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Independence Day – July 4th July 4, 2013

Posted by gollysunshine in American Revolution, Uncategorized.
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I wrote this article several years ago, but I think it contains information we should never forget. Happy July 4th.

Independence Day – July 4th

We celebrate July 4th with days off work, family visits, barbecues and fireworks. But how many of us take the time to reflect what Independence Day is all about? That the day commemorates a revolt by citizens against their lawful government because they felt that government didn’t represent them or their best interests, echoing a cry of “no taxation without representation.” At the time, the 13 American entities were colonies of Great Britain, but there was growing unrest because the colonies had no seat in the British Parliament and hence, no say in their fates. In 1774, the 13 colonies sent delegates to Philadelphia to create the First Continental Congress, but they were not ready to declare war. The inevitable clash came in April 1775, when the extra troops the King sent to control rebellion fought with colonists in Concord, Massachusetts. This became the unofficial beginning of the colonies’ war for independence and was made famous by Longfellow’s poem, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”

A Second Continental Congress was convened, which then appointed a committee of five to write a declaration of their intentions to seek their independence. Thomas Jefferson was chosen to write the first draft. The resolution to make the United Colonies free and independent States and cut the bonds of allegiance to the British Crown was passed by Congress on July 2nd, but only nine of the thirteen colonies said yes. Pennsylvania and South Carolina said no, Delaware was undecided and New York abstained.

However, when the Declaration of Independence was voted into acceptance and signed on July 4th, twelve of the thirteen signed the document. Delegates from New York weren’t empowered to sign until July 7th, and the document wasn’t finalized and disseminated until August. But July 4th, 1776 was chosen to commemorate the Colonies independence and formation of their own nation because it was the day they declared their intentions and put their lives on the line.

 It’s important to note that every one of the 56 men who signed the document was putting his life on the line for his belief in independence, self-determination, and freedom. Essentially, they were committing treason against their lawful government. Five were captured and hanged. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Nine died in the Revolutionary War which ensued. All were well educated, men of means, but most saw their properties and possessions confiscated, looted or destroyed. Many of them gave everything to the cause and died in poverty.

 It is important to remember today what they taught us with their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor: that freedom and independence is never free… it comes with a price tag. And like those who fought and won the American War for Independence, we have people today who are willing to pay that price so that the rest of us can have our days off, visit with our families, barbecue, and shoot off fireworks.

 Interesting trivia:

Did you know… when the Declaration of Independence declared ‘all men are created equal’, it meant all white men with property only — no blacks, or women?

Did you know… that both the North and the South used the Declaration of Independence to justify their positions in the Civil War?

Did you know… that many Brits call our “Independence Day” “Thanksgiving Day”?
Did you know… that pyrotechnics started in China with the invention of gunpowder?
Did you know… that Nat Turner’s rebellion was originally planned for July 4, 1831?
Did you know… that the Declaration of Independence is not legally binding?

Independence Day – July 4th – Laying their Lives on the Line July 3, 2011

Posted by gollysunshine in American Revolution, Independence Day, July 4th celebration, Uncategorized.
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It’s sad that in today’s world, we have public figures who don’t seem to know American history and get their facts wrong about our Founding Fathers, our fight for freedom, even Paul Revere’s famous ride. If nothing else, didn’t they grow up on Longfellow’s famous poem? And this morning, CNN ran a teaser question about July 4th where all their choices were wrong and they didn’t even know it.

So I decided to republish an article I wrote about Independence Day more years ago than I care to remember and had published here a few years ago. Can’t even remember the original publication, except it’s long ceased publishing. But it is my original work, so I feel I can repeat…

Independence Day – July 4th

We celebrate July 4th with days off work, family visits, barbecues and fireworks. But how many of us take the time to reflect what Independence Day is all about? That the day commemorates a revolt by citizens against their lawful government because they felt that government didn’t represent them or their best
interests, echoing a cry of “no taxation without representation.” At the time, the 13 American entities were colonies of Great Britain, but there was growing unrest because the colonies had no seat in the British Parliament and hence, no say in their fates. In 1774, the 13 colonies sent delegates to Philadelphia to create the First Continental Congress, but they were not ready to declare war. The inevitable clash came in April 1775, when the extra troops the King sent to control rebellion fought with colonists in Concord, Massachusetts. This became the unofficial beginning of the colonies’ war for independence and was made famous by Longfellow’s poem, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”

A Second Continental Congress was convened, which then appointed a committee of five to write a declaration of their intentions to seek their independence.
Thomas Jefferson was chosen to write the first draft. The resolution to make the United Colonies free and independent States and cut the bonds of allegiance
to the British Crown was passed by Congress on July 2nd, but only nine of the thirteen colonies said yes. Pennsylvania and South Carolina said no, Delaware
was undecided and New York abstained.

However, when the Declaration of Independence was voted into acceptance and signed on July 4th, twelve of the thirteen signed the document. Delegates from
New York weren’t empowered to sign until July 7th, and the document wasn’t finalized and disseminated until August. But July 4th, 1776 was chosen to
commemorate the Colonies independence and formation of their own nation because it was the day they declared their intentions and put their lives on the line.

It’s important to note that every one of the 56 men who signed the document was putting his life on the line for his belief in independence, self-determination, and freedom. Essentially, they were committing treason against their lawful government. Five were captured and hanged. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Nine died in the Revolutionary War which ensued. All were well educated, men of means, but most saw their properties and possessions confiscated, looted or destroyed. Many of them gave everything to the cause and died in poverty. It is important to remember today what they taught us with their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor: that freedom and independence is never free… it comes with a price tag.

And like those who fought and won the American War for Independence, we have people today who are willing to pay that price so that the rest of us can have
our days off, visit with our families, barbecue, and shoot off fireworks.

Interesting trivia:

Did you know… when the Declaration of Independence declared ‘all men are created equal’, it meant all white men with property only — no blacks, or women?

Did you know… that both the North and the South used the Declaration of Independence to justify their positions in the Civil War?

Did you know… that many Brits call our “Independence Day” “Thanksgiving Day”?

Did you know… that pyrotechnics started in China with the invention of gunpowder?

Did you know… that Nat Turner’s rebellion was originally planned for July 4, 1831?

Did you know… that the Declaration of Independence is not legally binding?

White Collar Articles – Hanging with the Cast at Comic Con 2010 November 14, 2010

Posted by gollysunshine in Comic Con, Entertainment, Jeff Eastin, Jeff King, Marsha Thomason, Matt Bomer, Prime time TV, Sharif Atkins, Tim Dekay, TV production, Uncategorized, USA Network, White Collar.
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Photo by C.A. Taylor

Tim Dekay at San Diego Comic Con 2010

My articles on White Collar from the press conference I attended in July 2010 at the San Diego Comic Con have been up for quite some time at Suite 101.com.  I apologize for not getting the notice for WordPress people up sooner.  I’ve just been incredibly busy.

As always, there is more information than one can ever use, so I thought I’d put a few tidbits from Sharif Atkins and Marsha Thomason up here.  Also, the photos here are from my private collection — ones I took on the red carpet. Unfortunately, my photos of the lovely Marsha Thomason did not come out well.

Those on the official Suite101.com site are publicity releases through the kindness of USA Network.

