ALMOST STAR TREK: STERLING BRONSON RETURNS – BY TOM CURLEY

Several of my recent blogs here have been about Star Trek and all of its various iterations.

nerdist.com

nerdist.com

It’s apparently sparked a bit of a trip down memory lane because Marilyn just posted a funny (and true) blog about Star Trek called Ten, Nine, Eight… (Shut Up Spock).

It seems we have inadvertently (or advertently?) begun to write new mini-episodes of an old radio show we did a long time ago in a galaxy not that far away — and that Marilyn wrote what was probably the first parody of Star Trek.

When the original Star Trek went into syndication in the early 1970s, Marilyn and I (and many others of our tribe) watched them. Constantly.  Repeatedly. Usually under the influence of Romulan Ale.

giantbomb.com

giantbomb.com

I’m just kidding. It was usually Acapulco Gold.

barneysfarm.com

barneysfarm.com

We all loved all of them. Back then I was doing a one hour weekly radio show called “Fulton’s Folly” at WVHC. Our college radio station. (Note: Our alma mater is on Fulton Street, hence … )

youtube.com

youtube.com

It was a sketch comedy show.  Most of it was pretty dumb, but sometimes it was truly funny. One of our most popular recurring skits was the  previously mentioned Star Trek parody. Marilyn and a friend of hers had the idea, and called it “Sterling Bronson, Space Engineer.”

Why? First, it was an inside joke about the radio station’s real chief engineer. Second, we figured if we called it anything with “Star Trek” in it, we’d probably get sued.  Looking back “Star Trek, Oh God Not Another Generation!” would have been cool. The episodes recounted the adventures of the merry band of miscreants who flew a United Federation Organization Star Ship, the UFO Sloth.

Its crew consisted of:

  • Captain James P. Clerk,
  • Science Officer Mr. Spook,
  • Chief Engineer Sterling “Scotty” Bronson,
  • Chief Medical Officer Dr. Femur,
  • Communications Officer Lt. O’Hara
  • Helm Officers Ensign Tolstoy & Lt. Guru
  • Nurse Temple.

They were not the sharpest pencils in the Star Fleet box.

clipartkid.com

clipartkid.com

Hell, they spent the first 6 episodes just trying to get out of the transporter room and beam down to a planet. Marilyn and her friend wrote the first dozen episodes.

Our listeners really liked them. After a while a young aspiring writer who worked at the radio station began writing longer, more complex episodes.  One story is was a humorous send up of “The Caine Mutiny Court Martial.”  The young writer went on to become a successful science fiction and fantasy writer. His name is Simon Hawke.

amazon.com

amazon.com

He wrote one of my all-time favorite book series called “Time Wars,” available on Amazon.

A few years later I wrote and produced a full length one hour episode of the series. It was called “Sterling Bronson, Space Engineer.” Original, right? It’s online and you can hear it here.

It was serialized on another show I did later called A Half Hour Radio Show.

half-hour-radio-show

If I can ever find the tapes of the original series Marilyn wrote, I will put them online too. They are in my basement somewhere. I found them once. Damn it, I’ll find them again.

Years and years ago, I wrote the beginning of a Sterling Bronson episode that I never finished. I found the script a while back. It was printed on old dot-matrix computer track paper.

nearbycafe.com

nearbycafe.com

(Yeah, it’s that old). I’ve always regretted having not having finished it. What cracked me up is that it’s based on the same point that Marilyn’s blog made. That being how Spock has an annoying habit of constantly counting things down.

All of our recent Star Trek blogs have made references to,  our “So Called President”.

mobile.twitter.comn

mobile.twitter.comn

In that light I’ve updated the episode. A smidgen. Here it is: the “Lost Sterling Bronson Episode”. It’s supposed to take place in real time. (“24” ripped me off!).


ENSIGN TOLSTOY: Captain! A Trumpulan ship has De-cloaked and is arming its weapons!

CAPTAIN CLERK: Trumpulans? Who the hell are they?

