Unleashed Star Wars Toys

star wars unleashed

While we Star Wars fans salivate over the Star Wars Force Friday II release of new toys, let’s take a quick look back to one of the most popular and colorful Star Wars figures line. This one was called Star Wars Unleashed, which debuted in 2002 and ran until 2007, ten years ago. The line mostly concentrated on the characters from the then-current films Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

As with recent Star Wars toys, the Star Wars Unleashed line was manufactured by Hasbro and the figures cost more than the standard six-inch figures. Usually they retailed for about $15-$20 and the cost was due to their size, plus the bases of the figures. Those who managed to buy them at the initial price back then are extremely lucky because they now cost quite a lot in the secondary markets. Some fetching prices well into the hundreds of dollars.

When the line was first launched, each figure had a theme reflected in their dynamic poses. Each pose represented a key moment for the character in the movie. This was probably to make up for the fact that they’re not as articulate as regular figures though they’re much more detailed. A good example of such vivid posing and sculpture is the Anakin Skywalker figure is known as “Rage” since that the sculpture illustrated his violent mood after his mother was killed in Episode II. We all know after her death Anakin went on a killing spree, which made him reckless, even into his fateful confrontation with Count Dooku. It was one of the most dramatic poses in the series with Anakin in full attack mode wielding two lightsabres and a look of pure hatred. It’s amazing that the manufacturers were so capable of capturing his inner turmoil since one wouldn’t expect that from a toy. The other most dramatic figure that was part of the initial release was the Darth Maul figure that is called “Fury” and he is placed standing on one leg as if ready to pounce on a hapless Jedi as a swirl of red dark force energy swirls around that leg. For some reason, the other figures released in the following years didn’t have any subtitles, which took away from the idea that the sculpture were supposed to represent the characters at certain, pivotal moments.

Luckily for the collectors, the later figures in the Star Wars Unleashed line were just as impressive and in fact more so. Take the Boba Fett figure that was sold exclusively at Target. The detailing is simply beautiful and the pose was so dramatic. You almost expect the bounty hunter to come to life. In the actual display, Boba Fett is battling the hungry sarlacc creature while trying to escape. This was inspired by the scene in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi when he is eaten by the creature. In this pose it looks as if he’s ready to blast off, implying that he survives the encounter. It was a beautiful and dynamic sculpture as Fett’s posture with one arm raised high and one leg tangled in the sarlacc’s tentacle was reminiscent of a cover from an old science fiction pulp magazine.

On a side note, additional figures were repackaged and sold exclusively in Wal-Mart, KB Toys, Best Buy and Target. They included two versions of Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and General Grievous. The figures were slightly larger than the original figures.

The best figures from that line included the just-mentioned Darth Maul and Boba Fett, as well as the Yoda (2003), Obi-Wan Kenobi and General Grievous (2005). One nifty aspect of the Obi-Wan figure is that he can be easily connected at the base with the Anakin Skywalker figure also released in 2005. Based on the final moments of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, when they confront each other on the volcanic planet Mustafar, they are both shown in battle poses as swirls of lava surround them. Only their mastery of the Force keep the lava at bay. Even though these two figures were sold separately, they could be connected.

This idea was carried one step further the same year with the Yoda vs. Palpatine figures that come together in one package. It can be said that Hasbro took this to the next level with the release of the Epic Battles packs collection. These sets sold for less and included at least four figures though they are much smaller, roughly three inches tall. The collection includes groups of Jedi, Wookies, Droids, Imperial Troops and so forth. They were also well detailed with dramatic poses but were not as enticing as the regular Star Wars Unleashed figures, which were more geared for older children and adult collectors. However, they’re perfect for the younger fans who want to recreate exciting scenes from this film series that just seems to spawn more and more creative toys and figures.

