I was all kinds of excited when this was being teased. And grew less excited, then less interested, every time I saw a new commercial. And it never ended, so I didn’t bother watching. After all, Boba Fett was always a problem – he was the living epitome of someone considered cool for no real reason. Ok, I get the reason, but still, he really didn’t do much in the films, did he?
I suppose that is some form of inverse foreshadowing. He really doesn’t do much in the series either. I has been said many times before, but somehow they managed to get the character who should be traveling the galaxy to have no interest in it, while the character who should be staying put romps around the galaxy. It is fairly silly.
So, The Book of Boba Fett begins in the end of season two of the Mandelorian, when he kills Bibb Fortuna and has a seat on the throne in what we last saw as Jabba’s palace. The show proper opens with him chilling in a bacta tank, remembering his past. These memories include how he got out of the sarlacc, only to have is armor stolen by Jawas, be enslaved by the Sandpeople, and become an honorary member of the tribe after showing them the way to defend against a syndicate hovertrain. These fjashbacks also include him getting his adopted tribe wiped out in revenge for them taking out the train, meeting Fennic Shand, stealing his ship back from Fortuna, and becoming a ‘daimyo’ on Tatooine. Of course, he has angered the syndicate, and has to defend his new home.
There are so many issues here, but mostly it comes down to what I feel is a lack of understanding that this isn’t 1977. Back then, the target Star Wars audience likely hadn’t seen Hidden Fortress, didn’t speak Dutch, and hadn’t read Joseph Campbell. And there was no public internet. This allowed Lucas to get away with, well, all of it. This isn’t then. Daimyo just feels wrong here, mostly because it would be akin to the crime lord title being viscount or marquess. It just doesn’t feel right.
What Went Wrong
Well, that is a very subjective list. In my opinion is is highlighted by the following scenes:
Chapter 1: Stranger In A Strange Land
Great title (they all are, really), but the first ‘what is this’ moment was in this episode. It’s the ambush by the ‘ninja’ group. Or, as Pops Racer might put it, ‘nonja’. This might be the least kinetic fight scene ever filmed. At no point did it seem like any of the actors were in the least bit engaged. In fact, the action was so…not active that I feel I could easily have defeated the assassins. And I am not in any shape for that nonsense. The fight was slow, awkward, telegraphed, and felt like an homage to the Saturday Night Live ‘Ninja Pep Talk’ from 1994. It just doesn’t work. I do get that Boba Fett was still recovering, and not 100%. That doesn’t excuse the assassins taking it so easy on him.
Also not working in this are the two Gamorrean guards. In Return of the Jedi, the Gamorreans looked, well, real. Like people in green paint, so there wasn’t the look of bunched fabric at the back of the knee. In Book of Boba Fett, it is the opposite – the actors are clearly in green tights.
Chapter 2: The Tribes of Tatooine
Where, in the desert of Tatooine, does Boba Fett get a large tree branch? Is it from the vision, if so, how? I love the scene, the idea, and the result, but this is a desert…not a forest. Twin Hutts is also not great. This was pretty decent, with nothing standing out as truly bad.
Chapter 3: The Streets of Mos Espa
Oh good. The mods. Literally, in two ways. Mods as in the actual 60s trend seen in the Who movie Quadrophenia, and mods as in cyborgs. While the concept isn’t bad, I guess, the execution is horrible. The cybernetics are weak, and the speeders are…well…look, DC can’t hoard all the bad SFX, right? The speeders are awful. The ‘chase’ scene is less interesting than OJ in a white Bronco, and the visual effects of the speeder bikes serve only to appear as kids on stationary props pretending to bank and turn. Luke’s landspeeder in 1977 was more realistic. This was another episode that had me questioning not only who this was being made for, but why it was being made at all. Boba Fett is once again a side character in his own show. Yes, he is in many of the scenes, but I never saw him as the focal point in the episode.
And gee, we get a rancor back. because of course we do. It comes with another nod to the expanded universe novels, specifically The Courtship of Princess Leia by the late Dave Wolverton. Can we either stop with the fan baiting for older fans who read these books, or just return them to canon already. It’s annoying to be constantly teased with aspects of a richly worked universe that the mouse destroyed out of hand.
