Loving Leia

tumblr_o0i9uy4g8W1v2fnuuo5_1280Our Princess passed one year ago. While she is mostly known for her role in Star Wars, Carrie Fisher was more than that. Outside of her character, she was a survivor. Carrie was a vibrant, witty, troubled woman who was fighting drug addiction and depression her entire life. A woman who pushed past her problems and made something of herself, instead of succumbing to severely crippling psychological disorders.

I met Carrie once, over a decade ago. Carrie was signing at the Big Apple Convention in NYC and was bored out of her mind. She was cranking out assembly line signatures to fans who were too afraid to say anything to her except, “Thank you,” if they even remembered to do that.

Aware of her fun side, when I got to my place in line, I spoke up.

“Hey Carrie, please sign it to Dr. Pornstar, and write something dirty, too.”

Carrie paused.  A smile began to creep over her face.
Her eyes twinkled.
“Mmmmm,” she said, inspiration taking hold.

Below is the result. Thank you, Carrie. Just as you live on in the Last Jedi, you live on in our hearts. You were and still are a beacon of hope.

Andrew E.C. Gaska



Creative Kiss 101—An Empire of Nuances


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Many times, it’s the little things that push something over the top—for better or for worse. Just as the static and clumsy oversight of an incompetent creator can hinder any fictional endeavor, the subtleties perpetrated by a good director can augment one’s sense of wonder. The tools at any creative director’s disposal include more than the players and crew. Palette, scene composition, dialogue, and character idiosyncrasies are all key to telling a bigger story.

Irvin Kirschner was George Lucas’ film teacher. When George bowed out of directing the eventually titled Episode V, he asked the senior director to pick up the reins for him. What he did not expect was that Kirshner would create a superior product, elevating Star Wars out of Toyland and into film and franchise history. As director of the second Star Wars film, Kirschner jam-packed every shot in the Empire Strikes Back with details not readily noticed on a single viewing. Let’s take a single scene and break it down, shall we?


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The modern viewer is drawn, of course, to the incestuous brother/sister kiss which dominates the scene (Mr. Lucas seems to have glossed over this kiss and Luke and Leia’s awkward romance when he got lazy and decided not to follow the original plan.continue with Episodes VII VIII & IX in the eighties. According to Gary Kurtz, Luke’s actual sister was on the other side of the galaxy. After the Emperor’s death in Episode VI, Palatine’s essence would flee there to corrupt her. Luke would pursue the disembodied Emperor, ultimately finding his sister and encountering a whole new universe of threats. But I digress…)

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It’s all about the details. Let’s take a look at the other particulars of this scene. Chewbacca, obviously, finds the entire affair amusing. Han is… well, look at Captain Solo’s face—obviously, he is disappointed and yearning as he watches Leia kiss her brother, wishing it was he she was kissing instead of Luke.

The best part is Threepio’s double take. He rushes up to see the kiss, then immediately turns to see Han’s reaction. As stupid as Threepio is, he knows.

When Leia pulls away from Luke and looks Han in the face, the smuggler quickly changes his visage to one of awkward nonchalance. He tries in vain to look nonplussed by it all and is unable to meet her eyes for long.

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Altogether a well-played amusing scene that gets better with subsequent viewings. There is always something new to look at in each revisit. Everyone in this one scene has their own arc to worry about. Each is in character and reacting according to who and what they arethe secondary characters aren’t just there to fill up space, even though they are reacting to something that has nothing to do with them. Compare that to the prequel trilogy, when character and dialogue exist merely to move the thinly contrived plot from point A to B to C. Everyone in Empire is alive.

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Irvin Kirschner was a civilized director for a more civilized age, and more modern directors would do well to tip their hats to the man. His attention to detail was something you that you simply don’t see in genre fiction anymore—and something that elevated Empire from a mere sequel ‘strapped to a one-hit wonder’ to art in and of itself. It’s easy to get caught up in the trappings of a galaxy far, far, away. Fans need to remember that just like a good book or anything else, a good film is good regardless of its genre. For all its potential and revelations, the Last Jedi is missing the nuances needed to make it so. That’s right, I made a Trek reference on a Star Wars post. You go and Live Prosper now, alright?

Just as the other films in history’s longest trilogy, it’s devoid of the art of Empire. Does that make the Last Jedi a bad film? Probably not. I did enjoy it. It’s certainly not prequel bad. It’s just no Empire Strikes Back. But then again, what else is? Not much.

Class dismissed.

Andrew E.C. Gaska





Note: Extremely minor non-plot and non-character spoiler towards the end of this post.



Cool critter and vehicle design plus incredibly epic and emotional scenes that are the essence of Star Wars, coupled with character revelations and plot twists that spin the franchise in new directions and force you to rethink what you thought you knew about a galaxy far, far, away.



