Lapsed Trekkie Still Angry About B5 Laserdiscs

I’m currently a lapsed Trekkie, I guess. I don’t have copies of any of the Episodes of any Star Trek Series, in any format, other than the mpg’s that I’m pulling off the air on both The CW Austin and TV Land.

We sold the few laserdisc copies of episodes at the Las Vegas convention The Wife went to. I think she got 25 bucks for the first season of Star Trek and all of the Babylon 5 disks that were made. Compare that to the much larger amount that we spent obtaining those disks, and you begin to understand the disgust I feel right now. C’est la vie.

I’m waiting for everyone to sell off their old copies of the Star Trek DVD’s so that I can get a copy of my own on the cheap.


The fact that I don’t own a copy of Star Trek in any format can be blamed directly on my experiences with attempting to collect a more recent series, Babylon 5. I had a few choice words for Warner Brothers over that debacle.

To Whom it May Concern:

I noticed that the B5 episodes are coming out on DVD. I’d like to state, for the record: I love B5, it is one of the best SF shows ever to see broadcast. I would also like to state, for the record: I will not be buying the DVD’s until season 3 is available due to previous experiences with Warner Bros. and video releases of B5.

We were told, when the laserdisk format episodes were released, that all the episodes would be available in that format, that there wasn’t going to be a release on DVD (I believe they said ‘ever’), and that the widescreen formats DID NOT EXIST (even though we had been assured by those who worked on the production that the shooting was done that way). This was all told to us by representatives of WB.

My wife and I foolishly, in hindsight, bought LD’s as they came out, instead of waiting for them all to be available. WB only released seasons 1 & 5, half of 2, and half of 4. None of 3 ever saw LD format. If you add it up, 40 bucks a disk, 12-14 disks a season, that comes to about $1700 that was wasted on those disks, which are worthless now; worthless, not because the format is dead (I generally watch a laserdisk at least two times a week) but because the series is incomplete, and is missing THE BEST EPISODES.

Time pases, SciFi shows the episodes, and low and behold, the widescreen versions do indeed exist. Now they are releasing the ‘entire series’ again, this time on DVD’s, one season at a time.

As the saying goes “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” I’ll wait for the episodes I need to make a complete set. I’ll be glad to make a even trade with WB, episode for episode, for all of the B5 that I already own on LD format. From where I’m sitting, ya’ll would be getting quite a bargain…

Sincerely,
-R.Anthony Steele

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


I own the Babylon 5 DVD’s, because they were all released in that format. The funds wasted on the Laserdisks have left a sour taste in my mouth when it comes to attempting to collect other television programs in any format.

Just when I was ready to spring for Star Trek DVD’s, the remastered versions show up, as well as the newly conceived format of HD-DVD. And I get that feeling that I’ve wasted money…

One…

More…

Time…

So, once again, I’m not buying anything else media related until I know what the eventual result of the format wars will be. When ya’ll (the bigwhigs in the media conglomerations) figure out which end is up, let the rest of us know, will you? Until then, I’m duping on-air copies of programs and burning them to disk myself.

Of course, they could offer to upgrade previously purchased media to the new format (as I suggested they do with the B5 Laserdisks) but I’m sure they don’t see any reason to cut into their profits and offer to make good on their take on intellectual property rights (as in I don’t have the right to duplicate my purchased copies of their intellectual property for my own use)
and guarantee that the average user (me) doesn’t need to duplicate their copy protected material in order to keep using our purchased copies.

Consequently, I don’t see any need to run out and line their pockets with money that I can ill afford to spend right now, purchasing copies of media that will be defunct and in need of replacement a few years down the road.

The cost of digital cable and blank DVD media is a bargain in comparison.

How About an Example of a Bad Show?

OK, so I like the new BSG and the re-mastered classic Star Trek. Does that mean I have no taste? That I will buy anything the studios throw out? Not really, no. The last two incarnations of Star Trek that Paramount produced were so bad I didn’t watch one of them, and I wish I hadn’t watched the other. I sat out the last three seasons of Voyager, not because the show had lost all contact with the characters that had started in the series (it had. What was Neelix still doing on the ship without the love of his life?) but because it offended my sensibilities that Paramount would use Star Trek fans to browbeat the local broadcasters into carrying their failing channel UPN. The show wasn’t available in the Austin market for about a year because we didn’t have a local carrier for UPN, and when one finally showed up, I had already decided to sit out the remainder of the program.

