Improvising ‘Star Trek’

Chicago’s Otherworld Theater Company is America’s only non-profit theatre dedicated exclusively to exploring the genres of science-fiction and fantasy (and occasionally horror). Otherworld’s Dylan Schaefer talks about Starship Edsel, the fortnightly improvised Star Trek parody (created by Brandon Brylawski) that combines improv, satire, LARPing, and classic nerdery. Dylan reveals how Star Trek led to his life in the theatre; how Otherworld creates an ecosystem for multiple universes; how Star Trek is in its second golden (or possibly silver) age; how theatre as an art form doesn’t lean into sci-fi/fantasy as much as it should; a special guest appearance by a genuine starship captain; where you can watch Starship Edsel online; and how the Edsel preceded the USS Cerritos as the worst ship in the fleet. (Length 19:12)

Admiral Shelby Returns

SPOILER ALERT: The penultimate episode of Star Trek: Picard’s third and final season features the compelling return of Admiral Elizabeth Shelby, played by friend of the pod Elizabeth Dennehy. Shelby first appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s classic two-part episode “The Best of Both Worlds” as a famous Borg fighter, so her return is particularly ironic. Elizabeth (Dennehy) talks about how she got the call; what it was like to step on to the bridge of The Enterprise-F; the level and specifics of her fandom; the (perhaps coincidental) power of The Twitter Machine; the ways in which her appearance was both a surprise and not; the value of an actor not knowing too much about the larger storyline; a sliver of hope that maybe Shelby has survived; how Elizabeth is connected offscreen to Miles O’Brien, Keiko O’Brien, Soji Asha; and Scott Bakula, who played Enterprise NX-01 captain Jonathan Archer; the stress of keeping Shelby’s appearance secret; how small the Star Trek casting universe is; a special appearance by Wesley Crusher himself, Wil Wheaton, now the host of the Star Trek companion show, The Ready Room; how little Elizabeth misses her 80s hairstyle; and what you do not want to be doing while you’re saving the world.  (Length 28:19)

Shakespeare’s ‘Star Wars’

Author Ian Doescher wrote William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope and others in the Quirk Books Pop Shakespeare series (The Taming of the Clueless, Much Ado About Mean Girls, Get Thee Back to the Future), which imagine popular movies adapted into plays as they might have been written by William Shakespeare. Ian discusses his Jane Austen/zombie inspiration; how his bar idea transformed into an actual best-selling series; figuring out how Yoda speaks in Elizabethan English; his personal connection to Shakespeare; how film action translates to the stage; the delight of inserting deep cut Easter eggs into the narrative; and the huge fun of embracing limitations and visualizing theatricality. (Length 20:54) (Skywalker Hamlet image by Nicolas Delort.)

Star Trek Shakespeare

Elizabeth Dennehy discusses how teaching Shakespeare intersects with her experience playing Lt. Cmdr. Shelby on the classic Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes “The Best of Both Worlds, Parts 1 & 2”. Elizabeth shares behind-the-scenes stories about how she got the role and shot the episode; how her theatrical training (warp) factored into her ability to memorize sci-fi technobabble; how she and co-star Jonathan Frakes planted the seeds for any direction the narrative could take; how she prefers different kinds of costume fantasies; which Shakespeare characters and scenes resonate best with her students; how to measure photon torpedo hits; the further adventures of Sir Patrick Stewart: Matchmaker; and how she utilizes “The Price Is Right Guide to Shakespeare.” NOTE: This is edited from a longer conversation on The Shakespeareance. (Length 23:01)

My Favorite Hamlet

John Vickery (above, as Antonio in The Tempest at the Stratford Festival in 2010 and Orak the Klingon on Star Trek: Enterprise in 2003) starred as Hamlet in Richard E.T. White’s production at the California Shakespeare Theater (then the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival) in 1982, and it remains, almost 40 years later, Austin’s favorite performance of that role he’s ever seen live. Richard discusses how that production came to be; how returning to Shakespeare allows such powerful explorations of class, wealth, and power; what favorite scenes we share; the danger (and rewards) of rewriting copyrighted material; the frustrations of college drama departments everywhere; how the streets of New York City became Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley; interesting collaborations and treasures discovered in the second quarto; how Shakespeare is open and available to any culture and any society; and who Hamlet’s final climactic sword should really be with. (Length 21:27)

