OCTOBER 3rd 2018 — Here and embedded below is a great concert performance on YouTube of a terrific piece from the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA version of 2003–2010.
Mister McCreary conducts, and the vocal soloist is Raya Yarbrough. Recorded in July 2010 at the Tenerife International Film Music Festival, Canary Islands, Spain.
For me, music for American science fiction series stagnated for a long time following Gene Roddenberry’s death in 1991. From then on the producers of the STAR TREK spin-offs actively worked to push music as far into the background as possible.
They even fired their best and most interesting composer, Ron Jones. Fortunately all his soundtracks for THE NEXT GENERATION are now available on Spotify, for example.
From that point in the early 1990s, music in the TREKs became a thin, disappointing hum in the background, rather than being an active, strong voice or even character of its own.
This was not the fault of the composers, all of whom would have been capable of much more, as shown for example by Dennis McCarthy’s soundtrack for the seventh film, STAR TREK: GENERATIONS, where he was allowed more range and freedom. He was one of the most active composers for the spin-offs ever since the debut of THE NEXT GENERATION.
BABYLON 5 fortunately went for strong, powerful music, by former Tangerine Dream member Christopher Franke. And then later the GALACTICA reimagining with Bear McCreary was just wonderful in this area.
He scored every episode of those four seasons as well as the associated TV movies, having started as assistant to Richard Gibbs on the miniseries that preceded the first season.
Bear McCreary’s official site is here. And you can find him on Twitter: @bearmccreary.
OCTOBER 2nd 2018 — Scott Murphy is one of the legends of adventure games. He co-created SPACE QUEST for Sierra, and he’s also a really friendly, approachable, and down-to-earth person.
He wrote back when I messaged him in my earlier Facebook days, and we chatted from time to time, and I was lucky enough to even Skype with him once.
Then later Scott also provided a crucial voiceover — lines written by our leader Agustín Cordes — for our game SERENA.
I feel fortunate to have had some contact with Scott.
He is now dealing with a serious health issue and could use our support. He deserves it. The GoFundMe campaign for him is here.
I hope you may consider sharing the link on social media, and contributing if you can. It all helps and really makes a difference.
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Scott once told me an anecdote on Facebook about DeForest Kelley— Dr. McCoy in the original STAR TREK — whom he saw in the early 1980s.
Our mutual friend and colleague Agustín Cordes — creator of horror adventure game classic SCRATCHES and of the upcoming ASYLUM — went on to comment that this exchange should be preserved for its historical significance.
And it’s true — a very human anecdote with two legends (Scott might squirm at this description) having a close brush.
So I thought, why not actually do that — preserve it? So here it is.
It started when, back in 2010, I shared the above photo from De, with these words:
“I wrote to DeForest Kelley towards the end of his life and received this unsolicited autographed photo. Thank you so much, De. I never had the honor of meeting you in person, but to me you will always be the real McCoy. A true gentleman and hero.”
(In that letter, I made a point of praising his fantastic voice acting for the two Interplay STAR TREK adventure games — available on GOG.com — that feature voiceovers from all of the main cast. I believe that was the last time he played McCoy, and he really did amazing, completely authentic work for them — likable, enjoyable, and funny to an almost unreal degree.)
See the end of this post for screen caps of the exchange between Scott and me, but here it is as regular text for easier reading:
“Simo, shortly before his death, DeForest Kelley kind of staggered into the restaurant I was cooking at just before I joined Sierra, a place called The Broken Bit in Coarsegold, California. I actually cooked a meal for him. (No, he didn’t die within the next 24 hours, bitches!) Unfortunately, we were quite busy, as it was a Saturday night, so I was unable to go out and stroll by his table. Oddly, he was alone, and word from the waitresses and busboys was that he seemed very sad and depressed. Poor man. In front of the camera, though, he was a true professional who will long be remembered. Quite admirable in that regard.”
“Thanks for sharing this, Scott. I treasure every anecdote about DeForest, even sadder ones like this. They all add to the reality of the man and only increase my sympathy for him… I have gathered that he drank quite a lot, but I wonder if something specific was weighing on him at this particular time. Do you remember about which year this would have been? When I read the biography [FROM SAWDUST TO STARDUST by Terry Lee Rioux] again, I could try to see if there is mention of what was going on in his life at that time. (The death of a pet or other loved one was always a terrible blow to him, for example.)”
“I can only guess, as I have barnacles on me older than you. It would have been between the beginning of 1982 and March 1 of 2003 [see below for clarification of these dates], which was when I began my career at Sierra. He seemed someone well acquainted with alcohol. It may have been a stereotype, but he did look that way according to the floor staff and my personal distant view of him through the small window in the kitchen/dining room door. It could even have been in 1981. My memory is a little suspect. I’d lean toward 2002–2003. I know it’s very difficult to have been someone of his celebrity, relegated to the occasional reprising of the role for the new ST movie, as well as making a living attending STAR TREK fan conventions. For some, that could have been, and quite likely was, psychologically crushing. Then there’s the alcoholic’s genetic predisposition. I hope the time frame helps.”
