Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mad Monster Party Dispatch #1



So...I had the tremendous pleasure of attending the Mad Monster Party in Uptown Charlotte from 5:00 to 10:00 pm last night, and I'll be back there from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm today.   

So far, it's been awesome. I've sold a few books, made some bucks, and eyed up some new collectibles.  The people in costume have been amazing and original: everything from Edwina Scissorhands (above) to the Ghostbusters, to... Frankenhookers.

In the span of a few hours, I also got to see at close range David Prowse, Brad Dourif, Tony Todd, Angus Scrimm and Dee Wallace.  They all look terrific, and I'm going to see if I can get a photo today of Joel with Mr. Scrimm, saying "Booooyy!" to him.  

That may scar Joel, so I don't know...

I was also able to catch up with some bloggers, readers, authors and friends during the course of the evening.  I saw Jane and Josef (all the way from Iceland!) and Deborah at my table, and spent most of the time with Not Bad for a Human co-author Joseph Maddrey, catching-up. I even got to chat with Lance Henriksen on the phone for about ten minutes, which was cool beyond measure.

My camera batteries died (d'oh!) before I could take a lot of photos, so I'm stocking up on batteries today.

I'll have more pics to upload tomorrow!  If you're in town, stop by my table in the vendor's room and say hello!






Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Jason of Star Command: "The Power of the Star Disk" (October 20, 1979)



"We don't even know what dimension of space we're in!" Commander Stone (John Russell) reports in "The Power of the Star Disk," the next episode of Jason of Star Command featured in our Saturday morning cult-tv blogging.

As you'll recall, Jason (Craig Littler), the Commander (Russell), Dr. Parsafoot (Charlie Dell) and Matt Daringstar (Clete Keith) have been sent into "limbo" by the evil Dragos (Sid Haig).  In that limbo this week, our heroes encounter a ghostly alien Tantulution, a "guardian" who establishes a telepathic link with the Commander.  

As it turns out, the Commander's race (still unnamed, I think...) bears a biological connection to the legendary Tantulutions, and the Guardian wishes to share his galactic knowledge with Stone -- a descendant -- before the planet's sun goes supernova.

Once the telepathic link is complete, Jason and the others are able to escape the planet (and dimension...) and return to our universe using a second star disk.  They do so just in time too, since Dragos has released a "warp dragon" to destroy Star Command...

The multi-episode Star Disk/Tantalution arc ends with this episode of Jason of Star Command, which primarily provides new details about Commander Stone.  For one thing, his score to settle with Dragos (mentioned in the previous episode) involves the fact that the despot drove his people from their home world sometime in the past.  We also learn that the Commander's people are related to the legendary Tantulutions, as mentioned above.  At this point, it's fair to state Stone is becoming the most well-developed of all the characters on the series.  For instance, we know more about his past than we do about Jason, which is strange.  It would be great if Samantha were to see the same level of attention as Stone in upcoming episodes as well.

Otherwise, "The Power of the Star Disk" presents quite a challenge for Jason as he must navigate barriers of fire to open a locked door inside the Guardian's panel.  An over-sized vent shaft also rears its ugly head, so I wished I could have seen this episode a few weeks ago to include a gallery image for the Cult-TV Faces of Vent Shafts.

Finally, the special effects are, once more, extraordinary.  The planet of "mist" is an impressive and creepy set, and there's a great shot here of Stone's crashed Star-fire, composited with the live-action.  The Warp Dragon also returns in this episode, and looks more impressive and menacing than before.

In terms of Jason of Star Command episodes, "The Power of the Star Disk" is a pretty good one, I suppose, though it still boasts some glaring errors.

For instance, in the insert-shots of Wiki, the episode cuts to the Year One model of the handheld robot, not the more recent upgrade seen in second season episodes.  Also, Matt Daringstar goes from being bounty hunter, traitor and "pirate" to a man who cowers and trembles at the presence of unseen ghosts in this episode.  

