Talking New Frontier

This came up on the Trek boards recently.

I’m sure a person could read Being Human, the next non-crossover Star Trek: New Frontier novel, without having previously read Cold Wars and What Lay Beyond, but you’d probably miss a few references. Two years ago, you could have read The Quiet Place and Dark Allies without having read Double or Nothing.

Hopefully, this year’s New Frontier novels will be a return to form after
the disappointments of the past two years. The comic last year bordered on
the abysmal, and Restoration represents the series’ nadir. Another round of books as poorly plotted and badly characterized as the Excalibur trilogy could sound New Frontier‘s death knell.

My Top Star Trek Novels

My Top Ten, All-Time, Must-Read Star Trek novels. In reverse order:

10] Prime Directive (TOS), by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens
9] The Ashes of Eden (TOS), by William Shatner and Judith & Garfield
8] The 34th Rule (DS9), by Armin Shimermann & David R. George III
7] Uhura’s Song (TOS), by Janet Kagan
6] Imzadi (TNG), by Peter David
5] Warped (DS9), by K.W. Jeter
4] Vendetta (TNG), by Peter David
3] A Stitch In Time (DS9), by Andy Robinson
2] Federation (TOS), by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens
1] Strangers From The Sky (TOS), by Margaret Wander Bonanno

The Psi Phi Summit Report

I’m on the spot, all attention in the ballroom is focused upon me as a microphone dangles in my face. “‘Enter the Wolves,’ what did you think?” asks Howard Weinstein, an insistant look upon his face.

I had fallen victim on one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well known is this–never raise your hand and admit to knowing or doing something in a room with less than a dozen people. Howard had asked his audience if anyone had read his most recent Star Trek work, and as I had read his comic “Enter the Wolves” I raised my hand only to discover that I was the only one present that had. Hence, the microphone; Howard wanted my comments.

How does one handle a situation such as this? I can be critical, even brutally so at times; do I say the story felt trivial, even mundane? Or I can be gentle, praising; do I say that “Enter the Wolves” is one the best Star Trek comics WildStorm has done? Neither fits my feelings on the comic, though, so I instead walk a middle path. “The story’s good. Interesting,” I say. “But I had a quibble with the artwork.”

A frown crosses Howard’s face, his insistant look replaced by one of impending concern. “The art? I thought it was some of the best Star Trek comics art I’ve ever seen.”

I nod in agreement. “Carlos Mota did a fantastic job; the likenesses are damn near perfect.” Then I shrug. “The uniforms, though. He got them wrong.” I proceed to explain that the Next Generation episode “Tapestry” established the tee-shirt beneath the maroon uniform jacket style of the 2320s, yet “Enter the Wolves,” which occurs after Picard’s flashback in that NextGen episode, shows Admiral Leonard McCoy with the turtleneck/jacket combination familiar in the Classic Trek films.

Howard takes a few steps backward. “Perhaps you’re correct,” he says. “You could be right. I don’t know.” Then he begins discussing his next Star Trek project, a four-issue comic book mini-series starring Kor and Kang, both reeling from their sons’ deaths in the year prior to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Howard begins to read from the first issue’s script, and I take copious notes. As my pen scratches across my notepad a thought occurs to me–in criticizing the uniforms shown in “Enter the Wolves” I have become exactly what I was always afraid of being, the kind of Star Trek fan that can know at a glance when one little detail is out of place and can discuss that error with all the dispassion of a Vulcan watching the South Park film.

I sigh. Of all the epiphanies to have, why did this have to be the one?

Notes from the Howard Weinstein Talk:
13 July 2001

Enter the Wolves

Ann Crispin asked Howard to help her out with the scripting on the comic; she didn’t feel comfortable with writing fight scenes and space battles, both elements that Paramount and WildStorm felt needed to be present in the story. Because Howard had written four years worth of Trek comics, he asked to see Ann’s script, and his first intention was simple to “doctor” the script and punch-up the action elements. Instead, when reading the script he decided that a page-one rewrite was necessary, so he asked Ann if she had any problem with him doing so, and she gave him her blessing to make the story really work in the comics medium. Ann admitted that she wasn’t that familiar with the comics medium; “Enter the Wolves” was only her second attempt at writing a comic book script.

