Reacher’s Rules

“If in doubt, drink coffee.” — Jack Reacher

Long-time readers of this blog may remember that I’ve mentioned the ‘Jack Reacher’ character a couple times before — once when I recommended the novels and once when I attempted to fan-cast him. In the former, I mentioned Jack Reacher’s Rules, which Delacorte Press published a few years ago to capitalize on the character’s growing popularity. (There is a later edition without “Jack” in the title, too.) If you aren’t sure who Reacher is, here’s the short version [<<enter Tom Cruise joke here>>]:

“Jack Reacher, of no fixed address, is a former major in the U.S. Military Police. Since leaving the army, the authorities have not been able to locate his whereabouts, although his name mysteriously crops up from time to time in connection with investigations into murders, terrorist threats, and other breaches of the law.”

As I was trying to figure out what to write about this week, I remembered the ‘Rules’ book and thought I’d share a few. But, first, here is part of the book’s Introduction by Lee Child himself:

“Some rules are official. We form clubs and societies and associations and give them procedures and bylaws more complex than those of government bodies. [Well, I don’t know about that….]

Some rules are only semiofficial. Hit on your friend’s best girl? No way. Rat out an accomplice? Not going to happen. Break a strike? You’d rather die.

Some rules are just slogans, consoling and emboldening. Maybe as a kid, your gang — part of your street in part of your city in your country in the big, bewildering world — was, like kids are, told by your parents and teachers to be scared of strangers. No, you said. Strangers should be told to be scared of us.

Jack Reacher has always followed his own rules. He grew up in a fractured way, six months here, three months there, always moving, never stable, never belonging. Then he was a soldier, but too wise to buy into all the nonsense. He obeyed only the rules that made sense to him. Then he was cut loose and became a true outsider, profoundly comfortable with solitude. Does he have a tribe? You bet. He’s human. But in his case he kept on slicing and dicing until he got all the way down to a tribe with just one member — himself. But that tribe still needs rules, to guide, and embolden, and simplify, and reassure.

What follows are some of them.”

[Note: At this point, I’m tempted to get into a discussion about the problems of moral relativism. But, this is neither the time nor place.]

To be fair, these aren’t all “rules to live by”, exactly. Some are more like observations, opinions, warnings, etc. But, you get the idea.

Be Prepared:

o Never count on anything except surprise and unpredictability and danger.

o Ring doorbells with your knuckles or elbows to avoid leaving fingerprints.

o Walk up the edge of stairs to minimize the chances of loud creaks. Stairs squeak at their centers where they’re weakest.

o Go to bed fully clothed so you are always ready for action.

o Climb through a hole feetfirst. If there’s an ax or a bullet waiting, better to take it in the legs than in the head.

Breaking and Entering:

o First thing to do before attacking a lock is to check that it’s not already open. Nothing will make you feel stupider than picking a lock that’s not locked.

o To kick a door down: take a run toward the door, making sure to stay upright, and with your dominant leg kick the area below the doorknob hard, using your sole or your heel.

o For a door with a glass panel, use the sole of your shoe to break a hold in the glass, then reach through to the handle.

Choose Your Weapons:

o Next to a shotgun, a pool cue is the best weapon in a fight.

o A handgun at two hundred feet is the same thing as crossing your fingers and making a wish.

o A chisel plunged into the back of your head is going to seriously ruin your day.

o Rolls of quarters in your fists — good old-fashioned technology.

o “Twelve-gauge lead shots settle most disputes at the first time of asking.”

The Rules of Coffee:

o Nothing’s too urgent for coffee.

o It’s all about the caffeine.

o A good coffee mug is cylindrical in shape, narrow in relation to its height and with a thin lip.

o Ignore the fancy brews and get a tall house blend, black, no cream.

Conquer Your Fear:

o “I’m not scared of anybody… But certainly I preferred it when he was dead.”

o Her: “Why are you going back?” Reacher: “Because they told me not to.”

o “You see something scary, you should stand up and step toward it, not away from it. Instinctively, reflexively, in a raging fury.”

o Turn your fear into aggression.

Fighting:

o Identify the ringleader…. The ringleader is the one who always moves first.

o “Then I cheated. Instead of counting three I headbutted him full in the face.”

o Make the first shot count.

o Never revive a guy who just pulled a gun on you.

o “Attacking me was like pushing open a forbidden door. What waited on the other side was his problem.”

o “You don’t throw my friends out of helicopters and live to tell the tale.”

Food:

o “He had no prejudice against fast food. Better than slow food, for a traveling man.”

o Eat when you can, because you never know when you will next get the chance.

o Always eat a perfect breakfast: pancakes. Egg on the top, bacon on the side, plenty of syrup. And plenty of coffee.

o Before a night of action and stress, go for empty calories, fats, and complex carbohydrates: pizza and soda.

First Aid:

o After a fistfight, the best cure for a sore hand is to wrap it around a cold beer.

o To set your own broken nose, smack yourself firmly in the face with the heel of your hand.

o “Duct tape: the finest field dressing in the world. The Marines once flew me from Lebanon to Germany with nothing but duct tape keeping my lower intestine in.”

Getting Mad:

o Know when to get mad, and know when to count to ten before you get mad.

o “I’ve counted way past ten on this one. Way past.”

o “They mess with me, they answer to me.”

o “I wasn’t angry. I was barely interested. If I had been angry, we’d be cleaning up with a fire hose. As it is, we’re going to need a forklift truck.”

Random and Assorted:

o “Now they broke my toothbrush, I don’t own anything.”

o “Be skeptical but not too skeptical. Too much skepticism leads to paranoia and paralysis.”

o “Dealing with morons… is like teaching Hindu to a beagle.”

o “Suicide bombers give out all kinds of telltale signs. Mostly because they’re nervous. By definition, they’re all first-timers.”

o Most people stick to underwear from their country of origin. It’s a big step putting on foreign underwear, like betrayal or emigration.

o “I don’t need to go hunting them. I already know I’m smarter than an armadillo.”

o “I’m sleeping well… but I think that’s mostly because of the tranquilizers.”

o Four o’clock in the morning is the best time to attack. In the Army they call it KGB time.

o “Carry a spare shirt and pretty soon you’re carrying spare pants. Then you need a suitcase. Next thing you know, you’ve got a house and a car and a savings plan and you’re filling out all kinds of forms.”

o “Reacher made no reply. It was a technique he had perfected half a lifetime ago. Just stand absolutely still, don’t blink, say nothing. Wait for them to run through the possibilities. Wait for them to start worrying.”

o If you’re surrounded, that simplifies your problems.

o Never hit a woman unless she’s trying to kill you.

o “I don’t want to put the world to rights. I just don’t like people who put the world to wrongs.”

That’s enough, but there are plenty more in the ‘Rules’ book — and, of course, scattered throughout the novels.

You know, come to think of it, I haven’t read a Reacher adventure in several months. Time to put one on the top of my reading (or listening) pile….