MR SPOOK:  A recently discovered species sir. They are an off-shoot of the human race. Apparently, hundreds of years ago a small group of humans left Earth and colonized a remote planet. They worshiped some long-forgotten despot they referred to only as “The Donald”. They are known for their lack of attention span, their rejection of anything factual and their tradition of wearing dead animals on their heads. They are easily offended and will attack anything that does not worship them.

debatepolitics.com

debatepolitics.com

CAPTAIN CLERK: Great. A bunch of narcissistic alien assholes. God, I miss the old days when we just had to deal with Klingons.

ENSIGN TOLSTOY: Sir, the Trumpulan ship is firing!

MR SPOOK: Shields are down to 90 percent. At this rate we will lose shields in 75.1243575789

CAPTAIN CLERK: ROUND IT OFF SPOOK!

MR SPOOK: A couple of minutes Jim.

CAPTAIN CLERK:  Arm photon torpedoes! Lock all phasers on that ship! Ensign Guru, FIRE!

ENSIGN GURU: But sir, if we fire on them, then they will fire on us. And we will fire on them. We will just be creating very bad karma.

CAPTAIN CLERK: Damn it Guru, I know you’re from the planet Gandhi Five but I don’t have time for your left-wing peace and granola  crap right now. If you don’t fire the phasers, we are all going to die!

MR SPOOK: In 69.268 seconds captain.

ENSIGN GURU: I’m sorry sir. It is against my beliefs to attack anyone.  Even if they are narcissistic alien assholes.

CAPTAIN CLERK: Then why the hell are you the Weapons Officer?? Never mind!  I’ll fire them myself.

LT O’HARA: Now old on sir. You can’t fire those phasers. You’re not in the union. You’re senior management.

CAPTAIN CLERK: WHAT? Are you serious?

LT O’HARA: Yes sir. Article 15, section 5 of the contract states …

CAPTAIN CLERK: OK. Fine. Whatever!  Then you do it!

LT O’HARA:  I Can’t sir.

CAPTAIN CLERK: Why not??

LT O’HARA: I’m in a different union.

CAPTAIN CLERK:  I don’t believe this! There must be something I can do!

MR SPOOK: There is sir. But I suggest you hurry. Shields will be down in 51.7865 seconds.

CAPTAIN CLERK: Stop telling me the time and tell me what the hell I can do!

MR SPOOK: I believe you might be able to get something called “A Waiver”. It would allow you to fire the weapons systems on a provisional  “one time” basis.

CAPTAIN CLERK: Great! Get me one of those!

MR SPOOK: I’m sorry sir. You would need to get that from the ship’s shop steward.

CAPTAIN CLERK: Shop steward! Who the hell is that?

MR SPOOK: Chief Engineer Bronson.

CAPTAIN CLERK: Attention Chief Engineer Bronson. This is the captain. I need to get a waiver to fire the phasers immediately! If I don’t we are all going to die!

MR SPOOK: In 52.7685

CAPTAIN CLERK: Shut up Spook! Can you do it Scotty?

SCOTTY:  I can sir, but I’ll need more time! There’s a lot of paper work involved. I get can get it for you in about a week.

CAPTAIN CLERK: We don’t have a week!

MR SPOOK: We have 41.3454

CAPTAIN CLERK: SHUT UP SPOOK! OK, listen Guru, how about this. We don’t shoot the Trumpulan ship. We just “wing it”.

LT GURU:  Wing it?

CAPTAIN CLERK: Yeah! We “wing it”! Just like they did in those old holographic 20th century Westerns you love to watch. We just target the weapons systems. We “shoot the guns out of their hands”!

LT GURU: Hmmm. That sounds reasonable.

SFX: Phasers being fired.

MR SPOOK: Direct hit on all weapons systems sir. And I might add with 1.209384765 seconds to spare.

LT O’HARA: Incoming message from the Trumpulan ship sir.

CAPTAIN CLERK: Put it on speaker.

LT O’HARA: It’s an old-fashioned text message sir.

CAPTAIN CLERK: OK, put it on the screen

trump-tweet


I miss Klingons too.

