Space Battleship Yamato 2199

There have been two anime versions of Space Battleship Yamato.

Star Blazers (released in 1974)

The first in 1974 was called Space Battleship Yamato 宇宙戦艦ヤマト in Japanese and Star Blazers in the US and Canada.

It was the first Japanese anime of its type to make its way to Canadian television, with a complex multi-part story, each episode following on from the last.  It was light-years beyond the usual American and Canadian animated kids shows that were available.

You can get it e.g. on iTunes as six episodes of about 1.5 hours each.

Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (released in 2012)

There was a remake in 2012 called Space Battleship Yamato 2199 宇宙戦艦ヤマト2199 or Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2199.

The remake has dramatically higher quality animation and although it starts out almost identically to the original, it begins to diverge episode by episode from the original story.  It is much better from basically every perspective.

You can get it e.g. on iTunes, in two different versions: the Japanese version with subtitles, or a dubbed version.  I’ve only watched the Japanese subtitled one.  Season 1 is split into two parts of 13 episodes each.  You want either Pt. 1 & Pt. 2 (Original Japanese) or the dubbed Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 (they are all separate purchases).

Also, in the Japanese version of the new series at least and I would expect in the dubbed version as well, aspects of the 1974 series that were bowdlerized for the US and Canadian audience, such as Dr. Sakezo Sado’s fondness for drinking sake, are now shown in full.

Space Battleship Yamato 2199 is very good.  I would skip episode 1×07 Farewell to the Solar System as it has a drunken party including Makoto Harada (the chief nurse) in an inappropriate outfit.  All the other episodes are good.

Particularly notable is episode 1×09 Clockwork Prisoner, which I think is the best episode of season 1 and is the first episode where you can really see they are making a very different show than the original.

Space Battleship Yamato 2202 (released in 2017)

Season 2 of the new series is called Space Battleship Yamato 2202: Warriors of Love 宇宙戦艦ヤマト2202 愛の戦士たち. I haven’t watched it.


There are accompanying books that are very confusingly named.

The book of the 1974 series is inexplicably called Space Battleship Yamato: The Classic Collection (it really should be called Star Blazers). ISBN13: 9781626929128.

There are four books for the 2012 series, all with the title Star Blazers 2199 (they really should be called Space Battleship Yamato 2199).

  • Star Blazers 2199 Omnibus Volume 1.  ISBN13: 9781506712208.
  • Star Blazers 2199 Omnibus Volume 2.  ISBN13: 9781506712215.
  • Star Blazers 2199 Omnibus Volume 3.  Not yet released.  Estimated date December 28, 2021. Provisional ISBN13: 9781506712222.
  • Star Blazers 2199 Omnibus Volume 4.  Not yet released.  Estimated date December 28, 2021.  Provisional ISBN13: 9781506712239.

Culture online in a time of crisis

What can you listen to and watch?  The following content is free, uninterrupted by ads (with a few exceptions that I will flag) and uninterrupted by news.  There are thousands of hours worth of audio and video listed below.  All of the content below is available in Canada (as far as I know there are no geographic restrictions).


I’m mostly an audio person.  Plus which audio uses much less bandwidth than video, which is particularly important on weekdays when high demand may interfere with the delivery of essential services.  Note that some BBC audio is only made available for a limited time, often for 30 days from date of airing.  Many of the BBC Radio websites listed below are also available as podcasts, but BBC Radio podcasts have ads outside the UK.

