A ‘Death Howl’ for Kur’Den (guest blog by DON GAFFNEY)

Before I turn the blog over to me friend DON GAFFNEY, I’d like to say few quick words myself.

DENZIL MIRACLE was a die-hard Trekker, a Klingon kosplayer, an avid Axanar supporter, and a truly awesome guy. I only met him once, briefly, at Axacon last November, but he was just this big bundle of warmth and happiness and excitement…the best that we fans have to offer.

In these days when so many of us are quick to show our worst devils to each other, it’s important to honor those who present the best angels of their natures.

Denzil had been stricken too early in life with brain cancer and passed away a couple of weeks ago surrounded by family. While I knew of his terminal condition, I wasn’t aware of his actual passing until I read yesterday’s eulogy from his good friend (and fellow Axanerd) Don Gaffney. It’s a beautiful remembrance, and I humbly ask you to consider taking a moment to read it and perhaps even give a quiet Klingon death howl to the warriors of Sto’Vo’Kor, where I have no doubt Denzil is currently having an awesome time.

And now, my friends, Don Gaffney remembers his friend, Denzil Miracle…

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SD Comic Con PICARD Trailer 2019 vs SD Comic Con DISCOVERY Trailer 2016 – What has CBS learned…?

It’s hard to believe that it was only three years ago that fan got their first glimpse of the new STAR TREK: DISCOVERY at San Diego Comic Con 2016. And when I say got our first glimpse, I don’t mean of the show itself. That wouldn’t happen until the following summer. I mean we got our first look at what a disorganized mess CBS was in dealing with the launch of their first-ever Star Trek TV series that would also be the first-ever Trek series to air only on subscription-based services (All Access, SpaceTV, and Netflix).

Let’s take a moment to compare the two Star Trek series trailers that premiered at San Diego Comic Con to give fans their first look at the new show. The first debuted in July of 2016…

The Discovery trailer was obviously a rush job. The marketing department knew they needed something to show at Comic Con because that has become THE place to premiere the big sci-fi and related genre movies and shows. But there was nothing ready yet! No footage had been shot because, unbelievably, no actors had yet been cast! The sets and uniforms were still being designed.

Remember that, at the time this trailer was first screened for fans, Discovery was still scheduled to debut in January of 2017…just six months after Comic Con. As a comparison, the new STAR TREK: PICARD series is currently set to premiere in January 2020—just six months after Comic Con. So really, no one (especially CBS) should have been surprised when Discovery ended up launching nine months behind schedule.

Still, desperate to show SOMETHING, the show-runners of Discovery decided to render out a quick CGI animation revealing the look of the new starship. Of course, even the ship wasn’t fully designed yet…as you can see from the “rocket” nacelles and the fact that the saucer section was still all one piece. But at least CBS would have something to get the fans excited. (Whether or not it succeeded is still up for debate.)

But what isn’t up for debate is how excited Trekkers have been for the last few days after seeing the extended trailer for Star Trek: Picard that debuted this past Saturday at Comic Con…

What a difference three years makes, huh?

Let’s take a trip down Memory Lane (no relation to me) and look back at the CBS of 2016 versus 2019 and what has changed for Star Trek in that time…

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Why I am NOT “neutral” about NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS…

I need to clear the air regarding myself and NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS, the TOS sets in Kingsland, GA that were originally used for STARSHIP FARRAGUT, later used for STAR TREK CONTINUES, and were recently purchased by RAY TESI and opened up to any fan filmmaker who wanted to use them, was able to pay $300/day, and was willing to follow the fan film guidelines.

I want to state for the record that I wholeheartedly SUPPORT Neutral Zone Studios and encourage anyone who is a fan of Star Trek fan films to support them, as well, through their Patreon campaign:

https://www.patreon.com/neutralzonestudios

As many of you know, I was originally scheduled to film two of my scenes for my fan film INTERLUDE there. Ray Tesi was 100% on board. In fact, when I was considering bringing my son Jayden to Georgia watch the shoots, Ray told me that he’d make sure the entire studio was lit up (all the lights and buttons) before we arrived so that when Jayden walked in, the first thing he’d see would be the USS Enterprise in all of its glory. Ray was even going to see if he could manage to drive up for the day from Florida to finally meet me in person and watch the shoot.

But over Memorial Day weekend at Neutral Zone Studios‘ Fan Appreciation Weekend 2, Ray informed my directors, JOSHUA IRWIN and VICTORIA FOX (who were there shooting interviews with VIC MIGNOGNA, MICHELLE SPECHT, and CHRIS DOOHAN to help promote the studio’s Patreon campaign) that Interlude was no longer welcome to use the sets.

