Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Boldly Going Where Everyoneís Been Before

Regular readers will by now have figured out that Iím a big olí Science Fiction Geek. Now, us SFGs come in all manner of shapes and sizes, from the bookish, quiet hard-SFGs who can devourer whole mass market paper pack editions of the Uplift Series in one sitting to the socially inept, Hellboy T-shirt wearing Comix-SFGs who can quote Jack Kirby and know the episode numbers of old Simpsonís episodes. There are the Tolkienites, who have had mainstream exposure of late, thanks to the admirable work of Peter Jackson (and company) and the scary and all too dour Randroid-Heinelin SFGs who stalk cyberspace like some cyborg with half-baked political science theses programmed into the computer chip implanted in their brains.

Iím none of these. Iím more amorphous.

I like Neil Gaimanís books because he can write convincing, psychologically compelling characters but has no allegiance to realism. In other words, heís fun to read and doesnít take himself or his ideas seriously.

Much to my wifeís dismay, I like to watch Godzilla movies. Even I canít explain why, though I suspect it has something to do with primal sci-fi archetypes involving atomic bombs, dinosaurs and moth worshipping fairies.

Robert Anton Wilsonís brand of esoteric conspiracy theory, politics, the occult and scatological humor has definitely influenced the way I look at the world and Iím forever indebted to him (and the late Robert Shea) for writing the single greatest science fiction novel of all time, Illuminatus!.

Tangentially related to the Godzilla fixation is my love of old fifties B Sci-Fi movies such as The Day the Earth Stood Still, Anything with Ray Harryhausan monsters, like Jason and the Argonauts, Sinbad movies and The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.

And like the stereotypical Librarian-Author I like to pretend I loathe television, while in reality I actually do watch some things on the tube and find them enjoyable. I grew up watching Star Trek TOS with my father on Sunday afternoon. Following the adventures of the only true captain of the Enterprise was the weird as fuck 70ís Buck Rogers (I think my first sexual feeling was looking at the luminous lip gloss that Erin gray wore as Capt. Wilma Deering wore) and of course, there was the incomparable Battlestar Galactica.

Who could forget the dramatic brass thunder of the classical music played over the shots of starry nebulas, those wonderfully feathered hairdos and sub par special effects? The concept of the series was pretty good but even then, at age five, I could tell that it wasnít living up to its potential.

The new miniseries changes that. I was really impressed with not just the production value but the little details they added, like giving the Vipers maneuvering jets and machine guns instead of lasers and characters with real names, relegating the goofy new age names to military call signs. The characters are much more rounded as well. I like the understated antagonism between Apollo and Adama and not bothered one bit in making Starbuck a woman. She has a great energy about her, a real cute, dykey quality that you donít often get on television. Upgrading the Cylons was a must and adding in the humanoid twist is pretty cool, even if not too terribly original (but easy to overlook once Number Six walks on screen. Thereís just something about leggy, blond homicidal robotsÖ)

The most interesting change though is Gaius Baltar. No longer a two dimensional, sociopathic fop with a chrome fetish, heís a character with genuine moral ambiguity, another rarity in TV Land. He may be full of himself and an asshole, but heís not evil, just a dupe who fell in love with a Cylon. So now, heís stuck between his desire to better his peopleís lives and save his own skin. This is definitely territory the old Battlestar never covered, even with Lorne Green leading them through the galaxy.

I really hope the new Battlestar Galactica gets picked up as a series as Iím in desperate need of something to replace Enterprise now that it is securely orbiting Planet Suck.

Which brings me to the Star Trek problem. And yes, it really is a problem. As goofy as The Original Series was, it is worlds above and beyond the stale piece of rehash that is Enterprise. And comparing that piece of space flotsam to TNG or the later DS9 is laughable. Enterprise is even worse than Voyager, if you can imagine such a thing.

Now, when I heard about the concept of Enterprise, I was excited. How could the idea of a Star Trek prequel not get any SFG salivating? Picture it:

Itís seven years before Captain Kirk takes command of the Enterprise. Captain Christopher Pike, having made a name for himself during the recently-ended Romulan War is put in command of the brand new flagship of Star Fleet, the Enterprise (yes, the original NCC 1701. No A, D, E or X). The crew could even be rounded out with the Enterprise regulars like Mayweather, Yoshi, Reed and even Trip (as annoying as he is). And though Jolene Blaylock fills out a catsuit nicely, she has to be the single most emotional Vulcan in the Alpha Quadrant. And a lousy actress. So I say replace her with a young Spock, played by James Marsters (Spike from Buffy. Come on, picture him in a Vulcan wig, with the ears. You know heíd be perfect for it).

And what with Romulans, Andorians, the Gorn and a hundred new species that could be dreamed up along the way, thereís no reason to rape continuity by having them run up against the Borg or Ferengi or the Cardasians, no matter how amusing it would be. Is it too much to ask that the writers try to push the boundaries a little and do something new?

Now, true, we already know the fate of Captain Pike, as weíve all seen the Cage but this would prevent the writers with an interesting challenge, to have the end of the series dovetail with that classic episode.

Well, a geek can dream. And Brandon Bragga, if youíre reading this, I can send sample pages. All I need is twenty four hours to write them.

Adapted from comments placed over at Dohiyi Mir


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