My Childhood Declassified – One ‘Cyborgs: A Bionic Podcast’ At A Time…

 First-off, I just want to apologize, right off the bat, if this seems a bit windy. I’m relatively new to this whole social-media thingamajig, while many of you readers have been in the game (it seems) from the beginning. You’ll forgive me, then, if my over-exuberance for this subject gets the better of me – as I, too, want to share my bionic experience, with you. That, and I do want to give you my take on Cyborgs: A Bionic Podcast, along the way. So, bear with me, would ya. Besides, y’all love this stuff, as much as I do.

On March 7, 1973, when the pilot movie ‘The Moon and the Desert’ premiered on ABC for the very-first time, I became a wide-eyed, awestruck, lifelong fan of The Six Million Dollar Man – (and, later-on, The Bionic Woman, as well). I was almost 7 years old, then, but I had no idea – sitting in front of that TV with my dad – just how much these two series would impact my life. Hell, even Star Trek doesn’t hold that kind of place in my heart, and if you know anything about me, I practically breathe air, just for my chance to read the next adventure with Kirk, or Picard; or my favorites, Captain’s Benjamin Sisko and Mackenzie Calhoun.

See, Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers weren’t your usual superheroes; unlike Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, these were smart, funny, everyday human beings, who were just as fragile as the rest of us. Despite their having undergone bionic replacement-upgrades, I fantasized that could be Steve Austin – and, I was…just ask my family. But, unbeknownst to me, I wasn’t alone.In 1975, Steve Austin – ‘action figure’ – changed my life, again. When I tore that Christmas wrapping off of that box and saw Steve Austin inside (and, as an added-bonus, the ‘sold separately’ Bionic Transport and Repair Station, too), well…the joy and excitement of this 9-year-old was palpable! Indeed, it’d be pretty-accurate to say, I was over the damn moon! It’s my belief, that I joined a chorus of boys (and, maybe a few girls, too) around the world – in the countless-thousands, I’d wager –  that resonated so-profoundly, that our combined jubilence changed the course of TV and movie tie-in marketing history forever. Barbie and G.I. Joe may’ve been first – in fact, I got the ‘talking’ Joe, that Christmas, too – but, Steve Austin (and, later, Jaime Sommers – my sister had her), set the bar for everything that has come down the pike, since then. The creativity, durabilty and care that went into making these remarkable toys was incredible! And, they still capture the imaginations of middle-aged geeks, today. I’m one of them! (Just for the record, though, I am not a fan of the recent bionic knockoffs, from Bif Bang Pow. Sorry.)

Today, the Kenner line of bionic toys and accessories are some of the hottest, most-sought-after items on the internet! The nostalgia for these toys is even sparking fan pages, such as The Bionic Toy Action Page, (created by David S. Lawson); I’m an active member there, myself. It’s a place where we (all 1,337 of us) can play and have fun – together – like never before. My original action figures were lost (to many years of ambitious play), decades ago, but I am one of the fortunate few to have been reunited with these iconic toys; thus – enabling me to create ‘new’ adventures to share with fellow geeks across the planet. 

Unfortunately, we were left devastated, when both series were cancelled in 1978, leaving the core fans to move on. You all might remember that over-the-top, far-fetched flop called Star Wars, eh..? Or, those must-have Kenner toys, that that worldwide phenomenon spawned, in the millions? I mean, hell, it’s no secret that [they] passed-off our Bigfoot, as Chewbacca! Needless-to-say, though, we grew up, carried-on, and our interest waned with the shows’ absence in our daily lives. However, that all changed in May of 1987, with the made-for-television movie, The Return of the Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman – (coinciding right about the same time as Al Gore’s new invention, the internet, was just beginning to take the world by storm… 😉). 

The reunion of our childhood heroes, reignited our interest in those first-gen Cyborgs (that we’d previously-thought lost to television oblivion) in a BIG way. Many of the old-school fanboys (and ‘babes’) began to reach out to one another in ways that had never been possible, before; creating the beginnings of what is referred to, now – as the ‘bionic renaissance.’ Books were written, websites were created and two new reunion movies were produced: 1989’s Bionic Showdown and 1994’s Bionic Ever After? The Sci-Fi Channel brought both series back, as well; bringing in, not-only the ‘old’ diehards, but a whole-new generation of fans, in the process. There were even hopes that two new ‘modernized’ series, with Tom Schanley and Sandra Bullock, would be brought to the small screen; but, of course, those aspirations never panned-out. The closest we came to that, was CBS’s short-lived series Now and Again, with Eric Close and Dennis Haysbert, (1999-2000). There’s even been a lot of unsubstantiated-hype about making a major fearure-film over the years; although, that’s beginning to look like a reality, after all. The current fervor, notwithstanding, all of this led to the logical next step…

