Dawnn Lewis, aka Captain Carol Freeman, on the Return of ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’

Dawnn Lewis does it all. Acting, voice acting, musicals, and more. And she can add Starfleet Captain to the list with her role as Captain Carol Freeman of the USS Cerritos. She’s a no nonsense captain who unfortunately has a lot of nonsense to deal with from her crew, including her own daughter Beckett, who may cause the most trouble of the bunch. Ahead of the Season 2 Premiere this Thursday, August 12, we at The Nerds of Color were able to speak with Lewis on how she approaches the role of Captain Freeman, her voice-acting career, what we can expect for her and Beckett’s mother-daughter dynamic, and the prospect of returning to Broadway for the musical Tina.

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All Good Things…

As soon as I was exposed to it, I was a rabid fan of Star Trek. We share a birthday, September 8, and a value system that holds art and science as equals. Trek was more to me than a fandom. It was a vision of our shared future world that was achievable. Maybe not warp drive and phasers, but philosophically and materially achievable. While I loved the Original Series, it was The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine that seemed to realize R. Buckminster Fuller’s (one of my favorite thinkers) dream of universal equity.

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The Rise of Disney and the Future of Fantasy in the Shadow of the Empire

When I first saw The Force Awakens after a fully funded summer media apparatus of hype in the winter of 2015, I remember the following Christmas morning my mother turned the corner, threw me a Force Awakens pillow, and coldly chuckled “Merry Christmas.” It was a good joke — like many the Force is moderately strong in my family — but it left me to wonder, what Christmas spirit at Walmart possessed my Mom to buy me this gift? I suspect my mother may have unknowingly become a Disney market research statistic. But after the last five years and our predestined Rise of Skywalker, I am largely left to ask the same question.

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Representation Matters: Super Asian Americans

The superhero genre is slowly expanding its insular universe with Wonder Woman and the highly anticipated Black Panther. Though just a drop in the bucket compared to white male superheroes, such images can significantly impact audiences who have never seen themselves portrayed as (s)heroes. Recently at Comic-Con in San Diego, one Asian American girl, Ashley Keller, teared up when she met Gal Gadot (aka Wonder Woman) in a video that went viral, demonstrating the real-life impact of on-screen role models:

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Michelle Yeoh is the Starship Captain We’ve Been Waiting For

by Phil Yu | Originally posted at Angry Asian Man

Hell yes. Fellow Trekkies, rejoice. The first-look trailer for the new CBS All Access series Star Trek: Discovery has dropped, and the latest foray into the final frontier looks pretty damn awesome, not least because of one badass looking starship captain in the form of one Michelle Yeoh. MICHELLE FRICKIN YEOH.

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Sitting in the Captain’s Chair for Star Trek Beyond Now on Blu-Ray

People tell me physical media is a dying format and that everyone gets their movies digitally now. Well, I’m old and set in my ways. One of those ways is buying my favorite movies on blu-ray. Last time there was a new Star Trek movie available on disc, Paramount spread the movie’s bonus features over several different retail outlets, and I was not happy about it. This time, while there are still retail exclusives for Star Trek Beyond, you don’t have to buy five different versions of the same movie to get all of the featurettes in one place.

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What I’ve Learned: Star Trek at 50 (Me at 44)

It is no secret that I love Star Trek. My daughter asked me why. I told her the following: I love it for its aspirational nature, its optimistic outlook for humankind, it’s marrying of science and art, and its borderline Shakespearean drama. I also love it for its horrible effects, its over-emoting, and the sheer high-corniness of most of the story lines. To me, Trek is the epitome of important television1. It entertained me. It made me think. It spurred me to action. Trek and Raiders of the Lost Ark are directly responsible for my pursuing undergraduate and graduate education. I learned things from Star Trek. Our conversation got me thinking about what I have learned from Trek.

So in the spirit and honor of Cal Fussman’sWhat I’ve Learned” column in Esquire magazine, Star Trek’s 50th and my 44th, I want to share “What I’ve Learned: Star Trek Edition.”

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What Star Trek Meant for My Grandfather

Star Trek has meant a lot to me as a fan of pop culture, science-fiction, and television. It also has meant everything to me as a human being.

My grandfather, who was a WWII veteran, likely served in a segregated unit in the war. He returned home to a nation still refusing to deal with Jim Crow and other societal injustice.

When I was a very young, I recall him watching various genre programs like Wild Wild West, Gunsmoke, Rat Patrol, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and countless other series. However, he especially loved Star Trek.

