Enough With The ‘Star Trek’ Vs. ‘Star Wars’ Debates

Star Trek is turning 50, which means lots of new goodies for fans to consume with their wallets – among them collectors’ issues from your local magazine rack. Among these issues, expect to find, once again, the perennial Star Trek vs. Star Wars articles as to which franchise is better. Eyeroll please.

When I was a teenager, I was a Star Wars fan first and foremost. I had never seen any episodes of Star Trek, whether it was the Original Series, the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine or Voyager. There were no TV stations playing the Original Series at the time (not even the then popular TV Land was airing the show regularly). Yet the no. 1 question I would get from people after learning that I loved Star Wars was “do you like Star Trek?” For years – even after I had become acquainted with the show – I had no clue there was supposed to be a “rivalry” between fans of both franchises. I ‘m convinced there isn’t and it’s all a pointless ploy by the media to create divisions and since it isn’t working, they won’t give up.

So to beat them at their own game, I’m going to tell you what both franchises have in common and why they both made our society all the richer for it (no, I will not point out the differences because they’re too obvious).

1. They Premiered In Double Digit Years.

Star Trek made it’s debut in 1966. Ten years later, in 1977, Star Wars: A New Hope  made its debut in theaters across the US. September 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. May 2017 will mark the 40th anniversary of Star Wars. Lord, time flies!

2. Both Had Something To Say

Gene [Roddenberry] envisioned a future where humanity had overcome their fears and prejudices and were willing to use science and exploration to their advantage. George [Lucas] envisioned an epic space adventure story using age-old mythological tropes. Both franchises are morality plays that dealt with topical and age-old issues: racism, oppression, good and evil, the importance of loyalty, the need for teamwork, why we should be forgiving, why we should look for the good in others, and so forth. They also broke ground in representation: Star Trek was the first major sf show to depict a diverse crew – that included a technically savvy black woman, an Asian helmsman and a Russian at the time of the Cold War, who weren’t ethnic stereotypes –  regularly, while Star Wars broke ground by introducing cinema’s first action heroine, challenging traditional male stereotypes with its main character and introducing a black character in a position of power – 28 years before the US would vote in a black president. I would also like to add that The Phantom Menace brought us, for the first time in cinematic history, a queen who wasn’t evil.

Here’s another point: both had potential to be even more groundbreaking, had circumstances not gotten in the way: the Enterprise‘s second in command would’ve been a woman, Obi-Wan Kenobi would’ve played by Toshiro Mifune, etc. But either way, both franchises changed people’s lives.

But the average viewer/moviegoer wasn’t the only person to be inspired by these stories…

3. Both Have Inspired Scientists 

I KNOW what you’re going to say! Star Trek is sci-fi, Star Wars is space fantasy, so you can’t even put the two in the same camp. Try telling that to the many scientists who’ve been inspired by both franchises. While Star Trek is the more obvious of the two – check out the charming documentary How William Shatner Changed the World for more information – Star Wars, believe it or not, has also inspired scientists to “stretch out with their feelings” when it comes to their scientific endeavors, be it space travel, biology, or prosthetics. Here’s a list of scientists (and scientific discoveries) inspired by that galaxy far, far away:

Holly GriffithThe Crew of Expedition 45Israel SanchezJonathan ArmbrusterKelly B. Miller and Quentin D. WheelerNate Lo

Here’s another documentary to watch: Star Wars Tech.

4. Both Produced An Expansive Tie-In Novel Collection

Curious as to what happened to the the crew of  the MirrorEnterprise after the events of “Mirror, Mirror”? Want to know more about the birth and life of Khan Noonien Singh before he was introduced in “Space Seed”? Want to learn more about Vulcan philosophy or Klingon rituals? Star Trek has produced, so far, over 200 tie-in novels written by talented authors, who fill in the blanks left open by the shows and movies that answers many a fan’s burning questions. From 1977 to 2014 the Star Wars Expanded Universe answered questions regarding how the myriads of characters in that galaxy far, far away got involved in the situations presented in the movies: who was Darth Plagueis the Wise? Why do the Sith follow the Rule of Two? How did Luke rebuild the Jedi Order? What happened to the survivors of Order 66? After April of 2014, a new canon novel timeline was introduced which included the novelization of an unfinished story arc from the canceled Clone Wars TV series. Whether you prefer the EU or the CU is up for debate. Because of the successful sales of Trek and Wars books, other franchises, from the X-Files to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, have also released tie-in novels furthering the adventures of their characters, albeit with less success.

Let’s also give a shout-out to all the comics, reference books and magazines published since ’66 and ’77.

5. Both Have Given Us Well-Written And Thought-Provoking Cartoons

If you were alive in 1973, were you under the impression that cartoons were silly, humorous entertainment strictly for kids and nothing more? Star Trek: The Animated Series shot that notion into a black hole with its intelligent, thought-provoking storylines, its continuation of groundbreaking moments (such as when Uhura briefly became captain of the Enterprise) lack of cutesy talking animal characters and its toned-downed humor. And because of that, the show won the franchise its first Emmy and paved the way for more serious, adult-oriented shows like Batman: The Animated Series. And if you ask me, Star Trek: TAS deserves more love.

In 2003 and 2008, Lucasfilm released two TV series that explored the war only hinted at in A New Hope and Attack of the Clones. The 2003 Star Wars: Clone Wars used minimal dialogue to portray the earliest battles of the Clone Wars and introduced a new, scary villain (and also netted the franchise its first Emmy) while the 2oo8 Clone Wars gave us more details, a deeper philosophical insight into the Force, more ambiguous moral conundrums and a new iconic female character. That series also won an Emmy (eventually) and was Cartoon Network’s most watched show.

6. Lots And Lots of Merchandise

…And counting. Could sports or music memorabilia ever compete with a fan’s extensive Star Trek or Star Wars collection? That depends on who you ask. Start with Marc Bell or Steve Sansweet (warning: your mind will be blown or you may covet these collections).

