THE RAT’s top 25 Science Fiction movies

This is another list of movies to see what comes up. This time we’ll be taking a look at the best sci-fi movies. As with all lists the rank is not top to bottom they are numbered for sorting purposes only. Let’s get started.

1. Star Wars

You can call it space opera, space fantasy or whatever you want it’s still science fiction even if only on the surface. Easily one of the greatest films of all time and definitely a movie all sci-fi fans need to experience.

2. Star Trek II The Wrath of Kahn

Not the only good Star Trek movie but certainly the best. It has everything you’d want from a science fiction movie and it still holds up well today.

3. Sphere

In some ways this could be considered a thriller. Either way it’s still a great movie all the way around.

4. Alien

It’s a slasher movie. It’s a thriller. It’s a horror movie and it’s a sci-fi masterpiece. What more do you want?

5. Jurassic Park

Some would claim its more of a monster movie, which it is, than pure sci-fi but what are you going to do it has Dinosaurs and retro computers.

6. The Matrix

If you make a list of the best sci-fi movies and you leave the Matrix off then you failed. This is probably the most sci-fi of all the movies on this list.

7. Inception

More known for being a mind trip, and it does rely heavily on a pseudo-science rather than hard science, it still counts.

8. Back to the Future

Sure it’s really a comedy  but it’s also a sci-fi comedy and by far the best time travel movie around.

9. The Terminator

Often overlooked because of its action-movie sequel, this one is pure science fiction at its best. Also the special effects still give me chills.

10. Starship Troopers

This movie wins on so many levels. The action. The violence. The spaceships. The naked people. A+ Sci-fi film right here.

11. Total Recall

One of the best movies Arnold Schwarzenegger ever starred in. Similar to Inception and The Matrix in a lot of ways but still pretty damn cool.

12. Robocop

Part robot. Part cop. All bitching kick ass action sci-fi roller coaster.

13.  Guardians of the Galaxy

It’s probably the only MCU film that counts as legit sci-fi rather than superhero fluff. Also it just rocks.

14. Aeon Flux

Some will say it’s a bad movie. I say give it another shot.

15. TMNT

The original. It’s campy but it’s still pretty interesting.

16. Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Visually stunning. Classic premise. Superb story telling.

17. Batteries Not Included

Cute, endearing and fun at the same time.

18. The Fifth Element

Must watch film. Beautiful special effects. Funny and solid action flick with interesting plot.

19. Men in Black

The actual good sci-fi movie Will Smith was in.

20. The Time Machine

The original. Very solid film. Very iconic. Very thought provoking.

21. Planet of the Apes

The twist ending alone makes it worth it.

22. Star Trek First Contact

I tried to keep it to one film per franchise but this movie absolutely belongs on the list.

23. Superman

The original superhero comic book movie and still a fantastic sci-fi adventure.

24. Demolition Man

Cheesy, yes and still light years ahead of the competition.

25. Independence Day

By far the best flying saucer movie ever made.

5 Ways you can help save the comics industry

There’s not two ways about it, Coronavirus is killing the comic book industry. In fact, the print industry was already suffering before the pandemic. But there is no reason comic book fans should throw in the towel and mourn the loss of one of the oldest and most prolific forms of science fiction entertainment.

All is not lost. Here are a few things that if every comic book fan did more of the industry would not only get back to thriving but would also see a resurgence once all of this is said and done.

 

1.  Buy more local retail comics

Everyone knows how important it is to support their local comic book shop. However, not everyone has a local comic shop to support. Meanwhile the industry is facing a crisis of mind share as more Americans get their comic book fix through Marvel’s share cinematic films or the CW’s connected Arrowverse.

Mind share is crucial at a time like this. Nobody wants to have to buy comics from Walmart but if you don’t have a local comic shop it’s imperative comic books maintain some retail presence in order for the publishers to get in front of the eye balls of the people who still shop there. If you don’t have a local shop but your local Walmart does sell comics it does benefit them if you can buy at least a couple books a month from a local retail shop. If you can pick up an extra book at retail while doing your normal grocery shopping if nothing else then make an effort.

If your community happens to have an old fashioned book retailer, such as a Barnes and Noble or similar store that sells comics, or even graphic novels, trades etc., maybe consider popping in there from time to time.

The reason this helps is publishers need partnerships with retail giants in order to maintain the numbers.

Now my strategy is simple, get the “grocery store” comics such as Archie, Betty and Veronica, etc., from the local Walmart. I then plan on grabbing one TPB a month from the local book store. It’s not much but if every dedicated comic book fan made this extra purchase at retail it would go a long way in helping the publishers maintain a presence in the marketplace. I long for a return to the days you can pick up comic books at the local gas station on your way to or from work but those days might be gone for good. However, if we let comics at retail die entirely it’s going to be a slow death march for the entire industry.

