Friday, April 23, 2021

Star Trek: Final Mission

Episode: "Final Mission"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 4, Episode 9
Original Air Date: November 19, 1990

Wesley Crusher has finally been accepted to Starfleet Academy.  For a last hurrah, Picard invites the young Ensign to accompany him on an away mission.  Unfortunately, their shuttle crashes and their symbolic expedition becomes a fight for survival.  

"Final Mission" is Wes's final episode as a principal cast member on The Next Generation.  Wil Wheaton asked to be released from his contract in order to pursue other opportunities.  He would return as a guest star and also for one film but as a series regular, he was done.

It's no secret, the Wesley Crusher character never quite worked.  It's not the actor's fault.  Wil Wheaton was Gordie Lachance in Stand by Me so I will always love Wil Wheaton.  The actor himself has written and spoken extensively about the flaws in the Wesley role.  Don't be too sad for him, either.  Wheaton holds an exalted position within Geekdom for life.

In my opinion, the problem with Wes is that he was never allowed to be a real kid.  Creator Gene Roddenberry was too caught up in the idea of seeing himself in Wes and therefore pushed to make him special.  A wunderkind storyline emerged, one that justified Wes's undeserved place on the bridge but in reality, only made him more nauseating.  Even when he was allowed to be human, he was too sweet, too naive.  There was no edge to Wes.  It was as if the writers had never known a true, flesh and blood teenager in their lives.  And wardrobe certainly didn't do him any favors: the terrible sweaters the first season, then the ill-fitting Starfleet uniforms thereafter.

Wes was never replaced so the principal cast of eight was reduced to seven where it would remain for the rest of the series.  In some ways, Jake Sisko follows in his footsteps in DS9 but Jake serves a different narrative purpose in the later series and, for that and several other reasons, works much better.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Acting Notes

Nick Tate played the role of Dirgo, the pilot of the ill-fated shuttle.  He was born June 18, 1942 in Sydney.  His career began in Australian television.

His best known gigs were the British series Space: 1999 and Australia's Sons and Daughters.  In the US, he made guest appearances on such series as The X-Files, Murder, She Wrote and Lost.  Film credits include Cry Freedom, Hook and The Great Gatsby.  Tate is also known for his voiceover work on high profile theatrical trailers.  You've undoubtedly seen one.  Here's the full list.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Squid Mixes: Diamond Fuzz

When you have unusual ingredients on hand, it's a good excuse to be creative.  On a recent festive occasion, the only bubbly we had in the wine rack was a sparkling peach wine: Sweet Nancie Peach from St. Julian Winery in Paw Paw, Michigan.  We visited one of St. Julian's retail stores a couple summers ago and were quite impressed with this lovely product.  My wife challenged me to make a cocktail with it.  So...

I found a drink in The New York Bartender's Guide called a diamond fizz, consisting of gin, lemon juice, sugar and champagne/sparkling wine.  Swap out the grape wine for the peach and you've got something new.  The fizz becomes fuzz in honor of the once fuzzy peach.  Voila, the Diamond Fuzz was born!

It's quite a refreshing little concoction, I must say.  Sadly, another trip to western Michigan may be a while for us.  Even worse, St. Julian doesn't ship to Vermont!  So, we may need to find another source.

Anyone know of a good sparkling peach wine?

Monday, April 19, 2021

Star Wars Comics: Classic Star Wars #20, Tales of the Jedi: The Freedon Nadd Uprising 1

Yeah, not so many issues this week.  Marvel Unlimited is glitching at the moment and judging from the automated response I got to my complaint, I'm guessing not just for me - frustrating.