So let’s follow George Takei’s advice and stop this silly rivalry. Remember only a Sith deals in absolutes.

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You can also buy this shirt over at Society 6 in any size you want!

 

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Cenozoic Mammals That Should Be Made Into Toys

… And not just the Smilodon and the Woolly Mammoth.

What is the Cenozoic Era, you ask? Without going into too much scientific detail, it’s the era following the Mesozoic (Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous) that lasted 66 million years ago. It’s divided into three periods: the Paleogene, the Neogene and the Quarternary (popularly known as the “Ice Age”). The dinosaurs are gone and the mammals and birds have taken over. But these aren’t the mammals and birds we’re familiar with today. It’s the time of giants. A time when sloths ate from the trees instead of climbing them (Megatherium). When camels had necks as long as giraffes (Aepycamelus). When rhinos were woolly. When whales looked like reptiles (Zeuglodon/Basilosaurus). When birds were as tall as trees (Gastornis). When horses had three toes (Mesohippus). And when the largest animal ever to walk the earth was a hornless rhinoceros (Paraceratherium).

I’ve been a dinosaur lover since that time in my childhood when my father came home with dinosaur toys for me to play with. I even owned a red dress with dinosaurs all over it. But when I was in the fifth grade, I came across a book written by Tom McGowen, with spectacular illustrations by Rod Ruth, called Album of Prehistoric Animals – which became my first exposure to Cenozoic Mammals (for more details on that book – read this post at my Tumblr blog). I’ve been loving these animals as much as dinosaurs ever since and have championed them to anyone who’ll listen. So you can guess how frustrated I feel when I can’t find that much merchandise featuring these amazing animals.

There’ve been more diverse depictions of prehistoric reptile life in toys thanks to media like the Jurassic Park franchise and the Walking With Dinosaurs tv series and exhibit. You can find toys of Carnotaurus, Spinosaurus, Nigersaurus and Therizinosaurus alongside the usual suspects (T.rex, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, etc.). Thanks to companies like Safari Ltd. you can even find non-dinosaur prehistoric creatures like Postosuchus, Dunkleosteus, and Megalodon. And since we’re on the subject of Safari Ltd., the education-based company, bless their hearts, has made some Cenozoic mammal toys besides the two usual suspects (Smilodon, Woolly Mammoth). They’ve added Doedicurus, Megatherium and Ambelodon. But these toys are sold only through Michaels or Joann’s and are rare finds (at least where I live). Your only other option is to buy them online. Another company that makes superb, detailed dino toys is a German-based company named Schleich. You’ll find most of their products at Toys R Us, but if you were to look at their official website, you’ll see anything but Cenozoic mammals. And when it comes to stuffed animals – forget it. I’d love to have me a stuffed Indricotherium but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. I do own a stuffed Smilodon (saber-toothed cat, for those of you still wondering) and recently bought a woolly mammoth from the Children’s Natural History Museum in Fremont, CA. Both were made by Wild Republic – a company that specializes in educational stuffed animals – but, predictably, those are your only two options. So if I were to contact these companies about making more Cenozoic toys (both plush and plastic) here are my seven choices:

Indricotherium

Indricotherium11

Once known as Baluchitherium and also called Paraceratherium, this creature lived during the Oligocene period in what is now Mongolia, China and the Balkans. It was estimated to be 16 ft high and 24 ft long, making it, as I said before, the largest land animal to walk the earth at the time.

Megatherium

Megatherum_DB

Commonly known as the giant ground sloth, this animal was the size of an elephant and lived in South America (where else?) during the Neogene period. Whether it was as slow as its modern-day relatives is up for debate but you sure didn’t want to get swiped by its claws.

Brontotherium

Brontotherium

Another member of the rhino family, famous for its Y-horn. It too was the size of an elephant and lived in South Dakota and Nebraska during the Paleogene period. Some of the earliest fossils were discovered by Native Americans (Sioux) who believed that thunderstorms were caused by their stampedes (bronto = “thunder”, therium = “beast”).

Entelodont

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Believed to be related to pigs, these omnivores lived on the plains of North America, Europe and Asia for 21 million years during the Neogene period. Their most famous feature is the bony lumps on the side of their heads, making them resemble warthogs. The average Entelodont stood 6 ft tall at the shoulder.

Zeuglodon

Basilosaurus

I chose to call this creature by the name Sir Richard Owen chose when he came to the conclusion that this was the earliest ancestor of the whale and not a marine reptile like Mosasaurus. But today it’s still called Basilosaurus even though that name means “king lizard”. Fun fact: it’s the state fossil of Mississippi and Alabama.

Thylacosmilus

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No, you’re not seeing another species of Smilodon. In fact this animal isn’t even a cat. It’s a marsupial that lived in South America during the Neogene period (that means it’s distantly related to POSSUMS!!!).

Xenokeryx amidalae (heck, any one of those prehistoric giraffes. They had some crazy horns!)

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Star Warriors should already be familiar with this one because it was named after Padme Amidala for its distinctive “hairdo”. Can you imagine the types of Star Wars toys made with this one? It lived during the Neogene period. Also believed by scientists to be related to deer as well.

ChalicotheriumChalicotheriumDB2

 

The weirdest one on my list. Nobody can pinpoint what species it was related to: it looks like a cross between a gorilla, a horse, a bear and a giant sloth. It was named for its pebble-like teeth. Can you imagine the looks on people’s faces when they notice the plush toy your baby or toddler is holding in his or her arm and the first thing that comes out of mouths is what is it??!! 

