Category Archives: Television

genesis of the daleks

I should have finished my script yesterday, but the goddamn sinusitis completely knocked me out. Luckily, used a winning combination of Sudafed, Mucinex, Advil, and sitting on the couch next to a humidifier to prevent this thing from developing into something really nasty, like a Moose Bite.

The best thing about being a geek who makes a living writing about geek stuff is that I get to do the things I love and not feel like I’m goofing off. So even though I was sitting on the couch watching Genesis of the Daleks for the entire afternoon, I felt like I was being productive.

I am aware that it’s a gaping hole in my geek cred, and I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never watched much Dr. Who. I mean, I’d seen a little bit here and there, but certainly not enough to tell you which Doctor I liked the most, or why the Timelords are cool — in fact, I still can’t — but when I got about halfway through this DVD, I said, out loud, “Where have you been all my life?”

While I don’t think I would have liked Dr. Who as much as I liked The Prisoner when I was a teen (the time I was most likely to have discovered it, because my friend Guy had a knack for introducing me to awesome British television) I’m thrilled that I chose to seriously begin my travels with the Doctor at this time and in this way. Once I get these writing deadlines behind me, I think I’ll go back to Robot, which is the first appearance of Tom Baker as the Doctor, and make my way forward a bit.

Questions for Dr. Who fans:

  • What do you call yourselves? Whosiers? Timsies? Time-ers?
  • I’m sure a series that ran for decades has uneven stories, but did I serendipitously fall into Dr. Who’s Best of Both Worlds? Because I loved just about every single frame of Genesis of the Daleks.
  • Does Dr. Who — which appears to me on one viewing to be awesome in the 70s — suffer the same fate in the 80s as so many things that were awesome in the 70s? (Boston, Grateful Dead, Aerosmith, Rolling Stones, Jefferson Starship — oh, I’m sorry, I mean Starship — I’m looking in your direction.)
  • Do Dr. Who fans have blood feuds about their favorite Doctors the way Trekkies do about their favorite captains? I imagine they must, because if there’s one thing all geeks have in common it’s our ability to take something we love and turn it into something to argue about with other people who love it, right?

I’m about 85% of normal today, and not cranky at all, which is quite nice. I’m looking forward to finishing my script, because there’s a bottle of 14 year Oban in it for me when I do.

“You are still half savage . . . but there is hope”

I watched a couple episodes of the original Star Trek with Nolan last night, including Court Martial.

He’s not a big Star Trek fan. He prefers Battlestar Galactica — he calls it "gangster," which is teenager for "good" — and Firefly, but he watched it with me anyway.

Though he’s thankfully grown up in a world where it’s not out of the
ordinary for a woman to be a prosecutor, or a non-white man to be a
judge, I explained to him that it was a very big deal in 1967, and that allowed him appreciate the show on a new level.

Something we both noticed, though, that made us laugh and reaffirmed Nolan’s opinion that the original Star Trek "just looks kind of silly": according to Court Martial, the three buttons a captain always needs to have easily accessible when he’s sitting in command are: Yellow Alert, Red Alert, and Eject Pod.

We saw some other things that made us laugh and cringe, but people who fall over white barriers and crush plants shouldn’t cast stones at white paper labels on the captain’s chair, so that’s all I’m going to say about that.

After he went to sleep, I watched Arena. Though it was one of my favorites when I was a kid, I haven’t watched the entire episode for such a long time — I think it must be at least 15 years — that I’d completely forgotten about the entire first half of the episode, when they’re getting shelled by the Gorn at Cestus III, which was surprisingly violent and exciting. All I remembered was Kirk running around Vasquez Rocks while he fought the scary guy in the rubber suit, which was awesome and awesomer.

I’d also forgotten about Spock’s suggestion that maybe the Gorn were protecting themselves when they attacked the human outpost on Cestus III, and Kirk’s initial refusal to consider it. It was pretty brave to put the idea out that someone you automatically assume has evil intentions may have a very good reason — from their perspective — to think the same thing about you. A big part of American mythology is that we’re always the Good Guys who are incapable of doing anything evil or wrong, and I thought it was daring to suggest — on network television in 1967, no less — that maybe it’s not that simple.