In 2010, 32 years after they went off of the radar, Universal Studios, in partnership with TIME/LIFE, (in a project overseen by the genre’s truest fans), we were finally given the best gift to come along, since that long-ago Christmas, in 1975. The Six Million Dollar ManThe Complete Collection, was the most-anticipated DVD-set of its kind! This off-the-charts, bionic-lover’s extravangaza includes 100 uncut, unedited, painstakingly-remastered episodes, the original and syndicated-versions of all three pilot movies, The Bionic Woman crossovers, and the reunion movies, all on 40 blow-your-mind-away discs; plus – a cache of never-before-seen bonus materials and informative cover inserts, that you won’t find anywhere else; all gathered together in a collector’s box that is (in my opinion) second-to-none! My God – that soundchip just ROCKS! (BTW, you don’t need ‘The Midas Touch’ to get these. You can pratically steal this spectaculer set, RIGHT NOW, for only $99!! Just click on the link, above). 

That release was followed-closely by The Bionic Woman DVD-set, in 2010-11. It’s not as lavishly-packaged, mind you; each season is sold separately; but, still – these 14 bonus-packed discs are a must-have for any true bionic aficionados, worth their salt.

That said, these releases were a long-awaited wish-come-true, for me; allowing me to re watch these iconic, groundbreaking, if not, cheesy and campish television classics anytime I want. While writing this, I’ve enjoyed ‘Day of the Robot’, ‘Wine, Women and War’, The Return of Bigfoot’ and ‘Welcome Home, Jaime'; as well as, the bonus featurette, ‘Bionic Action…Figures’, with Paul K. Bisson; including a slew of the shows’ stars, creators, writers and fans. 

Which brings me to why I’m writing this, in the first place: Cyborgs: A Bionic Podcast, hosted by John S. Drew, and his bionic pal and guru, Paul K. Bisson. This winner of the 2014 Parsec Award (for Best Speculative Fiction Fan or News Podcast) makes re watching The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman episodes a real treat; allowing me the opportunity to relive those long-gone days of my childhood, in a whole-new way. In each podcast, Drew and Bisson are joined by ‘guest pals’ and ‘guest babes’ – they’re a prestigious band of bionic geeks, too; which includes the likes of NYT Bestselling Author Dayton Ward and USA Today Bestseller Keith R. A. Decandido; plus – Betsy Dodd (The Bionic Blonde), James Sherrard (The Bionic Woman Files), Hugo and Nebula award-winner Robert J. Sawyer; as well as Matt Hankinson (The Complete Collection’s Chief Creative Consultant), Billy Flynn, Alex Green, Joe ‘The Major’ Burns, and many, many more. 

Each podcast gives a no-holds-barred, brutally honest, oftentimes – hilarious, review of each episode (in the order they aired on TV, back in the day); fondly deconstructing these fan-fave classics, while laying-bare the good, the bad and the ugly alike. Drew and Bisson discuss everything: the stars and guest-appearances, the writers and directors, the stories and behind-the-scenes minutiae, fashions, bionic sounds and effects, bloopers and gaffes, the legends, myths and rumors; even including those beloved toys and, my favorite: ‘Six Million Degrees of Star Trek Separation’. All the while making the listeners feel right at-home – if you’re a fan, you’re always welcome. At the end of each podcast, (which have an approximate running-time of about an hour), they rate the episodes reviewed on a 1-to-5 ‘bionic limbs’ scale.

So far, Drew and Bisson have covered the three pilot movies and 51 regular-season episodes; they’re now into Season Three of SMDM, and they’re just getting into Season One of BW. Plus, there are 10 ‘Critical Assignment’ and 5 ‘Case File’ podcasts. These include Lee Majors and Lindsay Wagners first-ever, separate – and, joint-panels at Dragon Con, in 2013; as well as, in-depth interviews with Robbie Rist, Tom Schanley, Richard Lenz, Jim McMullin and Guerin Barry. All I can say is, I’ve just caught-up, but I’ve already started listening to them, again – they’re THAT GOOD!! And, it’s all because of the hosts, John S. Drew and Paul K. Bisson. Their affection for these shows is contagious, coming through your speakers loud and clear. If this review gets you to give Cyborgs: A Bionic Podcast a try, then I suggest you begin with ‘Critical Assignments’ 0.3 and 0.7: Bionic Roundtable Parts 1 and 2; here they discuss the making-of, and they kickoff the release of The Six Million Dollar Man: The Complete Collection. 

I only have one gripe: When John gave a shoutout to the five-star raters, from iTunes, (in Season Two: Declassified), he called me Cone, ‘S’ GatorOne… (Please insert bionic breakdown sound-effect, here, Paul.) That’s Cone, ‘E’ Gatorone, (or, Lt. Eric Cone, Federation Security), John; but I forgive you, pal. No ‘Lost Love’ here. 😉

My Rating: 💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻

‘Til, next time, see ya ‘out there…’ 

Lt. Eric Cone 🖖 

 

Star Trek – Captain’s Log: Jellico

I’m looking back at IDW’s Captain’s Log series, which included Pike, Sulu, Harriman and Jellico. The latter of the group, is what I’m reviewing today.

