22 August 2005

Enterprise: Season 4 on DVD

Manny Coto was given the unenviable task of trying to save Star Trek: Enterprise from its creators. After 3 rather lukewarm seasons, both Berman and Braga stepped away from the show (though Berman would go on record saying that he still over-saw the day-to-day production of the show). The Xindi arc, while it had problems, worked as a story tool. But instead of doing a season long story, Coto decided they would do mini-arcs, some about 3 episodes long. This gave the chance to flesh out good stories -plus it saved on the budget as sets could reused. Also, the show would now be filmed in HD video to save more money, and would run only 22 episodes (all Treks since the TNG have run 26 episodes, but with the last two seasons of ENT, it would be reduced to 24 and the after mentioned 22). Judith Reeves-Stevens and her husband Garfield -respected long-time Star Trek novelists -were signed on to help, while Paramount would go after some casting stunts (Peter Weller and Joanna Cassidy) in hopes of showing fans the new direction the series was taking. The biggest stunt was bring back Brent Spiner. The former TNG actor was signed onto play Arik Soong, whose's ancestors would go on to create Data. The three episode arc explored how Soong was trying to create better humans with embryos left from the Eugenics War. While it was clever stunt, and gave long-time fans a feeling that Coto was trying to tie-in this prequel into TOS, the story itself was not that interesting, and plot points on why the there are embryos left from time period (something that could've be given a good moral argument) are quickly glossed over for needless violence. And once again, the white arrows point to the obvious conclusion ruined the whole story (which can damage any prequel style of storytelling). The Vulcan story line by the Reeves-Stevens almost gave me hope. While it contained plot holes, the 3-part story was filled with Vulcan intrigue -giving us, perhaps, and explanation as to why these Vulcans are so different from the ones we would eventually see on TOS. Still, the show failed on a couple of other stories, mainly the 2-part opener (which is not Coto's fault, as he forced to figure out how to get out of the corner that Berman and Braga painted the crew into) along with bland transporter story Daedalus, the overused aliens-are-observing-the-crew-again of The Observer Effect, the Bound episode (which still showed the series was never ever going to treat women with any sort of dignity) and the 2-part Mirror universe story, In a Mirror, Darkly. For those who say that the story was just a good romp with the cast able to chew the scenery, I say that was its problem. It should fit into the storyline of the Mirror universe that TOS did and what would be continued years later on DS9. In the end, it impacted nothing. That was what was wrong with the franchise, of course. It's impact on mainstream audience was gone. It had lost 10 million viewers since its launch and after being dumped to Fridays, its doom was sealed. The final episode, written by series creators Berman and Braga (and rumored to have been penned a year earlier when it looked like the show was not returning for a 4th year), was a horrible story which featured the return of Jonathan Frakes as Riker and Marina Sirtis as Troi and is set within TNG's fifth season episode The Pegasus. It felt so forced and while I enjoy Frakes and Sirtis, who have so much chemistry together (something both Voyager and ENT lacked with its cast), it was a real disservices to ENT crew. Tucker's death was meaningless and was a sad commentary on how far the franchise had diverged from its original beginnings. So 7 bad stories out of 22. Not bad in some peoples books. But Trek needed 22 excellent, high rated episodes to come back for a 5th season. But, it was never going to come. In February 2005 (during the production of Demons and Terra Prime), word came that UPN was cancelling the show (which surprised no hardcore fan, as most expected this would be the shows final season). But the season was a turn-around from the three previous three, and Coto deserved, perhaps, a chance to continue with a fifth season. Perhaps then, maybe some explanation of Temporal Cold War - a thread of the series since its beginning and unceremoniously dropped (or forgotten) by season three -would've come forward, as we are left with never finding out who Future Guy really was. Still, at the end of the day, Trek was never going to be saved with letter writing campaigns, as UPN was trying to lure a female audience who liked its urban comedies and American's Next Top Model reality show. Demographically, Trek did not fit in with who they were trying to get. Like it or not, there was the true reality. Could've Trek been brought to another network, like Sci Fi? I doubt it, even if cable network had room for it. The franchise is expensive and even moving the entire production to Vancouver they would've still would've needed to cut the budget further. Plus, Trek was the butt of many jokes, and the network heads felt the show was no longer a viable entity to invest in. Plus, Trek did need to rest after 18 years on TV. It needs to heal the schism in the fan base that Berman and Braga created. It needs to go back and understand why most of TOS 79 episodes still stand well today. And while DS9 will always be seen as the Red-headed stepchild of all the Trek series, it still remains the most creative and I believe if Trek is return anytime to soon, it will need to learn from DS9 and even Sci Fi's remake of Battlestar Galactica. The allegory tales have always proven to be Trek's best way of telling a story. BG -a huge post 9/11 tale -has shown what the Law & Order franchise has been doing for years -that you can get good ratings from tales ripped from the headlines. Trek has only made minor attempts over Voyager's 7-year run and Enterprise's four-year run to appeal to the fans who liked those stories. In abandoning its fundamental principles, it doomed it self to mockery and found out that while fans will put up with jeering from non-fans, it will not tolerate it from creators of Trek itself.

