Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays to all my fellow Vulcanologists (if you're celebrating something)!

See you in 2012!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Vulcan Video: Balance of Terror

Since we celebrated the 45th anniversary of "Balance of Terror" earlier this week, I thought it appropriate to take a look at some important clips from the episode.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Vendetta Conspiracy

Keep your eyes open in March for a new, two-issue IDW Star Trek comic that features a Vulcan story arc. It follows the events of Star Trek XI.  Vulcans are dealing with the aftermath of the destruction of their homeworld and apparently, some of them think that revenge is the logical response.

Check back here in March for my review!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Balance of Terror's 45th Anniversary!

Today marks the 45th anniversary of "Balance of Terror."  It first aired on September 13, 1966 and was the 14th episode of Star Trek to be aired.  It was directed by Vincent McEveety and written by Paul Schneider.  We owe Schneider a great debt of gratitude for introducing "those who march beneath the Raptor's wings."  Our cousins, the Romulans.

Mark Lenard places his feet firmly in the wet cement of the Romulan species. He is shown to be a "creature of duty."  In fact, he is so focused on duty and his dedication to the praetor that he follows it instead of his better judgement, leading to the destruction of his ship and the deaths of his crew.  Though Lenard's character is never named on screen, the Star Trek CCG names him Keras.

It becomes clear very quickly that the Romulans are more passionate than the Vulcans.  However, they are similar in that they both appreciate the value of duty and service.  They are loyal to their commander and, in turn, to their praetor.  We know they are warlike because the Romulan centurion reveals that he has fought with Keras in hundreds of campaigns.  This is the major difference we see between the peaceful Vulcans and their cousins.

I hope you'll take some time today to watch this excellent episode and reflect on how important the Romulans have come to be in the last 45 years of Star Trek history.

It's also worth noting that this is the 9th anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek: Nemesis, the first Trek film to deal heavily with the Romulans.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Vulcan Video: Falor's Journey

This week's Vulcan Video is from the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Innocence." Tuvok finds himself stranded on a moon with three "children."  To help them fall to sleep he sings Falor's Journey, which he refers to as a "tale of enlightenment."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

EXCLUSIVE! Interview with Tim Russ

Greetings, my fellow Vulcanologists!

I have a special treat for you today.  The one and only Tim Russ has agreed to do a brief interview with me.

Vulcanologists will of course be most familiar with Tim Russ as Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager but he also played three separate characters on Star Trek: TNG, Star Trek: DS9 and in Star Trek: Generations.  His history with Star Trek goes even farther back to 1986-1987 when he auditioned for the role of Geordi LaForge.

Since Voyager ended in 2001, Tim has continued to provide the voice of Tuvok in Star Trek video games and in 2007 he directed and starred in the fan film, Star Trek: Of Gods and Men.  Outside of Star Trek, Tim has become highly recognizable from his stints on Samantha Who? and iCarly.  In addition, Tim has released four EP albums and his songs are now available on iTunes.  Keep an eye out for more new songs on iTunes as well.

Recently, Tim has been directing and starring in a web series called Bloomers. He'll shortly appear in a new film called Rampart and he's looking at several new directing projects between now and the spring.

It may surprise you to know that Tim's favourite Voyager episodes are not Tuvok or Vulcan-centric.  "I liked the "Distant Origin" episode which dealt with evolution--many of the sciences are interests of mine."  Another favourite is "Living Witness", an episode he directed that deals with revisionist history.  "I think history is profoundly important to examine and learn from."

Like Leonard Nimoy with Spock, Tim brought many of his own ideas to the character of Tuvok.  I asked Tim if he and the writers had ever discussed backstory elements for Tuvok that hadn't appeared on screen and he replied "No.  The few ideas I talked with them about eventually became episodes in one fashion or another."

When Voyager premiered in 1995 there was some sexist and racist discourse about having a female captain and an African-American Vulcan on the series. Tim admits, "Well, it's part of the fabric of this country."  But he's quick to point out that he never had any negative experiences with fans.  "It seems counter to the typical Trek fan who tend to be above all that."

Tim is perhaps the studio-Trek actor with the most fan film experience, having directed the short film Roddenberry on Patrol and directed and starred in Of Gods and Men.  I asked him about the differences between working on studio versus fan films.  "Well, the budgets obviously are bigger for the network's shows.  For the cost of shooting one episode of Voyager, you could shoot an entire low budget feature, or two.  That makes a difference in production value and options for shooting."

Though Tim has no present plans to return to the fan film world he notes that he "will entertain any project that comes across my desk."

Finally, I asked Tim about whether or not he would be interested in playing Tuvok again if the opportunity presented itself.  He said, "The timeline has to be correct to play Tuvok in a feature, but otherwise, I would certainly play the character again if asked to."  (Hear that J.J.?).  On the subject of the new J.J. Abrams Trek and the destruction of Vulcan, Tim has little to say except that "We blew up Vulcan in Star Trek: Of Gods and Men long before J.J. did."  It seems as though the universe has it in for our poor planet Vulcan.

I'd like to thank Tim Russ for taking the time to answer my questions.  Be sure to keep an eye on his website for updates on his projects and appearances.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Vulcan Video: Star Trek's Lost Vulcan, Xon

In 1977, Paramount decided to bring Star Trek back to TV as Star Trek: Phase II.  Leonard Nimoy was not interested in returning to the role of Spock so a new Vulcan character was created.

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.