My Recent Reads

Classic Star Wars #20
Originally Published June 7, 1994
Reproduction of a comic strip from 1983-84
Writer: Archie Goodwin
Artist: Al Williamson
In-Story Timeline: 0 ABY

  • This is the final issue of this series and also the end of the newspaper strip.  Overall, I definitely enjoyed it.  None of the stories are canon but they're still fun - a romp through an imaginary galaxy.  I'm always up for that!  I suppose I can see why Star Wars didn't ultimately succeed as a comic strip.  It's kinda like the saga we know, yet it's not quite the same.  Close wasn't good enough.  Even so, the quality of execution is perfectly acceptable, on par with the Star Wars comic books of the same era.
  • I still don't think I would have read it at the time even if it had been in my paper.  I've never been a fan of serialized comic strips, not even Spider-Man.  Others in my family enjoy them - my wife and my father bonded over Brenda Starr early in our relationship.  The only one that ever worked for me was the satirical Bloom County but I even found that one hard to get into until I read a collection.  Right, the story...
  • A New Beginning continues.
  • The glowing stuff is valuable spices.  Han and Luke manage to convince Raskar this is the "treasure" they were hiding, even though Luke had just discovered them on the sensors.
  • The group manages to escape the planet, now with a hull full of spices for Raskar.  They head to Ord Mantell.
  • Showdown begins.  The story ran from December 26, 1983 - February 5, 1984.
  • The group runs into a band of bounty hunters, also after the reward for Han.
  • Surprisingly, the turncoat Raskar comes to our friends' rescue.
  • The Final Trap begins.   The story ran from February 6 - March 11, 1984.
  • Vader sends an Imperial Probe Droid to the planet Verdanth in an ongoing search for the new Rebel base.  The Rebels send Artoo and Threepio to check it out.
  • On their way back to Hoth from their adventures with the bounty hunters, Luke, Han and Chewie detour to rescue the now imperiled droids.
  • Once in contact via the Probe Droid, Vader tries to extract the location of the base from Luke's mind using the Force.  Our man successfully resists.
  • Meanwhile, Han and Artoo - mostly Artoo - figure out how to destroy the Probe Droid.
  • Our friends finally go home and the series ends.

Tales of the Jedi: The Freedon Nadd Uprising 1
August 2, 1994
Tom Veitch/Tony Akins
In-Story Timeline: 3,998 BBY

  • We return to the story of Ulic Qel-Droma and his friends on Onderon.
  • The Beast Wars are over and the new rulers of Iziz, Galia and Oron Kira, wish to purge their world of Dark Side influence by sending away the sarcophagi of the former rulers: Queen Amanoa and Freedon Nadd.
  • However, during the ceremony, a group of "Naddists" attack, stealing the sarcophagi.
  • The word sarcophagi, the proper plural of sarcophagus, is used numerous times in the text.  This pleases me greatly.
  • Master Arca and Ulic go to King Ommin, Galia's father, long confined to life-support, for help.
  • It turns out, Ommin isn't so helpless at all and his own sympathies lie with the Dark Side, not the Light.  He rises from his bed and kidnaps Arca.
  • Ulic and Galia return to Iziz to discover the Naddists have taken over.  They and their friends retreat and call out to the Republic and the Jedi for help.
  • Among those who respond to the call are Master Thon and Nomi.  And so, the two previous threads of Tales of the Jedi come together.
  • While officials on Corsucant debate their own response to the crisis, Satal and Aleema Keto, heirs to royalty in the Empress Teta system, steal Dark Side relics from the Galactic Museum.
  • Together, they head to Onderon themselves, though they intend to take up with the baddies.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Star Trek: Future Imperfect

Episode: "Future Imperfect"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 4, Episode 8
Original Air Date: November 12, 1990

During an away mission, Riker falls unconscious.  When he comes to, it's 16 years later.  He is now captain of the Enterprise.  He's both a widower and a father.  A Romulan diplomatic delegation, led by Tomalok, is coming aboard to negotiate a peace treaty.  He doesn't remember anything of the time in between.

Perhaps all is not as it seems...

This may be the best Riker episode so far, not so much for the story itself which is mostly forgettable but for establishing the character.  Especially in the aftermath of "The Best of Both Worlds," it's time for Will Riker to come into his own.  There's a new confidence.  Even though he's not quite ready to accept being ship captain, it's not difficult to believe from the viewer's perspective.

And the Jean-Luc/Ethan/Barash story is both sad and sweet.  As Elton John would say, "It's lonely out in space."

Acting Notes

Andreas Katsulas (Tomalok) was born May 18, 1946 in St. Louis, Missouri.  His most famous role was that of G'Kar on Babylon 5.  On the big screen, he is perhaps best remembered as the one-armed Sykes in The Fugitive.

Katsulas died of lung cancer in 2006.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Squid Mixes: Matinee

A matinee combines gin, green Chartreuse, sweet vermouth, orange juice and orange bitters.  I got my recipe from The New York Bartender's Guide.  As with all Chartreuse drinks, the flavor is interesting.  I feel this particular combination brings out a minty flavor in the ever-surprising Chartreuse.

Cherry Battle: Luxardo vs. Amareña Fabbri

We feel strongly about our cherries; strongly enough that we're willing to spend more for good ones; strongly enough that when my wife starts to get nervous we're running out of our favored brand, she'll buy three more jars via mail order.  The cherry garnish is the essential denouement of the Manhattan cocktail narrative.  Getting it right matters.

We've been in love with Luxardo's Original Maraschino Cherries for quite a while.  As such, I was rather surprised when my wife picked up a challenger: Amareña Fabbri, a Bologna-based product, whereas Luxardo hails from Torreglia, near Padua.

First let's establish clearly, both products are lovely.  Plus, the Amareña cherries come in a very cool jar:

The Amareña has a lighter syrup and a brighter, jammy flavor.  The Luxardo is richer with a bit more depth.  My wife preferred the Amareña, feeling it's nice for the Manhattan to have a lighter moment at the end.  Meanwhile, the Luxardo might be better on a hot fudge sundae.  I'm not so convinced.  I like the depth of flavor.  Plus, licking the spoon after adding the cherries (bartender's treat) is more satisfying with the Luxardo.

I suppose I'm willing to try it for a while - not to say I couldn't put one brand in her drink and the other in mine.  We do, after all, have at least one more unopened jar of the Luxardo cherries in the cabinet.

Winner and New Champion: Amareña Fabbri

Monday, April 12, 2021

Star Wars Comics: Tales of the Jedi #5, Classic Star Wars #17-19, Droids #1

David Roach, artist for Tales of the Jedi #5, is based in Wales.  He got his start with a self-published fanzine called Hellfire in the late '80s.  In addition to Star Wars, he has worked on such titles as Batman and Judge Dredd.  Beyond comics, he has illustrated several books for Dungeons & Dragons.

My Recent Reads

Tales of the Jedi #5: The Saga of Nomi Sunrider, Part 3
Originally Published February 1, 1994
Writer: Tom Veitch
Artist: David Roach
In-Story Timeline: 3,999 BBY
  • Thon begins Nomi's Jedi training.  She still refuses to learn to use a lightsaber.
  • With the help of a holocron, he teaches her the history of the Force.
  • Finhead Stonebone and his goons arrive, intent on stealing Thon's adegan crystals for Bogga the Hutt.
  • Thon surrenders to them but telepathically convinces Nomi to use the Force - and the lightsaber he gifted her - to fight them off, freeing Thon.
  • Thon says the holocron prophesies that Nomi will be a great Jedi.

Classic Star Wars #17
March 1, 1994
Reproduction of a comic strip from 1983
Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson
In-Story Timeline: 0 ABY

  • Race for Survival continues.
  • Luke gets the Rebel fleet safely past the solar flare but his use of the Force to do so draws Darth Vader's attention.  He knows it's Luke and for the first time, at least in the comic strip, he reveals that he is Luke's father.  (Bear in mind, not news for the readers, even at the time.  Empire had come out three years before.)
  • The Paradise Detour begins.  The story ran from July 11 - October 2, 1983.
  • After running past the solar flare, the Millennium Falcon must stop on an apparently uninhabited planet for repairs.
  • Except it's not uninhabited.  When Luke goes to check things out while Han and Chewie fix the ship, young Skywalker runs into an old friend, Tanith Shire!
  • But when he chases after her, he discovers she's another woman entirely, S'ybll.  Then she runs off and when Luke runs after her, he runs into the Night Beast instead.
  • Something weird's going on here...

