Stardate 0009.25: Reality Showing -

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Stardate 0009.25: Reality Showing

Plus: Trek News, Trek Books, Trek People

By Michelle Erica Green     September 25, 2000

Last week during a visit to Paramount Studios, I got a few rumors confirmed, but a few others muddled even further. While giving a tour of the Gower Theatre on the lot, one of the guides mentioned that Robert Duncan McNeill and Roxann Dawson had just filmed a big scene there in which Paris took Torres on an old-fashioned movie date. Since a movie theater holo-program has been the rumored locale for the Paris/Torres wedding, I asked when the big day was...and got a confused stare, followed by a summary of 'Course: Oblivion,' in which clones of the couple wed but then died. Although my tour guide was enough of a fan to remember that past episode, he hadn't managed to scoop the upcoming wedding story from anyone on the lot.

Paramount was crowded last week with people who looked sort of but not quite like characters on Voyager. Rumor was that they were playing imperfect holographic doubles from 'Flesh and Blood,' the episode in which Hirogen holograms run amok. Maybe it's another duplicate Paris and Torres who got married in the past tense. I made a couple of inquiries to folk on the set about the wedding, and received even more contradictory information. There's no question that a wedding was written into the original draft of 'Drive,' and that both Roxann Dawson and Robert Duncan McNeill believed it was a done deal when they hinted at it during conventions earlier this fall. But it sounds like the 'Drive' marriage will not make it onto the air when the episode is televised, because a number of people at Paramount say there's a wedding script being worked out now.

It's possible there could be a quick elopement in 'Drive' with a group reception to follow. Or the couple might perform an impromptu ceremony in the episode that binds them together, but isn't official in the eyes of the Federation. I'd love to know how the institution of marriage has evolved by the 24th century, anyway. Does the Federation recognize weddings performed on planets with radically different traditions, since its members include polygamists, genderless societies and any number of other variations on humanoid sexuality? For people in far-flung societies, is marriage about love, sex, family, children, tradition, shared housing, shared property or what?

I'm also curious how much power Janeway might have to approve or veto couplings among her crew, which Chakotay seemed to suggest in 'Elogium' that she might. Do Paris and Torres need her blessing or just her presence to make their marriage legitimate? When a Starfleet captain performs a wedding, is she bound by any restrictions about whom she can marry, based either on Starfleet tradition or on the cultures of the couple involved--i.e., if the Trill have an injunction against rejoining and are members of the Federation, is a starship captain obligated to perform a ceremony between two former spouses or to uphold Trill law by refusing? Could Janeway dissolve a marriage between crewmembers who got tired of one another on their long journey, or is a judge necessary for annulment? What's up with the divorce rate, anyway, since we've seen so many split couples on Trek from the LaForges to Torres' family to Sisko's birth parents--is it as easy to unravel a marriage as it is to enter into one?

It would be great to see an episode that seriously pondered the institution of marriage and what it might mean in a future humanoid society. Of course, on Voyager we'll probably get something closer to DS9's 'You Are Cordially Invited,' where we'll learn more quirky details about Klingon weddings and Tom Paris' affections for old movies. In fact, I bet we get the most traditional 'non-traditional' wedding since Rom and Leeta's. But hopefully it'll still be fun.

Trek News: Bad Guys Everywhere

In real, definitive news, Voyager recently hired two new writers--Mike Sussman of 'The Haunting of Deck Twelve' and 'Unimatrix Zero,' and his writing partner Phyllis Strong. The staff is working on the 13th episode, meaning they're halfway through the show's final season. Bryan Fuller said in a TrekWeb chat that plans for the final arc aren't as ambitious as Deep Space Nine's; the mini-arc ending Voyager may be anywhere from two to five episodes long.

Fuller also told TrekWeb that all the characters will get a featured episode before the series concludes. The staff has been working on an upcoming Kim episode, 'then a Chakotay episode, then a B'Elanna episode, then a Seven episode, then a Tuvok episode.' More importantly, Fuller said that as of this week, there is no truth to any of the rumors about major character deaths.

Just in time for the release of Diane Duane's much-anticipated Swordhunt, the follow-up to her wonderful old Rihannsu novels My Enemy, My Ally and The Romulan Way, we hear that the Vulcans' emotional relatives will make an appearance on Voyager this season. Unless the Romulans turn out to be more Hirogen holograms, this news from SFX is exciting for two reasons. Way back in the first season, Janeway gave information about Voyager's whereabouts to a friendly Romulan in 'Eye of the Needle.' Because of temporal distortions, that Romulan died twenty years before the ship launched, so it was believed that he could not have affected the events surrounding Voyager's journey. Still, one wonders what happened to the data Janeway sent him--the crew's messages for their families.

Three years later, in 'Message in a Bottle,' the Doctor discovered Romulans aboard the U.S.S. Prometheus in the Alpha Quadrant. Despite being Federation allies during the Dominion War, the nefarious aliens had killed the entire crew in an attempt to study the experimental Starfleet vessel's multi-vector assault mode, which allowed the Prometheus to split apart into many armed segments. The Doctor used the ship's multiple holo-emitters, along with anesthetic gas, to disable the invaders, but we never learned how much information the Romulans might have sent home before Starfleet arrived to send the Doctor back to Voyager. Any tie-in with these two previous episodes is sure to answer some intriguing questions.

Will Voyager encounter the honorable Vulcan-like Romulans of the original series, or the more devious brand that appeared on TNG and DS9? Or will they encounter Romulans piloting demolition derby shuttles? UPN raised the latter question this week when Variety reported the network's plans to broadcast Road Rage, a reality series in which contestants try to smash each other's vehicles to bits while hurling sludge, oil and insults at one another. In the words of UPN president Dean Valentine, ever mindful of his desired demographic, 'If we're trying to get in touch with the inner boy...there's nothing better than cars smacking into each other.' Reuters describes the series as a cross between Gladiators, WWF and a local motor-cross competition.

Hopefully the mid-season Road Rage will begin airing too late for anyone to concoct a Voyager/WWF-style crossover like 'Tsunkatse.' Similarly, we can only hope UPN's reality show Getaway premieres after Voyager's final arc has been scripted, since the series will focus on a group of cops trying to catch stunt cars with professional drivers. Picture Janeway chasing and ensnaring a little ship captained by Mario Andretti...oh, never mind.

On the other hand, it would be amusing if Voyager crossed over with yet another new UPN reality show, Temptation Manner, in which three couples stranded at a resort struggle with temptation. Imagine Paris and Torres getting married, then going to Risa and swapping partners with Bashir and Dax. Yes, this mix-n-match idea has extremely poor taste potential; leave it to UPN to exploit it. Why? 'The best kind of reality shows have relationships at their core,' says that mushy romantic Dean Valentine.

Seriously, why so many reality series? Variety speculates that the fear of an upcoming actors' and writers' strike may have inspired the drive to 'real-life' drama, just as it has inspired stockpiling of episodes of hit shows and advance orders for the fall 2001 season.

Trek Books: Star Trek S.C.E.: Fatal Error

The second of the Trek eBooks available at picks up where Belly of the Beast left off, but it's remarkably different in tone--in fact, I can't think of a Trek novel with which to compare it. The writing is very spare, with punchy dialogue where readers are often expected to figure out who's speaking by the tone and topic of the statements. The sentences have few dependent clauses and even fewer descriptive adjectives. Writer Keith R.A. DeCandido, who came up with Star Trek S.C.E. along with editor John Ordover, sticks with comic book simplicity, which actually serves this action story quite well.

Fatal Error offers an interesting juxtaposition between the secular Judaism of Captain David Gold and his rabbi wife, as opposed to the religious fanatics who try to destroy the central computer of the planet Eerlik. Curiously, considering the prominent role religion plays in the lives of many central characters, God doesn't get mentioned once, except in an oath by an engineer. The book starts with the slaughter of priests by a character who believes he's righteous, yet who comes across as utterly loathsome. Gold--whose religious background is conveyed mainly by his affection for matzoh ball soup and Yiddish expressions--responds to a call for help from the planet's computer, which realizes that it has been sabotaged but can't track down the source of the damage.

Like Landru's society from 'Return of the Archons,' Eerlik is run by this single sentient machine, called Ganitriul. The fanatics preach a simple life without dependence on the decadent device, yet they're perfectly willing to use blasters and computer viruses to achieve their aims. Gold's best computer expert, the Bynar 110, has been devastated by the loss of his mate and doesn't believe he can fix Ganitriul on his own. Yet 110 finds the idea of bonding with another mate so loathsome that he is willing to try to live independently, just to stave off the likelihood that he will have to pair off with someone else.

This novella is witty and clever, with lines like, 'The face of the human captain of the da Vinci appeared suddenly on the viewscreen. 'We're the S.C.E. Impossible things are our business.'' It doesn't suffer from a lack of description, but one never learns what the planet or its moon look like...and though we know the aliens are short and their blood is blue, we don't really get a sense of how they move, how they group themselves, what their homes are like. This is annoying because the book could easily have been longer, allowing it to develop the alien characters and their culture in depth.

Trek eBooks cost $5, which seems like a lot for novellas of this length. Like Belly of the Beast, many readers will be able to finish Fatal Error in an hour--or if it takes longer, it likely has to do with needing to take breaks from the eyestrain of reading a book on a computer screen. Since we've been spoiled by the TNG and DS9 Companion CD-ROMS, which offer more than a hundred complete television scripts for under $20 each, I'm a little bugged that Barnes and Noble is charging so much for books that are so short and cost so little to produce.

It's awhile before publication, but I just have to mention the covers for Dark Passions I & II which will be published early next year. Set in the mirror universe of Deep Space Nine, Susan Wright's upcoming books feature the Intendant of Bajor in a power struggle with Deanna Troi, the consort of Regent Worf, and with B'Elanna Torres, the Intendant of the Sol system. Intendant Kira enters into a dangerous liaison with lovely Annika Hansen, not knowing the human has orders to kill her. Click here to see the cover for the first book, featuring Mirror Deanna, Annika and the Intendant. Click here to see the cover of the second volume, with Janeway and Crusher in slave dress along with Annika in Seven of Nine's catsuit.

Trek People: Shatner Gets Serious

William Shatner earned kudos last week for supporting Covenant House, an international organization that helps young runaways. He also talked to TV Guide about his grief over the death of his wife Nerine last year in their home swimming pool. 'When someone want to make some meaning out of a life,' he told the magazine's Sept. 23 issue, explaining that grief over his wife's death inspired the plot of Star Trek: Preserver, in which Captain Kirk goes to extremes to save the life of his wife Teilani.

In explaining his interest in Covenant House, quoted Shatner as saying, 'I have fashioned a bulwark of family, friends and material to give me the illusion of harbor and safety, but that's what it is--illusion. Home, safety, comfort, is illusion. We are here to help the homeless child...and by helping them find a home, we find a home ourselves.' At an elegant benefit dinner, the actor received the Distinguished Achievement Award in recognition of his ongoing efforts to 'provide wondrous and meaningful opportunities for children and youth,' including his annual charity horse show.

Covenant House reaches out to homeless youth by offering shelter, food, clothing, health care and counseling. The proceeds from the dinner and silent auction at the Regent Beverly Wilshire went to help more young people in crisis. Shatner said, 'We're all lost children. Somewhere in life we lose our bearings.'

Among the guests at the dinner was Wil Wheaton, who echoed the older actor's remarks. 'Covenant House provides a way for kids who have found themselves in a pretty terrible situation to get out,' he said. 'A place like Covenant House sets an example that I wish more people would follow.'

Trek People II: Beltran Gets Blue

Robert Beltran chatted with fans on the official site at last week, which perhaps explains why his answers were uncharacteristically subdued. Though he made cracks about rarely getting to sit in the captain's chair, Chakotay's lack of a love life and how his own animal guide would probably be an elephant, most of the chat focused on non-Trek-related topics.

The actor said he frequently works on Shakespeare scenes for classes and would like to play Othello. He also said he'd like to play Napoleon, Abraham Lincoln and Cesar Chavez. Beltran listens to Brahms, loves football and would only get involved in politics if the media stops getting involved in politicians' personal lives. Like most of his fellow actors, he's sorry to be leaving the people on Voyager but at the end of this final season, he'll be excited to work on something new.

Asked whether Chakotay would ever fall in love, Beltran lamented, 'Well, he already has. I just hope someday it will be reciprocated.' He added that if he could sit down with Chakotay, the advice he would give him would be, 'Forget about the Captain and find a nice ensign.' I've said this before, but I just love it when this guy talks about Chakotay's broken heart--it's nice to know there's someone on the show who's as disappointed about the bungling of Janeway and Chakotay's relationship as many of the fans are.


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