Monday, June 29, 2015

Character Insight No. 151: Doohan Takeover Voices, Part 1

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 
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Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we take a look at a couple of the many recurring characters who showed up originally on TOS and then again on TAS, but the latter time being voiced by James Doohan instead of the original actor.


Robert Wesley, 2268.jpg
(Robert Wesley of the TOS version, courtesy memory-alpha.org)
 

One of the charming aspects about TAS was that thanks to limited budgets, there was not a lot of wiggle room to bring back guest actors for voice roles. Instead, James Doohan and Nichelle Nichols took on some addtional roles. Particularly in the case of Doohan, it showed his great range of voice talent.

Thus, there are a handful of callback characters who were played by other actors in TOS and then taken over by Doohan, and one of these is Commodore Robert Wesley from the TOS episode The Ultimate Computer. He's the commander of the Lexington in the war games that go bad thanks to the takeover of Enterprise by the M-5 supercomputer. His decision to not fire on the Enterprise when its shields go down was a gamble that paid off, thanks to Kirk getting the situation under control where others like Dr. Daystrom could not.

"Our compliments to the M-5 unit, and regards to Captain Dunsel. Wesley out."

After the stresses of this mission and being a commodore for 5 years, Wesley retired to be a governor of Mantilles, the most remote inhabited planet of the Federation at the time. In the TAS episode One of Our Planets is Missing, Wesley appears again in a rescue of the people of Mantilles from a cosmic cloud, albeit with a slightly different voice this time.

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White Rabbit, 2267.jpg
(The White Rabbit, courtesy memory-alpha.com)

Another character, albeit a stranger one, which also shows up in both series is the White Rabbit. This is a robotic representation of the character from Alice in Wonderland, a construct made by the Shore Leave Planet on the episode Shore Leave based on a stray thought from Dr. McCoy about that same story. As you would expect, the rabbit is chased by a girl named Alice and is always concerned about being late. 

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This Amusement Park Planet is visited again by the Enterprise in TAS in the episode Once Upon a Planet. After Alice catches up to the rabbit, they have lunch with McCoy, Sulu and a dragon. Because 1970's cartoons make sense, but once again Doohan took over the voicing for this character.

Barry Russo played Commodore Wesley in TOS, and his final and perhaps most famous role was in the original Hawaii Five-O, 25 years before his death in 2003.  William Blackburn played the White Rabbit in TOS, and he also played Lt. Hadley and acted as a stand in for Deforest Kelley in almost every other episode of TOS.

Until next time, let's be thankful for all the great work we received from Doohan during his life, even though he snubbed one of the best Futurama episodes ever.

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Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...

Monday, June 15, 2015

Character Insight No. 150: The Best of Spock, in Abrams universe

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.
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Welcome back to Character Insight!  This week, we celebrate 150 segments the same way we've celebrated 50 and 100, with a profile on Spock! 

This is the character's fifth overall appearance which underlines his importance to this franchise. We did the Best of Leonard Nimoy Spock a few weeks ago in memoriam, so let's do another "Best Of" segment, this time with Spock of the alternate Abrams timeline.

Spock (alternate reality).jpg
(Did you want Nimoy Spock, Sheldon...well sorry, you'll have to live with Quinto Spock! Photo courtesy memory-alpha.wikia.com)

The first portion of Star Trek 2009 sets the background for how Spock and Kirk grow up and come together, and we see Spock's struggle dealing with fitting in with Vulcans, even upon acceptance to the Vulcan Science Academy:
Spock: Council... Ministers, I must decline. 
Vulcan Council President: No Vulcan has ever declined admission to this academy! 
Spock: Then, as I am half-human, your record remains untarnished. 
Sarek: Spock, you have made a commitment to honor the Vulcan way. 
Vulcan Council President: Why did you come before this council today? Was it to satisfy your emotional need to rebel? 
Spock: The only emotion I wish to convey is gratitude. Thank you, Ministers, for your consideration. 
[In a tone reserved for telling someone to 'Go to Hell'
Spock: Live long and prosper. 

