31 January 2023

20 Years ago today: Her Name was Columbia, the falling star that came to Texas


In 1981, I watched the first NASA Space Shuttle launched and it lit my imagination. Then in 2003, I watched the Columbia rain down in fiery pieces across Texas like falling star. Oddly, the footage of the orbiter breaking up was captured by my local ABC station, WFAA. The loyal and beloved first Space Shuttle and her final crew of seven all were killed and taking with it the entire Shuttle Program at NASA. 20 years ago today, we lost those seven brave souls and our lady Columbia across the state I live due to a impact on the thermal shielding by a piece of foam during take-off. For those that were invested in the US manned Space Program, the loss of OV-102 Columbia and valiant crew was a traumatic experience. It would take two years for the next shuttle launch in 2005 and while the shuttle program continued for years after, there was always a difference. In 2011, STS-135 was the final shuttle mission using my favorite Shuttle, OV-104 Atlantis. After this, the US manned space program have to rely on the Russian Soyuz capsules for the manned missions to the ISS...that is changing with the SpaceX system. Given the status of the Columbia as the first space-worthy American Space Shuttle (OV-102), she gained much popularity in media. While the name Columbia was certainly not new, this shuttle orbiter of the first launched STS mission in 1981 "Columbia" pushed the name into another level, especially in science fiction. The name "Columbia" is unfortunately taken from explorer Christopher Columbus name. Given the grim realities of Columbus expeditions into the New World, the origin of the name is tarnished. OV-102 was actually named after the privately owned American Sloop Columbia Rediviva of the 1780's that was the first American vessel to circumnavigated the globe and where the name for Columbia River comes from. The Columbia shuttle launched 28 mission in its service life that started April 12th, 1981 with it being the first shuttle to have a female commander of the 1999 STS-93 mission. Today, FWS remembers her and her brave crew. Wherever they are, I hope they know that we still think of them. Due to the popularity of the OV-102, FWS has decided to explore some examples of the Columbia in  the realm of science fiction.

The NX-02 Columbia from ST:ENT

The NX-01 Enterprise was humanity's first Warp 5 ship and it was to allow mankind to enter into deep space beyond the limited exploration conducted by UESPA and the Earth Cargo Authority. During the run of the show, references were made to other NX class ships hulls being laid but no specific name. It wasn't until the loss of the OV-102 that the name and naming convention of the NX class was established. The naming of the NX-02 came from Trekkie Anthony Davis of Brentwood, Tennessee. He reached out to producer Rick Berman and suggested that 2nd NX ship should be named after the OV-102. While the NX-02 was hinted at during the first 2 seasons, it was not named until the 3rd Season E2. The NX-02 was seen in orbital drydock in the 2nd ender "The Expanse", but not named. It wasn't until the 3rd Season 21st episode "E2" that aired on May 5th, 2004 that the NX-02 was given the name "Columbia".
This laid down the name convention of the NX class being named after the NASA Orbiters. If the series have been allowed to continue the next three seasons, we would have likely seen the NX-03 "Discovery", NX-04 "Atlantis", NX-05 "Endeavor", and NX-06 "Challenger". In my head canon, the NX-07 would have been "Buran". The fate of the NX-02 was muddled by ST:ENT novels and the maybe non-canon (Beta-Canon) disappearance of the NX-02 and its later discovery in the Gamma Quadrant some 200 years later. One of the fitting tribulates for the crew of the OV-102 to the NX-02 was the Columbia patch was the seven stars representing the seven astronauts that died that February day.

The Columbia Orbiter from Cowboy Bebop epsiode "Wild Horses"
Much like the World Trade Towers being seen in productions just before the September 11th attacks, the Columbia space shuttle was seen in the 19th Cowboy Bebop episode "Wild Horses". The ancient spacecraft is by Miles and Doohan (insert Trek references here) used to rescue Spike's Swordfish II in orbit and then the ancient shuttle crash-lands. I missed this session when watched Cowboy Bebop back in the day and launching the orbiter that way would never work...but it is cool. This would air in America two years prior to the loss of the Columbia and it normally does not air today due to this. I've read that Columbia was edited out and the Atlantis was placed in for some edits and some still have the Columbia name still there. 

The Columbia Orbiter in LifeForce
Lifeforce is a crazy space vampire movie that came out in 1985 at the apex of Space Shuttle love and fandom. In the movie at stars Sir Patrick Stewart and the beautiful Mathilda May, the British space shuttle HMS Churchill, that was bought from the Americans and modified, found an alien spaceship in the coma of Hailey's Comet. During the mission to the alien ship, the Churchill crew in MMUs recover three naked human bodies. However, contact is lost with the Churchill and the Columbia is sent up to investigate the Churchill. The Columbia is the craft that brings back the alien space vampires. This movie is a cult classic and worth checking out.

The Columbia Orbiter in For All Mankind

In the alternate history of the Space Race, we see the OV-102 Columbia being used in the 1980's to ferry personnel and supplies to the Lunar outpost of Jamestown. The shuttle fleet seen in the series has more shuttles with some with different names that are mostly stupid save for the Constitution instead of the Enterprise. The real question that was asked by the audience was if the Space Shuttle Orbiters could have made it to the Moon. The answer is no. They do not generate enough Delta-V nor carry the fuel for such a trip...orbital space only. This was known to the producers of the series, but chose to ignore for the iconology of the Shuttle and to save due to not having to design a new spacecraft.

The Endeavor Orbiter in the movie The Core

This 2003 world-ending disaster film had its trailers released just after the Columbia loss and the trailers for The Core showed the Endeavor making an emergency landing (Miracle on the Hudson style) on the LA river canal system due to issues with the Earth's core. While the scene is cool, there was an issue. Due to distasteful nature of this scene shortly after the loss of the Columbia and her crew, the trailers were recalled for the process of removing the scene. However, the shuttle crash in the film was left and as become a favorite despite on completely inaccurate it is. Originally, the Endeavor was to land at LAX, but tighter security at airports following 9-11 caused that to be scrapped. That is two real world disasters that caused the disaster film to be altered. 

The Columbia Orbiter from the TV Series The Cape

The Cape was a 1996 live-action TV show that was in syndication and only lasted one season that was centered around astronauts training and mission control. It is not be confused with the 2011 TV of the same name that stars Summer Glau. During the end 2-parter, the Atlantis crashing into the Mir Russian space station and damages some of the heat tiles. The Columbia is launched on a rescue mission. During the investigation of the Columbia Disaster, the possibility of launching the Atlantis to rescues of the Columbia was detailed in the CAIB Report and this was even a possibility explored by the Rogers Commission during the Challenger Disaster way back in 1986. 

22 January 2023

The Weapons of Sci-Fi: Jaffa Ma'Tok Staff Weapon


In one of the longest running and most iconic military science fiction TV shows of all time, one of the primary weapons of the key alien race is a direct energy weapon based on a staff melee weapon. This is the weapon of the slave-warriors of the Jaffa in service to their serpent masters, the Goa’uld. First seen in the original 1994 feature film, Stargate, the DE staff weapon has been featured in all of the entries into the massive Stargate Franchise. These Jaffa staff weapons have become one of the most iconic sci-fi weapons and it is high time we discussed the Ma’Tok Staff of the Jaffa warriors.  

What is the Ma’Tok Staff Weapon?
In the vast Goa'uld Empire that was run by the System Lords, the muscle of the empire was the enslave Jaffa warriors that had been genetical modified from ancient Terran stock. In the hands of the Jaffa was the Ma'Tok plasma directed energy staff weapon and the pistol-like Zat'nik'tel. The Ma'Tok fired a powerful slow-rate-of-fire plasma bolt. Given the Goa'ulds need for style and ceremony, the Ma'Tok was lavishly appointed and designed for a weapon. However, the Ma'Tok was a weapon designed more to be a weapon of imposed order via fear and terror and a symbol of the snake gods. In addition to the portable plasma cannon on the emitter tip of the seven-foot long staff weapon, the staff could be used as a melee weapon and even as a flashlight. The power for the weapon came from a small liquid naquadah power pack that according to some, could power the weapon for its entire service life. 
It is unknown how long the Goa'uld enslaved military forces used the Ma'Tok, but it was used after the fall of the System Lords and even by the Jaffa after their revolt against their snake overlords. Some of them where even taken by the SG team on their expeditions throughout the gate network. During the run of the show,  there were variants to the Ma'Tok, both by Jaffa Warriors and rebellious elements. 
This brings up the name of the Jaffa Staff Weapon. Through the many episodes of Stargate SG-1, the primary weapon of the Jaffa, both loyal to the System Lords and those are rebelling against the rule of the Goa’uld are never named properly. In the original concept art for the 1994 film, it is believed that the name “Hekat” was assigned to the directed-energy staff weapon of the royal Jackal and Horus guards to Ra. This was likely named after the ancient Egyptian god of magic and medicine, Heka. Officially, Hekat was never used in the extensive Stargate franchise. In the 2010 Stargate: Resistance online 3rd Person video game, the Jaffa weapon was labelled an “Ma’Tok”  and has been used ever since then to describe the staff weapon. Like many of the names in the Stargate franchise, the name Ma’Tok is Hebrew and means “sweet”.

