Tuesday, December 11, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 32: Geordi La Forge

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, our subject is Geordi La Forge from TNG.

Geordi is a lieutenant commander who serves as Chief Engineer aboard the Enterprise under Captain Picard. Geordi earned the position by showing dedication and the willingness to work harder than everyone else around him. For example, Geordi stayed up all night fixing a shuttle to improve engine efficiency following an offhand remark by Picard on an inspection tour, which got Geordi a spot on Enterprise as a helmsman.

Geordi was born blind due to a birth defect, and he wears a VISOR from the age of five until the movies. The VISOR allows Geordi to "see" electromagnetic signals across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, including infrared and ultraviolet light and beyond. This ability gives Geordi some advantages in detecting anomalies and problems where other engineers cannot. The VISOR is replaced with ocular implants during the movies.

Geordi attended Zefram Cochrane High School, and he was highly inspired by Cochrane and the first warp flight. He shares a close friendship with Data, which helps him overcome some hiccups in romance.

La Forge was named for a quadriplegic Star Trek fan named George La Forge. Tim Russ narrowly missed out on playing this role, but he ended up getting his own prominent role as Tuvok in Voyager.

The best episodes featuring Geordi include Booby Trap, Hero Worship, and I Borg:

Our notable quote this week comes from the episode Booby Trap:
"I just don't get it, Guinan. I can field-strip a fusion reactor; I can realign a power transfer tunnel. Why can't I make anything work with a woman like Christy? It's like... I don't know what to do. I don't know what to say."
Actor: Levar Burton played La Forge, and he is also known for starring on the kids show Reading Rainbow as well as a lead role on the miniseries Roots.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 31: Gary Mitchell

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, our subject is Gary Mitchell from the TOS episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before."

As heard on this show last week, Gary Mitchell may be a major character or villain in the 2013 Star Trek movie. Mitchell is a character that appears only on the rightful pilot of Star Trek TOS, and would be a nice callback for the alternate universe created by JJ Abrams and the other writers.

Mitchell serves as a helmsman aboard the Enterprise before his incident with the galactic barrier. Mitchell is long-time friends with Captain Kirk thanks to a relationship that began when Mitchell was at Starfleet Academy and Kirk was an instructor. Mitchell almost died for Kirk by taking a poison dart meant for Kirk later on during the careers of both officers.

Mitchell also tried to hook Kirk up with a little blonde lab technician while in the Academy, and Kirk almost married her. If this love interest is explored in the new movie, that character will likely be Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, who also was transformed into a god-like entity by the galactic barrier in this episode.

Mitchell was affected by the mysterious galactic barrier, and it enhanced his likely already-strong telepathic tendencies. Mitchell displayed psionic abilities including telepathy, telekinesis, the ability to control energy and manipulate matter, and hypercognition. If not for the last selfless act of Dr. Dehner, Kirk would not have defeated Mitchell to save the Enterprise.

The silver contact lenses worn to symbolize the transformation of Mitchell only had a pinhole to see through and hurt the eyes of the actors if worn for more than a few minutes, but this forced Mitchell to tilt his head back to see other actors, giving an appropriate air of arrogance and superiority for the character.

Our notable quote this week:
"Morals are for men, not gods."
Actor: Gary Lockwood played Mitchell, and he is also known for appearances on 1960's movies the Lieutenant and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Monday, November 26, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 30: Ambassador Soval

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, our subject is Ambassador Soval from Enterprise.

Soval serves as ambassador for Vulcan to Earth during the era in which Earth refined warp drive and launched the Enterprise starship. Soval always expressed that Earth should use great caution in exploring the galaxy. His conservative nature led him to battle often with Jonathan Archer and his father Henry before his death.

Soval backed Captain Gardner to lead the Enterprise, but that advice was ignored and Archer led the ship into its first exploration journeys. Soval was a critical piece in the ongoing negotiations between Andorians and Vulcans, and he had to learn to work with Archer after the captain earned the trust of the Andorians. Soval was also a key reason why T'Pol was required to serve as first officer aboard the Enterprise, a role that served the crew of Enterprise well over time as opposed to being a hinderance.

Soval eventually admitted that he earned a respect of humans thanks to his many years serving as ambassador to the planet. His tough love approach seemed to work well, despite his cautionary advice often being ignored. Soval is one of only four characters to appear in all four seasons of Enterprise as a non-regular cast member. Soval appears on 11 total episodes, including several of the most important episodes of the Enterprise series.

The best episodes featuring Soval include Cease Fire, The Forge, and Awakening.

Our notable quotes this week comes from the episode The Forge (ENT 4):
"We don't know what to do about Humans. Of all the species we've made contact with, yours is the only one we can't define. You have the arrogance of Andorians, the stubborn pride of Tellarites. One moment, you're as driven by your emotions as Klingons, and the next, you confound us by suddenly embracing logic."
Actor: Gary Graham played Soval, and he is also known for appearances on the Alien Nation movies and more recently on The Jace Hall Show.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Monday, November 19, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 29: 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, our subject is Captain Kathryn Janeway from Voyager.



Janeway served as commanding officer aboard the Voyager, which enabled her to be the first Federation captain to traverse and explore the Delta Quadrant. Despite her humble beginnings as a farm girl born in Bloomington, Indiana (home of the Hoo-Hoo-Hoosiers), she grew up as a doubter and skeptic with a scientific mind thanks to the influence of her father. That let her strive to the highest ranks to Starfleet.

Janeway is the first female lead or captain in the Star Trek series, and that move came with some controversy. While some of the more vocal fanboys wanted another gung-ho male captain like Kirk or even Picard, Janeway continued to break barriers like Uhura on TOS. This was also a nod to Gene Roddenberry, who wanted female lead characters in TOS but was denied by 60's television executives.

Janeway's birthplace is a nod to Jeri Taylor, the co-creator of Voyager who was born there and went to Indiana University. Janeway was originally to be called Elizabeth Janeway, but legal aspects made the producers change the name away from that name because a well-known American feminist writer shared that name. French-Canadian actress Genevieve Bujold asked that the character be renamed to Nicole Janeway, but this name did not stick after Bujold quit the show after two days of taping.

Janeway loves coffee and prefers it black because once you go black, you never go back. Her obsession with the morning drink of choice for America's workforce has even led to Darrell parodying her in a twitter avatar. Janeway also holds the distinction of being the second Starfleet captain assimilated by the Borg, but she was saved from the worst of it by a neural suppressant developed by the Doctor.

The best episodes featuring Janeway include Basics, Prey, and Equinox

Our notable quotes this week comes from the episodes Deadlock (VOY 2) and Hunters (VOY 4):
"We're Starfleet Officers. Weird is part of the job."
"Coffee: the finest organic suspension ever devised... I beat the Borg with it."
Actor: Kate Mulgrew played Janeway, and she is also known for her extended role in over 400 episodes of the soap opera Ryan's Hope.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 28: Miles O'Brien

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, our subject is Miles O'Brien from Deep Space Nine and The Next Generation.

O'Brien serves as transporter chief on the Enterprise-D before moving on to become Chief of Operations aboard Deep Space Nine. O'Brien was only a small role on The Next Generation television series, but the character was liked enough to make a major character on Deep Space Nine.

O'Brien was an enlisted personnel instead of a Starfleet officer, and the only one featured other than Janice Rand in TOS. That also led to his rank becoming something of an enigma and changing target. He was referred to as an ensign, a lieutenant, a Chief Petty Officer, and a Warrant Officer at different times.

The Deep Space Nine writers always included one or two "O'Brien must suffer" episodes in each season because his struggles while being a common man just trying to do his job resonated more with audiences that struggles of other characters.

O'Brien had a ritual when going into battle of recording a "goodbye" message to his wife Keiko and children, and he recorded at least 11 such messages in five years on Enterprise. O'Brien's closest friendship is with Dr. Bashir on Deep Space Nine, as these two friends frequently shared drinks and holosuite historical battle re-enactments.

In addition to his historical holosuite programs, O'Brien loved kayaking and playing music, serving as the cellist in a string quartet aboard Enterprise. O'Brien is the only character to appear in two series premieres and two series finales.

The best episodes featuring O'Brien include Tribunal, Hard Time, and The Wounded.