Star Trek – Captain’s Log: Jellico
Published by: IDW Publishing

Written by: Keith R.A. DeCandido

Art and cover by: J.K. Woodward

Lettered by: Chris Mowry

Edited by: Scott Dunbier

Release date: October 2010

OVERVIEW: Captain Edward Jellico welcomes his new first officer, Commander Leslie Wong, aboard the U.S.S. Cairo, which is patrolling the Solarion System. While acclimating herself to Jellico’s rigid command style, Wong’s mettle is tested when a Cardassian ship breaks the treaty Jellico helped to negotiate, with an incursion into Federation space near the Campagna Station.

THE STORY: First, let me say, I’m a huge Keith DeCandido fan. However, I was a bit disappointed with this issue in the Captain’s Log series. Oh, Keith does a tremendous job of writing Jellico as the pompous, arrogant, micro-managing bully, that he is; but, don’t misconstrue that – I LIKE Captain Jellico. What I’m saying is, this just seemed like a rehash of the The Next Generation episode ‘Chain of Command’ – sans the TNG crew. (Note: According to the stardate at this issue’s opening, this story takes place prior to the above-mentioned episode.)

I would have liked something new, something original; I would have loved to have seen a side of Edward Jellico that we’ve never seen before. Maybe, placing him in a situation that was out of his element and showing us his vulnerabilities; having the fate of his crew fall on his shoulders, forcing him to think outside of the box to save his ship. A Q story would have been awesome!

On that note, even Leslie Wong came across as stereotypical; cowed, overwhelmed, fearful to take a stand; and I took issue with her handling an officer on the bridge in an insulting way. I would have liked to have seen Wong get in Jellico’s face, instead (much the way Riker will in ‘Chain of Command’) and set Jellico to task for being a domineering jerk; or maybe – having her save the day, in my aforementioned sugggestion, knocking Jellico down a peg or two. 

Yet, she does have a moment to shine, thus winning Jellico’s respect (albeit, because she follows his unyielding protocols); but, in the end, she wins her place aboard his ship and with its crew, as well.

THE ART: As always, JK Woodward shows the reader why he’s an ever-growing phenom in the comic-book industry. While there were some inconsistencies with likenesses and facial expressions from afar, he manages to still wow us with his tremendous talents.

Once again, I’m blown-away with the detail that JK puts into his panels; whether it’s a computer screen on Jellico’s desk, the lighting on the bridge’s ceiling, a turbolift shaft or Jefferie’s tube, to the way Jellico steeples his fingers on the bridge; even the placing of the various aliens he’s used amongst the Cairo’s crew. In this case, I’m referring mainly to the Edoan helmsman, Riik, and Soryk, the Vulcan, at navigation.

It’s always a thrill to see JK’s exteriors and battle scenes, and there are many in this issue. From the opening, with Wong rendezvousing with the Cairo, to  the initial confrontation with the Cardassians, and finally, ending up in a firefight at Campagna Station, these panels are terrific!

THE COVER: As he did with Pike, JK Woodward pulls double-duty with Jellico, providing an awesome cover. A beautiful likeness of Capt. Jellico and his duplicitous Cardassian foe, set against a starry nebula background, with the Cairo tearing thru space between them. Out of this four-issue series, JK’s Jellico and Pike are my favorites; hanging proudly on my wall.

OVERVIEW: While the story is good and well-written by Keith DeCandido, it’s not a standout. As I said, I wished we could have gotten something with more imagination – Jellico facing the Borg, or a fleet of Romulans, being put in a no-win scenario. The art by JK is fantastic, though – despite a few flaws with characters and blurry images, but otherwise, I was impressed. And, Chris Mowry does a great job of lettering, keeping the story and panels moving along. My overall thoughts at the end were: Why? What was the point of this rehash? 

SIDE NOTE: There is a Deep Space Nine connection in this issue. Can you figure it out? 

‘Til, next time, see ya ‘out there…’

Lt. Eric Cone 

Star Trek: TOS – Crisis of Consciousness

  

Star Trek: The Original Series – ‘Crisis of Consciousness’

Written by: Dave Galanter

Published by: Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster

Release Date: April 28, 2015

Précis: The Enterprise is welcoming the Maabas – a peaceful, scientifically-intellectual, contemplative species – into the Federation. As the treaty is signed, an alien race, known as the Kenisians, warp into the system and attack the Enterprise, claiming the Maabas have stolen their planet; which had been abandoned after a great war, thousands of years in the past. Now, the Kenisians want what (they claim) is rightfully theirs and they will stop at nothing – including obliterating an entire sector of the universe, along with hundreds of millions of lives – and, themselves, as well – in their quest to take it back. 

