Thursday, December 31, 2009

Have a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Patrick Stewart of "Star Trek" Receives Knighthood

There's an especially starry knight in Britain's latest round of royal honors.

Patrick Stewart — "Star Trek: The Next Generation's" Capt. Jean-Luc Picard — becomes Sir Patrick in Queen Elizabeth II's New Year honors list, which also includes a knighthood for theater and film director Nicholas Hytner.

"This is an honor that embraces those actors, directors and creative teams who have in these recent years helped fill my life with inspiration, companionship and sheer fun," said 69-year-old Stewart, who recently returned to the British stage following a long career in Hollywood that included playing Professor Charles Xavier in three "X-Men" films.

Erich Reich, a refugee from Nazi-occupied Europe who organized last year's 70th anniversary of the "Kindertransport," which brought 10,000 children to wartime Britain, also received a knighthood.

A separate honors list in New Zealand bestowed a knighthood on the king of Middle Earth — "Lord of the Rings" filmmaker Peter Jackson.

Jackson, 53, was knighted in New Zealand, his native land and the filming location for the trilogy, which collected 17 Academy Awards. The New Zealand award is approved by the queen, the country's head of state.

Jackson is currently is working on the two-movie prequel "The Hobbit," also based on a book by J.R.R. Tolkien, with Mexican director Guillermo del Toro.

In Britain, lesser honors went to Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi of the rock group Status Quo. They were named Officers of the Order of the British Empire, or OBE, in recognition of a four-decade, three-chord career that has seen them score 64 British hit singles, including "Rockin' All Over the World."

Parfitt, 61, said he'd given up hope of an honor because of his wild past.

"If they'd reviewed some of my old newspaper cuttings!" he said.

Phyllida Lloyd, who directed "Mamma Mia!" — the most financially successful British film of all time — was named Commander of the Order of the British Empire, or CBE.

Star Trek Online Producer on the Lore of the Prime Universe and the Game Canon

Star Trek Online's Christine Thompson answer Jon Wood's questions about the lore in Star Trek Online and how the STO team managed to keep up with so many different sources of information.

We know that your writing and lore staff is familiar with all of the "official canon" from the Trek license, including films and TV series, but how do you handle incorporating non-canon aspects of the franchise like novels and comic books into your stories?

Christine Thompson:

We look at the soft canon like novels and comics, but we don't feel compelled to use everything from them. Some things, like the "Countdown" comic series, fit perfectly, so we incorporated it. Other things don't work as well.

Also, since our game is set in 2409, we're decades ahead of the novels and the comics. We were always prepared to go our own way storywise because of that, and I think what we've done has worked.


There is still some confusion for people regarding the current reality of STO. Why, in your version of the universe, does Vulcan still exist while Romulus was destroyed?

Christine Thompson:

Romulus was destroyed in what we call the "Prime Universe" - it's the universe that the shows and the series are set in. That event was what prompted Nero to what he did, and also why Spock used red matter to create an artificial singularity - he was trying to stop the chain reaction that destroyed Romulus.

Spock and Nero were sent to the "Abramsverse" through that singularity, and that's where the events of the movie (including the destruction of Vulcan) occurred.

For a full explanation, check out

What advantages are present in setting the game 30 years after the last movie?

Christine Thompson:

We picked 2409 for a few reasons. It's in the future of the timeline, so we get a chance to add new stories, new technology, new looks for some of the ships, etc. But it's close enough that we can have a lot of things that are familiar to fans of the shows and movies.

Also, Star Trek Online is the story of the players. They're the heroes in this time. Moving forward means that Starfleet isn't always looking to Jean-Luc Picard or Benjamin Sisko to fix things. They're asking YOU to save the galaxy.

What disadvantages present themselves in setting the game so far removed from any known Trek series or movie?

Christine Thompson:

I think the biggest disadvantage of moving ahead is the universe isn't exactly like fans of the show remember it. A lot of the personalities have retired or moved on. Earth Spacedock has been rebuilt. Some of the ship designs have been revised.

That could be a problem, but it's also an opportunity. Any universe, whether it's Trek or the Champions Universe or even something set in the "real world," needs to grow and change or it will stagnate creatively.

When TNG first launched, it was so different from TOS! A Klingon was on the bridge! The captain was bald! What was up with that?

Ultimately, moving the timeline forward re-energized the Trek universe, and we got three amazing series in that time period. I can only hope that we'll have the same experience in STO.

In the grander scheme of Star Trek lore, do you believe that the events of Star Trek Online will become official canon, or will it sit on the fringes in much the same way that many of the novels do?

Christine Thompson:

I think that's up to the fans. They're the ultimate judge of what they accept and don't accept in the Trek Universe.

CBS has been great about working with us and we've tried to craft a story that fits in well with what's already there. As to what happens in the future ... being accepted as "canon" would be great, but being able to tell good stories and make a fun game for the players is more important to me.

Your "Road to 2409" lore series contains a great deal of political exposition. How will you make all of these subtle nuances obvious and known to players when they pick up the game?

Christine Thompson:

That's tricky. It's an MMO, so we don't have the sheer mass of text that a novel or TV series does. Some episodes of the different series are 47-48 minutes of solid dialogue, and you just can't do that in a videogame.

We're trying different ways of storytelling to get the nuances across, and we have ideas about how to supplement what's in game with web content or additional stories.

Fans of the Path to 2409 should be looking out for "Needs of the Many" by Michael A. Martin, which is the first novel set in the STO timeline.

Why the decision to pitt the Federation against the Klingon Empire again? Surely there were other opposing factions that could have been considered?

Christine Thompson:

We considered a lot of different factions, or even creating a new one. But the Federation-Klingon conflict is classic Trek, and it's also a whole lot of fun.

