Archive for the ‘TELEVISION/TV SERIES’ Category

TELEVISION/TV SERIES: CHARLIE AND LOLA – Argument Bombs

by Randall Allen Dunn

One day, while Abby was playing with a friend, both of the girls started screaming at each other over a toy. They were grabbing at it, each trying to pull it from the other one’s hands. Nicki calmed them down and talked with them about how to resolve things without getting into a big fight.

I came into the room a little later and asked the girls if they were all right, because I heard that they had gotten blown up.

Abby and her friend giggled and gave me confused looks. “We didn’t get blown up!” they said.

“It sounded like you did. It sounded like you got blown up by an argument bomb.”

They started cracking up, wondering what nonsense I was talking about now.

“Were you both grabbing this toy?” I asked.

“Yeah,” they acknowledged.

“Well, did you both start getting mad and yelling at each other when you were trying to get it?”

“Well, we were kind of yelling,” they admitted.

“That’s an argument bomb. As soon as you both started grabbing at it, it blew up and made you both have a big argument. Next time you touch something and it makes you both get really mad, you should let go of that thing right away before it makes you blow up.”

The girls were still laughing, thinking I was crazy. But Nicki loved this concept. She told the girls, “Haven’t you ever heard someone say that they ‘blew up’ at someone because they got so mad? That’s what happens when you start fighting over something.”

Nicki and I love the hilarious British children’s cartoon, “Charlie and Lola”, about seven-year old Charlie (Daniel Mayers), who often has to help his flighty four-year old sister, Lola (Clementine Cowell), understand the way things really work. Thankfully, Charlie is very longsuffering, and Lola is fairly easygoing.

However, in one episode, called, “Yes I Am, No You’re Not”, they’re having a lot of trouble getting along. They keep getting into arguments over little things, to the point that their mother threatens them. If they can’t stop their squabbling, she’ll cancel their plans to take them to the Chinese puppet show. Charlie and Lola work hard to play together without getting into a fight, but it doesn’t work. They’re soon arguing and screaming at each other, demanding their way.

So their mother puts them both in the “Simmer-Down Chair”. Contemplating their fate, Charlie and Lola decide that they need a plan to keep themselves from squabbling. They can’t agree on what television show to watch, so they decide to do something quiet … separately.

Sitting together at a table, they begin coloring pictures. But within a few minutes, their plan falls apart as they start fighting over the crayons they each need.

Back in the Simmer-Down Chairs again, Charlie suggests a new plan. Instead of saying “No” to one another, they should find ways to say “Yes”. Then they’ll be agreeing on things instead of arguing. Lola loves this idea, and giggles as she says “Yes” to the plan.

When they return to playing, they happily respond “Yes” to questions from one another, and find they’re enjoying their time together again. By focusing on working together, they find it easier to avoid getting upset with one another.

Getting along with someone takes work, especially when it’s someone close to you. It’s too easy to fall into a trap of getting on each other’s nerves and venting all of your frustration.

Some years ago, a church friend noted that when we feel slighted, it’s usually over a “slight” matter. We focus on what offends us, even when it’s relatively insignificant. By insisting on defending ourselves and our opinions, we end up hurting our relationships and building up our own frustration.

You can preserve a lot of peace in your home by avoiding arguments over small things.

Learn to let things go this week. And try not to blow up.

Find more reviews of “Charlie and Lola Volume 4” at amazon.com!

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

TELEVISION/TV SERIES: BEYOND SCARED STRAIGHT – To Hell and Back

by Randall Allen Dunn

Most of us tend to think we’re invincible. That we’ll never suffer the loss of our home, our loved ones, or our freedom. Some of us are so convinced of our immortality that we dare trouble to come. We live it up, laughing at those stuffy people who worry about the consequences. We treat life as a party that will never end, and we don’t let anyone set any limits on our behavior.

One of my former co-workers once said, “Me, I’m going to Hell in a bucket. But at least I’m enjoying the ride.” For him, Hell was something to laugh at. Not because he had some plan for dealing with Hell when it came, but because he didn’t believe it existed. The same way that some people say they won’t mind going to Hell because all their friends will be there. As if Hell is a party for everyone who loves to do drugs and have wild sex, instead of being the final consequence for living a dangerous life.

In this earthly life, some people have had a wake-up call about the consequences of their actions. Having wised up, they’re ready to teach others who are still sleepwalking through life.

The television documentary series, “Beyond Scared Straight”, premiered in January with a special 90-minute episode that spotlighted five teenage girls who had been living the wild life. Girls like Leanna, a thirteen-year old preacher’s daughter who likes to shoplift and take illegal drugs. “Being bad is so fun,” she states. “You’re gonna die, anyway, so what’s the point?” She expresses the general view of most of these teenagers, who either fight with their parents or run away, so they can spend time drinking and stealing and doing whatever they want.

The girls soon learn the point, when they are sent to Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, CA to find out what their “partying” could ultimately cost them.

The original “Scared Straight” program dates back to 1978, when a group of potential delinquents were confronted with the harsh realities of prison life. But kids today aren’t as easily frightened, especially those who have already experienced the dangers of life on the streets. They hang around with thieves and gang members, so they can safely assume that they’re tough enough to handle anything that prison might throw at them.

Wrong. Their illusions are shattered within less than a minute of facing real prisoners. The prison guards escort the girls to a room where inmates – violent, angry, and huge – start shouting abusive threats at them from behind a glass wall. The inmates demand that the guards open the doors so they can wipe the smug smiles off of these young girls’ faces.

As the taunting continues, the girls’ smug looks turn to genuine terror, and they start to fear for their safety. Something they had always taken for granted in their parents’ homes.

One girl meets her own mother, an inmate who begs her daughter not to let herself end up there. Both mother and daughter are ashamed to see each other here. The daughter realizes that she could end up in the same place her mother went.

After the day of abuse seems to be ending, the girls are given more bad news. Most of them won’t be going back to their safe little homes. Unless the inmates decide that the girls have changed their mindset enough to be released, they will keep the girls locked up for another 72 hours.

