Science fiction

How ‘Alien: Covenant’ Does What the Original Refused To

Part of what made the first two films great was not knowing exactly what was going on.
Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Alien: Covenant]

Alien is widely seen — for good reason — as one of the great science-fiction films of all time, as well as one of the great horror films. Nearly 40 years later, Ridley Scott has directed the latest entry in the franchise, Alien: Covenant. So, with Covenant in theaters, it’s worth discussing one of many reasons why the original Alien succeeds, because it’s a big reason why (for me at least) Covenant doesn’t: it embraces the mystery of the situation instead of explaining everything.

Both the 2012 film Prometheus and Alien: Covenant try to answer the questions that the first Alien and James Cameron’s 1986 sequel Aliens steadfastly avoided. Where did the Xenomorphs come from? What is that mysterious ship that Ripley and the crew of the Nostromo explore? Where did those eggs come from if the planet is deserted? And how is it possible for these bloodthirsty aliens to evolve so fast? By taking place before the events of the 1979 film, Scott’s pair of Alien-adjacent films set out to resolve these burning questions without realizing that they don’t need to be answered.

Alien and Aliens are incredible examples of how science fiction, horror, and action can all blend together in a genuinely thrilling combination. Somehow, they’ve both stood the test of time without telling audiences that the Xenomorphs were created by a self-aware robot who so badly wants to create something that he chooses to create a “perfect” killing machine. These films don’t dispense with the revelation that the mysterious spacecraft from Alien belonged to the Engineers, humanoid aliens who are responsible for both creating humanity and intending to destroy it at a later date. There’s a clear reason why the original films don’t answer these questions: they don’t have to.

Covenant attempts to tie some of these strands together: we find out that once Michael Fassbender’s sociopathic…

Conan O’Brien signs four-year contract with TBS as network announces six new series

Conan O'Brien signed a new contract with TBS.
Conan O’Brien signed a new contract with TBS.

NEW YORK — Turner says TBS has closed a new deal with Conan O’Brien that extends through 2022.

TBS and sister Turner network TNT plan to launch a total of six new series from stars such as Snoop Dogg, Daniel Radcliffe and Michael Moore. CNN has four new series in the works.

And TNT is working with filmmaker Ridley Scott to develop a night of original science-fiction programming.

These announcements were made Wednesday as the Turner networks unveiled to advertisers their plans for the season ahead.

Talk-show veteran O’Brien’s new four-year pact with TBS keeps him at the network where “Conan” debuted in November 2010 after his abrupt exit from “The Tonight Show” when NBC reinstated Jay Leno as host.

But the format and distribution strategy for O’Brien’s talents will evolve from his current Monday-through-Thursday hour. He will “expand the boundaries from a talk show to a range of personality-based, cross-platform experiences,” according to TBS and TNT President Kevin Reilly.

“In the past few years I’ve stumbled across many new and exciting ways of connecting with my audience,” O’Brien said, “and I’m eager to evolve my show into something leaner, more agile and more unpredictable.”

Plans call for extending his Team Coco brand into digital content, podcasting, gaming, pay TV and live events.

With Ridley Scott (“The Martian,” ”Alien: Covenant”), TNT will develop an evening-long programming block of original science fiction in many forms, serving as a showcase for hour-long series, short form…

How To Survive The Sci-Fi Future Of Customer Engagement

Movies and television have proved to be uncanny indicators of what’s to come. Innovations that first appeared in 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Minority Report and even Star Trek and The Jetsons, are now fully integrated into how we work and play. But how much is too much? And are businesses equipped to handle these disruptions that have turned the traditional customer journey on its head?

These topics and more were discussed during a thought-provoking keynote presentation called “The Sci-Fi Future of Customer Engagement” delivered by Jamie Anderson, Chief Marketing Officer for SAP Hybris.

Avoiding the creep factor

In 2012, Dr. Michal Kosinski conducted an important (and somewhat creepy) Facebook test and found that with just 68 likes, it was possible to predict skin color (95% accuracy), sexual orientation (88%) and political affiliation (85%).

“It’s what we do with that information that is important,” said Anderson. “As brands, the information we gather, can have mutual value. But when things get creepy, it’s not a great situation.”

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Avoiding the creep factor isn’t easy, especially in other areas like Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) where it’s always depicted as a malevolent force in the world of sci-fi (I’m looking at you Blade Runner, Terminator and Westworld).

“AI doesn’t have to be scary and it shouldn’t be,” said Anderson. “We should be looking at this technology and how we can embrace it. If we don’t, the number one thing that is clear is that we will be disrupted.”

Case in point: By 2018, one third of the top 20 in every industry will be disrupted by digitally transformed competitors, according to research from IDC. Digital transformation will also be a hot topic at SAP SAPPHIRE NOW, the largest global business technology event.

Addressing the many forms of disruption

It’s no secret that disruption comes in many…

10 Of The Greatest Time Travel TV Shows Ever Made

Few sci-fi TV show subgenres are more beloved than Time Travel shows- the shows that capture our imaginations about the future and bring out our inner history nerd in a major way.

1. It’s About Time (1966-67)-

Astronauts Mac McKenzie and Hector Canfield find themselves transported back to the days of cavemen and dinosaurs in the definitely not based on real science comedy It’s About Time, which lasted for 26 episodes in 1967.

