A Better Week

Funny, I am not the only one who has been working on fitness who has thought of this book from Young Frankenstein.
I have to go back to basics and go by the book if I want to lose the weight I need to. I have to remember what made me successful in the past.

I set January 4 as the target date to make those adjustments to my nutrition so I could reboot my fitness journey. I also set out to get back to my daily supplement and protein routine. I was off to a flying start the first two days. Then the events in Washington, D.C., on January 6 totally threw me off. Again, exercise is not my problem. Eating things I shouldn’t, in amounts I shouldn’t, and in this case, stress eating, are my problems. I also haven’t stepped on the scale since.

So, I wrote this past Sunday that this week would be better, and I have to admit is has been, not perfect, but better. No overeating and I have been better about unhealthy snacking. However, I have yet to get into a daily routine with my supplements, water, and sufficient protein intake. I never could get enough protein in my meals without significantly adding to calorie counts so I always have supplemented with protein shakes. The bottom line is I haven’t been able to craft a daily routine/schedule/regimen that includes supplements, protein, and water.

This past week’s workouts were great but the tendonitis in my knees has flared up again as of this morning and I feel like I might have a right calf strain. Got out and played some more basketball. Range on the three-point shot has increased again. I made the deepest shot I think I’ve ever made, approximately 27-feet out. Not quite Dame-range but I thought it was pretty good. My right shoulder is finally starting to feel better.

The goal for this coming week is to finally rip off the band-aid and get back on the scale and start tracking the measurables again. I also plan to finally get my daily routine down for supplements, protein and water. I have a pretty good daily routine going when it comes to activities so I don’t know why I am having a problem incorporating these other things. I also have to be even stricter when it comes to what I consume. I won’t get where I want to go if I don’t.

So, Monday morning I plan on jumping back on the scale and developing a daily routine that will set me up for success. I think I have the food thing back under control so now I have to handle the other elements. It’s all about self-discipline. And considering I am work at home these days, I really have no excuse. As I have become fond of saying, this weight isn’t going to lose itself.

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The Randomness of Star Trek’s Random Characters

The core seven characters from Star Trek: The Original Series in one of the theatrical films (l-r): Spock, Sulu, Chekov, Kirk, Scotty, Bones, Uhura.

Since I started this exploration of Star Trek: The Original Series, I have taken note of the characters, especially since there was such a difference between the unaired pilot and the actual premiere. I have been particularly watching for the establishment of the core seven: Kirk, McCoy, Spock, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, and Chekov. Uhura and Sulu disappear for episodes at a time while Scotty has become more of a constant as we go, and Chekov didn’t make his first appearance until the premiere of Season 2. I’ll post an entry in the (b)log when these characters finally become the seven we all know and love and see in the theatrical films.

This entry is about the random characters who appear for one or two episodes (with a few exceptions) with no introduction or explanation. And I am not talking about the redshirts who are fodder for whatever nightmare the crew happens to encounter each week. And I am also not talking about the yeomen characters, all women, who bring coffee to the officers on the bridge. There are a few recurring characters like Nurse Chapel, but new helmsmen, navigators, and communications officers just appear on the bridge and have prominent parts to play. I spent time aboard ship in the Navy, I know people can’t work 24 hours a day, they need relieved, R&R, shore leave, all that. But a few of these characters have been, well, out of this world. And often, they meet with a grisly fate by the end of the episode.

Celeste Yarnall plays Yeoman Martha Landon in “The Apple.” She is Chekov’s love interest and the two of them do an awful lot of canoodling as part of a landing party. Never mind that David Soul played a resident of the planet. After playing a key role in the episode, including a major fight scene, Landon is never seen again. In the next episode, “The Doomsday Machine,” Elizabeth Rogers plays communications officer Lt. Palmer, and Uhura is nowhere to be found. Rogers goes on to play the voice of the “companion” in “Metamorphosis,” and Palmer again in a later episode. Perhaps the biggest example of a random character is DeSalle played by Michael Barrier. DeSalle is a redshirt who takes command of the Enterprise while Kirk leads a landing party in “Catspaw.” His character is an asshole. He’s mean and nasty to the other bridge officers and there is no explanation for his presence. He appeared in two earlier episodes and wasn’t noticeable. I’m glad his character is never seen again. There were several of these disposable characters in Season 1 as well. Lt. Kyle, played by John Winston, appeared in 11 episodes. He reprised his role in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. He played a different character in a 2004 Star Trek TV spin-off series.

In “I, Mudd,” the return of Harry Mudd, Richard Tatro plays Norman, an android masquerading as a StarFleet officer. This was more of a traditional guest star appearance, but again, who vetted this character? How was he able to trick StarFleet and the crew of the Enterprise? It makes me wonder if the creators of the Phineas and Ferb cartoon on Disney XD modeled the Norman robot on this character.

When it comes to these characters I find two things to be true. 1. There have been several characters who have played pivotal roles for one episode (or just a few) with no explanation or introduction. 2. The “guest star” reminds me of the Law and Order guest star. If there is a prominent actor guest starring, more than likely, they did it or they won’t make it to the end of the episode.

I just finished Episode 10 of Season 2, “Journey to Babel.” This season has 26 episodes, Season 3 has 24. So, I have 40 more episodes to go. I’m sure there will be more random characters that will just appear with no introduction or explanation. Forty episodes in and the core seven has yet to be established. I know it seems like I am obsessing over this. But when we get to the motion pictures, these seven characters are the ones extrapolated from The Original Series.

I do hope you’re enjoying my exploration of the continuing voyages of the starship Enterprise. I’m finding the series “fascinating.”

Crazy Old Man

Is this the face of a crazy old man?

At what point in life is one considered “old?” Everyone seems to have their own definition. Ask 100 people, I bet you get 100 different answers.

When we were growing up some of us considered out parents old and some of us didn’t. I always thought it had to do with the generation gap, a polar opposite in taste in music, TV shows and movies. New and hip was better than old or classic(al).

My parents were never too tired or old to engage in outdoor activities. I had to beg sometimes, but dad capitulated most of the time and came out to shoot hoops or play catch with the football or baseball. Mom helped me learn how to catch fly balls when I asked. My father read the newspaper front to back every day. My parents watched the news every day. They were up on current events.

Their taste in movies was across the spectrum so I can’t say that aged or dated them. Music was the big divide in my house. Although mom and dad lived through the birth of rock and roll, most of the time they preferred something that was not rock and roll. When rap, hip hop, alternative, and hair metal hit, the rift in musical taste grew to the size of the Grand Canyon.

My folks in the early 2000s.

