Countdown to Avengers 2: Iron Man 3


The time of the second Avengers movie is upon us. The first Avengers was an unprecedented film. It was historic in how it brought multiple movie franchises together in one team up film. And most importantly, it was a satisfying film that appeased almost every fan. Our excitement for the film inspired three blogs to join together (much like the Avengers) and do a countdown. Well, with the Age of Ultron almost here, the bloggers return for a new countdown.


I've blogged about this film before and we also released a podcast. But there's plenty to be said about this movie.

Iron Man Three was the first film of what Marvel dubbed "Phase 2." It's appropriate that he gets the first post-Avengers solo film and kicks off this phase since it was his character that started Phase 1. As it happens, Iron Man will also be in the first film of Phase 3, Captain America: Civil War. Now, coming off the high that was Avengers, it had to be a daunting task to come up with a movie that was appropriately raising the stakes, yet toning things down for a solo character film.

This movie has gotten a lot of grief from some fans. A good portion of it stems from the fact it follows Avengers. Some of it due to the fact that the plot is a combination of the plot from Incredibles and the previous Iron Man films. And most of it due to big-time Marvel fans being mad about how The Mandarin was handled. (This is somewhat resolved in a Marvel One-Shot bonus feature short. While I enjoyed the short, I don't believe it was necessary in the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe [MCU].)

The major ties to films from before were the following:

  • Yinsen returns in a flashback cameo at the beginning of the film.
  • Tony suffers from PTSD after the "Battle of New York" and there are multiple references to that.
  • Rhodey references the "super friends" and indicates a style change for how he operates now.
  • Bruce Banner is at the very end of the movie in a quick cameo.
  • And finally, the "Ten Rings" graphic and Killian proclaiming he's the Mandarin, he was always the Mandarin, indicating he might have been behind events of the first movie.

As for what clues this movie gives to Tony's future in the MCU, the primary observation I have is Tony's intense desire to make things safe, particularly for Pepper. While things are never quite in his control, he wants to control things so that his world is the way he wants it. He's a mechanic, always fixing the world around him. Perhaps he eventually fixes something that wasn't really broken and that leads to Ultron's creation.

We do know that Paul Bettany, voice of JARVIS, will be playing the Vision in Avengers 2. We see the nascent version of that here in the form of 35 suits/robots controlled by this AI. It's easy to see how JARVIS will become JAR-VISION as an extension of that.

As a side note, this movie lands two actors who were previously up for super hero movie roles. Ben Kingley was cast as The Vulture in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 4 before it died. And Guy Pearce has floated as a rumor for a couple different movies, most notably Daredevil that instead went to Ben Affleck. And awesome to see that William Sadler is the MCU U.S. President.

Thoughts from Robert at To The Escape Hatch...

"Looking back at my contribution to CT’s Iron Man review from our first Avengers Countdown (three years ago???), it’s funny how far my comic nerdery has progressed. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about some sort of Marvel or Avengers film, and I read a lot more comics these days.

But I won’t lie about Iron Man 3: it’s not my favorite Avengers film. Stark spends a big chunk of the film without his armor and there’s a kid sidekick of sorts, which is hardly ever a good thing. I do appreciate that RDJ and writer/director Shane Black were trying to do something a little different from the first two Iron Man flicks. Plus, that plane rescue scene is just awesome and Stark’s army of Iron Man suits is a joy to behold.

Iron Man 3 is notable in that it’s the first post-The Avengers film, which must have been daunting. The filmmakers really wanted to build on the success of The Avengers, however, so they boosted the Iron Man 3 budget considerably to try to accomplish this. I’d say it largely worked. It was also nice to see that the film contained callbacks to The Avengers (Stark suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the New York battle) and seemed to hint at Avengers relationships and films ahead with the revelation that Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner/Hulk was visiting Stark (if not living with him in New York’s Stark/Avengers Tower) in the customary post credits scene. All in all, Iron Man 3 was an excellent addition to the Marvel universe."


Nerd Lunch Podcast 163: Worst. TV Show. Ever.


Matt Ringler from Schlock Treatment returns and the Nerds return to the scenario first executed in episode 129. CT takes on the persona of idiot Ned N. Lurch who is being fooled into thinking he's being given a chance to brainstorm a TV show project that will be pitched to Hollywood. Unfortunately for Ned, his powerful step-dad has partnered him with consultants tasked with pitching horrible ideas to him in an effort to creat the "WORST. TV SHOW. EVER."

Nerd Lunch Podcast 162: Nerdstradamus 2015


Gary Spivey, from the Psychic Companions Network?


