Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Star Trek Again



Just as "Star Trek: The Next Generation" broke ground for syndicated television, and "Star Trek: Voyager" was the flagship of the new UPN network, it was announced a new Trek would be the big draw for CBS All Access. (Kind of like Netflix or Hulu but with CBS reruns).

My friends who know of my fondness for Trek asked if I were excited.

No, I'm not.

I know the Internet was invented so Star Trek geeks could debate who is the better captain, Kirk or Picard, and a gazillion gigabytes of data on the Internet are about Star Trek. But, if you can just put up with a few kilobytes more, here's why:

I never recovered from the disappointment that was "Star Trek: The Next Generation."
I had come late to the party, watching the reruns of TOS throughout the '70s. What a great show. It blended science fiction and adventure, and it was written by smart people for smart people. So imagine my excitement when I heard there would be a new Trek. It would be a whole new crew, but us Trekkies were open-minded.

My big moment of disappointment came about the second or third episode. A new alien species was establishing itself. A Ferengi showed up on the viewscreen of the bridge of the Enterprise. And Whorf, feeling threatened, points his phaser at the viewscreen.

Let me repeat that: Whorf, feeling threatened, points his phaser at the viewscreen.

Two things went through my mind: The writers are imbeciles...or ...hey wait a minute ... the writers think the viewers are imbeciles.

Either way at that point, the show had to win me back, and it never did, nor did any of the following series.

TNG in fact got worse:

The psychic never told the audience anything it didn't already know.
Someone had to explain the plot to Wesley every week.
Every time Whorf got in a fight he got his ass kicked
Ryker was just redundant, Picard would say, "Warp factor 1," and Ryker would just repeat him. He was supposed to be the guy who went planet-side to keep the captain safe. This never happened.

On and on, by the third time Picard surrendered I kind of gave up.

Oh and the "something went horribly wrong in the Holodeck!" schtick I think they did every episode.

Deep Space 9's Tribble episode did something TNG was never able to do, have an actually funny episode. DS9 had its own mythology based on TNG's, but not really about TOS's idea of exploration and science. I lost interest pretty quickly.

I gave Voyager about a season. The point of the ship being lost gave it an excuse to ignore the prime directive to whose slavish devotion made TNG so boring. Once again, a concept they gave up immediately. They always followed the prime directive .. the path to most boringness.

I gave up on Voyager after Capt. Janeway gave a race of aliens who had killed her crew and stole their organs a stern scolding to never do that again. (Jerri Ryan pumped a lot of life in that show though).

I didn't see enough episodes of Enterprise to give a fair review, but that it only lasted 4 seasons might tell you something.

So, I might give it a chance when it premiers for free on CBS in 2017, but after 50 years of disappointment, I'm not sure I'd give it more than that.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Review: Supergirl (pilot)


OK, it's the pilot, even the best TV shows started off with clunky, exposition-laden pilots.

Some points:

They borrowed a lot from the first Superman film: First rescue that of being a loved one on an aircraft, the scene where everyone gets chewed out by the boss who says: Get me an interview!, the villain using high frequency radio signals to contact the hero. But, fine, the airplane rescue was worth the price of admission. (I love the part where she's flying upside down, carrying the plane and she sees an approaching bridge, and grumbles, "Oh come on!" The pilot needed more moments like that.

It's what  happened after the rescue when things got dodgy: Her sister comes to scold her for saving her life, and to not do it anymore? It's explained later the sister is part of a top-secret alien-hunting task force, which makes it only slightly less hard to swallow. And the sister's boss scolds her too, telling her to knock it off. There's a lot of scolding going on.

She's as powerful as the sun, and no one thinks she's capable???!! A big stretch.

It needs to be a little more like the Flash, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, their support teams like the hero .. and furthermore are a lot of fun to hang out with. There was little fun with this crowd.

Especially Jimmy Olsen whose job it is is to be dreamy looking and tell her what her cousin would say if he were here. Do we need that? If it were so important let him tell her himself!

This was a problem with the Supergirl film, also. They always talked about Superman in reverent tones, but unless he actually shows up, who cares? That's what I liked about Power Girl, when she was introduced she wanted to distance herself from her cousin. (They borrowed the Kara-getting delayed-for-decades-on-her-way-to-earth conceit from Power Girl, which was a good thing, as well as the concept of Kara being tasked with being Kal-El's babysitter. Great idea.) Not such a great idea: Pep talks from hologram mom.