So join me in my quest to make these products happen. Contact these companies (or any other toy company you can think of. Read: I did contact Hansa toys one time suggesting they make an indricotherium but I never got a response.):

wildrepublic.com

hansatoysusa.com

schleich-s.com

safariltd.com

and give them your two cents for what type of Cenozoic mammal (or any other non-dinosaur prehistoric animal) you’d like to see on the shelves. By the way, what prehistoric animal is your favorite?

And does anyone know if Build-A-Bear lets you make other animals besides bears?

 

 

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Thoughts On the “Wonder Woman” SDCC Trailer

 

It appears that DC is stealing the show at Comic-Con at the moment (though to be fair, there’s a lot of buzz over that “Doctor Strange” trailer and Captain Marvel casting announcement too). The one thing everyone’s talking about: the Wonder Woman trailer, of course! I watched it online four times and I have to admit it looks exciting! As I mentioned before, it’ll take place during World War 1, which I think shows creativity on DC/Warner Bros. part. Not only will it give the world the female superhero-led movie we’ve all been waiting for, it may arouse future generations’ curiosity about a long forgotten, centuries old world war.

My thoughts:

  • It’ll be released into theaters June 2, 2017. That’s one year after Wonder Woman’s 75th anniversary and 100 years since the US declared war against Germany.
  • At first, I was skeptical about Gal Godot’s casting as Diana Prince but after seeing her in action in BVS and this trailer, boy was I glad she was hired. She’s beautiful, tall, exotic, confident, athletic and I love her accent.
  • I also lllooovvvee that blue dress she wears (the one with the hidden sword).
  • I’m glad they included a scene where she meets Etta Candy for the first time and Etta (who’s British!) gushes about how much she likes her. It’s a total opposite from DC’s 2009 animated film where all Etta does is flirt with Steve Trevor and Diana thinks low of her.
  • It’s a relief to see another actress take up the mantel of WW from Lynda Carter so that future generations of fans can talk about which incarnation is their favorite. Think about it: for years Batman fans had Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale and now Ben Affleck, while Superman fans had Kirk Alyn, George Reeves, Christopher Reeve, Dean Cain, Tom Welling, Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill. Wonder Woman fans had only Lynda Carter. But I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of the 70s Wonder Woman series because it’s so dated in it’s approach to the character. If this film does well, hopefully it’ll give DC the confidence to hire other actresses to step into the boots of the Amazon Princess.

Now for my questions:

  • Who is that general played by Danny Huston that Diana is slowly approaching? Is he the main villain? Is he Ares in disguise? Who did they pick from Wonder Woman’s rogues gallery to be in this film?
  • What role will Diana’s aunt Antiope play in this film? What’s her backstory? Will she aide Diana in her mission or will she make things harder for her?
  • Will all the Germans be bad guys or will there be some sympathetic German characters?
  • Who is that woman with the partly disfigured face? I know that many soldiers suffered from extreme disfigurement due to flying shrapnel and had to undergo facial reconstruction surgery, but how did it happen to that woman? Was she a nurse in the right place at the wrong time? Did she disguise herself as a soldier? Or worse, is she a battered wife?
  • Will the film address the women’s issues of the time period?
  • What type of Steve Trevor will Chris Pine portray? I hope he’ll be a far cry from Kirk the Jerk.

And finally, here’s what I’m hoping for the film:

  • I hope it’ll be as good or better than Man of Steel in its treatment of its female characters (I feel that, so far, MOS is the most feminist superhero film to date but that’s a subject for another post).
  • I hope it’ll pass the Bechdel Test.
  • I hope the story will portray Diana and Steve’s relationship as one of equals.

Those are my thoughts. What are yours?

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Planet X Puts Simon Pegg On Trial For Crimes Against The SF Community

(Note: This is a work of fiction. However, real people with real quotes have been inserted into this work of fiction. This is also an inaccurate example of a trial. I’ve tried my best to be as close to real life as possible, but this is a mock trial on another planet. And you know what they say: “when in Rome, do as the Romans”. If your reading this and your an expert on the criminal justice system, any and all corrections are welcome.)

All rise. The Court of Planet X is now in session. Judge John W. Campbell presiding. Please be seated. Calling the case of the people of Planet X versus self-proclaimed geek, Simon John Beckingham Pegg.

Me: Your Honor. Geeks and nerds of the jury. The defendant has been charged with the crimes of haughtiness, rudeness to his peers and disrespect to his elders regarding beloved sci-fi franchises. Four incidents of this disreputable behavior will be used as evidence.

Exhibit A: A Constant Nagging Criticism of George Lucas and the Star Wars Prequels.

The defendant has always let it be known that he has a boiling disdain for George Lucas’ 1999-2005 trilogy. He has spewed bile about it in interviews over and over again. Take this quote for instance:

And I think if anyone can pull Star Wars out of the mire its J.J. He’ll bring the fun back. Lucas seemed to misread what made the first ones great, and concentrate on things that people didn’t really care about, or willfully ignore the things that people cared about. Whereas J.J. embraced them all. We’re going to see the Millennium Falcon again. We’re going to see those characters again. All the things we see about the first three, we will see again.

Or there’s this one:

They’re a monumental misunderstanding of what the first three films are about. It’s an exercise in utter infanticide, like George Lucas killing his kid.

Yet many fans disagree with Pegg’s views. And his response leads to…

Exhibit B: Bully Those That Like The Star Wars Prequels.

This is what Mr. Pegg had to say about those fans. First is this little gem from his show Spaced:

Note: He plays character named Tim and he’s shouting at a little boy for liking “The Phantom Menace”

“You are so blind! You so do not understand! You weren’t there at the beginning. You don’t know how good it was! How important! This is it for you! People like you make me sick!…take your pocket money AND GET OUT!

[little boy runs out crying]

“What a prick.”

He didn’t stop there, he said nasty things about prequel fans out of character too:

I don’t really have any respect for anyone who thinks those films are good. They’re not.

Now that we’ve seen evidence related to Star Warriors let’s move on to the other fans Pegg has offended – the Trekkies.

