Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gene Roddenberry-The Day The Great Bird Flew Away

                    On this day in 1991,an extraordinary day occurred-not only in my life but to those who admired,and perhaps felt that their lives were saved in some way by, Star Trek. The shows creator Gene Roddenberry passed away at the age of 70 from what was described as cardiopulmonary arrest. What I personally remember most was that the Star Trek-The Next Generation two part story 'Unification' contained a special dedicatory preface to him before the episode began. It was a sad day for sure. It felt as if I had lost a family member. The just and progressive universe Roddenberry projected in Star Trek was extremely inspiration to anyone who marched to the beat of their own drummer,and were fascinated by the possibilities about how humanity would interact with others in the cosmos. It was so positive for the imagination and creativity.

                       What can be said about Gene Roddenberry today? One of the most important factors in Roddenberry's life was the fact that he was born in what William Strauss's documentary novel Generations describes as the GI generation-having been born later in that particular era in 1921. These were the generation who,in youth through early middle age,lived through the Great Depression and fought the second world war. Historically they were known as great intellects and industrialists-able to create great physical feats in a then unheard of shortness of time. Yet at the same time,many of that generation seemed to lack what many might call a soul. They tended to view the human race,and the world, with a clinical cynicism and were usually more competitive than cooperative with other people. The most important thing about Gene Roddenberry is that,in this context,he was a complete generational aberration.

                       Gene himself ranked above the ninetieth percentile administrated for his college entrance exam,however he chose to follow what he called the "solidly blue collar" political science curriculum. During World War 2 he was in the US Air Force and was awarded some of its highest honors. As a trouble shooter for Pan Am in the late 1940's and later work with the LAPD in the 1950's,Gene was exposed to a very well rounded side of life. He was able to experience first hand the ironies of post war America: the contradictions of hope for a better country combined with the fearful paranoia of McCarthyism.  In the late 50's he of course became interested in television writing. And his initial ideas of course mostly had to do with then contemporary police drama. But gradually this grew into new ideas for Roddenberry's creativity and his personal growth as well.

                    Beginning production on the first Star Trek pilot in 1963,he of course managed to convince NBC to commission as second pilot-starring William Shatner as (strangely enough at the time) a James R. Kirk. A few tweaks to this idea and television history was made. Gene Roddenberry's legacy with Star Trek was its encouragement of progressive social ideas to a nation that was facing sometimes frightening social change. He vehemently advocated and praised the idea of the Starship Enterprise as a "spaceship Earth"-representing many different races celebrating a familial sense of teamwork-exploring the cosmos while making pointed social commentary along the way. During an era when most of society was motivated by the fear of a premature death to humanity by weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear weapons,Star Trek-at its very least,showcased that humanity had a happy future to look forward to.

                    The story of Gene Roddenberry's vision projected in Star Trek has come very near to having a very sad ending,however. Almost exactly at the time of his passing,American pop culture made an almost total about face rejection of just about everything that Star Trek had stood for. A complete sense of anger and cynicism overtook people as science fiction-including some elements of later Star Trek spin-off's,became more and more focused on violence and lack of hope. The most cynical aspect of this began to come into the public's view of Roddenberry following his death. The "Great Bird" suddenly became known as being a mildly lecherous person,with drug habits of epic proportions who primarily entered into the world of television writing due to the lack of quality income from his LAPD career. And therefore,long story short,Star Trek as he'd conceived it seemed to die a long and slow death as well.

                    It might seem that little has changed. The societal cynicism and often very anti humanistic viewpoints touted from the early 1990's onward are still strongly in place. And as of today no new Star Trek series currently runs on television. At the same time,reruns of the many branches that came out of Gene's original idea-from The Next Generation,DS9 and Voyager are always on the air somewhere in the world. And who knows-perhaps someone who has lost hope in life gathered the same inspiration from Gene's vision of the future of humanity as the earliest generation of Star Trek admirers. To me what Gene Roddenberry created with Star Trek is all about generations: the ethics of the generation before him,the one after him who challenged authority and were out to change the world and most importantly,the cynically hopeless later generation who actually needed what Star Trek had to offer more than even they realized. No matter his public perceptions,flaws and foibles Gene Roddenberry will always represent to me the best qualities of futurist humanism.



Sunday, October 13, 2013

Star Trek And It's Great Message Episodes

            One of the primary reasons I've continually returned to watching Star Trek over the years is its adherence to delivering vital sociopolitical messages and commentary in an entertaining and futurist setting. This has in fact been stated both implicitly and overtly in most of my blog postings here. In 1995 William Shatner described this aspect of Star Trek merely as a method for drawing in the audience. Considering the cultural zeitgeist of that era,I'd tend to disagree. Which is why here I am going to be showcasing one individual Star Trek episode,from each spin off that to me best demonstrated Gene Roddenberry's message and vision.
                        ENTERPRISE-"CHOSEN REALM" (JANUARY 24'TH,2004)
       When NX-01 is searching for a weapon a race called the Xindi plan to use to destroy Earth, they encounter a group of religious zealots who,after Captain Archer and his crew help repair their damaged ship,attempt to take over Enterprise to fight their leader's holy war regarding their mythologizing of the Xindi spheres. After retaking Enterprise,the crew return them to their home world where they find a horrible sight-the end result of their war. A level of religious fanaticism of a type that can (and in this case did) destroy a society is showcased here-one of the this controversial series' stronger episodes,personally. 
     Captain Kirk and the Enterprise are assigned with a Federation Ambassador to open up a space port on a planet that,as it turns out, is using computers to fight a politically correct version of war with its inhabited planetary neighbor-colonized by some of their own people ironically. When their leader insists the Enterprise crew have been declared a casualty of their cyber warfare,he tricks the Ambassador to beam down-to report to suicide chambers par the agreements for their conflict. Kirk is put in the position of using force to destroy their battle computers in order to show them the physical consequence of war. This anticipates strong the "war as entertainment" scenario that humans are still facing today in this powerful and original anti war story.
      Investigating the treasonous actions of a Klingon medical exchange officer trading secret information to the Romulans,Captain Picard brings in Admiral Norah Satie in to investigate the matter further. After her evidence shines a light on the Klingon's actions,she begins fingering a half Romulan med tech on the Enterprise even after his innocence in discovered. Observing the witch hunt occurring around him,Picard is able to suss out the Admiral's true intentions by evoking her father whom she hero worships. In this story,acted to pieces by Patrick Stewart and Jean Simmons as Admiral Satie,this story thoroughly explores a scenario not unlike a 24th century McCarthyism in which Captain Picard utters perhaps Trek's most cynical line: that there will always be someone such as Admiral Satie who spreads fear in the name of righteousness.
               DEEP SPACE NINE: "DUET" (JUNE 13TH,1993)
        When a Kobheerian freighter arrives at DS9,Kira is disturbed that the Cardassian passenger being dropped off by the freighter is afflicted with a disease that could've only been the result of an accident at a labor camp that Kira helped liberate. While interrogating the Cardassian,an investigation by Dax reveals that she is actually interrogating the sadistic Gull Darhe'el who was responsible for atrocities against the Bajorans at the labor camp. It is later revealed that this man was actually his file clerk who'd had cosmetic surgery in order to pose as Darhe'el in order to make a political statement about Cardassian improprieties to the Bajorans. Upon letting him go,he is killed by an angry his own admission simply because he's Cardassian. This dragic drama is a wonderfully executed "bottle episode" similar to "The Drumhead"-only a 'Schindler's List' style scenerio mainly between two characters. A superb look into a misdirection that,for a change,could actually lead to a peaceful resolution to past misdeeds.

