Monday, October 26, 2015

Character Insight No. 165: Lt. Kevin Riley (in memorium of Bruce Hyde)

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 honor the memory of actor Bruce Hyde, who passed away at the age of 74 last week.  He is best known for his two early appearances on TOS as Lieutenant Kevin Riley.
 Bruce Hyde on 'Star Trek'
(Riley at the conn next to Sulu, in one of his appearances)

Kevin Riley only made two appearances in the show, both in the first season. However, he's the star of the show in the episode The Naked Time, which was one of the first episodes aired and therefore makes him highly memorable despite the limited appearances. 

In The Naked Time, Riley takes control of the ship when infected with a disease that causes people to lose their emotional inhibitions. While other notable things are happening like Sulu running around with a fencing foil and his shirt off, Riley barricades himself in the engine room and sings dictates to the crew as "acting captain." Hilarity ensues. 

Riley: You rang, sir? 
Capt. Kirk: Who is this? 
Riley: This is Captain Kevin Thomas Riley of the Starship Enterprise. And who's this? 
Capt. Kirk: This is Captain Kirk. Get out of the engine room, Navigator. Where's Mr. Scott? 
Riley: I've relieved Mister Scott of his duties. 

Riley: [over the intercom] Lt. Uhura, you've interrupted my song, uh... I'm sorry but there'll be no ice cream for YOU tonight. 
Capt. Kirk: Cut him off. 
Uhura: I can't, sir. There's no way to do it. 
Riley: Attention, crew, this is Capt. Riley. There will be a formal dance in the bowling alley at nineteen hundred hours tonight. 

Riley then makes a very small appearance in The Conscience of the King, but this is nowhere near as notable as his taking over the ship and singing the Irish night away. That may be why we did not see much of him again, as that was such a strong bit role that it would've likely been difficult to keep him in the background. Plus, recurring background roles basically did not exist on TOS, as Riley is one of only three actors to portray the same background character in more than one episode. 

Bruce Hyde had an incredibly short television acting career, with all of his roles being in 1965 and 1966 other than a recent appearance in 2010 in The Confession of Lee Harvey Oswald. Star Trek was easily his most notable role, but he also managed appearances in The Beverly Hillbillies and on Dr. Kildare. 

Hyde was known better for many years of stage acting on Broadway. He settled down in Minnesota and taught acting classes for St. Cloud State University the past decade, while acting in local productions until the day he died last week. 

Rest in peace, Bruce. Thank you for your contributions to Star Trek and the future artistic endeavors of other actors.


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

Monday, October 19, 2015

Character Insight No. 164: Best of B'Elanna Torres

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

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


(B'Elanna Torres, courtesy Wikipedia)

Although Voyager was the first show since the Original Series to feature a Vulcan main character, Torres actually serves as more of an analogue to the character of Spock, a relative outsider who struggles with her hybrid heritage, in this case half human and half Klingon.

In the Season 1 episode Faces, this balance of the two heritages is shown in great detail when the Vidiians use advanced medical technology to split B'Elanna into two people, a timid human and a tenacious Klingon. Her human half admits that she cannot survive without the Klingon toughness, but she fights an internal conflict which has lasted since she tried to cover up her different Klingon roots since she was a child.

Human B'Elanna Torres: I do know that right now - the way I am... I'm more at peace with myself than I've ever been before. And that's a *good* feeling.
Commander Chakotay: But?
Human B'Elanna Torres: I'm incomplete. It doesn't feel like me. I guess I've had someone else living inside of me for too long to feel right without her.
Commander Chakotay: I'd have to say that you two made quite a team down there.
Human B'Elanna Torres: I know. I came to admire a lot of things about her. Her strength - her bravery... I guess, I just have to accept the fact that I'll spend the rest of my life fighting with her.

Indeed, much of the remainder of the series shows B'Elanna struggling to keep control over her raw Klingon instincts, which is a similar battle that we understand Vulcans must master to be like Spock.

