“Where there is fire, there is smoke. And in that smoke, from this day forward, my people will crouch, and conspire, and plot, and plan for the inevitable day of Man’s downfall.
The day when he finally and self-destructively turns his weapons against his own kind.
The day of the writing in the sky, when your cities lie buried under radioactive rubble! When the sea is a dead sea, and the land is a wasteland out of which I will lead my people from their captivity!
And we shall build our own cities, in which there will be no place for humans except to serve our ends! And we shall found our own armies, our own religion, our own dynasty! And that day is upon you NOW!”
Sorry, humans. I guess that’s your ass.
In the “far off future” of 1991, people now live in what looks to be an oppresssive, militaristic society. Law enforcement (dressed in the finest stormtrooper fashions) is visible on every street corner, and endless directives and warnings are issued from faceless announcers as the civilian populace goes about its daily affairs.
What’s missing? Cats and dogs, all of which have died off as the result of a mysterious disease brought back from a space probe. This little bit of misfortune, of course, was foretold by chimpanzees Cornelius and Zira in the previous film, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, though it’s happened far more quickly than they indicated. So too has mankind’s desire to replace their little lost subservient quadrupeds, and they’ve turned to domesticating primates. By 1991, simians are a subclass; a slave race. However, is the collective intelligence of the apes on the rise?
So, what happens? Add one intelligent, speaking chimpanzee to the mix–himself the offspring of Cornelius and Zira–to stir up some shit. Before you know it, the apes are pissed and they’re not gonna take it anymore, and so that’s humanity’s ass. Cue revolt.
Released on this date in 1972 after a Los Angeles premiere on June 14th and another in New York on June 29th, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes brings almost full circle the story begun in 1968’s Planet of the Apes. This third sequel to that classic film shows–at least to some degree–what’s promised in its title and tagline. As for Conquest being “the most awesome spectacle in the annals of science fiction,” I think we all can agree this was a bit of overreach from the marketing folks (and, we all know that honor goes to Barbarella, right?).
By the time production kicked into gear on this, the fourth of the Apes films, the cycle of diminishing returns was firmly in place. With each successive movie earning less at the box office, budgets for the next one were reduced accordingly. Therefore, director J. Lee Thompson faced the challenge of convincingly depicting what turns out to be the genesis of the ape uprising hinted at in the previous film, the longterm effects of which are–of course–apparent in the first movie. And, he had to do it on a budget which probably wouldn’t cover the catering bill on a Michael Bay shoot. This was prequel-izing before prequel-izing was rampant, yo!
The first half of the film isn’t the most exciting cinema you’ll ever see, but there’s a deliberate “tightening of the screws” going on as we see Caesar coming to terms with the role of apes in modern society, and deciding he ain’t playing that game. Once he learns of the death of his friend, Armando (Montalban) at the hands of government officials, watching him slowly yet firmly begin to push the apes around him toward dissent is, oddly enough, satisfying.
A larger budget might’ve allowed for more expansive scenes of turmoil once the apes lose their shit and start tearing up the joint. Still, considering what he was working with, director Thompson does a decent enough job injecting energy and tension into the scenes of ape rebellion which carry the film’s final act. Tight camera angles and deft editing manage–for the most part–to mask the production’s sparse budget, while strong performances from Ricardo Montalban, Don Murray, Severn Darden, Hari Rhodes, and Natalie Trundy (as the chimpanzee Lisa, her third different role in three consecutive Apes outings) help to elevate the material a notch or two above the previous two sequels.
But, again, it’s Roddy McDowall who carries the film on his stooping shoulders. Starting out as a supporting role in the original Planet of the Apes before moving to top billing in Escape (another actor, David Watson, portrayed Cornelius in the first sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes), he dons the ape makeup here for a third time, but for the first time as “Caesar,” the son of Cornelius. As usual, McDowall brings a warmth and–dare we say it–“humanity” to the role, which is sort of important now, as by this point in the series we’re all firmly rooting for the apes to kick humanity right in its collective taint. He would reprise the role of Caesar in the fifth and final of the original films, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, before going on to play yet another chimpanzee, Galen, in the 1974 live-action Planet of the Apes television series.
