BookBin2015: Redshirts

redshirts
What to do on a cold, rainy Saturday? Read a little, drink a little coffee (or a lot of coffee), work out while watching part of a documentary on Harlan Ellison, and then write some book reviews. Finally. Why? What do you do on a cold, rainy Saturday?

I read John Scalzi’s Redshirts back in January of this year, yet it has stuck with me as one of those delightful surprises that I need to add to my sci-fi collection at some point in the future (look at that, already giving you the final verdict).

First off, if you are not a fan of the original Star Trek series, then the term “Redshirt” might not mean anything to you (of course, with the proliferation of geekery in the mainstream pop culture lexicon now, it’s kind of hard not to know the term, but I digress as usual). Quick summation: The term refers to the fact that the unknown, usually unnamed extra thrown into the landing party with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy always wore the security officer’s tunic, which was red on the original show (it later changed to gold on TNG, but the term remained). That officer rarely made it back to the ship, thus equating the red tunic with the survival short straw on any away mission. Because, really, did you think one of the Trek Triumvirate was going to bite it on that planet, Ensign Ricky?

Therefore, naming your novel after the unluckiest crew members of the original Enterprise guarantees you geek points right out of the gate. Of course, I instantly thought that it was going to be a Galaxy Quest-esque parody full of yucks and insider haha moments penned specifically to appeal to thoroughbred nerds.

I was not expecting it to take a wonderfully surprising sharp turn that would steer us all, character and reader alike, into a fantastical meta mixing of fantasy and reality that never once felt anything less than sincere to me as I went along willingly and happily for the ride.

Scalzi takes something so well-known among genre fans and twists it by giving it far more plausibility than the original show could ever afford it (why did the Redshirts always die on the original show? Because they weren’t Shatner, Nimoy, or Kelley…now stop asking stupid questions!) Instead, Scalzi takes the question seriously, examines it from more than the patently obvious answer, and provides a patently wonderful alternative response.

I could say more, but I don’t want to spoil this for anyone. It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s intriguing, and it’s far more than the parody I was expecting. It’s still whimsical and at times flat-out ridiculous, but Scalzi sells it in such a way that you willingly buy even the weirdest of the story’s elements.

Final Verdict: Seriously, were you not paying attention? I already told you, I’m adding the book to my collection…and you should add it to your reading list. If you love science fiction and Star Trek, then you, too, may love this book.

Flashback Friday: Adolescent Ephemera

I swear this isn’t a cop-out, denizens.

Okay, it sort of is a co-pout. I’m still working on that solution for how to either cram more hours into one day or more work into the time that I have. I’m not quite there yet. I’ve got a few other posts that I’m working on (including one that I’ve been working on since…around Mayish of this year o_O). But in the interim, I thought you might enjoy this random photo that I discovered earlier this week while going through some digital photo archives:

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This is just a sampling of the weirdness from my adolescence that I deemed important enough for my parents to have to transport to another state and into another attic in another house from the one in which I lived. Totally understandable, though, right? I mean who wouldn’t want a bajillion different stuffed Scooby Doos (and a mini pillow!!) and mini posters of Data and Dr. Crusher.

[Loba Tangent: As much as I love both of these characters, these poses have always bothered me, especially for Dr. Crusher. Why is the doctor seen getting ready to shoot someone? Couldn’t they have taken a picture of her with a medical tricorder? A hypospray? Either one of those would have been more appropriate than this Hippocratic anathema…]

Also, check the basketball on the bottom shelf. I bought that at a Hardee’s somewhere along the I-95 corridor, during the first part of our senior class trip. Ah, our class trips. Now those are stories I should tell sometime. When the therapy is finished. And the PTSD and nightmares have finally stopped.

See you soon, denizens. I hope…

BookBin2013: A Hard Rain

ahardrain

I always view long flights as the perfect excuse to tune out the entirety of existence for a nice dive into a book or two…or more, depending on just how far I happen to be flying. Recently, I flew to Hawaii. Lots of time for lots of reading (and sleeping, but mostly reading).

I didn’t want to take a lot of thick, heavy books (I wanted to save ample space for important things like all the booze and coffee that I may or may not have bought while there), but I also wanted to take enough books to cover my bases and provide a nice variety of choices.

Thank goodness for Kindle! I loaded mine up with lots of selections, including several TNG books that I have had on my reading list for quite a while. Top choice was Dean Wesley Smith’s “Dixon Hill” novel A Hard Rain. I actually referenced this book in a Doctober post as one of the few TNG novels to actually feature Dr. Crusher on the cover. It was also the only book from this admittedly short list that I had not yet read.

I wish I had left it as unread.

I’ve never read anything else by Smith, but he wrote the novel adaptation of The Core. Do with that what you will (and I already suspect what many of my nerdier denizens will do with it). I got the impression from this story (and its blatantly open ending) that perhaps Pocket Books had planned on making Dixon Hill novels a spinoff to the mainstream TNG novels. I think A Hard Rain was the only one actually written, and I can understand why the idea was abandoned (if it ever existed).

