Things I Love About Things I Hate

As promised, I now present the second half of my series attempting to bring a nuanced view to my passions. Previously, I looked at the terrible flaws of things I otherwise enjoy. Today, we’ll be looking at unexpected strengths of things I otherwise dislike.

To be fair, not all of these are things I actually hate. Some are just things I’m indifferent to or underwhelmed by.

Deep Space Nine: Sisko and Dax

Jadzia Dax and Benjamin Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space NineIt is no secret I have no love for Deep Space Nine. It is by a wide margin my least favourite Star Trek spin-off.

Yet even this debacle of a series has its strengths. Namely, Sisko and Dax.

Even despite my dislike for the series as a whole, I would rate Sisko as my second favourite Trek captain, only narrowly behind Picard and significantly ahead of Archer. He has nearly the same level of strength, dignity, and grandeur as Picard while also embodying a great deal of warmth and humanity.

Dax, meanwhile, stands as a breath of fresh air compared to how bland Star Trek’s aliens usually are. Too often Trek treated aliens as either humans with bumpy foreheads or else bland, one-dimensional archetypes with no real personality.

Dax stands as a rare case of a character who feels convincingly non-human yet also like a complete and multifaceted person. I find the blending of personalities found in joined Trill endlessly fascinating, and I deeply regret that the only way for me to learn more about them is to wade through the misery that is Deep Space Nine.

To be fair, Bashir ain’t half bad, either.

Star Wars: The universe

Daisy Ridley as Rey in Star Wars: The Force AwakensStar Wars is definitely not something that I hate, but I think it’s clear by now I’m not a fan. Yet there is still much about it that appeals.

The setting of Star Wars is fascinating. It’s a mythic story, essentially a fairytale, transplanted into a gritty sci-fi setting. That’s a very odd idea, yet it works incredibly well. Everything about Star Wars has this wonderful, exotic grandiosity, and there’s incredible potential in the depth and scale of the universe that has been built for it.

In fact, much of my gripes about Star Wars stem from how poorly they make use of that potential. It could be so much more than repetitive, shallow conflicts between one-dimensional hero archetypes and even more one-dimensional caricatures of evil.

And lightsabers are just about the coolest thing ever. Well, next to Elves.

Marvel Heroes: The voice-overs

Marvel Heroes has the dubious distinction of being one of the very few MMOs I’ve tried that I found genuinely unpleasant to play. Just slogging through enough of it to be able to write an informed article was a horrid chore.

A cartoon cutscene from Marvel Heroes featuring ElektraBut credit where credit is due: That game has great voice-acting. Much like Heroes of the Storm, it’s full of incidental dialogue, and it adds a lot of fun and flavour to the game. I particularly liked Storm and Thor trash-talking each other over who could command thunder better.

And the voice-overs are of a pretty high quality. All of the actors nail their parts quite well.

WildStar: Housing

My feelings toward player-housing in MMOs are at best lukewarm, but if every MMO with player housing treated it like WildStar does, I might change my tune.

To my view, there are two fatal flaws that tend to afflict most player housing systems. One is that they’re too much work, being limited to endgame characters and/or requiring a lot of effort to build the house you want, and the other is that they rarely provide any significant practical benefit. What’s the point of spending hours designing your virtual dream home if you never have a reason to visit it?

WildStar neatly solves both those problems. It allows players to earn their own homes very early on, and it doesn’t take much effort to get enough items to give your home your own flair. It also makes housing useful by offering crafting nodes and other bonuses for having an in-game abode.

A space mission in WildStarAnd of course it does all this while also offering incredible customization potential to make the home you’ve always dreamed of.

Mine was full of books. Whoda thunkit?

Orphan Black: Felix

Orphan Black is one of the things on this list that I definitely don’t hate, but the fact remains it wasn’t interesting enough to keep me watching past the first season.

I do miss Felix, though. Man, Felix was the best. I still often think back on many of his scenes and smile. Particularly that time he was bumming drugs off Alison in the bathroom.

“Sharesies?”

Brilliant.

Abramsverse Trek: Zachary Quinto’s Spock

Zachary Quinto as Spock in Star TrekI think my feelings on what JJ Abrams has done to Star Trek are well known by now. I deeply regret paying to see the first one in the theater.

But there was one saving grace to the experience: Zachary Quinto.

I’ve never been fond of the image of Vulcans as soulless automatons. I much prefer Enterprise’s take: a simmering cauldron of furious passion barely held in check.

Zachary Quinto captured this masterfully. Much as I disliked that movie as a whole, the scene where he finally snaps and tries to strangle Kirk was absolutely brilliant.

And I’m not just saying that because I spent the whole movie wanting to strangle Kirk.

Diablo II: Ambiance

Diablo II is the source of a lot of my long-running gripes with the RPG genre, but if there’s one thing that game nailed, it was ambiance.

