Category Archives: Commentary

ALIEN: COVENANT REIMAGINES A FAMILIAR EVIL AS A NEW VILLAIN FOR OUR TIMES… AND IT’S NOT THE ALIEN

Warning: two-year-old article is two-years-old. Two-year-old spoilers ahead.

Just in case you have been living on the barren wastes of LV-426, Alien: Covenant is the 2017 follow up to Ridley Scott’s 2012 Alien non-prequel, Prometheus. A film described by the filmmaker himself as having the DNA of Alien while being its own animal, Prometheus promised to explore the origins of the beloved Alien he first introduced to moviegoers nearly forty years earlier. Instead, it left confused viewers with more questions than answers. In contrast, Covenant is full of solutions.

Regardless, the film is somewhat puzzling in its own right. In a conscious attempt to rectify Prometheus’ conundrums, Covenant leaves almost no mystery. It is rife with exposition, and while many of the reveals are intriguing, most of them are told rather than shown to us. At the end of the film, we are still left with one question:

Why?

In Covenant, David has taken it upon himself to murder his creators, as well as their creators before them. In the process, he has taken to tinkering with the xenovirus and hybridization of the creatures that are the result of it in order to create the perfect killing machine.

But again, why?

alien-covenant-official-full-trailer-final-ridley-scott

ANDROIDS DREAM OF XENOMORPHIC SHEEP

David is not only narcissistic but psychopathic to boot. His confusion over the works of Shelley and Byron show his programming is corrupted, his mind unraveled. In addition to the Engineers, he murdered Shaw and experimented with her bodydespite proclaiming his love for her and remarking repeatedly on her kindness. Murderous androids are not unknown in the Alien franchise. Ash begat Davidor is it the other way around? Additionally, the themes in Covenant mirror those of Scott’s other masterpieceBlade Runnerbut with a Shyamalan twist.

Ridley has suggested that Blade Runner and Alien might inhabit the same universe. In both franchises, human replicasin Alien machines, in Blade Runner, more organic alternativesstruggle to come to terms with their creators. In David’s case, barring permanent damage, he will live foreversomething that Blade Runner’s Roy Batty would have coveted.

It is this longevity that makes David as arrogant as he is, that makes him consider himself more god than his gods or their gods as well. David is far more than mortal. David is something far more sinister.

The Covenant’s interim captain, Oram, tells David that he saw the face of the devil at a very young age. Ironic that he then allows the devil that is David to lure him to his own demise. If the Engineer’s homeworld (or colony, it is never made clear) was indeed paradise before the xenovirus altered it, then David is indeed the serpent in the garden.

top.05

THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS

The original title for Covenant was to be Paradise Lost, named after Milton’s 17th-century epic poem. In the poem, Satan is a sinister yet somewhat sympathetic protagonist, determined to take what he considers an arrogant God down a notch. He manages to corrupt mankind, but his coup in heaven is ultimately put down by God.

In Alien: Covenant, the devil has won.

David has positioned himself as Lucifer–and he and his Xenoshis fallen angel followers–-have not only beaten god (the Engineers) but have begun the corruption of mankind as well.

Covenant is the story of Paradise Lost with another twistSatan and his hordes have already defeated god, only to find themselves trapped in the Garden of Eden. Here, it is man’s entrance into the paradise that provides Satan with his means of escape, and the chance to bring his corruption and demons to a new world.

fass

AN IDLE ANDROID MAKES FOR A DULL ANDROID

David, in this manner, is responsible for the entire Alien saga. We live in an age when villains often serve as protagonists, offering an alternative view on our belief systems. Like Satan in Paradise Lost, David is a fully developed and relatable figure, despite his obvious Machiavellian tendencies. Also like Satan, he offers his brother android, Walter, a choice postulated from Paradise Losteither reign in Hell or serve in Heaven. When the film ends with David in control of the Covenant, you aren’t sure if you should cheer or jeer.

Prior to the Covenant’s arrival in paradise, David wasn’t just sitting on his hands. After murdering mankind’s gods, he experimented with the Engineers’ xenovirus for a decade to create that perfect organism. It’s not an easy task. The virus created by the Engineers mutates life into obscene parodies of it, but there is no rhyme nor reason to its transformations. In Alien, the transition from egg to chestburster to adult Xeno was logical, for all its alien-ness. This is not the case with the Engineer’s black goothe creatures it creates in Covenant are very different than the random permutations in Prometheus. David appears as intrigued by the xeno-virus’ chaotic nature as the audience is perplexed by it. His experiments seem determined to make sense of and bring order to it. And despite initial appearances, the fruits of his labors are not as alien as you might hope.

alien-covenant-2017-movie-13010-1

ALIEN BESTIARY

Call them what you will–protomorphs, neomorphs, ultramorphsthe aliens appearing in Covenant are animals. They react like a rage-filled tiger and are not the cold calculating stalkers from the original three Alien films. As such, they are easier to kill. Take the film’s climactic scene of the new “alien” being tricked into the truck hangar on the Covenant. The beast hesitates upon entering the room. As soon as it realizes female protagonist Daniel’s location, it hisses like a rabid animal and leaps toward her in a frenzy. The alien we know from the past would have tilted its head and blended into the shadows creating an element of fear and terror rather than shock.

Much to the die-hard fans chagrin, the alien-ness of its behavior is gone.

Behind the scenes, there is a reason for the difference in behavior. As it turns out, the way the Xeno in Covenant moves is exactly the way Ridley had originally wanted the Alien to act.

“…when Dallas first sees [the alien in the air ducts],” Scott told Cinefex, it [was going to be] standing on the roof of this giant wind tunnel, suspended upside down. Then I was going to have it roar down the tunnel toward him, running and jumping full-circle around the walls.”

They couldn’t make it workthe problem was in the limitations of the suit. There was little flexibility in the costume, and that led to the deliberate and, quite frankly, alien movements of the original Alien.

“Ridley was forced to stage around the physical awkwardness of it,” Alien writer/creator Dan O’Bannon said in an interview with Fantastic Films, “but the visual appearance of power and grace was retained, quite striking.”

57cAlien screen test, 1979

One must wonder if the creature would have become as iconic had it behaved more animalistic than just odd.

From an in-universe perspective, it appears David hasn’t quite achieved his goals yethis alien still has some growing to go.

428178_acb5a41aec6ac82b7e8bf3d1a28e64471

Unlike H.R. Giger’s original biomechanical nightmare, there is no mechanical influence on any of the creatures in Prometheus and Covenant. While the final creature in the new film does have a carapace, its body appears to be all flesh and acid. Its size and position of its dorsal tubes are different than the original Xeno, as well. Nor does it have metal teeth.

It’s not the same animal.

David’s been working towards the perfect killing machine, but he isn’t there yet. One might postulate that the key to successand the creation of the Alien we all know and love, is to create a synthesis of flesh and machineif David himself must somehow meld with his creations to achieve their ultimate form.

An evil android’s work is never done.

xpccttw5-e1495023374315

JUST LIKE THE CREATURES APPEARING IN THE FILM, ALIEN COVENANT IS A NEW ANIMAL

Ultimately, the answer to the question ‘why’ is a bitter drive to be a better god than God himself. It is what drove Satan in Paradise Lostthe idea that he could govern heaven better than God could. David wants to create life that destroys the life that created him.

Ridley Scott has broken new ground with Alien: Covenant. On the surface, however, it is ground that the fanbase had preferred left undisturbed. Covenant is not a horror film despite the promotional material promising that it was returning Alien to its roots. In many ways, it felt like a space adventure film that just so happened to have our favorite Xenos along for the ride. This is not necessarily a bad thing, simply an unexpected one. While there were many enjoyable moments in Covenantnotably David and his machinationsI found myself less than satisfied upon the first viewing. Once it was available for home consumption, however, I saw it in a different light. It’s not the first Alien film to delve into different genres. While the original Alien was space horror, Cameron’s follow-up was, in fact, a space action flick, the third movie was apocalyptic, the fourth a dark comedy (shudder), and Prometheus was about faith.

The beauty of the Alien saga has always been its ability to support multiple genres and Covenant is no exception. It opens up new possibilities for the Alien Universe. It may not be the Alien film we wanted, but depending on what comes next, it may be the Alien film the series needed.

—Andrew E. C. Gaska

An author, designer, game-writer, and graphic novelist with twenty years of industry experience, Gaska is the creative force behind BLAM! Ventures and has worked as a freelance consultant to 20th Century Fox and Rockstar Games. In addition to being the Senior Development Editor for Lion Forge comics and animation, he is a contributor to both their game division and their licensing team. 

blamventures.com | Twitter: @andrewecgaska | Facebook: AndrewECGaska

All images are ©2017 20th Century Fox and are used for the purposes of commentary or review only unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.

 

Advertisements

TWELVE BEST NOVELS—FIRST HALF A DOZEN

20565010335_a4fd33fb4f_k-e1559271020858.jpgSo here’s the Thing… no seriously, here’s the Thing. Image is from the cover of Alan Dean Foster’s adaptation of John Carpenter’s the Thing. Don’t look at me like that.

I was contacted by Steven Shinder on Facebook and asked to participate in a one-a-day top ten favorite books challenge. While I won’t be posting every single day (work and all), I will reveal twelve of my favorite books instead of ten (basically because I couldn’t narrow it down enough). I’ve decided to post them here split over two entries and link back to Facebook. The plan is to nominate a new person each time who will then post their top books on their page. The books are posted in no particular order, they are just twelve of the best genre books I’ve read. Each has had a profound effect on me and helped shape me as a writer.

Disclaimer. The purpose of this list is to encourage readers to, well, read books they might have otherwise passed on. As such, only one slot of the twelve will be taken up to discuss a few favorites literary classics in general. Otherwise, the entire list would be full of said classics. In no way is this meant to indicate that something like V: East Coast Crisis is a better novel than, say, Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mocking Bird. This list is mostly an exploration of beloved genre fiction.

10264922_662790273757730_3643788207372427732_n-e1560062898835.jpgThe Visitors are our friends.

BOOK 3. V: EAST COAST CRISIS

s-l1600

Author(s). Howard Weinstein and A.C. Crispin 

This particular review—as with many others here—is just as much about the book in question as it is about the series of novels it comes from.

Exposure. On a field trip to Philadephia in elementary school during the 1980s, one of the historic stops our teachers decided to have us visit was… a mall. It was actually more to have us catch our breaths and have some downtime after the long day of site seeingnone of which I remember. The lasting impression was that mall, and the book series I found in the little B. Dalton’s thereV.

I had been a huge fan of the Kenneth Johnson created TV series. And not only did I find one V book thereI found NINE. I called my mom from a payphone (’80s, everyone) and she reluctantly gave me permission to use the money I had been given to buy some historical souvenir to instead buy the nine books.

One of my favorite sci-fi TV series of all time, V had a human looking Nazi-like regime of aliens coming to earth in fifty massive motherships and claiming to be mankind’s friend. They offered us cures to terrible diseases and technological enhancements in exchange for the production of an environmentally safe chemical needed for their homeworld. In reality, they were rat-eating lizard people wearing fake skin who had come to steal our water and abduct humans to use as food and troops for a battle with an unseen enemy. It was an allegory for Nazi Germany and a quiet sacrifice of our ideals for the promise of a better life (something a little too relevant to today’s politics). Martial law was imposed. Scientists and their families, the only ones who could expose the Visitors, were persecuted and hunted down. Both suspected guerilla fighters and innocent civilians were rounded up and kept in concentration camps awaiting questioningquestioning that they either came back from brainwashed and converted or did not come back from at all. And with the help of a fifth column of visitors that opposed the invasion, a small resistance grew against these alien conquerors. Mike Donovan, Juliet Parrish, Ham Tyler and their alien allies Martin and Willie faced off against the lizard armies of Diana, Lydia, Steven, Charles, and the mysterious Leader.

Good sci-fi stuff.

East Coast Crisis was not the V I was expecting. Rather than a sequel, it was a companion to the original two television miniseriesV and V the Final Battle, taking place during them but showcasing the United State’s east coast struggle rather than the TV series west. Plus, Dan Rather and Isaac Asimov are characters in it, so win-win.

Many of the V novels did not star the TV series cast but instead developed different areas of the struggle to reclaim our world from these alien invaders. I was hooked, eventually hunting down the rest of the books (there were a total of sixteen).

Lesson. Expand your universe. Novels are a fertile playground to explain and enhance a franchise. Several bizarre moments and concepts introduced in the TV series by TV writers who didn’t necessarily understand sci-fi were explained and clarified by talented sci-fi prose authors within these pages. It taught me to think of other stories that take place during the events of an established movie or novel and give the “bigger picture.” My Planet of the Apes “inbetweenquels” follow this philosophy.

Conclusion. This series did an amazing job of expanding a universe and included some top name authors. I prefer Crispin’s style to Weinstein’s, and don’t recall the tale of how they came top be co-writing this book. Independently they both are prolific sci-fi authors and have written several Star Trek novels. I recommend the entire series. You can find out more about them on the long un-updated fan site here.

Show me more: A sixteen novel prose series tie-in with two fantastic TV miniseries, a season-long television series (not the best), an eighteen issue comic series from DC Comics, and a Hardcover novel direct sequel to the novelization of the original miniseries that ignores everything that came after it (huh?). Also, a reimagined reboot TV series that strayed too far from the premise.   

Available? Long out of print. Only available used on Amazon and eBay. On eBay, search for ‘V Series Novels’ or the like. A plain and simple ‘V’ will get you anything with a roman numeral five in it. Good hunting.

Nominated next for this chain letter. Kim Perrone

kapook_world-182947Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

BOOK 2. JAWS 2

IMG_3465
Yes, this is one of the best novels I have ever read. Much better than Peter Benchley’s original. Don’t judge me. You don’t know.

“He heard the faint subway roar. He did not care. He stopped moving. He was too tired to fight his sleepiness, though the boat was only three strokes away. He would doze like a basking seal, and swim the last few feet later.

Then he was borne aloft.  He sensed his ribs, lungs, spleen, kidneys, bowels, duodendum, were being firmly squeezed together as if in some giant hydralic press.

He felt no pain at all.”

Author. Hank Searls

Exposure. My mom had a bookshelf with “grown-up” novels in my parents’ bedroom. When I was bored and she wasn’t home, I would raid those books, looking to read something I wasn’t allowed to read.  In this manner, I was exposed to the novelizations of Alien, ET, The Shining, Christine, The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist, It, and even the Flowers in the Attic series. It was in the fourth-grade that I stumbled upon mom’s copy of Jaws 2.

I was always tentative with these horror novels. I didn’t want to scare myself, so I would pop a book open to a random page, hope for a dirty scene, read a paragraph out of context, and then decide whether or not I was going to stay away from that one. I flipped through Jaws 2 and read a vignette about an embryonic male shark struggling to survive against his equally unborn but bigger sisters who were trying to eat him in their mother’s womb.

What?

It got better. I realized that I was reading the mother shark’s point of view. She was aware of the conflict in her uterus and was driven to eat to stop her unborn children from eating each other. My nine-year-old mind was blown. This one went in my backpack and made its way to school with me.

Jaws 2 is a classic example of the old adage that the book is better than the film. Thing is, the book was based on the filmbut a version of the film that didn’t make it to the screen. The Jaws 2 movie that almost was was much darker than what we got, and that’s a topic for a future essay.  But even though this novel is based on an unshot script, Searls nonetheless owns this storythe shark’s internal musings and the in utero fight for survival is all him.

I remember pouring over the book under my desk when I was supposed to be reading textbooks in class (I’m a fast reader, so I always finished before the allotted time). The descriptions were vivid, the horror was real, and it made me look at the world in a different way. I’m paraphrasing here, but instead of saying something like, “the sun was setting,” Searls would write something to the effect of, “the sun was a lazy red ball bouncing on the horizon.” I use it to teach creative descriptors in my creative coaching sessions and on my writing panels. It inspired my future writings, and at the time it opened my eyes to new ways of looking at the world.

It also probably helped me down the road towards becoming the continuity freak I am today. In Searl’s Jaws 2, the pregnant mother shark is traveling up the gulf stream as her kind is wont to do, searching for food to satisfy her developing young. She realizes she’s come to a place she’s been before, an area of ocean where two years before a large male shark had wrestled her to the bottom, had his way with her and swam off towards a nearby island. She remembers the pain of the moment, and that her unborn offspring were in fact sired by him. Angrily, she changes course, heading towards the island in search of revenge.

Damn.

A connection between the sharks and an explanation as to why another giant great white comes to Amity. Did Searls have to do that? Nope. he did anyway. On top of that, he must have realized that another Jaws film was likely to come down the road and set up a potential hook for the inevitable sequel (the hook itself I won’t ruin for you, read the bloody book). He filled in continuity gaps in a film franchise, very much like what I now work at doing with franchises like Planet of the Apes and Alien. He made me look for answers to things that didn’t need answering.

Hank Searls ruined my life, and I love it.

Lesson. Perspective in storytelling. Sometimes a cigar is a dirty smoking shark. Or something.

Conclusion. Underrated. The most influential novel I’ve ever read. Deal with it. Then read it.

Show me more. The four movies—although I only recommend the first two. This book is technically a sequel to the original JAWS novel—not the Spielberg flick, and as such contains references that might confuse some readers—such as Hooper’s affair with Ellen Brody. Searls also wrote the novelization of Jaws: The Revengewhich makes that lightyears better than that film, but still can’t save it.

Available? A thousand times, yes. It’s long out of print, but you can get previously owned copies for dirt cheap on Amazon and in plenty of used book stores. I’ve got it in hardcover and paperback. I even wound up with an unedited reviewer’s copy my ex-fiancée found at a convention (see cover below). You look, you will find.

Nominated next for this chain letter. Amy Irene

IMG_3466


 This next book is seminal, and with the new movie franchise about to begin, it’s a good time to brush up on your Herbert…

Thewaytoedenhd0108No, not that kind of Herbert. Trek nerd.

dune-messiah.jpgThe Spice must flow.

BOOK 1. DUNE

9d8126955d364d5720f3f39eca3229a9
The cover of the edition I read in 1984. It wound up looking worse than this in my backpack.

“Fear is the mindkiller. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.”

Author. Frank Herbert

Exposure. In the sixth-grade, this sci-fi nerd was given a three-book boxed set for his birthday. It wasn’t Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, or even Vit was something I hadn’t been exposed to yet. It was Herbert’s masterpiece, Dune.  I didn’t see the movie out that same year, but I dove into the books. There was something called spice (Kessel?) that opened your mind to a new world of mental abilities, warring houses, strange creatures called Navigators, rebels, an empire, and a desert planet.

Oh, and there were worms. Massive monstrous behemoth worms.

The desert winds of Arrakis swept me away as young Paul Atradies outmaneuvered death and betrayal to find his strength and purpose.

11-year-old me thought Herbert had ripped off Lucas, but later discovered George had been inspired by Frank. Later series I enjoyed that also clearly drew inspiration from Dune were Battletech and Warhammer 40K.

I had only read the first three back then and wasn’t aware there were more. On top of that, I hadn’t reread them until after the SyFy channel miniseries was released in 2000. Watching the miniseries, I found myself spouting dialogue along with the characters on the screen from a book I hadn’t picked up in 16 years.

It stayed with me.

Lesson. Philosophy.

Conclusion. Masterful. If you are a sci-fi fan and haven’t read this, son I am disappoint. Feel shame. Then pick up a copy and know bliss.

Show me more: An endless stream of sequels and prequels set int he same universefirst by Herbery himself and then by the likes of his son and Kevin J. Anderson. There are two TV miniseries, a bizarre 1980s major motion picture with Sting and Captain Picard in it, and a new movie franchise on the way.

Available? Always. Several editions over several years. Hardcover, paperback, digital, too.

Nominated next for this chain letter. Timothy Ellis

—Andrew E. C. Gaska

An author, designer, game-writer, and graphic novelist with twenty years of industry experience, Gaska is the creative force behind BLAM! Ventures and has worked as a freelance consultant to 20th Century Fox and Rockstar Games. In addition to being the Senior Development Editor for Lion Forge comics and animation, he is a contributor to both their game division and their licensing team. 

blamventures.com | Twitter: @andrewecgaska | Facebook: AndrewECGaska

All images are ©2019 their respective owners and are used for the purposes of commentary or review only unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.

SELF-IDENTITY AND SHAME IN A POST ENDGAME WORLD

17--russo-brueder-reagieren-auf-die-spoiler-panik---16-9---spoton-article-719655Thor is about to do a very bad, bad, thing.

WARNING 1: IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN AVENGERS: ENDGAME YET, MOVE ON. THERE ARE CHARACTER SPECIFIC SPOILERS IN THIS VERY PERSONAL COMMENTARY.

I have body dysmorphia.

For years I was pushing 280lbs.

Most of that was due to a pain and depression medication I was taking for seven years. Cymbalta can cause extreme weight gain and its not something you can just stop taking without the risk of seizures. It took me five months of sweats and night terrors to get off of it. Within those five months, I dropped from 275lbs to 196lbs. A few months later I was down to 185lbs. I went from XXL to a Medium.

I looked in the mirror after dropping all that weight and saw a whale. Keep in mind I have overweight friends and don’t look at them that way. I don’t take lightly to people fat-shaming people and I can tell you I would be devastated if someone did it to me. But this was different. This was me, and all I saw was fat.

I fat-shamed myself.

I didn’t register the weight loss. l thought I looked terrible. I didn’t. It took me a while to adjust to that. It took other people telling me all the time for me to finally see it.

Since then I’ve fluctuated a little.  At 196lbs I feel my best—but would sometimes still see a fat person in the mirror.

Since moving to St. Louis from Pensacola and having, to quote Captain Kirk, “no beach to walk on,” (points if you get the double meaning of the reference), I’ve moved back up to 220lbs. Something to do with being in an office setting and there being donuts. Lots and lots of donuts. I’m now somewhere between a large and a medium, with a Large looking a little too big and a Medium making me look like a plump sausage.

bca482d7-9b6c-4561-b64a-efabeac49948_4.6830efcb7a3b157ecc72bbb5734d4002Damn you, Unicorn Donuts. Damn you all to hell.

People tell me I still look great, but I don’t feel my best, and long to see that 196 on the scale again. It’s something I am very sensitive about. 

WARNING 2: HERE COME THE SPOILERS

Now, for Avengers: Endgame. In the film, Thor can’t accept that he failed to stop Thanos from wiping out half the life in the universe. He then kills the man in cold blood, gives up on being a superhero and on leading his people, sinks into depression, and becomes an alcoholic.

Oh, and he gets fat.

He gets very, very, fat.

Recently I read an article or two accusing Endgame of fat-shaming Thor. These reviewers accused the audience of mocking Thor for being overweight and went as far as to say Marvel encouraged this with lingering shots of Thor’s belly.

I’m going to go with no on this one.

What we saw with Thor wasn’t fat-shaming. Quite simply, Thorsomeone who prides himself for being at the height of physical fitnesshad let himself go.

In many ways, it is simply a ‘fish out of water’ scenario. Facebook friend Patrick Izzo says, “It’s finding humor in seeing our character the opposite of what we know him to be. It’s a little like Ant-Man in Civil War. No one laughed when he shrunk, but when he became Giant-Man it was pretty funny because it was the opposite of what we were used to.”

Size MattersSize-shaming. Also, yes, I know this isn’t a shot from Civil War. Thank you for pointing that out.

While Thor’s problems run a bit deeper, the Ant-Man comparison is a good call. The goofy but lovable Scott Lang is often in over his head and outside of his element. We laugh at his ineptnessbut we aren’t incompetence-shaming. Scott is us in a superhero world. He’s relatable. He is a regular dude who is going to pull through anyway and we love seeing heroes with flaws.

That’s what it was about. We aren’t used to seeing Thor like he is in Endgame. Even though his role in both Ragnarok and Infinity War have shown that Marvel wants to break the status quo and take the character in new directions, we never would have expected them to take Thor this far. He is now more relatable than ever before. It was funny to think of a superhero—a god, no less—who usually keeps himself at peak performance no longer caring about that and living a sedentary life. 

THE TIP OF THE SCALE

As I stated above, Thor was also in the depths of depression, something myself and many close to me suffer from. He couldn’t handle his failures. Was this depression-shaming, and were his drinking binges alcoholic-shaming?

No.

All this was only funny because it was Thor not being the god of thunder we were used to—someone who was cocky and arrogant about his looks, powers, and physique. He was at a crossroads. It was funny because we knew he was going to overcome what was plaguing him. And interestingly enough, in the end, he stayed overweight except for when he transformed into his super-self.  After that, he went back to his out-of-shape self, something that was a bold and welcome move on Marvel’s part. 

REDEMPTION

Thor struggled to be what the others wanted him to be and couldn’t handle that. He was accepted by his mother regardless of his appearance and redeemed when he realized he didn’t need to be anything but himself, whatever that entailed. She didn’t even draw attention to his weight (which I assure you is atypical for someone’s mother when facing her unexpectantly expanding offspring). The Thor who joins the Guardians of the Galaxy at the end of the film is an amalgam of the god who let himself go and the hero who craves a new adventure. He is a changed man.

tenor

WHO’S SHAMING WHO? 

I am a self-proclaimed social justice warrior. Comic books and sci-fi taught me diversity, honor, and to do the right thing. Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Larry Hama, and Dennis O’Neil were amongst my guides. I believe we must fight for people to be accepted for their character and who they are rather than judging them by sex, race, creed, preference, or appearance.

But part of me has to wonder if some of us are taking things too personally. Conversely, part of me has to wonder if we are being taken advantage of here. I wonder if articles accusing popular films of insensitivity are simply designed to rile us up and to bait clicks. 

The movie was made by Disney, people. They are sensitive to inclusiveness. I have to believe that very few in the audience would have laughed at an overweight character just for being overweight. Certainly, no character in the film was laughing at Thor for being fat. They were shocked to find him as he was, felt pity for his despair and downward spiral to the bottom of the bottle, and tried to rally him to become a hero once more. They also gave him a few steady doses of reality. Dealing with all these flaws, comical or not, worked because it was someone we knew this wasn’t the norm for.

Someone like Thor.

Maybe I’m wrong, but to me, it showed that these heroes are human as well—even if they are gods. It was funny, it was heartfelt, and it was a highlight of the character’s journey.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a box of donuts to throw out.

—Andrew E. C. Gaska

An author, designer, game-writer, and graphic novelist with twenty years of industry experience, Gaska has worked as a freelance consultant to 20th Century Fox and Rockstar Games. In addition to being the Senior Development Editor for Lion Forge comics and animation, he is a contributor to both their Quillion gaming department and their licensing team. 

blamventures.com | Twitter: @andrewecgaska | Facebook: AndrewECGaska

All images are ©2019 Marvel Studios and are used for the purposes of commentary or review only unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.

 

SWIMMING UPSTREAM: A PARADIGM SHIFT IN NETWORK ENTERTAINMENT

STAR TREK: DISCOVERY
A look at Star Trek on TV, Discovery, streaming services, paid vs. ‘free’ content, and how we consume 23rd Century entertainment in the 21st Century.
.
On CBS All Access, Discovery is breaking new ground in Star Trek storytelling. While Season One told a continuing story arc of epic proportions, many Star Trek fans felt something was missing. The sense of hope and wonder that is integral to Trek was subdued and/or nonexistent, depending on who you ask.
.
Discovery’s producers heard what the fans had to say, and have made changes accordingly. The show is no longer quite so dark, has a damn-likable captain, is dealing with Star Trek-like questions about purpose and existence, and is showcasing a developing crew who work together as a team. Like every Trek sequel series before it, Discovery stumbled out of the gate but is now finding its footing as it moves forward within its second season.
.
So, with the prospect of getting most of what they want from a Trek, why are some fans still refusing to watch?
.
Principle.
OK, and money.
.
Ten bars gold pressed latinum. Some complain that televised Star Trek has always been free. With the advent of CBS All Access you have to pay for a subscription (either $5.99 a month with commercials or $9.99 without) in order to see Discovery. On the surface, that complaint seems valid. Why should we pay for something that has always been free? However, let’s put that into perspective.
.
Nothing is ever really free. In order to watch what you want in your home, at one time in your life, you may have paid for pay-per-view.
You might pay for HBO.
Right now, you could be paying for STARS, SHOWTIME, or other premium networks.
Maybe you pay for sports channels.
You pay for Netflix.
How about Hulu?
You might even pay for Amazon Prime.
.
Watching ‘free’ stuff on Youtube? You’re at the least paying to access the internet, and if you want to say goodbye to those annoying commercials, there is a monthly fee. Most importantly, you likely pay for cable (I assure you that 99.9% of you are not using rabbit ears to get a free TV signal. I guarantee that the younger half of you just thought to yourself, “What are rabbit ears?”)
$This. We used to watch shows like this. The pointy things are rabbit ears. They sucked.
.
The ins-and-outs of TV have changed. The old television network model doesn’t work anymore. In the past, companies would pay good money to advertise during a show’s broadcast, generating the revenue needed to create original programming. With so many channels to choose from today, not enough viewers tune in to any show to make advertising worth what it used to be. In short, commercials no longer pay the bills. At the end of the day, Star Trek, like everything else in entertainment, is a business. The streaming service model generates the income networks need to survive and to continue to bring us the shows we want to see. This is the new reality of delivering quality long-form entertainment.
.
And so dies the cable box. Broadcast network channels are going away. Each network is going to have their own ‘all access.’ DISNEY is doing itthey are pulling their content from other providers (which is why Marvel Netflix shows are going away) and are planning new Marvel shows and at least two Star Wars television series. NBC is next. Better get used to it, Netflix and Amazon Prime proved there is more money to be made this way than on TV. Eventually, the concept of cable will go away, replaced with providers that offer access to a number of streaming servicesfor a price (Personally, I currently have CBS, HBO, STARS, and SHOWTIME as add-ons for my Amazon Prime). New technologies always beget new forms of entertainment. Remember when that damn tube-box ruined radio serials? No? Well, it did.
.
gettyimages-515220084-1024x1024
“Why do you need special effects? Why can’t you just listen and see them in your mind? Why isn’t everything always the same? Why are things different?”
“Shut up, grandma’s grandma.”
.
Remember when suddenly you had to have cable to have a decent TV signal? Or how about when you paid to go see a Star Trek in a movie theater?
d3849350ea3e66ec074d7f6b964097f2
“You want me to pay money to go see this Star Trek Moving Picture? In my day, Star Trek was on the TV and was free!”
“Shut up, Grandpa’s grandpa.”
.
Special Note: the verbal abuse aimed at the elderly as depicted on this page is intended for educational purposes only. Stay kind to your seniors and stay off their lawns. No old people were harmed during the writing of this essay. Thank you.
.
screen-shot-2019-01-27-at-1.43.58-am.png
The real reason Star Trek fans don’t want to pay for Discovery
screen shot 2019-01-27 at 2.38.44 am
.
What am I paying for? The production quality of Discovery is that of a feature filmyou are getting a lot for your buck. If you pay $9.99 a month for CBS All Access in order to watch Discovery, and you are getting one episode a week, that’s four episodes every 30 days.  That means you are paying a whopping $2.50 per episode to watch new Star Trek. Better still, if you can stomach watching commercials, it’s only $5.99 a month! Break it down and it’s $1.50 an episode.
.
This is a great price even if you hate Discovery. If you are actually watching DISCO when you complain about it all over facebook, you can back up your claims with empirical evidence. That’s $1.50-$2.50 for a week’s worth of trolling material! Like the show or not, that’s not bad, no matter how you slice it.
.
Or you can wait until Season Two is over, join, and watch the entire show in one month. With two seasons and about thirty episodes at that point, you’d be paying between .19 and .34 cents an episode depending on your subscription plan.
.
To reiterate.19 cents an episode.
.
And the cost efficiency is getting better than that, even. With at least four planned Star Trek shows coming to All Access, your actual cost per content will soon be negligible.
.
I’m sorry, why are you complaining, again? Just as entertainment itself evolves, the form in which it is delivered does as well. As always, the times are changing.
.
TV is dead.
Long live TV.

—Andrew E. C. Gaska

An author, designer, game-writer, and graphic novelist with twenty years of industry experience, Gaska has worked as a freelance consultant to 20th Century Fox and Rockstar Games. In addition to being the Senior Development Editor for Lion Forge comics and animation, he is a contributor to both their Quillion gaming department and their licensing team. 

blamventures.com | Twitter: @andrewecgaska | Facebook: AndrewECGaska

 

Everyone is losing their sh!t over Batman’s penis.

4A01F7CE-72EE-469F-B54D-FF7F893A094A The heft of his ample member weighs heavily on the Dark Knight ’s brooding soul.

Comics, like movies and games, is an ever-evolving form of entertainment. As society changes, what is and isn’t considered acceptable changes with it. Sometimes, it seems, people feel things go too far. This isn’t the first time Comics has pushed the envelope, however.

Do you remember in the ‘60s when those amateurs Lee and O’Neil brought drugs into Spider-Man and Green Lantern comics? 

Disgraceful.

And then in the mid-‘80s when Squadron Supreme, Watchmen, and the Dark Knight Returns made politics, even more predominate in comics than they already were? Those books even introduced mature themes—and one even showed a blue penis—repeatedly. They were written by some hacks named Gruenwald, Moore, and Miller. 

0B7E3FDA-E236-41E7-A3F2-D3CE986C40D0SJW vs. Far Right shenanigans.

Miller’s book was just the start of the end for Batman. What about that Arkham Asylum graphic novel that came out in 1989, wherein Clayface explains his tortured life by proclaiming he was not born, but instead was “shit into existence?“

1B4A9652-A524-4F62-81E1-832F10CD75C6 Oh, the humanity.

That one was written by some nobody named Morrison who I’m sure never went anywhere. Remember how that mature readers’ book ruined Batman, forever?

Oh, wait.

In this age, everyone has to be outraged about what is being done to their beloved characters (“Not MY Luke Skywalker,” anyone?) Social media helps facilitate this because everyone feels powerful while hiding behind their computer or phone screen. There are no obvious consequences (although that seems to be changing).

Comic and film franchises can and should try new things without violating the old ones. A mature line doesn’t detract from the regular one and vise-versa.

Here’s how it works—you don’t like it, don’t buy it. 

AECG

P.S.

…and now, the batawang:

6B3CD29E-EFBC-4B5F-A956-E31D53461550Peniacal.

UPDATE: Due to public outcry, DC has neutered the Batman. All reprints will no longer showcase his penis—it has been erased from existence.

Good job, heroes. I hope you’re happy.

—Andrew. E. C. Gaska

An author, designer, game-writer, and graphic novelist with twenty years of industry experience, Gaska has worked as a freelance consultant to 20th Century Fox and Rockstar Games. In addition to being Lion Forge’s Senior Development Editor, he is a contributor to both Lion Forge’s Quillion gaming department and their licensing team.
blamventures.com | Twitter: @andrewecgaska | Facebook: AndrewECGaska

STAR TREK sequels and prequels: A History of Hate… and Love.

Continuing a series of essays about Star Trek in honor of Discovery’s return this month.Screen Shot 2018-01-09 at 8.53.10 PM

“I think of myself as something of a Star Trek purist, assuming there can be such a thing. I consider only the Original Series, the Animated Series, and the brilliant ST:TMP Director’s Edition to be pure canon, along with a very few publications such as the wonderful Star Trek Maps. For me, it is these properties that most purely constitute Star Trek. Concerning Paramount… Why the effort to forget or supplant the Original Series, the show that prompted the entire Star Trek phenomenon? I’m a great fan of the original, and I have not been happy with the way the current “powers that be” have taken such a revisionist stance with the universe the classic series created.”

—Shane Johnson, Author of the reference books ‘the Starfleet Uniform Recognition Manual’ (1985), ‘Mr. Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise’ (1986) and ‘Worlds of the Federation’ (1987)

From an interview in 2001.

Not about Star Trek: Enterprise. Not about Discovery.

About the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager era of Trek. The same evocation of emotion the current crop of Canonites feel about Discovery right now.

Many Discovery naysayers are not remembering (or their grandfathers were still in diapers for) the backlash Star Trek: The Next Generation got for its vast differences to the original Trek—differences that included tone, look, and continuity (Yes, continuity. And Enterprise isn’t the only culprit here. there are many instances where the series in the 1987-2005 Trek era referenced things that happened “100 years ago” or “200 years ago” that not only contradict events mentioned in The Original Series but in each other as well).  

“Watered down Trek,” older fans called it.  And there is documented proof of this in the form of newspapers and magazines from the era.

tngripped-563x640

Star Trek has even tried to warn us about holding on to the past before, in countless episodes and in the films. Even just looking at Star Trek II, III, VI and VIII, they touched upon Khan’s vengeance, Kirk dwelling in the past, Scotty’s bitterness over new technologies, the reluctance of members of the Federation and Klingons to let go of hatred, Picard’s obsession with the Borg, and more.

star-trek-mr-scotts-guide-to-the-enterprise-signed-by-james-doohan-scotty-mint-17501ae3b86a2d06e1dc4ed916078da6Star Trek: The Original Series purists felt the series from The Next Generation onward violated canon—that same canon that is now being touted as one cohesive all-inclusive piece until the arrival of Discovery.

While I disagree with Shane Johnson’s sentiments, his books are admittedly all fantastic and were a formative part of my teen Trek years. I’m sure some of today’s fans will use Mr. Johnson’s quote as justification for their continued Discovery bashing, but that argument only really holds water if they also dismiss everything post Star Trek: The Original Series—where the real deviations began. Otherwise, what’s happening here isn’t all that dissimilar to the past.

The only difference?

The internet.

Gone are the days of complaining via letter campaigns and convention get-togethers. Now fans can grouse in real time.

Screen Shot 2018-01-09 at 9.00.47 PM

Welcome to the same dawn of any new production era of TrekAll this has happened before, and it will all happen again.

Like the Borg before them, today’s fans will adapt.

Andrew E.C. Gaska

Nondisclosure of Family Matters: The Siblings of Spock and the Spouses of Sarek

Continuing a series of essays about Star Trek in honor of Discovery’s return this month.

Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 8.26.37 PM

One of the fanboy outcries about Star Trek Discovery relates to series lead Michael Burnham being the hitherto unmentioned sibling of Spock.

“We have never heard of Spock having a human adopted sister before!” goes the cry. “This violates canonThere is no precedent for this!”

An outrage, for certain.

Just like in the second pilot of The Original Series, when it was revealed that Spock had a female ancestor of human descent. But a few episodes later, we found out it wasn’t an ancestor, it was his mother! There, he and Scotty spoke of Spock’s parents in the past tense.

SPOCK: “I regret not having learned more about this Balok. In some manner, he was reminiscent of my father.”

SCOTTY: “Then may heaven have helped your mother.”

SPOCK: “Quite the contrary. She considered herself a very fortunate Earth woman.

Or in 1967, when Spock’s parents, Sarek and Amanda, were shown alive and wellimplying that rather than having passed away happily married, she NO LONGER considered herself very fortunate to be married to Sarek. Also, young Spock had a pet when growing up that his mother equated to a teddy bearalthough Spock did clarify (thanks, Jim Espo):

SPOCK: “On Vulcan the ‘teddy bears’ are alive, and they have six-inch fangs.”

SaavikAnd in 1973, when we found out that Spock’s father Sarek had a cousin named Selek that was actually a time-traveling Spock! And Spock’s living teddy bear? It was actually more of a man-bear-pig… with one six-inch fang and one three-inch half job one.

Or in 1981, when we found out that Spock, Sarek, and Amanda had raised and sponsored a half Vulcan half Romulan orphan girl named Saavik from the Original Series times to the Wrath of Khan (It might not be in the final film, but Saavik’s backstory was in the script, scenes explaining it were shot but cut for pacing, and it was all detailed in the novelization)!

And in 1989 when we found out Spock had a half-brother from Sarek’s previous marriage!

.KIRK: “He’s your ‘brother’ brother? You made that up.”

SPOCK: “I did not.” slide_297725_2455138_free

KIRK: “You did, too. Sybok couldn’t possibly be your brother because I happen to know for a fact that you don’t have a brother.”

SPOCK: “Technically, you are correct. I do not have a brother. I have a half-brother.”

What? Sarek was married before Amanda? To a Vulcan Princess, no less! The outrage! Nevermind that he is married to another human woman named Perrin 100 years later, this is about the 23rd Century, not the 24th.

What did Spock say when he was asked why he never divulged any of this before?

SPOCK: “I was not disposed to discuss matters of a personal nature. For that, I am sorry.”

KIRK: “He’s sorry. See? He’s sorry. That makes everything all right.”

I mean, those things were all established previously in the pilot episode of the Original Series, right?

Oh, wait…

…I guess the Sareks just like to take in strays.

Spock is sorry.

Andrew E.C. Gaska

Spocks-ever-growing-familMissing from this family pic—Baby Saavik. Put some pants on, Kid-Spockyou are embarrassing your creepy-faced stepbrother and ‘not sure if want’-faced adopted sister. Also, your teddy man bear pig is high again.

Parody image created by Jonathan Lane at fanfilmfactor.com

STAR TREK DISCO: TO CANON OR NOT TO CANON? 

The first in a series of essays about Star Trek in honor of Discovery’s return this month.
23844778_1898570000157549_3335419285486940238_nAn open letter to Trek fans about STAR TREK DISCOVERY and its alleged violation of continuity.

Dear Star Trek enthusiasts,

To canon or not to canon? That is the question plaguing the fandom of Star Trek, specifically about Discovery.

On one hand, continuity is what binds a fictional universe together. We are more invested in a show whose legacy we already understand. Violating the rules of that universe is like violating the laws of physics—something Scotty specifically said couldn’t be done, right before a commercial break. Then he went and did it.

On the other, should good story stand still for canon? Should a show that is created now but takes place before a show that was crafted in the 60s have outdated special effects, or look as cutting edge for today’s audiences as that original show did back then for theirs?

Is Star Trek about reminiscing over TV shows past, or showing us our own future?

Excellent fiction can be crafted out of existing canon. It’s what people like Greg CoxDavid Mack and myself do all the time. I personally have been hired by movie studios to keep track of a franchise’s canon—and have made a career of fixing canonical faux pas in my published fiction.

And change for change sake is just as bad as dead storytelling. But change is also necessary for growth to take place.

The thing is, Trek is a strange animal. It has actually contradicted itself in-universe a billion times already. When discussing things that happened in the past, TOS went and violated itself over and over. It took three seasons to decide what to call things.

What planet is Spock from, Vulcan or Vulcanis?

The Vulcan Mind Meld or the Vulcan Mind Fusion?

Did one of Spock’s ancestors marry a human female, or was that his father who did so? Human great great great grandmother or human mother?

Does the Enterprise have warp drive or hyperdrive?

Is it impulse or ‘space normal speed?’ Or would that be thrusters only?

Can we go to warp inside a solar system, or is that some kind of risk? (None of the Treks’ could keep that one straight, even within their own series).

Is the government the UFP or the UESPA? United Federation of Planets or United Earth Space Probe Agency?

Is the Enterprise Starship Class or Constitution class? Is her refit also Consitution or is she Enterprise Class?

If the Enterprise is 20 years old as Morrow said in Star Trek III specifically stated as 15 years after the Enterprise came home from Kirk’s historic 5-year mission (15+5=20… seems legit), how was she captained by Pike 12 years before that? And Robert April before him? Those are things that were established before Star Trek III, during The Original Series and the Animated Series. Wouldn’t all that make her 40?

What’s up with the Klingons’ lobster heads? How about their blood?

Aside from the look of the Klingons changing from TOS To TMP, they have no honor in the films—just look at Kruge and Klaa. Their honor wasn’t developed until TNG. Then their blood was suddenly Pepto Bismol for Star Trek VI while being red for everything before and most after (except for the blood dripping off of Worf’s broken spine, which was dark purple. When Worf and other 24th Century Klingons get cut, it’s always red).

If the Klingon’s don’t take prisoners as per Kirk in Star Trek II, why does Kruge take prisoners in Star Trek III? Or Chang in Star Trek VI? Or Lursa and B’etor in The Next Generation and Generations? 

T’Pol says Klingon ships don’t have escape pods, but then there they are in Enterprise and Deep Space Nine.

Just how big is that Bird of Prey? It changes constantly for dramatic effect in Star Trek III, then starts Star Trek IV at 50m, only to balloon up to 200m when hovering over the whaling boat at the end (again for dramatic effect).

Why is the Bird of Prey’s bridge so different in Star Trek IV than in Star Trek III? It is the same ship, originally under the command of Kruge and commandeered by Admiral Kirk. It wasn’t refitted for Federation use because all the control panels were still in Klingon—and the old bridge looked more Starfleet anyway.

“The center of the galaxy can’t be reached,” says Kirk during Star Trek V. “No ship has ever gone into the Great BarrierNo probe has ever returned.” Then they proceed to go there.  But didn’t the Enterprise go there already during The Animated Series?

Vulcan has no moon? What’s that in the sky during Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek: The Animated Series, buddy? And what the hell is Tuvok talking about in VOY when he says he was born on “the Vulcanis lunar colony?”

tmp_18

Wait— Spock has a brother? You made that up.

Some people think Spock was the first Vulcan in Starfleet, something never actually stated on screen but was part of the background material for the original series—but the USS Intrepid—a Star Fleet vessel during TOS—has a crew of 400 of them. 400 Vulcans joined up and graduated after Spock during the dozen or so years before that TOS episode, and they crammed all the Vulcans in Star Fleet into one ship? And obviously at least one of them made Captain before Spock? For that matter, what’s T’Pol’s deal, then?

There are dozens more TOS VIOLATING TOS, as well as the other series violating TOS, examples.

Yes, TNG and DS9 seem to have a different timeline than TOS, and VOY and ENT also seem to have their own shared timeline. And all these violate themselves as well.

So Data was Soong’s only android. Wait—there was a prototype, Lore. Got it! Wait… there was a prototype of the prototype named B4? Ok, but their skin couldn’t be made to look or feel alive enough, that’s why they look the way they do. Remember they are machines who will never age—always set apart from living beings. Wait—Data can adjust the pigmentation of his skin and eyes to look Romulan? Data is getting fat and wrinkly… didn’t we know? Soong put in a program to mimic the effects of age. But what about when Data is 3000 years old? What will he look like then? Why burden the bot with thousands of years of decrepitude? Soong made an android of his girlfriend that had proper skin and eyes and ages as well and could pass for human? I thought he only made Data? I mean, Data and Lore and B-4? Well, Data has a sort of milky white blood circulating through his system. Prick him and he will leak. Troi shot him with an arrow and he didn’t leak? And he was shot with bullets in First Contact and didn’t leak? Does he leak?

Why does Data’s coveted and one-of-a-kind emotion chip look different in different episodes/movies? Why is he so special, anyhow? There were plenty of human-like androids in TOS, and they weren’t pasty white with yellow eyes.

For that matter, what the hell kind of cat is Spot, anyhow? What sex? Spot seems to be a nexus of realities, forever shifting.

If during Generations, Kirk was presumed dead when he was lost in the Nexus in front of Scotty before the engineer went into suspended animation in the transporter buffer, why does Scott think Kirk came to his rescue when the engineer is revived during TNG?

How did Seven’s family go hunting for the Borg with Federation funding if the Federation didn’t know who the Borg were until Picard and crew met them? Or was it when Archer and crew met them during ENT, 200 years prior? Wait, why didn’t Picard know about the Borg?

How did the Borg go from Daft Punk to the Walking Dead? ) What’s wrong with his face?

star-trek-tng-best-of-both-worlds-blu-ray

What’s up with the Romulans’ foreheads?

images

Why do the Trill in TNG have knobby heads and no spots when Dax has spots and a normal head? Dax violates canon!

Odan

Why do the Tellarites no longer look like Porky Pig—oh my god the TOS one has no eyes.

Gral

What of the Andorians ever-shifting shade of blue or grey or green, and changing foreheads, hairline, antenna—both their location and appearance? Since when do the antenna move?

andorianer_st1001_big

Again, there are at least dozens more. Is all this the result of the Temporal Cold War in Star Trek: Enterprise? Was said timeline-altering conflict created to cover these faux pas in the first place?

How do you resolve it?

Well, you have some fine authors craft tie-in materials that make it all make sense for those who care. A lot of this stuff has been covered over the years just like that. And that just what is being done in the Discovery novels right now.

Why are they using 3D hologram communications on Discovery instead of just using the view screen? Turns out the messages contained so much data they were using too much bandwidth, clogging subspace channels and tying up communications. They went back to viewscreens until DS9 times when it was finally perfected, and even then only used sparingly.

How is it they have holographic simulations you can walk around in (and play anti-Klingon laser tag with) in if the Holodeck isn’t created until TNG? Well, there was a precursor to the holodeck as early as the animated series—a holographic rec room. In Discovery the holographic training simulator’s projections weren’t solid and weren’t perfect. By TNG the holodeck makes these things indistinguishable from reality—another perfection of technology over a century.

Ship-to-ship, site-to-site, and intra-ship beaming? Didn’t they say it was risky in TOS? Well, obviously they learned that during Discovery season 1. They mention in the premiere of season two that pad-to-pad or pad-to-site transport is much safer.

Why are Discovery’s uniforms different than those worn by the crew of the Enterprise during the episode “The Cage,” which takes place in the same relative time period? Star Fleet was trying out new uniforms on the flagship fleet of Constitution class cruisers during this time (I assume it’s because they were leaning towards a time of peaceful exploration and the Klingon War caught them off guard. This delayed full implementation of the classic uniforms until years later).

If you care, buy Star Trek novels and comics. Buy them for all your favorite franchises. You keep reading them, we will keep writing them, and if we are doing our job right, you will get your answers.

If you don’t care, just sit back and enjoy Star Trek on TV and film. Our fandom is lucky enough to have both options.

Other things, such as the spore drive, will straighten themselves out before the series is over. And the Klingons… well, we went 25 years without an official explanation of their change in appearance—don’t expect an explanation for this one for another 25.

Star Trek looks forward to our future, even when telling stories in its fictional past. It gives us just a dash of what we know from before to provide us with a comfort zone. It doesn’t stagnate in nostalgia—that is the purview of the pretenders to the throne (the Orville, anyone? But that’s an open letter for another time).

Just remember that in Trek, continuity is fluid. It’s like that in any franchise that develops over decades. Has to be.

Star Trek: Discovery is in fact no more or less guilty than the Treks that precede it. The minor stuff is always shifting. The story is the key, and the legacy is enduring. Star Trek can survive a little change.

It’s called evolution.

Yours,
Andrew E.C. Gaska

Revised and updated Stardate 0120.19

Tellarite_screen_test,_The_Deadly_Years (2)Evolution: Something this TOS Tellarite is having a lot of trouble with. Oh, dear…

 

A Trek Not Taken: Star Trek discovers a Planet of the Titans

——Frustrated with the lack of data (yes, puns all around) out there on the Star Trek movie that never was, a decade and a half ago I dove into whatever sources I could find and compiled this article for the interwebs. With a dearth of new data available, I have updated it for the modern age. As Star Trek: Discovery takes the visual cues for its starship design from this era of Trek pre-production, it seemed a fitting topic to tackle. 

Screen shot 2012

“A curious tale with overtly Von Daniken (Chariots of the Gods) ideas that Man’s early evolution had been influenced by ancient astronauts. The ancient astronauts being the crew of the Enterprise who have plunged through a black hole and arrived at Earth in the time of Cro-Magnon man!”

TV Zone Special #6

It’s 1975. Star Trek, despite being canceled six years earlier, is more popular than ever. The Animated Series, which reunited the original cast as voice actors and was run primarily by Gene Roddenberry and DC Fontana themselves, has won an Emmy for children’s programming.

