A Day for Patriots

Sorry to all and sundry for being scarce.  Your pains, pleasures, and other p-words have not gone unnoticed.  Just lots of work to be done.  I’m like Gandalf that way…maybe more like Sir Ian McKellan’s Gandalf, the one that takes only a few edits instead of 17 years to get back to you.  (Oh boo hoo, you Fourth Age purists — you loved it, baby.)

Anyway, now’s the day when we folks in the US o’ A make a big to-do.  Luckily it’s turned out to be a good day so far.

Space Shuttle Discovery is in orbit, safe and sound.  Not a peep from that stupid fuel tank.  Yeah, I know — it’s obsolete tech, never worked right, we have no business in space, yadda yadda.  The crew are fine.  With luck, they’ll be just as fine in three weeks.

I wanted to note the holiday this time.   Here’s a special something…for George and Karl.

The Universe speaks in many languages, but only one voice.
The language is not Narn or Human or Centauri or Gaim or Minbari.

It speaks in the language of hope. It speaks in the language of trust.
It speaks in the language of strength, and the language of compassion.
It is the language of the heart and the language of the soul.
But always it is the same voice.

It is the voice of our ancestors speaking through us.
And the voice of our inheritors waiting to be born.
It is the small, still voice that says we are One.

No matter the blood, no matter the skin,
No matter the world, no matter the star,
We are One.
No matter the pain, no matter the darkness,
No matter the loss, no matter the fear.
We are One.

Here, gathered together in common cause
We agree to recognize this singular truth and this singular rule:
That we must be kind to one another.

Because each voice enriches us and ennobles us,
And each voice lost diminishes us.
We are the voice of the universe, the soul of creation,
The fire that will light the way to a better future.

We are One.

–J. Michael Straczynski
Babylon 5:  “The Paragon of Animals”

And yes, I’m still angry.

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Written: Jul 4, 2006

Strokes of the Brush

It’s been a while since I’ve made a posting on the personal blog here.  Much of my time and resources have been tied in completing Afterhell Volume 2, which is finally done.  Then came a slight rush of attention when “The Sonic Society” broadcast the pilot ep, “Dark Descent.”  Last week Eddie, one of our cats, had a bloody but fortunately minor crisis with one of his paws.  That required a few harried rides to the vet and the first of many pills for the poor guy.

As soon as all that was sorted out, my body practically crashed.  One bright side of that is, since I have to take a lot of rest, it gives me a chance to catch up on Old Time Radio shows and podcasts.  I’ve been listening to everything from TWiT to the 1950’s Nightwatch.

Of course not every podcast is ultra-shiny.  Once in a while, you find a popcorn kernel that didn’t pop.  Sometimes you find out that’s irritatingly awful.  So what have we got here in my big bag o’ podcasting.

This one is golden, fluffy, and buttery.  Here’s another.  This one too.  Now how about–ooh, here’s a bad one.  The Babylon Podcast, Show #5.

Wait, I hear you say, it’s a podcast about Babylon 5, one of the best TV shows evar!   How can it possibly be bad?

I impart a sad truth, grasshopper.  There’s always someone ready, willing, and able to ruin a good thing.

Anyway I tried Babylon Podcast #5.  I downloaded it months ago, but didn’t get a chance to go over it until this week.  And as starting points go, it’s a fitting one, I suppose.  (I R so clevar, R I not?)

BP#5 features an interview with Kurt DeFilipps, who was an assistant propmaster on the Babylon 5 series.  I figured, “They’re gonna talk about props.  Nothing controversial there, just a mess of trivia and a few laughs.  An easy listen fer sure, dude.”  It starts out well.  It’s a fun interview.  The end of it fizzles out, the way people keep talking long after they’d run out of things to say.

But it’s a fan-run operation.  These things happen.  With a little practice in front of the mike and behind the controls of a sound editing program, it gets sorted out eventually.  Same thing with the opening — they do their own self-indulgent version of the Season 1 B5 titles (“It was the dawn of the Third Age of podcasting….”)  God, it’s so childish.  Embarrassing and totally pointless.  But hey, they’re having fun.  It’s cute.  You cop it to enthusiasm and move on.