I'm not sure we need Calista Flockhart. The outright theft from "The Devil Wears Prada," is too incompatible with the long-underwear aspects of the show. Jackie Cooper was probably the best at being the unhinged boss.

The overall concept: We got lots of intergalactic prison escapees! That could work in a Buffy-in-the-Hellmouth way. I'm not sure about their leader being her aunt. Why?

I'm sure we'll see more of Dean Cain and Helen Slater as her earth parents. In the comics, Superman just dropped Kara off at an orphanage. That Superman is cold!

Bottom line: This could be a lot of fun, like the Flash, if they could tone the scolding down a little.

Addendum: As my 8-year-old pointed out: "National City? That's not even in the DC Universe. And he's right, I was thinking such an unusual name for a city, especially one made up for a TV show that is not in the original DC Comics. Then later I realized my answer was in the question: National was DC's name through the 40s to late 70s. Doh! Very clever Supergirl producers!






Sunday, October 4, 2015

Review: Hotel Transylvania 2


Man, even less plot than the first one.

Adam Sandler's vampire doesn't want his daughter and grandson to move away.

Yup, that's it.

The rest of it is monster jokes from the Munsters. Ninety minutes of monster jokes from the Munsters, and the Rankin-Bass "Mad Monster Party."

There is one funny joke. The GPS with the voice of Peter Lorre.

The rest of time, I pressed the recline button on the fancy new theater seats and closed my eyes.

My 8 year old liked it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Film Review: Fantastic Four


Is it the colossal train wreck everyone on the Internet says it is?

No.

Is it good?

No.

If Joss Whedon's Avengers movies taught us anything,  it's you have to  litter your movie with  action sequences. Seemingly every fifteen minutes the Avengers individually or together are pummeling someone or being pummeled.

Toward the end of The Fantastic Four, someone says, "He's going to create a black hole and destroy the world!" (there's a lot of clunky exposition in this film). I'm thinking, "What, it's the big finale already? There hasn't been any action sequences."

And this is true, it's a superhero movie with one action sequence.

Just one.

Come late because it's at the end.

Another thing we've learned from Whedon is, if you're making a superhero movie, you better have a sense of humor. Ant Man knew this, it was hilarious.

Fantastic Four, not so much.

The theater I saw this in just installed recliners. Instead of sitting on the edge of my seat, I was reclined the whole film.

This is a good opportunity to discuss organic storytelling: I believe an inherent problem with the Fantastic Four in movies is its lack of organic structure.

Let's go back in time a little. All-American Comics didn't create the Justice Society of America out of the blue. No, Flash had his own title, Hawkman was featured in his own stories in Flash Comics, Green Lantern had his solo stories in All-American Comics, Hourman, the Atom, Dr. Mid-Nite, Dr. Fate, all solo stars brought together in an All-Star team up.

Decades later this was repeated with the Justice League: Every member had his own title, or at least solo stories before forming the JLA.

Decades later Marvel had the genius idea of giving Iron Man, The Hulk and Captain America solo movies before getting them together. And after owning the DC line-up for 50 years, Warner Bros. is finally thinking, hey, let's do what Marvel is doing with our JLA film.

Now -- according to legend, the publishers of Marvel and DC comics were playing golf when the DC boss mentioned casually to the Marvel guy that DC's biggest seller was the Justice League. The Marvel guy then ordered Stan Lee to make a super-team title.

Hence the Fantastic Four. Assembled all at once, not from solo characters, just out of the blue.

This gives everyone who ever tried to make a Fantastic Four film a problem. He'd have to spend the first two-thirds of any film telling the origin of four different super heroes ... and Doctor Doom!

Richard Donner was somehow able to spend the first two acts of the first Superman film as origin story. The first act on Krypton, the second act in Smallville. Superman doesn't even show up until almost an hour into the film.

Yet, those first two thirds were exciting, and funny and emotional, and jaw-dropping and everything the first two-thirds of the Fantastic Four were not.

In closing. As long as Ant-Man and Age of Ultron and Mission Impossible are out there this summer, I really can't recommend Fantastic Four. Maybe wait til Marvel get the rights back and reboots it again.











Friday, July 10, 2015

In defense of Ariana Grande


Forget about the Confederate flag, or health care, or gay marriage, the real concern among Americans right now is Ariana Grande.

