Today we celebrate Aron Eisenberg's 46th birthday! Eisenberg plays Nog on Star Trek: Deep Space 9 and appears over 40 times on the show as the son of Rom (brother to Quark) and Jake's friend. He was also in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager titled "Initiations.” He is now an accomplished photographer. Check out his work at Aron Scott Photography.
The Away Mission Blog
Back in 1968, episode 17 of Star Trek: The Original Series titled "The Gamesters of Triskelion" aired during the series' second season. After abducting Kirk, Uhura, and Chekov, an advanced being calling himself Galt explains that the crew members are now gladiators of sorts that will fight for the amusement and wagering of the Providers. Several attempts to escape are met with failure and Kirk has to outwit the Providers and get them to agree to not only let him and his crew go free, but to also free the race living on the planet, the Thrall and teach them how to be a free society.
For more than 10 years, Star Trek: The Experience lived at the Las Vegas Hilton and you could immerse yourself in a Trek-themed attraction encompassing 4-D films/simulator rides, go eat at Quark's, gamble on Star Trek slot machines, shop at Trek stores and even get married as a Klingon and a Borg drone looked on. Unfortunately the attraction was closed in September 2008.
Today in 1993, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered with the pilot episode titled "Emissary" that introduces themes that carry on throughout the show. Since Star Trek: The Next Generation was still on the air at the time, the show included a visit from Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart).
DS9 started to shift outside of the pattern of the "alien of the week" and the "reset button" of Star Trek. DS9 explores the interpersonal relationship of the crew and the conflicts and dispute between the various species each with their own agenda and history. The outcomes of these conflicts have repercussions past the end of the episodes. Some of the darker episodes and the morally ambiguous decisions in Trek originated in DS9. Towards the end of its seven year run, DS9 played out more like a serial instead of episodic television. Now in the age of streaming and DVDs, this a show worthy of binge watching and can hold its own even after a decade.
Sadly we begin our "Today in Trek" series with a sad day for Trek fans...actually all science fiction fans: 14 years ago today Ray Walston died at the age of 86. While he will be remembered for his role in My Favorite Martian, Mr. Walston endeared us with his portrayal of Boothby, the sage Starfleet Academy groundskeeper in Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The First Duty” and later in Star Trek: Voyager in the episodes “In the Flesh” and “The Fight.”
Harlan Ellison, the multi-award-winning writer of science fiction and fantasy, had a stroke last week and is recovering in a Southern California hospital. He is grumpy -- and everyone considers that a good sign.
Patton Oswalt tweeted: "'I gotta go do some physical therapy on my stupid ... arm.' -- actual quote from when I spoke to Harlan Ellison earlier. He'll be fine."
Ellison expects to spend several weeks doing physical therapy and then be released.
Last Summer my husband broke out his complete collection of Stargate SG-1 DVDs and watched them in order, not skipping one episode. Stargate SG-1 was a series based on the motion picture Stargate, which originally starred Kurt Russell and James Spader. The series recast the two leads and had greater success on the small screen than in the theater. Stargate SG-1 aired for a remarkable ten years from 1997 to 2007. The series was first shown on the cable channel Showtime in and then later on the Sci-Fi Channel.
Over the couple of months it took to view all 214 episodes and the two films made for DVD, we not only saw Colonel Jack O'Neil and his SG-1 team battle the wicked Apophis and his army of Jaffa, the relentless Replicators, and the overbearing Ori, we also got to learn in very vast detail the lives of the team outside of their work lives. We learned O'Neil's pain of losing his son and his joy of fishing, our hearts were tugged as we witnessed many of Samantha Carter's failed relationships, we learned how Daniel Jackson lost his parents and how he was perceived by his college classmates, and we watched as former Jaffa, Teal'c, attempted to fit in with Earth's lifestyle. Although not every episode was memorable, I came to the realization that we, the sci-fi fan community, are being shortchanged these days when it comes to science fiction on television.
Beginning around 2007, just as Stargate SG-1 was finishing its run, the Sci-Fi Channel (now known as Syfy), and other cable channels started to cut episode orders of their series. Instead of getting 20 to 22 episodes a season, shows got cut to 18, and currently Syfy series like Defiance and Lost Girl get 13 episodes each and summer favorite, Falling Skies on TNT, has only 10 episodes per season. These short season series, although well liked, leave a lot to be desired.