Our notable quote this week comes from the episode Tribunal (DS9 2):
I've been in service to the Federation - Starfleet - all my adult life. No one has ever questioned my loyalty. No one in my entire life has ever had cause to ask "Miles O'Brien, are you a criminal?" I took an oath to defend the Federation and what it stands for. I don't steal from them, I don't lie to them. I'm no angel; but I try to live every day as the best human being I know how to be. I need my little girl to wake up in the morning and look up at me and see a man she can respect. Until now, she always could. 
Actor: Colm Meaney played O'Brien. He also is known for his role on the movie Con Man and more recently as Doc Durant on Hell on Wheels.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 27: Q

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, our subject is Q from The Next Generation and Voyager. (Samba Time)


Q is the most regular recurring character in The Next Generation, appearing in 8 episodes of that series. Q also appears in one episode of Deep Space Nine and three more in Voyager. Those appearances put Q alongside only Morn, Quark, and Evek as characters to appear in all three of these series.

Q serves as a recurring villain who puts humanity and the crew of the Starship Enterprise to various tests and games. In the end, Q turns out to benefit the Federation despite being terribly difficult to deal with. Underneath his pompous and obnoxious exterior, Q appears to have a hidden agenda to help the interests of humanity.

Q tried to get Riker to join the Q Continuum, and later tried to join the crew of Enterprise himself, but he was rebuffed on both occasions. Q introduces Picard's crew to the Borg nearly two years before the fatefukl encounter in "Best of Both Worlds," and he helps Picard realize the value of some events in his past that led him to have an artifical heart. Q insists that his trial of humanity is ongoing, probably evidenced by his continued appearances throughout DS9 and Voyager.

Q was the first character to use the word "trek" in an episode of Star Trek, doing so in the finale of TNG "All Good Things." He does not use the phrase "Star Trek" though. The name "Q" was used to honor the first president of the UK Star Trek fan club, Janet Quarton. It has been speculated that the Q character was based on an extension of the Trelane character seen in the TOS episode "the Squire of Gothos."

The best episodes featuring Q include Q Who, Deja Q, and All Good Things.

Our notable quote this week comes from the episode Deja Q:
"You're so stolid. You weren't like that before the beard."
Actor: John De Lancie played Q. He also played a long time role on Days of Our Lives, and recently appeared on Breaking Bad (insert Walter White).

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 26: Dr. McCoy

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, our subject is Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy from TOS. (He's Dead Jim!)

Bones is Chief Medical Officer aboard the Enterprise. Dr. McCoy serves as an accomplished surgeon, physician, and psychologist for 27 years under Captain Kirk. He is also one of Kirk's closest friends and allies, along with Spock.

Dr. McCoy attended the University of Mississippi and was a true southern gentleman, at least whenever he did not have to verbally do battle with Spock. His character is similar to an old country doctor, and he distrusts certain types of technology such as the transporter. Bones is a practical joker who has sharp wit and great lines that add so much character to the original Star Trek series.

The nickname Bones stems from the term "sawbones", which was used commonly in 19th Century medicine to refer to military doctors and surgeons who routinely performed amputations on their patients. In the 2009 movie, an unscripted line by new actor Karl Urban explains that a divorce with his ex-wife forced him into space because all he was left with was his bones. Regardless of the origin, the nickname is unique and used often.

Bones is the only crew member who routinely addresses the Captain by his first name, indicating the friendship beyond their duties. Bones also enjoys sharing regular drinks with the Captain, and he prefers Earth alcoholic drinks like bourbon, whiskey, and mint juleps. Stemming from his Southern heritage, Bones also cooks a mean pot of baked beans.

The best episodes featuring Bones include: For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky, Journey to Babel, and Shore Leave.

Our notable quote this week comes from multiple episodes: (I'm a doctor, not a...)
Actor: Deforest Kelley played McCoy and he was the first regular cast member to pass away in 1999 at age 79. Kelley also appeared in Bonanza. Karl Urban took over the role in the 2009 reboot, and he also appeared in the Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as on Xena warrior princess.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Monday, October 22, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 25: Jonathan Archer

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, our subject is Jonathan Archer from Enterprise.(insert - It's Been A Long Road...)

Archer serves as Captain of the Enterprise NX-01. While acting as captain, Archer earned a reputation for being one of the great explorers in Earth's history, including making first contact with many species such as the Andorians, the Klingons, and the Xindi. Archer laid the groundwork for what would become the United Federation of Planets, the organization that all Star Trek series are centered upon.

Archer grew up in San Francisco as the son of a renowned warp scientist, and that kindled his interest in exploring and space travel. Archer is an Eagle Scout who was also an accomplished athlete in the sport of water polo. His experiences as a scout and as a star player shape his views and give him a confidence that he can win or survive, regardless of how grim the circumstances may look to others.

As a result of being the first Earth captain in command of a deep-space exploration starship, Archer has to deal with many moral and ethical dilemmas that begin to develop how the Federation will handle tough situations (for example, The Prime Directive). At times, Archer decides to let nature take its course instead of interfering with cultures. Although Archer is loathe to do it, he is also driven to torture a space pirate and steal a warp coil from another ship in order to stop the Xindi from successfully destroying Earth.

Archer owns a pet beagle named Porthos who he brings with him aboard Enterprise. Porthos is often a sounding board for Archer as the Captain prepares his entries into the Captain's Log. However, Porthos also gets to tag along on many away missions.

Archer was supposed to have the first name Jackson originally, but this was changed during casting because research turned up exactly one person in the USA with the name Jackson Archer. To avoid confusion, his name was changed to the more common Jonathan.

The best episodes featuring Archer include Dear Doctor, Cogenitor, Anomaly, and Shockwave.

Our notable quote this week comes from the episode Impulse in season 3:
"We'll find a way through this. But I won't leave anyone behind, not if I can help it. I can't try to save humanity without holding on to what makes me human.
Actor: Scott Bakula played Archer, and he is best-known for playing the main character Dr. Beckett on Quantam Leap. Bakula more recently appeared regularly on Desperate Housewives (juicy!) and Men of a Certain Age.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dark Souls Game Diary No. 1: Ring That Bell

Back around the beginning of the year, I bought Dark Souls along with Mass Effect 2 and 3 and Batman Arkham City. Of those games, the only progress I made was really made in Mass Effect 2. I did start into Dark Souls but I had become stuck on the Taurus Demon. Eventually I lucked into defeating the first major boss of the game and then got stuck working through Undead Burg towards Undead Parish.

Of course it also didn't help that the first time I played the game was the night before I got sick with a nasty stomach bug making its way around the family. I still haven't eaten the type of pizza I had that night, and Dark Souls honestly had a negative connotation for me that I could not overcome.

Time heals all wounds though, and I was inspired by hearing Bill Abner enjoy the PC port of the game (Prepare to Die Edition). So I picked it up again this week and have finally made some substantive progress. That and the great feelings I have about how the game plays already led to this first in a series of game diaries about my experience with Dark Souls.

For the uninitiated, Dark Souls is a sequel of a game called Demon Souls and both games are known for their brutal level of difficulty. However, if you can stomach the difficulty, what you will find is a game filled with subtle storytelling and a combat model that revitalizes what it means to play an RPG. It doesn't strike you in the first couple hours of game play, but with a few levels under the belt and some harder enemies coming in the second zone of the game (Undead Parish), the nuances of the combat model begin to come out.

You have to be strategic and careful with attacks and counter-attacks. I think it is a certainty that the shield you carry is far more important than the weapon you wield. That makes for a combat that feels more realistic. It is not just button mashing and cooldown timers, although the stamina bar is a manner of limiting your actions. There is real depth here, and I feel like I am just beginning to mine that depth. It brings a whole new meaning to "do a barrel roll" out of the way of that sling blade.

The thing I learned while trying to reach the Gargoyles boss at the top of Undead Parish was that sometimes you have to explore about to find all the connections and spots in this world. The game does not just hand things to you. Discovery is just as important as good tactics. I had been running through the gauntlet all the way from one of the initial bonfires (save points) in Undead Burg to the main church of the Undead Parish. I had made it to the church a couple of times, but the new level of enemies there always put me back at square one with a long road ahead.

