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The Case for… The End of Time

Adam James Cuthbert makes the case for the tenth Doctor’s final story.

Although the Tenth Doctor wasn’t my first, through the combination of Read more …


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The Other Asylum of the Daleks Prequel

It turns out that Pond Life wasn’t the only Doctor Who “prequel” rel Read more …


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Wang: Voyager Set Was A Comedy Club

Star Trek: Voyager might have been a serious show, with a starship crew lost in the Delta Quadrant desperately trying to get back home, but for the actors portraying that crew, being on the Voyager set was more akin to a being in a comedy club.

Garrett Wang, who played the quiet, unassuming Harry Kim, enjoyed working with his co-actors and enjoyed their brand of humor. “When I look back upon the experience, what stands out most are the times we Voyager actors shared on the set when the camera wasn’t rolling,” said Wang. “I’ve always said that if we kept the cameras rolling between takes, and broadcast that footage as a half-hour reality show, it would be the highest rated show on television!”

“Each and every Voyager principal actor had a unique sense of comedy,” said Wang, “whether it was Bob Picardo‘s dry one-liners, Tim Russ‘s premeditated practical jokes, or Kate Mulgrew‘s random survey questions, the set of Voyager was definitely, at times, like being at a comedy club. In my opinion, to be funny, one must first be intelligent. Thus, I believe my fellow Voyager actors to be some of the most intelligent people I’ve ever worked with.”

Wang spoke about portraying Harry Kim, and his frustration that the ensign never received a promotion in seven years. “I mean, come on people! Kim was probed, beaten, tortured and held the distinction of being the first Voyager crew member to die and come back to life,” said Wang. “What more does a guy have to do to get promoted to Lieutenant for frak’s sake? To add further insult to injury, other crew members such as Tuvok (Russ) and Paris were being promoted, demoted and then re-promoted throughout the seven-year run of Voyager.”

During the fourth season, Wang phoned writer/producer Brannon Braga regarding that lack of a promotion. “Well, somebody’s gotta be the ensign,” replied Braga. Frustrated, Wang even went to Kate Mulgrew. “[I] frustratedly asked her why I wasn’t promoted yet,” said Wang. “In hindsight, this action on my part was hilarious because Kate Mulgrew had no more influence in promoting my character than a random person on the street. I would like to take the time to say that I had no influence on these Kim developments.”

Wang would have liked to have directed an episode of Voyager, but believes that his outspokenness doomed his chances of doing so on Voyager. “Berman informed us that he expected all actors portraying human roles to follow his decree,” said Wang. “He told us that we were to underplay our human characters. He wanted our line delivery to be as military — and subsequently devoid of emotion — as possible, since this, in his opinion, was the only way to make the aliens look real.

“Years after the initial lunch meeting, I made a comment off record to a TV Guide reporter on how upset I was over Berman’s ridiculous mandate of less emotion for the human characters. My wording to him at the time was, ‘I think the producers of Voyager did not take the risks to make the show as good as it could be.’ Even though I wasn’t really specific about what the issue was, that printed comment alone sealed the death of my ambitions to direct an episode of Star Trek.”

Wang had mixed emotions about the Voyager finale. “I think the first hour of the finale was fantastic, very exciting, well written, good pacing,” he said. “Everything was great about the first hour, but then the second hour it just seemed like it tied up all of the loose ends very quickly. So, the second half of the finale I was not happy about, and I especially didn’t like the fact that we ended the series in Earth’s orbit. We don’t even step foot on Earth. Hello! After seven years, I think the fans wanted to see us actually step foot on terra firma.”

Wang rarely acts nowadays, frustrated with the Hollywood system and the lack of opportunity. “I stopped acting mainly because I got jaded with the industry,” he said. “You would think that after putting in seven years as a regular that certain doors would be open to you. But once you’re done with your show, you’re pretty much back at square one, auditioning once again. Auditions were really few and far between mainly because of the onslaught of reality TV programming.”

Fans can see Wang at various conventions though, and is heavily involved in TrekExpo, FedCon and DragonCon. “I love these conventions,” said Wang. “I love going to these cons because I’m already a sci-fi fan, and also because I get a chance to give the fans out there who don’t know me in real life a little taste of who I am, who I am as Garrett Wang, as opposed to Harry Kim. The main difference is that Garrett Wang is showman, a host, a moderator, a standup comic all rolled into one when he’s on stage, and Ensign Kim is pretty straight-laced. So it’s great that people can see more of who I am.”

