The 20 Sexiest Sci-Fi Babes Part 2

Originally posted 11/26/06 on Furinkan High School Kendo Club.

Be sure to read part one.

Max Guevera10. Max Guevera (Dark Angel 2000-02)

I could make all kinds of inappropriate jokes about a girl with spliced-in cat DNA, but I’ll restrain myself.

I don’t have to tell you that Max, aka Government Experiment X5-452, was hot – she was played by Jessica Alba, who takes hot to a new level not possible under the standard laws of physics. (Hey, I know! Let’s cast her as Invisible Girl!) But the show was kind of centered on Max being sexy, as well as kicking ass. Sort of like a futuristic, Seattle-based Abercrombie & Fitch ad.

Maybe Max would go out with me if I could score her some tryptophan. (Wait, the tryptophan prevents her from going into heat? Never mind.)

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Lana Lang9. Lana Lang (Smallville 2001-Present)

Yeah yeah, you’re with Clark, you’re not with Clark, you’re with him, you’re not, with, not, with, not, then you find out he’s Superboy, you die, come back, and Lex gets you pregnant. It’s too much drama, Lana. Especially since he’s just gonna move to Metropolis and fall for Lois.

You’ve got that Chinese-Dutch thing working for you, Lana. You’re gorgeous. Work it. Find yourself a real human male, not some Aryan übermensch from space.

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Rose Tyler8. Rose Tyler (Doctor Who 2005-07)

One day she’s a poor London shopgirl living in a council flat with her overbearing mother and shiftless boyfriend; the next, she’s a time-traveling Universe-saving inter-galactic superheroine (and a very, very Bad Wolf). How does a girl pull it off? By batting her beautiful eyes at any Time Lord who wanders by, of course.

Rose is smart, funny, vivacious, and in love with The Doctor, although the two of them never want to admit it. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s played by Billie Piper, the British Britney Spears.

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Theora Jones7. Theora Jones (Max Headroom 1985, 1987-88)

The United Kingdom takes four of the top twenty (and an honorary fifth for Trillian? She was British in the books).

As Edison Carter’s brainy and beautiful controller/sidekick/partner/love interest, Theora Jones was guardian angel to Network XXIII’s star reporter. If you were a geek in the 1980s, then Theora Jones was your ideal woman.

As Max Headroom would say, “I-I-I-I-I-I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating crack-crack-crackers!”

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Kaylee Frye6. Kaylee Frye (Firefly 2002, Serenity 2005)

“Goin’ on a year now I ain’t had nothin’ twixt my nethers weren’t run on batteries!” You know, Kaywinnit Lee, if’n that tree stump of a doctor ain’t gonna help y’all out in that respect, I reckon’ I might be willing ta fill in there.

Little Kaylee is as much the heart of Serenity as the ship’s photon-reaction drive. But the plucky, homily-spouting cutie is apparently a wildcat in the sack as well. She’s the one ship’s engineer with whom I’d like to get trapped on an island. Sorry, Scotty.

Kara 5. Kara Thrace (Battlestar Galactica 2003-Present)

They said a woman couldn’t be a cigar-chompin’, bar-brawlin’, whiskey-chuggin’ hotshot Viper pilot. Well, by “they” I mean Dirk Benedict. Dirk, you have officially had your ass handed to you.

In a stellar ensemble cast, Katee Sackhoff’s Kara Thrace is first among equals. It’s not just that she’s incredibly sexy – she shares screen time with Boomer, Six and Xena the Warrior Princess. Kara kicks ass and takes names in every way the original Starbuck did – PLUS she’s clever, bitter, loving, conflicted, and secretly paints pictures. She’s neither the stereotypical kick-ass superheroine, nor the stereotypical kick-ass superheroine who is secretly fragile. She’s the kick ass superheroine who is secretly fragile, but will never let that fragility take her down. Not ever.