Not very daring, Daringstar...

At the end of this episode, the Star Disks disappear because man is "not meant to use them," which is convenient but doesn't make a whole lot of sense given the details of Samuel A. Peeples' story line.

I thought Commander Stone was given the knowledge of the disks as a descendant of the Guardian and the Tantulutions?   Why is the Guardian reneging on the deal now?  Does Commander Stone still possess the knowledge from the mental link?  Is Dragos just going to give up and move on to another nefarious plan to conquer the universe?

I have a sneaking suspicion that Jason of Star Command isn't going to answer these questions, but instead move on to something new and different.  


And just when it was starting to get kind of interesting, and building up a mythology about the universe, and its most ancient inhabitants...

We'll find out for sure, in "Through the Stargate..."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Don't Forget the Mad Monster Party





One more heads-up before the show: If you're in Charlotte N.C. (or thereabouts), come see me at The Mad Monster Party this weekend.  I'll be selling books, meeting fans, and making trouble.

Well, not the last part...

Hopefully, I'll get the chance to take some pictures and upload them to the blog.

Con info here!

The Films of 1982: Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann

Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann (1982) is a droll and perhaps even inconsequential low-budget time-travel movie from the great year of 1982.  Unlike many time travel films, however, this William Dear movie doesn't revolve around the future of humanity or some other Earth-shattering event or crisis.  

Instead, Timerider's approach is notably restrained, even low-key. 

The film -- which opened theatrically in December of 1982 and later became a staple of cable television in the 1980s -- is an almost mellow "fish out of water" Western adventure involving motorcycle racer, Lyle Swann (Fred Ward), as he travels back in time to November 5, 1877, fights some nasty bandits, and beds a super-hot woman, Claire (Belinda Bauer) who turns out to be, well, the "great matriarch" of his own genetic line.   

Timerider is a minor epic at best, perhaps, yet features moments that any aficionado of low-budget cult movies is certain to enjoy and remember with affection.  The movie just kind of rolls along from one situation to the next with humor, even if the whole thing doesn't ever coalesce into being a truly "great" or classic film.

"As far as I'm concerned, this place is history..."

In Timerider, the vaguely sinister corporation "International Computel" plans its sixteenth experiment in time travel, but the first one involving a living life form.  In this case, that life form is a rhesus monkey.   

Unfortunately, Lyle Swann is racing in the Baja 1000 at the same time as these unusual time experiments in the Mexican desert are slated to occur, and is zapped into the year 1877...along with the monkey.  

Once in the past, Swann takes an unusually long time to realize that he has traveled back in time over a century, even though the unwashed locals consider the red-suited rider "El Diablo," and his motorcycle a "fire horse."  

Soon, a gorgeous female adventurer, Claire Cygne, falls for Lyle, and shelters him from a gang of bandits, led by the diabolical Reese (Peter Coyote).  Reese and his partners in crime (played by Tracey Walter and Richard Masur) are bound and determined to steal Lyle's futuristic machine for their own nefarious purposes.

When Claire is captured by the bandits, Lyle joins up with a "padre" (Ed Lauter) and two U.S. marshals to take down Reese and his gang.

"You're the strangest woman I've ever met..."

In some important dramatic sense, Timerider is a quart-low on both anxiety and ambition.  

The film boasts what we would no doubt consider a lackadaisical pace in today's hyper-accelerated media environment.  The first several minutes of Timerider simply showcase Lyle riding his motorcycle in the picturesque desert to vintage 1980s synthesizer music (courtesy of producer Michael Nesmith).

And yet despite the lack of a driving pace, there's ultimately something pretty refreshing about Timerider's laid-back attitude towards, well, everything.  

Timerider doesn't push hard in any sense, and so the movie, at times, plays as extraordinarily funny, especially in the numerous culture clash or "fish out of water" scenes.  The low-key approach means that we discover the film's sense of humor for ourselves, and Timerider feels more rewarding because of that sense of personal discovery.   