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Girl Power!, part 2 of 2

“Another day, another alien to punch.” — Captain Marvel

Last week, I noted the historical dearth of female titular leads among superhero films and TV series, as well as the recent trend in a positive direction. In particular, we looked at several current such projects based on DC-based heroes (and villains). So, as promised, this week we will review those in development on the Marvel Comics side of the fence. But first…

Independent:

Red Sonja, the “She-Devil with a sword” (also created by Conan’s Robert E. Howard), is getting a new film adaptation. I almost included this under the Marvel listings, because Marvel held the comic license for so many years, but Dynamite Entertainment owns it now and has closer ties to the movie production. Technically, I’m not sure “sword and sorcery” should be lumped under “superheroes”, either.

This one has been in development (sort of) since Robert Rodriguez and Rose McGowan were attached to it in 2008/2009. The failed reboot of Conan the Barbarian (2011) was a setback and by 2015 it was truly in “development hell”. Last November, though, Millennium Media announced it was financing/producing a Red Sonja reboot and putting it on the fast-track. Millenium’s Avi Lerner (The Expendables) said,

“We have been waiting for the right time for this remake, and with the success of Wonder Woman, the audience has spoken. They want female heroes.”

Lerner is producing with Joe Gatta (the Conan reboot) with support from Mark Canton (300) and Courtney Solomon (Cake) of Cinelou, among others. No casting news, but Bryan Singer is directing and Christopher Cosmos and David N. White are writing the screenplay.

Marvel:

Captain Marvel

1) Ever since a Captain Marvel solo film was announced over two years ago, fans have been waiting with great anticipation. The character has become quite popular in the comics, so it makes sense that Marvel would want to capitalize on that by making her their Phase 3 “big gun”. In a sense, she is Marvel’s answer to Wonder Woman — an incredibly strong (in more ways than one) and complex female hero, who they hope can carry a film on her own. While I might not have thought to cast Brie Larson in the role, I am optimistic that she can pull it off.

Captain Marvel, which is due out next March, puts the character in the 1990s and sends her into space. So, audiences will see her “origins” and an explanation for why she hasn’t been on Earth for awhile. Those “origins”, by the way, are being altered a bit from the comics, in order to reduce the parallels with DC’s Green Lantern. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck — frequent professional collaborators and now married, as well — are co-directing the film. They are also credited with the screenplay, along with five other women. (I wonder how that worked! Fifteen minutes’ worth of screen-time apiece?)

2) Probably the other most-anticipated, female-led Marvel movie is Black Widow. Finally! She has guested in a few of the other Avengers’ solo movies, but hasn’t got her own. But, as of January of this year, it was finally confirmed that Scarlett Johansson would be reprising the ‘Natasha Romanoff’ / ‘Black Widow’ character in a solo film of her own. The character has been around in the comics for quite awhile and is much older than she looks, so there is plenty of fodder for source-faithful stories.

There is no release date as yet beyond the tentative year 2020. No known plot, either, though it will probably be a prequel to her previous appearances. (I’m hoping for a cool, Cold War spy flick!) Nicole Perlman (treatment) and Jac Schaeffer (screenplay) have writing credits, according to IMDB. Cate Shortland (Berlin Syndrome) is directing, while Victoria Alonso shares exec producing credit with her usual Marvel partners (Stan Lee, Kevin Feige, Louis D’Esposito).

3&4) Not long after Sony confirmed (early 2017) that Tom Hardy would be starring in their Venom movie, the studio announced it had hired Gina Prince-Bythewood (Marvel’s “Cloak and Dagger”) to direct and do some script rewrites on Silver & Black, which would unite the Black Cat and Silver Sable characters. Black Cat, of course, is Felicia Hardy, a cat burglar who alternately flirts and fights with Spider-Man. (Yes, it’s an obvious “rip-off” of the Catwoman/Batman relationship, though that’s about where the similarities ended.) Silver Sable is Silver Sablinova, who led the Symkarian mercenary group “The Wild Pack” (whom she “inherited” from her father) and founded Silver Sable International. No surprise, Spidey has been known to both clash and team up with Sable (with or without the Wild Pack).

Black Cat and Silver Sable

An early report described the plot as having Sable hired to track down Black Cat, and several other costumed characters would make appearances. The movie would end with Sable assembling an Avengers-like, all-female team. There were other reports but, long story short, that project stalled out. Then, early this past August, Sony announced that they were replacing the team-up with solo Silver Sable and Black Cat films, with the latter being first in the queue. According to Sanford Panitch, president of Columbia Pictures and overseer of Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters (SUMC),

“We believe Black Cat is enough of her own character with a great backstory and a canon of material to draw from to justify her own film.”

No release dates or much else to report. Last I read, Prince-Bythewood’s involvement with either film is uncertain, but if she doesn’t direct, Sony still plans to hire a female for the job. I will note that I don’t see a Black Cat entry on IMDB, yet, but I do see one for Silver Sable. It lists Prince-Bythewood as a producer and Geneva Robertson-Dworet (Captain Marvel, Tomb Raider reboot) as writer.

5) I recently discovered several lesser-known Marvel characters from the Spidey books that Sony has plans to make solo films about, thereby attempting to further expand their Spider-Man-related universe without Spider-Man (‘cuz they don’t have the rights to him). One of those characters is ‘Jackpot’, a young costumed crimefighter who got her powers from a mix of Mutant Growth Hormone (MGH), anabolic steroids, and other drugs. She appeared in a handful of issues back in 2008. That’s it. So, while they could make a workable story about her without the Spider-Man connection, ya gotta ask, “Why?”

6) Now, for the small-screen we have a new series in development for ABC by Allan Heinberg. You may recognize Heinberg’s name from his many years as a TV writer and producer or maybe from the fact that he wrote the screenplay for Wonder Woman (2017). The series will follow an all-female team of Marvel heroes. Who? Dunno. At this point, we don’t even know if they will be big names or “lesser known characters.” What we do know is that Heinberg will executive produce (with Jeph Loeb, of course) for the Marvel TV / ABC Studios joint project.

To be honest, I’m not big on sword-and-sorcery these days (exceptions being GoT and anything by Tolkien), so I’ll probably skip any Red Sonja flick. I’m definitely interested in the Captain Marvel and Black Widow movies, though. Those ladies are bad@$$! I’m hopeful that the Black Cat and Silver Sable productions get done and done well, ‘cuz those are fun characters that might be able to carry their own films outside of a strong connection to Spider-Man. I’d love to see a heist/caper movie and a manhunt, respectively. Jackpot I couldn’t care less about and, if Sony gets a clue, they will hopefully realize that the odds are stacked against it being a success and just kill the project. As for the ABC TV series, it sort of depends on what characters and direction they decide to go, but for now, color me intrigued.

Just so you know, I am not a feminist, so that’s not where I’m coming from on this subject. Naturally, then, I don’t want to see strong “feminist” themes pushed in these projects. But, I do appreciate that this is one genre where women tend to get the short shrift. That’s a real shame, because there are some great female characters and talent. So, despite some reservations, I am pleased to see efforts being made to correct this situation. As long as there are good stories told with quality talent and production values, I look forward to seeing them. And, of course, the more faithful to the source material the characters are, the better.