On the other hand, the popularity of the Epic Battle packs spelled the end of Star Wars Unleashed. There was only one Star Wars Unleashed released in 2007, Count Dooku, which was just as masterfully sculpted and detailed as the other figures. It’s a shame that the line ended because there are so many characters that would be perfect.  Imagine one being sold for Ahsoka Tano, Rey, Lando Calrissian, Qui-Gon Jinn, or Luke Skywalker from the first Star Wars film. We do have the Titanium and Black Series figures which are just as impressive, but Star Wars Unleashed does hold a special place in my collector’s heart. It’s probably because of the dramatic forces that captured the essence of the characters. Perhaps one day they can come back in some form or another.

José Soto

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The Greatest Star Trek Hallmark Ornaments

all-star-trek-ship-ornaments

When it comes to ornaments, Star Wars may be the big thing given the abundance of Hallmark ornaments that are all over the stores now. However, Star Trek fans know all too well that their beloved franchise started the Hallmark ornament craze back in 1991 with the release of the original Enterprise ornament.

Over the years, Hallmark has made some truly beautiful Keepsake ornaments about Star Trek and that tradition continues. While the amount of ornaments available may pale when compared to Star Wars, there is solid demand for Star Trek Hallmark ornaments and it looks like it be with us for a long time.

all-characters

What makes these Star Trek ornaments so beloved are Hallmark’s attention to detail. Each ornament is a painstakingly accurate rendition of the ship or character. They can be displayed all year long on your desk or wherever, they don’t just belong on a Christmas tree, though they’re often the highlights of a decorated one. Fans also can look forward to the featured lights or sounds that many of the ornaments have. One advantage the Star Trek ship ornaments have over the Star Wars ship ornaments is that they light up. For some reason few of the Star Wars ship ornaments have this feature, they mostly just make noise or have dialogue.

enterprise-dThis light up feature has been with the ornaments from the very beginning and hopefully will remain with future ornaments. But one problem with the older ornaments (and this applies to the earlier Star Wars ship ornaments) is that they had to be screwed into the light socket of a Christmas tree light. There is a limit to how many ships you can do that with and it’s a real pain to yank out a light bulb, stick in the ornament plug then replace the bulb at the end of the Holiday season. Also the lights have changed over the years necessitating having to use adapters.

The newer ornaments instead come with batteries but now the ships won’t stay lit continuously. But it’s a good solution and Hallmark should give serious thought to re-issuing the older ornaments like the Romulan warbird or the Enterprise-E with this feature.

As long as there are the fans and the creators at Hallmark can come up with new ideas each year, the Star Trek ornaments will be a mainstay in any fan’s Holiday wish list.  And yes, they make wonderful gifts for Star Trek fans. Listed below are the ten best Star Trek ship ornaments and the ten best character/diorama ornaments.

Characters/Dioramas

TIE: 10. Arena (2013)/Amok Time (2010): Both ornaments feature Star Trek’s memorable battle music, perfect for the Holidays.

arena

9. Lt. Commander Worf (1999): The mighty Klingon is ready to fight in this striking pos and it’s one of the best sculpted character ornaments.

8. Star Trek Legends #1 Captain James T. Kirk (2010): What list would be complete without a solo ornament of Star Trek’s greatest captain?

7. To Boldly Go (2016): Good luck finding this one! Perfect diorama of to-boldly-goKirk, Spock and McCoy to celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary.

6. The Needs of the Many (2015): From the final moments of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Spock’s farewell to Kirk evoked the sad passing of Leonard Nimoy.

5.  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (2007): This diorama ornament lets you relive the confrontation via viewscreen between the Enterprise and the Reliant.

4. Locutus of Borg (2005): What makes this ornament stand out are the bright lights of Locutus’ station, which goes well in a Christmas tree.

3. Transporter Chamber (2006): No one can stop pressing the button on this ornament to hear the sights and sounds of the transporter in action.

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2. City on the Edge of Forever (2004): The first Star Trek diorama ornament is still one of the best looking ones as Kirk and Spock dive through the Guardian of Forever.