Matt Bomer at San Diego Comic Con 2010

On the question of if the cast gets any input into the scripts…

Sharif: The cast does it really well.  We all get a chance to talk to Tim and Matt.  They do it really well.  We get a lot of rewrites.  We get like about eight—so sometimes what’s happening is they rewrite a scene and the scene itself is okay, but then it doesn’t quite link up with two scenes that you’ve done a couple of days before.  So they’re so on it that they are able to say, we’ve said this twice already. For us to say it a third time is absolutely ridiculous and it’s going to get very redundant.  So they’re really good at making sure that the logic of the show stay intact.

Matt Bomer and Tim Dekay at San Diego Comic Con

Marsha:  Again, I’m really learning about Diana’s backstory as we go.  No, I don’t. Jeff gave me a heads up before we shot episode 2… she’s the daughter of a diplomat, she grew up in hotels, her parents – this is something I didn’t say – but her parents aren’t thrilled about her working for the FBI.  That was not supposed to be her path.

To learn more, check out my articles at Suite 101.com:

White Collar: At the Core It’s About the Relationship of Two Men

White Collar: Neal and Peter’s Other Partners

White Collar: It’s Not Just Neal & Peter, There’s a FBI Team, Too

White Collar: Conman May Be Old School But the Showrunner Tweets

Whit Collar Cast at San Diego Comic Con

Press coverage on Human Target at San Diego Comic Con 2010 August 29, 2010

Posted by gollysunshine in Chi McBride, Comic Con, Human Target, Jackie Earle Haley, Mark Valley, Matt Miller, Prime time TV, San Diego Comic Con 2010, Uncategorized.
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Photo courtesy of 2010 WBEI

Photo courtesy of Brian Taylor/2010 WBEI

This  year at San Diego Comic Con 2010, I was covering the press rooms of various TV shows at San Diego Comic Con 2010.

I attended as many as I could, but Comic Con is so huge these days that many of the press rooms were up against each other or staggered in such a way that you still had to decide between multiple events.

Because I attended both the press room and the panel, I gathered a lot of material. Here is where you can read my four articles at Suite101.com:

1. Human Target As Charlie & Her Angels, Revealed at Comic Con 2010

2. Like It Or Not, Human Target’s Men Got Each Other’s Backs

3. On Becoming Human Targets: Stars and Boss at SD Comic Con 2010

4. Human Target Will Show Team’s Conflicts and Emotions in Season 2.

Photo courtesy of Greg Gayne/2010 WBEI

But even with writing up four articles, there was more information than I had space for.  So I shared some of the tidbits on CAT Scratchings (http://dannygirlpaceyjack.blogspot.com/),  where I wrote up my personal account of doing the press room and I’ll share the rest here.

Showrunner Matt Miller said he loved Human Target way before he took over. He has no control over the time slot but he thinks the Friday night 8 o’clock time slot is great because “people work hard all week, they come home, they want to kick back, and have some fun.”

Photo courtesy of 2010 WBEI

Matt laughed when asked if they were going to get a location budget.  “A location budget?  We’re gonna get a really big effects budget.  You will not know the difference, I promise you.  We’ll be in Vancouver and we’ll not—the other thing about last season, we were in Vancouver but it’s supposed to take place in San Francisco.  But part of season one was Chance shrouded in a little bit of mystery and hiding.  We’re taking away that element and allowing him to be at the forefront and not be in a position where he has to hide from anyone.  And in order to do that, we’re able to use San Francisco as a character in the show he’s in.  You could watch three or four episodes last season and not really know that you’re in San Francisco.  So if we’re not going international, if we’re in our home base, we want to feel it, we want to know it, we want San Francisco to be part of the show.”

Most likely, they will not be shooting anything in San Francisco.   “We’re using a company called Stargate Visual Effects, which has plates and things like that.  They have really wonderful ways to accomplish that in a way that feels like you’re there.” He speculated that they might do a second unit at some point in San Francisco, but as of yet, that hasn’t been budgeted.

For more information, please visit Suite101.com or click on the links above which will take you directly to my articles.

For my personal account of doing the press room for Human Target, please visit my CAT Scratchings blog.

Men of a Certain Age: PaleyFest2010 Salutes a Unique Show April 12, 2010

Posted by gollysunshine in Andre Braugher, Blogroll, Entertainment, Men of a Certain Age, Mike Royce, Paley Fest, Scott Bakula, TV production, Uncategorized.
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Photo courtesy of Paley Center press release

On March 12, 2010, I attended my third and last for this year PaleyFest2010 tribute. But it was for a unique show on the air, so it was quite worth it. Men of a Certain Age is not the kind of show I would normally tune in for, but it speaks truth not only for mature men, but women as well.

I wrote up an article about it, which you can find here: http://prime-time-dramas.suite101.com/article.cfm/men-of-a-certain-age-reaches-beyond-sex–age

Due to space limitations for the article set by the website, I couldn’t write up all the fascinating bits on the panel.  So here are some deleted tidbits:

Andre Braugher was asked about his underwear scenes.  Not only did he say that he would do anything in a script as long as it was right for the show, but he described Owen as a ‘tighty whities’ kind of guy.

Asked about why they liked working in TV, Andre said that it was all about the writing.  But he also added that every show he’d worked on had struggled to find an audience (Homicide, Gideon’s Crossing and Thief.)  It was nice to finally have a show he didn’t have to beg people to watch.

Scott admitted that the lure was that this show was on cable and had a totally different feel to it.  And he loved TV because it was so immediate.

The party store apparently was Ray Romano’s idea.  Mike Royce described it as “both a funny place and a sad place” and as a great metaphor.  “Everyone’s coming in to celebrate something and he is going through all this stuff in his life.”

Mike Royce said that they actually went to a Norm’s in Sherman Oaks to shoot for the pilot but they have now built a Norm’s set in their shooting stage.  I actually drove by the Norm’s by accident the other day… and I have to admit, I would have never noticed it but for this show.

For other deleted tidbits, check out my CAT Scratchings blog at:  http://dannygirlpaceyjack.blogspot.com/

For the actual article I wrote, check it out here at Suite101: “Men of a Certain Age Reaches Beyond Sex & Age: PaleyFest2010 Salutes Ray Romano’s New Series” at

http://prime-time-dramas.suite101.com/article.cfm/men-of-a-certain-age-reaches-beyond-sex–age#ixzz0kg3Ygxph

FlashForward Tribute at PaleyFest2010 is Interesting, but Not As Much Fun As NCIS Panel April 9, 2010

Posted by gollysunshine in Brannon Braga, Courtney B. Vance, Dominick Monaghan, Entertainment, FlashForward, Jack Davenport, John Cho, Paley Fest, Uncategorized.
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Joseph Fiennes, photo courtesy of C.A. Taylor

On March 11, 2010, I went to my second PaleyFest2010 tribute at the Saban Theater in Los Angeles for the year. The theater is quite fancy inside with a functioning bar in the center of the lobby.  Still, I liked it better when they were using the DGA theater in past years.

The show being honored was FlashForward, which I have to admit I’m not a big fan of, not like I am for NCIS, but I did enjoy the PaleyFest tribute.  Of the actors present, I was most taken with John Cho, Jack Davenport, Courtney Vance and Dominick Monaghan, because they made the panel discussion fun for the audience.