What Do Those Ma’Tok Staffs Fire?
One of the larger benefits and its greatest issues of the Jaffa directed energy two-meter long weapon is its power output The standard issue Ma'Tok seen by Terran personnel is basically a handheld plasma cannon that has all of the power, ability, and disability of that weapon philosophy. Being that the Jaffa were the enforcers of their Goa’uld overlords, their primary weapon was used to quell rebellion and put populations into their proper place. As Colonel Jack O'Neil observed, the Ma'Tok was a weapon of terror. Given all of the facts above, we can imagine the power of the staff weapon. 
In combat, the Ma'Tok can blow a hole through an average Terran soldier or even other Jaffa...this with or without body armor at the highest setting. The highest setting has been seen to damage trees, blowing holes in reinforced doors, and even cause secondary effects via burns. This means that groups attempting go against the will of the Goa'uld would be met with directed energy weapons that could kill and wound several people in one volley at close range. This would make most scared to counter the will of the Jaffa and their gods. However, this power comes at a price. 
The Ma'Tok is large, heavy, unwieldly, has a slow rate of fire, especially when compared to the Terran kinetic weaponry, it eats power, and it is inaccurate. Then, there is the effective range of the Ma'Tok: abut 60 meters. This places the primary weapon of the Jaffa warriors in the effective range of a Terran pistol! Power comes at a price and Ma'Tok is a symbol of that. Speaking to that, to power this weapon, the power source is a liquid naquadah power source. Like many weapons of science fiction, the Ma'Tok is a plasma-firing directing energy weaponry that exists in a soft-serve science fiction universe. While this form of lethal energy is shared among hundreds of sci-fi weapons, the Ma'Tok is unique in design and power output compare to the normal plasma DE weaponry

The Use of the Ma’Tok Staff by Tau'ri
When the first SG-1 team was sent out through the Stargate to the world of Abydos in the 1996, this small US Air Force off-world team made contact with the royal guard using the Ma'Tok...it was a tough introduction for the Tau'ri. Given the abilities of the Tau'ri weaponry and the advanced nature of the alien weaponry technology, the US government was interested in acquiring the directed energy weaponry that is well beyond the current Terran technological understanding. When Apophis made his presence known to the Tau'ri in 1997, the US government was able to get some examples of Ma'Tok and present them to retried Jack O'Neil. Once the SG-1 team was formed, the Tau'ri would use Jaffa weaponry from time-to-time. The Jaffa snake pistol was used more, due to it stun abilities, than the Ma'Tok, due to its size. 

What Does the Ma'Tok say about the Jaffa & the Goa'uld?
Every weapon tells a story about the society that produced it and along with when it was produced...and the Jaffa directed energy Ma'Tok staff weapon is no different. At times, style overtakes tactical considerations in weapons designs and a weapon purposefully designed to be more ritualistic in nature than effective on the battlefields that the Jaffa are deployed to across the Milky Way galaxy. Due to the Goa'uld sense of design and theater, their staff weapon was fashioned like a snake with technology culled from the Ancients, and the weapon design itself was a representation of their imperial religious nature. Members of the Tau'ri would associated the design of the staff to the ancient Egyptian culture. With all of this symbolism attached to the weapon, it would make sense that the Ma'Tok is symbolistic in its performance as a weapon. jack O'Neil stated famously the best summation of the Ma'Tok: "This is a weapon of terror. It's made to intimidate the enemy." The intimidation factor was applied to the fearsome abilities of the Jaffa staff weapon, the warriors themselves, and even the power of the Ma'Tok. However, when faced with the soldiers of the SG Teams armed with modern Terran weaponry, the limitations of the Jaffa staff directed-energy weapon were painfully shown. Despite this, the rebel and loyal Jaffa continued to use the Ma'Tok. When examining the Ma'Tok as a whole, the overall design and function demonstrates what the goal of the snake gods was and how they wanted to maintain their empire: through fear. That could be also extended to the incorporating of a melee function to the Ma'Tok. Smacking around the unwashed masses that offended the state imperial religion of the Goa'uld is another way of importing terror and submission...along with the cool armor worn by some of the Jaffa warriors
The Ma'Tok Variants

-The Sodan
This is shorter variant of the Jaffa Ma'Tok comes from the religious heretics of the Jaffa Sodan  and comes in at 52.5 inches long verse the standard seven feet length of the Jaffa Ma'Tok.

-The Serqet
This Jaffa warrior woman is found in the web-series Stargate Origins and she customized her Ma'Tok that added a blade on it for use when she was acting as the right hand of Aset. Cool series.  

-The Bashaak
This wooden Ma'Tok was used to train Jaffa warriors in the melee combat skills and carrying an Ma'Tok into battle. This would make the Bashaak a fancy quarterstaff. 

-The Staff Cannon BFG
This crew-served directed energy weapon system that is a bridge between light artillery cannon and heavy machine gun. When used as field artilerry pieces, the staff cannon is mounted to a wheeled platform or a stand. These are also mounted on Goa'uld warships and even their Glider fighters.  It "can" be a handheld weapon if you are Teal'c. These were first seen in the 1994 Stargate film on the Glider fighters.   

The Ma'Tok Prop from the Film and the Series and the Ma'Tok in Toy Form
Stargate is longest running sci-fi television series in North America and the staff weapon has been there since the 1994 film. There are some differences between the film Ma'Tok and the TV Ma'Tok...however, there seems to be some confusion and misinformation out there. According to a few collectors, there were four "working" staff prop weapons on the set of the 1994 film and were run using compressed air to open the clamshell emitter head on the weapon. There more stunt and background staff weapons in the film. When the props arrived at the shoot location, one was broken, one did not function, leaving two that worked. Only one of the working prop staff weapons is known to exist and is in the hands of a collector. This idea that there was only one staff prop that opened, by either design or accident, is mentioned on many sites I found. So, the question begs itself...is there a difference between the Ma'Tok staffs from the TV series and the 1994 film? One being the size is an issue (that's what she said) due to it being not standard across the various props. One of the props from the TV show is listed at the dimensions of 84.25" × 7.09" × 3.54. Another prop from the show was listed as 76 inches in length. One of the few hero props from the 1994 film is 7ft and 7 inches. These are all close in size, but not the same. Very interesting. During a search of Ma'Tok props, I came across a unfinished staff prop from the 1994 film and it appears close to some items seen in the excellent Patrick Tatopoulus concept art for the Horus guard. 
It appears that this 1994 prop was a pre-production study staff before the final design. The description for the sale says that it is likely that the prop was never finished being "weaponized" by the production staff or the staff was going to be more magical than blaster like. For the 1994 film and the TV series, there was toys made by Hasbro and FWS will cover those in more depth in their own article because the 1994 toyline needs because it is very odd and very 90's. Both the "Horus" and "Anubis" guard figures came with a form of the Ma'Tok. Later on, there were much better figures with the staff made for the Stargate: SG-1 TV series. 

Staff Weapons in Science Fiction
Human fashioned weaponry from natural sources likely has an origin point well before the Homo line. One of the earliest non-rock weapons every used by people throughout the Homo line and before was likely long branch or piece of wood. This would evolve into the spear and this weapon could be used as a stabbing weapon or a melee weapon depending on the target. Given the easy of crafting of a staff-like weapon and it's many uses in day-to-day activities, the staff became a common weapon of the people. Even today, old brooms, PVC pipe, and metal rods are used like staffs for playtime and urban street brawls. It makes sense that staff weapons of all times and designs would be added even if a blaster or laser sword is more sexy. To me, the addition of staff weapons in a science fiction setting is about the capitalization of the martial arts staff to a warrior character for the coolness factor. For Stargate, it was due to the Egyptian roots of the Goa'uld and others, like B5, did to up the coolness factor of a badass warrior-monk character. 

