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Stardate 0008.04 - The plot thickens

By Michelle Erica Green     August 03, 2000

By all reports, fans had a very exciting time at the Slanted Fedora convention in Philadelphia this weekend, where they had to brave a bomb threat and an influx of young Republicans waiting for the political party convention to start. Armin Shimerman, Rene Auberjonois, Robert Duncan McNeill, Roxann Dawson, Ethan Phillips, and Robert Picardo were all in attendance; Shimerman and McNeill in particular got kudos from attendees for standing around signing autographs and taking photos when rumors of a bomb caused the hotel to be evacuated, while Auberjonois remained standoffish and most of the others went out to lunch.

Skip two paragraphs to avoid spoilers if you want!

The Voyager actors confirmed that Paris and Torres will get married early next season, nodding in response to the question, though aloud they said they couldn't say anything. Dawson confirmed another rumor by pointing to her wedding ring, then miming being pregnant by putting her hands around her belly.

All the actors were certain Voyager would get home by the end of the series, though Phillips believes it might be as early as midseason while the others expect UPN to hold out for a big finale in the spring. Picardo promised that the Doctor would have a name by the end of the series.

Of course, fans couldn't resist asking about Robert Beltran's recent suggestions of unhappiness on the set (more on that below). Picardo noted that he felt somewhat hurt by the comments, though he also said he hasn't said anything to Beltran about it, and the two have been back at work together for several weeks now. The others looked uncomfortable and evaded the question, yet no one denied the truth of Beltran's comments; their objections seemed more along the lines that Beltran should keep his mouth shut in public while the show is still in production.

On a related note, while Picardo said he doesn't resent Jeri Ryan's extensive screen time compared to the other cast members, the remaining con guests remained silent about that issue. Of course, Picardo was featured in four big episodes last season, which is more than any other cast member can say; the fact that he wrote one of them undoubtedly has something to do with that, as even Beltran has admitted.

In other spoiler news, the official site at startrek.com has published official synopses and guest cast lists for the first few episodes of the seventh season at http://www.startrek.com/production/voyager7/synopses.html. Again, skip down three paragraphs if you don't want to know!

As expected, 'Unimatrix Zero, Part Two' is described as 'under threat by the Borg Queen who...will even resort to the destruction of her own kind in an attempt to stop Janeway and Unimatrix Zero.' In the follow-up episode, 'Imperfection,' three of the remaining Borg children will leave Voyager for good, causing Seven of Nine some suffering. Then she learns that her ocular implant may be malfunctioning, which causes more suffering for both Seven and remaining Borg Icheb, who wants to help her at all costs. According to TrekWeb, the young Borg will survive without his ocular implant because of his abortive period in a Borg maturation chamber.

In 'Drive,' the much-ballyhooed Paris-Torres bonding episode, Tom and Harry Kim meet an alien pilot whose challenge draws them into a race intended to kick off a complicated peace initiative in her sector. A saboteur among the contestants breeds ill will as the competition can get underway. TrekToday reports that Torres becomes Paris' partner when Kim joins up with an alien whose co-pilot has been injured, but it turns out that she's the terrorist.

'Critical Care,' which has been described as a metaphor for the managed health care crisis in the U.S., finds the Doctor aboard a hospital ship where unethical procedures drive him to break the rules. Since the sweeps month movie 'Body and Soul,' the story of the evolution of the Hirogen holograms, also centers on the Doctor, this means we'll be seeing lots of Bob Picardo early in the season...and we haven't even gotten around to finding out when Louis Zimmerman might be back, along with Barclay and Troi.


Vulcan Found!

Space.com this week noted a discovery that 'may be as close as we're going to get to finding the home world of Mr. Spock.' Writer Robert Myers reported on a planet orbiting the nearby star Epsilon Eridani, one of two stars often named in Trek books as the sun of the planet Vulcan. Moreover, the scientist who led the team of astronauts that made the discovery is named Dr. William Cochran. In the original series episode 'Metamorphosis' and the film First Contact, the similarly-named Zefram Cochrane discovered warp drive and made first contact with the Vulcans.

The newly-discovered planet is approximately the size of Jupiter, which probably means it's a gas giant uninhabitable by humanoids like the Vulcan species, but what the heck? Series creator Gene Roddenberry had named 40 Eridani as the more likely sun for Vulcan, since the older star had a better chance of supporting life on any planets it might have.

Epsilon Eridani's planet has an oval orbit roughly the same distance from the star as our asteroid belt is from our sun. It is possible that smaller terrestrial planets could be found closer to the star, which is a mere 10.5 light years away from our solar system.

The International Astronomical Union, which bestows names on galactic objects, usually names newly discovered planets after their suns, so this new world will officially be called 'Epsilon Eridani b.' However, since it is now possible to pay to have stars named after people or organizations, perhaps a campaign will be launched to have the planet 'Vulcan' officially designated. See http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/astronomy/epsilon_vulcan_000731.html for more information.


Star Trek Calendars

It's August, so most people are rushing out to do their Christmas shopping and picking up 2001 calendars. Right? Well, the stores seem to think so. Hallmark has this year's Christmas ornaments for sale already, including a cool light-up Borg cube that says 'Enjoy your holidays. Resistance is futile,' and a sculpted Seven of Nine whose ample assets may topple your tree. There's also a blown-glass Worf head to go with your bat'leth-wielding Worf ornament from last year.

Pocket's Star Trek Stardate 'Trek-a-day' calendars are beginning to appear in stores that actually put out new calendars in the middle of the summer, but they're worth getting now because you'll want to look at these pictures for more than one day of the year. The Trek-a-day calendar is one item that just keeps getting better and better.

A couple of years back when Pocket first produced a daily calendar, it sported terrible black-and-white photos with minimal relevant information about cast birthdays and the like. The next year, the calendars were in color, but it was still pretty grainy, and many of the shots were well-known publicity poses. There were also photos of the executive producers on their birthdays, and while I for one am grateful for the work of Michael Piller, Jeri Taylor, et al, I really don't have much of an urge to look at their faces for 24 hours.

This year, the 'crew' photos feature the Deep Space Nine writers dressed up as they appeared in the bar scene in 'What You Leave Behind;' the calendar makes note of Marc Alaimo and Casey Biggs' birthdays, and the design is bold and snappy. More importantly, the paper feels heavier and the photos look terrific, clear and focused, with realistic color and light balance.

And what photos! There are original series stills in here from 'The Empath' and 'The Paradise Syndrome,' which I've never seen before, plus a number of effects shots from the films that usually only show up in the big glossy calendars. There are lots and lots from Deep Space Nine, including five or six lovely romantic shots of Kira and Odo together, along with my beloved Kai Winn who was robbed of her rightful place in last year's Women of Star Trek calendar.

Cardassian fans should be delighted at the number of scaly-necked dudes, including a rare shot of Marc Alaimo in TNG's 'The Wounded.' There's less TNG than in previous years, but I'm not complaining: the Deep Space Nine and Voyager images include more close-ups and action photos than we've ever gotten before. These are postcard-quality shots, and we get 365 of them for $12. Check out Janeway's see-through blouse on March 23, and Jadzia's bachelorette party attire on Rosh Hashanah. Get these calendars now for every Trek fan on your Christmas list, and you can hand them out over Labor Day weekend.

The wall calendars for next season (of which I have only seen prototypes) are a mixed lot. The Voyager calendar takes the unprecedented step of offering a 'babe' shot of Kate Mulgrew, Roxann Dawson and Jeri Ryan in black dresses without Trek makeup, which is wonderful if you want to look at Kate, Roxann and Jeri, but frustrating if you want to look at Janeway, Torres and Seven. There's only one mediocre shot of drool-worthy Robert BeltranOK, he has been running his mouth a lot lately, but hey, there are two Harry Kims! Neelix looks sweaty and unkempt, which is fine in an action episode but less exciting on the wall for an entire month. The Borg Queen is a nice surprise for collectors, but fans of the regular cast may not want to look at her so long. And there's no Kes.

The Deep Space Nine calendar would be perfect if it went for 16 months so that it could include more guest stars. It features the regulars (Ezri, no Jadzia), plus Nog, Garak, and Martok. I'm not going to complain about the absence of Leeta, but I wouldn't mind seeing Moogie get her own page, nor Rom, Dukat, Damar, Weyoun, the female Changeling, Gowron, Winn, Keiko, the Nagus...you see the problem? Deep Space Nine needs its own page-a-day calendar to make this fan happy.

The original series calendar shots look very posed, but the colors are vivid and bright compared to the other series calendars. The TNG calendar has a lovely shot of the Enterprise-E on the cover, but I'm prejudiced towards the television Enterprise and the crew in those days; however, people who have been collecting TNG calendars with TV photos for more than ten years will probably be thrilled to have this one.

Last year we got Women of Star Trek, this year we get Ships of the Line. Personally, I think the ships have nicer curves for wall display, and the shots I've seen are wonderful, but I haven't yet spotted an actual calendar, so I can't really comment much on this one. The centerfold montage is often the visual highlight of every Trek calendar, but I can't tell whether this comes with one, so it might be worth checking that out before ordering.


Beltran's Big Mouth, Part III

Heated debates continue about the report on robertbeltran.com from England, in which the actor who plays Chakotay talked about not reading his scripts and not respecting the producers. Some of his defenders appreciate his honesty; others apparently believe that he was kidding. Those of us who took him seriously have had to endure slurs about our feeble senses of humor.

Well, if his comments were meant to be witty, Beltran has chosen to continue the joke. In a new interview at scifi.com, he is downright hilarious. After grumping that the writers don't pay him to come up with ideas for his character, the actor proceeds to reassert his dislike of science fiction. Calling Voyager's sixth season 'pretty dreary and tedious' for himself and some of the others in the cast, Beltran admits that he's bored to tears, and fed up with Janeway and Seven getting all the material. Not that he thinks it's good material: 'I feel badly for Kate [Mulgrew] and for Jeri [Ryan], because it's the same thing over and over. They're not getting any great character development.'

Beltran accuses the writers of laziness. 'The bridge scenes are always the same, over and over. 'Reroute the power from the Scooby-Dooby to the fluma-fluma.' I'd rather not say anything than spew forth some of the stuff they do write. It's just so boring. It's like the writers have painted themselves in this hole, that now they have to manufacture crises that Janeway and Seven of Nine should be able to fix just like that, considering what we've seen before.'

This is actually a wonderfully succinct summary of the complaints of many fans. But while it's true that he doesn't get paid to write the stuff, one wishes Beltran would apply some of his insights into trying to make his own scenes more interesting. 'The only thing that can bring some freshness to it, is the interpersonal relationships,' he observes, stating that Chakotay has no relationship with Janeway at all at this point. Yet most of their relationship was subtext even in the early seasons; the difference is that the actors brought energy and chemistry to their scenes, so that even a debate about an engineering problem turned into a personal interchange.

Beltran should consider taking a cue from William Shatner, who has always felt free to criticize Trek, but does it with a sense of humor. Following up on his (in)famous Saturday Night Live 'Get A Life!' sketch, Trek's Captain Kirk targeted a spoof at fans who can't tell actor from character last Thursday at the Just for Laughs Festival in his native Montreal.

Parodying Molson's 'I Am Canadian' rant, Shatner complained, 'Hey, I'm not a Starfleet commander or T.J. Hooker. I don't live on Starship NCC-1701 or own a phaser. I don't know anyone named Bones, Sulu or Spock. And no, I've never had green alien sexalthough I'm sure it would be quite an evening. And when I speak, I never, ever, talk. Like. Every. Word. Is. Its. Own. Sentence!'

Shatner went on to plug Priceline.com, where you never have to pay full price for airline tickets. He bragged that he has gone 'where no man has gone before,' but her father gave him permission. 'My name is William Shatner and I am Canadian,' he concluded. Gee, I thought he was from Iowa...

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