2. Kids fuel the industry

Every adult collector I’ve ever known has this disdain for kids comics. This snobbish belief that only mature comics matter and comics made for kids are beneath them. Now I am by no means advocating buying a comic you don’t care for that is targeted towards kids just to help the industry, by no means. However I am strongly encouraging every comic book fan to buy as many extra comics you can to give away to the kids in your life.

There is a myth that collectors shape the industry and kids are just an afterthought. This is the furthest from the truth. In fact in reality children make up the bulk of all toys and entertainment sales and adults just sort of follow a long in their own little corners.

The other part of the myth is kids don’t have as much disposable income as adults therefore the logic goes adults can buy more collectibles.

There are two fallacies with this thinking. First, children don’t rely on their own incomes, they have none! What they do have, however, are relatives who buy them toys twice a year at least. The more aunts and uncles a child has, not even counting grandparents the more likely they are to get toys and other gifts. Now if you have kids in  your life and you want to shape them into future comic book collectors you should start now while they are young. Buy a few extra comics for each of the kids in your life. If you are an aunt or uncle buy for your nieces and nephews. If you are a grandparent, then buy comics for your grandchildren.

The second half of the fallacy is kids don’t know what they like. We often forget what it was like when we were kids. We knew damn well what we did, and didn’t, like. The goal is not to push your favorite superhero or book onto them, in fact doing that can be counterproductive as it will not only ensure they grow to despise that character or book, it almost guarantees they will hate you. Think back to when you were a kid. Did you have that uncle or aunt that tried to push their interests off onto you no matter how much you resisted? And often is the case you would grow up having a low opinion of said relative. I know I did.

The best thing to do is buy as many random, budget comics as you can with a few hit titles of main stream characters sprinkled in from time to time as often as you can. This ensures the child will have a variety of books to read keeping them immersed in comics, which in turn fuels their interest in the medium. It also most assuredly provides them an opportunity to develop and refine their tastes. The key is to let them discover the books they want to read and then help them get into those books buy buying a few issues a year for them at birthdays, Christmas, and other holidays as your budget allows. Remember you are not just buying a few extra books to help the publishers bottom line, you are helping foster the future generation of comic book fans that will help keep the hobby a live and well for decades to come.

On this same line of thinking, it is absolutely important that you give the kids random books as much as you can, any and everything you can from all publishers. The trick isn’t to just let them read a book and see what they like, but for them to read the advertisements in the book and promos for other books. That will help them discover the titles or characters they wish to follow, thus ensuring they become emotionally invested in the medium.

My strategy is to buy books for every one of my sister’s kids each chance I can. I don’t ask the kids what  books they like I select a few random budget books I can afford and just let them decide which ones they like. I then ask them later which ones they liked and try to note that so next time I can buy books in that series, genre or title.

Sometimes you will get push back. If a kid isn’t into comics don’t fret. It is also important  not to pressure them by pushing comics onto them. The best way to do it is to cater to their interests. If the child is into army stuff try getting them an action comic with a military theme. Maybe throw in something with space marines to broaden their horizon. If they happen to be into My Little Pony or Scooby Doo, then get them comics featuring those characters. The goal is to foster their imaginations while helping them build a passion for comics. If you push your favorite hero onto them it will always backfire.

3. Subscriptions are important

No matter what, this is the time you absolutely need to be subscribing directly to as many comics to be delivered to your mailbox as you can afford. It’s not essential you subscribe to every comic you enjoy. However, it is 100 percent crucial you do subscribe directly to at least a few of your top favorite comics. The reason for this is complex. On the surface it will infuse a little more cash per purchase directly into the comic publishers accounts. This does bypass the local retail market so you have to budget accordingly.

For example, if you buy 12 books a month at your local comics shop, consider picking the four books that matter the most to you and subscribe to them directly. You gain the  benefit of having them delivered straight to your door while infusing a little extra cash into the coffers of the company making the product you enjoy. It also helps publishers gauge the importance of that particular book ensuring it remains profitable enough to remain in print. I suggest picking one fourth of your entire comics purchasing to be directly delivered via the mail subscription.

It also has the side benefit of helping the local postal service which is in dire need of cash right now. This would go a long way helping keep costs down elsewhere while maximizing your financial support of your own local economy.

We’re not at the point of desperation where I would advocate buying all of your books directly from the publisher as that would most certainly kill the local retail market once and for all.

My strategy is to add one subscription every payday. That ensures I will have 26  books delivered to my door each month. Right now am adding one a payday and then once I am in the groove I will renew every year. My personal goal is to subscribe to 30 total books a year so I also try to keep an eye out for some bonus budget books as I can afford it. The goal is to subscribe to the ones that matter the most to you ensuring their longevity while keeping a few titles left at the local retail store. I am not saying give up your pull list entirely rather I am saying devote yourself to the books that are most important and get just a few of them in the mail. It saves you money, typically 45 percent or more off the cover price, which means you have more money to spend on comics elsewhere, plus it cuts out the middle man often putting more money directly into the publishers hands. It’s a balancing act that we all must do our part if the industry is to survive.