Other Staff-Based Weapons in Sci-Fi

The Imperial Royal Guard SoroSuub Controller Force Pike from Star Wars
In 1983, the infamous royal guard of the Emperor was seen walking along side him and guarding his throne room. Unlike the blacks, greys, and whites of most imperial uniforms and armor, the red of the royal guard popped and I took notice. I owned several of the original action figures and I've always loved the look and mystical nature of the royal guard. Over the years, we've gotten more information on them and their secret society to the point of ruining the mystery behind them. One of the elements that has been mocked by fans over the years as been the royal guard staff weapon, often called a pike. The melee weapons of the original royal guard were enhanced for the elite Pretorian guard for the war-crime-level The Last Jedi. The reason for the pike in ROTJ was to have the royal guard look ceremonial and separate them from the Stormtrooper corps along with connecting them to the Jedi/Sith weapon choices...they were of two worlds and they walked in the shadows of the Dark Side of the Force. 
While they do nearly nothing during the film besides stand and walk around, they did do something. In a deleted scene from the 3rd film, Moff Jerjerrod confronts Lord Vader and the Sith Lord Vader does take too kindly to be threated by a normal human and Force chokes the bitch. When this happens the Royal Guardmen rise their pikes to reveal that these pikes have an emitter on the tip of them.  I decided to consult my copy of West End Games Star Wars Imperial Sourcebook from 1989. These were the SoroSuub Controller Force Pike 2 meters long and the Force Pike was used by stormtroopers, planetary patrols, bodyguards. These ranged in quality and ability due to the construction and wielder of the Force Pike, and naturally, the Royal Guardsmen were the expert users of the Force Pike. 
The vibro-edged head of the Force Pike could be used to stun or even kill in conjunction with being used as a melee weapon. In the hands of the Royal Guard, the Force Pike was a deadly weapon and few that the training of the Mandalorian, the Jedi, or the Sith could stand toe-to-toe with them. Given that the Royal Guard appear in a Star Wars production, we know that there were toys of them...lots of them. I owned the original figure in 1983 and had it for years. The majority of Force Pikes in the package with the original ROTJ figure were bent and the pike had a handgrip for the figure. It wasn't until better molding technology that we got better representations of the Force Pike seen in the film into plastic, like the 2016 Black Series 6inch figure (which is fucking awesome!).  

The Anla'Shok Fighting Pike Denn'bok from Babylon 5
During the peak years for Babylon 5, we get the "cool character" in Ranger Marcus Cole in the episode "Matter of Honor". He was British, was a warrior-monk that laid down some knowledge and beat-downs via his alien stick and had a death that made the teenager me cry. At times, B5 would overplay a theme, character, or event and the Anla'Shok were one of those elements. To capitalize on the cool element of the Rangers, they were heavily blended with the Jedi and a martial artist and that meant  that these space rangers were given them a staff weapon. The weapon is a traditional Minbari weapon that goes back to the days of Valen and is called the "Denn'bok". This weapon came from the non-Minbari weapon called "Barrken" from the insect Tak'cha race. When Valen had training with members of the Tak'cha race, the staff combat was folded into Minbari culture. With modern Minbari technology, the Denn'bok could be retraced into the palm of a hand and expended for combat up to 5 five long in a flash. Some of these pikes were very old and passed down in the Ranger community after a Ranger retired or died. Fans have reproduced the collapsed and extended staff weapon.  

The Vulcan Lipra from Star Trek
One of the first melee weapons seen in the OG ST was the Vulcan Lipra from the critical 2nd season episode "Amok Time". According the background of the franchise, the Lipra is a traditional Vulcan weapon that holds a special place in the Vulcan ancient history. Featuring a moon-shaped blade, a club,  and a staff, the weapon became a part of ritual and tradition. It was actually used for combat as we witness in the last season of ST: ENT due to the conditions of The Forge. Due to the iconic scenes of Kirk and Spock fighting in "Amok Time", the Lipra has gained a nearly legendary status in Trek franchise history despite it looking like a gardening tool. With it being a legendary weapon, it does pop up in other Star Trek works like Lower Decks.  

The High Guard Force-Lance from Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda
During the time of the first Systems Commonwealth, the High Guard military force used an unusual weapon as their primary sidearm for all High Guard forces: the Force Lance (AKA F-Lance). Built a s an omni-weapon for many different tactical situations and environments, the Force Lance was marvel of the Systems Commonwealth. Designed to fire plasma-based directed energy charges or smart bullets known as "effectors", the Force-Lance could engage targets in both lethal and non-lethal means. The Force Lance was a little over 11 inches in its most compact form (Mark 5 and Mark 6 units) and could extend up to 2 meters to act as a melee weapon with the directed-energy feature being still usable in the extended melee mode. Behind the scenes, the Force-Lance props were mocked by the actors and a number of penis/dildo jokes were exchanged about the Force-Lance design with star Kevin Sorbo saying repeatedly, "have seen my Force-Lance?". I firmly believe that the Force Lance drew influence from the Ranger staff weapon from Babylon 5.  

The DE Staff Weapon of the Linnarean Guard from ST:SNW "Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach"
In the SNW episode "Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach", we are introduced to the Majalan system and the unique society that lives there and the role of one young boy in holding together the society: the First Servant. Protecting the First Servant is the Linnarean Guard. During an inspection of the Guard to uncover if there is a traitor among them, there is a fight by the traitor and we see their weapon in action. A beautiful staff weapon with a devastating directed energy blast that seems about to be wielded easily by the guard more so than other staff weapons on this list. Like most of ST:SNW, it was a very good episode.   

The Staff of the MCP Guards from TRON 
One of the standout films of the 1980s was 1982's TRON from Disney due to its arresting use of computer technology and a story set with the digital realm. While a flop, it has become one of the symbols of a cult classic. In the film, the Master Control Program developed by Ed Dillinger is running one of the largest technology companies in the world: ENCOM. In the digital realm, the MCP is the overlord of the digital world and the programs serve him and his empire as it expands into other systems. One of the henchmen of the MCP is Sark and he commands an army of red-glowing security programs in cyberspace. These guards of the MCP digital empire are these heavily hooded and clothed in some sort of armor that glows red and their faces are rarely seen. In their heavily gloved hands is a pike or staff that glows and produces a shock to move programs from one area of the gaming grid to the other. These guards, the lowest in the MCP army, rely on terror and intimation rather than martial abelites as seen in their fights with Tron. These guard figures (called 'warrior" for the toyline) from TRON were produced for the 1982 TOMY toyline, which I had all of them, and these "warriors" came with a staff. This was a glow-in-the-dark thin piece of yellowish plastic and it was mostly bent in the package. Odd toys.    

Diana's Staff Weapon from the Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon
From 1983-1985 CBS, Marvel, and Toei Animation made a bold experiment that is fondly remembered by us that watched back in the day: the D&D Animated TV series. One of the party members was a 14 year old African-American girl that was instructed in acrobatics and with the DM assigned her a weapon and skill set, she was given the glowing staff weapon that used magic to be expanded from a few inches when carried and could expand up to six feet. Throughout the show, Diana would use the staff in a variety of ways including as a melee weapon, throwing weapon, pole vaulting. It was one of the best weapons in the hands of the adventurers. While this example is outside of the military science fiction genre, I fondly remember this show and I wanted to include it. 

Chirrut Imwe Staff Weapon from Star Wars: Rogue One
Among the cast of interesting characters in Rogue One was the Guardian of the Whills, Chirrut Imwe. One of the highly trained Guardians of the Whills on the moon of Jedha in the martial art of Zama-Shiwo. Unlike the similar Jedi, this warrior-monk possessed a flame-hardened uneti-wood staff that was just as deadly and allowed him to disarm a number of hapless stormtroopers. One of the cool elements of the staff was that there was a Kyber Crystal in the handle of the staff to allow for a light source and some harmonic abilities...this also tied him to his order and the Jedi. Given the film's desire to have a warrior-monk that wasn't a Jedi, the inclusion of a traditional weapon of Asian monks seemed the likely path and the character of Chirrut Imwe was gifted the staff. 