Most of them don’t make it out.

One girl, who has been granted her freedom, is brought to see her friend, confined in the jail for another three days. They ask if she would be willing to trade, and endure another three days of the inmates’ abuse in her friend’s place, so that her friend can go home. The girl miserably shakes her head. No one is willing to put up with more of this horror. The inmates drive this point home, dispelling the girls’ assumptions that their “friends” will always have their back. Once they get to prison, everyone will be on her own.

The girls ultimately decide to change. They’re ready to apologize to their parents for taking them for granted. They’re ready to clean up their lives, with no more drinking, no more drugs, no more gangs, no more stealing.

They’re ready to start living in a way that helps them stay free, instead of pursuing the false freedom they thought they had.

Going to Hell in a bucket isn’t actually a good idea, even if you enjoy the ride. The problem with my former co-worker – like these young girls – is that he approached his life like a skydiver with no parachute, enjoying the thrill of a freefall without ever sobering up enough to recognize that it would be the last “high” he ever experienced. The reason he lived a wild life wasn’t because he had some magical way to protect himself from the consequences of his actions.

He just didn’t believe the ground was real.

Watch instant video of “Beyond Scared Straight” at amazon.com!

Monday, February 28th, 2011

TELEVISION/TV SERIES: HANDY MANNY – Working with the Whole Community

A lot of moral dilemmas have a simple black-and-white answer. No matter how people try to excuse away bad choices, there are still moral absolutes that tell us it is wrong to steal from others, or to seek personal revenge on someone.

But we can easily forget that the same rule doesn’t apply to people. People are not simply “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong”. Yet we often dismiss someone who appears to be “in the wrong”, rather than considering their needs.

“Handy Manny” is a wonderful cartoon about Manny Garcia (Wilmer Valderamma), a local handyman who assists his community with the help of his talking tools. In the multi-cultural neighborhood of Sheetrock Hills, Manny gets to work with all sorts of people on a variety of projects. At the same time, he finds opportunity to explain some of his own Hispanic traditions, such as celebrating Cinco de Mayo or Quinceañera.

In the episode, “Skateboard Park”, Mayor Rosa calls Manny and the tools with a serious problem. Kids are skateboarding through the crowded park and making it dangerous for others trying to use the sidewalks. Some of the park visitors are elderly, and can’t maneuver out of harm’s way. Small children are also present, and the skateboarders can’t always stop themselves quickly enough to avoid a dangerous crash. The combination of speeding skateboarders and other foot traffic is a bad accident waiting to happen. So the mayor asks Manny to post a sign that prohibits skateboarding in the park.

It seems like a simple job. Until Manny meets his friend, Elliot (Lance Bass), one of the skateboarders. Manny explains how dangerous it has become for Elliot’s friends to skateboard in between all of the other park visitors.

“But it’s the only place to skateboard in town,” Elliot argues. His buddies need a place to skateboard safely, where there are no cars, and the park has plenty of wide sidewalks to use.

When Mayor Rosa arrives to emphasize the problem, Elliot insists, “But we’re soooo careful!” Sadly, Elliot’s skateboarding buddy demolishes his argument a moment later, as he crashes his skateboard onto the grass nearby.

Manny tells Elliot that they have no choice. They can’t risk the safety of everyone else in the park. Elliot sadly complies, trudging away with his skateboard under his arm.

For most of us, the problem would be solved. Sure, it’s unfortunate that the kids can’t skateboard anywhere, but there’s simply no alternative.

But Manny decides to press for a better solution. Having no ideas of his own, he goes to a trusted friend, Kelly (Nancy Truman), who runs the hardware store and always has whatever Manny needs for a project. This time, he needs a better idea.

Kelly listens to the problem, remembering how Elliot loves skateboarding in the park. “Well, it’s too bad there isn’t a part of the park that’s just for skateboarders,” she notes.

Manny thanks Kelly, realizing she has just given him the solution he needs. He returns to Mayor Rosa and suggest that he and the tools build a ramped skateboarding area in a corner of the park, where the skateboarders won’t risk running into anyone else. Mayor Rosa loves the idea. “I should have known you would come up with a way to make everyone happy!” she beams.

Working within a community means taking everyone’s needs into consideration. It’s not always possible to find a solution that fits for everyone. But more often than not, people simply don’t make the extra effort to come up with better ideas. Working through a problem until you find a solution that satisfies everyone is difficult and time-consuming. Some people simply don’t feel it’s worth the hassle. Especially when they view one affected group as clearly “in the wrong”, just like Elliot and his troublesome skateboarding friends.

But the best kinds of neighbors make time to find solutions that benefit everyone.

 

For more information about “Handy Manny”, click on the picture link at left for an interview with Wilmer Valderamma, the voice of Handy Manny.

 

 

SIDE NOTE: When my very handy wife, Nicki, was working on a project, our three-year old daughter was astounded at her ability to repair things. “Mommy, you’re like Handy Manny,” Abby said, awestruck. Right after Nicki thanked her, Abby said, “Daddy is like Mr. Lopart.”

For those who don’t know, Mr.Lopart is the bumbling candy store owner with a comb-over, who breaks everything he tries to fix.

I think she just wanted to give me a part on the show …

 

Friday, April 30th, 2010

MUSIC: WHEN LOVE CAME DOWN – POINT OF GRACE – Christmas for Everyone

My favorite Christmas album is “A Christmas Story” by Point of Grace. It features outstanding vocals and original music, along with plenty of familiar Christmas carols with some new stylings that only enhance the original song. I can always let it play all the way through at least twice while wrapping presents, helping make cookies, or just driving around looking for the perfect present.

The opening song always strikes me, revealing the real message of Christmas.

 

Close your eyes and share the dream

Let everyone on Earth believe

The Child was born, the stars shone bright

When Love came down at Christmastime.

