“The Helmsman’s Logs: 2371” – 1/2

I had recently read J.A. Toner’s marvelous
“Log Entries”, a collection of B’Elanna Torres’ personal logs
from Season 1 to mid-Season 5. For a while, I had hoped she
would write a similar story from Tom Paris’ viewpoint, but, so
far, it has not happened. In the end, I decided to take on
that task myself. This story is a collection of Tom’s logs
during Voyager’s years in the Delta Quadrant.

Also, Season 2 episodes like “Projection”, “Twisted”, “Elogium”
and “The 37s” were originally supposed to air in Season 1,
after “Learning Curve”. Therefore, the incidents featured in
those episodes will be covered in Part One.

———-

“THE HELMSMAN’S LOGS – 2371”
RATING: [PG-13]
SUMMARY: The first in a collection of Tom Paris’ personal logs
during Voyager’s seven years in the Delta Quadrant. Part 1
focuses upon the ship’s first year, 2371.
FEEDBACK: lee66132000@yahoo.com. I would appreciate constructive
feedback. Thank you.
DISCLAIMER: Tom Paris and all other characters related to Star
Trek Voyager belong to Paramount, Viacom, Rick Berman, the
Roddenberry family and other Trek producers.

PART I – 2371

STARDATE 48316.7 – I’m back on a Starfleet vessel. I can’t
believe it! If only Dad could see me now. I can imagine how
he would feel. Then again . . . maybe not. I never understood Owen
Paris. Nor has he ever understood me. I have met the person
whom Dad could relate to. And probably did. Captain Kathryn
Janeway of the Federation starship, VOYAGER.

God, I’m regressing. I better start from the beginning. It
all began two days ago. I was serving my eighteen month
sentence at the Federation Penal Settlement in New Zealand –
otherwise known as Club Fed. While repairing a power generator, when a
throaty voice called out my name. I looked up and there stood
this red-haired goddess in a Starfleet uniform. Maybe goddess
isn’t the right word. The good Captain is what one would
describe as diminutive in height. But despite that, she did
have presence.

To make a long story short, Captain Janeway asked me to help
search for a particular Maquis ship that had disappeared in the
Badlands. It seemed her security chief had joined the crew –
as a Starfleet spy. And guess who commanded this particular
crew? My old ‘buddy’, Chakotay. I can imagine that bastard’s
reaction when learns that I helped Starfleet hunt down his
precious ship. Did I say when? That’s right. Despite the
fact that helping Janeway locate her missing officer seemed
like a hopeless task, I decided to accept her offer. And why
not? I certainly have no loyalty toward Chakotay and his
bunch. Hell, they made my life miserable during my few weeks
in the Maquis. And Janeway has offered to add a word or two during
my next parole review. Who could resist that?

So, here I am, aboard VOYAGER. I must say that she seemed like
one hell of a ship. God, I would give my right leg to sit at
the helm. But it would never happen. Caldik Prime and my stint
in the Maquis made sure of that.

Speaking of Caldik Prime, it seems to have followed me here to
Voyager. The ship’s doctor brought it up the moment I
introduced myself to him. He had been the chief medical
officer at the base on Caldik Prime, at the time. The First
Officer didn’t say a word. At least not with Janeway looking
on. But that sneer on his face and his hesitation to shake my
hand said a thousand words.

If it weren’t for Harry, this damn trip would have been a bust.
Ensign Harry Kim. They don’t make Starfleet ensigns greener
than him. I had to save him from a Ferengi barkeep on Deep
Space Nine, bent on cheating him out of a few latinum. A few
years on a Starfleet vessel should rid him of that naivety.
And I’m sure that once Cavit or Dr. Fitzgerald tell him about
the real Tom Paris, he’ll wise up to me. Damn! Harry is one
of the few people on this ship I really like. Just as well.
I won’t be around very long. End personal log.

STARDATE 48324.61 – A lot has happened in the past few days.
Hell, I don’t know where to begin. VOYAGER got flung 70,000
light years into the Delta Quadrant by some entity on an array
station. This little journey cost the ship several key
officers – including Cavit, Fitzgerald, the chief engineer and
the lovely Lieutenant Stadi. What a shame about Stadi. I
rather liked her.

The crew was beamed to the array, disguised as some Midwestern
farm. Some holographic beauty punched me. We also found the
Maquis crew in a state of unconsciousness. And we ended up in
the same position for three days, while the entity poked and
prodded us. Even worse, I had a ‘pleasant’ little reunion
with Chakotay on the Bridge. The poor bastard was surprised to
learn that his Vulcan weapons man turned out to be a Starfleet
spy. And embarrassed when Janeway prevented him from beating
the tar out of me. I would have enjoyed his embarrassment
even further, if it wasn’t for Harry’s disappearance.

It seems that the being on the array had failed to return a
Maquis engineer and poor Harry to their respective ships.
Which has made me worried. About Harry, I mean. He was the
first person I could truly call a friend. Even after Cavit and
Fitzgerald told him about the three people I killed at Caldik
Prime, and how I got cashiered, he still wanted to remain my
friend. What did he say? “I prefer to choose my own
friends.”
 What a friend! And now, he’s missing. I only
hope that Captain Janeway can get him back before something
happens to him. End personal log.

STARDATE 48327.97 – It looks as if VOYAGER is stranded in the
Delta Quadrant for good. I don’t mind. Ever since the ship
got lost, life has . . . well, it has turned out for the
better.

I don’t have to return to prison. We found Harry, along with
the Maquis engineer, on some planet a few light years away from
the array. I saved Chakotay’s butt in the Ocampan tunnels and
earned myself a bodyguard. I’ll need one now that the Maquis
has joined the crew, after Chakotay destroyed their ship during
a battle with a warlike race called the Kazon. The crew has
also acquired a couple of hitchhikers – a funny-looking joker
named Neelix. He’s a Talaxian. Our other hitchhiker is an
Ocampan woman named Kes, whom we had saved from the Kazon.
She’s very beautiful.

Best of all, Captain Janeway has given me a field commission,
the rank of lieutenant junior grade . . . along with the Conn Division.
Which means that I am now VOYAGER’s chief pilot. Isn’t life
grand? I only hope that I can make up to Janeway for all she
has done for me. End personal log.

STARDATE 48339.17 – Life aboard VOYAGER isn’t bad. Well . . .
not that bad. I have to keep an eye out for the Maquis
crewmen. Just in case they decide to use me as a punching bag
for helping Janeway track them to the Badlands. I suspect that
a good number of the Starfleeters might want to do the same.

There is the Conn Division. On one hand, being head of the
division entitles me the position of chief pilot. So far, none
of them have been openly hostile – except for Henley, the lone
Maquis. And yet, they seemed reluctant to seriously pay
attention to the training I have devised for the division.
I’m trying to be thrilled about my new position as VOYAGER’s
chief helmsman, but it’s damn difficult to command a group of
people who consider me a criminal that deserves to spend the
next 70 years in the brig. How do you lead people like that?

It finally came to a head when I tried to give them a pep talk
about learning new piloting maneuvers. “We’re Starfleet
pilots,” Jon Hamilton had said. “Which means that we were
trained at the Academy, just like you. At least none of us had
killed anyone in a shuttle crash. And later lied about it.

For that remark, I assigned Hamilton to the Beta shift for the
next two weeks. Hey, I never claimed to be a saint. Vindictive,
yes, but not a saint. After my little disciplinary action
with Hamilton, the other pilots have ceased questioning my
piloting skills.

Chakotay certainly doesn’t make life easy. Now that he is
Voyager’s First Officer, he seems more interested in acting as
my tormentor, instead of bodyguard. If I’m two or three
minutes late on the Bridge, he doesn’t hesitate to point it out
in front of everyone. Even worse, I’ve been summoned to his office on several occasions regarding tardiness and Starfleet
procedures. Mind you, all of this is coming from a man who once
dropped out of Starfleet to join a terrorist group.

At least I have Harry’s friendship. I just don’t know how long that will last. Especially, since he has become friends with that
half-Klingon he was trapped on the Ocampan homeworld with. Her
name is B’Elanna Torres and she works in Engineering. I never
met her during my stint in the Maquis. I had only been with
Chakotay’s cell for a few weeks before my capture, and she was
on a top-secret mission at the time. I must admit that I find
her very beautiful, although somewhat temperamental. She has
made it clear that like her fellow Maquis, she dislikes me.
Not that I care. I’m not exactly fond of her. I don’t mind
her bad temper, but I find her self-righteousness a little hard
to take. A taint she had obviously picked up from Chakotay,
while they were both in the Maquis. I only hope that she
doesn’t come between Harry and me. End personal log.

STARDATE 48443.01 – Nothing much happened recently. VOYAGER
got trapped into an event horizon. Which brought on the sticky
subject of temporal mechanics. God, I hate dealing with that!
It was one of my worst subjects in the Academy. One good
thing came out of it. The pilots under me wanted to know how I
flew VOYAGER out of that horizon. Even Hamilton. To be
honest, I did nothing spectacular. Especially since Janeway
ordered me to use the ship like a battering ram for our escape.

