Continuity Issues from Frankenstein to Bride of Frankenstein

Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein monster and Mae Clarke as Henry Frankenstein’s fiancée, Elizabeth in 1931’s Frankenstein.

UPDATED! This has been brought up in Universal monster movie fan groups on Facebook of which I am a member. However, I thought I would re-visit it after recently watching both films back-to-back and paying more attention. I put the phone down and gave my full attention to these movies, not because I was being critical, but because I wanted to immerse myself. Oftentimes filmmakers will make changes from the original in the sequel, but I found that the continuity issues from the end of Frankenstein (1931) to the opening of The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) too glaring to ignore. There are a couple of other casting issues I’ll point out as well.

During the climax of Frankenstein, the monster (Boris Karloff) tosses Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) off of an old, abandoned windmill. Henry hits a blade, which breaks his fall, then goes to the ground where the villagers gather him up to carry him home. The movie ends with his father, Baron Frankenstein (Frederick Kerr), leaving his son’s bedroom where you can see a very much alive Henry Frankenstein in the background.

At the beginning of The Bride of Frankenstein, we see Henry hauled off to the family estate, where he is placed on a table and presumed dead. He revives to the delight of everyone. However, Henry’s father is nowhere to be found. Frederick Kerr, who played Henry’s father, died in 1933, two years after Frankenstein was released. I wonder if this is why the character was written out of Bride. I’d be surprised if that was the case since the actor who played the burgomaster was changed from film to film. Universal recast roles with impunity throughout their Monsterverse. And I just remembered, in Frankenstein, little Maria’s father’s name is Ludwig and he is played by Michael Mark, in The Bride of Frankenstein, her father’s name is Hans and he’s played by Reginald Barlow. We never saw Maria’s mother in the first film, but in the second she is played by Mary Gordon.

Seventeen-year-old Valerie Hobson replaced an ill Mae Clarke as Elizabeth in The Bride of Frankenstein in 1935.

I have written extensively on the Universal cinematic universe of monsters and discussed the full range of actor and character changes, but since I am focusing on these two films in particular for this post, I thought I’d mention a couple the took place between Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein.

The recasting of the burgomaster, who appears in the opening scene of the film as well as Maria’s parents, is quite obvious. Lionel Belmore played the character in Frankenstein, and he was replaced in The Bride of Frankenstein by E.E. Clive, who also appeared as a constable in The Invisible Man in 1933. Belmore returned to play a minor character in Ghost of Frankenstein in 1942.

Mae Clarke played Elizabeth in Frankenstein. When The Bride of Frankenstein was filmed, Clarke had fallen ill and was unable to reprise the role. She was replaced by 17-year-old Valerie Hobson, who also played Lisa Glendon, the wife of Henry Hull’s Dr. Wilfred Glendon in Werewolf of London the same year.

Dwight Frye, who played Fritz in Frankenstein, plays Karl in The Bride of Frankenstein. It’s not a recast of an actor but the creation of a new character. It’s not a continuity issue, but I just thought I’d mention it. Frye also played a small role in 1939’s Son of Frankenstein.

Obviously, the replacement of Mae Clarke makes sense, but I don’t understand why Clive replaced Belmore as the burgomaster, or why Baron Frankenstein was eliminated altogether. With the exception of one line delivered by Dr. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger) referring the Henry being the baron now. So, we can assume Henry’s father died. Perhaps this plot element got tossed in the wastebasket when the script was written or the scenes were left on the cutting room floor.

These details in no way hamper my enjoyment of the films. But when you watch things enough times, you can certainly develop a keen eye for inconsistencies and flaws.

How to Fix the Dark Universe

I have written about the Universal Monsterverse, the first cinematic universe, extensively in recent months. In fact, my look at Universal’s werewolf movies was the most popular thing I’ve posted in quite some time. Universal horror (1925-1956) is still enjoyed and widely discussed by people of all ages. The Peacock streaming service from Comcast/Xfinity, which is the parent company of NBCUniversal, has just about all of the original Universal horror films available. Over the years, many of these films have been remade, reimagined, and rebooted. Hammer Studios’ efforts from the late 1950s to the early 1970s were definitely the most successful.