ALL YOU ZOMBIES, ROBERT HEINLEIN

Time travel makes my brain go “eek.” This is a compliment. Not many things make my brain do back flips and somersaults. Time travel is an impossible concept I cannot understand because it is inherently incomprehensible. Therefore, I love it.

This review contains spoilers, so if you’ve never read this, you might want to stop now and allow yourself to be surprised.

I first read this story by Robert Heinlein long ago as part of a compilation of his classic short stories. After all these years, it remains on the top of the heap of time travel tales. I couldn’t remember its title, so it took me a while to find it. It is called “All You Zombies.”

Heinlein All You Zombies

In a strange infinite loop, a baby girl is mysteriously dropped off at an orphanage in Cleveland in 1945. “Jane” grows up lonely and dejected, not knowing who her parents are, until one day in 1963 she is strangely attracted to a drifter. She has a brief passionate relationship with him and becomes pregnant.

The stranger disappears.

During a weird and complicated birthing, Jane’s doctors discover she actually has two complete sets of sex organs. With her life on the line, the doctors change her from female to male. Jane is now a man. Then …. a mysterious stranger kidnaps her baby leaving Jane a man and childless.

Depressed, lost, he becomes a drunk and a drifter. He eventually, meets a young woman in a bar, who he impregnates during a brief affair. The story contains even more complexities, involving the Time Corps and a bartender. Throughout, everything continues moving forward and backward in time.

Read it, and get your own brain in a twist.

The story is a paradox, impossible yet structured with its own internal logic that you can neither reject nor accept. At which point, my brain goes “Eek!!” Jane is everyone. Everyone is Jane. She is her family: tree, trunk, branches and roots.

I found this amazing diagram on the Heinlein Society’s web page. They have lots of other cool stuff too and if you’re a fan, take a look. You won’t be disappointed.

all-you-zombies-heinlein-time-twisterThe circular logic combined with the impossibility of the sequence where the same person is mother, father and child forever in an infinite loop — the snake eating its tail — is deliciously mind-blowing. You can get it for your Kindle from Amazon for $1.25, or as part of an anthology of Heinlein short stories. There are several listed on Amazon, new and used.

Heinlein did much of his most creative writing in these early short stories. His later novels are better known today, especially Stranger In a Strange Land. The short stories have been forgotten by many people, but are well worth your time. Most were written for the science fiction fanzines — newsprint magazines that were the primary outlets for sci fi until the genre broke into mainstream literature in the 1960s. Not only Heinlein, but all the classic great science fiction authors started their careers writing for the fanzines.

I’ve read many hundreds of time travel books and stories over more than 50 years of loving science fiction. But this one, this story, has stuck firmly in my brain as the ultimate paradox where the past, present and future come together.

All You Zombies is my favorite for good reason. It’s unforgettable. I promise you will never forget it either.

ROBERT HEINLEIN – WALDO AND MAGIC, INC.

I’m always surprise at how many people have not read these two novellas at all, or read them, but completely missed the point. Some readers apparently can’t see any connection between the two stories. They apparently believe the two novellas are in one volume “to fill up space.” Since this is among my favorite stories in science fiction, allow me to remind everyone how good Heinlein was in his prime..

heinlein waldo magic inc cover

Originally published by Doubleday in 1950, Heinlein’s point was that all technology is a based on our belief that it will work. As long as we believe in it, all is well. If or when we cease believing, it will cease working. Everything is magic.

The stories proceed from that axiom. Humans lose faith in technology. Magic jumps into the void left by vanished technology …  and becomes technology. The difference between one and the other is effectively nonexistent.

I read these books at least 50 years ago. I hadn’t read them since, but remembered them. I bought them for Kindle and was glad to re-acquaint myself with them.

These were unique and original concepts when they were first introduced in the 1940s. They were still original 25 years later when I read them. They aren’t stale today, more than 60 years after the stories first publication.

The best science fiction is concept-driven. The ideas in these two novellas have stuck with me for a lifetime. Both are based on a single concept: we believe in what works — and what works is what we believe.

“Nothing is certain anymore. Nothing. Chaos is king and magic is loose in the world.” — Robert Heinlein

Available on Kindle, in paperback and from Audible.com.