With A Hard Rain, Smith has written a rather chaotic and muddled…tribute? parody?…to the detective novel, using the world of Dixon Hill as his foundation. Perhaps it’s a great novel to detective fans. It’s not a great TNG novel, I can attest to that.

Then again, it’s been years since I last read my TNG novels. Perhaps I have simply outgrown the storytelling parameters of Trek literature? I feel once again that I need to revisit these books, if only to finally put this question to rest. However, I fear that what I will find is that all the books I once loved will now just make me sad. And slightly appalled.

Anyway, I’m still not wild about detective novels, so that aspect didn’t really appeal to me. I’m also not a fan of Smith’s writing style for this particular book (again, I’m assuming that he doesn’t typically write like this and was probably striving to mimic popular detective novel styles). Additionally, I wasn’t all that crazy about the way the Dixon Hill story overlapped the TNG storyline in a rather non-linear and subsequently nonsensical way. Actually, the “real” storyline was more absurd than the Dixon Hill one…although the denouement was ridiculous for both stories. I didn’t like other things about this novel, but at this point I feel like I’m unnecessarily phasering a dead targh. I will say this, however: I never again want to read the phrase “Luscious Bev.”

Final Verdict: I have deleted A Hard Rain from my Kindle. I still have the master file saved elsewhere, but I doubt I will ever revisit it.

Photo Fun Friday: Prophets’ Pogue

A little known fact about the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine two-part episode “Past Tense” is how much it was altered between first draft and final product. While the storyline about Commander Sisko and Dr. Bashir becoming involved in the “Bell Riots” was always there, what wasn’t was the subplot about Jadzia ending up in the past with them and her quasi-romantic interaction with Christopher Brynner. In fact, there was a completely different subplot that involved Major Kira and Chief O’Brien getting lost even further back in the past during their trip through the timelines in search of Sisko and Bashir.

Jadzia (who stayed on the Defiant when Sisko and Bashir attempted their ill-fated beamdown to their present-day San Francisco) ended up losing Kira and O’Brien as they materialized in 1960s Haight-Ashbury San Francisco. The episode then alternated between Jadzia and Odo working to rescue all four lost officers, Sisko and Bashir in the Bell Riot timeline, and Kira and O’Brien in their own hippy love-in timeline. This subplot was meant to provide the humorous juxtaposition to Sisko and Bashir’s story and showed Kira and O’Brien forming a band as a means of making enough money to get a place to live and food to eat while they tried to figure out how to contact Dax and Odo. Their band, Prophets’ Pogue, was a BajoraCeltic folk fusion that almost instantly caught on because of the familiarity of the Celtic sound mixed with the exotic alien stylings brought in by Kira’s Bajoran roots. Soon, they found themselves with a recording contract, mingling with the likes of Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, the Doors…all wanting to know more about that groovy, trippy sound and the weird lead singer who always wore a band-aid over her nose.

There were even hints at a developing romance between Kira and O’Brien when they began to lose hope that they would ever get back to their time and their respective partners. Though lost to this two-part episode, this concept would later appear during the Season 5 storyline in which Major Kira plays surrogate for the O’Briens after Keiko is injured and Dr. Bashir is forced to perform an emergency transfer of the fetus into Major Kira in order to save it.

Unfortunately, the cost of the royalties and the CGI to add the likenesses of all these famous 60s rock musicians became too prohibitive to completing the subplot as originally envisioned (it wouldn’t be until the fifth season episode “Trial and Tribble-ations” that they would finally get the opportunity to mix the DS9 cast with CGI characters from the past, only this time it would be Captain Kirk and his crew). Also, the writers realized that they needed a subplot that worked more in tandem with the primary storyline rather than detracting from it the way they ultimately felt this subplot did. The script was reworked, that subplot was traded in for the Jadzia subplot, but in deference to the idea, the writers left in Kira and O’Brien’s brief moment in the “peace and love” era.

One of the recently discovered props that was prepared for the original script was this cover for the Prophets’ Pogue debut album, póg mo hiomairí…which, roughly translated is Gaelic for “Kiss My Ridges.”* It was to be O’Brien’s and Kira’s own private joke regarding the Bajoran’s constantly hidden alien feature.

*I don’t speak Gaelic, so for all I know this means something utterly offensive. If it is, I’m sorry. Blame Google Translate.

Poster Picks (and Bonus Movie Review): Cloverfield

I haven’t done a two-fer like this since my Runaways review, but I was inspired by my recent re-viewing of Cloverfield as part of my month-long Halloween movie marathon.

So, first, the poster. I’ve decided to go with the initial teaser poster, which had no text on it beyond the movie release date. That’s right, it didn’t even have the movie title on it at first. But, honestly, when you use imagery like this poster uses? You’re just going to attract even more attention by the fact that all you’ve included is the release date. Brilliant bit of marketing, no?