The event horizon brought about another change. Joe Carey is
no longer VOYAGER’s Chief Engineer. B’Elanna Torres, Harry’s
half-Klingon friend, has become the new chief. Despite
breaking Carey’s nose in three different places. If that’s how
one can become chief engineer, how does one become the first
officer? Or the captain? Chakotay must be thrilled that his
little protégée has joined the senior staff.

One last little tidbit that hasn’t exactly made my day.
Because of a course in biochemistry I took at Starfeet, I am
now the new medical assistant and have to work with that
holographic egomaniac in Sick Bay. Sometimes I think the gods
must hate me. End personal log.

STARDATE 48533.7 – God, it’s been one hell of a day! VOYAGER
came across a new race called the Vidiians, while searching for
a supply of dilithium.

These Vidiians are a race, who have been inflicted by some
deadly virus called the phage, for the past millinium or two.
To keep their race alive, the Vidiians have engaged in
stealing organs from other humanoids. Ugh! While on an Away
mission with Harry and Chakotay, Neelix had his lungs stolen by
two Vidiians.

If one ever thought that doctors made lousy patients, try
dealing with an annoying Talaxian. I would have removed those
holographic lungs the Doc had created for Neelix, just for a
little peace and quiet, if it weren’t for Kes. She seemed very
concerned about Neelix and I had to assure her that he would
make it through this crisis. I just don’t get it! What does
Kes see in a guy like Neelix, anyway? Gratitude for saving her
from the Kazon? Fortunately, VOYAGER managed to capture the
two Vidiians and one of them turned out to be a physician. He
found a way to alter a donated lung to match Neelix’s
physiology. Guess who turned out to be the donator? That’s
right, Kes. Sigh!

Speaking of doctors, our own chief medical officer is turning
out to be a real pain in the ass. I could understand the
little lecture about holographic matter and so forth. But did
the bastard have to slap my face to prove his point? If you
ask me, the man is a sadist. Perhaps I can find a way to change
his personality subroutines. I’ve always been pretty good at
holoprogramming. There is one thing to be thankful. Kes has
just become the new medical assistant. Which means I won’t
have to hang around Sickbay – unless necessary.

Oh, I forgot. Neelix has converted the Captain’s private
dining room into the galley. And now, VOYAGER has a genuine
mess hall. Now that we have a cook, the crew can save
replicator energy. I don’t know about the rest of them, but I
think I’ll stick with replicated food. End personal log.

STARDATE 48549.92 – How can I put this in a nutshell? VOYAGER
explored a nebula, still searching for a supply of dilithium.
The nebula turned out to be a living organism that we damaged
during our little exploration trip. With a little fancy flying
from me, along with the Doctor and Torres’ expertise, we
managed to repair the damage to the nebu . . . uh, the life
form. Of course, all of this resulted in VOYAGER being
drained another 20% of energy.

Anything else? Oh yes. Neelix decided to entertain the Bridge
crew with a few selections of Talaxian hors d’erves. Which I
declined – naturally. I also discovered that Harry remembers
being inside his mother’s womb. What a shame there isn’t a
ship’s counselor on board. I think Harry could really use
one.

I also introduced Harry to my new holoprogram – a recreation of
one of my favorite spots in the universe, Sandrine’s. It’s a
tavern I used to frequent, when I spent my second year in the
Academy at a Starfleet base in Marsailles, France. This
prompted Harry to remark that I miss Earth. Hell, if Earth
only consisted of Sandrine’s, I would. By the way, I believe
that Sandrine, herself, has developed a little interest in my
good buddy.

After our encounter with the nebula/life form, the rest of the
crew decided to try out my program. Including the Captain, who
turned out to be quite the pool hustler. If only Starfleet
knew. The only person who seems to dislike Sandrine’s was
Lieutenant Torres. One of my characters, Gaunt Gary, tried to
proposition her. She, in turn, called us both pigs. You know,
I’m beginning to suspect that Torres really lacks a sense of
humor. If the Captain could tolerate a few innuendos with good
grace, why couldn’t she? End personal log.

STARDATE 48558.22 – Ran into Kes in the Mess Hall, this
evening. Since Neelix was busy preparing dinner for the crew,
I decided to offer her a little company. I learned a lot about
Kes. About her parents, her childhood on the Ocampan
homeworld, and her captivity by the Kazons. We spent so much
time talking about her that we barely touched on my background.
Which suited me just fine. Besides, with a certain Talaxian
cook giving us the evil eye every now and then, we decided to
end our little conversation. What the hell is wrong with
Neelix, anyway? Did he honestly think I would steal Kes from
him? Or ravage her? Hell, the worst anyone could accuse me of
is introducing Kes to my favorite drink – spinach juice, with a
touch of pear. End personal log.

STARDATE 48579.93 – We came so close to returning to the Alpha
Quadrant. Too close, if you ask me. Thank goodness for bad
luck.

Harry had discovered a wormhole that might lead back home.
Although I joked about the Federation (science institute)
naming the wormhole after him, inside I was filled with dread.
Home? Who wanted to go there? As far as I’m concerned,
VOYAGER is home. In the end, we discovered that the wormhole
was too small for the ship to travel through. The Captain
ordered Lieutenant Tuvok to launch a probe through the
wormhole, anyway. I suspect that she had hoped to make contact
with Starfleet. The probe got stuck in some eddy, thanks to
some phase variance. But we managed to eventually make
contact with a Romulan. Fortunately, this Romulan refused to
talk and cut off communication. But that didn’t deter my good
buddy, Harry. While the rest of us slept, he decided to
continue attempts to re-establish contact with the Romulan.
Exactly what does he hope to accomplish? End personal log.

STARDATE 48582.31 – The wormhole turned out to be a bust and
boy, I am relieved! Hell, a return to the Alpha Quadrant would
mean only one thing for me – a reunion with my fellow convicts
at the Federation Penal Settlement in New Zealand. And that’s
a fate I would like to avoid, thank you very much.

For a while, it seemed that the Alpha Quadrant awaited us. Not
only did Captain Janeway managed to re-establish contact with
the Romulan, Torres found a way to transport both objects and
people through the wormhole. Our Romulan contact, a scientist
on a top secret science vessel, became the first humanoid to be
transported through a wormhole, from one quadrant to another.

Then fortune finally stepped in when Tuvok discovered that the
phase variance caused us so much trouble, because the wormhole
not only lead to the Alpha Quadrant, but also twenty years in
the past. Also, our Romulan visitor will not live long enough
to send our messages to the Federation. I realize that the
others are upset, but as far as I’m concerned – all’s well that
ends well. End personal log.

STARDATE 48588.21 – It’s been difficult containing my glee over
our failed attempt with the wormhole. I must be the only
person aboard VOYAGER – aside from Neelix and Kes – who isn’t
disappointed. Although I suspect that our Delta Quadrant
natives are disappointed on behalf of the crew..

Harry has been in a funk, over the past two days. I tried to
cheer him up with a trip to Sandrine’s. Instead, he accused me
of being glad over the whole debacle. How could I deny the
truth? Right now, he’s in Torres’ quarters and both are
probably weeping together over lost opportunities. Do
Klingons weep? I have to look that up.

I can understand why Harry, the Captain and other ‘Fleeters are
upset. But why are the Maquis? Don’t they realize that a
return to the Alpha Quadrant meant a few years in prison for
them? They sure as hell can’t return to fighting Cardassians.
After all, they’re now officially Starfleet prisoners.

At the moment, Kes is the only person I can talk to. While
helping her in the Hydropondics Bay, I explained my feelings
about the wormhole to her. She seemed to understand. What a
relief to find someone I can be honest with.
End personal log.

STARDATE 48604.37 – How could I have been so stupid? What the
hell was I thinking?

Once again, I’ve gone ahead of myself. This is what happened.
VOYAGER encountered a race called the Baneans. They offered
to help repair VOYAGER’s busted collimator. The Captain ordered Harry
to the Banean homeworld, to confer with their top scientist on
the repairs. And since they were at war with another race
called the Numeri, guess who had to fly Harry to Banea? That’s
right! Me.

If only Captain Janeway had sent another pilot. If only
Doctor Ren had been married to an older and less attractive
woman. Hell! If only I had listened to Harry and Liddell, I
would not be in this mess! Liddell Ren. The moment I laid
eyes upon her, I fell in deep lust. Very beautiful and
obviously very bored with her marriage. And since I was bored
listening to Harry and the Doctor discuss engineering, I
decided to focus my attention on the gorgeous mistress of the
house.

