Gene Roddenberry’s 1991 Humanist Interview

screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-12-21-52-pm

Happy Thanksgiving, folks. As a little Turkey Day treat I’m putting up the entirety of one of Gene Roddenberry’s most in-depth and possibly last interviews. Done for the Humanist Magazine in 1991, it’s only been available through an obscure Archive.org URL for a long time. This is my favorite Roddenberry interview because, even though he’s mostly the Roddenberry you expect, he’s also profound and fairly honest on some of his failings as a person. It also shows that, months from his death, on drugs, and suffering from a stroke two years earlier, the man’s faculties are all there. (more…)


Forgotten Roddenberry Reviews: Genesis II

genesisii-title01

Ever wonder what Gene Roddenberry was doing throughout the 1970’s besides hookers and blow? Find out in a new series of reviews being published on Trekmovie and written by yours truly. I’ll be starting off this week with Genesis II and working my way though Spectre, Planet Earth, The Questor Tapes, and Pretty Maids All in a Row.


Introduction to Your New Neuro-Synaptic Implant

Just in case you didn’t realize there was a link in Tuesday’s comic, here is the film Jin and Nadifa watched on that old Panasonic VHS machine. The narration was provided by the amazingly talented voice actress Tamara Ryan who nailed the entire spiel in one take.


Happy 50th Birthday, Enterprise

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of her first appearance on screen I’m finally posting the beauty shots I took of my 1/350 Enterprise model. These comps were created three years ago when I finished the model, but, for some reason, I never got around to posting them outside of the HobbyTalk forum where I shared my initial build-up experience. The resulting pictures were taken with an 18mm f/22 lens for sharpness from stem to stern. Each picture is a full size wallpaper, so click, download, and enjoy.

phasers-fire01

planet-orbit01

andromeda01

planet-orbit02

yonada01

tholianweb01

galileo7

apollohand01
And, as a bonus for getting to the bottom of the post, here’s a video of the kid checking the model out.


Nothing is New

Screen Shot 2016-09-03 at 1.38.29 PM

As the rhetoric surrounding immigration heats up beyond expensive, country spanning walls into warnings about taco trucks on every corner, I wanted to present another gentle reminder to my dear readers that Time’s Refuge was conceived nearly ten years ago. Not that I’m some kind of Nostradamus or anything, but that this kind of bullshit is nothing new. South Park’s “DEYTERKERJERBS!” meme, for instance, predates my first plot outline by three years.

America’s fear of invading cultures goes further back still. Remember when the Irish weren’t considered to be human? Don’t even get me started on the Jews. Every generation has a new target of xenophobia. I’m curious as to who we’ll be vilifying a few decades from now.


Maybe He’s Born With It. Maybe it’s Evil!

Star Trek was never immune to nasty tropes, despite it’s progressive veneer. The Klingons, for instance with their Fu Manchu facial hair, are very much designed to take advantage of the “Yellow Peril” motif sci-fi villains, including Ming the Merciless, had already been using for decades.

Another quick and easy short hand for an evil-doer is feminization. The effeminate gay man has been a trope for villains going back to Peter Lorre’s perfumed “Joel Cairo” in The Maltese Falcon and even further back than that. Disney uses this trope a lot in it’s animated features. Scar, Jafar, Governor Ratcliffe, and Captain Hook all have something in common besides their foppish, preening nature: eye makeup.

disney-villains01That’s something I noticed while studying the Kelvans for this comic. All the men are wearing thick eyeliner, painted eyebrows, and, I believe, white face powder to make those things and the natural pinkness of their lips really stand out. The lightening of the Kelvans’ skin is hard to notice in the recent DVD and Bluray releases because I don’t think the color correction crew knew it was there. In wide shots all the Kelvans are a good shade or two lighter than our heroes while in the closeups they are equally dark.

kelvanwhiteface01The eye makeup, however, is even more painfully apparent in high definition. The eyeliner effect had been used earlier in the series to differentiate evil Kirk from his good counterpart in The Enemy Within.

kelvanmen01
Obviously this is an offensive trope, but it’s one I’ve decided to retain in the comic because, if you haven’t noticed yet, my Kelvans aren’t villains and I find nothing inherently grotesque in a man wearing makeup. A lot of gorgeous men have donned eye makeup in recent years. It looks good on them and I think it looks good on our put-upon Andromedans. They may have been demonized in eyeliner, but they’ll be redeemed in it too. And they’ll look fabulous doing it.

menwitheyeliner01


My Captain Will Come for Me: Star Trek Beyond Review

13466187_10153797364343869_158494409681346802_o

Reader warning: Spoilers, including the film’s twist, are discussed below.

