Sunday, August 31, 2014

August 2014 End Of The Month Report!

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As Summer Blockbuster Season reached its close, we found a strong lack of enthusiasm for this year’s new big-budget blockbusters. Instead, we focused on Hallmark ornament reviews, additional food reviews, and the new episodes of True Blood and Doctor Who! We’re excited going forward about some of our upcoming toy and television reviews.

This month at W.L. Swarts Reviews The Universe, there we had no new additions to the Top Ten Of All Time. This month, we put special emphasis on food, the musical works of Bjork, new episodes of True Blood and Doctor Who and brand new Hallmark ornaments! Thanks for all the "likes" for those posts, as well as all of the new hits on older reviews!

This month, we picked up no new subscribers, which is not surprising given how little we were able to produce. We are always trying to get people to become regular readers and subscribe, so if you enjoy what you're reading, please subscribe by clicking on the right side of the blog to get updates with each posting. As well, if you read a review that really affects you, be sure to "share" it! PLEASE share a link to the blog, not the content of the article; this keeps people coming to the site and, hopefully, liking what they find once they are here! We're hoping to continue to grow our readership this year, so sharing and subscribing to the blog is an important way you can help! If you’re subscribing, please tell your friends about the blog!

In August, the index pages were updated very regularly! The primary Index Page, which we try to update daily, lets you know what the featured review is and has an up-to-the-day tally of how many reviews have been reviewed in each category! Check it out!

If you enjoy the reviews, please consider clicking on the links in the reviews and purchasing items. We really appreciate all the purchases made through the blog as that keeps us going. Thank you so much! Thanks so much to all of the shoppers who have been spending during the summer and going through the blog to do so! If you have back-to-school shopping to do online, please consider doing it through the blog, to show your support for us!

At the end of August 2014, I have reviewed the following:
506 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Star Trek Books
Graphic Novels
873 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
2596 - Movie and Television Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Movies By Rating (Best Movie to Worst)
Movies In Alphabetical Order
Best Picture Oscar Winner Film Reviews
Television Reviews
The Star Trek Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews In Order)!
The Star Trek Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews From The Best Of The Franchise To The Worst!)!
The Doctor Who Review Index Page (All Doctor Who Reviews In Order)!
The Doctor Who Review Index Page (All Doctor Who Reviews From The Best Of The Franchise To The Worst!)!
208 - Trading and Gaming Card Reviews
Gaming Cards Reviews
Star Trek Gaming Cards Reviews
Star Wars Gaming Cards Reviews
The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game Reviews
Other Gaming Cards Reviews
Trading Cards Reviews
741 - Toy and Christmas Ornament Reviews
with specialized pages for:
Ornament Reviews
Star Trek Toys
Star Wars Toys
Lord Of The Rings Toys
Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel Toys
Comic Book, Movie, Television Toys
Plush and Other Toys
799 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
216 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
107 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
168 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
177 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
94 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
38 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Reviews For The Month of August are the series finale of True Blood - “Thank You” and the season premiere of Doctor Who - “Deep Breath”.
Check them out!

The month of August had a lot of movement within the month and was dominated by reviews that have been holding on! For August, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. Parenthood - Season 1
9. ”Almost Home” - True Blood
8. ”May Be The Last Time” - True Blood
7. ”The Unquiet Dead” - Doctor Who
6. The Fisher King
5. The Top Ten Episodes Of Frasier
4. ”Love Is To Die” - True Blood
3. The Expendables 3
2. The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Voyager
1. Bad Neighbors

I pride myself on being an exceptionally fair reviewer, but one who is very discriminating. I believe that most reviewers are far too biased toward both what is current and toward unduly praising things. I tend to believe most things actually are average and they ought to follows something around a Bell Curve. Mine is a little lopsided, but not as lopsided as most reviewers I know (who would probably have peak numbers between ten and seven)!

For my reviews, the current count is:
10s - 292 reviews
9s - 425 reviews
8s - 820 reviews
7s - 921 reviews
6s - 837 reviews
5s - 1093 reviews
4s - 795 reviews
3s - 635 reviews
2s - 289 reviews
1s - 198 reviews
0s - 89 reviews
No rating - 73 articles/postings

There was a decent amount of movement this month, but there were no new entries into the Top Ten. At the end of August 2014, the most popular reviews/articles I have written are:
10. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
9. Safe Haven
8. Oz The Great And Powerful
7. The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bone
6. Warm Bodies
5. Iron Man 3
4. Now You See Me
3. Tyler Perry's Temptation
2. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
1. Man Of Steel

Thank you again, so much, for reading! Please share links to the blog with friends and spread the word!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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In Every Way But The Expense (And Stock-Up Factor), Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food Is Perfect!

The Good: Very nutritious, Both my cats love it, Made with great ingredients
The Bad: Smelly, Expensive!
The Basics: Still a relatively new product, Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food is beloved by my cats, but not my checkbook!

Ever since Timber came into our lives, my wife has been much more open to spoiling our cats. While she has done a pretty amazing job of restoring our other cat, Gollum, to a healthy weight and form, she and Gollum have never quite gotten along. But, my wife and Timber are the best of friends; Timber absolutely loves her and they play daily and he acts more like a dog with her (he comes when she calls, snarls at interlopers hanging about outside, and plays fetch with her!). So, she likes spoiling Timber and when we were having a day out recently and I found the Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe cat food on sale, she seemed to be okay with me overspending on our cats to get the three pound bag. The 48 oz. bag of Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Purina Beyond cat food costs as much (at its regular price) as we usually spend on a bulk bag (10 or more pounds) of cat food. The redeeming factor of the Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe is that both Gollum and Timber seem to have an absolute love of this dry catfood. Whenever they smell it, and they can do that easily given how aromatic it is, they come running to eat as much from their bowl as they can.


Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food is a cat food formulated for adult cats. The Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food regularly comes in a three pound reinforced paper bag that is priced in our local grocery store at about $9.99. As a cheapskate and poor person, this is a bit much for the volume of cat food and made me instantly disinclined toward it. If our cats had not reacted so favorably toward it, I probably would have been unwilling to spend so much money on so little cat food.

The Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food comes in hard pieces that range slightly in shape and size. The brown pieces are triangular or round pieces that average 1/4” – 1/2" long or in diameter. The mix is evenly distributed between the various shapes and all are quite hard. This cat food does not attempt to mimic the shapes (real or stylized) of any of the ingredients.

Ease Of Preparation

Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food is a hard cat food that comes in a small bag, so preparation only involves opening the bag and measuring out the proper serving size for your cat, as determined by its weight. For both Timber and Gollum, that means a 2/3 – 1 cup serving (each) and the three pound bag lasts about a week at that rate of consumption with the two cats.

Gollum And Timber’s Reactions

This cat food smells exceptionally fishy. The Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food is very aromatic and those who do not like the smell of fish or sea food will not be thrilled by how this cat food smells. The cats, however, get excited each and every time the bag is opened and they can smell the Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe cat food.

Every time I open the bag of Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food, both Timber and Gollum come running. Both Gollum and Timber will devour this food and neither seems to want to be interrupted while there is still food in their bowls. This is a food that they will overeat so long as the food is in their bowl; so, it is a food I found from experience I have to measure out for the cats. Otherwise, they will eat to the point of gorging. It has been a long time since a cat food, and a dry one at that, has completely thrilled both Gollum and Timber that way.


The Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Beyond Cat Food is an exceptionally nutritious cat food. The guaranteed analysis of it indicates that it has a minimum of 36% crude protein and 15% crude fat. With no more than 4% crude fiber and 12% moisture, this is a food that is very balanced. This food also has notable amounts of Linoleic Acid (at least 1.3%), Calcium (at least 1%), Phosphorus, and Zinc. Always have adequate water near your cat’s feeding area!

As well, those who are concerned about what goes into their pets will be pleased by how this is a mostly natural cat food this is, with only the bottom half of the ingredients being added vitamins and minerals. The main ingredients are salmon, chicken meal, and dried egg product. While only the end of ingredient list is a chemistry equation I can barely read, the primary ingredients are all recognizable. My point is that Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat is a wonderful, wholly balanced cat food.


Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food does not have an incredible shelf life (just over a year and a quarter) and it is pricy, but it is incredibly healthy and enjoyed so much by both my cats that it is almost entirely worth the expense. While not specifically designed to prevent tartar build-up, the hard nature of the pieces scrape matter off cat teeth. Similarly, the well-balanced nature of the food is not specifically designed as a urinary health formula, but the Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe cat food seems to promote urinary tract health, as well as all-around wonderful cat health. That makes it a cat food well worth buying.