WE NEED TO RUN A LEVEL FIVE DIAGNOSTIC! – BY TOM CURLEY


Warning: If you are not a Star Trek fan this will probably make no sense to you. Or not …


I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek lately. Not just the original. But most of the other ones too. Star Trek Next Generation, Star Trek Voyager, and Star Trek Deep Space Nine.

screenrant.com

screenrant.com

It’s addicting! I just keep watching. One right after the other. I admit I remember all the episodes from the original Star Trek. I’ve seen them all at least a hundred times and that’s no exaggeration. As for the other shows, I’ve found that some,  I remember. Others, I’ve forgotten. BBC America  will run an episode of the original Star Trek followed by Star Trek Voyager, then a Star Trek Next Generation episode.  I’ve never watched them all intermixed like that.

That’s probably why I never noticed there is one thing that all Star Trek episodes have in common. Something that they all do in all the episodes all the time. EVERY EPISODE! EVERY SINGLE ONE! I’m betting even the most ardent ” Trekker/Trekkie” has never noticed it!

What is it?

They run a diagnostic. At least one, often more. Any time anything goes wrong on or off the ship, they run a diagnostic. It’s the go-to solution for absolutely everything.

pinterest.com

pinterest.com

THE DIALOGUE:

Ensign: Captain, the  warp drive just went down!

Captain: Run a Level Two Diagnostic. Advise me when it’s done.

Chief Engineer: Captain! The Di-lithium crystals are absorbing too much anti-matter!

Captain: Send down a Level Four Diagnostic Team and advise me when it’s done.

memory-alpha.wikia.com

memory-alpha.wikia.com

Chief Engineer: We can’t do that Captain!

Captain: Why not?

Chief Engineer: We only have three Level Four Diagnostic Teams sir and they’re all busy.

Captain: Doing what?

Chief Engineer: Well, Team One is doing a diagnostic on the subspace communications array. Team Two is scanning the inertial dampers. And Team Three is running a diagnostic on why all the food replicators on deck three are putting “American Cheese” on everything it replicates.

americaomg.com

americaomg.com

Captain: I see. So what do we do?

Chief Engineer: Well, we do have a Level Two Diagnostic Team free.

Captain: Great! Send two Level Two Diagnostic teams. That would be the same as a Level Four Diagnostic Team. Right?

Chief Engineer:  Hmm. Never thought of it that way before, but yes I guess that would work. The  problem is we only have one Level Two Diagnostic Team available sir. The other one is examining the warp core.

Captain: Oh. …  OK. How many Level One Diagnostic Teams do we have?

Chief Engineer: Three sir. But one is busy.

Captain: Yes but we still have two Level One Teams free! Send in one Level Two team and two Level One Teams.  That will give us a Level Four Diagnostic!

Chief Engineer: Brilliant sir! Why didn’t I think of that?

Captain: That’s why I’m the captain.

I’d pay money to see that episode.


Here’s the thing. My Star Trek binge started right after the election.

thecollegefix.com

thecollegefix.com

Every day, I bounce from immersing myself in the whole” Star Trek Universe” and jolt back to this one. The real world. The. Real. World.

abc7news.com

abc7news.com

I think we need to run a Level Five Diagnostic on this episode of life. Something’s terribly wrong.

Oh yeah. And, if you are a Star Trek Fan, from now on, you will notice this “diagnostic thing” every time you watch an episode of any version of Star Trek.

TEN, NINE, EIGHT … (SHUT UP SPOCK) …

I have watched all the variations of Star Trek, from the original with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, through Next Generation with Patrick Stewart. I also watched at least some episodes of the other Star Trek shows, although they never hooked me like V.1 and V.2. But, the thing that all the shows had in common was how they could stretch ten minutes of material to fill 47 minutes of screen time. All they needed was a crisis and a countdown.

enterprise next gen

Whatever it was — the whosiwhatsis core is about to explode or implode and blow them all to kingdom come — or the next episode, whichever came first …


SPOCK: Captain!

CAPTAIN: Yes, Spock.