Excessive humor of a type inappropriate to the franchise, uninspired alien design, an prequel-esque planet, a ponderous plot, an unexpected and particularly off-putting SFX visual representation of a beloved icon that should work but just doesn’t, a few hammed-up performances and a series of contrived circumstances that rival the prequels in their ham-fisted execution.



Fanboy reactions and the fear that the next film will backpedal and transform TLJ’s spin into a crash and burn in order to get it back on its overwrought cyclical track.



Space Walrus milk. Likely spoiled, definitely gratuitous.
Do not want.



Second viewing required. At the least.

Andrew E.C. Gaska

Empire Builder

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As we embrace and/or reject STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI this holiday season, it seems appropriate to revisit Star Wars’ past for commentary—and not the least of which would be Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Empire is considered by far the best of the Star Wars films and is also the original game changer. It turned Star Wars on its ear and paved way for an expanding universe.

Empire, well, built an empire.

As the middle film in Disney’s new Star Wars trilogy, does the Last Jedi follow suit? Well, yes and no. It does successfully shake things up. It levels the playing field and disavows fan expectations—but unfortunately does so without the art, finesse, and excellence in storytelling that Empire provided.  Over the coming weeks, we will be diving deep into the Last Jedi. For now, let’s take a look at what Episode V did right to ensure an Empire of Star Wars.

When the original Star Wars came out, it stood precariously on a precipice.

It was a child-like adventure presented in an adult manner. Gone was the usual schlock of such endeavors, replaced with well-rounded performances, cutting-edge special effects, and witty dialogue and banter, punched up by none other than the late and great Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia herself.

At its core, however, the first Star Wars (1977) was as the original teaser presented it: The story of a boy, a girl, and a universe.

With its overwhelming success, a sequel was indeed called for. What direction such a continuation would go in, however, would prove to be crucial to its enduring ascendancy. Would Star Wars 2 follow the same formula as the first one? Would it be re-trend, or could it be something more? While we all know what did happen, it could have gone either way.

Originally, not only was Obiwan Kenobi intended to survive the first film, hanging around until its conclusion with not much to do (in order to train Luke in the next one), but so was the Death Star (!), denying the unforeseen blockbuster any resolution or success for its heroes. And in Lucas’ first cut edit of the film, Luke makes the Death Star trench run twice after missing the first time!  Intervention by the studio and Marcia Lucas (George’s soon to be exiled ex-wife) saved the feature from such an ignoble fate.

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With a sequel greenlit, would Luke, Han, and Leia face off against a second Death Star, or would this be an actual continuing story? Could Star Wars indeed become a saga?

Now, with George Lucas distracted by his impending divorce, as well as the founding of his soon to be legendary effects house, ILM, the chance for an actual continuation was born.

Science fiction luminary Leigh Brackett was brought in to flesh out a story from George’s extremely loose notes, with Lawrence Kasden following to work on subsequent drafts when she fell ill. The final pieces of the puzzle fell into place when Irvin Kershner was hired to direct in Lucas’ absence, and Harrison Ford’s suggestions on set–otherwise ignored in George’s presence–were taken seriously.

With the advent of Kershner and Brackett’s far superior the Empire Strikes Back, the Star Wars saga was officially catapulted from young adult science fiction fantasy head first into mature space opera.

Unfortunately, the scripting and direction of its sequel, Return of the Jedi, did not maintain this trend—defaulting to type with a second Death Star, as well as revisiting Luke’s desert planet Tatooine in the first act. George’s rational at the time: Do a better Death Star and “cantina sequence” (this time as Jabba’s palace) than he did the first time, to show how much his effects house had grown.

Apparently, George’s mantra had become effects over story, despite his words to the contrary in many an interview.

This repetition was a detriment to the concept of an actual saga, but by that time the damage was done: Star Wars was forever ingrained in American popular culture.

Empire Strikes Back was indeed the lynchpin that made Star Wars more than a one-hit wonder.

Vader’s transformation from the Empire’s goon/thug into a maniacal calculating menace, Han Solo’s growth from selfish pirate to a man with something worth fighting for, and Luke’s trials and disastrous face off against the Sith Lord all made the saga we know and love today a reality.

Without Empire’s adult attitude, dark themes, complex story, fascinating compositions, and three-dimensional characterizations, Star Wars would likely be forever remembered as a successful curiosity of the summer of 1977, and nothing more.

Instead, it is a cultural phenomenon spanning decades.

And it’s all thanks to a bold new direction in science fiction and fantasy filmmaking, as well as the love of a universe by those other than it’s creator.

Viva la Empire.