“Definitely — although did you mean 1981–1983 rather than 1981–2003? A quick flip through the biography reveals little about what he did in that time frame apart from the first STAR TREK movies (the first one was released in December 1979, the second in June 1982, and the third in June 1984), so probably it was not a particularly active time for him. From what I have read, I get the impression that he saw the McCoy straitjacket in an increasingly positive light as the years went on and he accepted the lack of other roles. Of course it must have been bitterly disappointing after steady employment for year after year before STAR TREK — but by the mid-80s I think he was saying he was retired from acting other than for STAR TREK. And he seems to have also valued the quiet life he led with his wife and their many animal companions. He was a very private individual anyway. If I remember right, I think none of the other original cast members were ever invited to his home. But aside from the sad decline of his own and his wife’s health towards the end of the 90s in particular, he seems to have had a solid strength in him (of course disturbed badly at times and certainly not helped by his generally frail health) and quiet convictions that he revealed rarely but that came across when he played McCoy. A fascinating man.”
“Yes, 1983. D’oh! Just woke up after a long night of trying to migrate my Outlook files onto my newly installed replacement laptop hard drive.”
“I figured it was something like that! 🙂 Thanks again for sharing this story. I have only slowly gathered over the years how much DeForest imbibed… No disrespect intended, we all have our weaknesses and it never made him harm anyone around him. Official sources have naturally been discreet about it, and the biography does not dwell on it either.”
Epilogue: Two years later
“This post should be preserved for its historical significance.”
And so it was.
Below is the exchange as it appeared on Facebook. Read from left to right like a series of comic book panels. Not sure why Facebook shows 2008 as the date, as I only got on Facebook in 2010.
Pitch shifting, rhythms, & a figure — What I was doing that day related to music, including a bit about my personal catalogue of rhythms, a notebook bought in Paris, and then also a little about our game SERENA.
SEPTEMBER 20th 2018 — Ray Bradbury loved cinema and cinematic storytelling all his life.
From trips to the movies with a beloved family member when he was a boy, he fell in love with the form and it never ended.
Two characteristics permeate all his writing: all of it is lyrical — he had the soul of a poet and that’s why he’s one of my favorite writers — and much of it is powerfully sensual. It engages all the senses.
He said one could film any of his stories by simply turning each sentence or paragraph into a shot. All the information was there, he said, in his writing: what to show and when and how.
From 1985 to 1992 the world enjoyed his TV series THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER. It was filmed on location in many countries: Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and France.
Ray personally scripted every episode and proved his profound and natural understanding of how to tell a story in this form. His work for the series is a model of what to do and not do in scripting film and television.
(I prefer saying just “film” from now on. These are mini-movies in all but name.)
Scenes are allowed to unfold without drowning everything under too much dialogue. Just enough is said and not said. Sights, sounds, and yes, through the power of his work and that of his collaborators, also smells, tastes, and tactile experiences come through.
Iceland is to me Bradbury country and more like the remembered land of my childhood than anywhere else I have been as an adult. Magic is still possible here. The elements have power, like in his stories. The wind has a presence unlike anywhere else. There is the sea, there are mountains and waterfalls, and dark nights and summer cottages in pristine nature.
Stories live here and are respected. As is poetry. As is music. I write this in a snug bedroom with a great big bed and a slanting ceiling of the kind that through some geometrical alchemy seems to fire the imaginations of all creative people. I wish more than anything that I could really share all this.
In any case, Iceland is a great place to watch THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER. I also did so in Paris last winter, and before that in Finland. As an adult, and long ago, first in childhood.
“Marionettes, Inc.” (1985), directed by Paul Lynch (who also directed many episodes of the STAR TREK spin-offs), is not among my favorite episodes. I felt casting James Coco (1930–1987) as the protagonist was not the best choice.
But like all these episodes, this one too affords many incidental delights. Here are some of them.
This and every other episode of THE RAY BRADBURY THEATER is available as part of a DVD box set. Despite nearly VHS-quality video, it comes with my warmest recommendation.
SEPTEMBER 14th 2018 — Our minds work in mysterious ways. Why are we sometimes suddenly reminded of something long in the past, with no obvious trigger for that particular memory? Things just find their own time to happen.
Today for some reason I was reminded of Garibaldi’s alcoholism storyline in BABYLON 5. The actor who portrayed him, Jerry Doyle, passed away in 2016 at the age of 60.
Along with those of G’Kar (the wonderful Andreas Katsulas) and Londo (the equally wonderful Peter Jurasik), his was one of my favorite storylines in this series that for many these days seems to have fallen between the cracks between the latter-day STAR TREKs and Ron Moore’s reimagined BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, which went darker than any popular TV SF series ever.
I just think there was particularly much truthfulness and emotional resonance to Garibaldi’s story, including the story thread of his struggles with alcohol. It was introduced in the first-season episode “Survivors” — still one of the early episodes I remember liking best — and came to play a bigger part later on.
I let my complete VHS collection go many years ago and haven’t repurchased the series since, as I rewatched all of it so many times in my earlier years that I still remember most of it nearly photographically.
From “Survivors”, for example, Garibaldi’s sad, regretful, softly spoken lines about how, long in the past, after a tragic event he crawled inside a bottle and didn’t come out for a long time.
I guess characters with regrets, and the numerous ways they cope or fail to cope with them, will be around, and relatable, as long as we human beings continue to fail so spectacularly and so often at being kind to one another.
Googling some of this today, I also noticed something interesting. In a much later episode, he sings “SHOW ME THE WAY TO GO HOME”, which became one of my favorite songs long after BABYLON 5 — so I didn’t remember it had featured on the show. (More of the interesting workings of our minds.)
Specifically, I came to feel very fondly about this song after a friend posted a few years ago that scene from JAWS with the main characters singing it, badly (that’s why it’s so good), in the little boat at night. I’ve since gone back to watch it again a few times.
One of those rare songs that can bring you up when you really need it.