“Come on, let’s party.” Happy 35th Anniversary, Commando!

I originally wrote what follows little intro here ten years ago while conducting one my now long-defunct “Wayback Review” installments. Most of those were random Star Trek episode but I opted to turn my attention to the Arnold Schwarzenegger combat classic, Commando, on the occasion of its then 25th birthday. It’s ten years later and I this flick has only further cemented itself as one of the best shamelessly over-the-top action movies of the 1980s. I can still watch this without any prompting or reason other than it’s just silly fun.

Commando was released 35 years ago today on October 4th, 1985. I didn’t get to see this during its original theatrical run because by October 4th I was three days into my extended stay at Parris Island, South Carolina, courtesy of the United States Marine Corps and their awesome travel agency and vacation club for new members.

It wasn’t until I made it to my first permanent assignment at Camp Pendleton in California in the spring of 1986 that I found this gem at a discount theater (remember those). VHS rentals soon followed before I finally obtained a copy of my own, and years later I upgraded to DVD when they released an “unrated” cut of the film. The only reason I’ve not yet ugraded to Blu-ray for this title is that said extended version is not available in this format, and to that I say, “The hell is that about?”

So, here we are…35 years after the film’s release. Does it hold up? Let’s take a stroll down Memory Lane and see for ourselves, why don’t we? Though I’ve gone through and tweaked things here and there and freshened up a joke or two, this is pretty much the “live-watch review” I wrote ten years ago:


Colonel John Matrix is a retired bad-ass. Living with his daughter Jenny in a secluded cabin in the middle of Nowhere, he just wants to be left alone, but that’s not to be. You see, three of Matrix’s former Special Ops soldiers have been murdered. Somebody’s targeting Matrix and members of his team, for reasons unknown, and even though Matrix and his men have been given new identities (also for reasons unknown). Matrix’s old commanding officer, General Kirby, warns him whoever’s behind this will soon find him, too. Kirby leaves two Special Ops dudes with Matrix for protection while he heads “into the city” to coordinate with law enforcement in some mysterious manner which will prevent the killers from reaching Matrix.

By my watch, the first Special Ops dude goes down about twenty seconds after Kirby leaves. His buddy takes rounds, too. So much for the protection plan. Matrix instructs Jenny to hide while he retrieves a pistol and rifle from the fucking arsenal he’s got in the back of his tool shed. Now suitably armed and ready to receive visitors, Matrix returns to the house to get Jenny, and finds a guy sitting in her room. The dude and his pals have Matrix’s daughter, and they’ll be holding her for safekeeping as a guarantee Matrix will cooperate, right?

To this day, I feel sorry for the idiots who take this guy’s kid. That’s just some dumbshit idea-hatchin’, right there.

“Wrong,” Matrix says and puts a round through the asshole’s head, and we’re off and runnin’, bitches. Matrix is goin’ Bandit….Reynolds Style!

Matrix bolts outside, seeing a pair of vehicles hauling ass away from the house. When he finds the kidnappers have ripped the innards out of his own truck, he does what any sensible person would do in a similar situation….he pushes the truck down a slope and jumps behind the wheel, steering the truck (sort of) as it careens without brakes down the side of the mountain. Try that shit on for size, Duke boys.

Movie geography being what it is, Matrix is able to attempt side-swiping or simply colliding with the getaway cars twice during their transit down the mountain and its various switchbacks or whatever. He almost pulls it off, too, but instead ends up in a ditch. The kidnappers try to apprehend him and he makes a few of them regret that shit, but the numbers aren’t on his side and he’s finally wrestled to the ground. Matrix looks up to see one of his old Special Ops buddies, Bennett, dressed like Freddie Mercury trying to fit in with Hell’s Angels. He faked his death while helping these mercenary dicks to kill the other members of Matrix’s team. Apparently, he’s still pissed Matrix tossed his ass out of their unit years ago, and he’s just been itchin’ for some payback.

Oh, and today’s Pay Day, because this can’t be a 1980s action movie without a tagline like that.

After being shot with a tranquilizer dart which—if I’m not mistaken—might well be used to sedate moderately sized whales, Matrix wakes up to find himself chained to a table and with a bunch of ass-clowns looking down at him. Leading the ass-clown posse is a weasly-looking prick named Arius, a former dictator who once was unseated from his regime by Matrix and his team. He wants to return to power in his home country of Val Verde, and he’ll do that once Matrix assassinates the current leader. Matrix resists at first, of course, but since Arius is holding Jenny hostage and threatening to kill her, he sees no choice but to agree to the “assignment,” which in 80s MovieSpeak means every single swinging dick in that room along with a lot of other swinging dicks wandering through this movie are all doomed.

Matrix is taken by Bennett and some of Arius’ mercenary ass-clowns to the airport, from which he’ll fly with one of said ass-clowns to Val Verde in order to carry out his mission. Before Bennett can leave, Matrix warns him: “I’ll be back, Bennett.” Hey, that’s a pretty good line. I wonder if it’ll catch on? Escorted by two of Bennett’s butt-buddies, Henriques and Sully, through what passes for airport security in 1985, Matrix is taken to the gate for his flight to Val Verde. Sully sticks some money in his pocket, advising him to have a few beers and give the gang more time with Jenny.

Why is it always the scrawny shits who talk tough? Dude, you really went there? Really? Any dad in the real world is gonna gut you for saying something like that. Say it to an Action Movie Daddy and you might as well just cut off your own balls and save everybody some time. Matrix offers up one of his better lines from the whole movie: “You’re a funny guy, Sully. I like you. That’s why I’m going to kill you last.” Aw, yeah.

Matrix and Henriques board the plane and get to their seats, where Henriques warns our hero to keep his mouth shut. Matrix responds my caving in the dude’s nose before breaking his neck. Yeah, that’s gonna leave a mark. Matrix 2 – Bad Guys 0.

The plane starts to taxi down the runway, leaving Matrix with few options for getting off. In this Hollywood, pre-9/11 world, he’s able to get up from his seat *and* take the elevator to the plane’s lower level, where he accesses a maintenance hatch near the front landing gear. I can see some you out there rolling your eyes at the absurdity of this, but if you’ve managed to make it this far and not scoff at Sully’s leisure suit, you can get past this next part. Speaking of Sully, he doesn’t see what happens next, as he’s heading out for a little “me time.” So, he misses Matrix crawling out through the access hatch and down onto the landing gear. The plane picks up speed and he waits for his chance, and wouldn’t you know it? Its runway lets it take off right over some marshland. Good thing it wasn’t the I-5, eh? Shucking his sport coat, which isn’t needed for the forthcoming ass beatings he’ll be administering in due course, Matrix sets the countdown timer on his watch for eleven hours, the approximate duration of the flight to Val Verde. His mission now? Find his daughter before the plane lands and Arius and his people figure out they’ve been had.

