Thursday, December 31, 2015

To The Journey: Rewatching Voyager's Endgame

I wish I had more time. Or maybe an injection of chronexiline. I'd love to write about Lineage, Author, Author, or Workforce. But, I'm out of time. I'm watching Endgame as I write this and, at the moment, I feel like taking back the stuff I said about how Shattered should've been the Voyager finale. 

I still stand by what I said about Shattered being a fantastic episode but, even only twenty minutes in, I'm already feeling many emotions about the finale. The last time I watched this one I'd spent the prior eleven months storming through Trek. I'd watched about three episodes a day, every day, and I'd lived a life of Star Trek and, even though I wasn't aware of it, I was about to show the effects of Trek Burnout. I still loved Voyager and I still felt sad when it was over but I distinctly remember feeling not only the pressure of having to squeeze all of Enterprise into December but also the entire weight of My Year of Star Trek sort of hovering over me. 

That was 2013. Now, somehow, it's about six hours away from 2016. The last couple of years have been a whirlwind. 2015 has been especially ridiculous. I finished the Awesome Jones sequel and turned it in. Silver Tongue came out and on the same night someone very close to me attempted suicide. I took time away from basically everything. I wrote a new and unexpected book. I changed the way I eat and the way I lift. I got new personal records in bench and squat. I booked last minute travel arrangements so that we could be in Kentucky when my father-in-law had emergency heart surgery then I sat in his hospital room late at night watching Voyager while he slept. Three anxious weeks passed there. We came home and I resumed revisions on the new book then spent a month doing nothing but drawing for Inktober. I got sick. I pulled my intercostal muscles. I developed an infection. I came back. I started playing the violin. I saw Star Wars. I saw Star Wars. I saw Star Wars. I saw Star Wars with my dad and sisters. I saw Star Wars. I saw Star Wars on the Disney Lot--that was today. 

And now, suddenly, it's almost a new year and I'm watching Endgame. 

I still think mistakes were made. Seven and Chakotay still seem like a forced, unnecessary, sudden relationship. I still think it suffers from being easily compared to All Good Things. But, unlike TNG's storied finale, wherein Picard is an unwitting player, slipping through his own timestream at the hands of Q, Janeway is active. As in all of Voyager, Janeway takes charge of her own destiny--the destiny of her crew, her family. Janeway is on a mission. A mission to get her crew home earlier, to save Seven of Nine, her almost daughter. 

Janeway, twenty-five years after getting Voyager (sans Seven) home, she hatches a plan with Reg Barclay to go back and fix some of the stuff that's been nagging her all this time. She gets a special time-proof vaccine from the doc, grabs a shuttle, snatches a Klingon time deflector, and shoots herself back into her own timeline--with the help of Captain Harry Kim. Janeway pops into the timeline as we know it and tells her past Janeway she's come back with the purpose of getting them all home earlier but they have to fly into a recently passed nebula--a nebula crawling with Borg. 
Things I love about Endgame: 
-Seven playing kadis-kot with Neelix over Facetime. 
-Tom and B'Elanna readying themselves for a baby in the midst of all this and I love how far they've come as a couple. I love that they've gotten used to the idea of raising their daughter in the Delta Quadrant. 
-Captain Harry Kim is the most interesting version of Harry Kim so far and it makes me wish they'd found more to do with him besides just giving him terrible love interests 
-Future Reginald Barclay (like all versions of Barclay) is my BFF. 
-Miral Paris is a total BAMF and I love her. 
-Tuvok's emotional/mental struggle is heartbreaking but I wish there'd been more time to go into it. 
-I LOVE Voyager's kickass new shields. 
-The Borg Queen is a perfect final villain for Janeway and her ship. It might not be as perfectly cyclical as Q's seven-year-sparring match with Picard but the Janeway/Seven/Borg Queen trifecta is a good matchup and it's not only satisfying to see them face off one last time it also totally makes sense that their way home is a Borg transwarp hub. 
-The last senior officer meeting and Harry Kim's speech. 
-I love how dogged Admiral Janeway is. How ready she is to do anything for her crew.

In the end, Janeway does it. She finds a way to bring her crew home. The atmosphere on Voyager's bridge when they emerge in the Alpha Quadrant--that of almost disbelief--is perfect. The relief, the longheld anticipation, the realization of their goal is tangible and just rigiht.

I think the only thing missing here, for me, is the after-effect of their arrival. Voyager is so much about what it means to be a family but the last twenty minutes of the finale are all about Janeway's battle with the Borg Queen. I wish there'd been time, as in All Good Things, to take a breath and let this crew be a family together, in the Alpha Quadrant, having finally, after everything they've been through, succeeded. That's what I need, on this New Year's Eve, a moment of reflection, of peace. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Shattered

It's down to the wire. I watched eight episodes of Voyager yesterday and I have tonight and tomorrow to get through the last seven. I'm doing my best but there's plenty of other, actual, life stuff I need to do as well. Like, you know, eat and sleep and see Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the sixth time.
Anyway, yesterday I re-watched Shattered and thought I absolutely had to write about it because, in many ways, I feel Shattered should've been Voyager's finale.

SitRep: Voyager gets caught in a temporal rift (with Chakotay getting a good dose of it) and the ship is split into several slices of Voyager's past and future. Chakotay (thanks to the The Doc's treatment) can slip between each section of time while the rest of the crew is stuck in their respective eras. Eventually Chakotay and Janeway team up in what becomes a sort of tour through Voyager's past, present, and potential futures. It's a greatest hits album for Janeway & Co and even goes so far as to include the macro-virus, Seska's brief takeover, and the Captain Proton program.
Shattered has all the elements of a good Trek: rompy fun, sciency calamity, adventure, danger, and heart. And it has, in spades, what sets Voyager apart: Shattered is about what makes the crew a family. Season Seven Chakotay introduces Pilot Episode Janeway to the next several years of her life and, naturally, she questions whether or not she should ever have made the choice that stranded Voyager in the Delta Quadrant and it's easy to question the choice along with her. Chakotay points out how many lives have been changed for the better because of Janeway's choice.