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Star Trek Beyond: Be Still My Trekkie Heart

Thanks to CAPE (The Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) and AMP (Asian American Media Professionals), I got to attend a small screening of Star Trek Beyond at Paramount studios.

I won’t get into the story itself, but I must say to all my Trekkies: my solid ice cold anti-Trek reboot heart is starting to melt. I understand how this film had a 94% Rotten Tomatoes rating, making it a ripe tomato.

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#MyStarTrek: The Immigrant Generation

Originally posted at YOMYOMF

A little context before you jump into reading this: I’m a child of immigrants (access: child of immigrant experience) who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago: the not very diverse kind of suburb (access: white suburbia experience).

I’ve been a Trekkie since I was about seven years old when Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) first aired. Up until then, my father and I use to watch some old Star Trek episodes or the films… Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was a favorite of mine. It was great to see George Takei up there, but I really loved seeing Uhura be the strong independent female especially by the time the films came out.

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Star Trek: The Shackling of Creative Fandom

Today CBS/Paramount delivered the most passive aggressive set of guidelines for Star Trek fan films. The first page was this boilerplate thank you to the fans for ticking by the franchise for so many years. They even acknowledged the hard work and creativity of fan filmmakers. Then when you clicked the link to what was and wasn’t allowable for fan films, it was like, “Here are your creative shackles.”

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The Wesley Crusher Appreciation Post

So recently Wil Wheaton won the internet (yet again) when he threw down the gauntlet for all writers (such as yours truly) when he stated that writers deserve to be paid with actual cash.

Truth be told, Wheaton was perhaps my first major crush, with a legendary character known as Wesley Crusher.

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Star Trek is a Television Program — Period

In the last few months, there has been plenty of talk about Star Trek. Whether it is the news that Simon Pegg (Star Trek reboot-verse Scotty) has been hired to make the franchise less Star Trek-y” or Popular Mechanics’ wonderful “8 Things a New Star Trek TV Series Must Have,”  or the legion of fan films, or Adam Savage’s construction of the Enterprise’s Captain’s chair, or the frequent talk about how Trek has influenced the real world — all this, but there is no Trek property. No show. No amusement park. No decent toys to speak of. Just speculation, scuttlebutt, and rumor. Yes, there is a new film coming sometime in the future, but do we really need it? Continue reading Star Trek is a Television Program — Period”

It’s More Than Okay To Be George Takei

Last night, I had the distinct honor to attend a screening of To Be Takei — the new documentary about Start Trek actor, civil rights activist, and social media maven George Takei — as part of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center‘s ongoing Asian Pacific Heritage Month celebrations. Bookended by remarks from Smithsonian APAC Director Konrad Ng and a Q&A with the film’s subjects, the entire evening was a celebration of one of our culture’s most trailblazing icons.

Having made its debut at Sundance in January, To Be Takei was recently acquired by Starz for digital and theatrical distribution later this year. In advance of its formal theatrical release, the film has been doing the festival rounds and made its Washington, DC premiere at the Warner Brothers theater inside the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. I was lucky enough to check it out with the homie (and fellow NOC) Patrick Michael Strange.

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Don’t Be Riker

“Yeah I love Star Trek too,” Shahid said enthusiastically. “But what do you think about Riker?”

“Oh goooooodddd!” I groaned. “He’s such the epitome of white straight dude privilege. The way he walks around with his chest all puffed out, stroking that beard, taking up so much space.”

“Exactly! Even the way he sits, like a cowboy — he takes up so much space.”

I rolled my eyes. “I know. He is everything wrong with the world and with privilege in community organizing. It’s like where do you even begin to address it all?”

Shahid laughed. “It’d be easiest just to say say ‘Don’t Be Riker.’ Whatever you do, just don’t be Riker.”

I doubled over with laughter. “That’s so awesome! Someone should do a blog like that. Just post pictures of Riker doing straight white dude stuff, with a caption, ‘Don’t.’”

Shahid paused for a minute. “Yeah, yeah they should.”

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Star Trek Week: Boldly Going There

What better way to close out Star Trek Week then with a special episode of “Hard N.O.C. Life?”

Joining Keith on the broadcast are newest NOCs writer/professor Shawn Taylor (@reallovepunk) and actress Junko Goda (@GoJunko) as well as returning panelists Jason Sperber (@dad_strangeland), N’Jaila Rhee (@BlasianBytch) and Raymond Chow.

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The Sisko, Part Three: Star Trek Into Blackness

I hate Roots.

Never read the book, can barely watch more than 30 minutes of the mini-series, and have no intentions to expand my exposure any further. Granted, I have no personal beef with Alex Haley, and who doesn’t love LeVar (Geordi!) Burton? In fact, I offer a respectful nod to the effort it took to even get it slotted on to major network programming (apparently, SOMEBODY called in a few favors that year). But nonetheless, unapologetically, I’ll pass.