Some words in her defense:

First of all, she's 22, all 22-year-olds do dumb stuff. This didn't involve driving drunk of killing anyone.

Second, she was talking to her boyfriend in confidence. I wouldn't want anything I told my girlfriend when I was 22 put on the Internet.

I give a lot of leeway to things told to spouses, lovers, best friends, even close co-workers when the speaker doesn't know he/she's being recorded. There's a reason your spouse can't be a witness against you.

(of course if you deride poor people in a room full of campaign donors, it's fair game)

Third, she doesn't hate America, she's just astonished at our remarkably unhealthy food choices.

Until she slips roofies in undergrads' drinks, I say we give her a pass.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Review: Inside Out



The reviews have called it a breakthrough for Pixar, but no. It's good, but it borrows from so many other sources I'm not sure why film reviewers are astonished by its originality.

All of the "Toy Story" movies have the same plot and the same theme.

The plot: "We have to get back home!"

The theme: Leaving behind your childhood is the most painful thing you'll do.

"Inside Out" borrows both of these concepts.

The only real difference is in the "Toy Story" films we follow the toys going home in the real world. In "Inside Out," they're going home in a surrealistic world, a place where there's an actual "train of thought," and "graveyard" for old memories. I kept thinking about "The Phantom Tollbooth," the little-seen Chuck Jones film where the protagonist also finds himself in a world of abstract concepts.

(Not to mention Robert Clampett's "Porky in Wackyland.")

It's harder on the audience. Everyone knows the rules of physics in the real world, what are they in a surrealistic land of dreams?

And the concept of the emotions being the stars. Fox did this with "Herman's Head" some years ago, and no one called that genius.

See it, but your kids might get a little restless.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Rant: Teen Titans Go


My 7 year old loves this show and I detest it. The Marv Wolfman, George Perez run on the comic book in the mid-80s was one of the best written, best drawn series of the 80s, and to watch it being turned into a hyperactive, fart-joke-laden anime really bothers me.

It would be like if they made an anime cartoon called "To Kill a Mockingbird Babies," with all the characters reduced to big-eyed hyperactive children making fart and burp jokes.

It's just pissing on Wolfman's and Perez's work (as well as the Nick Cardy-Bob Haney run). I really thought the idea of dumbing down comic books for TV was over. (Super-Friends, Adam West's "Batman.")

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Peeing on Letterman parade

I'm sorry. Someone has to stand up and say, "y'know, Letterman hasn't been funny in 20 years" and no one else has done it, so it might as well be me.

I was a fan back in the day, I really was, but the last 20 years he's been coasting. He comes out, makes a reference to the pre-show warmup that the studio audience thinks is hilarious but none of the two million viewers at home do. Then he makes the "it was so cold in New York today, in Central Park I saw a squirrel warming his nuts" joke that he tells every night. Then he'll repeat the punchline again and again, substituting Tourette's for comedy.

Then he'll say, "Introducing a new segment on our show, 'Hillary Clinton drops a pencil," and they'll cut to a title card that says "Hillary Clinton drops a pencil," with generic music, then a two-second clip of Hillary Clinton accidentally dropping a pencil, then back to the title card and music, then cut back to Dave and the audience is laughing hysterically at .. what …?

Then he sits at his desk and clears his throat for ten minutes.

Serious, he'd sit at his desk and clear his throat for ten minutes, or just make more Tourette's sounds. Then he'd ask "does anyone have a lozenge?" And he'd repeat the word lozenge for ten minutes.

In all the tributes I've read they all say the same thing: "remember when Dave did that real funny thing 30 years ago?"

It's been unwatchable for about 20 years now.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Review: Avengers: The Age of Ultron


Another epic from Joss Whedon. This is what happens when you give the biggest comic book nerd in the world $200 million.  The CGI and love are all up there.

Tony Stark plays Dr. Frankenstein, trying to create a robot defense system that gets off the table and tries to kill him, the Avengers, and pretty much everyone else in the world.

There's some great Joss dialogue in scenes at work and play. He has a genuine love for the characters and it shows.

A centerpiece fight between Iron Man and Hulk is worth the price of admission. And the climax involves a plot to destroy the earth much more ambitious than any we'd ever seen before.

Its only shortcoming is Joss' trick to keep all these heroes busy with hundreds of faceless minions. It's exciting, but he did this in the climax of the last Avengers as well.

