Trek Stuff

07df3N8mA bunch of Star Trek related news hit this week, as you might expect from the 50th anniversary year.

And on a related note: Wow, Paramount is blowing this anniversary, aren’t they? Compare what they’re doing with how the BBC handled the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. Paramount is doing (as far as I can tell) a single retrospective TV special later this Fall, a new installment in the JJ-Abrams-Reboot film series (with no ‘anniversary’ implications) and they’re not even launching the new series until NEXT YEAR. What the fuck, Paramount? Did the calendar sneak up on you?

Speaking of the new series, CBS showed a teaser during their Upfront presentation to advertisers this week:

Not much there, but what is there is interesting — especially “New Crews.” Plural. That lends some credence to the rumor that this show is going to be an “American Horror Story”/”True Detective”/”Fargo”-esque anthology series, where each season is a different story with a different set of characters. I’m looking forward to finding out more about it as 2017 approaches.

It appears that CBS/Paramount wants to pivot into creating stuff for fans to be excited about, rather than suing them in court — at a Trek fan event held last night, JJ Abrams told the assembled crowd that Paramount would be dropping their lawsuit against the fan film “Axanar.”

axanarAxanar Productions definitely crossed the line. Not in their acquisition of a studio space, which they admit will be used for for-profit ventures outside of their film (shady, but not line-crossing, IMO), but in paying themselves 5-figure salaries. Plus, the producers are, bluntly, jerks, who have basically been swaggering around clothing themselves in borrowed glory — practically daring Paramount to sue.

I’m glad to see the lawsuit dropped (although I’ll wait until an official announcement from Paramount — how wild would it be if JJ Abrams said this in order to force their hands, because he saw the PR hurting the forthcoming Abrams-produced film?) — because of the chilling effect this was having on other fan films.

Star Trek Continues (my favorite), does it right: Registered as a non-profit, books available for audit on-demand, volunteer labor, and not trying to present themselves as a source of new, modern-day Trek, but specifically emulating the look, feel, and sound of the 1966 original. Their 6th episode, “Come Not Between Dragons” debuts later this month.

UPDATE: A Buzzfeed reporter tweeted an official response from CBS/Paramount, confirming the dropping of the case, and the additional news that they’re working on a set of fan film guidelines:


And, lastly: This morning the second trailer for the new J.J. Abrams-reboot Trek film, Star Trek Beyond, was released:

I think I’m going to have to view the reboot films the way that I view pizza outside of the Northeast. The stuff you get may be perfectly tasty for what it is, but it’s not actually pizza.

I actually was excited by the potential unlocked by the first film, but then they blew it with “Star Trek Into Darkness.” I don’t have high hopes for this one. Looks like a generally acceptable blow-em-up-real-good space opera spectacle, though.

Throughout my life, I’ve been a fan of both Star Wars and Star Trek — but I have to admit, that right now, I am far more excited about what’s coming for Star Wars than I am for anything Trek-related. I’d love it if CBS/Paramount would take a page from Lucasfilm’s post-Disney-acquisition playbook, at least as far as transmedia brand management goes, but I’m not holding my breath.

How great would that be, though?


Trek Nerdery: An Imaginary Series Proposal

A bit of nerdery-for-the-sake-of-nerdery, which I don’t get to indulge in as often as I’d like.

A proposal for a new STAR TREK TV series, with the 50th Anniversary approaching in 2016. Our imaginary series would simply be called “Star Trek”, with no subtitle — not a reboot though, a continuation (of the prime timeline, in fact), and given the imprimatur of the undiluted franchise name.

The Year: 2466 (79 years after last “prime universe” event (destruction of Romulus and Spock’s journey back in time) — simultaneously a tribute to the 1966 debut of the Original Series, and the 78 years that Next Generation was supposed to be after Kirk’s era, according to 1987 press releases.)

1701HThe Ship: USS Enterprise, NCC-1701-H, the first of the new Enterprise-class starships, equipped with quantum slipstream drive, and poised to begin the first intergalactic exploration: A five-year mission to the Large Magellanic Cloud.

The ship would have an identifiable saucer-and-nacelles look that says “Enterprise” to the casual viewer — perhaps something like the USS Grandeur design created by Jason Lee of Vektor Visual.

The Show: A return to the final frontier — exploration, first contact, trailblazing, and far less embroilment in the Milky Way geopolitics that has marked most of the Next-Gen-Era of Trek (and avoiding the “Lost in Space/trying to get home” angle of Voyager).

The Crew: (With casting, because, hey — why not?)

kirkCaptain Amelia Kirk, Commanding Officer, played by Kim Dickens. A descendant of one of the most famous Starfleet captains in history (and we never find out exactly how, which will drive the hardcore fans insane :) ). She recognizes the expectations of being a Kirk in command of an Enterprise, but very much feels as though she has earned this assignment. Driven, dedicated, brilliant, but also possessed of the familiar reckless charm of her namesake.

nkosiAmbassador Peter Nkosi, Federation diplomat, played by Keith David. Representative of the Federation council, in charge of first contact situations. You would expect there to be tension between this position and the Captain (who assumed this role in past series), yet that is not present here — Nkosi is an old family friend of Kirk’s, and fulfills the role of trusted advisor/uncle-figure.

