It’s been nine months since last I joined a PCHH panel, and they’ve been dog months. In that span I’ve bought myself a pricey new microphone, had knee surgery, run zero point zero miles, and watched in impotent rage as a global pandemic has slain hundreds of thousands of Americans who might still be with us had responsible adults been in charge when the plague hit. Police officers murdered George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, millions took to the streets (I was still too weak to do that back in May and June) to protest police violence against persons of color, and my beloved hometown of Washington, DC was invaded by the U.S. military.
Dog months. And all without the outlets of running or boxing, the strategies I have relied upon to exorcize corrosive feelings since I was a kid. (OK, I never tried to box until I was 27, but I’ve been a runner since I was 14.) I got a bicycle at the end of June, and the increasingly long rides to which I’ve been treating myself have helped.
Anyway, Pop Culture Happy Hour! And a new Star Trek series, which is both animated and fluid-rich (blood, bile… alien vomit).
Lower Decks is set in the Next Generation era, aboard the U.S.S. Cerritos, a California-class vessel. The first shuttlecraft we see parked in its shuttle bay is the Joshua Tree, a naked play for my affection. The shuttle Yosemite gets more airtime in the early episodes.
I was delighted to dissect the show with Stephen Thompson, Glen Weldon, and Petra Mayer. You can hear the episode here if the embedded player above isn’t working.
I basically got into journalism because I wanted to write for Rolling Stone. That took longer to happen than I’d hoped it might, but it was a real thrill to get to do this piece for them yesterday, reflecting on what Star Trek hath wrought on the occasion of the franchise’s 50th anniversary.
Last night, the National Air and Space Museum showed “The Man Trap,” the first Trek episode broadcast (albeit not the first one produced), at 8:30 p.m. Eastern — the same time NBC had shown it 50 years earlier. It’s a really fun episode that demonstrates that the rich character relationships were present in the Original Series right from the beginning, and that most of the comedy in Trek was fully intentional. (Also that what was progressive in 1966 is decidedly not in 2016. But that’s how progress works.)
Thanks to Scott Tobias for suggesting me for it, and to David Fear for editing the essay.
Karl Urban and Zachary Quinto in 2016’s “Star Trek Beyond.” (Kimberly French / Paramount)
Kirstie Alley and Leonard Nimoy in 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” (CBS Consumer Products / Star Trek Archive)
Zachary Quinto in 2013’s “Star Trek into Darkness.” (Zade Rosenthal / Paramount)
Leonard Nimoy and Jill Ireland in the 1967 Original Series episode “This Side of Paradise,” wherein the rational half-Vulcan Mr. Spock finds love while under the influence of a strange plant. (CBS Consumer Products/Star Trek Archive)
John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Karl Urban, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Simon Pegg in 2016’s “Star Trek Beyond.” (Kimberly French / Paramount)
The U.S.S. Enterprise studio model in 1965. (CBS Consumer Products / Star Trek Archive)
Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana in 2013’s “Star Trek into Darkness.” (Zade Rosenthal / Paramount)
Nichelle Nichols, William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, and James Doohan in “Mirror, Mirror,” which first aired Oct. 6, 1967. (CBS Consumer Products/Star Trek Archive)
Brent Spiner in the “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” (CBS Consumer Products / Star Trek Archive)
The September issue of Air & Space / Smithsonian, featuring the cover story I desperately wanted to call Warp Corps — because it’s about a corps of people whom Star Trek has inspired and influenced, you see — is now on sale at the National Air and Space Museum (both locations, on the National Mall and at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia) as well as at Barnes & Noble stores and the digital retailer of your choice. You can read the feature here. Also, I’d love it if you would come buy a copy of the magazine from me for a paltry one-time fee $6.99 at the Museum during its three-day celebration of Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary. The event kicks off at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 8 — the evening the Original Series episode “The Man Trap” was first broadcast on NBC. Continue reading →
Our long summer hiatus complete, I’m back on WETA’sAround Town with host Robert Aubry Davis and fellow theatregoer Jane Horwitz to talk about three recent shows I reviewed for the Washington City Paper:MetroStage’s historical musical Uprising, Olney Theatre Center’s brutal-but-funny addiction drama Bad Dog, and Synetic Theatre’s confused new version of Alice in Wonderland. You will no doubt notice from my lapels that I am wearing a new sport jacket, at my mom’s insistence. Continue reading →
I am always grateful for an invitation to rub elbows with the Pop Culture Happy Hour crew. All your favorites are there around the table this week: Intrepid host Linda Holmes! Indefatigable regular panelist Stephen Thompson! Inexhaustible other regular panelist and Pal-for-Life Glen Weldon! And then there’s me. The four of us merrily dissect the paranoid charms of Mr. Robot, showrunner Sam Esmail‘s much-discussed USA Network series about a brilliant but also probably off-his-rocker sometime-vigilante computer hacker involved in an anarchistic conspiracy.
I think I got to say more or less everything I meant to about the show, though none of us had seen the season finale when we recorded the episode, as it had not yet aired. Wait, no: I didn’t mention how clever I think it is that we, the audience, are cast as Elliot-the-hacker’s paranoid delusion. In voiceover, he addresses us as “you” while acknowledging that we’re imaginary. Smart. I also like that he disguises his data archives of the people he’s hacked as home-burned audio CDs. The fake labels he Sharpies onto them often suggest a connection between the album and the person: His psychiatrist’s archive is labeled as the Talking Heads’ Speaking in Tongues, for example.
You may recognize the Coney Island Wonder Wheel, featured prominently in Mr. Robot‘s pilot episode, from this very website. Continue reading →