Also, the cyborgs suck.
Chapter 4: The Gathering Storm
So little happens here. But we managed to not mention that Boba Fett’s ship is ‘Slave 1’. He just calls it by it’s model. Look, let’s not read too much into that. We all know that the real reason was to not use the word slave. But at the same time, when you are trying to convince a new partner to help, maybe you don’t call it Slave 1. Meh. Nothing really sucked here, it was just a 48 minute long cut scene.
Chapter 5: Return of the Mandalorian
Well, it seems to get better here. And the fact that Boba Fett is not even in the episode says a lot. No Boba Fett, better episode? Not a good episode, but a better one. The problem I have here is, again, too much tell, not enough show. I am also personally offended by the suggestion that the New Republic has X-Wings as some kind of speed trap. No, just no. The highlight for me was the N1 Naboo starfighter…so much cool in that design. While I don’t love the blister dome for Grogu, I love the N1 design enough to cover the gap.
Chapter 6: From the Desert Comes a Stranger
Another epic title. Another subpar episode. The best parts are the Grogu flashbacks, and the live-action debut of Cad Bane. I never could deal with the animation on Clone Wars, etc., so this character is less important to me than others. I am, however, fully aware of who it is, and the look was excellent.
Chapter 7: In the Name of Honor
Finally, it ends. With the obligatory big fight. And, of course, everyone plays. The rancor, the new N1 fighter, Grogu, those lame cyborgs, and all the bit players from the earlier episodes. So here is the final insult, this episode fails as a western (see High Plains Drifter, or even, I swear, Blazing Saddles, for how this is done right), and fails as Star Wars. It tries to be both, and can’t commit enough to either to be good.
Grogu and the ‘go fast’ button is pure joy. So it ends on a high note.
So What Went Wrong?
In a word? Boba Fett only works as a mystery. He isn’t meant to be developed, he is supposed to just be this enigma who had to be warned against fucking disintegrating people. Boba Fett almost had too much backstory in the prequel trilogy. Seriously.
Boba Fett is a supporting character in his own series. That is harsh perhaps, but seriously, he is constantly overshadowed by literally everyone. It is the Book of Boba Fett, not the Book of Fennic Shand. For fuck sake, the owner of the bar (played by Jennifer Beals) is billed above Boba Fett.
If there is a second season of Boba Fett, I hope that he is the main character, and that we get something that feels more appropriate for the character.
I finally broke down and started watching Discovery. And…it’s not great. There is a lot to pick apart, and a lot of…let’s call them unforced errors. And finally, it suffers from a serious flaw – the creators and showrunners think they are far more clever than they really are. It’s kind of annoying, because there are also some really excellent notes too.
To begin with, let’s look at the elephant in the room. Discovery has substantially higher tech levels than the Enterprise in the original series. And is set a mere 10 years before the original series. Which makes for a lot of disconnect. I look at it one of two ways – either this is the more realistic tech level, considering what has happened in the real world, and if the original series (ok, TOS from here out) had the ability, they would have done it this way. The other approach is that it’s another reality, where TOS never happened. I tend toward a hybrid of both. TOS happens, but also this is the tech level that would have been there had these concepts (and the practical ability to make them happen) been available in 1966.
The other elephant is the Klingons. I will get more into this later, especially the way that every show-runner since Roddenberry has made them less and less realistic.
So, let’s see what I though of this incarnation of the Trek franchise.
Discovery Has Issues
I don’t mean issues within the larger Trek continuity. I mean internal issues. Well, it has both, really, but mostly internal issues. Some of them can be chalked up to terminology issues and a seeming lack of familiarity with how military structures work. But there are more than just that – casting issues, continuity issues, Klingons, scripting, and more.
Let’s look at these one by one, starting with the overarching one – how does a military work. This is mostly about Tilly & Burnham, honestly.
This is an odd topic to look at – weirdness. What do I mean, and how do I come the the conclusion that it is ‘increasing’? This was a question I started wondering about when I noticed the proliferation of paranormal shows. And while I am prone to mock them – especially Ghost Adventures – it made me wonder what was making these all work. Unlike the true crime ‘murder porn’ driving Investigation Discovery, the slate of paranormal TV has to be fresh and unique. They can’t mine documented cases for content. So what’s going on?