4. Seek out free comic book day

You might have to drive a ways depending on where you live. You might even have to request the day off from work and plan a road trip to make this work. But it is absolutely essential every comic book fan who has the means to get to their local comic book shop does so absolutely on Free Comic Book Day. Not only does it give the publishers, especially indies, maximum exposure, it is a social event that really brings the community together, young and old. It’s key to build the excitement for comic books especially in young readers and lapse collectors.

The other reason I strongly suggest hitting up free comic book day is it provides you a chance to preview things to come in the industry first hand and serves almost as a localized mini comic book convention. It helps stir up the excitement in the collector which is key in helping the hobby remain active.

5. Subscribe to all three digital comic services

This is probably as important as all of the above. We all have our different views on digital comics. However it’s really not the time to get into arguments over which is better. We need to set aside our pride and cough up the ~$30 a month it costs to subscribe to all the services. You have Comixology, Marvel Unlimited and DC Universe. The best argument for doing this is to show publishers, and the big corporations that own them, how important comics are to us. It helps the big wigs see that comics aren’t just a line item but a valuable asset.

The other reason it helps is because it infuses cash directly into the publishers while providing YOU with access to a massive catalog of content at your fingertips.

Discovering the greatness of the Golden Age of American comic books

With Great Power There Must Also Come Great Responsibility. It is one of the most famous quotes in all of comic book fandom. Almost as iconic as the famous “It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane” line about a certain Kryptonian made out of steel.

I am one of those people who has had an overwhelming passion for comic books my entire life. Unfortunately my limited funds have been divided between comics, DVD’s, video games and computers. Thus, I have had spurts where my collection would grow exponentially then decline as I moved around the country.

Now with a combination of digital comic subscriptions, an increase in funding due to a rise in employment status and the obvious additional free time caused by a certain health crisis.

I signed up for all three digital comic services; Comixology Unlimited, DC Universe and Marvel Unlimited, I have had a great time digging into the Golden Age of Comics.

I decided to start with the earliest days and work my way through the modern stuff. I am still reading current issues too but I have a different reading plan for those. That being said let me share my observations are based on my experience with the apps.

First thing I realized is contrary to my previously held belief, Marvel comics does not in fact have superior characters and stories than DC. In fact the more I find myself reading the early DC stuff, even those characters I had previously despised, I have realized that DC actually does have far superior storytelling than I ever believed. Now I have also learned that my belief Marvel was my favorite was based on a limited sample. You see I always loved the X-Men above all else. I also fully enjoy Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, but my absolute favorite comic character has always been Batman. I figured this balanced things out as Marvel had more that I liked but the quality of Batman alone was great enough on its own to balance things out.

Once I realized that I never went beyond those three fringe comic’s I realized that the remainder of Marvel, as I explored its library, didn’t interest me nearly as much as I thought. I can’t stand the Avengers, Iron Man, Thor or Captain American in their comic forms. In fact I quickly discovered that aside from the big three I named above, I found it increasingly difficult to find a Marvel character I did care about. I realized I am basically an X-Fan who also enjoys FF from time to time. Spider-man is a side character and the rest are nothing to me.

Things became further lopsided once I realized I actually found myself enjoying more of the DC characters and stories than I had Marvel. At first I thought I would hate Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the like. Now to be fair I did read The Flash and Martian Manhunter as a kid so I had some previous attachment to those characters yet I was still limited in my knowledge of their lore and thus never fully appreciated them.

I could say the Arrowverse played a role in igniting my curiosity which sparked into full on appreciation for the DC characters, but I must admit I’ve always found batman most enjoyable and have had a strange on again, off again interest in Superman. No, what really settle it was diving into the Golden Age of Comics via those digital comic apps. Reading those early Action Comics showed me that while my assertion that Superman did in fact spend most of his time doing boring, things like helping grandmas across the street, rescuing cats or, to my shock, rigging a high school football game! But, I discovered that the actual appeal was in the reality you have this character with all these amazing powers who spends his time helping out ordinary humans doing ordinary things. In other words, the stories were so well-written it didn’t matter he was only doing extraordinary things to solve ordinary problems, it was the fact he had super powers and yet he used them for good was the whole point.

By the time I branched out into exploring the remainder of the DC Golden Age far, at least that which is currently available on DCU, I learned they truly do have a knack for story telling. I am not saying Marvel lacks this, rather I am merely saying that once I discovered the true history of the DC universe I realized there was more to like than I had thought.

Now getting into Detective Comics was where I found the good stuff. I am not like most Batman fans, I love the character thoroughly in all of his forms over the years. Yes I even enjoy the movies fans are programmed to hate. In fact Batman Forever is my personal favorite and in my opinion actually the best Batman movie to date. While some will argue it’s camp gets in the way of its darker, allegedly grittier successors, I contend Batman  has never been fully dark nor fully camp, rather a fair combination of the two, on a spectrum that pushes and pulls the character back and forth between the two extremes in a perfectly balanced way that provides long time fans with the joy of constantly rediscovering the character. What really did it for me was flipping through those old Batman comics and Detective Comics from the 1940’s and feeling like a kid again. The magical wonder of the character returned to my world to remind me life is short and it’s absolutely worth finding the things that make you happy and allowing your self to be just that, happy. I was having fun reading his books and that’s what it’s all about.

