Wednesday, September 13, 2017

35TH ANNIVERSARY THEATRICAL RETURN OF WRATH OF KHAN DEFINITELY NOT A NO-WIN SCENARIO!

Admit it. You can still here that scream down through the years, right? You know the one:



Yeah, THAT one! Well, it still rings out with all the power and desperation that it had back in 1982 as I discovered this past week when I attended the Fathom Events theatrical showing of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (WOK). Does it still hold up? Damn straight it does! And not just because of Kirk's powerful bellow.

There's a reason that, even after 35 years, Wrath of Khan is still voted the best Star Trek film ever made. Its story-telling remains unsurpassed in both writing and visual terms. In an age of CGI where literally anything can be put onto film, WOK's intimate cat and mouse game still holds up. Why? Because everything works.

Kirk and Khan face off the first time
THE STORY

Director Nick Meyer did the impossible – he took a so-so script and in just ten days time turned it into the masterwork that we know today. Despite having zero knowledge of Star Trek, he quickly figured out what made the original series work at its best, and with producer Harve Bennet chose what is surely one of the best, most exciting and action-packed TOS episodes, "Space Seed", as the basis for their film. That choice would be the impetus to greatness.

THE CHARACTERS

Where the earlier Star Trek: The Motion Picture had taken a cold, subdued approach to Trek, WOK embraced the characters for what they were at their best – passionate and vital. The result was a complete turnaround for our gallant captain and crew. Gone was the sternness of The Motion Picture's gray tones and even grayer plot. Suddenly, our heroes were back in vivid color and breathless action. They were once again the ideals that we had fallen in love with all those years ago, back to save the day once again.

Khan has a few words with Joaquin
THE ANTAGONIST

In the fifty-plus years of Star Trek, there has simply never been a more menacing, larger-than-life villain than Khan Noonien Singh as brought to glorious life by the great Ricardo Montalban. Beginning with "Space Seed", the character leapt off the screen and into fan's hearts as the epitome of Treky bad-assness. When we catch up to the character some 15 years later he's lost none of his bombast. Far from it! Somehow, Montalban imbued his later characterization with even more intensity and boldness, making a perfect foil for the older, wiser Kirk. It was chess-playing at its best.

Duking it out in the Mutara Nebula
THE BATTLE

Though CGI-less, the battle between Kirk's Enterprise and Khan's Reliant still has the original power of its then-cutting-edge special effects. The Enterprise never looks better than she does stalking the Reliant through the beautifully-unique Mutara Nebula, evoking the best of the WWII submarine movies. Soaring slowly through stellar mists, the mighty starship has an unequaled majesty in WOK that will, unfortunately, never come again. There's something about physical models that seem to portray an immenseness that I seldom get from a CGI creation.

THE DEATH SCENE

Spoiler alert: Spock dies. But he doesn't get beat up on a bridge (uh) or smothered by a tar monster (really, TNG?), no. He dies the greatest death ever shown on all of Star Trek. The climactic scene when Kirk runs to his friend, only to find that he is too late, is the single most poignant moment in fifty years of Trek story-telling, in this writer's opinion. As our two heroes have their last few seconds together, we are crushed by the loss in a way that was heretofore unknown in Star Trek.



For me, TNG's "Inner Light" is the only thing that even approaches its emotional level.

Perhaps the single most amazing thing about Khan is the fact that the two main characters never actually physically share a single scene. The entire interaction between Kirk and Khan happens over communicators and view-screens. In most films that would be a vast problem, yet in WOK you're really not ever aware of it. The action is so taught and fast-paced that we never have time to make that realization.

Will Khan hold up for another thirty-five years? Only time will tell. But in this fan's heart, there will never be another two hours of Star Trek that can surpass the sublime experience that is Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Like the man said:

"KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANN!"

LLAP

Don

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

"FORBIDDEN PLANET" ONE AND ONLY ROBBY THE ROBOT GOES TO AUCTION! HOW MANY MILLIONS WILL HE COMMAND?

Robby's ready to rock (Bonham's)
Just when I think I can't be surprised by my hobby, along comes an auction of one of the single greatest icons in all of science fiction – the original Robby the Robot from 1956's Forbidden Planet! Robby was made famous in that great classic film, but that was just the beginning of his
"career". Robby was such an amazingly well-made piece of movie magic that he would go on to appear in films and TV icludinng the original Lost in Space and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
His last appearance was as recent as an AT&T commercial in 2006.

What does Robby have to do with Star Trek? Plenty. In a letter written to Herb Solow in 1964 during Star Trek's original pre-production phase, Gene Roddenberry states:

"You may recall we saw MGM’s 'FORBIDDEN PLANET' with Oscar Katz some weeks ago."

