Monday, September 30, 2013

The Chute

Back in May we moved into a new apartment, deeper in the city. We have a garbage chute which, on first blush, I thought was very urbane and made me feel like I lived on Seinfeld. (If you think this is silly or hipsterish please keep in mind I grew up in a town where the tallest building was four stories high so stuff like this happens. Chinese food delivery also makes me feel like Kramer could bust in on me at any moment and steal my cereal.)

But the garbage chute isn't urbane and cool and I don't think of witty sitcom banter while I'm walking my Ralph's-brand-sack down the hallway. The garbage chute is freaking awful. When we moved in, it was about 60 degrees outside but summer came quick and suddenly it was in the 90s and every single (non-ventalated) hallway suddenly smelled like a dump. The romance of city living has now completely worn off but we still have to take the trash down there every single day. (By the way, our neighbors have a habit of ditching their trash in the chute closet but not directly down the chute thereby blocking the door. You have to Jack Bauer your way in just to get rid of your coke zero and peanut shells.)

Ok, so all this brings me (kind of) to a similar chute in Voyager. Harry and Tom end up in a crazy-pants alien prison where everyone arrives via a chute. They slide in complete with grungy clothes and a blinking do-dad in their head called "a clamp" to cries of "New Prisoner!!!" from the other super pissed off guys. See--the clamp makes everyone extra-irritable. Including me. Much like the one where O'Brien is incarcerated in Brain Prison for twenty years, this one's hard to watch without much of a fun payoff and led me to create this picture of Harry and Tom fighting over a freaking pipe:

Anyway, tonight as I walked down the hall, forced my way in the door, and thrust a gross sack of trash down the chute I shouted, "NEW PRISONER!" and listened for signs of anyone trying to escape.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Voyager Season 2 Essential Episodes

1- The 37's
Ok, so they LAND Voyager and Janeway meets up with Amelia Freaking Earheart. (Is it possible to know that this exists and not immediately watch it?) The crazy thing is that Amelia Earheart's appearance is not the most interesting thing about this episode. In fact, the great thing about this one is Voyager finding a whole M-Class world populated by humans--not human-looking guys with a weird turtle glued to their head--actual humans. Janeway declares that anyone who wishes can stay behind and make the planet their new home. The reveal wherein we see who chooses to stay on the planet makes for one of the best scenes in all of Star Trek: Voyager.

2- Twisted
This one is pretty much an X-Files episode. A spacial rift-thing is screwing with Voyager's makeup and the entire crew roams the (constantly shifting) corridors attempting to fix it. The great thing here is how everyone is eventually thrust together and how they each cope with their hopeless situation.

3- Tuvix
Neelix and Tuvok, by way of a crazy transporter accident, turn into one guy who integrates with the crew and gets used to life on Voyager. This is a classic episode of Voyager and it stands out as one of the most memorable stories ever told in Trek. What seems to be a silly, improbably premise quickly shifts into a story with a heart and teeth.

4- Meld
Speaking of The X-Files, remember Luther Lee Boggs? He's the psychic serial killer in what's probably my favorite episode, Far Beyond The Sea. Well, he's back in Meld and he's a completely different guy psychic serial killer named, Suder. Tuvok, who's all about logic and law, catches Suder almost immediately but can't reconcile his logic with the complete the idea of a meaningless murder. This quiet, emotional episode is well-executed from every angle.

5- Basics Part 1 & 2
Here's the Season Finale/Premier so it's actually two episodes but you really need to watch this one because Seska's back and all kinds of crazy mess happens when she shows up announcing that she's Chakotay's baby-mama.
Bonus Points for Suder's amazing guest appearance.
Extra Bonus Points for Tuvok basically revealing that Vulcans are exactly the same as Wood Elves.
Extra, Extra Bonus Points for the very Star Trek motif of Voyager's crew interacting with a primitive, hostile culture.

Runners Up:

The Doctor's first date. This is a sweet, unconventional love story with an amazing character at the helm.

Two Voyagers. Two Janeways. Two B'Elannas. One Harry Kim. What more do you need to know?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

In A Quadrant Far, Far Away

Today I watched the Voyager Season 2 Finale, Basics Part 1. I love this finale. They didn't get to have a big deal season closer in the first season so this is Voyager's first real try at this kind of episode. There's a lot of great stuff about this one but instead of writing all about it, I ended up doing some art instead. I'm tired, man! Plus, I have to do a whole Season Essentials post tomorrow!

I'd been sort of planning on doing a little Seska/Chakotay portrait but instead I ended up with this:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

That Guy That's Not Harry

Just to continue my little rant about how Voyager is just as dark and deep as DS9, I thought I'd bring up something that makes us all a little uncomfortable.

In Deadlock, Harry Kim and Naomi Wildman died. I mean, they just for real died. One minute they were going about their regular, air-breathing day and the next thing they know, they're dead. In fact, after an attack by the creepy, creepy Vidians, the whole ship is pretty jacked up. Like, whole chunks of it are floating around in space (along with other non-regular cast crew members.)