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Seven of Nine4. Seven of Nine (Star Trek: Voyager 1995-2001)

Who would Annika Hansen have been if she hadn’t been assimilated by The Borg at the age of six? A big fat nobody, that’s who! Well, maybe not big and fat – on a typical Federation diet, she would have been at least Jeri Ryan-hot. But she would never have been Seven of Nine-hot! There’s nothing like a skin-tight gray jumpsuit and a metal eyebrow to turn a guy’s crank.

Sure, Seven was emotionally unavailable, but that was just because of her alien upbringing. Also, if your only choices were the “men” of Voyager, you might choose chastity as well. Yikes. No wonder she only hung out with the Doctor.

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Jean Grey3. Jean Grey (X-Men films 2000-2006)

First let’s get something straight. The real Jean Grey committed suicide in The Uncanny X-Men #137 in 1980. Every issue since then with “Jean Grey” in it is a PACK OF LIES.

That said, Famke Janssen’s Jean Grey in the X-Men films is its own, separate character, and that character is amazing. Call it the superheroine who is openly, obviously, heart-breakingly fragile. You just want to run over to her and wrap your arms around her, even if it means, a la Brett “Let’s destroy the franchise” Ratner, she’ll disperse you into millions of colored CGI chunklets. If there’s another X-Men movie, let’s hope this time they do bring Jean Grey back from the dead.

Oops, that was a spoiler. If you haven’t seen Last Stand, don’t read that last sentence.

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Sharon 2. Sharon Valeri (Battlestar Galactica 2003-Present)

Grace Park plays three characters on BSG.

There’s Athena, who the producers call Sharon and fans call Caprica-Boomer. She’s Helo’s wife, and mother of the Cylon Miracle Baby. She lives on Galactica.

Then there’s the one the producers call Boomer and fans call Galactica-Boomer. She was in love with the Chief, shot Adama, and teamed up with Caprica-Six to “save” humanity. Now she lives on a base star.

Finally, there’s Number 8, which is all the other thousands of Sharons, who always call Athena a traitor.

And I am in love with all of them. Even the ones that would kill me.

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Leeloo Dallas multi-pass!1. Leeloo (The Fifth Element 1997)

The perfect woman, the Supreme Being. That’s Milla Jovovich. No, sorry, I mean Leeloo, a.k.a. Leeloo Minai Lekatariba-Laminai-Tchaii Ekbat De Sebat, a.k.a. The Fifth Element.

Is it the orange dreads? The pale blue-green eyes? The perfect body? The Gaultier outfits? The adorable accent? The martial arts? The saving the Earth from the Ultimate Evil?

Out of all the science-fiction female ass-kicking secretly-fragile alien super-powered hotties, Leeloo is the ultimate. The perfect prototype. The geek’s ideal mate. Sigh. Too bad she doesn’t exist.

Be sure to read part one.

Tired Sci-Fi Tropes That Must Be Retired — Part Deux

Read the first part of this blog post.

Continuing my study of tired science fiction clichés:

Explanations for Vampirism

Space vampires.  SEXY space vampires.Sci-fi writers like to find scientifical explanations for supernatural myths. Julian May suggests that fairies and dwarfs are aliens. H.P. Lovecraft proposes that ghosts and goblins are aliens. Arthur C. Clarke writes that Christian devils are… aliens.

But the favorite supernatural-meets-sci-fi trope is to describe vampires as either aliens or as victims of a disease. The classic example of the former is 1985’s Lifeforce, a great, underrated movie that everyone should see, if for nothing else than Mathilda May’s naked breasts. The best example of the latter might be 1971’s The Omega Man, which would be a classic film if it didn’t have Charlton Heston in it.

But now this has been waaaay over done. This idea even infected the Matrix movies. It was the main plot point of this year’s execrable Ultraviolet – and a movie really has to be bad if even Milla Jovovich can’t save it. And speaking of Milla, let’s stop explaining zombies as disease victims, too. If your zombie isn’t a shambling corpse created through evil Vodou magic, I don’t want to hear about it.