Either way, it's well-deserving of its summer blockbuster status. Believe the hype, it's that good.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Review: Other Space



Now that everyone has gotten into the original programming game, it's going to be easy for really good shows to get lost.

Give "Other Space" a shot, it's very funny.

It borrows the premise from "Red Dwarf," and half the cast of the pre-Mike seasons of "Mystery Science Theater," but y'know, it's stealing from the best of both.

And when I say it borrows from "Red Dwarf," I don't mean simply a space ship lost in space, "Other Space," takes "Red Dwarf's" warm approach to the characters.  They're knuckleheads, but not really far removed from people we know and love. They have hopes, dreams, desires, and they screw up big time, but they're trying. It's more about relationships than just rocket ships. And in that way it's more akin to "30 Rock," or "Kimmie Schmidt."

It's really just a workplace comedy with some very funny co-workers.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Convergence review: JSA, Shazam, Crime Syndicate


I picked up three of the Convergence books. I would have picked up more but I'm not a millionaire with unlimited time.

Convergence is of course DC Comics' all-title retcon in which characters live, characters die and the DC universe will never be the same. Until next year, when they erase everything again and start all over again, again.

I picked up three titles that grabbed my eye, JSA, since I'm a longtime fan, Shazam, always a favorite, and the Crime Syndicate, another favorite set of characters from the silver age who always had lots of potential.

All three books have the same set-up. Their home cities are under a dome and the characters are powerless until the end when the dome is lifted and they get their powers back, but they must battle gladiator-style with another city from another DC reality in its long history of DC realities. This was each individual writer's assignment: Write a story in these parameters.

Let's see how they did.

First the bad news. DC has always had nothing but contempt for its golden age characters and this continues in the first JSA Convergence issue. All it is are old JSA members, much much older than ever before, without their powers, moping about how old they are and whether or not their powers would even return if the shield came down.

That's all there is. Senior citizens complaining about how old they are. Psst. This isn't why people buy comics books.

On the last page they get their youth back … yet again … and you have to come back next month for anything resembling action.

Ripoff!

This has been a big problem with the JSA since Julie Schwartz and Gardner Fox brought them back in 1963. They had the idea that in the 12 years they were out of print, they aged 12 years. And they've been aging ever since. They're the only DC characters who age and every 10 years or so, a writer has to figure out a way to make them a little younger. In all the retcons it never occurred to anyone to remove them from World War II, and retcon their origins with the simple explainer, "The JSA formed 10 years ago."


The Crime Syndicate is a little better in that it has a story. The CSA'ers have to save Super Woman from her date with the electric chair. I have no idea why she was sentenced to death, that would have involved buying some 800 other Convergence titles. Once again, not a millionaire with unlimited time.

So they break into prison, and of course since the shield over their city has made them powerless, they're carrying machine guns.

Think about this: Superbeings carrying machine guns! Once again, not why people buy comic books. Maybe Punisher comic books, but not long-underwear type comic books.

The art is very good, Phil Winslade has a good eye for evoking Mike Sekowsky without actually using his style. (the variant cover is credited to Sekowsky and Gardner Fox, that really doesn't seem likely since Fox was a writer, unless they're giving him the credit for having the idea.).


The best of the three is the Shazam title.

There's an actual story going on, Billy Batson and his sister Mary are trying to solve a mystery, then get captured by a team of super villains. There are surprises, plot twists, a couple jokes and it's all very exciting. Stuff happens. I got an adventure for my $3.99.

I also got a writer and artist with a real love of the characters and their history.

When DC brought back Captain Marvel in the early 70s they decided to continue right where it left off some 20 years earlier. They had the same artists and writers pick up right where they left off. Then they threw that out the window by the end of the decade and had Don Newton totally modernize all the characters. Artist Evan "Doc" Shaners treads that line between the 1940s look and the modern look perfectly. Look at the drawings of Billy and Mary on page 6, they look like a scene from a movie in the 40s. Great stuff.

And when the Marvels show up at the end and start punching villains, I wondered why the other writers didn't think of doing this. Telling an actual story.