The rest of the podcast, however, is like passing a stone the size of a bowling ball.  Left to their own devices, podcasters Tim Callender and Summer Brooks lay into the pilot ep, “The Gathering.”  What’s the fraggin’ point in that?  It’s an easy target.  The pathetic, misshapen thing can’t even defend itself.  Everyone knows how bad it is, even with the TNT edits.  No great challenge to attack.  No real insights to offer, either.

It’s one thing to discuss or study the ep, but it’s another to just rag on it.  Tim Callender and Summer Brooks don’t bring any hard info to bear for context –like the fact that the production process on the pilot ep was a mess, low on money, short on time, director Richard Compton being forced to maintain order on his own, all facts documented by jms himself at conventions when he was promoting Season 1.  Instead they griped about the things they didn’t like.  Delenn’s ring.  Stewart Copeland‘s music.  The props.  The sets.  How various plot elements didn’t mesh well with the rest of the series.  How telepathy was handled.  How the Vorlon ships has logos on them (?).  How we didn’t see the Centauri Republic in the series resemble a tourist attraction as described in the pilot.

They can’t even respond to criticism with any semblance of credibility.  People were a little surprised by their criticism of Stewart Copeland’s music.  Granted, his score for the pilot didn’t resemble Christopher Franke‘s “Requiem for the Line” motif or anything.  But jeez!  Tim Callender snarked at a comment on the Babylon Podcast blog, “Yes, I was aware of Copeland’s pedigree (I also like his Klark Kent stuff).  And the Police recorded ‘Walking On The Moon’, so I suppose there’s an SF connection in there somewhere. 🙂 “  So he likes Stewart Copeland’s bloodline.  Nice thing to say, I guess.  And somehow a strawman in desperate need for an SF connection wanders into discussion on his way to see the Wizard…

Meanwhile Summer Brooks simultaneously backpedals and slags in the same posting:  “I didn’t think I ripped Copeland’s score at all… I just thought that the music changed the tone being set for the story. […]but honestly, does it stick in your soul like Franke’s theme does?”  Translation:  I didn’t rip Copeland’s score, but since I didn’t, I’ll take some time to do that now.  And of course the soul is an objective standard for anything.  Ugh.  It’s like watching Barry Bonds dig himself in deeper.

Jeez, did they like B5 at all?  Yes, they did like the fact that G’Kar didn’t cry out, how “he didn’t make a sound!” when he was being crushed by Delenn’s ring.  Even though he did.

They’re doing the best they can, I guess.  I mean, they confuse “Hunter, Prey” with “Points of Departure,” “Walkabout,” and “In The Beginning.”   Or nitpick things to death and call it geeky fun.  But they’re doing what they can.

Okay.  Fine.  Just keep me out of it.

By virtue of jms’ writing, Lawrence DiTillio‘s writing, Ardwright Chamberlain‘s voice work, and Jeffery Willerth‘s forebearance, one of my favorite characters on the show once said, “A stroke of the brush does not guarantee art from the bristles.”

After this, I have a much more clear, much more bitter understanding.  [sigh] Let’s head back to the barn….

Comments: 0
Written: Apr 14, 2006

Operation Swarmer Was Hype

You heard me.  If you followed the news media’s passionate coverage of “the biggest air assault” of the Iraq war, you now know what happens when someone dangles a big shiny in front of the American news media.

Time has a web exclusive on it:  On Scene: How Operation Swarmer Fizzled

A quote from the article, with my bold lettering:

“But contrary to what many many television networks erroneously reported, the operation was by no means the largest use of airpower since the start of the war. (“Air Assault” is a military term that refers specifically to transporting troops into an area.) In fact, there were no airstrikes and no leading insurgents were nabbed in an operation that some skeptical military analysts described as little more than a photo op. What’s more, there were no shots fired at all and the units had met no resistance, said the U.S. and Iraqi commanders.”

Some are suggesting it was all a big publicity stunt to show off the new and approved Iraqi army.  The troops secured some documents and war materiel.  That much is true, and it’s a good thing.  No one gets to use those weapons on them.  Everything else is psychic lip gloss.  Don’t be fooled by the shiny.

