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"Captain's Blog....Stardate..."

I’m not sure whether this is going to be a catch up, or whether it’s going to be a rambling stream of consciousness kind of blog. I haven’t thought that far ahead. It’ll probably be a mix of both, so please bear with me. I’ve been MIA from the blog spot for a while.

Some of you may have noticed that there wasn’t a Starburst release for January. We normally put out the new online issue on the 14th of each month. Well, there’s big news there. Starburst is back in hard copy. That’s right a glorious print edition that you can actually go out, buy at a newsagent, take it home and read. The good old days are back. Feb 14th is the date to mark in your calendars. Now, as far as I’m aware the first "back to print" issue will be available in comic stores like Forbidden Planet. That issue will be available actually in EVERY comic store in Europe. (Fear not, good citizens, you can get iPad and print subscriptions by clicking here) By the end of spring, we’re back at local newsagents all over the place with our reappearance in the United States and the rest of the globe a few short months later. My Future Imperfect column will be in the print edition. So, happy days ahead.

I was planning to write both the December and January Future Imperfect columns destined for the web edition over a hectic period in late November and early December so I could take some time over Christmas to contemplate where I was taking the column for it’s print debut. But then, the Starburst publishers had a re-think and due to the overwhelming work needed to get everything read for print, we wouldn’t have a January release. So, having finished the December column way ahead of my normal schedule and with nothing else needed in the immediate future, I figured I’d seize the opportunity to take a short writing hiatus. I mean, 2011 had been my busiest, most prolific year since I’ve started blogging back on MySpace some five years ago. Since then, there’s been GoreZone, this site, Starburst, and several other places I’ve cropped up unexpectedly. So, I was going to take two or three weeks off.

(The hiatus didn’t even last until the end of the year though - I strayed into a screening of the new Mission: Impossible movie and couldn’t resist writing a review.) But it gave me time to plan almost a year’s worth of Starburst columns. See, I needed something not just big...but BIG to kick off not only Starburst’s return to print, but mine as well. (The last time I was published in a magazine was the November 2010 issue of GZ which completed my three and a half year run there on a high note.)

Here’s the odd thing - in all the years I’ve been writing about films both online and in print, I’ve never written an article about the holiest of holies - the Star Wars movies. Strange, huh?

With the impending release of The Phantom Menace in 3D, I’ve taken a long, hard look at the original movie, and consequently, the February Starburst will see Future Imperfect dedicated to a retrospective reevaluation of the most abhored of the Star Wars films. Have I succeeded in convinging the toughest audience in the world that The Phantom Menace really isn’t that bad and that it has plenty in its favour? Time will tell.

Still, if my long overdue look at a Star Wars movie doesn’t set the geek world alight, there’s also a feature about The Walking Dead. I was lucky enough to be invited to co-write an overlook at the zombie phenomenon with a talented writer friend of mine, Jon Gillam. Jon has been a friend of mine since GZ and has guest appeared on this very site. If writing a 3000 word column is challenging, then co-writing a feature is even more so. So, Jon wrote his piece and I wrote mine - half the overall word count each, then I handed the reins over to him for editing. When I saw the final version, I was absolutely amazed. Our styles melded together so well that if I hadn’t had my version to hand, I would’ve found almost impossible to point out what I’d written and what was Jon’s. Our styles were so similar that the whole article turned out beyond all my expectations - and knowing Jon’s work, they were set pretty damn high.

In preparing for the onslaught that’ll be 2012, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and looking back. I’ve been re-reading a book by the late Starburst writer John Brosnan. The book is The Primal Screen, Brosnan’s personal look at the history of sci-fi movies. Brosnan was a huge influence on me years ago - I loved his irreverence and his humour when reviewing movies. I’ve also been looking back at old back issues of the magazine (I have a complete set of ALL print issues). This is a means of touching the past, to make sure that my contribution is in the style and spirit of what went before and that older readers from "back in the day" like myself can clearly see the line of continuity. It’s important to me, and I believe that it’s important to them.

But, as ever - it was my son Steve who was responsible for my delving back even further. He gave me a couple of books at Christmas that sent me spinning back into my own past and got me examining what had brought me to this point. The books in question were DC’s Showcase Superman volumes 1 & 2. These are a series of books along the same lines as the Marvel Essential volumes, reprinting comic books sequentially. I’ve been reading these for years - Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkman, Doom Patrol - they’re all here. But somehow, I hadn’t bought the Superman volumes.

I was lucky enough to be born in 1960, just when the Silver Age of comics was happening. (The Golden Age was in the war years of the forties). Much of what we take for granted as part of the mythology of these characters was established back then. Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, the bottle city of Kandor, green kryptonite, red kryptonite, white kryptonite, gold kryptonite, the mermaid Lori Lemaris, Titano the super-ape who could shoot green kryptonite beams out of his eyes, Krypto the dog. I had forgotten so much of this stuff until Iopened the first close enough to 600 page volume and spent the greater part of January wallowing in pure nostalgia.

And if the above makes me sound like a character on the Big Bang theory, then that brings me to my next point.

I had only been aware of Big Bang (or BBT because I’m too lazy to type it repeatedly) since, I guess early March of last year when it came up in conversation during a visit to a friend’s house. I’d hear the title, and even had I know it was a comedy I would probably have still shrugged and walked away. I’d been stung by Channel 4’s The I.T.Crowd, which promised some geeky laughs but was a one joke wonder and the repeated uttering of that one joke in all the episodes I could stand watching just proved to me that the British situation comedy was pretty much dead as far as my sense of humour was concerned.

But, my friend insisted that it was worth watching and when we found the first season going cheap in a sale, I finally found a decent geek comedy that I could enjoy, laugh with and identify with. I get the references, I can relate to the situations. I know people like that (you know who you are) and hell - I’m like that myself.

Anyhow, we were watching the new season, when upset of upsets - when were were sitting comfortably one Thursday evening, the announcer said that they’d run out of new episodes to show (stupid mid season hiatus) and they were going back to the beginning of the current season. I decided that I would go back to the very beginning and rewatch them.

One of the things that I noticed first of all was how the series has changed, with less scientific references in the newer episodes than the first season and how the apartment has become increasingly cluttered with more memorabilia (Kind of like my study, I guess). But one thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that the most referenced thing in BBT is Star Trek.

It got to a point where I realised that I hadn’t actually watched Star Trek for three or four years. Yes, I’d watched some of my season box sets of Next Generation - but original classic Star Trek - in other words, REAL Star Trek had gone unwatched for far too long. The last Star Trek I had watched was the reboot from J.J.Abrams and that had left an unpleasant aftertaste.

Star Trek is one of those series that was instrumental to me becoming, well, me. BUT, here’s the thing - I wasn’t too keen on it when I first saw it.

I think it was around 1969. The BBC had Dr Who on hiatus, so they put this new show on in its spot on Saturday nights. It was a thing called Star Trek. When the show aired, I really didn’t know what to make of it. Sci-fi had monsters (Remember, the sci-fi shows I watched at the time were either Gerry Anderson marionette shows or Irwin Allen’s Lost in Space and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which had a different alien monster every week.) Where were my monsters? Okay - there was a salt vampire thing in one episode - but all the rest looked like people (even sultry green skinned Orion slave women just looked a dull and dreary grey on the old black and white set we had then).

I didn’t get the use of what I saw as nautical terms like the ranks of Admiral, Commodore, etc. It was different - and then it was gone. After that, I recall seeing them repeated during winter late afternoons/early evening on a Sunday and I liked them a bit more, then in the mid seventies, Star Trek became my over-riding mania. I "got" it.

It seems that was when everybody "got" Star Trek - because the series had already been cancelled before it was even shown in the UK for the first time, in ‘69. By the time the seventies came around, this show, which should have been forgotten, was at its peak gaining new viewers with each syndicated rerun on the States and the fans were a vociferous bunch campaigning for a new series. It became an industry - with model kits (I remember my joy when I got the Aurora model kit), annuals, the must-have volumes of adaptations of the series episodes into short stories by James Blish, the new novels, the Fotonovels, the fan fiction ( most of which was truly lamentable and poorly executed) all made its way to me.

Back then, the fans called themselves Trekkies, then the preferred word became Trekkers as the former was deemed too frivolous by the more serious fans whose inane lack of a sense of humour was matched only by their ability to take themselves far too seriously. They were the fan equivalent of flatulence in an airlock. (To this day, I am a Trekkie - I enjoy my fun!)

I taped the episodes on VHS the first chance I got, I replaced those home made tapes with the official set some years later when I found them on Ebay. I jumped the gun, impatienty waiting for the DVD releases. The whole set was upgraded a couple of years later - amazingly three whole seasons on disc taking the room of eight episodes on tape.

But, as I say, it’s been a while and I decided to start it all again, revisiting the roots of my insane, out of control geekery. Kind of like a nerdy version of a Christian renewing his faith, if you will. And you know what? Despite the series approaching cliche at a speed of warp six, it STILL holds up well today.

Interestingly, technology has caught up with what was the far off 23rd century and maybe even surpassed what was envisioned. Examples? Flip phones. Look at the Trek communicator and then look at the humble flip phone and spot the stunning similarity. They had a library computer which as a story device could brief the cast (and audience) and any background information on just about any subject. We have the internet - surely the library computer cme to digital, whirring life. Those diagnostic beds in the sickbay? They do the same thing as a modern day MRI scanner. As a teenager, the seeing that Spock had a computer terminal in his quarters was beyond cool - now just about everybody has one in their home.

Star Trek was way ahead of its time. The essential truths and morals of its episodes are, and there’s no pun intended here, universal and timeless. That’s never been more apparent than the reaction of my daughter. A week ago - she would’ve run a mile from ANYTHING that had either the word "Star" or "Trek" anywhere in it. She suffered at the same misguided Abrams reboot that I did and swore off anything ever associated with the franchise for good. Until that is, she saw the first episode of season one of "real" Trek. We’re four episodes in and her enthusiasm to watch more grows by the day.

It took one episode of the series to convert her. Now we have yet another Trekkie in the family. After watching the original series, I’ll probably go on to watch all seven series of Next Generation, making it a project that’ll last the rest of the year easily. I’m looking forward to seeing how the two series match up, with the movies placed in the mix sequentially, of course. And this will be done with my young co-viewer at my side. Even as I type this, my son is busying himself rewatching the original Lost in Space, another cornerstone of my childhood (He already has his own DVD set of Star Trek)

So - oddly as I reacquaint myself with what brought me to the party - the next generation of the Pierce family are delving right in and immersing themselves in the same cultural imprinting that I had as a kid.

Yes, we’re a family of UberGeeks - and frankly, I wouldn’t have
it any other way. 


Copyright © 2010 - 2012 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.

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