The Staff Weapon of Jaylah from Star Trek Beyond
As many of you know, I am not a fan of the J.J. Abrams Nu-Trek series of films and their place in the wide world of Trek. I think that they are a waste of time and money for which we could have gotten canon-Trek works. In the mercifully last of the Nu-Trek films, Beyond, we get the alien female character of Jaylah and she carried a staff-energy rifle weapon throughout most of the film. The staff weapon was constructed while her family was marooned on Altamid. She was trained to use the weapon by her older sister Keelah and by a holodisk her sister made. This training came in handy when was alone and faced off the many salvagers and enemies on Altamid. 

Rey's Quarterstaff from the Star Wars Sequel trilogy 
As I said above, I am not a fan of some of the new trilogies based on franchises from my 80's childhood. The Sequel Trilogy was much like the Nu-Trek series of films was a waste of time, money, and effort by people who did not know what they were doing and what they were playing with. At the beginning of the new Star Wars films, we all had hope with The Force Awakens and then the idea fell badly apart. For much of Ray's time onscreen, she has this odd looking staff and it is used to defend herself in the harsh environment of Jakku. It is likely that this staff is constructed from parts of the starship wreckage on Jakku and later the staff pieces and parts were used to construct the shell of Rey's Lightsaber at the merciful conclusion of the shitty sequel trilogy. I was always impressed with the look and construction of the prop. It has been remade many times for the cosplay community from items found at a local hardware store. I always wondered if Daisy Ridley has one of the hero props in her possession.  

Next Time on FWS...
In the inventories of all navies are the workhorses that deliver the mail, the ammunition, the fuel, the food, and the parts to the combat ships and the battlefields...they are the transport vessels. These are the lesser to the sexy battleships, dreadnoughts, cruisers, and frigates of the combat naval classifications, but they are just (if not more so) important to the war effort as those warships. In the realm of sci-fi, the transport vessel is one of the most used and famous. In the one of the last of the Ships of the Line series, we shall be exploring and explaining the assault ships, troop transports, and transports of science fiction . And yes, I will attempt to justify the inclusion of the Pillar of Autumn from HALO. 

07 January 2023

FWS Status Update for 2023: What the Hell is Going on with FWS?


As of late, FWS has been...dim. Normally, we create around 14-16 articles a year and in 2022, that number dropped to around 11. That is not good and my present on the social media outlets as also not good. That needs to chance or I need to close down FWS and move on to something else. Recently, I have been playing way too much Destiny 2. It is not fair to you dear readers. I want FWS to continue and at times, I am the one that is in the way of the site due to my life. I will endeavor to be better about that. I am exploring the possibility of moving FWS off of blogger to the lack of fixes and updates associated with the site into its own website. Stay tuned for more information. There will be not be any major changes in 2023 and the work of FWS will continue because I need this site for me and my own desires, I hope you do as well. 

So, what topics will be covered in 2023? Here is a teaser...

  • The Jaffa Staff Weapon is being worked on and it has been difficult to write and research. Nearly finished
  • The STARCOM toyline
  • The Jackhammer shotgun
  • The size of outer space and how creators deal with that
  • The profile of the Colonial Military seen in the rebooted Battlestar Galactica
  • The broken promise of season five of Star Trek: Enterprise
  • The Jin-Roh anime
  • The Andromeda TV show is odd
  • Destiny is odd as well
  • The Top 10 Military SF book cover art
  • The Final Countdown 1980 film
  • Military Dogs
  • The Guns of the Future from the film Elysium 
  • The M16
  • Killer Alien Robots from Outer Space
  • Ships of the Line: Explorers
  • HALO: Reach
  • Interceptor/Superior Starfighters 

26 November 2022

FWS Top 10: Forgotten Military SF Video Games (Vol. 9)

While I attempt to gain new insight into the world of Stargate SG-1 staff weaponry, I thought we would have another installment of the Forgotten Military SF video games...number nine to be correct. On this list are a few I am very familiar with and a few I never heard of....

1. The Wing Commander Ports to the Super Nintendo (1992-1993)
During the 1990's, being a PC gamer allowed one to play games not one the 4th generation of home video game consoles...or so we thought. I was a PC gamer during the days of the ATARI Jaguar, Sega Genesis, and the SNES, and I fucking loved Wing Commander and X-Wing. However, it was recently bought to my attention that one of the most beloved military sci-fi games of all time, Wing Commander, was ported to the Super Nintendo along with the expansion pack of Wing Commander Secret Missions. Between 1992 and 1993, SNES had ports of WC1 and WC:SM on the carts and this way, the home console gamer could have the Wing Commander experience. These were not the only ports of the PC space fighter combat game, the Sega Genesis CD got a port as well. These ports of the legendary PC game fade from the gamers' collective memory due to the overshadowing of the original PC games. 

2. Starflight (EA 1986)
In 1986, a five-man team at a small software company called Binary Systems, developed one of the best space exploration simulations of all time...and I'd never heard of it. That game is the EA/Binary Systems Starflight. For some that completely missed or forgot about Starflight, in 2011, the director of Mass Effect said in a tweet that Starflight was key element for one of the best video games of all time. In the game, you are a captain of a 47th century exploration vessel and depart from the world of Arth. This world was once part of the Old Empire and the only place in the galaxy that humans still live on. During the exploration mission, a bigger, more important mission comes to light. Gameplay bounces between exploring, ship-to-ship combat, shopping, and meeting aliens. From 1986 to 1991, the game ported to most computer platforms and even the Sega Mega-Drive/Genesis. Even today, Starflight makes the list for one of the best computer games of all time and it has spawned many children, including Mass Effect. For some, Starflight, is a well-loved title and for others (me), we have no knowledge of this game.

3. Lightspeed and Hyperspeed (MPS Labs 1990 and 1991)
During the heyday of computer gaming in the DOS era, there was the game studio MicroProse Software Labs that developed some classics for the old PC boxes, and two were space exploration games called Lightspeed & Hyperspeed. I never heard of these games, but watching playthroughs of the 1990 and 1991 games, I was impresssed. There was exploration, trade, and combat all wrapped into the experiences with unique alien races. Your ship, The Trailblazer spindrives through the cosmos looking for colonial real estate, resources, and upgrades. If the concept was upgrade for today's audience and technological standards...this could be amazing and similar to the Mass Effect games. Why was it lost to time? These were hard media games that came out just computers were entering the daily lives of people and computer gaming was about to reach the more accepted level. While popular at the time of release and compared to the Wing Commander games, they were overshadowed and the experience of these types of space exploration games was only improved by technology. The game is still available online if you are interested.  

To many of us fans of military science fiction anime and manga, one of the big names is APPLESEED. This Masamune Shirow penned post-WWWIII world of utopias, robots, and ESWAT is one that been mostly unsuccessfully brought into other media outside of the graphic novel. While its cousin, Ghost in the Shell, has one of the best anime films of all time, APPLESEED does not and the license video game from 1994 on the Super Famicom as "APPLESEED: Prometheus no Shintaku", was also a blackeye on the manga title. This game is a basic run-and-gun side-scroller, which was the style at the time, inhabiting the characters of  Deunan Knute & Briareos Hecatonchires, you slide-scroll through four not-well-designed levels and battle enemies. The reviews are not kind on this one and it was only released in Japan on the Super Famicom system, given why none of us westerns have heard about it before the modern internet. Personally, it should stay in Japan along with the terrible PS2 game as well.   

5. Final DOOM! (GT Interactive 1996)
In the history of video games, there are few that could match the impact of Id Software's DOOM that stormed onto the world in the winter of 1993. I was there and remember the storm and and digital blood. It was glorious. During the core popular years of the classic DOOM, there was tons of map packs sold, both licensed and unlicensed to the hungry hordes of unwashed gamers. DOOM at the time was like an ATM for Id and other publishers. Some of these extra DOOM levels were seemingly official Id Software titles like the D!Zone disks. When I finally got an original PlayStation in 1996, one of the games I bought was Final DOOM released by GT Interactive and Williams Interactive in summer of 1996. This became the DOOM game that played most of the classic DOOM games. What Final DOOM was two 32-level designed by Team TNT called: TNT: Evilution and The Plutonia Experiment. According to the "story" of DOOM, these events took place after the events of DOOM: II. The reviews and legacy are all over the place with this one. Some heated it, calling it a cash grab and meaningless...but I disagree. I enjoyed this on the old PlayStation and I think it deserves to be remembered for what it was at the time. 
6. Xenophobe ( Bally Midway 1987)
FWS has covered this icon of 1980s arcade machines and Xenophobe is my favor arcade title of all time! This game was designed from the DNA of 1986's ALIENS and if Bally had their way, it would have been a licensed ALIENS video game, but the production team fought against it and persevered the uniqueness of the title. Xenophobe was a common arcade game and was ported to most major systems with the ATARI Lynx being the best at the time. I love this game and it is the only arcade game I would own. This game was forgotten by some due to coming at apex of the golden era of the classic arcades. One of the most unique features of the original game was the three player split screen and the music...oh man, the music!!! Another cool element was how the portable ATARI Lynx game created an ending not in the original arcade ROM. After many levels, the human hunter starship arrives at the Xeno homeworld to battle the Xeno Queen. Cool unqiue element in the ATARI Lynx system. 