In addition, when we looked back at the end of DS9, we could see the cracks forming. The Federation and the Klingon Empire are different. They think differently, they react differently to stress, they respond differently when being challenged. Take the end of the fighting on Cardassia Prime as an example - Martok and Sisko had very different reactions to it. I think we took what was there and followed it to a logical place.

That's not to say that Klingons are space orcs. They're not "evil," and we don't want to portray them that way. There's no right or wrong side in the Klingon-Federation conflict, and that's what makes it really interesting to me as a writer.

What, in your opinion, are the basic elements and over arcing themes of Star Trek that you have tried to incorporate into your lore?

Christine Thompson:

When you look at more than 700 hours of Trek, you start to see a lot of themes and commonalities emerge. We've tried to use as many of those as possible to create a Trek experience for the players.

Because this is an MMO, we're telling more than one story. Some stories blend into others. Others stand alone. This has given us the change to hit on a lot of different themes, rather than "this is about diversity" or "this is about humanity."

Underwater Trek seems to be all the rage in Japan, so why not dress up for it? Well, now you can with these Star Trek wetsuits, just like the uniforms that Kirk and crew wore, just made for the water.

They even come custom-fitted for between $435 and $470. Take someone in the red suit with you. That way you’ll be safe and he’ll be fish-food. And FYI, that Spock wetsuit won’t help you perform a Vulcan mind-meld on a Manta Ray. In case you were wondering.

Now even nerds have a reason to go swimming.

Star Trek Blu-ray Digital Download Codes All Used Up?

Nero, the Romulan villain who was driven mad by lens flares in the latest Star Trek movie, found a way to travel forward in time and use up a bunch of authorization codes included in special edition Blu-ray sets. For now, until Paramount's support staff get back from the holidays, all you can do with that third disc is flash light into the eyes of people around you and call yourself J. J. Abrams.

Andrew writes:

So I received Star Trek on Blu-ray for the holidays. It was the target exclusive 3 disc edition with the 3rd disc holding the “digital copy” which can be transferred to your computer and mobile devices(ipod/iphone etc.).

I pop open the disc and insert it and open iTunes. I find the pack in insert with the redeem code for authorizing my digital copy through iTunes and then iTunes tells me that the code has already been used and can not be used again. I’ve done the digital copy process(on other movies) many times and have never received that error.

So I start looking for a solution and head over to the apple iTunes discussion board and make the following thread:

And apparently this indeed a large issue with many people. This looks like a breakdown on paramount’s security. I wrote to them on their support site but haven’t received a reply back(holidays of course).

If the same thing has happened to you, contact Paramount and ask for a replacement code. In the thread referenced above, a person speaking on behalf of the studio wrote:

We are still investigating this issue, but I can assure everyone that if they contact support via the website at, they will receive a new code for their digital copy of Star Trek for iTunes or Windows Media. However our support team has been very backed up because of the holidays so if you don't get a reply right away, don't panic. We will get to you.

Step forward for StarTrek

GANGS of enthusiastic walkers are being invited to take up the annual StarTrek Challenge of a gentle night time stroll across Exmoor to raise money for the region's two hospices.

The next instalment of the popular Ilfracombe Rotary Club charity event will be held on Saturday, February 27, as teams of sponsored walkers orienteer their way across the moor during the hours of darkness.

Groups of friends, local business, organisations or clubs are all invited to organise a team of four to six people to take on the 14-16 mile route, whose location is kept a closely guarded secret until about a week before the event.

With the aid of a compass and map the walkers will be tasked with following a figure of eight route, finding clues and following instructions to answer questions as they go. It is not a race - the winning team, is the one with the most correct answers on their questionnaire, as well as the most sponsorship raised.

There are no prizes as such, but the StarTrek Challenge Shield is awarded to the winning team, who receive £500 to give to a charity or good cause of their choice. Second and third places are given £300 and £150 respectively, while a prize is awarded for the team with the most sponsorship.

Since it began in 1992 the event has raised more than £500,000 in sponsorship, with a record amount of £44,000 raised last year by 87 teams.

"With their fantastic efforts they raised a record amount for Ilfracombe Rotary to use for both local and national charitable causes," said club president Robin Horne.

"In 2010, due to economic conditions and other circumstances there will I am sure be many more people less fortunate than ourselves who will need help.

"To this end I would ask all those brave people who have taken part in this great event in the past to register again for the night of February 27 and I would like to encourage others to make this challenging and rewarding night walk across Exmoor.

"The whole StarTrek team and I look forward to seeing you all there at the start and at the finish!"

The route is laid out around a base camp staffed by volunteers, who keep the contestants well supplied with food and refreshments, including hot drinks and breakfast.

A doctor and St John Ambulance plus search and rescue personnel are on hand throughout the event. The course is dotted with manned checkpoints and the whole is co-ordinated through the Raynet radio system and the main control room.

Entry is £5 per person, with walkers encouraged to raise as much sponsorship as they can. The event is limited to 100 teams, on a first come, first served basis. Teams will set out from base camp at set times between 6-10pm on the night.

2009: The Year ‘Star Trek’ Became Popular

It’s time to finally close the books on 2009, the year the world turned upside down. I know I’m not alone in thinking that at times during the past 12 months it has seemed like we’re living in some alternate reality, where down is up and up is down and people are flocking to see Star Trek.

In 2009, the venerable yet nerdy sci-fi franchise returned with a vengeance. J.J. Abrams’ “Trek” remake, itself about an alternate reality, is the perfect metaphor for our changing times. What’s old is new again, fresh off the line for a new generation of fans. I’ve encountered people I would have never in a million years suspected of liking anything to do with “Star Trek” suddenly loving this new movie, calling it awesome and beyond belief. The critics are in love with it. Audiences flocked to it more than any other film in the franchise.

And according to TorrentFreak, Star Trek is the most-pirated film of 2009. It claims this honor, much to Paramount’s chagrin, by beating Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. (Warner’s RockNRolla, with barely $25 million in worldwide box office, somehow came in third. Can we say “cult hit”). When mainstream and niche tastes collide, that says something.

People have asked me how I react to the new Star Trek movie, and I must say, as a long-time “Star Trek” viewer and fan, I’m a little dismayed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see something called Star Trek do so well. But at the same time I look back and realize how much we’ve grown apart.

To me, Abrams’ Star Trek is a good action adventure movie, with great special effects and solid performances. But the problem I can’t get past is that it’s called Star Trek. Having seen everything that has ever been labeled as "Star Trek," I’m pretty well versed in what to expect from that universe.

When the film is trying to pull off a "Star Trek" moment, I’ve seen it before. Grandiose shot of the Enterprise being introduced as the music swells? It’s been done, and with ships I thought looked better. Time travel? Done. Ice planets? Done. Space battles? Done. Fights? Done.

The film tries to play off a nostalgia I don’t think it ever earned. Leonard Nimoy’s presence certainly contributes to this feeling, but also widens the rift. Part of the reason I endured with Star Trek before wasn’t just the characters, but an affection with the actors playing the parts. There was a certain satisfaction derived from the idea that this storyline was being played out over decades, with the same actors.

Someone tried to defend the film to me by saying it offered something we hadn’t seen before, the origin story. But I don’t think we needed that, really. I could accept that Starfleet was a military organization, and these people were assigned to this ship over time. And this isn’t really the origin story that applies to any of the characters we know. These are alternate versions of the characters. It’s a new start. So the connection to old "Trek" is lost.

I could probably accept this film easier if it were a straight reboot. Or another sci-fi experience. But it is trying to be "Star Trek." It is trying to have it both ways. It is trying to justify its reboot by connecting the plot to the previous incarnations of the franchise. While most people will undoubtedly dismiss this as just another gimmick and move past it, I am having trouble doing so. My long memory and affection for a majority of prior "Trek" experiences is forcing me to judge this film by its attempts to connect to the earlier versions of the franchise. On this level, I believe the film not only falters, but offends my sensibilities in the way it warps what came before. And I found what came before much more interesting that what it is now.

Well, to be honest, I found most of what came before to be better. My favorite of the shows was "Deep Space Nine," which ended in 1999. The subsequent series and movies after were disappointments to me, and when those came and went I moved on. But I wasn't unwelcoming of a new incarnation of "Star Trek."

However, the new film seems more influenced by Star Wars and Starship Troopers than "Star Trek." The characters are named the same and share traits with those we know from before. Ironically, “Stargate SG-1” warned us of what to expect, half joking that greedy studio bosses would try to make the story of "Stargate" sexier by casting younger versions of the team. That’s essentially what we are getting here.

Again, don't get me wrong. I love Star Wars. It's just I liked "Star Trek" in a different way. It's like a guy cheating on his blonde wife with a brunette, only to find the mistress trying to spice things up with a blonde wig.

Over time, I think, I will appreciate the new Star Trek for what it now is, and distinguish it from the franchise history I currently cannot divorce myself from. And that’s on me. I believe this process is already well underway, as I find myself re-watching scenes and admiring the craftsmanship. Other aspects, such as the over-the-top factory look of the engineering sets, are too hard to accept.

With time, and sequels to come, I will probably experience these new "Trek" films for the distinct entities they are, and not what they are attempting to replace. But I think a part of me, like a ghost in the nexus, will always look back and feel a tinge of regret that something has been lost in the translation.

Like living in an alternate reality, it’s going to take some getting used to.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Zoe Saldana says 'Star Trek 2' to start pre-production December 2010

J.J. Abrams is busy with other projects right now, but that's not keeping Zoe Saldana (who plays Star Trek's Uhura) from giving us a few tidbits of information about the upcoming Star Trek 2 movie plans.

Zoe Saldana, a self-proclaimed sci-fi geek who just happened to land the role of Uhura in J.J. Abrams' reboot of Star Trek, told Collider that pre-produciton on Star Trek 2 could start as early as December of 2010.

“I spoke to J.J. and Bryan Burk, his producing partner at Bad Robot, and they are still in the middle of building the script with Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci, and we’ll probably be going into pre-production around this time next year.”

Of course, this does not mean that a script has been penned, or even that J.J. Abrams' and company know exactly where they're going with the next installment of the geek-and-non-geek-friendly reboot of the Star Trek franchise. Only the J.J. knows what he and his crew are going to make of this series, and it is unlikely that they have had the chance to solidify anything just yet.

In the meantime, J.J. Abrams has been busy with a currently secretive project as well as the foundation-laying of NBC's new show Undercovers.

Stuart Baird Says He Has Given Star Trek Nemesis His Best Shot

ToTal Sci Fi just posted another of their "Archive Interviews", this time an interview with Star Trek Nemesis director Stuart Baird, originally published in the british Dreamwatch magazine issue 99 (December 2002). Here are few excerpts of the interview.

"It looks very big," Baird said about Nemesis at the time. "These Star Trek movies have very tight budgets, so I think people will be surprised at the scale of the picture. I think the cast has done a great job. Jerry Goldsmith has done an excellent score and Digital Domain has done an excellent job on the visual effects. I think everybody has done really well.

"I've given it my best shot," he stated firmly. "I've made the best possible picture I can with the resources I was given. I'm proud of what I've done, and I think it's going to surprise a lot of people as a Star Trek picture."

"My greatest wish is that the fans will love this movie," he declared. "I hope the fans will want to see it several times, because it's got so much in it for them. I really don't want to disappoint any of the fans. Even though I'm not a Trekkie myself, I respect all those people who have loved the characters all these years."