I suppose some under-informed yahoo is going to complain that I shouldn’t challenge the official story coming from the White House, that it’s arrogant, that it’s undermining the war effort.

What freakin’ war effort?  Go back and read it again.  Our own government is lying to us.  Lying.  Bad thing.  And instead of doing their homework, mainstream news is going by faxed press releases.  They phoned it in.  Lazy.

Besides, how is a soldier going to feel when pseudo-patriotic idiots pat them on the back for something that never happened?  That soldier is going to feel like a fraud.  That kind of patriotism isn’t for the troops.  It’s for the poor sucker at home, the one that’s too scared, too overwhelmed, or sometimes too damn lazy to use her brain.

Listen, little neocon.  The information is out there, but it doesn’t always come to you.  If you can’t get enough news about your favorite movie or TV show, you’ll hit the ‘net faster than you can say “fanfic.”  But if it’s about the real world, about us, suddenly you can’t be bothered.

The war protesters and angry lefties ain’t holding us back.  They’re not the ones who take turns cheering and then ignoring the Abu Grieb pictures.  They’re not the ones blowing off high crimes and misdemeanors.  They’re not the ones who feel safer under a dictator who sends people out to be tortured, who uses a secret police force to quelch free speech, who hides behind Allah and squirms when told that he might like “Brokeback Mountain.”

Think about it.  Did I just describe America…or Iraq?

No, it’s not them.  It’s you.

Comments: 0
Written: Mar 18, 2006

Hang Together

Recently Jamie posted a humble lament for the current state of modern America and humanity in general.  I was going to post a comment on her blog to show some solidarity, but the comments window wouldn’t be enough to contain the things that had come to mind for me.
Let me end the suspense for ya.  I agree with her.

Re the first item…no, the government doesn’t give a flying f*** about us.  This administration never did.  How else can we explain a government that would sooner side with big business than keep rat poison out of the mouths of children?  A government that would sooner teach kids that contraceptives cause mental health problems?    A government that lets a city drown and still hasn’t cleaned up the mess?

Oh dear, was that arrogant of me?  Ask yourself:  What is more arrogant, to speak one’s mind in good conscience or to shout down those who do?  Or maybe death threats beat either one.

And frankly, to let all this corruption and cruelty and incompetance hide in the skirts of Lady Liberty…that is nothing short of cowardice.

Re the second item…it’s one of the more disturbing news stories I’ve seen in a while, for more reasons than you might think.  Orange County Assistant District Attorney Susan Kang Schroeder said in the article, “It shows how a group mentality can breed disgusting behavior.”  And that’s true, as far as it goes.  The problem is that it doesn’t go far enough.

Youth gangs and the violence they perpetrate has its roots in racism and economic injustice that has taken place over generations.  And before your eyes roll up into your head, I’m not blaming America.  Minority communities carry as much of the burden as anyone else, but racist violence made these gangs a necessity in the early 20th Century.  Zoot Suit Riots were more than just a cool song.  They were set off by acts of terror — men beaten with baseball bats into a bloody pulp, chicanas raped in the streets, cops that arrested the hispanics and let the white guys walk.  Criminal gangs form in communities that feel oppressed.  Until the cycle is broken from within or without, we face the tragic prospect of writing off entire families simply because they were the wrong color.  Genocide can happen slowly as well as with modern efficiency.

So we’re left with one chestnut of wisdom that I’ve heard recently and often, from many, many voices:  ” We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

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Written: Mar 15, 2006

America’s Right to Know

Over the last six years, I’ve heard many well-intentioned but otherwise pathetic Americans defending the government’s right to withhold public information.

Withholding public information…from the public.  A government of the people is hiding from…the people.  It belongs to us.  It comes from us.  It’s ours.

But no, no, the government says, you can’t be trusted with your own information.  Let us hold it for you because you don’t know how to handle your own information properly.

Mind you, this isn’t sensitive info about tactical movements, transnational ops, or confidential staff meetings.  I mean public info like, “What the hell are you doing with my tax money.”

“What the hell are you doing to my son or daughter.”

“Where the hell have you been keeping my husband for the last five years.”

“Why the hell are you tapping my phone line.”

“Where the f*** is my lawyer.”

Little things like that.

