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  • Star Wars Series The Acolyte Casts Squid Game Lead Lee Jung-jae

    Lee Jung-jae, star of Netflix’s South Korean sensation Squid Game, has reportedly been cast in the Disney+ series, The Acolyte.

    According to Deadline, the Emmy Award-nominated actor has been tipped for the male lead in the show, which is set in the High Republic era – a time when the Sith were erroneously believed to be extinct.

    The only confirmed cast member so far is Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger GamesSleepy Hollow) and the show is being written and produced by Russian Doll showrunner Leslye Headland.

    Earlier this week Jodie Turner-Smith, star of Queen & Slim, was said to be in talks to join the cast.

    Star Wars | What Will it Take For the Sequels to be Re-Appraised?

    The Star Wars Prequels were loudly derided on release, but time has transformed their fortunes. Will The Last Jedi or Solo be remembered more fondly too?

  • Star Trek: Picard Season 3 New Trailer Introduces USS Titan

    Jean-Luc Picard is rejoined by some familiar faces and the awesome new USS Titan in the huge new trailer for Star Trek: Picard Season 3

    Star Trek: Picard Season 3  will debut on February 16, 2023 on Paramount+ in the U.S and Amazon Prime Video in other territories.

    CGI Fridays | Adam Howard Made Phasers Pop on Star Trek: The Next Generation

    From a firefighter’s mosaic to phasers and photon torpedoes, digital painter and animator Adam Howard reveals a passion for pyro in CGI Fridays Episode 6.

  • Quantum Leap First Full Trailer for New Series is Explosive

    Physicist Ben Song (Raymond Lee) restarts the Quantum Leap project three decades after Sam Beckett’s disappearance in the first full trailer for the new show.

    Quantum Leap premieres September 19, 2022, on NBC and Peacock.

    Stargate A.I. Atlantis Trailer – Share it With Your Friends

    A cast reunion and readthrough with a difference, The Companion’s Stargate A.I. hits the Pegasus Galaxy – and non-members can see it for free.

  • The X-Files | ‘Fearful Symmetry’: Animal Rights and Alien Intervention

    The X-Files episode ‘Fearful Symmetry’ falters as a criticism of animal rights activism, but offers a foreshadowing of the later extraterrestrial arc.

    In 1787, the celebrated English poet William Blake included within a text called ‘Songs of Experience’ a poem called ‘The Tyger’, the opening stanza of which read:

    Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
    In the forests of the night;
    What immortal hand or eye,
    Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

    Blake was writing about the natural world and the confluence between it and the nature of divinity. He questions who, or what, was responsible for such a wild animal as the tiger and interrogates the importance of man’s understanding of the world around him through the existence of such a creature. The X-Files borrows the last two words of his stanza, ‘fearful symmetry’, for an episode that itself interrogates nature, a higher power, and man’s ability to comprehend in the face of staggering catastrophe.

    The natural world and The X-Files are frequent bedfellows. Chris Carter’s series takes place within an often wild, untamed America, one hiding not just dark secrets but mysteries and enigmas of evolution – mutated ‘monsters’ such as Eugene Victor Tooms, teenagers juiced up by the environment like Darren Peter Oswald, the list goes on. Yet what of nature itself? Animal life has its own space within the mythology of the series, often one of warning and portent.

    Frequently, we see animal life on The X-Files as an extension of the same kind of unknowable sense of human development. ‘The Jersey Devil’ (S1, Ep5) provides an early example, of a cat-like urban myth with ancestral lineage to primitive human life. ‘Shapes’ (S1, Ep19) presents the tried and tested lycanthrope transformation of man into savage wolf. Episodes such as ‘Red Museum’ (S2, Ep10) or ‘Teso Dos Bichos’ (S3, Ep18) present animals as hallucinatory visions or tools of arcane mysticism – take the horror imagery of screeching cats or a toilet bowl festooned with rats of the latter.

    Regularly, The X-Files presents animals akin to alien life – terrifying and beyond reason.

    The Politics of the X-Files is a regular series by writer A. J. Black, host of The X-Cast: An X-Files Podcast, and author of Myth-Building in Modern Media. New articles will be published every month, so check back soon for more.

    Animal Rights Activism in ‘Fearful Symmetry’

    ‘Fearful Symmetry’ (S2, Ep18) combines both of those elements and presents them in a different manner with a distinct ecological message underpinning the episode. Despite a rather goofy cold open, in which what turns out to be an invisible elephant stomps through a town and kills a road worker by stamping them to death, the episode provides Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) with a case that eschews their traditional investigative routine. They are present as FBI representatives for a death that would at the most be certified with an open verdict; a tragic accident with a few strange twists. There is no savage animal on the loose.

    Ganesha, the elephant walks up to a truck, in the cold open of The X-Files episode 'Fearful Symmetry'.
    Ganesha, the wayward Indian elephant, wanders down the road in The X-Files episode ‘Fearful Symmetry’ (S2, Ep18). Scenes featuring the elephant – real name, Bubbles – were shot on a quiet country road as legislation had recently been passed in British Columbia restricting the use of large animals. | 20th Century Fox, 1996.

    Said elephant turns out to be Ganesha, a 5,000-pound Indian female who inexplicably disappeared from her pen at Fairfield Zoo only to appear before a truck, after her rampage, in the middle of town hours later. She is named, of course, after one of the most widely worshipped and best-known gods within the Hindu pantheon, represented famously in scripture with an elephantine head. Crucially, Ganesha in myth is said to not just have been a patron of arts and science, and a totem of good fortune, but also a deity of great intellect and wisdom. Ganesha the elephant, therefore, is representative of a higher order.