So, no text, no name, no tagline. Only a minimally written date in a nice white font, with dots as separators. Obviously, we’ve got to figure some things out based on what we do have. Let’s start with the primary focus of the poster: a headless Statue of Liberty. Not just headless though. From the exposed, jagged remains of the support frame, the torn copper, and the plume of debris and smoke, it’s obvious that Lady Liberty’s head was removed rather violently. By something very large.

And that very large something has headed into Manhattan. See the wave pattern in the water, leading from the Statue of Liberty toward the destruction within the city? Something has moved from the harbor into the streets…and it is hell-bent on taking down Manhattan. Look at the wreckage of the buildings that were in its way when it came ashore. Look at the plumes of smoke rising from the heart of the city. Look at the helicopters hovering overhead, so incredibly tiny in comparison with the surrounding damage.

Whatever has done all this is large enough that those dinky little choppers aren’t going to do much else besides probably annoy the hell out of it.

Not much else there though, eh?

Not so fast. There are conspiracy theories about “hidden images” in the Cloverfield posters. First, there’s the attacking sea turtle head:

See it? It’s the cloud shape to the right of Lady Liberty’s torch. It seriously looks either like an angry sea turtle…or a peener monster. Personally, I don’t want to think about either attacking the Statue of Liberty…

Next on the list? The smoke cloud monster:

Now, this one is a little more convincing and impressive if it’s true. Take the original poster, duplicate it, flip it horizontally and line up the edges…and voila! See the face? It actually kind of does look like what’s ultimately revealed as the Cloverfield monster. Or any other monster from any other J.J. Abrams movie. The man’s about as original as a Xerox machine.

Which brings me to…

Bonus Movie Review

I hadn’t seen Cloverfield since I went to see it in the theater. I did remember liking it enough that when I saw a used copy for sale for a couple bucks, I went ahead and picked it up (looking back, however, I was probably remembering the fun I had with the friends I went with rather than the actual movie). However, even more vivid was my memory of nearly hurling from the unrelenting shaky cam action. Not even The Blair Witch Project made me feel quite as queasy as Cloverfield did. Every time I thought about watching the DVD, that memory would drown out all others and I would simply put it back on my shelf.

I am pleased to report that the shaky cam was almost unnoticeable to me on the small screen.

More noticeable to me on this second viewing, however, is how truly unoriginal and lazy J.J. Abrams is as a filmmaker. Admittedly, my opinion of him is forever tarnished by the hot mess he ladled into my lap in 2009 with his Trek abomination. That was when I first decided that he was lazy. He could have made an original science fiction film. Instead, he usurped the name of a globally revered science fiction franchise, had some hack writers throw together a script that isn’t even worthy of being pulped into Communist-grade toilet paper, and smeared his Star Wars-loving paws all over a legacy that is so beyond his reach, it’s pathetic.

Why people wouldn’t let me space him for his crimes, I still don’t understand.

But I digress.

Back to Cloverfield. Most people have probably heard it described by genre fans as “Blair Witch Meets Godzilla.” That’s pretty accurate as descriptions go. Although I think a real match-up of the Blair Witch versus Godzilla would not only be awesome, it would be far more original than this movie. It’s fairly derivative as “monster attacking the city” movies go. The only “inventive” addition made here is the Barf-O-Rama shaky cam “found footage” aspect, which wasn’t really all that new by this point anyway.

What’s most troubling, however, and what makes me label Abrams as lazy, is the fact that there are several scenes in this movie that tap directly into a pre-programmed societal fear that was developed on September 11, 2001. New York under attack. Buildings toppled in the middle of the City That Never Sleeps. Plumes of smoke and debris roaring through the heart of Manhattan. Survivors trying to escape by foot on bridges leading off the island.

Some of the scenes from Cloverfield are almost frame-for-frame images that we witnessed on auto-repeat on all the 24-hour news channels that were covering that awful day in 2001. For Abrams and his band of filmmakers to tap into the still raw emotions of that day for what otherwise would have been just another cheesy monster movie (with CGI that has not aged well at all in some areas) feels cheap…and lazy.

I know that great horror often taps into our darkest fears and exploits them. This, however…I don’t know. Maybe I’m being too critical because I hate Abrams so very much. Although I do remember feeling displeased by these scenes the first time I saw the movie as well. Back in the halcyon days in which I still had hope that Abrams wouldn’t punch Trek fans in the collective naughty bits with a power converter from Tosche station while blaring Beastie Boys the whole time.

Douchey hipster tool.

All that aside, though, is this a good monster movie? Meh. There are far better ones. Far more original ones. At best, it’s brainless background fodder for when you want to watch something that’s not going to require any form of activity from you beyond blinking occasionally. I know that there were a bunch of Web sites out there, giving clues about what the monster was…tapping into the new way of presenting a movie as a holistic “new media” experience. Something that Abrams would try again with his Trek movie…only this time it wasn’t for free. “Hey, fans, does none of this make any sense to you? Well, that’s because you have to go buy the accompanying comic book! Then it probably still won’t make sense…but we’ll be that much richer!”