7. Predator (Activison, 1987)
One of the best movies of the 1980s is 1987's Predator and it seems like a great fit for a video game, but given the technology at the time...it didn't always turn out. Between 1987 to 1988, officially licensed Predator video games were released to a number of micro-computers and PC and even the NES! I wanted to discuss this basic licensed title that was a side-scroller due to original title and the year it came out. While not a great game, I came remember seeing this box in a computer store in Albuquerque and thinking how awesome it would be to play a game based on such an awesome movie. Another interesting point of this game is that your experience greatly depends on which system you played on. The NES game was crazy...
8. Enforce (Taito 1988)
This 3-D future tank action game was released by Taito Corporation in 1988 in the arcades. The tank was more of mecha-tank hybrid that looked like a Skynet Hunter-Killer tank. In the game, you drive your tank through a rich 3D landscape populated with enemies to shoot and items to pickup. Your future tank is outfited with a 30mm minigun and a laser DE cannon. To me, the game has a Space Harrier feel and the playthrough videos that exist last less than 30minutes, so that tells you about the game itself. This game was a limit release in the States and the title screen says this odd statement: "Licensed from U.S. Navy under U.S. Patent 4,021,846. This was odd and I googled the patent number and it is for "liquid crystal stereoscopic viewer" which was used in the arcade machines. Interesting...  

9. Starglider 1&2 (Rainbird 1986 & 1988)
In 1986, Argonaut Software developed a first-person starfighter combat game that was in the spirit of the ATARI arcade Star Wars vector graphics aracde game. This game was ported to every major PC and micro-computer in the business at the time in 1986. The original game included a novella that added to the backstory of the war between two alien worlds. The first Starglider was a success and allowed the sequel in 1988. The sequel was more complex and came with another novella along with an extra cassette of the music due to the hardware limitations. Also included in the game was a 3D painting game that was inspired by the founder of the studio's love of the oddball aracde game I, Robot. While these games were forgotten due to them being on older computers and outdated media...Argonaut Software is founding remembered for two things today: Starfox and the Super FX clip.  

10. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1982 Parker Brothers)
At times, I feel like the narrator at the opening of the Road Warrior due to my age and how much I've seen change in the world of video games. Don't get me wrong...I am not much of a retro-gamer. The oldest system I own is my original Xbox from 2003 and I've been gaming since 1982. In that year of TRON, I got my first home video game system, the ATARI VCS (later known as the 2600). One of the games me and my brother were super pumped about getting is Star Wars: TESB game for the system that allowed to pilot a snow speeder against the massive AT-ATs attacking Hoth. For many of my generation, this was their first official licensed video game for their home systems and maybe the first Star Wars game they played outside of the arcade. There are many that remember Parker Brothers video game title that came out on the ATARI and Intellivision systems. So, what is forgotten about this Star Wars title is its place in science fiction and star wars history. The 2600 ATARI Hoth game allowed you to play as Luke Skywalker on Hoth in all its 8-bit glory. Oh, and that game was developed by two people at Parker Brothers.  

10 September 2022

What Will We Fight Over: The Last Bastion

Within the realm of sci-fi/fantasy, there is a well-used concept that has been used to inspire, terrify, and provoke strong emotions in both the audience and the characters within the story. That concept has the enemy at the gates of the final fortress and that all hope lays within the walls of that fortress to prevent the end of civilization as we know it. This concept is know as "the last bastion" and it has been seen in the Lord of the Rings as Minas Tirith, Helm's Deep,  the hidden city of Gondolin, city of Atlantis in Stargate Atlantis, and in the Last City in Destiny. In this installment of What We Will Fight Over, FWS will be exploring the sci-fi/fantasy examples of the last bastion as well as real-world examples. We will also be exploring if we will fight over this and why it is such a compelling narratives for audiences and creators. 

What is the Concept of the "Last Bastion"?
The Last Bastion concept and/or the Trope is when the characters have their collective backs (and ass) to the wall and what stands between them and the apocalypse, is the walls of their last bastion. This last bastion could be an underground city, a fallout shelter, walled city, warship, space station, or a hidden city or place that is obscured via magic or a portal. Given this, the Last Bastion concept can take on different forms depending on the setting. In the realm of fantasy, the Last Bastion is often a castle and/or fortress that is the fallback position when the enemy comes riding up as seen in the real-world after the founding of the first cities and especially after the fall of Rome. It is a place that is defensible and can be used as a shelter for the civilian population. In the science fiction setting, it is much more varied. 
It can be the last warship defending a civilian fleet, or that last warship is defending the homeworld from invasion as seen (and very much overused as a plot device) in the Space Cruiser Yamato franchise. This was used to excellent results and dramatic tension in the rebooted Battlestar Galactica series. In the realm of sci-fi, this Last Bastion could be the last colonial world were the last of a species is holding up as seen in the classic Doctor Who. Or it could be the last city as seen in Destiny and the Matrix films. Also popular is the last colony ship or a space station. Another common abuser of the Last Bastion trope is the post-apocalyptic genre. It does not matter if it is a nuclear war, pandemic(!), rise of the zombie , or the dreaded red hat virus…the seems to be a last bastion of human survivors holding on the canned goods and the precious juice. 
During these post-judgement day scenarios, the last bastion is often the last survivors holding to the few remains of the world that was and shall never be again. This is seen in the Mad Max films with Barter Town and the outback refinery. At times, these sanctuaries of humanity can be the true horror as seen the Fallout vaults or a cannibal colony attracting fresh meat by cloaking their true nature. It is seen in Fury Road, where the last bastions are used to bring death and pain to the unlike survivors that drift into the realm of the Immortal Joe. There have been many RPG scenarios were the heroes wandering into a stronghold only to be more trouble that if they had avoided theses sanctuaries. This was also seen in Logan’s Run as well.  

Why is the Last Bastion Concept so Popular in Sci-Fi/Fantasy?
Given the number of famous examples seen in the realm of sci-fi/fantasy, the question asks itself: why is this concept so popular? The reason is because of how damn compelling it is for both the audience and the characters. The pressure and dramatic tension that is placed on the audience and the characters allow for a creator to fuel their fiction to a higher degree. The compelling nature of the Last Bastion allows for emotions to impact harder, for the battle to be that much legendary, and for the tales of the battle to be more worthy of song. How many tales of warriors and battles are devoted to the last stand of the few against the many? It seems that the most celebrated battles in Victoria Britain period are last stands like 1879 Battle of Rorke’s Drift. Then there are the examples from mythology that provide some of the reason for the popularity of the Last Bastion concept, such as the Noah's ark myth and King Arthur's Camelot. Layered into the collective experiences of our species is the mythological stories of valiant warriors and brave survivors of apocalypses level events and the last bastions where the remains of humanity rose to retake their lands. We seen this with the collective Great Flood stories that populate many mythological traditions. Again, this concept was so compelling to those early lore masters that they included into the mythological foundations of their lore and identity.   

