Thursday, April 30, 2015

A to Z 2015: Star Trek Episodes "Zero Hour"

"Zero Hour"
Star Trek: Enterprise

Bam!  Remember Quantum Leap, in which a dude keeps leaping into other people's lives, and at the end of the episode, once he and/or they have learned whatever it is they were supposed to learn, he leaps once again (always trying to get home!)?

(It's just too bad that Quantum Leap is otherwise completely irrelevant to Enterprise.  Except for "Detained," which guest stars the great Dean Stockwell.)

What I'm getting around to here (eventually!) is how "Zero Hour" ends.  It dumps Captain Archer from the frying pan into the fire.  This is the end of the season-long Xindi arc.  He seems to have triumphed spectacularly, bravely, and given his life in the process.  But the episode continues!  He finds himself surrounded by Nazis.  Some of them being alien Nazis!

And really, that would have been a completely awesome model for the series, having season-long arcs, and at the very end, tossing everyone into another big adventure to be explored next season (James Bond will return in Card Sharks on a Plane!).

Except the series ended after one additional season, and that final season had a gazillion mini-arcs, none of which helped elucidate whatever happened to Porthos.  The Alien Nazis turned out to be part of the abrupt end to the Temporal Cold War arc, one of Enterprise's many controversial elements (Did Hoshi just swear in Klingon???).  I've struggled with "Storm Front" for years.  I think it's both extremely clever and somewhat grossly disappointing.  But sometimes I err on the side of extremely clever, for reasons that if I went into them now you would butcher me like electronic cattle.

(It's a thing.)

And yes, Tim got married to Zola, and Joe officiated at the wedding, which was held at sea, and they were all the time criticizing each other's taste in movies.  You see, Joe has this unfortunate predilection for professional wrestling, and in a meta twist he likes this particular movie fictional wrestler Terry Stevens starred in called The Last Stand (based, as it sounds, on General Custer's ridiculous mustache), and Tim did say he admired Joe's taste, and Zola did groan, and Ted did hold the blue french horn again, and Robin was the mother, but the replacement mother.  And the villagers rejoiced!

(Terry Stevens and The Last Stand "exist" insofar as I did not just make that up for the purposes of reminding everyone about something they were eager to forget about, so much so that they forgot about it before it even began.  And now the groans grow louder...)

So long, and thanks for all the fish!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A to Z 2015: Star Trek Episodes "Year of Hell"

"Year of Hell, Parts 1 and 2"
Star Trek: Voyager

Hey, you remember Battlestar Galactica, right?  Not the original version, which was more or less a blatant knockoff of Star Wars (this time with more Lorne Greene!), but the reboot, which was more or less a blatant knockoff of..."Year of Hell" (this time with more Edward James Olmos!).

Ha!  Just kidding.  But seriously, the early episodes of Battlestar Galactica (as opposed to the later episodes, which were much more about revealing secret Cylons [no one suspects the Cylon invasion!]) were all about humanity's desperate bid to survive against incredible odds, real grim and gritty presented with grim and grit (and sexy, sexy Cylons).  And genre fans loved it.  Battlestar Galactica was, in short, the latest in a long series of genre programming that was, basically, Not Star Trek.

By 1994, just when everyone thought Star Trek was going to finally become cool, Star Trek's own fans began turning on it.  In effect, Star Trek, which was already massively uncool to the general population, became uncool to its own fans.  These deserters started seeing how genre programming was being done by other people, and began to consider Star Trek outdated.  Does it matter that after Next Generation left the air, this left Deep Space Nine, which did make a conscious effort to switch things up?  Not at all, silly person asking questions to someone typing without the ability to hear you and thus must conjure your existence into being!  You see, Deep Space Nine was seen as a ripoff of Babylon 5.  Mostly because, y'know...they stations.  And stuff.

Emphasis on "and stuff."

So when Voyager rolled around and pretended to change things up even further but really rebooted back to what Next Generation and the original series had been doing all along, the fans rolled their eyes further into their head, causing a massive migraine that did not dissipate until Star Trek Into Darkness.

Ha ha!

Basically, Voyager pulled an evil trick.  It pretended it was going to be all grim and gritty, but then, quite evilly, made Captain Janeway able to make peace with a bunch of Federation dissenters and make one big happy crew...stranded decades from home, a lifetime away at first estimate.  What to do, what to do???

"Year of Hell" was the two-part episode that had a look at what it would have been like for a true worst-case scenario to occur (unlike the episode "Worst Case Scenario," which merely had a look at what would have happened if those pesky Federation dissenters, the Maquis, had decided they hated Janeway's hairdo as much as everyone else).  Gradually, everything went wrong.  The ship fell to pieces.  The crew splintered.  Janeway ran out of coffee.  Tuvok went blind and thus could no longer...(never mind about that!).

Basically, substituting Seven for Number Six (imagine that!), "Year of Hell" is exactly what Battlestar Galactica would be (for a handful of episodes, as well as the perpetual grumpiness of Adama) years later.

We're right back at the start!  Yay!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A to Z 2015: Star Trek Episodes "The Xindi"

"The Xindi"
Star Trek: Enterprise

In the third season premiere of Enterprise, the Xindi arc officially kicks off.  Technically it began with the second season finale, "The Expanse," in which the horrific terrorist attack on Earth occurs and Archer is asked to undertake the dangerous mission to thwart, if possible, any follow-up.

At the time, I read a bad review of this episode because it seemed like Star Trek, instead of seizing the opportunity to do something bold and new (relatively speaking, for a season billed as one complete arc; although Deep Space Nine more or less featured the Dominion War throughout its final two seasons, there were many episodes therein that did not feature material related to the conflict) the show felt like it was going in a ho-hum direction as Archer and Trip negotiate with an alien who doesn't feel significant enough for such an important occasion.

(Yeah; by this point it was painfully clear that everyone was ready to give Star Trek a good, long rest, if there was going to be a grand revival at all.  Fortunately there turned out to be one.)

But here we are all the same, and by the time we get our first look at the Xindi, in the episode called "The Xindi," we do in fact dive directly in, meeting the ruling Council, all the key players including the scientist Degra, later to be heavily featured (especially in one of the season's best, "Stratagem").  And by the way, we see these guys first and last thing this episode, and at this point they're nowhere near interacting with Archer directly.  Which does happen to be a bold departure for Star Trek.

