The Day of the Doctor (and it ain’t McCoy!)

Picking up where I left off in my last post, tonight is the “One Night Only” theatrical screening of the BBC’s “Day of the Doctor” and my son and I will be attending at our local AMC Theater. He couldn’t contain his excitement and decided to watch the television broadcast this past Saturday. While I opted to skip it, I did ask him for a spoiler-free opinion when it was over. His reply – “Perfect!” That’s a good thing. It would be disappointing, to say the least, if it had been a stinker and he were now forced to sit through it again in a movie theater. But, instead, he can’t wait to see it again.

As for me, I’ve now seen “The Aztecs” (with the first Doctor from waaaay back in ’64) and the more contemporary episodes “Dalek” (9th Doctor), “Silence in the Library”, “Forest of the Dead” (10th Doctor), “The Impossible Astronaut”, and “Day of the Moon” (11th Doctor). I’ve also checked out the “Night of the Doctor” mini episode which features the return of Paul McGann. I have a basic grasp of the concept of the Time War, the planet Gallifrey, the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Silence, and, of course, of the Doctor’s continual regeneration. Last night, I even took the time to watch the docu-drama “An Adventure in Space and Time”.

So tell me, Whovians, am I ready for tonight?

Where Do We Go From Here? Part 1

After complaining in some of my recent posts about the lack of anything new to look forward to in the world of Star Trek, I have come to find out that the Science Channel will be airing a new documentary entitled Trek Nation on November 30th.  In addition, filming on the second J.J. Abrams Star Trek motion picture begins on January 15th.  Admittedly I am looking forward to the former much more than the latter but it’s all good.  Meanwhile, as I wait patiently for the 30th to arrive,  I have been thinking back on my own particular journey through the realm of sci-fi fandom and realized that it started with Trek but didn’t end there. The 60’s classic Star Trek TV series was merely a jumping off point from which I delved into a number of other fascinating movies, television shows, and books.

As anyone with similar interests knows, the relationships among all these various works within the genre can be somewhat circuitous, leading a fan right back to where he started in the most glorious and unexpected of ways.  So it was with me, with Star Trek and the collection of other enjoyable stories that I am going to touch on here.  Seeing them or, in some cases, reading them, was interesting in and of itself, but also in the respect that they allowed me to  gain new perspectives.  I found that getting away from my favorite Trek episodes for a while and checking out a new sci-fi movie or story allowed me to return to the Star Trek universe with a greater appreciation – picking up on nuances I’d perhaps missed earlier.  In other words, everything reinforces everything else in some way.

So, to any readers of this blog who may be interested in sci-fi vehicles other than Star Trek, today’s entry begins a multi-part overview of some of the earliest additions to my list of favorite sci-fi stories.  If my memory is intact enough, I will endeavor to organize them in the order in which I discovered them.  As far as I know, they are all readily available now to anyone wishing to check them out.  Gotta’ love 21st Century, instantly gratifying, streaming, downloadable, on-demand media availability!  Anyway, here we go with Part 1:

Silent Running – Theatrical Motion Picture – 1972

Like the best Star Trek episodes, this film is a morality tale.  Set in “the first year of a new century”  (the 21st I suppose), the film establishes that all trees and plant life on Earth are gone, except for a small collection forests being cultivated under giant domes aboard ships in deep space. The crews of these enormous vessels have apparently worked onSilent Running the forestation project for a very long time with a view toward reintroducing the greenery to our abused planet.  They have their doubts that the project will come to fruition, though, and, one way or the other, they are anxious to get home. Bruce Dern plays Freeman Lowell, a botanist charged with caring for the forests on one of the ships – The Valley Forge.  When the project is abandoned, the crews of all the ships are ordered to jettison and detonate the forest domes and return to Earth.  Lowell is devastated and cannot accept that the forests must be destroyed. Driven by his (laudable) desire to save at least one forest, he takes drastic actions that ultimately determine the outcome of the story.

The film was directed by Douglas Trumbull who had previously worked on the visual effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey (which didn’t make today’s entry in the list primarily because I didn’t see it until 10 years after it came out).  Although the emphasis on saving our ecology that was prevalent in the 70’s is very thinly veiled in this movie, it nonetheless manages to entertain – with a convincing performance by Dern, believable effects, and a moving (if somewhat dated) soundtrack featuring songs performed by Joan Baez.  Notable also are the “drones”, small utility robots played by amputee actors in very believable costumes, forerunners of George Lucas’s “droid” concept from Star Wars.

