Captain's Log Episode 12. Stu and Billy go intergalactic this week as they review Stark Trek Beyond! 

Directed by Justin Lin, this is third Star Trek film in the rebooted franchise, and 13th Star Trek movie overall. 

Set 3 years after the previous film (Star Trek Into Darkness) the crew of the Enterprise are halfway through their 5 year exploratory mission of space.

In the furthest reaches of know space they encounter a new ruthless enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test. 

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Princess Leia may be the most shortchanged of Star Wars' power trio of protagonists. She's not got Luke's emotional character arc, nor is she an intriguing anti-hero like Han. She's unfortunately best remembered from the original trilogy for wearing no bra in the first film and an uncomfortable metal one in the third, while her male counterparts are well known for one-liners, lightsaber fights and shooting first. I'm certainly not saying that fanservice is all that Leia's got as a hallmark, but you have to admit it's not entirely fair that the term is regularly applied to her when certain fans recall her exploits in the original trilogy. She doesn't fare much better in the old Legends books, either; depending on the writer, she's either a forthright - and largely ineffective - political figure, or an action girl add-on who keeps forgetting she has Force powers until she reaches her fifties. Timothy Zahn, Karen Traviss and arguably Troy Denning are the only authors who've previously done her justice as a rounded, multidimensional character who doesn't feel included solely because she was a protagonist in the movies.
Praise be to Claudia Gray, then, for writing what may be the first Star Wars novel in a long time that substantially focuses on Leia while eschewing her previously milquetoast characterisation. Bloodline is, from start to finish, Leia's story; despite the issues that I'm about to raise like Luke's X-Wing from the Dagobah swamp, it's worth awarding Gray strong accolades for giving a key member of Star Wars' trinity the solid solo exploration she's been direly deserving for decades. The ghastly days of The Courtship of Princess Leia, The Crystal Star and the latter-day Legacy of the Force novels are over.

Six years prior to The Force Awakens, there are two camps in the New Republic Senate: the Populists and the Centrists. Representing the former, Leia works to motivate the stagnant Senate into investigating the operations of Rinnrivin Di, a figure of organised crime whose outfit is harassing a fellow Populist world. Rather than wait for the bureaucratic shambles of the Senate to get off their collective rears and do some good, Leia sets off on her own to expose Rinnrivin's machinations and bring him to justice. Trouble is, Rinnrivin's operation might actually be the tip of a very large, very daunting iceberg.

While this might seem like a nice little one-off adventure from the above description, Bloodline's actually slots neatly in as a precursor to much of the status quo in The Force Awakens. Among other things, it offers clues on how Leia and Han became estranged, why the New Republic is seen as a completely ineffectual steward of the galaxy, and possibly how a little thing called the First Order came to be. It might even offer one very big hint on how a certain character defines their allegiance in The Force Awakens, but that'd be spoiling too much.

After the paean I gave to the Shakespearean tour de force of Gray's previous Star Wars tale, Lost Stars, I was looking forward to Bloodline. Gray's established herself as a solid writer to watch, easily one of the new continuity's MVPs alongside the likes of Chuck Wendig and Alexander Freed. She's displayed a knack for easily-established and well-rounded characters, whose dynamics with other players are fascinating to read, and plots that are surprising without being burdened by a plethora of twists. Add to that some pointers on how we get to The Force Awakens, and we appear to have the ingredients of an instant classic. 

Going hand-in-hand with all the new stuff is a measured treatment of Leia as a character. Bloodline's greatest strength is in how it draws her as a powerful yet still relatably vulnerable woman, who balances multiple roles as a protagonist. There are frequent scenes of emotive, strident drive on Leia's part in the halls of Senate, evoking the take-no-guff figure of A New Hope, which are then tempered by her intimate radio chats with Han and her internal ruminations on how her son Ben is progressing at Luke's Jedi academy. Throughout the story Leia is evenly presented as a mother, a politician, an action hero and a leader whilst still being a grounded, human character. A lot that Gray does with Leia transcends the fairly two-dimensional representation which many authors favoured back in Legends, where she was mostly assigned a single role in the story - usually a politician lacking significant affect - and spent a lot of time post-Hand of Thrawn solely fretting over her kids (which was fair in some cases, considering her son Anakin was killed and her other son Jacen became a Sith Lord - Leia really doesn't have luck with children in any continuity, huh?).

As much as I enjoyed Gray's illuminating take on Leia, and relished the fact that we have a story that actually makes Star Wars politics interesting, I wasn't quite as sold here as I was on Lost Stars. For all that it does to innovate in the faster-paced new Star Wars EU, it felt oddly slow at points; granted, it's a political thriller rather than the adventure-rescue of Aftermath or the war story of Twilight Company, so it's not to be expected that there'll be copious speeder chases or space battles (though there are a few regardless). Leia does get occasion to kick ass, and it's wonderful to see her doing so sans Luke and Han; there's even a fantastic scene where one of her most memorable instances from Return of the Jedi is recontextualised from pure fanservice and into a potent moment of self-empowerment which manages to put the fear of God into a slimy gangster. 