I love Endgame and I'm looking forward to it but I remember that, watching it in 2013, I felt that it suffered from the too-easy comparison to the somewhat superior All Good Things. Shattered is also similar but it's smaller in scale, sweeter, and, in many ways, more representative of what sets Voyager apart from the rest of Trek. Voyager's crew is thrown together because of a choice Janeway made seven years ago. They've been through so much, seen so much, they've changed and grown and become a family together in a way that no other Trek crew has and Shattered makes this difference palpable. And beautiful.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch Body and Soul

I'm in Kentucky for Christmas and I'm freezing--because it's hot outside and my inlaws are running the AC. I don't even blame them. I went for a walk this morning wearing a tank top. It's actually much colder back in SoCal. What's happening?! 

I had a crazy day of travel yesterday--worthy of any "trying to get home for the holidays" Christmas flick. It wasn't without its perks though. We saw some snow: 
We nearly missed our second connection and had to run through the airport to make it. Once we got to Kentucky we had to get in a car and drive two hours through a flash flood to get home. We pulled in around 2am soggy and exhausted but, at least, here. 

Before I left for my very, very long day of holiday travel I watched Body and Soul wherein Seven transfers The Doctor's matrix into her Borg tech to save him from some holo-phobic aliens. This leads to The Doc actually inhabiting Seven's body which leads to comic hijinx--so you know I love it. 

Seven is usually so literal and severe that it can be surprising how finely tuned Jeri Ryan's comedy skills are. She absolutely shines in this one as The Doctor in Seven's body. Most of the time when an actor wants to flex their acting muscles they want something super dramatic so they can tear at their hair and rip their shirt and whatever and that's fine I suppose. But I think Jeri Ryan does more in Body and Soul and Imperfection (a few episodes before this one wherein she expresses emotion at the thought of losing Icheb) than most actors do in any movie or episode where there's a lot of screaming and wailing. 

Anyway, this ones worth a watch. I'm loving this seventh season all over again and I'm dreading the end of Voyager's journey. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Muse

Yep. I'm still going along. Basically, while I was sick I couldn't do anything--anything. And now that I've been back I've had about a million things to catch up on. Also Christmas is about to happen. Also I had to go to a Holiday Party last night. While it was fine and everyone was very pleasant I've pretty much filled my in-person social quota for the year--and Christmas (the season of speaking to other human beings) is only just beginning. Oh, also, I've been working on this weird sort of project since I got well. A friend suggested I do a coloring book for grown-ups and I played with a few ideas until I came up with "Dogs in Sweaters" (likely to be followed with Cats, Mythological Creatures, and Jane Austen in Sweaters) and if you're a coloring enthusiast you're more than welcome to check it out over on Etsy or Gumroad.

Ok so here's what I'm really here to talk about today: 
Though it looks like Antigone or Prometheus Bound, it's not a classical Greek play. It's Voyager's Muse. I love this one. I was telling Scott last night that it might actually be my favorite episode even though it always seems to fly under my radar and doesn't possess any of the stuff that usually goes into a recipe for AR's fav ST episodes. No Doctor, really. No Seven. No crazy rompy elements. 

In Muse, B'Elanna crashlands on a bronze age planet and finds herself the subject of a play about "The Immortals" thanks to the playwright's fairly logical assumption that she must be one of their gods. The entire story is about the basics and nuances of a story and, ultimately, the importance of storytelling. In this way it's very much like my favorite TNG (and possibly all-time fav Trek) episode, Darmok. Storytelling is entertainment. Stories evoke emotion. They make us cry; they make us laugh. We hand them down. We learn from them. We get our morals and our values from them. We cherish them. And they're completely intangible. We can't set hands on a story--not really. It exists as part of a shared cultural experience and that's where its value lies. I've thought a lot about this lately. Mostly because tonight I'm going to a (slightly) advance screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I've always been more into Star Trek than Star Wars. This is primarily a function of my childhood--my dad loved Star Wars but he grew up with Trek and was primarily a Trekkie. Same with my mom. Trekkie parents=Trekkie kids. It's all indoctrination. Still, I remember the day my dad brought out the Star Wars VHS tapes and I learned about Luke and Leia. I still remember freaking out over the revelation of Vader as Luke's father. I still remember the dreams I had about the forest moon of Endor. When the prequels came out we watched all the originals again, and all their commentaries and we loved the prequels in spite of their missteps.

Scott and I were dating when Revenge of the Sith was released. We saw it together on opening night and then the next night at our small town drive-in and six more times (and would've seen it more if we'd had the money.) Scott grew up a Star Wars kid. He loves Trek mightily (which contributed to our getting together) but he's a Star Wars super fan. So of course we were thrilled to get tickets to a local advance screening.

And then I got an email from the organizer which said: Due to recent events, there will be no masks or toy/replica weapons of any kind allowed in the theater.

"Recent events" weren't specified but we all know what they're talking about. When the "recent event" happened in a Batman showing, I was stunned. I couldn't even go about my day. I fell into despondency. It totally knocked me off course. Why?

Batman is a story. It's meant to entertain but also to inspire. To teach kids that you can change the world for the better even if you don't have superpowers. That you can stand up for people who can't stand up for themselves. That you can make a difference. As a kid, I loved Batman. I believed in him. The same way I believe in Trek. The same way I believe in Star Wars.

These stories are modern mythology. They're larger than life. Their plots are simple and their heroes and villains fall on one side or the other with little gray area. They're enjoyable and exciting and memorable and we show them to our kids not only because they're fun to watch, not only because they're part of our culture, part of our shared history, part of our greater human legacy, but also because we want our kids to be more like the heroes in these films. We want to give them good role models. We want them to grow up conscientious, caring people who would stand up for those who can't stand up for themselves, etc.

So, I guess the whole point of this is that it makes me really sad that there even has to be an email. That there have been any "recent events" at all. That the ideals--the rules--of these stories were so horrifyingly broken and that we all have to be nervous about sitting in a theater now. It makes me sad.