  • Gramophone magazine – Artists in isolation: enjoy performances by musicians from around the world
  • audiobook – The Peregrine (abridged) by JA Baker, read by David Attenborough – in 9 parts – BBC Radio 4 – 8 months left to listen as of March 21, 2020
  • Sunday Morning – BBC Radio 3 – three hours of classical music, hosted by Sarah Walker
  • Essential Classics – BBC Radio 3 – three hours of classical music every weekday
  • The Essay – BBC Radio 3 – 5-part thought-pieces around a theme. No omnibus; only separate episodes. – 1390 episodes available
    • The Essay – Higher Thoughts and the Meaning of Welsh Mountains – Episode 1, Snowdonia – “Jon Gower, writer and keen walker of the Welsh mountains, explores unique features of each of Wales’s five ranges, reflecting on what they mean to the people who live among them.”
  • In Our Time (Archive) – BBC Radio 4 – Melvyn Bragg and guests (usually university professors) discuss a topic.  It’s kind of like attending a university symposium. – One of my favourite shows.  – 896 episodes available
  • Moonrise – by Lillian Cunningham at the Washington Post – there are ads, but it’s a good enough podcast that I could endure them – “the origin story behind the United States’ decision to go to the moon” – in 12 episodes
  • 13 Minutes to the Moon – Season 1: The Apollo 11 story – BBC World Service – in 12 episodes
  • 13 Minutes to the Moon – Season 2: The Apollo 13 story – BBC World Service – has 6 episodes available, but there won’t be a final episode 7 for a while
  • Desert Island Discs – BBC Radio 4 – “Eight music tracks, a book and a luxury: what would you take to a desert island? Guests share the soundtrack of their lives.” – over 2000 episodes available
  • The Life Scientific – BBC Radio 4 – “Professor Jim Al-Khalili talks to leading scientists about their life and work, finding out what inspires and motivates them”
  • Ramblings – BBC Radio 4 – “Clare Balding joins interesting people for a walk through the countryside”
  • Folger Shakespeare Library – seven complete audio performances of Shakespeare plays, available for free streaming until July 1, 2020
  • You can find episodes of the first through sixth series of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy with varying availabilities.
  • audiobook – Landmarks (abridged) by Robert Macfarlane – in 5 parts – BBC Radio 4 Extra – 25 days left to listen as of March 21, 2020
  • You can listen to the first, original Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galxy 1978 radio series, in seven parts: Fit the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth – 17 days left to listen as of March 21, 2020
    • For the moment the first two episodes of the second series are available, with the rest coming week by week: Fit the Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth – 23 days left to listen as of March 21, 2020
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is 42 – BBC Radio 4 Extra – 17 days left to listen as of March 21, 2020

For more audiobooks than I have highlighted above, you can check out:

I used to listen to CBC Radio literally all day long, mostly CBC Radio 2.  But now I listen pretty much exclusively to the BBC.  Mostly because I find the CBC hammers me with ads while BBC (from their website) is ad-free.  Nevertheless…

Audio – Podcasts I listen to

Podcasts I listen to, sorted by largest number of episodes I’ve listened to:

  1. 99% Invisible – by Roman Mars – it’s sort of a podcast about design, but I think of it more as a podcast of interesting things – this is free to listen to, but it does have ads (after the main episode) and is listener supported, you can donate to the PRX network
  2. The Memory Palace – by Nate DiMeo – this is sort of a podcast about history, but I think of it more like little carefully-crafted gems of stories, often with a strong emotional impact – this is free to listen to, but it does have ads (after the main episode I think) and is listener supported, you can donate to the PRX network
  3. Travel with Rick Steves – I don’t think anyone is going to be travelling for a long time, so this may be a way to voyage vicariously – Rick Steves is a good interviewer and ranges widely – it’s not just episodes about destinations, he also talks to travel writers and other authors, he has even done segments about space missions – currently at 597 episodes (I don’t know if all of them are online)
  4. Spacepod – by Carrie Nugent – she interviews a space scientist about their research, in some detail
  5. Talking Headways (audio only on libsyn, episodes with descriptions and transcripts on Streetsblog) – by Jeff Wood – “a weekly podcast about sustainable transportation and urban design” – listener supported, you can donate to The Overhead Wire on Patreon
  6. The Urbanist (from Monocle 24) – usually hosted by Andrew Tuck – “the show all about the cities we live in”
  7. BBC History Extra – now has Acast ads inserted at roll-in and part-way through the show regardless of whether you listen on the website or by podcast.  If your podcast app has the ability to skip intros, skip the first 30 seconds, which is now ads.
  8. Emperors of Rome – by Matt Smith – You can find it on Apple podcasts or the direct URL from La Trobe University is
  9. Gresham College Lectures – this is what it says on the tin, lectures by university professors for a general audience, usually a series of lectures on a particular theme – you can find the audio podcast in Apple podcasts or the full videos of the lectures in the video section below
  10. When in Rome – by Matt Smith – this is a subscription podcast, it is starting its fifth series, you can subscribe through the Kickstarter (44 hours left as of this writing) – you can also find it on Apple podcasts or Google podcasts – “place and space in the Roman Empire”
  11. Carbone 14, le magazine de l’archéologie – France Culture