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1. The Trouble with the Tribbles (2008): True story; yours truly inspired this ornament. Years ago I used to leave comments on the forum Trekbbs.com. Some of the threads were about a wish list for ornaments and I left a reply that Hallmark should recreate the iconic funny moment in “The Trouble With The Tribbles” where Kirk is flooded with hundreds of tribbles. Lo and behold, a couple of years later this ornament comes out and on another thread on the site about ornaments, I commented that someone at Hallmark must be reading the forum. To my surprise someone replied to my comment stating that he or she was a sculptor at Hallmark and usually perused the forum for ornament ideas. You’re welcome. I’ll take one of those rare convention ornaments as a reward, please.

Ships

10. U.S.S. Enterprise “pilot version” (2016): Another re-issue of the Enterprise is highlighted by its shiny gold covering to commemorate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary.

TIE 9. U.S.S. Enterprise-C (2015)/Klingon Battle Cruiser (2009): This Enterprise is the most underrated ship ornament, while the Klingon ship looks quite imposing hanging from a tree branch.

8. Romulan Warbird (1995): Its large size and greenish tones/lights make this one of the best looking Star Trek ornaments.

rklingon

7. Klingon Bird of Prey (1994): This ornament surprisingly blends in well in Christmas trees thanks to its colorful detailing and lights.

TIE 6. U.S.S. Enterprise (2006)/ Delta Flyer (2002): For those who couldn’t get the original Enterprise, and the Delta Flyer is the best of the obscure ship ornaments.

ds95. Deep Space Nine (2001): This larger than normal ornament allows you to hook on mini-ornaments of Star Trek ships to its pylons.

4. U.S.S. Enterprise-D (1992): Don’t bother with the 2012 unlit version, get this one instead, it looks awesome lit up.

3. U.S.S. Defiant (1997): A personal favorite recreation of one of the best looking and hardiest Star Trek ships.

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2. U.S.S. Enterprise-A (2005): The first ornament to require batteries to operate and a lovingly detailed replica of the best movie ship.

original-enterprise-ornament

1. U.S.S. Enterprise (1991): The one that started it all is still the best and most prized Star Trek ornament. Trying to find one at a reasonable price online or in a convention is a feat unto itself but it’s worth it because it’s the Holy Grail of Star Trek ornaments.  The other ornaments that followed may be more detailed and more refined than this Enterprise ornament but this one holds a special charm in its elegance and function. A definite must-have for any collector.

José Soto

 

Set Phasers to Fun: Celebrating Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary

enterprise-in-starfleet-academy-experience

Star Trek has gone boldly where no franchise has gone before. The iconic Trek celebrated its 50th anniversary on September 8th and the TV show has paved the way for science fiction and modern technology. It’s hard to pick a favorite series, movie, ship or character from the phenomenon that has survived five decades.

Star Trek (the original series), The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager and Enterprise. Has any other franchise produced five television series as Star Trek did?  Each show has had its own challenges led by different captains: James T. Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard, Benjamin Sisko, Kathryn Janeway and Jonathan Archer. There was also an animated series based on the original show back in the ’70s. Many stations are running Star Trek marathons and specials like the Smithsonian channel’s Building Star Trek. But it doesn’t end there. CBS plans to launch a Star Trek: Discovery, a new series slated for streaming on May 2017.

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The big screen has seen 13 films. Star Trek the Motion Picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, (Yes the even numbered films were better) Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection, Star Trek: Nemesis, Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek Beyond. Surely, there will be more.

Getting back to Star Trek, the original show was light years ahead of its time. Modern technology is moving at warp speed and catching up to some of the gadgets used on the original series. iPads/tablets were always signed off on by Captain Kirk. Siri and talking computers are common now. Communicators are like flip cell phones. In fact, Think Geek is releasing a communicator cell phone for the anniversary. It works off your current bluetooth cell phone.

