An Animated review with Saturday Morning Trek!

startrek-tas-titlecardHey, whaddaya know? I’m babbling again.

This time, I join Aaron Harvey, host of Saturday Morning Trek,’s podcast devoted to the animated Star Trek television series. On this occasion, we hung out to talk a bit about the recently released Blu-ray “complete series” set, and to reminisce about the show itself.

I’m old enough that I was able to watch the show first-run on Saturday mornings during 1973-74. In the days before home video, it was a rare occasion to happen across the series, as it did not enjoy the same level of rerun exposure as the original series (which was on tas_castpretty much everywhere in the 1970s and 1980s). There were the novelizations of the episodes, adapted by Alan Dean Foster, and some of the merchandising during the 70s definitely took cues from the show (puzzles, toys, games, and other items either utilized or were inspired by imagery from the series), but watching the actual episodes in rerun was a challenge until Nickelodeon started running them at some point.

Then came home video, with the series tas-laserdisceventually being released on VHS and LaserDisc in the 80s and 90s, followed by a complete series DVD set in the mid 2000s, followed by the most recent incarnation, an HD Blu-ray set released last fall as part of the Star Trek 50th anniversary celebration.

(Check out that crazy 90s artwork. I mean….the hell, people?)

Anyway, it’s the Blu-ray set we’re talking about now, and Aaron invited me to sit down and wax nostalgic about our mutual love for this quirky little slice of the Star Trek mythos. We’re both collectors of animated Trek merch, and though Aaron has me beat in this department, I do have a couple of animation cels and a few other doo-dads stashed here and there. But, how do these new Blu-rays stack up? Is it a step too far so far as preserving this bit of 70s cartoon goodness? You can probably guess our answer, though I don’t know that we let the show and the set completely off the hook. Don’t take my word for it, though. Instead, check it out for yourself: – Saturday Morning Trek #24: Blu-Rays and Pink Tribbles


Many thanks to Aaron and the rest of the gang for having me on!


A new Peaceable Kingdoms review.

So, I received this new review of Peaceable Kingdoms. Short and to the point, right?


This actually is in response to a post made by friend Emmett Plant over on Facebook. He had posted a music sample and solicited feedback, and my comment on the post was, “More cowbell.”

(Sidebar: Are there really people out there who don’t get this reference? Ah, well.)

Anyway, Emmett gave back as good as he got, and posted this picture in response to my comment.

Heh. 😀

My first Star Trek fan film review.

People have been after me to watch and comment on the various Star Trek fan film offerings available out here on the intrawebz. To this point, I’ve resisted the urge to say much about them for this or that reason. However, I decided that maybe–just this once–I’d cave to pressure and offer up a review of one of the higher-profile productions.

After taking in my first viewing of such a film, my first question to those of you who kept making these suggestions to me is, “What were you thinking?”

I tried to like it. I’d like to think it had a lot going for it, but at the end of it all, I’m not sure this is the sort of thing for me. But, because I’m a man of my word, I carried through with the experiment to the bitter end. Now that the alcohol’s worn off and I’ve recovered (somewhat) from the ordeal I endured FOR YOU, I now attempt to organize the jumbled thoughts tumbling within my damaged brain. Without further ado, here we go:


So, what’s the deal?

The starship Enterprise, flying around in space as it’s wont to do, stumbles across a derelict spacecraft and Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam over to see what’s the haps. There, they find four humans in bunk beds. Though one of the passengers is long dead, the others–two females and one male–are alive. McCoy notes that the male’s life signs are critical and he needs medical attention, so Kirk orders him transported back to the ship.

Once aboard the Enterprise, the mysterious human’s identity is revealed: Khan Noonien Singh, who immediately begins scheming to take over the ship with the help of Lieutenant Marla McGivers. At this point, it doesn’t really matter, because the whole story train’s already gone screaming off the tracks and over the cliff.

Let’s get one thing straight: So far as I’m concerned, the title is the only thing they got right with this thing, because whatever the fuck it is, This Ain’t Star Trek. Shit, y’all: If you’re going to pay tribute to one of the most successful film franchises in recent years, it behooves you to make your production at least resemble your source material in some fashion, right? So, if that’s the case, what’s up with this guy?


I mean, he doesn’t even remotely look like Chris Pine.

To be honest, all of the casting choices are off in one way or another, but the most egregious deviation from the original films has to be that of the guy selected to play the villain, Khan. It should seem pretty obvious to even the most casual Star Trek fan, but I guess it’s up to me to ask the pertinent questions: Since when is Khan not a white British dude?


Really? I keep hearing how these productions all respect and conform to the onscreen canon, but they must’ve been watching different movies than me.

