Saying Goodbye With a Crappy Movie

You can’t go home again. It’s a tired expression, but damn it if Netflix doesn’t bring it into relevance with alarming regularity. Case in point:

Something sad but hopeful happened a few weeks back. The world lost the great Leonard Nimoy. He was many things, a poet, director, artist, singer (well, okay) but his most enduring legacy will be the character he developed and perfected, the incredible Mr. Spock. (Spock lives, forever and ever.)

Although perhaps he COULD make up his Vulcan mind...

Although perhaps he COULD make up his Vulcan mind…

So there I was, sad that he was gone, but overjoyed for the human race that the man existed at all, and boy had he lived a great life. Nimoy exemplified The American Dream: the son of Jewish immigrants rises to Hollywood immortality. But I was still selfishly sad. I needed closure. To say my goodbye, it would have been easy to just pull up Wrath of Khan, for obvious reasons. Instead, I decided to go back and feel, as Carol Marcus would say “Young, as when the world was new.” I ran to Netflix and watched a flick I hadn’t seen in its entirety for well over twenty years. The original 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I remembered it being one of my least favorite episodes of the series, and I also remembered having a bit of buyer’s remorse after seeing the film in the cinema with my mom and brother. We’d had the option of seeing Disney’s The Black Hole and opted for Trek instead. Keep in mind that we kids had already been blown away by Star Wars two summers previous, so it was going to take an awful lot to impress us. I think my brother might have dozed off during STTMP. Maybe it was me. I’m sure someone was snoring. Fast-forward to many years later and Star Trek the Motion Picture’s appearance on one of the cable movie channels. I watched it with a more discerning eye, a little more seasoned. I remember thinking that it wasn’t terrible, but still not great. Plus, I really appreciated the late Persis Khambatta. Mmmm-hmmmm!

"Stand back, Jim. I'm not sure how big this thing gets."

“Stand back, Jim. I’m not sure how big this thing gets.”

So that brings us to now. I hadn’t seen the film all the way through since that cable experience in my early-20’s. I sat through the entire thing on my couch, and…wow, is it bad. I mean, really bad. I’ve heard (but not yet researched) that the original plan was to make a revamped Star Trek television series, but after Star Wars made such mad dough, suddenly every studio wanted a big space epic. As a result, what should’ve been maybe a one-hour TV pilot became over two-hours of…well…mainly the bridge of the Enterprise.

You could literally re-enact 97% of the movie with this one playset.

You could literally re-enact 97% of the movie with this one playset.

Seriously, there’s a long (TOO long) exterior shot as Scotty and Kirk fly out to the newly-overhauled and refitted NCC-1701 and it’s nice, for about forty-five seconds.  Then it’s “Oooo, there’s the old gal! She looks so silvery! And look! They’ve added 1957 Bel Air wings to ‘er!” Afterwards, it’s mainly the bridge and a few corridor shots. And for some reason (perhaps to distance it from the primer-colored uniforms of the original series) they opted for a de-saturated color palette. Everything is grey or shades of flesh-colored fabric. It’s really quite bad. The only saving grace is the incredibly sharp grey-and-white dress uniform that Admiral Kirk wears in his early scenes.

All the poon.  James T. Kirk got ALL the poon.  In the galaxy.  All of it.  There ain't none left.

All the poon. James T. Kirk got ALL the poon. In the galaxy. All of it. There ain’t none left.

Those uni’s were sharp enough to get re-cast in the J.J. Abrams reboots. Classy duds. Especially compared to Kirk’s weird, too-snug, short-sleeved white tunic that looks like it belongs on Mr. Clean or a tropical cabana boy. Bizarre.

"My God, Jim!  He just used the same photo twice in the same blog!"

“My God, Jim! He just used the same photo twice in the same blog!”

But the stuff that really looks cheap are the matte paintings. Gods be good, but I’d swear most of them looked like they’d been borrowed from Forbidden Planet. Don’t get me wrong: Forbidden Planet is one of the all-time great science-fiction films and one of my personal favorites…but Jesus, man. We’d just seen Tatooine and the Death Star. You can’t come at us with eight-color acrylic industrial landscapes and expect us to take you seriously.

Seriously, is this like a Colorforms playset?

Seriously, is this like a Colorforms playset?

But for all the lackluster elements to the damned flick, it did boast a huge check mark in the plus column: that wonderful score, repurposed years later for Star Trek: The Next Generation. A word about that Jerry Goldsmith composition. It really is at its best when they use the largo version, slowed a bit, a more rolling pace. It’s actually a movement entitled “The Enterprise.” It sounds nautical. Grand. Somewhat melancholy. Lovely. (It gets really familiar around 1:37)

Even though TRUE Star Trek fans know that THIS is what we think of when we think of Star Trek movies…James Horner’s brilliant and enduring Wrath of Khan stuff.

Then again, Michael Giacchino’s “Enterprising Young Men” has been also been a smashing success…

(Not to self:  do an entire blog about sci-fi musical scores.)

I guess in closing I’d say that it’s sort of a miracle, to me, that the studio even decided to go ahead with a sequel. It really was a make-or break proposition. When you think about it, STTMP was one of the earliest examples of a Hollywood reboot. New ship, new uniforms, new Klingons, new score. Consider that the production budget was (according to Box Office Mojo) around $35 million dollars. Joss Whedon’s Serenity had a budget of $39 million, and Star Trek Into Darkness cost $185 million…but adjusted for inflation, that first Trek would’ve had a budget of over $112 million dollars. Sort of right in the middle of the big sci-fi epic production costs. So when it earned just shy of twelve million dollars (less than half the cost to produce) on opening weekend, well…I imagine that some folks at Paramount likely shit their collective pants. The good news is that the film went on to earn $85 million, so the studio ended up doubling their money and then some. Thus was a franchise born. And now, here we are 36 years later, in the midst of another cinematic reboot. New cast, new ship, new Klingons.

A new Spock.

You really can’t go home again…but that’s fine. Because its so much fun to wonder what’s out there…thattaway…

The Unified Space Epic Theory

What if, true believers, what if?  What if instead of the lackluster Alien sequels that we were saddled with (beginning with Alien3) we got a more Starship Troopers-style invasion pic? Just imagine a full-on war, here on Earth: Colonial Marines in grand, pitched, shoot-em-up battles with hordes of xenomophs. It would’ve been quite a spectacle, and would’ve looked sickeningly gorgeous in CG. Those big piles of zombies in World War Z? Imagine thousands of leaping, skittering aliens; tails thrashing, secondary mandibles biting, and now and then one gets blown to bits and soldiers get showered with acid. The utter chaos of it all, the thrill, the terror, the underlying message about the futility of war…it could’ve been great. Would humanity survive? Or would the alien menace simply overwhelm the stalwart armies of mankind? A pity that we’ll never get to see how such a dramatic and potentially tragic conclusion would’ve played out.

 

Unless we already have.

 

What if the post-alien fate of humanity has already been told via two different sci-fi television series and a classic film? I will now present to you a tale which I believe to be a completely plausible multi-level saga. Follow along. Be patient, because this shit gets good. Good and deep, just like shit gets sometimes. Yeah. Okay. I didn’t need to actually type that. Okay. Good. Moving on.

 

Our story begins on Earth. Either Ellen Ripley or another one of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation drones manages to deliver a few viable xenomorphs to our fair planet. And as they do, the damned things get loose. They run amok and cause a great deal of trouble for the humans that are still here on this rock.

Like, SERIOUS trouble.

Like, SERIOUS trouble.

 

Still here?” Did you read that correctly? Yes. Yes, you did. This brings us to our first Easter egg. You may have heard the fan theory about how the Weyland-Yutani corporation (the Alien franchise) exists in the same world as the Tyrell Corporation (Blade Runner.) Most of it is simply fanboy conjecture, but then Ridley Scott chimes in and basically confirms in an interview that the heads of those two mega-companies did indeed know one another. Interesting.

 

Okay, sorry. Focus. In Blade Runner, most people with the means to do so have gone “off world.” Those that remain on our spent husk of a planet deal with smog, pollution, constant drizzle and greyscale everything. Now, notice we never see much of Earth in any of the Alien movies? Ripley lives in what might be tenement housing, or even a block of company-made dormitories. Maybe the world outside is the same bleak cityscape whose streets guys like Deckard patrol. Of course, we humans aren’t the only sentient beings that inhabit future-Earth. There are the skin-jobs. Replicants made by the Tyrell Corporation, and equally-lifelike synthetics produced by Weyland-Yutani.

 

Still with me? Okay.

 

So, the aliens go nuts and are on the verge of wiping out what’s left of humanity, or at least the shreds still clinging to our turd of a planet. So the rest of the humans take off. Get out of Dodge. Split. And who do they leave behind?

 

The robots. Replicants. Artificial persons.

I don't...oh, jesus.  Did I miss the last shuttle off-world?  Fuck.

I don’t…oh, jesus. Did I miss the last shuttle off-world? Fuck.

 

Those thinking machines of various mechanical and genetically engineered construction stave off the aliens until the rest of us can get off-world. Just maybe everyone is getting off-world because of the alien invasion. Whatever the case, the plan is to let the aliens run out of human hosts and die, so that mankind can return and resume our civilization. (Think WALL-E only much darker.) Only it doesn’t work out that way. The bio-mechanical xenomorphs, as we’ve seen in the sequels, can adapt to whatever host organisms are present in any given environment. Perhaps even bio-engineered skin-jobs. Eventually, the aliens are just too numerous. The replicants are faced with one final option: take off and nuke the site from orbit. And by “site” I mean THE WHOLE DAMNED PLANET.

 

I’d imagine it would come down to some sort of group decision, maybe a cadre of inner-circle synthetics who finally made the call. And what if one of them was modeled after the son of corporation founder and head genius Eldon Tyrell? Maybe he has a similar name. And maybe over the centuries that followed mankind’s exodus, the spelling of the last name changed (much like Shawn, Sean, or Shaun. Emory and Emery. The various Mac and Mc spellings of Scots and Irish surnames.)

 

Yes, Eldon Tyrell’s legacy is Galen Tyrol. One of The Five. The Five sentient mechanical beings who at one point were more human than human, even capable of sexual reproduction. The Five that nuked our planet in order to finally destroy the alien menace.

But you've gotta admit: kick-ass shirt, you gods-damned toaster!

But you’ve gotta admit: kick-ass shirt, you gods-damned toaster!

 

And what of humanity? Of course, most ended up living on Kobol or Caprica. But another group, the REAL “lost tribe” found their way to another system (or systems.) There, as on Earth, the monolithic corporations seized power. There, like on Earth, the rich were able to live life flush with the latest technology. Others, not so much.

 

In fact, some folks keep using the old tech of Earth That Was. For example, this anti-aircraft gun…made by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation.

See that logo?  Top center? Keep in mind, this is Mal Reynolds' gun from the battle of Serenity Valley.

See that logo? Top center? Keep in mind, this is Mal Reynolds’ gun from the battle of Serenity Valley.

 

All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.

 

ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE:

 

There’s a very Asian feel to Deckard’s Blade Runner city. Much like the preponderance of Chinese influence in the world of Firefly. And when Anders becomes the “hybrid” in BSG, the walls show cascading symbols that seem to be either Chinese or Japanese in nature. And maybe Kara Thrace isn’t painting the Eye of Jupiter in this piece…

Sidebar: she is NEVER getting her deposit back.

Sidebar: she is NEVER getting her deposit back.

…but rather this…

 

 

That's Chinese for FRAKKIN' TOASTERS!!

That’s Chinese for FRAKKIN’ TOASTERS!!

 

 

Kara Thrace.  No power in the ‘Verse can stop her. And finally…FINALLY…while there are several toy spaceships that make an appearance during a shadow-puppet theater show in the Firefly episode “Heart of Gold” (like, is that the Enterprise at the top?) the circled ship could be a Colonial Viper, yes?

Also pictured: at least one of your mom's dildos.  ZING!

Also pictured: at least one of your mom’s dildos. ZING!

 

 

Okay, maybe a stretch. However, in the original Battlestar Galactica re-imagined mini-series, the following ship does a fly-by outside the doctor’s window there in Caprica City. Huh. Wouldja look at that?

 

 

Or, again...one of your mom's dildos.

Or, again…one of your mom’s dildos.

 

IN CONCLUSION:

 

There will be folks that pick this apart and do some sort of timeline reckoning and poke numerous holes in my theory. Fine. It’s just silly fan stuff, and that’s one of the wonderful things about the sci-fi community; the endless debates and comparisons. Bottom line: it’s all good. Literally. There are some wonderful stories and grand mythology out there. Dig in and enjoy ‘em all. And expand upon them! This sort of conversation could go on forever! Was the Predator that came to earth in the near-future Los Angeles here to hunt Aliens? Were they already present? Perhaps they actually began life here on Earth! Bio-engineered by Weyland-Yutani and shipped off-world to incubate on another planet, another system, far enough away to pose no danger to mankind.

Pictured: deleted scene from Alien VS Predator

Pictured: deleted scene from Alien VS Predator

Was the rainy, grey nature of our planet in Blade Runner the result of some last-ditch effort to terraform our own homeworld after it was ruined by pollution and greenhouse emissions? Is that why it looks so much like Acheron/LV426? Constant drizzle and gloom? In an alternate timeline, did a synthetic (sorry, artificial person) begin Star Fleet, because Commander Data? Is Earth an offshoot (lost colony) from some race in Star Wars? And did THESE GUYS…

Very good.  Now turn to your right.

Very good. Now turn to your right.

Inspire THIS GUY?!?!

HOORAY, TOASTERS!

HOORAY, TOASTERS!

This has all happened before, this will all happen again. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

 

 

My head hurts. G’night, all.

 

 

 

 

 

The Argument

Captain’s Log Supplemental:

With the long lay-in time required to exchange our ship’s carbon filters and take on new raw materials for the synthesizers, many of the crew and officers took a much-needed break.  While short of an authorized “shore leave” entertainment options were available to most decks in the form of stage shows, concerts…and in some cases archaic “classic films” were available in-cabin and in selected group media centers.  I was pleased with the effect on morale, and was tickled to witness the following exchange between First Officer Spock and Chief Medical Officer McCoy at the conclusion of the classic “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.”  I knew that it was one of Bones’ sentimental favorites and was curious to see how this…debate…played out.

SPOCK: Doctor, I was merely suggesting–

McCOY: Jim!  Thank God!  Would you kindly explain to this pig-headed, high-browed critic that “Jedi” was the high-water mark for this film series?
ME: I assume Spock is countering that “Empire” was superior, yes?

McCOY: But of course!  ‘Cause that’s what all highfalutin’ high-brow critics do!  Belittle the happy ending in favor of the dark interlude episode, because it can’t be good AND happy, now can it?

SPOCK: Doctor, you misinterpret my conclusions. In fact, I believe that if you look at the data, one of the more positive examples of foreshadowing this “happy ending” of which you speak, takes place right in the middle of “The Empire Strikes Back.”  I would argue that the resolution of the series is a foregone conclusion after that apex.

McCOY: See?!?  He’s even using that damned critic language!  Spell it out for me, Spock, for I am a lowly country doctor and uneducated on the grand cinematic traditions like you apparently are.

SPOCK: Flattery, good doctor, will get you nowhere.

ME: Okay, now I’m curious.  To what moment are you referring, Spock?

SPOCK: The vision which presents itself to young Master Skywalker while training on Dagobah.

McCOY: You mean where he sees Vader?  That’s the high point?  Jim, I’m taking him to sick bay.  Obviously he has Rigellian fever.

SPOCK: I assure you that my faculties are intact.

ME: I know the scene.  Luke goes into the cave and sees a vision of Darth Vader.  They battle, and Vader is decapitated.

McCOY: Yes, and then the facemask is blown off and we see Luke’s face underneath!  How, pray tell, is that supposed to be a positive, Spock?

SPOCK: Because, Dr. McCoy, it presents a hopeful vision of the fate that is to befall Anakin Skywalker.

ME: I don’t follow.  You’re saying that it’s…a good thing that Luke is going to kill Vader?  Seems a little harsh.

McCOY: Or is the big happy moment the one where Luke realizes he’s on a path to darkness?  Is that what the critic in you is clamoring for?

SPOCK: On the contrary.  I must admit to having only the faintest understanding of the human emotional spectrum, but I am considerably confused as to why one would assume that this vision is a negative.

McCOY: Because, you heartless maniac!  Darth Vader is Luke’s father and he sees what he’s about to become!

SPOCK: Nonsense.  At this point in the narrative, Luke has no idea that Vader is his father.

ME: Go on.

SPOCK: Luke sees Darth Vader in his vision and immediately adopts an aggressive stance.

McCOY: Because that’s what you DO when confronting a Sith Lord!

SPOCK: Place yourself in young Luke’s position.  Training in Yoda’s “back yard.”  When suddenly, the second-in-command of the Empire itself is before you, almost as if invited.  Vader’s saber not yet deployed.  While Luke is emotional and rash, it’s not unlikely that he would act first.  However, Vader offers only token resistance.

McCOY: It’s a vision, you stubborn ass!  It’s not real!

SPOCK: And yet you believe it prophetic.

McCOY: Because it is!

SPOCK: And I concur, doctor.  But your interpretation of the forecast events is illogical.

ME: Explain.  I want to hear this.

SPOCK: It is human nature to assume the worst.  I propose that given the available data, that is: Vader’s reluctance to engage, the ease with which he is dispatched, and the fact that Luke has acted in a foolhardy but not remotely evil or even angry manner means something entirely different.

McCOY: Spit it out, already.

SPOCK: Gentlemen, the vision is provided to show Luke that there is, in fact, a good person inside of Darth Vader.  In fact, it is a subtle clue as to Luke’s parentage as well.  Vader looks like Luke because they are of the same genetic code.  The “unmasking” also parallels the scene in Dr. McCoy’s beloved “Return of the Jedi” where Vader does, in fact, unmask himself to look upon his son.

ME: Interesting.  So the whole vision was to show Luke that he could save his father, Lord Vader, instead of killing him?

SPOCK: Precisely, although Luke was, at the time, unaware of his father’s identity.

McCOY: Well, you WOULD think that way!  It doesn’t…I still don’t like it.  Jim, tell him he’s off his rocker.

ME: Sorry, bones.  I’m not sure that’s what the filmmakers had in mind, but…it’s a pretty good theory.

McCOY: But Yoda warns Luke that it’s a place of evil!

SPOCK: In an otherwise unspoiled planet rich with innocent life forms and, as far as can be observed, only two sentient beings and one droid.

McCOY: But evil is still evil, damn it!

SPOCK: Consider that Yoda warns that Luke will find “only what he takes with him” and advises that weapons will not be necessary.

McCOY: Fantastic.  A word of warning: I will NOT be watching “The Usual Suspects” with either of you!

With that, Doctor McCoy took his leave of us.  I turned to Spock.

ME: So you really believe that theory?

SPOCK: Absolutely, Captain.

ME: And you wouldn’t have mentioned it just to mess with Bones? You know he’s going to mull this over for some time.

SPOCK: Food for thought, Jim.  It is wise to consider all perspectives.

ME: Yes, but it is unwise to upset the man who’s going to administer our vaccines before we beam down to Tyson-4.

SPOCK: Understood, Captain.

I love this shit. I really do.

Things I Learned At Work This Week

I work at a radio station.  Sometimes things are crazy, sometimes they’re surprisingly dull.  But I’ve been doing this crap for nigh on twenty years, so there are very few surprises. But as I age, I realize that I’m surrounded by a crew of children.  And I mean that in the most literal sense: I am older than everyone in this building now, and some of our salespeople could feasibly be my children.  They were born about the time I was graduating college.  Damn.

Anyway, this was a good week to learn things from our salespeople.  Like, for example, how little some of them know about stuff that I find very important or fascinating.  I’m not calling our young sales staff stupid; quite the contrary, some of them are very bright.  They’re just…green.  And young.  (Did I mention how young they are?)

We’ll throw in a free remote! Also, I just shit my pants!!

Example number one: One of the cuties in the sales pit asked what I was doing for Halloween.  I proudly answered that I would be going as Captain James T. Kirk.

She stared at me, and I couldn’t figure out what to do next.  I stood there, looking around, waiting for her to say something. And so she did.  She replied “You mean Kirk?” and pointed at one Kirk T. Flatter II, another member of our crack sales team.  Kirk shrugged, because he “gets it” and probably hears jokes about his name every goddam day.  I then tried to explain the history of the U.S.S. Enterprise, but got more blank stares.  Okay. I learned that no everyone is a geek. Fair enough.

I take it all back. They’re both Captain Kirk. Fine.

Later in the week, I had a more fulfilling convo with a Senior Member of our office staff.  Now we’re talkin’. We discussed childhood candy, and I learned that I was not the only kid to collect their weekly cash and then make a mad dash for the local convenience store for an exercise in fiscal responsibility (or at the very least a lesson in worth.)  See, our old Kwik Pik had the standard Aisle O’ Sugar (sometimes called The Golden Mile or Cavity Alley) that featured the usual strata: Snickers, Milky Way, and the like, i.e. the Premium Candy was at the top shelf, and ran at least fifty cents a piece, sometimes more.  Right below that was the B-list candy.  Clark Bars, Charleston Chew, and their ilk. Third shelf was Lemonheads, Wacky Wafers, Lik-M-Aid, Laffy Taffy, Chick-O-Stix.  Finally, the lowest shelf was for those in steerage:  five cents (or LESS!) per. We’re talking That crappy PAL gum.  Bazooka gum.  Jolly Ranchers (not the big ones.  Those were one shelf up, and if you sucked on them long enough you could fashion a shiv in case a playground rumble got out of hand.  Absolutely true.)  But the lesson was always this:  Johnny has $1.25 in assorted change.  Should Johnny go big and pick up two Butterfingers with change to spare or buy Big League Chew for EVERYONE?!?!  In retrospect, I see why my parents let me blow all my money on candy and comic books.  There was a tangible risk/reward system.  That is, until the store put in a Ms. Pac-Man arcade cabinet, and any fiscal conservatism went right out the fuckin’ window.

THANKS A LOT, OBAMA!!!

Back to the cute little 20-somethings in the sales department.  One of them wore some sort of crocheted afghan-looking skirt.  Conservative.  Nice.  Like something draped over the back of grandma’s couch, only with much less cat hair. I asked her if she made it herself.  “It’s knit,” she responded.  Okay. I wanted to learn some more, so I inquired whether it was “knit” or some sort of macrame, and what the difference was.  She didn’t seem to understand my question, so I got a little smarmy and asked if it was fabricated from some sort of nano-particles.  Her reply: “What are those?”  Okay, you got me.

So again, I learned a couple of new things.  One, nobody in this country knows anything about science and two, I am so glad I met, fell in love with, and married my wife, because there’s no WAY I would be getting laid in the current state of the world.

No, really.

The final lesson of the week was from a dude who works down the hall producing a local sports-talk show.  Like everyone in radio NOT doing sales, he’s poor and worries about his job.  But like many of us, he’s also learned that he’s probably not making enough to fire.  In other words, finding people to do what we do and do it well for LESS than we’re getting paid is a longshot, so we’re reasonably safe.  Anyway, this guy mentioned that he’d just gotten a text from his mobile provider telling him his bill was overdue.  I thought that was awesome.  I learned that yes, apparently your cell phone company will keep your phone service going even if you’re behind in your payments…so that they can tell you you’re about to have your service shut off.  That’s fantastic.

“Eligible for upgrade? The fuck is wrong with THIS phone?!?”

See, kids? You really do learn something new every day.

I Want ANSWERS!!!

Last night my Sweet Baby (the lovely Heidi L. Watson, pictured) and I sat down to watch “The Hunger Games.”

Mmmmm!! Hot wife alert!

Heidi had already seen it, but thought I’d enjoy it, so I Redboxed that shit and away we went to cinemaland right in the comfort of our own home!  And it was a decent flick.  I won’t do a full review because you either already know all about it or don’t give a shit.  But I will say that it was a film that had the effect of being better as a whole than it was while watching it.  In other words, it was like I was holding my breath for complete greatness through the whole thing and felt like it never quite got there, but then as the credits rolled at the conclusion of the film, I found myself wishing for more.  I wanted to know what happened next, and THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is how you launch a successful franchise.  But I had a few questions, none more glaring than this: (KIND OF SPOILER-Y STUFF AHEAD.  Nothing major, but you’ve been told.)

One of these two doesn’t make it. I TOLD YOU!! SPOILERS!!

In the film, the “Show” has a bunch of producers and is done on this futuristic soundstage/holodeck construct.  And the directors can add trees, fire, daylight, or rampaging, wild, Zuul-like dog-beast things to the mix to make life more difficult to the contestants.  Based on this technology (in the film: I’ve never read the book series) they can whip up whatever they want at the push of a button.  Cool!  Okay then, here’s my problem:  WHY DON’T THEY WHIP UP SOME FOOD FOR EVERYBODY?!? For God’s sake, there are people starving to death out there in the Districts!

Scotty accidentally typed NON-Scottish food, and, well…

“Wait, that’s the whole POINT!” you argue.  “The Capitol wants to keep the people hungry and subdued.  Sure, they could make a bunch of bison or something for the people to butcher and eat, but then they wouldn’t be all…uh, hungry…and, uh, restless.  They’d be more docile, like full-bellied people tend to be, so…wait…wow!  You’re right!  A poor, hungry populace breeds discontent and resentment for those that have more…so, yeah.  Okay, Turner.  You’re right again.  YOU’RE ALWAYS SO DAMNED RIGHT ALL THE TIME!!”
I know, child.  I know.  Or, how about this?  Let the people die and whip up some virtual miners to get the coal (seriously?  They still mine coal?  WTF?!?) or even a constructed army to keep the people in line.  It just seems like they’re using this technology all wrong, that’s all.  And if these animals and such aren’t real at all, just super-realistic holograms, then…then how do they kill people?  Is it like the Matrix?  In other words, if you believe this weird wasp thing has stung you with psychedelic venom,then your brain “makes it real” with honest-to-God bad trips and night sweats?  Okay.  Whatever.

I AM WILLIAM RIKER, AND I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE!!

But I have a few more general, non-Katniss-related questions…

Like, why didn’t Wile E. Coyote just order a goddam pizza already?  He’s a scrawny dog living in the desert, and yet he has ordered from ACME supply company the following items:  a rocket.  Roller skates.  Bird feed.  Iron buck shot.  A super-sized magnet. A “Bat Man” outfit (copyright lawyers had to be ALL OVER that one.) Etc.  Um, order up some MRE’s or something, dude.  Let the bird go.  (Another theory: the RoadRunner is either a hallucination born of starvation or a digital construct, and Wile E. is actually a tribute from District 4.)

MY PARENTS ARE DEAD!!

Why does a gynecologist (or any doctor, really) leave the room while you get undressed?  I mean…they’re going to see the good stuff anyway.  Also, how many times a year does an attractive female doctor have to deal with erections while either checking for hernias or testicular anomalies in men?  And the PROSTATE?! Fuggetaboutit! Like a phalanx of man-wood each year!

Pictured: NOT a real doctor.

How much wood COULD a woodchuck chuck?  And why?

Even better? How much Woodchuck could a woodchuck CHUG?!?

Finally, why can’t I get the theme from the 2009 Star Trek movie out of my head?  Seriously…it’s omnipresent. (Actually, I already know the answer.  It’s because Michael Giacchino is an amazing composer, that’s why.  Gott DAMN!!  He’s done everything from “The Incredibles” to “Super 8.” Check out his work HERE.) Also?  I think it’s time to write another Star Trek-themed blog.  Like I haven’t just kinda done that.

The Trek Wars

Well, here we go, gang. Recently there’s been a bit of a feud between the Star Wars and Star Trek camps. There’s always been a bit of good-natured rivalry here, but with William Shatner and Carrie Fisher going after each other in YouTube videos and such, well…it’s getting kind of ugly. It took the amazing George Takei’s call to solidarity against the Twilight franchise to cool things down. Yep, good ol’ George is like the Gandhi of Sci-Fi. (Only with a better diet, natch.)

The two sides will never see eye-to-eye. It’s natural: Marvel and DC people or Sean Connery and Roger Moore fans have passionate opinions on their favorites, and I won’t even get into how much better Crystal Skull was than Temple of Doom. (Oh, yes. I went there.) But these sort of passions run all the hotter when you’re talking about the two greatest franchises in Sci-Fi history.

Why did this movie suck? Two guesses...

And make no mistake: that’s exactly what we’re dealing with here. TRON, Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Farscape…none of them come close to not only the sheer amount of source material, but the number of hard-core fanboys and girls that literally worship at the altars of Roddenberry and Lucas. It’s almost scary. Think about how uncomfortable everyone would be if this same amount of reverence and fanaticism were present in SAW fans and Juggalos. Holy shit, I just started shaking just thinking about it. We’re lucky, people. We’re really lucky that the “Gathering of the Juggalos” is just a once-a-year camp-out concert in rural Illinois. Can you imagine “Jug-Con Sacramento?” George R.R. Martin, Felicia Day, and Wil Wheaton all showing up to chug Faygo and parade around in Jnco Jeans? Ffffffuuuu…

"Hey, everybody! Welcome to the panel on Magnets!"

So, yeah. Star Wars and Star Trek. The big boys. Title fight. And this rumble needs some handicapping to establish a clear winner. I’m going to go ahead and say that no matter which camp you belong to, I don’t think there’s a doubt in anyone’s mind that Star Wars is the clear-cut monetary champion. Hands-down. It’s not even close. Ever see a kid running around the house with his Captain Janeway action figure? No. No, you haven’t. Not that Trek is without merchandising potential…hell, there’ve been at least a couple of high-quality pornographic parodies. Prolly because there’s more sex in Trek. More on that later. Right now, we’re going to call Round One, otherwise known as The Money Round, to Star Wars. Ding!

Whoa, whoa, WHOA!!! Mark Ecko doesn't know the DIFFERENCE?!?!

Round two is all about cultural impact, and it’s also a doozy. In fact, the judges (which is me. I am the judges. All of ’em.) are calling this one a lot closer. It’s a helluva fight just based on catch-phrases alone. Use the force! Beam me up! I’ve got a bad feeling about this! Set phasers to “stun!” A galaxy far, far away…where no man has gone before! Live long and prosper! Punch it, Chewie! That’s no moon… Dammit, Jim, I’m a Doctor, not a magician!  It’s a TRAP! But again, Star Wars gets the edge. It’s a slight one, but it’s there. Know anyone with a Star Wars-themed tattoo? Sure you do. Even non-geeks get the Imperial or Rebellion logos…some get Yoda, lightsabers, Chewie, the Death Star, perhaps a Stormtrooper helmet. Hard-core types will get that made-up Jedi language or a Darth Maul backpiece. Now, do you know anyone with a Star Fleet tattoo? No? Scotty? Maybe a portrait of Kirk & Spock from the original series? Still no? Hmm. Okay, how about this test: using only your mouth, make a lightsaber noise. Now do a TIE fighter. Good. Try Chewie’s guttural growl followed by R2’s beeps and whistles. Outstanding. Now imitate a phaser set to “kill.” Go ahead. Any time now. We’re waiting. Okay, how about a photon torpedo? Easy! Do it, please. Now. Go. Not so easy, is it? No, it isn’t. Not because the bridge of the Enterprise doesn’t have a familiar thrum, or that the transporter beam isn’t immediately recognizable…it’s just that those things haven’t ever saturated the public consciousness. They haven’t been embraced wholeheartedly and re-sampled to the point of insertion into literally every other media. Sure, Spock’s “Fascinating” and “pure energy” made it into that one dance song…but beyond that, well…yeah. Ding.

This...this wasn't really a thing, was it?

So far, it looks like this fight is all Star Wars! But wait…what about the important stuff, like characters, story, and plot? Ah, NOW we’ve got a fight on our hands. Quick, who’s your favorite Jedi? It’s not Luke. Sure as hell ain’t Qui-Gonn. Mace Windu? Maybe. Okay, non-Jedi characters. Han. Boba Fett. Lando. Chewie. Vader. And, uh…Jimmy Smits? Some CG Gungan? Okay, look at the Star Trek crews(s)…Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Chekhov, Sulu, Uhura…Picard, Riker, Geordie, Data, Wesley, Worf, Troi…Captain Sisko…Nurse Chapel…Q…Jesus, what about the Voyager crew? The one with the holographic doctor? Dang. The point is, the Star Trek universe is just filled by more and better characters. Sure, Lucas only really made six (three) films and used those to build all the print and cartoon spin-offs. Meanwhile, there have been several Trek television series and a slew of movies. But the cool thing about Trek is how distinctly different and realistic the characters all are. In Star Wars, once you get past Han, Luke, Leia, Chewie…it thins wayyyy the fuck out. The droids are cool, Yoda is cute…but as kids, nobody wanted to be Grand Moff Tarkin or Admiral Ackbar. The majority of the secondary roles were bland and unexciting. It’s almost like Lucas would rather just insert some computer-generated place holders instead of actors! Oh. Oh, yeah…round three to Star Trek. Ding!

No, Cthulhu...THIS is the "Thing That Should Not Be."

Spoiler alert: this round is going to Star Trek.  Because it’s all about sex. Yep. Star Wars does have one ace up its sleeve.  Ever heard of the “Slave Leia” costume?  You GOD DAMN RIGHT YOU HAVE! It’s almost to the point of being over-exposed (pun intended.)  You can see this outfit at every. Convention. Ever.  And I mean you can see girls dressed as Slave Leia at the Progressive Insurance convention.  (Bad news?  It’s that Flo chick. But still…) Wil Wheaton went on record at Comic Con San Diego last year as saying  “Damn!  Slave Leia is sexy!” Okay, I made that quote up.  I just wanted to impress the Redditors and Big Bang Theory fans (LOVE you guys!)

...no. Please. No.

But beyond that one outfit from one small chunk of one movie, what does Star Wars offer us?  That time when Padme got her shirt ripped and we could see her taut, smooth midriff?  Not bad.  And then there was the time, that, uh…well, remember when…um…that one chick…oh.  Oh, yeah.  That’s about it.  Meanwhile, in the ‘Trek ‘verse they had AN ENTIRE RACE OF ALIEN WOMEN BRED AS SEX SLAVES.  You GOD DAMN RIGHT THEY DID!  Oh, and in the sexually-enlightened 60’s when the show first aired, it not only featured somewhat sexist mini-skirt and go-go boot uniforms for the female crew members, there was also the first-ever inter-racial kiss shown on primetime.  Star Trek cared less than the ol’ honey badger!  They just wanted to tell good stories!  And hot chicks? How about that smoking communications officer, Uhura?  Or the saucy Yeoman Rand, who was totally crushing on Kirk?  Or nurse Chapel?  Later on you had sexy redhead Dr. Beverly Crusher, sexy security officer Tasha Yar, and sort-of sexy medium or whatever Deanna Troi?  How about when Kirstie Alley was still sexy as Lt. Saavik in “Wrath of Khan?”  Seven of muhfuh NINE! Yes, sex was going on EVERYWHERE!  Picard and Crusher!  Data and Yar!  Riker and Troi!  Troi and Worf! Troi and the  Univeristy of North Dakota Fighting Sioux!  Kirk and every female from here to the Neutral Zone!  And yet, there’s this simple fact regarding sex in the Star Wars universe: the only couple we KNOW hooked up was Anakin and Padme.  Sure, we like to think that Han and Leia got busy…but we don’t know.  Lando should have been the pimp of the galaxy, but we never see him do more than kiss the hand of a Princess.  Yawn.  Ding!

It's the laurels. Bitches love laurels.

Finally, let’s looks at the philosophy of both these franchises.  Despite all the similarities, e.g. faster-than-light travel, beam weapons, alien species hanging with humans, AI companions, and exotic planets/landscapes, there is a bit of a gulf between the two philosophically.  Trek has always prided itself (sometimes TOO much) on how much of the show was based on “plausible science.” At least they try to give some sort of basis for the technology.  For example, the Warp Drive apparently runs on some sort of anti-matter channeled by dilithium crystals and whatnot.  Okay. In Star Wars, the hyperdrive make ships jump to light speed.  No further explanation needed. (We assume it has something to do with midichlorians.) In Star Trek, transporters break down the individual at a sub-atomic level and then re-assemble the parts at another location.  In Star Wars, well…they just fly everywhere.  It’s like Trek is New York with excellent mass transit systems, and Star Wars is L.A. where everyone takes their own car. And I think that’s the bottom line.  Each of these multi-media sci-fi empires is excellent.  They’re just different. Star Trek is science, Star Wars is magic.  One is Battlefield 3 and one is Modern Warfare 3.  College football or the NFL.  Coors Light and Miller Light.  Spring training or the World Series. Different, but good.  Both look with wonder and hope at the vastness of space and see possibilities instead of fear.  Both promote logic and sense over reckless violence and hate.  And they both have that cool hyperspace/warp thing that makes the stars look like you’re driving down the highway at night in a snowstorm (you KNOW you imagine that shit!  Don’t lie to me!)  So this round is a draw. Ding.

SLOW THE FUCK DOWN! This is a rear-wheel hyperdrive!!

So, judges?  Wow.  Tougher than I thought.  The score sheet is tied.  But we need a winner, ’cause that’s what ‘Merica LOVES!  And I have to pick Star Wars as “The Greatest Science Fiction Canon and Works in All of Recorded History.”  I do so because of the sheer amount of people that have bought into it.  I do so because my kids and I can sit and watch “Empire Strikes Back” and enjoy it together.  I do so because as cool as phasers are, I have ALWAYS wanted a real, working lightsaber.  And so have you.  Now, my dissenting opinion is this:  Star Trek is the better written, acted, and thought-out series.  In this fight, better is not necessarily greater.  A large pizza at D’Agostino’s in Chicago is great!  A grilled chicken flatbread wrap is better for you.  So.  Trek is better for your mind.  Star Wars just tastes a little better, even though it will slowly kill you. (Actually, that’s just George Lucas killing your childhood with CGFX.)  In a perfect world, you’d combine the two, but that would be overkill.  It would ruin everything.  It would be like that stupid Transformers/Star Wars toy line.  Some things are better on their own.  Although…

You know, somehow this just makes sense.

I’d like to take this time to remind you that there’s a very cool comment section below!  Just in case! And thanks for reading.  Live long and prosper, and may the Force be with you.