Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hitting the Campaign Trail

campaignShe’s at it again.  Rachel Harrie at Rach Writes the Third Annual Writer’s Platform Building Campaign.  Signup is through the end of the month.  What’s a Third Annual Writer’s Platform Building Campaign, you ask?  Remember the Crusaders?  No, not those.  More recent.  Anyway, it’s a way to increase traffic on the web by combining forces with like-minded bloggers.  It’s also a great way to discover new blogs and meet new people.  Who knows, you might even make a friend or seventeen in the process.

This comes at the perfect time for me.  I just went two months without a post.  Hopefully this will get me off my butt and prevent that from happening again.

Anyway, that’s all I have, so here’s a video of a cat doing something.


Monday, August 22, 2011


*WARNING: EXPLICIT NERD CONTENT!  If you've never heard of a tricorder or think Jersey Shore is really good television, you might want to reconsider going forward.  For the rest of you, welcome aboard!

Dan's blog, Stardate 65107.4.  We're all nerded up here at SM for Ellie Garratt's Star Trek as We Know It Blogfest.  Rules are, gush about Trek: movies, TV, old, new, whatever.  It's all fair game.  While you're at it, make a list of your five best Star Trek episodes and five best Star Trek characters.  Mine are down below if you want to skip the gushing.

I've been a fan almost as long as I can remember.  I remember seeing The Motion Picture around when it first came out, but it was Wrath of Khan that really drew me in.  I lived off the movies and reruns until high school when they announced a brand new Star Trek series.  Talk about a nerd depth charge, or rather a nerd dog whistle: drove us geeks crazy while going unnoticed by anyone else.

Of course, "Encounter at Farpoint" sucked, as did most of the first two seasons.  But as we all know, not only did it get better, it eventually became the Gold Standard of Trek.  Deep Space Nine came next and told stories Next Generation never could.  The franchise continued with more shows and more movies, but it peaked in the mid-nineties, I think.  The franchise will continue with the new movie versions, but whatever made Star Trek Star Trek is probably gone forever.

But then again, as long as nerds are there to irritate "normal" people, to tell their co-workers to "make it so," to remember important events by their stardate, to impress would-be love interests with their fluency in Klingon, as long as they are there (and trust me, we're not going anywhere), then my friends, there will be, and ever shall be, Star Trek.

Enough gushing.  Here are the lists, starting with the episodes...

The honorable mentions:
20. Tapestry - TNG
19. The Galileo Seven - TOS
18. Chain of Command - TNG
17. Blink of an Eye - VOY
16. The Trouble with Tribbles - TOS
15. The Best of Both Worlds - TNG
14. Children of Time - DS9
13. Trials and Tribble-ations - DS9
12. Year of Hell - VOY
11. The Menagerie - TOS
10. His Way - DS9
  9. The Inner Light - TNG
  8. In Purgatory's Shadow/By Inferno's Light - DS9
  7. The Wound - TNG
And now the top six...(WITH SPOILERS)