Another thing I’ve been told is that some of these flicks boast optical effects which rival many of today’s big-budget Hollywood blockbusters. Here? Not a single shot of the Enterprise, not a one of the other ship, nothing. Am I missing something? And what about the sets? I’ve heard from uncounted people about how the Enterprise interiors are faithfully recreated in exacting detail. Is this what they were talking about?


Where the hell did all that red and powder blue come from? Where the fuck are all the lens flares?

Now, I’ve been holding off on this film’s most controversial point(s), because let’s face it: I think someone let their love of fanzine fiction and wishful thinking for hookups between the various crew members get the best of them. Sure, Captain Kirk is an intergalactic horn dog whose prowess with the ladies is legendary, but at least in the films some things are left to the imagination. Not so this time around. And if you ever wanted to know whether any other parts of Spock’s anatomy are pointed? The answers lie here. Consider yourselves duly warned.

(And as an aside? I’ll never be able to hear “Hailing frequencies open, Captain,” the same way ever again.)

So, that’s my first experience with a Star Trek fan film. Not willing to cast judgment on the entire medium after one example, I’m certainly open to suggestions for alternative viewing. Hit me.

(Of course this isn’t a real review. Silly goose.)

Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series – THE BOOK!

“Okay, that book we did last year for Mars Attacks was really neat, and sold pretty well, and there are lots of other cool trading card sets from back in the day that are great candidates for similar books. What do you think?”

“Sounds interesting. What card set did you want to do, first?”

“I was thinking of the 70s Star Trek cards.”

“Will anybody buy a book like that?”

“That guy Ward will. He may even buy two.”

“Let’s get started.”


I have it on absolutely unshakeable authority that a conversation very much like that one took place, though I must confess that it occurred entirely within my own head. The only thing that’s missing is a big ribbon emblazoned with the caption, “DAYTON WILL BUY THIS!” for display on some bookstore’s end cap.

So, what’s the deal? Much like their book celebrating the 50th anniversary of the classic Mars Attacks trading card series from 1962, Abrams Books now gives us a similar tome showcasing one of those long-lost collectibles from my childhood, the 1976 Star Trek trading card series produced by Topps.

(FULL DISCLOSURE: The book’s authors, Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdmann, are friends of mine. I love pretty much every Star Trek book they’ve ever done. So, yeah, I was biased going in. They do good Trek, people.)

Like the Mars Attacks book, this volume presents the entire set of 88 cards and 22 companion stickers in a sort of “scrapbook” format. Each card is displayed on its own page at about 150% of its original size, and the facing page features a picture of that card’s back side, allowing you to check out every card’s picture and its accompanying text.

Also included for each card is a short anecdote, either by Paula and Terry or former Topps writer Gary Cerani, who wrote the text for the cards, along with the occasional comment by hardcore fans and card collectors. These bits offer insight into the card set’s creation, why a particular image was chosen, or why something in a card’s text is off, or why someone chose to enhance or change the color on part of an image, along with other trivia which often is as amusing as it is enlightening. The book’s foreword also includes comments and reminiscences from Len Brown, who at the time was the creative director at Topps and who more than a decade earlier gave us all those snazzy Mars Attacks cards.

The reproductions of the cards, stickers, wrappers and other promotional materials is really very sharp. The only real problem is the images on many of the cards are not of the greatest quality to begin with, owing to how they were taken from 35mm film and blown up for the card using the technology of the day. To be honest, this actually adds to the charm for an old-school fan like me, because the book presents the cards as they actually looked when I was buying them as a kid.

Three cool touches top off the whole package: First, and as with the Mars Attacks book, an image of a stick of that horrendous bubble gum is emblazoned on the book’s covers. On the front is an intact piece, while the back cover shows it shattered into fragments as was often the case in the actual card packs. Second, the dust jacket replicates the cards’ wrapper art, and is made from the same wax paper material. Finally, four all-new cards are included in the back of the book, two of which serve to correct an odd oversight during the set’s creation: The conspicuous absence of Lieutenant Sulu on any of the original cards or stickers. Weird, huh?

For an old school fan like me, who never actually managed to cobble together a complete set of these cards and stickers, this book is the next best thing, and that’s before you add in all the behind-the-scenes info. Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series carries a retail price of $19.99, but Amazon currently (as I write this) has it set at a pre-order price of $11.74, making this a bargain and a mighty fine way to get a jump on your holiday gift shopping.

So, you know…you should probably get on that.

