Friday, September 30, 2011

"Star Trek: Deep Space Nine"

1993-1999
A sometimes darker TREK...yet it also took us to spiritual places that undermined the classic vision. And that's not merely about dipsy wipsy religiosity (though that would have been sufficient)...in the wraith/prophet plot line, DS9 became about the struggle between "good and evil", as opposed to knowledge vs. ignorance. Once that happened, the show effectively stopped being STAR TREK. As if that weren't bad enough, the writing was occasionally substandard, and the cast chemistry never quite gelled. The visual effects were wonderful, but could have made us feel the enormity of the station better (something that would have helped would have been an episode or three portraying a yearly spacewalk race from the bottom of the station to the top...tell me that worf wouldn't have acquired another trophy or two). No other TREK relied so heavily on recurring characters, a wise reaction to the misfiring in some of the regulars. DS9 without garak, gowron, dukat, martok, weyoun, or leeta? A grim thought indeed. DS9 was also supposedly the "friendship" TREK, but the most-celebrated example (julian/o'brien) wasn't even the best on the show...odo/quark and jake/nog had better resonance. With multiple albatrosses (religion, two marriages, and the ferengi) around its neck, it's amazing that the show flies at all. Speaking of religion, is it a coincidence that the most holy TREK is also the most death-spattered? DS9's most enduring contribution to the zeitgeist is, of course, an african-american captain...yet the original TREK vision was so far-reaching, that many of us who grew up with TREK never even saw sisko's skin at all. If you don't believe me, ask yourself whether you ever watched a worf/sisko scene and thought "nothing but black actors here". I sure didn't. We're a little conflicted that the show's turnaround coincided with a four-season war arc; it feels a little violence-pandering and un-TREKy...though we can't deny the final seasons were better. Did upping the action simply cover up the many flaws? Yeah, probably...although the worf factor is in there as well. And still, in the face of all that, there are gems.
SERIES EPISODE AVERAGE: 2.6
BY SEASON:
1) 2.5
2) 2.6
3) 2.6
4) 2.7
5) 2.6
6) 2.7
7) 2.7
FOUR-STAR EPISODES (season)
-Blood Oath (2)
-Defiant (3)
-Way of the Warrior (4)
-The Visitor (4)
-Sons of Mogh (4)
-Apocalypse Rising (5)
-Trials and Tribbalations (5)
-In Purgatory's Shadow (5)
-By Inferno's Light (5)
-Children of Time (5)
-A Time to Stand (6)
-Rocks and Shoals (6)
-One Little Ship (6)
-Change of Heart (6)
-The Siege of AR-558 (7)
PERFORMANCES (# of episodes)
avery brooks (benjamin sisko, 173) ****
Even saddled with an emissary thread that never popped and a romance that never sizzled, you can't imagine the show working with anyone but him. The only unfortunate aspect of the sisko character is the fact that TREK's first black captain appeared on TREK's most religious-oriented series, thereby (if only subconsciously) reinforcing the unfortunate association of black people with the holy belief system of their former slave masters. But avery himself was perfect. Have they released A MAN CALLED HAWK on dvd yet?
SISKOTHON
-Emissary
-Explorers
-Sacrifice of Angels
-Far Beyond the Stars
nana visitor (kira nerys, 171) **
I understand that filming a series is hard, fast, and unforgiving. But no other TREK regular ever had as many "that wasn't the best acting" moments. The spark between her and sisko in the pilot was intriguing, but never went anywhere. Her simpering religiosity was quease-inducing, and her romances lacked spark.
rene auberjonois (odo, 170) **
Plus UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY, and "Oasis" ENT. Why did odo never pop? They had the right actor - rene could deliver any kind of nuanced performance you might want. He had his moments, but...did the writing let him down? The mystery of ever-elusive chemistry? The too-tight rein they kept on his shifting abilities? The devotion of so much of his storyline to a flaccid romance? He too directed nine episodes.
RENETHON
-Spaced Out WONDER WOMAN
-Shadowplay
-The Other Side STARGATE SG-1
-Oasis ENT
alexander siddig (dr. julian bashir, 169) ***
Plus "Birthright" TNG. He was sadly saddled with a best-friendship that never popped, and a dax-romancing that never perked. His name was more fun as siddig el fadil - it was nice having an arabic presence in the TREK universe. But he's a delight by any moniker. He directed two episodes.
BASHIRATHON
-Melora
-Statistical Probabilities
-Chrysalis
-Dr. Bashir, I Presume?
colm meaney (miles o'brien, 159) ***
Plus 51 NEXT GENs. Who doesn't love a little o'brien? But his albatrosses held him down...his meh friendship with julian, and his pheh home life (and i don't say that just because 24th-century humans will NOT have a marriage institution that resembles our own...).
MILES-O'THON
-The Wounded TNG
-Armageddon Game
-Time's Orphan
-Hard Time
armin shimerman (quark, 157) ***
Plus 4 NEXT GENs, "Caretaker" VOY, and INSURRECTION (sort of). A brilliant performer...you just know he's the kind directors love to work with. It's very possible he was the most crucial actor of the series. With the continued focus DS9 gave the ferengi, and the fact that they were never able to rise above the flaccidity established in TNG...just try to imagine another actor in his place. Forget dorn, HE may have been DS9's MVP. I may be strongly tempted to delete this later, but if you must, here's your...
QUARKATHON
-Move Along Home
-The House of Quark
-Who Mourns for Morn?
-The Ascent
terry farrell (jadzia dax, 146) ***
A fascinating character(s), and not just because she's the only female regular in the TREK universe with a sexual appetite (and willingness to act upon it) to match kirk. The writers were very good to her in all but a couple unfortunate instances, so she usually shone. Is it possible to imagine an actor of greater range? Okay, yeah. But we liked her and worf...and we're pretty hard to please.
JADZIATHON
-Facets
-Playing God
-Meridian
-Rejoined
michael dorn (worf, 98) ****
Plus 5 films and 173 NEXT GENs...the most prolific actor in TREK history, all under makeup in which many wouldn't last a day. Not impressed? Okay, you forced me to me say this...31 episodes of CHiPS! Hail the son of mogh! What effect did worf have on the series? Was their seven-year run in more jeopardy than we knew? Yes kids, the man is sexier than jeri ryan. He directed one ENTERPRISE and three DS9s.
WORFATHON
-The Emissary TNG
-Sins of the Father TNG
-Reunion TNG
-Redemption TNG
-Parallels TNG
-Change of Heart
-Tacking into the Wind
cirroc lofton (jake sisko, 71) **
He had some nice moments...but it's also quite possible that the producers carefully kept him within his "talent comfort zone".
aron eisenberg (nog, 47) ***
Plus "Initiations" VOY. A sweet character arc, going from snotty, scheming kid in a believable friendship with jake, to the first ferengi in Starfleet.
max grodenchik (rom, 37) ***
Plus 2 NEXT GENs, and INSURRECTION (sort of). A fun arc, going from dim, exploited brother, to civilian engineer, to kinder/gentler grand nagus. His "dimness" was of course due (well, partly) to his inferengi personality. Do we buy that babe-goddess leeta would fall for him? Nah, but as long as she's getting screen time, we don't much care. And it is kind of progressive, in a way.
andrew robinson (garak, 37) ****
Delightful...andrew scalpeled his way through this complex character, an exiled tailor with a far-from-simple past. He directed one DS9 and two VOYAGERs.
GARAKATHON
-Improbable Cause
-The Wire
-Empok Nor
-In the Pale Moonlight
marc alaimo (dukat, 35) ****
Plus 4 NEXT GENs. The slimily megalomaniacal dukat, with his attempts at retribution and need to be loved, was played with unending verve by marc (HILL STREET BLUES, NAKED GUN 33 1/3). Not many characters (or necks) like this.
DUKATATHON
-Indiscretion
-Return to Grace
-Waltz
-Covenant
jeffrey combs (weyoun/brunt, 32) ****
Plus "Tsunkatse" VOY, and 11 ENTERPRISEs. His obsequious vorta was a chilly delight. Brunt was...well, ferengi. He'd go on to be ENTERPRISE's irascible commander shran. Three recurring TREK characters? Unprecedented. For the COMBSATHON, see:
http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2011/08/enterprise.html
j.g. hertzler (martok/laas, 27) ****
Plus "Tsunkatse" VOY, and 2 ENTERPRISEs. Why, a blanketed horta could see martok's greatness!
HERTZLERTHON
-Soldiers of the Empire
-When it Rains...
-Chimera
-Judgment ENT
nicole de boer (ezri, 25) ****
Nobody could have asked for more from a beloved character replacement. It would have been fascinating to have her for more than a season.
BOERATHON
-Chill Factor TEKWAR
-Afterimage
-Penumbra
-Whispers STARGATE: ATLANTIS
casey biggs (damar, 23) ****
Plus "Damage" ENT. From fiendishness to alcoholism to semi-redemption to death...well-played, casey.
rosalind chao (keiko, 19) **
Plus 8 NEXT GENs. A skilled actor dealt a losing hand.
chase masterson (leeta, 17) ****
Only 17? Someone on the production staff was afraid of greatness.
penny johnson (kasidy yates, 15) *
Plus "Homeward" NEXT GEN. Noooo, a thousand times no! We adore penny, but she and sisko have as much zip as a drowned tribble. We love having his love interest NOT look like she stepped off a catwalk, but...no. A shatner no.
salome jens (female founder, 15) **
Plus "The Chase" NEXT GEN. Not bad.
louise fletcher (kai winn, 14) *
Bad, and not this lovely actor's fault.
barry jenner (admiral ross, 12) **
Had three stars until he agreed to utter the line, "Godspeed."
hana hatae (molly o'brien, 11) ***
Plus "Rascals" NEXT GEN. What, i'm going to pick on a child?
ken marshall (eddington, 9) **
Nice performer, questionably-written part.
philip anglim (vedek bareil, 8) **
Lovely acting. Of course, back when we still had hope for kira, we knew this noodle didn't deserve her.
robert o'reilly (gowron, 8) ****
They should have done a whole episode of complete silence and total darkness, except for once in a while his eyes would pop open, but you would never know where or how far away.
james darren (vic fontaine, 8) ****
Sometimes the right guy is in the right place at the right time, pally. And sometimes that guy did T.J. HOOKER.
DARRENTHON
-Surfin' Fred THE FLINTSTONES
-Visitors from Beyond the Stars THE TIME TUNNEL
-His Way
-It's Only a Paper Moon
-Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang
-the lounge scene from "What You Leave Behind"
wallace shawn (grand nagus zek, 7) **
THE PRINCESS BRIDE, MY DINNER WITH ANDRE...it's inconceivable that he gets less than four stars! Inconceivable!
brock peters (joseph sisko, 6) ***
Plus 2 films. Nice presence.
melanie smith (ziyal, 6) ****
Lordisa help me, i want to hump a cardassian (and a wonderful actor).
camille saviola (kai opaka, 4) ****
See? I can love a religious leader, now leave me alone.
paul dooley (tain, 4) **
Deserved better.
john colicos (kor, 3) ****
From TREK's first klingon to GALACTICA to DS9...we love you, john.
COLICOSATHON
-Errand of Mercy TOS
-The Goddess Calabra THE STARLOST
-Baltar's Escape BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
-Once More unto the Breach
duncan regehr (shakaar, 3) ***
Plus "Sub Rosa" TNG. Loved him in V! Here, he's another one just not right for kira.
felecia m. bell (jennifer sisko, 3) ****
Ben, you'd have had our whole-hearted blessing if you'd taken jake and moved to the mirror universe for keeps.
frank langella (minister jaro, 3) ***
When is it not a good time for some langella?
TRILLATHON
-The Host TNG
-Invasive Procedures
-Equilibrium
-Prodigal Daughter
BAJORATHON
-The Next Phase TNG
-Shakaar
-Progress
-Lower Decks TNG
CARDASSIATHON
-Cardassians
-Duet
-Tribunal
-Chain of Command TNG
FERENGITHON (absenteeism permissible)
-The Battle TNG
-False Profits VOY
-Bar Association
-Acqusition ENT
HADARATHON
-The Abandoned
-To the Death
-Hippocratic Oath
-Rocks and Shoals
SHIFTERTHON
-The Man Trap TOS
-The Dauphin TNG
-The Begotten
-Heart of Stone
-Chimera
DOMINIATHON
-The Jem'Hadar
-The Ship
-In Purgatory's Shadow
-By Inferno's Light
DEFIANTATHON
-Defiant
-The Adversary
-Starship Down
-Valiant
LEFTOVERTHON
-Call to Arms
-...Nor the Battle to the Strong
-Tears of the Prophets
-A Time to Stand
DS9ATHON
-Trials and Tribbalations
-The Siege of AR-558
-Defiant
-Children of Time
-The Visitor