Nanotech as Magic

She can inject me with her nanoprobes any time.Any time nanotechnology comes up, someone quotes Arthur C. Clark; “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Well, it seems clear that the earliest advocates for nanotech very much overstated its potential as well as its dangers. Most likely, nanotech is not going to make us immortal. And the gray goo is not going to kill us all, either.

But it seems just as clear that nanotechnology, and related materials sciences, will completely change our world, and remake society as we know it.

Some authors have imagined these changes, and postulated in the impact they will have on humanity. Neil Stephenson’s The Diamond Age is my favorite of these; also the works of Rudy Rucker. And occasionally, a film will reference nanotech in an interesting way. The “mimetic polyalloy” in Terminator 2: Judgment Day is the first thing that comes to mind.

But you can’t just throw nanotech in there every time you need out of a dead-end plot. Lazy sci-fi writers are just using “nano” to replace all the usual pseudo-scientific jargon. Look, if you want to explore the medical implications of nanotech, please, go right ahead. But if you injured your hero in scene 24, and want him fully healed in scene 25, don’t fall back on a “nanopatch.” It’s asinine. Nanotechnology is not a magic word that eliminates the need for plot, character, and milieu construction.

I’m talking to YOU, Berman and Braga.

The Ineffectual Crew

Yeah, George, we get it.  That's a lot of guys.So, the U.S.S. Enterprise had a crew of 430. The Enterprise-D had a crew of over 1,000. Babylon 5 had a crew of 2500 (and a much larger population). The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica had 2800 crew. The SDF-1 had 50,000 people living inside of it. The Death Star had a crew complement of 1,226,000.

But only five people ever actually DO anything.

This is difficult to avoid; in fiction we have main protagonists, and we want to hear about what they’re doing, not about some lowly Photon Torpedo Loading Technician on Deck 23. Our heroes won’t be very interesting if all they do is bark orders all day.

One way to deal with this is a tiny crew. In Firefly, the Serenity had a crew of six, with three passengers (I’m counting the doctor, Simon, as crew). There was zero redundancy, so if someone got taken out, the ship was screwed. But at least everyone was busy.

The new Battlestar Galactica has faced this problem self-referentially. Apollo and Starbuck have both complained that they have to do all the heavy lifting. It’s a wink-and-a-nod to the audience.

To give Star Trek credit, the show did an excellent job from the very beginning of creating the illusion of a large ship with a large crew, through background sounds, the careful placement of extras, and dialogue. And Next Generation was pretty good about introducing supporting crew characters. Still, if someone was going to save the ship, it was most likely Wesley.

The message to sci-fi writers is this; if the life of a starship captain isn’t very interesting, because he or she doesn’t actually do very much on his or her own, then stop writing stories about starship captains. Or be more creative in inventing stories.

The Planet-as-Location

I met him in a swamp down on Dagobah, where it bubbles all the time like a giant carbonated soda.  S-O-D-A soda.The planet Dagobah is jungle planet with roughly Earth gravity and with oceans over only 8% of the surface. If we assume that Dagobah is the same size as the Earth, then the land area of the planet is 469,260,352 km2, or 181,182,435 miles2. Give or take.

Good thing Dagobah is in fact about one acre in size, and contains a lake, a hut, and a Secret Grove of Confronting One’s Enemy and Learning It Is Oneself. Because Dagobah is only an acre, Luke has no problem locating Yoda’s home. Imagine if he had to search 181 million square miles! And all while Han & Leia are hiding in the asteroid field!

Sci-fi writers love to treat “planet” as if it’s a single location. “Let’s land on the planet, where we’ll meet the one settlement of the one culture, and have the one adventure the planet can afford us.” Planets are entire WORLDS. Even with advanced technology, it will take a space exploration crew YEARS to explore and survey a single planet. Even an uninhabited one.