Although ALEC PETERS, who was similarly banned, accused Vic of being the reason for Ray’s sudden change of heart, Star Trek Continues make-up artist, LISA HANSELL, posted this comment on Facebook the Monday after the event…

Now, all things considered, I should probably feel angry, hurt, insulted, frustrated…and to be honest, I did feel those emotions quite deeply for a short time. But I moved past it.

However, something happened this past weekend that has left me wondering if others haven’t let this go as I have. And I now feel that it’s important to state publicly that I have forgiven Ray and Lisa and (if he was involved in the decision) Vic…and anyone else who pressured Ray Tesi into changing his mind about letting my production film at NZS.

So what happened this past weekend?

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COSPLAY FAN brings a proposed CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT for FRAUD against CBS, DISNEY, NBC Universal, and ANOVOS!

At first glance, it seems almost ridiculous. Most fans know that ANOVOS, a licensee that produces ultra-high quality cosplay props and costumes for Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and other genre franchises, has a well-earned reputation for taking a looooooong time to fulfill their pre-orders. And when I say “long time,” I’m often talking years!

But the wait is usually worth it. The Anovos replicas look amazing, many uniforms are custom-tailored for each individual who orders one, and all are officially licensed to look nearly identical to what has appeared on screen. While some fans complain about the long wait times—to both Anovos and to the licensors—others just seem to grin and bear it. In a number of cases, fans have learned from frustrated experiences not to pre-order new items and instead wait until they are listed as “in stock.”

But one fan, RICHARD DALTON from Louisiana, apparently didn’t get the memo about avoiding pre-order items and—over a nearly three-year period—pre-ordered 49 different items ranging in price from $10 pennants to a $9,000 starship model…for a total in excess of $40,000! Now Mr. Dalton is suing in California federal court (you can read the entire complaint here). The reason for the lawsuit is that none of the pre-order items was ever shipped, and Anovos has refused to refund any of his $40,000.

Some of you are probably thinking, “Serves him right for not getting the hint sooner! Caveat emptor…let the buyer beware!” True, there’s a certain amount of “fool me twice, shame on me…” lack of sympathy that some fans might cynically be feeling. And of course, Anovos does state on the pre-order pages: “All items are subject to change in availability, features, and delivery dates at any time and for any reason.”

But should that one blanket disclaimer get Anovos completely off the hook? Just because poor Richard was naive enough to believe that a licensed vendor would actually deliver merchandise in under three years(!!!) after being paid in full, should he be penalized for that innocent faith? If Anovos took advantage of Richard’s (and others’) trusting natures, why should it be only the customers who come out on the losing end? Shouldn’t Anovos face some consequences, too?

This case is germane to fan films because one of the the guidelines states:

4. If the fan production uses commercially-available Star Trek uniforms, accessories, toys and props, these items must be official merchandise and not bootleg items or imitations of such commercially available products.

Anovos uniforms are, in fact, official merchandise…and so the outcome of this lawsuit could conceivably affect Star Trek fan films. This is especially true because Mr. Dalton isn’t suing only Anovos; he is also suing CBS and Disney and NBC Universal for continuing to renew Anovos’ licenses for their intellectual propertiues despite being well aware of consumer complaints and possible fraud, breach of contract, misrepresentation, and unfair enrichment.

Let’s take a closer look at all of this…

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Why the finale of ST: DISCOVERY left me feeling ANGRY and BETRAYED (editorial review)

SPOILERS MAKE YOU A BETTER PERSON!

Before I begin blasting away at the season two finale of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY, I will give credit where credit is due. The entire production team obviously worked VERY hard to make “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2” a fast-paced, well-acted, and visually stunning hour of television. It wrapped up a very complex season-long story arc without leaving any loose ends (that I noticed), and it was certainly an ambitious undertaking.

But as a Trekkie and, more basically, as a viewer, I finished the episode feeling angry and, to be honest, betrayed. And I’d like to tell you why.

Writers and their audiences make an “agreement” going in, a pact of trust, if you will. The writers ask that we viewers buy into what the writers are setting up in the narrative, and in exchange, the writers will create a compelling, suspenseful, emotionally engaging story to entertain us.

But in this episode, I felt that the tail (or the tale) was wagging the dog. The writers had to include certain scenes in order to cover the necessary tropes of an exciting, explosive season finale: death of a major character, cavalry to the rescue scene, hand-to-hand fight with the bad guy, etc. Nothing wrong with that in theory. But in order to hit those beats, the writers way too often had to violate the trust of the viewer. And it’s NOT simply that some scenes are inconsistent with “established” Star Trek canon. I’ve learned to expect that from this show, and I’ve mostly made my peace with it.

