Archive for December, 2009

Becoming a Whovian?

12/23/2009

Well, fellow Farraguteers Michael Day and Mike Bednar would be proud.  Over the weekend, I watched the much anticipated Dr. Who specials on BBC America, “Planet of the Dead” and “The Waters of Mars.” By the way, who comes up with these titles?!?! 

Also earlier in the week, I watched online, “The Next Doctor,” which was a more light-hearted and funny episode.  I had thought that this burley guy would be the next Doctor, but then found a picture of the one that will be replacing David Tennant, which was a totally different Doctor.

The Next Doctor

Anyway, I have to admit that I’ve become a fan of the new series and have to say that it was a combination of David Tennant (he really brought something special to the Doctor), the writers (Russell T. Davies and Julie Gardner) providing creative storytelling, and updated special effects that locked me into this British cult phenomenon. 

Below are my takes on the two specials:

Planet of the Dead – A really cool episode with a flying London bus with a rather hot, but profiteering risktaker “Lady Christina” – this character reminded me of Captain Picard’s girlfriend Vash (reference to Star Trek: The Next Generation). I wasn’t aware that contemporary/modern London knew of “The Doctor” and they seem to refer to him as some sort of hero?!?!

The Waters of Mars – This one explored a different take in the Doctor’s personality.  At the end of “Planet of the Dead” we see that the Doctor was warned about his life is coming to an end, and I guess that stuck with him.  While visiting the Red Planet in a space suit, the Doctor comes in contact with the first colony on Mars – Bowie Base One, which is under the command of Captain Brooke – this is a historic event where the bases is destroyed in an explosion, which the Doctor knows they’re doomed.  He quickly learns of the date:  November 21, 2059 – the same date of the explosion.  Being a good Doctor, he knows that this event is “fixed in time” and he must not interfere – therefore, he opts to leave Mars.  However, in the process – he gets stuck and helps the crew with some mysterious water problems.  At a point in which he can safely leave, the Doctor opts to not do so – but to change events. 

Through his numerous travels, countless companions, and heart-ache over heart-ache – you get the sense that he is tired and says to hell with trying to keep up the prime directive of non-interference (sorry, I know – it’s a Star Trek reference), and opts to save the crew.  Using the TARDIS, he brings most of them back to Earth – London that is, and then learns that they are reacting totally opposite of how he was expecting. 

He refers to himself audaciously as the “Time Lord Victorious” and he vows that with this power, he can now ensure the survival of pivotal figures such as Captain Brooke, as well as “little people.”  Captain Brooke scolds the Doctor for his new-found arrogance and asserts that “Time Lord Victorious” is wrong; she enters her home and commits suicide. The Doctor’s efforts at changing time are mostly undone.  The Doctor is overcome with emotion, realizing that his actions will have consequences. An alien with mandibles appears in the street and the Doctor seems to know this person; he is visibly disturbed – the Doctor asks him whether he has finally gone too far — whether the time has come for him to die. The alien vanishes, and the Doctor staggers back into the TARDIS. He yells, “No!” and begins to operate the controls – setting the stage for the next special, “The End of Time – Part 1.”

I realize that I need to watch all of the Doctor Who episodes and become more familiar with this great series.  According to my blog stats, the other Doctor Who post was the most read and commented blog post (in addition to anything Starship Farragut Animated).  It almost pains me to say this, but I guess I’m becoming a “Whovian!”

Christmas and Crossing the Delaware

12/22/2009

Fellow Farraguteer, Mark Hildebrand forwarded me this link to The Washington Post article – Christmas Solders of 1776

You see, this Friday, December 25th, marks the 233rd anniversary of George Washington’s famed crossing of the Delaware.

Farragut's 2nd Adventure Entails the "Crossing of the Delaware"

Starship Farragut’ second episode, “For Want of a Nail” has the Farragut crew traveling back in time – days before General Washington’s momentus crossing on the Delaware River. 

Carter and Prescott Talking with Doctor Holley (not shown)

As told by CAPT Carter and LCDR Prescott to Doc Holley:

CARTER
On Christmas night in, uh –

PRESCOTT
Seventeen Seventy Six

CARTER
Right.  A few months after the Declaration of Independence.  The army had lost several battles and was barely hanging on.  Washington decided to try a surprise attack on a group of German mercenaries.