 

Of course, not everyone on Earth is going to believe. Not everyone will place their faith in Christ to transform their lives and make them brand new people, free of guilt and judgment for everything they’ve ever done or will do.

But they can.

That line, “Let everyone on Earth believe”, is not a mandate. It’s an invitation. It’s offered to everyone.

Even if you don’t listen to this song, you hear the invitation every year at Christmastime. The joy on people’s faces as they prepare for Christmas. The anticipation and wonder of children, searching the skies for a magical sleigh and – sometimes – working harder at “being good”. The strange sense of extra compassion people feel, when they actually consider giving a few extra dollars to a particular charity.

There’s something in the air, a strange sort of benevolent spirit that permeates the atmosphere – whether people want it to or not. And when people don’t want to act kinder or more generously toward others, it feels wrong somehow. “After all,” we think, “… it’s Christmas.”

Not everyone feels that way about Christmas. A number of people just want to “get through the holidays”. Many have sad memories associated with this time of year, or struggle bitterly with their families, so they can’t see Christmas as a time of celebration.

In the same way, many people have been burned by their encounters with people from the church. Those rough-edged memories make it impossible for some people to see the church – or Christmas – as a good thing.

But they still are, when Jesus is at the center of it. After all, he’s the one making the invitation. He’s the one who came to us – each one of us – to give us a new life.

Wherever you are now, however you’ve been burned in life, however you’ve burned others, Jesus still cares about you, and wants to be in a relationship with you. The Bible says that Jesus holds his hands out all day long to a stubborn and obstinate people. No matter how much we reject or ignore Christ, he still stands waiting to welcome us into his world.

The invitation is still open.

Merry Christmas!

 

To further demonstrate that Christmas is for everyone, click the picture at right to view the Doctor Who Christmas tribute using “When Love Came Down” by Point of Grace!

 

Find more reviews of A Christmas Story – Point of Grace at amazon.com!

 

Monday, November 30th, 2009

TELEVISION/TV SERIES: STAR TREK Part Six – A Friend in Need

 You can now watch the original Star Trek episodes, uncut, in a remastered format, with updated special effects, backgrounds, and music! It’s a great way to introduce a new generation to the original show! Click the right picture to preview the difference in the new Star Trek Remastered edition!

 

A friend of mine – I’ll call him Joe – recently noted that the measure of a person’s friendship is discovered in times of need. Joe had spent a few days helping a buddy with a project, but when Joe expected his friend to help re-roof Joe’s house, his buddy spent less than twenty minutes on the job. Then he left, telling Joe he had “a thing he had to do”. Joe’s so-called buddy left him stranded all alone on a massive roofing project that ultimately caused Joe to throw his back out after several days of brutal work.

I didn’t hear whether their friendship survived. But although they might have remained “friends”, Joe had certainly lost all genuine trust.

Friendship is tested much further in “Amok Time”, one of the most memorable episodes of the “Star Trek” series. When the rigid discipline of the always-logical Mr. Spock falls apart, he begins speaking violently to co-workers. He then demands that his close friend and superior officer, Captain Kirk, take him to his home planet of Vulcan for some R & R. Though he has always refused to take time off in the past, Spock refuses to explain his reasons for insisting upon it now. When pressed, he will only reveal to Kirk, in confidence, that it is a personal matter.

Kirk agrees to accommodate Spock with no further questions. Until an admiral orders Kirk to pilot the Enterprise and its crew to Altair VI for an inauguration of the planet’s new president. The presence of the Enterprise will serve as an important diplomatic representative of the Federation.

When Spock violates Kirk’s order and changes course to Vulcan instead, but then can’t recall his own breach of discipline, Kirk orders Dr. McCoy to examine him. McCoy soon learns that whatever is causing Spock’s strange behavior is also building up an internal pressure that can’t be stopped. In a week’s time, the pressure will kill Spock.

Kirk makes a final attempt to uncover what’s happening to Spock. He insists on knowing, assuring Spock that he will keep the matter completely confidential.

Spock finally complies, but struggles to tell Kirk what is clearly embarrassing for him. He explains that although Vulcans normally suppress their emotions, they lose all self-control at a certain point in their lives, called Pon farr. At this time, a Vulcan’s base emotions surface in extreme degrees, and he chooses a mate in a primal ceremony, one kept secret from non-Vulcan “outsiders”. If a Vulcan fails to find a mate, his surge of inner emotions will destroy him.

Kirk keeps the matter secret as he appeals once more to the admiral. He requests a few days to divert their course and arrive to the ceremony later. The admiral denies Kirk’s mysterious request, ordering him to continue to the ceremony.

Which leaves Kirk with a tough choice. If he simply explained the reason for the delay, the request would surely be granted. However, Spock’s personal dignity would be destroyed, when his loss of control becomes a matter of public military record. To say nothing of the faith that Spock would lose in Kirk. Anyone who has shared a personal secret, only to discover it being shared with someone else, understands how a broken confidence destroys trust.

Instead, Kirk chooses to defy a direct order. (For longtime “Star Trek” fans, it’s no shock to hear Kirk flying in the face of authority. However, I believe this was the first such occurrence in the original series.) McCoy warns Kirk that he’ll lose his rank if he ignores the admiral’s instructions.

“He’s saved my life a dozen times over,” Kirk argues. “Isn’t that worth a career? … He’s my friend.”

How many of us could call ourselves such a friend? How much would we sacrifice in order to save a friend’s life?

An easier question would be, how much time are we willing to give up to help a friend in need? Maybe someone who needs help with a roofing project to keep from throwing out his back? Or someone who needs an hour of our time and attention to help her work through a problem? Or someone who just needs to know they can come to us for advice or help, and trust us to keep personal matters confidential?

An inner city drug dealer once told a Christian missionary in his neighborhood that guys like him would never win people over. He even dared to tell him why. “It’s all about being there,” he said. When people were lonely or in trouble or scared, the dealer was there for them in a heartbeat, ready to sell them something to make them forget all of their worries. But many other people – missionaries, Christians, neighbors, friends and family members – aren’t always so available to the people who need them.

