At a loss for words right now, but I would be remiss to not express my profound grief at the loss of the wonderful actor director and writer Leonard Nimoy. The last time I was this affected by the loss of an actor/media figure was when Vincent Price passed away. He will be missed by a lot of people, and he and his work will be remembered and appreciated for a long time.
Posts tagged Star Trek
I should be taking a victory lap.
Roberto Orci, the writer/producer, has apparently been kicked off Star Trek 3 – a movie he was originally signed to both co-write and direct. Me and Mr. Orci, well… we have a history. His heated and condescending response to my TrekMovie editorial “Star Trek is broken” resulted in a tremendous amount of bad press for him, and it also resulted in my op-ed piece being read by far more people than would have done so otherwise.
When Orci was announced as director, I was critical and contributed to the very vocal #StopOrci2014 twitter response… a response that probably made no difference whatsoever in what happened, but gave fans a chance to vent.
I don’t know what has happened behind the scenes, but Devin at Badass Digest writes that Orci was kicked off the film, almost entirely – Orci initially responded to these rumors with a “not true, I am still very much involved” comment (again, on TrekMovie) but he finally stated yesterday that he was a producer only and was no longer writing the script (his script for Star Trek Into Darkness is one of the major points of criticism I and many others had with the film).
Like I stated, I should be taking a victory lap… but I’m not. Mostly because I see very little to celebrate.
Star Trek is STILL broken, because the direction the series has taken doesn’t look to change. They have brought in Justin Lin, the director of the Fast and the Furious movies, to direct the next Trek film. While he is quite adept with character moments and action beats, is he the right man to direct Star Trek? I don’t know, but other rumored directors (Duncan Jones!) could have brought a much more intellectual take at the material.
Trek is not action movie material… Trek is about the human adventure, the undiscovered country… as I pointed out (adeptly, IMO) in the article that pissed off Orci in the first place. Since the universe prides itself on irony, we have seen two great examples of what a Trek movie should and could be just this past year. Gravity and Interstellar are both provocative SF stories that I could see under the Star Trek label (and yes, I know both films are flawed). Hell, even Guardians of the Galaxy had more “exploration” than the last Trek film had.
So no victory lap for me, because I don’t take pleasure in Orci’s ouster… OK, to be completely honest, I do take a LITTLE pleasure. I am human, after all. As they say, pride goeth before a fall, and Mr. Orci was (and is) a very proud boastful little man. So to him I say: Good luck with that.
Now, to finish (and to reinforce the title of this missive): I’m kinda done with Star Trek.
I’ve gone (and spoken at) Trek conventions, I’ve written thousands of words on the subject, and I look back in fondness at the hours of entertainment the series and the films have given me. But with Trek now an “action adventure” franchise, the Trek that is being produced now is bringing me more pain than pleasure.
I also think that I have written all I have to say on the subject: I have nothing else to add to the discussion except the same arguments I have made already, and a few have (legitimately) criticized my Trek writing because of this. Since I don’t want or need to belabor my points, I’m out.
Finally, there’s plenty of other people writing about Trek out there… people who are still excited and passionate about Trek – many of them much better writers than I am – and I wish them well. I’m just not that interested in doing so anymore (especially when half the comments are people “white knighting” Orci and NuTrek – sorry, life is too short to deal with online debates waged in comment threads).
So, to my Trek friends… live long and prosper. I will be writing about and viewing other things. I may see the third film… eventually. But even with Orci gone I have no confidence that there will be a course correction to Star Trek anytime soon.
It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the direction the latest Star Trek film, Into Darkness took the franchise. I won’t rehash my opinions here so, in summary: “big explosions plus weak characters and story” is not what I watch Star Trek for. I watch and enjoy good Trek because it’s about ideas, the human condition… and it’s about hope.
I’m also very aware that criticism is easy, and creating is hard. I admire the effort that went into the new film, and I can see it was considerable – I just don’t admire the results. But I also think that Star Trek as a franchise has some big problems. Many of the die-hard fans are unhappy and disliked the film. It appears that Into Darkness didn’t bring many new fans to the series, unlike the preceding film. And Star Trek’s respectable but not amazing box office may indicate that the public isn’t buying into the new direction.
So, in the spirit of optimism and in a (very small) attempt to suggest a new course for the franchise, here are my ideas on how to fix Trek’s biggest problems.