In the airport, Sully contacts Arius and lets him know Matrix and Henriques are on the plane, bound for Val Verde. Arius, along with Bennett and Jenny, are boarding a boat for who the hell knows where, with Arius figuring by this time tomorrow, he’ll be back in power. Jenny figures by this time tomorrow, Arius will be breathing through a new hole in his taint. Which one’s right? I know where I’m putting my chips. All in, bitchez!

Sprinting back across the tarmac to the airport, Matrix is hoping he might catch Sully before the little toady bastard can get clear of the airport. Lucky for Matrix, Sully’s got his eye on a hot flight attendant. He’s so distracted Matrix has no problem following him to the parking garage. I mean, let’s face it: you have to be some kind of blind-ass stupid not to see a guy like Matrix tailing you. That, or horny.

In the garage, the flight attendant tells Sully to tie a knot in his dick, and no sooner is he gone than the flight attendant feels a hand on her neck: Matrix. He needs her help to continue following Sully, and in order to be inconspicuous in her dinky little convertible, he does what most of us would do when faced with such a challenge: he rips out the passenger seat so he can get down low enough not to be seen. I mean, that’s right out of my very own covert automobile surveillance handbook (soon to be available exclusively in the Kindle format from Amazon.com!). Sully hits the streets, with Matrix and his unwilling helper, Cindy, following close behind. They make their way to the Galleria, which as all Arnie fans know is the same mall that a cyborg from the future—looking a lot like Matrix—will one day fight another cyborg from the future while trying to protect the future savior of the human race.

Sully, on the other hand, is just here for a drink, some shady business, and hopefully to get laid.

Once in the mall, Matrix and Cindy track Sully to a restaurant, where Sully is meeting with a business partner of some sort. Matrix sends Cindy in to try and draw Sully out to where he can beat his ass, but she instead goes to one of the mall cops and tells them about Matrix and what a crazy fucknugget he is. While Sully and his friend conduct some under-the-table business, the mall cop checks out Matrix and calls for backup to try and take him into custody. As the covert mall-cop cordon tightens around Matrix, Sully notices Cindy skulking about the restaurant. “I knew it!” he proclaims. “It’s gotta be my suit. Chicks can’t get enough of these fine threads.”

As Matrix watches the restaurant from his hiding spot, he becomes aware of the mall cops closing in on him. They try to escort him to Mall Jail or wherever, but Matrix knows if he lets these guys take him, he’ll never hear the end of it at the monthly Retired Bad Ass Special Ops Dudes meetings. “Mall cops? Really? I’d rather get beat down by the gate guard at a Hollywood film studio, bro.” And so on.

Sully, trying out a new set of moves on Cindy, suddenly notices Matrix beating the shit out of a platoon of mall cops, and realizes he’s been followed and Matrix has blown “The Plan” all to hell. Son of a bitch! He’s gotta call Arius! He fumbles for his cellphone and…oh, wait. This is 1985. He fumbles for a quarter to stick in the pay phone. Matrix gets to him before Sully can dial the call and rips the whole phone booth out of its mounting. Sully, understandably terrified out of his fucking mind, runs for it, leaving Matrix to deal with a fresh group of mall cops. Diving into an elevator, Sully thinks he might just get away, at least until Matrix does a Tarzan off the mall’s upper deck and swings himself to the top of the elevator. While Matrix has to beat the shit out of more security guys, Sully makes it back to his car and hauls ass. Matrix follows in Cindy’s car, stopping just long enough to pick up Cindy, who now realizes he’s been telling the truth all along. Way to get on the bandwagon, lady.

The chase winds through city streets and into the suburbs and isolated roads beyond, with Matrix hot on Sully’s ass, until Matrix finally manages to run Sully’s car off the road where it ends up on its side. The car with Matrix and Cindy smashes head-on into a phone pole. I always crack up when Matrix looks over and asks, “Are you all right?” especially since both of them by all rights should’ve gone sailing through the windshield and over the cliff.

Satisfied that Cindy’s not injured, Matrix ambles on over to where Sully’s crawling out from his overturned car. He searches the little turd’s pockets and finds a hotel room key. Hmm….a clue, gang! Matrix starts roughing up Sully, wanting to know where his daughter is, and when Sully doesn’t respond to his polite questions, Matrix changes tactics. Carrying Sully over to the nearby cliff, Matrix holds him out over the ledge by an ankle, using only one hand like the bad ass he is. Sully tries to pass himself off as having information Matrix needs, but Matrix knows better, and this is where he provides part 1 of The Best Line of the Whole Damned Movie:

MATRIX: Remember, Sully? When I promised to kill you last?

SULLY: That’s right, Matrix! You did!

MATRIX: I lied.

When he drops Sully, everybody in the theater cheers as the little shit’s body bounces off the rocks below. See ya. Wouldn’t wanna be ya.

With Cindy’s car out of commission, Matrix just flips Sully’s back onto its wheels. Take quick note of all the damage to the driver’s side of the car. Presto Chango! It’s all fixed the next time you see it. Cindy asks Matrix what he did with Sully, and Matrix’s response is part 2 of the aforementioned Best Line of the Whole Damned Movie: “I let him go.”

Matrix 3 – Bad Guys 0.

Using keen investigative skills and the key he snatched from Sully’s pocket, Matrix and Cindy make their way to the Sunspot Motel. Using the key, they enter Sully’s room and find nothing…other than the fact Sully’s a fucking slob. As they’re working, there’s a knock on the door. It’s Cooke, Sully’s fellow goon and one of the guys who was killing Matrix’s men at the start of the flick. Matrix hides and has Cindy open the door, pretending to be Sully’s date. She lets Cooke in and Matrix gets the drop on him, and a knock-down drag-out fight ensues. Cooke draws a pistol but Matrix is on him and bullets go flying all over the place. Still, this guy can hold his own, it seems, but Matrix finally manages to drop-kick his ass through the door to the next room, which—as always happens in these movies—is occupied by a young dude just trying his best to get a little action.

We pause at this juncture, to admire, salute, and applaud what God chose to give the guy’s girlfriend so far as the mammary department is concerned.

Moving on.

After a few more punches, kicks, and jabs to the junk, Matrix roundhouse punches Cooke back into Sully’s room, where the dude gets impaled on the leg of a broken coffee table. Wow. That’s just not good for anybody. As Cindy starts to blow chunks in the corner, Matrix asks the dying Cooke where Jenny’s being held, but the guy’s already checked out. Score another one for Matrix. A search of the dead man’s pockets turns up little, but in his car’s glove box Cindy finds a receipt for aircraft fuel from a depot in the area. Perhaps there’s a clue to be found there. To the Cookemobile!

