Tuesday, August 30, 2011

checking out

I am tearing through the checkout women at my local grocery.
No, that doesn't have the same meaning it might for other men.
I've been serial flirting.
So far nothing has come of it, except perhaps amusement (or annoyance) for some. Why these fruitless flirtations? There are moments when it feels like a lack of nerve on my part, but it's more about not being a romantic predator, even when i'm dying of loneliness and desire. In my core, i can't shake my obsession with honesty, my need to nurture and shepherd, or my intuitive understandings of what a given person does or doesn't need.
I teeter on the brink, though...
There was L, a black woman who straightened, yet i was attracted. We had a friendly almost-flirtation. Finally, i wrote her a little note about how she made my heart jump when she looked at me through the store window one day. But i soon got the vibe that she was seeing someone and wanted no part of me.
There was M. For at least a couple months, i almost always went through her line. The attraction was less than "shazam", but she seemed like she might be a peaceful lover, with the drama-diminished aspect of a woman who has passed forty. Once i told her she looked beautiful, and she seemed happily surprised. Once she joked about how often i needed groceries. But it never quite felt right to make that next move. The closest i came was when i offered to loan her a book we'd talked about. She declined, and i moved on...
There was N. I had intensely sexual fantasies about her for a month or so. I gave her my card, with some words about "if you ever need a friend". Once when i was going through someone else's line, she suddenly appeared and gave me an intense smile that bored right into me. But we fizzled, perhaps because i began to sense that i wasn't what she needed...i overheard her say something religious, and started to suspect that her romantic energy was too Cinderella. She's been distinctly cold to me since i started frequenting other lines.
There was O. More than any, she intiated our contact, showing me pictures of her puppy when she saw me buying dog food. Very nice. But i couldn't get past the makeup and tubbiness...or was my intuition just protecting both me and her?
And now there's P, whom i feel stronger about than anyone in a long time. I'm not sure whether the element of strangeness in what i feel for her is just uncertainty about her age. When we met, i thought she might be too young to work there. But over time, her energy has drawn me closer and closer, and i suspect that she's very intelligent. I have fantasies that swirl into irrationality, not just of being the most intense lovers that either of us has ever had (a thousand penetrations of a thousand movements each...), but of living together and impregnations and being mindless, just laughing and loving. I create conversations with her (and edit and re-edit) in my mind. I even felt a stab of pain when i saw some jarhead-looking fellow ask the store manager about someone...i was horrified that it might be her, and that i should have moved sooner, to protect her from someone who would have no clue how to love her. I've gone to the store for five straight days and not seen her. The last time we saw each other, i finally knew for sure that she thinks about me like i think about her - a new line opened up, pulling me out of hers, and the look she gave me was so pointed and warm and naked. I vowed right then to open up to her the next time we met. I now have anxieties that i'll never see her again, never get the chance to speak these words...
ME: May i ask you a stupid question?
HER: Sure.
ME: How old are you?
HER: (something clever)
ME: I promise, that's the last stupid question i'll ever ask you.
The first draft of this article ended on that upbeat note.
Somehow, it felt both true and a copout. My hopefulness with P is in substance no different from the hopes we all feel. We persist in these hopes, even when the world shatters them over and over and over. We still dream of that lover or lovers...longing for an intimacy we will never know.
Those hopes are in the most sacred parts of our being, but they have no real place in this world.
They don't.
I'm sorry.
Perhaps one day, humanity will step beyond the fears that chain us to misery.
I'm not a negative person. Even when this world crucifes my most sacred places, a tiny bloodied voice in me refuses to let hope die.
But our hopes of love have no place in this world. Genuine love or self-love are so alien to us, that were we to suddenly be blessed with such feelings, we would literally go into shock.
My current demon is the awareness of how my life keeps pulling me further and further from being someone the average person could even begin to understand. Is my hope that P is someone who could love me, really more than a projection of loneliness? For i come to a place in my life where romantic possibility has a hard time existing without the companion thought, "How can i explain to anyone, that which it's taken a lifetime to understand?"
Perhaps you have the smallest glimmer of understanding these words.
Perhaps your hopes too, will not die.
Perhaps one day...

(Postscript: i returned to the store every day for two weeks. I never saw her again.)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Enterprise"

STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE
2001-2005

The fifth series in the franchise, and most troubled since the classic. Though four seasons would be a nice run by most standards, its cancellation was seen as a failure. Yes, it was often stuck in "good, not great" mode, but its best stands with anything TREK produced. I'm sorry it didn't last longer, because i would have loved to see hoshi, travis, and phlox get more stories, and would have really loved seeing the archer/t'pol romance in full flower. But let's not bemoan, let's celebrate. It ran as long as the new GALACTICA. It ran as long as the original GALACTICA and TREK - combined! And at some point, it became my second-favorite TREK.
SERIES EPISODE AVERAGE: 3.0
BY SEASON:
1) 3.0
2) 2.9
3) 3.0
4) 2.9
FOUR-STAR EPISODES (season)
Broken Bow (1)
Unexpected (1)
Two Days and Two Nights (1)
Minefield (2)
Similitude (3)
Twilight (3)
Borderland (4)
In a Mirror, Darkly (4)
PERFORMANCES (# of episodes)
scott bakula (jonathan archer, 98) ****
Everything you could ever want in a captain.
BAKULATHON
-Civilization
-Damage
-Home
-Kir'Shara
-Twilight
jolene blalock (t'pol, 98) ***
For a relatively inexperienced actor, she held her own, and that's no small feat. T'pol's weaknesses were more the result of the writing and directing, and this speaks to ENTERPRISE's treatment of vulcans in general. Most of them were embarrassingly emotional. From t'pol (even before the trellium addiction) to soval on down, they were catty and bitchy. They had been embracing logic for a couple thousand years, yet most of them are less dispassionate than me, for corn's sake. I do not buy the berman/braga argument that these vulcans are at a less advanced stage of development. Yes, such an era would have existed, but it would have been a thousand years earlier, at least. It's an unnecessary contrivance to try to impose that reality on this time period - there are still so many things that good writers could explore concerning the subtleties of a logic-based culture. ENTERPRISE also sometimes forgets that vulcans are physically stronger than humans. But i quibble - even in the face of oft-questionable writing, jolene made us care.
T'POLATHON
-Shadows of P'Jem
-Fallen Hero
-Singularity
-Carpenter Street
connor trineer (trip, 98) ***
Connor did excellent work, but was saddled with a t'pol romance that never felt right. He had more spark with that red alien, with that kickass MACO, with that snooty chef...
TRIPATHON
-Unexpected
-Cogenitor
-Precious Cargo
-Similitude
dominic keating (reed, 96) ***
Malcolm's shortcomings had to do with what the writers didn't give him, not dominic's top-notch acting.
REEDATHON
-Silent Enemy
-Shuttlepod One
-Harbinger
-highlights from "Cogenitor"
-Minefield
linda park (hoshi, 96) ****
Sigh.
HOSHITHON
-Fight or Flight
-Vanishing Point
-Exile
-In a Mirror Darkly II
anthony montgomery (travis, 95) ****
Underused but lovely. Why didn't he and hoshi...
TRAVISTHON
-Breaking the Ice
-Detained
-Horizon
-Demons
john billingsley (dr. phlox, 93) ****
Absolutely delightful. Phloxtime never disappointed.
PHLOXATHON
-Dear Doctor
-A Night in Sickbay
-the pon farr scene from "Bounty"
-The Breach
-Doctor's Orders
vaughn armstrong (admiral forrest, 14) ***
Plus 3 other ENTs, "Heart of Glory" TNG, 3 DEEP SPACE NINEs, and 5 VOYAGERS. Impeccable.
gary graham (ambassador soval, 12) ***
Plus "Cold Fire" VOY. Nice presence, and he was dandy in ALIEN NATION.
jeffrey combs (shran, 10) ***
Plus "Acquisition", 32 DS9s, and "Tsunkatse" VOY. As he logs his third TREK recurring character (two more than any other actor?), i'd take a ship full of jeffreys into acting anytime.
COMBSATHON
-Treachery, Faith, and the Great River DS9
-The Andorian Incident
-The Aenar
-Acquisition
randy oglesby (degra, 10) ***
Plus "Unexpected", "Loud as a Whisper" TNG, 2 DS9s, and "Counterpoint" VOY. Lovely resonance.
rick worthy (jannar, 10) ***
Plus INSURRECTION, "Soldiers of the Empire" DS9, and 2 VOYAGERs. Smooth as mother's milk.
tucker smallwood (xindi councilor, 9) ***
Plus "In the Flesh" VOY. I just like saying "tucker smallwood".
scott macdonald (dolim, 8) ***
Plus "Face of the Enemy" TNG, "Caretaker" VOY, and 2 DS9s. Nasty sumbitch.
matt winston (daniels, 6) **
The temporal cold war never popped. His fault (kidding).
steven culp (major hayes, 5) ****
Woo-woo! Bravo. Go watch him in WEST WING.
john fleck (silik, 5) **
Plus "The Mind's Eye" TNG, 3 DS9s, and "Alice" VOY. The suliban never popped. Not his fault.
eric pierpoint (harris, 4) *
Plus "Rogue Planet", "Liaisons" TNG, "For the Uniform" DS9, and "Barge of the Dead" VOY. Somebody had to get one star. Am i that cruel? Of course, he too was dandy in ALIEN NATION.
kellie waymire (cutler, 3) ****
Plus "Muse" VOY. It is criminal that we never saw the flowering of the phlox/cutler romance.
ada maris (captain hernandez, 3) ****
How cool would it have been to have a whole season of archer romantically involved with both hernandez and t'pol? Or all three together? Am i the only one who sees the logic?
LEFTOVERTHON
-Broken Bow
-Future Tense
-The Expanse
-The Xindi
RELEFTOVERTHON
-Rogue Planet
-Desert Crossing
-Strategem
-Shockwave
ENTERTHON
-Unexpected
-Similitude
-Twilight
-In a Mirror, Darkly

