Tagged: Scott Bakula

Martha Thomases: Liverpool To Waypoint – Tiwary Strikes Again!

Vivek Tiwary has been my friend for more than 15 years. We met through mutual friends, and bonded initially over rock’n’roll and cancer. Immediately, I thought he was one of the coolest people I’d ever met. These are some of the things Vivek has done: Broadway producer (of A Raisin in the Sun, American Idiot, among others), a tech entrepreneur who used his music industry chops to help talent deal with the business, and co-founder of an amazing non-profit that, among other things, helped soothe my husband as he was dying.

You can imagine my surprise when I found out that he is also a huge comic book nerd.

We don’t have quite the same roots – he’s a Marvel fan, I’m a DC girl – but we bonded over our love of the form. In fact, when he was having trouble finding a way to get a movie made about Brian Epstein, I convinced him to adapt his screenplay to a graphic novel script. The resulting book, The Fifth Beatle, won tons of awards and sold a gazillion copies, and will soon be on your TV.

Thus, I have tried to take credit for his success, including the things he did before we met, and his fabulous wife and his adorable children.

Recently, Vivek wrote a story for IDW’s Star Trek: Waypoint. This seemed like as good an excuse as any to talk to him about what he’s working on these days.

MT: I read your Star Trek story. It’s so different from The Fifth Beatle!

VT: I guess it is.

MT: The Beatles and Star Trek are, pretty much, the Sixties.

VT: I suppose so. I was born in 1973. To me, these are just two things that I’m passionate about. I don’t know that there is any pop culture connection between the two tied to why I like them. I’m a sci-fi kid and I’m a music kid. As you probably saw from reading the story, while it is a Star Trek story, really, at heart, it’s a boy-and-his dog story. As a writer, I lean towards those kind of human interest stories. It’s a story about loyalty and childhood dreams. It’s about how that child learns and carries those lessons throughout his life and applies those to leadership.

MT: I’m not familiar with Star Trek: Enterprise, although I love Scott Bakula. Is there time travel?

VT: There is. The last season of Enterprise revolves around what they call the Temporal Cold War. That stuff at the end is all very squarely part of the Enterprise last season continuity.

MT: Is the dog in that?

VT: Oh, yes. So, Porthos, Captain Archer’s dog, is a main character in the entire series. I may be biased because I am a fan and I am a bit of a Trekkie myself, but I believe it’s not just me saying he’s a beloved figure in the Star Trek universe in general. When I posted that I had done a Star Trek story that was, in a lot of ways a Porthos story, there were a lot of fans who were excited. A lot of people said, “Oh, does he get to have a piece of cheese?” There’s an on-going story where Admiral Archer gives him cheese, but it does a bad number on his digestive system. There’s a scene where Archer, in one of the episodes, goes away on a mission and is worried he’s not going to come back. He tells one of the crew members, “Look after Porthos. Give him a piece of cheese for me.” Even in the first Star Trek reboot that J. J. Abrams did, when Chris Pines’ Captain Kirk meets Simon Pegg’s Montgomery Scott, Scott had been doing early work on the transport. Scotty says “So, I tested it out on Admiral Archer’s prized beagle.”

And Kirk, “Wait, I know that dog!”

MT: Is Porthos related to the dog in your story?

VT: I guess I haven’t thought that far ahead. I would doubt it. They’re both beagles, obviously. It’s possible, I suppose, that the Archer family keeps breeding beagles such that maybe Porthos is a descendant of Maska. Certainly he’s a spiritual descendant. To answer your question in geeky Star Trek speak, there is no continuity to suggest that they would be related. In fact, I could claim to have created Maska. He doesn’t appear anywhere else. One of the things I’m most proud of is that the Star Trek story is the first time a Star Trek: Enterprise has been written in a comic. I have the honor of saying I wrote the first. We’ll see what other comic writers working in that universe decide to do with Masca.

MT: Do you have dogs?

VT: I most certainly do!