Okay, now I’m just making myself angry…

Photo Fun Friday: CSI: Bajor

Crossing streams again, denizens. This one started about a month ago with a conversation I had online regarding which Star Trek alien Jorja Fox would look best as (yes, my world really is this geeky…and, consequently, this fabulous). I contend it’s Bajoran all the way. Then again, I think nose ridges make anyone look smexy.

I love Bajorans.

Then, yesterday, I may or may not have received several CSI graphic novels in the mail, as I mentioned in my BookBin review of my first CSI comic series. As I casually flipped through said novels to check out the artwork, I started once again to think about how similar in marketing approaches CSI is to Trek. Which got me thinking again about a CSI/Trek crossover (what, you thought I’d forgotten about that request?).

Since I’ve already set a precedent regarding dragging my favorite CSI into other geeky forays, I figured why not? If she can be a vampire investigator, why can’t she be a Bajoran investigator next?

And so I give you…

Buckle up, denizens. It’s bound to get geekier from here…

BookBin2011: Pleasure Thresholds

It’s quite befitting and not the least bit serendipitous that Patricia Tallman’s book, Pleasure Thresholds, begins with an introduction by J. Michael Straczynski, in which he explains how he first fell in love with Tallman through her performance in the 1990 remake of the Romero classic Night of the Living Dead. Why, you might ask? Because that’s precisely when I fell in love with Tallman, too.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating here: I love stuntwomen. Love them. They are fearless. They are tough as nails. They get out there and do stunts that are just as difficult if not more so than the ones the guys are doing…and they do them oftentimes in the bare minimum amount of clothing, which means bare minimum amount of padding and protection.

Tough. As. Nails.

And who started this obsession of mine? Patricia Tallman. Long before I knew the name Zoë Bell or Jeannie Epper, I knew Tallman. Not only was she this amazingly bad ass and ultimately unsettling character from a horror movie that I loved, she was also popping up on the biggest geek love of my adolescence: Star Trek.

Seriously, it was like my own strange version of “Where’s Waldo?” as I tried to spot Tallman’s random appearances, first on TNG and then on DS9. Every time I spotted her, I adored her that much more. When I later learned that she was the stunt double for three of my favorite characters from TNG and DS9, her awesomeness was pretty much set for life in my eyes. No surprise, then, that I jumped at the chance to buy her book as soon as I learned about it.

First things first: Yes, Pleasure Thresholds is a bit pricey. However, I believe there are acceptable reasons for this. In addition to getting this amazing 350+ page book (autographed by both Tallman and Straczynski) that’s packed with never-before-published photos from Tallman’s personal collection, you also get a CD-ROM of videos and MP3s made especially for this “multimedia memoir.” The MP3s feature Tallman and Straczynski dishing on Babylon 5 in unedited, uncensored ways. The videos are short but very enjoyable and may or may not feature props, lingerie, and chickens. But that’s all that I’m saying. Finally, this is being printed/produced through Café Press, which means it’s being printed in small batches as orders come in. Specialized print runs like this notoriously cost more (I’ve experienced this particular phenomenon many times in my Mirror Universe work life).

So there you go. Yes, Pleasure Thresholds is a bit costly. Is it worth its higher price? I give you an undeniable, unequivocal hells yes.

This book is the printed equivalent of getting a personal audience with Tallman as she shares her photos and stories with you, while at the same time revealing parts of herself in honest, hilarious, sometimes heart-breaking ways. She is both an engaging (and delightfully bawdy) storyteller and a passionate shutterbug. There are so many amazing photographs throughout this book—page after page of images spanning the impressive length of her career as both stuntwoman and actress. I have several favorites, including one of an airborne Tallman dressed in period costume and wielding a rapier. The expression on her face is one of such pure, unfettered joy that I can’t help but fall that much more in love with her every time I look at this photo.

Then there are the photos and stories from her time as the telepath Lyta Alexander on Babylon 5. This is the heart of the book, which makes sense. The title is from a B5 quote, and the subtitle is “Patricia Tallman’s Babylon 5 Memoir.”

[Loba Tangent: Okay, here’s the point where I reveal a dark secret regarding my standing as a geek: I’ve never watched Babylon 5. I know, I know! I was all set to watch after learning that Tallman was finally getting a shot at her own role on a sci-fi show, and then something happened and the first season started and…no Tallman. WTF? In protest, I never tuned in. And then, when she did finally reappear, I was off doing the college thing and not really even spending all that much time with my beloved Trek shows, so B5 never got the chance to resurface on my radar. After reading this book, I now understand what happened and why Tallman wasn’t there for the first season. I am properly appeased and B5 is now loaded up toward the top of my Netflix queue. See? Another reason why this book is awesome: It may yet convert me to a B5 fan.]

Aside from the pictures and anecdotes, Tallman provides a first-person peek behind the scenes of what it’s like to play the Hollywood game. There are certain assumptions that we all make regarding the life of an actor, and most of the time those assumptions are based on the lives led by the likes of the Clooneys, the Pitts, the Jolies. This is not the life led by all in the acting profession. Tallman shares aspects of her own personal journey, which I found both intriguing and enlightening (not to mention frustrating; it definitely takes a spirit of a particularly resilient fortitude to enter the acting arena).