Exhibit C: Outright Rudeness Toward Star Trek Fans.

Star Trek Into Darkness, the sequel to 2009’s Star Trek reboot was released in 2013. It has an 86% at Rotten Tomatoes and made 467.4 million at the box office. But looks can deceive. At a Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, Into Darkness was voted worst the worst Star Trek movie of all time. Pegg did not take kindly to the news. Here’s his kind, thoughtful response:

You know what…it absolutely isn’t the worst Star Trek movie. It’s asinine, you know. It’s ridiculous. And frustrating as well, because a lot of hard work and love went into that movie, and all JJ wanted to do was make a film that people enjoyed. So to be subject to that level of sort of, like, crass, fucking ire, I just say, fuck you.

But then his criticism of Star Trek fans shifted to sci-fi fans in general.

Exhibit D: Accusing SF of Dumbing Us Down

Obviously I’m very much a self-confessed fan of science fiction and genre cinema. But part of me looks at society as it is now and just thinks we’ve been infantilized by our own taste. Now we’re essentially all consuming very childish things – comic books, superheroes…Adults are watching this stuff and taking it seriously!

And, not surprisingly, geeks did not take kindly to his words because he blamed everyone but himself.

Judge: The prosecution may call its first witness.

The People call the first witness, Israel Sanchez.

Clerk: Please stand. Raise your right hand. Do you promise that the testimony you shall give in the case before this court shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?

Sanchez: I do.

Clerk: You may be seated.

Me: Where do you work, Dr. Sanchez?

Sanchez: I work at the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid.

Me: And what is your occupation, Dr. Sanchez?

Sanchez: I am a biologist.

Me: Can you tell us about the fossilized remains of this animal you discovered, Xenokeryx amidalae?

Sanchez: In central Spain, we discovered an amazingly preserved giraffe relative that lived between 23 million and 5 million years ago. Its physical characteristics included a short neck, two ossicones and a cranial, T-shaped appendage.

Me: And why did you name it, Xenokeryx amidalae?

Sanchez: If you remember the Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace film, when Padme Amidala is queen of her home planet Naboo, she shows off several complicated dresses and hairstyles. Well, one of the hairstyles from a scene in Coruscant is strikingly similar to the occipital appendage of Xenokeryx. Yes, I am a fan of Star Wars.

Me: And how does it make you feel to know that actor Simon Pegg has no respect for you?

Sanchez: I think it’s unfortunate, though I don’t think I’ve ever heard of him.

Me: Members of the court. I’d like to take this moment to name other famous fans of the Star Wars prequels: Robert Kirkman, comic book writer and creator of The Walking Dead. Joey Fatone, singer, dancer and former member of *Nsync. Actress Jaime King. Even more important are scientists like Nate Lo, who discovered bacteria in mitochondria and named it Midichloria mitochondrii. And last, but not least, astronauts Scott Kelly, Kjell Lindgren, Sergei Volkov, Oleg Kononenko, Kimiya Yui and Mikhail Kornienko, who posed as jedi for their Expedition 45 portrait and watched Revenge of the Sith in space. These are the true geeks who, inspired by science fiction, the very genre Pegg says is “infantilizing us”, spend their lives studying the world around us and using their findings to help society better understand our world. And because their tastes are different from Pegg, he has no respect for them. Thank you, Dr. Sanchez.

Judge: The witness is excused. The prosecution may call the next witness.

The People call George Takei.

Clerk: Please stand. Raise your right hand. Do you promise that the testimony you shall give in the case before this court shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

Takei: I do.

Clerk: You may be seated.

Me: Mr. Takei, tell us your occupation and work history.

Takei: I am a 61-year veteran actor and activist. I played Enterprise helmsman Sulu on Star Trek.

Me: Mr. Takei, can you tell us about the week of July 4, 2015?

Takei: I was informed by John Cho, the actor who plays a younger version of my Star Trek character – that it would be revealed that Sulu would have a husband and a young daughter – as a form of inclusion and as a nod to me as a gay man. This decision was made by Simon, who wrote the screenplay and Justin Lin, the director.

Me: And what was your reaction to the news, Mr. Takei?

Takei:

I’m delighted that there’s a gay character. Unfortunately it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.

Me: So what did you suggest to them?

Takei: I told them to…

Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly revealed as being closeted.

This movie is going to be coming out on the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, the 50th anniversary of paying tribute to Gene Roddenberry, the man whose vision…carried us through half a century. Honor him and create a new character.

Me: And did they respect your wishes?

Takei: I thought so at first. But they didn’t.

Me: What was Mr. Pegg’s response?

Takei: He said that he respectfully disagrees with me and that if he created a new gay character, it would be tokenism because audiences would just see that character as “the gay character”.

Me: And what did he say about Mr. Gene Roddenberry?

Takei: He said…

The viewing audience weren’t open-minded enough at the time and it must have forced Roddenberry to modulate his innovation. His mantra was always ‘infinite diversity in infinite combinations’. If he could have explored Sulu’s sexuality with George, he no doubt would have.

Me: Your Honor. Members of the jury. I did not use Mr. Takei’s predicament as Exhibit E, because I felt it was better to hear the victim tell his story in his own words. And it’s this recent incident that convinces me that Mr. Pegg should be found guilty.

