Tuesday Trekkin’: Star Trek Halloween costumes!

Been a minute, huh?

Things have been busy here at the manor, forcing me to let idle things like this “irregularly recurring” feature that’s little more than an thin excuse for me to babble on a bit about some nugget of Star Trek fandom. Most of the time, this means me babbling about some fondly remembered bit of goofy merchandise or collectible, anniversaries and “milestones” or important dates in franchise history, convention memories, or whatever else tickles my brain on any given day.

The “Tuesday Trekkin’” moniker is also a tip of the hat to Dan Davidson and Bill Smith, aka “The Hosts of the TrekGeeks Podcast.” Their fan group over on Facebook, Camp Khitomer, is devoted to all things Trek where all are welcome to join in their positive vibes and community. Sometimes, they also like to push a #TrekTuesday hashtag over there, inviting members to share updates, links, and/or pictures celebrating their fandom, so this feature is definitely offered in that same spirit.

I’d actually been thinking about this one for a bit, given the season. We’re less than a week away from Halloween, so naturally my thoughts turned to the very oddball assortment of costumes that have come along specifically for engaging in trick-or-treat landing parties (or, “away teams” if that’s your kink). If we’re being brutally honest, Star Trek Halloween costumes have always been sort of a mixed bag. Not counting the really higher-end costumes that run into the hundreds of dollars, companies like Rubies II, which has been making affordable Halloween costumes and accessories since the 1950s, including various iterations of Star Trek. Their selection is, I imagine, decent for the price-range, though I suspect very few of us can make them look as good as the actors on any of the shows.

Are you more the do it yourself type? For years, the Simplicity Pattern Company offered back in the 1980s sewing patterns for both the original series and Star Trek: The Next Generation. They updated and rereleased those patterns in 2016 as part of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, accompanied by new patterns from TNG and the Star Trek films. Somewhere in my archives I have a set of the 80s patterns, though I never tried to make them, myself. I have a sneaky suspicions the final result would not look even as good as the photos on the original packaging.

Don’t feel like going all in with the whole costume? I suppose you could just get by with a mask. Trick or Treat Studios carries among their sizable inventory a few Star Trek masks that are bit pricey, but maaaaaaaaaan do they look cool.

Star Trek masks, L-R: The Gorn, the Balok puppet, and the Mugato.

On the other hand, the less said about this one, the better.

The infamous Michael Myers mask as seen in the Halloween movies, and the William Shatner mask which served as inspiration and point of departure.

However — HOW. EVER. — no discussion about Star Trek Halloween costumes is complete without the king of them all: the Ben Cooper jobs based very loosely on the original Star Trek series. Now this was my Halloween experience as a young, single-digit proto-human in the 1970s. Look at the stunning on-screen accuracy, the near-total lack of ability to breathe let alone see, and if you’re thinking the entire thing is one stray match away from total walking miniature inferno, well….you’re not wrong.


Trick or treat, yo.

To read much more about these little packages of insanity, check out these articles from Trekker Scrapbook and Plaid Stallions, which is where I found the above Ben Cooper costume photos. Ben Cooper has recently gotten back into the costume game, offering “nostalgic” costumes for grown-ups modeled after the original designs. So far, they’ve released costumes based on Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and superheroes like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Flash. Can Star Trek be too far behind? Let’s hope not.

All right, friends! Armed with newfound vital knowledge on this #TrekTuesday, which of these are you planning to wear for Halloween?

Pics or it didn’t happen.

It’s Jupiter 2 Launch Day!


October 16th, 1997:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is jupiter2onlaunchpad.jpg

“This is the beginning. This is the day. You are watching the unfolding of one of history’s greatest adventures–man’s colonization of space beyond the stars. The first of what may be as many as ten million families per year is setting out on its epic voyage into man’s newest frontier, deep space. Reaching out into other worlds from our desperately overcrowded planet, a series of deep thrust telescopic probes have conclusively established a planet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri as the only one within range of our technology able to furnish ideal conditions for human existence.

Even now the family chosen for this incredible journey into space is preparing to take their final pre lift off physical tests. The Robinson family was selected from more than two million volunteers for its unique balance of scientific achievement, emotional stability, and pioneer resourcefulness. They will spend the next five and a half years of their voyage frozen in a state of suspended animation which will terminate automatically as the spacecraft enters the atmosphere of the new planet.”

