Happy 30th Anniversary, Star Trek: The Next Generation!


Sorry, folks, but it’s true. 30 years ago, tonight.

I’ve told this story before, but on 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.

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.

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 established itself as a worthy bearer of the Star Trek torch.

Seven television seasons, four feature films, 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 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 30th Anniversary, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Go. Go see what’s out there.



Happy 45th Anniversary, M*A*S*H.

We try to play par surgery on this course. Par is a live patient.

Forty-five years ago today, an odd, seemingly out-of-place television series made its rather quiet, almost overlooked premiere on CBS. It would struggle through its first season and even face cancellation, but soon would find its audience. Carrying on for ten subsequent seasons, it eventually would go on to become one of the most influential series in the history of television.

The series was based on Robert Altman’s 1970 film MASH, as well as the novel of the same name,  which was written by Richard Hooker (a pen name for Dr. Richard Hornberger and W.C. Heinz). Developed by the late, great Larry Gelbart, M*A*S*H the series began as something of a hybrid. It didn’t so much adapt or continue events from either the film or the book as it used both works for inspiration. Certain scenes or lines of dialogue from the novel or the movie were the basis for plot points and even entire episodes during the show’s early seasons.

Several of the characters, already re-interpreted to one degree or another for the movie, were given still new spins for their television incarnations. Most notable in that regard is the character around which the series would center, Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce as played by Alan Alda. Though Hawkeye bore a decent resemblance to his film and novel namesakes at the start, Alda’s influence not just in his own portrayal but also the writing (and later directing and producing) of the series would see Hawkeye, the rest of the characters, and indeed the entire series itself evolve in numerous ways as the show progressed.

From the beginning, Gelbart and his crew wanted M*A*S*H to be something more than a simple situation comedy (according to interviews over the years, the cast and crew have said that they never referred to the show as a “sitcom”). In their minds, the setting, a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War, demanded that attention and respect. Even the earliest scripts, played largely for laughs, featured the occasional drift into more dramatic subject matter.

It wasn’t until late in the first season that Gelbart and the writing staff seemed to find the perfect balance between comedy and drama, with the pivotal episode “Sometimes You Hear the Bullet,” in which Hawkeye is reunited with an old friend who later dies on the operating table. By all accounts, this was the episode when the producers realized the true potential of what they could do with the series and its format, provided they had the proper front-office support. Once that support was demonstrated with the show’s renewal for a second season, all bets were off, and M*A*S*H never looked back. The series would continue unabated for ten more years, and its movie-length series finale episode, “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen,” still ranks as one of the most-watched programs in television history nearly thirty-five years after its original broadcast.

After the series concluded in 1983, there was an attempt to continue on with some of the characters and leftover storylines. This took the form of AfterMASH, with Colonel Potter, Corporal Klinger and Father Mulcahy working together at a stateside VA hospital after the war. The show actually did pretty well during its first season (despite there being a noticeable lack of, well, M*A*S*H), and was notable for attempting to bring attention to the ongoing post-war treatment and care of soldiers.

Its second year would be its last after CBS unwisely chose to move it to Tuesday nights, opposite a show you might remember called The A-Team. Whoops. AfterMASH was spanked in the ratings, and was cancelled part way through its second year. I’ve not seen the show since its original airing, and then only part of its first season. It’s not yet been released on any home video format, but I remain hopeful, as I’d like to revisit it with fresh eyes. There also was another spin-off attempt, W*A*L*T*E*R with Gary Burghoff reprising his Radar character, but the pilot was rejected. It aired once on television, but I’ve never seen it.

As for M*A*S*H itself, I came to it rather late in its broadcast run. I think I started watching it around the seventh or eighth season, as I recall. By then, reruns of the earlier seasons were airing on local UHF stations, so I started watching them over and over. I remember wondering why the book and film were so different from the show, but once I figured out that I had it backwards, I came to love them on their own merits, and the novel is something I still reread from time to time when the mood strikes. I own the entire series on DVD, and it’s one of those shows for which I’ll stop channel-surfing if I happen across an episode. I’ve read all of the Richard Hooker sequel novels (their continuity feeds off the original novel, not the film or the series), and I even own a copy of the stage play script.