So, there you go: My admittedly not completely objective but honest review of Pleasure Thresholds. If you are a fan of the genres from which Tallman has rightfully earned both ubiquity and respect, then this collection will undoubtedly have something to offer you. If anything, the story of “Lyta’s Lingerie” is worth the price of admission all on its own. But, again, that’s all I’m saying about that.

One final thing: Even if you don’t decide to buy your own copy of Pleasure Thresholds, why not swing over to Penny Lane, a California-based organization that provides an array of support services for abused children, and make a donation. Tallman has supported the efforts of this organization for years. It wouldn’t hurt to do the same; the karma points alone will make it worth it.

Final Verdict: When I’m finally finished thumbing through this many more times, Pleasure Thresholds shall find its new home among the myriad books of geek awesome that I already own.

TNG Top Ten

Happy Doctober!

Ah, remember last year at this time? Thirty-one days of Dr. Crusher? Good times, good times. I won’t be doing that again this year (don’t think I didn’t hear that sigh of relief; cheeky monkeys). As much as I enjoyed doing Doctober last year, it took a great deal of planning, thinking, designing, and creating. I was quite done by Halloween, I can assure you.

However, I did want to at least tip my paw to the greatness of the event. Plus, I feel a bit guilty that I missed yet another Flashback Friday. I had plans; I simply ran of out time yesterday. I hate when that happens. So, to make up for my absence, I offer you this. Apparently, one of the newest memes to hit teh Interwebz recently was the “10 Days of TNG,” a top 10 list used to countdown to the 24th anniversary of TNG’s television debut.

Obviously, I missed out on that. But I thought I would offer you my answers to the countdown anyway. Because, you know, you’re interested. I know you are.

Say yes or I’ll turn November into Bevember and each day I will post a recording of me singing a new filk song that I have written all about Dr. Crusher.

Actually, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea…

Ten Days of TNG List of Favorites

Day One: Favorite Season

Season 2, of course.

Blech. Just typing that made me feel dirty.

This one’s actually almost a draw between Seasons 3 and 4; however, I have to say that if someone wanted to get into TNG and asked me where they should start, I would more than likely tell them to start at “The Best of Both Worlds” and watch from there. So I guess that means that I think Season 4 is slightly better than Season 3. But only slightly, since Season 3 does contain a slew of episodes that are excellent for all variety of reasons; plus, it contains two classic episodes that are a must for anyone new to the series: “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and “Sarek.”

However, Season 4 is nearly perfect from start to finish. It’s such a shame that it ends on such an…uneven note.

Blonde Romulan. That’s all I’m going to say.

Day Two: Favorite Episode

I can’t answer this question because there are far too many excellent episodes from which to pick. I can’t say that one is the absolute best of the bunch. So how about this: my favorite episode from each season:

Season 1: “The Big Goodbye”
First time on the holodeck and already it’s screwy! Yes, this was the episode that launched a thousand “There’s something wrong with the holodeck” stories that passed on through DS9 and Voyager. This was a spectacular debut, though. Spectacular enough, in fact, that I used images from this episode to launch Doctober.

Season 2: “The Measure of a Man”
As far as I’m concerned, this episode was the only reason to even bother purchasing the second season of TNG on DVD. If you don’t already know the reason why, you’re either new to the lair or you haven’t really been paying attention. Naughty, naughty denizens.

Season 3: “Sarek”
This is when it starts to get difficult to narrow down to just one episode. However, for shear impact and power, the return of Sarek to the Trek universe has to get the crown for Season 3, with “Yesterday’s Enterprise” coming in a solid second.

Season 4: “The Drumhead”
Again, very difficult, but this is one of the best written episodes to ever appear on TNG. Such a powerful episode, and it continues to be poignant—perhaps even more so today than when it first aired. Close calls for this season include “Half a Life,” which is one of the best Lwaxana Troi episodes to ever air; “The Wounded,” which is the first appearance of the Cardassians and an amazing episode for Miles O’Brien; “Night Terrors,” which (minus the “Troi Tuchis” dream sequences) is a deliciously creepy episode; and “Remember Me,” which is my all-time favorite Beverly Crusher episode and will appear here on this list again in a moment or two.

Season 5: “The Inner Light”
If there ever was an episode in which Patrick Stewart truly got to shine, it was this one. This might also be the one time in the history of the world in which a penny whistle moved me to tears for reasons other than irritation or eardrum torment. Close calls here include “Ensign Ro,” which was the debut of not only Ro Laren, who holds a particularly large part of my Trek-loving heart, but also the Bajorans (known at this point as “the Bajora”), the alien race that over time became my favorite Trek aliens; “Cause and Effect,” which is a nice ensemble effort with some really great Dr. Crusher moments; and “The Next Phase,” which is probably my favorite Ensign Ro episode.

