Saturday, January 23, 2016

Legal Geek - New Home

As a part of archiving all of my segments online (independent from the Current Geek show, for those who want just the segments or need to refer back to one), I moved all of my script posts to a new blog.  Please give a follow to the blog below if interested.  Thanks!

Also, the audio is on under my username BuckeyeFitzy. Enjoy!

All new posts will show up on that blog, and this blog will remain for gaming focused posts. Eventually (although it will be a much slower process), Character Insight will also be archived and moved, so stay tuned.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Character Insight No. 174: (Medical Assistant) Martinez

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe. An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.

Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we profile the most prolific background character in The Next Generation, crewman Martinez.

Martinez 2373
(Martinez the nurse, during the movies, courtesy Memory Alpha)

Martinez first shows up as a crewman grade officer in the season two episode The Child, although his first appearance as a medical assistant in sickbay came later in The Survivors. He then appears in many more episodes as a background sickbay character throughout season 3 through 7, totaling 84 episodes in all along with the movies First Contact and Insurrection.

Ironically, Martinez is nicknamed Dr. Death in many of the scripts for these episodes, despite being given a name early in Season 3. In addition to his medical duties, he is one of the parents with a child on board, as shown in the episode New Ground, which is a unique construct of this version of Star Trek. Although he initially appeared more on the bridge and in Ten Forward, once his character finds a groove as a medical assistant, he becomes more regular and rises up the ranks through ensign to lieutenant, junior grade. That's more promotion than you can shake a Harry Kim at!

Although Martinez does not have many speaking lines, he is one of a few background characters to merit some different bits of dialogue over the years. That being said, his most often-used phrase on camera is one to be expected:
"Yes, Doctor."

Although Alyssa Ogawa probably has the most fame for being on the medical staff under Dr. Crusher, Martinez is the steady hand you see both in the background of those sickbay scenes as well as at many other crew functions like birthday parties and formal dinners and ceremonies. It is a bit of a shame that we don't get to see more of his character other than in the job setting, although with such a big ensemble cast, it can be hard to expand the universe to be much bigger.

Martinez was played by regular background actor Michael Braveheart, who was not credited for his appearances despite collecting more appearances than any other background character in the series. He played various Klingons and other aliens in Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise, and he can also be seen in Cagney & Lacey as well as the Steven Spielberg film Always.

Until next time, be nice to your nurses, as they can save your life.


Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Character Insight No. 173: Legal Geek Breakdown of Axanar Copyright Suit [also Legal Geek No 60]

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe. An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here 

Welcome back to Legal Geek, I mean, Character Insight! This week, we take a look at the reasons for the copyright lawsuit against the Star Trek fan film Axanar and provide analysis of the merits of the claims for both sides. For those not familiar with my Legal Geek segments, if you enjoy hearing rapid breakdowns of trending topics where the nerd world meets the legal landscape, check out my segments like this every week on the Current Geek show by Frogpants. Now, let's dive in,...

star trek
(Star Trek stuff, courtesy CNN)

As Mike and Darrell covered last week, Paramount and CBS, who jointly own IP rights to Star Trek, sued Axanar Productions and Alec Peters for copyright infringement. Why did this fan film production get singled out over others like Red Shirt Diaries and Star Trek Renegades?

It probably comes down to two factors: money, and the upcoming active use of the IP by both companies: Paramount with Star Trek Beyond, and CBS with the unnamed 2017 TV series. Axanar has raised $1.3 million, which is significantly larger than what other similar film projects have produced. For reference, Star Trek Renegades is the only thing in the ballpark money-wise, having recently Kickstarted for $400,000, but there's a ton of original Star Trek actors reprising roles in that production which may favor against stopping it with a lawsuit. That being said, I wouldn't be comfortable as Star Trek Renegades given what is now happening to Axanar, as it always comes down to money in the legal world. Otherwise, there's no reason to waste valuable resources on litigation. 

But how will that all come out? Not well for Axanar, in my view. 

First, Axanar is unabashedly infringing some Star Trek copyrights, including several characters like Garth of Izar and General Chang, the starship Enterprise, and several Klingon ships. That's enough to make a few actionable copyright claims, with damages of potentially $150,000 per creative item infringed. 

