Monday, January 21, 2013

#515. My Favorite Martian Blog Hop!

This is a blog hop hosted by The Geek Twins, Just a Dash of Geek, L.K.Hill, and Comic Book & Movie Reviews.

To start, because I'm working my way to my actual subject, let's just start with Martians.  My favorite Martian is DC's Martian Manhunter.  In his usual depiction, he's basically a bald human who happens to be green and have a giant brow.  Also, his costume is a blue cape and basically two red straps that criss-cross over his chest.

But he's really awesome.  He was the only sane member of the famed "Bwa-ha-ha" Justice League, although this period also surfaced his obsession with Oreos.  He had his own ongoing series in the late 1990s thanks to the popularity of Grant Morrison's JLA, but his best spotlight was in another eponymous mini-series from 2006-2007 (he wears a better costume here, and looks more alien), in which J'onn J'onnz (because he's a shapeshifter and as in human form, this naturally becomes John Jones) is faced with his truly being a stranger in a strange land for the first time.

In Smallville Martian Manhunter was portrayed by the underrated Phil Morris.

Another TV Martian milestone for me is "Little Green Men," an episode from the fourth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in which the irascible Quark (who is a Ferengi, the species with the comically oversized ears) bastardizes his nephew Nog's break from their culture's tradition of institutional profiteering by entering Starfleet Academy.  He loads the ship the family (along with Nog's father Rom) takes to Earth with contraband that inadvertently sends them all into the past, where they crash-land in Roswell, NM.  They become the source of all our wild speculation about Martians (even though they're Ferengi).  Odo, the shapeshifting (though unrelated to Martian Manhunter) constable who snuck aboard Quark's ship because he didn't trust his most reliable adversary, helps save them.  

Although if you haven't seen the episode (or adore DS9 like I do), I've just gone ahead and spoiled one of its best surprises.

Now that I'm talking about Star Trek, let me wax nostalgic on a few of its most notable aliens.  I'm thinking here of Spock and Worf, one from the original crew and the other from The Next Generation.  Both of them serve in Starfleet, where they operate among mostly human crews.  Spock is literally half human, by the way, though he's often pointed out as a Vulcan, while Worf is all Klingon but raised by humans.  Both of them are militantly impassioned representatives of their respective alien cultures, however.  Don't remind Spock that he shares some of the same genetic material as the illogical "Bones" McCoy.  Don't make the mistake of being that Klingon who tries to tell Worf that he doesn't belong in that culture just because he was raised outside of it and is a warrior for another team.  Spock is most definitely a Vulcan and Worf is most certainly a Klingon.  It's what all their friends will tell you.

Getting back to comic books for a moment, I'd like to bring up the Green Lantern Corps.  It's basically the Starfleet of DC.  It's an intergalactic organization that provides each of its members with a ring that gives them the ability to exploit their willpower and imagination to police their respective sectors.  Two of the more notable aliens to wear such a ring are Abin Sur and Sinestro.  Abin Sur was Hal Jordan's predecessor in our particular sector of space.  This may be odd for you to comprehend, because Hal Jordan is known for many things, but patrolling much beyond Earth is not one of them, and Abin Sur hadn't really bothered with Earth prior to the spectacular crash-landing that cost him his life.  Sinestro meanwhile believed so much in the Green Lantern cause of galactic order that he reshaped his entire homeworld in its spitting image.  Or perhaps merely his interpretation of that image, to the point where he was booted from the Corps and for a time became Hal Jordan's greatest enemy.

Like Spock and Worf, Abin Sur and Sinesro represent the kind of aliens we all think about when we think about aliens at all, maybe not the conquering invaders of War of the Worlds, but aliens who behave much as we do, extremely ethnocentric in nature, even when encountering many other alien cultures as a way of life.

Well, that's why I'm reaching my real subject.  I'm talking about Phlox, of course.  Phlox was the doctor from Star Trek: Enterprise.  If you know much about Enterprise at all, you may still not know too much about Phlox.  He was easily one of its most fascinating characters, but in terms of actual use, he was kind of like Scotty in the original series, the fourth lead after the trio of Archer/Tucker/T'Pol, as in Kirk/Spock/Bones.  

Yet for a series about humans experiencing their first real taste of what's out there in space, there were only two aliens among the crew.  One of them was T'Pol, who was the token Vulcan, at the insistence of Vulcans who had bitterly opposing speedy human progress in warp engine development.  The other was Phlox, who was a Denobulan, a species currently only known from Enterprise.  

It may seem a little odd that on a ship full of humans the only doctor was an alien, but Phlox was exactly that kind of alien, and why I'm writing about him now.  His best friend was a human, actually, who was also participating in the interspecies medical exchange program.  That pretty much sums up everything that made Phlox so awesome.  Even before the crew understood its relationship with the possibilities they were about to encounter, they had among them someone who had already enthusiastically embraced them.

That's what sets Phlox apart.  Plenty of characters in Star Trek love the thrill of adventure and the unknown, but Phlox is the rare one (Jadzia Dax from Deep Space Nine being another) who loved simply experiencing other cultures.  At this point in Star Trek lore, that's exactly what the franchise needed, because in a lot of ways that's exactly what Enterprise was all about, why we finally revisited species like the Andorians (memorably embodied by Shran), Tellarites, and even Tholians while also spending so much time with the definitive Star Trek aliens, the Vulcans.

Phlox came from a culture that has, for simplicity's sake, an extremely complicated family structure.  He could already appreciate the benefits of extensive bonds.  He was a one-man Federation at a time when it didn't exist, an alien whose best and most simple advice to his captain was to embrace optimism.  Many times Phlox himself was forced into dark corners and had to make difficult decisions, and he didn't seem so optimistic then, but then he was also the guy who kept his medical bay stocked with exotic creatures he had to manually feed each day (some of them snapped at his fingers!), and never had the benefit of or need for a regular nurse like Voyager's holographic Doctor.  He was adaptable.  