Season 6: “Tapestry”
The vote really should go to “Chain of Command” for this season, but I don’t think it’s fair to choose a two-parter (which is why I didn’t say anything about “The Best of Both Worlds” earlier). I think that two-parters should be disqualified or given their own category simply because they get double the time to flesh out their story and double the time to make an impact on viewers. I am seeing a pattern, however, to my choices for best. Every single episode that I’ve chosen thus far has either starred or heavily featured Patrick Stewart. It’s no surprise, though. There’s no denying the fact that he was an amazing catch for the role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard. This episode also gets my vote as one of the best “Q” episodes. Close calls from this season include “True Q,” which isn’t really a great Q episode but heavily features Dr. Crusher, which is always a delight (even if she does get turned into an Irish setter at one point); “Face of the Enemy,” which wins as the greatest Troi episode from the entire TNG run; “Frame of Mind,” which is a trippy Riker episode; and “Timescape,” which is another episode with a great “creepy” vibe.

Season 7: “Attached”
To those of you who thought I would choose “Sub Rosa,” do fuck off. I went with “Attached,” however, for purely subjective reasons. Other than “Remember Me,” this is one of the few great Dr. Crusher-heavy episodes from the entire TNG run. I love how each moment of discovery and revelation shared between Crusher and Picard peels away one more layer of privacy, one more layer of knowing, one more layer of emotion, until the baring of the ultimate “secret” (was it really a secret to anyone but Beverly though? By this point, I’m sure even Spot knew how Picard felt about her). Close calls from the final season are “Phantasms,” which makes me laugh every time I see it, along with making me crave cake (with mint frosting); “Dark Page,” which might actually be my favorite Lwaxana Troi episode; “Lower Decks,” which is an amazing look into the lives of non-senior staff officers on board; “Genesis,” which I know is mocked by most fans of the show but has a special place in my heart as being the first Trek episode directed by a female cast member (who also just happens to be the same actress who played my favorite character); and “Preemptive Strike,” which wasn’t a great episode but gave closure to Ro Laren.

Day Three: Favorite Film

To me, there’s really only one great TNG movie, and that’s First Contact. Even with all its flaws (and there are many), it’s still a great adventure with the best villain to come from TNG (and well before they became so incredibly played out that they lost all semblance of scariness), plus lots of ‘splosions and special effects.

Day Four: Favorite Male Character

Regardless of the obvious Picard-on I had for Patrick Stewart, I’m going to have to say that Data was my favorite male character. There was an innocence and charm to that character that I found delightful. Brent Spiner was quite adept at taking this character who was supposedly emotionless and tapping into the full spectrum of emotions in believable and memorable ways. In fact, I loved Data so much , I named my cat after him. Prettiest kitty in the world, he was.

Day Five: Favorite Female Character

Hmm, let me think about this for a moment.

Ha, yeah, okay. Seeing as I started this post with mention of Doctober 2010, I do believe that the answer to this one is a no-brainer. It ain’t gonna be the buxom Betazoid or the surly blonde. It’s not even going to be the battle-damaged Bajoran…although she’s definitely in the running for second favorite.

Nope, it’s all about the Dancing Doctor. Maybe one day I’ll explain why. But not today.

Day Six: Favorite Guest Star

There were some magnificent guests throughout TNG’s seven-year run, but I’m going to go with the Daughter of the Fifth House, Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx. Majel Barrett Roddenberry as Lwaxana Troi was a joy to behold. Of course, I fell in love with Majel Barrett from the moment I saw her as Number One in the very first Star Trek pilot, “The Cage,” so it’s no surprise that I would love her as Deanna Troi’s mother.

Second place? The one whose ears I have hanging in the stairwell… 😉

Day Seven: Favorite Friendship

This is a strange question because I don’t really think that there were many friendships on board this ship. In fact, I think that’s one of my ultimate complaints about the TNG crew: As people, they were rather unbelievable. I know, that’s a horrible thing to say about characters that I love so much, but I think it’s pretty accurate. They didn’t really behave like real people, including they didn’t really interact with each other in believable ways. So, other than the relationship between Geordi and Data, which I guess could pass as a friendship, I don’t really think that any of them had what you’d call significant friendly bonds with each other. However, I think I would go with Guinan and Ro Laren, which was just one of the strangest friendships you could possibly imagine. But it worked. Almost as well as the friendship shared between Guinan and Picard. Although not nearly as funny as the friendship shared between Guinan and Worf. Also, not as time-alteringly significant as the friendship shared between Guinan and Tasha.

Looks like Guinan was friendliest person on that ship, doesn’t it?

Day Eight: Favorite Romantic Relationship

Data and Jenna D’Sora from “In Theory.” This is one of those episodes that I always love to watch and will always stop on if I find it playing on television, and one of the main reasons is that Spiner is such a joy to watch in this episode. It’s definitely sci-fi light, with a silly B-story going on in the background (although that story includes a really creepy scene in which they find a crew member trapped in the floor of one of the decks), but that just allows more time for a nice break from the sci-fi norm. It was a sweet scoop of sorbet to cleanse the palate in time for the awful taste of blonde Romulan (have I gotten it through to you that I really hated that part of TNG?).