    Very swiftly, ‘Fearful Symmetry’ establishes numerous characters who inhabit distinct natural and conservationist spaces around the zoo. There is Ed Meacham (Jack Rader), an old-fashioned wrangler who has little time for evolving practices regarding animal care. Willa Ambrose (Jayne Atkinson) provides a direct link between human and animal as a ‘naturalist’ with a deep connection to the animal central to the episode, a gorilla named Sophie, who she is fighting custody over with the Malawi government. And there is Kyle Lang (Lance Guest), the extremist animal rights activist, part of the Wild Again Organisation, a group that campaigns against the captivity of any animal. 

    Kyle Lang, wearing a plaid jacket over a denim shirt, looks up from speaking to Dana Scully.
    Kyle Lang (Lance Guest) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) in The X-Files episode ‘Fearful Symmetry’ (S2, Ep18). Guests first movie role was paramedic Jimmy in Halloween II (1981). | 20th Century Fox, 1996.

    The so-called W.A.O. is designed very clearly to evoke groups such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), as Darren Mooney discusses:

    Although animal rights movements (like PETA) had existed and garnered attention during the ’70s and into the ’80s, these organizations really engaged with the mainstream into the ’90s. In the United Kingdom, the number of vegetarians “peaked” in the ’90s, undoubtedly assisted by various meat scares. The Independent named animal liberator Peter Singer as its first “thinker of the ’90s.”

    Darren Mooney, Opening the X-Files: A Critical History of the Original Series (2017)

    Animal rights were becoming a mainstream part of Western discourse to a degree never before seen, away from cult groups and directly into people’s homes. Families were now encouraged to donate for the protection and security of animals in Africa, a far cry from the days men would stride across the African veldt taking great beasts as hunting trophies; indeed, heading into the 21st century, social media actively excoriates any wealthy individuals who take pride in hunting animal life. Kyle himself suggests the Malawis fighting to take Sophie away are guilty of latent abuse:

    “This is a perfect example of man’s imperialism over the animal kingdom – this craven impulse to turn animals into objects for our own selfish pleasure.”

    Kyle Lang, The X-Files, ‘Fearful Symmetry’ – S2, Ep18.
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    Enter the Extraterrestrial in ‘Fearful Symmetry’

    With Mulder and Scully as outsiders lacking a great deal of knowledge and experience in the field of animal rights, they nonetheless serve as our conduit into judging the positions of these three key players in the drama, all of whom take different positions against one another. Willa considers Ed to be riven with a sense of male privilege and underlying generational sexism, unhappy a woman is telling a man older than her what to do. Kyle believes, despite Willa’s best intentions, that her personal connection to Sophie in particular clouds her from the radical action needed to ensure animal protection and safety. And later, as the story veers too closely into interpersonal drama, Willa and Kyle are found to have a romantic past and are connected in the ‘adoption’ of Sophie.

    Willa Ambrose, wearing a plaid shirt, is viewed through the bars of a cage as she talks with Mulder and Scully.
    Willa Ambrose (Jayne Atkinson) introduces Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Duchovny) to Sophie, the gorilla, in The X-Files episode ‘Fearful Symmetry’ (S2, Ep18). Sophie was performed by Jody St. Michael, whose other credits as a gorilla suit performer include George of the Jungle (1997) and Gorillas in the Mist (1988). | 20th Century Fox, 1996.

    What becomes clear as the episode progresses is the intervention of an unseen hand, one which connects to the deeper X-Files mythology without trespassing distinctly on the broader storytelling in play. Mulder posits—as usual, correctly—that extra-terrestrial abductors are kidnapping these animals and artificially inseminating them, once Ganesha is found to be pregnant and Sophie—with whom Willa can communicate via a sophisticated amount of sign language—becomes withdrawn, afraid of the light, despite wishing to become pregnant. Before these events, no animal at Fairfield had managed to become pregnant at all, unusually.

    Those around Mulder are naturally incredulous at his suggestion, despite his supposition as to why they would do this.

    “Maybe their own Noah’s ark? To preserve the DNA of these animals that we’re depleting to extinction. Whatever it is, that’s probably the reason why you’ve never had a successful birth at this facility.”

    Fox Mulder The X-Files, ‘Fearful Symmetry’ – S2, Ep18.

    The assumed alien visitors return the abducted animals but without the babies they inseminated them with. While there is no attempt to reconcile this with the bigger alien mythos of the series, The X-Files leaves open the possibility of interventions from multiple alien sources, one of whom could well have been ecologically aware of Earth’s continued depletion by man’s hand.

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    Animals and the Divine in ‘Fearful Symmetry’

    ‘Fearful Symmetry’ does get bogged down with the much less interesting human drama between Ed, Willa, and Kyle revolving around the treatment of Sophie, which itself is hampered by writing and performances that are far from the series’ best, but the deeper questions of conservation the episode proposes intrigue. Sophie, an example of human ancestral forbearance, provides a warning essentially through history when she signs ‘man saved man’, the same kind of received wisdom that might have been imparted by Ganesha the deity.

    This episode suggests a distinct correlation between a divine agent acting on behalf of nature and the animals who provide that connection to the natural world. Kyle early on, in describing his extreme philosophy, discusses this in relation to Ganesha the elephant:

    “These are incredibly spiritual creatures. Their rituals and behavior are linked to a past no man ever witnessed. Did you know they actually bury their dead? They can visit an elephant graveyard centuries old and know instinctively where the bones of their ancient ancestors lie.”

    Kyle Lang, The X-Files,‘Fearful Symmetry’ – S2, Ep18.

    ‘Fearful Symmetry’ suggests man is past being able to act in the best interests of its own salvation.

    Mulder, blood streaming from his crown, is bathed in light as aliens apparently abduct Sophie the gorilla.
    Mulder (David Duchovny) is bathed in the light of the alien abduction, saving him from the attacking gorilla Sophie, in The X-Files episode ‘Fearful Symmetry’ (S2, Ep18). | 20th Century Fox, 1996.