As a result of the creative and artistic success of “Enter the Wolves,” Jeff Mariotte asked Howard to pitch other stories. WildStorm had a policy of not wanting writers and artists who had worked on Star Trek comics for other publishers, but Mariotte was so impressed with Howard’s work on “Enter the Wolves” that Howard was able to propose a four-issue mini-series, “By the Sword.”

By The Sword

This was originally a novel submission Howard had made to Pocket books, but it arrived at the time when the focus of the novel line was shifting from one-shot novels to the crossovers and mini-series, so it didn’t quite “fit” with the general direction Pocket books was heading in. Also, it was a Classic Trek story, one set between Star Trek V and Star Trek VI, and while Pocket Books did submit Howard’s proposal to Paramount in 1998, it wasn’t read. Howard pitched the idea to WildStorm, and Jeff Mariotte gave the story a nod, quite possibly the best Star Trek work Howard Weinstein has ever done.

The story deals with the political cauldron of the early 2290s, as the Klingons are becoming more militaristic towards the Romulans. The story takes place one year prior to Star Trek VI and about a year after the deaths of Kor and Kang’s sons at the hands of the Albino. The story will explore Spock’s first tentative steps towards diplomacy. Also, Admiral (ret.) Harry Morrow (from Star Trek III) will appear as a Jimmy Carter-esque character, a freelance peace broker.

The first issue is due out in January. No artist was mentioned.

Marco Palmieri and I could be watching a filk band embarass themselves during the Masquerade’s intermission. Sensibly, we don’t. Instead, making use of the bar the hotel had temporarily installed outside the ballroom holds more promise. I am working on my second Budweiser, Marco is on his second Chardonay.

Marco frowns. “I am such a lightweight,” he complains. “I will so regret this in the morning.”

I nod in sympathy. My own alcohol tolerance is virtually nil, and at some point later in the evening I will have to drive a half-an-hour to my grandmother’s. “Regrets? I can understand that. The woozy feeling, the swimming consciousness, the hangover the next morning.”

Marco stares. “Oh, I’ll certainly regret all that. But you know what I’ll regret more?”

Confused, I reply, “No.”

“The candor.”

Notes from the Bob Greenberger talk:
14 July 2001

Mostly what Bob Greenberger did was show movie trailers. However, he did mention that he’s written a Wilt Chamberlain biography, geared for younger readers of about 12 thousand words length. While he doesn’t consider himself a basketball fan, he did find the project a fun one to do.

Attending a Star Trek convention disabuses me of a long-held and long-cherished notion–that all Star Trek fans are a reasonable and sensible lot. In other words, pretty much like myself. Looking about the convention I realize the folly of such a viewpoint; if all Star Trek fans were like myself then Pocket would publish only Classic Trek and Deep Space Nine novels, and Paramount would still be producing Deep Space Nine after having pulled the plug on Voyager very early in its runs.

Surrounded by costumed fans, attending panels whose audieces consist of uncritical fans, I feel manifestly out of my element.

Notes from the Michael Jan Friedman talk:
14 July 2002

First up, MJF gave a dramatic reading from Starfleet: Year One. Then he mentioned the first two Stargazer novels due out early next year, entitled The Gauntlet and Progenitor, and proceeded to do a dramatic reading for The Gauntlet‘s first chapter. When doing the reading, I notice that Friedman does a very fine Patrick Stewart inflection.

I liked this line from The Gauntlet: “You are the greenest apple to ever take command of a Starfleet vessel,” said by Gilaad ben Zoma to Jean-Luc Picard when Picard feels out of sorts at a Starfleet function.

Some other random notes:

Star Wars trilogy:

Del Rey is publishing two types of Star Wars novels–New Jedi Order, a twenty-two book set, and the “bridge” novels, set between the two trilogies. After the first “bridge” novel, Greg Bear’s Rogue Planet LucasFilm felt a little nervous because the Episode One-related products weren’t peforming as well as they would have liked and companies were going out of business. In order to enhance the “bridge” novels Del Rey carved several novels out of New Jedi Order to lessen or prevent intra-line competition and Michael Jan Friedman’s novels were the least essential to the overall New Jedi Order storyline. While Friedman was about halfway through writing the second book of the trilogy, when Del Rey cancelled the trilogy they treated him very well, and the trilogy may reemerge as a generic science fiction novel.