Tease the past, don’t revisit it
Enough with Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise. Yes, I’m serious… it’s over. Stop it. If you continue to retell episodes of a nearly 50 year old TV show people will (perhaps rightly) view it as a rehash and many will reject it wholesale. Let’s be honest… do we really NEED more stories with these characters? We have had three live-action seasons, one animated season, nine movies, hundreds of novels… to quote a very popular song, “Let it go.”
Now, I’m not saying that the right person can’t do an AMAZING new story with these characters… I’m questioning if there’s a good reason to do so creatively. And perception is a big issue, too. If you run Star Trek, you want to increase your audience with every new outing… that’s capitalism. More customers = more money. You can’t keep selling the same product to the same customers, and that’s the risk if you stay with the classic crew.
Keep the core of what makes Trek good and leap forward, with a new cast and crew. Have sly references to the past, but don’t wallow in it. Basically, do the same thing the new Doctor Who has done – tip your hat at what has come before, but don’t be limited by it. Another good example of this idea, applied, was Sci-Fi channel’s Battlestar Galactica remake. They used concepts and the basic premise from the original but didn’t rehash what had gone before. Instead they created new characters, new situations, and went to places the original never dared go.
Too bad we couldn’t get the guy behind the new Galactica to consider coming back to Trek…
Have real alien aliens
I’m tired of seeing aliens who have ridges on their foreheads and body paint. As much as I dislike the movie Avatar, what that did was tell us a story about an alien world where the environment was ACTUALLY ALIEN. Yes, a huge amount of CGI would be needed, but if you are going to make Trek new again, then you need to move away from the look and limitations of a TV show makeup budget. Have alien cultures, alien bodies, and alien minds. Create new cool races that captures the viewers imagination. Don’t just add piercings and think it’s “edgy.”
Bring back the moral issues, but with subtlety
Good Trek always provoked viewers, making them consider the right or wrong about particular issues. Religion, class structures, terrorism, genocide, what it meant to be human… Have moral issues be part of the fabric of Trek, just don’t be heavy handed about it. Viewers don’t want to be preached to, and if you do that you’ll turn off viewers. It’s a fine balance, and one that Trek hasn’t always made… But it’s still worth striving for.
Kill the prime directive
Imagine a Star Trek universe where crews actively interfered with other cultures, trying to enforce their worldview on alien worlds. Again, sounds like the original Star Trek, right? Well, the idea of the Prime Directive (invented in the original series, but beat to death in subsequent shows) kills that opportunity for drama and prevents good stories from being told. Kirk ignored it, and the creators of new Star Trek should ignore it to.
You can even have stories about how the Federation USED to have the Prime Directive, and then Something Happened to make them abandon it. An “interventionist” Starfleet? Like I said, it opens up opportunities for some interesting stories.
Be bold (and be on cable)
Have gay characters on the show, portray evil in stark terms, show non-traditional families – Star Trek can and should explore more of that “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.” It’s easy to be risk-averse, but that way results in weak characters and melodrama. Sometimes, telling a good story means some risk-taking.
We have seen some incredibly bold storytelling on shows like True Detective and Breaking Bad – Do some of that. Break new ground and expand the universe of Star Trek in new ways. Example: Discuss how the economy works in the future. Is it a true utopia or is there an underclass we have never seen before? Shake up expectations and conventions.
Telling quality stories in bold new ways will bring new viewers to Trek. That probably means that any new Star Trek should be on cable. You don’t have to have monster ratings to be a successful cable show, and you are able to have more creative freedom, the type of freedom that makes for great drama and exciting television.
Stop trying to be sexy
Stop having women be sex objects – have them be smart beautiful women. They don’t have to be in charge of the ship, they just have to be good well-rounded characters. As progressive Trek has been over the years, so many of the female characters were thin and mainly there for set decorating. Change that, and stop trying to titilate the audience. Just tell good stories, and let the characters play their part.
Hire futurists and technologists
Reimagine the future of Star Trek. Look at where technology trends are going and extrapolate them. Wearable computers, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, robotics… Don’t be limited by the past (somewhat archaic) views of the future that has come in previous Trek. Show us a really cool new future.
Hire SF and fantasy writers
The original Star Trek series hired a LOT of SF and fantasy writers. It should do that again. Imagine a Neil Gaimen or Neal Stephenson writing scripts for a new Trek series. Or someone like Stephen King. Heck, just hire John Scalzi or a half-season run.
No offense to the current writers of Trek, but I think that Trek needs some new ideas, and SF authors are chock full of them.
