Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Meanwhile, back in the old timeline . . .

Although the new Star Trek movie is a big hit, some longtime Star Trek fans aren't so enamored with the new alternate timeline in which all future J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies will be set. And although this new reality is the perfect place for 2-hour popcorn flicks, some of the things it asks us to accept (like a young Cadet Kirk being promoted directly to Captain of the Enterprise as a thank-you-for-helping-to-save-Earth present) require a rather forcible suspension of disbelief.

Of course, a more realistically-told story of Enterprise crew's early years would probably not make for an exciting, roller-coaster-like summer blockbuster. It does, however, make for excellent reading. So if you're looking for the story of how things went down in the original timeline where the only Nero anyone ever heard of was a fiddle-playing Roman emperor, you can't do much better than the stories published by Orion Press. Here's a collection of some of their best tales from the early years of Star Trek:

By The Back Door by Jim Ausfahl: A great "origin story" for Scotty. No dwarfish lizard sidekicks, guaranteed.

Leaving Vulcan by D.G. Littleford: An excellent Spock-Sarek-Amanda story about young Spock's departure for Starfleet Academy.

Lightspeed in an 85 MPH Zone by D.G. Littleford: The idea that young Jim Kirk had a bit of a lead foot is hardly a new one.

First Contact 101
by D.G. Littleford: The tale of Kirk and Spock's first meeting as Academy cadets.

Command Potential by Donna S. Frelick: An exciting story about one of Lt. James T. Kirk's first adventures on the U.S.S. Farragut.

Spider's Lair by Randall Landers: Commander James T. Kirk, captain of the scout ship Shenandoah, and a landing party including Gary Mitchell and Lee Kelso encounter a deadly life form on a deserted planet.

Helmsman by Rick Endres: Set after the events of "Where No Man Has Gone Before". The story of how Sulu came to be the Enterprise helmsman.

The Beginning by Mary Rottler and Lynn Syck: The story of Leonard McCoy's arrival on the U.S.S. Enterprise, and how he helps Kirk and Spock deal with the aftermath of the events of "Where No Man Has Gone Before".

Of course, these aren't the only pre-TOS stories Orion Press has to offer. There are also some excellent Pike's Enterprise tales, and some stories detailing Jim Kirk's relationships with Ruth, Janice Lester, and Carol Marcus. Head over to The Beginnings section of the Orion Press website to check them out.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mr. T's Commandments

I know I'm straying from the stated theme of this blog a little here, but I really wanted to share the most hilarious thing I've seen this week, a Mr. T rap video from 1984 in which he exhorts kids to respect their parents while he struts around punching out random teenagers. Like most things involving Mr. T, it makes no sense whatsoever. I think my favorite part of the video is where Mr. T saunters up to a group of "tough" teenagers (and by "tough" I mean they're about as threatening as The Fonz) and punches them down an abandoned elevator shaft while rapping these words:

Honor thy mother and father
The Bible makes it clear
If you break the rules
God help you, fool
You got Mr. T to fear!

Let that be a lesson to you, kids! If Mr. T catches you loitering with your friends, the Bible says he's allowed to kill you!

Interestingly, this song was part of an entire Mr. T-produced album full of songs that were meant to instruct children in proper behavior. You can see the entire track listing here. I think my favorite title is "Mr. T, Mr. T (He Was Made For Love)". Are you sure this album was intended for children? Anyway, here's Mr. T's rap video masterpiece. They just don't make them like this anymore. (They can't, they're been sedated)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

STAR TREK! (spoilers ahead)

For some Star Trek fans (like me, for example), it never got better than the original series. You think that it would have been gratifying to learn that J.J. Abrams' new Star Trek film would be based on the original series, to hear him say that to him Star Trek has always been about Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Instead, it scared us to death. We needn't have worried. Having seen the film, I can assure you that J.J. Abrams and his associates know what they're doing.

Nemesis, the previous film in the series, did its best to cynically imitate that most beloved entry in the Star Trek pantheon The Wrath of Khan. Predictably, it was a miserable failure. The new movie reminds me of The Wrath of Khan in all the right ways: it's a fresh take on Star Trek by a person who wasn't a fan of the show before now, and who wasn't particularly worried about upsetting a few fussy fanboys. Some people may complain that that Abrams got some technical details "wrong", but they're missing the point. Transporters, warp engines, phasers, and Jeffries' tubes are fictional constructs; there's no "right" or "wrong" way to depict them. The original Star Trek was always about the characters, and this movie gets the characters right. The faces are different, but Kirk is unmistakably Kirk, Spock is Spock, McCoy is McCoy, and so on. And the Spock-Uhura relationship? I don't have a problem with it. It's believable in the context of the story, and I applaud the filmmakers for having the guts to take some chances with these characters. Ditto the destruction of Vulcan. It gets your attention, and forcefully drives home the point that this isn't your traditional prequel; all bets are off.

Are there plot holes? Sure. But The Wrath of Khan had some pretty gigantic ones, too, and it didn't hurt that film. I understand that there was an entire subplot about Nero and his crew being in a Klingon prison for the twenty-five years between the destruction of the Kelvin and the main events of the movie that had to be cut for time and clarity, and the resulting inference that they were just hanging around doing nothing all that time does hurt the movie a little. Couldn't it have been stated that their warp drive was damaged by the collision with the Kelvin and they'd been moving around at relativistic speeds ever since, so what seemed like 25 years to the rest of the universe was only a few days to them? Also, since Star Trek was originally concieved and largely written by men who had served in the military, it always got those sorts of details right. In this movie, however, Kirk goes from being a cadet to a Captain just because he helps save the world. Such a thing would never happen in any self-respecting military organization I can think of; it would have been nice if J.J. Abrams "Supreme Court" had included a military history buff like Ron Moore to ensure authenticity in that area.

None of these nitpicks damages Star Trek's enjoyability, however. This movie is big, fun, and wonderfully well-done. If you are a Star Trek fan, you're in luck because this is probably the best film in the series. If you are not a Star Trek fan, you're also in luck, because this movie was made for you. The cumbersome baggage that weighed down recent Treks has been jettisoned, and it's possible to thoroughly enjoy this movie even if you've never seen Star Trek before. It's a joyful experience that's well worth the price of admission. Go see it now. See it multiple times.

You'll be glad you did.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Monday Links

I've got my ticket to the very first showing of Star Trek Thursday night at 7pm. Friday, I'll post my impressions of the film (I probably won't do a full-on review, because everyone's doing those) Based on the early reviews, it looks like J.J. Abrams and co. have given us the first good Star Trek film in at least thirteen years. Meanwhile, here's some interesting stuff from around the Internet:

Progress City USA has a fascinating article about the never-built Port Disney park.

Disney and More is one of my favorite blogs. Its series of tributes to classic EPCOT pavilions, complete with concept paintings and hi-resolution photos from the Disney archives, are especially good. To save you the trouble of searching for them, I've collected them here:
The Living Seas Original Artwork
CommuniCore Original Artwork
The Land Original Artwork
Journey Into Imagination Original Artwork
Horizons Tribute
Universe of Energy Original Artwork
Spaceship Earth Original Artwork
World Showcase Original Artwork

See you Friday!