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"10"

1979
-directed by Blake Edwards
"Whenever Mrs. Kissel breaks wind, we beat the dog."
-the Reverend

-Edwards' (other) masterpiece. Aren't geniuses entitled to only one? If you have more than one, they can't technically both be a masterpiece. I'm not sure how much our younger generation is aware of Edwards, one of the top three comedy writer/directors in Hollywood history. In truth, his most famous work isn't aging so well. There's no denying Peter Sellers' genius, but to modern eyes the PINK PANTHER series comes off a little forced. That is not the case for VICTOR/VICTORIA and 10, however...one suspects that their brilliance will be forever immune to the vagaries of time and taste. On my list of the greatest comedies of all time, i sincerely hope 10 will clock in at #10 (some things are too perfect).
And how do you explain a film so perfect? How do you explain every tiniest element clicking, in a fabric of funny that seems far too evenly pure for the frankensteinian process that is film-making? Is it the vision that lifts the elements, or the other way round? The truth is probably both...one needs to be fortunate enough to have the writing and acting come together just right...but then when the audience is sitting in the theater, it's the spirit of the film that makes it all take off, tapping into the viewer's willingness that the film be the funniest thing they've ever seen. Most scenes from any masterpiece could come off as merely pedestrian, were they to be dropped into a lesser film.
10 is about the mid-life crisis of celebrated composer George Webber. His longtime collaboration with lyricist Hugh (Robert Webber - 12 ANGRY MEN, PRIVATE BENJAMIN) is both satisfying and boring...a mirror of his romantic life with singer Samantha Taylor (Julie Andrews). As he bemoans the shallowness of the songs the kids are listening to these days, his surliness annoys everyone. Then he spies a woman (Bo Derek) on the way to her wedding, and is so thoroughly enthralled by her innocence and beauty, he drops everything and rushes off to their honeymoon destination in Mexico. In a rage of pills and booze, he seduces one woman and spies on the young bride. He then saves her husband's life, and as the husband (Sam Jones, the future FLASH GORDON) lies in the hospital, he takes the bride Jenny to dinner. She invites him back to her suite...
Along the way, nothing happens as it's supposed to, and Moore's physical comedy is so deft your laughter may get wet. The verbal humor is perfect, and perfectly quotable. But balancing all the hilarity is the realness of the characters...you can feel their anger and frustration and sadness, right in your gut. This is a trick lost on the current crop of Hollywood comedy actors and writers.
It's hard to imagine any other actor playing Moore's part. George Segal quit the role after Andrews' role had been inflated. I love Segal, but his departure had to be a blessing, as was Andrew's increased screentime...the sparks, both good and bad, between she and Moore, are as good as moviemaking gets (and Julie's beautiful songs also pepper the film). Peter Sellers also turned down the role...again, for all his brilliance, a casting choice that would have been wrong. And it's not just Dudley's acting, but his musical talent, that make the film. He plays his own piano, and it's some of the most sadly beautiful music you can imagine.
Robert Webber's portrayal of a gay man of humor and intelligence (without one ounce of affectation) is one of the great supporting performances in movie history. He seems on top of the world with his boy toy, but by the end of the film is awash in heartache...and we can't help feeling that all romance in this broken society can only end so.
It's the perfection in all the supporting parts that elevates this movie. It's that rare film in which you want no part of any Oscar talk, because you couldn't bear to see anyone in the cast not get one. Dee Wallace (E.T.) is heart-rendingly poignant as the woman Dudley seduces...only to not be able to get it up. It's not the first time it's happened to her...her talk of Willis Ackerman almost makes ME want to drink. Brian Dennehy gives his best performance this side of FIRST BLOOD, as sympathetic bartender Don. Max Showalter (SIXTEEN CANDLES) is a hoot as a horribly-musical reverend whom Dudley shmoozes to get info out of. John Hancock (AIRPLANE II, THE STING II, STAR TREK: TNG) is absolute perfection as Dudley's therapist, that voice telling us everything we don't want to hear about ourselves. James Noble (AIRPLANE II, BENSON) is a silly delight as the bride's dentist father, whom Dudley also shmoozes info out of (and gets a mouth full of surgery for his trouble). And Don Calfa (WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S, THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) is priceless as the hippie neighbor presiding over an unending orgy.
And...maybe you thought i wouldn't mention her...Bo Derek, as Jenny. She's been saddled with so much crap in her career. I'm not saying she's the second coming of Hermione Gingold, but no fair-minded person could walk away from this film thinking that she's anything other than a very capable actress. There's not one line she doesn't nail. The part was first offered to Melanie Griffith. And then Kay Lenz. Kim Basinger and Christie Brinkley were also considered. It's tempting to think about how Kay or Kim might have done, but you don't mess around with the chemistry this film had - enough to turn both Dudley and Bo into international superstars. And it's her role that is ultimately the focal point of what's so historically interesting. The characters of George and Samantha, for all we love them, are ultimately trapped in the mores of their time, and all the more miserable for it. We are satisfied and delighted when they get back together, with George ready to devote his life to just one woman. But that's the film's blind spot...for all their love and genuine caring, there's only one place they can be heading - a loving, contentious marriage in which the contentiousness will prevail. And in the middle of that, here's Jenny...saying life should be about happiness and love, and expressing it wherever and whenever it strikes, without guilt. She's happy to make love to George, but his burdens of guilt, and dream that she will want to give her life to him...she just can't understand that.
George isn't entirely wrong...perhaps Jenny's way is a bit too casual, too anonymous...
But she's a lot closer to right than he is.
A wonderful post-film topic of discussion.
To what extent Edwards was intending Jenny to be a sympathetic character, is another great question. He was married to his star, Ms. Andrews, so it's possible he meant Jenny to be entirely unsympathetic. My hunch is that he didn't. I wonder whether even Julie knows.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Deep Space Nine, season 7

FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 1
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 2.7
-Image in the Sand **
On Earth, sisko receives a vision of his unknown mother. On the station, a newly-promoted col. kira deals with underhanded romulan allies. Step right up! Howzabout some dipsy wipsy? Howzabout some tepid? One-star land is barely avoided, thanks to a sweet number by vic to a grieving worf, plus the button-cute debut of nicole de boer (THE KIDS IN THE HALL, STEPHEN KING'S DEAD ZONE) as ezri dax.
-Shadows and Symbols **
Ezri joins sisko's family in orb-questing. Kira blockades an illegal romulan dump. Everyone else joins worf on a mission of death, in order to get the dead jadzia into heaven. Inane, implausible...one star is avoided, but i'm not sure how. I mean, a non-temporal race of aliens who create an orb of...time?
-Afterimage ***
Ezri ponders whether to stay in Starfleet, as she tries to slip into jadzia's life. Worf shuns her. Conflicted over helping in the war effort against Cardassia, garak experiences life-threatening attacks of claustrophobia. Ezri tries to counsel him.
-Take Me Out to the Holosuite ***
An Academy rival of sisko's challenges the DS9 crew to a baseball game. Ignore yet another poorly-portrayed vulcan, and just embrace the silliness. The writers have the good sense to show the home team getting creamed, but celebrating nonetheless. A rollicking fun time. Probably the DS9 episode with the most heart.
-Chrysalis ***
Bashir brings one of his genetically-engineered genius friends out of her semi-catatonic state. Hmm...any chance someone might fall in love, but it won't end well?
-Treachery, Faith, and the Great River ***
As nog wheels and deals for an exasperated o'brien, odo tries to bring a vorta defector back in a runabout. A delightful dual performance by the always lovely jeffrey combs. Plus a sweet hat-tip to henry blake's desk. Fun.
-Once More unto the Breach ***
A fitting farewell to john colicos, in the last role of his life. Martok leads a strike force of five birds of prey behind enemy lines. The aged kor dies with honor.
-The Siege of AR-558 ****
-written by ira steven behr, hans beimler
-directed by winrich kolbe
TREK's most stark portrayal of war. Focusing on characters who have no battle experience, the Federation defends a pathetic planetoid against waves of jem'hadar. Desperation, death, and dismemberment abound...and not just with the redshirts. Bill mumy (LOST IN SPACE, PAPILLON) is wonderfully resonant as an engineer who befriends ezri (sadly for the series, she has more chemistry with him than either worf or julian). Patrick kilpatrick (MINORITY REPORT, BEASTMASTER: THE EYE OF BRAXUS) is very, very good. Raymond cruz (ALIEN RESURRECTION, CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER) couldn't be better. Searing.
-Covenant **
Kira is kidnapped by a pah'wraith cult led by...dukat. Simpering religiosity aside, it's a jonestown allegory that works on a number of levels.
-It's Only a Paper Moon ***
A thoughtful exploration of shell shock, as nog comes to grips with losing a leg. He retreats into a holosuite, to live in vic fontaine's world. The first opportunity for either aron eisenberg or james darren to carry an episode, and they acquit themselves well. Too often, TREK can be a little blase about war, its characters exempt from pain or the ramifications of violence. Not here. Vic's world and music are a delight.
-Prodigal Daughter ***
Can nicole de boer carry an episode? Yes she can. A dysfunctional family drama that's a compelling mirror for our society, as she returns home for the first time in years. Kevin rahm (JUDGING AMY, MAD MEN) shines as her troubled brother. The writing falters during the climax, with a murder reveal that feels forced.
-The Emperor's New Cloak **
Quark and rom try to rescue grand nagus zek from the mirror universe. Mirror ezri is saucy, not simpering (and NOT into men). This one almost gets three stars just for damning the torpedoes. Kira sexes up ezri...and wallace shawn! A real-life vic fontaine! Ezri gets debriefed...by leeta! Sadly, they don't actually show that last one...hopefully it will appear someday in a deleted scenes release. It all looks like four stars, but it's puddle deep, almost as if the writer resented having to write it.
-Field of Fire **
To solve a murder, dax calls up memories of her psychopathic host, joran. The potential dissipates in the final act.
-Chimera ***
A non-founder changeling finds odo, and wants them to travel the galaxy looking for others of their kind. Poking and prodding in all the right places, laas (a nifty performance by the ubiquitous j.g. hertzler - ZORRO, PIRATES OF SILICON VALLEY) has disdain for humanoids. Existential angst beautifully rendered.
-Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang ***
Due to a programming glitch, mobsters take over vic's holo-club. Crew no happy...but they can't reboot, as vic's memory would be erased. So they have to right things on the program's terms. The fatal flaw (one that another writer pointed out, but which i hope i would have perceived on my own) is that it feels wrong to propose that sisko, a 24th-century human, would still bear the scars of 20th-century racism. Aside from that, this one's all sweetness and fun.
-Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges ***
Section 31, a Federation shadow agency that does the dirty jobs no one else can, was explored in both DS9 and ENT. There is a flaccidity to all such episodes, which i hope isn't just because one doesn't like the idealistic TREK vision undercut. I'd rather hope that the main reason is iffy writing. But it was an idea worth exploring, and this is the best of the batch. Julian is pressured into collecting intelligence (and more) at a romulan medical conference. A fine performance by john fleck (ENTERPRISE, HOWARD THE DUCK), and the identity of the actress playing cretak will taunt you. Go watch it now, while i tell everyone else it's adrienne barbeau (MAUDE, SWAMP THING). No, really! Really. Plus, much of the action takes place aboard an intrepid-class (Voyager!) vessel.
-Penumbra **
Worf is MIA. Ezri disobeys orders, in order to search. Quease alert - sisko proposes to kasidy. DOUBLE QUEASE ALERT - as he's doing so, somebody strategically placed an out-of-focus object behind them. The appearance? A crucifix. Accidental? Oy. How does this hot holy mess avoid one star?
-'Til Death Do Us Part **
The wormhole aliens don't want sisko to marry kasidy (at least SOMEBODY is showing sense). Ezri and worf have sex...and are captured and tortured by the breen, who hand them over to their new allies, the Dominion. Dukat surgically becomes bajoran...and seduces kai winn. Lost in the muck is perhaps the most delicate, nuanced performance of marc's TREK career.
-Strange Bedfellows **
Witness winn's dukat-led plunge into the dark side (bad), domestic doings with the yates-siskos (worse), ezri and worf's incarceration (good), and damar's realization that his are a conquered people (even better). It would have been nifty to have both kira and dukat separately beseech winn to "pray on it", using the same language.
-The Changing Face of Evil ***
While worf and ezri await execution (and explore their attraction/repulsion), the breen lead a strike on Earth. The Defiant is nastily destroyed. Dukat's identity is revealed...but winn is too far gone to care. Finally rejecting the yoke of second-class citizenship, damar leads Cardassia in revolt. Casey biggs' (LEGACY, THE PELICAN BRIEF) finest hour.
-When it Rains... ***
Kira must train cardassian resistance fighters, led by damar. Gowron replaces martok as fleet commander, and the narcissistic bungling begins. Julian discovers that the genocidal changeling virus was manufactured by Section 31 and installed in odo three years ago.
-Tacking into the Wind ***
Worf challenges and kills gowron, installing martok as chancellor, while kira and the cardassians (including garak) execute a high-risk raid. Odo tries to conceal from her the extent of his illness. So long, robert o'reilly, and the most memorable eyes in TREK history. We had to get to the other side of the worf/ezri romance to come to a fantastic scene between them, when she makes him face the systemic corruption which has long been the fatal flaw in the Empire. Can you spot j. paul boehmer, TREK's favorite nazi? The A plot is four-star loveliness.
-Extreme Measures **
In chasing a cure for odo's disease, bashir and o'brien take...well, y'know. They capture a Section 31 agent and project themselves into his dying brain, in order to gather information. It's not awful, just a bit uninspired (not just derivative, but self-derivative). And the decision to have the female founder be disease-ridden sends an unfortunate message equating ugliness with evil. Where are you, "Devil in the Dark"?
-The Dogs of War ***
As the Dominion crushes the cardassian resistance, kira, garak, and damar become stranded on Cardassia. Damar takes to the street, to turn failed resistance into revolution. Zek names a successor to lead a reformed Ferengenar, but due to a garbled transmission, quark doesn't realize that it's rom who is the new nagus.
-What You Leave Behind ***
Julian wakes up in bed with ezri, as a rebuilt Defiant is off to the the war's final battle. Damar dies, as the remnants of the cardassian fleet turn on the Dominion. Dukat and winn die, trying to free the pah wraiths. The Federation Alliance closes in on Cardassia, and only a gesture of healing from odo prompts the female founder to end the war before the final cataclysm. Some of the most awesome space battles in TREK history, plus a farewell scene in vic's lounge as o'brien, odo, worf, and sisko leave the station. Vic sings "Just the Way You Look Tonight", touching the heartstrings just right. And no, it's not the resolutions to the spiritual aspects of the series that keep this from four stars (though that doesn't help)...it's the whiff of petty nose-cutting in the omission of any jadzia visuals in the beautiful flashback collage. Well, maybe that plus an unending ending worthy of LOTR. And no leeta.

Monday, September 26, 2011

vegemerrian

I'm 90% vegan, and would be delighted to be 100%. The only reason i don't is because you cut yourself off from so much (Mom's holiday cookies, for example). Plus, it can be expensive and inconvenient - animal products are still so omnipresent.
I became a vegetarian at fifteen, mostly for teen identity crisis reasons. It took me six years to understand that, so at twenty-one i started eating meat again. For some bizarre reason, i chose McDonald's as my first meat after that layoff. Bad choice. Going anywhere near golden arches makes me a bit queasy to this day. I became a vegetarian again in my late twenties, but not as a conscious choice. I just woke up one day and realized i hadn't had meat in the better part of a year.
Of course, because a choice is organic doesn't mean there aren't reasons.
I recognize that all animals are thinking, feeling beings, just like myself. Am i smarter than a pig? Probably. Is a pig smarter than a sparrow? Probably. But if we used superior intelligence as justification for consumption, i'd be entitled to eat Ann Coulter...and i'm pretty sure no one wants that (except perhaps Ann?). The past century has witnessed an inexorable change in our scientific attitude toward other animals. 100 years ago, the list of qualities which separated "man from beast" was much longer (no doubt in part a by-product of our need to absolve ourselves of exploitation guilt). A century of honest science has whittled that list down to almost nothing, a trend that shows no sign of stopping. Tool-making, problem-solving, non-procreative sex, complex vocalizations, adaptive culture, affection and devotion...we may have Shakespeare and the Superconducting Super Collider, but our basic animal nature is no more unique to us than a whorelike attitude toward celebrity endorsement is unique to athletes. The notion that humans occupy some special place in the animal kingdom, thereby justifying a "superiority" that gives us license to treat other animals any way we please, is an idea that is fading away.
If we all had to kill the meat we ate, we would become an overwhelmingly vegetarian nation overnight. Yes, this says something about how little we do for ourselves in this too-comfy society...but it's also about growing awareness. Cattle are there for us to eat? Really? How long ago did white men think that black men were there to do the hard work, and black women were there be fucked? I'm not even concerned with invoking the living (and dying) conditions of our "livestock"...horrors so atrocious that they beggar comprehension. Upton Sinclair and Eric Schlosser have handled that well, but those points are superfluous to the ethical vegetarian argument.
16,000 children died of starvation yesterday. If it takes 2-6 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat, how can any meat-eater avoid some measure of responsibility for those deaths? Some say that we have enough food, it's just not being distributed. Even if so, it would take an awful lot of rationalization for me to go on eating meat while the problem remains unfixed.
I've heard that within twenty years, all our meat will be harvested in laboratories, through a cloning process. An interesting thought, and perhaps a perplexing one for an ethical vegetarian...is it wrong to eat flesh which never had consciousness? But again, that question ignores a larger one: is it natural or healthy for humans to eat meat and dairy? The argument that we don't have the digestive tract of a carnivore is compelling...as is the new research that says that for the bulk of humanity's history, the largest staple of our diet was bugs. I've been both omnivore and herbivore, and must honestly say i never noticed any particular difference in how i felt. Certainly nothing that couldn't be attributed to psychological reasons.
But that's neither here nor there.
Most of the humans in this world who eat other animals do so simply because it's what they've been taught. The smart ones eventually realize that maybe that's not a good enough reason.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Star Trek: The Next Generation"

1987-1994
It walked in the biggest TV shoes of all time, and was thoroughly...engaging.
SERIES EPISODE AVERAGE: 2.8 STARS
BY SEASON:
1) 2.6
2) 2.7
3) 2.9
4) 2.9
5) 3.0
6) 2.8
7) 2.7
FOUR-STAR EPISODES (season)
-The Measure of a Man (2)
-The Emissary (2)
-Deja Q (3)
-Yesterday's Enterprise (3)
-Sins of the Father (3)
-The Best of Both Worlds, pt. 1 (3)
-Family (4)
-Reunion (4)
-Redemption (4)
-Redemption II (5)
-Conundrum (5)
-Cause and Effect (5)
-The First Duty (5)
-I, Borg (5)
-The Inner Light (5)
-Relics (6)
-Chain of Command (6)
-Tapestry (6)
-Second Chances (6)
-Parallels (7)
-Lower Decks (7)
-All Good Things... (7)
PERFORMANCES (# of episodes)
patrick stewart (jean-luc picard, 176) ****