Why?

Because in a way, I’ve already read the book. Already seen the movie before. I’ve been exposed to this kind of content, and it pretty much hits me like cold oatmeal (that is, I’m willing to accept it if nothing else is around, but damned if there aren’t better options for my palate). The tale is just all too familiar: noble Black man/woman/child protagonist (sometimes a combination of the three) courageously trudges through the muck and mire of unspeakably cruel acts, spurred by bigotry and ignorance affixed to various unsavory points in human history. Somehow this person (usually) manages to overcome at least some of these atrocities en route to some point of affirmation that he/she/they are worthy of more than the inhumanity they’ve endured from myriad social forces conspiring against their very existence, and ultimately we the audience are asked/expected to walk away with some kernel of insight into, or at least a basic acceptance of the relevance of Blackness (be it in this country or abroad) to our existence, and why we should “never, ever forget…”

Sound familiar?

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Spock as Interplanetary Mixed-Race Muse

It seems that Spock and his mixed-species brethren and sistren haven’t served as multiracial muses only to me and fellow NOC Claire.  Even during the last year of its original television run, just a year after the landmark Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case legalized all interracial marriage across the United States, Vulcan/human hybrid Spock spoke so much to a biracial black/white teenager in Los Angeles that she wrote to him, via a teen magazine, for advice, so moving that actor Leonard Nimoy wrote her back with a message of self-acceptance.

With Star Trek Week on The Nerds of Color coming to an end after an amazing week of posts both celebratory, critical, and somewhere in between, I wanted to introduce you to two artists of multiracial heritage who use Spock as a way to explore mixed-race identity in their work.

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ST:NOC Revealed – Day Five

Capt. Benjamin Sisko (Capt.) and Deep Space Nine
Capt. Benjamin Sisko (Capt.) and Deep Space 9

It’s Day 5 of ST:NOC and, at last, the full ST:NOC crew is revealed for your viewing pleasure! Joining the rest of our ST:NOC crew is Captain Benjamin Sisko in the captain’s chair! Also, our NOCs voted Star Trek‘s only space station locale — Deep Space Nine — as the franchise’s Best Starship.

Vote for your own favourites after the jump!

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Why Starfleet?

[Ed. note: For Star Trek Week, we asked Will to re-post a piece that originally ran at WilliamBruceWest.com in 2011.]

ImageAs some of you may know, I’ve been a Star Trek fan for most of my life. Back in middle school, my friends and I had the Star Trek Encyclopedia, as well as any tech guide or manual that Simon & Shuster decided to put out. We were the ones watching all those Star Trek: The Next Generation reruns that used to clog up Channel 20′s schedule. As I got older, however, my pallet began to prefer more mature tastes, such as Power Rangers and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. I gave up the ghost during Voyager, and I’ve only seen a handful of Enterprise. That said, you can take the boy out of Trek, but you can’t take the Trek out of the boy. My brain’s still full of a lot of useless 24th century knowledge, and every now and then I find myself trying to make sense of it. During an usual bit of insomnia last week, I found myself wondering why, exactly, a human would even want to join Starfleet.

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Nichelle Nichols, Original Badass

Black people were marching all over the South. Dr. King was leading people to freedom, and here I was, in the 23rd century, fourth in command of the Enterprise.

Star Trek first aired during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, between the time when Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Supreme Court declared prohibiting interracial marriage unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia.

Nichelle Nichols, the actress who played Lieutenant Uhura, television’s first major Black female character who wasn’t a maid, did not at first feel the full weight of her role’s significance until after the first season was finished and she handed her resignation to Gene Roddenberry, the show’s creator.

In a 2011 conversation with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Nichols told the incredible story of how one particular fanboy convinced her to stay after all. She gave notice on a Friday, and attended an NAACP fundraiser in Beverly Hills the next day. At the event, someone approached her, saying he had a fan waiting to speak to her.

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ST:NOC Revealed – Day Four

Commander Spark (First Officer), and Quark and Guinan (Barkeeps)
Commander Spock (First Officer), and Quark and Guinan (Barkeeps)

Welcome to Day 4 of ST:NOC, and it’s an all-alien reveal in the categories of First Officer and Counselor/Chef/Shoulder to Cry On!! Tune in tomorrow for the final day of ST:NOC, when we tell you the winner (by an incredibly razor-thin margin) of our choice for Captain, as well as our vote for best Starship!

Vote for your own favourites after the jump!

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