These are the five Xindi species: the Reptilians (lead villains), Insectoids (back-up villains), Arboreals (first of the sympathetic ones), Primates (Degra is one of these), and Aquatics (along with the Insectoids, one of two completely CGI species within the bunch).  There had been six species, but the Avians became extinct in the cataclysmic events that led to the attack on Earth...

The episode also features the debut of the MACOs (Military Assault Command Operation), who are a detachment of soldiers meant to support Archer's mission (presumably limiting the possibility of redshirt syndrome, although some MACO do in fact die during the season).  Among the actors playing these guys are Daniel Dae Kim (later to be featured on Lost) and Steven Culp (who at the time was making a career of being the MVP of recurring character actors, being featured in such capacity on The West Wing and, most significantly, JAG).

Monday, April 27, 2015

A to Z 2015: Star Trek Episodes "Wolf in the Fold"

"Wolf in the Fold"
Star Trek (the original series)

Much like "The Savage Curtain" was very nearly a Lincoln episode, "Wolf in the Fold" is pretty much a Jack the Ripper episode.

It's also a Scotty episode.  By the second season, the original series began making a more concerted effort to focus on the supporting characters who would become well-known as part of the core group of the series (early in the first season, Nurse Chapel and Yeoman Rand were arguably more important than any of them, but then receded as the series progressed, and their significance in the films reflects that).  This was of course Chekov's debut season, and he quickly stood out, even though he was an extremely odd choice for the reason his character was introduced at all.

(I mean, think about it: this mop-topped younger character was clearly meant to capitalize on the Beatles/Monkees...and yet Chekov wasn't British, he was Russian.  You may, ah, remember, remember something called the Cold War?  Which was still going on at the time?  I think Chekov was really a passive-aggressive compromise in a show where Kirk was supposed to be the heartthrob.  The producers want to introduce another one, but how to reconcile this competition with the series lead?  Give him the wildly popular hairstyle.  But yeah, make him Russian.  Huge bonus points for looking past the present, as with the inclusion of Uhura, surely a mark in the show's ethnic profile, but still...Another reason, I think, that Star Trek had such a hard time finding respect.  And you probably never even thought about that until now!)

Early in the second season they tried pushing Scotty as the would-be rescuer of damsels in distress, so he'd have something to do other than being a miracle-worker (isn't that enough???), so to then create an entire episode that casts him in the role of the quintessential threat against said damsels (hey, go back and read that parenthetical digression, on the off chance that you tend to ignore such things; although, catch-22, if you didn't read that one you won't be reading this one, now will you?) just goes to prove how little the producers tried to make sense of such efforts.

Which makes the fact that fans came to embrace Scotty, Chekov, Sulu, and Uhura to the levels they did, that there has been constant debate on how much of a jerk William Shatner is, strikes me as really quite startling.  Because other than their regular appearances, these guys were clearly never near as important as Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.

Feel free to debate this.  (You will be wrong.)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A to Z 2015: Star Trek Episodes "Virtuoso"

Star Trek: Voyager

Admittedly, The Doctor could get a little full of himself.  Most amusingly, this was demonstrated in "Author, Author" when the crew rewrote his holonovel Photons Be Free! to paint him in the worst light after the original version had everyone else look bad (the rest of the episode takes things more seriously, rest assured, but this is one of those instances where the old joke, "It hurts when I do this"/"Then stop doing it!" is once again hilarious).

"Virtuoso" is another such experience.  The nature of this medical emergency is an alien civilization that has never heard singing before.  The Doctor sings for them, they fall in love, he thinks it's a brilliant idea to leave Voyager behind and pursue this exciting new career, and of course he ends up proved absolutely wrong.

Not one of the best Doctor episodes, but certainly captures the character in a nutshell.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A to Z 2015: Star Trek Episodes "Unexpected"

Star Trek: Enterprise

A dude becomes pregnant.  Honestly, I think doing an episode like this so early in the series made it hard for some people to like Enterprise above and beyond any other reason you may have heard or had.

But the thing is, it's not just some random dude, it's "Trip" Tucker, and it's exactly this kind of experience that helped define him, ultimately, as one of the best characters in the whole Star Trek franchise.  Because of his accent, Trip was sometimes pegged as the McCoy stand-in, a country outsider looking in as the wonders of the universe came pouring in.  And yet, Trip was always more of a Kirk.  With a crucial difference.  Whereas Kirk routinely let experiences roll off his back (with a few exceptions, and probably an era that ended with Spock's death) and led the way with a smirk, Trip tended to stumble his way forward, undaunted but routinely inconvenienced.  He couldn't help but let things get to him.

The biggest impact on his life was when Trip's sister died at the start of the Xindi arc.  It ended up defining him for at least a season, trying to get over it.  Remember in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country when Kirk admits that Klingons weren't just his enemy by default anymore, but personally so after the murder of his son David?  Trip existed in this mode from the start.  He was Enterprise's emotional anchor.

So yeah, when the final episode ("These Are the Voyages...") comes around and spends most of its time exploring his impact, I tend to overlook things like how much time Riker and Troi got, because it's not a Riker and Troi episode, it's a Trip episode.  The final episode of the series, dedicated to Trip, not Captain Archer.  I think that says something right there.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A to Z 2015 - Star Trek Episodes "Through the Looking Glass"

"Through the Looking Glass"
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Remember "Mirror, Mirror," the episode from the original series where Kirk had a transporter accident and ended up in an alternate reality where Spock, however improbably, proves to be even more awesome with the simple addition of a goatee?

Well, Deep Space Nine returned to that alternate reality, repeatedly.  First it was with "Crossover," in which Bashir and Kira discover how badly things turned out for humans after Mirror Spock took Kirk's advice and tried to course-correct the Terran Empire.  Mirror Sisko, apparently, was something of a scoundrel.  And then he died.

"Through the Looking Glass" is the second in this series of episodes (to be followed by "Shattered Mirror," "Resurrection," and "The Emperor's New Cloak"), but as it turns out, it's a great deal more than that.

You see, whereas Mirror Sisko is now unavailable, there's another Sisko over there.  In the first episode of the series, we quickly learned Sisko's backstory, which involves the famous Battle of Wolf 359 (the Borg crisis as depicted in Next Generation's "The Best of Both Worlds") and how he loses his wife Jennifer, taking away from him his wife and from his son Jake, a mother.  Except now, Sisko is brought to the Mirror Universe (that's what it's commonly called) and meets Mirror Jennifer.