Be mindful about when you’re watching video, as it can use a lot of bandwidth.

  • The Gardener – TVO – Frank Cabot’s extraordinary garden Les Quatre Vents, in La Malbaie, Quebec.
  • L’espace concerts de France Musique
  • New York Metropolitan Opera – “Each day, a different encore presentation from the Met Opera Live in HD series is being made available for free streaming on the Met website, with each performance available for a period of 23 hours, from 7:30 p.m. Eastern until 6:30 p.m. the following day.” – I am not actually an opera fan, but you may be.
  • The UK Royal Institution Christmas Lectures (started by Michael Faraday in 1825).  The lectures present scientific subjects to a general audience.  They have lectures as far back as 1968 (not every year is available).
    The 2019 lectures were by Hannah Fry and called Secrets and Lies.  “An unseen layer of mathematics governs every aspect of our world.”
  • Story Time from Space – astronauts on the International Space Station read stories.
  • Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (1980) on Twitch.  Start at 03:03:51 for Episode 1 “The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean” – this link will take you directly there:
    (Yes, it’s an official site supported by Ann Druyan.  She co-wrote the Cosmos series and married in Carl Sagan in 1981.)
  • Salma The Syrian Chef read by the author Danny Ramadan on Twitter (Periscope).
    More information and link to buy the book at
  • L’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal – with a new concert available every Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  • London Symphony Orchestra“Each Sunday and Thursday from 22 March 2020 we will be streaming a concert from our archive on our YouTube channel.”
  • Gresham College Lectures – this is what it says on the tin, lectures by university professors for a general audience, usually a series of lectures on a particular theme – you can also download PDFs of their presentations as well as PDF transcripts
  • British Museum – I don’t know how long they will keep the exhibition tours online
    May 20, 2020 – Pompeii Live – NOTE: contains sexual references and swear words that may be unsuitable for some audiences
    May 27, 2020 – Vikings Live
  • UK National Theatre – National Theatre at Home – theatre productions available on YouTube for a week starting Thursdays at 7pm UK time (2pm Eastern)
    May 21 – A Streetcar Named Desire, with Gillian Anderson
    May 28 – This House
    June 4 – Coriolanus
  • Ontario Stratford Festival – theatre productions released on YouTube each Thursday at 7pm Eastern, available for three weeks.  Follow their Twitter @stratfest for more info.
    May 21, 2020 – Timon of Athens
    May 28, 2020 – Love’s Labours Lost
    June 4, 2020 – Hamlet
    June 11, 2020 – King John
    June 18, 2020 – The Adventures of Pericles
    June 25, 2020 – Cleopatra
    July 2, 2020 – Romeo and Juliet
    July 9, 2020 – The Taming of the Shrew
  • France + Canada TV5 Unis – many excellent shows in French, e.g.
    Des racines et des ailes has episodes typically available for a week from Thursdays to Thursdays

I literally never watch CBC TV (I can’t stand ads).  But anyway…

  • CBC Gem (online TV)
  • is a paid service that is temporarily free in the current situation – “ is a subscription-based educational streaming platform … thousands of programs, documentaries, audio content and archival material from CBC/Radio-Canada”

Public Broadcaster Guides

Did Voyager Endgame wreck Star Trek?

Part One: The End of Time

In PopMatters, Nicole Berland puts forward an interesting idea: that the year 2379 is the end of Star Trek.

‘Star Trek’ and the Problem With B-4 and After 2379

While I think some of the connections made are an overreach, the core idea is very interesting.  Specifically, the idea that Voyager Endgame destroys Star Trek, and that beyond that the events of September 2001 broke American SF and post-war American idealism.