Truth in advertising.

I also sat out the first three seasons of Enterprise. Enterprise was so flawed in conceptualization that I couldn’t even watch the show, although I tried watching the premiere. I just couldn’t suspend disbelief. Basically, it comes down to the established fact that there were no Vulcans in Starfleet before Spock. Every time the boob babe flounced on screen in Enterprise, I was thrown right out of believing the show. Combine that with the fact that I couldn’t stand Scott Bakula even when he was on Quantum Leap, and you’ve got a show that I can’t watch and enjoy.

There were two episodes of the last season (I tuned in to watch Brent Spiner open season four, stayed for the end of the season) that I actually could sit back and enjoy. They were the two part In a Mirror, Darkly (a prequel to Mirror, Mirror) which could be viewed as canon because the existence of Vulcans on the ship was explained, and they were watchable because Bakula made a very convincing bad guy.

Overall Enterprise was a show I didn’t watch, and didn’t mind missing.

I wish I had missed the movie Nemesis, I want my money back for that film. It wasn’t just bad Trek (which I had grown used to) it was bad cinema. I don’t know how it ranks a 6.5 at IMDB. I give it about a 3, which it gets for stunningly expensive special effects alone. The storyline gets it about a 1. Completely unbelievable, with a dune buggy thrown into the middle of it just to add insult to injury (Gene never allowed wheeled vehicles on the show. It was one of the ways that he separated the Star Trek universe from today’s world. They had grown beyond the use of the wheel) and yet another Data clone (how many versions of his android did Dr. Soong make and throw away before he made Data anyway? Just a bit casual with his creations, isn’t he? Leaving them scattered about on different planets. Don’t they have littering laws in the 24th century?) and the never before mentioned race of Remuns that are in competition for domination of the Romulan binary homeworld system.

The movie was lame from start to finish, and the only saving grace is the most impressive collision of starships that I’ve ever seen on film. (Worf finally gets to run into something) Not enough to make it worth the cost of a ticket.

And then there’s the proposed script for the next film, tentively dubbed Star Trek XI. This is one fan that sincerely hopes that J.J. Abrams is as good as his word, and isnt’ contemplating shooting Harve Bennett’s Star Trek Babies script. (although the page still talks about Kirk and Spock meeting at the academy. Maybe somebody should point out to him that Spock and Kirk met for the first time on the Enterprise. Spock had served in Star Fleet for 30 years before meeting James T. Kirk. That also is canon) They’ve been pretty tight lipped about the production so far. I hope that’s a good sign. I’ve liked several of the projects he’s worked on in the past. Here’s hoping that he continues the trend.

Classic Trek Gets a Makeover – What was the Fuss About?

I said I’d wait for the premiere when I wrote Classic Trek Gets a Makeover a couple of months back. Now, after having watched about eight re-mastered episodes, I have to wonder what all the fuss was about.

Screen cap has a bit of the jaggies going on there. Better comparison images here.

I guess Paramount wanted to hype the fact that they were changing Classic Trek so that they could get more people to watch it. I’m still waiting to see an effects heavy episode (they are holding those back until later in the release schedule, although some preliminary tests for the Episode “The Doomsday Machine” were uploaded to YouTube) to see how close they will stay to the original shots when they are in an extended effects sequence; so far I’ve been hard pressed to find any real differences.

Oh, the transfer quality is beautiful, crystal clear. The effects are state of the art and, so far, they’ve slavishly followed the original effects sequences. We watched Arena a few weeks ago, and I did notice that they cleaned up a good portion of the Gorn’s rubber suit problems, and gave him blinking eyelids, which I thought was a nice touch. Personally, for regular broadcast quality, I hardly think its worth the trouble.