Episode 566. Captain Picard’s Autobiography

David A. Goodman (author of Federation: The First 150 Years and The Autobiography of James T. Kirk) returns to talk about his new book The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard, the definitive chronicle of Starfleet’s most inspirational captain. David discusses how his television writing helps address the challenges of writing Star Trek fiction, and gives a Read more…

Episode 563. Orville Family Guy

David Goodman is the executive producer of the The Orville, the futuristic sci-fi comedy adventure created by (and starring) Seth MacFarlane. David discusses his 30 year (so far) career in television, writing on everything from the Golden Girls to Star Trek: Enterprise; his long collaboration with MacFarlane, dating back to Read more…

Episode 458. Captain Kirk’s Autobiography

”Writer David Goodman (Enterprise, Futurama, Family Guy, Federation: The First 150 Years) discusses his fantastic new book The Autobiography of James T. Kirk, which he “edited” from the actual papers of Starfleet’s greatest captain. Featuring much dot-connecting and blank-filling, writing in voices, carrying on traditions and storylines established fifty years ago, woefully Read more…

Episode 430. Remembering Leonard Nimoy

”We remember Leonard Nimoy this week (who passed away February 27, 2015) with the man who literally wrote the history of the Federation, David A. Goodman. In addition to writing on Star Trek: Enterprise, David worked with Nimoy on the famous episode of Futurama he wrote called “Where No Fan Has Gone Read more…

Episode 411. Meet Shannon Cochran

”Shannon Cochran is one of the great American actresses: she did the national tour of August: Osage County and created the role of Agnes in Bug (both by Tracy Letts); she’s played a variety of roles in (nerd alert!) six episodes (plus a movie!) of different Star Trek series, in addition to roles in Fringe and The Ring; Desiree Read more…

Episode 397. Science Fiction Theatre

”Science fiction as a genre isn’t particularly well-represented in the theatre, but playwright Michael Bernard is hoping to change all that. His play Alien The Family was recently presented at Sci-Fest: The Los Angeles Science Fiction One-Act Play Festival, and this week discusses the scarcity of science fiction in theatre, Read more…

Episode 295. Star Trek Conventions

Elizabeth Dennehy, who played Lt. Commander Shelby on Star Trek: The Next Generation, describes what it’s like attending sci-fi/fantasy cons around the world. Featuring behind-the-scenes details from the pivotal episodes The Best of Both Worlds (Parts 1 & 2), convention-goer categorization, questions about Charmed one is better off not asking, impertinent observations Read more…

Episode 270. Time Travel Tales

In honor of Groundhog Day last week, we swap favorite time travel stories with fellow nerd AJ Mass that run the gamut from Ray Bradbury, Jack Finney, and Stephen Fry to Eliza Dushku and Ashton Kucher. Featuring nods to precision, romance, 12 monkeys, gateway drugs, literary detectives, time-traveling Irish playwrights, open and closed Read more…

Episode 232. Quantum Enterprise Man

You never forget your first starship captain. Scott Bakula, star of Quantum Leap, Enterprise, and Men of a Certain Age, talks about his varied career and reveals where he falls on both the nerd spectrum and the ladder of celebrity. Featuring outrageous camera angles, Scott’s brushes with fellow Starfleet captains, possible Read more…

Episode 66. Kirk or Picard

This age-old philosophical question is analyzed in irredeemably geeky and undeniably nerdy depth by the RSC’s resident Trekkies. Featuring startling insights why Star Trek is like Shakespeare, an excerpt from our Paul Harris interview at KMOX, and special guest appearances from actual Star Trek story editors and Borg fighters. Embrace the cheese! (MP3. Length 19:29)