Idealistic, moral, open America, the Nuremburg Trials, Geneva Conventions, To Kill a Mockingbird America, Cold War moral high ground America, 60s civil rights (and race riot) America birthed Star Trek. Roddenberry’s message was clear: the future could be better.

Janeway effectively destroys that lineage when she uses a biological weapon to both do a targetted assassination of the Borg leader, and to destroy core infrastructure of Borg civilisation, with consequences for many or all of the slave drones that comprise Borg civilisation, all without even being at war with the Borg.

The moral high ground when TNG Picard refused to use Hugh as a technological weapon, and when even Voyager recoiled against Icheb being an engineered biological weapon, that moral high ground is lost.

And in a world of actions having consequences, Voyager gets off scot-free.  No one on Voyager has any consequences from the destruction of Borg civilisation.  It’s a kind of Star Trek introduction of sin.

And arguably the Star Trek primary timeline has been broken since then.  Since the return of the USS Voyager in AD 2378 (which aired in May 2001) there’s been no more optimistic moral high ground future.

When you add to that Sept 2001, which brought destruction and through later decisions broke the actual real world moral high ground, hopeful American SF may have been destroyed.

Part Two: Nemesis and Picard

It’s important to think about the context in which Star Trek: Nemesis is created and airs.  Set in AD 2379, it’s actually filming starting in November 2001, and airing a movie about a future in which a flying ship crashes into another flying ship on screens across America in 2002.

It bring the future into a very different present.  And aside from being a terrible movie (as humourously summarized by TV Tropes), it introduces a new Star Trek worldview that abandons hope.

All Star Trek since 2001 has featured destruction on a planetary scale, as if writers can no longer imagine personal-level tragedy and drama.

  • Nemesis: attack on Romulus, plan to kill everyone on Earth
  • Enterprise: planetary scale attack on Earth
  • Reboot: destruction of Romulus (and Remus presumably), destruction of Vulcan (which if Voyager’s Borg destruction didn’t already introduce sin to Star Trek, is ST reboot’s original sin).
  • Picard: Mars is on fire (plus Romulus was destroyed)

Star Trek was about a hopeful post-discrimination future.  The Next Generation was fundamentally about a hopeful, thoughtful, intellectual, post-capitalist future.  That’s the boundaries of the universe that Roddenberry created.

You can of course experiment with those boundaries; that’s the nature of art.  Galaxy Quest is great Star Trek.  The first season of The Orville is a fun tribute to TNG while exploring what it would be like to live in that universe as an ordinary person on a secondary starship, not a perfect character on the flagship.  The First Contact movie is an exploration of what it would take to transform Picard from his measured intellectual self to an emotional and violent man.  This is all legitimate.  This is exploring the world that Roddenberry built.

What’s not valid, what is universe-mining rather than world-building, is to set aside the rules of Star Trek, and to cast scorn on the fans and on science fiction.

I never really cared for science fiction. – Jean Luc Picard, in Picard 1×02

I argue that Star Trek II rescued Star Trek.  And did it by really deeply understanding and respecting the characters and themes of Star Trek.  ST: III and IV work with it to make a great movie trilogy.  After that V is terrible and VI is not great.  Generations tries to reach for a theme of immortality but would have needed a rewrite to reach it, and also gives Kirk a most unheroic demise.  DS9 is flawed, although it has some great episodes, but in many ways it’s barely Star Trek.  Voyager is a kind of Star Trek in reverse, trying to find something new to say by heading home rather than away.  But all of them, without exception, respect the rules of the universe.  Until Endgame.

After that, something was lost.  An attempt to reinvent what didn’t need to be reinvented.  A universe warped beyond recognition.  Nemesis directed by someone who didn’t like TNG.

Stuart Baird (helmer of only two other films, Executive Decision and US Marshalls, and long-time film editor) had no knowledge of Star Trek before becoming director of Nemesis. He even refused to watch any of the Next Generation TV series to prepare…

Den of Geek, Star Trek: Nemesis – What Went Wrong? (no link; autoplay video)

The reboot helmed by a Star Wars fan who didn’t understand Star Trek (and loved lens flare).

