Saturday, April 2, 2011
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982), THE RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983), THE QUIET EARTH (1985, NEW ZEALAND)
Here I was at Dragoncon, the number one science fiction and fantasy show in the South. I should have been in my element here. But something was wrong. I didn’t seem to be fitting in. I had been to Dragoncon before, but I guess it had been too many years ago. I was out of touch now. Were Magic Cards still popular? Was it all right to talk about Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the present tense? And what the hell was this show Firefly about? Would a reference to The Prisoner or Space 1999 make me seem like a hopeless anachronism? Of course, it shouldn’t. Even people that don’t fit in anywhere else could fit in here. You could believe in anything here. You could get your picture taken with almost anyone under the sun (at least for the low, low price of $25). But no, I wouldn’t pay for a photo. I might have considered having one taken with Jonathan Harris while he was still alive. And I might do it for Barbara Eden, who I’ve had a crush on since I was seven. Nah, that doesn’t feel quite right either. I don’t want to get my picture taken with anyone. I don’t even want to talk to anyone. What exactly is wrong with me? Don’t I see these scantily clad women dressed as extra terrestrials and superheroines? That should put a smile on my face. Maybe, but only momentarily. What about comic books? Is X-Men still popular? The comic I mean, not the movie. Is there even a discernable distinction? If there were, I wouldn’t know about it. Wait! Over there! It’s an authentic imitation alien gypsy inviting me to partake in a game on chance! Maybe I’ll go over there and…what am I saying? I believe it is time for a reassessment.
The waiter at Ciceroni’s wasn’t paying attention to me. It was frustrating. The whole day had been so damn frustrating. Now, all I wanted was another damn drink. No, what I really wanted was to fit in a way that wouldn’t look like I was trying to fit in. I needed to drown my sorrows. I felt despondent as I stared into my empty glass and shook my head.
Ryan James snapped his fingers in front of my face to get my attention. “Hey. Are you zoning out? What’s wrong with you anyway? For someone that’s been at Dragoncon all day, you don’t seem to be having a very good time.”
“No, I was having trouble feeling like I belong. I couldn’t find my niche, I guess.”
“Oh, bollocks,” Ryan replied.” You can’t find a place to fit in at a Science Fiction convention? I think we may have to exile you to the Island of Misfit Toys.”
I took a sip of my Pabst Blue Ribbon that our waiter had finally got around to bringing me. I was uncomfortable talking about myself at that moment and tried to change the subject. “So…what was the deal with Mike in that getup?”
“Mike Reimer? He was Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. A most impressive costume, I must say.”
“I know he was dressed as Gandalf. But why was he was going around to people reciting lines from Macbeth? Was he supposed to be Gandalf or Ian McKellan dressed as Gandalf playing Macbeth? I’m confused.”
“Stop thinking so much. He was in character and having a good time.” Ryan took a pipe out of his pocket and put it in his mouth.
“Oh, not the pipe. You don’t even smoke. And why don’t you ever wear a costume at these things?”
Ryan took a puff out of his tobaccoless pipe. “The pipe is all about image my friend. And as for a costume, I’m pretty happy in my own skin. I don’t have to dress up as a character from Babylon 5 to find contentment.”
“Is that why you talk with that fake English accent? You’re from lower Alabama,” I said, perhaps sounding harsher than I intended.
“Come on mate, you know I watch a lot of BBC,” Ryan said.
“Hmmm,” I said with a trace of envy in my grunt.
I took a bite of my linguini and dropped my fork before putting a hand to my stomach. “I should know better than to eat this stuff. Gives me indigestion.”
“Head on home, cowboy. Sounds like you need to regroup.” Ryan said. “You’ll have another crack at sleighing the dragon tomorrow.”
I tossed some money on the table and went back to my hotel room.
12:00 that night
Not only did my first day at Dragoncon not live up to expectations, but now I was tossing and turning with an upset stomach. I got up long enough to take some Nyquil on the stroke of midnight in the hopes it would knock me out. Before my eyelids closed, I could have sworn I witnessed a freaky red flash of light.
12:01 that night
I found myself at a long table in the middle of my den. How could I be in my home? I was in Atlanta, in my bed at the Marriott. I had to remind myself this was a dream. It didn’t need to have geographic logic.
I sat on a metal folding chair. Two empty chairs of identical design were on the opposite side. I had actual wooden chairs in my real den, not these uncomfortable metal eyesores. Once again, this was a dream, but obviously this was a dream without a competent interior decorator. But exactly what was it all supposed to mean? Was I to just sit here and wait for something to happen? As I was starting to get irritated at the uneventfulness of my situation, the room began to darken. I was actually glad that something was happening, but I didn’t know what to expect. Some unseen stringed instruments began playing; at least I thought it was string music of some kind. As I tilted my head to try to hear it a little better, an impressive masculine figure pushed his way through the door linking the den to the next room. He was camouflaged in the shadows as he approached the table. His dress was that of a savage, but as he slowly removed his gloves and took off his headgear, I saw his rugged face and long white hair. I realized this could only be one person.
