I Just Finished – Star Trek New Visions Special: The Cage

Back in the days before most of us could afford a video recorder, and before there was such a thing as a DVD, a BluRay, or an MP4 file, there was no easy way to view a favorite TV show or movie between the times it was running on television. A few collectors could afford 16 MM film prints, but that was a very few. Star Trek fans had such a voracious hunger to experience and re-experience their favorite TV show that, in 1977, a company called Mandala Productions decided to cash in. They produced “Fotonovels”— composed of screen captures from Star Trek episodes, with dialogue and narration added comic-book style using boxes and word balloons. Bantam books published these monthly for one year, and I was all over them. Not only did they let me relive a TV show I couldn’t get enough of, they were also great photo reference. I was a budding artist in my teens, and later an illustrator for fanzines. Fotonovels were indispensible aids.

So when John Byrne of X-Men fame launched a series of new, larger format fotonovels a couple of years ago, I was immediately in for the long haul. Using photoshop technology and screen caps from the 79 original hours of Star Trek, Byrne has so far created 17 new Trek episodes in this nostalgic format.

Continue reading

I Just Finished – Star Trek Discovery (Episode 1)

“Shoot big now!”

Okay, that really doesn’t mean anything, other than it was my family’s reaction to the first hour (read: first 40 minutes) of the new Star Trek series. I mean, really, CBS, 40 minutes? You’re asking people to pay to watch this show, and you can’t give its fans a full hour? Maybe they’re afraid its fans wouldn’t have the patience to sit for 60 whole minutes? The pacing of the show is so lightning-quick, one wonders.

Which leads me to a special request: can anybody quantify for me, or point me to good, scholarly piece which does quantify, how TV scripting works differently now than it did when Star Trek was first on the air in 1966? I know it does work differently. Scenes are shorter, pacing is faster, there’s more action, and, of course, no story is ever resolved in a single episode. But I’d like to see and down-and-dirty discussion of what all the changes are, and how and when they happened.

Continue reading

Not the Golden Age

I recently watched a fun little documentary called “The Trek Not Taken,” about Star Trek spinoffs that were discussed, developed, in some cases written and even taken to the point where sets and costumes were built, but not released to an audience.I really enjoyed it, and thought it was nicely done. There was a point I took exception to, however. I bring it up here, not to criticize the producer of this video in any way, but more to examine how I, as an aging fan, tend to see things a little differently.

The makers of this video posited that, in fifty years of existence, Star Trek has gone through several “dark ages” and one “golden age.” These ages aligned with the times that a Trek TV series was or was not in production, so the first two dark ages were 1969-1973 and 1975-1987.

Interestingly, although four Trek films were released during that second interval, it’s the opinion of the documentarian that only televised Trek saves fans from a dark age.

Continue reading

Do Star Trek Fans Just Not Understand Copyright?

Clarification: There’s been a misunderstanding to the effect that I felt Star Trek: Axanar had derived their story from my work. That is not the case. The fan film referenced below, in which some fans have noticed similarities to my novel, is not Axanar.

Intellectual Property–copyright–is the topic at hand right now in Star Trek circles. The high profile Axanar team has been hit with a lawsuit for violating CBS’s copyright in making an independent Star Trek film. Meanwhile, on one of the Trek-related bulletin boards, some fans have noticed similarities between a fan film and my 2006 novel Taken Liberty. I blogged about those similarities last year, saying I saw several points of plot overlap between the film and my book. Several of those commenting on the topic had read my blog. Apparently, not many had read my book.

The discussions on both topics have shown that a startling amount of ignorance and irrational thinking pervades modern Star Trek fandom, and that many fans have no concept of the law, much less of right and wrong.

Continue reading

Contact 05

Contact56CoverASeptember, 1979. Ads for Star Trek: The Motion Picture were popping up everywhere. They showed a glorious new (but recognizable!) USS Enterprise, and had photos of all of our favorites in a row beneath it. The uniforms were a little drab, but this was the sophisticated 1970s. We didn’t expect primary colors anymore.