But on the other side of the walkway from the entrance to the church is a wooded path the other direction. And what do you know, there's a bonfire right there as well as a blacksmith! This save point stops the 20 minute run back to the church and makes it a 1 minute walk. With this in hand, I was able to work on my tactics against the stronger enemies and not waste time spinning wheels in Undead Burg. This is key to success in Dark Souls...discover and know where your resources are.

The first couple of times I went up to face the gargoyles, it ends quickly and badly. I realized that I was not going to win making small bits of progress with my battle axe (even upgraded a bit at the blacksmith). So I retrained myself by grinding a little bit against the tough church mobs with a longer range and more devastating halberd weapon. The slower swings take a different strategy to use effectively compared to the battle axe.

But more importantly, when I equipped the weapon I did not have sufficient strength to use it one-handed well. I could still use it one-handed, but it was clunky. So I worked up a couple of levels to add some more strength points and the weapon became more and more useful. That is another great system in the game...sure you can use whatever items you pick up, but if they do not fit your character build, then they will not work well. It forces you into intelligent decisions and wise character building.

As a side benefit of grinding a couple of levels, I came up with the shards I needed to upgrade the halberd significantly at the same time I could use it more effectively. That allowed me to finally take some good attempts on the Gargoyles. On about my sixth or seventh serious attempt, I finally got them down. My combat and play skills still are not up to the par this game will require later, but it really feels like progress when you figure a boss out and find a way to defeat it.

And of course, the subtle story begins with you trying to ring two bells, one in the Undead Parish and another in Blighttown. The first bell has been rung. Game on, Dark Souls, game on.

Monday, October 15, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 24: 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, our subject is Kes from Voyager.

Kes comes aboard Voyager with Neelix during the pilot episode following Voyager's stranding in the Delta Quadrant. Kes serves as a field medic under the holographic doctor and as the caretaker of the airponics bay, which is used to grow edible vegetation for the crew.

Kes is an Ocampa, which is the race that was sheltered and guided by the Nacene Caretaker follownig the accidental damage caused to the atmosphere of the planet Ocampa caused by the Nacene.  Ocampa have a short lifespan of about nine years, and females like Kes only have the opportunity to give birth once in their short lives.

Kes has telepathic abilities similar in function to Betazoids, but she also possesses other abilities like precognition, telekinesis, and the ability to manipulate matter on a subatomic level.  After three years on the ship, Kes begins to transform as a result of her blossoming mental abilities, and she left the ship to evolve into a being of pure energy. In some respects, Kes is reminiscent of a member of the Q continuum, but without the arrogance.

While aboard Voyager, Kes had a long-term romantic relationship with Neelix that only ended because Kes was possessed by an alien named Tieran. When this relationship fell apart, many of the story lines surrounding Kes fell by the wayside. That helped lead to her removal from the show around the same time Seven of Nine became a new major character on the series.

Kes is a fan of spinach juice with a touch of pear, a drink introduced to her by Tom Paris. During her short time aboard Voyager, Kes stands up for the right of the holographic doctor and proves that the Voyager crew will sometimes have to think outside the box to get home to the Alpha Quadrant.

The best episodes featuring Kes include Time and Again, Elogium, Darkling, and The Gift.

Our notable quote this week comes from the episode Tuvix:

It's funny. If something happened to Tuvok, if Neelix were here, he'd be the first person to comfort me. And if I lost Neelix, Tuvok would be the first person to guide me spiritually. Now I don't have either of them.  

Actress: Jennifer Lien played Kes and she has not acted regularly since 2000.  Lien also appeared on the Men in Black TV series and on American History X.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Monday, October 8, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 23: Worf

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, our subject is Commander Worf from TNG and DS9. (he of the Aargh noise mating call in The Dauphin, season 2)

Worf is the Chief of Security aboard the Enterprise-D. Worf is the first Klingon to graduate from Starfleet Academy and serve in Starfleet, which fulfilled a prophecy of Klingon legend Kahless during Worf's undertaking of a Klingon coming-of-age ritual.

Following the destruction of the Enterprise-D, Worf took an extended leave of absence and considered leaving Starfleet. When Commander Ben Sisko asked Worf to be a strategic operations officer aboard Deep Space Nine, he accepted to avoid some bad politics in the Klingon regime in power at the time. Worf also commanded the Defiant starship whenever Ben Sisko could not, including in the battle with the Borg that led to Worf joining the crew of the Enterprise-E.

Worf grew up with human foster parents after his Klingon parents were killed in a Romulan raid on his home colony as a young child. He learns quiet discipline and self-control not normally seen in Klingons as a result of growing up with human children.  This self-control stems from an incident where Worf accidentally collided his forehead ridges with a human player during a children's soccer game, which led to the death of the human player and a tough lesson about life's fragility to Worf.

Worf enjoys singing Klingon operas whenever he is alone. Worf also enjoys a wide variety of foods thanks to his dual upbringing, but the most notable preference for Worf is prune juice, a "warrior's drink" introduced to him by Guinan.

The baldric or sash worn across Worf's uniform was a cloth one reused from TOS Klingons in a couple of epsidoes of that series.  In season two, the baldric was reformed out of metal using bicycle chain and became Worf's signature appearance.

As a result of appearing in eleven total seasons of two different shows as a regular cast member, Worf holds the record for most appearances by characters of Star Trek. Worf also holds the record for revivals from death at three, but not the record for total deaths, which is held by Kathryn Janeway.

The best episodes featuring Worf include Sins of the Father, Redemption, Birthright, and Apocalypse Rising.

Our notable quote this week comes from the episode Qpid:

"Sir I protest! I am not a merry man!

Actor: Michael Dorn is the actor who played Worf. Dorn continues to act today in television and movies, including recently on the TV series Castle. He recently joined twitter @AKAWorf.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Sunday, September 30, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 22: Pavel Chekov

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, our subject is Pavel Chekov from The Original Series. (Nuclear Wessels!)

Chekov is a Russian who served as navigator aboard the Enterprise under Captain Kirk. Chekov actually rotated to other stations such as science as well, but navigator is where Chekov settled in during the five year mission. He returns as Chief of Security aboard the Enterprise during the movies.

Although Chekov did not join the show until the second season, he joined the crew sometime during the first season based on what Chekov knew of events in the first season. The most notable example of this is his familiarity with Khan in Star Trek II, although Space Seed was a season one episode.

Chekov is wildly proud of his Russian heritage and makes numerous big claims about Russian culture during the show. These boasts include that the Garden of Eden is located just outside Moscow, Cinderella was a Russian epic, and the saying "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me" was coined in Russia. Although each of these is untrue, you can't fault Chekov for his home country pride.

Chekov was added to the show to fill a lot of roles originally written for Sulu because George Takei was busy filming The Green Berets during much of season two. Although Chekov was drafted as a young Englishman originally, Gene Roddenberry changed him to Russian after receiving some complaints that fashioning a future with a united world and no U.S.S.R. presence was disingenuous.

The wig that Chekov originally wore was designed to make him look like the musician Davy Jones, but it comes across as looking like one of the Monkees.

The best episodes featuring Chekov include The Way to Eden, Who Mourns for Adonais, and The Tholian Web.

Our notable quote this week comes from the episode The Trouble With Tribbles:
Scott: When are you gonna get off that milk diet, lad?
Chekov: This is vodka.
Scott: Where I come from, that's soda pop.
Scott: [raising his glass] Now this is a drink for a man.
Chekov: Scotch?
Scott: Aye.
Chekov: It was invented by a little old lady from Leningrad.

Actor: Walter Koenig is the actor who played Chekov. Koenig has acted for 50 years now and is also well known for his role as scoundrel Bester on Babylon 5.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 21: Morn

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, our subject is Morn from deep Space Nine and Voyager.

Morn is a Lurian who is a frequent patron of Quark's Bar on the Deep Space Nine station. Morn owns a shipping business that specialized in the transport of mundane cargo.

This seemingly mundane business likely results from Morn settling down following his role in the theft of 1,000 bricks of gold-pressed latinum during the Lissepian Mother's Day Heist.  Morn's role in this heist is discovered just days after the statute of limitations for prosecuting him expired.  Morn hid the latinum inside his second stomach, and Quark believes this is why Morn lost nearly all of his hair.