It's a startling moment.  Remember Next Generation's "Yesterday's Enterprise," in which we discover an alternate reality where Tasha Yar (a series regular from the first season) is very much still alive, which later leads to Sela, the Romulan daughter of Yar, and they're all played by the same actress (Denise Crosby)?  It's the kind of continuity that seems completely impossible, but is one of the neater things Star Trek has managed to accomplish over the years (the best example will always be Leonard Nimoy popping up in two J.J. Abrams movies).  Felecia M. Bell has far less pedigree than Denise Crosby or Leonard Nimoy, but she played Jennifer in the Deep Space Nine  pilot ("Emissary") and then returns for an expanded performance in "Looking Glass" (and then encore in "Shattered Glass").

The result is amazing.  Not so much for anything Bell herself does.  For Sisko, it's a part of the whole rebuilding process he'd been experiencing (this is one of the many examples of everything the third season did right by Sisko).

It's a defining moment for the series and arguably an unheralded one for the whole franchise.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A to Z 2015: Star Trek Episodes "The Savage Curtain"

"The Savage Curtain"
Star Trek (the original series)

If things had gone differently, "Savage Curtain" would be known for featuring Abraham Lincoln, and pretty much only that.  There's a lot of mileage to be had from Lincoln, and the original series had a habit of using every possible story template as a springboard for Kirk's adventures.

But things went as they did, and Lincoln was overshadowed by a couple of dudes named Surak and Kahless.

Who are those dudes, you ask (you Star Trek neophyte, you!)?  They were both founders of the way famous Star Trek alien civilizations tend to behave: Surak instituted Vulcan logic, Kahless laid the foundations of Klingon honor.  Kahless made an appearance in Star Trek: The Next Generation ("Rightful Heir"), or at least his clone did, and his chosen weapon, the first bat'leth, was fought over in Deep Space Nine ("The Sword of Kahless").  Surak's teachings were reawakened in Enterprise ("The Forge"/"Awakening"/"Kir'Shara").

So "Savage Curtain" is known for introducing these fine dudes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A to Z 2015: Star Trek Episodes "Rascals"

Star Trek: The Next Generation

I swear I didn't select episodes based on how bad they made Next Generation look, but "Rascals" is easily one of the most ridiculous episodes of the whole franchise.  I mean, it makes "Spock's Brain" looks like "City on the Edge of Forever."

The basic premise has Picard, Guinan, Keiko O'Brien, and Ensign Ro de-aged to childhood because of a transporter accident.  Seriously.

This doesn't even account for the wildly disparate adult ages they represent, certainly Picard and Guinan.  (Maybe this doesn't matter given the premise.  But still.)  There's some mild amusement to the proceedings, including Riker pretending Kid Picard is his son when the inevitable additional crisis occurs (it only figures that the Ferengi are involved, I guess), but, I mean, seriously?

And, actually, this is also the final Next Generation episode I'll be writing about this month.  Early in the month I also included "The Dauphin," which was a decent Wesley Crusher episode from the second season.  Not as good as, say "The Game," but then, it had far less Ashley Judd in it.  I also featured "Genesis," which featured the far more awesome physical alteration of the crew being devolved into various ancestral states.  Fish Troi cannot be topped.  Except by Lemur Picard...

(Okay, okay.  Cake Troi obviously tops Fish Troi.  Bonus points if you can tell me about the episode in which Cake Troi appears.  And what kind of frosting she sports!)

Monday, April 20, 2015

A to Z 2015: Star Trek Episodes "The Quality of Life"

"The Quality of Life"
Star Trek: The Next Generation

In which the robot apocalypse begins with tools that become sentient.  Tools, folks, tools!  This is why comparing Data to a toaster in "The Measure of a Man" was actually chilling.  Chilling!  Do you know where your toaster is???  You've seen the meme involving cows and the surprising number of deaths they cause.  I'm just saying, know where your toaster is...

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A to Z 2015 - Star Trek Episodes "Past Tense"

"Past Tense, Parts 1 and 2"
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Hey, so remember "The City on the Edge of Forever," the episode routinely listed as the best of the original and any other series in Star Trek lore?  Well, "Past Tense" is better.

Yeah.  I just said that.  "City on the Edge of Forever" is one of those experiences, and there are many, many such experiences in and out of Star Trek and throughout history, that maybe has been greatly exaggerated over time.  When you boil it down, the story is basically this: Kirk stumbles upon a gateway that can be used for time travel; McCoy, who has just accidentally overdosed on his own medication, uses this gateway to randomly screw up history; Kirk and Spock conveniently are sent by the gateway to the exact time and location they need to prevent McCoy from actually going through with it; the victim in all this is some woman who actually proves the lie in the Star Trek assumption that a perfect future, or idealism in general, is generally a good thing.  Kind of screwy, and I won't go much further into that.

So now that I have enraged all geeks everywhere, let me make my feeble defense of "Past Tense."

This is another time travel episode that deals with social issues, leaving members of the crew stranded in a situation where they end up living like bums (except for Dax, because she's pretty).  Except these particular bums are also about to make history, as long as one of them manages to live long enough.  Except he doesn't.  So Sisko has to make the difficult decision to replace the guy.  Which is a pretty risky move.

But it's perhaps Star Trek in a nutshell better and more nuanced than "City on the Edge of Forever."  There's very little artifice involved.  There's a crazy bum involved, too, and he's a lot of fun to watch, and he doesn't care too much about offending people.  (Call me crazy, but people who aren't afraid of offending people are so much easier to understand.  At least they're being honest.)

Plus it's just one of the many third season stories from Deep Space Nine that helped prove how awesome Sisko is.  Seriously, it's like the writers suddenly woke up and realized they had an infinite amount of ways to demonstrate how awesome he is, and they spent the whole season doing exactly that.  It's my favorite-ever season of Star Trek.  Late in it, he gets promoted to captain (finally!), but not before spending some quality father-son time solar sailing, which is another all-time favorite episode ("Explorers") of this or any other series.

"Past Tense" is one of those Star Trek stories that clearly evokes an earlier one, and is perhaps the better for it.  But I've angered enough geeks already.  I'll stop here.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A to Z 2015 - Star Trek Episodes "Oasis"

Star Trek: Enterprise

 had a remarkable wealth of appearances from past series, not just from the usual pool of guest stars that had already made multiple appearances (I'm looking at you, Vaughn Armstrong and Jeffrey Combs), but a number of actors who had been series regulars.

"Oasis" features one such appearance.  The story itself was considered fairly derivative of past episodes, one of which featured the very actor who makes a return engagement for the occasion: Rene Auberjonois.

You may remember the name from the man behind the rubber mask of Odo from Deep Space Nine.  The holographic community his character has created for himself in "Oasis" is similar to an experience Odo had in Deep Space Nine's "Shadowplay."

Other past regulars who showed up in roles other than the ones they had previous played included Ethan Philips (who was Neelix in Voyager, now a Ferengi in "Acquisition") and Brent Spiner (who was Data in Next Generation, now an ancestor of the android's creator in a trilogy of episodes beginning with "Borderland").


And because I a big fan of a band named Oasis:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A to Z 2015 - Star Trek Episodes "Night Terrors"

"Night Terrors"
Star Trek: The Next Generation

Those who read me prattling on about Star Trek online might sometimes get the impression that I basically, unconditionally, like all of it.  This is not true.  There are episodes I find interminable.  "Night Terrors" is one of them.

"Where arrrrrre youuuuuuu?"

That's the extent of Troi's piercing investigation as she attempts to find out what happened to another Betazoid that's left him in a coma.  It's a repeated dream sequence that's utterly baffling as to how anyone at all thought they had good writing, good footage, and even in the case of the mostly blameless Marina Sirtis, good acting involved in any of it.

Hey, fans of Marina Sirtis, sometimes you nail bad material (it's possible) and sometimes you don't.  This one episode seems absolutely determined to bring the series back to the point in the first season where Riker is shouting over an immense precipice: "Aaaaanybodddddy???"

"Night Terrors," mind you, comes from the fourth season of Next Generation.  Fans generally agree that the series found its stride in a hurry at the commencement of its third season (the one that ended with "The Best of Both Worlds," or in other words when we all found out how awesome the Borg were), so to find an episode so poorly executed a season later just goes to prove, even when there's a good thing going there's always the chance that something will go horribly wrong.

It's a rare story featuring Troi in all her Betazoid significance.  It was far more common to leave all the Betazoid-ness to her mother, Lwaxana, who even in the seventh season and well into Deep Space Nine had plenty of interesting ways of displaying how horrifying (in a good way) Betazoids can be.

This is not to say "Night Terrors" suffers because of Troi, but that the writers let her down.  Significantly.  She was one of those aliens who were also half-human, like Spock, which was always an odd way to explore a species (or perhaps a reflection of how Americans like to view themselves, culturally blended and maybe not always that adjusted about it).  Because she was half-human, Troi's depiction of what a Betazoid is typically like was compromised.  She could only sense emotions, rather than exhibit full telepathic abilities like the rest of the family on her mother's side.

Granted, there's a better version of this same episode in the final season, "Eye of the Beholder."  But Troi would not truly be awesome until Star Trek: First Contact, in which she makes a hilarious drunk.  Go figure.  I think a writer who knew that in advance would have had a lot more interesting things to do with her.  I mean, it's not as if it was any big secret that she had mommy issues...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A to Z 2015 - Star Trek Episodes "Minefield"

Star Trek: Enterprise

Being a prequel, Enterprise was expected to explore territory fans would have previously known about.  The era depicted in the series was best known, or perhaps only known, for the Romulan War, a conflict previously referenced in the original series episode "Balance of Terror," where it was established that until that point no human, much less Vulcan, had ever seen a Romulan.  Which would necessarily make any depiction of this period, involving Romulans, somewhat problematic.

Enterprise initially solved this dilemma in "Minefield," which does in fact feature the eponymous threat, a problem that becomes another spotlight of Malcolm Reed's penchant for pessimism when he becomes pinned by a mine to the hull of the ship.  Captain Archer does his best to reassure Reed, but it's a tough sell.

In the first season, there's an even more vivid example of Reed's tendencies as he and Trip are left stranded in space.  "Shuttlepod One" was considered one of Enterprise's early highlights.  It should be noted that Reed wasn't alone in his apprehensions.  Hoshi Sato was similarly skittish.  Everyone's nerves were tested to the extreme in the third season, naturally, as they embarked on a mission to prevent the Xindi from destroying Earth.  Trip tended to take most of these experiences in stride.  He was also one of the few human males to end up pregnant ("Unexpected"), although even he, or his clone, was reluctant to follow Archer's wishes in "Similitude."  ("This is a screwed-up situation," are his exact words.)

In the fourth season, Enterprise revisited the Romulans in a three-part episode ("Babel One," "United," and "The Aenar") that demonstrates both military and infiltration tactics as part of their activities during this period.  There had been speculation that the fifth season, which never happened, would have involved events more closely related to the Romulan War itself, and there was a movie trilogy developed, unrelated to Enterprise, that would have done the same.  The 2009 movie that was released did involve Romulans, but this is likely a coincidence, much as the fact that the last Star Trek movie before it, Nemesis, featured them too.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A to Z 2015 - Star Trek Episodes "Little Green Men"

"Little Green Men"
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Spacerguy has explained in his participation of the challenge this year how Worf ended up in The Next Generation.  I mention this because originally Gene Roddenberry didn't want Klingons, or any other familiar aliens, in Picard's adventures.  Instead, it would be all-new ones, like the Ferengi.

Now, the Ferengi as originally depicted in Next Generation were...not quite worthy successors to the Klingons.  There was the episode ("The Battle") where Picard's backstory begins turning things around a little, but it wasn't until Deep Space Nine that Ferengi could truly be taken seriously.  Still, "Ferengi episode" is a common term among even this show's fans, and it's not uttered with affection.  In fact, the episode that's generally regarded as the show's worst, "Profit and Lace," is of course a "Ferengi episode."

Perhaps tellingly, every time Deep Space Nine visited the Mirror Universe (the alternate reality first introduced in the original series episode "Mirror, Mirror"), a Ferengi is killed off.

All that considered, especially in Deep Space Nine, I personally loved the Ferengi.  Bartender Quark, ever the scheming pragmatist and therefore thorn in the side of Odo (chief of security, shape-shifter, eventual love interest of Kira Nerys), alone did an excellent job of redeeming them.  Eventually his brother Rom and nephew Nog became worthy companions in this crusade.  "Little Green Men" is the episode where they all undeniably shine together.

It's a time travel episode.  As the title implies, it's one of science fiction's many explanations for Roswell, New Mexico, and its long association with UFO conspiracy lore.  Nog has become the first Ferengi admitted to Starfleet Academy, but of course this doesn't stop Quark from attempting to make a side profit as the family journeys to Earth, which backfires so spectacularly they end up thrown into the past.

Watching as Army officers attempt to understand these strange aliens, before a bobby pin is used to repair Universal Translators hilariously hidden inside the outsize ears of our unusual heroes, it's pure comedy gold.