Double Double

A Richard Arnold story! When Friedman wrote the novel and submitted it, Pocket received a memo from Paramount stating that Chekov had to be replaced with DeFalco because the novel’s stardate was far too low for Chekov to be aboard the Enterprise, and this required sixteen pages of changes to the manuscript. Pocket pointed out a memo that Gene Roddenberry had sent Pocket very early in the publishing game stating that stardates were completely meaningless, to which Paramount responded that Roddenberry’s original stardate memo was to be disregarded. In the end, instead of making sixteen pages of changes, such as reassigned Chekov’s dialogue to DeFalco, changing the stardate to something higher made the book fly through.

The comics

DC Comics kept Arne Starr on hand to re-ink the Star Trek: The Next Generation comic because Patrick Stewart thought that Picard’s hair always looked too long and needed cutting.

The Galactic Empire has arrived. A force of Imperial Stormtroopers, a good half-dozen, stride through the hotel lounge. Klingon costume, Starfleet costume, after a day I’ve become accustomed to seeing these. But Star Wars? Impressive.

The 2002 novel preview over, a group of us–Marco Palmieri, Jeffrey Lang, his wife and friend, Alex Rosenzweig, and myself–have commandeered a table at the entrance of the lounge. Marco looks about. “Is this what the Psi Phi Summit has been reduced to?” he asks.

I laugh. The Summit. I am as much responsible for “the Summit” as anyone

Notes from the Deep Space Nine relaunch panel:
14 July 2001

Mission: Gamma, a four-book series coming in October and November 2002, will return Deep Space Nine to its roots with the Defiant trailblazing a path through the Gamma Quadrant, much as Lewis and Clark explored the Louisiana Territory. Bringing this exploration element into the series brings the series full-circle to its beginning when the station was truly at the edge of a vast, unexplored frontier, something that became lost as the series progressed.

The first novel will be written by David R. George III, co-author of The 34th Rule. The second novel will be written by Heather Jarman and will have a heavy focus on the Andorians and their culture. The third novel is by Andy Mangles and Mike Martin, and the final novel is by Robert Simpson, the co-author of the Joran Belar story in the Lives of Dax anthology.

While the novels will have an exploration focus (not unlike Classic Trek, we won’t be leaving the station behind. Instead, as per usual for Deep Space Nine, everything goes to hell back home.

While there is a reference to Jake’s absence in Demons of Air and Darkness, his story won’t be dealt with until Mission: Gamma. He isn’t necessarily still inside the Wormhole, either.

There are no plans to do a Mirror Universe story. Basically, what’s the point?

One of the keys to the Deep Space Nine relaunch is that the stories lead with the characters and how they react and interact with the events that come their way.

There is always the danger that a future film project will contradict and ignore the Deep Space Nine relaunch stories. That’s a real issue with any licensed property, though, in spite of Paramount’s repeated statements that they have no immediate plans for a film return of Deep Space Nine. That concern shouldn’t limit what can and can’t be done, however. (Though, we won’t see any stories where Jake goes postal.) If a film project does contradict the new novels, there’s always room for a novel to step in and explain how the relaunch continuity and the film can fit and co-exist together.

The Farscape panel dissolves and a few fans trickle out of the room, while others, more, filter in to take their places. Keith R.A. DeCandido and Greg Cox, both participants from that earlier panel, seem nonplussed as the topic changes from Farscape to an Author’s Salute to Trek‘s 35th, and the Farscape panel’s irreverant tone carries over as Michael Jan Friedman, Bob Greenberger, and Jeffrey Lang enter the room and take up positions around the table and they begin to banter and joke. The other panels, at least they had direction and focus; this panel, what is it? Author’s Salute, what does that mean? What should these authors do? Talk about the Star Trek novels?

Instead, the salute Star Trek‘s anniversary in the most literal way possible–all fine authors raise their right hands and snap off a military salute.

The tone thus set, the authors begin their introductions. Bob Greenberger goes first. “Good afternoon,” he says, “I’m Peter David, best-selling author of Star Trek: New Frontier and the just released Sir Apropos of Nothing, now available at finer bookstores everywhere.”