First, let me be completely clear. I am highly skeptical of the entire paranormal show concept. In most of them, it seems like there is never anything concrete, never anything conclusive. All too often, it is a reaction to something never seen, despite ostensibly being on camera, followed by being told what happened, not shown. Audio is presented with helpful captions or the team all ‘hearing’ the same thing, which plants the suggestion in the viewer’s mind. Clever editing and post-event interviews combine with obviously (and openly) staged bumpers to enhance the ‘spooky’ elements. Add in the gizmos that all have technobabble names and easily could be triggered off-camera and you just have a recipe for deceiving the audience.
Second, I need to be clear about what I consider ‘paranormal TV’. I am specifically referring to shows who’s format is completely paranormal or supernatural. Unlike Wikipedia, I wouldn’t include Mysteries at the Museum (background on various items…not supernatural), River Monsters (fishing…and he usually finds the fish too), or Curse of Oak Island (not mainstream archaeology, but it is based on tangible items). I also mostly discount Bigfoot shows, since they are clowning around in a forest to find a creature always reported as ‘shy’. If that’s your thing, check out Survivorman Bigfoot. Conspiracy, aliens, pure psychic shows, etc. also don’t count as paranormal for this work. They are, in order, speculation, speculation, and fraud.
But for ghost shows, and this is important, they still make them, and at least one, Ghost Hunters, has been running since 2004. Why? How? And how is there enough content available to make as many of these shows as we have available?
Gullibility, Increase, Or Just Too Much Time To Fill?
It is tempting to default to the idea that there is too much time to fill, and something has to go there. I am sure there is something to that, of course, but I know enough about the way programming works to not fall fully into that camp. Simply put, if there was no audience, then the shows wouldn’t sell ads, and would be pulled for ones that did sell. So. that can’t be the sole reason.
The other thing I am thinking about is maybe best described as gullibility. We all tend to believe things we want to, and many of us want to believe in an afterlife. So, the ghost show plays off of that – there is something more, and we can continue after death. I don’t like that either, since the theme seems to be that ghosts, by and large, are either victims of obscene abuse and violence, or whiny, or just hateful. Not all, of course, but in the stuff I have seen, it’s pretty common. That doesn’t seem to be the kind of afterlife that would be attractive. Of course, there is a lot of ‘helping them pass on’ talk, but in the absence of anything conclusive, that is just talk. Declaring this expansion of content to just be due to gullibility also has, for me, more than a hint of arrogance, classism, and generally being an asshole. I am sure there is some level of gullibility at play…but I can’t in good faith say that it’s the driving factor.
Leaving an increase in useful examples of the paranormal. In this context, I just mean there is more happening, an acceleration, if you look at the political theory of the same name; allowing more content to be created without duplication. While we don’t have the dedicated network in the paranormal like we do for murder porn, it’s getting close. If we have more happening, then it make sense that we have more shows.
Increasing Paranormal Activity or Better Hoaxes?
One of the more…questionable…aspects of the slate of reality paranormal television is the technology aspect. From the Mel Meter used to measure “electromagnetic fields (EMF) and temperature changes”, to ‘ghost boxes’ (devices that sweep across radio frequencies at high speeds), to other gadgets that light up or make noise when they encounter electromagnetic interference – always attributed to spirits. And these devices are always presented as the gold standard in ghost detection, without demonstrating any evidence to that claim. Of course, all these devices have at least one, often multiple, antennas, which opens the skeptical (and logical) question of ‘can they be controlled off-camera’.
In the early days, mediums and other paranormal promoters would have people hidden in other rooms, under tables, etc. to manipulate things, make noises, and generally sell the experience. These days, on camera, you can easily have a producer off in the production van triggering things by remote control. Since the entire experience is constructed to be as isolating and suggestive as possible, making these devices go off helps sell the idea. Further, the members of the team, and any semi-random fans they include, are tremendously predisposed to believe there is something happening. Making devices trigger easily pushes people so conditioned to see what the producers want. Technology, especially custom technology like this, is a truly weak point in the genre, and something that maybe needs to be overcome.