Although Morn never speaks on camera during the series, he is known for being quite the talker. Provided an opportunity to talk about his 17 brothers and sisters, he will talk your ear off as you sit at the bar. Morn did speak in the German version of the episode "The Jem'Hadar", but that line never made it to the English language version.

He is such a regular customer at Quark's Bar that when he leaves on vacation, Quark makes a TuPac-like hologram of him in his normal seat to encourage other patrons to come in the bar as normal. Morn always sits on the right hand side of the bar, which is clearly an homage to the character Norm from Cheers. Other little shoutouts to the Cheers character also exist, such as the similar greeting Morn gets from Dax when seen in the bar.

Jadzia Dax was interested in Morn romantically, but she has to settle for Worf when Morn turns her down. Morn buys Quark's bar when Quark retires, remaining a fixture at his favorite location.

The best episodes featuring Morn include Favor the Bold, Who Mourns for Morn, and Blaze of Glory.

Actor: Mark Allen Shepherd is the actor who played Morn. Although most of his appearances are uncredited, Shepherd showed up in over 90 total Star Trek episodes.

Special Thanks to listener Douglas for suggesting this unique character and providing much of the information today. He can be reached on Twitter at @dstoryii

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Monday, September 17, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 20: Phlox

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, our subject is Doctor Phlox from Enterprise.

Phlox serves as the Chief Medical Officer aboard the Enterprise NX-01. He is a Denobulan with over 50 years of practice before joining the crew of Enterprise as part of the Interspecies Medical Exchange program.

Phlox is differentiated from other Chief Medical Officers in that he fills his sickbay with many different types of alient plants, spores, and living pets and creatures in addition to medical instruments. Phlox used these animals in many different types of unique treatments for the crewmembers of Enterprise.

Phlox served at Starfleet Medical on Earth for two years before joining Enterprise, and he finds a love of Chinese food while serving on Earth. He considers egg drop soup to be one of humanity's greatest contributions to society at large.

Phlox holds over a dozen scientific degrees, ranging from veterinary medicine to dentistry and psychiatry. His expertise in psychiatry comes in handy when the Enterprise assigns him to be ship's counselor as well as Chief Medical Officer. In this role, Phlox forms close bonds with many of the other senior officers.

Phlox had three wives, who each have 3 husbands of their own.  This family grouping results in a total of 720 total relationship pairings, and 42 of which have romantic implications. As a result, Phlox is part of a big family including 31 children, although only five of these children are his own. He maintains good relations with his two daughters, a surgeon and a biochemist, but his relationship is strained with two of his sons.

Similar to some of the animals he uses in treatment, Phlox goes through an annual hibernation period for up to six days. When threatened, Phlox has the ability to blow up his face like a blowfish to scare off attackers.

The best episodes featuring Phlox include: Dear Doctor, from season 1; A Night in Sickbay, from season 2; Regeneration, from season 2; and Doctor's Orders, from season 3.

Our notable quote this week comes from the episode Dead Stop in season 2:
Lieutenant Malcolm Reed: It can't be ethical to cause a patient this much pain.
Dr. Phlox: It's unethical to harm a patient; I can inflict as much pain as I like.

Actor: John Billingsley is the actor who played Doctor Phlox. Billingsley's most notable role since Enterprise has been a four-year stint on the show True Blood.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 19: Tom Paris

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, our subject is Lieutenant Tom Paris from Voyager.

Tom Paris serves as pilot and flight controller aboard the Voyager during the seven year stranding in the Delta Quadrant.  Paris was a Starfleet prisoner brought aboard as an observer and Maquis expert to help the Voyager track down Chakotay's ship Val Jean.  However, he is reinstated as a Starfleet officer by Captain Janeway in view of the lack of personnel available following the transfer to the Delta Quadrant.

The character of Tom Paris was based on the Nicholas Locarno character, who leads Wesley Crusher and four other cadets to perform an illegal flight maneuver in the TNG episode The First Duty. The show writers created a different character because they wanted this bad boy to be one who was redeemable, while Locarno was not.

Paris grew up as the son of a Starfleet Admiral, and his father put so much pressure on Paris that his childhood was very troubled. Rather than being able to pursue his first love of the sea in the Federation Naval Patrol, his father forces him into Starfleet Academy. As a result, Paris has a disposition towards acting out against the system he initially wants no part of.

Despite developing a passion and a talent for piloting, Paris is forced out of Starfleet after he covers up a piloting error that led to the death of three fellow officers on his first starship. He ends up joining the Maquis for a few weeks, and that is how he is captured and put in prison by the Federation.

However, his ties to the Maquis and his piloting ability lead to the situation where Janeway reinstates him to drive the Voyager. With only a couple of exceptions in the seven-year journey, Paris proves that he was worth giving another chance to redeem himself. His most notable contribution to the successful return of Voyager was the construction of the Delta Flyer shuttle, which was designed specifically for use in the hostile Delta Quadrant.

In addition to things related to the ocean, Paris is passionate about much of 20th Century American culture, including movies, internal combustion cars, and novels of the time period. Paris also has a flair for holographic narratives, highlighted by his repeating portrayal of a protagonist named Captain Proton, and his favorite bar in France which is used as the Voyager version of Ten Forward.

Although Paris was only promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade in the pilot episode, his character wears the rank pips of a full Lieutenant for several episodes before the mistake was caught. Paris had the middle name Eugene, which was a tribute to Gene Roddenberry.

The best episodes featuring Paris include: Threshold from Season 2, Worst Case Scenario from Season 3, Thirty Days from Season 5, and Lineage from Season 7.

Our notable quote this week comes from the episode Threshold:
Tom Paris: When I was a boy, my father used to tell me that I was special. That one day I'd do something significant. My teachers at school, all the kids, everyone used to say, "Tom Paris is gonna do something important when he grows up". Obviously that didn't happen.
Captain Kathryn Janeway: This isn't about personal redemption. We're talking about medical risk. Your life could be in danger, and we need you.
Tom Paris: Captain, this is the first time in ten years I feel I *have* a life to risk. 

Actor: Robert Duncan McNeill is the actor who played Tom Paris and Nicholas Locarno in TNG.  Although he took a break from acting for 10 years, he recently appeared on an episode of the TV comedy Chuck.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 18: Odo

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, our subject is "Constable" Odo from DS9.

After being discovered by a Bajoran scientist Dr. Mora Pol, Odo served on the Terok Nor station as an arbitrator of disputes between Bajoran workers. Eventually, the Cardassians came to trust Odo and made him Chief of Security aboard the station. Odo remains in this role following the Federation takeover that made the station Deep Space Nine.

 Odo's name comes from a mistranslation of the Cardassian word Odo'ital, which means "nothing", and was placed on the laboratory flask where Odo was kept during testing by Dr. Pol. Odo underwent some nasty tests before Dr. Pol knew he was a sentient shape shifter, and it causes him to have difficulty shape shifting into items smaller than a humanoid over the rest of his life.

Odo was one of 100 shape shifters that were sent out by a race later known as the Founders to explore and report back after centuries of discovery and learning. Odo's shape shifting abilities make him a perfect detective and investigator in his role as Chief of Security. He also plays a critical role during the Dominion War between the Founders and the Alpha Quadrant.

Odo has a deep sense of justice, and he applies his views on justice no matter who is making the laws at the time on the station. This can cause him to butt heads with some Cardassians and Ben Sisko at times, but he maintains his view that justice should come first. Odo also believes in rigid punctuality, so much so that some Promenade shopkeepers set their watch by when Odo will make his rounds.

After experiencing a link with his people the Founders, he takes a much more keen interest in his shape shifting abilities, especially during periods where he must recover in liquid form after 16 hours as a solid humanoid. He also finds joy in several human activites such as playing tongo. He becomes a friend to Starfleet and a romantic interest for Kira Nerys, which is a long way from where he started.