                  VOYAGER-"JETREL" (MAY 15'TH,2013)
        A freighter from the Haakonian order,a species who had annexed Neelix's home world of Talax after a war,approaches Voyager searching for Neelix. The man in question is Ma'Bor Jetrel-a scientist who developed a weapon of mass destruction that destroyed the Talaxian moon Rinax and all of its inhabitants-save Neelix. Jetrel presents himself as trying to treat Talaxians with an illness resulting from the weapon-an illness he insists Neelix has. Jetrel's actual plan involves using biomatter and Voyager's transporters to re-animate those killed by his weapon. In reality Jetrel himself has the disease,not Neelix and is trying to undo his mistake before he passes on. Though his experiment fails,he and Neelix come to a amicable resolution upon Jetrel's death. This episode is an excellent example of Star Trek's "hey,its happening on another planet" idea of projecting implicit social messages. The story of Neelix and Jetrel could easily be between any citizen of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the summer of 1945 and those involved in the first two atomic missions. Neelix's guilt about him being a war resister,feeling he betrayed his own family to death,adds extra wait to this story as well

*In addition there are many honorable mentions. Episodes of this same orientation I simply could not list in this manner. Here they are in order of accompanying series:
"The Apple" (TOS)
"Let This Be Your Last Battlefield" (TOS)
"Justice" (TNG)
"The Measure Of A Man" (TNG)
"The High Ground" (TNG)
"The Masterpiece Society" (TNG)
"The Quality of Life (TNG)
"Journey's End" (TNG)
"Paradise" (DS9"
"Past Tense Parts 1 & 2" (DS9)
"Bar Association" (DS9)
"Doctor Bashir,I Presume?" (DS9)
"Far Beyond The Stars" (DS9)
"Covenant" (DS9)
"Death Wish" (Voyager)
"Remember" (Voyager)
"Living Witness" (Voyager)
"Memorial" (Voyager)
"Author,Author" (Voyager)

      Here we have 25 excellent examples of,what within the Star Trek universe is best symbolized by the Vulcan symbol IDIC,which you see in an artists rendering above. Of course it stands for infinite diversity in infinite combinations. Through its highly topical story telling Star Trek has always been able to put a perspective on many different issues humanity still cannot face in real life. There are some who many argue Star Trek's absence from television is partly due to the fact that non sci-fi programming is now free to make more explicit social commentary. Since its clear that televisions adaptability to topical storytelling on real life issues still not as concrete as it may seem, Star Trek's message and presentation of the future is all the more important.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Enterprise Of Star Trek: A Long Road Getting From There To Here

          The relationship between Star Trek's last television series to date,Enterprise,and the viewing public is more involved and complex than one might think. I include myself in that public of course. Almost from day one,this heavily promoted and discussed prequel to the known Star Trek universe,was viewed as an epic fail. And is continually cited as being the ruin of Star Trek in the public eye. After the success level of the previous three Star Trek spin offs,how could the next wind up airing only a season longer than the original Star Trek series had? Personally I don't know those answers exactly. Only the people who were involved in it's production and promotion would know the exact answers. All I can do is tell you my story. And possibilities as to what happened to Enterprise. And consequently to Star Trek itself.

       It all started twelve years ago today in fact. I was living with family. My mother was at work. It was about 8PM in the evening. I was eagerly anticipating the premier of this prequel to the Star Trek universe I so admired and was inspired by most of my then 21 years of life. I sat in the bedroom directly across from where I am writing this now. It took a bit of adjustment to bring in UPN,which at the time (not having cable) could only be bought in through the UHF frequency. Even though the static was heavy,I set up the VCR to record this two hour episode called "Broken Bow" and proceeded to watch it myself. By roughly 10PM,the two hour premire was over. And my mother was home. Being a Star Trek admirer herself,she wanted to know what the new show was like. I will tell you generally what I expressed to her that evening.

        "Broken Bow" was the story of the unfortunate first contact between humanity and the Klingons,or rather one Klingon in the mid 22nd century. The new and somewhat unseasoned crew of the new Starship Enterprise discover on their journey that this first contacts failure was manipulated by a genetically engineered sect of a race called the Sulliban. That is the premier in a nutshell. What I told my mother that night was that this was by far the least satisfying of all the Star Trek premiers I had seen thus far. The story dragged along at a very slow pace-the use of menacing silences and horror elements were quite out of place from Star Trek as I understood it. And there were too many intense plot detours in the story that simply made it next to impossible to follow. 

         With such fond memories of the relatable acting of Scott Bakula and the equally talented,if relative newcomer Jolene Blalock how could this have happened to Star Trek? I remember watching the first season on television.Most of the second as well. And over the next four years watched the show only sporadically. It continually changed time slots,for one thing. Than finally in the spring of 2005 the shows finale "These Are The Voyages" aired-which was sadly even more disappointing and disjointed than the premier had been-at least to my eyes. Star Trek was no longer airing new episodes,in any form on television after that. And as cynical as this may sound,even I as the eternal Star Trek optimist knew that it wasn't coming back. At least not anytime soon. 

       Recently I've had to view J.J. Abram's prequel Trek films as entirely separate and unrelated to Gene Roddenberry's vision. Lately when viewing Enterprise in perfect clarity on DVD,a light I didn't see at that time has emerged from it. The flaws in the writing and pacing are still painfully obvious. Yet the potential for the great storytelling and character development that defined Star Trek is definitely there. Internally one reason for Enterprise's lack of popularity in its time was how it initially rejected its connection to the Star Trek universe. In fact the name Star Trek was unused in its title for its first two seasons. This showcased possible embarrassment and even animosity amid the old and new writers for the series towards Roddenberry's vision of the future. Yet it's also important to look at the context of the time period as well.