In 1999, Universal released Stephen Sommers version of The Mummy starring Brendan Fraser. Sommers made two more mummy movies (which we won’t discuss), along with Van Helsing in 2004. I recall an interview with Sommers where he said he was a big fan of the original Universal films, just as Peter Jackson said the original King Kong (which he remade in 2005) inspired him to become a filmmaker. In 2010, Benicio Del Toro starred as Lawrence Talbot in a remake of The Wolf Man (1941), called The Wolfman. Numerous filmmakers and studios have put their interpretations of the source material for many of these movies on the big and small screens.

In my treatise on the Universal Monsterverse, I started with lavishing praise on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while criticizing DC Comics for their ham-handed attempt to emulate Marvel. I also mentioned the Stephen King multiverse, which was not brought to the big screen in a concerted effort the way Marvel and DC were. The reason why I have taken these particular steps across this bridge is because of Universal’s ill-fated attempt to create something called the Dark Universe. As a fan of Universal horror since childhood, the promise of such a thing certainly raised the hair on the back of my neck. But as films have trickled out and news of the future of the endeavor has been less than encouraging, I have been a bit disappointed. I’m sure I am not the first person to take a look at where things have gone awry, and I am sure I won’t be the last, but I won’t be reading of those pieces lest I form my own conclusions and make my own suggestions.

In 1925, Universal brought The Phantom of the Opera to life with the Man of 1,000 Faces, Lon Chaney, in the title role. Whether Carl Laemmle, Jr., intended it or not, the Phantom kicked off the dawn of the first cinematic universe. Gothic horror literature was a logical place to mine story ideas and after the success of the stage production, Universal turned to Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the first “talkie” horror film in 1931. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was next the same year. It wasn’t until 1932’s The Mummy an original screenplay was used. In 1933, Universal returned to literature with H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man. What followed was a cache of mostly interconnected sequels and tales of the undead, curses, and science gone wrong on a scale never replicated.

A detective’s crazy wall.

In 2008, Paramount and Marvel brought Iron Man to theaters. Whether Jon Favreau, et al, intended it or not, Iron Man kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What followed was a series of mostly interconnected films with stories and characters mined from comic books. Whether it was the plan or not all along, eventually a schedule of movies was mapped out and announced and connecting lines were drawn. More than 20 films featuring origin stories and team-ups all led up to an epic finale. The best thing about this? Until we were several films into it, Marvel DID NOT TALK ABOUT IT. Unless I missed something along the way, unless I wasn’t paying enough attention to the chatter, I had no idea what the grand plan was until we were knee-deep in Avengers in-fighting. And then I don’t recall DC coming out with a press release that read, “Hey, we’re going to copy those other comic book guys,” but that’s essentially what happened and we all knew what they were doing. The difference now is, unless you are “in the know” as it were, we still don’t know where the hell that’s going.

With Marvel, we had two Iron Man movies, a Hulk movie, a Captain America movie, and a Thor movie, before we got the first team-up, The Avengers. Marvel was laying the groundwork, introducing us to the characters and the alliances, some on more stable ground than others. DC has tried this to varying lesser degrees of success.

So, what does this all have to do with horror movies, Universal horror in particular? Glad you asked. If memory serves, I heard rumblings about the Dark Universe before the 2017 release of The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise. However, right from the opening Universal animation at the start of the film, you knew the Dark Universe was going to be a thing. I don’t know why they chose his particular film or monster. I questioned the casting of Tom Cruise, but the story itself, up until a certain point is actually kind of serviceable. Until the appearance of Dr. Jekyll, played by Russell Crowe. First of all, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde wasn’t a Universal horror film to begin with, the 1931 film was released by Paramount and the 1941 version with Spencer Tracy came from MGM. The movie bombed and the buzz all over the internet was that the Dark Universe was doomed and then in short order, like Frankenstein’s monster, it was resurrected. The presence of Jekyll as the head of some monster studying and hunting society was supposed to set the stage for the entire Dark Universe as other monsters such as Dracula were hinted at and alluded to.

The Invisible Man released in 2020 happens to be the last movie I saw in a theater before COVID-19 hit. Elisabeth Moss (A Handmaid’s Tale) stars and it was a well-received and well-reviewed film. It is a modern update on HG Wells’ tale and the original film starring Claude Rains. Oliver Jackson-Cohen plays Adrian Griffin and Michael Dorman plays Tom Griffin, Rains’ character’s name was Dr. Jack Griffin. I won’t give away any spoilers but it is a tale of abuse, madness and paranoia, much like the 1933 film. The 2020 version currently holds a 91% Tomatometer rating and an 88% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. The Mummy clocks in at 16% and 35% respectively, in case you were wondering.

I recently read that Bride of Frankenstein was up next, then it wasn’t, then it was. Again, resurrected more times than …

So, what’s gone wrong and what can Universal do to fix it? The first problem was making the creation of the Dark Universe obvious and public. The second was the story in the back half of The Mummy. Dr. Jekyll and his secret agency of monster hunters just doesn’t work. Even if it was to be the crux of the Dark Universe, save it for later. The third is the on again/off again public admission that the Dark Universe concept is broken.

What’s the fix? One of the reasons I enjoyed the original films was the time periods they were set in. Gothic horror and early science fiction just work better as period pieces. The novels Dracula and The Invisible Man were published in 1897, Frankenstein was written in 1818, The Wolf Man was set earlier than its 1941 release, even mummy films work better set in the early part of the 20th century because of the infancy of Egyptology. The 2020 Invisible Man worked because of the use of technology. Could other original Universal monster movies be updated for today? Yes and no. We have two examples of this – one that works and one that doesn’t. As much as Frankenstein predicted medical advances such as organ transplants, could such a story be updated for today? By the right filmmaker, in the right surgical-gloved hands if you will, sure. I would argue for the opposite. Keep the films, the stories, in the correct time frame. Find a way to connect them later. These creatures all keep finding a way to return from the grave any damn way.

Now, you might argue that today’s audiences don’t have the appetite, the taste, for period-piece Gothic horror. I would retort that you are incorrect. Just look at the success of some of recent series – Downton Abbey, The Crown, Outlander, and now Bridgerton. You also might argue that this ground has been covered already. And I would answer with yes and no. Dracula is the most obvious. No true adaptation of that novel has ever been produced. Kenneth Branagh tried with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with mixed results. Stephen Sommers managed to make a fantastic mummy movie in 1999 that was both original and called back to the Karloff film. Van Helsing is another story. Look at the recent Sherlock Holmes films with, ironically, Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man). Guy Ritchie did a fantastic job with period detective stories that sprang from the pages of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work updated with breathtaking action. I actually liked The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which featured appearances by Dr. Jekyll (and Mr. Hyde), Mina Harker, an invisible man, a phantom character (turns out to be Holmes’ Moriarty), among other literary characters. Some dark TV series have been pretty darn good as well, The Frankenstein Chronicles and Taboo come to mind. Ripper Street is one of the best. This can be done. And it can be done well.