This good natured romp created by Sherwood Schwartz is technically a time travel TV show because Mac and Hector travel back in time and back to the present, bringing an entire cave-family with them.

2. Seven Days (1998-2001)-

In Seven Days the NSA creates a time machine using alien technology scavenged from Roswell to send “chrononauts” seven days into the past to prevent the destruction of the White House and the death of POTUS and the VP.

The Chronosphere can only send a chrononaut back seven days due to “limitations imposed by the fuel source and its reactor”, so chrononauts are only allowed to deal with matters of national security.

Even though Seven Days managed to stay under the radar in terms of ratings the show was extremely popular with fans, who totally dug the X-Files-inspired vibe of the show.

3. Life On Mars (2006-07)-

The BBC’s gritty noir detective crime show Life On Mars is about Detective Chief Inspector Sam Tyler from Manchester who is hit by a car in 2006 and wakes up in 1973 to find he’s still working for the same station- only he’s one rank lower.

Life On Mars was unusual because the main character didn’t seem too bothered by the time jump, and it kept audiences guessing as to whether Sam had lost his mind, died or actually travelled in time.

4. 12 Monkeys (2015-)-

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The Syfy channel series 12 Monkeys isn’t a continuation or retelling of the classic Terry Gilliam movie, it’s a whole new storyline that takes audiences far beyond the simple premise proposed in the movie.

12 Monkeys is about James Cole, a man from the post-apocalyptic future who travels from 2043 to the present in order to stop the 12 Monkeys organization from creating and releasing the plague that kills 7 billion people in 2017.

In the show Cole jumps between the post-apocalyptic world of 2043, where scavenger gangs rule and human life has little value, and dates in the 20th and early 21st century as he tries to stop the 12 Monkeys.

5. Voyagers! (1982-83)-

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Voyagers! tells the story of young Jeffrey Jones, a boy from 1982 who encounters a member of the Voyagers time travel society named Phineas Bogg after Phineas’ Omni device malfunctions.

The Omni device resembles a pocket watch and “When the Omni’s red, it means…

A trio of visionaries will explore the future of augmented reality

Above: Tom Cruise in Minority Report inspired lots of tech companies.

I’m very excited about the trio of technology and entertainment visionaries that are the latest speakers for our upcoming GamesBeat Summit 2017: How games, sci-fi, and tech create real-world magic. They include John Hanke, CEO of Niantic Labs and co-creator of Pokémon Go; Ralph Osterhout, CEO of Osterhout Design Group, maker of augmented reality glasses; and John Underkoffler, CEO of Oblong Industries, maker of the Mezzanine collaboration software and science advisor for the film Minority Report.

GamesBeat Summit 2017 will take place on May 1-2 at the historic Claremont resort hotel in Berkeley, Calif., just a short distance from San Francisco. You can secure your seat here. Register today and receive 20 percent off current ticket prices. Use the code Deantak.

I will moderate the session on the future of augmented reality, games, and new technologies. Our visionaries will have a conversation across the seams of science fiction, real-world technology, and games.

Above: John Underkoffler, CEO of Oblong Industries, was science advisor on Minority Report.

Underkoffler has been trying to make the vision of the 2002 film Minority Report, where actor Tom Cruise uses “data gloves” and gestures to control a transparent computer, into a reality. He founded Oblong in 2006, and launched Mezzanine for enterprise collaborators in 2012. Oblong’s technological and design trajectories build on fifteen years of foundational work at the MIT Media Lab, where Underkoffler was responsible for innovations in real-time computer graphics systems, optical and electronic holography, large-scale visualization techniques, and the I/O Bulb and Luminous Room systems.

He has also been science advisor to films including The Hulk, Aeon Flux, and Iron Man. He serves on the National Advisory Council of Cranbrook Academy in Bloomfield Hills, MI, and on the Board of Directors of the E14 Fund in Cambridge, Mass., and of the Sequoyah School in Pasadena, Calif. He is the recipient of the 2015 Cooper Hewitt National Design Award and holds a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Underkoffler will also be giving a solo talk at our summit on May 1.

Above: John Hanke, CEO of Niantic Labs.

Hanke has been running Niantic and riding the rocket ship of Pokémon Go, which has more than 65 million monthly active users and has generated more than $1 billion in revenue in less than a year. His company is dedicated to building “real world” mobile gaming experiences that foster exploration, exercise and social interaction. Niantic has developed and released two games, Ingress and global phenomenon Pokémon Go. The company was originally founded as a start up within Google to explore the creation of new kinds of entertainment at the intersection of location, social, and emerging mobile devices. Niantic was spun out as an independent company in 2015 with backing from investors such as Google, Nintendo and The Pokemon Company.

Earlier in his career, John was a founder of Archetype Interactive, creators of one of the very first online massively multiplayer games, Meridian59, and then went on to co-found Keyhole, a company acquired by Google for the technology that lead to the creation of Google Earth. He was vice president of Google’s Geo division (overseeing projects including Maps and Street View) for seven years before founding Niantic.

Above: Ralph Osterhout, CEO of Osterhout Design Group

Osterhout is a developer, designer and…