Style Star of 2009: Zoe Saldana

Zoe Saldana has rocked my fashion world this year. Having been in two, not just major, but MAAAJOR movies this year, Star Trek and Avatar, Zoe is now not only on the top of our celebrity radars, but for me, on the top of my fashion radar. Every red carpet she hits and sidewalk she graces, Zoe Saldana is absolutely stunning. Each outfit more incredible than the next. From her gown choices, to her easy denim chic you can’t find somebody more stylish this year. (see slideshow below) She truly embodies what I like to call “effortless style”. It’s an ease, a poise, a confidence, a sexy storm, but quietly understated. You want to hate her, but you can’t help loving her because you know there is somebody genuine behind all this glitz and glamour. (...or at least I’d like to think.)

So what is it about her that is so radiant? There are a couple fashion concepts that I believe are happening here and of course, I would assume she has a stylist who has helped her on her way to becoming the 2009 fashion power house that she is. But to me, "Laurie the Image Consultant", Zoe Saldana has a classic, elegant but dramatic sense of style. She typically sticks to a couple main colors, blacks, off whites, silver metallics and red. Consistency has worked for her because in staying with this palatte she has found the colors that are most complimentary to her coloring and hence gives this extra radiance to her skin. It’s harmony from body to material. Zoe also sticks to a couple main silhouettes. Form fitting dresses are clearly her go to dress of choice. Each dress, one after another is fitted to her feminine shape and takes turns showing off drama in her sexiest assets. Particularly her shoulders. But in contrast to the form fitting and high drama of her red carpet looks, her casual chic has a more relaxed feeling to them, yet still beyond stylish. With easy denim or soft draped pant suits, draped tees and blouses, structured jackets and platforms to boot, Zoe has mastered casual cool. My favorite part, is she wears very little jewelry, which is just another subtle reference to the classic, not overdone, always effortless looking chic she exudes. Brilliant.

You too can master your own style like Zoe. It takes understanding yourself, your body and your surroundings. Find what works for you and you can build from there. Just remember no matter what you wear, whether you’d like to emulate Zoe Saldana’s style, or rock your own chic look, the best accessory you can carry is confidence! From your Editor-in-Chic... I’ll see you on the streets!

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Fool’s Gold #1

Taking place between the third and fourth seasons of “Star Trek: Deep Space 9,” “Fool’s Gold” #1 acts mostly as the first act of a television episode, setting up the plot without delivering anything of great interest on its own. However, it does set things up well, creating an intriguing mystery concerning why incoming traffic to DS9 has spiked, but outgoing traffic has tanked. The answer may lie with Quark, but he isn’t providing any clues.

The issue begins in a manner that explains the backstory of Deep Space 9 for anyone unfamiliar with it by focusing on two shady characters who have come to the station for unspecified purposes. The opening pages actually seem more like the beginning of a movie than anything else with main characters passing by quickly, allowing us to hear snippets of their conversations, while one of the shady aliens tells the other about DS9’s history with the Cardassians, the Bajorans, the wormhole, and whatever else seems necessary. From there, it jumps to Captain Sisko having an uneasy feeling about how quiet it is after the recent sabotage attempt by a Changeling that took place in the season three finale, which leads to Major Kira raising the issue of the amount of people coming to the station and not leaving.

When Sisko dismisses her concerns as a sign that people aren’t afraid to come to the station, she visits Odo who is having problems with all of the visitors as they seem determined to tear the station apart in an effort to find something -— and are bypassing his security measures to do so. While the Tiptons don’t quite have the rhythm and voices of most of the characters down yet, the way they write Odo’s dialogue is so good that you can practically hear RenĂ© Auberjonois’s voice when reading the issue as they alter the spelling of words to match his delivery. Hopefully, future issues focus on the security chief because of this strength.

Artistically, drawing a licensed property is difficult as walking the line between adherence to realism and telling the story can work at odds. Fabio Mantovani seems a little schizophrenic in this issue, altering his style between hard realism and looser storytelling. Of the two, he should stick with the latter as panels where he just tries to get across the message without caring how accurate he is to the show or actors are the best. Odo, in particular, comes off looking great as Mantovani takes liberties with his appearance to show his frustration with the visitors tearing apart his station.

Honestly, this issue is mostly mediocre storytelling from the writers and artist aside from any use of Odo who seems to be the only character anyone involved truly understands and can use to good effect. Perhaps, when this is over, the creative team should just work on an Odo solo story since that’s where their strengths lie. Until then, “Fool’s Gold” is fairly average, but does have an intriguing mystery to be solved.

Star Trek Synthahol in the Works

Researchers in the UK are working on an alcohol substitute that will allow you to easily counteract its effects and be instantly sober again.

If you're a Star Trek aficionado, you've probably heard various crew members refer to synthahol, an alcohol substitute with easily ignorable effects, should some Borg or Romulan related emergency arise and they desperately need to be sober in a hurry.

If you've ever been watching the show and felt intensely jealous, then you'll be pleased to hear that a team at Imperial College London is working on just such a product. The new substance is being developed from chemicals related to valium and while it provides the same feeling of relaxation and wellbeing that regular alcohol provides, but without the parts that cause mood swings and additiction. Best of all, the effects of the new substance can be sloughed off by taking an antidote pill.

Project leader David Nutt envisions a world where people can drink and drink without ever getting past the pleasantly jolly stage: "No one's ever tried targeting this before, possibly because it will be so hard to get it past the regulators ... Most of the benzos are controlled under the Medicines Act. The law gives a privileged position to alcohol, which has been around for 3,000 years. But why not use advances in pharmacology to find something safer and better?"

Star Trek XI: Making Sounds In Outer Space

The sound team responsible for the sound design on Star Trek XI explain how they created the sounds heard in Star Trek XI.

Some sounds in Star Trek XI are recognizable to old school fans of the original series, while new ones were created to meet the demands of modern day audiences.

According to Sound Designer Scott Gershin, it was necessary to update Star Trek for today’s audiences while still attracting the established fanbase. “The challenge was, how do we support the fanbase that’s familiar with the show,” he said, “but at the same point, bring in something that is new and fresh, something that makes sense in today’s society, the level of where audio is, in movies today.”

To impress today’s audiences, sound effects need to have more going for them. “When Star Trek was a TV show,” said Gershin. “There was no sub, there was no 5.1, so for my job, when the Enterprise fired…you need the power, you need people going ‘Wow that’s awesome!’”

Supervising Sound Editor Mark Stoeckinger spoke about creating sounds in space. “Interesting enough, at first, J.J. [Abrams] wanted it to be potentially silence in space and see how that was going to play and so the first sequence we worked on was the opening of the film and the Kelvin. And there was so much interesting action and visual effects and everything that was happening in space that we just felt like we gotta do something in sound. So we did put sound in space.”

An unfortunate occurrence for a Kelvin crewmember meant an opportunity to use silence in space to good effect. “There was an opportunity when one of the crewmen gets sucked out of a hole in the Kelvin to go to silence,” explained Stoeckinger, “and to experiment with that silence a bit and see what it could do and use it for dramatic purpose which I think worked out really well. And I know J.J. was very happy with that.”

Sound Designer Ann Schibelli spoke about sound effects with which most Trek fans are familiar, such as the swishing sound when ship doors are opened, and sounds associated with the transporter. “The design for the Enterprise door is such a signature sound that we’ve heard throughout the original series,” she said. “…I wanted to make it sound, you know, that classic [sound]. I was working on another project and we had recorded some Russian toilet flushes on a train. And it was one of those air flushes that had just a really cool vacuum suction sound. And as soon as I heard it, I said, ‘this is the sound for the Enterprise door.’ So that’s really what it is, a toilet flush.”

“The energize sound is from the original series,” said Schibelli, “the beam [transporter sound] is also from the original series, so there’s a lot of original elements from the original series that the audience can recognize and is familiar with.”

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Comics Review : Star Trek The Next Generation Ghosts Issue 2

The covers: Two covers, both by the great Joe Corroney. A spectral Jean-Luc reaches out to Everuud, as seen last issue. This illustration does make you want to open the book to see what's going on. The "Retailer Incentive Virgin" Cover is the usual cover image without any writing. Overall grade: Both A

The story:
I felt the story to be better this time that previously, so congrats to Zander Cannon. Every character (save Data, who I'm sure will be popping up next issue) has some very solid scenes progressing the plot: Worf is investigating the Dorossh's past, Crusher and LaForge are continuing to work on Everuud's situation, Riker has the best bits on Pages 11 - 14, while Troi believes Picard is in some sort of emotional funk. Only the Picard/Troi scene seemed lacking: I'm hoping this thread is going somewhere. I found Worf trying to define honor for the Dorossh solid and his predicament and solemn reaction to an accusation spot on. Little breadcrumb clues seem to be dropped throughout, which I liked. I now want to know where this story is going. Overall grade: B

The art:
I'm sorry to say that Javier Aranda's art has gotten worse. Previously I stated that I found his backgrounds good, and looking at Page 1 I can still say that's true, but go to Page 2 and the downward spiral begins: what's with all the crosshatching in Picard's room? He looks like he's in a padded cell. Troi's hairstyle is still terminally wet. The first panel on Page 3 has a tremendous waste of space: the bottom third of the panel is the black back of a sofa! Layout problems continue in the first panel of Page 4: too much dead space. Now Page 5 has Aranda showing well that he can master the seeming limitations of a nine panel page: this looks good. However, Page 8, why is Worf pointing up? Page 12 and 13 have Riker puckering up in every close up. Page 16, wasted space in the first panel, again (this issue of wasted space could be hammered on endlessly--a novice artist error). Page 21, really?!? That's O'Brien? The biggest gaff is the dialogue Riker gives in the second to last panel on Page 21, because on Page 22 we can clearly see Worf wearing an object that can save him from this situation. Could someone call Gordon Purcell to quickly salvage this series? Overall grade: D

The inks:
Should an inker go with every line the artist makes, or should they add or delete at their own discretion to make the art better? That's the question I ask of Marc Rueda. Marc, start making some changes because what the reader is getting is not reflecting well on you. Overall grade: D

The colors:
John Hunt has this book looking very pale. Look at Picard's room. I know it's supposed to be a moody moment, but what's up with the walls' coloring? Sick Bay is funky, too. The only time the page looks dynamic is when Worf goes outside; Page 20 is great! However, most of the book seems dull. Though I do have to wonder if this should be thrown at Hunt because of all the empty spaces his coloring has to fill. Overall grade: C-

The letters:
Dependable Robbie Robbins does a solid job with all the dialogue and two sound effects. Overall grade: A

The final line:
The story is better but the art is really killing this comic. Purchase this book only if you're a rabid Trek comic fan. IDW, I don't know how much money you saved on the artwork by hiring a non-name artist, but what your sales losses will be must outweigh the savings. Final grade: D+

Court dismisses Star Trek memorabilia lawsuit

A New Jersey man filed a lawsuit earlier this year claiming that he is entitled to $7 million in damages after being duped into purchasing fake Star Trek memorabilia; however, an appeals court disagreed and dismissed the case on Tuesday.

According to his lawsuit, Ted Moustakis paid $17,400 for a uniform and poker visor supposedly worn by the character Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and $6,600 for a table purported to be from the show's set in a 2006 auction, the Associated Press reports.

However, when the Trekkie showed off his items to Brent Spiner, the actor who played the android Data, at a 2007 fan convention, Moustakis learned that the memorabilia was likely fake.

The lawsuit claims that all three items Moustakis purchased were bogus even though he was led to believe that they were one of a kind and authentic by Christie's auction house.