Girl Power!, part 1 of 2

“I’m havin a bad day! I’m sick of people tryin’ ta shoot me, run me over, or blow me up!” — Harley Quinn

While it’s true that we have had strong, kick-butt women on both small- and large-screens for some time, they have been noticeably rare as leads — especially in the superhero subgenre. The notable exception is the “Wonder Woman” series from the 1970s. (I think I still have a crush on Lynda Carter!) There have been some strong female characters in more recent DC-based TV shows (e.g., “Arrow”, “The Flash”). But, it wasn’t until Oct. 2015 that they debuted their first female headliner in decades: “Supergirl”. Roughly a month later, Marvel/Netflix gave us their own female star: “Jessica Jones”. Then, of course, there was the spectacular success of the Wonder Woman solo movie in 2017.

With the popularity of these characters and others in the superhero films of the past decade or so, the studios appear to be more willing to invest money and talent on female-led productions. (That includes not just the stars but writers and directors, too.) In fact, I’ve seen several announced in the news of late, so I figured we’d review what is on the roster.

DC:

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn

1) Following Margot Robbie’s fan-fave portrayal of ‘Harley Quinn’ in Suicide Squad, she lined up several spinoffs in which she would reprise the role. One of them was Gotham City Sirens, which would ostensibly team her up with versions of Catwoman and Poison Ivy. There hasn’t been much news on this for awhile, and there is no targeted release date; but, as of last December, director David Ayer said the project was still “in development” and he was still on board to helm it. The same report says that Christina Hodson was doing the writing.

2) Robbie is also trying to get a ‘Harley Quinn’ solo movie off the ground, though I haven’t heard or seen anything since the initial announcement. Good luck!

3) The one HQ project that seems to have the most momentum, though, is Birds of Prey. Produced by Robbie (and based on her idea), written by Hodson, and directed by Cathy Yan, this one will team her up with Huntress, Black Canary, Renee Montoya, and possibly Cassandra Cain (aka ‘Batgirl’).

“I pitched the idea of an R-rated girl gang film including Harley, because I was like, ‘Harley needs friends.’ Harley loves interacting with people, so don’t ever make her do a standalone film. She’s got to be with other people, it should be a girl gang. I wasn’t seeing enough girl gangs on screen, especially in the action space. So that was always a big part of it.”

That comment about never putting HQ in a standalone film seems odd, given her own intent to make such a film. From the context, though, I’m guessing that by “standalone” Robbie actually meant a story where she worked alone, with no allies. I suppose a “solo” film might have her working with and/or on behalf of non-costumed persons.

Currently slated to begin production on Birds of Prey in Jan. 2019, recent reports have the following actresses among those testing for the main roles: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Justina Machado, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Roberta Colindrez, Margaret Qualley, Cristin Milioti, Sofia Boutella. Interesting…

4) On the small-screen, “Supergirl” is set to introduce Kate Kane, aka ‘Batwoman’, and spin her off into her own series next year. Although there have been plenty of LGBTQ characters in the DC shows, this will be the first to star in her own series, and she’ll also be portrayed by an LGBTQ actor — Ruby Rose. Caroline Dries will write and exec produce. Other executive producers include Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter, and Geoff Johns.

To be honest, neither the LGBTQ angle nor the purported “social justice” emphasis appeal to me. But, Rose is gorgeous, intense, and has some fighting skills, so I may check it out, anyway.

5) This was a surprise to me, ‘cuz I didn’t think the character had sufficient name recognition to center a project on, but “Stargirl” is getting her own live-action series. Not to be confused with the upcoming TV movie of the same name (but different subject), this one will also not be the 1940s-era version as played by Sarah Grey in “Legends of Tomorrow”. However, the eponymous central character will indeed be a teenage ‘Courtney Whitmore’, who “inspires an unlikely group of young heroes to stop the villains of the past.” Apparently, this will be a reimagined version of both her and the Justice Society of America.

Brec Bassinger

Creator/showrunner Geoff Johns gushed about his new star:

“There is no other character in comic books more special to me than Stargirl. [Note: He created her in the 1990s and named her after his deceased sister.] And after searching far and wide, I can say there is no other actor on the planet that embodies her more than Brec Bassinger. Brec’s warmth, strength, humor and positive energy are core to who Courtney Whitmore is. I’m so grateful she’s signed on for the role.”

I’ll take your word for it, dude, since I’m not familiar with Bassinger. But, of course, he’s right about Courtney Whitmore’s personality, and I’m glad he retained that aspect in this reimagination. The series, which will air on the new DC Universe subscription service, will debut sometime in 2019. Not surprisingly, Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter join Johns as executive producers.

6) Back on the big screen, we have Supergirl. That’s right, the Girl of Steel is getting another film adaptation. (Hopefully better than the 1984 version, starring Helen Slater.) Not much is known about it, as it is still in the very early stages of development. However, it looks like Oren Uziel is working on a script, and Reed Morano is being courted to direct, though I haven’t heard that she’s signed on, yet. Reports are that this will be a “a new iteration”, so no Melissa Benoist or any ties to TV’s “Arrowverse”. Whether or not it will tie into the existing DCEU filmverse is still uncertain.

I’m not a huge fan of Robbie’s oversexualized ‘Harley Quinn’ (based on the comics’ Prime Earth version, of course), being more a fan of the original (New Earth) version in the jester outfit from the animated TV series & movies. I’m also of two minds about making murderous psychos into “heroes”. But, the Gotham City Sirens and Birds of Prey intrigue me enough to check ’em out. “Stargirl” could be fun. Not sure how I feel about a Supergirl movie concurrent with the TV series, but if done well, I might even like it better.

That’s a pretty good crop of new projects, wouldn’t ya say? And, we’re only half-way through, since I have yet to cover the Marvel-based stuff. ‘Til next week…

Review of Iron Fist, Season 2

“Chance always looks like fate in the tail lights.” — Colleen Wing

I have to say, I didn’t think it would happen. As far as I could tell, the reviews from Season 1 of Netflix’s “Iron Fist” were uniformly bad. The star, the story, the fight scenes, et al., just about everything was disappointing. Yet, for whatever reasons, the powers-that-be decided to renew it for another season. Now that Season 2 has aired and I’ve had a chance to view it, I’ve got a few thoughts to share….

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!

Frankly, I didn’t want to see the Meachums or Davos again. I’d had enough of the Meachum family drama and Davos’ sulking in Season 1. I was hoping for someone new and exciting. But, once again the Netflix team decided to bring back the initial, surviving (pseudo-)villains for another go ’round. Of course, as the story picks up, everyone is dealing with the aftermath of the first season’s revelations and events. Joy and Davos have let their bitterness, jealousy, and frustration twist them, so that they are willing to put aside their differences and go to great lengths in order to get revenge on Danny Rand. Meanwhile, Ward is attending (though not participating in) N.A. meetings and trying… sorta… to be a better person. But, as his sponsor says, “You lead with @$$#0l3!”