I wrote up an article on the event, which you can link to here: http://prime-time-dramas.suite101.com/article.cfm/flashforward-fills-in-blanks-for-paleyfest2010

And just like a TV episode gets cut for time, articles get caught in space limitations. So I thought I’d share here a couple of the paragraphs I was forced to cut, since they do contain interesting information.

Gabrielle Union remarked that since they hadn’t told her the wedding flash-forward was really a funeral, she played it with big smiles that in retrospect look ridiculous.

When the moderator started to talk about the chemistry of the cast and when the producers realized they were gelling, Monaghan held hands with Davenport. After Borsicky gave a serious answer, the moderator asked if they grabbed asses right away, to which she answered it was a love affair between Courtney and Jack.

A couple more deleted paragraphs can be found in my writeup on CAT Scratchings on blogspot.com.

Attending NCIS Panel at PaleyFest 2010 Was Great Fun March 30, 2010

Posted by gollysunshine in Brian Dietzen, Chas. Floyd Johnson, Cote de Pablo, David McCallum, Entertainment, Mark Horowitz, Michael Weatherly, NCIS, Paley Fest, Sean Murray, TV production, Uncategorized.
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photo courtesy of C.A. Taylor

David McCallum told the PaleyFest2010 audience at the March 1, 2010 tribute to NCIS that he is grateful that he is still working at his age — that many of the actors he started with some 40 odd years ago were not so lucky.  This is one of the many little tidbits I didn’t have space to include in my article on the fun-filled event.  To read what I did have space to include, please check it out here:  http://prime-time-dramas.suite101.com/article.cfm/paleyfest2010-investigates-the-appeal-of-ncis.

I really enjoyed the evening and it is obvious that the cast are very fond of each other.

Please Vote for my Pet for a good charity cause. February 15, 2010

Posted by gollysunshine in Bissell MVP contest, cats, kitten, Uncategorized.
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Please do me a favor and vote for Mischief Kirk in the Bissell Most Valuable Pet Contest: http://mvp.bissell.com/mvp_PetDetail.aspx?id=8589998408

The reason I entered him is that the grand prize is $10,000 for your favorite charity and I would like it to go to Alley Cats Allies.  Feral and stray cats and their caregivers are having an especially bad time right now in LA, since a stupid judge stopped all state money and help towards Trap-Neuter-Return programs. Not only has that strangled TNR work, but shelter workers are not even allowed to refer people to private groups that fund TNR.  Yes, the stupid judge and people behind it and state would rather let the cats keep reproducing so that they can keep killing in the shelters the unwanted kittens whose only crime is being born than let people do something about the problem.

I don’t have great hopes Mischief will actually win but I’ve got to try, since the cause is so important. The interesting thing though is that they only allow an individual to vote once in a round for a particular pet, so people can’t pad the votes.  However, you can vote for as many animals as you want. I went through last round and gave a vote to all the animals with one vote, just so they had somebody other than their master voting for them.

You have to vote before Feb 18th, but you only have to vote for Mischief Kirk once.  I’m sorry that you will have to take the time to register… but it is for a good cause… and look how cute he is in the picture.

http://mvp.bissell.com/mvp_PetDetail.aspx?id=8589998408

Thanks from Crystal and Mischief Kirk and his siblings Danny Girl and Pacey Jack.

Lia Johnson: From Sulu’s Love to Raimi’s “Hell”ish Waitress August 20, 2009

Posted by gollysunshine in Christina Moses, Drag Me to Hell, Entertainment, George Takei, I'm Through with White Girls, John Lim, Lia Johnson, Star Trek, Star Trek: New Voyages, Star Trek: Phase II, Uncategorized, World Enough and Time episode.
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Lia Johnson photo courtesy of Crystal Taylor

Lia Johnson photo courtesy of Crystal Taylor

Growing up with her twin sister Phyllis, Lia Johnson feels it was inevitable that the two girls would become actresses because that’s how they played together as kids.  “We always loved to put on costumes and play characters — make up stuff and storylines,” Lia revealed when I talked to her after the premiere of “World Enough and Time” — the fourth fan-produced online Star Trek New Voyages episode (visit www.startreknewvoyages.com to view the episodes of what is now called Star Trek: Phase II).  “So by the time I got to high school, I was perfectly primed for a life in the theater.”  Thus, like most passionate young actresses, Lia did many plays in high school and college.  It was in her third year in college in New York that she realized she wanted to make her living as a full time actress.  “So for the next year and after that, I really pursued it on a professional level.  I got my first gig on a soap opera in New York right out of college and then moved here to Los Angeles and started working in television.”

Star Trek New Voyages episode “World Enough and Time”

It was through her friend Jacob Pinger, who was the original Director of Photography for “World Enough and Time” (aka WEAT), that she heard that director Marc Scott Zicree was casting for the Internet episode.  Falling in love with the script, Lia auditioned for the role of the mother of Lt. Sulu’s child.

Lia Johnson as Dr. Chandris - photo courtesy of Crystal Taylor

Lia Johnson as Dr. Chandris - photo courtesy of Crystal Taylor

Written by Michael Reaves and Marc Scott Zicree, WEAT is based on a pitch Reaves sold to Paramount thirty years ago when Paramount was considering mounting a second series based on the original Trek characters, to be called Star Trek: Phase II.  In it, Sulu and newly-arrived crewmember Dr. Lisa Chandris are sent by shuttlecraft to investigate an anomaly happening to a Romulan ship.  Losing the shuttlecraft as the Romulan ship breaks up, Sulu and Chandris call for emergency beam out, but a freak gravity disruption occurs which causes them to live out thirty years on a planet while only 30 seconds pass on the Enterprise.  When the Enterprise’s transporter retrieves its landing party less than a minute later, Sulu materializes aged thirty years and not with his fellow crewmember Chandris but with his daughter Alana, alive only through the sacrifice of her mother, the aforementioned Lisa Chandris.  After Paramount scrapped the idea of a second series in favor of movies, this story languished for decades until Zicree discovered the live-action, one-hour episodes Star Trek New Voyages (aka STNV) was making for the Internet.

Although many writers would give Sulu an Asian daughter like himself, Zicree and Reaves decided that that didn’t have to be the case for the partner and child of Star Trek’s iconic navigator.  That bold decision opened up their casting possibilities in ways that Lia finds consistent with the spirit of original Trek.  “There were so many seminal things that they [Original Star Trek] did so effortlessly and I think that casting in not the usual casting way was one of the things they did without thinking,” she explains, recognizing that for the late 60s this move was remarkable and refreshing.  “The stories didn’t change except that they were more fun to look at.  We got to see our world as we know it as Americans.  All of our lives intersect with so many different people, so many different cultures.”

In that same spirit of diversity, Zicree hired an Afro-American actress to play Alana.  This mandated that in casting her mother Lisa, he had to find a credible match.  He found what he was looking for in Lia Johnson, but then a mere four weeks before principal photography was to begin, the actress hired to play Alana dropped out of the project.

Having to go back to the drawing board for Alana, Zicree was faced with the problem of finding another suitable African-American actress or the prospect of having to replace Lia as well – something he didn’t want to do — just to maintain credibility in genetics.

