Rob Watches Star Trek: A Poor Man’s Trek

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek
EPISODE: S3.E7. “Day of the Dove”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig
GUEST-STARRING: Michael Ansara
WRITER: Jerome Bixby
DIRECTOR: Marvin J. Chomsky
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: November 1, 1968
SYNOPSIS: An alien entity pits the Enterprise and the Klingons against each other.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I’m starting to understand the general consensus about season three of Star Trek. Which is to say, it’s a pretty big step down from seasons one and two. That’s not to say these episodes don’t have their positive points, as we’ll see here. But in a way it’s fitting the first episode of this season was about Spock’s brain being removed. Because three episodes into season three, it feels like a piece of Star Trek‘s brain is missing. As if we now have a poor man’s Star Trek. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that happened at the same time Gene Roddenberry had stepped back to strictly an executive producer role at this point…

Thankfully, its heart is still there. “Day of the Dove” culminates with the Enterprise crew and the Klingons temporarily putting aside their differences to stop a special effects blob that feeds off their aggression and violence. Said entity is even capable of implanting false memories into its victims to trigger anger and hostility. To finally fend off their common enemy, Kirk and Klingon Commander Kang prompt their respective sides to laugh and act jovial together (shown below).

Look at Spock’s face in that photo compared to Kang and Kirk. God damn, Leonard Nimoy was so great. I’d put money on that acting choice being a Nimoy decision, as opposed to one provided by the script or director. Obviously, Spock wouldn’t be inclined to show the kind of boisterous emotion the others are. So instead, Nimoy keeps it subtle and smiles with his eyes. Brilliant.

The major problem with this episode, for my money, is that there’s no punch to the moment when Kirk and Kang finally decide to work together against the entity. It’s not, say, a dramatic life-or-death situation where in order to survive the two sides have to trust one another. Thus, for a brief moment, proving that peace between them is possible and something that can be worked toward. Instead, it’s this awkward (and in Spock’s case, funny) moment of forced laughter. There’s no gravity or tension there.

Granted, in its third season Star Trek underwent major budget cuts. So a large-scale battle between this coalition and some strange new alien force wasn’t in the cards. Even an established group like the Romulans would likely have been too much. But instead of bringing in all those extras in to be Klingons, could they not have dressed a few of them up in a different kind of costume to establish a third, more dangerous and hostile group? Take Susan Howard, who plays the Klingon woman in this episode, and make her the leader. Granted, hindsight is always 20/20. But that seems easy enough, right?

Heck, we’ve got a bunch of swords in this episode for whatever reason. How about a big sword battle between the two sides in some wide open space aboard the Enterprise?

On the subject of physicality, I did take a certain amount of guilty pleasure in the wanton violence on display in this episode. Specifically, Kang walking into a room and punching Kirk in the face without provocation. Then, of course, Kirk giving him his receipt later. There was also Kirk knocking Chekov around a little bit. Granted, Chekov was being influenced by the entity at the time…

But still, it was fun. Can’t deny that.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Alex Ross Spotlight: Marvel “Timeless” Portraits

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

This week, Marvel unveiled a second wave of “Timeless” portraits by the incomparable Alex Ross. The paintings, which now total 28, will be used as variant covers this fall. They’re also being used for a mural in Marvel’s new offices.

Six of Ross’ “Timeless” portraits are pictured below. The rest can be seen here.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

George Lucas on Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Wise Mentor

***Think what you will about George Lucas, but in terms of Star Wars, it can all be traced back to him. That’s why I always find it so interesting to listen to him talk about it. His creative process, the reason certain decisions were made, and how these movies became pop cultural staples. This space is dedicated to just that. This is “George Lucas on Star Wars.”***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

THE SCENE(S): We are introduced to Obi-Wan Kenobi, a wise old hermit living in the deserts of Tatooine who was once a Jedi Knight. He guides Luke Skywalker throughout the film, teaching him the ways of the Force.

GEORGE LUCAS SAYS (VIA THE STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE COMMENTARY TRACK): “Most of the characters in this follow the classic mythological archetypes of the [in the case of Luke and Obi-Wan] the young hero and … the old wizard, the old man, the wise companion. … There’s always a teacher. Someone who mentors the young hero in what his destiny is.”

I SAY: Lucas famously read Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces before writing the original Star Wars treatment. So he’s very much a student of mythological motifs, archetypes, etc. One of which is, of course, the wise mentor.

Likely the most common example you’ll find is Merlin, who mentored King Arthur. But you’ve also got Biblical characters like Moses or Elijah, or Norse mythology characters like Odin or Mimir. The Iliad also has the likes of Nestor or Chiron. More modern examples include Gandalf from the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series, and even Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid.

Of course, Star Wars is filled with wise sages. After Obi-Wan in A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back introduced us to Yoda, and then Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace. Years later, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo would all play a version of the role in the sequel trilogy.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Rob Watches Star Trek: Klingons and Gene L. Coon

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek

EPISODE: S1.E26 “Errand of Mercy”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy
GUEST-STARRING: John Colicos, John Abbott

WRITER: Gene L. Coon
DIRECTOR: John Newland
ORIGINAL AIR DATE: March 23, 1967
SYNOPSIS: Kirk and Spock work to convince a peaceful world to fight back against occupation by the war-hungry Klingons.