Perhaps the most ambitious homage or love letter to the original Universal Monsterverse was Showtime’s Penny Dreadful (2014-2016) starring Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton, Billie Piper, Rory Kinnear, and Harry Treadaway. I get chills thinking about how good this show was and I am sad about how it ended. I think Kinnear’s portrayal of the Frankenstein monster was the best work of his career. Dalton plays Sir Malcolm Murray, ostensibly Mina’s father, who is trying to find his daughter who has been abducted by Count Dracula. Hartnett plays a character who is eventually revealed to be Lawrence Talbot, and yes, he is a werewolf. Dr. Henry Jekyll and Dorian Gray are part of the story, as is a version of the Bride of Frankenstein. There are witches, necromancers and vampires and all manner of ghouls and oogedy-boogedies in this fantastic Gothic horror universe. But it all falls down in the rush to the finale and the failed portrayal of Dracula. But if you love Universal horror, I do highly recommend this series if you can get it, 91% | 90% respectively on Rotten Tomatoes.

Victorian London has been the setting for so many great Gothic horror films and TV series during the past 100 years. There is no reason why Universal can’t revisit some of these familiar haunts. You never know what new terrors, and old friends, might be lurking around the corner in a creepy, foggy alley in the West End.

Was that the howl of a wolf I just heard?

January Quickly Becoming a Wash in the Weight Loss Effort

When I first made the decision to eat better and lose weight eight years ago I was gung-ho. I went full bore, balls to the wall into it. Changed the diet overnight. Started walking three miles per day right away. Had a major setback because I forgot to add water and ended up needing an embarrassing surgery but hey, it’s all water under the bridge now. I developed a rigid self-discipline I was quite proud of and I was the envy of many people and an inspiration for others. I don’t say that to brag because I am about to compare and contrast.

After the holidays I said I was going to recommit to losing weight and keeping it off. The good news is I am hovering around 215 pounds. The bad news is that’s where I started three weeks ago. I have struggled to find that willpower, that self-discipline to get back to proper nutrition. I’m still hitting the exercise although I probably could do more or work a little harder. Also, I have been having trouble sticking that supplement regimen. I start weeks off strong and then by Wednesday or Thursday I am back in forgetting mode. I’ve been trying to drink more water. That’s a similar issue. I start off the first few days guzzling water and then by the middle of the week I’m back to old habits.

Part of the problem could be how easy it is to sit at your set point (whatever weight your body wants to be at the time) and make major changes when you’ve been in kind of maintenance mode for so long. When I started eight years ago and the other two times I’ve rebooted and dropped weight, I dived in and went hard making sweeping changes. Since the changes I need to make now aren’t as extensive, I’m having trouble sticking to them.

I’m not complaining mind you, just updating you on what’s happening. I’ll get there, it’s just that this jump start isn’t happening as fast as I’d like. It’s another friendly reminder that the struggle is real. The only thing I can do is stack one good day on top of another.

The Man (and Woman) Makes the Uniform

Scotty, Spock, Bones, Uhura and Chekov in the standard Star Fleet uniform, while Kirk is wearing a more “casual” top. Gold stripes at the end of the sleeve presumably denotes rank. The color difference between Kirk and Chekov’s shirts are distinct.

When I was an enlisted man in the United States Navy we had a uniform for just about everything and every season. And you could tell enlisted folks from officers just by looking at the uniform or certain accoutrements. Our uniforms were certainly not hip or in line with the day’s fashions. They were utilitarian and old-fashioned. When it comes to Star Fleet and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise on the show Star Trek: The Original Series, the uniforms are one of the first things you notice. The distinction between enlisted and commissioned personnel is not easily made and it doesn’t seem like there are many enlisted crew members. Much of Star Fleet’s structure, chain of command and ship names are derived from the U.S. Navy, so that’s why I continue to draw the parallels.

I’ve observed three main uniform types – every day, a slightly casual, and dress/formal/ceremonial. The color scheme is also part and parcel to the uniforms and we have all made red shirt jokes. Hell, I’ve done that throughout this blog series.

William Ware Theiss designed the uniforms for the show, as well as those for Star Trek: The Next Generation. Command level officers wear a green/gold top, yet there seems to be a more traditional gold color for operations personnel. Perhaps my color blindness keeps me from making the distinction between the two. The blue shirt denotes science or medical. The red shirt is worn by engineering and security. The uniforms are set off by black pants (for men, minidress for women) and black pirate boots.

Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) is the only character who seems to wear what I consider the more casual of the uniform tops on a regular basis. I am no fashion designer so I am not going to even try to describe the differences. This top is more green in color than gold, and Kirk’s standard uniform top is closer to gold. Ensign Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) and Lt. Hikaru Sulu (George Takei) wear what is presumably the gold operations uniform. Lieutenant Commander Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley) wear the blue top, while Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott, “Scotty,” (James Doohan), and Lieutenant Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) wear red. With red as the color of the engineering department, Scotty’s uniform makes sense, however Uhura’s does not.

Grace Lee Whitney as Yeoman Janice Rand in the Star Fleet minidress.

Other characters, such as yeomen who serve in an administrative capacity, also wear red. In “Space Seed,” the Enterprise’s historian Lt. Marla McGivers (Madlyn Rhue) wears red. Nurses who work with McCoy, most notably Nurse Chapel (Majel Barrett) wear blue. Command/operations shirt colors are way too close together but it is the red shirt that causes the most confusion in my humble opinion. Uhura is not in engineering or security, so why does she wear red? Wouldn’t communications be considered part of operations?

As far as the design of the uniforms goes, again, I am not a clothing designer, but I always thought the uniforms were distinctive and added an air of credibility to the show. The uniformity, if you will, gives you the sense of cohesion, that these people are all together in a sense, they’re on the same team.

However, (there’s always a “but,” right?), I have mentioned the show’s problems with misogyny and sexism and the female uniforms are, well, problematic (at least in today’s context). The skirts are ridiculously short. Miniskirts made their first appearances in science fiction films in the 1950s and they became part of mainstream fashion the 1960s. So, you could argue that the female Star Fleet uniforms were a sign of the times. However, in many action sequences, creative acting and camerawork are at play to prevent inadvertent “peek-a-boo” moments. And I have seen quite a bit of Uhura and Chapel’s backsides (among others) as they do simple things like stand from a sitting position. If you look at the mid-1970s science fiction show Space: 1999, their uniforms cover more and look like some of the fashions of that day, as futuristic as they’re supposed to be. That show found other ways to sexualize female characters visually than the standard daily wear uniform. Star Trek did this as well, but it was also baked into the standard uniform.

Kirk, Bones, and Spock in Star Fleet dress uniforms. Note the slight difference between Bones and Spock’s uniforms – medical vs. science?

The Star Fleet logo had a few variants that denote which division or department an officer or crew member belonged to. Gold stripes at the bottom of the sleeve of the uniform top would seem to indicate rank. Now, you might be asking yourself, “Why doesn’t this guy just Google these things?” That is a valid question. It’s because I don’t want to. I am using the internet to do some basic research here, like getting names right, but I also know how deep this rabbit hole goes. I want to make sure I stay within transporter range. I’m also trying to watch the show with “virgin” eyes, if you will. I am enjoying making these observations as if I am watching the show for the first time in the late 1960s. In the process, I am well aware of my 2021 sensibilities and that my thoughts are informed by 51 years of living through half a century of tumultuous human history.

I don’t know what I would have thought about some of the things that I’ve witnessed on this show if I was watching it from 1966 – 1969, instead of with these eyes that look these elements through a completely different lens. I don’t know if I would’ve found anything cringe-worthy like I do now. The abject horror influence of the writers on the show probably would have spoken to me like it does now. The speculative science would’ve resonated with me as it does now. But, I don’t know if the diversity and sexism would have registered. I like to think it would have. But we human beings aren’t as evolved as we think we are.

Star Trek’s Guest Stars Among the Stars

Ricardo Montalban as Khan (left) opposite William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk.