Specifically, the director, William Dear, boasts a quirky and dynamic way of dramatizing critical moments.  One composition, involving the after-effects of a bandit's unfortunate encounter with a whirring helicopter propeller, is especially memorable and amusing.  All that remains are the bad guy's (shredded) boots...

In addition, Fred Ward and Belinda Bauer share some electric romantic chemistry in the film, and each time their two characters get together (*ahem*) and stop talking about the plot, the film dramatically picks up.  The relationship between Lyle and Claire represents the heart of the film, and watching these scenes, it's a wonder to me that Bauer was never a bigger star.  It's not just that she's absolutely, drop-dead gorgeous.  It's that Bauer's screen presence conveys a fetching brand of cunning intelligence and individual strength.  

Without a doubt, Claire is the most intriguing and interesting character in Timerider, a woman who, after the Civil War, was left to fend for herself.  She had to decide whether she wanted to "use her body," or "use a gun" to survive the West.  She picked a gun, and in the course of the film, Claire demonstrates her gun-fighting skills by shooting off a bandit's nose.  

But in Bauer's capable hands, Claire is capable, sexy, smart, and more than a little mysterious, especially in her final, almost inscrutable gesture.  That action, in a sense, creates a new world (or at least, sets one in motion...).

If Claire is mysterious, strong, smart, cunning, gorgeous and supremely hot beyond all reckoning, Lyle Swann isn't as carefully presented.  Fred Ward -- in slick long hair and wearing a red jacket that make him look like Michael Jackson in the Thriller video -- is a fine actor, and does a capable job playing Swann.  However, the movie never lets Swann be as smart as he should be.  Basically, until he meets Claire, Swann is given to saying things like "What the hell is the matter with everybody?" and asking if he can use the nearest telephone.  The script plays him as dumb, clueless, and out of it.  The gun holsters, the cowboy hats, the horses, and the general lack of technology all around him never seem to sink in.  In fact, it's unclear during Timerider when precisely Swann realizes he's traveled back in time.  Claire mentions the Civil War, and Swann writes her off as "crazy."

The movie has some difficulties with plausibility too. Swann's motorcycle never runs out of gas until the end of the movie, for one thing, which doesn't make a lot of sense given all the riding he does.  And there are occasional moments of  incompetence to boot. In one close-up shot of considerable duration, for instance, you can clearly see the cameraman's reflection in Swann's motorcycle helmet.  Oops.

In terms of theme, Timerider plays lightly (and again, almost casually) with the notion of a motorcycle showing up in the Old West and shocking the hell out of folks.  The locals react in fear and horror to the noises and lights of the 20th century vehicle, and in one of the film's funnier moments (played absolutely straight, again), an old bandit dies from fright when Lyle Swann shines a flashlight upon him.  Other culture clash moments are equally amusing (and underplayed), such as the instance wherein Swann offers a U.S. marshal (Chris Mulkey) an energy bar to perk him up.

I suppose the quality that most distinguishes Timerider is the cast.  Here, we've got Fred Ward, Belinda Bauer, Ed Lauter, Chris Mulkey, Peter Coyote (E.T.), Richard Masur (John Carpenter's The Thing), Tracey Walter (Blade Runner) L.Q. Jones, and in a small role, Miguel Sandoval.  Talk about a great B-movie assortment of actors, huh?   They are all well-directed here, because every performer underplays perfectly, so that the film's sense of humor emerges naturally, rather than feeling as though it was extruded by committee decision-making.

I had planned to also write  here about the ways that Timerider is a variation on Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name films, explicitly involving a "stranger" who rides into town, battles the bad guys, metes justice, and sets things right. 

That broad story is certainly a template for this film, but Timerider perpetually and purposefully de-mythologizes the tale.  Lyle is just a "dude" on a bike, not an enigmatic hero, and he never really seems to get a good sense of what's happening around him, or even why it is happening.  I believe that this almost anti-heroic approach was intentional: a kind of deconstruction of the Western myth that reveals, perhaps, how circumstances make the man, not how a hero uses his innate qualities to achieve a positive outcome.  In other words, Timerider appears an early (but notable) inversion of the Campbell Monomyth or heroic journey.  Here, Swann may be destined for an heroic quest, but he's more like an innocent bystander on his own journey, rather than a deliberate mover and shaker.  He's a timer-ider, not a time-driver, if you get my drift.

If Timerider deliberately de-mythologizes the Western format, it does likewise for time travel movies.  Part of the common time travel aesthetic is "not changing the past" so as to "ensure the sanctity of the present."  Timerider takes the alternate point of view that instances of time travel are already factored into our existing history.  Lyle had to go back in time to bed Claire Cygne and therefore his assure his own birth.  Had he not gone back, he wouldn't exist.  To put it another way, Lyle doesn't change history by his presence.  His presence is already part of the established equation.  His journey, though seemingly accidental, is pre-destined.

The film's final revelation, that Claire is actually both Lyle's ancestor and also the mother-to-be of his child (!) is a bit weird, I'll readily admit, but it also exposes Timerider's ethos regarding time travel.  Essentially, the film is a re-iteration of the old canard about going back in time and accidentally marrying your grandmother or killing your grandfather.  Timerider plays the joke -- like just about everything else in the film -- as a long, shaggy dog story. 

Time travel fans will also note that Lyle's good luck charm -- a necklace -- represents a paradox (like Kirk's glasses in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home).  Lyle travels back in time and Claire takes the necklace from him.  She then passes it onto her children, who pass it on to young Lyle, their descendants.  Given this "loop," where did the necklace originate?  Or rather, who made it?  Another question: why do so many time travel movies select the date of November 5th for temporal adventuring?   Timerider shares this date in common with Time After Time (1979) and Back to the Future (1985) apparently. 

I don't think that Timerider has the answer to those questions, or any other important question about time travel, frankly.  Instead, what the movie suggests is that -- through dumb luck and fate -- we sometimes ride ride right into...our destiny.  Nothing wrong with that idea, and Timerider never takes itself, or its ideas too seriously.   In fact, this genre flick from 1982 is like a nice, cool breeze blowing by you in the desert. 

Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann is a pretty enjoyable - if ephemeral -- experience.


Movie Trailer: Timerider (1982)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pop Art: Dark Shadows Edition (Paperback Library Gothic; 1970)







Collectible of the Week: Colorforms Adventure Sets



When I was a wee one, I  really enjoyed spending time with Colorforms Adventure Sets (from Colorforms Toys).  I thought these compact sets were incredible fun, and always wondered why my parents didn't want to buy them for me.  

As an adult, I see the matter a bit more clearly: the little adhesive pieces end up falling out of the boxes and landing everywhere.  Clean-up can be a nightmare.

Still, in the pre-VCR age of the 1970s, the Colorforms Adventure Set was an absolute necessity for imaginative kids hoping to relive adventures they had seen on television, or in the movies.  And as the Colorforms boxes suggested, "Colorforms plastic sticks like magic.  No scissors.  No paste.  Lots of fun!"

The advertising was certainly true, and I remember one particular time as a child when I got sick in Kindergarten (at Central School in Glen Ridge) and had to wait at a friend's house for my Mom to pick me up.  My friend had a Happy Days Colorforms kit, and I played with the bloomin' thing till I could go home.  

Oh, the sweet, innocent days of Fonzie...

In terms of genre entertainment, probably every sci-fi franchise worth its salt in the 1970s had a Colorforms Adventure Set to its name. 

The Star Trek set implored kids "to travel into un-explored territory in outer space on assignments to explore and probe the mysterious regions beyond our galaxy limits."  

The Space: 1999 set suggested you could "Explore the Moon surface near Moon Base Alpha."    Virtually all the adventure sets, designed for ages 3 and up, contained a board, approximately two-dozen plastic pieces, a play-board and a booklet.

Below is a gallery of images from my Colorforms Adventure Set collection.











Tuesday, March 20, 2012

CULT MOVIE REVIEW: The Dead (2010)



Last decade -- 2001 to 2010 -- was surely the Decade of the Zombie Movie.  

We had Dawn of the Dead (2004), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007), I Am Legend (2007), Zombieland (2009), and many, many more motion pictures of this specific horror sub-genre.  Some would argue that 28 Days Later (2002) was a zombie picture too, for instance, and I'm inclined to agree with that assessment.


As you’ll no doubt recall, the last decade also gave us more real-life strife than we saw in the 1980s and 1990s combined: two very long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, destruction on the home front in the form of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, plus massive natural disasters (Hurricane Katrina), and the global economic meltdown in 2008.  


The zombie movie milieu fits in so perfectly with these aforementioned national and world events because it functions on two levels simultaneously.  

On a literal level, zombie movies concern rampaging monsters that want to eat your flesh and/or brains.  

But on another, more metaphorical level, these movies focus on the collapse of the familiar infrastructure that maintains our high-tech civilization.  Last decade, we saw our towers fall, our cities drown, and our currency lose value.  We saw soldiers patrolling our streets during color-coded alerts.  About the only thing we didn't see were actual zombies.  I sure hope they aren't coming next...

Given the "failure of infrastructure" motif in this genre form, "salvation" in the zombie films arises, largely, from a far-off "sanctuary:" a nearly mythological utopia that is miraculously free of zombie infiltration.  It was a Caribbean island in Day of the Dead (1985), a place "up north" in Land of the Dead (2005) and a colony of healthy survivors in New England in I Am Legend (2007).  

By the same token, the acquisition of (even temporary) sanctuary in the zombie movie format often involves re-connection with our pre-apocalyptic material and technological wealth: the resources of a shopping mall, a video camera, a palatial estate, a skyscraper for the 1% run by Dennis Hopper, a New York apartment with adjoining medical laboratory, and so on.  

In other words, utopia in the New, Post-Zombie Apocalypse World Order is about getting back at least a sliver of the comfortable life we currently enjoy.

But the excellent Ford Brothers film The Dead (2010) offers a unique take on the zombie film milieu.  

By setting the gruesome and harrowing action in the inhospitable and arid deserts of West Africa, it asks audiences to gaze at the zombie apocalypse from another standpoint all together.  

Bluntly stated, there’s nowhere to run, no comfort to accumulate, and the infrastructure is already pretty wasted, even pre-zombie attack.  There's no technology to be harnessed here and very little by way of civilized "connective" tissue.  The roads between villages aren't even paved.  And you may find a ham radio that works...maybe...but not a television set.

The film's main character, a determined American engineer named Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman), survives the zombie apocalypse day-to-day and dreams that his homeland, America, is safe. He dreams that his family is safe too.  But he boasts almost no chance of ever getting back to the people that he loves.  There are no planes remaining after his flight goes down in a crash, and almost no automobiles are operational.  So he must walk...to where, exactly?

Across zombie-filled deserts and mountains...

This treacherous, natural realm is so unsafe that wanderers can't even find just a few hours of peaceful sleep there. A likable character in the film learns this lesson the hard, bloody way.

The message?  The age of human comfort in material things -- and in the trappings of modern civilization -- is truly over.  

Taking place after "The Last Evacuation," The Dead focuses mainly on Brian and  an African soldier named Daniel (Prince David Oseia) as they attempt to regain what they have lost.  

But it's not necessarily civilization, in this case, that they seek.   Rather, it's family.  

Brian wants to get home to his wife and daughter in America, and Daniel has been separated from his young son, who escaped from a village under zombie siege and has been taken by the military to a (hopefully) safe zone.  

These two men -- one African and one American -- become a team in order to meet their mutual goal of reconnecting with those they have loved, and may lose forever.  I found both characters to be incredibly intriguing and didn't want either to die, but, of course, this is a horror movie.  Still, The Dead's strong approach to character development means that you'll find yourself growing disturbed when it looks like your favorite character isn't going to make it out of the latest scrape with the dead.

The Dead is beautifully photographed and absolutely hardcore in terms of presentation.  In the first half of the film, there's very little dialogue, but tons of spilled blood, ripped flesh, and entrails.  Although the focus is on action and horrifying violence, the film successfully draws you in with one cliffhanging, suspenseful scene after the next.

For example, there's a harrowing scene set on an African beach in which hungry zombies move towards the water line while plane crash survivors attempt to swim to shore...in their direction.  One man, Brian, attempts to open a floating crate containing weapons as the zombies tread into the surf, looking to feast.  This sequence is nerve-jangling and graphic, especially as the footage seems to speed up dramatically at moments of highest drama.

Relying heavily on visceral, visual storytelling, The Dead makes an important point in terms of imagery.  The natural environment is plenty daunting even without zombies about.  The movie effortlessly showcases a strong sense of the surrounding wildlife and oppressive heat of the locale, for instance.  But then, with the zombies roaming the countryside, this world becomes absolutely nightmarish.  

As one character states "the Dead are everywhere," and the movie is veritably packed with jolts and jumps.  It gets a lot of mileage from seemingly small moments, like the exploration of a darkened airport with only a single flashlight as illumination.  And The Dead truly gets under your skin with scenes of mounting suspense, when a recalcitrant car won't start, or zombies enter the frame...a few at a time...until they dominate and overwhelm the artful compositions.  

Why does the film work so well, when some of the material is plainly dependent on tropes (such as "the car won't start")?  I'd maintain it's because the film's pace is relentless, and because the directors work overtime to build elaborate action scenes in which the terror multiplies until it becomes virtually unbearable.  This is one of those movies where you'll be squirming in your seat, yelling at a character to look over his shoulder, for god's sake, before it's too late.  

As is the case in other zombie movies, we never learn precisely why the zombie apocalypse comes in The Dead.  There's some talk that the zombie plague may be punishment for man's arrogance, or Mother Nature's way of restoring delicate balance after our sprawl and overpopulation, but nothing definitive.   Instead, the film focuses on an interesting point about what comes after "the end."  

The old labels (African or American, black or white) don't really mean much anymore.  As one character explains "There's a new war.  We have to fight it together."  

What does matter, the film suggests, is our common humanity. At film's conclusion two very different families join together because, in the end, we are all members of the human tribe, the human family. So The Dead implies, rather unequivocally, that recovering technology or wealth isn't going to save us in the event of a disaster.  What will?  The human bonds, like those between parent and child.  When all Hell breaks loose, that's what counts, that's what matters.  Just when all looks hopeless in The Dead, a father and son discover each other.  That they are biologically unrelated matters not a lick. They both need to be part of a family.  They need to be together.

The Dead is smart, nasty, brutal and beautifully presented. You would think it's pretty tough for a zombie movie to find a niche for itself in today's over-saturated environment, where we feel like we've seen every trick in the book.  But The Dead is not at a retread or copy of any other zombie film you've seen before.  It takes the familiar sub-genre -- and like so many of the great zombie efforts last decade -- injects it with fresh new blood and, perhaps more importantly, fresh...brains.

Movie Trailer: The Dead (2010)

Theme Song of the Week: Tru Calling (2003 - 2005)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Come See Me at the Mad Monster Party...



Join us!

I'll be a guest at this weekend's Mad Monster Party horror convention in uptown Charlotte, North Carolina.  I'll be sharing a vendor's table with my buddy and fellow author Joseph Maddrey (Not Bad for A Human, Nightmares in Red, White and Blue, A Haunting...)

I'll be there all three days of the con (Friday night, Saturday and Sunday), so if you can, drop by and chat me up, or buy a signed copy of Horror Films of the 1990s (or other JKM books).  

I'm especially excited about the event because I'll get to meet some long-time readers, and also because it is my son Joel's first convention...and I can't wait to see what he thinks of all the craziness.    

Check out the Mad Monster site here.


Cult-TV Theme Watch: Warriors


We boast a long history of worshipping warriors in our culture, and this tradition carries over, in a big way, to cult television.  Star Trek: The Next Generation, Stargate, Farscape, and Andromeda are just a few of the major sci-fi franchises of the past few decades that have featured warriors amongst the primary dramatis personae.

For purposes of easy definition, a warrior is someone who has dedicated his or her life to warfare, and lives by a very specific code of conduct.  Such conduct includes loyalty, honor, courage, and in some cases, chivalry.  I suspect we love warriors so deeply because they are brave, often fight in hopeless causes, and offer us a distinctive philosophy that – love it or hate it – offers a guidepost to navigating life’s challenges.

Although warriors live for honor and combat, the philosophy underlying their love of combat is surely what makes them so compelling.   Warriors respect the responsibilities of duty.  They are loyal to those with whom they serve.  They do not shrink from difficult challenges and impossible odds, and they don’t run away when confronted.   Human beings rightly see all of these qualities as virtues.

Our cultures worship strength, physical might and power, it’s fair to state, and so the warrior caste or warrior race is an example of strength, power and discipline in action.  The Klingons in Star Trek did not begin on the Original Series as a warrior race, but through years of refinement, that’s how the franchise has come to consider them.  Beginning approximately with Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Klingons became “honorable” instead of dishonorable villains, and that trend continued in the Star Trek TV series of the 1990s.

I would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite amongst cult-tv’s memorable warriors, but Lt. Worf (Michael Dorn) of Star Trek: The Next Generationa man from a race of warriors – certainly stands tall.  The great quality about Worf is the inherent tension and conflict in his nature.  He is of a warrior race – the Klingons -- and yet was raised by humans and so must integrate his love of battle and need for honor into his duties as a Starfleet officer. We see this conflict played out compellingly in episodes such as “Heart of Glory” and “Sins of the Father.”  Worf sees everything through the lens of the warrior, and we can respect his straight-forward world view. We see this world view reflected in his manner of speech (terse; concise) and his preference in proverbs, such as "Today is a good day to die," or "There is no honor in attacking the weak..."

On some occasions, such as Worf's admission of love of prune juice (“a warrior’s drink...”) we can also get a good chuckle.  Star Trek: The Next Generation’s writers very quickly understood that the key to making Worf an interesting character was to test his warrior’s code in ways that were unexpected or surprising.  In the decision to save or not save a Romulan’s life (“The Enemy”) for instance, whether or not to commit suicide after a spinal injury (“Ethics”), and even in the role of parent (“Fistful of Datas,” etc.)

If you’ll forgive me for saying so, D’Argo on Farscape and Tyr Anasazi (Keith Hamilton Cobb) on Andromeda both seem to me to represent variations on the Worf calculus  These individuals too originate from warrior races.  And they are also are vexed by life-forms who don’t share their beliefs, philosophies or warrior code.  That’s not to say these characters are cheap knock-offs, only that they extend Worf’s “way of the warrior” dilemma into different frontiers and franchises.  In the greatest tradition of the warrior in cult sci-fi tv, they sublimate their nature to work within a team settings.  Most of the time, anyway…

The Sontarans on Doctor Who are a highly militaristic race of warriors, and they seem more an overt critique of the warrior trope than Worf, Anasazi or D'Argo.   For one thing, the Sontarans are clones, meaning that they appear to lack the full spectrum of human individuality, and they have been at war with their enemy, the Rutans, for close to a 100,000 years.  


