Friday, November 25, 2011

Vulcan Video: Sarek's Son Spock

Since we remember the 15th anniversary of Mark Lenard's death this week it seems appropriate to share a video that features him.  This video has an audio track called "Sarek's Son Spock."  It was originally presented on the 1976 LP Inside Star Trek.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Remembering Mark Lenard

Fifteen years ago today we lost Mark Lenard.  I thought it appropriate to remember him here by exploring his life and career.
Mark Lenard was born Leonard Rosenson in Chicago in 1924.  Having graduated high school in 1941, Lenard joined the army in 1943 and served as a paratrooper in Europe.  During his time in Europe, he starred in a Ben Johnson play called Volpone which toured for soldiers.  After being discharged in 1946, Lenard lived in New York where he studied to become a writer.  However, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Lenard began to take roles in various off Broadway plays.  He discovered a talent for acting and began to take acting classes.  In one of these classes, he met his future wife, Ann Amouri.  They were married in 1960 and later had two daughters.

Lenard had roles on television beginning in 1959 and he continued working until 1993.  His first feature film performance was as Balthazar in The Greatest Story Ever Told but the following year--1966--Lenard began the work for which he is best known on Star Trek.


Lenard was cast as the Romulan Commander in the first season Star Trek episode "Balance of Terror."  Along with Lawrence Montaigne (Decius) he has the honour of being the first Romulan to appear in Star Trek.  His performance and presence were so strong that when Roddenberry was casting the role of Spock's father Sarek for the second season episode "Journey to Babel" Lenard was at the top of the list.  "Journey to Babel" aired in November 1967 and for the next 30 years, Lenard would be best known as the Vulcan, Sarek.


In the 1970s, amongst many other roles, Lenard voiced Sarek in the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "Yesteryear" and again leant his voice to the character in an LP release called Inside Star Trek in which Gene Roddenberry interviews Sarek about the origins of Spock.


In 1979, when Sarek did not fit into the plans for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Lenard was given the role of the Klingon commander.  In this role he had the honour (pun intended) of playing the first Klingon with forehead ridges and also the first Klingon to speak the Klingon language.  Now, Lenard had helped to create three of Star Trek's most important alien species.


Lenard reprised his role in three of the Star Trek feature films.  In Star Trek III we see a more tender side of Sarek as he mourns the death of his son and tries desperately to resurrect Spock.


In Star Trek IV and VI, we see Sarek in his role as Vulcan ambassador to the Federation.  He displays fierce loyalty to his son and the crew of the Enterprise but also unfailing logic in his diplomatic role.


Before appearing in The Undiscovered Country, Lenard made two appearances as Sarek on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He appeared in the third season episode appropriately titled "Sarek" and then in the fifth season episode "Unification, Part 1."  These appearances showed Sarek 80 years older in the 24th century, still a celebrated ambassador, but unfortunately ailing from a condition called Bendii Syndrome.  This condition affects the minds of older Vulcans, making it extremely difficult for them to continue to repress their emotions.


I found it very difficult to see Sarek in this frail and declining form and when the character finally dies of Bendii the repercussions are felt not only throughout the Star Trek universe but also throughout Trek fandom.

Sarek was a man of strong beliefs.  On the surface, his logic was the most important thing to him, yet this was a man who had twice married human women.  He lived his life with emotional humans and went to great lengths to have a son with Amanda Grayson.  Lenard's performance brought a sense of gravitas to the role of Sarek that made the character, and even the Star Trek universe itself, deeper and more believable.  It should therefore not surprise us that Lenard was a successful acting teacher throughout the 1980s and 90s.

In 1994, Mark Lenard was the first actor I ever met at a Star Trek convention (Odyssey Trek in Niagara Falls).  This ended up being one of his final appearances.  In October 1995, Lenard began to experience fatigue and pain in his ribs and back.  He was diagnosed with Multiple myeloma which is cancer of the plasma cells.  His illness continued to worsen until he died at the age of 72 on November 22, 1996 (the same day Star Trek: First Contact was released). He was survived by his wife and daughters.  Though he left this world at too young an age, Mark Lenard will be "immortal" through his many memorable roles in film and television and especially as Sarek.


I hope all Vulcanologists will take time today to reflect and remember Mark Lenard and the father of Spock.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Vulcan Video: kal-if-fee in "Amok Time"

Vulcan Videos is a new feature here on Vulcanology.  I'll try to post a new one each week.  You can also subscribe to the new Vulcanology YouTube Channel.

This clip is from the second season episode "Amok Time."  In it, Spock and Kirk are locked together in the kal-if-fee (challenge) after T'Pring declares that she does not wish to marry Spock.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Zachary Quinto Comes Out

One month ago today, in the true spirit of IDIC, Zachary Quinto came out as a gay man.  On October 16th, in a New York Magazine interview with Benjamin Wallace, when speaking about his role in Angels in America, the 34-year old actor said “... as a gay man, it made me feel like there’s still so much work to be done, and there’s still so many things that need to be looked at and addressed.”


I applaud and thank Zachary Quinto for contributing to the It Gets Better Project and allowing himself to be a positive example for change.  It's a very compassionate and human response from our favourite new Vulcan.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Review: Saavik's Story Chapter Two

To read my review of Part One, click here.

Saavik's Story continues in issue #8 from November 1984 in the DC Comics Star Trek series.  It was written by Mike W. Barr with art by Tom Sutton and Ricardo Villagran.  The colourist was Michele Wolfman.
The Enterprise is taking damage from Saavik's phaser fire.  With Scotty's assistance, Kirk manages to make the Enterprise look like it has been severely damaged and is unable to respond.  Having dealt with the potential threat, Saavik moves off into the barrier that surrounds our galaxy.  The Enterprise is able to follow her radiation trail.
Meanwhile, a Romulan vessel is communicating with a Romulan science station which seems to be on a planetoid either in or near to the barrier.  The commander of the ship is Tal (Subcommander Tal was the name of Jack Donner's Romulan character in "The Enterprise Incident".  Presumably this is the same character). Xon has infiltrated the Romulan station posing as a centurion.
It seems the Romulans are conducting genetic experiments and they have created a small group of Romulan "Augments".  A scientist called Lar is using the energy from the barrier to infuse these specimens with some kind of super powers.  One of the Augments is able to sense Saavik's vessel landing nearby and Centurion Xon is sent to investigate.
Xon is shocked to find that it is a Vulcan vessel and that Saavik, his betrothed, is aboard!  The couple kiss passionately and the contact seems to be enough to relieve Saavik's Plak Tow.  The couple plan to take Saavik's ship and warn the Federation about the new Romulan threat but they are stopped by a group of armed Romulan soldiers.  Evidently, Lar has suspected that Xon is a spy and had him followed.
Saavik is able to hide from the soldiers and she uses her communicator to contact the Enterprise in hopes that she left survivors aboard.  Of course, the crew is fine.  They respond to Saavik and beam her aboard.  Sensors indicate that Xon is in the science facility and a great deal of power is being focused on a torture device that Lar hopes will persuade Xon to reveal his secrets.
The Enterprise fires on the station, destroying the systems used to collect energy from the barrier.  Xon is transported to the Enterprise and Commander Tal orders pursuit of the Starfleet vessel.  The Enterprise cannot be allowed to warn the Federation of the Romulan plan.  Kirk and Scotty are able to block the Romulan vessel's sensors.  They can follow the Enterprise only by following its "Identification Beam."  Kirk heads toward the barrier, and the Romulan vessel is so close behind that when Kirk suddenly changes the Enterprise's course, the Romulans cannot stop themselves from entering the barrier at full speed.
Their navigational equipment destroyed, the Romulans will remain stuck in the barrier until they are able to find a way out or they are destroyed.  Dr. McCoy is able to heal Xon's wounds.  Xon and Saavik seem to be quite content with one another and Xon will be able to brief the Federation on the intelligence he gathered.  Finally, the Enterprise heads to rendezvous with the Grissom so David and Saavik can begin to study the Genesis Planet.
Next would come the events of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

I suppose this is a satisfying conclusion to the story begun in the previous issue but the structure and setting are so different that it really feels like a separate entity rather than a continuation.

To me, the most interesting part of this story is the inclusion of the Romulans.  At this point we haven't seen the Romulans since the original series episode "The Enterprise Incident".  I found it interesting to see how the artists evolved the look of the Romulans.  The soldiers wear helmets and armour that is reminiscent of the original series costumes but definitely has a 1980s flavour. The costumes remind me of something one might see in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
Also, the Romulan scientist Lar wears a very Vulcan-looking robe complete with script that is very similar to the Vulcan symbols rata, tafar and tapan. This suggests a much closer link between Vulcan and Romulan cousins than we have previously seen.  I like the idea that some Romulans have respect for their origins even if they differ from Vulcans in philosophy and demeanor.

I'd say this is non-essential reading for most Vulcanologists but it can be diverting for a short while.