Plus 4 films, and "Emissary" DS9. He also directed five episodes. Do we like kirk or do we like...
PICARD-A-THON
-the ready room scene from FIRST CONTACT
-We'll Always Have Paris
-Chain of Command II
-Lessons
-Bloodlines
-Family
-the ready room scene from GENERATIONS
-Tapestry
jonathan frakes (will riker, 176) ****
Plus 4 films, "Defiant" DS9, "Death Wish" VOY, and "These Are the Voyages" ENT. See http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2010/04/maybe-those-are-muskets.html.
brent spiner (data, 175) ****
Plus 4 films, and 4 ENTERPRISEs. Why are we so moved by emotionless eyes? Is it perhaps our desire to be wildly free of our shells, a freedom which happened on more than one occasion for mssrs. spock and data? Come to think of it, splicing their marathons might be brilliant. Brent also co-wrote NEMESIS.
DATATHON
-The Ensigns of Command
-The Most Toys
-In Theory
-Hero Worship
-Descent pt. I
-Thine Own Self
SOONGATHON
-Datalore
-Brothers
-Inheritance
-The Augments ENT
michael dorn (worf, 173) ****
Plus 5 films and 98 DS9s. See http://nakedmeadow.blogspot.com/2011/09/deep-space-nine.html.
levar burton (geordi laforge, 170) ****
Plus 4 films, and "Timeless" VOY. He also directed two episodes...plus ten DS9s, eight VOYAGERs, and nine ENTERPRISEs, making him the most prolific TREK actor-turned-director (and entitling him to a spot in the nimoy/frakes "most parameter-exceeding" debate). Gay jamaican or not, he's our geordi.
GEORDITHON
-Booby Trap
-Galaxy's Child
-Force of Nature
-Interface
-the (actual) bridge scene from INSURRECTION
-the Challenger scenes from "Timeless" VOY
marina sirtis (deanna troi, 166) ***
Plus 4 films, 3 VOYAGERS, and "These Are the Voyages" ENT.
DEANNATHON
-New Ground
-The Loss
-Face of the Enemy
-Eye of the Beholder
gates mcfadden (beverly crusher, 153) ***
Perhaps a generous rating? I'm just saying, it boggles me that some consider frakes a weak link, when riper targets present themselves. But i'm not inclined to snipe...if gates and marina occasionally revealed themselves as less than streep (or stewart), the writers still knew how to make them (and the show) almost always look good. She also appeared in 4 films, and directed the episode "Genesis".
BEVERLYTHON
-the ready room scene from "The Naked Now"
-The High Ground
-the dance scene from "Data's Day"
-Transfigurations
-the dinner scene from "Allegiance"
-Remember Me
-Attached
wil wheaton (wesley crusher, 67) ****
Plus 1 film. Any wisecracks? We'll step outside the airlock. You first.
WESLEYTHON
-The Dauphin
-the tasha scene in "Symbiosis"
-Menage a Troi (fast-forwarding urged)
-Final Mission
-The Game
-The First Duty
colm meaney (o'brien, 52) ***
Plus 159 DS9s...quite a lot, really.
denise crosby (tasha/sela, 28) ****
YARATHON
-Code of Honor
-the yar/data scene from "The Naked Now"
-Skin of Evil
-Legacy
-Yesterday's Enterprise
whoopi goldberg (guinan, 28) ****
Plus 2 films. SISTER ACT? Forgiven. SISTER ACT 2? Give us more time.
diana muldaur (doctor pulaski, 22) **
Is it possible that minus the context of "beverly placeholder", we would have embraced her more? Was diana not a better actor, and pulaski a more dynamic character? For reasons beyond her control, was she doomed to be a soggy substitute, or was she genuinely soggy on her own? Discuss. Plus 2 STAR TREKs.
patty yasutake (nurse alyssa, 16) **
Plus 2 films.
michelle forbes (ro laren, 9) ****
To be at peace is to dwell not on "what-ifs". But it does tantalize, to think about what could have happened had she accepted a role on DS9 or VOYAGER...
FORBESATHON
-Ensign Ro
-Conundrum
-Preemptive Strike
-Pegasus GALACTICA
rosalind chao (keiko, 8) **
Plus 19 DS9s.
john de lancie (q, 8) ****
Plus "Q-Less" DS9, and 3 VOYAGERs. He took a well-written character, and flew it right off the charts.
Q-A-THON
-Encounter at Farpoint
-Hide and Q
-Q Who?
-Deja Q
-True Q
-The Q and the Grey VOY
brian bonsall (alexander, 7) *
Kill me now.
majel barrett (lwaxana, 6) **
Fortunately i'm already dead, so i can't feel the pain. No, in all fairness, she persevered and eventually had flashes of redemption...plus 2 films, 12 TASs, and 3 episodes of DS9.
dwight shulz (barclay, 5) ****
Plus 1 film, and 6 VOYAGERs. Perfect...and the perfect response to the charge that TREK humans are unrealistically, well, "perfect".
BARCLAYTHON
-Hollow Pursuits
-Realm of Fear
-Pathfinder VOY
-Inside Man VOY
robert o'reilly (gowron, 4) ****
Plus "Manhunt", 8 DS9s, and "Bounty" ENT.
carel struycken (mr. homn, 5) ****
Who doesn't love a little mr. homn?
andreas katsulas (tomalak, 4) ****
Plus "Cogenitor" ENT. You find that man!
suzie plakson (k'eleyhr, 2) ****
Plus "The Schizoid Man". Wonderful.
SUZIETHON
-Cease Fire ENT
-The Emissary
-Reunion
-The Q and the Grey VOY
eric menyuk (the traveler, 3) ****
barbara march (lursa, 2) ****
Plus GENERATIONS, and "Past Prologue" DS9.
gwynyth walsh (b'etor, 2) ****
Plus GENERATIONS, "Past Prologue" DS9, and "Random Thoughts" VOY.
tony todd (kurn, 2) ****
Plus 2 DS9s, and "Prey" VOY. No other TREK actor made a splash this big with a stone this small.
TODDATHON
-Sons of Mogh
-Prey VOY
-The Visitor DS9
-The Lone and Level Sands ANDROMEDA
jennifer hetrick (vash, 2) ****
TREK's resident scoundrel.
VASHATHON
-Captain's Holiday
-Qpid
-Q-Less DS9
charles cooper (k'mpec, 2) ****
Plus THE FINAL FRONTIER. Total, utter, complete characterization.
BETATHON
-the riker/deanna betazed scene from "Menage a Troi"
-Tin Man
-Meld VOY
-Half a Life
-The Price
RIPPLETHON
-The Naked Time TOS
-The Naked Now
-The Pegasus
-These are the Voyages ENT
LEFTOVERTHON
-Justice
-Where No One Has Gone Before
-The Masterpiece Society
-Clues
NEXTGENATHON
-The Measure of a Man
-Yesterday's Enterprise
-Tapestry
-All Good Things...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

dysfunction

The first (or at most, second) connotation that comes to mind when one hears the word "dysfunctional", is family dynamics. Apparently there are some dysfunctional families out there.
That was "understatement". Virtually every single family is one form or another of dysfunctional. How else could they be, in a society deficient in the most basic understanding of what makes for a healthy, balanced human being?
I came face to face with some heavy family dysfunctionality recently. Not the nuclear kind, though. It was a demonstration by two members of my family of an individual dysfunctionality acquired long before they married into our clan.
I was visiting with Mom and her husband. They just retired to Florida, and i had brought their car to them. My favorite aunt and her irrepressible husband live nearby. Unc is manic depressive. His manic side manifests in an obsession he's been living for at least a decade, dealing with how fucked American society is (please don't let the fact that he's obsessed persuade you that he's wrong). He only listens to foreign news services, has a collection of 600 documentaries, and loses his sense of conversational appropriateness when he starts talking about politics...which occurs during most conversations. His ultimate windmill, his most cursed dragon? Neo-cons.
Auntie has been living with this for years, and has learned how to manage him with a good degree of success.
Mom has a horsband of an entirely different color. He has social phobias (please try not to jump to the conclusion that that's not a reasonable response to this world). He tries to be sociable when it's unavoidable, but avoids it when he can. This is most obvious come game time. He refuses to play (the one exception being trivia). There may also be some competitive issues driving this behavior.
These two men have styles of social interaction that are polar opposites. One confronts, the other hides. I've known these things for years, but had never come face to face with their most intense displays of dysfunctionality.
Then came the last night of my visit.
It started when i was with some friends. They have a child, Van, who thinks the world of me, and i'd gotten his hopes up about going on an adventure with me. I had already invited all my friends and family to dinner at Sweet Tomatoes on my final night, and thought it would be perfect to invite Van to play a game with me and Mom and Auntie afterward, a cherished board game from their youth called Gotta Go (it's about getting to the outhouse...no, really). I thought they would delight in it just as much as he. The day after i'd made the arrangements, Mom said that bringing a child into the presence of their husbands would never work. I'd assumed her husband would be fine by himself in the other room, and Unc had given indications that he might not even come. But she talked me out of my plan...which i thought seemed just so silly and sad.
It was sad - but not silly.
Van and his parents went their own way after dinner. My family had game night, just the five of us (or four, with Mom's better half in the other room). During the game, Mom's gaze fell on some stuffed mice in her cupboard, modeled after George Bush and John Kerry. In a brain fart of everestean proportions that i'll be busting her chops over for years, she became seized with the desire to show us that they both still talked, spouting their mousey political slogans of seven years ago. Within fifteen seconds, Unc was at a place i'd never seen him. He was so out of control with horror and rage, he'd lost the ability to speak. He sat there, wide-eyed and quivering with the strain. I knew what it was to look in the eyes of insanity.
All through the evening, Mom's hubby had been watching TV in the other room. Occasionally, we'd pull him into our conversations. When the party started breaking up...a moment when he knew the end was in sight and had every reason to start breathing easier...something in him snapped. Out of nowhere (but his damaged psyche), this most non-confrontational person you'll ever meet began angrily berating us to hasten the end of the evening.
I was amazed.
I wrote this article because there are probably very few of us who've never come face to face with dysfunctionality.
I'm not even getting into the dysfunctionality of monogamous nuclear families...for instance, why both my brothers shunned all family contact for years. Maybe someday when i understand that better, i'll write about it.
I write this because...this is who we are. These two human beings, this is who we are. It's not about chemical imbalances, or being an asshole. I'm not denying that my uncle has a chemical imbalance, i'm just reminding all of us that the difference between these two and someone "normal", is a difference so tiny as to be negligible. The only problem with an ever-more-refined psychotherapeutic classification system is that it encourages an "us/them" outlook, allowing us to turn a blind eye to the societal conditions that gave rise to these neuroses and pathologies. Look at the tapestry of your own life, and suddenly turn one cherished triumph into bitter rejection...or add someone who was never there, someone who acted out their own misery on you in the most horrible way imagineable...or imagine some accident taking away the dearest person you ever knew, or even your whole family...and the path of your life changes. Don't misunderstand...i'm not saying that misery or insanity hinge upon huge events. It's the subtle things woven into the very fabric of our society that predetermine the isolation and horror that we all live in.
But if you think that right now, as you read this, there's no way you could ever become the most wretched human alive...starving, alone...then you have no clue about how this life works.
You have good mental health?
You've never in your life met a human being with good mental health.
If you've been able to adapt to this life more successfully than the untold millions who are now "classifiable", i'm happy for you. But if you don't appreciate the lengths you've had to twist your spirit to be able to fit in, then i'm almost more sorry for you than i am for those people whose inner wounds long since got the best of them.
This is us.
And...
It'll get better.
Maybe i wrote this article to share a piece of information i learned today. New York is one of the three centers of the "cuddle party" movement in this country.
What's a cuddle party?
Exactly what it sounds like, knucklehead. If i describe it, you'll think my nonsensical imagination is in overdrive. So read this: http://www.cuddleparty.com/.
And smile.
The world is getting better.
Are you ready?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Next Generation, season 7