I am not saying the Golden Age is superior to other ages. I am also not dismissing it as simplistic and primitive, nay childish even as some fans of today might try to argue, rather I am saying, with a firm assertiveness, the Golden Age is the most fantastically amazing series of stupendously exotic comic book joyousness that is essentially awesome in its  grandiose story telling and extraordinary art work. Or all those fun comic adjectives comic book editors are so known for using to arrogantly describe their own work. Needless to say the wonder of the Golden Age has restored my faith in comics while reigniting my passion for a form of story telling I was once madly in love with. Now that our affair has rekindled I most assuredly will remain fully committed to my love all the remaining days of my life.

 

The Untold Truth about Superman according to THE RAT.

When I was a kid I love Superman. He was one of my favorite comic book characters and superheroes all around. I had Superman action figures, coloring books, puzzles and other memorabilia. I really like the movies all four of them in fact at the time. I would watch Superman cartoons a whole bunch of them a number of them anyone that I can find in fact. And I instantly fell in love with and became obsessed with Lois & Clark The New Adventures of Superman when it aired on TV. But then something changed in some point in my life and my past I stop liking Superman and actually started hating him. Except, I don’t remember when this happened.

I recently decided to get back into comic book collecting I’m going to say back into I mean I sold all my comic books or abandon and number of them when I left my apartment 2 years ago. But I’ve recently with coronavirus and everything else have been at home a lot more than I had been previously and I have a better job now more money now and thought now is a good time to get back into serious comic book collecting. And that includes reading comic books more than ever. Now I just wrote a post last night on rediscovering the Golden Age of comics and in that Discovery I realized I still have lingering feelings of respect and appreciation for the Man of Steel. So I wanted to talk about the parts of Superman that I never stopped liking and try to figure out what it was that made me go from admiring this character to despising him for so long.

My earliest memories of Superman that I can pinpoint was sitting down and watching a VHS tape of some random Superman cartoons my dad rented from the video store at one point. I can’t tell you what happened in that story I vaguely remember a bank robbery and Superman flying around with a bank vault on his shoulder but I can’t remember beyond that. I do remember liking the character and wanting to see more of him. I remember watching the Superman movie the original one from the 70s and just loving it when I was a kid. I remember watching Superman 2 and thinking at the time and throughout most of my life thinking it was the best of all the Superman movies had been my favorite for ever. I remember watching and even enjoying Superman 3 and even liking Superman 4 the Quest for Peace hey I was a kid. It wasn’t until Lois and Clark came along that I realized I really like Superman and I never had Superman comics this is key I believe I always only ever had the shows to watch or a handful of toys inundate me into the characters mythos.

I even remember going into Superman Returns expecting the like it hoping to like it and I remember getting to the end of that movie and questioning my entire interest in the Superman character. May you have to keep in mind I’ve never wavered on Batman to this day he still my favorite comic book character my absolute favorite superhero if you can call him a superhero some won’t but I do. And I know Superman was friends with Batman and there were shows like super friends that I didn’t watch. And I think that’s part of it never having read a comic book featuring The Man of Steel and only knowing him as a character in his own universe but knowing he was Affiliated Loosely with Batman I think that swayed me to take the side of the Dark Knight and dismiss the Man of Steel, the Kryptonian as it were.

I remember the point where I started liking Transformers and watching the cartoon and reading a comic books and obsessing over the toys. And I can remember the point in my life where I went from thinking Batman was okay but not great to becoming my favorite superhero spoiler alert it had to do with one of the movies. But I can’t trace the point in my mind where I went from admiring and respecting Superman to flat-out loathing him, hating him, despising him. But I do believe it has to do with the fact that I never read his comics.

By the time Lois & Clark was finished I was still into the character that much I do know. And I remember being a little bit turned off by Smallville at first enjoying the episodes I did watch but not enough to get into it because it wasn’t Superman it was Clark Kent and I think that was the start of my downward spiral but I have to dig deeper. I was that weird kid that like the Atari Superman video game just because it was Superman I didn’t care that it was a bad game it was fun to play in my mind and that’s all I ever cared about. And I do remember hating Superman Returns by the time it was all said and done.

And I remember never having any interest in the Justice League I remember thinking it didn’t make sense that Batman and Superman would be on the same team with Wonder Woman The Flash and a bunch of other people whose names I never took the time to learn. This fueled my disdain for the Justice League which eventually magnified itself as a hatred for Superman and all things related to him. I think that’s why I enjoyed Batman versus Superman the film so much because Batman beat the snot Ida. Kryptonian creep and I was so excited to see him get the stuffing knocked out of him by my favorite superhero despite being portrayed by an actor I also despise.