Bring back wonder and hope
Finally, Star Trek needs to make us widen our eyes in wonder. Show us amazing things, truly alien worlds and new civilizations. The success of Avatar shows just how big a movie can be if it presents such a world to viewers. Don’t just showcase huge vistas of destruction – present us with beauty and awe. Make us want to GO THERE – which is what makes Star Trek so important. It has inspired generations of viewers to become scientists, engineers and astronauts… Because Trek showed a future where we didn’t destroy ourselves, where we reached out and started exploring the dark unknown.
Trek should continue to inspire the next generation. And it can do it by seeking out new frontiers, tell new stories… and boldly go where Trek has never gone before.
That way lies the future.
I’m a pop culture whore. There’s so much that our industrial entertainment complex has come up with that I enjoy – Star Trek, Doctor Who, Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Prisoner, Breaking Bad… dozens and dozens of great shows and films that have brought me joy over the years (heck, I even wrote a book about one of them).
I have revisited quite a few of my favorites over the years, rewatching films and TV episodes many times. Too many times, actually. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve watched the original Star Wars, as well as Psycho, Star Trek II, and several other of my favorite films. And don’t get me started on the time I’ve spent revisiting TV episodes – the mind reels. I’ve probably watched the Star Trek episode Spock’s Brain more times than I’ve dined with my mother and father-in-law.
I’m not proud of that fact.
Well, I’ve made a decision. Maybe it’s driven by the stark acknowledgement that I probably have less days ahead of me than the ones I’ve lived. Or maybe it’s because I’ve become fatigued from all the (self-imposed) nostalgia.
I’m done revisiting the past.
That’s it. No more rewatches. My favorite shows and movies will remain a happy memory. I loved Homicide: Life on the Streets when it came out twenty years ago – but after watching those dozens of episodes, many times more than once, I have no interest in revisiting it. Same for Breaking Bad, which just finished its run, or Mad Men, which is getting close to its end. Same for the work of Spielberg, and Welles, and Hitchcock. And so many more.
Instead of revisiting old favorites I’m instead seeking out new films, shows and content to delight and excite me. And it doesn’t even have to be “new” – just new to me (hence my Neglected Cinema series, though there’s some rewatches in there – so I can’t quit cold turkey).
Life’s too short to watch the same episode of Star Trek ten times.
As a content consumer, I am walking away from revisiting the past as much as possible, because, in addition to the reasons I stated above, I’ve learned that nostalgia is a tender trap – it makes you blind to the great undiscovered things that are staring you straight in the face. While I’m not quite as down on nostalgia as this author is, I can see his point.
And nostalgia can trap the creators of content as well as the consumers of it.
There was a huge amount of coverage and excitement this past month at the rumor that Twin Peaks, one of my favorite shows, was returning in one form or another. As much as I’d love to see new Peaks, I also want something ELSE from the great creative minds of David Lynch and Mark Frost. And that’s exactly what’s happening – David has his experimental albums and art, and Mark has his great new Paladin Prophesy book series.
Mark and David, I know there’s some level of desire to “scratch that itch” and revisit that world… don’t. Move on, move forward. It’s over. Let it be. Enjoy it. Celebrate it. Look back with fondness, but the past is the past.
Be grateful for it, but don’t follow the old muses. Listen to the new ones.
So, that’s my belated new years resolution, and one I think all consumers of pop culture would commit to. Experience new things. Walk away from the remix culture. Seek out new cool content. Break out of your comfort zone.
The human adventure is just beginning: How the optimistic future of Star Trek is more likely than we may think
“We are locally optimistic, and globally pessimistic.”
That statement is a key point made in the book Abundance: the Future is Better than you think by Pete Diamandis and Steven Kotler. The quote is from one of the many people interviewed in the book, a psychologist who goes on to explain that our brains have developed to be generally optimistic about our personal lives while at the same time having a mostly negative view on events beyond our immediate control. This is why so many people think that things are “getting worse” in the world.
The creator of Star Trek Gene Roddenberry did not share this “globally pessimistic” point of view. Instead, he was incredibly optimistic about our future, about the human potential. “We’re just beginning,” he said in an interview shortly before his death.”We have wonders ahead of us. I don’t see how it can be any other way, with the way the future is going. We now have got a telescope up there, photographing the universe. We’re inventing the next life form, the computer. We’re in the midst of it. And it will happen.”
The authors of Abundance agree with Roddenberry’ outlook, and throughout the book they detail advances in technology and society over the past two centuries, and then predict that future advancements will lead to “a world of nine billion people with clean water, nutritious food, affordable housing, personalized education, top-tier medical care, and non-polluting, ubiquitous energy.” According to them, the future we see in Star Trek is not just possible but probable. How so? Read on…
Technology: The cause of, and cure for, all of life’s problems
In a previous article for TrekMovie.com I covered many of the technological advances that are bringing us closer to the future tech envisioned in Star Trek. But technology is a double-edged sword – it can be used to produce weapons of mass destruction and it can also be used to save lives and better mankind. The authors of Abundance, like Gene Roddenberry, focus on the latter more “hopeful” application of tech.
The authors recount specific examples of how advancements in science, medicine and computing are (gradually) making people’s lives better. New and cheap technology to help supply the base needs of all people – food, water, and power – are being applied throughout the world. Water desalination tools, genetically enhanced crops that grow in harsh conditions, portable solar-powered generators and power plants – the stuff of science fiction just a few years ago are being rolled out to developing nations. And the computer chips that power these tools are cheaper than they have ever been, and getting cheaper by the day. We can now mass-produce a computer for the same cost as it takes to manufacture a LEGO playset!
The world’s problems are not going to be solved overnight, but as economies of scale take place the cost of building and distributing these tools will help make people’s lives better. More important, many of these world-changing innovations are not being done by large companies who are slow to execute and implement them, but by entrepreneurs and small companies. This “DIY Innovation”, powered by cheap computer power and open-source technology, is making a rapid impact in fields from biotechnology to space travel.
This TED talk discusses how things have gotten markedly better in the developing world over the past fifty years.
A base living standard and the end of money?
Advances in technology are all well and good, but how can we have the utopian future shown in Star Trek? A future where “there will be no hunger, there will be no greed, and all the children will know how to read” (as Gene Roddenberry once told actor Jonathan Frakes). A future that also had no need of that thing we call “money?”
Gene Roddenberry frequently stated that money would not exist in the future, that instead people work to “better themselves” and to “enhance humanity.” This was one of the “rules” of Star Trek, a rule several of the creative people who worked on the show (notably Ron Moore) disagreed with. While it is unlikely society will ever “do away” with money, the authors of Abundance claim at some point a base standard of living will exist for everyone, whether they have money or not. And this base will be better than the base standard from just two generations ago.
The authors of Abundance point out that the poor and starving in the world have, slowly, become healthier and had improved standards of living over the past fifty years. There are still problems, but organizations and those aforementioned “tech-philanthropists” are working hard to overcome them. They also note that the poorest in developed countries like the United States have more than many families that would have been considered “rich” just two generations ago (heating, air, gas, plumbing, vehicles, cellular phones). “This generation of human beings has access to more calories, watts, lumen-hours, square-feet, gigabytes, megahertz, light-years, nano-meters, bushels per acre, miles per gallon, food miles, air miles, and, of course, dollars than any that went before,” an amazing fact.
The standards of living in developing countries are still nowhere near that of developed nations. but more and more people are living lives of comfort where just one generation before they struggled to survive. The necessities of life (thanks to technology, capitalism, philanthropy, and innovation) are becoming cheap and accessible to all. We may never see the “end” of money, but with an increasing base standard of living that can be available to all, eventually we may lose the need to work to just “pay our bills” and instead apply our time to have opportunities to grow and “better ourselves”… just like on Star Trek.
Government, free enterprise, and “tech-philanthropists”
One of the primary philosophical arguments of our times is about the role and size of government. Some feel the role of government should be limited, and others feel that government should actively intervene in the lives of individuals to help people in need. The writers of Abundance argues that it isn’t one way or the other… there are things that free enterprise is better at and other things that is more appropriate for government to handle. They also point out a third group, a group that is impacting the world in remarkable ways. They are the “tech-philanthropists,” people like Bill and Melinda Gates, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and George Lucas.
Instead of spending their billions and purchasing luxury yachts (and islands to dock them at), these individuals created foundations to help people in the developing world and to fund innovations that will make a difference in people’s lives. Thanks to these tech-philanthropists, we are on the verge of a new era of privately funded space flight, the end of malaria, and a “laptop for every child”. They, along with “social entrepreneurs” using tools like Kickstarter and Kiva (www.kiva.org), will “fill the gap” that government and free enterprise can’t (or won’t) in an attempt to make the world a better place.
The X-Prize Foundation is another “tech philanthropist” that is offering incentives to innovators around the world
As the authors of Abundance remind us, while there are many groups actively working at solving the world’s problems, we can help too. Individual action and innovation is available to us all, and there is an “abundance” of knowledge and information at our fingertips through the wonderful thing you’re using right now called the Internet – which in and of itself is an amazing indicator of how things have changed from just two generations ago. Information that can be used to make informed decision of how and where we can make a difference.
If this all sounds somewhat “Pollyanna”… well, that’s because it is. A catastrophic disaster, a massive global financial crisis or another world war could occur and make much of these efforts for naught. But we all have a choice. We can be, like the quote at the beginning of this article. “globally pessimistic.” Or we can be hopeful, and make a difference by our choices and actions.
What would Gene do? It isn’t much of a stretch to state that if he was still around he would be a big proponent of the optimistic viewpoint Abundance details, as well one of those “tech philanthropists” donating his time and money to make things better…
To make sure the human adventure IS just beginning.
I’m proud to announce that I’m about to boldly go where I’ve never gone before… be a guest at a Star Trek convention. And not just ANY Star Trek convention, the big one… The Official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. A convention so huge that all the words in its name require Title Case.
I’ll be giving two presentations, the first is about “Treknology” and covers how scientific advances are getting us closer to the world of Star Trek (it’s based on an article I did for Trekmovie.com you can find here). The second is based on an upcoming article called “The Human Adventure is just beginning” and will cover how the utopian future of Star Trek is not just possible, but probable.
(I will also be speaking on technology and design at WebVisions Portland in May as well as a couple other conferences later on in the year. Stay tuned!)
Thanks in advance for the people at Creation Entertainment for inviting me to speak, and I hope to see you there! Live long and prosper!
Cross-post of an article I wrote for http://trekmovie.com:
“Imagine being a Star Wars fan driving past Lucasfilm, and seeing the Millennium Falcon in a dumpster.”
Would never happen, right? Well, it did. Only it wasn’t Star Wars, and it wasn’t that infamous Corellian freighter found in a trash heap, it was the bridge of the finest ship in the galaxy, the USS Enterprise-D. And the Star Trek fan that found it is named Huston Huddleston, and he’s currently working to restore the bridge set to its former glory.
I talked at length with Huston about how he was able to acquire the Bridge, the details of how he started his project to restore the set, how the project is going, and the support he has gotten from fans and Star Trek professionals alike.
“Sir… it’s the Enterprise!”
It all started on a day Huston will never forget. “I was working at a company with a man who worked at Paramount. During lunch breaks we would talk, he’d show me blueprints and photos from Star Trek and tell me upcoming plans. It was a lot of fun, because he knew he was a Trek fan. One day he told me he was leaving the company and I said ‘Oh darn, now I’ll never get turn my living room into the bridge of the Enterprise’ and he said ‘Be careful what you wish for’. Huh? What? He took me to this warehouse in Long Beach and the entire bridge of the Enterprise D was sitting outside.”
“It was in despicable condition. It had been sitting outside for 5 years, had been rained on, cigarette butts, cat poop… everything. I got over the initial shock and thought ‘OK, what can I do with this?’ Which is not the sanest thought but you had to go with it.”
Huston did some research and found out that it was authentic, just not a set that was actually used on the show. “When I called CBS about it (before I even bought it) I wanted to make sure it was legitimate. I found out this set was built by Paramount in the late 90s for display and touring (the original Enterprise-D set was destroyed during the filming of Generations) and then management at Paramount changed. People forget, and this was forgotten about. Nobody cared about it.”
“Then quite a few months of negotiations with the warehouse owners went by. Someone had not paid their bill and they were left with this set, but they didn’t own it. All this time I was trying to figure out what to do with it, where to store it, etc.”
“They (the warehouse owners) finally called at the end of 2011 and said ‘Look, we are throwing this away, if you don’t do something with it. We are taking it to a landfill; we are using the medal for scrap. We know you want it.’ I said I can’t afford to pay whatever you want it, and they said just pay for the shipping and it’ll be a deal.”
But it wasn’t that easy. “It was still in the thousands of dollars just to pay to move it. It was three guys, and a moving van and a half. When I talk to people, I have to explain to them that it’s not just the chairs… It’s EVERYTHING, the whole ceiling, the walls, the framework, the molding, all the huge computers and everything just like you see it on TV.”