PRESCOTT
Hessians.  I am impressed, mon Capitaine.

HOLLEY
I assume they were, or will be, successful?

CARTER looks at PRESCOTT, giving him permission to continue.

PRESCOTT
Yes.  They took the battalion at Trenton with only a few minor casualties.  With a much needed victory and fresh supplies, it galvanized the troops and the Revolutionary Cause.  Re-enlistments surged and the army continued fighting for another five years.

CARTER
All because that man sitting by the fire came up with a brilliant plan and was able to get his generals and commanders to take a leap of faith.

Uncanny, the The Washington Post article (written by Ed Ruggero) is very similar to what is stated above and goes into much greater detail:

The summer and fall of 1776 marked a low point for George Washington’s Continental Army. His soldiers were defeated in the Battle of Long Island in August, and, soon after, they had to flee New York City, leaving behind thousands of comrades taken captive by the British.

By December the Continental Army had all but abandoned New Jersey and hoped only to escape across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. Prospects for the rebellion looked grim: The enlistments of one-third of Washington’s men would expire on December 31, leaving him with a force too small to prosecute the war offensively against the British.

And yet, as his oft-beaten and demoralized soldiers retreated with the British and Hessians on their heels, Washington was already thinking about how he could strike back. He needed a victory to reinvigorate the cause and convince his men to stay on.

As winter set in, the British scattered their forces in small garrisons across New Jersey. On December 23, a day when the password used by Continental sentries was “Victory or Death,” Washington’s officers got word that they would cross the river and attack the enemy outpost at Trenton, New Jersey.

Much depended on surprise. Washington feared that an alerted enemy would counterattack and annihilate his army–and the newborn nation’s hopes–before he could escape back to Pennsylvania.

The weather was cold and clear on Christmas Day, promising frozen roads and easier movement. Then, at sunset, the temperature climbed and the rain began. The soldiers, some of them wearing only rags on their feet and all of them drenched to the skin and whipped by sharp winds, moved to the boats and out onto the ice-choked river. Once on the far side, the men slopped up muddy banks, man-handling balky artillery pieces. Washington rode alongside the column as it stumbled through the dark, encouraging the men in a calm voice.

Shortly after leaving the river, Washington encountered a small force of Virginians who had crossed to attack a Hessian outpost. The general was furious, certain he had lost the element of surprise. He would have been even angrier had he known that his was the only column that made it across the river; the two supporting attacks were stalled in Pennsylvania. He would reach Trenton after dawn, and he expected to find an alert enemy, yet still Washington pressed on.

Washington has often been called a lucky commander, and his luck held that night. Hessian forces that had spent the night chasing the Virginians returned to their barracks, exhausted. The Hessian commander, Colonel Rall, was convinced that no attack was possible in the miserable weather. He called off the regular dawn patrols of the river crossings that might have discovered the American advance.

The sun was well up by the time Washington reached Trenton. His soldiers, shivering and soaked by the freezing rain, moved their mud-caked artillery to a low hill at the top of King and Queen Streets. Riding at the head of his troops, Washington ordered, “Advance and charge.”

It was over in less than an hour. Rall was mortally wounded, and though 500 of his men escaped, some of his officers had run, leaving the regiment leaderless. The bedraggled American force captured some 900 prisoners and tons of valuable supplies. Most importantly, this victory breathed new life into the Revolution at the very moment it was about to expire. Nearly half the men due to leave the army chose to stay with Washington and fight another day.

What must Washington have been thinking when the sun came up that morning, revealing his wet and weary men as they plodded forward, heads bent into the sleet, following the clouds of their own breath? In spite of the defeats, Washington’s soldiers were willing to trust him again, willing to risk their very lives on his judgment. Can there be anything more humbling for a leader to behold?

This Christmas other men and women, the heirs of those sodden and shivering Continentals, are also far from home, taking risks their leaders have asked of them. Those of us who will spend this holiday in comfort should be no less in awe of the service they offer us than was Washington as he looked over his column of patriots on the road to Trenton.

Such a good article and appropriate with both the holiday season and the historic anniversary, I thought I should share with folks.  Merry Christmas!

Newcomer Talks About Her Farragut Experiences

12/15/2009

During our recent trip to St. Marys, we had a new volunteer joined our efforts to make CLASSIC TREK NOW.  Newcomer, Helene Smith joined us for the weekend’s Starship Farragut activities.  Helene, a Pennsylvania writer of both fiction and non-fiction has published 50 books based on history. 

