Vulcan Stev's Database

It's a BLOG Captain, but not as we know it.

The View from My Chair: Klingon Ridges and continuity

My Buddy Berin Kinsman recently had a question about Klingon head ridges.  For the uninitiated, in the original series Klingons had no head ridges.  Star Trek: The Motion Picture showed minor head ridges on the Klingons.  The Klingon make-up evolved throughout the movies and TNG until we have the bumpy heads we’re familiar with today.

The real world reason for this apparent discrepancy is the fact that budgets for make-up during the original series run was miniscule.  Make-up budgets for the movies was a lot higher.  Make-up techniques and budgets had improved enough by the 1980’s that a weekly TV show could afford what a cash-strapped TV show in 60’s could not.  When a TV show as long-lived and as successful as Star Trek is internally inconsistent it can drive fans of the show just a tick crazy.

Trekkers have often wondered about the visual discrepancy between Klingons as depicted in the 60s, the 70s, and the 80s as these differences were never addressed on-screen.  Theories abounded that there were two main races of Klingons, bumpy and non-bumpy headed.  Other theories stated that Klingons had themselves surgically altered themselves so they could better infiltrate the dominate facial structure found in the Alpha Quadrant.  Gene Roddenberry himself stated that Klingons “always” had head bumps, it was just the there wasn’t enough resolution in the cameras of the 1960s to capture the details.

Roddenberry’s theory seemed to be borne out in the Deep Space Nine episode “Blood Oath”.  In this episode the three main Klingons from the original series; Kang, Kor, and Koloth (Kor is shown above in bumps and no bumps) show up on DS9 in full modern Klingon makeup.  The theory of there being two different races of Klingons was shot down with this episode giving the edge to Roddenberry’s explanation.

The producers of DS9 thought about keeping the actors in the makeup they used in TOS but decided not to so as not to “confuse the audience”.  Micheal Ansara (Kang) asked why his (and the others) makeup was different then it had been in the 60s.  He was told that Klingons were very long-lived and the head ridges were a natural part of the Klingon aging process.  Nice theory, except that Worf’s son, Alexander was shown with ridges.

Up until this point there was nothing that required a convoluted explanation.  Roddenberry’s theory is still the best.

Now, in the name of showing something cool, Star Trek producers start digging a hole for themselves regarding the Klingon ridges.  In honor of Trek’s 30th Anniversary, Deep Space Nine decides to visit the classic episode, ‘The Trouble with Tribbles’.  ‘Trials and Tribble-ations’ sends the crew of DS9 back in time to the actual events of the classic episodes.  Was this cool?  Yes.  Did I enjoy the episode? Yes.  Did it complicate matters for the Klingon ridges?  Yes.

O’Brien, Bashir, Worf, and Odo are sitting in the bar looking at all the Klingons.  The waitress mentions the Klingons.  Odo, Bashir and O’Brien ask, “What Klingons?” and then look at Worf.  Worf explains that Klingons do not talk about the changes in appearance from the 23rd to the 24th century.  Roddenberry’s theory of camera resolution is dealt a fatal blow as the characters themselves bring up the difference in appearance.

OK what we are now left with (if we are assuming that the Trek universe is internally consistent) is a single genetic appearance for Klingons.  This single appearance changed at some point between 2268 (Trouble with Tribbles) and 2273 (ST:TMP).  Worf states that the Klingons hunted down and eradicated the tribbles as a species.  Tribbles do not like Klingons.   Worf emphasizes that Klingons considered tribbles an ecological menace.  Could the Klingon ridges be the result of a genetic mutation caused by Scotty’s disposal of the tribbles to the Klingon ship at the end of the episode?  Speculation across the internet at the time favored this theory.  The theory fit the facts as known at the time.  Fans were happy.

Once again, continuity raised its ugly head.

Star Trek Enterprise bursts into millions of homes.  The setting is the 22nd century.  The first image we see is a bumpy headed Klingon running through a cornfield in Broken Bow, Oklahoma.  “What th****?” millions of Trek fans ask.  Why does the Klingon have bumps?  Braga, the man who hates continuity and Trek fans, and doesn’t give rats patoot about maintaining an internal consistency mandates that Klingons on Enterprise will HAVE bumps.  Why? because he assumes the audience will be confused by smooth headed Klingons.