He goes on to say that he thought the film could help generate ideas for Star Trek:

"But a detailed look at it again would do much to stimulate our own thinking."

The film featured an exploratory starship (not unlike the Enterprise) from an organization called the "United Planets", no doubt a close relative to Star Trek's "United Federation of Planets". The crew used a naval hierarchy that was also adopted by Star Trek.

Robby in a scene opposite Walter Pidgeon in "Forbidden Planet" (MGM)
The look and feel of Forbidden Planet was unlike anything that had ever come before it. The technology was realistically portrayed, one of the first times such a thing was done with what was usually considered to be "B"-grade entertainment. Almost ten years later, Star Trek would do the same thing yet again, presenting a new take on the future.



Robby is perhaps the epitome of that presentation of technology. Before him, robots were little more than tin cans with actors inside and featured crude details at best. But Robby was a revelation. Gone was the clumsily-designed robots of the past. Robby had a sleek sophistication in his design that is still unequaled to this day in this writer's opinion.

Robby meets the gang (MGM)
What is additionally amazing about the auction at-hand is not just the fact that Robby is up for bid, but it also includes the various accessories and spare parts created for Forbidden Planet, including the car in which Robby zips round Altair. An astounding extra!

Robby's original car is part of the auction (Bonham's).
Robby in his car with co-star Anne Francis (MGM)

This auction really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for someone with deep pockets. I think Robby will easily exceed a million dollars. Just how high could he go for? Who knows? Check out the Bonhams auction HERE.

So get ready to bid – and write a big check!

LLAP

Don

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

HAPPY 100TH BIRTHDAY TO JACK "THE KING" KIRBY! GONE BUT NEVER, EVER FORGOTTEN!!

One hundred years ago, a force of nature was born named Jacob Kurtzberg, who millions of comics fans would come to know as Jack Kirby. If you don't know who he is, shame on you! One of the all-time-greats, Kirby, along with Stan Lee, began to build what we now know as the Marvel Universe with Fantastic Four #1 in 1961. He would go on to co-create dozens of well-known characters for both Marvel and DC. He was one of my favorite story-tellers and I owe him a lot!


LLAP

Don

Monday, August 28, 2017

35TH ANNIVERSARY OF WRATH OF KHAN – WRITER/DIRECTOR NICK MEYER TALKS ABOUT PUTTING WORDS INTO MONTALBAN'S MOUTH IN AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

In the aftermath of the announcement that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan will be hitting theaters for its 35th Anniversary (check out FATHOM EVENTS), the great man and creator of Wrath of Khan himself, filmmaker Nicholas Meyer gave an exclusive interview to our friends over at Borg.Com. Don't miss the excellent two-part story!


LLAP

Don

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

HERO-TRICORDER PART 1: AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BASICS

This is one of a multi-part series of stories regarding a research project covering original series Star Trek Tricorders and Phasers. An overview of the project can be found HERE

Ah, the Tricorder. That amazing machine that instantly told Captain Kirk (and us) just what the heck was going on 300 meters ahead of wherever the heck they were. Unlike most TOS props, the Tricorder was actually a story-telling device, meant to inform the audience of some piece of information that would otherwise not be available. They served the same purpose as "sensors" did on the Enterprise – they gave us the skinny on something.

Wah Ming Chang's original Tricorder sketch
Star Trek creator and producer Gene Roddenberry came up with the concept for story-telling purposes. But for the actual design and execution of the prop, he turned to special effects artist Wah Ming Chang whose work on 1961's "The Time Machine" won an Oscar. Wah came up with the basic design that is now familiar to everyone. After getting Roddenberry's approval of his sketch, he went on to build two highly detailed "hero" Tricorders for the show. Later Trics would be copied from these first two.

It's important to note that much of what we know about Tricorders stems from the four known surviving examples that are now in various collector's hands. Each survivor has been visually matched to an on-screen version, sometimes in minute detail. But while the survivors tell us a lot, they also leave huge gaping holes in the Tricorder story. How many of each kind were made? When did they come about? Why were different versions built? Each of these questions will be answered in depth in future posts. But we start here with a brief overview of all the Tricorder examples. Future installments will be getting down to the nitty-gritty on each of the styles mentioned here.

In our research we discovered that there were four different types of prop Trics:

One of two Hero Tricorders built for TOS





















1. Heroes – "Hero" refers to any prop meant to be seen close-up. It is built to look as sophisticated as possible so as to sell the idea of reality. Two of these highly detailed props were created. Built at the beginning of the show for Season 1 and modified in Seasons 2 & 3.

2.  Fiberglass – Three copies were made of these simplified versions meant for longer shots and stunt use. Introduced partway through Season 1 with the episode "Arena.