All this has come up for me for two reasons.  When I hear or read otherwise sensible people defend the government’s failures or even the government’s “right” to hide them from us, it takes a long time for me to let it go.   So I’ve been running on a slow burn for a few weeks now after a particular instance.  And this piece here at Steven Aftergood’s Secrecy News got me thinking about it further:

Origins of “The Right to Know”

It’s short.  It’s simple.  Even pro-Bush people can understand it.

Also make note of Carol Monical’s posting in the comments section:  “To me it is inherent in a representative democratic system that a person has the right to know what the government is doing.  Otherwise, how can one make any decision, particularly intelligent decisions, about for whom to vote.”

Oh dear.  Does that mean we’re supposed to know what we’re voting for?  Or what the government is doing?

Maybe it’s arrogant to ask where the hell does the Vice-President, perhaps the most powerful person in my employment — in other words, the f***er works for ME — get off hiding from me for 18 hours just because he didn’t want me to know that he’d accidentally shot someone.  It wasn’t arrogant six or seven years ago to make detailed public inquiries about a President’s family jewels in open court.  I think that kind of trumps embarrassment by bird shot, so I’m entitled to know.

Yes, I’m still angry.  It’s created a burn mark under my chest that only disappointment and betrayal can inspire.  We should all be friends, but we’re not.  We shouldn’t be at each other’s throats, but we are.  The powerful, the connected, and the glib pierce our eardrums and inject hate speech, rotten logic, and outright lies directly into our brains.  And we don’t even have the decency as a nation to question anything we’re told.  Anything at all.

We should be informed.  And thinking.  And awake.  But we’re not.  There is blood on the hands of the mighty.  But it’s okay.  And yet in the hearts of every man, woman, and children in the United States for whom honor, integrity, and conscience aren’t a matter of convenience, it will never truly be.

And now we have a government whose primary goals are to enrich the enrich, to protect the powerful from the powerless, to suppress knowledge, to oppress anyone who thinks or loves differently than them.

And those of you out there responsible — the perpetrators, the apologists, the fearmongers, and the spineless who lick up their bile — you have a right to know how much I hate you.  The least you could do was apologize.

One day, I’ll forgive.  But I’ll never forget.  And neither should you.

Stupidity is a greater crime than dissent.  And we’re all paying for it.

I mean, not that I’m bitter….

Comments: 0
Written: Mar 8, 2006

Masters of Horror marathon tonight

Every other channel on the dial does a TV show marathon of some kind around New Year’s. Twilight Zone marathons seem to be the popular…even when the episodes get chopped to bits.

Showtime is doing one of its own, running the first eight installments of the 13-part Masters of Horror series.  Later, around March 2006, episodes will be released on DVD individually and in low-priced bundles.

So here am I, providing what could be called a public service, putting my two cents on the episodes to date.  If you have Showtime and feel like ringing out the year with a fright-fest, you’ll get a better idea of what to expect.  If you’re curious about the DVD’s or individual episodes, maybe I can help point out the ones you might want to spend your money on.  Ain’t I helpful?

“Incident On and Off A Mountain Road”
The series opener is a real gem courtesy of director Don Coscarelli (of Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep fame) and award-winning writer Joe R. Lansdale.  This is a bloody, disturbing tale about a woman lost in the woods and fighting for her life on several levels.  A great start.

“Dreams in the Witch-House”
Director Stuart Gordon brought in a new adaptation of a classic H.P. Lovecraft tale, something he has done several times in the past.  Like his earlier films Re-Animator and From Beyond, this installment bears little resemblance to the source.  Gordon skips the existential dread and delivers instead some gore with a side order of T & A…in other words, what he usually does.  The result is entertaining and predictable, just not compelling.

“Dance of the Dead”
Tobe Hooper, the man who brought you Poltergeist and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, puts the series back on track.  Richard Christian Matheson adapted this post-apocalyptic rocker from his ingenious father‘s works.  This is a keeper, a sinuous creepshow which, I suspect, contains a parable about pimping flesh.  Not for the faint of heart.

Director Dario Argento of Suspiria fame helmed this sleeper to shore.  This ep is gory, surprisingly predictable story about a clueless cop and the female creature he rescues, brings into his home, and eventually regrets ever doing either.  I tried to like this one.  Never a good sign, is it?