When the planet Vulcan is destroyed, Spock struggles again with controlling his emotions, which is a good parallel to what we know about prime universe Spock:
Spock: I am as conflicted as I once was as a child. 
Sarek: You will always be a child of two worlds. I am grateful for this, and for you. 
Spock: I feel anger for the one who took Mother's life - an anger I *cannot* control. 

This timeline's Spock benefits from having prime timeline Spock as a guide and possible mentor, as evidenced by this exchange between both Spocks:
Spock Prime: Because you needed each other. I could not deprive you of the revelation of all that you could accomplish together, of a friendship that will define you both in ways you cannot yet realize. 
Spock: How did you persuade him to keep your secret? 
Spock Prime: He inferred that universe-ending paradoxes would ensue should he break his promise. 
Spock: You lied. 
Spock Prime: Aww... I... I implied. 
Spock: A gamble. 
Spock Prime: An act of faith. One I hope that you will repeat in your future in Starfleet. 

It would definitely be cool to have 50 years of hindsight when providing advice to yourself. One major divergence in this timeline is a romantic relationship with Uhura, which leads to some humorous dialogue where Spock has to deal with competing professional and personal interests:
Lt. Nyota Uhura: And while you are well aware of my own qualified desires to serve on the U.S.S. Enterprise, I'm assigned to the Farragut? 
Spock: It was an attempt to... 
[he glances around, keeping his voice low
Spock: ...avoid the appearance of favoritism. 
Lt. Nyota Uhura: [Adamantly] No. I'm assigned to the Enterprise. 
Spock: [He adjusts his roster list] Yes, I believe you are. 
Lt. Nyota Uhura: Thank you. 

The struggles of dealing with this relationship continue in Into Darkness, where Uhura feels betrayed by Spock for appearing non-feeling in a moment of near death until he provided the following explanation:
Spock: You misunderstand. It is true I chose not to feel anything upon realizing my own life was ending. As Admiral Pike was dying, I joined with his consciousness and experienced what he felt at the moment of his passing. Anger. Confusion. Loneliness. Fear. I had experiences those feelings before, multiplied exponentially on the day my planet was destroyed. Such a feeling is something I choose never to experience again. Nyota, you mistake my choice not to feel as a reflection of my not caring. Well, I assure you, the truth is precisely the opposite. 

As important as Uhura is to Spock in this timeline, Kirk is still even more so as a friend and co-leader of the Enterprise. We see this banter develop nicely between these two in Into Darkness:
James T. Kirk: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. 
Spock: An Arabic proverb attributed to a prince who was betrayed and decapitated by his own subjects. 
James T. Kirk: Well, still, it's a hell of a quote. 

That led to the climactic scene where Kirk and Spock end up cementing their friendship, despite it coming in the seeming context of one of their deaths:
James T. Kirk: I'm scared, Spock... help me not to be... how do you choose not to feel? 
Spock: I do not know. Right now, I am failing. 
James T. Kirk: I wanted you to know why I couldn't let you die... why I went back for you... 
Spock: Because you are my friend. 

And even though that was practically ripped off from the script of The Wrath of Khan, it still marks a top moment in Spock and Kirk's relationship in the new timeline. It will be interesting to see how Zachary Quinto's Spock further develops from here in next year's movie, especially relative to Kirk and Uhura.

Until next time, live long and prosper, Spock fans...

Character Insight No. 149: Alynna Nechayev

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 
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Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we profile Admiral Alynna Nechayev, who appeared in several episodes of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.

Alynna Nechayev 2371.jpg

(The Admiral, courtesy memory-alpha.org)

Admiral Nechayev is an expert on the Cardassian Union and dealing with the issues that come up along that border. That makes her an important figure in the latter season of TNG, when she first shows up as a vice admiral and direct superior to Captain Picard.