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Warren Stevens

WARREN ALBERT STEVENS
Born: 1919
Died: nope
Today we salute one of the loveliest links in the history of movie/TV sci fi, American actor Warren Stevens. After serving as a pilot in WWII (something he had in common with future co-star James Doohan), his friend Gregory Peck helped him get started in the theater. A career on the boards led to 160 movie/TV credits between 1948 and 2007. Guest spots on GUNSMOKE, OUTER LIMITS, I SPY, THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, BONANZA, MOD SQUAD, ADAM: 12, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, IRONSIDE, M*A*S*H, POLICE WOMAN, WONDER WOMAN, QUINCY, TWILIGHT ZONE '86, ER, plus roles in THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA and STROKER ACE, solidified his bona fides in the "that guy" club. But today, we salute four roles that make him a should-be immortal in the sci fi universe. The Warren Stevens marathon. Watch it, and send the man a thank you.
1956: He stars as Doc in FORBIDDEN PLANET, the film where modern science fiction began.
1962: He stars in "Dead Man's Shoes" on THE TWILIGHT ZONE, playing a homeless man who takes the shoes of a dead gangster and steps into his life.
1966: He stars in "One Way to the Moon" on THE TIME TUNNEL, playing the ship's medic on the imperiled first humanned mission to Mars. His character's name? Doc.
1968: He stars in "By Any Other Name" on STAR TREK, giving an indelible performance as Rojan, commander of an alien crew that commandeers Enterprise for a trip to another galaxy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Enterprise, season 4

FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 2
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 2.9
-Storm Front 1&2 ***
Enterprise and archer have been transported to a WWII they don't recognize, with America invaded and aliens in league with the nazis. A dying daniels from a destroyed future tells them they must set everything aright. Archer develops a touching friendship with a resistance fighter (golden brooks - GIRLFRIENDS, TIMECODE).
-Home ***
On Earth, archer climbs mountains to get away from being idolized or second-guessed. He is haunted by the choices he made fighting the xindi. Erica hernandez (ada maris - ABOUT LAST NIGHT..., NURSES), an ex-flame and soon-to-be captain of the second warp-5 ship, follows. They share some touching moments. Phlox finds Earth has become xenophobic. T'pol takes trip on a trip to Vulcan, where they meet her disapproving mother (joanna cassidy - BLADE RUNNER, DON'T TELL MOM THE BABYSITTER'S DEAD).
-Borderland ****
-written by ken lazebnik
-directed by david livingston
A bit all over the place, because it's the expository spark for a multi-episode arc. But tumbling brilliance on this level cannot be ignored. It starts with a klingon bird of prey (captained by j.g. hertzler - INALIENABLE, ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL) rescuing two unimpressive-looking humans who proceed to overwhelm every klingon with ease. On Earth, archer visits imprisoned genius arik soong (brent spiner - THE NEXT GENERATION, NIGHT COURT), a geneticist whose augmented humans commandeered the klingon ship. Enterprise pursues. They get hijacked by orions, who capture t'pol for the slave market. Soong aids in a rescue, but his augment "children" free him. Phew.
-Cold Station 12 ***
The augments go after biological weapons on a high-security Federation station. One of phlox's friends (richard riehle - GLORY, FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS) is the station administrator. Enterprise comes after them, with the help of a shunned augment whose DNA manipulations didn't take.
-The Augments ***
The augments are loose in a bird of prey with bio-weapons. They usurp soong's authority. Alec newman (DUNE, CHILDREN OF DUNE) is chilling as malik, and abby brammell (THE UNIT, SIX FEET UNDER) is unforgettable as the loyal persis. The climax of spiner's delightful three-episode arc.
-The Forge ***
Admiral forrest is killed in a bombing on Vulcan, and the High Command blames a fringe group of reformers, which t'pol's mother has joined. Archer and t'pol cross the desert to find them, and meet syrran (michael nouri - FLASHDANCE, LOVELY & AMAZING), who carries surak's katra. Mortally wounded, he transfers the katra to archer.
-Awakening ***
Ambassador soval uses a mindmeld on a comatose clerk to discover that the High Command ordered the embassy bombing, to provoke a war with Andoria. T'pol and archer find her mother with the syrannites. T'pau, their new leader (kara zediker - ROCK STAR, 24), tries to take surak's katra, but fails. Soval is dismissed, as the High Command prepares to carpet bomb the pacifists.
-Kir'Shara ***
Enterprise puts itself between the vulcan and andorian fleets, while archer and t'pau try to get a relic containing surak's writings to the High Command. Minister kuvak (john rubenstein - THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, 21 GRAMS) impeaches the war-hungry v'las. A lovely ending to the vulcan arc.
-Daedalus **
An eminent scientist comes aboard to (ostensibly) do sub-quantum teleportation tests.
-Observer Effect **
Non-corporeal aliens inhabit the bodies of crew members, to study humanity. It's sweet that they do an organian episode, but a whiff of toxic conceit seeps from this one's pores. This episode recycles an idea that occasionally popped up in most, if not all, TREK series, the notion that humanity has some kind of indefinable X factor, some inherent "neat-o-ness" that sets us apart from, well, everyone else. Is this subconscious religious doctrine seeping through the pen of the less sharp writers? One of religion's insidious notions is that humans are more worthy or special than other life forms. It's embarrassing that resonances of this conceit crept into TREK.
-Babel 1 ***
Escorting tellarite peace delegates, Enterprise picks up andorians who swear they were attacked by tellarites. Then they're attacked by an andorian ship. The romulans are behind it all.
-United ***
Archer tries to prove that the peace-imperiling attacks are neither tellarite nor andorian, and establishes a tenuous truce.
-The Aenar **
Enterprise discovers the morphing marauder is telepathically piloted by an andorian subspecies. Archer and shran go to Andoria to investigate. A poignant turn by alicia adams (no other credits) as an aenar searching for her doomed brother. She and shran develop a touching connection.
-Affliction **
Phlox is kidnapped by klingons, and forced to search for a cure to a genocidal virus. The smooth-foreheaded classic klingons are finally explained. A lovely turn by john schuck (ROOTS, PROJECT: ALF) as a klingon doctor.
-Divergence ***
A sabotaged Enterprise must keep increasing speed or blow up. Trip, stationed aboard the newly-launched Columbia, must transfer over at warp 5 without a transporter. How they achieve it is one of the most visually exciting sequences in TREK history. The wonderful captain hernandez is back. And TRUE BLOOD fans, if you've never imagined pam (kristin bauer, DANCING AT THE BLUE IGUANA) as a klingon, you should.
-Bound ***
The most orion-heavy episode ever, featuring william lucking (STRIPES, SONS OF ANARCHY) as an orion captain who gives Enterprise three slave women as a peace offering. But they're a trojan horse sent to stupify the male crewmembers with pheremones. Navaar (cyia batten - BUBBLE BOY, RED SHOE DIARIES 17) has wonderful chemistry with archer, and it's a lovely moment when he chooses fucking over duty. But the denouement lacks inventiveness, as both sides get out of jams too easily, plus the fascinating reveal that Orion is a female-dominated society should have been given to cyia, in a moment of carnal dominance. T'pol, hoshi, and cutler should have saved the day, too. Flawed but fantastic.
-In a Mirror, Darkly 1&2 ****
-written by michael sussman
-directed by james l. conway, marvin v. rush
Any discussion of the all-time best TREK is incomplete without this. The events happen in the mirror universe established in the classic series. Earth rules a xenophobic empire of conquest, which is about to be defeated by rebel forces. Archer, first officer of the Enterprise, leads a mutiny against captain forrest (16 episodes by vaughn armstrong - THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT, TRIUMPHS OF A MAN CALLED HORSE), and takes the ship into tholian territory, where he commandeers the constitution-class Defiant, which has been pulled from our universe's future. After killing a gorn(!), he takes the ship back to install himself as emperor. He also takes the "captain's woman", hoshi. Majel's computer voice feels like home. Travis is diabolical as a redshirt. Hoshi and t'pol have a knife fight. The title music and opening credits are nasty and unforgettable. Evil, sexy, dark...and guess who comes out on top?
DARKLYTHON
The Tholian Web TOS
Mirror, Mirror TOS
In a Mirror, Darkly
-Demons **
(see the following)
-Terra Prime ***
There are some beautiful farewell touches, in this product of a cancelled series. A pre-Federation summit on Earth is sabotaged by a xenophobic movement led by john paxton (the redoubtable peter weller- ROBOCOP, NAKED LUNCH). Harry groener (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, THE WEST WING) is lovely as minister samuels. Travis finally gets laid (it only took four years), as he's pursued by a reporter with secrets (johanna watts - THE FALLS, MUTANT VAMPIRE ZOMBIES FROM THE 'HOOD!). Trip's last scene with t'pol is so tender that we forgive their romance. Well, almost.
-These Are the Voyages... ***
Very sweet...a holodeck flashback of the NX-01's final mission, that will riker (frakes!) runs aboard Enterprise-D. Joining him is deanna (sirtis!). Plus data's voice (spiner!). Trip dies (as penance for his romance with t'pol - my interpretation). As the Federation is born, one of the final images we see is archer and t'pol hugging. Yay.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