With DS9 in production and VOY and GENERATIONS in pre-production, the show was bleeding writers and energy. Despite bursts of brilliance, it ain't pretty.
FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 3
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 2.7
-Descent, pt. 2 **
Captured by lore's borg followers, picard, troi, and geordi try to convince data that he's being manipulated. In command of the Enterprise, beverly plays cat and mouse with the borg ship in the corona of a sun. Planetside, riker and worf plan a rescue with the aid of ex-drone hugh, who is leading a group of fugitives from lore's minions. Nice moments, but generally rushed, contrived, and flat. Hugh in particular is ill-used; the writing, makeup, and cinematography all fail to recapture the magic. There isn't even a reunion scene with geordi.
-Liaisons ***
Three ilarian ambassadors making first diplomatic contact prove more than a handful. One outchocolates troi, another baits worf, and a third (eric pierpoint - HILL STREET BLUES, FAME) fakes a shuttle crash, then morphs into a female to explore human love with picard.
-Interface ***
Ben vereen! Geordi interfaces with a Starfleet probe exploring a downed vessel on an inhospitable planet. After learning that his mother (madge sinclair - COMING TO AMERICA, ROOTS) may be dead, he starts getting visions of her on the ghost ship. Is it real? He disobeys orders, to return despite the growing danger to his nervous system. In a profound step toward humanity, data disobeys orders as well. Ben (ROOTS, ALL THAT JAZZ) gives a cameo as geordi's father.
-Gambit 1&2 **
Investigating picard's barfight death, riker is abducted by archaeological thieves - only to find jean-luc alive, and pretending to be part of a mercenary crew under the thumb of a captain (richard lynch - THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER, THE HAPPY HOOKER) who controls them with neural pain inducers. They're collecting artifacts of a vulcan psionic weapon. Will must pretend to not know picard. Robin curtis (STAR TREK III-IV, SANTA WITH MUSCLES) plays t'pol(!), a vulcan extremist pretending to be a vulcan agent pretending to be a romulan. And Laker hall of famer james worthy? Tallest klingon ever. Plus sabrina le beauf (FATHERHOOD, THE COSBY SHOW). Despite some lovely elements, there are too many sloppy scenes where people who should be maintaining a high level of secrecy just chat their way through the plot points.
LYNCHATHON
-Gun on Ice Planet Zero BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
-Vegas in Space BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY
-Gambit
-Phantasms ***
Tight, creepy. Data has nightmare images that spill over into his waking life, causing him to stab troi. Invisible parasites infesting the crew are discovered, which data was able to subconsiously perceive. Visits to sigmund freud on the holodeck (and in data's mind) lead to a solution. Ensign tyler (gina rivera - SHOWGIRLS, THE CLOSER) has an unwelcome crush on geordi - it's criminal this thread didn't continue.
-Dark Page **
Acting as ambassador for a race which communicates only mentally (a fascinating concept which deserved more attention), lwaxana falls into a coma. In the depths of her mind, deanna discovers hidden memories of a sister who died. We meet deanna's dad for the first time, too. With all that loss, it's easier to understand why lwaxana is so neurotic and needy. The flaw is that it's hard to imagine 24th-century grief counseling allowing anyone to repress such tragedy for so long. But is eleven year-old kirsten dunst (JUMANJI, MELANCHOLIA) adorable? Well, yes.
-Attached ***
A Federation applicant has a xenophobic minority nation who kidnap picard and crusher, and implant them with psionic sympathy-inducers, making them gradually be able to read each other's thoughts and feel physically sick if they are separated. A prison break occurs, and they go on the lam. The emotional walls that have been waiting seven years to come down, do so. Tender, touching, and deft.
-Force of Nature ***
Enterprise is disabled and boarded by two scientists who insist that warp drive is weakening the fabric of subspace. One of them sacrifices her life creating a warp core breach aboard their ship, in order to prove her point. In thoughtfulness and execution, this episode is the equal of any four-star entry. That it lacks four-star excitement is precisely the point, however - the producers must have known that it would never make any "best-of" lists, but greenlit it anyway, because it's everything TREK should be. It's rife with parallels to global warming and the unintended consequences of technology (and the political resistance to any criticism that might affect a society's "bottom line"). Geordi and picard try to come to grips with the news. The episode also takes more time getting into the crisis than probably any TREK ever - it's almost disconcerting. Yet the excellence is worth the build, despite the misgivings of some of the writers, who perhaps lacked the objectivity to see this one's strengths. Shows that always adhere to a structural formula can be excellent, but subconsciously at least, the viewer becomes aware of the formula. Occasionally bucking that formula can be a risk, but artistically it's riskier never to try. If you can relax on all that, it can be refreshing to watch an episode with well-written character work almost for its own sake.
-Inheritance ***
Data encounters a woman (fionnulla flanagan - TRANSAMERICA, THE EWOK ADVENTURE) claiming to have been dr. soong's wife (and data's "mother"). He accepts her as such, but gradually realizes that she's one of soong's androids. He created her after data as a copy of his wife, who had died tragically. Juliana is damaged in an accident, and data finds a holoprogram soong made which anticipated questions he might have if he were to find her. Data must decide whether to inform her of her true nature, after living for decades thinking she's human.
-Parallels ****
-written by brannon braga
-directed by robert wiemer
It starts slow, and builds to a second half full of fist-pumping and burst-out-loud laughter. Returning from a bat'leth tournament, worf finds himself bouncing from timeline to timeline. He and deanna are suddenly mated - with offspring! Alexander doesn't exist! Picard's dead! Wesley's back! Naked geordi is dead!
-The Pegasus ***
Riker's first captain, admiral pressman (terry o'quinn - THE WEST WING, LOST), is on a mission to retrieve their vessel, lost twelve years before during a mutiny over a treaty-breaking Federation cloaking device - will was a green ensign, and supported his captain. While searching an extensive asteroid field, Enterprise plays cat and mouse with romulans, with will under orders not to talk to anyone, even picard.
-Homeward **
In order to preserve a pre-industrial village from ecological extinction, worf's scientist foster brother (paul sorvino - OH, GOD!, GOODFELLAS) breaks the prime directive, and Enterprise suddenly has an unsuspecting refugee village on its holodeck. A villager (brian markinson - THE L WORD, CAPRICA) who discovers the truth commits suicide. It's a DS9 preview, as dorn shares the screen with penny johnson (THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW, 24). A game try, but a bit forced and unnatural.
-Sub Rosa *
The only TREK ever to make me ponder the addition of negative stars to the rating system - if you enjoy feeling violated, belly up to the bar. Fans of classic V will enjoy duncan regehr, as long as they don't mind doing so with jaws agape. If you know someone who loves NEXT GEN but hasn't seen this one, they probably won't believe it isn't some practical video joke. The plot? Let's just say it's about scottish ghosts, and leave it at that. The only way for it to be any more bizarre would be for beverly to get on a motorbike, jump a tank of naked toothsome evel knievels, and land in a threesome with pinky and leather tuscadero. Note the "McFly" on the tombstone. I swear, if ellen dow (THE WEDDING SINGER, WEDDING CRASHERS) had started rapping from within her coffin, it would have fit right in.
-Lower Decks ****
-written by rene echevarria
-directed by gabrielle beaumont
This one is so bursting, you'll scratch your head trying to reconcile the fact that it's only forty-eight minutes. The action bounces between the senior staff as they try to slip a cardassian agent across the border, and a group of ensigns facing promotion review. The social interactions (and poker games) are flawless. Shannon fill (THE SOURCE OF SUCTION, MOMENT OF TRUTH: CRADLE OF CONSPIRACY), reprising her sito role from "The First Duty", faces harsh tests of character from worf and picard. She absolutely steals every scene she's in, and her death may hit you harder than any TREK death ever. Patty yasutake (GUNG HO, STOP! OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT) is rewarded for twelve episodes of light nursing duty (with three more and two feature films to come), with a substantive part. Dan gauthier (MELROSE PLACE, SON IN LAW) hits the right notes as the overeager lavelle. As civilian waiter ben, bruce beatty (COLORS, DUNSTON CHECKS IN) inhabits his role like he's been there for years. VOYAGER's alexander enberg (PUMP UP THE VOLUME, THE SOURCE OF SUCTION) brings perfect balance to the chemistry.
-Thine Own Self ***
Collecting radioactive fragments on a pre-warp planet, data loses his memory in an accident. He is befriended by villagers, who believe him to be an "ice man" from the mountains. He starts displaying disturbing intelligence and strength. As people begin to fall sick, he races to find a cure before their growing fears end in tragedy. Frightening and touching, with some lovely ronnie clair edwards (THE WALTONS, GETTING WASTED). Aboard the Enterprise, deanna repeatedly fails her bridge officer exams, until she comes to terms with sending a subordinate to a likely death.
-Masks **
An ancient alien intelligence within a rogue comet infests Enterprise's computer system...and data. He manifests multiple personalities, as the ship around him begins to transform as well. It's bizarre, mayan, and builds compellingly (with some lovely spiner) until it drops off a cliff into a manufactured, unsatisfying resolve.
-Eye of the Beholder ***
A seemingly happy young lieutenant commits suicide. Troi uncovers an eight year-old empath-ensnaring mystery, and a murderer (mark rolston - ALIENS, FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON) at the Utopia Planetia shipyard. Uneven, but saved from two stars by the romantic blossoming between deanna and worf (even if it is only hallucination).
-Genesis ***
Data and picard return to the ship to find the crew de-evolving along different paths. Will is an australopithecene, deanna is a reptile, barclay is a spider, worf is...let's go with frightening.
-Journey's End **
Wesley is on vacation from the Academy, where his performance has taken a turn for the worse. He's sullen and disagreeable. The Federation cedes a planet with native indians to the cardassians. They refuse relocation and initiate wes into a vision quest, in which his father tells him to stop following. He turns his back on duty, and drops out of Starfleet. The indian who helps him turns out to be the traveler, and at a moment of crisis, wes stops time. Despite a too-easy resolve, dipsy wipsy spirituality, and too much non-support for wes from picard, the episode almost works...but wes's sendoff deserved better.
-Firstborn **
As alexander shows no interest in his approaching first ascension ceremony, worf takes him to a klingon festival, where they meet a family advocate who turns out to be alexander from forty years in the future, trying to convince his younger self to not turn his back on klingon ways. Worf realizes that alexander's adult struggles for peace are a noble cause, and that it's wrong to try to push him into a traditional path. If all that plus lursa, b'etor, and armin shimerman's only TNG appearance as quark aren't enough to make a good alexander episode, it's just never going to happen, my friends.
-Bloodlines ***
Ex-daimon bok is free from ferengi incarceration, and returns to kill the son (ken olandt -SUMMER SCHOOL, SUPER FORCE) picard never knew he had. It's a genetically-manipulated ruse, but there are touching scenes between the newly-introduced (and reluctant) son and father.
-Emergence **
The Enterprise begins acting strangely, as a train almost runs down picard and data during another shakespearean play on the holodeck. Is the ship's computer achieving sentience? Aboard a holo-orient express, different manifestations of consciousness inhabit the characters. There are lovely elements, but the overall feeling is ultimately flat. David huddleston (BLAZING SADDLES, THE BIG LEBOWSKI) plays a lovely conductor.
-Preemptive Strike **
Ro returns from advanced training, is sent undercover with the maquis, and finds herself torn between her loyalty to picard and her inherent sympathies. Lovely work between stewart and forbes, but the writing is depressingly simplistic.
-All Good Things... ****
-written by ronald d. moore, brannon braga
-directed by winrich kolbe
Tasha, o'brien, and ol' tomolak join the adventure as picard slips between past, present, and future. Three Enterprises try to solve a riddle from q, one that endangers humanity's very existence. In the future, deanna is long dead...and worf and riker have never forgiven each other. Beverly has her own ship, and a divorce from picard. Picard has the onset of irumodic syndrome, and to watch all his old shipmates struggle to see beyond his seeming senility, is subtle drama so tight it hums. This series finale is so satisfying that the closing moments fill you with a gentle rush of endorphins - as picard finally joins the poker game, one can't imagine anything else so just right.

spider island and beyond...