Thanks again to Paula and Terry for making me have to scramble to find yet another spot on my bookcase for a cool Star Trek book. It’ll be rough, but I think I’ll be able to manage. Meanwhile, I’m hoping they let you do a similar book for the card set Topps produced for Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Then, we need to get on them about Planet of the Apes……..

Star Trek: Topps Trading Cards tribute book!

Recent reviews of older stuff!

Thanks to a reminder from friend and fellow word pusher Keith R.A. DeCandido, I’m happy to steer faithful readers to some recent reviews of some my oldest Star Trek work. Dan Gunther is a regular reader and reviewer of Star Trek fiction, and he recently took a break from the more recent releases to take a look back at the first installments from one of Pocket’s various “literary spin-off” Star Trek series. In this case, we’re talking about the Starfleet Corps of Engineers.

Originally released as eBook novellas, Star Trek: S.C.E. (later renamed Corps of Engineers), published a new adventure monthly in near-continuous fashion from the fall of 2000 to early 2007. In total, 74 individual S.C.E./CoE tales were published, almost all of them edited by Keith, who co-created the series with editor John Ordover and also wrote or co-wrote ten installments; more than any other contributor…except for a couple of boneheads with whom you might be familiar.

:: cue theme music ::

In addition to the aforementioned co-creating thing, Keith also was one of the first writers to pen a story for the series. In this case, he was sandwiched between Dean Wesley Smith as the lead-off hitter and Christie Golden batting third. Once the first three stories were published in the summer/early fall of 2000 and it was determined that the series would continue, John and Keith set to work recruiting writers to assist in filling the monthly quota.

Enter the two boneheads I mentioned up-post.

As mentioned earlier, Dan Gunther has taken to reading and reviewing the series, which began collecting the eBook installments into omnibus paperback editions in early 2002. Dan reviewed each installment of the first collected volume, Have Tech, Will Travel, posting reviews on successive days a few weeks back. So, he has separate columns for each of the first four S.C.E. stories:

The Belly of the Beast, by Dean Wesley Smith
Fatal Error, by Keith
Hard Crash, by Christie Golden
Interphase, Part One by me and Kevin Dilmore

For those who don’t know, the Interphase two-parter (the second half was included in the second paperback compilation, Miracle Workers), released originally in early 2001, was mine and Kevin’s first-ever fiction collaboration. After those, Keith invited us to write what ended up being ten installments for the series, and another short story featuring the S.C.E. gang which was included in the Tales of the Dominion War anthology. Along the way, Kevin and I created a ship and crew for a 23rd century version of the Corps of Engineers, which later would feature prominently in the Star Trek: Vanguard series.

Based on his reviews, Dan seems to dig the S.C.E. gang, and I’m hoping he at least wants to see how Interphase ends, right? Thanks to him for giving the series a look, and to Keith for reminding me that all this was going on. It’s always cool to see a new review of something that’s usually fallen off everyone’s radar screens.

The Six Million Dollar Man – The Complete Collection.

“Steve Austin, astronaut; a man barely alive….”

Unless you’ve been freeze-dried or living on an asteroid for the past 30-odd years, you know that those are the first words to one of the most iconic opening credits sequences in the history of television.

That’s right: Hyperbole is free here at stately Ward Manor.

When I was in single digits, The Six Million Dollar Man was the show to watch. Half the kids in my neighborhood — including me — were running around in slow-motion (only later incorporating that “dih-nih-nih-nih-nih” sound, when it became commonplace on the show). We had the big action figure with the hole in Steve Austin’s head you could look through and get “BionicVision” or whatever. I had Oscar Goldman and his exploding briefcase, and even Bigfoot with his bust-out chest panel. I may have had a lunchbox, but I don’t remember.

(It’s worth noting here that I still have all of the Martin Caidin Cyborg novels as well as the various novelizations from the TV show, along with those for The Bionic Woman. Nerdity is also free here at the Manor.)

Second only to the original Star Trek, The Six Million Dollar Man was my favorite show on TV back then. I watched Steve Austin go up against all sorts of bad guys, aliens, robots, death probes, and, yes, even Bigfoot. I remember my father coming home from work one evening and telling me there was going to be this new TV show about a guy who was sort of like Superman, but without the cape and costume. I also remember him telling me that the character was at least partially-based on a real incident involving a test pilot surviving a horrific crash.

I don’t think the first episode I ever watched was the actual first episode, but I recall being a pretty regular viewer after that. In those days before DVRs and VCRs, if you missed an episode, that was the way it went until a rerun came along, but at that age I really didn’t care too much about stuff like that. The show started to fade from being “appointment television” during the fourth season (AKA “Season of the Mustache”), and I think I only watched a handful of fifth season episodes, as I’m sure I moved on to something else that I don’t even remember now. By the time the “reunion movies” started in the late 1980s, I’d left home and joined the service, and didn’t even know about them until I caught them by accident one afternoon on cable. The Sci-Fi Channel (excuse me, “Syfy”) aired the show for a while several years ago, but I only watched the occasional episode. Sometimes I got lucky and caught one that made me remember why I enjoyed the show in the first place. Other times? Well…not so much. That’s pretty much the way it goes so far as revisiting movies and TV you loved during childhood, right? Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Ark II? I’m looking at you.

Anyway, skip ahead to March 2011, and my writing partner and hetero life mate, Kevin Dilmore, surprising me with an awesome gift: The Six Million Dollar Man – The Complete Collection DVD set.

Endless babbling continues…behind the cut!

“That movie is how old?!?”


That was part of a conversation held at my house this past Sunday, while Michi and I were enjoying the Super Bowl(tm) “Big Game” with friends. I brought up the fact that Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

Yep. Just let that sink in for a moment.

So, I got to thinking: What other movies celebrate milestone birthdays in 2011? As it happens, is rather long. I’ve compiled a subsection of said list, featuring movies I like for one reason or another. Some of these, as you might imagine, are prime candidates for a Wayback Review, as was done with Commando last year when it celebrated its 25th birthday. I imagine that other landmark films will receive some kind of retrospective treatment, as I did with a handful of titles which celebrated their own milestones during 2010 (Jaws, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Back to the Future, to name a few).

Anyway, check out this list, which as I said is not complete by any measure, but is rather a subset of titles I like, or at least that I feel deserve to have some serious ReviewSnark thown their way. Feel free to chime in with your own thoughts and candidates. Entries marked with an asterisk (*) are ones I’m marking as potential Wayback Review targets.

Partial list of ‘old movies’…behind the cut!

In which we answer for our Sins.

Star Trek: Seven Deadly Sins
Our friend Jens Deffner (defcons_treklit) over at Unreality SF has reviewed the Star Trek anthology from earlier this year, Seven Deadly Sins. As is generally the case with this site, the review is balanced and thoughtful, even when the reviewer finds something in the book that doesn’t work for him. Such is the case with our novella, The First Peer, about which Jens offers the following remarks:

The First Peer is a decent story, which makes good use of the Romulan/Pride combination. The only real downside to it is that with the exception of the final revelation, it is a tad too predictable. To some extent that’s because you know the story’s sin is Pride, so you simply expect that the plan will backfire for Toqel, especially because she is warned to not underestimate her counterparts. But ultimately the good characterisations and Wardilmore’s usual engaging writing style make this one an early keeper in this tome.”

I can dig that.

Read the review here.

Thanks to Jens and the rest of the Unreality crew!

Happy Birthday, Back to the Future!

Back to the Future is 25 years old today.

Let’s just pause a moment, and let that sink in.

That’s right, folks. 25 summers ago this very day, Marty McFly took to the time stream in a tricked out DeLorean – the first and so far only time in the history of automotive transportation that such a vehicle has been put to constructive purpose – traveled back to the year 1955 and came –> <– this close to boning his own mom.

So, if we're to take any sort of object lesson from this film – in addition to the one imparted by Marty to his father, George McFly ("Life's short. Grab it by the balls, dude," or something to that effect) – it's that if ever you are blessed with the opportunity to travel back in time, you should avoid boning your own mom. Feel free to let somebody know about the '29 stock market crash, or the attack on Pearl Harbor, or that Pauly Shore might be considering making the leap to acting, but whenever somebody writes the book on temporal no-no's, refraining from carnal relations with anyone in your own family tree should be somewhere near the top of the list. Can I get an "amen?"

We're good? Sweet.

The original Back to the Future is, was, and remains a fun movie, and avoids being dated simply by being overt as to when it takes place: 1985, yo. Well, with a healthy dose of 1955, of course. Michael J. Fox is pitch-perfect as the fish-out-of-water Marty McFly, an 80s teen thrown back to the supposedly kinder, simpler, more wholesome says of decades past, his perceptions of the 1950s shaped by reruns of television shows like Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best. Whoops.

Christopher Lloyd is delightfully over the top as Doc Brown, the inventor of the flux capacitor, time travel, and an actual time machine. The other folk making up the rest of the cast – Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover as Lorraine and George, the teenage versions of Marty’s mother and father, and especially Thomas F. Wilson as Biff Tannen, McFly nemesis – also shine in their respective roles.

I still get a chuckle out of some of the scenes, most notably the night Marty confronts George as “Darth Vader from the planet Vulcan” and threatens to melt George’s brain with Van Halen music if he doesn’t ask Lorraine out to the upcoming school dance. The score – with music by Alan Silvestri and songs by Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton and, yes, Huey Lewis and the News – is still one I drag out on occasion. The film spawned two sequels which were filmed back to back and released in the fall of 1989 and summer of 1990, as well as an animated series and a kick-ass virtual ride at the Universal Studios theme parks in Hollywood, Orlando, and Japan (I think it’s still running in Japan).

And no reminiscing would be complete without another mention of the car.

Back to the Future‘s greatest triumph was Doc Brown’s being able to turn a shitty car with dumbass gullwing doors that make it impractical for parking in 97% of the world’s garages and public parking spaces into a kickass time machine. Fuck those time-traveling hot tubs, phone booths, tunnels, gates, and lopsided donuts; I got our First-Class ticket to the past or future right here. Not since the Batmobile from the 1960s Batman series has a car so infected me with unrequited geek lust. And not for nothing, who doesn’t want a license plate like the one on the car?

Yes, of course I have one. Remember who you’re talking to, here.

So, Happy 25th Birthday, Back to the Future. Even after all these years, you’re still heavy.

The Final Countdown.

No, not that song. However, it’s stuck in your head now, isn’t it?

Nope, I’m talking about The Final Countdown, the movie about the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Nimitz being thrown back in time to December 6th, 1941…the eve of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. With modern weapons and combat aircraft, the Nimitz all by itself has more than enough firepower to repel the forthcoming surprise attack, but doing so will change history.

So effin’ what, right?

As it happens, The Final Countdown celebrates its 30th birthday this year, having been released in August of 1980. I didn’t realize this until, for whatever reason, I was drawn to throw it into the DVD player tonight while working (the wife is out of town, the kids are in bed, and it’s just me and my favorite beverage(s) to assist me as I work a bit this evening).

The Final Countdown is still a fun little movie. Not terribly deep so far as the science fiction aspects of time travel are concerned, and the time it spends worrying about the possibilities of tampering with history are covered with all the standard cliches’ about going back to murder your grandfather and thereby short-circuiting your own birth, and so on. A glance at the film’s IMDB page shows a host of goofs, continuity errors, and so on (not the least of which being the fact that the Nimitz was based out of Norfolk, Virginia in 1980, rather than Pearl Harbor), but they don’t detract from the movie in any real, lasting way.

The acting is all over the place. Kirk Douglas, one of my favorite actors Of All Time, has moments in this flick where he seems to be phoning in his performance as the Nimitz‘s skipper, Captain Yelland. A young Martin Sheen gets a thumbs up for his portrayal of Warren Laskey, the civilian analyst sent to inspect the crew of the Nimitz and report back on its efficiency to the mysterious “Mr. Tideman,” who in the film’s continuity is the carrier’s designer. James Farentino is also solid, as are Katherine Ross and Charles Durning. As for the large supporting cast (a significant portion of which is filled out by the officers and crew of the actual U.S.S. Nimitz), their performances run the gamut. Your mileage may vary.

As for special effects, the only real optical effect of note is the “time storm,” a cascading blue tunnel floating across the water to engulf the Nimitz. It’s typical of late 1970s/early 1980s SFX tech, and helps to reinforce the whole production’s “NBC Sunday Night Movie” vibe. The shrill whine of energy permeating the air as the ship passes through the storm is much more jarring and effective in conveying that some Funky Shit(tm) is going on. The film also boasts some pretty decent aerial photography, as well a few choice clips of actual WWII air combat footage of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Once Yelland makes the decision that the Nimitz will take on the Japanese fleet in a bid to thwart the attack on Pearl Harbor, you can’t help but wish you could see that battle unfold on screen, because you just know it’s going to be a 10th Degree Ass-Whoopin’. However, and as we all know must happen, the “time storm” returns before the first shots can be fired, and whisks the Nimitz and its fighter jets — most of which are already in flight and en route to intercept the approaching enemy ships and planes — back to 1980. The attack as we know it happens again, and history remains (largely) unchanged once the Nimitz returns to its own time.

Not bad as pseudo-SF films of this era go. Certainly better than something like Galaxy of Terror, even if it does lack anything in the way of goofy alien sex scenes.

Trivia: the novelization of The Final Countdown was written by Martin Caidin, himself already an accomplished novelist by this point, and most remembered for his novels Marooned (which was made into a movie starring Gregory Peck and Gene Hackman) and Cyborg, which was adapted into a handful of TV movies and an eventual television series you know by another name, The Six Million Dollar Man.

This blast from the past brought to you by boredom and Firefly Vodka.