celebrities who get it

-CAMERON DIAZ, on marriage: "I don't think we should live our lives in relationships based off old traditions that don't suit our world any longer."
-KATE WINSLET, EMMA THOMPSON, and RACHEL WEISZ have jokingly formed the "British Anti-Cosmetic Surgery League", earnestly averring to never be mutilated for vanity.
-REESE WITHERSPOON: "I think you just have to accept that we're all big goobers. I think that's what brings peace in life, realizing sooner rather than later that we're all just big goobs!"

What, you thought there'd be more? Be amazed there are this many.

Friday, August 19, 2011

2011CE

An omniscient being with a magic abacus wouldn't be one bit surprised that i feel out of sorts at this precise moment of existence. Of the three women on this planet i am most likely to become sexually involved with, one has herpes, one has HIV, and the third, HPV. Someone is reading this 100 years from now, dumbfounded that we had to deal with this. Just another day on Earth, oh future friend.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sirach & Esdras

(The long wait is over! Here are some scrips and scraps to round out the Old Testament. On to the New, and that crazy cat that most christians would ignore if they met in real life. JC of Nazareth, come on down!)

Sirach 15:14
Numerous references in the Bible thus far (Genesis 35:5, Exodus 34:24, Leviticus 26:36-42) give testimony concerning human free will, testimony which has either put such will into question, limited it, or denied it outright. And all of the aforementioned entries must necessarily then conflict with the straightforward testimony of this verse.
Sirach 19:30
A man's character is revealed by what he wears? Really. Pardon me then, whilst i go change my character. Boy, this wisdom is great stuff.
Sirach 34:1-7
These verses raise a question which seems to have no satisfactory answer. How could a human ever possibly be able to rightly discern actual "holy" dreams, from dreams that merely seem holy?
Sirach 42:14
Oh, please.
1 Esdras 5:34
You know, i think I've met some of the sons of Gas. If i ever meet a daughter of Gas, i'll probably love her forever.
1 Esdras 8:92 to 9:36
Seldom have i found such clear support for Russell's observations on how organized religion has contributed to the downfall of the family. Not that that's a bad thing.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Farouk & Tidy Endings

