JOHN OSTRANDER: OLD STAR TREK TECH

Star Trek-Communicator

by John Ostrander

I’m a Star Trek fan. Not a rabid fan, but a fan. I‘ve at least sampled all the shows and some I liked better than others. I’ve seen all the films and some I really liked; the first Trek film – not so much. I even enjoyed the two most recent films although I have a nephew who may disown me for saying so.

I’m not a big tech sort of guy…but I do have a major tech gripe with the series. The original communicators very much influenced the design of cel phones – mine still flips open, thank you very much, and I don’t know how many times I’ve asked Scotty to beam me out of some situations. Unfortunately, all the communicators are good for is audio. No video. Star Trek is set in our future. My antiquated Trekfone can take pictures. We have cel phones that can take movies. ST communicators cannot.

You would think that having video capability would be valuable for away teams stepping foot on new planets and meeting new civilizations. Their space ships have sensors that can pick up life forms on planets below or peer long distances into space and throw up the image on the bridge’s screen but they can’t do video from the planet surface to the ship orbiting overhead. Here today we can get video to and from the International Space Station. Our probes can throw back images from distant planets.

I understand why that had to happen that way in the Original Series. The show didn’t have the CGI or the budget to make it work. Why not update the tech in the later series? Why not in the movies, especially the most recent ones?

They have teleporters, for cryin’ out loud. Figuring out how to get video from planet surface to an orbiting ship is harder than disassembling someone’s atoms, beaming them somewhere and re-assembling them? Seriously?

Are they keeping to the audio-only rule because that’s the way it’s always been? They’ve already alienated the hardcore Trek fans with the re-boot; are the fans going to get more cheesed off because now the communicators can send pictures? Are they afraid all the ST characters are going to start doing selfies? Although I could see Kirk doing an Anthony Weiner with his.

Why does this bug me? Because, in my book, it’s a failure of imagination.

I remember a great scene in Galaxy Quest (one of the best non-ST Star Trek films ever made). IMDB does the pocket synopsis this way: “The alumni cast of a cult space TV show have to play their roles as the real thing when an alien race needs their help.” Their fake TV ship has been lovingly created by a race of aliens who believe the TV episodes (which have found their way into outer space) to be a “historical record.”

In one scene, Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver have to get to the manual off switch for the self destruct button and are confronted with a corridor of large pistons slamming together from side to side and up and down at an alarming speed. Weaver’s character balks; there’s no reason for those chompers to be there. Allen says it’s because it was in an episode. Weaver screams, “That scene was badly written!” She snarls that those writers should have been shot; this always makes me giggle.

That’s my point. The aliens put the banging pistons in the corridor not because they make any sense but because they were there before. Same problem with the communicators for me: they don’t make any sense.

The early communicators were way ahead of their time and that’s part of what Star Trek tech has always done – inspired us and given us a sense of wonder, of possibilities. That stimulates the imagination. Communicators shouldn’t be able to do less than our cel phones; they should be able to do more.

The stories should also be more than re-makes of past stories. Tell us new ones. Take us boldly to where we’ve never been before.

RIP Jerry McNeely

jerry_mcneely_obit_a_l

by Team TVWriter™ Press Service

Sad news about a name familiar to TV viewers of the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Jerry McNeely, Emmy-nominated television writer and creator of series including “Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law,” died last week in Tarzana, California at 86. He had suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for several years.

Jerry was one of TV’s busiest writers in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, writing multiple episodes of “Dr. Kildare,” “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” “Ironside,” “The Name of the Game,” “Owen Marshall,” “Trauma Center,” “Our House,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Mr. Novak,” “The Virginian,” “The Streets of San Francisco,” and “McMillan and Wife.” “Lucas Tanner,” “Three for the Road.” and “Marcus Welby, M.D.” He also created “Owen Marshall,”  “Lucas Tanner” and “Three for the Road.”

Jerry wrote his first teleplay, “The Staring Match,” for “Studio One” in 1957, and won a contest with his script “The Joke and the Valley,” which “Hallmark Hall of Fame” produced in 1961. His later longform scripts included “The Critical List,” “Fighting Back,” “Tomorrow’s Child,” “Sin of Innocence” and “When You Remember Me.”

Survivors include his wife Ellen Shenker McNeely; four children, Melissa, Betsy, Joel and Ian McNeely; and two grandchildren.

You can find a fuller bio and celebration of Jerry McNeely’s life HERE.

Big Deal Entertainment Website Looking for New Writers

Well, biggish anyway. But TVWriter™ likes Under the Radar Mag cuz it, you know, thinks big.

Under_the_Radar_Seeks_New_writersby Christopher Roberts

Under the Radar is actively seeking experienced new writers to write for our print magazine, digital magazine for tablets/smart-phones, and our website. We’re not only looking for music writers, but are also on the hunt for writers who want to write about any of these entertainment mediums: film/DVDs, TV, comic books, and books. Interested parties should please email music samples to austin@undertheradarmag.com.