This is going to be a hard review to write. Not because Star Trek Beyond is a difficult movie to write about, but because there are certain realms of dialogue that are so spiteful and angry that I fear to enter into them, especially if my words wind up putting me in an ideological “camp” of some kind. The very notion that there are such things as nerd litmus tests is insane to me, but such are the times we live in.

First of all, I need to make some of my general thoughts about the new movies known, the main one being I don’t hate action in Star Trek. Star Trek is an action show. It’s right there in the original writer’s guide and I don’t know why people ever argue otherwise. This is the show that had William Shatner dodge explosives for twenty minutes and then spend the next forty fighting a lizard man with a bazooka. It’s the franchise who’s highest audience-rated episodes and movies – Doomsday Machine, The Wrath of Khan, Yesterday’s Enterprise – are all purely action based. Sure, they’re mildly smart action, but they’re action never-the-less.

I think this anti-action mentality was fostered by Gene Roddenberry after people proclaimed him some kind of genius futurist. He constantly complained that The Cage was rejected by NBC for being “too cerebral”. And even that episode features strangled monsters, laser canons, belly dancing, and an all out brawl with a giant with bad teeth and a funny helmet. The only Trek property with no substantial action in it is The Motion Picture, and most people hate that film.

So when people tell me their precious Star Trek has been ruined by J. J. Abrams including spectacular amounts of action I really have to laugh. Generally I liked 2009 at the time, thought very little of Into Darkness, and had really high hopes for this new film. I went in really, really, expecting to like it, but, gosh darn it, I didn’t. And it had nothing to do with the action bits. In fact, the action, while there was admittedly a bit too much of it, was not part of the problem at all. Blowing up the ship? It would have been better as a surprise, but no problem. Motorcycle riding holograms? Great. Halting a cloud of hive ships with the Beastie Boys? Moar!

The comedy and most of the protagonists were great. I liked Jaylah, even if her abandoned ninja mechanic schtick is basically a rehash of Rey from The Force Awakens. She would be great as part of the crew in the next next movie. I was happy to see McCoy have a larger part in the movie. In the previous installments I felt he sort of just went where the wind blew him. This time he’s active, thoughtful, and part of the solution. I like the meaty role, Simon Pegg gave himself, but I also think it’s great that when Jaylah was better than him at something he was humble enough to write himself out of the way.

I even liked Pine’s Kirk, who was one of the bigger problems for me in the previous films. Kirk’s mission to broker peace on an alien world is as old school Original Series fun as the volcano mission that was the only highlight of Into Darkness. While I’m not a wild fan of Kirk as a man being pressed, against his will, to be a leader, his arc made sense for his current characterization and paid off well. Certainly, Kirk’s boredom with ship life made more sense than what ever reason TMP Kirk had for taking a desk job. And, unlike Prime Kirk, nuKirk avoids that miscalculation and reclaims the big chair by the end. For me this shorter mid-career crisis arc is handled much better confined to one film than stretched out over four in the original movies.

The only thing that kind of fell flat for me as far as the hero arcs was the Kirk/Spock relationship. While they both are struggling rightly with their place on the ship and their futures in Star Fleet, they don’t really do so together. I didn’t get the sense at all that these guys were friends and that they would miss each other. I think if Spock had been in the opening planet scene getting out of a scrape with Kirk instead of Kirk going it alone this problem would have been solved better than Kirk just saying “We make a good team, right?” to Spock in the turbolift. You could say their adventures in the previous films were enough, but that’s never been the case in the film series. If you look closely every original cast film has a Kirk/Spock friendship reaffirmation moment at its beginning because when you’ve got 2-3 years between movies you can’t rely on memory.

What did not work at all, and what really makes me dislike this film was the actual story itself. Beyond was billed as a film that would challenge our notions of the Federation and at no time did it even remotely manage this. The whole thing hinges on this alien named Krall, who’s got an unstoppable army of hive ships, luring the Enterprise to his nebula encased planet in order to get the final piece of an ancient weapon. His beef with the Federation is that they’re too peaceful and need some conflict to make them stronger. The Federation is too aw-shucks-peaceful?! Golly gee wilikers, that’s some divisive criticism right there. Honestly, who’s going to argue the world needs more murder and war? Maybe Deep Space Nine fans. But on a whole that’s an easy premise to knock down. “Is the Federation too peaceful for it’s own good?” “No.”  “Ok, let’s kill that Krall guy.” So this big conflict that’s going to make us look differently at Gene’s utopia? It just doesn’t exist. Not once does Kirk or his crew doubt the morality of what they do.

What makes things worse is the third act twist. Krall isn’t an alien. He’s a human Star Fleet captain who’s been kept alive by alien vampire tech that’s transformed him into one of those aliens. Apparently he was a soldier who was pissed that there were no more wars to fight when he was finally given a command of his own. His pissiness worsened when his ship crashes on this nebula planet and no one comes to rescue him. So he and his crew(?) turn into aliens that want revenge for not being given a good war to fight and for not being found on a completely unreachable planet. I can’t believe I just wrote down a premise that dumb, and yet two very smart Hollywood-type people wrote that same sentence out and proclaimed it a winner.

