Starcruiser, WHOOSH!! Starcruiser, CRASH!!

Does anyone else fondly remember that pair of Ewoks TV-movies that aired on ABC back in the mid '80s? For some reason, silly as they were (but not nearly as painful to watch as the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special), I videotaped them when they aired and watched them repeatedly over the ensuing years ... and yes, I even bought the double-feature DVD -- containing the original 1984 movie Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure, and its 1985 sequel Ewoks: The Battle For Endor -- after it was finally released in 2004.

For the unfamiliar, the first movie involves a family whose spaceship has crash-landed on Endor. The parents are abducted by a five-storey-tall baboon, and it's up to the kids -- teenage boy Mace (not Windu, rather a white one with hair) and his little sister Cindel -- to rescue them ... with the help of their new friends the Ewoks, natch. Fionnula Flanagan (How the West Was Won, Lost, and an occasional Star Trek guest) and Guy Boyd (Black Scorpion, Hyperion Bay ... aw hell, just look him up) play the hapless parents, and Mr. "Holly Jolly Christmas" himself, Burl Ives, is there to narrate the story and drive home the obligatory moral lesson in courage, perseverence, and the power of a loving family ... eesh. But at least Eric Walker was there for me to crush on ... not that I knew it was a crush at the time, mind you.

But wait, the sequel is even better! Presumably in a move to counterbalance the revolting cuddliness of the first movie, this one turns way darker. A gang of oafish, quasi-frat-guy lizard-dudes invades the Ewok village, taking all the Ewoks prisoner and flat-out killing off Mace and his parents -- so much for that "power of a loving family" crap. Anyway, Wicket and Cindel narrowly escape their vicious captors and soon happen upon an old curmudgeon (played by Wilford Brimley -- what a stretch for him) named Noa, a space pilot marooned on Endor many years ago. After Cindel is kidnapped by the lizard-dudes' inexplicably non-lizard-looking sorceress (played by Siân Phillips) -- hey, they couldn't be allowed to whack a little moppet like her, it's a broadcast network for cripe's sake -- Noa, Wicket, and Noa's pet whatever-it-is Teek, set out to open up a can of Quaker Oats and whoop-ass -- and Noa's fresh out of Quaker Oats! -- on the castle full of lizard-dudes. Hey, he's got a harpoon gun, so I sure wouldn't mess with him.

Despite how nauseatingly cloying little Cindel was -- can you picture an '80s effort at reincarnating a young Shirley Temple? -- the movies had their moments. The music, by Peter Bernstein, was particularly memorable, and I even have the soundtrack album (I think it was only ever issued on vinyl). The stories were okay -- in the second movie, the power source for the family's spaceship kind-of ties the plot together, in case you might have been wondering (since I left it out of the last paragraph). As much as he has become a kind of caricature of himself, I've always liked Wilford Brimley, so the interest in the second movie I might have lost with the early offing of Eric Walker's character was made up for by the entertaining presence of "grandpa Witherspoon" (and no, I've most definitely never crushed on him, so don't worry). But by far the most unintentionally funny moment was during the buildup to the jailbreak in the lizard-dudes' castle, when two of the guards were playing cards. I swear to you, if you listen closely, you can hear one of them say "chicken shit" ... in a family movie!!

Sure those movies were silly, the general disdain for the Ewoks notwithstanding ... but then, they were made for the kids out there rather than the teens and twenty-somethings who dug the Classic Trilogy during its theatrical run. And there are the obvious questions that these movies bring up -- What happened to the lizard-dudes between that movie and Return of the Jedi? Wouldn't the Empire or the Rebels have at least stumbled upon them or their remains? To say nothing of Teek's race, who could have joined the Ewoks in the Rebels' fight against the Empire... -- but of course we're not supposed to think about that ... although you'd have thought that with all the screwing around Lucas did with the Classic Trilogy, the whim would have struck him to insert a new scene or two to retcon all that junk. Oh well ... at least I'm not disturbingly preoccupied by the whole Endor thing like this guy....

So anyway, if you're a Star Wars completist, or even if you're not so much and just want some silly entertainment, you might want to pick it up -- oh, that is, if you can. (It's out-of-print? Oh, the humanity!!!) And while you're scooting about on the web, I just found out that Eric Walker is all grown up and has his own website. Go, Mace!


A Fan By Any Other Name

Yup, here it comes, like a Romulan interceptor on an attack trajectory ... the ages-old question: "Trekkie" or "Trekker"? The way the question is handled in the two Trekkies documentary films is amusing and (as much as it can be) enlightening. The vastly differing opinions on the applicability and meaning of the two terms all seem logical (pun intended) ... that it's a generational thing, with the older ones labeling themselves as "Trekkies" and the younger as "Trekkers"; that "Trekkies" are the get-a-lifers while "Trekkers" know it's just a TV show; and, funny as it seems, the opposite -- that "Trekkies" are the casually fanatic viewers while "Trekkers" are the snobs who take it seriously.

Which am I? Well, I'm something of an "agnostic" in that regard ... I've never felt the need to pigeonhole myself into either category, even though I've fit nearly every criteria described in the paragraph above at some point in my history of Trek fandom. Nowadays I fancy myself somewhere in the middle: I'm enough of a Trekkie that it feels like I have a lump in my sock whenever there's a stardate out of whack, but I'm also level-headed enough that I can just roll my eyes and laugh about it. I take my Trek fandom seriously ... but at the same time, I don't take myself terribly seriously.

So, rather than a "Trekkie" or a "Trekker" (or a "Trekken", whatever the hell that is ... don't even get me started on how nerdy that sounds), I like to think of myself as a "Trekkah" ... mostly 'cause the "ah" comes close to the multi-lingual interjection of ambivalence, "ehh". I think that's a tag that fits my fandom quotient perfectly.


Beaming Back from Southern California

Here's one of many reasons why I love my sister ... she totally sprang this on me by surprise! While I was on vacation down in Southern California, she informed me that a museum within driving distance was running a Star Trek exhibition, with actual costumes and props and stuff from the TV series and movies! It might not have been the most impressive exhibit -- no interactive kinds of displays or presentations, no guided tours, and it was kind-of small in size -- but I had a whole lot of fun anyway. I got to see the gorgeously elaborate dress that Whoopi Goldberg wore in "Time's Arrow", Ricardo Montalban's outfit from The Wrath of Khan, the costume some lady wore in "Spock's Brain", as well as the uniforms of Janeway, Picard, and Data, and Kirk's uniform from the later films! There were also bunches of props -- some original and some recreations -- from the various shows and movies ... oh, would I have loved to take home the bat'leth they had on display!

A bit disappointing was the souvenir shop they had in the back ... sure, they had an assortment of the long-ago-deleted Playmates figures on sale, but otherwise it was the stuff you'd find in most catalogs and toy/hobby stores -- model kits, keychains, etc. I couldn't leave without buying something, so I picked up a T-shirt styled after the gold command tunics from The Original Series ... maybe I'll wear it for Halloween. They did have a room where customers could get their pictures taken in the captain's chair and whatnot, but that didn't seem to interest me. All in all, though, it was a fun way to spend the afternoon, and I'm glad I spent the $15 price for admission! It might have been nice to come away with a DVD of the program they had playing on the monitors, though....