For other Purina cat foods, please visit my reviews of:
Kit & Kaboodle Original cat food
Cat Chow Healthy Weight Cat Food
Pro Plan Seafood Stew Entree cat food


For other cat products, please be sure to visit my Pet Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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More Than The Novelty, Doctor Who Succeeds Going “Into The Dalek!”

The Good: Good character development, Decent pacing, Good performances
The Bad: Somewhat silly plot conceit for the plot . . .
The Basics: An utterly unnecessary trip “Into The Dalek” makes for a strong, compelling philosophical episode of Doctor Who that helps strongly establish Peter Capaldi’s version of The Doctor!

Now that Peter Capaldi has taken up the mantle of The Doctor, my household is in a state of near-constant excitement. Capaldi is the first new Doctor since my wife became a Whovian and more or less dragged me into the fandom as well. That means that each little teaser trailer for the new season yielded a “stop everything, we have to watch this!” moment in our home. None of those trailers left my wife with more excitement than the one that had Capaldi’s first Doctor lines where he quietly asked his companion Clara, “Am I a good man?” Between learning that Capaldi was bringing a Bowie-esque take to The Doctor and that teaser, my wife was super-enthused for a month.

That line was not made just for the promos; it comes up in “Into The Dalek,” Peter Capaldi’s second full episode as The Doctor (whose number could be retconned at any moment, but is generally called the Twelfth Doctor). The new episode is “Into The Dalek” and while many fans I know were excited to see the Daleks return, Dalek episodes are, for me, quickly becoming stale. The once seemingly-unstoppable enemy never seems to die, was defeated in the past (early 20th century in a somewhat nonsensical two-parter), wiped out in the future, and was last seen blowing themselves up during the significant action of “The Day Of The Doctor” only to return the very next episode to bring about the long-awaited Siege Of Trenzalore in “Time Of The Doctor.” So, going into “Into The Dalek,” my expectations for the episode were pretty simple: I want to know how the Daleks exist in this incarnation of Doctor Who and if they will serve as a distraction or a key to The Doctor finding Gallifrey, a purpose that was neglected in “Deep Breath” (reviewed here!).

In the distant future, a small ship is being attacked by a Dalek mothership. Just as its captain, Journey Blue, is about to be killed, she materializes on the bridge of the TARDIS. Rescued by the Doctor, Journey Blue just wants to know where her brother and her command ship, The Aristotle, are. The Doctor returns Jenny to her hospital ship where the fact that he is a doctor earns him his survival (the captain wants to kill him for fear that he is a Triplicate). The Doctor recognizes a medical shrinking device before he is shown the patient the captain wants him to heal: a Dalek. The Dalek seems to recognize The Doctor instantly.

Clara is working at Coal Hill Secondary School, where she meets the new teacher, Danny Pink. Mr. Pink is a former soldier, who is shell-shocked from having killed and Clara takes a pretty instant fancy to him. Her potential for a date with him is interrupted by The Doctor, who pops back (three weeks after he abandoned her in Glasgow) to get her advice. Flashing back aboard the Aristotle, The Doctor learns that the Dalek is expecting medical assistance and that it was found adrift by the crew, who do not entirely understand its nature. The Doctor is equally confused by the Dalek; it wants to destroy the rest of the Daleks. Returning with Clara to the future, Clara and The Doctor go through the nanoscaler and into the Dalek’s shell. With a military team, the Doctor and Clara try to figure out why this Dalek is different and how to heal it. When one of the soldiers activates the Dalek “antibodies,” he is killed and the Doctor’s team runs to the organic waste disposal section of the Dalek. Tracing the problem with the Dalek to a radiation leak, the Doctor is able to heal the damaged Dalek . . . only to have it revert to its true nature!

“Into The Dalek” runs into similar conceptual problems to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “One Little Ship” (reviewed here!). Both episodes try to take a somewhat ridiculous premise which plays better on a Saturday morning children’s cartoon and make it plausible in an adult science fiction show, namely miniaturizing people and having them fly about something or someone a similar size to their original one. The idea is an old one: ever since the 1966 science fiction classic Fantastic Voyage. The danger for an adult television context is simple: such a conceit naturally leads to the potential that the episode will just be a goofy, big-budget special effects-driven one-shot with little purpose outside creating spectacle. While “One Little Ship” played with the spectacle, it utilized the conceit well-enough to make for an enjoyable episode. “Into The Dalek” smartly avoids being a simple special effects show by keeping the conversation flowing and minimizing the battle sequences.

Instead of spending a great deal of time with the wonder that is the inside of the Dalek, the journey into Rusty (as The Doctor nicknames it) is rather quick. The Doctor does now dwell on how some of the wires he and Clara sees are actually blood vessels. Instead, the episode treads smartly toward the philosophical. Just as the first “modern” episode that involved Daleks, “Dalek” (reviewed here!) had the concept that combating the Daleks could be a philosophical war, “Into The Dalek” picks up the idea of converting Daleks. Much like the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “I , Borg” (reviewed here!), the purpose of “Into The Dalek” is largely to change the terms of the conflict with the implacable, unstoppable, foe. In that regard, “Into The Dalek” works exceptionally well. Instead of being a physical conflict, “Into The Dalek” turns into a psychological conflict where epiphany and beauty become the best chance for humans to survive and succeed in the darkened future.

The Doctor might need more guidance in “Into The Dalek,” but he generally answers the question of whether or not he is a good man in the episode. Actually, one of the beautiful aspects of “Into The Dalek” is that the emotionally-conflicted nature of the Doctor is delightfully presented in the episode. The Doctor has anger within him at the Daleks and even at himself. Despite having a strong philosophical bent to his take on warfare, he has no real issue with killing by proxy (while he is happy to mind-meld with Rusty, the result is not to download the epiphany back to the Daleks to get them to stop . . . ). The character elements of “Into The Dalek” are good, though much of the episode seems to serve the purpose of differentiating the Doctor’s rules (not big on soldiers) from Clara’s (she has no issue with them).

Fortunately, once Rusty is repaired, the end of “Into The Dalek” is not telegraphed. The Daleks refer to the crew of the Aristotle as “rebels” and that makes no real sense . . . unless the entire crew is Daleks in human form who have left the Dalek order. That does not seem to be the case, though; the rebels are those who rebel against the Daleks, though that has not been established in the Whoniverse before now. So, the sacrifice of Gretchen Allison Carlyle is not a clever chance to reveal the true nature of the rebelling humans, just that Missy is going to continue to recur and swipe out of time and space significant people The Doctor encounters this season.

The trip into the exoskeleton of the Dalek largely serves as a conceit to make the Doctor’s conversation with the organic element of the Dalek seem more sensible. It’s a largely unnecessary conceit, but the episode’s other conceits – the mind-meld, the Dalek declaring that resistance is futile, etc. – have all been established fairly well before now. In fact, on the conceptual front, the only real issue with “Into The Dalek” comes from a few stray lines where the Doctor talks to Clara as if he was Strax (the line about Clara’s hips and looking like a man did not quite seem to fit). Unfortunately, the explanation for how this batch of Daleks survived the carnage that ended the Time War or the Seige Of Trenzalore is not at all addressed.

All that said, “Into The Dalek” has Peter Capaldi strongly defining himself as a morally-ambiguous Doctor who tries to do good and while there might be a debate as to how well he succeeds, his desire to safeguard the beauty that exists in the universe becomes one of his most compelling and likable traits.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Eighth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season of Peter Capaldi as The Doctor here!


For other Doctor Who episode and season reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Spiced Aroma, Absent Chocolate, Bellagio Holiday Spice Hot Cocoa Is A Mixed Mug!

The Good: Good taste and aroma, Nothing truly bad in it!
The Bad: Very expensive in this form, Environmental impact of packaging
The Basics: For my first experience with Bellagio, their Holiday Spice Hot Chocolate mix underwhelms me, but does not at all leave a bad taste in my mouth!

With the end of winter comes clearance hot cocoas! That’s always a good time for me as a reviewer. This year, one of the hot cocoas I was most eager to try (and was thrilled to pick up on clearance) was the Bellagio Holiday Spice Hot Chocolate mix.

Sadly, the anticipation did not make the great-smelling, somewhat unimpressive tasting, beverage into a perfect drink at all.


The Holiday Spice hot cocoa mix is part of the Bellagio premium hot cocoa line. The mix comes in a 1.25 oz. sealed paper package and is a good mix. Each 1.25 oz. packet is a single serving and these bear a relatively high price tag virtually everywhere I have found them. Locally, we have only found them for $1.10/ea! For a single mug of cocoa, this is expensive when compared to other make-at-home products. On the plus side, getting them on clearance for only $.59 took the sting out of the price for me, though!