MT: I noticed the dedication. I wondered if they were current dogs.

VT: Well noted! Laika is the first animal in space, and Sukhi Sioux is my pet papillon, It’s dedicated to a space dog and a dog that is close to my heart who is a fearless adventurer in her own right.

MT: What else are you working on in comics? In your life?

VT: In comics, I’m at the early scripting stages of my follow-up to The Fifth Beatle. The tentative title is A Mess of Blues: Colonel Parker and the Un-Making of Elvis Presley. Those readers who read The Fifth Beatle have had a taste of how I feel about Colonel Parker. I respect what he accomplished but I don’t respect him much as a human being. This book will continue that overall feeling about Parker, but I believe that there’s no such thing as ultimate evil or ultimate good, so one of the challenges for me is doing the research and finding the human side. While he exists in the same world of artist management, these unsung characters who are the architects of pop culture history behind the scene, he and Brian are polar opposites.

MT: Do you have an artist?

VT: There are a number of artists I’m talking to. We don’t have that nailed down. I’m doing that in tandem, working on the script while I talk to artists. I suspect I’ll be able to announce that before the script is done. The Colonel Parker story, to my mind, has three distinct elements. He was born in the Netherlands. His real name was Andreas van Kujik. He fled the Netherlands when he was a young man for shady reasons that aren’t entirely clear. He may have murdered someone. He had to flee the country. He stowed away to make it to America. He arrived illegally. He gave himself the name, “Tom Parker,” partially because it’s a generic name. He joined the carnival in large part because he loved it. He was a carny, a huckster. But also, in the American carnival, everybody has something shady in his past. It was a way to protect himself. What he should have been doing in the carnival was laying low, but his ambition, the chips on his shoulder, he couldn’t do that. He had to become an impresario. In those days, carnivals were very tied to fairs and country music. Which is how he found himself intersecting with Elvis. There’s no question that his carnival marketing skills helped him market Elvis as not just a country star but as a heartthrob and pop culture phenomenon. There’s no question that Parker was in large part responsible for the superstar that Elvis became. Parker also always treated Elvis like an “attraction.” Those are his words, not mine. Elvis fans argue that it is because of that attitude that Elvis never became the artist he should have become.

In Parker’s later years, he prevented Elvis from ever touring outside of the United States. The reason for that is because Parker wasn’t a U.S. citizen and Parker might have murdered someone. He couldn’t leave the country because if he did, he might not be able to come back. Parker didn’t like the idea of Elvis touring without him. There are all sorts of other crazy things that all tie back to Parker being this nomad. For example, at the very height of his career, Elvis was the largest single individual tax payer in the country. Elvis just paid his taxes. What he should have done, like every human being has done, you hire a smart accountant so that you pay as little tax as possible while being legal. Elvis just paid. There were business managers and bankers saying, “Parker, why don’t you have people going through his taxes? Why don’t you set up tax shelters?” Part of the reason was that he didn’t want the authorities looking into Elvis because he didn’t want the authorities looking into him. If you follow him to the end of his days, you find out that it did come out, and he ended up with all these lawsuits.

MT: He wouldn’t let Elvis go on tour without him?

VT: That’s exactly right. It wasn’t unusual for artists’ managers to go on tour whenever they could, but it was incredibly unusual for it to never happen. Brian Epstein went wherever the Beatles went as much as he could. He wasn’t at every single date. When it’s not possible, you let the tour manager handle it. That’s why you have tour managers.

Parker had these three distinct periods of his life. He had life in the Netherlands, which in a lot of ways is a noir murder mystery. He had his early Dust Bowl carnival days and the discovery of Elvis, which is real Americana. Then you have latter-day Elvis, when Elvis is a huge superstar. That’s a downward spiral of Elvis and Parker. That’s Vegas and Seventies and pop culture. So there are three distinct parts of the graphic novel. The plan is that it will be serialized in a way that The Fifth Beatle wasn’t. Whether this means several issues or three issues or something else, we don’t know yet.