Still, I'm not giving up on the idea that stories can change lives, hearts, cultures. I believe in their power. I believe in the message that is so clearly spelled out in Voyager's Muse:
Kelis: Anger is like fire. Love can be the rain that extinguishes it. My patron is filled with hatred for his rival. So our play should be filled with love.
B'Elanna: You can't change somebody's way of life with a few lines of dialogue. 
Kelis: Yes, you can! It's been done before. Do you know what this place used to be, a hundred years ago? A temple. And this was the altar stone. Every year, a victim would be sacrificed on it, in honor of winter. And then, one year - nobody remembers exactly when or why - a play took the place of the ritual. And no one had to die here again. Why can't my play take the place of a war?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Back on Track

I'm still watching Voyager, just so you know. I mean, I don't want you getting all worried about that. The thing is, this kidney infection left me totally exhausted. Even after I finished the antibiotic I still felt like some kind of dried out sea creature that had wondered onto land. I've not really been able to do any art or work out or really much of anything besides slug around on the couch. One day I tried to take a walk and immediately had to lie down and then I crashed for two hours. Today is the first day I feel even remotely like myself.

So, of course I'm watching Voyager. I'm trucking along. Right this minute I'm watching Ashes to Ashes--the one where Lindsay Ballard (dead ensign) shows up after three years as a lovely violet alien who thinks she wants to eat fruit salad and crack jokes but mostly what she really wants to do is mope and eat gray paste.
I love this character design. I love the extra lobes of her brain shaping her skull, I love the coloring--especially the spiky coloring on her eyelids which make it seem as though she has extra-long eyelashes. I love the ears. I love the wardrobe. I feel like Voyager really gets into its alien-design stride somewhere in Season Five. Maybe with the Hirogen?

The other thing that occurs to me in this episode--and I've mentioned it before--is that you should never, ever, ever go anywhere in a shuttle. Always use the transporter. If you can't--you need to head right on down to sickbay and try to get yourself a doctor's note because that shuttle is pretty much your ticket to ride--in a torpedo casing. Because you'll die. Anyway, that's what happened to Lindsay and now she's back.

Of course, this is a Harry Kim episode which means he'll be having a brief, stormy romance before the girl dies/leaves. Tom Paris actually pokes fun at this trope when he cites all the doomed relationships Harry's gotten himself into. Lindsay goes back to her new people and Voyager goes on about its way.

I'm most of the way through Season Six of Voyager now and a third of the way through December. I feel like I'll be able to manage this--so, stick around, and hopefully I'll be able to get back on track.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Fairhaven

Please excuse any weird grammar/typos herein. I'm writing this on my phone because I simply can't be bothered to drag out my laptop because I still feel terrible. Honestly, what even is this? Kidney infections are shit. I'm just gonna say it. I'm exhausted, lethargic, confused, completely consumed with weird salt cravings (it was so bad yesterday that I wondered into the kitchen and just started eating olives out of the jar.) I'm feeling much better today. I even took a shower! Everyone in my house will benefit from that choice! Still, I've still got the brain cloud. I actually looked down at my body in the shower and thought, "Wait, am I ten feet tall? ... No...I'm pretty sure I'm normal size."  

I can only hope I'm not sitting here unknowingly writing this post in wing-dings or emojis. 

Anyway, I spent a lot of the last few days just staring at the ceiling or dozing restlessly but when I saw that Fairhaven was next up in my Voyager queue I had to go ahead and hit play. Fairhaven was just the mini-vacation I needed. 

I always think Fairhaven is introduced earlier than it is. And I always think it comes up more than it does. In fact, it only premiers in Season Six and appears in only two episodes. 

I've never considered this one of my favorites but I've always found it sort of charming. I like the idea of Janeway basically falling for what is essentially a character in a novel/tv show. Who among us hasn't had a similar experience? Whether it's Darcy or The Doctor, Thrandruil or Khan (my predilection for imperious, aloof, intellectual dudes is really showing here.) 

The thing I find most interesting--and never noticed before this re-watch--is that every change she makes to her holo-man, she already has in Chakotay. Outspoken, educated, tall, slightly rougeish, and provocative (that last one's debatable and subjective but whatever.) 
On top of all that this Irish bartender isn't a pale, freckled ginger--he's square jawed and tall with black hair. 
I literally cannot tell these men apart: 
The only thing separating these men is a face tattoo. 

Anyway, in poking around the Internet for these photos I noticed that people hate this one. HATE IT. And, as usual, I don't really get that. Is this one a classic? Probably not. But it's a romp full of our TV friends messing around on a sunny backlot and pretending it's Ireland. Voyager's gone through a lot of holo-programs and I like this one. Then again, I like period pieces and spend every night reading old timey novels (currently: The Turn of the Screw.) so maybe I'm biased.

I think the biggest travesty in this episode is that no one seemed to notice how very like Chakotay Janeway's new squeeze is.

 Alright. I'm going back to my sick bed. (sick couch) I'll be better soon. And back at it. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Pathfinder

I'm going to tell you a story about my day. A day that my BFF said was, "comicaly horrible." Well, I guess it started a few days ago--with what seemed to be hints of kidney-ish pain. It got progressively worse over the weekend. Then our DVR box suddenly kicked the bucket. We watched DVDs and Netflix and resolved to trade in the box asap. Then, last night, when the pain in my side had become pretty unbearable we heard a sort of explosion in the kitchen. Our refrigerator was smoking and singing its swan song. It, too, was no more. I put all the groceries (a week's worth purchased that morning) in a cooler with all our ice packs and put it out in the garage where the temperature wouldn't get above 50 degrees till sometime this afternoon. I went to bed in the hope that the fridge wouldn't commit one last act of defiance and burn the house down as we slept.
I woke up in still worse pain and, having consumed no caffeine for the last three days--I was very groggy and grumpy. I called the doctor but they couldn't get me in. I went to the Urgent Care where I found myself in the same argument I've been in all my life--no I don't run high temperatures. I've been hospitalized with infections before and never ran a temperature above 98.6. No, I don't know why. No, I'm not kidding. Yes, please give me whatever antibiotics you're thinking of giving me. So then we went off to the pharmacy. While I was inside, picking up cans of soup and medicine, the fans in my car went out. Oh, they'd been threatening it for a while but they finally thought, "You know, today's the day we shove off this mortal coil!" The fans ceased to be. Scott had to get to work but the fan problem was a real issue. We only have one car so that meant a trip to the rental car place (because of course our mechanic's loaners were all checked out) and then the mechanic. Then I got home and finally took my medicine and ate some crackers while I waited for the fridge guy to show up. As soon as he left I sat down with a giant bowl of Progresso and Voyager.

