Category Archives: Television

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Review: Formula One 1999

The FIA Formula One 1999 season got off to a somewhat predictable start. The McLaren team of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard seemed unbeatable as they took pole and second place positions in race after race. Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine were the nearest threats to the defending champions’ titles, but it was obvious that they were struggling to keep up with the powerful Mercedes engines of the McLarens.

Disaster struck in the Silverstone Grand Prix when a brake failure caused Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari to career straight into a tyre barrier. He damaged both legs, and it was soon evident that he would not return to Formula One for a number of weeks, or even months. Test driver Mika Salo was drafted in as his replacement, and some hoped that the old rivalry between the two Finnish Mikas would surface in the forthcoming races.

Northern Ireland’s Eddie Irvine was Ferrari’s number one championship contender, and with some strong support from Salo, he managed to win a number of races that Hakkinen should have had sown up. Irvine, out from Schumacher’s shadow, suddenly became the favourite of Ireland’s F1 community, and the Jordan team now had a new rival for our affections.

Ferrari's Hope
Reigning Champion

Never has it been so difficult to hate the enemy. Hakkinen is quite modest, unlike most of his Formula One colleagues. He also gained the sympathy of some of his opponents after a driver error caused his tearful exit from the Italian Grand Prix. Frentzen too earned some new fans after a number of impressive performances and a win in the Italian race. Now both Irvine and Hakkinen were in first place on 60 points, and Frentzen was breathing down their necks at 50. There was also a bit of inter-team rivalry between Eddie Jordan and McLaren chief Ron Dennis as he grudgingly acknowledged the Irish team’s win.

Eddie Jordan vs. Ron Dennis

Preview: Crusade

The Babylon Project: Crusade

From the people who brought you Babylon 5 comes another sci-fi television saga set in the universe of the Interstellar Alliance… ‘The Babylon Project: Crusade’.

So what do we know about the forthcoming series? The year is 2265, where the last episodes of Babylon 5 left off. The series is based on an Alliance ship, the Excalibur, captained by Matthew Gideon, introduced in the B5 movie ‘A Call to Arms’. With the threat of the Shadows (evil man-sized black bugs travelling in giant black spider ships) gone, all is quiet on Earth – too quiet.

An alien race, the Drakh, vows revenge for the loss of their old masters, the Shadows, and their home planet, Z’ha’dum. They aim their wrath at Earth, unleashing a deadly biogenetic plague. Only five years (a convenient story arc – the time it will take for the disease to adapt to human physiology and become lethal) remain for the inhabitants of Earth unless the Excalibur succeeds in its quest to find a cure for the mutating plague. John Copeland, producer, says –

The mission of the Excalibur is to seek out places where the First Ones [of which the Shadows were one race] may have had colonies or where their homeworlds were because this plague is based on Shadow technology. The Earth scientific community could figure this out in 50 years. Unfortunately, that’s 45 years too late. These guys are on a scavenger hunt. They’re getting clues from the Rangers [Earth / Minbari elite squad], who are out there looking for it, too.

Starring Gary Cole

The captain’s role in Crusade is being played by actor Gary Cole, famous to TV viewers as the DJ from ‘Midnight Caller’, or more recently, as Lucas Buck, the diabolical sheriff of Trinity, South Carolina in ‘American Gothic’.

Apart from some preliminary artwork on the TNT / B5 site, I haven’t seen any shots from the series, but the CGI is rumoured to be a lot smoother than that used in the original B5 series. I was expecting the Excalibur to be a ship from the White Star fleet, but from the drawings below it looks more like one of the traditional Minbari ships.

Preliminary Artwork

In August, the Crusade producers announced they were teaming up with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The scientists at JPL are providing the Crusade producers with knowledge from the space program in order to help them depict future technology and astronomical situations realistically, therefore creating ‘the most accurate vision of the future ever attempted for television’. J. Michael Straczynski, show creator and executive producer says –

JPL’s involvement is massively exciting for all of us associated with Crusade. Viewers will see distant worlds never before attempted on any other TV series – worlds around twin stars, bizarre and strange environments, and alien life forms based on the best available scientific research from JPL. We want to bring the sense of wonder back into this kind of storytelling, and put the science back into science fiction.

Crusade is currently in production, and will be broadcast in the US in the new year. If you liked B5, then you’ll really be looking forward to this…