Lost In Space, “The Reluctant Stowaway”

jupiter2-missionpatch



Happy 35th Anniversary, Star Trek: The Next Generation!

“YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH, DAYTON!”

Sorry, folks, but it’s true. 35 years ago tonight, the 24th century began.

Star Trek: The Next Generation opening title

I’ve told this story before, but on the evening of September 28th, 1987, I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s premiere episode, “Encounter at Farpoint,” in the TV room of my barracks at Camp Pendleton. The room was stuffed with Marines, and maybe it was because of the beer, but we all stayed to watch the whole thing.

Our first look at the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-D, from the opening credits of “Encounter at Farpoint,” which for the premiere ran before the opening scenes.

It was a new era, with a new captain and crew aboard a new Starship Enterprise, something all but unthinkable just a couple of years earlier. “What’s that? It’s not Captain Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the gang? BLASPHEMY!”

:: ahem ::

While “Farpoint” certainly had its problems, it was Star Trek, by golly. And, it was new Star Trek, and little did we know at the time what that really meant, or would come to mean.

Anybody remember this bit, which ran before the episode?

Man. How time flies.

So, yeah. The show got off to something of a rocky start, and took a while to find its footing. Still, even with this first episode, it was easy to see the potential in this new show. A big part of that is due to Patrick Stewart, who carried much of the load that first year and who as Captain Jean-Luc Picard brought a gravitas to the series which helped us forgive some of the hokier storylines. The other actors soon settled into their roles, of course, in time becoming a comfortable ensemble and even a family. By its third season, the show cemented itself as a worthy bearer of the Star Trek torch.

Seven television seasons, four feature films, a return of the cast early next year with the third and final season of Star Trek: Picard, and merchandising out the wazoo, including a whole bunch of novels published by Pocket Books. As one of those responsible for foisting more than a few of those on an unsuspecting reading public, I’ve always enjoyed my time spent with Captain Picard and his merry band. Here’s hoping they let me do a few more.

Happy 35th Anniversary, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Go. Go see what’s out there.

Star Trek: The Next Generation season 1 cast publicity photo

AMT’s U.S.S. Enterprise model at 55!

It’s not the sort of anniversary that a lot of people would notice or care about, and even within the vast Star Trek fandom it’s likely something only a segment of people would even recognize let alone take time to observe. However, for that special subset of fans for whom models in general and Star Trek models in particular are something they enjoy? Yeah, 2022 is a bit of a milestone, all right.

I guess I’m one of those people, at least to a degree.

While I can under no circumstances call myself a particularly skilled or accomplished model hobbyist, I’ve assembled my share of models. Most of these efforts were undertaken during my youth, of course, but I’ve also gone through phases as an adult where the challenge of building a model enticed me to spend more than a few late nights tinkering with this or that. As a kid in the mid to late 1970s, I built things like the Batmobile, the Eagle transport from Space: 1999, figure models from The Six Million Dollar Man or Planet of the Apes, Star Wars X-wings and TIE fighters, and — yes — several Star Trek models.

Star Trek models with 1970s-era packaging: the “Exploration Set,” the Bridge diorama, and Spock (with snakes!)

Particular favorites from the final frontier included the “Exploration Set,” the Enterprise bridge diorama, and the Spock (with snakes) model. Though I never successfully completed the latter, I did build the version of that kit retooled to tie into the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, with the three-headed snake removed and Spock’s uniform now made to resemble his ensemble from the film rather than the original TV series. Yeah, it didn’t really hit home the way the original version did.

And, of course, there was the Enterprise itself.

As a kid, I can remember building the bridge model twice. Same with the Exploration Set (both sets became casualties of playing outside…damn those things were fragile), but the Enterprise? Probably a half-dozen times, and then a couple more later on.

That Enterprise model was created by a Michigan-based company, Aluminum Model Toys or “AMT.” It was created and first released in June of 1967, just a couple of months after the last new episode of Star Trek‘s first season aired on NBC. It’s been around pretty much since then. As years passed, AMT’s Star Trek line expanded beyond the original series to include models from the feature films and spin-off television series. Along the way, the Enterprise model was released and re-released who-really-knows-for-sure how many times over. It was even updated (addressing some long-standing structural and accuracy issues) and released to pretty decent fanfare in 2016 as part of commemorating the original TV series’ 50th anniversary, and was re-issued yet again just last year in time to celebrate the original series’ 55th birthday.