When someone has a need, it probably won’t come at a convenient time. Friends can call at odd hours, act in strange and embarrassing ways, and rob us of some of our time, our money, and our reputations. But those are the moments that establish our level of commitment to our friends.

Can people trust you when they have a secret or a personal need? You won’t know for sure until it comes, and you’re there to help.

Be ready.

 

STAR TREK TRIVIA

> My favorite line from this episode, and perhaps of the entire series:

“I see no logic in preferring Stonn over me.”

Spock to T’Pring, after she explains that she wants to run off with Stonn instead

> When “Star Trek” was first promoted in magazines, every picture of Spock was airbrushed to remove his pointed ears. NBC feared that people wouldn’t watch the show because Spock resembled the Devil. In fact, Gene Roddenberry did design Spock to look like the Devil, and originally intended him to have red skin, which the limited budget of “Star Trek” couldn’t provide. Roddenberry had designed Spock and McCoy to represent Kirk’s “conscience”, like an angel and devil standing on either side of him to weigh the consequences of both logical imperatives and human compassion.

> Leonard Nimoy is the only actor to appear in all 79 episodes of the series. He appeared as Spock in the pilot episode, “The Cage”. Although he portrayed an alien and sported the same pointed ears, the distinction of suppressing emotions to pursue logic was not added until the second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, which opens with Kirk and Spock playing three-dimensional chess. In the game, Spock is puzzled by Kirk’s moves, which often seem illogical.

> Leonard Nimoy and Majel Barrett are the only actors to appear in both the first (“The Cage”) and last (“Turnabout Intruder”) episodes of the series. Majel Barrett, however, played Number One in the first episode, filling the role of second-in-command that Leonard Nimoy would assume. Ironically, after losing the role of that high position, she portrayed Nurse Chapel, known for her endless infatuation with Spock. Maybe she just admired his position on the bridge?

> The new “Star Trek” film has been broadcast to astronauts, making it the first movie ever shown in outer space.

 

Watch for the new Monthly Feature in a few days!

Click here to watch “Amok Time” episode now on YouTube!

Find more reviews of Star Trek Season 2 at amazon.com!

 

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

TELEVISION/TV SERIES: STAR TREK Part Five – Enemies to the End

You can now watch the original Star Trek episodes, uncut, in a remastered format, with updated special effects, backgrounds, and music! It’s a great way to introduce a new generation to the original show! Click the right picture to preview the difference in the new Star Trek Remastered edition!

 

“Star Trek” was known for challenging racial prejudice in a time when racial division was clearly felt. It’s hard for people of my generation to imagine the kind of world in which our parents grew up, when black men and women were expected to sit in different sections of a bus or movie theatre, to avoid close contact with other races.

When Gene Roddenberry first presented the “Star Trek” series, television producers warned him that his concept would offend too many viewers. They argued that the general public simply wasn’t ready for the idea of a future world that showed men and women of various races working alongside one another, with no one even complaining about it. They expected a flood of hate mail, but Roddenberry later said that he never received any such letters, in all the years of producing “Star Trek” shows and films.

Having first dared to combine the races on public TV, many “Star Trek” episodes went even further by directly addressing issues of prejudice. One episode, “Plato’s Stepchildren”, even made television history by featuring the first inter-racial kiss between Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura, when aliens amuse themselves by forcing the Enterprise crew to do their bidding.

In one of the most powerful episodes regarding bigotry, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”, two alien Cherons bring their racial war aboard the Enterprise. The appearance of the Cherons is striking: each one is perfectly divided down the center of his body, half pasty-white, half tar-black. One Cheron, Lokai (Lou Antonio), arrives first and requests asylum aboard the Enterprise as a political refugee. The other Cheron, Bele (Frank Gorshin), appears soonafter, identifying himself as a police commissioner, who has been chasing Lokai, a political traitor, for the equivalent of 50,000 Earth years. Once they meet each other, they erupt into violent debate about the segregation of their races, and must be separated.

In a private meeting with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, Bele explains that Lokai’s criminal tendencies are common among all the people of Lokai’s race. He expresses surprise that they trusted Lokai. “It is obvious to the most simpleminded that Lokai is of an inferior breed,” he argues.

Kirk and Spock exchange puzzled looks.

“The obvious visual evidence, Commissioner,” Spock states, “is that he is of the same breed as yourself.”
Bele is shocked and offended. “Are you blind, Commander Spock? Well, look at me. Look at me!”

Kirk and Spock still fail to see any difference between the appearance of the two Cherons.

“You’re black on one side and white on the other,” Kirk notes.
“I am black on the right side,” Bele points out.
“I fail to see the significant difference,” Spock says.
“Lokai is white on the right side. All of his people are white on the right side.”

The three men quickly realize that they will have to agree to disagree.

Meanwhile, Lokai tries to persuade other crew members to join his cause against his planet’s oppressive regime. The people of Bele’s race refuse to let Lokai’s people govern themselves, insisting that their genetic disadvantages render them incapable of doing so.

After numerous attempts to attack one another, the Cherons are returned to their homeworld, only to learn that their entire race has been wiped out. The Cherons’ endless prejudice and wars have finally devastated their planet. However, when Bele and Lokai – the last two Cherons in existence – return to the planet’s surface, Spock’s scanners detect that they are still engaged in violent combat. Even when they have nothing left but each other, the Cherons can’t let go of their prejudice and hatred.

At one point in this episode, Mr. Chekov remarks to Mr. Sulu that he remembered reading historical information about racial persecution that once occurred on Earth, similar to what Lokai suffered.

“Yes, but that was back in the twentieth century,” Sulu responds. “There’s no such primitive thinking today.”

Let us hope.

 

STAR TREK TRIVIA:

> Gene Roddenberry first presented his Star Trek idea to CBS, who allowed him to give his full presentation before rejecting it, saying they already had a space adventure series planned. Roddenberry was furious, realizing that they had only let him speak so that they could try to incorporate his ideas into their series. The CBS series was “Lost in Space”.