Poor Doctor Ren ended up murdered – stabbed in the heart. The
Baneans accused me of the deed, claiming that the good doctor’s
memory engrams clearly showed that I was guilty. Only, I don’t
remember stabbing the man. Nor do I remember kissing Liddell
in the Arterium. Unfortunately, the Baneans didn’t believe
me, thanks to those memory engrams. And now, they have
convicted me of murder and punished me by grafting Doctor Ren’s
engrams with my own. Every fourteen hours, I have to relive
the memory of the murder through his eyes. Something is not
right. The murder couldn’t have happened like this!
Fortunately, the Captain and Tuvok arrived on Banea to
investigate and return me to VOYAGER. I only hope they can get
me out of this mess. End personal log.

STARDATE 48607.42 – Thank goodness for Tuvok! If it weren’t
for him, I would have spent the rest of my life, reliving false
memories of Doctor Ren’s murder, every 14 hours. Considering
how those engrams were frying my neural pathways, I would not
have lived very long.

Tuvok discovered that I was being used as a courier between the
Numeri, and a Banean doctor and Liddell, who were both traitors and
spies for the former. Great! Just what I always wanted to be.
As for Doctor Ren’s memories – it turned out that other Banean
doctor planted altered memories onto my neural pathways.

Harry told me that he would never do what I did. Fool around
with the wrong woman. But he will. One day. And I told him
so. Okay, maybe Harry’s comments did irk me a bit. But I was
serious when I told him that one day, he could meet the wrong
woman. It happens to a lot of guys. Including straight
arrows like Harry.

I found Lieutenant Tuvok in the Mess Hall and thanked him for
clearing me of murder. In his usual Vulcan fashion, he claimed
that he would have otherwise if I had been guilty. But I
thanked him, anyway. Perhaps for being himself, for once.
Others would have naturally assumed the worst and not bother to
investigate the matter. Tuvok had approached the case in his
usual objective manner, thank goodness. As for the rest of the
crew – well, they had all assumed I was guilty, until Tuvok
proved otherwise. With the exception of the Captain, Harry,
the Doctor and Kes. Thank goodness for friends. And the
Doctor. End personal log.

STARDATE 48635.01 – Will miracles cease to exist? I don’t
think so. Especially after I was approached by one of the
Delaney sisters for a favor. It seems that Jenny has developed
an interest in a certain Operations chief and would like me to
arrange a date. Knowing Harry’s devotion to a certain
fiancée, 70,000 light years away, I realize it would be
difficult to arrange this date. I’ve already tried it once and
it didn’t work. Maybe I can try bribery. Or blackmail. Hmmm,
then again, Ensign Eager isn’t the type to succumb to bribery.
And he hasn’t done anything worth blackmailing over. Oh
well. Perhaps I’ll just pester him to death. End personal log.

STARDATE 48638.27 – What do you know? Pestering him to death,
actually worked! In the end, I finally got that double date I
had wanted. Harry, Jenny, Megan and I had the date in
Holodeck One, enjoying the charms of Venice. Well, Megan and I
were able to enjoy Venice. I can’t say the same for Harry and
Jenny. They went for a ride in a gondola and in her enthusiasm
to seduce Harry, poor Jenny overexerted herself and both ended
up in the Grand Canal – heads first. If I didn’t feel sorry
for Harry, I would have laughed. (Pauses) Okay, I did
laugh. But only after Megan laughed first. Her laughter can
be very contagious. So full of life. As for Harry and Jenny –
I have a feeling they won’t be dating for quite a while. End
personal log.

STARDATE 48643.26 – The whole ship knows about the date with
Delaney sisters. Heck, even Torres and Seska were discussing
it, while the former oogled the ship’s Marble Model. I’m
referring to, of course, Ensign Murphy. Actually, there are
two Ensign Murphys. The other Murphy serves under Tuvok in
Security, while the Marble Model is in the Science Division. I
wonder what Torres sees in a man who resembles a Starfleet
recruitment poster, anyway?

At least I’m no longer on the Maquis’ shit list. Harry and I
actually managed to enjoy a conversation with Seska and Torres.
Our little camaraderie didn’t last very long. Chakotay
summoned the Senior officers to the Bridge. It seemed Voyager
came across a ship emitting a distress signal. The ship is
from a nearby planet called Sikaris. And its inhabitants have
invited the crew to spend a few days there, and partake in its
pleasures. Sounds interesting. End personal log.

STARDATE 48643.38 – Ah, Sikaris! I must say it was a beautiful
planet with riches and food, galore for enjoyment. Many of the
women seemed very attractive. Unfortunately, my enjoyment of
the planet was nearly spoiled by my best friend.
After befriending a Sikarian woman named Endana, Harry
discovered that the Sikarians possessed some kind of trajector
that permitted folded-space transport. This trajector could
shorten Voyager’s return to the Alpha Quadrant by 40,000 light
years.

I could only imagine Janeway’s reaction when she heard the
news. Excited. Relieved. To be honest, I didn’t feel the
same. The further Voyager remained from Earth, the better for
me. Thanks to Harry’s discovery of the trajector, the Alpha
Quadrant had loomed pretty close. Too close. Thankfully, the
Sikarians had a canon of laws similar to the Federation’s Prime
Directive. Their laws prevented them from introducing their
technology to other cultures. You know, I usually have a dim
view of the Prime Directive. I mean, what is the point of
non-interference in an alien culture, when Starfleet is suppose
to be about exploration? You can’t explore unknown worlds
without some kind of interference or influence – however
unintentional. The Captain plans to approach the Sikarian
government about making Voyager an exception to their rule. I
hate to say this, but I hope she fails. End personal log.

STARDATE 48648.68 – What a goddamn mess! Who would have
thought a visit to a pleasure-seeking planet would end with
Voyager nearly being destroyed by a warp core breach? And its
Security Chief and Chief Engineer ending in deep shit with the
Captain? Frankly, I’m just glad I’m not the one who messed
up.

The Sikarian Council had rejected Janeway’s request for Voyager
to use their trajector technology. Thank goodness! She had no
choice but to abide by their decision. But it didn’t end
there. Harry’s friend, Endana, introduced him to a Sikarian
man named Jaret Otel, who was willing to break his world’s law
by trading the trajector technology for a library of Federation
literature. Harry, Seska, Torres and I discussed it. I more
or less told the others that they were wasting their time. The
Captain might consider Otel’s offer, but in the end, she would
never go against Federation principles.

Of course, I was right. But Janeway’s decision did not stop
Tuvok and Torres from making the exchange with Otel. And when
Voyager finally left orbit, the trajector proved to be
incompatible with Federation technology and nearly caused a
warp core breach. I learned from Harry that Seska and Joe
Carey were also involved in this scheme, but only Tuvok and
Torres got chewed out. If she had done worse, Voyager would
have ended up with Rollins or Pete Durst as Security Chief.
And Sue Nicoletti as Chief Engineer. I’m just glad that damn
trajector never worked. End personal log.

STARDATE 48662.6 – Will the Universe ever cease to amaze me?
It certainly didn’t, today. Who would have thought? Seska, a
Cardassian! Not only was she a Cardassian, but an agent of the
Obsidian Order, assigned to infiltrate the Maquis! What can I
say? I’m shocked. (Pauses) Then again, knowing Seska’s
character, perhaps not.

Thanks to encounter with a damaged Kazon-Nistrim ship, we
learned that someone aboard Voyager had been trading Federation
technology to the Kazon in exchange for their protection.
Suspects came down to two people – Seska and Joe Carey. Not
surprisingly, most of the ‘Fleeters suspected Seska and the
Maquis, Carey. My choice was Seska. When I told Harry, both
Torres and Ayala overheard me. “Starfleet to the end, right
Paris?” Torres had said with her usual sneer.

I had told her that my Starfleet background had nothing to do
with my opinion. “I don’t know Carey that well,” I said, “but
I know Seska. I don’t trust her within an inch of my life.
She has the brains and imagination to pull something like
this. And you all know how she feels about Federation
principles.” To everyone’s surprise, Ayala agreed. It seemed
he never really trusted Seska, either.

After Seska’s escape to another Kazon ship, most of the Maquis
walked around, either in a daze or looking humiliated.
Especially Chakotay. He was, after all, Seska’s loudest
defender and former lover. Poor Chakotay. He was always a
lousy judge of character. End personal log.

END OF PART I

L.A. Noir IV (2001-2016)

Below is the fourth set of images from some famous film noir movies set in Los Angeles:

L.A. Noir IV (2001-2016)

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“Training Day” (2001)

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“Mulholland Drive” (2001)

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“Collateral” (2004)

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“Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang” (2005)

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“The Black Dahlia” (2006)

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“Gangster Squad” (2013)

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“Mob City” (2013)

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“The Nice Guys” (2016)

1830s Costumes in Movies and Television

Below are images of fashion from the decade of the 1830s, found in movies and television productions over the years:

1830s COSTUMES IN MOVIES AND TELEVISION

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“Pride and Prejudice” (1940)

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“My Cousin Rachel” (1952)

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“Jane Eyre” (1983)

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“Impromptu” (1991)

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“Middlemarch” (1994)

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“Onegin” (1999)

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“The Young Victoria” (2009)

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“Jane Eyre” (2011)

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“Les Misérables” (2012)

“Gentleman Jack” (2019-present)

“COWBOYS & ALIENS” (2011) Review

“COWBOYS & ALIENS” (2011) Review

Ever since its release during the summer of 2011, many have been contemplating on the box office failure of “COWBOYS & ALIENS”. I could go over the many theories spouted about its failure over the years, but I would find that boring. I am simply aware that the movie had only earned $34 million dollars short of its budget. And all I can say is . . . what a damn pity.