5. (Tie)  "This Side of Paradise" - TOS
Synopsis - The crew discover what should be a desolated human colony, but not only are the inhabitants not dead, they're in perfect health and abnormally happy.  Turns out it's the plants, and one by one the crew succumbs, abandoning the Enterprise.  Will even the emotionless Mr. Spock give in to unqualified bliss?*
Why it's here - He hangs from a tree, he makes out with a hot blonde, he beats up Kirk.  This is your science officer; this is your science officer on drugs. Any questions? There is one reason this episode is here: Leonard Nimoy.  In what could have been a campfest on par with "Spock's Brain", Nimoy transcends the somewhat obvious material - an allegory about wasting one's life on chemical happiness - and turns it into a study of what is lost living a life constantly in emotional check.  We almost root for Spock to stay on the planet because he's earned any kind of happiness, even the empty kind, and also we know that can never happen.  One of the saddest lines in all Star Trek is when Spock reflects on his time on the planet and says, "I was happy."  And did I mention he beats up Kirk?
5. (Tie)  “Darmok”TNG
Synopsis - Captain Picard is beamed against his will to a planet’s surface presumably to face off against an alien whose race’s language is completely incomprehensible even with the Universal Translator.
Why it’s here – This story is essentially a love letter to not only the power of myth but the powerful beauty of language itself.  Unraveling the allegorical language of the Children of Tamok alongside Picard is great fun, and Paul Winfield is brilliant as Captain Damon.  Oh, and if that weren’t enough, how about a young Ashley Judd looking…um…perky in her Starfleet uniform?
 4. "The City on the Edge of Forever" - TOS
 Synopsis - After accidentally injecting himself with a medication, Dr. McCoy goes berserk and leaps through a time portal, inadvertently altering history.  Kirk and Spock follow him back and realize McCoy's action involve a social worker named Edith Keeler.  But did he kill her, or save her?  And what must Kirk do to set things right?
Why it's here - Kirk was never the thinking man's hero; he was a man of action.  Why negotiate a treaty when you can break someone's clavicle?  In this original but oft-imitated story penned by the great Harlan Ellison, the man of action must do the one thing he normally can't: nothing.  For the sake of history he watches as the woman he's fallen for dies in a traffic accident.  I've never been much of a Kirk fan, but he's always at his most sympathetic when he's helpless, and never has that helplessness been so heart-wrenching.
3. “The Visitor” – DS9

Synopsis  Jake Sisko spends the rest of his life (literally) agonizing over his father’s death.  But is Ben Sisko really dead?  And can an elderly Jake prevent something that happened decades earlier?
Why it's here - Science fiction is at its best when it's not about science at all.  Sure, this episode is triggered by a subspace thingamajig, but does anyone really care about that?  This episode is about a son who can't let go after the death of his father, and a father's heartbreak at what pain and loss has cost his son. Tony Todd is a revelation as older Jake, and the bookends scenes with Jake and the young girl are just as compelling as the flashback scenes: "Oh, that's right; you want to be a writer someday."  Although only three on my list, this is the episode I use to show non-Trek fans just how good Star Trek can be.
2. “All Good Things…”TNG
Synopsis – In TNG’s series finale, Picard finds himself moving back and forth through time.  He soon finds out the shifts are not only not random, but could ultimately lead to the end of the human race.
Why it’s here -  Despite one of the most glaring plot flaws in the history of, well, anything, this is arguably the best series finale I've ever seen.  "All Good Things..." is essentially a thank you note to the fans, particularly the ones who had been there since the beginning.  Like seasoned travel guides, Stewart and director Winrich Kolbe deftly take us from one time to the next, never letting us get lost along the way.  Not only do we get to revisit moments from "Encounter at Farpoint,"** we also get a glimpse at a possible future, one in which things hadn't quite worked out for everyone. When they all gather for the card game at the end, we know everything's going to work out.  It's a fitting end to a terrific series.  When Q says, "Goodbye, Jean-Luc.  I'm going to miss you... But then again, all good things must come to an end," he's speaking for all of us.
 1. "In The Pale Moonlight" - DS9
 Synopsis - After posting his fourteenth casualty list, Captain Sisko turns to Garak to help him bring the Romulans into the war against the Dominion.  What begins as simple espionage draws Sisko down a slippery slope of deception, coercion, and worse as he must decide if he's willing to do whatever it takes to win the war.
 Why it's Here - This is what DS9 is all about, and what made it the best of the Treks.  DS9's mission is not to seek out new life and new civilizations; it's to boldly stay put and keep those civilizations from killing each other.  This episode deals with the complex realities of war and the terrible toll it takes, not on the battlefield but on one's soul.  Sisko is a good man who does bad because he has no choice.  He's willing to sacrifice his self respect and inner peace for a shot at saving billions of lives.  This episode is a tight, fast-paced political thriller with great acting by Avery Brooks as well as Stephen McHattie as the smug Romulan Senator Vreenak ("It's a FAAAKE!!!") and Andrew Robinson as Garak, the secret mastermind behind Sisko's plan.  Also, the bookend storytelling style (Sisko recalling the events into a personal log) which can often be intrusive, carries the story well and showcases the weight Sisko now must carry forever.  "I can live with it..."