Aside from the machinations of Joy and Davos, we have the threat of a nasty gang war, as the Triads vie for dominance following The Hand’s disappearance. It occurred to me that this seemed like a plot device borrowed from “Luke Cage”, where much the same happened over in Harlem. Another similarity was that one antagonist — Davos, in this case — is angry ‘cuz he feels like his birthright was stolen from him. Sounds a lot like the pain in Luke’s butt named ‘Bushmaster’.

I loved that Colleen Wing was such a big part of this story. Adding Misty Knight into the mix was like frosting on the cake. (These two ladies are lovely and bad@$$! Ahem…) I’ve mentioned before how much I’d like to see them spin off into their own “Daughters of the Dragon” or “Knightwing Restorations” series. So, Misty’s suggesting to Colleen about becoming an investigator — even though she was thinking “cop” — and then that talk near the end about “Knight… Wing… it’s got a little ring to it.” is all a very good sign.

Regarding Colleen “teaching” the injured Danny, I don’t get it. He lost strength and mobility in his leg; he didn’t lose his martial knowledge and skills. He’s supposed to be a better overall fighter than her, than just about anyone, anyway. What the heck is she supposed to teach him? Train with him? Sure. Teach him? Hmmm… Maybe the equivalent of a physical therapist forcing him to get back into shape, I suppose. Another thing I don’t get is why Danny and Colleen’s relationship was negatively affected by her training him or getting the Fist or… whatever. What did I miss?

Walker and Davos

The Mary/Walker character(s) was… interesting, but odd. While she was formidable, her fighting seemed somewhat brutish, lacking much style or grace. Maybe that’s because she was taught by the military, as opposed to in a “real” martial arts dojo or a mystical lost city like K’un-Lun? I dunno. Walker comes across as a bit “off”, certainly menacing, but not quite as skilled as one might think she’d be. I would not have picked Alice Eve for the part (though I’m not really that familiar with her work). Still, she did a decent job. Not as nutso as “Typhoid Mary” from the comics (though that version tangles with Daredevil, not Iron Fist), but there’s time for a psychotic break next season(?), I suppose. At least, Walker is now aware that she & Mary share headspace with a third, even more violent persona. Could be interesting, especially if she crosses over into the “Daredevil” series.

The new showrunner, Raven Metzner, appears to have recognized the pacing issues that other reviewers and I have spoken of re the Netflix/Marvel shows. This was mostly fixed with tighter writing, but shrinking the season from the usual 13 down to 10 episodes (as was also recommended) helped, too. Yay!

I have to admit, the Danny Rand character continues to improve. I first mentioned this in my review of Luke Cage’s second season (in which Danny cameoed), noting that he seemed a bit more mature and centered. This was the case for the first few episodes here, but then he wavered a bit as his issues both with Davos and with the Fist itself led him to giving it up. I didn’t care for the “addiction” angle, to be honest, but it did lend itself to a nice parallel (and empathy?) with Ward Meachum’s issues. Best of all, though, were the improvements in the fight scenes, especially Danny’s. I read somewhere that Finn Jones (who plays ‘Danny’) started training — martial arts, weights, yoga — 5 months before the season even began production. He and Jessica Henwick (who plays ‘Colleen’) were in great shape and did most of their own stunts, and it shows. Plus, the producers hired a new fight choreographer, Clayton Barber (fresh off of Black Panther), which led to marked improvements in the fight scenes over those in Season 1. Still not up to the level I would expect for the Iron Fist, but getting there.

Storywise, it seemed odd to me that the power of the Iron Fist — normally only given to the winner of a ritual combat, followed by confrontation with an immortal dragon — could be stolen/transferred the way that it was from Danny to Davos, and then from Davos to Colleen. I’m also somewhat unsure how I feel about Colleen now being the Immoral Iron Fist. Not that there is anyone more worthy. I suppose one could point out that the series is titled “Iron Fist”, not “Danny Rand”. Apparently, this change also gave Danny an opportunity to learn some new stuff during his travels in Asia with Ward. But, I trust that next season will at some point have Danny regaining the title — though, hopefully less painfully for both Colleen and him. (Note: She does look pretty cool with the white Fist, and the glowing katana, too.)

Speaking of Danny’s quest to discover the secret history of the Iron Fist, I noticed that the identity of the person whose remains Davos had shipped was “Orson Randall”. In the comics, this was the wielder of the Iron Fist prior to Danny. They met and had some adventures in the Immortal Iron Fist comic series, most of which I read in trade paperback. Randall is already dead in the Netflix/Marvel universe, but it could be interesting if the writers incorporate other aspects of that story into the show — e.g., other Lost Cities and their own defenders.

Misty and Colleen

Beyond the other positive aspects I’ve mentioned, the character development this season was impressive. I may not have wanted to see Davos or the Meachums again, but I have to give props to the actors and writers alike. In fact, episode 6 stood out to me as having some of the best dialogs between Colleen and Misty and between Ward and Joy, though there were more in the last couple episodes. (The bits with the guy leading Davos around the city from target to target were “fun”, too.) As for Davos, on the one hand, I don’t find him physically imposing at all, being on the short side (though perhaps slightly more muscular than Danny). On the other hand, his unpredictability, simmering anger, thirst for vengeance, and impressive fighting skills did make him a force to be reckoned with. As with Finn Jones, I would probably not have cast this actor (Sacha Dhawan), but he has brought this very driven, self-righteous character to life as written.

On a brief note, I appreciated the additional nods to the design and colors of the classic Iron Fist costume in the flashbacks and in the remains of the costume in the coffin. I have a feeling we’re never going to see Danny Rand in that costume, per se, but perhaps we’ll get a modified version. Someday…

Overall, I agree with the consensus that Season 2 of “Iron Fist” was a huge improvement over Season 1. In fact, whereas I gave that first season a grade of ‘C-‘ (at best), I’d give this season a ‘B-‘ … maybe even a ‘B’. This puts it, imho, just behind “Jessica Jones” and “Luke Cage”. (DD is still the one to beat.) 🙂

Superman and the Question of Diversity

As many of you probably remember from news reports last week, Henry Cavill was supposedly out as Superman — i.e., would not be playing ‘The Big Blue Boy Scout’ in the DCEU anymore. This stemmed from an initial report from The Hollywood Reporter, and several other publications took their cue from THR. The reasons given for the decision ranged from Warner Brothers wanting to focus on the new, big-screen Supergirl… to possible conflicts with Cavill’s leading role in Netflix’s “The Witcher”… to contract disputes and power plays, etc. Thus, the original focus of this week’s post was going to be my thoughts on what a big mistake this was, how they could still improve the franchise, etc.