Will We Fight for the Last Bastion of Human?
We already have and we will likely again. At some point in the prehistoric period as modern humans were spreading out in Europe, around 40,000 years before the common era, the last Neanderthals were pushed back to Gibraltar and this as their last bastion of a sort. Throughout geologic time, there have been countless species that have been pushed to their last bastion of their habitat and while some come back, some die as we are seeing with the climate change die off. We could be in the same boat as the Neanderthals at some point in our species history. When we look at more military examples in human history, there are some prime examples. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 after a 53 siege, this important city of Christendom was looted and sacked with all manner of violent and crimes, with many men, women, and children raped and then sold into slavery. For many, the last bastion of Christendom and the old Roman Empire was gone and surely western civilization will fall. One of the better examples comes to us from the ...no more text here

The Last Bastion and Science Fiction
One of the surface of this trope, we can easily see that the Last Bastion theme is as a common plot device as there are Toyota Corollas. It does have to be the entire theme of the work in question, like Battlestar Galactica, it can just be an episode or a mission or setup for the show that changes later, like Andromeda. Given the commonality, the Last Bastion concept or setting can difficult to nail down, due to vast amount of times it has been used in science fiction. I’ve attempted in the Examples section to provide some variations on the concept. 
One variation that I did not use due to the amount of those in media is the Last Man On Earth trope. 
This is like the last human on Earth as seen in I am Legend works, the last child on Earth as seen in Children of Men, and the unused concept for 4th Mad Max movie. Before the long-awaited release of Fury Road, there was of rumors floating around the internet of the early 2000’s, especially on AICN. According to the rumored concept, Max’s son would be paid to escort a group of “pure blood” women from one safe location to another while being pursued by several different groups of wasteland warriors. It was envisioned as a film that would devote the majority of its runtime to the chase of the Pure Bloods. In the veins of these females was the final hope for humanity unaltered by the Nuclear War. In some ways, the last hope of the Jedi Order was in the twin children of Darth Vader and they were the last bastion of hope to restore the Jedi Order after the end of the Clone Wars. Given the popularity of this concept since the beginning of storytelling, it is highly likely that it will continue when humans are around campfires on off-world colonies.  


The Last City from Destiny
For me, one of the best examples of the Last Bastion concept is the Last City from the Destiny universe and it is also one of the examples I am the most familiar with given my extensive Destiny addiction. Originally, The City was established as a refugee camp after The Collapse of the Golden Age directly under The Traveler. These refugees gathered under the Traveler for protection with the destruction of the off-world endo-Sol colonies and the major Terran cities. It was here, likely Pokhara, Nepal, that the last city of humanity rose like a phoenix. The protection of the Last City came from the newly formed Guardians, armed citizens, the massive walls, and the Traveler. This Camelot-like setting serves as a hub for Guardian operations, production of materials for the war, a last home for humanity, and a place for economic activity. There are those that still live outside the wall of the Last City in small communities, but there is nothing like the Last City in all of the Sol System. It is, the last remnant of the civilization that was before the Collapse and it is but an echo of the Golden Age cities and society. Like all good last bastion fortresses, the wolves are always at the door and there have been several major battles and invasion of the Last City, including the Red Legion. It is uncertain the future of the Last City with the coming invasion after the Witch Queen.

The XMC-10-284 Andromeda Ascendant from Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda
After the end of the original Star Trek series in 1969 and until the movie-era of Trek, Gene Roddenberry was a man in need of work. He penned a number of scripts and some where made into pilots. Two of the pilots made in the 1970s were Planet Earth and Genesis II with both borrowing from the same concept and primary character’s name: Dylan Hunt. While neither were picked up for on-going TV shows, the concept was resurrected for a 3rd time for the Tribune Entertainment sci-fi TV show Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda that ran from 2000-2005. In that show, Cpt. Hunt commands the High Guard XMC-10-284 Andromeda Ascendant warship of the Systems Commonwealth and one of the most advanced warships in the three galaxies. When the Nietzscheans launch a coup against the Systems Commonwealth for giving away some their territory to the Magog, the Andromeda was thrown into the event horizon of a black hole. 303 years later, the Andromeda Ascendant is located by treasure hunters. In this era, the Systems Commonwealth has fallen and three galaxies are controlled by various factions Pre-Fall High Guard ships are rare and very valuable. After these pirates decide to join Dylan and the Andromeda, he launches a mission to form a new System Commonwealth. This makes the nearly 400 year old Dylan and the Andromeda the Last Bastion of the old Systems Commonwealth and High Guard.  

The Ark from Brink
In 2011, Splash Damage and Bethesda Software released Brink to the game public, and it was hoped to a first-person squad shooter hit that could get some of the Call of Duty market. The game was a disappointment to most critics due to the game not seemingly being complete, but many praised the design and the SMART System mechanics. This added up to a game that was short-lived and the franchise that was being constructed by the studio and the publisher burned to the ground. In the plot of the game, the world is in the grips of massive climate change with global flooding in the mid-21st century. To prevent a last bastion of pre-flood civilization, the artificial island, “Ark”. Here the rich of the world will live in a green utopia that is independent of the old world. When the oceans rose, the Ark became one of the last safe places on Earth and it was flooded with refugees. With the influx of too many people for the Ark’s resources, there became the poor and the rich…and then Ark civil wars began. It is sad that such a cool concept was ruined.    

The Minas Tirith of Gondor and Helm's Deep from The Lord of the Rings
n the legendary Lord of the Rings saga, there were two primary examples of Last Bastions for the forces allied against the power of Sauron: Hornburg and Minas Tirith. In Gondor, Minas Tirith had been a noted guard tower and citadel for the forces of Gordon and then became the capital of the kingdom in 1640 of the 3rd Age of the Sun. Just before the War of the Ring in 3019 of the 3rd Age, citadel had fallen on hard times with less than half of its normal population. When the war came, it became one of the final fronts of the war with iconic battles, events, deeds, and sacrifices. Minas Tirith was regarded by the Free Peoples of Middle Earth as the last bastion of defiance against Sauron and his dark allies. If the White Tower fell, than so would much of Middle Earth. Another siege site for the Free Peoples of Middle Earth was the Hornburg located in the Helm’s Deep gorge in the Kingdom of Rohan. Built in the 2nd Age of the Sun, the Hornburg was a place security and sanctuary for the peoples of Rohan during times of war. During the War of the Ring, the fortress was damaged due to explosives, but held to resist the armies of darkness.   

The Last City of Humanity Zion from The Matrix Franchise
Deep down in the Earth, where it is still warm there is the last human city populated with those born free and those freed from the bondage of the machine. This Zion…the last bastion of humanity, again and again. In the Matrix films, Zion was mentioned in the first film and then seen in the sequel. Home to over 250,000 souls, Zion is the last place that the humans of the post-machine war lived and attempt to build a new society deep underground. When Neo finally meets the Architect of the Machine consciousness, he learns that Zion has been founded and then destroyed six times before and that Neo will restart Zion for the 7th if chose one path. While most of the freed peoples of Zion believe that the year is around 2200, it is the 28th century in reality and that the Last City of Zion continues to be the assumed Last Bastion. In actuality, the Last Bastion of humanity lives in some ways in the Matrix itself, because the bulk of humanity lives in slavery in an artificial replication of the 20th century.  

Fort Tarsis from Anthem
When the big book of video games is written and there is several chapters on the insidious business practices of EA are laid out in all of the bloody details, there will be a section on Anthem. Released in 2019, the BioWare and EA and then died in less than one year, Anthem was attempted at an EA Destiny Loot-&-Shoot clone that had some cool elements and Iron Man suits. In the lore of the now-dead game, the humans living on the planet of Coda were enslaved and a woman named Helena Tarsis liberated the human race via the use of exo-suits now called Javelins. In the present day of the game setting, Fort Tarsis was one of the few settlements left after the fall of Freemark city due to the unleashing of the Hearts of Rage (songs like a 1980’s Hair-Metal band). After the fall of the main city to the Dominion, Fort Tarsis becomes one of the last walled cities in that region of Coda.

The Kushan Mothership from Homeworld
n one of the most iconic military sci-fi RTS titles of all time is 1999’s Homeworld. Borrowing some elements from the original Battlestar Galactica, the plot of Homeworld is the grand space migration of a humanoid race to locate their original homeworld. In the story, the Kushan people locate an ancient starship and information on their origin point. The clans of the Kushan come together to construct a mothership to transport 600,000 cryogenically frozen Kushan citizens to their original homeworld, Hiigara. During the shakedown cruise of the Mothership, the Taiidan Empire attacks and kills most of the Kushan people. The reason for this attack is their had been a treaty 4,000 years ago that prevented the Kushan from developing hyper drive technology. With their home in flames, the Kushan set out among the stars to locate their homeworld with the last bastion of their race in cryo-tubes tucked inside the massive Mothership.