Here he is, once again, declaring that he knows the franchises he claims to love better than the creators that spent, hours, days, months and years imagining, writing, outlining and fighting for their work to be released to the public. Franchises that he had nothing to do with in the first place. He was a consultant on The Force Awakens, despite the irrefutable fact that he was only 7 years old when A New Hope was released and had no involvement whatsoever with the making of the original trilogy. They already hired Lawrence Kasdan, the co-screenwriter for The Empire Strikes Back to write the script. Because of this, The Force Awakens lacked creativity and originality. It was nothing more than big budget fan fiction with no heart and no soul. And now Pegg is using his delusions of grandeur against not only against Mr. Takei, a legend and icon among many, but the late Mr. Gene Roddenberry, by assuming he knows Roddenberry – a man he has never met – better than Takei, a man whose worked closely with Roddenberry for 23 years. And Pegg is now in charge of the screenplay for the 13th Trek film, Star Trek Beyond. Why? This man wasn’t even conceived when the very first Star Trek series premiered on September 8, 1966. Now, with him at the helm, so to speak, his decision to turn an established straight character, gay, is not only lazy, it’s inconsistent with Trek mythology. Since these contemporary films are prequels, it would be awkward to show Sulu with a family, and then watch the Original Series and wonder why he never brings them up in casual conversation. For gay fans of Star Trek, it would look as if Sulu went back into the closet. It would make Kirk’s aside about not knowing that Sulu had time to start a family in Star Trek Generations, all the more perplexing. I will close my arguments by pointing out that making Sulu gay as a tribute to Mr. Takei is undermining Mr. Takei’s work as an actor, a job that requires you pretend you’re something other than yourself for the sake of suspending audiences’ beliefs for an hour or two. That his sexuality is the only thing that defines him despite the fact that the roles he took as a Japanese American man broke barriers.

Judge: Will the jury foreperson please stand? Has the jury reached a unanimous verdict?

Foreperson: Yes. The jury finds the defendant…guilty.

Judge: Thank you jury. Ladies and Gentlemen. Due to the amounting evidence against Mr. Pegg, I think we can’t afford to wait another day to give the defendant his punishment.

From this day, forward, Mr. Pegg, you will be stripped of any film making duties, be it screenplays, producing, directing, editing and creative consultant. You will be restricted to acting and acting in other’s films only. However, you will be suspended for one year from film roles to spend the next two years, with worker’s compensation, reading and studying the works and history of science fiction. You will be given all the major classics of SF, from Asimov to Zelazny, to complete while wearing a different Star Wars prequel t-shirt everyday.

Court dismissed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All I Need To Know About Life, I Learned From…

Tick_Logo

“Who is The Tick?” You ask. A superhero created by Ben Edlund in 1986 as a mascot for  a Boston Store chain, New England Comics, The Tick is a wacky, ardent superhero with the powers of “nigh-invulnerability”, superhuman strength and “drama power”.  With the help of his long suffering moth costume-donning sidekick, Arthur, the Tick stops at nothing to save The City from the forces of evil. A hilarious cartoon series debuted in 1994 (to which I was introduced to the character), then a short-lived live action series debuted in 2001.

The franchise is known for it’s absurdist spoofing of superhero tropes and for the Tick’s over the top personality through which he would give the day’s moral delivered in a hammy manner. Throughout the weeks, I’ve rewatched the entire cartoon series on YouTube and wrote down all of the “Tickisms” that struck my fancy and that we must remember in our day to day lives. So, without further ado, here are some of the best words of wisdom courtesy of the Tick:

  • Don’t eat crackers in the bed of your future! You’ll get all scratchy.
  • It’s your destiny! Hug it!
  • Beware the other head of science. It bites!
  • Don’t count your weasels before they pop.
  • Don’t touch the “Don’t” button.
  • You can’t judge a book by its cover. Except the Lava Man book of course.
  • Eating kittens is just plain wrong and no one should do it ever!
  • When evil is afoot and you don’t have any arms, you gotta use your head.
  • You can lay an egg and still feel like a man.
  • READ A BOOK!!!
  • Falling in love with a supervillain is trouble with a capital troub!
  • Crime has a Bossa Nova beat.
  • Lint is the fastest stuff in the universe (yes that lint).
  • Love is thicker than most bodily membranes.
  • In love there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things: the right way is to take someone to a movie. The wrong way is to take someone from a movie.
  • You can’t trust everything you read, especially in history books you get from gas stations.
  • In the future, one out of every six people will be Abraham Lincoln.
  • It’s OK to start thinking.
  • A lost wallet could bite you in half.
  • A bar of soap could save your life.
  • A disgusting mound of muck might have some very compelling ideas.
  • Not everyone can know everything. Some people don’t know anything. I myself don’t know much, but I do know this: uh…the thing I just said.
  • Evil comes in many forms, whether it be a man-eating cow or Josef Stalin.
  • Your not going crazy, your going sane in a crazy world!
  • Don’t ever try to swim against the mighty tide of justice!
  • Honk if you love justice!
  • The boots of evil were made for walking.
  • Man was not meant to tamper with the four basic food groups.
  • Clowning and anarchy don’t mix.
  • You can’t fight crime with a macaroni duck.
  • Nature is one call you can’t put on hold.
  • Evil is never in fashion.

SSSSPPPPPPOOOOONNNN!!!!!

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Dear Asajj Ventress,

 (Beware of Spoilers)

I’ve just finished reading Christie Golden’s Dark Disciple, a canon novel based on a  story arc that never made it to TV because The Clone Wars was canceled. Now I wonder how audiences would’ve taken the news that you die at the end of your story when you saved your lover, Quinlan Vos, and former enemy, Obi-Wan Kenobi, from Count Dooku’s force lightning. Quinlan and Obi-Wan buried you on Dathomir, home to your people, the Nightsisters. At first I was sad and disappointed that you died instead of living happily ever after with Vos. But when your body was dipped into a pool, turning it green and the voices of your long deceased sisters welcoming you into their fold, was heard, I felt a sense of triumph. After all the years of pain and suffering you endured and afflicted on others, you were finally at peace. And you were reunited with your family.

Let me go back a bit. OK a lot. To 2002, after the release of Attack of the Clones. There was a book by Mark Cotta Vaz called The Art of Star Wars: Episode 2 – Attack of the Clones. On one particular page there was concept art of a grey-skinned, bald woman drawn by Dermot Power. He explained that he wanted this character to be a successor to Darth Maul for all the female star warriors but instead George Lucas went with the character now known as Count Dooku. No matter. It didn’t stop me from drawing a profile picture of you from the book.