Under the “Planet-as-Location” cliché, Mars is done. We sent a robot, it roamed around a few hundred yards. We saw it. DONE. Nothing more to see here.

It’s absurd, it’s an overused sci-fi trope, and it’s time to drop it.

The Theme Planet

Mmmm mmmm, sandworm is good eatin'!The planet Dagobah is jungle planet with roughly Earth gravity and with oceans over only 8% of the surface. If we assume that Dagobah is the same size as the Earth, then the land area of the planet is 469,260,352 km2, or 181,182,435 miles2. Give or take.

That’s 181 million square miles of jungle. Jungle at the equator, jungle at the poles. Jungle in the plains, jungle on the mountains. Jungle on the ocean floor, I guess. No deserts, no tundra, no temperate grasslands. Just jungle, jungle, jungle.

Jungles occur at certain latitudes, and in specific geographic and climate conditions. Even if Johnny Jungleseed went all over the planet planting Kapok trees, it’s not going to create a single planetary biome.

Even Frank Herbert admitted that Arrakis – Dune – desert planet was not scientifically possible. Although he created a clever ecology for the planet, all of its unique (and impossible) features were due to a single creature, the sandworm. One wonders how such a destructive life form, that creates its own climate, ever evolved.

Some theme planets are possible (ocean worlds) or even probable (ice worlds). But they won’t have lovely, warm oxygen atmospheres. Look at the one “desert” planet of which we are aware – Mars. Not terribly hospitable to moisture farmers and their malcontent nephews who thirst for adventure. Scientists used to hypothesize that Venus was a jungle planet. Sulfur rain and 400Cº temperatures aren’t too conducive to rainforest conditions.

Enough with the theme planets. Again, planets are WORLDS, and should be treated as such.

Everything on Mars is Red

Dees red filtah ees makink my head explote!  Or maybe eet ees der Kahreefornia Demokrats!“Hey, let’s make this movie take place on Mars! We’ll just drive out to Topanga, and shoot everything with a red filter!”

Even movies as recent as Mission to Mars and Red Planet have fallen into this lazy, non-scientific trap. Is everything on Earth blue? Should everything that takes place on Earth be shot with a blue filter?

Mars’ surface is covered largely by iron oxide rust. This gives the surface, and atmospheric dust, an orange hue. But the sky is blue during the day and black at night, and objects are the color they would be anywhere else, unless they are covered in orange dust. The surface albedo might give objects a slight orange cast – but that’s about it.

The planet has no magical red miasma. You can’t depict the planet’s surface on the cheap with a red filter. Sorry.

Alien-Human Hybrids/Babies

Ripley Clone Number 7.  I'd still hit it.From Mr. Spock and Dana Sterling to Ripley Clone #8 and the Cylon Miracle Baby, sci-fi writers just love those alien-human hybrids.

Unfortunately, if you can’t get viable offspring from a human-chimpanzee coupling (and Lord knows I’ve tried!), what chances are there for two beings that evolved on different worlds?

Now the sticklers will point out, regarding the four examples given above, that (1) humans and Vulcans were both created by the Progenitors; (2) in some versions of the Macross back story, the Zentraedi are a human sub-species; (3) the Ripley clones weren’t created sexually, and were just Ripley with certain xenomorph genes spliced in; and (4) humanoid Cylons are almost completely human, and are designed to copulate with humans.

Excuses, excuses.

It’s funny, in 2001’s Planet of the Apes, director Tim Burton wasn’t allowed to show the human Mark Wahlberg get it on with the chimp Helena Bonham Carter. Yet James T. Kirk could get busy with any alien that had a shapely carcass and a hole.

When we finally encounter intelligent alien life, the social, psychological, and ethical challenges will be enormous. But the one thing we won’t have to worry about it alien-human babies. Time to give it up.

Sound In Space

Sound in space -- there isn't any.Everyone knows there is no sound in a vacuum. Everyone but George Lucas.

