Storytelling Geekery

What’s In a Name?

Lately I’ve been putting a bit of thought into the role names serve in fiction, about how they give a first impression of a character, place or culture.

One of the Star Trek franchise’s major alien races are the Ferengi, who began as accidentally comical characters in The Next Generation, developing into overtly comic characters who played a major part in Deep Space Nine. I was surprised to encounter a variation of the word ‘feringhee’ several years after first hearing it in Star Trek, in George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman, set in 19th century India. The alien species’ name came from a derogatory word used by Indians for foreigners, apparently particularly directed at white foreigners.
Production staff on the show have confirmed that this was the genesis of the word, with producer Robert Hewitt Wolfe stating that “Ferengi is, after all, the Persian word for foreigner, particularly for European.”
It’s difficult to work out the reasoning behind making this choice (particularly as not many of the target audience, in 1980s America, probably would have been aware of the meaning of the word) but it was a conscious choice to reference this meaning.

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Analysis, Storytelling Geekery

Star Trek: Into Dumbness

A warning – below the dividing line is a long series of massive spoilers for Star Trek Into Darkness, the latest film in the franchise, currently in cinemas worldwide.

During the last week I’ve watched the first 7 Star Trek films starring the original characters, as part of a review for Ann Arbor Review. This weekend I saw Star Trek Into Darkness in the cinema.

For those with only a superficial understanding of the Star Trek franchise, the first 6 films followed the original characters – Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty and all. There were then 4 film starring the The Next Generation cast – Picard, Data, Worf. The 11th film, directed by JJ Abrams has a time-travel/history-changing central idea, and stars the original characters at a younger age, played by different actors.
Into Darkness is the 12th film in the Star Trek franchise overall, following directly on from the 11th.

Star Trek Into Darkness is exciting, fast-paced, filled with obvious references to previous parts of the franchise, but there were a few times that made me laugh at how little skill the material was handled with.

I didn’t find Final Frontier, a notorious mess, as bad as Into Darkness. I’m pretty certain I laughed more at The Voyage Home, but that’s actually meant to be a comedy.

I’ve been thinking about what I liked and didn’t like in each, and have come up with 4 components to doing Star Trek right. It should be

  • Superficially exciting
  • Have strong character definition and interaction
  • Have meaty moral or philosophical arguments
  • Take place in a well-structured universe with understandable scientific and political rules, even if the science differs from what we know to be true.

Most versions of Star Trek don’t meet all four – for example the first film (The Motion Picture) is incredibly slow, failing the first requirement. First Contact doesn’t have much in the way or moral arguments, and there are notorious episodes  that fail all four, even from the classic series, such as Spock’s Brain, where aliens steal… Spock’s brain.
Into Darkness certainly meets the first requirement – being up there with the best of Star Trek in excitement, and achieves a pass on the second requirement, even though it’s a mixed success.
The third and fourth it fails miserably.

I’ve been thinking, both while watching and reviewing the first 7 films, and after seeing Into Darkness, about what I like and dislike about Into Darkness. I’m going to put a few thoughts down.

As a warning, the following is going to be absolutely packed with spoilers for Star Trek Into Darkness. Read on at your own peril.

JJ Abrams, by Gage Skidmore
JJ Abrams, by Gage Skidmore

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Review

Star Trekkin’ Across the Universe

The new Star Trek film, JJ Abrams’ second and the twelfth overall, is now in cinemas both in America as well as the UK (and presumably in one or two other countries).

Writing for the Ann Arbor Review, I’ve looked back across all 7 previous films starring the original characters, and reviewed them collectively, giving my thoughts on how the films measure up against each other, and purely as entertainment in their own rights.

While I don’t want to spoil what I have to say, Star Trek V is a total mess.

"I want to make a deep, serious film about the quest for God and the nature of free will, but with slapstick comedy!"
“I want to make a deep, serious film about the quest for God and the nature of free will, but with slapstick comedy!”

I hadn’t realised quite how much they vary in subject matter and style, but I enjoyed going back and rewatching some films I’ve not seen for quite some time.

Click here to read Marathon Man: Star Trek (Films I – IV)

Click here to read Marathon Man: Star Trek (V, VI, XI)

Film & Television Opinion

Spoiler Alert

The following contains spoilers for The Walking Dead up until episode 2.07.

The Walking Dead has just reached it’s mid-season finale here in the UK. Like many people who want to enjoy the visceral thrills of seeing a man beat another man to a pulp while remaining in denial about the serial killer within, I’m a fan.
The adverts in the week leading up have shown bits from the upcoming episode. Where The Walking Dead is different from many other programmes, is that rather than showing action shots from a variety of scenes, that look exciting but are difficult to gain any meaning from, The Walking Dead adverts on the FX channel have been an extended scene, taken, I think, from the preview at the end of the previous episode.

He’s going to be so embarassed when he looks down

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Egotism

My use of NaNoWriMo

Like many across the world who want to be writers but keep putting it off, I’ve been taking part in NaNoWriMo.
But rather than using the month, as intended, to get an entire novel written, I’ve used the thing for two different purposes – to get a short story written, and to get started with writing a blog.
The blog so far has been a partial success I’d say – got a fair few things down there, starting to get into a rhythm.

The short story, a science fiction story set on a space ship in the distant future (I never said it was anything profound) is something I’ve went back to on and off for a few years.
I’ve had greater problems with this. Mainly around self-consciousness – I tend to feel, when I’m writing, ‘did I do this right? Does this work?’
So I’ll obsess over whether jokes are funny, action sequences are exciting enough, and so on.

The taxation of trade routes to outlaying star systems is in dispute!

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