No, I am talking about violating the canon that the writers have already set up for themselves. And when I see these kinds of “sloppy” scenes (and there were a LOT of them this episode), I can only assume the writers simply don’t care that they’re writing something that makes no sense within their own narrative…either that or they think that their viewers don’t care.

Well, I care. And that’s why I’m sharing this longer-than-normal blog with you today…

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The SHIPS hit the FANS on STAR TREK: DISCOVERY! (editorial review)

SPOILERS ARE JUST MY WAY OF SHOWING LOVE!

At first, I was thinking of titling this blog “The Big Good-bye” or “The Long Good-bye” or “We Get It Already—Everybody Is Saying Good-bye!” I also considered, “That’s Not Orange, Dammit; It’s Red!” But in the end, I didn’t want to sound harsh because it implies that I didn’t think this was a good episode.

The penultimate 13th episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s second season, “Sweet Sorrow,” wasn’t a bad episode…far and away not! It finally showed us a redesigned bridge of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 that didn’t feel like an Apple Store. In fact, I wanted to grab a Klingon time crystal, take this bridge back to 2007, kidnap J.J. Abrams, and shout: “THIS!!!!” In fact—looking at the uniforms, the handles in the Enterprise turbolift, the sounds of the bridge and the photon torpedoes, etc.—it might not be a bad idea to take a time detour to 2016, kidnap Bryan Fuller and whoever was the original production designer on Discovery, and shout, “THIS!!!!” even louder.

So yes, I liked the Enterprise and the people in it. And I just signed the Change.org petition to CBS trying to convince them to do a new CAPTAIN PIKE series on the Enterprise in pre-TOS. Serious no-brainer, CBS: don’t let Anson Mount get away!!!

But this episode also suffered from a number of weaknesses…many of them stemming from the fact that the season was originally set to be 13 episodes and, early on, a decision was made to stretch the finale into two parts. And there’s no doubt that the last episode will be an amazing, budget-blowing WOW!-fest. And about half of this episode was equally stunning. But there was also a lot—a LOT!—of filler. And ultimately, this episode felt (to me, at least), like being the passenger with a student driver who is constantly accelerating and then hitting the brakes hard and then repeating the process.

So for the next-to-last time this season, let’s dive into my thoughts on an episode of Discovery

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DISCOVERY’s twelfth episode: very watchable, but was it GOOD? (editorial review)

WE HAVE SPAM, SPOILERS, EGGS, SPOILERS, BAKED BEANS, AND SPOILERS!

As I watched the 3-minute teaser and opening scene of act one of “Through the Valley of Shadows,” STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s twelfth episode of season two, I was dreading having to write another critical blog. It’s not that I have anything against (of for) being negative about Discovery; I just don’t like having to sit through weak or boring episodes that don’t live up to the potential of the series.

We open on Michael Burnham (of course!) whose review of her mother’s time-logs is interrupted by a call from her adopted mother, Amanda Grayson. Yay, I thought! I love Mia Kirshner‘s portrayal of the character. But my hopes were quickly dashed as I saw Burnham yet again falling into self-pity and blaming herself for everything that goes wrong in the universe.

Amanda gets to complete her second short line of dialog just as she is interrupted by a Spock-knock at the door. Still not in uniform, Spock apologizes for the interruption, but the captain needs them. Amanda gets nine more words, and then the scene that began with such potential is over 63 seconds after it began. Sigh…

Then it’s a cut to a briefing—again! What episode this season hasn’t kicked off with some kind of briefing? But at least this one wasn’t interrupted by Tillybabble. In fact, Mary Wiseman doesn’t appear in this episode at all (she wasn’t available the week of filming)…and to be honest, I didn’t really miss her. The episode felt more “grown up” without Tilly stealing her scenes. The briefing itself wasn’t bad, although every time I hear Tyler or another Klingon say “Kay-lesh” (Kahless), I cringe. Worf managed to get through two different Star Trek series pronouncing it “Kay-less”—is it really that hard for this show to be consistent with canon???

Then we come back from the opening credits with a scene between Burnham and Tyler that, as usual, showed almost no chemistry between the two actors and characters. Some quick exposition, a passive-aggressive zinger from Tyler, and then Tyler hears a beep that starts the real episode.