And what episode was it? Pathfinder. I'm concerned that, in my addled state, I really can't even begin to tell you how much I love this episode and how much I needed it today. I love Barclay and have always felt an affinity for the character--especially on days like today. Comicaly horrible days. Days where I know, even as they are happening, that they are so preposterous that even though all I want to do is sit down and cry, I laugh.

Pathfinder does a brilliant and sympathetic job with Barclay. His need to bring Voyager home, the way he hides inside the Voyager simulation, the way he loses himself in his obsession--it's lovingly done. So too is the difference in Barclay's competence and confidence when he's among his holo-peers. When he isn't burdened by the all-too-real social constructs of his every day life his head clears, he thinks better, talks with more gusto, expresses himself more fully. I love the little touches here as well. The way the Maquis crew are still in their browns and reds. The way we never see Neelix because of course Barclay doesn't know what he looks like. They way Seven isn't yet a part of the crew. The way even Janeway has her hair up in her Season One french twist.

I'm always surprise that it takes this long--only the penultimate season--for Pathfinder to make a connection with Voyager but the wait is worth it. I'm not sure I've ever seen this episode that I didn't tear up. And we all know, because this is Trek, that Voyager will eventually make it home, they will eventually connect again with their loved ones back home. But it's sweeter because it takes so long, because we, like Barclay, have invested so much of our time with this crew, becase we love them. Pathfinder is the beginning of the end for Voyager and that's a rather bittersweet thing.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

It's Not A Ka'athyra

Ok. I've been playing violin for one week and even though I hate learning things in front of people I like having a project and I like charting my progress. Please keep in mind, as you watch this (with the volume very low) that I have no musical training (or natural ability) and I can't even read music. I'm learning all this mess as I go along. 
Some things I noticed after watching myself: my pinky and thumb are both bent the wrong way which makes the bow more rigid and keeps my hand from absorbing as much of the energy. Usually when I practice I try to keep an eye on that but I was really nervous about this. Anyway, it's something to work on. I've been using videos from the Online Violin and Piano Teacher on YouTube. She's a great teacher and she also has a blog where she talks about Doctor Who so that's pretty cool.

In other news, I'm still working on Voyager! I just finished The Voyager Conspiracy before the Thanksgiving break. (I've spent the break playing Star Wars: Battlefront with Scott and watching old Kung Fu and Samurai movies.) Voyager Conspiracy is the one where Seven of Nine tries to absorb knowledge while she sleeps (and who among us hasn't tried that?) because it's just so much more efficient but soon she becomes a tightly wound ball of paranoia and she ends up winding up the whole crew along with her. I sort of question whether everyone would really get to the point of wearing sidearms (especially Janeway and Chakotay) but it's a fun episode and--if this one had been made today--I would think all these theories came straight out of Tumblr headcanons because that's totally what I would do. As it is, it's still an interesting story and Seven's turn as a conspiracy nut is believeable and, in the end, it doesn't keep them from using a new ally's space catapult to propel themselves that much closer to home.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy

First off: I'm now on Instagram. (Hooray, Johnny!) And you can follow me there.

What else? Well, I watched Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy last week and I've been putting off writing about it because, honestly, it's probably my favorite episode of Voyager. I say "probably" because I'm not 100% sure that this is the case--I just can't think of one off-hand that I love as much as this one. And, I don't know, I know you've seen this one and you aren't here to assess whether or not you should watch it. But still, when I write about the best or my favorites or whatever I always feel a lot of pressure about it--like I won't do it justice. I'll spend days thinking about what I should say and how I should say it and then I'll end up skipping it because I'm afraid I just won't measure up.

And maybe that's why I love this one so much. I have a tendency to daydream. I also talk to myself--out loud--in grocery stores. Sometimes I imagine scenarios so vividly I'm surprised when they don't or didn't come true. Sometimes I live so much in my own thoughts that I find it really difficult to snap back to the real world.

In Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy, The Doctor gives himself the ability to daydream and explores his own, imagined, alternate reality. But, of course, it goes too far, gets everyone into trouble, and he has to (after much embarrassment) get them all out. The episode has humor and heart. It's a fun, fast-paced meta romp with a real, emotional core. The Doctor might fantasize about defeating The Borg and snogging Seven of Nine but really, what he wants, is to be a better version of himself. To be take seriously and be allowed to explore who he is.
Like The Doctor I also want to exceed the limitations of my original program. As a kid, raised by ravenous wolves artists, I was feral artsy. I moved around a lot. I never played sports or musical instruments or had lasting friendships. I was poor and we couldn't afford those things. I was itinerant and couldn't settle in. I was constantly starting over. And on top of all that, I had undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome and required a very specific kind of instruction. Still, like The Doctor, I daydreamed about being more, being better. I pictured myself running/winning races, throwing a baseball, playing the violin, going out to coffee.

It wasn't until I was an adult and both more in control of my life and equipped with a better understanding of who I am and what I need that I could begin to pursue this stuff. Now I'm a power lifter. I'm not great but I try hard. I work my ass off and try to get better a step at a time. I've found that this sort of athletic enterprise suits me because I can do it by myself and I don't have to rely on a team.

I have friends who respect my weirdness and once a year or so I go out to coffee with them.

I write books and I paint pictures and I do it, as much as I can, on my own terms.

And, this week, I started playing the violin. I may actually start posting progress videos on here. I don't know if you're at all interested in watching me screech and scratch but I do think it would be an interesting endeavor.

The point is, I guess, that it's good to daydream. It's a safe way to explore alternate realities. It's a way to be more mindful of who you are and what you want. It's a way to escape the doldrums or stress of regular life. And that's fantastic and necessary. But, it's also a way to hide. To never find out whether you could squat 200lbs or play the violin or save the ship. Like The Doctor, I want to be a renaissance man. And I'm going to do my best to live up to his example and go for it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Someone To Watch Over Me

You guys know about Pygmalion, right?