At the fuel depot, Matrix has a look-see and worms his way into one of the warehouses, where he observes what looks to be a whole lotta mercenaries checking over various military weapons and equipment. Finding the office, Matrix beats the shit out of some poor schmuck, clearing the way for Cindy to join him. He finds a series of navigational charts and some coordinates, and figures out Arius and his people are flying back and forth between the mainland and a small island off the coast. That must be the location of Arius’ Secret Hidden Lair of Evil! Matrix plans to go there, but not before he stops to do some shopping.

Finding a military surplus store, Matrix uses a bulldozer to bust into the place, and then proceeds to load up a shopping cart with all sorts of equipment, guns, knives, grenades, and other shit that goes “Boom!” Blue Light Special on the ammo aisle! Of course he finds the “secret room” all surplus stores have (No, really), which contains the really high-grade military firepower. “State of the art bang-bang!” as Clarence Boddiker might one day say. What? You don’t know who that is? Shame on you.

Anyway….after getting pretty much anything a budding Commando might ever want (except for the phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range, of course), Matrix sends Cindy to the car in preparation to boogie when the cops finally decide to show up. Man, we don’t have time for this shit! Matrix only has five hours until the plane lands in Val Verde and Arius knows he screwed them. The cops toss Matrix into a paddy wagon for transport, and Cindy follows after them. She even pulls up alongside the van, and the cops are too busy trying to look down her shirt to notice the guns, ammo, and rocket launcher she’s got in her back seat. However, they notice the launcher when she fires a rocket up their ass (after a “practice shot” that blows up a bus shelter. Whoops.). The next shot takes out the van, knocking it on its side and allowing Matrix to bust out, and they get gone.

Matrix and Cindy find the docks where Arius’ amphibious plane is tied up, and after loading all that shitloads of gear Matrix stole from the surplus store, they make a fast getaway as some of Arius’ men show up. In the finest Hollywood tradition, Cindy is an amateur pilot working toward her pilot’s license, and even though she’s only trained on one type of plane, she’s able to start this WWII-era rust-bucket and get it in the air without so much as checking to see if there’s a quick-reference card in the glove compartment.

Back at the surplus store, General Kirby is surveying the chaos Matrix has wrought. He knows his boy is on the hunt, but has no idea where Matrix might be going, so he orders all military, law enforcement and marine radio bands monitored in the off chance Matrix tries to make contact. Hopefully, that might occur before Matrix hate-fucks the shit out of a small country or something.

Meanwhile, in his Secret Hidden Lair of Evil, Arius and Bennett wait for word of Matrix’s success in Val Verde. They’ve stuck Jenny in an empty room, but she’s getting bored and has started looking for a way out. Looks like Daddy taught her a few tricks. As for Bennett, he’s singularly unimpressed with the schoolyard punks playing soldier that Arius has hired for his private army. He warns Arius his asshole should be puckering, because Matrix will be coming, one way or another.

Yeah, it’s gonna get nasty.

With time running out, the plane arrives at the island and Matrix uses a rubber raft from his equipment stash to get to shore. Once there, he gears up for the hell he’s about to unleash. Remember, this is Arnie in his 1985 prime, so the montage of Matrix donning his equipment and marking himself up in pretty useless fashion with camo paint is enough to evoke somewhat confused chubbies of varying length and stiffness from every single dude at your local gun range-slash-microbrewery-slash-tattoo parlor-slash-bargain basement strip joint that’s only open during daylight hours:

“Honey! I’m home!”

At the same time our favorite commando is maneuvering into position to attack Arius’ compound, the plane arrives in Val Verde and some local goons are on hand to pick up Henriques and Matrix. Imagine their surprise when they see Henriques’ body, and Matrix is nowhere to be found? Uh, oh. This can’t be good, right? Since it’s still 1985, they gotta get to a payphone in order to call Arius, giving Matrix a little more time to lay out some bombs, booby traps and other nifty toys.

Arius gets the call Matrix wasn’t on the plane, and orders Bennett to kill Jenny. As the mercenary makes his way to do just that, guards are starting to notice an intruder in their midst. We’re up to 9, 10…14 ticks on the Matrix Body Count as alarms start wailing, and Matrix finally says “Fuck this,” and blows up a couple of buildings. That’s when I officially lose count of how many dudes proceed to eat it in all sorts of grisly ways. Hearing the carnage outside, Bennett nearly soils himself in anticipation, but manages to hold it in as he heads to the room where Jenny’s stashed. But wait! Jenny’s managed to escape, the resourceful little minx! Now mightily pissed off, Bennett sets off in pursuit.

As Cindy makes contact with General Kirby and asks him to send in the cavalry, Matrix is continuing his systematic disembowelment of Arius’ compound, killing everyone and blowing up everything in his path. I’m pretty sure he even took out a bunny rabbit with a Claymore mine. Making his way closer to the mansion, it doesn’t matter how many bad guys there are; he’s slicing through them like a razor through wet Kleenex. When he runs out of ammo for one weapon, he just pulls another one—from his belt, his vest, or some orifice leading to a gun locker in another dimension. When that doesn’t work, he just picks up bad guy guns and uses those, too.

Oh, but wait! A lucky grenade lands nearby and peppers him with a bit of shrapnel. Wounded but still mobile, Matrix crawls to a conveniently-located tool shed. After checking his injuries and deciding it’s just a bloody flesh wound(!), Matrix gets ready for the goons to assault the shed, which they do by emptying their weapon magazines into the building. Of course they never shoot above or below chest level, so it’s just a matter of guessing whether Matrix dropped to the floor or climbed into the rafters. Let’s see what happens, shall we?

One of the goons opens the shed door, and gets a pitchfork in the chest for his trouble. Matrix is up in the rafters, and armed balls-out with the finest domestic weaponry Home Depot can provide. Circular saw blades—which apparently combine the physical properties of ninja stars with the lethality of a light saber—along with machetes to chop off limbs and axes to bury in crotches (Um….ow.) are all he needs to get the drop on his attackers. Then he grabs an M-60 machinegun, at which time the smart guards turn and run like hell.

The dumb ones? Yeah. Their day takes a turn toward total shit. As Matrix uses the M-60 to chew through the next line of guards, he makes his way into the mansion and finally faces off against Arius himself. There’s a running gunfight through the house until Matrix finally empties a shotgun into the tinpot dictator’s chest.

Man. That was pretty anti-climactic.

But wait! There’s still Bennett, who’s chased Jenny into a basement/boiler room/brewery/whatever. He catches her just as Matrix closes in, but Bennett manages to put a bullet in him. There’s some macho bullshit talk before Matrix convinces him to toss away the guns and have a good old-fashioned big dick knife fight. “Come on Bennett. Let’s party!” Naturally, being an insecure crybaby, Bennett takes up Matrix’s offer and the two start to tango. You can almost hear the awesomely funky Kirk/Spock fight music from “Amok Time” (for the uninitiated, that’s the Star Trek episode where Mr. Spock goes crazy because he’s horny and has to get home to bone his betrothed wife, and as will happen on Star Trek, he and Captain Kirk end up fighting over her).