Jon Stewart asked Abrams for his perspective on the differences between the two properties. He likened “Star Wars” to a Western or Samurai movie and suggested that it “never felt like a sci-fi thing.” “Star Trek,” on the other hand, did.

“It always felt too philosophical for me,” he said.

That’s when Stewart … tuned out.

“I stopped listening to you when you said you didn’t like ‘Star Trek.’ – Los Angeles Times, J.J. Abrams reveals to Jon Stewart why he never liked ‘Star Trek’

And now Picard which tries clumsily to be adult (which was already done much better in The Orville) and which removes all of the hope and thoughtfulness of both TNG and Picard himself.

This is not the way to celebrate and extend a world and a future that fans enjoy and hope for.

When Roger Ebert reviewed Nemesis, his concluding line manages to convey my feelings about Star Trek post-2001:

Star Trek was kind of terrific once, but now it is a copy of a copy of a copy.

How to watch Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD

Watch seasons 1 through 4, but in season 4 stop at 40:47 into the last episode (4×22 World’s End) just after she says “Anyone have room for some pie?”

That’s it. Just stop there. That’s a good ending to the series.

After that it’s basically a season of bottle episodes in Season 5, on a new set they built (somewhat similar to Stargate SG-1 season 8, although in that case they were reusing their set).

And not only is season 5 all-bottle, all the time, but its a horrible dystopian future that just goes on and on.
The only episode of season 5 that has any spark at all is 5×05 Rewind, with the reappearance of Hunter bringing both some much needed energy and humour as well as leading to them actually going outside.

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD season 5: Dystopian Future

Seriously why would you want to watch hours of characters you like stuck in a grindingly depressing and intermittently horrifying and disturbing dystopian future.

Season 6 the team isn’t even together, plus which they still don’t get out of the set very much (the same set from season 5), plus which its clear the writers have kind of given up and are just writing stuff to amuse themselves or try out new things for the characters.

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD season 6: Lurking Underground or Wandering Around In Space While Earth is Beset by Killer Birds

The only redeeming feature of seasons 5 and 6 is Enoch (Joel Stoffer) but he is not enough to rescue either season.

Season 5 had 22 episodes (and a rather unsatisfying resolution). Season 6 has been mercifully cut to 13 episodes, as presumably will be the announced final season 7.

Strawberries and cream: the UK branch rail lines

The branch lines in the UK in the 19th century brought some major changes.

One was a spring rush of early flowers and strawberries flowing from the countryside into the cities.

Another was a steady traffic of fresh milk from farm to city, usually at night so that the milk stayed cooler.  (Although it seems like this should be the origin of the term “milk run“, it appears this is not the case.)

Most of the branch lines were closed in the 1960s following Dr. Beeching’s report.

You can find out more in:

There are also books e.g.

The Orville season 1

My summary for The Orville is: subverts expectations.

The thing to understand about The Orville is it is straight-up Star Trek, specifically Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG), with Seth MacFarlane’s sense of humour layered on top.

Every element of TNG is here: starship, bridge, colour-coded uniforms, Captain, Executive Officer, Security Officer, Doctor, Science Officer, helmsman, navigator, Chief of Engineering, replicators, no money, crew lounge, touch control panels, holodeck… this show is TNG.  A TNG with seat belts and cup holders, and without transporters and synthehol, but nevertheless TNG.

The expectation that is set up, given that this is not actually in the true Star Trek universe, is that this will be a Galaxy Quest type of parody or satire but… it isn’t.  It’s straight up science fiction with all of the Star Trek conventions.  The ship is definitely TNG, some of the missions are a bit more The Original Series (TOS).

There are some nice touches I like, for example the spiral staircase up to the bridge.  Or the Wright Flyer on the Captain’s desk.  Or when Commander Grayson puts a cannabis brownie in her pocket, setting up a Chekhov’s Gun (um, different Chekhov) expectation of it being used and then… it isn’t.