Dad lost his hair at an early age and he wore a hairpiece for decades. If you saw him without it, he looked decades older than he was. But I never thought of him as old. He was trim (aided by smoking no doubt), didn’t eat or drink to excess, and was active. Mom exercised off and on throughout her life and always looked younger than she was. I never thought of her as old either. She died at 64, which was way too young. Dad died at age 72, which was way too young. According to the CDC, current life expectancy is roughly 78 years. I was adopted, so there’s that.

There are set age ranges for infants, toddlers, young children, and pre-teens. We define the next age group as adolescents or teenagers. but, we quibble over when adulthood begins – is it 18 or 21? And many argue when being young ends and middle age begins. Some say middle age starts as early as 35. Some define 55 as the age when you become a senior citizen, while the government says it’s 65. You can join AARP at 50. I’m 51.

In recent years the word “boomer” has been co-opted and is now used as an insult or derogatory term for an out-of-touch older person. The “Baby Boomer” generation this term is derived from encompasses people born from 1946 – 1964. I won’t get into what that generation is credited with or blamed for. The next generation people discuss has been labeled as “millennials,” 1981 – 1996. It is often millennials, or the next generation, Z, that lobs the “boomer” label at older people as a means to end arguments. “Ok boomer” is intended to be a mic drop end to the conversation. I belong to the forgotten generation in these conversations, Generation X (1965 – 1980). Most of us from Gen X are now considered “middle aged.” The funny thing is, we are the generation of cool parents who listen to rock, hip hop, rap, and alternative. Gen X is often lumped in with “boomers,” but that is not what this post is about.

This is about aging in general. The framing is intended to provide context regarding what people in business, government, and society consider “old.” I discussed this topic with my best friend recently (we’re the same age), and he adamantly proclaimed that he does not consider himself old. It was a relief to know he feels that way. Because in all actuality, I don’t consider myself old either. What I don’t understand is why the word is hurled at people as some sort of insult. And beyond that, at what point did older people become the object of ridicule instead respected fonts of wisdom and sage advice? The same people who insult older people do so using the very technology Boomers and Gen X pioneered, and then tell us we don’t understand it. But, I digress. It’s not that kind of party. And for the record I consider myself part of the extended Beat Generation.

It’s all about how I feel mentally and physically.

I think I was 13 or 14 when I played for “Fred’s Snack Wagon.” See? Skinny.

From as far back as I can remember and as far back as I have photographic evidence, I was an active child. I have memories of playing baseball with neighbor kids as young as three or four years old. From age five until 18, my friends and I rode bikes, played basketball, baseball, football, tennis, wallball (a game of our own creation), and street hockey – organized, pick-up and sandlot. We played outside in the snow. You couldn’t keep us in the house. I joined the Navy after high school and physical fitness was mandated and tested. But after bootcamp, we were left to our own devices. Some commands and units held physical fitness training a few days a week, but this was not consistent Navy-wide. For the most part, if you passed your physical fitness test (the thresholds for which changed as you aged), you were pretty much left alone. I played a little intramural basketball during my first fleet assignment and played quite a bit of pick-up ball. Much of my job was physical and I was 130 pounds dripping wet. My shipmates encouraged me to lift weights because I had trouble with some aspects of my assignments. I didn’t know what I was doing and gave up after a few workouts.

I started smoking when I was 20. I went straight to a pack-a-day habit. This is pretty much when my interest in physical fitness, aside from passing the basic requirements twice a year, went out the porthole. When I was stationed in Iceland, I played intramural volleyball, basketball, softball, and flag football. I managed to put on some weight during my 10-year enlistment. I think I was 160 – 165 when I got out in 1997. I was 27. I was playing pick-up basketball just about every day, but still smoking at least a pack a day. The cigarettes kept my weight down. I quit smoking in 2008 at age 38 and I put on weight. I developed sleep apnea in the process and I have been using CPAP therapy since 2009. In 2010, I decided to do something about it, lost 20 pounds to get back to 205 and quit exercising again. In 2013, at 236.6 pounds, I decided to make exercise and eating better a lifestyle, lost 60 pounds and was doing well. I was running and lifting weights. I thought I had beaten sleep apnea. After a new sleep study I found out I was wrong and that I will have to deal with it every night for the rest of my life.

In 2015, I suffered a serious back injury. I had developed some back problems before this, but the injury put me on an operating table. I have been in some sort of pain every day since. I have had pain blocking injections and I’ve tried exercises I learned in physical therapy. I had a new MRI and x-rays done that showed arthritis. So, I will essentially experience some level of pain in my lower back every day for the rest of my life. This is pain is a minor inconvenience, most days I do not need to take anything for it.

Back when I had the confidence to run South Beach in Miami shirtless. Sorry to disappoint, no shirtless photo was taken.

I climbed up to 198 or so a couple of years ago, decided to drop the weight, and lost 20 pounds. That only last so long and I climbed back up to 220. At the start of COVID stay-at-home orders, I set out to lose weight, lost 20, and have now put 15 back on. However, I don’t feel heavy. Some of it has to do with my fitness level, some with the strength I’ve developed the past few years. My cardio-vascular system is a different story. Only when I am in running mode do I feel like I have good lung capacity and don’t get winded walking up a flight of stairs. I haven’t been an active runner since the end of 2017. I have developed some other aches and pains in recent months, knee tendinitis, and what is more than likely arthritis in my right shoulder. The price of being active.

So, what does this all have to do with anything? Glad you asked. I actually had coworkers call me “old” and intimate that I was over the hill and not in a joking manner. I was in my mid-40s. But that’s not the half of it.

When the FCC decided to gut net neutrality, I was quite angry. I am an internet purist. I pay a provider for unfettered access. Give me a connection and a browser and leave me alone. Don’t throttle, don’t restrict. I was an internet professional for more than 15 years and a web development hobbyist before that. I got into a Twitter beef with someone who didn’t understand a sarcastic comment that I made on a thread. This person and I were on the same side of the argument. But since he didn’t understand what i had written, he attacked me as old. I defended myself in my next comment. The piling on from his friends and then random strangers was exponential. The engagement rate was through the roof. Some folks leapt to my defense, but the anger toward me over a misunderstanding was staggering. And it all had to do with my age. The most innocent of the comments just said I was too old old to understand the internet. Others said my opinion didn’t matter because I “would be dead soon.” I blocked a few folks and deleted a few tweets and laughed it off. The whole thing was comical because these people did not know me and I couldn’t take any of this personally.

Do I look old or distinguished in this photo? Photo by Tony Gonzales

I have developed a problem in recent months commenting on Facebook posts when I should really leave well enough alone. This has led me to have to block some folks there too. I am not going to go into details on the most recent incident, I would just rather not. What I will relay is that recent exchange included a person calling me a “crazy old man.” Hell, my oldest, who happens to be 21, has taken to calling me Abe Simpson lately. He’s joking of course, I think. I readily admit that I became the “get off my lawn” guy at an early age. I’ve just gotten to the point where I just have to say something. So, does shouting at people on social media make me a “crazy old man?”