The theory that Klingons got the bumps from Tribbles has now been discredited.  What the producers (ie Devil-man Braga) have forced on the fanbase is a race of aliens with a single defining characteristic.  This characteristic is lost at some point before 2268 and it starts to re-emerge in the early 2270s.  Braga wasn’t going to debase himself to those he despised and explain it.  He left it to someone else to clean up his convoluted mess.  When Manny Coto took Enterprise’s reins during season four we finally got an explanation.  It took an episode arc that tied the whole business into the eugenics wars.
Something that could have been explained away easily got convoluted because the producers A: thought the audience was not smart enough to handle the differences and B: some producers didn’t care about the continuity.

What does this mean?  If you’re going to produce a continuity heavy TV show, never assume your audience is stupid.  Also if you’re going to be the executive producer of said series, don’t hire a day-to-day producer that despises your fanbase.

As my fellow Klingons would probably say, “Continuity, pfah.  Let us do battle.”

April 30, 2010 Posted by | Star Trek, Vulcan Stev | , , , , | 12 Comments

The View from my Chair: A Shared Universe?

Recently there’s been some talk around the blogsphere about shared universes and continuity porn.  This is something that the VS family has played with for years.  The recent spark of the debate was lit when i09 asked why the Siffy Channel (SyFy) doesn’t have it’s shows all set in one shared universe.

The easy answer to this is that these shows are produced by different companies, unlike the shared universes of Marvel or DC comics which are housed under big corporate umbrellas.  The logistics of having some Go’uald technology show up in Eureka or the teams for Sanctuary and Warehouse 13 teaming up together are pretty insurmountable.  Corporate brand identity and the question of who owns what portion of the story would prevent that from happening.  Witness the failed attempt for a Spidey cameo appearance in X3, Sony balked at the idea because they held the rights to film adaptations of the Spidey-verse.  A shared universe on a cable channel, unless intentionally built isn’t gonna happen any time soon.

That said, we (me and the P.I.T.’s) have long-held the belief that unless explicitly proven otherwise, our favorite TV shows and movies DO exist in one self-contained shared universe.  Obviously the universes of ‘2012’ and ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ are mutually exclusive.  But the universes of ‘Mission Impossible’ and ‘Star Trek’ need not be.  (OK I am not even going to throw open the door of the multiple quantum universes postulated by the Star Trek episode ‘Parallels’ or the Heinlein novel ‘Number of the Beast’).

We never quite put it down on paper before but the theory is basically “Unless the world depicted by the entertainment contradicts some other aspect of a different universe, the depicted universes are in the same quantum space.”  Simply put, Agent Mulder has somewhere in his files data on Alf, Mork, Uncle Martin, the unexpected flyover of Los Angeles by the USS Voyager, and Dr. Solomon.  The crew of any Federation starship could in fact through any number of time travel effects have an adventure with James Bond, Spider-Man or the Mission Impossible force.  Indiana Jones could very well be the great-great-(you figure it out)-great-grandfather of Cyrano Jones.  I know the folks at Hogwarts don’t concern themselves too much with the happenings of the muggle-world but would they consider Herbie the Volkswagen and enchanted beast?

What does this mean for your game, creative fiction, night at the movies?

What this means for your game night is that as a GM you can throw in whatever characters you deem appropriate and not feel guilty about it.  Do you want your party of Elves to have an encounter with Spock?  By all means if handled correctly it could be a blast.

What this means for your creative fiction (another means of role play IMHO) is that if you can come up with a “LOGICAL” reason for another character to appear in your story then by all means run with it.

What this means for your geek-gasm night of movie watching is that you can fantasize that the information on the screen of Mulder’s computer is listing of Gordon Shumway’s recent activities (bonus points if you get that reference).  You can hide the smirk or laugh out loud because you know that the gods of Olympus will eventually leave Earth and Percy Jackson  behind and settle on Pollux IV.

Would it be cool if the was one big shared universe?  Yes.  But, then to my way of thinking there already is.

*editor’s note*  The DC Universe and the Marvel universe were revealed to be two separate quantum universes in the Marvel vs. DC limited series.  As such by our theory there at least two combined shared universes; one with DC super-heroes and on with Marvel heroes.

April 16, 2010 Posted by | Comic Books, Fluff/Inspiration, Movies, News, Reviews and Culture, RPG, Star Trek | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The view from my chair: What have I been doing?

Role playing isn’t necessarily always about rolling dice.  Sometimes it as simple as sitting down and going “What if….”