THE TALE OF KING FAROUK
ON TIDY ENDINGS
Theater 53
-fall 2000
I wrote a play for Amanda, Derek, and i, based on a scene from SEXUAL PERVERSITY about King Farouk's habit of re-routing trains to crash through his mistresses' houses while he was making love to them. I turned that into a one-act farcical morality tale about the misuse of power. Derek would play the outrageous Farouk, Amanda would play a bevy of maidens, and i would be Farouk's minister of state and the narrator. For the second act i chose a Harvey Fierstein piece about the aftermath of death. In THE TALE OF KING FAROUK, Derek jaunts about the land, fatally bopping maidens on the head until he meets Amanda's Carly, who outfoxes him and assumes his throne with the assistance of my minister, Lord Potash. Amanda threw wigs on and off to play different maidens (of differing bust sizes) and the exiled Farouk's wife, a woman who knows how to keep her Faroukie in line. On some nights we had a fourth cast member, usually Amanda Farmer, the three year-old sister of an actor in the other one-act. I would hold her in my arms as i delivered the final piece of narration. Sometimes when she wasn't available, i would pick up a child from the audience. Derek was delightfully over-the-top as the cracked king, delivering such lines as "That, my dear, is a choo-choo" with manic gusto. He and his stick horse, Rolfpierre, gaily galloped through the audience. One of Amanda's funnier moments was when she attacks the unconscious Farouk. I fend her off, and she shouts "I'll tear you a new one too, Potash!" I then carry Derek off, as i had carried his maidens earlier, and Amanda gets in one more pop on his head. Stage manager Shane had many fun sound effects, including trains and bopping. Newcomer Donna McDonald, who had co-run a theater in British Columbia, helped with set construction. In the second piece, about a gay man's ex-wife and ex-lover fighting over pieces of a dead man's memory, i reprised the role i had played in college, and cast Sheryl Ruppert, whom i'd met in theater circles but never worked with, as the ex-wife. Her background was in opera. She was wonderful, onstage and off. During auditions, i cried as i read Arthur's lines...but was never again able to cry that easily during the run, needing the onions-in-the-pocket trick to help. I turned Marion's son into a daughter, and double-cast the role. Samantha Farmer, a ten year-old who had been one of the most talented kids from my Bonita summer theater camp, was Jenny #1. Jenny #2 was Tony's thirteen year-old daughter Evelyn. It was her first show, but she did fine, and Tony was so happy. Amanda (P, not F) played Cheryl's lawyer. In only her fifth show, she was coming a long way very quickly. Amanda and Derek worried that audiences mightn't enjoy FAROUK as much as we did, but the reactions were very positive. As for ON TIDY ENDINGS…a lot of people were very moved. Cheryl did an outstanding job, as did Samantha. My experience in college had been so amazing however, that i couldn't help feeling that this one wasn't quite as good...mainly because of me. I had a harder time connecting with the character. In a strange way, i had a harder time feeling the homosexuality. The play's not about sexuality, but…it was almost like i was more heterosexual at 32 than i had been at 21 (or just more sexual), which made it harder to feel the part. Believe me, i found all this a bit distressing, as an actor. Whether a show is good or bad is largely subjective, contingent upon personal responses that often have little to do with the quality of the performances. Similar intangibles apply to why an actor plays a certain part well (or not). Maybe it was just something about this group chemistry that made it tougher for me. Audience members assured me that the show and i had been beautiful, and we were well-received by critics. We didn't create the buzz that SEXUAL PERVERSITY had however, and even had to cancel one performance. But we made our crowds very happy. In the closing moments of TIDY ENDINGS, as Jenny hugs my character for the first time, Supertramp's song "Is It Mine" came up. So sweet. FAROUK was a burst of immense joy, and the first play of mine to ever be produced. That was no small feeling.

