Five Things – 04.27.15 – Computers Are Not Especially Good At Acting Like Real Creatures

1.  Children of the Dog Star – Tommyknockers for kids? Sign me up.

Children of the Dog Star

OK, not really Tommyknockers, but darn close.  Children of the Dog Star was a 1984 children’s series set in New Zealand, about a group of kids who discover a bunch of alien relics.

RelicAcross the first few episodes they uncover more relics and figure out how to assemble them. Conveniently, a brass weathervane at Gretchen’s uncle’s farm turns out to be the catalyst for the machine, and they activate an old probe that is linked to Sirius, the Dog Star.


The probe turns out to be a teaching probe named Kolob, sent ages ago to teach science to humans. It also knows the kids’ names by scanning them. It then seems to go haywire and ‘pauses’ the entire town so that nobody but the three kids can move.


The kids are somehow able to establish a communication link with the aliens who sent Kolob in the first place, and are chastised for having re-assembled Kolob.  There’s a nice moment of First Contact, and then both species team up to destroy Kolob and hide the weathervane to prevent any future assembly.



If we’re being honest, this probably could have been a three episode series.  It holds up a lot better than a lot of stuff from the ’80s, though. The alien design is pretty inspired and you can tell they were really trying to do as much with the effects as they could on their budget.

Here’s the first episode.  That intro!

2.  The Star Wars Question & Answer Book About Computers – It’s nice of the droids from Star Wars to take time out of their day to answer some basic questions about computers.  Especially when there’s really no reason for Star Wars to be involved in this book at all.

Star Wars QA Computers

They seem to exist in this book to give someone something to do illustrations around, and I’m not complaining about that – the artwork is fantastic.


The book’s filled with very basic questions about computers alongside a few curveballs, like “are all robots giant arms?” Not sure that would fulfill the F in FAQ.

What Can't A Computer Do

You can thank Paxton Holley for the pages; hit his site for the full book.  Here are some of my favorites.

Highway Desk Mouse


3.  Laser Attack – I can’t find much about this amazing board game from the 1970s, but what I can find I love:

Laser Attack

The gist seems to be that an alien Death Star has invaded our solar system and we’ve sent a bunch of ships against it.  The play takes place in a circle around the enemy ship, and all players move toward the center of the board in an attempt to plug the enemy up.  The ship in the center has a dial that you can turn that will cause a laser to shine in one direction on the board, which is presumably bad for anyone in that laser’s pathLaser Attack Board I’m guessing that a dark room is a requirement for this game.  Great box art and a fun idea!


4.  James Bond Junior – Back in the eighties and nineties the “make a young version of a popular franchise” tactic was in full swing;  you had your Muppet Babies, your Lil’ Archies, your Young Indiana Joneseses, and your James Bond Junior:

James Bond Jr

Kind of a weird title, because he was actually Bond’s nephew and not his son, but we’ll take it.  Premièring in 1991, James Bond Junior had a whopping 65 episodes that featured Bond Jr, his pal IQ (Q’s grandsons, obvi), and Gordo Leiter (Felix Leiter’s son) as they fought against SCUM and its various plots and also navigated the wacky terrors of middle school life!

The series takes advantage of the animated format, taking the over-the-top nature of Bond’s gadgets and action sequences, and dials it up to cartoonish proportion. So basically, like Brosnan-era Bond films. Heyohhh.

It’s actually a pretty fun series.  Here’s an episode.


5.  Ella – Let’s wrap it up with some Ella Fitzgerald, why not?