Westworld – Theatrical Motion Picture – 1973

This film afforded me my first exposure to the work of Michael Crichton, who both wrote the story and directed the movie.  It’s basic theme is one that Crichton had dealt with Westworldbefore and would return to again in some of his later tales – namely, the dangerous consequences that can occur when we assume we can control technologies or elements of nature that we don’t entirely understand.

Sometime in the not too distant future, vacationers can visit a  resort where, for $1000 a day, they are able to interact with completely realistic android robots in three specific historical settings: Roman World, Medieval World, and Western World.    In these adult amusement parks, nothing is off limits.  There are deadly sword battles, gunfights, good old fashioned brothels, and more.   Visitors to these resort-worlds can live out their every fantasy, no matter how violent or perverse. The story centers around a pair of businessmen, played by Richard Benjamin and James Brolin. They’ve chosen to unwind in Western World, where they engage in barroom brawls with outlaws, shootouts with a gunslinger (expertly portrayed by Yul Brynner), and romps with 1880’s style prostitutes – all of whom are lifelike robots.  The movie also depicts a number of secondary characters who have similar adventures in the other two themed resort-worlds.

When the robots and the systems that control them begin experiencing inexplicable malfunctions, the engineers in charge have to decide how best to proceed.  Although they initially consider closing the resort to address their concerns, it is ultimately decided to wait and allow the current guests to stay out their planned visits.  That’s when all hell breaks loose!  This is a compelling movie for sure.  I especially like how the line “Nothing can go wrong” prefaces all the action.  If you enjoyed the Trek TOS episodes, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”, “I Mudd”, or “Requiem for Methuselah”, you’ll probably like this film.

Next time around, I’ll touch on a collection of short stories and a novel, both of which were adapted for the big screen.

Consulting the Library Computer

In an effort to get “all geared up” for my forthcoming visit to Creation Star Trek 2011 in Las Vegas, I’ve recently taken my obsession with Star Trek to another level.  I’ve always been a pretty fanatical lover of Trek.  Although, like anything else in life, my over-the-top fandom has had peaks and valleys.  There were times when I was much younger that I ate, drank, slept, and breathed Star Trek.  There have also been just as many periods more recently during which I’d watch 20 minutes of a Trek rerun on SyFy and that was the extent of my involvement for weeks on end.

Thankfully, the Internet provides the perfect means by which I (and countless others to be sure) can dive headlong back into all things Trek.  It’s almost as though I have my own LCARS terminal connected back to every database in Starfleet!  In all seriousness though, as well versed as I am in technology (I’ve been using the Internet in one form or another since 1990) it still never ceases to amaze me the depth and breadth of information that is available on most any topic – especially Star Trek!

I imagine that just about anyone reading this blog is already well acquainted with the sites I’m going to cover in this post.  All the same, there may be one or two folks like me who, only a short time ago, would have been unaware of the existence of so many terrific Star Trek resources online.  For that reason, I decided to compile a list of the Star Trek related websites I’ve been visiting lately.  This list is by no means exhaustive.  In fact, I would welcome comments with suggestions for others that I may be unaware of.

So, here goes:

http://www.startrek.com – The official website of the Star Trek franchise.

http://www.cbs.com/classics – Watch episodes of TOS and TAS online (this can also be done at startrek.com above)

http://www.trekweb.com – News and articles about everything to do with Star Trek

http://www.trekbbs.com – An excellent forum for chatting with like-minded fans

http://startrekofgodsandmen.com – Home of the terrific fan film made for the 40th Anniversary of the series

http://www.startreknewvoyages.com – The site of James Cawley’s excellent fan film series set during the TOS five year mission

http://www.starshipfarragut.com – More terrific fan films

http://creationent.com/cal/stlv.htm – Big, big, big Star Trek convention in Las Vegas next month

http://starfleet1701st.yuku.com – Forum operated by the fantastic 1701st Star Trek Uniform Club

http://www.therpf.com – Custom props and costumes used in role playing

http://www.startrekhistory.com – Absolutely incredible site with insider information about the production of the original TV Series

http://www.trekcore.com – All encompassing site with everything from rare photos to audio clips and more (from all series and movies)

http://www.startrekonline.com – Great Internet game set in the Trek universe

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Star-Trek-Fans/161013817304738 – Cool new Facebook group for we fans

As I had indicated above, there are undoubtedly hundreds (if not thousands) of other sites containing all kindsa’ Star Trek stuff and I’ll bet some of them are just great.  If anyone feels like to directing me to any of them, I’d be more than receptive.

