Captain’s Blog: Episode 305, 13.02.2017

Greetings, captains! This week, our community questions are a feast for the eyes and ears, as we discussed the Oscar-nominated makeup work of Joel Harlow and Richard Alonzo, as well as a prospective theme for Star Trek: Discovery. Plus, I’ve got a little follow-up from last week, which has left me even more puzzled about Discovery than I was before. But let’s start at the beginning.

Star Trek Beyond received an Oscar nomination for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling. That seems about right, considering there were over fifty new species of alien in the movie. I’m not a makeup artist of any caliber; the most makeup work I’ve ever done is putting in some fake vampire fangs for Halloween. (They fell out about fifteen minutes later.) Some of the prosthetics created for Hollywood seem less to me like makeup and more like sculpture. Look at the extraordinary amount of detail put into the prosthetic for Natalia, for example. That’s a lot of work!

Natalia in the movie 'Star Trek Beyond'

Natalia speaking with Pavel Chekov in Star Trek Beyond. Photo courtesy of Memory Alpha

While looking into Harlow’s and Alonzo’s work on Beyond, I happened across this interview with Mr. Harlow in Vanity Fair. If you’re at all interested in the topic, I recommend reading it. It gives a much clearer idea of the scope of the project. For example, the prosthetic head for Natalia required hundreds of hours of engineering to solve the problems of weight and structural support, while remaining something useable for an actress.

While it might have been easier for the team to CGI effects like Natalia’s head, I agree with Kenna in tending to prefer practical effects over CGI. I think it’s easier for actors to react to things that are tangibly present in the scene. Wearing makeup that changes one’s physical shape might cause the actor to move and stand differently, making the character more believable. Practical effects also avoid the problem of CGI not aging well. And finally, some effects are just more impressive when you know they’re real. My go-to example is the semi truck flipping over in The Dark Knight. Any action movie can flip an eighteen-wheeler with CGI. Actually flipping one takes serious engineering, and any Trek fan worth their dilithium appreciates engineering.

Our second community question dealt with a video released by French composer Charles-Henri Avelange, who tweeted the following last week.

When pressed for details, Mr. Avelange replied that the session was a showcase for CBS, but that nothing further could be said.

Reaction to the theme from our crew was fairly mixed: Tony thought it was fairly generic, Elijah heard the Galaxy Quest theme, and I was reminded of The West Wing theme. I think it’s pleasant, but unmemorable, unlike the original series theme, or the Next Generation theme. It’s not even as memorable as “Faith of the Heart,” the Diane Warren song recycled for use as the Enterprise theme. (Side note: I share Elijah’s utter bewilderment about the song’s source. I mean, Patch Adams? Really? That movie came out the same year as Saving Private Ryan and Dark City and they went with Patch Adams?)

Anyway, I took the opportunity to look into Mr. Avelange’s background via his IMDB page. It looks like most of his work has been for direct-to-DVD movies. The most well-known appears to be a sci-fi action movie duology. The movies are named, respectively, Starship: Apocalypse and Starship: Rising. Currently he’s working on Nobility, a sci-fi dramedy web series billed as “The Office meets Firefly.” (I can’t quite work out in my head what that would look like.) The question of how Mr. Avelange might have come to CBS’s attention may be answered here, as Nobility stars Walter Koenig from the original series, and Doug Jones from the forthcoming Discovery.

What interests me most about Mr. Avelange’s theme isn’t the theme itself, but that it’s another piece of maybe-sort-of-couldn’t-say news from Discovery. We’ve heard about at least four different areas of Discovery‘s production that later had to be amended or walked back: the release dates, casting information, costumes, and the score. I suppose I wouldn’t find this so strange if we had more concrete information, but so far it seems like every time we hear something new about Discovery, a retraction follows quickly behind.

For example, last week we discussed the Discovery production trailer, during which we saw a still shot of very, very spiky, almost Gigeresque costumes. Elijah and many others hypothesized that these might be Klingon costumes. I thought that was unlikely because Klingons have a very particular aesthetic that these costumes do not share. “Maybe,” I thought, “the makeup department decided to create extra super ridgey Klingons?”