You know some crazy mess has been going on
 when Janeway's bun starts falling down.
The nice thing is that, through some kind of super scary space-time rift, another Voyager pops up. This one is completely pristine. It has a mint condition Harry Kim and everything. The two Voyagers try help each other out.
Honestly, I love this. What's better than two Janeways? Really, now.
Eventually, the jacked-up Voyager decides to self destruct to help the pristine Voyager get away. Unfortunately, the pristine Voyager is boarded by creepy, creepy Vidians and they decide to self-destruct instead--defeating the enemy and allowing the jacked-up Voyager to make a break for it. Before they do, Janeway sends mint condition Harry Kim over to the other Voyager with still-alive Naomi. 

So, just to clarify, the entire rest of the time we watch Voyager, both Harry Kim and Naomi Wildman are relics from another space-time. It's a good thing Ensign Wildman ain't picky since we're never really told what happened to Original Naomi. This lady's just happy to be able to take care of her double's healthy baby. It's not too weird for us since we only knew Original Naomi for about five seconds before she died. Meanwhile, Original Harry Kim's body is somewhere out there, free-flying through the icy nothingness of space. For the next five seasons, we're watching Replacement Harry Kim. 

And you know how the Voyager crew handle this ridiculously dark mess? Do they wallow in a corner, drinking Kanar and breath-shouting at whoever has the audacity to question their obviously well-deserved grief? Nope. The metal-as-hell Voyager crew (who've suffered through: being tossed across the galaxy, face snatching aliens, double-crossing crew members, and a Q with a death wish) basically chalk this one up to the day-to-day hazards of space travel: 

I don't even have to caption this.
This is the actual end of Deadlock.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Your Reputation Precedes You

Imagine you're just a regular Delta Quadrant alien guy. You work in an office and you meet your alien spouse for lunch every Wednesday and Friday. You have alien kids and an alien pet. You're just going about your regular, alien life when you hear these rumors about a dangerous, mysterious threat that's ripping across your sector of space. The Starship Voyager.

You've heard from one of the other Delta Quadrant alien guys at work that the ship is helmed by a ruthless captain who probably has an eyepatch. The ship is full of dangerous aliens and someone from your quadrant onboard. You've heard he's a Talaxian--the traitor. The Delta Quadrant alien lady on the news recently raised the threat level to aquamarine because a planet in a nearby system (think they) spotted Voyager checking out the moon of a gas giant (and probably killing everyone who lived there) and now they're headed for you.
Just imagine that these people are, like, purple or something.

There's a really interesting thing going on in Voyager that I haven't yet commented on but I think it's worth mentioning. Everywhere Voyager goes, they find that their (basically false) reputation precedes them. The Kazon have been running around the Delta Quadrant spreading nasty rumors about how relentless and evil Voyager is and the crew's (I'm lookin' at you B'Elanna) inability to keep out of trouble doesn't help matters. People are freaking terrified of them. As a consequence, no one really wants to help them out.

As I kid (as I've mentioned many, many times here) I moved around a lot. I'm actually getting ready to move for what I'm pretty sure is my 36th time. I'm essentially a moving machine now. But, when I was a kid, I was still pretty freaked out by the prospect of relocation. I've thought about what it would've been like if my reputation had preceded me. Would I show up at my third sixth grade of the year and be faced with, "Oh geez. You're that weirdo who talks about TV all the time, aren't you? We've heard of you."

No, my fellow twelve-year-olds had to figure out, all on their own, what kind of weirdo I was. This meant that I had a clean slate every single time I started at a new school. I could have (and considered) showing up with a posh accent. I thought, for a time, about pretending to suffer from a form of mutism wherein I only communicated by way of a sign language that only I knew. I thought about pretending to be more like any one of the hundreds of other girls I'd come in contact with over the years. But, in the end, I couldn't be anyone but me and didn't want to. I had my own prime directive and my own goals: Be Who You Are. Be The Best Version Of Yourself.

As a kid, just like early on in Voyager, this set of edicts didn't win me a lot of friends. Of course, also like Voyager, it didn't really matter too much because I was always moving on to the next classroom, the next school, the next town. Wipe the slate clean. Be who you are. Get out of the Delta Quadrant.

I made a ton of fresh starts over the years. I've probably forgotten more people than many ever know. But over time, in the midst of all that wandering, I made the relationships that would stick. And now, when I go back to the places I've become attached to, I hear that, for the first time, my reputation does precede me. "You're that chick who runs the Shakespeare camp, right? That's cool." or "You're the one who gave that reading about the carnival guy, right? That's cool."