But surely that wasn’t enough a disappointing movie a mediocre TV soap opera that couldn’t have been what killed my interest in a character I enjoyed as a kid, could it? I remember the jokes I don’t know who first made them making fun of Superman all the powers of a God and he uses it to get cats out of trees I was told over and over. His most powerful villain is a banker I was told mocking the Superman. And he is defeated by a pebble of all things a piece of chalk as they mocked the Superman. And I know the first point I pulled on a thread that unravelled some of the mystery was in fact rolling my eyes at the first Superman movie as I re-watched it and realized how absurd it was that Lex Luthor would be able to deduce that meteor had to be Kryptonite simply because a planet blew up decades ago around the same time Superman would have laughed and he just figured it out didn’t make sense to me and I’m at that point and all those other markings compounded in my head the things people had said about Superman over the years he wears his underwear on the outside they said. And soul it really started to become real at that point. I do know that was two thousand and 7 and I know that was because I was living with a guy at the time friend a roommate who is obsessed with Superman and we watched the movies together because he was trying to remind me how much I shouldn’t hate Superman when I was mocking him for liking Superman and forgetting that I had at one point in time also like Superman

I know part of it was finding the Marvel Universe of characters far more fascinating as I fell in love with thoroughly the X-Men and also Spider-Man. After a while I started to believe the things people said about Superman and started to distance myself from him thinking he’s beneath me and people are weird for liking him and not only growing to hate the character growing to despise the company that he was a symbol representing but also questioning my filiation with people who put him on a pedestal also questioning myself why do I care so much about a fictional comic book hero? I didn’t answer that question at least not in a way I will brag about. All I learned is at some point I went from really liking the guy to really hating him and I don’t know why.

When I decided to get back into comic book collecting I knew I had to subscribe to Action Comics I told myself I’m subscribing to comic books because my goal is to play my small part in helping the industry obviously I don’t believe I can save the industry but I felt obligated to subscribe to some print Publications as at the time I was working for print publication and felt a kindred spirit with those produced in comic books. So I decided to start subscribing monthly the books to be delivered in my home and the first one I chose was Action Comics knowing that Superman despite my disinterest in the character what’s the pillar that holds the entire comic book industry even I know that his importance cannot be understated after all he is the world’s first superhero and probably the most iconic most popular and most important superhero by Leaps and Bounds above everybody else. Love him or hate him I could not deny his importance.

But then something happened something I didn’t expect I bought some comic books used off of eBay grab the couple off the shelf of my local comic book store and read them. It would be cliche to say my jaw dropped but it did I was amazed at how good these stories were and how enjoyable reading that character was and then I remembered how much I like to know the kid Nostalgia has a way of doing that reconnecting us to our childhood and a way that lists the fog of our memories and reminds us of the things although distorted that we may have forgotten. And I remember liking I remember waking up every day knowing that today is the day that a new episode of The Adventures of Superman comes on TNT and I couldn’t wait for it I had to see the newest episode I remember waiting anxiously for the Superman video game to come out on my game console of choice at the time having to rent it from Blockbuster video.

And I couldn’t remember how much I hated that character and now I can’t remember how much I loved him but I cannot remember or pinpoint at what point those emotions reversed. All I can say now is I very much regret all the time I missed enjoying the Superman exploits and stories fascinating dramas that were told in the pages of his books because now is I flip through Silver age books and Bronze Age books and Modern Age books and golden age books some on the digital platform stop physically in my hand I realize is quality of Storytelling and remain consistent throughout his entire history and I was a fool for thinking he was anything but the greatest superhero of all time. And now I can say I no longer hate the character I used to love I can now say he’s actually pretty good pretty cool he’s a nice guy he’s all right. And I don’t think I could have said that before.

And now I have to reflect not on what I missed not on why I dismiss to the character but on how do I move forward righting the wrongs of my own life? last summer I told my family I was a cross-dresser contemplating if I was transgendered or not. I decided at that point I couldn’t keep secrets anymore and now I realize I can’t keep secrets for myself either and I was lying to myself by saying I hated Superman when I secretly didn’t. I was afraid of being made fun of mocked for being a nerd anyways and even among comic book nerds Batman is considered cool Superman is considered a dork and despite the fact that I myself am more of a dork than cool I felt the need to root for the other guy for some reason.

None of this in any way has diminished my admiration for Batman. If anything it’s only made me appreciate the Dark Knight even more so the first trade paperback I bought featuring Kal-El the Kryptonian is in fact the greatest Batman versus Superman stories at least according to the Publishers of DC Comics who you know write them. Oh and yeah it actually now has me very fascinated and interested Beyond even curious to say the least in the Justice League and I can put some of the blame on that directed towards those so-called terrible dceu films everybody mocks. And hey I can admit that I like suicide squad and found it quite entertaining and most enjoyable because my favorite Batman movie of all time to me the best movie that fully represents the Batman is Batman Forever so clearly I can accept enjoy and appreciate a film other fans do not as much and that’s where I am now I don’t care what people think of me anymore I don’t care what people say I don’t care if I get made fun of I’m going to like what I like and that’s that. And if that means admitting that I like Superman then so be it what am I afraid of I mean so what if he wears women’s underwear it’s not like I haven’t.