That one phrase, “crazy old man,” got me to thinking. Am I old? At what point are we considered old? Do I consider myself old? Is it my profile picture? My professional head shot? Do I look old? I went gray a long time ago. I have always been told gray looks good on a man. Was it the gray/silver goatee I was sporting? I look younger clean-shaven, I know that much. Is it my inability to keep my mouth shut when I have been pushed too far? If anything I just look tired. Which I am. But other than that, I don’t feel old. When I had access to a multi-million dollar exercise facility, I often compared myself to the 20 somethings I worked out with. I out-lifted most of them and exercised more often than they did.

When I left the Navy, I had to reinvent myself. Two and a half years later I landed my dream job. Now, after a 20-year career in that dream job has come to an end, I am having to reinvent myself again. I am sure eight years of exercise and decent nutrition (compared to what I had been doing) have contributed to may current state of mind and health. By definition, I am not healthy. Sleep apnea, high cholesterol, and triglycerides are evidence of that. But, I feel pretty good, relatively speaking. It’s not all about exercise or physical fitness. It’s about mental acuity, sharpness, recall, problem-solving ability, general cognizance. I might be a little off my banter game but that has more to do with COVID isolation than it does my age. But I can still put words together to form sentences, I can still tell stories (although it takes me awhile to get to the point) and in my world, that’s all that really matters.

When I adopted exercise as a lifestyle, I encouraged all the young people who worked for me to start young, start early, and maintain a regimen for life. My sons have heard it from me as well. But there are are ways to stay sharp mentally too. My favorite way is reading. I read more than 30 books last year, I read well-written long-form articles from top magazines, I read the Sunday paper every week. But you can play games, solve puzzles, build models, paint, sculpt, or write. Whatever engages your brain. TV news and social media, as I can attest, are not on the path to wellness.

It’s all about self-confidence, something I usually have an over-abundance of. Think or say whatever you like, I’m proud Beatnik. If that makes me a crazy old man … well …

I am fond of saying that Father Time is undefeated and I know that eventually this will be proven true for me as well. But I intend to go down swinging, even if I have to yell at a few clouds along the way.

Starting Week 2 of the Fitness Journey Reboot

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Well, the first week of the reboot of my fitness journey started off with good intentions last Monday. By Wednesday, my nutrition went out the window again. I will not discuss Wednesday’s events in Washington, D.C., here. Let’s just say I got my workouts in last week, but those events led to some stress eating and consuming things that I shouldn’t have.

So, after a weekend of rest and recovery, watching football, and stress eating, I am back on the stick today. I’ll admit, I haven’t gotten back on the scale. I’m afraid to. After a dip last Tuesday, my weight started to climb Wednesday and Thursday. And I haven’t stepped on the scale since. This is part of my problem and hearkens back to what I wrote about progress. I have to stop getting mad at myself when I don’t see what I want on the scale and continue to weigh and measure regardless of the results. I have to trust the process. I was even off to a good start remembering to take my supplements last week and fell off that wagon too. I haven’t resumed the photos or the measurements yet either.

When I do work out, I try to take notice of my strength and stamina levels. Am I getting stronger, am I struggling with an exercise or movement, where is that pain coming from? I definitely have more strength in my little home gym and there has been an increase in functional strength. I notice it around the house and I notice it on the basketball court. My speed, quickness, and agility needs more work than ever. My vertical jump is non-existent these days. I’ve noticed some progress with these qualities but it is slow going. I expect an exponential change when the weight starts coming off.

I got in today’s lift, a 2.08-mile walk and 30 minutes of shooting hoops. As I am fond of saying, every season is shred season. Hopefully I’ll post a positive update in the next few days. I have to stop letting external forces affect the pursuit of my goals and that isn’t just regarding fitness.

Until next time, kick some.

How the Alien Franchise Went Off the Rails

I watched Alien: Resurrection (1997) again the other night and it rekindled a thought I had some time ago to detail how what should have been one of the mightiest science fiction universes in the vein of Star Wars and Star Trek went askew. I am a huge fan of the first two films, Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986), and I think Sigourney Weaver is the greatest “final girl” ever put on screen. There have been several films in the direct line and a few tangents that branch off into the Predator universe. I wanted to know where it all went wrong.

*Spoilers Ahead*

Alien – 1979

The original film is as much horror story as it is science fiction. Written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, and directed by legendary filmmaker Ridley Scott, an all-star cast featuring Weaver, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, and Ian Holm play the crew of the commercial towing vessel USCSS Nostromo. A homing beacon emanating from a planetoid, LV-426, triggers the Nostromo’s crew to wake from hypersleep. The crew, employed by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation (Building Better Worlds), is ordered to check out the source of the signal. They find a derelict spacecraft full of leathery eggs and the remains of a humanoid creature that became known as the “space jockey” (this is important later). One of the eggs hatches and Kane (Hurt) is forcibly introduced to a “face hugger.” Officer Ellen Ripley (Weaver) refuses to allow Captain Dallas (Skerritt), Lambert (Cartwright), and Kane to come aboard the landing ship. The science officer, Ash (Holm), breaks quarantine protocol and allows his shipmates to enter. Kane is taken to the sick bay on the Nostromo and is examined along with the creature now attached to his face. Eventually the creature falls off and dies, and Kane seems to have recovered. Over dinner, in one of the most iconic scenes ever filmed, a new creature bursts out of Kane’s chest and scurries off. The alien grows at an alarming rate and starts picking off members of the crew one-by-one. It turns out Ash is an android and under orders to return the alien to Weyland-Yutani Corp. at all costs. Ripley is able to defeat the creature at the end and drifts through space in the Nostromo’s shuttle after setting the mothership to self-destruct.

There is so much to like about the film. Swiss artist H.R. Giger influenced character and set design with regard to the alien creatures and their environment. The rest of the set design is masterful and it creates a claustrophobic atmosphere. The performances from the stellar cast have become the stuff of legend, from Brett (Stanton) and Parker’s (Kotto) banter to Lambert’s death scene, each actor truly became their part. This is a damn-near perfect film. There are so many great storytelling elements. I love how the ship, its mission, and its crew are introduced. We learn about each person’s job, and their issues and concerns as we go. There is no massive information dump. Scott does a wonderful job of creating tension and terror throughout the movie. Even the marketing campaign has become iconic.