Friday, April 17, 2015

Film review: Home


I'm seeing a bunch of children's movies and they all seem to have the same ingredients. Hollywood has this template and it's OK for kids who haven't seen enough movies, for the grownups though…

Home is enjoyable and has its laughs, but ultimately you feel manipulated by the tried and true buttons Hollywood presses: A mother and child are reunited, not a dry eye in the house; the screw-up becomes the hero; everyone thinks the hero is dead … but he comes back. there's a big party at the end; we've seen these tropes a million time. Hollywood hedging its bets.

Jim Parsons plays an alien, but is pretty much playing his same character on "Big Bang," as human emotions and subtleties have to be constantly explained to him. He's on  a road trip with Tip, a little girl (Rhianna) and I'm still trying to shake "Lilo and Stitch" from my head.

The alien is on the run from his fellow aliens and Tip is looking for her mother. Meanwhile an evil alien race is coming close to destroy the earth unless … well you can pretty much figure out pretty quickly what they're after.

Steve Martin does best as the cowardly leader of the aliens. Funny is funny.

Take your kids, there's some wonderful animation, and great music, and a couple laugh-out-loud funny lines, but the rest of it will bring a big sense of deja vu.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Legally Blonde notes



I just saw the Upper Moreland (Pa.) High School's production of "Legally Blonde," and though  I'm not going to review it (the girl who sang while jumping rope though should just get an honorary Tony), it made me think of a character point from the film that bothered me.

Why are we rooting for Elle? She's perfect. She's one of those beautiful, perfectly coiffed, perfect-in-every way, affluent sorority sisters who could have any guy or career she wants. We laughed when John Belushi spit mashed potatoes on this character in "Animal House," and now we're rooting for her. It's kind of like wishing Margaret Dumont gets the best of Groucho Marx.

My other problem was  the film's sequel, which, like Home Alone 2, was really just a remake. The part of the first film in which she's actually cracking a case was the best part. I thought the sequel would be more of that, some actual Perry-Mason-in-Prada courtroom theatrics, but no.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Old timey film review: The Animal Kingdom


I'm a fan of Myrna Loy, it's on YouTube, what's not to love?

Well, this is pre-Thin Man Myrna Loy, and Hollywood still had no idea what to do with her. Here she's the bitch who makes Leslie Howard ditch all his friends within 15 minutes of their engagement. She also puts her nose in his business dealings.

Leslie Howard puts up with her and you just want to slap him. Ann Harding is the long-suffering former gal pal/ friend with benefits, who tries to stay noble while being shut out. The only other film I saw her in was "Double Harness." Good actress, but she played a martyr there, also.

It's all very talky, and stagy and you just know it was based on a drawing-room drama that might have been controversial in the day, but now it's kind of dreary and dated. And all the characters talk like they're in a drawing room drama from the '30s.

The negligees are skimpy and again I'm amazed that the negligees are wasted on really flat-chested women. Did bigger boobs evolve over the past 80 years, or is it Hollywood today won't cast you unless you wear a DD cup?


Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt


What a great way to binge watch.

Ellie Kemper has such an expressive face, and her character's constant optimism are such fun, a viewer can't help but love her. And the jokes come very fast.

As everyone knows, Kimmy has spent the last 15 years held hostage in a bunker by a cult leader. This  could have been "Hogan's Heroes" level tasteless, yet, Tina Fey and Robert Carlock made it all work. Kimmy is starting life fresh, it doesn't matter where she came from. This is Mary Richards leaving her failed relationship and moving to Minneapolis. It's really all the same, just more absurdist humor.

Speaking of which, UKS takes place in the same absurd New York City where "30 Rock" took place. Lots of fortuitous running into each other, and no part is too small to not be hilarious.

Notes:

Jane Krakowski is pretty much playing the same character from "30 Rock." She's vain and glamorous and deep down very insecure. Still, funny is funny.

Her roommate Tituss has been carrying most of the B plots, this is a little jarring because we shift from stories about fish-out-of-water Kimmy to Tituss going on auditions. "30 Rock" had A and B stories, but all the characters had the same employer. There's a disconnect between these characters' stories.

Recurring themes from "30 Rock" are turning up, a wolfman, an old man with dementia used as a plot device, the 15-year-old nemesis.

The last three episodes, tying up the arc that started with the first episode are probably the best. Tim Blake Nelson's Barney-Fife-only-dangerous, was hilarious, as was Fey's hapless Marcia Clark.

Still, as it took about a season for "30 Rock" to get into its groove, I expect UKS to only get better.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Lost Trek Lore



If you can find it, try to get Bill Planer’s “Lost Voyages of Star Trek.” It includes synopses of Star Trek scripts that were never filmed.