    Yet equally, the personalities of the activists and those working to protect the more enlightened animal life are distinctly unsympathetic. Scully excoriates Kyle for his lack of humanity and sympathy in the face of his W.A.O. colleague being mauled to death by a tiger which suffers the same fate as Ganesha, prepared to blame him and his extreme political viewpoint for the man’s death, suspecting conspiracy on his part. Willa, too, struggles to separate her role as a conservationist from that of a mother, transferring onto Sophie maternal feelings that the female gorilla is feeling for the baby who has been ‘saved’. Ed is simply the regressive catalyst who serves little beyond the antagonistic force the episode at points needs.

    This is why ‘Fearful Symmetry’ struggles to stand out as a powerful hour within The X-Files’ pantheon, hampered by the humans who get in the way of a compelling examination of animal conservation. We are led to assume these creatures are being abducted by aliens, but we see no spaceship or little green man, as is often common in the series whenever extra-terrestrials do appear on the scene. The episode is careful simply to represent them as a beam of light, which could just as simply equate to a divine, religious source. An unnatural space for a natural being, less raped by conservationist invaders and perhaps conserved in a different way, through their progeny.

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    Can Man Save Man?

    ‘Fearful Symmetry’ does attempt consistently to invoke ancient memory, in how it suggests a deep spiritual connection between animals and their forebears, so perhaps this unseen power has the same connection in mind. Mulder wonders this too in his closing summation:

    “The motives of the silent visitors who set these events in motion remain unclear. Could this be a judgment on a global rate of extinction that has risen to 1,000 times its natural rate in this century? An act of alien conservation of animals we are driving hard toward oblivion? And if so, might it follow that our own fate and existence could finally be dependent upon the conservatorship of an extraterrestrial race? Or in the simple words of a creature whose own future is uncertain, will “man save man?””

    Fox Mulder, The X-Files,‘Fearful Symmetry’ – S2, Ep18.

    These questions become ever more potent as the 21st century deepens, and humanity slips ever closer to natural, ecological catastrophe it is summarily refusing to take the necessary steps to hasten, saying nothing of the human factor of war and possible nuclear brinkmanship being fought in pointless—in terms of the grand scheme of history—conflicts. ‘Fearful Symmetry’ suggests our hubris is our downfall and only the acceptance of a higher power to guide can save us. In that sense, in the confluence of religious worship and alien existence, it leans toward bigger mytharc ideas the show will explore later in the fifth, sixth, and ninth seasons – the idea that God and the alien might be one and the same. This early in the series’ life, however, they seem here to protect rather than destroy.

    A billboard outside of a white washed wooden church reads: The final shot of the episode is pointed as Mulder and Scully, in leaving town and another case behind, pass a church that bears a verse from Ecclesiastes 3: “Man has no pre-eminence above a beast: for all is vanity.”
    The closing shot of The X-Files episode ‘Fearful Symmetry’ (S2, Ep18). | 20th Century Fox, 1996.

    The final shot of the episode is pointed as Mulder and Scully, in leaving town and another case behind, pass a church that bears a verse from Ecclesiastes 3: “Man has no pre-eminence above a beast: for all is vanity.

    The comment is clear. Man can only save man by protecting and saving nature and its environment. We are not all dominant, even if we are all-consuming. And while The X-Files is prone to the depiction of the natural American landscape it fills with monsters and aberrations, the series still understands that only our respect for nature can ultimately save us from it. For in the real world, there might be no great flash of light, no alien or divine hand, that will save man, woman, or beast.

    As a member of The Companion, you’re supporting original writing and podcasting, for sci-fi fans, by sci-fi fans, and totally free of advertising and clickbait.

    The cost of your membership has allowed us to mentor new writers and allowed us to reflect the diversity of voices within fandom. None of this is possible without you. Thank you. 🙂

    Testimonial Author Image

    A. J. Black is a writer and podcaster about cinema, TV and pop culture for his blog Cultural Conversation and podcast network We Made This, plus the author of books about modern mythology and Star Trek. Born and bred in the West Midlands, he now lives in Wiltshire with his wife and their dog.

    Find him on Twitter @ajblackwriter
  • Firefly | Kaylee & Jayne: The Case For Greatest Love Story in the ‘Verse

    Trusting, challenging, and like nothing else on TV, Firefly’s Jayne Cobb and Kaylee Frye are the perfect Platonic love story.

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone who loves Joss Whedon’s Firefly has seen all 14 episodes (and the film, obviously) at least a hundred times over. At least. They’ll probably know every single scene by heart; every look, every nuance, every punchline. And I know this because I am one of these diehard fans.

    I thought I knew everything there was to know about Firefly, essentially. But when I rewatched the series again recently, I quickly realized that I had missed out on… well, on one shiny detail that was seemingly suddenly staring me in the face. 

    I’m talking, naturally, about the oh-so-subtle and beautiful love story between Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin) and Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite).

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    The Case for Kaylee and Jayne

    Now, before you get too angry with me, I want to make one thing clear: I am not, in any way, shipping these two above everyone else. In fact, I love that Kaylee and Simon (Sean Maher) wind up together. Theirs is one of the great sci-fi romances; a ballad that will ring out across the depths of the ‘verse until the end of time, because they are cuteness personified and therefore endgame.

    Still, though, I can’t help but feel that a lot of the love between Jayne and Kaylee has gone largely unappreciated until now – and I’m here to set that right. Because, as Jewel Staite herself notes in Firefly: A Celebration, Kaylee is “soft with Jayne.”

    “Even Jayne trusts her,” she adds, “and he cares about her… I love that they have these scenes where they’re just talking about everything that’s going on around them and venting at each other.”

    Staite finishes: “I think she really does care about him.”

    This in itself isn’t the biggest revelation ever; Kaylee, after all, is unerringly sweet and views all of her crew as a family. She thinks the best of all of them, even when there’s some pretty compelling evidence to the contrary.