Somebody asked me in an e-mail, why I haven’t been writing as much RPG stuff at the blog as I used to.  I replied with my stock answer that life has been busier with the “new job” (been there a year now), Mrs. VS’s cancer recovery, and PIT’s (now Pvt. Black Spartan) graduation from High School and Basic training.  Yes my time has more demands on it now that I am no longer self-employed (I do have a commute), but I seem to spend just as much time at the computer now as I did a year ago.

I got to thinking about this and realized that I’m still involved with RPG, I’m just not blogging about as much as I used to.  I’m playing in a bi-weekly 4e game at my FLGS (The Core).  I’m currently playing a semi-bi-weekly Top Secret game with my gaming group.  I’ve been playing a genetically enhanced human in an online Klingon RPG and I’ve been working on some of my fiction, which in itself is a form of RPG.  I’ve also been playing Wizards 101 which is not RPG but a very fun game for kids and adults.

The Klingon RPG is set up where the Commander of roleplay issues orders.  You then have two months to write a short RP about what your character did.  If you are interested the URL is www.ksfcommand.com  Tell ’em Chris DeHart sent you.

Stev is my nom de plume.  He also happens to be a character that I have been writing fan/fiction about for the better part of twenty years.  I’ve dusted off some of the older stories and have been writing some new stuff.  Until I get the new stuff finished, I’ve been posting the older stories.

My short stories are available over at http://www.fanfiction.net I’ve currently got four stories posted.

The Stitch: A Section 31 Agent must travel back in time to the 21st century to prevent a corruption of the timeline.

Return to Glory: The story of Stev and T’Aiya meeting someone who plays a very large role in their future.

Shore Leave: Stev realizes who his soul mate is but does she feel the same way about him?

Down Time: Stev recalls the ‘accident’ which changed his life forever.

This last one isn’t strictly speaking RPG.  But I will answer any all questions asked, Play stump the Vulcan.  Ask me anything. click the link.. http://formspring.me/VulcanStev

March 20, 2010 Posted by | Life near an Iowa Cornfield, News, Reviews and Culture, RPG, Vulcan Stev | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The View from My Chair: Who owns the Universe?

My attention was directed to this video today http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aoc3roT81nU

This got me thinking, when it comes to the Universe created by one individual but loved by a very large group of fans, who actually “owns” the universe?  In the legal sense the universe is “owned” by the copyright holder.  I cannot go around writing stories about space battles in far off galaxies and call it “Star Wars” without some lawyer showing up and issuing me a cease and desist.  I cannot write stories of young wizards named Howie, Don and Chermoine saving the universe from the evil Tromedlov without somebody notifying J.K Rowling.  If I  want to write detective stories about a 19th century detective I’d better not name him Sherlock Holmes or I’ll be hearing from the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  At least I’d better not write anything like that and expect to sell it to others.

I’m not going to delve into the legal realms of “Fair Use” or how much can I write about these situations and steal from the original idea while still making it seem like something new.  Rather I want to look at the serious fan and their disagreements with the original authors about the nature of “their” universe.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle grew so disenchanted with his creation, Sherlock Holmes, that he killed the detective off in “The Final Problem”.  As the author, this was Doyle’s right to do so.  The public however had other ideas.  The outcry over the “death” of the great detective led Sir Arthur to resurrect his creation in the “The Adventure of the Empty House”, in this instant the “ownership” of the universe changed hands.  No longer could Sir Arthur lay complete claim to his hero.  Yes, legally the Sherlock Homes universe is still owned by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but it was the fans who forced the resurrection.

The Harry Potter universe is another instance of certain fans being at odds with the author.  My sister has undertaken a re-writing (in fan-fiction of course) of Harry Potter 7.  According to my sister (and a few of her friends, a few of mine, and nearly half a million writers at fanfiction.net) J.K. Rowling screwed up the Harry Potter universe with book 7.  “Harry should have married Hermionie,” “Harry should have died,” the list goes on of the supposed “wrongs” that Ms. Rowling has done to “their” universe.  Now I cannot claim to be a reader of the Harry Potter novels (my kids are) but I have seen the first six movies.  Great cinema? not really but they are nicely done movies.  My point is that the fans have taken a very possessive view of the universe.  The universe if J.K.’s to do with as she pleases.  If she had wanted to end book 7 with the magical equivalent of the atomic bomb, killing every magical being in existence she certainly could have.  Would have made the fans happy? probably not.  But the fans need to be aware of the fact that this is Ms. Rowlings’ universe, she only invites us in.