MT: Speaking as a consumer, I’d prefer the whole book at once.

VT: I hear you, but for my fans, I think that would take too long. My instinct now is that it would be three parts. I’m also toying with the idea that maybe it’s three artists. The styles can be different.

MT: I’m sorry Ralph Steadman isn’t around to do the third part.

VT: I’m happy to say that through the success of The Fifth Beatle, I’ve gotten to know some amazing artists who are interested in working with me, but the best artists are busy. It’s easier to get wonderful, in-demand artists to do 30 pages or 40 pages than to ask them to do 120 pages.

MT: What else are you working on?

VT: While I’m working on the Parker book, who I’d like to do is do more of these one-shots, these short stories. I’ll do a Star Trek story, I’ll do a Marvel story, I’ll do a DC story. I want to work on licensed properties in a one-off capacity. For many writers, it would be a dream to work on a high-profile character, to do be a series writer. The fanboy in me agrees that would be amazing. But that’s not what I aspire to do. I want people to do what you did, to look at the Waypoint story and say, “Wow, this is so different.” I want people to know that, yes, I adore the Beatles. If you look at my resume, I worked at Mercury records. I produced American Idiot and The Addams Family musical. I produced A Raisin in the Sun and cast a hip-hop guy, Sean Combs, in the lead. I’m a music guy. But I’m also a Star Trek guy. I want to do more of that. I’m talking to a few editors at a bunch of companies about doing one-off stories. I hope those stories will be a surprise, too. Part of the reason why I’m doing things like the Star Trek story is because, as you know, it took about ten years to get The Fifth Beatle published. It’s not going to take ten years for the Parker story, but I want there to be more for my fans.

MT: Most of us contain multitudes.

VT: If people pick up the Star Trek story, they’ll see that, yes, it’s Star Trek, but there’s not a lot of technology in it. The technology is there to set up the story, but it’s not really used to tell the story. My favorite science fiction is like that. The science fiction is the engine that sets up the story, but it’s the human story that I love. My story is about a boy and his dog, about friendship and loyalty. At the end of the day, that’s what the world needs now, to stick together. If you think the world is under siege, you need to get together with your friends who also care about the issue and speak up. And the Brian Epstein story was about a gay, Jewish kid from a random town who changed the world. With LGBTQ rights being attacked, the world needs to see if it wasn’t for a gay man, we might not have the Beatles. I hope you’ll see that these are human stories that are connected to global social and/or political issues. That’s the connective thread between all my work.

MT: Who would win in a fight, the Beatles or the crew of the Enterprise?

VT: That’s a good question. The Beatles were pacifists, so I would like to think that they would talk their ways out of the fight. I think there would have been Beatles fans in the crew. Brian Epstein said the Beatles music would stand the test of time. So the crew of the Enterprise would be Beatles fans. I think all you need is love and somehow the fight would have been averted and they would wind up hanging out. There would not have been a fight.

Emily S. Whitten in Nerd HQ!

nerd hq

I’m all about organizations with heart. Places that make you feel at home. And while the San Diego Comic Con is phenomenal and offers many amazing experiences, it can also be overwhelming and make you feel a bit like you’re just one of many ants in the ant farm, toiling slowly along towards your next goal.

That’s why I’ve said before and I’ll say again that Nerd HQ is a great alternative place to go and get your geek on when you’re feeling a little burnt out on the crowds of SDCC. Not only that, but the fact that its creators, Zachary Levi and Dave Coleman, built it from scratch and maintain a hands-on approach to running it as it grows (among other things, Zac hosts almost every Conversation and Dave keeps things running behind the scenes); and that all proceeds go to the charity of Operation Smile, give Nerd HQ a great cozy, almost familial vibe. And, of course, it’s a plain fact (that I can confirm, having had the pleasure of interviewing him on a couple of occasions) that Zac Levi is just a really solidly nice dude with a lot of heart. And I think that intangible quality can be felt in everything he’s built.