To say nothing of a more subtle in-joke that sees Nog digging through Earth history and coming across the profile of Gabriel Bell, who looks suspiciously like Captain Sisko.  This is because Sisko became Bell in the classic two-part "Past Tense" the previous season.  (You could do a lot worse to introduce yourself to the whole series, if you've never seen Deep Space Nine, with a viewing of both "Little Green Men" and "Past Tense."  And then throw in "Trials and Tribble-ations" for good measure.  And then "The Visitor," one of the best episodes of the whole franchise.)

All of which is to say, this is definitely an experience you need to see to truly grasp how awesome it is.  It may even have you liking Ferengi, and then you will have a totally different interpretation when you hear the term, "Ferengi episode," because there are plenty more good ones to discover.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A to Z 2015 - Star Trek Episodes "The Killing Game"

"The Killing Game"
Star Trek: Voyager

This two-part episode features the aliens known as the Hirogen, hunters who hounded Janeway and her crew for a while (in the ship's defense, the Hirogen had a sweet data plan complete with tech specialist Andy Dick).  For one reason or another, the Hirogen choose to stick the crew in a holodeck program where they act out WWII, and everyone pretends this is completely logical, even when the lead Hirogen intones, "This is not a game!" even though, ah, it clearly is.

And incredibly, this is not the only Star Trek two-parter to features aliens masquerading as Nazis!  (There was also Enterprise's "Storm Front.")

Okay, and so while I'm being somewhat flippant today, "Killing Game" is actually a lot of fun (which is always odd to say in relation to Nazis; see also: Inglourious Basterds), and is also indicative of how so much of the franchise after the original series, which was clearly modeled on the Cold War era, was kind of fixated on WWII (Deep Space Nine's Dominion War, certainly).

Also, in the program, Janeway becomes a leader of the French resistance, while Chakotay is an American soldier.  This is ironic, because in some ways the Maquis (as the name implies even in an obvious way) were modeled after the French resistance and Starfleet would be analogous to Americans, meaning for "Killing Game" Janeway and Chakotay swapped backstories.

The Hirogen, no matter if I've spent a little too much time making light of them, were actually some of the best aliens Voyager featured.  One of them even gave the famed Species 8472 (the CGI beings who at one point were kind of set up to be the show's answer to the Borg, until it relented and just mad the Borg the show's Borg) a run for their money.  A lot of fans tended to question when the series featured any one adversary for an extended period of time, but it made a great deal of sense, especially if the enemy in question was nomadic or sprawling in some other way, as the Hirogen were and certainly the Kazon (the guys who looked like even grubbier Klingons and were most famous for involving themselves in the treacherous affairs of Seska, who helped make the early seasons some excellent material to revisit) as well.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

#811. Songs that have helped me through the process

Over the past year, when the whole process of my mother dying began to take shape, I had an opportunity to channel my thoughts through music I had already been listening to.  In a weird sort of way, you might even say I was drawn to that music in the first place because I knew I would eventually need it.

"I Shall Not Walk Alone" was a song I first encountered on Lost, and it instantly connected with me more than ten years ago.  And yet, as my mother progressively and quite literally lost the ability to walk on her own, it took on new resonance.

"Sad Caper" was one of those Hootie and the Blowfish songs that helped me to see the band as something other than a musical fad, which was what it was twenty years ago.  I knew these guys had a lot more to say.  "Control has left me / and I can't feel another thing / so let me hold you down," is actually repeated at the start of another track from their Fairweather Johnson album, and again, I could not possibly have scripted a more appropriate sentiment in watching my mother deteriorate.

"Exodus," also sung by Darius Rucker, is perhaps the most personal of the bunch.  I moved back home a year and a half ago in part to help my mother, and it became a special kind of privilege to help her as she struggled, because there were of course moments when the emotional turmoil was greater than the physical one, and she needed someone to support her in that way.

And now that she has passed away, even the grieving process is made easier by remembering these songs.  I had one more privilege during this time, and it was delivering the eulogy at her funeral, and I chose to use that opportunity to spotlight how important music was in her life.  That's why I posted the last batch of videos, all of which (plus more) I referenced in the eulogy.  It made for a mostly lighthearted moment in the midst of a sad one, and I think that's another of music's great abilities.  It can take you anywhere.  And that's what my mother meant to me.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A to Z 2015 - Star Trek Episodes "The Jihad"

"The Jihad"
Star Trek: The Animated Series

A group of bloggers I've followed for a few years now has chosen to watch The Animated Series all the way through.  They're writing about their experiences, which you can find every Wednesday (or Fridays in the case of The Geek Twins as part of their Geek Bits feature; the others are Armchair Squid, Mock!, and Spacerguy).  I actually recently just finished writing about each episode in the series for another of my blogs, Star Trek Fan Companion, where I've been working at reviewing every episode of the franchise for several years now.

But chances are, if you've seen this series at all, you might have been one of the viewers who watched its original run forty years ago, because since that time it's been considered less than officially part of Star Trek canon.  Until a new home video release a few years back, it was just something a lot of fans knew about but had never had a chance to see for themselves.

"The Jihad" is not particularly an episode worth recommending.  The episode everyone who knows anything about the series knows is "Yesteryear," which has been drawn on for years in canon material, most recently in 2009's Star Trek.

So what is "The Jihad"?  Less favorable for its legacy is that by the title alone it's perhaps the most obvious of the many, many Star Trek references that might look a lot less innocuous post-9/11 than it might have previously.  I plan on writing a whole article on Star Trek's famous terrorists.  Understand that none of them exist in material post-9/11 itself (when Enterprise was launched, actually).  "The Jihad," mind you, doesn't have anything to do with terrorists, but today hearing that term seems less acceptable than it would have when the episode's title debuted.  That must be acknowledged.

(It might also be stressed that "jihad" is an Islamic term concerning holy war, and does not specifically refer to terrorism.  But today, it's hard not to associate radical Islam with terrorism.)

So if not terrorists, who?  Basically it's an episode featuring a bunch of alien species, of which prototype, famously, was the original series' "Journey to Babel."  And since this is The Animated Series, which felt free to come up with the most wild alien designs it could imagine (to be outdone later by the five Xindi species from Enterprise in the CGI era), you can expect to find a lot of wild alien designs indeed, all of which are much like all those alien designs the Kirk movies liked to populate in the background, none of which were ever seen again (amazingly, even the species responsible for the Federation president in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country).

Friday, April 10, 2015

A to Z 2015 - Star Trek Episodes "Impulse"

Star Trek: Enterprise

During the Xindi arc that was in fact the entire third season of Enterprise, Star Trek finally got to do zombies.  Let me rephrase that for maximum awesome: Vulcan zombies.

Enterprise, as you may or may not know, was a "prequel," in that it was set before the events of any other Star Trek.  As such, there were a lot of expectations, and quite gleefully Enterprise more or less subverted all of them.  The biggest subversion concerned Vulcans.  Vulcans in Enterprise hated humans, and they made no bones about it.  Remember Star Trek: First Contact and that feel-good moment at the end when it turns out the title refers to Vulcans?  And Enterprise was more or less a sequel to First Contact, mind you (there was even a whole episode dedicated to what happened to all the Borg remains, "Regeneration").  That whole idea turned out a lot worse in practice than in theory, as it turns out, Vulcans interacting with humans.

And while Vulcans were still more or less completely recognizable, as a culture they exhibited a distinct break from how Spock would later represent them.  The biggest break was in fact how the idea of mind-melds were treated at this time.  "Stigma" famously presented Vulcans who practiced them as more or less analogous to the LGBT community.  Fans were pretty livid about Vulcans in Enterprise.  By the fourth season, Captain Archer helps revive the philosophy of the famous Surak, founder of Vulcan logic, as the fourth season made continuous efforts to appease fans.  But of course, the fourth season was also the last one of the series.  (Too little too late.)

So what do Vulcan zombies have to do with any of this?  In short, T'Pol's arc in the third season, which itself was a manifestation of the inner turmoil she'd experienced all along, the lone Vulcan in a ship crewed almost exclusively by humans (aside from the dear Dr. Phlox, naturally).  Some fans remember T'Pol best for the sexy times she spent in various states of undress (a significant moment of which occurred in the third season), but she was in fact a notably nuanced character whose journey in the series closely matched that of Trip, arguably the best thing about the whole series and with whom she shared most of her screen time.

Zombie Vulcans is what would have happened to T'Pol, too, if she hadn't known what to do that season, even if there were a few stumbling blocks along the way.  The region of space where the five species of Xindi inhabited was bad for Vulcans, so bad that if entered without precautions taken, they became zombie Vulcans.  "Impulse" is full of zombie Vulcans.  That's the whole episode.

And Spock was at the receiving end of human bigotry, it must be remembered.  How do you think that happens, anyway?  Because the road to what has always been described as the perfect future was in fact a bumpy one.  Along the way, zombie Vulcans.  Because there ought to be some fun involved, right?

Thursday, April 09, 2015

A to Z 2015 - Star Trek Episodes "Heroes and Demons"

"Heroes and Demons"
Star Trek: Voyager

This was one of several episodes Voyager got to much quicker than fans might have expected (B'Elanna Torres being split into her human and Klingon components in "Faces" was another).  It's a holodeck episode, which was one of the more notorious story types from The Next Generation.  But in Voyager there's a unique reason to have a holodeck episode: The Doctor.

No, I didn't randomly switch topics again.  The Doctor, not as in Doctor Who but rather the Emergency Medical Hologram, who in the early seasons was confined exclusively to sickbay because that was the only area of the ship equipped to project him.  Except, y'know, the holodeck.  So this was the episode where that finally happened.

"Heroes and Demons" might otherwise be known as the Beowulf episode, because that's the holodeck program that ends up being corrupted and needs to be played out.  And the only person aboard the ship qualified to complete it is also the one who seems least qualified: not only an individual who technically did not exist until he was activated in the wake of the ship's catastrophic entrance into the Delta Quadrant, but an apparent balding man who when he isn't being acerbic is actually quite nebbish.

In other words, this is the episode that establishes what The Doctor is truly made of, and I'm not talking about his programming.  (Much like the Moriarty hologram from Next Generation, "Doc" seems to have gained sentience simply from the unique circumstances in which he first appears.  One minute he's uttering, "Please state the nature of the medical emergency," for the first time and the next he's being told that everything he knows about his programming is in fact being thrown out.)

Yes, this is the first time they tease The Doctor getting an actual name and no, it never happens in seven seasons (in the series finale he does settle on one, in an alternate future timeline).

Most of The Doctor's early development comes from his unique relationship with Kes, another apparent innocent with a few tricks up their sleeve.  Of all the original characters from the series, they most embody the fresh start envisioned in the pilot (Tom Paris and certainly Torres are their closest rivals, until Seven comes along and kind of blows everyone out of the water, which in hindsight was probably appropriate, considering she was a bombshell) and undergo the fiercest trials during their time.  Just when Kes seems like she's gotten her peace, she comes back a couple seasons later in the controversial "Fury," an episode that actually encapsulates the true legacy of Voyager quite well (you understand, not in a negative way; I love this series).

Two additional standout Doctor episodes would be "Latent Image" and "Author, Author," both of which completely deconstruct Next Generation's more famous "The Measure of a Man."

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

A to Z 2015 - Hollywood Minute "Genesis"

Something-something-something Zola makes a movie called Genesis, which is about Eve.  It's animated and Zola sings and as such it's everything Tim loves about her.  And it's a good movie, too, which deconstructs the idea of the princess while at the same time telling a biblical story without being particularly biblical about it.  Except, of course, because it is biblical without being biblical, it has a hard time finding any appreciation, from either audiences or critics.

Then again, you should know that Tim has an overly active imagination.  Zola did not actually make Genesis.  It's in fact a version of a story Tim himself would writer later, after seeing Hollywood Minute.  This is part of the fantasy.  The only movies in this whole sequence that make any difference at all are Hollywood Minute, Fall of Troy, and maybe Little Green Men (just because).  

...The truth is, Tony Laplume (the author) realized he was no longer interested in doing this year's challenge the way he originally conceived it, and this was before the month actually began.  As you may or may not know, his mother passed away at the end of March.

So here's what the idea was, pulling back the curtain:

Joe and Zola and Hollywood Minute are analogues for (500) Days of Summer.  Which is to say, Joe is Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zola is Zooey Deschanel.  At various points in this would-be chronicle of their careers, the actors Heath Ledger and Kirsten Dunst (the latter usually in tandem with Sofia Coppola, who was the model for the director Penner) were also to be substituted where appropriate. 

Which is to also correlate (to date):
  • Albatross = The Patriot (making it a Heath Ledger movie)
  • Bounty = Ned Kelly (making it another Heath Ledger movie)
  • Child's Play = Our Idiot Brother (making it a Zooey Deschanel movie)
  • The Dauphin = Marie Antoinette (making it a Kirsten Dunst/Sofia Coppola movie)
  • Equinox = Looper (making it a Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie)
  • Genesis = Noah (making it an Emma Watson movie)
And later movies already referenced:
  • Heroes and Demons = The Virgin Suicides (making it a Kirsten Dunst/Sofia Coppola movie)
  • Impulse = Candy (making it a Heath Ledger movie)
  • Little Green Men = Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and/or Mars Attacks! (making it a Zooey Deschanel movie and/or a Natalie Portman movie)
  • The Savage Curtain = The Dark Knight (making it a Heath Ledger movie, although the idea was to also mix in The Phantom of the Opera)
I also sketched in:
  • Rascals = Elf (making it a Zooey Deschanel movie)
Now, I didn't make Fall of Troy synonymous with anything, mostly because I hadn't really been thinking about what the reunion project might be until I'd actually begun writing posts last week.  As it is, I love the Trojan War as a story.  If I were more clever, I would have done the whole challenge with that as my topic.  

Tim, by the way, is my fictional alter ego.  This was much more obvious from my perspective, as I've been writing Tim stories for the past few years now.  The bit about Tim killing Stephen King is actually a riff on a story I wrote recently, which references the incident King experienced in 1999 when a passing motorist struck him, which I crossed with The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (making it a Zooey Deschanel reference).  Hollywood Minute, this future relationship with Zola, and explaining away killing Stephen King as described in the original story, is the first time Tim has branched into his own life, which is to say, the whole thing became a fantasy concerning not Joe and Zola, but Tim and Zola, which is to say, Tony Laplume and Zooey Deschanel.

Which will clearly never happen in real life.

Going forward, I'm really just going to deconstruct yet further, because there is another layer that I had hinted at previously:
  • "Albatross" (an episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series)
  • "Bounty" (an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise)
  • "Child's Play" (an episode of Star Trek: Voyager)
  • "The Dauphin" (an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation)
  • "Equinox" (a two-part episode of Star Trek: Voyager)
  • "Favor the Bold" (an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
  • "Genesis" (an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation)
And so on.  I think going forward I'm just going to talk about Star Trek episodes.  Coming up with an episode for every letter of the alphabet and have the titles sound somewhat plausible as movies was itself a tricky task.  I learned "xindi," for instance, is not necessarily a name coined by the writers of Star Trek: Enterprise, but also the name of a Chinese flute.

One final piece of trivia concerning what this was originally intended to be: The characters were supposed to have first and last names.  Zola's was Zola Beck.  Which, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I more or less knew it from somewhere else.  Jolene Blalock (Star Trek: Enterprise) plays a character named Lola Beck in Starship Troopers 3: Marauder.  It only figures.

I like to talk Star Trek.  Half my first year doing A to Z was spent talking Star Trek.  So coming back to it will not, for me, be much of a problem.  And I suspect no one will much care my abandoning what I clearly was approaching tepidly at best, ultimately being completely uninterested in doing much more than I had settled into already.  The Fall of Troy bit was actually the most useful thing I've done this month, because I have been planning on writing a version of Troilus and Cressida for years, and this is the first time I've made any real headway on how to approach it.  (Not necessarily set in space, though, or in stop-motion animation.)

All of which is to say, tomorrow will be completely different.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

A to Z 2015 Hollywood Minute "Favor the Bold"

Hey, let's face it.  Even though the usual scheme is to follow the movie careers of Joe and Zola outside of Hollywood Minute and Fall of Troy, which here would lead to a tepid discussion of Joe's Favor the Bold, you don't want to read about that.  You want to know about Fall of Troy.  And let's get the obvious out of the way, too:

Fantasy status of Joe and Zola in relation to Favor the Bold: Minimal.  It's not a bad movie, to Tim's reckoning, and would have led to some interesting talking points, if something else hadn't hogged all the attention.

Fantasy status of Joe and Zola in relation to Fall of Troy: This is when the fantasy ends, of course.  During the making of this movie, Zola and Tim fall in love.  Rest assured, just because you know the ending, doesn't mean the rest of the story isn't worth exploring.

Which leaves us here:

Fall of Troy 

We begin in live action as Cressida's father defects to the Greeks.  As this is discussed among the Trojan ranks, Troilus argues the merits of handing Helen over, ideally in the form of a trade, in order to facilitate the end of the war, when he sees: 
The face to risk it all,
against the ships,
to defy the fall. 
Their romance is instance and intense.  Here's where we switch to stop-motion animation, contrasting young lovers with the horrors of the battlefield, as mighty warriors clash in epic duels (particularly spotlighted are the brave Hector, fighting on the side of the Trojans, and the sullen Achilles, who sings everything as a hopeless ballad even though he wins all the time).  To make it all the more thrilling, of course, the whole thing is set in space, with the fighting taking place between single-pilot ships as they dramatically pursue each other looking for the best angles at which to fire (very much like a gunfight in a Western, actually). 
We are once again in live action.  When Cressida is forced to choose between loyalty to her father and her love of Troilus, she sings her own version of the first song: 
The face to risk it all,
against all hope,
to defy the fall! 

She knows as well as anyone that the Trojans were doomed all along.  She makes an impassioned plea for Troilus to join her, but he refuses, instead opting for one last assault against Achilles.  The movie ends with Cressida having decided to try and intervene, not on the side of the Greeks or Trojans, but on behalf of Troilus.  True love.

That's what happens in the movie.  During the making of the movie, Zola finds herself equally torn.  She has never seriously considered a romance with Joe before, and so making a movie with him again is the moment when she must confront the idea for the first time.  And in a weird kind of way, Tim undergoes the same torment.  Before writing the screenplay, Tim had never been in a position to actually meet Zola, and so he had still been clinging to the idea of the Joe/Zola fantasy.  Then everything changes.  True love.

Monday, April 06, 2015

A to Z 2015 - Hollywood Minute "Equinox"

It's worth noting that Joe never really became a reliable box office draw.  Every now and then it would seem as if he might be, but then an effort like Equinox would be released, which was not even strictly sold as a Joe movie so much as a must-see experience on a number of levels, and it still wouldn't be much of a hit.  Seriously, and Tim had every reason to care, too, not for the least because it was one of several movies that was almost a reunion for Joe and Zola, who would have been the third lead, the woman Joe comes across while he's on the run, not only from thugs but from a version of himself, played by veteran action star Clark Bridges.