        When Enterprise premiered twelve years ago tonight,there is some likelihood that many television viewers may have barely noticed. Enterprise had premiered only a couple of weeks after 9/11. As the media was mired in tales and the ensuing censorship within pop culture about the World Trade Center attacks,futurism seemed to be the furthest thing from people's minds. Most people I knew barely seemed to know about Enterprise or any other TV show-as the saturation news about Al Quida ,Osama Bin Laden and suicide bombings repetitiously created an atmosphere of enforced patriotism. As literally the first Star Trek series premiering in the post 9/11 world,Enterprise wasn't always able to effectively explore the harder sociopolitical messages it's predecessors had been able to.

        Star Trek has always thrived in times of cultural hardship. Such as the 1960's and it's upside down counterpart the 1990's. In these times the Star Trek universe offered hope over cynicism. And wonder over despair. We had characters who knew what they stood for and had firm values that embraced all humanity and whomever else came along. In the post 9/11 world in which Enterprise inhabited the cynicism that existed on the fringe of American culture in particular in the final decade of the 20th century became deeply imbibed in in everyday life itself. Racism,hopelessness,needless violence and everything Star Trek stood against became part of the American mainstream and much of the worlds as well. During Enterprise's run from 2001 to 2005,the culture which had allowed Star Trek to thrive and grow in the past as its own force could no longer sustain itself let alone the iconic science fiction cannon of Star Trek.

        The most important factor to Enterprise's fate is that the plot of the show itself embraced the uncertainty of its time. These people were completely improvising the creation of the Star Trek universe that inspired so many people to great things. It seemed to abandon the idea of going forward to "boldly go where no one has gone before". These people weren't always bold,had no idea where they were going. Personally? I have a feeling that the more distance and time that people have away from the frightened and disconnected era to which Enterprise was connected,the more that the series' virtues could be re-evaluated. That wouldn't be too far removed from how the critically acclaimed yet realistically unpopular the first Star Trek series was in its time. It took time (and it that case televised syndication) to make that work. Now that Enterprise is being issued on Blu Ray,there might be a successful fork at the end of Enterprise long and weary road. 



Saturday, September 21, 2013

All That One Should That Know They Can Learn From Star Trek:The Next Generation

                                 Star Trek The Next Generation was a defining reference point not only in my life,but in the lives of many people I know. I've already discussed that here of course. One thing I did do recently was go onto YouTube,probably the most pronounced social media site online alongside Facebook to see how the modern day public will respond to a program that has passed the quarter century mark in age a year ago. Living in an age when high level cynicism has become very much the mainstream attitude of most people,its very satisfying to note most people still respond to Star Trek: The Next Generation as an important sociopolitical guide post as opposed to merely an entertaining television program.

                       When this blog was first started, I openly bemoaned the lack of a new Star Trek on our TV sets-that society had since de-evolved seemingly to a never never land of no return. Even though that was intended quite seriously with no overdo melodrama, it has become clear in some of the responses that I've gotten since starting this blog that any seeds of positive change among human beings,of any sort has very strong roots within those who appreciated Star Trek beyond its entertainment value. So some might argue that makes Star Trek a religion? Not to me. As already stated more a healthful alternative to religion: an obviously fictional universe with just enough grounding in our own reality to make it educationally effective.

                     Just a few moments ago I was watching a video on YouTube that used the Star Trek The Next Generation episode 'Symbiosis' as an example of current American foreign policy. The episode of course resolves around a culture being exploited by another by use of narcotic trading. The final five minutes of this episode depicts the two cultures as Afghanistan and Iraq-with Captain Picard and Doctor Crusher as the liberal and conservative ends of US foreign policy. In the end Picard of course gives the doctor a speech that greatly inspired me at every stage growing up-as it apparently did this particular viewer. And it involved a law within the Star Trek universe's United Federation Of Planets known as the Prime Directive.

                      To paraphrase Picard's speech,the Prime Directive basically points out how history has time and time again shown that when a more sociologically and technologically advanced culture interferes with the affairs of another with lesser understanding,the results are invariably disastrous. The captain continues by pointing out that this Prime Directive is not merely a set of laws,but also a philosophy that has been proven quite correct. The fact that dialog is open among these people about such topics-whose mere mention would still be a preamble to war in contemporary society,says quite a lot for its influence in society.

                        So perhaps its easier to some cynical people to think Star Trek's influence in modern society is confined to the presence of iPhone's, tablets and advanced laptops in our daily lives. Yet the fact that these technologies are often used wrongly might also serve as an indication that humanity at large has not yet achieved the sociopolitical wisdom depicted across the Star Trek universe. Perhaps that is the factor that bread such cynicism in the first place. Even if that cynicism is about Star Trek itself. So for any of you reading this are admirers of Star Trek The Next Generation in particular,I would like to ask all of you to keep this mind while watching it. Does it encourage hatred or cynicism as opposed to the Christian bible,the Quran or even your local newspaper? The answers you find may just brighten your day.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Happy 47'th Birthday Star Trek!

                          On this evening on September 8'th,1966 the National Broadcasting Network premiered a brand new science fiction program written and conceived by a then relatively unknown television writer named Gene Roddenberry. While two separate pilots had already been created,as well as several episodes NBC decided to air the sixth episode produced as the televised pilot called 'The Man Trap'. Staring mainly William Shatner,Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelly this episode was the story of a scientist whose wife had been killed by an shape shifting alien who fed on salt. In sympathy for this species,the last of it's kind,he allowed the creature to maintain the form of his departed wife-and former lover of Doctor McCoy. The episode was in retrospect classic Star Trek: the characters interacted meaningfully and the action was driven by the vital drama and social commentary of the plot.

                          Interestingly enough,Star Trek's critical history at that time reflected how it was received during it's original airing. While a minority of people praised the show for it's unusually strong writing televised science fiction,most reaction can be summed up by the review of Jack Hellman of Daily Variety: "Not conducive to its popularity is the lack of meaningful cast leads. They move around with directorial precision with only violence to provide the excitement." Yet even from this point a significant and devoted fan base developed for the series who would soon become known as Trekkies-later altered to the less pejorative Trekkers. These admirers of Roddenberry's view of the universe and humanity later contributed to a letter writing campaign so massive Star Trek was renewed for it's unintended third and final season in 1968.