Some sci-fi movies and films have tried to accurately portray what a spaceship occupant might hear, during a battle for instance; or at least use the occupant’s perspective as an excuse to sneak in some sound. The new Battlestar Galactica does a pretty good job of this. Engine sounds, collisions, passing through gas and debris clouds, and voices can provide a lot of audio “business” in a scene.

But there is something eerie and beautiful about an appropriately silent space scene. (As long as it’s not all done in annoying slow motion, like 2001: A Space Odyssey.) Firefly had some excellent “silent” space scenes, with nothing but twangy guitar over the action.

Science fiction authors need to remember, physics is our ally, not our enemy. Make friends with it.

The Best and Worst Sci-Fi TV Show Openings (Part 2)

Photos and YouTube links updated 12/17/09.

Check out the 10 Best.

The 10 Worst

10. “Land of Lost” (1974-77)

No, this isn’t on the “worst” list for the silly “special effects,” or for the dialogue during the giant dinosaur puppet attack. (“C’mon, let’s get out of here!” ORLY? You’re not going to stick around and become Tyrannosaurus food?) No, it’s the song. The lyrics are okay, explaining what plot the show had to impressionable Gen X kids. But the music? Yee-haw! I reckon’ it’s a hoe down! Grab a jug of moonshine, Cletus, and we’s gonna go bugger us some Sleestaks!

(Oh, and if you never understood why Will Ferrell’s character in “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” was named Marshall Willenholly — now you do.)

9. “Manimal” (1983)

Once I had this weird dream. I turned into that pretty British man from “Falcon Crest.” Everything was strange colors, and I was attacked by a bird and a cougar. It was so dramatic! Then suddenly I was in a wacky romantic comedy with that nurse from “St. Elsewhere!” Wha–? What happened to the bird/cat guy? Why am I standing around with my bi-racial posse, cracking wise and sharing a hearty laugh? Wasn’t there something about vertebrate polymorphism? Now some wacky woman is stepping on my foot! HA! A passing car just sprayed us with water! HA! Oh ho ho, my sides are splitting! And then… then I fell asleep and had the dream. (Stay tuned after the credits for an expository monologue so long I never made it all the way through).

8. “The Bionic Woman” (1976-78)

Despite its flaws, “The Bionic Woman” was a much better show than its progenitor, “The Six Million Dollar Man.” For one thing, Lindsay Wagner is STILL hot – I’ll climb into her Sleep Number bed any time. Also, she never ever befriended Bigfoot. But the opening sequence is just a lame attempt to rehash the “Six Million” credits, and it fails utterly. There’s too much reading; and is that the only photo of Wagner the producers could find? And why do the credits emphasize Jaimie Sommers’ teaching career, and Oscar’s unrequited love for her? She’s a freakin’ superpowered crime-fighting robot who works for a super-secret spy agency! Her opening credits shouldn’t look like a douche commercial.

7. “Xena: Warrior Princess” (1995-2001)

“Xena” and “Hercules” were good shows. Either you “got” it, or you didn’t. I wasn’t a huge fan, but I got it. And no one expects a show this bi-polar to have a brilliant credits sequence. Let’s review the charges. (1) Bagpipe music? Okay, this show could never quite decide where or when it took place. But I’m pretty damn sure it’s not in medieval Scotland. (2) It’s got a terrible expository monologue. Like we even need one — “it’s a chick in a steel bikini” would cover it. The monologue is read by that “In a world…” movie preview guy. It goes on and on and on. We don’t get facts about the characters and plot, just the kind of vapid marketing-speak you would expect in a movie trailer. “A mighty princess forged in the heat of battle?” That’s not even a real metaphor. Seriously, all we needed was some generically exciting music and clips of two ancient Mediterranean lesbians kicking ass.

6. “Charmed” (1998-2006)

How dare you motherfuckers ruin The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now?” How DARE you?