Series creator Mick Garris adapted one of his own stories for this ep.  It’s intended as a sexy, eerie thriller about a man who experiences a beautiful woman’s life through her five senses.  Henry Thomas and Matt Frewer give it their all.  And yet the show falls flat.  Credit could be given to Mick Garris for adapting a basically internal story to the screen, but it lacked personality.  Matt Frewer’s supporting role had more definition than even the main characters.  And for such an intimate tale, that’s a mistake.

The series bounces back with an incisive political satire courtesy of director Joe Dante (Gremlins, The Howling) and screenwriter Sam Hamm (the 1989 Batman).  Soldiers killed in the war return undead and trigger controversy for the pro-Bush set.  In a brilliant fashion, this one turns the whole zombie idea on its head.  Some blood, but no gore to speak of.  Actually this is the most accessible to mainstream audiences.  But then what if you put on a satire and nobody came?

“Deer Woman”
Director John Landis (An American Werewolf in London) submits for our approval a moody, off-the-wall supernatural thriller featuring a down ‘n’ out cop and a series of impossible murders in a small town.   I still have issues with the director, so I didn’t expect to like this ep.  But it’s a deft mix of comedy, horror, and painful memories.  Landis works in references to his own work, verging on the edge of sheer corn, teetering on self-recrimination.  If the result isn’t gold, it’s at least a smoky gem.

“Cigarette Burns”
This is a Grand Guignol treasure directed by John Carpenter (Halloween), written by Scott Swan and Drew McWeeny (aka Moriarty of Ain’t It Cool News).  A broken-hearted movie expert is hired to find an obscure art film whose only public showing ended in bloody violence.  Horrifying.  Thought-provoking.  Easily, a high point in the series.  Not for the weak.

If you collect or rent the DVDs to come, I recommend:

  • “Incident On and Off A Mountain Road”
  • “Dance of the Dead”
  • “Homecoming”
  • “Deer Woman”
  • “Cigarette Burns”
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Written: Jan 1, 2006

References in “Shaun of the Dead”

Chattling online with friends a few weeks ago, the topic of horror films came up.   One of the few modern ones that we all agreed on was “Shaun of the Dead.“   People who normally don’t like gore flicks, like everyone else in the chat room that night, glommed onto this one.
Naturally I was the only one to get half of the references to other horror flicks.  Partly for laughs, I offered to write up a list so everyone else didn’t have to watch the other films and risk getting sick.  And then curiosity became growing interest.

Besides, I wanted to do a Halloween kind of blog entry anyway.

Disclaimer a la mode:  This is just a compilation, probably not a complete one at that.  I make no claims on the data beyond my fairly reasonable certainty about accuracy.  I tried to double- and triple-source where I could.   If I couldn’t find something else to support it, I left it out to be safe.

My key sources were the audio commentaries on the Shaun of the Dead DVD, the Internet Movie Database, the Easter Egg Archive, and good ol’ Wikipedia.

I did my best to put this into order of appearance in the film.  I figured fans tend to fall down when you don’t put things in chronological order. (Incidentally, sorry if it’s messy or rushed. I twisted my ankle the other night, so I’m hobbling all over the place trying to get things done.)

* The music playing over the company logos is library music selected for the airport scenes in the original Dawn of the Dead.

* The ska number playing as we first see Shaun (Simon Pegg) is “Ghost Town” by the Specials.

* The title sequence, intentionally or not, touches on a recurring theme in George Romero‘s Living Dead movies, of the working classes reduced to a mindless automated state.

* Shaun’s lumbering, half-awake entrance after the titles is a nod to the final scene in “Day of the Dead.”

* The game that Ed and Shaun are playing is “Timesplitters2.”

* The game voice announcing incoming/outgoing players is actually that of Peter Serafinowicz (Pete).

* Gratutious fanboy trivia (what, like the rest of it isn’t?):  Peter Serafinowicz is more widely known as the voice of Darth Maul.

* The shock-cut montages are reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead movies.

