Khristmas Klingon Style

klingon khristmasOne of the stranger gift requests I received for this Christmas is the new Star Trek book A Very Klingon Khristmas by Paul Ruditis. It’s obviously a parody about the holiday season done Klingon style. Sure, there are many absurd Klingon parodies floating around pop culture out there, but this is one of the more better made ones. BTW, the honor for the most bizarre, yet hysterical spoof is the Klingon video parody of Psy’s famous dance song “Gangnam Style”.

Getting back to A Very Klingon Khristmas, the book looks at the holiday from a Klingon point of view. The holiday being celebrated tongue-in-cheek style is the birth of the mighty Klingon warrior Kahless. In the Klingon holiday, Santa Claus has retractable claws and leaves tribbles in the stockings of the naughty kids, and so on. But, what really sells the book are the Norman Rockwell-like paintings (by Patrick Faricy) that capture the festive, family mood of Christmas with a Klingon spin.

klingon carolers

It’s a cute and fun book for Star Trek fans that isn’t too pricy, (less than $20) though the hardcover is only 32 pages long. That’s something to consider if you’re doing some last minute shopping and need to get something for a Star Trek fan. Look at it this way, A Very Klingon Khristmas will last longer in a fan’s memories than another Star Trek calendar.

So this can be the start of a new kind gift idea. Who knows? Maybe they’ll do other Christmas-themed Star Trek books. Personally, I’d like to read a A Ferengi Christmas Carol. 😀

Annette DeForrester

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Star Trek Movie Retrospective–Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Dr. Gillian Taylor: “Don’t tell me. You’re from outer space.”

Admiral James T. Kirk: “No I’m from Iowa, I only work in outer space.”

Dinner conversation during a date at an Italian restaurant in San Francisco, circa 1980s

“Well, a double dumbass on you!”

Admiral James T. Kirk to a taxi driver on the streets of San Francisco, same time period

trek 4 poster 2Usually when the fourth film in a franchise comes around the franchise itself starts to show signs of fatigue. Thankfully that wasn’t the case with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Unbelievably, the fourth Star Trek film reaffirmed the Star Trek franchise after its moribund predecessor. A lot of the credit goes to writers Nicholas Meyer, Harve Bennett (who was also the producer), Peter Krikes and Steve Meerson, and primarily, director Leonard Nimoy, who co-stars in the film as Spock. Nimoy found his footing with his second directorial gig and it shows in a big way.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home begins with a dedication to the lost crew of the space shuttle Challenger, which was appropriate and sincere being that the tragedy happened earlier in the year that the film premiered. After the credits, the  story begins with a Reliant-class starship encountering a humongous, shiny, black cylindrical alien probe that drains the starship of its power. Before anyone can say V’Ger, the story jumps back to Earth at the council chambers of the United Federation of Planets where audiences are brought up to date with what happened in the previous film. A Klingon ambassador (John Schuck) wants Admiral James T. Kirk’s (William Shatner) head for killing a Klingon crew and stealing their bird-of-prey ship and accuses the Federation of wanting to wage war on the Klingons with the failed Genesis terraforming process.

trek 4 cast

Kirk has violated nine Starfleet regulations, such as disobeying orders and stealing the starship Enterprise . He is on exile with his former crewmembers on the planet Vulcan. They include Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scottie” Scott (James Doohan), and Commanders Hikaru Sulu (George Takei), Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig), and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols). After being on Vulcan for three months, they choose to return to Earth and face trial. Spock, who they risked their lives and careers for in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, is recuperating from his resurrection and regaining his mental acuity. He is still confused about the nature of feelings, but elects to accompany his friends back to Earth.

probeMeanwhile, the alien probe approaches Earth and creates havoc as it drains away the energy of anything that it approaches. Starfleet is effectively crippled and Earth defenseless. The probe also emits a series of ear-piercing inhuman screeches and wails that no one can decipher. The probe arrives in Earth orbit and begins transmitting into the oceans. This creates a severe superstorm that covers the planet and the endangers all life.

Kirk and his crew leave Vulcan with the stolen Klingon ship (rechristened the Bounty) and on their way to Earth pick up a distress call from the Federation President (Robert Ellenstein), who is on Earth, warning away visitors because of the probe. Spock is able to decipher the probe’s transmissions and we learn that it is trying to contact humpback whales. Unfortunately, the species is extinct in the 23rd century, which forces Kirk to take the Bounty and time travel to Earth’s past and find whales to bring back to their time period.

After Kirk informs Starfleet Command of his intentions, the Bounty makes a time travel sceneslingshot maneuver around Earth’s sun. It’s a time travel procedure first done in the classic original episode “The Naked Time” but more ethereal with dream-like sequences showing morphing busts of the crew and whales. After that sequence the ship winds up in the latter half of the 20th century. After picking up whale songs transmitting from the San Francisco area, the ship lands cloaked in Golden Gate Park in the middle of the night. Scotty informs Kirk that in addition to refitting the ship’s interior to accommodate a whale tank, the ship’s dilithium crystals that power the warp core drive are drained and need recharging or else they’re stranded. With that, the now-Bounty crew disembark their ship and head off into the wild frontier of the 20th century.

trek iv cast

Then the fun begins.

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Star Trek Movie Retrospective–Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

“Because the needs of the one…outweigh the many.”

Kirk to Spock on Vulcan

spock posterAfter the rousing Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, its sequel Star Trek III: The Search For Spock feels like a bit of a letdown. It’s an entertaining film but it could’ve been a lot better and the cast and crew give it a good try. It can be difficult to state exactly what is wrong with film. It’s not dull like Star Trek: The Motion Picture and moves along at a brisk pace. More than the other two films, this one feels more like an episode of the original series thanks in part to director Leonard Nimoy’s obvious familiarity with the characters and situation. But a careful examination would have to conclude that the script needed another pass before filming began. The film feels disjointed at times and seems to be in a rush to go from one plot point to another; in the meantime some unanswered questions pop up about plot developments.

shoot

The film begins not long after Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, the Enterprise is heading  back to Earth after Khan (Ricardo Montalban) and Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy) death. Commanding officer Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) is visibly depressed over the loss of his friend. Most of the young cadets onboard the ship during the last film have been transferred elsewhere. Saavik (now portrayed by Robin Curtis because Kristie Alley and the producers couldn’t agree on a salary) has been assigned to a science vessel called Grissom orbiting the new Genesis Planet (after Khan detonated the stolen Genesis Device, it created the planet). Assisting her with researching Genesis is Kirk’s son, Dr. David Marcus (Merritt Butrick), developer of the rapid terraforming process that created the planet. Even though his mother, Dr. Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch), was a major character in the previous film, her absence in this film is never explained at all. In reality, writer and producer Harve Bennett needed to make budget cuts and felt her character wasn’t essential to the story. That was the first clue that the script was off.

Meanwhile, Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) is behaving strangely, actually he begins acting like Spock and even sounds like him. But there isn’t any effort to get him any help.

excelsior

The Enterprise arrives at a huge Spacedock orbiting Earth and sees the next generation of starships, the Excelsior, whose commandeered by an arrogant Captain Stiles (James Sikking). He would’ve been a good foil for Kirk but that is never explored. Throughout the film, members of Starfleet show an obvious disregard and disrespect toward Kirk and his crewmates that is a bit baffling and undercuts their supposedly legendary status. Perhaps they weren’t that highly thought of in their time.

Kirk and his crew learn from the commander of Starfleet, Admiral Morrow (Robert Hooks) that the Enterprise will be decommissioned because of its age. They are also ordered not to discuss the matter of Genesis, since it has become a political hot potato.

meldSpock’s father, Sarek (Mark Lenard) visits Kirk at his apartment and demands to know why he left his son’s body on Genesis and didn’t bring back his katra or his spiritual essence to Vulcan. According to Vulcan belief, when a Vulcan is dying, he or she mind melds with a close associate so that the katra can be transferred into that person. Both the katra and body are needed to give a proper burial and that if the katra remains with the associate it will mean that person’s death. The entire matter isn’t properly explained but that is the script for you. After looking at the Enterprise’s video logs, Kirk discovers that right before he died, Spock quickly performed a mind meld with McCoy. This explains the doctor’s odd behavior since he has Spock’s katra.

Kirk decides to risk everything to retrieve Spock’s body and soul because of his friendship. However, Admiral Morrow forbids Kirk from returning to the Genesis Planet and won’t budge. Kirk gets annoyed and resolves to go anyway as he tells the Enterprise helmsman Sulu (George Takei), “The word is no. I am therefore going anyway.”

escapeHe frees an imprisoned McCoy slated to be turned over to a “Federation funny farm” because he tried to hire a ship to go to Genesis and his behavior has people convinced he’s insane. Kirk also steals Enterprise out of the Spacedock with the help of his crewmates Sulu, Scotty (James Doohan), Chekov (Walter Koenig) and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols). Apparently the only other ship in Spacedock that can pursue the Enterprise is the Excelsior, which is stopped dead in its track thanks to some sabotaging from Scotty. It seems odd that in such a space faring society, Kirk is unable to procure a private ship to go to Genesis. Stealing a badly damaged starship while fun to watch, fails to quell the question of why do it? The Enterprise needs repairs and will make an easy target. It would’ve made more sense if they quietly took another ship and snuck away.

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Theme Park Wars: Star Trek Vs. Star Wars

  

Theme parks are in a constantly competing with each other with new rides and attractions. Some of the most successful ones are those based on popular science fiction properties. As fans know, Star Wars and Star Trek have taken part in these so-called theme park wars.

Star Tours Past & Present

One of Disney’s greatest rides is Star Tours based on the Star Wars films. It is located in Disneyland, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland. It was recently given a major facelift by adding new 3D adventures and is now open in the first three parks.

The original Star Tours took place in the Star Wars Universe shortly after the events of Return Of The Jedi. Star Tours was a galactic tour company that offered rides with their fleet of StarSpeeder 3000s. Riders entered a building whose architecture resembled one from the Star Wars films. Inside was a large queue area/spaceport that featured a full-scale mockup of a StarSpeeder 3000. R2-D2 was mounted on top of the vessel and an audio-animatronic version of C-3PO could also be seen in this area. The audio-animatronics of these robots were very well done and looked authentic.

The trip was supposed to take riders to Endor’s moon. However, once onboard the craft, which was a simulator, the pilot droid RX-24 (voiced by Paul Reubens) overshot the moon. The ship and riders wound up in a couple of cosmic misadventures, culminating in a crossfire between Rebel X-Wing fighters and TIE fighters around another Death Star.

It was a fun ride and an instant hit when it opened in Disneyland in 1987. However as with all rides, it grew stale for many veteran riders. Other more elaborate simulator rides came out afterwards that amped up the thrills and effects. Still this ride remained a popular mainstay in the parks.

Eventually George Lucas and Disney decided to upgrade the rides. The storyline was changed and new films were produced in 3D. The new version called Star Tours: The Adventures Continue  (unofficially called Star Tours 2.0) emphasized the fact that it now features several different scenarios for riders. It made its debut in Disney’s Hollywood Studios on May 2011 and opened a bit later in the other parks. This ride now takes place in between Episodes III and IV.  While R2-D2 plays the same role in the new version, C-3PO has a larger role as an accidental pilot inside the spaceship. The queue area remains largely the same but is enhanced with large video screens featuring shots of different worlds seen in the Star Wars films. Plus, the re-named StarSpeeder 1000 is now painted with red highlights. RX-24 can also be spotted in the queue as a defective droid.

In the new plotline, Imperial stormtroopers, sometimes led by Darth Vader, attempt to board the StarSpeeder 1000 because one of the riders (randomly chosen and shown on a monitor) is actually a Rebel spy. After escaping, riders go onto two distinct destinations and receive a holographic message from either Admiral Ackbar, Yoda or Princess Leia to deliver the spy to safety.

Destinations include Tatooine, Kashyyyk, and Hoth. What riders experience is completely random and each ride feels new. All in all, there are about 54 different scenarios that can be experienced. This is a great innovation since it keeps the ride fresh and the effects are pure, jaw-dropping eye candy. Even the Naboo scenes with the Gungans and Jar Jar Binks are entertaining.. The new version was an immediate hit. Excited fans rode it over and over again and is building a solid following.

Trek Encounters

Open from 1998 to 2008, Star Trek: The Experience operated in the Las Vegas Hilton as a mini-theme park inside the hotel. The signature attraction there was Klingon Encounter. Saying it was the only ride in the Experience before BORG Invasion 4D opened in 2004 was inaccurate because guests could still enjoy the Star Trek museum (part of the queue line before the ride) and cavorting at Quark’s Bar. Those were attractions in their own right.

The Klingon Encounter ride started off as any typical simulator ride. Guests would line up in rows behind closed doors and received boarding instructions via video. But the ride took things a step further and fully immersed guests into the Star Trek Universe. A power blackout plunged the room into darkness. Before anyone could react, strobe lights pierced the pitch blackness and then the lights came back on, revealing a transporter room of the Enterprise D complete with uniformed Starfleet personnel! The dumbfounded guests were led to an elevator which took them to a perfect recreation of the starship’s iconic bridge. The consoles and stations had the same exact Okudagrams that eagle-eye viewers noticed on DVDs. Commander Riker then appeared on the bridge’s main viewscreen and informed guests that they were transported into the future because some renegade Klingons wanted to capture one of the guests who is related to a certain starship captain. Then the guests left for the Enterprise’s hangar bay and boarded a Starfleet shuttle piloted by Geordi La Forge. The shuttle was the simulator ride. Onboard, riders faced off against pursuing Klingon Birds of Prey before traveling back to Las Vegas.

The entire ride was captivating, helped by the flawless recreation of the starship’s interiors and the actors who stayed in character throughout their performances. It all helped sell the illusion that modern-day guests time traveled into the future.

BORG Invasion 4D did a similar immersion but it wasn’t as involved or shocking as the Klingon Encounter. This time, guests simply visited a Starfleet science station with actors portraying Starfleet officers. The station’s monitors featured the holographic doctor from Star Trek: Voyager. Before long, the station comes under attack by the Borg (with an actual Borg drone invading the station) and guests were evacuated to a theater that doubled as an escape craft. The vessel’s 3D viewscreen showed an immense Borg Cube that captured the vessel. Inside the Cube, the Borg Queen appeared and attempted to assimilate the guests. At this point, effects like wind, fog and tactile sensations were used to create the impression of a Borg attack. Luckily the Voyager commanded by Kathryn Janeway showed up (seen on side monitors) to save the day. Continue reading

A Brief Look Back At Star Trek: The Experience

From January 3,1998 to September 1, 2008 Star Trek fans had a haven to call their own when the Las Vegas Hilton ran the attraction Star Trek: The Experience. Part indoor theme park, part museum; the $70-million-dollar attraction had components that all faithfully recreated the science fiction world of Captains Kirk, Picard and the shows’ other heroes and villains.

Visitors were greeted at the entranceway by an enormous hanging model of Kirk’s Enterprise from the movies. Inside the attraction’s main circular layout, which recreated the Deep Space Nine (DS9) Promenade from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, (the Experience’s fact sheet claimed that the entire area was 65,000 square feet), other overhead models of ships from Star Trek’s many incarnations were a sight to behold. For the record, also greeting visitors were the Enterprise D from Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Voyager from Star Trek: Voyager and a Klingon Bird-of-Prey ship seen from the movies. Guests could just dine in the attraction’s center, or do some shopping off to the left and take in the sights. As they gawked at the intricate detailing of the place, actors dressed and made up as aliens from the shows such as Klingons and Ferengi interacted with visitors and stayed in character.

But most came for the main attractions. Originally, that was just the Klingon Encounter and History of the Future Museum, but BORG Invasion 4D was added in 2004 (at one point in 2005 there were plans to add another area devoted to the original 1960s series that featured Kirk and Spock but alas that never came to fruition.). Fans paid admission for both shows and experienced them as many times as they wanted. After paying, they turned a sharp right from the cashier off to the entrance’s right and walked up a long, twisting walkway that took them through the museum.

It featured an exhaustive timeline of our history and that of the shows and movies. But what was most interesting were the huge collection of genuine Star Trek props going back forty years. In fact, the people behind the attraction claimed the museum had the largest, permanent collection of props. After browsing through the winding museum, visitors stood in line and chose whichever attraction they wanted to try first.

In the Klingon Encounter, guests were somehow transported (through backstage effects) on board a flawless recreation of the Enterprise D’s interior complete with actors playing futuristic spacemen. What happened was that a visitor would line up to board a simulator ride then suddenly the lights would go out. There was a blast of air and quick strobe lights in the pitch darkness. Then the lights would go on and voila the visitor was standing on the transporter pads of the ship’s transporter room. Guests were then given a quick tour of the Enterprise’s corridors and bridge before being whisked away into a shuttle that confronted the Klingons. Of course, the shuttle was really a simulator ride that concluded the show. Basically the  storyline was that the Klingons traveled back in time to modern-day Earth and tried to abduct the visitors but the Enterprise intervened and transported the people on board. The twist was that someone in the group turned out to be the ancestor of Captain Picard. Both Jonathan Frakes and Levar Burton reprised on viewscreens their roles as Riker and LaForge.

The future was also visited in BORG Invasion 4D as fans entered a futuristic space station that came under attack by the villainous cyber beings, the Borg. As in the first show, actors stayed in character and the sets were flawless recreations of Federation architecture. Like in Klingon Encounter, guests were evacuated to a shuttle but contrary to the first attraction, this one concluded with the visitors sitting in a theater and being part of a 4D interactive film. It was similar to what you would find in the Disney or Universal parks with tactile experiences enhancing the show. In this film, the Borg were trying to assimilate the audience before being stopped by the starship Voyager. Robert Picardo, Kate Mulgrew and Alice Krige reprised on viewscreens their roles as the ship’s Emergency Medical Hologram, Admiral Janeway and the Borg Queen. Continue reading