I know there are people who prefer the first three years–before the first of the various cast changes–to anything which came later. There also are folks who don’t watch the latter three or four seasons, because they feel the show began to lose steam at that point. While I agree to an extent with that second stance, for me, I can and do enjoy the entire run, and there are definitely gems and favorites even in those later seasons. The eighth season episode “Old Soldiers,” in which Colonel Potter comes to terms with knowing that the last of his friends from his youth have died, remains one of my absolute favorite episodes, as much for Harry Morgan’s performance as the subject matter.

Other favorites? Wow. How much time do you have? We could be here a while. Suffice it to say I have a lot of favorites, and I’m thinking I’ll be checking out some of them later today.

Happy Anniversary, M*A*S*H.

Attention, all personnel: Due to conditions beyond our control, we regret to announce that lunch is now being served.

Talking “Run, Steve, Run” with The OSI Files!

OSI-Files-LogoIt’s been a while since I last chatted about various things bionic with John S. Drew, but hey! The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman never seem to be far from either of our thoughts, and John had been talking about corralling me for an episode of his bionic-themed podcast The OSI Files for a while, now. At long last, he makes good on his threat, and has me sit down for a chat with him about The Six Million Dollar Man‘s first season finale, “Run, Steve, Run.”

This episode is the midpoint of a loose trilogy of episodes that begins with “Day of the Robot,” the first season’s fourth episode, and ends with the second season’s “Return of the Robot Maker.” I call it “loose” because the only robots we see in this episode appear in flashback sequences from “Day of the Robot.” However, the robot’s creator, Dr. Jeffrey Dolenz (later changed to “Chester Dolenz”) is on hand, with the story focusing on his obsession with learning the secret of how Steve Austin was able to defeat his robot in the first episode (hint: Steve’s bionic). Once Dolenz realizes what makes Steve tick, he’s like a kid in a candy store….or maybe a Radio Shack, as he contemplates the possibilities of exploiting Steve’s bionics to improve the army of robots he wants to build.

While the other episodes–admittedly dated and even ridiculous by modern TV standards–retain huge nostalgic appeal for me as favorites from my childhood, I’m less enamored with this installment. Part of that is that I always thought the Dolenz character was criminally underserved, in all of these stories. Unlike other bad guys who decide they need to teach Oscar Goldman and the OSI a lesson for overlooking their genius when it comes to tech goodness like robots, Dolenz never really gets a chance to shine with this role. That’s a shame, as veteran character actor Henry Jones creates in Dolenz one of those “recurring nemesis” characters like Star Trek‘s Harry Mudd you want to see every so often.

That said, “Run, Steve, Run” is certainly not the series’ worst offering, and full credit to John for helping me soften my stance, as I went into this chat with this episode most definitely not on my “ones I’ll watch on a rainy day” list.

Check out the conversation, which is followed by an interview with “Run, Steve, Run” guest star Melissa Greene, here:

The OSI Files Episode 004: “Run, Steve, Run”

Many thanks to John, with whom I always enjoy talking all things bionic, for having me on. We’ve already discussed possibilities for follow-up chats, so who knows?


Talking “Carbon Creek” with Trek.fm’s Warp Five podcast!

Yep, you guessed it: I’m babbling again.

And yes, somebody decided my endless, stream-of-consciousness yammering was worth preserving for future listeners. You think people would learn, but until they do, I’ll be in your podcasts, messing with your ears.

Warp Five Podcast LogoThis time, I join Floyd Dorsey and Brandon-Shea Mutala, hosts of Warp Five, Trek.fm‘s podcast devoted to all things Star Trek: Enterprise. Though I’m a frequent visitor/disruptor of Literary Treks podcast, this is one of those rare times when I make my way into a different Trek.fm studio with the intention of bothering other hosts. Floyd and Brandon were quite welcoming as we all settled in to discuss the Enterprise second season episode “Carbon Creek.”