Jacinto in from the Gears of War Franchise
Before the Locust Horde invaded from the Hallows, the city of Jacinto was known as a city of the arts and the jewel of the Tryus nation-state. Then came Emergence Day and the whole of Sera was consumed in war and death. With the Locust tactic of coming from out under the ground, the advantage of the city of Jacinto was quickly seen: the granite bedrock of the Jacinto As the war raged on and the key cities on Sera destroyed, the COG government moved their operations and staff to Jacinto. Soon, Jacinto became the last bastion of Sera against the Locust Horde. For the first two games of the oddball Gears of War franchise, the city of Jacinto was the focus and the homebase for the COG military campaign to prevent end of human life on Sera. Then the city was sunk to flood the Hallows to end the threat from the Lambent.
The Civilian Fleet and the BSG-75 from Battlestar Galactica
n the much-improved BSG reboot from 2004, we still see the concept of the last bastion of the 12 Colonies contained within the civilian fleet and its protector the Galactica. Unlike the previous 1978 series, the intensity and desperate nature of the situation that the survivors of the Cylon Holocaust found themselves in was clearly broadcasted throughout the series. Added to this was the nature of the floating fortress that was the Galactica and her limitations. All of this made this one of the best examples of The Last Bastion in all of science fiction

The "Arks" from the Classic Doctor Who Universe
In the year of 6087, the long-serving Nerva Beacon station was transformed into a lifeboat for a select few members of the human race to survive deadly solar flares that would make the Earth uninhabitable for thousands of years. This space ark and last bastion of humanity was then inflected by Wirrn insect race and the humans overslept by ten thousand years. “The Ark in Space” was the first full independent story of the 4th Doctor and has been credited as one of the better stories for the 4th Doctor. There was a similar story called “The Ark” for the 3rd Season of the First Doctor that involved a generational ship from 10 million years in the future that is transporting humans to their new home, Refusis II. While iconic in one way, given its age, “The Ark” is silly in many parts.  

The Ring Installations from HALO
At the heart of the original HALO trilogy that launched a mega-gaming franchise is the Forerunner ringed space stations. There use was to be a weapon capably of wiped out high-level lifeforms to rob the Flood of their food source and starve the parasite invasion back into submission. To do this, the Forerunners constructed these ringed installations to fire a blast out into the cosmos and kill of sentient life. One array can affect 25,000 standard Lightyears.  12 are currently known and they are managed by an AI construct like Guilty Spark 343. Encased in the Installations were the seeds of the advanced lifeforms, like modern humans, of the galaxy protected from the Flood and the Halo Ring blasts. After the Flood were gone, the seeds were released onto their original homeworlds and they were managed by specialized Forerunner staff tucked away in the Shield Worlds. While the Ringed Installations were some elements of the last bastion of Forerunner civilization, there was also the Shield Worlds that were bomb shelters for some of the Forerunners and their technology. These were prized by the Covenant and the UNSC for being a treasure chest of Forerunner technology.

The City of Atlantis from the Stargate Universe
The Ancients of the Stargate Franchise lore were humans that they developed the stargate network that is the main device of the franchise. In their very long history, the Ancients developed space flight capable city that was originally on Earth between 5-10 million years ago. When a plague swept through the Milky Way, the Ancients took Atlantis to a world called Lantea in the Pegasus Dwarf Irregular Galaxy that lays some 3 million lightyears away from the Milky Way. There, the Ancients seeded life among the stars and found a deadly hostile species…the Wraith. The Lantean-Wraith War lasted for a century and when the Wraith gained the upper hand, all but Lantea world was left of their empire. For some time, the shield of the city kept the Wraith out until the Ancients knew that the war was over. They sank the city in the deepest of oceans, their last bastion taken from them. History repeated itself, as the Atlantis Expedition had to hold out against a Wraith bombardment until the Daedalus can arrive.

The SDF-1 After the Holocaust
In 1999, the alien battle fortress known as the SDF-1 was sent by its master, Zor, to an unimportant primitive world known as Earth, it altered the history of the human race for all time. When the Zentraedi fleet under Commander Breetai finally located the SDF-1 in 2009, he attempted to retake the battle fortress by invading the Macross Island city. To lead the alien force away from the Earth, the SDF-1 attempted a hyperspace jump to lunar orbit…and they ended up near Plato with the entire Macross Island, the surrounding ocean, the city, and the 70,000 civilians. For months, the crew and civilians onboard the massive SDF-1 reconstructed the city within the “legs” of the battle fortress. When the Zentraedi recovery fleet was polluted by the human culture, Supreme Commander Dolza ordered the entire Zentraedi fleet to attack Earth and wipe out humanity. The SDF-1, the Grand Cannon, and the Breetai fleet were the defenders of Terra. When the battle was over and the 1st Robotech War ended, the Earth was scarred, and billions of humans were dead…this was the Zentraedi Holocaust. After this, the SDF-1 crashed in a crater and thus, this was the founding place of last bastion of humanity on the Earth…New Macross City.    

The Gas Giant Fergusson Fortress Moons from Dynamo Joe 

First Comics was a Chicago-based comic publisher that would only last a few years. Yet, despite this, First Comics would, in 1984 would published Doug Rice's love letter to Japanese Mecha culture with Dynamo Joe. This military sci-fi comic would have a unsteady publishing history with limited series, specials, appearances in other comics, and then a full series centered on the Alliance Dynamo CLASS-III mecha suite named "Joe" during the Orion War. I grew up with this comic and to me, it is the best Military Science Fiction comic of all time. It is a pity that the full series was unable to unfold as Doug Rice designed and First Comics cut years out of the series to publish a "completed" story and wrap up the Orion War in less than 20 issues. In 1991, First Comics was no more. In the Dynamo Joe story, the Alliance of the 35th century banded three galactic civilizations: The Terrans, the Imperials, and the Tavitans to defeat a organic-technology using enemy from beyond the Milky Way. The mission of this enemy was unclear, but they were on a beeline to the homeworlds of the humans and the Tavitans: Terra and Londree. To slowdown the enemy and allow for rebuilding of the Alliance fleets after the Rim Battle Massacre, General Sergel Ippolitov fortified the eight moons of the gas giant Fergusson. For three years, these moon forts prevented the enemy from advancing deeper in Alliance space...then as the Dynamo Joe opened, the last bastion of the Fergusson forts, Fergusson 8, was being invaded.   

The Embryo Colonization Plan "B" from Interstellar
In the mind-bending 2014 film, we see the human race one the verge of starvation with the last foodstuffs crop, corn, being newly infected by the Blight. Using the newly discovered artificial wormhole near Saturn, the NASA interstellar explorer vessel Endurance goes to scout out for a Earth-like atmospheric standard world for colonization. One of the backup plans, “B”, is to seed the atmospheric standard world with 5,000 frozen specially selected embryos for a population bomb. The new exo-solar colony would be populated with the very best of humanity and they would be completely separate from the dying Earth. The people of Earth would be left to die as the future of human, its last bastion, would be on this new world. In the film, Dr. Brand took the Endurance and setup her Plan B colony on Wolf Edmunds’ Planet with the robot CASE and soon to be, Cooper as well.

Power Base & Eden II from Captain Power and the Soldiers of Tomorrow
In 1987, a very different, but unique sci-fi property was released in the toy stores and on syndicated TV: Captain Power and the Soldiers of Tomorrow. In the series, the 22nd century saw the rise of a single machine consciousness (Overmind) to manage a robotic global army to prevent the ugly meat bags from making war…and then there was SkyNet type situation and mankind was on its heels. These were the Metal Wars and mankind was badly losing. One of the smartest men in the world at that time was Dr. Steward Power and he developed the Power Suits to make one man as strong as a robot soldier with more abilities and weaponry. All of his plans were altered when mankind on the edge of losing, and he moved the project to a secret under-the-mountain base called “Power Base”. To keep the location hidden, there were portals to allow the military forces to deploy without the forces of Lord Dredd to locate and destroy the Power Base. From the end of the Metal Wars and until the end of the first (and only) season of the show, Power Base is where the member of Captain Power’s team are headquartered along with the reminds of the old Earth Military and the AI computer system. It is the last bastion for these military resources beside the limited human resistance. However, that changes with the discovery by the Power team of the mythical Eden II. The long-rumored human sanctuary made contact with the Power Team with the gift of a real orange. If the series had been allowed to go for a 2nd season, Eden II would have been more revealed, and it was likely that it would taken a few more seasons for us to actually see Eden II and its advanced technology. While the Power Base was the military last bastion for humanity post-Metal Wars, Eden II was the last bastion for human civilization,  