    Here’s the thing, though: the feeling is clearly mutual. Because the man they call Jayne is… hmm, how to put it? He’s a selfish and trigger-happy mercenary-for-hire – one with an extensive arsenal of guns, and not all that much care for other people. So, yes, his treatment of Kaylee feels important, because it’s so at odds with what we know of him as a person.

    Kaylee Frye looks hurt at Jayne's jibe.
    The wounded Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite) recoils from Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin)s crude put down in the Firefly episode ‘Serenity’ (S1, Ep11). Broadcast as episode 11, Joss Whedon intended for ‘Serenity’ to be the first episode and instead, viewers were thrown into the deep end with ‘Serenity’. | 20th Century Fox, 2003.

    Think about it: right from the very get-go, Jayne’s love for Kaylee is underlined in a big red pen when, during the very first episode, he takes vigil beside the infirmary window and watches over her after she’s been shot. When he is hellbent on murdering the son of a bitch who dared fire a bullet at his Kaylee. When he gets, let’s face it, more than a little (for want of a better word) jealous of Kaylee’s crush on Simon.

    “Little Kaylee here just wishes you were a gynecologist,” he jokes spitefully in the Firefly episode ‘Serenity’ (S1, Ep11), humiliating Kaylee in front of Simon and prompting Mal (Nathan Fillion) to banish Jayne from the room.

    Their banter is easy, their chemistry incredible, and their deep friendship clear for all to see. Do you want some examples? Of course, you do. How’s about the fact that, in the opening scenes of the Firefly episode ‘Bushwhacked’ (S1, Ep2), Jayne and Kaylee move almost seamlessly together during a game of basketball – her jumping lightly onto his shoulders to hitch a ride to the nearest hoop, ball in hand? Or the fact that she slugs him playfully in the arm whenever he takes his teasing of her too far? Or the look on his face in ‘Shindig’ (S1, Ep6), when he realizes Badger (Mark Sheppard) had taken Kaylee as his hostage? Or the way that, in ‘War Stories’ (S1, Ep10), our girl Kaylee turns immediately to Jayne to ask, “Can they do that?” when she learns that Zoe (Gina Torres) and Wash (Alan Tudyk) are planning a daring rescue mission? 

    Kaylee looks up towards the camera, she's holding an oversized silver ball.
    Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite) and Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin) play basketball in the Firefly episode ‘Bushwhacked’ (S1, Ep2). | 20th Century Fox, 2003.

    Not enough for you? I didn’t think so, but don’t worry; there’s more. Like, say, the moment during the Firefly episode ‘Ariel’ (S1, Ep8) when Kaylee – unlike everyone else aboard Serenity – is more concerned about Jayne than River (Summer Glau) when the latter slices at the former with a kitchen knife. 

    “He’s bleedin’,” she points out, as everyone else fusses over the girl who can kill people with her brain.

    There’s the blink-and-you-honestly-will-miss-it moment in ‘The Message’ (S1, Ep14), when Kaylee shelters behind Jayne during Mal and Zoe’s showdown with Tracey (Jonathan Woodward). And a thousand or so of the other teeny-weeny looks and glances that so often prove fodder for shippers everywhere.

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    The Shared Trust Between Kaylee and Jayne

    I’m not here to convince you of an impassioned love affair, though. Because the foundation of Kaylee and Jayne’s relationship is more important than stolen moments and breathless first meetings and accidental hand brushes. In fact, it’s almost entirely hinged upon the fact that the pair trust one another absolutely and innately.

    “A blessed thing it is for any man or woman to have a friend, one human soul whom we can trust utterly, who knows the best and worst of us, and who loves us in spite of all our faults,” notes clergyman Charles Kingsley. And, while I’m not usually one for religion, he’s kind of onto something. This makes Jayne and Kaylee’s love story all the better, in my opinion.

    In the Firefly pilot episode, ‘Serenity’ (S1, Ep11), Jayne gently lifts and carries a barefoot Kaylee from the infirmary to the engine room. He props her down against a wall, gets flustered when he realizes how tricky the job at hand is, and cools off immediately when she tells him to “look where I’m pointing.” Just like that, he’s calm again; he doesn’t get angry, he doesn’t throw things, he doesn’t raise his voice. Instead, he follows her instructions, trusts her to know what to do, and damn well does it, too.

    Jayne Cobb scrutinises the wiring beneath a panel aboard Serenity.
    Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin) follows Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite)’s directions to fix the ship in the Firefly episode ‘Serenity’ (S1, Ep11). | 20th Century Fox, 2003.

    Then there’s ‘The Train Job’ (S1, Ep1) in which Jayne straps himself into a harness and allows Kaylee to lower him – from a spaceship – onto a speeding train. Because, yes, he trusts her. God how he trusts her.

    You want more? Think, then, about the events of ‘Trash’ (S1, Ep13), in which Jayne and Kaylee are tasked with some Thrilling Heroics of their very own; riding Serenity in the open air, equipped with goggles and space-age screwdrivers, to reprogram a flying trash bin. Remember how he helps her clip her safety harness and clamber on top of the ship? Remember how he has her lie flat and throws one arm over her protectively? Remember how she screams and grasps for his tether when he’s knocked unconscious, throwing every ounce of her strength into saving his life? Because I do. That scene lives rent-free in my mind forever. 

    Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin) gives Kaylee Freye (Jewel Staite) a hand as they wrestle with the flying trash bin in the Firefly episode ‘Trash’ (S1, Ep13). This was one of small number of Firefly episodes completed but never broadcast. | 20th Century Fox, 2003.

    And then there are the events of ‘Ariel’ (S1, Ep8), in which Jayne tries to collect the bounty on Simon and River from The Alliance by throwing everyone under the proverbial spaceship. Mal, naturally, finds out and locks Jayne in the airlock for a stern talking-to and a few threats about his impending death.