> Roddenberry then presented a pilot to NBC, titled “The Cage”, which featured Captain Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Archer) and a second-in-command called “Number One” (Majel Barrett). Although stunned by the presentation of the show and its astounding special effects, the producers felt the pilot was too cerebral and lacked the promised action and adventure that Roddenberry had promised. For the first time ever, producers asked for a second pilot.

The second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, introduced a new ship’s captain, James T. Kirk (William Shatner) to replace Pike. A minor character from the pilot, Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), was promoted to become Kirk’s second. Producers had been put off by the first pilot’s androgynous presentation of women, all dressed in black pants like the men and sharing similar duties. As a result, Number One’s character was eliminated, and Majel Barrett instead played a minor role as Nurse Chapel, famous for her endless infatuation with Spock. She later married Gene Roddenberry, and went on to play Lwaxana Troi, the Betazoid mother of Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) in “Star Trek: the Next Generation”.

> Nichelle Nichols, the African-American actress who played Lt. Uhura, had planned to give up the series. Her part felt so minimal, saying the same line over and over: “Hailing frequencies open, Captain.” She wanted to move on to something meaningful, where she could play a larger role.

At a party, she was stunned when someone introduced her to another guest: civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. He complimented her on her part in “Star Trek”, and she explained that she planned to give it up. He urged her not to do so, explaining that she was portraying exactly what society needed to see. They needed to see black people working alongside whites as equals.

She kept the part and remained an integral cast member throughout the original series and the feature films that followed.

 

Watch for the final Monthly Feature STAR TREK entry in a few days!

Click here to watch “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” episode now on YouTube!

Find more reviews of Star Trek Season 3 at amazon.com!

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

TELEVISION/TV SERIES: STAR TREK Part Four – What You Plant

You can now watch the original Star Trek episodes, uncut, in a remastered format, with updated special effects, backgrounds, and music! It’s a great way to introduce a new generation to the original show! Click the right picture to preview the difference in the new Star Trek Remastered edition!

 

In Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he lists one important habit as: Begin with the end in mind. In other words, before you start a project, determine the end goal for it, in order to wisely plan how you work toward that goal.

People do this all the time for large projects. When planning a wedding or a big vacation, people often decide what they want to happen when they reach that date on the calendar. Then they work backwards from that date, setting small goals to achieve each month in order to achieve the desired end result. Just like a farmer planting seeds in springtime and caring for them throughout the summer, they’re carefully planting small seeds along the way that will grow into the final product.

In the Star Trek episode, “Space Seed”, Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise discover the USS Botany Bay, an abandoned spaceship from the late 20th century [specifically, 1996 – remember, these episodes were produced in the late 1960’s]. Aboard the ship, they find nearly eighty men and women frozen in suspended animation. An expert in late 20th century Earth history, Lt. Marla McGivers (Madlyn Rhue), identifies the probable leader. After reviving him, they bring the leader aboard the Enterprise for medical treatment.

When he recovers, he introduces himself only as “Khan”. Although somewhat suspicious of Khan’s reticence, Kirk gives him access to his ship’s computers, to learn more about 23rd century technology. But Spock’s research leads him to suspect that Khan might be one of the many genetically-enhanced tyrants that nearly dominated Earth 200 years prior. What started as an experiment in selective breeding to create an army of super-soldiers, resulted in an army of overlords that nearly destroyed Earth.

Meanwhile, Lt. McGivers visits Khan, becoming more attracted to his commanding persona with each passing moment. It doesn’t take long for her to confess her deep attraction to him, though she recognizes that her romantic impulses hinder her ability to perform her duties aboard the Enterprise. Similarly, it doesn’t take Khan long to make it clear he shares her attraction, but wants her complete surrender to his will. Including his intention to seize command of the Enterprise.

It’s easy to be tempted by a quick solution to our problems. Our rush to finish a project might cause us to cut corners, without considering the repercussions. Like the scientists who engineered Khan’s race of super-beings, without considering what such powerful beings might soon demand of their “makers”.

Our loneliness could lead us into a less-than-perfect relationship. We can choose to suffer under a relationship that is verbally, emotionally, or even physically abusive. Because a little voice in our heads tells us that nothing better will ever come our way.

But the small compromises we make can grow into major problems.

Khan soon succeeds in taking over the ship, and tries to force the crew to submit to his rule. However, they refuse. Even in the face of their deaths and the deaths of their comrades, not one of the bridge crew agrees to follow Khan. Because they realize that a small compromise like that will only help Khan to spread his influence throughout the universe, causing entire worlds to suffer. Instead, they choose to contain his poisonous influence aboard their ship. They refuse to let his deadly power grow any further.

This leads even Lt. McGivers to reconsider. She steals away from Khan and helps Kirk to escape and free the others.

To me, this episode always had the feel of a classic vampire story. Khan, like Dracula, is a charismatic foreigner with a mysterious past. He enters civilized society and blends in easily, captivating the hearts of everyone around him with his intellect and charm.

But gradually, everyone discovers that they’re harboring a savage murderer, more powerful than anyone can contain. (I always found it interesting that Kirk even uses a “stake” to defeat Khan in the end, by hitting him repeatedly with some sort of pipe which serves no clear purpose.)

Khan, like a vampire, is very attractive and appealing. But a more careful look would reveal what the surface only hints at: beneath that charming façade lies a cold-hearted murderer.

Having finally captured Khan’s army and reclaimed their ship, Kirk sentences Khan and his people to a desolate planet, Ceti Alpha V, with no chance for escape to other worlds. Lt. McGivers agrees to join him there rather than face courtmartial.

This is where, as we know, Kirk makes a deadly mistake.

Khan accepts his banishment, likening it to the fictionalized description of Satan being cast out of Heaven in John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Kirk picks up Khan’s hinted reference of Satan saying it’s “better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” Actually, it would have been better for Khan to lose a little of his overpowering ego.