The Oil Refinery Compound from Road Warrior
In the Mad Max history, wars and revolutions in the Middle East caused the global oil supply to be unstable to the point of economic collapse on a global scale. Before the nuclear war, the cities were abandoned, there wars over basic resources, and murder was everywhere. During this, a former oil employee took a group of people out into the Outback to a small oil refinery and pumping station constructed as a test to harvest oil from the Outback to create domestic production. After the collapse of the oil companies, the refinery was used as a means to get to the coast and away from the gangs. This may have been on of the last working oil refineries in all of Australia  

The Mars Base from Genesis Climber MOSPEDA
From October of 1983 to March 1984, Genesis Climber MOSPEDA aired via the Fuji TV Network and ran for only 25 episodes due to low ratings. It was imported to the west by Harmony Gold to serve as the 3rd part of the ROBOTECH saga and there the original anime lived on with more success than the original Japanese title. In the original story, Humanity has developed a new fuel, HBT, and colonized Luna, Mars, and Jupiter...then the aliens called Inbit arrive. By the late 21st century, the Earth was conquered and humanity was limited to a few pockets of settlements and slave farms. However, the Inbit did not attack the colonies on Luna and Mars, where were quite large. For decades, the Mars government devoted themselves and their resources to fielding Earth Reclaiming Fleets to knock the Inbit out of their primary base, Reflex Point. Mars became the last bastion of humanity and its culture devoted to saving Earth from the crab-like aliens. 

Little Houston Lunar Base from The Terminator  NOW Comics series 
In the first Terminator comic book series, published by the defuncted NOW Comics in 1988, we learn of a long lost and hidden the last bastion of pre-judgement day Earth on Luna. At the time of publication, the second Terminator film had not yet come out and the NOW writers filling in some details that were altered by the events of the second film' s timeline. In the comic's first issue, we learn that back in 1998(!) the UN setup a lunar outpost of some size and complexity, it was nicknamed "Little Houston". After SkyNet nuked the world, there was debate among the limited population on the lunar base to go down to Earth and fight SkyNet or remind hidden on the moon and wait for victory against the machines. They waited, but the Lunar colony needed some living building blocks for their greenhouse and that forced shuttle missions to the blackened Earth. During one of these mission near the Flordia coast in December of 2031, one of the lunar supply missions was exposed during a fight between SkyNet forces and the local Human Resistance unit, the Sarah Slammers. The lunar team of humans and one android pulled with the Sarah Slammers and they never returned to the moon and the moon base never sent a rescue mission. When SkyNet learned of the lunar base, it attempted to send a heavily modified NASA Space Shuttle as a Terminator troop transport to attack and destroy Little Houston. The Slammers stopped the launch. The future of the human resistance and the lunar colony was never shown due to the cancellation of the comic and the shutting of NOW Comices doors in the early 1990s.   

The Babylon 5 Station
After the bloody Earth-Minbari War, millions were dead, the Earth Alliance colonial holdings were basically gone, and the military power of EarthForce was nearly nonexistent. It was during this fragile time that the Babylon Project was put forward in 2248 by the Earth Alliance for a diplomatic space station in neutral space that could host peace talks and solve problems before interstellar issues could rise to the level of the Earth-Minbari War. It was to be the best and last hope for peace and on the 5th station; it was finally achieved. For the first few years of B5’s operation, it was just that…a last bastion of hope and peace. Then the Centuari Republic invaded Narn, altering the mission of B5 and soon the Shadows returned. During this time of war and division, the Earth Alliance attempted to seize and control the station. This was the opening battles in the 1st Earth Alliance Civil War and soon, B5 became the HQ for the War against the Shadows. B5 switched from the best and last hope for peace, to the best and last hope for victory.    

The EDF Space Battleship Yamato from the Space Cruiser Yamato Franchise
In the original Space Cruiser Yamato TV series and film, humanity was living in massive underground cities and their space naval forces were defended by the powerful Gamilon Empire invasion force. To force the surrender of the Terrans, the Gamilons were bombarding the Earth with radiation bombs and slowly the radiation was leaking into the underground cities. There was only one year left until surrender or death. To secure some of humanity, the wreck of the Imperial Japanese super battleship, the Yamato was being secretly reconstructed into a heavily armed evacuation vessels until the gift of the Wave Motion Engine by Iscandarians to help humanity cross vast interstellar distances to come to Iscandar and recover the Cosmic DNA to save and regrow the Earth's biome. The Yamato was then transformed into a power warship to make the crossing within one year. This final Terran warship with alien technology was Terra's last and best hope for survival against their blue skinned enemy. In someways, the Yamato was the last bastion of Earth's hopes and military strength via the Starforce. 
Given how wildly successful the 1974 TV series and the 1977 film were in Japan and then later exported to the West as "Starblazers", there was sequel. When the White Comet Empire came to attack the Earth, the EDF had rebuilt, but to mine the same emotions, the writers destroyed the new Terran navy and the new flagship, the Andromeda, so that the Yamato was again the last bastion of hope for victory. Then they did again and again for the further sequels on TV and on the big screen until the end of the Yamato in Final Yamato in 1983. All of this was design to go back the emotional well of the Yamato being the last protector of humanity and it comes up so hollow and predicable. After the White Comet Empire storyline, the idea should have been changed, but it wasn't and it ruins the reminder of the Yamato TV series and films. My hope is that the rebooted Yamato TV series do not follow in the boring footsteps of the original and break away from Yamato being the only warship to protect Earth from her blue-skinned alien foes.     

The UNSC World of Reach
One of the most important colonies in the whole of the UNSC is the military colony of Reach in the Epsilon Eridani system, some 10.5 Lightyears from Sol. By the time of the Human-Covenant War, Reach was center for UNSC fleet operations, the SPARTAN-II Program, key ONI operational centers and black sites, along with having the largest off-world colony in terms of population. While Earth was the mother to the human race, Reach was becoming the symbol of humans as a spacefaring race…that was until the Covenant attacked Reach in 2552. When the battle for Reach was made public, it shook the UNSC to its core. Here was the key military location outside of the Sol System and it was under attack from a massive alien force. If Reach fell then nothing was left to stand between the alien invaders and Earth. Reach was the last bastion, the fortress among the stars for human.  

The Nexus from Mass Effect Andromeda
As the Reaper threat slowly came to Milky Way Galaxy, the secretive Andromeda Initiative embarked on a long-term risky colonization mission to the Andromeda Galaxy some 2 million Lys away in 2185. This mission was originally privately funded as a exploration and colonization mission, but given the Reaper threat was only believe by a few, the Citadel secretly funded the Andromeda Initiative to save the Milky Way civilizations from the Reaper extinction by seeding the Andromeda Galaxy with this one-way colonization mission using six Ark intergalactic sleeper ships and a central space station hub patterned after the Citadel, called the Nexus. This Nexus space station is the last bastion of the Milky Way civilizations that fell under the Reaper’s blade some 500 years ago. We know that something of the Milky Way societies survived due to the ending scene in Mass Effect 3 and until Mass Effect 5 drops, we will have to assume that the Nexus is the last bastion of the old Milky Way civilization,.  

The Terra Nova Settlement from Terra Nova
In this bold, but under-cooked very expensive FOX TV show, Terra Nova, we see Earth’s distance past as a solution to the issues of the 22nd century. In 2149, the ability to time travel had been discovered by accident via a portal back millions of years. This appeared to be a solution to the environmental collapse and the overpopulation of the 22nd century. Throughout the only season of the show, there was a series of migration waves from the 22nd century Hope Plaza complex to the Terra Nova settlement, some 85 million years in the past. The last bastion for humanity was the Terra Nova settlement designed to be in harmony with the local environment and serve as a focal point for colonization of those selected to be colonists. With the cancellation of the series, I guess will never find out what happened.

Next Time on FWS...
The use of staffs for combat is certainly older than our species and every kids knows that a good piece of wood can serve as a staff for fancy spins to impress and amaze. This is not lost on science fiction creators and throughout the realm of sci-fi, there have been a number of staff-based weapons that, at times, were a blend of melee weapon and directed-energy weapon system. In the next installment of The Weapons of Science Fiction, we will looking at one of the finest examples of a sci-fi staff weapon, the Ma'Tok of the Jaffa warrior society that served their masters, the Goa'uld. In addition, we will also be examining other sci-fi staff weapons, like the High Guard Force Lance. Stay Frosty until next time.