“COWBOYS & ALIENS” had some big names participating in its production. Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford were the movie’s stars. The cast also included well known names such as Sam Rockwell, Adam Beach, Keith Carradine, Paul Dano and Clancy Brown. Jon Farveau, the director of the two successful “IRON MAN” movies, helmed the director’s chair. At least five of the screenwriters – Damon Lindelof, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Ostby – have been associated with projects like “LOST” and the “STAR TREK”. And big names in the film industry such as Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Steven Spielberg acted as some of the producers. But despite all of this “COWBOYS & ALIENS” remained one of the flops of the 2011 summer movie season. Again, pity. I realize that I keep using the word “pity” as a response to the movie’s failure. But I cannot help it. I really enjoyed “COWBOYS & ALIENS”. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that it has become one of my favorite movies from the summer of 2011.

The movie was based upon the 2006 graphic novel by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. It told the story of an alien invasion that occurred in the New Mexico Territory in 1873. The story focused upon a mysterious loner that awakens in the desert, injured and wearing a strange bracelet shackled to his wrist. He wanders into the town of Absolution, where the local preacher, Meacham treats his wound. After the stranger subdues Percy Dolarhyde, who has been terrorizing the populace, Sheriff Taggart recognizes the loner as Jake Lonergan, a wanted outlaw, and tries to arrest him. Jake nearly escapes, but a mysterious woman named Ella Swenson knocks him out. Percy’s father, Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde, a rich and influential cattleman, arrives with his men and demands that Percy be released to him. He also wants Jake, who had stolen Dolarhyde’s gold. During the standoff, alien spaceships begin attacking the town. Percy, Sheriff Taggart and many townsfolk are abducted. Jake shoots down one ship with a device concealed in his wrist band, ending the attack. Realizing that the bracelet that Jake wears stands between them and the aliens, Colonel Dolarhyde, Meacham and Ella convinces Jake to help them find the aliens and the kidnapped townspeople, despite the fact that he has no memory of his own identity, let alone of any previous encounters with the aliens. Their expedition leads them Jake’s former gang and a band of Chiricahua Apaches, who have also been victims of the aliens.

“COWBOYS & ALIENS” is not perfect. It has its flaws. To be honest, I can think of one or two flaws. Perhaps one. Although I understood that the aliens were taking the gold found near Absolution to power their starship, the script never made it clear on why they were taking the populace, as well. The only thing that the script made clear was that the kidnapped populace were being experimented upon. When it comes to human experimentation of reasons behind an invasions, many plots for alien invasion movies and television series tend to be rather weak in this area, including some of the best in this genre. And my other problem was that the script failed to reveal how Ella, who turned out to be another alien whose people had been destroyed by the invaders, ended up on Earth.

But despite these flaws, “COWBOYS & ALIENS” really impressed me. I thought that Jon Favreau did an excellent job in combining action with the film’s dramatic moments. And his eye for location, greatly assisted by Matthew Libatique’s photography of the New Mexican countryside, gave the movie’s visuals a natural grandeur. In my review of “SUPER 8”, I had commented that it reminded me of an old “STAR TREK VOYAGER” episode. I cannot say the same for “COWBOYS & ALIENS”. But it did remind me of a “STAR TREK VOYAGER” fanfiction story called “Ashes to Ashes”. At least Jake’s experiences with the aliens before the movie began. And “COWBOYS & ALIENS” must be the only alien invasion movie I can think of that was set before the 20th century. It occurred to me that if the two most famous adaptations of H.G. Wells’ novel, “War of the Worlds” had been given its original setting, this would not have been the case. Unless someone knows of another alien invasion movie with a pre-20th century setting. Ever since I first saw the trailers for “COWBOYS AND ALIENS”, I wondered how the screenwriters would combine the two genres of Science-Fiction and Westerns. Hell, I wondered if they could. Mixing Jake’s history as an outlaw with his experiences with the aliens did the trick. At least I believe so. More importantly, “COWBOYS & ALIENS” provided plenty of opportunities for character development – and that includes the supporting cast.

The cast certainly proved to be first-rate. There have been British actors who have appeared in Westerns before. Come to think of it, Daniel Craig is not even the first James Bond actor who has appeared in a Western. But he is the only one I can recall who appeared in a Western as an American-born character. And if I must be blunt, the man takes to Westerns like a duck to water. More importantly, both Craig’s super performance and the screenwriters made certain that his Jake Lonergran did not come off as some cliché of the “Man With No Name” character from Sergio Leone’s DOLLAR TRILOGY”. Craig made him a man determined to learn of his past, while dealing with the sketchy memories of a past love and his attraction toward Ella.

The character of Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde seems like a far cry from Harrison Ford’s usual roles. His Colonel Dolarhyde was not the solid Jack Ryan type or the rough, yet dashing Indiana Jones persona. In one of his rare, offbeat roles, Ford’s Colonel Dolarhyde was a ruthless, no-nonsense man who ruled his ranch and the town of Absolution with an iron fist. And Ford did a first-rate job of diluting Dolarhyde’s distasteful ruthlessness into something more . . . human and warm. I wondered how I would take Olivia Wilde’s performance as the mysterious Ella Swenson, who seemed determined to get Jake to help the rest of Absolution’s citizens find the aliens. After seeing the movie, I enjoyed her performance very much. She had a strong chemistry with Craig. More importantly, she gave a solid performance and possessed a strong screen presence. But I really enjoyed about Wilde’s performance was that she conveyed an other world quality about Ella that strongly hinted her role as an alien who landed on Earth to find the invaders who had destroyed most of her race.

The supporting cast was led by the likes of Sam Rockwell, who competently portrayed Absolution’s insecure saloon keeper, Doc; and Adam Beach, who gave a deliciously complex performance as Dolarhyde’s right-hand man, Nat Colorado. And actors such as Paul Dano as Dolarhyde’s s raucous son, a serene Clancy Brown, Noah Ringer (from “THE LAST AIRBENDER”), who portrayed the sheriff’s grandson, and a solid Keith Carradine gave firm support.

I do not know what else I could say about “COWBOYS & ALIENS”. I find it a pity that it had failed to become a hit. Because I really enjoyed it. The screenwriters, along with cinematographer Matthew Libatique, a first-rate cast led by Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford and fine direction by Jon Favreau made it one of my favorite films from the summer of 2011.

“What Went Wrong With ‘CHARMED’?”

“WHAT WENT WRONG WITH ‘CHARMED’?”

What happened with the original “CHARMED” (1998-2006) series? How did a show that for a brief period, used to be one of my top ten favorites ended up as something for me to be derisive about?

Well, below are what I believe are the three major traits that contributed to the show’s decline (at least for me) – morality, portrayal of men and magical powers.

Morality:

For me, this was a major problem with the series. The audience was led to believe that the Halliwell sisters aka the Charmed Ones were the epitome of goodness, yet the writers have allowed them to get away with some very despicable acts. I am not one of those who demand that protagonists of a fictional story – whether in print, movies, plays or television – be flawless or ideal. I realize this is impossible, due to human nature. But I believe that when a work of fiction allows its protagonist to make a mistake or crime, I believe the writers should allow that character to face the consequences of his or her actions. Unfortunately, this rarely happened on “CHARMED” – especially in regard to the Charmed Ones and their whitelighter, Leo Wyatt. On the other hand, the Charmed Ones, Leo and the series’ show runners and writers made certain that others – like Cole Turner – pay the price for their actions. Whether they deserved it or not.

Piper Halliwell’s Purchase of Illegal Fruit – In the Season Two episode, (2.12) “Awakened”, a greedy Piper had purchased illegal fruit from South America that had not been inspected by U.S. Customs for a cheap price. She had plans to serve the fruit to her customers at her P3 bar. After sampling the fruit, Piper became afflicted with a deadly disease called “Oroyo Fever”. First, her sisters Prue and Phoebe used a spell to save her life by directing the disease from her body to an ninja action figure toy owned by another patient. This act led to other patients in the hospital being afflicted by the disease. Eventually, Prue and Phoebe reversed the spell and Piper became afflicted again. In the end, Leo used his whitelighter ability to cure Piper.