And, I have to say, it's pretty awesome.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Affairs of the Holographic Heart

The Doctor might be my favorite Voyager character. It's one of those things that sort of wavers day by day. But, through all these years, each time I watch the series, as much as I love Janeway, Seven, B'Elanna, and Neelix, I tend to keep coming back to The Doctor. I love the way his character develops, I love the way he's played, and I love the episodes that were written for him. He's Voyager's Spock/Data/Odo. He spends seven seasons exploring his humanity, trying to better understand what it means to be a person, what it means to create and develop relationships and, occasionally, what it means to fall in and out of love.

In Heroes and Demons he saves the day but not the girl. Freya, a badass viking maiden goes to her untimely death after bestowing a kiss on The Doctor. His first kiss. It's a holodeck kiss but it's not without meaning. My first kiss was similar. I was in Romeo and Juliet when I was fifteen and I'd never kissed anyone. I still remember standing in the rehearsal hall with my Romeo, in the middle of the summer, sweating through my Sailor Moon t-shirt and leaning in for my first kiss only to bump teeth in front of all the Montagues and Capulets. It might not have been a kiss borne out of love (even puppy love) but and thus not "real" but, in spite of the falseness of the situation, it still meant something to me.

The Doctor's relationships move into the (sort of) real world in Lifesigns wherein a Vidian scientist (infected with the Phage) shows up in sick bay. After transferring her mind (temporarily) to a non-infected body, they work together to treat her injuries and dysfunctional braincells. They become closer as the days pass and, eventually, their friendship builds into a romance. Eventually, The Doctor goes to Tom Paris for advice and ends up parking in a 57 Chevy on Mars with his lady friend:
It's The Doctor's first date and, like anyone's first date, it's awkward and sweet. And, again, just because the setting, the main character and the body of the leading lady aren't physically real, that doesn't mean that real emotions aren't involved. The Doctor and Denara are overtaken by a storm of happiness, excitement, trepidation, anxiety, and fear of rejection.

This episode is beautiful and quiet in its exploration of The Doctor's character, his first real romance, and his newfound ability to truly fall in love. Watch it.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Tuvok and Neelix

Star Trek has a long history of frenemy relationships. In spite of Roddenberry's edict that everyone in the 23rd and 24th centuries get along, it just doesn't really happen. People are different. If you cram a bunch of folks with varying backgrounds and personalities into a spaceship and send them careening through space, they're likely to have a row now and again. McCoy/Spock set the precedent for this and it's never really let up. In Voyager, we get an interesting pairing in Neelix and Tuvok.

Neelix is basically a golden retriever puppy. He loves everyone. All the time. If you don't love him, his feelings are hurt and he tries relentlessly to make you love him.

Especially with Tuvok. Tuvok is the opposite of Neelix and that's apparent from the very beginning. Where Tuvok is reserved, Neelix is emotive. Where Neelix is gregarious, Tuvox is introverted. Tuvok is all business while Neelix appoints himself the crew's "morale officer." And, no matter what Neelix does, he just can't win Tuvok over. Nevertheless, Neelix can't help himself. He loves Mr. Vulcan and just won't give up on what he hopes will be a very special friendship someday.

I love both of these characters so much. I love them all the way through and I can't wait to watch their personalities and their relationship develop through the seasons. Just thinking about that made me want to do a little tribute to these two:
We're totally never going to get turned into one
guy in a wacky transporter accident, right? 

After doing The Doctor/Kes and this one, I'm thinking about doing more Voyager portraits. What characters would you like to see together?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Voyager: Threshold

Once upon a time, the crew of Voyager decided to test the limits of warp drive and exceed warp 10, which everyone thought was impossible. They selected Tom Paris for the job and he got in the shuttle, drove away, crossed the warp threshold, and returned as a hero. Then, he started getting really sick. For a while, everyone thought Tom Paris would die. He got all gross and mutated and freaked out. Then, all of the sudden he DID di.. Then he woke up, kidnapped Janeway, drover her her across the threshold and landed on a planet where they turned into catfish amphibians, had babies, and were found several days later only to be returned to their human form after a couple hours with the doctor. Wait. What?

The first time I saw Threshold (often regarded as the worst episode of Star Trek ever, challenging even Spock's Brain) I thought I'd fallen asleep in the last ten minutes and had some kind of seriously jacked up dream. I couldn't even imagine that this weirdo, catfish/newt baby-making finish could possibly be real.

But it is: 
Chakotay and Tuvok speculate about which salamander thing is Janeway and which is Paris. But by this point in the episode it just doesn't even matter since apparently going in a straight line at Warp 10 sends you right to the middle of Crazy Town, Nutsylvania on the planet, Absurdia somewhere in the middle of the WTF Quadrant.

It's funny because I've probably seen this episode four or five times but it gets me EVERY SINGLE TIME. I always think, "Oh wow, I don't really remember what happens here. They're trying to break the warp barrier? That's cool. Why don't I remember this? What's going on with Paris? Holy crap it's this one! Got me again!"