Next Generation, season 6

FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 4
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 2.8
-Time's Arrow, pt. 2 ***
The crew arrive in 19th-century San Francisco, to help data and guinan thwart predatory aliens. A very nosy mark twain gets tossed into the 24th century, until he volunteers for a one-way trip that will restore he and picard to their proper times. Wonderful elements of action and comedy, but not quite perfectly assembled...twain's interactions feel a bit two-dimensional. VOYAGER's alexander enberg plays an eager journalist.
-Realm of Fear ***
Investigating a starship disaster, it's discovered that barclay is transporter-phobic. He finally agrees to be transported, then swears he saw something in there with him. As paranoia overwhelms him, he's relieved of duty...but he disobeys orders, and discovers that the being was real - a survivor of the disaster, trapped in the transporter buffer. Another de-wightful TREK.
-Man of the People **
Enterprise escorts an ambassador (charles lucia - ROOTS: THE NEXT GENERATIONS, PEARL) to a critical negotiation. His mother dies, and troi begins acting wanton and disturbed, then aging at a hyper-accelerated rate. The negotiator is an empath who uses his victims as a receptacle for all his negative emotions. Why do so many troi episodes involve her being "invaded"? The writing is simplistic, and the plot holes plentiful. It's deanna's sexiest hour, at least. A disturbing performance by the "mother" (susan french - SOMEWHERE IN TIME, JAWS 2).
-Relics ****
-written by ronald d. moore
-directed by alexander singer
Enterprise is pulled into the gravity well of a dyson sphere. They find a crashed starship, wherein the sole survivor has locked himself inside a recycling transporter buffer for 75 years. And it's...scotty!! Does this one earn its four stars the old-fashioned way? Maybe not quite. But the story really is touching, as scotty struggles to find relevance. The resonance is fantastic, including a picard/scotty scene on a holo-recreation of the old Enterprise. An accident pulls the new Enterprise into the abandoned sphere, and it's up to two chief engineers in an ancient wreck to save them. In 79 episodes and seven feature films, doohan never had such a chance to shine.
-Schisms ***
Riker has nightmare visions, but a disturbing lack of dreams. Crew members realize they're being taken from the ship while asleep, by malignant subspace aliens. It's eerie, but the narrative thrust peters out, as though they decided to not do part 2 of the episode. You can get away with that if the sense of ominousness is pervasive, but some piece of chemistry is missing.
-True Q ***
An Academy-bound prodigy (olivia d'abo - CONAN THE DESTROYER, THE LAST GOOD TIME) interning aboard Enterprise displays super-human powers, prompting a visit from q, who reveals that her parents were q too. Q doesn't mention that he's here to judge and perhaps kill her. She crushes on riker. Olivia's performance is capable and adorable.
-Rascals *
Wow. That's just...wow. Picard, guinan, ro, and keiko get zapped in a shuttle accident, and become child versions of themselves. Ferengi capture the Enterprise, and send all the adults to work in a mine, leaving the "children" to re-take the ship. Picard (david birkin - LES MISERABLES, SYLVIA, who also played jean-luc's nephew in "Family") pretends to be will's son. It almost works, but the female child actors (especially guinan) don't quite nail the grownup acting. Some of that's on the writers - they needed to be extra sharp, and they weren't. This would go well with "Sub Rosa", if both episodes had gone unaired until twenty years later, as a convention "treat" for fans. They're so surreal, it would be a classic Spinal Tap "Is this a joke?" moment.
-A Fistful of Datas *
Red alert! Red alert! Someone's driving NEXT GEN into the ditch...er, i mean, someone's piloting NEXT GEN into a gas giant! An accident occurs while data is interfaced with the ship's computer. Worf and alexander are trapped on the holodeck while running an old west program, which malfunctions and may kill them with different evil incarnations of data. I almost gave this a pass on the strength of the lovely spiner performances (all six of them), but alexander plus forced cutesiness and an end-of-show grin that one shouldn't watch with a weak stomach...
-The Quality of Life **
Have mining outpost robots achieved sentience? Data disobeys orders on behalf of the exocomps...lovely elements that never quite take on three dimensions.
-Chain of Command 1&2 ****
-written by ronald d. moore, frank abetamarco
-directed by robert scheerer, les landau
Picard is replaced by captain jellicoe (ronny cox - DELIVERANCE, COP ROCK), a taskmaster who soon relieves will as well (and makes deanna wear a regulation uniform). Picard goes on an undercover mission and is captured by cardassians. He's tortured by gul madred (david warner - TIME BANDITS, STAR TREK VI). The idea that crusher and picard would be two thirds of a commando team is a stretch, but the stewart/warner/cox triangle towers. Will or deanna probably should have been given a line or two telling jellicoe they understand his overcompensation - as it is, they come off completely unsympathetic. And could the episode have been a shade grittier? Yes - but it's still the darkest NEXT GEN ever.
-Ship in a Bottle ***
The lovely daniel davis (THE PRACTICE, K-9) is back! Barclay unwittingly opens the moriarty holodeck file, and the professor is understandably miffed at the lack of progress on picard's promise of freedom. He fools picard, data, and barclay into thinking that he can now leave the holodeck, and insists that they find a way to give equal freedom to his hololove, the countess bartholomew (stephanie beacham - SEAQUEST 2032, BEVERLY HILLS 90210). They in turn pull the same charade on him, ultimately giving the happy couple a life of exploration in a universe they don't realize is "fake". Charming.
-Aquiel ***
A mystery unravels as geordi investigates a murder on a remote listening station, and falls for the presumed-victim-turned-prime-suspect (renee jones - KNOTS LANDING, L.A. LAW). Was it her missing, abusive superior? Was it the bullying klingon who patrolled the area? In a pleasing twist, the culprit turns out to be a coalescent impersonating said superior, and now her dog. The first non-trainwreck romance for geordi.
-Face of the Enemy **