It turns out, Picard and Nechayev don't get along all that well. It's pretty easy to see why, as Nechayev doesn't trust Picard's leadership skills and negotiation style when it comes to dealing with more adversarial races like the Cardassians and the Borg. She even relieves Picard of command of Enterprise for a mission when she deems Edward Jellico to be a better expert on negotiating a treaty with the Cardassians. 

As you might expect, Riker doesn't take kindly to this either:
From the episode Chain of Command, Part 1:
Riker: "Admiral, with all due respect, it's not necessary to give Captain Jellico command of the Enterprise just to conduct a negotiation."
Nechayev: "I disagree. The Enterprise will be in a dangerous situation and I want someone on the bridge who has a great deal of experience with the Cardassians. No offense, commander, but that's not you."


After Nechayev is promoted to fleet admiral the next year, Picard tries to make amends with her by buying her a favorite: Bulgarian canapĂ©s. Although the relationship is still pretty cold, at least Nechayev begins to respect Picard more and understand him more even when they continue to come to loggerheads over details of a signed non-aggression treaty.

Although the Enterprise only occasionally cuts into the Cardassian and related story lines, Nechayev serves as a logical link between the two concurrent Star Trek shows in the 1990s. Thus, when we see Nechayev leading the Federation efforts against the Maquis after an insurrection on the Cardassians and the kidnapping of Gul Ducat in DS9, she also appears in TNG to recruit Ro Laren to infiltrate the Maquis on her behalf and help her understand and sympathize with the party she has to publicly condemn and sanction.

From the episode The Maquis, Part II:
Nechayev - "The Maquis are a bunch of irresponsible hotheads."

Although Nechayev is a strong character who butts heads with Picard and even Sisko, she is highly dedicated to her principles and her mission. Actress Natalia Nogulich, who played Nechayev, came from a military family, including her grandfather who was a Medal of Honor recipient and her father who participated in World War II, including the invasion at Normandy. Drawing on that experience from family added a legitimacy and authentic touch to her portrayal, including the leader who must make unpopular decisions in the name of the greater good.

Indeed, Nogulich has been told recently by Marines that Generals have watched her interactions with Picard and other subordinates and have modeled their communication and dialogue with subordinates in the same manner. That's a compliment of the highest order, and it shows just how perfect Nogulich was for this role.

When not playing in Star Trek, Nogulich can be found in many television series, including this year on Glee. Her Nechayev character is one of the most used admirals in the Star Trek books for those who want more of this character in their life.

Until next time, don't be afraid to make the tough decisions like a boss.

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Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...

Monday, June 8, 2015

Character Insight No. 148: Jannar

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.  
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Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we return to Enterprise and profile Jannar, now that you have the required background on the Xindi Council and Degra from last week.
(insert enterprise theme)

(We found Jannar, courtesy memory-alpha.org)

Jannar is the personal friend of Degra on the Xindi Council. Jannar, like Degra, was of the same mind when it came to how to handle the humans after the Enterprise first entered the Delphic Expanse. To this end, he was vocal about using the Xindi super weapon instead of taking rash actions of war against Earth, and he was also strongly opposed to developing and using a bioweapon.


From the episode Azati Prime:
Jannar: Better their world than ours. 
Degra: That's what I keep telling myself. But the reality is, a good number of the dead will be innocents. And children. 
Jannar: It's best not to think about it. 
Degra: That's difficult when you have children of your own. 
Jannar: What we do is for them - for our children's future. Remember that. 
Degra: I wonder how they'll... remember us. 

As a scientist, he has strong reservations about hurting innocents like children, unless absolutely necessary. Thus, Degra has his biggest ally in Jannar, and this is the council member that helps convince the rest of the Xindi Council to listen to Captain Archer after being convinced to review the evidence himself of the Sphere Builders being the only potential beneficiaries of using the super weapon.

