Viewing posts tagged Sensor Scans

Sensor Scan: Aliens

There are, as we have learned, two ways to do morally and ethically defensible action sci-fi in the 1980s. You can either take the Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind route and depict the violence as something awe-inspiringly grotesque to be avoided at all costs, or you can go the Dirty Pair route and wear your artifice completely on your sleeve (or really, to be more accurate, strip down to nothing but an artifice bikini) and just go wild in your wholehearted embrace of camp performativity. Both paths share one thing in common, however: The spectacle, irreducible from all forms of action sci-fi, is translated somewhere else, such as the breathtakingly imaginative worlds both works show us or, in the case of Dirty Pair, fully acknowledging we want to see fun and colourful explosions and gleefully giving them to us with wild and knowing abandon.

Which brings us to Aliens. The first thing that we should square away is that the whole idea of doing a sequel to Alien in the first place is inherently a bizarre one-There's not a whole lot of room in that movie to build subsequent ...

Sensor Scan: Spenser: For Hire

Spenser: For Hire
While Miami Vice remained technically a crime drama about policework, it was much more a staunchly deconstructionist work that went out of its way to problematize its genre as much as it did the social structure it was going out into. Spenser: For Hire, uh, isn't.

Based on a series of “hard-broiled” detective stories by Robert B. Parker, Spenser: For Hire chronicles the exploits of the titular private investigator Spenser and the hired gun Hawk who, while they occasionally operate on opposite sides of the law, both live their lives by a firm code of ethics and principles and respect each other's decisions. This is pretty much the extent of the premise here, the rest of the series amounting to your basic “hard-broiled” tropes and cliches. In both the books and the TV show, Spenser narrates over everything in a dramatic monologue about tough choices and hard life on the street and absolutely everything you would expect a character in this kind of story to be talking about. Parker is pretty blatantly following ...

Sensor Scan: Miami Vice

Among the many, many ways Kei and Yuri shifted this blog's course and changed its mark was forcing me to drastically alter the structure of this essay. I was always planning to cover Miami Vice in some fashion here: It was an important enough show at the time, I watched enough of it and it left enough of an impact on me such that it's a not-insignificant part of my television viewing career and there's considerably more creative overlap between it Star Trek then I think a lot of people realise or understand.

But before I made the decision to cover Dirty Pair episode by episode I had planned to go into a great more detail here, anticipating a rather lengthy critique of the show's basic ethical premises and assumptions. But I don't need to do that anymore, because Dirty Pair already did that for me in the frankly stunning “No Way! 463 People Disappeared?!”/”We Did It! 463 People Found!” two-parter. Not only that, it tossed it out as an afterthought; one small fraction of a much grander and more splendid tale of love, healing, intrigue ...

Sensor Scan: Coast to Coast AM

The Long 1980s are usually seen as the era when the sweeping hegemonic counter-revolution came in and tore down all the radical mainstream institutions and media artefacts people had spent the Long 1960s putting into place. And there is an extent to which this is true, and indisputable. However, by virtue of being in many ways the high water mark of what we now call “traditional” or “old” media, the Long 1980s were also the period where people working in those structures pushed them to their limits and beyond. People have something to say in every era, and there will always be those who call for positive change, and they will make their voices heard in one way or another.

So, put another way, even though the Long 1980s can be argued to be the point where large-scale media consolidated itself to be firmly and inexorably a part of the authoritarian establishment, there were just as many people who freely acknowledged this, yet continued to use their master's tools against them. Television may have become the boot of the oppressor, but, whether you think it was successful or not, Star Trek ...

Sensor Scan: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind


My house sits on a small meadow, at different tiers owing to the craggy glacial deposits that make up this part of the country. The lower portion of the meadow is flat, tapering off from its hilly upper portions and ending in a small pond we used to swim in a lot when I was younger. We don't swim in it anymore though because a series of powerful rainstorms followed by two consecutive hurricanes in recent years, caused the pond to overflow its banks, kickstarting the process of ecological succession. It's now slowly transforming into a wetland. The children of the previous owners liked baseball a lot, and used to use this part of the meadow as a baseball field. In fact, you can still see the small piece of shale they would use as home plate, though each year it vanishes further and further into the ground as the grass grows around it. The meadow is surrounded on all sides by mixed broadleaf forest, and on certain summer days in June the wind hits the deciduous trees at such an angle that the sunlight is reflected brilliantly off the bottoms of ...

Sensor Scan: Reading Rainbow


Talk about Roots all you want, it definitely deserves it. But from my perspective, if you want to get a handle on LeVar Burton's personality, style of acting and overall legacy, there's only one place to look.

It doesn't get commented on anywhere near enough that Reading Rainbow and Star Trek: The Next Generation were on the air at the same time. Having started Reading Rainbow four years before being cast as Geordi La Forge and continuing an additional twelve years after the television voyages of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D came to an end, Star Trek was LeVar's night job, quite literally so in some cases. This makes him somewhat unusual among the Trek pantheon, and also means that between 1987 and 1994 he was arguably one of the busiest, most hardworking people in Hollywood. And consider what that was like for an entire generation that was at the age where they would have been familiar with both shows: Imagine how cool it felt to see one of your childhood heroes in costume onboard the Starship Enterprise on one of the highest rated and most talked about shows of the time.

One has to wonder if ...

Sensor Scan: Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

If I need to explain to you who Mister Rogers is, this can only mean one of two things. You either hail from somewhere that isn't North America or Hawai'i or something has gone badly wrong with the universe. Because the only thing that needs to be said about Mister Rogers is that he was one of the greatest television personalities, if not one of the greatest human beings period, to ever live. For almost forty years, he asked generations of children and children-at-heart to be his television neighbour for a half an hour each day. And, anyone who took him up on his invitation knew that for that time they would feel welcome and safe and enjoy sharing the company of someone who truly cared about them and was interested in what they were thinking and feeling.

The more pertinent question is why now? I could have looked at Mister Rogers' Neighborhood at literally any point in this project, that's how important Fred Rogers was to our collective memory and for how long. But I wanted to take just a little time to talk about him, his show and his legacy here, in the mid-1980s for ...

Sensor Scan: Blade Runner

People are going to argue with me, but I think it's a pretty safe bet to say Blade Runner marks the beginning of cyberpunk in Western science fiction, at least in terms of mass mainstream pop consciousness. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say Blade Runner is likely the film that codified at least the visual style and iconography associated with the genre and is even probably what most people think of when they think of science fiction in the 1980s (well, this and Tron).

And although the anime, which defined much of the look and feel of the franchise, wouldn't debut for another two years, the fact is we've already covered a great deal of Blade Runner's most important innovations by introducing Dirty Pair in the last post. Yes, Dirty Pair owes a great deal to Golden Age science fiction too, but by virtue of the specific tradition it comes out of it is very much what we'd now call cyberpunk. Which means that, from my perspective at least, going from “The Case of the Backwoods Murder” to Blade Runner does feel like something of a rather large step backwards ...

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