Starlog 2019.10.24

Dear all (especially those enrolled in the SmithsonianX’s  online course “Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology”, on edX.org),

In this post I will try to answer the following questions related to unit 3 of this interesting course:

  1. What are the benefits of adhering to canon?

According to the Wikipedia, “canon is the material accepted as officially part of the story in the fictional universe of that story. ” It’s also known as timeline, i.e., “a single arc where all events are directly connected chronologically. ”

In addition to the Star Trek: The Original Series, two TV series prequels (Enterprise and Discovery), three TV series sequels (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager) were produced and an upcoming series, called Picard, will debut next year. Also, ten films (six related to The Original Series and four related to The Next Generation) were released between 1979 and 2002.

One of the reasons why Star Trek was able to have a huge success through all these years is because the creators, producers and director adhered to a canon since it allows:

  • to release different sequels almost at the same time that despite of being set in a different time have a coherent relationship between them,
  • to keep older generations of fans with the purpose of enjoying the new TV series and movies and,
  • to attract new generations of fans since they can watch former TV series and movies to understand correlated facts.
  1. What creative potential exists in jumping off from it?

The biggest potential that can be achieved in jumping off from a canon is the possibility of creating alternative timelines that can be used to explore different perspectives in terms of history, especially when causes and effects can affect the past or the future of some key events or characters. However, this shouldn’t be explored with so much frequency, otherwise the canon becomes the exception instead of being the norm.. 😉

  1. Where has Star Trek (or other similar franchises) done it well or poorly?

Difficult to me to say (or to write here) where Star Trek has done it well or poorly if considering adhering to canon or jumping off it. That’s because I haven’t watched all TV series and movies so far, so I can’t give a definitive answer to this question. Apparently, it seems that it has done well (see the figure below, please), but who knows? Even the original screenwriter, creator and producer Gene Roddenberry changed his mind sometimes! “People who worked with Roddenberry remember that he used to handle canonicity not on a series-by-series basis nor an episode-by-episode basis, but point by point. If he changed his mind on something, or if a fact in one episode contradicted what he considered to be a more important fact in another episode, he had no problem declaring that specific point not canonical”(Star Trek Canon).

The Star Trek canon

That’s it for now! I really hope you’ve enjoyed reading this starlog. 😉

See you on next month! 🙂

Works Cited

“Canon (fiction).” Wikipedia. 15 Set. 2019. Wikimedia Foundation. 25 Oct. 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canon_(fiction)

“Star Trek Canon.” Wikipedia, 23 Oct. 2019. Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Oct. 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek_canon.

Starlog 2019.09.30

Dear all (especially those enrolled in the SmithsonianX’s  online course “Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology”, on edX.org),

It is with great pleasure that I announce here my promotion of Chief Warrant Officer to Ensign!  🙂

I was promoted because I was able to complete the following assignments of Unit 2 in this interesting online course:

  • To what extent did the business model of network television enable Star Trek: The Original Series to appeal to such a wide range of audiences?
  • In ways did that same model constrain it?

https://wilsonpardijunior.wordpress.com/2019/07/28/starlog-2019-07-28/

AND

  • Which pilot best addresses the contemporary societal issues from when it was produced while taking the most advantage of the television format on which it was shown? Rank the episodes you watch in numerical order where 1 is the episode that best answers the question prompt.

https://wilsonpardijunior.wordpress.com/2019/08/31/starlog-2019-08-31/

That’s it! I really hope you’ve enjoyed reading these starlogs so far.. 😉

See you on next month! 🙂

The insignia of Ensign

Starlog 2019.08.31

Dear all (especially those enrolled in the SmithsonianX’s  online course “Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology”, on edX.org),

In this post I will try to answer the following question related to unit 2 of this interesting course:

  1. Which pilot best addresses the contemporary societal issues from when it was produced while taking the most advantage of the television format on which it was shown? Rank the episodes you watch in numerical order where 1 is the episode that best answers the question prompt.

Before answering it I will write my impressions about how each pilot episode was most socially and culturally relevant at the time it was aired.

  • “The Cage” from the Star Trek: The Original Series

In this very fascinating episode, the crew of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) follow a distress signal to distant planet Talos IV. However, when they get to the planet they discover that the supposed survivors that emitted the distress signal were nothing more than just illusions created by the Talosians (telepathic aliens) the inhabitants of the planet, for the single purpose of capturing a human mate (in this case the USS Enterprise Captain Christopher Pike!) to repopulate their ravaged planet as breeding stock for a race of slaves.