Well, lo and behold, the following popped up on Instagram last week.

Leaked 'Star Trek Discovery' set photo of apparent Klingons

Jim, these men are Klingons!

That’s a screenshot of the post. The actual photo got yanked faster than you can go to Red Alert, and apparently the source of the photo now claims he only thought they looked like Klingons. That seems a little odd to me given that the original post appears to imply that the author is also playing a Klingon, but who knows at this point?

While I understand that Discovery doesn’t necessarily want to retread familiar ground, I’m dubious about the wisdom of tinkering with the Klingon Empire. In my experience, people who are into Klingons are really into Klingons, and people who are really into something often don’t appreciate it being radically changed. It would also be confusing from a timeline standpoint, since, according to what we know, Discovery is set in the original timeline about ten years before Kirk takes command of the Enterprise. The new Klingons would have to do some pretty fast evolving to become more like the Klingons we know.

What do you think? Do you think the new costumes could work for Klingons, or would you prefer a different look? How would you handle the transition from super-spiky Klingons to more traditional ones?

That’s all I’ve got for this week’s follow-up. See you next week!

Whitby, out.

3 Comments ON " Captain’s Blog: Episode 305, 13.02.2017 "
  • alt_example

    Marcase February 16, 2017 at 8:02 am - Reply

    Natalia is very impressive, and surely worthy of an Oscar or any other award.
    To me however most alien species are still too human; that TOS and to an extend TNG-era had to deal with ‘funny forehead’ humans posing as alien, I was always disappointed with ENT following the same trend, considering the level of makeup/CGI available in that time.
    Same with the current JJ movies – show me a real non-human alien Alien on the bridge (5 limbs, in a fish-tank, hanging from the ceiling that sort of thing).

    I don’t buy the ‘they’re not Klingons’ – the (spine) armor in the picture is a giveaway. As such, I don’t care much for their insectoid look. However, if it fits the story (read something about a progenitor Klingon ship or an off-shoot race), then *maybe* I can live with it.
    I do hope that the Klingons won’t be the main enemy in DISC – I fancy something new (ok, admittedly I’ve been binging on The Expanse).

    Good piece.

    • alt_example

      Whitby February 16, 2017 at 1:15 pm - Reply

      I was going to disagree with you in regards to “too many humanoids” by arguing Progenitors, budget concerns, et cetera. Then my brain pointed out a) Farscape on the Sci-Fi Channel had multiple non-humanoid major characters, and b) my favorite Star Trek book of all time has a Horta crewmember on board the Enterprise. I would love to see him or one of his siblings on-screen. (He can’t be in Discovery, naturally, but maybe Kelvin?) I do agree that sticking solely to the “funny forehead” model of alien shows a discouraging lack of imagination on the part of Trek writers. Maybe they need to see Arrival?

      I find myself more disappointed than I expected by the idea that those are Discovery‘s Klingons. I’m not terribly surprised that Discovery would explore the Klingon/Federation relationship further; Klingons are very popular, after all. Also, introducing a non-Klingon major threat would be difficult since it would need to be a major threat the Federation could eradicate completely in about ten years. I suppose I’m unhappy because they don’t look like our Klingons, and because I don’t really care for this pleats-with-vertebrae look. Although it does occur to me that maybe these are pre-Augment Virus Klingons. Who knows?

  • alt_example

    Marcase February 16, 2017 at 10:55 pm - Reply

    Love it when you try to post something on your mobile and whole sentences disappear x(.

    Yeah what you said about being more creative re aliens (and I meant to point out budget/ practicalities on TOS/TNG aliens) that it *is* possible (yup Farscape).

    Re DISC, I have to realize that it is not going to be “my” Trek, but it is aimed at a new generation that (initially) may not care about Trek’s rich history. As a TNG-era fan myself I wasn’t too interested in TOS untill later – TNG had its disgruntled TOS fans as well back in the day.

    I just hope the producers can create something new and exciting building on Treks rich history. I’m just so very tired of reboots…

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