Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” is a stunning visual reminder of what our space program can achieve. Top image: Matt Damon in “The Martian” Trailer. Bottom image: 1989 painting by Les Bossinas/ NASA
The Martian movie was everything I had hoped for. Based on the book by the same name, this movie captured our fascination with space, our fears of space travel, and our ability to use reckless abandon (with some intelligence) to conquer these exact same fears.
Matt Damon does wonders as astronaut Mark Watney, a man thrown literally into the thrashing winds of a martian inferno, only to MacGyver his way to safety – i.e. science the shit out of everything – while singing disco tunes the entire way. Though ABBA beats and space survival might sound incongruous, they fit well together in this movie, just like humor and sorrow fit well together in everyday life. Unlike many other harrowing survival stories (think Gravity) that stretch the bounds of drama and belief, Mark Watney’s unrelenting motivation to fix things and just make it work, seems more true to reality. After all, Apollo 13 did happen, and despite what the conspiracy theorists say – man made it to the moon before the existence of graphing calculators, the internet, or next-day shipping. We’ve got it within us to do it again, singing all the way. (more…)
What does Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse tell us about our notions of self? Image Source: Dollhouse, “Hollow Men.” Copyright Fox.
The premise of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse begins simply enough. Rossum Corporation, a mega biotech firm, has developed the technology to “imprint” a person with the personality of another. To further their research (and make a profit at the same time), Rossum creates the Dollhouse – an organization that rents imprinted people, known as “Dolls” or “Actives”, to the highest bidder. These Dolls are generally volunteers, people escaping from their past, who sign a five-year contract to Rossum. Their memories are wiped and stored, leaving them in an “Inactive” blank slate for the new personalities. At the end of the five year period, the volunteers’ original memories are imprinted back into their bodies, and these former Dolls live out the rest of their lives, richer than ever.
Dollhouse starts with the generic fantasies. Clients rent out dolls for their own sexual desires or other strange fetishes. As the two-season series continues, however, the darker side of the Dollhouse presents itself. After all, Dollhouse technology presents infinite possibilities beyond sexual fantasy play – it can mean the rise of the super soldier, the hope of resurrection, and the consequent evils of immortality. But at the same time, Dollhouse begs a fundamental question. If we can imprint an entire artificial self on another human being, what does this mean about the concept of self – the very concept of a soul? Does the original outweigh the imprint – or are both equally human beings, necessitating our respect and protection? If so, is Topher’s last act one of mercy or genocide?
Various science fiction shows and books have addressed this subject of the self before, from Star Trek to Neuromancer to Dune. Let’s take a look at how the Dollhouse narrative compares to these previous works, and addresses the concept of self. (Caution – Spoilers Ahead!)
S1E8 Come the Rain || S1E9 Enemy Khlyen || S1E10 Escape Velocity
Dutch uncovers Khlyen’s location, and he is closer than she thinks. Image Source: “Killjoys”, Enemy Khlyen. Copyright SyFy.
As soon as I found out the title for this episode, Enemy Khlyen, I was excited. What revelations would we have about Dutch’s former mentor, captor, and father-figure? Though not all was revealed, Enemy Khlyen gave us further clues to Khlyen and Dutch’s past. Now, we have enough information to at least fuel some speculation about the origins of the Level 6 RAC, Red 17, and the imminent Quad class war. (Caution – Spoilers Ahead!) (more…)