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Shatner Receives Honorary Degree

McDill University alumnus William Shatner was presented with an honorary Doctorate of Letters today at the spring convocation ceremonies at McGill.

The eighty-year-old Shatner graduated from McDill forty-nine years ago, with a BA in commerce.

Shatner encouraged graduates to dare. “Don’t be afraid of taking chances,” he said, “of striking out on paths that are untrod. Don’t be afraid of failing. Don’t be afraid of making an ass of yourself. I do it all the time and look where I got.”

When he attended McDill, Shatner wasn’t a model student, he told the graduates. He hadn’t always studied, he admitted, and had to take an extra math course to make up for one that he had earlier failed.

But Shatner had been active in extracurricular activities; he was president of McGill’s radio club and had participated in campus theater productions.

Shatner won’t be the only Star Trek actor to receive an honorary Doctorate of Letters this year. Patrick Stewart will receive his own honorary degree this summer from the University of East Anglia.

“We present honorary degrees to those who have made a remarkable contribution to the arts, science, sport, and civil society,” said UEA Registrar and Secretary Brian Summers.

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Takei: Change The Name, Abrams

Although George Takei is a fan of J.J. AbramsStar Trek, he would prefer that the next movie in the series not be called Star Trek.

According to Takei, there was nothing wrong with the movie, including John Cho‘s portrayal of Sulu. “[Cho] did a terrific job,” said Takei. “J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek was a terrific movie.”

But it wasn’t Takei’s Star Trek and he feels that there should be a line drawn separating the two different Treks. “I think there should be a more distinguishing label to it than Star Trek,” he explained. “I hope the next one will have some sort of a number or label. I take umbrage with it being called Star Trek. We were Star Trek. This Star Trek is a progeny of our Star Trek.”

Proud of his association with Star Trek, Takei never felt that Star Trek was a burden which hindered his later career. “I prefer to see it as a great asset than can be parlayed,” he said. “I’ve done plays totally unrelated to Star Trek up and down Great Britain. I’ve played Japanese soldiers, Chinese emperors, a wizard. But when I come out of the stage door, there are all these Star Trek fans with their books, their action figures – all that memorabilia. My fans are very loyal. It’s been a great professional asset, as well as a source of personal pride.”

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Tyler Perry Expects JJ Abrams To Call For Star Trek 2012

Tyler Perry as a Starfleet Admiral was a surprise cameo in the 2009 Star Trek movie. It was his first time acting in a film he wasn’t directing. Now Perry seems appears to be expecting a phone call for JJ Abrams to return for the 2012 Star Trek s…

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Star-struck Spiner

When Brent Spiner came to Hollywood, it wasn’t just to become a famous actor.

The actor, best-known to Star Trek: The Next Generation fans as Data, also wanted to meet his favorite movie stars.

When Spiner was asked about his most memorable role, he explained that part of his attraction to a role was the coworkers involved in a project. “They’re all memorable for different reasons,” he said, “but mostly they’re about who you meet, who you get to work with. I’m a fan, just like anyone else. And when I came to Hollywood, what I really wanted to do was meet some of my heroes.”

His role in 1997′s romantic comedy Out To Sea, in which Spiner played tyrannical cruse director Gil Godwyn, was the most memorable to Spiner, because he got to work with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. “I got to work with these giants,” he said, “my heroes since I was a kid.”

Spiner also spoke briefly in the interview about playing Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation, where he said that he didn’t find it difficult to play an android without emotions, and about baseball. Spiner played baseball in high school.

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Nimoy: Trek Movie Hits And Misses

Leonard Nimoy shared his thoughts regarding the first six Star Trek movies; what worked, what didn’t and what he wishes had happened in the final original series movie.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture wasn’t very well-received by fans, but was successful enough to warrant a second film. “The feeling was, after that first movie, there was something to be done with Star Trek,” said Nimoy, “that the first movie hadn’t done what was available to be done, that there was still an audience, still an interest, but that it didn’t satisfy the audience in terms of content.”

In Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, Nimoy had a specific reason for going along with Spock’s death. “…When they came to me with the idea of doing that second film, I thought they were just trying to squeeze one more movie out of the franchise,” he said. “I thought that it would be the end of Star Trek and that’s why I accepted the idea of Spock dying at the end of Star Trek II.