But even with all of the above, Bloodline establishes itself as a much more narratively sedate experience than recent Star Wars books. The political mess that is the apathetic and lethargic Senate takes up more time and focus than the actual antagonists of the piece, as Leia works with her staff and a crossbench Centrist Senator to get to the heart of the corruption and expose the darkness at the core of the galaxy's administration. We also spend far too many moments with Lady Carise Sindian, an annoying, foppish Centrist aristocrat whose obnoxious introspection takes up far too much time before the narrative meat of her story starts to come to the surface.

In-between dicey-but-sluggish politics and the occasional clandestine operation in the quest to take down Rinnrivin, Gray also writes some lovely character moments that show off her talent for pairing people with interesting dynamics and letting the resulting scenes spark conflict. A few new characters, including an ace pilot (no, not Poe) and Leia's personal assistant, are welcome additions who play nicely off each other. Ransolm Casterfo, Leia's erstwhile Centrist ally, is also one of Bloodline's highlights, whose deuteragonist duties entail fiercely opposing Leia's political ideology whilst being in and of himself a likeable, nuanced character. 

But on that note, Bloodline's political commentary is not subtle. The Galactic Senate may as well be the US Congress, where the Populists are progressive, insightful leaders and the Centrists are scum-sucking, corrupt conservatives who'd much rather focus on money and resources than people. Casterfo is presented as the lone voice of reason in the latter, attempting to do a decent job of legitimising right-wing policies, but the Centrists would probably save time by just renaming themselves the Lehublican Party. Though I tend to lean left myself, there's only so much anti-right-wing proselytising one can take in a series ostensibly about space wizards and laser guns.

At the end of it all, Bloodline succeeds chiefly by focusing on Leia as a character rather than a plot device. Her arc is the smoothest and most enjoyable of the book, and Gray writes her with confident and assured introspective prose. Bloodline is the Leia-centric book I've been waiting years for, and is a welcome addition to the canvas of Star Wars' new Expanded Universe.

- Chris

Star Wars: Bloodline is available in bookstores now.

This review is part of our series on Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Other reviews from this series include:

Supergirl has been a fan favourite of the Geek of Oz crew for being a action series which has so so much heart to it, at times even more than The Flash CW Series, and Supergirl (Season One) is available on DVD and Blu-ray July 27.

Born on the doomed planet Krypton, Kara Zor-El escaped at the same time as her cousin, Superman, but didn’t arrive on Earth until years later after being lost. Raised by her adopted family, the Danvers, Kara grew up in the shadow of her foster sister, Alex, and learned to hide the phenomenal powers she shares with her famous cousin. 
Years later, at age 24, Kara has spent so many years trying to fit in that she forgot to ever stand out. All that changes when she decides to embrace her superhuman abilities and become the hero she was always destined to be. With the help of Daily Planet photographer James Olsen, her bioengineer sister Alex, and the Department of Extra-Normal Operations (DEO), Kara takes to the skies to protect her world. 
To win a copy of Season 1 on Blu-Ray or DVD simply Like, Share or Comment on our Facebook post to win

The series stars: Melissa Benoist, Mehad Brooks and Chyler Leigh 

Special features: Deleted scenes 
Release dates – DVD & Blu-ray July 27 
Distributor – Roadshow Entertainment

Gavin Hood’s Eye in the Sky is about a moral quandary in wartime. The film serves as an autopsy for our current love affair with drone technology, carefully dismantling a routine drone strike in order to evaluate each stakeholder in the decision making process. It craftily weighs up the loss of human life against political gain; resulting in a taut thriller, that’s constantly morphing as fresh perspectives are added to the mix.

Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) has spent years tracking some unsavoury terrorist types across the globe. Through hard work she’s finally corralled her targets under the one roof in an African hideout. So time to pull the trigger, right?! Not so fast there Quickdraw! Colonel Powell must now liaise with the wet-blanket Political-types to get final clearance. It’s here where the film truly shines; as contentious moral and strategic points are debated between various bureaucratic combatants, amidst the real-time drama unfolding on the ground in Africa. The tension is sustained through dynamic editing and a script which avoids getting bogged down in agenda. In what could have easily become a berating of military operations, Eye in the Sky presents a fairly balanced case for and against drone strikes and military campaigns in general, which speaks to the maturity of the film.

On a sadder, note Eye in the Sky marks the final onscreen appearance from the legendary Alan Rickman, who passed way too soon. As he has his entire career, he fills the screen with warmth and dignity. Here he plays Lieutenant General Frank Benson, who acts as counsellor for the unhappy marriage of military action and political fallout.

The film also features Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Iain Glen (Game of Thrones), Jeremy Northam (The Man Who Knew Infinity) and Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad).

