Category: Sci-Fi Café


Surprisingly for a Star Trek series, we haven’t seen much by way of tie-ins for this year’s newest small-screen incarnation, Star Trek Picard.  We at borg enjoyed the series, the Star Trek version of the Old Man trope that actor Patrick Stewart contributed to so well with Hugh Jackman in the Old Man Logan movie, Logan.  We especially liked the new Romulan characters the series introduced, and Jonathan Frakes’ Will Riker back in the captain’s chair was hard to beat.  Patrick Stewart has taken his beloved Jean-Luc Picard there and back again many times, so maybe we haven’t seen a lot more because it’s already been done before.  But out now for holiday gift-giving is a new look back at the good captain and his memorable commentary across seven seasons of The Next Generation, four feature films, and the first season of his new series.  It’s The Wisdom of Picard, a book full of his most memorable utterances.

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Now that the series has wrapped, a new hardcover book from Titan is taking a look at the long-awaited return of Patrick Stewart as beloved Star Trek Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Via a series of interviews with cast members and key crew, Star Trek: Picard–The Official Collector’s Edition provides fans of the CBS All Access streaming service show Star Trek: Picard with insight into the latest generation of Starfleet tales.  Now a retired admiral, Picard sets off on what might be a lost cause, protecting a young woman who may have ties to Data, the android who gave his life to save Picard the last time we saw the characters on the big screen in 2002’s Star Trek Nemesis.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

We previewed Dan Curry’s new look back at his work on Star Trek in September.  The nicely designed full color hardcover, Star Trek: The Artistry of Dan Curry is designed and reads like a true sequel to Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens landmark 1995 book The Art of Star Trek, once the only definitive look at the artwork behind the franchise (we’ve covered nearly all the Star Trek art books since then here at borg).  Like any professional in the art and design fields for a television or feature film crew, Dan Curry had a variety of projects he handled.  This book digs into Curry’s work from 1987 to 2005, basically Star Trek: The Next Generation through Enterprise, where he served as visual effects supervisor/producer, second-unit director, title designer, and concept designer, winning seven Emmys for his effort.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Now that everyone has seen it who likely was going to watch CBS All Access’s next Star Trek incarnation, Star Trek: Picard, it’s time to delve into the series.  If you haven’t yet, take advantage of the free CBS All Access offer while you can.  Series star Patrick Stewart has said he decided to bring his character back to the screen because of the role he performed for even more years than Picard–Charles Xavier in the X-Men series–specifically because of the strong finish he was able to give the character in James Mangold’s Oscar-nominated finale Logan, possibly Stewart’s strongest performance in his film and TV career opposite Old Man Logan as Old Man Charles.  Stewart succeeded, as Star Trek: Picard, already expecting at least another season, showcases the beloved character as Old Man Picard and wraps far better fans’ last meeting with not only Picard, but Data, Riker, and Troi, too.  And surprisingly it does that for Star Trek Voyager, specifically for Jeri Ryan′s Seven of Nine, who also had a rather anticlimactic finale in the last episode of that series.  Her new take is very different from before, but still lots of fun.

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For fans of Jean-Luc Picard, Data, Worf, Riker, Troi, Crusher, and LaForge, few efforts have come as close to original episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation since the series finale aired 24 years ago as IDW Publishing’s continuing adventures of the crew in the pages of the comic books.  Last year artist J.K. Woodward painted a brilliant new story of the Star Trek: The Next Generation era with writers David Tipton and Scott Tipton in IDW Publishing’s nostalgic Mirror Broken series.  Known already for his beautiful illustrations in the Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover miniseries Assimilation², the IDW adaptation of Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever, also with the Tipton brothers, and the covers of the Star Trek/Green Lantern crossover miniseries, Woodward brought his jaw-dropping photo-real paintings to Mirror Broken–providing poster-worthy interior artwork for every page of the series.  Woodward not only gave fans their first look at the ships and places in the Mirror universe of the TNG years, he created the never-before-seen look of each character for the franchise.  Beginning today you can get all five issues of the series plus the lead-in story from last year’s Free Comic Day one-shot in the trade paperback edition.  You can order it today through your local comic book store and via Amazon here.

But Picard and his crew don’t stop with Mirror Broken.  Coming this May, the Brothers Tipton are back to continue the Enterprise-D adventures in the Mirror universe with Star Trek: The Next Generation: Through the Mirror Chris Johnson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) will take the lead with the main story arc artwork and Woodward will provide back-up stories in each issue.   The crew is looking for new worlds to conquer, and they’re crossing over to the Prime Star Trek universe to find them.  Readers will learn how the Mirror universe crossover began, and fans will see an old friend again as Emperor Spock enters the picture.  Read the individual issues of the series or pre-order the trade edition here at Amazon.