But Spock’s fate wasn’t necessarily final, as Nimoy found out when filming the scene. “When we came up with the idea of doing a mind meld on Dr. McCoy, on DeForest Kelley, I was asked if I could say something in that mind meld that would give us a hook for the future, in case there was a possibility of continuing,” said Nimoy. “And I came up with the word ‘Remember,’ which I thought was broad enough and interesting enough that we might be able to use it as our hook in the future.”

One film was a bit of a disappointment to Nimoy, who had hoped for more revelations regarding a familiar Star Trek foe. In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Nimoy wanted to know more about the Klingons and what made them tick. “…What I was hoping for was that once inside the Klingon Empire we would find out something about the Klingons that would surprise us all,” he said. “Why are they so angry? Why are they so hostile? Why are so warring? Why are they so bent on conflict and paranoia and suspicion? What’s going on in their minds? What’s inside that Empire that we don’t know that would surprise us? We never quite got to that. We never quite did. We did do an interesting story about the political faction within the Klingon’s structure, but we didn’t quite get to that amazing revelation about what the Klingons were really all about.”

The movies weren’t the end of Star Trek for Nimoy, who appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation. “I went to the producers at Next Generation with the idea that we could do a crossover, that I could do an appearance on The Next Generation that would, in a sense, be a connection to the Star Trek films that we were making,” said Nimoy. “They wrote a script which I thought served that purpose. I went and gladly did it. And yes, it was my idea. I went to them with the idea, and we did it.”

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Koenig: Animated Series Disappointment

For Walter Koenig, writing The Infinite Vulcan was an often frustrating process.

Although Koenig wasn’t included in the voice work for Star Trek: The Animated Series, he was able to contribute to the series although contributing meant having to deal with Gene Roddenberry‘s many changes to his script.

The first thing about The Animated Series that made Koenig unhappy was not being included with the rest of the cast. “I felt really abused by not being involved,” he said. “I did applaud Leonard Nimoy‘s posture during this whole thing, not in terms of me, but in terms of George and Nichelle, because he took a stand, saying that he would not perform in the animated show unless they were included, since they were part of the original show and helped make it a success. It made sense, in terms of his not marshalling his forces on my behalf, because I wasn’t part of the original show. But all the same I felt I was kind of screwed around because I asked if I could come in and read for the part of Keniclius and they said ‘Yeah,’ and it was really lip service. I came in and I read, and they had no intention of hiring. So that upset me.”

Roddenberry’s assistant Susan Sackett helped Koenig, passing along his writing to Roddenberry who was impressed enough by what he saw to ask Koenig to write an episode for the series. “I had been working on a novel, or it might have been a screenplay,” Koenig said. “I don’t really remember. This was the days of typewriters, and no spell check. I asked Susan Sackett to type it up for me and said I would pay for it. She read it and told Gene about it, and told him that I could write quality material. He read it and then asked me if I’d be interested in doing an animated episode of Star Trek.”

Koenig got the idea for the episode he wrote, The Infinite Vulcan, from newspapers. “Cloning was something that was being speculated about a great deal in that period,” he said.

Working with Roddenberry proved to be the second frustration for Koenig as far as the animated series was concerned. “Well, the whole thing was a little unpleasant to me,” he said. “First of all, I did about ten drafts. I never thought I could get through ten drafts. It just was an unbearable process. Gene kept saying, ‘Let’s use talking vegetables. This is animation. Let’s do this. Let’s do that.’ So I had to keep making adjustments to accommodate the medium in which we were working. So that wasn’t very pleasant.”

Koenig’s current work includes the Raver comic book and the second vampire comic Things to Come. Koenig can be seen on television in the forthcoming episode of Shatner’s Raw Nerve, due to air March 14.

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Retro Review: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

When a Starfleet vessel accidentally finds Khan, who was stranded on Ceti Alpha V decades before by Captain James T. Kirk, the former tyrant steals the ship and comes seeking vengeance.