Through her, I learned that St. Marys, Georgia is America’s second oldest city, with St. Augustine, Florida being the first.  But, I also educated her that St. Marys is also doing something quite rare and distinct – making new episodes of Classic Star Trek!

Marie Cook and Helene Smith

I interviewed Helene and asked her to describe her experiences with us:

When the first notice calling for volunteers was reported, this is how I entered the scene.  Eager to help, on a beautiful December 5th day, I went to the studio and met a car leaving.  After rolling down the window and asking for John, his father, John (who I had not yet met) pointed to his son beside him.  “Jack” jumped out of the car and upon learning that I came to help, enthusiastically greeted me.  He said I could follow them to nearby Camden County’s annual Chili Festival,  Since I wanted to talk with John, after looking him up on the Internet, I immediately welcomed the invitation, ending up in the middle of a three-car caravan, with the car behind me driven by another volunteer.

After arriving at the site, the previous day’s rain had not deterred any of the frivolity, including  costumed pirates and their ladies trying to lift their skirts to keep them out of the drenched field and mud.  (St. Mary’s was an early smugglers cove with more than one unsavory character.  One pirate said “Arrrrr” to me in passing and I responded similarly as his companion offered me a candy cane.  She asked on the sly,  “Do you take candy from strangers?”  Laughing, I replied, “Of course!” and hurried along to the Starship Farragut table and tent amidst the other vendors.

John introduced me to another volunteer, Marie Cook, from Jacksonville.  On the table I beheld for the first time the four DVDs that Farragut Films had produced–with one, For Want of a Nail, winning “Best Fan Film of 2008” at the Wrath of Con Film Festival in Panama City, Florida.  It was understandable, with George Washington portrayed in an exciting re-enactment of history.  This particular film is an excellent example of history being learned through the osmosis of an adventure film.

At the festival it was a delightful experience watching little children and adults alike coming up to the booth and being offered free DVDs! and autographed color photos of the cast.  One little girl was so excited that she came back shortly with a pack of her friends.  This ten-year old was aglow with budding salesmanship, and of course on the other side of the coin, there’s no better marketing than word of mouth.

Back at the studio I found out that Marie was an accomplished seamstress and the two of us immediately got busy, with her working on her own  machine and I doing hand sewing.  John, a creative costume designer, also working with the materials, some taken from original bolts of the first Star Trek series, gave us instruction as we watched the 2X4’s being laid out at our feet.  The bridge was on its way, with its panels already erected and finished  or being painted, replete with transporter room to beam folks up and down and the Captain’s Cabin besides the bridge.  At lunch break, on the second day at the construction site, Mike showed me the Captain’s chair and invited me to sit down.  He told me it was a perfect copy of the original Star Trek one that computer guru, Bill Gates, had purchased and donated to a museum.  John’s father and he had built it.  It is remarkable–control panels and all.  Mike also showed me the cell phones, also copied from the originals that inspired present-day cell phones.  Both days it was interesting to see how everything was carried out with precision, especially attention to details in both the costumes and the set.  Here, I also met Holly, another delightful, talented person. John’s brother, Michael (a Chief in the Navy), came in, too.

It is good to be part of the next generation of Star Trek through a new series and new characters.  But what impressed me the most is how this team of people, professionals and volunteers, worked together enthusiastically with dedication to keep the thrill of the original Star Trek going.  The same premise is still being promoted–education through history graphically coming alive, what public schools no longer offer.  This new creative and inspiring team also is obviously family oriented with good values–often a rarity today in the film business.  And the humor in the films, was another asset.  It was a very refreshing experience.  It doesn’t get any better than that–exciting, thrilling adventures into space. I commend Farragut enterprises wholeheartedly and am glad to help them out.

Helene and Marie Helping Out with Costumes

Thanks Helene.  We’re glad to have you involved with our project.  I will be posting again soon on this recent trip with the focus on set construction efforts – stay tuned! 

Also, Helene’s latest book, The Carnegie that Nobody Knows should be available by January at the St. Marys Visitor Center through the National Coastal Parks Service.  The book is about steel magnate, Andrew, brother of Tom Carnegie whose house is nearby to St. Marys on Cumberland Island.  Check it out!