LLAP

Star Trek Uniform Horror Stories – The Final Phase

To complete my series on mishaps and difficulties with Trek uniform costuming attempts, I am going to start out with what would appear to be a horror story.  The great part is that, although the uniform itself and the circumstances surrounding its aborted creation may have been horrific, the ending is a very happy one IMHO.

Stardate: 1986.6 – By the age of 19 I had already done several things that a geek like me wouldn’t have been expected to, at least according to Bill Shatner’s “evil Captain Kirk” from Saturday Night Live.  I had most definitely kissed a girl and I had already moved out of my parents’ basement and gotten my own apartment (with the lovely girl I had kissed, I might add).

I really was incredibly lucky to have fallen in love with someone so intelligent and beautiful but, to my added good fortune, she was also almost as much the Star trek fan that I was. We had purchased our first VCR (a BetaMax – LOL, I’m old!!) and the first pre-recorded movie we acquired was, of course, Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  The TOS episodes weren’t readily available on Beta yet so we got a bunch of blank tapes and started recording them from TV.  This way we’d have a monster collection of Trek shows to watch whenever we wanted.  We also worked diligently on collecting every paperback in the PocketBooks Star Trek series and read them all many times over.  We had just made tentative plans to attend a Star Trek convention – it would have been our first together – when this particular horror story began to unfold.

We thought it would be pretty cool to participate in the costume parade at the con and we each had a favorite uniform from the TV series that we planned to wear.  Mine was to be Kirk’s alternate command tunic – the green wraparound.  My lovely girl would have donned Uhura’s revealing mirror universe uniform.  Unfortunately, neither of us knew the first thing about constructing a homemade Trek uniform costume.  Although, at least my girlfriend knew how to sew and had made some garments in the past.  If memory serves, we didn’t have any patterns either and there certainly was no World Wide Web as we now know it through which to order them or do any research.   We did have some reference books to work from (The Making of Star Trek, The Starfleet Technical Manual, and Bjo Trimble’s excellent Star Trek Concordance) but otherwise we were on our own. By far our biggest impediment though was that we were almost always broke, so we didn’t have a lot of money to put into these costumes to begin with.

We picked up some cheap (and dreadfully wrong) material and tried to get underway.  My girl’s fabric was a bright red double-knit … definitely on the right track but too bright and too thin, almost like a crepe.  Mine was very dark green, way too dark really, and was similar to the material from which bedsheets are made…so it had no flex/stretch capability whatsoever.  Undaunted we began our project anyway.  I think my girlfriend drew out something akin to a pattern for my shirt and she then cut the individual sections accordingly.  I don’t remember if she had cut out all the pieces and was assembling the final garment or if she had just done a few basic pieces to put together a mock-up.  Either way, before long I had a front and back connected to a right sleeve.  The fit was awkward and the material didn’t lay well on my torso.  Nevertheless, it was coming together.  But given everything I’ve just described, it was questionable whether this costume would be usable at all – and therein lies the first horror story.   The second, and much bigger, horror story is that we left that green shirt half finished – that was as far as we ever got on it.  The sexy red mirror universe uniform never even got started.

For a multitude of reasons that probably have no place being published in a Star Trek blog, we broke up at the beginning of that summer, having never attended the convention or even finished the costumes.  Although I initially thought there was hope of getting back together, I blinked my eyes and months had gone by.  Suddenly it was a year – then two. We each ended up marrying and starting our own families, neither seeing nor speaking to each other as two years became five and so on.

What makes this such a terrific story is the happy ending I alluded to earlier.  We two geeks each knew that we were meant to be together.  In a way it was almost like one of those great Star Trek stories in which destiny is fulfilled even if there is sadness along the way.  More than ten years after we had originally begun dating and nearly eight years since we had last spoken, we met at our tenth high school reunion and picked up where we left off.  Now we are rapidly approaching our fifteenth wedding anniversary and our Trek fandom hasn’t waned.  In fact, our thirteen year old son and I will soon be attending Creation Star Trek 2011 in Las Vegas – and we will be doing so in full uniforms created by none other than my lovely girl.

I will be blogging from the con and undoubtedly posting photos of my new and improved green Kirk wraparound tunic.  But no photos or blog posts can accurately convey the most important facet of this tale – even though the blog topic is “Horror Stories”, my time with the incredible woman described herein has been the antithesis of a horror story!  She completes me and I her.  And our shared love of all things Star Trek is one example among many of how our fate was “in the stars”!