Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Character Insight No. 172: General Martok

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

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

(Martok, courtesy Memory Alpha)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, earn your honor.

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Character Insight No. 171: Best of Kathryn Janeway

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

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

Janeway Season7.jpg

(The Captain, courtesy Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, December 14, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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