Andrew. E. C. Gaska


A Comic with Conscience

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Just as I owe my imagination to a movie trilogy and a role-playing game, I owe my social values to a comic book and a television series.

G.I.JOE: A Real American Hero (said aforementioned comic) and Star Trek (the previously referred to television show) together helped shape my conscience as a child and early teen. As Trek has been discussed at length by me elsewhere, I’ll discuss JOE here.

My first taste of G.I. JOE was in 1982. It was not an action figure but was instead a friend’s comic tucked inside a textbook and covertly read during class in the fourth grade.

For those of you who never experienced it, that comic is not what the general public perception of JOE is.

While the eventual cartoon was ultimately sci-fi driven kids’ entertainment, for over a decade Larry Hama’s G.I. JOE comic series was grounded in a near reality full of mature themes and concepts—and I don’t mean of the rated R variety. The comic taught a ten-year-old me about racial and sexual equality. It taught diversity, honor, and the difference between doing what you are told to do and the right thing to do.

Through its characters’ past in Vietnam, it showed me that war was a terrible thing that no normal person wants to go through. It satirized real-world political and social situations, providing an unwitting me a glimpse at policy, bureaucracy, diplomacy and even economics. It showed me people can judge for the wrong reasons and can lose their way over legitimate issues. It taught me what freedom of speech meant. It taught me sacrifice and it taught me loyalty.

Finally, for a boy who was ostracized for his imaginative and intellectual pursuits, it taught me acceptance.

While Snake Eyes, the de-facto star of the series, was white (like me), his best friends—two other main characters—were Asian and Black. Snake Eyes had suffered through Vietnam and emerged from the war with his family dead. He wasn’t considered a hero by the public but was instead labeled a baby killer for nothing more than being a soldier in a war he never wanted to fight. He soon found himself without any direction. He was taken in by his friend’s family and trained by them in special skills until tragedy struck there as well—causing a schism of hatred between two men who previously thought of themselves as brothers.


With nowhere else to go, Snake Eyes returned to the military—the only life he knew—and soon took an engine blast to the face when saving a fellow member from a helicopter crash. He was disfigured and rendered mute—unable to express his pent-up emotions and frustrations—and wore a mask to hide his scarred visage.

And yet he was loved, both by his friends and the highly skilled strong woman he had saved during the helicopter accident. She loved him for the man he was underneath that black mask. Constantly in physical and emotional pain, he didn’t make it easy for her. She loved him for his tortured heart and his personal code of honor.

Heavy stuff for an insecure outcast kid who thought of himself as ugly. Surely if Snake Eyes could find love and acceptance, one day I could as well.

Ironically, my mother originally wanted to keep me away from G.I. JOE because she was afraid it would lead to me wanting a life in the military. My father was an NYC Police Officer, and the idea of her son being professionally in harm’s way as well was something she didn’t want to deal with.

It was the colorful, racially diverse cast of characters (along with my persistent nagging) that made her change her mind. At first, I was only allowed to get the figures that “didn’t look army”—Snake Eyes, Scarlett, the Cobra Troopers, etc.—basically anyone who wasn’t wearing green.

Finally, when she figured out I’d been buying the comic behind her back with any spare change I could scrounge up, she conceded.

Even got me the U.S.S.Flagg Aircraft Carrier.

G.I. JOE spurred both my creativity and my sense of social justice.

Thank you, Larry, for helping set me on the right path.

Andrew. E. C. Gaska


Traumatic Misconceptions

22894128_1875387209142495_6663039717473420115_nWARNING: Extremely personal post. And yes, the pic is me as a child.

Many people are saying that those coming out about sexual abuse from Weinstein and Spacey are making it up.

They say they are just jumping on the bandwagon. They are accusing the victims of being the predators, “cashing in” on the publicity.

“If it really happened, why didn’t they report it back then?” Of course, most if not all of those naysaying were never abused. You need to understand the psychology behind these things. The human mind doesn’t always react logically when:

1.) it is immature (which is why we have an age of consent) and 2.) it has suffered trauma. Physical and sexual abuse create psychological problems. PTSD for these situations is real. A victim can blame themselves for what happened for years, if not their entire life. Fear of judgment is a powerful silencer.

As I stated in a previous post, I was sexually abused by my babysitter and her friends when I was seven years old. This went on for the entire year of the first grade.

While I won’t go into details here, I will say it started with her showing me a playboy magazine and asking me if I wanted to do things that, “only grown-ups do.”

She eventually started bringing her friends in, and I was never allowed to speak during these sessions. Essentially, I was treated as a puppet. I kept my mouth shut about it each time afterward because I knew what we were doing was wrong, and she told me that if I told anyone, I’d get in trouble.