However, it appears that THR jumped the gun on this report, though perhaps they could be forgiven, since it may be that either WB or Cavill’s reps “leaked” the rumor as a negotiation ploy. (For what it’s worth, TMZ called it “an invented conflict.”) Regardless, it wasn’t long before Dany Garcia — Cavill’s manager and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s business partner and ex-wife — tweeted that “the cape is still in his closet.” Warner Bros. followed with their own statement:

“While no decisions have been made regarding any upcoming Superman films, we’ve always had great respect for and a great relationship with Henry Cavill, and that remains unchanged.”

So,… no guarantees re future Superman films (or other appearances) at this time, but Cavill’s not out, yet. I haven’t seen any updates to this so far, which tells me that negotiations are still ongoing. We shall see….

When all this was still up in the air and we thought Cavill had most likely been given the boot already, there were rumors and speculations about who might be on deck to take his place. There were some rather unusual suggestions, I have to say. Remember how some people were pushing for an Asian actor to star in Netflix’s “Iron Fist”, or how many are calling for Idris Elba to be the next James Bond? Well, now there are suggestions of Black (Michael B. Jordan, Idris Elba), Asian (Henry Golding), and Latino (Oscar Isaac) replacements for Superman, among others. Sigh! All fine actors, but c’mon! Should we have a Black Tarzan next? (No, that wouldn’t work, ‘cuz his being white was part of what made the character an outsider in Africa. Besides, that whole “Ape Man” thing would be seen as racist….) Or, how about an Asian Sherlock Holmes? Would that make sense, especially given the era and locales in which the character operated? (Less of an issue for a modern-day take, I suppose. Still…)

Maybe it just doesn’t matter when the icon in question is White. But, remember the accusations of “whitewashing” when Scarlett Johansson was cast as the lead in the live adaptation of Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell? (Of course, the original comic was ambiguous re her ethnicity and showed the ‘ghost’ in various shells. But, it was generally assumed that she was Japanese, and the live film confirmed this, despite her being played by a Caucasian woman.) Or, what about the similar outcry when the upcoming Hellboy reboot originally cast Ed Skrein as the Daimio character, who is clearly Asian in the comic? (Note: Skrein bowed out, and Daniel Dae Kim was given the role.) Now, these aren’t exactly “iconic” characters, but the point is that fans generally prefer that a character’s race/ethnicity be retained when the source material is adapted.

If someone does a remake of Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon but casts a White or Latino in the lead, do you think there would be outrage? You betcha! Or, what about a Native American actor as the central character for a Shaft reboot? (I mean, you could even have a lame bow-and-arrow joke about the name “Shaft”.) Yeah, I don’t think that would go over so well in the ‘hood or, you know, with anyone who understands anything about the character. Can you imagine if Marvel had cast a non-Black actor to star as Black Panther?!

My response to this “out-of-the-box creative thinking” to make Superman anything other than a White, heterosexual male? Seriously, just stop it. This forced “diversity” — because Whites have too many cool heroes, or non-Whites can’t relate, or something — is incredibly annoying and just stupid. And don’t cry “racist!” if anyone dares to object, ‘cuz that just won’t fly. This isn’t about race so much as it is staying true to the characters as written, especially when there are many years of canon behind them and most especially when there are specific things about them being a certain race or ethnicity that are integral to the character.

Now, I’m all for heroes (and villains) of various races/ethnicities, as long as they are created as such, well-conceived, and beyond silly stereotypes. Also, as far as Superman goes, I actually like the idea of non-White versions in alternate universes / parallel dimensions. In fact, we’ve seen them in the comics. I would love to see a well-written film plot wherein “our” Superman meets up with a non-White doppelganger, perhaps joining forces to battle a threat to both realities. But, the “primary” Superman should remain Caucasian in appearance. I see no good reason to change the race of a decades-old icon just because… “diversity”.

When Cavill does get replaced as Superman, I truly hope that non-PC, common sense prevails and they are able to re-cast with someone of similar … yes, “iconic” … appearance.

My Top 3 Favorite Genre TV Miniseries

I can’t remember why, but a couple weeks ago I started thinking about “old” miniseries that I have enjoyed. Then, I decided to come up with a Top X list (not ranked) and share it with you all. So, here ya go! 🙂

One of the earliest miniseries I ever remember watching was “V” (1983), followed a few months later by “V: The Final Battle” (1984). (For purposes of this list, I am counting them together as one.) When some of my younger readers think of “V”, they probably think of the TV series (2009-2011), starring Morena Baccarin, Elizabeth Mitchell, Morris Chestnut, et al. But, that was actually a reimagining of the series from the ’80s, which I loved. “V” stands for the extraterrestrial “visitors”, who appeared in their huge ships with promises of shared technology and peaceful co-existence. Of course, the resistance fighters discover that the human-looking Visitors are not what they seem and have much more nefarious plans. Key Visitors were played by Jane Badler (‘Diana’), Andrew Prine (‘Steven’), and Richard Herd (‘John’). Familiar faces among the resistance included Marc Singer (‘Mike Donovan’), Faye Grant (‘Dr. Julie Parrish’), Michael Ironside (‘Ham Tyler’), and Robert Englund (simple-minded ‘Willie’). Looking back now, I’m sure some of it would look hokey, but for its day, it had some pretty good F/X and a fun plot and characters. Btw, the miniseries were soon followed up with a regular series, but that unfortunately only lasted 19 episodes.

Fast-forward several years to the miniseries “Taken” (2002), not to be confused with the Liam Neeson movies. This one was 10 episodes long and spanned five decades of alien abductions experienced by four generations of three families. From a synopsis on IMDB: “World War II veteran Russell Keys is plagued by nightmares of his abduction by aliens during the war; the Roswell incident transforms Owen Crawford from ambitious Air Force captain to evil shadow government conspirator; the unhappily married Sally Clarke is impregnated by an alien visitor. As the decades go by, the heirs of each are affected by the machinations of the aliens, culminating with the birth of Allie Keys, who is the final product of the aliens’ experimentation and holds the key to their future.” Notable stars included Matt Frewer, Ryan Hurst, Emily Bergl, Heather Donahue, Eric Close. (Other familiar faces appeared in a few episodes, too.) Most memorable, however, was 7-year-old Dakota Fanning in her first big role as ‘Allie’. She narrated the whole thing and, of course, played arguably the central part (on-screen in the last 4 episodes) — a cute, precocious little girl who was much more than she appeared. She was amazing!

A couple pieces of trivia (from IMDB):

1) The character ‘Allie Keys’ was ranked #16 in TV Guide’s list of the “25 Greatest Sci-Fi Legends” (1 August 2004 issue).

2) At the time of its airing, it was the highest rated program on the SciFi (now SyFy) channel. The record was beaten the next year with “Battlestar Galactica”.

Speaking of BSG…

If you have read my “Notable Genre Anniversaries in 2018, part 1 of 3” post, you might remember that I was a fan of the original “Battlestar Galactica” TV series, starring Lorne Greene, Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict, John Colicos, et al. When the reimagined version debuted as a miniseries in Dec. 2003, I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. The visual F/X were terrific, of course, and much of the core of the original story was intact. But, as usual, I was put off by many of the changes made from the ’70s version, e.g., naming conventions, appearances of the Cylons, various other stylistic modifications, changing the gender of two major characters, “weak” & whiney Baltar, etc. On the other hand, the writing and acting was quite good, and you had stars like Edward James Olmos (‘Cmdr. Adama’) and Mary McDonnell (‘President Roslin’), along with lesser-known talents Katee Sackhoff (‘Starbuck’), Jamie Bamber (‘Apollo’), James Callis (‘Baltar’), Tricia Helfer (‘Six’), Grace Park (‘Boomer’), and Michael Hogan (‘Col. Tighe’). There were a few interesting, new characters, as well — e.g., ‘Six’, ‘Dualla’, ‘Chief Tyrol’, ‘Gaeta’, ‘Lt. Agathon’. All in all, it was enough to get me back in front of the screen when the regular series started up in Jan. 2005. Like “Babylon 5”, the broader story-arc was made even better with the various character-arcs. Great sci-fi drama, great sci-fi visuals. Highly recommended!

Honorable Mention: Originally, I was going to include in my list The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982) with Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, and Ian McKellan. But, it turns out that it was just an unusually long TV movie (142 min.) rather than an actual miniseries. There were several previous adaptations of Baroness Orczy’s novel (1905) about the “Reign of Terror” during the French Revolution for TV and film, and there has been at least one since — a 1999/2000 miniseries, though, technically, two 3-episode seasons. As I recall, the miniseries wasn’t bad but didn’t have the charm of the 1982 movie that so thrilled me in my youth. There’s no sci-fi or fantasy in the story, but there are shades of the Three Musketeers, Zorro, and even Batman (sort of).

My favorites quotes by Andrews’ foppish ‘Sir Percy Blakeney’:

1) “Sink me!”
2) “Odds fish, m’dear!”
3) “They seek him here, they seek him there.
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
But, is he in heaven? Or, is he in hell?
That damned elusive Pimpernel!”

If you haven’t seen any of the above, you should definitely track them down and watch!

Fan-Cast: Namor, the Sub-Mariner

“Imperius Rex!” — Prince Namor

It’s time for a fan-casting exercise, my friends, and this time I’ve cast my eye upon Marvel’s Avenging Son and Lord of the Seven Seas, Prince (later King) Namor, known to surface-dwellers as the Sub-Mariner. But first, the usual background summary…

Namor, the Sub-mariner

Namor McKenzie was born to ship-captain Leonard McKenzie and Princess Fen, daughter of the Atlantean Emperor Thakorr, in (best guess) 1916. In the 1940s, he fought the Axis powers alongside Captain America and the Invaders and later the All-Winners Squad. After later conflicts with surface-dwellers, he disappeared in 1958. It wasn’t until 15-20(?) years ago that Johnny Storm (aka the 3rd ‘Human Torch’) came across an amnesiac bum with unusual strength, whom he recognized as the long-missing Prince of Atlantis. Storm helped Namor regain his memory and full strength, but when the prince came to believe that humans’ nuclear testing had wiped out his people, he swore vengeance on surface-dwellers. Of course, he eventually realized he’d been mistaken, but not before causing havoc and making surface-dwellers rather distrustful of him, too.

Over the years that followed, Namor has had an erratic history of alternately working with the “good guys” (e.g., Fantastic Four, Defenders, X-Men) and sometimes with “bad guys” (e.g., Doctor Doom, Magneto). At times, his alignment with the latter was due to being tricked or otherwise manipulated by others, while other times he was simply convinced that his and Atlantis’s best interests lay in fighting, for example, governments like the U.S. and Wakanda and/or heroes like the Fantastic Four. This has included what some have termed “terrorist” activities in response to activities he deemed harmful to oceanic ecologies. So, when Namor shows up, sometimes it’s hard to tell at first whether he is friend or foe. Namor also has intermittently had to contend with rogue elements among his own people (e.g., the usurper Attuma and his followers) and their undersea, Lemurian cousins. In addition, he has had to deal with much sorrow in his life, including destruction of parts of his kingdom, the deaths of many friends (plus his first wife (Dorma) and cousin (Namorita)), and the betrayal of his childhood friend Meranno (aka U-Man).

Namor is one of the most formidable beings, as either ally or enemy, on the Earth. As ruler of a technologically-advanced submarine kingdom, he can wield considerable military power. Indeed, the Atlantean armies are not to be trifled with, and he can be an inspiring (if grim) leader. But, even as an individual, Namor is incredibly powerful. As a hybrid of Homo mermanus and Homo superior (aka “mutant”), he has several superhuman abilities. Physically, he is one of the strongest and most durable beings, able to duke it out with the likes of the Thing, Hulk, Sentry, et al. He can both fly and swim at amazing speeds. He has superhuman agility, stamina, and various other amphibious adaptations. Truly, he is someone to value having in your corner, but his instability makes him a bit of a wildcard.

Namor is basically Caucasian in appearance, which he inherited from his father. (Pureblood Atlanteans have blue skin.) But, since he is half merman and a mutant, he has a few unusual features, including (usually) oddly-sculpted hair, tiny feathered wings that grow from his ankles, high-arched eyebrows, and pointed ears that remind one of an elf or a certain First Officer from Starfleet. He has a quite muscular build, black hair, and Marvel’s wiki lists him at 6’2″, 278 lbs. (Some of that weight may be from bone and tissue that are slightly denser than human.) Namor shares a general distrust of — even a disdain for — surface-dwellers with his fellow-Atlanteans. On top of this, he is known to have a large ego and rather imperious attitude toward anyone he considers his inferior. Not surprisingly, there are extremely few whom he would consider his equal, let alone his better. (Note that he trusts and respects Captain America enough that he has deferred to him as team leader in the field of battle.) As one who wears the responsibilities of the crown, he is known to brood a bit. Despite all his, there are also times when Namor has demonstrated love and affection, usually to a close relative (mother, wife, cousin) or to Susan Richards (nee Storm) of the Fantastic Four.

In trying to cast Namor, my requirements were pretty simple: over 6′ tall, dark haired (though that can be colored, of course), and muscular, with the presence to make one believe he was a supremely confident and superpowerful monarch. I would prefer to find someone around 30 years old, give or take, but it’s hard enough to find any contenders, so I was more flexible with that. In fact, while names like Henry Cavill (6’1″,b.1983), Tahmoh Penikett (6’3″,b.1975), and Josh Hartnett (6’3″,b.1978) crossed my mind, I really only focused on these three….

Jason Momoa

You might think that my choice of Jason Momoa (6’4″,b.1979) is too easy, even “cheating”, since he is portraying ‘Aquaman’ on the big-screen these days. Of course, his genre credits also include “Baywatch”, “Stargate: Atlantis”, “Game of Thrones”, Bullet to the Head, Wolves, Braven, “Frontier”. Personally, I think Momoa is a much better fit for Marvel’s King of Atlantis than for DC’s. Give him a widow’s peak, Vulcan ears, little wings on his feet (well, maybe those can be tattoos?), and a condescending royal sneer, and he’d be perfect as Prince Namor. Heck, he already has a head-start on the eyebrows!