Peters first noted that when his team met with CBS prior to production, the network would not offer any specific guidelines for what would make an acceptable fan film project. CBS apparently indicated he couldn't make money off the project, and Peters argues that he is not making money off the project so it has to be allowed. Copyright infringement and fair use is not such an easy equation, unfortunately. Merely making money or not does little to decide the issue. 

Peters also argues that fan films like Axanar are fair use permissible despite the copyrights. Fair use is a four factor balancing test and it is possibly the most complex test in intellectual property law. 

One factor is the purpose and character of the use, and fan films are more like disfavored commercial products than favored works like parody and commentary. Another factor is the nature of the copyrighted work, and specific film characters and specific starships in a fictional work is a highly creative work rather than less creative and less protected things like collections of facts. A third factor is the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and with respect to the characters it's an absolute copy of all of the creative expressions and features of the character. The final factor is the effect of the use on the potential market for the original, and while Axanar argues this improves the market for Star Trek, it's a gray area when the original is also coming back on the market. 

So all told, the first three factors strongly favor Paramount and CBS, and the final factor cuts down the middle. Even though Fair Use can be hard to predict, this seems like a rare clear-cut case where Fair Use does not apply. 

The Bottom Line: Fan films are usually fun for consumers, but creators have rights that must be respected, and without the protections of Fair Use, Axanar is likely doomed unless a settlement on a license can be negotiated. If CBS and Paramount were willing to bring the lawsuit, it's not likely to make an easy settlement. 

Character Insight will be back to normal next week, but if you enjoyed this, check out Legal Geek on the Current Geek show!

Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Character Insight No. 172: General Martok

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe. An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here 

Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we profile the Klingon General and then Chancellor Martok based on a recommendation from Chris on Twitter, the regular Ten Forward topic producer. 

(Martok, courtesy Memory Alpha)

Martok appears first in late Season 4 of Deep Space Nine, and he becomes a staple of the stories involving Klingons and the Dominion War. Indeed, he ends up in a close friendship with Worf, who also brings a lot of Klingon-type stories to these latter seasons of the show.

The only backstory we learn about Martok is from his own recollection, in the episode Once More Unto the Breach.  He grew up in the House of Martok when that was not a part of the high aristocracy, but he earns a battlefield commission as an officer after successfully defending a Klingon general during a surprise Romulan attack. He's a high riser who makes it to the rank of General by the time of the events on Deep Space Nine.

His first few appearances on the show are actually as a Dominion founder who shapeshifts into Martok while General Martok is in an internment camp for two years. This real Martok escapes in the episode By Inferno's Light, but not before we learn about the daily struggle for a captive Klingon used to train Jem'Hadar warriors in hand-to-hand combat, including losing an eye.

Worf serves as a close mentor to Martok during his imprisonment and then after he is made commander of the Klingon forces on Deep Space Nine. Although Martok could be a gruff angry character at times, he is an excellent judge of character and that comes in very handy when fighting the shapeshifters of the Dominion. He led Klingon forces in many significant Dominion War battles, including the battle to retake Deep Space Nine as well as the charge to end the war on the Cardassian homeworld.

From You are Cordially Invited:
Lt. Commander Worf: Anyone can see that we are hopelessly mismatched. She is a Trill, I'm a Klingon. She has had five marriages; this would be my first. When she is laughing, I am somber. When I am happy, she is crying. She plays tongo with the Ferengi bartender; I can barely stand him. She mocks everything, while I take everything seriously. She is nothing like the woman I thought I would marry. Martok: We are not accorded the luxury of choosing the women we fall in love with. Do you think Sirella is anything like the woman I thought that I'd marry? She is a prideful, arrogant, mercurial woman, who shares my bed far too infrequently for my taste. And yet... I love her, deeply. We Klingons often tout our prowess in battle, our desire for glory and honor above all else. But how hollow is the sound of victory without someone to share it with. Honor gives little comfort to a man alone in his home... and in his heart.

In the meantime, he also becomes Chancellor when Gowron tries to dishonor Martok by taking over the fleet and assigning him to losing battles, leading to a showdown where Worf kills Gowron. Martok invites Worf and his family to join the House of Mogh, and he establishes Worf as Federation Ambassador to the Klingons after the Dominion War is won by his leadership and battle prowess.

Martok adds an interesting Klingon dynamic to the latter seasons of Deep Space Nine, helping advance the character of Worf as well by an external influence. He's always got some interesting views, such as marriage being a disguised and subtle form of combat. For that, he rises above the ranks of typical boring Klingons of the era into a character that is good to see in the complex and dark Dominion War stories.

