Posts Tagged ‘Star Trek’

“Resistance is not futile. It’s voltage divided by current.”

George Takei“I was living in New York and I was doing fairly well, because I’d been lucky enough to get a part in a play. It was a musical called Fly Blackbird, and it ran for almost six months. However, when the play closed I began really struggling. I got nothing , no roles, no auditions, nothing. And when you’re struggling, you do whatever you can to survive. So my roommate had an aunt that catered these posh parties in Sutton Place, and for unemployed actors, these things were great. You’d go in for one night, hang up jackets, serve some food, clean up and go home. They paid well, and I always used to bring home the leftovers as a kind of bonus.

“At the same time, it was very hard for Asian actors to get cast in anything other than the role of a servant, and I’d made a vow to myself that I’d never play that sort of demeaning character. I felt like I had a real responsibility to try and fight that stereotype. In fact, in the middle of all this struggling, I actually turned down a role on Broadway because it was just another Oriental servant’s role.

“However that night I was back there in Sutton Place, with my little black bow tie and my little white jacket, standing at the front door, accepting all of these fur jackets and lugging them up to the coat room,. I was able to survive this paradox by telling myself, ‘This is not real. I’m really an actor.’ Y’know, I convinced myself that in real life I was just pretending to be a servant. At the same time, acting as a servant would have somehow seemed far more real, and far more degrading.”

–George Takei, quoted by William Shatner and Chris Kreski in Star Trek Memories

by Zeke Teflon

Late at night, when I’m done working, I usually watch a video on Netflix or Youtube. Lately, I’ve been watching Star Trek fanfic series. Wikipedia has a page listing most such fanfic productions, and over the last couple of months I’ve gone through all of the ones they list, plus a few others I’ve found. I’m not a hardcore Trek fan, but I do like the various Trek movies and TV series to one extent or another, and it’s been fun checking out all of the fanfic shows. They’re all labors of love, and they’ve all involved a lot of labor, so I’ll (mostly) keep negative comments to myself, and will list here only the three fanfic series I think are the best.Tar Trek Phase II poster

Star Trek Phase II (formerly Star Trek New Voyages) has been around since 2003, and is a continuation of the original Trek series. To date, they’ve produced eight episodes, including some from unproduced scripts from the original series and the aborted 1970s “Phase II” project. Unfortunately, CBS refused to give them permission to use Norman Spinrad’s unproduced script, “He Walked Among Us,” from the original series, which decades later he turned into (or at least reused the title for) the wonderful novel He Walked Among Us; I’d have loved to have seen that episode. This is the most “fannish” of the more professionally produced fanfic series, and the acting isn’t great, though Walter Koenig (Chekov) and George Takei (Sulu) have both appeared in episodes.

Star Trek Continues poster

Star Trek Continues appeared in 2013, and has five episodes so far. It’s also a continuation of the original series, but is more professional in quality than “Phase II.” All scripts are original, and like the scripts for the movies and all of the Trek series, vary considerably in quality. At best (“Fairest of Them All”), they’re quite good; at worst (“Divided We Stand”), they’re painful. The acting is professional, and guests have included Marina Sirtis and Michael Dorn (both from TNG); regular cast members include Grant Imahara (“Mythbusters”) and Chris Doohan (James Doohan’s son, reprising his father’s role).

Star Trek Renegades poster

Star Trek Renegades is the newest (2015) and very probably best funded of the not-for-profit,  fan-financed spinoffs. It’s also, by far, the most professional looking of them. It’s more of a miniseries than an ongoing series, and so far they’ve produced one 90-minute episode. Renegades largely involves the same crew who produced Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, whose cast included Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Gary Graham, and Tim Russ, and which is a 90-minute movie rather than a series.  (A bonus — SETI Institute director Seth Shostak makes a cameo in Of Gods and Men.)