Moving past the original Planet of the Apes, which (so far as I’m concerned) stands apart from everything which came after it, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is actually my favorite of the Apes sequels. Like a lot of folks, I’ve always wanted to see what comes next. Obviously, we know what ultimately happens, but that still leaves plenty of room for a whole assload of stories set between the events of this film and the next one. Some of that territory has been explored, mostly in comics published by three different companies in sporadic fashion over the past 40-odd years.
And, lest we forget, it’s Conquest that provided much inspiration for the “reboot” Apes films: 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes from 2014, and 2017’s War for the Planet of the Apes. Indeed, you can also see more than a bit of Battle DNA in the latter two films.
“What’s this, Dayton? Trying to resurrect another dormant corner of your staggering, stuttering blog?”
Yeah, it’s been a minute since the last time I did one of these.
For those wondering what I’m on about, “Tuesday Trekkin’” is basically a transparent ploy which allows me to yammer on about some bit or bob of Star Trek fandom. What this means is I wax nostalgic, recounting 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.
The “Tuesday Trekkin’” moniker is something of a salute to a pair of friends, Dan Davidson and Bill Smith aka “The Hosts of the TrekGeeks Podcast.” They have a fan group over on Facebook, Camp Khitomer, 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.
“The Elysian Kingdom,” the eighth episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds‘ inaugural season, sees Captain Pike and the crew of the Starship Enterprise acting out for reasons not immediately known to them the storyline from a fictional novel, The Kingdom of Elysian. What viewers might not have caught when a copy of the book is shown on screen is the author’s name: Benny Russell.
Of course hardcore fans will know that Benny Russell, a creation of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, is the persona Captain Benjamin Sisko inhabits thanks to visions induced by the Bajoran Prophets in the sixth-season episode “Far Beyond the Stars.” Russell, a writer of science fiction stories in 1950s New York, confronts systemic racism in both his work and personal life. Despite vowing to continue fighting for what he believes is right, he suffers a mental breakdown and is committed to a psychiatric hospital. Thanks to the visions, Sisko finds the strength within himself to continue his vital role in leading Starfleet forces to defeat the Dominion. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid seeing it, “Far Beyond the Stars” is widely recognized as one of DS9’s best episodes and one of the all-time great Star Trek stories.
The episode never actually confirmed that Benny Russell was an actual human writer in the mid-20th century rather than simply being a creation of the Prophets, but there was nothing to refute the idea, either. The book cover in “The Elysian Kingdom” retroactively confirms that Russell was a real person…at least within the Star Trek universe.
Meanwhile, I started thinking about other books we might’ve seen in various Star Trek episodes which were their own flavor of Easter egg. To be fair, there aren’t that many, but the ones we do see? They’re definitely fun.
First up? We go to “Horizon,” a second-season episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. In it, Enterprise helm officer Travis Mayweather visits the Earth Cargo Ship Horizon, a civilian vessel crewed by his family and where he was born and spent his early life. Among the books on the shelf in the quarters he uses while visiting is a large white tome, Chicago Gangs. Though the title isn’t the same, this is obviously meant as a wink and a nod to a similar book, Chicago Mobs of the Twenties, left to the people of Sigma Iotia II by the crew of an Earth ship called the…wait for it…Horizon, as detailed in the original Star Trek series episode “A Piece of the Action.”
Hee hee. Also? Hee.
Things get a little more mischievous when we return to “Far Beyond the Stars.” For this episode, the production crew had a field day creating props and set dressing that included covers to science fiction books and magazines one might find in the 1950s.
Among these were several covers for Incredible Tales of Scientific Wonder, a fictional counterpart to such magazines as Amazing Stories, If, Astounding Stories, and Galaxy Science Fiction to name just a few. Indeed, Galaxy‘s covers of that period were the visual springboard for Incredible Tales.