The best episodes featuring Odo include: The Search, Heart of Stone, and Extreme Measures

Our notable quote this week comes from the episode A Man Alone in season 1:
"Laws change depending on who's making them, but justice is justice"

Actor: Rene Auberjonois played Odo, and he has held many roles over a 40 year acting career including Chef Louie in The Little Mermaid and a chief partner in Boston Legal.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It Came From GenCon: 2012 Edition

Gen Con: Best Four Days in Gaming

Well, that was an interesting week. After knowing I would be rushed at work for a short four day workweek, I ended up with stomach flu mid-week along with the rest of the family. Thankfully it was only a 24-48 hour type of bug, but I've had enough vomit-inducing illnesses this year. No more, please. I'll spare the details of Wednesday and Thursday, but I was happy to be ready to eat real food again when I hit the road for GenCon on Friday morning. A bit of rain in Ohio, but once I hit Indiana, it was sunny and beautiful all the way to Indianapolis.

Got to the convention center and had to struggle to find parking, eventually settling on the football stadium south of the convention center. A short trip to registration later, and I had everything I needed to work the Exhibit Hall and run my seminar on IP Law and Game Design. Of course, there's a little hitch on the sheet they hand you with the badges. No flyers or playbills or the like allowed. Of course having printed up another 300 or so just like at Origins Game Fair, I was hoping these would not go completely to waste. Thankfully the GM Booth assured me I could hand them out with my business card to exhibitors I was carrying on a conversation with, but just not unsolicited to random people (fine, didn't really care to do that anyway in all honesty).

So crisis averted, I went into the hall. Since my co-presenter was not in Indy yet, I went to go get another Star Trek autograph. I already got my first from Wil Wheaton at Origins, and he was there again alongside one of the actors from Hunger Games and Nichelle Nichols from Star Trek TOS. I never thought I'd get the opportunity to get a TOS autograph, so despite having to pay a little cash for it, I'm happy to have gotten the autograph. Couldn't get a bumper for This Week in Trek though, which was a little disappointing. Nichelle was very nice though, and commented that her son Kyle would have been named Kira had he turned out to be a daughter. That's a cool coincidence. After hearing the prices you have to pay at places like the Star Trek convention in Las Vegas for similar autographs ($80 for Scoot Bakula? C'mon dude!), I'll pay the small amount and have a little memento for me and the girls.

The poor guy from Hunger Games (he played the Head Gamekeeper with the kickass beard, I forget his name) couldn't get people to come to him, while Wheaton had a mega line and Nichols had only a slightly smaller line. I'd say he would have a better future if his character did not die in the first movie of the trilogy! Anyway, such is life. Sean was going to be a little while longer, so I called my old co-presenter Adam who had arranged for a game for me to join after lunch. I ended up hitting Steak and Shake with him and his father, who I had amazingly never met before then. The apple does not fall far from the tree with these two, as his father is even more of a serious business geek than Adam is. Anyway, pleasant lunch company for sure.

We then went back to the convention center where we played a game called Artemis, which is a spaceship bridge simulator. Basically you have five touchscreen panel stations for various roles such as engineering, helm, communications, science, etc. A large screen TV is placed on one wall and someone acts as captain for the other five players at the stations. Adam was the only one who had played before, so he took the role as captain. It was the first time I got to play with the old group Adam organized for Pathfinder since that game dropped (Kevin, Nina, etc.) and we had a good time.

In our first half hour, we downed a mission that required tracking down and destroying about 17 enemy ships while providing assistance to various space stations and ships in a small sector of space. I can only really report on the engineering station, since that is what I was doing. You get about 8 to 10 sliders that can be cranked between 0% and about 300% output for various systems of the ship (examples: warp drive, impulse, front shields, rear shields, torpedoes, phasers, maneuverability, sensors). The higher you crank the energy, the better the output at the other stations, but the more heat generated and the more energy depleted. So you basically starve the systems you can afford to and overclock systems when you need them, like shields in battle. I don't know whether it was the incompetence of Adam's other Artemis team or my own conservative engineering nature, but apparently I did twice as good a job of being energy efficient and allowing the ship to go on long runs without having to dock back at the stations for more energy.

The heat management game is kind of like healing in Warcraft, as you have limited coolant resources you have to apply to the 8-10 systems to cool or slow the heating of systems before they overheat and get damaged. It was not always easy, but I think I only damaged one system in a sustained battle over the entire hour we played with overheating. The biggest problem came when our tactical person shot a nuke right in front of us and helm couldn't get away fast enough. Our whole rear end of the ship was heavily damaged and we had to spend like 4-5 minutes real time sending repair crews to fix the ship. Other than that, engineering was only a moderate challenge at the level we played at. It is an interesting game, to be sure, and would not have been nearly as possible or fun without the modern technology of touch screens and such. Maybe we are not so far away from that future as we think.

Then I met up with Sean and hit the floor with him for about 3 hours. We got through over half the Exhibit Hall and really had some positive conversations. Met a couple of clients I had developed from last year's trips to GenCon and Origins, so that was nice to see those business contacts again. Snagged a good amount of business cards, saw a lot of decent game designs. And a few that were not quite as bad as Box O' Rocks from Origins, but not necessarily well thought-out or in my interest. I am always fascinated by developers that try to mix education or have an educational/research story behind the game designs. These included a card game developed by a broker for teaching investors how to not make stupid mistakes in the real world investment marketplace, and a game design game where you are given certain factors and have to develop a game mechanic that best fits the criteria. Of course lots of spots are dead to us as retailers, resellers, magic card dealers, and really big fish like Upper Deck and Mayfair Games are not who we can really market to at these events. Perhaps eventually or if we go to the GenCon Trade Day in coming years, but right now those are not our real market.

Of course the World Magic Cup was also going on, and I got a chance to see those festivities right around the time the Exhibit Hall was closing. I don't know if splitting World Championships into this team event and an individual event is the right move, but it does make for something interesting to track as the weekend goes along. Hopefully the event stays with GenCon. With Legacy and Vintage Championships also being held, the price from dealers on staples such as dual lands was atrocious and ridiculous. I'd like to be a Storm and Elves player at all times, but those duals and Grim Tutors for Storm are just killer.

Friday night I went to the hotel and checked myself in, then went immediately to Todd's house (from the No High Scores podcast). Abner was also there and the three of us spent the evening playing a game of Road to Enlightenment, the first game released by Abner's new company Conquistador Games. I'll post more thorough thoughts for a BGG review that I will parallel here later, but the short description is that you have a country you are controlling and a deck of historical figures that have various abilities and statistics in categories like military, politics, art, science, income, catholicism, anti-catholicism. Depending on what country you are, you will have access to attack some nearby territories and will either be fighting for the catholic cause or the anti-catholic cause.

The game is a balancing act of developing and using your deck of cards, buying new cards as you use and remove other cards, and trying to stay relevant in various tracks. One track is on the board, where you can try to hold one or two extra territories for one victory point each while defending your own territories from invasion, which loses you two VP's. Being top on the art or science track gets you 3 VP's and being second gets you 1 VP, while the winner of the catholic vs. anti-catholic battle gets 2 VP's (each country on that side). Thus, the game usually is won by about 8-10 VP's at most, and you can really swing up and down on the VP scale from turn to turn. Sometimes a census in a particular field is held and you can take part to try and move up the art, science, catholic/AC scale quickly. It's a terrible metric ton to keep track of, and the preparation phase of each turn can be very slow, but the game has some slick interactions and gameplay that you really start to see through an entire game play.

It truly is a good design, and the little nuances like the assignment of statistics and abilities on the luminary cards that actually fit the actual historical figures very well makes for a highly deep and entertaining game. I cannot believe this highly complex "boardgamer's boardgame" type of design is the first thing Dirk came up with to release for his company, but I think it does have a market and will hopefully do well. Without Abner to explain the game, I think my experience would not have been nearly as good, but he knows how to teach a game and especially this one. We ended up deciding the game on the final turn, as I blew a three point lead and almost won the game for Abner in a three-way point tie at 6 VP before my last action was foiled by Todd so he won the anti-catholic battle. That two points swing him up to 8 VP and us down to 4 VP's. Solid design and fun to play, would love to again but probably going to be tough as I'm not buying it given my group of local players. They can't handle Railways right now, let alone this level.

