Dead Not Dead – a Trope that Needs to Die

This article contains spoilers for Jurassic Park, The Rise of Skywalker and The Last Emporex. You’ve been warned.

There’s a trope that appears in fiction that drives me crazy, but I’m not sure I don’t violate it myself. So let’s deal with some examples, then I’ll let you know what I’m trying and you can decide if I’m being hypocritical.

Many years ago, I read Jurassic Park before I saw the movie. There’s a mid-point in the story that everyone knows: the T-Rex attacks the jeeps for the first time. In the book, the narration keeps shifting perspective so that you never see the attack from the person being attacked, but from the eyes of someone else present. Because of this slight of hand, Crichton appears to have killed off four or five people, including the children.

At that point in the book, I thought, “wow, what a brave writer, killing the kids!” Of course they weren’t dead. He spent the next fifty or so pages revisiting the scene to explain how just about everyone you thought he’d killed actually lived (except the lawyer).

I was so disappointed.

Fast forward to 2019 and what would turn out to be a very disappointing end to the Skywalker saga. The Rise of Skywalker contained a scene at around the forty minute mark where we believe that Rey has accidentally killed Chewie.

Hey it was the last episode in the series, and Chewie had been killed once in Star Wars canon already (now “legend” and no longer canon) so why not be bold and do that? I was thrilled to see that moment with all its emotional impact on both the audience and Rey. Not two minutes later we learn that was on a different ship. Yep, he was dead, not dead.

I love Chewie, and feel that The Force Awakens was the best presentation of him as a character, but killing him in The Rise of Skywalker would have given so much more weight to the fact that this was truly the end of the journey, that everything was on the line (Esquire agrees).

To the present: So I’ve been reading John Scalzi’s The Last Emperox, the final book in the Interdependency trilogy. I honestly haven’t enjoyed it as much as the first book, and have been struggling to complete it. Then, Scalzi “kills” the second female lead. I was skeptical. He doesn’t often kill off characters, they tend to have too much plot armour*.

Sure enough, two chapters later, she’s alive. Her enemies have conspired to fake her death and kidnap her, although exactly why doesn’t seem to be clear or sensical.

Now, a little further into the book (I haven’t finished it yet) Scalzi appears to have killed off the lead female protagonist. I’m skeptical about this one, too**. She’d just been talking with a shape-shifting AI about giving it a more prominent role in the current crisis. Her funeral was a closed casket, Scalzi makes sure to emphasize this.

Yeah, I’d bet dollars to donuts that she’s not dead either.

And I’m getting tired of this.

– – –

Now let’s look at what I’ve done and see if I’m not the biggest hypocrite going.

Two of my second tier characters, let’s call them T and M, get kidnapped by a ruthless enemy. One, M, is graphically tortured in front of the other, T, dying gruesomely for the pleasure of said enemy. That enemy then looks at T and says, “you’re next.”

We never see or hear about T’s fate after that. Nobody even claims that he’s dead. He’s just missing, lost, presumed dead. However, in the sequel we learn that he was never tortured, but kept prisoner to be used as a bargaining chip.

I don’t think this fulfills the “Dead Not Dead” trope because he’s never seen as dead, just threatened with a very powerful existential threat of death by torture.

What do you think, am I being a hypocrite?

——

* Plot armour is the trope that you can’t kill the star of the show, no matter how grave the danger appears to be. It’s very common in episodic TV shows, and when violated, like the death of Lt. Col. Henry Blake in M*A*S*H, can be shocking.

** I’ve finished the book. No spoilers for this ending, as the book’s only been out a few months. The more I think about it the less I like the twist.

Rise of Skywalker Theories

As most of you, I was surprised at how quickly Disney released the D23 footage of The Rise of Skywalker.

It showed some interesting new footage and offered a few possible hints as to some of the film’s plot points. I’m going to make some potentially SPOILER-y guesses ahead. Continue at your own risk. Continue reading “Rise of Skywalker Theories”

Shouldn’t fans decide what’s canon?

I’ve had an idea in my head for a while, and along with it, a word: fanon.
It seems to me that there is a very real but simple problem in much of science fiction fandom. For our beloved universes, the wrong people get to decide what is canon.

Not the sequel you’re looking for

I’m not deeply into the Star Wars mythology. Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (“the sequel to Star Wars!”) is one of the few Star Wars books that I’ve read, and I was growing beyond comic books around that same time.

I’m baaaaaack!

I understand that LucasFilm (a.k.a. Disney) has moved a lot of material out of the Star Wars canon, making it ‘legend’. I don’t have a beef with that, because I don’t know the rich history of the multitude of characters and myths that get lost by such a move.

Even as some people have been getting pissed that The Last Jedi is canon while Thrawn isn’t (update, apparently he is now), I’ve been doing a slow burn over the other franchise that J.J. Abrams has wrecked: Star Trek.