 

Roman Reigns

Professional wrestler Roman Reigns (real name: Joe Anoa’i) (6’2″,b.1985) may be an unusual pick, but he has a certain swarthy appearance that reminded me of Momoa, especially with the whiskers and muscles. (I know I’m not the first to note the similarities.) I don’t think he has done any acting outside of wrestling. His only non-wrestling appearances were in “Ride Along (“reality TV”) and “Table for 3” (talk show) and “Raw Talk” (talk show), where he played himself. So, he may need acting lessons to pull off a decent ‘Namor’. But, he certainly has the physique for it, and he comes closest to my preferred age-range. Plus, you know, ‘Roman’ spelled backwards is ‘Namor’ (which, I believe, was the inspiration for the character’s name in the first place).

Sasha Roiz

Sasha Roiz (6’5″,b.1973) might not the the first to come to mind, either. He’s also the oldest of my candidates, being almost 45 when I write this. But, if the powers-that-be chose to go with an older Namor, he’d be great. You may remember Roiz from his roles in “Caprica” or “Warehouse 13” or “Grimm”, but he also appeared in Land of the Dead, 16 Blocks, a couple “CSI” show and similar series, and he’s now co-starring in the second season of “Salvation”. As you can see from the shirtless pic I chose (from not all that long ago), he’s fairly physically fit — more of a swimmer’s physique? — and could probably put on a few more pounds of muscle if necessary. King Namor?

 

While it’s possible Momoa might someday play a Marvel character, I seriously doubt they’d sign him on to play someone so similar — at least in some aspects — to his current DC character. But, I can still play “What If?”, right? If not him, though, maybe Reigns or Roiz? What do you think? This one was tough! Anyone else strike you as a possibility?

* All ideas copyright Christopher Harris, 2013-2018.

Darth Jar Jar?

“Meesa thinkin’ this be crazy-crazy!” — JJB?

Boy, I’m really out of the loop on this Star-Wars-theory stuff. I mean, I know I’m not the die-hard fan some of you are. But, I’m a little surprised that I don’t recall hearing this one before. I was flipping through a copy of The World According to Star Wars by Cass Sunstein, when I came across this bit of trivia:

“Here’s an especially bold, and bizarrely credible, exercise in dot connection, which went viral in late 2015: Jar Jar Binks is a Sith Lord. (‘Search your feelings, you know it to be true.’) According to Reddit user Lumpawaroo, Jar Jar ‘was not, as many people assume, just an unwitting political tool manipulated by Palpatine — rather, he and Palpatine were likely in collaboration from the beginning, and it’s entirely possible that Palpatine was a subordinate underling to Binks throughout both trilogies.’

In the prequels, Lucas’s original plan was to give Jar Jar Binks a prominent role in all three movies, akin to that of Yoda. He acts like a fool, a joker, an idiot, but he knows just what he’s doing. Crazy like a fox, he’s the brain behind the scenes. He is playing the Jedi like a violin. According to this account, Lucas had to abandon his plan because so many people hated Jar Jar, couldn’t stand his presence, and depicted him as a product of racism.

True, all this sounds crazy, but Lumpawaroo elaborated the theory with such care, diligence, energy, and obsessiveness that it actually made a kind of sense. One result was a website dedicated to the idea, darthjarjar.com. Is it right? Lucas had to issue a public denial to prevent this account from getting real momentum.

Now he would deny it, wouldn’t he?”

My initial reaction was to laugh at the idea. But, as I read and re-read the hypothesis and thought about it some more, I actually liked it. This would have been a great twist — right up there with Vader’s revelation in Empire! If they’d been able to capitalize on it, with at least the better part of one film having Darth Jar Jar displaying his “true face” and revealing his masterfully evil machinations, it would have cast the character in a whole different light and neutralized much of the hatred for the character. (Lucas: “I am altering the tale. Pray I don’t alter it any further….”) Heck, he may have even become a fan-favorite villain on jar… er, on par with Vader and Maul!

P.S. You should definitely check out the website. They’ve had a lot of fun running with the idea, creating appropriate graphics, writing “Darth Jar Jar Tales”, additional SW theories, etc.

Trek News Dispatch, part 2 of 2

Last week, we started looking at recent Star Trek news, so now we continue….

As for the small screen, we’ve seen a few news updates about season 2 of “Star Trek: Discovery”. For example, we know that Anson Mount will portray the Enterprise’s ‘Capt. Christopher Pike’, who then takes command of Discovery for their next big mission. I wasn’t impressed with him in Marvel’s “Inhumans” mini-series, but my initial impression from the Season 2 trailer is that he’ll do a good job. (Plus, it helps that Mount is a huge fan of TOS, so he has respect for the legacy.) I just hope they don’t write the character as too… jokey. Oh, also, Rebecca Romijn has been cast as ‘Number One’, and I can certainly see her in the role.

Early Spock / Ethan Peck

There has been a bit of controversy over the new ‘Spock’ (whenever he might show up) being “very different” from the character fans are familiar with. As new showrunner Alex Kurtzman explained,

“This is not entirely the Spock who has been formed enough to be the Spock that we know from TOS. There’s a lot of story about who Spock was before he becomes the Spock that is the yin-yang to Kirk. What I’m so excited about is that we have an opportunity to present a version of Spock that’s both totally consistent with the Spock everyone knows but very, very different. And it’s all gonna tie to how we sync up with canon.”

That makes total sense to me. For example, as we saw in “The Cage” / “The Menagerie”, Spock was a bit less… emotionally disciplined at that time.

Kurtzman has also said that we’ll get an explanation for why Spock never mentioned his adopted sister, Michael Burnham, in any previous productions. According to Sonequa Martin-Green, who plays Burnham,

“We’re certainly gonna see Spock and we’re gonna be exploring those family dynamics. We’re gonna see a lot between them.”

I am intrigued and so will withhold judgment, but I look forward to seeing how they do this. (Especially since Spock is currently only scheduled to appear in two episodes. Maybe some will be done with flashbacks of younger versions?) I see that they also just cast Gregory Peck’s grandson, Ethan Peck (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), as Spock. He looks like a decent choice physically, but I’ve never seen him in anything and can’t give any opinion on his acting.

Another “Discovery” news item involves those pesky, ever-changing Klingons. As per makeup designer Glenn Hetrick:

“As we move into season 2, it has been a while since we have been with our characters. It has been a while since we have seen our Klingon friends. So, everything keeps evolving. The story has evolved. And I can guarantee you this, you are going to be blown away that they have a completely new look, yet again, going into season two.”

I can hear the collective groan and assorted expletives from some of you, but hang on. We’ve been promised that many questions re canon will be addressed, and this is one of those things. Hetrick continues…

“In season two, you are going to see much different designs. You are going to see different houses you haven’t seen before. One of the most important things to us was that at this point in canon, as we head towards the current version of unification, the houses really each grow up on different planets. It is an Empire, it is not just Qo’noS…. We have seen six of the great houses in close up in season one. As we move forward into the next season, I promise that we will continue exploring and unpacking and unfolding that infinitely interesting story of what the Klingon culture looks like on a wider level.”