ahrynnCommander Thalli Ahrynn, First Officer and Science Officer, played by Beth Riesgraf. One of the most critical mission specialists on the Enterprise, the Andorian officer is perhaps the most brilliant scientist in the entire Federation. She is not a “people person”, however — her Andorian stoicism and focus often results in her having difficulty in social situations, where she is viewed as blunt, pre-occupied and occasionally harsh.

taevLt. Taev, Chief Engineer, played by Aidan Turner. A young (60-something) Vulcan/Romulan hybrid — one of the generation born after the Reunification that followed the destruction of Romulus. Struggles with family issues — his family are Romulan traditionalists, and suspected of connection to separatist terrorism. They wanted him to be a soldier, not an engineer. Unlike the expectations of the audience to a vulcanoid character, Taev is fully emotive — in fact a bit of a rogue.

jadhavLt. Eshana Jadhav, Security/Tactical Officer, played by Aarti Mann. Handling combat operations and ship security, Lt. Jadhav is a young officer on her first command-level assignment, and a high-profile one at that. Her cheerful demeanor seems at odds with her job description — she runs security on the Enterprise almost like an affable town sheriff, with a light touch, a few words in the right ears. But when situations turn serious, she is revealed as a cooly professional and efficient fighter.

irexLt. Irex, Helmsman, voiced and motion-captured by Kevin Conroy (Batman The Animated Series). Given the fact that CG and motion-capture technology are now sufficiently advanced, it’s time for a truly alien crew member. Irex is a call-back to Arex, the alien helmsman who appeared in the Star Trek animated series in the 70s — a character that has now been convincingly pulled off by the fan film production “Phase II”. The Edosian helmsman is fast friends with Lt. Taev, and the two fill our “buddy” plot needs (similar to Bashir and O’Brien on DS9).

harkerDoctor Adrian Harker, Chief Medical Officer, played by Jack Huston. English doctor, xenobiology expert and talented surgeon, Harker was also formerly in a relationship with Kirk (during their Academy days) — a situation which both say is long behind them, as both chose their careers over the relationship. Whether that is strictly true, however, remains to be seen. (We would avoid tedious “will they or won’t they” games, but there will surely be fans who ship this HARD).

The Series: Unlike previous Trek series, this show would pack its budget into a cable-style shorter season — 10 to 13 episodes at most. A “Game of Thrones” in space. Plus, a finite end — five seasons, each covering a year of the five-year mission, and that’s it. Wrapping it up while it’s still good — no long decline into irrelevance.

So there you go — an imaginary series, which will never happen. But it’s fun to imagine “what if.” Hell, I’m half-tempted to write treatments for at least the first season…

Who Knows What Evil Lurks…

So last night, Laura and I caught up on the first two episodes of Person of Interest, and I’ve gotta tell ya: It’s one of the best modern takes on The Shadow that I’ve ever seen.

No, seriously.

The original pulp tales of The Shadow featured a mysterious character (a cipher, really), supported by a network of operatives and contacts, fighting crime in New York City. Eventually, we learn that The Shadow is Lamont Cranston, a wealthy socialite… but wait! Later we learn that there’s a real Lamont Cranston, and he’s just another of The Shadow’s assistants, and that The Shadow is *actually* Kent Allard, a WWI aviator and soldier-of-fortune. I’m sure had the pulps continued, we would’ve eventually learned of another identity, behind that one.

Person of Interest takes the archetype and runs with this idea: what if the hero was actually a combination of people? To put it in terms of The Shadow, what if he was actually just the network of operatives?

Person of Interest features two cipher characters — one brains, one body. The brains are embodied by a mysterious genius who calls himself Finch — a multi-billionaire software genius now apparently presumed dead (who does things like work as a lowly coder at one of the many companies he founded). The body is Reese (“You’ve had many names. You seem to prefer that one.”) — a former CIA black-ops agent, apparently also presumed dead.

Finch built a machine for the US government, post 9/11 — an Echelon on steroids. It monitors all telecommunications, watches everything via networking all CCTV cameras, facial recognition, etc. Its task was to spot malicious intent — to stop terrorist attacks *before* they happen. After years of development, Finch realized that it was discovering ALL malicious intent — murders, etc. The government made him put in a program which separated relevant (national security) criminal activity from the rest, which they deemed “irrelevant.” The irrelevant data would be erased from the system every night at midnight.

Finch couldn’t live with that, and so he built a back-door into the system. He knew that if he was caught, they’d shut it down — so now the machine sends out 9 digits before erasing all of the ‘irrelevants.’ Only 9 digits — a single social security number. That person is somehow involved with a crime that is being predicted — although how they’re involved and what the crime will be is unknown.

Finch hires Reese to be the body to his brain. Finch funds everything, provides intelligence support, and Reese does the “hero stuff” — tracking down the person, investigating what’s happening, and trying to stop the crime before it occurs. He uses contacts as well — other people that they’ve encountered along the way (very much like The Shadow, again).

Gotta tell ya — I’m hooked. The machine is hand-wavy, yes — but who cares. It’s a clear concept. Uber-Big-Brother-Surveillance gives us one person who is in a dangerous situation — go fix it. A great dramatic premise. Plus, the surveillance-graphics which permeate cut-scenes and such is really well done. The whole “finding meaning in meaningless patterns” angle is cool.

As Laura said while we were watching the premiere: “It’s like Rubicon, but with stuff actually happening!”

For me, it is another clear indication that pulp tropes absolutely do not have to be contained within a period piece to succeed.