Aliens – 1986

It took seven years to bring the sequel to fruition. Aliens was helmed by another legendary filmmaker, James Cameron, and it was written by Cameron, David Giler, and Walter Hill. Weaver reprises her role as Ripley as she is rescued after 57 years of drifting through space. Paul Reiser plays Carter Burke, an executive with Weyland-Yutani, who supports Ripley through an inquest with the company about the destruction of the Nostromo. Ripley learns that 60-70 families have settled on LV-426. Burke later informs Ripley that they’ve lost contact with the colony and they are sending in the Colonial Marines. He wants Ripley to tag along. She acquiesces and travels with Burke and a platoon of Marines to LV-426 aboard the U.S.S. Sulaco. Once again, we are introduced to the Marines, their commanding officer, their master sergeant, and the mission’s android in similar fashion to Alien. They hit the ground running on LV-426 as they investigate what happened to the colonists. They find a little girl, Newt, who Ripley basically adopts. Ineffectual leadership from the commanding officer, Lt. Gorman, leads to the slaughter of most of the Marines by a host of aliens who have either killed the colonists or set them up to be hosts for more of their kind.

The crew of the USS Sulaco.

We meet Marines Hicks (Michael Biehn), Hudson (Bill Paxton), and Vazquez (Janette Goldstein), and android Bishop (Lance Henrikson) early on. The interesting thing is, Paxton, Goldstein, and Henrikson would all go on to star in Kathryn Bigelow’s cult vampire classic Near Dark a year later. Bigelow was married to Cameron from 1989 – 1991. Paxton would also star in Predator 2 in 1990.

Ripley, Newt, Hicks, and Bishop (kind of) end up the only survivors after some epic battles with the aliens, an iconic confrontation with the queen and a double-cross by Burke. The survivors drift off in hypersleep into space. The film is more action-adventure than horror this time, but it is a worthy sequel to Alien. The characters are memorable and the cast, once again, comes through with great performances. This film has become one of the most quoted as well.

Alien 3 – 1992

Alien 3 was released in 1992. Vincent Ward wrote the story and Giler, Hill, and Larry Ferguson developed the screenplay. David Fincher directed. Ripley, Hicks, Newt, and what’s left of Bishop crash land on a prison colony. Only Ripley survives. Another all-star cast populates this film: Charles S. Dutton (Mimic), Pete Postlethwaite (The Lost World: Jurassic Park), Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), and Brian Glover (American Werewolf in London) to mention the bigger names. Ripley and her dead companions have brought an alien with them and the creature wreaks havoc within the prison population as Ripley tries to find her way among the galaxy’s worst criminals.

Until now, the first two Alien films featured some pretty good practical effects. If I had any issues with any of it, it was very obvious alien soldier “statues” were used for the Marines to riddle with bullets in a couple of scenes. But Alien 3, which was riddled with writer, director and production problems, featured one very bad special effect. Ripley has been impregnated with a queen, and as Bishop II and a crew of Weyland-Yutani goons arrive to capture her and her embryo, Ripley and the “chest-burster” fall to their deaths into a vat of liquid metal. The special effects for this scene are awful.

This film, to me, is where the the Alien franchise starts to go off the rails. First of all, I did not care for the killing off of Hicks and Newt right off the bat. Second was the special effects. Third, all of the things I heard about production problems then and while researching this piece tell me the franchise was in trouble. Vincent Ward’s original screenplay was scrapped (as was Ward), however, Alien 3 was entertaining, the story was interesting, and the cast featured well-known or soon-to-be well-known actors. This also marked Fincher’s feature film directorial debut. Nonetheless, this movie is reviled by many.

Alien: Resurrection – 1997

Five years later, Alien: Resurrection was released. The story was compelling and ridiculous all at the same time. Another cast of of soon-to-be and already well-known actors muddled their way through a mess of a film. Weaver’s Ripley is now a clone of the original character as government and presumably Weyland-Yutani scientists wanted to harvest the queen alien the original Ripley killed at the end of Alien 3. Dan Hedaya plays General Perez, the commanding officer of a scientific research vessel Auriga where a crew of scientists including Gediman (Brad Dourif) and Dr. Wren (J.E. Freeman) are experimenting on aliens. A pirate named Vriess (Dominique Pinon) and his crew of misfits deliver a shipment of humans to serve as hosts for the queen alien. That crew includes Ron Perlman (Johner), Winona Ryder (Call), and Gary Dourdan (Christie). Call turns out to be an activist android trying to put an end to the experiments. A soldier named Distephano (Raymond Cruz) joins with the crew of the pirate ship Betty to fight the aliens.

The experimentation leads to the creation of a brand new monster that thinks Ripley is its mother. The alien part of the Ripley clone has some affinity for the creatures, but eventually her human side prevails. The group that survives blows up the USM Auriga and the Betty makes it safely to Earth after the new alien/human hybrid creature is blown out into space. I have so many issues with this entertaining, yet flawed movie directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and written by Joss Whedon, of all people. I hated the hybrid creature that was the result of the experiments. I didn’t care for the continuation of Ripley at this point, and a few of the scenes that depict her bond with the aliens seemed so out of place.

AVP: Alien vs. Predator – 2004

From November 1989 – January 1990, Dark Horse comics published a series of Alien vs. Predator comics. More comics would follow over the years. Turns out there are also Aliens comic books as well. Now, I am not going to take a deep dive into them. I don’t know what is canon and what isn’t. Just like the Hellraiser comic books, I have never read these either. However, Paul W.S. Anderson wrote and directed this film released in 2004. I’ll start by saying, I don’t really mind this movie starring Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Tommy Flanagan, and Lance Henriksen. Henriksen plays Charles Bishop Weyland, yes, that Weyland. One of his company’s satellites reveals a pyramid in Antarctica and he assembles a team of experts to investigate. It turns out Predators, first seen on screen in the 1987 film, used to use Earth as a place to breed aliens using humans as sacrifices. Then the predators would hunt the aliens as a rite of passage. The expedition’s presence triggers the start of events that draw the predators from deep space and awaken the alien queen.

The Antarctic expert, Alexa Woods (Lathan), eventually teams up with a predator and she ends up as the final girl in this film. Weyland and the rest of the expedition are killed in epic fights with predators and aliens in the pyramid that changes configurations every 10 minutes.

I admire this film’s effort to provide a backstory for the Weyland-Yutani Corporation (not quite yet formed) and their obsession with the alien species. Henriksen’s portrayal of Charles Bishop Weyland ties directly into his Bishop android character from Aliens. Makes total sense. Yutani is introduced at the end of this film as well. All of this seems to be forgotten or ignored down the road, and I’ll get to that in a minute.

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem – 2007

This is a throwaway film as far as I am concerned. Aliens and predators descend on small town America and the Colorado locals try to put up a valiant fight as the military would rather sanitize the area and cleanse the whole region of life. The Brothers Strause directed this story written by Shane Salerno. John Ortiz (Kong: Skull Island), Sam Trammell (True Blood), and Robert Joy (The Hills Have Eyes) might be the biggest names in this movie.

Based on what comes next, I don’t know if we can count the AVP films as canon or not. The first maybe, but this one just seems pointless, especially when we look at the next two movies.

Prometheus – 2012

When I heard Ridley Scott was coming back to the Alien franchise, I was beyond excited. I thought we were finally going to get the continuation of the storyline, a storyline, that we Alien fans had been clamoring for for years. My buddy Charlie and I actually went to go see this as a midnight movie in 3D. Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, and Idris Elba headline the cast. Rapace plays Dr. Elizabeth Shaw. Shaw and her partner, Charlie Holloway, have discovered ancient evidence of alien visitation by creatures who may have created human beings. The Prometheus carries an expedition to LV-223 to investigate. The crew’s android, David, displays creepy tendencies and is beholden to a mysterious person/entity. It turns out that entity is Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce in bad aging makeup), presumably a descendant of Charles Bishop Weyland (if AVP is canon). The film tries to introduce the characters a la Alien and Aliens style and fails miserably for some reason.

Predictably, all goes wrong, a surviving member of the race of beings who supposedly created humans doesn’t like being questioned and goes on a rampage. David has had his own agenda all along and uses Shaw and Holloway for his own twisted on-the-fly experiments. The surviving “engineer,” as they have come to be called, has plans to travel to Earth and deploy a deadly chemical weapon. Captain Janek (Elba) and his flight crew plow the Prometheus into the engineer’s ship, which looks just like the craft from Alien and the extended cut of Aliens. Shaw and what’s left of David are the only survivors after a convoluted mess of carnage and mayhem.

We see our first facehugger (and it’s HUGE) and Alien-like xenomorph-type creature (called the “deacon”) toward the end of this film. We have the Weyland tie-in, and when we enter the engineers’ ship, we see what looks like a captain’s chair. When the engineers wear their gear (especially the helmet), and one sits in the chair, we get the “space jockey” from Alien. There’s more than one engineer ship on LV-223 and David’s head says he can fly them. Shaw and David then take off for what she hopes is the engineers’ home world. We have now gone from a crew of miners hauling ore and discovering a nasty, vicious alien species to the quest for the meaning of life in just 33 years and seven films. You would think Shaw and David were headed for LV-426 and the direct line to Alien, but you would be wrong.

Alien: Covenant – 2017

Ridley Scott returned to direct the next film starring Michael Fassbender, Billy Crudup (Watchmen), Danny McBride (?), Jussie Smollett (yeah, yeah, I know), Carmen Ejogo (True Detective), and Amy Seimetz (Pet Sematary). The crew of the colony ship Covenant is on their way to their new planet when they are waylaid to an LV-designated planet. Once again, things go wrong, and surviving members of the landing party are rescued by David. It turns out that David has wiped out the planet’s entire population of engineers and has been experimenting to create the “perfect organism.” He murders Shaw in one of his experiments. Now we’ve gone from miners discovering the aliens to an Isaac Asimov-style cautionary tale about robots achieving consciousness and wiping out their creators.

Again, it’s another entertaining film. There is plenty of gore, body horror, and alien gooeyness. I questioned the casting of McBride but he’s actually serviceable. I won’t go into many plot details because the story is pretty straightforward. David proves to be diabolical and hijacks the Covenant and her colonists, who are actually human embryos. He also kills off the Covenant’s android, Walter, and essentially takes his place on the Covenant because the two are pretty much identical. David has decided that humans have no right to exist anymore.

So, Covenant leaves us with more questions than answers if the end goal is to tie us to the first Alien film from 1979. Where does the Covenant, helmed by an evil android, go next? How does the engineers’ ship with the space jockey (who was apparently killed by an alien chest-burster) end up on LV-426 full of eggs. What becomes of David? How and where does the Weyland-Yutani Corporation fit into all of this?

And speaking of questions, if AVP is canon, why don’t the people of the Prometheus film know about the pyramid, the aliens and the predators? The events of Prometheus take place less than 100 years after. Is Peter Weyland a descendant of Charles Bishop Weyland or is he the real beginning of the Weyland line? Are the two AVP movies considered part of this or are they stand-alone? Digital Spy gives a detailed timeline of events but ignores the existence of Charles Bishop Weyland and identifies Peter Weyland as the founder of the company in an article written by freelancer Cameron K. McEwan. According to an article on Fandom.com in 2011, the AVP movies are no longer considered canon. If the AVP movies are not canon, then this franchise really went sideways by ignoring the events of the first AVP film. It’s hard to set aside Henriksen’s presence as Charles Bishop Weyland in that movie.

I’m very confused as to where this whole thing is going. It no longer makes any sense. There is no linear timeline of events, and I see no way to complete this circle. This is very disappointing because I really don’t want the overarching message of this franchise to center around the android David and his contempt for humanity. I don’t want one of the nastiest movie monsters ever put on film, and its kith and kin, to have been created by a vengeful, self-righteous robot.

That’s why I wrote this piece. This franchise has left orbit and is drifting through the cosmos and I don’t think a deep space salvage team can save it. But, you know damn well I’ll watch the upcoming film(s) if and when they are produced because I have to see where it all goes and how it ends. There are plenty of websites out there and you can do your investigation. You can find the full names and designations for the ships and their crews, descriptions of the planets and environments. I just think the crew of the Nostromo deserved better.

In (cyber)space, no one can hear you scream.

On Screen: Star Trek’s Influences and Influence

Captain James T. Kirk in a scene eerily reminiscent of Alien.

Star Trek has been influential in many ways, from diversity and inclusion to the depiction of real science, the show broke new ground in several areas. As prophetic as it was when it comes to predicting new technology and studies of the cosmos, the show also influenced filmmakers decades into the future, including those who would endeavor to tell more stories in this universe. The show also draws from older stories, myths, and legends to inform its narratives.

The most obvious, which I have already discussed, was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which directly drew on an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, and even included the original actor who played Khan, Ricardo Montalban. A couple of other episodes I watched recently may or may not have influenced future storytellers.

In “A Taste of Armageddon,” Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise encounter a race of people at war with a nearby planetary neighbor for the better part of 500 years. Instead of lobbing bombs at each other, attacks are simulated. The results of the simulation are calculated and real people, based on a type of lottery from the simulation, are actually put to death in what amount to be suicide machines. In The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, people have the option to end their lives in centrally located suicide machines in the short story, “The Repairer of Reputations.” The 1983 movie War Games may have been influenced in some way by this episode as computers simulate and threaten global thermonuclear war.

There have been many influences cited for the Alien movie franchise, especially artist H.R. Giger. I wonder if “The Devil in the Dark” gave Ridley Scott any ideas. Kirk and the crew head to a mining colony whose workers are being terrorized by a tunneling, burrowing creature that kind of dissolves its victims. The creature is eventually proved to be benevolent and peaceful and only protecting her eggs. But a few scenes with the tunnels and the eggs are reminiscent of scenes from Alien and Aliens.

Greek mythology informs “Who Will Mourn For Adonais.” It is intimated that the Greek gods were in fact space travelers who came to Earth and were worshipped by humans. The crew must match wits with a being who calls himself Apollo and invokes the names of Hera, Zeus, and Hercules. Other episodes contain elements of the Hero’s Journey and Shakespearean tragedy as well. Elements from pirate adventure stories, and Gothic and Lovecraftian horror are also woven throughout the series.

Nomad wipes Lt. Uhura’s memory clean.

Another episode that directly contributes to the story of a future Star Trek movie is “The Changeling.” An old Earth probe called “Nomad” merges with an alien technology of some kind and its programming is altered to cause it to want to destroy organic life, which it deems “imperfect.” This is almost the exact plot of Star Trek: The Motion Picture where an ancient “Voyager” spacecraft merges with alien technology and becomes a giant knowledge-gathering, organic life-destroying menace. Some of the vernacular is similar as well, as “Nomad” refers to carbon-based lifeforms as “units,” and “Vyger” refers to humans in Star Trek: The Motion Picture as “Kirk unit,” “Spock unit,” etc. Eventually Kirk convinces “Nomad” to destroy itself, it wasn’t so easy with “Vyger” in The Motion Picture.

Star Trek hasn’t just influenced storytellers. The 1980s pop group and one-hit wonder T’Pau, was named for a character in the season premiere of the second season, “Amok Time.” T’Pau is a Vulcan elder tasked with administering the mating ritual of Pon Farr that Spock is compelled by physiology to participate in. This is the episode where we first see the exchange of the Vulcan hand gesture and the “live long and prosper” idiom.

Vulcan elder T’Pau.

The influences on the show and the show’s subsequent ability to reach out and touch storytelling and pop culture far into the future is quite remarkable. I’m sure there will be more as the Enterprise continues its journey through space.

Captain’s Log

I wasn’t planning on writing about Star Trek quite this often when I decided to binge watch The Original Series. I had a couple of thoughts from the last couple of episodes I thought it would be important to get out before I go any further.

Transporter technology is part and parcel to the show and most of the time the device sends a landing party to an alien planet. What I find interesting and distressing all that the same time is that Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and his first officer, Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) are almost always part of the landing party. I realize that they are the main characters but in what military chain of command would the captain and his executive officer be allowed off the ship at the same time in such situations? They often beam into hostile, unknown environments where danger lurks around every rock. Other than the fact that Kirk is THE main character, there would be no reason why he wouldn’t stay on the bridge orchestrating the maneuvers of his crew.

Many shows have been noted over the years for marking the first or early appearance of a soon to be renowned actor. The Twilight Zone is probably the most prominent. Star Trek has had no shortage of guest stars so far, including some well-known character players. Paul Fix was an established actor who was probably the first notable guest star as he took a turn as the ship’s doctor. Of course, there was no explanation as to the whereabouts of Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) for that episode entitled, “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Roger C. Carmel plays Harry Mudd in “Mudd’s Women,” William Campbell plays Trelane in “The Squire of Gothos,” Ricardo Montalban, as we all know, is Khan in “Space Seed,” John Colicos (Battlestar Galactica) plays Klingon commander Kor in “Errand of Mercy,” Robert Brown plays Lazarus in “The Alternative Factor,” and Joan Collins plays Edith Keeler in “The City on the Edge of Forever.” I’m sure there will be many more guest star appearances.

One of the challenges of a show like Star Trek that endeavors to tell morality tales and promote the preservation of the sanctity of all life is to do it in a way that’s not heavy-handed or preachy. In the film Stark Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, during Spock’s death scene, he reiterates to Kirk that the “needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few … or the one.” As striking as this sentiment is, especially in the context of that moment, if you go back and watch the series from the beginning and start tying the threads together, this appears to be the overarching message of the entire show. Numerous episodes involve decisions that sacrifice one person for the survival or betterment of a larger group, or the entire universe. “Errand of Mercy” makes this very personal for Kirk. In light of the events of the last few years, this has never been more relevant or appropriate.

I am fond of things that are timeless, things that are just as powerful today as they were when they were made, just as relevant. Star Trek is one of those things. As much as I like action in my science fiction – epic space battles, advanced weaponry and technology – it always comes back to the people and the stories the creators and the writers are trying to tell.

Joseph Campbell distilled thousands of stories down to one when he articulated the hero’s journey, and every major religion can be boiled down to one fundamental element – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I am almost done with the first season, one episode to go, and it hasn’t always been pretty. Some of the episodes have been ham-fisted, a lot of the creature effects have been bad, much over-acting, but the underlying story has finally emerged – the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. It’s a lesson we should all heed.

Measuring Success

I am an instant gratification person when it comes to losing weight and getting in shape. That doesn’t mean I expect to develop six-pack abs after doing 10 sit-ups. It means I need to see some kind, any kind, of progress early in the process. I get discouraged if I don’t. Since I am in the midst of a bit of a re-boot and the first goal is losing weight, I need to see a downward trend on the scale within a day or two of making changes. It’s harder for me than a beginner I think because I don’t eat too terribly, I just indulge in things I shouldn’t. A beginner has the tendency to drop a lot of weight right off the bat after making drastic changes to nutrition and lifestyle.

There are numerous ways to measure success when you start, resume, or reboot a fitness journey. The most obvious is weighing yourself. But, so many people will tell you that it’s a bad idea. They’ll say once a week or once every two weeks is good. That doesn’t work for me. In order for me to be successful I have to weigh myself every day. Now, I do know that a person’s weight can fluctuate day-by-day, hell, hour-by-hour. But, one of the things I’ve learned in the last eight years is that if I am on track, my weight will steadily decrease day-by-day, even if it’s just a quarter of a pound.

If you don’t want to obsess over the scale, you can take pictures and measurements, you can measure and calculate your BMI and body fat, take note of how you feel generally or after activity, how strong you’re getting, or how much stamina you’ve developed.

When it comes to losing weight, it’s simple math really. You burn more calories than you take in and you’ll lose weight. One pound of body weight equals 3,500 calories. Burn 3,500 calories more than you consume and you’ll lose exactly one pound of body weight. Doing this in one day is almost impossible and even attempting this probably isn’t healthy. They say a 500 calorie deficit per day is expected when you’re trying to lose weight. That gets you to a pound in a week. You’ll shed water weight and a bunch of other crap along the way so you’ll drop one-to-three pounds per week as you go along. To get there you can simply eat less and eat healthier. Exercise is important as well.