Before another author can introduce himself, I interject. “Okay, Peter David,” I call out from the back of the room, “perhaps you can explain why New Frontier sucks so bad.”

The room erupts equally in laughter and derisive cat-calls. Undaunted by the outburst, Michael Jan Friedman plows ahead and introduces himself. “Hello,” he says, “I’m Peter David, and I have absolutely no idea why New Frontier sucks.”

I chuckle. The answer suffices; I had made my dig at New Frontier‘s recent decline into mediocrity. Later when Peter David arrives for the panel I feel no inclination to repeat my question. There’s no need; the point had been made.

Notes from the Author’s Salute

Dream projects

Michael Jan Friedman feels that Stargazer and Starfleet: Year One are as close to his heart as any Star Trek story he’s told. But if he could tell something else, he’s always wanted to do an alternate universe story where Gary Mitchell had triumped over Jim Kirk on Delta Vega and he brings in all these super-powerful beings to trample the universe.

Keith R.A. DeCandido wants to tell more Gorkon stories. But the story he’s always wanted to tell almost made publication. Written for WildStorm’s Star Trek special, it explained how Julian Bashir and Miles O’Brien “made-up” after “Hippocratic Oath,” and has Worf and Dax working to bring these two old friends back together. When the special filled up, WildStorm no longer had a place for the story, and it’s too trivial to hang a whole novel upon the premise.

Greg Cox wants to explore what happened to Geordi LaForge’s mother. Or, barring that, a novel where Gary Seven meets Seven of Nine, if only for the confusing dialogue where they refer to one another as “Seven.”

Bob Greenberger wants to write a solo Classic Trek novel, a “Lower Decks”-type story featuring the supporting cast.

Jeffrey Lang wants to write a medical thriller or mystery that would gather 24th-century Starfleet’s top doctors. Also, he wants to know who the second- and third-tier Starfleet doctors and and what they do, something that Peter David later said will be explored in the upcoming New Frontier novels.

Peter David wants to write a Star Trek film, particularly a New Frontier film. He didn’t make casting choices, however.

Peter David described how he came to write The Siege, the first of the original Deep Space Nine novels. One of the higher-ups, perhaps at Paramount, perhaps at Pocket, called then-editor Kevin Ryan in January 1993; he liked the show a lot and wanted an original novel on the stands by March. And Kevin Ryan said yes. So, Ryan called Peter David, had a video tape of the pilot episode sent, copies of scripts, the writer’s bible, basically everything that existed on the show in terms of reference material, and Peter David took a look, and came to a stunning realization.

Odo is a super-hero.

If there’s anything Peter David knows, it’s super-heroes. He’s written them loud enough and long enough to know how they work, and thus The Siege was an Odo novel, with Odo doing lots of cool things. And he got paid a lot of money for that novel.

When the same situation arose with Voyager in 1995, Peter David took a look at the pre-production material and didn’t find any characters that spoke to him. However, he was asked what a title for a Voyager novel should be, so he suggested “The Escape,” reasoning that at some point in the novel characters were going to have to escape from something. When the first Voyager novel was published, it bore the title The Escape, written by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, but there was nary an escape to be found.

Enterprise novels aren’t likely to happen for several years. While there will probably be a novelization of the pilot episode, Pocket’s current view to to wait and see how the series develops, how the characters fall out, before commissioning original novels based upon the material.

Notes from the 2002 Novel Preview
14 July 2001

The premise of Gateways is that the Iconians return and offer to sell their gateway technology to the highest bidder. As proof of who they are and their abilities, they turn every Iconian gateway on.

Doors Into Chaos involves the Enterprise-E being sent by Starfleet to find the Iconians and convince them to turn off the gateways as these gateways are doing far more harm than good. And to convince the Iconians that the Enterprise speaks for all Alpha Quadrant races, the ship will be filled with diplomats and scientists from nearly every race.

Demons of Air and Darkness involves a human colony being bombarded by theta radiation through an open gateway and the efforts to evacuate the colony. Because the gateway opens into the Delta Quadrant, there’s an Hirogen on the loose. Also, this book will demonstrate Kira’s penchant from non-Starfleet command thinking; there are things a Starfleet captain would do that Kira would not, and vice versa.