Speaking of Railways, I snuck in a tournament qualifier round of Railways at 8 AM the next morning. I also did this to make sure I got a premium parking spot close to the hotel where we were presenting, to keep our projector and booklets close to the site they needed delivered. I had always stunk at these Railways events thanks to the original Eastern U.S. map being the map of choice and everyone usually having more experience at it than me, who plays the smaller boards more. However, two of the four players in my first round were actually less experienced than me so that made it easy for me to go one-on-one with the other expert. He raced out to a lead with the southern major line and I reeled him back in slowly building from New York across to Chicago and then to Kansas City for the Western Link. I built that Western Link on the last turn to go up the 20 points for the biggest major line, and that was just enough as I came from behind to win by 5. That qualified me for the tournament final for the first time, which was nice to finally do. A quick call to Kelley and the guy I was supposed to meet after the Exhibit Hall closed, and I was cleared to play in the final at 9 PM.

We then worked the hall most of the day. Our only break was to meet with one of the other two guys who signed up for the AIE meetup (my old wow guild and group of frogpants podcast listener friends) and grab lunch at Steak and Shake. Chris was a cool guy and he lives up west of Dayton, so we might see him again around the gaming table. It was his first ever GenCon and he reports that he had a good time, even though he is far more of a video gamer than a board gamer. Chris is definitely another cool person in AIE, and it was nice to finally meet one in person. Had some pretty in depth discussions in the Exhibit Hall as we walked around promoting the event, and I will be surprised if a couple of those interested parties do not give us a call to discuss patent or trademark work. It's shocking how many companies don't at least put a TM on their game names and company names. It's free, and easy, and puts opposing parties on some level of notice. Makes for a great starter to the conversation though.

Then it was time to set up for the presentation, as our co-worker Jim had arrived in Indianapolis. He's not used to consumer-based events, as he usually speaks at trade shows where you don't need to buy a badge to give a presentation, and the audiences are much bigger and more professionals, less consumers. Although his addition made our presentation go much more slowly, it was a nice addition for this one time at GenCon. We really had all bases covered with his licensing expertise and Sean and I covering the IP protection side thoroughly. Despite not leaving as much time for questions, the crowd of about 40 (up from 8 last year) was interactive and had plenty of good questions. Of course I think the questions about RPG designs and accessories were about to drive Jim crazy, and he left almost immediately after our presentation was over, but it was still a productive seminar. Possible clients equals kudos at work and kudos from the game design community for doing a bit of public service. It's full of win (and a free badge and gas for the Indy trip is also a nice side benefit).

Saturday night Kelley and the girls had come up to go to the zoo in Indianapolis and so they picked me up for dinner downtown. We found a little pizza joint near the fountain roundabout in the center of downtown. There was a motorcycle rally right at that spot, which made traffic crazy and the crowd an interesting mix of normal weekend families, lots of bikers, and lots of nerds. Great people watching. The girls dropped me off for my tournament final and went back to the hotel to swim. The way Railways tournament finals work is that you have two games going and you have to win one of the two games and take a higher percentage of the board points (e.g., win bigger comparatively than the other winner) over the other table winner.

Our game was four players and this time I was out of the running early. I built 10 hex tiles the entire game, as I built from DC to Boston in little links and that was it. Everywhere I could expand was not worth it, as I had plenty of cubes to deliver in the northeast by burning 2 New Industry cards and 3 City Growth cards up there where nobody else could get them. Unfortunately, this game and the weekend of games according to my opponents proved that playing with all the major lines available at the beginning of the game (like you do in all other versions of Railways) horribly breaks the game and makes no other strategy truly viable. They are just too powerful, and only two sets of them can be had. So every game probably comes down to somebody claiming the southern major line on the first turn and someone else claiming Baltimore to Toledo and Chicago to New York in the first 3-4 turns. Nothing else can keep up, as the Northeast gets drained to fast and the board position of the two players with major lines locks all other players from profitable territories. Railways of the World has been broken, and while there's ways to fix it, that's not a good thing. Ah well, every game cannot be as flawless as chess.

A late night of smoothie shakes with Kelley in the hotel room capped a solid Saturday, and then we got a little late start on Saturday thanks to the girls needing baths and the usual slowness of our family. We did get to the convention center before 11, but I had neglected to get a ticket for Kelley and so we had to wait in THE LONGEST FUCKING REGISTRATION LINE I'VE EVER SEEN. It was seriously almost an hour of waiting in line, which got Kelley pissed at me, as if I weren't already mad at myself. Of course I had no idea it would be anywhere near that bad on a Sunday. But I was determined to not let it ruin the day. We got into the Exhibit Hall and got going.

Paige played a couple rounds of Catan Junior and seems to be pretty close to grasping the concepts of the game, which means we went ahead and used our Mayfair coupon to buy it at a very reasonable $15. The version for younger ones called Kids of Catan is fun, but very oversimplified and Catan Junior might be the first real jump for Paige into more engaging game play. We then bought a Fistful of Penguins from the same company that did Last Call and Claim It, and a puzzle game called Camelot Junior that Paige can use for homeschooling as well as fun puzzle time. She really seemed to enjoy that demo the guy ran for her of Camelot Jr., although we couldn't take the game home due to them being sold out. Kelley made her usual stop at a dice vendor and grabbed a bunch of math-type dice to use for homeschool activities. I love that we can incorporate that stuff into Paige's learning, and remember doing similar things with not-so-special dice when I was a little kid.

Walking around the exhibit hall, Paige was fascinated my miniatures and the big castle-like display booths at a couple of places. Kira was mostly just fussy, although we solved it with bribes this year: nachos and a sticky bun from the concession stand. It will definitely be fun to continue watching these two grow and probably come to love doing the Exhibit Hall with us. While Kira napped for a bit, Kelley and I demoed a couple of games, one of which I had demoed with Sean the previous day. It is a bit like Chinese Checkers and I forget the name, but we bought it. Reminds me a little of chess and lot of Claim It, in that it is a good strategy game for 2 players but accommodates up to 4 nicely. Nabbed a couple of T-shirts as well, although I was hoping for more (darn you vendors for running out of the most popular size...hah!).

We finished up right around 4 PM and headed out to the outskirts of town for a big meal since Kelley and I had only had a couple of chips all day. We stopped at Mongolian BBQ and enjoyed a feast of stir fry with the girls, capped by a big apple cobbler ice cream concoction. Was a great capper to the weekend in Indianapolis. Despite the more crowded nature of GenCon and the registration gaffe, I think Kelley enjoyed herself and so we may likely continue taking the girls to the bigger of the two conventions.

And already on Monday evening, we were engaged by a prospective client who wants us to send a C&D letter to try and stop some trademark infringement. We didn't even talk to this company, but they received our flyer from another exhibitor who had talked to us during the convention. So it appears the trip was successful as a business venture as well as a fun venture.

Now it's time to catch up on sleep and enjoy some of these new games, as soon as we get through the Yo Gabba Gabba hell...I mean birthday party...next weekend. Looking forward to doing it all again in 2013.

Monday, August 20, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 17: Wesley Crusher

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, our subject is Wesley Crusher from TNG.

Wesley begins his journey aboard the Enterprise as a passenger. He was the teenage son of Chief Medical Officer Beverly Crusher, but he found his way on the bridge often by shadowing bridge officers in work-study programs. Following his outstanding work on the propulsion system with The Traveler, Picard granted him the commission of acting ensign.

Although Wesley was just as likely to destroy the ship with nanites as he was to save the day, the character allowed the screenwriters to experiment with many mentorship stories and growing pains stories. Wesley was granted the rank of full ensign by Picard before leaving the ship to enroll at Starfleet Academy.

While at the Academy, Crusher saves the ship against from a mind control device while on holiday. He also loses an entire year of academic credit for his role in the cover up of the performance of a banned flight maneuver called the Kolvoord Starburst, which sours him on his future in Starfleet.

As a result, when The Traveler shows up again and offers to mentor Crusher, he takes the opportunity to lead a much different and unique life. Little more is heard from Crusher following this departure, although we do know that he possibly rejoins Starfleet by the time Riker and Troi become married. His possible futures as a Traveler and in Starfleet aboard the U.S.S. Titan have been retconned by the books.

Wesley was named after Gene Roddenberry's middle name, which is also Wesley. Wesley was almost slated to be a female character named Leslie, but the writers switched back during casting. Crusher's tendency to dominate episodes and have pretentious or overwrought dialogue makes him one of the least favorite characters in Star Trek lore, but he is certainly an integral part of what TNG is all about.