Admire Spock all you want as the paragon of virtue.  Respect Worf for his stoic devotion to integrity.  But give me Phlox.  He's the one lived the message of Star Trek, the one that says Martians are what's out there, and that our future isn't so bad for it.


Jeff Hargett said...

Yeah, okay, Phlox was cool enough... until he'd break out that spooky grin of his. But any culture where there are seven wives and seven husbands has got to have some interesting dinner conversation. LOL

Donna K. Weaver said...

Great choices there. The Star Trek world is such a fertile one. I love the possibilities. Since the long drought, I've loved that there's been so many options available to fans.

One of my fav quotes comes from Nichelle Nicholes, who said that she'd rather be star trekkin' than star warrin' any day.

Amen to that, Sister.

(And I'm a Star Wars fan.)

Tony Laplume said...

Phlox's grin was an attempt to make him truly alien (with a modest CGI budget). Thankfully he only did it maybe twice.

The aliens in Star Wars were for the most part so alien that they were almost distracting. People didn't really notice this until Jar Jar, surprisingly, because most fans only really thought about the cantina, where it was just a pan across a bunch of weird-looking faces.

Trisha said...

Wow, this is a great post! You certainly went into a lot of analysis :) I must admit though that I haven't watched much Star Trek at all.

Trisha said...

I haven't heard of the series Invasion, but I do highly recommend Roswell!

PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

That DS9 episode was awesome, even the 3 Stooges bit where the Ferenghis are slapping their heads to try and get the universal translators to work and the humans start to do it too because they think it's some kind of universal greeting. The best part is when Quark realizes that humans in the 20th Century were a lot more like Ferenghi than 24th Century humans.

Who knows what horrors Quark would have wreaked if he'd been stuck on Earth like Roger on "American Dad" when he was taken to Area 51.

Though the annoying think about Star Trek is almost all the humans are humanoid with two legs and two arms and such. But I guess they couldn't afford to make truly alien aliens.

Cynthia said...

Thanks for visiting my blog earlier today. It was interesting to read your thoughts on the different aliens.

Melissa Bradley said...

Phlox was truly one of ST most memorable species. I hate that the show got the axe the way it did.

And high fives from a fellow DS9 fanatic. It was the best of the series.

Tony Laplume said...

Invasion was one of the first times anyone took notice of William Fichtner, who's just a brilliant presence wherever he pops up, and is the main reason why I remember Invasion at all (from the commercials) and why I will eventually watch it.

I once created a Star Trek alien species with three legs. But Species 8472 had that, too.

I know far too many alien species. I could've written so much more! (Might be my A-to-Z topic...)

I've made my piece with how Enterprise went down. It was a personal favorite. But DS9 is the favorite.

Anonymous said...

A great pick; Phlox was one of the best characters on 'Enterprise', and he can hold his own with the Trek all-stars. I guess I never really appreciated that until you laid out the case. Thanks for blog hopping with us!

Julie said...

I also loved Phlox. He really was a character. Your review of him is onspot.

Invasion was a really good series. Hated that it never got an ending. I have loved Fichtner from the beginning of his career. He was my favorite even tho he was kinda a villian. He was in a difficult situation (marriage-wise). Second favorite on there was the brother-in-law. I can't think of his name right now. His character is who I think of when I think of blogging.

Tony Laplume said...

So glad that there's love for Phlox!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Phlox is a great choice!!! You brought back some great memories of that show for me . . .now I must upload it on netflix and watch it again. :-)

Tony Laplume said...

I find that Phlox is one of the chief beneficiaries of watching Enterprise over again. I loved him well enough the first time. But I grow to appreciate him more as I watch the series more.

Spacerguy said...

I love when Phlox's pure evil mirror, mirror counterpart is caught red handed by Tucker for his treachery. Great Star Trek Characters, Tony.

Maurice Mitchell said...

To say Phlox had a complicated marriage is an understatement Tony. LOL He was a great character and has an enthusiasm that was contagious. Yeah, Morris is untreated alright.

Tony Laplume said...

"Now would you kindly die!"

I love that Phlox was a character who could do comedy and drama with equal aplomb.

Anonymous said...

I loved that DS9 episode - well anything with Quark and Rom was typically fun. I still need to sit down and watch Enterprise. It aired during a very very busy point in my life so I missed it. But I will look out for Phlox :)

Tony Laplume said...

There's an Enterprise episode, "A Night in Sickbay," that showcases Phlox in a "Little Green Men" kind of way, as Captain Archer attempts to resolve his feelings over a first contact that goes horribly and puts his beagle Porthos in the good doctor's care. Phlox goes so far as to insinuate that it somehow isn't just the aliens and his dog that are bugging Archer but also sexual tension with T'Pol. I think it's genius. Some people thought it was degrading for Archer. But it's at the very least a wonderful spotlight for Phlox. Look for it!

Shannon Lawrence said...

I'm trying to remember Phlox, and while I remember the name, I can't put a face; I'll have to go look up an image. I didn't really watch Enterprise (it was pre-DVR for me, and we were never home, so we pretty much missed the series and still need to watch it). I liked the idea of the show, set back at the beginning of the program. Plus, I'm a Bakula fan. I agree with your comment about the SW aliens being utterly alien to distraction. That's a good thing about ST, the aliens were humanoid a bit more so, less bizarre, more about discussing the differences in cultures than putting on a makeup show.

Shannon at The Warrior Muse

Tony Laplume said...

Once you remember Phlox, or have a chance to really experience him, he'll be much harder to forget.


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