The Voyager novel involves Voyager crossing a sector of space where the gateways have deposited hundreds of ships, and the end result has Voyager herding the ships together and driving them across the sector. It plays out like herding cats, though.

Cold Wars involved two warring civilizations that once shared a planet until the Thallonians stepped in and deposited each civilization on new planets light-years apart because these civilizations didn’t play well with others. Separated, they could no longer bother one another. Then a gateway opens up linking the two planets and a commando team from one planet steps through and assassinates the entire royal family of the other. Starfleet sends the Excalibur and the Trident to sort out the situation. We will be introduced to Calhoun and Shelby’s new first officers, as well as a second- or third-tier medical officer.

What Lay Beyond is the Gateways hardcover conclusion. After each captain steps through a gateway, they have to deal with what they find on the other side. Bob Greenberger will write the final story where Picard has to solve the problem, shutting down the gateways and saving the galaxy.

Here There Be Monsters, the SCE epilogue to Gateways has the da Vinci travelling to a planet where the gateway deposited monsters that are terrorizing the populace, and because the gateways are now closed, they aren’t going anywhere.

On the New Frontier front, The Book Formerly Known as “Walk Like A Man” will center on Mark McHenry. There will be a New Frontier hardcover late in 2002.

Immortal Coil by Jeffrey Lang will have one of the best Star Trek covers, ever. Think Leonardo da Vinci’s famous drawings of the human form. It’s awesome to behold. The story will involve a breakthrough by the Daystrom Institute in fashioning another artificial intelligence and Data’s investigation into a brutal attack on Commander Bruce Maddox. As a fan of Asimov’s R. Daneel Olivaw mysteries and Roger Macbride Allen’s Caliban novels, I’m really looking forward to this one.

Mike W. Barr is writing a Classic Trek novel.

Two Voyager novels are in development. One, entitled The Nanotech War, is set during the seventh season and may deal with the Chakotay/Seven relationship.

The Starfleet: Year One collection will be the definitive version of that story, vastly expanded over the original serialization. Pocket’s production department felt the first few chapters were overly long and went and made cuts to the chapters that editorial didn’t authorize, so the collection will restore those cut scenes. The collection will boast a gorgeous Sonia Helios cover.

Marco and I are walking to the hotel’s lounge; the 2002 novel preview had ended not more than fifteen minutes before, and Marco had offered to buy me a drink.

“Is there any significance to the page of Garak’s letter in A Stitch In Time that Bashir refers to in Avatar, Book One?” I ask.

Marco shakes his head. “No no no. I don’t even remember what’s on that page. I don’t know if I even looked it up.”

“Nothing significant,” I answer with a shrug. “Something about Garak and the Academy, I think.”

Marco chuckles. “You’ve checked. Obviously.”

I have to smile. “You can never tell when an in-joke will turn up. Or when what seems like an innocuous reference has some larger implications. We are talking Deep Space Nine, after all. Nothing is ever irrelevant where Deep Space Nine is concerned.”

Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams. I was going to write. Didn’t happen. So, now it’s after work, and I’ve had some time to think about things, about who Douglas Adams was and what his work meant to me. Good things. I’m not sure if I’m shocked or if I’m sad because I’m honestly both.

Woke up this morning, the coffee pot had died yesterday so no morning caffeine jolt, and I’ve got a nasty cold and raw throat so orange juice has become a painful experience going down, so I was stuck with fixing a cup of tea, which is fine but I’m not a big tea drinker. Unless it’s iced tea.

So, got up, ate some breakfast, made faces at the cat, and checked my e-mail before work. Then went and checked out rec.arts.drwho, and saw a dozen threads, all devoted to the memory of Douglas Adams.

I wanted to cry.

It’s kind of hard to sum up the role of Douglas Adams in my life. I know when I first learned of him; it was when So Long and Thanks for All the Fish was published, so the early 1980s, maybe 1984 or so. He did an interview on DC’s NBC station’s local newscast, and while I don’t remember much of the interview (beyond the fact that I saw it), I do remember being very intrigued. What I do remember was a general sense from Adams that if we don’t stop to enjoy the world around us and have some fun doing so, we’ll really end up being fairly miserable because the universe isn’t going to make us have fun. And somewhere around 1985 I made my dad take me to B. Daltons in Valley Mall in Harrisonburg so I could buy a box-set of the four Hitchhikers books. He wasn’t exactly pleased with that; it wasn’t out of the way, but we were going to visit my grandparents and my dad could be seriously regimented when it came to time.