SPOCK: The whosiwhatsis core driver power module is about to turn this sector of the galaxy into a black hole.

CAPTAIN: Explain that in plain English.

SPOCK: We’re doomed.

CAPTAIN: How long do we have?

SPOCK: Eleven minutes, 12 seconds, and 13 microcars.

CAPTAIN: Not much time. I don’t suppose we have a spare whosiwhatsis we could replace it with?

SPOCK: No, Captain. Remember our last episode when you said we didn’t have time to stop to reprovision because you had a hot babe waiting for you on Euthanasia? And I said …

CAPTAIN (interrupting): Okay, that’s enough. So, what are you saying?

SPOCK: We’re screwed. All of us. As are the nearest 5 stars and their planets. Plus all intelligent AND stupid life in this sector of this galaxy.

CAPTAIN: Surely you can do something to fix it?

SPOCK: Don’t call me Shirley. I hate that.

CAPTAIN: Um, how much time do we have now?

SPOCK: Ten minutes.

CAPTAIN: Well, you’d better get cracking and fix the damn thing.

CHIEF ENGINEER: If ya’ have an old coat hanger, some duct tape, and a jar of peanut butter, I might be able to fix it.

CAPTAIN: You should do that. Now, would be good.

SPOCK: Nine minutes, Captain.

CAPTAIN: Shut up Spock.

CHIEF ENGINEER: SHUT UP, Spock.

CREW (in chorus): Shut up, Spock.

SPOCK: Nine minutes.


And so it would go for 45 minutes until in the last two minutes, before that final commercial interruption, the engineer and his clever elves slathered the whosiwhatsis with peanut butter, stuck a wire hanger through the center, wrapped it in duct tape and that gave them just enough time to save that piece of the universe.


SPOCK: Another successful countdown, sir.

CAPTAIN: Someday, we’ll have to have actual dialogue. Maybe a plot. You’d think our audience would get tired of counting down from 10, show after show.

SPOCK: They never tire of it. They love it. Sir.


We do love it. So, let’s just start counting down right now. From ten, because we have ten fingers and that means almost everyone can follow along without calculator.

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We know — because we’ve seen it over and over — if we start counting down from ten, by the time we get all the way to two, Deus Ex Machina (will vary with script, series, and creativity of writer) will save the day, the ship, the galaxy, the future of all things in this best of all possible worlds.

Of course, in  the Star Trek universe, they had the scriptwriters on their side. In this real time and place, I sincerely and passionately hope somewhere there’s a scriptwriter on our side. If the scriptwriter is with us, we won’t need The Force. 

Ten, nine, eight, seven, six …

BOOM. (Oops.)


TEN | THE DAILY POST

TACHYON WAVES, WARP DRIVES, AND A TOASTER OVEN

Garry and I binge watched the entire “Star Trek: Next Generation.” On Netflix. We had missed the show’s initial run. 1987 through 1994 were busy years full of work, moving houses, digging into careers. Getting married. Moving again. Watching TV wasn’t a priority back then.

BBC America showed the series last year, but not in order. When Netflix gave us the opportunity to catch up, we did, viewing two, three, four episodes each night.

star trek next gen cast

There’s a lot of tech talk on the Enterprise. No problem. Pass the warp drive. I’ll have a side of tachyon particles. I understand their science as well as I understand anything. Which is to say, not at all. I understand the engines on the Enterprise as well as I understand my toaster oven.

Tachyon energy is crucial to all kinds of weaponry and fuel. They are part of what powers the warp engines on the Enterprise. The warp engines are what lets the Enterprise be the Enterprise, travel at speeds faster than light … fast enough to explore the universe. Slither through wormholes. Travel through time.

For your information, a tachyon particle moves faster than light. The complementary particle types are luxon (particles which move at the speed of light) and bradyon (particles which move slower than light). If you live in the Star Trek universe, tachyon particles are as common as dirt. Or electricity.

enterprise next gen

Effectively, life and everything in it is a giant mystery to me, yet I feel as if I understand it. When they talk about it, I nod because I get it. I’ve been listening to this mumbo jumbo for so many years, it has achieved a pseudo-reality. Because when I look closely, there’s nothing there. I understand the technology of the 24th century exactly as well (and as much) as I understand the technology of the 21st.