“It would be interesting, Captain,” Spock notes, “to return to that world in a hundred years, and learn what crop had sprung from the seed you planted today.”

“Yes, Mr. Spock,” Kirk agrees. “It would indeed.”

Little did Kirk or Khan know then that they would engage in even deadlier battle, a mere fifteen years later (in the film “Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan”). Had they known, they might have reconsidered their words and actions that day. The final result of what they planted was the complete destruction of Khan and his entire army, solely due to Khan’s relentless thirst for conquest and, ultimately, revenge against Kirk. The result for Kirk was the loss of a young cadet and his lifelong friend, Spock. And Lt. Marla McGivers receives a passing reference, in which Khan reveals that she died there on the planet, killed by one of its savage creatures.

Whatever you plant, it will grow. How we treat others, how we raise our children, the laws we lobby for – they all have an end result.

Be careful what you plant today. It will spring up tomorrow.

 

STAR TREK TRIVIA:

> This is the only Star Trek episode with a film as a sequel. Like the original episode, which references Paradise Lost, “Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan” references two other literary classics which represent the driving values that are in conflict. Chekov finds a copy of Moby Dick in Khan’s library when he discovers their ship. Khan quotes from it at the end of the film, his dying words as he makes a final effort to kill Kirk: “From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee. For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee.” Khan represents death, his entire life consumed by a selfish quest for revenge against Kirk, just as Moby Dick’s Captain Ahab wasted his life in pursuit of killing the white whale that wounded him.

Kirk and his crew, along with the cadets who are in training to replace them, represent life. Spock gives Kirk a birthday present of A Tale of Two Cities, and Kirk quotes from it after Spock sacrifices himself to save the crew: “It’s a far, far better thing I do. A far better resting place I go to, than I have ever known.” Khan’s death, meant for murder, produces nothing. Spock’s death results in new life for everyone that knew him.

Lieutenant Marla McGivers has a scene with Yeoman Baker in which Baker informs her that Lieutenant Hanson wants to go to a ship’s dance with her. McGivers tells her to tell Hanson to get lost, that she is waiting for a man who will “knock down my door and carry me to where he wants me.”

> The following is from memory-alpha.org, about a deleted scene that might explain why Lt. McGivers gives in to Khan so easily:

There are scenes in the Second Revised Final Draft, dated 13 December 1966, that were either unfilmed, or not aired:

 

 

Click here to read that deleted scene.

> My Favorite Quote about this episode:

“Boy! 200 years old and he still doesn’t have any manners!”

- my mom, Rose Marie Dunn, when I assumed she wasn’t paying attention to this episode, and Khan forced Lt. McGivers to her knees.

Watch for another Monthly Feature STAR TREK entry in a few days!

Click here to watch “Space Seed” episode now on YouTube!

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Saturday, May 16th, 2009

TELEVISION/TV SERIES: STAR TREK Part Three – The Gospel According to Star Trek

You can now watch the original Star Trek episodes, uncut, in a remastered format, with updated special effects, backgrounds, and music! It’s a great way to introduce a new generation to the original show! Click the right picture to preview the difference in the new Star Trek Remastered edition!

 

I was very surprised when William Shatner, introducing a Sci-Fi Channel uncut episode of “Journey to Babel”, announced that, like many of Star Trek’s episodes, “Journey to Babel” was inspired by the Bible.

Whoa. I never knew that.

However, in one early episode, “The Naked Time”, the biblical influence and message had always seemed clear. The title itself refers to the shame that Adam and Eve felt when they were caught in their sin, and recognized their nakedness. Until they disobeyed God by taking what He had warned them to avoid, their nakedness was nothing to be ashamed of. It wasn’t their lack of clothing that made them ashamed, but their exposure as lawbreakers who had abandoned God’s purpose for their lives.

In “The Naked Time”, Mr. Spock and a crewman beam over to an abandoned spaceship. Its entire crew has died under bizarre circumstances, all appearing to have gone insane. Spock notes that one crew member had frozen to death, having taken a shower fully clothed. No one was working at their post or doing anything to run the ship.

Spock’s co-worker unwittingly becomes infected by the same alien disease that poisoned the minds of the dead crew, then brings it back aboard the Enterprise. Too late, the Enterprise crew discovers that the virus causes its victims to lose all self-control. Working like alcohol, it robs the Enterprise crew of their inhibitions, causing each one in turn to abandon their posts so they can pursue their own selfish interests.

Even the supremely controlled Spock, once infected, cannot restrain his inner emotions from flowing freely. Though he fights to recount logical rules and calculations, he can’t maintain enough focus to resist his emotional needs, and soon breaks down crying over the lack of love and friendship in his life.

Captain Kirk is infected soon afterward, while trying to prevent their unmanned starship from crashing into a nearby planet. Under the influence of the virus, he must confess his own longing for a stable relationship, which the duties of his command make impossible.

Struggling to save the crew, Kirk rushes back to the bridge. In the elevator, he sees graffiti on the wall, painted by an infected crew member. It reads: Sinner, repent! Kirk stares at the indictment, recognizing that even he, the leader, has fallen prey to his own flawed nature.

However, when he and Scotty risk a dangerous experiment to restart their dead engines, the impact causes their ship and crew to travel backward in time, exactly three days. The very moment before they encountered the alien disease that made them so vulnerable and nearly destroyed them. “We have three days to live over again,” Spock notes. “Not those last three days,” Kirk adds.

This conclusion always struck me as a picture of Christ’s mercy on us, through forgiveness of sins. By ourselves, we have no real hope of cleaning up our acts. We can change our behavior, become good citizens, and give to charity. But until we allow Christ to wash away our sin, we can never be made acceptable to God. It’s only through Christ that the slate can be wiped completely clean, making it seem as though we never sinned in the first place.

I encourage you to give Christ a chance to change your life. To let you start over.

You can have a brand new life, by simply asking for a fresh start. Why live those last three days over again?

 

STAR TREK TRIVIA:

> Most cell phones are designed with a cover because many potential users said they wanted a phone that “flips open”, like Captain Kirk’s communicator.

> There is no original episode in which Captain Kirk specifically said, “Beam me up, Scotty.”

> When an interviewer asked George Takei, who played helmsman Mr. Sulu, whether his role on “Star Trek” had caused him to become typecast, he answered, “Well, I’ve always been cast as an Oriental, if that’s what you mean.”

> When producers were putting together “The Naked Time” episode, they suggested having Mr. Sulu wield a Samurai sword, which George Takei argued against, saying it sounded too much like an Asian stereotype. He suggested a fencing sword, and they asked him if he knew how to fence. Takei told them he did, then went home and tried to figure out how to do it, since he had no fencing knowledge whatsoever. In a later interview, he said producers should never ask an actor if he knows how to do something, because he’ll always pretend that he does.

Click here to watch “The Naked Time” episode now on YouTube!

Watch for another Monthly Feature STAR TREK entry in a few days!

 

Find more reviews of Star Trek Remastered Season 1 at amazon.com!

 

Monday, May 11th, 2009

TELEVISION/TV SERIES: STAR TREK Part Two – Familiar Enemies

You can now watch the original Star Trek episodes, uncut, in a remastered format, with updated special effects, backgrounds, and music! It’s a great way to introduce a new generation to the original show! Click the right picture to preview the difference in the new Star Trek Remastered edition!

 

Prejudice springs from two things: familiarity and the unknown. Familiarity with a certain place or culture, in which negative views are held toward a specific group of people. The unknown of what those specific people are really like, and whether those previously held beliefs are actually true.

The familiar and the unknown come head-to-head in the Star Trek episode, “Balance of Terror”, in which the Enterprise crew becomes the first starship to actually see an enemy Romulan, during the heat of battle.

[As a side note, this episode is the cause of much frustration and debate among longtime Star Trek fans, because in the new Star Trek movie, Captain Kirk’s Enterprise crew meets up with Romulans on their first mission. Thus disrupting the series’ continuity and the entire space-time continuum of episodic history!]

[As another side note, if knowing this detail keeps you up at night worrying, you’re definitely a Trekkie.]

When a Federation outpost is attacked by Romulans, the Enterprise races to rescue it. Several such outposts have already gone silent along the Neutral Zone, a no-man’s land that neither Federation or Romulan ships can cross without breaking a treaty established during a century-old Earth-Romulan war.

The ship’s navigator, Lt. Stiles, insists on attacking the Romulans, whom Earth believes to be warlike and cruel. Kirk is surprised when Stiles explains how to recognize Romulan starships, asking if Stiles is a student of history.

“Family history,” the navigator replies. “There was a Captain Stiles there, sir. Two Commanders, several Junior Officers. All lost in that war.”

Kirk nods, then cautions his crewman, “Their war, Mister Stiles. Not yours. Don’t forget it.”

When they engage the deadly Romulans in battle, Stiles notes that the enemy’s sneak attack suggests that Romulan spies might have infiltrated the Enterprise. Kirk agrees to consider the danger as they prepare to face off against their foe.

Spock manages to produce an image of the opposing Romulan vessel, allowing them all to see into the faces of their enemies. Enemies with slanted eyebrows, dark cropped hair, and pointed ears. Enemies who look exactly like the trusted science officer, Mr. Spock.

After the initial shock of everyone on board, a quiet tension settles onto the starship bridge.

The crewman mutters about working alongside Spock, now that he suspects him of being a traitor. Kirk warns, “Leave any bigotry in your quarters; there’s no room for it on the bridge.”

Stiles’ reaction isn’t uncommon. When people are attacked, robbed, or wounded by someone of a certain ethnicity, we tend to feel threatened by anyone of that ethnic group. I remember hearing a pastor’s wife tell of a mission trip she took with her husband to Russia. People who didn’t grow up during the Cold War (which formed the framework of the “Balance of Terror” episode) might have trouble imagining a world in which two superpowered nations agreed not to annihilate one another, while secretly seeking ways to survive doing it. But this woman grew up with that fear of an enemy lurking just over the ocean, ready to wipe out her family and friends at the slightest provocation. Only when she was working alongside Russian Christians in the former Soviet Union did she realize that her bitterness toward the Russian people remained a part of her. She realized she felt a mistrust of the very people she was working alongside for this trip. She confessed her prejudice to them, asked their forgiveness, and received it.

Stiles was less progressive. In a briefing, he warns Kirk and the others that their only option is to attack before the Romulans strike again. “These are Romulans!” he barks. “You run away from them and you guarantee war! They’ll be back. Not just with one ship, but with everything they’ve got!”

Ultimately, Spock saves the crewman’s life, putting his bigotry to rest once and for all. But Spock, having no emotions, explains that he simply rescued the ship’s navigator so that he could do his duty. For Spock, what’s important is that the crew survive and continue to function to its utmost. It’s difficult to do that when people don’t trust one another, especially when it’s due to things the color of their skin or the country they were born in.

Bigotry has no place on the bridge. Or in any other team.

When the Enterprise finally conquers the Romulan attackers, Kirk orders the survivors to surrender. The Romulan commander refuses, choosing death rather than capture. “I regret that we meet in this way,” he confesses to Kirk. “You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could have called you friend.”
Choose a different reality for your own life. The people you now fear could become your greatest friends.

 

STAR TREK TRIVIA

> Mark Lenard, who played the Romulan commander in “Balance of Terror”, returned to play Sarek, Spock’s Vulcan father, in “Journey to Babel”, as well as episodes of Star Trek spin-offs and Star Trek films. He also appeared as the Klingon commander in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Lawrence Montaigne, who played the Romulan, Decius, in “Balance of Terror”, would also later play Spock’s Vulcan rival, Stonn, in the episode, “Amok Time”.