A look at the just some of bridge set components. Image from Newstarship.com.
“You have to do something with this.”
Then… nothing much happened. “So a year passed and all the rich cats I knew were like ‘That’s nice’ and all the fans were like ‘Sure, you own the bridge. Right.’ I went to the Star Trek con in Vegas this past August and met with Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore and John DeLancie and told them what I had. The most excited person was Ron. He wanted to see pictures and he was like a kid in the candy store, a geeky teenager. He told me ‘You have to do something with this.’ I cannot understate how generous he was with his time.” (Ron Moore appears in the Kickstarter project video and also autographed several items that has been offered as rewards for donations.)
“So the next morning I had a ‘eureka’ moment and I decided I was going to do a Kickstarter and on that Sunday I posted a page on Facebook saying ‘I’m restoring the Bridge.’ Two days later SyFy Channel did a story on their Blastr site and it exploded. Mike Okuda (Production Designer for Star Trek: The Next Generation and Trek historian) then told me ‘You need to change this’ and gave me some advice on the site. People were assuming it was the original set, and I made the text more specific based on Mike’s suggestions.”
One of the two t-shirts that is being sold to help raise money for the bridge restoration. The shirt is also being given away as a reward on Kickstarter to anyone who pledges $20 or more.
The sudden media attention made Huston “kickstart” his efforts. “I had to rush to pull everything together, and in that first two weeks I was completely overwhelmed, didn’t know what I was doing. I’m a writer, but I’m a writer who doesn’t get interviewed a lot. And most of the articles didn’t even talk to me, they just copied other articles, and some of them were wrong, and the fans were like ‘you lied!’ No we didn’t lie, they never talked to us!”
“Luckily quite a few people came onboard to help me who were Star Trek fans, there were technical people who came forward… it took two different people to do the website (New Starship)… there was a brilliant guy who helped wrangle our Kickstarter page, David Raiklin, who also did the extremely successful Space Command fundraiser. My main guy, Brian Uiga, he’s doing most of the restoration and he’s also the one who helped restore the real TARDIS from the 1995 Doctor Who TV movie, in addition to a couple of the Herbie cars from the Love Bug and KITT from Knight Rider. I’ve surrounded myself with a bunch of pros. My biggest skill on this is as Producer, in coordinating people and making decisions. I think the biggest thing is I know what I want, which is the role of the Producer.”
Huston gives a lot of credit to both the fans and the people who has worked on the original show for their support and ideas. “This would not be what it has been withoutall the fans and the pros, the real cast and crew. We have gotten great feedback from the fans, and great ideas. One example, we have T-shirts that we are selling to raise money that said “Captain I saved the Bridge” and this fan Otto Vondonk suggested we put ‘Shut up, Wesley!’ on the back, which was a brilliant idea! We have feedback on the designs for the isolinear chips we are going to be giving away as part of the Kickstarter. As Communistic as this sounds, this whole thing is by fans for fans.”
The blueprints of the bridge they will be using to restore the set. Image from Newstarship.com.
One big concern Huston had once the restoration plans were set was how Paramount would respond to this project. “Dealing with CBS was very scary to me, even though they were very cool. The first time I contacted them about our plans I heard nothing back for over two weeks…. It was nerve wracking. They finally got back to me and they said, ‘Change this and this.’ and that was all. They have been great about all this. They have been very honest with me, as long as I’m not making money and as long as I’m not hurting the franchise.” Huston has formed a non-profit corporation to cover all the costs and legal obligations of the restoration effort.
Huston and crew are attending many different conventions over the next few months to promote and gather support for his project. “We are doing the conventions to show off the chairs, so people can sit in them and take pictures. We are selling shirts to help raise money. And the entire Next Gen cast is going to be at the Wizard World shows in Austin Texas and New Orleans. My first panic attack was when Sir Patrick Stewart’s people said ‘Sir Patrick wants to see pictures of the chair he will be sitting in’ – and it wasn’t ready yet!”
Two of the bridge chairs. Image from Newstarship.com.
Besides finishing the Captain’s chair for Sir Patrick, the next big restoration milestone is the restoration of Worf’s tactical station, which should be fixed by February. The most immediate focus, however, is on the current Kickstarter campaign. “We are asking for $20,000 and that is the bare minimum to keep the stuff housed. To be honest, it’ll be $100,000 to $200,000 to get it housed and fixed. This ain’t gonna be cheap. It cost $600,000 to build the original set in the 90s, and we’re trying to make it interactive. We’re doing a multimillion project for the cost of a storage bin.”
