon is fallable.  He’s just a dude, he fucks up sometimes and I don’t think his involvement with the show makes it free from criticism.  But it hasn’t even aired yet.  But since when do we, as fans, actively encourage the failure of one of our own?  Not to get all Heisenberg on you, but the more you discuss failure, the more it seems likely to happen.  Wait, that’s not Heisenberg, that’s the Golden Rule.  Or no, wait.  You know what I’m trying to say.

¹The notable exception is io9 – man, those kids need to get off the fucking Adderall.  Quantity over quality, eh ladies?

²I know it seems all hand-in-hand, like with science fiction comes seething, pent-up geeks, but I find myself wondering if like, wine-nerds sit around on message boards telling other wine-nerds that they are retarded faggots for liking beaujolais.

∞I’m listening to “Forever Young” by Alphaville and realizing what total fucking nonsense the lyrics are – “I don’t want to perish like a fading horse”???!?  That can’t be right.

 

5 Posted in Daily Space, TV

Legend: Legend of the Legend Legend

Posted by Sunday on Dec 12, 2008 at 2:08 am

Like many scifi nerds I have a low tolerance for fantasy.  I’d like to say that it’s just the repetition, but science fiction isn’t exactly summer’s eve fresh, if you catch my drift.  Leesa remarked that all too often it reads like a romance novel with ancillary sorcery, and I think she’s right; if you take the science out of most science fiction you’d have a broken storyline, if you take the magic out of a fantasy novel, you have… a novel.

On the other hand, I think The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are neccessary reading for anyone, anywhere.  Plenty of smack has been spoken of them (the cool have always delighted in toppling the giants of the past) and I don’t have a lot to say about those people – fools walk the earth, I can’t deny it.  Furthermore, and lending somewhat less credence to my love for Tolkein, is my enjoyment of what can only be described as bad fantasy.  It’s like watching a sitcom or eating tatertots with nacho sauce for dinner: I never meant for anyone to see me do it, but there it is.

My point: newly debuted television show Legend of the Seeker, baby of Sam Raimi (hello, Xena!) and author Terry Goodkind is exactly what I mean when I curl my lip and say “Fantasy?”  I mean, this is Hulu.com’s description:

“In a distant land, Richard Cypher discovers his true destiny as he, a mysterious young woman, a wise old wizard and a magical sword are all that stand between the evil tyrant Darken Rahl and his quest for total domination. “

Whoa, whoa, wait a second.  There’s a handsome, young, well-meaning pauper lad, a mysterious and physically stunning young woman, an aged wizard and some kind of enchanted sword?  And an evil tyrant with the word “Dark” in his first name?  I don’t get it.

An aside: I keep reading the name as “Drunken Rahl” which impresses me, and then I catch my error and am disappointed.

legend1.jpg

I am but a lowly forest lad, building things for charity.

Anyway, this is what I’m thinking, as I am sure you are: please.  Just… stop.  Why are you doing this to yourselves?  I mean, you’re the sorority girl at the party getting wasted on Long Island Iced Teas and then puking on herself.  You’re an embarrassment but worse you’re a cliched, predictable, dime-a-dozen embarrassment.

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Boobies.

And then I started watching the show.

And oh god, is it terrible.  And delightful.  A kind of hysterical, overseasoned superfantasy top-heavy with slo-mo and dramatic CG, it is that glistening pink donut encrusted with sprinkles that makes you say “I can’t, I’m a grown-up,” and then you’re cramming it into your mouth, icing smeared over your face and hands while onlookers queasily retch.

legend3.jpg

I guess I would pay to see a 7-foot tall man holding a chicken on his nethers.

Bruce Spence?!  Is that you?   Dear god, man, you were the Gyro Pilot in Mad Max, what are you doing here?  Bruce Spence who played the role of The Mouth of Sauron (a scene that should never have been cut from the theatrical release) in The Return of the King, or one of the Strangers in Dark City?

Oof.  Well, here’s my advice: if you’re home sick or pretending to be sick or maybe want to be sick, you can do worse than to sit around and watch Legend of the Seeker.  I recommend laying in a nearby store of strong liquor, a bowl of popcorn, some cherry cordials and holy shit is that Haldir from Lord of the Rings?  This show is knee-deep in LOTR sloppy seconds!  Anyway, it’s pretty, it’s confusing, it’s not like you have a huge holiday to prepare for in the next two weeks, so watch up.

Legend of the Seeker at Hulu.com

7 Posted in TV, Unicorns & Wizards

Green Screen Division

Posted by Sunday on Nov 18, 2008 at 7:03 pm

If you know anything about me by now, it is that I am fickle.  What can I say, I have a vagina.

Gemini Division is a perfect example. It is a NBC scifi webisode (webishow?) about a cop, Anna Diaz (Rosario Dawson) trying to figure out what’s going on after her fiance is murdered in Paris.  Of course, there’s more to it, for example: the fiance might not be human, a clandestine organization destroys evidence with a goofy proton pack, and a mysterious powder appears that can melt through Camaro seats.

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The episodes are short – five minutes each short.

The writing and plot can be excruciating, certain lines make me wonder if that room of monkeys and typewriters has finally been assembled, you know, but with cheaper, stupider monkeys.  More disturbingly, the entire show is funded (experimentally? did I read that somewhere?) by a few corporate sponsors, meaning that from minute one you’re treated to a Microsoft specific operating system, ads for Cisco and possibly M&Ms.  It can be subtle (should I be offended that her PDA operating system is Windows Vista?  Nah.) and it can be jarring (egghead: “Whoa, your PDA is updated with Cisco state-of-the-art awesomeness!  Cisco is a top of the line networking tool!  Cisco!“).  And much to my amusement, Diaz’s Vista-based PDA is a kind of super-iPhone and looks totally RAD and I want one and I assure you that Microsoft makes nothing of the sort.  At least Cisco had the dignity to portray a product they can reasonably produce.

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I’m torn.  I acknowledge that the show is uniquely terrible, even amongst the heap the of rubbish the SciFi Network has managed to construct.  But there is something about this stupid little sponsor-bloated microshow that I can’t stop watching.  I think perhaps it just doesn’t take itself too seriously, or perhaps despite all the corporate jazz-hands, I can’t stop thinking of Gemini Division as anything more than a local-access cable show.

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Gemini Division offical site (with episodes)

Gemini Division at Hulu.com (watch out – the organization of the episodes are a mess, but they are all there… somewhere.)

2 Posted in TV

I Got a Bad Feeling ‘Bout This Drop

Posted by Sunday on Sep 18, 2008 at 7:00 pm

Sorry to rape, murder and then beat a dead horse, but I can’t help it.  I have limited obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

Fringe is pretty laughable. In fact, I’m not even sure the general public is going to tolerate it for longer than a year or two.  It’s baby days, still, sure, but that baby better turn into a swan, because at this stage it looks like a goddamn troglodyte.  But hey!  It’s free on Hulu.com right now!  And what else do I have to do while I wait for employment callbacks?

Let’s make a spoilery list on Episode 2!

  • Nearly three straight minutes of screaming is severely testing my patience and the episode has barely even started.
  •  Hint to screenwriters: no nurse has ever yelled to a doctor “WE GOT TO CUT THIS BABY OUT NOW, DOCTOR!” and especially not while the patient was conscious.  If there ever were a nurse that had done that, I guarantee you she is now lying in parts at the bottom of a biohazard containment pit.
  • Okay, okay.  I’m TRYING to remain OPEN.  But the mass of a biological entity the size of a human being simply cannot grow in a matter of minutes.  It just can’t. Or rather, there would be such in incredible consumption of raw energy (not to mention energy waste) that the room would have heated to like a 1000° or something.  Don’t check my math, just roll with me.  You know what I’m saying?  Laws of physics simply don’t allow for that kind of organic growth, not even in fringe science.
  • There is no such thing as “medical grade leak-proof linen”.
  • Also, if Clarice Starling taught me anything, it’s that female FBI agents who stomp off and get teary every time they encounter a serial killer’s victim are going to get EATEN ALIVE.  Maybe literally.
  • Hint to screenwriters: even hookers get suspicious when some guy with a duffel bag takes them to a warehouse in the middle of nowhere.
  • Okay, okay.  Everyone, screenwriters: it is very, very rare for impregnation to occur in under 30 minutes.  Which is the point the plot hinges on:  man with super-advanced aging porks hooker, hooker gets pregnant with super-advanced aging baby, etc. etc.  Why would the sperm even live long enough to impregnate her?  The lifespan of a single sperm is 2-7 days in normal people — in a super-advanced ager it would be like, a fraction of a second.  And should it have even lived long enough to impregnate her, it would probably encounter the egg in the fallopian tube, which would have led to instant death from ectopic pregancy.  That’s even assuming her uterus could contain something growing that fast without rupturing, which it couldn’t.  GODDAMN IT, IT TAKES ONLY A LITTLE EFFORT TO FAKE SCIENCE.  Take a fucking minute to make it sound plausable, you asswads!