I read the Hitchhikers books over a four day period, one book a day. And I thought they were incredibly goofy and downright bizarre.

I probably didn’t look at them again until I was handed a floppy disk in 1987 containing the computer game version of Hitchhikers. I didn’t like the game that much; it was a pretty literal translation of the first book into a game format. Construction crew comes, so you lie down in the mud, then you wait for Ford to show up, and then Ford tells the foreman to get down in the mud, then you go to the pub, then you have a pint, then you and Ford end up on the Vogon ship, then you escape once you get the Babelfish (and if you don’t get the Babelfish the Vogon poetry is even worse), and then you end up on the Heart of Gold, and at that point the game goes weird. Basically, Ford and Trillian leave you in a room and you can’t do anything. Never did get past that point.

I reread the series around 1994 or 1995. I was working one day at the Payless in Valley View, went in the B. Dalton’s there, and bought the omnibus edition of the four novels and “Young Zaphod Plays It Safe.” A perspective of ten years brought a lot more appreciation to the books. But then Mostly Harmless came out, and I was really disappointed in it. It was boring, it was pointless, it wasn’t funny. Ford and Arthur visit Earth, only it’s a parallel Earth where Trillian didn’t run off with Zaphod at the party and instead Arthur and Trillian married and had a daughter. I’ve only read it once, and maybe I should read it again, but I wonder if I’d care for the book any more.

Dirk Gently, on the other hand, did nothing for me when I first read it. Nothing. What was this? I asked myself. Is this supposed to be funny, because it’s just too weird? Time did change my opinion here, and I realized that they were supposed to be weird, especially when I realized the connection the two books had to Doctor Who. (Dirk Gently is sort of the Doctor; Professor Chronotis from “Shada” sort of shows up.)

Adams’ Doctor Who connection I never realized, at least not until 1997 or so.

The point of Douglas Adams’ work, it seemed to me, was to show how the universe itself is fundamentally unreal, and if we try to take the universe’s innate unreality too seriously we’re bound to drive ourselves around the bend. Hence, Marvin the Paranoid Android. Arthur Dent was the ultimate everyman, thrown into a circumstance that showed how completely uncomplacent the universe was and how utterly strange it is, and yet he managed to survive because he came to accept the unreality of the situations around him.

The world needs more writers like Douglas Adams. His genius and creativity will sorely be missed.

His work has meant different things to me at different points in my life. I’ve probably not looked at one of his books in three or four years, haven’t read one all the way through in longer than that. And I certainly haven’t seen one of his Who episodes, other than “Shada” in at least a decade. So, I’m shocked at his loss, the loss of one not even fifty, one of such undeniable talent. But I’m also saddened because I remember a lot of things that really said something to me in his work. A sense of sardonicism, a skeptical look at the universe around us. He’s faulted, I know, for being a little too much the-devil-may-care in his work, but I think that’s entirely appropriate, because that’s the point I think he was trying to make, that if we take the world too seriously we’re sorely missing out on the things around us because we’re not appreciating them for what they are. Hence Last Chance to See or The Meaning of Liff.

If there’s one last lesson we can take from Douglas Adams it is this: never go anywhere without a towel. It’s probably the most useful object in the universe because it’s incredibly handy. About the only thing you can’t do with it is eat it, unless you’re my cat. Tails will eat anything.

Rest in peace, Douglas Adams. You did good, and you’ll be missed.

On Getting the Job

Good news, everybody!

I think I might’ve mentioned it a time or three, but I work for Electronics Boutique. You’re probably familiar with it; it’s one of the world’s leading software and video game retailers, and I’ve been working for them for close to two years now in a variety of capacities. What began as a lark turned into something permanent, a nice promotion to Assistant Store Manager, and a comfortable groove. Managers came and went in my store, but I was as constant as the northern star. So, my manager Dave, tired of the grind, applied for a tech support position at our Home Office, and I interviewed to manage the store. And I got the position, and a nice pay raise.