How many of you know how the stuff you use works? Some of you do, but most of us know how to use our devices and gadgets, but have no idea why or how it works. I know how software is designed, how code is written and compiled. I used to know a little coding. In the end, though, I have no idea why code does anything. Why, when you compile a program, does it work? It’s just text. Why does it do what it does?

Why does anything work? Tachyon particles, warp drives, internal combustion engines, electricity, cell phones, WiFi. It’s all the same.

Magic.

And now, back to the Enterprise, already in progress.

TIME TRAVEL, PARALLEL UNIVERSES & THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT – ELLIN CURLEY

I am fascinated with the concepts of time travel, parallel universes and the Butterfly Effect. Fortunately for me, there are several TV shows today that deal with these things. One is Timeless and another is The Flash. The Flash is a Marvel comic based series in which the hero can run so fast that he can bend time. He can move both forward and backwards in time. Timeless follows a government team of time travelers who have to keep going back in time to prevent the ‘bad guy’ from messing with major past events and drastically changing the timeline.

In both of these shows, each trip back in time results in an altered present. In each, a seemingly random individual who is important to one of the main characters, is either dead in the present or was never born and no longer exists in the present timeline.

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This brings up the Butterfly Effect, a theory popular with time travel enthusiasts. The theory, mostly used in science, states that a small change can result in a large, unrelated change down the road. In everyday life, this means that unimportant decisions, like whether to go out to dinner or eat in, can lead to very different ‘storylines’ in your life.

There is both a movie and a play that depicts the parallel universes created by a minor life decision. The movie is “Sliding Doors” from 1998 and stars Gwyneth Paltrow. It tracks the different careers and love lives that the heroine would have if she a) catches a particular subway train or b) misses the train. For example, if she catches the train, she also gets home in time to catch her boyfriend in bed with another woman. If she misses the train, she also misses this tryst. Her life takes very different paths depending on that fluke of timing.

butterfly-effect-cartoon

The play was a musical called “If/Then”, starring Idina Menzel. The show follows the heroine’s parallel lives if she either chooses to go to lunch with friend ‘A’ or if she chooses to go to a play with friend ‘B’ instead.

Interestingly, in both the movie and the play, the heroine ends up with the same ‘love of her life’, just at different times in her life. Her career paths diverge but I think most people like to believe that some people are ‘destined’ to be together. The Jewish concept of ‘Beshert’ says that every soul is a half soul and that there is another person in the world who is their perfect ‘other half’. So in time travel shows, many aspects of life are allowed to be affected by chance. But we don’t seem to want to accept that chance can also change the big things in life, like true love.

TimeTravelSome time travel writers have a different theory. They talk about the fact that the past ‘resists’ change. Rather than believing in the Butterfly Effect as it relates to time travel, many believe that at least the major events in history are more predestined and less susceptible to change. It might seem easy to keep a major past event from happening, especially if small changes in the timeline can eventually result in big ones. But time writers feel that events, like WWI, the assassination of JFK, or the sinking of the Titanic, will find a way to take place no matter how hard you try to prevent it. You might want to read Stephen King’s brilliant book “11/22/63” about attempting to go back in time to prevent the JFK assassination. It was also made into a mini series, but the book is much better.
I guess it is easier to accept the idea that relatively small things, like the details of an individual’s life, are changeable and not ‘meant to be’. Maybe this is because on a small scale, cause and effect is more linear and knowable. On the other hand, historians are still arguing about the multiple and interrelated causes of the Civil War.

delorean time machineMy grandfather was hit by a truck and killed when he stepped off a curb too soon at the age of 88. I used to obsess about what led him to that exact spot at that exact time. I used to imagine the tiny things he could have done differently that would have gotten him to that spot even a second earlier or later.

For about a year after that, I would imagine each time I reached a curb, that it could be my last moment on earth — if the stars were so aligned. Maybe this is the root of my love for some of these theories.