After a brief interview to suss out my secret origin story, the bulk of the podcast takes the form of a live commentary as we watch and comment on the episode. The story involves the visit to Earth by a Vulcan science team, who observe the launch of Sputnik I in October 1957. Their ship crashes in rural Pennsylvania and their captain is killed, leaving the three survivors to hide among the human population until a rescue ship arrives.

Why am I in this thing? Because characters and situations originated in this tale inform not one and not two but three novels I’ve written: From History’s Shadow, Elusive Salvation, and the (as I write this) forthcoming Hearts and Minds.

As we discuss before the commentary, I gained a greater appreciation of Enterprise during a rewatch a few years back when I was researching From History’s Shadow, and “Carbon Creek” is one of the episodes I’ve liked even from back during the show’s original run. So, it was fun to revisit this particular story and talk about how it fits into the Star Trek mythos, including my own books.


Warp Five Episode 110: “Chocolate Chip Cookies”

Many thanks to Floyd and Brandon for inviting me to join them for their rewatch of the episode. If you’re a fan of Star Trek: Enterprise, be sure to check out the other Warp Five commentaries, each one spotlighting an episode of the show.

“Let’s go.”

Of new Star Trek TV series and old books.

For those of you who aren’t dialed in to such things, CBS announced back in November that a new Star Trek television series was in development, with a premiere scheduled for January 2017. Unlike its previous TV incarnations, this new Trek was set to explore the strange (not quite) new world of “internet streaming” services, opting to present this new series on it own such service, CBS All Access. In a nutshell, the success of original content such as that to be found on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon has CBS wanting to get in on some of that action, and someone there thought a new Star Trek series might be the way to go.

Naturally, Star Trek fandom reacted in a variety of ways to this news, running the gamut from unchecked enthusiasm to bitter disdain and everything in between. My favorite responses, of course, came from that segment of fandom who opted to completely lose its shit.

Continue reading “Of new Star Trek TV series and old books.”

“The Secret of Bigfoot, Part 2” on Cyborgs: A Bionic Podcast!

At long last….the cliffhanger is resolved!

Back in October(!), hosts John S. Drew and Paul K. Bisson of Cyborgs: A Bionic Podcast, continued their retrospective of The Six Million Dollar Man by plunging headlong into the series’ third season by taking a long look at the first half of the epic, landmark two-part episode, “The Secret of Bigfoot.” I yammered all about that installment of the podcast right here.

And now here we are, with Part 2!


As was the case with Part 1, covering the second half of this legendary episode was too big a job for John and Paul to handle on their own, or even with the assistance of a single guest host. With that in mind, they enlisted the help of three guests to help shoulder the burden. In addition to my dumb geeky ass, the podcast features Matt Hankinson (chief creative consultant for Time-Life’s definitive The Six Million Dollar Man DVD collection), and bionic guru Joe Burns, webmaster of The Six 1973.

Do we really need to recap this episode? Hell no. It’s a classic slice of 1970s TV sci-fi cheesy goodness, most of it presented in slow motion. What’s to know? What’s not to love? Let’s just get on with it, all right?

Cyborgs: A Bionic Podcast – “The Secret of Bigfoot, Part 2″

As always, many thanks to John and Paul for inviting me back to the podcast. They’re always fun to do. Here’s hoping I can get back there again, one of these days.

TV’s iconic fight scenes? VOTE NOW!

As I was listening to latest episode of Cyborgs: A Bionic Podcast where we’re all talking about “The Secret of Bigfoot,” we get to the part where Steve Austin, The Six Million Dollar Man himself, is going Mano a Sasquatcho against ol’ Bigfoot.

As part of the discussion, I say that this is it – the iconic moment for the episode and the one bit about the show that pretty much everyone knows about, whether or not they’re a fan or if they’ve even watched the series. I liken the scene to Kirk’s epic battle against the Gorn in the classic Star Trek episode “Arena,” which is wildly known and has been parodied so often it should probably have its own page on TV Tropes.