Denise Crosby and fan

Besides watching the specials, series or movies there are many events to celebrate the occasion. Star Trek conventions are drawing huge crowds. The cons are a lot of fun and resistance is futile at the vendors’ tables. The conventions feature actors from all the series and movies. Vendors have a huge selection of uniforms, props, collectables, shirts and other merchandise. One company, Simplicity Creative Group produces a Star Trek series of dress uniform patterns called Make it Sew. The Star Trek: Mission New York convention featured a mock-up of the original Enterprise bridge for photo ops and a virtual reality gaming zone.

star-trek-experience-next-gen-bridge

The U.S.S Intrepid is hosting the Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience. Like the conventions it features original costumes and props from the series and movies. You receive a watch-like wrist band that keeps track of your tour. You can play games, beam up in a transporter and take photos on a replica of the Next Generation bridge. When you are finished you can have your quiz results, Starfleet diploma and a video of yourself beaming up in the transporter emailed to you. The Intrepid also features a life-size Galileo Seven shuttlecraft perfectly placed next to the NASA Enterprise shuttle.

The Experience and the con is just a sampling of how Star Trek’s 50th anniversary is being celebrated. The U.S. Post Office has released a new Star Trek inspired forever stamp series in honor of the 50th anniversary. These stamps were presented by Walter Koenig at the Mission New York convention.

star-trek-mission-ny-gadgets

Since 1991, Hallmark has released highly detailed Christmas ornaments of the Star Trek ships designed by Lynn Norton, as well as famous characters and scenes. For this year’s golden anniversary they released a gold TV pilot version of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

It’s music for your Vulcan ears, Star Trek the Ultimate Voyage is a live concert featuring a symphony orchestra playing a score set to footage from the classic Star Trek films and TV shows. The tour has played in over 100 American cities.

For fans who enjoy cosplay, M·A·C cosmetics has launched a Star Trek make up collection of astral hues. The cosmic women of Star Trek made the series immortal, their powerful sense of style sent space-age fashion to a new frontier and M·A·C lets you dress the part.

It’s not logical to miss out on the anniversary celebrations. Star Trek has flourished for 50 years. May it keep going strong. Live Long and Prosper Star Trek!

Article and Photos by Jim McLernon

Enterprise photo by José Soto

 

Star Trek Reference Books & Manuals

encyclopedia enterprise workshop manual

What stands out among Star Trek merchandising are the informative and fascinating reference books that the long-running franchise has spawned. Full of nifty, intricate and intimate details about the Star Trek universe, these Star Trek reference books and manuals are true literary treasures.

While it’s true that many sci-fi TV shows and ds9 tech manual 2films have inspired fiction and making-of books and comics about them, these Star Trek reference books  and manuals were among the earliest tie-ins of their kind to come out, and were unique at the time. Now the book market is flooded with all sorts of tie-in reference books like Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary and so forth. These books were possible due to the imagination sparked by Star Trek that led many to ponder and speculate on the minutiae of the Star Trek universe. How fast did the Enterprise travel? Where was Captain Picard born? What is Romulan ale? The answers to these questions helped fill in the gaps for fans hungering for more knowledge about the fictional Star Trek universe.

scotts guide samplePerhaps the best early examples of such books were Star Trek: Star Fleet Technical Manual and Mr. Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise. Much of the information would be decanonized and wound up contradicting what appeared on screen. For example, in The Worlds of the Federation the Klingon home planet was called Kling instead of Qo’noS as later established onscreen. That didn’t matter to hardcore fans who reveled in explaining away contradictions as the books helped give the impression that the wondrous Star Trek technology and universe actually existed.

More recent forays into these fictional reference books have branched off into atlases, dictionaries, travel guides and even a Klingon version of Hamlet. The best of these books include encyclopedia pagesStar Trek: Star Charts: The Complete Atlas of Star Trek, Star Trek  Chronology: The History of the Future and The Star Trek Encyclopedia: A Reference Guide to the Future. These three books warrant repeat reading and are bursting with the tiniest details and information about Star Trek, not to mention beautiful artwork and charts. For instance in Star Charts, it traces the course of the U.S.S. Voyager on its journey back to the Alpha Quadrant. In the Star Trek Chronology we can trace the timeline of James T. Kirk from his birth (in Iowa, not some starship!) to the moment of his death. While The Star Trek Encyclopedia lists all the ships in their classes, detailed descriptions of three-dimensional chess, episode listings and provides detailed bios on many Star Trek characters.

romulan map

Of course, these books came out some time ago and much of it is outdated. However, they have enough material to keep anyone busy and seriously, Pocket Books should look into producing revised hardcopy chronologyversions of these books. This was actually done for both the Chronology and the Encyclopedia back in the late ’90s, so the precedent exists.