(I spent the past week visiting Ft. Myers, Florida, where i once lived. My mother just retired there. I've had one foot out New York's door the past couple years, dreaming of someplace warm and wet. With mother and aunt and friends there, my old home is tempting. It's hard to imagine living someplace so congested, conservative, and corporate, though. But in this country, finding a place that isn't at least two of those qualities is getting to be tricky.)

Eric and i loaded a cooler, and drove to Lover's Key State Park. We pulled his kayaks off the van, and slid into the water. I was wearing new aqua shoes and a Chinese wide-brimmed hat. I'd decided to avoid sunscreen for the rest of my life, adhering to the sentiment "Nothing ON my body that i wouldn't put IN my body". So i trotted out my new standard sunwear - long white garments of the lightest possible material. The messiah look. In this case, thrift stores had yielded cotton pants with a drawstring and an XL "Mallards Hockey Club" shirt. On my outfit's debut day, i went against my philosophy and agreed at Eric's wise urgings to put all-natural sunblock on face and ankles. With the reflection, being on the water is an extra-intense sun experience, and i was undeniably a pale northern boy.
We paddled to Mound Key, at 33 feet the highest peak in Lee County. It had been created by Native Americans. We were on the lookout for goats, being told that two of them were now kept there so the owners could get a farm subsidy.
Seeing no sign of human or Capra hircus, we swam and chatted for a while, then made our way inland (as inland as a 200-meter island would allow, anyway). I quickly came upon a maze of spider webs, each one a meter or more wide. At the center of each was a conspicuously large arachnid. Black and yellow argiope spiders. They didn't seem to care about us, so we continued on. I fell back, deciding that Eric's familiarity with the place made him the logical leader. The fact that there were hand-sized spiders everywhere had NOTHING to do with my choice.
After another fifteen feet, i noticed a swarm of insects gathering around Eric's pack. A couple of mosquitos had announced their presence around my own head, and i thought how awful it would be if that swarm were mosquitos, not the gnats or somesuch i assumed they were.
Oops. Upon closer inspection, they were mosquitos. We both started trotting, trying to lose our growing swarms. If you've ever tried to outrun a mosquito swarm, you may start laughing now. Eric pointed out a gopher tortoise hole that fascinated me (but not enough to slow down). We arrived at the peak, and had a moment of Chevy Chase VACATION Grand Canyon head-nodding, before we and our swarms turned tail. I barely spied an actual gopher tortoise, and called Eric back. The tortoise had bugs all over him too. We took in his beauty for four or five seconds before hurling ourselves down the trail, a la Indiana Jones in that spider/big boulder tunnel. We jumped into our kayaks and paddled to open water, our swarms happy to come along. It only took us a half mile to lose them.
Our next stop was a lovely mangrove island so tiny we didn't get out of our kayaks, but we idly paddled around it for a while, entranced by the manta rays that were drawn to it.
Our next stop brought us the most exotic wildlife of the day. We paddled through a beautiful inlet which gave us access to the Gulf side of one of the barrier islands. There we saw several specimens of pantless, floral-shirt wearing homo sapiens. There were no women in sight. Eric had told me that the unofficial boundaries of the nude beach in Lover's Key had been growing. Why the fashion of the day was a shirt with no pants, was never made clear.
We didn't copy the fashion, though. I was too pasty to consider it, and even if i hadn't been...well, i suspect the trace lingering elements of homophobia present in even very progressive heterosexual males such as us, would have stayed us from going au natural. Perhaps if it hadn't been just the two of us...but it didn't even occur to me, truly.
We swam in the Gulf of Mexico for a bit, then had a lovely lunch. After a dandy frisbee session, we packed up and hit the open water again. I was positive that i would have aching muscles and hand blisters from the day's exertions, but neither turned out to be the case...though i did come away with pretty harsh ankle/hand sunburns. Our final excitement came a mile or so later. I looked up from my paddling. I saw something twenty feet ahead, sticking out of the water and moving across our path. I saw that Eric didn't see. I then calmly said one word, for the first time in such a context in my life: "Fin". Eric, excited, tried to follow the shark. But it lazily dove away without a glance back.
A few hundred yards later, we pulled our kayaks back onto land, and headed home.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

josie

WOMEN 62
One week before i was to move to New York, Josie began waitressing at a restaurant i was storytelling in. We made much eye contact our first night, and she agreed to play George Bush’s Arabian wife in a piece of street theater i was planning for my last Sunday morning Orpheus gig. It was a blast, and she and i proceeded to cram as much together-time into my last week as we could. She was trying to leave the party life behind, cutting down on drinking and stopping smoking. The first time we hugged, my eyes popped at how we molded together. We spent three or four nights kissing and cuddling. She revealed a damaged past, complete with a street rape at the age of fourteen. She enjoyed my kissing and nibbling her neck and shoulders, which surprised her...she couldn’t even enjoy oral sex, which blew my mind. She was Michigan-raised, of Mexican/Native American descent. She had a love/hate relationship with her family, the hate centering on domineering males. She missed her sisters and nieces, and cried talking of them. She had moved to Florida years before, with a boyfriend. She spoke of living the rest of her life in Bulgaria, or Michigan. I was happy to take things slowly. One night, she came to my place after an evening of drinking. The combination of fatigue and alcohol put her asleep immediately, snoring on her back in the center of the bed. I told myself that this was her one grace night, and that the next time i would roll her over. I let her be, put earplugs in, and slept upside-down so as to fit on the mattress. She was embarrassed the next day, but i was thrilled she'd been able to sleep so comfortably even while her subconscious knew i was there (okay okay, maybe she had to anesthetize herself to get to that place...but i'm ever the optimist). Another night i was sleeping nude when she arrived and made her way to bed in the darkness. In settling in, her hand brushed my penis. She was embarrassed, but laughed. I was eager to continue the relationship. I was already planning a return trip to FL, and she was going to visit me. The following month i sent two letters and received one, but contact was limited as she had no phone. When i visited FL, it took her a couple days to find the note i left on her porch. She'd started smoking again, and had started seeing someone after i'd left. She said it was already over with them, but from the way she said it i knew it wouldn’t take an act of god to get them back together. I was a little thrown, and we only spent one night together, during which i held but didn’t kiss her. She spoke of wanting to live in New York the coming summer, but her energy was far from centered. We were supposed to spend my last day together. I didn’t hear from her.

...and videotape?

THEATER 54
-fall 2000
(Note: to any copyright lawyers reading this, the following account is fictional, designed solely to romanticize my pathetic existence)
Previously at the Orpheus, i had been paying royalties (mostly), but now i intended to adapt a movie. As i didn't see any way to squeeze six or seven figures worth of royalties out of a $1000 budget, it was time to go guerilla. A staged version of the script didn't exist, so i did some streamlining and re-shaping. From the first time i'd seen the movie, the drifter with videotapes of women talking about their sex lives had been one of my dream roles. He hasn't been with a woman in years, and uses the tapes to get off. I cast Jim Hawley as my old college buddy, the philandering husband. I cast newcomer Melissa Williams as the philanderer's unfulfilled wife who falls for me. She was an incredible find, fun and funny, a veteran of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Newcomer Jennifer Weeg played her sister, who is having an affair with the philanderer. A local nurse, it was her acting debut. I was confident that all the talent around her wouldn't let her look bad. Adam Cornelius, a rolling stone newly-arrived in Lee County, played the wife's therapist. His talent was delightful, as was his personality (thoughtful, humblingly open, and funny). He assisted with the directing. For our final character, the bar dude, i was able to coax Shane out of retirement. He had never felt proud of his work in ODD COUPLE, and had resisted acting again. The part of the dude was just right. A few short scenes in which he hits on girls (sitting at the actual Orpheus bar, which audiences always loved), during which the rest of us ran the lights and sound. He was hysterical, coming up with impressions of a jawa and Michael Caine in ZULU ("Don't you throw those bloody spears at me!"). We went through several casting choices for the sister, but Jennifer ended up having just the right energy. Cast chemistry is an unpredictable thing, and i am amazed at how often we gelled in just the right way, occasionally in the face of adversity. I got Amanda into the show by having her record the voice of a woman being interviewed. She confided to me much later that she skipped the auditions because she thought the show was going to be bad, and that when she saw it, she realized how wrong she'd been. For me, it was a dream. Jim was wonderful as the cocky narcissist. He came up with a few lines of his own, all funny stuff. He developed a huge crush on Melissa, which i did my best to deflect while the show was running. Jennifer provided the Orpheus's second unscheduled live nudity, the night Jim grabbed her sheet, not realizing she was topless (sadly, i didn't see it myself). Working with Melissa was pretty sublime. She was so giving and sensitive. To be able to live my character was intensely amazing…as far as i know, that famous actor and i are the only ones to have ever played the part. Our edgy-loving Tony loved the production. By now, Mallous family tensions had been alleviated somewhat. Jimmy, the oldest brother, either loved you or hated you, often within the same week. He never left the kitchen, and called us "fucking gypsies" (eventually it became a term of endearment). I wished that the Cafe were able to feed my actors occasionally, but it was their first year, so i understood. We didn't sell out, but we had decent crowds who were happy. Hollywood lawyers never showed up to shut us down, which i had been dreading. Later that year, i did get a call. I told them what they needed to hear, and that was that. I'm sure it helped that we were the tiniest of operations. For the end-show song, i chose "Fa Fa", by little-known Guster. By our third week, it was such happiness to see the actors singing the song in post-show celebration.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