My Take: Coming in at 388 pages – (235 pages on the Nook app), Dave Galanter writes an intriguing, fast-paced nail-biter, that puts Captain Kirk and Spock in a race against time, pitting them against a formidable race of mutividuals (the Kenisians) that are hell-bent on seeking vengeance, for wrongs committed millennia ago. 

‘Crisis of Consciousness’ marks Dave Galanter’s return to the Star Trek book arena; his first full-length novel, since 2009’s ‘Troublesome Minds’ – (which, still holds a place as one of my all-time favorite Star Trek: TOS adventures). But, I believe, Mr. Galanter has even topped that; writing with such clarity, that I felt like I was sitting right there on the damn bridge! I could actually see this playing out as a long-lost episode (just as Galanter intended). 

Not-only, does he bring Captain Kirk, Spock and Bones to vivid life, but he allows the rest of the crew to shine, as well. There are many poignant moments throughout, including a touching scene with Scotty and Carolyn Palamas; as well as, with Dr. McCoy, as he tries to give comfort to a gravely injured crewman. Uhura gets a chance to show her command abilities, while Galanter gives the reader a peak into what makes this classy, elegant, unflappable iconic character tick. He knows these beloved characters inside, and out; especially Kirk and Spock, as they work from different angles (but, always on the same page – so to speak), to bring about peace for everyone involved. 

Also, Galanter offers Trek fans, not two, but – three, distinctly different alien species: the Maabas, the Kenisians and the Grepund – (you’re sure to get as much of a kick out of these guys, as I did). The Kenisians, though, just blew my damn mind; their complexity (as is their familiarity) is brilliant!

Plus, there are some kickass battle scenarios, throughout, that had me on the edge of my seat! The Enterprise takes one-helluva pounding, folks, but you know we’ve got a ‘miracle worker’ down there in that engine room – right? But, Kirk is a force to be reckoned with, in his own right.

One of my favorite lines in ‘Crisis of Consciousness’ gives great insight into Kirk’s psyche, while teaching a real-time lesson (for today) to those who lead by example: ‘Kirk had learned that being in command wasn’t just figuring out when to make which decision. It was knowing how to inspire the people under him – encouraging them to do what they could, so he could do what he must.’ Now, that’s a lesson we can all learn from, eh… 

As with ‘Troublesome Minds’, Spock is front and center, and his role in these events is my favorite part of the book; as he struggles with his own consciousness, if not, his feelings – (yes, he has them), while maintaining that façade of pure logic and stoicism. You thought you’d seen it all, when he force-melds with Valeris, in Star Trek: The Undisovered Country… Well, you better hold on to your hats, because Galanter sets up the precedent, for that unsettling scene to come, here. The events will leave you riveted. This is Spock at his absolute best. What a great homage, to both Leonard Nimoy, and to the character he lived, so well.

My Rating on Amazon: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 

‘Til, next time, see ya ‘out there…’ 🖖 

Lt. Eric Cone 

Star Trek: Eurydice #45 (Conclusion)

 Star Trek: Eurydice (Part 3 of 3)

Published by: IDW Publishing

Written by: Mike Johnson

Art by: Tony Shasteen

Colored by: David Mastrolonardo

Lettered by: Neil Uyetake

Cover by: Joe Corroney (Art) and Brian Miller (Colors)

Edited by: Sarah Gaydos

Story Consultant: Roberto Orci

Release Date: 5/13/2015 

Overview: Now, well-into its 5-year mission, the Enterprise has been left stranded in the Andromeda Galaxy in the Delta Quadrant. With no dilithium, and no warp-drive, Kirk and crew are slowly limping home. Enter Eurydice: a beautiful, mysterious alien with a technologically-advanced ship, who offers to give Captain Kirk a helping hand. Going against his gut, Jim accepts Eurydice’s assistance and she tows them to an asteroid space station. However, once there, Eurydice betrays them, handing Kirk and crew over to the station’s ‘dark market’ ringleaders: The Syndicate. With the Enterprise locked down, and separated from his crew, Captain Kirk must negotiate for their release – before they’re sold to the highest bidders; and their ship scrapped for profit. 

The Story: I truly enjoyed this three-part story, and the 5-year mission, thus far. I wasn’t a fan of the Behemoth story-arc, but when it’s all put together as a whole, it makes for interesting reading. Mike Johnson really is ‘going where no man has gone before'; introducing the crew to new life forms and new civilizations; and – finally, taking this timeline’s counterparts on a fresh course, seeking out new adventures. These are the stories I’ve been wanting to see; not the rehash of the old series’s tales we’d had previously. 

In Eurydice, we’re given a deeper look into Captain Kirk’s character (following his demotion and embarrassment in Into Darkness), as he continues to grow into the leader we all know and respect. He doesn’t seem to be as rash in his decision making; he is taking his responsibilities to his ship, his crew, and to Starfleet seriously, this time. Yes – we still see his weakness for the opposite sex getting the better of him; but even as he becomes smitten with Eurydice, herself, he only trusts her so far. Indeed, his gut reaction bears fruit as she ultimately betrays him. 

Then, there’s Eurydice: she’s sexy and sultry, beautiful (in a Caitian sort of way); she’s confident and flirtatious; just enough of a rebel, in her own right, to appeal to those same qualities in Kirk – it’s hard for him not to fall for her. And, as I predicted in my last review, Eurydice’s guilt will have her changing into the hero, I knew she would be. However, there’s a twist to what caused her to betray Kirk, to begin with; and the endgame to this story is both poignant, and heartfelt. Would we (the reader’s) make the same choices, if we were in her shoes? But, Eurydice is a tough cookie, and she’s content with the consequences she will have to face in her journey’s future. We’re left believing, that she’ll be okay.  

My only gripe with this story (once, again), is that Bones is left out of the loop. He’s been M.I.A. for the past two issues. Maybe, the series should be re- titled – Star Trek: The Search for Bones. Not only, has Dr. McCoy’s absence been glaringly obvious, but, [in my opinion] it’s insulting to Star Trek‘s legacy and quite inexcusable to, WE, the fans. Mike Johnson: Name one TOS episode (or movie) where Bones isn’t present? Hell – Admiral McCoy helped launch The Next Generation, for crying out loud! To paraphrase Kirk, in ST: III…

“The omission of Bones is like an open wound, and Enterprise feels like a house with all the children gone…”

Please… Bring Bones back to us. 

The Art: Remarkable! Throughout this 3-issue arc, Tony Shasteen and David Mastrolonardo have done yeoman work, going above and beyond expectations on every level. I haven’t one single complaint. Shasteen and Mastrolonardo’s names are becoming synonymous with excellence, and I look forward to seeing anything they bring to the table.

With Eurydice, they have had to create a plethora of unique alien species, as well as a new area of the galaxy unfamiliar to fans and a fresh take on a black market setting; while remaining consistant with the crew’s likenesses, with Eurydice, and in providing all of those little details we’ve come to respect and appreciate. In this issue, they’ve even managed to pay homage to TNG‘s pilot episode, ‘Encounter At Farpoint,’ in a beautiful panel; if you’re a true fan, you will sense ‘great joy and happiness’ as soon as you see it. This issue is packed with great art; especially the alien captor holding Kirk’s crew, some terrific battle sequences and a fitting closing scene. Awesome stuff, guys! 

The Covers: Joe Corroney and Brian Miller have provided another superb cover for this closing issue. The art, detail and coloring are pure magic. I’m always amazed by their talent and collaboration. 

My initial complaint was: What does [it] have to do with the story, though?! We see Spock, front-and-center, but he’s wearing the exo-suit he donned during the volcano scene in Into Darkness; this story called for no such use of this suit. There appear(s) to be 3 hooded Vulcans, back-dropped by the I.D.I.C. symbol, with a Vulcan cityscape before them; this story takes place in the Delta Quadrant – far, far away, from his destroyed homeworld! Even the photo-cover has Spock dressed in the attire he wore on Kronos in Into Darkness, while holding a phaser-rifle! So, what’s up? 

I posted my frustration on Facebook, and Tony Shasteen had a reasonable explanation, that somewhat appeased my woes: “It’s difficult, because the cover-art is required for solicitation, but the story hasn’t even been written, at that point. So you end up with a lot of generic covers, or covers that tell the wrong story.” Shasteen went on to comment his own frustration: “It’s frustrating for me, as an artist, because I like to tell a story with a cover image, but I rarely get to do that. At best, I get to know who the players are in the issue and that’s it.”

Well, I’m with you, on that, Mr. Shasteen; as I’m sure there are many others, in this camp, as well. Hopefully, our opinions will be heard by the appropriate sources, and we can go back to getting covers that are relevant to the story being told. 

Overall: A nice, easy-to-follow, character-driven (Kirk and Eurydice), alien-packed enterprise, written by Mike Johnson, in the spirit of the ‘prime’ TOS series; while furthering this crew’s 5-year mission towards the Star Trek 50th anniversary, in 2016. Shasteen, Mastrolonardo and Uyetake make these issues even more enjoyable with their exemplary art and lettering, providing a great backdrop to Johnson’s fast-paced, humor-infused, thought-provoking adventure. Because of Bones’s M.I.A. status, I’m giving Eurydice a ‘four-star’ rating; otherwise, it could have garnered a five. I’m quite-baffled by the good doctor’s absence, or – recurring guest-star treatment.

‘Til, next time, see ya ‘out there…’ 

Lt. Eric Cone 

Star Trek: New Frontier

Now…

In July, Peter David will celebrate the 17-year anniversary of Star Trek: New Frontier, with a 3-eBook series called ‘The Returned'; marking his own return, as well, after the stroke he suffered over two years ago, temporarily silenced the world of Captain Mackenzie Calhoun and his ship, the U.S.S. Excalibur. (I have a question, already… Why is there an Ambassador class ship on the cover of Part 1?)

Having met PAD at Salt Lake Comic Con‘s FanXperience in April of 2014, I know I speak for millions of fans in welcoming Peter back, and in saying, we can’t wait to read these continuing adventures in the New Frontier saga. Peter David is a true ‘master of the game’ and we have missed his stories immensely. In light of this highly anticipated return, I’m going back to where it all began… 

Then…

In 1996, ‘dyed-in-wool Trek fan, from kidhood,’ John J. Ordover (then, Sr. Editor of Pocket Books’ Star Trek line) had the idea for a new book series: New Frontier. He wanted the series to be ‘lightly connected to the shows on TV'; he wanted ‘a new crew, whose fates were to be determined in the books'; and John wanted it to be ‘set in an area of space that had been tightly controlled by a hard-assed empire, that had just collapsed, leaving the area choatic.’ (Thus, mirroring the politics of the day, in grand Star Trek tradition.) 

 

M’k’n’zy…

Enter the captain, and his ship and crew. “I wanted it to have a captain who was the opposite of the sophisticated, contemplated captains we had gotten in The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine – [at first] and Voyager,” John told me in a Facebook interview. “I wanted him to be a rogue; a loose-canon.” When I asked him whom Captain Mackenzie ‘M’k’n’zy’ Calhoun was based-upon, he told me to ask Peter David; as it happens, I had, at FanX, last April. “I based Mackenzie on William Wallace (Braveheart) who led his people in an uprising against Edward I,” Peter told me, during our brief interview in Artists’ Alley. (Hence, the purple-eyed, teen-aged warlord’s leading his people in the uprising against Xenex’s oppressors, the Danteri.) 

Excalibur…

A captain needs a ship; (in Calhoun’s case, make that two…) John Ordover had one more request: “I wanted a ship called Excalibur.” So begins the legacy of Captain Mackenzie Calhoun, assigned to the newly-refit, Ambassador Class U.S.S. Excalibur, patrolling Sector 221-G in a humanitarian aid and support mission, after the collapse of the Thallonian Empire. John had no doubts [at the time] that New Frontier would be popular (which it is) and that it would sell a lot of books (which it has). 

The Crew…

Calhoun’s unorthodox crew… Enter Paula Block (former Senior Director of Licensing at Paramount, Nickelodeon and CBS), who asked John and Peter not to make up all of the characters, but to incorporate some of the characters from televised Trek into Calhoun’s crew – that’s how Selar and Shelby and Robin Lefler wound up in there,” Paula said. “And of course Calhoun and company had interactions with Picard and Jellico and many others. Arex and M’Ress wound up in the series after our department gave Pocket Books the green light to start using characters from the Animated Series.” 

An interesting bit of trivia: When giving Commander Shelby her full name, John and Peter paid a ‘lil’ tribute’ to Paula, by naming Calhoun’s first officer (and, former fiancé) Elizabeth Paula; which, becomes ‘Eppy’, when he wants to get under her skin; (which, is often). Elizabeth, comes from the actress who portrayed Shelby in TNG’s ‘The Best of Both Worlds.’

Besides Shelby, Dr. Selar and Robin Lefler (whose backstories are extensively drawn out), there’s Soleta (the half-Vulcan, half-Romulan science officer); Mark McHenry, (the eccentric navigator); Zak Kebron, (the unflappable, mountainous Brikar security head); Burgoyne 172, (the flirtatious, no-nonsense Hermat chief engineer) and Si Cwan, (the ‘unofficial’ Thallonian Ambassador and guide to Sector 221-G). Plus, there are loads of others thrown in, throughout the series, as well. 

The Plan… 

With the guidelines in place and the characters established, it was now up to Peter David to flesh-out the story – and, did he, ever! In July 1997, the first book (in a four-book series), launched the unprecedented New Frontier saga, quickly making it a New York Times Bestseller; ‘House of Cards’, ‘Into the Void’, ‘The Two-Front War’ and ‘End Game’ were incorporated into a special hardcover, which released in February 1998 – (my copy is signed by Peter David; as is the one-shot comic book ‘Double Time’ and the hardcover of ‘Restoration’ – when Calhoun comes back from the dead…)

So popular is Peter David’s writing, that New Frontier has spawned 21 novels, 6 comic books, 5 short stories and an anthology of short stories (written by Peter, and some of Star Trek’s bestselling authors). Because Peter David has made New Frontier his own, Calhoun’s crew have seen their own stand-alone adventures; but they’ve also been included in other crossovers: The Captain’s Table, Double Helix, Gateways, Tales From the Dominion War, the Destiny series; not to mention other fan fiction and online games. 

Captain Calhoun even got his own action figure (through a special, limited-time offer from Star Trek Communicator magazine)! That’s pretty-damn impressive, for a starship captain who has never even had his own television series! 


Now…

I’ve read a lot of Star Trek fiction over the past 25 years, but New Frontier is some of the BEST Star Trek out there. Why? Because, it’s not your daddy’s Star Trek! It’s irreverent, it’s in your face, it’s hilariously funny and it goes against the grain of everything we’ve ever seen. John gives all of the credit to Peter David, for New Frontier’s continued success: “Let me say that ideas are a dime-a-dozen; but what counts is the hard work of pounding out word after word after word,” he said, of PAD’s writing of the series. I agree; besides DS9 and Benjamin Sisko, New Frontier and Captain Calhoun remain my all-time favorite Star Trek series.

Captain Calhoun is not your typical, run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter captain; he’s hard, brash, surly and sarcastic; he uses rules and regulations only as guidelines, making up his own order, as he goes from mission to mission. At times, he’s almost a superhero – what with his uncanny sixth-sense to danger and his gut instincts on any given situation; his formidible strength and cunning on the battlefield are just beneath the surface, giving him a confidence that is unmatched; his unwavering ability to beat a no-win scenario has been tested time, and time, again… Yet, Calhoun is tempered by his idiosyncratic crew, who keeps his savagery at-bay, keeping his moral compass in check, while remaining loyal to him to a fault. Now…that you know some of the behind-the-scenes ‘birthing pains’ (as Paula Block referred to them) that New Frontier went through; now…that you know who the players are; now…that Peter David’s New Frontier series ‘The Returned’ is only three months away… NOW – is the time, for you to go back to the beginning and see what New Frontier has to offer. 

‘Til, next time, see ya ‘out there…’

Lt. Eric Cone

  

Star Trek: #44 Eurydice (Part 2 of 3)

 Star Trek: Eurydice #2

Published by: IDW Publishing

Written by: Mike Johnson

Art by: Tony Shasteen

Colors by: David Mastrolonardo

Letters by: Neil Uyetake

Cover by: Joe Corroney and Brian Miller

Edits by: Sarah Gaydos

Release Date: 4/15/2015 

 

Overview: The Enterprise’s ‘5-year mission’ hasn’t gotten off to a good start. After encountering the star killer Behemoth, (and making a narrow escape), the ship is without warp capability in the Delta Quadrant. Limping on impulse engines to the nearest inhabited system, Kirk and crew are offered assistance by a lone good samaritan: Eurydice. But what price will Captain Kirk have to pay, to protect his crew and get his ship back home? 

The Story: So far, so good – (maybe, not so much for Kirk and his crew); but, this was a terrific bridge issue, that leads us into the conclusion in #45. Kirk should have trusted his gut instinct when it came to trusting Eurydice’s offer of aid, now the cards are dealt and we’ll have to wait and see how Captain Kirk plays his hand. And, while I found Eurydice’s actions to be predictable, and the story to be a rehash of countlesss Trek’s we’ve seen before, Mike Johnson has managed to put a fresh spin on this adventure, keeping me interested and anticipating how it will all turn out. 

With that said, I find that I like Eurydice – despite whatever hidden agendas she may have, I think she truly cares for Kirk and at the close of this issue, I can feel that is torn by her actions. My gut instincts are telling me that Eurydice may grow a conscience and somehow save the day…but, we shall see.

There are some great aspects to this story; for one, the crew is gelling with Captain Kirk, even as he is still trying to find his rhythm. In the last issue, he lets the crew know that the stakes are high in reaching their destination, but he has faith that they can do their jobs and reach their goal. By reluctantly accepting Eurydice’s help, Kirk shows that he will do whatever it takes to protect his crew and get them home. 

I liked the use of alien technology that Euridice employs, to not only tow the Enterprise, but also, to whisk Kirk away from his ship in order to seduce him. There’s great panel with Uhura and Spock on the bridge during this scene that made me chuckle, as well. 

But, I really liked the alien asteroid that Eurydice takes them to and the lesson on Federation economics that Mike gives the reader, as events progress towards the cliffhanger-ending; the aliens are pretty impressive, as well. As I said, Johnson keeps us moving along, while weaving together an enjoyable adventure. I’m really looking forward to next month’s conclusion. 
The Art: It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find adjectives, that convey how impressed I am with Tony Shasteen’s work. Whether it’s he alone, or with the ever-capable coloring talents of David Mastrolonardo, Tony just nails it. His details are plentiful, his likenesses are uncanny and his panels just pop, from page to page.

In this issue, in particular, I was blown away by Eurydice’s transporter technology and by the alien market and cityscapes on the asteroid where they end up. And, if it’s possible, Eurydice is even more exotically beautiful, than she was in the last issue. Plus, the range of emotions playing on her face, that she’s grappling with at the end, just speaks volumes to the talents these guys put into their work. My hats off to both of them. Well done!

The Cover: Joe Corroney and Brian Miller have, once again, exceeded my expectations. As with Tony and David, Joe and Brian have produced a cover that is both beautiful and vibrant; it catches the eye and entices you to read the story within. My only problem with this cover, was that it features a slightly larger rendering of Bones at the top, but the good doctor is nowhere to be found inside! However, as long as Joe and Brian continue to create this kind of quality, they’ll keep earning my loyalty and respect. This cover is a definite wall-hanger – in my opinion. 

Overall: I’m thoroughly enjoying this story and it’s a great start to this ‘5-year mission’ ongoing series; I can’t wait to read the finale in this arc, and to see how it leads up to the 50th anniversary movie that’s being scripted, right now. As for the cover and interior art, it’s sensational! I couldn’t be more pleased. My rating for this series, thus far: 4 Stars.

**On a personal note: I’d like to extend congratulations and my best wishes to IDW Publishing’s founder and president, Ted Adams, and his new bride Paula, as they embark on the their new life’s journey together. The newlyweds were married this past weekend, in Hawaii. All my best…**

‘Til, next time, see ya ‘out there…’

Lt. Eric Cone 

The Primate Directive #5 (Finale)

 The Primate Directive #5

Published by: IDW Publishing in partnership with BOOM! Studios

Written by: Scott and David Tipton

Art by: Rachael Stott

Inks by: Charlie Kirchoff

Letters by: Tom B. Long

Covers by: Rachael Stott and Charlie Kirchoff (Regular cover) JK Woodward (Sub cover)

Edited by: Sarah Gaydos (IDW) and Dafna Pleban (BOOM!)

Release Date: April 8, 2015 

 Overview: When we left off in issue #4, Kor had General Ursus in his sights; having been vexed by Kirk and Taylor’s efforts to end the Ape’s civil war, Kor decided to push things along. Now, Kirk and Taylor must work together to stop Kor; putting an end to the hostilities on the planet and, also, to prevent any further contamination the Enterprise and Klingon’s presense is causing. 

 The Story: What great ending to this crossover! I won’t lie to you, this wasn’t how I expected this series to end – I never saw it coming! That said, it just goes to prove that Scott and David are true pros; just when you think you’ve got them figured out, they turn the tables and surprise the hell out of you.  

As I’ve said before, I’m not a diehard Planet of the Apes fan, but I was able to follow along and understand the basics of what the Tipton’s were trying to convey throughout the series (some of what I do know, began to come back to me, as well).  What I liked most, was that everyone – from the Enterprise, to the Ape’s cast, to the Klingon’s – everyone had their moments to shine, making this a successful crossover series. There was plenty of action and adventure and space battles, great storytelling and humor, as well as a terrific twist ending that wrapped it all up with dramatic style. (I do have questions about the ending, though; time travel and paradoxes give me a headache…)  The Art: I couldn’t be happier! Indeed, I believe I’ve come full circle with this series, because when I read issue #1, I wasn’t pleased with the artwork. Since then, Rachael Stott and Charlie Kirchoff have proven themselves time and again; Issue #5 is no exception. As with #4, there is a lot of ground and characters to cover and they’ve pulled it all together nicely for this finale. 

What I like in a great comic book is details. Rachael does a tremendous job in providing them; from the way Uhura holds her hand to her ear, to the symbols on Ursus’ headdress and armor, to the hair on George Taylor’s chest. Charlie Kirchoff has outdone himself with his coloring and ink; his panels are vibrant and catch the reader’s eye. Tom B. Long has provided excellent lettering throughout this series, as well. 

 The Covers: First off, Rachael and Charlie have put out a fantastic regular-issue cover. Spock and Dr. Zaius are playing a game of 3-D chess; however, the pieces in this game are Kirk, Bones, Kor, Taylor and Nova. It’s brilliant! I’m at odds with which cover I like better: this issue, or the Statue of Liberty cover for issue #2. I’ll hang them both, though.

J.K. Woodward gets another turn showing his awesome talent, as well. His sub-cover has a fully-armored ape holding a Bat’leth over his head, yelling out a war-cry, his booted foot on a seemingly unconscious Captain Kirk’s chest; while a fiery battle ensues in the background. 

The retail incentive cover will be a keepsake, as this issue is dedicated to Leonard Nimoy. Also, at the conclusion of issue #5, you’ll find a few tributes to Leonard from Scott and David, Sarah Gaydos, as well as Mike Johnson.

Overall: The Primate Directive issue #5 impressed the hell out of me, because I was totally expecting something entirely different; yet, I was refreshingly surprised with the outcome. The series as a whole has been fantastic! It was everything I’d hoped for (as I was sceptical when I first heard about it); plus, it was a nice change of pace, giving us hardcore fans a whole-new adventure.

The Primate Directive is fun! I enjoyed the story, the art and all of the covers (and there have been many, for this crossover). If I had to give it a rating, I’d go four stars. 

‘Til, next time, see ya ‘out there…’

Lt. Eric Cone