Last year, I was a big fan of the change in venue of Nerd HQ to The New Children’s Museum. The layout and fun backdrop complemented Nerd HQ’s offerings and all of the various interactive activities they provided, as well as the Conversations for a Cause. This year, with the addition, as Dave Coleman had noted in our Nerd HQ preview interview, of e.g. risers and extra air conditioning in the panel rooms, the venue was even better; and although there were many things to see, Nerd HQ still managed not to feel overcrowded.

Some of the cool things on offer this year were:

  • Gaming – Nerd HQ always offers the opportunity to hang out and play upcoming cool video games, which this year included Battlefield 1, Gears of War 4, and Titanfall 2. And although I didn’t have much time to spare for a session, every time I was over at the HQ, the consoles were all taken and the gaming crowd looked like they were having a blast.
  • On top of being able to play games, Nerd HQ provides cool gaming-related stuff to do. One of my favorites was the Xbox green-screen pictures you could take, which put you into scenes from games like Dead Rising, ReCore, and Titanfall 2. Another was the Xbox wall of custom controllers, with computers set up to allow you to design your own controllers right there. Sure, you can also do this from home; but it was weirdly addictively fun to design them while hanging out at HQ. (I personally designed a Deadpool and Bob set and a Little Prince and his rose set before I stopped.)
  • The photo booths! One fun part of these, of course, is that during the Smiles for Smiles sessions you could get your photo with celebrities by donating to Operation Smile (and I was very happy to get a picture with Joss Whedon. Yay!) But you could also just take pictures with your friends (or yourself and props) – and that was really fun as well. Plus, the tech-savvy setup automatically emailed you a photo if you scanned your RFID bracelet, as well as printing one on the spot. And this year, if you downloaded the Johnson & Johnson Donate a Photo app and used it to post a photo, not only does J&J give a dollar to Operation Smile (or whatever charity you choose from among those listed) for each day you post a photo; but at Nerd HQ you were also given a box of Avengers-themed Band-aids for posting. And boy, was I glad about that – because they saved my feet from some terrible, terrible blisters.
  • Free foooooood! This year, Kellogg’s was one of the sponsors for Nerd HQ, which was cool for two reasons. 1) They brought in comics artist Francis Manapul to do themed paintings with Kellogg’s Krave. They were all pretty rad and it was fun to watch them being created; and I got a picture of my favorite, this excellent warrior woman. 2) They also had a cereal bar set up with regular, double chocolate, and mixed Krave cereal and several different choices of milk. Let me tell you, that cereal is gooooood; and being able to easily sit down nearby and have a bowl saved me from fainting from hunger due to being generally too busy at cons to stop for food. (Nerd HQ saved me from a lot of things this year. Nerd HQ, you’re my heeeero!) And on top of all of that, they were giving away entire free boxes of cereal. Kellogg’s, I approve! (Note: at various times Nerd HQ was also passing out free lemonade and coconut water from different sponsors. Also awesome!)
  • Chill space. Sometimes, it’s nice just to have a place to sit and breathe. Along with the little outdoor area where I had a nice bowl of Krave cereal (and made a new table friend who let me share her table), Nerd HQ also has an indoor chill area and an outdoor patio; and nobody bothering you or telling you to move along. Sometimes when taking a break from all the madness, that’s just what we need.
  • The fan parties! Okay, so I actually missed the Nerd HQ parties this year, alas – but I heard from several friends that they rocked as hard as last year’s, which I did make it to. And as with last year, all you needed to get in was your HQ wristband. Rock on with your inclusive parties, Nerd HQ!

Of course, along with all of these excellent things, one of the best parts of Nerd HQ is the Conversations – smaller panels of about 200-250 which generally feature a chat between Zac Levi and the featured guest(s). They had a slew of fantastic guests this year, and I personally got to see some really neat panels.