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My face is stuck like this.

  • I’m sorry, none of these people feel like they have any experience with anything at all.  Would it kill someone to throw in little bits of reality, like have someone ask “Are we recording?” during a crucial visual experiment?  There’s zero humanity.  Ever.  No one eats.  No one checks someone else’s math.  Agent Sculder Dunham is clearly going to be both Mulder and Scully, both a believer and rigidly moralistic while adopting a permanent expression of slightly put-out disapproval. The kid will always be the cruelly disbelieving shit who is alternately a genius, a lothario and a dumbass.  Denethor will be Denethor.  Astrid Farnsworth should be getting a spin-off show any day now.

In conclusion:

Meh.  It was okay.  It didn’t make me immediately crave another one, like some deliciously improbable shows. (House, are you there?  It’s me, Sunday.)  The special effects were surprisingly uninspired.  I’m sure some of the medical stuff gave some viewers shivers, but it was straight-up CSI crap – did they blow the whole budget on redubbing the screaming over and over until it was sufficiently shrill?

In conclusion in conclusion:

Boo.

7 Posted in TV

Stay On Target

Posted by Sunday on Sep 17, 2008 at 4:26 pm

Oof.  A lot going on in the last week, including a hell of a lot of stuff I failed to weigh in on.  Not that the world really needed another take on Fringe, but still.  I feel some sense of obligation.

My two cents on Fringe:

  •  A young female FBI agent with a permanent expression of disgusted bewilderment?  And no detectable motive or personality?  As a main character?  You’re certain you want to go with that?  Maybe you can sell it a little better if you half-heartedly muster up a reason for her to strip down to her underwear in front of everyone.
  • Denethor!  Yay!
  • A lot like having a child tell you a long, elaborate fib:  First! There was this FBI agent!  And then she needed to get this scientist who was put in a mental hospital forever but she couldn’t so she flew to Iraq and got his son and they got him and then they needed a super-laboratory so they got one and then they needed to see the killer’s face so they took LSD and they saw his face and then they needed a cure so they made one and then he was a badguy! Not that we want to see her filling out forms requesting travel to Iraq which would then in turn take A THOUSAND YEARS to process and the story would already be over, but you know.
  • Related: LSD 100% not actually like that.   But again, we probably don’t want to watch her sitting around for two hours wondering if she should go outside.
  • Astrid Farnsworth. Is the name of Dunham’s assistant.  The black girl.  Discuss.

What do I think of the most recent ‘leaked’ James Cameron’s Avatar set photo?

  • CG motion capture: sword from the stone.  Maybe Cameron will be king.  MAYBE NOT.
  • Also: if I have one piece of advice, it is to not use “urban tribal” graphic design.

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Too late.

What about Joss Whedon officially halting Dollhouse while he works the script a little more?

  •  I’ve got a bad feeling about it, now that you mention it.
  • The explanation makes sense: Whedon was busy directing, rather than writing, and by the time he got the first two episodes in the can everyone agreed that the scripts that had been written without him weren’t up to some kind of standard.  He requested a brief halt in production while he helps write several scripts into the future in order to get everyone on the same page.  Sounds reasonable.  The studio offically supports this, claiming that since production on the show was actually ahead of schedule, Whedon was free to do whatever the hell he wanted.
  • Unless you listen to the other rumors, which point out that having a main character with no memory or free will is a terrible plan (a little tip I told the kids at Fringe: nudity fixes everything).  Elsewhere sources point out that Whedon already refilmed the pilot admidst complaints that the show was either too complicated or too grim.  Wait, what’s that smell?  Is that… failure?

Off the subject, but did you happen to watch the new 90210 series?

  • You mean 90210.1?  HA.
  • Yes.
  • I don’t have a single thing good to say about it, and I enjoy garbage TV.  I’m ashamed and saddened that Rob Thomas (of Veronica Mars fame) had anything to do with this piece of shit.

That is all for today.

6 Posted in Daily Space, Movies, TV

You Make Dangerously Drunk Look Like Fun

Posted by Sunday on Jul 19, 2008 at 10:03 am

It’s not exactly science fiction, unless you count alternate history as scifi. Which I do.

1 Posted in Daily Space, TV