Renegades  takes off approximately 10 years in the future in the Voyager universe, and the actors are largely the same as in Of Gods and Men, but include other notables such as Edward Furlong and Robert Picardo. They released the first 90-minute episode earlier this year, and it’s entertaining though not especially plausible. (Just don’t think  too hard about plot holes and you’ll enjoy the episode.) They’ve raised another$378,000 via Kickstarter, and presumably are just starting work on the second of the projected three episodes.

As well, if you’ve read this far, you’ll almost certainly enjoy William Shatner’s recent documentary, Chaos on the Bridge,  which concerns the development  of Star Trek: The Next Generation and its first two seasons. “Chaos” refers to the mind-boggling amount of hassling among the writers, producers, and the show’s creators. “Chaos” is both funny and fascinating, and is currently available on Netflix.

Finally, if you’re a Trek fan you’ll love (well, probably — it’s dark), the brand new Season 4 Episode 1, “Callister,” of the Netflix series Black Mirror. It’s alternately funny and horrifying, and probably the most intelligent Star Trek takeoff I’ve ever seen (with the possible exception of Galaxy Quest).

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–Zeke Teflon is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia

Free Radicals front cover

cover of Culture Wars by Marie Castleby Marie Alena Castle, author of Culture Wars: The Threat to Your Family and Your Freedom\

(originally posted on August 26, 2013)

In our religious culture, atheists are not so much on the outside looking in as caught in the crossfire.

We’d just as soon be left alone, but the demand from all sides is that we believe in a god. Because we don’t, the Bible calls us “fools,” it is assumed we have no moral compass, and we cannot get elected to public office.

As for patriotism, “An atheistic American is a contradiction in terms,” according to Congressman Louis Rabaut, who introduced the bill putting “under God” in the pledge in 1954.

The elder George Bush reiterated this on August 27, 1987, at a Chicago press conference: “…I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens,” he said, “nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”

All this simply because we accept that the natural world is all there is, having no reason to think otherwise.

These accusations have been piled on us for so long that atheists rank at the bottom in social acceptability. But, as the girl said as she picked up the shovel, “With such a big pile of crap, there has to be a pony in here somewhere.” There is.

The truth is that atheists actually make the best type of citizen and cause the least trouble of any demographic group.

We go only by what makes sense and improves life in the here and now. Our commitment to secular government has made us strong supporters of freedom of conscience and of every movement to repeal oppressive laws and improve human well-being.

We have supported abolition, women’s suffrage, workers’ rights, civil rights, reproductive rights, gay rights, children’s rights, medical research, and physician aid in dying. We appreciate liberal religionists who also work for the common good. We oppose religious authoritarians as politically and socially harmful.

In the workplace, we are there to get the job done. We need no accommodations for prayers, holy days, religious attire or services we refuse to provide because of religious beliefs. In politics, we have no contentious religious beliefs to impose and we don’t start or support religious wars. In public education, our interest is in educating students about the arts and sciences, and teaching them to think critically, behave responsibly, and make the most of their abilities.

Like all humans, atheists create myths to express ideas. While religious myths offer inspiration from the past with stories of miraculous and heroic events, atheist myths look to the future, often expressed through science fiction. Perhaps the most powerful is the world of “Star Trek,” created by atheist Gene Roddenberry, where humans have given up wars, social prejudices and divisive beliefs, and used science to end  hunger and poverty. That myth inspires us and has at least faint hope of realization.

This is the reality humans face and must deal with: We are a vulnerable species in a universe that is basically a huge debris field 14 billion light years old, full of violence and destruction.

We are hunkered down on a small, unstable rock wobbling through that debris field. The life forms that evolved in the thin biosphere surrounding this rock survive by eating each other.

The evolutionary process that brought us to consciousness works off of high birth and death rates and produces many defective products. There is no greater prescription for misery.

But here we are, with one life to live and no one to turn to for help but each other. We humans have worked mightily to overcome nature’s shortcomings, with the only “god” in sight being us, warts and all.

Despite the difficulties, life remains an exciting challenge, and we accept it.