And then you made your debut as Asajj Ventress in 2003 with Genndy Tartakovsky’s Star Wars: Clone Wars. 

I watched the micro-series with excitement as you snarled your first famous line: “Jedi! Their order is a fading light in the dark. Corrupt and arrogant. They must be punished. The jedi shall fall!” Then you lured Anakin closer to the dark side with one of the most memorable lightsaber duels since Yoda fought Count Dooku on Geonosis. You lost that fight but you went on wreaking havoc in the comics.

Then there was a second Clone Wars series in 2008 where you caused more murder and mayhem even getting a scene cut from cartoon network because it was deemed too sultry for young viewers. But it was in this show we learned that you had a tragic past. You were ripped from your mother as a youngling and sold into slavery. You were eventually freed by a kindly jedi knight named Ky Narac, yet tragedy hit you again when your surrogate father was killed and you were orphaned once again. Your pain drew you to the Dark Side and into the guidance of sith lord Count Dooku where you were a scourge of the Republic. But eventually Dooku betrayed you and left you for dead. You just couldn’t catch a break! But you made your way back to Dathomir, vowing revenge and exciting times lay ahead. Katie Lucas wrote some of the best epsiodes of Clone Wars involving the Nightsisters – Force sensitive women who practiced the dark arts – and she admitted in the introduction to Dark Disciple that she loves writing stories about you. We fans had only been familiar with these mysterious women through Dave Wolverton’s Legends novel, The Courtship of Princess Leia and the 1985 TV movie Ewoks: The Battle For Endor. But now we would see, for the first time, how the Nightsisters operated as a society. As a student of warrior women history and folklore, I couldn’t have been more intrigued to see TGFFA’s take on the Amazon archetype.  We also have you to thank (indirectly) for giving us back Darth Maul (shirtless of course).

But, alas, your quest for vengeance failed. Your experiment, Savage Oppress disobeyed you. Dooku slaughtered your sisters and you escaped but were alone yet again. Nevertheless you forged on and became a bounty hunter. It was through this unlikely job that your inner goodness came through. In The Clone Wars season 4 episode “Bounty”, you saved a young girl from a forced marriage after listening to her pleas for freedom. You also won our hearts further when you helped our favorite Togruta, Ahsoka Tano, clear her name with the Jedi Order. 

Which brings us back, full circle, to Dark Disciple. The Jedi Council ordered Jedi Master Quinlan Vos to go incognito as a bounty hunter, team up with you and convince you to help assassinate Count Dooku. Sadly this led to disaster as you and Vos went down the path of the Dark Side and it nearly lost you the love of your life. But your better nature and intuition came through when you let the light side of the Force flow through you and show you the way to redemption. With this newfound enlightenment, you not only convinced Vos to come back to the light side, you also saved the soul of the Jedi Order by convincing them that assassination was not the Jedi Way.

Some would accuse Lucasfilm of making you another woman in a refrigerator so as to push a male character’s story forward, but I disagree. You had taken the lives of others, so eventually you would have had to repay their lives with yours. But the difference between you and other “fridged” women is that you went down fighting and you made your choice knowingly and confidently.

You lived as a criminal in the eyes of the Republic and died as a hero in the eyes of the Jedi Order. By forging your own path, you taught us that we are not bound by destiny but by choice. You started off innocent, turned corrupt and then redeemed yourself. But you were always, Asajj Ventress, one of the most multifaceted characters to ever emerge from Star Wars. In hindsight, I’m glad Lucas stuck with his original decision.

Rest in peace, Asajj.

And may the Force be with you.

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Anthology Films We’d Like to See #5: ‘Alderaan Reborn’

This is a story suggestion I submitted to Clone Corridor about the continuing saga of the Skywalker family. This character has been in my mind for years and I’m open to any story suggestions.

Clone Corridor

Today we’ve got another instalment of Anthology Films We’d Like to See, this time from The Lady from Planet X, go check our her blog where she writes about TV shows, books and, of course, Star Wars. This one is about one of my favourite planets, Alderaan, and it not only focuses on a generation even further removed than the one we’re seeing now in the Sequels. It also works on the basis of the old Expanded Universe, which is fun, and I love the idea of a healer, rather than a warrior, a a hero. The story is also partially based on the Starkiller action-figure below.

Alderaan Reborn
by
The Lady from Planet X

60 years after A New Hope, Ben Skywalker’s daughter and Luke Skywalker’s granddaughter, Nehmiah is following in her father, grandfather and great grandfather’s footsteps as a Jedi Knight. She has Luke’s sandy-colored hair and…

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Do As Peggy Says: Support “Agent Carter”

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So the inevitable happened: ABC cancelled Agent Carter. Why? Because of “low ratings”. How were the ratings for Agent Carter were any lower than the ratings for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a show that (according to some fans) has indecisive storylines and started off weak, yet got stronger (depending on who you ask) as seasons went on? Was it because it was given a chance? Agent Carter, on the other hand, started off with critical acclaim, broke ground and won the hearts of nerd girls (and guys) everywhere. Even the second season, which divided fans, still had much to offer and left us with a juicy cliffhanger. If the show had such low ratings then why were there two online petitions to save the show? Maybe ABC aired the show in an inconvenient time slot (Tuesdays at 9 PM are iffy for me. I often had to use Hulu to catch up). Maybe ABC didn’t promote the show enough. Haley Atwell signed on to do a different show. Have you seen the trailer yet? Ugh. Just, ugh (barf).

But let’s not just sit around and mope. We are geeks and nerds! We have the brains and the imaginations to show and spread our love for our favorite secret agent so she will never be forgotten.