Captain Christopher Pike facing a Talosian!

This pilot episode was produced between 1964 and 1965, but it was aired only in 1988! It was supposed to be the first series episode to be broadcast by NBC (National Broadcasting Company) in 1966, but it was rejected by being “too cerebral”, “too intellectual”, and “too slow” with “not enough action”! Therefore, it becomes difficult at least for me, to discuss if this episode was really culturally and socially relevant to 1966. Probably not, due to the most conservative way of thinking at that time. On the other hand, I’m sure that it was relevant in 1988 since the world was much more open-minded in terms of new cultures (civilizations) and sociability.

  • “Where No Man Has Gone Before” from the Star Trek: The Original Series

In this interesting episode, with the purpose to investigate what happened to the SS Valiant (NCC-S1104), an Earth spaceship that was found after 200 years, the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) attempts to cross the galaxy. However, it encounters a strange barrier which damages the ship’s systems and warp drive, forcing a retreat. At the same time, nine crew members are killed and other two crew members, Gary Mitchell and Elizabeth Dehner, develop “Godlike” psychic powers which threaten the safety of the Enterprise!

Crew members Gary Mitchel and Elizabeth Dehner

With the cancellation of broadcasting of the original pilot episode “The Cage”, this episode became de facto the “official” pilot episode from the Star Trek: The Original Series. It was produced in 1965 and it was aired on September 22nd, 1966. In my opinion, it had some relevancy in terms of sociability at that time because it was an enjoyable episode to a family watch together after dinner and also culturally because the expression “where no man has gone before” implies the search for the unknown, in other words, different cultures!  😉

  • “Encounter at Far Point” from the Star Trek: The Next Generation

In this very interesting pilot episode, the U.S.S. Enterprise (NCC-1701-D), on its first voyage, encounters Q, an omnipotent extra-dimensional being, who challenges Humanity as a primitive species. Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew try to slow down Q‘challenge and at the same time to solve the enigma of the Farpoint planetary station, inhabited by the Bandi, on the planet Deneb IV.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard being disturbed by Q!

Almost two decades later, at last, a new Star Trek TV series was produced for broadcasting syndication where this episode pilot was aired for the first time on September 28th, 1987. Personally I think that it had some significant relevance related to the contemporary societal issues from the end of the 80’s, such as an increase in the number of women in key positions. For instance, the new crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) has important positions being occupied by women: Commander Deanna Troi, Chief of Security Tasha Yar, and Doctor Beverly Crusher.

  • “Emissary” from Star Trek: Deep Space 9

In this pilot episode, Commander Benjamin Sisko and a new crew of Starfleet and Bajoran officers take command of an abandoned space station, called Deep Space 9 (a former Cardassian mining station) and make an incredible discovery that will change: a stable wormhole leading from the Alpha Quadrant to the Gamma QuadrantHowever, the main plot of this episode revolves around Commander Benjamin Sisko‘s emotional conflict with his past (his wife was killed three years ago) and how it can affect his future as station commander.

Commander Benjamin Sisko at uneasy with the presence of Captain Jean-Luc Picard

It was originally aired on January 03rd, 1993 and even being an pilot episode with almost no action and more philosophical and reflective, it was quite interesting since this Star Trek series was the first one that was based on a space station instead of a spaceship. I haven’t found here a strong connection in terms of social and cultural relevance with the beginning of 90’s, except the fact that it was the first time the highest rank position in the interstellar fleet was held by a person of color (in this case, a black one).