By Rob Siebert
Trekkie-in-Training

There’s a beautifully hysterical moment in “Errand of Mercy” where the lead Klingon asks Kirk about the Federation Starfleet. Kirk, with the most sarcastically pleasant expression you’ve ever seen, simply says, “Go climb a tree.” (It’s at 29:14 on the Netflix version.)

You just know they wanted to write something like, “Go f#$k yourself.” It’s even got the same number of syllables. But somehow, William Shatner makes “Go climb a tree” work. You might call him a bad actor. But in that moment he was a goddamn genius in my book.

In this episode we meet the Klingons, whose presence in the Star Trek Universe has allowed them to transcend the show and gain a place in the collective pop cultural consciousness. Not bad, considering they started out as dudes covered in bronzer with vaguely racist facial hair. What’s more, based on wardrobe, it looks like they opted to invade a planet that looks a little bit like a Renaissance Fair on Ugg Boot Appreciation Day. But who am I to judge?

When I watched this episode, I noticed a name that’s continued to pop up over the course of “Rob Watches Star Trek”: Gene L. Coon, who has also been known by the pseudonym Lee Cronin. Thus far, we’ve seen him involved in the writing on episodes that brought us the Prime Directive, the famous episode about racism, Khan, the epic piece of camp glory that is the Gorn, and now the Klingons. These are all elements indelibly woven into the fabric of Star Trek. So while Gene Roddenberry may have created the show, Coon played a pivotal role in making it great. Much like an Irvin Kershner or Lawrence Kasdan did for the Star Wars universe.

As it turns out, Coon wasn’t just a writer on the show. He served as the showrunner for the first season and much of the second. He would ultimately leave the show over the direction of an episode called “Bread and Circuses,” which we’ll get to at the end of season two.

As for the Klingons themselves, they were conveniently created as a war-hungry authoritarian culture. One doesn’t need to jump through a lot of plot hoops to put them against Kirk and the Enterprise. I confess it’s somewhat unsettling to see them with, as Coon called them, “oriental” features, i.e. their facial hair. Supposedly they were a metaphor for the Japanese during World War II. Though I don’t think we can discount that the Vietnam War was happening at this time…

There’s a bit of deliciously twisted irony toward the end of this episode. Obviously “Errand of Mercy” is all about violence and war. We’ve got the peaceful Organians who are impossibly placid and neutral, caught in the middle of this war between the Federation and the Klingons.

Though they’re bound and determined to destroy one another, the two sides do end up coming together for a common cause: When the Organians use mysticism to prevent them from fighting, Kirk and the Klingon Governor Kor both insist they have the right to wage war on each other. Think about that. They’re standing up for their right to kill each other.

C’mon, Kirk. I’d have expected that from a Klingon. But you? Captain, I’m surprised at you. You’re better than that.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Weekly Comic 100s: Negan Lives, Ghostbusters, and More!

***”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

So can we all just stop with this “The Walking Dead comics are over” thing?

Negan Lives!, Robert Kirkman’s commendable attempt to drive readers back into comic shops came out this week. The Walking Dead #173, the “final” issue of the series, came out almost a year ago to the day. So they barely made it through another 12 months before coming back to the well. Mind you, no one could have predicted COVID-19. But my point still stands: The Walking Dead is not done. There’s too much money on the table, there’s still fan interest, and most importantly, the creators clearly still love doing it.

It might not come back as a monthly series. There might be years at a time where we don’t see it. But mark my words, The Walking Dead will rise again.

For the record, that’s not a bad thing. It’s a very, very good thing.

TITLE: Negan Lives!
AUTHOR: Robert Kirkman
ARTISTS: Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn (Gray Tones), Rus Wooton (Letterer).
RELEASED: July 1, 2020

Negan Lives! is pretty much what you want it to be: A return to the Negan character, with the door left open for more stories. It’s a fun time, but nothing shocking enough to wake the dead.

For better or worse, this return to form did make me realize how much I miss The Walking Dead. All the more reason to cut the BS and bring it back, already.

TITLE: Ghostbusters: Year One #4
AUTHOR: Erik Burnham
ARTIST:
Dan Shoening, Luis Delgado (Colorist), Neil Uyetake (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July 1, 2020

This issue gave me the warm fuzzies for Harold Ramis. I suspect that sentimental factor is partially why they saved Egon for last.

Ghostbusters: Year One ends on an open-ended note related to Egon. As this book is meant to be a prelude of sorts to Ghostbusters: Afterlife, I’m wondering if this leads into something in the movie. On the other hand, it could be another Burnham/Schoening comic. Either way, the fans win.

TITLE: Devil’s Highway #1
AUTHOR: Benjamin Percy
ARTISTS:
Brent Schoonover, Nick Filardi (Colorist), Sal Cipriano (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July 1, 2020

Like Dead Body Road last week, the success of Devil’s Highway largely hinges on the likability of its female protagonist. In that sense, it’s successful. But thus far the book doesn’t have much else going for it in terms of uniqueness. It’s a standard horror story, with art that’s not particularly memorable.

I’ve been a fan of much of what AWA Studios – Upshot has been putting out lately. But I can’t say Devil’s Highway will be a high priority for me going forward.

TITLE: I Can Sell You A Body #4
AUTHOR: Ryan Ferrier
ARTISTS:
George Kambadais, Ferrier (Letterer)
RELEASED:
July 1, 2020

I’m not sure how I expected this book to end. But I enjoyed what they did. Denny and Henrietta don’t get a textbook happy ending. But they don’t get a tragic one either. They wind up in a fun middle-ground.

All in all, I’d call this book an overachiever. It managed to be both intriguing and funny. Moreover, it’s memorable. It stays with you after you close an issue. I’ll be keeping an eye out for both Ferrier and Kambadais going forward.

TITLE: Batman: The Adventures Continue #7
AUTHOR: Alan Burnett, Paul Dini
ARTISTS:
Ty Templeton, Monica Cubina (Colorist), Joshua Reed (Letterer). Cover by James Harren.
RELEASED:
July 2, 2020

This one is a mixed bag. I appreciated the different sort of way Azrael was introduced, the way Catwoman was involved, and that they let him have his original costume before putting him in the Knightfall Batman suit. But I’m not so much a fan of how the suit is created in the DCAU. It’s almost done as an afterthought. Or worse, something they did just to sell toys.

And in all fairness, maybe that’s why they did do it.

TITLE: That Texas Blood #1
AUTHOR: Chris Condon
ARTIST:
Jacob Phillips
RELEASED:
June 24, 2020

Think Criminal meets early Southern Bastards. Then you’ve got a decent idea of what That Texas Blood is all about. At least at this juncture.

Solicited as a “neo-Western crime series,” the issue has a certain southern-fried charm to it. Case in point, our main character, 70-year-old Sheriff Joe Coates, is trying to retrieve his wife’s casserole dish when he stumbles into trouble. Coates has a simple likability that should balance well with the violence that’s sure to ensue in the coming pages.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Toy Chest Theater: Hawkeye by ssn_ryan

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

What’s it like to look out the window at night and see a superhero? We have the answer now, thanks to ssn_ryan and this shot of Hawkeye/Ronin.

I love that the moon is our only light source. In that sense, it makes the image both dark and bright at the same time. Clint’s visage is so subdued that it’s actually easy to look right past him. Which of course, is the idea when you’re an avenger (literally an Avenger) of the night.

This concept would actually work really well for Batman. Food for thought…

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Toy Chest Theater: Fishing with Namor

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I have a lot of respect for anyone that can do comedy in this medium. It’s not just a matter of putting toys in funny poses. You’ve got to have a good premise, the posing and “timing” of the shot has to be precise. It’s a lot of the same rules you find in cinema.

When I came across this image from petemenocal on Instagram, I got an immediate chuckle out of it. Like so many great shots do, it projects an entire moment or scene into your brain. In this case, a very cartoony few seconds in which you’ve got someone fishing in largely tranquil waters. Then suddenly Namor dives upward, only to quickly dive back down again. And the tranquility returns, with no explanation as to what’s happening underwater. It’s all left to the imagination.

It’s such a simple image. Yet it does so much. That’s one of the hallmarks of a great toy photographer.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

George Lucas on Star Wars: Staying Together

***Think what you will about George Lucas, but in terms of Star Wars, it can all be traced back to him. That’s why I always find it so interesting to listen to him talk about it. His creative process, the reason certain decisions were made, and how these movies became pop cultural staples. This space is dedicated to just that. This is “George Lucas on Star Wars.”***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The Scene: Like the various groups throughout the Star Wars saga, the heroes of The Phantom Menace are a diverse lot. We have two Jedi, a young queen, a gungan fool, a liberated slave, among others.

George Lucas Says: “One of the difficulties in writing a script with lots and lots of characters is you have to be able to rationalize why everybody is along. If you have a film like Dirty Dozen, where you sort of establish they’re all going out on a mission together, and you gather them all up and they go, it’s pretty easy. But when you have a situation like this where there isn’t any mandate that they stay together, and they’re there for transitory reasons that are constantly having to be renewed as the plot progresses, it becomes much more difficult to be able to get all the characters in on the act and take them along…”

I Say: I can appreciate what he’s saying here, and I appreciate its value. But I’m only half joking when I say it still doesn’t explain why Qui-Gon brought eight-year-old Anakin into a war zone.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Alex Ross Spotlight: Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe

By Rob Siebert
Kontent Kreator

I’m not a huge gamer, though I’ve been known to dabble. I dipped my toe into Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe back in the day. Not really my cup of tea.

What was my cup of tea? The special collector’s cover for the game, drawn by Alex Ross…

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.