So, how do measure all of this? When I first started I used a Nike Fuel Band and then later a FitBit but those were mainly to keep me accountable. Once exercise became part of my lifestyle, I found that I didn’t need them anymore. I have spent quite a bit of time counting calories. One of the better ways to track your caloric intake is to use an app like MyFitnessPal. You can also develop a meal plan that has the same calorie count every day. I also spent a lot of time calculating macros – protein, fat and carbs. We’ll get into that another time.

I also did a lot of research, a crazy amount of research. What was healthy BMI and body fat and weight for my gender, age, and height? The BMI charts are antiquated and you can practically throw them out the window. The other thing I tried to figure out was how many calories my body needed to maintain a certain weight per day. FDA recommendations are based on a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet. I knew that was too much for me. I was a smoke for 18 years. My metabolism is a mess. The big question for me was and remains, how many calories do I burn every day? The wearable fitness trackers help, but they only give estimates. Treadmills and ellipticals have been proven to be up to 20% inaccurate, in the wrong direction. You can calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which tells you how many calories your body needs in a day. At 51 years old, 5’9″ and 215 pounds, my BMR is 1,821 calories per day. You can factor in exercise and that number can jump all the way to 3,459.

Here’s the problem. There is not one fucking device on this planet that I know of that accurately measures EXACTLY how many calories I burn in a day. So, I keep that BMR in mind. I know I can eat a little bit more because of my exercise regimen but when I trying to drive my weight down, I try to stay under 1,800 calories a day. If I knew exactly how many calories I burned per day, I could tailor my eating habits better. I would know what my exercise offsets were. I would know how many calories I burned during a 30-minute walk or an hour of weight-lifting or a 20-minute HIIT session. I’m sure you and I burn a different amount of calories doing the exact same thing. I’d love to know that I could have an extra 300-calorie meal or snack, so I wouldn’t be hungry or have to fight off a craving. But, no.

Back to the issue at hand. Measuring results. Since I don’t know exactly how many calories I take in or burn in a given day, all I have are estimates, I weigh myself every day so I can make micro adjustments if need be. If my weight doesn’t change or goes up, I know I ate or drank something the day before I shouldn’t have, or I had too much of something. I make a mental note to not do that. This is what works for me.

I am a big proponent of strength training mixed with cardio or aerobic exercise. Building and strengthening muscle is a great way to help burn fat. My BMI is 31.7 right now, which classifies me as obese. But if you were to look at me you wouldn’t think I was obese. Even when I was at 180 pounds I was still considered overweight. So, I don’t know how much credence I put in the BMI calculation. I’m more worried about body fat and mine is right around 30%. That’s not good. That’ll be the second major goal, reducing body fat, and that goes hand-in-hand with my weight.

So, I’ll do things my way and make my adjustments as I go. I’ll make drastic changes as needed. Rest assured, I’ll update you on my progress as I go.

I Feel Like I’m Starting Over with My Fitness Journey

I feel like I am starting over with my fitness journey, but not really. I began this blog eight years ago yesterday when I weighed 236.6 pounds. I got on the scale today and registered 215 pounds. Now, before you go jumping to any conclusions about the last eight years, I need to catch you up. My original goal in 2013 was 180 pounds. It is still the ideal weight for me in my mind.

On November 2, 2013, I clocked in at 190 pounds. That was my first major weight loss goal. I had dropped 46 pounds or so in 10 months. It took another year to drop the next 10 pounds. On December 26, 2014, I proclaimed that I had reached my goal weight of 180 pounds. I was running regularly, lifting weights, eating pretty well, and fighting chronic back spasms. In April of 2015, I suffered a catastrophic back injury while dead lifting. After the subsequent MRI, it was determined that I needed surgery. During surgery, it was revealed that I have instability in my lower spine. A plastic clamp was put in place to stabilize a couple of vertebrae so I wouldn’t have any recurrences of the debilitating back spams. I’m happy to say the clamp has worked, for the most part. I rehabbed on my own and got back to working out. I was able to maintain my weight for quite awhile. I also managed to keep up the running until the end of 2017.

At some point, the weight started to creep back on. Before I knew it I was back to 196-200 pounds. I started all over with a new workout and meal plan and dropped 20 pounds in three months. I was back to 180. My meal plan was changed to help me pack on more muscle and I started to gain weight again. Not good weight either. So, my weight climbed and kept climbing. By the end of 2019 and heading into 2020, I was up to about 220 pounds. I was stronger than I ever have been, but I didn’t like my weight or how I looked. So, when stay-at-home orders hit, I decided to go back to the meal plan and lose the weight. I dropped 20 pounds in three months or so and got back to 200. I sat on that plateau for weeks. I just couldn’t get the needle on the scale to budge. Then the weight started to creep back on again. Now, when I lost the hold on 180 the first time, the weight snuck up on me. This time, I watched it happen. I know what I ate to get there. I was the one who put it in my face. I kept telling myself, “Worry about it tomorrow. Make changes tomorrow.” Tomorrow became next week, next week became after Halloween, after Halloween became after Thanksgiving, after Thanksgiving became after Christmas, after Christmas became after the new year.

And here we are. It’s after the start of the New Year. I have always been one to start things on Monday. I have mentioned that I don’t skip workouts, and that is true. The exercise is not my problem. I have learned so much about nutrition and exercise the past eight years but there are still a few things I don’t know about my own body. What I do know is that my body weight and body fat are directly proportional. I can’t sit at 220 pounds and carve up the fat and become muscular and defined, no matter how much protein I consume. If I want to lose body fat, I have to lose body weight. It’s that simple. And one of the only ways I know how to do that is to cut calories.

So, today was Monday.

I got on the scale and it read 215 pounds, 215 pounds even, 215.0. I gained 2.2 pounds from last Monday. When you’re wearing pajamas and sweats every day, it’s hard to understand the damage you do to yourself. I haven’t worn work clothes since June, and I rarely put on jeans and a polo shirt to go to the store. But, some of my workout clothes are fitting tighter than they did just a few short months ago. The first place I really start to notice it is in my face. Then the double-chin appears. After that the definition I’ve worked so hard for starts to melt away. Then the belly starts to get big again. I can really start to results when I get under 205.

I need to regain and reclaim the self-discipline I had when I was 236.6 pounds, the drive and the determination I had that enabled me to lose 60 pounds. I need to lose just over half that to get back to 180. I’d love to get there by my birthday at the end of June. I need to weigh myself every day, take pictures and measurements and get back to holding myself accountable. I know how to do this, I have done it before.