Classic Star Wars #18
April 1, 1994
Reproduction of a comic strip from 1983
  • A Paradise Detour continues.
  • S'ybll is a witch, one with shape-changing powers.  In a Grimm-esque tale, she attempts to coerce Luke into staying with her so she can drain hm of youthful energy for herself.
  • When he resists, she resolves to kill him, intending to entrap his rescue party - Han and Chewie - instead.
  • In the ensuing duel - S'ybill taking the form of Darth Vader - she is exhausted of energy and finally dies.  Luke is able to escape.
  • A New Beginning begins - ha!  The story ran from October 3 - December 25, 1983.
  • The Rebels set up their new headquarters on Hoth.
  • The Millennium Falcon is a late arrival because of the detour.  It appears they were followed out of hyperspace by a strange ship - an obvious cause for concern if the new base is to remain a secret.
  • As the issue closes, Han, Luke and Chewie head out to confront the trespasser.

Classic Star Wars #19
May 1, 1994
Reproduction of a comic strip from 1983

via Wookieepedia

  • A New Beginning continues.
  • The intruder is an old friend of Han's, Raskar.
  • Raskar makes no secret of the fact that he intends to claim Jabba the Hutt's bounty on Han unless our smuggler friend can make him a better offer.
  • Wishing to draw attention away from the new Rebel base, Luke concocts a plan: convincing Raskar that Han has stashed his reward money from the Rebellion on Hoth.
  • Held at gunpoint, Han takes Raskar and his goons down to Hoth where they crash land in an icy chasm.  
  • Our adventurers dig their way out through a cavern, where they discover something bright and shiny. 
  • We don't know what it is yet.

Droids #1: The Kalarba Adventures 1
April 1994
Dan Thorsland/Bill Hughes
In-Story Timeline: 5.5 BBY
  • We join Artoo and Threepio in a time before their encounter with Luke Skywalker and friends.  They live in the Kalarba system with the Pitareeze family as hired guardians of young Nak.  They are much abused by their mischiveous charge.
  • As much as I love R2-D2 and C-3PO, I'm not a fan of stories which focus on them.  Regular readers may recall that the droid stories were far and away my least favorite episodes in Clone Wars.  As such, I did not go into this issue with high hopes.
  • And yet, it's not terrible.  Mind you, I don't think this is a series I will follow any further.  Historically, those in charge of marketing the franchise see the droids (and also the Ewoks) as an easy in with younger kids.  The human lead is usually a child, in this case Nak.  The tales rarely hold up much interest for adult readers, nor do they seem intended to do so.  As keen as I always am to explore the galaxy far, far away, I don't think droid stories are the way I want to do that.
  • I am a little curious about the .5 part of 5.5 BBY but not curious enough.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Star Trek: Reunion

Episode: "Reunion"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 4, Episode 7
Original Air Date: November 5, 1990

Captain Picard, quite surprisingly and controversially, is chosen to arbitrate the selection of the new Klingon leader.  There are two candidates: Duras and Gowron.  One of them, however, killed K'mpec, the previous leader, slowly poisoning him.  Picard must discover which before making his decision.

But wait, there's more.  K'Ehleyr is back and she has a son, Alexander.  What's more, Worf is the father and this is the first he's learned of the child!  Our favorite security officer takes on a lot in this story: reconnecting with his ex, encountering Klingons for the first time since his discommendation, gaining a son and almost immediately taking on primary responsibility for him, leading an investigation of a bombing attack, grieving the loss of his ex, avenging her murder and disappointing his captain.

K'Ehleyr, episode director Jonathan Frakes
and Worf on set via Memory Alpha

Question: Are there babysitting services on the Enterprise?  At one point, it seems like Worf and K'Ehleyr leave Alexander by himself.  Maybe they made arrangements off camera?  Or is this part of a broader pattern of neglect?  Or simply a narrative oversight?  (Children are often "forgotten" on television)

Obviously, this is one of the more important Worf stories in the series and, frankly, one of the most significant Klingon tales in the whole franchise.  Gowron is an important character moving forward, for both Next Gen and Deep Space Nine.  

Acting Notes

Robert O'Reilly (Gowron) was born March 25, 1950 in New York City.  His long association with Star Trek - mostly as Gowron but a few other roles, too - has been his highest profile work.  The eye thing helped him get the part!  

Other credits include the Jim Carrey film The Mask and guest appearances on Cheers, Knight Rider and MacGyver.  He and his wife have triplet sons.

I am generally disdainful of meme culture but these are too good not to share: