Monday, September 12, 2011

Some Actors Who Should Make a "Star Trek" pt2

I started writing a little thought exercise the other day on "Star Trek" and how I think they should make a new series with a cast that has a lot of popularity in the genre and set things in a new future with a changed political environment with a new catastrophe requiring the Federation to wake up out of a peace time haze and start fighting evil and exploring the galaxy again. I then geeked out and made a list of potential cast members. Here is the other half of the list.

6) Communications: This role is criminally underused because the universal translator makes most of the translation issue of alien languages kind of pointless, and while the importance of reports being properly sent to Star Fleet Command might be critical in helping to justify the sometimes suicidal, brutal, questionable, or desperate actions of the Captain and Crew, it rarely makes for compelling action. To rectify this I think Communications should have additional roles for narrative purposes to escape being a glorified switchboard operator like Uhura in the original series, or completely useless and ineffectual like Hoshi Sato in "Enterprise". To that end I think this should be a role of the New Guy/Transfer, a character that is brought in so the people who have been on the ship or station have to introduce themselves and explain things to, it makes sense for a character that has the role of Communications should be the person who communicates the questions of the audience.

So here is a bit of a story set up, a new ensign first class is getting transferred to the ship to work in Communications and Cryptology (cracking enemy codes, operating software, and hacking those systems). Since the job often requires the person to be at an enemy terminal to work their systems she could go on away missions too with a logical reason to be there. So what actress could pull off being inquisitive, but not to the point of being annoying, and at the same time competent enough to justify not losing their shit in a situation like an away mission that gets attacked by a new alien threat? Jaimie Alexander, who played the warrior woman super heroine Sif in this summer's "Thor" movie. I think she has a lot of dignity and could do a really good job of knowing what she's doing, and enough presence that asking a question everybody already knows the answer to would not make her look stupid.

Plus: She is gorgeous.

7) Security: The bad ass member of the crew who is supposed to be able to contain boarding parties, kill things with impunity on away missions, and always be the one who wants to explore military options in case they have to shoot things until they are dead. Tasha Yar on "The Next Generation" was the greatest waste of a character ever in this role, as she was both terrible at her job and was killed off before her character origins could be explored (she was the only member of the crew who did not grow up in the privileged parts of the Federation and instead grew up in a crime infested dystopia). I actually think the character of Tasha Yar should be taken almost without alteration into this new era, by which I mean the security chief of the show should have a similiar upbringing and attitude, but be given the time to really develop and be explored. Have her grow up on a planet that was scorched during the Dominion war, or by the Borg, she is jaded and sharp, and very willing to beat the living hell out of people (now that I think about this the character would be similar to Major Kira on "Deep Space 9").

There are aspects of other security people that could be added, Odo on "DS9" was the defector from the series main antagonist and was handy for a conflicted character to appear, Tuvok was one of the best characters on "Voyager" useful for suspicion and for questioning the motives and abilities of crew who were not Star Fleet, and Malcolm Reed on "Enterprise" was the only competent member of the crew, having invented the force field. So the character should also have the ability to be suspicious, without being alienating, and have the ability to create new weapons and tactics to take advantage of situations as they develop.

So what actress can play a character that has seen war, grown up in the aftermath of it, but comes off as prepared, competent, and able to think on their feet, while not sacrificing a healthy detective like inquisitive ability and the willingness to kick someone's teeth out? Lena Headey, who played Sarah Connor on "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles". You know, the woman who has seen horrific violence fighting killer robots, been locked in an asylum and called paranoid, has had to hide and flee while caring for her son, all the while creating stores of weapons and training so her son can lead an apocalyptic war somewhere down the line. Kind of a perfect resume for a Security Officer.

Plus: She is gorgeous.

8) Engineering: in a show about future tech this position is actually very key in doing two things, exploring technology, and saving the day constantly. Scotty saved the ship through knowledge and jerry rigging as often as the rest of the crew did through action scenes; Geordi and Data displayed technology with Geordi's visor, and embodied technology literally by being a living machine, and numerous episodes of "The Next Generation" amounted to Geordi and Data telling Picard what was happening, telling him what they needed to do to save the day, and then Picard telling them to do it, the rest of the crew being at best hangers on; O'Brien on "DS9" was a more well rounded character but was constantly seen and talked about, as being the over stressed miracle worker repairing the weird mix of systems on the alien space station the show was set on; Torres did little on "Voyager" and even less when Seven of Nine showed up and started stealing scene time by the basketful as the engineering cyborg who was the best character on the show and one of the best in the franchise.