Comparing Star Trek to Doctor Who

I have always been a big fan of science fiction. When I was a kid my favorite movies, TV shows and video games all had some sci-fi component to them. In the early years of my childhood both of my parents were united on their love of Star Trek. They both liked the original series as well as most of the films. Growing up I discovered I could tolerate the Next Generation but I wasn’t that into the others.

I didn’t discover Doctor Who until I was in my 20’s. I didn’t even learn my mom was into the show until I was in college. I had moved back in with my parents to save money while I attended university. It didn’t take long before I started making some comparisons to the two. The biggest difference was how easily I got into Doctor Who yet how hard it was for me to get into Star Trek.

Truth be told my interest in ST goes no further than the motion picture series and a handful of episodes from TOS and TNG. My curiosity has me peek into the different iterations from time to time only to be reminded why it’s such a chore to watch those shows.

Aside from being long running science fiction programs with some theatrical movies in the mix, the two franchises have very little in common.

Star Trek is very much an idealized image of what NASA is trying to be today. Even the most visible character in the pop culture with origins in either franchise, Mr. Spock, is really just a science officer. Now my love for what NASA does is why I continue to be deceived into trying to find some entertainment in the various Star Treks, but I digress lets compare the two.

TV shows.

Star Trek is divided into eras. There’s the Original Series, the animated series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, Discovery, Picard and unofficially The Orville (which I will get to later.)

Doctor Who is broken down into three eras. Classic Series, the Fox movie, and the revival series. It’s a lot simpler on the surface because it actually lasted several DECADES not just multiple seasons. Star Trek failed to get to its originally intended 5 seasons being cancelled right away then saved by a vehement letter writing campaign only to be ended one season later. The short lived 3-season run certainly had a lasting impact on pop culture as well as the world of science fiction fandom.

In terms of organizational structure Star Trek breaks down by subtitle. You know what to expect with each distinct show, even though there is some overlap and cross overs between many of them.

Doctor Who on the other hand is actually in practical reality a lot messier. You see the Doctor, the main character of the show, is a space alien who basically is reborn every time he, or sometimes she, dies. In other words a new period begins not with a new subtitle and crew/setting, but rather when one doctor “regenerates” into another, usually at the hands of a Dalek. Or is it plunger? Anyways you have I believe 14 or so different Doctors, each one having a distinct personality and each ones adventures playing into that personality.

Then there are the movies.

Doctor Who hasn’t had nearly as much luck with films as Star Trek. The first wave were basically Hollywood attempts to Americanize the show. They were  basically retellings of stories that had previously run but changed to fit an American appetite. Star Trek has never had to be altered or revamped to be more palatable to the British audiences, to the best of my knowledge anyways, so that’s a point in favor of the series that gave the world The Wrath of Khan. Pure sci-fi gold.

But, Doctor Who does somewhat redeem itself with some of the modern movies although they too remain convoluted like the show. Mostly they are excuses to have multiple doctors team up for a storyline that tries to tie up loose ends. They tend to be more like extended length episodes than actual full budget films.

Except one, Doctor Who: The Movie, a made for TV film also Americanized but still firmly tied to the U.K. show unlike the previous films. That movie does stand well enough on its own, it’s actually quite entertaining. However, it doesn’t really connect neatly to the rest of the shows and serves more as a bridge  between Classic and Revived Who.

With the regenerations and cross over episodes plus the constant nods to what came before, Doctor Who feels like each season more or less rehashes what came before but with a slight twist each time. You’re always going to run into the Daleks, the cybermen, Santarans and a few other recognizable aliens. There is always going to be an episode where the doctor causes some great historical tragedy and has to cope with him being the one that kills innocent people. And there is always going to be an episode where a creature of mythology is explained as some alien being.

Star Trek tends to be formulaic too but in a different way. It’s more like here is a new world to explore and what specifically is special about this world or alien or space ship. They rarely return to earth and when they do it’s either a time travel episode, or a vacation gone wrong.

Doctor Who does spend an unnecessary amount of time in England when it is set on Earth. Star Trek tends to trot the globe while being largely U.S. centric for logical reasons.

Doctor Who also does a much better job exploring time and space. You are taken from the earliest beginnings of the universe clear to the end of time and everywhere inbetween. The show features a barrage of aliens, technology an worlds to explore. There is even an episode where the Doctor goes to Hell and defeats the Devil himself. Oh sure I could bring up the Star Trek movie where they meet God but we all know that isn’t a beloved film.

Let’s talk budgets. Early seasons of Doctor Who look like they would be done by high school art and theater students today. TOS episodes on the other hand still look like care went into the production values. The sets tend to be more colorful and open on Star Trek where as Doctor Who often takes place in cramped spaces in the early days. Even once the show progresses I feel like the Star Trek special effects were doing things the Doctor Who people still struggle with to this day. You can blame some of that, or much of it, on budgets. CBS has tons more money than the BBC.