I started watching some of these through the gateway drug that is Ozzy Osbourne. In the series ‘The Osbournes Want To Believe’, son Jack, a paranormal investigator, tries to sell his parents on the idea that ghosts, UFOs, cryptids, and so forth exist. He has a lot of interesting footage, and the totally disconnected responses from his parents makes for some fun watching. This series led to a one-off special ‘The Osbournes’ Night of Terror’. If you haven’t seen this, it is worth a watch.
In brief, the plot is that Jack and Kelly head off to investigate the supposedly haunted Heritage Square in Los Angeles. Kelly expects that Jack will be messing with her (siblings, right?), and is mostly blowing the whole thing off. Ozzy & Sharon remain at home, watching on monitors. This was shot during COVID, so these precautions make sense. Ozzy is also 72, so walking around at night in strange houses is likely a bad idea at any time. Anyway, Kelly more or less loses her shit at what she encounters, and winds up fully on board with the idea that there is something out there. Which is nice and all, but the parts that kind of sold me were the scenes of the producers freaking out. That was new, since the producers and crew on paranormal shows never freak out. Ever. The talent does, often very theatrically, but never the crew. Until this one, where they had a crew that did. That alone made me pay attention. The random things opening also helped, since they happened in the background, surprised the crew, and were not easily explained. Yes, there was also the usual nonsense, but those few gems helped sell it.
Other shows, like Holzer Files, have had some interesting audio, better than average (but still not conclusive) video, and they take an approach that focuses on historical research more than some others. They also focus on their own results, where they could simply recreate the work they are using as inspiration. That adds a layer of believably, especially when they directly contradict their source.
What this all leads me to wonder is if there is something there, something more than we might otherwise consider. The paranormal has always had some popularity, but the audience needed to support the amount of content being created today seems to support the idea that there is something there. Further, the change in what these shows, or some of them, are showing is interesting. More and more often there is some physical event on camera that is harder to dismiss – although there is still no video of anything conclusive. There is better audio, played without comment from the cast, allowing one to hear what is there before they plant suggestions. The crew and producers are reacting, adding believability.
2020 has been a weird year. Finding out that paranormal shows are actually on to something wouldn’t be too far out of bounds. Not in a year with random monoliths appearing around the world, a global pandemic that shut the world down, and so on.
I remain a paranormal skeptic. I also have to admit that either they are far better at faking it than they used to be, or maybe…just maybe…there is something out there.
Back in 2017 I did a review for a memoir called The Dysfunctional Conspiracy. It was critical, and I had issues with several aspects of the story, especially as it conflicted with my own knowledge of how criminal cases can proceed.
But that isn’t the point of this new piece. The review stands as originally posted, I have not made, and will not make, any changes. That’s also not the point of this, just putting it out there.
The author, Christopher Veltmann, was kind enough to respond to the original post, and raise some good points. That comment is also on the post. Mr. Veltmann also left, almost a month ago now, a followup I wanted to post about. I’d have gotten there sooner, but you might be aware March was a bit insane – and not in a basketball vein.
Seems that the book is being optioned as a mini-series, and will cover more ground than the book does. That feels odd, as most books cover far more than a producer is willing to pay for – even short stories get chopped up in production. But, stranger things have happened.
I looked for more, but can’t find any. Nothing on IMDB, no hits on Google, nada. Now, if this is in early stages of production, or is from a new company, that makes more sense. Very early stages. The project doesn’t seem to be announced publicly yet.
I’ll keep checking from time to time, and see if or when the project is announced. It will be interesting to see a property I have been part of, even just on the fringe of the edge of the outermost frontier of the periphery of, for three years come to video.
The technical storage or access is strictly necessary for the legitimate purpose of enabling the use of a specific service explicitly requested by the subscriber or user, or for the sole purpose of carrying out the transmission of a communication over an electronic communications network.
The technical storage or access is necessary for the legitimate purpose of storing preferences that are not requested by the subscriber or user.
The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for statistical purposes.The technical storage or access that is used exclusively for anonymous statistical purposes. Without a subpoena, voluntary compliance on the part of your Internet Service Provider, or additional records from a third party, information stored or retrieved for this purpose alone cannot usually be used to identify you.
The technical storage or access is required to create user profiles to send advertising, or to track the user on a website or across several websites for similar marketing purposes.