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Saturday, September 25, 2010

SPACE COWBOYS

This particular sub-group of sci fi is extremely popular and it is often tagged as "Space Western". There have been several movies, books and cartoons that have focused upon presenting a fascinating fusion between American Western security officers set in futuristic worlds, where their mission is to maintain law and order.

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One of the classic cartoon series that showcased this idea was called Galaxy Rangers, and it was created by Robert Mandell back in 1986.

This series combined sci fi  adventure stories with traditional wild west themes. It was one of the first anime-styled shows produced mainly in the US, although the actual animation was done by the Japanese animation studio Tokyo Movie Shinsha.

The popular theme song for the cartoon, "No guts no glory", was written by Phil Galdston and composed by Jogn Van Tongeren.
Interacting with aliens, dealing with illegal trafficking, rescuing kidnapped civilians and combating rebel factions were amongst the activities that the Galaxy Rangers partook in, on their action-packed adventures.



The series was set in the future, some time after the year 2086, when two peaceful aliens travel to Earth in search for allies against the expansionist Crown Empire, led by the Queen of the Crown. In return for the help, the two aliens gave mankind construction plans for a hyperdrive device. After this key event in human history, many expeditions to outer-space took place. Interstellar travel flourished and a huge number of colonies emerged in distant star-systems.

Alongside the growth of human activities in space, criminal activities also grew, and the new colonies required defense against various threats, including the Crown Empire. A group known as "BETA" (Bureau for Extra-Terrestrial Affairs) was founded to cope with these tasks, with a "Ranger" division being a part of it.

There were four elite soldiers that became the Galaxy Rangers, and they were: Zachary Foxx [leader], Shane "Goose" Gooseman [marksman], Niko [archaeologist, martial artist] and Walter "Doc" Hartford [tech wiz, varied fighter].

Each of the Rangers had special powers/abilities, which made them a crucial part of the team. The special individual powers of the Rangers came from their Series-5 implants. The S5 implant enabled a dramatic boost of innate abilities, due to its unique conversion of bio-electrical power generated by alpha radiation stored within the golden sheriff badges worn by the Galaxy Rangers. This sort of technology presented in this cartoon drafted back in 1980s was a prequel to advanced cybernetics, a core feature of many sci fi books and films that were yet to be created.

There are other cartoons that fuse sci fi and western themes in a variety of ways, and other series from the 1980s were Trigun, Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs, and BraveStarr. The popular anime series, Cowboy Bebop, also explored the Space Western theme in a peculiar way.



The Blazing Trail of the Firefly...
There was a live action TV series called Firefly that was aired on FOX back in 2002 for just 1 season [with 14 episodes], which also fused cowboy and sci fi themes in an entertaining fashion. The series was set in the year 2517, where outlying human settlements established in space resembled the wild west in their communal cultures and anthropological layouts. It follows the adventures of the renegade 9-member crew of Serenity, a "Firefly-class" spaceship. There are also Steampunk themes intertwined into this series, and many die-hard fans wished that it had lasted longer than one season [it was actually cancelled after the 11th episode].

Despite its poor ratings while it was aired on network TV, The post-airing success of the show led Joss Whedon and Universal Pictures to produce a film based on the series, titled Serenity.

Set in 2518, Serenity is the story of the captain and crew of a racer transport/cargo ship. The captain and first mate are veterans of the Unification War, having fought on the losing side. Their lives of petty crime are interrupted by a psychic passenger who harbors a dangerous secret. And the careful uncovering of that secret becomes the main focus of the entire movie. The introverted psychic girl named River is actually a tool in the hand of a venal galactic governing body called the Alliance, and there is an operative sponsored to kill her before she reveals Alliance military secrets.




In the movie, the main crew aboard the focal spacecraft was cut down from 9 to 6 members. They were more like mercenaries, as opposed to law enforcing cowboys. And in the film, there were several cool gun battles and stunning visual effects showcasing the futuristic earth that hosted the western-styled sci fi adventure. The movie was released in September of 2005 and grossed about 40 million world wide. Thus the Firefly franchise expanded from the brief series and film to other media, including comics and role-playing games.


COWBOYS AND ALIENS !
Coming soon in July 2011, there is a movie directed by Jon Favreau [director of Ironman], which has a lot of fan boys buzzing and chatting at the water-coolers. It was based of a comic by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg who works for Platinum Studios and it is slated to feature Daniel Craig [James Bond] and Harrison Ford [Indian Jones]. Below is the trailer for the movie, which is based upon the theme of  "Aliens invading a late-1800s western settlement of cowboys, seeking to harvest their bodies as a plausible fuel source".




This is the official movie Synopsis: 

In 1873 Arizona, a loner named Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) awakens with no memory of his past and a mysterious shackle around his wrist. He enters the town of Absolution where he learns that he is a notorious criminal wanted by many people, including Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), who rules the town with an iron fist. Absolution soon faces an even greater threat when alien spaceships attack the town. While his shackle holds the key to defeating the aliens, Lonergan must ally with Dolarhyde and other former enemies to make a stand against them.

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