I was seven. I didn’t understand.

Back then, kids were not warned about such things. “Say no, then go, and tell,” was still years away. It didn’t occur to me that I wouldn’t get in trouble, she would.

I told a few friends in confidence over the years but didn’t tell my mother until I was 17. She didn’t want to believe it—not because of any nefarious reasons, but because it was a very different time (70s-80s), and she couldn’t come to terms with the idea that she had left her son with someone who abused him. She felt responsible—when it was, in fact, no way her fault. How could she know? It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s that she accepted it.

In addition to the sexual abuse at seven, I had a teacher the next year in the second grade (Sister Rosemary) who physically and psychologically abused me.

I will give more details on this one. She used me as an example to keep the other kids in line. She hung me by my collar in the closet. Made me sit in the wastepaper basket under her desk as she crumpled papers and threw them at me. Swung me around the classroom by my hair.

She ruled by fear.

I didn’t tell my parents because I thought that since this is a person of authority, and I’m in this much trouble at school, telling my parents would mean I’d get beat and punished at home.

A completely fear-based response.

To make it worse, at the end of the school year she told the entire class that the only reason I was graduating to the third grade was that she “couldn’t stand another year” with me. Nevermind that my grades weren’t bad.

Because I was picked on in class, I started getting beaten on by bullies after school as well. That lasted way past the second grade.

In college, I took a creative writing class that was geared towards telling your experiences in life. I wrote about what happened to me with my babysitter.

We had to read the stories out loud for discussion. I was stunned at the reactions. Guys were trying to high five me because I “got laid when I was seven.” They thought I had bragging rights.

Would their reactions have been different if I’d been a woman, or were people just callous all around?

Eventually, I felt it was best to just swept all these things under the carpet– it was so long ago, so what. Damage was done, and I couldn’t do anything to take it away. Forget it and move on. But it didn’t go away. It affected everything.

I’ve suffered from PTSD all my life. Sister Rosemary’s physical and psychological abuse combined with the prolonged sexual abuse from my babysitter and her friends severely damaged my self-confidence. It filled me with self-doubt and loathing.

It has colored my relationships and gotten me involved with many women who have abused and used me over the years.

To say it made it hard for me to get ahead in life is an understatement. I didn’t fit in with other people. Regular jobs and a regular life didn’t work for me.

I have spent much of my life not feeling comfortable in my own skin. But I work at it. I’ve been in therapy several times over the years. I see why I react certain ways to things and try to stay on the right path.

I am lucky enough to have found my voice and made my way in creative endeavors. I have dedicated my life to it. I have my books. I express myself in my writing. Share my feelings and try to heal. And while people who know me have known about this for some time, this is my first real public expression of it. More than 35 years later. People who judge these things are why the abused don’t come forward. How long ago these things happened doesn’t matter. The time to listen is now.

Andrew. E. C. Gaska


Brett Schenker has posted some helpful links that people who don’t get it should check out. I recommend you peruse them.






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. 

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“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.


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


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.


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’. 


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).

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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.



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.



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.


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.


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.



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.


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.



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.


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.”


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?”



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’.


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

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


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)


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”…


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


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.


Richard Hatch could never remember my birthday


Richard Hatch and I were good friends—and his death this year was difficult to bear. Over three months later,  I almost let this one slip, but I decided I’d say something anyway.
Richard could never remember my birthday.
The irony of it, of course, is that we shared similar star signs—we are both Gemini on the cusp of Taurus. His birthday was May 21st and mine is May 23rd. When Richard and I started hanging out in 2004, whenever we would get together we would invariably have some in-depth dinner conversation which would reveal the inner workings and passions of our minds and souls. During these revelatory dinners, Richard would always stop, blink, and ask me, “What is your sign?” to which I would remind him that it was the same as his and that our birthdays were only two days apart. Just like I had told him two weeks before when we had gone to dinner and the month before that and so on and so on.

Each time his response would be, “Really!?!” He would then sit back in his chair with a satisfied smile and nod, excited once again to realize why he and I were such close friends.

All this suddenly changed last year, when despite the fact that I had forgotten to call him for once, Richard called me on my birthday (although I have a sneaking suspicion that his remembrance of my birth date was the work of Mina Frannea). I was having a rough year and he knew it and wanted to reach out. Richard always wanted the best for me and the other’s around him that he loved. He hated watching us stumble through the same mistakes he had made in life and had already learned the lessons from. I’ll never forget that he could (mostly) never remember when I was born and that he couldn’t tell the difference between a rubber chicken and a rubber duck.

Richard’s birthday was yesterday and mine is tomorrow.

Happy Birthday, my friend. It’s not easy being without your wit. I miss you.

Andrew. E. C. Gaska