Thankfully being that this year is the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek more books are coming our way. One of the most interesting of the lot is Hidden Universe Travel Guides: Star Trek: Vulcan by Dayton Ward. As long as Star Trek continues to inspire the imaginations of both writers and fans, there will always be more captivating reference books that can be poured over for hours at a time.

The following are the ten best Star Trek reference books and manuals released to date:

10. Star Trek: The Starfleet Survival Guide by David Mack

9. The Worlds of the Federation by Shane Johnson

8. Star Trek: Star Fleet Technical Manual by Franz Joseph

7.  Mr. Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise by Shane Johnson

6. TIE: Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual by Rick Sternbach/Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual by Herman Zimmerman

5. U.S.S. Enterprise Owner’s Workshop Manual by Ben Robinson and Marcus Riley

4. Star Trek: The Visual Dictionary by Paul Ruditis

3. Star Trek: Star Charts: The Complete Atlas of Star Trek by Geoffrey Mandel

2. The Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda

1. The Star Trek Encyclopedia: A Reference Guide to the Future by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda

Lewis T. Grove

Best Of 2015

owen and raptors

defiance bar

Best Sci-Fi TV Show

By the end of its third (and final) season, Defiance had become completely engrossing and well developed thanks to memorable acting and character arcs. It’s too bad that Syfy cancelled the series about a town in the future populated by struggling humans and aliens trying to get along with each other.

Best Horror TV Show

The Walking Dead continues to chomp up the horror competition on TV. It’s been a long road for Rick Grimes and his battered and worn troupe as they battle undead zombies and savage humans, but the show still delivers the chills and excitement.

Best Fantasy Show

4. game of thronesGame of Thrones rightfully won the best drama Emmy, making it one of the few genre shows to accomplish this honor. What helped make the show so captivating is that it outpaced the novels from which it’s based on with new character and plot developments, providing new territory for fans.

Best Cancelled TV Show

Defiance came into its own when it was regrettably cancelled. At least we got three full seasons and the final episode provided for the most part a sense of closure…except will Nolan ever come back from space?

Best Animated Show

Star Wars:Rebels is a fun and engaging TV show that captures the mood of the original Star Wars films as it fills in the gap between the original and prequel films.

Best TV Character

This is a hard one since 2015 featured 6. Jessica jonesmany terrific and memorable characters. With that said the best character has to be Jessica Jones from the TV show named after her. Hard boiled, weary and sporting a tough exterior to mask her pain, Jessica Jones was your typical private detective with superpowers struggling to get by with her life.

Most Missed TV Character

rip tyreeseThe Walking Dead is noted for the constant death of regular characters. Each time this happens, the other characters lose more and more of themselves every time. The slow death of semi-gentle giant Tyreese after he was bitten by a walker wasn’t an exception and came to viewers as a sad surprise.

Best TV Superhero

Thanks to an inspired performance by Grant Gustin as Barry Allen, his alter ego of the Flash has quickly become one of the best superheroes featured on a TV show. Fast, quirky and full of wonder and angst, this version of the Flash combines the traits of many different superheroes and became his own unique character.

flash promo

 

Best TV Villain

The most memorable and unsettling aspect of the Netflix show Jessica Jones was the chilling performance by former Doctor Who actor David Tennant as Kilgrave, the sociopath who can control people with his voice alone. Spoiled, petulant and with a savage streak, Kilgrave was one of the best supervillains ever shown on TV.

kilgrave

Best Fight Scene

The highlight of the second episode of Daredevil (“Cut Man”) and in fact the entire first season was this long, continuous fight scene that took place in a hallway between Daredevil and some Russian thugs. It was brutal and ugly but became a standard bearer for an unforgettable fight scene.