However, the New York Supreme Court's Appellate Division ruled that Christie's auction catalog did not represent the costume as authentic and claimed that even if the other items were improperly advertised, Moustakis is not entitled to "the massive recovery he now demands." is currently selling costumes from the series for up to $2,000.

Leonard Nimoy Says J.J. Abrams Star Trek Movie Revived the Star Trek Franchise with a New Audience of Fans

he latest issue of NVision magazine features a new interview with Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy and here are few excerpts of the article, courtesy of ontd_startrek

"Star Trek went on the air in 1966," says Nimoy. "Many of the recent film's audience has not arrived yet. There were three seasons on TV and then we were canceled. And then there was the animated show. And then in 1977 I sat in a packed theater in New York and watched as a crowd cheered at the first Star Wars film. I thought to myself 'I'm going to be getting a call from Paramount soon.' The call came and we made five more with the original cast and four more with The Next Generation. There were more series, more captains, more crew many novels by Bill Shatner. And now there's been a new and amazing movie."

"I think the movie is terrific," says Nimoy. "It has obviously revived the franchise. There's a tremendous amount of new interest for Star Trek as well as a new audience for Star Trek There are a lot of young people who never saw Star Trek before who went to see this movie who are now interested in Star Trek. And I think there will be a number of them who will be interested in a video game and a number of them who will be going back to the original episodes to take a look to see what the roots of all this are about."

Regarding the scene in which Spock meets his younger self, played by Zachary Quinto, Nimoy said "It was very moving to me...he's a very, very good actor--very intelligent. He's well-trained. He knows his work, and he's very professional. If it have been a lesser actor it could have been disturbing for me to see the character pass on to somebody who I didn't think was appropriate. He was a very appropriate actor for it, and I'm very pleased that the character passed on to him. I it's in good hands."

Regarding Star Trek XII, Nimoy said "I frankly doubt very much that I will be asked to do that again," said Nimoy, "I think that wanted me involved in this movie to help make the transition from the old crew to the new, from the old cast to the new, and I think they did that very cleverly and very successfully. I'm not quite sure how they would find me useful in the future."

The full interview can be found in the latest issue of NVision nmagazine, now on sale.

Name a Star Trek ship class for Star Trek Online

Cryptic is giving future Star Trek Online cadets the opportunity to name three different classes of starship in the game's universe. The gallery below features the three as-yet-unnamed classes. From left to right, they represent an escort type, science ship and cruiser. We suggest:
  • Plot device class
  • Eventual ghost ship class (alternative: Red Shirt class)
  • Youessess class (as in: the U.S.S. Distress Beacon Responder is a Youessess class starship)
Make sure to read the full details regarding submissions [PDF link] before submitting ideas, which are due by January 8, 2010. Winners will receive a copy of the game and poster depicting their named class, which they can then fly when the game launches on Stardate 63554.5 (February 2, 2010).

Star Trek Online Hands On Preview [PC]

In February, Cryptic Studios' highly-anticipated MMO Star Trek Online goes on sale, so we've been exploring the closed beta for the last week to see if the Trekkies will be pleased with what they find. As a massive Trek fan myself, I was keen to get stuck in and see what the game has to offer. As always, beware of plot spoilers as I take you through the first 20 hours or so of Star Trek Online.

One of my favourite parts of starting a new MMO is the character creation process. After experiencing the character creator in Cryptic's Champions Online earlier this year, I wasn't entirely surprised to find that the system in STO was just as robust. First of all, you choose your career, which is equivalent to picking a class. A Science officer can provide healing and buffs, Tactical officers are your weapons experts and can deal out a lot of damage, Engineering officers can take a lot of damage thanks to upgraded shields, and can draw enemy attention.

Star Trek OnlineAs Starfleet, you have a number of race choices when making your character; Human, Andorian, Bojoran, Bolian, Vulcan, Feregi or unknown. Unknown means making a character from scratch, adding forehead ridges, antennas, weird lip fringes and what not – all the racial features from the universe of Star Trek at your disposal. Each race has different abilities, such as Acute Senses which helps stealth detection. Once that's decided upon, you get to choose more character traits that improve certain aspects such as survivability or overall damage dealing. This allows players to specialise in certain areas, or perhaps create hybrids. It also helps to make characters that little bit more unique.

When the stats and abilities are out of the way, you move onto the visual customisation. In addition to a plethora of facial options including hair styles, eye shapes, skin tones, and nose sizes, there are many other customisation choices such as hand and foot size, torso build, and leg length. There's a great uniform designer too, which lets players mix and match many styles and colours. Yup, Starfleet are slackening up on uniforms these days it seems.

Star Trek OnlineAs usual, the first part of the game teaches you how to move around, interact with others and use objects. At this point, your character is fresh out of the academy. One of your very first tasks is to deal with a group of invading Borg drones. Anyone who's seen the series and films will recognise the expressionless faces and shambling movements immediately, and it's suitably menacing. Cryptic has done a great job on capturing the relentless threat that emanates from these cyborgs.

Fallen enemies drop items that can be used by your character and, later on, by the rest of your NPC away team. You'll find things like weapons, personal shield generators and hypersprays. If they are of no use to you, keep them, they can be sold later on, and the credits can be used to purchase upgrades, better armour or ship improvements.

Star Trek OnlineNot long into STO, you are placed in charge of a ship, and must seek out and destroy malicious probes and enemy vessels. This gives you a good idea of how to cope in hostile situations when aboard your ship, but doesn't prepare you for a multi-ship encounter.

At the end of the tutorial section, you find yourself at the Starbase orbiting Earth in the 'Sol' system. This is where you can mix with other players, sell any goods that you don't need, purchase upgrades for you, your officers and your ship. This is also where you'll find the usual MMO regulars such as the bank, auction house and mission givers, and there are NPCs that you can visit to change the appearance of your ship and your character.