                        Four years away from the half century mark,Star Trek seems nonexistent as a television entity. This is an opinion that up until recently I shared. However with something as expansive as Star Trek,one only has to look below the surface to see that apathy towards Star Trek is actually only paper thin. If one goes online to YouTube to any Star Trek related video,the comment threads on the material showcase a universe firmly integrated into the most hopeful side of the world lexicon. Perhaps in the end,the forces that led to the early demise of the original Star Trek series seemed to win out in the end-as it was unfortunate negitive criticism and public apathy that led to it disappearing off the small screen in any form after 2005. Yet the influence that even a sometimes forgotten episode such as 'The Man Trap' might've had on...say a 20 year old collage student in 1966 could actually work wonders on a 20 year old in 2013 convinced they must go to collage to live a productive life-who see no alternative ways to success. And on that level,perhaps Star Trek-in some type of form,still lives.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Jennifer Lien Turns 39: A Portrait Of Kes

                               Within the vast world of Star Trek characters,I cannot think of one particular character more under-appreciated then that of Kes. She was portrayed by Jennifer Lien,a former daytime drama actress who showed tremendous range and versitility in a role that was somewhat unique even in the history of Star Trek: a character whose lifespan would only extend for nine years. At first Kes seemed to be written in to be a romantic foil for Neelix,who was predicted long before Star Trek: Voyager actually aired it's pilot to be the shows break out character. When that concept for Neelix didn't pan out,the character of Kes grew in more ways than one.

                             The crew of the U.S.S. Voyager first encountered Kes during Neelix's attempt to barter with the Kazon Ogla for water in order to facilitate her release from the Ogla's servitude on the Ocampa home world from which she came. Following Captain Janeway's destruction of the Caretaker's array, Kes managed to help convince Neelix that they should stay on and help the crew that had rescued both of them in their long journey home. While attending the crews first conference after being stranded in the Delta Quadrant,Kes suggested that an hydroponics bay be constructed in order to grow fresh fruits,vegetables and grains to amend their shortened food supply. She also subsequent became a student medical assistant to the ships EMH doctor.

                               During her time on Voyager, Kes made some very unexpected discoveries. For one,an alien influence was almost able to induce premature labor in her years before expected. Not only that but,following an encounter with an array of Ocampa under the influence of the Caretakers partner Susperia, she began to learn of her unused and advanced psychokinetic abilities.  Weary of her lover Neelix's jealousy towards her friend Tom Paris,Kes broke off their relationship following an evil alien warlords manipulation of her emotional thought processes. She began to develop her own life and experiences-at one point even living backwards from the moment of her own death. Following her encounter with the Borg and Species 8472, Kes found her psychokinetic abilities evolving to the point where she decided to leave the Voyager crew and evolve to a higher level. Although this resulted in a revelation that left her vengeful to Janeway and her crew,an encounter with her past self changed her mind in the end as she returned to her home world.

                              Though characters leave shows all the time, the outing of Jennifer Lien's Kes character was far from happy or willing. Speaking strictly as an outsider reading what was said in various publications at that time, Voyager was not fearing particularly well critically as a series in it's second and third seasons. And the character of Kes was constantly blamed as one reason. Lien portrayed the character with a sweet,gentle manner and a quiet intellect. Someone who was often the voice of reason when some of the different characters on Voyager were in conflict. Despite all this and a character who was full of surprises,fact is she just didn't quite fit the criteria of the shows presumed 18-35 year old male viewing demographic. She was rather unceremoniously replaced by Jeri Ryan's Seven Of Nine-originally intended seemingly to up ratings as a cat suited half human chanteuse  Though Ryan's equally strong acting acumen made her more than a worthy addition to the show, Kes remains by far one of my personal very favorite Star Trek characters.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cirroc Lofton Turns 35: A Portrait Of Jake Sisko

                           In keeping with Star Trek's second generation tradition of showcasing family life in Starfleet's 24th century galactic ventures, the first post Gene Roddenberry spin off Deep Space Nine presented an idea that was somewhat the reverse of how Wesley Crusher was presented in The Next Generation; a widower single father in a very trying command situation. Cirroc Lofton,who is celebrating his 35th birthday today, portrayed the character of Jake Sisko. He lost his mother in the battle of Wolf 359 with the Borg as a preteen. When Jake first arrived on Deep Space Nine, he found the conditions less the satisfying. Like Wesley Jake was what we might refer to today as a "space brat"-a child raised on different starships travelling from this sector of the galaxy to that. However his destiny would be somewhat different.

                           Whereas Wesley was a wunderkind with unique abilities that needed to be nurtured, Jake Sisko was a fairly typical teenager who was more interested in his immediate concerns than in hyper achievement. His father,played by Avery Brooks, continually expressed concern not only at his academic laissez faire but in his choice of best friend-the lascivious miscreant Ferengi teenager Nog. Interestingly enough it was Nog's later drive to attend Starfleet Academy that contrasted strongly with Jake's career decision. He made it clear that he didn't wish to follow in his father's footsteps in Starfleet-speculatively because of the death of his mother on a Starfleet vessel. Finding during his years attending the station school run by Keiko O'Brien a talent for writing, Jake realized he had a fertile imagination and started to contemplate a serious career as a writer.

                               This ambition came to a head when the Cardassians,original owners of the station,joined forces with the imperially corrupted Dominion from the Gamma Quadrant  decided to take back Deep Space Nine. Though his father and the other Starfleet personnel fled, Jake stayed behind as a journalist. Of course during the proceeding year he had gained much field experience in that direction as a free lance correspondent during the conflict with the Klingons. When his father left Deep Space Nine to live with what turned out to be his own people in the Bajoran Wormhole, Jake stayed behind on Deep Space Nine-the space station his father worked to rebuild,to continue pursuing his own life. I would like to wish Mister Loften a wonderful birthday and good luck on the hip-hop CD he is supposed to be recording at the present time.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Will Weaton Turns 41: A Portrait Of Wesley Crusher

                          One of the qualities I appreciated most Star Trek: The Next Generation is the idea of a starship where the crew could bring their families on board. Very much born out of the production of the original Star Trek's dissolution of Gene Roddenberry's own family,this concept was also in keeping with Roddenberry's optimism for the future. One of the characters in this show was Wesley Crusher,the adolescent only child of the Enteprise's doctor and widowed mother Beverley Crusher. Whether we Will Weaton for his role in Stand By Me,his left wing politics and LGBT rights campaigning or his recent appearances in The Big Bang Theory he will,to me always have the most influence on me in the role of Wesley-a character named for Roddenberry's own middle name as a futurist version of himself so they say.