Ease Of Preparation

The Holiday Spice hot cocoa mix is ridiculously simple to make. The cocoa is rather enduring and the new packet I just picked up would have expired in January of 2015. Because it is sealed and has some artificial preservatives in is, this is likely to last virtually forever unopened. A single serving is the packet and ¾ cup of water. There is no measuring of the product involved!

As a result, preparation is ridiculously simple. The top of the envelope is paper and one need simply tear open the top, which is quite easy, and pour the contents of the packet into a mug that is at least eight ounces large. Then, simply pour near-boiling water over the powder and stir. Stir the powder until there are no blobs of cocoa powder visible in the water or giving resistance from the bottom. The beverage will have a very pale brown color to it and will be uniformly smooth and creamy.


Bellagio Holiday Spice hot cocoa has a scent that is appropriately spicy. The aroma of nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon fills the nose as this hot beverage steams up and it smells much more like a vanilla chai drink than anything that contains chocolate.

As appropriately foreshadowed by the scent, the Holiday Spice hot chocolate is very mild on the chocolate flavoring. Instead, the dry, flavorful cocoa tastes like a number of somewhat nebulous (though tasty) spices. The chocolate flavor asserts itself more as a slightly sweet aftertaste after the primary flavor has passed. The mix of spices is certainly more intriguing to the tongue than plain milk chocolate cocoa, but it is not exceptionally chocolatey or distinctive.

Interestingly, the Bellagio Holiday Spice Cocoa leaves nothing in the way of an aftertaste; not even a milky flavor on the tongue.


Bellagio Hot Cocoa is a hot cocoa mix and therefore not the most nutritious things ever. While I am used to reviewing things like all natural teas where the ingredients are all easily pronounceable and recognizable, the Holiday Spice hot cocoa has a few ingredients that cannot be easily identified. The primary ingredients are sugar, non dairy creamer and Dipotassium Phosphate. It is not vegan compliant as a result. Ironically, there is nothing even resembling any of the spices this smells like in the ingredient list.

What is not a mystery is how high this product is in sugars. In each cup of Holiday Spice Cocoa Classics, there are 140 calories, thirty of which are from fat. There are three and a half grams of saturated fat, so while one might be tempted to curl up and enjoy this while resting, they are likely to pay for it later on! There is no cholesterol, but a consumer gets 4% of their recommended daily allowance of sodium out of a single packet of this beverage! There is a little protein, but not enough to live off this. In other words, this product is not a nutritious food product.

This product contains milk and soy and because there are no notations on it, one must assume it is not Kosher or gluten-free.


So long as one leaves the Holiday Spice powder in its packet, it ought to stay usable. One assumes it will last quite a while and dissolve appropriately when one attempts to use it. The packets, for those of us who consider the environmental impact of such things, are terribly wasteful and expensive. The paper wrappers are not recyclable anywhere I've been.

Cleanup is very easy. If the product spills while dumping it into the mug, simply wipe it up or brush it up with a dry or damp cloth. If it has already been reconstituted with water into hot cocoa, simply wipe it up. Light fabrics are likely to stain if this gets on them, in which case consult your fabric care guide to clean it up.


The Bellagio Holiday Spice is good, but the novelty of a “holiday spice” flavor wears off quickly at the packet’s full price. Even so, it’s worth trying once at least; I know I’m glad I did.

For other hot cocoa reviews, please check out:
Land O’ Lakes Double Fudge & Chocolate Cocoa
Maud Borup Peppermint Drinking Chocolate
Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate With Marshmallows


For other beverage reviews, please visit my Food And Drink Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

One Of The Surprise Delights: Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango Chocolate Squares Blend Fruit And Chocolate Wonderfully!

The Good: Good taste, Decent quantity, Generally natural ingredients, Beautifully dark, A decent value, Smart serving size/nutrition information
The Bad: I’d prefer a little less nutty, a little fruitier, but they have almost the ideal balance now!
The Basics: More flavorful than truly dark and “intense,” Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango chocolate squares find almost the perfect balance between chocolate and fruit flavors!

Last night, for watching the season premiere of Doctor Who (reviewed here!), my wife picked us up some special treats. Chief among those treats was a bag of Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango chocolate squares. This was an odd choice for her for me because there are very few chocolates that combine fruit and nuts and dark chocolate that I come to love. My wife, however, was convinced that this combination sounded delicious and she was right. Despite not being absolutely in love with almonds, Ghirardelli found the right thing to pair with almonds with their Cherry Tango squares. The flavor of these chocolate squares is enough to make a believer out of those who question how good chocolate, fruit and nuts can be together!


Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango chocolate squares are one and a half inch squares of chocolate that are about one-quarter of an inch thick. Each of the squares comes individually wrapped in a dark, opaque brown wrapper (which looks just about black). It is worth noting that while I usually rail against the environmental impact of such things, it is hard to imagine Ghirardelli chocolate squares not wrapped. This keeps each one clean, unmelted and intact.

Each chocolate square is a seamless square that is solid. In this form, the 4.87 oz. bag, the individually-wrapped chocolate squares are packaged together in a thick foil paper bag. This size has thirteen squares and the thick foil paper bag does little to protect the squares. The bag is not resealable, though this matters very little considering that the chocolate squares do not go bad as they are individually wrapped.

One of these bags tends to run in the $5.00 range and they are competitively priced at that.

Ease Of Preparation

These are candy, so preparing them is as simple as opening the bag and then opening one of the foil wrappers around the actual chocolate square one wishes to eat. There is no grand secret to eating Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango chocolate squares. This is a flavor that is good at room temperature or frozen; it has a delicious solid flavor to it that carries the taste in all temperatures.


The Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango smells entirely fruity. The scent is powerfully the scent of cherries and chocolate and the net result is an aroma that smells like black cherries and a much lighter chocolate than the chocolate actually is. The scent is entirely devoid of a nut scent, so this prepares the consumer for a good blend of chocolate and fruit.

In the mouth, the texture from the almonds, chipped up into the chocolate, provide an immediate sensory experience that separates this from other chocolates. While the almonds do not contribute much to the flavor, they seem to prepare the tongue beautifully for the cherry flavor. The Intense Dark Cherry Tango chocolate squares are sweet and fruity and the chocolate carries the cherry flavor wonderfully. The sweet cherries are reminiscent of maraschino cherries and they sweeten the dark chocolate enough to keep the bitterness of the dark chocolate from actualizing. The result is a chocolate flavor that is full and rich, without finishing bitter.

The sweetness of the cherries also prevents the Cherry Tango chocolate squares from having an aftertaste. Even the sweetness of these chocolates fades within a minute of one consuming them.


These are candy, so they are not healthy, but the Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango chocolate squares are not nearly as bad as they could be. The primary ingredients are semi-sweet chocolate, almonds, and freeze-dried cherries. There is nothing unpronounable in these candies and everything in these could be readily identified by me.

A serving of the Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango chocolate squares is a single square, which is a user-friendly serving size, especially for those of us who are calorie/carb conscious. From a squares, one takes in 50 calories, including 3.5 grams of fat. There is no sodium and a gram of protein, but no vitamins in these chocolate squares. There is, however, 4% of one's daily iron in one square, so they are not devoid of nutrition.

These are not Vegan-compliant (as they have milk in them), nor are they recommended for anyone with a nut allergy as they contain almonds. They are, however, kosher.


The bags of these Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango chocolate squares remain fresh for quite some time. The bag we bought two days ago would expire in February of 2015, though I am certain mine will be devoured long before then! One assumes that if they are kept in a cool, dry environment they will not melt or go bad. Given that they are individually wrapped in a very sealed package, it is hard to imagine just what it would take for these to go bad outside melting and refreezing.

As for cleanup, I applaud those who actually throw the wrappers away in socially appropriate places, as opposed to litter. Outside that, there is no real cleanup needed, unless one is eating them in a hot environment. In that case, it is likely one would need to wash their hands, though these squares do not easily melt. When these chocolate squares melt into most fabrics, they will stain.


Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango chocolate squares are a pleasant surprise and they are one of the newer flavors of Ghirardelli chocolates that should survive as a permanent addition to the company’s chocolate line!

For other Ghirardelli chocolate squares reviews, please check out:
Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares Sublime White Vanilla Dream White Chocolate With Vanilla Beans
Cookies And Cream Chocolate Squares
Dark Chocolate & Strawberry squares


For other food and drink reviews, please visit my Food And Drink Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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After A “Deep Breath,” Doctor Who’s Eighth Season Might Find Its Own Legs. . . (But It Doesn’t Here!)

