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Stardate 008.14: You Can't Go Home Again

Plus: Trek Books, Patrick Stewart, Tim Russ, Klingons in Cyberspace.

By Michelle Erica Green     August 14, 2000

Ken Biller had a busy week chatting with online sites about what we can expect on Voyager this season. Scifi.com, the official Trek site at startrek.com, and Fandom's own Anna Kaplan all posted interviews with Voyager's current exec. Like Rick Berman, Biller seems to have mastered the art of saying the same short sound bytes over and overand guess what? Like Berman, he wants Voyager's conclusion to be fresh and exciting!

Talking to startrek.com's Deborah Fisher, Biller promised that the second part of 'Unimatrix Zero' will explain exactly how the Borg cyber-world operates, answering questions such as how a bat'leth appeared there. 'We knew what the rules were but didn't explain it enough to the audience. Part two will explain some of it more, plus have more twists and turns and surprises,' he assured fans. Biller also said he expected the Borg to remain Voyager's nemesis in the Delta Quadrant 'because they live in the Delta Quadrant.' Though he suggested that we will not see a lot of Borg stories in the seventh season, Biller did say that the hostile aliens 'will present at least one more great, big obstacle.'

In addition to getting rid of the Borg children and exploring Seven of Nine's mortality, the second episode, 'Imperfection,' will introduce the new Delta Flyer, which will play a pivotal role in 'Drive' as the Paris/Torres romance gets intensified. 'In general, as we come into the last season, without wrapping things up too neatly in a bow, we'll be looking at each character's arc and thinking about how to finish it up,' Biller explained, confirming plans to reignite the Maquis conflict in upcoming shows. He expects a return by Barclay and Troi 'at least once, maybe twice.' And he suggested to Kaplan that the Kobalithe aliens who reanimate dead bodies, from the sixth season episode 'Ashes to Ashes'might return.

Biller joked to Fisher that he refuses to tell whether Voyager will come home or not. 'It would be naive to assume it's not a regular topic of discussion around here. I know what the answer is but I won't tell you.' Asked point-blank by Fandom's Kaplan whether the series would end with a trick like a repeating time loop, as one source told this column several weeks ago, the exec said, 'I don't really want to comment on that, except to say that we all are faced with a unique challenge, which is, how do you both satisfy the audience and also defy their expectations?'

That's something predecessors Michael Piller, Jeri Taylor, and Brannon Braga never seemed to be able to answer. I'm not sure why defying expectations in the conclusion is so desirableeveryone went to see The Search For Spock even though it was pretty darned obvious they'd find him. Hopefully the writing staff will remain sensible and not try to pull a Bobby Ewing shower scenario, though a reset button for the entire series would end the threat of Voyager coming home and destroying the Alpha Quadrant that Sisko's people worked so hard to defend.

Reportedly there have been suggestions that some of the crew might not make it home with Voyager. But after the downer ending of Deep Space Nine, one hopes the writers will rethink this scenario, even if Robert Beltran has been telling anyone who will listen that he wouldn't mind if his character died at midseason.

Startrek.com names the writing staff for Voyager next year: Bryan Fuller, Robert Doherty, Michael Taylor, Raf Green and James Kahn, plus Rick Berman and Brannon Braga who haven't left entirely to work on Series V. No word on what happened to Robin Burger, the only woman on the staff since Jeri Taylor and Lisa Klink left more than two years ago. It appears that Voyager's final season, like Deep Space Nine's final season, will be overseen by an all-male team.


Trek Books: The Genesis Wave, Book One

One of the nicest things about Trek Pocket Books is the way they can bring back really neat technology from the movies that would be too expensive for the TV series to revisit. The alien device from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home in the novel Probe used to be my favorite example. Now John Vornholt has resurrected my favorite special effect of all time, the Genesis wave from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, in a novel that brings together some of the best aspects of both that film and The Next Generation.

The novel begins with the kidnapping of Carol Marcus, who's over 130 years old and still working. But she's depressed that her life's work has been erased from Starfleet records for security reasons, and she still misses Davidand James T. Kirk, though she has a harder time admitting that. When mysterious aliens arrive in the form of those very people, it doesn't seem like that much of a stretch for her to accept them; after all, Genesis brought Spock back to Kirk.

Six months later, Dr. Leah Brahms is testing on a phase-shifting space suit that can withstand almost any form of assault when the planet she's standing on transforms around her, killing all the life there and replacing it with new, mutant biology. Though she doesn't recognize the effect, the elderly Klingon Maltz knows exactly what it is, and joins with Brahms in an attempt to warn the Federation that this new, uncontrolled Genesis wave appears to be on course for Earth. Admiral Necheyev knows what it is as well, and dispatches the Enterprise to investigate. Soon enough, Captain Picard learns all about the banned technology. But without knowing who has unleashed it and why, all he can do is try to coordinate a rescue effort for the people living on the doomed planets in its path.

This is a fast-paced story with some lovely character workparticularly for the frequently-neglected Geordi LaForge and Deanna Troi. LaForge spends half the book worrying that Leah didn't survive the initial crisis, then the next half feeling guilty that her husband and previous career have been conveniently eradicated. Brahms, who's a terrific character, doesn't sit around waiting for him to make his move, however. Within hours of the transformation which destroyed most of her work and all her colleagues, she has pulled herself together, taken off to warn others, developed a plan to protect inhabitants on worlds in the path of the wave, and earned the unswerving loyalty of the only living witness to the destruction of the Genesis Planet.

Meanwhile, Troi finds herself on a ship full of panicked refugees, trying to counsel people facing the inevitable destruction of their homes and the horrible deaths of loved ones. When an away team crisis forces her to remain on a planet in the midst of gruesome transformation, she witnesses first-hand the deadly power of Genesis. Anyone who remembers the beautiful computerized visuals from The Wrath of Khan, as the Genesis wave turned a dead moon into a living planet, will be impressed with the graphic descriptions of its inverse, as the wave turns an already-thriving planet into something that sounds like unchecked cancerous growth. The Marcuses may have ignored the potential use of the Genesis torpedo as a weapon, but none of the great powers of the Alpha Quadrant have made the same mistake.

Since this is Book One, with Book Two to follow in April, of course we're left with a screamer of a cliffhanger, in which the wave is still headed towards Earth, the mysterious aliens have begun to manipulate Starfleet officers, and Geordi LaForge still hasn't managed to tell Leah Brahms that he's still in love with her. Moreover, Beverly Crusher behaves insanely while in temporary command of a Defiant-class vessel that has been exploring the origin of the wave. It's a bit annoying that two strong female characters can be plunged into hysteria out of love for their sons, but Brahms compensates for them, as does Alynna Necheyev, who's more sympathetic than she ever was on the series.

It did seem that Starfleet spent too much effort on stopping the wave and too little on learning who released it in the first place, considering the likelihood that they could do so again. I am assuming that will change in the next volume. Necheyev comes across as more of a 'people' person than ever before because of her concern for the inhabitants of the threatened planets, but I would have expected her to be sending officers right and left to figure out who's responsible for the security breach that let Genesis escape, and trying to punish those responsible. The as-yet-invisible threat has behaved so despicably, re-forming planets to their own specifications without regard for the life already there, that some satisfying retribution is called for.

Fans of both the movies and The Next Generation should love The Genesis Wave, even the long, dry chapter recounting in Starfleet memos the history of Genesis technology following the events of The Search For Spock. (SciFi.com's Dave Mack wrote the bulk of this chapter, so I was amused to note that one of the memo-writers was named 'Xev Chiana,' presumably after the characters from Sci-Fi's LEXX and Farscape.) It's a lot of fun to hear everyone insulting Commander Kruge, to hear Kirk's name spoken with the proper reverence, and to see the Romulans and Klingons working with the Federation on a threat even bigger than the Dominion. As Vornholt keeps pointing out, Genesis has amazing capabilities as a dramatic device as well as a terraforming agent; because it makes changes at the subatomic level, it could be used for cellular regeneration, offering eternal life or constant revival like Spock experienced in the films.

Stewart Smiling

Like Ken Biller, Patrick Stewart has been busy giving interviewsnot just about the X-Men movie, but the upcoming tenth Star Trek film, which sounds pretty likely to happen. He told the Popcorn U.K. web site that Gladiator co-writer John Logan had produced a 28-page storyline, with the input of Brent Spiner (Data) and Rick Berman. '[Paramount is] not yet totally committed to the movie,' admitted Stewart, but he believes it will be produced nonetheless.

TrekToday published a report of a broadcast on British radio in which Stewart discussed the film's development. He called the screenplay treatment 'very impressive' and said he planned to provide considerable input into the script, though he was impressed by Logan's ability to find new and interesting things for Picard to do. TrekToday also drew attention to Warner Home Video's plans to release Stewart's A Christmas Carol on VHS at the end of October. The video's recommended retail price will be $14.95. So it sounds like Stewart is over his frustrations surrounding his Broadway play The Ride Down Mount Morgan and his disapproval of US foreign policy, and is enjoying his career again. Let's get Picard back into action.

An aside from the Slanted Fedora convention two weeks ago in Philadelphia: according to a report on TrekNation, former script coordinator Lolita Fatjo confirmed that pre-production has begun on the next film, but said that no decisions have been made as of yet about the next Trek series. This would seem to back up Richard Arnold's assertions that far less work has been done on the future show than Berman has led interviewers to believe. Fatjo added that she believes there will never be a Deep Space Nine movie, since most of the expensive sets were destroyed when the show finished filming. Arnold had concerns that the same fate might befall the Voyager sets, on soundstages that have been in continual use by Trek shows and films for more than a decade.


Tim Russ, Singing and Stargazing

Voyager Tim Russ, has accepted shock jock Howard Stern's celebrity challenge for a Battle of the Bands, and TrekNation names August 18 as the fateful date. Stern, who has been giving Russ publicity by playing pieces from his CD, will join his band The Losers against Russ, backed by Neil Norman and his Cosmic Orchestra. Record company executives will judge the competition.

But there's a lot more to Russ than music. An amateur astronomer, Russ revealed in a recent interview with Astronomy magazine that he's been interested in space exploration since high school, and over the past ten years he has acquired five telescopes. 'I like the large globular clusters; they're usually pretty spectacular,' said the actor. 'Some of the nebulae are kind of interesting and a couple of the galaxies are also very interesting.'

Russ has brought his telescopes to the Voyager set, where he showed his castmates the moon and planets. Though Roxann Dawson asked him how to set up her own telescope, Russ believes he is the only one who takes the trouble to set up equipment late at night, far enough from Los Angeles to get a good view. A member of the Planetary Society, Russ added, 'I definitely want to be a part of the current events that are occurring in the sky.' The man who plays Tuvok was undoubtedly excited at the recent discovery of a planet in orbit of Epsilon Eridania star speculated to be the sun of Vulcan, his character's home.

Russ believes there is definitely a possibility of extraterrestrial life, though he doubts the alien technologies would necessarily parallel our own as on Voyager. 'I've read a lot of Arthur C. Clarke, Asimov, Ben Bova, Orson Scott Card, and Greg Bear,' said Russ, who enjoys scientific-based science fiction films. Russ named 2001: A Space Odyssey and Stephen King's The Langoliers as favorites. Regarding Voyager, he admitted, 'On occasion they'll contradict themselves. The science is all very, very loosely based on physics, but it's not a priority.'

Yet speaking this week to Treknews.com, Russ was far more positive about the franchise than some of his colleagues have been recently. 'Star Trek appeals to dedicated fans,' he said. 'It creates a world and a future which is far more optimistic and idealistic than what we have today.'

Klingons In Cyberspace

Speaking of alien science, Klingon fans this week suggested checking out Var'aq, a Klingon computer programming language created by Brian Connors, who notes that he is not affiliated with the Klingon Language Institute, Klingon language guru Marc Okrand, or anyone official from the Klingon homeworld. 'It's really something of a Klingon Basic, a simple, loosely-typed programming language designed mostly just to be used for programming things like command displays and high-level control systems,' writes Connors. 'In its eventual final incarnation, we're looking at concurrency, advanced mathematics, and even native support for distributed programs (try finding that in the C++ standard library).'

The language is under development, but sample code includes programming to display and print the entire text of the classic drinking song '99 Bottles of Bloodwine.' 'I try to imagine what Klingon hacker culture is like based on what's known about Klingon culture in general,' explains Connors. You can find the Var'aq FAQ and more information at http://www.geocities.com/connorbd/varaq/.

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