Well, one time there was a movie starring Audrey Hepburn based on a musical starring Julie Andrews based on a play written by George Bernard Shaw based on a classic Ovid poem based on a Phoenician myth about a guy (Pygmalion) who carved a statue that was so perfect and beautiful he fell in love with it and then he kissed it and the statue turned into a lady who he then married.

Someone To Watch Over Me is based on that movie/musical/play/myth and it's pretty great. Outside of the fact that I wish Voyager had taken more time/chances to explore Seven's sexuality, I love this one. Jeri Ryan does an amazing job of timidly stepping into romantic waters without letting go of her Seven-ness and Robert Picardo as the lovesick Henry Higgins/The Doctor makes perfect sense. Likewise, when Seven learns of The Doctor's bet with Alfred Doolittle/Tom Paris, her emotions and embarrassment at being what seems to be the butt of a joke are on point.
I get Seven here. I like to do things perfectly and hate for people to watch me learn something and be awkward in my first attempts. I have a hard time following verbal directions and would rather do just about anything on my own. This means I have to absolutely dedicate myself to something to take the leap of learning in public. Of course, this whole blog has sort of been like that. I've learned as I've gone along and my writing and thinking and understanding of Trek and pop culture have developed and you've all been around to see it happen. I felt it was a risk worth taking and I haven't been let down.

Anyway, Someone to Watch Over Me is rather inspirational and it naturally lends itself to further mash-ups so I made this Seven-Fair-Lady piece based on an episode of TV based on a movie based on a musical based on a play based on a poem based on a myth:

PS- This one gets bonus points for adding the song, "Oh My Darling, Clementine" to the Doctor/Seven mythology which comes back in a powerful way in the Equinox episodes.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Generic Ensign's Log: Course Oblivion

Generic Ensign's Log

Stardate: 52586.3

10:10 AM
Today's the day! Tom and B'Elanna are finally tying the knot. Samantha, Harper, Nicoletti and I went in on replicator rations and got them an old timey radio for their quarters. I think they're going to love it! I also finally got a chance to spend some time with Harper's baby today. So sweet! She looks just like her father and I think that must be a comfort to Harper in some way. 

2:14 PM
What a beautiful ceremony! I wish I could've stayed with the party longer but I've got to head back to my duty station.

8:20 PM
Harper is sick and so is her baby. Samantha and I are heading down to sickbay to see them. I can't imagine what could be wrong. They both seemed fine earlier.

Stardate: 52586.4

 2:30 AM
Just got back from sickbay. We lost Harper and the baby.  Their skin was covered in silver lesions. B'Elanna was in there too. And four others. Is this some kind of plague?

4:11 AM
My skin is silver too. I can't sleep. I'm going down to sickbay even though it seems like there's nothing anyone can do. No one knows what this is yet.

10:43 AM
We are all melting. We aren't who we thought we were. We're nothing. We're dying.

12:16 PM
Why can't we just go back to our home? Why should we even be listening to "Janeway" she's not the real captain. This isn't the real Voyager. I'm not the real me.

 Stardate: 52586.5

We tried to set down on another Y class planet in the hope that it might sustain us but it was under the control of a hostile species. We moved on even though our course is hopeless. Samantha is dead. Naomi is dead. Sharr and Ashmore and Frank are gone. Everyone I cared about is dead and my skin is a silver sludge. Still, we're carrying on. There's a rumor that we're going to create a time capsule and leave a message for the real Voyager. I hope it works. I hope somewhere out there someone will know that, if nothing else, we existed. Maybe we weren't the real Voyager crew but we were real.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Poltergeists etc.


Last week (maybe because Halloween was over and he needed somewhere to live) a poltergeist moved into our house.

The doorbell transistor in the closet literally burned out (scorching our wall) and then I guess the house was afraid of setting aflame so it decided to put itself out--by springing a leak under the bathroom sink. Then our cable and internet went down. In one day I was visited by the electrician, the plumber, and the cable guy which could've been the world's most annoying and time-consuming porno except that I was also sick. Did I mention I was sick?

Two weeks ago I was sitting on the sofa finishing up a sketch. I'd been drawing for maybe ten hours that day after a month of really steady art. I felt a spasm in my chest and then I felt like I'd been kicked by a horse. (Side note: I actually have been kicked by a horse. I'm not utilizing hyperbole to make a point.) Scott suggested the ER and I compromised by going to Urgent Care. I've had a few scares before what with the feinting and all and they always want me to have my ticker checked (I'm an old man inside which is why I say words like "ticker" and also why people want me to have it checked) and I always say no because I feel totally fine but mostly because anytime I end up in the ER they run several (very expensive) tests and it's always ok. Anyway, the Urgent Care doc suggested that I strained/tore something in my chest wall and that it would take time to heal but it would probably be fine. But then several days went by and it didn't seem to be getting much better. Over the weekend it was pretty awful and I'd had enough.

I went back to the doctor yesterday and she said, again, that yes it's most likely a chest wall strain (my ticker seems fine) and that I need to seriously lay off it and not just kinda lay off (which, if I'm honest, is what I'd been doing) because continuing to exercise and draw for ten or fourteen hours a day is just going to exacerbate the problem. I got home hoping to rest up and not see another human for several days/years and the sprinkler system had exploded so, I guess, at least I knew my house was back to "normal." I resisted the urge to workout last night and went to bed.

This morning I woke up with blood pouring out of my nose because I'm a swamp creature from Appalachia and the desert doesn't agree with me. My sinuses are 90000% dried out and busted.

It's great, right?

Anyway, I just wanted to check-in here and let you know that, yes, I am still watching Voyager but I've had a lot of stops and starts lately and I'll get back on here asap but I don't think I'll be able to write about every episode before the year's out. So just take some time to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for the skipping (or briefest mention) of a few episodes. I'll jam some tissue up my nose, get this ACE bandage wrapped around my ribs, turn on the Netflix and we'll all be good to go.

Monday, November 2, 2015

New Trek!

I texted my BFF the news and she said, "That's great! How awesome!"

Yeah. It is awesome. Isn't it?

So why do I feel such a big, weird lump in my stomach?