It’s 1976 and due to a pouring in of over 400,000 requests, NASA changes the space shuttle Constitution’s name to Enterprise. Paramount uses this as a cue to excite Star Trek fans: they announce that not only will the space shuttle Enterprise be soaring soon, but the Starship Enterprise would take flight as well, in a new-fangled motion picture.

It’s 1977, and the first Star Trek film is in pre-production, entitled Star Trek: Planet of the Titans.

startrekphaseii

Planet of the what? Haven’t heard much about it? It’s no big surprise. This Trek was never taken, but like V’GER in the motion picture that did make it to the silver screen four years later, you can now ‘collect all data possible, learn all that is learnable’ about this lost feature.

Screen Shot 2018-01-13 at 9.46.40 AMThe Discovery teaser trailer recreated the look of the asteroid concept art from Planet of the Titans. A similar asteroid design also appeared in the Enterprise Mirror Mirror episode.Vintaak_system_coolest_moon (1)5eb9063e7446d8522c6f2ac3b4a29ce6Ironically, the TOS ship sitting in the asteroid base here is the USSS Defiant, and this base is in the Mirror, Mirror universe–an important plot thread left over from Star Trek: Enterprise being picked up in the second half of Discovery’s first season. The USS Discovery shown in these asteroid shots is not the final design of the ship, but an earlier, more cumbersome incarnation.star-trek-discovery_1

RESEARCH

I started researching Star Trek: Planet of the Titans two decades ago. Tracking down any actual script has proven impossible, no script reseller I have found carries it, and few are even aware it exists. Frustrated by the apparent lack of information about this project, I sought out to collect and compile what little knowledge there was available in long out of print Star Trek books, both fan produced and official (the most comprehensive of which being The Making of Star Trek the Motion Picture by Susan Sackett and Gene Roddenberry). I can only hope that a script will eventually surface for this interesting piece of unfilmed history so that a complete analysis can be performed as a follow up in a future essay. I’ve extrapolated as much as possible from the limited data provided to present as coherent a view of the feature.

THE BRYANT AND SCOTT SCREENPLAY

At the end of its five-year mission, the Enterprise under Captain James T. Kirk responds to a distress call from the USS Da Vinci, a Federation Starship in dire jeopardy. By the time they arrive, the Enterprise is too late, and the Da Vinci has disappeared, in all probability swallowed up by a black hole in the sector. As Kirk and crew race to pick up the survivors, the Captain is struck with a magnetic pulse wave that disrupts the electrochemical impulses in his brain, causing him to behave erratically. Kirk steals a shuttlecraft and pilots it towards an area near the black hole. Spock tries to stop the Captain, but it is too late, and the shuttle simply disappears. Spock theorizes that Kirk did not disappear into the black hole, but rather that there is a planet hidden near the stellar anomaly, invisible to all forms of electromagnetic radiation (essentially a cloaked planet). After mounting search missions for this phantom planet to no avail, Spock is forced to abandon Kirk, ordering the Enterprise home.

Three years later, the Enterprise has just undergone a refit and received many new crew members, including her new commanding officer, Captain Gregory Westlake. Westlake is ordered to take the Enterprise to the black hole where Kirk disappeared… apparently, it has increased in size, and begun affecting the invisible planet that Spock theorized about. It exists and is partially visible due to the pull of the black hole on its energies. Long range scans have indicated that this could be the ‘mythical planet of the Titans’, home to a race of technologically superior beings who visited earth and other planets millennia ago. The pull of the black hole is increasing and will consume the planet soon, destroying the Titans and their technological secrets. The Klingons are also aware of the situation, and the benefits of an alliance with the Titans and/or use of their technology. The Enterprise must rescue the Titans before the Klingons get their hands on that technology – whoever succeeds will ‘have the power to control the destiny of the known galaxy’. 

495187b012aa4883cf93399d3702236a

On their way to the Titans’ planet, the Enterprise makes a stop at Vulcan to attempt to persuade Mr. Spock to go with them. Spock had made correct predictions about the Titans’ planet three years ago and his expertise is needed now. Resigned from Star Fleet in disgrace after losing his Captain and best friend, Spock is attempting a Vulcan ritual that will release him of the burden of his human side, and allow him to quiet the emotions raging within him forever. Spock refuses to go back with the Enterprise, until a Vulcan psionic and precognitive test he undergoes shows him his own death, and indicates that he must go with the Enterprise to ‘fulfill his own destiny’.

The Enterprise arrives at the planet of the Titans, finding it partially visible. They attempt to orbit the planet, encountering the Klingons and becoming caught in the hidden world’s force fields. Trapped, Enterprise is pulled into its atmosphere! In order to avoid destruction, Westlake orders the saucer section detached, and the stardrive breaks away from the planet. Westlake, Spock, and the rest of the bridge crew are left on the saucer as it performs a controlled crash into the planet’s surface, while the stardrive waits at a safe distance (possibly facing off against the Klingons).

titans 1

Once on the planet’s surface, the Enterprise crew discovers a bizarre untamed landscape, wild and inhospitable, and dotted with strange cities surrounded by walls of flame. Westlake has the crew begin repairs to lift the saucer up, and away teams fan out to search the planet. Kirk is discovered alive, having lived as a wild man these past three years along with other beings who were driven mad and crashed upon the surface of the planet. Spock is able to restore Kirk’s sanity (perhaps through a mind meld?), and they make their way to the ‘Superbrain Stonehenge’ where they discover the rulers of this planet: not the benevolent Titans, but a dangerous and corrupt lesser race called the Cygnans, who claim to have destroyed the Titans long ago. Realizing that these malignant entities will destroy the Federation if they are given the means to escape the planet, Kirk forcibly shuts down the planet’s force fields and the Enterprise crew races back to the saucer section, hoping to escape and leave the Cygnans to their own doom. They are, however, unsuccessful, as several Cygnans stow away upon the saucer as it takes off and reunites with the stardrive.

In an attempt to kill the Cygnans discovered aboard his ship, Kirk orders the Enterprise into the black hole with the Klingons in hot pursuit. The Federation Starship is badly damaged by the journey through the collapsed star, and the Cygnans, along with the Klingon ship, are destroyed. The Enterprise emerges from the black hole oddly enough in Earth orbit, and the Enterprise crew beam down to the surface, only to discover they are in Cro-Magnon times, and Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the others are in fact the Titans of legend; the fire they bring being caused by a phaser blast. This is the gift our heroes, these technological travelers that are the crew of the Enterprise, give to mankind.

7845366_orig

BRYANT AND SCOTT ANALYSIS

Well. With the limited information available here, it’s basically impossible to make a competent judgment call on this film. This story could be exciting, but there are large holes in it, too many things glossed over, too much left unsaid. How is the seemingly inevitable Westlake/Kirk conflict resolved? You can’t have two Captains. Does Spock in fact die? How did the Cygnans get trapped on the planet of the Titans in the first place, and why do they think they killed the Titans if the Titans are in fact the Enterprise crew? What purpose do the Klingons have here? How exciting is their actual involvement in deterring the Enterprise crew from their goal? Three years is a long time to be living as a ‘wild man’ on the surface of the Titans’ planet. How did the experience change Kirk? Did it make him more savage, less likely to follow Starfleet orders? Would Starfleet just let him command a ship again after all that?

And then there is the question of why the ‘Titans’ didn’t save themselves from the Cygnans, being so technologically superior as stated early in the script. It’s a serious plot point that isn’t brought up. Obviously, we know at the end who they are specifically, but why wasn’t Starfleet or at least the Enterprise crew curious about this small fact? They didn’t know they themselves were, in fact, the Titans…

All that being said, the treatment is more action-oriented than the motion picture that did get made—the crew is doing a little bit more than stare in awe at the view screen on the bridge.

tumblr_nuc2mdsppH1qmtfp8o5_1280

THE KAUFMAN REWRITE

In deep space towards the end of its five-year mission, the Enterprise is busy rescuing planetary survivors from a black hole consuming their system. Amongst the survivors are two highly logical aquatic aliens who take a liking to Spock. They talk to him telepathically, imprinting feeling of serenity and a wish to return to their homeworld to meet their maker. The Enterprise rescues as many people as possible and then attempts to flee the system, only to be ambushed by a fleet of Klingon ships.

Kirk’s superior tactics win the day, as the Enterprise destroys all but the lead Klingon vessel, which is lost in the black hole. When their shields go down, Kirk has the Klingon Commander beamed aboard the Enterprise before his ship is sucked in. As he is put in the brig, the commander shows respect for Kirk’s battle tactics but has nothing but disdain for Spock.

This close to the black hole, the crew begins to see into their own futures. Kirk suddenly orders the Enterprise into the black hole, and Spock violently wrests command of the ship from him, killing a crewman who tries to stop him and locking the Enterprise on a course home. They all lose consciousness, and the crew recovers later with no memory of the events.

Spock himself awakens at Starbase, under the medical care of a Dr. Riva. Riva is able to enter one’s dreams, a form of psychic therapy. Spock finds himself having erotic fantasies about her, and the two are drawn closer together. Riva suspects that the Enterprise crew suffered some kind of space madness. As nothing was determined to be wrong with them, they were all released upon return—only Spock was held because he had killed a fellow crew member. Feeling guilty for his actions, Spock wishes to leave Starfleet and return home to Vulcan. Riva uses her authority to release him but orders him to assist her and her alien partner Shoonashoo in their investigation before resigning. They begin to discover evidence that an evil dwells in the black hole, and that the forces of the stellar anomaly could bend time itself—allowing those close to it to either perceive the future or the past as well as travel to it.

11102604_1056456071035617_7156934849719700975_n

Meanwhile, the Enterprise herself is undergoing a refit in an asteroid base. Former Enterprise engineering officers who were part of the crew when she encountered the black hole are now working on the refit. They are making profound leaps in technological levels with her upgrades—as if they are aware of sciences and techniques that are decades in advance of Starfleet. Spock discovers complex data within the ship’s biocomputer, and he alone is able to decipher it—it is a detailed navigation map that is designed to take a starship directly through the black hole.

Riva, Spock, and Shoonashoo visit the Klingon Commander in captivity and attempt to question him about his experience with the black hole just before he was beamed away by the Enterprise. He is reluctant to speak but wants to stay with Spock. He had a vision that an evil lives within the black hole and that Spock would lead him to it. He believes his fleet was lured into the attack on the Enterprise by the creature, and he wants revenge for their destruction.