I won’t even start in on the cheap-ass visuals – ooh! Somebody took a class in After Effects! No, I can’t get past the music thing. I’m too angry. I need to go calm down. How many lives will Shannen Doherty ruin?

5. “Babylon 5” (1994-1998)

There are two kinds of sci-fi fans who just can’t shut up about their favorite show. Browncoats are pathetic because, while “Firefly” is one of the best series ever made, there are only 14 episodes (and a movie). B5 fans are pathetic because, while they have 110 episodes comprising a complete story arc, every single episode sucks.

Each season of B5 had a different opening, but each was as bad as the last. Longest expository dialogue ever. Longest credits ever (must have saved on episode costs, just like the cheap CG and the cheap “sets”). “The name of the place… is Babylon 5!” Yaaaawn.

4. V: The Series” (1984-85)

Marc “BeastMaster” Singer takes out a reptilian evil alien baddie – with his genitals. And that’s the best part of this cheese-ridden opening, an 80s-era Supercuts ad scored with the “space music” setting on a Casio.

(Anyone notice the weird overlap between the “V” opening and the “Firefly” opening? Spooky.)

3. “Battlestar Galactica” (2003, 2004-present)

Possibly the Best Science Fiction Show Ever, and its here in the “Worst” list. Why?

Is it the music? No, the original American theme, Bear McCreary’s “Two Funerals,” was just fine; the new theme from the British version is even better. Is it the clips from the miniseries? No, they’re fine. The lame expository subtitles? (You know, “The Cylons were created by man…” blah blah.) Nah, they’re useless, but not really annoying. Maybe there’s not enough Grace Park? True, the titles need more Grace Park. But that’s not the problem.

Then what’s wrong? I’ll tell you what the frack is wrong. Each episode beings with 30 seconds of clips from the episode itself. Brief images designed to tease? No. SPOILERS. There is not an episode of BSG that has not had some big dramatic turn ruined by the opening spoilers. Ron, buddy, listen – if I’m watching the opening credits, I’m already watching the show. You don’t have to sell me. BSG is clever and fast-paced, full of unforeseeable twists and turns – unforeseeable, that is, if you close your eyes during the opening titles. Otherwise, you’re screwed.

The fans have been complaining about this for two seasons, Ron. Cut it out. Oh, and we want more Grace Park. Maybe a spin-off series where Boomer discovers a planet of sexy Amazons and opens a lingerie store.

2. Zoe, what are you doing?  Is this because Wash got killed in the movie?“Cleopatra 2525” (2000-2001)

Before this article went to press, I ran my choices past my friend Paul. After hearing my “worst” choice, all he had to say was, what about “Cleopatra 2525?” I have never watched the show; but I trust his opinion, so I checked it out.

Oh. My. God.

That’s “Firefly” star and Mrs. Laurence Fishburne, Gina Torres! What the hell??? Is that her impersonating Geoffrey (“Crisp and clean! No caffeine!”) Holder in the expository monologue? And let’s talk about this song for a moment. Zager & Evans’ 1969 “hit” “In the Year 2525” was craptastic enough without this histrionic cover with the cutesy lyrics. Yeah, take a crappy show with crappy effects and crappy costumes, and add a crappy monologue and a crappy cover of a crappy song, and know what you get? Crap. (By the way, for 60 seconds of fun, check out the opening to “Cleopatra’s” “sibling” show, “Jack of All Trades.” We love you, Bruce Campbell!)

1. Brannon and Braga's 'fuck you' to the world.“Enterprise” (2001-2005)

Worst sci-fi show of all time? Of course not – that was “Small Wonder.” But “Enterprise” was a close second. Tragically, the opening credits for this show were visually brilliant – a nifty little history of humanity’s exploratory spirit. So why is this one of the worst openings of all time? That song – OH GOD THAT SONG. Please, give me something sharp to dig through my ocular cavity and into my brain, until all memory of it is gone. (Although you have to admit, the “Mirror” opening is pretty cool.)