Maybe it's this:

Star Trek has been a huge part of my entire life. And, for the last three years, it's been even bigger. I watch Star Trek every day and I write about it every day and I'm the first person to come to the defense of the new movies when people want to get snarky about them. I've argued for years that we need another Trek on TV and now... suddenly... it's finally here.

Or it will be. In about a year. So, again, why am I nervous and not jumping up and down?
Maybe I'm nervous that it won't be as good as we all hope. Maybe I'm nervous that it will be amazing but CBS will cancel it after twelve episodes--and then we won't get any new Trek for a very, very long time. Maybe I'm nervous that I won't have the same level of confidence when writing about a current incarnation of Star Trek--that I'll be out of my element. Maybe I'm nervous that this whole MYOST project has been based so heavily on nostalgia that it won't translate to brand new TV.

And, maybe, just maybe... this isn't about me (for once) maybe it's that you'll have to pay for the privilege to watch the show. The new Star Trek will be available exclusively on CBS All Access--CBS' new streaming service. So, no, you won't be able to catch it with your existing Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime subscription. OR with your cable subscription. OR with your antenna. You'll have to pay 5.99/month just for CBS and its shows--all of which are otherwise available on a weekly basis the old fashioned way--except for the new Trek.

So maybe that's why it bothers me just a little bit.

I've gone over this whole rigmarole before but here it is again:
My dad grew up really poor in the foothills of Kentucky. He watched Star Trek with an antenna.
My mom grew up really poor high in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. She tuned it in by adjusting the bunny ears on top of the family's black and white TV set.
I grew up (at times) really poor, moving from house to house, apartment to apartment, in and out of states, and I watched it with an antenna. Sometimes Picard was fuzzy but at least I could hear the message.
Thousands (millions?) of kids around the world have watched Star Trek new and in re-runs for the last five decades virtually for free. My best friend's dad watched it from his house in a war-torn Lebanon. My friend Rich tuned in from England. Whoopi Goldberg watched it in NYC.
Those epiosdes didn't cost a single darsek, dorak, or frang.

I'm not saying that the people over at the network ought to make a brand new Trek and put the show out for nothing. I understand that producing a big new SciFi weekly series is going to cost some serious quatloo and I'm guessing part of the reason it got this far was that a deal was struck--Trek has an existing fanbase and they're willing to pay so let's tell them to pay. But I do wonder if the higher ups have taken a page out of the Rules of Acquisition, realized how badly Star Trek fans want a new series, how many of us are willing to shell out our earnings for coffee mugs and replica phasers and tickets to cons and, why not, yet another TV subscription service. 
So, yeah, I'll pay 5.99 for the chance to watch a brand new Star Trek series. But what about kids like my mom and dad? What about kids like me? Since when is Star Trek speaking only to the folks with a sturdy Wi-Fi connection and an extra six bucks to fork over for a single channel subscription service? Isn't part of the point that the Federation is an equal opportunity kind of place? Isn't part of the message that the future is brighter and better and no one will want for anything--not even TV?

Again, whatever makes this show happen, I'm willing to do. We need another Star Trek on TV. And financing a show like this isn't cheap. I understand compromises have to happen. I will pay the ticket price as many times as it takes and so will a million other Star Trek fans. But, the reason there are so many of us, the reason we can fill hotels and movie theaters and convention centers is that we all had an opportunity to fall in love the first time--no strings attached, no credit card needed. 
Trek has given me a lifetime of excitement and exploration, wonder and romance, logic and reason, laughter and tears and it's never really asked for anything in return so I truly don't mind paying it back now. But I do hope that somehow, at some point, the new series will be made more accessible to the people who need it.

In the last few months, two of my childhood favorites have gone the way of pay-to-view: Sesame Street is the other one. HBO recently bought the similarly beloved and long-running institution and announced that we could pay for their service and get the episodes brand new or wait a couple months for them to show up on PBS. That's the compromise. You can still get it for free but you have to wait a little while. The show gets made, we don't have to worry about it totally disappearing, but it's still available to all kids with access to free TV. It a model that some people aren't super comfortable with but at least it keeps the show going.

I want to keep Star Trek going too. Since 1966 Star Trek has delivered a message of hope and optimism and, more than ever, we need that message. We all need that message. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Thirty days ago I'd never heard of Inktober. Until this year I'd not really posted much of my art in earnest but this year I wandered into Tumblr with the same attitude any thirty year old wanders into a party mostly inhabited by nineteen year olds, "What is all this? When can I go back to Netflix." But I do love the art there. And I love my own little curated feed. And that's how I came across the whole idea of "Inktober" wherein you make some art, in ink, every day.

I decided to do it. Why not? I'm between novels at the moment. I'm trying to prep for more graphic essays. I need the practice.

It occurred to me on the second day that I might want to do portraits of some of my friends and family and so I put the word out on facebook--if you're ok with me drawing you, feel free to opt in. I was floored by the support and encouragement I got. And, it ended up being a really beautiful experience. People I hadn't spoken to since high school were suddenly telling me really nice things about my work. Friends I'd lost touch with. Family I've never been close to. They came out of the woodwork to encourage me and it was, at times, overwhelming.

I spent pretty much all of October drawing with traditional media--something I'd not really done in years--and it was amazing. And, since this blog and you folks are such a big part of my life, I just wanted to tell you about it.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Whose (Halloween) Couch Is This?

Happy Halloween!!! 
Last week I asked where this couch's flashy fabric came from and Karen got it in one!

This baby's take straight from Gamester's of Triskellion:

I don't have a couch for next week yet. I need to pull some more swatches together and I've been too busy with Inktober to really make a go of it. But I'll try to get back at it ASAP! 

Till then, have a great Halloween. Don't eat too much candy! 
Or do. 
It's up to you.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Latent Image and Bride of Chaotica

Lucky for you all I just happened to be super-extra behind in my voyager into Voyager which means  this week I watched both Latent Image and Bride of Chaotica--two episodes that are totally fitting for Halloween.

Latent Image:
The Doctor stumbles into evidence that his memory and program have been tampered with. Upon closer inspection (and with help from Seven) he realizes it was the Captain and that the whole crew knows about it.