This dilemma was solved when Zicree found the incredible Christina Moses to play Alana, for as Lia points out, like herself, Christina is of mixed heritage.  “We’re both of European and African-American background, so there’s so many ways our kids or parents could go.  I think it was a great choice because I think that in some ways in the future, that’s exactly where all of us are looking, everyone completely mixed and everybody recognizes all different elements that make one person up.”

Lia attributes this in part to Marc Zicree having a strong sense of what the episode needed in terms of emotional depth and being willing to pursue a different emotional angle than normally done.  “It goes down in the history as one of my favorite auditions where I came in and read and by the end, we were all in tears,” she enthuses.  “The script was great, but it was also because it was coming to life in front of us and it was so touching and beautiful.   I got to read opposite John Lim, who plays opposite me.   He plays young Sulu, who I have all my scenes with.”  So right off the bat from the very first audition, it was exciting for her because she got to hang out with the co-star she’d be working with and thus, she was able to gauge the energy he would bring to the role.

“It was also very exciting because I was reconnecting with the show, and watching a bunch of episodes from the early seasons.  John has such a wonderful quality that is really reminiscent of George Takei.”

Having the story come to life in front of her as she auditioned made the day especially memorable, because as Lia explains, “So much, as an actor, you walk into an audition, you create for yourself a whole fantasy of this world that you’re going to go play in.  Your job is to stay in your fantasy because that’s how others begin to see it as you work through the scene.”  But here Lia didn’t have to do this, because the fantasy world she was moving in already had its reality and a long history to draw from.

In fact, it’s hard for any kid growing up in the US not to be aware of Star Trek.  However, although Lia admits to loving Star Trek growing up, she also confesses she didn’t give it the detailed attention that the more avid fans who created STNV did.  After meeting them, she describes herself growing up as a ‘deep appreciator.’  “Now that I’ve been exposed to how really deeply aware people who call themselves fans are of the Star Trek universe, I couldn’t call myself a fan as a kid growing up.”

Yet, she does consider herself a fan now.  “As I’ve gotten to know more and more about the series,” she explains, “I’ve been blown away at how groundbreaking it was.  For the times and even for today.”

The fun of playing against John Lim isn’t the only thing Lia recalls about her audition. “I also remember that it was real hot.  It was the middle of the summer and it was hot.  We were all boiling.  So all the fans were going and you had to turn the fans off to start shooting the audition.  It was like somewhere between tears and sweat going down our faces.   It was a little brutal in that department, but it was good.  I love that kind of drama – the unruly nature — you never know quite what you are going to get.  But it’s always a good time.  It’s always an adventure.”

When asked about how she prepared for her role, Lia explains that the real preparation comes before the audition where she is showing the producers, director, and writers what she can bring to the role.  “You start to get an idea of what you would do if you got the role and it continues once you get it,” she elaborates.  “These are the pieces I think that worked, that they liked.  And what else can I add.   That sort of thing.”  To do that, she asked a friend who was a Star Trek buff  to give her a list of pivotal episodes from each season and then she visited her local video store, watching as many as she had time for.

“There are a number of ones I really enjoyed,” she admits, adding that “Trouble with Tribbles” was her favorite.  “I’m forgetting the name of the one where Kirk kisses Uhura for the first time.  And gosh, I’m forgetting the name of the episode but it’s where they go to the Greek world and the god Zeus is there and he takes over the mind of one of the women on the ship.  I spent about a week and a half watching… it was a lot of fun.  Each season has about ten seminal episodes, so that’s about thirty hours of TV right there.  And then you get hooked and want to watch more.  Even ones that aren’t on your list.”

What Lia didn’t watch in her preparation stages – on purpose – was the earlier episodes of STNV.  “I just wanted to go in and do my work… Marc had tasked me to do my work, to bring what I bring to a character.  And since I was not playing a character that they had previously seen, I knew that she could be an independent, she could be anything, she could be whatever it was I created of her.  And I knew that if I didn’t see Star Trek New Voyages, I wouldn’t be putting blinders on my role as an actor in the role of Lisa Chandris.  Dr. Lisa Chandris.”

Though she didn’t see the episodes, she still did her homework on the project.  “I did read all about the episodes.  And I fantasized a lot about them.  I put on them about what I think they are, who they are and how they behave so I did get a chance to do that.”  And once she was on set, she had all her co-stars on set with her.  “As I worked with them, we all hung out as we waited to shoot whatever scene came next. You just soak up a person’s energy and you get a feel for where the guys all fit.  But I didn’t watch the New Voyages before I did the show.”

One of the most important aspects that Lia noticed about the original Star Trek series was that each character was allowed to have his/her own quirkiness, his/her own special qualities.  In that way, Star Trek was somewhat “a show out of its time,” she says, because it wasn’t too precious about its characters and hence, gave actors unique characters to play.  “Within that authenticity, the characters really shone.”

It was important to Lia to bring that quality to Dr. Lisa Chandris.  “One of the great things about Michael and Marc’s script is that it’s so clear on the page that there is so much room for her to be that quirky, unvarnished doctor who doesn’t have it all together.  A lot of the people I know in my life who have decided to go the more corporate or medical route – especially the doctors, man, they are so – like they’ll really get down and focus.  They’ll spend weeks in front of the book and computer but when they play, they play so hard.”

She also loves that the script gave her room to flirt with young Sulu.  “I just love that Lisa Chandris is totally picking up on young Sulu, like she’s trying it on, ‘you’re hot and we’re alone on this spaceship together, oh no, this is tragic’ and it’s all tongue-in-cheek.”

That flirtation was one of the aspects she prepared for Lisa, when she was working out her character’s backstory.  Because we see Chandris mostly through the eyes of Sulu and Alana, with only a few, but pivotal scenes where we meet the young Lisa ourselves, Lia had to think about the trajectory of where Chandris ended up and where she might be coming from that would make her the kind of person Sulu and Alana describe at the end of her life.  “I molded her on aspects of myself and aspects of other characters I’ve seen in films and theater that I’m passionate about.  My grandmother is a huge survivor and she has a pretty incredible spirit… I can easily go, I know such a woman, I’ve got this.”

Another quality she deliberately gave Chandris is that Lisa never loses her sense of the adventure, the fun of being out there exploring even though their world seems to be coming apart at the seams and their predicament seems dire.  Lia believes that spirit is what later translates into a survivor.  “When the two of them get left on a lonely planet for many, many moons,” she explains, “that’s the kind of thing that can break a lot of spirits.  She has the kind of spirit that is indomitable.  That’s the kind of survivor spirit that people can find the silver lining in every cloud.  So I wanted to bring that to her character.”

Lia says that when she started working backwards from what she knew Chandris to be in Sulu and Alana’s eyes, she knew the woman was a survivor.  “I knew she had a very powerful spirit that created stories and fun and a full life for just three people on a planet.  To me that translated into a woman who had already lived a full life and she had done a lot of things that she was excited about and yet still had that vulnerable, open curiosity.  She’s still eager for more, she’s still looking, she’s still curious about the world.  So that is where I wanted to come from and it fit so perfectly with the script that Marc and Michael wrote.  I just loved how her curiosity drives each scene.”