Until next time, earn your honor.

Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Character Insight No. 171: Best of Kathryn Janeway

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe. An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here 

Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we continue the "Best Of" series with a look at our final character from Voyager, Captain Kathryn Janeway. Here are some of her best episodes. 

Janeway Season7.jpg

(The Captain, courtesy Wikipedia)

In the Season 2 episode Deadlock, a bizarre nebula causes Voyager to be duplicated into one highly damaged version and another undamaged version connected by space-time rifts. This leads Captain Janeway to debate with herself, or another version of herself, the appropriate fate of the crew when one Voyager has to be self-destructed for the sake of the other.

Captain Kathryn Janeway #1: We can't just stand by and let you all be killed. Captain Kathryn Janeway #2: I'm not about to let that happen. I'll destroy this ship. Captain Kathryn Janeway #1: I don't suppose there's any way I can change your mind. I know how stubborn you can be.

Although this premise is taken to an extreme limit, you learn a lot about how Janeway thinks and values her crew and ship in that episode. In the two-part Season 4 episode Year of Hell, Voyager ends up in a year long war with a time-manipulating warlord who is messing with timelines to restore his people and resurrect his wife. This year of conflict pushes everyone to the brink, including the Captain who must sacrifice her ship in an effort to restore everything back to normal.

Captain Kathryn Janeway: Tuvok, I can hear your objections already. I am not leaving. Tuvok: Given Voyager's damaged state, the probability of your surviving an armed conflict... is marginal. Captain Kathryn Janeway: Oh, I know the odds. But I have to stay. Voyager's done too much for us. Tuvok: Curious. I have never understood the Human compulsion to emotionally bond with inanimate objects. This vessel has done nothing. It is an assemblage of bulkheads, conduits, tritanium. Nothing more. Captain Kathryn Janeway: Oh, you're wrong. It's much more than that. This ship has been our home. It's kept us together. It's been part of our family. As illogical as this might sound, I feel as close to Voyager as I do to any other member of my crew. It's carried us, Tuvok - even nurtured us. And right now, it needs one of us.

When not being stereotypically heroic with her ship, we catch glimpses of how hard it would be for Janeway to let go of her duty to her crew and the mission in the Season 2 episode Resolutions. Covered by Mike and Darrell recently, this episode features Janeway struggling with a transition to a new life with Chakotay stranded on a planet where they contracted a deadly virus preventing them from leaving with Voyager.

Captain Kathryn Janeway: You know, Chakotay, it occurs to me we aren't exactly in a command structure anymore. Maybe you should call me "Kathryn". Commander Chakotay: Give me a few days on that one, okay?

Finally, we have the Season 3 episode Coda, in which Janeway experiences what she thinks is death but is really just an alien trying to coax her spirit away from her body to feed on it. The alien takes the form of her admiral father, which leads to some interesting dialogue showing Janeway's past and values.

Captain Kathryn Janeway: I have to know what's going to happen to them. To see Kes continue to grow and learn. To know if Tom and B'Elanna will ever stop sparring with each other and develop a real friendship. Admiral Edward Janeway: You can only be an observer of their lives, never a participant. Captain Kathryn Janeway: I don't care. I'd rather be here in spirit than not at all. A captain doesn't abandon ship!

Captain Janeway has a very dynamic character arc during the seven seasons of Voyager, and it is truly difficult to narrow down her best character pieces. However, for further enjoyment, most of the Borg episodes also reveal how far Janeway is willing to stretch herself for the sake of Starfleet and the crew, and these should not be missed either. Also check out Counterpoint from Season 5, which doesn't have great quotes but it is perhaps the best Janeway-centric episode in the series.

Until next time, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and don't go down with your ship. 


Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Character Insight No. 170: Star Wars/Star Trek Crossovers

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe. An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here 

Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we celebrate the release of the first trailer for Star Trek Beyond as well as the Star Wars The Force Awakens premiere with a look at how these mega franchises have crossed over.

The Enterprise in a spot of bother
(A screenshot of the trailer, courtesy Paramount Pictures)

Star Wars is approaching its 40th anniversary while Star Trek celebrates the big 5-0 next year, but these science fiction mega franchises have not had a ton of crossover in actors, etc. However, one part that defines these franchises at least in the theater is special effects, and both have used Industrial Light and Magic often for the visual effects we love on the big screen.