That got me thinking: Which of these memorable battles represent television’s greatest fight? Are either of them worthy of that distinction, or do we have to add others? Jack Bauer, my hero from 24, has had his share of onscreen fisticuffs, but one of my favorites comes at the end of the show’s second season, when he takes on one particularly skilled bad guy and ends up running up the side of the wall while twisting the other dude’s head enough to snap his neck. Tasty! And I suppose no discussion of TV fights can go without mentioning Alexis and Krystle Carrington and their various dust-ups during the run of the classic Dynasty series.

Alexis-Krystle fight

So, just for laughs, what say you? I’ve tossed these few examples into a poll just to get us started, but do you think one of these classic TV fights is worthy of the title “Iconic” or even “Best Ever,” or do you have your own nominee? Obviously this has no bearing on anything beyond the confines of my goofy little blog, but the hell.

NOTE: For purposes of this poll, we’re talking about various flavors of hand-to-hand, rather than gun fights or battles.

Also, if you do vote “Other,” be sure to mention it in the comments. 

“The Secret of Bigfoot, Part 1” on Cyborgs: A Bionic Podcast!

Holy cow! How long’s it been since I got to do one of these?

We’re here, folks. This is it! The one episode of The Six Million Dollar Man that everybody knows, even if they’ve never seen the show. Some argue that this is where the series “jumped the shark,” but what those people say is unimportant, and we do not hear their words! What are we talking about?



Hosts John S. Drew and Paul K. Bisson bring us yet another scintillating edition of Cyborgs: A Bionic Podcast, continuing their bi-weekly retrospective of The Six Million Dollar Man‘s third season. This installment was just too big to be shouldered by them and a single guest host, so this time John and Paul bring in three–count ’em, three–guests to fill up steve-bigfootthe roundtable. Along with my nerdy self, we’ve got bionic gurus Joe Burns (webmaster of The Six 1973) and Matt Hankinson (chief creative consultant for Time-Life’s definitive The Six Million Dollar Man DVD collection) on hand as we all discuss the first half of the classic two-part episode, “The Secret of Bigfoot.”

Does this story even need an introduction? Hell no. Steve Austin fights Bigfoot, and finds aliens living in the California mountains. What more do you need? Let’s just get on with it, amirite?

Cyborgs: A Bionic Podcast – “The Secret of Bigfoot, Part 1”

Thanks as always to Paul and John for inviting me back to play. These podcasts are always a gas to do, and you know Part 2 has to be coming soon, right? We actually recorded both parts as one show, and even with Paul’s editing the first part still comes in over 1 hour and 45 minutes. That’s a lot of bionic babbling, right there, y’all. Stay tuned for news about the second part of “The Secret of Bigfoot!”

Happy 50th Anniversary, Lost in Space!

Mr. President? Status control on Jupiter II: As of this moment, the spacecraft has passed the limits of our galaxy–it’s presumed to be hopelessly lost in space.”

And so it was that on the evening of Wednesday, September 15th, 1965, that the world’s first interstellar exploration ship, carrying with it Professor John Robinson and his family along with pilot Major Don West, began an epic journey into the depths of the universe and our imagination. All of that sounded great in theory, until that pesky Doctor Smith found a way to screw up everything.

LostInSpace-S1logoYep. Lost in Space is 50 years old today.

Damn, right?

Premiering on the CBS network one year ahead of that other big science fiction TV series from the late 1960s, Lost in Space was, essentially, a space-based re-imagining of the Swiss Family Robinson. In fact, Gold Key Comics had even beaten the show to this particular punch, as they had already been publishing a comic, Space Family Robinson, for three years by the time the series was first broadcast. The two entities were apparently able to work things out to everyone’s satisfaction, as the show used “Robinson” for the family’s last name and the comic continued to be published after the series premiered, and even carried a little “Lost in Space” banner beneath its cover title, though the characters and stories continued to differ in many respects from the TV series.


Lost in Space‘s road to television began with a pilot episode, “No Place to Hide,” which CBS network executives liked enough to give creator Irwin Allen a series order. In those days, pilot films were rarely if ever shown on TV, as their primary purpose was as a sales tool. Because of this, “No Place to Hide” lacks several components that would come to define the series by the time of the show’s first episode, “The Reluctant Stowaway.” For example Dr. Zachary Smith and the B-9 Robot, both of whom would become iconic characters, are notably absent. The pilot also wastes no time getting the Jupiter II sent off course (after encountering a meteor shower) and on to its first crash-landing on an unknown alien planet, after which the Robinsons proceed to get into all sorts of trouble.

LIS-S1-pubshotWith the series proper (broadcast in glorious black and white, by golly), the Jupiter II launches from Earth, but this time Dr. Smith is on hand to gum up the works, setting into motion a series of events and adventures that culminate in the ship’s crashing on…wait for it…an unknown alien planet, but not until the third episode.

From there, the Robinsons, Major West, and Dr. Smith (along with the Robot, of course), quickly fall into a pattern whereby strange beings and other creatures and characters show up to give them varying levels of grief for the remainder of the first season. The ensuing two years would see variations on this formula, with the castaways and the Jupiter II escaping this or that planet, having adventures in space for a bit before crashing or being forced to land on some other desolate alien world…which happens to look a lot like the one they left behind however many episodes prior.

J2-campsiteHmm….that one rock looks kinda familiar.

Lost in Space was one of several science fiction television shows that occupies a cherished place in my childhood. I spent many an afternoon watching reruns of the series in the 1970s, along with such stalwarts as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Space: 1999, and, of course, Star Trek. I even read the odd issue of the Space Family Robinson comic, and I remember wondering why it was so different from the show.

j2-liftoffThough it takes its share of jokes and pokes due to some of its more outlandish storylines, Lost in Space still holds quite a bit of charm for me. I’m the first to admit that I don’t watch it the way I do the original Star Trek, but there are still many episodes–particularly from the first season–that I have no trouble revisiting. Still, it’s obvious to see the line of demarcation with respect to the stories when it became apparent that Irwin Allen and the show’s creative staff were responding to the fact that Dr. Smith, young Will Robinson, and the Robot were the show’s most popular characters. This naturally came at the expense of actors Guy Williams and Mark Goddard, the show’s alleged leads and action heroes. Indeed, we never really got even a single episode that focused heavily on Major West, who often was relegated to being second fiddle to John Robinson (when either or both characters weren’t playing second fiddle to Smith. Oh, the pain…the pain.).

The show attempted to re-invent itself to varying degrees with each successive season, especially once the 1966 Batman series premiered and everyone saw how well unabashed camp was being received by audiences. The show’s third year tried to return to the sorts of stories that characterized the first season, but a lot of the campiness was ingrained at that point. It also was obvious that the idea was running out of steam. That said, there are still some fun episodes even in that third season. While Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was always the stronger Irwin Allen show for me, there’s no denying the nostalgia value Lost in Space commands. I mean, come on….


Lost in Space was cancelled after its third season, leaving unknown the ultimate fate of the Robinsons. Bill Mumy, Will Robinson himself, had some thoughts on that, and in 1991 began writing a comic series for a now long-defunct company, Innovation. The company went belly up before Mumy could complete his story, which would remain unfinished until 2005 when he published the entire saga as a graphic novel. Good luck getting a copy, and if you do, can I read it?

Today, September 15th, the entire Lost in Space series is being released in a pretty jam-packed Blu-ray set, in celebration of the series’ 50th anniversary. I hear the set’s pretty juicy, and I’m looking forward to checking it out.

The series is a natural candidate for a reboot, which has happened twice so far, first with a Lost in Space feature film in 1998 that was a completely new take on the basic storyline, borrowing various elements from the series to construct its plot of the Jupiter II‘s sabotage and ultimate marooning in the far reaches of space. A radical new interpretation of the basic premise was attempted in 2003 for The Robinsons: Lost in Space, but the pilot was not picked up for a series and many of the set pieces created for the film actually found their way to the soundstages of the new Battlestar Galactica series. There are, of course, persistent rumors of yet another attempt to restart the franchise, which makes a sort of sense. Surely there’s a way for the basic notion to work, right? It has at least once, already, after all.

I guess we’ll see, won’t we?

Meanwhile? Danger, Will Robinson! Lost in Space is 50!

Alien Next Door and Warped: Funny books coming our way.

So, I received an e-Mail from Amazon this morning, informing me about the updated status of a couple of books I’d pre-ordered. To be honest, I’d forgotten I’d ordered them, let alone both together, but for reasons known only to the voices in my head, I found that little bit of trivia amusing. Here’s hoping the funny carries through to the actual books once they get here.

What are we talking about? Well, first up we have this little slice of madness:


Alien Next Door, by Joey Spiotto

From the marketing copy:

See a new, caring side to the legendary science fiction monster as he tends to Jonesy the cat, endeavours to keep his house cleaner than the Nostromo, and searches for his place on a cold, new, alien world: Earth. From facehuggers to feather dusters, discover how the perfect killing machine relaxes after a day of scaring space marines.

I’m sorry, but if you know anything about me, you know this was an instant purchase. I mean, come on.

Books like this crack me the hell up. Recent examples in this vein include Jeffrey Brown‘s line of adorable Star Wars-themed books that began with Darth Vader and Son, which at the time of its release I proclaimed “the greatest Star Wars book ever.” I stand by that, by the way. Another off-kilter favorite is Josh Cooley‘s Movies R Fun, which takes scenes from classic films and presents them as though written for a children’s book.

Yep, I’m definitely not right in the head for liking that one, but it sits so perfectly on the bookshelf next to something like Go the F**k to Sleep, amirite?

Anyway, the second book in my order is this guy:

warped-coverStar Trek: The Next Generation – Warped: An Engaging Guide to the Never-Aired 8th Season, by Mike McMahan

From the cover copy:

In the basement of the Star Trek archives, behind shelves of U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-D models, bags of wigs, and bins of plastic phasers, sits a dusty cardboard box. Inside is a pile of VHS tapes that contain never-before-seen episodes and behind-the-scenes footage for something truly amazing. The world thinks there are only seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but there’s one more. A secret season.

Actually, not really. But that didn’t stop Mike McMahan, creator of the parody Twitter account @TNG_S8, from making a guide full of:

(* Again, not really, of course. This is humor. Sorry.)

So impress your friends and bewilder your enemies with your newfound knowledge of these very lost Star Trek episodes! Engage!”

Of the two books, I suppose I should be at least a little jealous of this one. I mean, it’s based off a Twitter feed, much like Shit My Dad Says, which would seem to indicate that I’m going about this writing thing all wrong, and that I need to concentrate more on being a Twitter smartass. Of course, SMDS went into apparent hibernation after the book deal and short-lived TV series, and I wish Mike McMahan better luck, because his Twitter feed is damned funny.

(To be honest, my main regret about either book is that I didn’t think of this shit first. Grr. Argh.)

Besides, I’m happy to see Star Trek getting in on this kind of action. Embracing this sort of whimsy is that’s long overdue, in my ever-humble opinion. There have been a couple of other tentative steps into this realm, with last year’s Fun with Kirk & Spock and even A Very Klingon Khristmas from 2013. Still, I think we need more of this, because why the hell not, right? I mean this gem has been the gold standard for decades so far as Trek funny books, which just happens to be one of my all-time favorites:


Also? For my money, it’s the only Star Trek canon book out there. That’s right, I said it.

Anyway, that’s the sort of stuff that will be clogging my mailbox in the coming weeks, which should go a long way toward explaining why I’m so screwed in the head. For those of you looking for fun holiday gift ideas? BOOM. You’re welcome.