Monday, January 27, 2014

TWITrek Character Insight No. 81: Lore

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 Lore, one of the recurring antagonists from TNG.


Lore is an android constructed by Doctor Noonian Soong and is a predecessor or brother of sorts to Data, the android aboard Enterprise.  Lore is functionally identical to Data in most ways, but Lore included advanced emotional programming that was left out of Data's positronic brain when he was later constructed.  This emotional programming led to instability and malevolence when Lore decides that he is superior to humans like his creator Dr. Soong.

That superiority complex leads Lore to align with the Crystalline Entity to wipe out an entire planet of life forms, as well as attempting the same to the Enterprise. That wasn't the only nasty to be sent to the Enterprise by Lore, as he later trained a crew of Borg to become murderers and lured Data into a trap where his emotion chip instilled hatred and anger feelings that made him evil as well.

Of course, that difference between Data, who grew up without emotions and had a controlled emotion chip later, and Lore, who was programmed initially with emotions, is the heart of the conflict between the brothers. Lore even goes so far as to kill his creator Dr. Soong in rage for turning his attention to building Data rather than fixing him.

Lore was originally planned to be a female android and love interest for Data, but Brent Spiner suggested the evil twin role that Lore became. This allowed a good backstory to be built about Dr. Soong and the other androids he created, including B4 which was finally seen in TNG's final appearance in the movie Nemesis.

The character of Lore allows Star Trek to more thoroughly investigate the issues of sentience and emotions in artificial life, themes that have become much more prevalent in real life 25 years later. Despite the evil twin being a horrible trope of storytelling, Lore was well used to add depth to the main character of Data while also enhancing scientific and moral debates. In other words, Star Trek at its finest.

Our quote of the week is from Descent:
"The reign of biological life forms is coming to an end. You, Picard, and those like you... are obsolete!"

Actor: Brent Spiner played Lore, and he can recently be seen in Generator Rex and The Big Bang Theory. He also plays an eccentric in the movie Independence Day.

Monday, January 20, 2014

TWITrek Character Insight No. 80: Silik

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 Silik, one of the recurring antagonists from Enterprise.


Silik is a senior officer in the Suliban Cabal, a mysterious group of soldiers who fight in the so-called Temporal Cold War. Although Silik lives in the 22nd Century, he benefits from taking orders and benefits from a 28th century boss such as personal enhancements in shapeshifting and survival skills.

Silik almost kills Captain Archer in the pilot episode of Enterprise when Archer attempted to rescue a Klingon courier who had been kidnapped in an effort to start a Klingon civil war. Archer got the best of Silik again the same year as Silik's plot to steal a temporal observatory for his boss was foiled when Archer destroyed the device.

Only then does Silik really begin to take Enterprise as a real threat and a true nemesis. Silik then captures Captain Archer a couple of times in an effort to wipe him from the timeline, but these efforts backfire. Of course, because the temporal cold war is a total mess of factions nobody really understands, Silik's boss ends up giving Archer key information that leads to Starfleet knowing how to protect Earth from total annihilation by the Xindi.

Much like Q for Captain Picard, Silik is the all-powerful foil to Captain Archer, and he plays a critical role in shaping human history thanks to his interaction with a captain of the Enterprise. Unlike Q, Silik remains an actual adversary to the Enterprise, telling Archer that he wished he would have died fighting Archer in battle rather than with him during his final appearance. Of course, the temporal cold war probably means Silik could come back like a cat with nine lives, because lazy writing writes itself.

Nonetheless, every Captain needs one or more super-nemesis foils, and Silik was a serviceable one. It would have been more interesting without a lot of the temporal cold war items, but he still turns out to be one of the better villains on the Enterprise series.

Our quote of the week is from Cold Front:

"Did they tell you that the 22nd century was going to be your final resting place?"

Actor: John Fleck played Silik, and he was a Star Trek veteran, having played multiple aliens in other series including Romulans and Cardassians. Ironically, Fleck's only appearance as a human without concealing makeup and prosthetics was when he shapeshifted in one episode as Silik. He also stars in Weeds and True Blood.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

JMR Quick Fiction January 2014

Short prompt this time, any topic at all with a limit of 500 words. Here we go.

Those of you looking at Trek profiles may enjoy this one!


These Are The Journeys…

Another day, another credit. That’s the reality of space exploration for a grunt.

“Explore The Final Frontier” the flyers said on the bulletin board in secondary school just five years ago. Just like the military organizations of the ancient world, the Star Federation always has more success recruiting young idealistic folks in that setting than anywhere else.

However, the Final Frontier feels farther away than ever when scraping sludge out of the sewage regenerator on the lower decks. Even with gloves, that nasty stuff gets right under your fingernails and hurts for hours. Well, at least until you find some time to go to Sickbay, but the ship won’t run by itself.