Dubba from On Second Scoop and Nosh Show fame returns to the Fourth Chair this week as the nerds don the Nerdstradamus turban to make their annual predictions. Listen and be amazed at the range of psychic insights about TV, fast food/junk food, and celebrity news for the year to come. Plus the guys play a game of Overs and Unders about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Nerd To Dos include the Houdini mini-series, the podcast We’re Alive, the podcast Dragonfly Ripple, and roller derby.


Introducing Dragonfly Ripple...

On tomorrow's new episode of the podcast, it will be mentioned that I have begun a new (yes, third if you count "Pod, James Pod") podcast. I will be joined by three cohosts. Frequent Fourth Chair guest Michael May and I will be discussing "bringing up the next generation of nerd" by inviting my daughter and his son to join us on the show. In the first episode, we talk about the 1980 Flash Gordon movie and Monty Python and the Holy Grail and find out what our children think about these longtime favorites of ours.

It's a fun discussion and I'm looking forward to seeing where this show goes. For regular updates, follow us at

Back of the Bridge: The Emergency Operations Officer

Two weeks of Christmas vacation means more time to think about Star Trek.  Today, we’re following up our recent discussion of one of the unsung heroes of the Enterprise-D, the Environmental Systems Officer, with a purely fanon creation: the Emergency Operations Officer.

As with many of our Back of the Bridge articles, we start with a few key passages from the ST:TNG Technical Manual, and stitch them together into a job description:

The Environmental Systems bridge station is used for “execution of survival scenarios such as evacuation to environmental shelter areas.”

On a Galaxy class ship, there are 52 emergency shelter areas designed to remain habitable even in the event of major system outages elsewhere in the spacecraft, equipped with independent emergency breathing gas, water, food, and power supplies.

Emergency preparedness protocols specify that at least 40% of crew and attached personnel must be cross-trained for various secondary assignments, including emergency medical, triage, and other disaster response functions, including Engineering and Security duties.  During Yellow and Red Alerts protocols, cross-trained personnel with noncritical primary assignments report to their secondary assignments as necessary.  

Starship personnel train to execute rescue and evacuation operations, both to the ship (from another ship or a planetary surface) and from the ship (to another ship, a planetary surface, or into space).  A Galaxy class ship can support up to 15,000 evacuees with conversion of shuttlebays and cargo bays to emergency living accommodations.  For “abandon ship” evacuations, the crew can utilize everything from transporters to shuttlecraft to emergency lifeboats to putting on an environmental suit and stepping out a window.

Put it all together, and you realize that every starship needs a designated Emergency Operations Officer, someone who makes sure that the plans are in place, the personnel are trained and drilled, and the batteries in the smoke detectors are changed annually.  This is especially critical on ships like the Galaxy class with a large civilian population.

Depending on the size of the ship and the mission profile, I see several different options for the Emergency Ops position.  First, standard operating procedure seems to be to combine the roles of Tactical Officer (i.e., guy who fires photon torpedoes) and Security Officer (i.e., space cop / meatshield).  Those are really two very different jobs, so you could easily split them up and combine Security and Emergency Ops as a kind of crew safety czar.

Second, there’s nothing wrong with making this a full-time job, especially if the Emergency Ops Officer has a dedicated staff of techs to maintain the emergency shelters and lifeboats.

Third, I like the idea of combining this job with Beta Shift or Gamma Shift Officer of the Watch.  Once in a while, we see a senior officer working a second or third shift, but as discussed in our post about Second Officers, there’s generally a sense that almost everything important happens between 8 A.M. and 4 P.M., and then some group of “Lower Decks” types just kind of keep the chairs warm for sixteen hours until the cool stuff starts again.  Assuming that you don’t want your First Officer to stand a separate watch every day, why not take a couple of LT(JG)s, make one Mission Ops / Beta Shift OOTW and the other Emergency Ops / Gamma Shift OOTW, and treat them as part of the senior staff.  They show up for major briefings, Yellow and Red Alerts, and anytime the Captain needs either their specific expertise or an extra Command officer.  This gets the Beta and Gamma Shifts back in the loop, and there’s a good argument for keeping your Emergency Ops Officer on duty while most of the crew is asleep.

Only downside to this arrangement is that our Beta and Gamma Shift commanders are probably working some weird hours, helping out during Alpha Shift while still putting in a full eight hours later on.  Surely Starfleet has plenty of alien officers with weird sleep patterns who can handle a few hours of intensive emergency Alpha Shift activity right after eight hours of relatively quiet Gamma Shift.  On an Intrepid class bridge, you’d put these guys (in their non-OOTW capacities) at the back of the bridge, on either side of master systems display.  To be on the safe side, Starfleet should probably install some coffee cup holders.    