1. Sign Dat Petition

You’ve heard on the internet about that petition on Change.org to continue the show on Netflix. Sign that thing.  Think that won’t be enough? Go to abc.go.com, scroll to the bottom of the page, click on contact and a new window will appear (“feedback”). Select the box that says: “Select Your Issue”. Click on “abc programming feedback”. Give them your first and last name, email address, state and zip code. Select “Marvel’s Agent Carter” for “Select Show or Category”. Then select “I like this show because” and give your reasons. Even persuade them to move the show to Netflix. Then submit. If you feel that’s not enough, write to Marvel comics and Disney and complain (I’d provide contact info but I can’t find any. If you can provide info, it would be appreciated).

2. Buycott Peggy

Her Universe has four Agent Carter t-shirts. Here they are:

 

           10408048_hi   10577026_hi  

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Teepublic.com also has some great shirts. Collect them all.

There’s also this FunkoPop! Peggy figure:

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You can buy one from Hot Topic or your local comics shop if they carry one.

Season 1 is available on DVD at Amazon.

3. Make Your Own Peggy Stuff

Do you have any hobbies? Can you sew? Knit? Make jewelry? Paint? Sculpt? Then put your talents to good use and make some Peggy-themed stuff to show off to your friends, family and fellow fans. If you want to take your Peggy love a step further, sell some of your stuff online, or at your local convention so that others will join you in celebrating the awesomeness that is Agent Carter.  I make jewelry so I plan to make some Peggy pendants using pictures printed from the internet, bezels and magic gloss (aka resins). I will display the final results on Tumblr.

So now it’s your turn. How will you express your love for Peggy and the gang? Sound off in the comments. I’d love to hear your ideas.

 

 

 

 

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“Jodorowsky’s Dune” Film Review

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After a year (or more, I forget) of waiting, I finally saw the much-talked about documentary about the so called “Greatest Film Never Made” on Amazon’s video service. The verdict: while the documentary was interesting, I felt that in the end Jodorowsky wouldn’t have done Dune anymore justice than David Lynch did.

Let me back up a bit. In 1975, Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, embarked on an ambitious 14-hour adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal SF novel Dune (a book that needs no introduction). Jodorowsky hired some of the most visionary minds, his “spiritual warriors” as he called them, to work on the conceptual stage of his pet project: Jean Giraud (Moebius), H.R. Giger, Chris Foss, Dan O’Bannon, Pink Floyd and Magma. The actors he wanted were Orson Welles, Salvador Dali, Mick Jagger and Amanda Lear. But no studio would back the film financially, nor distribute it and the project fell through.

So in 2014, a documentary film was released to selected theaters and rave reviews. Jodorowsky showed us storyboards and concept art of characters, locations and ships. There were interviews with H.R. Giger, Chris Foss, Gary Kurtz, Brontis Jodorowsky, Amanda Lear, Diane O’Bannon and even various film critics and filmmakers. But there was something that bothered me throughout the film.

Most of the participants never read the book. Even Jodorowsky himself admitted he hadn’t read it:

I didn’t read Dune. But I have a friend who say to me it was fantastic.

And then Chris Foss says this:

I still haven’t read the book. No. I have no idea what the actual story is. None whatsoever. It all came through Alejandro and the script. So as far as I’m concerned, the story of Dune is what Alejandro told me it was.

The only person who was familiar with Dune was Amanda Lear, who had to explain the novel’s plot to Salvador Dali when he agreed to play the part of Emperor Shaddam IV. This sadly brought to mind a quote by another director who attempted a film adaptation and failed miserably:

Interviewer: Dino DiLaurentis came to you or brought to you Dune the project before you were even fully aware?

Lynch: I had never read…never even heard the word. I thought he said June. 

So if Jodorowsky didn’t read the book what deviations did he take from the novel’s plot?

Well for starters, there’d be no romantic relationship between Duke Leto and Lady Jessica because he’s a eunuch. That’s right, he castrated. So how would Paul have been conceived? By a blood sample Jessica takes from Leto and somehow inserts into her birth canal…

Moving on.

Another scene involves Leto’s death. It involves Piter deVries (referred to as Peter in the film) hacking off the Duke’s limbs, asking “where are they?” (Who? Is he referring to Jessica and Paul and why would the Baron even care about their whereabouts?) with the Baron finally beheading him when he refuses to answer. No poison tooth here.

Then there’s the finale: Paul dies. He’s beheaded by the Harkonnen’s/Emperor’s forces and while they’re gloating, Jessica and every Fremen on Arrakis chants in unison (in Paul’s disembodied voice): “I am Paul, I am Paul, I am Paul,” while the planet becomes lush with plant life, drifts out of its orbit and happily spins into oblivion. This, once again brings another quote, this time from the voice of the master himself, Mr. Herbert:

Paul was a man playing god, not a god who could make it rain.

At the conclusion of the film, Jodorowsky had this to say:

I changed the ending, evidently…I did that. It was my Dune. When you make a picture you must not respect the novel. It’s like you get married, no? You go with the wife…you take the woman, if you respect the woman, you will never have child. You need to open the costume and rape the bride. And then you will have your picture. I was raping Frank Herbert, raping, like this! But with love, with love!

This statement is wrong on so many levels. No, you don’t have to be faithful to a book, scene by scene, word by word because, a) it doesn’t always work and b) it turns people off from reading the novel. But when you’re making a film adaptation of a book, you HAVE to respect your source material or else fans of the book will feel that disrespect emanating from your film and will turn those who haven’t read the book off from seeing your movie. Second, it isn’t “your Dune“, Mr. J, it’s Frank Herbert’s Dune. How would you feel if someone did a remake of El Topo and radically changed it so that it was El Topo in name only? I doubt you would like that. And finally, and most importantly, rape is NOT romance. It’s violent, it’s misogynistic, it’s about power, control and domination. Marriage is supposed to be built on respect or else there’s no love. Children are not a necessity, they’re an expression of a husbands and wife’s love for each other. The Bene Gesserit wanted Jessica to bear girls for their breeding program but Jessica instead had a boy. Why? Because she loved Duke Leto.