This character's coming of age moment perhaps did not come until the Season 6 episode Barge of the Dead. This is a Klingon heavy episode, so Darrell beware, but a near-death experience lets B'Elanna travel to Klingon hell, where she finds out her mother will spend all eternity thanks to the dishonor she has caused her family. But thankfully, she discovers on the barge heading to Klingon hell that she can renounce her uncontrolled anger which creates the family dishonor, thereby going instead with her mom to Sto-Vo-Kor. 
 B'Elanna Torres: [of her mother] Did I ever tell you that she put me in a Klingon monastery?
Tom Paris: [snorts] You're kidding.
B'Elanna Torres: It was after their marriage ended. She pulled me out of the Federation school, in order to teach me... honor and discipline.
Tom Paris: Hm - out of the plasma cooker into the fire.
B'Elanna Torres: She prayed to Kahless every day to guide me in the ways of the warrior. I guess he wasn't listening.

 But by my watch, the best episode for Torres is hands-down the dark piece called Extreme Risk in Season 5. In this episode, the crew discovers after a holodeck accident testing the Delta Flyer that Torres has been regularly risking her life in the holodeck without safety precautions. When pressed by Chakotay, she reveals that she has not been able to mentally deal with the news from the Alpha Quadrant that most of her Maquis friends have been eradicated by the Cardassians and the Dominion, coping only by putting herself in near-suicidal danger. This is a fantastic character piece that should speak wisdom to all those who suffer from depression, or the friends and family of those in that state.

B'Elanna Torres: When I was six, my father walked out on me. When I was 19, I got kicked out of Starfleet. A few years later, I got separated from the Maquis. And just when I start to feel safe, you tell me that all of our old friends have been slaughtered. The way I figure it, I've lost every family I've ever had. Chakotay: B'Elanna - you have a new family now, here on Voyager. And you're not gonna lose us. You're stuck with us. B'Elanna Torres: You can't promise me that. Chakotay: No, I suppose I can't. Losing people's inevitable; and sometimes it happens sooner than we expect. But I can promise you that the people on this ship aren't about to let you stop living your life, or break your neck on the holodeck. You're gonna have to find another way to deal with this.

B'Elanna is a young character who comes into her own in this series, a much better and more developed version of Harry Kim, if you will. Half Klingon heritage plays a big role in the show runners making this character better.

Fun facts: Roxann Dawson was the first actor to be cast on this show after her reading for this character. She was pregnant in Season 4, but the crew covered it up with lab coats except in the holodeck episode Killing Game, where Dawson is shown to be pregnant with a Nazi officer's child! You never know what you might find lurking inside those big lab coats!

Until next time, overcome the internal struggle and be the best mixture that you can be.


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

Monday, October 12, 2015

Character Insight No. 163: Best of Neelix

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

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

(Neelix, courtesy Memory Alpha)

Although not as well developed as some other main characters, Neelix is a constant presence thanks to his varied roles on the ship including comic relief, chef, and chief morale officer. He has at least one spotlight episode in every season, which is more than some other characters in the Voyager ensemble. 

And he was originally profiled way back in the third episode of this segment in May 2012! Well overdue for an update, so let's look at his best quotes and moments. 

In the Season 4 episode Mortal Coil, Neelix experiences death for over 18 hours as a result of hazards in a survey mission at a nebula. When revived using Borg technology from Seven, Neelix suffers from a crisis of faith when he does not experience the afterlife he expected.

Neelix: I died, and there was nothing. There was no one there. No Forest. 
Chakotay: Forest? 
Neelix: The Great Forest. The afterlife. I was taught that when I died, my ancestors would be there, waiting for me by the Guiding Tree. My sisters, my mother and father, my cousins, everyone who was killed in the war. I took great comfort in knowing that we'd all be together again one day. But it's not true. 

He in fact almost commits suicide, but with the guidance of Chakotay and a timely intervention to go soothe his somewhat goddaughter Naomi's fears of monsters at bedtime, he realizes life does have purpose other than the afterlife. 

Neelix is often paired with Tuvok for stories in view of how opposite these characters are. Although many like the Season 6 episode Riddles for the odd couple character development, I find the Season 2 episode Tuvix more fascinating. A transporter accident causes Tuvok, Neelix, and a flower they were collecting on a planet to be merged into a new person later called Tuvix. Which is funny because they are so different.

Neelix: You know something? You're acting more Tuvokian than usual this morning. 
Lieutenant Tuvok: I am who I am, Mr. Neelix. It is impossible for me to be more or less like myself. 

