Throwback Thursdays: Cat-person Lesbians, Homicidal Robots, and Captain Janeway; Representation in KOTOR

I’ve played quite a few video games in my day, often coming back to the really good ones repeatedly over the years. But only a select few have crossed over into “I set my Steam profile to private so my friends don’t know how much I play this game” territory. Of all those titles, perhaps the most enduring are the Bioware Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games from 2003/2004.

There’s something about KOTOR  that gives it a staying power very few story-driven games, even the truly great ones, have ever achieved. The two games combine a massive narrative depth with a mature treatment of the Star Wars universe that sets a gold standard for the franchise, at least in the realm of gaming. They have proved so enduring in their popularity, in fact, that KOTOR was re-released for mobile and KOTOR II was recently patched (after over a decade) to support modern PCs, add Steam Workshop support, fix bugs, and officially support the Restored Content Mod. For those who are not familiar, KOTOR II was rushed to make a physical release date, and as a result, a great deal of content was cut. Rather than removing it, however, the devs left it there for modders to find. Over the years, that resulted in a near complete restoration of that content. The game has remained popular enough to justify a complex, years-long project involving dozens of coders and artists, and it has continued to sell well enough to justify an updated Steam release with official support for that mod.

KOTOR-Darth Traya

Back where it all began… Malachor. (Screenshot from KOTOR II)

Falling thousands of years before the events of the Star Wars prequels, KOTOR showed us a universe where the galaxy is plunged into massive and bloody conflict with the Mandalorian Wars and then almost immediately into the universally disastrous Jedi Civil War, in which Jedi are not trusted, are hated by many, and are ultimately hunted to near extinction. It’s dark and chock full of moral ambiguity and some of the best Star Wars content out there. While these games are technically no longer canon, the general framework and many of the characters from this period, KOTOR games included, did “make the cut.”

The KOTOR franchise also serves as a clear spiritual predecessor to the best of both the Mass Effect franchise and Fallout: New Vegas. Many of the same people worked on many of those titles, and there are themes that almost seemed to carry over directly. While far from perfect, these games dealt with complex racial, ethical, and sexuality/gender identity issues in ways that were often groundbreaking, if occasionally facepalm worthy.

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Trailer Tuesdays: Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Yoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!! Yoooooooooooooo!!!!!! Yo, the gat dang Last Jedi trailer is here. Are you hype? I’m hype.

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Throwback Thursdays: Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase

In my grand tradition of rewatching old Scooby-Doo movies for this column, I sat down this week with yet another Saika family fave: Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase. It’s been ages since I’d watched the movie, so much so that it’s possible that I’ve played the PS1 game based on it more recently than I’ve seen it.

So it was with almost fresh eyes that I turned back to this particular title in my teensy VHS collection. I have to say, upon rewatching, I found myself both amused and bemused, but never quite engaged enough to make this a fave like Zombie Island.

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Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Finale and Looking Forward to More

(via Collider)

Star Wars Rebels’s third season wrapped up just a few days ago. I can’t say the season had everything that I ever wanted, but it certainly had enough of those things, and even a few more storytelling decisions that I didn’t realize I needed in my life. The entire season, our favorite Rebel cell and the rest of the people under Commander Sato worked hard on plans to attack the Imperial factory on Lothal and deal a massive blow to the Empire. Unfortunately for them, the main villain this time around was Grand Admiral Thrawn, who spent the season searching for the Rebel base on Atollon, and it’s Thrawn’s plans that come to fruition instead.

Spoilers up ahead.

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Throwback Thursdays: Diversity in Cowboy Bebop’s Vision of the Future

For many of us, Cowboy Bebop, as it notes in its opening credits, really did become “a new genre unto itself.” It was a formative anime experience and set a standard for animated television that in many ways continues to be that against which new shows are judged. It was hugely successful and for many people, in the West at least, served as an introduction into what anime was really capable of as a storytelling medium. It was also released during the late 90’s pop culture zeitgeist when the Internet was still relatively new and concepts like media inclusivity and cultural appropriation were just beginning to gain traction in the mainstream narrative.

Bebop - Spike and Faye (via imdb)

They’re gettin the band back together. (image via IMDB)

So how does Cowboy Bebop hold up when exposed to modern criticism? Mostly pretty well. There’s some problematic stuff, obviously, but the universe in which Bebop is set offered a lot of creative freedom and some of that was used to explore social constructs and culture. It presents a vision of the future that is incredibly diverse and where humanity is living on other worlds, but where people are still just people. While there are tropes and shortcomings, some of that vision was ahead of its time and still holds water today.

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Web Crush Wednesdays: Procyon Podcast Network

Are you guys fans of speculative fiction podcasts but find it hard to actually find said podcasts? Me too! That’s why I’m so happy to be able to tell you guys about the Procyon Podcast Network, a largely female-led team of podcasters who are also concerned about the lack of good fictional podcasts. As they say on their Kickstarter:

Formed in November 2016, the Procyon Podcast Network began as the brainchild of several audio drama fans hanging out in a private Slack who wished there were more cool genre fiction podcasts out there with interesting and diverse characters. Eventually we figured, hey, here we all are. Let’s be the cool genre fiction podcasts we want to see in the world.

Procyon is the name of a star, but it’s also the scientific name for raccoons, thus leading to the adorable astronaut raccoon mascot you see above. Speculative fiction, diverse characters, and a cute animal mascot? What’s not to love? Find out more about them and how you can support them after the jump!

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Fanfiction Fridays: After, Now by lc2l

(via TV Guide)

There probably aren’t very many people who remember Fox’s ill-fated reboot/sequel of Minority Report, which was quietly canceled in 2016 after a supremely lackluster first season. The TV series had so much potential—it introduced a huge number of characters of color to a canon that was predominantly white and it discussed complicated issues like immigration, genetic engineering, and police profiling, though it never got deep enough into any of these issues to really be satisfactory. I can honestly say that I enjoyed watching it, despite its many writing missteps.

However, the main failure of the show was its handling of the PreCrime program and the precogs who were used against their will to run it. While the original Minority Report film ended the PreCrime program because John Anderton proved that people could choose not to commit a crime and thus change their own futures, the Minority Report TV show made this touchy issue into a procedural cop drama by assuming that all the futures the precogs saw would definitely come to pass. This uninspired utilization of the original film’s themes meant that the TV reboot was neither as creative nor as thought-provoking as its predecessor, and it unfortunately meant that the potentially meaty conflict between leads Lara Vega, a Metro P.D. cop who believed fervently that PreCrime was the best way forward for society, and Dash, a precog who wanted to help people but didn’t want to be put back in the milk bath, was quickly erased so that the procedural cop drama could move forward. We never got to see a connection between the themes and characters of the film and the themes and characters of the show. But fortunately, in fanfiction, other writers can tackle these problems for us.

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