    “What are you gonna tell the others? ‘Bout why I’m dead?” asks Jayne desperately.

    “Hadn’t thought about it,” replies Mal.

    “Do me a favor. Make something up,” pleads Jayne. “Don’t tell them what I did.”

    It’s this moment of shame, of raw humanity, that convinces Mal to give Jayne a second chance. And it’s this writer’s humble opinion that “the others” Jayne refers to – the people whose good opinion he so craves – is, in fact, his favorite crew member: Kaylee.

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    Platonic Love in the Case of Kaylee and Jayne

    I know, I know: I’m lurching horribly into shipping territory with that one. But, quite honestly, I think one of the reasons I’m so obsessed with Jayne and Kaylee’s relationship is because theirs is a love story that is utterly devoid of any physical or obvious romance whatsoever. Truly.

    Indeed, according to Sarah Fader at Better Help, platonic relationships tend to run deeper. They are built on a foundation of “openness, honesty, flexibility, longevity and a more unconditional kind of love,” she tells Vanguard

    “This is largely because we are less afraid of losing our friends in the same way that we fear being rejected by an intimate partner.”

    Sarah Fader, via Vanguard

    It’s a theory that makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider how vulnerable Kaylee and Jayne allow themselves to be with one another. They can snap and jab and tease, always knowing that theirs is a love that will not bend or break. They can say whatever’s on their mind – whether that’s the fact that Jayne’s hat is “the sweetest hat ever”, or that Jayne could “stand to hear a little more” about what’s been ‘twixt Kaylee’s nethers. And they can rest easy in their bunks at night, knowing they have someone worth giving a damn about – and that someone gives a damn about them, too.

    Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin) and Kaylee Frye share a mischievious moment in the Firefly episode ‘War Stories’ (S1, Ep10). | 20th Century Fox, 2002.

    To paraphrase David Levithan, then, I feel that the love which Jayne and Kaylee share is something even rarer, and even more meaningful, than the oft-cited true love. And part of the allure behind the unusual pairing is a) the fact that the actors were “genuinely having a lot of fun” together, and b) that both completely and utterly understood the nature of Kaylee and Jayne’s relationship.

    Noting that Kaylee is a “huge flirt”, Staite points out that her Firefly alter-ego flirts with everyone on the ship – everyone, that is, save for Jayne.

    “I think she and Jayne are like brother and sister [in that sense],” she muses.

    Baldwin, for his part, echoes this sweet sentiment.

    “Kaylee was more of the little sister who I’d try to protect,” he says simply.

    Personally, I think it’s more than that. You’ve heard of soulmates? My mind can’t help but return to the lyrics of a 2009 song by Train, titled – oh so fittingly – ‘Soul Sister.’

    “Your sweet moonbeam,
    The smell of you in every single dream I dream.
    I knew when we collided,
    You’re the one I had decided who’s one of my kind.”

    Train, ‘Soul Sister’

    Jayne and Kaylee offer each other a soul connection that goes beyond feelings of friendship. They are something like brother and sister, something like best friends, something like playmates, something definitely not unlike lovers. They are absolute opposites – she is a wide-eyed romantic, he’s a loose cannon out to make a quick buck and bed as many women as possible. They didn’t have the same instant fireworks or fizz of attraction that Kaylee and Simon had, nor the endless yearning between the Cap’n and Inara (Morena Baccarin), nor the spiky long-term love of Wash and Zoe; oh no. Theirs is something different.

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    Something A Little Different

    Jayne and Kaylee are the sorts of people who have come together, gotten to know one another, and felt a slow blossoming of deep affection as the days and months and years have rolled on by. They are one another’s home, in some regards; they are one another’s safe space. They are – if you’ll forgive me for citing yet another fictional couple – the Josephine March and Theodore Laurence of Serenity.

    As in, Little Women’s Jo and Laurie. So sue me.

    Much like Jo and Laurie, the true nature of Kaylee and Jayne’s relationship will forever be up for debate: lovers, siblings, friends, or a strange incestuous cocktail of all three. Their love for one another is endlessly shifting: it’s boisterous, it’s silly, it’s tender, it’s familial, and it’s (sometimes) wholly inappropriate. But hell, is it authentic!

    Who knows what might have happened had the show continued for longer than its (sob) one-season run? I like to think that Kaylee and Jayne would have played out much the same as Jo and Laurie; a fantastically messy showdown, a misunderstanding or two, a possible breaking of hearts, and a coming together anew. 

    Or maybe, just maybe, Joss Whedon might have done what Louisa May Alcott never dared, and had our delightful duo evolve from something like siblings into… well, into an even greater love story than that of Simon and Kaylee.

    Forget taking my money: Whedon can take my love and take my land (maybe even take me where I cannot stand) if he ever decides to make that happen.

    I’ll be waiting…

    As a member of The Companion, you’re supporting original writing and podcasting, for sci-fi fans, by sci-fi fans, and totally free of advertising and clickbait.

    The cost of your membership has allowed us to mentor new writers and allowed us to reflect the diversity of voices within fandom. None of this is possible without you. Thank you. 🙂

    Testimonial Author Image

    Kayleigh Dray has somehow managed to balance her severe sci-fi addiction with a pretty full-on career as a working writer for going on 10 years now. During the week, you can find her hunched over her laptop and tapping away furiously. On a weekend, though, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of hot chocolate, rewatching Stargate for the millionth time, and/or playing Dungeons & Dragons with her friends.

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    The Type 3 Phaser – known as the ‘phaser rifle’ – comes with a semi-assimilated light-up section, Star Trek: First Contact movie sounds, and a five-dart clip. The Type 2 Phaser is limited to one dart at a time with a pull-back priming handle.

    Pre-orders are open now at Hasbro Pulse, priced at $119.99 and £114.99.