One of the most interesting things about the restoration is that planned interactive element. “We’re in the early days, we’re still trying to figure the tech out. The idea is if we have the person in the captain’s chair hit the red alert button it will change the lighting, change the screen, make the sounds. There are lots of computers. Troi and Riker’s computers are small, but the ones in the back behind Worf’s station are quite large, and Worf’s is curved which is quite tricky. Conn and Ops are also extremely large, and you can’t buy that kind of stuff at a Best Buy. We know we need those and we will also need speakers… a lot of speakers. We need a projector, lots of lighting, lots of effects, and some kind of networking station to get these things together…”
“Right now we are just trying to concentrate on the money getting out of debt for the initial thousands of dollars I’ve already put out. That’s our initial focus. Our next step is to then concentrate on the technology.”
Huston is planning to unveil the restored bridge in late 2013. “We will be taking parts of the set to the conventions for the next year, and then when we finally get everything together, we will do our grand unveiling in LA in a Hollywood soundstage, and all of those incentives that you will find on Kickstarter will be done… and we have to do all those back to back, because it’s such a massive structure it takes a day to put it together and a day to strike the set.”
“Make it so!”
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And I want to share this – which is why we’re opening it up to the public! I don’t want people to be jealous. I don’t want it to just be in my living room and I go ‘Tee Hee! It’s mine, all mine!’ If I were sitting there and hoarding all this, I would be the biggest jerk in the world. I want to make people happy and make this thing work. I’ve gotten these generous stories from people who went to the (now closed) Star Trek Experience in Vegas. One person talked about going to it with his father, who since passed away, and how they want his name on the Bridge in memory of him… It’s really touching. And I just got word from CBS that they have no problem with our performing weddings on the bridge, which is a huge thing, and will bring many people happiness, any sex, any religion, any alien species.”
An Isolinear chip with your name engraved on it can be placed on the bridge set as a Kickstarter reward.
“My ultimate vision is to continue to take as much of the set to conventions and then to find a permanent home for it… and we don’t know where yet. It’s going to take a lot of help and support from some city or private individual to do it right. We have gotten a couple of offers, so we’ll see.”
Support the Bridge Restoration project by donating to the Kickstarter. Huston is working on getting even more incentives and rewards for donations, so keep checking back! For pictures and even more details visit New Starship.
Just a quick note to let the regular readers of ye’ ol’ blog know that I am now a regular contributor to TrekMovie.com. I’ve been a “friend” of that site for a couple of years now and so when one of the editors of the site asked me to start contributing I jumped at the chance. Here’s some of the articles I’ve written so far:
Save the bridge!
“Treknology:” What technologies need to be invented to bring us up to speed with Star Trek?
A Milestone Month: September Marked Four Notable Star Trek Anniversaries
Should Star Trek Come Back to TV? An Objective Evaluation
In Praise of the Doomsday Machine (and William Windom)
And here’s my first contribution to the site, from last year:
Video Demo & Review of Star Trek PADD app for iPad
A couple of the above were cross-posts from here, but from here on I plan on doing new content “exclusively” for TrekMovie. I’ve got a couple of really interesting articles I’m working on that will be up soon. So please, check out my Trek stuff there, and I hope you like it.
Oh, I almost forgot – I’ve also started a new Star Trek “newspaper” called This Week in Star Trek. It has all the latest news from the final frontier and is updated weekly (duh). You can check it out here: http://www.thisweekinstartrek.com.
Thanks for reading, and live long and prosper!
Well, there is some history of litigation in Star Trek, but it tends to not be Paramount vs. the Little Guy, it tends to be actors/writers against Paramount. Two examples: Leonard Nimoy sued Paramount for licensing moneys around his image (Paramount in the 70s licensed images of Spock selling beer, or his head as a liquor decanter) and Harlan Ellison sued over money he felt he was owed for writing teh episode City on the Edge of Forever (again, a licensing issue). Another (almost) example: Gene Roddenberry himself was threatened by Paramount when they found out his Lincoln Enterprises mail-order business was selling film cells cut from movie reels that Gene had… “acquired” from the studio.
Does Paramount “sue” the little guys, who build phaser and starship model kits? If those little guys are making money off it, they can (and every right to – Trek is their intellectual proprety). Would they? Probably not. I heard way back in 2002 they got a federal court to allow them to seize bootleg merchandise from conventions in multiple cities… Here’s an excerpt from the story:
A federal court in Cleveland granted Viacom’s Paramount unit an order allowing it to seize bootleg “Star Trek” merchandise sold at sci-fi conventions in Atlanta, Cleveland, Dearborn MI, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Orlando, Pasadena CA, Tampa, and Tucson. The suit is aimed at bootleggers who sell everything from counterfeit action figures representing the characters in the “Star Trek” TV series and movies to T-shirts and caps. The court order allows process servers acting on Paramount’s behalf to seize merchandise without having to obtain a local order in each city where the items are being sold.
Did they do it? I cant find any news story about it actually happpening, and I think that cooler heads may have prevailed (after fan backlash). Which is why I think the odds of something like it happening again is slim to none. If you go to a Trek con you see dozens of hand-made or limited production Trek items. You can buy hundreds of unauthorized Trek products at CafePress.com. You can buy great unauthorized costumes at cosplaysky.com. There’s scores of limited edition models at starfleetmodeler.net. Writer David Gerrold sells tribbles and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t pay a licensing fee to Paramount/Viacom. Heck, there are even new episodes of the original Star Trek being made by two different groups of actors and fans!
The “dirty little secret” here is this: if you are really hugelly successful, Paramount can and will come knocking on your door with a nice fat cease and desist letter. If you are only selling a few here and there, you should be fine. It’s not iust about preserving their IP rights… it’s all about the benjamins.
(Note: I am not a lawyer and this is not really legal advice. For that, you should talk to one of them legal-type-fellas.)
A couple of weeks ago, I attended the official Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, and one of the panels I went to was to determine the top ten episode of the original series. It was a conference room that was only half-full, but the people who were there were extremely engaged and vocal as they shouted feedback to the panel who was whittling the suggested candidate episodes down to ten.
One episode, a particular favorite of mine, ended up in the list. Devin Faraci, a fine writer and blogger, questioned the choice in this review of the list states “The Doomsday Machine? It’s a good episode, but top ten material?”
Yes, Mr. Faraci, it’s top 10 material. In fact, I think it should rank higher than #7. I think it should be in the Top 5, and depending on my mood on any particular day I could say it’s the Best. Episode. Ever.
Why? Let me provide some points, to rationalize my opinion:
It’s a remake of Moby Dick. A pet theory of mine is that the best Trek has or uses Moby Dick allusions (The Wrath of Khan, First Contact), and it starts here, with Commodore Decker chasing his “white whale” and leaving a path of death and destruction in order to get his revenge.
(Almost) Everyone has great moments. All the major characters get to shine here, with great dialogue and scenes for Scotty, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Sulu and Uhura get left out, unfortunately (Uhura isn’t even in the episode).
It’s got some epic space battles! We had space battles in other episode but this was the first one to really amp the action up to 11. Yes, this one goes to 11.
It’s got a great villain! Yes, the “planet eater” may look like a giant cornucopia, but it pre-dates the Borg, the Terminator and many other heartless “force of nature” bad-guys. You can’t negotiate with it, and it appears unstoppable. It’s like Jaws, a literal “eating machine.”
“Vulcans never bluff.” No explanation needed.
It shouldn’t be as good as it is. It’s one of those “bottle” episodes, where the producers had to shoot a whole episode on the ship, because they had no money to go on location or to even create an alien planet on a different soundstage. That it is so entertaining is a credit to the ingenuity of the production staff and to writer Norman Spinrad.
It was Scotty’s favorite episode! James Doohan frequently said it was his favorite episode. You gonna argue with Scotty?
There’s huge stakes. The “planet eater” is going to go through the most densely part of the galaxy, and it has to be stopped, a far cry from getting a delivery of grain to an outpost or rescuing Spock’s brain…
The remastered version is even awesomer! The somewhat-good special effects of the original episode was replaced with some beautiful new shots that give a great sense of scale to the battle, and replaces some pretty shoddy (budget-limited) model work.
William Windom as Commodore Decker. Last, and certainly not least, it featured one of the best guest star turns in the history of all Star Trek series by the great William Windom. His performance as Commodore Decker is one for the ages, going from a man in shock to a man obsessed to (finally) a man ready to die if it means stopping the destruction being wrought.
Windom died this week at the age of 88, and he leaves this and many other great performances as his legacy. To paraphrase a line Windom said in this episode: He was there… but not anymore.
Goodnight, Mr. Windom. And thanks for the great work