14

I had two heroes during my childhood.
My grandfather and Pete Rose.
Growing up a boy in an Ohio small town during the seventies, you were expected to have an opinion on which Cincinnati player was the best on the Big Red Machine. Seeing how many chose the bopper, Johnny Bench, i chose the scrapper: Charlie Hustle. I modeled myself on the guy with the dirty uniform, always giving everything. I suppose i may have already had an inkling that i was never going to be the biggest of the bunch, so the choice made sense in that sense too. As Cincinnati was on the other side of the state, i think i only ever saw the Reds play live once, but that hardly mattered. Pete's 44-game hitting streak in '78 had me glued to the paper...and no less so the day after the streak ended. The first sports poster to ever hang on my wall was #14.
I cried (well, not literally, boys didn't cry in our house) when Pete was traded to the Phillies in 1979. I was eleven. I went into a limbo, not wanting to be a Phillies fan (Dad's team!), but knowing i could never not root for Pete.
And then...a stroke that almost seemed like divine intervention, which cemented my boyhood affection forever. Six months after Pete was traded, Dad got a promotion necessitating a move to the Philadelphia suburbs.
I thought about the ways the move might affect my life...but my first thought wasn't about any of that.
Pete went to Philadelphia.
Me too.
His Philly years were great. The teams were bursting with personality. Dad took us to at least one or two games a year. We named one of our dogs, the best dog ever, after Pete. In 83', ex-Reds Joe Morgan and Tony Perez came to town. I wasn't a Phillie fan officially, but when they won the championship in 1980, Dad told me to get my trumpet. He got a pot and ladle. We took to the street, blowing and banging.
When Pete was traded to the Expos in 1984, i was sixteen and discovering creative passions that were far more exciting than sports had ever been. I was still sad though, not imagining i'd be moving to Montreal. When he returned to Cincinnati later that year to be player-manager, i was delighted...he was back home. I happily followed his final three seasons as a player. My memory is hazy, but i remember being keenly aware of his .300 lifetime batting average being endangered. It may have even dropped to .299 for a week or two. I almost wanted him to retire, rather than risk sub-.300. When he dropped the "player" from "player/manager", i continued to follow the Reds. In 1988, i acquired one of the most cherished possessions of my life. A couple years before, my father had met hall of famer Stan Musial on an airplane, and they ended up having drinks together when they landed. Stan sent four signed baseballs to us, one for each of the kids. Remembering that the NL career hits record had belonged to Musial before Pete, i thought how amazing it would be to have both of their signatures on the same ball. During my sophomore year of college, Paul Kleba, one of my dorm buddies, told me he was going to a Phillies/Reds game, and would be seated near the field. He told me he could get Pete's signature on my ball. I happily trusted him, and got more than i bargained for. The ball that returned to me had signatures from Musial and Rose...and Johnny Bench.
And......
Shane Rawley.
Paul said that Rawley was standing with them when it was signed, and offered to sign too. How do you say no to a major leaguer, he said?
I love that ball, and somehow i love Shane Rawley too.
Then in 1989, darkness fell on Pete's career.
Fired as manager.
Banned from baseball for life.
For betting on the game. The implicated sin was that he bet on Cincinnati while managing them. Was i at least allowed to assume he bet on them to win?
I remember not being particularly outraged. I didn't say anything against him, nor did i rush to his defense. I didn't feel particularly compelled to have the "truth" revealed. Strange reaction for a high holy advocate of honesty. Even now, i wonder why it wasn't handled differently. Why wasn't he given the chance to quietly resign, with an unspoken lifetime ban? Pete's banishment dragged the sport down as much as his own reputation.
But then, it's possible that just such an arrangement was offered, and arrogantly rejected.
As for the debate over whether he belongs in the Hall of Fame...i hesitate to come down hard on either side of that issue. It turns my stomach to think that steroid users will be elected, yet without doubt some already have. It's hard to imagine anything Pete might have done that doesn't pale in comparison. But...if we were to place his actions on another manager, say Tommy Lasorda, i'd swiftly support a lifetime ban. Take it one step further however, to propose that Lasorda had a separate Hall-worthy career as a player, and i'd have a hard time justifying his ineligibility.
These days, when Dad asks whether i'd like to visit the Hall with him, i tell him i'll not set foot there until Pete's in. Is part of the reason my growing apathy toward spectator sports as a grownup? Sure. But there's truth there too.
I'm just someone who had a boyhood hero. Might i not like that hero in person? Of course. But that's beside the point.
The point is that in my own hall of memories, he'll never be banished.
He'll always be in some corner of my spirit.
Hustling.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Star Trek, season 3

(Don't buy into the notion that this season is unworthy. There were clunkers, but gene's team was still in place, and there are episodes of absolute brilliance.)
FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 5
AVERAGE EPISODE RATING: 2.8
-Spock's Brain **
Brain and brain, what is brain?! Not as bad as its reputation, despite the fact that shatner, kelley, and doohan have trashed it. Their point is taken, but i think this episode should occupy a unique place in the TREK universe, as a gateway. When introducing a child, start them with the animated series, then have this be their first "real" episode. Don't tell them beforehand it won't be animated, and watch their little minds get blown. That's the right vibe for this "deliteful" TREK. Fun, exciting, and a little scary. They took his brain! I'm assuming they rejected the draft in which the aliens steal kirk's mojo.
-The Enterprise Incident ****
-written by d.c. fontana
-directed by john meredyth lucas
An edgy kirk orders Enterprise into the neutral zone, where it is quickly captured. He and spock transport onto a romulan ship, where kirk has a mental breakdown. Spock agrees to hand over Enterprise in exchange for crew amnesty. Audaciousness and unpredictability do battle with gaping plot holes, but what puts it over the top is the first female captain in TREK history - a romulan (joanne linville - A STAR IS BORN, THE GODDESS). Her counter-seductions with spock are tantalizing, and her final betrayal quite poignant.
-The Paradise Syndrome ***
Kirk falls into an obelisk, loses his memory, and is treated like a god by a native indian Earth society transplanted thousands of years ago to a far planet. He marries the gentle miramanee (sabrina scharf - EASY RIDER, HELLS ANGELS ON WHEELS), and is happy, perhaps for the first time in his life. The previous medicine man (rudy solari - THE WACKIEST SHIP IN THE ARMY, RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE) burns with jealousy. While carrying kirok's child, miramanee is murdered. Spock, in command of the Enterprise, must figure out how to deflect a planet-destroying asteroid. A poignant tale with a theme to which TREK would return, the duty-bound captain tasting a carefree life of love and family. Alas, perhaps the only thing standing between this and four stars is the faint, patronizing "ugh" quality to the speech of the indians.
-And the Children Shall Lead *
Enterprise rescues children from a colony where the adults killed themselves. The kids take over, empowered by an "evil alien" (cue the ELO?). The writer is a regressive sexist who thinks that a woman's greatest fear is (or ought be) losing her looks (again, TREK?). The kids do a hocus-whammy gesture that's MST-ready, and the "good vs. evil" vibe is better suited to lesser sci fi, like that lucas hendecology. Look for brian tochi (SPACE ACADEMY, REVENGE OF THE NERDS).
-Is There in Truth No Beauty? **
Self-derivative and occasionally tedious (spock is damaged by neglecting to wear his visor, Enterprise is hurled past the galaxy's edge...), but the speech he gives about corporeal isolation as he's experiencing the medusan's emotions, is quite touching. And strange shades of geordi...a blind person able to "see" through technology, who happens to wear a visor. Another appearance for diana muldaur (QUINCY M.E., BORN FREE).
-Spectre of the Gun ****
-written by gene coon
-directed by vincent mceveety
As punishment for trespassing, the malkotians trap kirk, spock, mccoy, scotty, and chekov in a recreation of the gunfight at the OK Corral. The rest of the town sees them as the clanton/mcclaury gang, and they seem helpless to avoid the death stalking them. A beautiful example of budget restrictions making a better product - originally slated to be shot on location, the studio setting with intentionally incomplete sets lends a spooky feel. The guest stars, particularly the earps and doc holliday, are eerie and spot-on.
-Day of the Dove ***
An alien presence that feeds on hatred traps humans and klingons aboard Enterprise, gives them primitive weapons, and heals their wounds. TREK's klingon development is embryonic, yielding only tentative shadows of bloodthirsty warriors. Michael ansara (BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY, VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA) is kang, a worthy enemy. And chekov's almost-rape of a klingon woman ain't nothing. The only classic TREK episode that could be made a million times better today (no no no...you leave kirk vs. gorn alone, some things are sacred).
-For the World is Hollow, and I have Touched the Sky ***
Kirk, spock, and mccoy are uneasy guests inside a hollow asteroid where the inhabitants don't know there's a universe outside their home. Mccoy and the fabrini leader (katherine woodville - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD, POSSE) fall in love. Having discovered that he's contracted a fatal disease, he chooses personal happiness over Starfleet. De kelley's greatest TREK.
-The Tholian Web ***
It moves along at a four-star pace until a seam bursts. Responding to a distress call from a sister ship, which is disappearing into an alternate universe, Enterprise becomes trapped in an energy web spun by the tholians, while waiting for kirk's re-emergence from subspace. Brilliant visuals inside the ill-fated Defiant (which returns along with the tholians in ENT's "In a Mirror, Darkly").
-Plato's Stepchildren ***
An object lesson in how hard it is to achieve four stars. Exquisite in so many ways...graceful writing by meyer dolinsky, compelling acting, and beautiful visuals. People who left Earth at the time of plato, achieving immortality and telekinesis on an alien world, abduct kirk, spock, and mccoy for entertainment and doctoring. Spock sings, laughs, and cries. Kirk acts like a horse. The dwarf alexander (poignantly rendered by michael dunn - THE WILD WILD WEST, THE WEREWOLF OF WASHINGTON) is the buffoon who ends up showing more heart than any of them. In her second TREK go-round, barbara babcock (HILL STREET BLUES, DR. QUINN) gives a beautiful, heartless performance. And of course, the first interracial kiss in television history. Wonderful.
-Wink of an Eye **
Aliens who exist in a state of hyper-acceleration commandeer Enterprise. They bring a handful of crewmembers into their reality to keep things running, and deela's (kathie browne - BONANZA, HONDO) attraction to kirk is the wedge he needs to get a message to spock and re-take the ship.
-The Empath **
Trapped in an alien laboratory, kirk, spock, and mccoy find a mute empath and become the subjects of physical/psychological experiments. A touching performance by kathryn hays (THE ROAD WEST, AS THE WORLD TURNS).
-Elaan of Troyius **
Compelling and flawed. Enterprise is assigned to transport an arrogant elasian (france nuyen - SOUTH PACIFIC, THE JOY LUCK CLUB) to Troyius, where she will marry their leader and bring peace. The troyian ambassador (the unforgettably unctious jay robinson - THE ROBE, BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA) thinks she's a barbarian, and gets knifed for his trouble. Kirk instructs her in duty and etiquette, returns slap for slap, and wouldn'cha know...they have sex! The regrettable message? Strong women long to be "broken" (or spanked).
-Whom Gods Destroy ***
Big heapings of scene-chewing and sexiness. Kirk and spock deliver drugs to a prison for the criminally insane, but the asylum has been taken over by inmate and Starfleet legend captain garth (a superlative performance by steve ihnat - IN LIKE FLINT, HOUR OF THE GUN). Yvonne craig (BATMAN, IN LIKE FLINT) is eye-popping and nuanced as an orion inmate. Not great TREK, but great entertainment.
-Let That Be Your Last Battlefield ****
-written by oliver crawford
-directed by jud taylor
Bele. Lokai. Lokai. Bele...gorshin!!! Iconic. Racism's too hot for network TV? Let's just see what TREK has to say 'bout that. Frank (BATMAN, TWELVE MONKEYS) and lou antonio (COOL HAND LUKE, SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS) play duochromatically-opposed aliens who have pursued each other for 50,000 years. They hijack Enterprise, only to find that race hatred left their planet lifeless millenia ago.
-The Mark of Gideon ***
Those subversive TREK writers. Know what this episode is? The most thinly-veiled pro-choice commercial to ever slide past the censors. Set on a planet so overcrowded that people are literally standing shoulder to shoulder, their leaders bemoan their fatal devotion to the sanctity of life. They kidnap kirk and transport him to a fake Enterprise, where he is supposed to fall in love with odona (sharon acker - THE NEW PERRY MASON, THRESHOLD), who pretends not to know where she is. Communicable, lethal disease will be reintroduced into the population.
-That Which Survives **
An away team must deal with the repeated materializations of a woman who kills those she touches. Painfully written in spots...but lee meriwether (BATMAN: THE MOVIE, THE TIME TUNNEL) continues the batathon! Also, my nominee for the worst actor in the history of TREK? Naomi pollack as lt. radha.
-The Lights of Zetar **
A lethal, sentient energy cloud possesses scotty's new love, lt. mira romaine (ROOM 222, BEN CASEY).
-Requiem for Methusalah ***
Two worthy additions to TREK lore - flint (james daly - PLANET OF THE APES, MEDICAL CENTER), a 6000 year-old hermit genius who was brahms, solomon, and da vinci (hmm, don't recall janeway's holo-leonardo looking like...), and reyna (louise sorel - PLAZA SUITE, AIRPLANE II: THE SEQUEL), genius android unaware of her nature. The episode is an unintentionally brilliant metaphor for monogamy...an innocent dies when her two loves demand she choose one or the other.
-The Way to Eden ***
When you think 1969, many images come to mind, none of which have anything to do with STAR TREK. But in this episode, the 60s zeitgeist blooms, in a way that's kinda glorious. Really. How can "hippies take over Enterprise" be anything other than a disaster? Just let it flow, daddy-o. Led by insane genius sevrin (skip homeier - THE INTERNS, THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN), a band of utopians seeking a technology-free life are arrested by Enterprise for stealing a starship. Totally flower-childed out in dress and speech, they buddy up to the crew before taking over. Guess who knows their secret handshake? C'mon, guess! Spock. No, really. He admires their quest, and has a jam session with them. No, really. He has a conversation with sevrin which is subtly, exquisitely written. He bonds with one of the followers (charles napier - THE BLUES BROTHERS, AUSTIN POWERS), who turns this episode into HAIR in space. No, really. Chekov was once in love with one of the hippies. It all ends in disaster, but it's beautiful, because not for one second does it pander.
-The Cloud Minders ***
Workers, lay down your chains, the union train's a-comin'! A repressed working class agitates on an "idyllic" planet. As with any good union film, the climax is a dirty mess in a mine shaft. Jeff corey (BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, CONAN THE DESTROYER) is spot-on as the indignant oppressor. His disturbingly sexy daughter (diana ewing - THE WAY WE WERE, 80 STEPS TO JONAH) develops a bad case of spock-crush. His responses, sadly, ain't written so well, even though nimoy acts it so wonderfully you might not notice.
-The Savage Curtain ****
-written by gene roddenberry, arthur heinemann
-directed by herschel daugherty
A burst of TREK wonderment. A rock-based lifeform kidnaps kirk and spock, and conjures figures from their minds, to study good and evil. On the side of good? Abraham lincoln (a lovely performance by lee bergere - BOB&CAROL&TED&ALICE, DYNASTY) and the founder of vulcan logic, surak (consummately rendered by barry atwater - SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH, DR. KILDARE). The dialogue between spock and surak is so tight it hums, and is the perfect antidote to later writers and actors who won't do vulcan so well. On the evil side? The great klingon kahless, khan (no, gengis!), col. green of the eugenics wars, and zora neale hurston. Brilliant at every turn.
-All Our Yesterdays ****
-written by jean lisette aroeste
-directed by marvin j. chomsky
One of the few TREKs to take you a place of emotional bleakness, and leave you there. Kirk, spock, and mccoy beam down to a pre-warp planet facing the death of its sun. The sole apparent survivor is a time portal librarian (the second TREK turn for the wonderful ian wolfe - DICK TRACY, WKRP IN CINCINNATI). They accidentally go through. Kirk is jailed in an era of pre-industrial witchhunting, and his guard is johnny haymer (M*A*S*H, ANNIE HALL). Spock and mccoy end up in a prehistoric ice age populated only by zarabeth (mariette hartley - MARNIE, GENESIS II), a political exilee. Spock finds himself reverting to the vulcan barbarism of 5000 years before, claiming zarabeth and almost killing mccoy. The chemistry is so profound, your spirit tears as they realize that leaving would kill her. A breathtaking, elevated sci fi meditation (and deserving of the featured slot in any SCREW-THE-TEMPORAL-PRIME-DIRECTIVE-A-THON, as all the inhabitants of a dying planet are sent back into any historical period they wish).
-Turnabout Intruder *
Somewhere in this worst classic episode ever, there was a good intention - this would be TREK's greatest feminist moment! The plot revolves around the idea that no woman could become a starship captain. Talk about hoisted by one's own petard...instead of pricking the conscience, it just comes off as painful to even consider that this could be part of humanity's future. It's easy to say that decades later, but i suspect this one has been making people wince since the 70s, as it also flogs the idea that jilted women go insane. Lost in the mess is the funniest neck pinch ever (compliments of redshirt john boyer), and jimmy doohan's greatest classic scene. It's tempting to wish that "All Our Yesterdays" could have been the last episode...but perhaps this crashing dud coming last somehow contributes appropriately to the show's mythology, symbolic of the network mishandling of the greatest television show ever.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Star Trek animated