And that’s when everything started getting really good (and not so really good)…

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STRUGGLE IS POINTLESS on STAR TREK: DISCOVERY! (editorial review)

SPOILERS – THEY’RE PART OF THIS COMPLETE BREAKFAST!

Last week, I wrote what was only my second negative review for an episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY for season two. And the blog resulted in surprisingly passionate responses on Facebook, particularly in the “big” (107K member) Star Trek group and the (40K member) Star Trek: Discovery group. Some folks agreed with what I said. Others didn’t. But a disturbingly high number of posts were just plain mean and confrontational.

While I won’t harp on this point too much—because complaining about nasty posts on Facebook is like complaining about the smell of animal poop at a zoo—I’d just like to point out a few examples of how to respectfully disagree with someone…

And here’s some examples of how to be a mean person…

All of this vitriol simply because someone has a different opinion from you??? When I was growing up, not everyone thought “The Doomsday Machine” was the best TOS episode like I did. But if someone thought “Spock’s Brain” was the best episode, I might quietly think they were weird, but I wouldn’t call them an “irrelevant shrub” (what odes that even mean???) or tell them to “PISS OFF” or suggest someone blow them out an airlock.

It seems lately that Star Trek: Discovery (like so many things in this world) has polarized us. And for some people, any criticism of this show is seen as an “attack” that must be defended with a counter-attack. It’s ridiculous…and so discordant with everything Gene Roddenberry ever tried to teach us.

The irony here is that I’ve actually written seven very positive reviews this season (you can read them here). I’m not a Discovery “hater” and happily praise the show when I think it’s been a decent episode. And when I don’t enjoy an episode, I share those thoughts, too. My opinion might not match yours, and that’s OKAY. We’re allowed to disagree.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling strongly about Star Trek and Discovery. But I challenge anyone to defend being obnoxious to someone simply for writing a blog review that they didn’t like.


All right, let’s move on to reviewing this week’s episode, “Perpetual Infinity”—which many of you will be happy (relieved?) to learn that I felt was a much stronger and more watchable episode than last week, and here’s why…

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NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS once again opens their TOS sets to the public for FAN APPRECIATION WEEKEND 2!

When I was a kid growing up in the 1970s, watching Star Trek each weeknight at 6:00pm, I used to dream of one day building my own Enterprise bridge. I’d have it on the second floor of my house, in a circular area, with a turbolift elevator that would go up to it, doors whooshing open to shock and impress my friends.

Sadly (at least for me, not sad for my wife), that didn’t happen.

But miraculously, I can still walk onto the bridge of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701. I can sit in the captain’s chair, stand in the transporter, walk through the corridors, visit sickbay and engineering, wander into the briefing room and Captain Kirk’s quarters. And I can even do it in two different locations!

The first place I can go is the officially licensed Star Trek Original Series Set Tour in Ticonderoga, NY. For $22.50/person (less for seniors, military, and kids), I can walk around meticulous, museum-quality recreations of the original 1960s sets that were used to film Star Trek. The sets in upstate New York were used to make the fan series Star Trek: New Voyages/Phase 2, and now are available throughout the year for personal and group tours.

Further south in Kingsland, GA are the sets that were originally used for the fan series Starship Farragut and Star Trek Continues. A little over a year ago, those sets were sold by VIC MIGNOGNA to RAY TESI, who has opened them up for free filming (just pay the electricity costs) to any fan production that follows the CBS guidelines. Originally called Stage 9 Studios, the sets were recently renamed NEUTRAL ZONE STUDIOS to avoid confusion with the Virtual 3D walkthrough of the Enterprise-D that was shut down by CBS.

Last October, Ray Tesi opened his Georgia sets to the general public for a FAN APPRECIATION WEEKEND. It featured tours, photo opportunities, some fan film celebrity guests, and even two different fan productions shooting scenes in front of a live, studio audience.

However, there was also some controversy

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Who let the air out of DISCOVERY this week??? (editorial review)

THE MOTHER OF ALL SPOILER WARNINGS!

The tenth episode of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY‘s second season was called “The Red Angel.” I call it the “Oh, By The Way…” episode. In my opinion, it was the weakest of the second season so far, and not even as good as some of the first season episodes.

Even the positive reviews I’ve read so far have acknowledged that this was a “talky” episode, filled with a lot of quiet scenes where two or three or four people were just chatting with each other—mainly about plot exposition. The first 37 minutes were almost entirely that, with only the final 10 minutes picking up the pace with an exciting and engaging ending.

So what is an “Oh, By The Way…” episode? Glad you asked!

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