Anyway, back to the action!

Matrix and Bennett face off, mano e mano, knives poking and slicing and trying to land a cut. Bennett scores the first strike, which pretty much just pisses off Matrix, and after a brief scuffle the two go flying off a catwalk to the boiler room’s lower level. There’s some smacking with pipes, boiler doors, and trying to push each other’s face into the fire. Matrix kicks Bennett into an electrical panel, but that only seems to juice him up for more punchin’ and kickin’. It looks like Bennett might have the upper hand, but then Matrix rallies and pretty much pummels the shit out of Bennett before skewering him with a hunk of pipe that ends up with one end embedded into what looks like a monster water cooler, with steam erupting from the other end. Yeah, Bennett’s done, so what does Matrix think about that? Say it with me:

“Let off some steam, Bennett.”

Hee hee.

With Arius and all of his goons dispatched, Matrix and Jenny have a happy reunion before Kirby and his unit arrives just in time to clean up the mess. “Leave anything for us?” Kirby asks. “Just bodies,” replies Matrix. Boo-yah.

Kirby asks Matrix to come out of retirement, but Matrix tells him to suck it. This is the last time, at least until a sequel comes along, but Matrix isn’t in any hurry. In addition to having Jenny back safe, it seems Cindy has no pressing plans to be elsewhere right this moment. Meee-yow.

And scene.

—–

Between 1984’s The Terminator and 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, it seemed like Arnold Schwarzenegger was in a lot of bad movies. It’s fair to say most of them sucked some form of donkey balls, from old and shriveled to huge and bursting, depending on your particular kink. The best Arnie film from this period, in my opinion, is Predator, but of the ones that are left? Commando makes a pretty decent stab at being the next best flick. It’s certainly among the more entertaining efforts of those years.

Commando makes no bones about what it is: A stripped-down, quintessential over-the-top 80s action flick, of the sort being cranked out during this period time like meth in rural Missouri. We’re talking about the era of heavyweights like Arnie and Sylvester Stallone in their prime, with potential contenders for their title like Bruce Willis, Steven Seagal, and (yes, I’m saying it with a straight face) Jean-Claude Van Damme still a few years away. Even Mel Gibson hadn’t quite arrived yet, despite the success of The Road Warrior which would pave the way for the first of the Lethal Weapon films. From its corny, testosterone-fueled dialogue and wink-wink humor (“I eat Green Berets for breakfast, and right now I’m very hungry!”), ridiculous stunts, one-dimensional characters and mustache-twisting bad guys surrounded by non-thinking cannon fodder, Commando is a brain-dead action fest, but it’s a damned fun brain-dead action fest. None of the various clones and knockoffs ever seemed to compete with it, for one reason or another. Even Arnold’s other efforts in this vein, like Raw Deal or Red Heat, fail to match Commando for sheer goofy fun.

Yep, this flick has heinous levels of violence, particularly at the end of the film when Matrix is cutting through Arius’ men (figuratively and literally) like a Ka-Bar through MRE peanut butter. If anybody on The A-Team had ever actually been able to hit anything they shot at, it might’ve looked a lot like this. Holy Moses, but do some bullets fly. It’s so ludicrous that one man could unleash this level of carnage, but it’s Arnie, so we let it ride.

Cool Trivia: There’s actually a script for a sequel to Commando floating around the net, based at least in some part on the novel Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp. When Schwarzenegger passed on the idea of a sequel, the script was reworked and eventually became the original Die Hard.

I also read there are plans afoot to remake Commando. Um, why?

If you want one of the poster children for 80s ActionPorn, look no farther than Commando. Come on; let’s party.

Happy 20th Anniversary, Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force!

Gotta start ’em early.

I’m not much of a gamer. I mean, I’ve played and occasionally still do play the odd computer or board game, but I’m not a “Gamer With a Capital G.” At best I’m a casual hobbyist, despite generally enjoying myself whenever I venture forth into this realm. If I’m being honest, my heyday for gaming likely peaked in the early 1980s with the advent of videogame arcades before plateauing during the years with the first games I bought for what I now laughingly call my first home computers or game systems.

We’re talking the age of the Commodore 64 and the Atari 2600/5200, kids, which at the time were the absolute cat’s meow. The first Nintendo systems were years away at that point, and ended up being something for which I didn’t have much time. Way back when, the systems we had for home use paled in comparison to the fun one could have at the local arcade though. Tron, Gyruss, Star Wars, Defender, and I long ago forgot the sheer number of quarters I dropped into a Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator game whenever I happened across one, and those of you who follow me with any regularity know I still have an upright cabinet version in my home office.

This one’s for you, Bill Smith.

Still, as home computing (and home computer gaming) technology improved, I did sample the odd game. If it wasn’t an early first-person shooter or adventure game, as often as not it’d be some flavor of Star Trek game. The C64 had a decent port of the Strategic Operations Simulator that even looked better than the original arcade version, but there were also text-based adventures like The Kobayashi Alternative and The Promethean Prophecy, and by 1990s we were getting some pretty decent offerings like Star Trek: 25th Anniversary and its sequel, Judgment Rites. By the end of the 20th century (it feels so weird to write that, yeah?), games like Starfleet Academy were pushing the limits of what gamers could experience on their home computer systems.

(Aside: You have to know I still have these and others stashed in a box somewhere.)

Then we skip ahead to September 2000, and Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force.

Box art for Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force

Released in the UK on September 15th and celebrating the 20th anniversary of its US release today, Elite Force was one of Star Trek‘s early forays into the now quite-popular realm of first-person shooters.” For those unfamiliar with the term, these are video games where everything in the game is presented as if from your personal point of view. You can only see what’s in front of you, you have to navigate the game’s scenarios and obstacles as though actually traversing a tunnel, space ship, jungle, or whatever. This usually involves a lot of shooting at various things that want to eat or otherwise kill you. Long before Fortnite and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order begged for my children’s attention, we had games like Doom, Duke Nukem, and Star Wars: Dark Forces (another kick-ass game from days gone by).

At first blush, Star Trek having a game which could fit into this particular genre might seem off-putting, as Star Trek generally doesn’t evoke lots of images of ground combat or other situations where you’re blowing the shit out of things and people and whatnot. However, Activision and Raven Software managed a truly impressive feat with Elite Force: marrying an actual, bonafide Star Trek story to a first-person shooter setup.

You, the player, take on the persona of a character who’s part of Voyager‘s “Hazard Team,” a rapid-response group that could be described as something like Star Trek‘s version of a SEAL team. Voyager and its crew find themselves attacked by marauders and trapped in a graveyard of alien ships, you and the Hazard Team are dispatched to investigate. Along the way, you encounter various species previously encountered on the Voyager TV series like the Hirogen, Klingons, Malons, and…oh yeah…the Borg. You’re also introduced to all-new species created for the game as you and the team work to unlock the secrets of the graveyard and the mysterious creature that created it so Voyager can escape the alien trap.

