Archive for September, 2016

Is My Favorite Martian’s “Uncle Martin” a Jedi?

September 22, 2016

Is My Favorite Martian’s “Uncle Martin” a Jedi?

My Favorite Martian was a popular “mermaid out of water”* sitcom which aired from 1963 to 1966. I’ve recently been re-watching it on Hulu, and it got me thinking.

“Uncle Martin”, the Martian (whose real name is Exigius) has a number of “unearthly abilities”. They are fairly well established in the first season (although they arguably expand in the third season).

Some of them seemed a bit familiar to me, and then it struck me: they reminded me of the Jedi abilities in Star Wars.

Now, let me be very clear: I’m not suggesting that George Lucas copied My Favorite Martian! Certainly, it seems likely that he saw the series (he was 19 when it debuted), but was undoubtedly familiar with the themes through other science fiction. Nothing here originated with the John L. Greene/Jack Chertok’s sitcom.

It’s more the idea for me that “Uncle Martin” may be a Jedi…even though Star Wars takes place in a galaxy far, far away, a long time ago (perhaps the Martian Jedi philosophy was a survivor from an ancient time).

Let’s take a look at what Uncle Martin can do, and compare it to Jedi.

Telekinesis

This is one of the most obvious parallels. Uncle Martin uses his “levitation finger” to move things with his mind. It may look sillier (this is a comedy, after all) when he wiggles his finger, but it’s actually less effort than when a Jedi makes full arm swings. Darth Vader comes close when he chokes someone. There are certainly limitations…Uncle Martin can’t influence things which are very far away, and neither can Jedi. If they could, they’d be able to take fighter spacecraft out of the sky with a gesture. Martin, who is quite a techie, did create a levitation machine with an extended range…something we don’t see in Star Wars.

Acrobatics

One of the things that defines Jedi for me is the acrobatics. The Martian does do very Jedi moves in one episode, The Disastro-Nauts. He is applying to be an astronaut on an Earth rocket to Mars, and despite appearing to be a meek, older human, shows up all of the young military types. That includes demonstrating extraordinary strength. We don’t usually see this, but he is a quiet type most of the time (not unlike the Jedi).

Telempathy/reading minds

Martin can sense emotions from somewhat far away…a “disturbance in the Force”, so to speak. However, again, Martin would win in a contest…he can read actual thoughts. If Lord Vader could do that, they would have a much simpler time fighting the rebellion. It’s not easy: he needs to be close, and generally, the other person has to concentrate (as does Martin). Martin sometimes tricks people into thinking about a topic (by asking questions) so he can get the details of it as he reads their minds.

Talking to animals

Interestingly, the Martian can speak with non-human animals…perhaps not surprising, since his telepathy already crosses species with humans. The animals appear to be cognitively much more advanced than would generally be accepted, but their motivations and perspectives are generally reasonably appropriate. A cat may be motivated by food, but hides an object to affect future events and understands what that object is and its importance. Can Jedi speak with animals? There are a lot of species involved in Star Wars, in addition to artificially intelligent droids. I can’t say that I’ve seen Jedi have the kind of communication Martin has with dogs and cats…they don’t appear to ask Tauntauns for specific information, for instance.

Jedi mind tricks

As is the case with Jedi, Uncle Martin can’t possess someone and control their actions. He can push them physically around with telekinesis, of course. However, he is also able to confuse them…we see a scene quite a bit like the “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” scene. Martin is speeding (to help Tim), and two police officers chase him. He slows them down, and after they catch up, they can’t figure out why they were after him.

Invisibility

Uncle Martin can actually become invisible at will (unless something like a lightning storm messes it up). That’s an ability that Jedi don’t have (they do a lot of sneaking around in the movies which they wouldn’t have to do if they could just go transparent). That appears to be an inherent Martian ability, though…Martin needs his (metallic appearing, but apparently biological) retractable antennae to work for that. They may be implants of some kind, and the invisibility might be technological, but it’s clear that Martians generally have them. Martin is clearly not a Homo sapiens (for one thing, he is about 450 years old…and those are Martian years, not Earth years), but neither is Yoda.

Those are really Uncle Martin’s signature abilities. Now, Martin doesn’t have a light saber and isn’t a warrior (he’s a professor of anthropology), but do you have to have that to be a Jedi? If a Jedi loses their light saber, does that make them not a Jedi any more? It might make it hard for them to be a Jedi knight, but isn’t it possible there are Jedi who aren’t knights? If not, why add the term “knight” at all?

There are other parallels with Uncle Martin and Yoda: they are both relatively long-lived; they both dispense advise (Uncle Martin advised many famous humans over the centuries, on return trips to Earth…as far as we know, he just hasn’t been stranded on Earth before)…although Uncle Martin probably physically resembles Ben Kenobi more.

Could the Jedi philosophy have survived on Mars a long time later? By the way, Martin makes so many references to the actual planet Mars (trying to hideaway on an Earth probe there, for one thing) that it is hard to argue that he really isn’t from Mars…unless he has some form of transportation there that gets him to the actually more life-friendly location he describes.

What do you think? Is Uncle Martin a Jedi? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

 * “Mermaid out of water” is a term I use for a situation that is like the classic “fish out of water”, but the outsider is magical, from another time, from another planet, or something otherwise outside of the human norm

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard !

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Star Trek: its 50 year mission…to boldly keep on going

September 8, 2016

Star Trek: its 50 year mission…to boldly keep on going

September 8, 1966: the first episode of Star Trek debuted.

It’s now fifty years later…and the Trek universe is still a major part of pop culture, with a movie this year and a new series in the works.

I thought I’d share my own perspective…I go back a long ways on this. 🙂

I actually remember watching part of one episode when it was first aired. I was on my parents’ bed, and the TV was sort of stuck in a closet, where you opened the doors to be able to watch it. I don’t remember which episode it was, but I must have been being allowed to stay up late to watch it.

The series was almost canceled, but Bjo Trimble and her husband launched a fan campaign to keep it on the air. They used the tech available…encouraging a letter mailing campaign, not just to the studio and the network, but importantly, to the sponsors.

Star Trek got that third season.

Now, fans (or “fen”, if you want to use the fannish plural) generally consider the third season to be the worst…”third season” has even been a dismissive assessment of something. “How was that movie?” “It was so third season.”

Without that third season, though, there wouldn’t have been enough episodes for the show to be syndicated…and that could have been the end of the story.

This was all pre-home video…

While most syndicated shows had more episodes, it didn’t hurt that maybe we were seeing them a tad more often. The show would run five days a week…and if possible, we’d watch every one. Once we would get into the third season, I remember calculating how long it would be before it would start over. That’s not to say that the third season is entirely without its charms, but the early shows were better for me.

It was during this time that I, and many of my age, became deeply immersed in Gene Roddenberry’s vision. It was when, as a bumper sticker of the day had it, that I learned to “grok Spock”. Spock would become one of my fictional heroes (along with Doc Savage and Kwai Chang Caine). All three of these had things in common: other people saw them as “super”, but they all personally thought they were failures. They all valued emotional control. They all wanted to help others, but were always perceived as outsiders.

Spock, especially, exemplified this internal inferiority/external extraordinariness concept. Spock was, objectively, better than his crewmates in many ways. He was physically stronger, intellectually advanced…but felt himself to be weak, flawed, and unable to meet his father’s expectations.

Spock, though wasn’t as good as Spock plus Kirk…and McCoy was essential as the third point in the triangle.

We embraced all the characters (even “bad guys”, like Harry Mudd), and the tech, and the settings. We had Star Trek “tracer guns”, which fired small plastic discs. We read the Mad Magazine “Star Blecch” parody in 1967 (which was reprinted).

In 1970, Spock Must Die! by James Blish was published…and started a phenomenon of original Star Trek novels (not adaptations of episodes) which is still happening today.

By 1972, the first Star Trek convention was held. There had been fan conventions for decades, but this one was dedicated to this one series.

The success of syndication brought us the first follow on series: Star Trek: The Animated Series, starting in 1973.

It was great to hear almost all of the bridge crew back voicing their roles (only Walter Koenig didn’t make it as Chekov…although he would write a script for the series).

Quite a few of the elements of the original series returned…includes tribbles and yes, Harry Mudd.

It didn’t have the same feel for me, though. I particularly remember the music being intrusive.

Fan culture was big…there were fanzines, in particular, and fan clubs.

1977’s Star Wars suddenly made science fiction mainstream in a whole new way. Naturally, Star Trek, which already had a thriving fandom, made sense for a big screen adaptation.

Once again, the original bridge crew was reassambled…but the movie was, for many of us, disappointing. Some of it was so slow! In my area, rumor had it that Paramount allowed a local film student to re-cut it…for one thing, reducing the amount of time that we just were supposed to stare in awe as the Enterprise was onscreen. It retrospect, that almost certainly wasn’t true, but it was a widespread belief.

Fortunately, in 1982, Nicholas Meyer saved us (and the future of the series), with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Sure, it was almost operatic…but Ricardo Montalban was so good reprising a one-time role from the series! It had great moments, and many of us still reference the Kobayashi Maru. Okay, so Saavik never really became a fan favorite, but it was still a great movie.

Star Trek III simply wasn’t as good. Star Trek IV, though, the one with the whales, was fun! This created the mythology that every other Star Trek movie was going to be good. 🙂

1987 brought a new phase, with first live action follow on TV series, and it didn’t focus on the original characters…Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I wasn’t a big fan of the first season. I remember thinking that the way they solved things was by researching what the original crew did.

It grew on me. Picard and Data are iconic, and Q and the Borg were excellent additions to the universe.

From there on, we got more series and more movies. I’d say a standout for me was Kate Mulgrew’s Captain Janeway (I was already familiar with Mulgrew), although Voyager wasn’t my favorite series.

When Star Trek was rebooted…I was pleased. I think Zachary Quinto is a charismatic and intelligent actor, and Chris Pine is always fun. It seems to me to be much more about action than thought, though, which takes it away from the core strength of The Original Series.

In particular, there seems to no moral ambiguity. The Federation was certainly imperfect, and so were the main characters. Kirk and Spock in TOS could be in the wrong…and could realize it.’

The 2016 Spock seems way too confident…he would not have become my hero in the way that the 1966 Spock did.

That doesn’t diminish my relationship to the Star Trek universe. For decades, it has been important to me and to the geekiverse…and society as a whole.

Thank you to Gene Roddenberry and to every single person involved in making Star Trek what it has been and what it will be.

Live long and prosper.

For links to many Star Trek resources, including searching for streaming options and public libraries, see the entry at The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip for September 8, 1966.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard !

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


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