Yeah, I’m an old-school Trekkie. I’ve been to those conventions (Met Jimmy Doohan once). I love Star Trek the Motion Picture. It’s Star Trek’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I grok Spock. And I love Lucy. Basically I’m the type of fan that was being mocked in Galaxy Quest. And if you don’t understand those references, then, well… you’re young, aren’t you?

The Kelvin timeline was an absolute annoyance. Chris Pine will never be my Captain Kirk, I’ll never accept that you can beam the whole way to Qo’noS. Kahn was played by Mr. Roarke, not Sherlock Holmes.

Sorry, Checkov

I’m just old enough to remember seeing the Star Trek cartoons on Saturday mornings. And I loved catching the original series when it came on after school. I bought those giant poster magazines with the pull out posters of the Enterprise, Kirk at the OK Corral, etc.

Every engineer should own one

Hell, I owned the Starfleet Technical Manual (and also, somehow a tech manual on the cockpit of the Huey AH-1 Cobra gunship – don’t mess with me, man, I got game!)

Over the years, Star Trek has made some questionable choices (like the theme to Enterprise. Everybody sing it now: “It’s been a long road getting from there to here…”), but for me the most questionable was creating Star Trek: Discovery. This show isn’t Star Trek and you can’t convince me otherwise. It keeps trying to link to the existing canon, but in ways that are far more damaging than Enterprise ever was.

The bean counters at CBS, who may or may not have even seen Star Trek, are declaring what is and isn’t canon.

And I’ve decided NO. You don’t have the right to decide for me what is and isn’t canon. I’m and adult, I’ll do that for myself. And I’ll call it “Fanon”.

But this got me thinking about how I would define what is or isn’t fanon in Star Trek.

First there are three simple rules that filter out much of the crap.

1) Spock is an only child.

This gets rid of Star Trek Discovery in its entirety, and also Star Trek V, a film so bad I can’t even remember its name (The Final Frontier, I looked it up. You’re welcome. Now forget it. Please. Uhura finally gets a boyfriend, and it’s Scotty? Lass, ye kin do much better.).

2) Data is a singular and unique creation.

This gets rid of all of the stupid Next Generation stories involving Lore and removes B4 (and thus Star Trek Nemesis).

3) The Enterprise was built at Utopia Planitia, a facility based on Mars.

This gets rid of the whole “Kelvin timeline” in which the Enterprise was built on the surface of Earth and could do atmospheric landings. (“But, Roddenberry wanted that in the original series.” Yeah, but he gave the Big E straight struts to mount her engines, not curved shit that would collapse.)

Those three rules clear a lot of the crap out of Star Trek, but of course, there are also singular episodes that may need to be culled from the remaining canon.

For example, the last episode of Enterprise, the one that turns the whole series into a holodeck reenactment designed for fat William Riker and thus undoes the whole series. Yeah that’s gone. Along with it I’d throw out the Borg episode and the Nazi time travel episodes (I’m OK with the temporal cold war and the Xindi. I thought it gave an interesting look at the evolution of Starfleet’s codes of conduct. I miss the MACOs).

I guess we should eliminate the Voyager episode where Janeway and Parris are turned into slugs and have sex.

There was a Next Generation episode where Riker gets stung by a flower and hallucinates his past. It was a clip episode, Nothing happened in it that we hadn’t already seen – apparently he had no life before the show started and it’d only been on for two years.

Let’s get rid of the “Tasha Yar fights a woman to the death” episode too. It was, well, racist.

Maybe because it was all I had for the longest time, but I have a hard time finding any original series episodes to cut from canon. I know many people dislike Spock’s Brain or The Way to Eden, but I’ll take them.

Additions:

I’d include Star Trek Continues as canon. It was a respectful and well-done extension of the original series, even if creator Vic Mignogna has become a troubling figure.

I’ve read a few Star Trek books, all original series crew, and I’d include them as canon, except maybe Spock Must Die. Even then, I could be talked into it.

What about you? What’s your canon? What isn’t? Who should get to decide what’s truly canon, the fans or the money-grubbing weasels (“There is no bias detected in the wording of this question.”)?

Hit me up with Star Trek, Star Wars or MCU.

Finding blog topics – Star Wars Logo edition

Star Wars early logo

Every writer is told to ‘build a platform’ (get your audience started) before publishing. How do you do that? Well, they’ll tell you to be active on social media and have a blog —

Great, I can do both of those.

— and have fresh content regularly.

Oh. One thing that can be hard to do is come up with topics for a blog. Harder still is finding a topic that someone else hasn’t already done better. Continue reading “Finding blog topics – Star Wars Logo edition”

Getting the Gang Back Together

The usual suspects

When I was a kid, I was a model maker, and was absolutely obsessed with Star Wars. Of course those two paths crossed (to someone?s great profit, I’m sure).