J.K. Woodward homage to the NextGen crew, Mirror style, based on the 10th anniversary Continuing Mission photo.

But that’s not all that will be arriving at comic book stores this year.  Just when you thought it was safe to return to the Prime universe, a member of the crew is not what he seems to be in the IDW series Star Trek: The Next Generation: Terra Incognita.  Again David and Scott Tipton take on the writing duties, but this time fan-favorite Star Trek artist Tony Shasteen (Star Trek, Star Trek: Boldly Go, Star Trek: Discovery: Light of Kahless) takes over as illustrator of the series.  Star Trek: The Next Generation: Terra Incognita will feature six episodic issues reflecting the style of the and feel of the classic series over six issues.

Take a look at twelve covers released in advance by IDW of the two new series and the Mirror Broken trade edition:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For most television viewers, the names after a show scroll by without much notice.  But if you pay attention, you may find the writer of one of your favorite episodes is the writer of many of your favorites, which may point you to other series and episodes you’ve not seen yet that you may like.  You might not have heard of Paul Robert Coyle, but it’s likely that anyone who is a fan of one or more genre shows has watched the results of his work.  Or maybe you haven’t heard of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Star Trek Voyager, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Xena: Warrior Princess, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Superboy, The Dead Zone, Simon & Simon, or earlier detective and police series like The Streets of San Francisco, Barnaby Jones, Crazy Like a Fox, Jake and the Fat Man, and CHiPs.  Coyle wrote for these series, and readers of his new book Swords, Starships, and Superheroes: A TV Writer’s Life Scripting the Stories of Heroes may find he wrote some of their favorite episodes.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

This week Star Trek: The Next Generation observes its 30th anniversary of airing its pilot episode.  For this anniversary Titan Books released this week an over-sized hardcover book collecting artist Juan Ortiz’s poster art that he designed for a 2015 trading card series by Rittenhouse called the Star Trek: The Next Generation Portfolio Prints Series (previewed here at borg.com two years ago).  Like the trading card series, the new book The Art of Juan Ortiz: Star Trek: The Next Generation features all 177 episodes of the series, as interpreted by the celebrated illustrator and designer for firms that include Disney and Warner Bros.  You might recall Ortiz’s breakout work, his 2013 poster art for Star Trek’s original series, an eye-popping re-imagining of each episode of the classic show as if each episode had its own movie-style poster (reviewed here at borg.com).  For Star Trek: The Next Generation, Ortiz takes a similar approach–each poster an homage to an episode–but his style and focus are entirely different.  The Art of Juan Ortiz: Star Trek: The Next Generation requires the individual to take a bit of an intellectual journey.  If you were a fan of Ortiz’s original Star Trek series designs, you might approach this expecting something similar.  It’s not.  A flip through his book is more like attending a new gallery show of a modern artist you’ve seen before but he’s debuting an exhibition of new work.

As with any artwork the interpretation is in the eyes of the viewer, sometimes–and perhaps even usually–requiring the viewer to take an active approach to the viewing experience.  The viewer must participate in a review of Ortiz’s posters.  With Ortiz’s original series, they all rang with a similar nostalgia factor, applying mid-century retro imagery from advertising, movies, cartoons, and TV shows.  Some of his Next Generation posters follow the rules he created with his first series.  His poster for The Big Goodbye features a pulp noir cover with glimpses at the crew in the Dixon Hill holonovel.  The Dauphin poster features a stylized silhouette of the scene where Wesley introduces Salia to another world.  His look at A Fistful of Datas is an homage to classic spaghetti Western posters.  And his image for The Neutral Zone (as seen on the book cover) captures the Romulan warbird reaching out for the Enterprise-D, similar to stylized imagery from his first series.  Ortiz mostly forgoes the more expected nods this time.  He also forgoes 1980s design tropes–something a viewer might expect for a 1980s series homage–and opts instead for inspiration from indie film posters, black-light posters, rock/punk, and comic books generally.  The result is a bit refreshing while also unexpected and even jarring.  The artist clearly takes the viewer on a new journey–an intriguing one that tells the viewer as much about our own knowledge of the series as about Ortiz’s views of the series–while he explores a new and different way to look at Star Trek.  