One of the major problems about shortened seasons is that it takes sometimes over a year to get new episodes. Last Summer, my husband and never missed an episode of Defiance, but I can barely recall the characters and the major plot points now that it is about to start its second season. In order to get back up to speed, it will be necessary to binge watch the show. When sci-fi series have a longer season arc, it can be broken up and aired throughout the year, bridging the gap between seasons. Perhaps many people will not even bother to watch season two because they have forgotten about the show or lost interest. Even with the advent of Facebook and other social sites, it takes a lot to keep a fan base going strong.
Another negative to shorter seasons is that series writers do not have much room to be creative and branch out from their main story arcs. Sci-fi series like the Star Trek franchise, which had between 24 to 26 episodes a season had an opportunity to go beyond their core story plots and characters and show different aspects of their imaginary world. If Star Trek: The Next Generation had been relegated to only 13 episodes a season, we would have most likely never seen Captain Picard play his Holodeck alter-ego Dixon Hill in episodes like "The Big Goodbye" or been charmed by Data's version of Sherlock Holmes in "Elementary, My Dear Data". Star Trek: Voyager would most likely been void of the "Captain Proton" episodes since the writers being relegated to plotting out 13 episodes would have had to base most of their storylines about getting back to the Alpha Quadrant. The myriad of sub-plots and character arcs have helped Star Trek, as a whole, to endure over the years even though no incarnation has been on the television since 2005.
One of the largest issues with having short seasons is that most of the characters do not have the time they need to develop and grow. The bulk of the episodes have to be about moving the plot forward, therefore in order to keep the audience interested, most short series creators these days focus their shows on which characters will live or die during the season. Take for instance the highly popular AMC series "The Walking Dead". Regular viewers have got accustomed to anticipating major cast deaths near the middle and during the last episode of the season, and when they die, Twitter and Facebook accounts go nuts for a brief time, then it is back to watching and waiting for the next slaughter of characters. It is hard to get attached to a character when you know that they may be dead after the commercial break, and even if they have been around for a while, how well did you, as the viewer get to know them? There is just not time to write those little memorable moments that make characters endearing and enduring to the audience. Even though "The Walking Dead" is popular now, will it still be a staple in households ten years after the series is over? What was Rick's wife name again?* Did you have to think about it? How about the Star Trek: The Next Generation fans out there? Do you remember the name of Captain Picard's fish?** I bet you do.
The television industry as a whole has suffered financially in the last ten years due to the loss of viewers because of new media and the antiquated Nielsen rating system, which helps to determine the cost of advertising by a show's viewership. Since there has not been a system put in place to determine viewership of television series that are streamed on the internet, the cut in advertising dollars has led to lower budgets for networks and cable stations, and hence, shorter television episode seasons. Sci-fi fans may never again have the opportunity to enjoy new episodes of a show that last months instead of weeks. We may have to continue to rely on fan fiction and the occasional comic book or novels to expand the universe our favorite shows are based in.
*On The Walking Dead, Rick's wife's name was Lori.
**Captain Picard's fish was named Livingston.
The Rebirth of Elegant Horror
Does "elegant horror" seem like an oxymoron to you? It shouldn't. There was a time when horror shared the same literary and theatrical heights as classical romances or tragedies. Then somewhere on the timeline of intelligent entertainment history, mainstream horror veered. Went not so much the way of erotica as porn, if you will.
Now, for me, particularly cinematically speaking, one of the great harbingers of the return to elegant horror was actually billed as a sci-fi flick. Bet you know which one I mean: Ridley Scott's Alien. Some may argue that The Exorcist holds the honor of beginning the rebirth, but I see that classic as being a hallowed outlier, a rebel in a rising age of schlocky living deads, shocky chainsaw massacres and scream-queening slasher nightmares that still, of course, rule a considerable kingdom of gruesome.
Is it weird, then, that I -an author often billed as a horror writer- never learned to love the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween or Saw? Well, not really, when you consider that my early influences were Edgar Allan Poe and Rod Serling. It's true that the morés of Poe's and Serling's times repressed the grotesque. But I believe, even if that were not the case, they still would have insisted that the gore serve the story. Not the other way around.