This happened yesterday. Scott was watching it with me and said, "Is this the one where they turn into salamanders?"

I said, "No, I don't think so. I feel like that one comes later. But I can't remember what happens here..."

I'm actually glad I watched Threshold yesterday. Now I can just watch the rest of Voyager, relax and say with confidence that, "No. This is definitely not the episode where they turn into space amphibians."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Kes And The Doctor

Of course the very next day after posting a whole thing about Bad Dads in Voyager I feel compelled to do a little portrait of Kes and The Doctor. This is one pseudo-parental relationship I can totally get behind.

I absolutely love their friendship/mentorship. From Kes first realizing that the Doctor needed to be treated like a human member of the crew to his protecting her in "Twisted," they are completely adorable. I hope I did their relationship justice:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bad Dads

I have kind of a thing about Bad Dads. Some of my favorite (not Trek) movies are The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic (and you can just go ahead and tack on the rest of the Wes Anderson collection while you're at it.) My favorite Shakespeare plays are King Lear and The Tempest.
I thought a lot about this over the last few days as I watched three different Voyager episodes: The Persistence of Vision, Tattoo, and Resistance.

In The Persistence of Vision, the entire crew is put into a trance by a crazy alien who wants to take over Voyager. Each member sees who/what they want to see. Janeway sees the boyfriend she left behind, B'Elanna sees a hot-for-her-Chakotay, and Tom Paris sees his dad. Let me clarify-- his Bad Dad. Tom's dad is a tough-as-nails Admiral who was pretty hard on young Tom who never felt like he lived up to his dad's expectations. It was a long-needed confrontation with his imaginary dad that finally pulled Tom into la-la land in this episode.

In Tattoo, Chakotay's dad isn't really bad. He's just super invested in getting Chakotay into his Indian heritage. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but I guess when you're a teenager the last thing you want to do is mess around in the buggy rain forest with no tricorder or toilet paper. The high-school-flash-back version of Chakotay is pretty pissed through the whole episode and even talks about leaving the tribe. Obviously was is before he found his animal spirit and all tatted up.
"Um, no Q. That's too much. Go consult your ancestors and try again."
Finally, there's Resistance which is one of my very favorite episodes of Voyager. Janeway and her team get into some trouble while trying to procure some tellerium on a planet that's all jacked up with war. While Tuvok and B'Elanna are thrown in jail, Janeway is rescued by a delusional resistance fighter who's harboring guilt for his past Bad Dad behavior. His Don Quixote nature, too-little-too-late assistance to his wife and daughter, and the way he latches onto Janeway get me right in the feels. Every. Single. Time.

I could speculate here about why episodes like this get to me. I might think about how Bad Dads are usually more complicated than they first seem, how they love their kids but have a tendency to sabotage their relationships, how they make great characters because of their compelling self delusion. I could think a lot about that but too much meditation on this subject would probably leave me staring at the wall like Tom Paris--on the losing side of an imaginary confrontation.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Janeway Lambda One

Around this time last year I started re-reading all of Sherlock Holmes. I'm not really sure why, except that I read all the stories when I was in eighth grade and it just seemed like a good time to do it again. The fact that every single novel and story was free on Kindle certainly helped. When I finally finished, I picked up Jane Eyre, which I probably should've read in High School but never got around to it. Pride and Prejudice followed and then a couple of non-sequiturs came (Howl's Moving Castle, Castle in the Sky) before I started Bleak House. Now, I'm about half-way into Bleak House and about a year into this weird Brit-Lit binge.

I've thought a lot about that while watching Star Trek: Voyager lately. In Season 2, for about three episodes, Janeway has gothic holo-novel she starts up anytime she needs to relax. The subject matter doesn't actually sound too relaxing. She plays a reluctant lover to a moody English Lord and governess to his children while trying to get to the bottom of his wife's supposed death. There's a lot of talk about tea and the piano forte and bonnets while a stormy sky lights up (what I can only imagine are) the rolling, eery moors outside the house.  It's a weird place to "relax."

Still, there's something about falling into this period and style of literature that's both soothing and stimulating. I have a tendency to fall asleep a lot whenever I start these long, old novels but by about halfway through, I can't put them down. I like to think that if I had access to a holodeck, I'd be using it to slay monsters or hang out with Einstein or whatever but I'd probably do exactly as Janeway does: Pretend to solve a mystery while I drink tea and listen to the rain until it's time to go back to work.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Voyager: Season 1 Essentials

So the first season of Voyager only has sixteen episodes. That should make my "essentials" job a lot easier but it doesn't, really. I love the first season of Voyager and this re-watch absolutely flew by. But, if you don't have sixteen hours to pour into this season, here are my essential recommendations:

1- Caretaker:
This is the very first episode. I feel like it's probably a pretty good idea for you to know why the hell all these guys are wandering around in the Delta Quadrant to begin with. Aside from that, this is a really, really well done pilot.