As Zola explains years later, she'd already had her fill of movies like that, or thought she had.  Which might explain why The Fall of Troy is set in the future.  And is done in stop-motion animation.

Fantasy status of Joe and Zola in relation to Equinox: At first not very good, but getting better.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

A to Z 2015 - Hollywood Minute "The Dauphin"

The best movie Zola appeared in (besides Hollywood Minute) was definitely The Dauphin, which was also one of her collaborations with Penner, a director who came from industry royalty but redeemed her reputation behind the camera after a disastrous debut in front of it (don't ask).

Penner, by the way, is the one Tim first approaches with the screenplay that will reunite Zola and Joe.

As their numerous collaborations imply, Zola and Penner became close friends quickly, trusted creative partners who could count on each other when other avenues closed to them.  Zola had been part of an ensemble for Heroes and Demons, but she was the clear standout.  This was early in her career.  Every actor does ensemble work at some point.  Sometimes it comes down to the merits of the project itself, and sometimes the director, and sometimes, because this is how it works, whether or not the actor has had general exposure previously.  It's a cruel game of novelties.

And yes, The Dauphin is a period piece, which is one way Zola and Joe's careers converge even before Hollywood Minute.  Stick a pretty girl in an elaborate dress, right?  But the thing is, she stood out in a genre that normally swallows actors whole if they're not careful by using all conventions against themselves.  In essence, Zola proved herself timeless.

Well of course.  Zola's daughter will one day view this movie and wonder, Is that what she was really like?  And Tim will say, She still is.

Fantasy status of Joe and Zola in relation to The Dauphin: A head above.

(By the way, the big reunion project is The Fall of Troy.  You know, Paris and Helen.  Troilus and Cressida.)

Friday, April 03, 2015

A to Z 2015 - Hollywood Minute "Child's Play"

Sadly, Zola does not get a lot of great movie parts, even though she's awesome.  Even Tim loses track of her film career after a while.  She starts appearing in stuff like Child's Play, where her role is completely insignificant, a complete reversal of where she'd been heading before Hollywood Minute.  Typical chauvinism.  She ends up on TV, but even in her own show (That's New!) she competes for screen time unsuccessfully with a significantly larger group of men against one female colleague who in fact doesn't have much to do with her.

That's about it, really.

Fantasy status of Joe and Zola in relation to Child's Play: Terrible.  Does even Zola realize she's in it?  Granted, the movie isn't actually all that bad, and Tim would have watched it for any number of other reasons, but in the future, when they talk, they don't talk about Child's Play.  Especially not around the children!  Okay, okay, so Joe definitely does, when they get together (amicably, all three of them), but the fun he's having at Zola's expense is out of love!  Really!

(And then, yes, Tim kills Stephen King.  By accident.  After a few years, they laugh about that, too.  Because the version the public knows about these events is a fictional account written by Stephen King's son.  No, not Joe Hill.  The other one.)

Thursday, April 02, 2015

A to Z 2015 - Hollywood Minute "Bounty"

In the not-too-distant future, before he accidentally kills Stephen King (so far as his defense attorney claims), Tim becomes married to Zola, by the way.  Call this fantasy if you'd like, but that's what happens.  Tim is also the screenwriter for the movie that eventually pairs Zola and Joe again, years after Hollywood Minute.  He pens a full-blown musical, which incredibly, neither actor has done before despite exhibiting ample talent in that regard, Zola in particular.

But this is well before that happens.  As Zola dreams of working with Joe, Tim dreams of working with Zola, and the odd journey involves the making of Hollywood Minute, and dreaming that Joe and Zola will one day work together again.  Got it?

Tim spends a lot of time bugging Ozzie, his reluctant best friend, about these things.  Sometimes Ozzie has no idea why he humors Tim so much.  Maybe because he's morbidly interested to know how it'll all end.  Probably in hilarious tragedy, right?  Except even though life tends to work that way, sometimes it doesn't.  It's just that, life works in slow motion.

Joe's next big project after Albatross was Bounty, the movie where he began to realize what every actor knows: he's become a "type."  He's the young actor who's supposed to make historical dramas relevant again.  Except as Christian Fletcher, Joe is given very little direction, has no real sense of character other than to be solemn, and so his performance is listless, the movie flops, and his career instantly begins to flag.  Does anyone at all notice Bounty?  It's not even that it's a bad movie, per say.  As usual, lively Robert Speed injects vitality into it, as he does in another of Joe's films, Impulse (more on that later), and maybe he's even the inspiration for Joe's best performance, the instantly legendary Savage Curtain (more on that later, too).

Fantasy status of Joe and Zola in relation to Bounty: Retrograde.  No, actually Zola is a contrarian.  Ah, just like Tim.  She liked him in it.  To be clear, Joe is the third member of a fantasy love triangle.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

A to Z 2015 - Hollywood Minute "Albatross"

One of Tim's favorite movies is Hollywood Minute.  In a different era it would have the same reputation as When Harry Met Sally..., acknowledged as one of the great romantic films of our time, a definitive statement on the vagaries of love and fate.  Except it isn't, which makes it all the easier for Tim to view it as a personal treasure.  He's made little secret of the fact that he loves Hollywood Minute in part because of lead actress Zola, who infuriates Tim by the end of the movie because her character ends up rejecting the one played by Joe, although it's not really rejection so much as realizing that they weren't meant for each other.  (Rest assured, Tim couldn't really hate Zola.)  Except Hollywood Minute is so important in both their careers, they maintain an association that for Tim is easy to drag into the world of fantasy, where that happy ending really did occur.

And so he envisions their careers as a form of destiny leading to that moment where the distinction of fantasy no longer applies.  Because everything points back to Hollywood Minute, and not so much how it ends but where it leads.

Joe's first big success was Albatross, in which he was not the star but the up-and-coming young star intended to shine in a supporting role.  All that maddening calculation that went into engineering his breakthrough kind of backfires, because even though it's a hit, no one associates it as his hit.  To remember that he was in it at all is to realize that Joe was not considered important enough to play the lead.  Besides, he dies well before the end of the movie.  Bummer.  On to the next one, right?  

It's always been a favorite of Tim's.  He was a fan of Joe before Albatross, and after Hollywood Minute he had all the more reason to keep the rest of Joe's movies in mind when he wanted to watch something, but it's one he doesn't have to force himself to watch for the sake of watching, which he has to admit isn't always the case.

Fantasy status of Joe and Zola in relation to Albatross: Neutral.  Or maybe, it's what caught Zola's eye, too?  So not neutral.  Getting ready... 


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