It’s not just special effects. While the control room of the TARDIS is, unique in its own way, it’s not as fleshed out and defined as the iconic Enterprise. Also, let’s face it the Enterprise looks like a space ship NASA could make some day, the TARDIS is just a phone booth.

It’s almost too easy to give a point to Doctor Who for being continuously on air multiple decades, even with a 20 year gap between the two eras, but Star Trek isn’t really that far off. Even though the Original Series did get cancelled right away, there was an animated show to fill in the gaps until the films pretty quick. Also, the gaps between one Star Trek series to the next is not as prominent as the huge gap in Doctor Who. I’d have to actually sit down and count total years represented but I would be willing to be if it’s close at all the edge still goes to Star Trek.

What about merchandise such as toys, comic books and video games? This one is easy. There aren’t any Doctor Who videos games to speak of. There’s a few slot machines and British exclusive computer games nobody has ever played. Star Trek doesn’t have the best games but it’s been represented in some shape or form in nearly ever major video game era. Star Trek also has a pretty solid comic book presence while Doctor Who’s is spotty at best. Same can be said for toys and other collectibles, the edge goes to Star Trek.

Storytelling and plots.

Both shows are heavy handed and very preachy. One presents a society aspiring to achieve utopia while the other has a God-like being enforcing his will across the universe. All of the Star Trek captains make judgement calls and impose the will of their respective federation ideology onto whichever alien or society is being encountered while simultaneously preaching some prime directive about not interfering.

The Doctor calls himself a Time Lord. And nearly every episode he is called out for lording over all of time and space. As his name implies he has an arrogance about him that indicates he believes it is right to impose his will on the universe. He see’s himself as the enforcer of righteousness and the distiller of vengeance on those who do wrong.

Star Trek presents a hopeful future where humanity learns to use technology to transcend its problems and spread those ideals to the rest of the galaxy. Doctor Who presents a Time Lord who whisks around all of time and space both as an observer and dictator of sorts. He spouts off about fixed points in time as a reason why he cannot interfere yet he too breaks his own version of the prime directive quite often.

Star Trek has spun off into other branches of itself. Each new series loosely connected while free from the boundaries of what came before. Doctor Who basically reinvents itself literally every few years with a complete reboot of sorts. There is one true spin off to speak of in the Doctor Who universe, a series called Torchwood, but that’s a story for another day.

Despite personally enjoying Doctor Who more because of the simpler story telling, easier to approach episodes and fast paced action compared to Star Trek, as I break it down Star Trek just comes out ahead in every measurable category.

Doctor Who’s strength is also it’s weakness. Each time the alien regenerates the TARDIS also has to be rebuilt into a new interior set design. This helps mark when a new run is going to being but it also reminds the viewer the show is not likely to give the audience any closure in story lines. When you have a time traveler who can hop dimensions and basically make his own rules, consequences don’t tend to have lasting effects. At least in Star Trek sure each episodes follows a predictable template, you still know that by the end there will be meaningful resolution to the story leaving you satisfied yet still knowing there is more out there should you crave it. Stay Cool.

Why Minecraft works as the best fantasy video game ever created

I’ve spent the last 6 years digging deep into the world of Minecraft on my PS4. It is by far the game I have played the most on the console. I also own the game on my Android phone, tablet, PS4, PS3, Wii U and PC (Windows 10 and Java versions). Needless to say I love this game. I have poured countless hours into each version. I even have the single player campaign known as Story Mode.

It didn’t take long for me to discover what I love so much about the game. In creative mode I treat is like a game of Sim City where I get to make my own rules. I also do “God mode” where I start with a completely flat world of just bedrock and build my own solar system with constellations, planets and the like. I have also been known to make a flat world that I create my own biomes, some based on real places others fantasy versions.

There is more to the game than creative. I also play the game as an RPG in survival mode. In this style of game play I seek level up my character, fight monsters and build a dungeon/castle to store my treasures.

But the limitless possibilities of the game also afford me another game play mode. I sometimes set up a map in Survival Mode that I play my own little version of Harvest Moon. I tend to clear a space to build a tiny little farm and then I proceed to live a virtual life in game.

In the six years I have also discovered another form of game play, also in survival mode. I call this my own version of The Sims. In this style of play I will create a small suburb complete with streets, businesses, taverns and the like and populate it with Villagers. Then proceed to simulate my own virtual sim world where I go to the store, swim in the pool and take road trips.

The game might be designed to be a light version of “My First RPG” or it could be seen as a comprehensive substitute to “LEGO” building, but if you use a little imagination and apply yourself, while also forgoing a social life, you can transform the game into so much more.

For me, it’s become my whole virtual world. Oh sure I still play the real Sims 3, paid all that money for the game and expansion packs ya know. I also enjoy a fully fleshed out hard core RPG like Diablo 3, Final Fantasy 15 or even Dragon Age. And I do in fact own at least one version of Harvest Moon and more than one LEGO game. Yet, I continue to return to Minecraft day in and day out.