2- Prime Factors:
Ok, I really wanted to write a whole post about this one as I believe it's the first time our guys (and by that I mean the Federation crew we follow) are denied technology that is beyond their current knowledge because of something like the Prime Directive. I LOVE this idea. Playing with this concept is something that seems like should've happened earlier but I'm glad it happened here, when Voyager is all alone with no one to help them. They're faced with an interesting ethical dilemma and the way it plays out is pretty perfect.

3- State of Flux:
There's a spy aboard Voyager and this episode is spent trying to flush him out. Watch this one because elements from it become pretty important later on.

As I've already mentioned, this episode sounds like a terrible, campy idea. In practice though, it's beautiful. The stuff Torres goes through is realistic and heartbreaking and will go on to apply to this character for the rest of the show.
Bonus Points for: Creepy, Creepy Durst Face!

5- Heroes And Demons:
A season essentials post would be incomplete without a romp, wouldn't it? Yes! Therefore, I declare this, the inaugural rompy episode of Voyager, to be absolutely essential. The doctor gets his first away mission on the holodeck version of Beuwolf and his first love interest in the shieldmaiden, Freya.

Runners Up:

Watch this one to get a better understanding of Neelix. The depth of this character and the way that he is played in this episode is surprising.

-Learning Curve
The Maquis transition into the Starfleet crew is pretty rocky at first. Obviously, to have a ton of stories showcasing this fact would get redundant and tiresome so I like how they handle it in this single, entertaining episode.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Some News

So, I've got some big news:

I'm going to be a For-Reals-Published-Author soon! I have a contract with Seventh Star Press and you can read all about it on their blog! We're all pretty excited about it around here:

I feel like I ought to write an actual, serious blog post tonight but, honestly, I'm too caught up in putting a final polish on my manuscript before I send it in while simultaneously being completely freaked out over the fact that publication means public and people are going to be reading my books: 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Unexpected Heaviness of Voyager

Voyager is often remembered as a kind of puppy dog, goofy series. They spend seven years in the Delta Quadrant wandering around like a bunch of kids lost at the mall. One is a goofy alien with a mohawk thing and spots, another is a dude who's way into the 1990s, another is an Indian guy who's always going on about his spirit animal etc while pan flutes play. This is the series where two guys are accidentally merged into one guy in one episode and one character is split into two in another. Goofy, right? Except it's not really.

While I was watching DS9 a lot of people talked to me about how "dark" the series was. How different it is from the rest of Trek because of its hard-edged themes and shades of grey. And that's true. But, watching Voyager at Warp 9, it becomes obscenely clear how serious the series is. It's strange how underrated it is in terms of its subject matter and character development.

Take a couple of the characters and episodes I mentioned already:

1- Neelix is a gregarious dude who's kind of goofy and likes to mess around in the kitchen making stuff too spicy. But, in "Jetrel," we see a new side of the character. He dodged the draft, wasn't there to defend his family when they were under attack, helped with the relief effort and ended up with awful survivor's guilt. Nightmares of a little girl who suffered horrible burns (and died as a result of her injuries while Neelix watched over her) haunt him.

Ethan Phillips is absolutely brilliant in this quiet but emotionally powerful episode. 
2- "Faces," the episode wherein B'Elanna is split into her Klingon and human halves, seems kind of wacky at first. But not only does it feel just like something that would've been in TOS, we actually get some amazing character development from this episode. B'Elanna hates and resents the Klingon part of her but she can't live without it. She will be forever at war with herself and that's a pretty powerful thing. Additionally, one of the crewmen who's been hanging around for a few episodes gets his face cut off and an alien who has a crush on B'Elanna WEARS IT AROUND AS A MASK.

You know, just in case the sheer idea of it wasn't horrifying enough.
These episodes are back to back. They're just as "dark" as anything that was ever in DS9 and they both provide insight into B'Elanna and Neelix that would inform those characters for the rest of the series.
And then there's Tuvix. We aren't to Tuvix yet but we'll get there and when we do, I'll inevitably talk about all this again.

So why does DS9 get all the credit for super deep characters and serious plots while Voyager often gets overlooked? Maybe we forget about this stuff because the characters on Voyager don't wallow. They don't sit around in Quarks drinking raktajino staring forlornly at the wormhole. The Voyager crew has somewhere to be and they don't have time to muck about. They get on with their lives and deal with their emotional issues while they get up every single day and try to figure out a way home.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Life Etc.

So I've got some pretty big news coming soon. (Friday!) But tied to that news is a lot of hard work and, even though I've been watching my episodes, my brain is pretty much dry at the end of the day. On top of that, I'm sick. I don't know if it's allergies or stress-provoked or just some kind of low-level virus but I've been dealing with a stupid headache and hacking cough for about two weeks. I'm kind of at my limit with it.