Star Trek OnlineYour success or failure in the game has a lot to do with your Bridge Officers, and the skills they bring with them. Each officer begins with one skill that can be used when in ship mode, ie. in space, and one that can be used on away missions. Bear in mind the careers of your team – Science officers are good for healing, Tactical deal out good damage and Engineering can take a lot of damage, that's your standard tank, DPS and heal setup, however it's not necessary to stick with that formula. You could just have Science officers, allowing you to focus on healing and beneficial effects, but it would mean sacrificing survivability or damage dealing. You can pick your BOs or train existing ones with different skills, at the starbase.

The first few missions involve travelling to a planetary system to investigate potential problems, which usually have to be remedied by taking part in a ship battle or beaming down to the planet.

AStar Trek Onlineway missions, quests that take place on the surface of a planet, are usually a lot of fun. Some require your character and his or her BOs to fight Klingons, Borg or other enemy races, other missions may need you to speak to the inhabitants to negotiate deals or act as a mediator. On combat missions, as you take out your enemies, be sure to pick up anything they may have dropped. You should redistribute new weapons and gadgets as you find them amongst the team to ensure the best performance from your NPC officers. If one of them is overwhelmed during a fight, they will be revived once the combat stops by another officer - this applies to your character too. If you are all defeated, you re-appear back at the last spawn point. These points are automatically saved as you progress through the mission.

Space battles usually go something like this: you arrive at the desired system and are informed via comms that there are enemy vessels lurking among some nearby asteroids. You must locate and destroy them. Sometimes they'll be cloaked, appearing when you approach, other times you can see them from a distance and have time to prepare. You may have to deal with one tough ship or three smaller ones, sometimes several very easy fighters at once. In the early missions, you have three weapons to use against ships in these situations; front phasers, aft phasers and photon torpedoes. Each of these have a firing arc, so you must be facing the right way to be able to open fire.

Star Trek OnlineYou do take quite a battering, especially if there is more than one ship attacking you, and you may find that one of your shields, port, starboard, front or rear, starts to deteriorate rapidly. You can divert power to one area specifically, or distribute power to all shields, which spreads the damage across all areas. I found spamming this the easiest option, along with the “fire all” button, which fires everything that your ship is capable of, depending on cooldowns and the direction you're facing in regards to your opponent.

When fighting in space, you also have the special skills that each of your BOs bring. One skill may be to reduce your opponent's shields, another could be the “Fire at Will” command, which reduces the cooldown time of all attacks for a short period. Another might be the ability to recharge your shields – that was another one I found myself using constantly.

Star Trek OnlineOverall, space battles are quite slow-paced against computer-controlled opponents, if the numbers are roughly equal. When an enemy ship is destroyed, it often drops an item that can be used in your own ship, things like shield or engine upgrades. Items are equipped to your ship in the same way you distribute weapons and shields to your BOs, by bringing up the ship in your party interface and selecting the item you wish to equip.

Each enemy you kill and each mission you complete awards your character with points that can be spent to 'level up'. You spend these points by investing them in special talents which improve your character in certain areas, such as better healing or better damage-dealing. Once a certain amount of points have been spent, your character gains rank. It works in a similar way with your BOs, and as they level, more skills open up for them.

My first impressions of this game are positive so far. As with Champions Online, the character creator is very thorough and provides the chance to make a truly unique avatar. Progression is different than many other MMOs, using a skill-based system instead of regular experience points. This does away with the grindy feel that you get from some titles. Away missions are always something to look forward to and, if anything, I'd like to see more of them in the game. Personally, I enjoyed them a lot more than the space combat, which sometimes goes on for a little too long and can involve simply pressing the same two or three buttons repeatedly. Fitting out your officers and ship with upgrades is enjoyable, and after most missions it's always worth seeing if you can swap out something for a better component.

Star Trek OnlineKlingon play isn't available on the beta right now, so I couldn't give it a try. We do know that there's not much PvE content for them, but that they can level through PvP gameplay, as can players who opt for Starfleet. Without any Klingons around, trying out PvP was a bit tricky, but hopefully beta testers will get a chance before the game is released.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

CyberKnife allows surgeons to boldy go where no scalpel can cut

John Sinclair has spent four years pitching the promise of a $4-million knife that doesn’t even have a blade.

The neurosurgeon has told anyone who will listen, including colleagues at The Ottawa Hospital, government officials and potential funders, that a technology called CyberKnife will revolutionize brain surgery and the treatment of many cancers.

Sinclair describes the CyberKnife as a cross between a robot’s arm and the sensor wand that Dr. Leonard McCoy used to pass over his mates on the Starship Enterprise to cure all sorts of ailments. But mostly, Sinclair talks about how the CyberKnife will improve the lives of many patients.

“Some cancer patients who had inoperable tumours can now be treated,” he says.

The CyberKnife uses targeted radiation to destroy tumours anywhere in the body, reaching into places a surgeon’s scalpel cannot. “Some patients will be spared invasive surgeries. No cutting up of the insides. No stays in the Intensive Care Units. Or long recovery times,” he says.

The CyberKnife has shown in recent clinical trials that it is as good as conventional radiation — without the side effects — in treating many different types of cancer, says Sinclair. Instead of daily treatment over six or seven weeks, it can be done over two or three days.

“That’s three radiation treatments instead of 35,” he says. “Imagine.”

After four years of asking others to “imagine” the possibility of the CyberKnife, the 42-year-old Sinclair learned recently that Cancer Care Ontario has chosen Ottawa and Hamilton to be the first centres in Ontario to test this technology. (A CyberKnife just began operations in Montreal.)

“I always knew we would do it,” says Sinclair. “It wasn’t if, but when.”