Three important points:

  • We’re only looking for experienced writers who have written for other established websites and/or print magazines.
  • Please put “Writing Samples” in the subject line of the email.
  • Please do not apply if you’re hoping to make tons and tons of money, as there simply isn’t much money in independent print journalism these days. We make a comfortable living at Under the Radar, but do it out of a passion for music and the other mediums we cover and not for big paychecks. We also don’t have any fulltime positions available right now, we’re only looking for freelancers. But our writers are very much involved in the editorial process at Under the Radar and are often consulted on big decisions about each issue.

If that works for you, click on for more!

Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 7/22/14

Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
by munchman

  • David Hollander (HEARTLAND) is adapting  Nicholson Baker‘s novel, The Fermata into a series for Paramount Television. (The book, written way back in 1994 is about a guy who can stop time and uses this ability to embark on a series of sexual assaults adventures. So it could be fun – or something quite the opposite of fun after it’s been televisionized.)
  • Craig Zadan & Neil Meron (BONNIE AND CLYDE) are developing a Universal TV comedy series about pro soccer player Robbie Rogers “the first opening gay man to compete in a top North American sports league.” (Cuz homosexualilty=funny. Yeah, Right. You can hear me laughing already.)
  • Teena Booth, Inon Shampanier, Natalie Shampanier and Stephen Kay are supposedly writing the script for the Lifetime Television Movie BEAUTIFUL AND TWISTED, a story of murder and the usual accompanying badassedness in Miami Beach. (Marvelous munchie says “supposedly” cuz 4 writers seems way too many for the WGA’s rules to allow. Not to mention for the terrible result that’s sure to follow, especially considering how little money is going to be divided all those ways. Sigh….)
  • Rene Echevarria (TERRA NOVA) has a development deal with Legendary TV. (This is what’s called a “blind deal” cuz the execs who hired him don’t see so well. No, wait, just kidding. It’s a blind deal because although Legendary has committed to 2 scripts no one’s decided what they’ll be yet. This means Legendary trusts Rene, and el muncho definitely thinks that’s the right attitude. Dood shepherded DEEP SPACE NINE and TEEN WOLF to ultrasonic success, right? Congrats to the smart buyers. Oh, right, you too, Rene bro!)

Peggy Bechko: Writers Revealing What Characters Don’t Want To Show

secrets

by Peggy Bechko

Oh, come on, you know your characters are just like you. They say one thing and think something else entirely, try to conceal you’re really doing that – and then give it all away with a flick of an eye, a gesture or some muted (or otherwise) sound you make. Yep, that’s reality. Us humans evade, lie and maneuver (just for starters). We do it to protect ourselves, to protect others, out of embarrassment or an assortment of other reasons.

Now, knowing this it becomes a challenge for the writer. In a script for a movie the writer sets the scene, the mood, tweaks details to make things clear and then actors take over to do the subtle little things that portray what’s in the script, the character’s inner monolog.

For novel writers it’s a different kind of challenge.

The writer is dealing with characters who might be suppressing emotion, hiding them from outsiders as well as themselves. And the writer has to telegraph to the reader this is going on. So, just as we telegraph in real life, whether we intend to or not, the character can do the same in the novel. He or she can have something as obvious as a ‘tick’ of the eye when lying, or something as subtle as a lift of the chin. There can be a high-pitched laugh, the recognizable smell of sweat on the air or maybe hands that fiddle with a pencil or each other, or words that come out in a flood when the character normally speaks in a more reserved fashion.

All of these little signals (and oh so many more) telegraph through tension the movement of the story forward; they build up expectation for the reader and empathy from the reader for the struggling characters.

There are so many things that give us and the characters in a novel or movie away, things that let the watcher (or reader) know all is not as it should be.

As writers we need to remember how us human beings work, tap into our own experience. Remember smiling when you didn’t mean it, that stillness that settled over you when you were embarrassed or cornered, making excuses to leave a situation, using gestures that cancel each other out like telling someone no, but then stepping forward and reaching toward them, or the opposite, yes, then stepping away.  Can you recall avoiding eye contact or just flat out ignoring someone? Have you felt your chest tighten as you withdrew from a conversation or literally left a group of people.

All that and more you can attribute to your characters when writing. They are human. You created them. Fortunately for you, as the writer of a novel, if you’re writing the Point Of View character you can let the reader know something of the thoughts going through his or her head. The character can ‘act normal’ while all sorts of thoughts and intentions race through the character’s mind. And it’s a good idea to spice the novel with just such information.

However, to breathe intense life into the writing, you, as the writer, don’t want to depend on that little cheat exclusively. Seeing what’s going on and reaction to it is much more fulfilling and draws the reader or viewer much more deeply into the story.

So do a little people watching. Add to your repertoire, hone your writing skills and let the readers see just how writingly human you make your characters.

Say hi to your favorite WGAW Peeps at Comic-Con

Well, some of ‘em anyway, cuz they/we/they/we et al will be there!

writersguildatcomiccon.tvwriter.net

The Writers Guild of America, West wants to remind you that you’ll need, you know, to actually pay to get into the con on your own.

Damn!