Turning to those actors, before the JJ Abrams reboots of both film franchises, the only actor who had crossed over was Felix Silla, who played a Talosian on The Cage as well as an Ewok on Return of the Jedi. However, now Deep Roy has crossed over as Droopy McCool in Return of the Jedi and Scotty's friend Keenser in the recent Star Trek films. Speaking of Scotty, according to IMDB this week Simon Pegg is to appear somewhere in The Force Awakens, which would make him the most obvious crossover actor yet thanks to his prominent Trek role as Scotty.

If we go a bit farther into the expanded universe of Star Wars and the cartoons, there are a lot more notable names which cross over from Star Trek. These actors include George Takei, Brock Peters, Brent Spiner, the aforementioned Simon Pegg, Ron Perlman, among others.

Of course, we would be remiss if we didn't also mention JJ Abrams himself, who directed Star Trek 09 as well as Star Trek Into Darkness before moving on to co-write and direct The Force Awakens. He made Star Trek fans pretty happy in 2009 and hopes are high that he can bring the same film magic to rekindle Star Wars as well. If he does, he will be the unquestioned king of this era of mega science fiction franchises.

So there has been crossover, even though there have as of yet been no explicit character crossovers or story crossovers. These franchises are set in different time periods, but don't be surprised if many years form now a crossover occurs at some point. We could then hopefully settle one of the great debates of our time: Enterprise or Millennium Falcon?

Oh, it turns out Neil Degrasse Tyson already solved that one for us: (Insert Quote)

But seriously, both ships make great bottle openers on Think Geek, for what it's worth. Until next time, let's all geek out together and laugh at those poor souls who just don't get the beauty and fun of both these science fiction franchises.

 ------------   Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Character Insight No. 169: Best of Kes

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe. An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here 

Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we continue the "Best Of" series with a look at the best episodes featuring Kes, from Voyager. 


(Kes, courtesy Wikipedia)

Kes is one of two Delta Quadrant residents who become part of Voyager's crew as a result of the events of the pilot Caretaker. She is an Ocampan, a life form which has psionic powers and a 9-year lifespan. Thus, even though she serves as a medical assistant, she eventually leaves the crew after three seasons, making way for Seven of Nine as a new character. Here are some of her best moments. 

In the Season 3 episode Before and After, Kes is shown participating in a year-long battle with the Krenim and being infected with particles from a Chroniton torpedo, which leads to a backwards journey through an alternative version of her life when the Doctor accidentally activates these particles when trying to keep her alive. In this timeline, she marries Tom Paris and their daughter marries Harry Kim.

Kes: If there's one thing that this experience has taught me, Captain, it's that there's no time like the present. 

In the season 2 episode Elogium, Kes is caused by some space-dwelling life forms to prematurely enter the once-per-life Ocampan female reproductive state. She must deal with the potential loss of her only opportunity to have a child, and the Doctor helps her with this as much as she helps him with his growth as a character. 

Neelix: A... Awful! How can you eat it? 
Kes: I can't stop eating it. I've had six bowls! And the reason it tastes so strange, I've put a container of nitrogenated soil in it. 
Neelix: Dirt? You're eating dirt? 

The Doctor: Her unusual appetite may merely indicate a nutrient deficiency. It is not unusual for humanoids to crave foods that are rich in the very vitamins and minerals that their bodies are lacking. 
Kes: You... you can't mean my body lacks dirt? 

Finally, in the season 3 episode Warlord, Kes has the consciousness of an Ilaran tyrant transferred into her own and she must fight this consciousness off to regain her individuality. This leads to the end of her romantic relationship with Neelix, as well as trauma over being caused to do violent acts when under the tyrant's control. 

Kes: How can I worry about my own wellbeing when... so many people have suffered and died? 
Lieutenant Tuvok: You were not responsible for Tieran's actions. 
Kes: I can't help wondering whether I could've fought harder. 
Lieutenant Tuvok: It was your absolute refusal to surrender which defeated him. You cannot ask more of yourself than that. 

Kes was an interesting character at times, but her development was more stilted than Neelix, and she ended up being a character the show could do without. Although the actress who played Kes has recently gotten into some legal trouble, we shouldn't let that color our enjoyment of this character provided by the early Voyager show writers trying to bring that Delta Quadrant flavor to the crew.

Until next time, have a great Thanksgiving!

Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy.