Star Trek: The Lost Missions - Episode 7

Here comes episode 7 in the series of Star Trek audio adventures produced by Peter Pan/Power Records. This is perhaps my favorite of the series, mainly because it's just not the kind of story that one would normally associate with the sort of stuff that regularly appears on story records made for children. There aren't any adult themes like sex or alcohol in it ... it's just that it's more drama than adventure. But, most importantly, it's a good story. "The Logistics of Stampede" (written by Alan Dean Foster) sees the Enterprise come to the aid of a Federation colony facing a natural disaster. Listen long and prosper!


Us versus Them

So, a friend and co-worker decided a couple of weeks ago to whimsically put on her computer, as her wallpaper, the picture shown here. Now, normally I would probably ignore the ages-old "Star Trek versus Star Wars" debate -- let's face it, we've all seen the "Why [this universe] is better than [that universe]" email lists circulating ad infinitum in all their various forms, and it really is an argument that has no definitive answer since it really can't be examined with complete objectiveness ... but my fingers have been itching ever since that image started taunting me. Sheesh, it's still taunting me even though she replaced it a week ago with a really cool American Revolution themed painting that's been altered to show both sides' soldiers armed with lightsabers, and even a half-finished Death Star in the sky above.

But anyway, back to the point. Here's my take on Star Trek versus Star Wars ... and I've deliberately tried to avoid looking at any of the existing lists so as to ensure as much as possible that I'm not re-hashing them. In other words: any similarity to any pre-existing lists is purely coincidental and unintentional. And I'll try to be as unbiased as I possibly can here ... but don't hold your breath.

Data vs. C-3PO -- Okay, sure, Threepio can interpret six million languages, but every comm-badge in Starfleet has a little chip in it that can do that instantaneously: it's called the Universal Translator. And maybe Data's components are a bit more fragile than Threepio's, but when the going gets tough, Data could dismantle Threepio and use half of him to power his phaser and the other half of him to enhance his tricorder's functionality, all without batting an eye. And just try and get Threepio to calculate the travel time to the nearest starbase at Warp 7. Advantage: Star Trek.

Chewbacca vs. Worf -- They're both big, hairy, and strong, no doubt about that. But if you gave me the option of going into battle alongside either a bat'leth-wielding Klingon or a Wookiee with a laser-crossbow, I wouldn't have to think twice. Wookiees are decent warriors, I'm sure, but I'd bet all the gold-pressed latinum, Republic credits, or wupiupi I had to my name on Kronos whipping ol' Kashyyyk's butt any day of the week. (And what's with all those friggin "y"s in the name of that planet, anyway?) Advantage: Star Trek.

Neelix vs. Jar-Jar Binks -- Okay, we've talked about some of the good parts of the two franchises, now let's take a look at one of the less flattering ones. Who would you rather be trapped in an elevator for three hours with? Tough call, I know. They can both be rather annoying little pricks, to be sure. But whereas Jar-Jar is by and large just a clumsy buffoon who speaks in irritating, probably-racially-offensive-but-nobody-knows-for-sure jabberwocky, Neelix is an optimistic, imaginative guy who honestly tries to make everyone feel better. Besides, that Talaxian can cook. Advantage: Star Trek.

Anakin Skywalker vs. Wesley Crusher -- I guess we could call this one "Battle of the Brats". Each one has been more annoying than the other at particular points, and when you think about it, they could both be dangerous if they threw enough of a hissy-fit: Anakin could seriously mess people up with The Force, and Wesley could get creative in Engineering and blow up the whole Enterprise. But really, folks, when it comes down to attitude, we really have to give this one to Anakin. And then there's the question of who I'd rather be trapped in an elevator for three hours with, but for an entirely different reason in this case. No contest: Anakin circa Attack of the Clones ... or, more to the point, Hayden Christensen ... oh yeah, baby. (But before he got the mechanical arm, 'cause that'd just be gross.) Advantage: Star Wars.

Khan vs. Darth Vader -- As much as I'd like to give this one to Khan, it just ain't that easy. Khan may have the charisma, but Vader has The Force. They've both mastered the art of their mere presence instilling fear in people, but Khan's exotic Latin accent is no match for that spooky mechanical breathing sound. Not to mention the fact that Vader can suffocate people just by thinking about it, but Khan can't be bothered to lift a finger to torture or kill his enemies and has to get one of his minions to do it. Khan gives great speeches (the "he tasks me" one from The Wrath of Khan is great), but that's his problem: he talks too much. And we all know what Vader would do to someone who talks too much ... it would probably involve his thumb and forefinger in a "pinching" motion. Advantage: Star Wars.

Star Destroyer vs. the Enterprise-D -- Of course, this is the one that's depicted in the picture that started this whole mess. My co-workers had their arguments (really, in a kamikaze run, enough damage is done to both ships that nobody wins), but here's mine: In The Empire Strikes Back, one puny asteroid lopped off the whole command tower section of the Star Destroyer (certainly crippling it), but the Enterprise's deflectors and shields could just bounce those meddlesome things out of its path. And what about the weapons? The Enterprise has both phasers and photon torpedoes, but the Star Destroyer only has "turbo-lasers". As has been established in Star Trek, lasers are a far inferior technology to phasers, and I rather suspect "turbo-lasers" are about as much of an improvement over the original technology as "light" cigarettes. Advantage: Star Trek.

Captain Kirk vs. Han Solo -- Far be it from me to reduce this to a contest of macho swagger (indeed, I've always found the scenario of men needing to behave "like men" quite amusing), but consider the following: Kirk "bagged a babe" (as Anthony Michael Hall's character in Sixteen Candles so poetically put it) nearly every week, but Han Solo pined away for nobody but Princess Leia halfway through the Classic Trilogy. Not only that, but while Solo was "captain" to a crew consisting of one solitary Wookiee, Kirk confidently commanded an unwavering crew of four hundred. Don't get me wrong, Harrison Ford is one of my all-time favorite actors, but Shatner minced no words in Free Enterprise, when told by a boy that his schoolyard tormentor said that Han Solo was cooler than Captain Kirk: "Kick that little f**ker's ass." That was all the motivation the little guy needed ... let's see Ford pull that off. Advantage: Star Trek.

Just to be a good sport here, I'm not even going to tally the scorecard in this post. Besides, I have the distinct impression that this topic will carry forward into a second post sometime in the near future, so I'll just say the race is too early to call. And anyway, though I am more of a Trek fan now, I've never stopped being a Star Wars fan, and probably never will. Each one has its advantages and its drawbacks, and is loved by different people (and in many cases the same people) for different reasons. But it's still fun to debate, though, isn't it?!


Star Trek: The Lost Missions - Episode 6

Well, here we go (boldly) with the next exciting episode in the Peter Pan/Power Records Star Trek audio adventures. "A Mirror For Futility" (written by Alan Dean Foster) tells the story of an ancient and long-forgotten interstellar conflict -- so ancient that Spock has to do some of his famous digging through the library-computer -- that the Enterprise suddenly finds not only alive and well, but itself stumbling into the middle of. Unfortunately, the two combatants aren't about to listen to reason. Beam on board and enjoy!


This Little Piggy Stayed Home

Well, folks, I'm sorry about the slowdown of posts here lately, but I was unexpectedly struck down by what I think is that dreaded H1N1 (a.k.a. "swine") flu several days ago. I'm feeling much better now, though I understandably haven't had a lot of energy to dream up a new topic lately, so here I go with my promise (or would that be threat?) that I was going to re-create an entry every now and then from the previous incarnation of this blog. I hope it entertains you....

This story is a study in contrasts, in just about every possible way, except when it comes to the nature of the subjects themselves: a pair of sci-fi movies and their television offspring. One of them I fell in love with as a kid, and the other I didn't happen upon until much later; I watched the movie version of one of them first, and the TV version of the other was the one I first found. And then there's the much more significant contrast, which I'll get to in due course. Just to make it fun, I'll address them in reverse chronological order.

A few years back, I had a pretty significant coupon (40 or 50 percent off, as I recall) for a nearby store, and I couldn't think of anything else I wanted that was in stock, so I decided to take the plunge on something I had been curious about for awhile: the DVD set of "Alien Nation: The Complete Series". I hadn't yet seen the movie, but I had seen bits and pieces of TV episodes, plus the show's premise -- half sci-fi, half cop show -- interested me. I ended up not regretting the purchase, as it took just a couple of months to work my way through all 22 episodes. It was a lot of fun to watch: a great cast, as well as entertaining and thought-provoking stories that have aged well. Although I wasn't quite eager enough to see the resolution to the freeze-frame cliffhanger final episode to convince me to buy the TV-movies box set, I did eventually pick up the original movie, starring James Caan and Mandy Patinkin, which inspired the series. I enjoyed it as well; I could definitely agree with whoever believed there was TV-series potential in the concept ... and the fact that I've always enjoyed Patinkin didn't hurt either. Despite the fact that the series lasted only one season, it was one of the better movie-to-TV adaptations I've come across.

Blue Thunder, however, is a different story. I saw the original movie, with Roy Scheider and Malcolm McDowell, as a kid and loved it. True, I was more into the gadgetry that made up Blue Thunder herself, but I later came to appreciate the story and the acting just as much. Well, when I found out that the very-short-lived TV series was being released on DVD, I was hit with a pang of nostalgia and eventually picked it up (on sale, 'cause I wasn't quite so nostalgic that I wanted to pay full-price for it), since I eagerly watched it week after week also. Well, how do I put this delicately? I hadn't realized how utterly crappy this show was until I started watching the DVDs. I wasn't even able to make it through all the episodes before I traded the thing in ... and to my surprise, I regret that far less than I thought I would. Maybe it's the casting -- a pre-"SNL" Dana Carvey as co-pilot to James Farentino (about the only watchable one here), and former NFL players Dick Butkus and Bubba Smith as Blue's ground support team and the show's comic relief ... and how can Sandy McPeak hold a candle to Warren Oates' portrayal of Captain Braddock? -- or maybe it's the slipshod scriptwriting, which may or may not seem far more so now than it did back then (the tightening of air safety, especially since 9/11, being just one thing that's changed quite a bit, and the extreme advances in computers being another). It can be funny how sci-fi shows can sometimes be the ones that age the least gracefully, can't it?

So, bottom line: If you haven't seen Blue Thunder, definitely check out the movie but skip the series (believe me, you'd be doing yourself a favor, even if you're a die-hard Butkus, Bubba, or Dana Carvey fan). If you haven't yet discovered Alien Nation, it doesn't matter whether you see the movie first or the TV show, but I recommend both. I am actually still toying with the idea of seeking out some of the comic-book miniseries that have come out over the years....