There are always ways to criticize a good society. Maybe Krall’s world was harmed by the Franklin crash. Maybe his people were displaced by Federation colonialism. Maybe Krall’s world was savaged by noble wars the Federation fought in. There, that’s three sensible premises right off the top of my head. What Arena and Errand of Mercy told us – sometimes good societies do bad – this movie didn’t even seem to want to touch.

I’m also really disappointed that a movie that finally got the gays right was so utterly tone deaf in it’s climactic scenes. Krall, played by Idris Elba, has vampired enough humans that he’s mostly returned to his human form in time for him to go mano-a-mano with Kirk in the obligatory fist fight. I’m sorry, but I see way too many black people being beaten up by white authorities in real life  to be expected to cheer for it in a popcorn flick. This isn’t a problem of casting a person of color as a bad guy and I don’t think this scene was meant to be racist. It is, however, a problem that stems from having to maintain the 1960’s status quo of three white guys flying around in space, because, despite it’s diverse supporting cast and all my love for it, that’s really what the Original Series is. This is why recasting old roles in reboots is a good idea.

Over all, the film was entertaining, but it just left my head shaking too often to really enjoy. I’m not sure it’s something I’d watch on a regular basis, but I feel the same way about all Star Trek movies, none of which are particularly brilliant.

Stray thoughts and nit picks:
• The starbase was really spectacularly rendered, but, honestly, the whole concept of putting your action ready ships in a container is as dumb as putting them in a bay who’s only outlet can be blocked by an easily collapsible bridge… oh.
• As I said before, I liked the Beastie Boys solution but the radio waves didn’t just incapacitate the hive ships, it blew them up leaving me utterly confused. Also, why didn’t it destroy the ship Spock and McCoy were on?
• Speaking of Spock and McCoy, why can they be beamed onto an enemy ship but the pilot can’t be beamed out? Why couldn’t Krall be beamed out of his ship? Why couldn’t he or his weapon have been beamed out of the air pump at the end?
• Kirk’s motorcycle beam-in is a nifty trick, but when the camera pans up there’s no obvious path for him to ride into camp with. Only jagged rocks.
• Jaylah’s showdown with Manas would have been more profound if the guy had done anything interesting prior to it. As it is when she brought him up I went “who?”
• Why does Krall need a super weapon anyway? He’s got his unstoppable hive fleet. Why not just get into the starbase and wreck the place? Red Matter. Thalaron radiation. Death Stars. Star Killers. I’m tired of one button devices that kill everyone at once but take so much effort to deploy. In Real Life terrorists walk into a place and shoot it up instead of hiding the perfect time bomb and hoping it’s never found for a reason. Also, if you’re into war and conflict isn’t it impractical to kill everyone you want to fight in one go?
• What is up with the insane love all these new movies have for Star Trek: Enterprise? From “Maco” to the Franklin’s design and her crew’s uniforms, to the NX class on Marcus’s desk, to Admiral Archer’s beagle, the writers really want us to remember ENT is the only canon left. For Crom’s sake, guys! That show was so bad it was cancelled by a network that was made to showcase Star Trek and had practically nothing else to replace it. Move on, will ya?!
• And that leads us into another problem: too much technobabble. There were so many faux-scientific, multi-syllable terms that one might hear in Berman-era Trek it drove me a bit batty. That’s not how TOS sounded. Stop worshiping those newer shows while trying to write for the old ones. Or just reboot the new shows if that’s what you love so much.


I Accidentally the Comic

In case you’re not on Facebook, I wanted folks to know two strips were published today. The first one was supposed to be Friday’s comic. The second, posted later in the afternoon, was supposed to be today’s. Since the second one is backdated it’ll show up in your RSS feed with yesterday’s stuff. Sorry for the confusion!


Why George Takei is Wrong

stid-cho

John Cho, star of Star Trek: Beyond, announced today that Sulu is gay, shacking up with a dude, and raising a kid with him in the new movie. About fucking time, right? I mean, socially conscious Star Trek’s got it’s first officially gay character only 10 years after Will and Grace went off the air. Hell, All in the Family had a Very Special Gay Episode nearly 40 years ago. But who’s counting? This is a mitzvah. Hooray, Gay Sulu!

But there’s one person not at all happy with the change: LGBTQ über-mensch, George Takei. I’ll give you a second to sip some coffee and then proceed to spit it on your screen. Yes, George apparently wanted director Justin Lin to create a brand new gay character and lobbied against this change for several reasons. First of all, he didn’t want it to seem like his character, which he claims was straight (though the only evidence of that that I can think of is Sulu going on about how hot Lee Meriwether was while she was trying to kill him in That Which Survives) and if he’s shown as gay in Beyond that means his character was closeted all those years.