Best Guest Appearance

HauntedEven though Constantine was cancelled earlier this year, that didn’t mean that the title character was forgotten. To fans’ delight, he turned up later this year on Arrow and proved that a cancellation couldn’t keep a good sorcerer down.

Best Sci-Fi Film

There were some great competitors for this category like Mad Max: Fury Road and Ex Machina but Jurassic World just edged them out with its roaring dino action, some food for thought and that unforgettable moment with Owen riding his motorcycle flanked by his raptors sealed the deal.

owen rides with raptors

Best Horror Film

Crimson Peak was a nice throwback to old-fashioned Victorian-era ghost stories that raised viewers hairs while adorned with spooky modern touches.

Best Fantasy/Animated Film

6. inside outOne of Pixar’s two offerings in 2015, Inside Out, quickly won over the hearts of viewers over the summer as they witnessed the inner psyche of a young preteen girl. It was so easy to identify with and delight in the way her inner feelings were represented by such amusing archetypes.

Best Action Film

Director George Miller showed today’s generation of action junkies how to do a real action film without CGI. Mad Max: Fury Road was jammed with non-stop excitement and gasp-inducing action scenes that rarely let up.

mad max chase

Best Superhero Film

Despite its many behind-the-scenes obstacles, Ant-Man defied low expectations, continued Marvel Studios winning streak and proved to be a more fun film than the other Marvel Studios offering, Avengers: Age of Ultron.

3. Antman

Best Superhero on Film

Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, turned out to be the most memorable and fun superhero to star in a superhero film in 2015. He has many downtrodden tropes of a hard-luck superhero like Spider-Man, but witty dialogue and solid acting by Paul Rudd who added just the right amount of humor made Ant-Man a character to watch out for in future films.

Best Film Character

Out of all the characters, old and new, from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rey was the most intriguing with a mysterious back story that has yet to be fully revealed. Thanks to Daisy Ridley’s performance and the way she was written, this future Jedi left viewers with a confident impression that she will carry the torch for the Star Wars saga.

rey and bb8

Best Line in a Film

“What a lively day!” Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Film Villain

Indominus Rex was literally the biggest and most terrifying villain/movie monster to come along in some time. His savage rampage across in Jurassic World was one of the reasons why the film became the summer blockbuster of 2015.

I Rex

Best Special Effects

There was so much to choose from this year from the dizzying size proportions of Ant-Man to the practical effects showcased in Mad Max: Fury Road to the rampaging dinosaurs in Jurassic World. But one film stood out above them all and that one was the seventh film of a long-running franchise, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Best Trailer for an Upcoming Film

There were some cool trailers like the one for Independence Day: Resurgence and some Godawful ones like Star Trek Beyond, but the trailer that stuck was one that was leaked out of Comic-Con and forced into general release to the delight of millions as they met the new Joker played by Jared Leto. That trailer was for Suicide Squad.

Biggest Disappointment

Sure there were many truly dreadful films this year like Fant4stic, but Avengers: Age of Ultron has to take the title for biggest disappointment. It’s not a bad film at all, it’s got a lot going for it, but it lacked the energy and fun of the original Avengers film and failed to live up to the buildup.

Best App

Marvel: Future Fight is a true successor and competitor to Marvel: Avengers Alliance with its wide roster of heroes, inventive game play and thrilling graphics.

Best Video Game

Thanks to a sprawling, post-apocalyptic virtual landscape, involving storyline about a parent looking for a lost child and addictive gameplay Fallout 4 gets the honor for the best video game of 2015.

fallout 4

Best Merchandise

Anything with BB-8 🙂

bb8 toy

Best Hallmark Ornament

With Leonard Nimoy passing away bye spock ornamentthis year, this ornament poignantly symbolized the friendship between Kirk and Spock as it recreated their final scene in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Biggest News Item

2015 started off with the exciting announcement that Spider-Man would now be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the news event that sadly supplanted that later on was the unfortunate passing of Star Trek legend Leonard Nimoy. His Spock is a genuine cultural icon and Mr. Nimoy is still missed by us.