This became very apparent for Lia from the first scene we see Chandris in.  “They get her into the pod to fly to the unknown ship, and she’s dealing with all these gravity waves, and she totally has gravity sickness, and she totally lied to get into the Starfleet group so she could be part of this because she wants adventure and she’s curious.  She wants to see things.  She’ll bear with the bad things to satisfy her curiosity.  That was great to me.  I love characters like that.”

From there, creating the character was for Lia like discovering a map of an individual.  “I had the lines on the page that Marc and Michael had started with and then I had all the valuable information you can pull from reading the entire script.  All of that information is so valuable, like when older Sulu is talking about how he lost this woman and how she, even when looking at this dead sea and the moons, was positive.  The stories that she shares with them, it built such a clear vision for me – a map if you will – this is a woman who had already lived a lot of life that she had to share.  Not only did she share the stories that she already had, but she could make up new ones from all the pieces that she had started with.”

In other words, Dr. Lisa Chandris in Lia Johnson’s eyes was a woman with a strong fantasy life.  “She was a woman with an imagination and a curiosity about the world and an individuality and a strength of spirit.  And then you find out she’s the reason that Alana is still alive, because she saved her.  She risked her own life to save her and that is all part of the character.  So when you start stirring that cauldron of information up about a character, it just helps to support everything that happens about the character.  When you are standing there working with the language at the top of the show, when you are in the film, all that’s within you, all that’s in your eyes, all that’s a part of you as you are deciding that this young guy is pretty hot, and that oh goodie, you’re trapped alone for some time together.”  Pausing, she laughs, saying that “poor Johnny” had to play along with her flirtation.

Though her influence is felt throughout the script, Dr. Lisa Chandris was only in a few scenes.  Still, due to the needs of scheduling, the script, and the sets, Lia got to film in both locations: Port Henry for the Romulan ship stuff and Los Angeles for the transporter and docking bay.

Like the rest of us, Lia was duly impressed with the quality and accuracy of the ’60s sets recreations.  In Port Henry, there were full sets of the Bridge (the whole 360), Sickbay, conference room, shuttlecraft, transporter and Captain’s/crew quarters (dressed whichever way was needed).  So it was like you actually walked onto the U.S.S. Enterprise.  In some respects, Port Henry’s Enterprise was more real (or functional) than Paramount’s original Enterprise, because advances in computer technologies allowed the displayed graphics in Port Henry to be controlled by real computers.

“The man is a perfectionist,” Lia says of James Cawley, who is the executive producer of STNV and also plays Captain Kirk.  “And what’s so much fun about it is that he’s so passionate about all the elements.  Even the costumes we were making – the spacesuits that John and I wore.  James had photographs, even of different angles.  He had even gotten some very specific patterns and then, of course, he was connected to this amazing costumer who … one of her side jobs in life, if not her fulltime job, is now making these exact replicas of costumes of Star Trek and other Sci Fi story characters.  Yes, James is just a real perfectionist on the set and the costumes were reflecting that.”

Nevertheless, the experience was more infectious than just the authenticity of the sets, according to Lia.  “Everyone on set was so excited about being there.  All the fun about putting on ears when Jeff who plays Spock is walking around in his ears.  Yeah, it was a real independent feel so it was different than being on a television set, because so much of that is like an institution.  But in Port Henry there wasn’t a lot of support around it, just the bare bones, nitty-gritty artistic part of it.  That was really fun.  It was a laugh.  There were definitely some difficult days, but it all came together and it was a good time.”

On the other hand, filming in LA was a lot more controlled and a lot more like Lia was used to seeing in professional productions.  “One felt more like a bunch of independent filmmakers making something of a film and the one in Los Angeles felt more like we were on a sound stage, we had a lot of the support that usually goes along with a full-fledged production.  Like dressing rooms.  The schedules — there actually was a schedule and people were passionate about keeping to that schedule. Yeah, it was more succinct in that respect.  It felt interesting but I can’t say it was better than the other part because there was definitely a feeling of bonding and pulling all together that happened in Port Henry.”

In the end, the differences proved to be neglible because in the end product, as Lia says, “I can’t tell the difference between what was shot where.”

“The majority of my scenes, if not all of my scenes, occurred where a lot of special effects were planned for those shots,” Lia says, confirming that she worked heavily with green screens and computer graphics.  “So thank god I had done so much fantasizing beforehand, because everything we did was totally in our minds.”  Her part of the mission when they shuttled over the Romulan ship was to activate their computer and download their information, so that Sulu could read the coordinates and free the Enterprise.

The Romulan computer interface console that we see Chandris activate after the CGI special effects are put in looks awesome, but what the actress got to see was just a flat box.  “I had to imagine a whole console with buttons and what where.  Imagine turning things on and clicking them,” she said, “finding information within the computer.  Those are all things that I create in my mind and then the special effects guys come in and do this amazing job creating a whole new panel.  So the panel looked totally different to me when I saw the film than it was in my mind when I was playing.  It was kind of fun seeing my hands making all these movements and pushing buttons, but I actually had been thinking in other ways.”

Lia Johnson acting to green screen

Lia Johnson acting to green screen

One of the most amazing things about watching John and Lia perform was that, unlike in Port Henry with all its fine sets, here in LA, they were doing this green screen work with nothing in front of them.  In Port Henry, the sets are more or less permanent, because they are being used for all the episodes.  But in LA, the sets were built in warehouse space, only for the two days of principal photography, after which they were torn down.  Hence, only what would be shown onscreen was built.  This, nevertheless, brought its own challenges.

It’s one thing to imagine pushing buttons on a console which will be later CGI’d in, but to have both actors pushing buttons on the same level of a horizontal surface requires them to actually touch something at the same height.  Hence, the crew jury-rigged a solution.  They turned a C-stand (the tripod pole that lights, flags, and silks are clamped onto) on its side and propped it on apple boxes to reach a height where the actors could comfortably place their hands on the simulated surface.  It was magnificent to watch Chandris and Sulu’s fingers dance along the C-stand as if it were a real console, knowing that in post, they can airbrush the placeholder out and put in their CGI console.

That’s the fun part Lia claims.   “You get to make up anything you want.  It really is up to the imagination where their fingers touch, which buttons you touch and how they control the ship.  I thought it was so much fun.  It was completely in line with what I used to play with my sister as a kid.”

Once the problem of getting their fingers to look like they are tapping on the same surface was solved, a new wrinkle appeared.  In the scene, Sulu and Chandris are maneuvering the shuttlecraft through gravity waves which are buffeting the shuttlecraft around like a buoy in a roiling ocean.  Inside the shuttle, Sulu and Chandris are being jolted and knocked around by the impacts.  John and Lia had to simulate this by tossing themselves around, even though they were just sitting in chairs in front of a green screen with an overturned C-stand masquerading as their console.  Hence, in the first take, they weren’t moving in unison since seated side by side, they couldn’t turn and ascertain how the other one was moving.

To synchronize their movements, the director started choreographing go left, go right, go forward.  Still, it would also look laughable if one went way over and the other just a little bit, so I asked how difficult that was to play.  “Certainly by the end we did get it.  By then we were aware of how much, where, when and why.  That is one of the things we did not rehearse – the physical aspects of how much tremor was there going to be and at what point was the ship going to be breaking up underneath us and the gravity waves, what specific movements would indicate all the elements of movement that would indicate we were on a ship that was coming apart.”

