Four Letter Nerd

Tag - Star Trek

In Memoriam: Leonard Nimoy

I don’t typically get all broken up about celebrities dying. Though they may touch our lives with their work, we don’t know them and having an emotional attachment to them has always struck me as a little silly. Thus celebrity deaths are more or less a way to mark the time.

How very logical of me.

But, here I am holding back tears as I write this, because Leonard Nimoy died today, at 83. He was many things: an actor, a director and photographer, an author, a philosopher. But to me, and to so many around the world and across the decades, he was Spock. Spock, who in so many ways defines the best of what Star Trek is and what it aspires to be.

Half Vulcan and half Human, Spock’s journey mirrors our own. What does it mean to be Human? How do we reconcile the intensity of our emotions with the need to deal with our world and those around us rationally? When should we listen to our heart and when should our head take the lead? What does it mean to be a friend? The very best of Star Trek investigates these basically human, existential questions. A journey into the unknown of space is simply the occasion to ask the questions.

Outside of his life as Spock, Leonard Nimoy took these questions to heart and lived them out in his life and work. These adventures will be well detailed across the Internet today, so I won’t go into them here.

I only want to say this: as Leonard Nimoy now travels the final frontier, may we all live long and prosper.

(Editor’s note: this article was written by Logan Robertson at the Disembodied Beard)

(Barely) Star Trek

(Editor’s note: this article was written by our friend Mark from the Disembodied Beard)

I’ll make this short. Star Trek and Star Wars aren’t the same. It’s not an apples to apples comparison. You can’t ask someone if they’re a “Trek” or a “Wars” person, because that’s not a real dichotomy. Star Wars is a frenetic opera. Star Trek is Shakespearean theater in the best sense. You can like both, because they’re wildly different things to like, though you might not realize it after watching Into Darkness.

FqtiEiG

A comic I did a while back for DisembodiedBeard.net, my usual soapbox, which addresses the growing murkiness.

For this reason, Paramount trying to make Star Trek 3 like Guardians of the Galaxy is an awful idea. There’s no nice way to say it. Guardians is also an opera. A really good one, at that. It’s such a good opera, I hope the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII sat up and took notes. But wanting Star Trek to be that way means you don’t know what Star Trek is. Have you watched Star Trek? Go back and binge on The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine. Do you realize how much talking there is? How much standing, deliberating, thinking happens in a 45-minute episode? Enough to fill a Lucas Films CGI department.

I’m an old man. I have been since I was a child. So maybe “I’m just bitching,” as my ailing grandmother once said to her shocked family. But Star Trek is special. It’s unique and lovely, and it’s art. I know that because it’s transformative, because it leads the viewer to new information and new ways of seeing old information. It does something no one else has been able to replicate. It’s why fans like me long for another Trek show; television could use it. The problem is, no network is going to pick up a Trek series with that trademark tone if Hollywood keeps setting a skewed Trek agenda. Which is why, if there are any movie executives reading this, please, hear me out: think Gravity, not Guardians.

The Wide World of Sci-Fi Spoofs

I have a confession to make, and it will rock the foundations of everything you have known or will know – I am a big fan of science-fiction (I might have embellished a bit, if that shook you to your core it’s time to find a new core).   My all-time favorite sci-fi series is Star Wars, but I also enjoy Star Trek (The Original Series all the way).  One thing that I like just as much or more (in some cases) than these franchises are the spoofs that are borne out of them.

It’s important to note that not all spoofs are created equal.  Some miss the point of the films entirely, but others – the ones in this list, for instance – are absolutely wizard (bringing it back).

Spaceballs

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Mel Brooks is a comedic genius and if you say otherwise then you better have one hell of a good argument to support your position (I expect charts, spreadsheets, and pivot tables).  Due to my appreciation of sci-fi this is probably my favorite movie of his.  From characters to merchandising (Spaceballs the FLAMETHROWER), Spaceballs goes after everything Star Wars.