(May we dispense with the notion of this series being "non-canonical"? Roddenberry oversaw it. They had the entire cast, save chekov. Writers and other members of the original creative team were onboard. It's a treat for adult fans, and the perfect way for a youth to start the voyage...)
FOUR-STAR EPISODES: 2
SERIES AVERAGE: 3.0
SEASON 1
-Beyond the Farthest Star ***
An ancient, derelict, advanced starship is found. A malevolent life form living in the computer attempts to take over Enterprise.
-Yesteryear ****
-written by d.c. fontana
-directed by hal sutherland
Through an accident with the Guardian of Time ("City on the Edge of Forever" TOS), spock's adult existence is eliminated from history. When he realizes that a "cousin" who once saved his life was actually himself, he must travel in time to his own childhood. Mark lenard (THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD, HERE COME THE BRIDES) returns to voice sarek.
-One of Our Planets is Missing ***
Enterprise must stop a planet-consuming cloud. If it feels familiar, you're not crazy. If it feels familiar, you're not crazy.
-The Lorelei Signal ***
A signal from a mysterious planet puts all the men in a dreamlike state. The landing party is captured by a race of beautiful women (all blonde...hmm), and drained of their life force. Metaphor department, cleanup in aisle 3! The female crewmembers proceed to kick asstrogen.
-More Tribbles, More Troubles ***
Cyrano jones (stanley adams - BATMAN, EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX* BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK) is back, this time with oversized tribbles, and aggrieved klingons hot on his trail.
-The Survivor **
After being missing for five years, a famed humanitarian is found...or is he? One star lost for sexist claptrap, as another woman is portrayed as an ineffectual, quivering slave to emotions.
-The Infinite Vulcan ***
On a planet of intelligent plants who want to create a master race capable of imposing peace on the galaxy, spock is cloned and grown to immense size. Written by walter koenig!
-The Magicks of Megas-Tu ***
Searching for the heart of the galaxy, Enterprise is saved by a devilish stranger. He takes them to a planet where they are put on trial, just as its inhabitants were put on trial on Earth centuries before. Guest starring as asmodeus? Ed bishop (UFO, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY)! A sci fi fanboy dream.
-Once Upon a Planet ***
Returning to the amusement planet ("Shore Leave" TOS), Enterprise discovers the caretaker has died, and malevolent computerized havoc reigns.
-Mudd's Passion ***
Harry mudd (roger c. carmel - BATMAN, THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW) is back, hawking love crystals. Spock falls in love with chapel. It teeters on the edge of camp, but ends up being righteously hysterical.
-The Terratin Incident ***
A signal from the Cepheus system causes the crew to shrink. Can they figure out why, while they're still big enough to use their instruments?
-The Time Trap ***
Members of every race in the known galaxy have created a benevolent utopia inside an inescapable "Bermuda's Triangle". The Enterprise and a klingon cruiser commanded by kor get pulled in, and must work together to escape.
-The Ambergris Element ***
Lost on a water world, kirk and spock are transformed into water-breathers by the rebellious youth of a civilization which hates air-breathers. Wonderful, with one star lost for an unfortunate reference to mccoy performing dangerous experiments on other animals.
-The Slaver Weapon ***
Written by larry niven - a fascinating bauble for his fans, as spock, sulu, and uhura face off against kzinti. The only kirkless classic TREK.
-The Eye of the Beholder ***
The bridge crew find themselves on display in an alien zoo. They struggle to communicate with their far-superior captors. Delightful all around. One star lost for affirming that humans aren't animals.
-The Jihad ***
Kirk and spock join a team of galactic experts, in trying to avert a holy war. A fun ride on a crystalline lava planet.
SEASON 2
-The Pirates of Orion ***
A fun jaunt, as orions steal medicine needed to save spock's life. It teeters on the brink of seeming (and looking) like they're not even talking about the already-established orions, but rebounds with some fascinating stuff about the suicidal lengths they'll go, to preserve their neutrality.
-Bem ***
Say hello to one of the most squirrelly characters in TREK lore...bem. An alien envoy, he badgers his way onto an away mission, and proceeds make surreptitious mayhem thanks to his unknown abilities as a colony creature. For a while, he comes off as a thousand times hipper than ol' j.t. kirk.
-The Practical Joker ***
Kirk is a jerk! Eluding romulans, Enterprise passes through an energy field that makes the ship's computer play non-stop practical jokes (no picky questions, just go with it). Mccoy, uhura, and sulu get trapped on the "rec deck" (or holodeck...the very first TREK appearance thereof).
-Albatross ***
Mccoy is arrested and charged with causing an alien plague.
-How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth **
Enterprise encounters a being who once visited Earth, and shaped mayan culture.
-The Counter-Clock Incident ****
-written by fred bronson
-directed by bill reed, hal sutherland
That...was...wild. With original captain robert april aboard, Enterprise tries to intercept a ship heading for a nova at warp 36. They're pulled into an opposite universe (not mirror, not alternate, stay with us), where everyone ages backwards. Surrounded by infants, april and his wife and spock save the day. If you've never heard george takei do an impression of a teenage takei, you've never heard funny.