Ortiz acknowledges in the notes that his favorite character is Brent Spiner’s Data, and Data seems to be his default subject matter for many of the images, while he also employs Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard frequently and appears to use Denise Crosby as a focus whenever possible.  As much as he focuses an image on the grand theme of an episode, he just as often pulls the most obscure–while still memorable–detail for the eye to focus on.  Take for instance his response to Parallels, an episode that showcases Michael Dorn’s Worf, who has crossed over from a parallel universe.  Ortiz instead uses as his focus Riker, featured captaining the ship and later destroyed among an infinite universe of Enterprise-Ds.  His view of Timespace takes a 1960s mod approach, and focuses on the humorous fleeting image where Picard draws a smiley-face in a cloud of gas.  With every image he seems to request the viewer to ask the question:  What part of the episode is being conveyed here?  With that query he causes interaction between the viewer and the art.  And the viewer may not always grasp the message of every poster, which may prompt repeat viewings.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new in-universe book finds Star Trek: The Next Generation captain of the Enterprise-D and Enterprise-E, Jean-Luc Picard, providing a first-hand account of his family roots, his Starfleet Academy days, and his career as one of the franchise’s greatest leaders.  The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard: The Story of One of Starfleet’s Most Inspirational Captains is edited by (actually written by) David A. Goldman, a Fall release published by Titan Books.  Goldman’s portrayal of the inner monologue of Picard paints a picture of the famous captain that most fans will recognize, a man who would acknowledge his roots in France, his ambition to join Starfleet, his valued friendships in people like Marta Batanides and Jack and Beverly Crusher, Boothby the groundskeeper, Professor Galen, and many more figures that he would encounter throughout his life.

Most of the book is the backstory that fans have only glimpsed of Picard via episodes of the series including Family, Conspiracy, Tapestry, The Best of Both Worlds, Yesterday’s Enterprise, The Chase, All Good Things…, many more episodes, and Star Trek Generations, but here many blanks are filled in.  Key to the series and the character of Picard was his long relationship with Guinan, and the Autobiography recounts their first meeting.  Readers will also find Picard’s surprising personal ties to the crew of the original starship Enterprise, via James T. Kirk’s nephew Peter, Hikaru Sulu’s daughter Admiral Demora Sulu, Admiral Pavel Chekov, and even Dr. Leonard McCoy and President Uhura at one of Spock’s weddings, where Picard served as member of the honor guard.  Of course, McCoy, Scotty, and Spock would all appear in Picard’s life in his Enterprise-D years (seen in Encounter at Farpoint, Relics, and Unification) and Enterprise-E years (seen in the prequel book to the Star Trek 2009 reboot movie, Star Trek: Countdown).  The Autobiography shows Picard in his own primary timeline fans know from the series (not his Q-guided revisitations of the past), all the way to his encounter with Spock before Spock returned to the past after the destruction of the planet Romulus, and ending at Picard’s retirement to his family’s vineyard in France, where we encounter Picard during the finale of the television series, and see an image of him with beard in his portrait gallery.

In many of these in-universe books, readers familiar with the character whose voice is being emulated may find it difficult to embrace the characterization.  Writer David A. Goodman handles that risk well here, interspersing some believable stories to bridge gaps from Picard’s past as told in the television series, and stitching together key pieces of his life toward the final quarter of the book into a complete and honest view of the character that many fans would call their favorite of all the Star Trek series.  Goodman also peppers his narrative with some Easter eggs via subtle throwbacks to not just Star Trek: The Next Generation but to other Star Trek series and movies, plus he also throws in some Star Wars references for good measure.  Are all the inner thoughts just as Picard would think and say them?  So much of the character of the Picard is in the British accent of actor Patrick Stewart, making both seem so much one and the same.  Stewart would add his own inflections, words, and phrases, supplementing the scripts.  The character in the Autobiography does not adhere to that same British voice, but the thoughts are still believably very “Picard.”

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When I was a kid Star Wars blew me away and when I think back it was the “wretched hive of scum and villainy”–specifically the creature cantina at Mos Eisley spaceport–that first introduced me to the idea of a wide, wide universe of alien beings.  Countless characters–makeups and costumes designed by movie artists in the real world–all milled about in one place and it was about as cool a thing as anyone could put on film.  My next great appreciation for aliens came from the Star Trek films, in particular the delegation of members of the United Federation of Planets in Star Trek IV: A Voyage Home–this bizarre assemblage of leaders, all wearing the common United Federation of Planets maroon officer uniforms, but each representing some far off world with all sorts of strange and exotic denizens.  Much of my excitement for aliens would come from Michael Westmore’s wonderful “aliens of the week” in the various television incarnations of Star Trek–I am a fan and self-proclaimed expert in the aliens of Star Trek more than any other corner of that great franchise.  Later I would be dazzled by the unique alien designs of Doctor Who’s 21st century Renaissance, where the British series really upped the ante of how unique and complex a weekly show could illustrate the potential of who is “out there.”  The updated Mos Eisley for science fiction fans would reach its zenith for me in two great ways in 2016 and 2017:  In the diverse cultures of the Yorktown space station in Star Trek Beyond and in the immensely populated Big Market in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  As much as the original Mos Eisley still stands strong on film, these two modern updates of “strange new worlds… new life and new civilizations” represent the best modern creativity in the world of cinema.  Makeup artist Joel Harlow, who won an Academy Award for his makeup work for Star Trek (2009), returned to the franchise for Star Trek Beyond, and in honor of the Trek’s 50th anniversary his team created 50 new alien races for the film.  A new book just released, Joe Nazzaro’s Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow documents in photographs and descriptions the development and creative ideas behind each new race for the film.  As a fan of aliens and Star Trek and this fabulous film, I haven’t anticipated a new publication as much, and I couldn’t be more satisfied with the result.