Of course, they didn’t do it for the TV watchers out here in legacy TV land. They were looking toward the advent of HiDef broadcast, which is still being rolled out. According to those in the know, there will be a clear line between shows that were aired before HiDef, and shows that air afterwards; because the flaws that went unnoticed on the old TV set will be glaringly obvious on the HiDef, making the old shows virtually unwatchable unless they are updated. Or at least so they say.

I guess they know what they are talking about. I can’t imagine why they would go to the expense to re-master Star Trek and make as few changes as they have, unless they had a valuable future profit reason to do so.

I’m sure that the purists out there will object to even the small changes that have been made. I say this because I live with one. She rolled her eyes at a Gorn that blinks, and hasn’t stopped complaining about the colors being too bright, and the makeup being all wrong; the effects looking too “video game-ish”.

As for me, I just can’t get enough of the grand old lady of Trek, as she sails crystal clear through unclouded starfields, and circles planets that no longer look like painted balls of paper mache’. But then I’m watching it with my children. Something I’ve not been able to get them to do until now. “Watch Star Trek? That’s for you old people.” They both are glued to the set now. So, I’d say Paramount’s plan will pay off. Star Trek will live on through the HiDef era, with a whole new group of fans.

IF they don’t screw up the next movie…

Starship Schematics

Ran across this site while doing research for the BSG post:

Starship Schematics Database

Welcome to the Starship Schematics Database. It’s dedicated to the sole purpose of archiving every single starship design ever conceived in the Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, and Space Battleship Yamato (A.K.A. Star Blazers in the USA) Universes, both official and unofficial, interesting and mediocre.

A virtual smorgasbord of information for all the hardware obsessed geeks out there.

Battlestar Galactica: What Re-Visioning Really Means

I’ve been threatening to write this entry for quite a while now. I survived a section of my teenage years by clinging to the show, Battlestar Galactica. I virtually lived for the weekly distraction of…

NBC ClassicsBattlestar Galactica – Original Show Intro – Dec 11, 2014

“There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans. They may have been the architects of the great pyramids, or the lost civilizations of Lemuria or Atlantis. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man who even now fight to survive somewhere beyond the heavens.”

Hearing the fanfare that begins after those words still gives me a chill, even after all these years. I can’t explain it. Something in the show struck a cord; and I watched, spellbound, every week, even though we only had a 12 inch black and white TV set. The knights didn’t wear shining armor, the barbarians did; but there were damsels in distress, and gentlemen who rode in (literally, a few times) to save the day. There were gunfights and space battles, nearly every week. I loved every minute of it.

The movie that was made and used as the pilot was one of the few films that I paid to see more than once. (Sweetwater, Texas at least had a theatre. I had to go to the next town to watch a film when I lived in Kansas) I had several T-shirts for the show. I watched Galactica 1980! My favorite scene in every A-Team episode is Dirk Benedict (Starbuck) recognizing the Cylon during the introduction, and I promptly left the room after that bit. I hated the A-Team (it was too juvenile. My little brother watched it) I just loved that bit, though.

I’m offering this up as proof that I am a true fan of the original show; and I feel the need to do this because I’m about to admit to something disturbing.

I love the new Battlestar Galactica. Yes, I know, it has nothing at all to do with the original show. Yes, I know, they’ve taken character names and situations and twisted them around in ways that the original authors would not have conceived of, perhaps even approved of. It’s dark and complex, and it’s content can be both disturbing and titillating at varying times in the same episode. You have to think about the show if you want it to make sense.

And, once again, I hang on every minute just to see what happens next.

So many of the concepts that were used in the original show were fumbled and poorly executed. Baltar was simply a card board cutout villain. There was no realistic attempt to explain why the the Cylons would ever place him (a human) in command of a Basestar. (Never mind that they killed him in the movie, only to resurrect him in the series) In the New BSG, Baltar is a brilliant, twisted, cynical, amoralist; someone that can be easily seen dancing his way in whatever direction that survival dictates. And, indeed, the price of his survival has nearly been the extermination of the remainder of the human race several times now.