                     Wesley Crusher was a highly intelligent wunderkind,the "Mozart of 24'th century engineering" as a character in the show called the Traveler once implied. One of the most telling qualities he had however was his generally positive interactions with the crew. He only occasionally exhibited signs of cock sure adolescent attitudes. And although his intelligence led him into leading the Enterprise out of dangerous situations faster than the crew could, he was often more than willing to assist the crew-especially close friends Geordi LaForge and Data,in understanding his visions. He was a positive enthusiast and idealist-reveling in the new encounters he had on the ship. However from the start he had ambiguous feelings about going to Starfleet Academy as Captain Jean-Luc Picard was hoping for. After a time there led to a severe downturn in his enthusiasm he embarked on a more esoteric journey to understanding his gifts.

                  Much to my own regret, most people-especially Star Trek fans,have as equally as much vitriol for Wesley Crusher as I do respect and admiration. Much of this comes from the spiteful humor of 1990's comedians such as Craig Kilborn,one Trekker who delighted in getting hundreds of people to shamelessly laugh at the character. I always had a feeling a lot of this feeling was born of a form of envy-deriving from the young American male "jocks and geeks" style 20th century style social order. Today in the 21st century,as social attitudes are at last expanding there seems to be a strong re-evaluation of  Wesley's character. With no narcissism intended the Wesley character and myself have many qualities in common: strong idealist enthusiasm,a keen intellect,personal vulnerability and a tendency to be misunderstood-often misdirected by others.  I greatly admire Weaton's portrayal of this character. And am wishing a happy 41 to him and to his family!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Nana Visitor Turns 56-A Portrait Of Kira Nerys

                             Perhaps it may seem like a cop out to use an actresses birthday as a platform to discuss one character she played. However in this case I'm of the opinion that this particular role was extremely significant for this particular person. Nana Visitor has,and continues to have a very successful and diversified acting career-even marrying her Deep Space Nine co-star Siddig el Fadil and continuing to act while pregnant with their son Django: the event integrated into the story line of the show. From my understanding the character Visitor portrayed,one Kira Nerys was a replacement for Deep Space Nine's intended representative from Bajor (and Star Trek: The Next Generation) Ro Laren. Aware of Michelle Forbes interest in weekly television at that time,Vistor stepped into her part and fom 1993 to 1999 created a character that was,at the very least,very significant and redemptive.

                       As portrayed by Vistor, first Major Kira was a reluctant and rather resentful Banjoran national who was put into position as a liaison to Commander Ben Sisko on Deep Space Nine,ironically a former Cardassian mining station they called Terok Nor. Nerys was very protective of her possition and her people-known for challenging Sisko's authority on virtually every event on the station-even going over his head on several occasions. As local events on the station evolved into a conflict with the Dominion her life came to a strange full circle. Becoming the awkward midwife to Chief O'Brien's son as well as instructing her adopted daughter of sorts (actually the love child of her sworn enemy Dukat) essentially in how to be a terrorist, Kira Nerys' life became alternately conflicted and domestic. 

                  While I have my own personal conflicts over how Deep Space Nine was handled in its later years,it was the character of Kira that helped define and shape was it started out being: the "darker,grittier" Star Trek-with a firm sociopolitical ethic. One superb example is an episode called 'Duet' from the first season of the show, in which Kira not only has to confront that her worst enemy is actually a possible source of redemption for both the Bajorans and Cardassians-only for him to be killed. If the character of Kira had,say been written out in the next episode this would be her shinning moment on the show. Luckily she had the chance to have seven years of them. Developing a meaningful relationship with misunderstood shape shifter Security Chief Odo Kira Nerys embodied Star Trek's evolution in portraying strong female characters. She was volatile,committed,resourceful,confident and actually very vulnerable in the end. So to me Nana Visitor will always be remembered as portraying not only one of Star Trek's strongest female characters but one of it's strongest characters period. And Star Trek has many.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Star Trek Slipping Into Darkness?

                            Before I begin it should be stated that this is not a review of J.J. Abrams newest Star Trek movie staring Chris Pine And Zachary Quinto. One of the few Star Trek admiring friends I still talk with from my adolescence name of Jeff,and I discussed the possibility of seeing this film for the longest time. In many ways,I was more impressed with the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek film than I thought. Which leads to another important qualifier: the current Star Trek movies has virtually nothing to do with Gene Roddenberry's original Trek universe. Save guest appearances by Leonard Nimoy. 

                      While some might debate this factor,it is what it is. And important to know when taking in this particular film. I waited for two months since this film came out. Finally it was dollar day at my local second run movie theater,my teeth were still numb from a filling so finally seeing this film on the big screen to today seemed like a good way to kill some time. Sounds like a very poor endorsement doesn't it? Well not all is as it seems. And that,in a word is the core point of what I'll call a theatrical commentary on the film.

                       Avoiding any potential spoilers,the basic plot of this film involves Captain Kirk (Pine) being reduced in rank after his irresponsible behavior on a mission only to be reunited with his crew on the Enterprise to save Starfleet itself from destruction by a genetically engineered superman  Khan. Yes you've got it right-Khan Noonian Singh himself. Played here by Benedict Cumberbatch Khan is generally given a far colder and calculated attitude (only shedding a single tear throughout the film) than the late Ricardo Montalbahn's alternately smug and vengefully hostile interpretation. Still the question remains for me why is Khan in any modern day Star Trek at all?

                         One of the issues Jeff and I discussed regarding this film was J.J's obvious pandering to the nostalgia of Trekkers the world over with his films. And this particular film offers that level of nostalgia to such a degree it seems almost spoofed at times. Ironically, the characterizations of the original crew of the Enterprise are far closer to Roddenberry's original than they had been in J.J's debut Trek film of 2009. In particular Chris Pine-delivering a more adult swagger this time than the sometimes overblown cockiness in his first time out in the role. Karl Urban's McCoy is also far less of the hypochondriac here which is extremely appealing to me.

                        There are a couple elements that drag the film down significantly and that is the plot itself. Obviously drawing from 1982's The Wrath Of Khan, it does so to the shameless level of even including lines that are almost identical to the original film. The best example of this would involve a severe spoiler for anyone who never saw the movie so I won't include it here. The other element of the film that evades its intentions are that the film revels in so many steroid speed action scenes of characters attacking each other on fast moving objects that other characters,such Alice Eve's Carole Marcus are severely underdeveloped compared to Bibi Besch's original character.