Even though Star Trek frequently looks silly and cheesy, I think it says a lot about the writing and the stories that audiences have not just overlooked that, but embraced it, for the last 40 years. I’ve seen movies that spent more on special effects for one shot than Star Trek
spent in an entire season’s worth, but I didn’t care about the
characters, and the story didn’t stay with me for one minute after it
was over. We know it’s just a guy in a silly rubber suit, but when Kirk empathizes with him and doesn’t kill him, it’s still a powerful moment, and the message it sends about compassion and empathy is a powerful one that’s just as relevant now as it was then.

TNG Review: Datalore

Happy Monday! (You’re twisting my melon, man . . .)

My Datalore review is at TV Squad:

After a bit of exploring, they find themselves in the lab of Data’s
creator, Dr. Noonian Soong. Riker, Geordi, and Tasha all join forces to
be sort of an Exposition Voltron, informing the audience that Noonian
Soong was the Earth’s foremost neuroscientist, until he tried to build
Asimov’s positronic brain and failed. Everyone thought he did the walk
of shame off the planet, but it turns out he just moved to Omicron
Theta to continue his work until he got it right. (Coincidentally, on
Omicron Gamma, there’s a group of former Microsoft employees still
working on an MP3 player).

As I mentioned on Friday, this episode was a massive disappointment to me, because I had such fond memories of it as a child. I said, "I liked this episode a lot when it first aired, but watching it now,
all I can see are gigantic plot holes and inconsistencies that never
should have made it past the first draft."
Well, I re-read the original script over the weekend, and it doesn’t suck nearly as much as the final episode does, and I honestly can’t figure out how they screwed it up so badly.

Well, actually, I have an idea: we shot several episodes in the first two years where the producers and writers were rewriting the script while we filmed it, and on some of those episodes we’d get new pages in the morning for a scene we were filming that afternoon, and then we’d get pages to replace those pages right after lunch. It’s incredibly hard to keep any sense of continuity when we don’t know what’s going to happen before and after the scene we’re working on, and it’s equally difficult to turn in nuanced and well-prepared performances when we’ve only had a few hours with the material (that we haven’t had much time to look at because we’re shooting other scenes.)  Despite this, I think the performances in Datalore are fine. In fact, Picard and Data’s scene in Picard’s ready room, where Data asks Picard to stop calling Lore "it" is a fantastic one, and shows depth from both actors that we hadn’t really seen, yet. So the problem with Datalore isn’t the acting. I’m biased, of course, but I believe now (and remember) that everyone did the very best they could with what they were given.

Maybe someone who was working on the show in a production capacity at the time — Diane Duane, I’m looking in your direction — can confirm or deny this, but it seems like there was fighting among the producers, and this episode got caught in the power struggle. I said this in fewer words in my bottom line:

The pitch was awesome: "We find Data’s evil twin brother, who he never
knew he had." Sure, there’s nothing original about the evil twin story,
but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be told again in an interesting
way, especially with a cool character like Data, played by a great
character actor like Brent Spiner supported by a brilliant dramatic
actor like Patrick Stewart. How could they screw up this story this

I think it comes down to lazy writing that has things
happen because they’re supposed to happen, rather than having them
happen organically. The characters are credulous when they should be
skeptical, the audience isn’t surprised by anything after the second
act, and there are story problems that should have never gotten past
the first draft.

When you’re getting lots of conflicting orders from different producers, and the big, ultimate boss (in this case, Gene) wants one particular thing to happen, I think you must end up writing like that, having things happen because they’re supposed to happen, which is why this episode has so many holes in it.

I have a deadline chasing me like a pissed off Big Daddy in Rapture,
but I’d love to hear your memories of this episode, or any comments you
have on this review. I’ll be checking in at TV Squad throughout the day, or until readers get bored and stop commenting.

Propel it!

i am from space and the future

I’m putting the finishing touches on my long-overdue Datalore story for TV Squad. It’s taken so long, because it just wasn’t coming together the way I wanted it to, and I couldn’t figure out why until this morning. I’d written some really funny raps for Picard, but they just didn’t fit in with the rest of the story. It’s funny, but it wasn’t serving the larger piece, so it had to go.

Talk about killing your precious babies! This is part of what I sent upstate to live on a farm with other words:

I’m Jean-Luc Picard, I’m chillin’ in my yard
Underneath my chrome dome in the ship I call my home
Kickin’ it with Data, my homeboy, my brotha
I wanna get freaky with Wesley Crusher’s motha!

It’s hilarious to me, but that’s probably because I can hear the music in my head (and other voices that want me to do bad things, but I won’t! I’ll show them! I’ll show them all! HAHAHAHAHAAAAaa!!11)

Cutting out all the rapping let me write stuff that’s far more amusing to me, like:

Riker looks around the bridge, sees all the commissioned officers he has available to him, does a quick scan of the ship’s manifest to see who’s on duty . . .  and decides to send Wesley Freakin’ Crusher to "discreetly" sneak a peek at Data. Worf says, "Uh, excuse me, Commander, but since I’m kind of in the security department and all, and I’m a big old Klingon, shouldn’t maybe I go check this out?"

Riker replies, "I’m not going to lie to you, Worf: we all know that if there’s anything funky going on down there, you’re just going to get your ass kicked. So I’m sending the Boy Wonder and his giant brain instead."

Wesley jumps up from his console and shouts, "Wheee! I’m in Starfleet!" as he runs like a pixie to the turbolift.

Worf growls, but inside he’s secretly grateful that he’s staying safely on the bridge.

Lore, disguised as Data, is contacting the crystalline entity when Wesley shows up, and discreetly checks up on him thusly:

Wesley: Hi Data! Look at how totally in Starfleet I am!
Lore: Hello, Wesley! I am not Lore, I am Data! Look at Lore who is on the floor while I, Data, am standing here doing nothing suspicious!
Wesley: Wow, that sure does look like Lore! Neat! I’d better not call security or anything since nothing suspicious is going on here. Oh, before I leave, here are all the reasons I, and everyone else on the ship would suspect that you were actually Lore, disguised as Data, contacting the crystalline entity so it could come and eat our brains.
Lore: Hey, it’s not unreasonable, I mean, it’s not going to eat your eyes.
Wesley: Hey, did you know that I’m in Starfleet? I talk to the captain! I think I’ll go talk to him now! Wheeee!
Lore: Thanks for dropping in and observing that there’s nothing suspicious going on here. Run along now, you little scamp!
Wesley: Wheeee!

I also realized that my memory of Datalore is as divorced from reality as George W. Bush. I liked this episode a lot when it first aired, but watching it now, all I can see are gigantic plot holes and inconsistencies that never should have made it past the first draft. Gene is credited as the writer on this one, but it was done at a time when his health was rapidly failing, and I see Maurice Hurley’s hacky fingerprints all over it.

I’m turning it in to my editor at TV Squad later today, and I’ll link it when he pushes it live.

Can media conglomerates afford to pay the writers?

As someone who hopes to be in the WGA one day, and as a current SAG member (and former member of the Board of Directors) I am in complete and total solidarity with the Writer’s Guild. It’s quite heartening to me, also,  to see that so many people refuse to be fooled by the lies that the six companies who control all of the media have been trying to spread.

The AMPTP has been successful (and helped by the news media they own) in spreading FUD about the things the writers are asking for. This post at United Hollywood puts some important numbers into perspective:

"But can the corporations really afford to pay you what you’re asking for?"

set aside for the moment the issue of what the congloms say in their
press releases to us (which is basically "There’s no money! Ever! And
if there was, we spent it all on other projects that lost money so it’s
gone! Forever! We’re broke! We’re having to rent our yachts!") and focus on some hard numbers thoughtfully provided by Jonathan Handel on the Huffington Post yesterday.

writes an excellent (I think) and even-handed analysis that takes into
account the effect pattern bargaining will have in calculating real
numbers of what we’re asking for, and what it will cost the companies,
individually, to pay us.

It comes, by his calculation, to $125 million per conglomerate per year — if we got every single thing we’re asking for.

That, by the way, is less than the $140 million Disney spent to fire Michael Ovitz for 15 months of work.

Also, Carson Daly is still an epic douche.

Also, also:

And finally, a meager contribution from the actor half of me:


186, and some other NUMB3RS

The good news is that I packed and labeled 186 books to be shipped. Of  those 186, about 30 are international orders that still need customs forms and postage, but the rest are ready to go. This brings us to the bad news, which is that I just finished now, an hour after the post office closed, the day before a holiday. So if you were in the first 186 and you’re in the US, your book will ship Friday morning. If you were in the first 186 and you’re somewhere other than the US, it will ship by Saturday. (According to my fuzzy math and hazy memory, the first 186 would be between noon and 2pm PST on Sunday, if you’re wondering.)

Ryan’s coming home for Thanksgiving, so I think I’ll have non-computer priorities until he goes back to school on Sunday, so this is a weekend farewell from me. Thanks for being part of an awesome (if short) week, and if you’re traveling in the next few days, I hope it’s as hassle-free and enjoyable as possible. Airborne is sugary crap; take Emergen-C. And wash your hands. A lot.

Oh! I keep forgetting to mention: I’m on NUMB3RS this Friday night. The episode is called "Graphic." I’ll have a post at TV Squad about working on the show sometime on Friday.

Colbert Report writers on the strike

Yesterday, The Daily Show writers gave us their take on the WGA strike, and today the writers from The Colbert Report share some Truthiness:

Quoth John Scalzi: This is why it’s not smart to get into a snit fight (or labor dispute) with a writer. Because they write. Which means they know how to make you look bad.

Not the Daily Show explains the writer’s strike

If I haven’t made it clear already, I fully support the Writer’s Guild of America. I’m happy to note than a clear majority of Americans does, too.

If you’re unclear on the main reasons the WGA is on strike, allow one of the writers from The Daily Show to explain it.

Uh, you should actually watch it, uh, anyway, even if you already understand the issues behind the strike, because it’s the closest we’re going to get to The Daily Show for quite some time, I fear:

Man, I miss The Daily Show. Those guys are awesome writers, and they deserve better than they’re getting from the AMPT.

a different perspective on numb three ers

The art department at Numb3rs created the best fake comic convention I’ve ever seen for last week’s show. The level of detail was phenomenal, including things like a stack of flyers welcoming participants to the con, booths from Wizkids, and WOTC, and appearances by several different real life comic creators.

One of those comic creators, Tony Fleecs (In My Lifetime, POSTCARDS: True Stories that Never Happened) talked to the comic podcast Word Balloon about his experiences on the set. It’s an enjoyable listen for comic readers, and people who just want to know what it’s like to be on the set of a television show from the perspective of someone who doesn’t work in the TV industry every day. He also said some nice things about me, which made my sugar hangover a little more bearable.

(Thanks to reader Ethan J., for the link!)

a bit more about my episode of Family Guy

So recording Family Guy yesterday ranks in the top five most awesome moments of my acting and geek lives.

Seth MacFarlane directed my session, and when I met him, I said, "Okay, I’m not even going to try to pretend to keep it cool. I am a huge fan, and this is more exciting for me than I can quantify."

Yeah, I said quantify. I say stupid shit like that when I’m giddy and excited.

"Well, if you’re going to do that," he said, "then I’ll have to tell you that Next Generation is my favorite of all the Star Treks, and I’ve seen every episode about a thousand times. The First Duty is just great, man."

I did my best not to faint.

We had a meeting of the mutual admiration society for a few minutes, and then I went into the booth to record my lines. It was incredibly fun and creatively fulfilling, and even though we only worked together for fifteen or twenty minutes, I instantly liked him. He reminded me of my friends from ACME, and I hoped I earned another bit on the show at some point in the future, because he was really fun to work with.

When I was finished recording, I asked him if I could talk a little bit about my episode on my blog, without giving away too many details, and he said that would be fine, so . . .

I play myself, in a story that you could call a tribute to Next Generation. Pretty much everyone from the cast is on board for the episode, and holy shit is it funny.

I can’t divulge any specific story details, or give away any jokes, but there’s a joke with me that, if it makes it to the final cut of the episode, could quite possibly be the funniest thing I’ve ever done on television.

The show will air in about a year, I guess, and I can’t wait to see it.