All of the characters have flaws, and strengths. There are no knights, and very few gentlemen. Admiral Adama (played by the extremely talented Edward James Olmos) being one of the few. If there is a weakness in the show, it’s a lack of any truly great male leads other than Olmos. Apollo, while admirably independent of his father Adama, is too brittle to be truly likable. Colonel Tigh is a drunk. Lieutenant Agathon is, well… pussy whipped (how would you describe a man who whines incessently about not being with his girl? One who not only does everything that she asks, but adopts it as his personal cause? Like I said…) By a Cylon. It’s a little embarrassing. I get a kick out of watching Doc Cottle smoking his way through his scenes. It’s priceless. Of course, I remember him as Dutch from Soap, so there’s a level of unintended (?) humor there for me. There’s also Lt. Felix Gaeta who, while he’s still suffering from blindly following Baltar onto New Caprica, is definitely a gentleman in every sense of the word.

From Imgur h/t to IFC

There are most definitely no damsels in distress. Recasting Starbuck as a woman was perhaps a stroke of genius, even though most fans of the original show point to that as the greatest failing of the new show. Starbuck is still Dirk Benedict’s Starbuck, but this time played by a woman. A hard drinking, gambling, fighter jock with an attitude and ability. A strong female character in a lead position, on the front line of battle. Katee Sackhoff will never have the charm that Dirk Benedict could project, but then she doesn’t need it either. What she lacks in charm she makes up for by diving into trouble headfirst, only to come back out smelling like a rose.

Then there is the President (Beautifully played by Mary Mcdonnell) the Grande Dame of the fleet. She is the figurative mother of the remainder of the human race. Protective of the lives under her care, even to a fault. And Boomer/Athena/Sharon (Grace Park) The other male character from the original show recast as a female; and not just a female, but a female skinjob (a tribute to Philip K. Dick there. He refers to the replicants in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep as skinjobs. Something that was picked up in Bladerunner, the film based on the book) a Cylon agent that doesn’t know it’s a Cylon.

In fact, the show is replete with strong female characters, something that was sorely lacking until the very end of the Original BSG, with the introduction of the daughter of Admiral Cain.

Which brings me to another reason I’ve been obsessed with the show for three seasons; I never can tell which character or storyline from the original show that they are going to play (or prey) on next. The Battlestar Pegasus and Admiral Cain sail into the New BSG in much the same way they did in the original series. But from that point onward, the stories radically diverge.

In a story arc that has developed since the beginning of the series, Baltar gets the chance to earn the hatred that is simply his by default in the original series. And every week is a surprise, a twist on what we thought we knew about the world of BSG.

This week’s episode is a virtual case in point of all of the above. Torture. Genocide. Honor, truth and devotion to duty. Deception and betrayal. Very real questions that we should be seriously discussing in the here and now. Fully developed characters that make decisions based on the traits that we know they have. No holds barred, all the flaws exposed.

Just like life on the edge should be.

The New BSG is everything that the word re-visioning connotes. It is a reworking of familiar characters and stories in a way that you would never have seen them before. As such I have nothing but praise for the series; and I hope that my liking it doesn’t spell disaster for the show,
as it has for virtually every other show I’ve watched over the years.

I’ll just keep watching, wondering what’s next.


Editor’s note: October 5, 2015. The Wife posted this image to my Facebook wall a few weeks ago. Then in a moment of synchronicity I stumbled across this old entry on the subject of BSG on my blog.  An entry that I had completely forgotten I had written.

I started to append some closing statement about the series finale being disappointing and blah, blah, blah; when it suddenly occurred to me that I couldn’t even remember how the series ended. The last image I had of it in my head was the burned out cinder of Earth. So I went hunting around trying to find a copy of the series and finally resorted to having the disks shipped to me via Netflix.

What amazes me about memory is how things you think you remember really aren’t the way you remember them.  I noticed this first with many of the shows I watched as a child.  Watching them as an adult I was shocked at how different the experience was.

Case in point, rewatching classic BSG.  The religion angle that I thought was so novel about the revisioning was actually very heavily in the classic show, but it was pretty well muddled up with the contemporary christianity of the time.  The Classic episodes were better in some aspects than I remembered; and at the same time they were cringingly naive about so many subjects that the revisioned show just blows right through without a second thought.