After spending time watching the PS5 reveal recently I think I might take a break from Minecraft and allow myself the opportunity to enjoy some of the other games I have in my actually vast video game library that includes nearly 1000 games.

Why the Death Star is actually pretty cool

From a military stand point the Star Wars universe is very much a the guy with the bigger gun makes the rules kind of place. While the expanded universe, including the now deleted legacy stuff, depicted a vast history spanning thousands of years, what we see in the films paints a picture of a militaristic society struggling to shed its industrialist ways and return to a simpler time.

Throw that narrative out the window and prepare to be amazed. I won’t go into the Imperialist sympathizer mentality some would argue. Palpatine was not a benevolent leader protecting the Empire from an evil alien invasion as some fringe corners of the interwebs might have you to believe.

As an industrialist, pro-capitalism, techie science nerd I can say the idea of a giant, indestructible fortress of metal housing a giant death ray sounds pretty cool. The imagery of the super weapon is also appealing. In a way it kind of looks like a giant menacing robot eyeball in space.  As a setting for a space fantasy it’s damn near perfect. It builds tension for the heroes as the looming dread of ultimate annihilation approaches. Even in that final tactical meeting where the Rebel forces basically come to terms with the suicide mission they are embarking upon the reality sinks in. The pilots know they can either stay on the planet and get blown to atoms or face certain death in an attack that literally makes no logical sense all the way around.

The whole idea of a super weapon that has the power to frighten  the imperial subjects into total submission is more than a plot point, it is the very glue that holds the entire Star Wars saga together. From a tactical perspective it doesn’t need to make sense because it works as a story element.

Star Wars has been regarded by a lot of film different people over the years as the  greatest film of all time, or at least one of the greatest by most accounts. It is absolutely a cultural phenomenon at the very least. I would argue that the Death Star itself is as much a character of the film as Darth Vader and even more crucial to its success than the entire Jedi mythology.

The Death Star represents mans ultimate achievement, using science and technology to tame the natural world. Being able to control the elements even on a global scale is impressive enough. Then we see the Galactic Empire showing our imaginations a society that has also tamed the wild vastness of space itself. Even the science-grounded Star Trek shows us an untamed space that cannot be explained. The reason Star Wars continues to capture our imaginations to this day is because the first film had the balls to make the focus of the movie a Cold War era nightmare extrapolated to the extreme. Humans of the era were under constant threat of mutually assured destruction during the time the film was released. Humanity had created a series of weapons that if unleashed had the capability to render the Earth a lifeless rock. Here comes a weapon that can not only take out all life on a planet, but can actually destroy an entire planet in a single instant. Images of the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima fresh on everyone’s minds, the scene where Alderaan is blown to molecules resonated with our own fears.

Everyone from the kid in grade school to the college student writing a thesis for their professor down to the nerdy blogger on the internet, has written about Star Wars in some form or another.

While there are ways to analyze the film from a political science perspective, to seeing it as a study in mythology, to a warning of the dangers of industrialization, every angle has been explored. Even as I sit here trying to think of why the Death Star is so damn cool all I can think to say is it’s the best explanation I have for why the film works so well.

There is so much going on in Star Wars yet most of the truly iconic moments and quoteably memorable lines are taken from scenes that happened on the Death Star. The most iconic line from the movie even “May the Force be With you” was said on the battle ship and directed towards it in that briefing room scene.

The sight of a giant metallic ball of death moving into orbit is more than enough to give everyone chills. Even the sense of relief the heroes have at the films conclusions is more than a simple battle field victory over a technologically and militarily superior enemy. The symbolism of destroying the most powerful weapon of the Empire is enough to bolster the Rebels moral. The audience is left with a sense of wonder, awe and relief as the credits roll. We leave the galaxy far, far away knowing the legend of the farm boy, space pirate and princess who stop an evil giant ball of death will live on in the collective conscious of all who experience it.

While film and literary critics will argue the idea of the Death Star is over used or some contrivance of sorts they fail to recognize what it truly represents. On the surface it’s a plot device. Nothing more than the threat our heroes need to overcome. Yet it represents something larger than that. It is the idea of man developing a technology that can undo God’s creation. The idea that man can invent a technology that would elevate an creature no more significant than a flea in the  grand scheme of things to the single most important life form in existence. For that reason alone the idea of the Death Star transcends the films and is single-handedly responsible for propelling the Star Wars saga from the realm of a cult b movie to arguably one of the most successful and influential films to ever exist.

I believe that the Death Star is the most important element to the film, even more significant to its pop culture status than the characters themselves. And I am eternally grateful George Lucas had the artistic genius to design his movie around a concept that sticks with you. None of the films spectacular visual effects, fantastic story telling, lovable characters or rich back story work if you remove the single most important element from the films genetic makeup. The movie works simply because the Death Star works. Without it you just have the Wizard of Oz in space. And who wants to see that?