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    The Disney+ series takes place in the dying days of the High Republic era – even further ago in a galaxy far far away – at a time when the Sith are believed to be extinct.

    The only confirmed cast member so far is Amandla Stenberg (The Hunger Games, Sleepy Hollow) and the show is being written and produced by Russian Doll showrunner Leslye Headland.

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  • Stargate A.I. Atlantis Trailer – Share it With Your Friends

    A cast reunion and readthrough with a difference, The Companion’s Stargate A.I. hits the Pegasus Galaxy – and non-members can see it for free.

    You can join the Stargate A.I. Atlantis watch party on October 8th, 2022 (2 pm PDT/5 pm EDT) for free by signing up for The Companion newsletter at 

    What time is that where I am?

    Saturday, October 8th, 2022

    3 pm Mountain Daylight Time
    10 pm British Summer Time
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    Sunday, October 9th, 2022

    12 am Eastern European Summer Time
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    Read MoreRead less

    If you’re a Companion member, don’t worry – your spot is guaranteed, but what you can do is share the event with your friends and ask them to sign up for free!

    Reprising their roles to read an all-new Stargate Atlantis script written by artificial intelligence are: 

    • Torri Higginson as Elizabeth Weir 
    • Rachel Luttrell as Teyla Emmagan
    • Paul McGillion as Dr. Carson Beckett
    • David Hewlett as Rodney McKay

    Give or take the odd clone, this is the first time all four characters have appeared together since the tragic events of the Stargate Atlantis Season 3 episode ‘Sunday’ fifteen years ago.

    As always, this reunion/readthrough takes place under the watchful eye of Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, and Stargate Universe co-creator and Travelers creator Brad Wright, Lead Google A.I. Advocate Laurence Moroney, and host Lawrence Kao, co-founder of The Companion.

    Fans of May 2022’s Stargate A.I. Version 2.0 – the long-awaited return of Richard Dean Anderson as Jack O’Neill – know to expect hilarity. But this time you can expect drama too, thanks to a more sophisticated screenplay generated using a large language model trained on all the text available on the internet.

    Also appearing for the first time at Stargate A.I. Atlantis are incredible character portraits generated by A.I.

    Redeem Your Stargate AI Pin Now

    For the first time, you can also commemorate all four Stargate A.I. projects with a series of limited edition soft enamel pins designed by illustrator Joe Totti. Companion members already have a $20 gift card to spend in our store, so if you haven’t used it yet – check your emails and make sure you order yours before they sell out.

    Stargate | Merlin and the Holy Grail: The Medieval Myth Behind the SG-1 Storyline

    In Stargate SG-1 Season 9, the familiar figure of Merlin appears in an unfamiliar guise as SGC’s best hope of defeating the Ori.

  • Stargate | Merlin and the Holy Grail: The Medieval Myth Behind the SG-1 Storyline

    In Stargate SG-1 Season 9, the familiar figure of Merlin appears in an unfamiliar guise as SGC’s best hope of defeating the Ori.

    In the later seasons of Stargate SG-1, ample use is made of the Arthurian legends during the team’s fight against the Ori. The well-known characters whose stories have been passed on throughout the generations since the European Middle Ages are given a sci-fi spin to become a part of the overall Stargate mythology. 

    Two of the most important elements from Arthurian lore that are used primarily in Stargate SG-1 (with a little help from Stargate Atlantis) is the figure of Merlin and the Holy Grail – or Sangraal – object. In this article, I’ll discuss the figure of Merlin in the Arthurian legends in contrast to his use in Stargate mythology, and do the same for the Sangraal. 

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    The History of Myrddin/Merlin

    One of the main Arthurian characters introduced (or reintroduced, but more on that shortly) in holographic form in the Stargate SG-1 episode ‘Avalon, Part 1’ (S9, Ep1) is Myrddin (Matthew Walker) – which is the Welsh form of Merlin and pronounced as mur-thin. Once SG-1 figures out his true identity, the viewer can also draw certain conclusions as to what type of person they need to search for. The Merlin of Medieval literature, however, has a much more complex origin and role than is usually shown in popular culture. 

    Where Did the Figure of Merlin Originate? 

    Merlin (Myrddin in Welsh and Marzhin and Merzhin in Cornish and Breton which are closely related Brythonic, or British Celtic, languages) seems to be a composite of various figures. One of these is the Welsh “wild man of the woods”, Myrddin Wyllt. 

    Myrddin Wyllt in the Welsh Tradition

    Myrddin Wyllt – or “Myrddin the Wild” – is based on a pseudo-historical figure born circa 540 CE in what is now Scotland. Also called Myrddin Emrys (Myrddin Ambrosius), Merlinus Caledonensis (Merlin of Caledonia), and Merlin Sylvestris (Merlin of the Woods), he is a chief bard in the legends and is called the speaker of several of the Middle Welsh poems in the 13th century Black Book of Carmarthen and the 14th century Red Book of Hergest. 

    As any good Dungeons & Dragons player knows, the distance between the storyteller and the spellcaster is zero. In the lore of Brythonic Britain, the spoken word had power, and bards feature in mythology as magical figures, mystics, adventurers, shape-shifters, and seers.

    After the Battle of Arfderydd in 573 CE, Myrddin is said to have “gone mad” and feels into the forest where he received the gift of prophecy and got the moniker “the Wild.” These legends of Myrddin resemble that of the legendary wild man figure of Lailoken who shared his prophecies with the 6th-century court of Strathclyde (parts of lowland Scotland and Northern England).

    This “wild man” iteration of Myrddin serves as part of the inspiration behind Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Merlin character in his semi-historical/semi-fictional 12th-century epic, The History of the Kings of Britain. It’s also Geoffrey’s version of Merlin that most of us have come to know.