For the “March 1953” issue, several of the faux covers featured “stories” riffing on familiar science fiction novels, movies, and TV episodes, but one cover went all in with the Trek references. Every story in one “issue” bears the name of an original series episode. Come on…how can you not love this sort of thing?
It’d take almost twenty years before something like that popped up again. In the first episode of Star Trek: Discovery, we’re introduced to Philippa Georgiou, captain of the U.S.S. Shenzhou and mentor to series lead Michael Burnham, who’s serving as the ship’s first officer when the show begins. In the captain’s ready room is a shelf bearing several books, and while they’re not easily readable in the episode itself, a behind-the-scenes photo reveals the truth: Each of the books is named for an original series episode.
Although we don’t know the “authors” of these books, the episode writers seem like prime candidates. As an alternative, I nominate James Blish.
Is that all of the self-referential Star Trek Easter eggs in this vein? I’m honestly not certain. I feel like I’m overlooking something obvious, but nothing else came to me as I was pulling this post together. If anyone thinks of another example, feel free to drop it in the comments.
And so another “Tuesday Trekkin'” installment is in the books. Hopefully I won’t wait two or three months before the next one.
That’s right, movie fans! It’s a double dose of Geek Movie Milestone Goodness!
1982 is arguably one of the best summers ever so far as awesome movie releases goes, and two reasons for that are right here. 40 years ago today, a pair of iconic entries in science fiction film debuted on the silver screen, each going a long way toward redefining the genre in their own ways….
Blade Runner — adapted in rather liberal form from Philip K. Dick’s seminal novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? — influenced…what…the look of every other near and/or dystopian SF film since then? Yeah, pretty much. Ridley Scott, having already dabbled a bit in the genre with that little flick you might know, Alien, brought Harrison Ford out from under the shadow of the Millenium Falcon and Indiana Jones’ fedora long enough to have him play what would become yet another iconic role: Rick Deckard, the “blade runner” charged with finding and neutralizing renegade androids (“replicants”) in 2019 Los Angeles. The film’s production design as envisioned by legendary futurist Syd Mead established a benchmark which has yet to be surpassed, for whatever the hell my opinion’s worth. The movie was not an easy sell to American audiences, but has gone on to take its rightful place as a true classic.
Meanwhile, John Carpenter’s The Thing— less a remake of 1951’s The Thing from Another World than a new adaptation of John W. Campbell’s 1938 novella Who Goes There? — helped remind audiences that the SF film realm could definitely be one which could scare the shit out of us if it was done correctly. It was a welcome respite from the scads of Alien knock-offs to which we’d been subjected by that point.
I didn’t see Blade Runner during its original theatrical run, because at the time it didn’t really grab me. As for The Thing, my friends and I eventually managed to slide past the ushers looking to keep underage delinquents from sneaking into those auditoriums (Damn, those “R” ratings.), so we were able to watch it in all its big-screen gory goodness. I eventually caught Blade Runner on home video (VHS!) later, and fell in love with it on the spot. It’s a smart, layered film, in which you can always find something new to appreciate.
(Of course, the 57 different versions of the movie which have been released over the years help with that.)
As for The Thing, it was and remains a tight little monster movie. The 2011 prequel did little for me, besides demonstrating that Carpenter’s movie can hold its own without such skirt-hanging claptrap. That doesn’t mean we won’t see some form of sequel or reboot in the not too distant future.
Elsewhere, the world of Blade Runner has been revisited in prose, in the form of a trio of novels penned by science fiction author K.W. Jeter and comics laying out the past and future events spinning out from the original film. In October 2017 during the movie’s 35th anniversary year, Blade Runner 2049 hit movie screens, starring Ryan Gosling and featuring Harrison Ford as Deckard. It did what good sequels are supposed to do: scratching the familiar itch with moderation while expanding and deepening the world established by its predecessor(s). There was a time when the very idea of a Blade Runner sequel seemed impossible if not insane to me, but 2049 took little time to rise to the top tier of my all-time favorite films.
Meanwhile, there there’s Blade Runner and The Thing, representing 1982 cinema like the boss movies they are. You could do worse on this Saturday than to spin up this double bill.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….”
June 4, 1982: After the commercial and critical oddity that was 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, those of us who were all into the Trek were worried what this sequel might bring. Would it be like the first movie (which was boring as all hell compared to Kirk drop-kicking and karate-chopping a big green lizard), or the TV series we still loved? The TV commercials certainly seemed to imply the latter, with lots of phasers firing and starships blowing the shit out of each other, William Shatner snarling into the camera and Ricardo Montalban flexing his pecs at us. This movie definitely looked like it was going to kick things up a notch. Or three.
Though it doesn’t seem to happen a lot these days, on this occasion? The trailers for this one got it right.
40 years after its release, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khanremains the choice of many fans as being among the best – if not the best – of the Star Trek theatrical films. Pretty much every movie that’s come since is compared to Khan, usually with respect to each successive sequel’s choice of villain. Kruge, Sybok, Chang, Soran, Ru’Afo, Shinzon, Nero, “John Harrison,” or Krall? None of those pansies – even the 2013 redo attempt – hold a candle to Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonien Singh, the genetically-engineered mighty man who came to the Final Frontier by way of a 20th century sleeper ship back in the classic first season Star Trek episode “Space Seed.”
Khan and his crew, marooned by Captain Kirk on the remote plant Ceti Alpha V at the end of that episode, are left to their own devices, but a planetary catastrophe soon after their arrival forced them into a constant struggle for simple survival. By the time another starship arrives, the U.S.S. Reliant commanded by Captain Clark Terrell and with former Enterprise crewman Pavel Chekov serving as its first officer, Khan’s pretty much gone ’round the bend. Seizing control of the Reliant by means of one of those cool movie critters that turn people into obedient zombies, Khan sets off to unleash BLOODY VENGEANCE on the man responsible for his downfall: James T. Kirk.
Oh, it’s on now.
Directed by Nicholas Meyer from a story by veteran TV producer Harve Bennett and Jack B. Sowards (who also wrote the original screenplay, which Meyer then rewrote….in 12 days), Star Trek II hits almost every right note and avoids the pitfalls which tripped up its theatrical predecessor. The humor as well as the friendships and camaraderie shared by Kirk and his crew–all but absent from the first film–are here to lend perfect balance to the drama and tension driving most of the story. Even the color palette is warmer this time around, from the red paint on the Enterprise doors to the crew uniforms, which now look more like something of a natural progression from those of the original series.
Montalban, reprising his role from “Space Seed,” pulls out all the stops as the maniacal Khan, obsessed with avenging himself upon Admiral James T. Kirk. Strong efforts from supporting actors Bibi Besch, Merritt Butrick, Paul Winfield and Kirstie Alley in her first film role round out a solid performance by the main cast (wild-eyed “KHAAAAAN!” bit from William Shatner notwithstanding). Though some footage of the Enterprise is lifted from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, there are plenty of new space scenes to satisfy the Trekkie tech heads among us. James Horner’s musical score, shifting with ease between quiet contemplation and rousing action, is a bow tying up the whole sweet package.
As originally scripted, the film brings with it the death of Spock, who sacrifices himself in order to save the Enterprise from certain destruction. This was done to honor a request from actor Leonard Nimoy, who had decided Star Trek II would be his last performance of his most popular character. However, as the story goes, he also held out for the opportunity to direct the next Star Trek film (should there be one). What’s fuzzy is where along that timeline he came to terms with continuing to portray Spock on screen, as we all know what happened with Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
Unlike Star Trek: The Motion Picture, there was very little in the way of merchandise tying into the new film. Chief among the paltry offerings was the novelization of the movie’s script, written by Vonda N. McIntyre. In those days, the novelization for a feature film might show up in stores weeks ahead of the movie’s release. Such was the case with Star Trek II, and I obtained my copy thanks to my sister who was looking out for me one Saturday in May 1982 when she went shopping with our mother. Thanks to her, I had in my hands the story for the film well ahead of its release date, and yet…..I somehow resisted the urge to read the book before seeing the movie with my pals on Release Day.
As it happens, I ended up seeing it a bunch of times that summer. Then I read the book, and as tended to happen back in those days, I ended up reading it a few times over the ensuing years.
If this film had failed, it arguably could’ve been the death knell for Kirk and the Enterprise gang. Instead, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was a critical and commercial success, ensuring the aforementioned sequel and bringing with it a fresh new energy to what we now call “the Star Trek franchise.” It paved the way for future sequels and the eventual television spin-offs, along with merchandising and other licensing ventures that continue to this day.
“I feel young.”
Shit, I feel old.
Happy 40th Anniversary, Star Trek II. Surely, the best of times.
Thanks to the wonder that is scheduled posting here on the blog thing, by the time you read this my hetero life mate Kevin and I will be on our way to Denver for the annual StarFest Convention!
(Be sure to click on the link and check out the guest line-up. Terry Farrel. Michelle Hurd. Brent Spiner. Nick Creegan. Eddie McClintock. Zach McGowan. Dr. Erin MacDonald and Dr. Ken Carpenter along with a big ol’ gang of science speakers. Rick Sternbach! Authors! Artists! Me and Kevin! And many more! Not to mention, StarFest is also something of an “umbrella con,” with separate tracks/”mini-cons” for ArtFest, ComicFest, GameFest, HorrorFest, KlingonFest, ModelFest, and ScienceFest!)
COVID-19 saw to it the 2020 and 2021 cons were cancelled, so while this will be our 18th trip to Denver, 2022 marks our 20th anniversary of hanging out with the StarFest family as guests of the con. Regular readers know that this show and Shore Leave are my two favorite conventions to attend, and the two I make every effort not to miss. Indeed, I make sure to lock in my availability for these shows before committing to anything else. It will be wonderful to see all the faces we’ve missed since the 2019 show, while also being bittersweet. In addition to toasting absent friends, we’ll also be commemorating this, the final StarFest. It’s gonna get blubbery, y’all.
BUT! Not before we have a full weekend of great fun.
What’ll we be up to this weekend? The usual sorts of convention shenanigans. We’ll have our tables in the author/artists alley, of course. A curated selection from our backlist (a fancy way of saying, “Whatever we can cram into Kevin’s car) will be on hand, all ready for the autographing and such. Naturally, we’re also up for signing whatever you bring with you at no charge.
We’ll also be participating in programming, including the guest meet-n-greet on Friday night, followed by introducing for the HorrorFest crowd that absolute 1985 classic, The Return of the Living Dead! We normally help out with judging the big costume contest on Saturday evening, but this year the con has asked us to emcee the event. While we cannot possibly replace our dear friend Kevin Atkins, who sadly left us last year, we will do our very best to make him proud.
Beyond that? I’m sure we’ll find some kind of trouble to get into.
If you’re reading this and planning to attend the con, be sure to swing by and say hello!
Well, here I go…trying to resurrect yet another “irregularly recurring” blog feature that fell by the wayside while I was working on Other Things.
For those who’ve missed previous installments, “Tuesday Trekkin’” is pretty much just another excuse for me to babble about some aspect of Star Trek fandom. These evolutions often involve me yammering on about a fondly remembered bit of funky merchandise, anniversaries, “milestones,” or important dates in franchise history, convention memories, or whatever else tickles my fancy on any given day.
The “Tuesday Trekkin’” moniker is something of a salute to a pair of friends, Dan Davidson and Bill Smith aka “The Hosts of the TrekGeeks Podcast.” Over on Facebook, they have a fan group, Camp Khitomer, devoted to all things Trek where all are welcome to join in their positive vibes and community. 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.
What’s up this time around? I can’t honestly call what follows “deep thinking,” but it is something to which I’ve given more than a few brain cells. In the beginning, it was an exercise in helping understand and bridge the gap that seems to grip different segments of Star Trek fandom from time to time. I’m old enough that I was born while the original series was still in production, but I didn’t actually watch the show until it was in reruns in the early 1970s. Despite this being my absolute favorite of the bunch, I consider myself a fan of the entire franchise. I may not love every incarnation or show or film on equal terms, but I can honestly say I’ve found something in each of them I enjoy and have no problem recommending to others.
Today’s the big day, y’all! The largest pop culture convention in the Kansas City region is launching today, promising three epic days of comics, games, cosplay, creators and stars from TV and film, authors and artists, and just about anything you can think of that’s geeky and cool. For more than 20 years, Planet Comicon has been the place to be.
As it has for the past several years, the convention is at Bartle Hall in downtown KC, just up the street from the city’s popular Power & Light District. There will be activitites and events on and off site all through the weekend, so for those of you planning to attend? Be sure to stretch, hydrate, wear comfortable shoes, and pace yourselves.
Kevin and I are thrilled and honored to once again be invited back to the con as author guests. You’ll be able to find us all throughout the con’s three days of shenanigans at tables/booths 1639 and 1641 on the main exhibitor floor. We’ll have copies of various titles from our backlists for purchase and signing, but please do bring anything you might already have with you, and we’ll happily sign such items free of charge. New for this year’s show? I’ll have on hand a limited number of copies ofStar Trek: Coda, Book I – Moments Asunder and (I hope!) Jurassic World: The Official Cookbook.
We’ll also be participating in programming during the weekend. You can find both of us at the following panels:
What Makes A Great Science Fiction Book? – Room 2505A – Friday, 2:30pm – 3:20pm
Galactic wars in a galaxy far far away, dystopian machine futures, space exploration? Planet Comicon special guest authors Claudia Gray (Star Wars: The High Republic), Kevin Dilmore (Star Trek), Dayton Ward (Star Trek) and Stephanie Hansen (Altered Helix) as they discuss the genre and give advice for aspiring writers.
Star Trek: Page and Screen – Room 2505B – Saturday, 1:00pm – 1:50pm
Hosted by Best Selling Star Trek authors Dayton Ward and Kevin Dilmore and moderated by former Star Trek: Deep Space Nine TV series writer Robert J. Bolivar. Star Trek has transitioned from screen to printed page and back again many times. Each iteration of the franchise is unique unto itself. What works in a script or teleplay may not cut it as a novel, and vice-versa. Hear how the the dynamics differ from the folks who have penned Star Trek across multiple mediums, and find out how these stories were approached.
In addition to all of that, there’s rarely one of these shows that goes down where we’re not pulled into something extra on an ad hoc basis, so who knows what this weekend will bring? Kevin and I will both be posting to Twitter and Facebook throughout the con as circumstances warrant or even if we just feel like screwing with people or the lines for the food trucks are too long. Stay tuned, and we hope to see you there!
Okay, so here we go again, attempting to get back to something resembling “irregularly recurring.”
For those new to these parts, “Tuesday Trekkin’” is essentially an excuse for me to yammer on a bit about some facet of Star Trek fandom. These exercises usually involve some fondly remembered bit of funky merchandise, anniversaries or other “milestones” of important dates in franchise history, convention memories, or whatever else tickles my fancy on any given day. The “Tuesday Trekkin’” moniker is a tip of the hat to a pair of friends, Dan Davidson and Bill Smith aka “The Hosts of the TrekGeeks Podcast.” Over on Facebook, they have a fan group, Camp Khitomer, devoted to all things Trek where all are welcome to join in their positive vibes and community. They also like to push a #TrekTuesday hashtag over there where they invite members to share updates, links, and/or pictures celebrating their fandom, so this feature is definitely offered in that same spirit.
So, what’s on the docket for today? It’s time to get our Star Trek game on, old-school style.