George’s other main issue is that Gene created a character that was straight (again, little evidence for this) and we should respect the intentions of The Creator. I can see George’s perspective on the first issue somewhat as it is his character and he played it a certain way. Closeted Sulu is bad. But the second issue – that Roddenberry’s wishes should be honored – is not only insane, but sets a bad precedent in a world of continual remakes and reboots.

Let’s talk about Gene Wesley Roddenberry for a second, shall we? He was a homophobe. He said so himself in one of his last interviews and he apologized for it along with being a lecherous womanizer. Here’s the quote:

My attitude toward homosexuality has changed. I came to the conclusion that I was wrong. I was never someone who hunted down “fags” as we used to call them on the street. I would, sometimes, say something anti-homosexual off the top of my head because it was thought, in those days, to be funny.

Man, I hate to have been George, William Ware Theiss, or David Gerrold in those days. There is no reason why we should abide by the intentions of 1960’s era Gene. If we did that then any gay character at all would be out of the question. I’m going to take Gene at his word that he changed in his old age and assume he’d be OK with a gay Sulu.

Now, let’s deal with the idea that characters are sacred icons that cannot be revamped in later incarnations. Considering how little original material Hollywood gives us it would be impossible for us to ever get any representation beyond what 1930s-1980’s American politics allowed. That would mean the same straight, white, male protagonists again and again and again in reboot after reboot forever. This is the reasoning that keeps Donald Glover from playing Peter Parker (Don’t give me that Miles Morales crap. No one in the general public knows who that is). This is also an argument used in the gaming world where even changing a character’s gender in an unofficial ROM hack is reason to have a tantrum (read the comments). So to hear it from Takei is kind of disheartening. Chucking this mentality gave us a Hispanic Adama, and a lady Starbuck and Boomer in the new Battlestar Galactica. That show was much better for it. So why wouldn’t Star Trek be better off with a little change up as well?

If Hollywood won’t make any new properties and the old properties it remakes have to keep their original cast’s demographics then we will never see people of color, women, or LGBTQ characters in places of prominence let alone leading rolls in genre properties. It just won’t happen. So hooray, lady Starbuck! Hooray, Black Spiderman! And three cheers for gay Sulu! Hell, where’s my omnisexual Kirk? It’s the 21st century. What kind of boring character only sleeps with women these days?


Let’s Take a Moment to Acknowledge Orlando

I’m a social critic by nature. Anyone reading this comic probably knows that by now. As a writer and artist I often have the liberty to cloak my messages in analogy and metaphor. Tell a story and let the audience sort it out is the mantra of the satirist. But there are some situations that require the blunt force of plain words. The mass murder of so many of our friends, loved ones, and fellow human beings at the Pulse nightclub this weekend is one of those situations. I’d like to break down the facts:

• This was a hate crime pure and simple. It was perpetrated by an acknowledged homophobe at a known gay dance club and nearly, if not all, the victims were from the LGBT community. Any argument that this was an attack on all of us is pure nonsense. I, as a hetero cis-male, may feel a similar amount of outrage, but I don’t live with the existential fear and anxiety that I see my LGBT friends suffering through right now.

• This massacre does not exist in a vacuum. Every proposition opposing gay marriage, every bathroom law attacking transgender people, every school that wouldn’t allow gay kids to dance together at prom, every hillbilly who’s made into a hero for not serving LGBT people in their places of business, every hateful thing said by certain politicians and faith leaders led to this crime.

• This is not solely an act of Islamic terrorism. The American Christian right has pushed and pushed and pushed for the dehumanization of the LGBT community all over the world. At the same time this Muslim man shot up the Pulse club, a white, Christian man was on his way to a gay pride event in Los Angeles with a car full of guns and explosives. This attack was a product of our society as a whole, not just one facet.

• This senseless blood bath would not have been possible without our legal ability to purchase a weapon meant for war that has the ability to mow down dozens of people at a time. It just wouldn’t. We have allowed our gun laws to get so lax that a man can publicly pledge allegiance to any known terrorist group, including ISIS or the KKK, and still legally purchase a weapon of war that can mow down dozens of people at a time.

So let’s cut the bullshit folks. No more prayers. No more sad-face emojis. No more comments of support. It’s time to do something. Call your representative and tell them you’ve have enough. Enough homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic distractions. Enough laying the blame on everything but the weapons used and the crazy people who were allowed to get them. Call them, write to them, make them see that you’re not taking this shit anymore. Don’t know how? You’ll find a link to identify your representative and their contact information below. Blue Staters, I’m talking to you too. Your leaders need to grow a goddamn backbone so make sure to write them as well.

Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 2.14.43 PM