From the music to the sound effects to the voice acting, everything about the game was just so eerie and spooky. It was a game where venturing forth into the wilds took a genuine degree of courage.

I really wish more games could offer this level of creepiness. It allows the player to feel so much more heroic.

Well, there’s always The Secret World.

Sci-Fi TV: Dark Matter, Rain, and Canada’s Role

Sci-fi TV seems to be going through something of a renaissance these days. After Battlestar Galactica and the Stargate shows ended, the future of science fiction on television seemed rather bleak, but these days there’s a pretty good crop of shows, with more on the way.

Two upcoming titles in particular have caught my eye, and one of them has got me thinking about how much my own country is playing a role in the future of the sci-fi genre.

Rain:

Katee Sackhoff in her role as Kara "Starbuck" Thrace on Battlestar GalacticaI think it’s pretty much a safe bet that if you have any interest in sci-fi, you probably love Katee Sackhoff. As Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, she was one of the highlights of Battlestar Galactica, and that’s saying something considering how much great acting there was on that show.

Since then, she hasn’t fled from the sci-fi genre, earning more fans through her roles in the Bionic Woman remake and the Riddick movies. Anecdotally, I’m also told she’s a very kind person who is quite good to her fans, and she does a lot of charity work.

So when I found out she’s planning to not only star in a new TV series but is also its creator, my ears immediately perked up.

The show is titled Rain, and it stars Katee as the title character, a soldier in a world ravaged by global warming and ecological disaster.

Now, granted, we have no idea how good she is at working behind the camera — we only know she’s a great actress. But Katee’s awesome — I can’t imagine this not going well.

A photo of Katee Sackhoff at Comic ConMy confidence is further bolstered by the fact Rain is being produced by the same company and many of the same people behind Continuum. With Star Trek, Stargate: Universe, and Battlestar Galactica gone, Continuum is carrying the torch for intelligent sci-fi these days, and doing a pretty bang-up job of it. The expertise behind it plus Katee’s charisma and acting ability seems like a match made in Heaven.

Let’s hope Rain is picked up by a network soon.

Dark Matter:

This is one I’ve just started paying attention to. Scheduled to premiere the same night as Defiance’s third season, this series follows a space ship crew who awaken from stasis with no memory of their identities or their mission.

That’s not really the greatest premise in the world — I fear the potential for stringing the viewer along with lots of mystery and no pay-off. But the pedigree gives me hope. The series was created by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie, who headlined the Stargate TV shows.

This leads me to believe that Dark Matter may be the closest we ever get to a third season of Stargate: Universe, and that thought alone is enough to get me interested.

Even if that assumption proves wrong, it remains a fact that Mallozzi and Mullie are both talented writers and producers, and they haven’t disappointed me yet.

There’s also a Continuum connection in that Dark Matter will star (among others) Roger Cross, who plays Travis Verta.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any info on when or where Dark Matter will be shown in Canada, but hopefully I’ll be able to give it a try before too long.

Canada: The new leader in sci-fi?

Something else that’s interesting about Dark Matter is that it’s being filmed in Toronto.

It seems to me that Canada has become quite the sci-fi Mecca all of a sudden. Orphan Black is both filmed and set in Toronto. Continuum is both filmed and set in Vancouver. Defiance is set in Missouri, but it’s actually filmed in the GTA. The recent mini-series Ascension was shot in Montreal. Although it’s not sci-fi, Once Upon a Time is still definitely speculative fiction, and it’s filmed in BC.

The cast of ContinuumWe could even talk about video games a bit. Bioware is a Canadian company, and I always appreciated the nods to their roots in the Mass Effect games. Whereas sci-fi often ignores Canada, in Mass Effect, Alliance headquarters are in Vancouver, Kaidan Alenko is Canadian, and some fans believe Commander Shepard is meant to be of Canadian stock based on the fact both voice actors who play the character are Canadian.

Of course, I suppose this isn’t entirely new. There’s always been a lot of good sci-fi coming out of Canada. Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, the Stargate shows, and Sanctuary all come to mind.

It just seems a little more widespread to me now, rightly or wrongly. Maybe it’s that these days we have shows that are truly Canadian productions — like Continuum — rather than American shows filming in Canada to save money. Maybe it’s that shows are starting to wear their Canadiana on their sleeves. Continuum embraces its Vancouverite identity, and while Orphan Black doesn’t explicitly state where it takes place, we see characters reference locations like Parkdale and Scarborough, so it’s not exactly a secret that this is Toronto.

Or maybe I’m just noticing it more. Either way, as a Canadian sci-fi fan, I’m glad to see my country making such a contribution to the genre. In a time where most of our country seems devoted to being backward and turning a blind eye to science, it’s nice to see that Canada still looks to the future in at least one way.

I wonder where Rain is going to film?