This brings me to George Lucas and the universe that he created.  Star Wars entered into the public’s collective conscious in 1977.  I was 10.  I was enamored with the story being told on the big screen.  I collected the comics.  I played with the toys.  I gained an interest in science fiction that has never gone away.

When Mr. Lucas re-did the original trilogy in the 90’s, I brought my family to see Lucas’ vision.  The redone effects made (in my opinion) a good film better.  Did Han need jump out of Greedo’s way before toasting him?  Maybe not, but this is Lucas’ universe not mine.  George can do with this universe whatever he wants.  It is his house, he is only inviting us in.  Now, Mr. Lucas has been more than generous allowing folks to rummage around and play in his universe.  The Expanded Universe of novels, comics, games and whatnot have added to an already rich tapestry.

I do not understand the vehemence folks use when discussing Jar Jar Binks.  Do I like the character? no.  Do I wish Jar Jar had been one of Anakin’s victims on his slide to the dark side?  yes. (Meesa no wanna die Annie).  Does that change the fact that George Lucas can do whatever he wants with the character? no.

I don’t remember where I read it but I recall this interview with George Lucas.  He states that he had always intended to kill Jar Jar off but kept him around simply because Star Wars is his universe and won’t be dictated to by the fans.  If I am remembering correctly and this is the reason Jar Jar didn’t die, then I applaud Mr. Lucas for sticking to his guns.

The question remains.  Who owns the universe?  Answer the creator.  We should be thankful that we’re allowed to play inside.

March 10, 2010 Posted by | Fluff/Inspiration, Movies, News, Reviews and Culture, Science Fiction | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The view from my chair: Franchise Characters

It’s no secret, the Vulcan Stev household enjoys movies.  The subject of movie franchises came up the other day during one of our many movie discussions.  “What’s a Franchise Daddy?” PIT #3 asked.

“A movie franchise is a series of movies set in the same fictional universe, telling stories usually revolving around the same key characters and most often released by the same studio,” is the definition we arrived at.

“Star Wars”, “Star Trek”, and James Bond were three franchises that jumped immediately to mind.  The discussion then evolved to the actors who made the roles famous.  How some actors will forever be defined by the role they played.  Sean Conery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig will forever be known as James Bond regardless of any other role they play.  William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy are locked into the American psyche as Kirk and Spock.

Some of these franchise characters have successfully been played by more than one actor (James Bond, Obi Wan Kenobi, and more recently Kirk and Spock).  We got to wondering how some characters can be so linked to the actor that it seems almost sacrilege to recast the role (the furor over the recent Star Trek film all the way back to the controversy of Connery stepping out of the Bond role) to the fact some actors are so linked with the famous role they play that their careers never recover (Mark Hamil or Carrie Fisher).

PIT #3 then asked if there were any actors lucky enough to have two franchise characters to their credit.  We then defined a franchise character as having appeared in at least three separate films.  To qualify the actor has to have played the character at least three times.  We came up with this list:

mel-gibson-smileMel Gibson:  Mad Max, The Road Warrior and Detective Riggs from the Lethal Weapon.  Mel Gibson burst into the American film scene with his role of Max.  The Lethal Weapon franchise earned him a place on this list.

orlando-bloom

Orlando Bloom earned his place on this list with his portrayal of Legolas in the Lord of the Rings Films and his presence on the screen as Will Turner in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

patrick2520stewartPatrick Stewart had a successful career long before Gene Roddenberry cast him as Captain Jean Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise D.  Seven years of inspired acting on his (and his castmates) part led a loyal fanbase to embrace a universe beyond the roles and actors of the “failed” 60s TV show.  Stewart’s prowess as an actor and acclaim among the hordes of its target audience gave 20th Century Fox all the reason it needed to cast him in the role of Charles Xavier in its X-Men series of films.

HarrisonFordPictureHarrison Ford has the unique position of being the only actor (we can think of) to play three franchise characters, though only two qualify by the rules we laid out.  Ford got his big break with the role of Han Solo in Star Wars.  Luckily for us, George Lucas listened to some advice and cast Harrison as Indiana Jones.  The role was sufficiently different from that of Han Solo that Ford was not typecast and averted the fate of Mark Hammil and Carrie Fisher.  Had Harrison not had problems with the script for “The Sum of All Fears” he would have had the unique spot of having three franchises to his credit with the role of Jack Ryan.

mckellenIan McKellen is another actor on this list who owes his place to the Lord of the Rings and X-Men sagas.  As such he is the only actor to have co-starred with others on this list in the same franchises.  Magneto and Gandalf have been kind to Sir Ian.