“Now, Go Boldly Where No One Has Gone Before!” That’s what the Dean of the Academy said during my graduation day two years ago. Well, of course it wasn’t technically graduation for me, but at least the Academy let me watch my classmates walk in the ceremony.

Those words ring ironic now, while scrubbing a toilet in the crew lounge. Someone “boldly went” on this throne, but I suppose that happens when winding down from a high-pressure day in the war zones of space. It’s really a shame that the scientists who developed faster-than-light travel did not first perfect the art of the self-cleaning toilet first, but oh well.

“Redeem Yourself and Serve The Greater Good.” Those were the final words of the parole board just six short months ago. A new flagship for the Star Federation would have been a dream assignment for an enlisted man, but there are more than just enlisted personnel on a starship. Indeed, a prisoner going on parole with three years of Academy engineering training would be a perfect fit for the below deck grunts that every ship needs, especially a flagship.

Perhaps the board was correct. There is some redeeming quality in being the man behind the scenes, doing the jobs that keep the mission going. Sure, the Captain makes a lot of decisions, and the engineers conduct experiments every day to move science forward, but those people cannot do their jobs without grunts. Sometimes they even smile at you, should they find you brushing down the flux capacitors.

But every now and again, I think I see Cadet Jefferies walking down the hall, or his reflection in a mirror I’m wiping down. It’s been over two years, and I still think he will come back.

Of course, that’s a silly notion. Jefferies is dead, which is what happens when you try an unauthorized Kolvoord Starburst with pilots not quite ready for prime time. But that’s in the past, and life moves on, even for the flight team leader. Well, 18 months in a service prison later, anyway.

Another day, another credit. I keep cleaning and scrubbing every nook and cranny of this ship, but it can’t clean the stain on my heart. It never will.

Just another day in the life for a janitor in deep space.

JMR Quick Fiction July 2013

Catching up a bit, Joey Rovinsky runs a quick fiction competition between a group of friends and acquaintances. A few people write a story for a prompt, then we all read and rank our favorites, leading to a winner who sets the next prompt, and so on.

Here was my first entry, from back in June or July 2013.


Awards Night

Tonight is the big night... 

My good man Jack spent many weeks, months, and years toiling in obscurity and hoping for a big break. At long last he finally lucked into some Hollywood connections that put him on the list for casting directors who knew how to find critical acclaim. Although it still took a few big appearances to get noticed, Jack is finally at the top of his game and everyone knows the academy will award the highest individual honor to him for all his years of work and accomplishment tonight.

The minor awards just take so long...

Jack spent hours with me, honing me into the stroke of genius that would cement him as a legend of his time. Night after night he revised and cut away only to build me back up, block by block. Of course the dissertation must start with a brief thank you to all of the people who believe they have played a role in Jack's success. The key is to bring the audience in with some quirky beginnings while staying well within the known parameters for an acceptance speech.

Finally, the presenter for our award is taking the stage...

Although Jack's parents never truly supported him in his California dreams, he will still begin by thanking them because that's what everyone does. Remember, the key is to draw the audience into a comfortable spot, let them hang on every word. He will follow that with some curt words of thanks for the staff and crew who put in a good effort, but nothing like the days and weeks of sacrifice of good old Jack. This long process was all a means to an end, an end that will be critical.

Oh, come on with the small talk already, open the envelope... 

As I sit here in the pocket of the well-tailored tuxedo of the man about to be a legend, the path is so clear and yet so simple. Jack will spin a trail of thanks and then jump right into the heart of the matter. He has been waiting so many years to finally make this stand. A stand for what is right, and for what really matters in this world. There will be no music that can play Jack off the stage because even the stodgy producers of this show will realize the importance of this message. Nothing can silence the importance of this moment and the ending to this night.

"The Award Goes To..." 

Jack takes the sip of champagne that will smooth his vocal chords for the upcoming victorious moment. A charismatic smile crosses his lips as the images of him and the soon-to-be-losers go up on the massive screen on stage. They will end up rejoicing by the end of the night when they see that their failures led to this fateful moment when Hollywood changed forever. All the years Jack put in to the business, the many sleepless nights with me at the writing table, and the long minutes and hours of this ceremony
have finally come to this. Jack will triumphantly hold me up next to the statuette when he stands in stark glory to finally tell the world...

"Brady Drieson, for Together Among Us!" 

What? How could this be? This was supposed to be the moment for Jack, the moment we told this world exactly what needed to change to reach the next level. There must be some sort of mistake.

But now here I sit, crumpled up and thrown in anger under the table. All that effort, gone to waste. Just like me, a broken letter in a trash can of history. Pity these fools will never know...