The one downside is that I have no staff. I’m interviewing people almost daily, but I’m horribly understaffed, and as a result, incredibly overworked. Not the best way to settle into the position, and I know it won’t be a permanent situation. At least, it better not be a permanent situation.

So, when people ask me these days how life has been, I’m answering, what life? I seem to live at work, then go home, feed my cat, pop in a video, and fall asleep while watching it, only to get up and go to work, and repeat day after day after day. Why can’t it be July; I’m taking a week’s vacation in July.

I’m at once wearied and excited. The funny thing about the promotion is that I forgot to tell a lot of people about it. I got the promotion, did the usual double-take, then placed a couple of phone calls and promptly forgot about the rest. Oh, well.

So, now I’m the big kahuna, calling all the shots. At least there’s a paid business trip to Las Vegas in the fall…



On Saavik's Vulcan-ness

I have a friend Bob. He lives in Canada. He’s a wee bit daft, as this quotation shows:

I don’t think it’s that easy to play a Vulcan. You have to have that intangible quality about you. [Leonard] Nimoy and [Tim] Russ have it. Kirstie Alley did not.

What!? Kirstie Alley didn’t have the intangible quality? Please, Bob, Kirstie Alley was a fine Vulcan, very fine. She looked really good.

Okay, I much prefer Robin Curtis as Saavik. She does Vulcan a bit better. But if there was Rihannsu blood in Saavik, I think Kirstie Alley does better in that regard than Ms. Curtis.

Which does all go to show that a lot of what we’re discussing where actors and their qualities are concerned is really just a lot of personal preferences on the part of the audience. :)

On Who Should Play Who

Who would make a good Doctor Who? I’ve been giving it some thought, and there are some people I think would make a good television Doctor and some people who would make a good film Doctor, and the lists don’t really cross.

I’ll leave aside Paul McGann. I would love to see McGann have another shot at the Doctor outside of the audios. However, film and television productions being what they are, I don’t know how likely that would be. I think that McGann would be capable of pulling off a film Doctor; he’d be the one I could most easily see going either direction. So, consider McGann my first choice for both. But, if not McGann, then who?

First, film Doctors:

  1. Hugh Grant. He really is my first choice, if a Doctor Who film is ever made. I get the impression he wouldn’t even have to act to do the Doctor. His take on the role might largely depend on his force of personality. Plus, of all the Doctors in “Curse of the Fatal Death,” Hugh was the Doctor that worked the best for me. (In descending order of preference, that would be Hugh Grant, Lumley, Richard E. Grant, Atkinson, Broadbent).
  2. Alan Rickman. He’s done a lot of really crappy roles in the past. The less said about Kevin Smith’s Dogma the better. However, he has done some spectacular work, and I think he could do the part of the Doctor some real justice. Also, I’m told that it was he, and not Pierce Brosnan, that Leonard Nimoy cast for his Doctor Who film.
  3. Tim Curry. He seems a little bit of a lightweight to play the Doctor, but in many of his roles he has the manic quality that being the Doctor almost requires. I could see Curry as being bombastic and ruthless. In other words, a lot like Colin Baker.
  4. Malcolm McDowell. He’s a real stretch to visualize as the Doctor, especially because he’s not all that young any more and all of his roles tend towards the sinister, with Time After Time being about his only not-sinister role (the other one being Cross Creek). However, if you ever watched the revised Fantasy Island, you’d see the Doctor’s qualities in Mr. Rourke.
  5. Sir Ian McKellan. Okay, so I see him as being the Cushing Doctor. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

David Warner would have been another top choice, ten or fifteen years ago. Now he’s a bit ragged and dumpy. On the other hand, I would never pick Pierce Brosnan as the Doctor. I really cannot picture that one at all. Nor would I pick Patrick Stewart. And that covers the big-name British actors at work in Hollywood today. The other choice, Sir Anthony Hopkins, is just too old for the role, and I really cannot picture him as the Doctor.

