The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode you will have missed.


TV Find above this week's TechMoan video which is all about the 2-XL, a toy in the shape of a robot which utilised 8-track tapes to offer quizzes and games. Even though it was released in the late 70s, I was probably too young to be contact with them, let alone own one, but it's a fascinating look at how ingenious engineers were in the pre-digital era in utilising analogue technology to create the illusion of futuristic toys. Now of course you can call up such quizzes through a so-called smart speaker. Try saying "Alexa, play Pointless..."

Later in the video, channel creator Matt mentions that the idea was recycled in the early nineties for compact cassette by Tiger Electronics.  As per the Wikipedia page, these weren't too dissimilar to the 8-track versions, in that they utilised the four channels across the tape to create the various options, in the original's case questions and answers, in the remake, options in a "choose your own adventure type story" which used licenses from the likes of MARVEL, DC, Saban Entertainment and Paramount Television.

And thanks to this emulation page (also via Techmoan) you can play them all, old and new.  After trying a few it's clear that even in the licensed tapes, for the most part the voices were supplied by the same few actors.  Chaos in Jurassic Park has those performers offering some pretty good impressions of Bob Peck, Laura Dern and Sam Neil in a rewrite of the film's story.  But working through a few more it becomes apparent that in some cases, like the Power Rangers, original cast members do make an appearance.

The one I actually bothered to play all the way through is Star Trek: The Next Generation's Blinded By The Light assuming that, like the old Peter Pan story singles, it would feature at best sound alikes.  So imagine my surprise when up pops your actual LeVar Burton in a solo adventure for Geordi Le Forge which is "official" enough to have its own Memory Alpha page.  It's the early 90s and here's a real cast member recording spin-off material.  I've tweeted him for more details, because of course I have and I'll update if he replies.

The adventure itself is fine, as Geordi investigates Romulan skullduggery on Fenrac III.  Even though none of the original music has been licensed, it very much has the atmosphere of the series, as the engineer meets an old school friend who he completely failed to get off with and also ties in to The Mind's Eye episode and depending on your choices sees him trying to shoot said friend thanks to him being reprogrammed again.  Whoever wrote this was clearly enough of a fan to be steep in the mythology and everything is authentic enough.

The adventure takes about half an hour and isn't too tedious, although the requirements of the technology mean that the script is unnecessarily wordy so that the various story choices can be synched together on the various audio channels.  It's also interrupted now and then by the voice of the robot, played by the creator Michael Freeman and his weird pronounciations, with space related questions and if you manage to get these correct, you're given a field promotion to acting ensign.  I did not reach this distinction.

Anyway, you can play the adventure yourself here and like Charlie Brooker's Bandersnatch, perhaps its most recent equivalent, there are enough story branches that it bares repeat playing, more than perhaps a simple quiz would in the 8-track version of this technology.  I managed to fail the mission although I'm not sure how.   Perhaps I pressed the wrong button.  You could always just listen through each of the four channels in turn I suppose but what would be the fun in that?  

Mordieu (Short Trips: The Muses)

Prose  Set during the BBC Books Earth arc, once  series editor Steve Cole writing under his Tara Samms pen name, Mordieu places the Doctor in the middle of Hollywood during the TV boom of the late 1950s as a TV writer who worked on the likes of the "Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse" and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.  It's told from the point of view of a fellow writer who finds himself in the midst of some local mayhem related to a strange epidemic of stigmata.  

There's some useful religious debate in here about why the affliction mimics the paintings rather than the actuality of what Christ may or may not have experienced (with a section which lists the various biblical contradiction with verse references).  The descriptions of the affliction are also suitably gory.  Published in 2003 but presumably commissioned earlier, the weirdness of the wilderness years had fully matured.

Written in noirish tones, we're given an insight into where this particular amnesiac Eighth is psychologically through his own first person inserts.  We discover that he's using writing jobs as a way of expressing the various memory fragments which are surfacing, the plots of Inferno and the TV Movie are proposed but dismissed.  We're reminded that he's not really himself in this period, disinclined to become involved.

Placement:  Between the novels Endgame and The Stranger.  Yes, really.