Spaceballs follows Lone Star and Barf as they try to rescue Princess Vespa from the tyrannical Dark Helmet.  You know the movie has comedic potential when the “terrifying villain” is played by Rick Moranis, and the late John Candy plays the Chewbacca-esque sidekick.  Bill Pullman also does a good job trying to emulate Han Solo while flying a Winnebago, which is no easy task!

If you have a Netflix subscription you can stream it instantly.  I highly recommend it.

 

Robot Chicken Star Wars Special I-III

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The Robot Chicken Star Wars Specials get better and longer with each entry.  The first one is relatively short, but is totally worth a watch.  The second and third installments are absolutely hilarious.  Seth Green goes out of his way to include some pretty obscure references and even brings in Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), and Ahmed Best (Jar-Jar Binks) to voice their own characters.

Robot Chicken, for the uninitiated, is a stop motion variety show created by Family Guy’s Seth Green.  The regular show includes characters from all over Pop Culture, but also has three Star Wars Specials and one DC Comics Special, which is also really good (Aquaman is made fun of the ENTIRE time, so Bill isn’t really a fan).  The Specials also include voiceovers by Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane, Zach Efron, and Scrubs’ Donald Faison.

 

Redshirts

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This is the only novel on the list, and it is freaking incredible.  I first heard about Redshirts while listening to an interview with the author, John Scalzi, on NPR.  The novel follows Andrew Dahl, an Ensign who has just been assigned to the Intrepid (think Enterprise) the flagship of the Universal Union.  He and the other new recruits begin to notice that on every away mission at least one low-ranking crewmember dies, while the famous senior officers (think Kirk, Spock, and Bones) always survive, although Lt. Kerensky always seems to be horribly maimed or infected with some exotic disease yet always recovers in a matter of days.  The non-senior members of the crew begin to be very superstitious of the away missions and do everything in their power to not be on the away team.  Eventually the Ensigns discover the reason for their ill fate, and must try to find a way to put an end to their lot as cannon fodder.

Redshirts won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel, and for an added bonus the audiobook is narrated by Wil Wheaton.

 

Galaxy Quest

GalaxyQuestCast

Galaxy Quest is another great Star Trek parody.  The movie follows the cast of the once-popular, fictional sci-fi series, Galaxy Quest years after it was canceled.  While the fictional cast, played by Tim Allan, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell (who was an unnamed character who was the equivalent of a Redshirt), and Daryl Mitchell are attending a Galaxy Quest convention they are convinced by a group of aliens called the “Thermians” to come aboard their ship (which was made to look exactly like the Protector, their ship in the series).  At first they think it is an elaborate joke, but begin to realize that the Thermians believed that the reruns of their TV show were actual historical documents detailing their real adventures.  The cast must quickly become the characters they portrayed to save the Thermians from the evil warlord,  Sarris.

J. J. Abrams called Galaxy Quest one of the greatest Star Trek films ever made despite its parody status.

Family Guy Blue Harvest

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This is the first of a trilogy of film’s by Seth MacFarlane spoofing the original Star Wars trilogy.  I am only adding the first of the three to the list because I think the subsequent films were pretty weak in comparison.  Blue Harvest is almost a frame for frame reproduction of Star Wars: a New Hope, except with loads of Family Guy humor.  Peter Griffin is Han Solo, Lois is Leia, Chris is Luke Skywalker, Bryan is Chewbacca, and Herbert (the creepy old guy) is Ben Kenobi.  Meg is in the movie too, although she only has one scene as the Dianoga in the trash compacter (the one-eyed tentacle monster that tried to drown Luke).  They call out a lot of the plot holes in a New Hope and it’s a lot of fun, but only if you are a fan of Family Guy.

 

I hope you guys enjoy these incredible parodies.  Let me know what you think about the list, and if there are any spoofs you think should’ve been included let us know in the comments.

 

Star Wars Part 3 – Return of the Franchise

Here it is, folks. We finally made it to the third article in this trilogy. In Part One we discussed the cultural influences from which Star Wars was borne, and in Part Two we looked at how the franchise impacted the entertainment industry and American culture as a whole (has anyone joined the Temple of the Jedi Order yet?). Now we look at all the glorious things the future holds, that some of us will undoubtedly whine about.