Rewatching the last half of the final season of the new BSG, I realized that I had merged several episodes together in my head, and that the burned out Earth that I saw as the end of the show wasn’t even in the part of the season that I watched, although the characters refer to it repeatedly.

I was struck by how circular the final moments of the show try to be, actively pantomiming what the viewer subconsciously does while watching.

All in all, the time I spent rewatching the ending on disk was well spent and more enjoyable than watching it on live television while it was airing. This is because several of the episodes on disk are uncut versions with additional scenes (and I’m a secondary audio junkie, confirmed) I’m going to have to acquire a copy of both Classic BSG and the new version. I see a BSG marathon occurring at some point in the future. 

Nathon Fillion on Lost

Nathon Fillion (Mal on Firefly) will appear in the November 8th Episode of Lost, if rumors are to be believed.

I have to say that this season (third season) of Lost has definately got me more on edge early on than last season did. I’m wondering if they can keep up the tension. The only way I’ll find out is if I keep watching, I guess.

SyFy Awards: Firefly a Winner

Even though it hasn’t been on the air in two years, Firefly took six awards in the popularly judged SyFy Genre Awards (hosted by SyFy Portal) this year.

The SciFi Channel aired three first-run episodes of the short lived series last season, qualifying the series for consideration in the awards this year. Loyal fans of the show clearly came through with support, giving it the ‘best series’ award for 2006, beating out SciFi’s own Battlestar Galactica.

The Firefly winners were:

BEST ACTOR/Television
WINNER:
Nathan Fillion, “Firefly”
RUNNER-UP: Matthew Fox, “Lost.”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR/Television
WINNER:
Adam Baldwin, “Firefly”
RUNNER-UP: Terry O’Quinn, “Lost.”

BEST SPECIAL GUEST/Television
WINNER:
Christina Hendricks, “Trash,” Firefly
RUNNER-UP: Claudia Black, “Avalon, Part 1,” Stargate SG-1

BEST EPISODE/Television
WINNER:
“Trash,” Firefly
RUNNER-UP: “Dalek,” Doctor Who

BEST Series/Television
WINNER:
Firefly
RUNNER-UP: Lost

The complete list of this years awards can be found here: http://www.syfyportal.com/news.php?id=2895

As the founder of Syfy Portal (Michael Hinman) observed “These types of wins shows how important fan bases are, and how effective they can be in fan-voted awards such as this,” “While some might question how much power these fanbases have, it is the fanbases that ultimately helps decide the fates of television shows and movies.”

The Wiki entry for a complete list and history can be found here: SyFy Genre Awards

Where’s Flash?

Here’s a prime example of a film that needs to be re-issued. Couldn’t even find it to rent:

The DVD is only available used, and only at twice the original sales price. On laserdisc format it’s available used at a third the original sales price. Obviously less demand there.

I’ve got part of the soundtrack as a Queen collection, and the children want to see the movie. I have to admit, I saw it once as a teenager, and I think I was too hard on it.

Surely it couldn’t have been that bad?


The film is actually available now on instant video from Amazon. We managed to get a DVD of it (UK region 2) a few years back (I think it was 5 bucks with shipping) Of course, the regionless DVD player has since crapped out necessitating a potential repurchase of films that I really don’t want to admit purchasing the first time. I guess we all have skeletons in our closets.

Star Trek is 40

I didn’t start watching Star Trek until it was in it’s third season, though. I remember being upset and telling my mom (I was 5 or 6 at the time) that my favorite show wasn’t on TV anymore. I turned on the set, changed the channel (we had two, being out in the boonies of Western Kansas at the time) and something else was on in it’s timeslot. She asked me which show it was, could I describe it?

“One of them has pointy ears and they fly around in a spaceship.”

I”m pretty sure she thought I was story-ing or hallucinating (she never watched TV with us) but I remember being quite devastated that I couldn’t watch the show anymore.

[As an aside, the animated series is out on DVD now. I remember those quite fondly from my Saturday morning cartoon childhood. I’m almost afraid to watch them now…]

It wasn’t until I met the wife, more than 20 years later, that I found out there were Trek fans all over the place, and that they were in part responsible for the Resurrection of Star Trek as a movie and then a series. To them and to Gene Roddenberry, I will be eternally grateful.

While the franchise owned by Paramount seems to have taken a turn for the worse of late (not to mention what the makeover will do to it) I still consider myself a trekkie. Here’s hoping the next movie salvages something instead of destroying what’s left of Star Trek.

Keeping the Political Colors Straight

Getting dizzy listening to the major party politics these days? Are you ready for the ramp up to election day, just a few short months away? I don’t know about you, but the pointlessness of 9/10ths of all political arguments reminds me of a scene from an episode of Babylon 5 “Geometry of Shadows. The following is from a synopsis of it:

Ivanova is meeting with a representative group of Drazi. Five Drazi with purple kerchiefs sit in the gallery to her left, and five of the greens to the right. A leader stands in front of each group.

Ivanova: As you all know, we’re having a bit of a problem here right now — the aforementioned problem being that you keep trying to beat each other senseless with blunt instruments, banging up against the bulkhead, pounding, mugging, jumping, and generally carrying on cranky. Now, while some of the other species wouldn’t mind if you wiped each other out, even they would prefer that you did so quietly. But — this station is dedicated to the goal of finding peaceful solutions to our problems. And we would like to find one here. [This causes quite some murmuring among her audience.] Now you can start by helping me to understand the precise nature of the conflict between the two sides that you’ve set up.

The two leaders react with pained longsuffering expressions. They have to explain something that is so obvious it needs no explanation. They’re dealing with a complete moron.

Purple leader [gesturing at the Green leader]: Green!

Green leader [returning the compliment]: Purple!

Ivanova: No, I understand that there are two factions, but what is your point of contention? Where do you disagree with each other?

Green leader [pointing and speaking more emphatically]: Purple!

Purple leader: Green!

Ivanova: Yes, but who gets to wear the purple sash and who gets to wear the green sash? I mean, is it based on income, or caste, or rank, or…

Green leader: We put green and purple in great barrel! Equal to numbers of Drazi. Then we reach in, we take! Where there was one Drazi people, now there are two! The two fight until there are one!

Ivanova [open-mouthed in astonishment]: That’s it? It’s totally random? Arbitrary? Well then, how do you choose a leader for either side?

Purple leader: One purple and one green carries mark of leadership. He who takes leader cloth is leader. He who takes green is Green, and follows Green leader. He who takes purple is Purple, and follows Purple leader. [Ivanova catches on sufficiently to lip-sync most of the last sentence.]

Ivanova: Okay, so in other words —- [She steps between the leaders and points out the two nearest Purple and Green followers.] Would you two please step forward for a moment — please? [They’re a bit confused, but they comply.] Okay, so what you’re trying to tell me is that if I take this purple sash off of him, [she takes the sash — much to the consternation of the remaining Purples] and put it onto him, [she puts it onto the Green — agitating all the Drazi, but she’s a bit too wrapped up in her question to notice as she turns to face the leaders] that this one thing alone is enough to start a…

…Bedlam ensues.

Full synopsis, Lurker’s guide episode entry

So, when you hear people yelling about ‘war records’ or ‘tax cuts’ or anything else political (which involves most everything these days, what with the expansion of gov’t) Just remember: “Who takes green, is green, follows green leader.” It’s just that simple.


Editor’s note, 2019. What I want to know is, why did I think that it was cool to contract government into gov’t? I’ve corrected that display of linguistic fetishism pretty much everywhere else I’ve run across it on the blog, but I left that one here simply as a reminder of this fact; the stuff you think is cool today? It probably won’t be cool tomorrow.

Also? Green vs. Purple as applied to modern US politics used to be amusing, but that was before half of the structurally encoded two-party system that runs the US today turned stark raving nuts and elected someone whose single goal was attempting to destroy the US government. Then it got extremely un-funny. However, it has made the choice of which side to vote for an issue of crystal-clear logic. So, we have that going for us, I guess.