Those reading this and thinking the solution is to shoot your way out will be pleasantly surprised to learn the game is much more than that, in the best Star Trek tradition. The entire cast from Star Trek: Voyager provided the voices for their characters, with whom you get to interact as you proceed through the game. Elite Force’s original release did not feature Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine, as her schedule at the time didn’t permit her to participate, but a software patch eventually came along and added her into the mix. Many of the Voyager‘s interiors were recreated or invented after only being referenced in dialogue with painstaking detail. There are also a number of surprises and Easter eggs baked into the game, and it would be poor form to spoil any of that here.

Star Trek: Elite Force comic, written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning with art by Jeffrey Moy & W.C. Carani, July 2000.

I’ve not played the game in years, but I remember having a blast playing through it. Elite Force combined the best aspects of adventure and first-person gaming with a fine Star Trek tale. Long ago, when I first started writing Star Trek fiction, I wanted to novels and other ties to the game that might offer more adventures for the Hazard Team. We got something in that vein thanks to Wildstorm Comics, who published a one-shot comic tie-in that offers a somewhat streamlined adaptation of the game’s core storyline. If there were plans for other such comics, they likely ended when Wildstorm lost the license to publish Star Trek comics in 2001. While I did pitch the idea of Hazard Team stories to Pocket Books (and I doubt I was the only one to do so), nothing ever came of such odd wish-listing. Such is life, and all that.

Meanwhile, the game begat its own sequels.

Box art for Star Trek: Elite Force II.

First, there was the Elite Force Expansion Pack, which as you might imagine from the title added a series of new scenarios to the original game. Even after all of these years, I’ve never acquired a copy of this but maybe one of these days I’ll happen across it. A full-blown follow-up came in 2003 with Star Trek: Elite Force II, which transports the Hazard Team to the Enterprise just after the events of Star Trek Nemesis. Of the Voyager cast, only Tim Russ returns to provide the voice for Tuvok, but that’s offset a bit by the addition of Patrick Stewart reprising his role as Jean-Luc Picard. While I’ve played this game, I must confess I enjoyed the original much more.

So, maybe you’ve read my yammering to this point and you’re all the way down here and you’re thinking, “Gee, Dayton. This game sounds pretty cool and I’d like to play. But…you know…you just told us the thing is 20 years old today and do they even make computers that can run a game as old as this anymore?”

Well, you can at least get a taste of retro Star Trek gaming thanks to The Last Outpost, a group of dedicated gamers who – with the permission of CBS and Raven Software – have recreated the game’s multiplayer “Holomatch” component and made it available as a free download. All you have to do is follow this linky-type thing RIGHT HERE.

I don’t have much time for gaming these days, Star Trek or otherwise, but I have to admit to having a bit of an itch to revisit this one. If you’ve played the game, share your thoughts and memories in the comments. Maybe you’ll convince me to chisel out a bit of time to have a bit of old-school gaming fun for a while.

Happy 20th Anniversary, Elite Force!

Happy Birthday, Star Trek!

“Space…the final frontier….”

These are the voyages where the legend began, 54 years ago tonight!

I’ve mentioned this before (about a zillion times), but my earliest memories include Star Trek to some degree. I wasn’t old enough to watch the show during its original broadcast run, but I watched the reruns every day after school. Beyond that, I had the Mego figures and that crazy bridge set. I built the AMT models, and I read the occasional Gold Key comic book or poster book or collection of James Blish episode adaptations.

All of that was just filler of course. Anchoring all of that were the reruns. Always, the reruns.

Back then, before VCRs, DVD, iTunes or NetFlix, you had to wait for your favorite episodes to cycle back around in the rotation. I watched the series on a little black and white television and its crappy little antenna as the show was broadcast on a low-power local UHF station in Tampa. Depending on the time of day and prevailing weather conditions, I might not always get a decent picture. If I was out in the boonies somewhere–like my aunt’s house–I might have to fiddle with the antenna throughout the episode, and as often as not I might be forced to choose between having a picture or having sound.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that today also marks the 47th anniversary of the animated Star Trek series, which premiered on NBC on this date in 1973. I did catch (most of) those episodes during their initial run, and the show helped to spark a lot of the Trek-related toys and other merchandise which came out in the mid 1970s, like those aforementioned Mego action figures.

Today, of course, I have Star Trek literally at my fingertips: Blu-rays on the shelf or episodes streaming over the internet, and I even have my favorite episodes stored on my phone. Then there are the books (Fun fact: I’ve written a few of those, in case you were wondering), comics, role-playing games, computer games, toys, models, websites, and pretty much anything you’d care to name. Star Trek is everywhere. Hold up a picture of the original Enterprise or Kirk and Spock, and most people will know what you’re talking about.

Star Trek looks pretty dapper for 54. Enjoy your cake.

Happy 45th Anniversary, Space: 1999!

The totally unforeseen accident on the lunar surface has caused very serious repercussions here on Earth. The gravity disruption, the earthquakes in the United States along the San Andres fault, and in Yugoslavia, as well as Southern France, has caused enormous damage to life and property. The International Lunar Commission, with its new chairman, is in executive conference at this moment, deciding what steps might be taken to rescue the three hundred and eleven men and women on Moonbase Alpha. Little hope is held, however, that there are any survivors. For a short time it was thought a rescue might have been attempted from the Space Dock, until that too was hurled out of orbit. It has now been established that the Moon’s acceleration away from Earth has put it beyond the reach of any Earth launch….

September 13th, 1999: It was a bad day, all around.

space1999-titlecard

Premiering on September 4th, 1975 (in the UK; July 23rd in Australia; all over the place in US first-run syndication), Space: 1999 introduced us to the men and women of Moonbase Alpha, Earth’s first permanent lunar colony, which in the show’s continuity had been established in the early 1980s as a natural progression from the Apollo landings. Things were all hunky-dory for a time, with the base continuing its various research efforts and preparing to launch a manned mission to Meta, a mysterious planet that’s been detected by long range probes and which is believed to support “life as we know it.”

Oh, and they’re also overseeing the disposal of nuclear waste transported from Earth to the Moon’s far side, and dealing with a strange medical condition that’s been affecting numerous base personnel, including the astronauts slated to depart for the Meta mission.

Of course, and as things tend to do, the aforementioned nuclear waste finally decided enough was enough and opted to get back at the Moon by punching a gigantic hole in its taint. The result? Moonbase Alpha and its three hundred-plus colonists (“Alphans,” in moonbase hipster speak) are sent hurtling through space on a lonely quest, boldly going where at least a couple of science fiction shows from the 1960s had kinda sorta gone before.