2871331807_e051a8eb76_o

A prison transfer is arranged for the Klingon Commander, and he and Spock travel to Vulcan where Spock undergoes Kolinahr to purge himself of residual emotions. It is soon revealed that the black hole has been sweeping through the galaxy, consuming planets, and is now on its way to earth. Strangely, Riva and Shoonashoo, along with Kirk and the other Enterprise crew—all having gone their separate ways since the end of the five-year mission—find themselves drawn to Stonehenge. Riva wonders if myths involving the Titans could somehow be connected to the black hole and the Enterprise’s experience with it.

Kirk and the crew resume command of the Enterprise, and with Riva and Soonshashoo in tow, they head to Vulcan to retrieve Spock before heading off to confront the stellar anomaly. Fascinated by the Black Hole’s movements, Spock agrees to join the crew and reluctantly brings the Klingon commander along with.

Riva and McCoy together create headbands that will prevent the black hole form interfering with the minds of the crew. In a gripping action sequence, they confront the quantum singularity—sending it warning signals in case it is under intelligent control, and even firing barrages f photo torpedoes in an effort to alter its course. Doomed to failure, the Enterprise is ultimately pulled in an absorbed by the black hole.

The black hole acts more like a wormhole, however, sending them on a journey with a dazzling display to rival the interior of V’Ger. They are deposited in a far future in orbit around a devastated earth. Losing power, the Enterprise is on a collision course with the planet. Separating the saucer gives the stardrive the push it needs to keep in orbit, although it is a spiraling orbital decay that will eventually see it crash into the surface as well. The saucer manages to land amidst the wreckage of many Starfleet ships, all far more advanced than the Enterprise.

2872163834_7290dcb4cc_oOn the surface, Kirk and crew witness ape creatures in the distance and begin to suffer hallucinations and crippling pain. They are soon chased through the forest by a large part energy and part flesh spider creature. A group of wild men attacks the spider to save the crew. Apparently, under the beast’s control, the Enterprise crew begins defending the spider. Finally, one of the wild men pierce the creature’s heart with a spear and they are freed from its mind control. The Stardrive informs Kirk that they pull on the ship has also been released, and they have achieved standard orbit.

The old man leading the group is revealed to be the future son of James T. Kirk, also of the same name. Jr. explains how in his timeline, Kirk Sr. had gone back into space after he was born, and was never heard of again. While the elder Kirk is dubious, they join forces with Kirk Jr.’s group. Jr. reveals that the headbands they wear are the only things keeping the planet’s spider creatures from devolving them—if they remove them they will slowly be transformed into the mindless ape creatures the crew encountered when they left the saucer.  

0013-Superbrain by Ken Adams

Spock and Riva discover a central control center for the spider creatures at Stonehenge and are soon captured by a group of time travelers called the Keepers. These Keepers were sent there to protect the now sole remaining—and massive—spider beast. Shoonashoo alerts Kirk and crew that Spock and Riva are missing, and the two Kirks lead their groups to rescue them. At what the production called the Superbrain Stonehenge, Spock and Riva discover the truth about the creature, that it is in actuality the Last Man on Earth—the victim of countless generations of genetic manipulation in an attempt to expand humanity past their physical limitations. The Enterprise crew and their allies fight the Keepers and the Last Man to regain Spock and Riva, and the Klingon commander manages to wound the huge spider beast. Sadly, Kirk Jr. is killed in the fray. At Spock’s urging, Captain Kirk removes his headband and realizes the truth about the spider beast’s origins. He soon orders a cease-fire.

The Last Man, it turns out, knew that in the far future, humanity needed to be rebuilt. He psychically reached out back in time through the black hole to call men from the past to repopulate the earth. The spider beast utilized genetic manipulation on any people he managed to lure to the future, attempting to modify them to repopulate the world. Unfortunately, these experiments resulted in bizarre half man/half creature amalgams reminiscent of the beasts of mythology. Realizing he needed a man and a woman to give rebirth to the race sexually, he began searching for beings with the proper genes to complete the work and give rebirth to mankind.

enttmpkenadams01

KAUFMAN ANALYSIS: AN IDEA-MAN PLOT

By the time Planet of the Titans reached the Kaufman rewrite, there were way too many concepts at play jammed into one two hour movie. If TV had been handled back in the 70s like it is now, it might have made for a great prolonged story arc over a 13 episode season, but as a movie, it just seems off as too many ideas jammed into the same story with very little payoff or explanation.

Unlike the Bryant and Scott version, I can find no resolution to this storyline past the revelation that the Last Man on Earth was simply trying to repopulate the species. How the Enterprise crew plays into that is unknown, but I can only assume that Spock and Riva were intended to be the Adam and Eve of the future. It would be the best reason for their intimacy and romance throughout the story—but is ultimately odd because neither was fully human. This only works really if mankind is being reborn, however, not if the future is somehow the past, as would be indicated by the genetic aberrations that resemble mythological creatures. If the future would simply continue to move on with a new crop of humanity and not be indicative of a time loop, mankind would now become more than the sum of its parts—evolving into a new race, not unlike what ultimately occurs at the end of The Motion Picture with Decker and the Ilia probe.

Both screenplays, oddly enough, don’t seem to keen on getting the Enterprise and her crew back to their own time—leaving them stranded in the future/past.
2872163900_f8e6e8e1d5_o

MAJOR PLAYERS

Captain James T. Kirk (Sr.) – Kirk would have had much to do in this, going insane, stealing a shuttle, living as a wild man, and then coming back to be the legendary leader that Star Trek fans have come to love and respect. The electromagnetic pulse that struck the Captain was probably sent by the Cygnans, possibly in an attempt to get a ship to come close enough so that they might escape. Unfortunately, the madness the pulses cause seem to only cause passing ships to crash to the surface (as Kirk did in his shuttlecraft). In some ways there appear to be similarities here to William Shatner’s own failed Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, wherein a god-like being (or in the case of the Cygnans, beings) is trapped on the surface of a planet, and it (they) wants to escape to spread evil across the cosmos. In Star Trek V, it is Spock’s half-brother Sybok who hears the ‘siren call’ of the trapped being, and in Star Trek: Planet of the Titans, it is Kirk who is affected, although in a much more severe way. At any rate, in both cases, it is a story of beings misinterpreted as gods, and Kirk’s decision to destroy and or trap the evil entities on the planet they came from.

Captain Gregory Westlake – Appearing only in the Bryant and Scott drafts, Westlake was obviously planned as Kirk’s replacement. The story outlines and plot summaries I have been privy to mention only this much about him, and strangely omit the character for the rest of the plot. Westlake was probably a precursor to the concept of William Decker, a young Captain familiar with the Enterprise’s redesign, who would have to coach Kirk through the differences incurred during his time away from command (in this case, running as a wild man on the Titan’s planet for three years, instead of having a desk job as an Admiral for two and a half years in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. When Kirk was located, what kind of conflicts would have occurred between the two captains? Would Westlake simply step down and let Kirk assume command? What’s probably more likely is that Westlake would have remained in charge of the Enterprise, while Kirk might have been in command of the mission, something not uncommon in Star Fleet tradition, as Kirk has found himself subordinate to other mission commanders during the original five-year mission. How this would have played out, and who would be in command of the Enterprise by the screenplay’s end, would have been important in judging its strengths and weaknesses.

Commander Spock – ironically, Spock’s inclusion in Planet of the Titans is similar to his appearance in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. After being forced to deal with the loss of Captain Kirk, Spock resigns from Star Fleet and pursues a Vulcan discipline of pure logic (just like Kholinar) that was to rid him of his human emotions forever. Spock rejoins the new Enterprise on their mission to the Planet of the Titans because he sees premonitions that his fate lies with the Enterprise, and in fact, he sees his own death amongst them. Spock’s struggle to deal with his emotions would have to be at an all-time high in this screenplay, with him feeling responsible for the loss of Captain Kirk, attempting to rid himself of his human side forever, inevitably feeling joy at the discovery that Kirk is alive and well, and preparing himself of his death that he knows will be coming… Exactly what that death would have entailed is unknown at this time, as it is not mentioned any more than this in the source materials I have unearthed. It will be interesting to see if the screenplay ever does turn up if Spock does, in fact, die, perhaps a hook to reel Nimoy back into playing the character he had grown to hate (as was the case with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn).

Dr. Riva — An alien psychiatrist able to project herself into people’s dreams, Riva becomes intimately involved with Spock during her investigation of the last mission of the Enterprise. In Planet of the Titans, Spock gets the girl, Kirk doesn’t—although a future relationship for him with Uhura is implied.

Shooonashoo — An alien companion to Dr. Riva, Shooonashoo is not very much developed in the Kaufman screenplay, serving only to pass information on the Enterprise crew about Spock and Riva’s location.

James T. Kirk Jr. Taking the wildman role intended for Kirk himself in the Bryant and Scott draft, Kirk’s son from a possible future is the result of a union between the captain and Uhura. Giving Kirk an adult son, like many other elements presented in the Titans screenplays, will obviously come into play for future Treks.  

The Klingons – Ever the villains as of this point in Trek lore, the Klingons were something that Gene was never really satisfied with as villains in the old series. For Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, Robert Fletcher designed a much more alien looking Klingon then what was finally filmed (the filmed version still being different than the design that appeared in the TV series), and one cannot help but wonder if the Klingons were scheduled for such a ‘refit’ here as well. Character-wise, they play out only as the black hats, causing problems for the crew of the Enterprise in a selfish bid to come out ahead of the game against the Federation.

Klingon Commander — Appearing in the Kaufman draft, the unnamed Klingon Commander was certainly no Kor or Kang. Originally completely distasteful of Spock, the commander becomes obsessed with him, practically forcing himself on the Vulcan as a roommate. At one point, he is so insistent that Spock nerve pinches him just to shut him up. He seems to be around only to cause trouble and then is left out of any resolution. Any payoff the character might have achieved is stripped from him when it is revealed that his lost ship never survived the journey through the black hole. Basically, he is there for nothing other than to be the annoying guy you wish you left at home. The idea that Kaufman had Toshiro Mifune in mind as Spock’s “Klingon nemesis” is baffling, as he doesn’t come off with any strength in the screenplay. My idea was to make it less “cult-ish”, and more of an adult movie, dealing with sexuality and wonders rather than oddness;” said Kaufman, “a big science fiction movie, filled with all kinds of questions, particularly about the nature of Spock’s [duality]—exploring his humanity and what humanness was. To have Spock and Mifune’s character tripping out in outer space. I’m sure the fans would have been upset, but I felt it could really open up a new type of science fiction.”