The best episodes featuring Crusher include: The First Duty from season 5, Pen Pals from season 2, and Justice from season 1.

Our notable quote this week comes from the episode Final Mission in season 4:
Ensign Wesley Crusher: [to Picard] Sir, in the past three years, I've lived more than most people do in a lifetime. I think I'm very lucky, no matter what happens. How many people get to serve with Jean-Luc Picard?

Actor: Wil Wheaton played the role of Crusher, and he has recently had a resurgence of acting appearances in web series like Tabletop and The Guild as well as TV series Eureka and The Big Bang Theory.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Monday, August 13, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 16: Hikaru Sulu

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, our subject is Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu from TOS.

Sulu serves as the helmsman aboard the Enterprise, although he also takes shifts as tactical officer. Sulu started as the head of the astrosciences department, but he had already switched to the role of helmsman when the series picks up the story.

Sulu is a regular presence on the bridge and a regular member of away teams, at least when he is serving as a tactical expert. However, Sulu also brings a bit of comic relief in certain episodes such as This Side of Paradise. In The Naked Time, an intoxicated Sulu runs around the ship with his shirt off and a fencing foil, like a swashbuckling buccaneer. (As George would say, Oh My!)

Sulu has various hobbies that come up frequently during his adventures on the Enterprise. Sulu is an expert in antique firearms and swords, and enjoys various types of swordplay. Sulu also is an avid botanist who spends much of his free time caring for rare plants from various locales journeyed to by the Enterprise.

Unlike the other characters of TOS, who stick with the Enterprise until retirement, Sulu progresses to Captain of the Excelsior during the movie series. Sulu plays a critical role in saving Kirk and his former crewmates in The Undiscovered Country. Sulu is also revealed to have a daughter Demora in the movies, and she also becomes a helmsman aboard a new Enterprise.

Sulu's name was changed in the Japanese version of Star Trek to Kato because the Japanese language does not include the L sound. Sulu's first name was not confirmed until Star Trek VI, and there was much speculation as to what it could be over the years.

The best episodes featuring Sulu include: The Naked Time, from season 1; The City on the Edge of Forever, from season 1; and Tomorrow is Yesterday, from season 1.

Our notable quote this week comes from the Voyager episode Flashback in season 3:
Captain Hikaru Sulu: Ensign, you're absolutely right. But you're also absolutely wrong. You'll find that more happens on the bridge of a starship than just carrying out orders and observing regulations. There is a sense of loyalty to the men and women you serve with - a sense of family. Those two men on trial, I served with them for a long time. I owe them my life, a dozen times over. And right now they're in trouble, and I'm going to help them. Let the regulations be damned.
Tuvok: Sir, that is a most illogical line of reasoning.
Captain Hikaru Sulu: You better believe it.

Actor: George Takei played Sulu, and he has a 50 year acting career spanning from General Hospital all the way to Heroes, and a recent appearance on The Apprentice. John Cho took over the role in the 2009 reboot, and he is best known for the comical Harold and Kumar movies and shorts.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Monday, August 6, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 15: Jadzia Dax

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, our subject is Lieutenant Commander Jadzia Dax from DS9.

Dax is the science officer aboard the Deep Space Nine station. Jadzia is a joined Trill, the eighth host of the Dax symbiont. This provides Dax with lifetimes worth of experience and relationships from which to draw upon.

The previous host of this symbiont was Curzon Dax, who was an old friend of Commander Sisko. As a result, Sisko playfully calls Dax "old man" despite Jadzia being a much younger female than the friend Sisko had in Curzon. Jadzia goes from a shy and hardworking Starfleet graduate to a confident and outgoing person thanks to the Dax symbiont.

Jadzia picks up some of the hobbies and habits of the former hosts, including interests in Klingon martial arts and a talent playing Ferengi tongo. She also bites her nails and often paced with her hands behind her back, which are habits from previous Dax hosts.

Although Jadzia does hold feelings for Commander Sisko, she eventually ends up marrying Worf when he comes onto the station in the last couple of seasons of the show. She may not be an actual Klingon, but she certainly fights and eats like one and therefore becomes an honored member of the House of Martok.

The romance does not last forever though, as Jadzia is one of the most notable casualties of the Dominion War in the season 6 finale. Dax is killed trying to protect a Bajoran sacred Orb from Gul Dukat, but this would not be the end of the Dax character. The symbiont is transferred to Ezri, who becomes the station's counselor in the final season.

The first Trill character was seen in The Next Generation, but that character had one of Star Trek's many distinctive forehead appliances. The writers hated how ugly it made the character look and so changed the Trill race to include the spots that have been common to Jadzia, Ezri, and all Trill characters since then.

Dax was originally slated to be the wise old man character like another science officer Spock, but the outgoing and fun ways of the character that emerged in season 1 stuck and became what defines Jadzia Dax.

Our notable quote this week comes from the episode Looking for par'Mach in All the Wrong Places:
Lt. Commander Jadzia Dax: If I were in your shoes, I would be looking for someone a little more entertaining, a little more fun and maybe even a little more attainable.
Lt. Commander Worf: You are not in my shoes.
Lt. Commander Jadzia Dax: Too bad. You'd be amazed at what I can do in a pair of size 18 boots.

Actress: Terry Farrell played Jadzia, and she also starred in the TV series Becker after DS9. Fun fact: Farrell was born almost exactly 20 years before this host in the same city!

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Monday, July 30, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 14: Nyota Uhura

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, our subject is Lieutenant Nyota Uhura from TOS.

Uhura is the communications officer aboard the Enterprise, a role she holds for nearly thirty years. Her proficiency at operating the communications system is rivaled only by her natural ability in xenolinguistics, which is crucial despite the invention of the universal translator in the 2140's.

Interesting Sidenote: a first pass at a universal translator was released by Microsoft earlier this year and is capable of translating English speech into 26 different languages. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2114379/Star-Trek-reality-Microsoft-unveils-Universal-Translator-turns-spoken-English-26-languages.html

Uhura grew up in Africa and is fiercely proud of her heritage, as proven by all the African artifacts and decor in her personal quarters. Before joining Starfleet, Uhura was known in her youth for being a record holder for running the hundred meter dash.

Uhura is no stranger to song and dance. One of the best known scenes featuring the Uhura character was an exotic dance Uhura performed in Star Trek V to seduce guards in Paradise City for Kirk and the crew.

She also sings for the crew on numerous occasions, although that penchant causes the space probe Nomad to wipe out her memory in the episode The Changeling.  The original script of the episode for Charlie X called for Uhura to be a talented mimic, but this was altered to be a singing talent in view of Nichelle Nichols' outstanding singing abilities. In lieu of a quote this week, here is a sample of Uhura singing Beyond Antares.

Uhura appeared in two season 1 episodes with the gold command uniform, but the well-known red uniform was donned by Uhura after that.  The character was named Uhura because Nichols and some of the casting directors were reading the novel Uhuru, which is a swahili word meaning Freedom.

Although Uhura does not form any long-term romantic relationships in TOS, she does share a kiss with Captain Kirk that is notable because it was the first interracial kiss aired during episodic television in the U.S. The mentorship relation between Uhura and Spock in TOS is expanded in the 2009 reboot to be a romantic relationship.

Nichols almost left the show after one season but Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talked her into staying, and her performance inspired many young African Americans and girls to reach for the stars. This character's legacy is one of the cornerstones of what makes Star Trek special.

Actress: Nichelle Nichols played Uhura, and she has an entertaining Twitter feed that can be followed @RealNichelle.  Zoe Saldana took over the role in the 2009 reboot after appearing in other movies like Avatar.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Monday, July 23, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 13: William Riker

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, our subject is Commander William Riker from The Next Generation.

Riker is second-in-command on board the Enterprise-D, behind his long time friend Jean-Luc Picard.  Although Riker graduated with high honors from the Academy and had his sights set on commanding a vessel by age 35, he repeatedly turns down offers to command while serving on the flagship with Picard.

Riker earns a reputation for finding unorthodox solutions to tactical situations, such as using a little-known plasma coil flaw to destroy the Duras sisters in the movie Generations. Data calculated that Riker uses traditional tactics only 21% of the time, which is surprising because one would think he'd use them 47% of the time.