You’d think, after so long a span, they’d choose to make peace.  Especially if they subscribe to Sun Tzu's axiom (also discussed in TNG's "The Last Outpost"): "He will triumph who knows when to fight and when not to fight."


Another unique interpretation of the warrior aesthetic is seen in The Outer Limits episode "Soldier" by Harlan Ellison.  Here, a soldier from the future's training and single-mindedness becomes impossible to overcome.  Although he combats his "enemy," he cannot think in what we might consider human terms.  The Fantastic Journey presented a negative depiction of a warrior in an episode "A Dream of Conquest."  There a usurper played by John Saxon wanted to lead an army across the time zones of the Bermuda Triangle, conquering everyone in his path...even though none of the denizens were his enemy.  He loved the glory of battle too much...

In the original Battlestar Galactica, the Colonial Warriors were the steadfast heroes.  They protected the Twelve Colonies of Man from the Cylon scourge and were finally undone only by a deluded pacifist leader (President Adar) and a traitor, Baltar.  


The warriors on Battlestar Galactica ran the full-spectrum of the human experience, showcasing the qualities of loyalty and love we would hope to see evidenced in our own military.  The only times when this equation grew muddy was when interaction with civilian government was required.  Again and again on the Glen Larson series, in episodes such as “Saga of a Star World” and “Baltar’s Escape” the military viewpoint was held up as right almost a priori, while civilian government was seen as foolish, selfish and even self-destructive.  The people of the rag-tag fleet lived under martial law essentially, and self-government by the people was not held up as a virtue.

The remade Battlestar Galactica of a few years ago adopted a more Top Gun -- "I feel the need for speed" --  approach to warriors and their aesthetic, showcasing carousing, sex and dissension in the ranks to a degree that shocked fans of the original series.

Additionally, on series such as The X-Files and Smallville, a frequent goal of evil-doers seemed to be the creation of a perfect warrior, a “super soldier” who embodied all of the physical skills of a great warrior, but not the sense of an individual code or moral standard.  


The idea here was that warriors – separated from their moral code – would represent even more dangerous adversaries; berserkers able to threaten all of civilization, and operate under the thumb of a maniac like Lex Luthor.  On SeaQuest, man engineered "the Daggers," a race of genetically engineered warriors, in a similar vein.

Another highly notable warrior in sci-fi/fantasy TV history is Xena (Lucy Lawless) from Xena: Warrior Princess (1995 - 2001), who sought redemption for her past misbehavior by defending those in need of defense or help.  Again, she demonstrated the finest qualities of the warrior aesthetic, embodying a sense of loyalty and honor in her interactions with the weak and with the evil.

The Cult-TV Faces of: Warriors


Identified by Chris G: Michael Ansara in The Outer Limits: "Soldier."


Identified by Brian: Dr. Who: "The Sontaran Experiment."

Identified by Dave Colohon: John Saxon in The Fantastic Journey: "A Dream of Conquest."


Identified by Brian: Lt. Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) in Battlestar Galactica.

Identified by Brian: Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Heart of Glory."

Identified by Brian: Star Trek: the Next Generation: "The Hunted."

Identified by Brian: Babylon 5: "Infection"



Identified by  Brian: Teal'c (Christopher Judge) in Stargate SG-1

Identified by Brian: A J'em Hadar soldier in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Identified by Brian: D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe) in Farscape.

Identified by Brian: Xena (Lucy Lawless) in Xena: Warrior Princess.

Identified by Chris G: Scott Bairstow in Harsh Realm (2000)

Identified by Woodchuckgod: Tyr Anasazi (Keith Hamilton Cobb) in Andromeda.

Identified by Hugh: The Initiative in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 4.

Identified by BT: Tahmoh Penikett in Smallville: "Prototype."