Which brings me back to our modern times and why I feel we are enjoying a new age of elegant horror. Literarily speaking, it's been coming for a while now. Consider Guillermo del Toro (whether in books or movies, dude kicks elegant horror ass), Thomas Harris, Anne Rice and Peter Straub. Now, don't be snippy because I didn't include Stephen King. I am a great admirer of Stephen King. He is legendary. But I don't believe his work can be defined as elegant horror, even though some very elegant horror movies have been made based on his novels.
Cinematically speaking, today's return to elegant horror occurs more often on the small screen than the great, silver one (if you can call today's t.v. screens small these days): The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, my personal favorite Hannibal and even the Netflix yawner Hemlock Grove fits the mold. Were you a fan of Dexter? I can see that.
So. What's my point? My point is that there is, and always has been, a large audience enthralled with the kind of horror that cuts deeper than a meat clever or a chainsaw; that probes softer, more vulnerable parts of our humanity than mere muscle tissue and organs. The old masters understood how to do that. So do the contemporary masters, and I am in absolute and bizarrely chilling heaven to see the literary and cinematic worlds come to their senses and embrace them.
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Think you might be a closet elegant horror fan? Here's some of my favorites to cut your teeth on...or deeply into your soul:
Movies: The Exorcist, Alien, The Shining, Rosemary's Baby, Pumpkinhead (much ignored and underrated), Let the Right One In (the original Swedish flick), Let Me In (the British/American version of Let the Right One In), The Silence of the Lambs, The Sixth Sense, The Others
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K.L. Nappier is the author of "The Full Wolf Moon Trilogy", "Voyagers", "Strange Eight" and other supernatural thrillers and dark fiction. For more information, go to www.KLNappier.com
Many fans of sci-fi have a love/hate relationship with the Syfy Channel. The channel that gave the cylons a plan in the re-imagined "Battlestar Galactica" and introduced us to the quirky town of "Eureka", also has a nasty little habit of cancelling these brilliant shows before their time. Last Summer, we cringed again when Syfy continued their tradition by announcing that "Warehouse 13" 's shortened, Fifth Season will be its last.
"Warehouse 13" is a rare gem of a fantasy show that mixes drama with comedy. The series originally premiered in July 2009 in which two Secret Service Agents: one a buttoned-up, by-the-book beauty by the name of Myka Berning, the other an impulsive, intuitive fellow by the name of Pete Lattimer, were recruited by the enigmatic Mrs. Frederick to work for Artie Nielsen, the custodian of Warehouse 13. Their mission was to collect enchanted artifacts before they can cause damage to the people around them. Sometimes people would inadvertently use these objects without knowing the problems they could cause, but many times, unsavory individuals would seek out the objects to use for their own personal gain.
As the series progressed, the show gained two new agents: a tech-savvy but troubled young woman named Claudia, and Steve Jinks, an ATF recruit who detects when someone is lying. They all lived at Leena's Bed & Breakfast, and Leena also helped to organize the Warehouse. Among many of the artifacts they have located have been Jimi Hendrick's guitars, one that can cause electrical storms and Lewis Carroll's Looking Glass, which can trap people inside and let others out. Members of the team have be trapped in a 1940's murder mystery film, traveled into the bodies of 1960's Warehouse agents, have been possessed, brought back from the dead, and have stopped the world from being destroyed on more than one occasion.
In addition to the original story lines, one of the things that sets the series apart from other genre shows has been the caliber of its guest stars. Lindsey Wagner, "The Bionic Woman" has guest starred as Artie's love interest. "Star Trek: Voyager" alum Jeri Ryan has had a recurring role as Pete Lattimer's ex-wife and Kate Mulgrew portrayed Pete's mother. Brent Spiner from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" carried an entire story arc. "Firefly" actors Jewel Staite and Sean Maher teamed up for an episode. Most recently "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" actors James Marsters and Anthony Stewart Head have had recurring roles.
Beginning Monday, April 14th, "Warehouse 13" will start airing its final episodes. However, you can meet Eddie McClintock, "Pete Lattimer" himself at The Away Mission in Tampa the weekend of April 11- 13th. Eddie McClintock will be available for autographs and photo ops Saturday and Sunday.