Riker is engaged in a long-term relationship with ship's counselor Deanna Troi that originated years before their service together aboard the Enterprise-D.  Although this relationship takes breaks such as when Deanna dates Worf for a period of time, the two Imzadi finally tie the know in Nemesis and serve together as a married couple aboard the U.S.S. Titan.  Further adventures of Riker and Troi can be read in a short series of novels about the Titan, which are worth a read if you like diverse characters.  In those novels, the two have a first child named Natasha.

As a result of a transporter accident on the planet Nervala IV, Riker was genetically duplicated into two identical twins.  This replication decides to go by the name Thomas Riker following his discovery while Will served on the Enterprise.

Riker grew a beard during the second season of the show because he was tired of people telling him how young he looked.  He feels that the beard is a proud, ancient tradition that is a symbol of strength.  Behind the scenes, Jonathan Frakes grew the beard because he personally dislikes shaving.

Riker grew up in Alaska before joining Starfleet.  His mother died when Riker was 2 years old, and his father deserted him at the age of 15.  Riker's ancestors stem back through North American history and include a Colonel Thaddeus Riker, who fought in the American Civil War.

When not walking sideways through doors, Riker often plays poker in weekly games with the senior officers.  Riker is also a jazz music aficionado, frequently playing his favorite songs on the trombone.  In addition to these recurring hobbies, Riker is adept at three dimensional chess, cooking, and theater acting.

Our notable quotes come from Contagion in season 2, and Best of Both Worlds in season 4:

"Fate protects fools, little children and ships named Enterprise"

"I'm sure Captain Picard would have something meaningful and inspirational to say right now. To tell you the truth, I wish he was here, 'cause I'd like to hear it, too. I know how difficult this transition has been for all of you. I can take over for him; but I could never replace Captain Picard, nor would I ever try. Whatever the outcome, I'm sure our efforts in the coming battle will justify his faith in all of us."

"Hey Baby...wink wink"

Actor: Jonathan Frakes played Riker, and he is the only regular cast member to appear on four of the five Star Trek series (DS9, VOY, and ENT).  Frakes has become more of a director in the last 15 years than an actor, and has recently directed episodes of Leverage, Burn Notice, and Make it or Break It.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Friday, July 13, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 12: Quark

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, our subject is Quark from Deep Space Nine.

Quark is the owner and barkeep of Quark's Bar, Grill, Gaming House, and Holosuite on board Deep Space Nine. Commander Sisko blackmails Quark to keep his business on the station when the Federation takes over in an effort to keep the station running with some sense of continuity.

Quark had to thrive on typical greedy Ferengi business practices and the black market when the station was run by Cardassians.  However, he becomes a generous, honest businessman in seven years of Federation ownership of the station.

In addition to Deep Space Nine, Quark is featured on two episodes of Voyager in which he tries to con Harry Kim and Tom Paris before Voyager's departure. Quark was also supposed to appear in the movie Insurrection, but unfortunately the scene and his awful mirror-ball outfit were left on the cutting floor.

Although Quark comes to appreciate the Federation, he often compares it to root beer: a cloying, bubbly, sickly sweet force bent on corrupting the core of Ferengi culture. Quark tries to make new drinks as a bartender but usually fails, including when he tried to make a caffeine free version of raktajino that he dubbed Quarktajino for the pregnant Kira Nerys.

Quark's name obviously comes from the theoretical particle name by Murray Gell-Mann, but what is lesser known is that the name was borrowed by Gell-Mann from a 1939 James Joyce novel Finnegans Wake.

Quark appeared in the first couple of shows of the series wearing the prosthetic nose designed for the Rom character because his nose was not ready yet. Quark's intended nose shows up in the fourth episode of the series for the first time.

Our notable quote comes from The House of Quark in season 3:

I should've gone into insurance - better hours, more money, less scruples.

Actor: Armin Shimerman played Quark and also played one of the original Ferengi in season 1 of The Next Generation.  Shimerman has acted for 30 years but has made more of a name in the last decade as voice talent in video games like Mass Effect, Bioshock, Starcraft, and Diablo.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Monday, July 9, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 11: T'Pol

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, our subject is Subcommander T'Pol from Enterprise

T'Pol served as first officer and science officer aboard the Enterprise, similar to the role Spock played in the original series. T'Pol is the first Vulcan to serve an extended portion on an Earth vessel and it takes a long time for the crew to become fully acclimated to her.

T'Pol served an important role as an expert in alien cultures such as the Klingons for the crew of Enterprise. Her telepathic abilities and different physiology helped save the human crew on many occasions during the ten year mission of the ship.

Right before coming aboard Enterprise, T'Pol found that she liked chaotic jazz music so much that it would elicit an emotional response from her. Although it takes longer for Trip to convince her to watch movies with the crew, she eventually attends a movie night and enjoys the film Frankenstein.

T'Pol is a vegetarian, but that does not stop her from sampling all kinds of human dishes, including some of Trip's favorites in Georgia Peaches and popcorn. Speaking of Trip, T'Pol shares a long romance with the commander that is the primary romance of the Enterprise series. T'Pol and Trip have a baby thanks to genetic engineering by Terra Prime, but the baby dies due to genetic engineering mistakes.. 

In a new twist for Star Trek fans, T'Pol appears without clothing in multiple episodes. Even when clothes are present, the subcommander keeps changing the game with a total of 48 different outfits worn during the less than 100 episodes of the show.

Our notable quote comes from Horizon in season 2:

Sub-Commander T'Pol: I don't understand why Humans would feel compelled to frighten themselves.
Captain Jonathan Archer: Gets the heart pumping.
Sub-Commander T'Pol: Cardiovascular activity would be more efficient.

Actor: Jolene Blaylock played T'Pol and it has been her only high profile role in 14 years of acting. Her minor appearances include Stargate SG-1, CSI Miami (yow!), and House.

Until next time, live long and prosper...

Monday, July 2, 2012

TWITrek Character Insight No. 10: James T. Kirk

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, our subject is Captain James T. Kirk from TOS.

Quote: "IIII'M CAPTAIN KIIIIIRK!!!" (Taken from "The Enemy Within")

Anybody who is familiar with Star Trek will likely know Captain Kirk, the brash and bold young captain who leads the Enterprise on its five-year mission that started it all. We see Kirk mature as a captain and eventually move onto Admiral, but Kirk's "do-it-yourself" persona is not suited to a desk job.

The initial character draft by Gene Roddenberry called Kirk "A space-age Horatio Hornblower, with a colorfully complex personality...capable of action and decision that can verge on the heroic - and at the same time lives a continual battle with self-doubt and the loneliness of command."  This loneliness is evidenced by the countless women Kirk easily courts, but has trouble maintaining long-term relationships with.

Kirk was born in Iowa (at least until the 2009 movie changed the timeline). The real town of Riverside, Iowa has an annual TrekFest festival and a Voyage Home Museum dedicated to the future birth of Kirk. This town, which is only about an hour from the birthplace of yours truly, is worth a visit for any Trek fan lost in the cornfields of the Midwest.

The name Kirk was selected from a list of sixteen names for the Captain right before production began, and other possible names for the character included Robert April, Hannibal, Raintree, January, and Timber.  Kirk seems like a good choice from that lot! Kirk's middle name is Tiberius, which was taken from the name of the second Roman Emperor. 

Kirk earns many awards and commendations for his successes in exploration as well as in tactical battles with the Enterprise. When forced into hand-to-hand combat, Kirk's unique wrestling/martial arts fighting styles are sufficient to overwhelm all but the most rugged opponents, such as a Gorn.

File:James T. Kirk during the Kobayashi Maru scenario.jpg

Kirk is so quotable, we have two Notable Quotes this week:

"Worlds may change, galaxies disintegrate, but a woman... always remains a woman." ("The Conscience of the King")

"No wants. No needs. We weren't meant for that. None of us. Man stagnates if he has no ambition, no desire to be more than he is." ("This Side of Paradise") 

Actors: William Shatner played Kirk, and he can be most recently found interviewing other Star Trek actors in the documentary "The Captains" as well as in his traveling one-man show "Shatner's World."

Chris Pine took over the role in the 2009 reboot and can also be seen opposite Denzel Washington in the choo-choo thriller "Unstoppable."