* On his way to the corner shop in the morning, Shaun walks by a road sweeper.  Its radio is tuned to a news bulletin about the Omega-6 space probe exploding in the atmosphere.  This is one of the theories offered in “Night of the Living Dead.”

* Bub’s Pizzas, next door to the corner shop, is named after the trainable zombie in “Day of the Dead.”

* Foree Electronics is named for Ken Foree, one of the actors in the original “Dawn of the Dead” (1978).

* The music heard while Shaun is taking the bus to work is “Kernkraft 400” by Zombie Nation.

* Shaun tells his co-workers that Ash isn’t coming in, a reference to Bruce Campbell‘s role in the Evil Dead movies.

* Director Edgar Wright took inspiration from the 1978 “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” especially for strange business going in the background of an otherwise normal scene.

* Fulci’s Restaurant is named for Italian horror director Lucio Fulci, best known for his own zombie movies.

* When Shaun leaves the bloodied corner shop, the news report on the radio is apparently saying in Hindi either “The dead are coming back to life,” or “People are waking up from their graves.”

* Mary, the first zombie to attack Shaun, worked at the Landis Supermarket, a nod to director John Landis.

* A poster for the controversial Japanese film of “Battle Royale” can be seen while Ed and Shaun fend off the one-armed zombie.

* Of course the TV reporter’s advice for would-be zombie slayers is taken from “Night of the Living Dead”.

* Ed’s line “We’re coming to get you, Barbara!” echoes a line from “Night of the Living Dead.”  Ironically George Romero himself didn’t get the reference.

* The music under the montages for Shaun’s plans is “Zombi” by Goblin, composed for the original Dawn of the Dead.

* Shaun tells Ed not to say “the zed word.”  In fact most, if any, zombie movies don’t.  This is also considered a nod to director Danny Boyle, who pointed out “28 Days Later” is not a zombie movie.  (If you say so, Danny boy….)

* Shaun’s muttering of “Join us” touches back on the undead creatures in the Evil Dead movies.

* One of the flower prints in Liz’s apartment was done by Fred Deakin from Airside and Lemon Jelly.  He also designed the “Battle Royale” poster in Shaun’s flat.

* Shaun’s jump from a trampoline is often compared to the final scene of “Army of Darkness.”

* The pool cue battle is often compared to the surreal scenes of gang violence in Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange.”

* David’s death scene closely resembles the death of an antagonist in “Day of the Dead.”

* The characters’ retreat into the basement calls back to “Night of the Living Dead.”

* An elevator platform figures prominently in the film’s climax and that of “Day of the Dead.”

* Co-writers Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright compared several scenes to “Doctor Who,” especially the soldiers’ charge and attack in the climax.  “Doctor Who” was also shot at Ealing Studios, the same as this film.

* The interrupted news item about infected monkeys is a dig at Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later.”  Director Edgar Wright did the voice work for the segment.

* The music at the very end of the credits is “The Gonk,”  written by Herbert Chappell for the DeWolfe Music Library.  That track was used as Muzak for a zombie-infested mall in the original “Dawn of the Dead.”

Comments: 0
Written: Oct 29, 2005

Christian Coalition leader molested his daughters

This is the hypocrisy I can’t stand…and the perversion that is shielded by the self-proclaimed hands of God.

That’s not the faith I was raised in.  That is not the way of God.

Comments: 0
Written: Oct 10, 2005


My senator, Ron Wyden of Oregon, says he’ll vote to confirm John Roberts as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court.  What is his reason?
“…we cannot move forward as a nation if we remain dedicated to tearing each other down.”

I’m never voting for this man ever again.  Never.

Rage is the watchword for the day.

Comments: 0
Written: Sep 28, 2005

Bed & Breakfast on the Deck of the Titanic

I’m not an ENT fan.  I gave up on it shortly after the pilot.  But I have to chime in on the ENT program finale.  It’s neither awful nor brilliant.  It’s just pathetic.

It’s the perfect capstone to the Berman & Braga era, a testament to their dramaturgical tone deafness.  The vast array of missed opportunities and self-congratulatory gestures is just typical of their work these days.

Days?  More like the last few decades.  And that’s what gets me.  They’ve been working in one capacity or another on the Trek planation for almost a generation.   And they still don’t know what they’re doing.