It really is the self-discipline. That’s the key. I never wanted to be a yo-yo and that’s exactly what my doctor called me. I wanted to get to 180 pounds and stay there. But I never did like what I looked like. Since I didn’t achieve the aesthetic goal, I forgot all about the other goals I had achieved and how satisfying that was … how good I felt, how good I looked in a suit. I forgot this was a lifestyle. I forgot that this is daily. When I am on my game I am weighing myself EVERY DAY, and taking measurements and pictures every week. I’m measuring my food and portions and getting enough protein in my diet. I’m keeping my carbs low. I’m drinking enough water. I’m taking my supplements. The only thing I forgot today was the water. And the only thing I haven’t decided is if I am going to share the shirtless journey photos.

One-two pounds per week is healthy so 35 pounds by June 29 is aggressive I know. That’s 25 weeks. One pound per week won’t do it, but two will be more than enough. I am sick and tired of people doubting me, including myself.

To Boldly Go…

William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk.

“Captain’s Log, stardate …” Oh, who the hell am I kidding, I don’t know what the hell any of that stardate stuff actually meant.

I recently read an article that made me think that a grammar stickler like myself should be upset by the split infinitive in the narration in the show open for each episode of Star Trek. “To boldly go …” Comedian Henry Cho used to tell the story of his friend JB, J-only B-only, who used to ask, “When are they going to ‘Boldly Go?'” Now it makes sense. I told you I can be dense sometimes.

The Star Trek binge continues. The first season contains 29 episodes and I am gearing up to watch the 25th. There are still problems with misogyny and sexism but they are not as pronounced. What you see is more evidence of the patriarchy. Women are to be protected by men or they are objects of attraction to be pursued.

We finally see Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) in a bonafide space battle with a race of beings that will become part of the fabric of the Star Trek universe, and no, it’s not the Klingons. It’s a Romulan vessel and her captain Kirk must defeat. There are episodes where the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, now referred to as a United Space Ship, have to decide between mindless utopia and free will. And there are other episodes where a Deus ex machina moment happens near the end of the program where the crew is miraculously rescued or an external force saves them from whatever plagues them. I chalk this up to the one-hour program formula. This kind of storytelling still happens today, even in the cinematic episodic shows. American Horror Story is probably the biggest offender. Twelve and a half great episodes and they solve everything in the last 30 minutes because they don’t know how to end it. Similar issues crop up in Star Trek as seemingly life-threatening conditions are resolved in the last five minutes.

Captain Kirk with Yeoman Rand (Grace Lee Whitney).

Characters aside from Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy continue to be inconsistent from episode to episode, although the chief engineer, Mr. Scott, makes more and more appearances. Lt. Uhura also becomes a more consistent presence as the series flies on. Mr. Sulu is still rather intermittent. There are plenty of throwaway characters as well, no more glaring than the ship’s historian, Lt. Marla McGivers. More on her in a moment. If a navigator or helmsman is given any substantial speaking part, rest assured that character won’t make it through the episode. And Yeoman Janice Rand has all been phased out.

The one episode I was looking forward to the most was titled, “Space Seed.” As I mentioned in the first entry in this blog series, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made. Early in the film we meet Khan, who has history with the U.S.S. Enterprise and her crew, most notably, Captain Kirk. I had never seen the original series episode that introduced Khan Noonien Singh. Played with aplomb by Ricardo Montalban (Fantasy Island), Khan and his crew of genetically engineered compatriots have been floating through space aboard the Botany Bay since the early 1990s. Montalban’s portrayal is delightfully wicked with thinly-veiled mixed with overt malevolence. I have two major issues with this episode, maybe three. Khan’s animal magnetism leads the ship’s historian to commit mutiny in helping Khan take over the Enterprise. How does this happen? Well, before Kirk and Spock can figure out who Khan is, or was, they give him access to the ship’s technical information so he can catch up two hundred years of advances. By the time they ascertain Khan’s history as a brutal dictator, revolutionary, and warlord, it’s too late and he’s taken control of the ship. The historian double crosses Khan and helps Kirk reclaim the Enterprise. Eventually, McGivers is tried and given the choice of a court martial, or exile with Khan. She chooses Khan. Khan, meanwhile, is given the opportunity to start a new life, a new colony, with his shipmates, which is what he wanted all along. Khan and his crew are dumped off in the Ceti Alpha system. This event is often referred to as exile or a “sentence,” when Khan clearly states he left Earth to start a new life.

Issue No. 1 is the insta-love between McGivers and Khan and her willingness to commit mutiny to help someone she just met. Issue No. 2 is Kirk, Spock, and McCoy giving Khan access to the ship’s files before realizing who he is. Khan is argumentative and refuses to answer their questions. So, by all means, give him access to the ship’s technical info. Issue No. 3 has to do with the opening of Star Trek II. It’s a small continuity thing but it bugs me. When Khan first encounters Chekov and Captain Terrell of the U.S.S. Reliant, he tells them how a vicious indigenous creature killed off members of his crew and his wife. There is no mention of McGivers, who one would assume was his wife. We don’t meet Chekov until much later in the original series, so it’s a leap that he’s up on Enterprise history when he recalls how Khan tried to steal the Enterprise and kill Kirk. Regardless, Khan is one of the few memorable characters I’ve seen in 24 episodes so far.

“The Menagerie,” a two-part miniseries, features footage from the unaired pilot, “The Cage,” and includes Captain Pike. But he’s comatose and disfigured and the whole story is told in a series of flashbacks. The big-brained thought manipulators are back and I think the only way this episode makes any sense is if you have seen the original pilot.

In addition to the diversity Star Trek is heralded for, the show has also been prophetic, as many science fiction stories have been, when it comes to predicting future technology. A few things like faster-than-light travel (warp), transporters, and laser weapons like phasers still seem a long a way off, but cellphone-like communicators, portable medical scanning devices, and voice-activated computers and electronic assistants are here and have been for quite awhile. Star Trek even predicted transcendence where man’s consciousness can be uploaded to a computer. Not sure I’ll ever want that to become reality. There have been plenty of documentaries that have illustrated Star Trek’s technological predictions. I’m just scratching the surface here.

I’m somewhat disappointed that I am 24 episodes in and we still haven’t met the Klingons yet, especially considering how important they are to the Star Trek universe. All in good time I guess. I’m one episode away from their first appearance.

In the recent documentary about Leonard Nimoy, For the Love of Spock, it is intimated that Kirk, McCoy, and Spock essentially form one person. I think there is some truth to this. By this point in the series, they are certainly the most constant characters and seem to be developing their friendship and camaraderie. I’m still waiting for the full corps we are most familiar with – Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov to become the seven we all know and love from the series and films.