Prior to Star Wars, my show piece was a WWII era Corsair done up as Pappy Boyington’s bird. There was a Spitfire, a P-38 Lightning and some others. Back then I built in 1/48 scale. Continue reading “Getting the Gang Back Together”

Useless Plotlines in Last Jedi, Force Awakens, Valerian

Valerian

I’ve noticed this trend lately in science fiction movies, and it’s bothering me. The movie’s going along at a nice clip, but all of the sudden something happens that’s completely unnecessary to the story, and the film goes off the rails. Continue reading “Useless Plotlines in Last Jedi, Force Awakens, Valerian”

Luke’s Father

Luke's Father

As we approach the debut of The Last Jedi, and may get an answer to Rey’s parentage, I thought I’d look back on the great reveal about Luke?s father, and how we reacted to that news.

Nineteen-Eighty was a great year. We finally got a sequel to Star Wars! But wait, the sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, was called Episode 5! We’d missed three movies 2 – 3 – 4? Where were they? Oh wait, Star Wars was actually episode 4? When do we get to see episodes 1-3? Yeah, well, when they finally came, we learned to live with the disappointment.

But back to 1980, we were more critical, more cynical (already!) and harder on things like the effects errors that we saw on screen than we had been three years earlier. But what engaged us most in post-viewing discussion was the burning question: Was Darth Vader really Luke?s father?

All George Lucas would say in 1980 was that we have seen Luke’s father, without confirming or denying Vader’s claim to paternity. SO we didn’t take Vader’s claim that he was Luke’s father at face value.

We had a number of theories. One that most of us agreed on was that R2 was force sensitive.The exact “why?s” for this reasoning escape me now, as in the first film, R2 got stunned by Jawas, and his head blown off by some generic TIE fighter pilot. But back the to my teenaged brain, it made sense.

In The Empire Strikes Back (ESB to the fans), we learn that the identity of Luke?s father is an important issue in the story. We wouldn?t have a definitive answer for the next three years. In the mean time, we talked, and talked, and talked. Many of my friends were sure that it was in fact Obi-Wan.

I had a different theory. It was Boba Fett. My whole theory rested on a very quick scene and two specific ideas. The scene, on the cloud city of Bespin, where Luke sees Fett carting a frozen Han away, contains the only interactions between Fett and Luke in the movie. Boba Fett, we are told, is a feared bounty hunter and gunman. He shoots at Luke ? multiple times ? and misses! When Luke tries to return fire, R2 interferes.

Why and why?

Why does Boba Fett miss? Because he knows that Luke is his son (but why then allow him to walk into Vader’s trap? Yeah, I know. I was young. Logic was new to me). Why does R2 stop Luke from shooting? Because R2 knows that Boba Fett is Luke’s father.

Well, alternate answers would be that a) Fett’s reputation exceeds his abilities and it’s damn hard to see out of that helmet, and; b) R2’s a jerk (we saw more of that in the prequel trilogy when it came out. I was glad he sat out most of The Force Awakens).

So, what about Rey? Hopefully she’s not Luke’s child, nor Leia’s. It’d be nice if the Star Wars story universe was as diverse as the Star Wars galaxy appears to be, and she’s a new blood line (I’m still mad the Chewie fought beside Yoda in episode 3, but agreed with Han that the Jedi were just a myth in episode 4).

What are your thoughts? Should Rey be a Skywalker? Should we care? Should I get a life?

Wither Luke?

It?s the hot question on the Star Wars obsessed mind, fuelled by the release of the new posters. Why isn?t there any sight of Luke in the trailers? Why isn?t he on the main poster?  Where is he?

It?s a given that he?s alive at the beginning of the film, since Mark Hammil has been cast to play him. Beyond that, we speculate.

So, let?s look at some scenarios.

Episodes 1-3 were Anakin?s trilogy. Episodes 4-6 were Luke?s trilogy. So, episodes 7-9 should belong to Luke?s child but would that be Rey or Kylo? (Why not Leia?s offspring? Could be, but direct line is Anakin-Luke-Rey. And it?d be nice to think that at some point in his life, Luke had sex. You know Leia and Han have been going at it like bunnies).

It would definitely be more interesting if Kylo were Luke?s child, but my gut says that its spunky, hotshot pilot Rey who is Luke?s offspring. Kylo as Luke?s son, an antithesis to Luke would echo nicely with the original trilogy and Luke?s mirroring his father.


Someone’s died. Could it be… Luke?

But let?s face it, it?s Rey, even if she doesn?t wield a lightsaber in anything we?ve seen so far (Luke barely touches a lightsaber in the original Star Wars). We?ve even seen photos of her running for the Falcon (which isn?t hers. – remember, we?ve seen Han and Chewie reclaim the Falcon, armed). We?ve also seen Kylo Ren walking out of the Falcon – for whatever that?s worth.

Is Luke Obi-wan (dead in the first film) or is he Yoda (dead in the second film)? This can?t be another Luke trilogy, so at some point, he needs to move out of the picture, and join his father in the ethereal realm.

UPDATE: Mark Hammil has stated that he has started growing his beard back, so that he can be in Episode VIII. So all bets are off – or are they?