This is a character position that I think should do something really interesting. See at the end of "Star Trek: Nemisis" Data was destroyed and his memories were programmed onto a prototype android made by the same scientist, I would like this idea to be explored. Imagine that Data's memories manifested in the new body and he decided that he needed to ensure androids as a life form should exist beyond himself. Data and Geordi working with Dr. Lewis Zimmerman (creator of the Doctor Medical Hologram on "Voyager") to create a small race of sentient androids that have limited life spans but have the drive and skill to create more androids to form families should they desire. The engineer on this hypothetical series will be one of this new android race with gold skin and working in Star Fleet. There are still only a couple hundred androids in the galaxy. I also like the idea of them having a lot of Data and Geordi's nerdy joke humor, with quips and timing that was learned by that initial partnership. Who do I think can play a very straight-faced snarky genius who is part of a minority micro-society? Kieran Culkin, who played the cool-gay-roommate, Wallace in "Scott Pilgrim versus the World". He is able to deliver lines with incredible timing and is very likable in spite of being kind of a dick/know-it-all through that whole movie.

Ladies. This doing anything for you?

9) First Officer: This role has varied between iterations wildly, Spock was a major contrast to Kirk, as was Riker to Picard, but contrast Riker and Spock. One is a would be ladies man, ace pilot who has been reprimanded for disregarding authority (and was played by the show's best director), Spock (also played by an excellent director) was cool and collected but lacked spontaneity, instead focusing on rationalism as much as possible (apparently the phrase, never underestimate your opponents stupidity exists on Vulcan, as Spock was frequently undone by someone not acting in their absolute best interests). Major Kira on "DS9" served as the hot headed local, Chakotay was a racist stereotype of American Indians and pathetically underused as being a guerilla fighter. And... I'm going to be honest I have no idea who was supposed to be the first officer on "Enterprise", was it T'Pol? So I guess being a bitch is also a role?

So really this character can be anything. So let's make it someone who has a set of moral ideals, he believes in the Federation, but is also very much about wanting to fix those flaws he sees in it through working in the system. He has to be politically capable, has to prove he is a strong leader who can handle a crisis, and he has to live long enough to get elected to office, so he will be a character than wants to pull the diplomacy lever with great frequency. He'll occasionally speak in confidence about how he thinks the Federation has lost its way, and will brush against authority when he thinks it will score him political points (you should be able to see him calculating whether or not to save the day, wondering whether the risks are really worth what he is doing).

To that end I think you need a character that you can never tell if his motivations are pure, or motivated by a mix of ego and historical aspiration, but can occasionally see him burn bridges and squander capital for a greater good, so you see a hero who is running a marathon, looking at the long term, sacrificing the relatively little things that happen in the course of typical duty. Who can walk this line? Adrian Pasdar, or as he probably best known, Congressman Nathan Petrelli from "Heroes". Even when that show was spiraling out of control this actor played his part to a tee, he was constantly having to balance politics and moral right, the big picture with ends and means. And he did it well. I would like to see a season final like "Best of Both Worlds" in which the first officer has to write off the Captain as lost and fire the big gun, but to have the entire crew look at him like he did it just so he could be Captain.

Ladies. Anything?

10) Captain: The central protagonist of the show around which the largest moral decisions will revolve. Quite simply by picking this character you pick the arc of the show. With Kirk it was the triumph of the human spirit. With Picard it was trying to be the best of humanity. Sisko was deciding what moral concessions to make when trying to save the Federation. Janeway was trying to hold to Star Fleet principles while being lost in enemy territory. Archer was about the shaping of Federation principles for the first time, they had to show the thought processes that led to the various policies fans had come to associate with the show ("Enterprise" failed).

Now, the way I see this hypothetical show working is a tone of waking up. That the Federation has become docile, and lost the exploratory core of itself. You need a Captain that wants to break free of the day to day patrol and see what is beyond what is currently known. But at the same time a Captain that can defend her actions and decisions against the forces of complacency that have taken hold in the Federation. So who is good at exploring, and breaking free of the leash of a leadership that is sitting too cushy? Amanda Tapping, who played Samantha Carter on "Stargate SG-1" and "Stargate Atlantis". In the "Stargate" universe she was a super scientist and accomplished Air Force officer who was really only held back by the fluctuating corrupt or bureaucratic government oversight that would kneecap world saving every season. She is arguably a Science Fiction icon at this point having been a central character for more than a decade. She is a great choice for being the legitimately well meaning explorer who is tired of being weighed down by very complacent commanders. The Show's new moral core is that Exploration is what makes Humanity and the Federation great, and that should not be sacrificed by complacency.

Plus: She is gorgeous.

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