After all, most of that was going to be created by the graphics group in post.  “You go in as an actor open to rehearsing and just figure it out,” Lia explained.  “John and I got in there and we tried different things.  Some things would work out and some things wouldn’t and we’d scrap that.  So it was just about listening to your director and being willing to take direction and also listening to your partner.   You can feel somebody’s body, you can feel his energy next to you.  John and I were clinging to each other on this Romulan ship so it was really easy to figure out where each other’s bodies were and so we were taking cues from each other.”

Although Lia’s character didn’t any scenes with George Takei’s Sulu, the actors spent a lot of time on set hanging out.  “I really wanted that because that is more about whom my character became and it was going to inform more about who she is when she’s onscreen.  So I really enjoyed talking with him because essentially he’s the man who ultimately I spend the rest of my life with.”

Lia admitted that it was a real treat to get to hang out with George Takei.  “Almost every time I saw him, he was very much in character, in terms of just the visuals of him.  And he wanted to connect with me, too, to see who ‘this woman was that I fell for so long ago, that I’ve grown with, and come to call home. And who is ultimately the reason our child and I are alive.’”

Lia went on to explain that there is a lot that actors want to get from each other in terms of energy and connection, especially knowing there will be a connection between your characters.  “It was really great because I got to watch him do the scene where he is missing me and first time, he’s seen my face since he lost me, looking at a picture of me on the console in the sickbay and then he does this scene where he talks about our life together and you can really see the loss and depth of feeling on his face.  That was beautiful, because, I don’t know, I can fantasize all I want about a character, but it is also wonderful to see it right in front of you … to see that depth of loss on his face and in his soul.”  It helped her realize that Lisa was not just attracted to Sulu on the superficial (“he’s a cute guy”) level, but deeper and “on a spirit, and soul level.   I see him connecting with that feeling of loss… it stimulates something in me that strikes up that chord … that yearning for something … you want someone equally… the love that generates that feeling.”

Beyond it being great for Lia to connect with George on set as characters, was the fact that as a man, George is an amazing individual.  “He’s got some awesome stories, stories about his life and stories about his career, about his life as an artist, so we had a lot of good times.  It was a pretty cool treat for me to spend a lot of time with him and chat about all kinds of stuff.  Share all kinds of stories.”

When asked what George Takei taught her as a veteran actor to take away to her own career, Lia mentioned how impressed she was when he came out of the closet and was so nonchalant about it.  “It seems to me that so many celebrities come out with information that changes how you think of them, or perhaps not change, but evolve what you think of that person when they have something to sell, or something to push, or some need to regenerate their star.  Rarely do they ever come out with the kind of controversial information which because they don’t have anything to push, could in theory change or damage, if you will, their previous – the way fans previously thought of them.  Certainly as I got to know him as a man, it seems to me that that was a decision for himself and his truth.  And his pride in his truth.  So what he taught me was about grace in the face of your truth.  He just so gracefully came out and was himself and it was for no other reason than he needed to be graceful about the truth.…    He’s so elegant in his honesty.  So that is what he taught me. I want to be like that.

“And,” Lia continues, “for someone as masculine and strong and yet emotional as George Takei, and for him to be gay, is a statement.  And he’s Sci Fi and he’s a bad-ass – I think we can call George a bad-ass from time to time, and that he’s also gay is absolutely in some ways antithetical to the idea of what it is to be gay.  So I think it stretches the stereotype and forces people to recognize that people they love and respect and idolize even are gay.  And I think it helps people get a better understanding of each other.”

Being that Alana touched the audience’s hearts and brought many to shed tears, I wondered if Lia thought Lisa Chandris would be happy with the way her daughter turned out.  Lia’s answer was a resounding yes.  “I know what Lisa would dream of as a daughter, what her pride and joy would be in Alana.  Christina played Alana beautifully.  Alana was absolutely in keeping with that.   She was beautiful on a spirit level.  I mean, she’s got Sulu as a dad so she’s gonna be good-looking no matter what on the outside.  But on the inside, she’s got that genuine spirit of curiosity about the world shining out of her.  And strength… in a sense of what’s right and continuance.   In the end, she’s a chip off the old block in the sense that she sacrifices herself for love of her father and her family – these people she has come to know in a few short minutes if you will.  So yeah, I think Alana certainly did Lisa proud, as a daughter.”

WEAT Premiere

Post production on the episode took another year due to all the special effects (approx.  700).  When it was complete, a premiere that Lia described as splashy and fantastic was held in a theater in Los Angeles.  “There was an amazing response.  The house was packed.  There was the press there.  A lot of excited fans.  Crew people.  Actors.  A number of the actors came from all over the country to be part of it.  And James Cawley and Marc Scott Zicree held court.  We did a huge Q&A at the end, where people got to ask questions and give their responses.  People really, really loved it.  The whole time they felt it was in keeping with the history and the vision of the original series.  So it was really great to have all those kudos from the very folks we are making it for.  That was cool.”

I’m Through with White Girls

Lia Johnson headshot courtesy of Lia Johnson

Lia Johnson headshot courtesy of Lia Johnson

Since WEAT, Lia has been a very busy actress.  First up was an independent film called “I’m Through with White Girls, the Inevitable Undoing of Jay Brooks” which she produced as well as performed as the lead actress.  “I play opposite Anthony Montgomery who many people will know as Ensign Mayweather from Star Trek Enterprise.  And it’s about a man named Jay Brooks who is the only black guy in his indie rock circle and he has a habit of losing any woman that he gets close to with a dear john letter and then when a friend of his is getting married, he wonders why he’s never found the right woman.  So he thinks if he dates the perfect black woman, he’ll find her.”  To do this, he goes on a mission to find the perfect woman which his friends designate “Operation Brown Sugar,” but ultimately he finds he must deal with his commitment issues to win the woman that he falls in love with.

Lia plays the woman that he falls for and says the reason he strikes out initially with black women is that he’s not the stereotypical black guy.  “He doesn’t like hip hop, he likes comic books and sci-fi, he likes rock, so when he strikes out in the system, he’s pretty ready to give up and then he meets me who is interracial – I’m mixed – and I have a lot of eclectic interests like him, but he has to deal with his commitment issues to win my heart.”

They took the film out on the festival circuit, where it’s been winning a number of awards.  “Four best feature audience awards for best feature at a couple of different festivals.   Probably the most prestigious is that we represented the US at the Pan-African Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France and we won the audience award for best feature, which was fantastic… really phenomenal.”

For those like me who know little about this film festival, Lia explained, “The Pan African Cannes Film festival represents the Pan-African Diaspora around the world and it goes concurrently with the Cannes Film Festival.  And they pretty much pull films from around the world for that year and screen them for audiences.  So everyone comes and they all vote on juries and on whose film they liked the best.  There are countries as far as Australia – the African population in Australia.  Nigeria has a humungous film business and they make tons of films every year and they’re really into it.  All of the countries of Africa, Europe – the African Diaspora has spread pretty far and wide.”

It’s no small achievement or honor to represent the United States in a film festival that screens maybe 40 films from around the world.  “For us to represent the US in such a prestigious French Pan African Film Festival is huge because so many good films come out of the US every year.  Just to be selected as the US representative was amazing to begin with and then to win the audience award in a foreign country where they are reading subtitles of your film is truly phenomenal.”