Enterprise: Season 3 on DVD

Series star Jolene Blalock -who identified herself as a lifelong Star Trek fan - has said that the failure of this series was because "The stories lacked intriguing content. They were boring." She felt that the early scripts violated facts already established in other franchise shows and complained that the show substituted revealing costumes for character development. "The audience isn't stupid," she protested. For year three, Brannon Braga and Rick Berman decided that they would finally address some of the fan complaints that the series lacked any sort of continuity and launched a season long arc about Earth threatened by a mysterious race called the Xindi -who were, for all intents and purposes, organized much like DS9's Dominion. Through the next 26 episodes (which then would be cut to 24 due to faltering ratings), Archer and his crew would search the galaxy for the Xindi in hopes of preventing them from destroying Earth. While ambitious in a year before the return of serialized drama, the series quickly fell into the same pattern as the previous two seasons: poorly written stories that said nothing, acting that made most soap stars look like Oscar winners, and an almost F You! to fans of TOS, TNG and DS9. The show was not grabbing people viscerally, as freakier aliens, lapses in logical story telling, and lack of character growth were taking over. No one, including me, felt a need to rush home and see this show, because it was saying nothing. There was a message there, I'm sure, but it was buried under technobabble and increasing desire to hurt women. I'm often remember Trek motion pictures 1,2,3,4 and 6 because the story had revelance to today. Enterprise missed that boat, even though the Xindi arc was a mushy allegory about 9/11. Archer's moral compass was thrown, but ultimatley, he never any long reaching effects. Some will say a good leader has no doubts, but Star Trek tried to show you through the years that long after an unpopular action, the capatin still might feel pangs of regret. But not Jonthan Archer. He was tough as nails guy. Pfft, I say, as he became a tool of a jingonistic Rick Berman. Still, one thing that came from this season was Manny Coto. He tried to return a sense of balance, but because UPN were more concerned with who was watching Trek instead of paying attention to who wasn't, this series was doomed. And while a letter campaign was started to save the show, in the end, it was not that would give this series one more season. UPN was going to cancel the show after season three, and then Paramount -home of the Godfather franchise -made UPN a deal they could not resist. Cutting the $1.5 million fee UPN paid Paramount to air the show to $875,000 made UPN reconsider airing the show. It would return for 22 more shows, but from that moment on, no matter how much Coto improved the show, Enterprise was doomed. The 10.5 millions fans had dwindled down to 2.5. And the logic that escaped the story telling for so many years, pointed out that if no one is watching, why air it?

Enterprise: Season 2 on DVD

With the second season, ENT continued to anger many long-time fans as Archer and his crew tangled with the Borg, the Ferengi and the Romulans long before TOS and TNG did. The back door excuse that continuity was maintained was that the crew never learned of their names (though the Borg issue remains very muddled). Brannon Braga -who was asked by a fan to explain the Borg episode Regeneration - seemed to confirm that this Trek was a complete Reboot of the franchise or a Star Trek that occurs in an alternate universe. There is something called Many Worlds, a parallel time theory that contends that most historical occurrences, such as the signing of Magna Carta and what not, did happen only that principles might have been slightly different.And that essentially, since Star Trek: First Contact, the entire franchise now exists in this parallel timeline. Essentially, what happens is the Borg and TNG Enterprise journeys into the past and changes history. Here, then, reality splits into two versions -one road depicting the changed history, and the other road is were the original reality exists before the change.In the end, it is the only way to explain the Borg episode and Star Trek: Enterprise. Had Braga and Berman basically thought this out, maybe I could've forgiven them for the drivel they put out for three seasons until Paramount and UPN let Manny Coto take over the last season (which has been the best since DS9). I'm sad to say that Trek really ended with DS9. All others, have just been pale imitations.