Television Doctors:

  1. Stephen Fry. If Doctor Who ever returns to television (at least, within the next five years), I would want Stephen Fry as our favorite Time Lord from Gallifrey. I can’t put my finger on exactly what qualifies Stephen Fry to be the Doctor in my mind. Some of it comes from watching Jeeves & Wooster. Some of it comes from watching the Oscar Wilde biopic he did a few years back. Some of it’s just a gut feeling. He also wouldn’t do bad as a film Doctor, either, but I don’t think Fry would have any real star power to draw the film.
  2. John Thaw. Okay, another pick out of left field. And another old actor. First, I don’t picture him doing the Doctor as Inspector Morse. Put that out of your mind. What sold me on the idea of John Thaw was a film Masterpiece Theatre showed a couple of years ago starring him as an old man that befriended a young boy during World War II. Seemed pretty Doctorish to me.
  3. Alexander Siddig. Not a likely choice; he’s pretty much given up acting to focus on a film directing career. However, I think the character shadings he gave Julian Bashir show the qualities the Doctor needs: a sympathetic know-it-all. It was his idea to have Bashir be thoroughly unlikable in the first two seasons, and I think it’s a credit to his skills as an actor that he was able to bring Bashir around from a total asshole to being a character you could like without reservation. In a way, that’s something the Doctor really needs at this point, to be a character the audience can see as heroic, but also a character they’re not entirely sure of. In other words, what Andrew Cartmel tried to do during McCoy’s era.

That about covers the possibilities that I can think of. I keep hearing Sean Bean’s name tossed around, and I’m on the fence there. He does Sharpe pretty damn well, and I honestly want to see him take a crack at James Bond when Pierce Brosnan retires from the role, but I can’t see the Doctor in him. Maybe it’s there and I’ve missed it.

On a Force of Nature

James Tiberius Kirk.

Kirk’s life had a purpose. Kirk’s life had a drive. Kirk was not just a man, he was a force of nature. He dared gods to strike him down, and walked away to tell the tale. Dying on Veridian III was an ending so mundane that I was insulted because the death felt so pointless. So unworthy of him.

On the Young Sherlock Holmes

You might have heard — Granada Television is about to revive Sherlock Holmes for British television, rolling the clock back and looking at Holmes and Watson in the early years of their partnership. A Holmes mailing list I subscribe to has been filled with messages the past few days bemoaning this, saying on one hand that it’s a disgrace to Jeremy Brett’s memory, saying on the other that Holmes was never young. While I can understand all too well both impulses, I think that adhering to them too slavishly does a disservice to both Holmes as a character and to Brett as a person.

There’s a line in a recent Doctor Who novel (Father Time, it was) where one of the characters looks at the Doctor and realizes that she can’t picture him as a child or being young, that the Doctor was always an adult. In a sense, that’s how it is with Holmes, too, since when we meet Holmes for the first time he’s already been in practice as a consulting detective for a few years, and matters progress from there. But Holmes must have come from somewhere, things must have happened to make Holmes the person that he is. Which is some of what Young Sherlock Holmes gave us.

Starting with the beginning of the Holmes/Watson partnership isn’t a bad idea. Hell, Doyle did that himself. And consider, Holmes himself was less than thirty when he met Watson. Brett might well be Holmes in his prime and his later years, but there’s the whole beginning part of the partnership that can be used and exploited.

And Brett was a great Holmes. That doesn’t mean that others shouldn’t attempt the role. Okay, maybe not Matt Frewer (though I admit, I haven’t seen either of his films, so I shouldn’t really complain about them).

Of course, I think I might have come up with a great choice for a retired Holmes. Hell, he almost looks the part now. Think Peter Davison as a retired Holmes.

On Star Trek Series 5 Rumors

There is a rumor that the next Star Trek series will be about the 29th century timefleet. This rumor hasn’t gotten much airplay at all, but it’s out there, and some sources suggest that the “Birth of the Federation” rumor exists as disinformation to cover the timefleet scenario.

My one complaint with the timefleet scenario is that it’s Doctor Who, just under a different name. Travelling through time and space, righting wrongs, etc.

Of course, I had the crazy idea once that perhaps Paramount should enter into a co-production agreement with the BBC for Doctor Who, and then spin a new Doctor Who series out of Star Trek. Start it with the Doctor visiting Deep Space Nine, then taking on a Starfleet officer as the companion character, then kicking out of the Trek universe after the pilot.

Fortunately, nothing this insane will ever happen. :)