So this one isn't really Trick-or-Treat scary. It's a psychological thriller with legitimate psychological and ethical questions being asked. The Doctor suffered an irreparable feed-back loop wherein his ethical and logical subroutines couldn't reconcile themselves with a choice he'd had to make. He was damaged and it seemed there was no way to fix him--they'd had to re-write his memory. And yet... is it what they should have done? Should they do it again? This one is dark and serious. It's almost a bottle episode with the exception of The Doctor's flashbacks so it also feels fairly claustrophobic.
I love that it's Seven who ultimately comes to The Doctor's defense. I love that it's Janeway who sits up with him as he struggles through reliving his ethical dilemma. The Seven/Doctor/Janeway trifecta is a powerful one and it's already off to a wonderful start with Latent Image.

Bride of Chaotica:
It's a romp! Here Voyager accidentally makes contact with a photonic alien species who refuse to believe that biological lifeforms are a thing. It's got all the zany antics of old timey sci fi serials and Kate Mulgrew does a perfect job chewing up the scenery in her fabulous Bride of Chaotica ensemble.
If you're in the mood for some Voyager this weekend, settle in with your bowl of candy and your pumpkin beer and queue up Bride of Chaotica.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Thirty Days and Counterpoint

Thirty Days: This is the one where Paris is in solitary confinement for a month because he helped a guy blow up an aquatic some mining facilities in the hope that doing so might make the government build better (less environmentally distressing) mining facilities to replace them. This isn't a terrible episode I just don't really have anything to exciting to say about it.

Voyager is traveling through Devore Space and they're harboring a bunch of telepaths--who the Devore totally hate. A certain Devore captain (Kashyk) kind of has a thing for Janeway and he defects from his government and suspiciously offers to help Voyager smuggle their secret crew to safety. Along the way a sort of cagey romance blossoms between Janeway and Kashyk and, at the last minute, when Kashyk reveals himself to be a double agent, Janeway lets him know that she was never fooled.

Guys, I love this episode. I love Janeway here. She is all things in Counterpoint. Powerful, calm, collected, sensitive, sexy, secretive, smart. She never loses her bearings, never lets down her guard, yet some part of Kashyk's advances get through just enough that she sincerely offers him a place on her ship and she's remorseful (but resilient) when he shows himself to be a fraud.

The episode itself is tense and dangerous. The stakes are high not only for the people Voyager is carrying to safety but for the telepathic members of her crew as well. In Devore space, if they're caught, they'll be thrown into camps without remorse and never heard from again. If they stay hidden in Voyager's transporter buffer for too long they'll suffer cell degradation and possibly die.

I love that we're thrown straight into the action. From start to finish, Counterpoint is filled with the kind of dramatic rise and fall, the harmonic meeting and parting of the episode's namesake. I always get excited when this one comes on even though I always forget to list it among my favorites. But I suppose it is pretty high up there. For all of its quiet, sub-surface tension, Counterpoint is thrilling.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Voyager Re-Pictured: Timeless, Infinite Regress, Nothing Human

So I had this "great" idea recently to, instead of writing long posts about each episode, I could do an illustration summing it (or my thoughts about it) up. So I drew all of these sum-up illustrations over the weekend but then I felt like they weren't actually decent enough to put up. But then I had a crappy day yesterday which ended up with me sitting at the Urgent Care at 8PM (don't worry, I'm fine) and by the time I got home I pretty much said, "No. They're just the first in a line of ideas. It'll be ok to post them." So here they are.

Infinite Regress: 
Why the Voyager crew would've frozen in ice forever if things happened the way I like to imagine them:
Infinite Regress:
Wherein Seven had a ton of voices in her head and, yes, I know more than half are male but whatever. I like drawing boobs.

Nothin Human:
Wherein B'Elanna gets a horseshoe crab stuck to her chest and they have to basically bring in a Nazi Cardassian to fix her and everyone has a lot of feelings (including me):

Monday, October 26, 2015

Whose Halloween Couch Is This?

Alright, so this one isn't really upholstery fabric but (back when I could remember how to make Photoshop do my bidding) I thought it'd be a fun challenge to create a couch based on a certain TOS costume:
Obviously this sort of sidesteps the conceit of these posts as it definitely does not resemble conventional upholstery fabric but I figure couches can dress up for Halloween too! This sofa's material was taken from a rather infamous episode of The Original Series. Its cushions were taken from a second character within the same episode.

Hint: Technically there wasn't enough of the silver for me to work with (the costume was rather skimpy) so I had to make my own.

Guess whose couch this is in the comments! I'll let you know the correct answer on Halloween!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Extreme Risk, In The Flesh, Once Upon a Time

Extreme Risk:
So B'Elanna keeps risking life and limb running dangerous holodeck programs with the safeties off. She's totally checked out of her real life and regular duties and everyone starts worrying about her. Eventually Chakotay pokes around in her holodeck programs and figures out that she's been sort of wigged out ever since she found out all their Maquis friends died back in the Alpha Quadrant.
The idea behind this one is that B'Elanna is so damaged by the constant desertion and death of people she loves that now she's numb and she's just trying to feel something. I have some similar desertion issues and my emotions can be unpredictable but I typically just work out really hard--though this means I also sometimes get hurt. Anyway, Extreme Risk is an interesting episode. We see B'Elanna in a somewhat different light, checked out and depressed rather than invested and emotional and it's an interesting place to be for forty-five minutes.
PS- B'Elanna goes to Neelix and asks for banana pancakes at one point here, hoping to feel better by eating them and remembering her grandma. I made banana pancakes this morning but I ate them too fast to take a picture. Sorry.

In The Flesh:
Here Voyager comes upon a super realistic Starfleet Headquarters simulation and realize pretty quickly (after Chakotay does some serious dating sleuthing) that the simulation was built and is populated by Species 84722302948 who figure humans are a bunch of jerks since they teamed up with the Borg that one time. I still remember watching this one the first time and I remember how intrigued I was by the idea. I love that this hearkens back to Soviet spy training towns and I love that part of what brings Chakotay's alien girlfriend (who, yes, looks just like every other blonde, blue-eyed chick he's been after since Seska broke his heart) around to considering the humans' non-evilness is our literature.
Bonus Points here for Boothby's appearance.