To try to describe the mix of the show is pretty hard.  It is more a kind of science fiction with a sense of absurdity than “comedy-drama”.  In an episode about a two-dimensional universe you first have Seth MacFarlane as Captain Mercer talking sincerely about Flatland, the classic story of two dimensions, and then the Captain and the navigator with tissues stuffed up their noses from the giant nosebleeds they got from being partially flattened.  It’s basically very sincere Star Trek fan fiction, written by MacFarlane.  (In a way it’s similar to Star Wars VII and VIII, which are basically Star Wars fan fiction written by J.J. Abrams.)

The Orville probably works best if you’re very familiar with TNG.  I have seen all of the TNG episodes as they aired and many many times afterwards.  But I can’t count myself exactly as a fan.  Roddenberry did a bold thing, but I think ultimately a failed thing, in making the show not just a future in terms of technology, but a utopia in terms of people.  Everyone in TNG is nice, professional, calm, supportive, rational, sincere, intellectual.  It’s kind of perfect adults, all super-ego, all control, no id.  It’s a kind of remarkable aspiration to put into a show.  But it also makes for a super boring show.  There’s no drama when everyone is super nice.  They drink sometimes in the very calm, very subdued 10 Forward, but even their alcohol is non-alcoholic.  It’s Jacques Cousteau, except on a cruise ship.  They could never even make it seem like the TNG crew were friends, despite very forced attempts to e.g.  put them all together in weekly poker nights.  The cast is super stiff in the early seasons, it gets a bit more relatable in later seasons.

Also, as with TOS, TNG has basically no cultural anchors in the 20th century.  No one watches TV or movies.  It’s basically as if culture ended some time in the 19th century.  (If you want to contrive something, the Third World War probably didn’t help with 20th century cultural preservation.)

The Orville is basically all the future technology and look and structure of Star Trek, but with characters who are all id.  They drink (in fact to rather enthusiastic and frequent excess, as if they were all in first year university).  They swear.  They’re crude.  They have sex.  They’re basically kind of stereotypical American young adults except with adult jobs.  It’s very Seth MacFarlane’s humourverse, in other words.  It is to be honest a lot more relatable than the perfect humans in TNG.  And it very definitely is populated with people who are in our cultural universe.  From Seinfeld to The Sound of Music, it’s all there.  (Even a scene with observations on which fictional characters have Tardis-like houses, which I’ve always wondered whether anyone would ever put together.)  It also has other aspects of MacFarlane’s style, with digressive discussions about elevator music or hobbies.  Sometimes MacFarlane works a bit too hard to insert his sense of humour into scenes unnecessarily, but otherwise I find it mostly works.

Science fiction is often basically present-day people and culture, wrapped in a future technology envelope.  Roddenberry took a remarkable step in trying to populate the Enterprise-D with 24th century people in addition to 24th century technology.  It made it aspirational but really made it difficult to have any kind of relatable drama.  I basically never found that it worked for me.  Every episode would either end up with a conclusion that happened to match exactly late-20th-century liberal ideals, or with Geordi doing some made-up-particles equivalent of magic.  By contrast MacFarlane has basically populated the Enterprise-D with 21st century people, and they make lots of flawed decisions with imperfect conclusions.  For the most part, it makes for a much more relatable show.

I’m not sure how long you can maintain the cognitive dissonance between a serious science fiction show and characters who say things like “let’s get the engines to 97% efficiency so we can finish work early and all get wasted”, but for now I am enjoying the attempt.

UPDATE 2019-05-07: Sadly The Orville did not live up to its promise in Season 2.  I recommend you stop watching after season 1.

What DS9 I watch, when I can watch any episode

I don’t normally have access to Netflix, but I sometimes visit people who have it.

In general I have always liked DS9 better than TNG, because it is darker and has more complex characters and more believable inter-character dynamics.  But I have to say when I tried to watch the first season again, they definitely didn’t hit their stride early.  A few seasons on though the show started working well.