So far, Disney has kept almost every detail about the new trilogy close to the vest, but there are some details emerging. Here is a look at what is to come for the Star Wars franchise.

Probably the biggest news following Disney buying out Lucas is that Episodes VII, VIII, and IX are gearing up to be released in 2015, 2017, and 2019. I am beyond excited about this. J.J. Abrams will be ditching the trekkies, and will be directing (and he recently apologized for how much lens flare was used in Star Trek, so that shouldn’t be a problem).

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It still could be a problem though

Michael Arndt has been tasked with the screenplay. You may remember him as the man who caused grown men to try to silently weep while watching Toy Story 3 in theaters. The actual story is more under wrap than the Ark of the Covenant at the end of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (or more so at the beginning of the movie I guess).

Apparently time heals all wounds, as perennial grump, Harrison Ford (who wanted Han Solo killed off in Empire Strikes Back, and was very vocal about his dislike of the monotony of the character) appears to be prepping to retake the captain’s chair in the Falcon along side Leia (is she still a princess if Alderaan is gone?) and Mark Hamill. I assume Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2 will also make an appearance as well.

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Harrison Ford’s recurring fantasy

There are also plans for standalone films that are slated to be released in between the actual trilogy making it possible for us to have a new Star Wars film every year from 2015 through 2021. These films are rumored to focus on back-stories for fan favorites Yoda, Boba Fett (whose 3 minutes of screen time, and ridiculous “death” miraculously made everyone love him), and Han Solo. There have also been hints that Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine could make an appearance as well. This strategy seems similar to Disney’s Avengers strategy, where they release several individual movies that culminate with a joint venture. The man behind the Empire Strikes Back, Lawrence Kasdan, will write one of these films, and Simon Kinberg, who wrote Sherlock Holmes, will write another.

Star Wars Rebels will be an animated series set between Episodes III and IV, and will follow the birth of the Rebel Alliance. With a release date of Fall 2014, Rebels will be the first foray into the Star Wars universe and it will air on Disney XD. With the success of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, the possibility of a live-action TV show has skyrocketed, but they will probably wait to see how successful Episode VII will be before launching it.

Disney has also announced a multiyear, exclusive agreement with gaming juggernaut Electronic Arts. Star Wars Battlefront III (which originally was canned although it was almost complete) has already been announced and probably has me more excited that anything. EA has announced that three of their top studios – Dice, Visceral, and Bioware – will be working on games for the Star Wars franchise.

Bioware already has ventured into Star Wars with the MMORPG, Star Wars the Old Republic, and is also behind sci-fi epic Mass Effect. Dice is behind the beloved Battlefield franchise, which will translate very well into Battlefront style games, and Visceral is the team behind sci-fi horror series, Dead Space. It would be hard to choose a better set of companies to work on Star Wars games.

Lastly, it is highly likely that Disney will build a Star Wars themed park. At the D23 expo they scattered crates with Star Wars references around the expo center. The Star Wars franchise appears to lend itself almost perfectly to a theme park. Space dogfights, Cantina themed restaurants, podracing, it all can work and work well. I would love to walkthrough a life-sized Millennium Falcon, pilot an X-Wing, and walkthrough Imperial corridors. It all just appears to be so right.

If you are a Star Wars fan, there is a LOT of stuff coming down the trash chute. Undoubtedly, there will be fans that have low expectations after the prequel trilogy, but I think the pros outweigh the cons by a landslide, and I am excited to see where this franchise is going.

So what do you think? Will Disney be able to repeat the success they had with the Marvel brand?

From the Nerdery (Mailbag)

Welcome to our first ever Mail Bag! We are proud to say that we didn’t have to make any questions up, as we thought we might have to from lack of participation. Hopefully next week we’ll get a bigger turn out. At any rate. Here we go.