This is the ideal film to discuss with friends and family afterwards, just to see who in fact would or would not push the button, as it were. It came and went all too quickly from cinemas, so make sure you take the time to catch it upon its home and Digital release.

If you see the film and agree or disagree with my thoughts feel free to drop a line below or come over and play with us at our Facebook page.

- Stu 

Episode 11! This week we watched Ghostbusters, directed by Paul Feig and staring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon. 

This reboot of the original franchise sees Paranormal researcher Abby Yates, physicist Erin Gilbert, engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and street smart New Yorker Patty Tolan as four parapsychologists trying to prove that ghosts exist in modern society as strange apparitions appear in Manhattan. 

Armed with proton packs and plenty of attitude, the four women prepare for an epic battle as more than 1,000 mischievous ghouls descend on Times Square.

We also have a competition this week as we are giving away 3 copies Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on Blu Ray to coincide with the release next week.

Have a listen to end of the podcast for our competition question and then email your answers to  

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is directed Zack Snyder and stars Oscar winner Ben Affleck (Argo) as Batman/Bruce Wayne and Henry Cavill (Man of Steel, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) as Superman/Clark Kent in the characters’ first big-screen pairing. The film also stars Oscar nominees Amy Adams (American Hustle, Man of Steel) as Lois Lane, Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) as Lex Luthor, and Gal Gadot (the Fast and Furious films) as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince

Fearing the actions of a god-like Super Hero left unchecked, Gotham City’s own formidable, forceful vigilante takes on Metropolis’s most revered, modern-day saviour, while the world wrestles with what sort of hero it really needs. And with Batman and Superman at war with one another, a new threat quickly arises, putting mankind in greater danger than it’s ever known before. 


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Famous Trekkers

This year marks Star Trek's 50th anniversary and, to make it even better, the new Star Trek Beyond is hitting cinemas at the same time. Whether or not you're a major fan, the Star Trek power reaches far across the galaxy and even many of our favourite celebrities are Trekkers. Star Trek Beyond flies at warp speed into cinemas on July 21, don’t miss it, these celebs won't! Live long and prosper.

Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson

Believe it or not, The Rock was a character on the sixth season of Star Trek Voyager in a crossover between the show and WWF Smackdown. It wasn't very popular but boy, did Johnson look hilarious in his space get up. He played a holographic Pendari man versing Seven and, no surprise here, he won.

Daniel Craig

When he's not busy playing James Bond, Daniel Craig is secretly pining for a role on Star Trek which he confessed in an interview with World Entertainment News Network! He was eyeing the role for Captain James T. Kirk, but we don't think we could live without Chris Pine now.

Olivia Wilde

Olivia Wilde grew up a self-proclaimed Trekker, loving the strong female roles which inspired her as an actor. She clearly would have clashed with Cowboys and Aliens star Daniel Craig as she believes there's no reason there shouldn't be a female Captain.

Rosario Dawson

Rosario Dawson is a major fan of Star Trek and lobbied for a role in the reboot series on Twitter. While she didn't land a role, she did show off her ability to actually speak Klingon with Conan O'Brien.

Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks is a geek at his best, with Patrick Stewart sharing that Hank knows close to every episode title in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Hank was close to playing a role on the show but couldn't due to scheduling conflicts and ended up slaying a Trek trivia contest on The Graham Norton Show next to writer and character Scotty, Simon Pegg.

Whoopi Goldberg

This actor and comedian grew up a Trekker, particularly admiring Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) who was one of the first black characters to have a major role on television. After approaching the producers for a small role, Goldberg featured as Guinan, a bartender in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Generations and Star Trek: Nemesis.

Ben Stiller

Ben Stiller is not only hilarious, he's also a total geek and Trekker. He expressed his fandom at the Star Trek: 30 Years and Beyond special and when presenting the Academy Award for Best Makeup at the 82nd Oscars, he confessed he had two pairs of Mr. Spock’s prosthetic ears, actually signed by the late Leonard Nimoy.

Mila Kunis

Mila Kunis is an avid World Of Warcraft fan and also complete Trekker, getting into the franchise in her late teens. In an interview with GQ, she confessed that she has vintage Star Trek action figurines given to her by Jason Segel as well as a signed photo of Leonard Nimoy.
And of course, the Star Trek cast themsleves

The biggest fans are of course the Star Trek cast, with Chris Pine, Idris Elba, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, and the late Anton Yelchin the crew of the USS Enterprise.

Live long and prosper!

Episode 10! Double Digits! Can you believe Stu and have made it 10 episodes without killing each other?

This week we watched The Nice Guys, directed by Shane Black and staring Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe. 

This buddy noir comedy sees Holland March (Ryan Gosling) as a down-on-his-luck private eye, and Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) as a hired enforcer who hurts people for a living, against the backdrop of a 1977 Los Angeles.

 Fate turns them these two into unlikely partners after a young woman goes missing, and soon learn the hard way that some dangerous people are after her too. Their investigation takes them to dark places as anyone else who gets involved in the case seems to wind up dead. 

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