5×02 The Ship – Wikipedia (spoilers)

This is good except it is odd that the destruction of the ship in orbit isn’t part of their discussions.  It doesn’t really make sense as a standalone episode; you have to know the entire Dominion storyline to understand the various Dominion characters.

5×10 Rapture – Wikipedia (spoilers)

I just like something about the idea of having to choose between visions and living your life.

5×06 Trials and Tribble-ations – Wikipedia (spoilers)

Fluff, but they do a really good job visually of fitting into the original series episode.

The obvious episode to watch would be 4×03 The Visitor, which is probably DS9’s best episode, an analogous episode to TNG 5×25 The Inner Light in that it’s not really a DS9 episode at all.

August 6, 2016  What TNG I watch, when I can watch any episode

What TNG I watch, when I can watch any episode

I don’t normally have access to Netflix, but I sometimes visit people who have it.

I started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) when it launched, and over the years I have seen every episode many times, despite not being a particular fan of it.

On reflection (and particularly compared to the reboot Star Trek Beyond movie), TNG does have certain strengths that I will cover in a separate blog post.

After several years of being away from TNG, here’s what I watched, in the order I watched, when I could choose any episode:

3×15 Yesterday’s Enterprise – Wikipedia (spoilers)

This is a combination of “what would TNG have been if it was an action show?” and fixing the rather awkward way that Tasha Yar left.  It works well on both fronts.  (Although TNG messed up its Yaredemption by bringing Denise Crosby back later in an improbable role.)

This episode really works best if you’ve watched at least all of season 1.

7×15 Lower Decks – Wikipedia (spoilers)

This is mostly a way to watch TNG without having the focus on the main characters.

There is a similar Voyager episode, 6×20 Good Shepherd.

4×15 First Contact – Wikipedia (spoilers)

This is a pretty light episode, I watched mainly because I remembered the aliens’ dilemma about what to do about contact.  I had forgotten it has one of TNG’s most awkward scenes, with Bebe Neuwirth as a xenophile nurse.

5×02 Darmok – Wikipedia (spoilers)

As pure science fiction, this is the strongest episode of the series.

It also works well because like many of the show’s best episodes, it’s almost entirely Picard alone off the ship.

5×25 The Inner Light – Wikipedia (spoilers)

This is the most touching episode of the series, but it’s not really TNG at all in any meaningful way, it’s a story that stands alone.

It also works well because like many of the show’s best episodes, it’s almost entirely Picard alone off the ship.

Who are The Time Team?

There are actually several eras of Time Team.  If one was being too-clever-by-half one could say Paleo-Team, Meso-Team, and Neo-Team.

But it’s probably better to say Team 1, Team 2, and Team Everyone Gets Fired.

There are really four different groups that contribute.  In early series, there literally is The Time Team listed in the credits, along with Presenter Tony Robinson, The Geophys Team, and… well, Stewart Ainsworth, who never seems makes it into The Time Team, but is eventually grouped with the rest of the archeologists.

From Episode 1×01 you have the start of Team 1, which shows up more-or-less the same  in the credits from series 1 through series 5 and retains the same people from series 1 to series 12 with the exception of Robin Bush who is gone from the core team after series 4.

Tony Robinson

The Time Team
Mick Aston
Carenza Lewis
Phil Harding
Robin Bush
Victor Ambrus

Geophysics Team
John Gater

Royal Commission for Historical Monuments
Stewart Ainsworth

It’s important to understand the Mick Aston is the lead of the show.  He’s actually the very first person from the team you see and hear speaking after Tony Robinson in Episode 1×01.  They do work as a team to make decisions, but Mick is the lead.

You might think there is a kind of pre-success era of Time Team, before the computers and helicopters, but they actually have everything from Episode 1×01 – helicopter, liveried Time Team vehicles, and computer support.

Some of the themes we see later on, such as geophys being set up in opposition with the excavating archaeologists, are not present in early series.  In fact in early series starting with episode 1×01 the excavating archaeologists are quite delighted to see what might lie beneath the ground without having to dig it up.  Victor Ambrus shows up on screen a lot more in early series, but rarely says much, the illustrations usually speaking for him.  And the illustrations are actually a mix of computer and paper from the very beginning – the very first time we see him he’s drawing on a computer screen using a tablet.  His work drives a lot of object reconstruction in early series.