         And my favorite characters...
  1. Dr. Julian Bashir
  1. Rom
  1. Khan Noonian Singh
  1. Commander Worf
  1. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott
  1. Commander William Riker
  1. Gul Dukat
  1. Ensign Ro Laren
  1. Kira Nirys
  1. Quark
  1. Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy
  1. Q
  1. Lt. Commander Data
  1. Captain Benjamin Sisko
  1. Elim Garak
  1. Odo
    The comparisons between Data and Spock have been numerous over the years, and for good reason, but the character that's truly taken up Spock's mantle is Odo.  He's out of place, swimming with emotional turbulence, but keeping it in check  out of his overpowering sense of duty.  He wants what he wants, but  he rarely pursues it, instead watching others enjoy their happiness while drowning his sorrows in security logs.  Eventually he does get the girl, in one of the most surprisingly awesome episodes ever.  "You're right, who needs dinner?"

  1. Emergency Medical Hologram (The Doctor***)
    He doesn't have the well-roundedness of Picard or the emotional turmoil of Odo or the iconic status of Spock; the EMH is here because he's a pure joy to watch.  Since his first scene in "The Caretaker" when he gets huffy at Ensign Kim for handing him a regular tricorder instead of a medical, he stole that series.   Despite the inherent logic flaws involved with a self-aware hologram, there's never a moment that doesn't seem real, and Robert Picardo's nuanced performance carries us through even the goofiest moments, like losing his arm fighting a holographic Grendel.  Combine the best parts of Data and Dr. McCoy, add a healthy dose of curmudgeon, and you have one of the most original and delightful characters Star Trek has ever produced.

  1.  Chief Miles O'Brien 
    Chief O'Brien also wins my Star Trek Character Special Achievement Award.****  Do you remember "Encounter at Farpoint"?  I know you've tried hard to forget that episode, as have I, but remember the helmsman when they separated the saucer section?  That's O'Brien, though they hadn't given the character a name.  That was as throwaway a role as you can get - he even had a red shirt - yet O'Brien came back, little by little, an "energizing now, Sir" here, an "I can't get a lock on him" there, until he became a fully fleshed out human being, one of TNG's few recurring characters.  There's nothing flashy about him; he's a regular working stiff with a family trying to get by like the rest of us.  And that's his appeal.  It's like someone snatched the local mechanic out of O'Leary's Pub and dropped him onto a space station.  One of the best moments in Star Trek is in "The Wounded" when O'Brien has to talk down his former captain and the two of them sing "The Minstrel Boy" in memory of the fallen comrades.

  1.  Captain Jean-Luc Picard
    This is really more of an acting accolade than anything else.  Without Patrick Stewart's brilliantly nuanced performance in what could have been nothing more than a wet sock/stuffed shirt role, Captain Picard might not have made it of that Borg Cube in Season Three.  Instead, he became the symbol of cool presence under pressure.  Very rarely rarely did we see Picard flustered, even when we did, he never lost control.  He was a Renaissance man in a Renaisance time: a military man, an architect, a diplomat.  The creators clearly wanted an anti-Kirk, and what they got ended up being so much more.  We also got to see his dark side in episodes like "I, Borg" and First Contact.  He nearly sacrificed everything feeding his obsession with the Borg.  Picard was an icon, a role model, a giant among men.  But he was by no means perfect, which is good.  Perfect is boring.

  1.  Spock 
    Really who else could it be?  If I were to make a list of best TV characters period, Spock would have shot at number one.  Here it's no contest.  Spock is who drew me into Star Trek.  I wanted to be Spock.  While Kirk was out having pissing contests with half the galaxy, Spock's reserved wisdom and cool yet somewhat sorrowful introspection made the show and set a template for other iconic Trek characters.  We wouldn't have Data or Odo without Spock.  Hell, without Spock, we wouldn't have Star Trek.

 * Um...yeah.
** And it didn't suck this time!
*** No, not that one.