Plot Summary: A grumpy, aging Admiral Kirk is testing cadets at Starfleet Academy who have studied under Captain Spock, whose protegee Saavik and many other trainees arrive on the Enterprise for routine exercises. The ship receives an emergency transmission from Kirk’s onetime lover, Dr. Carol Marcus, who has been working with her son David on a project called Genesis, a scientific program that reorders matter at a subatomic level – creating life on lifeless worlds, including the laboratory Regula I where she has been working. But the starship Reliant has contacted the Marcuses to tell them that Starfleet will be taking over the project, and Marcus believes that Starfleet intends to use it as a weapon. Unknown to both Kirk and Marcus, the Reliant’s senior crew members have been compromised, for while looking for a test planet for Project Genesis, they discovered Kirk’s old nemesis Khan Noonien Singh, a genetically advanced tyrant bent on revenge upon Kirk for his exile and his wife’s death. Khan now controls the minds of Captain Terrell and Commander Chekov, and has learned from them of the existence of Genesis. When Kirk and his trainees arrive at Regula I to follow up on Carol Marcus’s plea, Reliant fires on Enterprise, severely damaging the ship before Kirk is able to retaliate. On the space station, he finds most of the scientists murdered, though Carol and David – and Genesis – are missing. Terrell and Chekov have been left on the station by Khan.

Following Regula I’s transporter signals, Kirk tracks the Marcuses to a cave deep within the planet below, where David attacks Kirk, forcing Carol to admit to her son something Kirk already knows: that he is David’s father. Kirk claims to have had nothing to do with Starfleet’s taking control of Genesis, at which point Terrell contacts Khan to reveal the location of the delivery torpedo. Khan beams Genesis away, though Terrell manages to resist his order to kill Kirk, turning his phaser on himself instead. Khan departs with Genesis, though Kirk knows Khan will have to repair Reliant before he goes far. He stalls for time, allowing Khan to believe he has been marooned, letting the Marcuses show him their work on Genesis underground. Soon afterward, he reveals that he has not lost contact with Spock, who beams them aboard the Enterprise. Because the ship is still damaged, Kirk orders it into the Mutara Nebula, knowing that Khan will follow but his ship’s sensors and shields will be useless. The Enterprise is able to navigate behind Reliant and destroy its engines, but rather than accept defeat, Khan arms the Genesis torpedo. Because the Enterprise cannot go to warp speed until someone can enter the radiation-flooded control center in Engineering, Spock bypasses the safety controls and repairs the ship himself, knowing he will suffer fatal radiation poisoning. The Enterprise’s warp engines come back online just before the Genesis torpedo explodes, and the ship escapes while the nebula and the Reliant are transformed into a new solar system. McCoy calls Kirk to engineering, where Spock tells him not to mourn, but after Spock’s death, all the senior crewmembers are devastated at the funeral. David tells Kirk that he is proud to be his son, and the torpedo tube containing Spock’s body is launched to the newly forming Genesis planet.

Analysis: Although I’ve loved this movie for more than half my life, this is the hardest review I’ve ever had to write. (I’m tempted to do what my son does when things are infuriating – something he picked up from myself and his father long before he’d seen the film – and simply type, “KHAAAAAANNNNN!”) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the most-admired by far of the films by all the serious Trekkers I know, and if there was a time when it wasn’t the best-loved, because of the tragic ending, that has been erased by the reversal of that tragedy in the subsequent films. I believe this is the first time I’ve watched The Wrath of Khan since receiving canonical proof that Spock will, in fact, outlive Kirk (well, not that the filmmakers couldn’t reverse that – Spock was the first for me of a long line of magical un-deaths that I’ve since learned to resent, but more on that next week). In fact, when I think of tragedy associated with this movie now, the first thing that comes to mind is the death of Merritt Butrick – who played David – of AIDS before his 30th birthday.

So many elements from The Wrath of Khan have entered popular culture apart from Kirk’s epic shout from the bowels of Regula that I’m tempted to link to the TVTropes page rather than try to cite them all. I even left a lot of them out of the summary above: the Kobayashi Maru test, which has become synonymous with a no-win situation; McCoy’s wry declaration, “I only use it for medicinal purposes” when handing Kirk a bottle of illegal Romulan ale; Carol Marcus’s equally wry “Jim Kirk was never a Boy Scout”; Kirk’s gloating “I’m laughing at the superior intellect”; and Spock’s use of a Vulcan aphorism, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one,” which my kids had thought was from the Bible or Aristotle and were a bit horrified to learn that it originated with the fictional philosopher Surak. Then there’s the phenomenon that TVTropes calls Ham to Ham Combat, in which two actors of epic stature try to overact each other; it’s extremely rare that someone can outdo William Shatner in the scenery-chewing department, but Ricardo Montalban does it with such relish, mashing up lines from Moby Dick with astronomical phenomena and made-up places, intoning things like, “Kirk, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold? It is very cold in space.” Only Darth Vader’s “Apology accepted, Captain Needa” can compete with that gleeful malevolence.