Day Nine: Favorite Ensemble Moment

I know it’s schmaltzy and perhaps even a cop-out response, but I’m going to have to go with the very last scene of the very last episode of TNG, “All Good Things.” You know the scene: All the senior staff are gathered in Riker’s quarters for their weekly poker night and Picard shows up unexpectedly to join them. He sits down and looks at his crew and says that he should have done this years ago. He starts to deal the cards and his final words are, “The sky’s the limit,” and the camera slowly begins to pull away…every time I see that moment, I get teary-eyed. Hell, I’m feeling a little verklempt just writing about it!

For sheer fun, however, I’d go with all the Sherwood Forest scenes from “Q-Pid.” But come on, how do you not love that episode? “I must protest! I am not a merry man!”

Day Ten: Favorite Quote

Again, this is a no-brainer. Allow me to direct you to the quote at the top of the page. It’s been there ever since I re-launched the lair back in February 2009, and I don’t see it leaving any time soon. It’s one of the most brilliant things ever spoken on TNG. It’s so awesome, in fact, that my aunts got it for me on a shirt:

Best. Shirt. EVAR.

For those who don’t remember this line, it’s from the Season 4 episode “Remember Me,” which I told you would be making another appearance on this list very soon 😉

BookBin2011: Seven of Nine

“Best laid plans” entry here. While perusing Trek books on Amazon.com a while ago, I discovered that there was a Voyager book, written by Christie Golden, all about Seven of Nine. It was called…Seven of Nine. Based on the creative title alone, who wouldn’t want to buy a copy of this book, right?

Yeah, okay, I’m being unduly snarky and I’m barely into this review. Bet you can tell how this is going to turn out, right?

Anyway, I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have a Seven of Nine book on my shelf, right next to that novel all about Captain Janeway? Janeway and Seven, together again.

It would be nice. But it ain’t happening with this book.

I’m beginning to get a little bit frustrated with Trek novels in general. Minus the joy that the DS9 Season 8 books have brought me, I haven’t really loved any of the Trek books I’ve read in a long time. Even Mosaic was barely a notch above meh, which either means that my tolerance for Trek cheese is diminishing or the books are declining in quality (I suspect it’s a little bit of both, with possibly a smidgen more of the latter…I still loves me some cheese).

I’d say this particular novel is noteworthy only for the fact that it’s a discordant amalgamation of several different Trek plot lines, stuck together with duct tape, chewed gum, and kite string. Just off the top of my head, I’d say that this had aspects of “Violations,” “The Raven,” “Infinite Regress,” “Hard Time,” “Ex Post Facto,” “Phantasms,” and “The Survivors.” Plus, bits and bobs from pretty much every major Seven of Nine-specific Voyager episode made up to the point of this book’s writing.

Additionally, I’ve read so much Voyager fanfiction (there’s a confession for you all) that most of the time I was reading this book I was thinking: A) Most of the fanfic I’ve read was better written; and B) Why aren’t the characters in this story behaving the way they do in the fanfic I like? Because, honestly? I think most of the fanfic writers have a better understanding of the Voyager crew than Golden seems to have.

But maybe that’s just me.

Whatever the reasons, I simply didn’t like this book. Didn’t like the plot. Didn’t like the character depictions. Didn’t like. Period.

Final Verdict: Alas, poor Captain Janeway will have to remain by herself on my virtually Voyager-free bookshelf for a bit longer. This book shall not pass.

BookBin2011: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Companion

Are you getting the impression that I’m not really taking this year’s BookBin all that seriously, denizens? I do apologize for that. I have been reading a “real” book from my collection—an anthology that I bought at a charity book sale more than 10 years ago. The problem is that…well, the problem is that I hate the anthology. Whoops. Guess I’ve given away the fate of this one before I’ve even written about it. I do intend to finish it (it’s the principle, dammit!), but I needed to step away. It was too miserable an effort to keep reading it. Thus why I stopped for my last posted read and now this bit of silly fluff.

That’s a bit of a harsh summary of this book, though. True, the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Companion isn’t going to be placed on any college-level reading lists, but that’s not why I wanted this book. I wanted it because, apparently, CSI has become my new Trek.

[Loba Warning: This post is probably definitely going to be me geeking out about my obsession with CSI that in many ways rivals my obsession with Trek. So, really, if you don’t dig either, you might want to just skip this entry. Of course, if you don’t love Trek or geeking out in general, why on earth are you hanging out here in the first place?]

Makes sense if you think about it: Both are easily accessible franchises with multiple levels of tasty geekery, including numerous television iterations, video games, comic books, novels and other nerdy books, trinkets, baubles, fanfiction, fan videos, fan sites…the only thing that could possibly make me even happier about the CSI marketing saturation is if they released character action figures. Because honestly? My desk needs a Sara Sidle action figure.