It was Khan Noonien Singh from Star Trek Two: The Wrath of Khan. I knew this character was also in the original Star Trek Season one episode called Space Seed. As I looked at him again, it was clear this was the older Khan, from Star Trek II. I could hardly believe it.
“Khan!” I stood and shouted. But this was not a shout of anger; this was a shout of happiness at meeting an icon.
He looked me over, with that distinctive Khan tilt of the head.
“I never forget a face, Mr…Librarian,” he said in his methodical, articulate voice.
I laughed. “Oh, Khan. Isn’t that the same thing you said to Mr. Chekhov in The Wrath of Khan? But you were also in season one of Star Trek. Chekhov didn’t join the crew until season two. How would you have known him like you said when he came to your planet in The Wrath of Khan?”
Khan gritted his teeth and gave me a menacing look in response, so I didn’t pursue this subject any further.
Despite my pleasure at his company, I wasn’t quite sure how to talk to him. Finally I blurted out, “So, Mr. Khan. Is you being here some kind of Kobayashi Maru test? You know, the no-win scenario?”
“I know nothing of that which you speak. I am the superior intellect, but that doesn’t mean I know everything,” he hissed.
I tried to make some small talk. “Okay, so…how was living on Ceti Alpha V?”
Khan sneered. “I was abandoned there by Jim Kirk. He left me marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet buried alive…alive… I’ll chase him round the moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and around Perditions Flame before I give him up.”
I applauded. “That was awesome, Ricardo!” I said.
Khan reached over and grabbed me by my collar and lifted me over his head. He pulled me practically against his face as he spoke. “Don’t ever call me by that name again. I am Khan!”
I waved my hands in panic. “You’re Khan! You’re Khan!”
He placed me back in my chair and I took a deep breath.
“There is someone else I wish to bring out.” Khan said.
“Oh, from another movie I guess,” I said, regaining my equilibrium. “This is a Dragoncon dream, so it would have to be sci-fi to stay with the theme. Let’s see…give me a hint.”
“Return…of the Jedi,” he said.
“Princess Leia in the gold bikini!” This was obviously wishful thinking on my part, but Khan shook his head.
“Well, it must be Jabba the Hut then. It would stay with the whole villains theme. Hope the door over there is big enough for him to slither through.”
I started thinking. “Return of the Jedi. Probably my favorite Star Wars movie, except for the part with the…Oh, no!” I said.
“Yes.” Khan replied.
“Please, no! Not an Ewok!”
At that moment a diminutive furry little creature bounded through the door jabbering incessantly before leaping onto Khan’s lap. He was dressed like Khan, or seemed to be, though his rags may have been a little more tattered.
Khan smiled as he ran his fingers through the baby Ewok’s head like he was a prized pet Pomeranian. My dream that had seemed so cool a moment ago had definitely taken a turn for the worse. What did it all mean?
I decided to try to make the most of it and offered my hand as a greeting to the Ewok.
“Grrrr” was the only response I got in return as he stuck a tiny spear at me in a defensive posture.
“He can feel your anger...Relax.” Khan said.
I nodded to Khan before turning to the Ewok. “Hey, little guy, you can put that weapon down. I…I just want to talk.” I said this, but if I had had trouble making small talk with Khan, I definitely was going to have trouble conversing in Ewokese.
“How are things on Endor?” was all I could get out.
The Ewok said something to me, but since I couldn’t understand him, I only managed an uncomfortable laugh.
He shrugged, jumped off Khan’s lap and headed out the door.
“I think you bored him, my friend.” Khan said.
“Oh, sorry I didn’t provide more entertainment for a character in my own dream.”
Khan laughed. “Well, I have to depart as well.” He stood up and put on his gloves.
“Since you brought that Ewok in here, could you at least give me the line before you go?”
Khan cleared his throat and pointed at me. “You mean, I…shall avenge…thee?”
“Oh, that’s good. But I think you know what I really mean.”
“All right. But only because I upset your precious sensibilities with my furry little friend.” He turned around and the entire room darkened. A single spotlight shone on the superior intellect as he turned back towards me. He spoke dramatically and emphatically.
To the last…I will grapple with thee.
From Hell’s heart… I stab at thee.
For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath…at thee!
The lights came on and I stood as I applauded. “Thank you Khan. That was downright inspirational! I’ll try to use what I’ve learned in this dream to make Dragoncon more enjoyable tomorrow.
Khan glanced my way before he left the room. “It’s not through yet, someone else wants to see you. Farewell.”
I tried to ask Khan a follow up question, but he was gone.
I was still in the dream. Well, This was anti-climatic, or so I thought.
Then I heard a loud clatter as a man came stumbling through the door. He was balding, looked to be in his forties and was wearing a slightly askew gray suit.