This is actually in line with my thoughts. In my review of Season 1, I suggested that one way to resolve the Klingon issue was: “Perhaps the Klingon houses we’ve seen represented are one Klingon race, while the STIII/TNG version make up the other houses. Wipe out the former, and the latter can take over.” Sounds like I was on the right track with that one….

Finally, there is the return of Jean-Luc Picard to the prime(?) Star Trek universe. As you may be aware, Kurtzman and his Secret Hideout production company were awarded a 5-year, multi-million dollar deal with CBS TV Studios back in June. Part of Kurtzman’s focus will be to “oversee the development of new Star Trek series, mini-series and other content, including animation.” Since then (and even before), there have been rumors of spinoffs focusing on Captain/Emperor Georgiou, Captain Lorca, Harry Mudd, Khan Noonien Singh, the Vulcans, Starfleet Academy, et al. Perhaps most intriguing was the possibility of bringing Jean-Luc Picard back — with Patrick Stewart returning to the role, of course.

Early reports were that fans would “see Stewart return to Starfleet as Captain Picard…. The report also refers to the project as a ‘reboot,’ leaving it unclear as to whether this project could be a reboot – more likely a continuation – of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’.” But, that was rather early in the development, and Stewart hadn’t even officially signed on, yet. Earlier this month (Aug. 2018), though, CBS announced (via Stewart at the 2018 Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas) that a Picard-based show starring Patrick Stewart, who will also exec produce along with Kurtzman, is now official.

One idea I’ve heard tossed around would be to have Picard in charge of Starfleet Academy. Not a bad idea for the character, I suppose, but not if we want to see a Picard-centered series. An academy-based series will likely focus on students. (I hope it isn’t too teen-angsty.) I’ve often thought that Picard might return to his archaeological interests and spend his later years on one or more digs. This could have potential for a series, but nothing I’ve read makes me think they’re considering this. (Otoh, who knows?) I think it is most likely that they will bring Picard back as either an Admiral or an Ambassador, both of which take advantage of his strengths in diplomacy and leadership. Of course, they may need to coax him out of retirement first. Given a compelling storyline, I’m definitely up for that.

The only thing that concerns me at this point is the rumors that CBS/Kurtzman want to wipe out the Prime timeline and merge the Kelvin timeline with the DISC timeline. Depending on how/when they would do it, it could allow for an “alternate” version of Picard (among many other things), too, and I don’t think the fans (including myself) want that. (Remember that mention of ‘reboot’ in the early discussion of a Picard series?) I don’t know how much validity there is to this rumor, though, so I’ll set it aside for now.

CBS TV Studios president David Stapf has stated that they want year-round Trek content on CBS All Access. DISC’s second season won’t debut until January 2019, and Picard’s so-far-untitled series is tentatively due in late 2019. So, while we wait for them and the (up to four) additional series being developed, they have something else to tide fans over.

“CBS All Access will fill the gap in late 2018 Star Trek programming with Star Trek: Short Treks, a series of four 15-minute short films spotlighting characters from Star Trek: Discovery [including one about Harry Mudd and directed by Rainn Wilson]. <Star Trek: Short Treks> will debut in the fall and new installments will release monthly leading into the second season of Star Trek: Discovery.”

Cool!

Trek News Dispatch, part 1 of 2

This week, I wanted to comment briefly on recent news items that affect various different Star Trek eras/universes.

Nichelle Nichols

Allow me to begin with the report on Nichelle Nichols’ health. Nichols, 85, has understandably had her share of health issues, and fans will remember that the much-beloved, original ‘Lt. Uhura’ suffered a mild stroke back in 2015. Fortunately, there was no resulting paralysis. However, it has since been reported that she has been suffering memory loss. (I don’t know if it’s thought to be related.)

Original reports came this past May, when her son, Kyle Johnson, petitioned the court to have conservators appointed to manage Nichols’ health and financial decisions. It seems that her memory issues had allowed “certain individuals [to] unduly exert[] themselves into Ms. Nichols’ life to her detriment.” In conservatorship documents recently obtained by TMZ, Nichols’ doctor, Meena Makhijani, said that the actress does indeed have “moderate progressive dementia.” More specifically, she has “major impairment of her short-term memory and moderate impairment of understanding abstract concepts, sense of time, place and immediate recall.” However, there does not appear to be impairment to her “long-term memory, orientation of her body, comprehension, verbal communication, concentration, recognition of familiar people, as well as ability to reason logically and plan actions.”

This is sad news, as it would be with anyone. But, we can pray that Nichols’ conservators get her the care she needs, and that her family, friends, assistants, etc., work patiently with her as she deals with this condition. And, of course, we fans will continue to love and appreciate the beautiful, classy, sci-fi and cultural icon.

On the movie front, Star Trek 4 in the Kelvin universe is in jeopardy. Even before Star Trek Beyond was released, the powers-that-be announced they had already started developing the next film. Based on an idea by J.J. Abrams, it would involve some way — presumably time-travel — of teaming James Kirk with his late father, George, played briefly by Chris Hemsworth in 2009’s Star Trek. Both actors were reportedly “on board” and had deals in place.

A few months ago, rumors of a Quentin Tarantino-led Trek movie had people wondering if those plans would delay or even replace Star Trek 4. But, that doesn’t seem to be a problem. Rather, recent reports are that Star Trek 4 has hit a wall due to… money. Apparently, salaries for Hemsworth and Chris Pine (aka ‘James Kirk’) had not yet been finalized, and now “talks between the two actors and the companies making the new installment, Paramount Pictures and Skydance Media, have fallen apart, with both sides walking away from the table.”

Hemsworth and Pine

Pine and Hemsworth are big enough stars now that they can command big money. (E.g., Pine got $6 million for Star Trek Beyond.) I don’t begrudge them that. Also, according to reports, they are merely “asking the studios to stick to existing deals. Paramount, according to insiders, contends that Star Trek is not like a Marvel or Star Wars movie and is trying to hold the line on a budget.” So, Paramount was disappointed in the 3rd film’s profits. Fair point, but whose fault was that? Arguably not Pine’s, and certainly not Hemsworth’s.

Like many, I have been somewhat disappointed in the current Trek movies, so I wouldn’t be devastated if Star Trek 4 never happened. On the other hand, it would be a shame, especially since I think it’s at least partially fixable. (No, I don’t think they should recast either of the Kirks — especially the younger.) The more immediate option would be to give the actors more skin in the game, i.e., tying a certain bonus to the film’s profitability (as Pine did for Star Trek Into Darkness) or with a percentage of the take on the backend. The second thing would be to make the movie slightly less dependent on action and F/X and incorporate more of the tone and philosophical elements that the TOS and TNG-based films had. (Unfortunately, the one thing they can’t do is insert several years of the characters/actors working (and playing) together, which I think was a big factor in the success of (most of) those earlier movies.)

To be continued in a few days…