Deanna wakes up as a surgically-altered romulan intelligence agent aboard a warbird. It turns out to be a resistance plot to get a defecting senator in stasis safely to the Federation. Does anyone have a line on whether marina is out of her depth here? Ah, the vagaries of assessing a performance within a performance. So many nice elements otherwise - a former Federation defector returned to Starfleet to face charges (with a message from spock), a suspicious romulan captain (carolyn seymour - SURVIVORS, QUANTUM LEAP), and a noble performance by troi's resistance captor (scott macdonald - ENTERPRISE, CARNIVALE).
-Tapestry ****
-written by ronald d. moore
-directed by les landau
Picard is grievously wounded, and q walks him through an "afterlife" where he can undo the parts of his life he regrets. In trying to fix the indiscreet behavior of his youth, the fabric of his personality unravels and he finds himself back on the Enterprise, as a middling lieutenant. Stewart and de lancie are never better - plus stout performances by ned vaughn (APOLLO 13, CHINA BEACH) and j.c. brandy (WOLF, HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS) as picard's Academy mates. Seamless - the only criticism i can scrape up is that the romance scenes are anachronistically uptight for the 24th century. But really, just joyously exquisite.
-Birthright 1&2 ***
While Enterprise is at DS9, data has dream visions of his father due to an accident while assisting dr. bashir. A stranger convinces worf that his father has been in a romulan prison for 23 years, and he finds a camp where survivors of Khitomer live in peace with their romulan captors. Their children have never learned what it means to be klingon. Worf has a touching romance with a half-breed (jennifer gatti - DOUBLE EXPOSURE, MOBSTERS), and takes a youth (sterling macer jr. - DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY, DOUBLE TAKE) on his first hunt. Worf restores racism to the village...yet also enables the younger generation to have the full freedom of the galaxy. Fine turns by james cromwell (SPACE COWBOYS, THE ARTIST), alan scarfe (SEVEN DAYS, ANDROMEDA) and richard herd (VOYAGER, SEINFELD).
-Starship Mine **
Jean-luc gets all ramboed up, when he finds himself facing off against impostor spacedock technicians out to pillage the ship when all the crew are planetside, as a lethal baryon sweep makes its way from the aft to the bow. Do NOT get between him and his ship - he gets a crossbow from worf's cabin. He tries to not kill, but the body count stacks up. His first victim is VOYAGER's tim russ. Below, the command crew are held hostage. Is picard unrealistically brutal? The gag of data imitating a pompous commander's small talk is the closest spiner ever comes to not being able to make a script work. Plus a prominent thread of horse-riding...but the 24th century will hopefully not see humans enslaving other species as we do.
-Lessons ***
Jean-luc falls for one of his department heads (wendy hughes - PRINCESS CARABOO, WILD ORCHID 2), and steps past his sense of discipline to romance her. She's an accomplished pianist, and he tells her about learning the ressikan flute, when he lived another life. They make beautiful duets. He almost falls apart when she almost dies on an away mission. Tender and brilliant.
-The Chase ***
Picard's archaeology mentor is killed, after attempting to enlist him in a project of galactic import. Suddenly, four bickering powers are on the professor's trail, trying to solve a mystery embedded four billion years ago in the DNA of twenty different worlds. The first episode to feature klingons, romulans, and cardassians. Captain nu'daq (john cothran - GET SHORTY, BLACK SNAKE MOAN) shines. Plus DS9's salome jens (GREEN LANTERN, MARY HARTMAN, MARY HARTMAN).
-Frame of Mind ***
A good ol'-fashioned psychological thriller...and rather excellent, at that. Riker finds himself in an alien mental hospital, accused of murder. That this falls shy of highest marks is no fault of frakes, who shoulders a towering acting challenge, playing a man slipping in and out of reality, to the Enterprise and back, not knowing which is which. A more unpredictable ending might made this a classic.
-Suspicions **
Crusher puts her career (and life) on the line to prove a colleague's discredited theory. Five eminent scientists (including a vulcan, klingon, and ferengi) are aboard, when beverly is confronted with a failed experiment and two deaths she believes were not accidental. Some fine guinan (in her last regular series appearance), but something's missing...which is perhaps a testament to how much it takes to elevate a crusher episode.
-Rightful Heir ***
Worf is given extended leave, when a crisis of faith begins affecting his work. At a klingon monastery, he beholds a vision of the greatest of all warriors, and it comes to life. Kahless (kevin conway - THE ELEPHANT MAN, GETTYSBURG) is ready to lead the empire out of the petty corruptions into which it's descended. Worf finally finds full devotion, but a suspicious gowron arrives to stir up questions which lead to the uncovering of a clone, and a clerical plot. The pawn is installed as a figurehead emperor, to be a moral beacon for the empire.
-Second Chances ****
-written by rene echevarria
-directed by levar burton
Frakes gives a wonderful dual performance as riker and a duplicate who has been trapped alone on a planet for eight years, as a result of a transporter accident. New riker clashes with the old, and picks up where he left off with deanna. A thoughtful meditation on coming face to face with oneself...one assumes that one would always get along with "you" from another time, but this episode gives that assumption a good shaking. Marina also shines, in some of the best dialogue and character development deanna has yet seen. 
-Timescape ***
Picard does impressions! Returning from a conference in a runabout, geordi, data, jean-luc, and deanna must figure out why the Enterprise has been frozen in time during an encounter with a romulan warbird. They discover aliens who live in a different time frame. It goes from tight and dangerous to something less, as though brannon couldn't figure out how to end it.
-Descent, pt. I ***
During an encounter with the borg, data experiences anger (and pleasure at killing). On the holodeck, he recreates the experience, trying to understand. A borg prisoner who shows individuality and a desire to kill rather than assimilate, influences data into stealing a shuttle. In pursuit, Enterprise discovers a colony - led by lore. One of the greatest teasers ever, as data plays holo-poker with einstein, newton (john neville - THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN, THE FIFTH ELEMENT), and (the real) stephen hawking.