Jannar has his arboreal people launch their vessels in support of Enterprise when Captain Archer then has to defend against the super weapon being launched. Jannar also helped fill the crew of Degra's ship after Degra was executed, to provide a chance for Captain Archer and company to catch the super weapon and have a chance to stop it before Earth's destruction.

Unlike the Oppenheimer role that Degra plays, Jannar is more straightforward for a role. However, he provides another deep glimpse into the complicated decisions and nature of the Xindi side of this conflict. And another ally for Archer's crew, which is critical to the end result of saving the planet.

Rick Worthy played Jannar, and despite making 10 appearances in this season of Enterprise, he was never deterred by the long days in the makeup room to get ready to play this character. He personally enjoyed the similarities in appearance of Jannar to Chewbacca, the legendary Star Wars character. When not in various Trek roles, Worthy can be found in TV shows like The Vampire Diaries, CSI, Heroes, and Battlestar Galactica.

Until next time, enjoy Chewie-like characters, regardless of the show or movie they appear in. 

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Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...

Monday, June 1, 2015

Character Insight No. 147: Degra

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. 

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Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, the internet is all about some character called Jenner, so let's profile the character from Star Trek of the same name. But this Jannar doesn't hang out with Kardashians, he hangs out with this:

<<Enterprise theme song>>
 

Degra2154.jpg
(This is not the Jannar you are looking for, courtesy memory-alpha.org)

Jannar is the personal friend of Degra on the Xindi Council. Wait, you don't know who Degra is because we haven't covered him? Well, you can't really understand Jannar without understanding Degra...


Oh to hell with it, for episode 147 <>, we might as well change course mid-stream. It's a silly Enterprise segment after all. 

Welcome back, again, to Character Insight. This week, by necessity, we profile Degra from Enterprise. 

Degra is a prominent Xindi scientist and a member of the Xindi Council. The first time we see Degra, he advised the council to avoid attacking Enterprise when it first entered the Delphic expanse, instead offering to use his upcoming super weapon to wipe out Earth instead. But his work on the super weapon took years, so the Council grows impatient waiting for him and starts work on a bioweapon instead.

Degra serves the role of J. Robert Oppenheimer for this show, the creator of a weapon of mass destruction who struggles with the ethics of it all. Like Oppenheimer, Degra wants to save his race and his family more than anything, and he is willing to go to the extreme of making and using the super weapon on multiple species and worlds to do it. At one point, we find out the pain of his past when his third child is lost before birth. One of his other daughters is named Jaina. You know, like...<>

Back to seriousness, Degra expresses this to Archer in the best episode featuring him, Stratagem:
Degra: Do you... have a family, Captain? 
Captain Jonathan Archer: [... ] I never really had an opportunity to start one. I was away from home a lot. 
Degra: You should make the time. I've learned that our work, in the end, means very little. Our real legacy is the children. I would do anything to protect mine. 

But Captain Archer in multiple confrontations with Degra eventually convinces him with evidence showing that the creation of the super weapon will actually eradicate both humans and Degra's race. It will lead to the Sphere Builders taking over the region of space for their own purposes.

Degra also eventually helps Archer convince Jannar, another Council member. And that leads to Archer presenting his position to the Xindi Council, which led to a reconsideration of the attack on Earth. But after this meeting, one of the reptilian Council members murders Degra in retribution for helping Archer destroy a reptilian ship earlier. Archer has revenge on this Council member for Degra, however.

But really, this death was inevitable for this conflicted character on both sides of this conflict. However, this character's impact is a huge one as a central player in the Xindi-Earth conflict, which is arguably the centerpiece of the best season of this show.

Kudos to the show writers for being willing to take on a tough character type like an Oppenheimer. According to the show producers, this is another role that became a recurring character and a much bigger part of the plot thanks to the great performance of actor Randy Oglesby. He took the core concept of this character and added some great personal touches. When not in Enterprise, Oglesby can be seen in small roles in movies like Pearl Harbor, Independence Day, and The Island.

Until next time, don't let the ethics of building a Death Star get to you. 

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Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...