  • “Caretaker” from Star Trek: Voyager

In this pilot episode for a new Star Trek series the USS Voyager (NCC-74656) is swept away to the Delta Quadrant more than 70,000 light-years from home, by an incredibly powerful being known as the “Caretaker” while searching for a missing Maquis ship with a Starfleet spy aboard. The “Caretaker” is a name given to the Nacene entity who assumed responsibility for protecting the Ocampa (a species that lived on the planet Ocampa). Some also called him “Banjo Man”, since he communicated with crew members from the USS Voyager through an illusion in the form of an elderly human playing a banjo..  😉

The Caretaker at his disguised environment…

This pilot episode related to a new Star Trek spaceship, the USS Voyager (NCC-74656), was aired for the first time on January 16th, 1995. I have found here a strong link in terms of social and cultural relevance with the middle of 90’s. For instance, there was a significant increase in the cultural diversity of the crew since the Operations Officer aboard the USS Voyager was Ensign Harry S. L. Kim, an Asian male. In addition, I think it was the first time that appeared a black Vulcan, Tuvok, (as the Tactical Officer and Chief of Security) on the screen! It’s also worthwhile to mention that, for the first time ever, a woman was assigned to the most important rank position inside a spaceship , i.e, Captain Kathryn Janeway.  🙂

  • “Broken Bow” from Star Trek: Enterprise

In this pilot episode after nine decades has passed following Zefram Cochrane‘s visionary warp drive system in space and the First Contact that followed, the human race has been slowly guided by the Vulcans toward developing the Warp Five engine. Then, at last, Earth finally launches its first spaceship of exploration, the Enterprise NX-01. Commanded by Captain Jonathan Archer, and against the objections of the Vulcans, it departs on an urgent mission to return an injured Klingon to Qo’noS, the Klingon homeworld!

Humans and Volcanoes watching a speech by Zefram Cochrane

This episode was originally aired on September 26th, 2001 and despite of the horrible terror attacks that happened in US two weeks earlier, it had a very good audience around the country. On my point of view I haven’t found a strong relevance to the social and cultural events that marked the beginning of this century. On the contrary, our world was starting to divide between “us and them” after the terror attacks that happened on September 09th, 2001, but on the other hand, this specific episode shows the attempt to live peacefully with alien races, despite enormous cultural differences..

  • “The Vulcan Hello” from Star Trek: Discovery

This pilot episode is set roughly a decade before the events of the original Star Trek series and shows the beginnings of the Federation–Klingon cold war. The “Vulcan Hello” was a term used by Commander Michael Burnham to describe how the Vulcans dealt with their encounters with Klingons in the aftermath of a fatal clash near H’atoria in 2016, which led to the destruction of a Vulcan ship. Following that fateful event, and because “Vulcans never made the same mistake twice,” any future contact made with the Klingons was answered with immediate weapon’s fire as a sign of strength and respect.  😉

First Officer Michael Burnham and Captain Philippa Georgiou of the USS Shenzhou (NCC-1227) in a relatively primitive planet

This very interesting pilot episode was aired on a special occasion by CBS (Columbia Broadcast System) by the first time on September 24th, 2017. However, later it was released only on the streaming service CBS All Access (along with the second episode, and the rest of the series in subsequent weeks). Maybe because it’s still recent I cannot see any relevant link to the current social and cultural events of out time..

Therefore, based on my assumptions above I rank the pilot episodes for each Star Trek TV series in a descending order where 1 is the best episode that addressed the contemporary societal issues from when it was produced:

  1. “Encounter at Far Point” from Star Trek: The Next Generation
  2. “Caretaker” from Star Trek: Voyager
  3. “Where No Man Has Gone Before” from Star Trek: The Original Series
  4. “Emissary” Star Trek: from Deep Space 9
  5. “The Vulcan Hello” from Star Trek: Discovery
  6. “The Cage” from Star Trek: The Original Series

That’s it! I really hope you’ve enjoyed reading this starlog. 😉

See you on next month! 🙂

Starlog 2019.07.28

Dear all (especially those enrolled in the SmithsonianX’s  online course “Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology”, on edX.org),

In this post I will try to answer the following questions related to unit 2 of this interesting course:

  1. To what extent did the business model of network television enable Star Trek: The Original Series to appeal to such a wide range of audiences?
  2. In ways did that same model constrain it?

Since I’m a foreigner that watched Star Trek: The Original Series only many years later (not during live broadcasting), I will try to make some assumptions why it was possible to appeal to a wide audience in US at that time:

  • Most of TV series and programs were broadcast live by just three television networks (CBS, NBC and ABC) during the 60’s. Besides, each household had only one TV set, usually in the living room. Consequently, the main leisure time for a family was really to watch TV together, especially after dinner!  😉

A typical American family watching together “The Lone Ranger” during the 50’s

  • All television networks had the same objective: they wanted to broadcast TV series and programs that could keep the family together for hours in front of the TV set, i.e., there were no “for mature audiences only” warnings. Therefore, the business model of the television networks assured that the audience was watching the commercials that were actually paying the TV series cost of production.

Advertising for all family!

On the other hand, the business model adopted by the three television networks at that time restrained the appeal of Star Trek: The Original Series for a wide range of audience because:

  • Despite of a decent rating, most of episodes were considered as intellectual instead of emotional ones. The television networks surveys indicated that it had a “quality audience” including upper-income, better-educated males. In other words, the show did not have a larger audience of young viewers. Therefore, ratings continued to decline during the second and third seasons.
  • Also, moving the third season broadcast schedule for a later time in the evenings (around 10:00 PM) contributed significantly to a lower probability of attracting an younger audience. Consequently, the Star Trek: The Original Series budget was reduced by a significant amount per episode, as the per-minute commercial price had dropped too. This generated a negative spiral, that is: low audience resulting in less profitability through commercials, causing cuts in the production budget, decreasing the quality of the episodes which caused the audience to decrease even more..

In my next starlog I will do a media analysis about the pilot episodes of each of the six live action Star Trek television series.

See you on next month! 🙂

Postponement

Dear reader,

I was so busy on these last two months (May and June) that I barely had time to come here and write something interesting that could get your attention.. 😦

In addition to my professional activities and private life, I am still dealing with some serious health problems right now. Therefore, I kindly ask you for some time until I can get back to my regular monthly articles in this unknown corner of the cyberspace.. 😉

I do hope to see you next month! 🙂

Best Regards from rainy Japan.

Is postponement == procrastination?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starlog 2019.04.30

Dear all (especially those enrolled in the SmithsonianX’s  online course “Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology”, on edX.org),

This is my introduction post related to the course ..  😉

About 55 years 8 months, three weeks and five days ago a human being called Wilson Pardi Junior was born in a distant land called Brazil. Although a very long time has already passed he never forgot how he became fascinated with the possibility of finding, someday, the superior entity responsible for our creation!

Although a very big fan of “Lost In Space” TV series in his childhood, he had  some difficulties in understanding the classic episodes of “Star Trek: The Original Series”. However, this started to change when he went alone to a movie theater in 1979 to watch full screen what he still considers the best movie he had watched so far: “2001, A Space Odyssey”! Therefore, during his undergraduate days (he’s an electrical and electronics engineer) he watched all the episodes of “Star Trek: The Original Series” and also most episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”..

The original Star Trek Enterprise Model

With the same passion and interest that he had when he enrolled in the “The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture”, “Rise of the Superheroes and the Heroes of the Future” and “Power and Responsibility: Doing Philosophy with Super-Heroes” courses from the Smithsonian Institute, he decide to enroll in the “Star Trek: Inspiring Culture and Technology” course because he thinks it’s a great opportunity to make friendship with science-fiction admirers from all over the world! He’s most excited in learning how Star Trek‘s episodes can influence or change people’s perceptions about their own lives. He also hopes to achieve a great satisfaction in acquiring knowledge about how current and newer technology can influence on the improvement and assimilation of different cultures through openness and diversity.

He’s also very happy in knowing that by completing the first unit of this course he was promoted to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer!  🙂

The insignia of Chief Warrant Officer

History of photography: the camera obscura (part 2)

Dear reader,

Last month I did a gentle introduction to the camera obscura, the precursor of the photographic camera. This month I continue writing about this simple, but very interesting device. Therefore, it follows bellow more examples using the principle of the camera obscura in the history of mankind:

  • 1450 to 1600 – earliest depiction, lenses, drawing aid and mirrors:

– the famous Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), familiar with the work of Alhazen and after an extensive study of optics and human vision, wrote the oldest known clear description of the camera obscura in mirror writing in a notebook in 1502, later published in the collection Codex Atlanticus (translated from Latin),

–  the oldest known published drawing of a camera obscura is found in Dutch physician, mathematician and instrument maker Gemma Frisius’ 1545 book De Radio Astronomica et Geometrica, in which he described and illustrated how he used the camera obscura to study the solar eclipse of January 24, 1544,

First published picture of camera obscura in Gemma Frisius’ 1545 book De Radio Astronomica et Geometrica