This isn’t the best of the films in terms of ensemble work – Sulu and Uhura in particular get shortchanged to give screen time to Saavik (unforgettably played by Kirstie Alley, whose subsequent departure from the franchise dealt a serious blow to the sequel), and although Scotty gets a memorable tearful scene with a dying cadet, the theatrical cut of the film loses the explanation that the boy was his nephew. Chekov, at least, seems to have gained a career outside Kirk’s orbit, although the scene in which Khan claims to recognize his face is legendary because Chekov wasn’t on the Enterprise (or, at least, Walter Koenig wasn’t on the show) at the time of “Space Seed,” the episode that introduced Khan to the universe. McCoy, at least, is much more recognizable than in The Motion Picture, giving Kirk more practical advice and sharpening his familiar barbs “Get back your command before you really do grow old.” “You green-blooded, inhuman…”), plus he’s the one to whom Spock entrusts his soul, which is a lovely moment even here where we’re not entirely sure what that mind-meld is all about, even if it might just be saying goodbye. I’m very fond of the kindler, gentler Spock of this film, the one who smiles every time he says “Jim” and is such a lovely mentor to Saavik (“nobody’s perfect”), though I can’t be the only one for whom that was almost ruined by the thankfully non-canonical Pocket Books that turned them into a couple later.

This is a really well-timed movie in terms of pacing – there’s a bit of extraneous matter, a shuttle docking sequence swiped from the first movie, attention to the cadets when one might wish the story would get moving already, but nothing that weighs down the film the way its predecessor nearly collapses under the weight of its visuals. The sequences that introduce us to the Marcuses and very quickly convince us that they’re worthy to be Kirk’s onetime lover and son are simply excellent: witty dialogue, lots of passion about their work, and that wonderful briefing about Project Genesis, which Carol Marcus narrates over visuals of a transformed planet that still look good two decades later. Shatner gives perhaps his most subtle performance in the franchise – he’s convincingly old, cranky, and unnerved at the beginning, then on top of his game when he takes command, and ultimately devastating facing Spock’s loss – but the movie itself really comes alive when Montalban’s Khan appears, stealing every scene he’s in, never quite so malevolent that we don’t root for him a bit. His grievances are legitimate, though I’d think his complaint would be with all of Starfleet, not just Kirk. We never get any sort of explanation for his motley crew, all of whom are too young to have been the supermen and women originally stranded with him yet few of whom seem young enough to be their offspring, but it’s not hard to believe that they’d follow him anywhere, even the more rational Joachim, whose dying words pay tribute to Khan’s superior intellect.

Yet it’s also a really tight movie thematically, beginning with Saavik passing-by-failing the Kobayashi Maru test – she chooses the dangerous rescue, of course, and gets her entire crew killed, rather than choosing to save her ship and ignore the distress call, which I imagine wouldn’t sit well with Kirk or Spock, the needs of the many notwithstanding. She can’t let it go, however, repeatedly asking Kirk how he beat the no-win scenario, until he finally admits that he reprogrammed the simulation…as David snorts, “He cheated.” (Takes one to know one, we can all say in retrospect, though everyone is very glad Kirk and Spock cheated by lying, excuse me, exaggerating, to hide their timetable from Khan.) That sort of cheating is the M.O. of the Captain Kirk we all loved from the original series, and Spock and McCoy always warned him that there would be consequences, but Kirk has led a charmed life. When the Enterprise comes to life as the torpedo explodes, his first reaction is to thank Scotty’s reputation as a miracle worker rather than to wonder about the cost. Of course he won’t be able to let Spock’s death go, not only because Spock is his best friend and he loves him, but because he blames himself for the loss. Spock claims his decision to enter the irradiated chamber as his own personal Kobayashi Maru test, but it’s Kirk left facing the consequences of the no-win scenario until the sequel to this movie engages in the greatest cheat of all. I don’t know whether to say “there are always possibilities” or kling akhlami buhfik about that.

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