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    Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Merlin

    Geoffrey of Monmouth is most well-known for his work on the Historia regum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain) text from circa 1136 CE. In this text, we find the character “Merlin” as part of the legends of King Arthur. This Medieval Merlin is a composite figure who is both a prophet and a wizard or enchanter of great power.  

    Merlin’s conception and birth in this instance, however, are quite interesting – reflecting changing attitudes towards supernatural power. He is sired by a devil but has a mortal mother. In fact, in the works of French poet Robert de Boron and in the 13th century Vulgate Cycle (also called the Prose Lancelot Grail), Merlin’s birth is devised by devils in hell, and Merlin is the outcome of a project to induce the Antichrist. However, Merlin’s mortal mother baptizes Merlin and rather than becoming a force of evil in the world, he becomes a force for good. 

    A Medieval manuscript showing a seated figure inscribing a book at the request of Merlin who is standing to his right.
    Merlin (right) has Master Blaise (left) write down the events of the Vulgate Cycle. | © The British Library

    According to The University of Rochester’s Camelot Project, it is also from the incubus that sires him that Merlin gets his powers: “Since he is the son of a devil, he is endowed with the knowledge of all things past, and God bestows on him the gift of knowing the future.” Monmouth also writes the Prophetiae Merlini (Prophecies of Merlin) and the poem Vita Merlini (Life of Merlin), which references his interactions with Vortigern and Arthur. 

    Merlin’s Story Grows: Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur and Later Works 

    Merlin soon becomes a central figure in the Arthurian legends, not only as Arthur’s advisor but even putting the events in motion that would lead to his conception. He helps Arthur to become king and helps him to set up his kingdom. It becomes quite apparent that Merlin becomes a more and more important part of the Arthurian corpus as these legends grow, as seen in the Vulgate Cycle

    A black and white illustration of Merlin, seated in a forest.
    Merlin in Aubrey Beardsley’s richly illustrated folio for Le Morte d’Arthur, circa 1893. | © The British Library

    In Sir Thomas Malory’s 15th-century text Le Morte d’Arthur (The Death of Arthur), Merlin also gives various prophecies during the first part of the book. These come into play during the rest of the book, even after Merlin has been locked away (but more about this later). Most likely drawing from the Prose Merlin:

    “Malory’s Merlin is the final culmination of all the other versions of the seer pre-1469 CE: a powerful wizard of prophetic insight who can control the elements, shape-shift, alter other people’s perception of reality, and read people’s hearts and true desires.”

     Joshua J. Mark, Melin (World History Encylopedia)

    Merlin is also made the architect of Camelot, most notably in Idylls of the King by Lord Alfred Tennyson. This 12-poem cycle, published between 1859 and 1885 tells the Arthurian legends in blank verse. These legends include the rise and fall of Arthur’s ideal kingdom, the adventures of the knights Lancelot, Geraint, Galahad, and Balin and Balan, Arthur’s love for Guinevere and her betrayal of him, and Arthur’s death in combat with Mordred. 

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    Merlin’s End in Arthurian Legends and Stargate

    In the Arthurian legends, Merlin is usually locked inside a cave or a grave by his apprentice. This apprentice is also (usually) a woman that he is in love with. Morgan le Fay – Arthur’s half-sister – is in many cases the apprentice (the plot thickens!), and in Le Morte d’Arthur it’s Viviane (Nimue). Once the apprentice has learned all that they can from Merlin – except for his gift of prophecy – Merlin is either imprisoned or buried. The prison or grave can be as simple as a hole underneath a rock, as in Le Morte d’Arthur, or as involved as a magic tower that seems to be made from crystal. 

    Merlin’s end in Stargate, on the other hand, is heroic and selfless as he gives up his own life to save that of others. In the Stargate Atlantis episode ‘Before I Sleep’ (S1, Ep15) – the character’s first appearance by stealth – we learn that of a Lantean called Moros, who served as a High Councillor of the Council of Atlantis during the war with the Wraith. 

    A stern-looking Moros – or Merlin – commands the Lantean war effort against the Wraith.
    Moros (Matthew Walker) at the time of the Lantean-Wraith War long before the events of Stargate Atlantis episode ‘Before I Sleep’ (S1, Ep15). The connection between Moros – who takes his name from an ancient Greek spirit of impending doom – and the mythological Merlin is later made in Stargate SG-1. | MGM, 2005.

    Once fled to Earth, Moros – who becomes known as Merlin – ascends and then realizes what a threat the Ori are. He descends but keeps all the knowledge that he knew as one of the Ascended. This knowledge makes it possible for him to build his anti-Ori weapon which will be called the Sangraal later on. After the Sangraal is destroyed by Morgan le Fay (Sarah Strange), she, too, realizes the threat of the Ori and places Merlin in stasis so he can rebuild the Sangraal in the future when needed. 

    Merlin is found about a thousand years later in the Stargate SG-1 episode ‘The Quest, Part 2’ (S10, Ep11) and taken out of stasis. Unfortunately, his body has deteriorated during his time in stasis – he is no longer the force he was even after descending. Because Merlin realizes that there isn’t enough time left for him to physically rebuild another Sangraal, he “downloads” his mind into an Ancient repository of knowledge. Dr. Daniel Jackson is the one to use the repository and Merlin’s mind is downloaded into Daniel’s mind. Merlin’s physical body would later also die. 

    The bearded Merlin is bathed in a green light as he begins to awaken from stasis.
    Merlin (Matthew Walker) awakens from stasis in the Stargate SG-1 episode ‘The Quest, Part 2’ (S10, Ep11). As he awakens, Merllin believes that Samantha Carter is GuinevereCameron Mitchell is PercevalDaniel Jackson is Galahad, and Ba’al is Mordred.  | MGM, 2007.