Anyway, last night I took a break and chanced going out. A good friend of ours offered to take us to a Dodgers game and we absolutely needed to go. We've both been working non-stop lately and have always wanted to get out to Dodger Stadium but we just never manage to make time for stuff like that.

Proof I'm still around and haven't been eaten alive by Netflix.
It was amazing. Literally one of the best things that's ever happened in my whole life. I've talked here and there about how much I love baseball so seeing a live game at such a storied ballpark was just magical. It helped that the Dodgers won with a walk off home run in the 11th inning.

I was feeling a lot better yesterday but an evening in the cool air seems to have kicked up whatever it is that's taken up residence in my chest/head/ears. I was thinking about that this afternoon as I watched "Learning Curve" where the cheese Neelix is cooking up literally makes the ship sick. I don't think it was some crazy Delta Quadrant cheese that jacked up my immune system and I really don't want to go to sick bay or burn whatever this is out with a risky fever. Instead, I think I'm just going to go lie down on the couch, take some Nyquil and watch the Dodgers until I fall asleep.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Starting Voyager

I remember the first time I started Voyager. My parents had been divorced nearly four years and, the summer before, I had taken up residence (for the first time) with my single dad. I suddenly found myself living in the house where my parents announced their split. I lived in the room they had shared as mine had been converted into storage for computer stuff and art supplies (see the kind of family I come from?) I didn't think much about this at the time. I was too distracted by the fact that I had my very first personal television. It was a used, 13-inch model with foil-covered rabbit ears and shiny knobs. It made a distinct, blooping electric sound when you turned it off and on and took a good forty-five seconds to "warm up."

It was on this very TV that I sat at the edge of my bed, probably eating pizza rolls (or potted meat or some other bachelor chow) wrapped up in my old Little Mermaid blanket watching the premier of Voyager.

It. Was. Magical.

I've seen all of Voyager a lot. They re-ran it over and over on cable when I was in college and as soon as Trek went to Netflix I just had to get me some Janeway. I love Voyager but, after so much DS9 and such a frought ending with that crew, I have to confess I was a little apprehensive about jumping back into the bouncy, rompy adventures of Voyager.

But, oh, how wrong I was.

From the cold open of "Caretaker," I was instantly pulled back in. Seeing those characters, introduced one by one, was like meeting up with old friends. The blinking lights of the bridge and LCARS flashing behind them reminded me how great it was to be back on a ship, traveling through space. By the end, as Janeway made her big speech about continuing their mission to seek out new life, I was in tears. TEARS.

I loved DS9. I love it now more than I ever have. But, man, it felt really good to be hopeful again. Star Trek hopeful.

Friday, September 6, 2013

DS9: Season Seven Essentials

Well here it is, the final essentials episodes for DS9. This one's a little tricky but I don't think there's anyway around the way these are listed:

1- Image In The Sand
This is the season premier and you basically have to get this one in to deal with Jadzia's death and Worf/Bashir/Quark's healing process. It's a pretty great Klingon-themed episode too and you know how I love those.

2- Take Me Out To The Holosuite
The entire crew gear up and play some ball. Is there any way this wouldn't be included? It's entirely possible that this is actually my favorite DS9 episode.
3- It's Only A Paper Moon
Here's another one of my all-time favorites. Nog has long been in contention for my favorite character (along with Quark, Worf, and Dax) but the way this character deals with the tragic loss of his leg is beautiful and perfectly Star Trek.

4- Bada Bing Bada Bang
Sisko's Eleven! This is the one where everyone puts on their 60's duds and robs a casino to help out a holosuite character. Yes! Ok, I get that this is not part of the mytharc. I just super don't care. This episode kicks ass. And, trust me, you're gonna need a romp before you head into the #5 entry on this list.

5- Penumbra-What You Leave Behind
Yep. Here are nine episodes. Basically, I feel like if you've watched all the DS9 essentials up to this point, you can decide whether or not you want to see the epic multi-episode finale. Of course, if you want to finish your stint with the one where everyone robs a casino, that's ok too.

Runners Up:

Seriously? I just gave you an "Essentials" list with thirteen episodes on it. Do you really need more?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

On Finishing DS9

Saying, "I'm going to finish DS9," is apparently a super dramatic statement. I made this proclamation (without realizing just how crazy the next three days would be) last week to my husband and he was basically like, "Yeah, ok." We headed into "Penumbre"which is the first in an eight-part mini-series which leads up to the very last, two-part episode of DS9. Just about half of the last season of DS9 is the finale. It's like a runaway train and no one (including the viewer) is ok with jumping off until it comes to a sort of meandering halt in "What You Leave Behind."

Given the epic nature of the end of this series, I've not relished the idea of discussing my experience watching it. It seems insurmountable. And that's just writing about it. I can only imagine the guys in the writers' room saying, "Well now, how do we give all of these extremely complex characters and plot threads a satisfying conclusion?"