Once Upon A Time:
Everyone groans when Naomi or Neelix show up and this one prominently features both. And, I admit, even I am a little put off by Naomi's holodeck program but I like the bits of payoff at the end are enough to make it worth it. In Once Upon A Time, Ensign Wildman is off on a mission with Tuvok and Tom while Neelix keeps an eye on little Naomi. The trip goes south fast and, as everyone on Voyager works to get their crewmen back, Neelix tries to tamp down his own feelings of loss as he distracts Naomi from the fact that her mom is missing and really should've called by now. Under all the holodeck nonsense this episode has a ton of heart and it makes so much sense for this show, where there's no day care, no teacher, no counselor--they're all just trying to get by and do the best they can and sometimes it takes a village. Tuvok even goes so far as to tell Samantha Wildman that if she dies, he's confident Naomi will be alright because she's surrounded by people who care about her and will do the best they can for her and it's legitimately touching.
The Payoff I mentioned: I love the little snippets of dialogue here where everyone reveals their own Flotter Program experiences and I love that Flotter went so far as to recognize Naomi's mom and mention how she's "all grown up now."I don't know what you watched when you were a kid but people tend to forget that our sensibilities change as we grow up. I loved Mr. Rogers and would have defended him to the death as a child but I was already rolling my eyes at Barney by the time my little sister came along and got obsessed with the big purple dinosaur. Shows for little kids are often fairly grating to adults because they're so simple and repetitive but they're not talking to us are they? They exist to teach kids basic lessons about life and learning and kindness and, in that way, I feel like Naomi's program was pretty much just future PBS and I'm not about to fault it for that.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Drone

You already know what I'm going to say, right? I love Seven. I love The Doctor. I love Janeway. We've pretty much entered the Golden Age of Voyager now so anytime these three are the main players (which is practically every other episode) I'm 9000% in. Yeah, that's the case here too.

Some of our folks (including Seven and The Doctor) come back from an away mission via transporter (because their shuttles suck and Chakotay keeps crashing them and they need a Delta flyer) and some subspace crazyness causes The Doctor's holoemmitter to go bonkers and when it's paired with Borg tech and some human DNA (sampled from Ensign Mulcahey--I actually considered doing a Generic Ensign post for this one but decided not to) we get a BRAND SPANKIN' NEW LIFEFORM. What a great Trek premise! This one is reminiscent of The Offspring except that the Drone (self-designated, "One) is part of a super scary killing machine race and, also, instead of being the product of hard work and planning he's an accident. Hey, been there, buddy.

I love The Offspring and I think it's a pretty much perfect TNG episode but I definitely identify with One (played with sweet sensitivity by J. Paul Boehmer) more than Lal. I always knew I was an accident. I don't think I ever even had to ask. I always just sort of knew. And, I might not have had a scary robot race coming to claim me but my existence did feel sort of dangerous. I knew my parents' lives veered off course the second they decided to go ahead and have me. Like One I watched from the center of the hurricane of my family's life and often wondered what might've happened if I'd never existed. And, like One, I loved them even though, most of the time, they weren't really sure what to do with this hot mess of a human they'd inadvertently created.

Aside from my personal issues with Drone, it's a well-written episode. Both Seven and The Doctor are the perfect reluctant parents and there are several bittersweet moments throughout. From the crew's initial reaction to One to Neelix's good-natured coaching and the explanation of emotion/anxiety/fear/family from Seven in regard to The Borg. And, of course, the last exchange between Seven and One--a line repeated from his initial awakening--is particularly resonant as One makes the choice to leave Voyager and sacrifice himself for the well-being of the ship.

"You are hurting me."
"You will adapt."

Monday, October 19, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Demon, One, Hope and Fear, Night

There are 73 days left in 2015 and I have 77 episodes to watch!  Hooray for Episode Dumps!

This is the one where Harry and Tom are copied by some almost sentient silver goo and then the rest of the crew is also copied so the goo won't be lonely and then they leave their copies behind on a Demon Class planet. Demon is perfectly fine as a standalone episode. It's an intriguing, SciFi idea and I feel like this one is uniquely Voyager in that (without the support of Starfleet) Janeway sort of has to go along with everyone being copied whereas Picard never would have. My favorite thing about this one is that it leads to the later, heart-wrenching episode, Course: Oblivion.

Voyager treks through a dangerous nebula that only Seven and The Doctor can withstand. Cut off from her new collective as the crew rests in stasis, Seven has to cope with her aloneness. It's an interesting episode but one that I always get mixed up both with the ENT clone, Doctor's Orders, and the later Voyager episode, Bliss, wherein Seven is a different kind of "alone." I prefer One to Doctor's Orders even though I love the rare comic moments T'Pol gets when she's freaking out over how to fix the ship's engines. Jeri Ryan plays Seven's skittishness, her apprehensive desire to be among others, and her annoyance with The Doctor perfectly. And her hallucinatory enemy--Trajis--is just the right mix of snide, condescending, and creepy.

Hope & Fear:
This is the season four finale and I love that it's, for the most part, a quiet episode more about the emotional state of Voyager, her captain, and her crew, than explosions and battles. Janeway and Voyager are in a position no Starfleet ship and crew have ever been in. They're on a one-way trip and that means they don't usually have to face whatever they've left in their wake. Hope and Fear's Arturis does just that. His species had always eluded The Borg but they couldn't hold out forever. Species 8472 was their last hope for Borg annihilation but Janeway ruined all that and his culture was scattered and nearly destroyed. Hope and Fear is their revenge and it makes Janeway question her actions thus far.

The season opener picks up pretty much where Hope and Fear left off. They're stuck in a nearly empty, starless bit of space and, without distraction, Janeway is left to wallow in her guilt. Tuvok actually states that, since stranding the crew in the Delta Quadrant, remorse has been her constant companion. When presented with the option of helping an alien race, Janeway jumps at the chance to sacrifice herself so that her crew can move on and the aliens can rid themselves of a dangerous enemy. Of course, the crew won't stand for that. Like Hope and Fear, it's a powerfully quiet episode and a good reminder that, out here in the Delta Quadrant, without Starfleet's support and strength, there are no hard and fast rules.

PS:Bonus Points to Night for the introduction of the Captain Proton holodeck program!

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