Sylvester StalloneSylvester Stallone should get a seperate categoy for the ten films he’s done with these two characters:  Rocky and Rambo.  Two characters each known by a single name.  Each character a flawed patriot.  Six Rocky films and four Rambo films put Sly on the list.    I may be wrong but I think he’s the record holder for number of films to his credit with only two characters.

matt_damonMatt Damon is a relative new comer to the list.  His portrayal of Jason Bourne in the Bourne series and Linus Caldwell in the Ocean’s Eleven series make him a member of this particular club.

arnoldDa Govinator gets an honorable mention for his roles as The Terminator and Conan the Barbarian though he only played Conan twice, he is the only actor to have portrayed Conan on the big screen.  The character in Red Sonja is also close enough to Conan to Give Arnold Schwarzenegger a mention.

Almsot there (but not quite) is Vin Diesel.  He’s played Riddick in two motion pitures and one animated direct-to-video release.  Although he’s played Domminic Toretto in three of the Fast and the Furious movies, it was only a cameo in Tokyo Drift.  Accord to IMDb both of these franchises have Diesel starring films in pre-production

September 26, 2009 Posted by | Movie Trivia, Movies | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The View from My Chair: Sequels that shouldn’t have been made

star_trek_v_ver2One of the things I’ve been doing more of since the modem went down is watching DVDs with PITs 2&3.  We’ve got a pretty extensive collection.  PIT #3 noticed the large number of sequels we have in our collection.  He wondered why Hollywood made so many sequels.  I tired my best to explain that movies are very expensive to make and that Hollywood (as a general rule is more apt to make a second movie when the first has proven successful.  PIT #3 then wanted to know “Why Hollywood made crappy sequels?”

His simple question left me thinking the same thing.  This train of thought then morphed into what Hollywood sequels probably seemed like a slam dunk to whoever green light it but probably shouldn’t have ever been filmed.

#1: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier – The movie that proves William Shatner can’t direct.  The insipid story line and faithless use of the characters doomed this flick from the outset.  What went wrong with this turkey could be a whole column all to itself

#2: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace – Singlehandedly responsible for sinking the Superman franchise.  This movie showcases one of the problems with bringing a 4-color property to the big screen.  Whereas the comic book writer has multiple issues to introduce a formidable opponent for the hero, the motion picture has approximately two hours to introduce, set up the battle with, and have the hero defeat, the villain.

#3 & 4 Karate Kid 3, The Next Karate Kid: Continuing the story after a CLEAR ending is one of Hollywood’s bigger mis-steps.  It is also a sure sign that the movie was green-lit by a “suit” interested in money and not because they have a good story to tell.  Then the further miscue of Hollywood thinking that the previous failure had something to do with the cast, meaning a re-cast and another bad movie.

#5 Batman & Robin: Psychedelic colors, a complete disregard for the Bat Universe (even the one established for the film) and forced conflict between Batman and Robin doomed an otherwise credible performance by Clooney.  On the other hand this flop paved the way for Batman Begins

#6 Herbie Goes Bananas: This movie seemed to me that somebody at Disney was desperately looking for hit and authorized a less than stellar script “just to get something out there”.  Having a prop being the only connection to the previous movies (albeit a prop that folks had emotional involvement in) that close to the release dates of the other movies wasn’t the best idea either.

#7 The Lion King 1 1/2: Seriously? turning one of Disney’s animated classics into a clipfest and tons of rude jokes was completely unnecessary.  Disney’s animation department was coasting at this point.

#8 & #9 Ghostbusters 2 & Gremlins 2: Clear examples of taking a hit movie, hiring original cast, having a cool idea, and still not capturing the magic.  Hey Hollywood, we’ll wait until you have a script that is actually watchable.

#10  #11 Smokey and the Bandit Part 3 & Speed 2: When the movie’s success is in large part due to the chemistry of it’s stars, do NOT attempt to make a sequel without those same actors.

There’s definitely more sequels out there that shouldn’t have been made.

I’d be interested to hear yours

September 10, 2009 Posted by | Movie Reviews, Movies | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments