Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery and CBS All Access

The preface is complete, time to start chapter one. I’m hoping it’s a good one.

Now that I’ve let the first two episodes of ST:DIS bounce around in my head overnight, and have seen a few reviews and bits of commentary, it’s time to toss my two cents in.

I’ll start with non- or less-spoilery stuff, getting more spoilery as things go along, so those who haven’t seen the premiere episodes can bail out before bigger spoilers pop up.

And, of course, these are merely my thoughts and opinions on all of this. YMMV.

CBS All Access

Yes, Discovery is CBS All Access only (aside from the initial broadcast of the first of the two episodes released on Sunday). Yes, a lot of people are upset about this, for varying degrees of “upset”.

For me, it’s not a big deal, for a few reasons.

$6/$10 a month for one show is a rip-off!

Put that way, that could be true — but then, just how true it is depends on all sorts of factors. I’m of the opinion that it’s a badly stated argument, though, because it’s not $6 or $10 a month for a single show, it’s for access to everything CBS offers under All Access. As it stands right now, that includes every Star Trek episode produced to date (TOS, TAS, TNG, DS9, VOY, ENT, and DIS), along with a number of other shows.

It may well be true that there are people out there who are only interested in DIS; for those people, the fee may seem high. But even if they’re only interested in one show, it’s still true that they’re getting access to a lot more than that, even if they choose to never take advantage of that. In my particular situation, while I already have TOS, TAS, TNG, and DS9 in my own collection at home, All Access is also giving me easy access to VOY and ENT (only one of which actually interests me, admittedly, as I’ve just finished off VOY and didn’t think much of it) in addition to DIS and the After Trek post-show show (which I haven’t sampled yet). Outside of the Trek universe, there are a number of other shows that my wife and/or I have enjoyed in the past and might want to continue watching or revisit (The Amazing Race, Cheers, Frasier, Madam Secretary, The Twilight Zone), that are related to shows we’ve enjoyed in the past (NCIS precursor JAG), or that we haven’t tried yet but might want to give a shot (Elementary, The Good Wife).

So for us, $6 a month (or even $10 a month, if we choose to move up to that tier) doesn’t seem terribly unreasonable. But that’s just us. If the only thing CBS has available on All Access that interests you is Star Trek, and if you’ve already watched (or already own) everything other than DIS, then sure, this might not be a good value.

But you still get commercials!

Yes, and this is one area where I definitely wish All Access was better. I’d absolutely be happier if there was a single no-commercials option, rather than the current $6 “limited commercials” or $10 “no commercials unless we feel like it” option.

At the same time, I realize that TV is expensive — particularly TV like DIS, which is reportedly one of the most expensive series in TV history, on the order of $8 million per episode. And while cynical, it’s not entirely untrue to see the shows we watch as nothing but filler designed to keep our butts in the seats in between the advertisements that provide the majority of the income for the studios. Like it or not, advertising is the bottom line that allows us to enjoy much of the media we consume, and while I prefer not having to sit through advertisements (strongly enough that I stopped watching TV for close to a decade in the late ’90s and early ’00s, as there wasn’t enough content I was interested in to make sitting through the commercials worthwhile), I also recognize that without advertising dollars underwriting things, we’d have a lot less media to choose from.

What bothered me the most last night as I watched DIS was not that there were commercials (particularly as I wasn’t paying for the higher-priced “commercial free” tier), but that the same commercials were repeated over and over, and that they were so loud compared to the show. I found the “happy drivers” commercial with Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” amusing the first time, increasingly annoying each additional time; the same was true for the rest. And though the FCC claims that commercials have been required to be the same average volume as the programming since 2012, that sure doesn’t seem to be the case in practice.

So for me, commercials are an annoyance that I’d rather not have, but I’ll cope with gritting my teeth and dealing with the inanity and having to keep the volume control nearby if it means we get a better show in the end.

Of course, if you have the magical solution that allows CBS to produce big-budget TV without either running commercials or asking us to pay for it, I’m sure they’d be happy to know.

Design, Technology, and Timelines

(As a side note, if I had the time and expertise, I would love to host a podcast focusing on the technology of DIS and comparing/contrasting/retconning it with the rest of the Trek universe. Said podcast, would, of course, be named “DISCOtech”, and the intro music would be edits of Meco’s “Star Trek Medley”. Since I don’t have the time or expertise to do this, if someone sees this and decides to run with the idea, you’re free to do so; I’d just appreciate a call-out.)

So, I’ve seen many people up in arms about the design and the technology of DIS, particularly noting that though placed a decade before TOS and in the original timeline (and yes, it is in the original/”prime” timeline, not the Abrams-verse Kelvin timeline), it looks far more like the Abrams-verse films than the classic TOS episodes.

To which I say, well, yeah, no kidding. TOS was produced in the 60s, with the tech and budgets they had available then. DIS is being produced now, with the tech and budgets we have now. We in the present-day real world already enjoy technology that is in many ways advanced over much of what we saw as “futuristic” in TOS. To expect a modern show to try limit its production design to that of the 1960s is silly at best, and likely a sure-fire recipe for a failure of a show.

I’m very curious as to what people think DIS should have done — what would be the “right” way to present a show set two and a half centuries after where we are now, but a single decade before a show produced on a 1960s TV budget? Would we really expect the show to find some convoluted reason why over the next two hundred and fifty years, we suddenly decide to ditch touchscreens, adaptive UIs, and ultra-miniaturized electronics in favor of CRTs and physical toggle switches?

(Though, I’ll admit, it would have been interesting if the producers had come up with some heretofore unknown period of technological regression between ENT and DIS to explain why the entire DIS-era galaxy was using pseudo-60s-era technology and production design. Because nobody would have had any problems with shoehorning that into the canon!)

Real-world technology changes constantly and quickly, and to expect our futuristic media to slavishly abide by the restrictions that the real-world technology of the past imposed is just silly.

(And another aside. There’s a question that iO9 asked a few years ago that this silly debate keeps reminding me of: Why doesn’t anyone in Star Trek use social media/text messages? The real answer, of course, is that it’s a form of communication that rose to prominence after the show was aired, but viewed through the lens of today’s technology, it really does seem bizarre that by the time any version of Trek comes to pass, we will have entirely given up something as simple and useful as text messaging.)

For me, the most important thing about Trek is always the stories. The presentation is always a product of its time, for good and for ill: we enjoy the simplistic design of TOS Trek while also recognizing how well they did for their time, we recognize the areas where they broke new ground (diversity and inclusion, tackling real-world subjects through the lens of science fiction, and basically doing all the “social justice warrior” stuff that so many sad people — including, sadly, William Shatner himself — complain about) while also recognizing where they stumbled (including no few incidents of cringeworthy sexism, ranging from TOS to the Abramsverse films). But the stories, the optimism, and the hope for humanity and the future is always the heart of Star Trek.

So if DIS looks like a product of today than a product of the 1960s? I’m entirely okay with that, and welcome that. New viewers — who, make no mistake about it, are as much in CBS’s target as all of us “old school” fans — are going to be a lot more comfortable with that decision, too. As Kevin Church said:

As much as I love TOS and its design, you have to update it to meet modern audience expectations, especially if you’re trying to get a new audience, which is what CBS needs. They’ve gotten about as much revenue as they can from the previous series and a cash infusion is going to have to happen to keep the franchise afloat for them.

That said…

However — and I’ll admit right off the bat that this line is going to be a somewhat fuzzy one, open to interpretation and argument — I do have quibbles with some of the technology shown as being in use in DIS and how it fits in to the established Star Trek technological universe.

My rationalization for this boils down to the difference between the technology of the production of the show (the overall look and feel of the sets, props, effects, etc.) and the technology of the universe of the show (warp drive, transporters, subspace communication, etc.). Real world technology and methods that affect how the show looks in comparison to the other shows I’m fairly tolerant of; fictional world technology that doesn’t jibe with what’s been established in the other shows, I’m less tolerant of.

Y’know. Geeks. Pick your battles. (And as I’ve said frequently, part of what I love about being a SF geek, and a Trek geek in particular, is long-ranging, in-depth, passionate arguments about absolutely ridiculously inconsequential pieces of trivia. So there’s that, too.)

The big thing that stood out to me along these lines was the holographic communication used on the Shenzhou. This is a very different style of communication than we’ve seen in most Trek to date; I actually didn’t remember seeing holographic communication in the Trek universe, though Memory Alpha notes that it was seen a few times on DS9, which I’d simply forgotten about.

Amusingly, the article has already been updated to include its use in DIS, noting that the Shenzhou has “an early version of this type of device”. However, I’d argue that the technology shown in DIS can be seen as “early” only in that it has the same blue-tinged, see-through, “ghostly” presentation that we’re used to seeing in /ahem/ that other SF universe, rather than the realistic, solid-appearing holodeck-style holograms that appear to have been used on DS9 (judging by this screenshot, since my memory is faulty here). Otherwise, it seems more advanced in how the characters can interact with each other during holographic communication, even in ways that don’t really make sense, including Sarek walking around Burnham and sitting on the edge of a desk in the room — wouldn’t this require his having a room that just happened to have the right furniture (or something to sit on) in just the right spot?

So this is once instance where an in-universe discontinuity was far more jarring to me than the overall stylistic differences between TOS and DIS. (Riker seems to agree with me, even!)

And Then There’s the Klingons

As for the Klingons themselves: yes, they look different in both the physical makeup and the design of their ships. Yes, right now, that’s difficult to reconcile with established Klingon appearances. And for the moment, at least, I’m willing to let that slide.

Klingons have changed — repeatedly — over the course of Trek as it is. We all know that the only real reason the Klingons original changed appearance was because TMP had a bigger budget than TOS did, and the Klingons got upgraded along with everything else. For years, there were essentially two ways of looking at the change: either Klingons had always had the ridges, but 60s TV production didn’t have the budget to reflect this, or there was a physical change for some unknown reason. I was good with either; the latter was fun to speculate about (some earlier Trek literature posited that the intercepted transmission from the Klingons facing off with V’Ger was the first time that Starfleet saw the “true” appearance of Klingons). Yes, the Augment virus solved the Klingon forehead problem; I just kind of wish it hadn’t actually been solved.

And I’d argue that if the Augment virus hadn’t been introduced, if ENT had just let the change in appearance stand (either by going with TOS-style Klingons (though, hopefully somewhat less racially problematic, if that could be done) or by just going with ridged Klingons and accepting that certain elements of fandom would have fits), we might have less grumbling about the new revisions to their appearance. I’m sure it wouldn’t be nonexistent, but at least we’d have established discontinuities to work with, rather than an established continuity that the present design doesn’t seem to be compatible with.

For myself, I’m willing to just go with “new show, new Klingons” for the moment, and shrug off the weirdness. No, it doesn’t make sense (and, heck, it could easily be argued that my acceptance of this doesn’t even fit with my above distinction between accepting real world production differences affecting tech presentation but grumbling about in-universe tech changes, since this is a real-world production change that drastically conflicts with established in-universe continuity). But for me, at least, it doesn’t make sense in a way that I’m willing to work with for now. For whatever sense that makes.

The Show Itself

(By the way, now we’re getting more into spoiler territory. Just so’s you know.)

For the moment, at least, I’m optimistic, though not without some reservations.

There was a lot of talk during the run-up to the show about how there were reasons why both the show and the ship are called “Discovery”, that the old goals of exploration, of “seeking out new life and new civilizations” was going to be a large part of the show, that the Discovery itself is an exploration vessel, that the hope and optimism of Trek were going to be part of the show. And I think we got at least some of that, particularly during the first of the two episodes. However, the second episode, and therefore the overall feel of the first two, was very battle-focused, and it’s also been made clear that war with the Klingons was going to be major ongoing plotline for this first season.

Now, I’m not entirely opposed to learning more about Starfleet’s history with the Klingons (let alone learning more about the DIS take on the Klingons). But at the same time…look, as much as I liked Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica reboot, that’s not what I want Star Trek to be. Yes, Trek has often had battles and militaristic plotlines, often used to very good effect, but they were always a part of the whole, and I’d be disappointed if DIS ended up shifting so far towards the conflict with the Klingons that it lost sight of what, for many of us, has made Trek such an enduring part of our lives.

As others have noted, I do think it might be worth considering these first two episodes not really to be the pilot episode(s) of DIS, but as a prequel of sorts; something of an “origin story” for Burnham and for the state of the Star Trek universe for DIS. There’s a lot that changes between the end of these two episodes and the beginning of next week’s episode; as it is, we have yet to be introduced to the Discovery itself, let alone its captain or the majority of its crew (we know Burnham and Saru will end up on the Discovery, and promo images make it appear that the red-headed helm/conn officer might as well). Several of the primary characters of the first two episodes are dead (one — Georgiou — I expected; one — T’Kuvma — I did not). Burnham has been sentenced to life imprisonment for her mutiny. Lots of shifts going on, enough that it can be argued that next week’s episode will be the true pilot.

The preface is complete, time to start chapter one.

I’m hoping it’s a good one.

First Full Star Trek: Discovery Trailer

First thoughts (copied from a Facebook post, with minor edits): I’m looking forward to seeing more!

First thoughts (copied from a Facebook post, with minor edits):

Definitely looks good visually. I do like the look of the ship in the few glimpses we get. Expecting some snarky comparisons to both the Abramsverse (lens flare!) and Star Wars (blue-tinged holograms).

Grinned at the triplicate chirp of the communicator. Interesting “grid” effect for the transporter (which also sounds right).

Looks like they’re adopting the clear “window” style front viewscreens from the Abramsverse. The bridge is dark…definitely closer to the submarine-style look of ST:ENT or the traditional battle bridges, but not as cramped. One of the bridge crew looks like a Trek version of Lobot from Star Wars (a character on Bespin with a tech gadget wrapped around the back of his head).

Uniforms look okay, definitely expect to see that cosplay popping up pretty quickly. Everyone has the delta shield insignia on their chest, but I’m seeing at least two different symbols within (the starburst and the spiral), so perhaps they’re going with using those to signify departments, rather than ships/posts (as originally used), since everyone seems to have the same blue jumpsuit uniform. The delta shields also appear to be either in gold or silver…rank?

Not sure what I think about the new look for the Klingons just yet…very spiky outfits (seems they took design cues from Dracula’s armor in the Gary Oldman/Winona Ryder film), and the face/head look also looks much more similar to the Abramsverse take.

In addition to Sarek (and it’s weird thinking of James Frain as Sarek; my primary association with him is from The Tudors), we may get a glimpse of a young Spock (but that doesn’t seem right; as this is only 10 years pre-TOS, Spock wouldn’t be that young)?

The corridors do look right (silly thing, sure, but they do!).

Looks like we may be getting a glimpse of a Klingon funeral, complete with “everyone scream at the sky to usher the deceased to Sto-vo-kor” death ritual.

Some interesting very brief glimpses at aliens (including, um, Daft Punk?).

And it ends with the classic fanfare.

I’m looking forward to seeing more!

George Takei Says You’re A Douchebag

Hello, I’m George Takei. You are…a douchebag. That’s right! A douchebag. You are always going to be a total douchebag. I can only suspect that you have some…shall I say…’issues’ to work out?

Just a bit of silliness here. A little selective editing of premium pieces of this YouTube video gives us this particularly choice piece of audio. Feel free to download and use as your favorite ringtone. ;)

Long Version (201KB .mp3): “Hello, I’m George Takei. You are…a douchebag. That’s right! A douchebag. You are always going to be a total douchebag. I can only suspect that you have some…shall I say…’issues’ to work out?”

Medium Version (106KB .mp3): “You are…a douchebag. That’s right! A douchebag. You are always going to be a total douchebag.”

Short Version (29KB .mp3): “You are…a douchebag.”

I couldn’t resist.

Spockstradamus

So, with a little digging around on Memory Alpha, I present a (likely _very_ incomplete) list of things that Spock Prime _could_ warn the Federation about, as they should still exist to pose future threats to the Federation.

So the Star Trek universe is now in an alternative timeline. Everything that we ‘know’ of Trek’s future history (save, of all things, the Enterprise series) has been wiped out, and our beloved crew (and all the writers tasked with coming up with new and interesting things to do) has a blank slate to work with. However, it’s still a pretty big universe, and there’s a lot of stuff out there that won’t have been affected by the timeline split. While I’d rather see new adventures from here on out, if writers ever need some inspiration, there’s a fair amount of stuff that we already know is going to be a problem down the line.

So, with a little digging around on Memory Alpha, I present a (very incomplete) list of things that Spock Prime could warn the Federation about, as they should still exist to pose future threats to the Federation. Obviously, one could just list every bad guy and alien encounter seen in all the series and films, but I just wanted to grab a few of the ‘biggies’ (that is, major potential death toll events) that came to mind.

Feel free to toss out more that might be interesting, this is just a few minutes of pondering.

  • 2267: Discovery of the S.S. Botany Bay, carrying Khan and his crew of supermen. Probably best to either just torpedo the ship, or aim it at a planet not likely to explode and dump Khan and crew off there as if they’d arrived normally.
  • 2267: The planet killer starts gobbling up Federation worlds.
  • 2268: Yonada is on a collision course with Daran V. Perhaps not a threat to the entire Federation, but the Yonadans have the cure for the disease xenopolycythemia which will kill McCoy in 2269 if not treated.
  • 2268: A giant toxic space amoeba which could multiply and ‘infect’ the galaxy appears.
  • 2273: V’ger returns in search of its creator.
  • 2365: First contact with the Borg. However, as this contact is instigated by Q, there’s no way to positively determine an exact date when the alternative universe Borg will discover the Federation.
  • 2387: A super-supernova destroys Romulus (remember, that was only stopped in the Prime timeline, not the new timeline).

Update: Pop Culture Zoo has taken a much more in-depth look at the ramifications of the new timeline that’s well worth reading. Touches on some of the things I mentioned in the list above, and brings up a few others.

Now that we know how the new Star Trek film handles the continuity issues, what exactly does it all mean and what are the greater implications to not just the original series, but the greater Trek mythos as a whole? I freely admit I may be the only one who really cares, but the more I started thinking about what this new timeline meant, the more it spiralled out of control. So, I decided to take a stroll through established Star Trek history and was surprised at all the events, large and small, that are affected as a result of two actions on Nero’s part. It all starts in the time of Mark Twain.

Thoughts on Star Trek

In the many long months leading up to the release of the film, I’d wanted it to be good, I’d hoped it would be good, and as we got closer, the many outstanding reviews gave me hope — and for once, I wasn’t let down.

As briefly mentioned earlier, Prairie and I went out to see Star Trek on Friday evening, and, long story short: given the unenviable and potentially disastrous goal of reinvigorating a much-beloved but floundering and stagnant franchise that most people had written off as long past its prime, J.J. Abrams and company managed to beat the odds and pull it off with style. In the many long months leading up to the release of the film, I’d wanted it to be good, I’d hoped it would be good, and as we got closer, the many outstanding reviews gave me hope — and for once, I wasn’t let down.

Non-spoilery Rambling

The biggest question, of course — beyond even the redesign of the Enterprise and her big nacelles, or how well the story would mesh with established canon — was whether recasting characters that we’ve known for so many decades would even work. Could they manage to be the characters without either slavishly aping the original actors, or fall into parody? Would Kirk be Kirk without Shatner’s (not quite) inimitable delivery?

Thankfully, the answer is yes. As I’ve been thinking back over the film over the past couple days, the biggest thing that stands out to me is just how incredibly well the cast did at inhabiting the essence of the characters and their personalities without falling into the trap of mimicking the original actors. Pine, Quinto and Urban as the “holy trinity” of Kirk, Spock and McCoy likely had the toughest jobs in making us believe in them as the characters, but all three of them (along with the rest of the primary cast) managed to make me a believer.

Given that much of what was done in this film was necessary to ‘reset’ the franchise so that they could move forward from here without being trapped by canon — really, I don’t quite understand how people can be upset about the device used to reset things, as without that, we’d know the future of the characters and there wouldn’t be much long-term suspense or real sense of danger — I am really looking forward to seeing where we go from here on out.

I want to see this movie in the theater again, I want to have it at home to watch again, and I already can’t wait to see what this team can do with the sequel, when they’re free to move forward.

More thoughts under the cut, as they’re going to be more than a little spoileriffic…

Continue reading “Thoughts on Star Trek”

Birthday Bits

So I turn 36 on Sunday. Pretty sure I can still claim ‘mid-30’s’ at this point, though I’m getting perilously close to the ‘late-30’s.’ Upcoming or recent birthday-related bits follow.

So I turn 36 on Sunday. Pretty sure I can still claim “mid-30’s” at this point, though I’m getting perilously close to the “late-30’s.”

Upcoming or recent birthday-related bits include:

  1. Prairie and I getting bikes. This has been awesome. We’re both very glad that we decided to do this for my birthday, and that we went ahead and did it early, a few weeks ago.

  2. On Sunday, I’ll be losing the ponytail and sending it off to Locks of Love. This will mark six years since I decided that if I ever wanted to have long hair again, I better start growing it out now. I shaved my head one last time on my 30th birthday, then started letting it grow, and outside of a few trims to take care of split ends, have just let my hair grow since then. As the hairline goes and the forehead grows, though, it’s time to dodge the skullet bullet and shave it all back down again.

  3. Also on Sunday, we’ll be going to the zoo to see the brand-new penguin exhibit. H, P, and N will be joining us. Penguins yay!

  4. On Friday the 8th we’re going to the 7pm showing of the new Star Trek movie. Set phasers to ‘awesome’ (I hope…advance word is looking pretty good though).

  5. At some as-yet unspecified Saturday night in mid- to late-May, I’ll be heading down to Vogue Night. It won’t really be a birthday party as much as my monthly “gotta get out and bounce” night, but if someone were to say hello and perhaps spot me a drink, I doubt I’d complain.

  6. On July 3rd we’re going to Jason Webley‘s 11-year Extravaganza concert at Seattle’s Town Hall. This is very exciting for both of us. For a number of years, Jason did two big shows a year, one in fall and one in spring, which would always be very close to either my birthday or Prairie’s (which is Nov. 3rd, exactly six months after mine). It’s been a few years since we’ve been to any of his shows, though, as he’s been playing venues more suited to his younger, more energetic crowd, and as we’d prefer to sit in the back and enjoy the show rather than getting pushed about and stepped on (not intentionally or in a mean way, just the kind of thing that happens in a club show atmosphere) by rambunctious young’uns, we’ve been less inclined to head down to his more recent Seattle-area shows. Town Hall works very well for everyone, though — the kids get to bounce around in front of the stage, and us old fogies get to sit in the back and enjoy the music and show — so we’re looking forward to this.

And that’s everything I can think of.

And, of course, the annual bit of shameless greed*: on the off chance that someone should feel all birthday present-ish, feel free to poke around at my Amazon wishlists (helpfully categorized into photography, audiovisual, literary, gadgets, and other) or just hit the PayPal button on my about page and contribute to my Nikon D700 fund. ;)


  • Disclaimer: this is mostly tongue-in-cheek, the economy sucks, and I expect nothing except perhaps some rolling of eyes and gentle mocking. Hugs and/or kind words are always acceptable birthday presents. Still, you never know what might happen, and it can’t hurt to toss the idea out there, right?

Ranking the Star Trek Films

After having spent much of the past few weeks working my way through the Star Trek film series, this is how I rank them, best to worst. Obviously, this is my personal ranking. Feel free to disagree.

After having spent much of the past few weeks working my way through the Star Trek film series, this is how I rank them, best to worst. Obviously, this is my personal ranking. Feel free to disagree.

  1. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
  2. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  3. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  4. Star Trek: First Contact
  5. Star Trek: The Motion Picture
  6. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
  7. Star Trek: Generations
  8. Star Trek: Nemesis
  9. Star Trek: Insurrection
  10. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

The #1 and #2 spots are tough, very nearly a tie — and probably where I’ll get the most disagreement — but for me, that’s how they stack up. As good as TWoK is, the combination of the underlying theme of recognizing and overcoming racism and prejudice, and Christopher Plummer’s gleeful scenery chewing, Shakespeare-quoting, bolted-in-eyepatch General Chang (“Cry havoc! And let slip the dogs of war!”) make TUD work for me. Some of this may be that I saw TUD in theaters, which I was too young to do with TWoK, and I have very fond memories of the theater erupting in cheers watching the Enterprise and Excelsior hammer Chang’s Bird of Prey into oblivion — that scene still gets my blood pumping when I watch it.

(Plus, while I know he’s done something like six million other things, I love that General Chang and Captain Von Trapp from The Sound of Music are the same actor.)

Continue reading “Ranking the Star Trek Films”

CSI Gets Geeky

I don’t often talk much about my TV watching, but one of the shows that Prairie’s managed to get me into is CSI, and last night’s episode, ‘A Space Oddity,’ was _so_ worth it. Bottom line: great episode, and worth watching if you’re a fan of CSI, Trek, BSG, or any combination of the above.

I don’t often talk much about my TV watching — in some small part because after spending something over a decade as as anti-TV zealot, I’m in some ways still coming to terms with actually finding some TV worth gritting my teeth through the commercials — but one of the shows that Prairie’s managed to get me into is CSI, and last night’s episode, “A Space Oddity,” was so worth it.

I was pretty sure that I’d be getting a few laughs out of the episode from the previews, which made it clear that the murder of the week was going to be at a Star Trek convention. I didn’t expect just how entertained I ended up being, though. The writers obviously knew their stuff (not surprising, as it turns out the episode was written by David Weddle and Bradley Thompson, two former writers for Battlestar Galactica, and directed by fellow BSG alumnus Michael Nankin), and the show was crammed with funny and knowing tributes to fandom — specifically, Star Trek and BSG.

Hodges surrounded by Astro Quest fen
Hodges surrounded by Astro Quest fen

The show opens with Hodges running around Whatifitcon, a Star Trek Astro Quest convention, surrounded by various alien-costumed fen. Soon he runs into fellow CSI labrat Wendy, all dressed up in an AQ uniform. They don’t have long to bond over their shared love of “the greatest science-fiction show ever” before there’s a commotion nearby — a murder (imagine that)! Hodges calls in to CSI headquarters to let them know that, yes…”He’s dead, Jim.”

The victim turns out to be Jonathan Danson, a producer who’d been working on a modern “reimagining” of the classic Astro Quest show. The night before, he’d shown off the first glimpses of Astro Quest: Redux, and the response was…well, it was pretty much what happened when Ron Moore first started showing off his “reimagined” version of the classic Battlestar Galactica. In short, the fans were not impressed.

And here was where an already enjoyably silly episode really took off for me. I’d already been grinning from the various Star Trek gags, then even more when it became obvious that they were riffing off the recent BSG reworking. But then, as the camera pans across the shocked and horrified fans…

BSG's Grace Park isn't a fan of the new Astro Quest
BSG's Grace Park isn't a fan of the new Astro Quest

…waitasec, that was Grace Park — Sharon Valerii/Boomer/Athena/and lots of other cylons in BSG! But after just a quick glimpse of her, just long enough for me to register the cameo, another offended fan jumps out of his chair, yelling “You SUCK!” at Danson.

BSG creator Ron Moore _really_ isn't a fan!
BSG creator Ron Moore _really_ isn't a fan!

And, of course, that’s none other than Ron Moore himself, responsible for “reimagining” BSG. And the cameos don’t stop there, as an academic researching the cultural impact of the Astro Quest television show is played by none other than Kate Vernon, BSG’s Ellen Tigh.

The episode goes on from there, with Hodges and Wendy dancing around their newfound connection, complete with fantasy scenarios giving nods to ST:TOS episodes “The Menagerie” and “The Gamesters of Triskelion”, über-geeks a little too involved in the AQ world living with their mother in a room entirely remodeled to match the AQ set, and so on.

The one criticism I might have with the episode would be that it falls victim to the same trap that so many other shows do when involving the geek community, in that they rely so heavily on comedy at the expense of the fringe members of fandom (the geeks in their remodeled room in mom’s house, for example). However, given that they also spent time letting Vernon’s academic and the bartender espouse some of the less cringeworthy sides of science-fiction shows and fandom, and “outed” two regular cast members as fans (and it wasn’t even the less socially adept character who got all dressed up in costume for the convention), I’m willing to cut them some slack.

Bottom line: great episode, and worth watching (you can even see the whole episode online at CBS’s CSI site) if you’re a fan of CSI, Trek, BSG, or any combination of the above.

The Norwescon Outfit I Didn’t Make

This is what I wanted to do for this year’s Norwescon…and, to be honest, I _still_ think it’d be fun to do it at some point in the future. I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to it, but it’s fun to have it rattling around in my head.

…because I have been short on time, money, initiative, know-how, or various combinations of all of the above.

What I wanted to do: prove that Starfleet’s more advanced mindset extended to sexual discrimination and choices in clothing. Just because all we’ve seen so far is slacks for men and women and (mini)skirts on women, I’m sure that doesn’t mean that that’s all there is.

(Note: actually, in first season TNG, there were a few men in unbifurcated uniforms, as evidenced by this Wikipedia mention and this slightly confused fan. However, these ‘skant‘ uniforms pretty much disappeared by the second season.)

The USS Utilikilt
The USS Utilikilt
The plan: customize a TOS Starfleet tunic and an Original Utilikilt (or even Workman’s or Survival, but those were even further out of my theoretical budget) with the logo you see to the right.

In order to find a way to work in the Utilikilts logo, I figured the uniform would have to be TOS style, when the insignia within the delta shield changed depending on the ship the crewmember was assigned to and before the standardization on the Enterprise’s ‘starburst’ central insignia. I wanted to use this design to create a custom patch in color (with the traditional gold background) for the tunic, plus one in black and white to go on the rear pocket of the Utilikilt.

Unfortunately, a number of things got in the way of completing (or even starting on) this project, from simply not having the money to drop on the tunic, a new Utilikilt, or having the custom patches made (and this was before I got laid off), to the Utilikilts people being swamped with work and unable to work on a custom kilt request at that time.

Still, this is what I wanted to do for this year’s Norwescon…and, to be honest, I still think it’d be fun to do it at some point in the future. I don’t know (and, to be honest, kind of doubt) if I’ll ever get around to it, but it’s fun to have it rattling around in my head.

International Talk Like William Shatner Day

In honor of William Shatner’s 78th birthday today, 3/22/09, I am declaring March 22nd to be ‘International Talk Like William Shatner Day!’ Now, since talking like our hero is a bit more challenging than walking around going, ‘Arrr’, I’ve included the following video tutorial for your edification.

In honor of William Shatner’s 78th birthday tomorrow today, 3/22/09, I am declaring March 22nd to be “International Talk Like William Shatner Day!” Hey, we have “International Talk Like a Pirate Day”, and Shatner inspired a helluva lot more kids to be like Captain James T. Kirk than any who wanted to be some smelly, toothless, “arrr”-spouting frickin’ pirate.

Now, since talking like our hero is a bit more challenging than walking around going, “Arrr”, I’ve included the following video tutorial for your edification, filmed by producer Bill Biggar, on a loooong drive to the airport on L.A.’s fabulous 405 freeway. Enjoy, and remember, it’s pronounced “sabotaaj”, not, “sabotahj”.