Journalist Joe Nazzaro assembled Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow unlike most behind the scenes accounts that only punctuate descriptions with the odd quote from a creator, instead providing his narrative as a reporter would–interviewing and sharing Harlow and his creators’ complete, firsthand accounts of developing, designing, casting and even applying many of the makeups.  We hear about Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Beyond from Harlow and creators behind the scenes including concept artists Neville Page, Allen Williams, and Carlos Huante, sculptor/makeup artist Richie Alonzo, and designer/sculptors Don Lanning, Joey Orosco, Lennie MacDonald, Norman Cabrera, and Mike Rotella.  This is the kind of access to the minds of movie creators that fanboys and fangirls dream about.

Let’s start with Jaylah.  By my count, in the vast world of great Star Trek female characters Jaylah (portrayed by Sofia Boutella) is the most developed, most intriguing, best badass heroine of them all.  Harlow, Neville Page, and Richie Alonzo really flesh out for readers the idea to application method of the unique makeup for this lead character from the film.  Although it may not be the most complex makeup design at first look, it required elaborate and surgical artistry to replicate it each day, and balanced many requirements to allow the actor to move freely through action sequences and stand out as the driving force behind the plot of the film.  Equally important to the film was the villain Krall (portrayed by Idris Elba) a character made up of all the alien races he had absorbed (which included callbacks to Star Trek’s Jem’Hadar) requiring additional complexity in design and style via its character’s backstory.  Creators Harlow and Joey Orosco delve into the creation of the four phases of Krall’s design made for the movie.

The most brilliant makeup is no doubt the alien Natalia (who appears on the book cover), the fabulous, spectacular nautilus-headed design by Allen Williams and Don Lanning and sculpted by Joey Orosco with contributions from Werner Pretorius, Lennie MacDonald, Steve Buscaino, Cristina Patterson, and Toby Lindala.  The head, bust, and arms for Natalia must reflect one of the best creature designs to ever emerge from Hollywood, and yet, like many of the 50 new aliens designed for the film (technically 56 according to Harlow) the character did not get much screentime.  In fact many of the aliens were for background shots and astonishingly a few did not make it into the final cut of the film.  The artists in the book also confirm the H.R. Giger influence on some of their designs for Star Trek Beyond–his designs also influenced alien creations of earlier Trek incarnations.  One of my favorite footnotes to the Star Trek franchise, and certainly one of the most obscure references in classic Star Trek is an intercom on the Enterprise-D in Star Trek: The Next Generation paging Dr. Selar to the Null-G ward–which we never actually get to see–but the Abe Sapien-meets They Live alien called Satine (designed by Allen Williams and sculpted by Matt Rose) is exactly the type of alien I envisioned you’d find there.

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Luckily for fans of Star Trek, the 50th anniversary of the franchise coincided with last year’s release of Star Trek Beyond, one of the most exciting films in the movie series.  That was thanks in part to makeup artist Joel Harlow taking the new alien creatures where no one had gone before.  Nominated for an Academy Award for his work on Star Trek Beyond, Harlow took on the daunting challenge of creating more than 50 new alien races for the film–one in honor of each year since the first episode aired on television back in 1966.  Those designs will be featured in a giant chronicle published this week by Titan Books.  Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow by Joe Nazzaro is surprisingly the first book to focus exclusively on the makeup artistry for Star Trek.

The closest prior work on creating makeup for aliens from beyond the Final Frontier, Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts by Michael Westmore and Alan Sims (still available at Amazon here) was a shorter, trade paperback overview of Star Trek makeup and props, and Westmore’s recent book, Makeup Man by Michael Westmore (reviewed here at borg.com) focuses more on the pre-Star Trek work of Westmore.  Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow author Joe Nazzaro also co-wrote a magazine-length overview of Westmore’s makeup work for Starlog, still available from time to time here.

Sofia Boutella shown with Joel Harlow’s makeup for Star Trek Beyond’s new heroine Jaylah.

Together with a staff of artists, Harlow embarked on the unprecedented scope of the project, while documenting the entire creative process for each of the 50 new alien types in exhaustive detail, from preliminary sketches to final make-up application.  Below is a preview of Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow courtesy of the publisher.  The new hardcover book is available for pre-order here at Amazon for only two more days at more than $15 off the cover price (price listed as of October 1).

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