The Doctor develops a way to disentangle the DNA and molecules of these characters from one another, but this takes a couple of weeks and the new character Tuvix had endeared himself to the crew. Indeed, the combination strangely brings out the best side of both characters in unison. That leads to some difficult philosophical questions about life and death decisions, and the Captain eventually has to make the judgment call to terminate Tuvix to give Tuvok and Neelix their lives back. But it's not easy, as proven by this plea for life as the combined being:

Tuvix: I know there'll be some people who... will call me a coward because I didn't sacrifice myself willingly. Believe me, I've thought of that. But I have the will to live of two men. Look at me, Captain. When I'm happy, I laugh. When I'm sad, I cry; when I stub my toe, I yell out in pain. I'm flesh and blood. And I... have the right to live!

Another good character piece is Fair Trade from Season 3, in which Neelix makes a series of poor decisions trying to help an old acquaintance who has very nefarious schemes in mind, while Neelix is just trying to unravel the mess that gets worse and worse. It's a parallel to The First Duty in TNG, and a very relatable story with the great lesson to just fess up before the cover up makes things far worse. 

Wixiban: We'll end up in his cryostatic prison for decades. 
Neelix: Not if he agrees to my plan. 
Wixiban: Your plan is crazy. It's worse than prison; it's a death sentence! 
Neelix: That would be better than living a lie. 

If nothing else, Neelix brought good local Delta Quadrant flavor to the ensemble cast, and it was good to see him get some serious episodes to balance out the usual humor. Other top episodes include Jetrel, Once Upon a Time, and Homestead. Even if you found Neelix annoying, at least he was never dull.

Until next time, enjoy that Delta Quadrant home cooking. 


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

Monday, October 5, 2015

Character Insight No. 162: Best of Harry Kim

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

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


(Promotional shot of the character, courtesy

It's actually relatively difficult to make a list of best Harry Kim episodes, as he was the focus of episodes about as frequently as he was considered for promotions, which is to say, not much at all. One recurring theme was Harry's struggles with love interests, which reaches a crescendo in the season 5 episode The Disease:

Harry Kim: Have you ever been in love, Captain? 
Captain Kathryn Janeway: Your point? 
Harry Kim: Did your skin ever flush when you were near another person? Did your stomach ever feel like... someone hollowed it out with a knife when you were apart? Did your throat ever swell when you realized it was over? Seven of Nine - Seven of Nine told me love's like a disease! Well, maybe it is. Pheromones, endorphins, chemicals in our blood - changing our responses... physical discomfort; but any way you look at it, it's still love! 

When not making sweeping statements about love and dealing with his emotions, Harry is often found in brutal situations, as he's often the main character put in serious distress. His friendship with Tom Paris proves invaluable in surviving imprisonment for an alleged terrorist attack in the season 3 episode The Chute

Harry Kim: Tom, listen to me. I... I almost killed you. 
Tom Paris: What are you saying? You're the one that kept me alive. 
Harry Kim: I was ready to hit you with the pipe. Don't you remember? 
Tom Paris: You want to know what I remember? Someone saying "This man is my friend. Nobody touches him." I'll remember that for a long time. 

On some occasions, Harry does get to be the unlikely hero. One example of this is the two-parter The Killing Game from season 4, where Harry saves the ship and shows some ability to think fast on his feet when grilled about his fake claim to be a 20th Century American citizen (part 2). 

Tom Paris: [as Davis] Look, I don't have time for 20 Questions. You say you're an American? All right, then. If Betty Grable came around that corner, what part of her would you be staring at? 
[Kim thinks hard, but doesn't come up with an answer
Tom Paris: [cocking his gun] Sorry. Time's up. 
Harry Kim: Her legs! I-I'd be staring at her legs! 
[after a moment's hesitation, Davis smiles
Tom Paris: Bullseye - lucky for you. 

However, there's one episode that easily stands out for this character as the best, and that's Timeless from Season 5. The episode is a bit of a time travel mess, but Harry proves to be the hero through the alternate timelines by sending a message back in time to himself to correct a phase shift correction error that led to 150 crew members dying. 

Harry Kim: [in a recorded message to his younger self] Hello, Harry. I don't have much time, so listen to me. Fifteen years ago, I made a mistake, and 150 people died. I've spent every day since then regretting that mistake. But if you're watching this right now, that means all of that's changed. You owe me one. 

Ensign Kim was clearly the short straw when it comes to Voyager's writing staff, and it was disappointing to see a young character not experience more development over the course of this show. However, every character will eventually have some great moments, and this is no exception. Actor Garrett Wang is at least a great ambassador to Star Trek fans on Twitter and at other social events and conventions. 

Until next time, keep striving for that promotion. 


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