First, The Ottawa Hospital must raise about $3.5 million. For that it will be turning to the Hospital Foundation, as well as help from patients, medical staff and other private donors.

“When we get CyberKnife here our Cancer Centre will be the state of the art. It will be one of the best in country,” says Paula Doering, the hospital’s vice-president of clinical programs.

It was after Doering heard Sinclair give a talk in 2006 on the merits of the CyberKnife that she joined him in his mission.

“I thought, ‘Come hell or high water, this is coming to Ottawa’,” Doering recalls. She could imagine the immediate benefits. Operating rooms would be freed up because cancer patients would elect to have radiosurgery instead of an operation. Others would have their radiation times drop dramatically.

She said Sinclair’s passion for the new form of radiosurgery excited her.

Sinclair, who graduated from the University of Ottawa medical school, is the only Canadian trained in the CyberKnife’s use after completing a fellowship at Stanford University that included a year of training with its American inventor.

He turned down jobs at Stanford and Harvard University to return to Ottawa in late 2005 with his Ottawa-born wife and their three children. He made it his mission to bring the CyberKnife with him.

“What I see here is a change in the future of surgery. Not elimination of surgery but another treatment modality that a surgeon will be part of that will take us one step closer to the Star Trek situation where you pass the little wand over the tumour and get rid of it,” he says.

Sinclair didn’t set out to be a brain surgeon. He imagined a career in teaching. After getting a degree in kinesiology at the University of Ottawa, he applied to teacher’s college — and medical school.

He didn’t get into teacher’s college.

At the University of Ottawa medical school he decided to focus on orthopedic surgery. But he realized, after two years of residency, that he wanted to do more than bone and joint work.

“I did a rotation in neurosurgery and thought ‘Oh my goodness I’m in the wrong line of work’.” He enjoyed dealing with the life and death issues involved in brain surgery on critically ill patients.

He decided he wanted to be a cerebrovascular neurosurgeon, specializing in problems with the blood vessels of the brain. He was accepted to do a fellowship at Stanford University. There he learned to treat arterial venous malformations — “AVMs,” abnormal tangles of blood vessels in the brain that have a propensity to leak.

At Stanford, these AVMs were being treated with — among other radiosurgery tools — the CyberKnife. It was developed at the university by neurosurgeon Dr. John Adler. Sinclair asked to stay a third year to train with Adler.

“The world of radiosurgery exploded for me,” recalls Sinclair. He imagined his future. “It was neurovascular radiosurgery with oncology and radio surgery — one day, when I had a job, it would mesh them all.”

In 2005, when his fellowship was over, Sinclair had five job offers to remain in the U.S. Among them was the offer from Stanford and another from a hospital affiliated with Harvard University that had a CyberKnife waiting for him to use.

But his heart and his hopes were in Canada.

“My wife is from Ottawa. We had three kids by this time. And all our tax dollars went to train me. Our plan all along was to come back to Canada — at some point.”

A neurosurgeon job opened up at The Ottawa Hospital.

Sinclair recalls the reaction when he turned down the job at Harvard. “‘Tell me again why you want to go back to Ottawa?’ These were amazing job offers that you don’t get again. You can’t go back in five years and say ‘Hey, remember me?’”

But Sinclair packed up his family and came back.

He was the only surgeon in Canada trained to use the CyberKnife. The only problem: How was he going to get one?

Surgery using radiation — radiosurgery — is fairly common in Ontario. There is a Gamma Knife in Toronto and The Ottawa Hospital uses radio surgery techniques. It is used to treat cranial lesions and requires that a head frame be bolted onto the skull of the patient. The patient cannot move during radiation treatment, allowing for more accurate brain surgery, although this point is debated.

The Gamma Knife makes radiosurgery possible only in the upper part of the head, but the CyberKnife is being used against cancers throughout the body.

The technology destroys cancerous tissue by using multiple small radiation beams that are generated from a linear accelerator mounted on a three-metre-long robotic arm. A computer guidance system aims each beam with sub-millimetric precision, allowing extremely high doses of radiation to be delivered very close to normal tissue and organs, says Sinclair. Delicate adjacent tissue is spared.

The genius of the CyberKnife is that it can perform surgery on moving tissue.

As a patient breathes in and out, or makes other small movements, the machine uses X-ray cameras and its on-board computer to track the location of tumours in real time. The CyberKnife’s software adjusts to target the radiation beams to keep them aimed at the cancerous tissue.

The CyberKnife requires a team of medical professionals, including a medical physicist to help plan the radiation, a radiation oncologist to help design the treatment plan, and a surgeon who determines what needs to be removed or dosed with radiation. Everyone comes together to generate a treatment plan.

Dr. Shawn Malone, a radiation oncologist at the Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre, says he is excited by the potential of the CyberKnife to treat tumours outside the brain.

“There is no bolting,” Malone says. “We can treat tumours in the lung and liver and abdomen.”

Sinclair always hoped he could help bring CyberKnife to Ottawa. “It’s a huge part of the reason why I came back. If someone told me, you’re going to go back but you’re not going to do radiosurgery, I would have thought long and hard about returning.”

The next weeks are crucial as The Ottawa Hospital looks for donors. The Ottawa Hospital Foundation is raising money. An order for the machine must be placed. Sinclair is confident it will all come together.

He hopes to be able to have a CyberKnife operating at The Ottawa Hospital by May.

Gingerbread Star Trek Enterprise

Tis the season for all manner of geeky desserts. We’ve seen our share around here, whether they be Star Wars or Star Trek. All are delicious if not nutritious.

Here we have the Star Trek Enterprise made of gingerbread

. Apparently it lacks the necessary propulsion to keep it upright and so is kept afloat by several glasses beneath. I would love to take the first bite and cause a hull breach.

Is it manned by gingerbread men in Starfleet uniforms? I sure hope so. They would be delicious.