Since Leo had used magic for personal gain, he lost his whitelighter wings . . . temporarily. The Charmed Ones, on the other hand, did not pay any price whatsoever for their actions in this episode. Piper managed to survive and did not face any illegal prosecution for breaking Federal law. Also, Prue and Phoebe did not pay any price for using magic for personal gain and threatening the lives of innocents in the process. On the other hand, Piper’s miraculous recovery attracted the attention of physician, Dr. Curtis Williamson. His determination to learn how she had recovered so quickly led to him temporarily possessing the Charmed Ones powers and his death in a later episode, (2.20) “Astral Monkey”. While Piper had lamented over not answering one of his earlier requests for a medical examination, neither she or her sisters felt any guilt over how their actions in “Awakened” led to Dr. Williamson’s death in “Astral Monkey”.

The 48-Hour Window of Opportunity Rule – According to the Season Four premiere, (4.01-4.02) “Charmed Again”, the Whitelighters (“good”) and the demons (“evil”) had made a compromise regarding the moral compass of witches. This compromise created a period of forty-eight hours for a witch to decide his or her alliance or moral path. Frankly, I thought this was a dumb idea ever created by Brad Kern or one of his writers. The idea that the Elders’ Council and the Source’s Council had the authority to give a new witch a specific time period of free will to choose between good and evil is ludicrous. That witch or any other individual should constantly have some semblance of free will to choose any particular path . . . should have been regarded as a natural right. What made this rule even more ludicrous is once a witch makes up his or her mind, he/she will remain either good or evil until death. What on earth? This whole “Window of Opportunity” rule smacks of a fairy tale for children and not for a series about adult women. What Kern had failed to remember that life is uncertain, which means there are no real absolutes upon which one can depend. In other words, if Paige had chosen evil, her decision could never be regarded as absolute. In the real world . . . or in a well-written story, there would be no real absolute. Not only was this rule a prime example of how the series’ black-and-white morality stagnated the series’ writing development, it also appeared in the “CHARMED” reboot series. Pity.

Darryl Morris’ Soul – In Season Six’s (6.01-6.02) “Valhalley of the Dolls”, two of the Charmed Ones, Phoebe and half-sister Paige Matthews had committed a despicable act with the psychic rape of their close friend, Inspector Detective Darryl Morris. The pair used a spell to strip Darryl of his soul without his consent. They had committed this despicable act in order to free Leo from Valhalla (Norse/Viking version of heaven) and have him remove a spell he had cast on Piper. Phoebe and Paige’s act should have had major consequences for them. Instead, the writers treated this act of psychic rape as a joke and dismissed the whole matter with Darryl lamely and quickly forgiving them. I was disgusted by this episode.

Rick Gittridge’s Murder – Phoebe and Paige had committed another despicable act in the Season Six episode, (6.17) “Hyde School Reunion”. Nervous over facing former classmates at a high school reunion, Phoebe had cast a spell on herself, regressing her personality to her seventeen year-old self. While under this spell, she used magic to help a former high school classmate named Rick Gittridge escape from prison. Eventually, Phoebe recovered from her spell and realized she had a convict who knew she was a witch on her hands.
When Rick held her and Paige at gunpoint and demanded that they change his face so that he could avoid the police, Paige obliged, at Phoebe’s urging, by giving him the face of their nephew and Piper and Leo’s younger son, Chris Halliwell. What Rick did not know and the sisters did was Chris was on the run from a group of Scabber demons that he had angered. So . . . instead of teleporting the gun from Rick’s hand and sending him back to prison with his memories wiped, Paige transformed his face to resemble Chris’. The Scabber demons saw Rick with Chris’ face and promptly killed him before disappearing. And both Phoebe and Paige – to my utter disgust – declared their action had been necessary. In other words, Phoebe and Paige got away with cold-blooded murder thanks to Brad Kern’s misplaced sense of justice.

Alliance with the Avatars – Another major crime that the Halliwells had committed was helping the Avatars (an ancient group of extremely powerful magical beings) change the world by removing any dark thoughts from the human race and committing genocide against demons … all so that they can selfishly lead happy lives and not hunt demons. This little act, which had occurred in (7.12) “Extreme Makeover: World Edition”, resulted in the psychic rape of the world’s population and the deaths of those few who were not affected by the spell. And what happened after the following episode, (7.13) “Charmeggedon”? Leo paid the price for his part in the spell with the loss of his whitelighter wings and position as an Elder. Yet the sisters – especially Piper – avoided any consequences for their actions. Again. Instead, they blamed the Avatars for not telling them everything and the Elders for driving Leo into becoming an Avatar. This was so cowardly on so many levels. At this point, my opinion of the Charmed Ones had sunk to a new low. Their unwillingness to learn any lesson from their own mistake and blame others disgusted me to my core.

Cole Turner aka Belthazor’s First Death and the Source – Sometime in early Season Four, Phoebe’s lover and former assassin – the demon/hybrid Cole Turner aka Belthazor – lost his magical powers due to an old potion made by the Charmed Ones back in Season Three, because a woman wanted revenge for his past killing of her fiance. When the sisters were threatened with death at the hands of the demonic leader known as the Source, Cole used a magical object to strip the villain of his magical powers and use them to save Phoebe and her sisters. Unfortunately for Cole, he ended up being possessed against his will by the Source’s spirit. Episodes like (4.14) “The Three Faces of Phoebe” and (4.16) “The Fifth Halliwell” had made it very clear that the Source had taken possession of Cole’s body. Instead of having the Charmed Ones discover this, Brad Kern and his writers had allowed them to succumb to their worst fears and prejudices regarding Cole’s past and kill him. To make matters worst, the sisters never found out in the following season that he had been an innocent victim of the Source. Instead, Kern and the writers dump some “Cole turns insane” story line in early Season Five on viewers in order to set in motion the character’s departure from the series in the shitty episode (5.12) “Centennial Charmed”. In doing this, show runner Brad Kern and staff writers had failed to allow the sisters a chance to discover their own potential for bigotry and evil and thus, kill any chance of them developing as characters. Only Prue had been given this chance in Season Three episodes like (3.15) “Just Harried” and (3.16) “Death Takes a Halliwell”.

Other Magical Beings – The series’ “black-vs-white” morality had became a prime example of how people judge others on a purely superficial basis. Which the Halliwells had been guilty of. Look at Cole for example. The only reason Phoebe and her sisters had originally believed he possessed the potential for good was due to his human ancestry on his father’s side. For Phoebe and her sisters, Cole’s human half equated to good, and his demon half equated to evil. When Cole had lost his powers for the second time in Season Five (5.07) “Sympathy For the Demon”, the sisters’ whitelighter Leo Wyatt automatically judged him good, because he no longer had his “demonic” powers.

This all stemmed from the the series’ never ending habit of labeling certain powers as good (“witches, fairies, whitelighters, etc.”) or evil (“demons, darklighters, warlocks”), based on what kind of beings possessed them. I never understood why the series had continued to portray magical abilities in this infantile manner – especially for a show that was about adult women. “CHARMED” also made a big deal about witches not using their powers for personal gain. Yet, from what I have read about the Wiccan Rede (please correct me if I am wrong), personal gain is not even considered forbidden. Wiccans seemed to be more concerned with intent – using one’s powers to deliberately hurt another, forcing someone to do something against his or her will, or using magic on others without their consent, which the Halliwells were extremely guilty of in “Vahalley of the Dolls”(6.17) “Hyde School Reunion” and “Extreme Makeover: World Edition”. And by the way, the Charmed Ones never paid any consequences for their transgressions.

Phoebe, her sisters and Leo seemed incapable of accepting the possibility that ALL BEINGS, no matter who or what they are – have the potential for both good and evil within them. The show has refused to accept the possibility that demons have the potential for good and humans have the potential for great evil (with the exception of a few). To the series’ writers (and characters), a sentient being’s morality is mainly based upon WHAT he or she is, and not on the individual’s emotional state . . . OR CHOICES.

The reason I brought these issues is that Kern and the series’ writers had allowed the sisters to get away with major crimes. The sisters had paid the price for using their powers for minor acts – like Prue using her telekinesis to force an annoying neighbor, who had been allowing his dog to poop against their front steps, to step in said dog poop; and Phoebe using her premonition power to find the future father of her future child – but never for major acts that I had listed above. Also, I really wish that “CHARMED” had been more ambiguous and complex in its portrayal of morality. Everything was so simple-minded and childish. Demons/warlocks are all evil; humans are all good (unless there are no demons around). What exactly was wrong in portraying demons and other supernatural beings as morally ambiguous? What was wrong in the sisters learning that morality was not as simple and easy to label, as they have assumed for so many years?

Portrayal of Men:

Another problem I had with “CHARMED” was its portrayal of many male characters. I understand that the series had wanted to portray women in a positive light – strong and intelligent. There was nothing wrong with that. By why did the series’ portrayal of men had to be basically negative? “CHARMED” was supposed to be about feminism. However, my idea of feminism was not male bashing or emasculation. Unfortunately, the series was guilty of both. During most of Seasons One and Two, the sisters had a tendency to make many unnecessary quips at the expense of the male gender. And there was the (2.05) “She’s a Man, Baby! She’s a Man!” episode that I would dearly love to forget. And what happened to male witches? I can only recall seeing one so-called male witch on the show – Max Franklin from (1.14) “Secrets and Guys” – and at age thirteen, he was too young to be practicing witchcraft.

Regular Male Characters – Another problem is that most of the strong male characters on the show are either stripped of their power or dies. this happened to characters like Cole Turner, Andy Trudeau, Leo Wyatt, Chris Halliwell and Kyle Brody. The powerful half-demon Belthazor aka Cole ended up having his powers stripped in (4.08) “Black As Cole” and was “deemed safe” to marry Phoebe. And when he became more powerful than ever in Season Five, he was judged “evil and insane” and targeted for death by Kern and his writers in “Centennial Charmed”. Andy Trudeau, a strong-willed San Francisco cop who also happened to be Prue’s true love, ended up dead not long after he discovered that the sisters were witches at the end of Season One. Although Piper and Leo’s older son Wyatt became a very powerful witch, he was too young for the writers to do anything about it. Leo became a whitelighter Elder at the end of Season Five and later, an Avatar in early Season Seven. Thus the writers felt that they had to break him away from Piper. And they did not reunite the couple until Leo permanently became a mortal (aka “safe”). Both Chris (Piper and Leo’s younger son) and FBI Special Agent Kyle Brody (Paige’s love interest in Season Seven) were strong personalities who ended up dead – along with ex-demon named Drake who had decided to become a human. And how did the series end? With a powerless Leo, a non-magical husband for Paige, and a “Cupid” (magical being associated with love) for Phoebe to marry.

Darryl Morris – One would notice that I did not mention Darryl Morris, the detective inspector from the San Francisco Police Department, who had known the Halliwells since the beginning. Darryl had began the series as Andy Trudeau’s partner. Following Andy’s death, Darryl became the sisters’ main non-magical contact between Seasons Two and Seven. The writers’ treatment of Darryl really annoyed me over the years. After Season Two, I got tired of him freaking out whenever faced with the sisters’ magic. Also, the sisters had badly mistreated him during Season Six . His soul was stripped from his body against his will in “Valhalley of the Dolls” by Phoebe and Paige. And he was was framed for murder by magical beings known as the Cleaners, who used him to cover up the Halliwells’ careless use of magic. When he had decided that he wanted nothing to do with the Charmed Ones (and I did not blame him) in late Season Six, the writers had treated as the bad guy for failing to forgive them for what happened to him. And when Darryl finally reconciled with them in Season Seven, he returned to being one of the sisters’ lap dogs. Leo became the other one.After years of watching the show, I found myself wondering if both Constance Burge and Brad Kern had become leery of the idea of the Halliwells being associated on a permanent basis with strong male characters. And I found that sad.

Magical Powers:

How can I put this? One of the more confusing aspects of “CHARMED” has always been its portrayal of magic. The series’ portrayal of magical beings and various abilities have struck me as contradicting. Another problem with the series was that the show runners and the writers had allowed its black-and-white mentally to label what kind of abilities that its characters can practice.

Fire Ability – For example, according to the series, any ability to do with fire can only be possessed by evil magic practitioners like demons and warlocks. Why? Fire is an element, not something evil. The series had featured a witch in its premiere episode, (1.01) “Something Wicca Comes This Way” as a pyrokinetic. Later, a young foster child named Tyler Michaels in Season Four’s (4.12) “Lost and Bound” also had the ability to create fire. These were two rare cases in which “CHARMED” featured pyrokinetics who were not evil. However, the series eventually ret-conned Tyler as a Archai, an elemental being who could not only create fire, but use fire to create portals. Was Brad Kern uneasy over the idea of a minor protagonist being a mere fire starter? It certainly felt like it. Was the series’ portrayal of fire as something evil stemmed from religion? Again . . . it felt like it, but I cannot say for certain.

The Nexus – Another aspect of magic that I found ridiculous on “CHARMED” was the whole “Nexus Theory” from the episode (1.15) “Is There a Woogy in the House?”. An earthquake had revealed a magical entity called “the Woogeyman” that resided in the Charmed Ones’ basement. The sisters had learned that their home was located on top of a spiritual nexus – a location that was equidistant from the five spiritual elements. And because Phoebe had been born inside their home, her moral compass could easily swing from good to evil, in compare to her sisters. This was all bullshit, of course, since anyone can swing from good to evil or back, considering the circumstances. But what made this “Nexus Theory” even more laughable was that the five elements that played a role in it – earth, fire, water, wood and metal – are associated with Chinese philosophy, not Wiccan beliefs. The elements associated with Wicca are – earth, fire, water, air and spirit. Prue had claimed that the first list of elements were Wiccan, when they were actually associated with Chinese philosophy. Sigh!

Paige Matthews’ Ability – Season Four had introduced a new member of the Halliwell family – half-sister, Paige Matthews. Paige was the creation of an affair between the sisters’ mother, Patricia “Patty” Halliwell and her whitelighter, Sam Wilder. With Prue no longer a member of the Charmed Ones, Paige had replaced her. Naturally, Brad Kern and his writers believed they had to create an ability for Paige that was similar to Prue’s telekinesis. And what was it? Well, the sisters dubbed it telekinetic orbingSigh! In a nutshell, when Paige wanted to move something or someone, her object would disappear in one spot and reappear in another. Does this sound familiar? Well it should. This ability is usually regarded as teleporting. But the objective is the same as telekinesis – moving someone or something from one spot to another. Because Paige’s father was a whitelighter and her ability manifested in white or blue orbs, her ability was labeled as telekinetic orbing. It would have been a lot easier for the writers to use the correct phrase for Paige’s ability – teleporting – and easier on the mouth for the actors. But alas . . .

The above are simply examples of the series’ rather odd and occasional erroneous portrayal of magic. If I truly wanted to delve into this subject, it would have required me to write another essay – a long one at that. So, I will end it right here.

I have written other articles about “CHARMED” in which I had discussed issues I found problematic. But when it came to morality, male characters and magic abilities, I feel that the series had made its most obvious mistakes.

“The Many Loves of Rafe McCawley” [PG-13] – 1/6

“THE MANY LOVES OF RAFE McCAWLEY”

RATING: PG-13
E-MAIL: lee66132000@yahoo.com
FEEDBACK: Please feel free to send a little feedback. Please, no flames.
SUMMARY: Just before meeting Evelyn for the first time, Rafe and Danny recall the former’s past love life.
DISCLAIMER: Yadda, yadda, yadda! All characters pertaining to the motion picture, “Pearl Harbor”, belong to Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, Randall Wallace and the Walt Disney Company . . . unfortunately.

—————–

PART 1 – First Love

MITCHELL FIELD, LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK; DECEMBER 1940 . . . Lieutenant Daniel Walker stood in line behind his best friend and fellow Army pilot, Lieutenant Rafe McCawley. He noticed how the older man shifted from one foot to another, almost like a jackrabbit in flight.

“Godalmighty, Rafe! Simmer down!” Danny hissed into his friend’s ear. “You act like a man trying to run from his own hanging.”

Fearful brown eyes bored into those that belonged to the twenty-three year-old pilot. “You can call it that,” Rafe shot back. “Jiminy cricket! A physical! Dammit Danny! Why didn’t you tell me there was gonna be one?”

“I just found out about it, yesterday,” Danny explained. “And you didn’t return to the base until lights out. What took you so long in getting back?”

Rafe sighed. Both he and Danny moved a step forward toward the nurse. She was about to stick a needle into Anthony Fusco’s bare bottom. The two friends squirmed at the sight of their fellow pilot’s plight.

“Claudia,” Rafe finally answered. “We broke up.”

Danny tried not to express any jubilation over the news. He loved Rafe. Both had grown up together in Shelby County, Tennessee. They started out as best friends. And when Danny moved in with the McCawleys following his daddy’s death, they virtually became brothers. The pair had gone through a lot together – childhood, love of flying, high school, college and now, the Army Air Corps. There was a lot about Rafe that Danny admired. However, the former’s love life did not happen to be one of them.

“Oh, hey Rafe! I’m sorry to hear about you and Claudia.” Danny tried to sound mournful over his friend’s romantic mishap. Apparently, he had failed, judging by Rafe’s scornful expression. “What?”

Rafe’s scorn deepened. “Did you know that you were a lousy liar, Danny?”

“You never fail to tell me, if you must know.”

“Well, I was right,” Rafe shot back. Anthony cried out in pain and moved on, rubbing his behind. The two friends took another step forward and watched another man bend over before the nurse. Rafe continued, “I’ll bet that you’re jumping for joy over what happened between me and Claudia.”

Danny tried to sound innocent. “Of course not!” he protested. Rafe gave him a hard stare. As usual, Danny wilted. “All right, maybe I am. I never liked her anyway. Big deal!”

“You’ve never liked any of my girlfriends,” Rafe accused.

“What are you talking about? What about Fenton Marsh? Or Julie Fisher? I liked them!”

The soldier at the head of the line walked away, rubbing his rear end. Everyone else took a step forward. Only Billy from the two friends’ squadron, stood between Rafe and a shot in the behind. Which Danny felt temporarily grateful.

Rafe whirled on the younger man, his eyes shining with suspicion. “Oh yeah?” he countered. “What about Mary Jo Burnett? From grade school? Did you like her?”

* * * *

SHELBY COUNTY, TENNESSEE; OCTOBER 1926 TO APRIL 1927 . . . The final bell at Shelbyville Elementary School in Shelby, Tennessee, announced the end of another day. Scores of children poured out of their classrooms and rushed toward the exits. Among them were ten year-old Rafe McCawley and his best friend, nine year-old Danny Walker.

The pair paused in front of a large oak tree in the schoolyard. The older boy dug into his pockets. “Look what I got!” He triumphantly produced two shiny blue marbles and showed them to Danny.

The younger boy’s eyes grew wide with excitement. “Hey! Don’t those marbles belong to Carl Jordan? How did you get ’em?”

“A bet.” Rafe flashed his usual cocky smile. “I bet Carl that I could beat him in a bike race on Shelby Road. I won, of course.”

Danny declared breathlessly, “I reckon Carl must be pretty sore. Those marbles must have cost him a fortune.”

Rafe sniffed. He had never harbored a high opinion of Carl Jordan, the younger son of a local merchant. “Fifteen cents. Course, I would have never bet anything this valuable. Carl, on the other hand, never had much sense. Much like his daddy.”

Admiration shone in the younger boy’s eyes. “Yeah, that’s Carl alright. Did you know that he once . . .?”

A scream from the other side of the schoolyard interrupted Danny. Rafe’s eyes immediately shifted to the sight of two boys around his age, trying to wrestle a paper bag from the clutches of a girl. The other kids in the yard seemed determined to ignore them. Not Rafe.

The moment the ten year-old became aware of the situation, he became a knight in shining armor. The Southern gentleman who always saved the honor of a fair damsel. With a roar reminiscent of the Rebel yell, he charged at the girl’s tormentors. Rafe knocked one to the ground and punched the latter a few times to ensure that the boy remained down.

The other boy, whom Rafe recognized as Carl Jordan, stared at him with baffled eyes. Before Carl could react, Rafe snatched the paper bag from the former’s clutches. A snarl left Carl’s mouth and he tried to rush Rafe. Fortunately, the latter proved to be quick. Rafe avoided Carl’s fist with a duck and responded with a better aimed blow to the other boy’s face. Carl fell to the ground with blood gushing from his nose.

“Rafe!” Danny rushed forward, obviously prepared to come to his friend’s defense. “Rafe, are you okay?”

The older boy shot back, grinning, “Just fine and dandy!” Rafe glanced at the paper bag in his hand and remembered the girl standing nearby. When he turned to face her, Rafe found himself staring into a pair of dark brown eyes. He forgot about Danny, Carl Jordan and just about everyone else. “Uh,” he began nervously, “I reckon this uh . . . this belong . . .”

The girl smiled. “Thank you,” she said in a soft voice that could melt butter. “Thank you for returning my bag to me.” She held out her hand.

Rafe blinked. “Huh? Oh.” He handed the bag to her.

“May I know the name of my rescuer?”

He gave a slight cough. “Rafe. My name is Rafe McCawley.”

“And mine is Mary Jo Burnett.” A smile curved her generous mouth. Groans from the ground interrupted the conversation and Mary Jo’s smile transformed into a frown. Carl Jordan and his friend slowly scrambled to their feet.

A groggy Carl began, “Wha . . .?”

Rafe grabbed the boy’s arm. “You get out of here, Carl Jordan. Both you and Orwin. And if either of you ever bother . . . uh, Mary Jo again, both me and Danny’ll whup you good. Or I just might do it myself. You hear?”

The two boys gulped nervously and raced away. Rafe turned to Mary Jo with a smile. “May I see you home, Miss Burnett?”

Her smile dazzled Rafe. “Of course.” Mary Jo nodded at Danny. “Both of you can.”

“Huh?” Rafe turned and saw his friend standing next to a tree stump, squirming with discomfort. He had forgotten about Danny. “Oh! Danny. Well, yeah. Sure.”

Still looking uncomfortable, the nine year-old murmured, “That’s okay. You two can go ahead. I gotta get home, anyway.”

Rafe knew that Danny had lied. For the latter, home meant a broken down two-room shack off Horton Road, with a drunken brute of a father still recovering from the war. Danny usually delayed going home after school, as long as he possibly could.

“What are you talking about, Danny?” Rafe protested. “You usually . . .”

But the younger boy quickly bid Rafe and Mary Jo good-bye and ran off, leaving behind a bewildered Rafe. A soft hand touched the latter’s arm. “Rafe? You ready?” Ah yes, Mary Jo.

Danny quickly forgotten, Rafe offered Mary Jo his arm. She accepted it and the pair strolled away from the schoolyard.

* * * *

Mary Jo Burnett. From the moment Rafe first laid eyes upon the nine year-old girl, he could not get enough of her. In fact, it did not take long for the pair to become a romantic twosome.

Rafe developed a habit of escorting Mary Jo home, after school. In doing so, he missed the school bus that usually conveyed him to his farm. But he did not care. Especially since either Mr. Burnett or his dad would give him a ride home.

During his growing romance with Mary Jo, Rafe learned that the Burnetts originally came from Arkansas. Little Rock, Arkansas. Mary Jo’s daddy happened to be one of those men who helped local farmers with their crops. Mr. Burnett was one of those what Daddy called an agriculturist, who worked for the Federal government.

Despite his new relationship with Mary Jo, Rafe made sure that he spent some time with Danny. He had hoped that his best friend and his best girl would become close friends. Mary Jo seemed willing. Whenever she invited Rafe over to her house, she always included Danny in the invitation. The latter usually had an excuse not to join them. Only when Mary Jo became unavailable, did Rafe spend time with Danny.

Rafe enjoyed those increasingly rare times with Danny. However, any time spent with his best friend could not deter his feelings toward the lovely Mary Jo. He realized that he had found the love of his life. Okay, he was only ten year-old and would turn eleven in April. But Rafe recalled that his mama once told him that she and Daddy had once been childhood sweethearts. If his parents could end up married, he decided, so could he and Mary Jo.

———

One Saturday afternoon in late March, Rafe expressed his desires to Danny. “I’m gonna marry Mary Jo, one day,” he announced. The two friends stood in the middle of a field behind the McCawley barn, tossing a baseball back and forth.

Danny’s arm paused in mid-air, after catching one of Rafe’s tosses. He stared at the older boy with an expression Rafe could not fathom. “Marry?” A frown darkened Danny’s countenance. “You’re in love with that girl, or something?”

“Her name is Mary Jo. And yeah, I’m in love with her. I plan to make her my wife.” Rafe spoke with his usual self-assurance.

Disbelief now shone in Danny’s eyes. “What you talking about, Rafe? You’re almost eleven. You’re too young to get married!”

“Not now, dummy!” Unbeknownst to Rafe, Danny winced. “Later. When we’re grown up. I plan to marry Mary Jo, just like Daddy married Mama. They also used to be childhood sweethearts.”

Danny’s eyes focused on the large, red barn, beyond. “Oh.

Rafe noticed his friend’s lackluster response and frowned. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“Don’t you want me to get married?”

Danny shrugged his shoulders. “Sure. I reckon. Only . . .” He sighed.

“Only what?” Rafe demanded.

“What about flying? I thought we were gonna join the Army, together. Become pilots, like your daddy did during the war.”

Rafe retorted, “Of course we are! That don’t mean I can’t get married. Army officers get married too, you know!”

“Yeah.” Danny tossed the baseball at Rafe. Who neatly caught it.

At that moment, Rafe decided that he had enough of Danny’s tepid attitude. Every since he met Mary Jo, his friend seemed to be in a snit. Which led Rafe to wonder what Danny had against her. “You don’t like Mary Jo, do you?” he said, as he rushed forward to confront the younger boy. “Well?”

Danny’s face turned red. He mumbled, “Course I like her.”

Rafe could usually tell when his friend was lying. Like now. “Oh yeah?” he continued, “Then why do you always have something else to do when Mary Jo invites you to her house?”

A resentful tone resonated in Danny’s voice. “Hey, she’s your girl, not mine!”

“What’s that suppose to mean?” Rafe thrust his face just inches away from Danny’s.

The other boy scowled. “Back off, Rafe! I don’t feeling like arguing with you!”

“That’s too bad! You should have thought of that before you made those scurrilous remarks about Mary Jo!”

“What are you talking about? You don’t even know what ‘scurrilous’ mean!” Danny shouted back.

Rage gripped Rafe. If there was one thing he hated, were insults about his reading and spelling inabilities. He dropped his mitt and the baseball and tackled the younger boy. The two friends wrestled for a few seconds, before Rafe managed to pin Danny to the ground. “Now what was that you said about Mary Jo?”

“I didn’t say nothing!” Danny shot back. He squirmed to free himself from Rafe’s grip, but to no avail. “But if you must know, I don’t like her! Not one bit! I hate that she gets to spend more time with you, than I do!”

Danny’s frank confession shocked Rafe. Dazed, the older boy released his friend. “What are you saying, Danny?” he asked quietly.

“What do you think? You spend every chance you can get with Mary Jo! I hardly get to see you anymore! How do you think that makes me feel?”

Rafe calmly replied, “Mary Jo has asked you over, a couple of times. You always turn her down.”

“Because it’s obvious that you wanna be with her and not me! You’ve made that quite clear, ever since you met her! You always walk her home! And you two always spend time together, either during lunch or any other time. I want it to be the way it used to be, Rafe! Before Mary Jo, we used to be like brothers! But now . . .” Danny struggled to his feet and glared accusingly at Rafe. “Now, I don’t know what we are, anymore!” He quickly raced away.

Rafe called after his friend. “Danny? Hey Danny!” Unfortunately, the other boy did not hear. Or simply ignored him, leaving behind a stunned and bewildered ten year-old.

———-

His argument with Danny plagued Rafe’s thoughts over the next several days. To the point that it created a schism in his relationship with Mary Jo. The day following the argument, Rafe did not bother to escort her home. He excused himself on the grounds of an emergency at home. After that first day, he did not bother to make any more excuses. Rafe simply boarded the school bus without saying a word. For a while, Rafe wondered why he even bothered. Especially since Danny usually subjected him to the silent treatment during those bus rides home.

One blustery Friday, Mary Jo finally confronted Rafe during the lunch period, in the schoolyard. She demanded to know why he avoided her for nearly a week. When Rafe failed to give her an adequate explanation, Mary Jo accused him of growing weary of her. Their subsequent argument spelled the end of the romance.

Later that afternoon, Rafe boarded the school bus for home. Just seconds after he sat down, a second figure filled the empty seat next to him. It was Danny.

END OF PART 1

“LINCOLN” (1974-1976) Review

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“LINCOLN” (1974-76) Review

During the first half of the Twentieth Century, poet and historian Carl Sandburg wrote a six-volume biography on the life of the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Years passed before David Wolper (“ROOTS”“THE THORN BIRDS”, and the “NORTH AND SOUTH” TRILOGY) produced a six-part miniseries on Lincoln’s life and career, based upon Sandburg’s work.

“LINCOLN” is not what I would your usual biography with a straight narrative. With the exception of one episode that centered on Lincoln acting as a defense attorney in the 1830s and another that focused on the period between his first election and inauguration, the majority of the episodes centered on his administration during the U.S. Civil War. And not in any particular order. Below is a list for those who prefer to watch the entire miniseries in chronological order:

(1.03) “Prairie Lawyer” – Lincoln goes against future political adversary Stephen A. Douglas when he defends physician Dr. Henry B. Truett against murder charges in 1838.

(2.02) “Crossing Fox River” – This episode covers Lincoln’s life between winning his first presidential election in November 1860 and attending his first inauguration in March 1861.

(1.01) “Mrs. Lincoln’s Husband” – In the wake of the death of the Lincolns’ second son William “Willie”, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln‘s erratic behavior embarrasses and endangers her husband politically when a cabal of Republican senators question her loyalty to the Union.

(1.02) “Sad Figure, Laughing” – Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase and his daughter Kate attempt to undermine President Lincoln’s bid for re-election during the 1864 presidential campaign, when they become aware of how Lincoln’s jokes and stories seem to erode their fellow Republicans’ confidence in him.

(2.01) “The Unwilling Warrior” – Lincoln finds himself forced to learn the art of war, as he searches for the right general to lead the Union Army to victory between 1861 and 1865.

(2.03) “The Last Days” – Following the Army of Northern Virginia’s surrender at the Appomattox Court House, President Lincoln plans Reconstruction with his cabinet and discusses a post-presidential future with the First Lady.

“LINCOLN” managed to garner a great deal of critical acclaim back in the mid-1970s. Did it deserve it? Perhaps. I found myself somewhat impressed by the production. The miniseries, from a visual point-of-view, has managed to hold up rather well in the past forty years. Aside from the exterior shots, the photography struck me as somewhat sharp and colorful, thanks to cinematographer Howard Schwartz . More importantly, director George Schaefer managed to avoid that “filmed play” aspect that had tainted many British television productions and a few American productions. Somewhat. There were a few scenes that seemed to stretch a tad too long in “LINCOLN”, but not fortunately long enough to stretch my patience too thin.

A part of me wishes that “LINCOLN” had included more scenes of Lincoln’s life before the Civil War. The 1974-76 miniseries must be the first of three productions titled “LINCOLN” – the other two being the 1988 miniseries and the 2012 Steven Spielberg movie – that seemed to be about Lincoln’s years in the White House. Another aspect of this miniseries that I found a bit odd is that it did not feature any African-American characters, other than the occasional extra portraying a White House servant. I think. There is a chance that my memory might be playing tricks with me. I simply find it odd that a production about a U.S. president who had such a strong impact on the history of African-Americans . . . did not feature any black supporting characters. No Elizabeth Keckley, the Washington D.C. seamstress who became Mrs. Lincoln’s personal modiste and close companion, or Frederick Douglass, who had met Lincoln in 1863. Considering Lincoln’s overly cautious approach on the subjects of abolition and civil rights, there is a chance that producer David Wolper feared that Lincoln’s reputation as an emancipator would have slightly eroded. It was okay to discuss slavery, which the production did . . . but not with any real depth.

The miniseries certainly did not hesitate to display Lincoln’s ruthlessness and talent for political manipulation. Even when those traits were occasionally clouded by compassion, humor and verbosity, it was on display. This was especially apparent in two episodes – namely “Sad Figure, Laughing”, in which Lincoln had to deal with the political machinations of Salmon Chase for the Republican nomination for President in 1864; and in “The Unwilling Warrior”, in which he dealt with one general after another in his search for the one military leader who could deal with the Army of Northern Virginia and Robert E. Lee.

The best aspect of “LINCOLN” were the performances. Well . . . some of the performances. I hate to say this, but some of the minor performances struck me as a bit theatrical or amateurish. There were some performances that struck me as solid – including Norman Burton as General Ulysses S. Grant, Robert Foxworth as John T. Stuart, Lloyd Nolan as Secretary of State William H. Seward, Ed Flanders as General George B. McClellan, and Catherine Burns as Mary Owens. But there were those performances that I found impressive. This especially seemed to be the case for Roy Poole as Secretary of Treasury Salmon P. Chase, Elizabeth Ashley as the latter’s older daughter Kate Chase Sprague, Beulah Bondi as Lincoln’s stepmother Sarah Bush Lincoln, John Randolph as the first Secretary of War Simon Cameron and James Carroll Jordan as the Lincolns’ oldest son Robert Todd Lincoln.

But the two performances that outshone the others came from Hal Holbrook and Sada Thompson as the presidential couple, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. This is not really surprising. Of the three productions I have seen about Lincoln, the actors and actresses who have portrayed this couple have all given superb performances. This was the case for both Holbrook and Thompson. Holbrook seemed to have some special connection to the 16th president. The 1974-76 miniseries marked the first time he portrayed the role. He also portrayed Lincoln in the 1985 miniseries, “NORTH AND SOUTH: BOOK II” and he appeared in the 2012 Steven Spielberg movie as an old political crony of the President’s, Francis P. Blair. Holbrook’s portrayal of Lincoln could have easily strayed into the realm of folksy idealism. The actor did not completely reveal the more negative aspects of Lincoln’s character, but he did a superb job in conveying not only the President’s style of humor, but also his political savvy and a temper that can be fearsome. In an odd way, Sada Thompson had the easier job portraying First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. Hollywood productions are more inclined to explore the more negative aspects of her personality than Lincoln’s. What I enjoyed about Thompson’s performance is that she still managed to make Mrs. Lincoln a likable person, despite the character flaws. It is not surprising that Holbrook won an Emmy for his performance and Thompson earned a nomination. Both of them deserved the accolades.

There are aspects of “LINCOLN” that I found questionable. Well . . . my main problem is that the production did not focus enough on the question of slavery, which I found rather odd, considering the subject matter. I also wish that the miniseries had included more scenes of Abraham Lincoln’s life before the Civil War. Now some television viewers might find the scattered narrative somewhat disconcerting. I simply figured out the chronological order of the episodes and watched them in that manner. But overall, “LINCOLN” is a first-rate miniseries about the 16th President that holds up rather well, thanks to George Schaefer’s direction and a skillful cast led by the talented Hal Holbrook and Sada Thompson.