Study the 20-year mission of the USS B&B:  to constantly explore the same old, same old…to seek out weak plots and mental shortcuts…to blandly go to the same ol’ place we keep going to.  Going where no one has gone before?  No way.  It’s hard work.

In the creative decisions that were the foundations of this finale, they demonstrate a fundamental lack of skill or interest in making noteworthy Star Trek.  With B&B, it’s all about killing time.  Fill the time slot.  They insist on a certain kind of Trek story, calling it quality control, to avoid creativity or thought.  Berman himself said, “Star Trek is a formula.”

So, Trek fans, how do you like your formula?

B&B’s attitude comes through loud and clear in the ENT finale.  Check me on this.   “These Are The Voyages….” is the final episode of Enterprise.  But it’s about Commander Riker.


No, really.  Riker is busy noodling a moral crisis, so naturally he’s on the flippin’ holodeck.  He, Commander Troi, and the rest of TNG crew are the only “real” people in the episode.   Basically he’s playing with a holonovel about the holographic crew of the holographic original Enterprise’s final holographic mission.

(“Oh sure, I always fire up a video game whenever I have an existential quandry on my hands.  And if I’m being attacked by alien invaders, I’ll drop everything and make the time.”  C’mon!  Is everyone in the 24th Century that morally abstracted from reality?  Sometimes the holodeck idea feels like a mistake, in many ways like another well-intentioned trope of the Trek universe, namely the Prime Directive.  Cute, clever, problematic, mishandled, and eventually ruined.)

The NX-01 crew, who should be the dramatic focus of the show, are treated as little more than props for Riker’s benefit.  They get the most screen time, but Riker’s moral crisis define the plot structure.   He zips through the events of Archer’s last mission, interacting with the crew, hoping all this will help him solve his problem.

Archer and company are handled with indifference.  Oh sure, Riker and Troi make semi-reverent about these historical figures (from their perspective).  But it all comes off as smug, self-indulgent, and self-absorbed.  Riker’s plight is the only one with any dramatic weight.  Riker and Troi show little, if any, emotional involvement in the fate of Archer’s crew.  Troi mentions in passing, with dull displeasure, it’s a shame Trip dies on this mission.  You can hear the halfhearted shrug in her voice.

Yeah, the show’s most popular character dies.  And it happens in such a pointless, half-assed way.  Not because he was cornered, not because it was necessary to the plot or continuity—he died because B&B ran out of ideas.  They couldn’t find a better way to build some drama, so they laid the foundation for Trip’s death in a casual mention and kept the audience waiting to see how long it’d take them to drop the other shoe.  That’s all it was.  They can’t make the distinction between that and a noble, tragic, inspiring sacrifice like Sydney Carton, Ranger Marcus Cole, or that guy with the ears.  That’s the best they can do.

Even when Archer is about to make history, the big payoff of the entire ENT series, Riker stops the holoprogram—and the story—dead.  Why?  He got what he needed.

His needs.  Screw ours.  That’s the message.  B&B claimed their message was something else, a Valentine card, a tribute to the Trek universe.  They can make that case.  But it doesn’t stack up against the preponderance of evidence.  One series, one cast, became props for another, diminishing one to prop up another.  Their colleagues and their audience are left to fend for themselves.  The finale’s overall subtext is that of a hard plink on the nose:

“Screw you, I got mine.”

The previous storyline of “Demons” and “Terra Prime” was a better coda.  It gave Archer a chance to be heroic, a chance for characters to grow a little, and a glimpse at the birth of the Federation.  They could have gone with that.  Then again, ENT “isn’t the Manny Coto Show.”  They couldn’t let that stand.  They had to stomp that sand castle flat.

They attribute the end of ENT to the overexposure of the entire Trek franchise.  (God, I hate that expression.  They make it sound like a fast food joint.)  Ironically they’d spent years denying such a thing was taking place.  Apparently they changed their minds when the only other alternative was taking responsibility for its poor quality.  And yet everyone knows they killed the goose that laid so many golden eggs.

The only question that remains in my mind is whether they’re that devoted to the crocodile god, as my wife Jamie would say…or are they really that stupid?

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Written: May 18, 2005