 

PJ inquires—

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

 

First thing I want to know is who made up this question in the first place? I feel like this question first came to life in some hole in the wall bar in Montana from a grizzled drunk old guy trying to pick up some ladies. Can’t you hear it “Heeeyyy, I got a question (hiccup) HOW mUch wood…(pauses for thought) could a WOODCHUCK chuck iF a woodC(hiccup)ck could chuck…(another pause) wood?” then gives a wink, half smiles, and falls asleep. For arguments sake, let’s say a woodchuck could chuck wood. It’s really subjective to the size of wood being chucked right?

woodchuck-cider

Look at a woodchucks arms… it could barely hold up one of those delicious hard ciders it works so hard to make. While they may be tiny, they are known to move 700lbs of dirt when digging their burrows. 700lbs!!! That’s basically the mom from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape plus another 175 pounds. Stamina is definitely on their side I would say. So if they were chucking twigs or even small branches, and let’s say those twigs averaged 0.5 pounds each, I would estimate they could chuck about 1275 pieces of wood. I say that much just because I’m sure it would need a break to eat some nuts or something and eventually just getting bored of throwing wood. SO there, now you know. -Cody

 

Shane writes —

Just tossing this out there, but with the internet and kids in general being much more informed, will it be harder to make a successful sci-fi movie about involving elements from our solar system…ie…life on Mars.

Great question.

It depends on how you like your science-fiction. Are we talking Star Trek or Star Wars? Star Trek thrives in a scientifically driven universe, while Star Wars couldn’t give two bantha poodoo’s whether or not something is possible, but both of those series are well received.

I think sci-fi works best as a setting, not a classroom. For the most part people are willing to get over the writer’s throw away science jargon as long as the story is enjoyable. For instance, Red Planet wasn’t a good movie because the story was awful. If the story was halfway decent people probably would have been more willing to believe a robotic hellhound would chase an on-his-way out Val Kilmer across the face of Mars.

Kilmer

I bet you didn’t expect a Red Planet reference.

Ultimately, if a child wants to be engaged in a particular story he/she will be. If they want to spend their time pointing out all the impossibilities in a story then they will be hard-pressed to find any fictional story enjoyable since reality is almost always exaggerated for entertainment purposes. -Cam

 

Nathan writes –

Instead of Batman vs. Superman, what about a tag team match between Bats/Supes vs. Iron Man/Thor – who would win?

The answer to this question was thrown around by several 4LN team members… it took a lot of thought, but here goes.

The two teams are almost identical to each other: Superman and Thor are both heavyweights with few weaknesses and way too much power, and Batman and Iron Man both rely on their brains (and excessive wealth) to become powerful.

Superman’s main problem is that one of his weaknesses is magic, and after a lengthy discussion on whether or not Thor uses magic to control magic as opposed to conjuring magical lightning, we think that this could pose a problem for Supes. In Kingdom Come, Shazam uses lightning to beat Superman to within an inch of his life, and is only stopped by a bit of trickery on Superman’s part. Thor would probably use the same tactic, and he wouldn’t be beaten by turning him into an 8 year old like Shazam was.

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Thor, on the other hand, is far more mortal than Superman. He isn’t nearly as overpowered is Supes, and has far more weaknesses. This fight would devolve into a knockdown drag out brawl probably ending similarly to Superman: Doomsday, in that they would just beat each other into oblivion.

This leaves us with Batman and Iron Man. Iron Man definitely has the better tech, but we still see Batman coming out on top because of his self-mastery. Tony Stark is incredibly arrogant and thinks he will always come out on top because of how awesome he is. Batman is a master tactician who would use Tony’s arrogance against him.

Arrogance is really Thor’s major problem in this battle too. His arrogance would get the better of him. Superman and Batman are a lot more level headed, which would allow them to come out on top.

Quick sidenote: not all of us here at 4LN agree that Batman would beat Iron Man.  Bill (who surprisngly hates Iron Man) feels that Stark’s technology is just too much for Batman to overcome.

Final Consensus: Superman and Batman, with Batman as the last man standing. -Cam, Cody, Stephen, and Bill

 

Well that’s it for this weeks mailbag. Send us your questions for next week. –4LN Crew