But not only did she tour the film in places like London and Amsterdam, she’s also taken it to US film festivals (such as the American Black Film Festival) and winning awards for it at home as well.  “It was really exciting for me to see audiences really respond to the film.  It’s really funny and it’s really about being through with the idea of what is white and what is black – kind of the deeper meaning when you see the film.  And Anthony Montgomery just does an amazing job.”  She adds with a laugh, “It’s so easy to fall in love with him.”

With her experience as a producer of this independent film, she, more than others, can appreciate what people were going through behind the scenes on New Voyages.  Asked about that, she reflected, “It’s difficult to compare, because in Los Angeles, there are three of the best film schools in the world.  So many people come to LA to make films.  There’s a huge amount of people, a huge workforce that wants to be in films and need credits and who are willing to work for very little money or deferred pay or even for the love of it.  So I had a lot of help.  We finished each day with a minimum of 30 people on set and our largest day we had 150.  I co-produced it with my sister Phyllis.  But I think there was a lot more help than a lot of the folks in New Voyages had.  The help was definitely eager and passionate and that was the same but there are more technicians in Los Angeles that you can get at a drop of a hat, whereas in Port Henry, if we didn’t have it, we had to create it.  It was a bit more of an inventive group, because you had to invent what you needed on the spot.  So it seemed a little more haphazard in Port Henry than in Los Angeles.  But definitely the spirit of independence is the same – the drive to make something you are really passionate about.  And I think the accolades are the same. When people see it, they say wow, this is great, you did something really cool.  That energy is also the same.”

Alive pilot

To show that she was not abandoning television for film, Lia’s next project was a pilot presentation for SyFy Channel called Alive, which was written by Garfield and Judith Reeves-Stevens from Star Trek Enterprise.   “It’s something like 28 Days Later, but episodic for television.  It’s so exciting and I play one of the lead roles… it’s like, for lack of a better word, zombies inhabit the earth and the few people left are fighting for their lives… about 100 people, who are hunkered down in Northern Oregon and try to fight the zombies who are wreaking havoc on the earth.”

Drag Me to Hell

Her most recent coup is a role in director Sam Riami’s new horror film, Drag Me to Hell, where she plays the Waitress near the end of the movie who gives the lead character a hard time for sitting in her section and only ordering coffee.  Still, Lia admits to being “a totally scaredy-cat when it comes to watching horror movies.  I have an over-active imagination and so the images REALLY get to me. I watched the first Evil Dead on VHS, on my tiny 14-inch television, in the middle of the day, with the lights on… and I was STILL completely freaked out.  That being said, Sam’s movies have such a great balance of humor and emotionally disturbing qualities that I have really learned from his work, what people find fun about the horror genre. I was very excited to work with him.”

This major step up from the indie films the talented actress had been previously doing came about because Sam Riami saw and liked her previous work in her award-winning independent.

“I got the role in Drag Me to Hell because I produced and starred in an indie feature film called I’m Through With White Girls, The Inevitable Undoing of Jay Brooks, now playing on Showtime.  Sam liked my work in the film and had his producer call me for an audition.  It was a role that didn’t require tons of preparation, but I took her to heart and had a great time making up a fun backstory for her.  It ended up really coming in handy when Sam wanted Alison and me to improvise with our characters.”

Since most of the people reading this on the Internet won’t be familiar with the production process, I asked Lia to give us a flavor of what it was like.

“I was only on set for one day,” she told me, “but my character’s scene was with the main character of the film.  The day started with several hours of rehearsal between me and Alison Lohman and the other characters in the scene.  Sam loves to rehearse and improvise, and at the same time that we’re working his crew is taking cues regarding what each shot will look like.

“Afterwards, the crew got into lighting the set, and Alison and I were off to the hair, make-up and wardrobe trailers. Once we started shooting, everyone in the same scene still played their parts, even if they weren’t on-camera.  It’s super helpful to have the other actor in the scene with you when you’re the one on-camera.”

The obvious next question to ask would be about working with Sam Raimi as a director.  “Sam loves to rehearse for all the spontaneous things that happen when you’re living your way through a scene.  He spent a lot of time with each of us actors.  He was very clear that he wasn’t precious about the writing, the script was just a starting point.”

In fact, how Sam Riami works with his actors is the most valuable insight Lia has taken away from doing this film.  “Sam was extremely accessible and I remember being surprised that he spent so much rehearsal time with my scene, finding nuances and encouraging fun things that came out of improvisation.  Ultimately I realized when I saw the final film, that it’s really the work he does with his supporting cast that buttresses his main story so well.”

With Drag Me to Hell being a studio film with a real PR budget that was non-existent for a fan-run Internet episode, the premiere had to be quite a different experience.

“The premiere for Drag Me to Hell was different from the Star Trek New Voyages in that it was just really Bigger,” Lia agreed.  “The similarities were that many of the cast and crew were there.  People that you make connections with while shooting, and then you all go your separate ways, working on other jobs, and then suddenly you all reconvene to see this final product that you all had a hand in creating.  That’s always so much fun to me. It’s a big reunion!

“The difference was the crazy red carpet with all the paparazzi, the film was screened for the premiere at the famous historic Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. That was a bit of a dream come true for me as that theatre has so much history, and the screen is SOOOOOOOO BIG!!! I usually take way more pleasure in the PROCESS of performance than I do watching the final product, but it WAS a rush to see myself on such a huge, famed screen.  That was super cool.”

And as we wait for Lia Johnson to go to even bigger projects, let’s check out the trailer for I’m Through with White Girls on turnsoul.com website – for her and because she tells us “Anthony Montgomery did an amazing job – very different character from Ensign Mayweather.  It’s a wonderful character for him.”

For more info on Drag Me to Hell, check out http://www.dragmetohell.net for official word.

For more info on “World Enough and Time” episode of STNV, check out http://www.startreknewvoyages.com/episodes.html

or read my article published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, which is available at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Thrilling-Wonder-Stories-Winston-Engle/dp/0979671817/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1238704595&sr=8-1) and Barnes & Noble online (http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Thrilling-Wonder-Stories-Volume-2/Winston-E-Engle/e/9780979671814/?itm=1)

Abrams’s Star Trek Great Summer Popcorn Movie, But Anemic Star Trek May 25, 2009

Posted by gollysunshine in Abrams's Star Trek, Blogroll, Star Trek, Uncategorized.
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I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, either.  This is undoubtedly a good movie and very entertaining.  But is it good Star Trek?  For what attracted me to Star Trek for all these years and made me a fan, I think not.  For me, Abrams’s new movie is no different than any other blockbuster action flick that is all razzle-dazzle daring feats, special effects and banter.  Yes, I had fun at it, but do I care if I see it again, or see sequels?  I think not.  But it will be interesting to see if this movie has legs (longevity) with today’s audience, even if it doesn’t with me, for the problem with flash and dash is that it is usually forgotten when the next big movie comes out with more spectacular feats created by ever-evolving technology.

To give credit where credit is due, I thought I was going to be bothered by changes in canon, but they brilliantly side-stepped that by using a different timeline.  So that worry didn’t come into play.