In the mid-70s, Paramount was going to start a “fourth television network” and its flagship show was to be “Star Trek: Phase II.” The adventures of the Enterprise’s second five-year journey.
Scripts were commissioned, the actors were going to reprise their roles, except for Leonard Nimoy.
New characters were drawn up: Decker, a headstrong, young first officer; Ilya, a psychic, and onetime lover of Decker’s, and Xon a vulcan who, unlike Spock, actually enjoyed working on a ship with humans and wanted to be more like them. (These three characters might sound familiar.)

Then something big happened: Star Wars. 

Paramount executives who had spent every morning climbing over a new pile of mail from Star Trek fans begging for a Star Trek movie started asking themselves: Do we own any properties that have spaceships in them?
Plans for the fourth network and Phase II were scrapped. (Barry Diller, the Paramount executive spearheading this concept, would take it to Fox. You might have heard of this.)

Roddenberry was ordered: Make us a movie.

Then came an astonishing series of bad decisions, one understandable, the rest bewildering.

Bad decision one: Choosing the director. This is the understandable bad decision. We’re talking Robert Wise. “West Side Story,” “The Sound of Music,” Blockbusters both. But most important to Roddenberry: “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Possibly the most cerebral science fiction drama up to that time, and probably to this day. (Call me what you must, 2001 a Space Odyssey was a pretentious overlong boring indulge-o-fest)

Rodddenberry didn’t want spaceships blowing each other up, he wanted a movie just like “The Day the Earth Stood Still”: men in military uniforms sitting around discussing what to do about the alien threat ... if it is a threat.

The problem is, after Star Wars, no one else wanted that. We wanted fast ships and explosions. Instead we got long long talky meetings, and interminable inspections of the outer hull of the Enterprise
Now the baffling decisions: Roddenberry went to the stack of scripts written for Phase II and found “In Thy Image,” a story about an Earth space probe that becomes self-aware and returns to meet its makers. 

Two problems with this script. A) it had been done before as an episode of Star Trek, B) the concept really doesn’t lend itself to a big budget motion picture experience. There are no villains! Now after “Wrath of Khan” I can’t argue that going back to the source material is a bad idea, but Khan was a sequel, building on the original. And if you’re going to spend $20 million (then a lot of money for a movie) to remake an episode of Star Trek, do “The Doomsday Machine” That episode just begs for the big-screen treatment. (Check out the CGI-improved version, you’ll see I’m right).

Baffling decision 2: “Let’s shave Persis Khambatta’s head!” 

Baffling decision 3: Upon finding out the revived Star Trek would be a movie, Leonard Nimoy was suddenly interested. At this point, Roddenberry thought, wow, I can keep Decker and Ilia, but I’ll have to kill off Xon. 
Kill off Xon? 

Roddenberry somehow was thinking that not only were the Star Trek Phase II episodes, complete, they were aired, and the fans would want an explanation on why Xon wasn’t in the movie.

How else to explain his role in the film of quickly introduced, quickly dispatched Vulcan, making a movie that was a half hour too long even longer.

The film was released, became a hit, but was quickly nicknamed Star Trek: The Motionless Picture. 
So, Roddenbery went into exile and Paramount would never release another Star Trek film without phasers being fired and things blowing up.

When Roddenberry returned from exile, they let him produce an ambitious little TV program called Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Once again, he raided the box o’ scripts from Phase II. Only wherever it said Kirk, he crossed it out and wrote Picard. Decker became Riker; Ilia became Troi, and Xon became Data.

This man was the master of recycling.

As  pointed out in a Cracked article, Roddenberry’s talents were somewhat overrated in favor of people who worked for him. Cracked cites Gene Coon, but I would add DC Fontana and David Gerrold to the mix. When they left Next Generation things quickly went to crap. Interesting thought-provoking scripts were replaced with tropes that were moldy in the ‘60s. Evil twins, unambiguously-good good guys. A captain who surrendered seemingly every episode, the psychic who provided no insight that wasn’t always obvious, the boy genius for whom every episode had to stop in its tracks so someone could explain the plot to him, and a Klingon who got knocked on his ass in every fight.

Star Trek: Phase II could have been the best Star Trek series of them all. Roddenberry was always somehow Star Trek’s greatest champion and worst enemy.