Nerd Lunch Podcast 161: Expendables of Other Genres 3


CT leads the podcasters into a three-way dance discussion where they come up with the casts of two new "Expendables" movies. First, they figure out the cast to "The Expendables of Teacher Movies" and follow that up with "The Expendables of Sports Movies." Programming note: The podcasters are taking a two week break from regular episodes. Look for potential extra helpings and the return of the regular show in mid-January.

Back of the Bridge: The Relief Bridge Officer


We’ve been talking about some of the less celebrated position in Starfleet, specifically the consoles along the back of the bridge on the Enterprise-D — two Science stations, Environmental Systems, Mission Operations, and Engineering.  Although there are some good reasons to make some permanent assignments to these positions, even on a big ship like the Enterprise-D, they just didn’t have the manpower, so in practice, one guy did it all: the Relief Bridge Officer.

The TNG Technical Manual mentions that on a Galaxy class ship, the standard bridge complement during “Cruise Mode” (i.e., not Red Alert or Yellow Alert) is a Command officer (in the big chair), Conn and Ops officers (in front of the big chair), and an additional officer (behind the big chair) who can fill in as needed at Tactical or any other back-of-the-bridge station.  Various non-canon sources call this extra guy the Relief Bridge Officer, the Bridge Operations Officer, or the Bridge Duty Officer.  He does what needs doing.  Some weird space anomaly needs preliminary analysis?  He goes to the Science station.  Something needs shooting?  Walk over to Tactical.  Check the status of the warp core?  Engineering.  Bridge seem a little stuffy?  Environmental Systems.  

When the officer in command declares Yellow Alert or Red Alert, the appropriate personnel catch the next turbolift to the bridge, and if there’s something else that requires more sustained attention or specialized expertise, you can always ask an appropriate specialist to report to the bridge.  In the meantime, the Relief Bridge Officer keeps things from exploding too badly.  When the experts show up, the RBO sort of fades into the background, monitors whatever station seems monitoring, and stands ready to swap in where needed.

Probably during the quieter Beta and Gamma Shifts, it’s just these four guys — Command, Conn, Ops, and RBO.  During Alpha Shift, it’s clearly standard procedure to have the Chief Security Officer or one of his deputies at Tactical, but you probably still want that Relief Bridge Officer around.  Even if it’s an uneventful shift, you want to allow some 15 minute breaks.  Hopefully, one of the upgrades of the Sovereign class bridge was some sort of little break room just off the bridge where officers can step off the bridge, have a quick bite, hit the head, etc.  Maybe some of those Defiant-style bunkbeds, in case someone needs a power nap?  The “Lower Decks” type officers who really want that promotion should sleep in their uniforms in the Bridge Bunks, and then rush onto the bridge as soon as the Yellow Alert light starts flashing.

As exemplified by Worf in TNG Season 1, Relief Bridge Officer (Alpha Shift) is one of the best gigs around for a Command division (red shirt) Ensign or Lieutenant (j.g.), right up there with Flight Control / Helm.  If you don’t get one of those spots, you’re looking at something like Gamma Shift Officer of the Watch, or maybe something in Flight Deck Operations wrangling shuttlecraft, or maybe even something purely administrative like Yeoman. Alpha Shift bridge time is the key to advancement — Worf and Geordi both moved up to department heads after just a year on the bridge, and Lieutenant Hawk from “First Contact” had the steely gaze and solid jaw of a future Second Officer.

Lt. Hawk

As a Relief Bridge Officer, you probably work every station on the bridge in the course of a typical shift (unless there’s an android at Ops), and when the First Officer is putting together an Away Team, there you are, looking young and eager and expendable.  The bad news is that the Relief Bridge Officer is a lowest ranking guy in a red shirt, and therefore has about a 50/50 shot of surviving that first year.  This is not a job for a guy like Reg Barkley who is going to grind along as a junior officer for twenty years — you are either headed for senior staff or a body bag.  


The Sovereign class Enterprise-E seems to have done away with the Relief Bridge Officer, insofar as it has fifteen duty stations, most of which seem to be filled at all times.  I’ve seen nothing official or even semi-official breaking down who is doing what at all these extra stations, but fan speculation posits separate Tactical and Security stations, dedicated Navigation and Communications stations a la the original series, and multiple Mission Ops and Science stations. I’d like to think that at least in the wee hours of Gamma Shift, it’s still just Command, Conn, Ops, and a Relief Bridge Officer, changing seats every half hour and finishing up in the Counselor’s chair, where he says, “I’m sensing we should go get some breakfast.”

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