Monday, August 1, 2011

M*A*S*H, season 3

FOUR STAR
-The General Flipped at Dawn
A joy to behold. Every cylinder fires, starting with Hawkeye, who runs afoul of a visiting general, the highly-honored, ultra-strict, and by-the-way loony Bartford Hamilton Steele (Harry Morgan, in TV's greatest "can he join this cast" moment ever). Inspecting the troops, he thinks Klinger is his wife. Steele court-martials Hawkeye, but it falls apart when he breaks into a negro work song. Lynette Mettey is drippingly good as Hawk's romance, Nurse Baker. Teddy Wilson (THAT'S MY MAMA) is spot-on as a chopper pilot. Ain't it great to beat your feet...
-Rainbow Bridge
Loudon Wainwright sings us in...ahhhhhhhh. A Chinese doctor (the effervescent Mako) offers to return some wounded G.I.s as long as the docs come get them, far behind enemy lines. Frank nearly gets everyone killed.
-Officer of the Day
Hawkeye's wit is in high gear, as officer of the day. He'll even hari kari if you show him how. Col. Flagg drops in, with a wounded prisoner he plans to execute. The Flagg character worked best when they balanced his comedic paranoia with real menace.
-O.R.
Death, desperation, and gallows humor. Hawkeye tries open-heart massage, and Sidney is asked to scrub up.
-Check-Up
Trapper gets an unexpected ticket home, in the form of an ulcer (until the army changes its mind). Wayne Rogers' best episode. Watching it, one becomes entirely sympathetic to why he left. Instead of being half of a comedic duo, he'd become an afterthought. Yes, Hawkeye made M*A*S*H, but if this episode is any indication, Wayne could have carried so much more. This episode is also a schizophrenic study in the evolution of American mores. Hawk and Trap reach a place beyond jokes, becoming unabashedly emotional over their imminent separation. In 1974, American men were still taught that emotion wasn't "manly". In terms of changing that, it's fair to say that M*A*S*H was the most influential show in TV history. And yet fascinatingly, there's also a scene between Hawkeye and Margaret that is appalling in terms of putting a happy face on sexual harassment.
-Adam's Ribs
We want something else! After eleven days of liver of fish, Hawkeye throws a mess hall berserk, and begins a quest to obtain Chicago ribs. The only classic episode without Frank and Margaret.
-A Full Rich Day
Chin-lee! A Luxembourger corpse goes missing, an armed soldier (William Watson) insists his buddy be operated on immediately, and a Turkish soldier (Sirri Murad) refuses sedation or surgery so he can go kill more Chinese.
-Bombed
The camp is shelled by friendly fire. Henry and Mulcahy get bombed in the latrine. Trapper and Margaret get trapped and cozy in the supply room. Nurse Sanchez (Louisa Moritz) does a lot of non-English screaming. That perfect classic M*A*S*H feel.
-Bulletin Board
The camp watches Shirley Temple, and holds a picnic with a tug-of-war over a mud pit. The first fight between Klinger and Zale.
-Big Mac
Macarthur's coming, Macarthur's coming! Hawk and Trap keep the irreverant faith while the camp goes into a tizzy when heap big chief is scheduled to inspect them. Radar's MacArthur and Klinger's Statue of Liberty are pure-fection.
-Abyssinia, Henry
The most profound gut punch in the history of television. Henry gets his discharge, and the episode seamlessly builds toward goodbye. As Radar walks into the O.R. at the end and gives the news of Henry's death...the world stops. McLean has looked back and wished that he'd never left the show, and i want to agree. But without this moment, the most memorable in M*A*S*H history, can anyone say for sure that the show would have been the greatest in TV history? One of six episodes directed by series creator Larry Gelbart.
NOTEWORTHY
-Iron Guts Kelly ***
A fun frolic about a decorated general who dies in Margaret's arms, brightened by Keene Curtis (CHEERS, SMURFS) and James Gregory (BARNEY MILLER).
-Springtime ***
Klinger gets married (by radio)! Radar gets slaked! Plus Mary Kay Place (THE BIG CHILL) and Alex Karras (BLAZING SADDLES)!
-Alcoholics Unanimous ***
Father Mulcahy gives a temperance sermon, and Bill Christopher gives his most humorous performance of the series. Acknowledging that Hawk and Trap have a problem was a big step in this country's attitude toward drinking.
-Mad Dogs and Servicemen **
Sub-par writing, but fun for the presence of Michael O'Keefe (CADDYSHACK, THE GREAT SANTINI) and the debut of Rosie (Shizuko Hoshi).
-The Consultant ***
Robert Alda stars as Anthony Borelli, a consultant giving seminars in Tokyo. He visits the unit, and convinces them he should do a risky operation. He can't handle the pressure, and gets drunk, requiring Hawkeye to operate. A touching dynamic as youth is unforgivingly disappointed by age.
-House Arrest ***
Stage/screen legend Mary Wickes (THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER, SIGMUND AND THE SEA MONSTERS) brightens proceedings as a visiting colonel who makes a pass at Frank. Hawkeye is under house arrest for hitting Frank, but the tables turn...and Radar gets lifts, making Hawkeye acknowledge how wrong he'd been for making fun of his height. In an era when making fun of one another was almost the full extent of how American males showed affection for one another, this was a subtle but enormous moment.
-Aid Station ***
Klinger, Hawkeye, and Margaret staff an aid station. Solidly lovely.
-Payday ***
Frank buys Margaret fake pearls, Hawkeye mistakenly gets $3000 extra army pay, and Trap finally wins the big pot. Plus Jack Soo.