Fiberglass versions









3. Leatherettes – A second type of detailed version meant for close-ups and general use and named for the faux leather used on their exteriors. Two copies were made. Not seen until Season 3, these became the new de facto Heroes, perhaps the original Heroes were too beat up by Season 3, or perhaps they were deemed too cumbersome. Whatever the reason, though, these became the Trics usually seen throughout Season 3.

Leatherettes

















4. Stunt  – A crudely made version used for – what else? – stunt use. Only one was known to exist. This type only appeared in early Season 1 episodes like "Miri" where they obviously didn't want to risk damaging the expensive Heroes. Until the Season 1 episode "Arena", the show apparently only had the two hero props to work with so the stunt was built. This filled the need for a heartier version that could sustain abuse until the Fiberglass versions came along for "Arena".

Stunt





















So there's our overview. Coming up next, I'll be getting in-depth with the Hero Tricorders and spill the beans on everything known so far. They were the first Trics made, of course, and had quite a convoluted history of use. Trek prop fans won't want to miss it!

LLAP

Don

PLEASE NOTE: if readers have additional information we want to hear from you! Anything that adds to the research is appreciated. And, if we have something wrong, by all means, let us know.

Friday, August 18, 2017

INTRODUCING AN ALL-NEW TPZ STAR TREK "HERO" PROP RESEARCH PROJECT

There's an amazing website out there that does what no other resource has ever achieved. It's called HeroComm and it has made a science out of researching the various communicator props that were used back in the original Star Trek TV show (TOS) of the sixties.


The folks who worked on this project used the scientific method which meant that every theory had to be proven through thorough research and testing of ideas. The ultimate resource for them was the original episodes themselves. While the Communicators were in most episodes, they were usually hidden from view in an actors hand or the camera was just too far away for us to see any real detail. But every once in a while, magic would happen, and we got a fast glimpse of a Communicator close up and suddenly a unique mix of details could be seen. By poring over every moment of every episode in which a Communicator was shown, insights that had been previously hidden were brought to light. A total of ten props were identified – two "hero" versions with internal moving parts and eight "dummy" props that only had an openable lid.

All of this amazing research has been a boon to fans of TOS props. Many, many fake Communicators have been offered for sale over the years and until HeroComm came along, many of those fakes were accepted as being the real thing. But with this information available to all, anyone can read the research and decide for themselves if that piece that was supposedly bought from George Takei in 1978 is actually real. Hint: it isn't!

I have personally availed myself of this information many times over the years and have found it invaluable. There's one problem, though. As amazing as HeroComm is, it only focuses on (naturally!) Communicators. But in TOS circles, the Comm is only one of The Big Three Props, the other two being the Phaser and the Tricorder. What I longed for was a resource that was equal to HeroComm but with the emphasis on those other two great props.

As luck would have it, I've been a long time member of a Star Trek prop forum called the Trek Prop Zone (TPZ). The TPZ's membership includes what is simply the most informed group in the world when it comes to TOS props. These people make astounding copies of every type of prop ever seen in Star Trek over the past 50 years! They are painstakingly thorough in their research and execution and as such, the TPZ is the natural place to find the information I sought.

Since the TPZ's inception more than ten years ago, a crapload of research had been done on Phasers and Tricorders. The problem was, it was all over the place, in dozens (hundreds?) of individual threads and was so dispersed that it was virtually impossible for one person like me to cull the needed info from the past. So I approached TPZ owner Kevin Hanson with my idea of using all the TPZ's resources – both the members themselves and their great content – to create what we now call HeroTricorder and HeroPhaser. He was on-board enthusiastically and we commenced the project.

I'm kind of a nut for research and it was my job to spearhead things but I was in no way "in charge". I simply put things in motion and the members took it from there! Over the next couple of years, dozens of members would add to the slush-pile of information on every aspect of both types of props. We would painstakingly sort through every theory, claim, cliche and wild guess to figure out what was true and what was conjecture. We challenged every past preconception and had one mantra: a theory had to be proven to be accepted.

As you might guess, that lead to several passionate conversations ("the removable data disk" theory comes to mind!) but everyone was very civil and open-minded and we were all trying to do the same thing: figure stuff out. It was a lot of fun (Hey, we're prop nerds! Get over it!) and we uncovered an amazing amount of data that surprised each and every one of us in some way. We followed the information to wherever it lead, and it was never in a straight line.

Over the upcoming months, I'll be sharing all of our Hero research on this blog. You might have noticed that the HeroComm site has information regarding Tricorders and Phasers, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. I'll be sharing our methodology and research with in-depth stories that will explain exactly how we know what we know.

First up will be Tricorders (all four kinds!) followed by Phasers (too many kinds!) so stay tuned.

LLAP

Don