    Avalon in Arthurian Legends and Stargate SG-1 

    In the Arthurian legends, Avalon – or the Isle of Avalon – plays an important role; specifically as the place where King Arthur is taken after being mortally wounded by Mordred during the Battle of Camlann. Rather than being a physical location, Avalon is often linked to Celtic tales of the Otherworld – the land of the gods – with which it might share some etymology: In Old Irish, one of the many names for the Otherworld was “Emain Ablach” (the Isle of Apples) and the Brythonic root for Avalon is believed to be “avallen”, meaning apple tree.

    Often in these texts, it’s in Avalon where Arthur can be healed from this wound:

    “In the Vita [Merlini], for instance, Morgan tells Arthur upon his arrival that he will need to stay for a long time for his wounds to be properly healed. In later Medieval Arthurian works, writers imply that Avalon is his permanent resting place, perhaps his place of death and burial.”

    Leila K. Norako, Avalon (Camelot Project)

    The “non-Stargate Avalon” has a significant connection with Morgan le Fay and certain other women who have great knowledge of healing or other arts. Morgan le Fay is also often said to be the ruler or mistress of Avalon.

    Cameron Mitchell and Daniel Jackson explore the vault beneath Glastonbury Tor. Excalibur is visible in the foreground.
    Cameron Mitchell (Ben Browder) and Daniel Jackson (Michael Shanks) encounter the sword in the stone in Stargate SG-1 episode ‘Avalon, Part 1’ (S9, Ep1). Merlin/Moros appears for the first time as a hologram, confirming that he is the same character from his earlier Stargate Atlantis appearence. | MGM, 2005.

    In the Stargate SG-1 episode ‘Avalon, Part 1’ (S9, Ep1), Merlin has a more significant connection with Avalon, which is a vault he constructed beneath Glastonbury Tor, perhaps echoing the earlier myths about Merlin being imprisoned in a cave as much as his stasis pod does. The hidden vault built by Merlin contains various “treasures”; technology that the team can use in their fight against the Ori. The most important technology that the team looks for, is the Sangraal – a weapon that can destroy the Ori. 

    The Tor – an Old English word for a hill – became an island when the Somerset Levels flooded and was home an early Medieval church supposedly founded by Joseph of Arimathea and from 12th century, enterprising monks looking to drum up some business for an otherwise unassuming provincial abbet proclaimed it to be the resting place of King Arthur.

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    The Sangraal or Holy Grail 

    Especially in the later Arthurian legends, which contain more Christian elements, the Holy Grail or Sangraal plays a significant role. It’s this ultimate treasure that the Stargate mythology uses as a name for the ultimate weapon against the Ori. However, the Grail in the Arthurian world is quite different.

    What is the Holy Grail? 

    Although the Grail started out as a grail and not holy – for example in the text Perceval, le Conte du Graal by Chrétien de Troyes (circa 1190 AD) – it soon became a holy relic during the Arthurian legends of the Middle Ages. The grail became the Holy Grail in the late 12th century when Robert de Boron noted in Joseph d’Arimathie that the object was Jesus’s vessel from the Last Supper and that Joseph of Arimathea had used it to catch Jesus’s blood at his crucifixion. Because of this change in the grail’s nature, the Holy Grail legends soon combined with that of the Holy Chalice.

    An illuminated medieval manuscript shows Joseph of Arimathea collecting the blood of the crucified Jesus Chris in a bowl.
    Joseph of Arimathea collects the blood of Christ at the Crucifixion in a manuscript from the 13th century Lancelot Cycle, L’Estoire del saint graal (The Story of the Holy Grail). © The British Library

    The Holy Chalice 

    Before the Holy Grail was seen to be the cup/vessel which Jesus used to serve wine at the Last Supper, the Holy Chalice was understood to be this object. The scene with Jesus offering wine to his disciples appears in three of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) as well as 1 Corinthians. It’s only a short piece of scripture in each case, for example, in Matthew, it is only three verses long:

     27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” 

    Matthew 26:27-29, ESV translation

    However, the Last Supper forms the basis of the Eucharist that is celebrated by Christians and the significance of the chalice itself increased during the Early Middle Ages. 

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    The Sangraal/Holy Grail in the Stargate SG-1

    As stated earlier, the Sangraal in Stargate SG-1 is created by Merlin and is not a holy relic, but rather like the grail was before the work of Chrétien de Troyes in the 12th century. In fact, its key component crystal or stone is probably most similar to the Grail when it’s supposed to be the same as the philosopher’s stone in alchemy, from which the elixir vitae or “elixir of life” could be obtained. The grail being the philosopher’s stone is found in some of the Arthurian grail legends, for instance, the 13th century Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach.

    The Sangraal as a Weapon 

    In the case of Merlin’s Sangraal, it takes life rather than gives life. This anti-Ori – and also anti-Ascended – weapon’s red crystal/stone harks back to the blood of Jesus that is associated with the Holy Grail. The word “Sangraal’s” etymology has also been changed by some, like the 15th-century writer John Hardyng, to mean “holy blood” and not “holy grail”. 


    The rich tapestry of mythologies and legends used within the overarching lore of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis is further enriched by the original use of the Arthurian legends. Rather than overly complicating the mythology, the themes of sacrifice and devotion that seep in from the Medieval Arthurian legends suits the fight against the Ori perfectly.

    As a member of The Companion, you’re supporting original writing and podcasting, for sci-fi fans, by sci-fi fans, and totally free of advertising and clickbait.

    The cost of your membership has allowed us to mentor new writers and allowed us to reflect the diversity of voices within fandom. None of this is possible without you. Thank you. 🙂

    Testimonial Author Image

    Carin Marais is a freelance writer by day and a genre fiction writer by night. When she’s not writing, you can find her watching her favourite shows – like Stargate – or reading the next book on her giant TBR pile. She only makes the odd trip back to reality for tea, biscuits, and more yarn for her various crochet and knitting projects.