                         Only one element of this film made me as angry as...say Spock's rage at Khan during the conclusion of this film. And that was the site of the Starfleet battleship U.S.S. Venture plowing into Starfleet headquarters. I felt it was a symbolic slap in the face to original Trek admirers and saying de facto that Star Trek somehow only belonged to J.J Abrams now. Aside from that it is a well produced and well acted film that suffers from poor writing made so by virtue of its nearly complete lack of originality. Whatever other controversies that might surround this movie, the overall effect is severe doubt as to whether Star Trek is still a thriving and inspirational  phenomenon or a mere franchise on it's last legs-with its best days in the metaphorical entertainment museum. If this film is any indication, that uncertainty would seem to be here to stay for a good while.



Friday, May 24, 2013

Confessions Of A Star Trek Admirer

            Data is probably the character in all of Star Trek that is the most identifiable to me. That's part of the magic of science fiction: how the life of a given character can metaphorically tell the story of a person they find hard to tell. Data was the one successful android with a  positronic brain-capable of interacting with anyone with the abilities and efficiency of a high powered computer. But he was a mechanical Pinocchio-desiring to have the emotions and relationships of a human. His is a character much imitated later in the world of science fiction but, in my own opinion never half as well. As much as it pains me,I was always bought up with the idea that humility outweighed confidence.That was my personal struggle. If one is such a person who feels the words "I,me and mine" are not to be used too often in a sentence,this is likely not the blog post for you. But its a story many others with the time and tolerance might find solace of their own in.

                   This is a little story about my life. As with many young children growing up, I was on the receiving end of a massive barrage of bullying. I would go to the principles office and tell them. Basically I was told that these bullies would never respect a "tattler". That I would have to deal with them on their own terms-face to face. Toughen up was what I was told. Not to be vulnerable. At home I was taught the lessons of "the peaceful warrior" by my family. My response to these contradictory responses was essentially to stay overwhelmed. I would make a run and try to ram myself into walls. Not to get attention but just to know I had the power somewhere to escape dangers. I would act like a foolish clown-make eccentric jokes and try to be the class oddball. Inwardly I detested the cliques,the lack of support. But every Sunday night at 7PM I could turn on this android who sometimes said the wrong thing,not understanding emotions. He would learn something. And his crew mates were his friends. And accepted him for who he was. They cared about each other. And helped others to care too. And that was very comforting.
                    During this time I knew a couple people interested in Star Trek. But I started to learn that "Trekkies" as Star Trek admirers were called at the time were not socially acceptable in a lot of circles. Suddenly that became an object of bullying for me-verbal bullying. That I could not take at all. True I detested what football and pro wrestling represented as being the primary interests of other children. On Star Trek,characters regretted when violence was used. They didn't advocate it as real life,present day violence of that time seemed to. In 1994 Star Trek The Next Generation went off the air. There was a series called Deep Space Nine on the air. But it was looking to imitate the air of the 1990's. While it was brilliant in many ways,it simply didn't provide the same therapeutic atmospherics in my own life as its predecessor had. Of course Star Trek was not made for me. Aside from my interests in photography, most of the others interests I had during that time found me bumbling rather pathetically through them. I kept thinking of the Star Trek universe-full of many different people. Amazing star ships. No worries about money or materialism. Then my mother made a friend for me. It made a huge difference.

                Out of respect I'll refer to him only as "my friend". He was unlike any friend I had before. He was a decade older than I. His love of Star Trek was even broader than my own. In getting to know this new friend, I began becoming very confessional to him. He knew the important place Star Trek held in my heart,mind and soul. He even advised me on a Star Trek series I was writing. It was not fan fiction. It was intended as a genuine television series in the spirit of the by then deceased Gene Roddenberry. It was to be an enormous movement. No commercials,an open detain for fighting and killing. And of course Star Trek's futurist mentality. Eventually reality intruded of course. In terms of the series I was writing,controversy erupted when those who saw it objected to the doctor in the story being a lesbian. That felt like another crushing defeat.  During this time even Star Trek itself began to seriously let me down. The movies they were making such as First Contact and the series Deep Space Nine seemed to emphasize the glamorization and gratuitous use of violence that Star Trek had once railed against. In society the economy was balanced,there were no wars but so many people desired to be unhappy. 

            From that point on? Star Trek gradually had a slow death in my life in terms of a socially and morally guiding force in my life. 9/11 happened. Unhappiness among people went to outright paranoia. Suddenly the economy was not so good. There was a war and millions on both sides died in horrible ways. Some of them people I knew.
The dream was over. Society had fully and suddenly embraced the philosophy of total war. In 2002,the character of Data was killed off in the motion picture Nemesis. In 2005 the last televised Star Trek series made by Paramount called Enterprise left the airwaves after apparently miserable ratings. In 2009 director J.J. Abrams returned Star Trek to the silver screen with a new motion picture. However,while casting talented actors such as Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto he created his movie completely outside the spectrum of Gene Roddenberry's vision and even cannon. A lot of it had to do with commercial product placement and fast past action violence. While a well done film for what it was,it seemed the slogan had reversed: Star Trek no longer lived. It had died. In the film the planet Vulcan was destroyed. Romulus was destroyed and the timeline was wrecked to bits. Star Trek had at last died.

               So what happened to me after the official demise of the Star Trek universe? Is it only a brand name for nostalgia? Both written and filmed fan fiction? Its very much a homeless phenomenon now. Another comparable science fiction show,one that I never paid much credence to in the past had a massively successful revival after Star Trek's last day. That was Doctor Who,on the BBC. Today Doctor Who thrives,in its own context carrying on the torch of thoughtful science fiction onward. While I've come to love this show,I miss Star Trek deeply. I have the old shows on DVD of course. But new shows are no longer on the television. And it was a slow death-starting really around the time I first lost touch with my friend. Now it's all about awkward hope. My friend and I have since reconnected. And in our minds,the dream of Star Trek seems to be there. The embers of Gene Roddenberry's vision still burns somewhere within us. I have been extremely neglectful in the last two months of this blog-for reasons which you the readers of this posting now know quite well. The embers may burn, but the interest doesn't seem to be there.  Do I want to try to keep my New Star Trek Manifesto going? I don't know now. But where there are embers,there's always the possibility of an eternal flame.