The actors are all fine actors and did a credible job reminding us of the characters we love while giving it their own stamp, although some were better at it than others.  And I have no problem with new actors playing my beloved iconic characters.  After all, I participated in a major fan endeavor, making a new online episode of original Trek with all new actors, called “World Enough and Time” for Star Trek: New Voyages.  But what drew me to be involved with WEAT was that it wasn’t all razzle-dazzle daring feats, special effects and banter.  Like original Trek, WEAT was about something, it had something to say, the writers had something to say, to give us to think about, to take with us.  WEAT was about love and sacrifice – whether you can have the strength to sacrifice that which is most dear to you for the good of others and how you handle afterwards what you’ve done and lost.  And that’s what I believe gave original Star Trek its longevity, not just the good looks of the actors playing the roles, but what the characters stirred inside people in terms of ideas, actions, emotions, and thoughts.

Granted that I’m sure one could point to episodes that didn’t have this kind of thematic spine, because fans have been ridiculing certain episodes for 40 years.  But for the most part, episodes and films have had their creative team stand up and say something that resonated with you long after you left the theater.

This movie’s theme is about friendship and how Kirk and Spock became friends, one friend told me, and I must admit that that is an important draw that lured me to the movie.  However, being used to episodes and films which actually explored their cultural differences in viewpoint and showed us how they’d overcome them in friendship and united front, this movie isn’t any different than any action film which starts out with two different thinking guys and wow, at the end of the movie, they’re friends.  Cultural differences and even personality traits play no more significant part in this movie than they did with Crockett and Tubbs in Miami Vice, blond Hutch and curly-headed Starsky in Starsky and Hutch or Stallone and Russell in Tango and Cash.

Mind you, I’m an action/sci fi, male-male buddy banter junkie and so I love all that coming together in friendship and love, but after 40 years of seeing it done better, of reading fans writing about how this unusual friendship came about, and even reading Shatner’s book version of it, I expected better out of Paramount’s re-defining movie than the same shtick I’ve seen over and over again in any big blockbuster action film with two male leads.

The theme is about loss, another friend said.  Watching the fan-created WEAT, people openly sobbed at the sacrifice Sulu and his daughter Alana made.  The death of Spock in Star Trek II had people sobbing in the theater and even before the release, the mere idea of Spock dying threatened to derail box office expectations until Paramount ended STII with the potential of Spock’s resurrection.  People sobbed over the loss of the Enterprise in Star Trek III and Harve Bennett had to defend his decision to fans on the basis that saving lives is more important than saving machinery, no matter how beloved it is.

Here, in this movie, Vulcan, a planet that so many fans care about was destroyed, and Spock’s mother was killed and I didn’t see much concern coming from actors, characters, writers, director, or even audience for that matter.  If there was, I didn’t feel it.  In fact, I suspect the audience was more involved in how cool the special effects were in destroying the planet than any feeling for what was lost.  Did the writers have anything to say about loss or was it just cool to blow up a planet and kill off Spock’s mother?  Even Star Wars treated doing the same thing with more respect and caring.

I did feel loss, though.  Loss for the depth that Star Trek always had – for what I suspect drew people for 40 years from all occupations and education levels, whether they realized it or not.  The friend I went to the theater with said the writers would tell me that they were re-working old myths to appeal to today’s audiences and I can’t disagree.  It seems very much like any other big action movie I could go to today — just change the setting or the name of the ship or the character names and you have the same surface themes and engaging surface banter all taking second place to the wow factor of special effects.  Any weight these characters have seems to come from the history we bring to them, not from their own deserving.

It’s amusing that they promote this film as ‘not your grandfather’s Star Trek’ – and boy, are they ever right.  It will be interesting though if today’s youth actually want to grow up to this new Star Trek and how long they will consider it relevant – or if in the end, they will return to their grandfather’s Star Trek because it had substance, and hence, is still relevant.

There is another thing that was disturbing about this movie that also seems to be an unfortunate sign of the times, and that is the lack of respect or consideration for ‘experience.’  Gene Roddenberry’s Kirk may have been the hotshot, brilliant officer and youngest starship captain in the fleet, but he also came up through the ranks.  In the series, there is reference to Kirk being a midshipman and a lieutenant posted on another Starship under another captain’s command.  This gave him time to learn all the other things that an essentially ambassador to unknown worlds and the Federation’s representative and even legal authority needs to know, beyond how to blow up the enemy and save your ship from destruction.  Because the Enterprise is out there on her own, not just one ship in a line of ships patrolling together.  To have cadets (“Vulcan is in trouble.  Cadets report to the Enterprise…”) running the starship on the basis of performing brilliantly in one battle is ludicrous.

I know that there are time-honored field commissions in which non-commissioned men become officers and officers get promoted on the basis of heroics that show brilliance on the battlefield, but I doubt you can find me an example of a corporal being handed command of a battalion based on one brilliant performance.  My brother and I both skipped grades in grammar school and while my mother was okay with that, she also made us both read the books that we would have had in those classes.  She said we weren’t going to learn by osmosis what was taught in those classes – it required reading a book to know what’s in it.

Unfortunately, this blithe ignoring of the steps that Kirk and bridge crew should have to ground them and just handing them the end prize does seem too indicative of today’s youthful work force, who seem so eager to cut corners themselves that they don’t bother learning to spell or write with proper grammar, or even how to add, subtract, or multiply because their computers can do it all for them.  Back when I was young and in science, we had to work through the math on paper to show that the computer was programmed correctly and coming up with the right answer – we had to know why and how the computer spell check and grammar check was right or wrong.  Today too many people can twitter using their shorthand, but can’t construct a literate sentence or make change or determine a tip if the computer or calculator goes down.

Middle-aged and mature writers and workers can’t get work because suddenly they are viewed as having nothing relevant to say any more or have no experience relevant to today’s business models.  And young ones have little life experience to get something relevant to say and are in such a hurry for that money ring that they can only rework other people’s ideas under the guise of ‘homage’ or ‘making the old relevant for today’ which usually means just substituting today’s gadgetry and technology, not new imaginative ideas.

And judging by the abuse that has already been thrown at anyone expressing less than total love for this movie, and which I expect to receive for what I say here, I mourn the loss of another concept that has been an integral part of Star Trek for 40 years: IDIC.  [note: a friend who read this said I should explain this concept, but upon thinking about it, if you don’t know what it means,  you don’t really know original Star Trek, or what you are missing with this one.]

The best thing about this movie was Ambassador Spock talking to both young Kirk and young Spock about his friendship with his Kirk, which they had to look forward to.  Perhaps it is due to the craft of a veteran actor or perhaps it is due to Nimoy living through those same 40 years of Trek, but those few seconds were more exhilarating and meaningful than anything else.  Those seconds resonated with me, carried weight, and said something to me.  In fact, as I write this, those brief snippets of genuine joy and love are what my mind recalls and what brings a smile to my face.

As I said, Abrams’s Star Trek is a good, exciting ride.  I enjoyed the ride.  I enjoyed laughing at its humor.  And I appreciated the banter.  I just wished they had called it something else, for to me, this is something else wrapped in Star Trek’s clothing.  And I wish that in the future someone will come up with a fresh adventure of ‘grandfather’s Star Trek,’ for what grandfather’s Star Trek had and still has resonates more with me.  And, I suspect, will last longer.