I want this tattooed on my thigh.

And now, 2022 marks the model’s own version of that latter milestone.

Related: Tuesday Trekkin’: The original AMT Star Trek models

Author and one-time NASA chief historian Glen E. Swanson wrote a wonderful article about the original AMT Enterprise model for a 2021 issue of Michigan History magazine. I heard about the magazine and Mr. Swanson’s article through the Facebook/Star Trek grapevine and it was enough for me to purchase a physical copy from the MH website.

To celebrate the 55th anniversary of the model as well as AMT’s enduring connection to Star Trek, Mr. Swanson penned a series of new essays, drawing inspiration from his original article. In addition to hosting these on a site he maintains, Liftoffworks.com, the essays are also being shared on CultTVman, the absolutely off-the-charts awesome website devoted to all things science fiction and monster models. Seriously, if you are at all interested in this topic, you need to bookmark this site. The sheer width and breadth of essays, build walk-throughs, reviews, and other information about models old and new is – in my mind, at least – unmatched. Plus, I don’t mind saying they’ve managed to separate me from more than a bit of my money over the years. You can read all of Mr. Swanson’s Enterprise essays by following this link:

CultTVman.com: AMT’s Enterprise at 55

AMT Enterprise model. Photo credit: National Air and Space Museum

Like a lot of people, building this particular model fired my imagination as a young kid. It fueled an interest in the original series that went beyond just watching those reruns every day after school. Having my very own Enterprise — along with those super groovy Mego action figures — drove me to create my own adventures for Kirk and the gang. It’s not at all a stretch for me to draw a line from those childhood imaginings to the Star Trek stories I now get to write as an alleged adult.

I don’t know about anyone else, but reading all this stuff and seeing the pictures of different people building and enjoying their models makes me want to break out the tools, glue, and paints and see what sort of trouble I can cause.

Happy Breakaway Day!

Yep. On this date 23 years ago, the lives of the 311 men and women living and working on Moonbase Alpha…took a turn.

Moonbase Alpha, September 13th, 1999: And you thought your day sucked.

This is another one of those holidays I think are tragically overlooked by the various greeting card companies. Come on, Hallmark! You’re leaving money on the table!

Anyway, here’s hoping you can spare a thought or two for the Alphans while you’re going about your day.

Happy Judgment Day!

Roses are Red
Violets Are Blue
Humanity’s toast
Suck on my big fat CPU.

Love, Skynet.                                             

Judgment Day: August 29th, 1997. Sunblock optional.

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the fall of humanity and the rise of the machines.

Here’s hoping you can get out, enjoy it, and maybe take advantage of all the sales!

Tuesday Trekkin’: Favorite “Behind-the-Scenes” Trek books!

Yep, it’s Tuesday.

A check of my blog tells me it’s been a little over a month or so since my last entry in this stuttering, staggering, “irregularly recurring” feature that’s little more than an excuse for me to babble on a bit about some bit or bob of Star Trek fandom. This usually translates me to waxing nostalgic as I recount a fondly remembered bit of oddball merchandise or collectible, anniversaries, “milestones,” or important dates in franchise history, convention memories, or whatever else tickles my fancy on any given day.

As for the “Tuesday Trekkin’” moniker, it’s a salute of sorts to Dan Davidson and Bill Smith aka “The Hosts of the TrekGeeks Podcast.” Their fan group over on Facebook, Camp Khitomer, is devoted to all things Trek where all are welcome to join in their positive vibes and community. Sometimes, they also like to push a #TrekTuesday hashtag over there, inviting members to share updates, links, and/or pictures celebrating their fandom, so this feature is definitely offered in that same spirit.

In an unreleated but welcome bit of synergy, today is also National Book Lovers Day, so now I’ve got a perfect excuse to roll out some fannish observations about a few of my personal favorite Star Trek books. For this exercise in full frontal nerdity, I’ve opted to take a look at a handful of my favorite “Behind the Scenes” from various corners of the Trek franchise. You can do that sort of thing when you’re an alleged adult. People dont even look at you weird when you check these out of the library or plonk them down on the counter at a bookstore. Go figure.