And all of that happened just in the first episode, “Breakaway.” Dayuuuuum, amirite?

Created by the legendary Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, Space: 1999 actually began life as a proposed second series/season to another of their shows, UFO. By the time it was decided UFO would not continue, a great deal of pre-production work had already been completed or was still underway, so the Andersons repurposed that effort into the new series. In addition to containing several hints as to its UFO lineage, Space: 1999 also owes more than a bit of its visual aesthetic to 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, any similarities between the new series and Stanley Kubrick’s landmark science fiction film end pretty quickly.

Often described back in the day as a “successor to” or “son of ” the original Star Trek in particular, Space: 1999 quickly settled into a formula whereby the Moon drifts near or into orbit around an alien world, and Commander John Koenig and an assortment of Alphans proceed to get into some kind of trouble. The clock is usually ticking, as the Moon never hangs around any one planet for any real length of time, and if Koenig and his posse dawdle too long, they’ll be stranded as their home away from home continues on its merry way. Every so often a world offers the possibility of providing a new haven for the wayward travelers, but something always goes wrong and our heroes are left staring out the windows from Alpha as the Moon pulls away.

Then there’s the variation on the formula, whereby representatives from an alien species come calling for one reason or another, and hilarity ensues. Sometimes, just to shake things up, elements from both forks in the Space: 1999 story road are mixed together, and we go all the way to madness run amok, by golly.

At some point, theories begin to emerge that the Moon’s journey through the cosmos may not be random; that it’s being guided by some unseen hand, directed through wormholes or other spatial phenomena that might serve to explain how the Alphans are able to explore a strange new world (Sorry. Not sorry.) each week. This point, which is actually kind of cool on the face of it, is never really explained or exploited, particularly after the series moved to its second season.

Boasting the largest production budget for any British television series to that point, Space: 1999 starred Martin Landau and Barbara Bain as Commander Koenig and Dr. Helena Russell. Married at the time, Landau and Bain had previously worked together on Mission: Impossible. Needing a science officer to fill out the Trek-like captain-science dude-doctor triad, veteran actor Barry Morse (The Fugitive) was cast as Professor Victor Bergman, my favorite character of the whole shooting match. So, it figures his was one of the folks not brought back for the second year.

Visually, the show remains impressive in many ways. The model work used to realize Moonbase Alpha in particular is still eye-catching, as are the Eagle transports, which in my mind still rank as one of the coolest space vehicles in all of science fiction. Behold, yo:

That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

Despite storylines that often stretched “scientific principles” from eyebrow-raising to outright laughable, and performances that sometimes felt as though the actors were store mannequins, I must confess to having a really big soft spot for Space: 1999…particularly its first season. The effort to make the show top-notch is obvious, in everything from the model work to the sets and props and–yes–even the storytelling, which was entertaining more often than not.

I’m less enamored with the second season, which was characterized by simpler, more action-oriented plots, the replacement of key characters, and other little choices that bugged me to varying degrees. Such changes were viewed as necessary following the show’s cancellation after the first year and last-minute renewal. On the one hand, I get having your command center not being in a giant room with a bunch of windows overlooking the lunar surface is probably a good idea when your base is always getting shot at by alien spaceships and death rays and whatnot. That said, the original “Main Mission” from the first season was some pretty kick-ass set design.

Space: 1999‘s television run was accompanied by the usual assortment of toys and other merchandise, including books, comics, models, action figures, and so on. I still have a complete set of the original novels/novelizations from the 1970s, later supplemented by editions of adaptations written years later. There are also a few novels written exclusively for foreign markets. There have been recent efforts to revive the property in novel and comic form, and of course the series is available on DVD and Blu-ray, the latter enjoying a complete series release just last year that is FREAKING GORGEOUS.

More recently, Big Finish has launched an audiobook series that is something of an update of the show’s premise while at the same time presenting it as an “alternate history” of 20th century human space exploration where things went very differently in the years after the Apollo program. The first installment is an updating of “Breakaway,” the TV series’ first episode, and the next entry is slated to be a trio of stories — two updated versions of TV episodes and one all-new tale. As I said in my review for SciFi Bulletin for “Breakaway,” it’s basically a period piece from an alternate history, and it totally works for me.

There’s on again-off again talk of a reboot, but I don’t know if that’ll ever happen. Regardless, we still have the original Space: 1999, which stands alongside Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Six Million Dollar Man, and The Bionic Woman as cheesy yet charming 1970s TV sci-fi.

Eagle One, ready for lift-off!

Tied Up With Tie-Ins: Alien Nation!

After managing a trio of entries over a fairly short time span, I allowed more than a month to go by without revisiting this inconsistently recurring “blog feature. ” One of these days, I’ll figure out to make this more of a regular thing, but until then? Surprise!

The basic idea is pretty simple: I present a nostalgic look at a favorite series of movie or TV tie-in books. Usually this means something from Way Back When, but I’m also up for taking a look at more recent entries to the genre if inspiration strikes. To this point, previous installments have included looks back at novels based on The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic WomanPlanet of the ApesSpace: 1999, and others. However, the Die Hard one was something of an odd duck that demanded a little attention. See? Unpredictable.

This time, I’ve decided to revisit a fondly remembered television series from the late 1980s/early 1990s as well as the film that spawned it, and in turn the novels it produced: Alien Nation.

This unlikely franchise began life as an oft-overlooked and underrated science fiction/noir/action flick that most people seemed to ignore when it was released to theaters in the fall of 1988. The story goes like this: in the “near future” of 1991, it’s three years after a giant spacecraft crashes in the Mojave Desert. We find out the ship was carrying 300,000 aliens, “Newcomers,” who end up settling in Los Angeles in a perhaps not-so subtle nod to the 1980 Mariel Boat Lift, during which more than 125,000 refugees fled from Cuba to Florida. After his partner is killed by a Newcomer during a robbery, Detective Matt Sykes teams with another alien who’s recently been promoted from uniformed cop to detective, and hijinks ensue. What follows is a fairly standard procedural with the added discussions and observations about racism, immigration, law and order, and civil rights all filtered through a science fiction-y lens thanks to the Newcomers being the marginalized group.

The film was written by Rockne S. O’Bannon, at that time formerly a story editor on the 1980s revival of The Twilight Zone and still a few years away from giving us seaQuest DSV (the first season of which I will die defending and I remain convinced it would have been a better show throughout if he’d stayed with it) and the oh-so-amazing Farscape. So, right away genre fans should be thinking, “Okay, I’m listening.” The movie cast James Caan and Mandy Patinkin as its two leads and Terence Stamp as its main bad guy, so at this point you’re like, “Holy, shit! How can this not be awesome?”