True, in terms of deeper meanings and social commentary, CSI doesn’t scratch a patch on Trek storylines. However, there is something mesmerizing about all that puzzle solving. I still believe that I have a personality well-suited to being a CSI. Too bad there’s all that math and chemistry. I was lucky I made it through high school chemistry with my eyebrows intact. Damned Bunsen burners…

More than just television shows, though, these are my escape for when reality wears me down and I need respite. The stories are almost always engaging and the characters are comforting. Why? Because I can relate to them. For all their attempts at being cool, Trek and CSI characters are HUGE nerds. Like me. And that makes me think that I’d really enjoy hanging out with them if they were real people…okay, maybe not Deanna. Counselors make me uncomfortable anyway, but one who could read my emotional state? Not cool. And Catherine Willows would probably make me nervous as well. She used to be a stripper…and in a previous life, she was a prostitute who hung out with Dana Delany.

Anyway, I think the CSI characters win the cage match for the title of “nerds” though, what with all their antisocial tendencies or awkward attempts at social interaction…not to mention the universally-true-for-all-the-characters science skillz , obsessive puzzle-solving, and anal-retentive behavior regarding their kits and whatnot. Although, really, the characters from both shows could intermingle so well with each other. The Dancing Doctor and the ex-stripper could work blood splatter analysis together before hitting the clubs after shift…and Wesley and Greg might actually get along swimmingly in the lab…ooh, and Riker and Grissom could compare beard trimmers and Laren and Sara could see who had the worst childhood…

Okay, now I want CSI/TNG crossover fanfic. STAT.

What the hell is the point of this post? Oh, yeah. The book I just read. Like my Trek compendiums (which you can see in this photo of one of my geeky bookshelves), this is an episode guide fleshed out with fun facts, trivia, and general behind-the-scenes awesomeness from the set of the original Vegas CSI (the only version of CSI that I watch regularly). This guide only covers seasons 1–3, but those are some of the best episodes that this series has done.

[Loba Secret: Vegas CSI started to slip into a downward spiral around season 7 and hasn’t really found its way back to its former greatness. Does that stop me from tuning in every week? Hells no. Optimism or masochism—call it what you will, but I’m probably going to watch this damn show until it goes off the air. Even when it’s bad, it’s a bad I know and love. Besides, what am I supposed to watch? Reality television?]

I found myself loving and loathing this episode companion. First, the loathe. I expected something a little more high quality from Pocket Books. Not to say that the layout isn’t gorgeous. It is. Lots of shiny pages filled with colorful photos and groovy graphic layouts. The problem is in the editing…or the infuriating lack thereof. Lots of grammatical and spelling errors, including one that is a particular pet peeve of mine. One is not a real trooper about something. One is a real trouper. This drives me about as bat-shit crazy as people who write “tow the line.” Unfortunately, it’s all through this book and it stuck out each and every time I read it, like a sliver of glass in my retina.

Petty quibble? Of course. Then again, I’m a editer. I’m suppose to knowtice these things.

Also, a little fact checking and “on the same page” checking between the guide’s writers and the show’s writers might have been a great thing. I understand that this book came out early in the life of this show. I also understand (and actually quite liked) that this show was not originally a character-driven piece. It was heavily plot-driven, with character exposition coming in small, natural doses like how it actually happens in real-world work environments. If something was relevant to an episode plot regarding one of the characters, we learned that bit of personal information. Otherwise, we (and they) were all about solving the cases at hand. Therefore, character development was probably not something that they gave a whole lot of thought. Plot first, then characters.

All that being said, I kind of assumed that the creators and writers would have figured out certain things about their characters, in preparation for where cases might lead them and what we might learn next. Apparently, though, that hadn’t happened by the 2004 release of this book. Every single one of the character profiles had something startlingly and hilariously incorrect. Best one though? Sara Sidle apparently was meant to have loving parents, including a hippy feminist mother, who were concerned that their bookish daughter might be missing out on the fun of childhood by being so studious.

o_O

I laughed for about 10 minutes after I read that. Yeah, I’m that nerdy.

Beyond the absence of research and the massive editorial issues, there just seems to be a general lack of care all throughout…a lot of little mistakes, like Dr. Robbins being listed in his profile as “Albert Robbins,” but all of the accompanying identification badge graphics showing his first initial as “P,” that compounded to become quite distracting after a while.

Distracting enough to get rid of this book? Nope. I admit I’d probably feel a lot surlier if I had paid full price for this guide (thank the prophets I’m cheap and love Amazon Marketplace as much as I do). However, $5 for a 300-page guide filled with nerdy minutia, hilariously flawed “facts,” and oodles of pretty pictures from the only television show that I still watch? I think I can deal with all the errors and enjoy the fun stuff.

Final Verdict: It’s going to be a bit of a tight fit, but soon this guide will be nestled on my geeky bookshelf, right next to those sexy Trek companion guides. Now where are my CSI action figures? And my CSI/TNG crossover fanfic?