The dynamic of the show also evolves.  From the beginning we see them as a team working and talking and often eating together, but the “time to go to the pub for a drink” tradition at the end of every day doesn’t show up until quite later series.  And of course we see them all age and adapt to changing styles, from big glasses and big beards early on, to the inevitable greying.

Starting in series 6 there is no more “The Time Team” in the credits, but it is still the same people: Mick Aston, Phil Harding, Carenza Lewis.  Stewart Ainsworth (finally) moves above the Geophys Team of John Gater et al. into a grouping with the rest of the archaeologists. Starting in series 5 Victor Ambrus is moved into a separate Illustrations section.

Geophys Jimmy (James Adcock) arrives in series 11.  Carenza Lewis is gone after series 12.  Helen Geake arrives in series 14.  Francis Pryor shows up in series 18.

My apologies to those who show up in the credits from the beginning but I haven’t mentioned – I’m going by screen time as I observe it, not contributions.  Also note this sample is only from the first episode of each series, so it’s not comprehensive.

It’s a bit harder to outline exactly when Team 2 comes together.  There isn’t really a clear dividing line between Team 1 and Team 2.  Gradually over time and usually without fanfare new team members were added as the show got bigger and more complex, drawing more frequently on more experts and more excavators.  Sometimes they show up in the background for a while before getting much screen time.  Two of the main additions in terms of field archaeologists are Matt Williams and Raksha Dave.  The credits however remain pretty much unchanged all the way through the series, until series 19.

Team Everyone Gets Fired happens in series 19 and 20, when core team members Mick Aston, Helen Geake, Stewart Ainsworth and Victor Ambrus disappear from the credits, amongst others.  As I explained in How to watch Time Team, it really isn’t the same show after series 18.

How to watch Time Team

The key to understand with Time Team is that Mick Aston is actually the lead, not Tony Robinson, despite how it may appear.

Up through and including series 18, the show has a fairly standard approach, with Mick planning the dig and Phil Harding gruffly digging things up, while Tony Robinson tries to bring together what is going on for a lay audience.

One of my favourites from series 18 is 18×02 which TVO calls Saxon Death (available until July 30, 2017), but which is actually titled Saxon Death, Saxon Gold.  At the time of this writing TVO’s Time Team pages have a bit of series 17, all of 18 and 19, and series 20 is in the process of rolling out.

Starting with series 19 the show was revamped quite dramatically and made a lot more like the [Era] Farm shows, including Farm presenter Alex Langlands and the introduction of lead-in spoilers (“teaser video”) showing some of the major finds and events that are to come.  There is also a reduced focus on archeologists and analysis and a greater emphasis on re-creation, with different major contributors.

Mick Aston opposed this change, and after hanging on for series 19, in 2012 left the show he had basically originated.  He passed away the year after.

Western Daily PressProfessor Mick Aston: Why I quit Time Team, and the danger of losing touch with our history – February 13, 2012

UPDATE 2016-04-11: Current Archaeology wrote an appreciation of Time Team in December 2012 that provides some history about the show and details about the series 19 changes.  Time Team: the rise and fall of a television phenomenon  ENDUPDATE

So if you want to watch the core of the show as originally imagined, watch series 1-18 and stop.  The show ended after series 20 (March 2013) anyway.  Mick was born in 1946 and Phil was born in 1950, so in any case it was pretty much time for them to retire on top of their game.

It’s a shame they couldn’t have done 20 years with Mick Aston and then wrapped up the show.

UPDATE 2016-08-16: After watching all of Time Team up to and including season 18, you can watch the Time Team Specials up to and including number 46, The Way We Lived (about how houses have changed over the centuries).  After that you are into 2012 Specials, post season 18.  Note that the Specials are kind of all over the map, from new content with the team, to what are basically sales pitches for major sites featuring mainly or only Tony Robinson, to clip shows.