Bev and Nancy, having not even seen the film yet (they would attend the gala opening night at the Air & Space Museum in Washington DC, just months later), were already showing their approval of its style. Perhaps their most striking, memorable cover to date graced this double issue of Contact, numbered 5/6. Like the more expensive paperbacks of the time, this issue had a double cover. The first layer depicts Kirk in blue monochrome in his classic uniform, sitting amidst rubble, while a golden-haloed visage Spock looks down on him. They are together, but isolated. The Spock image is, in fact, from the next layer, revealed by a circular die-cut in the upper cover.

Continue reading

The Intergalactic Nanny

191948-12332-47

My brother says this isn’t the box art he remembers, but it’s what appears to have been the 1969 release art. Image courtesy of Scalemates

My brother had a model Saturn V rocket. Assembled, I believe it stood about 30 inches tall. I guess he assembled it. I remember yellow streaks of model glue on the… does a rocket have a fuselage? But you could separate it into stages (what good is a rocket if you can’t separate it into stages?) and it was almost always disassembled. It was almost always disassembled because his annoying little brother, who was much too young for such a model, wanted to play with it all the time.

And who wouldn’t want to play with it? It had the Apollo command module and capsule, the capsule just the size of an acorn, but still… It may have had a lunar module on the side. And I’m pretty sure there was a completely-out-of-scale figure of an Apollo astronaut in full gear.

It now lies in state in a cardboard box in my old bedroom at my parents’ house. What’s left of it lies in state, anyway. The bright orange launch pad is still around, and some odds and ends, including that little capsule. Yeah, we’re that family. I haven’t lived in that house for 28 years, but my room is still full of my stuff. And… y’know… stuff I permanently “borrowed” from my brother.

20858579076_93cfa9b947_z

The remnants…

Continue reading

Better Than I Was Before… Memories of Harve Bennett

Harve_bennet_(2009)Last week, I wrote about a famous man who had died: Leonard Nimoy. It was a gently chiding piece about name-dropping, and about how you don’t need to personally know a celebrity for him to have a huge effect on your life.

And this week, because I’m nothing if not contradictory–or is that everything if not contradictory?–I’m writing about a famous man who died, and how the fact that I knew him personally intensified his effect on my life.

This week, sadly, I’m writing about Harve Bennett, who died Feb 25th at the age of 84. He was about the same age as Leonard Nimoy. They both had long careers in the film business. They worked together on a number of projects. They died within days of each other. Continue reading

I Did Not Know Leonard Nimoy

IMG_8848

Photo by Ethan H. WIlson

I didn’t. Never met the man. I once walked onto a stage where he’d just finished speaking, and picked up the mic he’d just put down; but we didn’t exchange any words, except perhaps, “hello.” Maybe we nodded to each other in passing. But I didn’t know Leonard, and he didn’t know me.

Why is that important? Two reasons. One, a lot of people are rushing right now to talk about knowing this man who just ended a long and productive life. I guess it helps them mourn his loss, makes them feel closer to him, despite his death, and provides them with validation. They knew someone famous, and that’s cool. Every fan wants to be able to claim that he’s best buds with his favorite celebrity, right? And what am I, if not a fan? Look at that picture up top. Who but a fan owns that many Mr. Spock figures?

Continue reading

Review: Star Trek – Into Darkness by Alan Dean Foster

Star-Trek-Into-Darkness-Alice-Eve

Not the book cover, but Alice Eve reads the audio, and she’s prettier than the book cover!

This is only peripherally a review of Star Trek: Into Darkness the film. I’m going to talk about the film, yes, but more immediately I’m going to talk about the novelization of it, written by Alan Dean Foster, and the reading of it by Alice Eve. I saw the film first, and then listened to this reading via Audible, so it’s my more recent experience of the story.

Continue reading

Helen Noel Kicks Ass! (And other reflections upon reading the first volume of James Blish’s Star Trek series.)

Helen Noel from Star Trek

Star Trek “Dagger of the Mind’s” Dr. Helen Noel

Well first off, she’s a redhead, isn’t she? Redheads are special in science fiction. Nix that. Redheads are special, period. Science Fiction authors just get this basic, universal truth, carved as it was by God on the same stone tablets He used when he gave us the Declaration of Independence and the script for It Happened One Night. Ask Robert Heinlein or Alan Dean Foster. Redheads. Yeah.

Continue reading