Then somebody says, "Let's totally have Worf and Ezri get it on and then get kidnapped by the Breen!" Then somebody else says, "Oh, and how about Kira has to go help the Cardassian terrorists wage war against The Dominon!" That's quickly followed by, "And let's make Rom the Grand Nagus!" And, "Oh and Julian should TOTALLY talk to Miles about how super into each other they are." Along with, "Let's make Damar seriously and unquestionably kick ass!" And finally, "Let's fill all eight episode with ridiculously cool space battles! EXPLOSIONS RULE!"

Honestly, it's as if they had a list of plots and they went through the 8-episode stretch from "Penumbre" to "The Dogs Of War" neatly crossing them off. It's remarkably satisfying. So much so that Scott and I binge-watched those episodes in almost one viewing. We couldn't stop. Netflix kept asking, "Do you want to continue?" and we kept nodding--apparently powerless to resist DS9's swan song. Everything I mentioned in the previous paragraph is AWESOME. Just amazing. It's neat and original and beautiful. It's respectful to the characters we love so much. It's eight episodes of epic send-off that's totally appropriate to DS9.

Then, "What You Leave Behind" happened. I'd seen this finale before maybe one and a half times. I remembered the montages. I remembered Sisko pretty much going off to become a god and that's about it. Re-watching it this time, with so much build-up, after months and months of watching this show (as I was unpacking in our new apartment, from Vancouver, from my mother's house across the country, from the sofa as my mouth heeled) I needed something from this show that it didn't give me. I felt strangely unsatisfied with this series finale. Here's why:

I sort of don't buy the female Changeling giving herself up and Odo returning to the great link. I think there was something off, maybe rushed, about Kai Winn and Gul Dukat's finish. Lots and lots of montages that should have but just didn't work for me. No Jadzia--which I understand came out of a complicated financial situation. In the midst of all these salutes to BFFs, there's no Jake/Nog sendoff. The whole Alamo thing (which they talk about non-stop for the entire seventh season) doesn't really pay off. The whole prophecy about living a life of sorrow if Ben married Kasidy doesn't really pay off.

I can sort of forgive all that stuff though. But I can't get over one thing. My biggest problem with all of this is that it's Kasidy and not Jake who sees Sisko in the Celestial Temple. As much as I love Kasidy, I felt that Jake should've seen Sisko in the end. It feels wrong (especially after The Visitor) not to let a father say goodbye to his son. From the start of DS9--the very beginning of the pilot--this show has been as much about a father and son as anything else. We've seen Jake grow, always watched over by his dad, into a young adult. And then we watch him stare into space--hoping to see some glimmer of Benjamin. I get that this is often cited as one of the best episodes of DS9; I get that it's a fan favorite. It just didn't satisfy me. I sort of wish this episode had ended with the crew is standing in Vic's, celebrating the end of the Dominion War:

But, this blog is about liking things. It always has been. That doesn't mean I don't have problems with different parts of Star Trek. It just means that I try to focus my energy on the stuff I love. And here's the thing, before this year, I'd seen just about all of DS9 (there were a couple I missed over the years) and I'd felt pretty familiar with the characters and the show. But watching DS9 over this strange, surreal summer, it's become a part of my heart in a way that it never was before. I love these characters. I love these episodes. I will miss these people (especially the Ferengis) as I go on with my life. I'll return to these stories (especially the ones about Ferengis) time and again because, over the last few months, I've come to love DS9.

But, right now, I don't really have time to sit and reminisce. Janeway is calling me and I can't wait to board the USS Voyager.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

5 Things I Never Expected From Following My Year of Star Trek

The following is a guest post from one of My Year Of Star Trek's wonderful readers: 

When I found this blog back in January, I was excited. I love Star Trek, I was intrigued by the blog’s premise, and I looked forward to casually following along. Sometime during those early weeks, though, following My Year of Star Trek stopped being so casual. I decided to watch Trek along with the blog. I knew it would be fun, but I didn’t expect it to have even a fraction of the impact it’s had…

1. To grow a deeper appreciation for Star Trek- The Original Series.  I was not yet born when TOS first aired, and I was a little girl when reruns would be on in our tiny basement apartment. But TOS was my sister’s Trek; Kirk was her captain; he was her father figure, when I was still too young to realize I needed one. Today, my sister and I are as close as sisters can be; back then, however- we didn’t get along at all. The mere fact that Trek was hers meant that it wasn’t mine. Sure, I’ve always had an appreciation and respect for it in the subsequent years, but there was always something that felt “other” to me. There were only three episodes I remember watching when I was little: The Devil in the Dark (it scared me), Miri (it made me sad and worried), and The Trouble with Tribbles (lots of fun). The blog has helped me finally be able to feel that sense of history and the groundbreaking nature of so much of TOS. Being able to watch episodes and read along with reviews and analysis has given me a new understanding and a deeper connection to the show. 