My exploration of Star Trek: The Original Series has slowed from warp speed to impulse power in the recent days. I still have the same inclination to watch the whole thing and I’d say I am roughly halfway through. The other night I watched my all-time favorite episode, “The Trouble with Tribbles.” I mentioned this in an earlier (b)log entry, but Star Trek featured many up and coming and already famous actors during the U.S.S. Enterprise’s “five-year mission.” I’ve watched numerous episodes and thought, “Where do I know that person from?” So, at this point in the series, I thought I would point out some of the more prominent. Thank goodness for IMDB.

I’m going to keep this list to names and faces I recognize. To try to dissect the full list of people who appeared on this show would be a daunting task indeed. I’ll try to note what I know them from, or what you might know them from. Of course, my horror roots will be showing.

William Campbell of Dementia 13 fame actually played two characters, the theatrical entity known as Trelane and Klingon commander Koloth. He reprised the role of Koloth for an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in 1994.

The biggest name is probably Joan Collins who was already an established actress. Her career and resume speak for themselves. She played Edith Keeler.

Diana Muldaur played multiple roles on The Original Series (Dr. Miranda Jones / Dr. Ann Mulhall / Thalassa), and went on to become Dr. Pulaski on Star Trek: The Next Generation. She was a regular cast member on L.A. Law from 1989 – 1991. She was also known for Born Free in 1974.

Kim Darby played Miri. She went on to appear in numerous films and TV shows, including Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.

James Gregory appeared as Dr. Tristan Adams. I remember him as Inspector Luger on Barney Miller in the early 1980s.

Gary Lockwood of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame played Capt. Kirk’s best friend LCDR Gary Mitchell.

Jill Ireland, who played several roles in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., played Leila Kalomi.

Ricardo Montalban, when he wasn’t selling cars or welcoming people to Fantasy Island, played Khan in Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Elisha Cook, who starred in The Maltese Falcon, played Cogley.

Jane Wyatt, who played the mom on Father Knows Best, appeared as Spock’s mother, Amanda.

William Marshall, better known as Blacula, played Dr. Richard Daystrom.

Frank Gorshin, who played The Riddler in the Batman TV series, played Bele.

Mariette Hartley appeared as Zarabeth.

Lee Meriwether, who starred as Catwoman in the Batman series, played Losira.

Teri Garr of Young Frankenstein fame appeared as Roberta Lincoln.

Vic Tayback from Mel’s Diner played Jojo Krako.

Yvonne Craig, better known as Batgirl, played the character Marta.

Yvonne Craig, who played Batgirl in the Batman TV series, appeared as Marta.

John Colicos, who played Count Baltar on Battlestar Galactica, appeared as Kor. He reprised this role for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Alan Napier, who played Alfred on the Batman TV series, appeared as Adam.

Horror icon Sid Haig played the First Lawgiver.

David Soul of ‘Salem’s Lot and Starsky and Hutch fame played Makora.

Keye Luke, who played Master Po on Kung Fu, appeared as Cory.

The Hammer himself, Fred Williamson, played Anka.

Brian Tochi played Ray. He went on to play Leonardo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles adaptations, Nogata in the Police Academy movies, and Ensign Kenny Lin in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

John Fiedler played Hingest. You might know him as the voice of Piglet from Winnie the Pooh.

William Schallert played Nilz Baris. He also played Varani on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Three television shows either produced or ended up as landing spots for numerous Star Trek guest stars – Batman, Gunsmoke, and Wild Wild West. Almost all of the folks who appeared in one episode as a guest star enjoyed long and notable acting careers. I recommend you check out the IMDB entry for Star Trek: The Original Series and review the list yourself. I bet you find more perfomers you recognize.

As for writers, I only recognize a few names: Gene Roddenberry (of course), Robert Bloch (Psycho), Richard Matheson (I Am Legend), and Shari Lewis (yes, that Shari Lewis, Lambchop Shari Lewis). Lewis wrote 1969’s “The Lights of Zetar.”

Star Trek: The Original Series was fertile ground for a wide variety of leading and characters actors who added their own flavor to the show. And all of the spin-offs and films proved to be the same.

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.

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 our 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 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.