First up? The daddy of all such tomes devoted to the care and feeding of the Final Frontier: The Making of Star Trek. It doesn’t get any more “You Are There!” than this, written by Stephen E. Whitfield and Gene Roddenberry and published in 1968 while the original series was still in production. It chronicles the show’s creation and development through its two pilot episodes and transition to weekly series, and recounts various production highlights through the conclusion of its second of three seasons. This very much makes it a time capsule from that period, not just as a Star Trek reference but also an insider’s look at just how a television series of the late 1960s was made.

Considered by fans as a companion piece to The Making of Star Trek, The Trouble With Tribbles is David Gerrold’s in-depth recounting of the development and production of one of the franchise’s most memorable episodes by the man who wrote it. Featuring initial concept notes, script drafts and revisions, as well as notes and insights as his story was put before the cameras, told from the unique perspective of someone who was there as it happened. This wonderful morsel of Star Trek production history is currently available in electronic format from Mr. Gerrold’s website, along with another book he wrote which is also a favorite of mine, The World of Star Trek. These books along with The Making of Star Trek, which I first encountered while still in elementary school, ignited an interest in the show’s production that fascinates me to this day.

Though written as a retrospective, Inside Star Trek: The Real Story still makes for a nice bookend with The Making of Star Trek to round out a history of the original series. This first-person tale recounts the show’s genesis, production, and enduring legacy, presented by two of the three men who were there from “Day 1,” Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman. Despite a few factual errors – likely misrembrances owing to the passage of more than 30 years from the show’s production to the book being written – the insights offered from people in the trenches makes Inside Star Trek is still one of the better entries in this category, and does its own bit of fueling my continued obsession with the production of the original series.

The most recent of the books I’m calling out here, Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Inside the Art and Visual Effects is an absolutely gorgeous, oversized coffee-table tome brought to us by authors Jeff Bond and Gene Koziki. Published to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the film’s theatrical release, the book takes a detailed look at the unleashed imaginations and artistic brainstorming of the numerous people who guided the first (and, arguably, still the most ambitious) Star Trek feature film from concept to reality. Of course I had my copy pre-ordered the nanosecond I heard about it, which ended up being about a year ahead of the book’s publication.

Sticking with the current theme, I have tip my hat to Chekov’s Enterprise: A Personal Journal of the Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Walter Koenig (who’s definitely no slouch as a writer, either) presents a very candid diary from the perspective of Lieutenant Chekov himself. Like The Making of Star Trek, there’s a definite “There on the set” vibe permeating the book’s every page, offering a lingering look at the daily grind of the film’s production. Mr. Koenig gives us welcome insight into the process of the cast “re-learning” how to do Star Trek after so many years away from their roles, along with the numerous obstacles face by Gene Roddenberry, director Robert Wise, and the entire crew to bring the film to fruition. It’s not all roses and unicorns, but you can’t beat the insider perspective Mr. Koening provides.

To close out this installment, I’m stepping away from the original series to salute not just one of the best Star Trek behind-the-scenes books but perhaps one of the best such books written about producing television, period. I refer to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, published in August 2000. Working from notes and interviews compiled as the series progressed from initial concept to its final episode, authors Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block offer us as complete a history of the series’ seven seasons as we’re ever likely to see. Worth the price of admission all on its own is the collection of anecdotes and interviews from the production staff, who give us a no-holds-barred look at the show, episode by episode and never shying away from telling us what they thought worked and — more interestingly — what they thought fell short….in some cases, very short. As a sort of companion to the Companion, Erdmann and Block along with DS9 visual effects supervisor Gary Hutzel wrote The Magic of Tribbles, an e-Book exclusive which details the development and execution of “Trials and Tribble-ations,” the show’s wonderful 30th anniversary tribute episode to the original series.

Okay, I suppose that’s enough babbling for one day. There are, of course, numerous other titles I could’ve included in the mix, but then we’d be here all day. No, I didn’t forget your favorite but feel free to share it down in the comments. Happy #TrekTuesday, and Happy National Book Lovers Day!

(Note: Some of this material repurposed from an article I wrote for StarTrek.com in 2014.)

I AM LEGEND: One of “those” books.

“On those cloudy days, Robert Neville was never sure when sunset came, and sometimes they were in the streets before he could get back.

If he had been more analytical, he might have calculated the approximate time of their arrival; but he still used the lifetime habit of judging nightfall by the sky, and on cloudy days that method didn’t work. That was why he chose to stay near the house on those days.”

The opening lines from Richard Matheson’s classic novel I Am Legend, released on this date in 1954.

There are stories you encounter at a certain age – movies, TV shows, and most definitely books – that stay with you. As my good friend Kevin has described this phenomenon, this period of your life is something of your own personal “golden age” or “sweet spot,” usually your early teens or even before, where things encountered and enjoyed stick with you from that point forward. The love you have for this “thing” might be a fleeting sensation you revisit on occasion yet remember fondly each time that happens, or it might be something that remains with you, easily recalled with little or no provocation and never failing to bring a smile to your face.

For me, I Am Legend fits squarely in that latter category.

I first read the novel in 1979 at the age of 12 after stumbling across it at a local library. I was so enthralled with the story that I scoured bookstores for months until I found a copy to call my own. I haven’t been without at least one copy since.

In the decades since its original publication, the novel continues to provide inspiration. Pretty much the modern “zombie” subgenre of horror fiction – beginning with George A. Romero’s 1968 film Night of the Living Dead and spinning out from there – owes something to I Am Legend. As of this writing, Matheson’s book has itself been (officially) adapted for the screen three times: 1964’s The Last Man On Earth starring Vincent Price, The Omega Man from 1971 with Charlton Heston, and Will Smith’s 2007 film I Am Legend. This last one is currently being eyed for a sequel (or is it a prequel, or both?), and there was a time when I would’ve considered a follow-up to a film from more than just a few years after its predecessor an odd idea. Movies like Blade Runner 2049 and especially Top Gun: Maverick pretty much slapped that notion out of my head. Elsewhere, I long ago gave up trying to keep pace with the uncounted homages and flat out rip-offs of the original tale.

As for the book itself, I’ve turned hunting earlier editions of it into an idle passtime. In the early 1990s, Eclipse Comics published a 4-issue adaptation of the novel. I was lucky enough to find those at the time, and I enjoyed the graphic novel’s approach to slyly updating the story for the modern reader while remaining true to the original narrative. Years after Eclipse went under, IDW Publishing in 2003 produced a lavish hardcover edition of the adaptation. I missed it the first time around and after casually spending years hunting for it I finally landed a copy last year.

None of that compares to Matheson’s original novel, which 40+ years after I first read it remains one of my all-time favorite stories. I lost count ages ago how often I might pull it from the shelf, if not to reread it outright (it’s a short book) then simply to revisit favorite scenes and passages. When the 2007 film came along, a new audiobook edition of the novel was released, allowing me to enjoy the book in a whole new way.

I can quote passages from memory. Whenever I find myself driving around on an overcast day, I almost always consider the novel’s opening lines quoted above. I can’t drive past “Cimmaron Street” in my neighborhood without recalling that’s the street on which Robert Neville lived in the novel. Indeed, it was also the street on which Matheson lived while writing the book.

As I’m sure is the case with many other writers, the story itself along with Matheson’s superb crafting of such a memorable tale has influenced my own writing here and there. It’s just one of those titles that sticks with you, and I’m absolutely certain I’ve never assembled any sort of “Favorite Books” list that didn’t include it. For me, it’s most definitely one of “those books.”

When my oldest kid started taking an interest in reading supernatural horror and vampire stories in particular, I introduced them to Matheson and I Am Legend. They devoured the book in one sitting and immediately asked to read more by “this guy.”

#DadWin

Happy 68th Anniversary, I Am Legend.

Tied-Up With Tie-Ins: seaQuest DSV!

So, yeah. It’s been a minute since the last one of these. Where does the time go?

For those among you who are new to following the questionable expenditure of electrons that is my blog, one of its “irregularly recurring features” is something I like to call, “Tied Up With Tie-ins.” It’s here that I take a fond look back at a favorite series of novels based on movies or television series.

Given my penchant for nostalgia and collecting old books, I figure this is a nice intersection for those two interests, which often means I’m revisiting something older, such as the many different tie-ins which were all over the place during my childhood and early adulthood. That said, I’m certainly not above babbling about something published much more recently if it trips my trigger. A few of the subjects previously tackled represent books or book series which inspired a film or television series, so that’s obviously on the table. One example I’m pondering for a future entry is the series of “Walt Longmire mysteries” penned by author Craig Johnson and the basis for the Longmire TV series. I guess we’ll see, eh?

Meanwhile, for this entry, we’re setting a course for the 1990s and heading back to the ocean, “for beneath the surface lies the future.” At least, that’s what they told us in 1993 about the far off year of 2018 and the undersea world of seaQuest DSV.

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