– Italian polymath Gerolamo Cardano described using a glass disc – probably a biconvex lens – in a camera obscura in his 1550 book De subtilitate, vol. I, Libri IV,

– Sicilian mathematician and astronomer Francesco Maurolico (1494-1575) answered Aristotle’s problem how sunlight that shines through rectangular holes can form round spots of light or crescent-shaped spots during an eclipse in his treatise Photismi de lumine et umbra (1521-1554),

– Italian polymath Giambattista della Porta described the camera obscura, which he called “obscurum cubiculum”, in the 1558 first edition of his book series Magia Naturalis  where he compared the human eye to the camera obscura, the popularity of Della Porta’s books helped spread knowledge of the camera obscura,

– in his 1567 work La Pratica della Perspettiva Venetian nobleman Daniele Barbaro (1513-1570) described using a camera obscura with a biconvex lens as a drawing aid and points out that the picture is more vivid if the lens is covered as much as to leave a circumference in the middle,

– in his influential and meticulously annotated Latin edition of the works of Al-Haytam and Witelo Opticae thesauru (1572) German mathematician Friedrich Risner proposed a portable camera obscura drawing aid; a lightweight wooden hut with lenses in each of its four walls that would project images of the surroundings on a paper cube in the middle (a very similar setup was illustrated in 1645 in Athanasius Kircher’s influential book Ars Magna Lucis Et Umbrae),

– around 1575 Italian Dominican priest, mathematician, astronomer, and cosmographer Ignazio Danti designed a camera obscura gnomon and a meridian line for the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, Florence and he later had a massive gnomon built in the San Petronio Basilica in Bologna,

– in his 1585 book Diversarum Speculationum Mathematicarum Venetian mathematician Giambattista Benedetti proposed to use a mirror in a 45 degree angle to project the image upright where this leaves the image reversed, but would become common practice in later camera obscura boxes.

  • 1600 to 1650 – name coined, camera obscura telescopy, portable drawing aid in tents and boxes:

– The earliest use of the term “camera obscura” is found in the 1604 book Ad Vitellionem Paralipomena by  German mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer Johannes Kepler where he discovered the working of  the camera obscura by recreating its principle with a book replacing a shining body and sending threads from its edges through a many-cornered aperture in a table onto the floor where the threads recreated the shape of the book,

The first use of the term “camera obscura” was by Johannes Kepler, in his first treatise about optics, Ad Vitellionem paralipomena quibus astronomiae pars optica traditur (1604)

– In 1611 Frisian/German astronomers David and Johannes Fabricius (father and son) studied sunspots with a camera obscura, after realizing looking at the sun directly with the telescope could damage their eyes,

– from 1612 to at least 1630 Christoph Scheiner would keep on studying sunspots and constructing new telescopic solar projection systems called “Heliotropii Telioscopici”, later contracted to helioscope, where Scheiner built a box around the viewing/projecting end of the telescope, which can be seen as the oldest known version of a box-type camera obscura (he also made a portable camera obscura),

– Dutch inventor Cornelis Drebbel is thought to have constructed a box-type camera obscura which corrected the inversion of the projected image,

– German Orientalist, mathematician, inventor, poet, and librarian Daniel Schwenter wrote in his 1636 book Deliciae Physico-Mathematicae about an instrument that a man from Pappenheim, Germany had shown him, which enabled movement of a lens to project more from a scene through the camera obscura,

– Italian Jesuit philosopher, mathematician and astronomer Mario Bettini wrote about making a camera obscura with twelve holes in his Apiaria universae philosophiae mathematicae (1642), so when a foot soldier would stand in front of the camera, a twelve person army of soldiers making the same movements would be projected,

Illustration of a twelve-hole camera obscura from Bettini’s Apiaria universae philosophiae mathematicae” (1642)

– French mathematician and painter of anamorphic art Jean-François Nicéron (1613-1646) wrote about the camera obscura with convex lenses where he explained how the camera obscura could be used by painters to achieve perfect perspective in their work.

It’s interesting to notice above that the development of the camera obscura and its advancement was basically made in the Western Europe, during the parts of History that comprised the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Scientific Revolution periods!  🙂

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article so far, and therefore, I invite you to come here next month to read the part 3 too!  😉

Works Cited

“Camera obscura.” Wikipedia. 20 Feb. 2019. Wikimedia Foundation. 28 Feb. 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camera_obscura.

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