Posts Tagged ‘Holiday Special’

Got An Intergalactic Revolution!

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

With JJ ABrams’ Shatnerless Star Trek reboot hitting cinemas this summer, the eternal question is back on everyone’s lips. To whit: which is the best out of the major “Star” franchises (Trek, Wars, Gate)? Well. First of all we can disregard Stargate as I have never seen it (except for the original film, which seemed pretty cool in 1994, although that might be because we were so impoverished for space spanning adventure that James Spader versus an androgynous Pharoah was an acceptable evening’s entertainment. In retrospect it can be blamed for paving the way for  Independence Day. So not good then).

So Star Trek vs Star Wars. It’s a debate that has raged among nerds for years, and we can finally put it to bed now. The criteria we will use will be a seemingly inconsequential element of  the most misbegotten moments of each saga. From Scott Bakula helmed crapfest Star Trek: Enterprise we have the overblown, incongruously 80s style power ballad Where My Heart Will Take Me, while the acid flashback fever dream that is The Star Wars Holiday Special provides Jefferson Starship’s “futuristic” performance of Light The Sky On Fire.

Enterprise was an attempt to free the Star Trek franchise from the entrenched continuity that the previous three series had built up, being set as it was before the formation of The Federation and the adventures of Kirk and Spock. Unfortunately this resulted in episodes about making a really good chair. It was also distinct in that it forsook the traditional “spacey” orchestral theme tune (none of them a patch on the otherworldly warbling of the Original Series) and went for a (gulp!) “rock ballad”.

Gratuitously sexy vulcan, Sam Beckett and blue dude - Enterprise had it all

Where My Heart Will Take Me was sung by crossover opera star Russell Watson in full gravelly transatlantic style, and while a bit cheesy, it’s not bad if you like that kind of thing. Not surprising as it was written by uber songsmith Diane Warren, whose oeuvre includes such AOR classics as Cher’s If I Could Turn Back Time, LeAnn Rimes’ Can’t Fight The Moonlight and Aerosmith’s That One From Armageddon. That drivel about “reaching any star” notwithstanding,  it’s nothing to do with Star Trek though, which is unsurprising when you find out that the song was originally written for Patch Adams, a Robin Williams (urgh) comedy drama (uurrgh) about a Doctor who treats patients’ spirits as much as their bodies (glurgaargh!!). Spizz  Energi’s Where’s Captain Kirk? would have been a better choice. As long as it was the live version with screaming in the middle.

Diane Warren’s CV also includes Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now from the movie Mannequin, performed by Starship, the 80s stadium rock incarnation of pivotal godheads of 60s psychedelia Jefferson Airplane.

In between their glory days of bashing the Nixon Administration through the medium of acid rock and their latter years, singing of the love between a man and a shop dummy, they were known as Jefferson Starship, and seemingly did a lot of songs about space. This set them up as an ideal “special musical guest” for that infamous, interminable, Star Wars Holiday Special.

Now, much has been written about this 97 minute (but feels a lot longer) toy advert slash variety show slash psychological torture, so I hardly need to get into it here, suffice to say that it has to be seen to be believed, but you’ll wish you hadn’t bothered.

They're really big on Kazhyyyk

Appearing as a pink hued hologram, the band perform the song as a distraction for the Imperial officers, who obviously like a bit of a groove to murky 70s rock during downtime. Marty Balin is singing into what I presume is intended to be a lightsaber, but it resembles a flourescent dildo. At least they make the effort, wearing swishy costumes (pitched between glam rock and male stripper), twirling drumsticks, and generally pulling shapes while their instruments (including the fantastically futuristic keyboard on a shoulder strap) emit sonic waves (or something). The song features a spoken interlude about “The Great God Kopa Khan”, and (apropos of nothing) cries of “Cigar shaped object”! I can’t be certain but I’m sure that’s not canon.

Psychedelic siren Grace Slick is nowhere to be seen in the preformance. She had actually been fired from the band earlier in the year for drunkenly goading German audiences by shouting “who won the war?” while she should have been singing Somebody To Love for the 30,000th time. Nice one Grace. At least she was spared the embarrassment of appearing in the one part of the Star Wars franchise that is deemed too bad to ever get an official release.

Even though I have a grudging affection for Where My Heart Will Take Me, the prize has to go to Light The Sky On Fire, just because it’s so mental. So that’s that settled then. Next week we sort out which is the one true religion.

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May The d4s Be With You

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

My journey back through the mystical labyrinths of Role Playing Games led me to the most predictable point possible – The Star Wars RPG. We played quite a lot of this as teenagers  and my memory is that the books published by West End Games were always really well produced and entertaining. This game actually created a lot of what was later to become known as The Expanded Universe. Prior to this, we only had those jokey nicknames like Hammerhead, Squidhead and Motorhead (One of these may be falsified). I still love the fact that there was a character whose given name (or the name of his race) was Snaggletooth. Actually maybe it was both: Snaggletooth The Snaggletooth. Who has a snaggle tooth.

Other stuff from that original RPG that was ace:

  • Anyone can fly any ship – this is quite an important distinction from things like the Star Trek game in which you could only do something if you’d spent a couple of years at the Academy taking exams – here, like in the movies you can just just leap into some bucket of bolts, start flipping switches and be doing The Kessel Run in an unspecified amount of time and/or distance
  • One of the starting “character templates” was called “Quixotic Jedi
  • It taught me the meaning of the phrase “In Media Res” – According to the rulebook, all Star Wars movies start in the middle of the action. Except they don’t – only Star Wars (and, later Revenge Of The Sith)  actually do.
  • It was more about heroically doing faintly ridiculous things, rather than collecting gold pieces and +2 Vorpal Swords
I guess if I’m going to run any RPGs, that’s the one, right? I mean I’ve spent the last 36 years filling my head with made up space nonsense, I may as well put it to some use. So, after a quick trip to eBay I bought up a bunch of the more recent (but now over a decade old) Wizards Of The Coast published RPG books. I think the edition I have is officially called “The One with Episode 2 Shit In It”. Since then my internet research has told me that the later “Saga Edition” (aka “The One With Episode 3 Shit In It”) is better, but even that’s been replaced by Edge Of The Empire published by Fantasy Flight. Even though this brings out a primal urge in me to get back on eBay and spend a ton more money, I suspect it doesn’t matter what system you use. With the old West End Games version, after a while you used to have to throw a bucketfull of d6 dice to do anything at all and I don’t recall anyone complaining.
For a scenario I bashed together a bunch of bits of the movies, along with references to some of my favourite stuff from the Expanded Universe (Purely for my own amusement, there is a casino on Nar Shaddaa called The Kopa Khan). I had a out-of-time Jedi that had been frozen in carbonite since The Clone Wars, a starship chase through the aforementioned cityplanet, Trandoshan Bounty Hunters and a sneaky doublecrossing Duro. Everything came to a head on the Moon of Sulon, purely because I liked the old Dark Forces/Jedi Knight games. No “Grave Tuskens” though – that’s the beauty of this shit – you can ignore anything you don’t like. Now, roll for your Midichlorian count…
Seeing as the game was relatively well received (ie. no one fell asleep, set fire to their character sheet or punched me in the face) now I’m continuing a campaign for these characters – luckily, there are a ton of published adventures out there on the web. Next up is Dawn Of Defiance, a ten part adventure, that I’m not sure we’ll get all the way through, but I’m going to have fun redrawing all the characters from it. And also my own. I guess doodling the most obscure characters I could find from the Star Wars Universe wasn’t quite niche enough – I eventually had to start making them up.
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