The Good: Decent acting, Moments of character
The Bad: Heavy reliance on comedy, Very simple plot, Requires so much other Doctor Who to truly get.
The Basics: Peter Capaldi’s first full outing as The Doctor has the new Doctor in Victorian London alongside Steven Moffat’s reliable gang of Companions for a “Best Of”/sampler pack episode.

This week is a big week for those who love genre television. Sunday saw the end of True Blood with its series finale, “Thank You” (reviewed here!), and the BBC sent the new season premiere of Doctor Who across the pond to American audiences. “Deep Breath” is the first new episode I’ve had the opportunity to review since my wife got into Doctor Who (and pretty much dragged me along into that fandom, too!). “Deep Breath” is also the first episode of Doctor Who that I’ve felt the need to watch more than once (I’m up to three times now) before I actually reviewed it. The reason for that is simple: on the first viewing, I was excited by the experience and the novelty of the new Doctor, on the second viewing, I was predictably disappointed (comedy and self-reference plays poorly the second time around) and on the third, I felt I had a fair assessment of the episode.

“Deep Breath” is a decent comedy and a good episode of Doctor Who, but it is utterly unremarkable for television. In other words, if one is not a fan of Doctor Who the episode is much more likely to baffle and disappoint than genuinely entertain. When it is not busy explaining itself to new viewers, “Deep Breath” belabors the humor. More than most episodes of Doctor Who, “Deep Breath” is like Doctor Who meets Ally McBeal. Somewhat surprising for Stephen Moffat, the humor in “Deep Breath” is troublingly obvious; Moffat telegraphs most of his jokes. My wife and I managed to avoid all spoilers for the episode and virtually every gag the episode had (most involving Strax and props), we were able to call in advance of its execution. Humor that is predictable plays poorer upon subsequent viewings and “Deep Breath” might be amusing or diverting, but its entertainment value quickly diminishes upon multiple viewings.

Opening in Victorian London where a dinosaur is walking around the Thames, Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax the Sontaran witness the dinosaur cough up the TARDIS. When The Doctor emerges from the familiar blue box, he is entirely disoriented and his companion Clara tells the others that he has regenerated. After taking The Doctor back to her house and telepathically knocking him out, Madam Vastra finds herself annoyed at Clara’s treatment of the Doctor and her lack of comprehension over his regeneration. As The Doctor becomes more grounded, he witnesses the dinosaur spontaneously combust before he rushes out into the London night to see what happened. There, he challenges his Companions with the question of “have any other, similar, murders occurred?” As he heads off to try to investigate the only person in the crowd unphased by the flaming dinosaur, the other four return to Madame Vastra’s.

After a medical examination by Strax, Clara finds an advertisement in the newspaper that seems to be an invitation from The Doctor to lunch. Meeting The Doctor, who has managed to get a new coat and an unpleasant odor, both Clara and The Doctor realize they have been set up for their meeting. The Doctor recognizes the restaurant as a trap (all of the other diners in the restaurant are automatons) moments before he and Clara are taken to a subterranean ship where human organs are being harvested. With the villain revealed as a machine who is reconstructing himself with organic parts (then disposing of the bodies by lighting them on fire), the Doctor abandons Clara to try to figure out why the adversary seems so familiar to him.

On its own, “Deep Breath” does not answer the question in a satisfying way, though fans of Doctor Who will easily recognize what the Doctor obliquely references. “Deep Breath” is a de facto sequel to the second season episode “The Girl In The Fireplace,” where the romance of that episode is replaced with over-the-top humor that does not fit the established patterns of Doctor Who (has there been a cheap groin joke in the modern Doctor Who before now? This is not progress . . .). In a similar way, the Doctor’s references to his own face are not explicitly clarified in “Deep Breath,” but strongly allude to Capaldi’s previous appearance in Doctor Who, “The Fires Of Pompeii.” So, while fans of Doctor Who might appreciate the new Doctor running around declaring that this situation and adversary (and face) are familiar, casual viewers or newbies to the series will be left baffled.

The reason this is as much of an issue as it is is because of Clara. Clara was the Doctor’s last companion before he regenerated from his Matt Smith appearance/personality to the new Peter Capaldi incarnation. Moffat uses Clara’s inexperience with regeneration to have Clara go through the character struggle of feeling like she does not really know the Doctor anymore and her arc in the episode leads her to the decision of whether or not to remain with the Doctor on his journeys. Unfortunately, as the Impossible Girl, this struggle is the most ridiculous journey for the character to make. Clara has been a part of the lives of all previous Doctors – in “The Name Of The Doctor” this is made explicit – and possibly the subsequent incarnations of him. Either way, Clara has witnessed, interacted with and saved all of the prior incarnations of The Doctor to undo the damage done by The Great Intelligence. In short, there is no sensible reason why Clara would have an issue with the Doctor changing his face; the only reason for that character arc in “Deep Breath” is to explain the regeneration concept to new viewers. So, fans are given tons of allusions to thrill over, but bored by a senseless character direction for the most consistent character in the episode and browbeaten with regeneration information they already have and new viewers are spoon-fed the regeneration concept while being baffled by allusions that are not made explicit enough.

Beginning the episode with Vastra, Jenny, and Strax (indeed, setting the episode in their native time and place) sets the stage for an episode that is much more fan-friendly than it is intended for anyone who is starting the show at this point. The trio of occasional companions/allies to the Doctor could have their own spin-off and it might work better than “Deep Breath” because they could pull off a science fiction comedy more effectively than Doctor Who (which does best when it blends creepy and humorous). “Deep Breath” is heavy with humor when it is not beating viewers over the head with exposition.

What works best in “Deep Breath” is Peter Capaldi as the new incarnation of The Doctor. There is always a period of adjustment for the Doctor after one of his regenerations and the new Doctor is delightfully edgy and has moments of unpredictability that play well. While some of the plot-based issues are predictable (that The Doctor did not place the ad that leads him and Clara into the trap was instantly foreseeable), most of the character-based changes are not. The Doctor abandons Clara at a key moment and his ultimate confrontation with the episode’s adversary is delightfully unsettling. Capaldi takes up the mantle of The Doctor with perfect distinction and credibility.

All that said, some of the minutiae also oscillates between delightful and troubling. Has it previously been established that Doctor Who androids are bound by Soong-ian rules of grammar?! The Doctor declares that the droids are now more human than robot because they use apostrophes, but that’s not some universal science fiction constant (even in Star Trek: The Next Generation, while Data cannot use contractions, Lore can . . . so this is a right-field assumption on The Doctor’s part). On the delightful side is the substantive function of the episode’s big cameo. The prior incarnation of The Doctor makes a telephone call to Clara and as possibly one of the coolest, most delightful retcons ever, Clara admits to him that the new Doctor has gotten old. If she had not confirmed that for him, the Doctor might well have picked a different face and been younger (a great observation from my wife!) for this season.

The eighth season of Doctor Who was set up in an uncommon way; unlike most of Doctor Who where the protagonist is usually a wanderer, this season was set-up with a mission for The Doctor. The Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey has been revealed to still exist, albeit in a pocket universe; the Doctor has a self-imposed mission now of finding and rescuing his people. While the resolution to “Deep Breath” unfortunately does not redirect the befuddled new Doctor with that purpose, but the idea of this particular Doctor with a quest and an adversary of his own is a promising one. It’s unfortunate that “Deep Breath” forces fans to take it on faith that the show will go in that direction.

For other works with Peter Capaldi, please visit my reviews of:
World War Z
In The Loop
Smilla’s Sense Of Snow

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Eighth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season of Peter Capaldi as The Doctor here!


For see how this episode stacks up against other Doctor Who episodes I’ve reviewed by visiting my Doctor Who Review Index Page where the episodes and seasons are organized by rating!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Collectible And Cool, The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Movies Trading Cards Retain Value!

The Good: Cool (if repetitive) chase cards, Some awesome signers, Patch cards are neat
The Bad: Lack of continuity with prior sets, Autograph numbering issue, Later movie quotes
The Basics: Still worth hunting down, The "Quotable" Star Trek: The Movies cards are a confounding mix of wonderful and troublesome for collectors and fans.

As a Star Trek fan and a trading card collector, I have become quite the fan of Rittenhouse Archives. Rittenhouse Archives is the manufacturer of Star Trek trading cards and they have served the license fairly well throughout their fifteen years of producing Star Trek trading cards. The company has weathered the recession well and the staff continues to be collector-friendly, even if some of their products have made it very hard for a decent number of collectors to continue collecting (at this point in Star Trek trading card collecting, there are only five possible master sets for Star Trek card collectors!). For as wonderful as the company is, sometimes the execution of their ideas results in a more mixed result than they might have intended. Perhaps one of the best examples of that is the "Quotable" Star Trek The Movies set.

The "Quotable" Star Trek The Movies follows in the tradition and concept of Rittenhouse Archives' previous "Quotable" Star Trek sets, but as the fourth “Quotable” Star Trek set is hampered by weird problems that make it a harder sell than it should have been. In fact, the “Quotable” Star Trek: The Movies does a better job of continuing the movie-themed sets begun with the Complete Star Trek: The Movies (reviewed here!) and continued with the Star Trek Movies In Motion (reviewed here!) than it does creating a compelling “Quotable” set. Even so, many of the bonus sets are cool enough to make the “Quotable” Star Trek The Movies set well worth hunting down and the bulk of the cards make it an enjoyable set.

Basics/Set Composition

The "Quotable" Star Trek The Movies was the fifth set of cards that focused on the cinematic Star Trek produced by Rittenhouse Archives. Properly assembled, the set is a collection of 171 trading cards and there is an official The "Quotable" Star Trek The Movies binder from Rittenhouse. All but eight of the cards are available in boxes of The "Quotable" Star Trek The Movies cards, making it one of the sets that is a bit easier to collect (and have fun doing so). Produced before one had to buy dozens of cases to make a master set, fans, collectors and dealers were generally able to succeed at assembling the set with six cases, a binder and hunting down a few promotional cards. The cards were originally released in boxes that contained twenty-four packs of five cards each. Boxes tended to run in the $60 - $75 range and guaranteed one common set and three autograph cards per box.

Collation in the The "Quotable" Star Trek The Movies set was remarkably good. To complete a true master set of The "Quotable" Star Trek The Movies cards, collectors had to purchase at least six cases of the cards, as there were two multi-case incentive cards. As well, there were promotional cards that were not available in boxes or cases and there was one card that was only available through Rittenhouse Archives' Rittenhouse Rewards program (though it was inexpensive in its wrapper cost). In other words, there was quite a lot packed into these boxes of trading cards, which has helped the boxes to retain their value over the years.

Common Cards

The common card set consists of 90 trading cards, which are printed on standard cardstock and have a glossy UV resistant coating. The ninety card reduced set actually works well for the film set as there were ten films and the nine cards per movie makes it easy to place the set in a sensible way within the binder of cards. With 90 cards, Rittenhouse Archives caters to putting the cards in binders as the binders have standard nine-card pages.

The ninety card common set focuses on the memorable quotes from the Star Trek movies (the first ten before the reboot). The big reason for the issues with the “Quotable” Star Trek: The Movies set is that Rittenhouse Archives had already mined the films for some of the key materials used here. The SkyBox Star Trek: Insurrection set (reviewed here!) included quotable cards in its common set, as did the Rittenhouse Archives Star Trek: Nemesis set (reviewed here!). Teased in the Star Trek Movies In Motion set as a bonus card set, the “Quotable” Star Trek The Movies set misses out on a number of good quotes simply because they have already been done before. Star Trek: Insurrection might suffer the most in this set as Rittenhouse was forced to use a few lame quips from Riker from the battle sequence (card 80, for example, is hardly memorable, quotable Star Trek lines!). That Rittenhouse Archives had already mined some of the most interesting quotes before committing to produce this set undermined it a little bit.

Also undermining the set is the orientation. I get what Rittenhouse Archives was trying to do by changing the orientation of the “Quotable” Star Trek The Movies cards from a portrait to a landscape orientation; they wanted to make the images more of a “widescreen” format and spread the text out. Unfortunately, though, that does not fit with any of the other four “Quotable” sets (there was a “Quotable” Star Trek: Voyager set that followed this set). The common cards look decent, but not consistent with the rest of the “Quotable” Star Trek cards. The "Quotable" Star Trek The Movies set utilizes many images that are not the typical ones seen over and over again, making for a visually interesting set that features both the main cast and some of the significant supporting characters/villains from the films. With different quotes on the front than on the back, collectors and fans are treated to two different quotes per card, netting 180 quotes for the 90 card set!

Collation on this set was excellent, so the common sets averaged one and a half per box, which was good for collectors. With only 6000 boxes of “Quotable” Star Trek The Movies cards, this might be the least-common “Quotable” Star Trek common set!

Chase Cards

There are eighty-one chase cards in The "Quotable" Star Trek The Movies set, with seventy-three found in the boxes of cards and the remaining eight available outside the boxes and packs. The bonus cards that can be found within the boxes were the Women Of Star Trek Movies Expansion, Star Trek Bridge Crew: Transitions, Star Trek Movie Poster cards, Star Trek: The Motion Picture Bridge Crew patch cards and autographs. For some baffling reason, there was no checklist for this set within the packs. This is awkward mostly because several of the autographs are not consecutively numbered (see below), so those picking these cards up and not utilizing an online checklist might be left baffled or hunting cards that do not go to this set. Noticeably lacking from the “Quotable” Star Trek The Movies set are TV Guide Cover Cards (believe it or not, many of the Star Trek movies have made the cover of TV Guide, so it’s not a ridiculous assertion that there should have been a TV Guide Cover card set to maintain continuity in this set!) and StarFleet’s Finest cards (which could have featured the cinematic renditions of the characters from Star Trek and/or Star Trek: The Next Generation). For those not concerned with conceptual continuity, this is not a big deal. There are also no “Quotable” style movie autograph cards, which is fine considering how all of the main cast has done autograph cards before (or since) in that style.

The most common bonus cards in this set were the Women Of Star Trek Movies Expansion cards. These were nine cards that continued the common card set of the Women Of Star Trek cards with the missing significant women from the films. Found one in every six packs, these cards have remained ridiculously inexpensive, despite taking three boxes to complete a set (largely because they are essentially bonus common cards for a different set).

At two per box were the Star Trek Bridge Crew: Transitions set. On the front of each card is a main cast member from the original Star Trek and a central picture of them as they appeared in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Rather than rehashing how their character changed between the television show and the movies, the backs come together to form a nine-card mural of the cast of Star Trek: The Motion Picture on the bridge of the Enterprise. These cards are, unfortunately, more rare than they are valuable, given that they are fairly simple and it does take five boxes to complete a set.

Also two per box were the Star Trek Movies Poster Cards. Given that the Cinema 2000 set (reviewed here!) had already done nine of the ten movie posters, Rittenhouse Archives could have made a terrible mistake with this bonus set (which, frankly, is one of the most sensible bonus sets for a movie-based trading card set!). Instead of doing a carbon copy of the Cinema 2000’s movie poster set, the “Quotable” Star Trek: The Movies cards feature movie poster cards that are acetate cards! These translucent cards have the movie posters silk-screened onto them and they look awesome and distinctive as a result. While I, personally, would have loved some variants with these cards in the form of the promo posters released for the Star Trek movies (it’s hard not to laugh today seeing the promo poster for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier with its chair and tagline “Why are they putting seatbelts in theaters this summer?” [to which those who hated the film laughingly respond now “to keep people from walking out of the movie!”]) or some of the international movie posters (Star Trek: Insurrection, for example, had a far more distinctive and original international poster than the U.S. release) for the bonus set, Rittenhouse Archives made a solid chase set with the standard movie posters as the subjects of this card set.

One of the most valuable bonus sets in the “Quotable” Star Trek: The Movies cards were the Star Trek: The Motion Picture Bridge Crew Patch Cards. Individually numbered to 250, the nine badge cards feature insignia patches made for Rittenhouse Archives for the set for all nine of the main Star Trek characters (including Rand and Chapel) for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Star Trek: The Motion Picture might not be the most popular or incredible film, but this chase set is incredibly well-rendered with nice images and very cool patches. This is a nice variant of the costume card concept.

Then there are the autograph cards. The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Movies autographs continue the form and numbering for the autographs begun with the Complete Star Trek Movies cards and continued in the Star Trek Movies In Motion. These full-bleed autograph cards with the purple line at the bottom and the backs that have blue and purple frame are consistent with the past releases. As well, the “Quotable” Star Trek: The Movies cards continue the Star Trek: Generations character autographs as they appeared in the film’s first scene on the sailing ship with Gates McFadden and LeVar Burton. If the other bonus sets are biased toward the original Star Trek’s cast (two of the four bonus sets focus on Star Trek: The Motion Picture), the valuable autographs are exclusively focused on the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast. In addition to McFadden and Burton, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes and Michael Dorn signed for the “Quotable” Star Trek: The Movies set, though the other three do not feature the characters in their Star Trek: Generations naval outfits which is somewhat unfortunate, as it would have been cool to get the entire cast as they appeared that way. Perhaps the most significant Star Trek actor to sign was John Winston, who was actually Lt. Kyle in eleven episodes of Star Trek. While exceptionally popular actors John Larroquette (who I was most psyched to see signing for this set!), Kim Cattrall and Kurtwood Smith signed for this set, arguably the most valuable autograph is the very limited Rex Holman autograph. Holman played J’Onn in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and that he signed between two and three hundred cards makes it valuable by default. The autograph collection in this set fills in prior gaps – A56 and A59 were missing from the Star Trek Movies In Motion set – but also somewhat ridiculously makes new gaps (A107 and A111 are missing from this set, but are included in the subsequent Premium Pack set!). Even so, this set has a decent collection of signers from the famous to the obscure (only the die-hard fans will feel the need to hunt down Jon Kamal Rashad or Jeff Lester’s autographs if they do not pull them in their boxes!) that maintains the continuity of the movie sets well.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

As with most "modern" trading card releases - certainly the ones from Rittenhouse Archives - not all of the cards needed to make a true master set are available in the boxes of these trading cards. In this set, there are only eight cards that cannot be found in the boxes. There is the usual promo card which foreshadowed the series release which is common enough to find (P1). There is also a promo card exclusive to the The "Quotable" Star Trek The Movies trading card binder (P3). The P2 card is a promotional card available only through Non-Sports Update Magazine and it might take a little work to track down (though the magazine offers back issues pretty readily).

There was one other promotional card, which was exclusive to Facebook. Having worked to track this particular card down for the past few weeks, I can attest that it is annoyingly hard to find now in the secondary market (if not damn near impossible!). It is a simple-enough promotional card that features the Borg Queen and the usual catch phrase from the Borg. Ironically, all four promotional cards feature the traditional “Quotable” portrait orientation for the pictures and quotes.

The remaining cards are the casetopper, two multicase incentive cards, and the Rittenhouse Rewards cards. The casetopper is a simple costume card of Data’s invisibility suit from Star Trek: Insurrection and this follows the format of the costume cards from the Complete Star Trek Movies set. It might seem odd that there is a gap between the sets for this style of bonus card (Star Trek Movies In Motion did not have any costume cards), but the card looks good and is consistent. The only inconsistency is the numbering on the back. As opposed to the prior costume cards in this style which featured a foil-stamped collector’s number, the MC17 is hand-numbered out of 775.

The grails of the set are the multicase incentive cards. For every three cases of “Quotable” Star Trek The Movies cards a dealer bought, Rittenhouse Archives provided an A96 Michael Dorn as Colonel Worf autographed trading card. Like most of Rittenhouse’s incentive cards, this autograph card is found sealed in a hard plastic toploader with a gold Rittenhouse Archives seal keeping it inside.

The six-case incentive card was an autographed Brent Spiner costume card. This is a very neat concept and it is well executed here, with Brent Spiner’s autograph on a card very similar to the casetopper card – the costume swatch is the Invisibility Suit again. The 6-case incentive card is hand-numbered out of 200, so this is the most enduringly valuable card in the set.
The final card in the “Quotable” Star Trek: The Movies set is the Rittenhouse Rewards card. Rittenhouse Rewards cards are exclusive cards that fans can get by sending wrappers from any sets in to Rittenhouse to redeem for cards not otherwise available. For this set, Rittenhouse produced a tenth Star Trek: The Motion Picture Transitions card. The final Transitions card is the U.S.S. Enterprise. The cinematic Enterprise is an interesting, if obscure, subject for the Transitions cards, but it has become sought-after by those wanting a true, complete set and it looks good (though the back, obviously, cannot, fit into the mural that the other cards formed).


The “Quotable” Star Trek Movies cards are a worthwhile investment and a neat set for those who love the Star Trek feature films and trading card collecting. Rittenhouse Archives made a solid set with this one and it’s not so pricy as to be stifling to collect even now. The cards look good, the autographs have decent value and the other bonus cards are neat . . . even if they do not completely fit the other “Quotable” sets.

This set culls images from all ten of the Star Trek Movies, reviewed here!

This set of trading cards is available in my online store! Please check out my current inventory at The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Movies Trading Card Inventory!

For other “Quotable” Star Trek trading cards, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
The “Quotable” Star Trek
The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Next Generation
The “Quotable” Star Trek: Deep Space Nine


For other card reviews, please visit my Card Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

True Blood Finally Reaches Its End: “Thank You!”

The Good: Decent-enough acting
The Bad: Dull plot, Light on character, Entirely contrived
The Basics: “Thank You” sees the end of True Blood and the conclusion does not keep the focus on Bill and Sookie enough to be a truly satisfying end for fans.

This is a big week for television! With the Emmys come and gone (was I the only one who didn’t know it was last night until the event passed?!), my focus is turning to the ends and the beginnings that are the highlights of this week in television. Chief among the endings (for me and other genre fans) is the series finale of True Blood. True Blood has had a rough seventh season and the shortened ten-episode season saw its end with “Thank You.” It is worth noting that because True Blood is a heavily serialized show and “Thank You” is its series finale, that some spoilers might be contained within this review, if for no other reason than that all that comes before led to “Thank You.”

Given the rocky nature of the seventh season of True Blood, I was not heartened by the trending topic relating to “Thank You” was that True Blood ended with a “wacky” finale. “Wacky” is not a word I would use to describe the sometimes-erotic, sometimes nauseatingly-gory supernatural soap opera. So, with lowered expectations, I rewatched “Love Is To Die” (reviewed here!) before tuning into “Thank You.” And

With Bill Compton having refused treatment for his Hep-V, he tries to explain his decision to Sookie. Having felt more alive since meeting Sookie, Bill does not want to live beyond Sookie, so he asks her to use her fairy light on him to bring him the true death. Faced with the choice of outliving Bill and having vampires interested in her and her fairy blood, Sookie seriously considers giving up her fairy light to kill Bill. Back at Fangtasia, Eric decides to betray Gus Jr. by setting Sarah Newlin free, stealing Gus Jr.’s New Blood (cure for Hep-V) and eradicating the human and his goons. Sarah begs Pam to vamp her and while Pam refuses, she does use the human for a Hep-V vaccination.

With Bill indelicately pushing the issue between Hoyt and Jessica, all of Bon Temps leaps to make arrangements for the abrupt wedding of the human and vampire. Those arrangements take the form of the predictable – Hoyt asks Jason to be his best man, Jessica scrambles to get a wedding dress – and the painfully mundane (Bill sits Andy down and asks him to “rent” his mansion to Hoyt and Jessica after his death because Bill cannot will the property to Jessica). During the wedding, Sookie is surprised that she can hear Bill’s thoughts. As Sookie debates putting Bill out of his misery, she talks to Jason, Reverend Daniels and Bill himself. After Sookie and Bill get closure, the episode flashes forward to show some resolution on how Eric and Pam’s business venture into New Blood went and then how everyone in Bon Temps is doing years later.

Starting “Thank You” out heavy with Bill Compton, Sookie, Eric and Pam sets the finale up for a satisfying conclusion. With the main – and most popular – enduring characters of the show getting the spotlight, fans are given some hope that the show might end on a high note. For as much as I might love the weird love story of Jessica and Hoyt, when “Thank You” shifts focus to them and the relationship between Jessica and Bill and then flashbacks with Sookie, Gran, and Tara, the episode takes a turn for the plodding and melodramatic. When “Thank You” seems like it might become an abrupt and somewhat ridiculous wedding episode, it seems like True Blood’s finale was going to be one of the least satisfying endings of television history. And it is, largely, unremarkable and unsatisfying.

In addition to completely contrived character moments – Hoyt has no memories of his friendship with Jason, so that he leaps to asking him to be his best man seems more satisfying for the viewers than honestly an organic plot/character development – “Thank You” is mired in trying to service the large cast (which is a pretty consistent problem the show has faced as it has gone on). Arlene and Holly being a part of the wedding is not entirely inorganic, but it does seem forced the way Arlene runs around prior to the wedding.

The idea of ending with a wedding is a pretty ridiculous one for a story that has been much more action-based and gory than it has been a relationship story in its later years. More than that, by focusing on Jessica and Hoyt, “Thank You” is mired in preaching to the choir. True Blood fans are by and large, smart and liberal. From the first episode, True Blood made a strong allegory between vampirism and homosexuality. So, the concept that the marriage of Hoyt and Jessica might not be legal, but it is loving and sanctified by god, seems to be beating the metaphor home for the people who already get the point.

In a similar way, Sookie turning to Reverend Daniels makes for a weird scene that makes very little sense for the character. Given the telepathic nature of Sookie Stackhouse, a crowded church seems like it would have hardly been a place of refuge for young Sookie. Turning to Daniels this late in the story seems forced and like Sookie is just taking advice from anybody in the world, regardless of their perspective and personal relationship with her. In fact, in the supernatural realm in which True Blood and Sookie Stackhouse exist, “Thank You” would have been the ideal time to bring in angels as a final supernatural creature, but the show does not. Instead, viewers are asked to believe that Sookie would turn to Daniels.

On the positive side, Anna Paquin’s performance of the episode’s pivotal scene sells the emotional depth of the moment. Whether this is great acting or not is debatable as Paquin having to contemplate a mercy killing for her real-life husband Stephen Moyer seems like it would be a wrenching experience. Paquin plays the scene with all of the intensity one expects from such a moment.

But fans of True Blood are rightfully unsatisfied and part of the reason has to be the final scene of “Thank You.” While some might wonder who the man Sookie is with is or why she is pregnant (if there had been no man at the head of the table, fans could easily have made the leap that Sookie was acting as a surrogate for Jessica and Hoyt, an idea that would have made their otherwise pointless wedding in the episode far more compelling), the real kick in the nads to fans is the conceptual shift that the final scene implies. Fans of True Blood have sat through seven seasons of partner-swapping, complex relationships mixed in with supernatural entities and monsters. Four years after the wedding of Hoyt and Jessica, EVERYBODY is still together with the partner they were with at the time.


“Thank You” makes that assertion. So, between Sarah Newlin getting the penultimate scene, in a moment entirely reminiscent of how Alias concluded the Sloane/Rambaldi arc and a contrived happy ending where monogamy and traditional family values wins out, “Thank You” closes True Blood on a downbeat and leaves us uninterested in rewatching the season, much less the series.

For other notable series finales, please visit my reviews of:
“Goodbyeee” - Blackadder Goes Forth
“What You Leave Behind” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into True Blood - The Complete Sevent Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the final season of the supernatural show here!


For other television episode and movie reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Almost Perfect, Star Trek: 40th Anniversary Trading Cards Are Fun And Diverse

The Good: Great concept, Decent images, Good overall value, Decent chase
The Bad: Problematic high end chase cards.
The Basics: The Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards are wonderful, with a few odd exceptions that once again force collectors to buy obscene amounts to finish the set.

For the fortieth anniversary of Star Trek there was a strange balance of fanfare and absence. The franchise was dying a little bit more, whatwith the failure of Star Trek: Enterprise (finally!), no movies in the pike and the novel line having hit a critical mass a few years before and virtually imploded. As the books and toy markets for Star Trek slowly rebuilt with more of an emphasis on quality than quantity, Rittenhouse Archives surged ahead in the trading card market with some truly ambitious trading card sets. To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Star Trek, Rittenhouse Archives released Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards. There was no series 2.

The Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading card set is a massive celebration of the Star Trek franchise. The set includes materials from all five television series' as well as the Star Trek films. It is important to note, as well, that after Rittenhouse Archives released Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards, they released Star Trek: The Original Series 40th Anniversary Series 1 cards (reviewed here!). They are two completely different sets; those three words make all of the difference.

Basics/Set Composition

As the name, Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 suggests, these trading cards were a celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the Star Trek franchise. Not limited to just the original Star Trek, this was a rich collection of Star Trek cards that featured images, autographs, and costume materials from all five television series as well as the Star Trek film franchise. These trading cards were sold in cases in North America as well as Europe and there were some minor differences in chase cards packaged into the foreign vs. domestic releases.

All in all, Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards were an impressive celebration of the Star Trek franchise. Packed with bonus cards that ranged from costume cards to lenticular (motion) cards to the grails - five autographed costume cards, Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 is an ambitious outing from Rittenhouse Archives and, while not flawless, remains one of their best sets to date. The Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading card set, when properly assembled, includes two hundred twenty-nine (actually, thirty-one) cards, of which twelve are not available in any of the boxes! This was a hard set to complete, but one which the years will no doubt bear out as one of the series' most worth the effort to assemble.

The Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards were released in packs of five cards. There were, appropriately, forty packs per box in both the domestic and international releases.

Common Cards

Out of the two hundred twenty-nine (or thirty-one) cards in the Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading card set, ninety are considered common. The common set actually focuses on the captains of each of the Star Trek series. As a result, there are ninety cards broken down quite simply between each of the five television shows, with eighteen cards each featuring Captain James T. Kirk, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Captain Benjamin Sisko, Captain Kathryn Janeway and Captain Jonathan Archer. All of the cards are in landscape orientation and are printed in bright colors. This set has great color contrast on most of the cards, making for vivid, exciting common cards. All of the cards feature the usual UV resistant coating to prevent fading and this set seems like one that, were it lacking such a coating, fading would be evident in years in unfortunate ways. Fortunately, there is no such fading here.

Each card focuses on the heroic actions of the appropriate captain in one of the episodes of the appropriate series; there are no images in the common card set from any of the films. So, for example, card 28 features Captain Jean-Luc Picard as he appeared in the episode "The Inner Light." Rittenhouse Archives did an amazing job of collecting images from the most popular or relevant episodes of each series. There are few duds in the common set. This is not to say that the set is devoid of them; there are some. Card 39, for example, is from the terribly unpopular episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine "Second Sight." Even with such a dud - including one of the less relevant episodes to focus on the captain (or Commander) in - Rittenhouse Archives manages to do something decent; they provide an image of Fenna, one of the obscure characters who does not appear on photographs, cards, t-shirts or action figures anywhere else to my knowledge. The common card set gives a well-rounded visual interpretation of each captain's tenure on their relevant ship or station.

In addition to the ninety cards that feature bright, often obscure images of the five Star Trek captains, the Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 set is fairly well written. The back of each card features a blurb on the relevant captain and episode. So, for example, card 70, which focuses on the episode "Fair Haven" and shows Janeway and Sullivan on the front, makes a point of mentioning who Sullivan is on the back so the front is clear. The backs paint a pretty thorough picture of each captain and their adventures. There is one common set guaranteed per box and the breakdown per pack and box was remarkably regular usually netting collectors one and a half sets per box.

Chase Cards

These days, though, the common cards are almost incidental in a trading card set and to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Star Trek, Rittenhouse Archives loaded the set up with all sorts of bonus cards from the common and inexpensive to the downright annoying to chase down. Fortunately, in boxes of the trading cards, the one hundred twenty-nine bonus cards that can be found in boxes are fairly regular and the set is one of the more attainable sets to collect. Still, for the cards in the boxes it is likely to take collectors two and a half cases to complete a set of cards! The Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards was packed with bonus cards that included the checklist, ArtiFex, TV Guide Cover, First Officer, Villains ArtiFex, Costume, lenticular, boxtoppers and autographed costume cards. The boxes of these cards are packed with value from the sheer number of bonus cards in them!

The first chase card, more on a technicality than anything else, is the checklist for this card series. The checklist is a simple black card found one per box and by stating the odds as one per box, Rittenhouse Archives manages to sidestep the checklist as being included in the common set for purposes of their guarantee – Rittenhouse Archives rather coolly guarantees a common card set and two costume cards in each box of Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards!

The first real set of bonus cards is the ArtiFex card set. These cards feature sketches of every major character from Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise. For these cards, artists like Douglas Shuler, Cynthia Cummens, John Czop, Geoff Isherwood, and Sean Pence were commissioned to sketch the characters. The ArtiFex cards are not hand-drawn sketch cards (i.e. each one is not a unique piece of art), but rather each card is a copy of a sketch produced by one of the artists. These range drastically in quality. Shuler, for example, clearly used Keith Birdsong's portraits as a reference and those who have the Star Trek Masterpiece Edition trading cards (reviewed here!) already have essentially the same sketches of the original series crew that he produced from that set (and in color!). These black and white portraits are generally good, though there is no Jake Sisko in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine block, nor is there a Kes card in the Star Trek: Voyager block - though rather lamely, Nurse Chapel and Yeoman Rand are included in the Star Trek block. The quality varies, sometimes within the nine-card collection for each crew. For example, Isherwood's Janeway has depth and shading that is incongruent with the other Star Trek: Voyager sketches. The most consistent, recognizable and well-done are the seven Star Trek: Enterprise characters sketched by Sean Pence. Pence did an amazing job and his portraits are lifelike to an extent that makes them the best of the forty-three ArtiFex cards.