2. To revisit and reflect on an important part of my life with Star Trek: The Next Generation. ST:TNG was my series. I watched it religiously throughout the years it was on, as well as in reruns. I knew all the episode names, and read all the books. I knew the guest stars. What I didn’t have for many of those years, though, was someone to talk Trek with. The TNG years were largely solitary years for me, due to my work and living situation at the time. Being part of a fandom without any real life counterparts to share in it can be lonely- especially back in the pre-internet age. I went to conventions once or twice a year, which was great- but brief. I lived in the NYC area for much of that time, and the show would be on TV pretty often. I lived in an apartment w/a bad cable setup, so the picture was usually scrambled and snow-filled. I taped them anyway. Yup- VHS tapes, episode after episode of fuzzy pictures and garbled dialogue. In the later years, my grandmother started taping episodes for me, labeling them with her barely-legible handwriting. She lived about an hour away from me, and I’d get the tapes when I visited her once or twice a month. I recently found a few of those tapes, and a big smile came to my face when I saw that handwriting I hadn’t seen in decades. Some of these years were bad years for me, but there was always TNG to rely on. Watching the series again, in order, brought back a lot of memories. The show always had a way of leaving me filled with hope, even during darker times. I think of those VHS tapes often, as I touch the Netflix icon with the pad of my fingertip, and any moment of TNG can be at my disposal. Magic, indeed. Who would have imagined this possible back in the day of the scrambled VHS tape? (Oh- nevermind. The obvious answer to that question, of course, is Gene…)

3. To fall head over heels for Deep Space Nine. Oh, I can barely even put my feelings about DS9 onto the page right now.  I have absolutely fallen in love with this series- I think it's now officially my favorite Star Trek. The depth is fascinating, the characters are incredibly complex, and I have become completely attached to this world. So much so, that when I found myself on Season 7, episode 17- Penumbra- I had to stop. I'm not ready to hit this final stretch of episodes, not ready to say goodbye to these people yet. I jumped back to seasons 2 & 3, re-watching some of the earlier episodes that I had skimmed over. There’s no more putting it off, though- I should be finished in the next day or so- and I’m not looking forward to finishing. 

Shortly after DS9 originally debuted, I was traveling and moving around quite a bit, and I was in a general not-watching-much TV period. Since I had been a huge TNG fan, I did watch DS9 from time to time, and I liked it- but it was too hard to keep up with on an erratic watch schedule. I found it too "serious" and complicated most times when I did catch episodes here and there. Following along and watching with My Year of Star Trek has been the first time I've seen a lot of these episodes, and it's certainly the first time I've had a grasp of the bigger picture. I have come to love its complexity, and the depth in its characters. Every character is fully fleshed out, multifaceted, and inevitably flawed- in the realest of ways. I will miss them. I want to watch this series all over again. I can’t though…Voyager awaits.

4. To learn about honesty and openness in blogging. (I’ll keep this part short, because she probably won’t want me turning the spotlight on her.) AshleyRose has crafted one of the most interesting and insightful blogs I’ve come across in a long time. A big part of that is the honesty and openness with which she writes. She seamlessly blends review, social commentary, and personal reflection in a way that draws us in and keeps us there. At times humorous, at times poignant, and always with an authentic voice. We should all take notes. Plus, she shares her artistic gift. Have you seen me as a Banean/Vulcan?

5. To finally see past Enterprise’s theme song. OK, I’m cheating here- we're not there yet. And I’m partly kidding. But somehow, I just know that upon re-watching and following the blog, I’ll finally be able to look past my feelings on that song and give Enterprise another chance. I’m confident that if anything can help me get past it and give this series the attention it deserves, it’s My Year of Star Trek.

KJ Simpson is a science fiction fan who also loves plants, globes, and theme park history. 
She blogs about one of her other passions at

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

DS9: The Last Romp

Sorry for the radio silence the last few days. I spent my holiday weekend watching the last half-season of DS9. It was pretty hardcore. Once you get to "Penumbre," the seventeenth episode in the last season, it's pretty much a runaway train. But, before I write about all that stuff,  I don't want to miss writing about the last of my favorite kind of DS9 episode--the romp. "Bada Bing Bada Bang" aka "Sisko's Eleven" is perfect late series fun.

Basically, Vic Fontaine is being hassled by mob boss, Frankie who now runs Vic's hotel. The crew wants to help him but to do that, they have to pull off a classic movie style caper, rob the casino, run Frankie out of business and restore ownership to Vic. I love heist movies and Bada Bing has all the elements of a great one: sweet style, a jazzy score, a fantastic, charismatic cast, and a perfectly convoluted plot.

I love almost everything about this one and the stuff I don't like, I'm completely willing to forgive. I mean, where else do you get a still like this:
Our DS9 family won't really be this happy again for the rest of the series. The worst of the war is yet in front of them. Their time together, as a family, is about to end.
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