While it wasn’t “awesome,” it was still a tight little SF/action hybrid. Caan as human detective Sykes and Patinkin as Sam/George Francisco make for an entertaining team in the best 1980s buddy cop tradition. Though it received mixed reviews from critics and enjoyed only a modest box office return, Alien Nation has since become something of a minor cult classic. Like many films of the 1970s and 1980s, Alien Nation received a novelization of its script from author Alan Dean Foster, who is pretty much a king of this particular corner of the tie-in writing field. It was thanks to this novel that I came to even know about the film, as I was stationed on Okinawa and so missed a lot of first-run American movies during this period. I scratched that itch with novelizations for several films and even a TV series or two which hit screens during the year I spent on “the Rock.” Indeed, my copy of Foster’s Alien Nation novelization still bears the stamp showing I purchased it in a Pacific Stars & Stripes bookstore.

What I don’t think many people were expecting was that the film would generate enough interest to inspire a television series, but that’s exactly what happened. Developed by TV veteran Kenneth Johnson — who’d already brought The Bionic Woman, The Incredible Hulk and V to our television screens — Johnson took O’Bannon’s already juicy setup and characters and took them in directions the film itself didn’t have time or space or even money to do. Premiering on Fox during the fall of 1989, Alien Nation the TV series ever so slightly tweaks the film’s original premise to ease it into the weekly format. The heightened emphasis on the partnership between Matt Sikes (now played by Gary Graham and yes, they changed the spelling) and George Francisco (Eric Pierpoint) as well as the Francisco family allowed for further exploration of Newcomer (now known as “Tenctonese”) society and culture and a deeper look at prejudice, racism, rights, and all the other social issues the film hinted at but never got to really pick apart.

Despite being a critical and ratings success, Fox canceled the series after a single season (which ended on a pretty hefty cliffhanger!) due to financial issues larger than the show itself. However, fan support for the series remained high enough that it did return in 1994, in the form of what ultimately would be five television movies over the next three years, each reuniting the original series cast. The first film, Alien Nation: Dark Horizon, was a modified version of the storyline which would’ve served as the second season’s first episode, resolving the first season’s cliffhanger finale. This story in particular has its own odd history within the franchise. Hang on, we’re getting there!

Despite the series being cancelled in 1990, Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books imprint — which regular readers of this blog should recognize as a longtime publisher of Star Trek novels including several written by your blog host — began publishing novels based on the series. Eight novels were released between March 1993 and July 1995. The first of these, Day of Descent written by Judith and Garfield-Reeves Stevens, is arguably the strongest of the lot. A prequel to the film as well as the television series, the book reveals how the Newcomers came to Earth and what police sergeant Matt Sikes was doing as life changed not just for the citizens of Los Angeles but indeed people all over the world. It’s a meaty little tome and does a terrific job filling in a story hinted at yet never really examined throughout the TV series’ tragically short run.

The next three novels in the each draw on unproduced scripts for what would

have been Alien Nation‘s second television season. Dark Horizon by K.W. Jeter is particularly notable as it does a very effective job giving fans of the series what they so desperately wanted at that point in time: a conclusion to the cliffhanger season finale. In fact, Adventure Comics (an imprint of Malibu Comics), who’d begun publishing Alien Nation comics in 1990, beat Pocket to the punch with their own adaptation of this story. Likewise, Peter David’s Body and Soul gets a chance to examine the growing romance between Sikes and Newcomer Cathy Frankel, which had been hinted at during the series. These two stories would later form the basis for the first and second Alien Nation TV movies and while fans welcomed the return to television, there are those who prefer the prose version of the events depicted.

Meanwhile, The Change was the first of two Alien Nation novels written by renowned science fiction author Barry B. Longyear, a name genre readers should recognize for – among many other things – Enemy Mine, the Hugo and Nebula award-winning novella which was adapted into a cult classic film of its own. His next contribution to the series, Slag Like Me, is one of the line’s strongest entries. Inspired by journalist John Howard Griffin’s groundbreaking book from 1961, Black Like Me, Longyear places a human journalist undercover as a Newcomer to expose the systemic racism and discrimination endured by the aliens as they strive to assimilate to life on Earth. When the journalist is murdered, Sikes goes undercover as a Newcomer to find those responsible.

The series’ final entry, K. W. Jeter’s Cross of Blood, is also one of its high points. Whereas the romance between Sikes and Cathy Frankel had attracted scrutiny and varying flavors of commentary since its introduction during the TV series, Cross of Blood kicks things up several notches when Cathy becomes pregnant with Sikes’ child. The idea of such a child had already been the subject of Body and Soul but of course it’s a much bigger deal here as it involves main characters, and there’s much more focus on the social and political ramifications of humans conceiving children with members of an alien species. It’s the sort of thing at which Alien Nation excelled throughout its brief TV run and Cross of Blood honors the spirit of the show in fine fashion.

Like so many other book series that came and went during my formative years, the Alien Nation novels were over and done with long before I even entertained the crazy notion of entering the realm of professional writing. They suffered the same fate experienced by many such books based on television shows: once the parent property is no longer active on TV (or movie) screens, interest tends to dwindle as fans and readers move on to other things. There are exceptions to that unwritten rule of course; Star Trek is a prime example but let me tell you some time how novels based on Murder, She Wrote continue to be published two decades after that TV series ended.

But for the most part? Such books tend to have a pretty limited lifespan, which is a damned shame. Like many fans almost certainly did, I came up with a couple of ideas on how to revisit Alien Nation, either as a continuation of the series and character or else a sequel set years if not decades later. Don’t take me too seriously, though, as I’ve harbored similar notions and dreams for pretty much every science fiction TV series I’ve enjoyed for the past 40-odd years. It’s a sickness, I tell you!

Meanwhile, if you’re a fan of Alien Nation, particularly the series, and you’ve never sampled these novels, here are eight stories you may have missed which might feed your fannish fever.


Previous entries in this series:
Introductory Post
The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman
Planet of the Apes
V
Space: 1999
The “No-Frills” Books
Alan Dean Foster!

Die Hard

Tied Up With Tie-Ins: Die Hard!

After resuscitating this infrequent and haphazardly recurring blog feature last month, here I am in an ongoing attempt to make it more of a “regular thing.” The basic idea is pretty simple: I present a nostalgic look at a favorite series of movie or TV tie-in books, often from days gone by but I’m not opposed to checking out more recent offerings. So far, previous installments of this wannabe regular column-like thing have included looks back at novels based on The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, Planet of the Apes, V, and Space: 1999.

This time, I’m deviating from the established formula a bit and veering away from novels and such which tend to be novelizations of films or television episodes or instead original stories featuring a film or TV series’ established characters. For this latest installment, I’m adding in a dash of flavor as we take a look at novels or other source material that served as inspiration for the popular Die Hard film series, and we can’t do that unless we go all the way back to the very beginning with a book that really has nothing at all to do with any of the Bruce Willis films….

Continue reading “Tied Up With Tie-Ins: Die Hard!”

Tied Up With Tie-Ins: Alan Dean Foster!

After an irregular, infrequent attempt last year to kickstart this (hopefully) recurring feature here on the blog, here I am with the second installment in less than a month!

The idea is simple: I’m a tie-in writer. Before that, I was a tie-in reader. I still am, of course, but way back when? I had no idea reading such books would lead me to writing anything, let alone my own tie-in books. Weird how life works sometimes, right? And yet, here we are.

Now that I’m a regular to this somewhat misunderstood and oft-derided genre of writing, I like to look back at the works of those who preceded me; books I read as a kid and which in hindsight proved to be something of an inspiration to me. Previous installments of this feature/wannabe column have included looks back at novels based on The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, Planet of the Apes, V, and Space: 1999.

You’ll note all of these are television series, and in the 1970s and 80s tie-ins to science fiction and fantasy shows were particularly commonplace, but we can’t forget about novelizations of popular genre films. I read a whole bunch of those during this same period, as well, and no conversation about the great film novelizations of this era can happen without some mention of the one and only Alan Dean Foster. Indeed, the man deserves his own conversation on this topic, which is…well…what I’m about to do here.

Continue reading “Tied Up With Tie-Ins: Alan Dean Foster!”

Today is National Film Score Day!

As oddball days of observance go, this one isn’t too shabby at all. Besides, these days anything that can serve to brighten someone’s day is to be applauded, so let’s have at it, shall we?

What are we talking about? According to the National Day Calendar website, National Film Score Day “recognizes the musical masterpieces called “Film Scores” and, more specifically, the very talented composers who create them.”

Out. Standing.

I’ve been known to write about this subject from time to time, and those of you who spend any time here likely know that I’m a huge fan of film and TV music and love listening to it apart from the production for which it was created. It’s also my habit to listen to such music when I’m writing, as it always helps to set the “right mood” for the project-in-progress.

StarWars-OriginalLPA well-crafted film score is a thing of beauty. The first album I ever bought with my own money was the vinyl 2-record LP score for the original Star Wars in 1977. In the decades following that admittedly weird experience in a Montgomery Ward store while on a shopping spree with my grandmother, my music library has grown in fits and starts until the last decade or so, when it kicked into high gear with no regard for the safety of others or the universe as a whole. I don’t care what other people think…play that funky movie music, white boy!

Though it started with music from newer film television and productions as they were released, It’s only been in the last decade or so that I’ve really dug in, finding “expanded” or “complete” editions of scores from days gone by which were only made available in truncated form due to the limitations of the medium (LP records, cassette tapes, 8-track tapes, and even CDs once they took over). Thanks to companies like La-La Land Records and Intrada I’ve been able to enjoy updated, expanded, and remastered versions of scores of older films, and in some cases it’s like hearing the music for the first time EVEN THOUGH I know every note by heart.

STTMP-SoundtrackCoverWhat are some of my favorites? Well, some obvious suspects are the various Star Trek films, in particular Jerry Goldsmith’s The Motion Picture, The Final Frontier, and First Contact, James Horner’s The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock, and Michael Giacchino’s music for all three of the reboot films. Everything John Williams has ever done for the Star Wars saga goes on the list, too, but I also must give props to Michael Giacchino for Rogue One and John Powell for Solo. 

Superman-Score

Jerry Goldsmith is well represented in my library, including personal favorites Planet of the Apes (1968), Rambo: First Blood, Part II (yes, really), Alien, Total Recall, L.A. Confidential, Outland, and 1999’s The Mummy. James Horner also had a lot going on beyond his Star Trek work, and I especially dig Aliens, Apollo 13, Sneakers, Glory, The RocketeerCommando, and Titanic (that’s right; I said it). And you can’t have a film score collection without stuff by John Williams, including stuff by John Williams that’s not Star Wars, which is good because I absolutely love the music he created for Jaws, the Indiana Jones films, Saving Private Ryan, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and…of course…Superman.

MissionImpossible-RogueNation-ScoreMy taste in film music runs the gamut from Pirates of the Caribbean to The American President, Die Hard, or The Incredibles, or from The Shawshank Redemption to Gladiator, The Martian, or Black Hawk Down. More recent scores include those from several of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, particularly those for the Captain America and Avengers films. The music from the Mission: Impossible movies are also a lot of fun, and I’ve especially enjoyed the scores from the two most recent installments, Rogue Nation and Fallout. Bill Conti’s The Right Stuff is wondrous. Old-school offerings like The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven or The Day the Earth Stood Still are in there, too. The truth is that I’m all over the map with this kind of thing. I hear it while watching the film and know I just have to have it without everybody yakking over it or everything blowing up around it.

TV’s the same way. Yes, Star Trek gets a lot of play around here (occupational hazard, you know), but what about Lost In Space or Mission: Impossible or Alien Nation? Battlestar Galactica? Hell, even seaQuest is in there. I’ve also enjoyed the music for Star Trek: Discovery and just this morning purchased the score for the first season of Star Trek: Picard.

I could do this all day, people.

So, Happy “National Film Score Day.” I think it’s time to stick a little of that action in my ears while I continue to write.

Tied Up With Tie-Ins: Space: 1999!

This irregular blog feature I proposed back at the start of the year has become more infrequent and irregular than I originally envisioned, but I guess I have decent excuses for at least some of those lags. You know, work, deadlines, etc. It’s been a busy year on a number of fronts, but I still try to squeeze in some fun, nostalgic stuff like this as opportunities present themselves.

“Shush, blog monkey,” I can hear someone shouting from the cheap seats. “Give us the bookie bookie talk!”

For those wondering what you’ve stumbled into, back at the beginning of the year I announced I’d offer an occasional look at a favorite series of movie or TV tie-in books. So far, we’ve revisited novels based on The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, Planet of the Apes, and V.

Next up? We turn our attention to the men and women of Moonbase Alpha and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day they had on September 13th, 1999.

Space: 1999 TV series title card.

Continue reading “Tied Up With Tie-Ins: Space: 1999!”

Tied Up With Tie-Ins: V!

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. I know I said it would be an irregularly recurring series of self-indulgent babbling, but it’s been a little more irregular than I originally planned or would’ve preferred. So, let me try to get back on the horse here and see what happens.

V-SeriesLogoA short while back on Facebook, I made a post mentioning the 1983 miniseries V. This four-hour “limited” or “event series” (as it’d likely be called today) depicted the arrival of aliens on Earth with seemingly benign motives. They show up in massive, saucer-like spaceships that hover over every major city around the world and proceed to make all sorts of awesome, too-good-to-be-true promises while asking for a comparatively minor favor in return: help with engineering a special compound for use fighting environmental contamination on their home planet.

Continue reading “Tied Up With Tie-Ins: V!”