Enterprise comes to DVD: Season 1

As with Voyager before, Enterprise repeated the same errors. At its core, the show had promise. With very little of early Federation days nailed down, it seemed like a good idea to go back and tell the story. But instead of sticking with some of the canon that did exist, Brannon Braga and Rick Berman rebooted the entire Star Trek franchise, which angered about 10 million viewers. Season one continued the ever increasing schism between the fans. And while I liked Bakula on Quantum Leap, he -like Kate Mulgrew before him - was woefully miscast. The supporting cast, with the exception of Jolene Blalock, showed their limitations as actors (when they got lines). The stories were mostly retreds of previous Trek episodes and while both Berman and Braga were aware of the issues of continuity, they felt that if the adhered to it too much, then the show could not work. They continued to believe that Trek viewers -at least the newer, younger ones (and, admittedly, the group advertisers like) - were only concerned about the how weird the story was and if it had half naked females parading around. This misstep by them, by fulling ignoring the fans who had watched TOS, TNG and DS9, was increasing ENT's end week by week. Paramount can be blamed also, for not stepping in sooner. Berman and Braga's now almost incestuous relationship with Trek caused then not to see the forest for the tree's. Had they realized that fan base was deeply divided, and had they analyzed who was not watching Trek anymore instead of small band who were, maybe something could've been done. Then again, maybe its doom was already sealed by the time Insurrection came out in 1998. And then there is the fan base. They too can be blamed for this, as this schism did not begin with ENT. It really started with VOY. As a network show, VOY had different standards to live up too than it's syndicated brothers, TNG and DS9. Racier plots and emphasis on action and violence became the criterion, while a device called the Temporal Reset Button was used week after week. And while TRB is a useful tool, but to rely on it for every episode got you caught in a never ending loop of Easter Peep type stories; all full of air with no substance. Plus, people who were in there teens or early 20's when TNG premiered were not 15 years older, wiser and now considered less desirable by the advertisers. ENT was, I guess, designed for the guys and girls who were the same age as the ones who saw the first season of TNG. But these new groups of kids, now brought up on a diet of science fiction being everywhere, felt Trek was a dinosaur. So all that remained, in the end, was a few really dedicated fans who felt that, yes the show was not as good as it could be, but it still needed to stay on because it was Star Trek. I will concur to a point, but that's mostly because I hate reality shows and procedural dramas that have overtaken the air waves. Give me a good science fiction story that challenges the mind, then I'll watch. I once read that science fiction is a dangerous genre, for it can be seem as anti-Christian and anti-establishment. It brings up thought provoking ideas and presents a possible world were there is no hatred, no poverty, and no religion. It's the possibilities that scare people. But even as Star Trek has framed a lot of peoples lives, such as wonderful idea of a utopian world and taught us some good values, it has entertained us for nearly 40 years. Both VOY and ENT might be considered entertaining shows, but they are NOT the next step in Star Trek's evolutionary life that TNG and DS9 were.

20 August 2005

The Sci Fi Bzz

At first, it looked like Nicole Kidman had signed on for the third big screen remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers - a tale about an epidemic of extraterrestrial origins invading the bodies of innocent people. Sounded like a remake to most. But now, Warner Bros is going all out to tell the press that this is an "original sci fi" idea. The trade papers have taken great pains to emphasize that while Warner’s initially commissioned David Kajganich's script, and that the project was intended as the latest in a long string of Body Snatchers remakes, somewhere along the line, it became something new and different. Now just simply called Invasion (with no relation to ABC’s new drama), it will be helmed by German director Oliver Hirschbiegel (Deadfall). Kidman will play a Washington DC based psychiatrist who uncovers a conspiracy when she discovers people are beginning to change, and some how she and her son hold the key to preventing an alien invasion. Jack Finney wrote the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers as a magazine serial and then turned it into a novel that legendary director Don Siegel made into the classic film in 1953. In that version, Siegel spun the story as an allegory of McCarthy-era fears of communism. The 1978 remake, directed by Phillip Kaufman, cooked up the tale as a commentary on pop psychology and New Age cults, while the mostly forgotten 1993 version (also produced by Warner Bros.) directed by Abel Ferrara worked in the themes of AIDS.
Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios appear to be trying to fix their schism after all. The two companies have had a contentious relationship of late -as Pixar was looking to make more money off their distribution deal with Disney. Their last film is currently scheduled to be the delayed Cars. The Mouse House surprised many when they announced they were going forward with a Toy Story 3 with or without Pixar. But insiders are now speculating that the two companies will come to some sort of deal to keep them both in the money. Pre-Production on the film has already began as Disney already has summer 2007 penciled in for its release. Here’s the story: After a major malfunction, Buzz Lightyear is recalled to a toy factory in Taiwan. Woody and the gang have to hightail it halfway around the world to save Buzz before he dissembled forever.
With the WB moving Smallville to a very competitive Thursday time slot, they seem to be aware of the uphill climb the show will have, so to help the ratings, the network will bring in guest stars sure to make long time fans happy. Already announced is former Buffy and Angel star James Marsters, who’ll have a recurring role as Brainac and Tom Wopat -John Schneider’s former co-star on The Dukes of Hazzard - will also guest star. Now, the WB will have Dean Cain guest star also. The former star of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, will appear sometime in November.
New Line Cinema has tapped up-and-coming British director Anand Tucker to helm the first installment of Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials. Tucker is also the director of the upcoming fall film Shopgirl (though it was filmed in 2003), based on the novel by funny man Steve Martin. Chris Weitz, who adapted the book, was slated to direct but withdrew in December. For the past half year, more than four dozen filmmakers have been considered for the job with the studio finally locking in Tucker. With The Golden Compass, this will be New Lines boldest and biggest project since The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The long shelved Westworld remake -which went into to turnaround when Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California - appears to be finally going forward. While the governator is not attached, Warner Bros. and producer Jerry Weintraub have signed The Cell director Tarsem Singh. No production date has been set, considering no screenplay or writer is yet attached.
New rumors coming out of Britain concerning the filming of Doctor Who’s second season indicate that Glasgow, Scotland born/Joliet, Illinois raised actor John Barrowman -who played the bisexual rogue Time Agent Captain Jack for the final 6 episodes of the first season, and who was scheduled to return later in series two - will not be returning at all, apparently. No word was given for this change, however, the openly gay actor has seen his stock go up since his appearance on the show and he is in demand -he’ll be seen in the musical remake of the Tony Award winning The Producers this Christmas. Also as mentioned last time, Anthony Stewart Head -Giles form Buffy the Vampire Slayer- had signed for a guest-star role in the upcoming season. Now it appears he may -just may -be the new Master, a rival Time Lord, who is the evil to the Doctor’s good.