At two per box was one of sixteen TV Guide cover cards. Following in the tradition of the original and Next Generation "Quotable" sets, the 40th Anniversary set included TV Guide cover cards from TV Guide's celebration of the thirty-fifth anniversary of Star Trek. The sixteen cards in this set feature the outstanding cards from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise. Like the prior releases, these are foil cards and look amazing. They remain highly sought-after, especially the Star Trek: Voyager ones which seem to be oddly rarer than the others. The TV Guide cover cards were only available in the U.S. release cases, not the European ones.

The European boxes of Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 cards featured Villains ArtiFex. Like the crew portrait ArtiFex cards, these nine cards - found only one per box - featured original artwork by Warren Martinek replicated on the cards. As the name suggests, this set featured one villain per card and included the likes of the Borg Queen, Khan, Q, Gul Dukat, and a Suliban. These vary in quality fairly drastically, from the well-detailed portrait of Kor the Klingon from the original Star Trek to the almost cartoonish Borg Queen which opens the set. Recognizable characters like Sela and Gul Dukat are not quite right - especially in the hair and jawlines - and more obscure villains, like the Hirogen appear more bland than interesting. Still, die-hard collectors will feel the need to hunt this set down, despite its mediocrity.

At only one per box are one of six First Officer cards. These landscape oriented foil cards feature a photograph of each major first officer from the Star Trek franchise and it is a nice collection. Those asking "six?!" will be pleased to note that Rittenhouse Archives honored Majel Barrett's character Number One from the original Star Trek pilot "The Cage." The First Officer cards are initially quite nice and seem like they would be a great set. Unfortunately, these cards chipped remarkably easily and many of the pictures of the first officers themselves had holes or chips in them, which is quite noticeable considering through each hole the silver sparkles shine right through!

Also at one per box are the boxtoppers, oversized mini posters featuring artwork of each of the crews. These are simply replicas of the Lightspeed fine art prints and there is one per crew. These five by seven inch boxtoppers are limited to 1900 of each crew portrait - which is not very limited at all - and has an individual number printed on the back of each card. These are textured with the canvasboard stock much like the common set of Art & Images Of Star Trek trading cards (reviewed here!) and were conveniently packaged in an individual wrap with a cardboard backer board to prevent the edges from getting damaged.

Arguably the best cards in each box are the costume cards. Two per box are one of forty costume cards. These costume cards follow in the style and numbering of costume cards from the "Quotable" Star Trek trading cards (reviewed here!). Each double-thick card features a swatch from a set-worn costume - or in the case of the original Star Trek costumes, a bolt of fabric from the fabric the costume was made from - from the five television series and the movies. Far more than bland uniform swatches, the Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards include some truly intriguing costumes. For example, C10 is Mea 3's sarong fabric, which is a bright collection of blues, rust, black and white colors; no two costume cards of the C10 are identical! As well, costumes like T'Pol's catsuits, Leeta's bathing suit, Quark's jacket, Dolim's armor and Sisko's baseball uniform are included in this set! Also cool is the Sulu costume card which includes a swatch from Sulu's shirt and pants! This is an amazing collection and the forty costume cards are the singular best reason to buy boxes of these cards.

Two per case - one every six boxes - is a lenticular card of each captain. The captains motion cards are variable in quality. The M1, Kirk, features Kirk and Spock and is a darker card that barely has any sense of movement. The Picard card is actually of Locutus of Borg! Lamest of the bunch is the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine card, which has Sisko, Dax and Odo beaming out of a darkened hallway on the station. The card is dark, does not prominently feature Sisko and the movement is not exactly the captain moving. Janeway's motion card is unfortunately identical to the Star Trek: Voyager Season Two lenticular of Janeway. These cards only have value because of their rarity and, unfortunately, have not retained their value proportionate to their rarity at all.

The grail of the boxes, though, are the autographed costume cards and here there is a strange mix of quality and sloppiness. Four of the cards were obviously created for this set and feature uniform materials and autographs from notables like William Shatner, Brent Spiner, Avery Brooks (Sisko's baseball uniform) and Scott Bakula (Archer's environmental suit). These are popular characters and great autographs and the cards are instantly recognizable from the others for their portrait orientation and the decent field of white on each one where the cards are autographed by their respective celebrity. The final autographed costume card is one of Jeri Ryan as Seven Of Nine. This card is a leftover from the Complete Star Trek: Voyager set (reviewed here!) and is landscape oriented and looks nothing like the others. The back of each of the Jeri Ryan autographed costume cards is individually numbered out of five hundred. The autographed costume cards were found one in approximately six boxes and the Ryan and Spiner autographed costume cards seemed to pop up quite a bit more frequently than the Brooks and Shatner cards. If it weren't for the lack of cohesion in this chase set, it would be an amazing incentive!

Non-Box/Pack Cards

Outside the packs found in the boxes, there are ten (twelve) cards that cannot be found no matter how many packs are opened. They include the promotional cards and the binder exclusive costume card. The promotional cards include a P1, which is simple to find and was given to dealers to promote the set and the P2, which was an exclusive promo in Non-Sport Update Magazine. P3 and the Neelix costume card were exclusive to the Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 binder from Rittenhouse Archives.

In every case, there was one of three James Doohan in Memoriam oversized cards. Individually numbered and limited to three hundred of each card, the oversized Memoriam cards paid homage to James Doohan, who died before the fortieth anniversary. Each card has an image of Doohan from the classic Star Trek and the tribute, 5 x 7" as it is, is identical in format to the DeForest Kelley tribute cards inserted into the first Rittenhouse Archives product, Star Trek In Motion (reviewed here!). The consistency of quality and the acknowledgment of the passing of the actor is appreciated by fans and collectors alike. These are coolly sealed in oversized card holders, protecting them from wear quite nicely.

For every two cases of Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards a dealer purchased, they received a costume card featuring fabric from Captain Kirk's uniform and Captain Jean-Luc Picard's uniform. This is, conceptually, a decent concept, especially considering that the two captains were together in Star Trek: Generations. In this case, though, the uniforms are from the television series and a film other than Generations, so the card is more of a novelty than anything truly meaningful to collectors. After all, it's not like the incentive card is autographed by both celebrities!

The six-case incentive card, though, is a decent one . . . only it does not fit this particular set. The six-case incentive, which remains highly sought-after, is a Legends Of Star Trek Patrick Stewart autograph. This autograph, which would have been ideally released in the "Quotable" Star Trek: The Next Generation cards, seems out of place in a 40th Anniversary set. It is a beautiful card, but it hardly celebrates the entire Star Trek franchise well.

Throughout this review, I have alluded to the idea that there are two cards, not available in packs, that technically are components to the Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading card set. For the "Rittenhouse Rewards" program, which award points for each wrapper redeemed to Rittenhouse Archives, fans could get an exclusive Seven Of Nine or Captain Jean-Luc Picard costume card. These cards, almost identical in fabric swatch to the cards released in the packs, feature alternate images of the two characters and are highly sought after by collectors. They are not supposed to be available in the secondary market, but do seem to have made their way there anyway. True collectors will consider these cards to be a part of the master set.


The Star Trek 40th Anniversary Series 1 trading cards are a great blend of beautiful images and interesting chase cards, hampered only by some truly outrageous rarities that suck down the collectibility for fans of some of the cards. After all, it is one thing to shell out a lot of money for a 6-case incentive card after spending thousands of dollars to collect the rest of the set, it is another to feel like the high-end cards or the cards exclusive to Europe do not quite fit the set one is collecting. That is the case with this set; the easy chase are easy and mediocre, the hard chase are hard and pointless or mediocre outside a few truly fabulous cards. Still, overall, it is a wonderful set and most fans will love it.

This set culls images from:
Star Trek
The Star Trek Movies
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: Voyager
Star Trek: Enterprise

This is a set that I proudly sell in my online store! Check out my current inventory at: Star Trek 40th Anniversary Trading Card Page!

For other mixed series Star Trek trading card sets reviewed by me, please check out:
Star Trek: The Motion Picture Topps card Set
Star Trek 25th Anniversary Series 1
Star Trek 25th Anniversary Series 2
Star Trek 1994 Edition Master Series
Star Trek 30th Anniversary Phase One
Star Trek 30th Anniversary Phase Two
Star Trek 30th Anniversary Phase Three
Star Trek Cinema 2000
The Women Of Star Trek In Motion
Star Trek (2009 movie) cards


For other Star Trek trading card reviews, please visit my Trading Card Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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