The Cygnans – In the Bryant and Scott screenplay, the Cygnans are an alien race that is known as the ‘destroyers of the Titans’, the Cygnans are a despicable race who seek only to destroy and dominate others. These creatures are the true villains of this screenplay, being so horrible that Kirk is willing to risk taking the Enterprise through a black hole to keep them from polluting the galaxy with their hatred. For the Kaufman rewrite, they were merged with the Titans into the Last Men on Earth.

The Last Men on Earth — Electro-energy spider beasts that are the result of genetic manipulation, these creatures are what is physically left of mankind in the far future. Most humans have evolved into sentient clouds and made their way into the universe to explore. The Last Men were hunted and exterminated, leaving only a few alive.  The Last Man is a much larger and grotesque version of the others, determined to give rebirth to the human race. People lured through the black hole to the future earth he inhabits have mistaken him for an evil presence because of his deformities—and the human mind equates ugly with evil—a nice little Trek look at the human condition.

The Keepers — A group of male time travelers who show up in the third act to protect the Last man on Earth, the Keepers to me are indicative of Planet of the Titans going off the rails.

The Titans – What can be said of the Titans? The mysterious beings that gave mankind fire, and were, therefore, the progenitors of our civilization, turn out to be none other than the crew of the Enterprise themselves. An exciting twist, and one that is indicative of sci-fi of the 1960s-70s, wherein the characters spend all this time trying to figure out something and it’s the act of what they are doing to discover it that causes what they were trying to figure out in the first place (my head hurts). Planet of the Apes had a similar twist of a darker nature, with Taylor pondering how on earth there could be a place where apes evolved from men until he discovers that he is indeed on earth, and man-caused its own downfall through nuclear annihilation, paving the way for apes to civilize. As Planet of the Apes was the best selling sci-fi series ever at this time, it’s possible that the writers were looking to it as for what makes motion picture science fiction work (even the title, Planet of the Titans, is indicative of Planet of the Apes).

ModelosThe USS Enterprise – Ever a character in her own right, the Enterprise design for this film is the one that was eventually revisited as the USS Discovery—giving that ship an instant Trek legacy. The two study models for this design were put to use in Star Trek III and The Next Generation as background ships, so the design even has precedent in the pre-Discovery established Trek canon. At the start of Star Trek: Planet of the Titans, the Enterprise has yet to go into refit, implying that it is still the ship we remember and love from The Original Series. It’s possible that they even intended to use that original model for the opening scenes, and use the new improved Ralph Mcquarrie design for the later refit. The refit’s wedge-shaped hull helps the ship look good without its saucer, which was important to all iterations of Star Trek: Planet of the Titans, as the saucer separates from the main hull at a critical point in both screenplays.

Screen Shot 2018-01-13 at 1.45.26 PMThe Planet of the Titans Enterprise study model makes its camera-shy film appearance—back and to the left.

WHAT WENT WRONG 

TO KIRK OR NOT TO KIRK

Bryant and Scott had an interesting dilemma to deal with when translating Star Trek to the big screen: the loss of Captain Kirk (and not to a falling bridge as in Generations). William Shatner was renegotiating his contract with Paramount when they began working on it, and they were told to write a screenplay that did not include Captain Kirk. Later, as the first draft was completed, Shatner had a new contract with Paramount, and the writers had to find a way to insert the good captain back into a movie that shouldn’t have been written without him in the first place.

TOO MANY KIRKS IN THE KITCHEN

So many people had input on the script, that in the end, it bore no resemblance to the initial story outline. According to Alan Scott, “Without any ill feelings on anyone’s part, it became clear to [Chris Bryant and me] that there was a divergence of view as to how the movie should be made between Gene [Roddenberry] and Phil [Kaufman]. I think Gene was quite right in sticking by not so much the specifics of Star Trek, but the general ethics of it. I think Phil was more interested in exploring a wider range of science fiction stories, and yet nonetheless staying faithful to Star Trek. There was definitely a tugging on the two sides between them. One of the reasons it took us so long to come up with a story was because things would change. If we came up with some aspects that pleased Gene, they often didn’t please Phil and vice versa.” [TREK: THE LOST YEARS]

Susan Sackett commented “It was a script by committee and therein lay its trouble. A few weeks after it was handed in, the studio turned thumbs down… the fate of Star Trek: The Motion Picture was again in limbo.”

IT’S NOT STAR TREK

Jon Povil, who was Roddenberry’s and Isenberg’s assistant on this Star Trek project (and went on to work on the aborted Star Trek Phase II TV Series and on Star Trek: The Motion Picture), claimed that the film would have had audiences going to see it, but its just as well it wasn’t made, because it wasn’t really Star Trek. Of course, it can be argued that Star Trek: The Motion Picture is really only half of the Star Trek equation, being bereft of the adventure and characterization that made the series popular in the first place. As a result of this script, Star Trek would be shelved as a feature film, re-conceptualized as a TV series again (Star Trek: Phase II), and then reworked into a motion picture yet again, finally to be released, and still not yet fully capturing the essence of The Original Series. It’s clear that during the ‘70s, Paramount, and even Trek’s creator himself, didn’t know the answer to the question, “just what IS Star Trek?”

0092076020787f54e80ee5ff14ad39fc--star-treck-macha

THE CREATIVE TEAM

Chris Bryant and Allan Scott —Two talented British writers more known for their comedy writing than science fiction, Bryant and Scott came into the project without a bit of Trek knowledge, but with impressive film credits, such as The Petersburg-Cannes Express, Don’t Look Now, and Joseph Andrews. Although their script was rejected by Paramount and Planet of the Titans was scrapped, the two left the project in good spirits, happy to have been part of the Star Trek family even for a short time. Allan Scott himself is known to have commented that the screenplay wasn’t what it should have been.

Gene Roddenberry—The creator of Star Trek and ‘Great Bird of the Galaxy’ himself, Roddenberry acted as more of an overseer on this project, leading Allan and Chris in directions that director Phil Kaufman didn’t want them to go in. It was Gene’s unwillingness to ‘play nice’ with other creators in his own backyard that eventually landed him in trouble with Paramount (hence his near noninvolvement with Trek films from Star Trek II until his untimely death in ‘91.)

Jerry Isenberg— One of the youngest and most active producers in Hollywood at the time, Jerry Isenberg put his all into making Planet of the Titans a reality, generating enthusiasm amongst Paramount officials and breathing life back into what was considered a stale project until he came aboard.

Phil Kaufman— Known in sci-fi circles as the director of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake, Kaufman was new to Star Trek, and like writers Bryant and Scott, he was given a listing of the “Best Trek” to watch. The director wanted to not only make a film true to the Star Trek mythos but expand Star Trek to cover other science fiction ideas as well. He and Gene rarely saw eye-to-eye on the script, and when he handed in the screenplay that was rejected by Paramount, Gene took it upon himself to perform a last-minute salvage job in order to save the project. Unfortunately, his rewrite was reportedly worse than the two covered here.

Ralph Mcquarrie – Fresh off his stint as designer for the then yet to be released Star Wars, Ralph was hired to bring his unique vision to Star Trek. The most intriguing creation he brought to the table was that of the refit Enterprise, as represented in the front and rear view paintings included here. Looking somewhat like a Star Destroyer with warp engine pylons and a saucer attached, it certainly would have revolutionized Starfleet design esthetics for all time. I for one am glad that Star Trek Discovery picked up this lost design thread and is exploiting it to it’s fullest.

Ken AdamStar Trek: Planet of the Titans’ production designer, Ken was responsible for the villainous sets in most of the James Bond movies, making him a natural at what would be complex sci-fi designs. Ken supplied many sketches for sets, including a concept for the interior of the new Enterprise shuttle bay, several sketches of the Enterprise herself based on Ralph Mcquarrie’s designs, and other key locations for the Planet of the Titans script, including the ‘Superbrain Stonehenge’.

COINCIDENCE?

s-l1600In 1977, Bantam Books released the Star Trek novel called Planet of Judgement by Joe Haldeman, which involved a rogue planet orbited by a black hole. The Enterprise suffers severe technological failures and the crew faces off against the godlike beings of immeasurable power that rule the planet. A strangely familiar premise, indeed—and conceived in the same timeframe as the aborted film project. For years, I was certain that this was a novelization of the Titans screenplay—but that appears to not be the case.

From the back cover:

Never before had the Enterprise been betrayed by its own technology. Never before had their systems, instruments, and weapons failed to respond. And never before had Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the rest of the crew faced a total breakdown of science and sanity…until they stumbled on the mysterious world that couldn’t exist…

A world orbited by a black hole and ruled by chaos – where man was a helpless plaything for a race of beings more powerful than the laws of the universe.

Andrew E. C. Gaska

BIBLIOGRAPHY 
c8ecb0749f25d5a52094365fb11c174e-1The Making of Star Trek the Motion Picture by Susan Sackett and Gene Roddenberry (1980)

The Art of Star Trek by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens (1995) 

Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens (1997)

Star Trek: Where no Man has Gone Before: A History In Pictures by J.M. Dillard (1994)

Trek: The Making of the Movies by James Van Hise (1992)

Trek: The Lost Years by Edward Gross (1989)

Memory Alpha Wikia, Star Trek Planet of the Titans

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND IMAGERY:

STARLOG Magazine issue #136 by O’QUINN STUDIOS, INC. (November 1988)

USS ENTERPRISE Heavy Cruiser Evolution Blueprints by Starfleet Department of Graphic Design (fan-produced)

USS ENTERPRISE OFFICER’S MANUAL by The Starfleet Publications Office (fan-produced)

SIDESTEPS

Definitive Trek: Gene Roddenberry’s A-list of Trek episodes, said to epitomize the core of what Star Trek represents. One day I’ll expand this list to all the other Trek series, but for now you know what classic episodes to use to get your friends to watch Star Trek with you, instead of finally getting that cosplayer you‘ve had a crush on to agree to view an episode or two only to scar him or her for life with winners like “Spock’s Brain” or “Catspaw”…

USS-Enterprise-Officers-Manual_Page_148

City on the Edge of Forever 

Devil in the Dark 

Amok Time

Journey to Babel

Shore Leave

The Trouble with Tribbles

The Enemy Within

The Corbomite Maneuver

This Side of Paradise

A Piece of the Action

zgXYsEV

The USS Discovery boldly goes where the McQuarrie Enterprise nearly went before.

All images are ©2018 CBS Paramount and are used for the purposes of commentary or review only unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.