Saturday, March 2, 2013

Star Trek-Voyager: Caretaker

                      Captain Kathryn Janeway,commander of the Starship Voyager journeys to a Federation Penal Colony in Australia to temporarily release imprisoned Marquis sympathizer Tom Paris to help her pilot Voyager through the Badlands,an area of intense fire storms,to locate a Marquis vessel containing her undercover chief of security Tuvok. Upon arriving at the Badlands,Voyager is thrown forward by a powerful energy field and half the crew either killed or knocked unconscious. When the captain awakens,her operations officer Harry Kim informs her they are now 70,000 light years from from where they started-in the distant delta quadrant. They find a mysterious alien array before them,firing energy pulses to a dead planet below. After they revive the EMH (emergency medical hologram) to treat the injured,they suddenly disappear. With the array as the only possible culprit the Captain,Harry and Tom transport on board to find what seems like an Earth style barn yard dance. In a barn on the premises,Harry detects indications of Sporosystian life. They suddenly find themselves dangling on platforms,in an enormous chamber,with the rest of their own and the Marquis crew. When they are returned to their own ship,Janeway finds Harry is missing. He is being held with Marquis engineer B'lanna Torres by a race calling themselves the Ocampa. 

                   The Ocampa claim the two have a disease they are asked to treat by an alien called the Caretaker,who overseas their world after their planet turned into a dessert and the Ocampa were forced to live underground. Voyager,for their part,soon encounter a Talaxian scavenger called Nelix who promises he can help them find their missing crew member. He takes them to the surface to a group of aliens called the Kazon Ogla who,in exchange for water,release Neelix's Ocampa lover from their custody. Despite Neelix's  odd methods,this allows the Voyager crew and the Marquis team,who've elected to join forces to get to their home quadrant,to rescue their crew mates and confront this caretaker. Turns out the caretaker blames himself for what happened to the surface of the Ocampa home world,and has been bringing aliens from other parts of the galaxy to try and procreate. Because the Kazon wish to commandeer the array,Janeway is forced to destroy it-along with the crews one chance of getting home,in order to maintain the balance of power in this region. While making an enemy of the Kazon,Janeway manages to unite Starfleet and Marquis personal in a mission of exploration of the Delta Quadrant,while searching for another way to get home.

               As with the Deep Space Nine pilot,this is a very busy story. Not only are we introduced to a one set of new characters but two,as the central theme of the show is two divergent crews coming together for a common goal. And a diverse group it is. We have Torres,an intelligent but aggressive Klingon/Human hybrid. There's the holographic doctor with no bedside manner. There's the new alien Neelix,a mildly mischievous rogue who is looking for little more than love and to reform his vagabond ways. And his girlfriend Kes,who offers their services to Janeway as guides to the quadrant. The title character is one we learn very little about. He comes off as compassionate but too powerful to fully comprehend human needs and therefore has a mildly sinister quality. One theme that carried on from this story through the rest of the series was Janeway's controversial choice to destroy the crews one way of getting home-to keep from violating the Federation's Prime Directive. While it shows her strong moral fortitude,which is at the heart of Star Trek itself,it is a source of contention between her and Voyager's crew on many occasions throughout the series.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Deep Space Nine-Emissary

                   Three years after his wife was killed when the Borg,led by Locutus,destroyed the ship he was first officer of,Commander Benjamin Sisko is assigned by Captain Jean-Luc Picard to the space station Deep Space Nine in orbit around Bajor following the Cardassians withdrawing their occupational forces from that world. The reluctant widowed officer,along with his son Jake,arrive on the station to be greeted by a wrecked station partially crewed-with most of it's original occupants preparing to leave. He meets up with the equally reluctant Bajoran nation Major Kira Nyrys,who is convinced the Federation has no place administrating on the station now that the Bajoran's are finally liberated and cynically believes he and the other Starfleet officers will be gone in a week. She convinces Sisko to visit the Bajoran's spiritual leader Kai Opaka. Upon arriving Sisko is introduced to an orb Opaka calls "the tear of the prophets",which reveals Sisko's first meeting with his deceased wife. When his new Trill science officer Jadzia Dax arrives,she studies the orb and suggests she and Sisko,with whom she had been friends in her past host body, take one of the Federation runabouts on the station to investigate a source signal from the orb in the nearby Denorious belt.

                             Upon arriving their they find themselves in an unusual wormhole that Dax discovers to be the only stable wormhole encountered by the Federation-with the end destination in the Gamma Quadrant 75,000 light years away. On the way back,the runabout mysteriously touches down inside the wormhole,Dax believes she is in a tranquil garden while Sisko on a rock face in the middle of an atmospheric storm. An orb appears and whisks Dax away,but envelopes Sisko. He finds himself speaking to aliens who appear as his comrades and loved ones,claiming to be aliens existing in this wormhole outside. As he uses metaphors to explain linear time to the aliens,Kira and Chief of Operations Miles O'Brien attempt to fend off invading Cardassians as they look to stake a claim to the newly discovered stable wormhole. O'Brien manages to re-engage the shields to provide enough power to move the station to the edge of the wormhole-just in time for Commander Sisko's return,after which he formerly accepts his new assignment to Captain Picard.

                            This is an extremely complex premiere that,in approximately 90 minutes,attempts to sum up a number of very complex plot points. There's the shape shifting security chief Odo,attempting to maintain order on Deep Space Nine following the Cardassian desertion and Quark,the conniving Ferengi bar owner who Sisko assigns as a community leader on the new liberated station. The main thrust for Sisko in this story is actually an extension on what was attempted in the original Star Trek pilot The Cage-a tortured man in a command position who is forced to confront his demons with the help of powerful aliens. Only this time while the wormhole aliens are able to express to Sisko he is living in the past,he manages to help them explain linear time effectively through examples like baseball.  Though Deep Space Nine would be a series that was very uneven in quality through it's seven year airing,this counts as one of the best Star Trek pilot episodes ever aired.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Star Trek:The Next Generation-Encounter At Farpoint

                      En route to investigate Farpoint Station,a star base built for Federation use by the Bandi of Deneb IV,Captain Jean-Luc Picard becomes better acquainted with the state of the art Galaxy Class U.S.S. Enterprise he is now commanding. His ships counselor Deanna Troi senses an unusually powerful mind. Suddenly a mysterious man addressing himself only as Q materializes on the bridge of the ship. Changing in wardrobe from an ancient ship captain,to a Korean War era GI and a drug controlled 21'st century shock troop he accuses humanity of being a dangerously savage child race who must return to Earth. Picard convinces him that he is a self righteous life form only looking to prosecute and judge lower life forms. This inspires Q to put the crew on trail,in a post apocolyptic 21'st century Earth Kangaroo court,for the crimes of humanity after Picard separates the saucer from the rest of the Enterprise to avoid a confrontation with the Q entity.