> Ensign Pavel Chekov was not part of the original crew, but was added in the second season after Roddenberry read a Russian newspaper that mocked the series. The article cited American arrogance at presenting a multi-cultural crew that included almost every race except Russians, even though the Russians were further advanced in their space exploration programs. Embarrassed by his error, Roddenberry added the character of Chekov for the next season. Chekov was played by Walter Koenig, who – like James Doohan, who played Scottish engineer Montgomery Scott (“Scotty”) – faked his ethnic accent.

> The decision to add Chekov also came from the series’ producers, who hoped to add more teenage girls to their viewing audience, after seeing the popularity of the TV show, “The Monkees”. Walter Koenig was chosen to play Chekov because of his resemblance to Davy Jones.

 

Watch for another Monthly Feature STAR TREK entry in a few days!

 

click to watch “Balance of Terror” episode now on FanCast!

 

Find more reviews of Star Trek Remastered Season 1 at amazon.com! 

 

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

TELEVISION/TV SERIES: STAR TREK Part One – Re-Imagine Your Future

You can now watch the original Star Trek episodes, uncut, in a remastered format, with updated special effects, backgrounds, and music! It’s a great way to introduce a new generation to the original show! Click the right picture to preview the difference in the new Star Trek Remastered edition!

 

My favorite episode of Star Trek is “Mirror, Mirror”, in which four crew members from the starship enterprise encounter evil versions of their co-workers.

Captain Kirk, Dr. “Bones” McCoy, Mr. Scott (“Scottie”) and Lt. Uhura take a recess from ongoing negotiations with the pacifist Halkans, returning to the starship Enterprise during a severe cosmic storm. After they teleport back (that is, “beam up”) from the planet, they find the Enterprise crew transformed into nightmarish versions of their true selves, looking and acting like savages. They soon discover that the storm caused a transporter malfunction that sent them to a parallel universe. In that alternate world, they learn that the lives of their entire crew were shaped by cruelty, under the dictatorship of the tyrannical Empire.

After devising a means to return to their own world, Kirk and the others must continue their charade, lest anyone find out they’re not the cruel pirates they appear to be. Tension grows as they try to stop the Enterprise from its plan to annihilate the peaceful Halkan race for refusing to bargain with them. Any false move could expose them as outsiders. Yet they can’t deny who they are. Nor can they deny the people – like the Halkans – who need them to do what’s right.

Kirk refuses to destroy Halkan cities with a phaser barrage, defying direct orders of the parallel-world Empire. He does this knowing that it puts his career – and his very life – in jeopardy. The parallel-world’s Spock is soon ordered to kill Kirk so that he can assume command of the ship and proceed against the Halkans.

How easy it would be for Kirk’s landing party to simply give in, carrying their charade to the extreme. Instead of posing as ruthless killers, all they had to do was kill a few people, or an alien race of innocents. Then no one would question them further.

Self-preservation is usually very practical. Just not always ethical. Sacrificing a few strangers’ lives to protect your own might seem acceptable to many of us. But the Enterprise crew didn’t even consider it to be an option.

This was the challenge that the original Star Trek series posed to its viewers. For all its hype and special effects and intriguing characters, the show stirred many fans with a message of change and hope. Hope for a better future, in which men and women of all races would work alongside with one another. And a challenge to change our thinking, in a time of revolution during the 1960’s, when people fought to re-imagine their world as one without prejudice or intolerance. Star Trek provided a vehicle for new ways of imagining a better world.

When they finally prepare to return to their own universe, with help from the parallel-Spock, Kirk challenges the first officer’s thinking. He asks Spock why he takes part in a flawed system of injustice, while knowing it will ultimately be overthrown. “If change is inevitable, predictable, beneficial, doesn’t logic demand that you be a part of it?” he urges.

The alternate world’s Spock holds his ground. “One man cannot summon the future.”

“But one man can change the present,” Kirk fires back. He then suggest a plan for Spock to pursue, which will allow him to gradually make changes in the Empire. Changes in his own universe.

“What will it be?” Kirk pushes. “Past or future? Tyranny or freedom? It’s up to you.”

Preparing to teleport them back to their world, the parallel-Spock agrees to consider Kirk’s message. Before leaving the parallel world, Kirk tosses back a final challenge: “In every revolution, there’s one man with a vision.”

When others around you see no hope for change, hold fast to your belief. Before changes can take place in society, even before your own actions can change, you must change the way you think.

Simply believing for a better future is the first step toward making one.

 

STAR TREK TRIVIA:

> My favorite Star Trek joke, from friend and eternal Star Trek fan, Craig Stephens:

Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy and Ensign Liebowitz are beaming down to a planet. Which one’s not coming back?

For Bonus Points, what color is Ensign Liebowitz’s shirt?

 

> The Space Shuttle was the first vehicle to leave Earth and return by landing like an airplane, a revolutionary concept that sounded like the first of a fleet of science fiction spaceships. Star Trek fans and publicists lobbied to get the shuttle named after the spaceship in their revolutionary science fiction series, finally convincing others to name the shuttle “Enterprise”.

 

> The original Star Trek series lasted only three years, never earning high enough ratings to hold its spot on the airwaves. It was slated for cancellation after the first season, and the second, but was spared because of a flood of protest letters from fans who loved the unique show. After its cancellation, Star Trek gained a broader following when the first rocket sent a man to the moon, and space travel became more significant. Star Trek became one of the most popular series ever syndicated, spawning several other television series (Star Trek: the Animated Series; Star Trek: the Next Generation; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; Star Trek: Voyager; and Star Trek:Enterprise) and eleven movies that featured characters from the original series and The Next Generation series. The latest film, releasing May 8, 2009, reboots the franchise by revealing how Captain Kirk first joined the Enterprise crew, to go where no man had gone before.

 

Watch for another Monthly Feature STAR TREK entry in a few days!

 

Click here to watch the “Mirror, Mirror” episode now on YouTube!

 

Find more reviews of Star Trek Remastered Season 2 at amazon.com!

 

Thursday, April 30th, 2009