12 August 2005

Peter Jennings

Smoking did not fully kill my father 37 years ago, but it sure didn't help. In July 1968, a few days after having a canerous lung removed, my dad died at age 33. I was five, going to turn 6 in just 2 months. I remember very little of that time. I have flashes of my dad and memories, but I often think most of those memories have been implanted by my Uncle, who obviously respected and loved my father. I treasure those memories he tells of my dad, for he knew just as well as my mother.
Still, as the US reacts to the death of ABC news man Peter Jennings from lung cancer, I cannot wonder why people still want to smoke. True, I've had a few cigarettes, but never got addicted to them. I mean, really, I should be the last person to smoke.
Jennings legacy might be that he gave the incentive for others to quit. Even as I hope none of my nieces and nephews take it up. With my brother-in-law now dying from lung cancer -and who continues to smoke - I ask myself if all the stress that is going on in their lives, especially Steven (as he continues his angsty ways), will he sucumb to it?
The death of Jennings made me feel sad, though I suspected back in April when he signed off, he would never return to his hosting duties. I know what lung cancer can do, and for guys, it's much more difficult to survive it. But as a fan of ABC news (both nationally and locally here in Chicago), I will miss him. He did have a freindly face and manner that seemed to escape both Brokaw and Rather. His voice was always strong, filled with emotion. I watched his non-stop coverage of 9/11 and still remember his 24 hr stint bringing in the year 2000. While the Right will call him a liberal of the most extreem (I remember one Right-winger who pointed out that during the Clinton impeachment stuff, Jennings called a senator an "extreme right-winger" while making no mention of Edward Kennedy's sometimes way too the Left ideals), but I felt he tried to be honest. Sometimes, he failed. Still, as journalist, he was far superior to any of the entertainers that make up FOXNEWS. That might be because he was a journalist. People like Anne Coulter and Sean Hannity are silly entertainers who by hook or by crook, got on TV just because they had opposing views just for the sake of having them.
Rest in peace, Peter.
We hardly knew you.

05 August 2005


Moving is a pain. I suppose that's why I lived here in this apartment for 10 years. As year 11 began in July, as I began to lose the unemployment checks, as I was forced to return to Borders full-time, I began to wonder if moving was not a good idea. After all, everything I talk to Bill in California, he kept mentioning how much he wanted me out there. I mean, I planted the seed back in February, but I guess he really warmed to the idea. To be honest, I never thought it would happen. I mean I thought I would find a job and then the silly idea would be done with.

But as the months passed and no job was gotten, I thought maybe after 18 year in the book business, maybe it was my first, best destiny to remain in it. Of course, I have no desire to run my own Borders, unless I can do it the way it should. I don't mind being fiscally responsible, but I would also be more flexible in rules. Borders wants an ambassadors as manager -someone who will capitulate to all, even when sometimes, the customer is wrong. I work well with staff, knowing that there is a line between work and games.
And I know that no matter what I do, no matter how happy and gee wiz I am, the customer still will treat us like dirt. Customer survey's claim we are rude, but they don't see what mess we have to clean up after when they decide they are too lazy to put away the magazines they read. Yes, we are hired to help, and keep the store in ship shop shape, but we are not maids. They would not like me coming into their homes and offices and messing them up, why should they do it to ours?
Anyway, I've decided to move. I've asked for a transfer to a new Borders in Rancho Cucamunga, about 15 miles from were Bill lives in La Verne. I foresee no issues that will prevent me from getting this transfer, but I will be working Christine to make sure that when I leave here in a few weeks, I will have a job.
I'm scared, but I know this is the right time. I've wanted to return to California since the early 1990's. Perhaps this was all destiny?