Lynch and Jodorowsky, two members of the Surrealist Movement, got it wrong. Dune has philosophy, religious themes, soliliquies and characters with visions but it’s not a mind-bending book. It’s actually straight-forward in it’s storytelling which is why it’s still read and loved to this day. Herbert wrote an anti-messiah story warning us about the dangers of putting too much faith in leaders (rumor has it he partly based Paul on John F. Kennedy. In his book, Eye, he blames JFK for the Vietnam War). But ironically these two filmmakers took it too literally. But that’s what happens when your not familiar with your source material. Some more appropriate SF material for surrealist filmmaking would be Harlan Ellison, Philip K. Dick’s later titles or any works by the authors of the then burgeoning Cyberpunk movement.

After watching this movie, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that Dune doesn’t need a moving picture adaptation. I will from now on just stick happily to the book and many, many artists’ depictions.

For further reading: “Big Worms And Big Fish: Jodorowsky, Dune And Jodorowsky’s Dune

 

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10 Female Star Wars Characters That Should Be Made Into Action Figures

Aside from a post I wrote about the new Rogue One teaser and a lengthy list of belated Lucas/prequel appreciation from IMDB, I’ve been mostly silent about the direction Disney is taking Star Wars because there’s such a treasure trove of SW stuff pre-Disney. I have six films, two Clone Wars series, one Ewoks TV movie, the Legends/Expanded Universe and the Dark Horse Comics (one of these days I’ll check out those Droids cartoons). But my biggest and only gripe I have with Disney and Hasbro is the lack of diversity and quality in their action figure department. The Force Awakens is the hot item at the moment and whenever I go to Target, Toys R Us and the Disney Store, I always stop at the boys toys section to check out the latest SW action figures…

…AAAAnnnd it’s nothing but TFA, TFA, T-F-A. *Sigh*. I had to turn to Amazon to buy that Princess Leia Medal Ceremony 3.75 Black Series figure that Hasbro made but never released to stores. Phooey!

I still want detailed, articulated, finely sculpted action figures from the OT, PT, CW and Legends eras. It shouldn’t just be the Disney films that get the spotlight.

But enough complaining! What if I made a wish list of my top ten choices for female character that should be made into an action figure? Who would they be and why? Here’s my choices:

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10. Ackmena

C’mon, admit it. You thought Bea Arthur’s performance of “Goodnight, But Not Goodbye” was the highlight of the much maligned Star Wars Holiday Special. You even have it downloaded on your iPod. So why not have an action figure of the grand dame of the Tatooine cantina scene? You can add her to that diorama you made of Mos Eisley where she butts heads with Wuher over whether droids should be allowed.

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9. Guri

Bodyguard, assassin, secretary and Xizor’s most prized possession. What makes her different from the others on our list is the secret only the Falleen crime lord knows: she’s really an advanced human replica droid. Nevertheless, between her and her boss, she is the most shrewd. She’s also one of the most interesting characters in Shadows of the Empire. Since they’ve made two figures of Xizor, I don’t see why they can’t make a figure of his right hand woman.

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8. Lanoree Brock

A Je’daii Ranger and the leading lady of Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void, a novel that takes place 25,793 BBY. Just imagine owning a pre-lightsaber, sword wielding jedi.

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7. Cindel Towani

The first Star Wars spinoff film to have a female lead. If we can have young Anakin and young Boba, then why can’t we have Cindel? Honorable mention should also go to Nightsister Charal.

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6. Dorme

Two handmaiden action figures came from The Phantom Menace. It’s high time we get some handmaiden figures from Attack of the Clones. Following in the footsteps of Sabe, Dorme is Padme’s #1 handmaiden and closest confidant. One of the most memorable scenes in episode 2 is when she tearfully says goodbye to Padme. If Keira Knightly can be immortalized in plastic why can’t Rose Byrne?

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5. Queen Apailana

I have 6 Queen figures: 5 of them are Amidala and one is Queen Breha (AKA Leia’s adoptive mother). I need more queens in my collection! I want Apailana so I can compare and contrast her funeral gown with Amidala’s gray pre-senate gown.

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4. Queen Jamillia

As I said before: more queens! Plus Jamillia had a great line: “the day we stop believing democracy can work is the day we lose it.”

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3. Eirtae (Pre-Senate Cloak)

Even though Queen Amidala’s handmaidens look alike, what with those hoods and all, their robes were just as eye-catching as the queen’s gowns. They’ve made one figure of Rabe in her yellow/orange flame gown, so they should make the other handmaidens in various gowns. Eirtae should get the burgundy gown.

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2. Brea & Senni Tonnika

How they never released figures of these two is beyond me. From the first time I saw A New Hope, I wanted the Tonnika sisters as action figures. As a fan of Ancient Egypt, I was allured by their style.

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1. Tenel Ka 

In my opinion, Tenel Ka is the most interesting female character of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. I liked her the moment I met her in the Young Jedi Knights series by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta. A focused, taciturn friend of the Solo twins, Tenel Ka wears many hats: as the daughter of Prince Isolder and Teneniel Djo, she’s a princess of two worlds, Queen of the Hapes Consortium (which means another queen added to my collection!), Jedi, Amazon and mother to Allana Solo. She avoided using the Force as much as possible, refused a prosthetic arm when she lost hers in lightsaber training, and her lightsaber hilt is a rancor’s tooth! So Hasbro and Lucasfilm, if your’re reading this, get to work, on the double!

Now it’s your turn. Which female Star Wars character would you like to add to your toy collection? Sound off in the comments.

 

 

 

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