  • The Con Man cast, who I saw first, were great, and shared funny stories about filming (particularly hilarious were the stories about working with Alan Tudyk, who wasn’t at the panel, and faces he makes while directing) and about what we can expect from the new season. On top of that, Nathan Fillion, as usual, had brought some weird, random, but ultimately still cool stuff to auction off for charity. My favorite was a small Swiss Army knife that his parents had given him for high school graduation (!). And how he kept emphasizing that it had a little loop so you could put it on your keychain, “or if you’re a girl, wear it around your neck!” Way to know your female fanbase, Nathan.
  • The Scott Bakula panel was pretty much My Favorite Thing Ever, because Scott Bakula and Quantum Leap have been, since childhood, among my Favorite Things Ever. I had not previously gotten to see him on a panel (although I did see him in Shenandoah at Ford’s Theatre ten years ago, which was amazing). So this was really cool; and even better was the fact that Zac Levi, hosting, is also good friends with Scott via their work together on Chuck, where Scott played Zac’s dad. The panel was hilarious, with Scott making running jokes at his own expense, but also heartfelt, with Zac talking about how Scott helped him through the stresses of playing a lead role in a TV show. In conclusion: Scott Bakula.
  • The Orphan Black panel was rad, and I especially enjoyed hearing about how Tatiana Maslany has dealt with playing so many different clones (and it was cool that her stunt double was featured on the panel, as well. An important job that most people probably don’t think about while watching the show). I also loved that an audience member gave Kristian Bruun a “Free Donnie” t-shirt, which he put on right there.
  • The Tom Hiddleston panel started with a hilarious little dance by Tom and Zac as Tom came onstage. This was a cool panel where Tom talked a good bit about his acting process. Meanwhile, I was trying to reconcile his friendly red-haired self with the sly and frequently evil Loki. It’s a credit to his acting ability that I was having a hard time of it!
  • The Joss Whedon panel was, as usual with a Joss Q&A, a thoughtful, insightful panel. He was up there by himself because Zac was having a much-needed rest (by Saturday Zac’s voice was fading, and I heard he was pretty exhausted by Sunday, although you couldn’t tell from his enthusiastic hosting). But Joss Whedon doesn’t really need a host to keep the conversation going, and pretty much the whole panel was quotable.

I’d quote some of it for you, but I don’t have to! Because along with livestreaming all of the Conversations for the people at home so they could feel like they were right there with us (very cool!) you can now watch all of them on YouTube as well; an experience I highly recommend.

And while you’re doing that, feel free to poke through my SDCC photo collection for more Nerd HQ goodness; and also check out my previous con coverage of the SDCC Her Universe Fashion Show, the Animaniacs Live! panel, the Kings of Con, American Gods, and Nick Animation.

And until next time, Servo Lectio!

Mindy Newell: These Are The Voyages…


“Don’t screw this up.”

Admiral Maxwell Forrest, Starfleet Command, to Captain Jonathan Archer • “Broken Bow” • Episode 1, Season 1, Enterprise

As I mentioned in last week’s column (Oh Boy), Scott Bakula also starred as Captain Jonathan Archer on Enterprise, which ran on the UPN network from September 2001 to May 2005, a total of four years. That’s one more year than TOS’s run, but three years shorter than its successful progenitors, Next Gen, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.

UPN claimed that poor ratings caused Enterprise’s downfall; according to Wikipedia, it never rose above the Top 100 rank in the Neilson ratings system, debuting at #115, and continuing to sink until its final season, where it landed at #148. It’s generally perceived as a failure, and has been blamed for the lack of any Star Trek on either television or movie screens until J.J. Abrams’s 2009 film reboot of the franchise.

Set in the year 2015, about 100 years before the time of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 and ending ten years later with the birth of the United Federation of Planets, I think the show had a lot of promise and so I’ve never understood exactly why Enterprise never took off. I’ve been rewatching it courtesy of Amazon Prime, and, yes, Bakula did exhibit some stiffness as Captain Archer in the first year, but certainly no less than Patrick Stewart did in the first season of Next Generation or Avery Brooks in Deep Space Nine.

As for the rest of the cast – Jolene Blalock as the Vulcan observer and science officer Sub-Commander T’Pol, Connor Trineer as Chief Engineer Charles “Trip” Tucker III, Lieutenant Commander Hoshi Sato at Communications, Dominic Keating as tactical and security officer Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, Anthony Montgomery as helmsman Ensign Travis Mayweather, and John Billingsley as the Denobulan Doctor Phlox – im-not-so-ho, from the first they all seemed to have a more complete handle on their characters than, again, any of the regular cast members Next Gen. And certainly better than most of Voyager’s crew (with the exception of Kate Mulgrew, Robert Duncan McNeill and Tim Russ) or Deep Space Nine’s regulars (with the exception of Colm Meany, who had the advantage of reprising the Miles O’Brien character, who originated on Next Gen.)

So what happened?

Well, first off, and again im-not-so-ho, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga made some big mistakes. The first in not using Alexander Courage’s opening riff and the introductory words:

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

C’mon, are you fucking kidding me? This is a show about the beginning of humanity’s journey into deep space, about the beginning and founding of the United Federation of Planets, and you don’t use these words? Words hallowed in every fan’s heart and soul, and, I bet, quite a number of people who wouldn’t actually claim to be Trekkers but who have been inspired by that phrase. I understand not using them in Voyager and Deep Space Nine, those shows’s premises were not, ostensibly, about discovering “what’s out there.” But Enterprise? Its premise is in the very name of the show!

Rather than incorporating Courage’s music into the new show’s theme, Berman and Braga chose some to ignore it completely, instead choosing to use Diane Warren’s “Faith of the Heart” which was the original theme to the movie “Patch Adams.” Now perhaps if the orchestration had been different, without the Rod Stewart-ish (and I like Rod Stewart – and, btw, Stewart did sing the song on the soundtrack to “Patch Adams”) vocalization from Russell Watson, and if it hadn’t sounded like something played on a soft-rock radio station, and if they had incorporated Courage’s opening riff into it, it might have worked… but I doubt it. The show needed something not only inspiring, something that tempted you to look up at the stars, to dream of the day we would push beyond our solar system into that final frontier. But with that song? Change the channel… please! (I’ll give you a foot massage if you do it.)

And what was with not naming the show Star Trek: Enterprise? Yeah, yeah, I know, they did add “Star Trek” to the title in the third season, but will someone please tell me why they avoided it in the first place? What did you say, Mr. Berman?

 “Well, you know, if you think about it, since The Next Generation, we’ve had so many Star Trek entities that were called “Star Trek”-colon-something […] Our feeling was, in trying to make this show dramatically different, which we are trying to do, that it might be fun not to have a divided main title like that. And I think that if there’s any one word that says Star Trek without actually saying Star Trek, it’s the word ‘Enterprise’.”
Yeah, well, if you ask me, no matter what he or Mr. Braga might say, I think it’s all bullshit. I think they both just wanted to separate themselves from the ghost – or the floating ashes in orbit around Earth – of Gene Roddenberry. Y’ know… an ego thing.

Btw, I’m neither criticizing nor defending Mr. Roddenberry. His is the mind from which ultimately Star Trek was born. It was his baby, and he did what he needed to do to get the show on the air. But from what I’ve read and from what I’ve been told by some in the know, he was not exactly the “Great Bird of the Galaxy” – except maybe in his own mind. According to Marc Cushman (author of the massive trilogy “These Are The Voyages: TOS – Season One, Two and Three), the real hero of Star Trek was Gene L. Coon, the “forgotten Gene,” who invented the Prime Directive, the Klingons, the development of the personal dynamics between the Kirk, Spock, and McCoy (especially Spock and McCoy), and so much more of the ST mythos we know and love.

So, anyway, why did Enterprise fail?

I think a lot of people, including fans, I’m sorry to say, never really gave it a chance.

Not very Star Trek of them, was it?