He sat across from me and appeared to be hoping for a response.
“Hello,” I said apprehensively.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” He said in what I thought might be an Australian accent.
“Uh…could you give me a hint? You look like you might be an insurance salesman of some kind?”
“Oh, please. But, that’s all right.” he said. “I get this all the time. Let me reintroduce myself to you. My name is Zac Hobson and I’m from the movie The Quiet Earth.”
He reached out to formally shake my hand.
“Yeah, I remember seeing The Quiet Earth. 1985, New Zealand movie, I think. At the Georgia Cinerama. Yeah. I confess I don’t remember much about the movie itself.”
Zac looked disappointed, but not surprised. “You know my friend, it’s a very well received film. I’m sorry we didn’t include any Wookies or Klingons to adhere themselves to your fragile memory banks. Please forgive us for dealing with real people.” He looked at his watch. “What do you know? Time for your dream to be over now. The effect is due to occur right about-.”
Before I could question Zac further I saw the red light again and the dream was indeed finished.
Sunday at Dragoncon
Here I was at Dragoncon, once again, walking down the aisles of vendors. But on this day, I felt differently than before. Some looked up at me from their crystal balls, video game screens or from hocking their sci-fi wares and some paid me little or no attention. But that was okay. I felt comfortable in my own skin, as Ryan had phrased it.
I was looking all over for Ryan. I couldn’t find him at first. I did hear the voice of Mike Reimer and went over to him. He was once again decked out in his Gandalf outfit. He was clearly in his element and didn’t even notice me at first.
“It is a tale told by an idiot,” Mike shouted to a couple that really seemed to be enjoying his performance. “Full of sound and fury, signifying…’ He hesitated as he finally took notice of me, but wouldn’t break character. He gave me a thumbs up before turning back to the couple and continuing. “Full of sound and fury signifying…nothing.” I heard him say, his voice fading as I continued down the aisles.
I went further until I saw an outstretched hand holding a familiar looking pipe while feverishly gesturing. As I approached Ryan, I noticed him talking to a couple of attractive young girls who looked like twins and were dressed as fairies. I think they were fairies. For all I know they were characters from some science fiction cable show or maybe they were just groupies of some kind. Maybe they were characters from Firefly, though I still wasn’t sure what that was. Whoever they were, they appeared to be engrossed in his conversation.
“You see, ladies,” Ryan said in his faux English accent right before he took a toke from his empty pipe. “You see, the Mighty Thor has Mjolingor the hammer. It gives him a special strength. A strength that would be too much for even Superman himself.”
“Wow!” one of the twins said
“I thought Superman could beat anybody!” The other one exclaimed, placing the palms of her hands against her cheeks in disbelief.
“What about that Captain American? Could he beat Superman?” the first twin asked.
Ryan chuckled, holding his pipe off to the side as he did so. “First of all, ladies. It’s Captain America. He really doesn’t have any special powers. He’s like you and me. He does have a shield made of adantium. That might give Superman a run from his money. You know, the substance that Wolverine’s bones are made of. Of course, if you have a DC character go against a Marvel character, the victor would probably depend on who they’re working for.”
Ryan laughed so ferociously at his own comment, that he had to hold his sides to brace himself. The girls laughed too.
“You know so much.” The second girl said.
“Well, I.-“ Ryan paused as he finally noticed me standing next to him..
He nodded his head before he spoke to me. “I’ve been wondering where you’ve been, old bean. Now tell me, why are you trying to impersonate an insurance salesman?”
The girls giggled at his comment.
And for the record, I was decked out in a gray suit and tie that resembled Zac Hobson’s outfit from The Quiet Earth.
“You like it?” I asked him. “I got it this morning from the Men’s Wear Outlet. It makes me feel…It makes me feel like I belong.”
He patted me on the back. “That’s wonderful ole boy. I knew you’d find your way. It wouldn’t have been the path I would have predicted for you, but it seems to suit you.”
“It does suit me. It really does. Well, my friend. And ladies. If you’ll excuse me, I want to see what’s out there.”
I started walking down the aisles again. I was feeling good. I was practically strutting. I waved to all in that caught my eye. But something was still missing. Then I thought of Mike and an inspiration took hold of me. I cleared my throat, raised my hands and began speaking. The words just came out and they came out loud and clear and with a dramatic flair if I do say so myself.
“How hard to believe in the common good, when every fiber of my being tells me that the awesome forces I have helped to create have been put in the hands of MADMEN!
Is it not fitting then that I be made President of This…Quiet…Earth?”
Some people looked a little disturbed at my outburst, but enough people clapped to make me feel appreciated. It was then I noticed a glow to my right. At closer inspection, it was a ghostly apparition of the trio of Khan, the Ewok and Zac Hobson. As they stared in my direction, I interpreted the silent smiles on their faces as a clear sign of their approval.