                 After taunting the crew by freezing two of it's personnel including security chief Tasha Yar,for standing up for humanity Picard insists Q tests humanity as to it's virtues. He insists the Farpoint mission will be an excellent test. And he sends them on their way. When the Enterprise arrives to pick up,among other new crew members,it's first officer William Riker at Farpoint it is only the star drive section that arrives. After being briefed on their encounter with Q,Commander Riker successfully re-connects the saucer and reveals his past romance with Counselor Troi.  Riker has been curious,after his encounter with the ellusive Bandi leader Grappler Zorn,how Farpoint could have so many contradictions-such as in his own description near magical attempts to please visitors. When it's also clear the only technological advantage the planet has is a mass of geothermal energy. 

           Upon Riker organizing an away team,Troi senses great emotional sadness in the Grappler's office and later in the mysterious caverns beneath the city. Amid Q's continual harassment,the Enterprise notices a large flying saucer approaching Deneb IV. Interestingly enough,it fires weapons on the Bandi city but carefully avoids Farpoint. With Q encouraging weapons fire,Picard decides to send an away team to the ship. There they find identical corridors to that below Farpoint. Troi senses first anger here,than satisfaction at the destruction of the Bandi city. Upon capturing Zorn,he reveals to Picard a space fearing entity of this sort arrived on their world and was injured. They provided it with enough energy to keep alive,but only so they could use it to curry favor with the Federation by using it's shape shifting ability to create a suitable star base. The Enterprise releases the entity after evacuating Farpoint,where it meets what turns out to be it's mate in orbit.Having passed Q's test and the Bandi agreeing to rebuilt Farpoint,Picard and his new crew head into space to "see what's out there".

             It was an enormous gamble for Gene Roddenberry to re-imagine Star Trek,a century in the cannons future and with an entirely new crew,in 1987 having failed to do so already with the original cast for the aborted Star Trek Phase II series in the late 70's. And in syndication no less. This pilot succeeded on all levels. It had to tell little introduction stories for each member of the crew: Picard,Riker,the android Data,the Klingon Worf,Geordi,Counselor Troi,Tasha Yar,Dr.Crusher and her son Wesley and their new adversary: the aggressively arrogant and omnipotent Q. John DaLancie brings this character to life almost fully formed,if far more adversarial than was later portrayed. As for the rest of the cast,there would be a lot of room to crew. Data is far more mechanical in personality and a stronger "babbler" than later. Captain Picard lacks much of the strong personality he'd develop later and is more a straight laced authority figure. And Deanna Troi's emphatic reactions are far more pronounced.  It's Johnathan Frakes as Commander Riker who is the most fully formed of the new characters. Overall a wonderful and visually stunning introduction,with it's far higher budget FX,  to a new series that would expand Star Trek's audience from a cult following to a viewership large enough to change everyone's perception of the show.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Star Trek-Where No Man Has Gone Before

                          On a mission to discover what happened to the late 21'st century space vessel S.S. Valient Captain James Kirk,commander of the Enterprise and his crew,including a newly arrived psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Dehner,attempt to leave the galaxy in search of the lost spaceship. After transporting aboard a flight recorder,Mr. Spock recovers information from it indicating the Captain of the vessel ordered it's destruction a midst extreme chaos on board. The Enterprise then encounters an energy barrier at the galaxies end of extremely high energy. Not only does it drain the ship of energy,but also knocks out both Dr. Dehner and navigator Gary Mitchell,an old friend of the Captains who suddenly has developed oddly glowing eyes. Spock recovers yet more information that before he destroyed the ship,he was searching frantically for information in their records of extra sensory perception. 

                               While in sickbay,Mitchell is exhibiting similar symptoms. Dr. Dehner observes he is able to read and retain information faster than the average human being. He also observes decay in a thruster pack before the ships helmsman Lee Kelso could. Mr. Scott observes at a conference later that parts of the computer had earlier began activating themselves. During this conference Dr.Dehner shows an unusual obsession on Mitchell's case and willingness to pursue it. Spock advises Kirk to set a course to the nearby Dilithium cracking station on Delta Vega to restore ships power. This will also give him the opportunity to deal with his other problem: Gary Mitchell,growing more and more dangerous and megalomaniacal  as his powers grow,will have to be destroyed to save the ship,it's crew and possibly the rest of humanity. 

                               On the planet,an attempt to imprison Mitchell fails as he kills Kelso and,as it turns out,Dr.Dehner eventually exhibits the same powers as himself. When Kirk returns to the surface to fight his friend with a phaser rifle,he confronts Dr.Dehner. He pleads with her as a psychiatrist to understand Mitchell's abuse of power. She observes this in his needlessly cruel behavior to Captain Kirk,his friend,during the ensuing confrontation. She herself battles Mitchell,weakening him enough so the captain can throw him into a grave that Mitchell intended for him and use the phaser to bury him alive with a rock slide from a nearby cliff. The energy Dehner uses weakens her physically and she dies shortly after. The Enterprise leaves Delta Vega with power fully restored,but with Kirk facing the loss of two of his comrades,one of whom was an old friend.

                                As the then unprecedented second pilot for Star Trek,Gene Roddenberry had the opportunity in this story to refine his idea for the series. The major addition was William Shatner as James R.Kirk,an interesting continuity issue of name cleared up later. While still closely linked to the cerebral nature of his original concept,this story is more character driven and in his own words "at least ended in a bare knuckle fist fight". Gary Lockwood's is amazing in his portrayal of Gary Mitchell,a somewhat above average human being suddenly granted extraordinary abilities-yet is not able to acquire the emotional compassion or wisdom to use them wisely. Mitchell's already advanced mind was indicated if the viewer pauses the episode and watches his profile on the bridge of the Enterprise as Mr.Spock is. 

                                In perhaps a compromise for Gene not getting the female first officer he'd originally hoped for,the strong female presence comes from Sally Kellerman's Dr.Dehner,a professional women who only becomes emotionally obsessed with Mitchell's power when she herself has begun to become effected by it herself. Characters that would become central to the show later are present,such as James Doohen's Scotty and George Takei's Sulu. Both are in much smaller roles and in very different positions on the ship than they would be later: neither are bridge personnel in this story.  The costumes,the sets and even the model of the Enterprise itself are still very similar to The Cage. However this second pilot had a very human quality that caught the interest of the NBC network executives and they decided to buy the Star Trek series this time around.